"CONVERSIONS IN THE BOOK OF ACTS"The 3000 On Pentecost (2:1-41)INTRODUCTION1. The Book of Acts serves a unique role in the New Testament and thehistory of the church...for the epistlesa. It picks up where the gospels leave off, and provides a backdropb. It details the spread of the gospel, and expansion of the Lord'schurchc. It is the only record, inspired or otherwise, of the first thirty 2. Included in the historical record of Acts are many examples ofyears of the churcha. In which we find the apostles and other preachers leading people to Christ's gospelb. In some cases we can read the very sermons used to proclaim the conversions...c. We also have descriptions of what people were told to receive God's saving grace a. For today we can hear or see many different "gospels" being proclaimed3. The value of such examples of conversion cannot be overstated...b. Even when the gospel facts are faithfully proclaimed, sometimes people are told to respond in a manner not found in the New Testament gospel facts and commands are faithfully proclaimed!-- With the help of The Book of Acts, we can make sure that the4. In this series, we shall examine several examples of conversions as described in Acts... a. Noting the background of each conversion b. Considering the sermons proclaimed and the responses to them elements of the gospel message and what response to expect ofc. Analyzing the sermons and responses, seeking to glean thethose coming to Christ[In this study, we start with the first example of conversion, "The3000 On Pentecost", as recorded in Acts 2. As we begin, let's do soI. THE BACKGROUND OF THE CONVERSION with...]A. IT WAS THE DAY OF PENTECOST - Ac 2:1presentation of the firstfruits1. An annual Jewish feast, celebrated 50 days after theB. THE SPIRIT FELL ON THE APOSTLES - Ac 2:2-132. Accompanied by audible and visual signs...a. A sound as of a mighty rushing wind - Ac 2:23. Enabling the apostles to speak in foreign languages - Ac 2:4-11b. That those who spoke were "Galileans" (Ac 2:7), suggestingthe apostles1) For the apostles were from Galilee2) Whereas the 120 disciples were from all over Palestine4. The reaction of the crowd was mixed - Ac 2:12-13a. Some were amazed and perplexedb. Others mocked, accusing the apostles of being drunkC. PETER EXPLAINED WHAT HAPPENED - Ac 2:14-211. It was too early for them to be drunk - Ac 2:14-152. Rather, it was a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy - Ac 2:16-21a. Found in Joel 2:28-32b. In which God promised to pour out of His Spirit on all fleshthe miraculous events which occurred this day in Jerusalem. Having[So we find a large gathering of religious people initially drawn byexplained the meaning of the events, Peter immediately proceeded withthe first recorded gospel sermon...]II. THE SERMON AND ITS RESPONSEA. JESUS IS PROCLAIMED...1. Peter began with the life and miracles of Jesus, with whichhis audience was well acquainted - Ac 2:222. He laid the blame of Jesus' death at their feet, but said itwas in keeping with God's predetermined plan - Ac 2:233. He declared that God raised Jesus from the dead, and providedthree lines of evidence - Ac 2:24-35a. The testimony of David - Ac 2:25-311) Who prophesied of the resurrection of God's Anointed2) Who could not have been speaking of himself, but of Jesus-- Thus, the testimony of Scriptureb. The testimony of the twelve apostles - Ac 2:321) Who had to be eyewitnesses to qualify as apostles - cf.overwhelmingly met ("by the mouth of two or three2) With twelve witnesses, the demands of Scripture werewitnesses every word may be established.")-- Thus, the testimony of eyewitnessesc. The testimony of the Spirit's outpouring - Ac 2:33-351) The outpouring of the Spirit was evidence of:a) Christ's exaltation to the right hand of Godb) Christ receiving from the Father the promise of the Spirit-- Thus, the testimony of the day's events4. Finally, Peter reached the climax of his sermon - Ac 2:36a. The Jesus they crucified, God had made...1) "Lord" (Ruler of all - cf. Mt 28:18)b. This fact they were to "know assuredly"2) "Christ" (The Anointed One prophesied in Scripture)1) To understand, to accept as fact2) To believe firmlyB. THE RESPONSE TO PETER'S SERMON...1. The listeners were convicted - Ac 2:37a. They were "cut to the heart"b. They asked "what shall we do?"2. Peter replied with commands and a promise - Ac 2:38-39a. The commands to repent and be baptized for the remission of sinsb. The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, a promise for"as many as the Lord our God will call"3. Luke then summarized what followed... 40a. Peter continued to offer testimony and exhortation - Ac 2:b. Those who "gladly received his word were baptized" - Ac 2:41c. 3000 souls were "added" (later, we learn it was the Lordwho was adding them to His church - cf. Ac 2:47)[With this response to Peter's sermon, the Lord's church began inJerusalem (cf. Ac 2:42). It was an amazing day, in which 3000 soulsexample of conversion?]responded to the gospel of Christ. What can be gleaned from thisIII. AN ANALYSIS OF THE CONVERSIONA. OBSERVATIONS REGARDING PETER'S SERMON...1. Peter's focus was on the Word, not the signs and wondersa. His explanation of the miraculous was no more than a b. Having explained the miraculous, he directed theirquotation from Joelattention to Jesus 2. Peter's theme was the resurrection and exaltation of Jesusa. His life and death they knewb. It was His resurrection and exaltation to God's right hand that he sought to prove and Messiah (Christ)3. His main objective: for them to accept Jesus as their LordB. OBSERVATIONS REGARDING THE RESPONSE...1. The reaction of the people is noteworthy: "cut to the heart"a. This shows the power of God's word to convict - cf. Ro 1:16b. While convicted, not all people will respond in the sameway - cf. Ac 7:542. The reply to their question ("what shall we do?") is alsonoteworthya. Peter commanded them to "repent", which was what Jesusexpected Him to say - cf. Lk 24:46-47b. Peter commanded them to "be baptized", which was also inkeeping with what Jesus commanded the apostles - Mt 28:19;3. The purpose of their baptism was explained: "for the remissionof sins"a. The identical phrase was used by Jesus in Mt 26:28c. In both cases, the preposition "for" means "with a viewb. His blood was shed for many "for the remission of sins"toward, in order to" sins1) Jesus shed His blood in order to provide remission of2) One is baptized in order to receive remission of sins(for in baptism we are baptized into Christ's death- cf. Ro 6:3-6)4. Those who are baptized were promised "the gift of the Spirit"a. I take the gift to be the Spirit Himself - cf. Ac 5:32spiritual gifts)1) Not something the Spirit gives (such as salvation orb. The Spirit is therefore "the promise" referred to in verse391) Who was promised by the Father and received by Christ2) Who was poured out by Christ on the day of Pentecost3) Thus poured out, one can now receive the "washing ofregeneration and renewal of the Spirit" in baptism,resulting in justification - cf. Tit 3:5-7a. When one is baptized (i.e., saved), the Lord adds him orher to His church, which is His body - cf. 1Co 12:13universal, not local) senseb. Baptism is therefore the "door" to the church (in theC. LESSONS FOR TODAY...1. When preaching the gospel...a. Our focus should be on death, burial, resurrection andb. The evidence we offer as support should be:1) The testimony of Scripture (e.g., the Old Testament prophecies)c. Our goal is for people to accept the Lordship of Jesus2) The testimony of the eyewitnesses (i.e., the apostles)Christ, acknowledging Him to be the Messiah, God's Anointed we should reply:2. When people are convicted of sin, and ask "what shall we do?",a. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (though not specificallymentioned, it is assumed in the call to "know assuredly")- cf. Ac 16:30-31b. Repent of your sins - cf. Ac 17:303. Along with remission of sins, we should tell of the promise of the Spiritb. While the role of the Spirit is often misunderstood, weshould not hesitate to make mention of Him as a promise andgift to those who obey God! - Ac 5:32CONCLUSION1. With the first example of conversion, we find Peter faithfullycarrying out the commission of his Lord...a. To preach the gospel - Mk 16:15b. To preach repentance and remission of sins in His name - Lk 24:47c. To include baptism along with faith as a proper response to thegospel - Mk 16:16d. To make disciples by baptizing them - Mt 28:192. Is this the gospel and response being proclaimed today?a. Some preach the gospel of health and wealth, with a focus onexaltation of Christ!"signs" and "wonders", rather than on the death, resurrection andb. Some would tell the lost to simply "say the sinner's prayer", isthat what Peter said?Those who presume to preach in the name of Christ, should be careful to God in Christ, should be careful to respond as did those who heard thepreach as did His apostles; those who wish to respond to the grace ofapostles preach! Have you responded to the preaching of the gospel in the same manner asdid "The 3000 On Pentecost"? Remember..."...those who gladly received his word were baptized; and thatday about three thousand souls were added to them." (Acts 2:41)
The Quran and Corrupt Christianity
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Both Muhammad and the Quran show a failure to grasp the difference between New Testament Christianity and the corrupted Christianity practiced by those who professed to be Christians in the Arabian peninsula of the sixth and seventh centuries. The fact that the Quran reflects this failure shows that its author(s) did not have divine guidance, even as it failed to detect the Jewish misrepresentations of the Old Testament as projected by the rabbinic folklore of the day. The form of Christianity reflected prominently in the Quran is Catholicism (e.g., Surah 57:27—monasticism; Surah17:56—saint worship). Anyone familiar with the first five centuries of church history is well aware of the extent to which the Christian religion had become perverted and distorted. These perversions did not escape the attention of the author of the Quran. However, even when an appropriate criticism is leveled against a doctrine with which Muhammad disagreed, the criticism often will contain an implicit approval of another element that is contrary to New Testament teaching.
For example, the Quran refers to Jesus as “son of Mary” 22 times. Most of these allusions are uttered by Allah Himself (Surah 2:87,253; 3:45; 4:171; 5:17,46,75,78,110,114,116; 9:31; 19:34; 23:50; 33:7; 43:57; 57:27; 61:6,14). Yet this phrase occurs in the New Testament only one time—and only then as used by certain unnamed townspeople whose use of the term shows they knew of Him only in terms of His earthly relationships, i.e., the son of Mary, and as a carpenter who had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3). The Quran places an undue and unbiblical emphasis on Mary, thereby reflecting the Catholic notion that characterized his day (cf. Surah 5:116). The overwhelming emphasis in the New Testament is on Jesus being the “Son of God” (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35; John 1:34; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4; Acts 9:20; Romans 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Hebrews 4:14; 7:3; 10:29; 1 John 3:8; 4:15; 5:10,13,20; et al.)—an acknowledgment made even by Satan and the demons (Luke 4:3,9,41; 8:28). [NOTE: The notion of Mary as intercessor on behalf of those still on Earth (Abbott, 1966, pp. 96,630) is reflected in the comparable role assigned to Muhammad by Muslims (Geisler and Saleeb, 1993, pp. 85-86)].
The author of the Quran unquestionably had heard the squabbles between Christians and Jews (Surah 2:113). Mistakenly assuming they were supposed to follow the same book, the Quran demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding the distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the relationship sustained between Judaism and Christianity. This surface misconception undoubtedly contributed to the uninformed conclusion that the Bible is corrupt, and is unable to transmit God’s will accurately.
The Quran possesses many characteristics that demonstrate its uninspired (i.e., human) origin. One such trait is its failure to distinguish between the Christianity taught in the New Testament and the distorted form of Christianity to which the author of the Quran was exposed. It unwittingly endorses the corrupt features that characterize the Byzantine Christianity that manifested itself in Arabia in the sixth and seventh centuries after Christ.
Abbott, Walter, ed. (1966), The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press).
Geisler, Norman L. and Abdul Saleeb (1993), Answering Islam (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Jesus Christ emphatically declared that the Old Testament Scriptures contained prophecies He would fulfill (Luke 24:27,44). Biblical scholars have catalogued more than 300 amazing prophecies that find precise fulfillment in the life and labor of the Son of God. One of these predictive declarations is found in Daniel 9:24-27, commonly referred to as the prophecy of “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.” In this article, I would like to consider this important Old Testament oracle.
A proper analysis of Daniel 9:24ff. involves several factors. First, one should reflect upon the historical background out of which the prophetic utterance arose. Second, consideration should be given to the theological aspects of the Messiah’s work that are set forth in this passage. Third, the chronology of the prophecy must be noted carefully; it represents a prime example of the precision of divine prediction. Finally, one should contemplate the sobering judgment that was to be visited upon the Jewish nation in the wake of its rejection of the Christ. Let us give some attention to each of these issues.
THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Because of Israel’s apostasy, the prophet Jeremiah had foretold that the Jews would be delivered as captives to Babylon. In that foreign land they would be confined for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10). Sure enough, the prophet’s warnings proved accurate. The general period of the Babylonian confinement was seventy years (Daniel 9:2; 2 Chronicles 36:21; Zechariah 1:12; 7:5). But why was aseventy-year captivity decreed? Why not sixty, or eighty? There was a reason for this exact time frame.
The law of Moses had commanded the Israelites to acknowledge every seventh year as a sabbatical year. The ground was to lie at rest (Leviticus 25:1-7). Apparently, across the centuries Israel had ignored that divinely imposed regulation. In their pre-captivity history, there seems to be no example of their ever having honored the sabbath-year law. Thus, according to the testimony of one biblical writer, the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity was assigned “until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths” (2 Chronicles 36:21).
If each of the seventy captivity-years represented a violation of the sabbatical-year requirement (every seventh year), as 2 Chronicles 36:21 appears to suggest, this would indicate that Israel had neglected the divine injunction for approximately 490 years. The captivity era therefore looked backward upon five centuries of sinful neglect. At the same time, Daniel’s prophecy telescoped forward to a time—some 490 years into the future—when the “Anointed One” would “make an end of sins” (9:24). Daniel’s prophecy seems to mark a sort of “mid-way” point in the historical scheme of things.
In the first year of Darius, who had been appointed king over the realm of the Chaldeans (c. 538 B.C.), Daniel, reflecting upon the time span suggested by Jeremiah’s prophecies, calculated that the captivity period almost was over (9:1-2). He thus approached Jehovah in prayer. The prophet confessed his sins, and those of the nation as well. He petitioned Jehovah to turn away His wrath from Jerusalem, and permit the temple to be rebuilt (9:16-17). The Lord responded to Daniel’s prayer in a message delivered by the angel Gabriel (9:24-27). The house of God would be rebuilt. A more significant blessing would come, however, in the Person of the Anointed One (Christ), Who is greater than the temple (cf. Matthew 12:6). This prophecy was a delightful message of consolation to the despondent Hebrews in captivity.
THE MESSIAH’S MISSION
This exciting context sets forth the primary purpose of Christ’s mission to Earth. First, the Messiah would come to deal with the problem of human sin. He would “finish transgression,” make an “end of sins,” and effect “reconciliation for iniquity.” That theme is developed gloriously throughout the New Testament (see Matthew 1:21; 20:28; 26:28; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 1:5—passages that are but a fractional sampling of the New Testament references to this exalted topic).
The advent of Christ did not put an “end” to sin in the sense that wickedness was eradicated from the Earth. Rather, the work of the Savior was to introduce a system that could provide effectually and permanently a solution to the human sin predicament. This is one of the themes of the book of Hebrews. Jesus’ death was a “once-for-all” event (see Hebrews 9:26). The Lord never will have to return to the Earth to repeat the Calvary experience.
It is interesting to note that Daniel emphasized that the Anointed One would address the problems of “transgression,” “sin,” and “iniquity”—as if to suggest that the Lord is capable of dealing with evil in all of its hideous forms. Similarly, the prophet Isaiah, in the 53rd chapter of his narrative, revealed that the Messiah would sacrifice Himself for “transgression” (5,8,12), “sin” (10,12), and “iniquity” (5,6,11).
It is worthy of mention at this point that Isaiah 53 frequently is quoted in the New Testament in conjunction with the Lord’s atoning work at the time of His first coming. Since Daniel 9:24ff. quite obviously has an identical thrust, it, too, must focus upon the Savior’s work at the cross, and not upon Jesus’ second coming—as is alleged by premillennialists.
Second, in addition to His redemptive work in connection with sin, Daniel showed that the Messiah would usher in an era of “everlasting righteousness.” This obviously is a reference to the Gospel dispensation. In the pages of the New Testament, Paul forcefully argued that Heaven’s plan for accounting man as “righteous” was made known “at this present season” (Roman 3:21-26) through the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17).
Third, the angel’s message suggested that as a result of the Messiah’s work, “vision and prophecy” would be sealed up. The Hebrew term denotes that which is brought to a “conclusion” or is finished (Gesenius, 1979, p. 315). It should be emphasized that the major burden of the Old Testament was to proclaim the coming of God’s Son. Peter declared that the prophets of ancient times heralded the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow them.” He affirmed that this message now is announced in the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12). Here is a crucial point. With the coming of the Savior to effect human redemption, and with the completion of the New Testament record which sets forth that message, the need for “vision and prophecy” became obsolete. As a result, “prophecy” (and other revelatory gifts) have “ceased” (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Ephesians 4:11-16). There are no supernatural “visions” and “prophecies” being given by God in this age. [For further study, see Judisch (1978, Chapter 5), and Jackson (1990, pp. 114-124).]
Fourth, Daniel stated that the “most holy” would be anointed. What is the meaning of this expression? Dispensational premillennialists interpret this as a reference to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple during the so-called “millennium.” But the premillennial concept is not supported by the facts.
Any view that one adopts regarding this phraseology must be consistent with other biblical data. The expression “most holy” probably is an allusion to Christ Himself, and the “anointing” a reference to the Lord’s endowment with the Holy Spirit at the commencement of His ministry (Matthew 3:16; Acts 10:38). Consider the following factors. (1) While it is possible that the grammar can reflect a “most holy” thing or place (i.e., in a neuter form), it also can yield a masculine sense—“Most Holy One.” The immediate context tips the scales toward the masculine since the “anointed one, the prince” is mentioned in verse 25. (2) The “anointing” obviously belongs to the same time frame as the events previously mentioned, hence is associated with the Lord’s first coming, not the second one. (3) Thompson has observed that the act of anointing never was associated with the temple’s “most holy” place in the Old Testament (1950, p. 268). (4) Anointing was practiced in the Old Testament period as a rite of inauguration and consecration to the offices of prophet (1 Kings 19:16), priest (Exodus 28:41), and king (1 Samuel 10:1). Significantly, Christ functions in each of these roles (see Acts 3:20-23; Hebrews 3:1; Matthew 21:5). (5) The anointing of Jesus was foretold elsewhere in the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1), and, in fact, the very title, “Christ,” means anointed.
Fifth, the Anointed One was to “make a firm covenant with many” (Daniel 9:27a, ASV). A better rendition would be: “Make a covenant firm....” The meaning seems to be: the Messiah’s covenant surely will remain firm, i.e., prevail, even though He is killed. The “covenant,” as E.J. Young observed, “is the covenant of grace wherein the Messiah, by His life and death, obtains salvation for His people” (1954, p. 679).
Sixth, as a result of Christ’s death, “the sacrifice and the oblation” would cease (9:27a). This is an allusion to the cessation of the Jewish sacrifices as a consequence of Jesus’ ultimate sacrificial offering at Golgotha. When the Lord died, the Mosaic law was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). That “middle wall of partition” was abolished (Ephesians 2:13-17), and the “first covenant” was replaced by the “second” one (Hebrews 10:9-10). This was the “new covenant” of Jeremiah’s famous prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews 8:7ff.), and was ratified by the blood of Jesus Himself (Matthew 26:28). This context is a rich depository of truth concerning the accomplishments of Christ by means of His redemptive work.
THE PROPHETIC CHRONOLOGY
The time element of this famous prophecy enabled the studious Hebrew to know when the promised Messiah would die for the sins of humanity. The chronology of this prophetic context involves three things: (a) a commencement point; (b) a duration period; and (c) a concluding event.
The beginning point was to coincide with a command to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” The time span between the starting point and the concluding event was specified as “seventy weeks.” This would be seventy weeks of seven days each—a total of 490 days. Each day was to represent a year in prophetic history. Most conservative scholars hold that the symbolism denotes a period of approximately 490 years (Payne, 1973, p. 383; Archer, 1964, p. 387; cf. RSV). Finally, the terminalevent would be the “cutting off,” (i.e., the death) of the Anointed One (9:26). [NOTE: Actually, the chronology is divided into three segments, the total of which represents 486½ years. This would be the span between the command to restore Jerusalem, and the Messiah’s death.]
If one is able to determine the date of the commencement point of this prophecy, it then becomes a relatively simple matter to add to that the time-duration specified in the text, thus concluding the precise time when the Lord was to be slain. Let us therefore narrow our focus regarding this matter.
There are but three possible dates for the commencement of the seventy-week calendar. First, Zerubbabel led a group of Hebrews out of captivity in 536 B.C. This seems to be an unlikely beginning point, however, because 486 years from 536 B.C. would end at 50 B.C., which was eighty years priorto Jesus’ death. Second, Nehemiah led a band back to Canaan in 444 B.C. Is this the commencement point for computing the prophecy? Probably not, for 486 years after 444 B.C. ends at A.D. 42—a dozen years after the death of Christ. However, in 457 B.C., Ezra took a company from Babylon back to Jerusalem. Does this date work mathematically? Indeed. If one starts at 457 B.C., and goes forward for 486½ years, the resulting date is A.D. 30—the very year of Christ’s crucifixion! This is the common view (Scott, 1975, 5:364).
The strongest objection to this argument is the claim that Ezra issued no charge to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and so the starting point of the prophecy could not date from the time of his return. Noted scholar Gleason Archer has responded to this allegation by affirming that Ezra’s commission:
...apparently included authority to restore and build the city of Jerusalem (as we may deduce from Ezra 7:6,7, and also 9:9, which states, “God...hath extended lovingkindness unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of God, and to repair the ruins thereof, and to give us a wall in Judea and in Jerusalem,” ASV). Even though Ezra did not actually succeed in accomplishing the rebuilding of the walls till Nehemiah arrived thirteen years later, it is logical to understand 457 B.C. as the terminus a quo for the decree predicted in Daniel 9:25 (1964, p. 387, emp. in orig.).
In “the midst” of the seventieth week, i.e., after the fulfillment of the 486½ years, the Anointed One was to be “cut off.” This is a reference to the death of Jesus. Isaiah similarly foretold that Christ would be “cut off out of the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8).
But why are the “seventy weeks” of Daniel’s prophecy divided into three segments—seven weeks, 62 weeks, and the “midst” of one week? There was purpose in this breakdown. (1) The first division of “seven weeks” (literally, forty-nine years) covers that period of time during which the actual rebuilding of Jerusalem would be underway, following the Hebrews’ return to Palestine (9:25b). This was the answer to Daniel’s prayer (9:16). That reconstruction era was to be one of “troublous times.” The Jews’ enemies had harassed them in earlier days (see Ezra 4:1-6), and they continued to do so in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. [For further discussion of this circumstance, see Whitcomb (1962, p. 435).] (2) The second segment of sixty-two weeks (434 years), when added to the previous forty-nine, yields a total of 483 years. When this figure is computed from 457 B.C., it terminates at A.D. 26. This was the year of Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of His public ministry. (3) Finally, the “midst of the week” (3½ years) reflects the time of the Lord’s preaching ministry. This segment of the prophecy concludes in A.D. 30—the year of the Savior’s death.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING CHRIST
No historical revisionism can alter the fact that the Lord Jesus was put to death by His own people, the Jews (John 1:11). This does not sanction any modern-day mistreatment of the Jewish people; it does, however, acknowledge that Israel, as a nation, suffered a serious consequence as a result of its role in the death of the Messiah.
Daniel’s prophecy depicted the Roman invasion of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple. The prophet spoke of a certain “prince that shall come,” who would “destroy the city and the sanctuary” like an overwhelming flood (9:26b). All of this was “determined” (see 9:26b, 9:27b) by God because of the Jews’ rejection of His Son [Matthew 21:37-41; 22:1-7; see Young (1954, p. 679)].
The interpretation of this portion of the prophecy is beyond dispute. Jesus, in His Olivet discourse concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-34), talked about “the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (24:15). The Lord was alluding to Daniel 9:27. The “abomination that makes desolate” was the Roman army, under its commander, Titus (“the prince”—9:26b), who vanquished Jerusalem in A.D. 70. [NOTE: The “prince” of verse 26a is not the same as the anointed “prince” of verse 25a. The “prince” of verse 26 comes after the anointed Prince has been cut off.]
The historical facts are these. In A.D. 66, the Jews, who were subject to Rome, revolted against the empire. This plunged the Hebrews into several years of bloody conflict with the Romans. Titus, son and successor of the famous Vespasian, overthrew the city of Jerusalem (after a five-month siege) in the summer of A.D. 70. The holy city was burned (cf. Matthew 22:7), and the “sanctuary” (temple) was demolished. Christ had informed His disciples that the day was coming when the Jews’ “house” would be left desolate (Matthew 23:38); indeed, not one stone would be left upon another (Matthew 24:2). Significantly, only one stone from that temple, and parts of another, have been identified positively by archaeologists (Frank, 1972, p. 249). J.N. Geldenhuys summarized this situation by noting that Titus
...overran the city with his army, destroyed and plundered the temple, and slew the Jews—men, women and children—by tens of thousands. When their lust for blood had been sated, the Romans carried off into captivity all the able-bodied remnant of the Jews (for they had done away with all the weaklings and the aged), so that not a single Jew was left alive in the city or its vicinity. Only on one day in the year—the day of remembrance of the destruction of the temple—were they allowed to mourn over the city from the neighboring hill-tops (1960, 3:141).
This event was referred to by Daniel as the “abomination of desolation” because the city of David wasdesolated by the Roman army—an abominable force because of its idolatrous fabric. It is not without considerable interest that apparently even the Jews recognized that the destruction of the Hebrew nation was a fulfillment of Daniel’s remarkable prophecy. Josephus, the Jewish historian, stated that “Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them” (Antiquities, X.XI.7).
Daniel’s inspired record regarding the “seventy weeks” is a profound demonstration of the validity of scriptural prophecy. It foretells the coming of the Messiah, and details His benevolent work. The prophecy pinpoints the very time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Finally, it reveals the disastrous consequences of rejecting the Son of God. How thankful we should be to Jehovah for providing this rich testimony.
[NOTE: For a more thorough analysis and refutation of the premillennial-dispensational view of Daniel 9:24ff., see my extended essay on this subject, available in the Apologetics Press Research Article Series.]
Archer, Gleason L. (1964), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody).
Frank, Harry Thomas (1972), An Archaeological Companion to the Bible (London: SCM Press).
Geldenhuys, J. Norval (1960), “Luke,” The Biblical Expositor, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Philadelphia, PA: Holman).
Gesenius, William (1979 reprint), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Jackson, Wayne (1990), “Miracles,” Giving a Reason for Our Hope, ed. Winford Claiborne (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University).
Judisch, Douglas (1978), An Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Payne, J. Barton (1973), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (New York: Harper & Row).
Scott, J.B. (1975), “Seventy Weeks,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Thompson, J.E.H. (1950 reprint), “Daniel,” The Pulpit Commentary, ed. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph Exell (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Whitcomb, John C., Jr. (1962), “Nehemiah,” The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody).
Young, Edward J. (1954), “Daniel,” The New Bible Commentary, ed. F. Davidson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Atheist Blogger Leah Libresco Converted to Theism by Morality
|by||Kyle Butt, M.A.|
On June 18, 2012 well-known, much-read atheistic blogger Leah Libresco put out a blog post titled: “This Is My Last Post for the Patheos Atheist Portal.” In the post, Libresco explained that she was no longer writing for the atheist portal because she is no longer an atheist. During the months prior to the post, her mental struggles and rational investigations led her to the conclusion that God exists.
What was the primary factor that forced Libresco to this theistic conclusion? She explained that morality was the key. Throughout her time as an atheist, she struggled to come to grips with how humans can adhere to a morality that seems objective if there is no God. As she searched for answers among atheistic thinkers and writers, she admitted that their answers were inadequate. She stated:
I’ve heard some explanations that try to bake morality into the natural world by reaching for evolutionary psychology. They argue that moral dispositions are evolutionarily triumphant over selfishness, or they talk about group selection, or something else. Usually, these proposed solutions radically misunderstand a) evolution b) moral philosophy or c) both. I didn’t think the answer was there (2012).
When pressed by a friend to give an answer for the foundation for morality, Libresco was forced to admit that her atheism could not provide an explanation. Did she know where an answer could be found? She stated: “It turns out I did. I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant. It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth.” The Person, of course, to which she is referring is God.
In an interview with a CNN news reporter, Libresco noted that her conversion to theism was “kinda the same thing with any scientific theory, almost, that it had more explanatory power to explain something I was really sure of. I’m really sure that morality is objective, human independent; something we uncover like archaeologists not something we build like architects” (“Atheist Becomes Catholic,” 2012).
Libresco’s intellectual honesty regarding morality is refreshing to see. Theists have long understood and irrefutably shown that morality is objective, and atheism is impotent to provide an explanation for this reality (see Butt, 2002; 2010, pp. 87-123,204). Without a belief in a personal God from Whose character morality flows, the words “right” and “wrong” have no meaning in a moral discussion. Yet every person who is thinking honestly and rationally must admit that some things are objectively right and some things are objectively wrong. When such an admission is made, it inevitably leads to “some kind of Person, as well as Truth.” Thus, “In the beginning, God…” becomes the only statement with enough explanatory value to adequately deal with objective morality.
“Atheist Becomes Catholic” (2012), http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/22/prominent-atheist-blogger-converts-to-catholicism/.
Butt, Kyle (2002), “Right, Wrong, and God’s Existence,”http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=878&topic=95.
Butt, Kyle (2010), A Christians Guide to Refuting Modern Atheism (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Libresco, Leah (2012), “This is My Last Post for the Patheos Atheist Portal,” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2012/06/this-is-my-last-post-for-the-patheos-atheist-portal.html.
A Book Review and Summary of John C. Sanford's Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome by Joe Deweese, Ph.D
A Book Review and Summary of John C. Sanford's Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome
|by||Joe Deweese, Ph.D.|
Dr. John Sanford is a plant geneticist and inventor who conducted research at Cornell University for more than 25 years. He is best known for significant contributions to the field of transgenic crops, including the invention of the biolistic process (“gene gun”). Like many in his profession, he was fully invested in what he terms the “Primary Axiom” of modern science, namely that “man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection” (Sanford, 2008, p. v, italics in orig.). He argues that this cornerstone of modern Darwinism is almost universally accepted and rarely, if ever, questioned. In Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, Sanford proceeds, not only to question the Primary Axiom, but to expose completely the faulty genetic framework upon which the ideology is built.
In the first portion of the book, Sanford builds an analogy for the reader to make complex genetic concepts more palatable to non-scientists. He uses the analogy of comparing our genome—the sum total of all of our genetic makeup—with an instruction manual. The DNA sequences that make up our genes, gene regulatory elements, chromosomes, etc., are compared with letters, words, chapters, and volumes. [NOTE: The term “gene” is not to be taken as synonymous with “trait.” Mendelian genetics dealt in “traits” (e.g., blue eyes) that were defined as “genes.” Our modern understanding of genetics demonstrates that while many genes impact phenotype (observable traits), genes are not the same as traits.] He builds on this analogy throughout the book using several powerful illustrations.
When we view the genome as an instruction manual, it is not hard to imagine how instructions in that manual may change simply by randomly changing letters in the manual. These changes are analogous to the random changes in our genome that are referred to as mutations. Mutations can be as simple as a single “letter” (i.e., a nucleotide) being changed or as major as the loss or duplication of an entire “book” (i.e., a chromosome). Our genome includes six billion “letters” split into 46 “volumes” (in a typical body cell; 23 chromosomes in reproductive cells). It is clear, though, that randomly changing letters in an instruction manual would not provide new and useful information.
Sanford argues that, based upon modern scientific evidence and the calculations of population geneticists (who are almost exclusively evolutionists), mutations are occurring at an alarmingly high rate in our genome and that the vast majority of all mutations are either harmful or “nearly-neutral” (meaning a loss for the organism or having no discernible fitness gain). Importantly, Sanford also establishes the extreme rarity of any type of beneficial mutations in comparison with harmful or “nearly-neutral” mutations. Indeed, “beneficial” mutations are so exceedingly rare as to not contribute in any meaningful way. [NOTE: “Beneficial” mutations do not necessarily result from a gain in information, but instead, these changes predominantly involve a net loss of function to the organism, which is also not helpful to the Primary Axiom; see Behe, 2010, pp. 419-445.] Sanford concludes that the frequency and generally harmful or neutral nature of mutations prevents them from being useful to any scheme of random evolution.
Using his analogy, imagine a manual for assembling a child’s wagon. Would randomly changing letters in the manual improve the manual? Would duplicating sections of the manual improve it? Clearly these types of changes would destroy information rather than create new information (having two copies of the same information is not necessarily of benefit, since there is no real mechanism to preserve one copy while mutating another). But Sanford extends the analogy further. He suggests that the Primary Axiom assumes that such random changes not only could change the wagon, but these random “mutations” would evolve the wagon into a car and eventually a plane, and then even a space shuttle. No one would argue that random changes in the manual for a wagon would eventually give rise to instructions for a space shuttle. However, Sanford argues this is exactly the situation with regard to our genome. If we regard “early” life forms in an evolutionary context as being the wagon, humans would easily be a space shuttle by comparison!
In the next section of the book, Sanford examines natural selection and asks whether “nature” can “select” in favor of the exceedingly rare “beneficial” mutations and against the deleterious mutations. The concept of natural selection is generally that the organisms that are best adapted to their environment will survive and reproduce, while the less fit will not. Sanford points out that this may be the case with some organisms, but more commonly, selection involves chance and luck. But could this process select against harmful mutations and allow less harmful or even beneficial mutations to thrive? According to Sanford, there are significant challenges to this notion. One major issue is the cost of selection. The cost of selection means that a portion of a population must be “spent” (i.e., removed) in order to “pay” for the selection process. To put this idea in human terms, what percentage of the population could be removed (or kept from reproducing) in order to promote selection? The numbers are exceedingly high according to Sanford—possibly higher than 50%—which would be completely unrealistic in any society today. Another issue is the “blind” nature of the process. Nature cannot “see” what potential future organisms could exist, and therefore, there is no means for selecting for or against traits to achieve any future goals. Sanford concludes that selection cannot overcome the accumulation of harmful mutations and has no real power to keep “beneficial” mutations around, due to the extreme rarity of those mutations and the fact that selection is blind. Thus, even with the ability to select—artificially or otherwise—the accumulation of mutations continues unabated.
In the final section of the book, Sanford illustrates the dire situation of the human genome. Imagine an instruction manual of tens of thousands of pages in which random changes have been made every time it is copied. Who would trust such a manual? How many changes would it take to make the manual unusable? How long before the manual no longer makes a functional product? It is a testimony to the nature of our genome that we are still alive in spite of the level of decay. Again, Sanford points to the accumulation of deleterious mutations and argues that our genomes are not evolving to something greater; we are decaying and degenerating. In other words, our genomes at one point were in far better shape than they are at present. The decay process has taken a huge toll. This process he terms “genetic entropy.” He suggests that this decay trend is not only real, but it is an inevitable result of the random, natural accumulation of mutations in our genome. Thus, not only do mutations lead to decay, they do not lead to any meaningful increase in information—which is absolutely required by the Primary Axiom. In order for organisms to evolve from one form to another, new genetic information is needed in order to provide “instructions” for building the proteins and other features of the organism. Sanford clearly establishes that any expectation of getting new, useful information from these random processes is a completely blind trust in an impotent process. His book also provides an appendix with several more arguments against the Primary Axiom, along with answers to some counterarguments.
In conclusion, Sanford’s book builds a strong case against the Primary Axiom using modern scientific information combined with powerful, yet simple, logic. His arguments are solid but written on a level that can be understood by students and non-scientists. He clarifies several misconceptions about mutations, natural selection, and the overall decay of the genome. He accurately describes the concept and reality of genetic entropy, and he concludes from that principle our dependence upon the One who designed everything. Rather than viewing life as a purposeless by-product of the Primary Axiom, Sanford argues that genetic entropy points us to our need for and reliance upon God as the Creator. Perhaps this system of genetic decay is simply one more way God reminds us of the Fall (Genesis 3) and of our complete dependence upon Him.
Behe, M. J. (2010), “Experimental Evolution, Loss-of-Function Mutations, and ‘the First Rule of Adaptive Evolution,’” Quarterly Review of Biology, 85:419-445.
Sanford, J.C. (2008), Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome (Waterloo, NY: FMS Publications).