Monday, April 18, 2005

See you on Friday

As of 4:00 PM EST, Friday, April 22 in the year of our Lord, 2005 I will officially be done all of my work at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and ready for graduation!! Until then, I have one paper that is looming over me. Needless to say, I won't be much fun or of any good use to anyone else. Sorry! Friday Night I plan on taking my wife out to eat somewhere NICE and watching comedian Brian Reagan on DVD. Then I think I'm going to try out Netflix and rent all three seasons of 24. That ought to start things off quite well I should say.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Beer in the New Heavens and New Earth?

Alcohol is big issue to a lot of Christians. The churches I attended while I was growing up all disapproved of it. It was lumped together with all of the "big" sins. You know...pre-marital sex, abortion, murder...and, of course drinking. There was seldom the distinction of "drunkeness" over "drinking." Needless to say I was very skeptical of the whole thing. Thankfully, my parents never held to this standard of making their convictions equal to Scripture; it just wasn't an issue to them. I don't have any great stories of reckless abuse of alcohol; I've never been drunk. Don't care to be.

What does the Bible say about beer and wine? Does it ever speak positively about it? First off, Scripture does not oppose alcoholic consumption. It does, however, condemn drunkenness and warns of the abuse of it. Unfortunately, many churches have taken a legalistic approach to dealing with an issue that requires discernment, not another extra-biblical tradition. An argument that is often posed to support abstinence is that Scripture, while not directly prohibiting all consumption, always speaks with great caution. I beg to differ. Yeah, we’ve all heard the Paul-Timothy argument where the apostle’s home-remedy includes the use of a little wine. It could be argued that this was merely a cultural accommodation since they didn’t have Pepto-Bismol back then. And of course Jesus made water into wine (and it was good). But I came across a passage that is quite worthy of reflection about the positive use of alcohol. Here it is:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 25:6-8

The context of this passage is the very consummation of history, the conclusion of the Day of YHWH, the return of Jesus Christ: note the swallowing up of Death (cf. 1 Cor 15:54). If there's ever a day to celebrate, it's this one. If there's a day when any presence of anything evil will not be tolerated, it's this one. Yet what we have here is a feast prepared by YHWH himself and he is not serving up lemonade. The NT parallel is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. And what a feast it will apparently be! There will not only be wine, but well-aged wine…aged wine well refined! (So much for the thought that the wine approved of in Scripture had very little fermentation.) Granted, this is an poetic/apocalyptic description. The obvious meaning is that the feast will be bountiful and rich. Perhaps there will be no literal wine, and it is merely symbolic. But you have to admit that an allegedly "evil" symbol is being employed in the most "holy" of occasions! Furthermore, I believe that the re-creation of the new heavens and earth will be so complete that we will have a "real" meal, just like Jesus promised we would. Remember, at the Last Supper Jesus himself promised to not drink of the fruit of the vine until he drinks it again with us, his people, in his Father’s Kingdom. To this I say, “Maranatha!”