MST Press Reprints!

Here’s some exciting news for you: MST Press has agreed to reprint the first novel in the Exegetical Histories series, The Ephesus Scroll, and my play, Saul, First King of Israel.  Since this meant preparing new print files, I thought it was worth while doing a complete redesign of Saul (the previous cover was definitely looking its age!) and adding an endorsement to Ephesus to bring it in line with The Corinth Letters.

I’m particularly excited about the new-look Saul.  The Rembrandt painting on the front is exquisite and the off-centre title is rather striking.  The description on the back is also new and, I think, helps to draw the reader in.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Ephesus Scroll front cover

Ephesus Scroll back cover

Saul Front Cover

Saul Back Cover

The Corinth Letters is here!

And it comes recommended by Dr. Colin Kruse, respected Pauline scholar and author of a number of New Testament commentaries: “creatively conceived… illuminating and engaging… hard to put down”.

Here’s how to get a copy…

If you want to purchase the paperback there are two options:

  1. You can order one from Koorong (A$21.99).
  2. Those of you outside of Australia can get one from CreateSpace (US$14.99).

If you want to purchase the e-book (only US$4.99) there are lots of options:

  1. I highly recommend SmashWords.  You can get every possible format from them, including PDF, EPUB and MOBI (which is the file-type that works on Kindles).
  2. It is also on Amazon.
  3. And Kobo.
  4. And iTunes.

Don’t forget to post a review when you’ve finished reading it!  And post your review on Amazon, Smashwords and Goodreads if you can.  The more reviews (especially positive ones!) the better…

Koorong Ad

The Corinth Letters is coming!

And it comes recommended by Dr. Colin Kruse, respected Pauline scholar and author of a number of New Testament commentaries: “creatively conceived… illuminating and engaging… hard to put down”.

Here’s how to get a copy…

If you want to purchase the paperback there are two options:

  1. You can order one from Koorong (A$23.99).
  2. Those of you outside of Australia can get one from CreateSpace (US$14.99).

If you want to purchase the e-book (only US$4.99) there are lots of options:

  1. I highly recommend SmashWords.  You can get every possible format from them, including PDF, EPUB and MOBI (which is the file-type that works on Kindles).
  2. It is also on Amazon.
  3. And Kobo.
  4. And iTunes.

Don’t forget you can also pre-order a copy.  That way, you can be reading your copy on the 1st of December!

A Communion Reflection

I wonder what the disciples thought of that last supper they had with Jesus.  Particularly in Mark’s gospel, there’s a real sense of danger and intrigue.  Jesus tells two of his disciples to go into the city where a man with a water jar will meet them.  (Remember that in this culture men simply did not carry water jars; that was women’s work.)  So the two disciples are to follow this man to a house.  Then they are to ask the owner of the house to show them the guest room.  And then they are to prepare the Passover meal there.

Why all this cloak and dagger stuff?  Well, the simple answer is that Jesus is probably trying to prevent Judas Iscariot from knowing his future whereabouts.  He couldn’t exactly say, “Go to Mary, the mother of John Mark’s house and prepare the Passover in their upper room”.  Then Judas could simply go to the chief priests, tell them where Jesus would be, and that would be that.  No, Jesus wanted to have that last Passover meal with his disciples.  And only then would he allow himself to be arrested.

So why was it so important to Jesus that he celebrate that Passover meal?  As good Jewish people, Jesus and his disciples would have celebrated Passover every year of their lives.  But this one was to be different.  For Jesus reinterpreted two parts of the meal: the bread and a cup of wine.  He took some bread and he broke it.  Now this was a normal part of the Passover meal.  But as he broke the bread he added some new words: “This is my body.”  And then he took a cup of wine and passed it around.  Again, this was a normal part of the Passover meal.  But again he added some new words: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

I can picture those disciples looking at one another.  What’s he saying?  Jesus had already told them he was going to die at the hands of the chief priests, but that on the third day he would rise again.  But they’d never really understood.  Now, with a piece of broken bread in their hands, and a mouthful of wine in their mouths, Jesus’ imminent death became real.

I am pretty sure that at the time they did not really understand the significance of what Jesus was saying.  But afterwards they did.  After Jesus had died and had been resurrected, they began to understand what his death meant.  They realised that his broken body was necessary so that our sins could be forgiven.  They realised that his blood had inaugurated a new covenant, a new agreement, between God and humanity.
And they remembered this every time they broke bread and drank wine.  Certainly once a year at Passover.  But possibly even more regularly than that.  Why?  Because Jesus asked them to.  Mark doesn’t record it, but Paul does, in 1 Corinthians 11.  Twice Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me”.

So each time we gather like this and take a piece of bread and drink a small cup of juice we remember what Jesus did nearly 2000 years ago.  And each time we too have a tangible reminder of Jesus’ death.  We know that our sins are forgiven through what he did on the cross.  And we know that we are sons and daughters of God as a result of that new covenant.  So when you take a piece of bread and eat it and take a mouthful of wine do not be sorrowful as you remember Jesus’ death.  This is a moment of joy!  Forgiveness of sins is ours through Jesus!  Our relationship with God is restored!  Let us remember what Jesus did and be glad.

Now on CreateSpace!

The Ephesus Scroll is now available as a print-on-demand paperback on CreateSpace: click here to check it out.

To mark this milestone, the front cover of the book has been slightly changed:

CreateSpace Cover

(By removing the scroll fragment from behind the book’s title, it just gives a better contrast, allowing the title to be more clearly seen.)

In addition, my two other books are also now available. Firstly, Meeting Of Minds (my first novel which is a sci-fi / virtual reality / humour mash-up involving hackers, aliens, and galactic exploration) is available here:

CreateSpace MOM CoverSecondly, Saul, First King of Israel (a play based on the Biblical book of 1 Samuel) is available here.  The text looks great, and would be eminently suitable for study at high school level.  I am also very much hoping that now that it is available in print form, it is now one step closer to being performed!  Please get in contact with me if you are interested…

CreateSpace Saul Cover

Why I Want To Be ‘Left Behind’

There’s a new Nicholas Cage movie coming your way and it’s called Left Behind. If you don’t know about it yet, I think you soon will. Even the normally cool Relevant magazine is getting excited about it. The movie is based on the first book of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind multi-volume series. Strictly speaking it’s a reboot since there have already been a few movies made of this series. But this one has a much bigger budget and, well, Nicholas Cage:

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.47.59 AM

With trepidation I followed the link to watch the trailer on You Tube. Not having read the books I cannot comment on how faithful the new movie will be compared with the series. But one line in the trailer really struck me: a young woman says, “The God my father talked about would never do something like this!” I am guessing that she is referring to the disappearance of all Christians in a secret rapture.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly agree: I do not believe there will be a secret rapture.

Jigsaw Hermeneutics

The doctrine of a secret rapture is by no means new: there have been other books (Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth to name one among many), movies (A Thief In The Night) and even songs (Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready…”) that describe such a thing. But the effect of this teaching is often one of engendering fear, and not even a fear of going to hell so much as a fear of having to live through something called ‘the Great Tribulation’.

It should be noted at the outset that the rapture – secret or otherwise – is not in the Creeds or the 39 Articles. Instead, the Creeds simply state the fact of Jesus’ return in an event that will involve both the resurrection of those who have already died followed by a great judgment. So basically this is not a doctrine of first importance. It is a ‘non-essential’, as in the phrase usually attributed to Augustine: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

So where does the concept come from? The doctrine of a secret rapture of Christians comes from bringing together a few different passages of the Bible and arguing that these different passages are actually all speaking about the same thing. I call this jigsaw hermeneutics: different bits of Scripture are treated like jigsaw pieces and are fitted together (actually, forced would be a better way of describing it) into a big picture that owes more to the interpreter’s presuppositions than it does to the individual pieces themselves.

Regarding a secret rapture, there are two main passages: 1 Thess. 4:15-17 and Matt. 24:30-31, 36-41. Then there are quite a few secondary verses used to support the basic teaching: for example, John 14:2-3, Ezek 20:34 and 2 Thess. 2:7, among others. However, a discussion of the rapture is rarely separated from a discussion of the Great Tribulation, so all of Matt 24 – 25 (as well as the parallel passages Mark 13 and Luke 21) come into play, as do many other passages, not least the entire book of Revelation!

The end result is this doctrine of a secret rapture of Christians, secret in that those not involved (non-Christians) only become aware of it after the fact, rather than during the event itself. This is further complicated by the discussion as to when this rapture will occur with respect to the Great Tribulation, resulting in pre-tribulation, post-tribulation, and mid-tribulation raptures.

An Important Principle of Biblical Interpretation

I would like to argue, however, that such a doctrine must be treated with great caution. For one thing, a derived doctrine should not contradict a direct doctrine, that is, one that is explicitly taught in Scripture. Consequently, doctrines that are based on harmonisations need to be examined in the light of an extremely important principle of Biblical interpretation. Put simply, each passage should be interpreted within the literary and historical context in which it is found. What this usually means in practice is that passages must primarily be dealt with within the book in which they are found.

As a good example, how many people know that the Antichrist does not appear anywhere in the book of Revelation? Instead, the references to “antichrist” in 1 John 2:18 – and neglecting the reference to many “antichrists” in 2 John – are harmonised with the beast from the land in Rev. 13:11-18 who is also referred to as the false prophet (Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). Paul’s references to “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess 2:3-12) are usually also thrown in for good measure! The end result of this conglomeration is to blur what the separate passages are actually teaching or describing in favour of constructing some sort of hybrid ‘bigger picture’ of the End Times. Against this particular harmonisation, in 1 and 2 John the author is talking about false teachers within the church, not some End Times satanic ruler. And for anyone wanting to explore the book of Revelation in its first century context, I would recommend reading my novel, The Ephesus Scroll.

Similarly, if we allow the passages that are used to support a secret rapture of Christians to be interpreted within their contexts, we are actually being faithful to the Bible, albeit at the expense of losing sight of this bigger picture of the rapture. However, I would contend that this is actually no loss since this secret rapture of Christians is actually unbiblical in that it is explicitly contradicted by the very passages used to support it.

1 Thess. 4:15-17

There is no denying that 1 Thess. 4:15-17 is dealing with what has since become known as the rapture. Paul here does explicitly state that when Jesus returns Christians will join with Him in the clouds and be with Him forever from that time on. However, this is not the main point of the passage. Paul writes to the Thessalonians to encourage them about the ultimate fate of their fellow Christian brothers and sisters who had already died. They had somehow reached the conclusion that those who had died would miss out on being with Jesus forever. Paul then teaches them about the resurrection of the dead that is to immediately precede the rapture.

Now, if this was all that people taught about the rapture then I would be happy to be included and there would be no need for a blog post such as this. However, Paul says nothing in this passage about this event being secret, an event that would only become apparent to non-Christians by them finding clothes, glasses, and false teeth on empty seats previously occupied by Christians!

In addition to this, Paul uses a word that was used to describe a delegation of people who would go out from a city to welcome a visiting dignitary.  But then they would accompany the dignitary back into the city.  So by analogy, even when Christians join Jesus in the clouds – Acts 1:11 tells us that he will return the same way he departed – they will then return to earth and be with Jesus forever here.

Matt. 24:30-41

This brings us to the passage that is most often used to support the element of secrecy. Actually, you would think that such a thing would be impossible given the way this passage starts:

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (v30-31)

This is explicitly said to be a world-wide public event. Then, only a few verses later, Jesus says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (As an aside, if only Christians had taken that verse seriously, there would have been a lot less End Times speculation – and shame on those who say that this verse doesn’t rule out knowing the year or even the month!) Jesus then provides some illustrative material to support his statement, illustrations that all have something in common: suddenness and unexpectedness.

It is here that we find the classic “Left Behind” verses:

Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (v40-41)

Now those pushing for a rapture harmonisation argue that those being taken here are the same as those being gathered in verse 31. But this is not necessarily so. After all, the verses immediately preceding are concerned with the time of Noah and the Flood:

For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (v38-39)

This is what is being discussed: judgment upon those not ready. When Jesus goes on to describe two men working in the field and one is taken, he means one was not prepared for the return of Jesus and is thereby taken in judgment. Similarly, with the two women grinding away at their hand-mills: one is prepared for Jesus’ return, the other is taken in judgment. This is why Jesus concludes this passage with the following words:

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (v42-44)

Conclusion

So, if this is what it means to be “Left Behind” then leave me behind! I don’t want to be taken in judgment. Rather, I want to be prepared for Jesus’ return, a return that will not happen in secret but will be witnessed by the whole world. I want to join with Him and all Christians – both those who are alive at the time and those who will be resurrected – in that great ingathering that will then occur. So, really, if anything should be left behind please let it be this unbiblical notion of a secret rapture of Christians.

Newsletter Sign-up

Would you like a free copy of The Ephesus Scroll?  And if you already have a copy, do you know someone you could give a free copy to?

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From now on, I will be sending out the occasional author newsletter, providing the interested reader with inside-information into my writing processes.  You might even be given a look at an excerpt from a draft.  And, of course, the recipients of this newsletter will be the first to hear about the release date of the next novel!  (And yes, you heard that right, there will be a next novel…)

I will also let you know about giveaways from other independent Australian authors.  It can be difficult starting out in this business, and so we rely quite heavily on word-of-mouth and online reviews.  To get those reviews, we often have to give our books away.  So if you like to receive free books, and you don’t mind writing the occasional review, then this is the newsletter for you!

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I hope you will sign up!  And I look forward to sharing the long journey to the release of the next novel with you all.

Sales figures

Every so often, someone asks me how many copies of The Ephesus Scroll have been sold.  I am pleased to be able to share the current sales figures…

As of June 2014, after about a year and a half since the release of the ebook, more than 300 copies of The Ephesus Scroll have been sold!  OK, so it isn’t quite a best-seller yet, but still I am very pleased with the way things have gone.  More specifically, I have covered the cost of printing the paperback.

Interestingly, I have sold twice as many paperbacks as ebooks: that’s just over 200 paperbacks and just over 100 ebooks.  So clearly many people still prefer a physical copy. And one thing I noticed as I have gone around talking about the novel and the book of Revelation is that it isn’t very easy to sign an ebook!