Engelsma on Psalm 73

Prosperous Wicked and Plagued Saints: An exposition of Psalm 73, by David Engelsma (Reformed Free Presbyterian, 2007)

It’s a good book, well argued, and I am going to find it perhaps even more useful to give to people than Engelsma’s Common Grace Revisited debate with Mouw, because it starts with the biblical text and stays with it in detail. Of course it’s a polemic, but not in reaction to the passing ideas of one or two preachers.

The thesis is clearly stated: If the prosperity of the non-elect is some kind of “grace”, then the troubles of the elect must be not-grace. This antithesis is carefully argued again and again.

My favorite paragraph in the book is the second one on p 9. Here Engelsma writes about God’s justice in the gospel. God is both sovereign and just. God is not only just to the non-elect. God is also just in saving the ungodly elect, because God in Christ has a righteousness for these elect. “God blesses the elect on the ground of the righteousness of the atoning death of Christ.” Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, God has no righteous basis for blessing the non-elect.

Engelsma asks: “On what basis would God bless the ungodly, who are outside the elect church of Christ by God’s own decree of reprobation? The only explanation by those who confess the biblical doctrine that Christ died only for the elect church is that God’s grace ignores and conflicts with His righteousness….If God can bless guilty sinners apart from the cross of Christ in earthly things, why cannnot God also extend …eternal life to them apart from the righteousness of the death of Christ?”

I think this is the very heart of the issue, of the problem with most who profess to be “Calvinists”. First, many of them want to say that God has “multiple-purposes” (many intents) for the cross, and thus they say one of the reasons for the cross was to obtain “common grace” for the non-elect. In fact, God has one purpose in Christ. Everything Christ does is for the glory of Christ, and we need to be more simple about that.. We need antithesis. God’s love is not nearly “difficult” and complicated as most would have it.

Second, and even more importantly, these folks don’t see the justice of the cross—they see only sovereignty, they see only many purposes. It’s not only that they don’t see the effectiveness, the success of the cross. They don’t see the nature of the cross as a substitutionary satisfaction of divine law. Righteousness obtained and imputed demands life. Where there has been no righteousness, no satisfaction of the law, then God has no basis to give life (or any grace). Christ has not satisfied justice for the non-elect. Therefore God has no kind of salvation or blessing for the non-elect.

I was glad to see Engelsma come back to this theme on p 30. God despises the non-elect. “The Bible is clear that, apart from the basis of righteousness, there is no blessing of sinful humans.” Romans 1 teaches that the wrath of God is already being revealed to the non-elect, as sinner is being “handed over” to sinner. The non-elect are not being handed over to the elect (no theocracy for those who are not elect, no Christendom where the supposed elect govern the non-elect). But God is not only always in control, but also already in some intermediate ways, displaying His wrath to the non-elect.

4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;

And as Engelsma makes clear (p 20), this prosperity of the non-elect is not random. Their prosperity is God’s doing. Sometimes (not always, since non-elect Syrians are starving and being killed every day) the non-elect have no pangs of conscience, and then die without much trouble–often an “easy death”. On one level, we can say that they are deeply unhappy on the inside, and that they know enough by ‘general revelation” to know that God exists and that they are in trouble (and will be). But on another level, some of these non-elect boldly ask: How can God know?

In other words, they think there is no god, or if there is a god, then this god “has no clue”. On the one hand, many of these non-elect are Kantians who claim that being moral should never be contaminated by any thought of blessing or reward. The only way to be completely self-less, they say, is to be atheist and to deny any future beatitude ((or condemnation). But on the other hand, they say, well those who believe the gospel are not getting paid for it. Like Satan’s comment to God about Job, these atheists say—nobody really is moral, because everybody does what they do to get paid, so take away Job’s blessing and he won’t be moral anymore. Thus the atheist conclusion: nobody really is moral. But some of us are getting paid, and it’s not those who are trying to be moral!

They have not considered the idea that God is on purpose INCREASING THEIR PROSPERITY ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR SIN, which is the opposite of what you would expect. Less sin, more prosperity, we tend to think, when we are not trusting God. But Psalm 73 teaches a “double bind”. God increases the prosperity of the non-elect not only because of their sin but also in order to make them more sinful and hard. What a fearful thing this is. As Engelsma points out on p 31, “God uses the “no troubles” as a means to increase their sin.

Engelsma rightly asks— what kind of “grace” is this, that is used as means to increase sin? It’s not a “strange grace” (p 32) it’s NOT grace at all! I think of Romans 6, which teaches that the justified elect are not under the dominion of sin BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT UNDER LAW BUT UNDER GRACE. Nobody understands this who does not believe the gospel. All who are not justified are still under law, and this means that God has no grace for them (unless they are elect, in which case they will be placed into Christ’s death and justified). This means that all the not-justified do is nothing but sin. It also means that that there is no kind of grace for the non-justified. They are still “under law”. Therefore sin has dominion over them. Therefore, God uses prosperity as a means to increase their sin.

I don’t think Engelsma directly referenced Job. But as I was reading his book, I kept thinking of Job. p 39–“God sent the troubles which plagued the psalmist, but the troubles were not direct judgments upon specific sins. If that were the case, the psalmist would not have had a problem with the troubles.”

I also like very much his discussion of the “wakening of God” (p 66, also with a reference to Psalm 44:23) It looks that way to us when we are not trusting God. But God is not slumbering. God is controlling every detail in the lives of the non-elect. God is not “allowing” or “permitting” anything. Thus Engelsma quotes the misguided approach of Martin Lloyd Jones (p 58) who wrote: “We have to remember God’s permissive will..He has allowed sin to develop and reveal itself for what it is.” As Engelsma very firmly points out, God’s purpose is that they slide into destruction.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.

I also think Engelsma is correct to see the being “pricked in heart” of verse 21 as being about the godly sorrow that the psalmist experiences (when he understands again the truth, when he comes to the sanctuary). This pricking of heart is NOT the sinful thinking he was doing before, because it is not that envy but rather it is his present repentance about that envy. He confesses: “I was like an animal”. It’s important for us to see that he doesn’t dismiss knowledge and rationalism as so many do today. He doesn’t excuse his ignorance, or blame it on other people (his preachers, his parents etc). As Engelsma concludes on p 73, foolish thinking is sin. And it’s a sin for humans to think like an animal.

One point I would stress here. I guess it depends on a distinction between indicative and imperative. If we say– well real Christians don’t ever think like that, what we mean is—Christians should not think like that. Neither Engelsma nor the psalmist is denying that Christians do sometimes think like that. But the point is that we should not think like that. We can sin, we should not sin. But our hope is not that we keep ourselves from sinning, or that we keep holding on. Our hope is that when we do sin in this way, with foolish thinking, with lack of trust, God is continually with us, holding us, keeping us from falling.

And then Engelsma writes about the “afterward”, the glory to come. Kant was wrong about the idea of future blessing contaminating morality. To the extent we Christian sinners are moral, our motive is gratitude for both the past and for the future which is come. Since that future glory is certain for the elect, the “thankful” category is not out of order. Faith is not something else than assurance, and therefore faith is not something else than gratitude for all that will be given in Christ. Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

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19 Comments on “Engelsma on Psalm 73”


    I am not asking that evangelists explain to the lost what Arminianism is. Rather, I am asking us to not proclaim an Arminian gospel.

    The Bible talks about “us” and “our” sins, but it never sounds Arminian or resorts to an Arminian logic. Let us try to do the same thing.

    When we tell people that God saves “as many as” (whosoever) has faith in Jesus, let us make sure that we tell them for whom Jesus died. Let’s NOT merely say: “there is no other qualification, and faith is not a work. Faith is not what makes Christ’s death effective for us: the Holy Spirit is not the One who makes the atonement work.

    Faith is not a qualification, but a result of Christ’s death, a benefit of Christ’s righteousness. (II Peter 1:1) It is true to say that “without faith we will not be saved” but it not the whole truth, and it becomes a lie when we do not rule out he idea that trust is what makes the death work.

    And we cannot exclude faith as what makes the death work, unless we teach that faith is a result given to the elect as a result of Christ’s death for the elect.

    God has a non-elect. My worry is not that some of the non-elect will be saved. But neither should these pastors worry that the elect will not be saved if they told the truth that God has a non-elect and that God does not love all sinners.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Psalm 17: deliver me from sinners WHO ARE YOUR SWORD

    14 From men WHO ARE YOUR HAND

    save me from men…

    whose portion is in this life:
    You fill their bellies with treasure;
    their sons are SATISFIED,
    and they leave their surplus to their children.
    15 But I will see Your face in righteousness;
    when I awake, I will be SATISFIED with Your presence

    satisfied is not an even-steven “balanced” kind of thing—more than enough

    I know that my Redeemer lives and that in this flesh I shall behold God” (Job 19:25)

    For the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth” (John 5:28)

    Psalm 16:10 For You will not abandon me to Sheol;
    You will not allow Your Faithful One to see decay https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/the-belly-problem-philippians-3/

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Malachi 3: 2 But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears?

    Malachi 3: 5 “I will come to you in judgment… against those who THRUST ASIDE THE REFUGEE. They do not fear Me,” says the Lord of Hosts. 6 “Because I, Yahweh, have not changed, you descendants of Jacob have not been CONSUMED.

    Malachi 3:14 You have said: “It is useless to serve God. What have we PROFITED by keeping His requirements and walking MOURNFULLY before the Lord of Hosts? 15 So now we consider the arrogant to be blessed. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.

    Malachi 1: 9 “And now ask for God’s favor. Will He be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, WILL HE SHOW ANY OF YOU FAVOR?” asks the Lord of Hosts. 10 “I wish one of you would shut the temple doors, so you would no longer kindle a useless fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.

    Malachi 1: 13 “You BRING WHAT HAS BEEN TAKEN BY VIOLENCE lame, or sick animals. You bring this as an offering! Am I to accept that from your hands?” asks the Lord.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    “re-gifting”—can we give a gift that has not been given to us?

    Luke 22:25But He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’

    Romans 11: 35 Or who has ever first given to Him,
    and has to be repaid?


    • markmcculley Says:

      Psalm 90: 3 You return mankind to the dust,
      saying, “Return, descendants of Adam.”
      4 For in Your sight a thousand years
      are like yesterday that passes by,
      like a few hours of the night.
      5 You end their lives;they sleep.
      They are like grass that grows in the morning—
      6 in the morning it sprouts and grows;
      by evening it withers and dries up.
      7 For we are consumed by Your anger;
      we are terrified by Your wrath.
      8 You have set our unjust ways before You,
      our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
      9 For all our days ebb away under Your wrath;
      we end our years like a sigh.
      10 Our lives last seventy years
      or, if we are strong, eighty years.
      Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow;
      indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away.
      11 Who understands the power of Your anger?
      Your wrath matches the fear that is due You.
      12 Teach us to number our days carefully
      so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts

  5. If someone is innocent, then perhaps they can earn a reward. However, if they are not innocent, if they have a guilt that must be paid, then they cannot earn anything until that guilt is paid. So they can’t earn anything to pay the debt until the debt is paid !

    But Leviticus 18:5 says that the Mosaic Covenant, which is made with fallen sinners, operates upon the principle of “if you do this, then you will get this.”
    The problem is not only that fallen sinners are unable to earn anything, but also that fallen sinners deserve only God’s wrath and death. Yet somehow they continue to eat and breathe and live. it looks like God is willing and able, while maintaining his justice, to give them gifts they do not deserve.

    God blesses the elect on the ground of the righteousness of the atoning death of Christ. Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, God has no righteous basis for blessing the non-elect.

    On what basis would God bless the ungodly, who are reprobate by God’s own decree? SinceChrist died only for the elect, is this a case in which God’s “grace” ignores and does not depend on Christ’s righteousness?

    Psalm 73 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are.

    Providence cannot be explained only in terms of God’s law. Job. God sent the troubles , but the problems are not direct judgments upon specific sins. If there were some obvious correlation (poetic justice), we would not have the same problem with the troubles.

    Psalm 44:23) God is not slumbering. God is controlling every detail in the lives of the non-elect. God is not “allowing” or “permitting” anything. God has not merely “allowed or permitted” sin to develop and reveal itself for what it is.” God’s purpose is that some slide into destruction.

    Psalm 73: 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 6: 23 For the WAGES of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is lasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Equal ultimacy does NOT mean that the death of the non-elect is a different kind of lasting life. Equal ultimacy does not mean that the wages of sin are God’s gift. Equal ultimacy does not mean that the gift of life is God’s wages for our works.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Daniel 12:2-10 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river and the other on that bank of the river. And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.

    Isaiah 29:11-14 The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, “Please read this,” he will say, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, “Please read this.” And he will say, “I cannot read.” Then the Lord said,“Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold: I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous, and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”

    Isaiah 48:1-7 “Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel and who came forth from the loins of Judah, who swear by the name of the Lord and invoke the God of Israel but not in truth nor in righteousness. “For they call themselves after the holy city and lean on the God of Israel; The Lord of hosts is His name. “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. “Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead bronze, therefore I declared them to you long ago, before they took place I proclaimed them to you, so that you would not say, ‘My idol has done them, and my graven image and my molten image have commanded them.’ “You have heard; look at all this. And you will you not declare it? I proclaim to you new things from this time, even hidden things which you have not known. “They are created now and not long ago; And before today you have not heard them, So that you will not say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Psalm 91: 7 Though a thousand fall at your side
    and ten thousand at your right hand,
    the pestilence will not reach YOU
    8 YOU WILL ONLY SEE IT with your eyes

    9 Because you have made the Lord—my refuge,
    the Most High—your dwelling place,
    10 no harm will come to YOU;
    no plague will come NEAR YOUR TENT.
    11 For He will give His angels orders concerning YOU,
    to protect YOU in all your ways.

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Hebrews 13: 16 Don’t neglect to do what is good and TO SHARE, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

    Hebrews 13: 5 Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    For those who preach and believe in predestination, the “God always has a plan” tribe, the ones who insist God has chosen those who will be eternally blessed and eternally damned, then yes, God, totally sovereign and therefore unable to be questioned by us mere mortals, does play favorites. Some get it good. Some don’t. Quit complaining. It’s all part of God’s design.

    For others, especially those who see God, full of mercy and compassion, as One who enters without restraint the sufferings of humankind, who seeks redemptive hope in all things and all places, it is another story. In that case, the more fortunate ones carry the extreme responsibility to be of aid to the less fortunate ones, to serve, as it were, as the hands and feet of our all-compassionate God and to seek to relieve suffering in all possible ways.


  11. markmcculley Says:

    3 After this, Job began to speak and cursed the day he was born. 2 He said:

    3 May the day I was born perish,
    and the night when they said,
    “A boy is conceived.”
    4 If only that day had turned to darkness!
    May God above not care about it,
    or light shine on it.
    5 May darkness and gloom reclaim that day,
    and a cloud settle over it.
    May an eclipse of the sun terrify that day.
    6 If only darkness had taken that night away!
    May that day not appear among the days of the year
    or be listed in the calendar.
    7 Yes, may that night be barren;
    may no joyful shout be heard in it.
    8 Let those who curse certain days
    cast a spell on that day.
    9 May its morning stars grow dark.
    May it wait for daylight but have none;
    may it not see the breaking of dawn.
    10 For that night did not shut
    the doors of my mother’s womb,
    and hide sorrow from my eyes.

    11 Why was I not stillborn;
    why didn’t I die as I came from the womb?
    12 Why did the knees receive me,
    and why were there breasts for me to nurse?
    13 Now I would certainly be lying down in peace;
    I would be asleep.
    Then I would be at rest
    14 with the kings and counselors of the earth,
    who rebuilt ruined cities for themselves,
    15 or with princes who had gold,
    who filled their houses with silver.
    16 Or why was I not hidden like a miscarried child,
    like infants who never see daylight?
    17 There the wicked cease to make trouble,
    and there the weary find rest.
    18 The captives are completely at ease;
    they do not hear the voice of their oppressor.
    19 Both small and great are there,
    and the slave is set free from his master.

    20 Why is light given to one burdened with grief,
    and life to those whose existence is bitter,
    21 who wait for death, but it does not come,
    and search for it more than for hidden treasure,
    22 who are filled with much joy
    and are glad when they reach the grave?
    23 Why is life given to a man whose path is hidden,
    whom God has hedged in?
    24 I sigh when food is put before me,
    and my groans pour out like water.
    25 For the thing I feared has overtaken me,
    and what I dreaded has happened to me.
    26 I cannot relax or be still;
    I have no rest, for trouble comes.

  12. markmcculley Says:

    James Jordan Psalm 137 is widely regarded as one of the meanest of the imprecatory psalms. Certainly as we read it it is seems to be a song of pure vengeance. The exiles in Babylon, in grief over the judgment that Babylon has brought upon them, pray for the destruction of that great city.

    There is a real problem with this psalm, however. It lies in the fact that God had instructed these exiles to pray for and seek the peace of Babylon. Jeremiah had written to them: “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jer. 29:7).

    It appears that the author of Psalm 137 has rejected Jeremiah’s message. He is not praying for the peace of Babylon but for her destruction. Certainly it is clear from Psalms 58 and 109 and others that it is entirely proper to pray for the destruction of God’s enemies, but in this case God had expressly told the exiles not to pray this way. Is this a “carnal” psalm, authored by a rebel who has rejected God’s command?

    I think not. Rather, I believe that the contradiction between the apparent sentiments of Psalm 137 and the letter of Jeremiah should force us to take another look at the psalm, and see if perhaps another interpretation can be found.

    Let us assume that the author of this psalm has fully absorbed the perspective of Jeremiah. He knows that the destruction of Jerusalem was not ultimately caused by the Babylonian army, but by the sins of God’s people. He knows that the “Enemy” who destroyed the city was God, the Jealous Divine Husband. He knows that Jerusalem deserved everything she got. He agrees with Jeremiah’s Lamentations. Further, he knows that God wants him to pray for the peace of Babylon, and that means he is to pray for her conversion. Is it possible that, despite appearance, this is the theme of Psalm 137? I believe that it is.

    First of all, the psalmist recalls how depressed and sad he and the other exiles felt when they arrived in Babylon. They found that they could not sing any longer, and they hung up their harps. Then, however, the Babylonians asked them to sing; yea, the Babylonians demanded that they sing.

    What does this mean? It means that instead of forcing the exiles to sing heathen songs, the Babylonians wanted to hear God’s songs. It meant that the exiles were being given a wonderful opportunity to do evangelism.

    How shall we sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land? How shall we do this evangelism? Well, first of all we point the Babylonians to God’s true Jerusalem. We tell them that the skills of our right hands and of our tongues come from God’s city. We tell them that God’s city must be exalted above every city of man. When God’s city of Jerusalem played the harlot and made herself the city of man, God destroyed her. We tell the Babylonians about this.

    Second, we tell the Babylonians that God is a God of judgment. Since we may not curse Babylon, we curse Esau. Every time God brought a Gentile army against Jerusalem, the Edomite vultures gathered to delight in her destruction and to worsen the disaster. This is the theme of the prophecy of Obadiah. In terms of the Biblical pattern, the primary party responsible for the sacking of Jerusalem is always God’s own wayward people. In each case, an army of Gentiles with Edomite fellow-travellers is used by God to bring judgment upon Jerusalem. Then God turns around and brings judgment upon the Gentiles and the Edomites, because they sacked Jerusalem with ill-will, rather than with righteous zeal for the true God.

    God’s judgment comes in two forms. One form is judgment unto utter destruction, but the other form is judgment unto resurrection. In the case of Edom, the prophecy is always of judgment unto utter destruction. In the case of the Gentiles, the prophecy of usually of judgment unto repentance and resurrection. That is the case here as well.

    The key to understanding the prophecy “against” Babylon in Psalm 137:8-9 is to remember who the Rock is in the psalter. The Rock is God. Dashing the children’s heads against the Rock is an image not of utter destruction but of salvation. (This is a great verse to preach on when doing an infant baptism.) Either a man falls upon the Rock and is saved, or the Rock falls upon him and crushes him (Luke 20:18). (In Psalm 137:9 “rock” is singular, not plural, contrary to the old King James and the NIV.)

    The psalmist prophecies that Babylon is to be destroyed, just as Jerusalem was. This is inevitable. But what kind of destruction will it be? Utter destruction or destruction unto resurrection?

    “Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!” Who is the one who will repay Babylon? It is God Himself. The psalmist wishes for Babylon the same thing that happened to Jerusalem. Yes, the city was destroyed, but the people were saved. The people repented. Eye for eye, the destruction of Babylon will have to be one that issues in tears of repentance and salvation.

    The Godly man realized that in spite of the horrors of her destruction, it was indeed a happy day when Jerusalem was destroyed, because it was that event that provoked repentance. Just so, it will be a happy day when the children of Babylon are “dashed” into union with the Rock of Salvation.


  13. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Only we justified elect sin against grace. On the one hand, that is a
    terrible thing, that we should sin and not be trustful of the God who
    chose us and loves us. But on the other hand, what a fearsome reality
    it is that the non-elect sin against God’s law, and are already
    condemned without the gospel, apart from the gospel. They do not need gospel to condemn them. They are already under the wrath of God. God counts their sins against them. And as Hebrews 10 teaches, even though Christ is not a sacrifice for them. there is no sacrifice for them, because there is no other sacrifice!

    Even if I were to grant that these ungodly in Psalm 73 were in the “OT visible church”, that would not mean that they should be in the “NT visible church”. Certainly I would NOT agree that they were in the “new covenant” or even in the “sphere of the new covenant”. Of course, it never helps when we just say ‘the covenant” and don’t say which one we are talking about, as if to assume that having only one gospel means that God only has one covenant.

  14. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Engelsma’s statement about the non-elect in between death and the second coming on p 50. the Old Testament does not sharply distinguish the state of the wicked in their soul before the resurrection of the body and the state of the wicked in body and soul after the resurrection, as the
    New Testament.” To me, that’s a big understatement. it’s misleading to say that there is no OT sharp distinction between “the state of their wicked in their soul” and something else, because there is no OT language about “the state of the wicked in their soul”. (Isaiah 53: Christ poured out His soul even unto death)

    In an exegesis of Psalm 73, we should stick with the OT text—the “end” won’t come at death. because the “end” comes after the last judgment, and the last judgment comes after Jesus
    Christ comes back to earth, when heaven comes to earth, when there is a “new heaven and a new earth”.

    Part of my concern is the non-OT way people have of talking about “time” and “eternity”, instead of about the ages, including the age to come. for example, on p 45–Engelsmas write that “death ushers them into eternity”. I don’t think that’s the way the Bible talks. In any case, if you want to use that word, then death puts us all into “eternity”.
    But the problem for the non-elect, besides the present revelation of
    God’s wrath in history (Romans 1), is that after death, there will be a
    judgment by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16), and after that, a second
    death. As the hope of the elect is not some kind of disembodied
    nakedness ( without resurrection) before Jesus comes, so the thing
    that the non-elect have to fear most is the one who can (and will)
    destroy both body and soul, and this after a public just judgment.

  15. Mark Mcculley Says:

    No doubt there will be a sense of vindication in the age
    to come when we shall know that all of God’s enemies (including death, the last enemy) have perished. But will there also be beatitude in our seeing the non-elect continue to sin and rebel against God for all “eternity”? And yet, what else could the non-elect ever do but sin and rebel against God? To compare the age to come with the age of Psalm 73, shall we continue to see the continuing sin of the non-elect and continue to know that this continual never ending sinning is both evidence and result of God’s wrath (not God’s grace)

    Psalm 73: 25 And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

    In glory, as far as I am concerned, there will be no other Christians
    but me myself in individual beatitude? For me, after I am changed, I
    will not even see heaven or earth? I won’t desire to be on earth or
    in heaven, because I won’t even notice where I am or who else is there or even the continual sinning of the non-elect because I will only desire Christ? Having Christ, I will continually desire Christ. The
    more Christ, the less other people and other things. But is there comfort in knowing the non-elect have survived and will never perish?

  16. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Gaffin- Among my continuing reservations about the Psalter-Hymnal project, here I’m only able to raise one concern about its commitment to total psalmody. The imprecations in Psalm 137, among others, have in view the Old Testament situation, when God’s covenant people were one nation, a single geopolitical entity (Israel), and their enemies were likewise ethnically and geopolitically defined (Babylon and Edom here). But now, after Christ’s finished work, that  enmity, inseparably national, has ceased. Now the realization of God’s eternal saving purpose, anticipated throughout the Old Testament, is universal. His elect are no longer found only within Israel, but within every nation. Under the new covenant, the church is “in Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13) in a way it was not under the old: no longer are Jews in holy hostility towards non-Jews

    I recognize that the ethnic references like those in Psalm 137 are not only literal but also typological. Akin to the symbolic references to Babylon in Revelation, they point forward to the final destruction of the enemies of God’s people. Still, singing explicitly genocidal curses in public worship, without a whole lot of preparatory explanation (and perhaps even with that), risks leaving the impression that the congregation is calling on God for the large-scale destruction of people with Gentile ethnicity like most of us

    Click to access NH2014Jun.pdf

    • markmcculley Says:

      Charles Hodge referred to Christ’s “little lambs” being written into the book of life – and then excoriated Baptists for erasing their names.

      Scott Clark and Mike Horton don’t like the either or –


      Mike Horton—“God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. .To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse.”

      Mike Horton—Through their covenant membership they have shared in God’s COMMON GRACE, and now, if they respond in unbelief, they will
      bear the CURSES OF THE NEW COVENANT. We must account for this category of common covenant beneficiaries of grace who spurn the objective
      COMMON GRACE delivered to them and fall away. If our theological system cannot account for this third group—not elect BUT NOT WITHOUT COVENANT GRACE EITHER–then we need a different theological paradigm. It’s covenant theology that accounts for this tertium quid between “foreigners to the covenant” and “elect members.” Some non-elect share the new covenant in common with the elect.



      the question was asked:

      -We know that there are at least two categories of people within Scripture, the elect, and the non-elect. However, it might be apparent that there is a third class of people, those who have taken the physical sign of the covenant but are not elect.

      We know that not all of the Jews were literally God’s people, but there were those who took the sign of the covenant although they weren’t elect. Also, we know that not all Christians are saved, even though they profess faith in Christ and have taken on the sign of the new covenant, that of Baptism. Could we then say there is a third category of human beings, those who have placed themselves as covenanted with God, but whom God has not Himself covenanted with?

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