The History of Heaven

Lane Tipton speaks about his recent conference addresses and his newly available video course, Foundations of Covenant Theology. In this conversation, we seek to address the question of the Spiritual character of the law as an administration of the Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament and set the priority for the history of heaven as a frame of reference for understanding covenant theology in general and the law’s relationship to the Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace in particular.

In the beginning in Genesis 1:1, “heavens” is a reference to an archetypal temple-dwelling of God. Before God creates an earthly temple or tabernacle, he makes a heavenly temple dwelling that he fills with the glory of his Spirit and populates with angels. The earth is a replica of these invisible heavens. Prior to a history on earth per se, there is a bona fide history of heaven, which results in the Lord being enthroned in heaven at the end of the creation week. Covenant history now moves forward with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to this throne and his return when he will bring his people into this glory.

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The History of Heaven: Paul’s Christological Interpretation of the New Beginning in 1 Corinthians 15:45–49

Dr. Lane G. Tipton delivers his second plenary address at the 2019 Reformed Forum Theology Conference held at Hope OPC in Grayslake, Illinois. In this address, he discusses Paul’s Christological interpretation of the new beginning in 1 Corinthians 15:45–49.

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Vos Group #58 — Revelation through Speech and Hearing

In this episode, we turn to pages 216–220 of Vos’s book, Biblical Theology, to discuss the reception of divine revelation through speech and hearing. Vos treats this topic because, among other things, it lies at the heart of true religion. If God is not speaking, then we do not know him. If it is merely men who speak, we do not know God and therefore are not in a religious bond of covenantal fellowship with him. It is of the essence of true religion to affirm that God speaks and that prophets hear God speaking and then speak that same Word to the church. You cannot have true religion without such supernatural verbal revelation.

This requires that God speaks to the prophet before the prophet spoke. This is critical, since it utterly destroys the liberal theories that locate the actual words in human agency alone, such as the kernel theory we talked about earlier. The speaking of God is not meant in a figurative way, “but in the literal sense it appears in various ways” (p. 217).

Vos next makes a point that the verbal communication from Jehovah is both external and internal, and that internal (to the soul or audible only to the prophet) does not collapse into the “consciousness theology” and the subjectivism of the liberal concept of “revelation” where revelation simply means a heightened moral consciousness or awareness of nearness to the ethical ideal of the prophetic religion.

Vos urges us not to probe the proportion of internal and external revelation, but to accept that both forms come to the prophets, making them bearers of words that have divine authority.


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Vos Group #57 — Objective Revelation to the Prophets

We turn to pages 214–216 of Geerhardus Vos’s book, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, to discuss the kernel and divination theories of the reception of prophetic revelation. Critical scholars seek to identify human beings as the origin of the prophetic message. Vos defends the orthodox notion that God reveals himself in objective verbal revelation to the prophets, who delivered that inspired and inerrant message to the people.


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Vos Group #56 — The Mode of Reception of the Prophetic Revelation

We turn to pages 212–213 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to discuss the mode of reception of the prophetic revelation. In the fourth section of his book, Vos continues to contrast the modernist conception with that of confessional orthodoxy. He stresses that revelation does not originate naturally but is in its essence, “a real communication” from God to the prophets.

Our study of Vos is focused on biblical theology, or what Vos termed “the history of special revelation.” A modernized conception of revelation construes history as natural and mechanical in character. History is encased in patterns of natural cause and effect. It is a closed reality. For the Kantian, the mind of man imposes rational categories onto nature. Others view the mind and discovering natural and immutable laws, which don’t exhibit any variation. It is an anti-supernaturalist conception of history. For the modernist, supernatural revelation cannot exist in the sphere of natural history.

Vos, however, is unwavering in his commitment to the self-attesting word of God, which is a supernatural word from the transcendent God, who nevertheless condescends voluntarily to speak to those made in his image.


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Vos Group #55 — Did the Later Prophets Create an Ethical Monotheism?

We turn to pages 206–211 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to continue our discussion of critical theories of prophetism. Vos tackles a modernist, critical theory of the development of monotheism under the prophets. Vos wants the reader to enter into a modernist world–a critical world. In that world, there are three main things you will face:

  • A finite and developing conception of deity
  • A mechanical and purely natural conception of history
  • An errant and merely human conception of the Bible

These are the key features of a “critical” approach to the prophets. But, as Machen pointed out so clearly, these three conceptions represent a different religion: a fundamentally Pelagian conception of religion.

Vos helps us see, by contrast, that the kingdom of God and the demand that he be worshipped exclusively is built into man as the image of God. Adam, from the start, was bound to God in a religious relation by creation that the covenant of works was to advance. Man, from the beginning, exists to worship God–to glorify and enjoy God forever in covenantal fellowship. For the liberal to reverse this relation and insist that God must serve the purpose of man is to lay bare that the critics truly do have a different religion. On this, Vos and Machen are one.


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Vos Group #54 — The Origin of “Nabhi-ism” in Israel

We turn to pages 202–205 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to continue our discussion of critical theories of prophetism. Vos answers critics who believe that Israel derived its understanding of prophetism from Canaanite religion by focusing our attention upon God’s word revealed in history. Contrary to the false prophets, true prophetism is centered on true religion, union and communion with God according to his word.

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