Why DID We Go to Israel?

Why DID We Go to Israel?
Vol: 119 Issue: 31 Wednesday, August 31, 2011

When one goes ‘up to Jerusalem’ today it is via a modern four lane highway.  Twenty years ago, the only way to go up to Jerusalem from the Dead Sea was via the old Jericho Road, which was a lot like travelling by bus on one-lane driveway – in the mountains! 

When one met another bus going down to the Dead Sea, the two busses would have to pass so close to one another that they often knocked each other’s mirrors off.

I thought about that as our bus whined along on its way up from 1300 feet below sea level to 2600 feet above sea level, a climb of 3900 feet in less than twenty miles.  It is amazing how much things have changed in just two decades.

At various places along the way, one can see small cities on some of the surrounding mountain tops. 

These are the so-called “settlements” that have the governments of the world in such a tizzy.  If one looks at the settlements, built atop barren mountains, surrounded by more barren mountains inhabited and inhabitable only by Bedouin nomads, one can immediately grasp the crux of the problem.

It isn’t that the settlements are inconvenient to Palestinian travel, or that they are taking up valuable land that the Palestinians could be using for something else.  Where they are located, one would have to be headed TO one of them in order to find oneself anywhere near one.

Clearly, it isn’t the settlements’ aesthetics that are objectionable; if one could magically transport them to the hills around Los Angeles, they were be indistinguishable from the rest of the gated communities nestled there.

The objection isn’t to the settlements – the objection is that there are Jews living  there.  The world is demanding a Jew-free Palestinian state existing side-by-side with an ethnically diverse Israel. 

Let’s think about that for a moment.  The Palestinian Authority demands the complete removal of all Jews from what was traditionally Jewish land – and the current United States government has no apparent problem with that.

For many Jews, this sounds exactly like it sounds to me – like ethnic cleansing. “Ethnic cleansing” is defined as;

a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove, by violent and terror-inspiring means, the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.”

Ethnic cleansing, say the experts, isn’t exactly the same as genocide, since genocide is the “intentional murder of part or all of a particular ethnic, religious or national group.”  Instead, ethnic cleansing refers to the forced deportation or ‘population transfer’.

A few historical examples of ethnic cleansing include, according to Wikipedia, the expulsion of Jews from England by King Edward I in 1290. 

In 1492, Spain expelled all Jews from its territory unless they agreed to forced conversion to Catholicism.

Of course, the most famous example of ethnic cleansing in modern times was the expulsion of Jews from Germany, Austria and other areas under Nazi control, until the Nazis switched from a policy of ethnic cleansing to one of genocide.

The Wikipedia entry attempts to characterize the flight of Palestinian Arabs from their ancestral homes during the 1948 War of Independence as “ethnic cleansing” but in so doing, ignores an important element necessary to the charge – force.

The Arabs that fled the Jewish State were not forced to leave by the Jews – they were forced to leave by the Arabs

The proof is in the pudding.  Those as-yet undefined Arab “Palestinians” that stayed and refused to fight against the Jewish State are today full Israeli citizens. 

Those that fled to the Arab world, expecting to expropriate Jewish lands after the Jews were annihilated, were promptly interned in refugee camps, by the Arabs where many still languish to this day, some sixty-three years after the fact.

Also ignored by history was the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands in the years between 1948 and 1967. 

I found it fascinating that, while the Wikipedia entry includes the forced expulsion of a million Jews from the Arab world during this period, Wikipedia qualifies this as a “mass Jewish exodus” instead of  an ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Jews.

Wikipedia couldn’t bring itself to call that ethnic cleansing.  Neither could it call the forced expulsion of 8500 Jews from Gaza ‘ethnic cleansing’ although the only reason for their expulsion was to render Gaza a “Jew-free” zone.

The forcible removal of Jews from Gaza was redefined as an “evacuation”;  the resettling of some displaced in existing settlements in the West Back, well, that qualifies, according to the entry, as the “ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank.”

There are approximately one and a half million Israeli Arabs, constituting about 20% of the Israeli population.  These Israelis vote in Israeli elections and are represented in the Israeli parliament by Israeli-Arab politicians elected by Israeli Arabs.

Jews living in settlements located outside the 1948 borders of Israel are an ethnic and religious group living under a purposeful policy designed by another ethnic and religious group  which is aimed at forcing the removal of the civilian Israeli population by violent and terror-inspiring means from certain geographic areas.

And this policy has the unqualified support of the current government of the United States.

From where we sit, it should be obvious to the ordinary Israeli that the average American does not support the policy of ethnically cleansing Jews from anywhere.   

No American would stand for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Brooklyn, let alone the mountains of Israel.  

Until the middle of the 1980’s the majority of Israeli Jews were of Western or American extraction.  They knew us and we knew them and there was never any question of solidarity. 

But an entirely new generation of Jews, émigrés from the former Soviet Union, eastern Europe, members of formerly lost tribes in Ethiopia, China, India and elsewhere, know only of America what they witness of America and of Americans.

Most of them are themselves victims of various ethnic cleansing efforts or persecution in their former homelands, tormented principally by those calling themselves “Christians.” 

THAT is the image that those of us who attended the Glenn Beck events in Israel came with the intention to dispel. 

And in that effort, I would say we accomplished what we came for. 

Assessment:

This is not the column I had intended to write for this morning’s report.  I tried, but I kept coming back to the same place, so I suppose I had better stay with it or I’ll never get it finished.

The reaction to my column on Monday about LDS involvement in the Glenn Beck tour was totally unexpected for a couple of reasons. 

First, it was written as a private report to subscribers to the Omega Letter Daily Intelligence Briefing, rather than being posted on the OL’s main page for public viewing. I never really intended it for mass distribution outside the OL family.

And second, I never expected so many people to react by saying, “What did you expect?”

That seemed to be the central theme during the radio interview I had with Brannon Howse yesterday on his live radio program — what did I expect?   He seemed surprised that I hadn’t read all of Glenn Beck’s books.   Maybe I should have.

I suppose I was naïve to not to have expected the tour to be an LDS front, but I no more expected a LDS religious tour instead of a political rally than I would have if the headliner had been Rush Limbaugh.

I went because I felt a strong leading from the Lord that He wanted me to go. I could tell it was the Lord leading because I didn’t want to go.  I was relieved that the trip was so expensive, because that way I had a good reason for not going – because my real reasons were so lame.   

I really, really don’t like to fly. I can’t sleep on an airplane. I’ve been to Israel before. I am not crazy about hot weather and the Glenn Beck tour was scheduled during the hottest season in what is already a hot climate. 

And despite all my brave talk, as I get older, I find I am less eager to risk life and limb. While I know many who say they would be honored to have the chance at martyrdom for the faith, having given it considerable thought, I admit I am a lot braver when the risk is theoretical.

But when OL members Bob and Traci Burleson invited Gayle and I to attend as their guests and at their expense, I had run out of viable excuses for ignoring the spiritual nudging to go.  

I didn’t know what the Lord had for me there, but I knew that there was a reason.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

There is always a reason.  That is what this verse means.  It means that everything that happens to us in this life has some Godly purpose and consequently, we can trust Him to work it out for good.   It is all about trust.

Another example of this principle is found in the Old Testament story of Joseph and the coat of many colors. 

His brothers were jealous of him, so they sold him into slavery in Egypt, returning to their father with Joseph’s blood-stained coat and some story about how Joseph was killed by wild beasts.

Decades later, Joseph had risen to the position of co-regent of Egypt during a famine.  His brothers, not knowing who he was, came to petition for a food allotment.  When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, they were understandably afraid. 

“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:19-20)

So it didn’t much matter to me what Glenn Beck’s intentions were, because God knew our intentions, and I can trust God to work all things together for good to them who are the called according to His purpose. 

We went to Israel to show the Israelis that they can trust us because we are not our government.  That was what Glenn Beck promised to be the focus of the tour.  That was why most of us were there. 

That said, we accomplished that goal everywhere our individual tour group went.  I shared the story of the Israeli kids that we met in Tiberius.   When we were at the Dead Sea, we mingled with ordinary Israelis and they with us.

We mingled with Israeli soldiers there to protect us from the terrorists that had just attacked near Eilat just to the south of us.  We demonstrated the respect we had for them and for their country at every possible occasion.

We didn’t tell them one thing and do something else. We didn’t try to ‘educate’ them about the plight of the Palestinians.   We shared with them.  They shared with us. 

One of our number and new OL members, Brent Van Sickle, is an amazingly gifted honky-tonk piano player. One night while we were all unwinding from that day’s tour in the hotel lounge as had become our habit by then,  Brent sat down and started playing the piano.

Here is a short sampling that made it back home to the States even before we did. My daughter Kari found it on Facebook while we were still in Jerusalem.

What you can’t see is that everybody else in the hotel, including Israelis young and old, were joining in, singing, dancing, clapping and having a great time with a bunch of middle-aged American goyim without the slightest bit of self-consciousness or hesitation.

Many of them had negative opinions about Glenn Beck’s rally, but nobody doubted the sincerity of the Americans that they met there that night in the lounge of the Crown Plaza.  

I wish you all could have been there to share in the blessing.  It was never about Glenn Beck. It was always about Israel. 

Beck did get one thing right:  when it comes to Israel, we are not our government. 

 “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:3

And I do hope that the Lord takes notice of that. 

Tiberius on the Galilee

Tiberius on the Galilee
Vol: 119 Issue: 30 Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The city of Tiberius was founded around 20 AD by King Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. The city was named after the Roman Emperor Tiberius and was the capital of the Galilee region under Agrippa II.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Tiberius became home to the Jewish Sanhedrin until the final Jewish revolt against the Byzantine Empire in 614. It changed hands dozens of times since then, but was the principle city of the Galilee at the time of Christ.

Jesus performed many miracles near Tiberius, which is situated more than six hundred feet below sea level along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  

Today, Tiberius is a city of about 41,000, almost exclusively Jewish, and is one of Israel’s most popular resort cities.  Every day that we were there, the Promenade was packed with vacationing Israeli families.

Gayle took this picture from the promenade, with her back to the sea (actually a freshwater lake).  Note the Micky D’s restaurant , where one can order a Big New Yorker or Big Texan burger (without cheese, of course.)

We were originally scheduled to stay at the Ron Beach Hotel about a mile further up the shore, but for reasons never adequately explained, our bus was redirected to Ceasar’s at the last minute.  Our rooms were clean and adequate, although they had clearly seen better days. 

Our view, however, was spectacular. (I took this picture on my iPhone from the hotel window – this is what that little marina looks like up close and at night. )   

Note: I posted the pictures at full resolution, so they may take awhile to download on a slow connection. 

We were assigned to Red Bus A. Most of the folks on our bus were early to late middle aged, from all walks of life, but with a surprisingly strong representation by former military and active and retired law enforcement.

There were 36 of us on the bus, and counting in my head mentally, there were about ten former military and at least four active or former police, counting myself in both groups.  The one thing we didn’t need to worry about was security.

One of our number (for we all became very close during the ten days) was a special-forces-turned-civilian contractor named Mike.  Mike looked like he had been the model for one of the characters in the video game, Medal of Honor, a role-playing first person shooter about covert operations in Afghanistan.

On his own initiative, Mike immediately positioned himself at the rear of our little troupe, where he stayed throughout the tour, making sure that nobody was left behind. 

By the time we had moved on to Jerusalem a few days later, our positions were set; Mike was positioned at the rear, I was on one flank and between us, we were able to relay positions from front to back rather efficiently.

I liked Mike immediately – he was a rare combination of warrior instinct and a servant’s heart – if somebody needed something, Mike was always there first.

The first place that we visited was Tel Megiddo, the ancient city overlooking the Valley of Armageddon. The street you are looking at was laid more than five thousand years ago.

This stone structure is actually a pagan altar upon which human bones were found during the excavation.  It is believed to be an altar constructed to the god Molech (Leviticus 18:21) upon which children were sacrificed as an expression of devotion. Note the stone steps that lead to the top of the altar. 

The Lord instructed Joshua and the children of Israel to drive out the worshippers of Molech, including those in Megiddo, but instead, they made them subjects, demanding tribute from them instead. 

“And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?”

Because of that, the Lord passed the following judgment, one that continues to shape the course of events in the Middle East to this very day.

“Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” (Judges 2:2-3)

It was at Megiddo, overlooking the Valley of Armageddon, that the couple that hosted our trip, Bob and Traci Burleson, (pictured here among the ruins of Megiddo) celebrated their forty-third wedding anniversary.  (Bob joked that it was quite symbolic.)

But our next stop, under the circumstances, was even more symbolic – Cana of Galilee, where Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding.  We bought Bob and Traci a bottle of wedding wine from the site but somehow, it ended up coming home with us.

Outside the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth is a tiny mosque; here in this picture you can see the mosque with the buildings of the church behind them. Nazareth is today an Arab city, located inside the Palestinian Authority. Note the verse from the Koran published just above the mosque.  It speaks volumes about the much-vaunted Islamic ‘tolerance’ of other religions in areas under Islamic control.  

It was in Nazareth that Luke’s story, as recorded in Luke 4:21-30, took place.  Jesus had just been rejected by his hometown crowd, and Luke relates that they . . .

“rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong. But He passing through the midst of them went his way.”  (Luke 4:29-30)

Interestingly, this story is often used by skeptics to deny the accuracy of the Apostle Luke, saying there is no cliff face in Nazareth that matched Luke’s description.  Except maybe this one

My friend Joe had the nerve to go out on it – it made my knees knock, so I took this picture  from here. In the distance one can see the mountains of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Below is the valley of Armageddon.  

We are standing on a sheer cliff face within walking distance of the old city of Nazareth. This is the place that skeptics say does not exist.  Obviously they’ve never been there. 

Nothing cures a skeptic like a good dose of Israel.

Assessment:

It is important to understand that the tour was separate from Glenn Beck, although Beck recommended the tour company itself.

Our tour guide, George, (pictured, foreground)was not a Mormon, but a Greek Orthodox Christian.  Glenn Beck made no unscheduled appearances, and as near as I could see, did not interact with anyone that was not part of his staff.

Our first five days in the Galilee were devoted to touring the region, including almost all of the sites we visited during the Omega Letter Standing With Israel Tour in 2008.  We toured Capernaum, the place where Jesus healed the servant of the centurion. 

We stood in the synagogue from which Jesus was banished after healing the man sick of a palsy on the Sabbath.  We walked past the gates of the city were a certain tax collector named Matthew was called to follow Jesus.

We saw the house where Jesus cured the Apostle Peter’s mother-in-law.  It was from Capernaum that Jesus departed to the other side of the lake aboard a ship. It was aboard that ship that Jesus calmed the raging seas.

Across the sea was where Jesus cast out the demons into a herd of swine, who thereupon ran to the edge of a cliff and plunged into the sea.  One thing we saw on this trip that I don’t recall from last time was the Valley of the Doves

The ancient road from Nazareth down to the Sea of Galilee led through the Valley of the Doves. This is that exact road upon which Jesus walked two thousand years ago.  Beside it runs a stream where weary travelers would pause to refresh themselves along the way. 

We visited the baptismal site at Yardinet where tradition (not fact) says that John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan.  The place where Jesus was actually baptized is in Jordan, but the Yardinet site is at the headwaters of the Jordan. 

While at Yardinet, I was blessed with the opportunity to baptize several of the Christians who attended the tour.  My greatest blessing was the opportunity to baptize Mike.

(Poor Mike.  Years at a keyboard left me somewhat unskilled with a pen.  I had to rewrite his certificate after messing it up.)

It occurred to me while there that Mike’s baptism put me ‘over the top’ so to speak, where I can say now that I have baptized more people in the Jordan River than in any other body of water in the world.

I was also blessed to baptize Marilyn,  Lin, and Sue

That night while back at the hotel, I was sitting in the hotel lounge going over some pictures on my iPad when a couple of Israeli teenagers stopped to look at it.  They got very excited and wanted to play with it, show me their facebook pages, etc.

Before I knew it I was sitting with about six teenagers, probably ranging from 14 to 17, all of them chattering excitedly.  They were SUCH fun!  One of them was particularly affectionate, kept rubbing my shoulders, and patting me on the back, calling me “Jack-man” and “the Jackster.”

He managed to convey to me that he liked the sound of my voice, and that it reminded him of National Geographic. LOL.  Soon after, a couple of the parents came by to make sure the kids weren’t bothering me, and then they joined in for a round of questions and answers and just talking in general.

I learned they all lived in Beersheba and were in Tiberius for a few days’ holiday, and were heading back home the next day.  

The following night as I sat at the same table, the reality of Israel hit me between the eyes as I read that Beersheba, together with Ashdod and Askelon, were the main targets of shelling from the Gaza Strip.

One Israeli was reportedly killed when a rocket scored a direct hit on his car in Beersheba as he raced towards his home.  

I thought of the kids I had just met, and of their parents.  It could have been one of their fathers, I thought.

THIS was the reason that, despite the LDS deception, it was all worth it. We came to Israel, not as Christian pilgrims, but as Americans to demonstrate that when it comes to Israel, Barack Obama does not speak for us.

We were there to show the Israelis that they do not stand alone and that they can count on us.  The original purpose of the rally was to demonstrate our solidarity with the Israeli people against their enemies massed all around them and to assure them that their enemies were our enemies.

But it wasn’t the rallies that stood out – at least, not for any of the folks I came to know on that bus. What stood out was the way that ordinary Israelis interacted with ordinary Americans in ordinary ways.

Everywhere we went, ordinary Israelis sought us out, no doubt seeking to compare us to the hype that the visit engendered. Nobody who met us went away unchanged and everybody we met changed us in some small, and sometimes, in some very big ways.

As I said in yesterday’s brief, there were some very definite blessings, even if they weren’t the ones I had been expecting.

Tomorrow: The Road to Jerusalem!

Stolen Blessings: The LDS Connection

Stolen Blessings: The LDS Connection
Vol: 119 Issue: 29 Monday, August 29, 2011

Israel was beautiful.  Israel always is.  But this trip to Israel was different than any other I’ve been on – and “different” does not always mean the same thing as “good.”

If you love Glenn Beck and believe that he is both a good Christian and an honest man, perhaps today’s OL isn’t for you.  I am going to be as charitable as possible, under the circumstances, but I have to call it as I see it.

Today’s review is primarily theological – later we will discuss the political elements of the tour and how our presence was received in Israel.  There was a lot of really good stuff – but first things first.

We must begin at the beginning, inside a cloud of deliberate deception.  Glenn Beck said that he had investigated the tour companies involved thoroughly, and recommended Voyager Travel as the one that he knew best. 

So we also checked out Voyager Travel at their website.  I didn’t do a very good job, as it turned out. 

As you can see from the link above, Voyager Travel is represented as a secular tour company with tours to Norway, England, Alaska, Denmark, and oh, by the way, a special Restoring Courage Event in Israel by Glenn Beck.   It seemed ok.

I personally never expected the tour to be “religious” – there were far too many different Christian denominations and other religious faiths among us, including a number of Jews, atheists or agnostics who came specifically to attend the Glenn Beck events and demonstrate their political support for the State of Israel.

During one of the few times that I had access to the internet while on the tour, I had reason to Google Voyager Travel, seeking information about our intinerary. 

I don’t know how I missed it from home – (maybe the excitement of the trip?) but I didn’t Google it before signing up – I went directly to the URL recommended by Beck.

Had I Googled first, I might have notice that directly below the Voyager site was a mirror site of LDS Travel – identical in every respect to Voyager Travel, except that LDS Travel makes it clear that it is a Latter Days Saints Church operation.

The Voyager site is scrubbed clean of any reference to LDS – although the two sites were clearly the same.  So, instead of signing up with a secular touring company, we were inadvertently contributing financial support to the LDS church.

In other words, we were contributing (to whatever degree,) to the advancement of Mormon LDS doctrine and missionary work.

It soon became clear that the event was a Mormon religious tour carefully disguised as a “Christian” tour.  To maintain that fiction, the tour planners engaged a “Christian” guide service – which meant in this case that it was led by a Greek Orthodox Catholic guide.

George was a terrific guy to be around and an excellent tour guide – if one went to Israel to tour sites important to the Greek Orthodox Church — or those dedicated to Mary.  When it came to Mary, George informed us, the Bible was wrong.

In Mark 15:40 and Mark 16:1 where it says that Mary was the mother of James the less, Joses, and Salome, George told us, “This is not true.”  George insisted that Mary was ever virgin and Jesus did not have any half-brothers or sisters.  

Sites dedicated to Mary were high on George’s list; although we missed many sites listed in the itinerary to accommodate Glenn Beck’s constantly-changing schedule, we didn’t miss any of the “Mary” sites, like the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Grotto, or the Wedding Chapel in Cana.

I say that to illustrate the religious nature of the “Christian” tour set up by Voyager Travel, which was supposed to be “non-denominational with a Christian perspective.”  That should have tipped us off – to non-Christians, Christianity is determined by church affiliation, not doctrine.

Christians know that Christianity is a matter of doctrine, not church affiliation.  One can be a member of a church and not be a Christian, or not be a member of any church, in some instances, because they are Christian.

Again, let me emphasize that George was a wonderful guy and an excellent tour guide whom we all came to like very, very much. 

But the tour itself was emphatically Greek Catholic and so all the traditional Greek Catholic sites, like the Church of the Resurrection, etc., were deemed “the true” sites, whereas the Garden Tomb was merely a nice place to pray and commemorate the Resurrection.  

According to the tour guide, Jesus was really resurrected where St. Helena, mother of Constantine, discovered three crosses, including the One True Cross, buried under the Roman temple of Venus. 

The site is of course divided, with the Vatican, the Greek Orthodox and Armenians all claiming that only they possess the tomb of Joseph of Armithea.  

George insisted that the site belonging to the Greek Orthodox and only recently discovered, was the ONE TRUE site.  Sigh.

We expected a wide range of theological views, consequently we were both surprised and a little uncomfortable when only the Greek Catholic view was permitted and only Greek Catholic souvenir shops were on the itinerary.

We also noticed very early on that our bus had about a half-dozen overtly Mormon members, and probably another half-dozen who kept it to themselves. 

But whenever a discussion erupted that questioned LDS participation, whether or not the LDS was actually running things, or whether all the tour leaders were Mormons, one of our Mormon ‘minders’ would quickly appear to change the subject.

If the topic was Mormon doctrine, several Mormons would attach themselves to the discussion to ‘correct misconceptions’.  Some of the Christians in our group renamed them “The Decepticons”.

It will take a series of OL columns to discuss the tour itself.  Much of the tour was good.  There were many, many unexpected blessings.  Today is simply the introduction.

But as the title of today’s OL infers, most of the expected blessings were not there.  

Assessment:

The best place to begin, I think, is with a statement made by Glenn Beck at the first event in Caesarea-by-the-Sea in the very same open-air theatre in which Paul the Apostle was put on trial before King Herod Agrippa.

(A Roman amphitheatre is a completely round structure.  A theatre is shaped like a half moon, as is the one in Ceaseara.)

It was in that very theatre that the saddest eight words in the New Testament are recorded when Agrippa said to Paul:

“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:28)

(I wish I could have persuaded Glenn Beck, but this picture is as close as I ever got to him.) Beck at Ceasarea

It was there, on that very spot, that Glenn Beck recited the wonderful reception he received by Israeli political leaders, Jewish rabbis and even several Muslim leaders. 

Only the Christian leaders received any word of condemnation from Glenn Beck, who choked up with tears when he said accusingly, “it was only the Christians that questioned my salvation.”

What Beck was insinuating in no uncertain terms was that those Christians that questioned his salvation were more intolerant, less good and less, ummm, Christian than were the two thousand or so Americans sitting in that open-air theatre in Ceaserea.

We will start with that statement, since it immediately divided the group into ‘camps’ and set the stage for the rest of the tour.   

He made that statement, from the very place King Agrippa was almost persuaded, while surrounded by famous born-again Christian authors like David Barton, John Hagee and Mike Evans, all of whom took time out from their own sermons to salute Beck’s “courageousness” in offering his support to Israel.

(Maybe so, but I personally thought the thousands that forked over more than $6000 a piece to come to Israel as Hamas rockets were pounding the Israeli coastal cities were just as courageous – and they weren’t getting paid to be there.)

Significantly, not one of the famous born-again evangelists questioned Glenn Beck’s salvation, although Glenn Beck made it clear that the issue at hand was the status of Glenn Beck’s salvation through aegis of the LDS (Mormon) church.

Given Beck’s statement, offered more as an accusation of those unnamed ‘Christian leaders’ than anything else,  it seems essential to me that we examine salvation as the Mormons define it: 

  • Mormons believe God is not eternal, or even the only God, but was once a man who inhabited a planet in the star system Kolob. 
  • They believe they are saved by obeying Mormon doctrine. 
  • They believe that God had a god that elevated God to godhood and that they, too, can be elevated to godhood.
  • They believe they lived as full-grown adults (the Doctrine of Pre-existence) in a spirit world before they were born.  
  • In Pre-Existence, they had friends and family and relationships and knowledge.  While there, they were presented with the Plan of Salvation, which included being given a choice to be born as humans with the prize at the end being godhood of their own planet.
  • They didn’t have to and some were content to stay in the spirit world where they were already in heaven instead of taking the plunge and getting a shot at being God.
  • They believe that when their spirits passed into existence, they also passed through a Veil of Forgetfulness where they forgot their previous spirit lives.  Here, they recreate their pre-existent families as eternal families.
  • Jesus and Satan were brothers and God liked Jesus’ plan best so Satan rebelled.  Mormons don’t believe in the sin nature, or ‘original sin’.
  • Mormons believe the purpose of human existence is to become like God. 
  • Mormons also believe it is ok to lie about their beliefs and affiliations to non-Mormons and to new Mormon recruits under the ‘principle’ of “milk before meat.”So they are free to deny the crazier parts, (God was a man, there are lots of Gods, including them, they take spirit wives to become goddesses, etc.) on the principle that until a Mormon has been sufficiently indoctrinated, they will recognize how crazy it sounds and maybe refuse to join or even quit and then spread the word.
  • Mormons believe that after they die, they move back to the spirit world. Some of them are imprisoned for not believing the Mormon gospel while on earth.  Those that never heard the Mormon Gospel will be visited by Mormon spirit missionaries.
  • Mormons believe that the dead can be saved after death if they are baptized by proxy by living Mormons.
  • Mormons in this spirit world can still sin:
    •  “Those who are righteous in this life will still be righteous. Those who were unrighteous will still be unrighteous. We will have the same desires after we die as we had while on this earth” (Gospel Fundamentals, “Life after Death,” pg 195.).
  • Resurrection is a several parts and only those that had a perfect knowledge of the divinity of Christ yet chose Satan will be damned.  The rest will go through various stages of perfection while in the post-life spirit world.
  • Finally, if you miss your dog, don’t worry.  Fido, (as well as every other dog, cat, hamster, pigeon, aardvark and platypus) will ALSO be resurrected during the last of the, umm, seven different resurrections taught by the LDS.
  • The Mormon Plan of Salvation is in seven parts as well, with final stage, logically enough, called the Final Judgment.
  • At Final Judgment, those finally judged go to one of three heavens, as befits their works, or to the Outer Darkness, which is Mormon hell.

So, since Glenn Beck’s salvation is in seven parts, of which Glenn Beck is currently only in Stage Three, (Mortality), even Glenn Beck ought to be questioning it — since it ain’t over yet and nobody, LDS or otherwise, has it until it is over, according to LDS theology.

This is a good place to recap and summarize where we have come with this so far.  By concealing the relationship between Voyager Travel and the LDS, many well-meaning Christians were duped into contributing to the LDS Church and their efforts at LDS evangelism. 

We were deceived into contributing to a religious system than cannot save and a god who is neither eternal nor Biblical, and a created, rather than Divine Jesus whose only qualifications for the job was being a better planner than Satan.  

We were tricked into providing money for use by Mormon missionaries that will lead people away from salvation rather than for it and loaned our legitimacy to that cause by appearing together with thousands of others in a show of support that was supposed to be for Israel but was manipulated into a night to honor Glenn Beck’s ‘courageous’ stand of faith in a god who cannot save.

The entire premise of the tour was that of having the courage to stand for what we believed in.  It began by deceiving the bulk of those attending who certainly would NOT have signed up with an outfit called LDS Travel by disguising it as something else.

The uneven yoking of the LDS, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, non-denominational and born-again Christians under a single religious banner may have sounded spiritual, but Satan is a spirit, as well.

There were other travel agencies, but Voyager was the one recommended by Glenn Beck. Is it possible that Glenn Beck didn’t know that Voyager Travel changed its name from LDS Travel in order to deceive non-Mormons?  Is it conceivable that there could have been any other reason for concealing the LDS connection?

Beck said he researched Voyager travel agencies carefully.  If he didn’t know about the LDS connection, he lied about researching it.  If he did know, then he must have agreed to burying the connection between the LDS and Voyager Travel. 

Glenn Beck’s tour was supposed to be about truth. But since the truth was inconvenient, it was surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)

If the LDS really is just another Christian denomination, as its apologists insist, then why the deception? The answer should be obvious. 

People don’t hide something unless there is something to hide. 

Next Omegaletter:  It wasn’t all bad news and stolen blessings. Tomorrow: Tiberius and the Galilee – with pictures.  

Atonement

Atonement
Vol: 119 Issue: 27 Saturday, August 27, 2011

If there is anything about this Christian life that makes it hard to grasp, it is the principle of atonement.  But once you get it, the rest of it makes sense.

It makes shorter work of understanding grace and mercy and explains why salvation cannot be related to works.  I’ll say that again at the beginning of the column so you will know what to look for.

We are going to find the reason why salvation CANNOT be related to works.  So let’s start first with ‘works’.

In Christian theology, we work at the task of living, and our “works” are the visible results of that effort.

“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)

How we approach the task of living produces certain fruit reflective of the way in which in works at it. I don’t need to be told that Donald Trump has a strong work ethic.

He wouldn’t have accomplished what he has with his life if he didn’t.  The fruit of his works is his wealth and property.

I don’t need to be told that Barack Obama is a man of great ambition – his ruthlessness in the pursuit of his high office reflects that.  The fruit of his works is obvious.

James says that faith is not something that can be visibly demonstrated except through the works that result from it.  This makes logical sense.  Faith without works is dead.  But you can’t turn the equation around — works have nothing to do with faith.

Works cannot generate faith, unless that faith is in one’s own ability to perform them.  If my faith is in my works, then it can be well and truly said that I am faithful — to me.

From here, there is no possible way to skip over me and claim my real faith is in the completed Work at the Cross because of how good I am.

But it is by faith we are saved and not works.

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” (Romans 3:27)

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

“This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2)

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” (2nd Timothy 1:9)

“That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2nd Timothy 3:17)

We are saved by grace and perfectly equipped with the necessary equipment (Scriptures) to do all good works.

There is an old hymn that says, “only one life, t’will soon be past, only what’s done for God will last. . .”

The only truly unselfish and perfect good work a Christian can do is to lead a lost soul to Christ.  We are equipped with the Scriptures and motivated by faith.  Works, good or bad, cannot possibly be relevant to faith in Christ’s ability to save you.

Otherwise, the principle of atonement would not make sense.

Assessment:

The word atonement is a variation of the Hebrew word “kapher” whose primitive root literally means “to cover, specifically with bitumen, or pitch.”  It is the same word used in Genesis 6:14 when God instructed Noah to waterproof the ark with pitch.

Bitumen is the heaviest, thickest form of petroleum.  It’s a really sticky, gooey type of oil like the tar used to patch a leaky roof.  The point is that bitumen covers completely, doesn’t wash off and prevents anything from getting through it.

Atonement literally means ‘to be covered’ and figuratively as ‘the means whereby alienation ceases and reconciliation ensues’. “Reconciliation” is the equivalent term given for the same Hebrew word, kopher ‘to cover’, or ‘atonement’.

A kindred term expressing a different aspect of the same truth is “propitiation” (hilasmos) (1st John 2:2), the verb of which is in Hebrews 2:17 translated “to make reconciliation.”

Also “ransom,” or payment for redeeming a captive (Job 33:24), kopher, “an atonement,” Matthew 20:28. Hebrews 9:12; Christ, “having obtained eternal redemption for us.”

We are saved by faith in the atonement, through Christ, Who obtained eternal redemption for us.

The atonement; kopher, hilasmos, is the covering of our sins with the Blood of Christ, which covers them as completely as pitch, allowing nothing to get through.  The redemption is the price paid for the covering that provides for the ‘reconciliation’ which means ‘atonement’.

We can go at it all day but every word that is used to explain the mechanism by which we are saved eventually winds back to atonement, illustrated as ‘covering’.  That is salvation.

To lose one’s salvation, one must, by his own works, somehow sin through the covering Blood of Christ, which is why understanding the illustration of “covering” — specifically with something as sticky and impenetrable as bitumen – is so necessary to understanding the Christian’s true standing before God.

I didn’t make atonement (cover) myself.  Neither did I make atonement for myself.  I didn’t have the ‘pitch’ I needed – I had to get it from somewhere else.

After atonement was made for me and the covering applied at the moment of salvation, I put my faith in the clear and repeated proclamation that the covering was enough.

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28)

The atonement (covering) allows us to stand before God justified, judicially righteous and without the stain of sin. We obtain that covering by repenting (metaneo – a change of mind) about our sin and trusting Jesus Christ for our salvation.

The illustration used by Scripture recalls the pitch used to seal Noah’s Ark at the Lord’s direct instruction. Our works cannot add to the atonement (covering), nor can they scrape it off.

In this illustration, you aren’t Noah. You’re the ark.

The atonement (covering) is obtained by faith and it is faith in the atonement that produces works of faith. Works neither produce that faith, nor can they undo the covering obtained by that faith.

Saving, sustaining faith is in the covering, not the coveree.

“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith ofthe Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

“I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:20-21)

Don’t let the enemy steal away the victory.  There are dark times ahead.  Know where you are in Christ and you can’t help but walk in the light.

How great is that?

Note from Jack:

We arrived home safely from Israel Friday but are taking the weekend to recover from jet lag before beginning a series of reports about the Glenn Beck Israel Tour. We had many wonderful experiences — together with some that weren’t so wonderful — so I want to make sure I get it right. 

We got lots of pictures and we’ll be working on them over the weekend.

The Lord granted us the opportunity to add to the Kingdom, (including the opportunity to give away my favorite Bible), granted me new lifelong friendships, and showed me lot of stuff I didn’t know — including a lot of stuff that I wish I never learned.  

On Monday, we’ll take things first things first, beginning with the LDS controversy, and we’ll go until we’ve shared it all — or you start getting bored.  But you won’t want to miss Monday’s. 

Please join me in prayer today for provision and protection for all those in the path of Hurricane Irene this weekend. 

Maranatha!  The Lord is coming!  From what I’ve witnessed recently, He’s coming sooner, rather than later. 

See you Monday! 

Special Report: Focus on Israel

Special Report: Focus on Israel
Vol: 119 Issue: 26 Friday, August 26, 2011

Sometimes, it must appear as if the Omega Letter is really the Israeli Letter, given our focus on the Middle East, in particular, Israel.

Such is not our intent.  But Israel is the linchpin in studying Bible prophecy.  Jesus’ description of the signs of His Return [Matt 24:3] are given from the perspective of someone standing on the Mount of Olives.

Without Israel, Bible prophecy doesn’t make sense.

That is one reason that Christians who believe Israel was replaced by the Church have no use for prophecy.  See “What is Preterism“?

Center of Global Attention

In addition, Israel is at the top of the world’s agenda, and the mission of the Omega Letter Digest is to document the world’s slide toward the Tribulation using secular resources to demonstrate the accuracy of Bible prophecy.

Since Bible prophecy for the last days and through the Tribulation is centered around Israel [see Daniel’s 70th Week].  Israel serves as a mile marker.  The closer it appears to come to extinction, the closer the Return of Christ, Who, according to Scripture, prevents that from happening.

The Eternal Generation

In a very real sense, what we are witnessing is not the actual fulfillment of prophecy for the last days.  The next prophetic event to be fulfilled in the Church Age is the Rapture.  Then the events of the Tribulation follow.  Both remain future — near future, we would argue.

So instead, we are eyewitnesses to the staging process.  The Bible says that there are a number of seemingly unrelated events that take place all in a single generation, somewhere in time.

Bible Prophecy Demands A Jewish State

Bible prophecy makes numerous references to the existence of a Jewish state called Israel in the last days [Ezekiel 37].  It also demands that Israel be in disputed possession of the city of Jerusalem [Zechariah 12].

It demands a conflict between Israel and her neighbors [Daniel 9].  The conflict is so intractable it will require supernatural intervention to resolve it [Dan 9:27, Zech 12:2-3].

Israel’s rebirth even took the Jews by surprise.  Abba Eban, one of Israel’s Founding Fathers, wrote in his book, Personal Witness, that on the day David Ben Gurion composed the telegram asking Harry Truman to recognize the Jewish state, it was still unnamed.

The name ‘Israel’ wasn’t selected until the following day.

“Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” (Isaiah 66:8).

Bible Prophecy Demands A Global Government

Throughout history, men have sought to rule the world.  And throughout history, other men have resisted the attempt.  In the last two global wars, the effort began with the conquest of Europe.

Following the last attempt, the Benelux Treaty brought together the first six European states, forming the nucleus of the modern European Union.  Wars couldn’t unite them.  Peace did [Daniel 8:25].

The same global war was responsible for the creation of the United Nations.  The UN created the template for a global government.  But the UN is an organism with 191 heads and no brain.  It doesn’t take a political scientist to see it is a failed experiment.

How Europe will eventually replace the UN is unclear, but it is the most likely candidate — the world would never accept the US or Russia. Europe would be far more acceptable.  The Bible says it will happen [Daniel 9, Rev 13].

Bible Prophecy Demands a Global Economy

The global economy is a reality.  The prophecy of the Mark of the Beast [Rev 13:17] demands a system whereby the buying and selling of individuals will be tracked and monitored.  Those outside the economic system of antichrist will be ‘unable to buy or sell’.

Entry into the system requires some kind of mark of allegiance to the antichrist.  Tracking sales is a reality.  Nobody can function in today’s economy unless they are in the ‘system’.  If you doubt it, get a bank account without a Social Security number or try and buy a new car using cash.

Bible Prophecy Demands a Global Religion

The Mark of the Beast is an economic system, but also a system of worship.  The false prophet [Rev 13:11] has two horns like a lamb [symbolic of Christianity – the Lamb of God] but speaks as a dragon [Satan].  A counterfeit Christianity preaching another Jesus and a different gospel [2 Cor 11:4].  That is already well entrenched in mainstream Christian denominations that teach salvation by works, church membership or ritual.

The war on terror has also created a global suspicion of fundamental anything.

What is a Fundamentalist?

To a Christian, a fundamentalist is one who practices the fundamentals of Christian faith, eschewing traditions of men and preferring the Word of God.

The world has a different perspective.

Fundamentalists, Jewish, Christian, Muslim — they’re all bombers.  Christian fundamentalists blow up abortion clinics, Jewish fundamentalists blow up Arabs and Muslim fundamentalists blow up anybody.  That is the prevailing propaganda, is it not?

It isn’t a stretch to expect that the sudden legitimization of ‘faith’ [whether in Jehovah, Jesus or Allah] will eventually blend together into a kind of global ecumenical belief in one ‘god’ for all.  Those who hold to the ‘old ways’ would be, well, fundamentalists.

We get lots of email asking where we are in Bible prophecy right now.  Israel was reborn in 1948.  The Benelux Treaty was signed in 1948.  The World Council of Churches was created in Amsterdam in 1948.  The transistor — the invention credited as giving birth to the Computer Age [making possible a global economy] was invented in 1948.

The General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trades [forerunner to the World Trade Organization] was signed in 1948.  Where are we in Bible prophecy right now?  Jesus said ‘when these things begin to come to pass, look up’ [Luke 21:28] because ‘this generation shall not pass, til all be fulfilled’ [Matthew 24:34].

Although no man knows the day or hour, [Matt 24:33] ‘when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors’ [Mark 13:29].

Where are we in Bible prophecy right now?

Near.  Even at the doors.

Faith Without Works is Dead

Faith Without Works is Dead
Vol: 119 Issue: 25 Thursday, August 25, 2011

One of the main arguments against the doctrine of eternal security to those who don’t understand it is that its opponents believe it is a ‘license to sin’.

Salvation is a three step process. First, one must recognize his condition as a sinner. Secondly, that person must recognize that Jesus paid the penalty for that sin on the Cross. And third, that sinner must repent and be converted;

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

When one repents of one’s sin and trusts Jesus, then the Scripture says one becomes ‘a new creature’. “. . .old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

Repentance means more than mere sorrow or regret or despair or grief over sin. Bible repentance means a change of mind toward God that results in a change of action.

Writes Robert Girdlestone in “Synonyms of the Old Testament”;

“Repentance is neither sorrow without change or change without sorrow, but it is such a deep feeling of sorrow as gives rise to a determination to change.”

“Repentance is a change of mind or purpose. Until a man repents he commonly feels comfortable about himself and his “ways; but when the Savior, through the Spirit, gives him repentance, he changes his mind about himself, and seeing nothing good in his heart or in his works, his whole soul cries out, “Lord be merciful to me, as sinner.” (William Cathcart, Baptist Encyclopedia)

James Stewart explained ‘repentance’ this way in his book, “Evangelism”;

“Repentance is included in believing. Howbeit, repentance is not faith, nor faith repentance. ‘He that believeth’ implies repentance. ‘Repent and be converted’ involves faith. The hand that clutches the assassin’s knife must open it ‘ere it can grasp the gift its intended victim proffers; and opening that hand, though a single act, has a double aspect and purpose. Accepting the gift implies a turning from the crime the heart was bent on, and it was THE GIFT ITSELF that worked the change.”

Before looking more deeply into what repentance is, let’s take a look at what repentance is NOT.

Repentance isn’t fear of God’s anger coming from a consciousness of guilt or grief as a consequence of that guilt.

Judas was guilty of the greatest crime in human history — the betrayal of the Son of God. The Bible says that he was so filled with despair that he went out and hanged himself.

There is no indication that Judas had any sorrow for any other sin in his life, and he asked no pardon for his betrayal of Jesus. Judas’ despair was the result of great regret, but was not the same as repentance.

Judas had no change of mind, nor a change of heart. Rather than resolving to live a changed life and trusting the Lord for his forgiveness, he pronounced judgment upon himself and sentenced himself to death.

He was sorry for his crime, but he had no faith in forgiveness. He trusted to his own works.

The Greek word translated ‘repentance’ is ‘metanoeo’, which involves four things, according to R.C. Trench’s “Synonyms of the New Testament.”

1) “To know after,” 2) the change of mind consequent on this after-knowledge, 3) regret for the course pursued, resulting from the change of mind consequent on this after-knowledge, and, 4) the change of conduct for the future, springing from all this.

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines metanoeo (‘repent’ as a verb) as ‘to change one’s mind’. Thayer’s defines ‘metanoia’ (‘repentance’ the noun) as “to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.”

Repentance, as it relates to salvation, means to turn to God from sin. It means to bow before Jesus Christ as the God of one’s life. It involves a change of mind concerning Whose will is supreme, and involves a change of action as a consequence. There can be no salvation without repentance.

Repentance is denying self (a negative) while by faith affirming Christ (a positive). Repentance looks within; faith looks above. Repentance exposes us as miserable sinners; faith delivers us from that misery.

“Repentance is hunger, faith is the open mouth, and Christ is the living Food,” writes Cathcart.

Those who don’t understand the doctrine of eternal security take their personal view of ‘repentance’ and apply it across-the-board, according to the prism of their own self-experience.

For example, the smoker who, upon being saved, is convicted that smoking is a sin (changes his mind) and repents (changes his action) and quits, then applies smoking as a litmus test against which to measure the repentance of others.

In this view, someone who gets saved and doesn’t give up smoking can’t still be saved because he hasn’t really repented of his sin. Do you see the fundamental flaw in this logic?

Repentance is a change of mind, followed by a corresponding change of action. But it isn’t an instantaneous change, or the Scripture;

“that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” would make no sense. (Philippians 1:6)

Repenting and trusting Jesus means turning their sin nature over to Jesus Christ, and being willing to allow Him to make the changes as He saw fit.

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18)

To the guy who gave up smoking, the guy who hasn’t quit yet didn’t repent. To take this view, one has to ignore the fact that God isn’t done with this second guy yet.

He hath BEGUN a good work in him, but the Scriptures say it is a PROCESS in which He [Jesus] will CONTINUE to perform that good work until the day we stand before Him at the Bema Seat.

(Or else we have to tear that verse out of our Bibles.)

The sinner who will be saved MUST repent, and that repentance will ALWAYS result in a changed life.

Because those changes aren’t the ones somebody else (or even the sinner himself) expects to see doesn’t mean there is no repentance or no salvation or a loss of salvation.

The saved person KNOWS who they were before Christ. And the saved person marvels at the changes God has wrought in him — because HE knows what they are.

Even if those who would judge him by his outward performance do not.

I recall a discussion I had with the Lord not too long after I was saved. The moment I was saved, I gave up all the outward sins, smoking, drinking, swearing, etc. It wasn’t too long until the enemy threw me a few curves, and the next thing you know, there I was, right back where I started. Or so I thought.

I went for a long walk and I enquired of the Lord — what is wrong with me? Was my repentance insincere? Was my salvation a sham? How is it that the same God Who could speak the earth into existence out of nothing couldn’t give me the strength to keep me from picking up a cigarette? Where was my repentance? Was I still saved? Was I EVER saved?

And as I walked with Him, and questioned Him, He gave me the only answer that made sense. It was so obvious I wondered why I couldn’t see it before — I was walking with the Lord and asking Him why I hadn’t changed.

That’s when the lights came on. Before I got saved, I didn’t do that.

I went along my own way, running my life according to my own will and understanding, and the last thing I would have done would have been to go for a walk, talking to an invisible Savior and seeking His assurance and approval.

I still had a pack of cigarettes in my pocket, but I had changed my mind about myself, my relationship to God and my sin. My salvation had already produced evidence of a changed mind and a changed life.

As we walked, the Lord brought to my mind a whole list of things that I used to do that I didn’t do anymore. The changes just weren’t the ones I was expecting, in the order in which I had expected them.

The changes weren’t in the same order as in other people, but they were just as profound, since I KNOW who I was before. And so did God.

I was still a sinner. But I was a repentant sinner who was walking with God in the cool of the evening and I knew I had fellowship with Him because I WAS walking with Him in the cool of the evening, and seeking His will for my life.

The Apostle Paul, the greatest evangelist who ever lived, wrote of his own personal struggle with sin.

“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

Paul cries out in seeming despair, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Then the Lord gives him the answer to his question, just as He gave me mine.

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25)

Eternal security is not license to sin. It is a recognition that sin exists in our lives, but also that, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)

As I walked with the Lord, hating (but keeping) that pack of cigarettes in my pocket, was I walking after the flesh, or after the Spirit?

In his letter to the Romans, Paul says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof . . . for sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

My sin continued to exist, since I remain subject to the ‘law in my members’ but it no longer had dominion over me. I could still approach the Throne of Grace and seek His Face and pray with confidence.

The enemy’s efforts to convince me I was unworthy by virtue of my sin was overcome by God’s assurance I am forgiven by grace through faith. It wasn’t up to me — I didn’t need to give up in the face of my failure.

“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” (Romans 8:33)

Answering the objection that eternal security is the same as a ‘license to sin’, Paul writes;

“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”

What IS the sin unto death? There IS such a sin — the Bible says so;

“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1 John 5:16)

John makes it clear that there are sins which are NOT unto death, but Paul says the wages of sin is death. A contradiction? In both cases, the context indicates the comments are addressed to believers. So what does it mean?

“And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

The Apostle John recorded Jesus’ teaching that, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)

It is the Holy Spirit that calls us to salvation. Rejecting that call is the sin unto death for which there is no forgiveness.

The Apostle James writes, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)

Opponents of eternal security seize on the second half of that verse to prove the validity of works, instead of looking at the entire verse in context.

In context, note that James is using a dead (unquickened) spirit to contrast against a ‘dead faith’.

Faith is NOT the spirit and the spirit is not faith. One has a spirit whether one has faith or not. The two are not the same. But one’s spirit is ‘quickened’ — made alive, BY faith.

Hebrews 11:1 defines ‘faith’. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

If one has faith, but does no works of faith, how does it follow that means his spirit is killed — since, by definition, saving faith results in a ‘quickened’ spirit?

If one has faith, but does no works of faith, he will bear no fruit. Leading someone to Christ is a work of faith that bears fruit. Passing up an opportunity to witness because one is too ashamed is a fruitless exercise. Without works, that faith will bear no fruit.

But we are not saved by faithless works, we are saved by workless faith. Others are saved, i.e., led to Christ, by our works on behalf of the Gospel. Or they are not, due to our failure.

Paul writes of the fate of him that has faith without works when that one stands before the Bema Seat;

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”

But note the following verse very carefully:

“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire.” (1st Corinthians 3:13-15)

Again, is this a contradiction? James says faith without works is dead, but Paul says that faith that produces no works will suffer the loss of rewards, before he notes carefully that loss of rewards isn’t the same as the loss of salvation.

Connecting the dots, we find the following:

1) Salvation is a free gift of grace, received by faith, and exclusive of works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

2) Repentance means a change of mind toward God and sin that results in a change of action.

3) There is but one ‘sin unto death’. The only sin which will not be forgiven men is the rejection of salvation by denying the leading of the Holy Spirit.

4) Dead faith cannot produce spiritual fruit without works, so faith without works is dead.

5) Every person who by faith, accepts the free gift of salvation, will stand before the Bema Seat and be rewarded according to their works.

6) He who has no works will receive no reward, “BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire.”

Salvation comes by repentance for sin and faith in the completed work of the Cross as a substitutionary and all-sufficient sacrifice for sin.

Works of faith can only come AFTER that faith has been quickened by salvation. If the only sin unto death is the rejection of the free gift of salvation, then by definition, one who has saving faith has NOT rejected it.

His faith may not bear fruit, in which case, to all intents and purposes, that faith is ‘dead’ but the one with faith without works will ‘suffer loss’ but will himself be saved, ‘as by fire’.

This in no way means that works are irrelevant to bearing fruit, which is the Great Commission given to the Church, but it is clear that ‘works’ and ‘faith’ are two different things.

It offers no assurance that one can sin with impunity — sin bears its own reward, whether one is saved or lost.

Smokers get lung cancer, whether they are saved or not. Drug addicts overdose or die of disease brought on by a weakened immune system. Alcoholics get cirrhosis or die of some other alcohol related disease.

Sexual promiscuity yields a whole host of consequences, from the misery of divorce to the risk of death by sexually-transmitted diseases.

But only those who reject the offer of pardon procured for them by Jesus Christ at the price of His Own Blood sin the ‘sin unto death’.

The doctrine of eternal security is no license to sin, merely a recognition that sin exists, and that Jesus Christ alone has defeated sin’s eternal consequences.

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

Salvation is an issue between an individual and Jesus Christ. Repentance cannot be faked — one KNOWS in one’s heart whether one has repented or not.

So does Jesus Christ. Trust Him.

“. . .yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Romans 3:4)

Special Report: Eternal Security and the Oldest Lie in The Book

Special Report: Eternal Security and the Oldest Lie in The Book
Vol: 119 Issue: 24 Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I received an email recently in which the writer, arguing against the doctrine of eternal security, noted that some Scriptures seem to support it and others seem to contradict it.

He lamented that nobody can know for sure, and therefore, nobody should teach eternal security as a doctrine.

Any Scripture taken out of context can be made to prove anything. Within various chapters and verses, one finds specific contexts.

But then there is the whole body of Scripture, which, when taken in its entire context, DOES reveal the truth. The central theme of Scripture centers around three main points;

1) Man is a sinner constitutionally incapable of keeping the law.

2) Nobody is qualified to enter into the Presence of God based on his own merits and,

3) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Remove any of those key points from the equation and the theme of salvation makes no sense. If point 1 were not true, then it would negate point 2, which would then eliminate the necessity for point 3. Do you see it?

If eternal security is a false doctrine, that means we each play a role, through our works, (either sinful or righteous) in maintaining our salvation.

In that case, maintaining one’s salvation would require working at it by maintaining our personal righteousness.

But the Scripture says that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)

Remember, our native unrighteousness is the central theme of Scripture — and it demands the necessity of a Savior.

Therefore, if maintaining one’s personal righteousness is a condition of salvation, then point 1 is not true, point 2 is partially untrue and point 3 is unnecessary. That would defy the central theme and context of the revealed Word.

In witnessing to the lost, one generalizes the whole context of Scripture, telling the sinner;

“You are lost, and cannot stand before a Righteous Judge clothed in your own righteousness. But Jesus has paid the penalty for your sins at the Cross. Repent (change your mind) and trust in His shed Blood as full payment for your sins.”

Then one turns to Scripture to lead the sinner down what is often referred to as ‘Romans Road’.

Is that not the central theme of Scripture as generally presented by pretty much EVERYBODY, regardless of their position on eternal security?

Is that not the altar call that YOU responded to?

One can dig and dig and find Scriptures that appear to say the opposite — yet those who focus on those seemingly contradictory Scriptures find no conflict in giving the same synopsis of salvation to a lost sinner that I just gave.

It isn’t until AFTER someone surrenders to Christ that they begin to doubt, and Satan is more than able to direct the doubters to this Scripture, or that, until the free gift of salvation morphs into a joint effort between the Lord and the believer.

Pretty soon, the believer starts to put sins into various categories, according to his own human understanding.

But the Scriptures are abundantly clear that ALL sin is equally sinful in God’s view, and ONLY that view is in harmony with the central context of Scripture as summarized as points 1, 2, and 3.

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent deceived Eve by promising her that, in disobeying God, three things would happen.

“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Let’s break it down into its component elements.

1) “Your eyes shall be opened.”

The serpent begins by hinting that God is deliberately withholding beneficial information from them. The argument that some Scriptures seem to require salvation by faith plus works, while others seem to support eternal security stems from that seminal deception — that God’s Word is ambiguous when examined closely.

2) “Ye shall be as gods.”

It goes against the grain of human pride to believe that the only role we play in our own salvation is to accept a free gift of unearned pardon. Most human religions — and many Christian denominations — insist that mankind play some role in his redemption.

In this view, the sacrifice of the Cross is not enough — it is just a kick-start that gets us going. We must then perform at a certain level or that sacrifice is negated by our own failed efforts.

3) “Knowing good from evil.”

This goes back to the belief that we humans can know which sins are sufficient to disqualify us from heaven and which ones God will let slide because they weren’t as evil — which is the ONLY rationale for rejecting the doctrine of eternal security.

(Unless one is prepared to accept as fact that there are saved believers who never sin again after being saved. I’ve never met one, personally. But let’s examine the possibility that I missed him.)

Ever get angry after being saved? Ever say something hurtful? Ever roll through a stop sign? (Did you hunt down a cop to tell him you deserve a ticket?) Ever eat something you knew was unhealthy? Ever think something bad about somebody at church? Ever get mad at your parents? Ever think, ‘you idiot!’ when somebody cuts you off?

(“. . . whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” — Matthew 5:22)

“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. . . ” (Romans 2:1)

Assessment:

Humans know right from wrong because right and wrong are relative to actions. One can do right, or one can do wrong. Saving a person from being hit by a streetcar is a right thing. Pushing him in front of one is wrong — one might even say, ‘evil’.

But good and evil are outcomes — and the outcome of our actions is known only to God. Allow me to illustrate.

You are in Vienna, Austria, and the year is 1905. A man is painting a landscape portrait of downtown Vienna and doesn’t realize he has stepped back into the path of a street car. You see him, and push him to safety.

You did the right thing, right? It was a ‘good’ thing that you did, and not ‘evil’, right?

If you knew what the outcome of your good deed in 1905 would be — that is, if you knew at the time that you had just saved the life of Adolph Hitler and knew what he would become — did doing ‘the right thing’ result in a ‘good’, or ‘evil’ outcome?

The first lie of the Garden of Evil was that man should trust in himself and on his own understanding. The Scriptures teach the precise opposite.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

The doctrine of eternal security flies in the face of that first lie by removing man from the equation altogether. Eternal security says that human righteousness is as ‘filthy rags’ before the Lord, therefore, Jesus paid the FULL penalty for sin.

It teaches that man plays no greater role in his salvation than that of accepting the gift of Pardon offered him by repenting (which means to change one’s mind) about his sin and trusting in the shed Blood of Christ as a completed work.

The Scriptures teach us we can be;

“confident of this very thing, that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phillipians 1:6)

One doctrine, that of salvation plus works, teaches that once He hath begun a good work in me, it is up to ME to perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

The other, that of eternal security, teaches that, once He hath begun a good work in me, HE will continue to perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Which doctrine lines up best with the main theme of the revealed Word of God?

We return to the message of salvation, but presented WITHOUT the implicit promise of eternal security for the believer.

“You are lost and deserve to go to hell. But Jesus has made a way for you to be saved. All you have to do is believe in Him and not sin again. Go to church, learn the Bible, quit smoking, drinking, swearing, having lustful thoughts, avoid all your old sinful friends, do good and don’t sin, and you shall be saved. But if you continue in sin after trusting Jesus, you will go to hell anyway.”

If one discounts the doctrine of eternal security as some kind of Satanic lie, then giving the Gospel in any manner differently that the one above is deceptive advertising.

But the Scriptures teach;

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:15)

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

If one is turned into a ‘new creature’ through God’s extension of Sovereign grace accepted through faith, how then does one turn ONESELF back to the old creature by an act of human will (sin)?

Finally, there is the logic argument, as further advanced the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians.

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28)