The Painful Truth About the Situation in Donald Miller s Mind

The Painful Truth About the Situation in Donald Miller s Mind
Vol: 143 Issue: 31 Saturday, August 31, 2013

Only in the last decade have various “new” threats to Israel arisen. We all know about the Arab wars launched against the tiny Jewish state, the marginalization in the U.N., the boycott threats from leftists, and now the Iranian threat.

There is another emerging now, though, and it is perhaps the most insidious campaign one could imagine. The whole affair smacks of old Soviet propaganda, which relied on Western dupes to further their stealth agenda of taking down America.

This new threat I’m describing harms Israel directly. The Jewish state is hated the world over (I think the answer for that is found in Genesis 3, but that’s a discussion for a later time) and now we find ourselves living in an era in which…evangelical leadership in America poses a threat to Israel.

Frankly, I didn’t see this coming, what with the Jerry Falwells of the evangelical world dominating for a couple generations.

Most of them are gone, now, however. The replacements are something that seems alien to me. For what we have now dominating in American Evangelicalism is a center-left perspective that seems to have crept in unawares.

Witness the globalism of Rick Warren. Notice the blending of church with the secular-corporate world, presented elegantly by Bill Hybels. Pay attention to the young leaders being developed by Leadership Network and Catalyst—they of the skinny jeans and heavy emphasis on social justice.

I’ll say it clearly: the American church is being transformed into a leftist entity that in no real way resembles the faith of our fathers and mothers. If the transition isn’t complete, it’s coming soon.

The warning of 2 Peter 3 looms darkly on us now. In the church we have open scoffers who both embrace Darwinian philosophy and chuckle about the Second Coming. This tragedy is not sudden, though the manifestation of it is. Here is a tidbit from a book called A Christian Faith for Youth (a Methodist Youth Emphasis Book, written by Nevin C. Harner):

“Some people look for the kingdom to be ushered in dramatically, with Jesus’ return in the clouds of glory. This idea has been present in the church for a long time…In our day we still have groups of sincere people who earnestly await Jesus’ second coming…Now you can find this idea in the pages of the New Testament, but as the centuries went by and Jesus did not return in visible form, the church for the most part settled down to another conception,  namely, that of the slow coming of Jesus into individual lives and into our common life. This is probably the better way to view the matter.”

Here’s the chilling part: that book was written in 1950!

Harner was himself fulfilling 2 Peter 3; his phrase “but as the centuries went by” fits perfectly.

In The Adult Student, from April, 1951, we read:

“The second section [of Genesis], Chapters 12 through 50, is made up of hero stories out of the semi-legendary past of the Hebrew people.”

This view is at once ludicrous…and accepted! Think of what we hear now from pulpits, seminaries, Sunday school literature—most hardly different from the miracle-denying features about the Bible in news magazines and National Geographic.

Here we get to the core of the matter, friends. Liberal scholarship for the past 150 years, in Europe and America, has sought to disconnect the Bible from the miraculous. In his extraordinary 1997 book, Beyond the Point of No Return, long-time Methodist pastor Calvin Johnson presented the clearest picture of “what went wrong” in the American church…that I’ve ever read. Johnson understood thoroughly the lies of the left and their agendas:

“Neo-Orthodoxy gave credence to two Biblical truths—the sinfulness of man and the need for a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. However, it did not accept the miracles and the historical events of the Bible as true.”

You see, don’t you? “Neo-Orthodoxy” was a stealth campaign designed to appear biblical (“a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ”) but by knocking the props out from under the historicity of Genesis, its proponents ensured that generations of young people would see the disconnect and abandon the faith.

That’s what has happened.

And it is the chief reason we see support for Israel slipping. The German church followed this model in the lead-up to Hitler: deny the Jews’ history and they become sub-human.

The whole so-called Emergent community is Neo-Orthodox to the core and they are rapidly filling the leadership ranks in this country. They have also given rise to what my friend Paul Wilkinson has brilliantly termed “Christian Palestinianism.”

This is a new concept for most. It is the counter-weight to the influential community of Christian Zionists, who have long been the main, true friends of the state of Israel. What Paul is talking about is a group of influential evangelical leaders who are now selling-out to the so-called Palestinian narrative (which says, among other things, that the “occupation of Palestine” by Israel is the chief threat to stability in the Middle East and the source of a great injustice).

Which brings me to the title of this piece: Donald Miller.

Miller, a writer in the Pacific Northwest, wrote Blue Like Jazz a decade ago. This seminal work has hugely influenced a whole generation of Millennials, as alleged by the editors of Relevant magazine, the leading periodical for this group. In fact, Relevant promotes Miller and also advocates for the Palestinians.

Most Christians in America over 40 are unaware of this.

In November, 2012, Miller wrote an essay for his blog (http://www.storylineblog.com/) in which he accused Israel of war crimes. He based this on a recent trip to a place he calls Israel/”Palestine.” Of course, he was given a tour by Palestinians and their sympathizers.

Among other things, Miller accused Israeli soldiers of shooting and murdering innocent Palestinians. He accused the state of Israel of—I’m not making this up—controlling the daily caloric intake of Gazans.

Those were just for starters.

Miller issued a blood libel against Israel and here’s the scary part: the post is still up in cyberspace, largely unedited since November (although Miller, the first day, deleted a reference to Benjamin Netanyahu being responsible for more deaths than the jihadists). Not a single national evangelical leader I know of has called him on it.

I have made repeated requests of Miller to back up his claims with documentation, but he refuses to acknowledge my requests. Perhaps someone else can get through to him.

This example of mendacity is the tip of the iceberg for an Evangelical community that bares its fangs at Israel, but embraces without question the Palestinians, who wish to wipe Israel off the map.

Is this not a bizarre moment in which we find ourselves living?

I will write about this more in the coming weeks, but I consider this to be the biggest under-reported story in the American church at present. Some church members seem aware that more pro-Palestinian jargon is being used in their churches, and there is an increase in discussion of how Palestinian Christians are persecuted in their own land (by Israel, of course, so goes the narrative. Acknowledgment of the real source of persecution—jihadists and the PLO—is sanitized from the reports).

Know for now that a growing number of “A-list” evangelical leaders are either embracing bridge-building with Muslims (Warren, Hybels, Bob Roberts, Jr.) or wholesale support of the Palestinians: Lynne Hybels, World Vision, Dale Hanson Bourke, Todd Deatherage, Jonathan Martin, Relevant magazine, Mart Green (Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian bookstores and producer of the anti-Israel film, “Little Town of Bethlehem”), Sami Awad, and many others.

The people who move in these circles mock Bible prophecy or minimize it, holding up the straw men like Harold Camping, so that youth will see how little credibility the Bible prophecy/pro Israel crowd has.

Because it’s all about justice, right?

The painful truth is that there are twin pillars of prophecy right now that signal we are in the last days. This is mocked by the detractors, but no matter. The drive to marginalize Israel—so incredibly coming from the Evangelical community—is part of the apostasy. The other pillar of course is the real painful truth about Israel—the whole world is gathering in its mendacity to launch a final, Final Solution for the Jews.

The joke is on them. Tragically.

Note: Today’s briefing was written by OL’s newest featured commentator, Jim Fletcher.  Jim Fletcher is a pro Israel activist, author, speaker and researcher. He blogs for a variety of publications.

What ABOUT Alcohol?

What ABOUT Alcohol?
Vol: 143 Issue: 30 Friday, August 30, 2013

It has been accurately observed that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’ — a saying that has been reverberating in my mind since I decided to take on a question first raised in our members-only forum. The question was, basically, ”Is it a sin to have a drink with dinner?” But that is a question that begs a host of other questions be dealt with first.

Ask four Christians this question and you can expect four different answers, each with appropriate proof texts to support them. Hence the ‘fools rush in’ saying — there is no way I can approach this without jarring the preserves of at least three quarters of you and guaranteeing some spirited comments in response.

Paul writes to Timothy;

“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (1st Timothy 5:23)

But Paul’s admonition, taken in context, comes directly after a verse in which Paul tells Timothy,

“Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.” (5:22)

Does the act of drinking a glass of wine make one impure? Matthew records Jesus’ teaching on this subject, saying,

“And He called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. (Matthew: 15:10,11)

If that sounds unclear to you, it did to Peter, also.

“Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” (Matthew 15:15-18)

Jesus is specifically addressing eating without the ritual handwashing first — but that is an interpretation that, taken in its narrowest sense, seems a bit unsatisfactory.

In fact, interpreting Jesus’ comments ONLY in the context of eating with unwashed hands, it is medically incorrect. Jesus was talking about being SPIRITUALLY defiled when He said, “whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught . . .” since medically, eating with unwashed hands can cause all kinds of medical problems. And Jesus IS the Great Physician — He knows that.

That’s why He said, “to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. . .” (Matthew 15:20) He is speaking of ritual defilement.

Paul writes to the Corinthians,

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Proverbs 20:1 says,

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Proverbs 31:4-7 says,

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.”

While Christians are ‘kings and princes’ in the spiritual sense, Proverbs 31 refers to a king in the sense of political leadership. Those who are in a position to make judgments under the law.

Lemuel goes on, saying,

“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” (Proverbs 31:7)

Do Christians have terminal illnesses? Do Christians sometimes have heavy hearts? Do Christians sometimes get fed up with the misery of this life? Gets as clear as mud, doesn’t it?

There is a difference between having a drink at dinner and being an alcoholic.

“Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” (Proverbs 23:20-21)

Few would argue the simple truth of this passage — drunkards seldom become the pillars of society or achieve great personal success.

This is more a warning and a statement of fact than a doctrinal statement.

Proverbs 23:29-35 describes alcoholism as a disease of the spirit long before it was recognized by 20th century society.

“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I WILL SEEK IT YET AGAIN.”

Assessment:

Everything in Scripture regarding alcohol refers to excess. From that, most Christians interpret it as an absolute prohibition against even a single drink containing alcohol. For them, as individuals in their personal walk with the Lord, that interpretation is correct.

But I remember watching John Hagee one day on his TV program. He pointed out to his audience and thundered, “If you smoke, you are defiling the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” That got me to thinking.

Most Christians I know would agree with his statement. But then you consider John Hagee’s girth, and you have to ask yourself, what about gluttony?

“For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” (Proverbs 23:21)

Is being fat a sin? What if one is fat, but neither smokes nor drinks? What about the person in perfect health, who takes excellent care of his Temple, but also has a couple of glasses of wine with dinner? Is his sin greater, or lesser, or even sinful? Who gets to decide? Is it us?

We hear tons of sermons about the spiritual evils of smoking and drinking. Why don’t we hear sermons about gluttony? I’ve noticed that when it comes to besetting sins, folks tend to focus on the besetting sin that isn’t theirs.

A preacher who smokes doesn’t dwell much on the sinfulness of smoking, one who drinks doesn’t dwell much on the sinfulness of drinking, and one who is fat doesn’t dwell much on the sinfulness of gluttony.

(I personally know good, dedicated men of God who are faithful to their calling who fall into one or more of the three categories).

One can smoke or drink, more or less in secret, but a glutton has a hard time hiding his sin, even when wearing dark suits. And try and picture the audience out front — there are a lot of delinquents from their Weight Watchers meetings sitting out there listening. So it is seldom preached as being evidence of sin.

In point of fact, we tend to categorize what is sinful behavior based more on our culture than on our Scriptures.

Where I live, it is widely assumed that nobody who drinks or smokes is really saved. On the other hand, out in California, there are many Christians who get together over a bottle of wine, and many others who smoke cigarettes openly.

Both the Catholics and Jews use wine as part of their religious rituals, as do a number of Protestant denominations. Christians in the Middle East and in Europe smoke AND drink.

“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

The seventh, and most abominable, is ‘he that soweth discord among the brethren.’

Paul writes;

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:1-5)

Paul is specifically addressing keeping kosher eating habits or keeping feast days, but in general, he is referring to religious legalism.

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:17-19)

Jesus made each of us the way we are. Clearly, the Scriptures warn of the dangers of too much wine. It speaks of the penalty for defiling our body, which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It also says that if we defile our body, (the Temple) ‘him God will destroy’ (the body, or Temple, not one’s eternal salvation).

Scriptures make it clear that God understands the alcoholic, the habitual smoker, the glutton, and warns of the dangers that these excesses pose to the physical body, but Paul says the eternal consequences come from lack of faith that,

“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phillipians 1:6)

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5)

“Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:22-23)

Each of us is constructed with built-in strengths and weaknesses, but each of us also has a unique relationship with our Savior.

It is a personal relationship, one between the individual and God, Who is the Author of both our strengths and weaknesses. He put them there. He understands them.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthinans 12:9)

“And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

“All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.” (1 John 5:17)

“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

Sin is what humans do. Forgive is what God does. That’s why we have a Savior.

So where am I going with this? Is it a sin for a Christian to have a drink with dinner, or to have a smoke afterwards? It would seem no more a sin than to eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger, brimming with fat, covered with a ‘cheese-food product that MAY contain cheese’ — as it says on the ingredients label.

Asking the Lord to bless a McDonald’s cheeseburger ‘as nourishment to our bodies’ is no less than asking God to perform a miracle and transform it into a health food that will edify the Temple of God. Is that a sin?

Weighing 300 pounds, is that a greater sin than drinking or smoking? The winebibber and glutton are always linked in Scripture as being equals. For one Christian to condemn another based on whether he smokes or drinks requires us to point an equally condemning finger at every overweight person with an eating disorder as being equally sinful.

Or not to point fingers at all.

Paul says that ‘all things are lawful’ to a Christian, and he says, ‘Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.’

“And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:21-25)

“There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:12)

As I noted, this is a very difficult question. I did my best to let Scripture provide the answers, but only answer of which I am certain is that our relationship with Christ is personal — each of us comes to Him and is received by faith, not works.

The sinfulness of a drink with dinner is an issue between the individual and the Lord. To some, it is. To others, it is not. ‘Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.’ It is not a very satisfactory, black and white answer. But it is the only answer that fits the Scripture.

To answer otherwise is to plead guilty to that seventh abomination before the Lord: ‘he that soweth discord among the brethren.’

Note: Today’s scripture filled Letter was origianlly published January 25, 2004.  Alf Cengia’s article today, ”This Rebellious Planet” covers many of C.S. Lewis’ works which gives us a picture of where we are today.

On National Christianity . . .

On National Christianity . . .
Vol: 143 Issue: 29 Thursday, August 29, 2013

I was surprised by the number of you who took me to task by email or in the forums for my comments that the Ten Commandments seem to me an incongruous choice for the battlefield upon which American Christianity would make its stand.

Among the various objections were that I sounded a bit anti-Semitic, that I was arguing against the Ten Commandments, that I was advocating disobedience or a license to sin, and so forth.

As to sounding anti-Semitic, not being Jewish is not the same as being against the Jews. If I adopted Jewish theology, I wouldn’t be a Christian, I’d be a Jew. That’s just silly.

(I am a Christian Zionist to the core and love Israel with all my heart. There are more than 2,000 articles in the OL archives. At least a quarter of them deal with Israel. I’ll let them stand as my reply to charges of latent anti-Semitism and instead move on to some of the other objections.)

In most instances, the only way to reply to the objections that I could see would put me in the position of arguing against the Ten Commandments, (the way that trying to explain the “Mother of God” heresy makes you end up sounding like you think that Mary was nobody special.) That’s not the way to go, either.

Wow. That’s a lot of misunderstanding to try and sort out.

So let’s start at the top. My starting position is that the Ten Commandments are not “Christian’, so it seems an odd point for Christians to choose to draw their line in the sand. In the final analysis, the Ten Commandments is the point where Christianity and Judaism part company theologically.

In Friday’s column, I employed an unfortunate choice of words when I referred to the ‘abolition’ of the Ten Commandments.

As many of you pointed out, Jesus Himself said He came, not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. But for a Christian the net effect is the same.

Jesus kept the whole Law, without offending on a single point. Having accomplished that which has been proved to be humanly impossible for anyone else before or since, Jesus offered Himself as a Perfect Sacrifice in payment for all those who failed to keep the Law of Moses.

His Righteousness is then extended like a spiritual blanket to cover the sins of those who repent of their sin, and trust in the Bible’s promise that His sacrifice was all-sufficient payment for their sins. The Law, as it applies to a Christian, is satisfied, and a Christian is no more under law, but under grace.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the Law, but under grace,” Paul writes in Romans 6:14.

Paul also makes it clear that we will be judged either according to the deeds of the law, (by which NO flesh can be justified in His sight – Romans 3:20), or we will be judged by grace through faith;

“But now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference. . . (Romans 3:21-22)

That is not the same as preaching a license to sin. Although there is a difference in judgment between being under the Law and under grace, sin is sin and God hates sin.

“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid,” Paul exclaims. (Romans 6:15)

In terms of salvation, however, how well we keep the Ten Commandments is not an issue. We aren’t saved by what we do for Jesus, but by what Jesus did for us. And it is salvation the lost sinner needs, not the Law of Moses, which, according to the Apostle Paul, keeps sinners in bondage.

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

So, while the Law hasn’t been abolished, but rather, fulfilled by His Life, death and Resurrection, Christians are made free from the provisions and penalties of the Ten Commandments, by virtue of a Decree issued by Jesus Christ Himself.

Jesus was asked by the Pharisees, (hoping to use the Ten Commandments to entrap Him), which was the greatest of the Ten Commandments. Note His reply:

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In other words, if one keeps the “Law of Jesus” one cannot run afoul of the Law of Moses.

But the Law of Moses is not Christian law. Loving God above all things and loving one’s neighbor as oneself is “Christian Law.” (One sees precious little of either whenever the topic of the Ten Commandments comes up.)

The Apostle Paul writes;

“the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Romans 7:12)

I couldn’t agree more. But like Paul, I am a realist;

“but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (Romans 7:14b-15)

I look at the provisions of the Ten Commandments, and like Paul, I don’t see an avenue for redemption, but rather, I see it as a searing indictment of my guilt before God.

As I stand exposed by the light of the Ten Commandments, I know I am guilty and hopeless. Paul’s anguished cry, “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24) resonates with me.

I’ve cried out to the Lord in similar words more than once.

Assessment:

Choosing the Ten Commandments as the place to make our stand means defending the Ten Commandments. I don’t keep them all — and I know that I don’t.

All somebody has to do to decimate my best argument is to ask me the last time that I did any work on the Sabbath. Or if I keep the prohibition against graven images. (I’ll leave it there. This isn’t “True Confessions.”)

The Ten Commandments point out mankind’s need for a Savior. A lost sinner looks at the Ten Commandments and is convicted of his sin. So he would prefer not to look at them at all.

The Ten Commandments therefore, one might argue, point to Christ, so why would I argue they are an odd choice for Christians to choose as their rallying point?

The Ten Commandments expose sin in all its hopelessness. But they don’t offer a solution to the rest of Paul’s question in Romans 7:24; “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

As such, the Ten Commandments represent only half of the Christian worldview — the hopeless half.

THAT is what the Ten Commandments represent. A searing indictment against man. It is why the secular world hates them so much. They are an indictment against them for which they have no defense.

Christianity IS the defense, but that isn’t what is being offered here. What is being offered is the Ten Commandments as the expression of Christianity — when what they really point to is the need for it.

The Ten Commandments identify the sin problem of mankind. Jesus Christ offers the solution to the problem. We offer the problem as the solution — and wonder why the world doesn’t embrace Christianity with open arms.

The lost guy looks at all the Christians rallying around the Ten Commandments and says, “I can’t hope to keep them all.” And he knows in his heart that neither can all those Christians, so is it any wonder that 76% in a recent Barna poll chose ‘hypocrisy’ to describe their view of modern Christianity?

Nobody up there rallying around the Ten Commandments is telling anybody that Jesus has made a way to expunge the writing of the indictment against us contained on the tablets of the Law. Instead, they are insisting that the lost embrace them as emblematic of Christianity.

All of us were once of the world. Which would you have embraced? The secular worldview that leaves you to decide if you aren’t as bad as the next guy? Or a ‘religious’ worldview that says you are guilty of violating every tenet of God’s Law — and then just leaves you hanging there?

THAT is why I say that the Ten Commandments issue is cultural. It is political Christianity, which bears little or no resemblance to the spiritual kind. The stifling provisions of the Ten Commandments bear little resemblance to the Christianity Jesus described when He said, “For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

One critic of last Friday’s column said that Christians should strive to keep ALL of God’s law. That is an impossible argument to sustain for long. (One can find provisions in the Old Testament wherein parents should take their disobedient children outside the gates of the city and stone them to death.)

For that matter, it is almost as difficult to sustain any argument to the contrary. I certainly don’t want to be the guy arguing which of God’s laws we are supposed to keep and which we are not — but I am pretty sure stoning one of my kids to death will not earn me any points in Heaven.

I am not arguing against the Law, or the Scriptures or trying to slam Judaism or suggesting we have license to sin. There is a difference between cultural Christianity and Bible Christianity, and my contention is that this is cultural Christian politics and should be viewed from that context.

Cultural Christianity embraces Bible stuff because it is part of our historical culture, but cultural Christianity includes Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, 7th Day Adventists, and any other sect, denomination, religion or worldview that includes the mention of Christ or the Bible.

Biblical Christianity is not symbolized by the condemnation offered by the Law, but rather by the fulfillment of the Law in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Having gone this far afield, let me return to my original point. Since no American Christian taking up the fight is qualified by virtue of having kept them himself, it strikes me that the Commandments offer a somewhat precarious platform upon which to take one’s Christian stand. The Ten Commandments offer the judgment for sin, but alone, make no provision for salvation.

In a sense, they simply state the obvious, which is that man in his own right has no hope. But Christianity is all about the hope that is found in Jesus. The two views are hopelessly at odds with one another.

Why does American cultural Christianity rally itself around the symbol of the theological problem — man’s inability to keep the Law? Because once Christianity becomes cultural, rather than doctrinal, there is no universal solution to man’s sin problem.

Cultural Christians are Catholics and Lutherans and Unitarians and Presbyterians and Anglicans and salvation is according to Church membership, works plus grace; by grace plus works; salvation by grace alone; salvation by grace — but works count against you, etc., and so on.

There is virtually no Christian doctrine upon which everyone who self-identifies as ‘Christian’ can agree. There are mainstream Christian denominations that go so far as to deny the Deity of Christ. But they accept the Ten Commandments as having binding authority.

I know Christians that would never own a crucifix because it symbolizes a dead and powerless Jesus still hanging on the Cross, yet some of those same Christians find no conflict in rallying around the symbols of the Law that hung Him there.

As a self-identified Christian culture, we want to be ‘godly’ but can’t agree on how. The one thing everybody can agree on is the Ten Commandments, which are all about the weakness of men, but stop short of any mention of God’s regenerative and saving Power.

It is the one thing upon which American cultural Christianity can find common ground — mainly because it begins and ends with man’s failure. A political rally aimed at putting the 10 Commandments beside the Dalai Lama’s Buddha may be a form of godliness, but as an expression of Christianity, it’s a form that, [it seems to me], denies the power thereof.

To borrow a phrase from the Buddha, the Ten Commandments without the Cross is like the sound of one hand clapping.

And so I question it. It seems too surreal for me not to.

Note: Today’s Letter was originally published October 22, 2007.  J.L. Robb’s article today, “Pandora’s Box” points to the happenings in the Middle East as being unstoppable as predicted in God’s Word.

The Power of One

The Power of One
Vol: 143 Issue: 28 Wednesday, August 28, 2013

”And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; or the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

The purpose of the Omega Letter is slightly different than that of most website ministries, in that the main focus of our attention isn’t to attract the lost.

Instead we target those already saved by grace in an effort to provide them (you) with the tools you need to be more effective in your own evangelistic efforts. There isn’t a lot of milk in the contents of the Omega Letter — this is a diet for meat-eaters only.

Note the purpose of each of the offices of the early Church. Paul outlines the job of the Apostles to seed the Churches, prophets to announce its arrival, evangelists to take the fight to the enemy, and pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints.

All offices aim for the same ultimate objective, the edification of the Body of Christ. Webster’s defines ‘edification’ as follows:

(1) The act of edifying, or the state of being edified; a building up, especially in a moral or spiritual sense; moral, intellectual, or spiritual improvement; instruction. (source: brainyencylopedia.com)

There are certain members of the Body that are assigned to ‘capture new ground from the enemy’ — these are ‘evangelists’. They are good at leading people to Christ.

They can take the battle right up to the devil’s camp and set free the captives of darkness. They are the front line men of the Kingdom and their job is to capture the “gates of the enemy”.

Because they are fighting against spiritual powers, the evangelist is a man of power in the Holy Spirit. We are not fighting with flesh and blood, but against “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12-13). The evangelist must know how to fight with Spiritual weapons from God.

The work of the evangelist includes showing others how to overcome the enemy. A part of his ministry is to convict the believers and move them to action in the battle for the souls of mankind.

The evangelist is the man of war in the Kingdom of God. The evangelist is one who is not afraid to associate with those who are in most need of the healing power of God.

Jesus said,

“They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:12-13)

The most powerful evangelists are not necessarily the Billy Graham’s of this world who lead massive world-wide crusades. Consider this: Billy Graham’s crusades have, according to the encyclopedia, reached live audiences of 210 million people in 185 countries. He has led hundreds of thousands of people to make personal decisions to accept Christ into their lives, this being the main thrust of his ministry.

Many of his sermons center on the topic “Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation”. He has often advised US presidents and continues to be listed as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” in Gallup Polls. (source: brainyencylopedia.com)

There aren’t very many people in this world who haven’t at least HEARD of Billy Graham, even if they haven’t heard him preach. Now, imagine Billy Graham, standing before the Bema Seat, surrounded by the millions he led to Christ, as he accepts his reward. Wow!

BUT, who is Mordechai Ham? Most of us may not ever have heard of him, but he is a legend in heaven. Because standing in FRONT of Billy Graham is Mordechai Ham, the man who led Billy Graham — and by extension, Billy Graham’s millions — to Christ back in 1934.

Such is the power of one evangelist who is faithful to his calling. That power belongs to each of us who are faithful to the truth and prepared to share Christ with the skeptic.

That is why the Omega Letter touches on such a wide range of topics, like politics, social issues and international affairs, instead of focusing exclusively on theology.

Each of us has, at one time or another, overheard someone, upon hearing of yet another murderous mother, homicidal husband or the latest wartime atrocity and exclaiming; “I don’t know what this world is coming to.”

We do. And it is our job to seize that opportunity as the Lord puts it before us. Many of you have been called to the ministry of the evangelist, whether you know it or not, or you would not be subscribers to the Omega Letter.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

It is the Power of One that can dispel the clouds of confusion that blind the eyes of the lost.

Jesus, the Great Physician and First Evangelist, outlined our mission for the last days in unmistakable terms, saying,

“The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

We are the ‘watchmen on the wall’ for the last days, and it is incumbent upon us to be able to discern the truth and sound the alarm.

It is a grave responsibility —

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” (Ezekiel 33:6)

Every person we meet in the course of a day has an eternal destiny. Either that person will spend eternity in heaven in the presence of Christ, or they will be cast into a Christless eternity ‘where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ — “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” a destiny so certain that Jesus repeated it three times (Mark 9:44,46,48).

It was the Power of One, manifested through Mordechai Ham, that resulted in the millions of decisions for Christ over the lifetime of Billy Graham’s ministry.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2nd Timothy 1:7)

We have that Power of One through the One Who indwells us. But it is up to us to exercise it.

Instead of praying that the Lord will send forth laborers to His Harvest, pray to be one of the laborers that are to be sent.

You may not be the next Billy Graham. Instead, you may be blessed to be the next Mordechai Ham.

Note:  Jack wrote this inspiring Letter back in 2004.  Today’s featured commentary; ”Love, Lust and Abraham Lincoln”, by Pete Garcia also gives us a message of hope in this sin sick world.  One member summed up why we continue in this mission at OL. ”I hope others here take advantage of the Omega Letter topical Bible study outline regularly prepared here by you and your compatriots. . .I don’t want to be the only one who gets to be smarter because he knows you people.” Maranatha!

Sola Fide

Sola Fide
Vol: 143 Issue: 27 Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It seems from some of the feedback from our discussions on grace and eternal security, I am not doing as good a job of articulating my positions as I thought I was.

The doctrines of eternal security and grace are both articulated in Reformist Martin Luther’s famous “Sola Fide” — or “justification by faith” upon which the Protestant Reformation was based.

“Sola fide” acknowledges that all people have come short of the glory of God and have disobeyed His commands. Therefore, God declares ‘obedient’ those who put their confidence and faith in what God has done through the Life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus.

“Sola fide” counts Christ’s obedience as one’s own, and is the only example of meritorious obedience in a sinnner’s life. Those who trust God do not trust what they themselves have done (which has no worth, because of sin) as playing a role in their salvation.

The doctrine holds that it is not through personal goodness that sinners are reconciled to God. Reconciliation is only through the mercy of God, who made reconciliation through His Son.

“Sola fide” holds that Christ was given in substitution for the disobedience of believers, Whose Resurrection is evidence that believers are heirs in eternal life.

Martin Luther made ‘sola fide’ the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation and identified it as the chief distinction between evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism.

Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk, fully dedicated to his calling. Desperate to please God, he devoted himself to fasting, flagellation (the practice of beating oneself with whips) prayers, pilgrimages, and confession.

Brother Martin was soon elevated to the priesthood, where he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenburg. Now ‘Father’ Martin, Luther despaired at the fact that the harder he tried to cleanse himself of sin, the more aware he became of his sinfulness.

Luther’s academic studies and teaching lectures drove him deep into the Scriptures, and from there into a deep study of the Bible and the early Church. Luther became convinced that the Vatican had lost sight of the most central doctrine of Christianity, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Luther began teaching salvation as a gift of grace through Christ received by faith at about the same time that a Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel , was enlisted to travel throughout Archbishop Albert of Mainz’s episcopal territories promoting and selling indulgences for the renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Tetzel was good at his job. “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs,” tradition says.

A little background: An ‘indulgence’ is a dispensation from the Vatican; a kind of ‘get out of purgatory free’ card. I am not being flippant; that is what it was in Luther’s day, (and still is).

In Catholic theology, a person who dies with unconfessed minor (venial) sins doesn’t go to heaven until he spends time in ‘purgatory’ – a place of temporary punishment not unlike hell — in which the believer can be purged of his remaining sins. Depending on the number of venial sins, a stay in purgatory can be hundreds, if not thousands of years.

An ‘indulgence’ is a reduction in time for the sentence of a loved one suffering in purgatory. In modern Catholicism, indulgences for specific numbers of years can be obtained in exchange for prayers to certain saints or for certain acts of charity.

A ‘plenary’ indulgence — a ‘pardon’ from purgatory, can be obtained by going through the ritual of the ‘Stations of the Cross’ on All Saint’s Day, for example.

But in Luther’s day, one could buy indulgences for hard cash. Pay a little, get a little time shaved off in purgatory. Pay a lot, get a plenary indulgence.

Luther challenged this practice, preaching three different sermons condemning it, and drawing the attention of Pope Leo X, who initially dismissed Luther as “a drunken German who wrote the Theses” who “when sober will change his mind,” before realizing the full extent of Luther’s challenge and dispatching the Grand Inquisitor to Wittenberg to meet with Luther.

Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, but it was too late to stop the Protestant Reformation.

Assessment:

‘Sole fide’ is the bedrock doctrine of evangelical Christianity, not heretic rantings about libertine Christianity. It is rooted in the recognition that our salvation is by faith and not by our works, that it is an extension of unmerited grace from God, and that we play no other role in our salvation than to accept it as offered.

By definition, ‘sole fide’ implies eternal security. The logical principle known as ‘Occam’s Razor’ says that given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler. If one is saved by faith and not works, then the applying the efficacy of works at some point later on is not logical.

If works can’t save you, then how can they ‘lose’ you? At the extreme ends of the theological spectrum one finds two opposing views. On one end is ‘legalism’ — a term to refer to a fixation on the law and codes of conduct for Christians.

Legalism in its extreme, is the belief that obedience to certain Christian conduct supercedes faith as the main principle to redemption.

On the other end of the spectrum is what is called ‘antimonianism’ — the belief that members of a particular religious group are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality as presented by religious authorities.

Taken to its extreme, antimonianism is every bit as heretical as legalism. If God forgives sins, what exactly is the disadvantage in sinning, or the reward of obedience?

Being called an ‘antimonianist’ means, by implication, someone whose chooses a libertine doctrine for the express purpose of justifying a lifestyle of sin.

The truth of Scripture lies somewhere in the middle between the two extremes.

Salvation is a gift of grace, not works. If it is to be earned by works,[or good conduct] it is not a gift, but wages.

If it can be rescinded by works, [or bad conduct] then it wasn’t a gift, but a conditional loan based on conduct.

That is neither legalistic nor antinomonial. The Bible is clear that there is no sin that goes unnoticed, and says,

“every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)

Eternal security doesn’t give license to sin, neither does it hold an habitually sinning believer unaccountable. All sinners will give an account for their sins before God.

The difference lies in the Court to which they are called upon to give testimony. Believers will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, where they will be judged according to their works.

“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. 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)

The lost will give account of themselves before the Great White Throne, but, conversely, the lost will NOT be judged according to their works, but according to whether or not one’s name is recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Eternal security is NOT license to sin. Grace is NOT antimonianism. They are, as I’ve noted before, bandages and medicine that keep us from succumbing to our wounds and get us back into the fight. The battle with sin is a lifelong conflict.

Scripture promises;

“if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1st John 1:9)

There are those who do use eternal security as a license to sin, but they are kidding themselves. Sin takes its toll on a body. Drunks, drug addicts, smokers, gluttons, sex addicts, etc., all bear the marks of their sin on and in their bodies, saved or lost alike.

Sinners, saved or lost, will all die of their sins. What is of eternal consquence is whether or not one dies IN their sins.

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

Note: Today’s Letter was originally published December 30, 2005.  In keeping with the simple yet mysterious ways of God, Wendy Wippel brings us her article, “Out of the Shadows“.  Which, once again, shows that God is the ultimate Scientist and proves Himself through His Word.

When Is Too Late Too Late?

When Is Too Late Too Late?
Vol: 143 Issue: 26 Monday, August 26, 2013

For my birthday, one of my kids gave me a placard that says, ”If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your wife tells you.”

Two recent OL columns, “The Times of the Gentiles” and “Perspective is Everything” appear to have generated more confusion than they have shed light on the issue, if I am to judge from my emails and from the forums.

So I asked my wife what she thought I should do.  She said to try, try again, but this time, keep it simple.

So here goes.

The general confusion revolves around the idea that Gentiles cannot be saved during the Tribulation or that no Gentiles will be saved during the Tribulation.

I didn’t say that and don’t believe that, but rather than repeating what I already wrote; (you can read them here and here,) I thought it more constructive to step back and look at the issue again, and in the context of the Big Picture.

The “Gentiles” means every person from Adam that isn’t either of the tribe of Israel or a Christian.

I don’t believe that every Gentile who lived before the time of Christ was condemned, but neither do I expect to see any huge number of Gentiles from the pre-Christian era when I get to heaven.

There is no Biblical record of a huge outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles during the Old Testament period.  The Holy Spirit did not indwell the Old Testament saints in the sense that He indwells believers during the Church Age.

There will be some Gentile Old Testament saints in heaven, of course.  Cyrus, maybe, or Nebuchadnezzar, maybe.  Enoch.  Noah.  Lot.  Melchizedek.  Job.  A few more, maybe.

But in the main, God’s attention was focused on the spiritual condition of His Chosen People, the Jews.

The entire future history of God’s plan for His Chosen People is laid out in detail to the Prophet Daniel by the revealing angel:

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”

Daniel’s people were Jews.  Daniel’s holy city is Jerusalem.  This is a prophecy concerning them.  Both the Church and the Gentiles are excluded.

The “Seventy weeks” are weeks of years, or periods of 7 years each.  The full length of the prophecy thus runs 490 years in total.

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”

This period of time, from the order to rebuild to the coming of the Messiah 7+62 adds up to 69 weeks or 483 years.

“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary . . .” (Daniel 9:26-27)

Josh McDowell did the calculations in his “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” showing that the commandment was issued on March 5, 444 BC.  Jesus rode into Jerusalem where He was received as King 173,880 days later, exactly 483 years.

It is at the point where the Messiah is “cut off, but not for Himself,” that the focus shifts to the salvation of the Gentiles.

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:25)

The “fulness of the Gentiles” means what it sounds like it means. 

“Fulness” (pleroma) means, “completion, what fills (with contents) what is filled (as in container, performance period) which is put in to fill up, full.”

When the full complement of Gentiles who will be saved are saved, Paul writes, then God’s attention turns back to Israel.

The born-again, Blood-bought Church, formerly Jews and Gentiles (but primarily Gentiles) and now, new creatures, are the individuals that corporately constitute the Body of Christ.   

The “fulness of the Gentiles” is followed by the Rapture of the Church, because the Body of Christ is complete.  Now, God’s attention returns to the national redemption of Israel.

Follow along in chronological order. 

“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (Romans 11:26)

At some point after the Rapture of the Church, a ruler from the same people that destroyed the Temple in AD 70 will confirm a seven year covenant between Israel and ‘many’ restarting the timeclock that stopped, according to McDowell’s calculations, on March 30, AD 33 on a hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem.

Note that there was an interval of time between the Resurrection and Pentecost of forty days.  Note also that there was an interval of time between Pentecost and the destruction of the Temple of about forty years.   

That clearly establishes precedent for the view that there will be an interval of time between the Rapture and the onset of the Tribulation.

The Rapture is NOT the first day of the Tribulation.  But the Rapture is certainly the last day of the Age of Grace.

Assessment:

The period from the time of Moses to the time of Christ is the period of the Dispensation of the Law.  During this Dispensation, the children of Israel were obligated to keep the Law of Moses as a condition of their covenant relationship with God. 

The Dispensation of the Law concluded at Calvary when sin and death were nailed to the Cross.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: ” (Romans 8:2-3)

The Dispensation of Grace is the period of time from Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended and indwelt the twelve Apostles and all that believed thereafter, until the day that the fulness (pleroma) of (primarily) Gentiles that complete the Body of Christ.

The Apostle Paul says that the antichrist, “that Wicked” cannot be revealed until AFTER the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit) has been taken out of the way.

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth will let, until He be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-8)

So the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit) and the vessels He indwells (the Church) is taken out of the way and then that “Wicked” is revealed.  At this point, by definition, the only people remaining upon the earth are Jews and Gentiles.

Not every Jew or every Gentile has heard the Gospel.  But of those that have, Paul writes that they “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”  So these are they that rejected the Gospel.   And for THAT reason, Paul writes,

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 10-12)

This is clearly not every Jew or Gentile on earth – just those that heard and rejected the Gospel of salvation.

Note that Paul says that GOD sends them “strong delusion.”  I am not going to debate why God would do that – I am not God. 

But I can’t pretend that part is irrelevant to the overall unfolding of Bible prophecy — or take the risk that the Bible doesn’t mean what it clearly says. 

Which is that God’s plan for the salvation of the Gentiles comes to an end and is replaced with God’s judgment upon a Christ-rejecting world.  It doesn’t mean no more Gentiles CAN be saved — it simply means that Gentiles are no longer the central focus of God’s plan. 

The Tribulation begins with the antichrist, the rider on the white horse of Revelation 6:2.  Revelation Chapter six concludes with breaking of the Sixth Seal, and the onset of the last half, or the Great Tribulation.  

It is at this point that the antichrist seats himself in the Temple, committing the abomination of desolation that Jesus warned of.

The antichrist unleashes a wave of persecution against the Jews so severe that Jesus warns them that are in Judea to flee to the mountains.  He also imposes his mark as a form of worship and ordering the execution of anyone that refuses to accept it.  

Those that refuse to accept the Mark of the Beast are the Tribulation Saints.  Where do they come from?  Let’s step back a bit, and again, follow along in chronological order. 

There is something else that takes place at just about that time that is often overlooked.  What happens immediately after the breaking of the sixth seal but before anything else?

“Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” (Revelation 7:1)

In Israel, just as the Great Tribulation begins, 144,000 Jews are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  In the same breath, and as they are being sealed, Scripture speaks of;

“a great multitude (who are already in heaven) which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands . .  (Revelation 7:9)

Who are they?  Again, the chronology is helpful, here.

This multitude is identified in Revelation 7:14 as having come out of ‘great tribulation’ — but not THE Great Tribulation. 

(Note the chronology: First, seal the 144,000 — THEN the judgments are resumed.  This great multitude is already in heaven as the Great Tribulation begins with the sealing of the 144,000.)

The seventh angel sounds his trumpet in Revelation 11:15. The judgments continue as the evangelists preach and the Two Witnesses are resurrected after three and a half days. (Revelation 11:11

In Revelation 13 the perspective shifts from heaven back to the earth.  We are given a brief history of his rise to power, the rise of the false prophet, the persecution of the Tribulation saints and their ultimate martyrdom (Revelation 13:15)  rather than submitting to the Mark of the Beast. 

So who are the tribulation saints of Revelation 13:15-18 that refuse to accept the Mark?  The next verse is Revelation 14:1 – chronologically, the MOST obvious place to look for them, since the last few verses were about their martyrdom.

“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads. . . . And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:1,3)

What are the odds that these are a DIFFERENT 144,000 than the 144,000 sealed in Revelation Seven, just before the Great Tribulation began?

Follow along with me.  To this point in the Tribulation, the only thing God has visited upon the Gentiles is strong delusion and judgment for sin.

And the only thing that God has visited upon the Jews so far in the Tribulation is His Holy Spirit.  Sounds kinda backwards from the usual order of things, doesn’t it?

“. . .blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:25)

This seems fairly well in keeping with the observation that the Tribulation Period is set aside for the judgment of a Christ-rejecting world and for the national redemption of Israel.

But that accuracy of that observation would largely depend on what happens next:

“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”

An angel is sharing the Gospel.  But there is no outpouring of the Spirit.  No massive revival of souls.  

The 144,000 that were sealed (indwelt) by the Holy Spirit had the power to lead others to Christ.  The Scriptures say that nobody can be saved apart from the Holy Spirit.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

But that doesn’t mean that they are saved the way that we are in the Church Age.  The Tribulation saints are not in the Age of Grace.  They are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

This is the Seventieth Week of Daniel – the final Week of the Dispensation of the Law.  The rules are different for the Tribulation saints than for the saints of the Church Age.  

“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14:12-13)

The Tribulation saints, like the Old Testament Jews, evidently must keep the Commandments AND faith in Jesus.  And for those “which die in the Lord from henceforth” their works, (unlike ours), DO follow them.  

The Old Testament saints (primarily Jews) had to keep the commandments of God, look forward to the promise of a Messiah, and expected to be judged according to their works.

How can this be?  The Time of Jacob’s Trouble is the seventieth week of Daniel — the final week of the Age of the Law.  It is a different Dispensation than the Age of Grace. 

There will be Gentiles saved during the Tribulation, just as there are Jews saved during the Church Age, but God’s focus during the Church Age is on evangelizing the Gentiles, not the Jews.  

His focus during Daniel’s seventieth week is on Daniel’s people, his holy city, and finishing the transgression, making an end of sins, making reconciliation for iniquity, bringing everlasting righteousness, sealing up the vision and prophecy, and anointing the most Holy.

“Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved.”

It is no heresy to say that the only sure way for a Gentile to get to heaven is not to wait until after it is too late to apply.  How late is too late? 

What do you think?

Note: Today’s Letter is a ‘four in one’.  There are several of Jack’s classic briefs within this one that was originally published October 10, 2011.  As always; we pray this blesses your personal ministry.

The Gathering of Mat 24:31

The Gathering of Mat 24:31
Vol: 143 Issue: 24 Saturday, August 24, 2013

”He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Mat 24:31

I first posted on this subject some time after I started this blog. Since reading some comments declaring that pretribulationists ignore the obvious meaning of this verse because they’re too “Israel-centric”, I thought I’d revisit the topic.

As a general rule, pretribulationists believe that v 31 is the final gathering of Israel back into the land while posttribulationists and prewrathers say this is obviously the rapture which occurs after the tribulation and coincidently with Christ’s single-stage Second Coming. Note that the prewrath position has four comings within what it refers to as a “single-parousia“.

Pretribulationists generally contend that the Olivet Discourse was meant for a Jewish audience while non-pretribs insist that the disciples represented the future church. I lean towards Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s view that the questions asked of Jesus by His disciples during the OD were essentially Jewish concerns and were addressed as such. However, Jesus exercised His prerogative by also giving some information pertinent to the future church. In other words the Jewish disciples represented the nation Israel with all its kingdom hopes, but also the future church. That is not to say that Israel is the church.

Is Mat 24:31 the rapture?

In “The Rapture Question Answered – Plain & Simple” (TRQA pp 184-185) Robert Van Kampen draws on the Greek word for “gathering” (episunago) in v 31 and the phrase “caught up” in 1 Thess 4:17 to assist his case for this being the rapture of the church in Mat 24:31. He asserts that the Greek preposition epi to the verb sunago gives an upward direction to the gathering rather than sideways, as he presumes would be the case for a gathering of Israel. He asserts that a face-value reading of v 31 and some knowledge of NT Greek should lead a Berean to conclude that this is the rapture of the church, rather than Israel’s gathering.

In response, pretribulationists point out that the word episunago was specifically used in connection with Israel’s potential gathering elsewhere in NT Scripture – once in Luke 13:34 and twice in Mat 23:37.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather (ἐπισυνÜγω episunago) your children together, the way a hen gathers (ἐπισυνÜγω episunago) her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”  Mat 23:37

Jesus drew on the OT promises of a re-gathering of Israel under certain conditions. What would have been the outcome of a technical-episunago gathering of Israel? Would that have meant Israel’s rapture and a drastic change of millennial kingdom plans? See also Mark 1:33 and Luke 12:1 where episunago is used.

According to Van Kampen (The Sign p 505), the pretribulationist’s appeal to Isaiah 27:13 fails to support a gathering of Israel in v 31 because the gathering is only from Assyria and Egypt. In addition, while he acknowledges the “trumpet”, he objects that there are no angels doing the gathering.

To be consistent in our argumentations we should then note the omission of a resurrection in Mat 24:31. The resurrection plays a major role in 1 Thess 4:16-17, which is thought by Van Kampen to parallel v 31. On the same page he states that the great tribulation is cut short. The reason given for the shortening of the tribulation is to preserve life (Mat 24:22). Dead saints are resurrected and live saints are immediately changed at the rapture. This suggests that the great tribulation is ended by God so that the “flesh” of the “elect” can be saved to populate the millennial kingdom. Hence, this isn’t likely to be when the rapture occurs. Note also that the length of the great tribulation remains at three-and-a-half years, not shorter as Van Kampen asserts.

It is noteworthy that both Isaiah 27:13 and Mat 24:31 refer to a great trumpet in connection with an eschatological gathering. Isaiah 27:9 also refers to Jacob’s iniquity being forgiven. In “Maranatha – Our Lord, Come” (p 183) Renald Showers cites Franz Delitzsch and Gerhard Friedrich. Friedrich believes Isaiah 27:13 is an eschatological day when the exiled will be brought back by the signal of the trumpet. According to Delitzsch, this verse refers to the “still living Diaspora” being “gathered by the signal of God.” Delitzsch states that Assyria and Egypt represent all the lands of exile. This is corroborated by the internal evidence that the verse is eschatological.

God has also promised Israel that – as He has scattered them to the four winds (and towards the winds) – He would likewise gather them from the four winds of heaven (see Ezek 5:10, 12, 17: 21; Zech 2:6 etc). Furthermore, Delitzsch has the gathering of Isaiah 27:13 parallel to Isaiah 11:10-12. The latter includes Assyria and Egypt; several other countries and places…and the four corners of the earth.

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious. It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time To recover the remnant of His people who are left, From Assyria and Egypt, From Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, From Hamath and the islands of the sea. He will set up a banner for the nations, And will assemble the outcasts of Israel, And gather together the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.

In “The Sign” (p 505), Van Kampen also asserts that Deut 30:1-5 only pertains to unbelieving Israel’s gathering before the 70th week commences, therefore it is not parallel to Mat 24:31. Yet a simple reading of those verses clearly contradicts Van Kampen. Israel’s gathering from captivity from all the nations and from the farthest parts under heaven (vv 3, 4) is said to be conditional to their return to God (v 2):

“and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Deu 30:2-4

The word for heaven (shamayim) in v 4 means heaven; heavens; sky etc, although it is sometimes rendered “earth”. The same expression (idiom?) of heaven is used in Mark 13:27, which parallels Mat 24:31. Dr Fruchtenbaum takes “heavens” to be an allusion to resurrected OT saints along with the gathering.

“And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.” Mark 13:27

Non-pretribulationists deny the term “elect” in Mat 24:31 can refer to Israel. In Questions for a Pretribulationist:

“And how can the elect [Matt 24] (vv. 22, 24) be unsaved Israel, if the unsaved remnant of Israel does not come to know Christ until after the seventieth week is complete (Dan. 9:24; Rom. 11:25-26, cf. Rev. 10:7), and how is it that every other use of the term “elect” in the New Testament is a direct reference only to the Church, and suddenly the elect in the Great Tribulation (Mt. 24:21-22) refers to unsaved Israel” (sic).

Van Kampen assumes the “144,000 Jews who become the firstfruits of Israel unto Christ” are “saved right when the Rapture occurs” (TRQA pp 53-54). This convenient timing isn’t explicit in Scripture.

But there are a number of OT passages that refer to Israel as God’s chosen (elect) nation. For example, Isaiah 43:1-7 not only affirms Israel as an “elect” nation made by God, loved by Him, created for His glory and precious in His sight; but also that it will be gathered from the 4 points of the compass and the ends of the earth. In Deut 7: 6-7 Israel is called a holy people, chosen by Him for Himself out all the peoples of the earth and loved by the Lord. They are called chosen (elect) in Isaiah 45:4 and 1 Chron 16:13. In 2 Sam 7:23-24 we see that Israel’s status as the elect nation will be forever.

Israel is also called chosen in the NT. Acts 3:12, 13-15, 25 and Rom 11:26-29 confirm Israel’s continuous standing as a chosen nation.

“….The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they [unbelieving Israel] are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Rom 11:26-29

There’s another problem that many simply gloss over:

For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, ‘He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One’!” Matt 23:39

I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me. Hosea 5:15

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt–then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land. Lev 26:40-42

These passages infer that Christ’s return is conditional upon national Israel’s repentance (See Fruchtenbaum’s “Footsteps of the Messiah” p 335-339). Zechariah 12 places that event at the time when the nations come against Israel (see esp. v 10). See also Zech 13:7-9.

If that’s the case and if non-pretribulationists coincide the second coming with the rapture at Mat 24:31 then Israel and the 144,000 should be raptured as well (because they are saved). Furthermore, if Christ’s “single-parousia” return really is contingent upon Israel’s calling out to Him then we have a problem with some contrary passages which seem to point to imminence (e.g. Mat 24: 36-39, 42, 44, 50, 25:13; Mark 13:34-37; 1 Thess 5:2, 6).

In summary, episunago was used by Jesus for Israel’s potential gathering as promised in the OT. There will be a final eschatological gathering of Israel (the chosen nation) as evidenced by several OT texts. That gathering will follow Israel’s refinement and subsequent request for the Messiah to return. The context of the disciples’ questions to Jesus at the Olivet Discourse was based on Jewish concerns. The tribulation period is terminated so that flesh can be saved.

Therefore, contrary to the assertion that Matt 24:31 is “simply a rapture verse”, dispensational pretribulationists have sound, biblical reasons for seeing this as Israel’s final, prophetic gathering.

Note: Today’s letter was originally written and published by Alf Cengia on his website, “Thoughts on Eschatology.”