Thereafter What??

Thereafter What??
Vol: 147 Issue: 19 Thursday, December 19, 2013

The formal name for the last book of the New Testament is ”The Revelation of Jesus Christ to St John” and not ”The Book of Revelations,” or ”Revelations” or ”The Apocalypse of John.”

John himself never titled the Book he penned while in exile on the Isle of Patmos.  The Book was titled by Jesus Christ Himself:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by his angel unto His servant John.” (Revelation 1:1)

The word “revelation” is the English equivalent to apokalupsis meaning, “unveiling” or “lifting of the veil” which is why it is also sometimes called the Book of the Apocalypse

The Lord divided the Book into two parts; “the things which are and the things which shall be thereafter.” (Revelation 1:19)  

The first part of the Book is written to the seven churches; identifying them as the “things which are.”

At the time of John’s exile, there were seven major churches in Asia Minor; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. (Interestingly, all seven were located in modern-day Turkey, which is 99.8% Muslim, according to the CIA Worldfactbook.) 

If the “things which are” referred to those seven specific cities, then we would now have to be centuries into the period Jesus identified as the “things which shall be thereafter.”

Jesus concludes His revelation about the “things which are” with a cryptic message, intended not for the natural man, but understandable only to those already indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:22)

“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)

At that point, there is a jump from the “things which are” to John’s hearing a trumpet, and a voice telling John that what comes next are “the things which shall be thereafter.”

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” (Revelation 4:1)

John says in the next verse that “immediately I was in the Spirit” and the next thing he saw was “a throne set in heaven.”

Let’s stop here for a second and summarize. The Book of Revelation is the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  It is not addressed to John, it is sent to John.  It is addressed to the ‘servants of Jesus Christ’ – look at it again.

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by his angel unto His servant John.” (Revelation 1:1)

Who are the “servants of Jesus Christ?” Ummm, lessee. Angels?  Nope? Individuals? Maybe, but Jesus said of individual believers,

“Henceforth, I call you not servants, but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15)

The servants of Jesus Christ are the individual Churches that exist within the Body of Christ.  

The Book is distinctly divided into two parts; not three, not five, not fifteen or eighteen, but just two.  The first division is identified as the things which are.

The second division is what “shall be thereafter.”  Which leaves the obvious question remaining.

Thereafter what?

Assessment:

Jesus assigns specific characteristics to each of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor which correspond historically with seven distinct epochs within the Church Age. 

For example, the first of the Churches mentioned, Ephesus; bold in resolute endurance, discerning, intolerant of departures from the faith, this is the Apostolic epoch. 

There was Smyrna, battling nobly with trials and danger, in the midst of poverty and suffering but rich in faith and good works. The Age of the Martyrs.

Then comes Pergamos, married to the world. This church epoch began with the Emperor Constantine declaring Christianity to be the State Church of Rome.

The Church at Thyatira was condemned for its continual sacrifice and the introduction of new doctrines, corresponding historically with Dark Ages. (Purgatory, indulgences, and the Inquisition).

Sardis was the ‘dead’ Church, as it had become by the time of the Reformation.  Sardis gave way to the period of revival following the publication and distribution of the Word of God to the common man.

The period from the Reformation in the 15th century to the end of the 19th century, was the epoch of the Church of Philadelphia. This was the ‘missionary church’ that took the Bible to the New World, to darkest Africa, to China and the far corners of the earth.

The end of the Philadelphia Church Age coincided with the ‘Enlightenment’ in Europe, brought about by ‘modernist’ thinking near the end of the 19th century which ushered in the Laodicean Epoch, the era of Church history that unmistakably corresponds with the time in which we now live.

From Philadelphia to Laodicea, distinguished for its worldly riches, its high-toned profession and spiritual pride; yet lowest in the scale and standard of all, neither cold nor hot — a religion of boasting words, but devoid of moral strength — “poor, blind, and naked.”

The center of the Church of Laodicea isn’t Jesus, but rather, it is what its name implies; Laos, (people) and dike meaning, “decision” — or the “Church of the People’s Decision”.

The name wasn’t chosen by accident. If ever there was a generation of Christians to whom that description fits, it is this one. 

At the Church of Laodicea, Jesus isn’t inside, but stands on the outside and knocks, waiting to be invited in. 

Given our perspective of 20/20 hindsight, there are but two possible conclusions concerning the period of time Jesus said would be identifiable as the “things which are.”

It either refers to the historical period in which these seven specific churches existed in Turkey, in which case we have been living in the period “which shall be thereafter” for about 1200 years now, or it refers to the period from the Apostolic era to the conclusion of the Church Age at the Rapture.

If it means the former, then it became irrelevant the moment that the churches in those cities ceased to exist. Doesn’t it?  Can it mean anything else?  What is left?

If the Revelation of Jesus Christ to His servants is to have any meaning to His servants, then it logically follows that His message to the Churches was a continuing message relevant to the entire Church Age, and not just to seven long-lost church communities in Asia Minor.

The Church Age is the period that encompasses the “things which are”.  That which “shall be thereafter”is the Tribulation Period, which begins when John hears a trumpet, and the voice of an angel, and the scene instantly shifts from the physical to the spiritual and relocates in heaven. 

That event is specifically identified as the commencement of the “things which shall be thereafter.”

We’ve gone the long way to get where I wanted to go, but that was because I wanted to ensure as air-tight a case as possible.  There are many well-meaning and sincere Christians that believe that this generation of Christians will be present for all or part of the Tribulation Period. 

But the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ specifically divides itself into the physical here and now and the spiritual thereafter.  The “here and now” ends with translation, alive, into the spiritual hereafter. 

This occurs before the opening of the first seal, (antichrist) before the ride of the next three horsemen, (War, Famine and Death) before the moon turns into blood and before the seventh seal pours out the Wrath of God.

FIRST comes the Trumpet (the Rapture).  Then, two chapters later (suggesting some element of time has passed) comes the onset of the Tribulation Period.  

No matter what kind of Scriptural gymnastics one resorts to, there is no way for the “things which are” to also be the “things which shall be thereafter.”

The “things which are” include the Church at Laodicea all the way up to when the addressees of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ find themselves in the Spirit before a Throne set in Heaven.  AFTER that comes the “things which shall be thereafter”.

The dividing line imposed by Jesus can only be in one place – the place where JESUS divided it.  At the Rapture – and it doesn’t fit anywhere else. 

If it fit at the sixth seal, then that is where Jesus would have divided His Revelation.  If it fit at the first seal, (the revealing of the antichrist) then that is where Jesus would have divided His Revelation. 

But Jesus divided it at the conclusion of the Laodicean Church epoch. The Apostle Paul described the conclusion of the Church Age from the perspective of Planet Earth.

“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

The Apostle John described it from the perspective of Heaven:

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” (Revelation 4:1)

Both Apostles are describing the same event from different perspectives!

Note also that John is in Heaven for some time before the first seal is broken – and therefore, so is the Church, or the symbolism is meaningless. John witnesses the events that precede the breaking of the first seal – and so does the Church.

So the indwelt Church cannot be both present on earth when the first seal is broken AND present in heaven to witness the breaking of the first seal.  

Here is what that means.  From where we sit, we are so close we almost think we can identify the antichrist – there is a whole new sect of Christians emerging that believe they already have.

But the Bible clearly tells us the Rapture comes first.  So if we are so close we can almost identify the antichrist, the Rapture of the Church is that much closer. 

And with all the chaos and war and upheaval and financial and natural disasters coming upon us, the Apostle Paul says of the Rapture;

“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)   

Words of comfort.  Not words of terror.  There is a difference.  It would be far less comforting to me if I believed it was addressed only to the survivors of the first six judgments. 

And it would make far less sense.

Note: Jack poses a good question for us to consider as we see what is befalling the world.  J.L. Robb shares a current example in his column, “A Duck Dynasty Christmas“. The war of Christmas and Christ continues and it is our duty to share the Good News in the midst of all the bad.

The Indictment

The Indictment
Vol: 147 Issue: 18 Wednesday, December 18, 2013

According to the Bible, one day as Jacob was cooking a red stew, Esau came in from the wilderness ‘and he was faint’. Genesis 25:29 tells us of the episode that gave Esau his nickname, “Edom.’

“And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.” Which means red).

The Bible doesn’t go into detail about Esau’s condition beyond that, but it is worth considering the context.

Esau was out ‘in the wilderness’ at a time when the ‘wilderness’ was a huge, dangerous and inhospitable place populated by wild animals and roving bandits.

When Jacob demanded Esau’s birthright as first-born in exchange for a bowl of red stew, “Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?”

Clearly, Esau was ‘faint’ with hunger and exhaustion, but given context, Esau could have been in very bad shape.

It was a dirty trick on Jacob’s part, and it set the stage for conflict that continues to this day.

The Prophet Obadiah picks up the story of the Edomites and their abuse of God’s people, God’s land, and God’s Holy Hill, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Obadiah accuses Edom of “violence against your brother Jacob.” (v.10) Not just an ACT of violence, but constant, systematic and unrelenting violence.

Some Bible prophecy is near term, some long term, and, in come cases, like Obadiah’s, it is a single glance that encompasses a a broad period of time. Obadiah’s vision spans the entire scope of history from the first destruction of the Temple to the end of time.

That Obadiah’s prophecies extend into the present day is evidenced by his references in verse 15-17 to the Day of the Lord, the recovery of the Temple Mount and references to land not yet recovered by Israel. Obadiah’s prophecy begins with the ancient Edomites and tracks their physical and spiritual descendants to the last days.

So, can we determine their modern identity with any degree of confidence based on the Scriptures?

Assessment:

The most compelling Scriptural evidence to identify the Edomites is found in Ezekiel 36:5.

The first fifteen verses of that chapter give God’s viewpoint regarding the ownership and eventual disposition of what the world calls the “West Bank.”

Ezekiel describes a conspiracy between the nations of the world and “Edom” to misappropriate that land that God had granted to Jacob.

The book of Obadiah is also closely related to the prophecy of Ezekiel 35, which is a prophecy against the same group of people.

“All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; that they eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.” (1:7)

The ‘Palestinians’ are a ‘confederacy’ rather than a people. They have conspired with Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iran and the Saudis to lay claim to the West Bank as their ‘ancestral homeland’. Jeremiah 48-49 includes prophecies against these modern Islamic states, and provides additional support for the identification of the Palestinians as the Edomites.

Further nailing down the identification of modern Edom is Obadiah 1:8:

“Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?”

The ‘wise men out of Edom’ are the imams and Islamic preachers who preach the destruction of Israel from the “Mount of Esau” (the stolen Temple Mount v.16).

Let’s examine some of Obadiah’s indictments against Edom and compare them to Israeli-Arab conflict:

1) Violence against Jacob: “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.” (v. 10)

2) Celebrating Israel’s calamities: “But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger;” (v.12a)

3) Handing over the Jews to their enemies: “neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.” (v. 12)

4) Taking possession of the Jewish holy places: “Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity.” (v.13)

5) Mocking the God of Israel and His People from His Holy Hill: “For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.” (v. 16)

6) And finally, the destruction of something Obadiah calls “Mount Esau” — a symbolic reference to Esau’s deity, Allah, on ‘Mount Zion.”

“And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.” (v.21)

In case that doesn’t make the case for you, Obadiah’s chief indictment against Edom is its systematic, constant and unrelenting violence against Jacob.

Let’s revisit that verse, substituting the word ‘violence’ with its Hebrew equivalent and look at the indictment one more time in context:

“For thy HAMAS (violence) against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.” (Obadiah 1:10)

Note: Today’s Letter gives evidence that the Bible is not a book of fables and its predictions are true.  Pete Garcia’s, “Dispensational Truth:Part III” provides more scriptures of a Biblical rapture and how it will reveal who the church is. 

Wherefore, Contend With One Another Over These Words

Wherefore, Contend With One Another Over These Words
Vol: 147 Issue: 17 Tuesday, December 17, 2013

From time to time, there are periodic eruptions in the forums from new members or guests who believe that it is their mission in life to correct our allegedly mistaken views on doctrinal issues like eternal security or a pre-Trib Rapture.

The Omega Letter was designed to be a private fellowship of like-minded believers who can expect consistent and prayerful teaching on the deeper points of doctrine.

One can find many different ministries that claim a number of doctrines that aren’t shared by the Omega Letter.

There are Catholic ministries, Pentecostal ministries, Baptist, Methodist, non-denominational, ministries that believe in a pre-Trib Rapture, as well as those who believe in pre-wrath, mid-Trib, post-Trib — there is even a mainstream doctrine that denies there will ever be either a Rapture or a Tribulation Period.

I don’t enter into debates with believers who take a different view. It is my contention that doctrinal differences within the Church are deliberate.

The Genesis story of the tower of Babel is instructive in more ways than simply providing the answer to the question of where all the different races and languages came from.

In that story, the men of Babel, hoping to avoid another flood, decide to build “a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven.” (Genesis 11:4)

The narrative goes on;

“And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:5-7)

Clearly, God knew that the men of Babel could NOT build a tower that reaches to heaven. Just as clearly, God knew that there ARE restraints on men, and there ARE some things that men cannot do, even if they imagine they can.

It is true now, and it was even more true then.

But, without the confounding of languages, the people WERE one, in that they had a single king who sought, by his own effort, to bring all the people of the earth together under a single banner in an expressed effort to thwart the purposes of God.

So God confused their languages, not because He couldn’t ‘put down’ a man-made effort to usurp His authority, but out of mercy, to prevent the necessity of having to punish them all.

In confusing their languages, God separated mankind into individual nations, preventing the rise of a global dictator like Nimrod who was determined to bring the whole world under a single, rebellious dictatorship.

In the beginning, the Church was one under Jesus Christ. To ensure that one man didn’t take over and begin dictating his own terms after the Lord ascended, Jesus left the Church under the care of twelve apostles.

Three hundred years later, one apostle was elevated by men to become the titular head of a single united, Christian Church, under the authority of a single man heading a single denomination.

The consequence of that effort is known to history as the ‘Dark Ages’.

Once the Church became ‘one’ under the papacy, there truly was ‘nothing restrained from them’ spiritually. The Popes of the Dark Ages appointed and removed kings from their thrones. History is filled with the accounts of the Papal wars and inquisitions.

Under the power of the papacy, the power over heaven and hell was taken from Jesus and given to the papal Church. The papal Church claimed the power to forgive sins or retain them, and made keeping Church doctrine a condition of salvation.

At its extreme, the papal Church began SELLING free passes to heaven, known as ‘plenary indulgences’, turning salvation into a commodity to be bought and sold.

It took a millennia for the power of the papacy to be broken by the Reformation, which resulted in the Church being separated into denominations, like the world was separated into individual nations at Babel.

The various denominations hold differing doctrinal views that keeps them separated into individual church groups, or denominations, preventing the rise of another superchurch.

Assessment:

According to the Book of the Revelation, in the last days, spiritual Babel will rise again, under the headship of a single man, energized by Satan, and known to Christians as the antichrist.

“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. . . and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” (Revelation 13:7a, 15b)

During the Church Age, no such leader could ever deceive the entire believing church. There are too many minor points of doctrine that divide us for any one man to unify us under a single banner of united Christianity.

The proof is the Omega Letter. Our fellowship are all professing believers, all saved by grace through faith, all witnesses to the saving power of Christ, and all expecting to spend eternity in heaven.

Despite all that, the doctrinal differences that exist between us on a single point, the timing of the Rapture, is enough to divide us into two camps. From what I can read, there will be no compromise.

Those who reject a pre-Trib Rapture argue that expecting a pre-Trib Rapture will make believers so blinded to the antichrist that when a European leader arises who confirms a peace covenant with Israel, declares himself Israel’s Messiah, and demands global worship in exchange for a Mark that, without which, they will be unable to buy or sell, that they will accept the Mark.

According to this view, because the Rapture hasn’t happened, Christians in the Tribulation will not recognize the antichrist.

Consequently, there is no fellowship between the two camps. When they come together under one roof, all the points of common agreement fall by the wayside as each side attempts to ‘convert’ the other to their point of view.

It wouldn’t matter who came along, or how charismatic he might be, there is nobody on this side of the Church Age who could get every Christian to accept his headship.

It is the doctrinal differences that divide us that prevented the rise of antichrist during the Church Age, just as the language division broke Nimrod’s power at Babel.

To many Christians, ‘ecumenism’ is a dirty word. ‘Ecumenism’ is a doctrine that seeks to set aside theological differences in an “organized attempt to bring about the cooperation and unity of all believers in Christ.”

Why is ecumenism such a dirty word? Because a single Church body, under a single banner, sets the stage for the rise of a false prophet as described in Revelation 13. That is why most non-denominational Christians oppose it.

Every ministry has its own statement of faith. Why is that? Because they are different.

The Omega Letter’s statement of faith holds to the inerrant, Divine inspiration of Scripture. We believe in salvation by grace through faith.

I personally prefer the King James Bible for preaching and teaching, but we take no dogmatic view as a ministry.

We believe in the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, eternal security, dispensationalism and a pre-Tribulational Rapture.

One can find other, sincere, honest and Christ-honoring ministries who differ with us on several points. As a consequence, there will be no evangelical ‘pope’ who can authoritatively dictate doctrine to all Christians during the Church Age.

But the Bible says such a one will exist during the Tribulation.

The Omega Letter will hold fast to its statement of faith, because, unlike our critics, we believe that God has His purposes in this age, just as He did when he confused the languages of men at Babel.

It is not our mission to convince skeptical Christians that the pre-Trib Rapture is the correct view. We believe it is the correct view, but reject any notion that the timing of the Rapture has any bearing on salvation.

We teach it because we believe it is correct, but we have no contention with those who believe otherwise. And we have no wish to engage in pointless debate, either in our publications, or within our forums.

Having taught the Rapture in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-17, the Apostle Paul didn’t conclude by saying, “Wherefore contend with one another over these words.”

Instead, he said, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)

I find little comfort in confrontation.

Note: Christmas is coming and with it; family and friends.  Today’s topic provides two important tools; an outline of the Omega Letter’s pre-tribulational view and Jack’s warning on what not to do with it.  Wendy Wippel’s “The Christmas Coup” also adds to our arsenal of knowledge of the historical time that Jesus was born into.

The Greatest Mystery: Unlocked

The Greatest Mystery: Unlocked
Vol: 147 Issue: 16 Monday, December 16, 2013

During His First Advent, the Lord Jesus unlocked many mysteries for the Church, not the least of which is what happens when we die.  The Old Testament doesn’t provide a lot in terms of specifics, since OT believers operated under the terms of a different Dispensation.

During the Dispensation of the Law, believers were not immediately whisked into the presence of the Lord at the moment of death.   The blood of bullocks and lambs was insufficient to cover their sin. 

Old Testament believers expected to stand in the Resurrection at the Last Day, but had no expectation of eternal life in the sense that the Church understands it.

“As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.” (Job 7:9)

“For in death there is no remembrance of Thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” (Psalms 6:5)

“For the grave cannot praise Thee, death can not celebrate Thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth.” (Isaiah 38:18)

Until Jesus defeated death at His resurrection, death was still pretty much a mystery. The general understanding was that first a man dies, and then he awaits the resurrection of the dead at the last day.

The Book of Job, chronologically the oldest book in the Bible, spoke of the resurrection of the dead even before the time of Abraham, confidently saying;

“. . . all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. . . ” Job awaited the call of the trumpet at the Rapture, thousands of years before it was generally known as doctrine. “Thou shalt call . . .” (Job 14:14-15)

“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)

The Lord Jesus filled in the missing details about death and the grave under the Dispensation of the Law when He told the story of the rich man and Lazarus.    I want you to note that Jesus did NOT say, “learn the parable of the rich man.”   He began with a definite statement of fact: “There was a certain rich man. . . ”

And Jesus says that there was a “certain” beggar named Lazarus.  The rich man and Lazarus were real people; this is not a parable or Jesus would have identified it as such.   

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.  And in hell, he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”

 Let’s stop there for a second and examine this newly-revealed truth.   Until now, OT believers thought that when they died, they stayed in the grave until the Resurrection.   They had no expectation of continued consciousness – until Jesus revealed the truth to His Disciples.

Jesus told them that the rich man went immediately to hell.  Lazarus was immediately carried by the angels into a place called “Abraham’s bosom.”

 This was a totally new revelation.   The Lord revealed that hell was divided – there was a place of comfort for the righteous dead with Abraham on one side. 

In the middle was a great gulf or chasm, and on the other side was hell, a place of flames and torment and loneliness.  Moreover, the Lord reveals that those in hell could see across to Paradise. 

There are several other things we learn from Jesus about hell, and about those who are condemned to it. First, the rich man has no name, whereas Lazarus is addressed by name throughout the passage. The rich man needs no name. Nobody will ever call it again.

He is eternally separated from God; to all intents and purposes, he is ‘dead’ to God, and to everyone who ever knew him. He is only alive to himself. But the rich man is cognizant of his life, how he ended up in hell, and those he left behind. His memories of his earthly life are intact:

“Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Luke 16:22-28)

Jesus teaches us that those condemned to hell are; a) in fiery torment, b) are self-aware, c) are nameless and without hope of reprieve, d) are conscious of their situation, and, e) their memories of their earthly lives are intact.

The Book of the Revelation teaches that what we call ‘hell’ is more analogous to a county jail, where prisoners are held pending trial and conviction. Once a county jail inmate is convicted, he is transferred to a state penitentiary to serve out his sentence.

“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:13-14)

When John describes the judgment against the devil, he writes: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

Note two things. First, the beast and false prophet ‘are’ – present tense — in the lake of fire. They were not consumed. Secondly, it is a ‘lake of fire and brimstone’ and its inhabitants ‘shall be tormented day and night forever and ever’.

Thus is the fate of those we fail to reach in our effort to discharge our Great Commission.  It’s a sobering thought.

Jesus taught specifically and incontrovertibly that, when the moment of death comes, our conscious spirit lives on, AWAITING the resurrection of the dead, which is when our spirit is united with our new and improved physical bodies.

At the Cross, Jesus told the repentant thief, “Verily I say unto thee, TODAY shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

When Jesus descended into hell after His Crucifixion, He went to Paradise to “lead captivity captive”, the Scriptures say.   He went to Paradise to preach the Gospel and to present Himself as Savior and bring them from Paradise to Heaven.

Our spirits exist and have substance, and they are not only conscious after death, they are completely self-aware.  Death is not the end of our existence. 

Death does not, evidently, even impair our consciousness. 

Assessment:

During the Dispensation of the Church, the Apostle Paul noted that for believers to be ‘absent from the body’ meant to be ‘present with the Lord.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2nd Corinthians 5:10)

The Apostle Paul wrote of physical death as it pertains to believers, saying; “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” (1st Thessalonians 4:13)

But yet we do sorrow when a loved one dies. Even when we know that our loved one is now safely resting in the arms of Jesus.  We know that our loved one’s race is run and their burdens have been lifted. 

They are now where we all wish to be – but that does little to dry our tears. It is one of the conundrums of Christianity – everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

Why do we sorrow when we know the truth?  Would we be sad if our loved one had won the lottery?  Of course not.  But Heaven is the ultimate winning ticket.   When your number comes up, you win. 

And all your family and friends cry. 

Why is that?  Does that mean that their faith is weak?   Are they really secret doubters?   Paul intended to offer words of comfort  — indeed, the chapter closes; “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Paul offers words of comfort because of the sorrow that comes with losing a loved one.  Being sorrowful at the loss of the loved one is not evidence of a lack of faith.   If you think about it, your sorrow isn’t because you have any doubt that your loved one is safe in the arms of Jesus.

You haven’t betrayed the faith.  You sorrow because they aren’t here.  Our loved ones are a gift from God given to us to make our sojourn on the Big Blue Marble bearable.   The gift is deliberately temporary, which is what gives it its value. 

When a loved one dies, we lose the gift of their companionship.  Even though we know loss is also temporary, which mitigates the tragedy – it does little to ease the pain of loss in this life. 

Our sorrow is not for our loved one – it is for ourselves. Their gain is our loss.  It’s just that simple.  

There’s nothing selfish in that – if one of my children got a fabulous job on the other side of the world I would be very happy for him – but personally devastated by the loss of his companionship. 

The fact that I know I would see him again would mitigate the sense of loss. But it wouldn’t keep me from missing him while he was gone.  Or wishing he was still here.  (Or make me feel guilty because I did.)

Death comes to us all – we know that.  But death doesn’t come to us once.  It comes to us all the time – death is the one certain part of this existence.   Our own death is simply the last one we have to endure. 

At the Rapture, some believers will not yet have experienced death. They will be instantly changed into their incorruptible bodies. Those who have experienced physical death will be reunited with their bodies, which will be raised and changed.

But their spirits and consciousness are already awake and alive and in the presence of the Lord. Those who are ‘asleep’ in Christ are those who have experienced PHYSICAL, but not conscious death.

At the Rapture, the “Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise (physically incorruptible) first: Then we which are (physically) alive and remain (in our natural bodies) shall be caught up together with them (changed and incorruptible) in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Our loved ones who have gone home to the Lord are ALREADY in His Presence, enjoying Heaven and its unimaginable joy and riches. They are NOT mouldering the grave, unconsciously awaiting the call of the Trumpet.

They are alive and aware and eagerly anticipating the opportunity to meet with us in the air and embrace us once more.   We will see them again.   We will recognize them and they will recognize us.

“. . .  and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)

Originally Published: July 31, 2010

Who Is He That Condemneth?

Who Is He That Condemneth?
Vol: 147 Issue: 14 Saturday, December 14, 2013

One of the most hotly debated points of doctrine (apart from the timing of the Rapture) among Christians of different denominations is the question of eternal security. Specifically, can a believer who was saved fall away and lose his salvation? Is there an unforgiveable sin for which a believer can be condemned?

Those who would argue yes are just as sincere in their doctrinal view as those who take the other side, and both sides have Scripture to support their view.

I thought it might be good to take a look at the Scriptures used by those say the Bible teaches that a believer can lose his salvation.

In 2nd Thessalonians 2:3 Paul writes, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” Is this referring to the falling away of part of the True Church?

First, let’s look at what falling away means in the context of the believer. The term ‘fall away’ was used by the Lord Jesus of His 11 disciples at the time of His arrest. The disciples deserted Jesus as was predicted and Peter obviously denied Jesus three times. This was said to be a ‘falling away’. (see Matt 26:31-35) Obviously, this is not a loss of salvation.

For the true believer it may involve a temporary period of ‘backsliding’ (an OT term not found in the New) or time of being out of fellowship with God.

There ARE times when for one reason or another, the believer is having difficulty in his Christian walk.

But a true believer would not however deny what they believe in their heart, even though their walk at that moment might not reflect what they believe.

But note that even though Jesus said they would ‘fall away’, in the very same context, he also said to Peter that he had prayed that his faith would not fail and when he returned, to strengthen his brethren. (Luke 22:32)

In other words, true believers may fall at times but their faith does not fail because Jesus intercedes for them.

Concerning this intercession we are told, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34)

We need that intercession most when we are struggling, yet some believers will argue that it is when we need the Lord most that He abandons us to our sin.

See also John 17:6-12 concerning this intercession by Jesus for His believers. In this ‘High Priestly’ prayer, Jesus makes it clear that the ones that God has given Him he keeps safe.

And Romans 8:32-34 cites Jesus’ intercession as proof we cannot be separated from the love of Christ.

The ‘great apostasy’ of the last days is not referring to saved believers, but is instead referencing the kind of doctrinal dumbing down that would allow an openly homosexual Episcopalian priest to be elevated to the bishopric, or the attack on the Boy Scouts for not admitting homosexuals.

Jesus said this time would be like the days of Noah and Lot – “every imagination of the thoughts of [men’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) with rampant homosexuality (Genesis 19:8).

Hebrews 6:4-6 is often used to ‘prove’ a believer can lose salvation. It says, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

It appears on the surface to say that a believer can lose his salvation, but if you read it closely, it teaches the exact opposite.

It teaches that the believer cannot be renewed to repentance (born again – again!) because it would require crucifying the Lord again, and ‘putting Him to an open shame’.

If this passage teaches that a believer could lose his salvation, then it also teaches that believer is forever damned and beyond repentance. You cannot interpret ‘impossible’ in this passage to mean anything except ‘impossible’.

And the ‘open shame’ Paul says it would expose the Lord to is that He failed to keep all that God had given Him, as He said in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Then there is the passage in Hebrews 10:26-27 which says, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

First, the book of Hebrews was written TO the Hebrews (1st century Jewish believers). That doesn’t mean it is irrelevant to the Church, but there is a context here.

For a Jew to become a Christian in the first century was a death sentence as far as their relationship with their family was concerned. They lost any right to an inheritance and came under extreme pressure (including physical persecution) to leave Christ and go back to Judaism. And that is what many did, even though for a while they looked like true believers.

The ‘wilful sin” mentioned in verse 26 is linked to the verse before it because it starts with ‘for if..’.

The verse before it is speaking of leaving the assembly of believers. The ‘wilful sin’ that this passage talks about is leaving Christ and going back to Judaism.

Under the Judaism they were going back to, there no longer remained a sacrifice for sin (vs 26) (because God didn’t accept animal sacrifices anymore after Jesus had died for all sin, for all time.)

Another commonly misinterpeted Scripture refers to ‘a branch that doesn’t bare fruit will be cast into the fire.’

1 Corinthians 3:15 clearly states that for a true believer, even if their work is burned up (ie no fruit) they are still saved, but as one who escapes ‘as by fire’. They are in Heaven, but they have no rewards.

Scripture never contradicts Scripture.

Another proof text used to prove salvation is dependent on doing good works is James 2:26; “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

This is another verse that is purported to prove one thing, but in fact, proves the opposite.

By definition, one who is saved cannot have ‘dead’ faith, since it is their faith that has saved them in the first place. Someone may have a belief, or head knowledge that certain facts are true without giving themselves over to that belief.

James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Believing in God is not the same has having faith in Christ.

Dead faith is simply a head knowledge that cannot save.

Consider this; I know all about George Bush, but he doesn’t know me — that is to say, I have no personal relationship with George Bush, but I believe he is the president.

There are many who know all about Jesus, and might even profess to believe He is God, but have no personal relationship with Him. Works arising from that kind of relationship is by definition, dead, since it bears no eternal fruit.

The Scriptures clearly establish that a genuine conversion will stand no matter how great the advers
ity. “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down” (Psalms 37:24)

The Apostle Paul told believers to put on the whole armor of God.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17).

On the battlefield, the most effective way to dispatch an opponent is to go for a head shot.

Paul refers to the ‘helmet of salvation’ — if you know you are saved, eternally, the enemy can never take you out of the game.

He can’t use guilt to stop you from witnessing. He can’t convince you that aren’t really saved. He can’t convince you that you are unworthy to carry the Gospel to the lost. In short, he can’t take that ‘head shot’ that would render a believer useless to the cause of Christ.

In these last days, the Scripture says that Satan will pull out all the stops, ‘because he knows he hath but a short time’.

Those of us who are properly equipped with the truth, the knowledge that we are covered by the righteousness of Christ, are prepared with a knowledge of the Gospel, which we are prepared to share in peace, secure in our faith and certain of our standing before Him are formidable opponents in the battle for the souls of men.

“And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

The battle has been joined. And our victory is assured.

Don’t let anyone rob you of your weapons.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

Originally Published: September 12, 2006

Heresy Hunters And Why I Ain’t One

Heresy Hunters And Why I Ain’t One
Vol: 147 Issue: 13 Friday, December 13, 2013

From time to time, somebody will send me a column, or someone will post one in the member’s section, ‘exposing’ the latest false teacher. From Rick Warren to Benny Hinn to Paul Crouch, plus a dozen or so others, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Robert W. Tilton — and I’m just getting started.

Depending on what standard is applied, pretty much every Gospel preacher or teacher is a false teacher to those who don’t agree with him.

If one leans towards preterism, then I am a false teacher. If one leans towards Dispensationalism, then Marv Rosenthal is a false teacher. If one trends towards Southern Baptist, then Dr. Pat Robertson is a false teacher.

To some others, Dr. Jerry Falwell is a false teacher; to others, it is Franklin Graham. And we haven’t even touched on the view non-Catholics have of the Pope.

Declaring any of them to be ‘false teachers’ immediately shifts the debate away from what is true into establishing what is false. It is really difficult to imagine what is of less value than a discussion of what is false, but that’s about all these discussions entail.

I had a lady once take exception to my comments regarding Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She called him a “wonderful man of God” and challenged me to show what was wrong with his doctrine.

Therein lies the problem. It always begins with the obligation to prove the other guy’s doctrine is false. It isn’t until that obstacle has been overcome that there can be any forward movement.

The most common reaction for exposing some false teaching isn’t gratitude. It is more commonly anger; “How dare you say such things about such a good man!”

After anger comes denial: “That isn’t what he teaches — you need to do your homework.”

And it’s all downhill from there.

Assessment:

There is a world of difference between a discussion of false teachERS and false teachING. A false teaching is a doctrine not taught or confirmed by Scripture.

A false teacher knows his teaching is false, but for motives of his own, (profit, institutional loyalty, power, prestige, pride) he teaches it anyway.

A false teachING is error. That is both a distinction and a difference. It is possible for a sincere believer to unknowingly propagate a false teaching — but that doesn’t make him a false teacher.

If it did, then the term ‘false teacher’ loses any pejorative, since nobody, however sincere, is exempt from error. Each of us, at some point along the way in our Christian walk, embraced and shared doctrinal views that, as we matured, came to realize were false.

Calling someone a ‘false teacher’ implies insincerity. Someone can hold to a false doctrine and still be a sincere believer. There are those who hold to a different view of the Rapture, but that doesn’t make them false teachers.

At worst, it makes them believers in a doctrinal view that I believe is false. I have opinions as to who are deliberately false teachers, but I am not God. I cannot judge their sincerity, only their teaching.

Engaging in heresy hunting demands a few necessary prerequisites, including, 1)an infallible understanding of Bible doctrine; and, 2)an ego big enough to believe item #1.

I teach what I teach because I have examined as many other possible views as are credible against the Scriptures and proved to my intellectual and spiritual satisfaction which view has the strongest support in the Scripture.

We are called to search the Scriptures, “to prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good,” (1st Thessalonians 5:21).

In the Book of Acts, the citizens of Berea are called “more noble” because, “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

It is a tough walk, this being a Christian. Sometimes it is all I can do to keep from going after those teachers out there that I believe are heretics in every sense of the word.

But all it would accomplish would be to drive away sincere, believing Christians who are still searching the Scriptures, like the Bereans did, still seeking to prove ‘if these things are so’.

Paul teaches us:

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. . . . 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.” (Romans 14:1,4)

“Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (1st Timothy 6:5)

“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” (2nd Timothy 6:20)

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

Note: Today’s Letter was chosen due to a couple threads that have sprung up in the forums this week; we pray this brief blesses your personal ministry.  Alf Cengia’s column, “Poetic Irony and Gifts” is a wonderful reminder that the Lord is intimately involved in the lives of His people.

What’s In a Name?

What’s In a Name?
Vol: 147 Issue: 12 Thursday, December 12, 2013

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it . . .” (Ephesians 5:25)

This morning, I had to take Gayle to the emergency room to be treated for the Flu That Will Not Die. While I am still somewhat under the weather, compared to Gayle, I am in the pink.

She was diagnosed with bronchitis that the doctor said would have become pneumonia, had we waited another day or so.

What is of interest to this morning’s Omega Letter were the questions we were asked during the admission process.

Since Gayle can only make a sound reminiscent of squeezing a rubber ducky, I took the point position, translating, if you will, for all the earnest-looking people who came to visit us with clipboards, pens and endless questions.

There was a gauntlet of clipboards we had to run in order to get to the prize; a little treatment room where she could finally see a doctor.

In each case, as the person responsible for the bill, I gave them my name and billing address and related information. Then when we got back to Gayle, they asked me, “What’s your wife’s name?” , to which I replied, “Gayle.”

Then they asked me if Gayle’s last name was the same as mine. Four different times, which led me to suspect that the first person to ask wasn’t an idiot, as I had immediately assumed. It seemed to me, an idiotic question, but, evidently, it was routine.

After about the fourth time, I said as much. The admission’s clerk looked at me somewhat sheepishly, and said, ‘Well, you know a lot of people nowadays. . .” before allowing the sentence to just trail off.

Now, I am not uninformed about such things, or naive to any measurable degree, but somehow, it sounded so, well, WEIRD to have the question asked of us.

While we were waiting, Gayle croaked, “It’s supposed to be an honor to take your husband’s name,” to which I replied; “What?”, since she sounds, as I said, like a rubber ducky Bailey used to play with.

After a couple of tries, I got the gist of it, which made me think even harder. (Ultimately giving me a headache, since, while I am much better than Gayle, by any independent standard, still at death’s door myself).

But, all I brought to the table in our marriage was my name. It is more than a social affectation. I brought my name, Gayle brought the baby equipment, and together, that’s what creates a family.

There are a lot of kids running around with hyphenated names, which is generally another way of expressing the fact the child was born out of wedlock.

(There’s another name for THAT, too, and I sure wouldn’t want to hang it around my child’s neck because my wife wanted to look like she was politically correct)

The family unit is under attack in our culture like never before. Families today are lumped into different categories; traditional heterosexual, non-traditional heterosexual,(living together without marriage) single parent, (an unmarried or divorced parent) or non-traditional (and non-existent) ‘families’ consisting of gay partners and adopted children.

The ‘traditional heterosexual’ family, (the non-hyphenated, both parents at home with kids that came to the world in the usual way) has become a non-protected, unacknowledged minority in much of America.

A recent book called “Uncle Sam’s Plantation” written by a conservative black female author points out that, until 1965, the strongest family units in America could be found among American black families.

Author Star Parket points out that today, 78% of black families are of the non-traditional single parent unmarried variety.

Feminist Judith Stacey was quoted saying, “The belief that married-couple families are superior is probably the most pervasive prejudice in the Western world.” Prejudice?

Another feminist, Toni Morrison, argues, “The little nuclear family is a paradigm that just doesn’t work.”

Alice Walker in “Embracing the Dark and the Light,” Essence, July 1982, writes, “…I submit that any sexual intercourse between a free man and a human being he owns or controls is rape.”

Then there is Andrea Dworkin: “Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership.”

I refer you to the verse that I opened today’s OL with. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.”

Christ came into the world to save it, protect it and nurture it, and ultimately, to voluntarily lay down His Life for it. Ownership?

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

Assessment:

In explaining the covenant relationship between God and humanity, God uses the traditional family as the basis for our relationship to God, since it was God who ordered the traditional family relationship.

Ephesians 5:22-24 says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, AS UNTO THE LORD. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

The feminists and God-haters and homosexual lobbies see those verses as being akin to involuntary servitude, or slavery or some similar nonsense, instead of seeing the instructions for what they are.

A family, as seen through the eyes of God, is a single organism. The Church is depicted as the Body of Christ. A family is therefore one body, and there are no two-headed creatures in nature, apart from mutants or Dr. Doolittle’s two-headed ‘Pushmepullyou’ whose very name explains why such a creature can’t exist. It would pull itself apart trying to head off in opposite directions.

Paul continues, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be ONE FLESH.” (Ephesians 5:28-31)

Hence, the practice of a wife taking her husband’s name. It symbolizes the fact the two are now one. “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)

The Christian husband who interprets 5:22 as meaning a wife is an involuntary slave will have much to answer for before God, since his obligation to his wife is not only the greater responsibility, but also the more difficult.

The husband unwilling to voluntarily lay down his life for his wife, or who thinks his wife is his slave, is falling short of his responsibility to love his wife as he loves his own body.

This morning, I joked with Gayle, “Honey, please get better. We’re almost out of clean clothes and I’m STARVING.” In a God-centered marriage, there is no room to misinterpret that as anything else BUT a joke.

Implicit in the joke is the overt recognition that without my wife, I would be helpless. Without her, I am half a creature. Without her, I am a head without a body, as useless as a body without a head. (Or one with two heads and no sense of direction).

I can see why the Enemy hates the family unit, and why he is trying, in these last days, to destroy it. To divide, and thereby, to conquer.

The enemy plan is to create a world dependent upon him, and his antichrist, for its survival. In my world, he won’t be able to do that.

Because I am dependent on Gayle, Gayle equally dependent on me, and both of us consequently, dependent on God.

Note: In today’s OL, Jack shares a humorous story which leads into a solid biblical viewpoint.  J.L. Robb’s column, “What if Jesus Ran for President? Would He Win?” also blends humor and the Bible to cause us to see how far the world has strayed from the truth that can only be found in Christ.

The Greatest Story Seldom Told

The Greatest Story Seldom Told
Vol: 147 Issue: 11 Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Bible is under attack, as it has been since it was first compiled, but with a special fervor and intensity unique to this generation. What makes this generation unique is that the principle attackers are believers themselves.

It is possible to be a believer in the Bible and not be a Christian, although it doesn’t seem so until you think about it.

Personally, I know lots of people who say they believe in God, or believe in the Bible, but who have never surrendered themselves to Christ. Most other religions reference it among their sacred texts, from Buddhists to Jews.

And there are ‘cultural Christians’ as well. Most Americans were raised in a Christian culture, and identify with Christianity whether they are born-again or not.

It is actually quite easy to believe in the Bible without even having read it. Which makes it even easier to attack it. Just turn on A&E and watch some of the ‘Mysteries of the Bible’ series. After watching a couple of them, you’ll conclude that the most mysterious thing about the Bible is that ANYBODY really believes it.

If you don’t know anything about the Bible except that you believe in it, then it is pretty easy to plant misconceptions as part of an effort to discover the ‘truth’ about it.

After all, who doesn’t want to know the ‘truth’ about a Book as mysterious as the Bible? Especially if it comes packaged as a TV program saving the effort of having to actually read its ponderous text?

Assessment:

The Scriptures say,

“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)

That anyone could attack the Bible escapes me. Especially when one considers that the Bible isn’t one book, but is actually a collection of sixty-six books, written by forty different human authors. Reading through it, it seems to have penned by the same individual.

But the Bible’s authors were shepherds and kings, intinerant preachers and traveling salesmen, tax collectors, tent-makers and fishermen, captives and slaves.

In most instances, the Bible’s authors had never met one another and had no access to each other’s works. Ezekiel and Daniel were contemporaries, but Daniel was held captive in Babylon. Ezekiel lived hundreds of miles away in what remained of Israel. Each book refers to the other, although neither prophet met to compare notes.

There were no libraries where each writer of Scripture could cross reference the other. But each book flows smoothly to the next, some books referencing passages written by the authors who came before, while others reference books not yet written for centuries.

It is obvious to any honest seeker of truth that the Bible actually has only one Author. The alleged ‘quests for truth’ about the Bible like “Mysteries of the Bible” are predicated by that fact.

What escapes A&E is the Identity of the Author, although the Bible clearly identifies Him.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The word translated here as ‘scripture’ comes from the Greek word ‘gramma’. This means a ‘letter’ — meaning even the smallest details are from God and are perfect.

The Bible is not just a body of unrelated religious writings on various subjects. It is a systematic revelation of history from creation that continues to unfold before our eyes and continues to outline human history to its ultimate conclusion.

The entire Bible revolves around only one central theme. The need for man’s salvation and God’s provision for it through Jesus Christ.

The Bible is a gift from God to all men — a ‘love letter’, some say, from God to you. I like that synopsis, since that is how I have viewed it for most of my adult life. A love letter from God, that starts, “Dear Jack: In the beginning . . .”

What a God we serve! Allow yourself to dwell on the Bible’s magnificence. Meditate on how impossible it would be for the Bible to have come into being through human effort, apart from God, as is now the popular angle of attack.

Many have made much of the alleged ‘Bible codes’ which indeed appear to be real, although not of any particular value apart from serving as the Signature of God for a high tech generation.

Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign . . .” (Matthew 16:4) and that is what the Bible codes are to this generation. A sign.

But the Bible proves itself by its very existence. The Bible wasn’t divided into chapters until the 13th century by Stephen Langton. It wasn’t divided into individual verses until the 15th and 16th centuries. But its contents have been debated by the best and brightest of every generation.

The King James Bible contains sixty-six books — 39 in the Old Testament, and twenty-seven in the New. There are 31,173 verses, 774,746 words and 3,556,480 letters that make up the entire Bible. In all of that, nobody in all human history has ever disproved a single word.

Dead center in the middle of the Bible is Psalm 118:8:

“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”

Note: The attacks on the Bible are rapidly increasing since Jack wrote this brief.  Pete Garcia’s “Dispensational Truth: Part II” goes further to explain the evidences of a Creator God with a plan to redeem mankind. 

”The Horse Doesn’t Eat Cucumber Salad”

”The Horse Doesn’t Eat Cucumber Salad”
Vol: 147 Issue: 10 Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nobody knows who invented the first postal system – it was probably the same guy who inventing writing: “Hey! I just invented writing.  Come on over and I’ll tell you what this letter says!” The first postman was probably that guy’s slave.

Early postal systems were developed by Hammurabi, Sargon II, King Cyrus the Great and Darius of Persia.  But they weren’t designed to deliver mail so much as they were designed to gather intelligence.

(But that was before postal unions.  Since then, all intelligence has been banned from the postal service. For example, to address public complaints about slow service inside post offices, the USPS removed all the clocks.)  

Until the invention of the telephone, the postal service represented the only option for communication across long distances.  A person in New York might write a letter to a person in San Francisco and might receive a reply in less than two months.  

In 1860 Johan Phillip Reis produced a device that could transmit musical notes and on some occasions, intelligible speech.  The Reis transmitter was difficult to operate, but since it could transmit human voices over distances, it could be called a “telephone” – even if nobody could use it except Reis.

Later, Thomas Edison tested the Reis equipment and found it capable of transmitting human speech, including “the inflections of the voice, the modulations of interrogation, wonder, command, etc.” 

Alexander Graham Bell is credited with having invented the telephone in 1876, but it was actually invented much earlier, in 1832, by an Italian inventor named Antonio Meucci.

Meucci patented his teletofono in 1871, but, Meucci, who frequently lived on public assistance, did not renew it after 1874 because he was short ten bucks.

Indeed, in 2002 the US House of Representatives passed a resolution that recognized Meucci’s pioneering work on the telephone, saying;

“if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell.”

But since Meucci didn’t renew, Canadian Alexander Graham Bell was first to get to the patent office with his own telephone invention, barely beating Chicago inventor Elisha Gray, who tried to patent his telephone device on the very same day.

Which in retrospect, I think, may have been a good thing.  Somehow, “Gray Telephone” doesn’t have the same ring to it as does “Bell Telephone” – it sounds like a telephone service for spies.

And “Meucci Teletefono” — it just doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue. (In fact, it tends to make it hurt).

History tells us that the first words ever spoken over a telephone were uttered by Alexander Graham Bell; “Watson, come here! I want to see you!”  That is sort of true. 

They were the first words ever spoken in English over a telephone.

In reality, Johann Reis was the first person to ever transmit human speech over the airwaves via an electronic device, sixteen years before Bell used his to phone Watson.

Maybe if Reis were calling someone to do something useful, like ‘come here’ or “pick up a loaf of bread and two quarts of milk” then Johann Reis might be history’s Alexander Graham Bell.

That could have changed history.  When Bell Telephone’s monopoly was broken up into regional phone companies, they were immediately nicknamed “Baby Bells.”

If Reis had been the official inventor of the telephone, then the breakup into regional phone companies would probably have been nicknamed, “Reis’s Pieces” — and then how could ET phone home? 

In any event, it was Johann Reis, not Alexander Graham Bell, who uttered the immortal words that made up the first sentence ever transmitted by telephone:

Das Pferd frisst keinen Gurkensalat.”

It means, “The horse doesn’t eat cucumber salad.”

Assessment:

In summary, then, the history of communications goes like this.  First, somebody invented writing.  Then he wrote a message and sent it via somebody else, thereby inventing the postal service. 

But by 1860, so many people were trying to feed cucumber salads to their horses that it necessitated the invention of the telephone.

One can instantly see the advantages of a telephone over the Pony Express.  Once they stopped feeding their horses cucumber salads, the Pony Express could get a message across the country in a matter of weeks. 

With the advent of the telephone, the same message could be transmitted instantly.

(“Das Pferd frisst keinen Gurkensalat.”  It DOESN’T? Gee, thanks.) 

But telephones were bulky, expensive gizmos tied to telephone poles by wires on one end and bolted to the wall of your house on the other.  In 1973, Dr. Martin Cooper of Motorola figured out a way to transmit telephone service over a radio link, creating the first mobile phone. 

In 1983, the first commercially available cellular phones were hard-wired into vehicles.  By 1990, there were 12.4 million cell phones worldwide.  By 2010, there were 4.6 billion mobile phones — at which point we stopped talking on them.   

The first text message was sent from a computer to a mobile phone in December 1992. The message, “Merry Christmas” unintentionally threw human civilization back to the days when horses ate cucumber salads.

We have gone from the invention of writing to the invention of mail to the invention of the telephone to the invention of the mobile communications device that we use to write letters instead of talking. And according to a recent study conducted by Pew Research Group, that’s the way we like it.

According to Pew, some 83% of Americans own cell phones and three fourths of them send and receive text messages on their phones.  Of those that use texting, the majority would prefer sending or receiving a text to making or receiving a phone call.

Text users send or receive an average of 41.5 messages per day and more than half of them would rather you texted instead of phoning them.  Those that don’t text make or receive an average of twelve phone calls per day.

I enjoy the irony of having come full circle from the invention of writing as a method of communication five thousand years ago, to the rediscovery of writing as a preferred means of communication by the most technologically advanced among us.

Having discovered texting only recently, I am surprised to discover that I concur with the majority – I would rather receive a text that I can read at my leisure and reply to only if necessary to having to subordinate all my other activities to answering the telephone.

What does it all mean?  I am not entirely sure when it comes to humans.  But thanks to the advances of technology, entire generations of horses have never experienced the delights of a cucumber salad.

Note:  In today’s OL, Jack explains the advances in communications throughout the ages.  Wendy Wippel’s “What Child is This?” is a beautifully written Gospel message intended to be shared this Christmas season.

Full Circle

Full Circle
Vol: 147 Issue: 9 Monday, December 9, 2013

As we get closer to the end of the age of human government, God appears to be wrapping things up in the same order in which they came to be. Take, for example, the Garden of Eden.

Archaeologist David Rohl claims to have located the site in a “lush valley beneath an extinct volcano in modern-day Iran.” Others have suggested it lies under the waters of the Persian Gulf.

Iraqi tradition places it in Iraq’s southern marshlands. The Bible places it somewhere between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is modern-day Iraq.

“The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.” (Genesis 2:11-13)

There are two individuals named Havilah in the Bible’s Table of Nations. One is the son of Cush, son of Ham, the other, son of Joktan, descendents of Shem.

The first Havilah settled around the Gulf of Aden while the other is associated with the Arabian desert.

The River Pison is likely the Uizhun, or Sefid River that originates near Mt Sahand in NW Iran in what was ancient Mesopotamia. It flows through ancient gold mines and lodes of lapis lazuli before emptying into the Caspian Sea. (The Sefid is known locally as the “Golden” River).

“And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.”

There is only one river that fits that description in the modern world — the River Nile. The Nile River’s “Blue Nile” originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan to join up with the White Nile near Khartoum, becoming the Nile River which flows through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.

The third river mentioned in Genesis, Euphrates, is easy to identify; so is the fourth, Hiddekel.

‘Hid’ means ‘river’ and ‘Idikla’ (thus Hiddekel) was another name for the Tigris, and its location was clearly specified as going toward the east of Assyria (northern Iraq).

And the word “Eden” which means ‘paradise’ or ‘delight’ in Hebrew also means ‘plain’ like the flat area between two rivers in both ancient Sumerian (e.din) and Akkadian (Edinu).

The four specific geographical landmarks mentioned by the Bible are: Ethiopia, Hiddekel (Tigris), Euphrates and Assyria. All of these point to the location of Eden as being near the Tigris-Euphrates area.

The Bible says that after the Fall, the entrance to the Garden of Eden was put under angelic guard to prevent Adam from returning. If ever the Garden of Eden was in Iraq’s territory, it would probably be buried deep under the huge land deposits left by the great flood.

While secular science and secular history both argue in favor of millions of years of human habitation, the historical record of human civilization only goes back about 4000 years or so before Christ to the Sumerians.

The Sumerians built the first known civilization in the region. The highly developed Sumerian city states were Ur, Erech and Kish. They had cuneiform, papyrus and clay tablet writings. Sumerian architecture used the arch, the dome or vault, and built sewers beneath their buildings.

They had ziggurats or temples constructed on man-made hills. They developed algebra and had a numerical system based on the number 60 (360 degrees, 1 degree, also 1 hour = 60 minutes, 1 minute = 60 seconds) which we still use today.

The great city of Babylon was built on the Euphrates in 1800 BC. They had a stern sense of justice enforced by the Hammurabi’s Law Code of 282 laws, had fair treatment of women, and established an advanced business society.

In 1,100 BC, the Assyrians rose to power in Mesopotamia. They constructed Nineveh, the city of splendor, on the Tigris River. They built the Assurbanipal, a great library containing thousands of clay tablets both Assyrian and Babylonian (these documents have enabled scholars to accurately reconstruct life in the Ancient Middle East).

In 616 BC, the Chaldeans built the Second Babylonian Empire. King Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens for one his wives, Cyaxare – daughter of the Median King.

It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And he also built the ziggurat near his palace, believed by many to be the biblical Tower of Babel.

The Tower of Babel was in Iraq. Abraham was from Sumer city of Ur located along the Euphrates in southern Iraq. Isaac’s wife Rebekah was from Nahor, which is in Iraq. Jacob met Rachel in Iraq.

Jonah preached in Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria, which is in modern Iraq. It was the Assyrians that destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Daniel was in captivity in Babylon. The ancient city-state of Babylon is located some 55 miles south of Bagdad. Ezekiel wrote his prophetic book from Babylon.

The greatest revival in history was in a city in Iraq – Jonah 3. The events in the book of Esther took place in Iraq – Esther. The book of Nahum was a prophecy against a city in Iraq – Nahum.

Iraq’s role in Bible prophecy is just as significant as it was in Bible history.

Assessment:

The only nation referred to more often in Scripture than Israel would be Iraq; (the land of Shinar, Babylon, Assyria, Mesopotamia, etc.). There is no river mentioned in Scripture more often than the Great River Euphrates, which is mentioned 21 times in Scripture beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation.

What I want you to see this morning is how we’ve come full circle. In Genesis, the River Euphrates was one of the rivers that water the lush paradise in the Garden of Eden.

Jude 1:6 reveals the angels who ‘left their first estate’ to commit fornication with the daughters of men (Genesis 6:2-4) are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”

In Revelation, we learn the location of their prison:

“Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.” (Revelation 9:14)

The Euphrates, which watered the Garden of Eden, has been the prison for those four malignant angelic beings since at least Noah’s time and has run red with blood ever since.

Ultimately, according to Revelation 16:12, the fate of the Euphrates River is to dry up altogether.

“And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.”

An OL member emailed me a link to a story he had found in the Toronto Star under the headline, “Euphrates River Drying Up”. The story was also carried in the New York Times under the headline, “Iraq Suffers As Euphrates Dwindles” but what got my attention was this paragraph:

“The shrinking of the Euphrates, a river so crucial to the birth of civilization that the Book of Revelation prophesied its drying up as a sign of the end times, has decimated farms along its banks, has left fishermen impoverished and has depleted riverside towns as farmers flee to the cities looking for work.”

In ancient Scripture, Israel was the one mentioned most often, with Iraq being second. In the modern international news cycle of the 21st century, Israel is the nation mentioned most often in terms of Middle East flashpoints, with Iraq coming in a close second.

And now we find the NY Times seeking to find relevance for a story about Iraq by quoting the Book of Revelation!

From the time of Nimrod until the destruction of the 2nd Temple and the closing of Scripture, no two nations on the earth played a more intricate role in the plan of God than did Israel and Babylon. For the next 19 centuries, Israel and Babylon had all be ceased to exist in any national form.

The Jews were in Diaspora; Babylon crumbled to dust. Both the ancient lands — Israel and Mesopotamia — languished in obscurity, punctuated by brief periods of war and mayhem, until precisely the same point in history.

Until 1917, Mesopotamia was part of the Ottoman Empire, which also controlled what the Ottomans’ called the province of Southern Syria, including Palestine and Jerusalem.

The Ottoman Empire fell to the Allies in WWI. Indian troops under the command of the British captured Baghdad in 1917, at the same time that Lord Allenby liberated Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Ottoman Turks.

All three Synoptic Gospels contain a variation of the Olivet Discourse, as recalled by the individual Gospel writers who were present. Mark and Matthew record Jesus saying,

“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:” (Mark 13:28)

(Matthew 24:32 is virtually identical, excepting Matthew gives the fig tree a masculine pronoun and says ‘nigh’ instead of ‘near’.)

But Luke recalls; “And He spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;” The “fig tree” is used some 33 times in Scripture relative to the fig tree. “All the trees” is a clearly a reference to other nations. Which nations?

The ones that top the headlines every night. The nations through which flow the Gihon, the Tigris, the Pison and the Euphrates.

“When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”

In these last days, the nations ‘shooting forth’ are the same nations that make up the Cradle of Civilization. They are among the oldest on the earth. The Old Testament begins in the land of the first Adam and closes in the land of the Second.

We’ve just about come full circle. The New Testament begins in the land of the Second Adam, and concludes with its attention focused on the land of the first. Where the Euphrates River is drying up. Right on schedule.

“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till ALL be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:29-32)

Note: Today is the anniversary of the day that Israel was liberated from the Ottoman Empire. Jack wrote us a history of the Middle East in today’s brief with some very interesting facts.