Close Only Counts In Horseshoes (and Hand Grenades)

Close Only Counts In Horseshoes (and Hand Grenades)
Vol: 155 Issue: 30 Saturday, August 30, 2014

As we tick down the hours to the end of this present age, I notice that more and more Christians, perhaps assuming things can’t get much worse, are coming to the conclusion we must be in the first half of the Tribulation now.

I received one such email recently from an OL subscriber who took the time to list the various questions and irreconcilable differences she has regarding the Rapture and Tribulation.

Q. I was wondering what verse(s) in the Bible point to the idea that the rapture has to occur at one of three points: pre, mid, or post. I understand the idea of imminency in regards to the fact that it could occur at any time pre-trib, even months or years before the tribulation period. However, I don’t understand how imminency is instantly disregarded once the tribulation begins. I know about the pre-wrath theory, which I also know is fairly new. But, my question is: why cannot Christ’s coming for His elect occur during the first half of the tribulation?

A. There is no verse that limits the Rapture to one of three points. There is, however, a verse that tells us that, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

The Tribulation Period is no exception to that rule. It has its primary and secondary purposes. The Prophet Daniel tells us that its purpose, from the perspective of Israel, is six-fold:

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people [Daniel and the Jews] and upon thy holy city, [Jerusalem] to (1) finish the transgression, and to (2) make an end of sins, and to (3) make reconciliation for iniquity, and to (4) bring in everlasting righteousness, and to (5) seal up the vision and prophecy, and to (6) anoint the most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)

For the Church, points 1 through 4 were accomplished at the Cross. Points 5 and 6 are yet future — and neither apply to the Church, anyway.

The prophecy is to the Jews and of Jerusalem and the Temple. And the anointing of the Messiah takes place at the Temple following the 2nd Coming.

The primary purpose of the Tribulation, therefore, is to effect the national redemption of the Jews.

There is a secondary purpose as outlined in Revelation 9:21:

“Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”

The secondary purpose is, therefore, to judge an unrepentant, Christ-rejecting world. By definition, to be a Christian, one must accept Christ and repent of one’s sin. So the Church has no purpose in God’s judgment against unrepentant sinners.

The tertiary purpose for the Tribulation is to permit Satan free reign over the earth.

Among the many purposes of Heaven outlined in Scripture is the trial of Satan. At the conclusion of the Tribulation Period, there will remain no doubt among the angels as to the depth of Satan’s guilt or the severity of his punishment.

“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?” (Isaiah 14:15-17)

The doctrine of immanency teaches that the Rapture could have taken place at any time from Paul’s day until the starting point of the Tribulation Period. How do I arrive at that conclusion? Scripture makes me that promise.

In order for Satan to have total control (and therefore no excuse) the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and His ministry of identifying and restraining evil must be removed.

But Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will indwell me until He returns. I have no part in the Tribulation, I am neither a member of the elect House of Israel nor a Christ-rejecting Gentile.

If the Holy Spirit must be ‘taken out of the way’ BEFORE the Antichrist can be revealed, which is the only logical way to interpret 2nd Thessalonians 2:7-8, He cannot leave me comfortless without breaking His Word. (John 14:18)

No matter how I try to make it read otherwise, I cannot. If the Holy Spirit is NOT ‘taken out of the way’ then that Wicked CANNOT be revealed.

“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.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:7-8)

Let’s identify the players. “The mystery of iniquity” — the spirit of Antichrist. (1st John 4:3) “He who letteth”. First, “he” is a personal pronoun, so this isn’t a ‘thing’ to be taken out of the way, but a ‘Him’. ‘To let’ is an old English phrase that signifies indwelling, as in the phrase, “Room to Let.”

That “Wicked” is also a personal pronoun and in context, refers to the one whom Jesus destroys at His Second Coming.

Let’s read it again in modern English: “The Antichrist won’t be revealed until after the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence is taken out of the way.”

So the whole bone of contention is about whether or not, when the Holy Spirit is removed, we will be removed with Him. I cannot picture a situation in which I would lose the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence while I am still alive on this earth. It is unthinkable.

Where do we get seven years of tribulation?

Daniel says that Antichrist rules for one ‘week’ — or seven years. The first three and one half years are a period of false peace for Israel. The last three and one half years are a period of persecution and tribulation.

No matter how novel an interpretation one may develop to argue against the seven year period, Daniel also identifies it as a period of 2520 days, divided into two periods of 1260 days each.

Since Israel marks time with a 360 day lunar calendar (right to this very day) finding another time frame that fits requires some seriously wishful thinking.

Now, to the specific question: “why cannot Christ’s coming for His elect occur during the first half of the tribulation?”

Because, as already noted, every season has a time and a purpose under heaven. Scripture outlines a season (of tribulation) for the purpose of judgment that is to last seven years.

The Tribulation is not the Church’s season of redemption. It is Israel’s. The purpose of the Tribulation is either redemption for, or judgment against the lost.

The Church is neither under judgment or in need of redemption.

My correspondent also writes: A misconceived notion regarding the rapture taking place before any suffering could easily cause the people to turn from their faith as is talked about in the gospels. I understand the idea of “tribulation saints” but I cannot find one single verse to back up this idea. I truly believe that is pure speculation.

I concur whole-heartedly that the idea of the Rapture taking place before any suffering is a misconception. Suffering is part of the human condition and persecution and martyrdom are not ancient concepts, but that which continues without pause to this very day.

As to the concept of “Tribulation saints” — I’m assuming that the notion that they are not the Church Age saints is the ‘pure speculation’ referred to. Any possible alternative identification, however, begs a bigger question.

Of the Church Age saints, John writes:

“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1st John 4:4)

During the Tribulation, it is the saints that are overcome:

“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.” (Revelation 13:7)

The same Apostle John wrote both verses. Is it not ‘pure speculation’ to assume that the differences in status are irrelevant?

One more point I can’t reconcile. All things are done for the ultimate glory of God, right? How would a pre-trib rapture bring any glory to God? Would it not bring all that much more glory to Him if Christ appears amidst the persecution of his saints to rescue them from the evil one?

“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

I dunno. You tell me. During the Church Age, salvation comes by grace through faith. When Christ actually appears, how much faith will be necessary?

Are there two standards for salvation in the Church Age? Of course not. Does that not suggest the existence of two separate administrations of God?

Confusing, no? Now, is God the author of confusion?

As bad as it seems, the Rapture notwithstanding, we are NOT now in the first half of the Tribulation. We wouldn’t be in the Tribulation even if the Rapture is really mid Trib. Or Pre-Wrath. Or Post trib.

The antichrist has not yet been revealed. The peace treaty has not yet been confirmed. Temple worship has not yet been restored. All these are events that take place BEFORE the Great Tribulation begins. It is that termination of sacrifice that begins the Great Tribulation.

The antichrist can’t cause the sacrifice to cease until AFTER it has begun. That can’t happen until the Jews possess the Temple Mount. The antichrist cannot take his seat in the Temple of God, causing Israel to reject him, which kicks off the Great Tribulation, until AFTER there is a Temple to sit in.

These events are clear, unmistakable AND independent of the Rapture. None of them exist because we aren’t in the Tribulation Period. We are indeed close.

But we’re not there yet.

Be Careful for Nothing

Be Careful for Nothing
Vol: 155 Issue: 29 Friday, August 29, 2014

Has anybody else besides me noticed just how many posts there are in our forums praising God for answered prayer? I mean, REALLY noticed?

We have had members that have posted testimonies of healings, remissions of disease, a new job, family members being saved, relationships restored, and deliveries from addiction.

New prayer requests are being posted almost daily, and invariably are followed up with a testimony of how they have been answered. It fills me with awe to be a vicarious eyewitness to the power of God as He works among His people.

The prayer fellowship in our forums transcend national borders and span continents, so that when a member posts his request, the sweet savour of offered prayer rises to heaven from places all around the globe.

I love to watch as relationships develop within the forum; read the questions, the replies, and absorb the shared wisdom.

Teachers have emerged, some of them rising to a calling they didn’t know they heard, and discovering for the first time a spiritual gift from God they didn’t know they had.

The forum has become a place where apologists sharpen their arguments and prepare for battle. Our members sharpen the arguments in the forums — but take the ‘battle’ part to the enemy, something unique among Christian discussion forums.

But more than that, I love to witness Christians relying on prayer. It is through prayer that power of God is made manifest. God gives good things to His children whether they know enough to ask for them or not. But He takes special delight in granting specific requests.

Jesus promised,

“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)

Note the unconditional promise is followed by the reason for its extension. ‘That the Father may be glorified in the Son’.

God answers prayer because He loves us. But also to reveal Himself through His Son. We pray in the Name of Jesus, our prayers are answered, and both Father and Son are revealed as One.

Do you follow? We testify of our answered prayer, more Christians are emboldened to seek His Face, relationships are strengthened, stronger Christians emerge out the other end, renewed and encouraged by the power of God and ready to take the battle to the enemy.

Prayer baffles science, because more than 190 scientific studies have shown prayer works.

One such study was conducted at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo. Doctors did not tell patients they were being prayed for — or even that they were part of any kind of experiment.

For an entire year, about 1,000 heart patients admitted to the institute’s critical care unit were secretly divided into two groups. Half were prayed for by a group of volunteers and the hospital’s chaplain; the other half were not.

All the patients were followed for a year, and then their health was scored according to pre-set rules by a third party who did not know which patients had been prayed for and which had not.

The results: The patients who were prayed for had 11 percent fewer heart attacks, strokes and life-threatening complications.

Dr. Elizabeth Targ, a psychiatrist at the Pacific College of Medicine in San Francisco, has also tested out prayer on critically ill AIDS patients.

All 20 patients in the study got pretty much the same medical treatment, but only half of them were prayed for by spiritual ‘healers’. Ultimately, 10 of the prayed-for patients lived, while four who had not been prayed for died.

In a larger follow-up study, Targ found that the people who received prayer and remote healing had six times fewer hospitilizations and those hospitalizations were significantly shorter than the people who received no prayer and distant healing.

“I was sort of shocked,” says Targ. “In a way it’s like witnessing a miracle. There was no way to understand this from my experience and from my basic understanding of science.”

Assessment:

The results of these studies, although statistically significant, are not universally accepted. After all, if 11 percent of the heart patients prayed for got better, argue the skeptics, it means that 89% of those prayed for did not. That argument is canceled by it’s rebuttal that, sometimes God says, “No!”.

What is more to the point is that the power of prayer is demonstrable enough to merit scientific study in the first place.

One cannot study a myth and chart its progress or lack thereof. At best, the resulting chart would reflect the law of probabilities. The prayer studies do not. Prayer is not myth.

The Scriptures tell us:

“Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1st Thessalonians 5:17-21)

It is God’s Will for us to ‘pray without ceasing’ — I pray all the time. Sometimes formally, oftentimes, a muttered prayer at a specific moment to the One Who is always ready to listen.

Paul’s admonition to ‘pray without ceasing’ is a reminder that none of us walk through this life alone. There are several reasons to pray without ceasing. The first is because there IS a devil.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

The next verse, to put it in context, reads,

“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.” (6:13)

Next follows a description of the different parts of the Christian’s armor, which we are to put on if we are to stand against the devil. Then Paul brings all to a climax in the 18th verse, telling us that to all else we must add prayer.

The Apostle James writes;

“Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” (James 4:2)

James tells us in 5:16 that,

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

“Why is it,” ask many Christians, “that I am making so little progress in my Christian life?” God answers, “You have not, because you ask not.”

Your Omega Letter is an example of answered prayer. Those of you who have been with us from the start will recall the Omega Letter came to being as a result of answered prayer. It operates month-to-month on answered prayer. Our operating budget each month is an example of a new answered prayer.

We pray that God meets our needs, and, through His people, He always does. Sometimes, it is just in the nick of time, so we don’t forget on Whom we depend. Prayer is a powerful tool, and our God is an awesome God.

For every supporting member, there are at least ten of you who receive this free as part of somebody’s mailing list. We reach ten times as many as reflected on our own mailing list, and God provides the ten percent that support our work by faith – ours, and theirs.

He also has a terrific sense of humor. I remember, as a much younger man, when I first dedicated my life to the Lord’s service. I chose two verses from Proverbs as my guiding ministry principles.

“Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)

I prayed for the Lord to honor them, and He has. (Sigh)

(In retrospect, I am glad I didn’t ask for ‘patience’ or ‘humility’. Be careful what you pray for. LOL)

Pray for us as we pray for you. Pray for the success of our shared mission as watchmen on the wall.

I encourage you to continue to post prayer requests in the forums, and to share your testimonies of answered prayer with us.

It is a source of great encouragement to me personally, a reminder to us all, and testimony to the world of the awesome Power of the God we serve.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Phillipians 4:6)

Featured Commentary: The Islamic State & Faerie Land ~ Alf Cengia

The Dispensationalist Dilemma

The Dispensationalist Dilemma
Vol: 155 Issue: 28 Thursday, August 28, 2014

If you were to decide to research Dispensationalism off the ‘Net or in most books on the subject, the first thing that you would learn is that:

“the doctrine of a secret rapture was first conceived by John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren in 1827. Darby, known as the father of dispensationalism, invented the doctrine claiming there were not one, but two “second comings.”

Typically, the argument against Dispensationalism is that,

“post-millennialism was the dominant eschatology from the Reformation until at least 1859”.

(I pulled both those quotes from a website called “The Dispensational Origins of Modern Premillennialism and John Nelson Darby,” but I picked these because they are so typical of the argument — so I thought it best to address them first.)

“The doctrine of a secret rapture was first conceived by John Nelson Darby.”

This is the first error of post-millennialism and the foundation upon which the post-millennial criticism of Dispensationalism rests.

Actually, the doctrine of a ‘secret rapture’ was first articulated by Moses in the Book of Genesis:

“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24)

In case that isn’t clear enough, the writer of Hebrews explains what that meant:

“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5)

“Translated” — what does that mean? The Greek word in use here is metatithçmi and it means “to change.” According to both Genesis and Hebrews, then, Enoch was “changed” and “God took him” because by Enoch’s faith, he had pleased God.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

The word ‘sleep’ here is koimao which means “to die” and the word ‘changed’ is from the Greek “allasso” which means “to transform”. So Paul is saying, we shall not ALL die, but that some of us shall be transformed.

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1st Corinthians 15:51-52)

So we learn — from the Bible, not from J.N. Darby — the following doctrine:

Enoch was “changed” and taken by God as Enoch’s reward for faithfulness. Paul says that he was teaching a ‘mystery’ — something not previously revealed — that at some point in the future, the faithful will ALL be ‘transformed’ in the ‘twinkling of an eye’ and that the dead will be resurrected first.

Paul later explains the eligibility requirements for this transformation and translation:

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” (1st Thessalonians 4:14)

It would then appear that the eligibility requirement has not changed since Enoch, the “seventh from Adam” — faith.

Paul continues:

“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.” (1st Thessalonians 4:15-17)

Let’s pretend for a minute that J.N. Darby was a traditional post-millennialist, and work from the same Scriptures he was.

What else could these passages mean? Is there an alternative explanation for Enoch’s ‘translation’? (One that makes sense in light of Hebrews, that is.)

What could Paul have meant when he said we’d be ‘transformed’ in the twinkling of an eye’ – particularly in light of the fact Paul specifically says that transformation will be from the mortal to the immortal.

And finally, if Darby ‘invented’ a secret rapture, what does Paul mean when he says the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, causing the dead in Christ to rise first?

The Apostle Jude says the Lord returns “with ten thousands of His saints.” The Apostle John says that when He returns at the end of the age, it is a very public event: “Behold, He cometh with clouds and every eye shall see Him.”

Does Scripture make allowances for the discrepancy between these two comings? The Book of Acts records the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven at Pentecost. The Apostles came together to meet with Jesus privately for one last time, to hear His final instructions.

“And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Jesus did not go into heaven with ten thousands of His saints — He went alone, in ‘secret’ ie; witnessed only by His Apostles and two angels. He returns FOR His Saints at the Rapture, Paul says, not WITH them.

For the claim that Darby “invented” the Rapture to hold water, one has to assume that Darby inserted those verses into Scripture.

If not, then if there is an “inventor” of the Rapture doctrine, he was a Hebrew prophet named “Moses.”

Assessment:

I received an email asking me to address Dispensationalism, and, in particular, its various forms. It read as follows:

Dear Jack: I have searched your archives for information on dispensationalism. There are several articles, but nothing that really breaks it down. I have been reading a little on other sites, but ended up more confused than before. I get the basic idea of it, but I know you have the knack of putting it in laymans terms.

Would you consider writing a detailed article on dispensationalism, hyperdispensationalism, acts 28 dispensationalism, and mid acts dispensationalism, and anything else to clarify all the details. I’m having trouble mostly because other things I read assume the reader knows all the history to back up their data.

Let’s first define ‘Dispensationalism’. As a theological system it supplies an interpretive grid for understanding the flow of the Bible as a whole.

Dispensationalism advocates a form of premillennialism in which it sees the past, present, and future as a number of successive administrations, or “dispensations” (Eph 3:2, KJV), each of which emphasizes aspects of the covenants between God and various peoples at various times.

While ‘Dispensations’ are not ages, but stewardships, or administrations, we tend to see them now as ages since we look back on specific time periods when they were in force. For that reason, this present dispensation is known as the ‘Church Age’ or the ‘Age of Grace.’

A greater breakdown of specific dispensations is possible, giving most traditional Dispensationalists seven recognizable dispensations.

1. Innocence – Adam

2. Conscience – After man sinned, up to the flood

3. Government – After the flood, man allowed to eat meat, death penalty instituted

4. Promise – Abraham up to Moses and the giving of the Law

5. Law – Moses to the cross

6. Grace – The cross to the Millennial Kingdom

7. Millennial Kingdom – A 1000 year reign of Christ on earth centered in Jerusalem

One of the most difficult aspects of interpreting the Scriptures is determining those aspects which are continuous (have not changed over time) from those which are discontinuous (changed with time).

For example, salvation has always come by grace through faith. That is ‘continuous’. However, the prohibitions on eating unclean meats has changed over time. (Acts 10:10-17) That is an example of discontinuity by Dispensation.

Dispensationalism holds to the doctrine that the Church was born at Pentecost and that the Church Age will continue until the Church is Raptured at some point before the Tribulation Period.

My correspondent also asked about “Acts 28 Dispensationalism, Mid-Acts Dispensationalism, and hyperdispensationalism”.

These are all essentially based on the same principle; that there was a discontinuity between Peter and the early Church and Paul in the later Church.

Mid-Acts Dispensationalist is based in the belief that the present church began during the Mid-Acts period (sometime between Acts 9 and Acts 15). This view denies the dispensation of grace was in effect until after that time.

Instead,they theorize that the six epistles Paul wrote during the Acts period (Romans, Galatians, both Corinthian epistles, and both Thessalonian epistles) were written exclusively to Gentiles who were allied with Israel, while Paul’s prison epistles (written after Acts 28) were all written to believers like us, who have never been allied with Israel.

So, because believers today did not hear the gospel for the first time in a Jewish synagogue, we never “blessed” Israel, as those during the book of Acts did. The conclusion is therefore drawn that none of those six epistles Paul wrote during the Acts period are written directly to us today.

Since we no longer need to be allied with Israel in order to hear the gospel (unlike those Gentiles to whom Paul preached in the Jewish synagogues), this would mean that only Paul’s prison epistles would addressed directly to the modern Church.

To summarize this teaching, one could say that its advocates believe Paul actually changed his doctrine after he wrote his Acts epistles.

(Which is why I reject it on the basis of both logic and Scripture.)

Like most popular theological positions, supporters of mid-Acts Dispensationalism have a list of Scriptures that, at first glance, seem to favor the hyperdispensationalist position.

But like those other positions, they have to be accepted in a vacuum — since nothing can be done with the contradicting Scriptures, those are simply ignored, in much the same way that post-millennialists ignore the Rapture passages.

With all the various schools of thought out there, how does one truly know he is following the right path? The literal method of interpretation is the key.

Using the literal method of interpreting the biblical covenants and prophecy leads to a specific set of core beliefs about God’s kingdom program, and what the future will hold for ethnic Israel and for the Church.

The Bible demands a distinction between Israel and the Church, and depicts a promised future earthly reign of Christ on the throne of David. (The Davidic Kingdom.)

This leads one to some very specific conclusions about the last days as outlined by Bible Prophecy:

* Israel must be re-gathered to their land as promised by God.

* Daniel’s seventieth week prophecy specifically refers to the purging of the nation Israel, and not the Church. These were the clear words spoken to Daniel. The church doesn’t need purging from sin. It is already clean.

* Some of the warnings in Matthew 24 are directed at the Jews, and not the Church (since God will be finishing His plan with national Israel)

* A Pretribulation rapture – Israel is seen in Daniel as the key player during the tribulation, not the Church. God removes the elect when he brings judgment on the world. i.e. Noah, John 14, 1 Thessonians 4:16. etc..

* Premillennialism – A literal 1000 year Millennial Kingdom, where Christ returns before the Millennium starts. Revelation 20 doesn’t give us a reason to interpret the 1000 years as symbolic. Also, Dispensationalists see the promised literal reign of Christ depicted in the Old Testament by the Prophet Isaiah.

Unsurprisingly, hyperdispensationalists are just as disagreeable when challenged as are preterists, post millennialists, “Kingdom Now” and Dominionist theologians.

Understanding the Dispensations of God is necessary to rightly dividing the Word, and is therefore important, but has no bearing on the seminal issue of salvation.

So I see no reason to dispute, debate or otherwise convince those who hold to a different view of the rightness of my own. I teach from a Dispensational perspective because it is the only one that doesn’t leave gaping holes in one’s understanding. Covenant theology, for example, has no explanation for the restoration of Israel.

Biblical Israel was destroyed in AD 70 as punishment for crucifying the Messiah and the covenant between God and the Jews was transferred to the Church. Modern Israel holds no special place in the plan of God, and there is no kinship between the Church and Israel.

In this view, Church itself has but one unique characteristic. Unlike everybody else, believers will be judged twice.

They are judged to be innocent by virtue of having accepted Christ’s sacrifice as full payment for their sins, but nonetheless will suffer the judgment of God on a Christ-rejecting world.

This muddies the Scriptures and blurs the distinctions between the Church and the world, but it plays no role in one’s salvation.

One can wrongly interpret the Word regarding the details of the last days’ scenario and still be a sincere, born-again, Blood-bought Christian who will go to heaven when one dies, or be translated at the Rapture. (Even if one doesn’t believe in it).

I teach Dispensationalism because I believe it provides the most logical method of understanding the Scriptures — particularly those relative to the last days. But I won’t fight about it.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Nobody is saved by their faith in the Rapture — or its timing. Our faith is in Christ. That is the key to salvation. Trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide us in all truth, rather than trusting to our own doctrinal infallibility.

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

Featured Commentary: Terror in the Heartland ~ J.L. Robb

Rescue the Perishing

Rescue the Perishing
Vol: 155 Issue: 27 Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A US survey conducted in 2005 concluded that young women and girls are taking a leading role in tearing down sexual ‘taboos’ in America. The study concludes that girls as young as fifteen are having more sex than their parents and grandparents did. A lot more.

It’s a subject I’d rather not talk about — but not wanting to talk about it won’t make it go away, so we might as well face it.

Young women in the United States and Canada first have intercourse at the age of 15, partake more in oral sex than previous generations and are far less prudish, according to a landmark new report by researchers at California’s San Diego State University.

Between 1943 and 1999, the age of first intercourse dropped to 15 from 19 for females, while the percentage of sexually active young women rose to 47 percent from just 13 percent in 1943, according to the study that appears in the most recent issue of the Review of General Psychology.

“Feelings of sexual guilt plummeted, especially among young women. Attitudes toward premarital sex became dramatically more liberal over the same period,” the analysis of 530 studies spanning five decades and involving more than a quarter of a million young people said.

Over the same 56-year period, approval of premarital sex increased from 12 percent to 73 percent among young women, while the figure rose from 40 percent to 79 percent among young men, according to the study.

“The change in young women’s beliefs about premarital sex was enormous,” said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who co-authored the report with Brooke Wells of City University of New York.

“Cultural influence was so much stronger for women than men, and that was true across behaviors. The attitudes that parents have is also an influence,” Twenge said about the report that tracked “Baby Boomers,” “Generation X” and the current generation of young people, whom Twenge calls “Generation Me”.

The study revealed that the massive cultural revolution that swept North America in the past 30 years had contributed dramatically to the shift as movies and television shows tacked formerly taboo topics such as teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases and rape.

“This shift to more liberal sexual attitudes and behaviors, commonly deemed the ‘sexual revolution’, has dramatically altered American culture, especially for women,” the report said.

The Baby Boomers of the 1950s and 1960s began having sex for the first time in college, while youngster of today are having sex for the first time in high school. “There’s been a major shift there,” Twenge said.

But, while their baby-boomer ancestors were having less sex with more people, young people now, faced with an AIDS epidemic, have more sex with fewer partners, the report indicated.

The sexual revolution has meant that sexual practices that were frequently reviled by earlier generations — especially oral sex — were becoming far more acceptable and widespread.

The percentage of teenagers and young adults having oral sex increased from 48 percent in 1969 to 72 percent in 1993 among young men, and from 42 percent in 1969 to 71 percent in 1993 among young women, the report said.

“Oral sex has become so popular. In previous generations, oral sex was considered disgusting. Now young people see it as another way of being sexual,” Twenge said.

“It’s also part of the general trend of sexual behavior moving away from marriage and reproduction and toward pleasure.”

Assessment:

This is one of those social trends that simply floors me when looked at in the context of the last generation before the return of Christ. Particularly when one considers Twenge’s final observation: “It’s also part of the general trend of sexual behavior moving away from marriage and reproduction and toward pleasure.”

God set up the family unit according to His own purposes, which He made abundantly clear. The family unit is the exemplar of our relationship to God. The Godhead is in three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit. The relationship between God and Israel is described as a marriage in which Israel was the unfaithful spouse.

“My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.” (Hosea 4:12)

The relationship between the Church and the Lord Jesus is depicted by Scripture as that of a Bridegroom and His Bride. And it is THIS relationship that provides the Biblical model and assigned responsibilities within a marriage.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. . . .Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:22,25)

It is through our human understanding of marriage that we gain as sense of our spiritual condition. We are commanded to be faithful to the Lord using that same analogy of Bridegroom and Bride and it is that element of marriage, ‘betrothal’ that we gain an understanding of our responsibilities before Christ, together with an expression of the solemnity with which the Lord views His promises to the Church.

In God’s view, there is no oath more sacred than the one exchanged between husband and wife, and it is within this relationship that God made sex pleasurable so that we would WANT to procreate. But its ultimate purpose is to reproduce within a loving, stable, family relationship. Sex outside of marriage falls into a special category of sin.

“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)

“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith He, shall be one flesh.” (1st Corinthians 6:16)

The marriage model is the baseline of civilization, from which the human social order evolved. Nations are organized into ‘families’ whose members dedicate themselves to their own national interests. Without a strong family unit, nations eventually crumble. Both history and common sense confirm the importance of the family unit. And anybody who has ever been married understands what the word ‘unfaithful’ means within the context of marriage.

Modern society, I remind you, is experiencing a “general trend of sexual behavior moving away from marriage and reproduction and toward pleasure.” Another sexual trend is that of college age women ‘going gay’ until marriage — there is even a name for it. They are called ‘LUGS’ and acronymn for Lesbian Until Graduation.” It’s popularity stems from idea that it is sex without risk, since most sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted by men or through heterosexual sex.

The Apostle Paul wrote of the last generation, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” We’ve visited this passage many times in the past, not because it is the only passage I can find, but rather because it is probably the only place in Scripture for the last days where we find any reference to the United States.

Paul’s description of last-days society reads like the elements in a modern political speech; “Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

So, where are we going with all of this? We see again how the America of this generation is mirrored in Scripture. American society, once one of the most moral in the world, is now the global leader in promoting pornography and promiscuity.

As Paul notes; “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”

As bad as it is, it is all part of a Divine plan. We just need to trust that Jesus knows what He is doing.

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of Whom thou hast learned them.” (2nd Timothy 3:13-14)

And touse that which we have learned to rescue the perishing — while there is still time.

“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)

Featured Commentary: The National Council of Churches, An Unholy Alliance Part I ~ Lea Sylvester

The Chaotic Earth Theory

The Chaotic Earth Theory
Vol: 155 Issue: 26 Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One of the areas of Scripture I’ve always been least comfortable with in terms of my understanding is the first two chapters of Genesis. I am a Bible literalist – I believe the Bible is intended to be taken literally unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

The problem, so to speak, with being a Bible literalist is self-evident – some of it is difficult to visualize literally. And there are some things in our existence that difficult to reconcile with the traditional understanding of Genesis.

I know that the earth bears scars that aren’t explained by the young earth theory. At the same time, there is no room within Scripture to allow for evolution without tearing the first five chapters of Genesis out of the Bible.

Here’s the deal. The Garden of Eden story, as related in Scripture, is either literally true or our redemption is founded in a myth. You can’t have a literal Redeemer that shed literal Blood as the price of redemption for a mythical Fall.

“And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit,” (1st Corinthians 15:45)

The “last Adam” is Jesus.

That pretty much demands there be a first Adam. And the first Adam could not have evolved, and the Bible still be both literal and true. Neither could Eve. Paul slams that door shut in his first letter to Timothy.

“For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” (1st Timothy 2:13)

Here we have two literal statements. They are not only literally stated, but taken together they form the bedrock doctrine of Christianity, as we’ve already discussed.

The first Messianic prophecy, that the Redeemer would be the seed of a woman, is made in conjunction with the Fall.

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

So the first five chapters of Genesis must be a literal account – if there wasn’t a first Adam, there would be no need for a Second.

On the other hand, it is literally true that there are things on this earth that are unquestionably older than six thousand years – or even twelve thousand years, assuming the ‘thousand years is as to one day’ theory of creation.

In that theory, each of the six days of Creation is really 1,000 years long, plus the six thousand years since Creation would allow for a 12,000 year old earth.

There are the remains of humanoids that are undeniably different than modern humans, but are also different than apes. But they are also not the so-called missing links of evolution, since they can’t be old enough for evolution’s timeline.

The earth bears the scars of an Ice Age – scars much older than six thousand or even twelve thousand years. But there still isn’t room to allow for evolutionary theory — without having to throw out the doctrinal foundation of Christianity.

If man evolved, there was no first Adam, no original sin, no fall of man, and no promise of redemption. The Bible cannot be true, Jesus cannot be the Son of God, and I remain yet dead in my sins.

Evolution, like Creation, must stand alone – one worldview cannot accommodate the other. Fortunately, there is FAR less evidence for evolution than there is for Creation.

The fact is that birds build nests as they have done throughout the history of mankind’s experience. Beavers build dams as they always have. Bears hibernate, bees nest together in hives to honey, ants build anthills, and so on.

There is zero evidence of a fossil in transition from one life-form to another and there is no evidence of the evolutionary process at work evolving higher forms of animals within the collective 6,000-year memory of human existence.

Over the course of 6,000 years, man has progressed from plowing the earth with a piece of wood to the development of modern farm implements like the modern combine.

Along the way, we can retrace the various steps that took us from a plow to the combine. We didn’t jump from a stick in the earth to a combine/harvester in a single leap.

And whatever is in use today will likely be replaced by an improved version later on. There is a trail that leads all the way back to the plow and points forward to the next great improvement in farming technology.

There are no examples of creatures in the process of evolving, and no evidence of mankind evolving into the next higher order over the course of our six thousand years of human history.

Still, there is plenty of evidence that says the earth is older than six thousand years. It is a conundrum.

Assessment:

If one goes back to reexamine the actual text of Genesis, one discovers a lot that isn’t there. The Bible does not say, for example, that the earth was created in its present form.

It says that, “in the beginning, the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light.” (1:2-3)

But the Bible does NOT say that the light was sunlight. Sunlight doesn’t make an appearance until the Fourth Day (Genesis 1:14) But Genesis 1:5 says that God divided the light from the darkness and the evening and the morning were the first day.

The Chaotic Earth Theory finds a prehistory here in the first few verses of Genesis, primarily based in what Scripture does not say in Genesis.

A young earth creation is not necessary to the creation of Adam and Eve the way the Fall of Man is necessary to the Redemption Story.

Isaiah 45:18 says,

“For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, he created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.”

The RSV renders it this way;

“Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; He is God; that formed the earth and made it; He established it. He created it NOT A WASTE, He formed it to be inhabited.”

The Bible doesn’t specifically say what caused it to be a waste after the original creation, but it seems clear that sin pre-existed the Garden of Eden. Satan was already there when Adam and Eve arrived on the scene.

The Bible’s timeline demands that Satan and his angels were cast into the earth at some point before the Garden – which would be at some point before God said, “Let there be light.”

A re-examination of 2nd Peter 3:5-6 suggests an alternative understanding to ‘the world that then was’ and to the flood Peter spoke of:

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water; whereby the world that then was, BEING OVERFLOWED WITH WATER, perished.”

This is generally understood as referring to Noah’s Flood, but that understanding doesn’t necessarily touch on any essential point of doctrine the way that dismissing a literal Garden of Eden does. Maybe Peter was referring to Noah’s Flood, but if so, he took some liberties with the text. Peter refers to a world that then was, but that perished when overflowed with water.

Oddly, Peter says nothing of Noah. And historically, the world didn’t perish.

God preserved Noah, his family and the seed of all living aboard the Ark. But the Genesis account described the pre-Adamic earth as without form and void.

Peter does refer to the “heavens and the earth which are now” and says that this creation will also eventually be replaced with a new creation.

“Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2nd Peter 3:12)

Peter speaks of this creation being destroyed by fervent heat. God promises Noah that never again will He destroy the earth by a flood. While it is by no means definitive, there is no reason to believe this was the only time the earth was destroyed by a flood.

Just that next time, it would be by fire.

Although I’ve found nothing in the text that would preclude the Chaotic Earth Theory, the prophet Jeremiah describes the following scene that seems to describe something very much like it:

“I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was WITHOUT FORM AND VOID; and the heavens, and they had NO LIGHT.

I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they TREMBLED, and all the hills MOVED LIGHTLY. I beheld, and, lo, there was NO MAN, and all the BIRDS OF THE HEAVENS WERE FLED.

I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a WILDERNESS, and all the CITIES thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by His fierce anger.” (Jeremiah 4:23-26)

It is entirely possible that the evidence that suggests an old earth refers to this period before Adam and Eve. The geological history reveals the earth has spent much of prehistory in cold storage.

Genesis records God saying “let there be light” on the first day, but the light from the sun, moon and stars doesn’t appear until on day four.

Is it possible that the earth pre-existed and that it, and its inhabitants, were destroyed in some pre-Adamic judgment period in a manner similar to the Flood?

There’s nothing in Scripture that says it is impossible.

Isaiah describes the fall of Lucifer this way:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isaiah 14:12)

The timing seems odd. Isaiah seems to imply that Satan is cast from heaven for weakening the nations – yet Satan was already here when Adam was created.

If one reads through Isaiah 14, it is a judgment against Satan for some very specific actions. I’ll synopsize for the sake of space – you can follow along, starting with Isaiah 14:12.

Satan is judged for his five “I wills” in which he speaks out against God. For his sins, he is cast out of heaven, and brought down to hell, not into it, but “to the sides of the pit.”

There, Isaiah says, he was visible to the nations, whom he deceived, where they mock him, saying, “Is this the one that caused all this trouble?”

Satan is then cast ‘out of the grave’ (v 19) and judgment pronounced, “thou shall not be joined with them (presumably those who now mock him) because thou hast destroyed thy land and slain thy people” (v.20)

So, it is at least POSSIBLE that there was something before the Garden that involved Satan, destruction and death.

And there is no doctrinal damage done to either Judaism or Christianity by the acceptance of a chaotic earth theory into prehistory.

Indeed, it sorts out the interpretive problem with there being light four days before there is sunlight. The earth coming out of deep freeze also explains both the Ice Age and the placement of a firmament to “divide the waters”.

It explains the findings from Arctic core samples that suggest the Arctic once supported tropical vegetation. It explains a lot of things.

So, what about the Chaotic Earth Theory – is it true? I don’t know. It could be. So why bring it up? Unlike evolution, the Chaotic Earth Theory could be true and still allow for both a literal interpretation of Scripture and the inclusion of a long geological history.

But I don’t know. It is but a theory. I am presenting it as such, and not as doctrinal truth, so please don’t ask me to defend it.

There is nothing that necessarily argues against it from Scripture and there is plenty of Bible that seems to lean that way, if not necessarily rising to the level of proof text.

I know that we don’t know everything – Paul says that we see through a glass darkly – but I know that the Bible is true.

It says that God created the heavens and the earth. But nowhere does it tell us exactly when.

Featured Commentary: Visiting Hours ~ Wendy Wippel

I Know Whom I Have Believed

I Know Whom I Have Believed
Vol: 155 Issue: 25 Monday, August 25, 2014

According to the Books of Kings, Queen Jezebel was the daughter of a pagan king who led Israel into idolatry.

Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab, who was the first to be corrupted into practicing witchcraft and Baal worship. As Queen, she persecuted God’s prophets to the degree that they were forced to hide in caves.

An ancient seal that surfaced in Israel more than four decades ago belonged to the biblical Queen Jezebel, according to a new study released in 2007 by a Dutch university.

The seal, which some scholars date to the ninth century BCE, was first discovered in 1964 by the Israeli archeologist Nahman Avigad, with the name “Yzbl” inscribed in ancient Hebrew, Utrecht University said.

The seal, which was donated to the Israel Department of Antiquities in the early 1960s by the private Voss-Hahn collection, not only bears symbols that indicate a female owner but also “well-worked” symbols that designate that owner as royalty, Korpel said.

After slaughtering God’s prophets, she was confronted by the prophet Elijah who charged her with abominations.

The Bible says she was eventually thrown to her death from a window, and her corpse was eaten by dogs.

Another team of archeologists from Netherlands and Israel, Drs. Bruins, van der Plicht, and Mazar, examined the ancient site of Tel Rehov near the excavated city of Beit Shean.

Radiocarbon dating connected Rehov to the conquest of the city by Shishak, (Pharoah Shoshenq I) between 940-900 BC.

The Bible says that King Shishak invaded Israel in the fifth year of the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.

The Biblical timeframe would place Solomon’s death at 930 B.C., putting Shishak’s invasion at 925 B.C., exactly within the range of radiocarbon dates (940-900 B.C.) for the destruction of Tel Rehov.

Previous studies had set the destruction of Rehov much later, which would have suggested the Bible’s timeline was wrong.

Turns out the Bible was right, after all.

The same for the ancient kingdom of Edom. Previous excavations suggested the dating of the kingdom of Edom was off by more than 200 years from the Bible’s timeline.

Until Canadian archeologist Russell Adams, along with Thomas Levy of the University of California at San Diego and Mohammad Najjar of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities discovered a monumental tenth century B.C. fortress at a site called Khirbat en-Nahas.

The new finds establish the existence of the Edomite kingdom at the time King David and his son Solomon ruled over Israel.

The Bible wins again.

Bible skeptics claim that much of the Old Testament’s historical accounts of the ancient Hebrew kingdoms contained in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles is largely fiction.

Those who don’t deny outright that there was ever a King David or a King Solomon claim that, at best they were just minor players.

They say that those accounts can’t be accurate because the Hebrews had no written language in the time of David and Solomon.

Until archeologists discovered an inscribed stone embedded into the wall of an extensive collection of buildings in Tel Zayit, about 35 miles southwest of Jerusalem.

The 40-pound stone consisted of two lines of incised letters, representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The stone, dating to the 10th century BC, establishes beyond doubt that a written Hebrew language was already well established at the time the Hebrews were recording the written histories of that time.

In another find, a family seal dating from the fifth century BC confirms the existence of an obscure Jewish family mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah.

A black stone seal with the inscription of the name, “Temech” was found outside the walls of the old city of Jerusalem near the Dung Gate, during a dig headed by archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar.

The discovery of the Temech family seal confirms the existence of an obscure family mentioned in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Most previous archeological digs had only confirmed biblical figures who were well-known kings.

And the discovery of a cuneform tablet dating to 595 BC acknowledges the receipt of about 1.5 lbs of gold from one Nebo-sarsekim in payment to Nebuchadnezzar.

The tablet confirms Nebo-sarsekim as one of the Babylonian officials mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3.

The Exodus from Egypt has long been the skeptic’s favorite Bible story. The skeptics claim the Exodus story is impossible and the Bible dating of the destruction of Jericho was off by two hundred years or more.

But a study by Drs. Hendrik J. Bruins and Johannes van der Plicht and published in the British journal, Nature confirmed the early date of Jericho’s destruction.

Another study, using carbon dating and tree rings found evidence of a volcanic eruption on the Agean island of Thera, dating to 1628 BC, coinciding with the plagues inflicted on Egypt.

Exodus 10:21-22 says,

Then the Lord said to Moses,“Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt. So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days.”

What a ‘coincidence!”

Assessment:

Archeology has long been the skeptic’s ace-in-the-hole when making the claim that the Bible is filled with historical inaccuracies.

Of course, even a single, conclusively proved inaccuracy would completely destroy the central tenet of Judeo-Christianity — the infallibility of Scripture.

A lot of times, when we ask God for something, we tend to ‘hedge our bets’ so to speak, by giving God some kind of ‘out’ by appending their prayer with something like, “if it is Your will.”

God doesn’t need an ‘out’. If we make a request that is within God’s will, we can be certain of an answer.

“And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” (1st John 5:14-15)

The Bible says it isn’t necessary to give God an ‘out’. Jesus told His disciples,

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

If the Bible is proved fallible historically, then how could we know the promises of these verses aren’t equally faulty?

Worse, what about the verse?

“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand.” (John 10:28)

If Jezebel didn’t persecute God’s prophets, if Jericho’s walls didn’t come ‘a-tumblin’ down’, if Moses didn’t call down plagues on Pharoah, if David wasn’t Israel’s greatest king, if Solomon is an historical invention, then the Bible isn’t true, God isn’t real, we came from nothing and we are going nowhere.

That’s why the skeptics are so eager to reach into the distant, unknowable past to find their arguments that the Bible is not relevant today.

The last sixty years have witnessed an explosion of archeological finds in the Holy Land, from the discovery of Beit Shean to the Dead Sea Scrolls to the ossuary of Caiaphas, the Chief Priest of the Sandhedrin who presided over the trial of Jesus Christ.

Every discovery made confirms the Biblical accounts. Those accounts that remain in dispute are not disputed because of archeological finds, but rather, by the lack of them.

Until 1965, it was presumed by “scholars” that Pontius Pilate was a fictional character because no evidence had been uncovered identifying him as Roman procurator in Judea at the time of Christ.

Until a plaque from King Herod dedicating the amphitheater at Ceasarea Phillip to Pontius Pilate was discovered there.

Skeptics keep finding new objections, but they are based in the absence of evidence, rather than evidence that conflicts with the Bible’s account.

Skeptics argue that King David was a Bible myth because nobody has yet uncovered an autographed picture of King David wearing a crown and sitting on his throne.

However, there is no evidence that anybody else occupied David’s throne in Davids’ time. The same applies to King Solomon (despite the existence of the Western Wall of Solomon’s First Temple in Jerusalem).

Whenever archeology DOES find evidence from the Old Testament period, it confirms the Old Testament accounts.

The reason? Because the Bible is true.

Jezebel did sit as Queen of Israel, the Egyptian plague of darkness took place as described, Nebuchadnezzar did conquer Israel, Jericho’s walls did come ‘a tumblin’ down.’

And little details about minor historical personages establish the events to which they were a party.

You can be certain that your Bible is true in every area where its accuracy can be measured. The only ‘unproved’ parts of the Bible are those for which there is no evidence either way.

There are NO disproved parts of the Bible.

That means you can count on its promises. You can be certain of the promise of eternal life. You can trust Jesus, and you can trust the Word of God.

The same Bible that contains such tiny details as the existence of Nebo-sarsekim and Temach also promises believers:

“If ye shall ask any thing in My Name, I will do it.” (John 14:14)

You can trust Him. He means it.

Featured Commentary: “Come and See” ~ Pete Garcia

The Bleach in the Aquarium

The Bleach in the Aquarium
Vol: 155 Issue: 23 Saturday, August 23, 2014

The first sin was Lucifer’s – one could infer from Scripture that the earth itself was created in response to that sin. Our planet is the only one enclosed with an atmosphere that keeps everything tightly locked inside.

Theologians call it the cosmos diabolicus — the ‘devil’s heaven’ — because Satan and his minions were cast out of heaven and into it after the Rebellion.

Genesis 2:8 says the Garden was planted east of Eden, on the banks of a river which then branched out into four riverheads, one of which is the Euphrates. When Adam sinned in open defiance of God, he was put out of the Garden.

If there is one reason that surpasses all others in the pantheon of reasons why Christianity must be true, it is found in the answer to the question, “why is there suffering and death?”

The simplest answer consists of just three words; “Adam and Eve.”

But while the simplest answer might be accurate, it doesn’t satisfy. Ok, Eve was deceived and Adam chose his wife over obedience to God.

The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that Adam was deceived. The serpent deceived Eve. Adam sinned with his eyes wide open. Then when he was caught, he blamed God for giving him the woman in the first place.

“And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” (Genesis 3:12)

Eve was deceived – not much of an excuse. (But it was better than Adam’s.)

It was a tough call on God’s part. He set the bar for disobedience rather high:

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)

Despite eating from the tree, Adam and Eve didn’t suddenly drop over dead. Genesis 2:17 in the original language reads, “dying thou shalt surely die.”

The penalty was not instant death, it was the imposition of death. Until the Fall, death had not entered into the world. The Bible does not say how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden after Creation.

It says only that the Fall took place at some time after the Seventh Day. It could have been the Eighth Day, or it could have been years, decades, centuries or millennia.

Until the Fall, the law of entropy was suspended as far as Adam was concerned. It is the law of entropy that says that with the passage of time, all things age, decay, collapse and die.

That is what the entry of sin into the world signifies. The imposition of natural law — like the one that says for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction.

In our universe, life cannot exist apart from death – a plant is alive; a rock is not. The definition of life is “that which can die.”

That is how the universe – and everything in it — is constructed. A battery has two poles – one positive and one negative. Both are necessary for there to be power.

Whether or not that power is positive or negative depends on the perspective of those affected by that power. Apart from the perspective of human beings, any action or reaction is neutral.

If the earth were to suddenly break free from its orbit and crash into the sun, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

Wouldn’t that call depend on the existence of people? If there were no people to either be affected or serve as eyewitnesses, what difference could it make?

Imagine an empty aquarium. It is filled with crystal clear water at precisely the right temperature. The pump is turned on, the aquarium decorated with festive colored rocks, fake sea plants, etc.

(It’s your imaginary aquarium, make it as nice as you want – but empty.)

Since it is empty, would it matter in any discernible way if somebody added a cup of bleach? The aquarium would be clean and sterile – a good thing – if you were going to drink it.

But from the perspective of a fish about to be dropped into it, not so good, since the second it hits the water, “dying, it shalt surely die.”

Sin is the cup of bleach in the aquarium.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

In commemoration of Easter, Pope Benedict broke with tradition and took selected questions from the public, one of which cited the destruction of Japan and asking why God allows such suffering?

The Pope’s answer was accurate as far as it went:

“. . . he too wondered why so many innocent people suffer, but that she should take heart in knowing that Jesus had suffered too.”

The answer seemed so clichéd and unsatisfactory that it kept rattling around in my head all through Easter weekend. It being Easter weekend, the Passion and the Cross was heavy on my mind, but like most Christians, my focus was on the Resurrection and all that it means.

But I thought about those people in Japan who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and the horror of the last minutes of their lives as they were swept out to sea and the terror with which their lives came to an end.

And of the suffering of those that survived the tsunami only to suffer the incredible cold, deprivation and hardship that followed. The thought triggered more meditation on suffering and death and the wages of sin.

Somehow, all this random meditation came together and hit me between the eyes with a profound thump.

The wages of sin is death. That seems simple enough. Our personal sin earns eternal death in the form of separation from God for eternity in the place prepared for Satan and his angels.

But death in general is the wages earned by sin in general. Not necessarily yours or mine, but corporately.

Yours, mine, the oil companies’, Obama’s, the owner of your local landfill, the mailman’s, Moammar Ghadaffi’s, and everybody else’s — all because of the bleach in the aquarium.

If the wages of sin is death, then Jesus could have paid the penalty due for the sins of mankind without the beatings, the Crown of Thorns, the scourging, the bearing of the Cross, His Crucifixion and His six hours of final agony impaled by the nails.

A life of perfect obedience to God that ended with His unjust conviction and a quick and simple execution would have seemingly satisfied the demands of justice. Why did He have to suffer so much?

Because of the wages of sin. The wages of sin demand that we all die. That seems fair.

But some sinners die peacefully in their sleep – others in terror; swept out to sea, crushed under a building, buried in a mine – the tsunami swept away the righteous and unrighteous alike.

Jesus satisfied the wages of sin with His death – and with the manner of His death. So that nobody could logically argue, “Why me, Lord?” to the One standing there with the nail prints in His Hands.

What an awesome Savior! How could it not be true?

Featured Commentary: A Last Look ~ Gale I. Ware