When Is Too Late Too Late?

When Is Too Late Too Late?
Vol: 166 Issue: 23 Thursday, July 23, 2015

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

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

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

So here goes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow along in chronological order. 

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

Originally Published: August 26, 2013

Featured Commentary: The First Murder ~ J.L. Robb

”Remember That I Told You”

”Remember That I Told You”
Vol: 166 Issue: 22 Wednesday, July 22, 2015

”Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2nd Peter 3:3-4)

Peter begins his outline of the last days saying, “Knowing this first” – giving notice that what we are about to read is a principle point the Lord wants us to get.

“There shall come in the last days scoffers. . .” 

Literally, it reads, “in the last of days.”  The times referred to are those immediately preceding the Return of Christ, which also serves to introduce the fact that there is an age to come.

“Scoffers” (Gk.empaiktes) can also mean a false teacher or a mocker “walking after their own lusts.”   The reference to the scoffers ‘walking after their own lusts’ is more than simply a phrase.

All sinners walk after their own lusts. So the lustful life and the scoffing voice are not associated here without purpose.

These scoffers and false teachers openly stand in direct opposition to God’s Word, but not as wolves in sheep’s clothing, but walking openly as wolves.   The masks are dropped – they don’t even pretend anymore.

“Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of Creation.”  

First off, note the question, “Where is?” – by implication the answer is “nowhere” – the Promise has, they imply, passed away and disappeared.  The second thing to notice is the question itself.  It shows how familiar the early Church was with the Promise of His return.

There are those that argue that the Rapture is of recent origin – something that was invented by J.N. Darby or Margaret MacDonald or C.I. Scofield.  But as a doctrine, it was actually invented by Jesus Christ and propagated by the Apostles Peter and Paul.

The scoffers here are referring to the promise given to “the fathers” before they ‘fell asleep’ or died.  They were expecting the fulfillment of the promise given in the Gospels and especially that given by two angels to the Apostles and recorded in Acts 1:11:

“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.”

The first generation of Christians believed the Lord could, and probably would, return for them in their lifetime – that’s what 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-12 is all about.  The scoffers were mocking those believers that were still looking up.

The implication here is that the scoffers knew Christ had not come because they expected to know when He did.

Peter notes in his rebuttal that the scoffers were willingly ignorant  (that is to say, they knew the truth but preferred the lie), of the fact that the world that once was had perished in the flood.  Therefore the statement that all things continued as they did from creation is not true.

Moreover, Peter says, the same Word of God that caused the world to overflow with water and perish is the Word that promises His return.  Peter goes on to explain to the scoffers why the Lord has not yet returned.  He is holding out until the very last convert.

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

I’ve heard uncounted interpretations of the ‘day equals a thousand years’ reference.  Peter is restating a fact from Psalms 90:4.

“For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”

It could be interpreted as a reference to the eternal nature of God, Who exists outside of time and space in a state of ever-present ‘now’- and to Whom the passage of a thousand years is nothing.

Or it could be interpreted as a reference to the six days of Creation and the six thousand year reign of man. On the seventh day of Creation, God rested.

In this view, the Thousand Year Millennial Kingdom that follows the Tribulation begins with the dawn of the seven thousandth year since Creation.   This view finds some support from the prophecy of Hosea 6:2;

“After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.”

Israel was scattered into the Diaspora almost two thousand years ago (two ‘days’).   It was restored physically in 1948 but has yet to be fully redeemed.

Zechariah predicts the national redemption of Israel at the Second Coming, Revelation promises a thousand-year reign of Israel’s Messiah.

Assessment:

The scoffers of whom Peter speaks are primarily believers.  Peter speaks of their being “willingly ignorant.”  They prefer the lie because they fear the truth.

The willing ignorance of the last days is amply demonstrated in those churches where Bible prophecy is categorized somewhere between exorcism and faith-healing in terms of doctrinal importance.

Part of the reason is because they don’t understand it. But the main reason, I believe, is because it scares them.

It’s depressing.  For many Christians, Bible prophecy is darkness and gloom and fear and catastrophe.  Well, maybe.   But so is our human existence.

Life isn’t all darkness and gloom, of course, but neither is Bible prophecy.  Rationally, there is no more reason to fear what will happen to the world at the end than there is to fear what will happen to me at my end.

After all, when I die, I will be as dead as I can get. I won’t be any deader whether I go alone or if I go in a blinding nuclear flash.  But according to the Scriptures, the moment that I die I will be present with the Lord.

If the Rapture happens before I die, then I will get to skip the dying process and go straight into the Lord’s presence, body and soul.

The Bible offers but two possible alternative fates for a Christian in the last days. Either I die and go to heaven. Or I just go straight to heaven.

There is no third option, so what is there about Bible prophecy that should be scary?

Unfolding Bible prophecy provides a glimpse into the mindset of the Apostle Paul as he awaited his execution in Rome.

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Timothy 2:1:12)

Paul knew what was coming after Nero’s axe fell, so Paul had no fear of the axe itself.

Bible prophecy is like that.  Watching Bible prophecy unfold with such precision and attention to detail reassures us that it isn’t the axe that is important, but what comes afterwards.

Bible prophecy is instead hard evidence that the One ‘Whom I have believed’ remains as firmly in control of world events as He has proved to be in my personal life, “which I have committed unto Him against that day” and that, in Paul’s words, “He is able to keep it . . .against that day.”

Understanding the Big Picture opens the door to an entirely new outlook on unfolding Bible prophecy. Scoffers fear it because they don’t understand it. Put into proper perspective, Bible prophecy is proof positive that the Lord remains just as firmly in control of world events as He is of whether or not you get a raise or a new job.

Bible prophecy is an antidote to depression and fear.  It is an affirmation of faith from the One in Whom we have believed, are reminder of the Promise.  It is why Jesus gave us prophecy.   It isn’t a parlor trick to use to amaze our friends.

It is a retainer on the Promise.  In this generation, we live in an age of miracles. There appears that there is nothing that science won’t be able to accomplish eventually, thanks to the advent of computers.

It is incontrovertible evidence that cannot be shaken by modern scientific ‘miracles’.  When the skeptic argues for evolution and random selection, trotting out fossils, skeletons and diagrams, it seems pretty convincing.  Especially since modern science can replicate almost any miracle.

Except one.

Mankind cannot predict the future. It simply can’t be done. No computer could calculate every detail of every life in advance, which is what would be necessary. Should one person do something unexpected then the whole course of future history would change.

The Bible gives a single explanation for a fluid, changeable series of events predicted to happen thousands of years in the future — the events that define our present day.

The skeptic has multiple explanations for static events that have already happened.  Which is more convincing?

Bible prophecy proves Jesus was the Son of God, regardless of the latest scientific, archeological or historical discovery. No matter what else might be offered as ‘evidence’ to the contrary, there is no other explanation for Bible prophecy.

It is our generation’s unique miracle.

Bible prophecy was given to the Church in the last days for the same reason that the Apostles were given miracles, signs and wonders following Pentecost.

To demonstrate the power of God. To establish the authority to forgive sins. To herald when the time of His soon return is near. To remind us of the Promise.

“But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:4)

We remember, Lord.

The Rapture: Why?

The Rapture: Why?
Vol: 166 Issue: 21 Tuesday, July 21, 2015

”These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

According to the editors of the “World Christian Encyclopedia“: A comparative survey of churches and religions – AD 30 to 2200,” there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones.

For eighteen of the world’s major religions and its 270 sub-divisions, the concept of the sudden and instantaneous translation of millions of adherents from one form of existence into the next is completely unheard of.

It is even a controversial doctrine within Christianity. There are entire huge subdivisions, or denominations within Christianity that totally dismiss the concept of the Rapture.  

I found a column at the appropriately-named AgainstDispensationalism.com that argues belief in the Rapture is little more than “The Arrogance of the West.”  I chose that column to highlight because it is a shining example of why the Rapture is so controversial. 

To Jerry Johnson, the president of something called the Nicene Council, the Rapture is “paperback” theology and a recent theological concoction never taught by the ‘historic church’. 

(For context, the ‘historic church’ would be the one that embraces replacement theology. And my Bible is paperback).

Notes Johnson: “One is hard pressed to think that all of the great minds from St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that though they had read I Thessalonians 4 failed to understand the important teaching of a pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture.”

Then he lashes out with his best, Sunday punch.

“Pre-tribulation rapture theology is at its foundation conceited!”  

This is the main objection to the doctrine of the Rapture – the misconception that the Rapture is a Great Escape.  Why should Christians escape the Great Tribulation while others do not? 

“It’s unfair and God isn’t unfair.”

One wonders if they find it equally unfair that some go to heaven and others go to hell.  My bet is that some do, but others don’t.  (But all would agree that Hitler shouldn’t go to heaven.)

That’s why God is God and theologians are not.

Assessment:

As noted, no other religion has anything resembling a Rapture doctrine, including whatever ‘historic church’ Jerry Johnson was referring to.  So where did it come from and why is it there?

The first thing anybody does when trying to answer that question is to hopelessly complicate the issue so that whatever answer they come up with, it is practically impossible to decipher. 

If you take enough verses from different places throughout the Bible, you can make a case for a Rapture, against a Rapture, for pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, amillennial, premillenial, or post millennial, with or without a 1000 year Kingdom.

I know that to be true because there are scholars that adhere to each and every one of those positions (which is why they have names for them) and I refuse to believe that they hold those positions without some kind of Scripture to hang them on.

If one sees the purpose of the Rapture as a “Great Escape” then it is easy to take verses from all over the Bible to refute it.  Not because the Rapture is a false doctrine.  

But because that isn’t the purpose of the Rapture. Knowing why provides valuable clues as to when and how.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ promised His disciples that when He ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would come upon them and indwell them and empower them.  That indwelling Power would come upon and indwell all who believed.

Jesus called Him the Comforter.  Jesus promised that He would abide with me forever.  

Let’s examine the simplest questions first.

What does it mean when Jesus Christ makes a promise to the Church? Is it reliable? What does “forever” mean?  Is there a time constraint on forever? When would forever run out?  Does abide forever mean “abide forever for every generation but one?”

Houston, we have a problem. According to my paperback theology, the Comforter is:

“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”  (John 14:7)

So, the Comforter is the Spirit of Truth and He indwells me.  That’s what my paperback theology teaches me.  Then comes Part Two of the paperback Promise.

“I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

So how to resolve this obvious “contradiction” in Scripture?  There is only one way.  The Holy Spirit continues in indwell me throughout the Tribulation Period.  Therefore, by the authority of the Word of God, specifically, 1st John 4:4, “Greater is He (the indwelling Holy Spirit) than he that is in the world.”  

Since the indwelling Holy Spirit is greater and since He will not leave or forsake me during the Tribulation, it is not possible for the antichrist to overcome my indwelling Spirit and pledge allegiance to him. 

But that contradicts Revelation 13:7 which says that he can. And it’s not a little contradiction, either.

For the antichrist to overcome an indwelt child of the Living God, he must defeat the Indweller.  Unless the Holy Spirit no longer indwells me.  And if He doesn’t, did He ever? 

And if He did, where did He go? And how did He do that without breaking Jesus promise not to leave me Comfortless?  The Tribulation is, after all, the time of greatest spiritual trial in all of human history. 

And although every generation, from those thrown to the lions to those being massacred today in Iraq, have the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit, during the Tribulation I will be Comfortless? 

How does that work?  If the Rapture is a Great Escape from Tribulation for Christians, then wouldn’t the opposite be when Christians suddenly have the Comforter ripped from them just when He is most needed?  

And if I am still indwelt, then what is the purpose in sealing the Jews of Revelation 7 with the Holy Spirit so they can share the Gospel?  What’s wrong with using me?  Isn’t that my job since the Great Commission?

Here’s the Rapture narrative in summary. The Age of Grace began at Pentecost with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Age of Grace concludes at the Rapture with the withdrawal of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Promise to the Church is kept precisely as it was given by the Lord Himself.  

Now, if one really works at it, one can find creative ways to portray the Rapture as the Great Escape and from there, all kinds of creative ways to dismiss it as paperback theology.   

But the simplest answer is still the only one that makes sense.

Originally Published: November 13, 2010

Featured Commentary: Still in the Dark ~ Wendy Wippel

The ‘Jetsons’ Was Fiction??

The ‘Jetsons’ Was Fiction??
Vol: 166 Issue: 20 Monday, July 20, 2015

When I was a kid, the 21st century loomed large as a bright and shiny future world where wars would be abolished, the world would all be one big happy family, and we’d all talk on videophones and drive to work in flying cars.

I anticipated it being a lot like it was pictured on “The Jetsons” — and in some ways, it is. Jane Jetson would dial in a number and food would pop out seconds later, hot, already on plates and ready to eat.

In my world, Gayle dials a number and a guy shows up twenty minutes later with a (cold) pizza or some (cold) Chinese food. Then she puts it in a little box on the counter, dials a number, and a few seconds later, its hot and ready to eat.

Alternatively, she can take a five-course meal from the freezer to the microwave to the table, (hot and already on plates) in under ten minutes — and all without breaking a nail.

I was pretty disappointed about the flying cars, at first. A lifetime of freeway travel cured me of any lingering disappointment, however. We’re still not that good at driving in two dimensions. We could build ’em, but we still haven’t solved the whole gravity problem. And what goes up, must come down.

As for videophones, it sounded like a great idea, and it looked cool on the Jetsons. But who wants to have to get dressed up to talk on the phone?

That was my view of the future from my vantage point on the timeline, circa 1962 or so. The future would be peaceful, productive and pleasant. I was only looking ahead half a lifetime, but I couldn’t have been more spectacularly wrong.

Not only are there no flying cars, there is no peace.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, and with it, the Cold War. It looked like peace was about to break out all over. The West no longer had to spend billions each year to maintain the arms race with the Soviets. The question of the decade became, “What should we do with the peace dividend?”

Turns out that the answer was, “Buy more guns,” but we didn’t find that out until after we spent all the money.

The big story on New Year’s Day, 2001, wasn’t peace on earth, good will toward men. The 21st century opened with the arrest of Ahmed Ressam, nicknamed, “The Millennium Bomber” who was part of a plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport.

The September 11 attacks sparked, (depending on whom you ask) either the war on terror, or a new world war.

In addition to the assymetrical war being waged by the terrorists on every continent, there are major civil, regional and national conflicts raging across the globe.

Places like Afghanistan, Algeria, the Central African Republic, Eygpt, Burma, Colombia, the Congo, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Georgia, Kashmir, Lebanon, Liberia, Nepal, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda.

In addition to ‘major’ conflicts (those involving more than one nation or in which more than 1000 people have lost their lives), there are minor conflicts (defined as those confined to one or two nations, but with little potential of spreading to neighboring states).

Among them, Angola, the Bougainville War of Independence, Bangladesh, Chad, Indonesia, West Papua, New Guinea, Iran, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, the Kurdish separatist movements in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Namibia, Niger, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen and the list is growing.

There are dozens of other factional conflicts taking place that either aren’t big enough to make the list, or are taking place in countries already on the list for some other conflict or war.

Assessment:

“And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)

Notice a number of things about this verse before we move on. First, it gives us a geographic perspective to work from. Jesus is describing events as they would be seen from the perspective of Israel.

Secondly, His questioners were not Christians, they were Jews. The Church was not born until Pentecost.

Third, they wanted to know ‘when’ and fourth, they wanted to know ‘what’.

And, finally, notice that the question does not deal with the Rapture, which is the conclusion of the Church age, but rather, with the 2nd Coming and the end of the world under human government.

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6)

He is addressing the Jews of Israel, from the perspective of Israel. Israel has fought five bloody wars of survival, and has been under constant threat of war since she first raised her flag on May 14, 1948.

The very existence of Israel qualifies as a ‘rumor of war’. But then Jesus expands the picture beyond Israel’s borders:

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” (Matthew 24:7)

The word ‘nation’ in Matthew 24:7 is the Greek word, ‘ethnos’ meaning, ‘race, tribe or ethnicity.’ Algeria, the Basques, Burma, Burundi, Congo, India, Iraq, Georgia, Liberia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Uganda are ethnic wars.

The word ‘kingdom’ is the Greek ‘baselia’ meaning either “kingdom” or “empire”. Those wars on the list that aren’t ethnic conflicts are either religious or they are international.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia is empire driven. America’s invasion of Iraq could also be portrayed as empire building (only we call it ‘nation’ building) But there are two kinds of empires; political empires, and religious empires.

The word ’emirate’ means ’empire’ and ’emir’ is the equivalent to emperor. So too, does the Islamic caliphate. A ‘Caliphate’ is an Islamic empire — the last Islamic caliphate was the Ottoman Empire.

Jesus went on to say, “All these are the beginnings of sorrows.” “Sorrow” is a euphemism for the labor associated with childbirth. (Genesis 3:16 – “in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. . .”)

So the ‘beginnings of sorrows’ suggest that, once begun, the ‘sorrows’ will increase in frequency and intensity as the time of deliverance approaches.

Wars have always been part of the human condition, that’s true. But remember that Jesus said that the Jews of Israel would hear of them from the Mount of Olives.

From AD 70 through 1948, there was no Israel, no Jews on the Mount of Olives, and no international media. But to the fig-tree generation living in the 21st century, any war is headline news.

“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till ALL these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:32-34)

The generation that ‘shall not pass’? It turned sixty-seven years old on May 14, 2015.

Originally Published: August 13, 2008

Featured Commentary: The Fullness of the Gentiles ~ Pete Garcia

A Parable

A Parable
Vol: 166 Issue: 18 Saturday, July 18, 2015

You wake up one morning and find a guy camping out in your back yard. You go out and ask him what the heck he thinks he’s doing there and he says he used to live in your house before he lost it to back taxes.

You bought the house from a realtor at fair market value and didn’t know about the tax foreclosure, but now this is your house and he’ll have to go find somewhere else to set up camp.

The next morning, you get up to find the guy has moved his whole family into your backyard and refuses to leave. But you’re a compassionate sort — you’ve gone through hard times yourself, and you find yourself in empathy with the guy.

You don’t need the whole backyard, but you don’t want to get locked into anything, either. So you just go about your daily business and let the people in your backyard go about theirs.

Until one day you come home and find them sitting in your living room watching TV. Well, it’s raining out, and they are watching your favorite TV show, so you don’t throw them out, but you don’t necessarily welcome them, either. Maybe they’ll get the idea on their own.

Next morning, you get up and find yourself standing in a line to get to your bathroom. “Enough is enough,” you bellow. “Everybody out!”

Later, the head of the family in the back yard comes to you and says, “As far as we are concerned, this is our house. Our family lived here for generations before you bought it, and we want it back. We’ll let you have the master bedroom and part of the living room, but the kitchen is ours.”

Well, until they came, you lived alone, and you find you kind of like the company. But you draw the line at giving up the kitchen — as a professional chef, (it’s a parable, I can make up anything I want) the kitchen is the center of your home.

So you strike a bargain in which you have access to the kitchen, under supervision, for certain agreed-upon periods during the day.

However, they insist, you must pay all the bills for maintaining the house and pay for all the food. You finally hammer out an equitable agreement in which they agree to keep up the property in exchange for your footing the bills.

It isn’t a perfect agreement, but you can afford it, they are dirt-poor, and you don’t have time to do all the work yourself anyway.

So you pay the bills, the squatters take over your house, but they trash every room they take over. While you agreed to share the living room, its such a pig-sty that you just give it over to them and start spending most of your time in your bedroom.

The last straw comes when you go to the kitchen as per your agreed-upon hours and are forbidden entry. This is the very last of the last straws. You toss everybody out of the house and lock all the doors.

In response, they go on a rampage in your back yard, burning your toolshed, digging up all your flowers, and chanting threats that your house is next. Exasperated, you call in the law.

Turns out the policeman is the squatter’s brother-in-law so he refuses to evict them from your yard. So you take it to court.

The judge, (who turns out to be the squatter’s cousin) rules that since you let them squat in your yard, they have a proprietary interest so, they can stay in your backyard, but not in your house.

You don’t think the verdict is fair, but you are a law-abiding sort, so you surrender your backyard and try to negotiate an agreement whereby you can cross ‘their’ territory to get to your lawn mower and garden tools.

You finally work out a deal where you can go get your lawn tools, but in exchange, you have to cut their grass, too. The first time you try to go get it, they won’t let you through unless you give them bathroom privileges.

It seems reasonable; you aren’t in the bathroom all the time anyway, and they have to go somewhere, so you agree and they let you pass. You finish cutting the grass and there they are back in the living room watching TV.

You throw them back out and they start throwing rocks through your window. You call the police and the same brother-in-law shows up and begins making excuses for them. Exasperated again, you take them to court.

The (judge who is a cousin) rules that since you agreed to the bathroom deal, what’s so bad about them watching a little TV once in awhile?

He refuses to evict them from your yard, and includes the bathroom sharing arrangement as part of the formal deal.

When you ask for damages for the broken windows, they are refused on the grounds it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t locked them out.

Now, you can’t get to your lawn tools without making a new concession every time you go there, so you decide to just close off the back yard and let them wade through the field of their own making.

You put up a privacy fence to separate ‘their’ part of the yard from yours, leaving a little gate they can come through to use the shared bathroom. Next thing you know, they start lobbing paint filled balloons over the fence at your house. From the bathroom, they toss paint balloons down the hall and into your living room.

You call the police, get the same brother-in-law who again sides with the squatters in the back yard. So you go to court, where the judge orders you to take down the fence. Convinced you are getting a raw deal, you refuse. The judge says, “Then don’t come complaining to me if they retaliate because of your fence.”

“But,” you protest, “the only reason for putting up the fence is to prevent them from attacking my house.”

“Not my problem,” says the judge. “You should have thought of that when you threw them out of their own house that they’ve lived in for generations.”

“But I bought it from a realtor. I have a deed,” you protest.

“It’s because of that deed that I let you live in the house instead of the backyard,” the judge says.

“But this court can’t totally ignore the fact they lived there for generations before you took possession,” noting, “when you moved in, you agreed to let them stay. Now it is up to the two sides to work out an equitable sharing arrangement.”

The judge bangs his gavel, then says to you, “Oh, and cut the grass. Your yard is an eyesore.”

You leave the courtroom, understandably stunned. You bought the house fair and square — and nobody is disputing it. You’ve got the documents to prove it. But despite that, neither the squatters, the police nor the judge recognize your right to sole occupation. And every effort to explain the sharing arrangement puts them in a stronger legal position.

You should have just tossed the guy out on his ear the day he set up camp in your yard.

Now, you’re stuck with the situation as it has evolved; outnumbered in your own house; the police and courts are openly hostile to your claims.

And no matter what the terms of the original agreement was, you know they are only going to uphold one side’s obligations under any agreement — and it isn’t your side.

So one day, having had enough, you pick up a club (because you are outnumbered) and charge over there to have it out with them. This time, the police blame you for an unprovoked attack.

The court awards them damages in the form of full legal title to your back yard.

The war goes on, back and forth, between you and the squatters who now own your backyard up to the fence, with the squatters claiming the entire back yard and still complaining that the gate makes it too hard for them to exercise their right to the shared bathroom.

You finally lock them out of the bathroom. Your neighbors, sick of the commotion (and all former neighbors of the squatters in the back yard) band together into a neighborhood association aimed at driving you out of the neighborhood.

They sign petitions demanding you move away. They complain your privacy fence is an eyesore. Your house is ugly and paint-spattered, your back yard is a mess and there are people living in tents when they should be living inside a house and they blame YOU for their pitiful situation.

A few pretend to be your friends, but at the same time, you know that they are sneaking paint and balloons into your back yard for the squatters to throw at you.

But at least they are not at the moment openly attacking the front of your house from their side of the street, so you pretend back and try not to antagonize them.

Assessment:

It has all the makings of a plot line for a Stephen King novel or a nightmare of the sort brought on by a late night snack of double anchovy pizza washed down by a cold glass of milk.

Instead it is a thinly disguised parable about Israel and the Palestinians. The Arab ‘Palestinians’ had lived in the region for four hundred years as subjects of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Title passed from the Ottoman Empire to the British when the British captured Jerusalem during the First World War.

Britain was granted legal title under the British Mandate, and Israel came into legal possession of that title to its’ ‘house’ in 1948 when it was recognized as an independent state by the United Nations in 1948.

The new title holder, Israel, did not take the title away from the Arab occupants. The British did that. Israel took possession of the land from the British. Israel’s Arab neighbors attacked openly five times, were defeated five times, and now quietly arm the Palestinians for war while claiming to be negotiators for peace.

The UN has ruled in favor of the Palestinians in every dispute that has come before it, including many as ridiculously one-sided as those in my parable.

The Arab-controlled UN General Assembly has never passed a resolution condemning a single Arab action, but has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than all the rest of the world’s serial human rights abusers combined.

The Palestinian claim to Israel is as thin as the squatter’s claim in the parable, and the behavior of the squatters in the back yard is instantly recognizable as mirroring the various Palestinian intifadas over issues like sharing Jerusalem and refusing Jewish access to the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount is the heart of Israel’s religious existence. Without it, it would be like the home of a professional chef without a kitchen.

And Jerusalem is Israel’s ancient, God-given and Divinely restored capital. For the Jews, demanding a share of Jerusalem would be like demanding a share of one’s living room.

(Neat how I worked those in, no?)

In 2007, The Palestinians announced a tentative date for their meeting with Ehud Olmert in Annapolis, Maryland. PA President Mahmoud Abbas made the announcement, adding a warning that, “unless ALL the issues at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are solved, violence will break out anew,” reported the Jerusalem Post.

As in our parable, the police and judge in this case are all related, so there was no outcry from them when the squatters threatened to attack, even though they had no claim to the shared living room (Jerusalem) and reneged on the deal to share the kitchen (Temple Mount).

And like the bewildered homeowner, Israel reacted to the threats with a statement from Ehud Olmert promising to try harder, only to be met with a demand for even more from the other side.

According to the Jerusalem Post there was the promise. . .

“Israel Radio later quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying that he would make a “great effort” to ensure that the conference becomes a first step towards peace. Olmert said it was imperative to avoid making excuses and to venture forward in negotiations despite the risks involved. . .

. . . followed by the new demand:

Meanwhile, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei, said Tuesday there would be no talks with Israel unless a deadline was set for establishing a Palestinian state.

Our parable has a nightmarish-like relentless quality to it — like running down a long hallway and the faster you run, the longer it gets. You go to the cops, its the enemy’s brother-in-law. The only judge is a first cousin. All the rules seem to work in reverse, and always against you, even when it is patently obvious — like in a bad dream.

What used to be your back yard, bought and paid for (in Israel’s case, in blood during the Six-Days War) is now behind a fence erected to protect what is left of Israel’s homeland. The judge [the UN] sides with the Palestinian demands that the fence come down ‘as a condition of peace’ when the only reason FOR the fence is to KEEP the peace — by keeping out Palestinian terrorists.

In the real world, you just couldn’t make something like this up from scratch. If you did, it would have that same surreal, dreamlike quality to it that our parable does.

It is hard to imagine an institution as corrupt as the one represented by the police and judge of the parable, and even harder to imagine rulings that one-sided being handed down by any legal authority.

Yet the UN and General Assembly’s record is so one-sided and biased against Israel that you probably suspected the parable was about Israel and the UN long before I told you.

The point is, you couldn’t make this up — in any other context, it is too unbelievable to make sense. I hope that I am telegraphing my next point — it means you’re seeing the Big Picture — if you can’t make stuff like this up, how hard is it to accurately predict it, in detail, thousands of years in advance?

Look how many predictions we’re talking about, all coming together at the same time, to paint an otherwise impossible Big Picture:

First, the Bible predicted the restoration of Israel — the exact same piece of geography to the same ethnic group, to be called by the prophesied name of “Israel.” This is an event unparalleled in the history of human civilization.

At the time in which the prophets spoke of a restored nation of Israel, that nation had already been destroyed by the Assyrians a generation before. It would not exist again for 2500 years.

But when it was restored, the Bible said, it would be restored geographically, ethnically and religiously, and its scattered citizens would return with their ancient customs, traditions, language and religion intact.

By itself, that is an amazing prophecy, made even more amazing by its fulfillment in our generation.

Second, the Bible predicted Jerusalem would return to Israeli possession. That was even considered an impossible prophecy during the modern era.

The UN Partition Plan called for making Jerusalem an ‘international city.’

From 1948 to 1967, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount part of Jordan. But in 1967, both fell under Israeli sovereignty for the first time in twenty-five hundred years, precisely as prophesied.

Third, the Bible predicted that Israeli possession of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem would become the central flashpoint of global politics, with the Prophet Zechariah predicting the whole world would become obsessed, as if drunken, over the question of who owns Jerusalem.

Fourth, all the prophets predict that Israel will, in the end, stand alone and friendless against the entire world in their claim for both the city and the Temple Mount.

Israel is the only genuine representative Western-style democracy amid a sea of radical Islamic dictatorships in the midst of what amounts to a war between radical Islam and Western society. Israel’s enemies are equally the enemies of the Western world.

But the Western world consistently (and, given the whole ‘war’ thingy, inexplicably) sides against Israel and with its shared radical Islamic enemy.

When asked, most can’t quite explain why. It just seems like the right thing to do.

Western government spokesmen mumble something about ‘Palestinian victimization’ by the Israeli ‘occupation’ == but when pressed, can’t identify the actual victimizer nor explain what Palestinian territory Israel is actually ‘occupying’.

And they know that any Palestinian state created out of the current population will be a terrorist state and whatever weapons they send them to ‘defeat’ the Zionist occupiers will later be turned on them.

But they don’t seem able to help themselves. It doesn’t make any sense, even when you try to explain it logically.

But the Bible PREDICTED it. Look at the layers of predictions that all depended upon one another in order to project the Big Picture we see before us. The picture we see is the one the Bible prophets foresaw and foretold.

Had the Arabs accepted the 1947 Partition plan, the Bible’s predictions would have failed. Had the Israelis not recaptured the Old City and Temple in ’67, the Bible’s predictions would have failed.

If the Western world sided with Israel as its natural, Western democratic natural ally, (which is also the most logical scenario) the Big Picture would be unrecognizably altered and Bible prophecy would fail.

These are all predictions recorded thousands of years in advance, and puzzled over by every generation to study them in the centuries since. Had any of them failed, the Big Picture we see would not be the one that they, or we, expected.

But here it is, in all its splendiforus gloriousness — undeniable evidence of both the accuracy of Bible prophecy and reality of a Creator God Whose foretold Plan of the Ages is coming together before our very eyes!

But the top-rated television program on cable last Sunday night wasn’t, “The King Is Coming,” or, “Prepare to Meet Thy God.”

The top-rated show on cable last Lord’s Day was the History Channel’s, “The Lost Book of Nostradamus.” Which is the fulfillment of yet another Bible prophecy:

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2nd Timothy 3:7)

Sola Fide

Sola Fide
Vol: 166 Issue: 17 Friday, July 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire.” (1st Corinthians 3:13-15)

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

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

Scripture promises;

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

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

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

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

Originally Published: December 30, 2005

Featured Commentary: ISIS Mimics Israel ~ Alf Cengia

”Judas Hanged Himself — Thou Do Likewise”

”Judas Hanged Himself — Thou Do Likewise”
Vol: 166 Issue: 16 Thursday, July 16, 2015

”God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: Hat He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)

“If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” (Jeremiah 18:8)

So, which is it?

God says of Himself that He isn’t a man, that He should “repent” which means to ‘change His mind.’  But then He says he will repent of a decision in response to the actions of man.  Is God indecisive? 

It seems rather a difficult character defect to ascribe to an all-powerful and all-knowing God without having to demote Him to really powerful and really knowledgeable.  (Instead, they are actually attributes of the Enemy)

The word translated ‘repent’ is much richer in its understanding in Hebrew or Greek than it is by the time it makes it to English.  It implies a complete change of mind from one thing to another in which the two positions are mutually exclusive, rather than simply meaning any old change of thinking.

When a person repents of his sin and surrenders to Christ, what takes place is that person’s core worldview undergoes a fundamental reversal.   A repentent believer understands that he deserves to go to hell. 

A repentent believer knows that his salvation cannot be attained or secured based on one’s own good works or righteous behavior, but is the product of the grace of God obtained by faith and secured by the righteousness of Christ.

By nature and definition, God is all-knowing.  For God to repent suggests that God either made a mistake, which is impossible, or didn’t foresee events that subsequently caused Him to change His mind.  

The Bible lists thirty-one different times in which it says God does repent.  It would take too long to list them all, but a few examples in which it appears God did change His mind include:

“And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:7)

“And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” (Exodus 32:14)

“If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent Me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.”(Jeremiah 26:3)

God says He doesn’t repent.  He also says He doesn’t lie.  

It is a conundrum.

Assessment:

“For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)

Is the Bible true?  How can it be with this seemingly impossible contradiction?  God says He doesn’t lie and doesn’t repent and then He goes ahead and repents thirty-one times.  How can both be simultaneously true?  

God’s holiness is unchanging.  Consequently, it requires Him to treat the wicked differently from the righteous.  When the righteous become wicked, His treatment of them must change.  

For example, America was once among the most righteous of the nations, and simultaneously, the most blessed among the nations.

Most of our blessings have soured as America moved further and further from acknowledging God as the Creator and Guarantor of our rights and freedoms.  God didn’t change.  We did.

By way of analogy, the sun doesn’t ‘change its mind’ when it hardens clary while softening wax.  The sun is the same and so is the effect — the sun will always harden clay and it will always soften wax.  

It is the wax and the clay that differ, not the effect of the sun.  God is unchanging in His eternal plan — the changes are from the perspective of the changed:

“Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:” (Ephesians 1:9-10)

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Titus 1:2)

“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2nd Peter 3:9)

God is immutable, but that is not the same as being immobile.  The plan remains unchanged.  God’s ‘repentance’ involves the execution — while working within the confines of space and time — of purposes eternally existing in the mind of God.  

The execution of that plan necessarily involves human beings, which necessarily involve free will, which requires God to make adjustments.  Are these adjustments unforeseen?  Was God taken by surprise?  

That totally misses the point.  God is perfect.  We are not.  He must allow for our imperfections. 

Read in context, Numbers 23:19 is part of a wider discourse concerning Israel, not God.  Speaking through Balaam, what God is saying when He says, “God is not a man, that He should lie or repent”  He is speaking in relation to His plan for Israel. 

In context, it isn’t saying that God will never repent of anything — here the Scripture is promising that He will not repent concerning His promise to Israel.  There actually is no contradiction — the contradiction is created by making the mistake of using one passage of Scripture to interpret another.  

That will almost always produce error because every passage of Scripture must be understood in context. 

Once you pull Scripture out of context, one can accurately argue that the Bible says that Judas went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5) and “thou do likewise” (Judges 7:17) therefore supports the conclusion that the Bible encourages suicide by hanging.  

Rather than presenting an insurmountable Bible contradiction, the fact that God repents Himself teaches a series of wonderful truths.  It teaches that God is not impersonal.  He responds to man’s actions.  He is not an unfeeling Spirit.  He knows what ails us.

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

The entire debate teaches us the importance of rightly dividing the Word of truth.  Many approach the Scripture seeking confirmation of what they already believe to be true, rather than seeking the truth itself.  

As we’ve already seen, if one is seeking confirmation that the Bible is flawed, or that Scriptures contradict themselves, then that is exactly what they will find.  One can find proof texts for all four positions on the doctrine on the Rapture.

One can find proof texts that seem to confirm that one can lose one’s salvation, that the Bible teaches soul sleep, that there is no hell, that God is indecisive, that the Rapture is pre, mid, pre-Wrath, post trib and that there is no Rapture at all.

If one approaches the Scripture looking for contradictions, one can find them.  Even when they aren’t there.

“Is the Bible Divinely inspired?  Well, the Bible says God doesn’t change His mind, then it says He does.  Here, let me show you — it says so right here and here. ”    

When somebody does that, it can be pretty convincing.  But on deeper investigation, it always turns out to be a case of the melting wax complaining that the sun is indecisive because the clay hardened. 

It isn’t God that changes — His holiness is unchanging.  

“If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. . .   If it do evil in My sight, that it obey not My voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” (Jeremiah 18:8,10)

If America is no longer under God’s Hand of blessing, it isn’t because God changed His mind about America.  It is because America changed its mind about God.

God is simply responding in kind.

Originally Published: October 23, 2009

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