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Friday, May 24, 2019

The Late Great Discipline of Study

Hal Lindsey to Retire

I heard this morning on HisChannel that Hal Lindsey lately of The Hal Lindsey Report and author of the 1970 best-seller The Late Great Planet Earth is retiring. First, let me say that Hal has been a workman these many years. He helped introduced a dispensational view to the Jesus Movement of the late 60s and early 70s. He has had a powerful influence on the Calvary Chapel Movement. I am not the judge of another man's servant (Rom 14:4), but none of our teachings are above scrutiny (cp Acts 17:11).

This is not meant to cast a dim light on Hal, but I do want to use the influence of his book to make a greater point. My theology is not what is was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 1 year ago, last month. The course of my understanding can be seen as moving in a particular direction, yes, but it nonetheless moving. And as I continue to dig into some topics I also acknowledge that some things I hold are set in stone. I am building upon a firm foundation. We lay a firm foundation on Christ and then study to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Tim 2:15). We build with gold, silver, and precious stones or we build with wood, hay, and stubble (1 Cor 3:11-13).

Hal's book has been treated by some almost as though it is inspired. They would never agree to such an assessment, but I ask those who continually make reference to it, have you questioned anything in it over the last 5 decades? Is it above scrutiny? Is Hal wrong about anything in your view?

God's Thoughts Are Higher Than Our Thoughts

I am thankful for the work of John Darby (I have a daughter with the middle name Darby), but he is not my "authority." I have used his work to help me, but I have moved beyond him in a number of ways. None of us in infallible. There are a number of Bible teachers I utilize and trust, but nothing they teach is above scrutiny. A true Bible teacher would have it no other way.

Scripture is an incredible book. It contains truths a child can understand. We can clearly see a God of love, a God of history, a God who offers a free gift of life through the name of the Savior. We also see tremendously complex and deep thoughts which are sometimes beyond comprehension.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts..."
-Isaiah 55:8-9

 We cannot conceive of an eternal past or an eternal future, but logically we know it must be true. We cannot fully grasp the Trinity, but it is the witness of scripture. The examples are legion. Scripture itself purposely hides or obscures things requiring us to dig deeper (Prov 25:2). In some cases, the Lord spoke to purposely hide truth from those who refuse to listen to his clear teachings.

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. -Matt 13:10-12

Earlier this year I offered a short study titled The Christian Journey - Don't Find Yourself Stuck.  Allow me to quote a short excerpt from that entry:

To this day, I continue to grow and study and "mark things that differ [Phil 1:10]." As I look back over some of these posts over the last couple of years, I see studies for which I now feel as though I have greater insight. What was somewhat foggy is slightly more clear. The way I explain a passage is now more refined. Never rest. Continue to build upon a sure foundation. Compare scripture with scripture, rightly divide the Word of Truth, and trust no man as your authority. 

Sometimes something becoming more clear means that a previously held position is now less clear. That is, a topic seen in a more focused context may make a previously stated opinion not very solid. The solid becomes as clay and is allowed  to be remolded by scripture and the Holy Spirit.

The Lord is Patient and Rewards Those Who Diligently Seek Him

Pray that the Lord lead you into all truth. Follow a thing to its end, then revisit the path again. Make your own charts. Compare scripture with scripture. Mark the things that differ. Rightly divide the word of truth. Mark the audience, the situation, the age in which God speaks. Note the address on the envelope, as it were, as you read and study.

Don't be like the retired pastor I once encountered who said he settled every Bible issue decades before when he left seminary. What he did was study what someone else believed which is based on what someone before him believed. Our beliefs must be our own in the end. We will stand alone at the Bema Seat. No seminary or church or pastor or priest will answer for us.

The study of scripture is a lifelong journey. The Lord knows we are but dust. He knows we are frail creatures with weak minds and limited capacity. He knows we have a lazy, wicked flesh which recoils at correction or conviction. In spite of all that, he loves us and will reward those who diligently seek him.

"The Late Great Planet Earth" has its place, but it is not the 67th book of scripture. As valuable as it has been in some ways, in many other ways, it may have stunted the growth of many a Christian (including Hal himself).

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Fresh Look at 1 John - Part 2

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12

We turn our attention to the full context of "light" and "darkness" in 1 John. We noted last time that the "cleansing" of 1 John 1:9 is a continual action. That helps us see the "confessing of sin" in the past tense. All sin was taken away by the cross ("the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world... it is finished"). God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ (2 Cor 5:18). But we experience that past act as a present condition.

Something like: "If we are counted among those who have confessed they are sinners and were cleansed, he is faithful and is continually cleansing us from sin." 

  When we widen out from that verse, it starts to become clearer still.

Verse 8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Believers have Christ, thus we have "light" (John 8:12) and we have "truth" and his "word" is in us. 

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. - John 18:37c
But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. - John 5:38

Verse 10: If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

This is not a warning that one can have light, then lose it. It is a clarification and comforting reminder to the believer. In that age (and the focus of John's ministry as an apostle to the circumcision), these are Jews who were cleansed from the condemnations and unrighteousness resulting from the law.

John writes (1:1-4) that he seeks the fellowship of fellow believers because all are in Christ and all have eternal life. He tells them he is wring to them "that your joy may be full." Those to whom John ministered could not lose "life" (it has always been a free gift), but they could be "disqualified" (2 Cor 9:27) or even lose the inheritance of the kingdom (1 Cor 6:9, parables of the kingdom, etc.).

Verses 5-7 lay out the basis for fellowship: they are all "in the light" and the blood of Christ continually cleanses them from all sin. 

Verses 8-10 explain the difference between a true believer and a false believer. This clarification is evident in 1 John 2, culminating is verse 19:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Backing up a little in 1 John 2, we read:

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world... 
-1 John 2:1-2

We see, again, that sins are continually considered cleansed. John then returns to light and darkness:

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loves his brother abides in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and knows not whither he goes, because that darkness has blinded his eyes.
-1 John 2:9-11

We will find fellowship with other believers. There are "professing" Christians who truly hate the light. They claim Christ, but oppose and blaspheme true believers. These are those who either never enter among us or, as we see in verse 19, go out from among us at some point.

We may have clashes with individual Christians, but we do not condemn true believer as a whole. In our age, this calls to mind the instruction in Ephesian 4:3, "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." It is not a "created" unity by man, it is the maintaining of a unity created by God. This particular unity is given to the Body in this age:

"There is one spirit. When the Spirit seals and indwells, there is no room for other spirits. This is the true unity God desires for all, but is enjoyed only by His body. There is one calling to the body. The body is the called out assembly. Those believing ones are called out of the miasma of the world to walk the walk of those who please Him." -Jack Eberle 

There is a dispensational difference here. The "unity" of this age is unique, but we can see some parallels with John's instructions. True believers in Christ (those baptized into his death) will, in the new nature, seek fellowship with the like-minded. We naturally love the brethren. I know some who naturally hate true believers while claiming to be Christian.

We also see a parallel in Paul's admonition that we go on to "the unity of the faith" (Eph 4:13). In contrast to the "keeping" of verse 3, this unity is achieved through seeking perfection (maturation). It is also unique to the Body, but, in any age, as believers come to a greater knowledge of the truths of that age, there will be a unity of faith. A truth for all ages:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
-Psalm 133:1

I will close this study here. I still have much reflection to do on this book and I may revisit it again in the future. But for now, I look back at 1 John 1:9 and say again that it is wonderful to know that the blood of Christ continually cleanses (current and past act) those who have come into the light of Christ by faith in his name!

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Two Terrible Dichotomies of Christendom

We previously looked at The Two Great Dichotomies of Scripture (The Seed War, The Two Trees), along with another great dichotomy: the New nature versus the Old nature. But there are two unbiblical dichotomies prevalent in our churches which obscure a clearer understanding of the bible. 
When we read heaven/hell (the traditional "hell" of Christendom) and saved/lost into every scripture, we end up missing quite a bit (and risk great loss). In our study on Walking in the Spirit we noted the Christian is quite capable of being rather slothful and wicked. Peter even goes as far as warning his readers (Jewish believers) they should not be condemned as murderers, thieves, evildoers or gossips. 

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. -1 Peter 4:15

Can a Christian be a murderer? Obviously this is possible. Does he forfeit a free gift? No. That's impossible. We have covered the Christian walk in our series on Walking in the Spirit, so we only say here, if a Christian chooses to walk according to the flesh (the old nature), he risks great misery now and great loss at his judgment.

In our study on Scriptural Mysteries we observed how trying to apply warnings to Christians to unbelievers ends us confusing the gift of eternal life with rewards, prizes and crowns. By limiting ourselves to the saved/lost paradigm, we are forced to either explain away the words of the Apostles or fall into a trap of believing one can forfeit a free gift (thus making ourselves our own saviors).

In addition to 1 Peter 4 (among other examples), we have Paul's list of wicked acts to the Corinthians and a similar list to believers in Ephesus:

No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. - 1 Cor 6:8-11
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. -Eph 5:1-5

If all you have is heaven/hell and saved/lost what do you do with these?  Paul is clearly addressing believers. He states they have been "washed." But if "the kingdom of God" must mean "heaven" because that is all you have, you're on perilous ground. Likewise, if we teach that "real Christians" can't be wicked, these warnings make no sense.

In looking through a number of commentaries on the passage in 1 Corinthians, I cannot seem to find a definitive statement of the loss of the kingdom in view save possibly in Daniel Whedon's commentary. As an Arminian he does not outright say that a Christian can forfeit the free gift of life through his name by faith (an Arminian belief)), but he sure muddies the water.

The central problem in all of these somewhat confusing commentaries is a misunderstanding of the many facets of God'd kingdom. As noted, Whedon was an Arminian. We expect him to deny the free gift. But what of the one who preaches the finished work of Christ and the free gift of life by faith alone? If we must have only saved/lost and heaven/hell what does not inheriting the kingdom entail?

Ironically, Whedon accidentally comes close to the truth when he writes:

This paragraph condemns... All idea that the being once justified insures, in spite of relapse into vice, a secured inheritance of God’s glorified kingdom...

Whedon is denying that "once justified" means "always justified" (for life, it does mean this), but had he understood the kingdom in view here, his statement would be true. One can have life and not inherit other promises. One can forfeit crowns, prizes, rewards. One can be "disqualified." We can be "vessels unto dishonor." None of that, however, is s forfeiture of the free gift of life by faith alone.

We saw in our studies on the parables that some servants will be cast out of the earthly kingdom. Some will forfeit blessings. Some will gnash teeth and weep. But these will see resurrection and have a promise of resurrection life. If we do not understand this, we end up denying the work of Christ and the free offer of life.

Once we understand the difference between that which is free and that which requires qualification (the just servant from the unjust servant are both servants), we can start to make sense of these passages (and many others).

If we fail to "mark the things which differ" (Phil 1:10), we may end up denying the cross or putting men under bondage to fear. Scripture is a tapestry which God wants us to study in way that we will be "approved." God wants us to seek out truth. The saved/lost and heaven/hell dichotomies melt scripture down to childish simplicities. We find ourselves explaining away difficult passages. Let us to the work of a workman and rightly divide God's word.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Fresh Look at 1 John - Part 1

The Common Understanding 

I endeavor in my studies to seek out the truths of scripture by studying verses, passages, books, etc. in context. In the case of 1 John 1:9, I have not been comfortable with the common interpretation and application of this popular verse.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Pretty straightforward, one would think, but there are a few concerns I have with its blanket application. I'll quickly address the most obvious: this can only refer to true Christians. While that may seem obvious, it is important to note that almost the entire Bible is written to believers. This is especially important to note when dealing with the epistles. We start, then, with noting this is given to sanctified and secure believers. That "security" will be important as we look at the greater passage.

Beyond the seemingly obvious application to believers, we need to look at the surrounding context and John's audience. As with a few other commonly-quoted verses, the accepted understanding makes less sense when we look at the whole chapter and even the whole book in which we find it. We saw this in our study on 2 Cor 5:8 (The Most Misquoted Verse in Scripture).

The accepted understanding is that when a believer sins, he must confess that sin (to God) and then he will be cleansed from the unrighteousness brought on by that sin. As we go forward, let us remember this is supposedly in regard to sanctified and secure believers.

Cleanse and Cleansing 

Let me lay some groundwork by pulling out the word "cleanse." We need to note here verse 7 which also includes this idea.

But if we walk in light, even as he is in light, then we have fellowship with him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Both verses employ the Greek word "katharízō." It is in the aorist tense, which, for our sake, means it is not locked into past, present, or future.

Something like, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and we are continually being cleaned from all unrighteousness."

A very good consideration to explain this verse is along this line: when we "sin," we must agree with God that what we have done is sin. This is born out in the following verse, "if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." This is slightly problematic for me as it is possible for a Christian to sin and not fully realize it. But, again, it's a reasonable argument.

Walk in the Light

That said, I think if we widen the lens, we start to see that the passage is addressing a past action. That is, being in the light (verse 7) leads to a continual action of cleansing.

But if we walk in light, even as he is in light, then we have fellowship with him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son [continually] cleanses us from all sin.

This verse is the condition. So what does it mean to "walk in the light?" Conversely, what does it mean to "walk in darkness" (verse 6)? John and the Lord give us the answer, I believe, in John's gospel.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not. -John 1:4-5

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12

I am come a light into the world, so that whosoever believes on me will not remain in darkness. -John 12:49

From these verses, we can see that one is in "darkness" until he truly has faith. We note here that john's gospel is written to the world (those in darkness) while his epistle is written to believing Jews in the Acts age. We will get to chapter 2 of 1 John soon, but let me dip my toe in that water while we're looking at "darkness."

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. -1 John 2:8

This "darkness," which is "passing away" is the darkness which was upon Israel. Matthew in his gospel of the kingdom to Israel alone quotes Isaiah in regard to the coming of the Messiah to his "people" (Israel):

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned.” -Matt 4:16 (Is 9:2)

So, this is still the kingdom period when the Light of the Messianic kingdom in Israel was still anticipated.  The Light of that kingdom was shining in the Acts Age as the kingdom was being offered (from Pentecost to the end of the Acts).

Next time we will take the idea of "darkness" being unbelief and "light" being faith and the acceptance of the offer of the finished work of the Savior and apply it 1 John chapter 1 as a whole.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Scriptural Mysteries

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
-Prov 25:2 
The Bible has a series of "mysteries" which the Lord unfolded as he willed.

μυστήριον = musterion = something hidden (until revealed)

Now, the mysteries in scripture are not puzzles or "secret knowledge." This is no Gnosticism. When the Lord reveals these mysteries, they can be known. Sometimes they're obvious, sometimes they are meant to be difficult.  Sometimes people just refuse to see it because it messes with their preconceived theology.

We saw this diversity in understanding in our series on the parables of Matthew.

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

-Matt 13:10-13

The parables spoke of "mysteries" which were meant to hide greater meaning beyond the obvious. For a more in-depth look at this part of the Lord's earthly ministry, visit our study on those parables.

The Mystery of Christ

Probably the first "mystery" in scripture (as I see it) can be found in the revelation of the coming Messiah after Adam and Eve introduced death into the current world.

I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
-Gen 3:15

The "Mystery of Christ" (Romans 16, Ephesians 3) was revealed over time, in various ways, through the ages beyond Gen 3:15. Immediately in Genesis 3:21 the Lord sheds the blood of animals and covers Adam and Eve. This is another picture of Christ and his ministry. It is a little more disclosure of hidden truth.

Christ's place of birth, his bloodline, his manner of death, etc. These were all revealed through the ages and were fulfilled in Christ in his first advent. And then, after the Lord had risen and spent 40 days teaching the eleven about the coming kingdom, there is further revelation when the Lord reveals the grafting into Israel of Gentiles at Acts 10.

All of this was "hidden," from full understanding, but not hidden in God. It was not understood in God's word, but it was there. We see in Romans 16 that the Mystery of Christ is said to be "since the foundation of the ages." In Romans 15, we see multiple scriptures quoted which pointed to Gentiles being blessed in Abraham. All of these were "hidden," but not "unrevealed;" "misunderstood," but not "impossible to understand."

All these, as we have noted, were hidden in the Word, "since" the ages began.

The Dispensation of the Mystery

The Great Mystery of the One New Man (Gk: heîs kainós ánthrōposEph 2:15) as revealed in Ephesians, however, was hidden from "BEFORE the foundation of the ages." It is a created Joint-Body (Gk: sýssōmos, only used in Eph 3:6) which has no reliance on Abraham or the program for Israel. This is not to say God is done with Israel. No. We only note that "this present age" is independent of Israel and her future restoration (Acts 1:6) and glory (Jer 31; Isaiah 66; etc.). The plan for Israel is currently on hold.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.
-Rom 16:25

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
-Eph 1:3-4

Romans 16:25 states that "the mystery" there was "kept secret." That is, it was not understood. The Greek word here is "sigáō" which means "to keep silent " or "to keep close" (Strong's). It is also defined "to keep silence, hold one's peace" (Thayer's). Paul preached the "revelation," that is "the revealing" of the things kept silent. They were all there. This is how Paul could proclaim Christ using the Hebrew scriptures alone.

To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass. - Acts 26:22

The Lord's earthly ministry was to confirm the promises made to Israel.

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs. -Rom 15:8
For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain. -Acts 28:20

Paul, in the Acts Age, only preached and revealed what was hidden in the Hebrew scriptures. This was not something "new," but something newly revealed. To the Jews to whom he preached in that age, they could test him by the Hebrew scriptures.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. -Acts 17:11
In Ephesians, Paul tell us that he was privileged to have the Dispensation of the Mystery revealed to him alone. The Mystery of Christ could be found in Moses, the prophets, and through the Apostles. But the One New Man was only known through Paul as it was hidden from BEFORE the overthrow of Genesis 1:2.

To me [Paul], the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the incomprehensible riches of Christ, and to reveal for all people what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ... - Eph 3:8-9
I have been made a servant of it according to the commission of God, which has been given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, even the mystery which has been hidden from past ages and generations, but now is revealed to His saints. To them God would make known what is the glorious riches of this mystery among the nations [Gentiles]. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory... - Col 1:25-27

There are many commonalities in scripture which last through the ages. For example:

  • God is love
  • Resurrection life is a free gift by grace through faith
  • God's word is unchanging
  • God's promises are true and will all come to pass

But in different ages, God has dealt with men in different ways. God has offered different hopes and promises. We have covered these previously, but we can easily see that God has promises which are tied to the earth and others waiting in "the far above the heavens." Commands for one age are wholly out of place in other ages. Certain promises are specific to individuals, nations, ages. This is why we must "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15) and "mark things that differ" (Phil 1:10). 

After the Kingdom offer ended after the end of the Acts Age, we entered into the present age. Today, those who have been "chosen from before the ages began" know no Jew or Gentile. We have no earthly ordinances. We have no hope on this earth. We have nothing to do with angels. We have no part in the "New Covenant" promised to Israel.

Compare Paul's' 7 epistles written during the Acts Age with the 7 written after Acts 28. Among other differences, the Old testament essentially disappears. The few scant references pale compared to the overwhelming use in the first 7. And we even see a change in application when we do see it.

“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise, “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” -Eph 6:2-3 
Honor your father and your mother, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. -Deut 5:16

In the Septuagint, the Greek word "'ădâmâh" is used for "land," whereas in Ephesians the Greek word "ge" is used for land/earth. To be clear that is not sufficient a reason to declare a great difference, what is more telling is the absence of the phrase "which the Lord your God is giving you." Israel is promised a land, while the blessings of this age are "spiritual, in heavenly places" (Eph). The principle of obedience applies, but it is no longer connected to any earthly promise. 

We "mark the things that differ" here (Phil 1:10), and we can see a change in hope and focus.

Reiterating the Importance of Right Division

If we fail to make these distinctions, we may lose out on reward in the age to come. We might even be found guilty of teaching horrific error and even blaspheming the God who bought us. 

I attended a service recently wherein speaker was asked about homosexuality. While he properly answered that we must lean on God's word and not on our worthless opinion (very true indeed), he inadvertently denied the work of the Lord on Calvary and the assurance of the gift of life by pointing us to 1 Cor 6.

There he noted that the homosexual and the effeminate cannot "inherit the kingdom." True. But he went on to say that the passage also applies to those living together outside of marriage and those who do not tithe. Well, he's right (well, greed is a disqualifier, we'll ignore the tithe for now). But, unfortunately, the implication, if you wrongly divide the word, is that homosexuals and those who do not tithe have no salvation at all and will be sent to traditional "hell." Is that the message of this age? Is that the message of any age?

We know the traditional doctrine of "hell" is a gross mutation of the true doctrine of death, but in his context (no matter the punishment), he was unwittingly arguing that we must tithe to maintain the free gift of life by faith alone! Conversely, as 1 Cor is written to Christians who have been recociled to God and cleansed, why would Paul be warning them about such terrible sins? Must they "maintain" their salvation by obedience? Must we? Can a free gift be forfeited? God forbid!

This is horrific error and is the result of a false notion of hell and failure to understand the "kingdom" in sight in 1 Corinthians, in the Acts Age. One can lose his place in the earthly kingdom (we saw this in our study on the parables), but one cannot lose a free gift. Right Division holds the key to right understanding. Otherwise, we leave people confused and in bondage to fear.

Paul warns the Corinthians who were once involved in wicked lives of all kinds that they risked being cast out of the coming kingdom on earth. Never, never, is the free gift subject to loss for disobedience. Certainly no one is going lose a free gift (or be tortured by fire in their theology) because he does not tithe! Is that salvation by philanthropy? It is a blasphemy against the work of Christ. He didn't mean it as such, but the implication was confusing at best, a denial of the free gift at worst.

We cannot stress enough the importance of rightly dividing the word of truth.

Final Thought

The current dispensation of the Mystery completes the greater Mystery of Christ. It completes the revelation of God. Paul had a unique calling and we do as well. Let us look again at Colossians 1:24-28. We noted part of this passage earlier, but now we will consider it in a different light (the Word of God is deep!):

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of GodEven the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus...

In this dispensation of the Mystery Body, God is calling all men into the unsearchable riches of Christ. We have no ordinances. We have no earthly hope. We look to no temple (for we are the temple). We must start with an understanding of this Mystery if we are to understand the present age and if we are correctly handle God's word (a task for which we will answer before him one day soon).

Related Studies:

Monday, April 22, 2019

Quick Thoughts on the Reformed Movement and Tradition in Charlotte

Readers of this blog know that those holding to Reformed and/or Replacement theology would have very little use for my studies. I get it. But I leave open a door for basic fellowship over the finished work of Christ and his glorious free gift of life.

Unfortunately, in my Christian life I have seen many in the Reformed movement wander into very strange territory. They seem completely unaware sometimes how far they've wandered from Sola Scriptura (the authority of the scriptures alone).

Take, for example, this line from a recent post at Reformation Charlotte (Click for the entire article by Jeff Maples):

J.D. Greear is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and his image fits a growing swath of millennials who are hell-bent on undoing the sacred traditions of the historic church...

Imagine a Reformed site defending "the sacred traditions of the historic church." Who is writing these articles, Pope Leo X? Tradition, in almost every case, is Scripture's greatest enemy.

I'm not going to defend every practice in contemporary congregations, but give me scripture, not "the sacred traditions of the historic church." Are you kidding me?

They continue:
the reverence of the regulative principle of worship, and most importantly, the primary function of the Church — to go into all the nations and make disciples

To sum: they teach that only that which is expressly instructed in scripture is permitted in worship (don't miss the irony in also promoting "the scared traditions of the historic church"). Of course, as a proponent of Right Division, I would draw from only that which is given to me (if the regulative principle were my guiding principle). So, immediately, I would conclude that these who do not Rightly Divide, no matter if it is in scripture or not, are not being obedient to our commands. Immediately, I would have to object to the inclusion of Matthew 28:19 as the "primary function of the Church." Just because something is "in scripture" does not mean it is applicable in every age.

That aside, the idea that anything not expressly given in scripture is condemned is misguided. We have covered worshiping in spirit and in truth elsewhere. Let me quote just one small excerpt:

Truth is independent of time ("it's an ancient practice!"), independent of man's authority ("the church teaches it!"), independent of numbers ("millions worship this way!") and independent of anyone's opinion ("it works for me!"). None of these arguments will
make something into truth.

How many of these "Reformed" congregations practice Jewish rituals? How many have adopted Catholic structures? How many disobey the commands of Colossians 2?

In my early Christian life I found myself in Philadelphia. being an admirer of Donald Grey Barnhouse's ministry, I visited the famous Reformed Tenth Presbyterian Church. I though I was in a Catholic service. Dr. Boice provided an application message from Jeremiah, but the whole thing reeked of Catholic leftovers. You'd be hard-pressed to find any of that service in scripture. Applying the Regulative Principle, one would have to condemn the whole thing as Satanic.

In regard to music, how many sing hymns which contain error? Which were penned by Catholic composers? We have also covered music in earlier posts. I attended a performance of Handel's Messiah in my local Presbyterian Church in Alabama. Can I say I was entertained? Does that contaminate the evening? can that which is edifying also be entertaining? Are these mutually exclusive ideas?

It seems the arbiter of what is allowable to these folks are songs which are "ancient" or "historic" while not being "entertaining." Odd, as none of that is particularly scriptural.

I am familiar with one line of argument which posits that musical notes were found in some manuscripts and we are thus bound to them. I have also wasted my time in arguments on the complexities of composition which require an advanced degree in music to understand (and which are highly debated at the highest levels in any regard).

Things such as wearing a tie, using only certain instruments, building facilities based on historical patterns, practicing only that which passes the "Sacred Tradition" test are dangerous. This is not an endorsement of every sort of entertainment or "worship" in the congregation, but it does not exclude anything unless it is expressly forbidden in scripture. This is the standard by which we apply across the culture.

But, again, if you are looking in parts of scripture not directed to you, you will most likely end up in more damnable practices than using a PowerPoint and an electric guitar. Practicing the Lord's Supper (Passover) or robbing from Israel is other ways is more of an affront to Christ than

One last thought from the article:

My recommendation is that if you’re looking for a place to worship on Good Friday, find a small church who preaches the gospel and obeys the calling of the Church. God doesn’t need your money to worship Him.

I would note, from the principle of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth and not from "Sacred Tradition" :

  • God never instructed anyone to build a church building.
  • "Good Friday" is a Catholic invention
  • We preach the gospel of the dispensation of the Mystery in this age, not Matt 28.
  • "God doesn't need you money" but they all ask for it. Tithing is for another age, but many reformed "churches" teach it (or "free-will offering") as necessary for this age.

In short, Christians have obligations both to tithe (free-will offering is probably better term) and to care for the poor.
[T]he New Testament nowhere revokes the command to tithe, and Jesus himself affirms it (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; however see, "as long as you live in your land," Deut 12:19).

About that "as long as you live in the land." Why do they quote it here as they dismiss it? Are Reformed pastors claiming to be a Levitical priesthood? The "church" has no land and the "church" is not Israel. As for the other verses (spoke to Pharisees) they merely state that the Pharisees tithed while neglecting greater matters of the law. How is that an affirmation of tithing in this age? Pulling back from that, do they really want to declare that the Lord's commands are for us to obey today? What gospel did he preach? Not the gospel of this age. So, should I declare a coming kingdom, a gospel which is devoid of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord? That's the gospel he preached. Should I preach it only to Jews and only in Israel? That's what the Lord commanded.

You're not "obeying" any of this:
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. 9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 10 nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. 11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. 12 And when ye come into an house, salute it. 13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

As for the rest of the New Testament, do they still separate Jews from Gentiles in their teaching as the Apostles did in the Acts age? Do they keep the Law as the apostles did? Do they warn gentile believers (only) that they may be "cut off" from Israel? The Lord does not mention tithes in The Book of John. The Apostles don not mention it, save Paul as part of Israel's history in Hebrews.

It is very dangerous to fail to rightly divide. It enslaves both the one who fails and those who put themselves under his dominion.

Reformation Charlotte is supported by donations. Donations cover travel expenses, printed materials, bibles, and other ministry costs. We appreciate your willingness to support us and see the gospel proclaimed among the people bringing God glory. 
-Reformation Charlotte


I seem to remember how Jesus reacted once when he came into His people’s place of worship and found money changers there. 
-Reformation Charlotte 

Reformed T-shirts and other gear are available for purchase here at the money-changers table: God's word on a t-shirt for only $24! But it's the Southern Baptists who are temple money-grubbers?


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Lake of Fire and Torment? Yes, But No (Part 2)

The Second Death

We return to our topic, the Lake of Fire, as found in the Book of the Revelation. We noted the four passages which contain the phrase (which is only found in the Revelation), but let us pull out the verse referencing the "second death."

Then Death and Hades (Hell) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second [final] death. -Revelation 20:14

On its face, the verse is clearly metaphorical. It is only complicated by tradition. Men have forced the mythological "fiery hell" on every text where Hades, Gehenna, and anything referencing fire appear. When we step back and let scripture speak for itself and let scripture interpret scripture (as we did in the previous post) the meaning is much clearer.

In this case, if the Lake of Fire is the fiery "hell" of tradition, how is hell cast into hell? We have covered "Hades" elsewhere, but I will quickly note here how tradition has muddied this word.

One of the most quoted verses in Christendom today (across the theological spectrum) is from Matthew 16:18:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell [Hades] shall not prevail against it. (KJV)

We are told that "hell" is some headquarters for Satan and his demons and he's busy attacking "the church." But they also teach that Satan is roaming the earth and that he will some day be cast into "hell." So "hell" becomes a metaphor of Satan, etc. Ironically, in that passage, Peter is called "Satan" moments later.

But if we simply let scripture interpret scripture, we realize the Lord is quoting King Hezekiah from the Book of Isaiah (38:10) as the king is facing his possible death.

I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave [Sheol]: I am deprived of the residue of my years.(KJV)

For comparison, we look at David's use in Psalm 139:8 and how Sheol is translated:

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [Sheol], behold, thou art there. (KJV)
Two quick thoughts, if one is being tortured by fire, the presence of the Lord (who runs "hell" anyway) is hardly a comfort. We also have the odd doctrine of a "two-compartment hell" which has a fiery side and a blissful side. Well, that being the case, why would we need comfort? Why would Hezekiah dread such a fate?

When we understand that Sheol, Hades refer to the state of the dead, the confusion clears up.

Life and Death, the Story of Scripture

We also note that Paul uses "Hades" only once in his Acts ministry and epistles. It is in regard to believers and our resurrection (1 Cor 15). Now, this is post-cross and resurrection of the Lord, so why are we still in the "good" side of "hell?"

So what the Lord is saying in Matthew 16 is that those who profess, as Peter did, that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, for these the grave will not hold them. They will be resurrected and the promise of 1 Cor 15:54-55 will come to pass. The grave and death will not win.

So what is the "second death?" First, we can agree (even the atheist) that all men die. We all experience a "first death." In Revelation 20:14 we see the final destruction of "Death" (called "the last enemy") and "Hades" (the abode of the dead). This is the final destruction. There is no more death (Rev 21:4) and no more need for an abode of the dead for believers have been resurrected to enter into the new creation and eternity future.

We asked earlier how hell is cast into hell. Now we ask how is death cast into hell? Clearly we see that death is destroyed. Just as death is destroyed ("there shall be no more death"), the same can said of the "unbelieving" (those who "believe not the Son").

This destruction is the "second death" and those who "believe not the Son" (John 3:36) "shall not see life." This is the second death, the eradication of these and their memory. Death is no more abd unbelievers will be no more. Revelation 21 now becomes clear.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

The Lake of Fire is the second death.  We cannot read, the second death is the Lake of Fire. The figurative gives way to the reality.

We again see "brimstone." As we saw in our last study, as with Sodom, this speaks of absolute destruction, never to rise again.

To sum: Death is the enemy. It is what came upon all men in Adam. It is the curse. We are dust and we shall return to dust. The cross of Christ was about suffering death for us and the a reversal of the curse by (a) not decaying in the grave (Hades) and (b) conquering the grave in resurrection! Death and Life are before us. If you have Christ you have Life, if you have not Christ you will not see Life. You will experience the "second death." Choose Life!
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. -John 3:36 (KJV)

For a more thorough handling of this topic, I recommend the following:

Hell: Torment or Annihilation?

Hell: What the Bible Really Teaches

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Lake of Fire and Torment? Yes, But No (Part 1)

Readers of this blog know that I reject the traditional view of "hell." I've covered the topic numerous times from different perspectives. We have looked at the context and use (or lack of use) of different biblical words and doctrines such as "Sheol," "Hades," "Gehenna," and "Tartarus." God is not running a fiery torture chamber in which he torments your unbelieving aunt with out hope or relief. That is a monstrous doctrine and a blasphemy.

Here I'd like to take a look at the "Lake of Fire" on its own. It is spoken of in the Revelation (and only in the Revelation).

Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
 -Revelation 19:20
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  -Revelation 20:10
Then Death and Hades (Hell) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second [final] death. -Revelation 20:14
And [if] anyone [was] not found written in the Book of Life [he] was cast into the lake of fire. -Revelation 20:15

As noted, this phrase is unique to the Book of the Revelation and judgments found there.
λιμνην του πυρος (Greek) = límnē ho pŷr (phonetic)
These judgments take place after the return of the Lord (Rev 19) and then at the end of the millennial reign of Christ (Rev 20). We there see the following cast into the lake of fire:

  • The Beast (Antichrist)
  • False Prophet
  • The Devil
  • Death and Hades (Hell)
  • Anyone not found in the Book of Life

Now let's see what is connected to the lake:

  • Brimstone
  • Tormented Day and Night Forever and Ever
  • The Second Death

When we can we let scripture interpret, or help interpret, scripture. We will start by looking back at the judgment of Edom in Isaiah 34:

For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance,
The year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
Its streams shall be turned into pitch,
And its dust into brimstone;
Its land shall become burning pitch.
It shall not be quenched night or day;
Its smoke shall ascend forever.

From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
No one shall pass through it forever and ever.

But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it,
Also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.
And He shall stretch out over it
The line of confusion and the stones of emptiness.
They shall call its nobles to the kingdom,
But none shall be there, and all its princes shall be nothing.

The language here is figurative on the one hand (concerning a literal destruction), and we must understand what it means when the Bible speaks of "forever." When we look at Young's Literal Translation we read, "To the age go up doth her smoke." Often the plural is used. If we continued to use "forever and ever" we would have to say things like, "forevers and evers" or "evers and evers." That makes no sense. However, "ages and ages" or "age of the ages" is far more accurate and clear.

In any regard, surely the smoke will not ascend into eternity (as we use it). Will pelicans and porcupines be there into eternity? Shall we be calling for its nobles into eternity?

Burning With Brimstone

Now let's look at the "brimstone" and the concept of "night and day" as well. We first see "brimstone" (sulfur) in scripture in connection with the destruction of Sodom.

Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven...
-Gen 19:24
Then [Abraham] looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.
-Gen 19:28

Let us turn to the epistle of Jude to see how this destruction is referred millenia later:
And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
-Jude 6-7

Do we contend that Sodom is still suffering in fiery brimstone?  Of course not. Let us look again at the literal translation of the word translated "eternal" here: "age-during." Sodom shall not rise again. In that sense, it's punishment endures the ages.

Day and Night Forever

Before we leave Part 1, let us take a look at "day and night forever" which we see in both Isaiah and in the Revelation. We've already noted that the English word "forever" is not the correct expression of the concept here. But what of Day and Night?

In Revelation 21 we are told that the current earth will "pass away." We pause to note that Edom and Sodom, therefore, even if they were still burning, could no longer burn for they will be destroyed. Peter teaches us that the "heavens and earth which are now... are reserved for fire..."

When we have the creation of the new (third) heavens and earth, we no longer will have a night.

Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
 -Revelation 21:25
There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. -Revelation 22:5

The "Lake of Fire" is figurative for total destruction. It is unique to this future age wherein we see final judgments related to the tribulation, the Antichrist, the Millennial Kingdom, Satan, and all unbelievers. All will go down into "perdition" (that is, waste).

We know from John 3:16 and 5:24 that the question before men is will they choose Faith and Life or No Faith and Perishing (No Life). This is context of all judgment.

Too often the mythology which has crept in unawares to Christianity unnecessarily confuses our understanding. It creeps into translations and commentaries. We see the Greek concept of "Hell" plugged in to every reference to the grave. We need to put away the traditions of men and let scripture speak to us plainly.

In Part 2 we will look at the Second (Final) Death.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Should Christians Practice Passover?

A friend of mine is very excited about Passover. He is preparing his home and diligently reading scripture to get it right. But what are we to do with Passover in light of rightly diving the Word of Truth?

My friend quotes from 1 Corinthians as his justification:

“Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Messiah, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. “Therefore let us keep the Festival [Passover], not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread (matzah) of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7–8)

What some call "the Lord's Supper" as initiated by the Lord Jesus Christ was actually the Lord keeping the Passover as a Jew under the law.

And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. 
-Luke 22:14-16

Ironically, the  King James Version obscures the practice in the Book of Acts by the use of the word "Easter" for Passover.

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

-Acts 12:4

But what of this age? Is this a practice for us? I would say the Word is clear the answer is "no." And it is not only not given to us, we have no business practicing the Passover (or the Lord' Supper). 1 Corinthians is written to Jewish and Gentile believers in the Acts age. As we have continually seen  in our studies, that was a condition unique to that age. The book itself addresses each group separately at times.

But after the Acts Age ended, Paul reveals to us the current plan of God: the dispensation of the Mystery. In this age, there is no more "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile. There is no law to separate us. We are no longer "grafted in" to Israel (Rom 11), but we are part of the "one new man." To this group (espcially gentile believers) Paul writes:

And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival [feast] or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
-Col 2:13-17

The question remains: is it then optional for the believer? I believe, again, the answer must be "no." But why? What harm is it? I think the problem is two-fold:

1. It is a feast always meant for Israel alone because it is inextricably connected to her hope of being a kingdom of priests. It is my belief and contention that even in Acts Age only Jews observed it. 
2. It is not a good witness for the current age. Paul is very clear in Ephesians and Colossians about the uniqueness of the current age and our hope. This hope has nothing to do with the earth or earthly promises. Our blessing are in the "far above the heavens." 

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ. For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me.
-Col 1:24-29

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
-Eph 1:3-4

And we note, as we have in other studies, Ephesians speaks about a plan from "before" the foundation of the ages (cp Eph 3). In the Acts age, we have truths revealed "from" the foundation of the ages (Rom 1:20; etc.).

Conclusion: we should have nothing to do with anything connected to promises regarding the earth and that includes Passover. Passover has a place in the plan of God for Israel, which is tied to the earth, which is yet future. We do not rob from nor claim the promises of Israel and her hope; we have a different hope which is not connected to the earth or her promised land.

Related: The New Covenant is for Israel alone. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Last Days in Bullet Form

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be

  • Lovers of themselves
  • Lovers of money
  • Boasters
  • Proud
  • Blasphemers
  • Disobedient to parents
  • Unthankful
  • Unholy
  • Unloving
  • Unforgiving
  • Slanderers
  • Without self-control
  • Brutal
  • Despisers of good
  • Traitors
  • Headstrong
  • Haughty
  • Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
  • Having a form of godliness but denying its power

And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

2 Tim 3:1-9


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Quick List of Human Traditions This Time of Year

We recently looked at the traditional doctrine of fiery torture of the lost and how that interferes with properly understanding the Plan of God. You can read it HERE.

Today I'd just like to list a few traditions attached to "Easter" which interfere with our understanding. These vary in their importance, but, to be sure, they are all important in one way or another. Some are serious errors which bring disrepute on the the true faith.  The overall season is often called Lent. We recently looked at that tradition as well. You can read that post HERE.

Here is a quick list (in no particular order) of traditions which need reconsideration.

  • "Good Friday" crucifixion
  • The last supper
  • The field purchased
  • Three crosses on Calvary
  • The fate of the malefactor on the cross
  • The cross is T-shaped
  • The young man in the garden
  • The washing of the feet
  • The ordinance of the New Covenant
  • Peter's denials
  • The Lord's final breath
  • The three days in the grave
  • Timeline from Bethany to Jerusalem
  • The "sunrise" resurrection

This list is not exhaustive. 

Tradition has muddied (if not completely messed up) doctrines connected to all these. And I am not even addressing the extra-biblical traditions such as Veronica and the veil, etc. I am guilty of mishandling all of these in my life. But when I started to step back and let the whole of scripture interpret itself, as I recognized how much I let tradition interpret scripture, God started to take away the cobwebs.

I had planned on a separate post addressing each of these (we have covered a few previously), but my hope here is only that we will start to practice Right Division and let scripture interpret scripture when applicable.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Exalting Resurrection This Resurrection Season

THE RESURRECTION (His and Ours) Is Not An Asterisk

We covered the comforting of the bereaved in a short series elsewhere on this blog, but let me pause and offer a quick reminder of the place of resurrection in our hope. The mythology of the "immortal soul" (which we have also looked at in previous posts) and the simplistic "heaven/hell" traditional dichotomy have combined to distract us from great undoing of the curse on men and the creation.

Let's turn back to scripture as we get closer to the seasonal celebrations.


When an undiluted understanding of the resurrection is appreciated, its glories rise above all other things.

The glory of the resurrection of Christ is the great undoing of the curse of Adam ("In Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" - 1 Cor 15:22). He died, but did not decay (first reversal) and then rose in an immortal body (final reversal). The "Last Adam" (1 Cor 15:45) is the first of many who will rise from the sleep of death (1 Cor 15:20,23). 

If we understand that all who have died are dead (in the fullest sense) and that our hope is that of Job's (though we die and are eaten by worms, we will see our Redeemer in our resurrection, and not before, "yet in my flesh I will see God" - Job 19:26), the resurrection rises above all else. It is not an afterthought, but it is the great victory over death!

WHEN we are resurrected, only THEN we can say "death where is thy sting? Grave where is thy victory?" (1 Cor 15:54-55)

William Tyndale notes this about the doctrine of "bodyless souls" in his answer to Thomas More, 

"And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine [1 Thess 4:13-15], if he had wist [known] it, that the souls of their dead had been in joy; as he did with the resurrection, that their dead should rise again. If the souls be in heaven, in as great glory as the angels, after your doctrine, shew me what cause should be of the resurrection)."

IOW, if joy and heaven and glory are experienced at the moment of death, the resurrection is then relegated to as asterisk. When we exalt the hope of our future resurrection as our ONLY hope, we exalt His resurrection above all else!


No one in scripture is ever comforted with any thought apart from the hope of a future resurrection. As we have seen, the great resurrection chapter, 1 Cor 15, speaks of the sleep of the dead and the conquering of death only in resurrection.

No parties in heaven. No water fights in the River of Life. No partaking of the Tree of Life before their time. As scripture says of David, the dead are dead and their bones are with us to this day. No one, apart from Christ has yet ascended (Acts 2:29; 34).

We ask the bereaved why they weep. The answer comes back, we weep because of our loss. This is true, but if knew that a loved one had been taken away to a glorious mansion in the south of France, living without a care, without sickness, without pain, enveloped in love and fully aware that we would be joining him soon... would we weep? Well, our understanding is limited, but the Lord's is not.

We tell the bereaved about life in a mansion, but the Lord speaks of death as sleep, with the promise of resurrection. He never suggests anything else.


When Lazarus died, the Lord wept (Jn 11:35). When Lazarus' sisters are told by the Lord that they will see him again, they do not answer, "yes, when we die and go to glory!" No, they answer (correctly), that they will see him "in the resurrection." They wept. Jesus wept. Because Lazarus was dead (the Lord previously referring to his death as "sleep"). But we do not weep as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13), our hope is future, our hope is resurrection (1 Thess 4:14). It is a future hope that will be realized in resurrection.

That is the glory of the resurrection of Christ. It is not an asterisk. It is not just "proving" something. It is the great undoing of Adam's curse! It the hinge upon which all scripture swings.

Here is comfort, just as we do not sense time passing in sleep, so it is with death. We lay down in sleep and open our eyes as though no time has passed. Because He lives, we will live also! "God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power." (1 Cor 6:14)

"We should learn to view our death in the right light, so that we need not become alarmed on account of it, as unbelief does; because in Christ it is indeed not death, but a fine, sweet and brief sleep, which brings us release from this vale of tears, from sin and from the fear and extremity of real death and from all the misfortunes of this life, and we shall be secure and without care, rest sweetly and gently for a brief moment, as on a sofa, until the time when he shall call and awaken us together with all his dear children to his eternal glory and joy. For since we call it a sleep, we know that we shall not remain in it, but be again awakened and live, and that the time during which we sleep, shall seem no longer than if we had just fallen asleep. Hence, we shall censure ourselves that we were surprised or alarmed at such a sleep in the hour of death, and suddenly come alive out of the grave and from decomposition, and entirely well, fresh, with a pure, clear, glorified life, meet our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the clouds . . . . Scripture everywhere affords such consolation, which speaks of the death of the saints, as if they fell asleep and were gathered to their fathers, that is, had overcome death through this faith and comfort in Christ, and awaited the resurrection, together with the saints who preceded them in death." 
-Martin Luther A Compendium of Luther's Theology, edited by Hugh Thomson Ker, Jr., p. 242 
(as quoted here:

Friday, March 22, 2019

Traditions That Interfere With True Understanding

Becoming a Berean

I was born, raised, educated, and immersed in the Roman Catholic Church. It is a place steeped in tradition. While serving as a Religious Education teacher in 1991, I had a crisis of faith. I started my search for the truth. I read my textbooks, Catholic publications, history books, and finally the Bible. Cut to the end, the Bible won.

After coming out of everything I had ever known into the new life as a regenerated follower of the Lord Jesus Christ (Kýrios Iēsoûs Christós) over the course of only a few weeks, I was blessed with the conviction that I was never going to just take someone's word for something again. That does not mean that I will not listen to or read the works of others, but (as I've stated many times on the pages of this blog), in the end, I am responsible for my personal beliefs. Over the years, my personal theology has grown and changed (and will continue to do so until my death).

The Bereans listened to Paul, but checked what he was teaching against the scripture (Acts 17:11).

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica,for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scripturesevery day to see if what Paul said was true. -Acts 17:11 (NIV)

Seeking God's Plan Not Our Version of It

The Lord has been patient with me during the past 28 years. I (eventually) came out of the RCC into loneliness of sorts (I initially tried to stay in the RCC, but knowing what I know, that didn't last long). I suddenly had no faith community. I quickly filled that void with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (I worked at a university at the time) and eventually found my way into an Assemblies of God community.

Lovely Christians, but as with all groups, I wasn't going to just adopt their doctrines sans scrutiny. After a little over a year, I decided to move on. Well, the rest of the story is over two decades long, so I will get back to the central point of this post.

If we are to going to understand God's plan and purpose for the ages, we must put aside the traditions of men. Some of these traditions are not as egregious as others. For example, I think it can be demonstrated that there were 5 crosses on Calvary and not the traditional 3. Doesn't make or break the faith, but if you hold to 3 you may run into critics who will accuse scripture of having mistakes or contradictions.

Truth Over Tradition (Hades, Gehenna, and Hell)

From my perspective, Christianity is hindered by the general adoption of Catholic mythology which is borrowed from Greek mythology. These taint our understanding of scripture and the plan and purpose of the ages. For example, when we read of those cast into out darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, or of those thrown into Gehenna, the "fiery hell" of mythology is assumed instead of a scriptural understanding.

We have covered Gehenna and Hades (both translated as "hell" in many translations) in previous posts, but just as a quick review, let's look one example of each and search the scriptures for context lest we end up in confusion.

But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court [Gk: Sanhedrim]. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell [Gk:Gehenna]. 
-Matt 5:22 (NIV)
This verse is from the Sermon on the Mount; a passage some call the Magna Carta of the Church.

 We also compare its use in just one example from Mark 9.

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell Gk:Gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

-Mark 9:43

Setting aside the enormous problems created when we try to apply these to regenerated believers in this age, let's look at what the Lord is referencing (time, place, audience) and let scripture interpret scripture.

And they have gone forth, And looked on the carcases of the men Who are transgressing against me, For their worm dieth not, And their fire is not quenched, And they have been an abhorrence to all flesh! 
-Isaiah 66:24

If the "Sanhedrim" (Young's Literal Translation) isn't enough to let us know this is not the Body of Christ in this age, but rather points to Israel, the context of Isaiah 66 should inform us. This is after Israel has been restored to her land, her promises, and her kingdom. We also see that those thrown in "Gehenna" (the Valley of Hinnom, the "Valley of Slaughter" Jer 19:6) are "carcases." That is, these are real, physical, dead bodies. These is not ghosts thrown into a ghostly fire to be tortured by God.

Greek mythology and Catholic teaching on "hell" confuses us. When we see "Hades" or "Gehenna," tradition inserts "fiery eternal torture." We've just looked at Gehenna (as we have in a previous post in greater detail), now just one example of Hades. I've chosen the New Living Translation here as it is triply influenced by tradition.

Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
-Matt 16:18

The triple problem here is that the NLT fails to distinguish the two "rocks" referenced here (Gk: Petros/petra); it inserts its presumption of "powers" instead of "gates" (Gk: pyle); and it changes "prevail" (GK: katischýōto "conquer." This last change is in the neighborhood, but the context of "gate" leans towards the primary meaning of "to be stronger."

That is, "gates" don't attack, overpower, or conquer anything, but they can be stronger than a force coming against them. We wouldn't say "gates" could "conquer" anything as such.

If you're a fan of the CCM artist Carman, you'll know he built half his career on the mythology of Satan leading an army from "hell" against Christians. Unfortunately, this verse has nothing to do with such a thing. Scripture informs us that Satan is "the prince and the power of the air." He is currently nowhere near "Gehenna" nor does he control it. Gehenna has no fire as I write. Again, the Lord refers to a future age (Isaiah 66).

So where does the Lord get this picture? The NIV, which is full of reference notes, rightly notes that the "gates of hell/hades" is "the realm of the dead," but it fails to cross-reference two key verses which clearly give us the meaning (NKJV).

Will they go down to the gates of Sheol? Shall we have rest together in the dust?
-Job 17:16

I said, “In the prime of my life I shall go to the gates of Sheol; I am deprived of the remainder of my years.”
-Isaiah 38:10

This a picture of death (the return to dust). As we have consistently seen on the pages of this blog, pointing directly to scripture, "death" is the great enemy of man. Death is what needs to be overcome. Death is what Christ reversed in his burial (lack of decay) and resurrection and what we will destroy in our own resurrection!

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
-1 Cor 15:54-55

This is Paul's only use of "Hades" (hell) in his writings, and it refers to believers. His only other reference (in Acts 13) refers to the Lord conquering the grave (quoting from the Psalms). He never uses it of unbelievers.

Dump the Traditions of Men

We must get traditional ideas, born out of mythology, out of our thinking if we want to fully understand and rejoice in what Christ accomplished in his death, burial (lack of decay/corruption), and resurrection.

So let's look at Matthew 16:18 again in Young's Literal Translation (plus some original Greek) with Job and Isaiah and "the gates of Sheol" in mind:

`And I also say to thee, that thou art a [pebble], and upon this [boulder, Peter's confession of faith] I will build my assembly, and gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Death will not hold those who profess alone the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior in the grave! When we are called, we will burst through death unto new, resurrection life! Death is the "final enemy" (1 Cor) and we look forward to that day when death shall be no more (Rev)!

We do have an enemy in Satan and the principalities and powers in heavenly places (Eph 6), but the answer to those fiery darts of doubt, confusion, religion, false light, etc... is found in "the whole armor of God" (Eph 6) and in "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2).

A good parallel study concerning the traditions of men and the resurrection is our study of 2 Cor 5:8.

Link: The Most Misquoted Verse in Scripture

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Quick Note on the Malefactor's Request of the Lord on Calvary

I hope to cover the numerous traditions connected to this time of year which depart from scripture (we've already looked at Lent), but I wanted to note something quickly about Luke 23:42 and the plea by the malefactor on the cross near our Lord.

We will address the content and context of the conversation in a future post, but here I wanted to look at the difference in English translations. We've noted elsewhere that Gentiles during the Lord's earthly ministry needed to recognize him as eternal Creator God and not as the promised Messiah of Israel. But when we look at the English translations, we see one enormous omission in some:

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. (KJV)

Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (NKJV)

he said to Jesus, `Remember me, lord, when thou mayest come in thy reign. (YLT)

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” (NLT)

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. (NIV)

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (ESV)

Note that in most of the newer translations the word "Lord" is omitted. This is because the word (Gk: κύριος or kýrios) does not appear in he "critical" texts. This is a major change. We will see in another study on this exchange that the malefactor (not the thief) is only promised "Paradise," not necessarily a place in Israel's earthly Kingdom (the only kingdom in view here). Our point here is that the omission of "Lord" borders on blasphemy. "Jesus" should be accompanied by Lord, especially when used by Gentiles. 

I have noted in another post that sometimes the more modern versions give a better sense of a verse (so I am not condemning them altogether), but we must understand the shortcomings of some of the manuscript evidence used for those translations. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Catholicism And Contradictions

The majority of mankind think that they think; they acquiesce, and suppose that they argue; they flatter themselves that they are holding their own, when they have actually grown up to manhood, with scarcely a conviction that they can call their own. So it was, and so it ever shall be.
-E.W. Bullinger
 In my 27 years in Christendom, I have discovered the above to be too often true. I can see where I have been guilty of adopting certain views or interpretations before doing the necessary work. But I believe this dangerous problem is no more true anywhere than it is in the Catholic Church.

This past Friday, according her wishes, a funeral mass was held for my mother. As the child who is in the city with the church, I was tasked with working with the church on the arrangements. I didn't have a lot of say, but I was asked to choose the scripture readings. I was given a list of choices for each reading (Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel). My choices:

  • Job 19
  • Romans 5
  • John 11

I chose scriptures that speak of the hope and truth of resurrection because of the finished work of the Savior. Those familiar with my posts know that I hold that resurrection is the great hope of believers. This is how believers in scripture are comforted.

When it came time for the homily, we were pleasantly surprised. The priest gave a wonderful message on the great hope of resurrection for all who believe. I had chosen John 3:16 as the response verse and he referred to it as the great promise of life to those who believe. He cast a large net to all present who believe. Give the man his due, he spoke great truth! It was a message on the hope of resurrection rarely heard in Evangelical pulpits.

He spoke of what Christ did for all of us on the cross. He spoke of Christ's one act undoing Adam's one act. It was pretty spot on.

But then the man turned to the "Liturgy of the Eucharist" wherein we were offering a sacrifice for my mother's soul? The whole thing, and every prayer, turned from the Savior to our offerings for my mom's soul. (I won't quote the mass here, you can search Catholic prayers for those in Purgatory.) It was a complete denial of the work of Christ we were just celebrating. They also make clear that when they say "church" they mean the Roman Catholic Church alone. And, of course, only Catholics in good standing were invited to participate in communion (which is fine with me, I reject transubstantiation and I don't participate in the "Lord's Supper" in this age anywhere).

That brings me to my mother's friends. From the priest to every Catholic who visited the family receiving line, they all said things along two lines: her suffering is over, she is now in bliss with my deceased father. No. That is not what you teach! That is not what the Catholic Church believes at all! They teach and believe she is suffering beyond anything we can imagine. She is suffering for her sins in flames (the "flames of love" as one Catholic "saint" put it).

The even greater irony is that several of these people gave us cards informing us mass will be offered for her by some Catholic order or another. But you told me her suffering is over and she is rejoicing with my father?

I briefly covered Purgatory in a recent post. You can read that if you want more information. The point here is that they don't even follow their own doctrines. If I had said to these devout Catholics when they said her suffering was over that they were wrong and that she is suffering for hers sins in flames with pain we cannot imagine, I'd most likely be labeled a "Catholic-basher" or worse (I know because that has been true for the last 27 years). Or they might simply think I'm a cruel monster.

I am not even touching the hem of the garment on Papal teaching in regard to non-Catholics and ex-Catholics. As the priest spoke to all us as believers who will find life in resurrection, he was denying Pope, Council, and Catechism which teach salvation only for Catholics and the certainty of fiery torment forever for those of us who have left the CC.

People are free to believe what they want. But if you're going to claim the Catholic Church is keeper of all spiritual truth, then contradict it, don't trouble me when I contradict it. I'm glad these Catholics don't just parrot Catholic dogma, but when a clear contradiction is presented, they don't seem to care or question it either. As I noted in a another post:

On that day, no denomination, no church, no board, no council, no catechism, no creed, no pastor, no teacher, no seminary... no one will stand in your stead. There are 7 billion theologies in the world and you are responsible for ONE... your own.... and you will answer for it.

My mother is dead. My father is dead. Our hope is that the professions they made in Christ's perfect sacrifice and resurrection means we will see them in the flesh in an age to come. This is the hope the priest spoke of... I just don't think he really believes it. Of course, he could have purposely been speaking in double-speak. I attended a seminar as a Catholic Religious Education teacher wherein we were taught this technique when speaking with Evangelicals.

Since I have no way to read a man's heart, I hope he truly believes what he spoke in that homily and that he will experience resurrection. God is calling Catholics (as I was when he found me) into the light of the truth of the finished work of the Savior, unfortunately some choose to stay in the Catholic Church (more on that in another post).

All praise and glory and honor to our Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ alone.