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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Quick Note About Theological Deafness

I was recently sent an article by Prophecy News Watch titled, "The Fading Light of Pop-Christianity." You can follow the link and read it for yourself. In general, I think they brush with a very wide stroke.

They make some legitimate points. I know very well that theological knowledge is rather thin these days, but I'd argue it's been thin for close to 2000 years. In the recent past, wearing a tie, not playing games on Sundays, and using a KJV Bible was erroneously thought a sign of intellectual and theological depth.

We've covered the vacuous nature of the latter. But lest I, too, brush with too wide a stroke, let me pull back and put some particulars to my concerns.

I often quote Dr. Bullinger's words in regard to the adopting of another's beliefs and calling it one's own:
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.

This is one of the truest statements I have ever read. I came out of a very conservative Catholic parish and Archdiocese. It was rich with tradition, rules, discipline, training, and cathedrals. However, what mostly happened was the regurgitation of  thoughts from men like Aquinas or Augustine or of any number of Popes or Councils or cathecisms.

In a similar way, what passes for depth in many of today's conservative Evangelical (Fundamental) circles is simply the regurgitating of "accepted truths." Some of these truths may very well be truths, but often the holder has not sought them out for himself. He has not tested them. He has not put them through the crucible of reason and objection to truly make them his own.

Having spent the better part of the last seven years in a "contemporary" gathering and all the years before that (after coming out from Rome - where I served as altar boy, acolyte, and teacher - after a personal search for truth) in two very conservative and fundamental movements, I can say (admittedly anecdotally) that I saw childishness, vacuousness, simplicity, and error as much as I saw depth, fervor, spiritual thirst, and genuine faith in all.

I've seen people in the contemporary movement who don't know much, but they "love the Lord" (as defined by them). I've seen people in the conservative gatherings who don't know much either, but they wear a tie and listen to hymns. Neither gives me faith in their store of gold, silver, or precious stones (but that is for the Lord to judge, I am not the judge of another man's servant).

The one common thing I saw across the spectrum was an adopting of the beliefs of others and fidelity to a system and not necessarily to truth (wherever it may lead). Hillsong writer Marty Sampson's apostasy no more surprises me than does the Southern Baptist pastor caught up in a sex scandal. Just two different symptoms of walking in the flesh after adopting a simplistic and shallow theology.

A final note of irony. In lamenting the fall of that old time religion, Prophecy News Watch gives us this tale of woe:
Not to be outdone, the historic Norwhich Cathedral in England had a helter-skelter installed. The Rev. Jonathan Meyrick delivered a sermon atop the carnival ride, saying, "God is a tourist attractions," and "God wants to be attractive to us... for us to enjoy ourselves, each other, and the world around us and this glorious helter-skelter is about just that" ... A sacred cathedral becomes a joke. This after the Anglican church also installed a mini-golf course in another UK cathedral.
Let's count the human traditions in this blurb. 

  • What's an "historic" cathedral, and who cares? 
  • Who gave this man (or any man) the title of "Reverend" (certainly not the Lord)? 
  • Worse than just an historic cathedral, what on earth is a "sacred cathedral?"

And all of this wrapped up in sacramentalist "Anglican" garb.

Hey, PNW, God doesn't care about your "cathedrals," your hymns (many of which written by unbelievers and which teach error), or your ties.

So, yes, lots of problems in the contemporary "system" just are there are many, many problems in the other systems of men. We've covered before the blasphemies of "ancient" and "conservative" movements like Catholicism and Reformed Theology. The problem with both ends of the tie spectrum is being caught up in peripherals.  This makes some sense, as worrying about these unimportant matters is easier than studying to show oneself approved a God, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

"Bill wears a tie, carries a KJV, listens to hymns, goes to Sunday School... he qualifies for leadership!" is just as problematic as "Todd is a zany guy, plays guitar, wears colorful shirts, and dances up front at every service, and boy does he love the Lord! He qualifies for leadership!"

Just adopt Calvin's or Luther's or Aquinas' or Piper's or MacArthur's or Laurie's or [fill in your guru]'s theology, memorize the catechism (or whatever your guru calls it) and start pointing fingers at those who have a different catechism.

Build yourself a cathedral or a worship center. Wear the same clothes and listen to the same music everybody else in that building... somebody will think you're a "great Christian" and somebody will think you just don't understand Christianity. 

Again, I don't mind a critique of any theology, but finding the spec of an electric guitar in your brother's eye while you have an enormous cathedral in your own may be cause to step back and reconsider your criteria.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Are We Preaching the Right Gospel?

Last month, we looked at an overview of the Plan of God. You can review that HERE

Today I want to focus in on one aspect of that idea: what gospel do we preach in this age

Did you know there is more than one true gospel? Hold your horses, I am not saying there are many paths to God. Faith in the true God and in his revelation apart from our works has always been the path to resurrection life. We are entirely dependent on his wonderful grace! But it should be obvious that the revelation we believe changes.

Obviously, Adam could not possibly have "the hope of Israel" nor could he be part of the "one new man." He lived before Abraham and Sinai. He also could not understand the Gospel of the Kingdom preached by John the Baptist, the Apostles, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself. We can take that a step further and say the same concerning the "gospel" of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, or David.

What we can say of that last group is that each had faith in something different. Abel had faith in the God of Adam, that one day Paradise would be restored. Noah believed God would preserve him through his judgment of the earth. Abraham believed God in that he believed in his promise of an earthly land for him and his descendants. David believed God would one day put a descendant of his on the throne until the end of the age. None of these had faith in themselves, but only in the word of God. They all received grace through faith.

None of these would have heard or have preached, or have fully understood the specific "gospel of the Kingdom" preached by the Lord in his earthly ministry. It should not be shocking or necessarily heretical, then, for us to consider the same for us in the current age.

John the Baptist Sews the Gospel of the Kingdom

The gospel of the Kingdom itself changed from its introduction by John the Baptist (who sewed it along the path - Matt 13). When the Lord went about preaching it, it did not reflect what was later preached in the Acts Age. But all these preached "the kingdom" gospel. John's gospel was a modification of what Isaiah had spoken centuries before:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’ ”
-Matt 3:2-3

John was preaching preparation for the King who was coming on the scene. For Isaiah, this was yet future. But more importantly for us, there is no way we can preach this gospel in our age. All of Isaiah 40 should be read, but let's just pull out this from the voice crying out passage:

O Zion,
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem,
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,

And His work before Him.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.
-Isaiah 40: 9-11

The passage states that this comes after a period of Israel's judgment (v.2) and at a time when the glory of the Lord is revealed (v.5). John does not preach the entire passage just as the Lord does not preach the entire passage in Isaiah 61 when he reads in the synagogue (Luke 4). The Lord "rightly divides" the blessings promised if Israel will repent with the vengeance he will one day meet out on his and her enemies.

Israel rejected her King, was put aside at the end of the Acts offer (the age in which we live), and will one day have her kingdom restored and the King present after her great day of atonement in the Great Tribulation. 

What also jumps out of the Isaiah 40 passage concerning the kingdom and the future is that when the Lord does show his "strong hand" we see "His reward is with Him." This should immediately take us to the Revelation and to the Lord's words in Matthew. These are two very Jewish, Kingdom-based books. The rewards in these passages are given out as the result of works. This has no part in our age. This is the King returning to set up his kingdom in a specific land and he brings rewards with him. He brings the "treasures in heaven" those believers have stored up (Matt 6).

The Lord  Sews the Gospel of the Kingdom

The Lord starts his public ministry in Matthew 4 after the arrest of John the Baptist (the sewing among the stones). Note the similarities to John's gospel (good news):

Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
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.”
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." ... And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom...
-Matt 4:12-17, 23

Again, Isaiah is referenced and we see the Kingdom offer front and center in this gospel to Israel alone.  We know it was offered to Israel alone based on the passage in Isaiah and on the words of the Lord himself when he sends out his disciples to preach the gospel of the kingdom he had been preaching.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. -Matt 9:35

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. -Matt 10:5-8

We stop here to note that this gospel, at that time, had nothing to do with understanding the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. The disciples had not had that part of "the Mystery of Christ" (Romans) revealed to them. It was known in scripture, but hidden from their understanding until his resurrection.

We also note that miracles followed this gospel of the kingdom. This is the commission in Mark 16. It is a preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom, to Israel, and miracles would follow.

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 
-Mark 16:15-18

The Apostles Sew the Gospel of the Kingdom

Peter, in the Acts, called on Israel to repent and promised the King and the Kingdom if they would (sewing among the thorns). This followed the 40 days being taught by the risen Lord concerning the Kingdom after which the disciples had but one question, "will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1).

Look at this thoroughly Jewish passage. It is so rich, yet so neglected.

“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”
-Acts 3:17-26
Can I come to your church and preach this message and its promises?

We know from scripture (and clearly stated in Ephesians) that Gentiles were strangers to the covenants and promises (even in the Acts Age apart from Israel). From Abraham on, a gentile could only find blessing through Israel. Even the Lord declared that entrance into the Kingdom was "of the Jews" (John 4).  You will not see a Gentile, from Nineveh to the Centurion who was blessed apart from Israel. In Romans we are told it was to Israel that the Oracles of God have been given to us. Even the gospel of this age was delivered through an Israelite (Paul).

At this point, I hope you can see that we do not preach the same gospel that John the Baptist or the Apostles in the Acts Age or the Lord himself preached. So what should we be preaching in this age?

The Two-Fold Gospel of the Current Age 

(The Dispensation of the Mystery)

We have a two-fold message today based on the 8 books which followed the plan of Israel and the Kingdom gospel (and Israel) being set aside at the end of the Acts Age. We have the gospel of "life through his name" preached in the gospel of John. This is the gospel of the Lamb of God, who is God incarnate, who takes away all the sin of the whole world. It is a gospel without a Passover. It is a gospel to "whosoever will" believe. It is the gospel of the free gift of resurrection life.

While we start there, we cannot finish there. We preach a message to these believers of another Mystery, the Mystery of the "one new man" found in Ephesians and in the 7 post-Acts epistles of Paul. This is a gentile gospel. It does not depend on Israel and claims none of Israel's promises or ordinances or hopes.

In our Acts 3 passage, Peter speaks of truths spoken "since the world began." In Galatians and Romans Paul opens up the scriptures revealing the plan that gentiles would be blessed through and with Abraham. This was not understood, but it was always in the plan of God. In Romans we see gentiles grafted into ISRAEL to make ISRAEL jealous.

None of that is part of the gospel of this age, the Mystery which was hidden from BEFORE the foundation of the world and unknown to the prophets. There is no longer a "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile. In a sense, all are gentiles. This age has no Passover (Lord's Supper). It has no washings (water baptism). It has no feast days. It has no earthly hope.

The hope of this age is not an earthly kingdom, it is blessings in the "far above the heavens" (Eph).

The Final Sewing of the Gospel of the Kingdom by the 144,000

If you've followed the sewings above, you will notice I have not mentioned the fourth and final sewing of the gospel of the Kingdom from the first parable in Matthew 13 (the Kingdom gospel). As we have seen this is for Israel and Israel will one day soon again be at the center of the God's dealings. Attention will turn back to the earth, to the promised land, to the Kingdom, to David's throne, the twelve tribes.

12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel will be called out to again preach the promises of the Kingdom on earth (Revelation 7 & 14) along with the two witnesses of Rev 11.

In our most recent study we noted the coming Great Tribulation yet to come on Israel. In the passage we reviewed in that study from Matthew 24, we have this:
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matt 24:13-14
This is the fourth sewing of Matthew 13, and it will bear much fruit among the good soil, cleansed through the fiery trials of the tribulation. This has nothing to do with us in this age.

This is what will happen at "the last trump." This is where the fulfillment of the passages in Isaiah and the prophets will come to fruition. This concerns the earth and the promised land.

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,

And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
 -Rev 11:15-18
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality [resurrection]. 
-1 Cor 15:51-53

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first [resurrection].
-1 Thess 4:16

Note the other gospel proclaimed in the coming age. This one to the gentile nations:

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

-Rev 14:6-7

As we have seen, there are a number of proclamations of "good news" [gospels] throughout the ages. We need to be sure we are not preaching a false "good news" or only a partial "good news." It all starts with faith and God's free gift of life by grace, but from there, there are different hopes, rewards, and blessings.

There are many issues raised here. I hope you will search the entirety of the blog to see if we have covered these issues elsewhere. But the first step is to understand the current age. All the scripture is FOR you, but it is not all directed TO you. If you believe it is, good luck building that ark or visiting the temple to offer your sacrifice!

Once you grasp the basics to understanding the Bible, and you come with an open heart willing to be taught by the Holy Spirit, God will start to reveal greater and deeper truths to you. But if you sit back and rely on a pastor, or a church, or catechism, or a creed to be your arbiter of truth, you will miss out on all God has in store for you. You will be trying to live in another's blessings and may never come to experience the fullness of God's grace.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Fresh Look at the Shortened Days of Matthew 24

And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. -Matt 24:22

This verse is part of the Lord's discourse on the coming Great Tribulation and the last days. It is often taught that this means that the terrible days only continue for so long, but the number of days is shortened to preserve life (that is, The Lord makes fewer days). In reading a number of commentaries on this verse, it is so assumed that this is the case that the writer either just uses "shortened" as obviously meaning "fewer" or the verse is skipped altogether. Here is just one example:
The elect's, God's people the Jews. So the tribulation will be so horrible, the war and all that will break out. The great battle of Armageddon, so fierce, so great, that unless God would shorten those days, no flesh would remain. And so for the elect"s sake, God will shorten those days. (Chuck Smith Bible Commentary, Matthew 24, excerpt)

Chuck Smith makes no attempt to address the word "shortened." It is just assumed to mean fewer. On Smith's Calvary Chapel network, HisChannel, hosts such as Mike Macintosh and Don Stewart regularly treat the word "shortened" this way. Of course, they are not alone in this. On first blush, that conclusion seems reasonable. And this understanding is certainly not limited to Classic Dispensationalists. All across the theological spectrum "shortened" is read as "fewer days than there could be." I am not saying conclusively that inference is wrong, that very well may be the case.

But since we already have the specific number of days for the Great Tribulation, how could the number of days be shortened? How can there be "fewer" days?

From the time the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. -Dan 12:11 (CJB)

 And let us look at the longer passage from Matthew 24 in light of this statement from Daniel:

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

The Lord is pointing us to Daniel.

So to what could the Lord be pointing us? Could it be the length of the days themselves? Let us look at the parallel book to Daniel which lays out the Great Tribulation, The Revelation:

And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound! -Rev 8:12-13

If a third part of the day and night are smitten, the 24-hour day would be "shortened" to a 16-hour day. And this would be true everywhere on earth. If you have one third of a 22-hour day and a one third of 2-hour night in northern Russia taken away, it would still come out to a 16-hour day as it would on the opposite end of the earth (with a 22-hour night, etc).

The Greek word translated "shortened" is "κολοβόω" which has the sense of being "docked" or "abridged" (Strong's #2856). Thayer's definition lists "mutilate" as the primary meaning. This does not necessarily rule out "fewer," but it leans more towards a truncating of the days themselves.

Some have proposed that before the Noahic flood, the length of a day and a night and of a year was shorter. Of course, I am not stating this is proven fact, but it does make for an intriguing possibility. This is certainly not a doctrine central to the faith, but it does allow us, once again, to realize that we should allow the scriptures to speak for themselves and no amount of tradition or commonality of belief should prevent us from "searching the scriptures whether these things are so."

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Theological Horror Shows

Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. -Acts 17:22-23
Man is incurably religious. Even among Christians there is a groaning desire of the old nature for ritual, ordinances, holy days, etc. We have seen Romanism creeping in in places we would never imagine it happening. I was active in a Southern Baptist church when Advent candles were added to the life of the assembly. They craved ritual.

As we've noted in earlier posts on the Reformed churches, they are already dripping with Catholic leftovers from their church buildings to the structure of their services to their doctrines. But now we are seeing it even among the most conservative, dispensational Evangelical groups. Many Christians now practice Lent, for example. This is all in addition the two ordinances of Israel which are almost universally practiced by Evangelicals: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

At the center of this movement is a failure to rightly divide and a dissatisfaction with grace. Men, in the flesh, are eager to participate in either their own salvation or in their own sanctification. As they seek to "walk worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (Eph 4) they add rituals and ordinances and holy days to take the place of studying the scripture and resting in grace.

The problem leaps out from the verse quoted. Since they reject Paul's calling of grace and do not understand that Gentiles have never been under the law, they readily grab from wherever they like in the Bible and apply it to themselves. The parables in Matthew are misapplied everywhere. Worse than that, chucrhes print catechisms and creeds putting others in bondage to shadows never meant for them.

It's a vicious circle. Rejecting the Mystery revealed to and by Paul with its hopes and blessings "in heavenly places," they cling to Jewish rituals meant for an earthly people (this includes baptism and the Lord's Supper). And as they practice these rituals, it builds up pride in the flesh which will not allow itself to rest in this dispensation of grace.

In my many debates with Catholics, I often end up running in circles and concluding that no amount of information or contradiction will sway them because, simply put, the just like being Catholic. There is a comfort and a pride in rituals. But the Catholic is not alone in his pride. many Reformed just like being Reformed. Both groups worship their own histories to the detriment of Bible study. each have their own "authorities" outside of scripture (often they are the same authorities such as Aquinas and Augustine). They even claim the same creeds.

The failure to Rightly Divide the Word of Truth leads to grabbing whatever we read without context. Which leads us to our first horror show: Kate Hanch and her articles at Baptist News Global. Her most recent article is titled, "A case for making the sign of the cross — even for us Baptists (and other Protestants)." Ex-Catholics everywhere cringe.

Ms. Hench is hardly an outlier. As we have noted, other unbiblical practices (in addition to those which are biblical, but which are meant for another age and another people) have been embraced by Christendom: Ash Wednesday, Lent, Advent, Saints, worship of angels, holy water, etc.

Further adding to the confusion and empowering of the flesh is this model, championed by the Reformed churches and seminaries, but increasingly adopted by all wings of Christendom:

This chart is next in our theological horror hall of fame. Historically, the ones who get to write the creeds and confessions have tortured and killed the ones who wander outside of them. Imagine those who honor men like Luther, Hus, Tyndale, and  Wycliffe telling Christians it's dangerous to question the status quo! Well, it is surely dangerous in terms of this world, but if we truly want to "study to show [ourselves] approved unto God" we are necessarily going to have to discard creeds and confessions and catechisms.

"Our forefathers threw off the yoke of popery in religion: for you is reserved the honor of leveling the popery of politics. They opened the Bible to all, and maintained the capacity of every man to judge for himself religion." -Samuel Adams

If your belief system is a creed, you have no truth, you have merely adopted the belief system of another. The Holy Spirit is not your teacher, you have submitted both mind and will to a man or to men. This is the formal teaching of the Roman church. It seems no matter how far the Evangelical and Reformed churches believe they have wandered from Rome, we discover that all roads not built on a personal theology still lead to Rome.

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. 
-Col 2:16-23

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Double Heresy of Limited Atonement

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement (Greek: hilastḗrion), through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished... -Rom 3:25 (NIV)
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (Greekk: katallagḗ). -Rom 5:11 (KJV)

We need to be conscious and careful of the words we use. The KJV uses "atonement" only once (Romans 5), but Christ is not offering an "atonement." The better word would be "reconciliation" (translated this way in the three other instances of the Greek word in the KJV). The atonement was a covering of the sins of the redeemed nation of Israel. The work of Christ is complete. We do not have nor need atonement.

Other translations, such as the NIV, use "atonement" as well when better words are available. In the case of Romans 3:25, "reconciliation" fits the context better:

if, being enemies, we have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in his life [resurrection]. And not only [so], but we are also boasting in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom now we did receive the reconciliation. -Rom 3:25 (Young'd Literal)

The Greek word "hilastḗrion" used here is only used one other place in the Greek scriptures: Hebrews 9:5 where it is translated "mercy seat." We see the argument Paul is making to Hebrews (Jews) in regard to the finished work of the Savior.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent s still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various ablutions, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. -Heb 9:6-14 (RSV)
The argument is that Christ is NOT simply an "atonement" (or covering) which has to be repeated. No, he is the great high priest who entered "once for all time" with a perfect sacrifice. This was not a "covering," it was a "completion. It was not an "atonement," it meant God was fully reconciled to man. This is why the veil was torn in two when the Lord died. It was opening the way for the great high priest to enter the Holy of Holies (Mark 15:38).

This whole argument is given to Israel. It is their law which demanded "atonement." No Gentile was ever asked to offer an atonement. This is simply because no Gentile was ever under the Law. The only restrictions put on Gentiles are those living among Israel. This is reflected in the four "necessary things" placed on Gentiles in Acts 15.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’ -Lev 17:11-12

Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. -Acts 15:19-20

Whereas "strangers" and "foreigners" living among Israel were welcome to participate in certain feasts, they could not participate in the Passover, except they identify with Israel through circumcision.

And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it. But every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it... And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. -Ex 11:43-44; 12:48

We need to understand that Christ has already taken away the sin of the world, every sin, every person. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5). This does not mean that all have life. Life is granted by faith (John 20:31; etc.) as a free gift (Rom 6:23; etc.). We have a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-19).

God is no longer imputing sins to anyone. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation."

The world's sins are already paid . We call on people to be reconciled to God because he has already been reconciled to them. We moved from "God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day" (Ps 7:11) to God still being just but now that "He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom 3:26). 
The Reformed doctrine of "limited atonement" is a double error. When coupled with mythology of a God torturing people with fire for rejecting a free gift, we have horribly distorted both the loving character of God and the nature of what Christ fully accomplished.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

More Confusion Over the Reformed Love for Aquinas

I previously wrote about the confusing doctrine of Purgatory. In getting there, I quoted one of the recent heroes of the Reformed movement, Dr. R.C. Sproul:

I, for one, am persuaded that the Protestant Church owes a profound debt to Saint Thomas and the benefit of a second glance at his contributions.... We need an Aquinas. We need a titanic thinker who will not abandon truth for safety. We need men and women who are willing to compete with secularists in defense of Christ and of his truth.
In this regard, the dumb ox of Aquino was heroic.

-R.C. Sproul on Thomas Aquinas

I went on to note Aquinas' view of Purgatory in light of Sproul's ringing endorsement. It should be seen as horrible heresy by any true believer. This is the man we defer to on doctrine? The excerpt is from an article of Sproul's about Aquinas titled, "Was He The Most Brilliant of All the Theologians?" Well, maybe he was, if gross heresy and error fall under "brilliant." I'm not doubting his intelligence, but we understand that intelligence, not informed by scripture and the new nature is a dangerous thing. No one doubts Satan is briliant, but that hardly makes him an arbiter of truth.

I revisit this topic because I recently received a fundraising letter from the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. In my previous life as a devout Roman Catholic, I supported them financially along with other conservative Catholic organizations. I still receive requests from several of these organizations despite having left the CC over a quarter of a century ago. I'm pretty sure I've responded to all of them with a short testimony and a gospel tract at some point... but still the appeals come.

Out of boredom or curiosity, I decided to read the appeal before I tossed it in the scrap bucket. And wouldn't you know it, it closes (in part) with this:

Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary provides a formation founded upon the sound teachings, principles, and methods of St. Thomas Aquinas, The Angelic Doctor of the Church.

I'm not suggesting either Aquinas or Sproul is guilty by association. Surely the CC takes scripture out of context which is no fault of scripture. But in the case of Aquinas, some of his teachings are presented as interpretations of scripture which are wholly opposed to sound Christian doctrine.  These teachings are treated on the level of scripture itself.We noted this in our previous study on Purgatory. In an case, we should never build anything on the non-inspired word of any man alone.

And just as the CC carries the authority of Aquinas too far, so would some in the true church.

The problem is not directly with Aquinas, it is the odd reverence men like Aquinas, Augustine, Cyprian, etc. receive from the Reformed movement. They treat the writings and opinions of these men almost as though they are scripture. They are called "Church Fathers" and "Doctors of the Church," yet they are no more authoritative than I am (than you are).

The Reformed movement embraces heretics like Aquinas while scoffing at and black-balling men like E.W. Bullinger. The Reformed churches are the worst, but it's not just them. I was in the dispensational Plymouth Brethren for ten years and many there warned of "Bullingerism." Meanwhile, they would not bat an eye at someone quoting Aquinas or Augustine. That is not universally true among the PB, but true in enough places.

If you not aware, the Plymouth Brethren trace their roots to John Darby himself and have produced many (classical) dispensational scholars and teachers. But even there, in some quarters, a "Church Father" has more respect than the great dispensational teacher, E.W. Bullinger. Again, I want to be careful. There are PB who recommend some of Bulliger's works, etc. I only use the presence of some angst among some of them in regard to Bullinger as a contrast to the relative acceptance of the "Church Fathers" across a wide range of Christian theologies.

A teacher may quote Augustine and have no negative reaction, but quote Bullinger and he risks blow-back. This is certainly true among the Reformed.

One of the most scathing "anti-Bullingerism" pieces you can find was penned by well-known dispensationalist Harry A. Ironside. I read it when I was trying to refute Bullinger's teachings, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out who Ironside was attacking! The paper is a tilting at windmills. He was attacking a straw man of his own making.

So it's not just a Reformed love of Aquinas that this ex-Catholic finds confusing, it's the admiration of the "Church Fathers" (not named Paul) in general by anyone professing the true gospel that troubles me.

PS: the only encouraging thing in the group's annual appeal is in the opening line: "The Catholic priesthood is in crisis." May it be so.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Josh Harris, Calvinism, and Social Justice

By now we have all heard that author Josh Harris ("I Kissed Dating Goodbye") has not only renounced his own book, but his Christianity as well. But what exactly is he renouncing?

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me...
-2 Tim 2:15
People departing from the faith is nothing new. It has plagued the faith since Paul declared that all in Asia had abandoned him. The philosophies of men and the desire of the flesh for earthly ordinances drives men from the truths of this age and will either leave then rigidly stuck in a man-made system or they will drift from the faith.

I was never opposed, per se, to Josh's book. As a guideline for some, it may have some value. But it contained guidelines, not scriptural absolutes. Even if a guideline was built in an absolute, we have to let the absolutes remain absolutes.

For example: It is an absolute that God sees the design for marriage as being between a man and a woman and for intimacy to take place only in that monogamous, permanent union. You can start there, but if you add on "courting" or any other system, we must make clear the system is merely a suggested guideline. It is not a demand of scripture, nor can it hold anyone to that standard.

Josh Harris was a committed Calvinist. As I have often stated, I find "Reformed Theology" to be dangerous, full of snares and mines. It certainly is a hindrance to Bible study. I recently stated at my home Bible study, I am a zero-point Calvinist. This surprised some, but each of the 5-Points (created post-Calvin) is a snare (more on that in another post).

The Calvinist view of God is a cruel and blasphemous one. It makes God the creator of every horrid wickedness which ever entered the mind of man. It makes him responsible for the commission of those sins. And at the end of all things, he is the cause of massive torture on an imaginable scale against people who had no other option but to perform the wicked deeds he "predestined" them to commit.

They will try to wiggle their way around these conclusions from their own premises, but there is no logical way around them. Worst of all, they teach we will rejoice in their horrific torture when we get to heaven.

There are myriads of unbiblical teachings tangled up in all that theological mess, but at the core is a basic misunderstanding of God and the message for this age.

That said, could it be that Josh Harris' problems stem from the unbiblical hate of a the Calvinist's hate-filled god that finally drove him to the empty emergent church? The virtue signaling "social justice" of the scripture-rejecting church is often used to try to ingratiate a person to his peers and critics and quiet a guilty mind.

Lighthouse Trails Research offers a good overview of the possibilities.

We realize that Josh Harris’ stepping down from the Christian faith is most likely multi-faceted, both in the personal and spiritual realms, but his Calvinist (and probably emergent) indoctrination left him defenseless in standing firm in biblical truth.' [excerpt]

Of course, only Josh and the Lord know his heart. But as one who has had to deal with both of these religious traditions during my time in Christendom, it is worth looking again at the dangers of each.

Friday, July 26, 2019

What Happened To Make the Earth Without Form and Void?

When I was converted, I came into Christianity with 25 years of religion under my belt. The first thing I had to do was undo 25 years of training and indoctrination. This is where I first understood the need to "study to show [myself] approved unto God" (2 Tim 2:15). In that process, I was suddenly exposed to many different systems and theories.

One such theory is the so-called "Gap Theory." Initially, I dismissed it as simply an attempt to compromise with the theory of evolution. But then I heard J. Vernon McGee teaching on the subject and I noticed other fairly sound sources teaching it.

As we saw in my most recent post, the Bible is not about eternity, it is about the ages. We have also seen many times how God chooses to hide some things in Himself and how he has revealed other things over time. Gen 1:1 is not about the birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord. Those truths are unfolded over time. The disciples themselves didn't quite understand the ministry of the Lord until they had their understanding opened after his resurrection.

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day... -Luke 24:44-46

We need not understand all that happened between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, but we can infer from the commentary of scripture (the best interpreter of scripture).

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. -Gen 1:1-2

 Unfortunately, here in NKJV (as in a number of translations) we have the word "was" used when "became" is the better translation. That is, "the earth BECAME without form [to-hu] and void." This is not only a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew, it fits the witness of Scripture.

For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain [to-hu], he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else. - Isaiah 45:18

It was formed to be inhabited, but it was not ready for Adam until God brought some order out if the chaos. Where did this chaos start? If the earth was not created "without form" how did it become without form? The answer seems to lie with Lucifer's prideful rebellion.

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. -Ezek 28:13-15

When we first meet Satan (the "Shining one") in Genesis 3, he is not "perfect" in his ways, although created that way. Iniquity was found in him, and that is what is brought chaos to the earth created for him (initially).  Let's look at the New Jerusalem which comes down to the New Earth. The original earth lists 10 precious stones, the New Jerusalem lists 12.

The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. -Rev 21:19-21

We can see that there was a perfect earth (where in the universe, we do not know) which was the domain of Lucifer.  His iniquity sent it into chaos. Out of that chaos (for how long, we do not know), God created the ages in which our father, Adam, was placed.

And there was no more sea. -Rev 21:2

The New Earth may reflect the original earth down to which the New Jerusalem comes.  It has no sea. Water was used by the Lord to destroy wicked man in Noah's day, but could the original, perfect earth have been without water as well until Satan's rebellion?

We look to Peter's testimony as we examine this possibility.

For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. -2 Peter 3:4-7

We are tempted to see this as the Noahic flood which Peter references in his first epistle. But upon closer inspection we see the contrast, "but the heavens and the earth which are now." We know the coming new earth will be part of the "third heaven" (2 Cor 12:2). We have the earth that was then (Lucifer's domain), the present earth, and the third earth to come (the New earth).

The earth had a water baptism, it will one day have a baptism by fire. This chart by Clarence Larking gives us an overview of the history and future of the earth (I don't hold to the traditional Rapture, but that and other traditional datings do no harm to the point).

Note what we see in our passage from 2 Peter 3:
But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
We see the destructive power of both fire and water in the Lord's dealing with the child with the mute spirit in Mark 9:
So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him? And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Two of the most destructive (if not the most destructive) forces on earth are fire and water.

Regardless of how we see Peter's reference, we know something cataclysmic happened to thrown the earth from tranquility and perfection into formless chaos. How long that period lasted and how it affected the entire universe, we only see some of the results. The earth could very well have been the center of the universe until Lucifer's rebellion. There is much we do not know about the ages before the ages of Adam. We dare not speculate too much, but it does bring balance to scripture (Genesis and Revelation) and it does answer some questions about evil and Adam's fate in the garden.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

An Overview of the Plan of God

[T]here is nothing more frivolous than that common distinction of moral, judicial, and ceremonial law, which men ordinarily make use of. For no positive law whatsoever can oblige any people but those to whom it is given. “Hear, O Israel,” sufficiently restrains the obligations of the law of Moses only to that people.

-John Locke

 A fundamental of Bible study is the understanding that the Bible has very little to say about eternity (future or past). It is a book about the "ages" and about "days." We generically know that God has no beginning and that some day all the families of God during the ages will come together. But that is about all we know.

Since God wants us to be concerned with, and limit ourselves to, these ages and days, we need to understand them. We need to rightly divide them in their contexts.

We recently looked at a book ("Who is a Jew") which does great violence to these distinctions. It takes two verses in Romans, written to Jews in the Acts Age, and attempts to apply them across ages to all believers. This is inconsistent with usage of the words in question scripture and inconsistent with the Book of Romans itself! I will leave that there as we have covered these in that 3-part study.

We must start with an aerial view of the Bible. We must see the Plan of God from above so we know where we're landing (understand the context) when we're attempting to study, understand, and apply the Word of Truth.

A first step is seeing the approximate 7 Days of scripture. The "Days" equating to roughly a thousand years each. The first two days (2000 years), there was no Israel, no written law, and the revelation of Christ was present, but not well understood. The hope was the restoration of Paradise lost in the garden. It was an earthly hope.

The next two days (2000 years) see God choosing a nation and relating to mankind via that nation as His channel. That nation is Israel. From Abraham through the Acts Age, you see all nations dealt with only as they interact or are in contact or blessed through Israel.

We are currently in the next two thousand years; the Age of the Silence of God, as he calls out a people according to the Mystery hid in God from before the ages, revealed by the Apostle Paul at the end of the Acts Age and disclosed in the Book of Ephesians. In regard to Israel, this is the "two days" of her position as "not My people" ("Lo-Ammi" Hosea 1:9) ending with her full restoration as prophesied in the the Book of Hosea (6:1-3).

The Final thousand years will be the millennium age wherein Israel is restored, the New Covenant is enacted, and the promises made to the fathers (of Israel) come to fruition.

In the chart above we see the "hope" or "hopes" of the ages. Men sought the restoration of Paradise, the Abraham and Israel sought a land and a Kingdom and a Messiah, today we have "blessings in the far above the heavens" and look for the appearing of the Lord.

We note that all these ages end in failure (even the millennium).

  • Men grew ever more wicked and God destroyed the world with a flood, but still, the nations built the Tower of Babel.
  • Israel chased after other gods, rejected their Messiah, then rejected the offer of the Kingdom.
  • This age will end in apostasy. Most professing Christians have abandoned Paul.
  • The Millennium will end with a great rebellion of those who hate the ruler-ship of Christ

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. -Gen 11:5-8

“The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying,

‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.”

“Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves. -Acts 25-28

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. -2 Tim 3:1-7 
When the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. -Rev 20:7-9

Within these ages are other lines which must be drawn. As just one example, the Law was not given to Abraham, but to Moses. That covenant laid out the conditions of the promises to Abraham, but they did not nullify those promises.
Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 
-Gal 3:21
We are repeatedly told by Paul that God's promises to Abraham and to Israel would come to pass (Gal 3; 2; Rom 9; Rom 15). We do not enter into those promises as they are earthly, bound to a land and a Kingdom on earth. They are connected to a priesthood. A requirement is, of course, faith, but our faith is not in that hope in this age.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love... 
- Eph 1:3-4

As our opening quote from John Locke encourages us to make correct distinctions, so we must. The covenants and promises and adoption were never given to Gentiles (save temporarily in order to make Israel jealous as we saw in our most recent study). They were given to Israel and God's promises are yes and amen (2 Cor 1:20)!

For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, thee ternally blessed God. Amen. -Rom 9:4
 Is that still true in this age? No. After the Acts Age ended, God revealed the plan for the next two thousand years which primarily concerned a people blessed in the heavens (not on earth) who can now come apart from Israel.
Remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. -Eph 2:11-13
If we fail to see these changes in the temporal Plan of God, we will miss the overall Plan of God and end in confusion. We will attempt to rob from Israel her promises and forsake our own blessings which are reserved in the "far above the heavens."

Most of Christendom has forsaken Paul in this way in this age. They seek earthly gain and claim the promises of other families of God. It is not too strong to say these are dangerous and Satanic practices. And as Satan presents himself as an "angel of light" (2 Cor 11), so the religion of man presents itself as "Christian." The adoption of Israel's earthly ordinances (Lord's Supper, Baptism, priesthoods, claims of new revelation from God, etc.) is a reflection of the failure of Christendom to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me... -2 Tim 1:15

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival [feast] or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. -Col 2:16-24

God is patient. I am not condemning those in error, merely imploring them to forsake the rudiments of the world and the practices of another age and embrace the one faith, one hope, and one blessing of the current Age. We are all on a journey of faith, but if we settle into the promises of another age, we will never enter into the full blessings of our own calling.

After our apostle, Paul, reveals the Mystery of the One New Man which was hidden in God long before the ages began, he implores us to walk according to its truths.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. -Eph 4:1

We were not called to Israel's blessings on earth, we are called to spiritual blessings in the far above the heavens, in the holy of holies, where Christ sits at the right hand of God!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"Who is a Jew" (Part 3)

I believe we have sufficiently covered the underlying error in Dr. Jones' argument as to believing Gentiles being the "true Jews." It is not merely an error, in my opinion, it is a gross error which fails to rightly divide both the current age and the plan of God for Physical Israel.

Let us take one last look at Dr. Jone's assertion:

The Church and Judah are the same entity. Although there are non-Judahites who have been grafted into this Judah Church, the Church itself is the legitimate tribe of Judah. The Apostle Paul makes this very clear in Rom. 2:28, 29
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly [Greek: en phaneros, “in manifestation, or what is apparent”]; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly [Greek: kruptos, “hidden”]; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. 
Here is Paul’s definition of a Jew, and he defines it both negatively and positively. He tells us that there are two groups of people, each laying claim to being a Jew (Judean). The bad figs are “apparent” Jews (The Concordant Version), for they were recognized by men as Jews.

We covered this in our first post on this book, but I want to emphasize again the danger of building an entire doctrine on a small passage without establishing it as consistent  truth. It must be consistent with the witness of scripture, the age it is given, and to the audience to which it is addressed.

Claiming Gentiles are somehow Jews is nowhere seen in scripture. We actually see the opposite. We do see that Gentiles, in the Acts Age, were grafted into Israel, but they never were called Jews. Never. And they did not lose their identity. They remained Gentiles. They were separate from Jewish believers (the real "true Jews" of Romans) from the beginning. In Acts 15, they are treated as different. In Galatians they remained Gentiles. In Romans itself, in the very chapter of the grafting in (Rom 11), Gentiles maintain a separate identity from the root, true Israel.

 Dr. Jones continues:
The good figs were the real Jews, though their identity was hidden, or not so well known to the general public. The “apparent” Jews were those who followed the Judaism of the day. The “hidden” Jews were those whose hearts were right with God. The “apparent” Jews laid claim to their tribal status and covenant status with God by means of physical circumcision. The “hidden” Jews laid claim to their tribal status and covenant status with God by means of the heart circumcision.

There are no "hidden" Jews. After the writing of the epistle to the Romans, Paul writes to the Ephesians that Paul is a prisoner for "you Gentiles." At no time are Gentiles ever said to be "Judah." This is even more problematic when we get to the listing of the tribes in the Revelation. But even long before that, James (an apostle to the Circumcision) writes, very specifically, "to the twelve tribes scattered abroad." These are the "believing Jews," the "true Jews," the "Israel of God" of scripture.

Gentile believers are not "the legitimate tribe of Judah." That is a blasphemy and falls dangerously close to the warning for those who "say they are Jews and are not," from the revelation. You will find no Gentile being called a member of the tribe of Judah, but we do see all of Israel being called "Jews." If we accept that "Jew" is derived from "Judah," that helps us none. In the two kingdoms (Israel and Judah), all were Israel.

Israel was united at the dedication of the second temple. The Book of Ezra (which needs to be read as a whole) states in part:
Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. And they offered sacrifices at the dedication of this house of God, one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses. And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were ritually clean. And they slaughtered the Passover lambs for all the descendants of the captivity, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel. -Ezra 6:15-21

There are no "lost tribes."Chapter 8 states "all Israel were present." And we have this detail as well:

The children of those who had been carried away captive, who had come from the captivity, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and twelve male goats as a sin offering. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord. -Ezra 8:35
Moving to the coming of the Lord, we see Anna:
Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. 
-Luke 2:26
Was Anna not a Jew?

In the same chapter, Simeon states what had been clearly seen in Moses and the Prophets:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel

Both Gentile and Israelite to be blessed through Israel's Messiah, but always to remain separate and distinct. This is how Paul handles Jews and Gentiles during and after the Acts Age. It is how Paul handles Jews and Gentiles in the Book of Romans itself.

We again turn to the "grafting in" passage in Romans 11, central to Dr. Jones' assertions. Th entire chapter is necessary here. It is abundantly clear that Gentiles remained Gentiles. It is abundantly clear that while not all Jews believed, they had been blinded only "in part," and God's redemptive plan and covenants were still here. We must not rob Israel of these. It is a wickedness and a blasphemy to claim Israel's promises.

Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. -Rom 11:28-32

In that age, while unbelieving Jews were "enemies" of believing Gentiles, they were still "beloved for the sake of the [Jewish] fathers." God's promises to the nations are not transferable, they are irrevocable. The nation will have their land. They will have their New Covenant. It has not been transferred.

For a temporary period (long ended), in order to reach the people of promise, God "grafted in" Gentiles who forever remained Gentiles.

Paul warns that is gross wickedness for Gentiles to become haughty and try to deny Jews their promises.
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles... do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You [Gentiles] will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches [Jews], He may not spare you [Gentiles] either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
-Rom 13,19-27

Dr. Jones continues his line of reasoning:

The Old Covenant was broken and no longer had force in the Divine Court. Those who adhered to the Old Covenant by means of outward circumcision were depending upon an obsolete, conditional Covenant that had been broken and abolished. The only way to have a Covenant relationship with God was through the New Covenant, whose sign was the inner circumcision. 
Yes, the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant. Hebrews 8:13 says,
When He said, A new covenant, He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

He does not read his own reference. He states "The Old Covenant... no longer had force in the Divine Court," then quotes the verse which teaches that the Old Covenant had not yet gone away. In Acts 15 and Acts 21, the Jews, including the Apostle Paul, were still under the Law. In Acts 28, Paul says to the Jews in Rome that he was in chains "for the hope of Israel." 

We have covered the New Covenant previously in this study and in other posts. Suffice it to say, when one reads the New Covenant (in Hebrews or in Jeremiah) is should be abundantly clear it not yet here, it is specific to Israel and her land, it is given to "virgin Israel," and it has nothing to do with blessings in the heavenlies. It is earthly covenant with an earthly hope. Grafted in Gentiles of the Acts Age could look forward to enjoying its blessings, but we have no such hope in this age.

We are believing Gentiles with out hope in the far above the heavens (Eph). We look for His appearing and to be taken to heavenly places where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Israel is waiting for the restoration of the Kingdom in the land promised to Israel. This pertains to all twelve tribes. When we fail to rightly divide the Word of Truth, we end up in confusion.

Monday, July 22, 2019

"Who is a Jew" (Part 2)

We continue to look at the book "Who is a Jew" by Stephen E. Jones. (Part 2)

Let's look at the author's next argument.
God had every right to disinherit even full-blooded Israelites regardless of their genealogy. In fact, He had already claimed this right many years earlier by disinheriting Reuben and giving the dominion mandate to Judah.
In laying out this leg of the argument, Dr. Jones speaks of the two sets of figs (two fig trees) pictured in the prophecy of Jeremiah 24. As we noted in our previous study (and in an earlier study concerning the dichotomies of scripture), there are two paths; the path of faith and the path of rejection. We see the two seeds, those of God and those of Satan. We note, again, that apart from faith it is impossible to please God. This has never been a question. This has been truth since Adam.

This condition functions in all ages. The Lord warns "the sons of the kingdom" (Israel which has the promise of inheritance) that one can lose his place in that inheritance (Matt 8). Faith is that which moved the Lord to perform miracles in his earthly ministry (Matt 13; Mark 6; not that he couldn't perform them, he did perform "some" miracles where there was little faith, but God responds to faith, it is his condition). We noted las time that the Lord was "sent to none, but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matt 15) and that he came to "fulfill the promises made to the fathers" (Rom 15).

While the faith requirement is a universal truth, it does not take a member in one dispensation and place him in another. We cannot enter into the promises of Israel in this age. During the Acts Age, in order to make Israel jealous, in order to fulfill scripture concerning the blessing of Gentiles through Abraham, Gentiles we grafted in to the root of Israel because of their unbelief.

But with that understood, the Jew never lost his place. Circumcision still had an advantage "much in every way" (Rom 3). The Gentile was still under the threat of losing his place in Israel's promises while unbelieving Jews could take a superior place via faith. This is the argument of Romans 11 which we looked at last time.

Paul, in Galatians, warns Gentiles not to be circumcised. In Acts 21 he was still telling Jews they needed to be circumcised and he had Timothy circumscribed (but not Titus). Was Paul confused? When he wrote "every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law," what did that mean? Would it not apply to Timothy whom Paul had circumcised?

We saw this distinction in Acts 15 in Jerusalem (note the Apostles were still there). This is long after Cornelius had received the Holy Spirit and gifts. In that council, the Apostles (with the approval of the Holy Spirit) make a distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers. Would we dare do that in this age? And do we still have the four "necessary things" requirements for Gentile believers in this age?

In this Post Acts Age, there is no Israel to be grafted into. The middle wall of partition is down (Eph). The Law has been removed (Gentiles having never been under the law). There is "one new man" and all are essentially Gentiles. If we miss these distinctions, we are liable to believe we Gentiles have supplanted true Jews and have found ourselves with a claim to their promises in full.

Dr. Jones:
It is clear from this that only those who abide in Christ will bear the type of fruit that God is seeking. If one claims to be in Christ, but does not produce these fruits of the Kingdom, he is cut off. And “if anyone does not abide in Me,” Jesus says, “he is thrown away as a branch and dries up.”

We have no issue here. But what does Dr. Jones believe about being "cut off?" Cut off from what? The gift of Life? That is impossible as Life is a free gift by faith alone. It is a work of grace wholly absent of any works or "obedience."

Dr. Jones:

The early Church, founded on Jesus Christ and the apostles, was the true Judah “tree” that produced the good figs in the first century application of Jeremiah 24. However, Jesus’ followers were a tiny minority and were not in control of the temple in Jerusalem. When the bad figs rejected Jesus as Messiah, the believers were persecuted and finally expelled from the land. They were excommunicated from Judaism. 
The good figs lost their identity as “Jews.” That is, the bad figs retained the identification with the tribe or nation of Judah, while the good figs became known in the world as “Christians” (Acts 11:26). But God knew them as true Judah—the followers of the King of Judah, Jesus Christ. They were the good figs that God had expelled from the old land for their good. 
The evil figs, however, remained in the old land in their state of rebellion until the nation was destroyed in 70-73 A.D. God gave them forty years in which to repent, but they refused. Finally, God sent His Roman armies to carry out His sentence of judgment, even as Jesus said in His parable in Matthew 22:7,

Much of this is sound. True Israel and those who were part of the plan of God for Israel, necessarily, had to be believers. God closed the revelation of the Acts Age around AD 64. At that time, the mostly Jewish-Christian church began to leave Israel. Paul then revealed the change in God's plan in the Book of Ephesians (which we looked at last time). To put a final period on the Acts Age, the temple was destroyed and we entered into the prophetic "two days" of Hosea.

Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. -Hosea 6:1-3
 Hosea is picture of God relationship with Israel. God commands Hosea to marry a harlot. She bears him children of whom God says:

Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. -Hosea 1:9-10
Israel would enter an age when they would be "Loammi" or "not my people." But this would be a limited period. As the story unfolds, we see Hosea providing for his adulterous wife from a distance until he finally purchases her out of the slave market (Hosea 3). This picture is followed by God laying out the future of Israel (including the "two days" of chapter 6).

I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
This will result in God's New Covenant with Israel. It is a covenant with Believing and Repentant Israel, but it is surely with Israel. No Gentile can lay claim to it. Israel will be returned to her land in belief.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
Let us quickly look at the conditions of the New Covenant (in part) and understand it has no place in the current age which deals with a gentile people who have no hope on the earth. As we have noted, our hope and blessings are in the "far above the heavens" (Eph) and not on the earth.

Please see Hebrews 8 and Jeremiah 31
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people ("Ammi" Hosea). None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness,and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
At the time of the writing of Hebrews, the Old Covenant had not yet vanished. The New Covenant had not yet come in. Are these the conditions of this Age? Do we have no need to teach our neighbors about God? Is knowledge of Him everywhere? Are his laws written on our hearts?

In Jeremiah 31 (whence most of our passage in Hebrews is taken), we have this detail:
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!

You shall again be adorned with your tambourines,
And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.
You shall yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria;
The planters shall plant and eat them as ordinary food.
We see the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel under a New Covenant in many other places (especially in Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Zechariah) .

As we continue through our topic at hand, we must recognize what scripture says of these things, independent of man's traditions. Grace is not a covenant. Gentiles are not Jews. even in the grafting in of the Acts Age, Gentiles and Jews remained distinct in regard to blessing.

If a "real Jew" is any believer, surely we would have Paul applying that term to "all believers" at some point. Not only have we no examples of this (certainly the Apostles to the Circumcision never did: Peter, James, John, Jude), we actually have the opposite. After Paul reveals the Post Acts Age plan of God, the word "Jew" essentially disappears from his writings, save twice.

In Colossians, Paul states "there is neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile)" and in Titus, it it used as part of the adjective "Jewish fables." While the name "Abraham" appears 70 times from Matthew through the Revelation, it appears zero times in Paul's Post Acts Epistles. "Israelites" (plural) only appears twice in all the books of the New Testament, yet never in Paul's Post Acts Epistles. In context, it is applied to physical decedents of Abraham, according to the flesh.

We need to note the age and audience of the epistles.

In 2 Corinthians (an Acts Age epistle), Paul speaks of fellow believers, yet he still makes a physical distinction.
Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
This would be palpable nonsense if "Israelite" was suddenly applied to all believers.

While there is a distinction among Jews (as we see in Romans 2) between believing Jews and non-believing Jews, they are all still "Jews." They are all still Paul's brethren "according to the flesh." We mus keep these distinctions in mind when rightly dividing the two verses in Romans 2 in regard to the "inward" Jew.

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh... -Romans 9:3
The Lord himself is the seed of David and the seed of Abraham "according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3). This physical distinction is absolutely necessary for His claim to the throne. He must be from the tribe of Judah. If a Gentile becomes an "inward Jew," what tribe does he adopt? We have no idea, yet these tribal distinctions are important when it comes to the land and in future prophecy.

Furthermore, the Apostles to the Circumcision clearly distinguish believers by physical decendancy from the twelve tribes. They write to believing Jews. There is no hint that all believers are now "Jews." Peter and James write specifically to the dispersion (who still met in synagogues, James 2:2). There were no "lost tribes," there were Jews who either did not return from captivity or were scattered due to persecution. They were not writing to Gentiles.

Next time we will touch on the most serious and dangerous error in the book: the idea that the New Covenant is the free gift of life and that Gentiles must become Jews. How anyone could read the New Covenant and the prophets and conclude that is somehow in action today and somehow given to "gentile Jews" is nothing less than Satanic.