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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.

From ReformedAnswers.org:
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.


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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

Oh.

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: https://reformedgear.com/ 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.