Search This Blog

Featured Post

Basics For Understanding the Bible

It’s sometimes not as hard as we make it.... This note is not meant to be sarcastic (OK, a little, but delivered good-naturedly) .  Its g...

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

An Alternative Timeline of What's Next

As we've noted, my eschatology is in pencil. That is, while there are elements of end-time and other future events that I am convinced await us, I'm not going to be dogmatic about the exact timeline.

Last time, we looked at one possible timeline. The unique feature of that proposal is probably the imposition of the perfect Kingdom of God on Earth as being imminent. Feel free and review that study. It is a view which, in my experience, most closely connected to teachers Otis Sellers and Tom Ballinger.

In our look at Daniel's 70 Weeks, we offered some possible dates for future events based on scriptures related to that prophecy and events in the first century. We noted that Daniel offers us two different sets of 70-week prophecies. I'll leave you to follow the link.

Today, we want to take the "Days" from our last study and suggest and offer a different order and an additional "Day." This rendering of the timeline is based on the work of Charles Welch and Stuart Allen.

If you'll recall, our last study offered this order:

  • The Day of Man
  • The Day of Christ
  • The Day of the Lord
  • The Day of God
 
Let us now look at them in this order:
  • The Day of Man
  • The Day of the Lord
  • (The Day of Christ)
  • The Day of God
  • Day of the Age

The Day of Christ is seen as the day of the judgment of the service of believers. This is the Judgment Seat of Christ (or the Bema). Here is just a sampling of related texts:

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for THE DAY will declare it 
‘He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against THAT DAY’. 
‘The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in THAT DAY’. 
‘Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at THAT DAY: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing’.

This Day is certainly future, and one about which we should be keenly aware, but I haven't quite pinned down when it will come. Part of the judgment of our service, in addition to deeds done in the flesh (Col), will be our obedience to the call of the age. Have we been true to the doctrines and practices connected to the Dispensation of the Mystery?


Day of the Age


For this very short study, I wanted to point us to the "Day of the Age" as this does not appear in most studies of prophecy. We, again, have to go beyond the King James Bible (KJV/KJB) and consult the original Greek. 2 Peter 3:18 is where we find this "Day." Also of interest here are the words "forever and ever" which we looked at in our study on eternity,

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (KJV) 
increase ye in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; to him [is] the glory both now, and to the day of the age! Amen. (Young's Literal Translation)
εις ημεραν αιωνος = unto Day of the Age

Stuart Allen proposes that this culmination of all things corresponds to the future age alluded to in 1 Cor 15:28, "Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all."

As prophecy primarily has to do with Israel, we need to look carefully at how God deals with that people. But we cannot neglect the truths give to us in our epistles for this dispensation. As Charles Welch writes in Part 8 of his great work, An Alphabetical Analysis:

It is manifest that each writer views the subject from his own point of view, Peter's 'last days' would be the last days of the dispensation associated with the Kingdom and Israel, whereas Paul's 'last days' would be the closing days of the dispensation of the Mystery. We are concerned when we read in 2 Peter 3:3, that in the last days shall come scoffers who shall walk after their own lusts and deny the Second Coming of the Lord; but we should be still more concerned to learn that the closing days of this most favoured dispensation will end in apostasy parallel to the conditions of ancient paganism (for proof of this statement see later exposition), and characterized by the same dreadful motive 'after their own lusts' (2 Tim. 4:3). With such passages of Scripture written for our learning, and with the consciousness that the end of the present dispensation cannot be far off, the reader will not be easily moved to believe that a great spiritual revival is on its way, even though such should be 'a consummation devoutly to be wished'.

The whole paper should be read if you'd like a good overview of prophecy and the world around us.


Folly Made Manifest to All


I want to offer one last word in regard to a scripture I noted in our last study. 2 Tim 3:9 tells us that in the midst of all the apostasy and perilous times at then end of the current dispensation something will happen quickly which will suddenly put an end to deception. 

they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all...

I suggested last time this could fit Sellers' (etc.) imposition of the Kingdom which would precede the Time of Jacob's Trouble (The Great Tribulation, The Day of the Lord). However, that is not the only possible explanation. Last time we looked at the word "manifest" and the manifestation of the power of God. In regard to the One New Man of this dispensation, it is said of us in Col 3:4 that "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." That appearing (the epiphenae which we looked at in other studies) will be sudden. It is the "blessed hope" we look for in this age. "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ..."

"All" in 2 Tim 3:9 could be used as the "all": in 1 Cor 15:22. That is "all of a kind." 

"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive"

Clearly, the second "all" in conditional on being "in Christ" without it being explicitly stated. This is made abundantly clear in the gospel to the world (John). One either has life in Christ or he does not. "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life" (John 3:36; etc.).


One Final Point for Your Consideration


Lastly, I wanted to note Oscar Baker's proposal of a post-Millennial Kingdom on earth which would last possibly 5000 years. He is not dogmatic about it, but suggests this Kingdom is what may be to what some of the prophecies refer. He suggests 5000 years as that would complete a 12,000 year cycle, starting from the post-overthrow creation (Gen 1:1-2 gap).

I, as he, only offer this as a possibility.

I highly recommend the Alphabetical Analysis by Welch linked above. Although written many decades ago, it is as timely as ever. And the world events to which he refers in that paper have come further into focus in our day.

No matter your final eschatology, I believe it is not too bold to say that we are entering in the last throes of the last days of the current dispensation. Something is going to happen soon, And for the believer of this dispensation, no matter what may lie ahead for Israel and the Nations, we are looking for the blessed hope of his appearing.



Friday, December 20, 2019

A Fresh Look at What's Next in God's Plan

We've discussed how some doctrines are in ink and some are in pencil. Well. my eschatology (doctrine of the end times) is one of those topics in pencil. Of course, there are some items withing my beliefs which are in ink, but most of it is in pencil.

I believe Christ will manifest himself. I believe there will be a 1000 year earthly kingdom. I believe the twelve apostles to the circumcision will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. These are clearly stated prophecies in scripture. But what is less clear to me is the exact sequence and exactly how individual believers fit into these events.

I do not hold to the traditional rapture doctrine (pre or post tribulation). I do believe the Lord will appear in the clouds, but it will be part of his return to Israel. As we noted at the start, the sequence is where I see ambiguities.

With this in mind, I'd like to present one theory proposed by some; most notably by Bible teachers Otis Sellers and Tom Ballinger.  As with all the links I post, I am quick to add that I do not necessarily hold to everything at these sites. But I will say both these men have very scripturally profitable ministries.


The Sudden Imposition of the Rule of God (The Manifest Kingdom of God)





The above chart is presented by Otis Sellers' ministry. We are concerning ourselves with section D.

One of the reasons this theory intrigues me is that I have known what do do with Paul's statement in 2 Tim 3 concerning the last days. In that horrific list of the full manifestation of carnal nature of man, we have a verse which suggests a sudden end.

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 3:8-9
The word translated "manifest" here is only found in this passage. It is the Greek word ékdēlos which means to make evident. The Revised Version reads, "their folly will be plain." The Modern English Version renders it, "their folly will be revealed to everyone." What could facilitate this sudden change? This will not be the time of the Tribulation wherein men will be deceived by the Man of Sin. Could it be God imposing the manifestation of His rule laid out in the prophets?

Let's compare this idea with Isaiah 40:5:

“And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

The "all" in 2 Timothy 3:9 and in Isaiah 40:5 is all mankind. It is a total manifestation of the power of God. These cannot be confused with the traditional doctrine of the Rapture as Isaiah 40 and its description of conditions on earth do not allow it. Isaiah 40 is what John the Baptist declared when he was calling on Israel to prepare a way for the Lord. It is a glorious chapter of a wonderful day to come (the Day of Christ). We will look at this later in this study.

Below is how Sellers' ministry, Seed & Bread, comments on section D (I copy and paste these notes as they contain the relevant scriptures for your consideration):

  • God literally invades the earth with His Spirit, taking over the governments of all nations to remake them. This is what the Bible speaks of as the epiphaneia (blazing forth) of the glory of Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13, Joel 2:28). (Isa. 40:5) “And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” God introduces His esteem for Jesus Christ into the minds of all living. (Ps. 22:27).
  • First, for the living generation when God intervenes, and for each individual upon their resurrection is the judgment (setting in order) by Jesus Christ. (2 Tim. 4:1) “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom;” This assay will quickly determine who among the living is worthy to continue to live and who among the dead shall be raised, and in what order to have a portion in the life of the Kingdom of God. (John 5:25) “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live.” (Col. 3:4). The gifts of Christ’s great victory – perfect health, a changed body and a clear mind – are immediate for every individual, but those judged unworthy will lose all. (Ps. 37:10).
  • Christ, ruling from the heavens skillfully brings about a perfect solution to every problem plaguing mankind. (Ps. 46:9, 10) “He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. “Cease (striving) and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Matt. 12:18-21, Isa. 9:6). The people of all nations put their trust in Him and enjoy a long period of peace, righteousness and justice. (Isa. 42:1-4, Isa. 26:9).
  • It is at this point in time that God calls the people of Israel, living and dead, out of all nations where they have been scattered, makes Himself known to them, and restores them to their land. (Jer. 31:10, 11) “Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.” (Ezk. 20:33-38, Ezk. 11:17-21, Ezk. 37).
  • The Temple is rebuilt, and accepted by God (2 Thes. 2:4). The order of daily sacrifice is renewed. (Ezk. 20:40, Ezk. 46:13).
  • Israel is the mediatoral nation, Jerusalem is the mediatoral city for all the nations of the World. (Isa. 56:7) “These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isa. 2:1-4, Ps. 68:29).
  • All men of all nations will have the help of God’s Spirit to learn righteousness as residents of God’s government. (Isa. 30:21) “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”


The Four Great Days of Scripture


Parallel to this expression of the theory is the discussion of the "Four Days of Scripture." We must account for all of these in our studies and our timelines.

  • The Day of Man
  • The Day of Christ
  • The Day of the Lord
  • The Day of God

As an aside, Hebrew does not have a possessive. That is, you would not say "Michael's car" in ancient Hebrew. You would say, "the car of Michael." Greek, however, does have a possessive (as in English). So, "The Lord's Day" in the Revelation is the same as "The Day of the Lord" in the prophets. It is certainly not Sunday. That is such a ridiculous application, it should be easily dispensed.

All of these days have different characteristics. One way to understand them is to see how they are presented in the books we call the New Testament. 


Man's Day.


This one is often forgotten today because the King James Version imposes a meaning on the Greek in 1 Cor 4:3 which obscures the Greek. The verse should read:

to me it is for a very little thing that by you I may be judged, or by man's day, but not even myself do I judge...

Both early English versions (Wycliffe and Tyndale)  include "man's day," which is changed to "man's judgment" in the KJV. That's a worthy commentary and description of how this day works, but it does rob from the original.

We need to be careful with the word "judgment." Judgment is not only condemnation, In fact, on its own, it never means that. Something can be judged worthy of condemnation, but the judgment itself is not condemning. In scripture we have Israel pleading for God's judgment. There are many examples of this, but we need only look at one, from Psalm 72.

He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.

This is good news for the poor. God's judgement are fair. And we need only look to the future placement of the twelve sitting on twelve thrones "judging" the twelve tribes of Israel. They won't be walking around condemning Israel, they will be ruling and making righteous decisions. What they hold bound on earth will be bound in heaven.

Surely we live in the Day of Man. We are subject to the judgment of men. Sometimes this is righteous, often not. Paul's warning in 2 Tim 3 is that "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." Man's judgments will become more corrupt as we work through the "last day." Can you imagine even pagan Rome approving of what we celebrate in our world today? 


Christ's Day


The interesting thing about this "day" is that is crosses dispensational boundaries in expectation. That is, the believers of the Acts Age and the believers of the Post-Acts Age are both pointed to the Day of Christ. The difference is that the Post-Acts Age (the Dispensation of the Mystery) was not seen as delaying it. The conditions, practices, order, and some future expectations differ, but both seem to be looking for this Day.

The Lord referred to this Day in his earthly ministry, revealed by John after the Acts Age ended.

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad” -John 8:56

Here are the references in Paul's epistles incorporating teaching during the Acts and the Post Acts periods:

“Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” -1 Cor 1:8 
“To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” -1 Cor 5:5 
“As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus” -2 Cor 1:14 
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” -Phil 1:6 
“That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” -Phil 1:10 
“Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” -Phil 2:16

Often expositors equate this "day" with "the Day of the Lord."  But the conditions do not fit. The conditions of the days themselves and the conditions laid out for believers.

This is not the Second Coming of Christ, rather it is the Second Coming of the Holy Spirit. The following passages certainly do not refer to the Day of the Lord. In Acts 2, after the Spirit came upon the twelve there, we read:

Acts 2:17-18, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy”

Peter is quoting the prophecy of Joel. Clearly, the Spirit did not fall upon "all flesh" (or all Israel) at that time. This was a foretaste. It was the first coming of the Spirit, which, like the first coming of Christ, was not the full manifestation of his presence. 

The Lord speaks of the future coming of the "Comforter." But can we say the coming at Pentecost fulfilled his prophecy? 

John 16:7-12, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”
Who is "the prince of this world?" This phrase is only used three times in scripture, all by the Lord, all in the Book of John. I suggest he is referring to Himself. The Holy Spirit will judge the world for the world took it upon itself to judge Christ. Remember, judgment is a fair assesment according to righteousness. It is not necessarily a condemnation. Christ has been declared righteous by the Father;  those who condemn Christ will be judged by the same standard. 

Daniel calls Christ, "Messiah the Prince." Of the antichrist, Gabriel says to Daniel, "he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes." The Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of princes!


Lord's Day


So much has been written on this topic. I will keep this brief and make only limited reference. It is the day that comes "as a thief in the night" and is connected to the Great Tribulation and the related prophetic passages. That time of tribulation leads into the millennial reign of Christ at his return (his physical presence, the parousia). 

Otis Sellers notes (excerpt):

This testing period is of unknown duration, but does include at its consummation the last seven years of the 490 years prophesied by Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27), the last 3½ years are described by Christ as being the greatest in tribulation. 
The “lawless one” makes himself known. (2 Thes. 2:3, 4) “The falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. He is destroyed at the coming (parousia) of Jesus Christ. (2 Thes. 2: 8). 
During the rebellion some of the faithful are martyred. They are the honored “dead in Christ” who will rise first at His coming (parousia). (1 Thes. 4:16, 17) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

God's Day

This day includes the cleansing spoken of by Peter and the coming in of the New Jerusalem and a new heavens and a new earth.

Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” -2 Peter 3:12-13
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. -Rev 21:13

 We cannot comprehend this day now, but after centuries of training by the Lord, we will have greater understanding and expectation when that day finally arrives.

Again, I keep my eraser handy!

Here is an alternative view: CLICK

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Fresh Look at Hebrews 9:27

I recently heard a somewhat disturbing message. There was nothing in the message that I have not heard a thousand times before, but the source was troubling. I found the recording at a site which has a similar theological understanding as I have. That is, they seek to "rightly divide the Word of Truth," and they take what has been described by some as an "Ultradispensational" (Post Acts) understanding of scripture. (I use that word in the description of this blog as that is what men have dubbed our understanding. I much prefer "Consistent Dispensationalism.")

I realize (as do any who regularly read this blog) that we each have our own individual theology. However, among those of us who have come to understand Paul's ministry in the Prison Epistles and in the Dispensation of the Mystery, there are usually a number of commonly held doctrines.

Obviously, Post Acts dispensationalists hold to the teaching that the present administration of God (dispensation) started at the end of the Book of Acts. We also propose that this age was first revealed in holy scripture in the epistle to the Ephesians (and hidden from before the overthrow of the ages). This post is not meant to lay out all those distinctives, but they can be found throughout this blog. Another commonly held understanding is that all who see death, believer or unbeliever, enter a state of silence. The dead know nothing (Ecclesiastes, etc).  The man I heard taught that dead men exist in some sort of bodiless state upon death and most are sent to fiery torture by God.

In light of my unpleasant surprise, I thought I'd quickly review the passage at the root of his error. That error was teaching that Hebrews 9:27 teaches that all men die and immediately face God's judgment of heaven or hell.

Dispensationalism (of any stripe) is the minority not only in greater Christendom (where it is in the extreme minority), but it is in the minority even among those labeled Evangelical or Fundamentalist believers. And among dispensationalists, "ultradispensationalism" is in the extreme minority. While Post Acts believers still have our minor disagreements, we almost all understand Hebrews 9:27 in its context. Unfortunately, this verse (like 2 Cor 5:8) is almost universally incorrectly applied throughout Christendom.

For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made with hands, which is a prefiguration of the true one, but into heaven itself to be exhibited now in the presence of God for our sakes. And not in order to offer himself repeatedly, as when the high priest enters into the sanctuary each year with blood which is not his, since then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the overthrow of the world. But now he has been manifested once for the consummation of the ages to annul sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is the destiny for men to die once, and after this the judgment, so too Christ, having been offered once in order to take upon himself the sins of many, will appear a second time without sin to those who eagerly await him for salvation.
-Hebrews 9:24-28

 Verse 27 (highlighted) is generally ripped from its context (like 2 Cor 5:8) and used to teach something which is not present. If you take the verse on its own, it can be used to teach the unbiblical doctrine of bodiless beings being judged immediately upon death. But that is not what this verse teaches at all.

Verse 28 is a comparative. The word translated "so" is from the Greek "hoútō," which means "in the same manner." Christ's final and eternal priesthood is being compared to the priesthood in Israel's Law. The Book of Hebrews (written to Hebrews) is about things that are pictured in the Law which point to Christ and how Christ fulfills the type "better." Christ is better than the Levitical priests. The Faithful sought a better resurrection. The Son is better than the angels. The New Covenant will be better than the Old Covenant, etc.

The men dying in verse 27 are human priests. When the high priest died, any who had fled to a City of Refuge were free. "In the same manner" or "so too," when Christ died, all were set free forever. The cycle ended. In the Law, the cycle began anew with each new high priest. 

So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled, and he shall remain there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.
-Numbers 35:25

If the death of a mortal high priest, who is replaced by another high priest, is sufficient to free from an avenger of death one who sought refuge, how much more the death of Israel's eternal high priest? Christ's priesthood is perfect. It has no successor. All men have freedom from death (the penalty for sin) in his sacrifice.

The passage as a whole is arguing that temporal priests had to continually offer sacrifices because their offerings could not take away sins forever. They also died and had to be replaced so the sacrifices could continue.

Christ, as the perfect, eternal high priest, offered the never-to-be-repeated sacrifice of his own blood (something the Levitical priests could not do). This is no "ongoing sacrifice" as the sacramentalist churches say they continue to offer daily on their altars. Christ's sacrifice is a finished work! There was no seat in the Holy of Holies for the priest to sit upon as the work was never finished. (Yes, the mercy seat is there, but he was forbidden to sit upon that.)

But what does the scripture say of Christ after he had offered the sacrifice of his blood?

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
-Hebrews 10:11-13

Christ sat down because the sacrifice and the work are complete. When he offered the perfect sacrifice, and sat down, there is no more need of any "ongoing sacrifice." Such a teaching is blasphemy and denial of Christ. To teach that this sacrifice cannot free one from the penalty of sin (whether in man's traditional doctrine of "hell" or "purgatory") is to teach that the work was not completed. 

Let's look at the larger context in Numbers 35.

And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment… Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood  according to these judgments: and the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the DEATH of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil... after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession"

A man stands before the congregation of Israel and is declared not-guilty, however, he must still wait in the City of Refuge until the death of the anointed high priest. Israel was shown the sacrifice of Christ in type and shadow. But the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. The work of the high priest was never complete. He could never sit down.

Christ completed the sacrifice and he sat down.

Let's look at the results of the different deaths:

Death of the Temporal High Priest: and after this the judgment
Death of the Eternal High Priest: so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

The repetition is over. The sacrifice is complete and eternal.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Our Light and Momentary Troubles

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. -2 Cor 4:16-18

With the popularity of  "health and wealth" prosperity preaching and teaching in these last days, I wanted to take a moment to note to all who are suffering for the name of Christ around the globe. Christians are the most persecuted group across the planet.

Many believers suffer for the name and cause of Christ. Some shunned, some beaten, some killed. What comfort can we speak to those facing these afflictions and troubles? We remind them of "an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 

We also note that, even as Paul faces death daily, he knows he has the hope of resurrection.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 
-2 Cor 4:7-14

Though Paul faced terrible persecution and death on a regular basis, he knows he has the power of resurrection life in himself.  He who has the Son has life!

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life..." -John 5:24
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” - John 11:25-26

In our study on comforting the bereaved we saw that the only comfort scripture offers the believer (and it is tremendous!) is resurrection life. In the short term, it is hard to find joy in our troubles, but we must learn to see them as temporal. Paul faced terrible things and learned to think of them as only momentary discomforts which only enhanced his future resurrection life.

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 labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 
-2 Cor 11:22-29

This is what calls "light and momentary troubles"  in the same epistle. I am amazed and ashamed at how often I murmur and complain about my own momentary troubles (which pale in light of Paul's). So many around the world are risking all for Christ.

Our passage in 2 Cor 4, leads us into Paul's summation in 2 Cor 5. The context there, again, being the hope of resurrection.

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 
-2 Cor 5:1-8

Unfortunately, this tremendous passage has been misquoted and misrepresented more than any other in the modern church. And with that misquoting is lost the great promise of resurrection. These bodies are but a temporary tent. We have an eternal house, our resurrection bodies, which await us! To that end, we groan in these bodies of humiliation. We struggle with the old nature. We struggle with sin, fear, cold, pain, and death.

But when we finally lay down our heads in sleep (death), unless the Lord appears before then, we know we will rise again! And that sleep will seem as though only a moment even if centuries pass. We lay our heads down in sleep and rise is glorious in incorruption and immortality (1 Cor 15)!

The true faith putteth [setteth forth] the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put [set forth] that the souls did ever live. -William Tyndale (An Answer to Sir Thomas More's Dialogue)
"And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine [1 Thess 4:13-15], if he had wist [known] it, that the souls of their dead had been in joy; as he did with the resurrection, that their dead should rise again. If the souls be in heaven, in as great glory as the angels, after your doctrine, shew me what cause should be of the resurrection)." (Ibid)
That is, of what use is the resurrection if men are in glory at the moment of death? Such a teaching not only robs us of the glory of our resurrection, it robs what Christ won on our behalf. When we understand (as best we can in this flesh) the hope of resurrection life in heavenly places where Christ sits, we praise and worship Him for his conquering of death in His resurrection.

In much of Christendom today, the Lord's resurrection has been relegated to a one-day celebration, and its full meaning lost. In fact, His conquering of the curse of death and decay is everything! It is the great reversal of the curse of Adam on those who believe.

This is the ultimate comfort.



Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Non-Prison Epistles - Part 5

We come to my final thoughts on this subject (I'm assuming!). One of the central tenets of my ministry is that I am no one's guru. You have one theology to worry about in this life: your own. I'll answer for what I do, believe, and teach, but so will every individual. I encourage everyone to test my teachings against the full witness of scripture. So it is with my thoughts on Titus and 1 Timothy.

One thing about which I am very convinced; the final seven epistles of Paul are given to me. When I test the address on the envelope, I see only these seven addressed to the Body of this day. I see the Book of John addressed to the world and we come to know life through the name of the Son of God through that inspired text.

For those who want to claim promises or conditions in other parts of scripture, well, that is between you and the Lord.

With this in mind, I would conclude this series by saying that I believe that Titus and 1 Timothy are part of the revelation to the Body, but more suggestive than the five prison epistles. That is, you may have a man appointed to shepherd local believers. You may have a few men step up as good teachers. All of these offices can be valuable, but I don't believe we must appoint all these offices.

If someone steps into a role as a shepherd to protect the flock (pastor, bishop) or opens the Word to help illuminate believers (teachers, evangelists, prophets), he does so under the pattern in these last seven epistles. That is, even if we have the office of Prophet in this dispensation, it differs greatly from previous dispensations.

The reason for this is as we have laid out in this series. Our hope is in the far above the heavens. We are not Israel. She has earthly promises and blessings and is facing days ahead laid out by her prophets. Our revelation is complete in Paul's epistles. Their revelation is complete as well, but it has yet to play out.

This is what we have left:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. -Titus 2:11-14

We immediately see we are in Titus! Yes, this is a summation of our life instruction and hope.We must note that the "appearing" of the Lord differs from his return to earth, his "parousia." The appearing is not limited to Titus, however. We see it in Paul's final revelation, 2 Timothy where it is mentioned three times. 

Here is another great summation of our life and hope:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. -2 Tim 4:7-8
The appearing vs the "parousia" is a study of "things that differ." Here are a couple of posts to consider along these lines:



Friday, December 6, 2019

Israel: A Blessing and a Cursing

I have recently opined on these pages regarding Israel. In earlier studies, I have contended that the Revelation is for Israel. In fact, the vast majority of scripture is about Israel (including the Synoptic Gospels, The Acts, the 14 Acts-Age epistles). Israel was chosen as the channel of God's blessings to the Nations after the Nations failed to heed his warnings.

Israel is the subject of many prophecies yet to be fulfilled (including her New Covenant). We have no right to claim their future blessings or promises. 

We have looked at a number of scriptures, but I wanted to pull out just a section of Zechariah's prophecy. Jews (as a race) have certainly been a blessing in many ways. Scientific and Medical advances; art, literature, music, have all befitted from the contributions of the Jewish people. But as we have seen in previous studies, they are currently set aside as God deals with all people apart from Israel in this Dispensation of the Mystery of God.

Israel, just before the resumption of her central place in God's Plan, will be both a blessing and a cursing to all people. All of Zechariah 8 can be read HERE, but I will pull out the central idea.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

‘Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east
And from the land of the west; 
I will bring them back,
And they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.
They shall be My people
And I will be their God,
In truth and righteousness.’
“Thus says the Lord of hosts:

‘Let your hands be strong,
You who have been hearing in these days
These words by the mouth of the prophets,
Who spoke in the day the foundation was laid
For the house of the Lord of hosts,
That the temple might be built. 
For before these days
There were no wages for man nor any hire for beast;
There was no peace from the enemy for whoever went out or came in;
For I set all men, everyone, against his neighbor.
But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,’ says the Lord of hosts.

‘For the seed shall be prosperous,
The vine shall give its fruit,
The ground shall give her increase,
And the heavens shall give their dew—
I will cause the remnant of this people
To possess all these. 
And it shall come to pass
That just as you were a curse among the nations,
O house of Judah and house of Israel,
So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing
.

Do not fear,
Let your hands be strong.’ 
-Zech 8:7-13 

We have noted in previous studies that the current nation of Israel, while most likely being assisted by God so the stage may be set, cannot be said to have been miraculously brought back to the land by the hand of God. Be that as it may, we see here that currently the house of Judah and the house of Israel (all the tribes) are both a blessing and a cursing.

For every Benjamin Disraeli there is a George Soros. I don't want to start naming Jewish heroes and villains of the last two centuries lest we exhaust the bandwidth of the blog. Suffice it to say, not every Jewish person is a blessing and not everyone is a cursing.

Surely, as Christians, we are to be a blessing to all men (primarily by introducing them to Christ), so we are to be a blessing to the Jew. We can also see the current nation of Israel as a beacon of human rights in a sea of misogyny and discrimination in the Middle East.

But that is not to say Israel is without fault or that every Arab is to be opposed. Remember, Israel is both a blessing and a cursing. We just need to be careful on both ends. The physical seed of Abraham have earthly promises from God. There is a remnant that will believe and be rescued by the hand of God from her time of testing.

For Abraham's sake, we should honor his seed, but we are under no obligation to honor them above all else if they prove to be a cursing.

The Non-Prison Epistles - Part 4

I don't want the final point from our last study to be lost. The gifts during the Acts Age, to individuals, were a witness. The gifts of the Post-Acts Age are to the whole Body for the purpose of making known the Dispensation of the Mystery.

We now come to the final three offices noted in the epistles.

  • Teachers didáskalos
  • Apostles apóstolos
  • Prophets prophḗtēs
  • Evangelists euangelistḗs
  • Pastors poimḗn
  • Overseers epískopos
  • Elders presbýteros
  • Deacons diákonos


BISHOP/OVERSEER/ELDER

An "overseer" or "bishop," in either dispensation, is very similar to a pastor/shepherd. This is made clear in the Acts.

For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. -Acts 20:27-29

It appears that this is more of a protection role. The word, epískopos, is used five times in the epistles. In the Post-Acts epistles, it appears once in Philippians (in Paul's opening salutation) and twice in the Non-Prison epistles (once each in Titus and 1 Timothy). This is consistent with the position that these men were in place to protect the flock. 

In both instances in the Non-Prison epistles, the context is the character of the men. As these men are "appointed" we cannot say the office is not a "miraculous" gift nor can these men claim the office for themselves. The qualifications have nothing to do with having a degree or publishing or anything of the sort. The words are never used as title.

If we hold to anything still being in effect today, we can see the place of an elder. But, again, having such men to protect the flock does not mean they have any theological authority over the individual believer. They are not a theological authority, No one is commanded to "submit mind and will" to them as the Catholic Church demands in her hierarchy of Bishops.

And even if we hold to such an office today, the witness of the Dispensation of the Mystery is so scattered, such an appointment doesn't seem to fit.


DEACON

We have a similar situation with Deacons. These are also referenced in Paul's salutation. The English word, deacon, only appears 3 times in most versions (out of 27 uses). The word is generally translated "servant" or "minister." Paul refers to himself as a "deacon." He uses the Greek word twice in the central mission passage of Colossians 1:23-25 in regard to his calling in the teaching of the Dispensation of the Mystery. 

In many church organizations, "Deacons" have been relegated to tasks such as fixing toilets or mowing the yards of widows. This is partially based on the supposed "deacons" of Acts 6 who looked after widows so the Apostles could carry on teaching "the Word of God." But the word diákonos is not used in the passage.

And let us not pass over the ministry of the Apostles teaching the Word of God. As with Paul, they taught nothing but that which was taught by Moses and the Prophets. They were expecting the restoration of the Kingdom (Acts 1:6) as Peter preached to the men of Israel, his brethren, in Acts 3, promising them the restoration and the return of Christ if the nation would repent.

The widows in the church of Acts 6 consisted of both young and old. With the tribulation at hand, there was great need for daily care. That would change Post-Acts (as we will see). I think it is an error to try to find the duties of the office of Deacons in Acts 6.
 

The Change in Calling


Let's not miss something here. The overseers and bishops in the Acts Age were called at a time when Paul "withheld nothing" from believers (Acts 20). He would later testify that this was in context of "nothing that was not preached by Moses and the Prophets" (Acts 26:22). So, their ministry differed from later bishops and overseers. 

The qualifications for elders, bishops, deacons were not laid out until the Post-Acts epistles. In the Acts Age, with the restoration of Israel and the Tribulation "at hand," each Christian was gifted individually and overseers primarily protected them as they waited. Post-Acts, with no tribulation facing believers, there was more time to test men and appoint elders and deacons.

We have used this example before, but just so we can see the change in urgency and its effect on instructions for the church, let us look at widows in the Acts Age and widows Post-Acts.

But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am [single]... But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction. -1 Cor 7:8, 29-35 (Acts Age)
But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan. -1 Tim 11-15 (Post Acts)

Post Acts the conditions changed. Widows had time to become idle busybodies. Paul, who previously wished they would stay single as he was so they would have no other concerns such as husband and children because "the time is short" and "For the form of this world is passing away," now desires they marry, have children, and manage the house.


Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Non-Prison Epistles - Part 3

If you're wondering when I include the Greek and/or Hebrew in my posts, it's not to be clever, but rather so we know what word the Holy Spirit has chosen. There are three primary reasons for this. First, we can see where else a word may have been used and compare contexts. Second, the English translators may have used the same English word for different Greek words, causing confusion. Third, We can look up the original meaning of a word instead of relying on the possibly biased opinion of the translators.

In Part 3 we will briefly look at the next three offices on our list.
  • Teachers didáskalos
  • Apostles apóstolos
  • Prophets prophḗtēs
  • Evangelists euangelistḗs
  • Pastors poimḗn
  • Overseers epískopos
  • Elders presbýteros
  • Deacons diákonos

To add some additional context to these studies, we will recall the difference between the "bodies" and "churches" active in the Acts Age and the "Body" and "Church" of the Post-Acts (current) Age. In the Acts, a local church was made up of many parts, each with an identifying gift. Every person had a gift. 

There was a diversity of gifts (1 Cor 12:4). Christians zealously desired gifts (1 Cor 14:12) and were encouraged to "covet earnestly the best gifts" (1 Cor 12:31). This is another indication that the age of miraculous gifts (indeed all personal gifts) has ended. What we see, then, are individuals, without a head, all expressing spiritual gifts in local bodies.

In the Post-Acts Age, we have a corporate Body which has a head (Christ). It is like the "student body" which is a whole led by a Principal. We do not have "churches," but rather a single "church." The bodies in the first Corinthian letter are compared to eyes, ears, noses, hands, etc. 

And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. -1 Cor 12:16-18

In this current dispensation, the Body is One, with Christ as the Head, We are the "one new man." This new man is said to have been "created" (Eph 2:15). It no longer separates Jew from Gentile as was the case in the Acts Age. It is an entirely new work. It is to this single Body that Christ gave the gifts of Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors/Teachers.


PROPHETS

The office of Prophet is often simplified as foretelling the future. A more precise description would be those who spoke directly as God gave them utterance. It was not just predictions. The Book of Jonah contains the story of God "prophesying" the destruction of Nineveh and Jonah was to go and tell that city of God's intention. Nineveh repented and God relented. There was no distant foretelling.  And that which Jonah was told would happen never did. 

John the baptist was a prophet. He proclaimed repentance and called on Israel to prepare the way of the Lord. Arguably, John was a greatest prophet ("Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist" -Matt 11:11).

This office was necessary when Paul revealed the Dispensation of the Mystery. Men chosen to proclaim this new revelation which was hidden in God from before the overthrow of the cosmos. When the canon was completed and Paul had "filled up" and completed the revelation of God, it was no longer necessary. It was indeed a "gift" of men to the Body, but for the change, not for today.


EVANGELISTS

This word is slightly troublesome because of its use in the English churches. Whereas the idea of a "bringer of good news" (NAS Exhaustive Concordance) is not wrong, but filtered through the clergy system it tends be thought of as one who stands in the pulpit and preaches the simple gospel of Christ's sacrifice. That's not horrible, but it can limit the word.

εὐαγγελιστής is only used 3 times in scripture (noting no references in the Septuagint). Philip, one of the deacons chosen in Acts 6, is called "Philip the evangelist" in Acts 21. Philip was one of those who pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem for fear of the Jews.

But what do we know of Philip's evangelistic work? In Acts 8, Philip meets the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road to Gaza. This man had to have been an Ethiopian Jew as Peter later testified that it was he who was chosen to first take Christ to the Gentiles. That occurred in Acts 10 in the house of Cornelius.

So what good news did Philip share?

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture [Isaiah], preached Jesus to him. -Acts 8:35

This is consistent with  Paul's testimony that he preached "nothing but that which was spoken by Moses and the Prophets" (Acts 26:22) in the Acts Age. But remember, in Paul's revelation in Ephesians, he states that the good news to Gentiles of the "one new man" (Eph 2:15) was not known to the prophets. It was hidden from "before the overthrow of the cosmos" (Eph 1:4).

So the Evangelists in Ephesians (First epistle of the current age) and Paul's encouragement of Timothy to do the work of an Evangelist (Last epistle of the current age) are connected to Paul's good news of this age. That Good News is, of course, built on Christ and His sacrifice ("there is no other foundation which can be laid"), but it is unique in its hope and promises.

This gifts to the Body were necessary to help spread Paul's message of the Dispensation of the Mystery. We can still "do the work of an Evangelist" (2 Tim 4:5), but I don't think the office still exists. We all must teach Christians this truth and free them from the Law and all earthly ordinances. We must help them see the glory that awaits the Body, independent from any covenant.


PASTORS

This may be the most troublesome office as it has become almost a positional equivalent of a guru in Christendom. How many have surrendered their responsibility to study and endeavor to show themselves approved unto God bu submitting their minds and wills to fallible men?

The pastor is a shepherd. Even in its original calling, it was meant to be a position which "mended" broken saints and prepared them for their own ministry of spreading the good news of (a) God's reconciliation to man and (b) the one new man in the Post-Acts Age.

The Greek word translated "edifying" in Ephesians 4:12 in regard to what these gifts to the Body are supposed to accomplish is "oikodomḗ." The idea is building up. Thayer defines it this way: "the act of one who promotes another's growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness." The verse always notes the offices are for the "maturing" [perfecting] of the saints.  That is, these men equip others, they do not Lord it over them, they hold no title, they deserve no privilege.

As we have noted, the Body in this age is corporate. Individual members will answer to the Head. We will each answer for the deeds done in the flesh (Colossians) and we are responsible to work is such a way to be approved unto God as we seek to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim). I fear many do not study and do not question a man with a title like "Pastor."


Everything the offices listed in Ephesian 4:11 is for the equipping, preparing, perfecting, maturing of individual believers to the benefit of Christ and to the whole Body. The gifts in the Acts Age edified the individual. As we have noted, in the Acts Age, Christians were called on to zealously "desire" and "pursue" gifts. Post-Acts, the gifts are men to given to Body as a whole.

The Acts Age gifts surely benefited the church of that age (especially prophesying), but an outward gift like tongues was specifically for unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22). The Jews required a sign. The message in that age was still "to the Jew first."

Clearly, in this age, we do not see all believers manifesting miraculous gifts. In fact, men who deceive millions with a claim of a unique "gift of healing" plague Christendom. Just as troubling is the movement of Gentile believers to claim to be "real Jews" or "true Israel."

The gifts of men to the Body spoken of in Ephesians 4 were given to specifically to equip believers to spread the incredibly good news that God has revealed a new hope and that hope is independent of all covenants and earthly ordinance. It concerns being where Christ is in the "far above the heavens."  It is the fullness of Christ. It is Christ alone. It is Christ as Head with no priesthood or rituals. It is the pondering of the "unsearchable riches of Christ!"

We've sacrificed much of that in Christendom to the desire for gurus and the weak and beggarly elements of the earth.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Non-Prison Epistles - Part 2

Let's start Part 2 by (primarily) assuming the two non-Prison epistles (Titus, 1 Timothy) of the Dispensation of the Mystery contain instructions for the entire age. That is, they still apply, in full, today. With that in mind, we again list the offices noted in different places throughout all seven epistles (along with the Greek transliteration) and investigate the first tow on our list.

  • Teachers didáskalos
  • Apostles apóstolos
  • Prophets prophḗtēs
  • Evangelists euangelistḗs
  • Pastors poimḗn
  • Overseers epískopos
  • Elders presbýteros
  • Deacons diákonos


TEACHERS

Surely we have men and women who teach in this hour. I just published a short study on women teaching men. What we need to say, however, is that any and all teaching in this age needs to reflect the Dispensation of the Mystery. Even a study of the Pentateuch needs to be seen from the perspective of the economy of today.

Our primary calling is to teach the Mystery itself. For it dictates not only how we see the rest of scripture, but it opens our hearts and minds to the glorious hope of this age; the blessings of the far above the heavens, distinct from the earthly hopes and blessings of other callings. 

This teaching office is built on a "declaring" of this Mystery.

[Pray] that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. -Eph 6:19-20

But even with teachers, believers are called to "search the scriptures whether these things are so" (Acts 17:11); to "compare things that differ" (Phil 1:10); and to "study to show ourselves approved unto God, rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15).


APOSTLES

The office of Apostle was severely limited in scripture. No one was "appointed" an Apostle by men. This is a direct calling by Christ (Rom 1:3-6; etc.). In all the callings of Apostles, there is a separating unto a specific declaration. In the gospels (the word is not used in John), the Apostles are commissioned to preach "the gospel of the kingdom." These were 12 men separated from other disciples and specifically commissioned.

And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles. -Luke

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. 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.’ -Matt

These are called the eleven and then the twelve (after Matthias is chosen) in the Acts. Those who point to Matthias taking Judas' place need to note the requirements to be one of the twelve.

Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. -Acts 1:21-22
As these twelve are promised to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the earthly kingdom (Luke 22:30), and as their names will be on the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:14), it is foolish to claim such an apostleship today.

However, we do have chosen ones beyond the twelve. Paul and Barnabas were separated out to take the Gospel of the Grace of God in the Acts to Gentiles. Paul was separated for this purpose.

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures... -Rom 1:1

We pause to note here in this Acts Age epistle that Paul's gospel to the Gentiles was promised through the prophets. We looked at this in our last study. Suffice it to say, it was not the Gospel of the Dispensation of the Mystery. Paul was also the Apostle chosen for that ministry.

It is important to note that even in the Acts Age, Apostles had different callings.

But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles)... -Gal 2:7-8

If someone is to try to claim either Apostleship today, he would necessarily have to limit himself to the one of these two gospel callings.

In the current dispensation, Paul does speak of Apostles (plural) given as gifts to the Body. The trouble in trying to apply this gift to the Body for today is that there is no way to confirm anyone being appointed an apostle by God himself. Seminaries cannot appoint men to offices of God.

Remember, the list in Ephesians 4:11, given to the Body of this dispensation, is a list of "gifts" given by the risen Christ. And just as we have no way to confirm such a thing today, we have need for such an office. We take the revealed message of the Mystery to a church in rebellion, yes, but not a church in transition.

Let me finish this part of our study by quoting a very short excerpt from Charles Welch in "The Apostle of the Reconciliation"


We note one more feature concerning the gifts set by God in this Corinthian assembly [Acts Age]. They are not only indicated in a general way, but are definitely numbered in their order of precedence:
`God hath set some in the church (not the body - we have left the figure now), 
First,
apostles, 
Secondarily,
prophets 
Thirdly,
teachers 
Then,
gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues' (12:28). 
In contrast with this order we must notice that of Ephesians 4:11 [Post-Acts]:
`He gave some, apostles;and some, prophets;and some, evangelists;and some, pastors and teachers;for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ'.
There are four items of importance here: 
1. The One who gave these gifts to men is the ascended Lord. The `twelve' were appointed by Christ on earth long before His ascension (See Matt. 10).
2. There is an addition here, which constitutes a different order from that of 1 Corinthians 12. The evangelist is here inserted between prophet, pastor, and teacher.
3. The purpose of this special ministry is defined. It had to do with the inception of the church of the one body. The gifts of the church at Corinth were for other purposes as we shall see*.
4. There is also a very noticeable omission. In the Corinthian church, miracles, healings, and tongues were as much a part of the ecclesiastical organisation as were the apostles, but in the church of the one body, the miracles, healings and tongues are entirely absent.


*Chapter 13 shows the transitory nature of these gifts as opposed to the graces of faith, hope and love. The apostle would bring all boasting and pride down before the one great crowning grace of love. Without love the gift of tongues was comparable to a booming gong. Without love the gift of prophecy, understanding, knowledge, and faith left a man empty. Without love, `charity' and martyrdom profited nothing. Then follows that description of  love, which should be written in letters of gold on every believer's heart (13:4-8)...

Without quoting further from other parts of Scripture we just notice the usage of the word [katargeo] in 1 Corinthians itself:

`Bring to nought' the things that are (1:28).
`Come to nought' princes of this world (2:6).
`Shall destroy' both belly and meats (6:13).

The passage under notice (13:8-11).

`Put down' all rule (15:24).
`Destroyed' death (15:26).

There can be no doubt but that these words indicate a complete cessation. The teaching that the early church `lost' the gifts through lack of faithfulness is a fable, invented in the attempt to explain their non-existence to-day.

The Corinthian church was surely carnal and childish, yet they possessed a plethora of gifts. The gifts did not  slowly cease. They cease abruptly at Acts 28. In that chapter Paul by two acts shows that the miracles of Mark 16  were still in force. The key to the question is found in that chapter too. The hope of Israel still held good. Israel as  a nation was set aside, however, in that chapter, and with their setting aside miraculous gifts ceased.

We would not be understood to say that `miracles' ceased. God has often interfered with the course of nature and  of man since, but not in the way of `spiritual gifts'. To understand miracles aright we must remember that they are

divided into two sections:-

(1) Evidential miracles.

(2) Miracles of compassion.

The miracles of the Acts period were largely the former.


I would thus contend that all offices of Apostle have ceased. There is no commission of the Lord as there was of the 12 to Israel and there is no gospel or dispensation anyone can call "my gospel" or "the revelation He made known to me." Paul could appoint Apostles as from God as Matthias was chosen by the twelve (men who knew Christ's earthly ministry). But this appointment was very limited and given to a church, not in apostasy and rebellion, but a church in transition.

We do not need Apostles today, we need faithful saints to call men unto the Mystery. In the Acts Age, being under the Law and being subject to ordinances was commanded. In this age, it is gross apostasy. We are not commissioned to call men from one hope unto another, but rather to come out of error.

And just to say it again, if we did need Apostles, there is no way to confirm such a calling. I would guess, in my city alone, that every one (man or woman) who has taken the title of Apostle, teaches tremendous error, and not the Dispensation of the Mystery.

The Non-Prison Epistles - Part 1

I referenced the two epistles of Paul to Gentiles written post-Acts in my recent entry on women teaching men. It is in these epistles where we find instructions for the selection elders and deacons. I have proposed that these instructions were primarily for those transitioning from the Jew-centered church of the Acts Age to the post-Acts Body which knows no Jew or Gentile.

I would like to look at this approach from both sides. That is, I would like to briefly address both the idea that these two books are different from the other five Post-Acts epistles and also the idea that that they are still applicable in every way today. I don't believe either view does violence to the scripture.

This post will primarily be background material for those not yet familiar with the Dispensation of the Mystery.

Recall there are 21 epistles which fall into three groups of seven:

Acts Age (7)
Post-Acts (7)
Apostles to the Jews/Dispersion (7)
Romans Ephesians 1 Peter
Galatians Colossians 2 Peter
1 Corinthians Philippians 1 John
2 Corinthians 1 Timothy 2 John
1 Thessalonians 2 Timothy 3 John
2 Thessalonians Titus Jude
Hebrews Philemon James


For a flyover look at all the books of the bible, see our study HERE


We are dealing with that middle list, the final seven books which closed out the revelation of God and closed the canon of scripture. These are the only books written directly to Gentiles which reveal the Dispensation of the Mystery. This dispensation (administration) was hidden "from before the overthrow of the cosmos." We juxtapose this age from those things revealed "since the overthrow of the cosmos." It is separate from the Law and its blessings are all in Christ. He is the our all in all. Our blessings are independent of Israel, covenants, or earthly promises. We have our hope in the "far above the heavens." We have no earthly hope, as does Israel, and we thus have no earthly ordinances.

In the first epistle of this group, Ephesians, which contains the revelation of the Mystery, Paul informs us he is a prisoner for us Gentiles. He was in chains for the Mystery. 

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery. -Eph 3:1-3 
praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I [singular] may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. -Eph 6:18-20
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us [plural] a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. -Col 4:3-4

(The Dispensation of the Mystery is the final revelation of the Mystery of Christ)

In Ephesians Paul reveals that which was given to him alone and prays he would be bold to proclaim it knowing it would be rejected by many. Paul was persecuted and rejected not only by the Roman Government and the Jews, he was rejected by Christians ("all in Asia have abandoned me." etc.). In Colossians he prays in the plural (us). Some Christians even sought to make his chains worse. But Paul rejoiced that Christ was being preached.


Compare this with Paul's testimony during the Acts Age:

But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Cæsar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you [Jews of Rome], to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. -Acts 28:19-20

In the Acts, Paul spoke only those things which Moses and the Prophets said (Acts 26:22; 28:23). These were things revealed "since the overthrow of the cosmos."  In Ephesians, Paul speaks things to Gentiles that were unknown to the prophets.

whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory... -Col 1:25-27
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ... -Eph 3:8-9

This is not merely Gentiles being blessed through Abraham. That truth was revealed, but simply not understood. It was a "mystery" in the sense that it was obscured. But it was clearly revealed. The mystery in Ephesians and Colossians was not known and not revealed until Paul alone revealed it. Compare the blessings for Gentiles in the Acts Age epistles:

Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. -Gal 3:7-8


Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. -Rom 15:8-12

Gentile blessings, through Israel, was revealed by the Prophets. We also note that in a future age Gentiles will again come through Israel for blessings on the earth (where Israel's promises reside). There are countless prophesies dealing with Israel's future, but we will just look at one representative example of Gentile blessings through Israel in a coming, future age.

And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen [Gentiles], O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing... Thus saith the Lord of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations [Gentiles] shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations [Gentiles], even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. 
-Zech 8:13; 20-23

Paul had a unique ministry in the Acts Age as well. For it was Paul who was to preach Christ to Gentiles. He defended this calling by pointing to the prophets who foretold of God's blessing of Gentiles. In Acts 15, Gentile believers are reminded of the restrictions on Gentile believers stated in the Law (Lev 17). James quotes scripture, "Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name." Gentile salvation was not understood, but it was not hidden in God as was the Dispensation of the Mystery..

We see that Paul's completion of the revelation of God is found in seven epistles addressed to a Body which is a new creation. It is the "one new man" of Ephesians wherein there is no distinction between Jew or Greek (Colossians). This was something new. This moved beyond Acts 15 and the Acts Age.

As an aside, since Paul there has been no new revelation. When a man today states that God told him something for the Body, do not believe it. God reveals and enlightens men unto the truths of scripture, but in Paul's final epistles, the revelation of God is fulfilled.

When we loot at these final seven books, we see that two are written when Paul was free (not a prisoner of the Lord). The other five we refer to as the "Prison Epistles." It is the two non-prison epistles (1 Timothy and Titus) which we are considering.

It is in these epistles that Paul speaks of the requirements of elders (bishops) and deacons. Don't confuse "bishop" with the the office created by the organized religions of the world. These were men raised up from among local believers. They were not an exalted clergy and they certainly had no power to bind men to earthly commands and dictates. To avoid this confusion, we will use the more precise term, "elders."

Elders are a form of pastor (shepherd) of God's people. Paul speaks of Christ giving gifts to the Body in the revelation of this dispensation in Ephesians.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ... -Eph 4:11

This is in a prison epistle, but it is in context of the change. The Acts Age church was led by Jews. All the Apostles were Jewish. Every local church was Jewish-led. Jewish believers still met in synagogues (James 2) and they still went to the temple to worship. Jews still circumcised their children and kept the feasts (Acts 21). So, along with the new revelation to Paul, God gave gifts of men to this new Body on light of the enormous change.

But note what these men were to do, "equip the saints [believers] for the work of the ministry, for the edification [building up] of the Body of Christ." That new creation had to be "built up" so the members could be equipped to carry out this new calling. They did not hold a position of authority over the lives of the saints. They were not infallible judges and declarers of doctrines outside of Pau's revelation. They were not capital letter clergy (Pastor, etc.).

Each individual member is called to teach the Mystery. We are all "ministers."

Obviously, for those who knew only the revelation of the Acts Age, there had to be training in this new, formerly hidden, Age. Paul references "elders" only in Titus and 1 Timothy, but he does greet "overseers and deacons" in Philippians just as he references "pastors [etc.]" in Ephesians.  It is important to note that these "overseers and deacons" are not listed among the gifts to the Body listed in Ephesians.

With that groundwork, we will look more closely at all these offices and their place then and now.

  • Teachers didáskalos
  • Apostles apóstolos
  • Prophets prophḗtēs
  • Evangelists euangelistḗs
  • Pastors poimḗn
  • Overseers epískopos
  • Elders presbýteros
  • Deacons diákonos

We will consider both possibilities. That is, that some of these offices are still active in the Body and that they all ceased with the end of the canon of scripture. And even if we hold them for this age, do we properly understand their function. The "appointing" and qualifications of elders and deacons are only seen in the two non-Prison epistles. We will start with those next time.