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Build your sukkah: Reports of the Old Testament’s demise are greatly exaggerated

This post is a continuation of my review of the movie “Let the Lion Roar,” and I want to elaborate more on replacement theology’s error of New Testament (NT) primacy, which is to prefer the NT over the Old Testament (OT). Although Derek Frank does not specifically address this aspect of replacement theology in the “Let the Lion Roar” movie, he almost sounds like he alludes to it in this quote from the accompanying book “Escaping the Great Deception.” In this book, Derek Frank says:

The father of lies has misrepresented the gospel by luring the body of believers away from its Jewish roots. Bending the truth as he did in Eden, he has managed to convince Gentile believers that the original Hebraic context was irrelevant. Restoring the Gospel from the Great Deception will leave us dissatisfied with partial truth and make us hungry for it as a whole. (p. 63)

It would have been wonderful if he was addressing replacement theology’s NT primacy error, but the context makes this impossible. Nevertheless it remains true that replacement theology prefers the NT over the OT, and just like Derek Frank says about the Great Deception, NT primacy also “has managed to convince Gentile believers that the original Hebraic context was irrelevant.” Consequently, many Christians and the Christian culture in general have become unwitting adherents to this error. Consider this experience I recently had.

Yesterday I visited a local Christian bookstore to ask about books and/or audio/visual resources to help people become more knowledgeable about the feasts of the Bible. This store had plentiful resources for apologetics, church history, sermon helps, marriage, personal finance, Christian living, witnessing, etc., but only one wall poster and one DVD for the feasts. I then pulled a handbook for Christian living off the shelf to see if it had anything to say about celebrating the feasts of the Bible. There was no mention of celebrating the feasts at all, and I could not help but see the preference for the NT at work. It’s like the OT is not as worthy of our attention and observance as the NT, and that is wrong.

Those who prefer the NT over the OT argue that we are no longer under the law, but under grace. It is true that Yeshua came to deliver us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal 3: 13), but does that mean we can disregard the OT as a guide for the believer today? Absolutely not!

The OT has much that we need to know in order to live a life that is pleasing to God, but when we use the terms OT and NT, we inadvertently help perpetuate the error that the shelf life of the OT has somehow expired. Scripture is Scripture, and that is how we ought to regard all of it without preferring one portion of it over another. Paul wrote that “All [emphasis added] Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” 2 Tim 3:16-17 (ESV). We should remember that when Paul wrote those words, the NT canon was incomplete. He included all of Scripture in this pronouncement (e.g. the Law and the Prophets). If Paul tells us that there is profit in all of Scripture, do replacement theology adherents have greater revelation than Paul? That cannot be true. But can replacement theology be in error? Yes indeed.

The OT was the guide that Yeshua had when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Far from disregarding it, Yeshua perfectly fulfilled the law. If He can live a life that is pleasing to God based on the OT, then there must be vital information we also need to mine from this source. I have heard it said that the OT is the NT concealed, and the NT is the OT revealed. This is true. The NT and OT are one Word of God woven together in a seamless fashion. Yeshua guided His life by the Scriptures, and He did it in the way that was acceptable to God, not like the scribes and Pharisees who followed manmade doctrines. He understood the things that God freely gave Him. As an obedient Son, Yeshua was in Jerusalem at the appointed feast times. If He honored and reverenced the feasts of the Lord in the OT, are we better? Didn’t He say we would do the same works as He did?

Think about this; Yeshua was able to properly understand the Law and the Prophets. He saw the NT in the OT, but that is only possible with the right teacher. Yeshua was not taught by man; He was taught by the Father. Yeshua was one with the Father, so He had the same spirit with God. This allowed Him to understand the Word of God. We must remember that the Law is spiritual (Rom 7: 14), therefore it can only be understood when we have the same spirit that Yeshua had. As Paul wrote:

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

1 Cor 2:11-13 (ESV)

The Scriptures contain His thoughts toward us; we need His spirit to understand them.  Having the mind of Christ gives us understanding the world will never arrive at. This was why Simeon and Anna knew who the baby Yeshua really was (Luke 2: 25-38). This is why Yeshua commended Simon for knowing who He really was (Matt 16:16-17). It allows us to see the NT in the OT. Yeshua’s preaching was in demonstration of the spirit and power because He had God’s spirit. This was why Yeshua was able to teach with authority, and not as the scribes.

Let’s also ask ourselves this: Can we really prefer the NT over the OT if the OT still has “unfinished business?” The OT contains prophecies and events that have yet to be fulfilled just like the NT (e.g. Revelation), so it seems dangerous and unreasonable to disregard the OT if its business has not been completed.

The one who prefers the NT over the OT may ask “does the OT have “continuing application and relevance” for today’s believer?” Yes it does, and this can be easily shown when Yeshua was asked about the greatest commandment:

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matt 22:35-40 (ESV)

Now notice this: These commandments are in the Law (Duet 6: 4 and Lev 19: 18). If the we are no longer under the Law because of grace, and consequently it has nothing to say to a believer under grace, does that mean that since these two commandments are also found in the Law, that they are not to be regarded as guides for our lives today? That doesn’t agree with the words of the Lord or the writings of the Apostles. For example, John exhorts his audience “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” 1 John 3:11 (ESV). The Lord Yeshua affirmed these commandments and the Apostles echoed it. Since this is so, it can be stated with confidence that the OT still has continuing application and relevance for today’s believer. This is where the feasts come in, and why they are still relevant to believers today.

All the males in Israel were required to appear before the Lord three times a year (Exodus 23: 17): The appointed times were for Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. When the Jews assembled in Jerusalem some two thousand years age, they witnessed the fulfillment of the Passover when Yeshua was crucified; they witnessed the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that the Lord would pour out His spirit on all flesh during Pentecost; but Tabernacles has yet to be fulfilled. You may ask, what’s so special about the Feast of Tabernacles? The Feast of Tabernacles is a dress rehearsal for the return of the Messiah! At some future Feast of Tabernacles, the assembled Jews will witness the Lord return to the Mount of Olives and begin His thousand year rule among us. Not only that, the Feast of Tabernacles will happen at its appointed times during Yeshua’s millennial reign with international participation with Jews and Gentiles:

Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths [Tabernacles]. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.

Zech 14:16-19 (ESV)

This “unfinished business” ought to be high on our minds, but the nefarious work of replacement theology has convinced many people that the feasts of the OT are expired and consequently they pay them no mind. This is so wrong, and we need to reacquaint ourselves with the feasts and what they were about. This is especially true since we are in the midst of four blood moons. The first has already occurred during Passover 2014, the next will be 8 October 2014 during the Feast of Tabernacles, with the final two blood moons will occur on Passover and Feast of Tabernacles in 2015. The last blood moon will be a super moon visible over Jerusalem. It’s no accident that these blood moons appear on Jewish feast days; serious events are about to occur that point to the coming Tribulation. We need to be like the wise virgins and prepare beforehand for these things (Matt 25:1-13).

The only sure refuge we will have in the coming Tribulation will be in the Lord Yeshua Himself. This is the time to draw close to God and be about His business. If you have not received God’s forgiveness for your sins, I would strongly urge my reader to repent and be reconciled to God while there is still time. We have this precious promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9 (ESV). Give Him your whole life and everything it contains; don’t hold anything back from Him. Confess your sins and failures, and He will give you forgiveness, love, mercy, and make you into a new person. Believe in Him, and you will live forever. Come to the Lord and see that He is good! And then tell me about your experience so I can rejoice with you.

Completing the Reformation must also include doing away with the preference for the NT and regarding all of Scripture as valid for us today. Every jot and tittle in God’s word is there by design; it has a purpose, and does not return to God void. Focusing on only part of the Scriptures leaves a believer spiritually anemic and frustrates the purpose of God to fully equip every believer. The Lord does not want believers who are spiritually weak and sickly; He wants strong, mature believers who eat solid food, and this happens when we avail ourselves of all the Scriptures.

To give you a taste of the Feast of Tabernacles, I recommend visiting with a Messianic Fellowship and participating in the feast with them. When I started going to the feasts, it was like I was going home after a long absence. These have been wonderful experiences, and I encourage every reader to also experience the feasts for themselves. You are going to do it in the millennium anyway, why not get started now?

Here are some resources that will help get you started:

Leviticus 23: Passover, First-fruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles.

Blood Moons: Decoding the Immanent Heavenly Signs by Mark Biltz (also in DVD)

Information about the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot):

http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/4126/jewish/Sukkot.htm

How to build your tabernacle (sukkah):

http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/420823/jewish/How-to-Build-a-Sukkah.htm

Keep calm and build your sukkah the sukkah

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Let the Lion Roar: Ending the damage of Replacement Theology

 

I have recently viewed the new movie “Let the Lion Roar,” and I thought it might be helpful to share some observations about it. The cast includes some big names in the Christian community such as Chuck Pierce, Dani Johnson, Jaci Velasquez, Sid Roth, and Mark Biltz, and this cast was one of the things that attracted me to this production in the first place. I would also like to make some additional inferences that were not directly mentioned in the movie.

The story centers on a vision that Derek Frank received about the church years ago. In this vision, he saw a building with Greek columns and heard the words “finish the reformation.” According to Derek Frank, it took some twenty years before the interpretation of these words became manifest. In the course of time God brought him to the very church building he saw in his vision, which turned out to be the church John Calvin preached from in Geneva during the Reformation.

The Protestant Reformation identified many egregious errors that were commonplace in the visible church of Martin Luther’s day. The Bible was in Latin, which restricted its audience to those who could understand it. This made it unavailable to the general public, and since the people couldn’t read the Bible for themselves, they couldn’t identify or challenge church practices that varied from the Scriptures. The church also used the doctrine of indulgences as a way to raise money. History records that that John Tetzel would tell the people that “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” It made a mockery of grace and infuriated Martin Luther. He nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door to invite discussion about these abuses, but instead it mushroomed into a full blown revolt against the excesses of the Catholic Church. One of the most powerful things Martin Luther did to bring reform was to translate the Bible into the everyday language of the people. Now the common people could read the word of God for themselves, and it liberated them from the tyranny of the Catholic Church which sought to keep it for itself. It sounds like we are off to a great start, but as Derek Frank points out, a deception remained unchallenged that has brought all kinds of harm to the Jewish people and weakened the influence of the Gospel.

The problems Derek Frank identifies are anti-Semitism and replacement theology as its origin. Not many people are aware of the anti-Semitic writings of leaders of Martin Luther and John Calvin, but they are out there. Martin Luther’s writings against the Jews were especially tragic because Luther initially welcomed the Jews and wrote favorably about them. Later in life Luther became disillusioned with the Jews because “they didn’t come over to us” as he hoped they would, and so he denounced the Jews in public and in his writings. Hitler would later cite these very writings to justify the actions he took against the Jews. The man who did so much to challenge the abuses and excesses of the Catholic Church ended up advocating replacement theology and reviling God’s chosen people.

The key is “they didn’t come over to us;” Derek Frank points this out as the problem. Should the Jews come over to us at all? Or should we go over to them? Enter the doctrine of replacement theology (or supersessionism); this doctrine maintains that the church has replaced the nation of Israel (because the Jews rejected the Messiah) and that the covenants and promises were also transferred to the church. It also holds the primacy of the New Testament. This doctrine has helped make what should be good fruit on the tree bad.

Derek Frank makes a solid case for the damage caused by replacement theology and for refuting its tenets.  I agree that we must rid ourselves of any vestiges of this errant theology, and this production is a good start on that cure, but there is more damage that I would like to discuss that was not mentioned in this production. This is especially needful given the hour we are in.

We are about to witness the second of four blood moons (called a tetrad). The next blood moon will be visible during the Feast of Tabernacles (or Sukkot) on 8 October 2014. The next two blood moons will be visible during Passover and Feast of Tabernacles in 2015. These events signify that some very serious events are about to take place, but most people do not have any clue about the significance of these blood moons. I believe that the blame for this must be laid at the doorstep of replacement theology. When replacement theology establishes the primacy of the New Testament over the Old Testament, it has essentially put the cart in front of the horse. Let me explain.

The Old Testament is like a compass; it functions like a compass because it points us to the Savior of all mankind, the Lord Yeshua (Jesus). It is like a guide book that contains all the information we need to identify the Savior. Consider God’s instructions to Noah when he was constructing the Ark: it was to have one door (Gen 6: 16). There was only one entrance to the safety of the Ark. If we go to the New Testament, we read that the Lord describes Himself as a door and the only way to the Father (John 10: 7, 14: 6). One may argue, if we have found the Savior, what do we need the compass to find Him with anymore? That’s an interesting and flawed perspective. The fact is that the Old Testament is still a valuable guide to us and helps us understand the New Testament and things to come. The New Testament is woven into the fabric of the Old Testament, and vice versa. Yeshua and the Apostles constantly referred to Scriptures in the Old Testament, and if they needed to reference them, are we so much better that we can get along without the Old Testament? Among the many things the Old Testament tells us are the three times a year God has appointed to meet with us (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles). If we read the New Testament with replacement theology glasses on, we regard these feasts of the Lord with nostalgia for something that no longer applies. That is more damage caused by errant replacement theology, and it needs to be rooted out of our thinking.

The feasts of the Lord are still important, and it is no accident that the blood moons will be visible during feasts when the Jews were to assemble in Jerusalem. When the Jews gathered in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, they witnessed the sacrifice of the Lamb of God during Passover. Later they witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost. At a future gathering of the Jews in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles, Yeshua will return and make His dwelling among us. This is why the Lord God brought the Jews back to their homeland, so that the Jews could gather again in Jerusalem for this future feast of Tabernacles to be fulfilled. Replacement theology dismisses any further relevance of the feasts, but that is not the case. It is unfortunate that many Christians who have unwittingly accepted the tenets of replacement theology (in whole or in part) don’t know anything about the significance of the feasts to the end times. They have neglected to make any serious study of the feasts or the Old Testament because they accept the primacy of the New Testament and regard its predecessor as over and done with.

There is not much time left, and if you are a Christian who has neglected the Old Testament, there is still time to catch up. I recommend the book “Blood Moons: Decoding the Immanent Heavenly Signs” by Mark Biltz (also available as a DVD) as a quick way to understand the feasts and the significance of the four blood moons. Don’t let the day of the Lord come upon you as a thief in the night; I encourage you to be like a wise virgin who properly prepares for  the coming of the Lord (Matt 25: 1-13).

Blood Moons by Mark Biltz Lion pride on a mission

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Revisiting America’s official response to 9/11

 

In the aftermath of 9/11, Senator Tom Daschle was selected to give the official response to the attack. In his remarks, he quoted a passage of Scripture that he said would bring comfort to us at a time like this. This is the passage he quoted, which is also recorded in the official record of the US Senate:
“The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” Isaiah 9:10 (ESV)
By itself, it sounds good, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you want to rebuild better and stronger after an attack? The problem is that when you examine the context of this Scripture, it becomes apparent that this passage was never intended to be a source of encouragement..

The previous verse is sufficient to establish that Isaiah 9: 10 is anything but words of encouragement. Here is the passage with the context:
The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel; and all the people will know, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.”
Isaiah 9:8-10 (ESV)
God had faithfully sent prophets to warn them previously what would happen if they rebelled against God, but they refused to listen. When the Assyrians invaded, they ravaged the land, but after a period of time they left. When Israel saw this, the leaders said with an arrogant heart ‘we will build better and stronger so we will be protected next time.’ They did not realize that God allowed the Assyrian invasion to wake them up to the fact that all was not well with Israel. Instead of turning to God in repentance, they arrogantly felt they could make themselves strong enough to stand against the enemy next time. As Israel acted in arrogance after the Assyrian invasion, the leaders and people of America have also acted with pride and arrogance of heart.

What happened after 9/11? The Department of Homeland Security was created. Laws were enacted to allow warrant-less government surveillance of American citizens (to keep us safe, or so they say). Church attendance went up briefly, but there was no national repentance. The leadership placed their confidence in the military might of our nation and its defense technologies. This is no different than the response of Israel. The story didn’t end well for Israel. They stubbornly refused to repent after God gave them a period of grace. Isaiah 9: 11-21 gives chilling details about the judgment that fell on Israel. They were invaded again later, but this time the entire nation was removed from the land and the people were scattered throughout the nations. We are also in a period of grace, and the window of opportunity to change course is coming to an end.

It is like the days after Noah built the Ark, Noah and his family and all the animals were loaded on board. When everything had been completed, God shut the door of the Ark, and no one else could enter to be saved (Gen 7: 16). In the same way, if America disregards the opportunity to repent, time will one day run out. When that happens, God will shut the door against this nation.

Scripture tells us that: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” Psalms 127:1 (ESV). We ought not to be arrogant and prideful in our hearts, as if all our sophisticated weapons and technology will keep us safe. Such confidence is misplaced to say the least. If God removes His protection from a nation, there is no way to replace that protection through our own efforts and strength. Such a nation is destined for destruction.

That means all the sacrifices made by previous generations to preserve this nation on the battlefield will have been in vain. If Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was written about America after the judgment of God has fallen on us, the last words of it might sound something like this:
that we here highly resolve that these dead shall have died in vain, that this nation under God shall not have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall perish from the earth.

God has given America many opportunities to repent, but so far this nation is drifting even farther from God at the precise time she needs to draw closer to God. Time is getting short. For this nation, and each one of us also, we must get our houses in order while it is still possible to do so. The time to prepare is now, like the wise virgins who bought their oil while the markets were still open. I close with these Scriptures:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:8-10 (ESV)

If only Senator Daschle had quoted this Scripture:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chron 7:14 (ESV)

Please do not neglect this warning.

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Come over here and help us: A call to stand in the gap.

Scripture text:

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God.

Ezek 22:30-31 (ESV)

There have been many articles written about militant groups such as Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, and ISIS. They are violent and inflexible about their beliefs and objectives, and they have used terror tectics, murder, persecution of Christians and minorities, kidnapping, slavery, building invasion tunnels and firing rockets at civilian targets to achieve their goals. These acts offend the sensibilities of peaceful people, but now that these groups are active, what can we do about this?

Possible solutions have been proposed at the government level, but these solutions depend on the actions of man divorced from faith in God. As such, any results they may achieve are limited and transitory. The fact is that the weapons, wisdom, and power of the world cannot bring the lasting change needed for true healing and reconciliation. If we want to solve the problems created by these terror groups, we need to stand in the gap.

We must realize that God cares about the people in these terror groups, and the story of Jonah is a good illustration of this. The ancient Assyrians were just as violent and cruel in their day, but God graciously sent Jonah to warn them that they would be destroyed if they did not repent. Jonah really wanted to see Nineveh destroyed, and after he preached his warning to Nineveh, he waited outside the city to see what would happen. As he waited, the Lord caused a plant to spring up to give Jonah shade and relief from the heat, but the next day the Lord sent a worm to destroy the plant. As Jonah became faint from the heat, he told God he preferred to die rather than live. God spoke to Jonah:

But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Jonah 4:9-11 (ESV)

God cared about the people of Nineveh because He cares about those who oppose Him; He is concerned for their welfare. Jesus makes this very clear:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matt 5:43-48 (ESV)

If we hate, it’s the same thing as murder. And we know that a murderer does not have eternal life. Lastly, there is this:

Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.

Ezek 18:31-32 (ESV)

God wants people to repent and live; He takes no pleasure in their death. Seeing that these things are so, what should we do to bring about change? Is there anything we can do to help? Yes there is!

The people of faith can make a tremendous difference in the world we occupy. Long before the occupy movement became commonplace, God made His people the original occupiers. In order to maintain our occupation, God gives us powerful weapons to use, and used properly, they enemy has no recourse against them. The most powerful weapons we have are prayer and faith. The story of the centurion’s servant is a wonderful example:

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Matt 8:5-13 (ESV)

As we can see in this account, Jesus was able to bring healing to the centurion’s servant by faith from a distance away. Faith pleases God and is not limited! Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. C. S. Lewis wrote that faith is an invasion of the supernatural into our natural world, and it’s true! Faith is a terrifying thing to the enemy because he cannot stop it. By faith God’s people tear down his strongholds, set the captives free, remove stumbling blocks, heal all manner of diseases, and do many wonderful things. If we could see the damaged caused by prayers in faith to the enemy’s kingdom, I think we would see Satan falling from heaven like lightening (Luke 10: 18). As the account of the centurion’s servant demonstrates, we don’t even have to be in the same place to cause change. We can pray for God to deliver the people of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, and ISIS from the power of darkness in our prayer closets. That’s the power God gives us to work with. Scripture tells us: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” James 5:16 (ESV).

The power of God is so great that He can totally change the worst of sinners and change what was meant for harm into something good. In Paul’s previous way of life, he admitted that he persecuted the church and tried to destroy it (Gal 1: 13), yet God met him on the Damascus road and changed him into one of the greatest Apostles. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, yet God used this as a way to save many people from death (Gen 50: 19-20). If God did all this before, He can do it again.

It is a fearful thing when there is no one to stand in the gap for a land, as Ezekiel 22: 30-31 tells us. I ask all of God’s intercessors to pray for the people of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, and ISIS so that they will be delivered from the power of darkness and reconciled with God. Pray that the Son set them free so that they will be free indeed! We must love them and pray for them so we will be the children of our Father. Their souls are still precious to God, and He does not want them to perish. We must stand in the gap so that they won’t be destroyed. God wants to be merciful and be reconciled with all of them; please help make this happen with your prayers. Bring light and life to these peoples in darkness with your fervent, effectual prayers!

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The problems of cheap grace: A wise virgin’s guide to waiting for the Bridegroom

It is wonderful when an evangelist comes to town and leads a revival service with large crowds, or a church is active in street evangelism, but there has been something that bothered me about revival meetings and street evangelism that has not received the attention that it is due. On the one hand I appreciate the zeal to reach people for the Lord, but on the other hand, it it seemed to me that this wasn’t enough. Something was missing. I believe that the missing elements are the cost of discipleship and the act of discipleship. When these things are missing from the development of new Christians, they can contribute to producing foolish virgins. Let’s begin with the cost of discipleship.

When Jesus told people the good news of salvation, He got one of three responses. Each time Jesus called on a person, they knew that His call meant leaving everything behind to follow Him. Sometimes people immediately left their nets to follow Him (Matt 4: 18-20), sometimes they asked for additional time so they could attend a funeral or say goodbye (Luke 9: 57-62), and sometimes they turned down the opportunity to follow Jesus (Mark 10: 17-22). Whatever the case, “follow me” clearly meant leave everything behind to serve Him:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26-33 (ESV)

Apart from Him, all other considerations were to have the value of rubbish.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that “When Christ bids a man to come, He bids him to come and die.” This is an accurate sentiment and expectation of discipleship. It expresses a Christianity in which we give up the right to live our own lives and own our own possessions. We transfer everything about our lives (the title deed of our life) to the Lord Jesus, and this is the true cost of discipleship. Unfortunately, in our zeal to get people saved, this expectation is oftentimes neglected when evangelists make their altar calls. I don’t know why people would omit this when speaking about the good news except that maybe they feel this would frighten people from listening. Perhaps the speaker feels he will sound “extreme” or too radical if he tells the audience they have to give up everything to follow Christ. Maybe the evangelist himself has never had this expectation made clear in his own life, so he does not pass on the information. After all, you cannot give what you don’t have. Those who grew up with this omission are in danger of becoming foolish virgins because since they don’t leave everything for Him, this creates a condition in which the new believer has divided loyalties. He hasn’t walked away from his fishing nets; he is at the funeral and saying goodbye to his family (Matt 4: 18-20; Luke 9: 57-62).

If a person is converted without knowing the true cost of discipleship, then they have been given “cheap grace” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would say. Cheap grace doesn’t make any demands of holiness or total commitment on a believer (e.g. Mark 8: 34-38), it’s really laissez faire Christianity. Cheap grace is to Christianity what Burger King is to fast food: In both cases people get it the way they want it. Cheap grace leads a person to compartmentalize their life into personal and religious lives. Since the new believer is unaware of the true cost of discipleship, they do not know that everything belongs to the Lord. Even if they do learn about the true cost of discipleship, they will disregard it if it isn’t modeled in the lives of other believers. Consequently, they act like Jesus has only bought a timeshare in their life instead of purchasing their whole life. Since the title deed to their life did not really pass to Jesus, He is just the copilot, but they are still the pilot. They can therefore justify such thinking as “I have given some of my time and some of my money to the Lord, the remainder belongs to me.” Therefore, compartmentalization and Burger King Christianity are natural consequences of cheap grace. The result of cheap grace is a harvest of scorched and stunted plants that never yield a crop (Matt 13: 5-7, 20-22).

In order for the word of God to bear fruit for eternal life, it must fall upon the soil of a heart that is fully aware of the cost of discipleship and accepts it. This is the kind of heart that immediately leaves the nets and boats to follow the Lord. It is a living example of what full commitment to Jesus looks like, and it bears a harvest of thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. On the other hand, cheap grace is aptly named because it shortchanges everyone who lives by it. Cheap grace cannot ever be the soil that yields a harvest of thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold because the person raised by it has not given up the title deed to their life. Since there is no total commitment, it is at best a living example of being double minded. The seeds that fall on the soil of cheap grace are either scorched and withered, or they are choked by weeds. Those who are not fully committed to Jesus will find their lamps going out as they wait for the Bridegroom.

Cheap grace also neglects the command to make disciples. When a revival meeting occurs, or street evangelism, I have noticed that oftentimes they use a“catch and release” evangelism. What I mean is that they catch the fish, but instead of following up with discipleship, the new believers are released back to fend for themselves. The emphasis is on preaching the Gospel, but there is little to no provision to train these new believers with a solid program of discipleship. It’s like they say “well now that you’re saved, it’s up to you to work out the details. Good luck!” This is my personal experience, and I don’t think I am alone. This is not what the Lord intended. After the resurrection Jesus said:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matt 28:18-20 (ESV)

Let’s take a look at this and ask some questions.

Catch and release evangelism may produce many new believers, but it cannot produce many mature believers if they are left to fend for themselves. Mature believers are the result of discipleship, not from being left to their own devices. Unless they have had some kind of church background, new believers are not able to fend for themselves, and we should not expect them to do so. They need guidance from mature believers at this critical point in their new lives, and without discipleship they will be ill equipped to survive the enticements and attacks of the world, the flesh, and the devil. At least in the wild animals defend their young and teach them how to survive. If wild animals do this for their young, shouldn’t we do even more for those whom the Lord gave His life?

Let’s be honest. Is it reasonable to expect a new believer who has little or no knowledge of the Scriptures to know how to mature spiritually? Now that they are saved, do they even know they need someone to teach them the commandments of the Lord? Do they know that believers have a responsibility to disciple them? If they do know about discipleship, do they know where they can get the training they need? Do they know that not all churches are equal? There are poisonous churches in the world whose teachings end up making their converts twice as much the children of hell. Just because a building has “church” on it doesn’t mean its teachings are Christ centered (e.g. Westboro Baptist church). Who will tell them the difference if they are ignorant and left to fend for themselves? This is the tragedy of catch and release. This cheap grace is particularly destructive because it says on the one hand I love you enough to witness to you and get you saved, but not enough to invest my personal time and train you to be a mature Christian. There is something very wrong with this picture. There are many dangers that new believers needlessly face because there is no discipleship set to receive them and train them.

To be fair, I believe many of us are uncomfortable with training new believers because we have no template to draw from. After all, if no one gave us an example how to disciple a new believer, how can we give them what we never received? This is a question I ask myself because I am one of the catch and release survivors that wasn’t devoured by the roaring lion. There is a better way. It’s time to end the harm caused by cheap grace. Let’s agree that new believers must not be left to fend for themselves. The Lord told us to make disciples, so let’s do it! I encourage all my brothers and sisters to take time and pour your life into a new believer. The one who waters will himself be watered. Be Jesus to them. Don’t let the Adversary talk you out of this wonderful opportunity to help new believers become workmen who accurately handle the word of truth; you have a lot to offer new believers! Start them on the way that they should go, and they will not depart from it. No more cheap grace! We must help these fledglings to mature into wise virgins and help them avoid unprofitable teachings that produce foolish virgins.

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Deceptive cessation doctrine: A wise virgin’s guide to waiting for the Bridegroom 3.3

The book of Joel contains a prophecy about what the Lord would do in the last days. Once you see it, it should be instantly familiar:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.  Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.  The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Joel 2:28-32 (ESV)

Now let’s go to the book of Acts and the upper room. The disciples who obeyed Jesus’ command to go to Jerusalem and receive power from on high have been waiting in the upper room. Something happened that no one anticipated:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

No one knew what had happened. At this time, Jews from all over the world were present in Jerusalem for Pentecost. They were amazed to hear these Galileans speaking about God’s mighty works in the native language of their lands. When some accused the disciples of being drunk, Peter addressed the crowd. He told them that this was not drunkenness, but God pouring out His Spirit on the people as Joel had prophesied. The gifts of the Spirit are: Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, discerning between spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12: 4-10). The Spirit administers these gifts and apportions them to us according to His will. It sounds good, so what exactly is the problem?

The problem is, some teachers have decided that these gifts were only intended for the days of the apostles. The gifts were intended to jump start the church and get it going, after which they would no longer be in effect. These people tell us that since the gifts are no longer in operation, we go to the doctor if we are sick, and we go to school if we need to learn a new language. I will call this doctrine which teaches that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer in effect today as Cessation Doctrine (CD). This doctrine has been around for a centuries, and it’s about time someone overturned this table. Let’s investigate these things: Do the gifts of the Spirit have an expiration date? If so, when is it? If not, are they still in operation today? Why do we need these gifts? What does this mean for the wise virgin?

Do the gifts of the Spirit have an expiration date?

Yes they do. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that these things will end one day: “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away” 1 Cor 13:8 (ESV). These gifts are to be in use during a specific time, after which they will cease.

When do the gifts of the Spirit cease?

To answer this question, we must think like Bereans (Acts 17:11) and use their strategy. CD tells us that the gifts of the Spirit ceased after the days of the Apostles, and Paul does tell us that they will end. The question remains when will they end? In the same letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us when the gifts of the Spirit will cease:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Cor 13:9-12 (ESV)

Paul does not tell us a specific date, but he tells us the season in which the gifts will cease. Does he say “after the days of the Apostles”? No! It does appear that Paul means a day after the ministry of the Apostles, but refers to a day far removed in time from the day of the Apostles, not immediately after the days of the Apostles as CD alleges. Paul calls the season of the gifts a partial impartation, when the time of perfection comes, then these gifts will cease. If CD is correct, then we must be living in the days of perfection because the gifts have ceased. I must disagree with CD and overturn this table. When you listen to the news and you hear about nation rising against nation, famines, natural disasters, signs in the heavens, false prophets, lawlessness, love growing cold, and persecution of believers, I can safely say we are not living in times of perfection. Paul was obviously speaking of a date in the distant future since these things have been happening since his day. Since we know that man cannot perfect this world on his own efforts, I believe that this time of perfection could be when the Lord returns after the Tribulation and established His rule. This leads to the next points.

Are the gifts of the Spirit still in operation today? Why do we need them?

Since it is obvious that we have not reached the time of perfection, it means that the gifts are still in operation. There two additional arguments that support the operation of the gifts of the Spirit today. During the last supper, Jesus told His disciples that “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” John 14:12 (ESV). You may be curious why I would point to this as an argument against CD, but let me explain. First, if Jesus said we would do the works He did, then what were the works Jesus did? According to the gospels, He performed miracles, raised the dead, cured lepers, healed all manner of sicknesses and infirmities, prophesied about the future, He knew what was in people’s hearts, and He distinguished what was truly good from what only appeared to be good. Let’s ask ourselves this question next: If we are supposed to do the same works that He did (and even more), how can we do them without the gifts of the Spirit? Can we raise the dead without faith? Can we perform miracles without the gift of miracles? Can we cure disease without the gift of healing? Going to the doctor is not the same thing as having the gift of healing, is it? The list goes on, and the obvious answer is no. We cannot do all the works of Jesus without the gifts of the Spirit. If CD is true, then why would Jesus tell us we would do the same works He did if the gifts of the Spirit (which makes the works possible) ended operation after the days of the Apostles? The truth is we need the gifts of the Spirit to do the works He did.

The final apology comes from Jesus’ example of life. Without exception, we can all agree that He showed us how to live a life that pleases the Father. We are to pay close attention to His works and do the same things. In Matthew we read some of His first actions:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.  John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matt 3:13-17 (ESV)

In this early picture of Jesus’ life, He was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. If we are to do the same things He did, we must follow His example, which includes receiving the Holy Spirit. If Jesus needed to receive the Holy Spirit, how much more do we? It is good that we still stress water baptism, but it does not follow that we should neglect the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If CD is true, then we only need to get a water baptism. But that does not seem correct because Jesus gave us an example that was meant to be followed by all generations, which included receiving the Holy Spirit. Has anything changed?

 What does this mean for a wise virgin?

As the times get closer to the end, we need every gift that God gives us to endure the darkness that is coming. The gifts of the Spirit are just as important to a fully equipped saint as the armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-17). Neglecting these gifts and not seeking them puts a Christian at a serious disadvantage in the times to come. Although there are many more examples that could be given, I will close with this example of why we need the gifts of the Spirit. Jesus tells us that in the last days “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” Matt 24:24 (ESV).

What is Jesus saying here? He is telling His disciples that in the last days the lies that the enemy spins will be so convincing that even God’s own children would be deceived if it were possible. These deceivers will walk like us, talk like us, and in every way they will have the appearance of being authentic. Those virgins who are able to distinguish the authentic from the deceiver can do so because they have the gift of distinguishing spirits. Those virgins who do not have the gifts of the Spirit are much more at risk to be fall into the trap of the Adversary. Virgins who want to be wise take note! The Holy Spirit and oil go together in Scripture. God wants you to have enough oil for your lamp so that your light will shine brightly while waiting for the Bridegroom. What does that say about the virgins whose lamps were going out? Remember that Jesus did not face the devil until He had been baptized and received the Holy Spirit. We will also need the Spirit’s help to endure the coming darkness and Tribulation as we wait for the Bridegroom. Get your oil!!! The gifts of the Holy Spirit are available today for those who will ask for them. If you haven’t received them yet, it’s time to start praying.

Finally, I would like to end by recommending three DVDs that demonstrate the supernatural power of God in operation today. We need the power of God to do the works of Jesus, and these DVDs show actual examples of what God is doing in the world today. The DVD titles are “Finger of God,” “Furious Love,” and “Father of Lights.” I hope they provoke you to seek the Lord as never before. Be blessed, my beloved.

Finger of God DVDFurious Love DVDFather of Lights

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Deceptive early departure rapture doctrines: A wise virgin’s guide to waiting for the Bridegroom Part 3.2

apocalypse movie Left Behind movie collection

The word “rapture” does not appear anywhere in the Bible. It is a term used to denote a time when Jesus returns and takes His church (those still living and the righteous dead) to be with Him. There are three main theories about when the rapture of the church will occur. Some believe the church will be raptured before the Tribulation, some believe it will happen mid-Tribulation, and some believe it will happen after the Tribulation. Given what the book of Revelation tells us about what will happen in the Tribulation, it is not surprising that the pre-Tribulation rapture is the most attractive and popular of these three beliefs. Movies have been made about this and many books have been written that portray a pre-Tribulation rapture (e.g. Apocalypse and the Left Behind books and movies). Since the pre-Tribulation rapture is so popular, I will focus in its tenets. For the purposes of this post, I will refer to the pre-Tribulation and mid-Tribulation rapture theories both as an Early Departure Rapture (EDR). I will show that an EDR is not supported by Scripture and is ultimately harmful to its believers. Before we go further, it would be helpful to describe what the Bible says will happen in the rapture. After that, it will be possible to examine if the EDR theory is accurate.

One of the most cited Scriptures about the rapture is probably found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”  “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:51-57 (ESV)

The Lord Himself also tells us this about the rapture:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Matt 24:29-31 (ESV)

These two places in Scripture will be the starting point for this examination of EDR theory.

EDR apologists believe that the church will be raptured before the Great Tribulation because we are not destined for the wrath that will be poured out in the Tribulation. The case of Lot in Genesis might be cited as support for this view because he had to be removed from Sodom before God destroyed the city. In this view, the Lord’s appearance in the air is a separate event from His Second Coming. There is the Lord’s return Part 1 and Part 2.

The two Scriptures already cited do not support this EDR theory. Jesus said clearly that the elect would not be gathered until the trumpet sounds. Revelation tells that seven trumpets will sound, and it won’t be until the seventh and last trumpet sounds that the Lord will gather His children to Himself:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Rev 11:15 (ESV)

When the seventh trumpet sounds, the first resurrection takes place and those who are alive and remain will be caught up to be with the Lord. When does the seventh trumpet sound? Jesus tells us exactly when it will sound:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Matt 24:29 (ESV)

We are presented with the following problems with an EDR:

  1. In order for an EDR to be true, Jesus would have had to come for His church twice: once before the Tribulation and once afterwards. Jesus never mentions returning more than once. His own words tell us He won’t come back for us until the Tribulation is at its end. When the Lord returns, He will gather His church to Himself, set up His tabernacle among us, and begin His thousand year reign.
  2. The fact that the Lord returns once is also verified by the parable of the Ten Virgins since it is also a picture of the Lord’s return, and this parable does not give us any reason to believe that the Bridegroom would make two appearances. The Bridegroom returns once, and those virgins who are ready are taken in; those virgins who are not ready are left out.
  3. There are two resurrections in Scripture. They are the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. The rapture includes two events: the taking away of the church remnant that is still alive and the resurrection of the righteous. If Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:51-57) is used as evidence for the EDR, it means that the resurrection of the righteous occurred when Christ returned invisibly before the Tribulation (Part 1). If there is only one resurrection of the righteous, we have a problem because Revelation tells us that many saints will be martyred in the Tribulation. That means the Tribulation martyrs would miss out on the resurrection of the righteous if it is true that this resurrection happens before the Tribulation. The only way to solve this would be if there was also a supplemental resurrection of the righteous after the Tribulation (e.g. Part 1 and Part 2). Scripture does not give any support for more than one resurrection of the righteous. Since the gathering of the elect and the resurrection of the righteous occur at the same time and only once, a bifurcated resurrection would not be supported by Scripture (See Rev 20: 4-6).
  4. Movies and books portray an EDR in which the Lord returns invisibly and takes away His church before the Tribulation, but Scripture clearly tells us that the Lord will not return until the seventh trumpet sounds after the Tribulation (Matt 24: 29). When He does return, it will not be invisibly; everyone will see Him (Matt 24: 30; Rev 1: 7).

There are more problems that could be added, but this will do for now. If we follow the clear teaching of Scripture that the rapture will not occur until after the Tribulation, we have none of these problems. Let us now examine the next question. If an EDR belief is untenable, does it follow that belief in an EDR is harmful? I believe it is, and I would like to reference an actual event that many of us will remember.

Harold Camping first predicted that the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011, but later amended his prediction to Oct 21, 2011 when his first predicted date failed. He backed up his confidence in this by investing large sums of money in billboards and other advertising about his prediction; people who believed him also contributed their time and resources to help spread his message about the coming rapture. I would like to relate one interview I remember from this movement that is applicable to this topic. I will refer to the couple interviewed as Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

The Smiths were believers in Harold Camping’s prediction, and they sincerely felt the right thing to do was help bring this news to as many people as possible. They told the interviewer some interesting things. They said it was amazing how the Lord was working with them to make their efforts come to pass. Mr. Smith said the Lord made it possible for him to quit his job and minister full time. The Smiths also attributed the Lord’s help in this because they had just enough resources to last right up to the “last day,” after which they would be penniless. They weren’t bothered about this because they were going to be raptured, so money would no longer be a concern. It was a tremendous testimony, they felt, how the Lord was able to make everything come together like this.

The Lord did not return on May 21 or Oct 21, 2011 as Harold Camping predicted. He claimed that he had made a careful study of Scripture and this enabled him to calculate the date of the rapture. The whole endeavor was an exercise in futility because Scripture tells us no one knows the day or hour of His return (Matt 24: 36). After the failure of Camping’s prediction, the Smiths were left destitute, but hopefully wiser for what they experienced. I am sure Harold Camping made a convincing case for his prediction because he had many followers, but the truth of Scripture proved him wrong. In a very real way, the case of Harold Camping’s prediction and the case of the Smith family illustrate the harmful effects of EDR belief.

Since EDR is not supported by Scripture, it gives people a false sense of security. EDR believers feel that they have a “get out of the Tribulation” card, and as such they do not need to make any preparations for living through the Tribulation. Just like the Smith family did not make any provision for what would happen after Oct 21, 2011 (after all, they weren’t supposed to be here), EDR believers also think that it’s unnecessary to prepare for the Tribulation since they won’t be here either. Instead of preparing like the wise virgins while they still have time, they follow the course of the foolish virgins and don’t prepare. The tragedy is that they won’t have the oil they need when the Bridegroom returns, and it’s all because they thought they wouldn’t be here for the Tribulation. Just as Harold Camping’s prediction failed because of Matt 24: 36, the expectations for an EDR will fail because of Matt 24: 29. We will be here for the Tribulation, so stock up on oil like a wise virgin while the markets are still open! When the darkness comes, no one can work.

May 21 2011 Doomsday billboard

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Deceptive doctrines: A wise virgin’s guide to waiting for the Bridegroom Part 3.1

Deceptive doctrines are part of the reason the foolish virgins were excluded when the Bridegroom arrived, so this post will examine three deceptive doctrines that are prominent in foolish virgin thinking: Once saved, always saved (OSAS), pre and mid tribulation rapture, and the doctrine that the gifts of the Spirit were only intended for the days of the Apostles and are not active today. This post will examine the doctrine of one saved always saved.

Like all deceptions, this doctrine does contain an element of truth. Unfortunately, it is not true to the entire counsel of Scripture. OSAS tells its devotees that once they have made their initial commitment to Christ, they are sealed forever and will never be lost again. They may anchor their belief in Scriptures such as:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39 (ESV)

To be sure, we can never be separated from the Rock of our Salvation, and this truth has brought comfort to Christians throughout the ages. But does this mean that once I am saved, I am always saved? It’s time to be Berean (Acts 17: 10-11).

Scripture gives us many assurances about our salvation, but does it verify that once I am saved, I am always saved? There are at least two major problems with this doctrine: It ignores clear warnings of Scripture about sinning after salvation, and it creates a false sense of security.

It denies clear warnings about sinning after salvation

Scripture tells us that sin is very serious. It is the wall that separates us from God and keeps Him from hearing our prayers. Jesus’ work on the cross broke down that dividing wall and gave us access to God’s throne of grace. Once a person receives God’s gift of salvation, he is whiter that snow. OSAS says that he will always be whiter than snow, but that’s not what Scripture tells us.
Paul uses the history of Israel to illustrate an inconvenient truth, not everyone who starts out finishes:

For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
1 Cor 10:1-12 (ESV)

Paul wasn’t just giving a history lesson about Israel’s past; he was also illustrating a spiritual truth about what can happen if we don’t deal decisively with sin and rebellion. This is similar to Paul’s use of Sarah and Hagar’s story to illustrate two covenants (Gal 4: 21-31). All Israel had the same starting point: “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink” just as we have been baptized and all of us have drunk from the Rock of Christ. Even though they started well, the people of Israel rebelled and were overthrown. Just as rebellion disqualified Israel from entering the Promised Land, it can also disqualify us from His eternal rest. This example was given to us as a warning so that we would not follow the same course of destruction. Even though they were God’s chosen people, God was not pleased with many of them. If OSAS is true, then Paul doesn’t know what he is talking about. Why warn people about a consequence that has no possibility of happening?

If there is no possibility of ever losing salvation, this complicates reading the Scriptures because they clearly tell us something else. Here are some problem points:

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matt 24:45-51 (ESV)

Jesus uses this parable to teach us two different outcomes for the people of faith. There are two servants of the same master. On the one hand, there is the wise and faithful servant who receives the master’s reward when he returns. On the other hand, there is the servant who acts faithlessly and lives like the world. He was totally unprepared for the master’s return and he was cast out. If OSAS is true, then this cannot happen. Both are servants of the same master, so in a sense, if both are saved, then both should receive the same reward. Jesus does not teach this here.

In the parable of the talents, Jesus shows another way servants can be disqualified:

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matt 25:24-30 (ESV)

Once again, all of the servants served the same master. They all received resources from the master to do business with until his return, which indicated they were in the master’s favor and had an equal standing. The problem is that one of them did not do the will of the master; he squandered the resources and time he had to accomplish his master’s will just like the foolish virgins. When the master found out about this, he ordered this unprofitable servant thrown into a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. This can only be a place of eternal separation and destruction. The question remains: If OSAS is true, why does Jesus tell us a scenario in which a believer loses salvation?

The writer of Hebrews weighs in on the possibility of being disqualified as well:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Heb 6:4-6 (ESV)

The writer is clearly portraying a believer in this passage, and it reads very similar to Paul’s passage in 1 Cor 10: 1-12. If OSAS is valid, why does the writer of Hebrews give such a dire warning about falling away? How can you ever fall away if OSAS is true?

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Heb 10:26-31 (ESV)

The writer of Hebrews is clearly speaking about the possibility of losing salvation when a believer engages in a course of deliberate sinning (as in Mt 24: 48-51): “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” You cannot say that the writer of Hebrews is true and OSAS are true at the same time.

My last Scripture come from Peter:

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
2 Peter 2:20-22 (ESV)

Peter is clearly addressing the fact that there will be some believers who fall away from the holy commandment that was given to them. If OSAS is true, then this cannot happen to a believer. Peter warns us that this can happen, and if we are not careful, we will be overcome again by the sin which so easily entangles us. “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it” Heb 4:1 (ESV).

OSAS creates a false sense of security.

People put their confidence in many things that give them a false sense of security. A rich many puts his trust in his wealth, a king puts his trust in his chariots and army, an idolater puts his confidence in his idols, a leader puts his confidence in the high and strong walls of his citadel. We already know from Scripture that these things may give the appearance of safety and security, but the truth of God’s word shows them for the vain hope they give. A rich man’s wealth will not deliver in the day of judgment, an army cannot prevail unless the Lord gives the victory, an idol cannot help because there is only one God, and no citadel can stand if the Lord does not watch over the city to defend it.

In the same manner, if a person thinks that he is always saved no matter what he does after salvation, it follows that a careless and carefree attitude must eventually take hold in his mind. He slowly begins to drift from holiness to friendship with the world. It escapes his notice that weeds (the cares of this life) have already taken root in his heart and are already choking the word. Sin and disobedience are also at work hardening his heart against the word of God. OSAS deceives him into thinking that the law has no hold on him and that he has a kind of immunity from ever losing the crown of life. He can eventually get to the point where he beats his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, and as such he is entangled and overcome again by the very things he was delivered from. When his master returns, he will find out too late that OSAS was a false security in the same way wealth was to the rich man.

My beloved, we are under grace, but that does not mean that our actions cease to have consequences; sin and rebellion can still disqualify a believer from eternal life. Sin can still easily entangle a foolish virgin. Do not let the world, the flesh or the devil persuade you to give up your birthright for a bowl of soup. The Lord did not endure the suffering of the cross just so we could live like the world. Get your house in order. Abide in Him, and He will keep you safe.

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A message for the Fourth of July

Today we celebrate our Independence Day, and this is a time we ought to celebrate. But if we want to continue to celebrate our independence, then we have to acknowledge an inconvenient reality. We are in a rare cycle of four blood moons, each occurring on a feast of the Jewish calendar. God is using signs in the heavens to tell us that something serious is on the way, and the time to get our house in order is now. On the Jewish calendar, next year is also a shemittah year, when debts are cancelled. In the Torah, debts were cancelled every seven years. The previous shemittah years marked historic events in our history. There was the 9/11 attack of 2001 and in 2008 the stock market crashed 777 points. Given what has happened these past shemittah years, it would be wise to be reconciled with God now before the next shemittah year of 2015.

This nation needs to humble itself and seek God for reconciliation while there is still time. When the bricks have fallen, and the sycamores have been cut down as they have in America (Isaiah 9:10), the answer is not to be defiant and rebuild with dressed stones or replace the sycamores with cedars. The answer is repentance. We cannot (and history verifies this) maintain a course of life that is at variance with the Almighty and just expect He will remain aloof. Israel tried a course of defiance, and the result was increasing oppression, injustice and immorality. The nation experienced loss of national power, prestige, and sovereignty; Israel was subjugated by enemy states, and finally exiled. America is not so big and powerful that God cannot humble her the same way. The choice before us is simple: We can learn from history and do the right thing, or we can ignore history and repeat it. If we want to preserve our nation, we must repent.

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Do not be disqualified by foolishness: A wise virgin’s guide Part 2

There is a detail about the ten virgins’ parable that needs to be examined. The second verse tells us that “Five of them were foolish, and five were wise” Matt 25:2 (ESV). This verse reveals that there were two distinct groups; this is important even if it doesn’t get talked about a lot. Groups are important parts of all our lives. The most important group believers can belong to is the body of Christ. We are by nature social beings; it is part of our human nature to want to belong to a group. The desire to be part of a group can be very powerful, and there are two principle reasons for this.

A group creates an atmosphere of acceptance. This acceptance is based on some kind of common ground that the group members share. When we interact with these people, we can exchange thoughts and ideas without sounding out of place. We can open our hearts with someone who knows what it’s like to go through what we are experiencing, and who can say “I have been there.” If the shared experience is especially strong, one might even say “it’s like we have known each other our whole lives.” The saying that “birds of a feather flock together” is true. A group of people who share life’s trials have agreement and harmony; this creates an atmosphere of acceptance (especially if love is involved) that has a very powerful appeal.

A group can also create a sense of security. It is much easier for a person to weather a storm knowing others are there to help, and they are not alone in this. There really is strength in numbers, and Solomon tells us:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Eccl 4:9-12 (ESV)

We can even see this in nature itself. Animals that stay in the herd are safe from attack. It’s the stranglers and loners who are vulnerable to predators. Safety can be a compelling reason to be a part of a group as well; there is a great comfort in knowing that someone is watching your back. Now you may ask, what does all this have to do with the parable of the ten virgins?

Craving the acceptance of the wrong group (or person) can come at the expense of your eternal life. When I said that the desire to be in a group can be powerful, I meant that as a warning because it is powerful.  Wise virgins take note! I believe the strongest example of this can be found with Solomon, who was one of the wisest men ever to live. Solomon knew the Scriptures, and what they said would happen if he married foreign women. Solomon followed God, but he also loved foreign women who followed their own gods. Solomon could not have any common ground with his wives without compromise. Even though Solomon was very wise, he did not listen to wisdom when it came to marriage:

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.

1 Kings 11:1-2 (ESV)

Notice that last line. Solomon craved love and acceptance from the foreign women he married, but people cannot walk together unless they are in agreement. He had a choice to make. Either he should follow God with all his heart, or he must compromise and turn away from God. Here is what happened:

For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

1 Kings 11:4-8 (ESV)

If a man as wise as Solomon can fall, we should not underestimate the power of love and acceptance to persuade us to turn us away from the Living God. It is always tragic to hear about people who have gotten into abusive relationships, lost money in a romantic scam, or joined cults because they thought these things would give them the love and acceptance they were looking for. We can avoid this trap by remembering the counsel of God: Examine everything under the light of God’s word. For those who will heed this, it will save them from many sorrows.

In this case, the first thing we need to do is define what love really is. If we know what true love is and what its qualities and characteristics are, we can spot the counterfeits. This is what Paul tells us about love:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Cor 13:4-7 (ESV)

Let’s compare this with the deal Solomon got from his foreign wives. The price for their love was accepting their gods and rejecting the one true God. This cannot be true love because it insisted on its own way. Solomon’s wives never wanted to serve the Lord God (Cf. Ruth 1: 16-17); they insisted on having their own way and worshipping their own gods (Strike one). Worshipping other gods was also a direct violation of the first commandment. This is wrongdoing of the highest order, but the love his wives had rejoiced in this. Rejoicing in wrongdoing is not evidence of true love (strike two).  True love is enduring. It doesn’t present a list of conditions that must be met before it is bestowed. Solomon’s wives offered a conditional love; it would only be given in exchange for meeting its requirements (strike three). This cursory examination shows that Solomon was not being offered true love, but a counterfeit. This brings us back to the virgins.

As I mentioned at first, there were two groups. The foolish group was careless, compromising, and negligent, and given the case of Solomon, it follows that some of the foolish virgins were once in the wise camp. There was something about foolishness that persuaded these once wise virgins to embrace it. Foolishness can be very persuasive in areas we are vulnerable in. For example, if we have had a childhood in which the parents withheld love, or only showed love under certain conditions, we will want to find the love and acceptance we didn’t get somewhere else. If we have had a life where we never felt secure, then we will try to find that security somewhere. Foolishness offers deceptive imitations to satisfy our needs, but since these imitations do not originate from God, they do not have the divine power to affect a cure. They will never be the healing balm we need; they can only bring ruin.

Foolishness has a sweet and pleasant taste at first; it can even be like intoxication. This is deceptive because only later does the taste become bitter, but by that time a person has ingested large amounts of foolishness and the weeds that choke out the word have been sown. The heart becomes hard, and this makes a spiritual recovery doubtful. Foolishness truly has a season when it feels pleasant and enjoyable, but it lasts just long enough for the hook to be set. If Solomon perceived the bitterness immediately, would he have continued? Given Solomon’s case, there are two things we should watch out for: We should never underestimate the power of our need for love, acceptance, and security to draw away into foolishness, and we should never overestimate our power to resist. In other words, we should take the warnings of Scripture seriously:

The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Prov 9:13-18 (ESV)

We should always try to help people recover from the grip of foolishness, but if you are trying to help someone who has been persuaded that “stolen water is sweet,” remember this warning: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” Gal 6:1 (ESV). Watch out that your efforts to help don’t end up snaring you. Don’t become a casualty!

Wise virgins, stay in your group. What kind of people do you associate with? Do they rejoice in the truth? Do they insist on their own way? Are they telling you to stock up on oil while the markets are still open? Or are they saying there is no need to get all radical, there’s plenty of time and the wait for the Bridegroom won’t be that long anyway? The time is getting short, and the Lord will soon return for His people. Do not stop meeting together and encouraging one another while it is still called today. Build each other up and pray for one another. Do not turn away from wisdom:

And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.  Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

Prov 8:32-36 (ESV)

Take care, my beloved.

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