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Intellect and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Preface from The Promise of the Father)

In the church I was brought up in, I was taught that speaking in tongues was of the devil. Looking back, I don’t believe their principal perception was that those who spoke in other tongues were demon-possessed. In my opinion their statements pointed more toward the idea that those who spoke in other tongues were being deceived by the devil, but not necessarily possessed by the devil. Either way, whenever the subject would come up I distinctly remember viewing “Spirit-filled” tongue-talkers as being uneducated in biblical truths, as well as being influenced by demonic forces.

I am thankful for the church I was raised in—the church in which I was born again and water baptized when I was nine years old. Even though I left that church in the latter part of my teenage years, I always reminisce with a grateful heart when I think back to my childhood and my salvation experience.

The summer before my junior year in High School I became very intrigued by the life and testimony of a friend with whom I had grown up. His family had moved back to town after his parents graduated from Bible College. The word spread quickly in our small town about their Charismatic beliefs. They believed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, which was very strange according to what I had been taught. Yet I knew this family personally, and I would have disagreed with anyone who suggested they weren’t genuine Christians. That’s why I needed to find out for myself why they believed in something I had always been taught was unbiblical.

I sensed the call of God in my life at an early age (though I didn’t understand what it entailed). To the best of my recollection, since my early teens I have had a hunger for biblical study and passionate discussion about God. Thankfully, my experience of being led into the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not based upon feelings, or through hearing or seeing Pentecostal signs. I met with my friend one day and began asking him questions about speaking in tongues. He did exactly what I would recommend to others: he took me to Scripture and showed me what the Bible had to say about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

It wasn’t long after our conversation when I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I began speaking in tongues. I was sixteen years old. I would have to write a separate book in order to explain how the baptism of the Holy Spirit not only empowered me, but also took me to new levels of commitment and spiritual growth. One of the important truths we will examine in this study is that the greatest benefit of receiving the “promise of the Father” is not speaking in other tongues—it’s having the power to be witnesses.

I am well aware that the content of this study is not embraced by all Christians. Nevertheless, I would hope that the common ground we all share is that anything we profess to believe about God’s commands and promises, or the godly principles we’re called to live by, must be based upon plainly understood teachings found only in God’s Word. Additionally, we must have enough respect for the Bible that when a teaching is understood, we accept it by faith and act upon it without question or compromise (no matter what our circumstances look like in the natural).

As I’ve observed Pentecostals over the years, I have often witnessed how they can become their own worst enemies by acquiescing to their feelings over biblical truths. If Pentecostal church services become a reflection of the church at Corinth, God is not glorified because He isn’t the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Also, faith cannot be imparted in an atmosphere of disorder. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those in the body of Christ who not only pursue, but also exalt intellectual or academic stimulation to the point where God seems to have difficulty gaining access to their hearts. If they’re not careful, their zeal can easily become a roadblock for the Spirit of God who desires to touch them in ways which may often seem contrary to their intellect.

After listening to, learning from, and observing others, I sometimes find myself concerned by what I see and hear coming from the intellectual corridors of the Christian community (i.e. Christian academia and its protégés). My observations lead me to believe that a high degree of intellectual prowess can be as much of a curse as a blessing. I’ve had many conversations with highly intellectual, born again Christians who seem to have great difficulty forming their own opinions about biblical topics. Allow me to provide an example of the type of convoluted thinking which can result from not viewing the Bible as inerrant and straightforward in its fundamental teachings. The following is an excerpt from a social media post. The individual who posted this for public consumption is a Christian as well as professor of Philosophy.

Over the last several years, I have operatively adopted an historicist account of human nature (ala Hegel, Gadamer, Sartre, Ortega). For many (Sartre and Ortega included, I think) that account is opposed to view of natural law in which the goals and basic structures of human nature are given not by human decisions or by human history but by something more grand in which humans participate. I think Hegel and Gadamer would have a more nuanced position here than Sartre or Ortega allow—that is, while remaining basically historicist, they can incorporate an account of “nature” into that account rather than leaving it as a contradictory opposite.

 

So, now I’m rethinking my thoughts from the standpoint of primitivism, which completely reconfigures the relation between nature and history. On the primitivist account, human nature is a product of millions of years of evolution (so evolution provides a broadly historicist framework, but not in the sense of history used by the thinkers above). “History” (in the narrow sense of the word used by historicists) began only about 10,000 BC, and that is not enough time for any real biological change in humans. So we are all basically what we were in the Paleolithic age; our bodies, our minds—our nature—is best suited to the environment and life “we” had then. So, the primitivist essentially makes a natural law case for human ethics.

It’s no secret that in most secular higher education settings, many of the professorial teachings and writings are contaminated by a somewhat sycophantic adherence to the false religion of Evolution. Sadly, we see the same thing happening in Christian colleges and universities. At any rate, a greater problem persists as professors spend their careers attempting to dissect the words of deceased philosophers who also spent their careers dissecting the words of deceased philosophers. The professor’s social media post is an excellent example of the byproduct of this intellectual merry-go-round. But, the spiritual fallout is worse. The theft of biblical beliefs at the college level is seen clearly in one study called “The College Student Survey.” Those conducting the study asked students to cite their current religious commitment. They compared the responses of students as freshman who said they were born again with the answers the same students supplied four years later. On some campuses as high as fifty-nine percent no longer described themselves as “born again.” That was a drop off of nearly two-thirds!

It’s also no secret most prominent philosophers don’t base their studies or conclusions on the Bible’s eternal truths. Normally their studies are focused on the proper interpretation of human interaction and human thought processes. Ironically, the word philosophy comes from the Greek word philosophia, which literally means “love of wisdom.” Nonetheless, it would seem as though most philosophers revel in what the Bible refers to as, “the wisdom of men” (1 Cor. 2:5 and 2:13). Even so, the intellectual gymnastics of the secular world are not my concern. I do, however, become very concerned when I see Christian educators polluting biblical teachings by continually citing or inserting secular philosophies rather than drawing solid conclusions from the Bible, which is the source of all wisdom. The apostle Paul encountered the stoics and philosophers of his age, and he was careful to make the distinction between man’s wisdom and the wisdom that comes from above.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21).

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power…(1 Cor. 2:4).

He makes an important statement in Colossians 2:2-3 where he says, “All wisdom and knowledge are hidden in God and in Christ.” This is why William Tyndale could say, “A ploughboy with a Bible would know more of God than the most learned ecclesiastic who ignored it.” The social media post cited also exemplifies the root cause of such a surplus of incoherent reflection leading to wrong conclusions. Much of the difficulty for highly intellectual individuals lies in an ongoing feeling that the fullness of the truth is yet to be discovered. If not kept in check, this discontentment can oppress their intellect to the extent that knowledge and the capacity to store it (the intellect) are never satisfied by biblical faith. Thus, it can result in the true intellectual always searching for one more proof, but seldom experiencing the peace of God.

An unhealthy pattern can develop as the Christian intellectual strives for academic fulfillment. The danger lies within one of his biggest fears, and that is taking a firm position while knowing something may surface that would render his position invalid. This is a risk many are afraid to take. As a result, their beliefs are, in one sense, continually in a state of flux. They wrap themselves in the ideological blanket of “questioning everything.” Within this ideological hiding place, solid answers are never the goal. It’s the quest that’s most important. Some would argue that this is a wise position to take within secular academia, and that may be so. However, it is not a position of wisdom in relation to the elementary truths of the Bible—truths which are necessary to a believer’s life in Christ (Heb. 6:1-3). If a Christian intellectual hides under the aforementioned ideological blanket, they’re willfully shortsighted because plainly understood and easily proven biblical truths will not crumble under the weight of academic scrutiny or “enlightenment.”

On the other hand, there is certainly nothing wrong with a quest for discovery, which is obviously an internal force the Lord has placed within us. Although, for the Christian who constantly needs intellectual stimulation, this may result in veraciously reading one more book while believing it will be integral in forming his or her opinion on various subjects. However, based upon this premise, and as previously mentioned, if the search for proper doctrine is rooted in questioning everything, then it is unlikely that a firm stance on any particular tenet of faith will be attained. Quite often it ends up clouding their thought processes as they inadvertently, or through the process of philosophical disintegration, take up Pilot’s inquiry: “What is truth?” As alluded to earlier, the subtle irony is that so manyacademicians or intellectuals are reading and studying after others who were in the same vicious cycle of searching but never discovering the truth. The Pharisees fit this description. In one instance, after they became offended at Jesus’ words, He told His disciples:

Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch (Matt. 15:13-14).

At the same time, one who has a sharp intellect and believes in the infallibility of the Bible is, without a doubt, highly useful in the kingdom of God. Usually, it’s these believers in Christ who seek to develop their own voice—a voice based soundly in biblical truths. They are those who respect any truth spoken by a wise scholar while at the same time they refuse to simply be an echo of those who were always searching but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

Theologian John Piper once shared a story about George Eldon Ladd, one of the most notable evangelical theologians of our time. Ladd had written a work concerning Jesus and His kingdom that was contrary to the position of his peers. Piper noted:

Because of Ladd’s desire for scholarly credibility he was almost undone emotionally and professionally by Norman Perrin’s critical review of Jesus and the Kingdom.

Piper goes on to describe how Ladd walked through the halls of Fuller Theological Seminary shouting and waving a royalty check when A Theology of the New Testament was a stunning success ten years later. Thankfully, Ladd wasn’t deterred by criticism early on in his career. Instead, he chose to continue to write what God put on his heart as he expounded on Bible doctrine. It requires God’s grace and courage to teach truths which aren’t popular, even among Christians, for the simple fact that most people don’t like being thought of by their peers as being a little odd. However, it’s always right to stand on the solid ground of Scripture rather than bend with those who seek to bring about compromise in exchange for acceptance.

Kierkegaard said, “Faith, not reason, is the door to truth.” A simple definition of Christian faith is a firm trust and reliance in God. A simple definition of intellect is the ability to reason and understand. It’s important to recognize that faith and intellect were never meant to be in opposition to one another. They should not be viewed as bookends when they were intended to be part of the same book. Where we often falter is when our intellect is not aligned with the written word of God. In those circumstances the intellect will become faith’s antagonist. The result might be a reinterpretation of clearly spoken passages in an attempt to lower the supernatural aspects of the Bible to the level of man’s natural ability to think and reason. Pascal said, “Logic, which is an abstraction, may shake everything. A being purely intellectual will be incurably skeptical.”

God has said that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Is. 55:9). When we consider Isaiah 55:9, it stands to reason that faith in God’s Word—agreeing with His thoughts and judgments—is the highest form of intellectual thought and reason. For a Christian to believe in something he cannot understand with his mind on the grounds that God said it or revealed it is to submit his human intellect to thinking which is inexpressible, all-knowing and infinite. While this concept may be somewhat difficult for those who appraise faith by the measure of their five physical senses, it is nevertheless the point at which we either stagnate or begin to grow in our relationship with God. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

The reason I have invested so many words in this discussion of intellect and faith is that I feel it provides the necessary footing for a study of the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. The fact is, there are many highly intelligent Christians who may realize a need to humble themselves occasionally in order to become a “fool” for the Lord (1 Cor. 1:25-27). I’m not suggesting it’s only those with several initials behind their names who may find this difficult. However, I don’t think I’m mistaken when I suggest that those who are always seeking after more knowledge are often the ones who wrestle more with the concept of approaching biblical truths with a child-like faith. It also seems patently obvious that within the broad spectrum of Christianity, from the novice to the highly educated theologian, those most resistant to the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts are typically found within Christian academia.

To be fair, it must also be pointed out that there are those who embrace the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the charismatic gifts who need to stop checking their intellect at the church doors in exchange for foolishness. I believe we can use our intellect while still allowing the Lord to touch our hearts, causing us to melt in His presence. Nonetheless, if the day ever comes in our lives when gaining and storing knowledge is more important than the fear of the Lord and humility in our hearts, then we have reached a point at which we might possibly be in danger of a seared conscience and spiritual shipwreck.

Unfortunately for the cessationist, this discussion will be ongoing—and rightfully so. The discussion of election and predestination didn’t begin with Calvin, and it certainly didn’t end in the last century with A.W. Pink. Likewise, Cessation Theology didn’t begin with Origen, and it didn’t end with twentieth century theologians. Every generation needs to have these discussions with the goal of biblical truth being discovered and applied. With that goal in mind, I pray this study will help enlighten, encourage, provoke further study, and give deeper meaning to those who are seeking, or have already received, the baptism of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

 

We Must Forgive (Posted 1/21/15)

“I firmly believe a great many prayers are not answered because we are not willing to forgive someone.” – D.L. Moody

Forgiveness must be taught about and focused on more than ever in a world where becoming offended seems to be a hobby rather than something ardently resisted. Believers in Christ must be quick to forgive. Why? There are two vitally important aspects of our spiritual lives which will be negatively impacted if we don’t forgive wrongdoing.

  1. If we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us.
  2. Our prayers will be affected.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

First John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The apostle John was writing to Christians; and what’s fascinating about this is how he refers to a believer’s sin as “unrighteousness.” If we’re harboring unforgiveness, not only is our heavenly Father not forgiving us, but we are also allowing unrighteousness to have a place in our hearts. James 5:16 is clear: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (emphasis added). The opposite would also be true. The prayers of an unrighteous man would not avail much.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

If we adopt the mind of Christ, we can easily forgive others for the wrongs committed against us. Not only did Jesus humble Himself in such a magnificent and powerful way, but He also (while hanging on the cross) ask the Father to forgive those who crucified Him. (See Luke 23:34.) If Jesus can do that, then what’s stopping us from forgiving others?

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Christians Must Speak Up

(posted 10-25-14)

It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. — Patrick Henry, May 1765, speech to the House of Burgesses

The First Amendment added to the United States Constitution not only protects the people from Congress forcing religion upon them, but also prevents lawmakers from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. In conjunction with religious freedom, America’s founders wisely included freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to speak to government in order to remedy wrongdoing.

There are many organizations in America that try to use the First Amendment to silence Christians, claiming they should not have a voice in the political arena, or in the legislative process. These organizations fail to recognize that the First Amendment works both ways. While Congress can make no laws respecting [with regard to] religion, it also has no constitutional basis to restrict Christians from freely exercising their beliefs in every arena.

The right to freely exercise religion launches from speech to the printed word, from the printed word to assemblage, and from gatherings of people to the redressing of government. We see in the constitution how even though Christianity should not advance from the legislature toward the people, it certainly has the free expression to move from the people toward the Legislature.

Christians in America have always had the right to practice their faith without restraint, and even bring their beliefs before the government. Not only can we in the Christian community freely speak of our heartfelt convictions, but we may also freely write about them and assemble together and exercise them while challenging the government when we feel our religious freedoms are being trampled upon.

These are discussions we must be willing to have if we are to positively influence this generation. The degree to which our American culture returns to its Christian roots will ultimately determine the amount of success we have in defeating tyranny and restoring America to the country our founders believed God predestined it to be.

May we never fail to remember nor cease to be thankful that our nation is unique inasmuch as we have such powerful freedoms guaranteed its citizens. Christians must be challenged to stand up as never before and say no to those who would try to separate a man from his beliefs. I pray that Christians everywhere will take full advantage of the freedoms we are privileged to bear.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit Part 3 (Posted 8-10-14)

An interesting question arises from the meeting in the upper room on the day of Jesus’ resurrection.

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Now when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:19-23)

The “same day” referred to in this passage is the day of the resurrection of Christ. It is the same day when Mary Magdalene almost touched Him, but Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” (John 20:17) Therefore, we can logically assume that when Jesus appeared to the disciples that evening, and allowed Thomas to touch Him so that he would not be unbelieving, that He had already ascended to the Father and returned to the earth.

Some would argue that when Jesus breathed on them in the upper room on the same day of the resurrection, they received the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit—the promise of the Father of which Jesus had made reference. But this cannot be the case. Acts chapter 1 makes it plain that what they received in John 20 was not the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)

The events in the first chapter of Acts are taking place some forty days after the events of John 20. The promise of the Father had not yet come because Jesus had not yet ascended to the Father. Furthermore, He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. These same disciples were in the upper room in John 20 when Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The question is, if John chapter 20 does not represent the coming of the promise of the Father (the baptism of the Holy Spirit), then what actually occurred? I believe the answer lies within Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6)

Translators surely got it correct when they capitalized the first “Spirit” at the end of John 3:6 leaving the second “spirit” lowercase. Scripture teaches us that we are a three-part being—spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23, Heb. 4:12); though, the division of the soul and spirit we cannot discern. Only God and His word can accurately and speedily discern and target the spirit or soul of man. It would also seem obvious from scripture it is not our soul or body that are regenerated within our salvation experience. The fact is, we must renew our minds daily, and our bodies are either going to the grave or they must be changed at the last trumpet. It seems logical, therefore, that our human spirit is that which is regenerated (born again) when we are saved by grace through faith. Hence, “that which is born of the Spirit [Holy Spirit] is spirit [human spirit].”

Back to the upper room in John 20, the same day as the resurrection. On the same day, Jesus presented Himself to, and then returned from the Father after “ratifying” forever the New Covenant. (At least the “ratification” appears to be the connotation of what happened.) The disciples could now be made new on the inside (born again). Their human spirit could now be reborn of the Holy Spirit. This upper room distinction (John chapter 20) is made on the basis that the Holy Spirit (i.e. “baptism of”) had not been sent yet, and in order for the disciples to receive it forty days later they would have to become temples in which the Holy Spirit could reside. This correlates with Jesus’ words that He would not just be “with” them, but “in” them. Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin explains it in the following manner:

Of all the mighty truths connected with our redemption, this is the climax: After God Himself has recreated us and made us new creatures—made us His own—then He, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, makes our bodies His home. (Baptism In the Holy Spirit, Kenneth E. Hagin, copyright 1986, Rhema Bible Church, Tulsa, OK., page 12.)

The research thus far leads to the following conclusions:

  1. The Holy Spirit (meaning the third person of the Godhead) did not reside on this inside of men or women under the Old Covenant because there was no mechanism in place (the new covenant) to create a “temple” (made without hands) for the Holy Spirit to reside within.
  2. The Holy Spirit would come “upon” men and women in the old covenant to carry out God’s will.
  3. Jesus told of a day when the Holy Spirit would not just be “with” believers, but “in” believers.
  4. The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, and remained upon Him, but not because Jesus was imperfect. Jesus walked fully under the Old Covenant (in every respect) in order to fulfill, or bring it to a close.
  5. Scripture shows Jesus’ enthusiasm for sending the Holy Spirit to indwell believers as well as His expectations of what believers could accomplish via the power of the Holy Spirit. (John 14:12-18 and Acts 1:8)
  6. The Father would send the promise of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ request; and the Holy Spirit would not be sent until Jesus ascended to the Father (Acts 1-2).
  7. Jesus coined the phrase “baptism” of the Holy Spirit, and told us it would be like “rivers of living water.”
  8. The disciples were made new creatures, temples of the Holy Spirit, or born again believers in the upper room (John 20) when Jesus breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
  9. The John 20 upper room Holy Spirit “experience” could not have been the baptism of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit had not yet been sent.
  10. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an experience subsequent to salvation.

Point 10, concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit being subsequent to salvation, is not only evident in Acts 2, but also in the following passages.

But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:12-17, emphasis added.)

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:44-47)

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)

Saul’s conversion experience is also evidence of receiving the empowerment of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation. Most theologians would agree that Saul had a miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus. Saul’s response indicates that he believed because he called Jesus “Lord,” and said, “What do you want me to do?” Also, when Saul met Ananias he was called “brother.” If Saul had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the road to Damascus, then why would the following information be relevant?

And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17, emphasis added.)

There are many other evidences that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not only unique to the New Covenant, but the manifestations are also unique. However, the primary focus of this research has been to show how the Holy Spirit’s operation was progressive from, and uniquely new when transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. It would take a much greater work to expound upon the various nuances of the work of the Holy Spirit and His fascinating manifestations throughout man’s existence.

 

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit - Part Two (posted 7-9-14)

The Holy Spirit had been present on the earth since the beginning of creation. However, Jesus’ words spoke of a time when the Holy Spirit would begin operating in a far different way than any other time in history. He even tells His disciples the time frame in which this will happen—after He was glorified.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7, emphasis added.)

The Holy Spirit (though He was “with” them) would not be “in” them until after Jesus left the earth. Jesus had to go away before He sent the Holy Spirit.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)

 

Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)

What this study reveals thus far is:

  1. Under the Old Covenant the Holy Spirit would primarily come “upon” people, and sometimes even depart from an individual.
  2. The New Covenant would be different because the Holy Spirit would not simply be “with” believers; He would be “in” believers.
  3. The Father would send the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ request.
  4. The Holy Spirit would not be sent until after Jesus departed.
  5. Believers would be baptized (immersed) with the Holy Spirit.
  6. Jesus called the baptism of the Holy Spirit the “promise of the Father.”

P.C. Nelson makes an insightful statement about the phrase the “promise of the Father”:

Note that it is not a promise but the promise, the great mountain-peak promise which towers about all the rest of the Father’s promises following the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah. Our Savior Himself gave us the phrase. (Bible Doctrines, P.C. Nelson, copyright 1981, Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, MO., page 55.)

 

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit—Part One (posted 5-22-14)

Some might consider it an irony that a Jesuit priest, Father Damboriena, is quoted as saying:

We shall never understand the Pentecostal beliefs and practices until we grasp the centrality of the Third Person of the Trinity in their lives.” (Tongues as of Fire, by Prudencia Damboriena, copyright 1969, Corpus Books, Washington, D.C., page 87.)

It goes without saying that the third person of the Trinity never changes. In scripture we also see the revelation of the Godhead (the Trinity) successively unfolding. His mode of operation amongst men progressed in idyllic linear fashion to the plan of God (in whom and with whom the Holy Spirit is unalterably intertwined).

The purpose of this study is to catalogue the diversity of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament as compared to what is seen in the New Testament [covenant]. This brief study will begin with the Holy Spirit’s work within the framework of the Old Testament, focusing mainly on the contrast between the Holy Spirit’s operations in the Old Covenant as compared to the New Covenant.

One of the questions this study will address is why the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with the manifestation of tongues, is a uniquely New Testament experience. This particular aspect of the Holy Spirit’s operation is a fascinating subject when considering the events of, and the events prior to, the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapters 1 and 2. What’s even more remarkable is the impact it has had in the church throughout the past two millennia. It becomes an even more intimate study and experience when we consider the label Jesus assigned to it: “The promise of the Father”. These are a few of the elements I will attempt to shed light on within this short work.

In his book, The Paraclete, Dr. Joseph Parker makes the statement:

Is not the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church less distinct today than in the Apostolic Age? Certainly there is not much appearance of the Pentecostal inspiration and enthusiasm in contemporary Christianity. Christianity is nothing if not spiritual. Why doesn’t a Church, now over nineteen hundred years old, have a fuller realization of the witness of the Holy Spirit than the Church of the First Century? Has the Church accomplished all the purpose of God and passed forever the zenith of her light and beauty? (The Paraclete: The Personality and Ministry of the Holy Spirit, by Dr. Joseph Parker D.D, Scribner, Armstrong & Co., New York, NY, 1886, page 174.)

In response to the aforementioned insights by Dr. Parker, I would offer a few words about Pentecostalism provided by Dr. Steve Durasoff in his excellent work entitled Bright Wind of the Spirit.

Pentecostalism will never be computerized to maintain an atmosphere of faith in which the gifts of the Spirit constantly function. There is the ever-present danger of man getting in the way, despising the gifts because of some extravagances and regulating them excessively, leaving nothing but a dry shell of professed Pentecost. Long ago someone coined the phrase, “There is no Pentecost without Plentycost.” The price is death to the proud self-life, death to the delight in the power and prestige of organizational position, death to the egotistical concept that shuts Pentecostals within small mutual admiration cells. The price is humility—to God alone belongs the glory; honesty—but for the grace of God the Pentecostal is weaker than all men; and holiness—the happy, wholesome kind that never repels, but always attracts people to Jesus. (Bright Wind of the Spirit, by Dr. Steve Durasoff, copyright 1972, page 212.)

Beginning with Holy Spirit’s presence in the Old Testament, we can identify a particular, but steady phenomenon the vast majority of the time.

  • And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. Then he took up his oracle and said… (Num. 24:2-3, emphasis added in each.)
  • The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. (Judges 3:10)
  • But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet… (Judges 6:34)
  • Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead… (Judges 11:29)
  • Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused. (1 Sam. 11:6)
  • Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. (1 Sam. 16:13)

Over and over in the Old Testament we see the Spirit of the Lord coming upon the kings, priests, prophets, and judges. In one instance we even see the Spirit of the Lord departing from King Saul. The few instances where we see a phrase such as, “…and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding” (Ex. 35:31), it either means to “be led by,” or “endowed with.” However, we do not see a “filling,” or baptism of the Holy Spirit described or displayed under the Old Covenant.

Isaiah foretold of Jesus when he said:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God… (Is. 61:1-2)

We know Jesus spoke of the fulfillment of this prophecy when He stood in the temple and read from Isaiah. (See Luke 4:18.) Interestingly, all four gospels speak of the Spirit of the Lord coming upon Christ, and John says the Holy Spirit remained upon Him. (See Matt. 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32.)

One of the common sense mechanisms of biblical research and interpretation is, if we have twenty pieces of evidence (within the same investigation involving the same subject) that point in one direction, and we have five pieces pointing in another direction, we must base our conclusions on the twenty and not the five. Some of the findings so far in this study of the Holy Spirit’s mode of operation within the Old Covenant are:

  1. He would empower mainly by “coming upon” an individual (to prophesy, lead God’s people, bring judgment, do mighty acts, etc.).
  2. He would depart from an individual if their heart turned from the Lord (e.g. King Saul).
  3. We do not see a “baptism” or emersion of the Holy Spirit within the life of an individual.
  4. Even Jesus, because He walked under the Old Covenant in order to bring it to a close, experienced the Holy Spirit “come upon” Him, and it remained upon Him.

While walking under, and in full accordance with, the Old Covenant, Jesus made some very interesting statements in reference to the Holy Spirit.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

When Jesus begins telling His disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit (referred to as “the Helper”), He makes an interesting comparison. The indication was that He currently dwelt “with” them, and He “will be” (future tense) “in” them. When we understand how the Holy Spirit operated (or manifested) under the Old Covenant, Jesus’ statement makes perfect sense. Instead of coming upon believers to animate mighty deeds, the Holy Spirit would be inside New Covenant believers to empower them to do God’s will. As this study will show, this was not possible under the Old Covenant. However, under the New Covenant those who believe would become “temples” of the Holy Spirit as a result of the born again experience.

Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would [future] receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39, brackets added only for the purpose of clarification.)

The Holy Spirit had been present on the earth since the beginning of creation. However, Jesus’ words spoke of a time when the Holy Spirit would begin operating in a far different way than any other time in history. He even tells His disciples the time frame in which this will happen—after He was glorified.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7)

 

WAS JESUS POLITICALLY CORRECT? (Posted March 2014)

Politically correct language is speech that is calculated to provide a minimum of offense. This idea sounds good, and many people in the public eye or the public sector (politicians, educators, and those in the media) assume a Christian should agree and comply. While any sincere Christian would acknowledge we must walk in love, there remains the question of where we draw the line between providing a minimum of offense and speaking the truth of God’s Word.

Many Christian leaders have argued that political correctness is merely a tactic used by secularists to silence their opponents—many of whom reside in the Christian community. This causes constant frustrations because while pressure is leveled against the Christian to keep quiet concerning social and political issues, the secularist liberal plays the hypocrite. This is evinced by the fact that his politically correct paradigm only applies to those he desires to silence.

Where does this leave the Christian? What does Scripture reveal about this idea of political correctness? Do we have examples in the Bible we can emulate regarding our response to the depravity of our culture? Within a biblical discussion of political correctness, there are no examples in Scripture which carry the same weight as Jesus. So, how did Jesus respond to accusations? Was He politically correct? An examination of Jesus’ life and ministry clearly shows that He did not live according to what we would consider the politically correct rules of the time.

Jesus was very outspoken, and on many occasions He called the religious leaders of His day hypocrites. In Matthew 12:25-34, we see how the religious leaders, who were very cozy in their relationship with the Roman government, tried to accuse Jesus of being a follower of Satan. Jesus did not back down from them, and in Matthew 12:34 He called them a brood of vipers and told them they were evil. In John 2:13-18 He drove the moneychangers from the temple with a whip. Also, in Matthew 23:27 He told the Pharisees and teachers of the law they were whitewashed tombs looking beautiful on the outside, but inside they were full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean! In light of His outspokenness, it is important to note Jesus never sinned. (Heb. 9:14)

Some might say, “But Jesus also commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves, love our enemies, turn the other cheek, do good to those who hate us, and bless those who curse us.” Several important points should be made in order to put these truths into perspective. The first point is that love always speaks the truth. Through the apostle Paul, the Lord gave us a comprehensive definition of love. Love suffers long, is kind, does not envy or parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity [sin], rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes things, and endures all things.

The biblical definition of love calls us to be a doorway not a doormat. Nothing in the definition of love instructs Christians to compromise their beliefs. Love gives us the grace (God’s ability in us) to present truth unselfishly for the benefit of others and to the glory of God. Love is the very reason we speak the truth God has given us. His truth has the power to make us free.

That brings us to a second point to consider: Does a true Christian place a high priority on sharing the same insights from God’s Word which set him free? If the answer is yes, then how would I treat my neighbor? If I love my neighbor, then I should desire for him to hear the same truths through which I was set free. This might mean I have to speak very boldly and plainly to my neighbor about principles from God’s Word, at the same time understanding that my neighbor may not desire to hear them.

A third point to take into account: the command to “love our enemies” assumes we have enemies. No one in his right mind goes looking for enemies, but on the other hand, Jesus warned us if the world hated Him we would also be hated. Why would we have to turn the other cheek unless we had already been struck once? Jesus further warned of people cursing us. Why? Again, Jesus made it clear if the world hated Him, we would be hated also.

Why was Jesus hated, and who hated Him the most? He was not hated because He was passive or kept to Himself, never stirring anyone up with His words. It was just the opposite during the majority of His earthly ministry. If Jesus were physically in the earth today, He would be hated just as much—and killed. The secular world would not tolerate a sinless and outspoken man walking in our midst any more today than they did two thousand years ago. Yet, according to the Bible, Jesus is still in the earth spiritually through His body—the church. In today’s world, who does the liberal media consistently broadcast as being a threat to our American culture, whether subliminally or outright? The answer is Evangelical Christians.

Stephen is another excellent example of a man who spoke the truth without apology. Acts 6:8 describes him as being a man full of faith and power. In Acts chapter 6 we see him speaking with great wisdom during a dispute with a group of people who were from the Synagogue of the Freedmen. Scripture says, “They were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (v. 10). Stephen passionately related spiritual truths to a very carnal group of religious people. His audience was not able to resist or give argument against the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. As a result, their carnal nature was aroused to anger against the truth for which they had no response.

Stephen’s encounter with the anti-Christian elitists of his era could easily happen today when Christians debate with wisdom from God’s Word through the leading of the Holy Spirit. We may discover that those who are intolerant of biblical truths cannot intelligently—or sometimes even rationally—rebut the wisdom of God’s Word. Nevertheless, this should not keep us from exposing them to the light of biblical Christianity. In Stephen’s case, those with whom he had debated stirred up the people, elders, and scribes, then set up false witnesses and seized Stephen.

Often we witness the same scenario in our politically correct culture today when Christians begin voicing their opinions too loudly. The left-wing media and political elites will mischaracterize Christians too the point to where it borders on the absurd. Like Stephen’s antagonists, they will set up false witnesses in order to distract others from paying attention to the truth. Once again, their goal is to silence Christians because they are threatened by our message.

How did Stephen handle having false witnesses set up against him? Did he back down for the sake of tolerance and political correctness? Was he distracted by all the lies? Just the opposite! After being seized, he preached a very powerful and authoritative message. He concluded his message by saying, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in the heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” Then he proceeded to call them betrayers and murderers. He made them so furious they gnashed at him with their teeth! (Acts 7:51-54)

Does sharing the truth of God’s Word always have to be so dramatic? Of course not! Jesus had many pleasant conversations with people. Peaceful communication hopefully describes the majority of conversations we have about the Lord. Yet, is it unchristian to be passionately vocal when we encounter anti-Christian rhetoric, whether it is in the form of speech, attitudes, proposed legislation, or media broadcasts? In those times we need to have the same confidence and stamina Jesus and His disciples exhibited, which was a result of faith in God’s word and walking in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

Offering apologies for biblical truth is unfruitful. It minimizes the seriousness of sin while bringing into doubt the inerrancy of Scripture. Worst of all, it makes Christians appear as though we are double-minded and unsure of our own convictions. Do we apologize for rudeness, personal attacks, or causing injury or harm? Of course we do. Walking in love must be at the core of our motivation as Christians. At the same time, we must not yield to the underlying tone in our culture encouraging Christians to offer excuses or regrets for believing exactly what the Bible teaches. For that, there should be no apologies.

Political correctness is a bottomless pit. If we back away today from proclaiming biblical truths, then what will be required of us tomorrow? If need be, we must be willing to stand alone in our convictions. What was the result of the uncompromising, non-apologetic, faith-filled outspokenness of the disciples in the Early Church? The results we see include many signs and wonders, the Lord adding to the church daily, and the world being turned upside down!

 

Vision for the New Year (Posted January 7, 2014)

I’ve known many people who’ve had both vision and passion. And, along with their vision and passion they had God-given gifts and abilities. Yet, too often I’ve watched in frustration as some of these same people fail to take the first step in pursuing those God-given dreams.

Henry Ford said, “We can’t build a reputation on what we’re going to do.” I agree with the late-great four-wheeled mogul, except to say that we do build a reputation. Our reputation will be that we’re all talk. Nehemiah had vision and passion. What would’ve happened if he’d never taken the first step in rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall?

Where do we start? First we pray. We must take the time to discern what God’s will is for our lives. Someone may say, “But I don’t know how to discern God’s will.” God not only gives each of us gifts and abilities, but He also gives us desires that coincide with them. For example, to some He gives a desire to teach. To others He gives mechanical or engineering skills. Normally we don’t have to look very hard to discover what gifts the Lord has given us. Prayer is the key in knowing what to do with those skills, and when or where to develop and use them. The Lord has a time and a season for every purpose under heaven. Logically, that would include His plans and purposes for our individual lives.

Once we’ve identified our abilities, then we set proper goals. We lay out a plan. Some things should become obvious at that point. For instance, the local junior college Political Science program may not be the best use of our time if our goal is to be a plumber. It would make more sense to find a trade school, or become an apprentice with a local plumber. Too often people have become frustrated with time-wasting (and money-wasting) side journeys. It’s better to set a course and focus on a goal that’s meaningful to our lives and, most of all, within the plan the Lord has for us. When we begin moving in that direction, we must not be deterred until we’ve reached our goal.

It’s also important to discern the difference between God-given dreams and fleshly desires. For example, if we daydream of being a concert pianist, and yet every piano teacher we’ve ever studied with has dropped us saying we couldn’t play the piano even if we had four hands, the piano only had one ivory key, and every song was written with that one note; then maybe we need a dose of reality. There’s nothing wrong with taking the road less traveled. That’s very admirable. However, for the Christian, taking the road less traveled must only be done at the leading of the Lord—not driven by fanciful daydreams. When it comes to daydreams versus reality, sometimes we need to sit down in front of a mirror and be brutally honest with the person looking back at us.

There’s no doubt God has created each of us very uniquely. He has designed us to fulfill a purpose within His divine plan. Furthermore, He’s not trying to keep it a secret. In this New Year, pray and ask God for guidance. He wants us to know and to follow His plans for our lives. If we’re seeking after God, we’ll not only find Him, but He will direct our paths.

Proverbs 8:17-18 says this about wisdom, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring riches and righteousness.” True wisdom comes from God, and if we seek after it, we’ll find it.

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November 10th and 11th I had the privilege of teaching about the “last trumpet” at Living Word Family Church in St. Joseph, Illinois. Here are the notes from those meetings. (Click here to listen to “The Last Trumpet”)

The Last Trumpet

 In this study we will examine:

1.      The 70 “weeks” of Daniel.

2.      How we know there’s a final seven-year period that’s unfulfilled.

3.      The parallel passages concerning the catching away of the saints at the last trumpet.

4.      The timing and characteristics of God’s wrath.

This material is presented from a standpoint of faith and victory—not a fear of the future. Here are a few scriptures of encouragement:

·         2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

·         1 Thessalonians 5:4-5: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day.”

·         Daniel 11:32-33: “Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. And those of the people who understand shall instruct many…”

Daniel’s Vision

Scripture: Daniel 9:17-27

·         The first temple was built and dedicated by King Solomon.

·         The first temple was destroyed after the nation of Israel turned their back on God, and they were taken into captivity.

·         Daniel reads the prophet Jeremiah, and he understands that 70 years of captivity were complete.

·         Daniel does exactly what Solomon prayed (at the dedication of the first temple); and the Lord responds by giving him a vision.

·         Daniel’s vision included a timeline of 70—7-year periods.

·         The seventy “sevens” (seven year periods of time) are determined:

1.      “…to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins…” (i.e. release from captivity, sacrifices begin again)

2.      “…to make reconciliation for iniquity…” (i.e. the Cross)

3.      “…to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.” (i.e. the end of the age).

The 70 Weeks of Daniel

·         The Hebrew phrase “seventy weeks” literally means “seventy-sevens.”

·         Daniel is told that the timeline begins with the command to restore and build Jerusalem.

69 “Weeks” to Messiah:

·         7 X 7 years = 49 years until the wall and second temple are rebuilt.

·         62 X 7 years = 434 years after the temple is rebuilt—Messiah is “cut off,” or “suffers the penalty of death.”

·         After Jesus dies and is resurrected, the temple [sanctuary] and the city are destroyed.

·         70 AD the Roman emperor Titus destroyed the second temple and much of Jerusalem.

Slide1

Daniel’s 70th “Week” (seven year period of time)

Scripture: Daniel 9:27

·         There is one seven-year period left.

·         The prince, or people of the prince will confirm an covenant [treaty] for that seven-year period.

·         3 ½ years into the treaty he will cause the sacrifices and offerings to cease.    

At the end of the seven years is the end (the second coming of Christ).

Jesus refers to the 70th week.

Scripture: Matthew 24:1-15

·         What is the prophetic “mile marker” in this passage? (A. “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet.”)

·         According to Daniel chapter 9, how much time is left after the “abomination of desolation”? (A. 3 ½ years.)

Scripture: Matthew 24:16-31

Questions:

·         Where is this persecution and “great tribulation” centered? (A. Israel, and specifically the current-day “West Bank.”)

·         How intense will it be? (A. Worse than the Holocaust—“such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time.”)

·         How long will it last? (A. 3 ½ years.)

·         What occurs “immediately after” the tribulation of those days? (A. God’s wrath is poured out, Jesus returns, and the catching away of the saints who are not appointed unto God’s wrath.)

·         How do we know this event didn’t happen in 70 AD or before? (A. Because Jesus comes immediately after the tribulation of those days.)

·         When does Jesus gather His elect (His chosen ones)? (A. Immediately after the tribulation of those days—at the last trumpet.)

Some would argue that this teaching exposes a specific time-frame which gets us a little too close to knowing the day and hour of His return. After all, no man knows the day and hour. But…consider this:

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree [of Israel becoming a nation*]: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” (Matt. 24:32-34)

*(Listen to teaching on God regathering Israel.)

·         We do not know the day and hour of Christ’s return, but we can know when the day is near, even “at the doors.”

The Last Trumpet

·         In Matthew 24:31, Jesus tells us that He will send His angels with the great sound of a trumpet (after the tribulation of those days) to gather His elect (chosen ones).

·         Where else do we find these “items”? (A. In several parallel passages we will examine.)

Scripture: First Thessalonians 4:13-17 (Parallel passage concerning the last trumpet.)

Parallels / Similarities:

1.      The Lord comes.

2.      An archangel.

3.      A trumpet.

4.      Gathering of the elect.

Additional Information:

·         The dead in Christ rise.

·         We’re caught up with Him.

More Parallel Passages

Scripture: First Corinthians 15:51-52

Parallels:

1.      A trumpet.

2.      Dead in Christ rise.

3.      We’re caught up with Him.

Additional Information:

·         The LAST trumpet.

What These Passages Tell Us (Summary of Matthew 24:29-31, 1 Corinthians 15:52, and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17):

Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, the last angelic trumpet will sound, the dead in Christ will rise first, and those who are alive and remain will be changed, and we will be gathered by the angels from one end of heaven to the other.

·         When is the last angelic trumpet? (A. Revelation 11:15)

·         Revelation 8:6: “So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”

Revelation 11:15-19

Parallels:

1.      The last angelic trumpet.

2.      The second coming of Christ.

3.      God’s wrath is poured out.

4.      The dead are judged, His servants the prophets and the saints receive rewards.

The First Resurrection

Scripture: Revelation 20:1-6

·         According to “Pre-Tribulation” rapture theology, when does the mark of the beast occur—before or after the church is raptured? (A. After)

·         Who are those who rule and reign with Christ? (A. Those who have not worshipped the beast, received his mark, or have given their lives for Christ.)

·         Does the “first resurrection” occur before or after the mark of the beast? (A. After)

·         Is there a “second resurrection” spoken of? (A. Yes. But it does not occur until after the 1,000 year reign of Christ.)

Classic pre-tribulation scenario for the final seven years.

·         Traditional pre-tribulation rapture teaching espouses that the church is raptured (caught away) in Revelation 4:1, after which the church is not mentioned.

·         Are the saints mentioned after Revelation 4:1? (A. Many times.)

·         Daniel 7:25: “He [the Antichrist] shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time [3 ½ years].”

·         Rev 13:7 [during the final 3 ½ year period]: “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”

·         Rev 12:17 [during the final 3 ½ year period]: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

·         The “pre-trib” argument would be that the “saints” mentioned in the scriptures above are “tribulation saints” (people getting saved during the final seven year period). This is circular reasoning because:

1.      If the church and the Holy Spirit are absent from the earth because of the pre-tribulation rapture, how would anyone get saved without the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit?

2.      If people are getting saved during that time, what would happen once 2-3 get saved? There would be a church because Jesus would be in the midst of them. Therefore, the church (the body of Christ) would never truly leave the earth.

3.      If one of the major purposes of a pre-tribulation rapture is for the church [believers] to escape the wrath of God, then why would God allow those who become His children during that time to be subjected to His wrath?

·         Traditional pre-tribulation rapture teaching also teaches that the events (specifically the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 vials) all occur in a consecutive manner over the final seven-year period.

Slide1

Basic layout of the Book of Revelation

Revelation 1:19: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”

1.      What John “sees”: In Revelation 1:17-20 he sees Christ, seven stars, and seven lampstands.

2.      What the Lord says “are”: The seven lampstands John sees are the seven churches.

3.      What must take place “after this” begins in Revelation 4:1. (A common sense interpretation of scripture would suggest that “hereafter” means any time after John received his vision, not after the church is caught away. This is easily verified after examining the parallel passages of the catching away of the saints.)

Trouble in Pre-Trib City…

The 6th and 7th Seal (the wrath of God)

Scripture: Revelation 6:12-17 & Revelation 8:5

In these passages we see a few of the characteristics of the wrath of God:

·         Great earthquake.

·         Sun becomes black and the moon as blood.

·         Stars from heaven fall.

·         Mountains and islands moved.

·         More Trouble in Pre-Trib City

The 7th (and final/last) Trumpet

Scripture: Revelation 11:18-19

·         God’s wrath comes at the last trumpet. (This also lets us know that the first six trumpets are not the wrath of God as some would suggest.)

·         Temple of God is opened.

·         There are lightnings, noises, and thunderings.

·         There’s a great earthquake.

·         Great hail.

A Bowlful of Trouble in Pre-Trib City…

Scripture: Revelation 15:5-8 (All of the “bowls” or “vials” in the KJV are full of the wrath of God.)

In these passages we see the same characteristics of God’s wrath:

1.      Temple in heaven is open.

2.      Bowls full of “the wrath of God.”

3.      Loathsome sores.

4.      Sea becoming blood.

5.      Men scorched with fire.

6.      Darkness covers the “throne of the beast.”

7.      Great river Euphrates dries up.

8.      Noises, thunderings, lightnings, great earthquakes, great hailstones.

·         God’s wrath is easily identifiable in scripture. It consists of things only God can do (earthquakes, the sun being darkened, etc.). Wars and rumors of wars are not characteristics of God’s wrath. Ships sinking (i.e. the 2nd trumpet) are results of man-to-man conflict induced by Satan’s influence, as is the extreme persecution on Israel and the saints.

Pre-tribulation rapture theology has:

·         The wrath of God being poured out THREE times. (This is result of the teaching that the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and seven vials occur one after another. For example, the 6th and 7th seal are the wrath of God; then at the 7th trumpet the wrath of God comes again; then after the 7th trumpet all 7 vials are poured out which are full of God’s wrath.)

·          Pre-trib teaching has Christ coming THREE times. If the events after Revelation 4:1 occur in a consecutive manner, and the saints are caught away before the final seven-year period, then:

1.      Jesus sends His angel with the sound of a trumpet to gather His elect at the beginning of the final seven-year period.

2.      Then, He returns at the 7th angelic trumpet (Rev. 11:15—“The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”).

3.      And, if the events of Revelation are chronological, He also returns again in Rev. 16:15-16 (“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” This is the valley in which Jesus returns to destroy the armies attacking Israel.)

4.      Then, the battle at Armageddon occurs again in Revelation chapter 19.

5.      Additionally, we would also have to ask ourselves what the sending of angel with the “great sound of a trumpet” is in Matthew 24:31, if it’s not the catching away of the saints at the “last trumpet.” The only logical answer for Matthew 24:31 is that it’s a parallel passage to 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, and Revelation 11:15-19.

·         Pre-tribulation rapture doctrine has the sun becoming dark THREE times (Matt. 24:29, Rev. 6:12, Rev. 16:10).

·         Stars falling from heaven TWICE (Matthew 24:29, Rev. 6:13).

·         Mountains moving, islands disappearing, lightnings, thunderings, and great hail FOUR times (Matt. 24:27-29, Rev. 6:14, Rev. 11:19, Rev. 16:18-21).

Important Questions

·         Most pre-tribulation rapture teaching says the seals, trumpets, and vials are worldwide, yet how many times can the wrath of God be poured out on the earth and have any life remain?

·         When is the wrath of God poured out according to scripture? (A. At the last trumpet—“the nations were angry, and Your wrath has come.” This lines up perfectly with the aforementioned passages concerning the catching away of the saints.)

·         If the wrath of God comes at the last trumpet, and at the time of the second coming of Christ, doesn’t that mean the seals, trumpets, and vials all END at the same event? (A. Yes—at the last trumpet.)

Summary of the Wrath of God

·         The seals and trumpets may begin at different times in history, but they end at the same event—the last, or 7th angelic trumpet in Revelation chapter 11. This means they are not chronological, but rather there is an overlapping after which they culminate at the last trumpet when the saints are caught away, the wrath of God comes, and Jesus returns.

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Courtesy (Excerpted from A Call to Honor)

(October 2013)

 

Being courteous and respectful are great keys to success in life. John D. Rockefeller said, “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than for any other ability under the sun.” Unfortunately, simply everyday courtesy is becoming lost in our fast-paced/self-centered culture.

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines courtesy as “excellence of manners or behavior; politeness.” It is imperative that we teach good manners to our children. Being courteous and knowing how to deal with people can take an individual a long way in this life and the home is a good place to practice. It is best to start teaching our children these principles when they are young. We can begin with simple things like saying “please” and “thank you.” We can teach table manners and the proper way to address an adult. Then, we must reinforce proper manners on a daily basis.

 

Most of us have many opportunities everyday to extend courtesy to others. Driving to and from work are marvelous times to practice courtesy. Lines at checkout counters or fast food restaurants are great places to sharpen our manners. Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.”

 

We should purpose in our hearts to always put our best foot forward. We must represent Christ in such a way that it will cause the unbeliever to desire to know Christ. First Corinthians 13:4-5 says, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up [arrogant]; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.” John Maxwell said, “To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.”

 

Second Corinthians 5:20 describes Christians as ambassadors for Christ. We are Christ’s representatives on this earth! Therefore, we should behave in a way that it will cause others to want to know Him. Unmannerly behavior is not befitting an ambassador of our Lord Jesus Christ. Courtesy should be a Christian’s calling card!

 

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Dying Produces Growth (September 2013)

 

Any sincere Christian desires to grow in his walk with God so that he will be pleasing to Him and play a role in building His kingdom. Sometimes, however, the difficulty in spiritual growth lies in the truth that death must occur before we can truly live for Him. This principle is revealed in scripture within the framework of a seed. There are two types of seed Jesus spoke of:

1.      The sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13:37-38).

2.      The seed of the word of God (Luke 8:11-15).

In Matthew 13:37-38 Jesus explained that He is the one who sows the sons of the kingdom and the field is the world. When it comes to the seed of the word of God, the field is our hearts. The Lord uses the metaphor of “seed” for both because the principle of growth is identical.

A typical seed includes three basic parts: (1) an embryo, (2) a supply of nutrients for the embryo, and (3) a seed coat. The embryo is an immature plant from which a new plant will grow under proper conditions. Within the seed, there is usually a store of nutrients for the seedling that will grow from the embryo. The seed coat in the mature seed can be a paper-thin layer (e.g. peanut) or something more substantial (e.g. thick and hard in honey locust and coconut). The seed coat helps protect the embryo from mechanical injury and from drying out. (Galili G, Kigel J, Seed Development and Germination)

Within the seed is new life—the potential to produce much fruit. All that it needs in order to grow is good soil. Concerning the seed of the word of God, Jesus said the following in the parable of the seed and the sower: “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15, NKJ).

Interestingly, a planted seed must technically “die” before the new life that is in it springs forth to put down roots and grow a new shoot up through the soil. When a seed is planted, the protective seed coat quickly begins to deteriorate, allowing it to open and the life inside the seed (the embryo) to grow. If the seed is left outside soil too long, its inner nutrients are used up, the embryo dies, and the seed is no longer able to reproduce. Jesus spoke of this in John 12:24-26:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. (NKJ)

Therefore, a seed must be planted (die), and it must also have good soil in order to grow and produce fruit. Understanding these seed principles provides us with several vitally important elements for spiritual growth.

1.      We must guard our hearts (our spiritual “soil”) and “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

This first element means continually placing ourselves in a position to have the “seed” of the word of God planted in our hearts. It also means allowing the Holy Spirit to continually convict us of sin and righteousness thereby keeping the weeds which will choke the word out of our lives (John 16:8, Heb. 12:5-6).

2.      We must die to ourselves daily, take up our cross, and follow Him.

If we are not willing to die to ourselves (meaning putting off the old man of sin) we will never grow strong in Him and produce fruit. Jesus taught us this in Luke 9:23-26:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (NKJ)

The word “deny” in this passage means “to deny utterly; to abjure; to affirm that one has no connection with a person” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). So then, Jesus taught us that we must affirm daily that we have no connection with our old man while taking up His cross and following Him.

3.      We must allow the Lord (the Head of the Church) to plant us.

If we are never planted in a local church, we will never put down roots, and as a result we will never bear fruit in our walk with God. Someone said to me recently, “I believe we can worship God anywhere. I don’t think a person has to go to church.” I responded, “It’s true that a person can worship God anywhere, but he can’t fellowship with the Lord’s body by himself. He needs to be in church.”

The truth is clear that we must die to ourselves daily in order to grow in Him. We must allow the word of God to be planted in a noble and pure heart in order to bear fruit. We must allow the Lord to plant us as sons (under His authority and the authority of His body the Church) in order to grow and prosper in His kingdom. Through the new birth, and by continually hearing the word of God, everything we need to reproduce godliness is within us. But, if we remain to ourselves (apart from Him) those seeds deteriorate and die. James said it very plainly: “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20, NKJ).

I pray that we all will take up our cross daily, die to ourselves, and follow Him.

 

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The Value of the Family

(Posted August 3, 2013)

If we devalue, dilute, or completely destroy the validity and biblical objective of the family, then society as a whole does not have a chance. A child who grows up in a home with two mommies or two daddies is by design (speaking of their instinctive senses) going to be confused. The intellectual anti-Christian zealots can argue against this reasoning all they want, but it will always ring true in the attitudes and actions of those raised in such unfortunate circumstances.

There are those in our culture today who not only want to redefine the family, but will go so far as to assert that the traditional family is not necessary. Many times these arguments are put forth by the same people who believe the public schools are where children should be given all the tools they need to succeed. After all, the school setting is where a child spends most of his day. A specialist for the National Education Association addressed this issue when he said:

“The schools cannot allow parents to influence the kind of values-education their children receive in school; that is what is wrong with those who say there is a universal system of values. Our (humanistic) goals are incompatible with theirs. We must change their values.” (Paul Haubner, specialist for the National Education Association, emphasis added.)

When working one-on-one with troubled families, youth, or children we can readily see the solutions to their problems are not found through focusing on changing the schools in order to facilitate change in the child’s behavior. Ultimately, we must focus on improving the family situation, which in turn will stimulate improvement in the child’s behavior. Over the years I have witnessed or been involved with many families in crisis. I have witnessed the fallout of some of the most horrible and gross delinquent behavior carried out by parents, youth, and children. As I consider these situations, I cannot point to one scenario which might not have been resolved, or dealt with much more effectively if the parents had stepped up and diligently assumed their parental responsibilities.

Over and over we see it is within the home where children are given the tools they need to fulfill God’s plans for their lives. A father and mother carry out one of their most important roles when they make a dedicated effort to be godly role models for their children, and in turn teach by example what it means to be a godly man and woman. A child’s morals, values, actions, and reactions are molded and shaped within the family unit. Within the home problems are worked through, attitudes are shaped, and strength of character is developed. It is the parent’s, and more specifically the father’s responsibility to see to it that a child is brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Secular psychology and humanism both converge to muddy up the simplicity of parenthood. Yet, biblical principles concerning strengthening the family are easy to understand. Having said that, consider this question: What continues to be the most frustrating and difficult task when counseling with parents about solving family issues? The answer lies within this humorous modern-day parable.

A certain man traveled on a long journey searching for the secret truths of being a muscle-bound bodybuilder. At his journey’s end he found a man covered with muscles from head-to-toe. The weary traveler inquired of the muscleman the secrets to pumping iron, and building large bulging muscles. The muscleman was gracious and kind to the weary traveler. The muscleman called his scribe and spoke to the scribe all the necessary tasks one must perform in order to become a muscleman.

When the weary traveler returned from his much needed night’s rest, the muscleman gave him a scroll containing all the necessary training it takes to become a muscle-laden man. The traveler became enraged. He said to the muscleman, “I don’t want to do all this! I just want big muscles!” The muscleman’s countenance fell, and with great sorrow he replied, “Thus it is with many who desire what I have, but in nowise desire to do what I have done.”

When it comes to solving family issues, the biggest difficulty is motivating parents to consistently perform the simple tasks necessary to strengthen their families. Parents cannot carry out their parental responsibilities for only short period of time and expect long-lasting results. God’s principles must become part of our family’s daily lives. Precious fruit is only produced through vigilant oversight. If we desire the best fruit we must be willing to put in the time and consistent effort to cultivate the ground, plant the seeds, nurture the vine, and prune the branches.

James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” It is self-deception to think everything will magically turn out okay with our children even if we do not take a pro-active role in their physical and spiritual lives. Let’s place the same value on the family as God does, and then commit to be doers of the word within our families.

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The City on a Hill (excerpted from When Church and Government Collide)

Posted July 4, 2013

Our culture discovers the same thing each time the Christian community is confronted with hot button issues. Suddenly we find out there is a silent majority that, if united by a common cause, cannot be silenced or stopped. For some reason, however, it seems to bother a great number of people when the Christian majority raises its voice.

Interestingly, I have discovered it’s not just those who hate Christians that fear we will become too actively involved in politics. I’ve also had conversations with many good, well-meaning non-Christians (who certainly don’t hate Christians) who also seem very skeptical about the idea of us being involved in governmental affairs. Much of the apprehension stems from the idea that if Christians were in charge, they will force their biblical beliefs on everyone. Earlier in this chapter we examined the fallacy of America becoming a biblical theocracy, but what about this notion people have of Christians forcing their beliefs upon others?

In response to that question, I would offer the following reasoning. The average minister in the pulpit pours his heart out trying to teach, exhort, and persuade parishioners to follow biblical teachings. Yet, we often feel as though the teaching of the word of God falls on deaf ears. The point is, if a minister in a local church has difficulty imparting biblical truths to those who are seeking it, then how on earth would an elected official accomplish the task of forcing religious beliefs on the general public? In America an individual can’t even tell his neighbor’s dog what do without some sort of argument or lawsuit from its owner. Prohibition is one example of how legislators cannot force people to be moral. Morality is an attitude of the heart, and there must be a willingness on the part of an individual to live accordingly.

Ironically, most of the criminal laws we have today are based upon the moral standards we find in the Bible. In 1778, in a speech to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia, James Madison said:

We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity….to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.

The average citizen understands we must have laws we can live by which will protect citizens, provide for the general welfare, and generate peace within our society. In reality, Christian morals have already been thrust upon our society by means of biblical virtues embedded within criminal law. And, because the majority of our society agrees we must have morally based laws and punish evildoers, they don’t complain about, or seldom even consider what the laws are actually based upon.

For genuine reform to occur, it will take consistent, Christ-like activism in all walks of life. It might take a Great Awakening within the body of Christ in order to begin to exercise the amount of influence it will take to bring about substantive change. If that is the case, then let it begin with us. True leaders do not wait for others to follow. They begin where they are, and they work with the tools in their hands. True leaders have the vision to see what no one else sees, and the energetic passion to cut a path where no one else desires to go. Our world today is looking for true leaders who will:
• Not apologize for truth.
• Put their families first and get their houses in order.
• Make honorable judgments in the city gates, and live lives of integrity.
• Work hard, keep the bar high, and teach others to step up to God’s standards.
• Not quit, and who will focus on the task at hand until victory is secured.
• Lead by example, and not simply tell others what to do.
• Be committed for a lifetime, even if they do not see all the results within their lifetime.

A true city on a hill is one built on faith. The people who live in the city do not live selfishly or in doubt saying, “We’ll give up if we don’t see something happen soon!” Its residents live their lives in order to bring glory to God in their generation while at the same time passing on biblical truths for succeeding generations. A true city on a hill is built upon the solid rock of Christ which will resound against the storms and shine even brighter when the winds and waves have ceased. It is place of hope wherein those who visit will experience the powerful presence of God because of the faith, hope, and love which permeates our very being.