PART 4: The Problem with the Pretribulation Rapture

 

hand

In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this commentary we have shown that the foundational “rapture” verses, 1 Cor 15:51-57 provide three independent witnesses that place the rapture at the end of the tribulation at Christ’s second coming. We then showed that when Christ was asked about the timing of His coming and our gathering up to be with Him, He plainly and clearly placed it “immediately after the tribulation of those days”, and we saw that 2 Thes. 2 teaches Christ’s second coming and our gathering up to be with Him can not happen until AFTER the antichrist is revealed. So, this creates 5 very strong witnesses that the so called “rapture” is simply the Second Coming of Christ, at which time the dead will be resurrected, and those of us who are alive and remain will be changed into our glorified bodies to rule and reign with Christ for 1000 years in His Millennial Kingdom.

Today, we will look at another problem dealing with the resurrection from the dead. 1 Cor 15:51 and 1 Thes 4:13-17 indicate that at the time of Christ’s return, those who have died having faith in Him will be resurrected, and those who are alive and remain will be “changed” and will receive their glorified immortal bodies.

Lets now look at Revelation 20:4-6

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Folks, this one is really pretty clear:

  1. John sees the souls of all those who were beheaded because they did not worship the beast and did not take his mark.
  2. Then the souls “lived” i.e. they were resurrected.
  3. This resurrection is called “The First Resurrection”.

This is crystal clear. The souls John sees died during the tribulation, because they are killed by the antichrist system because they do not take the mark. There are no other alternatives. These people had died DURING the tribulation. Then they “live”, that is, they are resurrected. Hence this resurrection MUST occur AFTER the tribulation. Then John tells us that this is “The First Resurrection”. If this is the first resurrection, then how could billions of Christians have been resurrected at a “rapture” before the tribulation. If there had been a mass resurrection prior to the tribulation, then the resurrection above would have been the “second” resurrection, not the first.

Reviewing this analysis, and those in the earlier three parts of this series, in order to believe in a pre tribulation rapture one must believe:

  1. Billions of Christians are resurrected prior to the “First Resurrection”.
  2. Billions of Christians die AFTER Christ wins final victory over death and the grave.
  3. Christ misled his disciples in Matthew 24 indicating that Christians will be persecuted during the Tribulation when in fact he plans to secretly remove them from the earth.
  4. There are at least 7 trumpets after the “Last Trumpet”
  5. Paul was having a bad day during his 2nd letter to the Thessalonians when he indicated that the gathering together of the saints could not happen till after the antichrist is revealed during the tribulation.
  6. Christ comes one time between his First and Second coming. Would that not make three comings of Christ? No, Christ comes twice, not three times.

Guys, it simply does not work. To believe in a pre tribulation rapture is to mangle scripture. Hey, I want to believe it as much as the next guy. I believed it for most of my life. Then a few years ago I set out to prove it scripturally. After about six months of study I concluded that the Bible does not clearly promise a pretribulation rapture. Then after several more years of study I concluded that the Bible clearly teaches that the gathering together of the saints happens at Christ’s second coming. I do not desire persecution or martyrdom, but to believe something that is not true is to not be ready when that day comes.

PART 3: The Problem with the PreTribulation Rapture

Fishermen
Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee

If you have read PART 1 and PART 2 of this commentary, you can see that careful analysis of 1 Cor 15:51 and 1 Thes 4:13-17 provides 4 independent witnesses that the “rapture” is simply the Second Coming of Christ, which occurs at the end of the seven year tribulation period. Christ comes twice, period. First He came as Savior and Suffering Servant some 2000 years ago. Next He comes as KING of kings and LORD of lords. He comes twice, not two and a half times and not three times.

If you read PART 1 and PART 2, you might be scratching your head at this point. You probably can see the clarity of my analysis, yet it is hard for you to imagine that what you have been taught all your life is not clearly supported by the Bible. Perhaps at this point you just wish you could ask Jesus, and have him provide clarity. Luckily, the disciples did just that. In Matthew 24:3, the disciples asked Christ the direct, million dollar question:

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

Friend, look at the clarity of the question. The disciples wanted to know precise details about Christ’s second coming and the end of the world. Much of their question is already answered in the Old Testament, but yet they wanted clarity. A clear answer directly from Christ himself. Christ responded by presenting a precisely worded and concise summary of end times Eschatology. Now, before reading Christ’s answer, we must realize that the question was clearly asked, it was asked by his Disciples, His most trusted believers, and He provided a clear, easy to understand, precise summary of end times events. Would He leave out the most important points? Would He mislead His closest followers? Would He deceive? Of course not . . . He would accurately give them a summary of the key end times events in direct answer to their clear question. Christ responded to their question with the following answer Matthew 24:4-29.

And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you.For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.

26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 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. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Could Christ have been any clearer? In verse 29 He says, “Immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days”, and then goes on to describe his second coming, which clearly parallels the so called “rapture” verses described in 1 Thes 4:13-17 and 1 Cor 15:51-55.  Have a child read the verse. What is the context? What is He trying to convey. Clearly, He is communicating to His closest followers that believers will be persecuted and martyred in the tribulation period. Did He not get the memo that believers would be beamed out before the tribulation? Did He intentionally deceive? I think not. The simple answer is, He is warning believers to Prepare for Persecution, even unto death.

I do not write these things to scare you, but I write these things so that you will not be deceived. Read the first part of verse 4 . . . His first warning was to be on guard for “deception” in the last days. What greater deception could the enemy use than to tell believers not to worry, they will never face persecution or tribulation.

PART 2: The Problem with the Pretribultion Rapture

Jerusalem Olivet
Jerusalem as Seen from Olivet

In PART 1:  we showed how the foundational “rapture” verse (1 Cor 15:51-58) used by the Pretribulation Rapture proponents provides three independent witnesses to place the “rapture” at the end of the tribulation and coincident with the Second Coming of Christ. The other foundational rapture verse is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

We can see that this passage perfectly parallels the passages in 1 Cor. 15:51-58, and these two passages are clearly speaking of the same event . . . the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Just as in 1 Cor., we are given clear information on the timing of this event. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

In this passage Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit clearly tells us that this “rapture” spoken of in 1 Thess 4:13-17 does not happen until AFTER a great apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin, that is, the antichrist. Clearly the antichrist is revealed at the midpoint of the tribulation when he goes into the temple and declares himself to be God. So, there is no way that this “rapture” could occur before the tribulation.

With this, we now have four clear Biblical witnesses that indicate that the “rapture” of the church is simply Christ’s second coming at the end of the tribulation period.

The reason this is important is that as believers we will be here for the tribulation. We need to prepare for that. By “prepare” I do not mean we need to buy a generator and bury food in our back yards. I mean that spiritually we need to prepare to have to choose between our faith and our life. Christ taught that anyone who would seek to live a Godly life would face persecution 2 Timothy 3:12:

12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

As the western church, we have enjoyed a season of peace and lack of persecution. This is the exception and not normal. Throughout time, and even now in many parts of the world, followers of Christ are being persecuted and martyred for their faith. To believe that as westerners we are so favored by God that we get a “ticket out” before the tribulation starts is to not understand the promises of God and not understand what we are clearly told to prepare for.

PART 1: The Problem with the Pretribulation Rapture

Mount of Olives
Mount of Olives

I have always enjoyed the fellowship and worship associated with being part of a church. At some point along the way, however, I did realize that at their core, denominational churches are often more about teaching church doctrine than Biblical truth. They teach church doctrine, and then they show how to use the Bible to defend and propagate those doctrines. They do this because that is the way most pastors are trained in Seminary. A healthy amount of seminary training is how to defend the “brand”. In this case, the “brand” is the denomination, and its core doctrines.

The danger with this is that you end up putting the cart before the horse. The doctrines become preeminent, and the Bible is a tool you use to prove the doctrines.

No place is this more clear than with the doctrine of the Pretribulation Rapture which is a core teaching of most mainstream denominations in the West today. The rapture doctrine is very popular because, well . . . it sells very well to Western culture. To exaggerate just a little bit, it goes like this . . . God loves you, He is pleased with everything you do, and in fact He is so concerned with your circumstances and comfort He is going to beam you out of here before any of the bad stuff happens. I can not tell you how many times I have had believers tell me that they do not need to understand Revelation, because we will all be “gone” when those things happen.

It is certainly forgivable that one could be confused on details of Eschatology, or the study of End Times. Indeed, it is a complex topic, and one in which it is very easy to be in error. The issue is that the pretribulation rapture doctrine is not just an error in Eschatology, it is an error in understanding the attributes of God. Read the Bible . . . we are told that as believers we will be hated, we will be persecuted, we will suffer, and yes, we will be killed for The Name of Christ. This truth can be found on almost every page of the Bible, and to ignore it is to risk not being ready for a great persecution that is coming.

So, how can I so boldly state that the pretribulation rapture theory is in error? Well to make the case will be much beyond the scope of this one post, but lets look at one simple argument. I will present more scripture defense of my position in future articles. For today, lets look at what most people consider the “foundational” rapture verse in the Bible, 1 Cor 15:51-58

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

To analyze this verse, lets start with the most important and obvious point. The passage tells us WHEN the “rapture” is going to happen. Verse 52 tells us that it is going to happen at the Last Trumpet.  If we look in Revelation, we can see that there are seven last days trumpets, and the Last Trumpet, the seventh, is described in Revelation  11:15

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

This occurs at the END of the tribulation and clearly is Christ’s second coming. Remember the Lord’s prayer where we pray, “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”. This seventh trumpet represents the answer to this prayer believers have prayed throughout the ages. Christ has returned to reign over the earth. His Kingdom has come! So, one must ask, how many trumpets are there after the Last Trumpet? If the Last Trumpet of 1 Cor 15:52 is before the tribulation, how can there be 7 more trumpets during the tribulation? In this case, it would NOT be the last trumpet. No, the Last Trumpet is exactly what it says, it is the Last Trumpet. There will be no more trumpets after the last one. Those who argue for a pre tribulation rapture will say that 1 Cor 15 is talking about a different set of trumpets. When you ask them for a scripture to defend this contention, they will typically hand you a fascinating rapture video by Tim LaHaye, but they will be completely unable to provide a textual basis for their contention that the last trumpet is in fact not the last trumpet.

Next up, we have a second indication of timing. We are told in 1 Cor 15:51 that Paul is describing to us a “Mystery”. Hmm . . . I wonder if the Bible gives us any more end times verses on this “Mystery” of God. We have to look no further than Revelation 10:5-7:

 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heavenand swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

We are shown here that the Mystery of God alluded to by Paul in 1 Cor 15:51 would be completed with the sounding of the seventh trumpet. We have already shown that the seventh trumpet happens at the end of the tribulation and is associated with the blessed second coming of Christ.

Finally, we look at the other blessed promise that occurs at the time of this resurrection of the dead and the “rapture” of the church. We are told that in 1 Cor 15:54-56 that this is the time that Christ will win victory over death. In fact,  “Death is swallowed up in Victory”. Everyone will agree that Revelation clearly teaches that millions of believers will be martyred in the Tribulation. If the events of 1 Cor 15 occur before the tribulation, and this is the time that Christ wins final victory over death, how can it be millions of Christians die AFTER Christ wins final victory over death?

If we place the events of 1 Cor 15 where the verse tells us to put them, at the last trumpet, which is at the end of the tribulation and is Christ’s second coming, ALL the textual problems go away, and the story fits like a glove.

So, why do we do so much damage to scripture to place the “rapture” before the tribulation. Well, it is like I said before, it sells well. In fact so well that literally Billions of dollars have been made selling believers books and videos teaching that they will not have to endure hardship. As westerners we are so precious in God’s eyes that He would never allow us to suffer tribulation, persecution or martyrdom. To this, I must ask, what about the almost 10,000 Christians that have been slaughtered this year in Africa alone? In Nigeria Christian communities are being wiped out in mass for their faith. In Kenya, schools, shopping centers, buses and more are routinely attacked. In many of these attacks, Christians could save their lives if they would denounce Christ, but they choose death over denouncing their faith. Where is their rapture? Is it only Westerners that God so favors as to spare them persecution?

Again, the danger of the pretribulation rapture doctrine is not that it is off on eschatology, but that it is off on understanding the attributes of God and the promises of the Bible. God never promised that we would not face persecution, and he never promised that we would not face tribulation. The promise of the Bible is that He would be with us and give us strength WHEN those things happen. To believe in a pre tribulation rapture is to not be ready for the things that will come upon the Church in those last seven years known as the Great Tribulation.

So to believe in a pre tribulation rapture, we must believe that:

  1. There will be 7 trumpets after the LAST Trumpet
  2. Millions of Christians will be massacred AFTER Christ wins final victory over Death, and
  3. the Mystery of God is completed 7 or more years BEFORE the Bible says it will be completed.

I will provide more analysis in future posts, but for now I hope this information is enough to at least get you thinking, praying and searching out the scriptures on this topic.

God’s Will God’s Way

Chapel
Chapel in Jerusalem around 1940.

For decades now, I have had the practice of enjoying a morning devotional time. I go through the Bible cover to cover, and right now I am in the Psalms. I genuinely love the Psalms, and I enjoy reading them, and then praying them back to God in my own words. Psalm 1 is a really great one.

Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

The word of God is like the Living Waters described in this verse. When we love the Word, and when we spend time in it our life will be filled with joy and all good things. This verse can often be misapplied to indicate that by seeking God’s word and spending time in it, we will always get the things we want. I don’t think that is the promise here. I believe what happens is that as we love and seek God through time in His word, the desires of our heart are molded and formed to match His good and perfect will for our lives. By delighting in God’s word each day, the desires of our heart are conformed to Him . . . it is not that He conforms to our desires.

There is no greater joy than to be able to live where the desires of our heart are aligned with God’s will. Then genuinely we find that we will be like a tree planted rivers of water, getting our strength and sustenance from that river. What we do then prospers, because the things we are doing are genuinely God’s will. Our plans prosper when we do God’s will God’s way.

The Word

The Word
The Word

One of my favorite Bible Verses is John 1:1-17. What a grand and glorious description of the Deity of Christ, and his attribute of being the instrument by which creation was made. I also love thinking of Christ as the Living Word of God and the Bible being the Written Word of God.  I love how Jesus and the Bible are paralleled in such dramatic style in the opening verses.

So many cults today begin by denying the deity of Christ. John 1:1 clearly establishes Christ as fully God. If there is any question of who the “Word” is, we get clarification in John 1:14, the Word became Flesh, and dwelt among us. We also see that Christ was not a created being. He existed from the beginning as Christ, and He simply “became flesh” at his conception.

Enjoy this verse in the grand literary style of the King James Version:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Please share your thoughts on this verse? What insights have you gained, or how have you been touched by this verse?

The Samburu Tribe

Samburu Tribe
The Samburu Tribe of East Africa

I have been reminiscing recently about my time with the Samburu tribe of East Africa. They are a very remote people group in Kenya. They are so isolated they have no concept of a world outside of their village. They have no concept of money, do not know the world is round, and have rarely been exposed to “civilization”. To reach the village was a harrowing trip. Once we left the last improved road in Western Kenya, it was a 14 hour drive over dirt roads, animal trails and dry river beds. It was a very long drive in a crowded van with no air conditioning.

It was genuinely one of the high points of my life to finally reach and be welcomed into the Samburu village. These were the most kind and gentle people you would ever want to meet. We were able to share the Gospel in the village and that evening show the Jesus film. That evening people from the surrounding villages came for the film. Many made professions of faith. The local indigenous pastors made arrangements for one of their own to begin living in this village so the people could be discipled.

The great commission states in Matthew 28:18-20:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Jesus commanded that we “Make Disciples”, not make converts. It is a simple matter to get someone to make a profession of faith, but truly Making Disciples is a lifelong endeavor. It was a blessing to be able to see these people begin their walk with Christ, but the real work will be done by the people we left behind to do the discipleship and training.

Heaven

One of the interesting characteristics of our modern church culture is the phenomenon of believers speculating about Heaven. More often than I care to remember I have heard believers say, “Well Uncle Will is in a better place now, he always loved to golf and eat ice cream, so he is finally getting his fill of ice cream and can play golf all day.” First, there is very little consideration of whether or not Uncle Will actually had a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Second, the idea of heaven being a place where people go and get what they want is totally unbiblical.

In actuality, the Bible says almost nothing about Heaven. Most all of our popular ideas of Heaven are simply the fanciful imagination of men. There are about 4 places where it is clearly described in the Bible, and all cases are very similar to this case presented in Isaiah 6:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

So I said:

“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,

Note that there are no golf courses, and no Blue Bell ice cream. Note also that Isaiah, one of the most righteous men to ever live, is not running up and high-fiving the entity on the throne, and is certainly not calling him “dude”. No, Isaiah’s response of seeing the throne room of God, and the entity on the throne is one of total repentance, and realization of his sin and unworthiness. Note when Isaiah says he is a man of unclean lips and from a people of unclean lips, God does not argue with him . . . it is clear what he is saying is true. In order that Isaiah is not consumed by the sight of God, God does provide a unique atonement for him with the coal from the altar. Otherwise it is likely that Isaiah would have been consumed.

This verse points out an important truth. Our modern church culture has had a tendency to create a low view of God. A being just like us, just a little bigger, a little better, a little more powerful. And if we play our cards right he might just hook us up with some cool swag.

The truth is the Bible warns us over 300 times to “fear God”. A popular teaching is that fear does not really mean “fear” but means to respect or have reverence. To this we must ask, when the Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures did he not have access to those words . . . respect and reverence? Certainly fear was used as the perfect word to describe one aspect of our relationship with God.

Yes, the Bible also teaches that God loves us. The thing is though, we can not really understand that love until we understand just how much trouble we are in, and how unworthy we are of His pardon. This is true repentance, and this is the beginning of a saving faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

What is Replacement Theology

Blowing Shofar
Jewish Rabbi Blowing the Shofar

You might never have heard of Replacement Theology, but if you are a church goer in the United States, there is a good chance you are being taught it in Church and Sunday School. Replacement Theology is based loosely on the verse, 2 Cor. 1:20:

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

And Romans 9:6-8:

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.

Based on these and other related verses, the proponents of replacement theology suggest that Christians have replaced the Hebrews as God’s chosen people, and that God is done with the Jews.

This is a very attractive and easy-to-be convinced of doctrine. First, it puts the hearer, the modern Christian, in the position of not just being a child of God through adoption, but also to become God’s chosen people. We really like to hear good things about ourselves, and are quick to accept teachings that elevate our status. It is also attractive because it gives a very easy out for the complicated topic of the meaning of the Old Testament. With replacement theology, you just read the verse, scratch out “Jew” and Write in “Christian”. This way we do not have to go in and actually study the Old Testament, we just scan it for verses that will look good on T-shirts or facebook posts, Like Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

We hijack that verse to make it applicable to all Christians today, independent of their obedience or walk with Christ. Lets look at the verse in context. It was not even made to all Jews, the promise was made to a specific group of Jews, the remnant in Babylon AFTER God had taken everything away from them, killed their families, and sent them as slaves into exiles. They had been severely punished by God for their disobedience. That part usually does not make it onto the t-shirts.

We also note that as replacement theologists scan the Old Testament for encouraging verses, they rarely point out the warnings and judgements God put on the Hebrews.  Ezekiel 22:6-12 likewise rarely makes it onto t-shirts:

“Look, the princes of Israel: each one has used his power to shed blood in you. In you they have made light of father and mother; in your midst they have oppressed the stranger; in you they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow. You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths. In you are men who slander to cause bloodshed; in you are those who eat on the mountains; in your midst they commit lewdness. 10 In you men uncover their fathers’ nakedness; in you they violate women who are set apart during their impurity. 11 One commits abomination with his neighbor’s wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; and another in you violates his sister, his father’s daughter. 12 In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and have forgotten Me,” says the Lord God.

No, apparently we only inherit the blessings and promises, not the warnings and curses.

The real problem with Replacement theology is that it just does not work when you try to interpret the Old Testament in this light. You simply end up having to throw too much out. The bottom line is that the Old Testament is filled with promises to the Hebrews that are Unconditional and Unfulfilled. Consider Ezekiel 37:19-28:

 

‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ 20 And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.

21 “Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

‘Friends read this. These promises are unconditional and unfulfilled! God is promising to reunite Israel and Judah, and put them back into the promised land, and they will never be divided again. Now how does that work with the church being Israel?  The Christian church was never a nation, and even more so was never divided into two nations. To try and spiritualize this will lead to us pretty much throwing out much of the Old Testament.

So, if we choose to reject replacement theology, what do we do with the Hebrew people in our theology? Well, we are left with a mystery. The one thing we can see taught perfectly clearly is that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved . . . that Name is Jesus Christ. Truly, He is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Light. No one comes to the Father except through him. Yet, we see what look like unconditional promises to the Hebrews as God’s chosen people. Yet God hardened their hearts so that they could not see Jesus as the Messiah. Clearly we see that in the last days, the Jews will repent and be saved . . . in fact, Hosea 5:14-6:2 seems to indicate that the repentance of the Jews is one of the things that must happen in order for Christ to return. We also see in Zechariah 12:10-14 that the jews will repent of what they did in rejecting Christ. The Bible appears to teach that the Hebrew people will repent and acknowledge Christ at the time of his return. This is good news for those alive at that point, but a more perplexing question is related to those who die before that time. To me, that part is a mystery, and I do not clearly understand how they will fit into God’s plan. What I do clearly understand is that we are to love the Jews, and we should continue to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them. My prayer is that I could more clearly understand this mystery of God’s chosen people who constantly rebelled until God hardened their hearts so that they could not see their Messiah, yet even then God still appears to have made unconditional promises to “the whole house of Israel”.

Attributes of God

fbI will admit that I have a facebook account, but I will also admit that it usually saddens me to look at it. Of all the trivial things one finds on facebook, the posts that disturb me the most are what I call the fast food theology posts. You will see a cartoon of Jesus with the words, “share if you like Jesus”. Really . . . that is your best expression of your love for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ . . . a thumbs up on facebook?!? How about what God revealed to you today in your daily quiet time? Why not share the burdens God has put on your heart for the lost people you are surrounded by? Anything, please, but not just hit the share button for a cartoon picture of Jesus.

As I look at this facebook theology I see a glaring problem. Our culture, and to some extent even our churches have created a god in their own image. Strangely, they even use Bible verses to create a god very different than the God of the Bible.

Yes, God is Love, but it is not possible to understand that love until you fully understand who He is, and just how much trouble you are in because of who He is, and the things you have done and continue to do.

I encourage you to really dig into scriptures and learn the true attributes of God. Read the Bible cover to cover and make a list of all the attributes of God. Then believe in THAT God, and Jesus Christ His Son.

If we have some strange imagination of who God is, and then we say we believe jesus is the son of that god of ours, does such a jesus still have the power to save? I fear that our image of God can become so corrupted that our profession of faith in “jesus” his son can lose its meaning.

Fully understanding the attributes of God is a wonderful journey that can take a lifetime, but a great place to start is Jeremiah 9:23-24:

Thus says the Lord:

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord.

Notice we are warned to not set our heart on Glory, Riches or Wisdom, but the desire of our heart should be to KNOW and UNDERSTAND God. What a noble and fulfilling desire that is. God, grant me such a heart that my heart might be consumed to know you better and understand you better . . . that is my prayer.

The beauty of this verse is that we are given a starting point to know the God of the Bible by being given four of his important attributes. He is Judge, He is Love, He is Righteous and He is LORD!

Another great starting point on your path to understanding who God is can be found in Isaiah 33:22.

For the Lord is our Judge,
The Lord is our Lawgiver,
The Lord is our King;
He will save us

So we are on our way to more fully understanding who God is! God is King, He is Lawgiver, He is Judge, He is Righteous, and yes He does love us and He is our savior. However, we must appreciate and accept the whole list. We can not create a Savior-Love God . . . one who has no rules and no expectations of us. I hope we can all delve into these attributes more fully, and begin to develop a more Biblical image of the full and true Attributes of God.

Join Me in Studying, Understanding and Living God's Word!