Friday, June 3, 2016

The Truth About the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory


After all my years of going from church to church, Bible study to Bible study, prayer group to prayer group, inevitably I always here something to the effect of, "well don't worry about it, we'll be raptured out of here before it even happens." But the thing is, I've never bought into that concept. It sounds "right", it sounds good, and it is extremely appealing, but the truth of the matter is that there is not one verse in the Bible that actually, completely supports the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory". Just like the Big Bang Theory or the Theory of Evolution, the Pre-Trib Rapture is something that many Western Christians (specifically here in America) have bought into simply because it's the most common and publicized opinion on the End Times foretold in the books of Revelation, Daniel, Matthew, and all throughout the Holy Scriptures.

There are three things that classify how doctrines come into being. It needs the text to back it up, the context of that specific text to line up with what the "doctrine" may be, and it needs cotext, as in other texts throughout the Word to verify what it is saying before it can become a doctrine. The Pre-Tribulation Rapture has absolutely none of these and is often supported by pastors or theologians who have deduced that the Pre-Trib Rapture is the way it's going to happen. However, sadly, deduction doesn't cut it when it comes to doctrine because deduction is an opinion, not a fact.

We'll get into why the Pre-Trib Theory isn't correct theology or doctrine as we get further along, but allow me to start out with a quote from Left Behind author and Pre-Trib enthusiast Tim LaHaye from his book "No Fear of the Storm" (page 69 if you have to book and wish to look it up yourself):
One objection to the pre-Tribulation Rapture is that no one passage of Scripture teaches the two aspects of His Second Coming separated by Tribulation. This is true.
It's actually very interesting, if you ask most Pre-Trib Rapture theologians or even many pastors who preach on the subject where the Bible explicitly says that the Rapture will occur BEFORE the Great 7-Year Tribulation, they will usually, and honestly, answer that they can't show you because it's not there.

Before we move onto the history of the Pre-Trib Theory, I want to point out two very good, and extremely detailed, pieces of sources on the history and Scriptural evidence (or lack thereof) of the Pre-Trib Theory. I would recommend the book "The Rapture Verdict" by Michael Snyder, which actually came out recently and has been responsible for banning him from many churches or conferences that teach this theory. The other source I would recommend is the 4-hour documentary "Left Behind or Lead Astray?: Examining the Origins of the Secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture" by Good Fight Ministries which excellently digs deep into the history of this theory, revealing that it was only invented about 200 years ago. Both of these sources use Scripture within its proper context and dig deep into the historical accuracy of the argument. They also helped me a lot when researching this issue in order to write about it here. If you're truly searching for the truth, this book & DVD will really open your eyes.

This being said, when it comes to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory you have to be very thorough because many Pre-Tribbers will throw out things like "we aren't appointed to wrath", "we're in the Church Age", dispensationalism, and many other "doctrines" that put Scripture out of it's proper context (and that quite frankly are never stated, the way they state them, in the Bible) as a means to re-direct you from what the Word of God actually says about the subject.

In this article we will look at...

1. The History of the Pre-Trib Rapture Theory
2. What is the Rapture?
3. When Will the Rapture Actually Happen?
4. Who Are the Elect?
5. Who Were the New Testament Prophecies Written to?
6. The Greek word "parousia"
7. "A Thief in the Night"
8. The Anti-Christ, When Will He Come?
9. The Trumpets
10. We Are Not Appointed to Wrath/Tribulation
11. The Great Falling Away

Please bear with me through this article as it will get a little repetitive and long-winded, however I assure you that it will be worth it and if you're willing to accept the truth, it will be revealed to you.

The History of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory

Throughout the history of the Church, believers always assumed that they would have to suffer through the Great Tribulation as Jesus warned in the Gospels and the Apostles taught in their epistles. The Apostle John's disciple Irenaeus (AD 120-202) wrote about this in his book Against Heresies, Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) and Tertullian (AD 145-220) also said the same thing. Even the book The Didache, written between AD 50-70 and believed by many Church Fathers at the time to be a part of New Testament canon, taught that Christians would encounter the Anti-Christ, who would make war with them, and would be here during the Tribulation, and this was written during the time of the apostles!

In fact, it wasn't until 1830 that this changed, almost two thousand years of Church history since the apostles taught that Christians would be here during the time of Anti-Christ & the Tribulation. This really began to change when John Nelson Darby first promoted the concept. The funny thing about Darby is that he didn't actually come up with this theory on his own OR by reading Scripture. He actually first heard it from a 15 year old girl named Margaret MacDonald. Margaret spoke what Darby called a "prophetic utterance" of a secret Second Coming of Christ (Rapture) in which He would gather up His church before the Tribulation would being and the Beast's reveal. In fact, what's even scarier is that Darby, along with others, actually first thought that Margaret's prophecy was demonic in nature as Jesus Himself warns about false prophets in Matthew 7, stating later that many will cry to Him "Lord, Lord" but He won't receive them because He didn't know them.

This is only the beginning. The Pre-Trib Theory was first popularized by a man named Cyrus Ingerson Scofield when he put out his own Bible, complete with commentary in which he promotes Darby's ideas, called the Scofield Reference Bible. By the end of World War II, Scofield's Bible had sold 2 million copies throughout all of Europe; this Bible can still be found today as many European homes own them.

We here in America didn't really learn much about this theory until the 1970s when a film called A Thief in the Night was released by Russell S. Doughten which helped spark the concept for Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind series of 16 books that ran from 1995 until 2007. The Left Behind phenomena spread like wildfire around Christian circles and was heavily used by churches (and still is today) as propaganda material to share the Pre-Tribulation Rapture gospel. The Left Behind series spun four feature films, various video games, soundtrack albums, and graphic novels that further pushed the idea of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture into the heads of the Church (as the American Church seems to support anything that labels itself "Christian").

Ultimately what matters when it comes to biblical doctrine, teaching, or theology is what the Word of God has to say, but I strongly believe that this history of this theory as well as Church history which teaches something completely contrary to the "Pre-Trib Theory" is important to look at as least for context. I hope the questionable people involved with the creation of this theory will help you begin to question your allegiance to the Pre-Trib position. For a 4 hour in-depth study of the history of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, please check out the film Left Behind or Lead Astray?: Examining the Origins of the Secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture because it'll really show you, in much greater detail than I can give here, all of the craziness that went on two hundred years ago when the Pre-Trib Theory was invented.

What is the Rapture?

To really talk about the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position, we really have to discuss what exactly the Rapture is, because people don't really get the total scope of what it truly means.

First of all, we need to get this out there and out of the way, don't look for the word "rapture" in the Bible because you won't find it. The word "rapture" based on how Christians use it, which means (according to most circles) "transport (a believer) from earth to heaven at the Second Coming of Christ", actually comes from the Latin word "rapio" which means "to seize" or "to snatch" in the context of transporting from one place to another. The Greek word "harpazo" however doesn't actually translate into "rapture" but to "caught up" (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17). The Latin translation of the Greek word "harpazo" comes out to "rapturo", which is slightly different than "rapio", from which we get "rapture". Nevertheless, the actual english word "rapture" never appears in our Bible, much like the word "Trinity" (referring to the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) never shows up in Scripture either. It doesn't really mean anything but it's worth noting.

The Rapture itself is simply the time in which Jesus Christ returns for those who believe in Him, including the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). In Scripture it is referred to as "The Resurrection". However, Pre-Tribbers refuse to refer to it that way as it contradicts when they believe the Rapture would take place because Revelation 19/Matthew 24 is so clear that when Jesus comes back the dead will be raised and those who are alive who believe in Him will be taken with Him. If they call the Rapture "The Resurrection" or even "The Second Coming", it will ruin the entire concept that the Rapture would happen before the Tribulation because they'd be admitting that Jesus only comes back after the 7 year Tribulation is complete.

When Does the Rapture Take Place?

Like I said above, the Rapture is the same thing as The Resurrection and the Second Coming of Christ (don't worry, I'll prove it with Scripture), so we know based on simply reading Revelation (which is for the most part chronological by the way simply by reading what Jesus said in Matthew 24-25 as well as Mark 13) that it takes place after the 7 year Great Tribulation period and right before God's Wrath is put upon the Earth & Jesus establishes his Millennial Reign as King over the Earth.

So, let's start with Matthew 24:3-31 (because of the length of the passage I will ask that you look at it yourself in your own Bible as I will not be posting it here). The context of this scene is that Jesus had been chewing out the Pharisees in the Temple and hard just (in verses 1-2 of chapter 24) prophesied the destruction of the Temple itself. In verse 3, the disciples come to Him and ask "tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"

Now I want to make one thing ABUNDANTLY clear here, they ask specifically about when HE will come and what will happen at THE END of the world. Not only that, but Matthew specifically records that the DISCIPLES asked Him. You following me? How do you become a disciple of Christ? Is a disciple only a Jew? Is a disciple only a gentile? These aren't trick questions, they've very simple, but answer them before you read on.

As Jesus begins, He talks about all of the "birth pangs" that occur up until the Tribulation, I personally believe we're living during those birth pangs right now. 

Then in verse 14 He said that the gospel will be preached in ALL the world; "and then shall the end come" So the gospel must be shared to the entire world first.

Verse 15, immediately following, says that when the end comes, AFTER the gospel is shared to the whole world, the Abomination of Desolation (spoken of in Daniel 8 & 9, who is the Beast of Revelation aka the Anti-Christ) will show up and stand in the Holy Place (the Temple). Notice, the believers are still here on Earth (verse 13 says that those who endure until the end shall be saved).

Verse 21 says that AFTER the Anti-Christ is revealed, "THEN shall be the Great Tribulation". So the Tribulation only begins after the Abomination of Desolation arrives and believers in Jerusalem flee from him (verses 16-20 say this). On that note, it should be mentioned that Jesus specifically talks to "them which be in Judaea" for verses 16-20, but afterwards He switches gears back to the overall picture of the End Times.

Verse 29 then clearly states that "IMMEDIATELY AFTER the Tribulation of those days" that the Sun will be darkened, the moon won't give light, stars will fall from Heaven, etc. Verse 30 then says that "then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven". Verses 31 then says that He'll send His angels to gather up His elect. Clearly, when Jesus arrives (and the end of the Tribulation) His angels will gather up those who believe. It's very clear.

Mark 13:10-27 shares the same context as Matthew 24 as it's the same scene just told from another perspective. Verse 10 says, just like Matthew said, that the gospel must be preached to the whole world first before the Tribulation. Verse 14 says "YOU [the disciples, who obviously don't live long enough to get to the Tribulation so therefore the 'you' here is Jesus' disciples as a whole regardless of timeframe] shall see the Abomination of Desolation". Again, Jesus is saying that His disciples (which again, is anyone who "takes up his cross" and follows Jesus) will be alive during the time the Antichrist appears. Verse 20 is worth a mentioning too because He says that "NO FLESH should be saved" but that "for the elect's sake... ...He hath shortened the days". So because His believers, His church, is still on Earth, He'll shorten the days. Then Verses 24-27 say exactly what Matthew 24:29-31 say, that AFTER the Great Tribulation that Jesus will return and His angels will gather His elect.

For the sake of time, I won't go into Luke 21:20-31, but please feel free to read it as it basically says the exact same thing that Matthew 24 and Mark 13 say. Verse 28, after Christ arrives in the clouds, is especially interesting because it doesn't say "elect", here Jesus just says "then look up, lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh".

So far, Jesus makes it clear that His people will not be taken up to Him until AFTER the Tribulation. Is this clear? Don't go anywhere, there's more...

1 Corinthians 15:42-57 is different than the previous three passages because A. Jesus isn't preaching on the End Times here. B. It's Paul writing to the Church at Corinth (please keep in mind, he is writing to the CHURCH). And C. Paul is talking here of the Resurrection. Remember what we said about the Resurrection earlier, it takes place AFTER the Tribulation according to Revelation and the Old Testament prophets (as well as the apostles), which is why Pre-Tribbers say "Rapture". 

In verse 44 we know that what is resurrected is a new, spiritual body. This is echoed two verses down. Verse 51 says that not all believers will sleep (this means die in the natural, physical world), but that "all will be changed". This is referring to the concept of the new, spiritual body talked about in verses 44 and 46. Then verse 52 says that "at the last trump" the "dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed" Now remember who Paul (by the power of the Holy Ghost) is writing to. He's writing to the Church, the church in Corinth specifically (which is in Greece), meaning he's writing to gentile believers. He is telling them that not all will die before Jesus comes (verse 51) but that when He does, at the sound of the last trumpet, the dead and the living will be changed (verse 52). He's only referring to believers here. This entire passage is talking about believers living in the last days who will be given their new spiritual bodies when Christ returns.

Now, some questions for you. Paul believed that it was possible that the people he was writing to (the Church) could live until the Resurrection, provided they don't fall asleep (verses 42-51). How could these people possibly live up until the Resurrection/Second Coming if they were going to be raptured? We know they would be raptured because he's writing TO BELIEVERS and believers (the elect) are the only ones taken by Christ before God's Wrath is put upon the Earth. In his own human wisdom, Paul mistakenly believed that the Church in Corinth would be alive during that time (or at least some of them might be), but in the Holy Spirit's infinite wisdom, He know that the Church as a whole, the Body of Christ, would be reading 1 Corinthians for centuries and allowed Paul to write these comforting words to reassure the Church of Jesus' promise to come back for them.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is essentially the same context as 1 Corinthians was with a few tweaks. Here Paul is writing to the Church of Thessalonica, another group of gentile believers living in Greece and sharing with them the concept of the Resurrection (aka the Rapture). 

Verse 15 is assurance that just because some of them (the Church) will be alive at the coming of the Lord (the Second Coming of Christ), that it "shall not prevent them which are asleep". This means that those of the Body who are alive at the time of Christ's return won't prevent Him from raising those who were dead and didn't last until His coming.

Verse 16 says that the Lord will "descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel", thus making His presence known, and that the "trump of God" will blow. So again we see the trumpet. This verse also mentions that the dead will be raised first.

Verse 17 says that then those who are alive will be "caught up" (remember, this is where we get the word "rapture" from the Latin translation of the Greek) and will meet with Jesus in the clouds (as He comes in the clouds) and that we'll be with Him forever. Pretty straight-foreward in my opinion as this matches perfectly with 1 Corinthians and even Jesus' prophecy of His return in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

2 Thessalonians 2 is from Paul, once again to the Church of Thessalonica in Greece (gentile believers). I don't want to harp on this passage much because it only briefly mentions the Resurrection and talks mostly about people leaving the faith and the Antichrist and such, but verse 1 does say that we will be gathered "together unto Him", which clearly supports each passage we've looked at up until now. But the thing I find very interesting about this passage is that Paul encourages the believers by reminding them of the Resurrection/Second Coming and THEN he says, but don't be deceived because the Antichrist and Satan will trick you into leaving the faith. He uses the end of the story as an encouragement to the believers by sharing with them the good news before warning them not to fall for the bad.

Then there's the Book of Revelation, which we know was written to the Church in Asia (again, the gentile Church) by the Apostle John (who remember, taught Irenaeus who wrote that the Christian Church would be around during the time of the Antichrist and the Tribulation). Let's recap Revelation real quick. The first three chapters are warnings to the seven churches (which I believe spiritually exist now), the next two show John in Heaven right before the seals are opened. Chapters 6 through the beginning of 8 deal with the Seven Seals, which is the time of the 7 year Tribulation. Then chapter 8 switches to the first four trumpets. Chapter 9 is the fifth and sixth trumpets, and then near the end of chapter 11 the seventh (and final) trumpet sounds.

Chapter 11 verse 15 says that the seventh trumpet sounds and a great voice says, "The kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." At this time, Earth is declared Christ's and the Devil's authority over it is revoked. Verse 18 says that the "nations were angry", Thy wrath is come", and that "the time of the dead" is here. The time of the dead? Hmm, that sounds an awful lot like the Resurrection, and at the time of the last trumpet at that! Let's keep going...

After the next to chapters talking about the War in Heaven, Satan persecuting the Church & Israel, and the Antichrist bringing about his Mark of the Beast system (which by the way, according to Jesus' chronological prophecy of the End Times in the Gospels, means that the Beast would have to do all of that DURING the Seven Seals aka the 7 year Tribulation period).

Then we get to chapter 14 verse 1 which shows Jesus, with the 144,000, on Mount Zion (spelled Sion in the KJV). Then jump foreward to verse 12 and from then to the end of the chapter we see Jesus in the clouds sending His angels to gather His elect from the Earth. It isn't until Revelation 19 that Jesus actually touches down on Earth and fights the Antichrist and his army, but chapters 15 and 16 are clearly seen to be God's Wrath on the Earth, which more than likely is what causes the Beast and his army to gather for the Battle of Armageddon. We should note that unlike the Tribulation period which we know to be seven years, the Wrath period (based on how Scripture reads) happens one thing immediately after the other, this can of course be argued but that's beside the point because the Church is removed at that time.

Now I want it to be clear that these New Testament passages are NOT the only passages in Scripture to talk about the Resurrection and the Second Coming as it was prophesied about many times in the Old Testament. The reason I chose not to dig deeper than the New Testament here is because Pre-Tribbers don't use Old Testament prophecy to prove the Pre-Trib Rapture usually because it's mixed in with prophecy about Jesus' First Coming as well. Joel 2 is a good example of specific End Times/Second Coming prophecy if you would like to read that or are interested.

Now that we know WHEN the Rapture takes place, based on Scripture IN CONTEXT, let's put some other notions to rest.

Who Are the Elect?

One of the biggest oppositions people get from those who subscribe to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory is that whenever someone brings up Jesus own teaching on the End Times from the first three Gospels (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), that person will usually say something like "well, he's talking about the Jews here, not us" or "the elect is Israel". I have to admit that this tactic that they use has worked on me in the past, but the thing is that Scripture just doesn't support those comments. If you look at any of the passages we just looked at above, it's very clear that Jesus, Paul, and John are all talking about believers are a whole who will be resurrected/raptured.

Passages in the Old Testament such as Psalm 80:3, Isaiah 42:1, and Isaiah 45:4 all refer to the elect as Israel. The reason is that during the Old Testament period (and even today), Israel is God's chosen people, His elected (elect), due to His covenant with Abraham and the fulfillment of the promises to Isaac and Jacob (later renamed Israel). In the New Testament however, the phrase "the elect" never refers to Israel, instead it ONLY (with one exception in 1 Timothy 5:21 where it talks about God's "elect angels") refers to those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God and have been elected to salvation through God, entering into the new covenant (1 Peter 1:2).

Jesus came for "the Jew first, then the Greek" (Romans 1:16), this is because of the promise God made to them in the Old Testament, but once the New Covenant was established, salvation became for EVERYBODY and ANYONE who believed became His elect. This means that when Jesus is preaching on the End Times to His disciples in the Gospels, because He's talking to His DISCIPLES (what is a disciple?) and He mentions the elect, this applies to ALL who believe, NOT just Jews. 

But Jesus didn't die yet, so this can't mean the New Covenant was in effect because gentiles couldn't be saved.

Wrong. John 4 clearly shows the Samaritan woman at the well believing in Jesus, and she wasn't a full Jew! In fact, many people in the Old Testament who were saved weren't Jews! Abel, Noah, Enoch (who was actually raptured to Heaven before experiencing death according to Genesis 5:24, and he wasn't a Jew!), Abraham, Isaac, and of course Rahab. None of these people were Jews, in fact it can be argued if Jacob was even a Jew or if Jews began with his offspring. Being jewish has never been a qualification for salvation, only faith has (Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness) and therefore has never been a qualification for being part of God's elect. The elect are those who believe, whom God has chosen. Romans 11 is a great read for those who are confused on this.

Remember Paul's words to the Galatians...
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus
If everyone is "one" in Christ, then I think that makes Jesus' comment about His elect from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 pretty clear, doesn't it?

 Who Were the New Testament Prophecies Written To?

Whenever you read a book, watch a random episode of a TV show, or jump into the middle of a conversation, it's always obvious that context is really important. This is especially true when it comes to the Word of God because unfortunately there are so many religious organizations as well as just single people who use His Word out of context and in vein.

In order to really understand passages in the Word on the Rapture, you really have to understand who the intended audience was because that's who Mattew, Mark, Luke, Paul, John, and ultimately the Holy Spirit were all writing to. 

Now, the Holy Spirit, because He's God, knows exactly how many people and who would read His Words, which is why I believe the Bible is so clear, because He knew that so many would read it. So we must keep in mind that Jews, gentiles, believers, unbelievers, Evangelicals, Charismatics, Catholics, Mormons, etc. were all going to read this, or at least be exposed to it. This is why John 3:16 is so simple of a verse and easy to quote when you want to share the Gospel, because God is NOT the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33)!

However, on the other hand we must realize that while books like the Gospels could be considered "for unbelievers" based on what John says about his reasonings to write his Gospel (John 20:31), the epistles are clearly written FOR believers (1 John 5:13), and even in the Gospels there are times where Jesus is talking ONLY to believers (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are prime examples).

The epistles of 1 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and the Book of Revelation, which we looked at to show WHEN the Rapture will take place, are ALL written to specific churches that Paul and John are in contact with, they were INTENDED for a Church-audience, for people who believe, who again are gentiles NOT Jews (not that Jews won't be apart of it because the writers of these books WERE Jews and identifying themselves with these gentile churches). 

So now we know when the Rapture will take place and we know who the intended audience of these prophecies were, what's next?

"Parousia"

Another thing that is really important when studying Scripture is knowing what the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages were saying. Since we're looking primarily at the New Testament, we'll look at the Greek word "parousia", which means "coming", "arrival", "presence", or "official visit". There theme here is some sort of visitation. 

I'm sure there are people reading this far who are angry at what I'm saying because they're either questioning the Pre-Tribulation Theory, their pastors, themselves, or they just hate my guts, that's okay too, but this is why I want to bring this up because it's a huge piece of evidence for the events talked about in Matthew 24, 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4, and 2 Thessalonians 2 all being the same event (which we've already seen based on the actual verses themselves, but for the sake of argument we'll talk about it through the Greek lense here). 

But before I go any further, I want to say that the discovery/research about the word "parousia" is NOT my own, this comes from the book The Rapture Verdict by Michael Snyder (which again, is an amazing book that simply uses Scripture to prove the Pre-Trib Rapture Theory false), which actually many of the concepts talked about here in this article come from that book. The reason I'm putting it here is because the reason I'm writing this article is so that I can share all this information with a Bible study I go to instead of handing them the book. However, definitely go buy and read the book because it's really good and extensive, much more-so than I'm being here.

Anyway, let's look at 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17! We looked at this passage earlier, this is about the Second Coming and the Resurrection of the Dead. If we look at verse 15 under a microscope, we see the word "parousia", which again means "coming" or "arrival" (you can't arrive twice)...
For this we say unto you by this Word of the Lord, the we which are alive and remain unto the parousia of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep
Parousia here is translated as coming in the King James Version.

1 Corinthians 15:21-23 likewise is about the Resurrection. Though these three verses only deal with the dead, we know based on looking at later verses in this chapter that the dead and living are brought up at the same time. But let's look at verse 23 real quick...
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His parousia.
Once again, parousia is translated as "coming" in the KJV.

Matthew 24:3 is Second Coming related as the disciples ask Jesus specifically about His coming and when it will be.
And 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 parousia, and of the end of the word?
Then later in verse 27, Jesus finally answers their question, using their own words.
 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall the parousia of the Son of man be.
Only two verses later Jesus tells them that it won't be until AFTER the Tribulation that He will return and He begins to describe the events that will occur in the heavens to them.

And lastly we'll look at 2 Thessalonians 2:1.
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him.
 A few verses later, Paul tells the thessalonians that the Second Coming (parousia) would NOT come unless there was a great falling away first.

As you can see, all of these passages don't just share the same circumstances as the other, but they also use the same original language to describe the events being foretold.

"A Thief in the Night"

Another thing that people always point out is that "Jesus could come at any time", He'll come like "a thief in the night". This is a twisting of Scripture by just simply using it out of context. 

Let's look at 1 Thessalonians 4:15-5:5 and see the full context in which that phrase is given.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
 Here's the thing, the Day of the Lord, when He returns, will come unexpectedly, but NOT for us! If you actually read what Paul says afterwards it's clear that for those of us who are "children of light" or "children of the day" that the Day of the Lord will NOT "overtake you as a thief". The thief in the night expression is actually meant to be directed towards the "children of the night" as Dracula would say, or "children of darkness" who belong to Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet.

One of the biggest lies that people say is that "Jesus could come at any time". I don't think that people intend to lie here, in fact I think people's intentions when saying this are actually good, but nevertheless it is not the truth. Let's go back to Matthew 24 and see what the disciples asked.
...the disciples came to 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?
So here we see them actually ask Jesus what the world will look like, what the signs will be, before He returns. Jesus talks about the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation both being signs signifying the arrival of Christ aka the Second Coming. But what's interesting is what Jesus says about what happens at the end of the Tribulation that will be the immediate signs that He is returning. Now remember, for those of us who are in the light, we will expect the signs and be able to interpret them accordingly, it's only those in darkness who cannot and do not, thus the day will come upon them as a thief. But for those of us who do want to know the signs, verse 29 says that the sun will be darkened, the moon won't give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, thus the powers of Heaven will shake. These are the signs Jesus gives here but are definitely not the only signs as you can read more in the Book of Revelation up until chapter 14.

Clearly we see that there are specific events that, according to Jesus Himself, HAVE to happen before the Second Coming.


The Anti-Christ, When Will He Come?

Spinning off from our last point, another topic Pre-Trib subscribers will bring up is that Christians (gentile Christians specifically) won't have to deal with the Antichrist, the Mark of the Beast, the New World Order one world government/currency, etc. But this is simply not true as we have seen throughout this article.

In Matthew 24, Jesus clearly teaches that the Abomination of Desolation (a reference to the Antichrist as spoken about in Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11) will show up BEFORE the Great Tribulation and that he will make war with the saints (Daniel 7:21 and Revelation 13:7). In Daniel he is referred to as the "Abomination of Desolation" (Jesus also calls him this), in 1 John 2:18 he's called the Antichrist (which is where we get the term from; it also refers to a spirit of antichrist which is just an evil spirit that opposes Christ), and he's called the Beast in Revelation 13 as well as the rest of the book. We know this is talking about the same person based off of each book describing this "man of sin" the same way.

Now we know the saints are the believers in Christ, the Church, and we know that all of these books were written to the Church (minus Daniel), making it abundantly clear that the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles, prophets, and Jesus to make mention that His followers/disciples would not only encounter the Beast, but suffer under his rulership as he would "wage war against the saints". He will arrive before the Great Tribulation, looking like a "good guy", even entering into the reconstructed Third Temple, but he would soon turn and implement the Mark of the Beast as Revelation 13 foretells. 

He who has an ear let him hear...

The Trumpets

Going directly back to the concept of when the Rapture actually occurs, one of the most fascinating things about the Second Coming of Christ is what happens when He appears in the clouds. When He appears, there's a shout, the voice of an archangel, and the sound of the last trumpet blows.

If we look at 1 Corinthians 15:52, it says...
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.
So we know here that in the Resurrection, the last trumpet will sound off, marking the beginning of the Rapture with the dead coming back first.

Let's compare that to 1 Thessalonians 4:16...
For the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead shall rise first.
Okay, so here we see that a shout, the voice of an archangel (it says THE archangel so I'm assuming it's Michael as he's the only angel explicitly referred to as an archangel in Jude 9), and the trumpet of God sounding. So once again there's a trumpet that sounds right before the dead come back to life.

Match this with Matthew 24:31...
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other.
So once again, a trumpet sounds before the elect are gathered. Keep in mind that the verse previous says that the Son of man (Jesus) shall come in the clouds of heaven, making this verse a simple continuation of the same thought. Like the previous two passages there's a trumpet involved and His chosen people being collected.

If we continue this thought on over to Revelation 11:15, we'll see that this idea continues...
And the seventh angel sounded [this is a trumpet sounding, the last of seven]; and there were great voices in the heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Now if we jump over to chapter 14 (as John takes a slight detour as we looked at earlier), verses 14-19 describe angels reaping the dead as talked about before, but only after the Son of man appeared in the clouds (in verse 14). So as we can see, this can only take place after the Last Trumpet in Revelation 11 which matches with the concept of Jesus' return in the clouds & the Resurrection of the Dead found in Matthew 24:31, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and 1 Corinthians 15:52. Obviously it matches because it's all describing the same event!

We Are Not Appointed to Wrath/Tribulation

This comment is another one of the Pre-Trib Top 10 that is, in my opinion, another misinterpretation of Scripture but I want to make something clear first, unlike the "thief in the night" comment that if actually read in context only applies to unbelievers, this statement is actually true of believers! I agree, we are NOT appointed to wrath! Believers in Jesus Christ have been redeemed by His blood and are no longer in condemnation but have entered into life eternal (Romans 8:1-2)! However, the point still remains that this passage is often either misinterpreted or just simply misunderstood.

What is God's Wrath? 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 says that it's a fiery vengeance that takes hold on whoever doesn't know God or obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately God's wrath is Hell. Therefore as believers in Christ, we don't inherit Hell, but Heaven (this is ultimately what that passage is referring to)!

But what is God's wrath in the context of the End Times? Well, that's a little different. Aside from Death and Hell (and all those therein) getting thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14), God's wrath is seen AFTER the Tribulation period once all of the Seven Trumpets are blown. Chapter 16 really kicks it off with seven rapid-fire succession plagues that get the Antichrist mad enough to decide to start a war with Jesus (17:14), which is a really dumb move.

Remember above when we talked about the thief in the night concept? Well the "not appointed to wrath" concept comes a few verses later in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 saying...
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
Paul just talked about how wrath will come upon the unbelieving when they least expect it (although we will, or at least should, know the signs and expect Jesus' return) and he says that these people are asleep, "drunken in the night" in verse 7, but he encourages us by reminding us of who we are in Christ and that because of Him, we aren't supposed to fear judgment, but hope in our salvation. This passage doesn't help prove the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory at all, in fact it helps disprove it because Paul is reminding them that even though these bad things will happen, even though people will not expect Jesus' return and it will come for them "like a thief in the night", that they (believers) will be fine because of Jesus. In verse 11 he even tells them to comfort one another because of this!

Something we forget at Christians here in America, even after acknowledging that it happens elsewhere, is that we are supposed to be persecuted, we ARE going to go through trials and tribulations, in fact James and Paul tell us to rejoice when we have them (James 1:2, Romans 5:3)!

In Revelation 7:9-17, John is shown the martyrs who died during the Great Tribulation for standing up for Jesus, showing once again that Christians are not getting out of the Tribulation, we will be here because it's NOT GOD'S WRATH!

Jesus says in John 16:33, John 17:14, and John 15:18-20 that we will have to suffer through tribulation. In fact, Jesus tells His disciples in Mark 13:13 that "everyone will hate you because you are my followers". Remember the context of Mark 13, Jesus is preaching on the End Times, the Great Tribulation, and His Second Coming, so this is obviously in context of the FINAL Tribulation (7 years).

Peter tells us not to be surprised by the trials we go through (2 Peter 4:21) while Paul tells Timothy that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). These are only the tip of the iceberg but the point is that never once in ALL of Scripture is it said that Christians would NOT go through tribulation, even including the Great Tribulation of the End Times. No, we are not appointed for wrath, but the Tribulation is NOT God's wrath, that comes later. Read your Bible carefully.

The Great Falling Away

The last point I want to make is less a point and more of a warning. The Bible warns a few times that in the End Times as well as the Last Days (the time we're living in now between the First and Second Comings of Christ) that there would be a "great falling away". In fact, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 says that Jesus won't even return to Earth unless this happens first. This is a very serious thing that needs to be addressed in the Church because it just hasn't been.

1 Timothy 4:1 says that in the End Times, people would be deceived by doctrines of demons. This isn't talking about something like levitation or palm readings being brought into the Church (though there are some that do sadly), it's talking about subtle twists and turns that take the meaning of the Word of God away from the straight and narrow and onto the broad path. 

What did Satan say to Eve in the Garden of Eden? "You won't surely die..." and "You'll become like God knowing good and evil". Was he wrong? Yes and no. Adam and Eve didn't physically die by eating the fruit, that is true, and their eyes were open knowing evil, that is also true, BUT they did spiritually die the moment Adam ate of the fruit and the sad thing was is that by eating it they learned evil. You see, man was created in God's image, imago dei, and He called man "good". Man was already good before sin, man already knew good before sin, but Satan told him by eating the fruit he would know "good AND evil". Did you see the subtlety in that? Satan made his words SOUND right, SOUND good. He offered a new way of life, he told them they could know good and evil, but the problem was is that Adam & Eve already and ONLY knew GOOD! It was something they already had because God created them that way! All the fruit did was reveal evil and spiritually kill them, yet the Serpent made it SOUND like it was good, he made it SOUND truthful, and it ALMOST was...

This is what the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory does and this is why it's truly so dangerous. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 tells us that this great falling away happens because people believed a deception that God sent (through the Devil) and they didn't know the truth because they DID NOT LOVE the truth. Jesus says in Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22 that if it were possible even the elect could be deceived!

The problem with this theory is, what happens when the Antichrist shows up and the Tribulation starts and the Church is still here? First of all, those who understand what's going on will lose faith, but secondly, and more dangerously, those who put all their faith in this Rapture will still believe that it's coming and refuse to see that they're living in the End Times that the Bible so clearly warns about, even, in my opinion, to the point where they will accept the Mark of the Beast, WILLINGLY, because they refuse to believe the signs of the times, therefore giving up their soul for eternity (anyone who takes the Mark goes to Hell, no exceptions; Revelation 19:20). This is really scary guys! Are you, those of you who do believe in this theory, going to continue believing this extremely subtle deception or are you going to believe the Word of God for what it actually says as opposed to what others say that it says. Ultimately it boils down to this, will you obey the doctrines of God or the doctrines of men? Only one can save you. Choose wisely.

Conclusion

I hope you all have enjoyed this little study and that you have all learned something. Watching the Left Behind or Lead Astray documentary, reading the majority of Michael Snyder's The Rapture Verdict, and reading all throughout the Holy Bible in preparation for writing this article has taught me a lot about what the Word actually has to say about the Rapture. It's funny actually, I was at my college group this past semester and our theme was the Church. One of the last week's was about "What is the Church's Role in the End Times?" and what we were taught was that we don't have one because we are raptured away. The scary thing was that I knew the truth, but even in my knowing it I was almost convinced by what the speaker was saying. Immediately after this sermon, I got into what the Word said and immediately those thoughts of almost believing in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory were gone. In fact, one of the biggest questions that popped into my head was, "if we are all raptured out of here anyway then why study Revelation at all?" Sadly I think that's the mindset of the majority of the America Church, especially those who are Pre-Trib enthusiasts and because of that I worry about so-called believers here in this country, I worry that they not only will be deceived by the likes of the False Prophet, Antichrist, and ultimately Satan, but that they already have been deceived and are simply on a conveyer belt of lies headed straight for the Lake of Fire.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that you're going to Hell if you believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, but I am saying that you have been deceived, and it's not really me saying it, it's clearly what Scripture says if you read the text in context with cotext, just as we discussed earlier. To the Bible study that I'm basically writing this for, I hope you guys take all of God's truth in here to heart and to anyone else who reads this and begins to question their faith in the Pre-Trib Rapture, please know that if you seek the Lord, you will find Him and that by drawing near to Him, He will draw near to you. Search the Scriptures.

He who hath an ear, let him hear.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

'Priest' Film Review


So, I was in the supermarket a few weeks ago getting my normal groceries and I walked past the movie section once again. Now, I've actually gotten good about not buying every movie I want when I want it since I got to college (must be a money thing...), but this DVD has caught my eye every time I've walked into Smiths. In big, bold letters it read "FALLEN ANGEL". In this $10 DVD set, the films Legion, Priest, and Gabriel were included, the first and last of which I had seen before (I'm not a huge fan of them but upon rewatching I have come to enjoy them slightly more, although they're totally off like most films and TV shows are when it comes to biblical history). However, I had not seen Priest. For years my brother has been telling me to watch this movie, saying that (much like the Book of Eli) I would really appreciate and enjoy it. I refused for a long time partially because it was by the same guy who directed Legion, which was a movie that made me more mad than anything else at the time. But I gave Priest a shot and to be totally honest I'm really glad I did because I absolutely love this movie. Let me explain why.


First of all, Priest is an action movie. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm kinda a sucker for action movies. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is on my list of Top 5 favorite films, I absolutely adore Mad Max: Fury Road, and I'm a big fan of the Underworld franchise. Those are just a few, but the point is that I'm a fan of action films, especially when they include supernatural entities, sci-fi scenery, and philosophical (dare I say, biblical) themes throughout, which Priest definitely does.

My intention with this little review isn't to spoil the film for anyone, but I want to put out a POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING out there for anyone who hasn't seen this film and wants to.

The background of the Priest-verse is that vampires and humans have been at war since the beginning of time. The Church (a religious organization that sets up a theocracy and is essentially the government as well as the religious institution, think the Vatican to Vatican City) had fought the vamps during the old Vampire Wars which basically destroyed the Earth, leaving the Clergy to construct walled, fortified cities for humanity to live in while their footsoldiers, the Priests, who were given supernatural abilities by God basically, were to fight against the vampire hordes. After the War, the Priests were disbanded but, much like Vietnam vets, were hated by the people and have to essentially live off the streets. This is where we meet Priest (the only name given to the films self-titled protagonist) who finds out that vampires attacked his brother and his wife (Shannon, the Priest's former-girlfriend before he joined the Priesthood), killing them and taking their daughter, Lucy.

You can imagine where this leads. But I don't want to talk about the film's plot, because I do enjoy it. In fact I don't want to talk about anything in this movie (even the stellar action sequences) except the biblical themes invested in. That is after all what this blog is about, what actually matters.


Let's start with the Church. The Church in Priest is very much portrayed the same way people in our modern times and culture see the church. It is no longer this "symbol of hope", the Light of the World as Jesus Himself called us, but it is instead more of a symbol of oppression, religion, and even despair. Comparing the Church in Priest to an institution in the Bible, I'd compare it to the same priesthood that the Pharisees and Sadducees occupied during Jesus' day. In more modern terms, I would compare it to the Roman Catholic Church mostly, but also to organizations such as Russian Orthodox or any other "legalistic" church out there (some of which are protestant).

I really wish the Internet could tell me more about Scott Stewart, the director of this film as well as Legion, because I feel like he was hurt as a child by some church and it has directly influenced the way he portrays both God in Legion and the Church here in Priest. In any event, I don't think the way the Church is portrayed here in this film is actually wrong. Now, biblically it's clearly wrong because that was not how the church was set up to be; fellowship with believers doesn't have to be in a specific building or necessarily organized the way most religious institutions do.

But most of America nowadays doesn't go to the Church in their time of desperation or need (they don't even go to God for that matter), instead they go to the bottle, pills, or some other ungodly form of psychological help that fails to recognize either the sin or demonic problems attached to said person. That's a-whole-nother article for a different day however.

I think what I really like about the way Stewart handles religion in this film is that he doesn't actually bash God. He shows the corruption (political, spiritual, etc.) in the Church and how it's being used against the Lord, while at the same time he makes it very clear that Priest himself is on the Lord's side.


Let me explain. When Priest decides he's going to go and save Lucy from the vampires that have taken her, the Clergy tell him no. They say that his War is over and that he has no right and that he could basically be imprisoned or worse if he disobeys them. But in an act of love, he rebels against the Church and goes to save his niece. However, even in this act of "rebellion", Priest makes it very clear in his prayer to the Lord that he is not disobeying Him, he's disobeying an organization that is essentially asking him to sin by ignoring this plea for help.

Paul Bettany (known by most as JARVIS from the Iron Man films or the Vision in the current Avengers series) plays Priest fantastically as he is very clear in his motivation to save his kin, while still trying to honor his Lord who has given him his abilities to fight vampires in the first place.

Something else I really liked about this film, and this is a minor thing, is the idea that, in this world, vampires don't actually have eyes. The reason for that, explained by the Church, is that the "eyes are the window to the soul", and vampires have no soul. I really like that because it brings back the concept that God did not create vampires, just as we read in Scripture that He did not create the Nephilim, they were born out of sin and rebellion against God when the fallen angels married the human women. It's a small thing but I think the concept still applies and I really enjoyed it.

Also, Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Dredd, Almost Human) plays a FANTASTIC former Priest-turned-Vampire known only as 'Black Hat'. The only "human" vampire, also kind of referencing the angel/man hybrid concept I spoke of above. 


Beyond all the exciting action, special effects, futuristic world, and western-like environments, Priest is actually a compelling and exciting film that I would highly recommend to the Christian struggling to find any decent, non-sexual or uber-violent action films out there, much like I would recommend Book of Eli (granted both films contain references to those things as well as bloody action sequences at times, however the message of these films are the reason for watching). I think Priest is a great social commentary on how you can follow the Lord, Jesus Christ and the only Way to God the Father, while choosing to reject the religious institution calling itself "the Church" in order to allow God to lead you to the people He would have you fellowship with (the actual Church). This film reminds me of the films that I myself want to make one day, hopefully it'll inspire you in some way too.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Are There Apostles and Prophets in the Church Today?


Something that is often debated in the Church today is the idea of modern-day apostles or prophets. Now, I want to put up a disclaimer here saying this, I am not the ultimate authority of Scripture, that is for the Word made flesh Himself, Jesus the Christ, but based on my own research, Scripture reading, and spiritual discernment, I think that the true answer to this question is some-what loaded, though to keep you from suspense I'll just say that the answer is "yes" and "no".

Apostles

Who were the Apostles? The Apostles were the eleven disciples of Jesus (minus Judas Iscariot) as well as Matthias (after praying that the Lord would replace Judas in Acts 1). These twelve men had a commission from Christ Himself to become the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:19-22) and to preach the Gospel wherever they went (Matthew 28:19-20) as well as perform signs and wonders aka miracles (2 Corinthians 12:11-12). In fact, one of the requirements for being an Apostle at all was to have seen the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21, 1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:8)!

These Twelve Apostles are the Apostles of the Lamb (Acts 1:26, Revelation 21:14).

Now, Paul was a special case when it came to being an Apostle as he was not one of the Twelve. He only saw Christ AFTER the Ascension in which Jesus appeared to him, thus qualifying him as being an Apostle (Acts 9), which he himself claimed to be, through Christ, on multiple occasions (1 Timothy 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, etc.). Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, the added branches engrafted into the promises of Christ that were meant originally for the Jews (Romans 9-10).

This all being said, the Apostles that Christ appointed to be the "foundation" of the Church were specific to that time and seeing as how the Church was "established" (though today there seems to be hardly any unity in this "body" at all...), the need for these thirteen Apostles was rendered mute. But before we get into modern day apostles, let us first clarify two false teachings that don't have any solid basis in Scripture.

  1. That Spiritual Gifts were only for the Apostles
  2. That the Resurrected Christ cannot be seen today
Addressing Spiritual Gifts, there are nine mentioned in Scripture that are specific to sharing the Gospel of Christ and edifying the Church as seen in 1 Corinthians 12, they are words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues. Let's make this abundantly clear, Hebrews 13:8 says that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever". We know that Christ is always the same, His character, power, and work never changes. We also know that the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), therefore He does not change either. We also know that until Jesus ascended, the Holy Spirit only dwelt in certain people at certain times (he left Saul in 1 Samuel 16:14), but after Pentecost, when the Apostles and other disciples of Christ present in Jerusalem were gathered in prayer, they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and immediately spoke in tongues (Acts 2). We also know that other believers throughout the New Testament, once filled with the Spirit, spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:5-7), now these were not the Apostles or even prophets, but they were believers filled with the Spirit! Not to mention Acts 2:17-19 literally talks about how dreams, visions, and prophecies would become common during the Last Days (most people say that this is the time between Jesus' First and Second Coming while some argue it's only during the End Times of Revelation). In fact, when writing to the Church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians, Paul spends THREE CHAPTERS (12-14) on Spiritual Gifts and HOW they are to be used in the Church (of which there was no Apostle present by the way... He was writing this to the Church members themselves!). Interesting stuff and if you want more, check out my article on the Holy Spirit HERE.

As for the second teaching listed, let's just read Acts 1 and then Acts 9. We see in Acts 1 that Jesus ascends and says that He will send the Spirit to guide the Apostles and to help them begin the Church. Then in Acts 9, Jesus appears to Saul (later Paul) and commissioned him to follow Him. Let's take a step back for a moment and think about this. If Paul's conversion happened today, what would the corporate church think? They would believe him to be a heretic, it's that simple. They call those to practice deliverance and spiritual gifts today heretics, so they would most certainly call Paul one. However, he is considered by some to be the "Greatest Apostle" (though he considered himself the least). Nobody today questions Paul's authority or his conversion to Christ, so why do we? There are plenty of testimonies out there about people who lived so far away from God that one day the Lord Himself (Jesus) appeared to them in a dream, vision, or whatever as He did for Paul and either gave them a commission or just shared with them that He is real. In fact, I know one such person who's life has been radically changed because of a personal encounter with Jesus (he would NOT claim to be an Apostle by the way), and because of this encounter he has been serving the Lord faithfully for over forty years now. We do need to confront the elephant in the room though that is 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, which states that Paul was the LAST that Jesus appeared to. Well, in context, Paul is talking about those who were witnesses to the resurrection of Christ and became either the 12 Apostles of the Lamb (which he mentions) or believers/disciples. This doesn't mean that Jesus could or would never appear to anyone again in a dream, vision, or whatever, but that Paul was the last one (specifically at this time) to be chosen for apostolic authority. Here, Paul isn't saying "No, Jesus will NEVER appear to ANYONE again", he's saying, "He appeared to me after all of these people, me, a sinner, least of all of them, and redeemed me". It's humility that he's sharing here. Amazing stuff really, but most "church" people today would label something like this today a "false conversion" and would call someone like Paul here a "heretic". Sad.

All that being said, let's move onto what "apostle" really means, and I'll show you exactly why there are apostles today... 


The Greek word apostolos, from which we get our word "apostle", means "one who is sent away" or "messenger" or "ambassador". If this sounds familiar to you at all, it's because it kind of sounds like what we today would call a "missionary".  Some define "apostle" as "one sent as an authoritative delegate".

Now, according to GotQuestions.org (not the most reliable source on Scripture by the way, but not totally terrible), there is a difference between the OFFICE of Apostle (the Twelve plus Paul) and the "spiritual gift" of apostle (the other apostles mentioned in Scripture). This is something that they say, but it isn't actually something that is ever brought up in Scripture, in fact, an apostle, like stated above, was just someone who was "sent out" to do the Lord's work, usually/hopefully prompted by the Holy Spirit, much like the classic thirteen Apostles were.

In this sense, apostles still exist today for sure! We have already established that spiritual gifts are something that the Holy Spirit still uses to proclaim Christ and to edify the Church (at least in churches where the Holy Spirit is allowed, of which there seem to be very few nowadays) and that we as believers are to "desire" these gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1); and we also know that, as we saw in Acts 9 with Saul's conversion into Paul the Apostle (not to mention countless other conversion stories since then), that is IS possible to see the resurrected Christ ONLY IF He will reveal Himself to you (which He might, who knows!). 

Those two things being said, if the Spirit has prompted you to go somewhere specific and do something for Him, to be a messenger or ambassador in a specific sense, and He sends you out, then by definition you're an apostle and you have been given that authority by God! Again, this is not in the sense of the thirteen appointed Apostles that went out and built up the Church or had complete doctrinal authority, that job has been (more or less) completed. 

However, there are more than just thirteen apostles mentioned in the New Testament, here are some others (often called the Apostles of the Church, who do seem to have spiritual authority by the way, not on the Apostles of the Lamb or Paul's level of doctrinal/scriptural authority, but some sort nevertheless): Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6-9), James the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25, the KJV translates this as "messenger" but the greek word "apostolon" translates to "apostle"), two unnamed men called "messengers" in the translation but possibly could refer to "apostles" in 2 Corinthians 8:23, Timothy and Silvanius in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6 as they're roped in with Paul's authority, and possibly (though this one somewhat unlikely) Andronicus and Junia of Romans 16:7 which refers to them as "of note among the apostles" (where or not this includes them AS apostles is up for debate).

Of course, then there is Jesus Himself called "Apostle and High Priest" in Hebrews 3:1.

As we can see, although the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb and Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles were meant only for the beginnings of the Church to build it up (go back to Ephesians 2), we can also see that other apostles (Apostles of the Church) are not only seen throughout the New Testament, but also had spiritual authority and power (and Scripture never said they went away). We also know that by definition, apostles, or at least some form of them, can certainly exist today, based off of what we see here in Scripture.

Prophets

Prophets are a little trickier to talk about, for a few reasons. First, Prophets have been around since Genesis. Some say that because of Jesus' mention of Abel in Luke 11:51, that he would be considered a prophet, even if not, God clearly calls Abraham one in Genesis 20 thus showing us that prophets have LITERALLY been around since the beginning of the Bible until the end with John, the false prophets, the two witnesses, and Jesus in Revelation. We'll get there.

Prophets are interesting because prophesying the future was only part of their job. Prophets were essentially mouthpieces for the LORD during the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 18:18-19). The english word prophet actually comes from the greek word "prophetes" which means "one who speaks forth" or "advocate". Sometimes prophets are also called "seers" because of their prophetic insight into the future because of God. 

Prophets are charged with the power of the Holy Spirit to be mouthpieces for God here on the Earth. In the Old Testament, the prophets were used to guide Israel in obedience to God (whether or not they followed the prophet's words were up to them). They also prophesied the coming of Christ. One of my favorite prophetic chapters in the Bible is that of Isaiah 53, in which the prophet Isaiah somewhat graphically illustrates Jesus' death on the cross. In fact, the Christian rock band Stryper has engrafted Isaiah 53:5 into their logo for this reason, to share the Gospel. As Jesus hadn't come yet, people couldn't believe in Him as the propitiation for their sins, but they could believe in the coming Messiah who would. The Book of Daniel closely mirrors other prophetic books in Scripture such as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Revelation, all pointing to the Second Coming of Christ (and some pointing back to His First Coming as well) showing what still needs to be fulfilled.

In the New Testament, prophets basically did the same thing they did in the Old, except they weren't ministering specifically to Israel, they were ministering to the Church and would help preach the Gospel, as is the job of ALL believers! John the Baptist had been prophesying about the Lamb of God (Matthew 3), Christ, at the beginning of the New Testament, and the end is all about the Revelation of Jesus Christ as given to John the Apostle about the future, end times world that is coming soon to a planet near you. As we saw in Ephesians 2 with apostles, prophets were also instrumental in building up the early Church as they had spiritual authority where the apostles had doctrinal authority (though these were of course somewhat interchangeable).

Jesus spends a lot of time warning about false teachers and prophets (Matthew 7, 12:33, 24:24), and so to His disciples/Apostles (2 Timothy 2:3, Jude 17-18, 2 Peter 3:3, 1 John 2:22, Galatians 1:9, etc.). Clearly false "gospels", teachers, and prophets were all bad news. In fact, we know that the False Prophet himself, the "Agent of the Beast" will ussher in the Antichrist (the Beast), who was set up by Satan (the Dragon) to deceive the whole world (Revelation). So clearly, false prophets are bad. So how do we know if a prophet is true? Well, we'll get there, but first let's establish that prophets do exist today. 

Remember when we were talking about Apostles above and I mentioned that Jesus never changes and that because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, then neither does He? Well, the same applies here to Prophets too. Not only that, but if we go back to Acts 2 again, we'll see in verses 17-19 that it is very clear the visions, dreams, and prophecies should be a natural occurrence as we are living in the "last days" according to most biblical scholars (it's also worth noting that this verse is fulfillment of Joel's prophecy in Joel 1:1). But it's not just said or seen there, we see other prophets besides the two Johns and the other Apostles in the New Testament who work to edify the Church, including Anna & Simeon (Luke 2:34-38), Barnabas (Acts 13:1), the disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19:6), Judas and Silas (Acts 15:23), Zacharias (Luke 1:67), and of course the Two Witnesses of Revelation (and probably many more throughout the New Testament that I'm missing). 

Jesus also prophesied about his Second Coming and the Jews place during that time in Matthew 24-25.

It's also very clear in 1 Corinthians 12 that prophecy (as well as working of miracles) is a part of the list of Nine Spiritual Gifts, and as we obviously know that the Holy Spirit's power doesn't just go away, we can see that prophecy is something that the Church was to use to edify their members! In fact, many go to 1 Thessalonians 5 for advice on "Christian living", which talks about praying continually, rejoicing always, and giving thanks to Jesus, but what people ALWAYS refuse to mention is verses 19-22 which tell the Church to not quench the Spirit, to not despise prophecy, to prove all things especially what is good, and to abstain from all appearances of evil. Interesting that this is what people often skip or fail to mention when talking about this passage.

Prophecy is also something Paul says we should desire. He starts off 1 Corinthians 14 by telling the Church to "desire spiritual gifts" (the same nine he mentioned earlier), but then he says "especially the gift of prophecy", explaining that while some speak in tongues that only the Spirit knows the meaning to, prophecy can actually bless others!


Let's finally move onto how to identify false prophets though, because this will become an important skill in the days ahead as Jesus says.
  1. If they deny Christ, they are a false prophet
  2. Do they have godly character?
  3. Do their predictions come true?
  4. Are their words consistent with Scripture?
  5. Do people benefit from their ministry?
This first test is really simple and I shouldn't even need to use Scripture to prove this point, however, 1 John 2:22 says that someone who denies Christ or the Gospel is anti-Christ and as Paul warns the Galatians in Galatians 1:9, those people will "be accursed".

Jesus talks all about false teachers and prophets in Matthew 7, but when confronted with the concept of these false prophets Jesus tells his disciples that they will look like sheep, but actually will be "ravenous wolves". In verse 20 He says that you will know them by their fruits, this means their "godly character".

One of the biggest things about prophecy or prophets is that if they're speaking truth from God then it will come true, no matter what. God does not deceive us and God does not lie. 2 Chronicles 18:13 quotes Micaiah when he basically says that "whatever God says, I'll speak". A true prophet should be willing to speak truth and only the truth. False prophets will tell you what you want to hear and will predict things that may or may not come to pass (Deuteronomy 18:22). One of my closest friends has the gift of prophecy and has only used it when the Lord has prompted him to. The one thing he will always say is, "look, this is what the Lord wants me to say, that's it". He doesn't promote himself, he only says what God would have him say. In fact, two summers ago, he told me that the Lord told him that my Dad would have a heart attack if he did not quit smoking. Although I pleaded with my Dad, he wouldn't stop and about eight months later my Dad had a massive heart attack that actually had left him dead for ten whole minutes, though the Lord was faithful to all our prayers and brought him back to life. You can read more about that amazing story HERE.

If a prophet's words are not consistent with Scripture, it's entirely possible that they're a false prophet. 2 Peter 1:20 is clear that prophets do not speak of their own word or will, it's all based on God.

While there are definitely prophecies that are conditional or are "bad" in nature (those of Jonah for instance, if Nineveh had not repented, they would've been destroyed), ultimately the prophetic ministry of a prophet should be a productive one bearing good fruit. Jeremiah 23:32 is in the context of false prophets misleading His people, in this verse He says that those who try to lead others astray will not benefit them at all. I think it's very clear that a prophetic ministry should be one of edifying the Church, as we see in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, as that is what spiritual gifts themselves are meant to do.

Special thanks to "Life, Hope, and Truth" for help with some of those verses.

All this to say, aside from the passages in Acts 2 that clearly state the presence of prophets from Pentecost to the present, Scripture would not talk so much about the spiritual gift of prophecy, prophets and their roles, and the dangers of false prophets if these were things that would not benefit the Church today. "But we need to remember Michael, that these books of the Bible were written to a certain audience at a certain time with a certain culture..." Well, excuse my language, but to hell they were! Sure, the human authors had a specific message to write, but we need to remember who was behind the scenes, inspiring Scripture as a whole from the beginning, the Holy Spirit, God Himself. We forget that God is outside of time, and that although we only see things in the present, and maybe the past, He sees everything at once and places certain things in the past so that we can learn them now in the present.

Conclusion

The conclusion to the original question of "are there apostles and prophets in the church today?" has been answered. Although there may not be the Apostles of the Lamb or the Apostle to the Gentiles today, specific Apostles of doctrinal authority (or of the Church), apostles in their classic sense still exist. We see many apostles throughout the New Testament aside from the "set apart" thirteen and we see that the Lord still meets people where they're at and sends them out to do His work, which is really what an apostle is anyway. We also see that while Old Testament Prophets that "boss around" nations don't necessarily exist anymore, prophets in their New Testament context of edifying the Church DO! Not only that, but will continue to exist in the end as we see from the Two Witnesses in Revelation.

Although we have answered this question and see that it is both "yes" and "no", I want to bring up one more Scripture that was brought to my attention tonight. Ephesians 4:11-13 says lays down the specific Church leadership, in order of importance, starting with apostles and prophets and then moving onto evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These verses go onto say that these "offices" are meant to help "the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ". Now, here comes the controversial part, "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." I don't know about you, but I do NOT see total unity in the Church, in fact, I think in the times that we live in the Church couldn't be more broken and divided on the Word and the Knowledge of the Son of God.

This is not to say that the offices of the Twelve Apostles (plus Paul) and the Old Testament Prophets are to be filled today, in fact I truly don't have an answer on that, but I do want to point out that I am not here to argue, I am here to look at Scripture and discern what it has to say. Please do not take my word for anything written here, please go to the Scriptures themselves and do the research as I have. All I can say based on that Ephesians verse is that this is not yet a reality, and as I believe we've seen by looking at apostles and prophets here today, their roles are not yet finished.

Godspeed

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Truth Is Out There - Are You Seeking It?


"I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." - Yeshua

In a few hours, one of the longest running, intensely popular, science fiction television series, The X-Files, is coming back to television for a six episode event. I love The X-Files. I remember my Dad showing me the X-Files movie back when I was probably seven or eight years old and immediately my interest was peaked. The action, the danger, the conspiracy were all really exciting for me, and eventually, as I would get into film myself, I began to formulate stories similar to those of The X-Files. No, I'm not talking about ghosts, monsters, or little green men (well, kind of but not really, stay with me), I'm talking about TRUTH.

In the past year or two since it was announced that Mulder and Scully would be gracing our television screens once again I began to re-watch the series, or at least the mythology aspects of it, and it's spin-offs Millennium, The Lone Gunmen, and even Harsh Realm (the last one not officially a spin-off). While doing this I realized something that I didn't really understand before, the real reason why I loved The X-Files, or really anything Chris Carter put out, it's because of all the truth in it.

Now take that how you will, but let's talk about the series' tag-line for a second here: THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Yes, it most certainly is, and as I continued watching the series I picked up many things that I hadn't before when I was a kid. Project Paperclip, Agent Orange, JFK, 9/11, MK-Ultra, "alien"/human hybrids and other genetic engineering, the Crusades, satanic super soldiers, virtual reality, etc. Now, don't call me crazy yet or label me a "conspiracy theorist" (if you have that's okay, I honestly couldn't care less) because after looking into many of these things myself I began to realize just how much is not only hidden from the American public but also thrown  right in front of our face, because the "Powers that Be" know that we aren't really going to do anything about it. 


As Americans we've gotten comfortable, complacent, willfully ignorant. We, and I mean this to say Americans as a whole not myself personally, are fighting for "social justice" movements as opposed to actually paying attention to what is going on in the world, because again the Powers that Be would rather have us be concerned with gay rights than the idea that the people who "run" our country actually financed the same people who we are, supposedly, fighting against.

Please note that when I'm talking about the "Powers that Be", I'm not just talking about the US government or the group of Elites who control the majority of the wealth and governments in the world, I'm actually talking about Satan and his demons, the evil, dark forces that we face in this present darkness. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness in this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

However, this is not an editorial on them, as Christians we need to be praying AGAINST these devils in the name of Jesus and through the Spirit of Truth (Holy Spirit) instead of letting them walk all over us.


One of many problems with America today is that people are apathetic. They just don't care as long as it doesn't personally or immediately affect them. If it does, than they'll fight for or against it, but generally it doesn't so people don't care. Do Christians not understand that we can't be that way? I was like that for a long time I feel like, but only now has the Lord begun to awaken my soul and convict my heart to fight. But again, this article is not about fighting, it's about the truth.

One of the things I've been praying to the Lord about recently is that He would reveal to me the truth in every situation, that I would not just believe whatever I'm told or blindly follow someone else's "truth", but that I would search for the answer. I've been praying for the heart of a "truth-seeker" and I truly believe that the Lord has been answering my prayers, in fact, I almost wonder if I had to pray for it at all. My parents have always been "truth-seekers", at least since I can remember, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's not genetic, if it actually runs in the blood of the Petty family. Nevertheless, I continue to pray that I would seek ONLY truth.

As Christians we know the ULTIMATE truth. That Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, our Savior and Lord, is the ONLY way to God the Father, the ONLY way to have eternal life with Him, and the ONLY real source of TRUTH in the universe. This is what brings about salvation, believing that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father, that ONLY He can save your soul from Hell and make you righteous no matter your sin, that ONLY He is Truth, the true SON OF GOD. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of God (Romans 10:17). We know that God's Word is Truth, and we know that Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14), this Jesus is Truth.



"Why are you telling us this? We know this, get on with the point!"

If that's what you're thinking now, then I'm glad you are because that means you have faith and really do understand the truth, but unfortunately in America, most self-proclaimed Christians don't really understand or believe this. They refuse to repent and continue living in sin, they refuse to share their "faith" and instead conform to the world and what it tells them to think, and they refuse to take God's Word as truth over man's.

Although I am talking about America as a whole here, I'm specifically talking about the "American Church", if you can really call it that. A "church" which no longer believes that the Spirit is working the same way He always has since Christ ascended. A "church" which ignorantly believes that they're getting taken out of here before all Hell breaks loose, for no other reason that the majority of pastors say that's what going to happen. A "church" that stood idly by as babies were slaughtered throughout this county and as sexual immorality ran rampant throughout the country and even invaded the church! A "church" that ignores prophetic warnings and doesn't take scripture at face value, instead twisting the context to make it say what they want it to (and to be fair, I think every believer on some level, myself included, is guilty of this one). This is the American Christian Church and we have been deceived.


Honestly, this isn't where I planned to go with this article, I actually intended to go into a different direction about discovering the truth about what our country has been doing for a hundred years, about the federal reserve and FEMA, about the system we're approaching that is eventually going to turn into the "one world government"/New World Order Mark of the Beast system, but this is clearly not where the Lord wanted me to go, so if you want more on that I would encourage you all to read Paul McGuire and Troy Anderson's book "The Babylon Code: Solving the Bible's Greatest End-Times Mystery". It's very good and intense (and with cited sources for you skeptics), but I would encourage you all to check it out.

To be completely truthful here, this article is kind of a rant, it's kind of a WAKE UP CALL to those who are still living in the darkness. You see, Christ called US, His people, CHRISTIANS, to be the Light of the World, His righteousness! "But we've thrown out our candles and left men for dead" says the Christian power-metal band Theocracy in their song "Light of the World" off of their latest album "As the World Bleeds". Their lyrics there couldn't be closer to the truth! Christians in countries around the world die and are slaughtered and maimed and tortured and God knows what else just because they believe in Jesus as the Son of God! And yet, we here, the Christians in the United States of America, WHO HAVE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, refuse to share what we have so graciously been given.

It's not because we're being selfish about Jesus, I think most Christians would agree that they want people to be saved. It's because of a few things but I think one of them is that we have allowed ourselves to be a part of the world, to look like the world, act like the world, love the things OF the world! And guess what guys, "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15)

Here's the thing, I am not perfect, I'm not trying to be condescending or rude, and I'm certainly not trying to be unloving, but we truly need to GET OVER OURSELVES as a church and RISE UP to share the Gospel, the Good News of Christ, and tell people that not all hope is lost, that if they repent of their sins and turn to God in faith that Jesus, the Son of God, paid the penalty for sin, that they could be saved and have eternal life with the Father, and ONLY THEN can the Spirit of Truth decend on them like a dove. That is salvation, that is the Gospel, that is the message of the entire Bible, and at the end of the day that is Truth.


Godspeed