Saturday, August 26, 2017

My Research into Calvinism


The Church today has gotten into some pretty interesting teachings and has been split for some time, especially the church here in America which focuses more on what feels good compared to the truth of God's Word. We have divisions between evangelicals and charismatics, pre-trib or post-trib rapture supporters, flat earthers and globalists, and of course Calvinism vs Arminianism, all of which have really gotten big these days.

This being said, I not only know many calvinists, but have also seen the "Calvinism craze" among a lot of younger believers here in America. I don't want to start an argument here or cause any more division than there already is, but I'm writing this article not to prove Arminianism right (because I don't believe they've got it down either) or completely deny everything Calvinism says (because in some sense they have a few things right), instead I want to analyze Calvinism, free will, and predestination according to scripture and share my findings.

DISCLAIMER
I am not trying to start any arguments here or be argumentative for the sake of being argumentative, I don't hate Calvinists, I know many Calvinists and am happy to call few of them my friends, but as I don't believe scripture 100% backs-up this theological position, I felt the need to do my own research and post my findings here like I did with the Pre-Tribulation Rapture (find that article HERE).

Now, let's begin with TULIP.

TULIP stands for the five points of Calvinism: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. Throughout this article we'll examine each of these five points in-depth in order to try to understand what God has to say about each of these subjects in the Word, cross-referencing it with various pieces of scripture.

Total Depravity

It's no secret that human beings are flawed, there's no questions about that. We all know that human beings are, in their natural state, sinful.

This is due to the Fall of Man that took place after Creation in the Garden of Eden when Adam & Eve were tempted into disobeying God (sin) by Satan and then chose to do so (Genesis 3). Because of the Fall, the thoughts of men's hearts are evil continually (Genesis 6:5 and Jeremiah 17:9) & are not at all good (Ecclesiastes 7:20 and Romans 3:10-18). Because of our sin, our open rebellion against God and His will, mankind forfeited their destiny in Heaven with our Father, for an eternity with Satan in Hell, and eventually the Lake of Fire (Matthew 3:12, 25:46, John 3:18, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, and Revelation 20:12-15 make this clear).

There is no question that men are depraved and that this first section of Calvinism is accurate, but we must remember that Modern Calvinists often take the position that men don't truly have free will, only the appearance of free will and thus we didn't choose to be evil, we were (kind of) created that way.

This idea, however, does not fit with the biblical concept of Creation or the Fall and actually refutes God's greatest act of creation when He says that what He created on the sixth day (man and woman) was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). In fact, Solomon references this point in creation in Ecclesiastes 7:29 when he says that, "God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." What Solomon is saying here is that God created man good, and that what God Himself says in the opening chapters of Genesis, but man chose to go their own way due to the influence of Satan in the Garden. God didn't make man sin, Satan didn't either; man chose to rebel against God in spite of God making man good.

Do you see what I'm saying here? God clearly made man in His image (Genesis 1:27) and we know that God is perfect, He is good and only good there is no evil in Him (Psalm 62:15). So then how did man chose evil? Because man was given free will, just like God had free will. God created man to create, to rule. The first thing He commanded Adam to do in the Garden was to name the animals, and whatever Adam (not God) called them, that was their name (Genesis 2:19). He not only had the God-given ability to obey God, but the choice to as well; this can be said in full confidence since at this point in time Adam was "very good" and yet without sin. But then once the serpent tempted Eve, who in turn tempted her husband, man made their first of an infinite number of wrong choices, and thus we are in total depravity.

Again, this was never God's intention, God did not create man as sinful creatures, He created us in His perfect image, it was us who rebelled against Him.

Unconditional Election

Here is where it starts to get interesting. Calvinists believe that since man has no good in him and is only evil, we cannot seek God on our own and thus God elects His few chosen into salvation through Jesus Christ. This is only partially true.

Yes, men are evil and we do not seek God on our own (Romans 3:10-18 is clear on that), and yes, that means God does have to reveal Himself to creation, but what most Calvinists don't realize is that He actually reveals Himself to every single human being and gives them the ability to come to Him. Here are the four ways, with scripture, that God reveals Himself to mankind.

1. Nature - If you look at Psalm 8:3-4, Job 26:8-9 and verse 14, and Romans 1:20, all of these passages declare that God reveals Himself to us all through nature. David even writes in Psalm 8 that he considers God's creation and wonders why God is even mindful of mankind. Then Paul writes in Romans 1 that the visible and invisible things that God created are not only seen, but clearly understood "so that they are without excuse". Here Paul is talking about the wrath of God against sin, specifically against those who have denied the truth through their sin and who "served the creature rather than the Creator" (verse 25), but the key phrase for this point is that even in their sin, God made Himself known to them through His creation so that they were without an excuse for rejecting His free gift and bringing condemnation upon themselves.

2. Our Conscience - Paul brings up the conscience in Romans 2 when he says, "for when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another". Okay, so that's a lot, but what Paul is saying is that since God has written His Law on man's hearts (Hebrews 8:10 & 10:16, Jeremiah 31:33), including gentiles and other nonbelievers (this is why people still know that it's wrong to steal, murder, or lie even if they don't believe in God), this is a witness in and of itself as to who God is and He reveals Himself to humanity through the conscience. Since everyone has a conscience (some of ours more skewered than others), every man has had God reveal Himself to them through it.

3. Jesus Christ - This one is real obvious, but Jesus is the perfect example of God revealing Himself to us. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life". The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 1 verses 1-2 that He, "hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son...". History also proves that Jesus was an actual person here on this Earth with many different philosophers, scholars, historians, and even political commentators from the first and second centuries describing Jesus. And finally, Matthew 11:27 mentions that whoever the Son reveals Himself to will know the Father. So if creation and your conscience wasn't enough for you to reach out to God, Jesus ought to be for sure.

4. God's Word/the Bible - Finally, the Bible is the fourth way that God reveals Himself to us according to scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 is very clear that ALL scripture is God-breathed, and although the 66 books of the Bible were all written by men from Moses to the Apostle John, they were all under the inspiration of the same perfect and Holy Spirit. This is the most specific way in which God can reveal Himself to mankind, and often the most powerful; as it should be, it was His word that spoke creation into existence.

The reason I bring these four points up when talking about unconditional election is because I want to make it very clear that God isn't going to pick your best friend to go to Heaven but decide that you should go to Hell instead. Unconditional election is a lie not because God doesn't choose people for certain things, He certainly does (remember, he rejected Saul as king of Israel and chose David instead), but when it comes to salvation there's one specific verse that Calvinists like to forget about when it comes to God's will for people's salvation, and that's 1 Timothy 2:4 (below in the ESV):
...who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
 Alright, so God clearly desires all men to be saved, that is HIS WILL. Look below at Ezekiel 18:22.
Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
Again, His will is that people would repent and be saved, not to die in their sins and be judged for eternity in Hell. Look below at 2 Peter 3:9.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
The reason Jesus didn't come back to Earth in the past two-thousand years isn't because He fell asleep or doesn't care about what's going on in the world anymore, He hasn't come back because He is giving grace to those who still need to repent, and He desires all to repent and come to Him. If you look at Matthew 23:37, Jesus basically pleads with Jerusalem, telling them that He gathered them together to receive Him and the gospel but they refused! Not only that, but all throughout scripture we see God pleading with humanity, trying to save them all. We see this with all of the major and minor prophets in the Old Testament, prophesying to Israel that if they did not repent and seek God, they would face destruction, but if they did that God would restore them and their land (this also proves that there was a choice involved on Israel's part and that there were two different paths they could have taken). Jonah, when he went to Nineveh actually got upset with God because God didn't destroy the city like He said He would, but God didn't have to because the people repented and turned to Him.

You see, anyone can be saved if they repent and trust in the one true God (John 3:16, Romans 10:13, Acts 16:30-31, Romans 3:24)! Jesus didn't even want the Pharisees to die in their sins and go to Hell and often debated with them, sharing the truth any chance He could get, going so far as to meet with Nicodemus to talk about being born again in John 3! Even Rahab the harlot is forever in the Hebrews Hall of Faith because she heard what Israel said about God destroying Jericho, and by faith hid the spies so that she and her family might be saved. God didn't force her to make that choice, by faith she did so.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)
But let's back-track for a second here and talk about another portion of unconditional election, the predestination part...

Predestination is "the divine foreordaining of what will happen". Passages in the New Testament like Romans 8:29-39, Ephesians 1:4-12, and others talk about how God has "chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world... ...unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself..." (Ephesians 1:4-5). With passages like these you would think that the doctrine of predestination would be a no-brainer, and I would agree, you would think that that is just how it is and that's it.

But, there's a problem with just saying that "God predestined one person to Heaven and another to Hell", in Romans 8:29, Paul tells us that God's predestination is based on his foreknowledge. What is foreknowledge? It's simply "the awareness of something before it happens or exists." Based on this definition, and other scriptures that affirm Romans 8's claim that God is omnipotent, we know that this means that since God knew what was going to happen before it happened, God predestined (or chose) believers to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself based on the foreknowledge of who would receive the gospel and who would reject it.

You see, God never refuses anyone who comes to Him in faith (John 6:37, Romans 10:13), and anyone who draws near to God, He will in turn draw near to (James 4:8). This all being said, it's by God's grace and His willingness to reveal Himself to us (see the four points above) that we can believe Him (Mark 10:27, Matthew 19:26), but even when God does reveal Himself to us, we must still make the choice to accept Him as our Savior and submit to Him as our Lord, not because our choice will save us in-and-of itself, but because it allows God's grace to redeem us through the faith which He freely gives (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
I love that verse because it so clearly lays out that we are still able to make our own decisions, but it's God leading us throughout the way. We still have to choose to walk, but He'll be our guide. It's like the old saying, "you can lead of horse to water, but you can't make it drink." That is so true. As I stated above, God draws us to Him through various means, but ultimately we will either allow His grace to wash over us and let Him save us, or we will reject Him completely and be separated from Him eternally. It's like Peter drowning after he took his eyes off Jesus, he could have simply struggled and drown, but instead his first and immediate response was to call out to his Master and say, "Lord, save me." (Matthew 14:30)

Take a look at this short article to see how foreknowledge and predestination work hand-in-hand, with the latter being a result of the former: https://carm.org/if-god-all-knowing-and-he-knows-our-future-then-how-free-will

Now, there are two examples of predestination that I want to share briefly to show that God does in fact predestine based on foreknowledge and not simply "personal favor", because we know from Romans 2:11 and Acts 10:34-35 that "God is no respecter of persons", meaning He has no personal favorites.
Now the word of the Lord came unto me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:4)
God is very straight-forward with Jeremiah, and it's a good thing that he is, because here we see that Jeremiah's destiny on Earth as a prophet was pre-ordained by the Lord. This actually fits well into the idea that God doesn't choose certain people for Heaven and others for Hell. Let me explain.

We already read the passage in Ephesians that talks about how God predestined us to adoption through Jesus Christ, and that is very true, He predestined humanity to be saved which is why He sent His Son to be a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45), but what Paul goes onto say in his letter to the Ephesians (remember, these letters are continuous thoughts from the Holy Spirit to the Church) in chapter 2 verse 10 is that "for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained [predestined] that we should walk in them." He then goes onto explain in verse 11 through the end of the chapter that it was only because of Jesus that the Gentiles (the rest of humanity aside from Israel) were able to enter into this covenant and be apart of this salvation (now we know from Rahab and others that there were other non-Jews saved by faith, but this made it "official").

The reason this passage is so important is that God very clearly predestines certain people for certain duties and tasks, He has made us all individually and uniquely capable of doing His will through His power and Spirit, but He doesn't force us into a relationship with Him. John 1:12 says that "to those who received Him, He gave the right to become the children of God". Those who receive Him. We know that, according to Romans 1, men are without excuse if they don't come to know God and repent of their sin, because He has revealed Himself to the whole world (through nature, our conscience, His Son, and the Bible); which means that everyone, on some level, is drawn to the Son by the Father, even if they don't realize it, perceive it, or receive it.

When Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh, he refused and went the opposite way. Now we know based on Genesis 3 that when man decides to go his own way and step out of the will of God, that things don't go so well for him, and the same can be said here with Jonah. Jonah ended up in the belly of a big fish until he finally repented and did what he was told, but Jonah had to choose to repent and cry out to the Lord before He would be set free.

Jeremiah was told by God that He had predestined him as a prophet, this was to assure Jeremiah that he was in the Lord's hands and that he was in fact following the will of God, nothing more.

The second example of predestination I want to share is that of Jacob and Esau. In Romans 9:10-13 and Malachi 1:2-3, it's made very clear that God loved Jacob and hated Esau and that He chose Jacob over Esau. This is one that Calvinists like to use to prove that God chooses some for Heaven and others for Hell, but the truth of the matter is that this loving and hating didn't have to do directly with salvation, and not only that but this choice that God made was based completely on His own foreknowledge! Let's look at that Malachi example below.
Was not Esau Jacob's brother? Yet I have loved Jacob and Esau I have hated.
So what's up with this? Well, it's actually a little simpler than you might think. Jacob and Esau were the twin brothers of Isaac. Esau was a hunter and an "overall good-guy", while Jacob was sneaky, crafty, and a liar at heart. So why did God love Jacob and hate Esau when one was clearly a bad guy and the other not-as-bad?

The Lord reveals this answer through the writer of Hebrews in chapter 12 verses 15-17.
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
In Genesis 25:34, it's said that "Esau despised his birthright." He was indifferent to what God had freely given Him, instead giving it up because he believed it was worthless. In the Hebrews passage, Esau is described as godless and classified with the sexually immoral. Compared to Esau, Jacob wanted God's best and in Genesis 32:34-28, we see Jacob struggle with God, not letting go until God had blessed him. You see, Jacob sought after God, and thus God loved him because before He was born God could already see what Jacob would choose and what Esau would give up. It's a lot like the story of Mary and Martha with Jesus where Martha gets upset because Mary doesn't help her, but Jesus reassures her that Mary had chosen better, and it would not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41-42).

And before anyone says it, NO, God did not create Esau to reject his birthright or Jacob to be a liar and take it from his brother, God does not create us to sin, He does not condone all our our motives, methods, or character flaws, if we look back at Genesis 1-3 we'll remember that God was the one who created mankind as "very good" and in His perfected image, but it's man who chose to go their own way. God didn't create Esau to go and sell his birthright, if that were the case he would have caused Jacob to be born first so Jacob could inherit the birthright legally, but instead he gave it to Esau, allowing him to make the choice himself. Similarly, God did not harden Pharaoh's heart when Moses continued to ask him to let Israel go until after Pharaoh had hardened it himself (Exodus 8:32, 9:12).

God predestined mankind to be saved by Jesus Christ, and He knew from the beginning that there would be those who would believe and those who wouldn't. It isn't that He wants anyone to perish, He doesn't, in fact He didn't even create Hell for man! God created Hell as a punishment for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41) and the only reason we are going there now is because Lucifer tricked us into joining him; but God does give us a choice, and ANYONE who receives Him He gives the right to become the children of God and to share everlasting life (John 1:12, 3:16). If God had simply sat back and predestined those who would know Him and those who wouldn't, there'd truly be no need for evangelism because God could have an upper-room or "Road to Damascus" moment with everyone who He had predestined and no believer would ever have to lift a finger, but that's not the point.

Since we know God's will will ultimately be done, and God's will will is that all men would be saved, the question then remains who did Jesus die for, because we know there will always be people who refuse grace and go to Hell. Well, let's move onto our next point to answer that question.

Limited Atonement

Limited Atonement is simply the idea that God sent Jesus to die only for the sins of the elect that the elect might be saved. It only takes one verse to prove this idea false, but I'll give you several starting with the classic John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John specifically points out that God loved the whole world and died not just "for the sake of the elect" (though that phrase is used other places in the gospels when referring to Judgement and the End Times) but for every person ever to be born or whoever had been born. This verse is one of the most famous verses in the Bible mainly because it proves that God loves all people, every tribe, every tongue, and every nation included (Revelation 7:9-10), and that ANYONE can come to Him for forgiveness of sins and eternal life (John 6:37, remember God has revealed Himself to all of creation).

Another verse that proves limited atonement wrong is 1 John 2:2, where John proves this concept again...
And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
John is explaining to whoever that in the supernatural Jesus has taken on the sins of the whole wide world, not just specific elect. Just a few verses earlier, John says that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." We must make a choice to confess our sin before the Lord before Jesus' atonement can cover us of our sin and cleanse us. Repent and believe.

Take a look at Hebrews 2:9.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
And finally, Paul writes to his son-in-the-faith Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:10...
For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specically to those that believe. 
 While Jesus sacrifice was sufficient for all men, all of humanity, it's only efficient for those who believe, for those who turn from their wickedness and trust in the power of God and the name of Jesus. This is very clear all throughout the New Testament, so while it's an understandable mistake on the part of Modern Calvinists to believe that it was only for the elect that Jesus died, it's still a mistake nevertheless.

Paul says that,
God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
The whole world is and was full of sinners, there were none righteous on their own accord, and since God knew that, He knew that if He were to send His Son to die, it would have to be for all sinners. Ultimately yes, Jesus death was for His sheep (John 10:11, 15), the church, and those are the only ones who will receive the benefit of His death since they believe (John 3:18), but He still bore the weight of all of our sin, including those who would reject Him.

Irresistible Grace

Since we've already talked about how mankind has free will and God predestines/chooses based on His foreknowledge as opposed to pulling all of our strings like a puppetmaster, the concept of irresistible grace should be a somewhat brief topic.

With this issue, Calvinists say that since man cannot come to God on their own, God must make Himself known to man and in turn makes man willing to come to Him, thus taking away man's ability to choose. The issue here is that while Arminians may believe that man is saved by their choice, Calvinists argue that man is saved by God alone, and scripture is clear that the Calvinists are right. The catch is that choice is still a factor in God's grace.

Titus 3:5 says,
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
So we aren't saved by our works, we know that (Ephesians 2:8-9 is one of the most famous verses on that passage), we are saved by God's grace working through us by the power of the Holy Spirit, anyone who argues that we are saved by anything but God's grace doesn't understand salvation.

Jesus says in John 6:37-40 that whoever the Father gives to Him, He "will in no wise cast out" and that "anyone who sees the Son, and believes on Him, will have eternal life". We know that without faith, without the knowledge of God and trust in Him, it's impossible to believe God, because we have to come to God in faith (Hebrews 11:6). The conditions here to man receiving God's grace is that one comes to God in the first place and has faith that God will save them.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
We must draw near to God in order to receive the blessings of God, including salvation. When Jesus called his disciples, they didn't just stay in their fishing boats, waiting to receive the blessing, they immediately got out and ran to Jesus, taking whatever He had to offer.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
We know that no man naturally, in sin, seeks God (Romans 3:11), but we also know that God draws us to Him through his creation, our conscience, the person of Jesus, and His written Word, and that all men are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Yes, God does the wooing, if you will, but we are the ones who have to receive the gift of grace, we still have to enter in through faith. If we don't believe God is who He said He is, and that He can do what He promised to do (save us), then how can we expect to inherit eternal life? Yes, grace is resistible, that's been proven because people go to Hell and will continue to go to Hell, but God desires all to come to repentance and receive Him so that they don't have to (1 Timothy 2:4).

Persevering of the Saints

The final point in TULIP, Persevering of the Saints, which is the idea that only those chosen by God will persevere through the power of the Holy Spirit and they will be the ones who inherit eternal life. Again, I think Calvinism gets this point more-or-less right, we see in John 6:37-47 that Jesus is very clear, whoever the Father brings to Him, whoever believes the good news, He will not loose. Paul tells us at the end of Romans 8 that he was persuaded that no circumstance, spirit, or natural device could separate us from the love of God in Christ. And then, Philippians 1:6 says,
Being confident in this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
It's clear that the Lord desires to bring us all into the fullness of salvation and will not let us go once we have received Him as both Lord and Savior (there is no salvation without both).

This all being said, I want to briefly give a few examples of those who didn't finish the race or keep the faith, starting with those John references in 1 John 2:19,
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
This passage is talking about antichrists who have come into the world, opposers of Christ, and people who look like Christians but who are truly wolves in sheeps clothing. Jesus warns His disciples about these people in Matthew 7 when He says, "Not everyone that says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father..." Jesus knew that there would be people who would join churches and become part of the religious system, claiming Him and yet not living for Him. I think of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, Catholics (not all, but many), and even many "Christians" here in America who have never truly surrendered their lives to Christ. Scripture is clear that these will not be saved.

But that's an easy one, and John makes it clear that they were never really of the church to begin with, so the real question is is there anyone is the Bible who was chosen by God but rejected the call?

Well, the most famous out of all of these would be Judas Iscariot. We know that Judas was called by Jesus to "follow Him", as all the twelve disciples were (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16), and because of this calling by God he was given the authority to cast out demons and heal diseases and sicknesses. Judas was very much a Christian from the sense that he followed and obeyed Jesus. He learned from Jesus for three years, was taught by Him and had a personal relationship with Him, but Judas did not persevere and he let sin get the best of him, with Satan himself even entering into him after being rebuked out of Peter (Luke 22:3). In John 6:64, Jesus makes it clear that He knew from the beginning which of His disciples would believe and which would betray Him, even saying later in verses 70-71, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?"

This is a prime example of predestination and foreknowledge working hand-in-hand, Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him, yet He chose Him anyway, exposing him to the truth on a daily basis because God desires none to perish, but ALL to come to repentance (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). He still gave Judas the chance to choose! Even when Peter denied Christ three times, he still repented and Christ forgave Peter that betrayal, but Judas, instead of repenting, was filled with remorse and killed himself (Matthew 27:3-10, Acts 1:18-19), although he still had the opportunity to repent and believe.

Judas contradicts the Calvinistic idea that those chosen by God can't resist His grace and will always persevere, because Jesus is clear the He chose Judas, yet Judas betrayed Him and turned from God completely.

This being said, yes, if we continue to trust in the Lord, He will keep us in His hands, He won't fail us, but that doesn't mean we won't fail Him. We often failed the Lord when we sin, but so many Christians have a hard time believing that we could fail Him in the faith as well. God may not let go of us, but that doesn't mean we won't let go of Him. Let's look at a few verses to clarify this.
but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:32)
Jesus tells Peter that He prayed for him so his faith wouldn't fail, meaning two things:

1. It's possible for a true Christian's faith to fail
2. It's not based on God that faith fails, it's on man's end

Jesus didn't want Peter's faith to fail, and Jesus is the Son of God, so God didn't want Peter's faith to fail, but it could have hence the prayer. James 5:19-20 says,
My brothers, if anyone among you [the Church] wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
James reveals that it's possible for a brother (or sister) in the church to wander from the truth, to backslide back into sin and "fall from grace", in fact, that's what Paul writes to the Galatians about in the Book of Galatians where he warns them that they started off in the truth, they were saved, but if they continued in their legalistic ways they would fall from grace! Hebrews 6:4-6 confirms the idea that believers can apostatize and leave the faith when it's writer warns,
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to open shame.
 In The Dake Annotated Reference Bible, one of the notes under the section "5-Fold Apostasy and End of Apostates" states,
To renew them again to repentance is impossible. The reason given is that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to open shame. This is the final act of apostasy. They publicly judge Him as imposter and worthy of death. That is, they do not believe in Him or His atonement any longer. Since such faith is the only thing that could renew them again to repentance, it then becomes impossible. How could they be renewed again to repentance if they had not experienced repentance before? The word again means once more; another time; anew; and this require repentance once before.
Yes, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to persevere in the faith and continue on to the end, but since people do make choices, and choices have consequences, it is possible for even those who were originally believers to reject Christ and end up in Hell. 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 talks about a "great falling away" (1 Timothy 4 references this as well) and that Christ will not actually return until this happens within the church.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, Calvinism does get some things right. Predestination is an actual thing, but it's based on the foreknowledge of God. Yes, God initiates a relationship with us, but we have the ability to either receive or reject that free gift of grace. Of course, those who "endure to the end will be saved", no question about it, but that doesn't mean that those who didn't endure didn't at one point in time believe in Christ themselves. The issue I see with Calvinism isn't that Calvinists don't believe the Word of God, they do, it's that they get hung up on one or two verses that support their claim and lay waste to the rest until they have to acknowledge them; not all are like this, I have a friend who is not, but many Modern Calvinists unfortunately are. Just remember, God doesn't desire anyone to go to Hell, He didn't create Hell for human beings, and He doesn't take any pleasure in the punishment of the wicked, but He is also just and true. He sent His only Son to die for us, in our place, so that we might be saved by His grace, should we receive the free gift. Blessings to all.
Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life. (John 5:24)

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 incredibly 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.