James 5:1 (KJV) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Early Church Fathers Were Pre-Millennial

 This article was found HERE

It is clear that the early church immediately following the apostles held to a premillennial view of Christ's coming to earth. These theologians embraced two key truths concerning Christ's return to earth. The idea of an any-moment return and a coming of Christ to rule as the political and spiritual king over the world were advocated by many of the earliest theologians. Here is a partial list of some of the theologians who embraced the doctrine of imminency and/or the future kingdom rule of Christ:

Papias (60-130)

Clement of Rome (90-100)

The Sherpherd of Hermas (96-150)

Ignatius of Antioch (98-117)

Barnabas (100)

The Didache (100-160)

Justin Martyr (110-165)

The Epistle of Barnabas (117-138)

Irenaeus (120-202)

Tertullian (145-220)

Hippolytus (185-236)

Cyprian (200-250)

Lactantius (260-330)

From these men we see the doctrine of Christ's soon return within a premillennial framework. The doctrine permeated the early church. Some of these men even had direct contact with the apostles.
Two Pretribulational References in the Early Church

1. The Shepherd of Hermas (95-150)

The Shepherd of Hermas was written between 96-150 AD. This document provides a statement that resembles a teaching of a pre-trib rapture doctrine. Though it is not exactly as found in modern day scholarly pretribulational writings, it still shows that an idea existed in some degree that God's people could escape the future tribulation that was to come on the whole earth. The text reads:

"You have escaped from the great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless, and ye spend the rest of the days of your life serving the Lord blamelessly."

This is not a systematic teaching, nor does it answer all of the questions that one may have. But it does give a reference to the possibility that God's people can escape the great tribulation.

2. Victorinus ( Well known by 270 and died in 303 A.D.)

Victorinus wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation. In one place he made an interesting statement that reflects his idea that the church would be removed prior to the tribulation. Of course his ideas were not systematic, and some will argue that he contradicts himself in other places, which may very well be true. But even with such an admission it still serves us well to see that early in the church history someone taught in some sense that God's church could escape the tribulation period by being removed from the earth. His commentary notes in Revelation 6:14 indicate a pre-trib reference of some sort: 

"And the heaven withdrew as a scroll that is rolled up." For the heaven to be rolled away, that is, that the Church shall be taken away. "And every mountain and the islands removed from their places intimate that in the last persecution all men departed from their places; that is, that the good will be removed, seeking to avoid persecution.

This reference gives light into a developing idea in the earliest periods of the church. There was an idea that God's people could be spared the terrible time of wrath thatGod would pour out on the earth by removing the saints. The saint's departure from the earth would occur so they would not undergo the terible wrath at the beginning of the judgments of God upon the sinful unbelieving world. 


Three Clear Summary Points from the Early Church Fathers' Teachings

These early church fathers expected Christ to physically return to earth followed by a 1000 year kingdom rule on earth.

By many of the writings we can see they believed in the possibility of an any moment return of Christ with some statements that resemble a pre-trib view point.

Even though the early church was under heavy persecution these teachers believed there would still come a distinct time of great tribulation in the future.
Two Pretribulational Teachings in the Medieval Church

1. Ephraem of Nisibis (306-373)

Ephraem wrote an important sermon "On the Last Times, the Antichrist and the End of the World." As a prominent theologian and prolific writer of the Eastern Byzantine church, he advocated for a pretribulational rapture position for the church. Dr. Grant Jeffrey has noted that he had a profound love for the Scriptures. Below is a selected quote that concerns the escape of God's people from the horrible tribulation. He stated:

"We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging.  Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled, and there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one in the completion of hte Roman kingdom.  Why therefore are we ovvupied with wordly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or the anxieties of the ages?  Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that He may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms the world? Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming of the Lord is nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe me, because it it the very last time.  Or do you not believe unless you see it with your eyes?  See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares:  "Woe to those who desire to see the Day of the Lord!"  Because all saints and the Elect of the Lord are gathered together before the tribulation which is to about to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.  And so brothers, most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of this world comes to the harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their earth exists with blind infidelity, arriving at its downfall early.  Commotions are brought forth, wars of diverse peoples and battles and invasions of the barbarians threaten, and our regions shall be desolated, and we neither become very much afraid of the report nor ofthe appearance, in order that we may at least do penance; because they hurl fear at us, and we do not wish to be changed although we at least stand in need of penance for our actions!

Notice that there is a clear teaching on the rapture of the saints before the terrible tribulation period. This theologian admonishes the people not to desire to see the Day of the Lord? Why? Because in his mind to see the day of the Lord means a person is not a believer. The believers will be snatched away and taken to the Lord before this time period begins. Look closely at what he says again:

See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares:  "Woe to those who desire to see the Day of the Lord!"  Because all saints and the Elect of the Lord are gathered together before the tribulation which is to about to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins."

Scholars Dr. Ice and James Stitzinger provide some other insights as to what this theologian taught concerning the end times. In many respects this theologian taught many truths that are common among the Dispensational system of interpretation today. They note that Ephreum 

"develops an elaborate biblical eschatology, including a distinction between the rapture and the second coming of Christ. It describes the imminent rapture, followed by a three-and-half-year-long Great Tribulation under the rule of Antichrist, followed by the coming of Christ, the defeat of the Antichrist, and the eternal state. His view includes a parenthesis between the fulfillment of Daniel's sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks (Daniel 9:24-27)."

Keep in mind that this reference is 1500 years before the time that many critics of the pre-trib view claim this doctrine developed. Many falsely advocate that the idea of a pre-trib rapture view developed in 1800s through J.N. Darby or through some sects and mystics. Such a view does not hold water, though it is popular in many circles.

For example, I once visited a Reformed Baptist Church in Greenville. It was a question and answer time session hosted by two pastors connected to the fellowship. Students from North Greenville College, Furman Univeristy, and other colleges, universities, and churches were present. A sincere man raised his hand and asked this question: "Why will no one teach on the book of Revelation and prophecy anymore? Can you give me a biblical answer to the issue of Bible prophecy." I thought it was a great question and I was interested to hear a biblically based answer from Scripture by the two pastors. Sadly, what was given in reply caused several of us in the room to have a serious concern for the pastors answering questions. Instead of providing an answer to the student's question the two pastors took the next ten minutes to simply attack the idea of a pre-trib rapture view. These two men did not take the time to provide for a biblical defense of their view. All they did was attack the pre-trib view as a modern invention that developed in the 1800s. After they attacked such a view, with little to no defense of their own view, I called the men on the carpet for a failure to study history and to defend their own view biblically. I asked them about several men who held this view before the 1800s, such as with Ephraem and others I'll discuss below. They had no reply to the information I gave to them.    

2. Brother Dolcino (d. 1307)

One scholar has found a quote that relates to the teachings and disciples of Dolcino. Dolcino and his followers held to some form of rapture view whereby people were translated to heaven before the time of judgment on the Antichrist. The teaching is as follows:

"Again, [Dolcino believed and preached and taught] that within those three years Dolcino himself and his followers will preach the coming of the Antichrist. And that the Antichrist was coming into this world within the bounds of the said three and a half years; and after he had come, then he [Dolcino] and his followers would be transferred into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah. And in this way they will be preserved unharmed from the persecution of Antichrist. And that then Enoch and Elijah themselves would descend on the earth for the purpose of preaching [against] Antichrist. Then they would be killed by him or by his servants, and thus Antichrist would reign for a long time. But when the Antichrist is dead, Dolcino himself, who then would be the holy pope, and his preserved followers, will descend on the earth, and will preach the right faith of Christ to all, and will convert those who will be living then to the true faith of Jesus Christ"

Teachers and Theologians after the Protestant Reformation Who Believed in a Pre-trib Rapture

At the time of the Protestant Reformation a major shift in how one interpreted the Bible caused the church to adjust in her views on the end times. Predominately under the Roman Catholic Church the Bible was interpreted allegorically. Scripture dealing with end times, prophetic texts, for the most part suffered from the hands of those who would not take the text literally. However, as the Reformation grew and as people began to return to a literal interpretation of the Bible the more people shifted to see that Christ was going to come back to earth to rule and reign. Many of the Puritans and Pilgrims, the 2nd generation of the Reformation movement, adopted the idea that not only was Christ going to reign on the earth but he would also translate his church saints before the awful time of his outpouring of wrath. Several of these scholars in some form or another held to a pre-tribulational rapture position.

1. Joseph Mede (1627): Clavis Apocalyptica

Some believe that he in this work made a distinction between the rapture of the saints in contrast to the second of Christ to earth.

2. Increase Mather (1639-1723)

Increase Mather was a pastor, scholar, and was the first President of Harvard College. Paul Boyer has noted that this Puritan scholar proved "that the saints would be caught up into the air beforehand, thereby escaping the final conflagration." This teaching from Mather was an early formulation of the rapture doctrine it seems.

3. Peter Jurieu (1687)

Peter Jurie in his book "Approaching Deliverance of the Church " (1687) taught that Christ would come in the air to rapture the saints and return to heaven before the battle of Armageddon.He spoke of a secret Rapture prior to His coming in glory and judgment at Armageddon.

4. John Gill (1748)

Dr. John Gill was one of the most brilliant scholars of his day. This Calvinist Baptist theologian wrote a full commentary set on the Bible in 1748. In this commentary he made a statement in his notes on 1 Thessalonians 4 that supported a time difference between the rapture of the saints and the coming of Christ to earth. He said: Christ will stop and will be visible to all, and as easily discerned by all, good and bad, as the body of the sun at noon-day; as yet He will not descend on earth, because it is not fit to receive Him; but when that and its works are burnt up, and it is purged and purified by fire, and become a new earth, He'll descend upon it, and dwell with his saints in it: and this suggests another reason why He'll stay in the air, and His saints shall meet Him there, and whom He'll take up with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and burning of the world is over, and to preserve them from it....

5. Morgan Edwards (1742-1744) the Founder of Brown University

Edwards was a prominent Baptist Leader in his day. When he came to America he was recommended to a pastoral role by the famous John Gill. He founded the first Baptist College in the colonies. This college later became known as Brown University, a well known Ivy League University of our times. Edwards taught that Christ would return for his church saints 3.5 years before he returned to establish the Kingdom of Christ on earth, the 1000 year reign of Christ. He specifically said:

"The distance between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat more than a thousand years. I say, somewhat more--, because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ's 'appearing in the air' (1 Thess. 4:17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many 'mansions in the Father's house' (John 14:2)."
Summary: Orthodox Believers of History Have Believed in a Pretribulational View

As stated earlier in this link, the timing of the rapture debate should not be classed as an "A" level truth. The fact of Christ's coming is a larger issue. Then next in the scale would be if Christ will rule on the earth as King over all the earth. Those two issues are higher on the scale than the exact time of his rapture of the church age saints. To divide a fellowship or to break fellowship with a body over this one doctrine shows a sign of immaturity.

However, Christians must recognize that those who paint pre-tribulationists as fanatics, fringe movement Christians, or as heretics who have emabraced some strange and novel idea never heard of until the 1800's have done a disfavor to the entire body of Christ. Whatever position one holds to in this area, everyone should at the least admit good, sound, and orthodox believers have taught this view before the 1800's time period. And many today continue to see this as a valid position to hold from the Scriptures when properly interpreted in a plain, consistent, and normal manner with the words given their ordinary usage in historical context.     


Friday, March 30, 2012


by Chris Putnam
to be released in April


In Vatican City, on October 10, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI opened the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for the Middle East at St. Peter’s Basilica. The synod took place at the Vatican from Oct. 10–24 under the theme: “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.”

Speaking as the alleged Vicar of Christ, the pontifex maximus said the Promised Land is “not of this world” and that Israel is not an earthly kingdom. His words are not surprising as the Roman Catholic Church has historically led the way in promoting supercessionism (replacement theology) by denying ethnic Israel’s place in God’s plan. According to the pope’s biblical eisegesis, “He reveals Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (cf. Ex 3:6), who wants to lead his people to the ‘land’ of freedom and peace. This ‘land’ is not of this world; the whole of the divine plan goes beyond history, but the Lord wants to build it with men, for men and in men, beginning with the coordinates of space and time in which they live and which He Himself gave them.”[1]

While it is true that God’s plan ultimately transcends time and space, it simply cannot be denied that the Lord meant a literal land in His promises to the patriarchs. However, the pope is not so naïve; rather, he is promoting an agenda by painting the Promised Land as a metaphysical abstraction. His political and theological overtones reflect the Vatican’s consistent position that “Jerusalem cannot belong to one state.”[2] Rome ostensibly pleads the case of Palestinians and Catholics who want to make pilgrimage but in truth, there is a wealth of evidence that the Vatican wants to possess Jerusalem as its own

Furthermore, the pope’s homily is harbinger of the coming tribulation or “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). Like Paul in Romans 11:25, Jesus also said that Jerusalem would be occupied by gentiles until the times of the gentiles are fulfilled, just prior to His Second Coming.

     “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk 21:24).

Several important points can be derived from this statement by Jesus. First, it is a prophecy of the diaspora, which occurred in AD 70. The Romans spread the Jews all over the known world, selling many as slaves. Jesus’ prophecy could have been easily falsified but its fulfillment is verifiable. Second, the text uses the Greek term achri, rendered “until,” that clearly implies one day Jerusalem will be back in Jewish hands.[3] Thus, it is also an inferred prophecy about the reclamation of Jerusalem which began in 1967 and is still being contested by the Vatican.

Jerusalem certainly was under Gentile control until 1967, and today it is the most fiercely contested piece of real estate on the planet. This should give skeptics pause because there are existing copies of Luke’s Gospel dated to the second century.[4] The fact that Jerusalem is ostensibly in Jewish hands speaks to the lateness of the hour in God’s prophetic plan.
Recognizing the end-time markers “the fullness of the gentiles” (Ro 11:25) and “times of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24) which were qualified by “until,” we now examine the current state of affairs to if they are lining up with the predicted arrival of Petrus Romanus.

One way to examine that “until” is in reference to Romans 11:25 and the spread of the Gospel and there are many competent sites like the The Joshua Project doing that.[5] One rather astonishing indicator is the success of the Gospel in China where it is reported that there are currently sixteen thousand, five hundred new converts per day![6] Africa reports similar numbers where sixteen thousand Muslims leave Islam per day for Christianity.[7] (While these numbers are exciting, there are still many unreached people-groups and languages with no Bible translation. To that end, we strongly encourage Christians to support missions.)

Still yet, another way to quantify that “until” might be to look at Israel and see if there is any movement in that sector. There were no more than a dozen or so Messianic believers in the Jewish homeland when they declared statehood in 1948 and only around 250 when they retook Jerusalem in 1967. Writing in the year 2000, Brent Kinman reported that, “Now there are in the neighborhood of six thousand believers in more than fifty congregations.”[8] Has this trend continued? As of May 26, 2011 The Baptist Press reported:

“Now there are an estimated 150 Jewish congregations around Israel meeting in different languages. The number of believers is estimated to be around 20,000, growing exponentially from 1948 when 12 Jews who believed in Jesus could be counted, to 1987 when there were 3,000 and 1997 where there were 5,000.”[9]

If you know anything about exponential growth then this strongly implies an event horizon when the line goes vertical, meaning that the time of national repentance and recognition is close-at-hand. The Old Testament contains a vivid prophecy of that eventuality, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zec 12:10).

The Hebrew term, dāqar, which is rendered “pierced,” is derivative of madqārâ which appears ten times in various forms and always denotes a puncture wound. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states, “The weapon associated with dāqar is usually the sword, though a spear is the instrument in Num 25:8.”[10] So according to the Hebrew prophet Zechariah, God was pierced and only Jesus Christ meets that characteristic. Tensions in the Middle East seem to forecast this prophesied national repentance sooner rather than later.

PARTS 2 & 3 by Chris Putnam at his website:  (**Scroll down the page**)

Chris is the co-author, with Thomas Horn, of the book Petrus Romanus, coming out in April.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Generation Adrift (Part 1)

by T. A. McMahon
The Berean Call

This is an observation, an assessment, and some prayerfully considered recommendations for the upcoming generation of evangelicals. There are rough seas ahead for them, far more hazardous than what their parents have experienced. They are heading into a perfect storm of apostasy for which few of them seem to be prepared. Much of what they will face and the fact that they are ill equipped to successfully weather what's ahead is at least in part the fault of the preceding generation--my generation. That is not to say that each generation is not responsible for their own sin (Deuteronomy:24:16; Ezekiel:18:20), or that they are merely victims of their environment, but nevertheless, my own generation failed specifically (although I thank the Lord for the exceptions) to do what God commanded of the Israelites:
Hear, O Israel: The L ord our God is one L ord : And thou shalt love the L ord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words , which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children ....Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons ; Specially the day that thou stoodest before the L ord thy God in Horeb, when the L ord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words , that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children....And ye shall teach them your children , speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children .... (Deuteronomy:6:4-7; 4:9-10; 11:19-21)
"Evangelical," as the term is used in this article, refers to Christians who consider the Bible to be their authority in all matters of faith and practice. In other words, they profess to go by the Scriptures to guide their lives. Sadly, that isn't much more than lip service for most professing evangelicals, if various surveys identifying their beliefs and practices have even a modicum of accuracy. But does the same apply to the upcoming generation of "Bible-believing" Christians? There's little doubt of that, although the blame for their condition can certainly be shared with my generation.
Who among believing parents can honestly say that they heeded the instruction that God gave to the Israelites to "diligently" teach their own children the Word of God? As I think back on raising my five children, now in their 20s and 30s, my wife and I "coulda done better." Although we knew that their instruction in the Lord was to be first and foremost our responsibility at home, too often we turned them over to a Sunday school class, a church program, and/or a youth pastor (who in my view has one of the most difficult callings in ministry). Not that those experiences were all bad; some of them truly blessed our kids. The basic problem was that we lost sight at times of our personal responsibility to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," allowing the church to become our family's "spiritual babysitter."
That fault is hardly unique to my family or my generation but is widespread among evangelicals today. The outcome is of no small consequence, contributing to a generation of true and professing Christians who are functionally biblically illiterate . They know how to read, they have Bibles, but they rarely put the two together. That creates a serious quandary. James exhorts us in his epistle to be "doers of the Word" and not hearers only. Obviously, if they don't know God's Word, they can't do what it says. Furthermore, most have come to rely on what others tell them the Bible says. They have been conditioned by being "spoon-fed" the Scriptures, and many seem okay with that. Spoon-feeding is reasonable for baby believers until they are ready for the meat of the Scriptures, but God's Word tells us to wean them off that process as soon as possible (Hebrews:5:12-13) . It's tragic that such a condition prevails among young evangelical Christians today.
Tragic? Yes. First of all, it brings into question whether they were taught and have understood and truly believed the gospel, the good news that Jesus paid the full penalty for their sins and that He offers salvation to mankind as a free gift that must be received by grace through faith alone (Romans:5:10; 1 Corinthians:15:3; Ephesians:2:8-9; Hebrews:2:17) . Although the acceptance of eternal life with Jesus requires only child-like faith, living one's life in Christ is a growth process that begins with a new birth (being born again spiritually) and then develops into spiritual maturity. At least that's the biblical plan. For the majority of the next generation of believers, however, their situation seems to be a case of arrested development. The reasons for, and the dire consequences of, such a condition are numerous.
During the last three decades, many have experienced Christianity in church settings that major in entertainment rather than in teaching the Scriptures and discipling those who attend. Thus, they are the products of years of church-growth marketing schemes that have attempted to fill pews with the "unchurched" and keep them coming back by using consumer-oriented tactics. It's a "keep the customer happy," seeker-friendly approach that has critically diluted biblical content as churches compete with the world in order to interest their youth. The game rooms of some mega-churches could put to shame their cities' most popular arcades. The marketing mentality of "do whatever it takes to attract and keep the kids coming back to church" reflects a "bait and switch" scheme, and in most situations the "bait" (games, music that mimicks the world, and entertainment) overwhelms the intended "switch" (learning the Bible). That endeavor has both trivialized and marginalized the instruction of the Word of God for those who have been subjected to that worldly approach. The outcome has resulted in a shallow Christianity for millions of young professing Christians.
Biblical shallowness, however, has many contributors. Even in situations where scriptural content has made an impact on our youth, quite often it has been accepted simply because an engaging preacher or teacher captured their imagination. Although that condition is not exclusive to the next generation of believers, it has the overall effect of stunting one's growth. If one believes a biblical doctrine only because they were persuaded by a compelling teacher, they may become dependent upon the teacher instead of being rooted in the understanding of the Scriptures. Believing something because "so-and-so said so" is faith by proxy, a faith that isn't one's own. Such an attached belief is not only wrongly applied, but it does little to strengthen one's faith. Moreover, it may be tied to the spiritual status of the person who taught the doctrine, and should the preacher/teacher go south morally or doctrinally, so may go his followers.
Akin to a faith by attachment, and just as potentially destructive, is a faith acquired by osmosis. Both are secondhand. Faith by osmosis rarely goes beyond what a person has "picked up" from his believing family members, friends, teachers, and assorted Christians throughout his life. Scripture does say that "faith comes by hearing," but for that to produce fruit, the verse goes on to say that the "hearing" has to be "by the word of God" (Romans:10:17) . To this James adds that we are to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only," the latter causing one to be vulnerable to deception (James:1:22).
If deception is a potential problem for one who hears the Word of God but doesn't do what it says, what might be the situation for those who only incidentally hear the Word and have nothing more than a superficial knowledge of it? Ignorance may be bliss for some, but scripturally it makes one the "devil's delight." Since the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is the only formidable weapon against the one whom the Bible calls "devoid of truth, the father of lies, a liar and deceiver, who goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour," what then of those who can't handle the sword of the Spirit--whose Christianity has been shaped by most of the conditions mentioned above? When you add it up, they are indeed functionally biblically illiterate and therefore defenseless against God's adversary.
Young evangelicals who are involved in ministry tell me that the increasing state of easy access to information through the internet, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and various blogs and apps has compounded the difficulty of encouraging their peers to study the Bible in depth; what's more, it reinforces their appetite for instant gratification. That's comparable to some in my generation, who were of the mentality: "Why read the book when you can read the CliffsNotes version?"--on steroids! It's also been noted that such believers are aware that they are seriously deficient in understanding the Scriptures--which has led to other problems: a) they are easily intimidated by those who tell them to leave the Bible answers to the scholars and experts, and b) they tend to seek out the latest Christian books for enlightenment rather than gleaning insights from the Bible itself. Once again, all of this makes them ripe for deception.
If that real-life scenario regarding the next generation of evangelicals sounds disheartening, brace yourself for the rest of the story that they will be facing. When Jesus was asked about the last days, His first words were, "Take heed that no man deceive you" (Matthew:24:4) . Deception was His characterization of the time prior to His second coming. In Luke:18:8, He further underscores the situation when He implies that the faith , the actual living out the truth of God's Word, will be scant among men at His return. We are given many prophecies that tell us what to look for and when that time will be drawing near. Scripture overwhelmingly declares that escalating apostasy will precede His second coming. No one other than God knows the exact time of Christ's return for His church, the Bride of Christ, to take her to heaven, but as these apostasies escalate, it makes a rapture event even more imminent. The apostasy is primarily geared to the advancement of the religion of the Antichrist. It will include seductive beliefs and practices, most of which have a form of godliness but are diametrically opposed to what the Bible teaches. They are beliefs that seem right unto men (Proverbs:14:12; 16:25) , and they are taught either by those who are themselves apostate--deceived professing Christians--or by true believers, the latter unwittingly (Acts:20:28-31) . This false universal religion won't just suddenly arrive; its preparation began at the fall of mankind and will culminate following the rapture of all believers prior to the beginning of the Antichrist's seven-year reign.
Has the apostasy captured the hearts and minds of our young generation of evangelicals? Certainly there are many who have not succumbed to the rampant deception, even though they may be ill equipped to maintain a steadfastness in the faith. No doubt it is their love for Jesus and the grace of God that has kept them thus far. Furthermore, among young people, there are encouraging signs that they have a desire to see biblical Christianity manifested in their lives as they pursue a closer walk with the Lord and a deeper understanding of His Word. Yet too few are truly prepared for the spiritual battle and the rough seas ahead, which will only intensify. Although the next generation may not be the generation in which the Lord returns, it will nevertheless face conditions unprecedented among the generations that preceded it.
The Lord willing, in part two we will address specifically some of the more serious issues that have already led multitudes off course from God's Word and have shipwrecked the faith of many. Those turbulent waters feature the unbiblical "self" teachings, such as self-esteem and self-love; the fear of being considered intolerant; the desire to be accepted and respected by the world. These times also exhibit gross lack of discernment by churches and individuals who allow community and relationships to overshadow biblical truth; who buy into the pseudo-sciences of evolution and psychotherapy; who appear to have an inability to recognize the heresies of the emerging church movement, the contemplative movement, and mystical and occult practices, the word-faith and healing and prosperity movement, and the inner-healing movement. There is a lack of understanding regarding Replacement Theology; the rise of anti-Semitism within the church; yoga in the church; the false gospel and anti-biblical dogmas of Roman Catholicism; and no apparent concern regarding the errors of the youth-oriented para-church organizations; the misdirected propensity to help others by means of a social gospel, eliminating social injustice, and other programs that lead to "works salvation."
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith and one of the pastoral leaders of the generation that would succeed his own, these sobering words of warning:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy:4:3-4)
In addition to the warning, he also gave Timothy instructions for helping to correct those things that would take place and would draw believers away from God's truth:
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season [always be ready!]; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine [hang in there with the teachings of Scripture]. (2 Timothy:4:2)
That's the simple solution to anchor a generation adrift: simple, as in "not complex." Yet neither is it easy--it demands discipline and diligence.
It is our prayer that this ministry and believers who are of my generation will, by God's grace and enablement, come alongside those of the next generation of believers, helping them in their walk with the Lord, supplying information where it is needed, and, most important, encouraging them in the diligent study of the Word of God. TBC

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dangers Of The Middle Road On How Christians Treat Homosexual Issues

The middle path can be the way of wisdom. Sometimes issues get polarized, positions get hardened, and straddling the fence is the better part of valor. Sometimes it's best to look at both sides of a controversy and conclude that there is a third way in between them. Sometimes the middle of the road is where you want to be.

And sometimes the middle of the road is where you get flattened by a semi.

For several years the Reformed Church in America has approached the issue of homosexuality as an opportunity to have our cake and eat it too. On the one hand, we have numerous official statements which condemn homosexual behavior and affirm the normalcy of heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman. And on the other hand, we can easily compile a growing number of incidents where our official statements are being disregarded with apparent immunity. We have a position that says one thing and a practice that allows for another.

A Kairos Moment

The time has come for the RCA to make up its mind on homosexuality. There are basically two different paths the denomination can take.

There is virtually no chance the RCA will change its official opinion in the near future. The General Synod has never come close to affirming the legitimacy of homosexuality in its official statements. So changing our position and coming out as an aggressively pro-gay denomination is, thankfully, not a realistic possibility.

But there are two other paths before us.

Option one is to do nothing. We can push aside the controversy and tell everyone to get back to the important work of "staying on mission." In the meantime, we can allow each classis to handle the issue for itself, essentially saying, "If your classis doesn't allow for homosexuality, that's your business. But if our classis does, you have to respect our judgment." This makes the issue someone else's problem (at least for now). And if all else fails, we can dialogue the issue to death, talking a few more years about our experiences until we all learn by a hundred unspoken statements that we should just get along and not let this issue divide us.

The other option is to do something. We can dare to say that this issue is truly a gospel issue. We can realize that the church's mission is never strengthened and blessed by God through doctrinal and ethical compromise. We can turn away from the easy "let's all get along" option. We can turn from the convenient approach that says, "As long as I can do my ministry, why should I bother with all this controversy." If we do something-be it church discipline or some kind of amicable separation-it will come with a cost. It will mean strained relationships. You will hear words like "witch hunt" and "homophobic." People will think you are mean and narrow. People will not believe you if you say you love gays and lesbians. They may consider you oppressive, repressive, and reactionary. But if the integrity of our denomination, the glory of the gospel, the truthfulness of the Bible, and the spiritual well-being of homosexual persons (and heterosexual for that matter) are at stake, then we cannot afford to take the easy path.

Why Can't We Agree to Disagree?

In the past the controversy surrounding homosexuality has often been cast as an "agree to disagree" issue. The biblical command to unity has been held high, but it not always been clear that true unity can only be found in the truth. We have been told that "mission comes first," but we have not stopped to think whether our mission is helped by undermining the gospel. Over and over it's been suggested-usually implicitly, sometimes explicitly-that the problem is not with the existence of two positions on this issue; the problem with those who distract us from more important work by insisting that there is only one faithful position.

This was the message we frequently heard from our former General Secretary. Wes Granberg-Michaelson was an effective leader in many ways and helped encourage church planting and evangelism, for which we should be thankful. But on this issue, unfortunately, he pushed an agree-to-disagree middle path. Whether he was talking about the need for dialogue or the need to stay away from divisive disciplinary proceedings, his message was consistent. "Our challenge," Granberg-Michaelson wrote in the Church Herald in the middle of the Kansfield gay marriage crisis, "is to keep our focus clearly on our mission. And then, if we renew our vows of fidelity, we can learn to argue while still holding hands" (Church Herald, February 2005, 14). Similarly, in his memoir Unexpected Destinations, Granberg-Michaelson concludes that the debate over homosexuality involves a minor issue that should not threaten our fellowship:

In the end, the church's debate over homosexuality revolves around a very narrow question. If a couple of the same sex are committed publicly to a monogamous, lifelong relationship, should they, in the privacy of their bedroom, be celibate or sexually expressive? I understand that there are different convictions around that matter. But what I don't understand is why those differences should rupture fellowship between brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

It seems completely mistaken that this narrow ethical difference become a church-dividing matter in the Anglican communion, or should alter how Rome has fellowship with historic Protestants, or should cause Lutherans to break their bonds of communion with one another, or should cause anyone to question whether they can maintain their vow to fellowship and unity in the Reformed Church in America. (223)

This is one way to view the controversy-same sex behavior is simply a small matter of personal consequence. But of course, it hardly would have been the conviction of Calvin or Luther or Ursinus or De Bres or virtually anyone else in Christendom before the twentieth century that two men or two women in a homoerotic relationship was only a "narrow ethical" matter concerning private expressions. More to the point, it's hard to fathom (impossible really) that the Lord Jesus and his Apostles would have considered sexual immorality such a trivial matter. I know this will sound strange, even offensive perhaps, but imagine if Jesus discovered that two of his disciples were having sex together in a committed monogamous relationship, do we really think Jesus-the holy Son of God and a first century Jew who never broke the Law and never questioned the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, would have tolerated, let alone celebrated, their actions?

I'm not trying to be inflammatory, but I do want to provoke you to think this through. Are we to suppose that if Peter started a church and ordained a gay couple as co-pastors that Paul would have thought, "Well, Jesus said we should be one. So no big deal." Does anyone honestly think that if we could take a time machine back to A.D. 60 and we found (what we certainly would not find) that Timothy and Titus were joined in a civil ceremony and now were sleeping together that Paul would have told the other churches "Relax, it's only an ethical issue"?

We can do all the mental gymnastics we want with word studies and the dialectics of trajectory hermeneutics, but at the end of the day it takes an extraordinary degree of historical re-invention to imagine the Apostles or the Church Fathers or the Reformers or Domine Van Raalte or Samuel Zwemer marching in gay parades and promoting homosexuality. If we "agree to disagree" on homosexuality and consider same-sex behavior nothing more than a narrow ethical decision, we are agreeing to disagree with the near unanimous consensus of our church for almost 400 years and the Church for virtually all of its history.

End of Article

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.