Monday, July 28, 2014

You're probably not a Christian


So 77% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.1  But, are 77% of Americans really Christians? No, not at all.   Even our current president, President Obama stated not long ago,"we are no longer a Christian nation." This is one of the few things that President Obama and I agree on. Many who call themselves Christians have never really embraced Jesus and instead are engaged in lip-service. Many will say, "I'm a Christian" but fail to actually be a Christian.  For example, a survey of Evangelical "Christians"  showed that 80% are engaged in sexual relationships before marriage 2 and overall only 3% of self-identified Christians have said that they actually submit themselves to God and his desire for their life. This means that 97% confess that they don't actually strive to follow and obey Jesus' words.  

This is very similar to a vegetarian who loves to eat hamburgers.  It's just not possible. If you eat meat you're not a vegetarian, no matter what you say. And if you engage in sin you're not a Christian, even if you insist that you are. I'm sorry to say it so bluntly, but that's just how it is. If you really are trusting Jesus you won't continue in sin. The Bible clearly says, "no one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God."  

So why do so many people call themselves Christians when they're really not?  Over the next few weeks, I'll examine the passages of Scripture that careless pastors have used to mislead millions of people (and possibly you) into thinking that they are Christians when they're not.

This week we begin with 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 

"But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not being merely human?"

In the above passage, Paul uses the words "people of the flesh" to refer to the Christians at Corinth but the King James version calls them "carnal."  This is important because this is how the idea of a "carnal Christian" came into existence.

The idea of a "carnal Christian" says that you can be a Christian without actually having to live for Jesus. No one can pinpoint exactly where the idea originated, but it was certainly popularized by Lewis Sperry Chafer and his book, "He that is Spiritual." In the first chapter of Chafer's book he sets out to prove that there are three different types of people in the world. He says,

"The Apostle Paul, by the Spirit, has divided the whole human family into three groups:
          (1) 'The "natural man," [the non-Christian]
          (2) the "carnal man," [a Christian that does NOT act like one]
          (3) the "spiritual" man. [a Christian that does act like one]"

The idea that a person can be a Christian, even though they don't act like one could not be farther from the truth. Mistaken men like Chafer suggest that when Paul called the Christians in Corinth "carnal" that he was saying that they were living in sin. But look closely, what exactly was the sin that they were engaged in? There was "jealousy and strife" because each person was trying to argue that they were a better Christian than most.  Those who learned and studied theology from Paul said, "we're better than all you guys because we learned from Paul" and those who learned from Apollos were saying the same; "we're better because we learned from Apollos."  There was no damning sin here.  They got caught up in trying to be a really good Christian and ended up falling into the sins of "pride and strife."  So, Paul writes them a letter and corrects them. In fact, the whole letter of 1 Corinthians is a corrective letter with Paul rebuking them over and over again.  But guess what?  They read his letter and they changed.  They saw that they were sinning and they were grieved and saddened, and so they repented of their sin.

In Paul's second letter to them, he writes, " For even if I made you grieve with my first letter, I do not regret it... As it is I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting, for you felt a godly grief."  So you see, even though Christians do sin, they don't "continue in sin." The only people that continue to sin without fighting it are those who, as the Bible puts it, "whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil." Or again, "those who practice sexual immorality shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven" or "those who get drunk shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven."  Or how about being a "lover of money"?  These things are what damn someone. These are not things that a true Christian can practice, and if he does practice them, then we have all the evidence we need that he or she does not belong to God.

So you see, there is no such thing as a "carnal Christian" just as there is no such thing as a beef-eating vegetarian. You have to be one or the other.  So, which are you? If I had to find out if you were a Christian or a sinner, and if you couldn't speak, and all I could do was watch how you lived, what would I say?  More importantly, what would Jesus say?

Perhaps 77% of Americans will profess to be a Christian, but if we go by what Jesus has said, then the number is much much lower than that.

Here's something you should watch.




Monday, July 21, 2014

Is your pastor teaching you to tithe? He shouldn't be.


Tithing hurts people. It really does. One one side of the tracks there are those who are simply poor and cannot afford to pay one-tenth of their income in a tithe, and so they struggle, fall deeper into debt and some even lose their home. Tithing hurts these people.

On the other side of the tracks, there are those who make several hundred thousand dollars per year and can afford to give much more than ten percent. In fact, they should give more than ten percent (depending upon each individual's circumstance) and yet they only give ten percent, and so the rich are hurt too, believing that God is pleased with them when he's not.

So why do people who can't afford to give ten percent strive to give ten percent, hurting themselves to do so, while those who can afford to give more simply settle on giving ten percent?

The answer is found in Malachi 3:8-12

"Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts."

When the subject of tithe is brought up, this passage is usually the first to be mentioned. One person will say to another, "you don't want to be guilty of robbing God do you? So you better give your tithe." And so the rich and poor alike are taught to believe that God wants them to give ten percent of their income. But, let's look into this passage and examine it with some depth of understanding and see what's really going on here. Does Malachi really teach that God wants 10% of  our income?

Here's the background. The Lord had given Israel laws regarding what they were to tithe.  Each year the Lord had commanded them to give two different tithes. So they were commanded to give 20% per year.  In Malachi's day, the Israelites were not obeying the Lord's command to give the necessary 20% per year and so God rebuked them through Malachi. Twenty percent may sound like a lot, but the Lord also commanded them to give 30% every third year. So in year 1 and year 2 they were commanded to give two tithes, and in year three they were commanded to give three tithes. They were not obeying these commands, so God sent Malachi to rebuke them and remind them of the tithes that the Lord had commanded them to give. Let's look at them.

Every year, the people were required to give 10% to the tribe of Levi. The Tribe of Levi was not given any land and was not allowed to make a living doing anything else. All the other tribes in Israel were given land as an inheritance, but not the tribe of Levi.  In fact, God commanded they could not purchase land or own property, or make money in any other way. Their land was to be given to them by the people, (similar to the modern version of a parsonage.) The Levitical tithe then was for the purposes of allowing the Levites to provide for themselves and their families since God had not given them any land, and had commanded that they not make a profit in any way whatsoever. In fact, Jews to this day do not tithe since there is no temple nor Levitical preisthood to support. (See Numbers 18:21-28 for more detail on the Levitical tithe)

Every year, the people were also commanded to throw a huge party. Everyone was required to give 10% of their increase in order to fund to the celebration. This "party tithe" was also to be shared with the Levites. There was no refusing to send an invitation to a Levite, even if you didn't like him.  So the people would all gather in one place and bring a tithe and have the biggest party ever... every year! God had commanded them to feast on "oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves, and you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household." It seems to me that if the church should require its people to give any tithe, I think it should be this one, but that's just my opinion. (See Deuteronomy 14:22-29 for more information on the Festival tithe)

Every third year, the people were required to bring a tithe for the poor, for orphans, for widows, and for immigrants.  So on this third year, the tithe was to be 30%.  (See Deut. 26:12-19)

There is also a fourth tithe taken by the king, so that would have made tithing a much higher percentage than 30%. But I'm not including this in my calculations since Israel was not supposed to have a king in the first place.  (1 Samuel 8:14-17)

So if we don't include the king's tithe, then we end up with a yearly average of about 23%. This is not steep and it's not surprising. This was for the support of the Levites and Priests, upkeep of the temple and all who worked in it, the poor, the immigrant, and the orphans and widows.

When Malachi rebukes the people of Israel for not giving their tithe, the amount is somewhere between 20% and 30% per year. But notice that Malachi does not stop there. He says that they are robbing God because they are not giving their tithes OR their "contributions."  The Israelites were commanded not only to give the 20%-30% per year in tithes, but they were also commanded to give contributions. As we've seen so far, the tithe would go to support people, while the contribution on the other hand was to be an offering that went to the Lord and would be offered up on the altar. So not only were they required to give the tithe to support the ministers, the poor, the immigrants and widows, but they were required to give offerings straight to God. This puts the overall percentage far above 30%.

What pastors have done today is affirm that all those rules and regulations have been done away with and so we're no longer required to give a poor tithe, or a party tithe or mandated offerings to God. But then they turn around and resurrect the idea of the Levitical tithe and leave it standing on its own. For the life of me I can't figure out how that's possible?  How can we simply pick and choose which tithes we want to resurrect and which ones we don't?  And if we can pick and choose, then why would we not resurrect the party tithe?... but I digress.  The point is, we can't pick and choose which ones we want to resurrect. They're all gone and nothing remains, but if they are not all gone, then they all remain. We can't take some, leave some.  We either have to obey ALL of God's laws on tithing or we have to leave them behind in the Old Covenant, where they belong.

But as it is, the pastor usually teaches his church that giving the "Levitical tithe" is necessary. Then they identify themselves as the new Levites since the Levites were the "pastors" and priests of Israel. This makes some sense. After all, pastors make their living off of teaching the word of God just like the Levites did. But are pastors of today just like the Levites?  Not exactly. Pastors today are able to own land, they are able to invest their money, they are allowed to make a profit. The Levites were not allowed to do any of these things, which is why God commanded a tithe to be given to them.

Some might say, "But still, they are similar so shouldn't we give ten percent to the pastors?" No, the New Testament has very clear passages concerning what we should do with our money, and even teaches us what is to be given to pastors. In fact, when Paul writes to Timothy he says, "Let the elders who rule well be considered of double honor (double payment) especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,' and 'The laborer is worthy of the tithe.'  OK, I'm kidding it doesn't really say tithe, I just made that up, it says wages, "the laborer is worthy of his wages." The only way that you can come to the conclusion that a pastor should receive a tithe is by making it up just as I did above.  The word "wages" is an agreed upon amount for a specific work to be done. It doesn't mean tithe. It means wages. Before you go to work somewhere you first come to an agreement of "how much work will I do? and What will I get paid to do it?"  These are wages. They change.  If you do more work, you get more wages.  If you do less work, you get less wages (at least that's how it's supposed to work). A pastor is entitled to agree upon a wage for specific work, and Paul says that the one that preaches and teaches should get double what the other pastors are getting. Although, I don't think that Paul means a literal double. I think he simply means that they should be paid extra-well.

So there you have it.  Malachi is not teaching that we have to give 10% to anyone. The Israelites had to give tithes and offerings. It was the law.  They were breaking the law that God had given them. God sent Malachi to rebuke them for their lawbreaking.  Are you under the law? If you are, then you have to keep all of it. You don't get to pick and choose.

Nothing.  You don't HAVE to give anything. Pretty simple really.  You give what you WANT to give. So, the man who makes $1 Million per year and only wants to give 10% and desires to keep the $900,000 for himself is free to do that. Of course he will stand before God in judgment for all that he does, and does not do.  What about the single mom with 4 kids who makes $25,000 per year?  Should she and her kids go hungry on some days so that she can afford to give the "required" $2,500?  No.  She is free to give as much or as little as she wants to. If she decides to live on beans and rice because she wants to be able to give 8%, then she has given more than the millionaire who lives lavishly and gives 10% and God sees that.  The poor woman giving 8% will be honored on the day of judgment and the millionaire who gave 10% will not be. Remember, God's pretty smart y'all. You can't fool Him, He looks right into the heart. He knows if you're giving because you're rich and it's easy to give 10% and you won't even miss it. He also knows if you're giving all you can afford to give simply because you love him (even if all you can afford to give is 5%).

There is no tithing law. Please listen to me. Please be aware that the secrets of your heart are being judged right now by God in how much you give or don't give. And he's not judging by percent, he's judging you based on what, or whom you love, and we all know that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Will Christians be Raptured? No. Not how you think.

THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD BIBLE VERSES EVER!  Part 2. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

It looks like it's time for another Left Behind movie. This time there is a lot of production money backing the movie and the starring role goes to Nicolas Cage. But, it does have a lot in common with the original Left Behind movies, namely, that it is completely divorced from what the Bible teaches regarding a rapture. 

The so called "rapture" of the church is described in only one passage of Scripture, First Thessalonians 4:16-17. Of course some would point to other Scriptures that promise protection from tribulation, but this is the only mention of Christians being taken from the earth. Any promise of protection from tribulation doesn't lend any sort of idea of Christians being taken from the earth. (see last post) So 1 Thessalonians 4 is the only place that actually mentions Christians being taken.

In the city of Thessalonica the Christians were worried.  Their brothers and sisters in Christ were dying and those who remained alive were worried that when Jesus returned, their deceased loved ones would miss out on salvation because, well... they were dead.  

Paul intends to fix their misunderstanding and give them hope so that they wouldn't worry about their deceased brothers and sisters in Christ. 

So, with this in mind, Paul writes, 

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as those who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord. Encourage one another with these words.

So there you have it.  The Thessalonians are worried that their dead brothers and sisters in Christ have missed out on salvation because they died before Christ returned and Paul responds by saying, actually, those who are dead in Christ will rise first, their salvation will come first. He says, "we who are alive will meet them in the air with the Lord." So, not only have they not missed out on their salvation, but they will be the ones who will be partakers of salvation first, they are those who will be with the Lord first and then we who are alive will join them in the clouds. Don't be sad for them, Paul says, be hopeful for them, they will end up with a glorified body before those who are still alive when Jesus returns. 

Now, there are two important points that I want to make concerning this passage. If you are like me, and you probably are, you can't read this passage without thinking that Paul is referring to the rapture of the church as in the Left Behind, people disappearing, Kirk Cameron (or Nicolas Cage) sort of rapture. We've been so bombarded with this theory for so long that we can't see anything else in this passage. But, if you will suspend what you've been taught for a few minutes and allow this passage of Scripture to speak to you as it is and not as a confirmation of what you have been told to believe, then perhaps you may see what Paul is really saying. 

Of foremost importance concerning this passage are the three things that accompany Jesus during his return. Paul distinctly says that Jesus will descend from heaven with:
A. A cry of command (some translations say a shout of command, I like shout better but go ahead and pick what suits yourself)
B. The voice of an archangel.
C. The sound of a trumpet. 

 When you watch the Left Behind movies or read the books, the one thing that is inexplicably (and conveniently) portrayed is a quiet, secret, silent, mysterious rapture of Christians. Notice that according to Paul's description it's not quiet. It's not secret, and it's not mysterious. In Paul's description, the people of the earth are not left wondering, "what happened to my loved ones?" There's a shout, a voice of an archangel and a trumpet blast. These three things are consistent with what the Bible depicts as the last day; as in the sun doesn't rise again sort of last day; as in the end of the world sort of last day; as in the judgment of God sort of last day; the "no more days after this" sort of last day.  

Let's look at them a little closer.


 Paul says, Jesus will return with a cry of command. This is consistent with what Jesus said in John 5:28-29

"An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."

The shout of command is the shout that brings men out of their tombs. Of course here in 1 Thessalonians Paul doesn't mention the unbelievers coming from their tombs because he's only trying to comfort the Thessalonians regarding what will happen to their dead brothers and sisters in Christ. But according to Jesus in John 5, the day that the believers come from their tombs is the same day that the unbelievers come from their tombs, and head straight to judgment. 


Paul says that Jesus will return with the voice of an archangel. Again, this is consistent with the last day. In Matthew 24:30, Jesus says "then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he shall send fourth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 

So again, we see that the angels are present with Jesus on the last day as he comes to gather his church. Also notice that Jesus says that ALL the tribes of the earth see Him.  Like Paul says, "loud shout, voice of angel, and trumpet blast."  It's not a secret rapture. 


Paul says that Jesus will return with the sound of a trumpet. We've already seen in Matthew 24 that when Jesus returns with his angels, to gather his people, he will also return with a trumpet. But we can also look to 1 Corinthians 15:51-54

"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. For this corruptible must put on inccoruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then sall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory."

Clearly, when the trumpet sounds, and the dead are raised, this is the last day, not a secret silent rapture.  

So when Paul describes the resurrection of the dead believers and the changing of the living believers in 1 Thessalonians 4, he's describing the happenings of the last day. A shout of command brings people out of the grave, the voice of an archangel is sent out to gather God's people, and the sound of the trumpet declares the arrival of the King of Kings. Again, not a secret rapture of the church, but the last day.

I honestly don't know how anyone can read 1 Thessalonians 4 and walk away thinking that there is going to be some secret, silent, rapture of the church?  I just don't get it... except,I do get it. I do understand, because I was told by men wiser and smarter than me that I should expect a silent and secret rapture of the church, so the many times that I read this passage I just continued believing what I was told to believe. But clearly, what is written here is not a secret rapture but the final day of Jesus' return when death is swallowed up in victory and we all have glorified bodies. 

Now. That was my first point, and yes it was quite long. I'm sorry. My second point is much shorter and much better. 

My second point is this:

Notice closely what Paul says about meeting Jesus in the clouds. 

"Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord." 

Paul gives us a huge clue by saying that we will "meet the Lord in the air."  Greek is a fantastic
language. It has words that have very specific and precise meanings. The word that we translate into English as "meet" (apantesis) is one of those words. The Romans had popularized the word in reference to the return of a victorious commander entering the city. As the Commander returned home, some from the crowd would go out to "meet" him and accompany him into the city. Rome had popularized the term in the first century so that it strictly meant "to escort and accompany a dignitary."

 When the delegation would "meet" the important individual coming to the city, the individual did not turn around and go back from where he came and take the delegation with him, but he would "meet" the delegation, be greeted by them, and they would all continue together to the city that he was planning on visiting. The best way to understand it therefore is to use the English word "welcome."  We will welcome Him in the air, and we will accompany him to earth. Naturally, when a welcoming party goes out to welcome a visitor the visitor doesn't turn around and take the welcoming party back home with him, but the welcoming party turns around and heads back from where they came along with the visitor that they went out to welcome. 

Just to show that "welcome" is a better English translation than "meet"let's look at the three times that the word apantesis is used in Scripture.  

1. "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet  the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. for when the foolish took their lamps, they
took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all become drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, "here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet (apantesis) him. Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." But the wise answered saying, ""since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves."  And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward other virgins came also saying, "Lord, lord, open to us" But he answered, "Truly, I say to you, I do not know you. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." 

The virgins go to "meet" the bridegroom because he is on his way to the wedding supper and when they meet him, he does not turn around and go back home from where he came. He continues on to the wedding supper. That's what "apantesis" means, "to go out and welcome someone" before they reach their destination. Clearly, Jesus says that the virgins "go in with him" they don't go back with him. The bridegroom didn't travel all that way just to turn around and go home. The virgins "welcome" him and then go into the wedding supper. 

The second time that this word is used is in Acts 28 when Paul is on his way to Rome. When some of the Roman Christians heard that Paul was on his way to Rome they went all the way out to the Forum of Appius to meet (apantesis) him. Now when they met him, Paul did not turn back around and take them back to where he came from. His destination was Rome and even though he took such great joy in the fact that some Christians had come so far from Rome to meet him, he still continued on his way. They welcomed Paul and they accompanied Paul for the rest of his journey to Rome, they most certainly didn't go back to Puteoli. 

The third use of apantesis is in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 when all the Christians apantesis him in the air.  Now when we meet him in the air, he's not going to turn around and take us back to heaven, he's on his way somewhere. Where is Jesus going?  Paul says that Jesus is "descending from heaven" and we will apatesis him in the air.  Well, if he's descending from heaven, we can assume that his destination is earth. If Jesus turned around and took us back to heaven, then the word apantesis gets turned on its head and Paul's words lose their meaning. Clearly, we meet Jesus just as the wise virgins meet the bridegroom. We meet him before he arrives and then we continue on with him until he reaches the wedding supper. We apantesis him in the air. 

Again, this is consistent with what the Bible teaches about the last day when Jesus returns. Paul says, "and so we shall forever be with the Lord."  Where does Jesus plan to be for the rest of eternity? Earth. Just read Revelation 21.

"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more." 

First Thessalonians 4 could not be clearer. This is not a description of a secret rapture of the church, this is a description of Jesus' return with a shout of command calling men from their graves, and angels gathering his people from the four corners of the earth, and the trumpet announcing that the King has come, and his people meeting him in the sky as he comes so that we may joyfully welcome him and accompany him to our world and partake in the marriage supper of the lamb where death and pain will be no more. Now you see why Paul ends his instruction with "Encourage one another with these words. "

The fact of the matter is, the Bible nowhere teaches anything like a rapture that you've been told to believe in. 

You must be ready! Jesus will return suddenly and if you're caught in your sin you will be condemned and if you're caught serving Jesus Christ, you will live. It's all gonna happen in one single day and it will be suddenly. You must be ready.


Those who believe in a secret and silent rapture argue that the shout of command, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet blast will only be heard by Christians and thus it will be a silent rapture. But where did the silent rapture proponent get the idea that the rapture would be silent in the first place? You certainly don't get it from our passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Nor do you get it from the only other "rapture" passage in Scripture (Matthew 24:30-31, quoted above) where Jesus sends out his angels to "gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to another." Even in that passage Jesus says that "all the tribes of the earth shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds."

So of the only two passages that could even remotely present an idea of a rapture (Matthew 24:30 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) we have a world wide vision of Jesus coming in the clouds, trumpet blaring, shouts command bringing the dead up from the grave and the booming voice of the archangel. Neither passage describes a silent rapture. So again, where would one get the idea of a silent rapture?  One could only invent the idea.

So, if you start with the idea of a silent rapture and THEN you go to the Bible then you can figure out ways to make the idea fit the Scripture and you have to say things like, "only the believers will be able to hear the trumpet."  But where does that idea come from?  It certainly isn't in the Bible, but that idea is necessary to make the first idea (silent rapture) work. So if the idea of a silent rapture and and the idea that Christians only will be able to see and hear at Jesus' return didn't come from the Bible, then where did they come from? Well, no one is quite sure, but the fact that they didn't come from the Bible is enough for me to know that they can't be depended upon.

Some others who promote the idea of a rapture argue that the word anatesis simply means to meet and doesn't mean "to welcome, or to escort."  After all they say, "what's the point of going up in the air if we're coming back here? We might as well wait here till He gets here." Of course, that's one way to look at it, but then why did the Christian brothers in Rome go out to meet Paul so far away from the city?  Why didn't they just wait there in Rome for Paul to show up? Or why did the virgins go out to meet the bridegroom why didn't they just wait for him to show up to the feast? The whole point of anatesis is the idea that there is a reception of a dignitary by a people who wish to welcome, accompany, and escort the victor as he returns to receive his glory. They go out to meet him in celebration and to accompany him to his destination. If we were returning to heaven with Jesus then Paul would have said that Jesus was coming to antatesis his people and escort them back to heaven. But Jesus isn't coming out to anatesis us, Paul says that we are going up to meet and escort him.

Clearly, 1 Thess. 4:16-17 teach a very dramatic, triumphant arrival of Jesus Christ into the world where his people meet and accompany him in his victory. Encourage one another with these words.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How DC Talk, (and probably you) get it wrong.


Starting this week, I've decided to do something that I've wanted to do for many years, address some of the most misused and twisted passages in Scripture.  As a first installment, we'll look at Matthew 24:40-42 which reads, 

"Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming."

When I was a young believer in youth group, I remember listening to DC Talk, one of the most if not the most popular Christian band at the time. A song that I heard many times was "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" which was based upon these very verses in Matthew. It's a song that paints a picture of the rapture of the Christians and it laments the fact that there were those who were not ready for the rapture and were "Left Behind" (just like in the movies).   

Here's a sample verse, 

Two men walking up a hill,
One disappears and one left standing still
I wish we'd all been ready
There's no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you've been left behind. 

It is a very good song with a catchy tune, peaceful instrumentals and rich content. If you'd like to listen to it, you can click HERE.  The only problem with the song is really the fact that it rips the Bible verses out of context and communicates the exact opposite of what Jesus actually said.  Yes, the exact opposite. It's not like they came close to understanding what Jesus said and got it wrong, but they, along with millions of Christians, understand these verses to mean the exact opposite of what Jesus said. 

In order to fully understand the verses in question we have to go back and listen to all of what Jesus said. 

If we start at the beginning of the passage, we find that Jesus is answering a question that his disciples asked him, namely, "what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" 

In verse 36, Jesus begins to answer that question saying, 

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

So, here's Jesus' answer to the question, "what will be the sign of your coming?"
1. No one knows.
2. It will be just like the day Noah's flood began.
3. People will be marrying and having parties and living life and be completely unaware. 
4. Some will be taken away (by the flood and destroyed) and some will be left to live.

And immediately Jesus says, "and so it will be with the coming of the Son of Man... one will be taken away, and one will be left."  

Notice that Jesus is directly comparing the day of his return with the day of judgment of the flood of Noah. In Noah's day, those who were judged were "taken away" while those who survived the judgment were "left behind."

The pattern is all too clear. In the day of Noah God sent his judgment and "took away" all of the unbelievers and "left behind" those who believed (Noah and his family).  In the day of my return and judgement, Jesus says, it will be the same, sinners will be taken away and the believers will be left behind.  

So instead of teaching a rapture of the church, Jesus is teaching a destruction of the unbelievers. 

If we could go back and change the lyrics to "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" would would have to say,
"there's no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you've been left behind taken away"

Here in Matthew 24, we find no evidence of some secret rapture of the church, but we see the removal of God's enemies from the earth and the permanency of his bride. 

Next week, we'll look at the most important Bible verse concerning "the rapture" and see how the church has misunderstood that one as well. In fact, it's the very verse that led men to invent the word rapture. 

A more detailed argument of Matthew 24 is offered below for those who like to get into the details. 

When Jesus speaks of those "taken" in the day of Noah, he uses the word airĂ³ which literally means to be taken away. However, when Jesus  speaks of those "taken away" on the day of his return he uses the word Paralambano  which means, "to be taken away to be with someone."  

This has led some to contend that since Paralambano means to be taken to be with someone that Jesus must be saying that those who are taken away at Jesus' return are "taken away to be with Jesus" and and those who are left behind are those who are unbelievers. They point to the fact that the word paralambano is often used to refer to Jesus "taking" his disciples to be with him. For example, in John 14:3 Jesus tells his disciples, "and if I go to prepare a place for you I will come again and receive (paralambano) you unto myself that where I am, you may be also." So it would seem that those who are paralambano'ed (isn't that the past tense of paralambano?)  are taken to be with Jesus. 

However, those who make that argument ignore two very important points.

First, the word Paralambano has many meanings. It is commonly used to mean taken away to be with a friend, and it is also commonly used to mean taken away to be judged and punished. For example, in Matthew 27:27, Jesus is paralambano'ed to be with the soldiers who beat him. Or in John 19:16, the soldiers paralambano'ed  Jesus to be crucified.

So we see that paralambano can mean either to take to be with a friend or lover, or it can mean to take away to be punished. Which definition fits best with the context of Matthew 24:40?  

This leads us to the second most important point that the pro-rapture group usually ignores, context. In the context of the passage Jesus clearly says that his return will be just like the days of Noah. Let's read it again, just so that it's fresh in our minds. 

"and they were unaware until the flood came and took them away, and so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left."

OK. Let's read it again. This time, I'm going to take out the phrase, "two men will be in the field."

"and they were unaware until the flood came and took them away, and so will be the coming of the Son of Man...  one will be taken and one left."  

So in the immediate context, Jesus is showing that those who are taken are those who are being judged and punished and those who are left, are those who are being spared from the punishment. Thus, the understanding of paralambano that we should have is not "taken to be with a friend" but instead, "taken to be punished," just like those taken in the flood.  

But what about the broader context?  If we take the context out to it's broader level then we'll remember what question Jesus is answering in the first place. In verse 3, Jesus' disciples ask him, "what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?" 

This should immediately indicate to us that Jesus is not talking about what happens shortly before the end of the age (like some sort of secret rapture). Instead, he is answering the question, what happens on the very last day? ("the day of your coming and the end of the age")  When we understand this, we must recognize that again, Jesus is not speaking of taking friends to be with him, but instead taking unbelievers to be judged. Of course we know that on the very last day, Jesus will judge and punish all unbelievers. So using the broad context, we see that the understanding of paralambano that we should have is again, "taken to be judged." 

Both the immediate context and the broader context point to the fact that paralambano is used in the sense of being punished, not in the sense of being brought together with a friend. 

Thus, all points of context agree with one another and with the Biblical narrative as a whole. On the day of the end of the age, Jesus will return to be with his bride (which was left behind) and those who are not believers are taken away to be punished. 

Now we can see why Jesus finishes the way that he does. 

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"

This is most certainly a picture of the last day when sinners are destroyed.