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Third Party Testimony:

We Believe God and His Word Not People

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Question #1:

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your kind words. I have had some biblical questions since my teens that I cannot find an answer to. I am sure someday in the world to come I will know it. None of these questions deal with the essentials, so not knowing the answer, I suppose is not important. But I figured I will run them by you anyway.

1. In Genesis there are three accounts (two with Abraham and one with Isaac) where the men deny their wives for fear of their lives. The wives are taken by the local king and God punishes the King. If I gave you something that God told me not to give to anyone else and you took it without knowing the whole story, whose fault is it? Should I not be the one that is punished for disobedience?

2. Similar story in 1 Kings 13; the man of God is tricked by another prophet saying that an angel of God told him to come to his house. Again the one punished is the one who is tricked and not the one who caused the problem.

These questions may seem like coming from a bible sceptic. In truth, I know the bible is true although I don't have all the answers.

In Christ,

Response #1:

Happy to hear from you again. These are often considered "problem passages"; I'll give you my quick take, but please do feel free write back about any of this:

1) Even great believers make the mistake of not trusting the Lord under pressure. It is certainly occasionally sanctified to use deceit when protecting the lives of the innocent from the evil, for example (cf. Rahab's protecting of the spies in Jericho) but these instances you mention seem otherwise. Consider:

Your first father (i.e., Abraham) sinned, And your mediators have transgressed against Me.
Isaiah 43:27 NKJV

Please see the links:

Is it ever justifiable to lie?

Is it ever Justifiable to Tell a Lie (part 2)?

2) The prophet who lied was not told by God to do XYZ, but the other prophet was given very specific orders directly from the Lord and he failed to carry them out. He didn't obey orders, nor did he seek God's counsel after he heard the opposite story from someone who was not God (nor reading from God's Word). He believed a human report from an untested source and did what was convenient rather than sticking with what God had told him to do a real lesson for us all here. There are plenty of wolves in sheep's clothing out there who will tell us with bald-face that what they say is "God's Word" or "a message from the Lord" when they are only making it up out of whole cloth. We need to believe the Lord, His Word, and those who have been tested in these matters, rather than any third party, even if and perhaps especially if they have a godly appearance and claim to have received their message "from Him". See the link: "The old prophet who lied.".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Dear Sir,

I have enjoyed reading your articles and have benefited spiritually from them. I would like your help in determining whether what this man http://www.bethelministries.com is teaching the truth or not. Many of his teachings I find scary and confusing E.g. that most true Christians are not going to be saved, that repentance is what saves, to be a disciple you have to give away all your possessions and that if you are not a disciple you will not be filled with the holy spirit and will likely apostatize, the fact that Adam was not saved but Eve was as she ate from the tree of life and his teaching on mono beings. I have not come across any teaching like this and the man claims to be taught by Jesus and has received visions. I really do not know what to think. I have emailed others to try and help me about this but they have only quickly viewed the website and gave me a quick not really helpful answer. This whole situation has really messed me up. I try and stay clear of the website but out of fear I keep returning as I do not know if it is false or true. I am also spiritually weak after a period of doubt, depression, backsliding and trouble with other religions and fear that I am beyond repentance/unpardonable sin trouble. Sorry about all this Sir, From a young teenage struggling Christian

Response #2:

Good to make your acquaintance. As to your question and comments, I do understand how you find yourself tempted to return to this place you know in your heart of hearts is not right. Guilt is a powerful emotion and the devil and his minions (including all cults) make very good use of this vulnerability in any and all who are manifesting such feelings. I would hope that you would see that some of these teaching and things you report are not only contrary to the goodness, the grace, and the forgiveness of God, but also quite ridiculous and impossible. Has anyone ever given up all their possessions in the history of the world? Has anyone ever been told to do so by the Lord? The answer to both questions is a resounding no although many false teachers (deliberately) misinterpret passages such as Matthew 19:21 in order to enslave potential victims. On that particular passage (which seems to be the prime referent), let me point out that 1) Jesus does not say "all" possessions; 2) the purpose of the (potential) selling off of this man's estate would have been to relieve this man of the worries of this world when Jesus wanted him instead to follow along with Him and the disciples in this unique ministry of the first advent (note: Jesus is in heaven at present; now He says for us to follow Luke 22:36); and 3) this person troubling you is not Jesus. Are you supposed to sell even your clothing and the fillings in your teeth and walk around naked? Does that seem reasonable? More to the point, I guarantee you that Mr. Bethel has not done this (websites require money, for example, to maintain; he is wearing glasses and a shirt and seems well-enough fed in his picture); I can also guarantee you that he would be very pleased to have you sell all you own . . . and give it to him.

The false doctrines, heresies and fallacies on his site are so voluminous that it would require many weeks to properly catalog and explain them all. That is an apologetic function (not the purpose of the Ichthys ministry), so let me take just one other area which ought to be sufficient to justify throwing out the entire set of "teachings". Mr. Bethel says that we shouldn't trust anyone who "has not been filled with the Holy Spirit, who has not been anointed with the Holy Spirit, and who has not met Jesus' three conditions to become His true disciple". This is more than enough for me personally to recognize swill masquerading as truth when I see it:

1) "Filling" with the Spirit for New Covenant believers is a biblical way of saying that the person in question is under the Spirit's influence . . . as we all should be. It is not some magical, special condition (there is a special unction of the Spirit which takes place in Old Covenant situations, but this is because not all believers then had the Spirit indwelling them from the point of salvation as all believers in the Church do). See the link: "The Filling of the Spirit"

2) All who become believers today have the Spirit ("His unction"). This has been true since the day of Pentecost. It does not require some special additional prayer or experience or discipline:

And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
Romans 8:9b NIV

This is as simple as it gets: Anyone without the Spirit is not a believer, because all believers have the Spirit (as distinguished from affected, hyper-emotional behavior which is often claimed to be spiritual but is not as in false tongues; see the link). To turn it around, please don't ever trust anyone who, even though they know you are a believer, wants to try to convince you that you don't have the Spirit because that is antithetical to Romans 8:9. See the link: "The universal nature of the gift of the Spirit"

3) I looked but I could not find Mr. Bethel's "three conditions". If they are so important, why not put them right on the front page (with supporting scripture)? This is classic cult technique, namely, to withhold critical information, keeping it "secret" and, even when it is disclosed, to make it fuzzy enough that the victim is always thirsty for more. It strikes me that what is really bothering you about all this is not that you have been confronted with things that you believe are true and don't want to do them, but that even with all the time you have spent with his "ministry", you are still not sure of what it is exactly you are supposed to do, whether or not you have "really done it", or how to have some confidence that you are now "safe and OK". A cult will never give you that satisfaction, because your fear, guilt, and dis-ease is exactly the "hook" that keeps you coming back for more (and offering up your money, service, and adulation). Please see the links: "Classic Cult Techniques", "Witnessing: Cults and Christianity I", and "Witnessing: Cults and Christianity II")

I would also hope that it would be clear to any and all Christians with a modicum of "Christian common sense" through the Spirit that Jesus is not here physically present on earth at the moment, and that He is not teaching anyone personally that is why He gave us the Spirit and the Bible (cf. Jn.16:28 with Jn.16:7). Anyone can make any sort of outlandish claim, but that does not make it true (it amazes how almost every truly wacky cult-leader I have ever heard of has actually "seen Jesus" and gotten instructions "directly from Him" and of course their testimonies never agree). One individual recently informed me that Jesus had "appeared three times" to him one time more than to Solomon and two times more than to the apostle Paul!

Christians, in addition to be "harmless as doves", are also instructed to be "wise as serpents" (Matt.10:16; cf. Rom.16:19; 1Cor.14:20; Prov.14:18) which means that we are not to trust what people tell us if it does not comply with the truth of scripture. Please see these links:

Beware of third party reports I

Beware of third party reports II

Beware of third party reports III

Beware of third party reports IV

Beware of third party reports V

As I say, these other heresies you report would be laughable if they weren't causing you (and not doubt others too) serious spiritual headaches. I am happy to treat them individually if you wish, but I do hope that the above (in tandem with the links; BB 3A: Anthropology, for example, treats Adam and Eve . . . biblically) will be sufficient to prove that this person's "ministry" is not of God, that he is making it all up out of whole-clothe, and that you are not only within your rights to stay away . . . but that this is what the Lord would have you do:

Stay away from anything that [even] looks [like] evil.
1st Thessalonians 5:22

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

Dear Bob,

I cannot thank you enough for your help. I feel that I now have reason to stay away from the website that had kept drawing me back as you correctly put out of fear which at times got quite intense. I suppose his claims that most Christians where apostate / going to be and that he had claimed to be taught by God, where the things that were troubling me the most. (plus his previous claim that He asked the Holy spirit to strike him dead if he was teaching any thing false, that really got me but he subsequently removed that). Again I cannot thank you enough, others have not really helped me at all and there was very little research on the man online which I felt was surprising considering the prominence of his ministry. I know others have been troubled like me out of fear. I will continue to use your fantastic website as I grow in my Christian life which has not been great but with HIS help I will overcome.

Thank you again from one who is very relieved.

Response #3:

You're most welcome!

Feel free to write back any time.

One other point worth mentioning here, especially in regard to the "sell you possessions and give them to me" mantra which is typical of almost all cults, is that the very difficultness of the command has a certain appeal. When told to wash in the Jordan seven times by Elisha, Naaman the Syrian took offense because it was too easy; but as his servant correctly concluded, he would have gladly done "some hard thing". Likewise, Paul reprimands the Corinthians for disrespecting him for being loving towards them while they were revering false teachers who were abusing them:

In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!
2nd Corinthians 11:20-21a

Why these things are so has everything to do with human nature, stroking our arrogance on the one hand (we must be special since we have to do such hard things), and appealing to our collective innate desire to want things to be more simple than they are (and anyone who tells such bald-faced lies must be telling the simple truth). But in our heart of hearts we do know that following people instead of following the Lord and His truth is only going to get us into serious trouble.

In hopes of your continuing and growing spiritual stability in the truth of Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I've heard many bible teachers who insist that God exists outside of time. I'm thinking that this may be the case, but I can't find any bible verse that backs this up. I also wanted to ask you about these entities who abduct people. This has been scoffed at and I find it interesting how Christians think this is amusing and laugh at those who speak on this subject. There is a highly reliable person who claims to have had contact with these entities (known as gray aliens). He said they can move through dimension and even move across the universe quickly. He even said that their technology has made it so that they have conquered death. He then said that they are the greatest tricksters in the universe; that they can put thoughts in your head and make you believe anything. They communicate telepathically and walk though walls and solid matter. These entities are making hybrids (have of them and half human). They give the message that humans are destroying the earth with biological weapons and other things. These beings want us to evolve to the next level and be a part of some "galactic groups). There's just too many people who claim to have these experiences, even a large amount of Christians. What's interesting is that when Christians encounter these entities, they disappear when they ask them to leave "in the name of Jesus". What are these entities? are they related to fallen angels or the nephilim? Or part of the "strong delusion" that will come in the last days?

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #4:

On God's existence, absolutely He is independent of time and space. Time can only exist within the material universe and the material universe cannot exist without time. These are both inventions by God for our benefit giving His free-willed image-of-God creatures an environment in which to exist and to make choices for Him (or refuse to do so). If God were not existent outside of time and space, then He would not be God (God would be whoever created the universe in that case it came from somewhere!). As to verses, consider:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1 NIV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
John 1:1-3 NIV

"Beginning" necessarily refers to sequence, that is, to time. So in order for these verses to be true (and of course they are true), God would have had to exist before He made the heavens and the earth, the only place where there is any time which of course He did and does.

As to your other set of questions, let me assure you without humor that there are no aliens (see the link). The only sentient creatures in the universe with free will are human beings and angels. And God created them all. There are no abductions, but there are indeed all manner of deceptions abroad in the world today, possibly more than at any previous time in history (another indication of the impending end). If the most reliable source in the world told me something I knew from scripture could not be true, I would not believe it. The only source I believe regardless of what my eyes see or ears hear or feelings feel is the Word of God. There are innumerable reasons why someone who seems to be a "good and reliable person" might not be telling the truth and we will never be able to figure them all out. That is not necessary, however, as long as we believe the Bible and the Spirit's testimony to scripture regardless of any human testimony to the contrary. Here are a few important links on that:

Beware of third party reports I

Beware of third party reports II

Beware of third party reports III

Beware of third party reports IV

Beware of third party reports V

Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

G'Day brother!

Hope your keeping well.

When you get a chance watch the video below, and let me know what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlsZuB0OgWQ

God Bless

Response #5:

Good to hear from you as always, my friend!

I watched some of this (apologies for not spending an entire hour on it). As I often say about such things, Christians are by nature good-hearted people, and they tend to believe what others tell them, especially if the "others" are (or at least claim to be) Christians and most particularly if the "others" tell them things which are spiritually interesting. My standard advice in these situations applies to this report and video: as followers of Jesus Christ we believe the truth He has given us in His holy Word. If we are told something by a third party that agrees 100% with what is in His Word, then we are happy to accept the truth of what we are told in principle. But if what we are told does not agree with the truths of the Bible, even in part, then we are justified and right to ignore it. We don't have to get nasty about it, but we do have to be wise as serpents, even as we maintain our dove-like innocence (Matt.10:16; cf. Rom.16:19; 1Cor.14:20). Truth is the great divider here. The world is aflood with third-party reports which contradict scripture, which undermine scripture, which subtly twist scripture, which add to scripture, and which claim superiority to scripture. How do I know this girl really "died for 23 hours"? I wasn't there. How do I know that the Lord actually talked to her personally, showed her all these things, told her all these things? I wasn't there. What I do know is that many of the things she reports are not consistent with biblical descriptions. So if she tells me she saw "streets paved with gold" in heaven, well and good: that is consistent with the description of the New Jerusalem given in Revelation chapters 21-22 (although that is the description of the New Jerusalem after the end of human history in the New Heavens and New Earth after it descends not a description of the third heaven today). So I don't have to believe her; I believe the Bible. If, however, she tells me she sees angels involved in heavenly construction, or singing flowers, there is nothing in scripture about any of that (and I would have a problem with either, biblically speaking, for reasons we need not go into here). I am not required to believe her; indeed, it is dangerous to believe that something not verifiable through scripture is nonetheless true.

What would be the harm in believing? The harm would be that when a person like this paints a pretty enough picture, and when we buy into details that are not demonstrably scriptural because we like them and see no danger in them although they may be untrue, the next thing you know we are buying the entire report, so that later when she says, "Jesus told me you should clean out your bank account and give it to me for the benefit of the saints" we may very well do so. Obviously, I have skipped a few steps here, but all cults work the same way. First, get the people dependent upon you as the sole source of truth. Second, start manipulating their behavior and undermining their loyalty to anyone else and anything else especially their loyalty to scripture. Third, well, do anything with them you like after that, because now they have become your slaves. After all, if we like the idea of "singing flowers" and accept it although it is not in the Bible just on this person's say-so, then why not accept everything such a person says? Once we throw out the scripture-test, we are going to be compromised in all our future judgments on the matter.

If a third party claims something not in scripture, any wise Christian should give that third party a very wide berth. Indeed, even if we see something with our own eyes or hear something with our own ears that seems to contradict the Bible, we ought to disbelieve our eyes and ears and trust the Word of God instead (Gal.1:8). Antichrist will be a master of false miracles, and with these false signs and wonders will lead many astray. So perhaps it is good training for us that there are so many of these questionable third party reports swarming around cyber-space these days. No doubt the Lord is preparing us for greater challenges ahead.

Here are some related links:

Beware of third party reports I

Beware of third party reports II

Beware of third party reports III

Beware of third party reports IV

Beware of third party reports V

False miracles during the Tribulation (1)

False miracles during the Tribulation (2)

False miracles during the Tribulation (3)

In Jesus Christ our Lord who is the only truth, the one way and eternal life.

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Dr. Luginbill, Hope all is well with you. I continue to be blessed by your site and appreciate all you do for all of us to get valauble teaching of the scriptures. That said I do have a couple of questions that are a concern to me.

1) Most recently a lady has come out about being in heaven while she was lying in the hospital bed in a coma. It seems she had Stg. 4 cancer and was a deaths door. She says she was transported above her body but could still hear everything but felt the presence of a wonderful warm light that was very peaceful. She also said that she saw her deceased father and they spoke and resolved issues. She has now written a book Dying to be me and said she was asked by this light if she wanted to come back or stay and she chose to come back to earth. I know there are books by others who profess to have had this same experience who were Christians but she was a Hindu. What do you make of these heaven visits and are they scriptural?

2) Almost on this same note a person recently died while in a Long Term Care Facility who was a member of the Unitarian Church and she and her children were atheists. She died very peacefully and the children waved good bye to her and said she had a good life but they would never see her again. Why is it that some who do not know Jesus have such a peace at their death while others who may know the Lord do not?

3) Lastly, I have a friend who went to Baptist seminary but now is in the financial business. When I first met him he said he had started going to the RC church and he knew by the look on my face that I questioned this decision. We have talked about our faith and he said at the last meeting that he is having a difficult time in the RC church but his wife loves it as do his adult children. He said to pray for him because he wasn't sure this was going to effect his marriage and end in divorce. I suggested he talk with her and tell her his concerns about the church. My question is does Jesus look at the faith of this man and his love for the Lord even if he is sitting in a church that he knows has false teachings?

Again thanks so much for you help in these questions.

Thanks

Response #6:

Always good to hear from, and thanks too for your good and encouraging words. As to your questions:

1) As I often say, if a believer is confronted with anything that disagrees with the truth which he/she knows to be true from scripture, having believed that truth made perspicuous by the Holy Spirit, then anything that conflicts with known truth should be discarded, even if it means not believing one's own eyes, ears and feelings. Beyond the universal truths of God's existence, power and righteous character which sing forth from every aspect of His creation, the only source for what is true that we have here on earth at present is the Bible. There are no prophets today, nor any apostles or anyone at all gifted to receive independent information from God. That is because we have the complete canon of scripture and all the means in the Church to discover and discern absolutely everything God wants us to know and it would be difficult to get to the bottom of all the truth of scripture if a person did nothing else their entire life-long.

So if a person purports to have independent information, I, for one, am incredibly skeptical, even in the case of people who claim to be Christians. There is, I suppose, no great harm in believing something that one has already believed from the Bible directly or indirectly just as long as the "new" source never gains any sort of authority independent of the Bible. The first step in initiating someone into a cult is always to make the person believe that only the cult / cult-leader has the truth; therefore the truth is whatever the cult / cult-leader says it is. Such groups usually start with things which seem innocuous enough and may even be true or partially true, but they quickly turn to lies and falsehoods, just as soon as the victim's allegiance to any other source of truth has been undermined, compromised and replaced by them. The thing about Christians is that we are all about love and joy, and we are for that very reason often too easily deceived by those who do not have our best interests at heart. We tend to believe what people tell us, especially if they claim to be Christians or are taking about God (or heaven, e.g.). But Christ told us to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing , and also that we need to be wise as serpents even as we maintain a dove-like innocence (Matt.10:16; cf. Rom.16:19; 1Cor.14:20; Prov.14:18). For more on this see especially the links:

Beware of third party reports I

Beware of third party reports II

Beware of third party reports III

Beware of third party reports IV

Beware of third party reports V

False miracles during the Tribulation (1)

False miracles during the Tribulation (2)

False miracles during the Tribulation (3)

2) It is a blessing when anyone is spared pain and suffering and is granted peace instead. However, I would rather have the most horrible death that landed me safe in the Lord's arms than the most peaceful one which ended up in torments awaiting the last judgment and the lake of fire. We can never know the details or what is in a person's heart or precisely why the Lord has worked this or that event out in the way He has, but we do now have all we need to know about the truth, and the truth is that any death of any Christian who is on the right track is "precious" in the eyes of the Lord (Ps.116:15), and will only be difficult to the extent that it is an opportunity to glorify Him by showing all who observe that He means more than anything else to us. For unbelievers, it really doesn't matter if they have a good or a bad life or a good or a bad death it all comes down to the same bleak eternal future in the end.

3) I have noticed a real trend among Protestants of late to quit their denomination and join up with the R.C. church. To me this says two things: a) we live in the age of Laodicea where lukewarmness is the rule, and b) the individuals in question were not greatly interested in the Word of God and as a result have lurched off the path in order to find some substitute. Whether the substitute is a social club masquerading as a church, a highly emotional and "exciting" charismatic fellowship pretending to enjoy 1st century gifts, an out and out cult, or a denomination or false church which takes ritual to a high plane, the end is the same: giving up on what God wants and choosing instead one's own ways for the satisfaction of one's own desires. Whether or not this results in the loss of salvation depends upon to what degree engaging in such poor substitutes compromises one's faith in the actual truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It certainly will do the person no good; it certainly will compromise any potential reward; it certainly will lead to divine discipline; and it certainly is spiritually dangerous in the extreme. What the end result will be only the Lord knows. But it is also true that where there is life there is hope. Sometimes the Lord lets us engage in "what we want" long enough to feel the powerful disappointment and the strong sting of His rebuke in order to cause us to throw off the lukewarmness of this present age and instead "heat up" for the Lord, the carrying out of His true will, and the earning of a good reward that glorifies Him and builds up His Church in the process. In the instance you report, let's hope it's a case of the latter.

In Jesus Christ for whom absolutely nothing is impossible especially for those who have faith.

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Brother Bob,

You are truly a man of God. First, thank you for your kind response to my previous email about my family. It encouraged me and lifted my heart.

I was a little behind in reading the emails from your other correspondents, so I read last week's (March 30, 2013) emails yesterday. I was aghast at the man who was arguing with you about whether Judas was ever saved. While we may disagree with one another on matters that are of minor importance, we should never be disagreeable with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Shouting in all caps and maintaining a smug superior attitude is never the way of convincing another. I have noticed generally that when people adopt that attitude, they are usually presenting an idea that is on fairly shaky ground, and they want to convince you and others they are right despite the evidence to the contrary. I have never known anyone who believes Judas was saved and lost his salvation. Every mention of Judas I recall has had an comment reflecting on his bad character. I believe Jesus knew exactly who Judas was from the beginning, and chose him to fulfill his part in Jesus's ministry and its culmination on the cross and His resurrection. The thing I never understood was how Judas could do it. I don't understand how anyone could see the miracles Jesus performed and hear the words Jesus spoke and not believe. But I know there were many. I've read speculation that Judas was a Zealot and he wanted a rebellion against Rome, and when he finally realized that wasn't going to happen, he decided to turn traitor. But it doesn't matter, and we won't know this side of Heaven, and by then we probably won't care anyway.

The main reason I'm writing is to ask about people who claim to have died and gone to Heaven then come back. I know a woman who claims to have had this experience. There are two popular books on this subject, 'Heaven is For Real' about a little boy who claims this experience, and 'Ninety Minutes in Heaven,' by Don Piper. I know Paul was transported to the seventh heaven.

I believe these people experienced what they relate, whether it was truly Heaven or something else. I want to believe they really did go to the heavenly gates and see the marvels that await us. It is such a message of hope and makes me yearn to go home. But why? What purpose would there be for giving such a precious gift and then taking it away? None of the accounts I have read seem to be for anyone but those having the experience. And some of them don't sit right with what little we do know of Heaven. Certainly, Don Piper is a lecturer now and gives a message of future hope to those who hear him, but we believers already know that such joy awaits us.

Then there are the tales of people who have died and gone to Hell and come back. I definitely think some of these may be made up. But I know a man who was a minister whose word I trust, and he was at the bedside of a deathly sick man who made this claim, and as soon as the sick man was able, he accepted Christ. So maybe The Lord allowed this experience to bring a rough hardened soul into His kingdom.

And then there are the common tunnel of light experiences that many, many people claim, even those who are not believers or even atheists. I tend to believe these may be the brain shutting down hallucinations science uses to explain near death experiences.

I know this is not something that has anything to do with our salvation, but I am curious. Are these experiences truly from God? Are they a cruel deception of Satan? Or they simply a natural reaction of our bodies to the experience of shutting all systems down?

I know you are very careful not to add or take away from the Word, so if you don't feel as though you can answer, please don't think I'll be offended or hurt.

Thank you for your kindness, but thank you most of all for sharing your gift of rightly dividing the Word.

Response #7:

Good to hear from you. You are certainly welcome, and thank you so much for your kind and gracious words. I am keeping your family in prayer.

Good observations about the Judas posting!

As to your question, this is one I also get quite a lot in various forms, and that's very understandable. All of us want "more" when it comes to knowledge from the Lord and particularly when it comes to what's beyond what we can presently see. Satan also knows this very well. After all, it is no accident that he was able to trick Eve into wanting more knowledge by eating of the tree of knowing good and evil and that has been at the heart of his game ever since.

Christians, as I often remark, have good hearts by definition. We tend not to want to believe that anyone is bad to their core, and we tend to believe that whatever anyone who is not obviously hostile to us says is true. If the person purports to be a Christian and says holy sounding thing, well, let's just say that this is a famously effective sort of flim-flam as Christians tend to be more gullible (in the etymological sense of being susceptible to being "gulled") than the average person. The devil and his followers are adept at exploiting our good qualities and using them against us. That is why our Lord Jesus tells us to be "wise as serpents" even as we remain "as harmless as doves" so that we don't get tricked by wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt.10:16; cf. Matt.7:15; Rom.16:19; 1Cor.14:20).

Happily, we have a good way to proceed when it comes to third party reports such as this, namely, to be more than willing to believe everything that can be verified as true by consulting the scriptures, but to reject (or at the very least set aside with suspended judgment) anything that cannot be so verified and to absolutely condemn anything that contradicts scriptures. The way the evil one works in such cases is to appeal to our natural (all too natural) desire to know more than we are given to know. He usually will have this "new information" promoted by a very friendly looking source, and cloak some subtle little lie in a great body of interesting material, much of which is true, and much of which cannot be definitely shown to be false at first glance (please see "the insidious nature of false teaching" at the beginning of Peter #27).

I have no desire to cast aspersions on these people and their books or their experiences. I will say that I deliberately will have nothing to do with them. First, no one has ever returned from hell. Second, the only ones we know of who actually have had visions of heaven are the ones related in scripture (Paul and John, notably). Did a genuine brother or sister see things in heaven? Perhaps. I cannot know the truth of a third party report except by testing it with scripture. Since that is the case, at the end of the day all that it is safe for me to believe is what I find in scripture already. And since books and reports such as this inevitably add information to what the Bible actually says, that "new" information, at the very least, is not to be believed. Indeed, I may be doing myself damage by having this stuff floating around in my head as potentially being "part of the picture" namely, things that scripture does not admit of, which may be wrong, false, or even deceptively misleading.

Did God tell these folks to share their experiences? Even if they say so, I would be inclined to doubt it just because I know that God has "honored His Word above all His Name" (Ps.138:2 KJV), and that now the living Word, Jesus Christ, is revealed to us by the Spirit exclusively through His written word, the Bible. But if we are now going to believe that some people have an independent source of the truth apart from scripture, well, that is where all cults come from.

I will note for the record that such individuals usually have books, movies, and other salable items. They are making money off of the endeavor. I am not saying that this is absolutely wrong genuine ministry is worthy of its reward, after all but it is certainly something to keep in mind when evaluating their credibility. Here are some other links on the subject which you may find helpful:

Healing, Miracles, and Dreams: Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff by biblical Means

Beware of third party reports I

Beware of third party reports II

Beware of third party reports III

Beware of third party reports IV

Beware of third party reports V

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Oh, thank you so much!

Your response about "near death experiences" has been a spark that made my thinking very clear.

We know those who reject Christ are going to Hell. So perhaps all these experiences are natural processes, manipulated by the deceiver. Our minds and bodies are wondrous creations of God, and no matter how many gene mapping tests and probes and conclusions scientists reach, they will never be able to figure out the complexities and functions of the greatest scientist of all, our Creator God. So when a body is in distress, our mind and spirit are still functioning. And we know from social observation, we usually experience what we are expecting to experience. So those who reject God, whether through atheism or worship of other gods (namely, Satan), will experience what they have been programmed to believe, i.e., the tunnel of light.

Those who have heard the Word and rejected it, although they know in their heart of hearts they have rejected Christ, see the future they know they are bound for if they continue their stubborn rejection. So they know they are going are to Hell. And that's what they see. There may be some intervention from the Holy Spirit in these cases, for those who are not completely lost. Those who are believers will see what they have heard Heaven is like.

Of course, this is all a conclusion I've drawn for myself. I don't know if these are real experiences people have had. I agree that if someone capitalizes on an experience, we need to be skeptical.

Through studying on Ichthys, from reading and meditating on the Word of God, and from your answers to my questions, I am learning to be more discerning about what I put into my mind. Thank God that regardless of our physical circumstances, He always gives us the opportunity and the tools to know Him and to love Him more and more.

May The Lord always be with you,

Thank you.

Response #8:

I consider these words of yours an excellent application of Christian truth. You said it all better than I could!

As I sometimes say about these matters, if we really did have a crystal clear view of what heaven was like or visions such as have been reported, we would be sore tempted to think of little else in this life, even though we have things we need to be doing in response to the Lord to the benefit of His Church and that would be especially true, I am sure, if we have seen or could see "the real thing". Blessedly, we will be seeing it all soon enough in the presence of the dear Lord we love so much and for all eternity.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:

[details omitted by request]

Response #9:

Good to hear from you as always.

First let me say that I think your experience of saved/strayed/returned is a very common one for those of us who were exposed to and accepted the truth at a very early age. In my estimation there are many of us "prodigal sons and daughters" out there. As I often remark, my maternal grandfather used to say that everyone has to go over "fool hill" for themselves to find out there's nothing worthwhile on the other side. Praise God for those of us who have had the good sense to come to our senses and come back into the Father's loving embrace!

As to the experience you relate, I would not at all equate it the "near death experiences" and "tales from heaven and hell" that seem to be all the rage these days. You don't claim to have seen something no one else can see; they do. You don't claim to have some independent revelation from God; they do.

I think we all have had "experiences" wherein we knew that God was protecting us, comforting us, saving us. I know I have. You don't claim to have seen or heard a demon or an angel (as many do). And you are certainly within your rights to recognize that the devil and his agents are out there eager to attack us and to use others to do so, and that God does use angels in the protection of believers (there is a good deal about both subjects at Ichthys because there is a good deal about both subjects in the Bible).

So I find nothing unbelievable about your experience, nor anything incorrect in the way you have interpreted it and remember it. For those of us who do believe, the Lord does help us and deliver us, and there are times when that help and deliverance is, well, miraculous. What I have trouble accepting from others, especially in third as opposed to second party reports, are visible and audible manifestations of the indisputably supernatural because in my reading of scripture these sorts of things have been deliberately cloaked by the Lord during this period in order that we might focus exclusively on His Word as our authority otherwise we would ever be looking to "gifted, blessed, and special" individuals who were receiving "direct revelation". We in the Body of Christ all help each other in our search for understanding, living, and promoting His Word (or at least we are supposed to). And of course as a Bible teacher I absolutely defend the importance of good teaching from prepared individuals but in the case of the wild claims making the rounds these days, every Christian can pick up his/her Bible "to find out whether these things" are true or not (Acts 17:11). For those who claim to have "seen God" with their own eyes or "heard from God" directly, well, there's nothing we can check . . . except the Bible; but if what they say they heard or saw is not specifically in the Bible, we err in believing it.

In your case, therefore, I find a solid application of scripture to personal experience, and one with which I find no need to disagree nor any basis for disagreement. In these other cases of claimed direct conversations with God or trips to heaven or hell, I am presented with extra-biblical revelation that requires me to put as much faith in an unknown person's personal experience as I do in the Bible and there is no need nor justification for doing so.

It seems that the Lord has, as He often does, left you with a vivid memorial of His goodness to you in spite of danger and terror from without. A good thing to hold onto for all that may come in the future. In my view, a good Christian is not disbelieving of the truth when things actually happen in this life that demonstrate it, but is also not uncritically believing of things that other people report (especially when they are reporting about other people's experiences twice removed). That is the happy medium which so few "hit" in our day and age. Most either so intellectualize Christianity so as to be little different in their walk from unbelievers, or alternatively so sensationalize it so as to be largely indistinguishable from pagan emotionalism. We who are truly following Jesus in the correct way can respond to the Spirit without losing control (cf. 1Cor.14:32), and we can also be circumspect about believing things that do not clearly come to us from scripture without lacking faith (cf. Matt.10:16).

Keep fighting the good fight of faith in Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

It has been a while since I wrote you with questions, and I encountered something that I have real questions about. It concerns a lady in South America who said Jesus took her to see heaven and hell (Angelica Zambrano). Have you heard of this? She described how Jesus took her to hell and there were believers who had ended up there because they had issues in their lives that were not resolved and such. If you Google her name, all kinds of hits will occur with her long story if you have not read it. She also said that believers left behind in the rapture will have no opportunity to repent. What is your take on such a thing? It has really been bothering me. Believers are subject to all kinds of trouble in this life.

Response #10:

Good to hear from you, my friend. As so wisely point out, believers are tested in all ways; those who say otherwise haven't read the Bible (the book of Job, just for starters).

Let me start by pointing out that this a "third party report". Paul says to the Galatians that even if an angel told them a different gospel, that angel would be accursed (Gal.1:8). That would be a "direct report", just a false one. If they heard about it from their friends, that would be second hand. If they heard it from somebody who heard it, that would be "third party". This is the most unreliable sort of reporting there is. When it comes to third party reports such as this, the first thing I do is to consider whether the person has seen/said anything that clearly contradicts scripture. We don't know if the person is truthful or not, crazy or not, correctly reported by those we hear or not. But we do know that the Bible is the truth. So if the report disagrees with the Bible even a little, there are grounds for suspicion. If it contradicts it directly on substantive points, then it is clearly a mess of lies. That is certainly the case here. We know that no believer has ever gone to hell. Salvation is all about trusting God, not being good (for "all sin"; Rom.3:23; cf. 1Ki.8:46; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:5-10); we are justified by faith, not by our actions (Rom.3:28; Gal.2:16). And there is no pre-Tribulation rapture (see the link); there is only one second advent, and that is the time when our Lord raises up the Church.

There is more and more of this stuff out there nowadays as the end draws nearer. The more subtle forms of this sort of satanic information come in the form of third-party reports which are very careful not to directly contradict scripture overtly but instead to add interesting (false) details (e.g., what heaven looks like) which are not in fact true and which, since they get believers listening to false sources, can latter make a person vulnerable to the introduction outright falsities. In other matters, most people would want proof. But when it comes to the false supernatural, people seem to be willing to believe almost anything except the truth. Here are some links to places where similar reports are discussed:

Beware of third party reports I

Beware of third party reports II

Beware of third party reports III

Beware of third party reports IV

Beware of third party reports V

Yours in Jesus Christ who is our Shepherd through every valley of death shadows.

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Robert,

Greetings again and thanks again for a quick response. And also your word on the Zambrano story. I have come to the conclusion that any kind of story like that must be scrutinized closely, and if those who brought the story try to hit you with a "do you question God's revelation?" angle, that makes me doubly suspicious. Scripture tells us we MUST examine everything, holding to that which is good and turning away from all that is otherwise. The only thing I am obligated to trust in unswervingly is what is between the two covers of God's Book. Everything and anything else is fair game for my spiritual magnifying glass and judgment.

God bless you, brother and keep up His good work. He gives strength, I am still around to prove it.

In Jesus,

Response #11:

You are very welcome,

Thank you for this thoughtful and encouraging email it's a good witness indeed.

I'll be keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Dear Brother Luginbill,

Though he may charge money for certain products, this does not discredit him or his message. Moreover, there are excerpts from his publications available on the Internet for free. Before you listen to the testimony of Howard Pittman, I would that you draw your attention to Joel 2:28-32. The testimony of Howard Pittman supports the argument in my original letter, that there lacks any true Obedience or Love in our worship and quite possibly, if not most certainly, we have all become deceived to believe we are glorifying God when we are truly idolizing ourselves. From what I can discern, you support this argument with your statement: "lukewarmness toward the truth is the disobedience which most characterizes the church-visible today, even much more so than failures in regard to sin". Because man has become dis-interested with the Truth of God's Word, they tend to profess it, yet not glorify it and provide the due honor it deserves. Therefore, the product is something like a "cafeteria Christian": One who picks and chooses what to believe and passes the rest and therefore could never truly glorify God for the lack of knowledge.

I'm curious to know your thoughts on the matter in light of Howard Pittman's testimony.

Response #12:

As Solomon tells us:

The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.
Proverbs 14:15 NIV

I certainly agree that the best way for a Christian to grow is to find a place/ministry where the Word of God is genuinely being taught in an orthodox, substantive way as the first priority of that place/ministry, and to stick with it, provided it has been tested and found "sweet to the taste" through the testimony of the Spirit. I also do agree with the assessment of lukewarmness that bedevils the church-visible of our era. However, that does not mean that every pastor/ministry that complains about the phenomenon is not also part of the problem. Every cult and every false teacher I have ever bumped into directly and indirectly has made that same complaint. Of course they want people to be zealous but for them rather than for God and for the truth (e.g., Gal.4:17-18).

I listened to part of the "testimony". Let me tell you plainly that I put no stock in any person/ministry that relies upon its/their extra-biblical "experiences". That is because these cannot be verified on the one hand, and on the other hand this approach always results in those "experiences" becoming more important than scripture of course these folks always quote scripture, and the more clever ones try to make their "experiences" sound as close to scripture as possible. As in this case, Mr. P tells of seeing "spirits in heaven". No one can see a spirit. And in fact, after exiting this life, believers are given an interim body (see the link). There are no such things as "disembodied spirits" (that is a misunderstanding / false teaching). The fact that Mr. P saw something which doesn't exist tells me in no uncertain terms that he didn't see it in the first place.

What does it say about someone who is making up all manner of "experiences" wholesale and proclaiming them to the world as (in effect) a new revelation superior to the Bible and charging money for it (even if not to everyone, even if accepting donations rather pricing things directly)? I don't know what it tells you, but it tells me to stay away. My position on these things is that while God is certainly capable of doing what is claimed and so much more that does not mean that He has in fact done what is claimed (big difference). In fact, there is no evidence I know of about of any such hyper-miraculous activity he relates since the days of the apostles. I certainly accept that John saw the third heaven in a state of prophetic ecstasy. I do not accept that Mr. P. did. And with good reason too has God not been comporting Himself that way to the Church since the twelve passed from the scene: now we have the Bible and we have pastors and teachers and evangelists to learn it and proclaim it. But if we did have "prophets and seers", there would be a commensurate lack of interest in and respect for genuine Bible teaching. Goodness, there is little enough of that anyway! So it is clear why the devil promotes all of these other "far more interesting" "spiritual experiences" (none of which can be verified), namely, to distract those few Christians who are beginning to get interested in the truth from actually getting anywhere. For some links on similar things please see the following:

Beware of third party reports I

Beware of third party reports II

Beware of third party reports III

Beware of third party reports IV

Beware of third party reports V

Yours in Jesus Christ, the Word of God in the flesh,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Dear Robert,

If you would have listened to the entirety of the testimony you would know that Pittman does testify of the Saints entering into heaven in a non-glorified, interim body, as you note. When you say, "In fact, there is no evidence I know about of any such hyper-miraculous activity since the days of the apostles", I just provided such an example in Mr. P! The issue is not that these events are not occurring, you simply choose not to believe.

"That is because these cannot be verified on the one hand,"

I beg to differ. Though I cannot comprehend the Trinity, apparently (and I mean no offense) I seem to have greater faith in the Third Person of the Trinity than yourself. Scripture, when discerned by the Spirit will easily testify for or against such accounts. The account of Pittman not only is defended by Scripture, but also passes the Good Fruit Test, too!

Yes, there are many of such accounts which I believe are falsified in part or in whole. But, if you never listen in entirety and weigh them with discernment and test them against Scripture we have no hope at all.

"So it is clear why the devil promotes all of these other "far more interesting" "spiritual experiences" (none of which can be verified), namely, to distract those few Christians who are beginning to get interested in the truth from actually getting anywhere."

Yes, some are counterfeits of Satan, but some are real. I wouldn't be so quick to 'throw the baby out with the bath water'. You are doing yourself and the Church a great disservice. There is an important message about Satan and his satanic legion, which I believe someone such as yourself would benefit from. Nonetheless, it is your choice.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my letters! I would love to hear your treatment and impact upon you of the content of Pittman's testimony, so if you ever do take an earnest listen you are welcome to contact me!

I pray that the Lord will preserve us both beyond the Tribulation that is to come.

Take care!

Response #13:

I looked over this material again. Mr. P, though not altogether clear in his teaching, in fact does not seem to understand the concept of the interim body (powerfully odd if he had seen it), and he is confused entirely about what a soul is versus a spirit (not that most Christians aren't they are, but he is claiming extra-biblical revelation; see the link).

I have to say that this sort of "report" is very typical. It adheres in its particulars fairly close to what little the Bible has to say about these matters and expands on them liberally in ways which (as the author thinks at least) are not contradictory to scripture. So the uninitiated may well believe that the person is telling the whole truth. But the two points above are just a couple of "tells" that make the whole account suspicious in the extreme. Another typical thing that also happens here is a digression into questionable theology using the "vision" as the launching pad, so to speak and if the visitor buys the vision, he/she is apt to buy the questionable theology. This is where the evil one has his real stake in such things. I have a hard time believing that a person who had labored as a minister for decades had "dead faith". I'm not saying it is impossible, but the effect of what Mr. P actually says is to make everyone question their faith. Now we should never examine ourselves, and there is no doubt about the fact that many in Laodicea are lukewarm at best, but a believer is a believer, even if a lukewarm believer. The whole idea of the phrase "dead faith" is biblically unsound. That is because if a person does believe in Jesus, that person has faith and is saved; it is only those who do not believe in Jesus who have no faith and are not saved and the false and very unclear distinctions the phrase implies are dangerously obscure and doctrinally unsound.

Here we bump into what I find to be the most personally suspicious part of the presentation: Jesus is barely mentioned. There is a lot about God, but precious little about Christ and His sacrifice (possibly because Jesus explodes these false issues as being the true Object of faith for believers and the One who died for all so that they might be saved by simple faith alone).

Finally, as is also often the case with such things, Mr. P's "R/x" is unclear. OK, I am "convicted" of not being as red-hot for the Lord as I should be. What now? Is there really a clear presentation of what I should do next? No. Following a "make you feel guilty" non-specific prosecution, we have a vague and non-specific solution: "live completely for God 100% all of the time". But how does one do that, exactly? And what if one day I'm only 99%? Anyone taking this seriously is going to be thrown into deeper paroxysms of self-doubt and guilt than ever before but Christ has called us to peace and joy. We can all do better; we will never be perfect. But if we buy into stuff like this, we are going to be reduced to "following 'this' ministry" whatever 'this' ministry is. And that really is the whole point: numbers, notoriety, money these are the true objectives in most such ministries. Guilt and fear are two wonderful weapons for any cult in attaining of all of the objectives above, since they are good ways to "motivate" many potential new followers who come to see you as "the only way" to get the truth. It's the perfect approach for all who are of the devil instead of true ministers of Christ.

You cannot know whether or not Mr. P is telling you the truth about his visions. You have to take that "on faith". But the whole point here is to believe God and His word, to believe and live for Jesus Christ, the Word of God not to believe in and live for other people, no matter how godly they may appear. What would you lose by believing only what can be verified in the Bible in regard to what Mr. P "has seen"? Nothing and only what is verifiable from scripture is of any use to you anyway. That is the source of truth for us today, not third-party testimonies, no matter how scintillating. But the effect of this "vision" thing is to have you put your hope and faith in the vision and the person with the vision rather than in the Bible and the One who gave us the Bible.

As I often say, Christians are more vulnerable to this sort of thing than most people, because 1) they tend to have good, supple hearts, and so have a very hard time believing that someone who comports himself in a seemingly godly way and says seemingly godly things could possibly be making it all up; and 2) they really do want to know more about God and His truth problems arise when they are unwilling or too lazy to go about it the right way, however, or prefer the exciting, the stimulating, the new and extraordinary to the hard work of spiritual growth in reading scripture, accessing solid Bible teaching, learning what is taught, believing the truth, and putting that into daily practice. The latter is the true way to avoid being lukewarm. Ironically, those who latch onto such sensationalist ministries as Mr. P's in lieu of going about things Christ's way are the ones who are really only lukewarm.

You are always welcome at Ichthys (anonymously and without charge).

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Robert,

Pertaining the specific points which you brought up: [1] How does the testimony of Pittman of the Saints adorned in an interim body (the 50 Saints at the gate of Heaven) contradict Scripture? [2] How does Pittman's account contradict Scripture regarding the spirit of man? Please do not respond with a link, there is too much information and I cannot see your point. Please be more specific.

"The whole idea of the phrase "dead faith" is biblically unsound. That is because if a person does believe in Jesus, that person has faith and is saved; it is only those who do not believe in Jesus who have no faith and are not saved"

"But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" - (Jam 2:20 NKJV)

What else can I say? There seems to be a contradiction between the literal interpretation of the epistle of James and your understanding.

"Here we bump into what I find to be the most personally suspicious part of the presentation: Jesus is barely mentioned."

Yes, this is most likely due to the fact only an excerpt is available online. If you listen to more detailed accounts, he refers to Christ in a loving, faithful way only a child of God could.

"Finally, as is also often the case with such things, Mr. P's "R/x" is unclear. OK, I am "convicted" of not being as red-hot for the Lord as I should be. What now? Is there really a clear presentation of what I should do next? No. Following a "make you feel guilty" non-specific prosecution, we have a vague and non-specific solution: "live completely for God 100% all of the time". But how does one do that, exactly? And what if one day I'm only 99%? Anyone taking this seriously is going to be thrown into deeper paroxysms of self-doubt and guilt than ever before but Christ has called us to peace and joy. We can all do better; we will never be perfect. But if we buy into stuff like this, we are going to be reduced to "following 'this' ministry" whatever 'this' ministry is. And that really is the whole point: numbers, notoriety, money these are the true objectives in most such ministries. Guilt and fear are two wonderful weapons for any cult in attaining of all of the objectives above, since they are good ways to "motivate" many potential new followers who come to see you as "the only way" to get the truth. It's the perfect approach for all who are of the devil instead of true ministers of Christ."

I beg to differ. This is where the ministering of the Holy Spirit enters. I listened (and do listen) to this testimony repeatedly for several reasons and every time I do listen to it, I become further drawn to Christ. And contrary to your presumption, I am not drawn to feed into this ministry. The Holy Spirit protects us and guides us from the errors of the flesh; for the flesh of me or any man would have me to feed into this ministry and place Pittman on a pedestal, but because I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me it tells me: "Listen to the way God reacted to the pain and suffering of the wrath of God poured out onto Pittman; God could not separate Himself from experiencing the pain of his mistaken son."

The dialogue between God and Pittman (which evidences the goodness of God) is the answer to your questions:

"Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" - (Rom 2:4 NKJV)

"You cannot know whether or not Mr. P is telling you the truth about his visions. You have to take that "on faith"."

Again, Brother, if we ignore the Holy Spirit, then yes such accounts are terribly dangerous because of the many apparent temptations of Satan to entice us in the weakness of our flesh. But through the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God, and patience, we are able to discern the message which God wants us to hear.

Brother, my understanding is that there is milk and meat in this world to satisfy our spiritual growth in grace and if we be able to handle the meat, then we ought to reach for the meat and be careful to avoid the bones, sinew and so forth. Yes, weak Christians will fall at the stumbling block and hopefully will recover, but God provides the meat for the mature. With discernment, we can reach for the good meat and avoid mistakenly biting into a bone and fatally wounding our faith.

Thank you for taking the time to review Pittman's testimony. I believe it could be very fruitful for you, and therefore the Church, too. The paragraph of yours which I quote above is accurate in estimation; it will cause us to think twice about our faith. But if we are diligent, won't this produce fruit and won't we be rewarded?

"But without faith [it is] impossible to please [Him], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." - (Hbr 11:6 NKJV)

The testimony of Pittman does pass the Good Fruit Test: If we are keen to discern, it will bring us closer to Christ and therefore I condone it (for the spiritually mature enough) as a believer in Jesus Christ. So, I compel you to question your faith. And, Brother, this is the exact reason why I presented this testimony to you and strove to demonstrate to you the validity and benefit of reflecting upon this message from God.

"You are always welcome at Ichthys (anonymously and without charge)."

Thank you! I appreciate your humor.

Response #14:

We can agree to disagree. I have a hard time accepting that Mr. P is the first person in nearly 2,000 years to have been given a prophetic revelation of this magnitude, one, which in its detail, is superior to that given to the apostle John and yet has little or nothing to say of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I would imagine that such a person would have to be an apostle, but I only find twelve names on the gates of New Jerusalem.

As to "dead faith", I stand by what I have written. James' point is that if a person has no outcome/results of their faith, then they have no faith at all in fact. In other words, it is just as I said: either a person is a believer or is not a believer. If a person has no faith, if what they call "faith" is really "dead" so as not to be faith at all, then said person is an unbeliever, regardless of how he/she may wish to portray themselves. But Mr. P's analysis seems to be directed at believers who are lukewarm (in his estimation of such things). That is faulty theology and entirely contrary to scripture, as is the mistaken idea that a soul can be seen; a "soul" is a heart; alternatively, an entire person; it is not a tertium quid, at least not in the Bible (you asked to have this simple but also complain of too much information color me confused).

A lukewarm attitude is not desirable, obviously enough. But the believers in Laodicea are believers and our Lord addresses them as such in Revelation chapter three to shake them out of their spiritual torpor and spur them on to spiritual growth, progress and production. They may be weak in their faith, but they are believers. What's the difference between weak faith and "dead faith"? All the difference in the world. That is because the latter, to the extent that it can be applied as a concept (as I say, I find it internally contradictory), would only be true of unbelievers, while the former can only be true of believers.

The more important point comes back to the "R/x". If I recall correctly, you came to Ichthys looking for answers, and were conflicted about basic doctrines, such as the Trinity and the nature of the atonement. If Mr. P's ministry were truly of God, I would think that such basic things would be explained (and correctly so) in a matter of course, and that you would have assurance about such basic things. I would also think, assuming his was a legitimate ministry, that besides a spirited defense of his materials, you would be solid in your beliefs generally as a result of the "good teaching of the truth". This is what I mean by "R/x": a person with questions comes to a ministry and, if it is of God, should have those questions answered correctly so as to be able to grow up in all of the truth of the Bible. The thing that most disturbs me about "ministries" of the sort you are defending is that they are very good at making believers feel unsure unsure of their salvation, unsure of their Christian walk, unsure of their approach, etc., but they are very poor at helping gain assurance of salvation, confidence in their approach to the truth, and confidence in how one should live the Christian life. At best, that is a sign of a dangerously ineffective ministry that should be avoided. At worst, that is often no accident. All cults want to leave these critical questions unanswered beyond giving complete allegiance to the cult (along with devoting all available time, money, energy and anything else the cult leader might lust after to the group). Cults and cult leaders always want to keep their followers on tenterhooks. As long as those following are unsure and insecure about everything, then they will come to associate any peace of mind and security they may possibly have with their continued association with said group and thus be the most willing of slaves.

You are clearly enamored of Mr. P and are convinced that he is a good man who is telling the truth. Even if you are not being overly damaged by the experience (in terms of turning off into absolute apostasy or gross sinfulness or some other dangerous area), I do think that at the very least you are stultifying your spiritual growth. As I also think I may have mentioned, I find it ironic that many such ministries which bemoan lukewarmness are paragons of the same because they put personal experience(s) over the substantive teaching of the scriptures (which is the only way to grow up). I would caution you, however, not to proselytize for Mr. P. In my view, it's bad enough if you are only shooting yourself in the foot (you may recover or you may limp into the kingdom even so). But not everyone's faith is so strong that they will be able to survive an encounter with a clever substitute like this. Anyone who leads someone else astray will have a lot to answer for.

"If anyone causes one of these little ones those who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea."
Mark 9:42 NIV

The Holy Spirit's guidance is often misunderstood and claimed when a person is really doing what they want to do. The Spirit does not resist us when we dispense with His true guidance (since this life is all about choice), and His true guidance always makes use of the truth, communicating that truth to our consciences. Please do not mistake emotion for the Spirit.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Dear Robert,

I was reading Revelation and found another passage on dead faith: "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." - (Rev 3:1 KJV) To be certain: Christ is referring to the Church [And und to the angel of the church in Sardis] and these souls have been saved [that thou hast a name that thou livest] and yet they are called dead by Christ. Why so? It seems contradictory to be saved and yet nonetheless, it is the words of Christ.

"I find it ironic that many such ministries which bemoan lukewarmness are paragons of the same because they put personal experience(s) over the substantive teaching of the scriptures (which is the only way to grow up)."

This seems resentful and presumptuous. In relation:

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." - (Luk 6:45 KJV)

But, to the point: When did Mr. Pittman suggest that his testimony superseded Scripture? Revelation merely dovetails Scripture, as I tried to demonstrate to you in my previous letter.

I suppose I'll close with these comments for the sake of edification because I didn't find a discussion of it on your website: In John 20:22 Christ imparts the Spirit into the apostles by breathing upon them: "And when he had said this, he breathed on [them], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:" - (Jhn 20:22 KJV) This day is commonly referred to Resurrection Sunday. However, in Acts 1:8 Christ commands the apostles to tarry in Jerusalem: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." - (Act 1:8 KJV) That seems contradictory; in John the apostles receive the Spirit, but then they are asked to wait to receive the Spirit. The solution is in understanding that while the apostles had received the Spirit of the life unto everlasting life by Christ (to be explicit, they had been 'saved'), they had yet to receive the outpouring of the Spirit which would allow them to become effective witnesses and exercise gifts, such as discernment.

I'm not sure if you understood that or not, but I felt compelled to share.

I pray that you'll ponder our correspondences.

Take care!

Response #15:

1) Revelation 3:1 is speaking about the church era of Sardis, not about the faith of individual believers (the word "faith" is not even mentioned). So this is not a parallel because it is a Church era characterized by apostasy that is in view, the era of Sardis (see the link), with the result that those in that era who are actually believers are not "dead of faith" else they would not be believers. It is possible that this is where Mr. P actually got this false idea though.

2) I'm not resentful nor is this presumptuous. This is observation is true and it would be salutary for those like yourself who are being drawn in by such material to take it to heart.

3) If I tell you a vision I have seen, and if in that vision there are things which are not in scripture, and if you believe me, then you are believing something that is not in scripture; then you are believing my experience for the truth of something which the truth of scripture does not proclaim. How is that not putting personal experience over scripture? The Bible does not mention Mr. P, nor does the Bible give you any reason to invest Mr. P's words with the authority of scripture. Quite to the contrary. It is "the Word of God" which is "alive and powerful", not the testimony of man, even if man's testimony be true. You have chosen to believe that Mr. P's report is true in this case, for whatever reason, but you have no biblical grounds for doing so. Indeed, as I have pointed out several times now and you have chosen to ignore it if Mr. P is telling the truth (not even to suggest that he is lying there are other possibilities short of a divine revelation), he would be the first major prophet since the close of the canon in ca. 68 A.D. He would, in short, be something so close to an apostle that there would be scant difference. One would think that this high office and honor would be accompanied by the signs of apostleship (or the office of prophet). After all, given what scripture has to say about these matters on the one hand, and its warnings about false teachers and false teaching on the other, how is a believer supposed to know that someone who is telling us that his "information" not found in scripture is just as good as scripture is really telling us the truth? Even our Lord performed miracles to demonstrate that He was indeed the Son of God (and the apostles and great prophets did so as well).

4) You will find a discussion of John 20:26 at the link: Pneumatology questions III (see response #6). There is no contradiction; this incident you relate was a special empowerment to bridge the gap between our Lord's departure and the coming of the Spirit (His baptism and universal indwelling of believers beginning at Pentecost). So I think that there is a good analogy here - - in that your understanding of the difference between the two is incorrect.

I certainly do not wish to get into a "food fight" with you over all this. My concern is for your spiritual welfare. It is very easy to claim almost anything, and Christians, good souls that they are, are very likely to believe whatever a seemingly "good Christian" claims. But we are told to be "wise as serpents" even as we are to behave "as harmlessly as doves". This means not giving total credulity to whatever we hear. What is our standard? It is the Bible not the words of men, no matter how sweet they may sound. Forgetting that basic principle is the quickest route to spiritual troubles.

In Jesus Christ the very Word of God who is the only truth.

Bob L.

Question #16:

Dear Robert,

To preface: This is all very interesting! I never would have expected this conversation to divulge as much as it has. Well, it seems we sharply contrast one another in our beliefs.

"Revelation 3:1 is speaking about the church era of Sardis, not about the faith of individual believers (the word "faith" is not even mentioned). So this is not a parallel because it is a Church era characterized by apostasy that is in view, the era of Sardis (see the link), with the result that those in that era who are actually believers are not "dead of faith" else they would not be believers. It is possible that this is where Mr. P actually got this false idea though."

My defense for this position is because we see examples of several different of each type of Churches in our present day. Yes, we see Laodicea in America, but don't we also see other types characterized in these epistles in America as well? Furthermore, It seems narrow-minded to believe that the dominant church of America is the dominant Spirit abroad. In China and Africa I believe the Spirit of the Church to be quite unique to ours. Secondly, Spirits are eternal and therefore I believe that it is safe to presume that any local body can adopt a certain Spirit at any given time. The seven epistles are meant to be descriptive and prescriptive of the seven Spirits of a Church at any moment throughout time. I understand that you may not agree with me but I present this thought to you for consideration.

"2) I'm not resentful nor is this presumptuous. This is true -- and it would be salutary for those like yourself who are being drawn in by such material to take the observation to heart."

In response, I feel compelled to say: While I love Scripture and do find the words therein to be bearing life, I do believe that the motto of the Reformed theists of Sola Scriptura to be rather ignorant of the fact that it is only by the power of the Spirit we can even begin to understand the Bible: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." - (Jhn 16:13 KJV) No amount of devotion to Scripture will prove to be fruitful unless it is powered by whatever amount of the Spirit we have received. The theology of Calvin is a great testimony of how the truth can be right in front of you and yet you choose not to see it, or are so completely devoid of discernment (because you have not asked for it) that you cannot understand the Love of God found in Christ Jesus and thus contrive a gospel sans Christ.

3) You have chosen to believe that Mr. P's report is true in this case, for whatever reason, but you have no biblical grounds for doing so.

Must I cite Joel 2:28-32 again? No, I will cite yet another passage from Paul: "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven." - (2Cr 12:2 KJV) You are deceiving yourself and bearing false witness, Robert. There is biblical basis for experiences of visitation to heaven and hell. Yet, you choose not to appreciate it. Secondly, the testimony confirms several aspects of Scripture.

Robert, the economy (household law) of God has always been and always will be faith. If you do not believe, then how can God even be permitted to operate in your life beyond the small box you have placed Him into? Just to clarify, there are countless examples of Power, Miracles, and Wonders that have been preformed all throughout history through the Saints.

"Filling" refers to specialized cases, even when these occur in scripture after Pentecost, as, for example, when Paul is told by Ananias that he will be "filled with the Spirit" (Acts 9:17): the miraculous prophesying and speaking in tongues that occurred in those early days is an example of such filling which does not take place today;"

Here our beliefs diverge. I believe that you are treading into very dangerous territory, Robert. How can God act in your life if you do not believe? What evidence is there in Scripture which suggests that these things were limited to a set time in history? The belief that these signs, wonders, and miracles have ceased with the close of the Apostolic Age is not supported by Scripture. God intended this power for all of his children. And yet, how can He provide it to us if we do not have faith? Are you afraid that you might receive a serpent--or a demon?

The only condition of the above passage is that you can call God your Father. If you be a child of His, then you have every right to ask for the outpouring of the Spirit in your life to allow you to be a witness on behalf of Christ.

"But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." - (Hbr 11:6 KJV)

"for whatsoever [is] not of faith is sin." - (Rom 14:23 KJV)

On John 20:26, I read your treatment and I agree with it! I'm not sure why you would say that my understanding is incorrect, because I believe your treatment of the distinction between the indwelling Spirit and the outpouring of the Spirit. I simply raised that point to you to demonstrate that there is a difference: Namely, we can be saved and yet not have a whit of discernment or empowerment because we have not yet asked for it, nor have we sought it because we have chosen to believe that "it is not for me and it is not for now". I suppose the only difference between our two treatments (and therefore your justification for claiming my understanding is incorrect) is that I have not confined the outpouring of the Spirit to solely the Apostolic Age.

Just as Christ was a stumbling block for the Jews, the Spirit (and the outpouring of the Spirit) is a stumbling block to Christians.

I would love to engage you in conversation, Robert, but it seems because you feel that you are endowed with such greater perception and understanding than I that I have no way of communicating with you. Your perception of your understanding does not allow for me to dialogue with you, rather I must simply suffer a monologue as you do not endeavor to appreciate the belief of another and to reason with them. Remember, "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. - (1 Cor 8:1-2 KJV)

Let us break our communication for the time being to rest and reflect upon what was shared. I will think about the things you shared and I pray that you will do the same.

Take care!

Response #16:

1) At Revelation 1:19, just before the messages to the seven churches, our Lord tells John to ""Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later", indicating a sequence moving forward from that time (the Church Age covered in chapters 2-3) and then into the next future time (the Tribulation, which is the "meat" of Revelation). Here is how I render the verse with explanations:

So write what you have seen, both the things that are [happening] (i.e., the Church Age trends represented by the seven churches) and the things that are going to happen after them (i.e., the Tribulation and the events which follow it).
Revelation 1:19

For the details and all the reasons why the seven the churches must be consecutive trends of the Church Age, see the link: "The Seven Churches" in CT 2A.

2) To repeat, the Spirit teaches through the Word of God not independently of the Word of God. That is the problem with following P's approach.

3) To repeat, P is neither a prophet (your example of Joel) nor an apostle (your example of Paul). The Word of God is our only standard of true faith and practice, and is the only thing the Spirit uses to guide us (not our emotions absent the truth).

4) God works miracles all the time, but I do not know of a single genuine example of a "sign miracle" having been performed by any human being since the end of the apostolic age and quite right too, since 1st Corinthians 13:8-12 assures us that the sign gifts which with they were associated were about to cease with the passing of the apostles. I do not say that many have not made such claims or that many have not followed their deceptions. Claiming something to be true, however, is not the same as it being true.

5) Here we have a very clear indication of the problem indeed. Faith is nothing in isolation. Faith is only as good as its object. All human beings have "faith" since faith is the exercise of free will in choice. Faith in God and in God's truth, and in Him who is the truth, Jesus Christ, is the only "faith" worthy of considering. I believe that nothing is impossible for God. I believe that He can indeed give anyone, you or me or Mr. P, the vision claimed. Problems come when something not true is believed to be true. In this case, regardless of whether or not his testimony is true, it is an undeniable fact that you are choosing to believe that what Mr. P says is true, so that therefore you are choosing to believe in Mr. P. Were he a prophet or apostle, that would be well and good, and God would give some demonstrable signs that such were the case. Many people do what they want and believe what they want because it is what they want, and they often call yielding to their desires in this way "following the Spirit". But the Spirit works with our hearts through the truth of the Word of God, not independent of it. You are certainly free to believe a person telling falsehoods and call it "following the Spirit" (although it is a big mistake); but, again, I would caution you about leading others into this behavior without absolute surety. How it is that you would ever gain honestly legitimate surety since it is a question of believing a human being rather than the Bible, I have no idea however.

6) All believers now have the Holy Spirit since the latter days of the apostles (Rom.8:9; cf. Jn.14:17; 1Thes.4:8; 2Tim.1:14; Heb.6:4). There is no more legitimate laying on of hands; there is no such thing as a "second-blessing" or renewed baptism of the Spirit after the initial one at salvation (regardless of what name be given it). This is the false charismatic position; please see the link: "The baptism of the Holy Spirit"..

7) I am sorry if you feel that by telling you the truth that I am being uncharitable. However, that is what I always try to do, because the truth, whether it hurts or not, is the only thing that can save us.

Yours in Him who is the truth, the very Word of God, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Dear Robert,

By what sign or seal did Paul receive to proclaim his authority as apostle of the gospel of God? "Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." - (Rom 15:19 KJV)

Has God changed? For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. - (Mal 3:6 KJV)

So then why has the Church changed? God laid out a clear example of the Church in Acts. There is no addendum. You cite one-half of one paragraph (1 Cor. 13:8-13) which is to denote the entire undoing of the example laid forth in Acts and several of Paul's epistles? That seems rather risky.

"All believers now have the Holy Spirit since the latter days of the apostles (Rom.8:9; cf. Jn.14:17; 1Thes.4:8; 2Tim.1:14; Heb.6:4). There is no more legitimate laying on of hands; there is no such thing as a "second blessing" renewed baptism of the Spirit after the initial one at salvation (regardless of what name be given it). This is the false charismatic position; please see the link: "The baptism of the Holy Spirit"."

The passages which you cite do not support the main thrust of your argument; the citations only support that believers do receive the Spirit. Nothing is spoken of which supports your argument that laying on of hands or a second blessing is illegitimate. Where is the Scripture to support your argument? Come now, where is the substantiation for your belief? In the passage in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 8 there are 3 ephemeral (if I may) gifts: Tongues, prophecy, and knowledge. That begs the questions, if tongues is done, if prophecy is out, is knowledge over with, too then? Please be consistent in your interpretation and explain to me how knowledge is extinct. Do we all perfectly rely upon faith, love and hope? I dare say that many of us have any faith, otherwise why would Christ question the presence of faith in earth upon his second coming?

 "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" - (Luk 18:8 KJV)

"I do not know of a single genuine example of a "sign miracle" having been performed since the end of the apostolic age -- and quite right too, since 1st Corinthians 13:8-12 assures us that the sign gifts which with they were associated were about to cease with the passing of the apostles. I do not say that many have not made such claims or that many have not followed their deceptions. Claiming something to be true, however, is not the same as it being true."

Only believe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq_Q3y4BvlM. Please do not cite the passage in 2 Corinthians, chapter 11; I have read it. Also, I know your stance ("This is the false charismatic position;"), but I dare say there is hardly any support for it in Scripture.

I'm interested in hearing your response to the points which I've raised, but in particular I'd like to know how one should interpret 1 Cor. 13:8 as knowledge is included among tongues and prophecy.

Response #17:

1) On Paul demonstrating his legitimacy through the marks of a true apostle including signs, wonders and miracles:

I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.
2nd Corinthians 12:12 NIV

2) On Acts, this is a historical book. It relates what happened. It is not doctrinally dispositive. This is an important point since many in the Church and many false teachers often try to take an event in Acts and expand it into a doctrine, even when that would be inconsistent with the dispositive teachings of the epistles, e.g. (like "selling all" and then having "all things in common" in Acts chapter three, for example). For more on this please see the links:   "Progressive understanding of the apostles" and "The 'learning curve' of the first generation of the Church".   As our brother pastor-teacher Curtis Omo has pointed out at Bible Academy (see the link), Acts relates the process of the phasing out of the Law and phasing in of the new economy of the Church Age. Here is something I have written elsewhere about this:

It is also important to remember that when dealing with historical matters, the Bible accurately records what happened. That does not mean that the Bible endorses everything that happens when it records historical events, or even that everything everyone says in scripture (when quoted in a narrative passage) is true or accurate or a prophecy. The book of Acts, for instance, is replete with examples of genuine believers doing and saying things which are at best problematic (e.g., the misguided and unauthorized "election" of Matthias as an apostle when only Christ has the right to choose His apostles and He chose Paul, of course, not Matthias; cf. also Acts 21:18-25 where it was clearly wrong to advise Paul to sponsor young men taking a Nazarite vow).

The Church Age is unique in God's seven days of human history in that it is the time of the Spirit the time of the spiritual over the physical (e.g., Heb.8:10). What is not seen but known by faith is more powerful and more important than what is visible (cf. Heb.11:1ff.). It is therefore highly ironic that some people wish to emphasize miracles which affect the physical world in visible ways, when in fact the real miracle is the truth taught from scripture by the Spirit which when accepted in faith affects the heart of the believer rather than his/her outside. The book of Acts describes the Church in its infancy, but by now we should have long since "put away childish thing" (1Cor.13:11). Going back to the Law is inappropriate (since Jesus has fulfilled it) and also impossible since the priesthood and the temple and all that was directly connected with them have been destroyed. In similar fashion, going back to the "childhood time" (as scripture calls it) of the apostles is also inappropriate and also impossible since there are no more apostles on earth, and since the "sign gifts" are no longer being given as may be clearly proven by the fact that no one can now demonstrate that they speak a genuine human language perfectly even though they don't understand it and never studied it (which is what true tongues was).

God hasn't changed, but He does change the way in which He administers His truth. We no longer have priests and also no longer have apostles. The Church has not so much changed as it has grown up, or it least it should have (Heb.5:12; 6:1-6). Attempting to go back to the days of the apostles is just as wrong and just as impossible in truth as going back to the Law. Who are we to tell God what gifts He can and cannot give and when? Claiming to have a gift one does not have is asserting that the Holy Spirit has done something He has not in fact done.

3) There is a difference (and in this case, a big difference) between not being convinced that a passage says what it says and a passage saying what it says:

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
Romans 8:9 NIV

All believers, therefore, "have the Spirit of God", because anyone who does not have the Spirit of God "does not belong to Christ". That is more than clear. The other passages cited and there are many more besides (e.g., Jn.7:38-39; 14:17; 1Cor.3:16; 6:19; 2Cor.1:22; Gal.3:2,3,5,6, 14; 4:6; 1Thes.4:8; 2Tim.1:14; *Heb.6:4; Jude 1:19) describe the believer as someone who has the Spirit. None of this would be the case if some believers had the Spirit and some did not. As to scriptural support, there are no scriptures which authorize believers to lay hands on someone to receive the Spirit (the apostles who did so on a very few occasions are now in heaven); more to the point, there are no scriptures which suggest that there are believers without the Spirit who would need this ministry even the former were true. Scripture is very clear. It would be incumbent upon those who make use of these false practices to support their legitimacy if they wished to be proved "biblical" rather than there being an obligation for those who follow scripture to have to "prove a negative". However, I have written about these matters many, many times before. If interested in more details, here are some initial links to get started:

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Tongues: does 'no man' understand?

The Gift of Tongues: Part 1

The Gift of Tongues: Part 2

Is speaking in tongues biblical?

Is speaking in tongues a sin?

An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

"The baptism which now saves you": 1st Peter 3:21.

Again, it is not a question of faith. If God were telling us that the gift of tongues was still operational today, we should believe Him. That is not what scripture teaches. It is also a fact that there are no operational gifts of this sort today, whether tongues or prophecies or interpretation of tongues or apostleships or "contact healing" or other overtly miraculous "sign gifts" not because God cannot give or empower them. He certainly could and can. Jesus could come back today. At the moment, He is not here. Claiming He is here when He is not would be attributing to God the doing of something He has not done. Refusing to do so is not lacking faith that He could do it but rather standing for the truth and reality of what He has and has not yet done. I most certainly do believe in the power of God and in "sign-gift miracles". Whether God is actually giving such gifts today and the miracles they empower is a question of fact, not one of faith. If He is and we don't believe it, that would be a "lack of faith"; but if He is not and we choose to claim He is anyway, that is not faith; that is very spiritually dangerous.

4) Please see the link: "1st Corinthians 13:8-10 explained". As to the gift of "knowledge", this was a gift of the Spirit. Everyone (or at least almost everyone) has at least some "knowledge" of something, believers and unbelievers alike. The spiritual gift of knowledge, however, while not defined here or elsewhere in scripture specifically, would seem to be along the lines of Agabus' "knowing" that a famine was coming through divine inspiration (Acts 11:28; cf. Elisha and the Shunammite: "She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why", 2Ki.4:27 NIV). What all of these gifts mentioned by Paul in this passage have in common is that they are no longer active. That is for the express purpose of having believers concentrate on what is spiritual, the Bible, and not on what is visible and tangible ("miracles"), even though the latter would be "more exciting and more fun". Children need to be entertained by "fun"; but solid food is for the mature (Heb.5:12). During the soon to come Tribulation, antichrist will make great use of miracles to deceive the world (see the link). And small wonder, since he will claim to be Christ. If believers are so confused even now, before that period of great testing begins, that they are impressed by false miracles from small antichrists, what will happen when they see genuine supernatural manipulations empowered by the devil at the hand of his son the beast? The result will be the the Great Apostasy  (see the link), the falling away unto damnation of an entire third of the Church, and this explains one of the main reasons why no Bible teacher worth his salt can afford to be complaisant about this issue.

Written in the love of Christ in concern for your spiritual safety and growth.

Bob L.

Question #18:

Dear Robert,

So, any form of miracle or sign--even if it draw a man closer to God (thus demonstrating the evidence, or genesis of "good fruit")--it is false and of the Devil? Signs, wonders, and miracles which are performed and then draw a man closer to God or the Word of God are in fact [1] the product of God through faith and the ultimate proof that these miracles are of God is that they [2] draw a man to the Word of God--the Truth.

Your statement on Acts being historical seems awfully foolish. This would suggest that God manifests Himself in a single perspective or avenue at any one time. Would that make Genesis historical or doctrinally dispositive? And what about the prophetic writings: Are they simply prophetic and not doctrinally dispostive? Why, then, would Paul quote Genesis 15:6 and Habakkuk 2:4 as examples of doctrine when they form the foundation of justification by faith.

"God hasn't changed, but He does change the way in which He administers His truth. We no longer have priests..."

False, false, and false.

1. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him [be] glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. - (Rev 1:6 KJV)

2. And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. - (Rev 5:10 KJV)

3. Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. - (Rev 20:6 KJV)

4.Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. - (1Pe 2:5 KJV)

5. But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: - (1Pe 2:5, 9 KJV)

"When the law was proposed, the promise to perfect obedience was that Israel should be unto God 'a kingdom of priests' (Ex.19:6); but Israel violated the law, and God shut up the priestly office to the Aaronic family (see Ex.32:25-26) appointing the tribe of Levi to minister to Israel, this continuing the typical priesthood (Ex.28:1). In the Church Age, all Christians are unconditionally constituted a "kingdom of priests", the distinction which Israel failed to achieve by works. The priesthood of the Christian is, therefore a birthright, just as every descendent of Aaron was born into priesthood (Heb.5:1)." (C.I. Scofield)

You wrote: "Again, it is not a question of faith. If God were telling us that the gift of tongues was still operational today, we should believe Him."

Robert, what would it take for God to convince you that you might be mistaken in your beliefs? Would God have to audibly speak to you for you to change your mind? You asked for a genuine miracle, and I provided an example and did you believe it? I doubt so. Mr. Pittman's testimony is confirmed by and through Scripture and he passes your test for apostleship (though that is not my belief) and do you accept Mr. P as an apostle? No. Why? I'm not sure but maybe you are in need of some true act of salvation and glory in your life. You seem pretty set in your ways. I would simply suggest that (much like I do to atheists) you simply ask God. If you believe in God, why don't you just ask him? And, to clarify: I would so in the way he prescribes:

1. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. ... That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. - (Mat 6:16, 18 KJV)

2. Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. - (Mat 9:14-15 KJV)

3.In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; - (2Cr 6:5 KJV)

4. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. - (2Cr 11:27 KJV)

On gifts, see Acts and Hebrews 6:1-3.

(Though there are many passages in OT Scripture--Isaiah 58 and Daniel 9 are popular--I just cite NT references to avoid the dispute about whether this be condoned for the Church, or not.

I did a quick search: Here's a website which presents a study of fasting and presenting testimonies relating the effect of combined fasting and prayer. I can provide my own personal testimony if you would like to hear it!

Take care.

Response #18:

So, any form of miracle or sign--even if it draw a man closer to God (thus demonstrating the evidence, or genesis of "good fruit")--it is false and of the Devil? Signs, wonders, and miracles which are performed and then draw a man closer to God or the Word of God are in fact [1] the product of God through faith and the ultimate proof that these miracles are of God is that they [2] draw a man to the Word of God--the Truth.

1) No, these are your statements, not mine. This verse speaks for itself (clearly). Apostleship is accompanied by continued proofs thereof.

2) When David tells Uriah to go down to his wife Bathsheba, we are not to assume that he is acting in a godly manner. This is historical narrative and we have to use discretion to decide whether or not a what a person says is a) godly, b) not godly, c) neither one nor the other particularly. That is also true of actions. Matthias' election was a sham (clearly). The fact that it is recorded in Acts is not a guarantee that it was a godly act (it wasn't, as we can tell for certain later when Christ elects Paul as the twelfth apostle). There are many things that happen in Acts, moreover, which are a) only for that limited time and those unique circumstances (note how Cornelius and his assembled friends are given the Spirit without any laying on of hands in Acts 10, e.g.), and b) which record the apostles doing the best they can with new circumstances they didn't yet completely understand. Peter was under the impression that salvation was only for the Jews, for example, and it took the Holy Spirit telling Him otherwise verbally, and demonstrating it graphically in a vision repeated three times in order for him to be brought "up to speed" so as to respond to Cornelius' request. Proper interpretation of the scriptures is not always "simple stuff"; it requires expertise in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, a solidly grounding in hermeneutics, literature, history and systematic theology it takes good, solid, hard work by those who are gifted, prepared, and willing to do that work in a good and godly way, "rightly dividing the Word of truth". I'm sorry if that seems foolish to you. There are any manner of "teachers" out there who are willing to say anything and tell people what they want to hear. It is the individual believer's responsibility to use the spiritual common sense the Spirit gives us all to steer clear of the false and gravitate towards the truth.

3) I'm not sure where you are going with this. My whole point is precisely that today there are no "special priests"; all believers share in this function alike now. Therefore we do not need a Mr. P to tell us things we cannot otherwise find in the Bible, or represent us to God. We can use the Bible ourselves and talk to the Lord for ourselves.

4) As many do, you are misunderstanding John 3:34. This is speaking about the prophetic quality of everything our Lord ever said, as the context shows:

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.
John 3:31-34 NIV

All other prophets prophesied only "sometimes", when the Spirit gave them voice (2Pet.1:21). But Christ's words were prophetic at all times: everything He said was true and perfect. That is what this verse means, setting a seal on the three verses that come before. It is not talking about different measures of indwelling. A person is either indwelt or he is not (and all believers are). This is a good teaching point, however, inasmuch as it demonstrates how non-teachers and unprepared men often misapply a single verse to build or support an entire system of inaccurate or false teaching.

5) Acts is addressed above. Hebrews 6:1-3 means the opposite of what you assume. Paul is saying that new believers should be taught the difference between the water baptism for the Jews and the Spirit baptism for all following Pentecost, and that they should also be taught that the laying on of hands is an apostolic means of imparting the Spirit to those who already believed before Pentecost (as he did at Ephesus: Acts 19:1-7). In other words, basic instruction for baby believers would make clear that what you are now claiming is wrong and impossible.

6) I follow scripture. Scripture tells us that these gifts have been discontinued. This truth is buttressed by the fact that no convincing evidence of any sign-miracles exists since the passing of the apostle John (because there have not been any). To put the shoe on the other foot, what is it going to take to convince you that the Bible is correct and that your emotions and desires are leading you astray? What if Mr. P tomorrow (or someone else) claimed he was Christ? By your own definition you will be guilty of a lack of faith for expressing skepticism. I say "will", because antichrist is coming soon, and he will claim to be Christ, and, unlike Mr. P, he will perform all manner of impressive supernatural miracles. The problem is, of course, that they will be empowered by Satan rather than by God (please see the previously provided links in regard to how that will lead many weak and unprepared believers into apostasy).

7) I'm not sure why you bring up fasting, since this has no bearing on anything one way or the other and has not been part of the previous conversation.

I will leave it to the Lord to decide who is diligently seeking Him and who is not. You came to this ministry with questions, and I attempted to help you with them. That is what this ministry does. Don't you think that it is just a "tad bit" presumptuous of you to so enthusiastically seek to educate me now in all these matters? It is obvious that in your own eyes you "know better than me". It is certainly your prerogative to think so (though it might evince a modicum of humility to spend a moment checking out my CV first; link). I will only close by saying that I have been in a similar place to the one you are in, many decades ago. I had to learn the hard way. Perhaps so too will you (though this is what I have been trying to help you avoid).

In hopes and prayers for your escape unto the truth in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Dear Robert,

On Acts being a historical book:

2Ti 3:16 KJV - All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Jam 3:1 KJV - My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

You will be held accountable for what you do.

Pardon my bluntness, but your CV means squat to Christ--ha-ha! and I say that with all honesty and good humor. That you rest upon it demonstrates to me that you place your faith seems vain.

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." - (Act 4:13 KJV)

Did Christ come to institute Seminary, Universities, Colleges, or Bible Institutes for the rich and learned to exclusively expound upon the mysteries of heaven? God's economy has always been faith, nothing more or less--not knowledge empowered by the flesh.

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 19:14 KJV)

"Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein." - (Luk 18:17 KJV)

I quoted these two passages to demonstrate the character of faith which is necessary to enter into heaven, but interestingly enough if you look at verse 15 of Matthew, chapter 19, look at what follows: "And he laid [his] hands on them, and departed thence." - (Mat 19:14-15 KJV) I thought that was interesting; your Savior seems to believe in laying on of hands. Why don't you? Or, is this simply a historical narrative? Perhaps Christ is not demonstrating doctrine, but he is exemplifying a historical fact which is actually doctrinally unsound. Which leads me to my next point: Maybe I should just speak to the resident Bible Scholar! He probably will have all the answers since he has studied Scripture for years with some of the brightest minds, much more astute than mine own.

"Proper interpretation of the scriptures is not always "simple stuff"; it requires expertise in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, a solidly grounding in hermeneutics, literature, history and systematic theology"

You sure are narrowing down the kingdom of heaven there, Robert. You sound like Satan more than God: "Please, only Old Money allowed." So, me with my piddly annual salary, what am I to do? Will I be barred from entering into heaven because I cannot afford to study at the Moody Bible Institute or Emmanuel Cambridge College, like my favorite hypocritical religious leaders?

Yes, I'm being facetious, but please understand that I do not believe that only "learned" men have the ability to accurately expound the Word of God. In fact, I believe such institutions to be the work of Satan. Scripture clearly affirms that salvation is for any humble and desperate man without regard to faculty, ability, heritage, or class (I don't know about your Savior, but my Savior came as a pauper to minister unto paupers.) And yet these institutions consistently express the exact opposite message of heaven, which is: "Only the privileged, please". Hence, you, yes you, Robert Luginbill, effectively extinguish the confidence of the plow boy (yes, a reference to Tyndale) who had a supernatural experience while crying out to God and yet had his faith squashed by the more "enlightened" Mr. Spurgeon who informed him: "It was all in your mind. The Devil is playing tricks on you, son." Regardless of what you would like to argue, the fact that you publish your CV publicly testifies against you and is a witness against your hypocrisy (to claim faith and then yet to place your faith in the ability of your flesh).

Do you fast, Robert? I'm sure you pray, as it is found throughout Scripture. It's amazing that Christians (who claim to know and believe in the Bible) don't care to listen to the words of Christ--who is the Word made flesh. Fasting has everything to do with the substance of our faith. Fasting is a demonstration of our humility before God.

"...because antichrist is coming soon, and he will claim to be Christ, and, unlike Mr. P, he will perform all manner of impressive supernatural miracles. The problem is, of course, that they will be empowered by Satan rather than by God (please see the previously provided links in regard to how that will lead many weak and unprepared believers into apostasy)."

True discernment is the ability to see the source and ultimate product (fruit) of a sign. If God stopped working miracles through believers and simply allowed Satan the right to do so, then any rock could discern between God or Satan. True discernment requires much more.

"2) When David tells Uriah to go down to his wife Bathsheba,..."

Yes, I see your point, but this does not address the issue I raised: Which is the book of Habakkuk, and which is Genesis? I ought to get this straight because I believe I'm justified by faith, but if these are merely historical, then aren't we all lost?

"4) As many do, you are misunderstanding John 3:34...."

Interesting point; I enjoy the perspective and I will continue to explore this thought. However, it does not seem to line up with Paul's teaching: "For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;" - (Rom 1:11 KJV)

While I may seem stubborn, Robert. I cannot simply deny my personal experience of salvation (which is supernatural, too, by the way) and all the forms of confirmation which the Lord has brought into my life, just because some man on the Internet told me that my theology is naive. In fact, to do so, would deny my Savior and thus deny my very being and send me headlong into the pits of hell. I will proclaim the truth of my personal experience and defend the truth of testimonies such as the likes of Mr. Pittman because I can discern the value. I can see the meat and the bones, which comfortably allows me to avoid the latter.

"Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." - (Rom 14:5 KJV)

Now that I've shared my testimony, I suppose I have nothing left to share. Unless, that is, you would like to hear more. But, I see that you are firm in your beliefs and I have no right to unbridle your faith and set you up to stumble. But, of course, I would love to discuss the details of my testimony if you are willing to listen.

Take care!

Response #19:

You will be held accountable for what you do.

As will we all, as will we all:

"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment."
Matthew 12:36 NASB

For that reason I caution you again against leading anyone else down the slippery path of the being ensnared by Mr. P.

I wrote you about this subject at length but your quotation and conclusion indicate that 1) you have been "always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth" (2Tim.3:7), or 2) you are not interested in learning, merely in controversy.

Acts is indeed "profitable for doctrine", but it has to be correctly interpreted. For example, in Acts chapter seven, Stephen is stoned to death. That doesn't mean that we should stone to death people with whom we have doctrinal disagreements. In Acts chapter one, the believers cast lots to elect the new "apostle". That doesn't mean that we should choose our pastor/teachers by rolling dice. In Acts chapter twenty-one, James and company recommend to Paul that he sponsor a group of young men in taking the Nazarite vow. That doesn't mean that we should engage in ritual purifications and vows involved in Old Testament rites. One could go on at length.

Acts is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness", and in the cases cited above (as well as in the ones explained to you so laboriously before), the doctrinal or "teaching" benefit is sometimes in the negative examples to avoid, the explanation they provide about the transitional nature of the apostolic period, and the consequent proper "doctrinal" conclusions that can be drawn from these scriptures when rightly interpreted. But if a person misinterprets scripture, then 2nd Timothy 3:16 is turned fully on its head. Anyone can quote scripture, even an unbeliever. Understanding it aright is the stuff of spiritual maturity, and that only comes from a righteous walk with the Lord after learning the truth through humble attention to a teaching ministry characterized by deliberate and painstaking exegesis of the Word by someone prepared to teach the Bible in the right way.

At the risk of upsetting you but for you own good let me explain to you why you feel the need to write me back. After all, if you really do believe that I am way out of line, why would you care to continue the correspondence? You are doing what many atheists and others who are in rebellion from the truth often do, namely, assailing any actual truth they find in the hope of totally defeating its defenders. They seem to feel that if they are successful in doing so, somehow the lies they have embraced will become true. That is, of course, absurd, but it is all too human; the "safety in numbers" principle. Just as the devil convinced those who chose to follow him that God couldn't condemn them all, so those who have embraced any sort of lie or false teaching seem to feel that if they can destroy the truth, then the lie will replace it and become "the new truth" and they will be safe to do and believe as they will.

In you heart of hearts, therefore, you do understand that Mr. P has made all this nonsense up, and that you have put yourself in grave spiritual peril by committing yourself to his "version of the truth". That nagging doubt in your heart is what led you to this ministry in the first place, and your unwillingness to let this correspondence go is a sure indication that you have not yet extinguished completely your spiritual common sense. That is a decidedly good thing, but will only avail you if you repent and turn away from the false and back to the truth.

The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.
Proverbs 14:15 NIV

Your ebullient faith would be admirable if it were in God's Word rather than in a human being and his palpably false claims (cf. Rom.10:2).

Please know that I bear you no ill will and forgive you for all your careless words.

It is for your deliverance that I encourage you to reconsider your path.

In Jesus the Lord whom I strive to serve in godly fear,

Bob L.

 

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