Question #1: I think I read somewhere on your site (perhaps an email reply) that
people who pursue the truth as taught in the scriptures often find
themselves to be pariahs in the church visible. Has that been your
experience? (If this is too personal, please say so.) I don't see
anything all that unorthodox about what you teach, other than refuting
the once-saved-always-saved teaching... and you certainly aren't alone
in that. I think even the RC Church teaches that salvation is something
that can be lost. Anyway, I was thinking about this just last Sunday as
I sat in Sunday School. I think sometimes that my "classmates" think I
am some kind of holy roller, or that I am too serious about all that the
Bible teaches. Is that what makes a serious seeker a pariah? I continue
to pray for this ministry.
Response#1: Sometimes the status of "outcast" is an honor and sometimes also one which has to be self-imposed. Sometimes we are driven out; sometimes we go peaceably. Peter's first epistle is addressed to his fellow elect "outcasts" or "sojourners" - however one translates the Greek word parepidemos, it is two steps removed from being part of the demos or "people" (par-, "on the side" not even just, epi- "in addition"). But while these people are pariahs in the eyes of the world, they are God's "elect" (see Peter lesson #3). In Hebrews, Paul goes to great lengths to describe the plight of great believers in the past who took their commitment to the Lord seriously and suffered outcast status as a result:
Some [of these great believers of the past] were tortured, refusing release, that they might obtain a better resurrection (i.e., worth more to them than their lives; cf. Ps.63:3). Others endured ridicule and beatings, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in half, killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goat hides. They were deprived, persecuted, abused. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered the deserts and the mountains, making their homes in caves and fissures in the earth. And through their faith, all of them became witnesses [to the world] (lit., "were martyred") . . .
And in summing up his encouragement to those in Jerusalem who were feeling the pull of rejoining the Jewish community (who would not accept Jesus), he laid down very clearly their choice:
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
Hebrews 13:11-13 NIV
In my personal experience, if one is
truly putting the Word of God first, maintaining fellowship with an
organization that does not is a very difficult thing to do. For there is
always a tug between what one learns to be true and what the group wants
to do. It is hard to continue growing when one continually exposes
oneself to practices and teachings that are unbiblical. This situation
plays one's conscience like a harp, causing much pain to the heart.
Inevitably, a person in such a situation eventually either begins to
share the truth with the group, resulting in friction and, often,
expulsion, or else a person acquiesces, giving up belief in truth for
the sake of fellowship. Whatever the degree of harm involved in such a
process at the present time, it is clear that during the Tribulation
this will be a disastrous course (as the organized church visible is
gradually drawn into antichrist's universal religion; please see the
“The Great Apostasy”). As far as my own personal story is concerned,
I have made a number of attempts in my life to take a combined,
middle-of-the-road approach, but to no avail. Without exception, all of
the major groups out there of which I have any knowledge or experience
are moving progressively farther from the truth not closer to it (even
if the process of degeneration is slow and hard to perceive from the
inside). My purpose and ministry is to pursue the truth of the Word
wherever it leads, and I have found it a blessing not to have to worry
about what a denominational hierarchy might have to say about that.
From the Greek, "orthodoxy" means "straight-teaching", and that has ever been my goal. To take your example of "once-saved-always-saved", this was a very dearly held belief of mine many years ago (because I had been taught it and it was very liberating to think that I could do whatever I wanted and not risk my salvation). But it was diligent study of scripture that forced me to see it wasn't so - not even an attempt to search out this problem, but just reading the Bible and over and over bumping into the myriad passages that say something completely different. Christians should read the Bible, and, over time, Bible knowledge will produce a framework of truth in the heart into which every other "piece" one tries to put into the "puzzle" will clearly be a good fit or a bad fit (i.e., the more truth one knows, the more clearly what is not true will stand out as such). I always try to show both the argument and the scriptures behind the teaching on this site, and remain open to all honest discourse and questioning about the conclusions. For I am confident that those who diligently study will be able to discern easily enough whether or not these teachings are consistent with the scriptures upon which they are based (i.e., whether they "fit" into the framework of biblical truth in their hearts or not).
I am very grateful for your comments, encouragement, and especially for your prayers.
Yours in our blessed Savior Jesus Christ,
I really like your website! If you don't mind, I have a question for you. Saturday seems to be the Bible Sabbath. It's often claimed that the Roman church changed it to Sunday. If we are not Catholic, why do we keep Sunday holy? Jesus said he was Lord of the Sabbath. 1 John 5:3 says that loving God means keeping his commandments.
I am very happy to hear that this
website has been helpful to you. The Saturday Sabbath is a memorial to
the restoration of the world accomplished in six days when God then
rested on the seventh (Gen.2:2-3), and it was a way in the Mosaic Law of
allowing people under the agricultural regimen of the ancient world to
have a blessed rest AND time to fellowship with God (so that worship
would be a delight). The switch to Sunday as the primary day of
gathering and worship is at least intimated at Revelation 1:10 when John
refers to "the Lord's day", clearly a reference to the day of our Lord's
resurrection on the first day of the week, namely Sunday (and elsewhere:
cf. Acts 20:7; 1Cor.16:2). But nowhere in the New Testament is Sabbath
observance commanded for believers in the resurrected Jesus Christ
(whether on Saturday or on Sunday) - and this is the only one of the ten
commandments which is not otherwise repeated at some point in the New
Testament. For the focus of God's truth is now not taking place
primarily in a politically defined nation state under a specific rule of
divinely given law, but in a community of believers worldwide who share
in a common faith ruled by the law of love, even though their geography,
languages, and customs may vary greatly.
It is true that Jesus said He was "Lord of the Sabbath" - and so He is! But He made this remark in the context of "(seemingly) violating the Sabbath" for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matt.12:8). Indeed, in the majority of instances where the Sabbath comes up as an issue in the gospels, it is inevitably when our Lord is healing someone - doing work for the kingdom of God - on the Sabbath day. This was (in the eyes of the legalists of His day) a technical violation of the Mosaic Law, but one in which as Lord of the Sabbath He had every right to engage. For Jesus has fulfilled the Law and all of its requirements once and for all (Rom.10:4; cf. Rom.7:1-4).
For He Himself is our peace, for He has made both [Jews and gentiles] one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition, that is, the enmity between us, by discharging the Law of the commandments and its requirements in His [own] flesh, so that He might re-create the two into one new Man by making [this] peace, and might reconcile both in one Body to God through His cross, having by means of it abolished the enmity [between God and mankind].
The Law was designed to lead us to
Jesus Christ (Gal.3:24). Once Christ came, we who believe are no longer
under the Law but under grace (Rom.6:14). This freedom is not, of
course, to allow us to follow after our own pleasures and lusts, but
quite the contrary to allow us to make use of that freedom to be better
servants to our Lord (Gal.5:13; 1Pet.2:16).
So while I have no problem with an individual Christian deciding to make Saturday (or Sunday) a special day of emphasis for worshiping the Lord in whatever way they think best, I do have a problem with 1) assuming that one day of spiritual effort removes the necessity of giving a full effort on the other six days (for we have been called to a moment-by-moment hand-in-hand walk with our Savior - a Sabbath rest which we are to enjoy at all times: Heb.4:9), and 2) any attempt to codify and/or suggest that others who do not take this view are somehow "in the wrong" - the divisiveness which stems from this attitude is more than sufficient to wipe out any good that an extra effort one day a week might produce:
You [there] - who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own Lord he stands or falls - and he will stand, for the Lord is able to stand him up. One judges a day as more important than a[nother] day, while another judges every day [the same]. Let each one be fully confident in his own mind.
In terms of the significance of individual days, it is pretty clear from scripture that no one day is more important or more holy than any other.
But at that time [when you were unbelievers], not knowing God, you were slaves to those things which are by nature not [truly] gods. But now, having recognized God, or, as it really is, having been recognized by God, how is it that you are turning back to these weak and impoverished false principles which you wish to serve as slaves all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that I may perhaps have spent my labor on you in vain.
So don't let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink, or in the category of festival observances, be it of new moons or Sabbaths. All these things are shadows of what is to come, but the reality has to do with Christ. Let no one gain control over your life, desiring to [enslave you to himself] through a show of false humility and the adoration of angels, basing his approach on what he has [allegedly] seen while puffed up by his own fleshly thoughts, yet not embracing the Head [Christ]. For it is from this Source that the entire body [the Church] is [truly] supplied and instructed through [all] its joints and sinews, and [thus] produces the growth that God has given. If you have died with Christ to these false principles [belonging to] this world, why are you letting yourselves be [wrongly] indoctrinated as if your life were of this world? In accordance with the commandments and teaching of [mere] men [these false teachers tell you] "Don't handle! Don't taste! Don't touch!", even though [we know] that all these [are only] things [which] decay with use.
Sabbath observance is therefore really
part and parcel of the shadows of the Law which pointed to the realities
beyond. Just as the animal sacrifices foreshadowed the death of Christ
on the cross, so the rest of the seventh day foreshadowed the (still
future) millennial day of rest. Today we are blessed to know more
clearly and more closely in the face of Jesus Christ. So while, as I
say, I would not censure anyone for making a certain day "special" in
their own application of their walk with our Lord Jesus Christ, I would
certainly advise them not to place too much theological weight upon it.
Here are some other links on this subject which you might find helpful:
Christians honor Sunday as the new Sabbath?
What does it mean, "remember the Sabbath to keep it holy"?
Remember the Sabbath
The Millennial Sabbath
In Him who is truly the Lord of the Sabbath - and Lord of all our days and times forevermore, our Savior Jesus Christ.
I worry a great deal about the pre-mil Rapture Lie. I go to a church that preaches on the rapture and I squirm in my seat. Fear enters my heart for all of those who really believe in this. I have enough sense to read the Bible for myself and I have understood from scripture since I was young that we will indeed go through the tribulation. I fear that so many will fall away from the faith as is predicted. How can one help others see the Truth? Is there hope for them? I feel led to stay there but also led to be fed by the truth. I'm not sure of God's purpose of keeping me in this church, except to maybe help those who won't know what hit them find the truth. I appreciate all the work you have put into this.
Thank you for your comments. As you
well know by now I quite agree with your position, and I have a similar
testimony. I was brought to see the problems with the pre-trib rapture
theory while in the process of trying to defend it many years ago. Some
issues of Bible interpretation are difficult and do turn on one's
understanding of a single passage. Even in such cases, however, God has
provided us all we need to know if we but continue to seek the truth in
a responsible, professional, and diligent way - how much more then in
the case of an area of truth that is very well documented!
I am always happy to address these issues and answer questions for people who may disagree with me but are genuinely seeking the truth. But, personally, I try to stay away from direct confrontations with people who are dead set in their ways. In my experience, it only creates bad blood. I am ever willing to defend what I believe to be true, as well as provide the evidence and reasoning upon which my beliefs are based. But there isn't much point in getting into a verbal fire-fight with people who have ceased seeking (at least in my view).
In my own experience, I think that many of those who are die-hard rapture people are so simply out of loyalty to their group and/or leaders. In fact, since I personally find absolutely nothing in scripture that would be likely to bring a person even to consider such a theory on their own, this may be the only reason why so many are so convinced of it. And while the devil certainly has a lot to gain from the dissemination of this false theory, it is unclear that those who ascribe to it are profiting much from it. Beyond the fact that it is an attractive teaching and helps to fill the pews and sell the books, the main value of this theory is as a "feel good pill", that is, it removes the worry of potentially having to experience the Tribulation (or so they think).
For me, the continued success of this false theory is most disturbing as a symptom. That is because, in my view, the only reason that it continues to enjoy such success is because so few people are reading their Bibles. As your experience shows, if one only reads scripture, one will inevitably at least come to doubt that scripture contains any basis for the pre-trib rapture on the one hand, and will see that there is much about the Tribulation which can only be explained as preparation and warning before the fact on the other - and this only makes sense if the last generation of the Church will indeed go into the Tribulation. But we are, after all, living in the Laodicean period, where a lukewarm attitude to the Lord and His Word is the norm (see Coming Tribulation Part 2A: The Seven Churches, section 7, "Laodicea").
As far as your church is concerned, this is a difficult problem and a personal one. It is a problem I hear about all the time, and one which I had earlier in life. Indeed, trying to help bridge the gap between churches which do not teach the truth and the need for the truth to be taught is the entire rationale for the Ichthys on-line ministry. It sounds to me as if you are asking the right questions as you are weighing this out. Certainly, we desire to be part of a genuine and sanctified Christian fellowship. On the other hand, we need to receive spiritual food, that is, truth, and to receive it in sufficient quantity. Beyond this, there is also the point that when one knows what is true, it is painful (and at some point harmful) to keep exposing oneself to what is not true (cf. righteous Lot's experience in Sodom: 2Pet.2:7-8). One always needs to balance personal needs and personal ministry. You certainly have a point when you mention the great turning away from the Lord that will take place during the Tribulation, and the blinders which the rapture theory puts on will contribute to this falling away in no small part. I am confident that the Lord will give you wisdom to make the right decision when the time comes.
Here are some other links that may save you some time navigating the site:
The Origin and Danger of the Pre-Trib Rapture Theory
Tribulational Security (the dangers of the rapture theory) - in Peter lesson #27
The Great Apostasy - in Coming Tribulation Part 3A
Thank you again for your good words.
In our Lord Jesus Christ,
Does the Bible say anything about Jesus' siblings? I have heard that some groups claim that Mary always remained a virgin.
Yes indeed, our Lord did have siblings
so that this teaching you mention is clearly false. In fact, our Lord
had a number of bothers and sisters, although technically they were of
course half-brothers and half-sisters, all of them being the biological
seed of Joseph while our Lord was virgin born. See: Matthew 12:46-49;
Mark 3:31-34; Luke 8:19-31; John 2:12; 7:3-5; 7:10; Acts 1:14; 1Cor.9:5.
We don't know anything about most of them from other than the little
that can be gleaned from scripture. James was Jesus' brother (Gal.1:9),
this makes Jude also a brother of the Lord by blood (Jude 1:1). We know
about James and Jude both from the epistles that bear their names, and
about James in particular from both the book of Acts (12:17; 15:13;
21:18) and Paul's epistles (1Cor.15:9; Gal.1:19; 2:9; 2:12). Mark also
mentions, in addition to James and Jude, Simon and Joses (i.e., Joseph)
as brothers of Jesus (Mk.6:3).
So our Lord had all of the family relationships (and pressures) that the rest of us have, in addition to all of those that were unique to Him. None of His siblings believed in Him before He suffered and died for them (Jn.2:12; 7:3-5; 7:10), adding another measure of suffering to the life of sorrow He lived on our behalf. James and Jude show, however, that after the fact they did come around, giving us all hope that those we love who do not share our faith in Christ may yet turn if only we are faithful and continue to show them the way by our own life of faith.
Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,
I always try to mention how important you and your site are to me. The resources are most helpful in my Spiritual Walk. I cant wait to get your comments. I would like to get more familiar with how the other faiths view Jesus. I know there are books on the subject, so if you do not have anything quick, a good reference will help. Who is Jesus to: Muslims, Jehovah's Witness, Hindus, etc. As always Thanks and God Bless.
In answering your question, I would
first like to distinguish between religions per se and those who
identify themselves as being "of" a particular religion. When I was in
the USMC, I remember having a rather heated conversation with a brother
officer of mine about Presbyterianism. He was aware that my dad was a
Presbyterian minister and was going on at great length about an extreme
notion of predestination and related hyper-Calvinist doctrines. This was
before the Lord got hold of me and turned my life around, but I
certainly did not have any shortage of opinions in those days or any
shyness about expressing them. I let it be known in no uncertain terms
that I did not necessarily agree with such doctrines (I still don't,
though now I understand now in precise theological terms why
hyper-Calvinism isn't biblical). His response was something like, "Well,
you are a Presbyterian. Therefore this is what you believe!" I have
always remembered this little life-lesson, and whenever I am in
conversation with people of a particular religion, denomination, or
cult, I try to keep it in mind that what they really believe in their
heart my be quite different from what their organization officially
espouses. Indeed, in many cases they may not even know what that
official position is in the case of many principles which those of us
who are really interested in God would see as absolutely essential to
grasp. This state of ignorance and/or independence of thought is,
moreover, much more often the rule than the exception in my experience.
Best example of this may be fringe groups like the Mormons. Depending
upon how well they have been indoctrinated (or how poorly), there may be
among individuals a variety of opinions on this subject which differ
from stated group doctrine (officially in Mormonism, for example, Jesus
is a spirit, the first-born spirit, but nonetheless a creature rather
than the Creator; contrast the truth of the Bible: Jn.1:3; 1:10;
1Cor.8:6; Col.1:16-20; Heb.1:2).
With that in mind, I will try to answer you with some specifics:
1) Jehovah's witnesses: This group claims to base its beliefs on the Bible (as many cults do), but relies heavily on their own unique translation of scripture for key points of their doctrines (i.e., the New World Translation). I can tell you from personal inspection that it twists every scripture that has to do with the divinity of Jesus Christ (for which see the link: "Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?"). That is because one of fundamentals of this cult is to deny the Trinity. For them, officially, Jesus is a creature (an angel come in human form), and not God. Whether or not every JW believes this nonsense is moot, but this group does a "good" job of making sure that whatever one of their members expresses adheres to the party line as much as possible (that is why they are never on their own when “witnessing” but always accompanied by a "minder").
2) Muslims: It is politically correct to say that the Allah of Islam is essentially the same "One God" by a different name. This makes no sense to me. We all understand perfectly well, for example, that Zeus is not God the Father. Furthermore, the way in which Islam approaches its monotheism ipso facto rules out the divinity of Christ. Officially, Jesus is a prophet, but Mohammed is THE prophet, thus Jesus is for official Islam little more than a holy man (see the link: "Do Muslims worship the One true God?").
3) Hindus: As far as I know, Hinduism has no official point of view on Jesus Christ. Little wonder since it developed apart from the Judeo-Christian tradition and thus has no direct point of contact or conflict with it in terms of historical doctrine. As you are no doubt aware, "salvation" in this religion is attained through the purification of many lives as the soul transmigrates through many bodies and many rebirths, advancing when the duties of each stage are faithfully carried out. As this is essentially a religion of salvation through self-works, there is no need for a personal Savior. In fact, that is a criticism that can be found lurking at the heart of nearly all cults: denying the need for Christ always goes hand in hand with denying who He is and what He has done for us.
A couple of good resources for you (though there are many out there):
Best book I know of: Walter Martin, Kingdom of the Cults (Bethany House 2003 [newest edition]) - this is a popular book and may very well be in your local library.
Best website I know of: Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.
In the One true Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ,