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Question #1: 

Do you agree with the article below. Please click and read. Thank You



Response #1: 

Good to hear from you again. As to your question, no, I certainly do not agree with the article you reference. Failing to accept supposed "miracles" performed by what amounts to cult leaders is not the unforgiveable/unpardonable sin. The unforgiveable/unpardonable sin is the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ. We are saved by grace through faith: refusing to accept Jesus in faith for salvation is the only sin for which Jesus could never die since, obviously, "He cannot deny Himself" (2Tim.2:13). To me, this is obvious from the context of Matthew 12:22-32 if read straight through, and even more so when we factor in Mark's commentary on why Jesus said what He said: "He said this because they were saying 'He has an evil spirit'".

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, [fn] the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. "Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Matthew 12:22-32 NIV

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."
Mark 12:22-30 NIV

The article you linked to is an example of very sloppy thinking or of deliberate sleight of hand. For the author says several times (in laborious terms), essentially, "the context is important" (with which sentiment I would hope anyone would agree), but then goes on to draw a conclusion completely on warranted by the context in the Matthew version: I.e., para. #6: "To fail to recognize Jesus as the manifestation of God in the flesh (the Son of Man) can be overcome" – precisely the opposite of Jesus' point: denying Christ can NEVER be "overcome" since only through faith in Christ can a person be saved. He the author goes on to ignore the implications of Mark's commentary completely: I.e., para. #10: the statement "These evil words betrayed their evil hearts" fails to get the point that the "evil words" referred to are an attempt to deny the Messiahship of Jesus made clear by His miracles empowered by the Spirit. Think about it. If Jesus said "blasphemy against the Spirit cannot be forgiven" because "they were saying He had an evil spirit", then, clearly, the attack by the detractors is being made against Jesus in the first place ("He had . . .), and in the second place on the Spirit in His role of empowering miracles for the purpose of demonstrating the Messiahship of Christ. Neither the attack nor the response is directed at the miracles themselves but rather at what the miracles clearly meant: Jesus is the Messiah, otherwise He couldn't do what He was doing.

Failing to accept the obvious implications of what Jesus' performance of these miracles meant was to resist and reject the ministry of the Spirit speaking to their hearts beckoning them to salvation. By rebuffing the truth which the Spirit was laying out clearly before them, they were calling the Spirit a liar, calling Him an "evil spirit". That is blasphemy alright, but it is blasphemy that cannot be forgiven because by definition it is only through accepting the Spirit's testimony about Jesus that a person is saved.

The type of miracle here is important too. Satan can fake miracles, but the one thing he does not do is attack himself (the point of Jesus' intervening words between verses 24 and 32). So while the detractors might have had at least the fig-leaf of an argument for, say, miracles of healing, the casting out of demons is something that clearly someone empowered by the devil would not be doing. Therefore they were without any excuse and their blasphemy against the Spirit was complete and revealed for what it actually was and actually meant, namely, their complete rejection out of self-motivated self-will of the Person they had every reason to understand was indeed the Messiah.

I think it is a sad commentary on the state of "Bible teaching" in this country at present that a person could actually bring him/herself to say that rejecting Christ can be forgiven (when we know that only by accepting Christ can we be saved) but that exercising common sense about (often) false "healings" done by persons who are most definitely not Jesus Christ is somehow "unforgiveable". This is cult behavior at its worst, and not only leads people away from salvation but also enslaves them through fear to whomever has the power of proclaiming for them what is or is not reality. Keep in mind that one of the ways that antichrist will become such an overnight sensation and be believed to be Christ by many is precisely because of the false miracles he will perform through the power of Satan rather than the power of God (2Thes.2:9). We Christians are supposed to be as innocent as doves . . . but as wise as serpents. To tell Christians that they are going to hell if they do not accept phony miracles "performed" by charlatans in order to increase the size of their church attendance and offerings strikes me as the lowest sort of thing imaginable. In fact, it makes me seriously doubt the spiritual status of anyone who could stoop so low.

Here are some links where the true teaching on this and related subjects is developed more fully:

The unpardonable sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit: Blasphemy against, Restraining Ministry, and Gender.

Have I committed the unforgivable sin?

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in BB 3B)

Hope this is of some help to you.

In our dear Lord Jesus who keeps us all safe through faith (1Pet.1:5),

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Doc!

I thought about someone who knows how to rightly divide the Word of Truth and your name popped into my mind first. :) I was watching this Christian program (Word Pictures) where the host (Mark Kielar) was hosting the show titled "a glimpse of hell". He said, "are you the one who rarely goes to church? or don't used to go to church meetings like you used to? then you may hear Jesus say to you the words that are found in Matthew 7:21-23"

He made me feel like I was probably on my way to hell because of what he said about church. I've thought about that passage many a times and if I found myself before the Lord and He said, "I never knew you!" I would have nothing to say because I know His judgment is just and righteous. I would not say things like, "I did many works, preached your word, etc."

I never feel as if I have to try hard to make sure I will get to heaven, but the reason I feel the need to be obedient to Jesus is because of what He did for me. His love for me gives me the strength I need to know that the Lord is with me and through His strength I'm able to overcome any sin in my life regardless of how tough it may seem. I guess why I'm sensitive about this is because it bothers me when someone tells you that church service and duties for your brethren at church are signs of a saved person. I know and have plenty of friends, even family members who are believers, and I love them dearly as the bible commands me to. I also fellowship with them and love to do so. But because I don't attend church like Mark Kielar said and help my brethren at church, I'm probably on my way to the Lake of Fire for eternity? What are your thoughts about what he said?" I was ok with most of his teaching until he said this. Thanks in advance!

Response #2: 

Always good to hear from you. This passage (and the close parallel in Luke 13:22-27) is a favorite one for irresponsible preachers who want to lay a "guilt trip" on their congregations. When loosely interpreted, it is tailor made for "commitment Sunday" or "pledge Sunday" or in fact for any time there is a need to "motivate" the troops. That is because these passages, if not properly and carefully exegeted, can be loosely applied to anything about which "you ought to feel guilty". In short, these verses are easily made to mean, "Because you are not doing [whatever it is I want you to do], Jesus says you are going to hell!" This is the stuff cults are made of. Clearly, no believer wants even to entertain the thought that Jesus is going to cast him/her into hell! So I guess they better do whatever it is that pastor X says they should do. The problem is that now we have turned our free will over to pastor X – which is actually a good way to undermine our faith and spiritual growth (the only possible avenue for a believer to lose salvation and end up in hell, i.e., reacting to life-circumstances in a way that leads to completely abandoning faith and apostatizing: Matt.13:20-21; Mk.4:16-17; Lk.8:13).

After all, as Christians who are not mere babes in the faith, we know very well that it is our faith in Jesus that has overcome the world (1Jn.5:4), that we stand by faith (Rom.11:20), are protected through faith (1Pet.1:5), and are saved through faith by the grace of God (Eph.2:8-9). Time would fail us if we were to exegete or even list every verse where the Bible makes clear that faith is the issue, that faith in Jesus is what saves us by God's grace (I am in the process of writing up BB 4B Soteriology, and, believe me, the passages are myriad). On the other hand, there is not a single, solitary verse in the Bible that tells us to go to "church" at all. Hebrews 10:25 only talks about Christian fellowship and does so in the context of the purpose for it: mutual encouragement, an important theme in Hebrews (cf. Heb.3:13 where we are to "encourage one another every day", certainly not a formal worship service in view here). Please see the link: Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly.

Now I don't find someone telling me (absolutely erroneously, it is important to add) that I am going to hell very encouraging. Nor do I find most worship services encouraging in our present era of Laodicea. As you so eloquently put it, the Word of God, the truth from our Lord – now that is encouraging, and when fellow believers remind us of pertinent truths in a positive way, we do take encouragement through the Spirit, cheer up, and begin again the process of moving forward on the high road to Zion hand in hand with our Lord Jesus. Faulty exegesis always provides just the opposite of what we need. It sows doubts unnecessarily. The only good thing I can say for this sort of thing is that it can be an important warning sign for us to avoid people and places that would condescend to such nonsense, which, if heeded, will prevent us from getting sucked into something very bad. It also is true that when we fend off what is not true by seeking what is true, it has a tendency to make us spiritually stronger.

What, then, is Jesus saying here and in Luke 13? Clearly, nothing about "church"; nothing about synagogue attendance. In fact, please note well, the people being rejected by Jesus are the religious types! They are not begging forgiveness for not being "involved" in the religious activities of the day. No, they are expressing their surprise for being excluded from the kingdom and suggesting that they should rather be included precisely because they did do the equivalent of "going to church" and "engaging in church-like activities". "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets!" say the "church-goers" of Luke 13. "‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?", say the "church-doers" of Matthew 7. Yet they will not enter the kingdom. Why? Because they didn't go to church? No, rather, they did come to listen to Jesus Himself. Because they did nothing? No, rather, they were engaged in church-like activities of a very impressive sort (casting out demons; performing miracles). Why, then, are they bound for hell? They are shut out of the kingdom because, as Jesus tells them very directly, "I never knew you". Jesus knows very well every child of God, from the least to the greatest, because all such have believed in Him for eternal life and so actually have eternal life.

On the other hand, even someone who went to church when Jesus was speaking, and even if that person engaged in sacrificial church-like activities, this means nothing . . . without faith. That is the point of the parable. The religious Jews of Jesus' day assumed that just by being Jewish "theirs was the kingdom". But that was/is far from true. Indeed, even for those who did not sit on their Jewish laurels, but who actually made the effort to hear Jesus, and who even went so far as to "do for Him" thereafter are availed nothing for their efforts . . . without faith. God does not need us. We need God. We cannot work our way into heaven, whether by works of supererogation or perfect church attendance. But if we put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, we are saved.

Certainly, we will want to follow Jesus the way He wants us to follow Him after salvation, and that normally involves some sort of formal or semi-formal Christian fellowship, and it also ideally involves our own ministry to others once we grow up spiritually and advance to the point of spiritual maturity. But it is only through the truth of the gospel (the logos or "Word" of truth about Jesus, who He is and what He has done for us) that we are saved; and it only by learning the truth of and from Him who is the truth (the Logos, Jesus Christ) that we grow; and it is only by staying to true to the truth and believing it and applying it and acting upon it in truth that we come into the ministries God has for us. I can think of nothing worse for a believer who genuinely wants to grow up in Jesus, pass the tests He has for him/her, and help others do the same through the ministry to which he/she has been called than to be trapped in some spiritual kindergarten by a self-serving pseudo-pastor who is only interested in collecting followers and sheering those sheep for his own advantage (benefitting from their time, talents, and resources). I'm not saying that is the situation in the ministry you mention in your email. I don't know. But this "teaching" you report is hardly a good sign.

Praying for your continued and continuing spiritual truth through the pure milk of the Word to end of a bountiful reward before our Lord Jesus on that great day. For He certainly does "know you".

Please also see the link:  "I never knew you"

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

What did Jesus mean when He said "call no man father" in Matthew 23:9. I heard this so called "watchman" of God claim that you should never use that term, even when addressing your parent. He said he never likes to use that term, only when referring to God.

Response #3: 

It is obvious that this passage should not be construed to mean that as Christians we are not allowed to call our biological fathers "father". That would be odd indeed since that is what they most assuredly are. Scripture has to be considered in its totality on every point, not just as individual verses out of context. That principle has two clear applications here in that, firstly, we are told repeatedly in scripture to honor our parents. Not giving our fathers (or mothers) the courtesy of even being willing to acknowledge verbally their actual biological status would be a dishonor indeed. I have never personally understood how (relatively young) children could be allowed to call their parents by their first names. I don't dogmatically condemn it, but it has always seemed strange to me and mildly offensive as if the child were not giving the parent proper respect, whereas we know in scripture that respect is what is due our parents, regardless of how "good" or "bad" we subjectively (or objectively) judge them to be.

Secondly, the entire context of the passage wherein Matthew 23:9 occurs is not about family relationships at all, but about students and teachers and the tendency in Jesus' day for the Pharisees to demand and (for their disciples to give) an inordinate degree of obeisance that passed well beyond proper and godly respect and into flattery and glorification. Jesus tells His disciples not to accept the designation "Rabbi" (which means literally "my great one") or "guides", since both terms overstate the position and the role of teachers in the Church. Certainly those who labor in the Word are worthy of "double honor" (1Tim.5:7), a stipulation which most assuredly includes the proper respect that should be shown to anyone in authority. As is the case with most things of spiritual import, the "sweet spot" lies in the middle: between "no respect" on the one hand (and that is how some misguided Christians erroneously feel pastor-teachers should be treated) and an overweening sort of "personality cult" of the sort the Pharisaical teachers were demanding on the other, we find the proper biblical respect which neither demeans nor glorifies.

Teaching is a gift which is accompanied by authority which should be respected. But a teacher is a helper, not a master – at least that is the biblical standard. Note that in the Roman Catholic tradition, priests have the same sort of overweening Pharisaical authority wherein they are seen as somehow "more spiritual" and much higher up in the Christian pecking-order than everyone else. Maybe that is why they are often called "Father" or "Padre"; that is an example of a direct contravention of Jesus' command in Matthew 23:9 (rather than calling your own father "father"). We who love the Word know that all believers are priests of the Most High (1Pet.2:5; 2:9; Rev.1:6), and that all of us have equal access to the Father in Jesus Christ (Eph.2:18; 3:12; Heb.4:16), and that the privilege of approaching God in prayer and fellowship is certainly not confined to some select group of intermediaries, regardless of the fine titles they give themselves. That is the spirit of Jesus' words in Matthew 23:9, and we should all beware any group or organization or church where the leader or leaders are treated as so "special" that they form a separate hierarchy. Stay away from "personality cults" of every sort.

Incidentally, some versions of the Bible translate the Greek word kathegetai in Matthew 23:10 as "teacher", and that thoroughly confuses the entire point our Lord is making (it is an incorrect translation since the actual word for "teacher", didaskalos, actually occurs in the context in verse eight). We know that "teacher" is a spiritual gift (e.g., 1Cor.12:28), even though we have only one true Teacher, Jesus Christ. But in Matthew 28:10 what our Lord actually says is that we should not allow ourselves to be called "guides", a term which indicates some special knowledge and/or relationship which is unavailable to others. Teachers should know quite a lot and should be very close to the Lord (and there is of course always room for improvement in both areas), but the entire point of their preparation is to help others acquire the same knowledge and build the same relationship. It is ever the case that when individuals foster the idea of their being "special", they are doing so because, like the Pharisees, they are really only aggrandizing themselves, and have a personal agenda which has nothing to do with God, no matter what they proclaim.

Yours in One who humbled Himself in order that we might be exalted in Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Someone had asked if God (the Father) was male or female since He is spirit. He felt that God was neither male or female and I felt that God was male in the sense that He is always referred to as Father. If I were without a body, I would still be male because my emotional characteristics are masculine and I think that God is male in that sense too. The person had said that although God is referred to as our Heavenly Father, he's unsure if He is any gender since He is a Spirit. He also said that it would be much easier for him to believe he is loved by God if He was referred to as our Heavenly Mother--or by NO gender at all. "I believe in a mother's love; I don't believe in a father's love." Isn't this unbiblical? to me this is almost as making God in our own image since the bible never speaks of God as mother. Do you agree that his description of God's gender is biblically inaccurate? Thanks!

Response #4: 

I agree with you entirely. Jesus is a true human being – since the incarnation – and as such is a male (clearly). The Father and the Spirit (and the Son in His deity) are indeed spirit. Since they are not creatures, they have no literal, physical gender. However, scripture most certainly does represent all three members of the Godhead with the masculine gender. I think "Father" and "Son" need no elaboration, but this is also true of the Holy Spirit:

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one (i.e., the Holy Spirit; masculine in the Greek) who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
2nd Thessalonians 2:7 NIV

The desire of some to have a feminine object of worship goes back to all pagan religions, and is deeply tied into sexual excess and demon influence. The transplanting of this horrific blasphemy into the Roman Catholic church through the veneration of Mary ("Mariolatry") has been instrumental in leading millions astray.

There is, moreover, a very good reason why the Godhead is masculine and in no way feminine. We believers are "the Bride of Christ". The female was invented by God to teach His creatures the essential principle of how we are to use our free will in this world to respond to Him. In life as viewed from divine standpoint of why we are here, our purpose is to respond to God . . . in the same way that a virtuous wife is to respond to her husband. Christ is the Husband; we are the wife. He leads; we follow. God never responds to us in a submissive way; we are made to respond to Him as our Lord and Master. The entire "problem" with the world is that most creatures do not want to respond to God at all. They want God to respond to them (if they care about Him at all). In all the personal setbacks we experience which can be laid at our own feet, we see that these always stem from our doing things "our own way" (lack of response) rather than "God's way" (proper wife-like response to her head, her husband). In the desire to turn God's gender-representations upside down, we see in truth the desire to make God subordinate. That has been the problem with creatures since Satan's rebellion, and is a key feature in the three satanic lies which seek to redefine reality to a person's own benefit and to the detriment of God (see the links, in SR 4, "Satan's Tactical Doctrine", in BB 2A, "Satan's System of Propaganda", in BB 3B, "The Three Satanic Lies", and in CT 3A, a synopsis):

* lie #1: "I don't need God" (falsely assuming independence from God): dimming the truth.

* lie #2: "I am like God" (falsely assuming equality with God): separating from the truth.

* lie #3: "God needs me" (falsely assuming superiority to God): perverting the truth.

This approach is the height of self-deception, of course, but it is a hallmark of all satanic propaganda, and deep-set in the human heart wherever from one's own free-will a person is determined not to submit to God, even at the price of eternal destruction.

Please see also the link: The Holy Spirit: Blasphemy against, Restraining Ministry, and Gender.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

This may be part of the face of the future religion; it also sounds like something out of the 60's; I could see this guy as a Hare Krishna:


Is Hell Dead?

As part of a series on peacemaking, in late 2007, Pastor Rob Bell's Mars Hill Bible Church put on an art exhibit about the search for peace in a broken world. It was just the kind of avant-garde project that had helped power Mars Hill's growth (the Michigan church attracts 7,000 people each Sunday) as a nontraditional congregation that emphasizes discussion rather than dogmatic teaching. An artist in the show had included a quotation from Mohandas Gandhi. Hardly a controversial touch, one would have thought. But one would have been wrong.

A visitor to the exhibit had stuck a note next to the Gandhi quotation: "Reality check: He's in hell." Bell was struck. (Vote on Rob Bell's influence in the 2011 TIME 100 poll.)

Really? he recalls thinking.

Gandhi's in hell?

He is?

We have confirmation of this?

Somebody knows this?

Without a doubt?

And that somebody decided to take on the responsibility of letting the rest of us know?

So begins Bell's controversial new best seller, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Works by Evangelical Christian pastors tend to be pious or at least on theological message. The standard Christian view of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is summed up in the Gospel of John, which promises "eternal life" to "whosoever believeth in Him." Traditionally, the key is the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God, who, in the words of the ancient creed, "for us and for our salvation came down from heaven ... and was made man." In the Evangelical ethos, one either accepts this and goes to heaven or refuses and goes to hell.

Bell, a tall, 40-year-old son of a Michigan federal judge, begs to differ. He suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal — meaning that, as his book's subtitle puts it, "every person who ever lived" could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be. Such a simple premise, but with Easter at hand, this slim, lively book has ignited a new holy war in Christian circles and beyond. When word of Love Wins reached the Internet, one conservative Evangelical pastor, John Piper, tweeted, "Farewell Rob Bell," unilaterally attempting to evict Bell from the Evangelical community. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says Bell's book is "theologically disastrous. Any of us should be concerned when a matter of theological importance is played with in a subversive way." In North Carolina, a young pastor was fired by his church for endorsing the book. (See 10 surprising facts about the world's oldest Bible.)

The traditionalist reaction is understandable, for Bell's arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelation. "When you adopt universalism and erase the distinction between the church and the world," says Mohler, "then you don't need the church, and you don't need Christ, and you don't need the cross. This is the tragedy of nonjudgmental mainline liberalism, and it's Rob Bell's tragedy in this book too."

Particularly galling to conservative Christian critics is that Love Wins is not an attack from outside the walls of the Evangelical city but a mutiny from within — a rebellion led by a charismatic, popular and savvy pastor with a following. Is Bell's Christianity — less judgmental, more fluid, open to questioning the most ancient of assumptions — on an inexorable rise? "I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian," Bell says. "Something new is in the air."

Response #5: 

I've heard about this guy, but the details in the article were interesting. I guess this is what it takes to have a large, popular, growing church these days. It explains a lot about why I and most of my seminary buddies are ministering at the margins (as the world sees things), instead of in big churches. I also find it interesting that in the author's description of what traditional Christianity "believes" as essential, there is no mention of Jesus' sacrificial death on our behalf. No wonder he doesn't "get it". God is love, but hell exists for all those who choose to go there by refusing to accept His offer of love in the sacrifice of His one and only beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Critical links on this:

The Last Judgment (in CT 6)

Literal Hell

Choosing Hell

Thanks as always for your great "scouting reports".

Your pal in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Dear Bob,

I have a problem, but nothing that will cause me any trouble, just a bit of heartache. My friend who I grew up with is a born again Christian. We began a little bible study group on facebook for just the two of us to discuss things together. It started out great but she is of the pre-trib belief. I’ve tried to be as gentle as I can that I don’t believe it or agree, but tried making her feel good about sharing with me the different things she has been studying and made the remark that I like learning with her. Well, now she must feel that I am still pretty young in my faith and is coming on like a tidal wave trying to get me to believe the pre-trib theory. I almost feel as though she thinks I am going to hell and am lost because I don’t agree with her. She will not stop posting stuff even though I’ve told her that I’ve been studying this for three years now and have seen everything there is to see concerning it. Well, I’ve just decided not to say anything, as I don’t know what else to say that I haven’t already stated plainly and gently. This is the latest link she sent me and after reading it I just welled up in tears as to how the Word of God is being twisted and for my friend. She quotes to me the same things from this article as proof of the theory.

I’ve scoured over your site trying to find things I haven’t already tried saying in opposition of the theory but can’t find anything. I honestly don’t think she would even bother, as I tried linking to your site and she right away asked me not to link her to Mormon sites. I told here it wasn’t, but now I think she thinks I am because she thinks your site is and now won’t even bother to look at it. She just won’t even consider it, yet, wants me to just read everything she sends me. Here it is and it’s a new one for me and is the part she is completely sold on, that Christ comes twice but the difference is that His feet won’t touch the earth the first time He comes and that differentiates from the second time He comes where He will then touch the earth for battle:

The Pretribulation Rapture:

"The Bible describes two separate and distinct future events, both of which are often described as the Second Coming. The first event is what Bible scholars call the Rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, the apostle Paul writes that "the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord." In this passage, Paul is describing an event in which Jesus Christ will not physically, literally touch down on the earth but will first come "in the clouds" and snatch away His true followers from the earth in an instant of time. Those who have not chosen to follow Christ, those who have not been "born again," will remain behind on the earth and will have to go through a terrible time of wars, famines, natural disasters, and divine judgments known as the Tribulation.

The second event occurs at the end of the Tribulation. This is when the Bible teaches that Jesus will physically, literally return to earth, destroy His enemies, and set up His own righteous government based in Jerusalem. He will reign on earth for one thousand years. In Revelation 19:11--20:6, the apostle John writes, "I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. . . . He will rule [the nations]. . . . And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and he threw him into the abyss. . . . And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God . . . and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. . . . Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection. . . . They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years."



In our Lord Jesus,

Response #6: 

It's good to hear from you. Sticking up for the truth is never an easy path to take. As I have often remarked, and as you have no doubt often read, the pre-trib position would be just another odd, extra-biblical belief – if it wasn't for the fact that with the Tribulation bearing down, so many pre-tribbers are going to be completely unprepared when their early deliverance doesn't materialize. And not only that. For some strange reason that makes no biblical sense, even though this particular point of scripture is a minute part of the whole, pre-tribbers tend to have their entire faith bound up with it. I worry that many will either flag in their faith when they suffer this coming disappointment and/or be more vulnerable to antichrist's false claims of Messiahship (since they have not bothered to study and prepare for the Tribulation as something they might actually have to live through). That is what comes of being preoccupied with false teaching of any sort. There is simply no reason for this particular "doctrine" to take center-stage for people who are truly committed to living their lives for Jesus Christ. But for all those who are involved with false doctrines of any stripe, it always seems to be the case that the false comes to dominate their Christian approach (such as it may be), and also that they tend to push their false belief with a missionary zeal (as you are experiencing) far out of proportion to all the other wonderful things in the Bible they profess to believe.

I had to chuckle at the introductory sentence "the Bible describes two separate and distinct future events, both of which are often described as the Second Coming". Is this not patently ridiculous on the face of it? If there are three comings, then calling both number two and number three "second" would make no sense from any point of view.

"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Acts 1:11 NIV

How many times is Jesus coming back according to the above? Obviously, this is the fundamental problem for those who support the false doctrine of the supposed pre-Tribulation rapture (other than the uncomfortable fact that it occurs nowhere in the Bible), namely, the uncomfortable fact that Jesus' is never described as coming back more than once. When the New Testament scripture speaks of Jesus' return, His parousia or"coming", isn't even called a "second" coming. That is clearly because there is only one "return" of the Lord in scripture and so no need to enumerate; and that one return is what everyone has always referred to as the "Second Advent" (cf. Matt.24:3; 24:37; 24:39) for centuries without exception – at least before Darby in the mid-19th cent.:

(26) So if they say to you, "Look! [The Messiah] is [out] in the desert!", don't go out there, or "Look! He is in the inner rooms (i.e., hidden somewhere in town)!", don't believe [it]. (27) For just as lightning flashes in the west and lights up the sky all the way to the east, so it will be with the Son of Man's return. (28). Wherever there is a body, there the eagles will gather.
Matthew 24:26-28

But when He brings back the Firstborn into the world, He says, "And let all the angels of God worship Him!"
Hebrews 1:6

(23) But each [will be resurrected] in his own echelon. Christ [is the] first-fruits. Next [will be] those belonging to Christ at His coming (i.e., the 2nd Advent). (24) Then the end, when He will hand the Kingdom over to the Father, after He has brought an end to all rule, all power, and all authority. (25) For He must rule until He has placed all His enemies under His feet – (26) and death is the final enemy to be done away with.
1st Corinthians 15:23-26

In the passage immediately above, the word Paul uses for "coming" is parousia, employed as it nearly always is when used eschatologically as a technical term for Jesus' Second Advent return. Give the passage above, I would very much like to know how Paul could use parousia for the Second Advent and expect his readers of 1st Thessalonians to think that by parousia there he really meant "not the Second Advent or the First but something in-between". For at 1st Thessalonians 4:15-17, while the word parousia does make the reader think of the Second Advent, there is simply not a single indication that this passage is not speaking about the Second Advent, nothing that would have made the Thessalonians "think twice" that maybe they were understanding the natural application of the passage incorrectly. Think about it. Everywhere else Paul uses parousia when he is speaking about the Second Advent. If there were a "pre-trib rapture", it would be this passage, 1st Thessalonians 4:15-17, which would be describing it. So then just how were the Thessalonians supposed to know that in this one place of all his epistles Paul used the word parousia to means something completely different from what it means everywhere else?

(15) For we tell you this by the Lord's own Word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming (parousia) of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the archangel's blast on the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, (17) then we who are alive and remain will be snatched up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and in this way we shall always be with the Lord.
1st Thessalonians 4:15-17

I would ask my friend to demonstrate to me from this passage just what it is that cannot be true of the Second Advent. That is the burden of proof that pre-trib believers have, because, beyond all argument, the pre-trib rapture theory is not one that a person would naturally construct for themselves by reading the Bible for themselves. If there is nothing about this passage that has to refer to a pre-trib rapture as opposed to a living resurrection at Christ's return at the Second Advent, then the pre-trib rapture cannot be proven from this passage. And if the pre-trib rapture cannot be proven from this passage, then what is the proof from anywhere in scripture that it is a legitimate teaching at all?

Indeed, the situation is actually far worse for proponents of that false theory. That is because they are taking the natural meaning of a key passage and pulling it inside out by giving an important technical term, parousia, a different meaning than it had when Jesus used it of His Second Advent return (Matt.24:3; 24:27; 24:37; 24:39), and when the apostles use it of that one return, including, very significantly, even in letters to the Thessalonians (2Thes.2:1), and even at other places in this very letter (1Thes.2:19; 3:13; 5:23)! Therefore it is not enough for pre-tribbers to show how their theory is "consistent" with 1st Thessalonians 4:15-17. To receive a hearing, since they are the ones introducing a new theory (never seen before the 19th century), and one that turns on its head the plain meaning which the Thessalonians who received the letter would have naturally assigned to it based upon the gospels and Paul's other epistles and teachings, something in this passage has to be shown to be inconsistent with the Second Advent.

Until pre-tribbers can show decisively that 1st Thessalonians is completely inconsistent with a resurrection at the Second Advent, they should at least admit that what they believe is a theory not clearly taught by the Bible. That is permissible (though not salutary) to do; but it certainly is very dangerous to be out "evangelizing" for something which they know cannot be proven from scripture to be accurate.

Perversely, I believe that this is one of the reasons why pre-tribbers are so adamant about the theory. As with all half-believed untruths, there is a sense of "security in numbers". People in these situations feel that if they can just persuade others, then maybe what they have is the truth. This is a classic phenomenon in all cult behavior. Those who evangelize for the cult are very often shaky about its beliefs (for good reason). Therefore in convincing others what they are really doing is trying to convince themselves – and for a small number who have not swallowed the Kool-Aid complete, they are hoping against hope, at least subconsciously, that someone will talk them out of it. The more strident people are about something which is really not of primary importance, the more likely that they do not really believe it deeply themselves.

Clearly, the fact that 1st Thessalonians mentions "clouds" (the only so-called "proof" I found at the link you provided used to make this passage non-Second Advent) would certainly not rule out its application to the Second Advent. To the contrary, "clouds" are a noted feature of the Second Advent:

(13) I kept looking during my vision of that night, and behold – with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming up, and He approached the Ancient of Days (i.e., the Father) and they brought Him before Him. (14) And to Him was given dominion and honor and a kingdom, so that all nations and peoples and tongues should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away, and His kingdom one which will not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14

Behold! He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the peoples of the earth will grieve on account of Him.
Revelation 1:7

These "clouds" are indeed the ones in which we are "caught up" in 1st Thessalonians – not literally vapor clouds, but clouds of our fellow believers who form the Body, the Bride, the "armies" of Jesus Christ – and it is at the Second Advent that these assemble, not before the Tribulation:

(11) And I saw the sky above opened up, and, behold, a white horse, and the One seated on it is called "Faithful and True", and in righteousness He renders judgment and makes war. (12) And His eyes were a flame of fire, and on His head were many [kingly] crowns, with names written [on them] which no one knows except He Himself. (13) And He is dressed in a robe splattered all about with blood, and His Name has [always] been called, "The Word of God". (14) And His armies were following Him in the sky [mounted] on white horses, [and] clad in linen white and pure.
Revelation 19:11-14

The continual repetition of a claim is not evidence of the truth of one's position. It is merely evidence of one's emotional state and ever reflective of deeper problems. In this case, the problem seems to be a need to convince others in order to convince oneself. This may be how JW's and Mormons operate (of which I am most certainly not one), but it ill-behooves true Christians.

On final "p.s." on this:

(16) For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  (17) He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
2nd Peter 1:16-17 NIV

The "coming in power" is the 2nd Advent, a preview of which Peter and his fellow disciples were blessed to witness on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Peter calls this "the coming (parousia) of our Lord "in power".  So without any doubt the parousia is, for Peter as well, the 2nd Advent.

You probably are already aware of this, but here are a couple of links to the places at Ichthys where this topic is covered in greater detail:

The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory.

Three False Doctrines which Threaten Faith (Pet. #27)

Faith and the Pre-Tribulational "Rapture".

In the Name of the One who is the truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello Robert:

No apologies necessary. Our God is sovereign and His timing is perfect!

Thank you so much for your response. You have no idea how much that meant to me.

Just to say, my life is incredible. My only concern with my son is that he has (lately) been influenced by college-age boys that attend Bethel Church. There are several things in this church that cause concern. First is the "treasure hunts" that they encourage. My son has been on several of these hunts and I finally had to tell him last summer that I was not comfortable and that I did not want him to go on them for awhile because I just didn't feel right in my spirit about them. And he is at an age where I am rarely being this "forward" with him. He is such a good boy that I haven't "had to". Praise God, (up to this point) he has made very wise decisions. Anyway, I was wondering if you have heard any good/bad about this church or the pastor? Bethel has also partnered with a video entitled "The Finger of God". This is a very controversial video that I have concern with. When I viewed it, I felt very uneasy in my spirit. I failed to see "Jesus" in this video.

... But what I did see was "super-natural acts" done by man. Now, behind the scenes they may have been praising God through all of these acts (which would make the video entirely different)

... But, *IF SO*, they edited all of these parts out. I wouldn’t go as far as to say " this video was done in the wrong spirit"

... But if an unbeliever watched this video, I would wonder if they would "get" that Jesus is the source to be "glorified and lifted up". This important part was missing.

Some other concerns (and some personal testimonies) about Bethel's teachings and practices that were online:

• Bethel Church displays signs and wonders but that doesn't authenticate anything. (Matt. 7:22)

• the following was from an individuals testimony RE: treasure hunting: God expects us to behave in a manner of integrity and wholeness (which does not include running around to fast food places giving a "word" to people, even if the "word" is right..... the Bible says to be in God's timing, not our own. I have been supernaturally healed of Cystic Fibrosis and many other things and I subscribe to the idea that whatever you do, if it does not cause someone to want to know Christ, then you shouldn't do it.

• When we get outside of the instructions of the scripture regarding the use of the Gifts and what they are for then it becomes nothing more than a "make me feel good" experience. It becomes self center-vain-imagination of man and takes our eyes off of Jesus

• I think that we all know that signs and wonders do not show that a ministry is genuine. Think about Matthew 7:22. If you haven't read it check it out. These people plead to Jesus with their signs and wonders but he says depart from me I never knew you. Bethel may display signs and wonders but that doesn't authenticate anything. Here is another scripture to think about:

"For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Revelation 16:14

"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." -Revelation 19:20

•We should remember that what we do inside or even outside the church should be done to edify (instruct, improve morally, build up) other believers and lead unbelievers to faith in the Lord. If you read 1 Corinthians 14:1-33 you'll find Paul giving this teaching. Pay particular attention to verse 33. God is not the author of confusion.

•You can't go wrong following the only "right" that ever lived...Jesus Christ. I got saved in adulthood, a very strong conversion after living a fairly selfish sinful life. God changed me overnight. Here is my encouragement to you. Follow JESUS and not man. Don't be bewitched by healings, and miracles but be in awe of the cross, the atonement of Jesus for your sins.

Maybe stop reading other books (for a while) and read the Word of God. This will give you your spiritual strength and above all DISCERNMENT. Start in New Testament, read a few times. Then go back and start at the beginning. Actually my favorite is chapter 1, Genesis. I was a zealous, passionate new believer and got misguided in a cultish church. But what led me out, was my zealous reading of the FULL COUNSEL of God. I could then know for sure if someone was saying something in a sermon out of context. The Holy Spirit will help you learn the truth and make sense of out of this bible that is not so easy to understand. But, it is the story of our Savior...it is HIS story, and it is meant for us.

•The Word of Faith movement is deceiving countless people, causing them to grasp after a way of life and faith that is not biblical. Our hope is in the Lord, not in our own words, not even in our own faith (Psalm 33:20-22). Our faith comes from God in the first place (2 Peter 1:1), and is not something we create for ourselves. Everything around that teaching involves prosperity and what God wants to do for you. Truth is that is partly true. It's not exactly a lie; it's just OUT OF BALANCE. God does want to heal and restore us. But that's not the only thing He wants to do. And when we start majoring in the minors, we get off balance.

If you have any opinion or thoughts on Bethel Church would you please share with me. I would be greatly interested to hear what you think.

Thank you so much Robert!


Response #7: 

On the issue of Bethel church, I agree completely your observations and concerns (which you back up with sound reasoning and good scriptural support, showing that you have a firm, biblical handle on these issues). I am sorry to have to confirm that I feel that your misgivings are completely justified. It takes a real excess of weird behavior from an individual church to make it up on my rather dim "radar screen", but this one has. If I am not mistaken, they are very big into getting "drunk with the Spirit", for example. If there was ever a more obvious misapplication of a scripture used to found an entire "movement" ("fad" would be a better word), I do not know of it. Ephesians 5:18 says "be filled" with the Spirit (and more accurately translated, "be ful-filled by the Spirit); it says nothing positive about drunkenness – that is what we are told to avoid in the first half of the verse. The behavior that is engendered by the rituals this and other adherents of the "Toronto movement" have cooked up is not only weird; it is spiritually dangerous – because it is the type of behavior which invites demon influence (or worse). Some Christian cult-debunkers have connected the behavior these "Spirit-drunk" Christians manifest to pagan Kundalini cult rituals. While I have nothing definitive to say about that, I think it is fair to say that giving up control of one's actions – handing one's will over to . . . whatever – is not only never commanded by scripture but never allowed (spiritual sobriety is what we are commanded to embrace: e.g., 1Thes.5:6-8; 1Pet.1:13; 4:7; 5:8). I would counsel any Christian to stay as far away from such things as possible (including from any group which endorses them, let alone indulges in them).

As to the "treasure hunts" and other things you mention, yes indeed, these are of great concern as well. It boils down to this. God is all-powerful and His power is most definitely supernatural. He is certainly free to give anyone any spiritual gift He pleases. He is certainly free to empower all sorts of supernatural behavior, miracles and knowledge and "words of power", etc. However, He is also free not to do so. And when He does not do so, it is certainly for good reason. I can think of nothing worse than to claim that God is working some miracle He is in fact not working, or empowering someone to do something when it isn't the case. Claiming, in the case of the "word of power" or "being drunk with the Spirit" that God is doing something He doesn't do in any case, is a fulfillment of Proverbs 30:6: "Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar" (NIV).

After all, just because someone says "God told me", e.g., does not mean that God told them.

The man of God said, "I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the LORD: 'You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.'" The old prophet answered, "I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: 'Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.'" (But he was lying to him.)
1st Kings 13:16-18 NIV

In this instance, the prophet from Judah assumed that because the other man was a prophet that he must be telling the truth. He was not, and the prophet from Judah paid for that gullibility with his life (1Ki.13:19ff.). He should have known better, of course, but if an actual prophet of God can be deceived in these matters (and if an apparently genuine prophet can do the deceiving), it is all the more pressing for the rest of us to take great care when it comes to the flurry of claims from all sorts of individuals these days that they are working supernatural miracles and the like. It would be great . . . if it were true. On the other hand, if it is not true, then it is beyond horrible – it is blasphemous and incredibly spiritually dangerous.

How can we know if such things are true? First, we certainly know whether or not God has spoken to us in an audible voice. Assuming that He has not, then where do we look to for our guidance? To the Bible, of course. And if we cannot find such things in the Bible at all, then we should reject them out of hand. If, on the other, there are instances of such things (e.g., raising the dead) in the Bible, then we allow that God has and does do such things; however, that does not mean that He is doing something of the sort now at all, let alone in a particular case where this is being claimed.

Therefore retaining a healthy skepticism is not something we should easily give up. Nor should we suspend our common sense on this issue just because people make such claims. Nor should we give in to such claims just because seemingly well-meaning and seemingly "honest" people back up them up with testimonies (on-line dating sites put out the same thing on TV). Nor should we be convinced if they provide demonstrations to "prove it" – after all, faking this sort of thing is the oldest con-game in the world, and, if we are good people, we will probably be unaware of all the many ways such "miracles" can be faked.

Example: Here is an excerpt I found on this on the internet:

I decided to follow along on a "treasure hunt" like the one of which you spoke. I was flabbergasted at what happened. I rode along with one of the church’s pastors, in his car, as we drove around Redding. He saw a group of people standing in front of Carl’s Jr and walked up to them. I followed. The people must have thought we were really odd when he said he had "a word" for one woman in the group. He told her that God knew she hadn’t been sleeping well the last few nights and that was all going to stop as of "right now". He told her other personal things about herself. The whole group started laughing because he was RIGHT ON about everything, including her not sleeping well the last few days. It was really weird to witness that. I didn’t want to accept it then, and I still don’t now. But I can’t deny it happened.

Explanation: 1) This could be completely made up (i.e., a complete lie); 2) This could be "elaborated" to the point where if you or I had been there we would describe what transpired in a completely different way, one which did not require a supernatural explanation (i.e., other details of the conversation make it plain that the interrogator got information as he asked questions and made deductions from it – after all, I don't know anyone who doesn't have trouble sleeping occasionally; carnival barkers are very good at guessing age and weight); 3) Maybe the stop was not random at all: the scene could have been staged ahead of time in order to "convince" the ride-along of the "miracle". I am not a practiced cult investigator, and even I can come up with at least these three plausible reasons why I should not believe this blog just because someone I don't even know posted it.

There are very good reasons why it should be that God is not at present empowering the sort of miraculous activities that Bethel and other such groups claim (see the links below for the details). The miracles of which the book of Acts is replete cover the span of a little over ten years; our Lord's earthly ministry which preceded that period spanned about three and a half years. In the four thousand years of human history prior to the coming of the Messiah, only Moses' ministry in leading Israel out of Egypt and the ministries of Elijah and Elisha saw any concentrated pattern of miraculous activity. We now have the Spirit, it is true, and praise the Lord for that! However, this absence of Christians able to perform supernatural miracles at will was also true of the Church between the early days of the apostles and post-WWII USA (pace Roman Catholic claims). If widespread supernatural occurrences and miraculous manifestation of the like which are now being claimed were in fact legitimate for the Church, one wonders where they were in the intervening nineteen hundred years.

We are, I do firmly believe, on the cusp of the end times. But as you rightly point out, "miracles" will be a hallmark of antichrist and his anti-Christian false religion. Only the truth of scripture is an antidote for the exceptional lies and deceptions which will characterize the Tribulation. And it is both striking and important not to miss the fact that groups which are "into" this sort of thing are almost always not involved in serious Bible study. Their "studies" revolve around justifying their "special" experiences, and are not, as you so very appropriately remind us, concerned with learning and teaching "the whole counsel of God". That is a strong indication that what they are really after is 1) fame; 2) fortune; 3) fun. By being "exciting" and "supernatural" and "miraculous", they are going to be much more "fun" than an hour long session explaining Christophany in the Old Testament (for example); by bringing in the people, they are going to be bringing in the money too (look for "tithes" wherever this sort of thing is happening); and in the process of all the hoopla they create, well, fame is its own reward for those who crave it – though our Lord avoided celebrity like the plague during His earthly (even though He is the celebrity of all time).

1st Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us that these temporary gifts and miracles were going to cease once the canon of scripture was completed, and that certainly accords well with what we know has actually occurred in the Church since the days of the apostles. Our focus is to be on the truth of the Word of God, and the sorts of activities which this church and other groups like it wish to promote are a very poor substitute indeed. Such things have caused many people's faith to founder in the past (i.e., when they found out they had been "had"), and understandably so. For when a person/group claims to be capable of doing something they are not in fact able to do, that will come out in the end; and when it does, the whole basis for the poor gullible convert's faith is undermined.

But we believe in Jesus Christ, and our faith stands firm in the Word He left for us, not in what our eyes see. For me, that is the biggest reason for God's discontinuing of the miracles of the days of the apostles, not just that with the Bible completed they are now unnecessary, but because if they had been allowed to continue they would have been a distraction from what we really need to be doing: growing spiritually through understanding and believing the teachings of the Word of God.

Here are those links I promised:

The Persuasiveness of the Tribulational False Religion (in CT 6)

The Anti-Christian Religion (in CT 4)

Characteristics of Antichrist's Religion

The Great Miracles of the False Prophet

Dreams, Visions, and the Interpretation of Prophecy

The Word of Faith

Nimrod and Christmas trees, Tongues, and Healing.

The Gift of Healing

All things Charismatic

Are there Prophets in the Church today?

An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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