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10 Benefits of Giving Thanks by Charles F. Stanley

“Give Thanks in Everything”

Why this tough but life-giving command can change your entire outlook.

Reading the Bible isn’t always easy.

If you’ve ever thought those words but were embarrassed to speak them, you’re not alone. Sure, there’s plenty within Scripture that we comprehend without much difficulty. But at times we come across a passage that baffles us—or worse, makes us feel angry or annoyed. Sometimes it’s because we simply don’t understand what the Lord is saying through the text. But often the reason for our discomfort is that we don’t like what we’re reading. It’s easier to ignore those verses and move on to more appealing topics than to hash it out with God and do what He says. Reading the Bible is hard because, in the end, it challenges us to change.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of those verses that can really get under your skin: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But what about those difficult and painful situations? Being grateful for suffering seems to make no sense.

If I were writing Scripture, I would say, “In most things give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life—a newborn baby, a raise, a new house, or encouraging news from the doctor. But what if you lose your job, discover your child is on drugs, or are told by the doctor that you have only have six months to live? How can God expect you to be grateful then?

I faced this dilemma some time ago when I hurt my shoulder and experienced excruciating pain. I read this verse and told the Lord, “I know You said this, but it’s not reasonable when I’m hurting so badly. I just don’t feel thankful.” But then I noticed that it didn’t say, In everything give thanks when you feel like it. This command has nothing to do with feelings. It’s a choice to do what God says. Whenever He gives us a command in the Bible, it’s for our benefit.

Gratitude impacts every area of our lives.

By giving us the command to always give thanks, God is not rubbing salt in a wound or calling us to set aside reason. He knows that being thankful in all circumstances has a powerful impact on every area of our Christian life. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned:

1. Gratitude keeps us continually aware that the Lord is close by.Even though gratefulness doesn’t come naturally in difficult circumstances, a decision to thank God for walking with us through life makes us more sensitive to His comforting presence.

2. It motivates us to look for His purpose in our circumstance. Knowing that the Lord allows hurt and trouble for His good purposes takes the edge off the pain. Even if we don’t understand why we’re going through suffering, we can thank God because we know that in His time, He’ll work it all for good. In the meantime, we can rest in the knowledge that He’s using every hardship to transform us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

3. Thanksgiving helps bring our will into submission to God.When the situation we’re experiencing is the last thing we’d ever want, thanking the Lord is a giant step toward being able to follow Christ’s example and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Gratitude helps us acknowledge that God’s will is best, even if it’s hard; in that way, we are able to release our hold on what we want. Although the circumstances may remain the same, submission changes our heart.

4. It reminds us of our continual dependence upon the Lord. Pride, adequacy, and independence evaporate whenever we’re trapped in a situation that leaves us helpless and hopeless. If there’s no way out, thanking God for His control over all things reminds us that He alone is our strength.

5. Thankfulness is an essential ingredient for joy.There’s no way to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) without giving thanks in everything (v. 18). That’s why ungrateful people are so grumpy. Joy is an inner sense of contentment, which flows from a deep assurance that all God’s purposes are good and He’s in complete control of every situation. With that kind of supernatural joy, it’s easy to be thankful.

6. A grateful attitude strengthens our witness to unbelievers.The world is filled with people who are angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed with the difficulties of life. But a believer with a grateful attitude is like a light shining in a dark place. The people around you will want to know why you don’t grumble and complain the way everyone else does. Then you can tell them about your amazing Savior.

7. Thanking God focuses our attention on Him rather than our circumstances. The key to a grateful heart begins with understanding the Lord’s character because knowing His awesome attributes motivates trust and gratitude. He knows exactly what you’re going through, loves you unconditionally, and understands you perfectly. When you thank Him in tough times, He gets bigger, and the circumstances become smaller.

8. Gratitude gives us eternal perspective. The apostle Paul is an amazing example of a man who suffered extreme hardship yet remained thankful. That’s because he was able to see life from God’s perspective. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he says our present suffering is “momentary light affliction.” If you’re going through a really hard time, those words may sound ridiculous. Maybe you’ve been dealing with pain your entire life, or a difficult trial has dragged on for decades. It hardly seems momentary or light.

But Paul is comparing our situations here on earth with what’s awaiting us in eternity. For him, a 40-year stretch of pain and hardship was no match for the “eternal weight of glory” awaiting him (2 Cor. 4:17). What an amazing thought—your present pain has the potential to produce incomparable glory for you in heaven. Now that’s a big reason to thank God!

9. When we’re wearied by our circumstances, thanksgiving energizes us. Most of us can handle short trials, but if they continue for a long period of time, the emotional and physical strain is exhausting. Should ongoing illness, unresolved relational problems, or continued financial pressures become more than we can bear, it’s time to start thanking God because He has promised to give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29). He’ll release His supernatural energy within us so we can patiently endure the trial and come out victorious on the other side.

10. Gratitude transforms anxiety into peace, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). I learned this principle through a very difficult experience. When I was feeling anxious about the situation, I discovered that complaining, getting angry, and arguing with God didn’t change my circumstances. Finally, in desperation, I began thanking Him. Only then did I receive His incomprehensible peace. My situation didn’t change for quite a while, but God’s peace guarded my heart all the way through that trying time.

What will you choose?

The choice isn’t always easy. Most of the time, we’d rather get out of difficulties than thank God through them. But have you ever considered that He may actually want you to stay in a painful situation for a time? I know this may not sound like something a loving God would ever do, but remember, His goal is to do what is best for you, not what’s comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable.

The Lord’s purposes for your life extend beyond your days on earth. He’s working for your eternal good. Begin thanking God today, in whatever circumstance you find yourself. After all, what’s the alternative—bitterness, resentment, and grumbling? God made you for something far better: eternal, sustaining joy. The transformation starts with two simple, small words offered from the heart: thank You.

Say them over and over. And then say them again. Your joy will be radiant—a light shining in a dark and desperate world.

 

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3 Reasons I Love The Book of Colossians

CHRIST OUR CORE

Colossae-Map

By Dr. David P. Craig

As I begin a new chapter of ministry in my life as a Senior Pastor at Valley Baptist Church in San Rafael, CA., it didn’t take long for me to make the book of Colossians my choice for my first exposition of Sermons. There are 3 primary reasons I chose to preach from the book of Colossians:

(1) An Upward Focus on the Sovereign Majesty and Saving Work of Jesus Christ – Perhaps of all the books of the Bible Colossians is arguably the most dense in its Christology. The Person and work of Christ as the Sovereign Redeemer for mankind is proclaimed loud and clear from the start to finish in this epistle.  Throughout the entire letter the apostle Paul redirects Christian’s distracted focus back to Jesus. He shows how focusing on Jesus builds a strong defense and forms a strategic offense against enemies both inside and outside the church. As clearly as any book of the Bible, Colossians rivets our attention on Christ and who He is and what He has done for us. Christ’s Person and work are the very motivation and power we need to live by faith, walk in obedience, and glorify God. As Scotty Smith has said, “The only cure for self-occupation is a preoccupation with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(2) An Inward Focus That Helps Equip Us to Avoid The Dangers of False Teachings – The Colossian Church was being undermined by two types of heresies that had infiltrated the doctrinal beliefs of the Church: There was a combination of Jewish legalism (works salvation) and Eastern philosophy (gnosticism) that threatened the peace and unity of the Church. Today we have all kinds of heresies and false teachings that many long time conservative evangelical churches have succumbed too and have abandoned the faith that has been “delivered unto the saints.” We need to get back to the core teachings of Christ as reflected in the gospel – salvation by grace alone through Christ alone via faith and repentance.

(3) An Outward Missional Focus on How To Live For Christ Everywhere We Are – Paul shows us how Christ is at the center of all of our relationships (at home, work, and in the community with outsiders).

Bottom line – Colossians is all about Jesus – upward in worship, inward in equipping, and outward on mission. When we find our security and significance in Him we find that He’s really all we need and we want others to have what He’s given us – a personal relationship with Him through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2014 in Bible Study Helps, David P. Craig

 

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Do All the Commands of the Bible Apply To Christians Today?

Do All the Commands of the Bible Apply Today?

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By Robert L. Plummer

“Why do you insist that homosexual behavior is wrong when the Bible also commands people not to wear clothes woven from two different kinds of materials (Lev. 19:19)? You just pick and choose your morality from the Bible.” Such accusations against Christians are not uncommon today. How can we, in fact, determine what biblical commands are timeless in application? Do we have a biblical basis for obeying some commands in Scripture while neglecting others?

Covenant Bound Commands

In looking at this important question, we first need to distinguish between commands linked to the old covenant that have been superseded in Christ and commands that are still to be lived out on a daily basis by God’s people. Though a bit of an oversimplification, it can be helpful to think of God’s commands in the Old Testament as divided into civil (social), ceremonial (religious), and moral (ethical) categories. Those laws that relate to the civil and ceremonial (for example, food laws, sacrifices, circumcision, cities of refuge, etc.) find their fulfillment in Christ and no longer apply. The idea that Christians are not expected to obey the Old Testament’s civil and ceremonial commands is found throughout the New Testament. For example in Mark 7, we read: Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this, Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.'” After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean”). He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'” (Mark 7:14-23, my emphasis).

Similarly, in Acts, we read: The apostles and elders met to consider [the question of whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised to be saved]. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:6-11 – note – As a missionary accommodation [so as not to offend Jews], the early Christians did forgo some permitted foods {Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 8-10}).

Not only the civil and ceremonial laws but also the timeless moral demands of God find their fulfillment in Christ. Yet, these moral commands continue to find their expression through the Spirit-empowered lives of Christ’s body, the church (Romans 3:31).

Some speculate as to the reasons for some of the more unusual commands in the Old Testament. Why does touching someone’s dead body make one unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11-13)? Why was eating catfish forbidden (Leviticus 11:9-10)? Sometimes pseudoscientific reasons are offered, such as in books that encourage people to eat like the ancient Israelites (E.G., Jordan Rubin, The Maker’s Diet: The 40 Day Health Experience That Will Change Your Life Forever [Lake Mary, FL: Siloam, 2004]).

Elsewhere, pastors or commentators wax eloquent on the symbolic meaning of various commands. Admittedly, there are some symbol-laden divine instructions; yeast, for example, seems to have repeated negative connotations in the Bible (Exodus 12:8-20; 23:18; Lev. 10:12; Luke 12:1; 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9 [Yeast can refer to pride, hypocrisy, false teaching, etc. But note how it symbolizes a positive pervasive influence in Luke 13:21]). Moving beyond the few explicit indications, however, the suggested symbolic for Old Testament regulations quickly becomes quite fanciful. Whatever the reason for the various commands (frankly, some of which are puzzling), it is clear that one of their main functions was to keep God’s people as a separate, distinct group, untainted by the pagan cultures around them (Exodus19:6; Ezra 9:1; 10:11). Also, some of the biblical commands imply that the surrounding nations engaged in the exact practices God forbade, apparently with pagan religious connotations (Lev. 19:26-28). God preserved the Jews as his chosen people, through whom he revealed his saving plan and finally brought the Savior at the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4).

Many supposed inconsistencies of Christian morality (for example, the charge that Christians pick and choose their morality from the Bible) are explained by understanding the provisional and preparatory nature of the civil and ceremonial laws of the old covenant period. The parallel is not exact, but imagine how foolish it would be for someone to raise the accusation, “Millions of people in every state of the Union are flaunting the Constitution! You don’t really believe or obey your Constitution, which states in the Eighteenth Amendment:

The manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited (The Eighteenth Amendment was ratified January 16, 1919). To which we would reply, “Yes, that amendment once was the law of the land, but it was superseded by the Twenty-first Amendment, which begins ‘The eighteenth article of the amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.'” (The Twenty First Amendment was ratified December 5, 1933)

The Bible is not a policy book, with each page giving equally timeless instruction. Yes, “Every word of God is flawless” (Proverbs 30:5). Nevertheless, the Bible is more like a multi-volume narrative, in which the later chapters clarify the ultimate meaning and sometimes the temporary, accommodating nature of earlier regulations and events (e.g., Matthew 19:8). Old Testament commands that are repeated in the New Testament (for example, moral commands, such as the prohibition of homosexuality [Lev. 18:22; 1 Cor. 6:9]) or not explicitly repeated (as are the civil and ceremonial laws [Mark 7:19; Heb. 10:1-10]) have abiding significance in the expression of God’s Spirit-led people.

Prescriptive Versus Descriptive

If we reflect on what biblical texts are applicable today. It is also important to consider whether a text is prescriptive or descriptive. That is, does a text prescribe (command) a certain action, or does it describe that behavior? This question can be complex, as some behaviors are described in praiseworthy ways so that they essentially have a secondary prescriptive function. Luke, for example repeatedly reports Jesus’ praying (e.g. Luke 3:21; 5:15-16; 6:12; 9:18-22; 29; 10:17-21; 11:1 22:39-46; 23:34, 46). Such descriptive passages complement more explicit exhortations to pray in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 11:2-13; 18:1-8; 22:40, 46). So, a good general rule is that a behavior reported in the text may be considered prescriptive only when there is subsequent explicit teaching to support it.

Another situation where we must consider the prescriptive nature of texts is Christian baptism in the New Testament. Some Christians claim that baptism must be performed immediately upon a convert’s initial profession of faith. In support, they cite a number of narrative texts in the New Testament, which describe baptism as coming immediately or very soon after a person believes (e.g., Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8). However, nowhere in the New Testament do we find an explicit prescription such as this “Baptize persons immediately after they believe.” It is clear that all believers are to be baptized (Matt. 28:19; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 1:13-16), but the exact timing of that baptism in relation to conversion is not explicitly stated.

In further thinking about the timing of baptism, we should note that many early conversions reported in Acts came within families or groups that were steeped in the Old Testament Scriptures. Yes, the early church was quick to obey Jesus’ command for disciples to be baptized, but the background and setting of these early believers differs considerably from those of most converts today. Also, the evidence of conversion that accompanied the apostolic preaching in Acts was often dramatic and/or miraculous. Since we lack an explicit command on the timing of baptism, wisdom must be applied in discerning the reality of our converts’ faith. Thus we conclude: immediate baptism could be advisable or further times of instruction and observation may be necessary.

Culture, Time, and Biblical Commands 

In relation to culture and time, the moral commands of Scripture can be divided into two categories.

(1) Commands that transfer from culture to culture with little or no alteration.

(2) Commands that embody timeless principles that find varying expressions in different cultures.

Many commands in Scripture are immediately applicable in other cultures with little or no alteration. For example, in Leviticus 19:11 we read, “Do not steal.” While cultures may have varying understandings of private property and the public commons, all humans are equally bound by this clear supra cultural command. It is wrong to pilfer the private property of others.

Other commands of Scripture, while immediately applicable across various futures, have implications depending on the culture in which they find expression. For example, in Ephesians 5:18, we read, “Do not get drunk on wine.” This command applies in a timeless way across all cultures. It is always wrong to get drunk with wine at any time in any culture. In more detailed application, however, the student of Scripture also should ask what other substances a culture may offer that have a similar effect to wine (for example, being drunk with vodka, getting high on marijuana, etc.). In seeking such implications within new cultures, the initial command, while immediately understandable, is given broader application. One way to develop applications is to distill the principle of the original command–for example, “Do not take a foreign substance into your body to the degree that you lose control of your normal bodily functions or moral inhibitions.” Then, one can go on to discuss what substances in different cultures would present this danger and thus should be forbidden from human intake to the degree that they cause the deleterious effect (Stein uses Ephesians 5:18 to illustrate implications [Robert H. Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules {Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994}], 39).

The close similarity between drunkenness from beer, vodka, or wine is relatively transparent to most readers. But what about a command with more cultural veneer? In 1 Corinthians 11:5, for example, Paul writes, “And every woman who prays or prophecies with her head uncovered dishonors her head–it is just as though her head were shaved.” Should women today, then, always cover their heads when they pray in public? Again, it is important to ask the purpose behind Paul’s original command. Was it specifically the physical placing of a piece of cloth on a women’s head that concerned him? Was it not, rather, the woman’s submission to her husband that this head covering expressed in the culture to which Paul wrote (See 1 Cor. 11:1-16 and confer Benjamin L. Merkle, “Paul’s Argument from Creation in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 and 1 Timothy 2:13-14: An Apparent Inconsistency Answered,” JETS 49, no. 3 [2006]: 527-48). If so, we can ask, “Does a woman covering her head in our culture express submission to her husband?” Transparently, it does not. What behaviors, then, communicate a woman’s submission to her husband? Two examples from the Southeastern United States are a woman’s wearing of a wedding ring on her left finger and the taking of her husband’s last name (without hyphenation). While a woman keeping her maiden name may not express an unbiblical independence in some cultures (China, for example), within the circles where I grew up, a woman keeping her last name after marriage was an implicit rejection of biblically defined gender roles.

Finally, we should note that there are some nonmoral commands that are not applicable outside of their original setting. These are commands the author intended to be fulfilled only once by the intended recipient(s) and did not see as paradigmatic in any way. The list of such commands is very small. One example would be 2 Timothy 4:13, where Paul asks Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.” Such a command was obeyed by Timothy, we presume, and has no further application in any other culture or time.

Below is a list of guidelines to help determine in what way a biblical command may find varying expressions in other settings.

(1) Rephrase the biblical command in more abstract, theological terms. Is the injunction a culturally specific application of an underlying theological principle? Or are the command and cultural application inseparable?

(2) Would a modern-day literal application of the command accomplish the intended objective of the biblical author’s original statement (assuming you can determine the objective of the biblical author’s command)?

(3) Are there details in the text that would cause one to conclude that the instructions are only for a specific place or time?

(4) Are there details in the text that would cause one to conclude that the instructions have a supra cultural (that is, the command applies unchanged in different cultures)?

(5) Do your conclusions about the debated passage cohere with the author’s other statements and the broader canonical context?

(6) Is there a salvation historical shift (old covenant to the new covenant) that would explain an apparent contradiction with other biblical instructions?

(7) Beware of a deceitful human heart that would use hermeneutical principles to rationalize disobedience to Scripture. Interpretive principles, like a sharp knife, can be used for both good and ill.

*The article above was adapted from Question 19 “Do All The Commands of the Bible Apply Today?” in the excellent book by  Robert L. Plummer. 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: MI, Kregel Publications, 2010.

 

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E-Book Review of Jonathan Morrow’s “Is the Bible Sexist, Racist, Homophobic, and Genocidal?”

God’s Perspective vs. Man’s Perspective

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Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

The default mode of the human heart is to replace our central focus on God and replace this void with idols at the center of our lives. The prolific author and Theologian D.A. Carson has stated it this way, “Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.” I believe that to ask the question, “Is the Bible Sexist, Racist, Homophobic, and Genocidal?” – is at its core a misunderstanding of what’s at the center of our worship – God or self? Are we going to maintain a God-centered focus or capitulate to cultural relativism with ourselves at the center? In this important e-single from a chapter in Morrow’s larger book entitled “Questioning the Bible” Morrow tackles this question with theological precision, biblical erudition, and logical acumen.

Morrow opens this essay by dealing with the question: “Does the Bible endorse slavery?” He then answers this question by carefully developing five biblical responses: (1) Christianity did not invent slavery. (2) He shows how the ancient Near Eastern cultural context was very different from the modern postcolonial context. (3) Christianity tolerated slavery and was instrumental in its abolishment. (4) Jesus was not silent on slavery; he simply understood what the root issues were–and they all reside in the human heart. (5) The Christian worldview best accounts for human rights and dignity.

The second question addressed by Morrow is “Does the Bible approve of genocide?” In five points  Morrow sets the record straight in understanding the biblical stance on genocide: (1) Things are not the way they ought to be – Israel as described in the Old Testament is not God’s ideal society. (2) The divinely given command to Israel of herem (Yahweh War) concerning the Canaanites was unique, geographically and temporally limited, and not to be repeated. (3) Genocide and ethnic cleansing are inaccurate terms for the conquest of Canaan. (4) We must allow for the possibility of rhetorical generalization in ancient Near Eastern “war language.” (5) The Canaanite incident should be read against the backdrop of God’s promise of blessing for all the nations.

The third question tackled by Morrow is perhaps the most culturally sensitive one at the moment: “Is the Bible homophobic?” He answers this question with five biblical points: (1) The Bible includes homosexual behavior among a long list of sinful behaviors outside of God’s design for human sexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 18; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4; Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18-24; 19:4-9; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27 are passages discussed in great detail). (2) The Bible does not teach that God created people to be gay – Jesus affirmed that God’s intention was the complementary sexes of male and female committing to a permanent one-flesh union (cf. Genesis 1:27; 2:24 with Matthew 19:3-6). (3) While the Bible does not teach people are born gay, it does teach that all people are born sinful (Romans 3:23; 5:12-21). A helpful distinction is quoted by Mark Mittleberg on this point: “We must correct the idea that because desire seems natural it must be from God and is therefore okay. As fallen humans we all have many desires that seem natural to us but that are not from God.” (4) The Bible teaches that change is possible for all those who struggle with sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). (5) Lastly, the Bible teaches that holiness, not heterosexuality, is the goal of the spiritual life. Morrow writes, “All of us are broken; we just express brokenness in different ways. As we repent and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we pursue holiness. The goal is being conformed to the image of Christ (cf. Romans 8:29). Unfortunately, when these goals get talked about in the context of homosexual sin, some well-meaning Christians have indicated that the goal is for this person to live a heterosexual lifestyle. This may or may not happen. But we need to be clear that whatever our struggle, holiness is the goal.”

The fourth and final question addressed by Morrow is related to setting the record straight biblically on “Is the Bible sexist?” (1) Morrow states, “God’s creational ideal is that women are made in the image of God and therefore possess the same dignity, honor, and value as men (Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Ex. 20:12). (2) Polygamy was tolerated and regulated in order to offer some measure of protection for women in an ancient Near Eastern context. However, this was never God’s plan. Morrow writes, “We hear echoes of God’s ideal when he warns that Israel’s king should not ‘acquire many wives fro himself, lest his heart turn away.’ (Deuteronomy 17:17).” (3) The realities of women in the Greco-Roman world were harsh. (4) The apostle Paul had a high view of women, and the teachings of Christianity began to elevate their status (cf. Paul’s high view and co-laboring with women in Rom. 16:1-16; Phil. 4:2-3; 1 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:15; Acts 16:14-15, 40; Galatians 3:28 and 1 Tim. 6). (5) Jesus appearance on the scene is indeed very good news for women – Morrow elaborates, “With the harsh Greco-Roman backdrop in mind, we can see how radical Jesus’ view of women really was. First, he healed several women of diseases (Matthew 9:18-26), interacted with women of different races (John 4:9), and extended forgiveness to women who had committed sexual sin (Luke 7:36-50). Jewish rabbis of the day would not teach women, but Jesus had many women followers and disciples (cf. Mark 15:41) and he taught them (Luke 10:39). Women supported his ministry financially (Luke 8:1-3), and he used women as positive examples in his teaching (Luke 18:1-8). Jesus’ women followers were the last to leave at his crucifixion and the first at his empty tomb.”

Morrow patiently, wisely, and practically articulates that appearances and sound bites on these difficult issues are often messy and moral change is painfully slow in a fallen world. The reality is that Jesus came to liberate us from all of our idolatries and bondages to sin. We find our satisfaction in Jesus at the center of all of life. Many of the issues we struggle with as sinners in a fallen world are blind spots that can only be identified and remedied through the lenses of God’s revelation as revealed in the Scriptures. The good news in this little book is that Jesus has come and fulfilled Isaiah 61:1-2 in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Morrow reminds us that in all of our personal and corporate sin against a Holy, Just, and Loving God He has “thankfully…not left us to die in our brokenness and rebellion; he has redemptively pursued us with the everlasting love of a heavenly father.”

 

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Is There Any Biblical Evidence for the Rapture?

Biblical Evidences for a Pretribulational Rapture

imagesby Mike Vlach
President of Theological Studies.org www.theologicalstudies.org

Introductory matters concerning the Rapture

Interest in the Rapture: A 1994 survey by U.S. News and World Report found that 61 percent of Americans believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth, and 44 percent believe in the rapture of the church. (Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Christmas Covenant,” U.S. News and World Report, December 19, 1994, pp. 62, 64)

Where do we get the term “Rapture”? The term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, so where does the word come from? The term “rapture” comes from the Latin translation of the Greek word translated “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Charles Ryrie explains, “The Greek word from which we take the term ‘rapture’ appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, translated ‘caught up.’ The Latin translation of this verse used the word rapturo. The Greek word it translates is harpazo, which means to snatch or take away. Elsewhere it is used to describe how the Spirit caught up Philip near Gaza and brought him to Caesarea (Acts 8:39) and to describe Paul’s experience of being caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4). Thus there can be no doubt that the word is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to indicate the actual removal of people from earth to heaven.” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 462)

Passages referring to the Rapture There are three primary texts which refer to the Rapture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and John 14:1-3.

Components of the Rapture 

The return of Christ “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout. . .” (1 Thess. 4:16). “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself” (John 14:3)

A resurrection of dead church saints “The dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). “The dead will be raised imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:52).

A translation of living believers “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up” (1 Thess. 4:17).

A glorious reunion “We. . . shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). “I will come. . . that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

A giving of glorified bodies “We shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52-53). “We eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Speed of Rapture “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52).

The timing of the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation period

The debate “In the nineteenth century, teaching concerning the Rapture of the church began to be widely disseminated. This raised such questions as whether the second coming of Christ involves several stages, the relation of those stages to the Tribulation period, and the distinctiveness of the church from Israel in God’s program. In the twentieth century one of the most debated questions in eschatology concerns the time of the Rapture.” (Ryrie, p. 478)

The various views Amillennialists and Postmillennialists regard the coming of Christ as a single event to be followed by a general resurrection and judgment. Within Premillennialism, though, five main views have been promoted concerning the timing of the Rapture:

Pretribulationism teaches that the Rapture of the church will occur before the seven-year Tribulation period begins. Supporters of this view include John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Dwight Pentecost, Alva J. McClain, John Feinberg, and Paul Feinberg.

Midtribulationsim teaches that the Rapture of the church will occur at the midpoint of the seven years of Tribulation; that is, after three and one half years have elapsed. Supporters of this view include Oliver Buswell and Gleason Archer.

The Pre-wrath rapture view teaches that all Christians will be taken in the Rapture approximately three-fourths of the way through the Tribulation period. Supporters of this view include Marvin Rosenthal and Robert Van Kampen.

Posttribulationism teaches that the Rapture and Second Coming are facets of a single event which will occur at the end of the Tribulation period. Thus, the church will be on earth during the seven years Tribulation period. Supporters of this view include George Ladd, Robert Gundry and Douglas Moo.

The Partial rapture view teaches that only the “spiritual” Christians who are watching and waiting for the Lord’s return will be taken in the Rapture. Then during the seven years of Tribulation other Church Age saints who were not prepared for the initial Rapture will be raptured at various intervals. This view originated with Robert Govett in 1835 and was also taught by J. A. Seiss and G.H. Lang.

Why is this issue of the timing of the Rapture important?

The study of the Rapture is important because we want to know the whole counsel of God.

The Christian’s expectation The Rapture issue is important because it deals with the nature of the Christian’s hope and expectation. Are Christians to expect Christ’s return at any moment? Or, are we expecting to go through a time of worldwide tribulation?

A Biblical defense of Pretribulationism

Of these five views why is Pretribulationism to be preferred? The following are biblical evidences for a Pretribulational Rapture:

The pillars of Pretribulationism 

The foundation of Pretribulationism has four elements:

(1) Consistent literal interpretation: The literal method of interpretation attempts to explain the original sense of the writer according to the normal usages of words and language. The literal method interprets all of the Bible in a normal and plain way, all the time understanding that the Bible, at times, uses symbols, figures of speech and types.

(2) Distinction between Israel and the Church: The more one recognizes the biblical distinction between Israel and the church, the clearer one will be able to see God’s distinct plan for each group. According to Thomas Ice, “If Israel and the church are not distinguished, then there is no basis for seeing a future for Israel or for the church as a new and unique people of God. If Israel and the church are merged into a single program, then the Old Testament promises for Israel will never be fulfilled and are usually seen by replacement theologians as spiritually fulfilled by the church. The merging of Israel’s destiny into the church not only makes into one what the Scriptures understand as two, but it also removes a need for future restoration of God’s original elect people in order to fulfill literally His promise that they will one day be the head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13).

The more that believers see a distinct plan for Israel and a distinct plan for the church, the more they realize that when the New Testament speaks to the church it is describing a separate destiny and hope for her. The church becomes more distinct in the plan of God. Israel’s future includes the seven-year tribulation, and then shortly before Christ’s return to Jerusalem she will be converted to Jesus as her Messiah. . . . On the other hand, the distinct hope for the church is Christ’s any-moment return.

Thus, a distinction between Israel and the church, as taught in the Bible, provides a basis of support for the pretribulational rapture. Those who merge the two programs cannot logically support the biblical arguments for pretribulationism.” (Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, The Truth About The Rapture, pp. 25-26)

(3) Futurism: Pretribulationism takes a futuristic interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 and the book of Revelation. Daniel 9:24-27 gives the seven-year chronological framework of the Tribulation while Revelation 6-18 details the judgments that make up this period. Futurism sees prophecy as being fulfilled in the future, namely with the Tribulation period, the Second Coming of Christ to earth, and the Millennial Kingdom. Futurism is opposed to preterism, which sees prophecy as already being fulfilled in the past, predominately in A.D. 70. Futurism is also opposed to historicism which sees prophecy being fulfilled in the current Church Age.

(4) Premillennialism: At the end of the seven year Tribulation period, Jesus Christ will return to earth in power and glory to set up an earthly Kingdom from Jerusalem that will last for a literal one thousand years (see Rev. 20:1-6).

Proper methodology for addressing the rapture issue 

What is the proper method for addressing this issue of the timing of the Rapture?

Examine the Rapture and Second Coming passages:

Go first to the portions of Scripture that speak directly about the Rapture and the return of the Lord to earth.

Study John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for the Rapture.

Examine Zechariah 14:1-21; Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-27; and Revelation 19 for the Second Coming to earth.

Examine implications of conclusions Proper methodology does not stop with an examination of the primary texts addressing an issue. As John Feinberg says, “While one should begin with passages that speak directly about the doctrine under consideration, one must also pay attention to the implications of the doctrine. This is especially important if, as in the case of the rapture, the passages about the rapture and return of the Lord do not determine the question of the rapture’s timing in relation to the time of the Tribulation. . . . Implications and relations of doctrines to one another are crucial. If one’s position on a given theological issue is correct, it will fit with other known theological and biblical truths rather than contradict them. (John S. Feinberg, “Arguing for the Rapture: Who Must Prove What and How” in, When the Trumpet Sounds, Thomas Ice and Timothy eds. p. 191)

Putting it all together “The key point to remember is that proper theological methodology dare not allow us to ignore either the rapture and parousia passages or the doctrines that have implications for one’s views on the rapture and second advent. Although study should begin with passages that speak directly to the topic at hand, both are equally important. It is surely no victory to uphold one’s views on the timing of the rapture at the expense of denying what God’s Word says, for example, about the relation of the church to God’s judgmental wrath.” (John Feinberg, p. 192)

Biblical evidence for Pretribulationism 

The Bible does not explicitly tells us the timing of the Rapture. Thus, no one verse tells us that the Rapture will be pretribulational (or midtribulational or posttribulational for that matter). Does this mean that the doctrine of pretribulationism is unbiblical? Not necessarily. Many important biblical doctrines are not given to us directly in one verse. Some doctrines are based on a harmonization of multiple passages. For example, no one verse explains the doctrine of the Trinity or that Jesus Christ is the God-man. Yet a harmonization of passages shows these doctrines to be biblical. Likewise a harmonization of biblical texts shows the pretribulational rapture view to be biblical. The following are the biblical evidences:

God has promised the Church deliverance from divine wrath (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10) God made a special promise to the church that it will be delivered from the future, tribulational wrath of God. It is best to take this deliverance as a physical removal (Rapture)from this time of divine wrath.

1 Thess. 1:9-10 The Thessalonians were wait[ing] for His Son from heaven. . . that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. Why does this wrath refer to the Tribulation? First, the context of 1 and 2 Thessalonians deals with the Day of the Lord and the judgment of God that precedes the coming of Christ. Second, the text states that it is a future wrath (“wrath to come”). Third, it is a wrath one can be rescued from by the return of Christ. Thus, The wrath referred to then is the wrath of the Tribulation period and not God’s eternal wrath in general.

1 Thess. 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Why does this wrath refer to the Tribulation? The immediate context is the wrath of the Day of the Lord (5:1-8). Plus, this must be the same wrath as 1 Thess. 1:10.

The whole seven year Tribulation period is a time of God’s divine wrath so the protection promised must be for the whole seven years. Some have tried to say that divine wrath does not characterize the whole seven year Tribulation period. They say that the early judgments (the seals) of the tribulation are the wrath of man and Satan. The following points, however, show that the whole Tribulation period is a time of divine wrath.

Jesus is the One who directly opens all the Tribulation judgments including the seal judgments which begin the Tribulation period. In Revelation 4 and 5 Jesus is the One found worthy to open the seals which He begins to open in 6:1. The opening of the seals by Christ indicates that the seal judgments are divine wrath.

The seal judgments which open the Tribulation are consistent with divine wrath “The judgments of these four seals include the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts, frequently used in Scripture as the expressions of divine wrath. Indeed, they are all included and named when God calls His ‘four severe judgments upon Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague’ (Ezek. 14:21).” (Gerald B. Stanton, “A Review of the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, Bibliotecha Sacra, vol. 148 #589, January 1991) Plus, plagues such as pestilence and wild beasts can hardly be caused by man.

As early as the sixth seal, unbelievers declare that God’s wrath “has come” (Rev. 6:16-17). Unbelievers recognize that all six seals that have happened so far are the direct wrath of God. Robert L. Thomas says “The verb elthen (‘has come’) is aorist indicative, referring to a previous arrival of the wrath, not something that is about to take place. Men see the arrival of this day at least as early as the cosmic upheavals that characterize the sixth seal (6:12-14), but upon reflection they probably recognize it was already in effect with the death of one-fourth of the population (6:7-8), the worldwide famine (6:5-6), and the global warfare (6:3-4). The rapid sequence of all these events could not escape public notice, but the light of their true explanation does not dawn upon human consciousness until the severe phenomena of the sixth seal arrive.” (Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7, pp. 457-58)

Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth. Here is a promise to the Church of preservation outside of the time of Tribulation. Thus, believers are not only promised deliverance from divine wrath but from the time period (“hour”) of divine wrath. This rules out the possibility of the Church being on earth during the Tribulation. As Ryrie says, “It is impossible to conceive of being in the location where something is happening and being exempt from the time of the happening.”

Differences between Rapture passages and Second Coming passages indicate that the two are different events happening at different times.

The central passages dealing with the Rapture are John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

The central passages dealing with the Second Coming to earth are Zechariah 14:1- 21; Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-27 and Revelation 19. A careful examination of these texts will show that there is enough reason to conclude that the Rapture and the Second Coming to earth are not the same event:

(1) The Second Coming is preceded by signs but the Rapture is presented as imminent with no signs preceding it. “In passages that deal with the Second Advent there are signs or events that lead up to and signal the return of Jesus Christ (e.g., Matt. 24:4-28; Rev. 19:11-21). In each of these passages of Scripture there is the careful and extensive itemizing of details that should alert believers in that day that the Second Advent is about to occur. . . . On the other hand, there is no mention of any signs or events that precede the Rapture of the church in any of the Rapture passages. The point seems to be that the believer prior to this event is to look, not for some sign, but the Lord from heaven. If the Rapture was a part of the complex of events that make up the Second Advent, and not distinct from it, then we would expect that there would be a mention of signs or events in at least one passage.” (See Paul D. Feinberg, “The Case For The Pretribulation Rapture Position,” in Gleason Archer, Paul Feinberg, Douglas Moo, The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post Tribulational? p. 80)

(2) The Rapture is presented as a coming in blessing while the Second Coming is a coming for judgment. “In the clear Rapture passages, the Lord’s coming is presented as a coming in blessing for the saints. Nothing is said about His coming for judgment. On the other hand, passages about the second advent speak of the Lord’s coming in judgment upon His enemies (Rev. 19:11ff; Joel 3:12-16; Zech. 14:3-5).” (John Feinberg, p. 198). “In each of the Rapture passages there is no mention of trial before the event. Rather, there is the bare promise of Christ’s return for His own.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 81)

(3) Second Coming passages are in the context of the setting up of the Kingdom while the Rapture passages make no mention of the Kingdom. “Second advent passages are invariably followed by talk of setting up the kingdom after the Lord’s return (e.g., Matt. 24:31; 25:31ff; Zech. 14; Joel 3; Rev. 19-20). So, the second advent is preparatory to the establishment of the millennial kingdom. On the other hand, clear rapture passages give no hint that after the rapture the Lord establishes the kingdom.” (John Feinberg, p. 198)

(4) Glorified bodies at the Rapture: “It is very clear from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51ff that at the rapture those gathered to the Lord will be glorified. On the other hand, second advent passages say nothing about anyone (living or dead) receiving a glorified body.” (John Feinberg, p. 198) “Nowhere in the texts that deal with the Second Advent is there the teaching about the translation of living saints.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 82)

(5) No mention of meeting in the air in Second Coming passages: Nowhere in the Second Coming passages is a meeting in the air mentioned.

(6) Differences in timing of resurrections “There seems to be an inconsistency between the time of the resurrection at the Rapture and at the Second Coming. In the central Rapture passage dealing with this issue, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the time of the resurrection of dead saints in clearly stated to be during the descent of Christ of to the earth. Those raptured, living and dead saints, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Contrast that information with what is found in Revelation 19-20. There, the order seems to be: the descent of Christ, the slaying of His enemies, the casting of the Beast and the False Prophet into the lake of fire, the binding of Satan, and then the resurrection of the saints. It seems as though the resurrection of the dead will be during the descent at the Rapture, but after the descent at the Second Coming.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 84)

(7) Differences in destiny at time of comings: “There seems to be an inconsistency between the destination of those who are raptured in the Rapture and the destination of those who participate in the Second Coming. In the posttribulation understanding of the events that surround the Second Coming, the church will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and will immediately accompany Him on His continued descent to the earth. Compare that with John 14:3. In the Rapture the Lord is going to come and take those raptured to be with Him. The clear implication is that the raptured saints will be taken to heaven, not earth. If this is so, then the destination of those caught up in the Rapture will be heaven. According to the Second Coming passages, however, the saints involved are headed for the earth.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 84)

(8) The role of the angels in the comings: At the Second Coming, the angels are the ones who will gather the elect (Matt. 24:31). At the Rapture Jesus is the direct agent of the gathering (1 Thess. 4:16).

(9) The “mystery” nature of the Rapture: “Paul speaks of the Rapture as a ‘mystery’ (1 Cor. 15:51-54), that is, a truth not revealed until it was disclosed by the apostles (Col. 1:26). Thus the Rapture is said to be a newly revealed mystery, making it a separate event. The Second Coming on the other hand, was predicted in the Old Testament (Dan. 12:1-3; Zech. 12:10; 14:4). (Thomas Ice in “The Biblical Basis for the Pretribulational Rapture,” in Basic Theology Applied, p. 269) 

(10) No mention of the Church in Revelation 4-18: Revelation 4-18 gives the most detailed account of the seven year Tribulation period. If the Church were to be in the Tribulation period, surely one would expect at least one reference to the Church in this time period. The Church, however, which is referred to nineteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation, is suddenly silent and never referred to in chapters 4-18. “It is remarkable and totally unexpected that John would shift from detailed instructions for the Church to absolute silence about the Church for the subsequent 15 chapters if, in fact, the Church continued into the tribulation.” (Richard L. Mayhue, Snatched Before the Storm, p. 8)

(11) Pretribulationism best explains the presence of nonglorified saints who will enter the Millennial Kingdom. The Bible indicates that living unbelievers will be removed from the earth and judged at the end of the Tribulation. Yet the Bible also teaches that children will be born during the Millennium and that people will be capable of sin (Isa. 65:20 and Rev. 20:7-10). How can this be? The pretribulational view allows for people to be saved after the Rapture and during the Tribulation who will then enter the Millennial Kingdom in nonglorified bodies. As John Feinberg says, “According to pretribulationism, after the rapture the Tribulation begins. The gospel is preached throughout the Tribulation and there are some who believe. Though many who believe are killed (e.g., Revelation 13:7, 15), not all believers are killed during the Tribulation. Those who live through the Tribulation go into the kingdom in natural bodies. In addition, some people accept the Lord when he returns at the end of the Tribulation (e.g., Zech. 12:10). Many of these people do not die at that point, and there is no evidence that they are given a glorified body when they receive Christ. These people are also available to go into the kingdom in natural bodies. For a pretrib position, there are seven years to get people saved prior to the kingdom, and some of those can go into the kingdom in natural bodies. . . . The position that is really in trouble with respect to this issue is the posttribulation rapture view. If everyone who goes at the rapture is glorified, and if the rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation, who is left to enter the kingdom in natural bodies? All believers will have been raptured and glorified by that time.” (Italics mine) (John Feinberg, p. 201)

The nature and purpose of the Tribulation excludes the Church from being part of it. 

(12) Nature of Tribulation centers on Israel: According to Daniel 9:24-27, the “seventy weeks” prophecy including the final “one week” (seven years) is for Israel (“your people”). Jeremiah 30:7 refers to the Tribulation period as a time of “Jacob’s distress.” “While the church will experience tribulation in general during the present age (John 16:33), she is never mentioned as participating in Israel’s time of trouble, which includes the great tribulation, the day of the Lord, and the wrath of God.” (Ice and Demy, The Truth About The Rapture, p. 36)

Purpose #1: Preparation of Israel “The Bible teaches that the Tribulation is a time of preparation for Israel’s restoration and conversion (Deuteronomy 4:29, 30; Jeremiah 30:3-11; Zechariah 12:10).” (Ice and Demy, p. 36)

Purpose #2: Judgment for an unbelieving world Revelation 3:10 refers to the Tribulation period as “the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.” The second major purpose of the Tribulation, then, is to test the unbelieving world. “Those who dwell upon the earth” refers to those who are unbelievers on earth during the period described in Revelation 4-19. (Thomas Edgar, “An Exegesis of Rapture Passages,” in Issues in Dispensationalism, p. 216)

(13) The nature of the Church: If the nature of the Tribulation is Jewish and the purpose of the Tribulation is to bring Israel to belief and to judge the unbelieving world, what purpose does the church have in relation to this period? As shown already, the church is promised deliverance from this time of wrath (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10).

(14) The expectation of the Church is the imminent coming of Christ not the Tribulation period. “Passages such as 1 Corinthians 1:7; Titus 2:13 and Philippians 3:20 are applicable at this point. The believer is pictured as eagerly waiting and earnestly expecting the Savior. Watching for signs is entirely foreign to these passages. It never occurs. Not even once. Furthermore, not only is the believer to look for the any-moment return of the Lord, but he is to direct his life in the light of it (cf. Rom. 13:11-14; James 5:7-8; 1 John 3:1-3). If, on the other hand, there are specific prophesied signs, in reality we would not be looking for the Savior at any moment but instead should be watching for the revelation of the man of sin, the Great Tribulation, etc. There would be at least a seven-year preparation period.” (Earl D. Radmacher, “The Imminent Return of the Lord,” in Issues in Dispensationalism, pp. 264-65). “It is incongruous then that the Scriptures would be silent on such a traumatic change for the Church. If posttribulationism were true, one would expect the epistles to teach the fact of the Church in the tribulation, the purpose of the Church in the tribulation, and the conduct of the Church in the tribulation.” (Mayhue, p. 9)

(15) The Thessalonian’s expectation: That Paul had taught a Pretribulational Rapture can be inferred from 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3. In this passage, Paul notes that the Thessalonians had been “shaken” and “disturbed” because they had been led to think that they were presently in the Day of the Lord (i.e. the Tribulation period). The fact that they were disturbed is significant. If Paul had taught a posttribulational rapture, the Thessalonians would have had no reason to be disturbed since they would be expecting signs and persecution before the coming of the Lord. Thus, they could joyously look to the soon coming of the Lord after the Tribulation. However, the fact that the Thessalonians were shook up indicates that they did not expect to be in the Day of the Lord. A fair inference is that, in line with Paul’s previous teaching, the Thessalonians expected to be raptured prior to the Day of the Lord.

Concluding thoughts The purpose of this work has been to present a positive, biblical case for the pretribulational rapture position. The judgmental and Jewish nature of the Tribulation seems to exclude the Church who is promised deliverance from this time of wrath. The differences between Rapture and Second Coming passages, though not convincing to all, seem weighty enough to make it very possible that the two are different events happening at different times. If this be the case, this view harmonizes well with the fact that the Church is nowhere to be found in the very detailed Tribulation section of Revelation 4-19. This view also harmonizes well with the fact that there must be a time period allowed for people to be saved and then enter the Millennial Kingdom in nonglorified bodies.

 

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John Piper and The Rapture

JOHN PIPER AND THE RAPTURE

Rapture 1

(Tom’s Perspectives posted originally at http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-JohnPiperandTheRaptu.pdf)

by Thomas Ice

A new movie version of Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind novel is scheduled for release in movie theaters on October 2014. This version features Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage cast in the role of pilot Rayford Steele. The announcement of this movie release has lead to a number of articles critical of the pretribulational rapture. Morgan Lee produced a piece primarily quoting William Craig,[1] a Philosophy professor at historically pretribulational Talbot School of Theology in Southern California. Another article appeared a week later: “Nine Reasons Why John Piper Disagrees with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Left Behind’ Movie’s View of Rapture.” [2] Apparently a number of folks within the Evangelical community are concerned that the new movie may have a great impact upon the thinking of the Christian community, so they are trying to get a head start on bashing the biblical basis for our blessed hope.

PIED PIPER

Retired pastor and author John Piper has a large following, especially among younger Evangelicals. While he is premillennial, he is decidedly anti-pre-trib and not a supporter of the modern state of Israel. According to Noske, Piper recently tweeted his nine reasons against pretribulationism. Even though space is limited, I will attempt to evaluate those reasons. [3]

1. “To meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 means to meet and accompany back to earth, thus, cannot be pretribulational. The Greek word for “to meet” does NOT mean what Piper says. Piper’s view was developed in the 1930s and more recent scholarship has disproved his speculation. [4] “To meet” does not imply any direction on the basis of the word itself. Instead, spatial direction is indicated by the context of a passage.

2. 2 Thessalonians 1:5–7 refers to the second coming. I agree this passage refers to the second coming and not the rapture. Perhaps there are some pretribulationists who see the rapture in this passage but I have never meet one. Many of Piper’s objections, such as this one, are based upon a false understanding of what pretribulationists actually believe. He is chasing after windmills.

3. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Piper equates the “gathering together to Him” and “the day of the Lord” as referring to the same event, the second coming. I disagree! They are separate items. The phrase “gathering together to Him” and “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17) are identical concepts. Both refer to the rapture as a separate event from that of the “day of the Lord.” The “day of the Lord” is used in the Old and New Testaments to primarily refer to the seven-year tribulation period and is not at all a synonym for the second coming. The phrase “great and terrible day of the Lord” is a reference to the second coming (Isa. 13:9; Joel 2:31; Zeph. 1:14–16; Mal. 4:1, 5). If Piper is correct concerning his view on this matter, then it would mean that the man of sin (the antichrist) would come after the second coming, which does not make sense within anyone’s viewpoint.

Piper says further support for his view is that “gathering” is also used in Matthew 24:31, which is clearly a posttribulational event. He claims it is the same word as in 2 Thessalonians 2. Actually, both are from the same root but are not the same word. One is a noun (2 Thess. 2) and the other is a verb (Matt. 24). The contexts of the two passages are very different, just like the rapture and the second coming are also very different events.

4. If Paul intended to teach pretribulationism then why did he not just come out and say that in 2 Thessalonians 2:3? I have been arguing in a number of articles [5] over the years that the Greek word often translated “falling away” or “apostasy” is best translated “departure.” Since the context supports the idea of a spatial or physical departure in 2:3, then Paul is saying exactly what Piper suggests. Paul tells them that they are not in the day of the Lord or the tribulation since the departure of the church, which is the rapture, has not taken place. The false teachers in 2 Thessalonians are teaching posttribulationism and Paul corrects them with pretribulationism.

5. Piper says no pre-trib rapture is found in Matthew 24 or Mark 13 or Luke 21. I totally agree that the rapture is not found anywhere in the Olivet Discourse. That Discourse provides Jesus’ outline of the seven-year tribulation period leading up to the second coming with no mention of the rapture. The rapture of the Church is not revealed by Christ until the night before He was crucified. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16) contains Christ’s introduction to Church Age truth that He expands upon in the Epistles. It makes sense that the new revelation about the rapture was introduced to His disciples shortly before His death and resurrection (John 14:1–3). [6]

6. Piper notes the New Testament teaches saints will be protected by God during the tribulation by the seal of God (Rev. 9:4). How is this an argument against pretribulationism since all holding to a pre-trib position believe that there will be saints who will be protected during the tribulation? Those saints in the tribulation are never called the church, instead they are the hundreds of millions who will be saved after the rapture of the church during the tribulation (Rev. 7:9–17). Many will be martyred (Rev. 6:9–11) and many will make it through the perils of that time and will enter into the millennial kingdom in their mortal bodies. So it means all will not be protected during the tribulation as Piper intimates. Revelation 9:4 speaks specifically of the five month torture of the demonic locusts (Rev. 9:1–11).

7. Next, he speaks of the command to “watch” as admonished by our Lord in Matthew 25:1– 13 when speaking of the parable of the ten virgins. Matthew 25 is a parable to Israel about watching for the second coming, not the rapture. The rapture is never found in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24—25). Instead, the church, in relation to the rapture is “waiting” for His Son from heaven . . . Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). Since the rapture is signless, unlike the second coming, there are no signs to watch for, thus, the church is charged with waiting for her Bridegroom (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:13; Jude 21).

8. Piper cites Revelation 3:10 and pronounces it as the strongest passage for pre-trib, then says it means to be preserved through the tribulation. Piper cites Galatians 1:4 and John 17:15 in an attempt to support his misguided notion that “kept from the hour” in Revelation 3:10 really means preservation instead of its normal meaning of kept from the time and place of the tribulation. [7] First, Galatians 1:4 does not employ the Greek phrase “tereo ek” used in Revelation 3:10, therefore, the Galatians passage is not a factor to help one understand the meaning of 3:10. Next, the only other time tereo ek is used in the Greek New Testament is John 17:15 where it speaks of God the Father keeping believers from the evil one. I am sure Piper would agree Christ’s prayer has been answered since all genuine believers are protected from Satan. In the same way, all church age believers will be kept out of the time of the tribulation via the rapture before that seven-year event.

9. His final reason is “New Testament moral incentive is . . . that we should love the appearing of the Lord so that we want to be pure as the Lord is pure.” [8] This is hardly an argument against pretribulationism since we believe most mentions of the rapture in New Testament Epistles are accompanied with a moral imperative applied to the present. Piper cites 1 John 3:1–3 as an example. Pretribulationists believe this passage is an example of multiple references to moral purity in the present in light of a future event. This verse and many others refer to the rapture and admonishes believers to “purify oneself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

CONCLUSION

Evangelical leaders like John Piper appear to be on a crusade against the New Testament teaching of the pre-trib rapture doctrine as introduced by Jesus Himself in the Upper Room Discourse and expounded upon and applied in the Epistles by the Apostles, especially in Paul’s letters. In fact, Paul calls the rapture a believer’s “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13). Since the early 1970s in North America, God has used the teaching of pretribulationism as a key factor in seeing millions of people come to faith in Christ. Opposition to pretribulationism in the 70s came from liberals and unbelievers. Now, in 2014 many Evangelical leaders lead the way warning of the supposed dangers of preaching such a message. As a new movie is about to be released featuring the pre-trib rapture, believers should be praying that God will use it as a catalyst to proclaim the gospel to an unbelieving world so our Lord will use it to see an influx of unbelievers getting saved, similar to the early 70s. Maranatha!

ENDNOTES

[1] Morgan Lee, “No, Christians Should Not Believe in ‘Left Behind’s’ Rapture Theology, Says Prominent Christian Philosopher,” The Christian Post, July 30, 2014; http://www.christianpost.com.

[2] Lauren Leigh Noske, “Nine Reasons Why John Piper Disagrees with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Left Behind’ Movie’s View of Rapture,” The Gospel Herald, August 6, 2014; http://www.gospelherald.com.

[3] I am also drawing from Piper’s “Definitions and Observations Concerning the Second Coming of Christ,” Desiring God Ministry, August 30, 1987; http://www.desiringgod.org

[4] See the following: Kevin Zuber, “1 Thessalonians 4:17 and the meaning of ‘to meet’”, http://www.pre- trib.org/articles/view/1-thessalonians-417-and-meaning-of-to-meet-meeting-dignitary-or-retrieving- bride. Thomas Ice, “The Meeting in the Sky,” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheMeetingintheSky.pdf. Michael R. Crosby, “Hellenistic Formal Receptions and Paul’s use of APANTSIS in 1 Thessalonians 4:17,” Bulletin for Biblical Research Vol. 4, 1994, pp. 15-34.

[5] See Thomas Ice, “Is the Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3?” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheRapturein2Thessal.pdf. Thomas Ice, “The ‘Departure’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3” http://www.pre- trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-TheDeparturein2Thess.pdf.

[6] See Thomas Ice, “The Rapture and John 14” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheRaptureandJohn14.pdf.

[7]  See Thomas Ice, “Kept from the Hour” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-KeptFromTheHour.pdf.

[8]  Piper, “Definitions and Observations.”

 

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Paul David Tripp on The Best Worship Service Ever

An Extended Meditation on Revelation 19:6-8

(These articles were composed by Paul David Tripp on October 6, 12, 20 @ http://www.paultripp.com/articles/)

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Five Important Things

The Book of Revelation can be confusing and potentially intimidating. Many would prefer a simple Psalm or Proverb with our morning cup of coffee instead of the eschatological numbers, symbols and creatures that populate the final pages of Scripture.

All that imagery has significant meaning and relevant application to your life, but it does require a lot of study and understanding. So when people ask me about the Book of Revelation, I say that in its most simple form, it’s a glorious portrait of the risen King Christ.

THE BEST WORSHIP SERVICE EVER

I would argue that the best depiction of that glory is found in Revelation 19:6-8. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to imagine being in attendance at the most vibrant and exuberant worship service ever recorded. Check out these words:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.” (ESV)

I love those three verses because it enables me to visualize the intimate and raucous celebration that is to come. But while I wait for that celebration, those verses also require that I re-evaluate my priorities. How so, you may ask? Think about this: those in the rejoicing multitude have lived life on earth and now exist eternally on the other side. By eavesdropping on their song, we can learn what’s truly important for us today.

FIVE IMPORTANT THINGS

There are 5 things that the great multitude is celebrating:

1. God Himself (vv. 6-7)

Those in the multitude celebrate that God exists. It sounds a bit dumb, doesn’t it? But, if you were to honestly assess your life, you would find streaks of “godlessness” every day. That doesn’t mean you’re temporarily an atheist or indulging in wild streaks of debauchery; it simply means that you’re making decisions that forget the presence of God.

Imagine how your relationships, your ministry, your work, your calendar, and your budget would be transformed if, before every desire, word, and deed, you remembered the presence of the Lord. But we’re amnesiacs, God-forgetful people; our hearts are prone to wander. Would you humbly admit that you forget God more than you should?

2. God’s Reign (v. 6)

Those in the multitude rejoice that God Almighty reigns with power and precision. How often do you and I forget about his sovereignty and try to work out life on our own? We wish we could turn back the clock and change the past; we try to manipulate people and locations in the present; we fret constantly over the future.

If you rested in the active reign of God, your life would be marked by peace and confidence, even in the darkest and most unpredictable of times. Would you humbly admit that you fearfully try to control more of your life than you should?

3. God’s Glory (v. 7)

Those in the multitude are intimately experiencing what they were made for: the glory of Another. It’s clear from Scripture that you and I were not designed to pursue and accumulate as many pleasures and treasures as we can, but to live for the glory of God.

Think about how many times you choose the kingdom of self over the kingdom of God. I’m not talking about big moments; I’m talking about the 10,000 little opportunities you have each week to pursue God’s kingdom. Would you humbly admit that you love little glories more than you love the Glory of God?

4. God’s Invitation (v. 7)

Those in the multitude recognize how significant their inclusion at the Marriage Supper is; they have made themselves ready. In other words, they’re celebrating redemption and the fact that their lives have been joined together with Christ.

There are some days when you and I are joyfully married to Jesus the Bridegroom, but there are many days when we treat our lives as if they belong to us. Remember, Christ died so that those who live may no longer live for themselves. Would you humbly admit that you don’t always want the invitation to live for Jesus?

5. God’s Grace (v. 8)

Finally, those in the multitude are celebrating their wardrobe, the fine, bright and pure linen they’re given to wear. This represents the grace of God that has transformed their heart from the inside out.

One day, you and I will experience completely pure and transformed hearts. But a filthy heart needs to be cleansed before it becomes pure, and that cleansing process – called sanctification – requires pressure and heat. I’ll be the first one to admit – I often struggle with God’s way of purifying my soul. Would you humbly admit that you don’t want sanctification as much as you say you do?

DON’T BE DISCOURAGED

As I reviewed these five important things that the great multitude celebrates, I was discouraged by how short I fall. I forget God; I try to control my future; I pursue self-glory; I’m not excited to die to self; and I don’t rejoice when sanctification comes my way.

But then I remembered – these people are on the other side. They no longer wrestle with sin like I do. One day I’ll be able to celebrate with unrestricted joy and passion!

Until then, every day will be a struggle. That’s why I encouraged to you five times to “humbly admit” your shortcomings. Remember, God gives grace to the humble, form-fit for the specific battle of that day. And, in the midst of your failing, Jesus will never turn his back on you; your the bride of Christ, and nothing can remove the love he has for you.

Value Clarification

Last week (above) I wrote about Five Important things to remember during our days on this earth. If we remember God, God’s reign, God’s glory, God’s invitation, and God’s grace, it can radically transform the way we live in the here and now.

I was inspired (and challenged) by the voices of those in great multitude, found in Revelation 19:6-8. Remember, these people have concluded their broken, earthly existence and now reside eternally with God. That means they see with clarity and value with purity what God sees and what God values.

By eavesdropping on what they have to say, we can receive the grace to see and hear where we’re so blind and deaf. Here’s one of those areas where we need help:

1. VALUE CLARIFICATION

Human beings are value-oriented. That means we assign value to people, places, objects and ideas and rearrange our behavior, schedule and finances to pursue those things that we have named as valuable. Our hopes and dreams are shaped by what we value. We find our identity in how successful (or unsuccessful) we are in pursuing those values.

There’s nothing wrong with being value-oriented; that’s the way God created us. Animals were designed to live by instinct; humans were designed to live with values.

However, we weren’t created to define our own values. Since we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), we were created to live under God’s value system. But because of sin, we stray from those values, and humanity has been in trouble ever since.

You could argue that every single act of hurtful behavior in the history of the world has been a result of an incorrect value system. The evidence is everywhere: we need our values clarified.

HEAVENLY VALUES

Let’s read the song of the great multitude again:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.” (Revelation 19:6-8)

Notice what they’re NOT celebrating:

- I was the most beautiful, most intelligent, and most popular person.

- I was married to the most beautiful, most intelligent, and most popular person.

- I had kids who were successful in 3 sports and won scholarships to the best colleges.

- I climbed the corporate ladder faster than any of my colleagues.

- I was always being recognized as the most successful individual in my department.

- I bought such a comfortable house and lived in such a great neighborhood.

- I had season tickets on the 50-yard-line during that Super Bowl season.

- I spent each summer at the sweetest vacation spots.

- I always wined and dined at the finest restaurants in the city.

If you follow my teaching, you should know that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with financial success or business renown. I also think there’s plenty of evidence in Scripture that reveals God’s desire to see his children enjoy the pleasure and comfort of the created world (as long as the heart is worshiping properly).

But, when we listen to the voices of those on the other side, they’re not celebrating success, renown, comfort and pleasure; they’re celebrating those Five Important Things:

(1) What God wanted was more important than what we wanted.

(2) What God decided was more important than our career path.

(3) What God received glory for was more important than our popularity.

(4) What God named as good was better than what we thought was good.

(5) What God brought into our life was more fulfilling than a lifestyle of comfort.

A CALL TO REMEMBER

I write these Articles for several reasons, but perhaps one of the most significant reasons is because you and I are amnesiacs. We’re forgetful people. Another way of saying that is to echo Robert Robinson’s hymn – “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

Today, would you humbly admit with me that you forget what’s truly important? Would you be willing to re-evaluate your priorities once more? Would you confess that your values need to be clarified, not just once more, but every single day?

Thankfully, God has given us his Word to remind us. He has provided us with thousands of reminders, scattered through the pages of Scripture.

On top of that, God has lavished us with grace: enabling grace to choose the right values, forgiving grace when we fail, and and perhaps my favorite – the grace of future completion (Philippians 1:6).

There will be a day when you and I, like the great multitude, will see Christ face to face and forever have our values clarified. Until then, we need all the grace God provides.

The past two weeks (above) we’ve been studying the “best worship service ever” found in Revelation 19:6-8. By eavesdropping on eternity, we’re reminded of what’s truly important in this life and what we won’t be celebrating in eternity.

The voices of those in the great multitude certainly help us with Value Clarification, but they also help us in this area:

2. WORSHIP RECLAMATION

I purposely chose the phrase Worship Reclamation instead of Worship Inception or Worship Commencement. Inception and commencement would mean that we need to launch or initiate our worship. Reclamation (to reclaim) means that our worship is already ongoing and needs to be recovered, rehabilitated and redirected.

You don’t need to learn how to worship or how to begin worshiping. By nature and hard-wiring, you ARE a worshiper. Every human being has been designed by God to worship during every minute of every day.

In a perfect world (literally), God was meant to be the constant recipient of our worship, but Romans 1:25 says that sinners now exchange worship and service of the Creator for worship and service of the creation. That’s why we need our worship reclaimed – because it’s currently directed at something other than the One who is alone worthy of our worship.

WORSHIP AS AN IDENTITY

When we read Romans 1:25, I think our immediate tendency is to find practical ways to “worship and serve” God more. For example, we look for areas where we can spend less money and time on us and commit that money and time to the ministry of the local church.

I want to encourage those actions, because they’re biblical, but you need to consider your worship as an identity before you think of it as an activity. You, the worshiper, are always attaching your identity – your meaning, well-being and sense of purpose – to something or someone. And where a worshiper finds his or her identity, there they’ll find practical ways to worship.

Another way of saying that is this: something, or someone, is always ruling the heart of a worshiper. Since the Bible says the heart is the control center of the human being, whatever rules your heart will automatically exercise control over your desires, thoughts, words and actions.

The summary question of this Article is this: where are you finding your identity, and how is your identity shaping your worship?

DANGEROUS PLACES TO FIND IDENTITY

Last week (above) I wrote about 9 things you won’t be celebrating in eternity. I think that list is helpful to review again, because if we won’t be celebrating those things in eternity, we shouldn’t be worshiping them today. If we don’t want to worship them today, we should avoid placing our identity in those things.

Here’s that list again, phrased slightly differently, and why we need to place our identity, and consequently, our worship, in God alone:

(1) SELF – This life is not about you. You were brought into a world that is, by definition, a celebration of the beauty and intelligence of God.

(2) MARRIAGE – No human being can satisfy your soul; only God can. If you place your identity in your spouse – or any other person, for that matter – you’ll always be disappointed.

(3) KIDS – Your children are not actually your children; you gave birth to them, but they don’t belong to you. Your kids are from God, they exist through God, and the glory of their lives points to God.

(4) SUCCESS – God calls you to be fruitful and productive, but the moment you take on your success as an identity, you’ll become a slave to a never-ending stream of potential opportunities.

(5) RENOWN – Again, this life is not about you. Your primary job description is to be an ambassador for and herald of the glory and renown of your Heavenly King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

(6) COMFORT – Comfort is not sinful, but you’ll never find paradise in a fallen world. Also, the work of the gospel will often call you to uncomfortable people in uncomfortable places.

(7) EXCITEMENT – Go ahead and buy season tickets for your favorite football team, but if a touchdown excites you more than the life-transforming ministry of the local church, you need to re-evaluate your eternal priorities.

(8) LEISURE – Again, this world will never be a paradise. It’s not sinful to enjoy a vacation, but remember that this life is a preparation for your final destination.

(9) PLEASURE – Pleasure was created by God for you, but the created pleasures of this world are meant to be a finger pointing to the ultimate pleasure – an intimate relationship with the Creator.

We need to remember again that God is the only One who exists in the universe who is worthy of our worship. Additionally, he’s the only safe place to seek identity. All forms of worship and service to the creation come with life-threatening danger, but worship and service of God come with the promise of life, both now and forever more.

Would you admit with me today that it’s tempting to seek identity in all the wrong places? And would you admit with me today that no matter how long you’ve walked with Jesus, your worship needs to be reclaimed? God gives grace to humble and will never withhold love and forgiveness from the repentant hearts of his idolatrous children.

 

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