Know What You Believe
Know What You Believe
Table of contents
Introduction to Theology 2
The Knowledge of God 2
The Bible: God-Breathed 5
The Existence of Angels 9
Our Adversary The Devil 10
Jesus Christ 19
The Holy Spirit 30
The Church 39
Central Passages 68
The Bible, New American Standard Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985.
Basic Theology, Charles Ryrie, Victor Books, Quick Verse 2006.
The Faith Once For All, Jack Cottrell, College Press, 2002.
Introduction to Theology
The term “theology” does not appear in the Bible, but it is a perfectly good word to refer to Christian beliefs. The English word comes from two Greek words: theos, meaning “God,” and logos, meaning “Word, speech.” Literally, then, theology is God-talk, i.e., the product of studying or writing about God. Systematic theology is the study of the Bible subject by subject (sometimes section by section).
There are four sources for theology: revelation, experience, reason, and tradition. But the real question is which of these sources is the normative source, i.e., the source whose data is accepted as true. Because if its very nature as the revealed and inspired Word of God, the Bible is this normative source.
Why study Theology? Because theology is necessary for an overall safeguard against error, heresy, schism, and cult-building. False systems of thought usually begin with a failure to understand all that Scripture says about certain subjects. Theology also provides a proper foundation for discerning what are valid Christian experiences. Theology is also necessary as the only sound basis for morality and ethics. What is true determines what is right. And finally, theology is necessary because the Bible commands us to give attention to doctrine. (Matt. 28:20; Acts 2:42; 1 Tim. 3:2; 4:13-16; 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Tim. 3:16)
The Knowledge of God
I. THE POSSIBILITY OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
Unquestionably the knowledge of God is desirable; the religious yearnings of mankind testify to that. But is it possible?
The Scriptures attest to two facts: the incomprehensibility of God and the knowability of God. To say that He is incomprehensible is to assert that the mind cannot grasp the knowledge of Him. To say that He is knowable Is to claim that He can be known. Both are true though neither in an absolute sense. To say that God is incomprehensible is to assert that man cannot know everything about Him. To say that He is knowable is not to assert that man can know everything about Him.
Both truths are affirmed in the Scriptures: His incomprehensibility in verses like Job 11:7 and Isaiah 40:18, and His knowability in verses like John 14:7; 17:3; and 1 John 5:20.
“The Lord lives!” declares David in Ps. 18:46. This is a frequent theme in the Bible. Ps. 42:2; 1 Thess. 4:10; John 5:26. That God is alive acknowledges his existence as Spirt, as a personal being who is dynamic and alive. It means that he exists for his people, ready to come to their aid, to act in their defense, and to bless them for his name’s sake.
Two key passages of Scripture show Creation to be a channel of revelation.
a. Psalm 19:1-6. In this psalm David wrote of (1) the continuousness of the revelation through creation (vv. 1-2). The verbs express continuous action indicating that the heavens, the expanse, day, and night continually tell of God’s glory. He also wrote that (2) the center or arena of this revelation is the universe, the heavens and the earth (v. 4), (3) the character of this revelation is quite clear though nonverbal (v. 3), and (4) the coverage is everywhere and to everybody (vv. 4-6). It covers the entire earth and every person can know it. Most can see the sun and the cycle of day and night, but even blind people can feel the heat of the sun (v. 6). This revelation ought to raise questions in people’s minds. Where does the heat come from? Who made the sun? (5) Also the content of this revelation is twofold. It tells something about the glory of God and the greatness of God.
b. Romans 1:18-32. In this key passage the emphasis is on the revelation of the wrath of God because mankind rejects what can be known of Him through the avenue of Creation.
(1) The revelation of His wrath (v. 18). God’s wrath is revealed against all who suppress truth and practice ungodliness. The particulars of how His wrath is revealed are listed in verses 24-32.
(2) The reasons for His wrath (vv. 19-23). The reasons are two: something can be known about God, but rather than receiving that truth, people rejected the revelation and, indeed, perverted it. “What has been made” (v. 20), the cosmos, clearly reveals (and has since the beginning of Creation) God’s power and divine nature. In other words, all mankind should know from observing the universe around him that there exists a supreme Being. Instead mankind rejects that truth and makes idols over which he is supreme.
(3) The result of His wrath (vv. 24-32). Because mankind rejected general revelation, God gave him over (vv. 24, 26, 28). Some think this means a permissive giving over of people so that they suffer the retributive consequences of their sin. But the verb is active voice in verses 24, 26, and 28. Others take the verb in a privative sense; that is, God deprived man of His work of common grace. Still others feel this is a positive and judicial act on God’s part giving people over to judgment. This includes the privative sense but is more active than the permissive viewpoint. At the same time people are responsible for their sinful actions (Eph. 4:19 uses the same verb). Man is justly condemned because he does not receive what God does tell him about Himself through the Creation. This is why evangelism and missionary work is so imperative.
God has communicated through the various avenues of general revelation.
1. His glory (Ps. 19:1).
2. His power to work in creating the universe (v. 1).
3. His supremacy (Rom. 1:20).
4. His divine nature (v. 20).
5. His providential control of nature (Acts 14:17).
6. His goodness (Matt. 5:45).
7. His intelligence (Acts 17:29).
8. His living existence (v. 28).
Eternity Psalm 90:2, freedom Isa. 40:13-14, holiness Rev. 4:8, immutability (Immutability means that God is unchangeable and thus unchanging.) Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17, infinity 1 Kings 8:27; Acts 17:24-28, love 1 John 4:8; Rom. 5:5), omnipresence Psalm 139:7-11, omniscience Acts 15:18; Ps. 147:4, omnipotent Ex. 6:3; Ps. 33:9; 1 Cor. 6:14, righteous Psalm 11:7, sovereign Eph. 1:11, truth John 17:3, unity Deut. 6:4; Eph. 4:6.
The Names of God
The many names of God in the Scripture provide additional revelation of His character. These are not mere titles assigned by people but, for the most part, His own descriptions of Himself. As such they reveal aspects of His character.
ELOHIM – God or Lord Exodus 12:12
YAHWEH – God or lord Gen. 4:1
ADONAI is a plural of majesty. The singular means lord, master, owner. Josh. 5:14
GOD (THEOS) John 1:1
LORD (KURIOS) Acts 2:36
MASTER (DESPOTES) Rev. 6:10
FATHER Eph. 1:2
Even when no particular name is used, the occurrence of the phrase “the name of the Lord” reveals something of His character. To call on the name of the Lord was to worship Him (Gen. 21:33). To take His name in vain was to dishonor Him (Ex. 20:7). Not to follow the requirements of the Law involved profaning His name (Lev. 22:2, 32). Priests performed their service in the name of the Lord (Deut. 21:5). His name pledged the continuation of the nation (1 Sam. 12:22).
The Triunity of God
Trinity is, of course, not a biblical word. Neither are triunity, trine, trinal, subsistence, nor essence. Yet we employ them, and often helpfully, in trying to express this doctrine which is so fraught with difficulties. Furthermore, this is a doctrine which in the New Testament is not explicit even though it is often said that it is implicit in the Old and explicit in the New. But explicit means “characterized by full, clear expression,” an adjective hard to apply to this doctrine. Nevertheless, the doctrine grows out of the Scriptures, so it is a biblical teaching.
Deuteronomy 6:4 Gen. 1:26 1 Peter 1:2 John 1:1 Matthew 3:16-17 Matthew 28:19
! The Bible: God-Breathed
The Biblical Doctrine of Inspiration
When God uses a spokesman or prophet to deliver a message to other people, this process takes place in two distinct steps. First, God places the message in the prophet’s mind in some way. This is the act of revelation. Second, the prophet delivers this same revealed message to others, either orally or in writing. In this way the content of revelation given to us in the Bible originates with God but is mediated to us by man.
How can God be sure that his words were mediated accurately? The answer lies in what is commonly called inspiration. In the second stage, God is exerting a power or an influence upon them in a way that guarantees that what he says will be what God wants him to say. This influence is what we call inspiration. Inspiration is the supernatural influence exerted by the Holy Spirit upon prophets and apostles, which enabled them to communicate without error or omission, those truths. This inspiration did not rule out the genuine, conscious participation of the writers. Their full natural personalities were operative even while they were under the divine influence. They spoke or wrote in their own vocabularies and styles, often voicing their own thoughts. The Spirit and the writers thus worked together, with the Spirit having the final say as to the words that were recorded. An illustration would be a person learning to drive in a car with dual controls. The learner is given free rein as long as he is going where is supposed to go, but the instructor can take control of the process if a problem is about to arise.
To say that the Bible is completely true and trustworthy in the fullest sense is to say that it is inerrant. Inerrancy, like inspiration, applies only to the original text of the Bible as first produced by the authors themselves. Whether or not the church through the ages has espoused inerrancy is beside the point. What Augustine, Luther, Calvin, or Campbell said about the subject is not decisive. The only real issue is what the Bible claims about itself. “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). The word for “broken” is lyo, which means “to break, loose, destroy, dissolve.” That Scripture cannot be broken means that it cannot be destroyed, refuted, found faulty, found untrue, or disproved.
If we deny inerrancy, we give up our one objective reference point for truth and sound doctrine. When we accept it, it stands before us as an objective standard of truth. They only requirements for sound doctrine are good textual criticism, correct translation, and proper exegesis.
Inerrancy is then connected to the authority of the Bible. The authority of the Bible is in every way identical with the undiluted, unqualified, absolute authority of God. This is why some say that the Bible is their only rule or authority for faith and practice.
The revelation in the Bible is not only inclusive yet partial, it is also accurate (John 17:17), progressive (Heb. 1:1), and purposeful (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
In 2 Peter 3:16 Peter labels Paul’s writings as Scripture showing their early acceptance and recognized authority. Though it is true that not all of the New Testament was written when Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16 (2 Peter, Heb., Jude, and all of John’s writings), nevertheless, because those books were eventually acknowledged as belonging to the canon of Scripture, we may conclude that 2 Timothy 3:16 includes all the sixty-six books as we know them today. Not any book nor any part is excluded; all Scripture is inspired of God.
2 Peter 1:20-21 This verse tells us as much as any single verse how God used the human writers to produce the Bible.
1 Corinthians 2:13 Here Paul makes the point that God’s revelation came to us in words.
God moved the human authors to include in the Bible.
1. Material that came directly from God. The two stones on which the Ten Commandments were written came directly from God (Deut. 9:10).
2. Researched material. Though some parts of the Bible were written straight off (like some of Paul’s letters), some were researched before they were written. The Gospel of Luke is an example of this (Luke 1:1-4). Luke was not an eyewitness of the events of the life of Christ. So either God would have had to have given him direct revelation of those events in order for Luke to write his Gospel, or Luke would have had to discover them through research. In his prologue, Luke tells us that (a) he consulted eyewitnesses of Christ’s life and ministry; (b) he used available written accounts of parts of His ministry; (c) he carefully investigated and sifted through all those sources; (d) he planned out the orderly arrangement of his material; and (e) the Holy Spirit moved and bore him along in the actual writing so that all he wrote was accurate and truthful.
3. Prophetic material. Approximately one fourth of the Bible was prophecy when it was written (though, of course, some of that amount of material has been fulfilled). True prophecy can come only from the true, all-knowing God. No human writer could devise 100 percent true prophecy.
4. Historical material. Much of the Bible records history and does so accurately. Most of the historical portions were written by those who had personally lived through the events (e.g., Luke who was Paul’s traveling companion on many of his travels, Acts 16:10-13; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:6, or Joshua who experienced and then wrote about the Conquest of Canaan in the Book of Joshua). Something like the history of Creation, of course, had to be revealed by God to Moses, since no human being was an eyewitness and Moses wrote about it long after it occurred.
5. Other material. The Bible does record things that are untrue, like the lies of Satan (Gen. 3:4-5), but it records them accurately. The Bible also contains some quotations from the writings of unsaved people (Titus 1:12). It also has some passages that are strongly and vividly personal and emotional (Rom. 9:1-3). But this variety of material is accurately recorded.
To sum up: This variety of material demonstrates that God sometimes revealed things supernaturally and directly; sometimes He allowed the human writers to compose His message using their freedom of expression. But He breathed out the total product, carrying along the authors in various ways, to give us His message in the words of the Bible.
When inerrancy is denied one may expect some serious fallout in both doctrinal and practical areas.
Some doctrinal matters which may be affected by denying inerrancy include the following.
(1) A denial of the historical fall of Adam.
(2) A denial of the facts of the experiences of the Prophet Jonah.
(3) An explaining away of some of the miracles of both the Old and New Testaments.
(4) A denial of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.
(5) A belief in two or more authors of the Book of Isaiah.
(6) A flirting with or embracing of liberation theology with its redefining of sin (as societal rather than individual) and salvation (as political and temporal rather than spiritual and eternal).
Some lifestyle errors that may follow a denial of inerrancy include the following.
(1) A loose view of the seriousness of adultery.
(2) A loose view of the seriousness of homosexuality.
(3) A loose view of divorce and remarriage.
(4) “Cultural” reinterpretation of some of the teachings of the Bible (e.g., teaching on women, teaching on civil obedience).
(5) A tendency to view the Bible through a modern psychological grid.
Inerrancy is an important doctrine, the denial or even diluting of which may result in serious doctrinal and life errors.
The subject of the canon involves the question of how many books belong in the Bible. Canon then refers to the authoritative list of the books of the Bible. Of course, the individual books were written over a long period of time by various writers. How then were they collected, and who decided which ones went into the canon of Scripture?
Some considerations about the canon of the Bible:
1. Self-authentication. It is essential to remember that the Bible is self-authenticating since its books were breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). In other words, the books were canonical the moment they were written. It was not necessary to wait until various councils could examine the books to determine if they were acceptable or not. Their canonicity was inherent within them, since they came from God. People and councils only recognized and acknowledged what is true because of the intrinsic inspiration of the books as they were written. No Bible book became canonical by action of some church council.
2. Decisions of men. Nevertheless, men and councils did have to consider which books should be recognized as part of the canon, for there were some candidates that were not inspired. Some decisions and choices had to be made, and God guided groups of people to make correct choices (not without guidelines) and to collect the various writings into the canons of the Old and New Testaments.
3. Debates over canonicity. In the process of deciding and collecting, it would not be unexpected that some disputes would arise about some of the books. And such was the case. However, these debates in no way weaken the authenticity of the truly canonical books, nor do they give status to those which were not inspired by God.
4. Completion of canon. Since 397 A.D. the Christian church has considered the canon of the Bible to be complete; if it is complete, then it must be closed. Therefore, we cannot expect any more books to be discovered or written that would open the canon again and add to its sixty-six books. Even if a letter of Paul were discovered, it would not be canonical. After all, Paul must have written many letters during his lifetime in addition to the ones that are in the New Testament; yet the church did not include them in the canon. Not everything an apostle wrote was inspired, for it was not the writer who was inspired but his writings, and not necessarily all of them.
The more recent books of the cults which are placed alongside the Bible are not inspired and have no claim to be part of the canon of Scripture. Certainly so-called prophetic utterances or visions that some claim to be from God today cannot be inspired and considered as part of God’s revelation or as having any kind of authority like that of the canonical books.
The Evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls for the Old Testament
1. Their importance. The scrolls show us what books of the Old Testament were recognized as sacred in the period between the Old and New Testaments.
2. Their number. About 175 of the 500 Dead Sea scrolls are biblical. There are several copies of many of the books of the Old Testament, and all the Old Testament books are represented among the scrolls, except Esther.
3. Their testimony. The existence of biblical books among the scrolls does not in itself prove their canonicity since some of the noncanonical books are also present. However, many of the Dead Sea scrolls are commentaries, and so far all of those commentaries deal only with canonical books. That seems to show that a distinction between canonical and noncanonical books was recognized. Also twenty of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are quoted or referred to as Scripture. In summary, the scrolls give positive evidence for the canonicity of all but Chronicles, Esther, and the Song of Solomon.
The process of Acknowledgment of the New Testament Canon
Remember that the books were inspired when they were written and thus canonical. The church only attested to what was inherently true.
1. The witness of the apostolic period. The writers witnessed that their own writings were the Word of God (Col. 4:16; 1 Thes. 4:15). They also acknowledged that the writings of other New Testament books were Scripture. Now “Scripture” was a designation in Judaism for canonical books, so when it is used in the New Testament of other New Testament writings, it designates those writings as canonical. And it is so used in two significant places.
One is 1 Timothy 5:18 where a quotation from Deuteronomy 25:4 is linked with one from Luke 10:7, and both are called Scripture. To be sure the sentiment of Luke 10:7 is found in the Old Testament, but the form of quotation is found only in the Gospels. The other is 2 Peter 3:16 where Peter refers to the writings of Paul as Scripture. This is a significant attestation because of the relatively short span of time that had elapsed between the time Paul wrote some of his letters and the time when Peter acknowledged them as Scripture.
2. The witness of the period A.D. 70-170. During this period all the New Testament books were cited in other writings of the period, and the church fathers recognized as canonical all twenty-seven books. However, each father does not include all twenty-seven. In addition, Marcion, a heretic (140), included in his canon only Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles which shows, at least, that a collection was being made this early of Paul’s writings.
3. The witness of the period A.D. 170-350. Three important pieces of evidence come from this period. First, the Muratorian canon (170) omitted Hebrews, James, and 1 and 2 Peter. However, there is a break in the manuscript so we cannot be certain that these books were not included. This canon also rejects some other books like the Shepherd of Hermas which did not become part of the canon.
Second, The Old Syriac version (end of second century) lacked 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. But no extra books were added to bring the total to twenty-seven.
Third, the Old Latin version (200) lacked 2 Peter, James, and Hebrews, but added no extra books. So the unqualified candidates for books to be included in the canon were rejected during this period; most of the New Testament books were received; only a few were debated.
4. The Council of Carthage (397). It is generally agreed that this church council fixed the limits of the New Testament canon as including all twenty-seven books as we have them today.
The Existence of Angels
Angels are created beings (Ps. 148:5). This means they did not evolve from some lower or less complex form of life. This is reinforced by the fact that angels do not procreate (Matt. 22:30). When they were created, they were created as angels.
Personality means to have personal existence; thus we mean that angels have personal existence, and possess the quality or state of being persons. Commonly, the essential facets of personality involve intelligence, emotions, and will.
Angels then qualify as personalities because they have these aspects of intelligence, emotions, and will. This is true of both the good and evil angels. Good angels, Satan, and demons possess intelligence (Matt. 8:29; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Peter 1:12). Good angels, Satan; and demons show emotions (Luke 2:13; James 2:19; Rev. 12:17). Good angels, Satan, and demons demonstrate that they have wills (Luke 8:28-31; 2 Tim. 2:26; Jude 6). Therefore, they can be said to be persons. The fact that they do not have human bodies does not affect their being personalities (any more than it does with God).
To be sure, the knowledge that angels possess is limited by their being creatures. This means they do not know all things as God does (Matt. 24:36); yet they seem to have greater knowledge than humans. This may be due to three causes. (1) Angels were created as a higher order of creatures in the universe than humans are. Therefore, innately they possess greater knowledge. (2) Angels study the Bible more thoroughly than some humans do and gain knowledge from it (James 2:19; Rev. 12:12). (3) Angels gain knowledge through long observation of human activities. Unlike humans, angels do not have to study the past; they have experienced it. Therefore, they know how others have acted and reacted in situations and can predict with a greater degree of accuracy how we may act in similar circumstances. The experiences of longevity give them greater knowledge.
Though they have wills, the angels are, like all creatures, subject to the will of God. Good angels are sent by God to help believers (Heb. 1:14). Satan, though most powerful and cunning in carrying out his purposes in this world, is limited by the will of God (Job 2:6). Demons too have to be subject to the will of Christ (Luke 8:28-31).
The personality of angels means that they are not merely personifications of abstract good or evil, as some have considered them to be. This includes Satan who also is a personality, not a personification of man s collective idea about evil.
Angels constitute an exceedingly large number which cannot be counted. That’s the meaning of myriads which is used to describe the number of angels in Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 5:11. Indeed that latter verse states that there are myriads of myriads of angels. How many this might be is left unspecified, though some have suggested that there are as many angels in the universe as the total number of all human beings throughout history (possibly implied in Matt. 18:10). There is no increase or decrease in their number, whatever it is.
Basically and essentially good angels are servants (Heb. 1:14). God sends them for service or help (diakonian) of believers, and in so serving the angels function as priestly messengers (leitourgika pneumatata) in the temple-universe of God.
! Our Adversary the Devil
The Scriptures declare that all things were created by God through Christ, and there is nothing that was not made by Him (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17). The time of his creation is not specified. If Ezekiel 28:13 refers to Satan and to the earthly garden in Eden, then, of course, he had to have been created before God planted the Garden in Eden (Gen. 2:8).
Ezekiel 28:11-19 Satan was highly privileged, the epitome of God’s Creation, who had an unparalleled position in the universe.
1. Satan had unparalleled wisdom and beauty (v. 12). Satan stood at the zenith of God’s creatures, filled with wisdom and perfect in beauty.
2. Satan had an unparalleled habitation (v. 13). This may refer to a heavenly Eden, or to the earthly Eden. In either case, it was, before sin entered, a unique place.
3. Satan had an unparalleled covering (v. 13). The dazzling description of his dress or robe indicates something of the glory bestowed on him.
4. Satan had an unparalleled function (v. 14). He belonged to the order of angelic creature designated cherubim. They are associated with guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24), with the throne of God (Ezek. 1:5), and here apparently with the actual presence of God. Satan was on the holy mountain of God and he walked in the midst of the stones of fire, likely references to the presence of God Himself. Apparently Satan was the chief guardian of God’s majesty.
5. Satan had unparalleled perfection (Ezek. 28:15). He was perfect in the sense of being completely sound and of having total moral integrity. Here as well as in verse 13 we are reminded that Satan was created, and as a creature, he must someday answer to his Creator.
Like the angels, Satan also is said to possess the traits of personality. He shows intelligence (2 Cor. 11:3); he exhibits emotions (Rev. 12:17, anger; Luke 22:31, desire); he demonstrates that he has a will (Isa. 14:12-14; 2 Tim. 2:26).
The Origin of Satan’s Sin
Sin was found in him (Ezek. 28:15). This is really the only verse in the Bible that states exactly the origin of sin. The details of Satan’s sin are specified elsewhere, but the origin is only expressed here. Barnhouse terms it as “spontaneous generation in the heart of this being in whom such magnificence of power and beauty had been combined and to whom such authority and privilege had been given”.
The New Testament pinpoints Satan’s particular sin as arrogance, conceit, or being puffed up (1 Tim. 3:6). It is likened to the conceit a new convert may have when he is either pushed forward or asserts himself too quickly and begins to take to himself the glory that belongs to God. Ezekiel 28:16 assigns the cause of Satan’s downfall to the abundance of his trade. In other words, Satan used his position for personal profit—to traffic in his own self-promotion. Isaiah gives more detail of Satan’s sin (14:12-17).
Satan is called the morning star in Isaiah 14:12. The Latin equivalent is Lucifer which, on the basis of this passage, became a name for Satan. However, the use of morning star with reference to Satan gives us an indication of the basic character of his plot against God. Since the same title is used in Revelation 22:16 of Christ, we are alerted to the fact that Satan’s plan was to counterfeit the plan of God, and indeed it was and is. How he initiated that plan is detailed in the five “I will” phrases in Isaiah 14:13-14).
1. I will ascend to heaven. As guardian of God’s holiness Satan had access to heaven, but this expresses his desire to occupy and settle in heaven on an equality with God.
2. I will raise my throne above the stars of God. The meaning of this depends on the understanding of “stars.” If they refer to angels (Job 38:7; Jude 13; Rev. 12:3-4; 22:16), then Satan wished to rule over all the angels. If they refer to the luminous heavenly bodies, then he wished to rule in the heavens.
3. I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north. This bespeaks Satan’s ambition to govern the universe as the assembly of Babylonian gods supposedly did.
4. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. He wanted the glory that belonged to God (clouds are often associated with God’s presence, see Ex. 16:10; Rev. 19:1).
5. I will make myself like the Most High. Here his counterfeit is crystal clear. Satan wanted to be like, not unlike, God. The name Elyon for God stresses God’s strength and sovereignty (Gen. 14:18). Satan wanted to be as powerful as God. He wanted to exercise the authority and control in this world that rightfully belongs only to God. His sin was a direct challenge to the power and authority of God.
Satan’s sin was all the more heinous because of the great privileges, intelligence, and position he had. His sin was also more damaging because of the widespread effects of it. It affected other angels (Rev. 12:7); it affects all people (Eph. 2:2); it positioned him as the ruler of this world (John 16:11); it affects all the nations of the world, for he works to deceive them (Rev. 20:3).
The variety of names that Satan has alerts us to the fact that he can attack his opponents in a variety of ways. From the fierceness of a dragon (Rev. 12:3) to the attractiveness of an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), Satan can adapt himself and his tactics to suit the person and the occasion. While he may prefer to operate in a certain manner, he will meet people where they are and use whatever might defeat them in particular circumstances. Though not all-knowing, Satan has observed many others in situations in which we may find ourselves, and he can predict with a high degree of accuracy what will best defeat us.
IN RELATION TO NATIONS
His principal activity in this arena is to deceive the nations (Rev. 20:3). Deceive them how? Apparently into thinking they can govern righteously and bring peace in the world apart from the presence and rule of Christ. Again, his tactic is to counterfeit.
He apparently employs demons in carrying out his deception (Dan. 10:13, 20), and he uses governments to hinder the progress of the Gospel (1 Thes. 2:18).
During the coming days of Great Tribulation Satan will deceive the nations into receiving the Antichrist as their savior. Satan, the dragon, will give the Antichrist his power, and the world will give allegiance to him (Rev. 13:2-4). At the conclusion of the Tribulation Satan and his demons will influence the armies of the nations to march to their doom at the war of Armageddon (16:13-16, NIV).
During the millennial kingdom Satan will be bound, but at the close of that period he will be released and will attempt to lead the world in a final revolt against Christ’s kingdom. After this unsuccessful attempt, Satan will be cast forever into the lake of fire (20:7-10).
IN RELATION TO UNBELIEVERS
In relation to unbelievers Satan blinds their minds so that they will not accept the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). He often does this by making them think that any way to heaven is as acceptable as the only way. Again, a counterfeit. This blindness attacks the minds of people, and while unbelievers may think and reason, a power greater than Satan must remove that blindness. Human reasoning and convincing arguments have a ministry, but only the power of God can remove satanic blindness. Sometimes the devil comes and takes away the Word that people have heard in order to prevent their believing (Luke 8:12).
In promoting blindness Satan uses counterfeit religion as detailed in the preceding section. This may include everything from asceticism to license, from theism (for being a theist does not necessarily mean being saved) to occultism. In other words, Satan will use any aspect of the world system which he heads in order to keep people from thinking about or doing that which will bring them into the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13; 1 John 2:15-17).
Satan, the Tempter
Just as Satan tried the Lord, he also tries believers. His aim is to get us to commit evil. God may sometimes use Satan in testing us to prove us in resisting his tests. Tests can have three beneficial purposes in the life of the believer: (a) to prove us (1 Peter 1:6-7); (b) to teach us (4:12-13: see also Heb. 5:8); and (c) to increase our love for God (James 1:12). But Satan’s only purpose is to tempt the believer to commit evil.
Satan, the Adversary
As adversary, Satan accuses and opposes believers in various areas of their lives. First, he opposes our witness to the Gospel. He does this by confusing us when he plants tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:38-39), by snatching away the Word that has been sown (Mark 4:15), by aligning governmental authorities against believers (1 Thes. 2:18), or by imprisoning believers, believing this will keep their testimony from spreading or make them fearful of witnessing (Rev. 2:10).
Second, Satan spotlights our sins (12:10). He accuses us before God when we sin, thinking he can cause us to lose our salvation. But Christ, our Advocate, takes our case and reminds the Father again and again that He paid for all our sins when He died on the cross (1 John 2:1-2).
Third, Satan opposes the believer by bringing pressure on him which he may not be able to bear. There are two examples of this in the New Testament. One concerned the man disciplined in 1 Corinthians 5 Apparently the discipline had had its desired effect, and he had confessed his sin of incest. Now the church should have received him back into fellowship. Seemingly, some wanted to do this and some did not. So Paul urged them to do so, not only to heal any division that might develop but also lest the brother involved be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. He needed to know the forgiveness of his brothers and sisters (2 Cor. 2:5-11). Not to restore him would give Satan an advantage.
A number of times during His earthly ministry our Lord cast out demons from various people. These instances, of course, affirmed His belief in their real existence (Matt. 12:22-29; 15:22-28; 17:14-20; Mark 5:1-16). He also gave the disciples authority to cast out demons in a context that did not require, as some allege, accommodation to their ignorant belief in demons (Matt. 10:1). Never did our Lord correct anyone for their acceptance of the reality of demons (Luke 10:17).
If we cannot accept the Lord’s testimony, then we would have to conclude that either (a) He was lying, or (b) He was accommodating His teaching to the ignorances of His audience (which in effect makes Him guilty of propagating falsehood), or (c) the early church redactors of the text added the parts about His teachings on demons.
Demons are the angels who rebelled with Satan. In support of this are the following considerations.
Satan is designated the prince of the demons (Matt. 12:24, NJV), indicating that since their leader, Satan, is an angel, the demons must also be angels, but fallen as Satan is.
We know that Satan has well-organized ranks of angels who further his purposes. Two of these ranks are labeled rulers and authorities which are the same designations for two of the ranks of good angels (Eph. 3:10; 6:12). This seems to indicate that the same kinds of beings make up the personnel of these ranks, and therefore that the evil beings are fallen angels.
In several places demons are called spirits (though unclean spirits) which associates them with the spirit world of angels, not humans. For example, the demon referred to in Matthew 17:18 is called an unclean spirit in the parallel account in Mark 9:25. The same equation of demons and spirits is found in Luke 10:17-20. Also, according to Matthew 8:16, the Lord healed many demon-possessed people by casting out the unclean spirits from them.
We must acknowledge that nowhere in the Scriptures are demons directly said to be fallen angels, but the evidence just cited seems to point to the conclusion that they are.
The Scriptures clearly indicate two groups of fallen angels, one consisting of those who have some freedom to carry out Satan’s plans, and the other who are confined. Of those who are confined, some are temporarily so, while others are permanently confined in Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6). The Greeks thought of Tartarus as a place of punishment lower than hades. Those temporarily confined are in the abyss (Luke 8:31; Rev. 9:1-3, 11), some apparently consigned there to await final judgment while others will be loosed to be active on the earth (vv. 1-3, 11, 14; 16:14).
Daniel 10:13 relates that the prince of the kingdom of Persia resisted the coming of a good angel to bring Daniel a message. That prince was in turn resisted by Michael the archangel indicating that the prince must have been a powerful demon. Just before Armageddon demons will be involved in moving the leaders of the nations to prepare for that military campaign (Rev. 16:13-16). Apparently there Is warfare between the angels and demons which involves the affairs of nations of this earth. To deceive the nations is part of Satan’s master plan, and he uses demons in carrying it out.
Demons are able to inflict physical diseases (Matt. 9:33, dumbness; 12:22, blindness and dumbness; 17:15-18, epilepsy). They can also cause mental disorders (Mark 5:4-5; 9:22; Luke 8:27-29; 9:37-42). They can be involved in bringing death to people (Rev. 9:14-19). Of course, not all physical or mental problems result from demonic activity; actually the Bible distinguishes natural illnesses from demonic (Matt. 4:24; Mark 1:32, 34; Luke 7:21; 9:1).
The fact that demons are also called unclean spirits shows that whatever they do perverts what is clean, noble, and right. This perversion may be achieved through promoting good or evil. The immorality of the Canaanites seems to be traceable to demon activity (Lev. 18:6-30; Deut. 18:9-14).
1. Definition. Demon-possession is the direct control by demon(s) of an individual by residing in him. All people, believers and unbelievers, are influenced and affected by demon activity, but not all are possessed. To draw an analogy, demon influence is to demon-possession as general providence is to special miracles. Possessed individuals are not capable of severing themselves from the control of the demon(s).
The term “to be possessed by a demon” or “to be demonized” occurs thirteen times in the New Testament, all in the Gospels (e.g., Matt. 4:24; 12:22; Mark 5:15-18; Luke 8:36; John 10:21). The same phenomenon is described by terms like “cast out” or “come out” (Mark 1:25-26; 9:25). After the Day of Pentecost demon-possession and exorcism are mentioned only in Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:16-18; 19:12 The spiritual gift of discerning spirits (1 Cor. 12:10) most likely refers to the ability to distinguish between true and false sources of supernatural revelation when that revelation was being given in oral form, and not to the ability to cast out demons from people.
2. Characteristics. The characteristics of demon-possession can be as varied as the activities of demons, ranging from mild to severe and even bizarre. Not too many specific symptoms of demon-possession are described in the accounts, but they include the following: physical abnormalities like dumbness, blindness, and convulsions (Matt. 9:32; 12:22; Luke 9:39); tendencies to self-destruction (Mark 5:5; Luke 9:42); insanity (at least the people believed demons could produce this, John 10:20); superhuman strength (Mark 5:3-4); and occult powers (Acts 16:16-18). Though demons can do these things in people, this does not mean that all illness, for example, comes from demon activity. Dr. Luke clearly distinguishes demon-induced diseases from illnesses due to other, more natural, causes (Acts 5:16).
Though there are variations within the broad category of creationism, the principal characteristic of this view is that the Bible is its sole basis. Science may contribute to our understanding but it must never control or change our interpretation of the Scriptures in order to accommodate its findings. As far as man is concerned, Creation teaches that God created the first man in His image from the dust of the ground and His own breath of life (Gen. 1:27 and 2:7). No subhuman creature was involved, nor was any process of evolution.
God created man in His image and according to His likeness (1:26-27). Other relevant Scriptures to this doctrine include 5:1, 3 which speak of the transmission of the image from Adam to his descendants; 9:6 which relates the concept to capital punishment; 1 Corinthians 11:7 which correlates the doctrine to headship; Colossians 3:10 which exhorts the believer to put on the new man which is according to the image of his Creator; and James 3:9 which relates the concept to proper speech. Psalm 8, though not containing the phrase “image of God” deals in poetic form with the creation of man and his dominion.
A. Satan’s Counterfeit
A counterfeit, of course, attempts to come as close to the genuine article as possible, while leaving something costly out. A master counterfeiter, Satan had previously aspired to be like God, not unlike God (Isa. 14:14). Now he approached Eve with the suggestion that his plan was like God’s but without the restriction of total obedience. When approached with the question whether God had placed any tree in the Garden off limits, Eve quickly affirmed that she and Adam could eat of all the trees of the Garden except one. And that exception seems to come to her mind almost as an afterthought. Satan had hinted at the possibility that God had placed too-sweeping restrictions on them, and Eve began to entertain that thought.
Then Satan proceeded to offer his own plan which did not have that restriction. “The woman acts on the supposition that God’s intent is unfriendly, whilst Satan is animated with the desire to promote her well-being” (Vos, Biblical Theology, p. 47). Satan was attempting to counterfeit the goodness of God.
Satan’s temptation may be viewed in the form of a syllogism. The major premise was that the restrictions were not good. The minor premise was that God’s plan included a restriction. The conclusion then was that God’s plan was not good. On the other hand, Satan’s plan did not include any restrictions; therefore, it was good. The validity of the conclusion depends on the truth of the major premise, which in this case is not true. Restrictions are not necessarily wrong or undesirable. Indeed, the restriction placed on Adam and Eve in the Garden was good in that it provided the principal way they could show their obedience to the will of God. Satan’s counterfeit plan did away with that restriction and offered the false hope that if Eve ate the forbidden fruit she could be like God.
B. Eve’s Rationalizations
Eve’s rationalization of what she was about to do may have been along these lines. As she examined Satan’s proposition, she reasoned that the fruit would be good to eat, and providing good things for Adam was one of her wifely responsibilities. Further, why would God withhold the fruit which was beautiful to the eyes, since He made so many other beautiful things for them to enjoy? And, of course, God would certainly want them to be wise. Therefore, it would be desirable, even necessary, to eat this fruit. Gone from her mind was God’s express command not to eat it. Quickly forgotten were all the blessings He had provided. Eve’s mind seemed only to be filled with her rationalizations—the fruit would give physical sustenance; it would cultivate their aesthetic tastes, and it would add to their wisdom. Having justified what she was about to do, she took fruit from the tree and ate it.
A. On the Race (Gen. 3:7-13)
1. A sense of guilt as evidenced by making a covering (v. 7).
2. A loss of fellowship as evidenced by hiding from God (v. 8). This also brought both spiritual and physical death to the race. Death is always separation; immediately Adam and Eve experienced spiritual separation, and immediately they began to experience the decaying process in their bodies which ultimately resulted in physical death (Rom. 5:12).
B. On the Serpent (Gen. 3:14)
The serpent was condemned to crawl, perhaps as a sign of degradation and/or perhaps indicating that it was an upright creature before this penalty was imposed. Even in the Millennium this posture will continue (Isa. 65:25). Actually the entire animal kingdom was affected by the Fall in order that man in his fallen condition could still exercise a measure of dominion over it (Rom. 8:20).
C. On Satan (Gen. 3:15)
1. Satan’s seed and woman’s seed. Enmity will exist between Satan’s seed (all the lost, John 8:44; Eph. 2:2) and the woman’s seed (all the family of God).
2. Death to Satan; bruise for Christ. An individual from the woman’s seed (Jesus Christ) will deal a death blow to Satan’s head at the cross (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8) while Satan will cause Christ to suffer (“bruise His heel”). Pre-Christian Jews showed a “veiled acceptance of messianic idea in Genesis 3:15” (David Baron, Rays of Messiah’s Glory, [Winona Lake, Ind. : BMH Books, 1979], pp. 44-5).
D. On Eve and Women (Gen. 3:16)
1. Conception. God would multiply women’s sorrow in conception (not “your sorrow and your conception,” KJV—two things). Childbirth would now be accompanied by pain.
2. Woman’s desire would be to her husband. Some understand this to indicate a compensating factor to the sorrow and pain of childbirth; i.e., in spite of the pain, she would experience a deep, sexual attraction to her husband and thus desire to bear children. Others understand it to mean she shall have a desire to rule her husband contrary to God’s established order. The same word for desire is used with this sense in 4:7 (see Susan T. Foh, Women and the Word of God [Nutley, N.J. : Presbyterian & Reformed, 1980], pp. 67-9).
3. Hierarchy of rule. Women will be ruled by men, a necessary hierarchical arrangement for a sinful world. The New Testament does not abrogate this arrangement (1 Cor. 11:3; 14:34; Eph. 5:24-25; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5-6).
E. On Adam and Men (Gen. 3:17-24)
1. Curse on ground. The ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin so that it would grow thorns and thistles, increasing his work to make it produce. Before this, Adam’s labor was enjoyable and satisfying; now it would be difficult and empty.
2. Death. Adam and mankind would return to the dust of the ground at death.
3. Expulsion. Adam was driven from the Garden which was both a geographic and spiritual act symbolizing the break in fellowship.
Sin may properly be defined by using all these descriptive words for its various forms as recorded in the Old and New Testaments. Such a definition would be accurate though lengthy. Indeed, it might be a good idea to define it thus: sin is missing the mark, badness, rebellion, iniquity, going astray, wickedness, wandering, ungodliness, crime, lawlessness, transgression, ignorance, and a falling away.
More briefly sin has generally been defined as lawlessness (from 1 John 3:4). This is an accurate definition as long as law is conceived of in its broadest sense, that is, defection from any of God’s standards. Strong furnishes an example when he defines sin as “lack of conformity to the moral law of God, either in act, disposition, or state” (Systematic Theology, (Philadelphia: Judson, 1907] p. 269).
Sin may also be defined as against the character of God (from Rom. 3:23) where the glory of God is the reflection of His character). Buswell defines sin in this way: “Sin may be defined ultimately as anything in the creature which does not express, or which is contrary to, the holy character of the Creator” (A Systematic Theology, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962], 1:264).
Certainly the chief characteristic of sin is that it is directed against God. (This may be expressed in relation to God’s Law as well.) Any definition that fails to reflect this is not a biblical one. The cliché that categorizes sins as against self, against others, or against God fails to emphasize the truth that all sin is ultimately against God (Ps. 51:4; Rom. 8:7).
Let not our word and definition study sidetrack us from remembering how terrible sin is in the sight of a holy God. Habakkuk said it succinctly: “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13). And sin is so damaging that only the death of God’s Son can take it away (John 1:29).
SOME SOURCES OF SIN
Christ was acutely aware of the power, program, and procedures of Satan. Some have tried to suggest that the Lord really did not believe in the reality of Satan but was accommodating the ignorances of the people when He taught about Satan. However, He spoke of Satan on occasions when there was no need to unless He believed Satan actually existed (e.g., Luke 10:18). Our Lord acknowledged Satan as the ruler of this world (John 12:31), the head of his own kingdom (Matt. 12:26), the father of rebellious people (John 8:44), the father of lies (v. 44), the evil one who opposes the reception of the Gospel (Matt. 13:19), the enemy who sows tares among the good seed (v. 39), and thus the one who causes people to do these things which he promotes.
B. The World
Satan’s world stands in opposition to God’s people and promotes Satan’s purposes. So the world system is a source of sin when anyone conforms to it (John 15:18-19).
C. The Heart
Often the Lord emphasized that what a person does externally is a reflection of what is in his heart (Matt. 15:19).
Sin causes people to be lost (Matt. 18:11; Luke 15:4, 8, 24). If unforgiven it causes them to perish (John 3:16). It brings people into judgment (Luke 12:20).
At the beginning of Christ’s ministry John the Baptist announced the purpose of it when he pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The Lord Himself made it clear that His death was the basis for forgiveness (Matt. 20:28; 26:29).
D. Man’s Responsibility in Sin
Adam was created in innocency, not holiness, that sin consists in acts of the will, that we inherit pollution from Adam but not guilt nor a sin nature, that man is not totally depraved, that man has the ability to will to do good and to conform to God’s will in this life so as to be perfect, and that the human will is one of the causes of regeneration.
A. The Imputation of Adam’s Sin to the Race (Rom. 5:12-21)
B. The Imputation of Man’s Sin to Christ (2 Cor. 5:19; 1 Peter 2:24)
C. The Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness to Believers (2 Cor. 5:21)
All commit sins personally except infants. James makes that very clear when he states that we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). Before Paul lists those sins in Romans 3 he says that all, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin (v. 9). After the list he repeats that fact, declaring that all are coming short of the glory of God (v. 23).
Becoming a Christian does not exempt one from sinning not from obedience to the law of Christ. To say it does is to fall into one or both of the common errors concerning the Christian and sin. The one is a false perfectionism and the other antinomianism.
Unbiblical perfectionism teaches that the believer does not sin at all because he has rooted out the principle of sin. No believer can experience this kind of sinless perfection until the resurrection when he will be free from the sin principle within.
Antinomianism teaches that the Christian is not bound by the law. Antinomianism’s concept of freedom from law often leads to license to sin.
What is the biblical standard for the Christian? It is not sinless perfection nor antinomianism. It is to walk in the light (1 John 1:7). God is light or holy. This absolute standard is always before the believer. Yet no believer can be without sin, as God is, in this life. Does God then mock us? Not at all. Rather, He tailors His requirement for each of us to our stage of spiritual development. And that tailored requirement is to walk in the light of His holiness. If we say we have no sin principle (as sinless perfectionism claims) we lie (v. 8). Likewise, if we say we have not sinned for whatever period of time (as modified perfectionism teaches) we make God a liar (v. 10). If we walk in the light we will not fall into the error of antinomianism, for we will keep His commandments (2:4, 6; 3:24).
Each believer can meet the requirement to walk in the light. The amount of light each has will be different, but the requirement to respond to that amount is the same for all. As we grow, the circle of light will expand. And as we respond to increasing light we will receive more light, and so on. But at each stage the requirement is the same—walk in the light.
To sum up: The standard is God’s holiness. The requirement is to walk in the light. Our experience should always be a growing one, growing to maturity. That is true biblical perfectionism.
THE PREVENTIVES FOR SIN
Always it is better to prevent than cure, and God has provided for us ways to prevent sin in our lives. These serve like vaccinations to prevent our succumbing to the disease.
A. The Word of God
God’s Word in our hearts will serve to prevent sin, for it will warn, remind, encourage, strengthen, and guide us when we are tempted to sin (Ps. 119:11).
B. The Intercession of Christ
Out Lord ever lives to pray for us (Heb. 7:25). One thing He prays for is that we might not sin. See the illustration of this in Peter’s case in Luke 22:32 as well as the direct statement in John 17:15. Doubtless we will never know what this has involved until we arrive in heaven, and even then we might not be told all.
C. The Indwelling of the Spirit
Many of the ministries of the Spirit in the believer today relate to preventing sin in our lives, but several seem to stand out.
1. Actualizing aspects of our position in Christ. For example, we have put to death the flesh with its affections and lusts, yet we need to walk in the Spirit to actualize this in our experience (Gal. 5:16-24).
2. Teaching. Teaching us the deep things of the Word helps us to discern good and evil (1 Cor. 2:10; Heb. 5:14). Superficial knowledge may prevent obvious sins, but deeper knowledge can prevent more sins.
3. Leading in prayer. Leading us in our prayers the Spirit can guide us to think about ways sin can be prevented in our lives (Matt. 6:13; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 6:18).
The Meaning of Preexistence
Preexistence of Christ means that He existed before His birth. For some writers it means that He existed before Creation and before time.
The Old Testament prophets claimed eternality for Messiah. Micah said that His goings forth are from the days of eternity (5:2; see Hab. 1:12). Though the words can mean “from the days of old,” that is, from earliest times, they can also mean from eternity. Isaiah 9:6, “Eternal Father,” likely refers to Christ as a Father to His people always (thus it only looks forward, not backward to eternity past).
Christ claimed eternality when He declared, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). This is more than limited existence before Abraham was born because He said “I AM.” “I was” might indicate that He existed for several centuries before Abraham, but I am (eimi) states eternality.
The Evidence for Preexistence
1. His heavenly origin. Verses that claim heavenly origin for Christ attest to preexistence before birth. Note especially John 3:13 and 31.
2. His work as Creator. If Christ was involved in creating, then, of course, He had to exist before Creation. See John 1:3; Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2.
3. His relationship with God. He claimed equality of nature with God (John 10:30). He claimed equal glory with the Father before the world began (17:5). Paul also claimed Christ had the same nature as God (Phil. 2:6). These passages are evidences for eternality as well.
4. His attributes. He claimed full Deity and others attested to it. These claims will be examined later, but for now Colossians 2:9 will suffice—in Christ dwells all the fullness of Deity.
THE MEANING OF INCARNATION
Though the word itself does not appear in Scripture, its components (“in” and “flesh”) do. John wrote that the Word became flesh (John 1:14). He also wrote of Jesus coming in the flesh (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). By this he meant that the eternal second Person of the Trinity took on Himself humanity. He did not possess humanity until the birth, since the Lord became flesh (egeneto, John 1:14, in contrast to the four occurrences of en in vv. 1-2). However, His humanity was sinless, a fact Paul guards by writing that He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3).
THE PURPOSES OF THE INCARNATION
Why did God send His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh? The Scriptures give several answers to that question.
A. To Reveal God to Us
Though God reveals Himself in various ways including the magnificences of nature around us, only the Incarnation revealed the essence of God, though veiled (John 1:18; 14:7-11). The only way man can see the Father is to know about the Son, and the only way we can do that today is through studying the record of His life in the Scriptures. Because He became a man, the revelation of God was personalized; because He is God, that revelation is completely truthful.
B. To Provide an Example for Our Lives
The earthly life of our Lord is held up to us as a pattern for our living today (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). Without the Incarnation we would not have that example. As man He experienced the vicissitudes of life and furnishes for us an experienced example; as God He offers us the power to follow His example.
C. To Provide an Effective Sacrifice for Sin
Without the Incarnation we would have no Savior. Sin requires death for its payment. God does not die. So the Savior must be human in order to be able to die. But the death of an ordinary man would not pay for sin eternally, so the Savior must also be God. We must have a God-Man Savior and we do in our Lord (Heb. 10:1-10).
D. To Be Able to Fulfill the Davidic Covenant
Gabriel announced to Mary that her Son would be given the throne of David (Luke 1:31-33). This is not fulfilled by the invisible God reigning over the affairs of men (which He does to be sure). To have an occupant of David’s throne requires a human being. Therefore, Messiah had to be a human being. But to occupy that throne forever requires that the occupant never die. And only God qualifies. So the One who ultimately fulfills the Davidic promise has to be a God-Man.
E. To Destroy the Works of the Devil (1 John 3:8)
Notice that this was done by Christ’s appearing. The focus is on His coming, not on His resurrection as might be expected. Why was the Incarnation necessary to defeat Satan? Because Satan must be defeated in the arena he dominates, this world. So Christ was sent into this world to destroy Satan’s works.
F. To Be Able to Be a Sympathetic High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16)
Our High Priest can feel our weaknesses because He was tested as we are. But God is never tested, so it was necessary for God to become man to be able to be tested in order to be a sympathetic Priest.
G. To Be Able to Be a Qualified Judge
Though most people think of God as the Judge before whom all will appear, the truth is that Jesus will be that Judge (John 5:22, 27). All judgment will be executed by our Lord “because He is the Son of man.” This is the title that links Him to the earth and to His earthly mission. Why is it necessary for the Judge to be human and to have lived on earth? So that He may put down all excuses people might try to make. Why must the Judge also be God? So that His judgment will be true and just.
THE FULL DEITY OF CHRIST INCARNATE
A. He Possesses Attributes Which Only God Has
1. Eternality. He claimed to exist from eternity past (John 8:58; 17:5).
2. Omnipresence. He claimed to be everywhere present (Matt. 18:20; 28:20).
3. Omniscience. He showed knowledge of things that could only be known if He were omniscient (Matt. 16:21; Luke 6:8; 11:17; John 4:29).
4. Omnipotence. He demonstrated and claimed the power of an omnipotent Person (Matt. 28:18; Mark 5:11-15; John 11:38-44).
Other attributes of Deity are claimed for Him by others (e.g., immutability, Heb. 13:8), but these cited are claims He made for Himself.
B. He Performs Works Which Only God Can Do
1. Forgiveness. He forgives sins eternally. Men may do that temporarily, but Christ grants eternal forgiveness (Mark 2:1-12).
2. Life. He gives spiritual life to whomever He wishes (John 5:21).
3. Resurrection. He will raise the dead (11:43).
4. Judgment. He will judge all people (5:22, 27).
Again, all of these examples are things He did or claims He made, not claims others made of Him.
THE PERFECT HUMANITY OF CHRIST INCARNATE
Denials of the humanity of Christ are less common than denials of His deity. Why? Because as long as you do not inject the Deity factor into the person of Christ, He is only a man, however fine or exalted, and as a man only He cannot disturb people with His claims so much as if He is the God-Man. However, those who may readily affirm His humanity may not so readily affirm His perfect humanity. They may acknowledge Him as a good man (how so if He lied?) or a great man (how so if He misled others?) but not as a perfect man (for then they might feel more obligated to listen to Him even though they may not acknowledge Him as God).
A. He Had a Human Body
Though Christ’s conception was supernatural, He was born with a human body which grew and developed (Luke 2:52). He called Himself a man (John 8:40).
B. He Had a Human Soul and Spirit
The perfect humanity of our Lord included a perfect immaterial nature as well as a material one. It was not that the human nature provided Christ’s body while the divine nature consisted of soul and spirit. The humanity was complete and included both material and immaterial aspects (Matt. 26:38; Luke 23:46).
C. He Exhibited the Characteristics of a Human Being
Our Lord was hungry (Matt. 4:2). He was thirsty (John 19:28). He grew weary (4:6). He experienced love and compassion (Matt. 9:36). He wept (John 11:35). He was tested (Heb. 4:15). These are characteristics of true humanity.
A. The Importance of Christ’s Resurrection
1. To His person. If Christ did not rise from the dead then He was a liar, for He predicted that He would (Matt. 20:19). To the women who came to His tomb wondering where He was, the angel said, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said” (28:6). The Resurrection authenticates our Lord as a true Prophet. Without that, all that He said would be subject to doubt.
2. To His work. If Christ did not rise from the dead then, of course, He would not be alive to do all His post-resurrection ministries. His ministry would have ended at His death. We would not, therefore, have a High Priest now, an Intercessor, Advocate, or a Head of the church. Further, there would be no living Person to indwell and empower us (Rom. 6:1-10; Gal. 2:20).
3. To the Gospel. In the classic passage, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Christ s death and resurrection are said to be “of first importance.” The Gospel is based on two essential facts: a Savior died and He lives. The burial proves the reality of His death. He did not merely faint only to be revived later. He died. The list of witnesses proves the reality of His resurrection. He died and was buried; He rose and was seen. Paul wrote of that same twofold emphasis in Romans 4:25: He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification. Without the Resurrection there is no Gospel.
4. To us. If Christ did not rise then our witness is false, our faith is without meaningful content, and our prospects for the future are hopeless (1 Cor. 15:13-19). If Christ is not risen then believers who have died would be dead in the absolute sense without any hope of resurrection. And we who live could only be pitied for being deluded into thinking there is a future resurrection for them.
B. The Evidences for Christ’s Resurrection
1. His appearances after the Resurrection. The number and variety of people in a variety of circumstances who saw the Lord after His resurrection give overwhelming proof of the fact that He did rise from the dead. When, for example, on the Day of Pentecost Peter offered as proof of his message the fact that they were witnesses of the resurrected Christ, he did so in the city where the Resurrection occurred less than two months before and to an audience who could ask around to check on Peter’s claim (Acts 2:32).
The order of appearances between Christ’s resurrection and ascension seems to be as follows: (a) to Mary Magdalene and the other women (Matt. 28:8-10; Mark 16:9-10; John 20:11-18); (b) to Peter, probably in the afternoon (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5); (c) to the disciples on the Emmaus road toward evening (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-32); (d) to the disciples, except Thomas, in the Upper Room (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25); (e) to the disciples, including Thomas, on the next Sunday night (Mark 16:14; John 20:26-29); (f) to seven disciples beside the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-24); (g) to the apostles and more than 500 brethren and James, the Lord’s half brother (1 Cor. 15:6-7); (h) to those who witnessed the Ascension (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:19; Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:3-12).
2. Effects which must have a cause (the Resurrection). Some astounding facts must be explained. It is inconceivable to think they could have a satisfactory explanation other than being caused by the resurrection of Christ.
What caused the tomb to be empty? The disciples saw that it was empty. The guards reported to the chief priests that it was empty and took a bribe to keep quiet about it (Matt. 28:11-15). If the story they were ordered to tell (that the disciples came and stole the body) were true then, of course, they should have been punished or executed for allowing that to happen while they were on guard duty. Some have suggested that the disciples went to the wrong tomb, but again the presence of the guard makes this inconceivable. The tomb was empty (the effect) because Christ had risen (the cause).
What caused the events of the Day of Pentecost? Pentecost came and went every year, but the year when Christ rose it saw the descent of the Holy Spirit as He had promised (Acts 1:5). In his sermon Peter attributed the coming of the Spirit to the fact that the risen Christ sent the Spirit (2:33). The coming of the Spirit (the effect) had to have a sufficient cause (the risen Christ).
What caused the day of worship to change? All the first Christians were Jewish, accustomed to worshiping on the Sabbath. Yet suddenly and uniformly they began to worship on Sunday though it was an ordinary workday (Acts 20:7). Why? Because they wanted to commemorate the resurrection of their Lord which took place on Sunday, they changed their day of worship. Sunday worship, the effect; Christ’s resurrection, the cause.
There are three aspects of our Lord’s ministry in the future.
A. He Will Raise the Dead
In the future all people will hear the voice of Christ raising them from the dead (5:28). Some will be called to eternal life and others to condemnation. Though we know from other Scriptures that both groups will not be raised at the same time, His voice calling them will be the cause of the resurrection of all. Believers of the Church Age will be raised at the Rapture of the church (1 Thes. 4:13-18). Old Testament saints will apparently be raised at the Second Coming (Dan. 12:2). The unbelieving dead of all time will not be raised until after the Millennium (Rev. 20:5).
B. He Will Reward All People
Though the average person thinks of God (the Father) as the Judge of all people, the Lord said that all judgment has been delegated to Him (John 5:22, 27). As with resurrection, judgment for all will not take place at the same time, but Christ will judge all.
Believers will be judged by Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10) after the Rapture of the church. The outcome of this judgment for all will be heaven, though with a varying number of rewards. All will receive some praise from God (1 Cor. 4:5). Unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne at the conclusion of the millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:11-15). All will be rewarded for their deeds by being cast into the lake of fire. None will be shown to be deserving of heaven. But regardless of the time, all will be judged by our Lord.
C. He Will Rule This World
When our Lord returns He will take the reins of government and rule the nations of this world as a benevolent dictator (19:15). Then and only then will the world experience a time of righteousness, justice, social welfare, economic prosperity, and spiritual knowledge. He will show Himself to be King of kings and Lord of lords in the same arena where man’s rebellion against God took place.
Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, must be the grandest theme in the Scriptures. It embraces all of time as well as eternity past and future. It relates in one way or another to all of mankind, without exception. It is the theme of both the Old and New Testaments. And it centers on the greatest Person, our Lord Jesus Christ.
From God’s perspective salvation includes the total work of God in bringing people from condemnation to justification, from death to eternal life. From the human perspective it incorporates all of the blessings that being in Christ brings both in this life and the life to come.
THE MOTIVES FOR SALVATION
Why should God want to save sinners? Why should He bear the pain of giving His only begotten Son to die for people who had rebelled against His goodness? What could it possibly mean to God to have a family of human beings?
The Bible indicates at least three reasons why God wanted to save sinners. (1) This was the greatest and most concrete demonstration of the love of God. His good gifts in nature and through His providential care (great as they are) do not hold a candle to the gift of His Son to be our Savior. John 3:16 reminds us that His love was shown in His gift, and Romans 5:8 says that God proved conclusively that He loved us by the death of Christ.
(2) Salvation also gives God a display of His grace throughout all eternity (Eph. 2:7). Each saved person will be a special trophy of God’s grace forever. Only redeemed human beings can provide this display,
(3) God also wanted a people who would do good works in this life and thus give the world a glimpse, albeit imperfect, of God who is good (v. 10).
THE OLD TESTAMENT USAGE
The most important Hebrew root word related to salvation in the Old Testament is yasha’. Originally it meant to be roomy or broad in contrast to narrowness or oppression. Thus it signifies freedom from what binds or restricts, and comes to mean deliverance, liberation, or giving width and breadth to something. Sometimes this deliverance came through the agency of man (e.g., through judges, Judges 2:18; 6:14; 8:22; 12:2; or kings, 1 Sam. 23:2), and sometimes through the agency of Yahweh (Pss. 20:6; 34:6; Isa. 61:10; Ezek. 37:23; Zech. 3:4). Sometimes salvation is individual (Ps. 86:1-2) and sometimes corporate, that is, of the nation (Isa. 12:2, though all the world will share in it, 45:22; 49:6). In the Old Testament salvation was not only a deliverance from some trouble but also a deliverance to the Lord for His special purpose (43:11-12; 49:6).
Faith was the necessary condition for salvation in the Old Testament as well as in the New. Abraham believed in the Lord and the Lord counted it to him for righteousness (Gen. 15:6). The Hebrew prefix beth indicates that Abraham confidently rested his faith on God (cf. Ex. 14:31; Jonah 3:5). The covenant relationship established by the Mosaic Law also implied that an Israelite had to have faith in the God of that covenant if he were to be pleasing to Him and not be cut off.
The object of faith was always the true God (Num. 14:11; 20:12; 2 Kings 17:14, Ps. 78:22, Jonah 3:5). This Savior God was the sole origin of salvation (Ps. 3:8, Jonah 2:9). To trust in idols was not only ineffective but ludicrous, for salvation was of the Lord.
THE NEW TESTAMENT USAGE
In both the Septuagint and the New Testament the Greek verb sozo and its cognates soter and soteria usually translate yasha’ and its respective nouns. However, a number of times the sozo group translates shalom, peace or wholeness, and its cognates. Thus salvation can mean cure, recovery, remedy, rescue, redemption, or welfare. This can be related to preservation from danger, disease, or death (Matt. 9:22; Acts 27:20, 31, 34; Heb. 5:7). But the full Christian usage means saving from eternal death and endowing a person with everlasting life (Rom. 5:9; Heb. 7:25).
As in the Old Testament, the initiative of salvation is entirely with God (John 3:16). The Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the sole basis for that salvation (Acts 4:12; Heb. 5:9). As stated before, this salvation has a past aspect which occurred when we believed, a present aspect, and a future consummation.
But word usage does not begin to fathom all that the biblical revelation declares about salvation. Other concepts like sacrifice, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, and justification are vital to a full understanding of the doctrine. These will be considered later, but I mention them now lest anyone think that the doctrine is built only on the words related to saving.
Salvation affects the whole man. Nevertheless, the removal of man’s fallen nature and the receiving of a resurrection body awaits a future day. But this is also a part of our salvation (Rom. 8:23). In addition, the curse which has been on the world will be removed (vv. 18-23) and the entire universe will feel the effects of Christ’s work of reconciliation (Col. 1:20).
THE NEED FOR HIS PASSION
Because of man’s sinfulness and helplessness, someone else had to step in and aid him if he was to find acceptance and fellowship with a holy God. Sin brought and brings estrangement from God, and there is nothing man can do will merit any favor or consideration from God as far as salvation is concerned.
Everyone born into this world stands condemned because of sin (Rom. 5:12). This means not only condemnation but also establishes a need that all have to be saved from sin’s penalty.
The Concept of Substitutionary Atonement
1. The meaning of substitutionary atonement. Substitutionary or vicarious atonement simply means that Christ suffered as a substitute for us, that is, instead of us, resulting in the advantage to us of paying for our sins.
Man could atone for his sins personally only if he could suffer eternally the penalty that sin incurred. Man, of course, could never do this, so in His love and compassion, God stepped into a hopeless situation and provided a substitution in Jesus Christ, who provided an eternal satisfaction for sin.
|PERSONAL ATONEMENT||VICARIOUS ATONEMENT|
|Provided by the offending party||Provided by the offended party|
|A matter of strict justice||A combination of justice and love|
|Never finished||A completed sacrifice|
The crucial verse is Mark 10:45 (KJV): “For even the Son of man came . . . to give His life a ransom for many” (see also Matt. 20:28). Anti demands the interpretation that our Lord came to die in our place and as our substitute. It cannot be understood otherwise, and this, of course, was Christ’s own interpretation of the meaning of His sacrifice. Anti also appears as the prefix on the compound word antilutron, ransom, in 1 Timothy 2:6. Christ was our substitution ransom.
The soteriological use of agorazo, to buy or ransom, in the New Testament includes three basic ideas. (1) In His work of redeeming, Christ paid the purchase price for all mankind (2 Peter 2:1). (2) The price itself is clearly stated to be the blood of Christ (Rev. 5:9-10). (3) Because we have been bought with that purchase price, we are to serve Him (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 7:22-23).
Exagorazo, to buy or redeem. The compound simply adds the idea of purchasing out of the forum. Two passages in which this word is used are especially significant. In Galatians 3:13 the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death stands out clearly. We were under a curse. He bore that curse. We have been removed from the curse. In 4:5 Paul declares that believers have been completely removed from being under the Law.
Peripoioumai, to preserve, obtain or purchase. This word occurs only one time with reference to the Atonement in Acts 20:28. It means to keep safe or to preserve. In the middle voice as used in this verse, it means to keep or save for oneself or to acquire or gain possession of. Thus the idea is that God acquired the church through the blood of His own Son for His personal possession. Again the idea of a price paid is prominent, and that price clearly was the death of Christ.
Lutroo, to release by paying a ransom. From the root luo, to loose, this word was used for loosing clothes or animals or prisoners. It was usually connected with a ransom being paid as a condition of release. Thus its meaning is to release on receipt of a ransom. The verb lutroo appears in Luke 24:21 (of the national deliverance of Israel); Titus 2:14; and 1 Peter 1:18-19 (of individual redemption). Note especially in the latter reference that the price paid is the blood of the Lamb. The noun lutron occurs only in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45. As previously discussed under the meaning of anti this verse clearly affirms substitution, and the price to be paid is the death of Christ. Lutrosis, to make redemption, is used in connection with the national deliverance of Israel in Luke 1:68 and 2:38. In Hebrews 9:12 the sacrificial system of the Old Testament serves as the background for the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. Again the price is clearly “His own blood.”
Paul undebatably links propitiation with the death of Christ in Romans 3:25. His blood (that is, His death) made Him the propitiation. An interpretive question exists as to the shade of meaning in hilasterion in the verse. Since it is the same form as is used in Hebrews 9:5, many understand this to refer to Christ as the place where propitiation was made. He was the mercy seat. Others understand the reference to mean that Christ was the propitiatory offering as supported in Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2; and 4:10. Perhaps we are to include both shades of meaning in this passage; that is, our Lord was the satisfactory sacrifice for sin and therefore the place where propitiation was made. Notice the interconnection of sin, sacrifice, blood, and propitiation in these passages.
The references in 2:2 and 4:10 both stress the fact that Christ Himself is the offering that turns away the wrath of God. He is not called the propitiator (note that He is named Savior in v. 14) as if to allow for the possibility that He might have used some other means of propitiation outside of Himself. He is the offering.
Redemption may be summarized around three basic ideas. (1) People are redeemed from something; namely, from the marketplace or slavery of sin. (2) People are redeemed by something; namely, by the payment of a price, the blood of Christ. (3) People are redeemed to something; namely, to a state of freedom; and then they are called to renounce that freedom for slavery to the Lord who redeemed them.
THE BASIS FOR THE BELIEVER’S FAMILY FELLOWSHIP
No passage is more basic for understanding the believer’s family fellowship than 1 John 1:5-10. In it John lays down vital principles for daily Christian living, and this fellowship is based on the death of Christ (v. 7). Thus another benefit of His death is that it provides for enjoyment of fellowship within the family of God.
Sin enters and confession is needed to restore fellowship. What is confession? It is saying the same thing about sin as God does. It is having the same perspective on that sin as God does. This must include more than simply rehearsing the sin, for God’s perspective would also include forsaking that sin. Therefore, to confess includes an attitude of forsaking that sin.
Private confession to God is always necessary to restore fellowship. What about public confession as well? That depends. There are scriptural examples of public confession (James 5:16 gives a general exhortation and Acts 19:18 a specific example). Public sin would normally require public confession. Years ago I was discussing this matter of public confession with an elderly saint. He gave me two worthwhile guidelines to govern public confession. (1) Be sure God is prompting you to confess publicly. Satan, emotions, or public pressure can also urge you to do something that might not be of the Lord. (2) Before you say anything, ask whether or not it will edify those who hear, for all things in the public assembly should be done to edify.
When we confess to the Father, He is reliable and righteous to forgive and to restore us to family fellowship. This is true whether or not we feel it to be so. And notice that He does this because of the death of Christ who was the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).
Election. Election emphasizes God’s free choice of individuals to salvation (the election of Christ, Israel, or angels are not under consideration here). When Paul uses the verb he uses it in the middle voice, indicating that God’s choice was made freely and for His own purposes (1 Cor. 1:27-28; Eph. 1:4). Individual Thessalonians were chosen (2 Thes. 2:13); as many as were set (previous to their believing) in the group of those who would have eternal life did believe (Acts 13:48); Paul was a chosen instrument (for salvation and service, Acts 9:15; Gal. 1:15); and some individuals’ names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; 17:8), which must mean some were. Election is unconditional and individual.
God’s elect in this age have not been chosen from the spectacular people of this world (1 Cor. 1:27-28; James 2:5). They were chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), and because they are elect they are to live godly lives (Col. 3:12; 2 Peter 1:10).
Predestination. The word proorizo means to mark off beforehand. The death of Christ and its meaning were predestined by God (Acts 4:28; 1 Cor. 2:7). God’s elect are predestined to ultimate conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).
Foreknowledge. The word proginosko is used (a) of prior, temporal knowledge (Acts 26:5; 2 Peter 3:17); (b) of God’s relation to Israel (Rom. 11:2); (c) of Christ’s sacrifice (Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:20); and (d) of God’s people today (Rom. 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2).
2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:4-6; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; John 3:16; Acts 17:30
As recorded in John 16:8-11 the Lord promised that after Pentecost the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. What is conviction? It is not the same as conversion. It is convincing or refuting an opponent so that he has the matter set before him in a clear light whether he accepts or rejects the evidence. “The idea of ‘conviction’ is complex. It involves the conceptions of authoritative examination, of unquestionable proof, of decisive judgment, of punitive power. Whatever the final issue may be, he who ‘convicts’ another places the truth of the case in dispute in a clear light before him, so that it must be seen and acknowledged as truth. He who then rejects the conclusion which the exposition involves, rejects it with his eyes open and at his peril. Truth seen as truth carries with it condemnation to all who refuse to welcome it” (B. F. Westcott, The Gospel according to St. John [London: Murray, 1908], 2:219). Notice the use of the word in Matthew 18:15. The man reproved or convicted may accept the evidence and repent or he may not which would then result in a further confrontation. Conviction, then, offers proof, but does not guarantee the truth will be accepted which is necessary for conversion. The Spirit may speak directly to man’s conscience, which, though able to be seared, can still convict. He may speak through the written Word. He may also use the spoken testimony or preached word. But whether people are involved in effecting this ministry of conviction, if conviction comes to an individual the Spirit must do it. We readily acknowledge that regeneration is the work of the Spirit, but we sometimes let ourselves think that our clever or convincing presentations, can convict. Not so. God must do even that.
Only one or two references in the New Testament use the word “call” to convey the idea of a general call to elect and nonelect alike. Matthew 22:14 clearly supports the concept while 9:13 may also. However, the idea is clearly expressed in passages like Luke 14:16-24 and John 7:37. This is God’s general invitation to men to come to Him. This is the call that only the elect respond to through faith and which results in their salvation (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:2). This is God’s work though He uses the proclamation of the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). The call is unto fellowship (1 Cor. 1:9), light (1 Peter 2:9), liberty (Gal. 5:13), holiness (1 Thes. 4:7), and unto His kingdom (2:12).
The word, used only twice in the New Testament (Matt. 19:28; Titus 3:5), means to be born again. To be born from above (anothen) occurs in John 3:3 and probably includes the idea of being born again also (see the use of anothen in Gal. 4:9). It is the work of God which gives new life to the one who believes. God regenerates (John 1:13) according to His will (James 1:18) through the Holy Spirit (John 3:5) when a person believes (1:12) the Gospel as revealed in the Word (1 Peter 1:23).
Faith means confidence, trust, to hold something as true. Of course, faith must have content; there must be confidence or trust about something. To have faith in Christ unto salvation means to have confidence that He can remove the guilt of sin and grant eternal life. Salvation is always through faith, not because of faith (Eph. 2:8). Faith is the channel through which we receive God’s gift of eternal life; it is not the cause. This is so man can never boast, even of his faith. But faith is the necessary and only channel (John 5:24; 17:3).
Normally the New Testament word for believe (pisteuo) is used with the preposition eis (John 3:16), indicating reliance or confident trust in the object. Sometimes it is followed by epi, emphasizing the trust as laying hold on the object of faith (Rom. 9:33; 10:11). Sometimes it is followed by a clause which introduces the content of the faith (10:9). The verb is used with a dative in Romans 4:3. But whatever the form, it indicates reliance on something or someone.
STEPS OF SALVATION
Both God and man have a role in salvation. This is seen when you realize that God is a covenant keeping God. God has made numerous covenants with man; several in the Old Testament and a new covenant in the New Testament. In covenants there are parties, terms and promises. Usually the stronger person of the covenant offers to go into covenant with the weaker party. In regards to salvation, God is the stronger party and he offers terms and conditions with man to be in covenant with Him. Salvation of sinful man in both the Old and New Testament was based upon being in covenant with God. Under the Old Testament, if man continued to sin, renewal of covenant was by means of animal sacrifice. In the New Testament we are under a new covenant with God and it is based upon the saving work of Jesus Christ. The steps of salvation for someone today, you could say, are the terms of the new covenant. Common to both old and new covenants was “cutting,” “blood,” “terms,” and “promises.” This is called Covenant Theology. See Gen. 15; Heb. 9:11-22
Clearly, God first loved us. Rom. 5:8; John 3:16 God’s grace is sufficient to cover our every sin. Rom. 3:23-25 But God asks of us to have faith, or belief in Jesus that is expressed in a confession. Rom. 10:8-10; Matt. 10:32-33 Man must admit he is a sinner and therefore repent. Acts 3:19-20; 17:30-31 Several of these previous steps are connected with, and are prerequisite to baptism. Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:36-38; 16:30-33
There are many things that the Bible says God does when we submit to baptism. Other than our submission, everything else that occurs in baptism is something God does; therefore it cannot be labeled as a work of man.
We are buried and resurrected with Christ Rom. 6:3-4; we are clothed with Christ Gal. 3:27; we are born again Jn. 3:3-7; our sins are forgiven and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit Acts 2:38; our sins are washed away Acts 22:16; we gain a clear conscience before God 1 Pet. 3:21; and we are made a disciple of Christ Matt. 28:19-20.
Not a condition of salvation, but a sign that he is saved, the Christian continues to walk in faithfulness, abiding in Christ: Jn. 8:31-32; Rev. 2:10; 1 Jn. 2:28-29.
Assurance of Salvation
Two passages severely warn against trying to replace the way of grace with the old way of the Law. In Galatians 5:4 Paul clearly declares that those who attempt to be justified by the Law have “fallen from grace.” That is, to try to use the Law as the ground for justification is to fall away from grace which provides the only way to be justified.
The same kind of warning appears in Hebrews 6:1-8; 10:26-31. Here the writer warns that if a person rejects the truth of Christ’s death for sin, there is no other sacrifice for sin available and no other way to come to God. Such unbelief brings the threefold indictment detailed in verse 29.
Much debate among Christianity centers on eternal security. Once again, the confusion can be put to rest when we remember that God is a covenant making God. One of the other elements of covenants is what took place when one of the parties broke the terms of the covenant. Understood in covenants is the understanding that if one party broke terms of the covenant (the weaker party), the other person (the stronger party) had the right to put the other person to death. But if the stronger party chose to do so, they could renew the covenant with the weaker party. This meant renewing the terms and conditions via the means of grace, but this, of course, was dependent upon the covenant breaker wanting to come back into covenant. In particular how this relates to eternal security as defined in the New Testament, as long as we desire to remain in covenant with God, God exercises grace and we have security of our salvation. John 10:27-28 Jesus says “my sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” The question is asked then, “What if I do not follow Jesus for a period of time…do I lose my salvation?” The answer is no. Any Christian that sins, whether in one moment or for a period of time, only has to repent and confess that sin for our gracious Father to forgive us our sin, but we have never been out of covenant with Him. 1 Jn. 1:9 The key is abiding in Christ. 1 Jn. 4:15; 5:11-13
The only Biblical validity to the damned state of someone falling out of covenant with Christ (as some state it, losing your salvation), is that they no longer want to be in covenant with God, trample Christ under foot, crucify to themselves the Son of God, put Him to open shame, regard unclean the blood of the covenant and insult the Spirit of grace. Heb. 4:3-6; 10:26-29 The Greek word used “have fallen away” in Hebrews 4:6 is anthema, which means to make defection from, commit apostasy. It literally means to willfully walk away from one citizenship, defect to the other side, and take up citizenship with the enemy. The Greek in Hebrews 10:26 for “go on sinning willfully” is in the present perfect tense. We don’t have an English term quite like that. It means to take a current state (present tense; in this case, willful sin), and freeze it in that state (perfect tense). Meaning, one chooses to willfully sin and stay in that state with an unrepentant heart. In this case then, a person has chosen to break covenant with God, and if they remain in that state until death, would forfeit their salvation. But one asks, “What if they later wake up, like the prodigal son, and want to come home to God…can they be saved?” Yes; that’s the whole point of the story of the prodigal son. The debate goes further when some contest, “That person was never really saved in the first place.” That position cannot be supported by the very verses in Hebrews that clarify how one might rarely forfeit their salvation. The subject of this long sentence in Hebrew 6 is one who: “Has been enlightened, has tasted of the heavenly gift, has been made a partaker of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come”. All these terms are terms that only apply to a believer and in no way describe someone who has never been saved. In addition, the personal pronoun “we” in Hebrews 10:26 (“For if we go on sinning…”) would refer to the audience of the recipients of the letter, which was written to Jews who have been converted to Christianity; therefore referring to Christians. Some have taken this verse out of that context to say that it teaches if you sin and do not confess it prior to death that you forfeit your salvation. This is an improper understanding of the doctrine of eternal security and is in no way supported in these verses or anywhere else in Scripture.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
1. He has intelligence. He knows and searches the things of God (1 Cor. 2:10-11); He possesses a mind (Rom. 8:27); and He is able to teach people (1 Cor. 2:13).
2. He shows feelings. He can be grieved by the sinful actions of believers (Eph. 4:3—an influence cannot be grieved).
3. He has a will. He uses this in distributing gifts to the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:11). He also directs the activities of Christians (Acts 16:6-11).
Since genuine personality possesses intelligence, feelings, and will, and since the Spirit has these attributes, He must be a Person.
1. He guides us into truth by hearing, speaking, and showing (John 16:13).
2. He convicts of sin (John 16:8).
3. He performs miracles (Acts 8:39).
4. He intercedes (Rom. 8:26).
5. He is One to be obeyed (Acts 10:19-21).
6. He can be lied to (Acts 5:3).
7. He can be resisted (Acts 7:51).
8. He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30).
9. He can be blasphemed (Matt. 12:31).
10. He can be insulted (Heb. 10:29).
As we have seen, the Spirit has attributes which show that He is a genuine Person, but He also possesses attributes which only God has which shows, therefore, that He is Deity. These attributes are omniscience (Isa. 40:13; 1 Cor. 2:12), omnipresence (Ps. 139:7), and omnipotence by virtue of His work in Creation (Job 33:4; Ps. 104:30).
Spirit as Yahweh. The New Testament identifies the Spirit as Yahweh of the Old Testament, particularly when quoting an Old Testament passage which God spoke and attributing it to the Spirit (cf. Acts 28:25 with Isa. 6:1-13 and Heb. 10:15-17 with Jer. 31:31-34). This is strong evidence that the New Testament writers considered the Spirit to be God.
The Spirit Indwelling
As we noted in the preceding chapter in discussing John 14:17, the Spirit does certain new and special things since His “coming” on the Day of Pentecost. At the heart of these distinctive ministries lies the ministry of dwelling in believers, for it is foundational to all His ministries to Christians in this age.
To express indwelling Paul not only uses the preposition en but also the verb oikeo, to dwell (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; though, of course, sometimes he uses only the preposition as in 6:19). He relates this ministry of the Spirit to all believers.
A number of passages clearly teach that the Spirit is given to all believers rather than selectively to some (John 7:37; Acts 11:16-17; Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 2:12; 2 Cor. 5:5). One would expect this to be so since a gift is not a reward and no merit is involved in receiving this gift.
Not to have the Spirit is the same as not belonging to Christ, Paul declared (Rom. 8:9). Jude also described apostates as those who did not have the Spirit (Jude 19) and who were “natural” (KJV). This is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 2:14, another verse that describes an unsaved individual. To be natural is to be unsaved and not to have the Spirit. Therefore having the Spirit characterizes all born again people.
The Spirit Sealing
Three New Testament passages speak of this particular ministry of the Spirit. The first, 2 Corinthians 1:22, says that God has sealed us and given us the earnest of the Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 adds that we were sealed with the Spirit (to pneumati) when we believed, and again, that the Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance. Ephesians 4:30 states we were sealed by or with (en) the Spirit until the day of redemption.
The Spirit Baptizing
Another ministry of the Spirit which is distinctive to this post-Pentecost Age is that of baptizing those who believe into the body of Christ. It was first predicted not in any Old Testament passage but by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:11 and parallels). But this ministry was never experienced by anyone during the earthly lifetime of our Lord, for after His resurrection and just prior to His ascension He said it was to happen “not many days hence” on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5). This distinctive ministry served a particular purpose—adding people to the body of Christ—and since the body of Christ is distinctive to this age, then the baptizing work of the Spirit also would be.
Sometimes baptism of the Spirit and filling of the Spirit are not distinguished with the result that the “filling-baptism” happens subsequent to conversion and not to all believers. This view does not necessarily involve speaking in tongues. It considers baptism an infilling for special power.
Because 1 Corinthians 12:13 is so clear about all believers being baptized, and because some contemporary teachers want to justify the concept of a special baptism for power (a second blessing), a doctrine of two Spirit baptisms has arisen that is, as far as I know, a new teaching.
The New Testament uses the phrase “to baptize with, in, or by the Spirit” only seven times (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; 1 Cor. 12:13). Actually these seven occurrences can be placed in three categories: the predictions in the Gospels, the pointing ahead and pointing back to Pentecost in the two Acts references; and the doctrinal explanation in 1 Corinthians.
The Gifts of the Spirit
The doctrine of spiritual gifts is almost exclusively a Pauline doctrine, the only use of the word outside of Paul being in 1 Peter 4:10. The major passage in Ephesians 4 attributes the giving of gifts to the risen and ascended Christ. The major passage in 1 Corinthians 12 emphasizes the Spirit’s work as the One who gives gifts. The other principal passage, Romans 12, leaves the Agent unspecified.
The word for spiritual gifts (charisma), obviously related to the word for grace, means something that is due to the grace of God. The use of the word in the New Testament ranges from the gift of salvation (Rom. 6:23), to the gift of God’s providential care (2 Cor. 1:11), to the most frequent use in relation to gifts of grace to the believer.
A spiritual gift is different from a natural talent. A talent may or may not serve the body of Christ, while a spiritual gift does.
They Are Distributed by the Holy Spirit at Will (1 Cor. 12:11, 18)
Why does He give a believer a specific gift? Because He knows best what is needed by the body and what best fits each believer for service. If we would believe that it would keep us from complaining that we are not like someone else, and it ought to motivate us to use to the fullest what God has given us.
There exist three categories of gifts in every Christian’s life that need distinct separation and understanding.
1. Natural abilities. God-given at birth, they include things like I.Q., a measure of health and strength, musical talents, linguistic abilities, mechanical aptitudes, etc. But these are not spiritual gifts.
2. Acquired abilities. These include things like cooking, sewing, learning a language, learning to play an instrument, etc. While we may tend to take such skills for granted, remember that many people in the world have few opportunities to acquire skills in these areas. Once again, these are not spiritual gifts.
3. Spiritual gifts. These are gifts distributed as the Holy Spirit wills. 1 Cor. 12:11
Let me show you an interesting comparison between some of the spiritual gifts and some of the commands which are given to all believers. The bottom line of this comparison simply says that we are commanded to minister in many areas whether or not we think we have the corresponding spiritual gift.
|SPIRITUAL GIFTS||COMMANDS GIVEN TO ALL|
|1. Ministering||1. Serve one another (Gal. 5:13)|
|2. Exhortation||2. Exhort one another (Heb. 10:25)|
|3. Giving||3. All give (2 Cor. 9:7)|
|4. Teaching||4. Great Commission (Matt. 28:19)|
|5. Showing Mercy||5. Be kind (Eph. 4:32)|
|6. Faith||6. Walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7)|
|7. Evangelism||7. All witness (Acts 1:8)|
|8. Serving||8. All serve (Gal. 5:13)|
THE DESCRIPTION OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
A. Apostleship (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11)
In a general sense the word means one who is sent (as used of Epaphroditus in Phil. 2:25). But the technical sense of apostleship refers to the Twelve and possibly a few others like Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:14). The gift was given for the founding of the church and was accredited by special signs (2 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 2:20). Per the qualifications in Acts 1:21-22, no one today qualifies for the position of Apostle.
B. Prophecy (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10; 14:1-40; Eph. 4:11)
Like apostleship, prophecy is also used in both a general sense and a technical sense. In the general sense it refers to proclaiming and thus to preaching. It literally means to speak on behalf of God. But technically a prophet was not only able to proclaim God’s message but he also was able to predict the future. All of his messages, whether proclaiming or predicting, came from God directly through special revelation.
The gift must have been rather widely given in New Testament times though only a few prophets are mentioned specifically (Agabus, Acts 11:27-28; prophets in the church at Antioch, 13:1; Philip’s four daughters, 21:9; and the prophets in the Corinthian church, 1 Cor. 14).
C. Miracles (1 Cor. 12:28) and Healings (vv. 9, 28, 30)
This is the ability to perform special signs including physical healing. Paul exercised this gift at Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12); yet he did not or could not use this gift in the cases of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:27), Timothy (1 Tim. 5:23), or Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20). The gift of healing might be viewed as a category within the larger gift of miracles. For example, Paul’s calling down blindness on Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:11) was the exercise of his gift of miracles, but it certainly was not a healing. We recognize that a miracle or healing may be done by God apart from anyone’s exercising a spiritual gift (as the physical sign that accompanied the filling of the Spirit in 4:31).
D. Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues (1 Cor. 12:10)
Tongues is the God-given ability to speak in a language of earth that is unknown to the speaker. Interpretation of tongues is the ability to interpret that message in a language understood by the hearers. Unquestionably the first occurrence of tongues in Acts 2 was languages (note the word “languages” in vv. 6 and 8).
The purposes of interpreted tongues were two: to communicate truth from God, and to authenticate the truth of the Christian message, especially to Jewish people (1 Cor. 14:5, 21-22). Because the Corinthians were abusing this gift, Paul laid down strict regulations for its use: only two or three were to speak in any meeting; no one was to speak in tongues unless the message could be interpreted; prophecy was always preferred; and women were to keep silent (vv. 27-34).
Uninterpreted tongues, i.e., a private prayer language, is unfruitful (v. 14) simply because even the one praying does not know what he or she is asking for; and thus it is to be exercised only in private. Therefore, one should pray for understanding.
The teaching that tongues are the necessary sign of having been baptized by the Spirit is nowhere taught in the Scriptures. Paul said that all the believers in Corinth were baptized by the Spirit (12:13) but not all spoke in tongues (v. 30).
E. Evangelism (Eph. 4:11)
This ability to proclaim the Gospel message with exceptional clarity also included the idea that the ministry of an evangelist was itinerant. It might also be done publicly or privately. Whether or not one has the gift of evangelism all believers are to be witnesses.
F. Pastor (Eph. 4:11)
This is the ability to shepherd, provide for, care for, and protect God’s people. In verse 11 teaching is linked to pastoring and in Acts 20:28 ruling is.
G. Serving (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:12)
This is the ability to help or serve in the broadest sense of the word.
H. Teaching (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11)
This is the ability to explain God’s truth to people. Apparently the gift is sometimes given alone and sometimes in connection with that of pastor.
I. Faith (1 Cor. 12:9)
This is the ability to believe God for the supply of specific needs. Every believer should walk by faith and each has a measure of faith, but not all have the gift of faith.
J. Exhortation (Rom. 12:8)
This involves the ability to encourage, comfort, and admonish people.
K. Distinguishing Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:10)
This was the ability to distinguish between true and false sources of spiritual communication through others.
L. Showing Mercy (Rom. 12:8)
Like the gift of serving, this involves succoring particularly those who are afflicted or broken in spirit.
M. Giving (Rom. 12:8)
This seems to be the ability to be very generous with what means one has. It should be exercised with simplicity, i.e., with no thought of return or self-gain.
N. Administration (Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28)
This is the ability to rule in the church.
O. Wisdom and Knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8)
These involve the ability to understand and communicate God’s truth to people.
The Role of the Spirit in Producing Spirituality
If maturity is a key facet in spirituality, then the Holy Spirit must play a major role in producing it. To be able to discern involves knowledge of God’s will and perspective. This the Spirit produces through His ministry of teaching (John 16:12-15). It will also include praying according to the will of God which is directed by the Spirit (Rom. 8:26; Eph. 6:18). The spiritual believer will surely be exercising the spiritual gifts which the Spirit gives and empowers (1 Cor. 12:7). He or she will learn to war victoriously against the flesh by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:16-17). In short, the fullness of the Spirit is key to producing spirituality in the believer.
If spirituality is related to maturity, then there can be degrees of spirituality since there are stages of maturity. Paul apparently expected the believers at Corinth to have reached a level of maturity whereby they could be called spiritual in five or six years. The Gospel was first preached in Corinth on his second missionary journey (about A.D. 50), and his first letter to the church, in which he chided the Christians because he could not treat them as spiritually mature people, was written about A.D. 56.
Seemingly a person could backslide in an area of spirituality without losing all that he or she had gained through the years. Some sins would affect more areas of life and fellowship than others.
If Spirit-filling relates to the control of the Spirit in a life, then a new believer can certainly be controlled in whatever areas he knows about. But that does not mean he is spiritual since not enough time has elapsed for him to mature. As maturity comes, more areas of needed control come to light. As we respond positively and allow the Spirit to expand His control, then we mature more. And so on.
Being a Christian for some time does not guarantee spirituality, since the person may not have allowed the Spirit control of his life during some of those years.
There are stages of maturity. Even though one may reach maturity, there is always more maturity to be achieved. Spirituality is a mature, yet maturing, relationship to God.
THE FILLING OF THE SPIRIT
There seem to be two facets to Spirit-filling. The first may be described as a sovereign act of God whereby He possesses someone for special activity. This is expressed by the Greek phrase pimplemi pneumatos agiou, and highlights the event of being filled rather than the resultant state of fullness. It occurs in Luke 1:15 (John the Baptist), 41 (Elizabeth), 67 (Zacharias); Acts 2:4 (the group on the Day of Pentecost); 4:8 (Peter), 31 (the believers); 9:17 (Paul); and 13:9 (Paul).
Observe that this facet of filling was experienced by some of the same people more than. The repetition was caused by a new need for special service, (2:4; 4:8, 31). Also, God did this as His sovereign act without imposing conditions on those to be filled.
The second facet of Spirit-filling may be described as the extensive influence and control of the Spirit in a believer’s life. It evidences an abiding state of fullness rather than the specific event. It produces a certain character of life, and seems to be a close synonym to spirituality. It is indicated by the Greek phrase plere or pleroo pneumatos agiou. It occurs in Luke 4:1 (Christ); Acts 6:3, 5 (the first helpers of the apostles); 7:55 (Stephen); 11:24 (Barnabas); 13:52 (the disciples); and Ephesians 5:18 (believers).
This facet of the Spirit’s filling is the finest character reference one could have. It seems to be something every believer can experience (Acts 13:52) but not something every believer does experience (6:3). Though specific conditions are not mentioned in these contexts, the normal requirements for Christian growth would be implied conditions for attaining this kind of character.
The only time Paul wrote of filling (Eph. 5:18), he emphasized this aspect of being filled. Since he commanded it, apparently he did not think all his readers had experienced it. Two questions arise in the interpretation of this verse.
A question arises concerning the use of en. Does it mean, with the Spirit or by the Spirit? In other words, is the Spirit the content of our filling or the Agent? The case can mean either or both. (For the idea of “content” see Rom. 1:29 and 2 Cor. 7:4.) Perhaps both ideas are to be understood here. The Spirit is the Agent who fills us with Himself.
To sum up: Spirit-filling is both God’s sovereign empowering us by the Spirit for special activity and the Spirit’s filling us with His own character.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SPIRIT-FILLING
A. Christlike Character (Gal. 5:22-23)
When the Spirit controls a life His fruit will be produced in that life. And, of course, the description of the fruit of the Spirit is a description of Christlikeness. However, each of these characteristics must be viewed in all their aspects, not just a facet which is compatible with our ideas of Christlikeness.
Many undoubtedly conceive of Christlikeness as a reflection of their own personalities. An introvert will probably think of our Lord as shy and retiring, while an extrovert will see Him as an aggressive Leader. When the nine words that comprise the fruit of the Spirit are fully defined, we will have a well-rounded picture of true Christlikeness.
For example, love consists not only of tenderness but sometimes sternness. When Christ dealt with children, He showed tenderness. When He drove out the money changers, He showed sternness. But both acts were displays of love because He is God and God is love.
Joy is not only displayed in happiness but also in heaviness (1 Peter 1:6). Peace involves tranquility but may include problems in human relationships (Matt. 10:34). Long-suffering means evenness and patience but does not exclude prodding (as the Lord did with Philip, John 14:9). Gentleness and goodness mean beneficent thoughts and actions which could include casting pigs into the Sea of Galilee as a kindness to the people who were engaged in that illegal business (Matt. 8:28-34). Faithfulness certainly includes serving with regularity and dependability, but may include an irregular action. Meekness is gentlemanliness but does not exclude manliness. Self-control affects all areas of life (1 Cor. 9:27).
B. Evangelistic Involvement
When the filling of the Spirit is mentioned in the Book of Acts, conversions are recorded. Spirit-filling on the Day of Pentecost (2:4) resulted in the conversion of 3,000 people (v. 41). The filling of the disciples in 4:31 resulted in multitudes of men and women turning to the Lord (5:14). One of the qualifications for the choosing of the first helpers was that they be Spirit-filled (6:3). This was followed by the conversion of a number of priests (v. 7). Paul was filled with the Spirit after his conversion, and the fruit of his life is well known. When Barnabas, who was filled with the Spirit, went to Antioch many were converted (11:24). Certainly those who prayed (4:24) and those who gave (v. 34) were as involved as those who gave the direct witness that resulted in these conversions.
C. Praise, Worship, Thanksgiving, Submissiveness (Eph. 5:19-21)
Paul lists these four evidences of Spirit-filling after writing the command to be filled in verse 18. Praise is expressed outwardly by speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Singing and making melody in the heart is evidence of the inner attitude of worship. Giving thanks should be viewed as inclusively as possible, and it was written by a man who was at the time under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial. Submissiveness in the relationships of life (husband/wife, parents/ children, masters/slaves) also characterizes the Spirit-filled life. Note that all of these are very ordinary things which affect the routines of life, not extraordinary feats of spiritual strength.
HOW CAN I BE SPIRIT-FILLED?
If filling relates to the control of the Spirit in one’s life (whether in the sense of God’s sovereign seizing of a person or of a sustained control that results in character), then filling is related to yieldedness. When I am willing to allow the Spirit to do what He wishes, it is up to Him to do or not to do with me whatever is His pleasure. I can check my willingness but I cannot manipulate His activities.
As one matures, his knowledge and perspectives will deepen and broaden. New areas that need to be yielded will come to light. Therefore, filled people need to be filled as they continue to mature in the Lord. But no believer can afford not to be filled at every stage of his or her spiritual growth.
Chart, “How Can I Be Spirit-Filled”
|BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT||FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT|
|OCCURS ONLY ONCE IN EACH BELIEVER’S LIFE||IS A REPEATED EXPERIENCE|
|NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE DAY OF PENTECOST||OCCURRED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT|
|TRUE OF ALL BELIEVERS||NOT NECESSARILY EXPERIENCED BY ALL|
|CANNOT BE UNDONE||CAN BE LOST|
|RESULTS IN A POSITION||RESULTS IN POWER|
|OCCURS WHEN WE BELIEVE IN CHRIST||OCCURS THROUGHOUT THE CHRISTIAN LIFE|
|NO PREREQUISITE(EXCEPT FAITH IN CHRIST)||DEPENDS ON YIELDEDNESS|
The TEACHING of the holy spirit
The teaching ministry of the Spirit was one of Christ’s last promises before His crucifixion. He said, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:12-15).
This particular ministry of the Spirit was yet future when our Lord spoke these words. It began on the Day of Pentecost and continues throughout this age. Peter’s clear comprehension as revealed in his Pentecostal sermon is evidence of the beginning of this ministry.
In general the content of the Spirit’s ministry encompasses “all the truth” (the definite article appears in the text). This, of course, means revelation concerning Christ Himself, but on the basis of the written Word (for we have no other information about Him except through the Bible). Therefore, He teaches the believer the content of the Scripture which leads him to an understanding of prophecy (“things to come”). This particularizing of the general promise concerning teaching ought to encourage every believer to study prophecy. Notice too that the Spirit does not originate His message—it comes from the Lord.
The result of the teaching ministry of the Spirit is that Christ is glorified. If He is not glorified, then the Spirit has not been ministering. Note also that it is not the Spirit who is glorified or who is supposed to be glorified in a religious service, but Christ. Further, if Christ is known only through the written Word, then He will be glorified when the Word of God is expounded in the power of the Spirit.
How does the Spirit teach the believer? John declares: “The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:27). This could not mean that human teachers are unnecessary in explaining the Word of God. If it could, then what would be the use of the gift of teaching? (Rom. 12:7) John wrote concerning the presence of antichrists in the group. Having stated his own conviction concerning their heresies, he simply declared that no man really had to tell them the truth, for the Holy Spirit would confirm it to them. Human teachers are a necessary link in the procedure of instructing believers, though the ultimate authentication of the teaching comes from the Spirit.
“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). Leading is a confirmation of sonship, for sons are led. This work of guidance is particularly the work of the Spirit. Romans 8:14 states it and the Book of Acts amply illustrates it (8:29; 10:19-20; 13:2, 4; 16:6-7; 20:22-23). This ministry of the Spirit is one of the most assuring ones for the Christian. The child of God never needs to walk in the dark; he is always free to ask and receive directions from the Spirit Himself.
The Spirit is also the One who assures the Christian that he is a child of God. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). The word for children here is tekna (in contrast to huioi, sons) and emphasizes the fact that the believer shares in the life of the Father. Because of this, he also shares as an heir in the possessions of the Father. Assurance of all this is the work of the Spirit to the heart of each Christian.
Undoubtedly assurance is also brought to the heart of the believer by an increased understanding of some of the things which the Spirit has done for him. For instance, assurance will deepen when one understands what it means to be sealed with the Spirit and to have been given the earnest of the Spirit as a guarantee of the completion of redemption (Eph. 1:13-14). The comprehension of what is involved in the Spirit’s joining the believer to the risen, undying body of Christ will also nurture assurance. Of course, the comprehension of these great accomplishments is part of the teaching ministry of the Spirit, so in many ways the Holy Spirit is connected with and concerned about the assurance of the child of God.
A. The Statement
Though we may not fully understand the ramifications of the Spirit’s praying in the believer, the fact that He does is perfectly clear: “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).
B. The Need
The stated reason why we need help is because of our infirmity (the word is singular). He helps our entire weakness but especially as it manifests itself in relation to our prayer life, and particularly in relation to knowing what to pray for at the present moment. While we wait for our full redemption we need guidance in the particulars of prayer.
C. The Method
The way the Spirit helps meet our needs is described in general by the word “helps,” which literally means “puts His hand to the work in cooperation with us”. Specifically this help is given in the form of “groanings too deep for words.” These groanings that the Holy Spirit does in intercession for us, the meaning of which cannot be grasped, find no adequate or formulated expression. One thing we do know—they are according to the will of God.
In another passage we are told that the Spirit guides and directs our prayers (Eph. 6:18). This is the guidance of the believer’s heart and mind as he prays.
D. The Result
The result of such a prayer life is assurance to the believer of the certainty of his future and full redemption (Rom. 8:23). This ministry of the Spirit is a kind of earnest-like guarantee of that redemption. Such a satisfying prayer life will help keep us content in this present world as we wait for the consummation. The ministry of the Spirit, then, is not only connected with answered prayer, but it cultivates our assurance and contentment in this life.
“I Will Build My Church”
The importance of the church can scarcely be overstated. It is that which God purchased with the blood of His own Son (Acts 20:28). It is that which Christ loves, nourishes, and cherishes (Eph. 5:25, 29), and which He shall present to Himself blameless in all her glory one day (v. 27). Building His church constitutes Christ’s principal work in the world today (Matt. 16:18) through His giving of spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:12). Thus the exercise of those gifts by believers aligns us with what Christ is doing today.
The English word “church” (and the cognate form “kirk”) are derived from the Greek word kyriakon which means “belonging to the Lord.” The only two uses of that word in the New Testament occur in 1 Corinthians 11:20 (referring to the Lord’s Supper) and Revelation 1:10 (referring to the Lord’s Day).
The Greek word, ekklesia, meant an assembly and was used in a political, not a religious sense. It did not refer to the people but to the meeting; in other words, when the people were not assembled formally they were not referred to as an ekklesia. The word is used in this same secular Greek way two times in the New Testament (Acts 19:32, 41) When the Greek word is used in the New Testament, it takes on much richer and fuller aspects to that basic secular meaning. For example, the people themselves, whether assembled or not, are the ekklesia.
Romans 16:8; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2
Here are groups of people very much localized—churches in houses. The nature of the people (at least in New Testament times) would have been those who professed to have accepted Christ as Savior. In some instances those who only professed but who did not possess salvation would have been associated with local churches (1 John 2:19; Rev. 3:20), but to be Christian churches, the people would have had to make a Christian profession.
What were the foci of these local churches? One was geographical. Another was that profession of faith in Christ. Another was the practice of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Another was the exercise of group responsibilities, like teaching.
THE RELATION OF THE CHURCH TO THIS AGE
The church did not exist in Old Testament times but was constituted on the Day of Pentecost. It is distinct to this present time period. Four lines of evidence support this conclusion.
(1) Our Lord said: “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). He did not say that He would continue to add to something already in existence, but that He would do something not yet begun.
(2) The church could have no functioning Head until after the resurrection of Christ; therefore, it could not exist until some time after He rose from the dead (Eph. 1:20).
(3) The church could not have been an operating entity with functioning spiritual gifts until after Christ’s ascension (Eph. 4:7-12).
THE RELATION OF THE CHURCH TO JESUS CHRIST
During His earthly ministry our Lord announced that He would do a new thing in building His church (Matt. 16:18). “I will build” is clearly future tense, indicating that this was something Christ had not yet done up to that time. Actually the church did not begin as a functioning reality until the Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost. What then was the Lord’s relationship to the church since during His earthly life it was not yet in operation?
In one word, He was the Founder. It is His church (v. 18). He is the Foundation (1 Cor. 3:11). (1) As Founder He chose the disciples who would also occupy a place in the foundation of the building (Eph. 2:20). (2) As Founder He taught the disciples about matters which would become effective when the church began to function. Most of that teaching is recorded in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17). Some of Christ’s teachings related to the Mosaic Law under which He lived, some to the future millennial kingdom, and some to the future church. The Upper Room Discourse serves as a seed-plot of that which is found later in the epistles of the New Testament. Some of the new things He revealed include a new command (13:34), a new hope in the Rapture of the church (14:1-3), a new relationship (you in Me and I in you, v. 17), and a new basis for prayer (16:24).
(3) The Founder also became the Cornerstone by His death and resurrection (Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20). He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). His resurrection and ascension made Him the Head over the church (Eph. 1:20-23) in which capacity He, among other things, gives gifts to the members of His body (4:8).
(4) As Founder He also was the One who sent the Holy Spirit who activated the church into a functioning entity (Acts 2:33).
THE RELATION OF THE CHURCH TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
Pentecost marks the beginning of the church as a functioning body by the outpouring of the Spirit on that day. Before His ascension the Lord promised that the disciples would be baptized with the Holy Spirit soon (Acts 1:5). Though the word “baptism” does not appear in the account of Pentecost in chapter 2, it is quite clear from 11:15-16 that the baptism occurred for the first time on that day. Since, according to Paul (1 Cor. 12:13), Spirit baptism places people in the body of Christ, and since the body of Christ is the church (Eph. 1:22-23), the church, the body, began when those first individuals were baptized at Pentecost.
Several other things occurred on the Day of Pentecost. The disciples were filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4). Three thousand were baptized with water (v. 41). The visible church began that day (vv. 42-47).
In addition to baptizing those who believe into the body, the Spirit also indwells individual Christians (1 Cor. 6:19), local churches (3:16), and the body of Christ (Eph. 2:22). The Spirit also empowers, leads, comforts, and gives gifts to the church (Acts 1:8; 9:31; 1 Cor. 12:3). In a very real sense, the Spirit is the energizing life and power of the church.
Just because there has been and continues to be debate over the specifics of organization of the church, there exist different basic types of churches. But that the early church was organized is undebatable. At the very first (though not later) they numbered the group (2:41; 4:4). Soon they had to choose helpers for the apostles (6:1-7). Relief activities for the poor had to be organized early (4:32-37). Elders were recognized as leaders (11:30). On the return leg of the first missionary journey Paul ordained elders in the newly established churches (14:23).
1. Local autonomy. Though the apostles and their delegates did exercise authority over more than one local church, elders and deacons in New Testament times did not. Therefore, today, since apostles have passed off the scene, local churches are autonomous.
2. Discipline. The whole church was empowered to exercise discipline (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:4; 2 Cor. 2:6-7; 2 Thes. 3:14-15). Since the important matter of discipline was not committed to the leaders only but to the whole congregation, this supports the concept of congregational government.
3. Leadership. The whole church was involved in choosing leaders. Certain passages clearly support this (Acts 1:23, 26; 6:3, 5; 15:22, 30; 2 Cor. 8:19). Others, like Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5, seem to argue against congregational involvement in choosing. Acts 14:23 records the appointing of leaders on the return leg of the first missionary journey.
1.Leadership. Unquestionably leaders occupy a prominent place in the picture of New Testament church government. Admittedly they seem to hold a position of responsibility that does not require them to be accountable in every matter to the members of the church. In Hebrews 13:17 members are enjoined to submit to leaders; thus the authority is given to leaders, not to members. To be sure, leadership is not dictatorship. It is leadership, and leadership to which membership is responsible.
2. Appointment. In some instances it is quite clear that leaders were appointed, not elected. This is the obvious meaning of Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5. A congregationalist might argue that, at least in Acts 14:23, this was a practice unique to the apostles. Conceivably Titus’ commission to appoint leaders might also come under the apostolic umbrella. But, even if this be so, it does not follow that congregational vote was the New Testament method of choosing leaders. No specific verse indicates this, whereas specific verses do indicate appointment.
3. Discipline. Though the whole congregation was involved ultimately in discipline problems, leaders gave instructions as to what should be done (1 Cor. 5; 1 Tim. 5:20).
4. Ordination. Federalists point out that “ordination” was signified by the laying on of the hands of the elders (4:14).
THE CLASSES OF LEADERSHIP
All agree that there existed at least two classes of leaders in New Testament churches, elders and deacons. A more basic question is whether or not there exists a third class of leaders, bishops. The word is used once of Christ (1 Peter 2:25); otherwise it refers to human leaders of the churches. That bishops and elders referred to the same group seems clear for the following reasons. (1) Paul commissioned Titus to appoint elders in every city in Crete, and then described them immediately as bishops (Titus 1:5-7). (2) When Paul called the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus, he described their position as overseers (bishops) (Acts 20:17, 28). He also recognized that one of their functions was to shepherd or pastor the people (v. 28). (3) When Paul lists qualifications for the bishop and deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13) he does not mention elders (though we know from 5:17 that the church had elders), strongly suggesting that bishops and elders referred to the same group. (4) In Philippians 1:1 Paul mentions only bishops and deacons. Why would he omit elders if there were in fact three classes of leaders?
Confusion often exists between the gifts God bestows in a Christian’s life and the offices he may hold in the organization of the church. For example, pastor and pastorate are often equated rather than distinguished as they should be. Pastor is a spiritual gift, while pastorate (in our contemporary ecclesiology) is an office occupied by the principal leader of the church (particularly in the congregational system). Notice some important distinctions, however, between spiritual gifts and offices.
1. Gift vs. office. A person may have certain spiritual gifts but not occupy any office in the local church. In fact this is the case with the majority of believers. They have gifts (for all believers do) but are not officials in the church. However, those who do hold offices should also exercise certain spiritual gifts. Elders teach and rule, and deacons should exercise the gift of service (Rom. 12:7). Thus a gifted person may not occupy an office, but an officer must also be a gifted person.
2. Men and women. Gifts are given to both men and women, but the principal offices in the church are to be filled by men. The only gift given to women was the gift of deacon. 1 Timothy 3:11 Romans 16:1-2 The principal offices in the New Testament churches were held by men. This is perfectly clear because both elders and deacons are expected to be “husbands of one wife.” No woman could meet that qualification.
Ordinances for the Church
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are generally referred to as ordinances today, though some groups prefer to call them sacraments. The word “sacrament” means to make sacred, to dedicate to a god or to sacred use.
The importance of baptism is underscored by the following considerations.
1. Christ was baptized (Matt. 3:16). Though the meaning of His baptism was entirely different from the significance of Christian baptism, nevertheless there exists a sense in which we follow the Lord when we are baptized. To be sure, we can never fully imitate a sinless Person; yet we are to follow His steps, and baptism was one of them (1 Peter 2:21).
2. The Lord approved of His disciples baptizing (John 4:1-2).
3. Christ commanded that people be baptized in this age (Matt. 28:19). Clearly this command was not only for the apostles who heard it but for His followers throughout the entire age, since He promised His presence to the end of the age.
4. The early church gave an important place to baptism (Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 36, 38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5). The early church never conceived of a believer remaining unbaptized.
5. The New Testament uses the ordinance to picture or symbolize important theological truths (Rom. 6:1-10; Gal. 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21).
6. The writer to the Hebrews terms baptism a foundational truth (6:1-2). It is no more optional or less significant than the doctrines of repentance, resurrection, and judgment.
Biblically, baptism is associated with forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 22:16), with union with Christ (Rom. 6:1-10), making disciples (Matt. 28:19), and repentance (Acts 2:38). This is not to conclude that water baptism effects forgiveness, etc., but that it is closely connected with those things that begin the Christian life.
The position against infant baptism and thus for believers’ baptism points out (a) that the scriptural order is always believe and then be baptized (Matt. 3:2-6; 28:19; Acts 2:37-38 16:14-15, 34); (b) that baptism is the initiatory rite into a believing community, the church; therefore it should only be done to believers. By contrast, circumcision initiated people (including infants) into a theocracy which did have unbelievers in it. (c) that the age of children is never mentioned in any passage that mentions household baptism.
The examples in the New Testament indicate that believers were baptized right after they believed. No probationary period is indicated, though such might be justified in order to attest to the genuineness of the faith.
The Mode of Baptism
The case for immersion. (1) Immersion is unquestionably the primary meaning of baptizo. The Greek language has words for sprinkle and pour which are never used of baptism. (2) Immersion best pictures the significance of baptism which is death to the old life and resurrection to the new (Rom. 6:1-4 Acts 8:38). (3) Immersion could have been done in every case. Sufficient pools existed in Jerusalem to permit the immersion of 3,000 converts on the Day of Pentecost. The road to Gaza was deserted, but not -waterless. Houses often had pools outdoors where, for example, the Philippian jailer’s family could have been immersed.
THE LORD’S SUPPER
1. It is a remembrance of Christ (1 Cor. 11:24). It recalls His life (the bread), His death (the cup), His resurrection and living presence (the service itself).
2. It is a proclamation of His death (1 Cor. 11:26). The service itself states the Gospel message as well as the claims of the Gospel on the redeemed person. A missionary whom I knew was directed to service on the mission field when he, as a pastor presiding at a Lord’s Supper in his church, was meditating on its meaning while the deacons were distributing the elements.
3. It is an assurance of Christ’s second coming (Matt. 26:29; 1 Cor. 11:26).
4. It is a time of fellowship with Christ and His people (1 Cor. 10:21).
After Pentecost the believers broke bread from house to house, but this does not prove a daily observance of the Supper (Acts 2:46). For one thing it is not clear that “breaking bread” in this text meant anything other than taking a fellowship meal together. For another thing, the text does not even imply that whatever was done was done daily in each house. At Troas the believers evidently included the Supper in their first day of the week meeting (20:7).
The Worship of the Church
Proskuneo. This primary word for worship is connected with the idea of kissing (as kissing the earth to honor the deities of the earth); then came to connote prostrating oneself in reverence. This showed that the worshiper considered the object worthy of whatever he was offering. Even the English word “worship” (a shortened form of “worthship”) means to attribute worth to the object worshipped. Our Lord used this word in His classic statement on worship in John 4:24. In relation to the church the word occurs only in 1 Corinthians 14:25 and refers there to the worship of an unbeliever who comes into the assembly. Perhaps the use of this term was avoided to describe the worship of the early church because of its associations with heathen rites, and the idea that proskuneo worship was done in the visible presence of the object worshipped. That may be why most of its occurrences are in the Gospels and the Revelation (in relation to both true and false worship but in the present of the visible object). Nevertheless, the idea of prostrating oneself in reverence of the object worshipped remains a legitimate facet of Christian worship.
2. Latreuo. This highly significant word conveys the idea that worship is priestly service. The believer’s entire life should be one of service-worship (Rom. 12:1); prayer reflects this kind of worship (Acts 13:2; Rom. 1:10); the word occurs several times in relation to giving (15:27; 2 Cor. 9:12); and then general ministry of the Gospel is service-worship (Rom. 15:16; Phil. 3:3).
The worship of the church, then, consists of individual, corporate, public, and private service for the Lord which is generated by a reverence for and submission to Him who is totally worthy.
THE CHARACTER OF WORSHIP (JOHN 4:24)
Our Lord revealed two basics about true worship when He declared it must be in spirit and in truth. “In spirit” includes three things about the center of worship. (1) Worship can and should take place anywhere and everywhere since spirit is not confined to a particular place or time. (2) Worship comes from man’s spirit (Heb. 4:12). It is no mere surface ritual. (3) True worship is a person-to-Person experience, honoring with our spirit God who was revealed through the Lord Jesus at all times and in all places.
“In truth” means that the character of true worship must be genuine and without pretense. God hates insincere worship (Isa. 1:10-17; Mal. 1:7-14; Matt. 15:8-9). Fake worship is that which is not in accord with the revealed Word of God. Therefore, to worship in truth necessitates a growing knowledge of the Word which will also increase our appreciation for the worth of the God we worship.
The Origin of the Lord’s Day
Though modern writers invariably attempt to emphasize the connection between the Lord’s Day and the Sabbath, the early church and the church fathers did not make that emphasis. They did see a moral value in applying the Ten Commandments but made an exception of the fourth one concerning the Sabbath. Notice the absence of a Sabbath-Lord’s Day problem in Acts 15:29, and the clear teaching of the New Testament as to the end of the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments (except as nine of them, all but the Sabbath one, are repeated in the epistles, 2 Cor. 3:7-11; Col. 2:16). The idea of a particular day for worship may have been connected with the Sabbath, but the particular day was unrelated to the Sabbath.
The only explanation as to why the early church established a new day of worship unrelated to the Sabbath and the existing calendar was that Sunday was the day of the Lord’s resurrection. He not only arose on Sunday but six post-Resurrection appearances were also on Sunday and the Day of Pentecost when the body of Christ was formed fell on Sunday. Almost always the day is designated as the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). In Revelation 1:10 it is called the Lord’s Day, a term similar to the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20), and used by the believers to protest and contrast the Emperor’s or Augustus’ Day. The Lord’s Day, then, is the first day of the week, the day of His resurrection, and the day used by believers to celebrate that greatest event in history.
The Activities of the Lord’s Day.
1. Remember and celebrate Christ’s resurrection.
2. Gather together for corporate worship (Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 3:16).
3. Do your accounting relative to giving (1 Cor. 16:2).
4. Observe the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).
THE MINISTRY OF DISCIPLINE
Christ’s purpose for the church is to sanctify it and present it to Himself without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5:26-27). All the activities of a church should also aim at this goal, including discipline, for it too is designed to produce a holy character in the one who has to be disciplined.
A. Objectives In Discipline
Scriptures give at least four reasons why discipline is necessary. (1) To remove the defilement and leavening influence that sin brings (1 Cor. 5:6-8). (2) To protect other believers from sinning and challenge them to godliness (Gal. 6:1; 1 Tim. 5:20). (3) To produce soundness in faith (Titus 1:13). (4) To reclaim and restore the erring brother (2 Cor. 2:5-11).
B. Attitudes In Discipline
Those involved in the process of disciplining should show these attitudes: (a) meekness (Gal. 6:1); (b) uncompromising stand against sin (Titus 1:13); (c) love (2 Thes. 3:9-15); (d) forgiving spirit at repentance (2 Cor. 2:5-11).
C. Principles for Discipline
The three main principles for discipline are (a) no partiality (1 Tim. 5:21), (b) not hasty, but with deliberate steps (Matt. 18:15-20), and (c) with the goal of correction and eventual restoration (2 Cor. 2:6-8).
D. People to Be Disciplined
The Scriptures mention seven kinds of people (some of these overlap) who need discipline.
1. An accused elder (1 Tim. 5:19-20). In the case of persistent sin in an elder, two or three witnesses need to be involved, and the rebuke must be public to make others fearful of sinning.
2. A sinning brother (Matt. 18:15-20). The steps include private rebuke (how often is unstated), involvement of other people (again how often is unstated), then exposure to the whole church if the person is still unrepentant. The church then must cut off both spiritual and social fellowship with the individual.
3. An overraken brother (Gal. 6:1). This refers to someone tripped up by sin in an unguarded moment, rather than persistent sin. He needs the help of someone mature to readjust his life and make it usable again (the word “restore” is used also in Matt. 4:21, “mending”; Eph. 4:12, “building up”; and 1 Thes. 3:10, “complete”).
4. An unruly brother (2 Thes. 3:6). This concerns someone who has gotten out of step with the teachings of Scripture, specifically, in this passage, of someone who refused to work, thinking that the Lord’s coming was immediate. Paul’s discipline was to tell them to get to work because other believers need not feel any obligation to support them.
5. False teachers (Titus 1:10-16). When false teachers make inroads within the church, they are to be rebuked severely. Hymenaeus and Philetus, who apparently taught that the resurrection was to be understood spiritually or allegorically, were to be avoided; Paul delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan for punishment (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18).
While Paul dealt severely with false teachers, he showed considerable patience with people who were misled doctrinally. He did not counsel excommunication for those in Corinth who denied the resurrection; rather he patiently taught them the truth. Presumably if they had then rejected what he taught and in turn promoted heresy he would have disciplined them in some way.
6. Factious people (Titus 3:8-11). These include those who cause divisions over worthless and unprofitable disputes, unsettling the church. Such people are to be warned twice, then rejected or avoided. Romans 16:17 commands similar action, “turn away” which includes personal, social, and spiritual contact.
7. The immoral brother (1 Cor. 5). Because the sin of incest in this case was both persistent and public, the guilty party was to be delivered to Satan; i.e., excommunicated from the fellowship of the church and given back to Satan’s domain of the world for whatever ruin that might bring, such as sickness or death. For other sins mentioned in verse 11 which believers commit (immorality, covetousness, idolatry, abusiveness, drunkenness, swindling), the punishment was cutting off fellowship (including social-do not eat with such).
Failure of the church to exercise this ministry of discipline can only lead to weaker (though probably larger) churches.
Eschatology means the theology of last things. That study can cover all things that were future at the time of their writing, or it can include only those things which are still future from our present vantage point. It deals with the consummation of all things, both those things which relate to individuals and to the world.
The study of last things (those which are yet future from our viewpoint) includes the biblical teaching concerning the intermediate state, the resurrections, the Rapture of the church, the second advent of Christ, and the Millennium.
Some of the topics like resurrection will be discussed from the individual viewpoint. Others, like the Tribulation will be outlined chronologically. The three basic approaches to eschatology, premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism, need to have a more systematic treatment in order to see their distinctive approaches as a whole. Because of the contemporary debate concerning the relation of the Rapture of the church to the Tribulation, this will need special attention.
Loraine Boettner gives a careful descriptive definition of postmillennialism. It is “That view of last things which holds that the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world is eventually to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the ‘Millennium.’ . . . the second coming of Christ will be followed immediately by the general resurrection, the general judgment, and the introduction of heaven and hell in their fullness” (The Millennium [Nutley, N.J. : Presbyterian and Reformed, 1957], p. 14).
A.H. Strong describes the Millennium as “a period in the later days of the church militant, when, under the special influence of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the martyrs shall appear again, true religion be greatly quickened and revived, and the members of Christ’s churches become so conscious of their strength in Christ that they shall, to an extent unknown before, triumph over the power of evil both within and without” (Systematic Theology [Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1907], p. 1013).
Postmillennialists believe in the actual return of Christ at the conclusion of the Millennium. His return will be followed immediately by the general resurrection and judgment.
1. Length. The Millennium, according to postmillennialism, will be an extended period of time, not necessarily a thousand years. It may perhaps be much longer than a literal 1,000 years.
2. Beginning. Some understand that the Millennium will begin gradually; others see a more abrupt beginning to the spread of righteousness throughout the earth.
3. Characteristics. The Millennium will be a time of peace, material prosperity, and spiritual welfare on the earth. However, not all will be saved, nor will all sin be eradicated. But Christian principles will be the rule, not the exception, and sin will be reduced to negligible proportions.
4. Activities. Some postmillennialists allow for a brief time of apostasy at the conclusion of the Millennium just prior to the return of Christ (see Boettner, p. 69).
SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT FOR POSTMILLENNIALISM
Since the many passages which speak of a triumphant reign of Christ have not been fulfilled in history, they are yet to be fulfilled in the future but before the second advent of Christ. Many of these Scriptures are the same ones which premillennialists understand as referring to the millennial kingdom. The postmillennialist sees them fulfilled before Christ returns, while the premillennialist expects them to be fulfilled after Christ returns. Such passages include Psalms 2:8; 22:27; 47; 72; 86:9; Isa. 2:2-4; 11:6-9; Jeremiah 31:34; Daniel 2:35, 44; Micah 4:1-4. Christ’s Parable of the Leaven affirms the universal extent of the kingdom (Matt. 13:33). Romans 11 predicts the conversion of a great number of Jews and Gentiles. Revelation 7:9-10 pictures a great multitude of redeemed people from all peoples of the world.
The postmillennialism of the post-World War II era has till recently generally been of the liberal variety. The great advancements of the twentieth century through man’s achievements gave credibility to the concept. There were scarcely any biblical postmillennialists (Loraine Boettner being an exception).
But in the latter part of this century an interesting phenomena has developed. Some former amillennialists have become postmillennialists because of their belief in theonomy. Theonomy is the state of being governed by God. Theonomists promote subduing the earth by means of science, education, the arts, and all other pursuits in order to effect God’s dominion over all things. For some, this means imposing the Law of the Old Testament on life today not only in moral matters but also in governmental, financial, and others. Now, of course, if this is done, conditions in the world will improve and we will then experience the rule of God over life in the world. Thus, many reformed theologians who strongly support the use of the Law and who were amillennial have switched to embrace postmillennialism as the goal of their theonomistic program.
To sum up: liberals promote a postmillennial goal through humanism. Biblical postmillennialists promote it through the church’s preaching of the Gospel. Theonomists promote it through the Gospel and the imposition of Old Testament Law.
Amillennialism is the view of last things that holds there will be no Millennium before the end of the world. Until the end there will be a parallel development of both good and evil, God’s kingdom and Satan’s. After the second coming of Christ at the end of the world there will be a general resurrection and general judgment of all people.
Premillennialists lean on the argument that the biblical covenants contain promises yet unfulfilled and requiring an earthly Millennium if they are fulfilled literally. Amillennialists say that those promises are fulfilled spiritually in the church, or that the promises need not be fulfilled at all since they were conditional and the conditions were not met.
Amillennialists see the church as fulfilling God’s promises in an antitypical and spiritual way. The church is a heavenly, spiritual kingdom, whereas the Millennium of premillennialism is a carnal, earthly kingdom. (But cannot the church be described as earthly and carnal? And cannot the future kingdom be described as spiritual?) The church fulfills the promises, and the new heaven and new earth which immediately follow the Church Age consummate history.
Premillennialists point out that if the yet unfulfilled part of that covenant is to be fulfilled literally (the promise of the land of Palestine), this will have to occur in a future Millennium, since there has been no place in past or present history for a literal fulfillment. Amillennialists say that we need not expect a future fulfillment because either (a) the promises were conditional and the conditions were never met; or (b) the land promise was fulfilled in the time of Joshua (Josh. 21:43-45); or (c) it was fulfilled under King Solomon (1 Kings 4:21); or (d) it is now being fulfilled by the church; or (e) it is fulfilled in the heavenly Jerusalem. I only observe that each of those five suggestions negates the validity of the other four. One receives the impression that the amillennialist does not really know how or when the Abrahamic Covenant should be fulfilled. He is only certain that it will not be in a future, earthly Millennium.
Amillennialists have certain common features in their interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27. These include: (a) the beginning of the seventy weeks was in 536 B.C. in the time of Cyrus, not (as premillennialists say) in 445 B.C. under Artaxerxes. This has the effect of allowing the seventy sevens to be imprecise in duration. (b) The seventieth week is the entire Church Age, not a future seven-year period of Tribulation.
Premillennialism is the view that holds that the second coming of Christ will occur prior to the Millennium which will see the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on this earth for a literal 1,000 years. It also understands that there will be several occasions when resurrections and judgments will take place. Eternity will begin after the 1,000 years are concluded. Within premillennialism there are those who hold differing views as to the time of the Rapture.
All forms of premillennialism understand that the Millennium follows the second coming of Christ. Its duration will be 1,000 years; its location will be on this earth; its government will be theocratic with the personal presence of Christ reigning as King; and it will fulfill all the yet-unfulfilled promises about the earthly kingdom.
While premillennialists generally view the coming kingdom literally, some interpret it less so. For George E. Ladd the prophecies concerning Israel are spiritualized, and the millennial kingdom is viewed more as an extension of the spiritual kingdom of God (A Theology of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974], pp. 64-9, 629-32). For Robert Mounce the thousand years of Revelation 20 are literal, but the coming kingdom is not “the Messianic Age foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament” (The Book of Revelation [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977], p. 359).
Dispensational premillennialists consistently distinguish the church from Israel. Because the church does not fulfill the yet-unfulfilled promises made to Israel, there must be a time when they will be fulfilled, and that time is in the Millennium. The extent to which a theological system consistently distinguishes Israel and the church will reveal its eschatological position.
Premillennialists employ a literal or normal hermeneutic. And this, of course, gives their picture of future events.
EVENTS SURROUNDING THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE
The term “last days” covers the entire period from the first to the second advents of Christ (Heb. 1:2). Defection and apostasy, among other things, will characterize that entire period (2 Tim. 3:1). So the presence of apostasy is not in itself indicative of the end of the Church Age, but the increase of it is Apostasy is both present and future when the climactic apostasy will occur which leads to the religious reign of the man of sin during the Tribulation period (2 Thes. 2:3). We may expect apostasy to become increasingly widespread as we draw nearer to the Tribulation days.
1. The doctrinal characteristics of apostasy. These include at least three: (a) a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity (1 John 2:22-23); (b) a denial of the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ (1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7). In John’s day this took the form of denying the true and real humanity of Christ, though it also takes the form of denying the true deity of Christ. Rejecting either the Trinity or the Incarnation denies the existence of the God-Man which is essential to our salvation. If Jesus Christ were not a man He could not have died; but if He were not also God, that death could not atone for sins; (c) a denial of the doctrine of the return of Christ (2 Peter 3:4).
2. The Lifestyle characteristics of apostasy. Defection in doctrine always brings a decline in morals. Paul lists eighteen characteristics of such declension in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. They are: love of self, love of money, a spirit of pride, blasphemy, disobedience to parents, lack of thankfulness, lack of holiness, lack of natural affection, unceasing enmity so that men cannot be persuaded to enter into treaties with each other, slander, lack of self-control, savagery, opposition to goodness, traitors, headiness (rashness or recklessness), high-mindedness, love of pleasure, a pretense of worship without godliness of life.
During the first part of the Tribulation days, organized, ecumenical religion will have its heyday. This apostate religious system is described in Revelation 17 under the label, “Mystery, Babylon.” It will be worldwide (v. 15), unfaithful to the truth and to the Lord (the term “harlot” appears in vv. 1, 5, 15-16), have extensive political clout (vv. 12-13), be a “whited sepulcher,” that is, be inwardly corrupt while outwardly glorious and splendid (v. 4), and will persecute the saints of the Tribulation days (v. 6).
The groundwork for such a system will apparently have to be laid before the Tribulation begins, that is, during the closing years of the Church Age. The preparation will likely include both organizational moves toward unity in Christendom as well as the ascendancy of doctrines to which diverse groups can give support.
Our modern understanding of rapture appears to have little or no connection with the eschatological event. However, the word is properly used of that event. Rapture is a state or experience of being carried away. The English word comes from a Latin word, rapio, which means to seize or snatch in relation to an ecstasy of spirit or the actual removal from one place to another. In other words, it means to be carried away in spirit or in body. The Rapture of the church means the carrying away of the church from earth to heaven.
The four premillennial views of the Rapture are: partial Rapture (that is, only certain believers will be raptured), pretribulational Rapture, midtribulational Rapture, and posttribulational Rapture. Partial Rapture concerns the extent of the Rapture, while the other three views focus on the time of the Rapture.
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.
1 The return of Christ (v. 16). The Lord Himself will return for His people, accompanied by all the grandeur His presence deserves. There will be a shout of command (whether uttered by the Lord or an archangel is not stated), and the trumpet of God will summon the dead in Christ to their resurrection as well as sounding a warning to those who have rejected Him and thus have missed the Rapture.
2. A resurrection (v. 16). At this time only the dead in Christ will be raised. This means believers since the Day of Pentecost, for though there were believers before then, none of them were placed “in Christ.” The dead in Christ will be raised just before the living are changed. Yet both groups will experience their respective changes “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52). The entire procedure will be instantaneous, not gradual. The word for “moment” is the word from which the word “atom” comes. Because when the atom was discovered it was thought to be indivisible, it was named “atom.” Even though subsequently the atom was split, the word retains its meaning of indivisible. The resurrection of the dead and the translation of the living will occur in an indivisible instant of time.
3. A rapture (v. 17). Strictly speaking, only living believers are raptured (though we use the term to include all that happens at that time). This means they will be caught up into the Lord’s presence without having to experience physical death.
4. A reunion (v. 17). The reunion will be with the Lord and with the loved ones who have died.
5. A reassurance (v. 18). The truth of the Rapture both comforts and encourages us (for the word does have both meanings).
Paul’s descriptions of the Rapture in both 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 give no support to the partial Rapture view which teaches that only spiritual believers will be raptured at several times during the Tribulation period. Paul states clearly that “we shall all be changed” at that time, and he wrote those words to the Corinthians, many of whom could hardly be called spiritual.
The Tribulation Period
In describing the period of the Great Tribulation, the Lord said it will be a time “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall” (Matt. 24:21). It will be a time of trouble unique in the history of the world. There have been many difficult times since the Lord spoke these words, and He Himself warned the disciples, “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33). What is it, then, that makes this future period different? How will the Great Tribulation be unique?
Two characteristics will distinguish the Tribulation from all other hard times that the world has seen. First, it will be worldwide, not localized, as stated in the promise of deliverance (Rev. 3:10) and as described in detail in the judgments of the Revelation. The intense local persecutions and calamities of this present day cannot be the beginning of the Tribulation, for that time will affect the entire world.
Then too the Tribulation will be unique because of the way men act. In one of the early judgments, men will hide themselves in the dens and caves of the mountains and say, “Fall on us, and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (6:16). When the Great Tribulation comes, men will act as if they think the world is coming to an end.
THE BEGINNING OF THE TRIBULATION
The Tribulation does not necessarily begin the day the church is taken to meet the Lord in the air. Though I believe that the Rapture precedes the beginning of the Tribulation, actually nothing is said in the Scriptures as to whether or not some time (or how much time) may elapse between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation.
The Tribulation actually begins with the signing of a covenant between the leader of the “Federated States of Europe” and the Jewish people. This treaty will set in motion the events of the seventieth week (or seven years) of Daniel’s prophecy. There is an interval of undetermined length between the first sixty-nine weeks of seven years each and the last or seventieth week of seven years.
We are living in that interval. It is the time in which God is forming the church, the body of Christ, by saving Jews and Gentiles alike. Since God has not yet finished this present program, the last week of the seventy has not yet begun. When it does, God will once again turn His attention in a special way to His people the Jews and to His holy city Jerusalem, as outlined in Daniel 9:24.
When this last period of seven years begins, “He will make a firm covenant with the many for one week” (v. 27). Who does the “he” refer to? Grammatically it could refer either to Messiah (v. 26) or to “the prince who shall come,” who will probably be related to the people who destroyed Jerusalem in A. D. 70. The latter view is better, because usually the antecedent nearer to a pronoun is preferred and in this case it is the prince, not Messiah. Then, too, nothing in the record of Christ’s life in any way connects Him with the making (and later breaking) of a seven-year covenant with the Jewish people.
This man is the “little horn” (7:24-25) who heads the coalition of Western nations in the Tribulation days. He is also called the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thes. 2:3), and is referred to as the beast (Rev. 11:7; 13:1; 17:11; 19:20). At the beginning of the Tribulation he will make a covenant, or enter a league, with Israel. This treaty will align the West with the Jewish nation and will guarantee protection to Israel so that she may reestablish the ancient rituals of Judaism. It appears that this provision will also assure protection while Israel rebuilds the temple in Jerusalem as the center of her religious observances. Since we know that the covenant will be broken and the man of sin will be worshiped in the temple of God, obviously a temple will have been already built during the first part of the Tribulation (2 Thes. 2:4).
The alignment of western Europe with Israel is interesting in the light of current events. It seems to indicate that Israel will not of herself be sufficiently strong to feel secure in the face of the hostile states around her. She will not be able to “go it alone” at this point, and so will form an alliance with the Western nations. Then the outlook for Israel will seem bright. She will feel secure in her land; she will be worshiping according to the Old Testament pattern; she will have a temple again in Jerusalem; and she will be important among the nations of the world. But this is only the beginning.
Revelation 6-19 describes the Tribulation in detail. We read here about three series of judgments. The first series is related to the opening of the seven seals of a scroll, the second to the blowing of seven trumpets, and the third to the pouring out of the contents of seven bowls.
Do these three series of judgments follow each other in succession, or do the trumpets and the bowls recapitulate the judgments of the seals with greater intensity? In other words, do the trumpet and bowl judgments follow the seals as different and distinct judgments, or do they picture the same judgments?
I believe the three series follow one another in chronological sequence and that there is no recapitulation. Either way, however, the seal judgments are the first judgments of the Tribulation days, and will probably occur during the first year of that period.
By the time of the fifth seal a number of true believers will have been martyred. In other words, during the first years of the Tribulation there will be a true witness to the Gospel, and this will be opposed by the ecumenical church, which will be “drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (17:6). In the name of religion, the organized church of the first part of the Tribulation will kill true believers for their faith.
How will these true believers have been converted in the first place? With the Rapture of the church, all Christians will have been removed from earth, so that none will be alive immediately after the Rapture. If there are to be martyrs, there must first be believers. How will men be saved? In Revelation 7:1-8, we are introduced to a sort of parenthesis in judgment. Even the wind does not blow. (Incidentally, can you imagine the effect on climate of the cessation of the wind even for a short time? Add the disturbance in the topography of the earth, with the shifting of islands and mountains, and you can begin to grasp the increased chaos during these early years of the Tribulation.)
The purpose of this suspension of judgment is that a certain group of people may be “sealed” (v. 3). These people are called “the bond-servants of our God.” Who they are is described in detail in verses 4-8. They are Jews from each of the twelve tribes, and they do some particular service for God. Whether the seal placed on them is a visible mark or characteristic of some kind is neither stated nor implied in the text. A seal need not be visible to be real (Eph. 4:30). It is principally a guarantee of ownership and security. Both these ideas are involved in the sealing of this group. These people are owned by God, which means that they are redeemed. They are kept secure by God, which may mean He protects them from their enemies on earth while they complete their service for Him.
But how were these people saved? Even though there will be no Christians on earth immediately after the Rapture, there will be Bibles, and books about the Christian faith. In other words, information will be available to give men the facts on which to find saving faith.
What will be the important work for which God will protect these people supernaturally? Actually, this passage does not specify, but we have hints as to the answer in Revelation 14, where the same group is described as in heaven after their work has been completed. They are said to be the redeemed followers of the Lamb, which may indicate that they are a group of special witnesses to the Gospel in the Tribulation days. They will not be the only ones witnessing, but they will be the only group given special protection from their enemies.
The first judgments of the Tribulation, and the religious situation in the first part of that period, are repeated, in summary form, in the Lord’s Olivet discourse (Matt. 24). Verses 4-14 cover the events of the first half of the Tribulation, for at verse 15 we read about an event that occurs exactly halfway through the seven-year period. Notice how the seal judgments are summarized: “And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars . . . for nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines, and earthquakes” (vv. 6-7). Notice the reference to the martyrs of the fifth seal: “Then will they deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you” (v. 9). Look at the false religion: “And many false prophets will rise and will mislead many” (v. 11). The ministry of the 144,000 sealed ones, and other witnesses, will account for the fact that “this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations” (v. 14). Here are all the major events of the first half of the Tribulation, in capsule form, from Christ’s lips before the Crucifixion.
To review: Before the middle of the Tribulation, the Western ruler, Antichrist (the man of sin), keeping his treaty with Israel, will invade and conquer Egypt. At that point the Russian armies from the north will invade and overrun Palestine, and when all appears hopeless for both Antichrist and Israel, God will step in and supernaturally destroy Russia’s northern armies. This will give the man of sin a free hand to break his covenant with Israel, set himself up to be worshiped, and try to conquer the world.
As he proceeds with his program, however, the nations of the Orient will unite and attempt to stop him. To do this, they will march west into Palestine. The sixth bowl judgment will dry up the Euphrates River, speeding their entry into the Promised Land. In the meantime, Antichrist will have planted himself firmly in Palestine as a religious and political ruler.
The battlefield in which the armies from East and West will meet will be the plain of Esdraelon, the area around the mountains of Megiddo. That’s why the battle is called Armageddon—Ar meaning mountain. This plain is about twenty miles south-southeast of Haifa, and the valley today is about twenty miles by fourteen. By the end of the Tribulation, much of earth’s topography will have been changed, and though the battle will center in Megiddo, it will extend some fifty miles to Jerusalem (14:20; Zech. 14:2).
In the midst of the battle, the Lord Jesus Christ will return, and the armies of heaven will conquer the armies of earth (Rev. 19:11-21). The carnage will be unbelievable (14:20; 19:17-18).
But the outcome is certain—the beast will be defeated and his armies captured. He and his false prophet-lieutenant will be thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented forever. Thus the Tribulation will close.
Why must there be such a time as this? There are at least two reasons: First, the wickedness of man must be punished. God may seem to be doing nothing about evil now, but someday He will act. A second reason is that man must, by one means or another, be prostrated before the King of kings and Lord of lords. He may do so voluntarily now by coming to Christ in faith and receiving salvation. Later he will have to do so, receiving only condemnation.
At the climax of the campaign of Armageddon, the Lord will return to this earth to judge and to reign. His return is described in Zechariah 14:1-11 and Revelation 19:11-16. It is referred to in many other passages, but these two give the most detailed description of it.
The Pretribulational Rapture View
A. Revelation 3:10
The promise is based on keeping the word of His patience, a reference to all believers (see similar Johannine designations in John 8:51; 14:23-24; and 1 John 2:3). It was made to all the churches, not just the one in Philadelphia in the first century (note Rev. 3:13 and the similar close to each of the letters to these representative churches). It relates to the coming hour of testing on the earth; that is, to the tribulations prophesied later on in the Revelation. It states that believers will be kept from that hour (tereso ek tes horas). Those who oppose pretribulationism understand the phrase to mean “I will guard”; that is, believers will be guarded throughout the seven years and then emerge from it at the second coming of Christ.
The pretribulationist’s understanding of ek is supported by a number of verses that have nothing to do with the Rapture and therefore do not beg the question. “He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles” (Prov. 21:23). Guarding your mouth and tongue is not the means of protecting yourself in the time of trouble; rather, it is the means of escaping trouble you are not presently in. In the Septuagint ek indicates an external, not internal, preservation. Ek also is used in the same way of external protection in Joshua 2:13 and in Psalms 33:19; 56:13. Likewise in the New Testament, ek clearly has the same meaning. In Acts 15:29 Gentile believers were asked to keep themselves from certain practices that were offensive to Jewish believers. The only way they could do that would be by abstaining entirely from the practices. They must withdraw, not somehow protect themselves while practicing those things. In James 5:20 we are told that if a sinning Christian can be turned away from his backslidden state he will be saved from physical death. There is no way ek could mean he will be protected in the midst of physical death and then emerge from it in some kind of resurrection. He will escape a premature death by being exempt from it. (For an excellent discussion of these and other points related to Revelation 3:10, see Jeffrey L. Townsend, “The Rapture in Revelation 3:10,” Bibliotheca Sacra, July 1980, pp. 252-66.)
The same phrase keep from, occurs in John 17:15: “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” Posttribulationists point out that this promise is fulfilled not by removing believers from the world but by protecting them from Satan while they live on the earth. Then they assert that, similarly, believers will live during the Tribulation but be kept from its wrath.
Such an analogy fails to answer the basic question, How are believers kept from Satan’s power? True, it is not by removing them from this world, but a removal is involved. Paul described it this way: “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). John said the same thing when he wrote that “the evil one does not touch [cling to] him [the believer]” (1 John 5:18). Believers have been transferred from one domain (Satan’s) to another (Christ’s), and that is how we are kept from the evil one.
However, the promise of Revelation 3:10 not only guarantees being kept from the trials of the Tribulation period but being kept from the time period of the Tribulation. The promise is not, “I will keep you from the trials.” It is, “I will keep you from the hour of the trials.” Posttribulationists have to resort to finding means to “undercut stress on the term ‘hour’” (Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973], p.59) by insisting that “hour” means the experiences of a time period but not the time itself. In other words, the church will live through the time but not experience (some of) the events. But if the events of the Tribulation are worldwide and directly and indirectly affect everybody, how can the church be on the earth and escape the experiences? If our Lord had been saved from the hour of His atoning sacrifice (John 12:27) by living through that time but not experiencing the events of His passion, there would have been no atonement.
Granted, it is possible to live through a time and miss some of the events (like being present at a social function but missing some of the activities), but it is not possible to miss the time without also missing the events.
To summarize, posttribulationists teach unclearly the meaning of the promise of Revelation 3:10. (1) Some seem to say that it means protection (for some believers who escape martyrdom throughout the Tribulation) and then Rapture at the end. (2) Some seem to say that it means protection from the last crisis (which includes Armageddon and the “lull” of peace and safety that supposedly precedes it) by Rapture just before that last crisis. (3) Some seem to say that it means the church will live through Armageddon, be guarded during that time, and emerge (all believers unscathed?) in the Rapture-Second Coming. One thing is clear to posttribulationists: it cannot mean deliverance before the Tribulation begins.
But how clear and plain the promise is. “I . . . will keep you from the hour of testing.” Not from just any persecution, but the coming time that will affect the whole earth. (The only way to escape worldwide trouble is not to be on the earth.) And the only way to escape the time when events take place is not to be in a place where time ticks on. The only place that meets those qualifications is heaven.
Perhaps an illustration will help keep the promise in its clear, uncomplicated form. As a teacher I frequently have to give exams. Let us suppose that I announce to a class that I am going to give an exam on such-and-such a day at the regular classtime. Then suppose I say, “I want to make a promise to students whose grade average for the semester so far is A. The promise is: I will keep you from the exam.” If I said nothing more by way of explanation, I expect that the A students would puzzle over that promise. “Does it mean we have to take the exam or not?” they would ask. And just to be safe, I would expect, they would show up at the appointed time because they would not have understood clearly what I meant.
Now I could keep my promise to those A students this way: I could pass out the exam to everyone, and give to the A students a sheet containing the answers. They would take the exam and yet in reality be kept from the exam. They would live through the time but not suffer the trial. This is posttribulationism. Protection while enduring.
But if I said to the class, “I am giving an exam next week. I want to make a promise to all the A students. I will keep you from the hour of the exam.” I very seriously doubt if the A students in that class would spend any time debating what I meant or whether or not they had to show up at the time of the exam. They would understand clearly that to be kept from the hour of the test exempts them from being present during that hour. This is pretribulationism, and this is the meaning of the promise of Revelation 3:10. And the promise came from the risen Savior who Himself is the Deliverer from the wrath to come (1 Thes. 1:10).
B. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
In 4:13-18 Paul tried to allay the fears of some who thought that deceased believers might not share in the kingdom. His explanation in that paragraph was something about which they were uninformed. But, in contrast, they were well informed about the beginning of the Day of the Lord as he explains in 5:1-11.
The beginning of that day will come unexpectedly in a time of peace and safety (v. 2), with pain (v. 3) and wrath (v. 9). In the meantime, believers are to live with alertness and sobriety. The exhortations of verses 6, 8, 10 are not to watch for signs during the Tribulation in preparation for the Day of the Lord at the end of the Tribulation, but to live godly lives in view of the coming Tribulation which believers will escape. Of this teaching Paul said they were fully aware (v. 2). How? Partly from Paul’s own teaching to them, but also from their knowledge of the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, the Day of the Lord is referred to by that phrase about 20 times, often with eschatological implications. In addition, a parallel term, “the last days,” occurs 14 times, always eschatological. Further the phrase “in that day” occurs over 100 times and is generally eschatological. In Isaiah 2:2, 11-12 (KJV), the three phrases appear, referring to the same eschatological time. So there was ample reason for Paul to say that his readers knew about the Day of the Lord from the Old Testament itself.
But concerning the Rapture there is no Old Testament revelation. This omission from over a hundred passages seems hard to understand if the Rapture is the first event of the Day of the Lord, as posttribulationism teaches. But if the Rapture is a mystery, unrevealed in the Old Testament, and if it precedes the actual beginning of the Day of the Lord, as pretribulationism teaches, then it is not strange that Paul had to inform them about the Rapture but needed only to remind them what they already knew about the Day of the Lord.
Posttribulationists, then, want to make a very close connection between 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 5:1-11, whereas pretribulationists are better served by seeing a contrast of subjects between the two paragraphs.
Thus the posttribulational scenario runs like this: Paul moves with ease from his discussion of the Rapture in 4:13-18 to the discussion of the parousia in 5:1-11 because he is talking about events that occur at the same time and not events separated by seven years. Paul’s choice of de (the first Greek word in 5:1), a simple connective with only a slight contrastive sense, indicates this close connection. And since the Day of the Lord will not begin until the Second Coming, the Rapture will occur then also.
Pretribulationists point out that the contrast between the subjects of the two chapters is sharpened by the fact that Paul did not simply use a de to begin verse 1 but a phrase, peri de. This is very significant, because elsewhere in his writings Paul uses peri de to denote a new and contrasting subject. Notice 1 Corinthians 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12; and 1 Thessalonians 4:9 and 5:1. Granted, the posttribulationists’ contention that the same subject is being discussed in 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 might be supported by the use of de alone, but it is completely nullified by the use of peri de. So the pretribulationists’ use of the passage is strongly supported exegetically. The Rapture is not a part of the Day of the Lord and therefore cannot be posttribulational.
To summarize: The question of the beginning of the Day of the Lord is a watershed between pre- and posttribulationism. Pretribulationism sees the Day of the Lord beginning at the start of the Tribulation for the following reasons:
(1) The very first judgments (by whatever chronology one uses) include war, famine, and the death of one fourth of the population of the earth.
(2) The one time the Scriptures mention peace and safety during the Tribulation period is at its very beginning. This time will be followed immediately by war, destruction, and upheavals that will continue unabated until Christ comes. Thus the Day of the Lord must begin at the beginning of the Tribulation, and the Rapture must be before.
(3) The revelation of the man of sin will occur at the beginning of the Tribulation when he makes a pact with the Jewish people.
(4) The much more normal understanding of the verb in Revelation 6:17 conveys the idea that the wrath has already come and continues.
(5) Paul’s use of peri de, not simply de, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 indicates contrasting subjects.
(6) The removal of peace from the earth just after the Tribulation begins fits only pretribulationism.
If posttribulationism is correct, then it must provide much more satisfactory answers than it has to the following questions:
(1) How can the Day of the Lord not begin with the Tribulation or any part of it and yet begin with the judgments of Armageddon?
(2) How can the final conflict at the end of the Tribulation be shrunk into a single battle of short enough duration so that the church can be raptured before it starts (in order to escape the wrath) and yet turn right around and accompany Christ on His return to earth at the conclusion of what would have to be a very brief battle?
(3) Does protection from wrath poured out on unbelievers really include exemption from the fallout effects of the actions of those unbelievers on whom the wrath is poured? It does not today. Why should it in the future?
(4) How does bunching the wrath judgments at the end of the Tribulation take care of the problem that equally severe judgments seem to take place earlier in the Tribulation and fall on believers as well as unbelievers?
(5) What is the more normal interpretation of the aorist in Revelation 6:17? Does it not indicate that the wrath has already been poured out, that it did not begin with the sixth seal?
(6) Does not the use of the phrase peri de in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 indicate that the Rapture is really not a part of the Day of the Lord at the end of the Tribulation?
Only pretribulationism fits harmoniously with all the scriptural evidence and answers those questions satisfactorily.
C. The Church
Other arguments for the pretribulation Rapture include the absence of the church in Revelation 4-19 where the Tribulation is described in great detail; the removal of the Restrainer before the Day of the Lord and the revelation of the man of sin (2 Thes. 2:1-9); and the need to have some human beings survive the Tribulation in their earthly bodies in order to become the parents of the millennial population.
The Midtribulational Rapture View
The midtribulational Rapture view holds 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. In this view, only the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week is Tribulation. That is why midtribulationalism is sometimes described as a form of pretribulationalism, since it teaches that the Rapture occurs before the tribulations of the last half of the seven years.
A. The Emphasis on the Time Period of Three and One Half Years
Prophetic passages emphasize the last three and one half years of the seventieth week of Daniel as the time of intense judgments on the earth, and a time which begins with some great event. It seems reasonable to conclude that that event is the Rapture of the church. Put these two concepts together (intense judgments in the last half of the seven years and some important event occurring at the midpoint of the seven years) and you must conclude a midtribulation Rapture of the church. Scriptural support for this includes Daniel 7:25; 9:27; 12:7, 11; Revelation 11:2; 12:6, 14.
Unquestionably the prophetic passages do distinguish the two halves of the seven years of Tribulation. But this does not mean that the intense judgments will only occur during the last half. Nor do any of these passages cited speak, even by implication, of the Rapture. But some of them do indicate specific events which will occur at the midpoint of the seven years. For example, Daniel 9:27 states that in the middle of the week Antichrist will cause sacrifice and oblation to cease. Daniel 12:11 mentions the same event. Revelation 12:6 and 14 relate how Israel will flee to a wilderness place of refuge at the midpoint. No Rapture is indicated, for the believing remnant will flee to a place on this earth, and will not be taken to heaven as will occur at the Rapture. The fact that some of these passages do mention great events which will happen at the midpoint but nowhere state that the Rapture is one of those great events is most significant.
Midtribulationists do believe that there will be trials and judgments during the first half of the Tribulation, but these are due to the wrath of men, whereas the judgments of the second half come from the wrath of God. However, notice that 6:16-17 states that the wrath of the Lamb “has come.” That indicates that the wrath of God will begin before the sixth seal is opened. To fit the midtribulation scheme one would have to place the beginning judgments of the seals in the second half of the Tribulation.
B. The Olivet Discourse
Midtribulationists find support for their view in the Olivet Discourse. The argument goes like this. Matthew 24:27 indicates the Rapture because the word parousia used there is also used of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:15. Also Matthew 24:31 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1 use words from the same root word (episynago). To me the argument so far seems to support a posttribulational chronology, since these comparisons seem to conclude that the Rapture and the Second Coming are the same event, or at least, that they occur at the same time (the end of the Tribulation). But the midtribulationist avoids that conclusion by arguing that the Rapture in the Olivet Discourse is preceded by signs which should alert believers to the nearness of the Rapture. These signs include the spread of the Gospel (Matt. 24:14), the rise of the Beast (v. 15), and general persecution (vv. 10-27). Because these signs will appear during the first half of the week, the Rapture must occur at the midpoint. But frankly, if this is a good argument for midtribulationism, it would seem to be a better argument for posttribulationism.
What about the use of some of the same words for the Rapture and the Second Coming? Does this indicate that they are the same event? (This, of course, is an argument used to support posttribulationism as well.) Of course not. One would expect to find similar vocabulary used to describe events which have some similarity. But similarity does not make sameness.
C. The Last Trumpet
Midtribulationism argues that the seventh trumpet of Revelation 10:7 corresponds to the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52. If this be true, then the Rapture (described in 1 Cor.) will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation (the time when the seventh trumpet sounds). This is a somewhat simplistic argument which assumes that all blowing of trumpets must indicate the same kind of event. This is not true. In Jewish apocalyptic literature, trumpets signaled a variety of great eschatological events, including judgments, the gathering of the elect, and resurrection. Now the seventh trumpet is a trumpet of judgment, while the trumpet in 1 Corinthians is one of resurrection and deliverance. That they indicate the same event is a gratuitous assumption.
The Posttribulational Rapture View
Posttribulationism teaches that the Rapture and the Second Coming are facets of a single event which will occur at the end of the Tribulation when Christ returns. The church will be on earth during the Tribulation to experience the events of that period.
A. The Vocabulary for the Second Coming
Briefly stated the argument is this. Since New Testament writers use several words to describe the Second Coming, if the Rapture and the Second Coming are different events separated by seven years, why did they not reserve one word for the Rapture and another for the Second Coming instead of seeming to use them interchangeably?
For example, parousia, meaning “coming,” “arrival,” or “presence,” is used in relation to the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:15. It also describes the second coming of Christ in Matthew 24:27. Two different conclusions are possible from this evidence. (1) Parousia describes the same, single event, meaning that the Rapture and the Second Coming are a single event at the end of the Tribulation. (2) Parousia describes two separate events, both characterized by the presence of the Lord, but events that will not happen at the same time. Either conclusion is valid.
Consider an illustration. Suppose proud grandparents should say to their friends. “We are looking forward to enjoying the presence (parousia) of our grandchildren next week”; then later in the conversation add, “Yes, we expect our grandchildren to be present at our golden wedding celebration.” If you heard those statements you could draw one of two conclusions. (1) The grandchildren are coming next week for the golden wedding anniversary. In other words, the grandparents were speaking of the coming and the anniversary as a single event, occurring at the same time. Or (2) the grandchildren will be making two trips to see their grandparents—one next week (perhaps as part of their vacation) and another later to help celebrate the golden wedding anniversary.
Likewise, since the Lord’s presence (parousia) will characterize both the Rapture and the Second Coming, the word itself does not indicate whether these are a single event or separate events. In other words, the vocabulary used does not necessarily prove either pre- or posttribulationism.
1. Rapture occurs after the Tribulation.
2. Church experiences Revelation 3:10 at end of Tribulation.
3. Day of the Lord begins at close of Tribulation.
4. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 occurs near end of Tribulation.
5. 144,000 redeemed at conclusion of Tribulation.
6. Rapture and Second Coming are a single event.
7. No such judgment.
8. Living Gentiles judged after Millennium.
9. Parents of millennial population come from 144,000 Jews.
10. Believers of Church Age judged after Second Coming or at conclusion of Millennium.
A second word used for the Lord’s coming is apokalupsis, meaning “revelation.” It occurs in Rapture passages like 1 Corinthians 1:7 and 1 Peter 1:7; 4:13, because when Christ comes for the church He will reveal Himself to her. At His coming we shall see Him as He is. The word also appears in passages that describe His coming to the earth at the close of the Tribulation (2 Thes. 1:7), because that event also will reveal Christ to the world.
Two conclusions are possible. (1) The Rapture and the Second Coming are the same single event. Since both are called a revelation of Christ, they must occur at the same time and be part of the same event at the end of the Tribulation. (2) Both the Rapture and the Second Coming will reveal Christ, but not at the same time or under the same circumstances. Therefore, the Rapture and the Second Coming can be separated as pretribulationism teaches.
Notice that the first conclusion used the word revelation as a cataloging word; that is, it catalogs whatever event is referred to in all the passages where the word is used as the same, single event. The second conclusion sees the word revelation as a characterizing word; that is, it is used to characterize different events in the same way, as a revelation.
It becomes more obvious, then, that the vocabulary used in the New Testament does not seem to prove either pre- or posttribulationism. The third principal word for the Second Coming is epiphaneia, meaning “manifestation.” At the Second Coming, Christ will destroy Antichrist by the sheer manifestation of His coming (2 Thes. 2:8). The word is also used in reference to the hope of the believer when he will see the Lord (2 Tim. 4:8; Titus 2:13). Are we to conclude that the word is cataloging those references to refer them to the same single event? Or can we conclude that it is characterizing two different events as both involving a manifestation of Christ but not occurring at the same time? The answer is either (but not both!).
Clearly, then, the vocabulary does not prove either a pre- or posttribulational Rapture of the church.
Why, then, does this argument continue to be used? Simply because posttribulationists continue to believe that it is a valid support for their view, even claiming that it “substantiates” their view (Ladd, The Blessed Hope, p. 70).
But the posttribulationist’s underlying assumption in continuing to use this argument is that these words catalog rather than characterize. To be sure, vocabulary might do that; but to be equally sure, it might not.
Take the word “motor.” My automobile has a motor. My wife’s washing machine has a motor. My moped has a motor. Our furnace fan has a motor. My camera has a motor that automatically advances the film. Is the term “motor” a characterizing feature of these rather diverse machines? Or is it a means of cataloging them that would force us to conclude that everything that has a motor is the same thing? The answer is obvious.
Do presence, revelation, and manifestation characterize different events, or catalog the same event? The pretribulationist says the former; the posttribulationist concludes the latter.
B. The Church Is Not Said to Be in Heaven but on Earth during the Tribulation according to Revelation 4-18
Pretribulationists point out that though the word “church” occurs nineteen times in Revelation 1-3 and once in chapter 22, it does not appear even once in chapters 4-18 which describe the Tribulation period. Therefore, they conclude, the church is not on earth during the Tribulation but in heaven.
In response, posttribulationists say the church (that is, the last generation of the church) will be on earth during the Tribulation according to Revelation 4-18 for these reasons. (1) Nowhere in these chapters is the church said to be in heaven, something we would expect the text to say if it were true (2) The occurrence of the word “saints” in 13:7, 10, 16:6, 17:6; and 18:24 shows that the church is in fact on the earth during the Tribulation. (3) Other descriptions of believers in the Tribulation aptly apply to Church Age believers indicating that Tribulation believers will be the last generation of Church Age believers and that they will go through the Tribulation. Let’s examine and critique each of these arguments in more detail.
(1) Is the church in heaven during the Tribulation? To this question pretribulationists reply along either or both of two lines. Most identify the twenty-four elders as representing the church, and since they are seen in heaven in 4:4 and 5:8-10, the church is mentioned as in heaven. Some think this argument is nullified since the critical text of verses 9-10 has the elders singing of redemption in the third person as if redemption were not their own experience (thus they could not represent the church, which has been redeemed). But this is really not a strong argument. Notice that Moses sang of redemption that he experienced in the third person (Ex. 15:13, 16-17).
Pretribulationists also point out that the background of Hebrew marriage customs argues for the church’s already being in heaven before the coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation. Jewish marriage included a number of steps: first, betrothal (which involved the prospective groom traveling from his father’s house to the home of the prospective bride, paying the purchase price, and thus establishing the marriage covenant); second, the groom returning to his father’s house and remaining separate from his bride for twelve months during which time he prepared the living accommodations for his wife in his father’s house; third, the groom’s coming for his bride at a time not known exactly to her; fourth, his return with her to the groom’s father’s house to consummate the marriage and to celebrate the wedding feast for the next seven days (during which the bride remained closeted in her bridal chamber).
In Revelation 19:7-9 the wedding feast is announced, which, if the analogy of the Hebrew marriage customs means anything, assumes that the wedding has previously taken place in the father’s house. Today the church is described as a virgin waiting for her bridegroom’s coming (2 Cor. 11:2); in Revelation 21 she is designated as the wife of the Lamb, indicating that previously she has been taken to the groom’s father’s house. Pretribulationists say that this requires an interval of time between the Rapture and the Second Coming. Granted, it does not say seven years’ time, but it certainly argues against posttribulationism, which has no time between the Rapture and Second Coming.
(2) Does the word “saints” refer to Church Age saints? Actually the appearance of the word “saints” in chapters 4-18 does not prove anything until you know what saints they are. There were saints (godly ones) in the Old Testament (Ps. 85:8, KJV); there are saints today (1 Cor. 1:2); there will be saints in the Tribulation years (Rev. 13:7, etc.). The question is: Are the saints of this Church Age distinct from saints of the Tribulation period (pretribulationism) or not (posttribulationism)? The uses of the word will not answer the question.
(3) Do other phrases identify Tribulation believers with Church Age saints to indicate the church will go through the Tribulation? Such phrases include “die in the Lord” (14:13; cf. “dead in Christ” of 1 Thes. 4:16-18), “who keep the commandments of God” (Rev. 12:17; 14:12; cf. 1:9). To use these similarities to prove that the church will be present in the Tribulation requires that similarity means sameness (a major assumption). On the other hand, one would expect distinct groups of saints (i.e., church saints and Tribulation saints) to be described in similar ways since they are all saints.
The same holds true for the use of the word “elect” or “chosen.” Some have concluded that since the elect are mentioned as being in the Tribulation in Matthew 24:22, 24, and 31, the church will go through the Tribulation. But what elect people are meant? The heathen king Cyrus was called God’s anointed (Isa. 45:1). So was Christ (Ps. 2:2). Israel was called God’s chosen one (Isa. 45:4) even though the nation was a mixture of redeemed and unredeemed people. Christ is also God’s chosen One (42:1). So is the church (Col. 3:12). So are some angels (1 Tim. 5:21). All elect are not the same, and the chosen ones of the Tribulation days do not have to be the same as the elect of the church simply because the same term is used of both groups.
C. Second Thessalonians 1:5-10 Is Best Interpreted as Teaching Posttribulationism
Posttribulationists understand this passage to say that “Paul places the release of Christians from persecution at the posttribulational return of Christ to judge unbelievers, whereas according to pretribulationism this release will occur seven years earlier” (Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, p.113). In other words, since release comes at the Second Coming and release is connected with the Rapture, the Rapture must be at the same time as the Second Coming.
Let us examine the posttribulationist’s answers to three questions about this passage.
(1) What is the subject of Paul’s discussion in these verses? The posttribulational answer is: release for Christians from persecution.
(2) When will this release occur? At the posttribulational return of Christ.
(3) What group of people will experience this release? Obviously, just those Christians who survive the Tribulation and are alive at the posttribulational Rapture.
First of all, observe the posttribulational answer to question 3. The passage only addresses the release of Christians living at the conclusion of the Tribulation. If that is true, why does Paul seemingly ignore the Thessalonians, who had suffered persecution and who had already died? Death was the means of release for them. Indeed, why does he not mention that avenue of release, which some of those to whom he was writing might yet experience? To be sure, the rapture of the living will bring release from persecution, but only a relatively small percentage of believers will ever experience that means of release, since most will have died prior to the Rapture. If release is Paul’s chief concern here, and if that release will come at the posttribulational Rapture, then Paul is offering that hope of release to a very small group of believers.
Viewing this passage from a posttribulational slant, one must conclude that the release for Christians is connected with flaming judgment on unbelievers. It is not described in terms of meeting the Lord and forever being with Him, nor in terms of a resurrection for those who have died, as other Rapture passages describe it. Obviously if one’s enemies are punished, then there will be release from their persecution. But the point is this: where is the Rapture described in this passage at all? The judgmental aspect of the Second Coming is given the prominence, and though, according to posttribulationism, the Rapture is the initial part of the Second Coming, that initial part is entirely absent from this discussion.
If Paul so clearly believed in a posttribulational Rapture, then why did he not at least mention that Rapture in passing since it is the moment of Rapture that brings release, not the following judgment on the enemies of God. Christians who live through the Tribulation (if posttribulationism be correct) will be released from persecution the instant they are raptured, whether or not Christ judges their enemies at that same time.
Notice some of the words in this passage that emphasize God’s judging of His enemies: “righteous judgment” (v. 5), “just” (v. 6), “repay” (v. 6), “affliction” (v. 6), “flaming fire” (v. 7), and “retribution” (v. 8). This vocabulary is strangely absent from the Rapture passages of John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Actually the Rapture can be found in this passage only if one’s eschatological scheme superimposes it there. Exegesis does not produce the Rapture from this passage.
Why is the posttribulationists’ use of this passage so jumbled? Simply because they have answered the first question wrongly. That question was, What is the subject of Paul’s discussion here? And the answer is not, as posttribulationists say, the release of Christians from persecution.
The subject of the passage is not release but vindication. Paul does not focus on when or how the persecuted Thessalonians will be relieved of persecution; rather, he assures them that God will judge His enemies and thereby vindicate those who have suffered.
One of the most spectacular displays of God’s judging will occur at the second coming of Christ when the armies of the world arrayed at Armageddon are defeated by Him and when all living people will have to appear before Rim (Ezek. 20:33-44; Matt. 25:31-46). It is on those people living at that time that vengeance will fall. Dead rejecters of Christ will not be judged until after the Millennium at the Great White Throne. Looking back, we know for a fact that none of the unsaved who actually persecuted the Thessalonians will be judged at the Second Coming but at the Great White Throne.
Since vindication is the subject, that explains why Paul did not mention that Rapture in this passage, for the Rapture is not a time of vindication of God’s righteousness by judging the world. It is a time of release, of hope, of meeting the Lord. Some Thessalonians had found release through death even before Paul wrote. Eventually all of them found it that way. Since the first century, many persecuted Christians have found the same release through death. Some will find it at the pretribulational Rapture. But only those believers living at the end of the Tribulation will find it then, not because a Rapture takes place then, but because they successfully pass the judgments and see their enemies condemned.
But if vindication at the Second Coming falls on a relatively small group of Christ’s enemies (think, by comparison, of the many who have opposed Him through the centuries), why should this particular time of vindication be given such prominence? Simply because the end of the Tribulation brings to a climax the long rebellion of mankind, a rebellion that will be halted by the personal intervention of the Lord. Not all of the Lord’s enemies will be judged then but those who will be are the epitome of rebellion. Awful as the persecution of the Thessalonians may have been, horrible as subsequent persecutions of believers have been and are, those in the past or present do not compare with that which will transpire during the Tribulation period.
Think of an analogy. Antichrists were present in the first century (1 John 2:18). Antichrists have come and gone throughout the centuries. But one great Antichrist is yet to appear on the scene of history, and he will be the epitome of opposition to God. Other antichrists are now in hades awaiting the judgment at the end of the Millennium that will cast them into the lake of fire forever. But the coming great Antichrist will be judged at the Second Coming, and when he is, God will be vindicated over all antichrists, though their particular judgment will occur much later.
All persecutors of believers will be judged later, as well. The judgment of those living at the Second Coming will vindicate God’s righteousness with respect to them and to all persecutors who died before them.
If death or the Rapture brings release from personal persecution, why should believers be concerned with this future vindication? Because the case against persecutors cannot be closed until Christ is vindicated and righteousness prevails. Persecution may cease when death occurs, but the case against the persecutors is not closed until they are judged. And believers are concerned not only about relief but about vindication.
Notice a biblical example of that principle. Hear the Tribulation martyrs in heaven, before the end of the Tribulation, crying out to God for vindication (Rev. 6:9-11). “When will You settle the score against those who killed us?” they ask. Of course, they have already obtained release through physical death and are in heaven; yet they are concerned about vindication. And the Lord replies that they will have to wait a little longer for that vindication until others are also martyred on earth.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9 Paul extended the hope and assurance of escape from wrath by means of a pretribulational Rapture. In 2 Thessalonians 1 he assured his readers that the enemies of the Lord will be judged.
In summary, chapter 1 does not teach that release from persecution will necessarily occur at the same time as the Second Coming. It does not picture the Rapture at all but focuses on the judgment on the wicked and the vindication of Christ that will occur at the Second Coming. That vindication gives assurance to saints of all ages that righteousness will prevail.
To build the kingdom on the first coming of Christ produces a theological error with many serious ramifications. By kingdom, I mean the rule of Messiah on earth as promised to David (2 Sam. 7:12-16). To claim that Christ established this Davidic kingdom at His first advent requires a deliteralizing of the promises made to David and results in confusion between the church and the kingdom. Among other things, church ethics and kingdom ethics are intermixed, usually with the result that kingdom ethics are promoted more than church ethics. Thus Christians are urged to live the kingdom here and now
That mistake was made by some during the earthly life of Christ (Luke 19:11). The truth is that the messianic kingdom will be inaugurated at the second coming of Christ. Then the land promise made to Abraham and his descendants will be fulfilled (Gen. 15:18-21). Then the promise made to David that his descendant (Messiah) will sit on the throne of the kingdom forever will be fulfilled. Without a Millennium in which all these promises can be fulfilled, the promises have to be canceled for some reason or be fulfilled in some other way than literally.
A. The Type of Government
The government of the messianic, millennial kingdom will be a theocracy. This is the same form of government God used for Israel in Old Testament times; only in the Millennium the Lord Jesus Christ will personally and visibly reign over the affairs of all mankind (Dan. 7:14). His rule will be as a benevolent despot (Rev. 19:15). As a result, there will be perfect and complete justice for all, and sin will be immediately punished (Isa. 11:4; 65:20).
B. The Center of Government
The topography of the earth will be changed by the time the kingdom begins to function, and the city of Jerusalem will be the center of government (2:3). That city will be exalted (Zech. 14:10); it will be a place of great glory (Isa. 24:23); it will be the site of the temple (33:20), and the joy of the whole earth (Ps. 48:2). Jerusalem, scene of so much war and turmoil both in the past and present, and victim of future judgments during the Tribulation, will never again need to fear for her safety (Isa. 26:1-4).
C. The Rulers in the Government
David will apparently be a regent in the millennial kingdom. A number of prophecies speak of David’s important place in the kingdom (Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 37:24-25). Apparently David, who with other Old Testament believers will be resurrected at the second coming of Christ, will act as a prince under the authority of Christ, the King.
Authority over the twelve tribes of Israel will be vested in the hands of the 12 Apostles (Matt. 19:28). Other princes and nobles will likewise share in governmental duties (Isa. 32:1; Jer. 30:21). It seems too that many others of lesser rank will have responsibilities in various departments of the kingdom government. The Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27) indicates that those who have proved their faithfulness will be given much authority. The church too will have a part in governing the earth (Rev. 5:10). Though many of the normal procedures of government will be carried out by subordinates, Christ will be King over all.
D. The Subjects of the Government
The first subjects of the rule of Christ during the kingdom will be the Jews and Gentiles who survive the Tribulation and who enter the kingdom in earthly bodies. At the very beginning of the Millennium all the people on earth will be redeemed, for all unredeemed will have been judged at Christ’s return. Of course, babies will be born right away so that in a few years there will be many who will be of age to decide for themselves their own spiritual relation to the King. They will have to be subject to Him at least outwardly, but whether they give heart allegiance will be a matter of personal choice. All will have to accept Him as King; some will also accept Him as personal Savior. All of these people will be living in mortal bodies. Resurrected saints will, of course, have resurrection bodies, not subject to physical limitations. This also means they will not contribute to space, food, or governmental problems during the Millennium.
In Psalm 2:7-8 King Jesus was promised authority to rule the earth in righteousness. Certainly He did not see that promise fulfilled during His first advent, though He paid the price of His own life for it. In Revelation 5 He is proclaimed worthy to take the sealed book, open it, and receive the inheritance which is rightfully His. This will be fulfilled when He comes again (11:15).
Why is an earthly kingdom necessary? Did He not receive His inheritance when He was raised and exalted in heaven? Is not His present rule His inheritance? Why does there need to be an earthly kingdom? Because He must be triumphant in the same arena where He was seemingly defeated. His rejection by the rulers of this world was on this earth (1 Cor. 2:8). His exaltation must also be on this earth. And so it shall be when He comes again to rule this world in righteousness. He has waited long for His inheritance; soon He shall receive it.
THE JUDGMENT OF BELIEVERS’ WORKS
A. The Scriptures Involved
Two principal passages recount the fact and details of this judgment (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10). Other relevant passages include Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; 9:24-27; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; and Revelation 2:10; 3:11; 4:4, 10.
B. The Judgment Itself
Though not specifically stated, this judgment will apparently take place immediately after the Rapture of the church, since the twenty-four elders who likely represent believers have their crowns in the scene in heaven at the beginning of the Tribulation (Rev. 4:4, 10). Further, when the bride returns with Christ at His second coming, she is clothed with the righteous deeds which have survived the examination of this judgment (19:8).
The site of this judgment is the bema of Christ. Earthly bemas were raised, throne-like platforms on which rulers or judges sat when making speeches (Acts 12:21), or hearing and deciding cases (18:12-17).
Only believers will stand in this judgment, for Paul makes clear that it relates to those who have built on the Foundation, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11-12).
The nature of the believer’s works will be examined in this judgment to distinguish worthy works from worthless ones. These works are the deeds done by the believer during his Christian life. All will be reviewed and examined. Some will pass the test because they were good; others will fail because they were worthless. Both good and bad motives will be exposed; then every believer will receive his due praise from God. What grace!
C. The Outcome of Judgment
The outcome will be either reward or deprivation of reward. Salvation is not in question, for those deprived of reward “shall be saved, as though through fire.” Yet, as mentioned above, apparently every believer will have done some things which God can praise.
Nevertheless, the deprivation is real and may involve forfeiture and shame. Certainly it means forfeiting rewards that otherwise might have been received. The word zemioo in verse 15 carries no idea of suffering in the sense of physical or mental suffering. Its basic idea is loss in the sense of forfeiture of reward which could have been received (see A.T. Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1914], p. 65).
John clearly teaches that rewards may be lost because of unfaithfulness during one’s lifetime (2 John 8). His concern was that his readers would receive a full reward, that is, receive all that could be theirs through continued faithfulness. This same idea of loss is part of Paul’s analogy of the Judgment Seat with running a race (1 Cor. 9:24-27). His concern was that he not be disapproved, that is, do nothing that would make him unworthy to receive rewards. Perhaps even more vividly John wrote about the possibility of a believer being ashamed at Christ’s coming (1 John 2:28). “The passive voice coupled with the expression autou suggests that a believer withdraws in shame. It suggests a shrinking back from Christ, perhaps from a sense of guilt, with the believer producing the action [rather than Christ putting the believer to shame]” (Samuel L. Hoyt, “The Negative Aspects of the Christian’s Judgment,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 137:129-30 [April-June 1980]).
Summarizing in a very balanced way, Hoyt concludes as follows: “The Judgment Seat of Christ might be compared to a commencement ceremony. At graduation there is some measure of disappointment and remorse that one did not do better and work harder. However, at such an event the overwhelming emotion is joy, not remorse. The graduates do not leave the auditorium weeping because they did not earn better grades. Rather, they are thankful that they have been graduated, and they are grateful for what they did achieve. To overdo the sorrow aspect of the Judgment Seat of Christ is to make heaven hell. To underdo the sorrow aspect is to make faithfulness inconsequential” (p. 131).
JUDGMENT OF OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS
Daniel 12:1-3 speaks of the Tribulation period (v. 1), resurrections of the righteous and the wicked (v. 2), and rewards for the righteous (v. 3). Many understand the resurrection and reward of the righteous to refer to the resurrection and judgment of believers of the Old Testament at the conclusion of the Tribulation. New Testament revelation places the resurrection and judgment of the wicked of all time at the conclusion of the Millennium (Rev. 20:11-15). Of course it is not unusual for Old Testament prophets to place side by side events which later revelation separates by some period of time.
It is possible that verses 1-3 refer only to the resurrection and rewarding of Jewish believers of the Tribulation days. They will be rewarded for having insight for seeing through Antichrist’s deception, and for leading others to faith during the Tribulation days.
JUDGMENT OF SAINTS OF THE TRIBULATION PERIOD
Revelation 20:4-6 relates the resurrection of saints of the Tribulation period who died during that time. Because of their opposition to Antichrist’s program, they were martyred, but God raises them from the dead just before the Millennium begins. No specific mention is made of a judging and rewarding; it can only be assumed to take place at the time of resurrection. (The phrase ‘judgment was given to them” in v. 4 refers not to being judged but to the activity of saints judging people in the millennial government.)
JUDGMENT OF JEWISH SURVIVORS OF THE TRIBULATION
Before the inauguration of the millennial kingdom, the survivors of the Tribulation, both Jewish and Gentile, must be judged in order to insure that only believers will enter the kingdom.
The judgment of Jewish survivors is described in Ezekiel 20:34-38 and illustrated in Matthew 25:1-30. Ezekiel states that it will occur after all surviving Israelites have been regathered from the ends of the earth to the land of Palestine. Christ will cause them to “pass under the rod” (see Lev. 27:32) to purge out the rebels. As a result, those rebels (unsaved) will not enter the land of Israel (Ezek. 20:38) but will be cast into the outer darkness (Matt. 25:30). In contrast, those who successfully pass through this judgment will enter the millennial kingdom to enjoy the blessings of the New Covenant (Ezek. 20:37). This group will not be given resurrection bodies at this time, but will go into the kingdom in their earthly bodies and will become the parents of the first millennial Jewish babies.
JUDGMENT OF GENTILE SURVIVORS OF THE TRIBULATION
Also at the second advent of Christ, Gentile survivors of the Tribulation will be judged by Him. Matthew 25:31-46 describes this in detail. Joel predicted that it would take place in the “valley of Jehoshaphat” (Joel 3:2) which may refer to the Kidron Valley on the east side of Jerusalem. Jehoshaphat simply means “Yahweh judges.”
Both passages say that these Gentiles will be judged for their treatment of Israel during the Tribulation period. Christ is the Judge; the Gentiles are being judged; by all rapture schemes the church has already been raptured to heaven; the “brethren,” the treatment of whom becomes the basis for the judgment can only refer to Christ’s natural brethren, other Jewish people (Rom. 9:3). For a Gentile to treat any Jewish person with kindness during the Tribulation will place his life in jeopardy. No one will do this merely out of a beneficent attitude, but only out of a redeemed heart. Therefore, this is not a judgment of works, but of genuine faith which produced such selfless works (or the lack of it which produced no such works).
Those who lack saving faith and demonstrate that lack by not doing good works will be sent to the lake of fire. Those whose good deeds prove the presence of saving faith will enter the kingdom. Like the Jewish survivors of the preceding judgment they will enter in earthly bodies and become parents of the first millennial Gentile babies.
You will notice that I have understood this judgment to concern individual Gentiles, and not, as some translations imply, national groups of people. The word used in the passage is translated in the New Testament by “people” two times, “heathen” five times, “nation” sixty-four times, and “Gentiles” ninety-three times. Other references to a judgment at the second advent of Christ depict a judgment of individuals (Matt. 13:30, 47-50).
JUDGMENT OF SATAN AND FALLEN ANGELS
Satan and his angels will also be judged, evidently at the conclusion of the millennial kingdom. To be sure Satan has had other sentences passed on him, but this will be his final one that confines him forever in the lake of fire (25:41; Rev. 20:10). The angels who are judged at this time also will experience the same fate (Jude 6-7). Believers will apparently be associated with the Lord in judging (1 Cor. 6:3).
JUDGMENT OF THE UNSAVED DEAD
At the conclusion of the millennial reign of Christ unbelievers of all time will be raised and judged. Their resurrection is the resurrection of judgment spoken of by the Lord in John 5:29. Their judgment will take place before a Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15). Their Judge is the Lord Christ (see John 5:22, 27).
Those judged are simply called “the dead”—unbelievers (in contrast to “the dead in Christ” which refers to believers). This judgment will not separate believers from unbelievers, for all who will experience it will have made the choice during their lifetimes to reject God. The Book of Life which will be opened at the Great White Throne judgment will not contain the name of anyone who will be in that judgment. The books of works which will also be opened will prove that all who are being judged deserve eternal condemnation (and may be used to determine degrees of punishment). It is not that all their works were evil, but all were dead works, done by spiritually dead people. It is as if the Judge will say, “I will show you by the record of your own deeds that you deserve condemnation.” So everyone who will appear in this judgment will be cast into the lake of fire forever.
Chart, Judgment of the Unsaved Dead
|Believers’ Works||Between Rapture and Second Coming||Bema of Christ||Believers in Christ||Works and walk of the Christian life||Rewards or loss of rewards||1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10|
|Old Testament Saints||End of Tribulation /Second Coming||Believers in OT. times||Faith in God||Rewards||Dan. 12:1-3|
|Tribulation Saints|| End of Tribulation/|
|Believers of Tribulation period||Faith in and faithfulness to Christ||Reign with Christ in the Millennium||Rev. 20:4-6|
|Living Jews||End of Tribulation /Second Coming||Wilderness||Jews who survive the Tribulation||Faith in Christ||Believers enter kingdom; rebels are purged||Ezek. 20:34-38|
|Living Gentiles||End of Tribulation /Second Coming||Valley of Jehoshaphat||Gentiles who survive the Tribulation||Faith in Christ as proved by works||Believers enter the kingdom; others go to lake of fire||Joel 3:1-2; Matt. 25:31-46|
|Satan and Fallen Angels||End of Millennium||Satan and those angels who follow him||Allegiance to Satan’s counterfeit system||Lake of fire||Matt. 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 20:10|
|Unsaved People||End of Millennium||Before the Great White Throne||Unbelievers of all time||Rejection to God||Lake of fire||Rev. 20:11-15|
Resurrection and Eternal Destiny
1. Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19. Christ predicted His own resurrection on the third day after His death.
2. Matthew 22:31-32; John 2:19-22; 5:28-29; 11:25-26. Christ taught the truth of resurrection.
3.1 Corinthians 15:20-24, 35-50; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; Philippians 3:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Paul not only taught bodily resurrection but also gave added details about the resurrection body.
A. The Resurrection of Christ
First in the order of resurrections was the resurrection of Christ. Though others had been raised from the dead before Christ, He was the first to rise from the grave with a body that was no longer subject to death (Rom. 6:9; Rev. 1:18). This is why Paul calls Him the Firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18). His resurrection is the first of many to come (1 Cor. 15:23).
B. The Resurrection of Those Who Are Christ’s at His Coming
This resurrection will include several groups: the dead saints of this Church Age (1 Thes. 4:16), the dead saints of Old Testament times (Dan. 12:2), and martyrs of the Tribulation period (Rev. 20:4). These resurrections of the saints of all ages constitute the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6), the resurrection of life (John 5:29), or the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:14).
C. The Resurrection of Unsaved Dead at the End
The last group to be raised will include the unredeemed dead of all time, and they will be raised at the end of the millennial kingdom to stand before the Great White Throne in a judgment that will sentence all of them to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-14).
BETWEEN DEATH AND RESURRECTION
Strictly speaking, death is the separation of the material from the immaterial (James 2:26). In the case of every death, the body is disposed of usually by placing it in a grave. But the immaterial facet of a person continues to exist for all eternity. The question before us now is, what is the state of the immaterial between physical death and bodily resurrection?
A. For the Unredeemed Person in Old Testament Times
When such a person died, his soul, spirit, or immaterial nature went to sheol to wait for the resurrection of the body at the end of the Millennium. But the body is also said to be in sheol, for about half the times it is used in the Old Testament it refers to the grave (see Num. 16:30, 33). Other times it refers to the place of departed spirits, of both the righteous (Genesis 35:27) and the wicked (Prov. 9:18). This is the place of darkness where the unredeemed dead are confined until death (which claims the body) and hades (the Greek equivalent of sheol which claims the soul) give up their dead at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:13).
B. For the Unredeemed Person in the New Testament Times
The body goes to the grave, and the spirit goes to hades to wait for the resurrection of the body at the close of the Millennium (as with Old Testament unredeemed people) (Luke 16:23). Hades stands in contrast to heaven (Matt. 11:23; Luke 10:15), a fiery place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:40-42), a place of eternal torment (Mark 9:43-48), and a place of outer darkness where there is no light at all (Matt. 22:13).
C. For the Redeemed Person in the Old Testament Times
In the case of the Old Testament saint, the debated question is where did his soul (spirit or immaterial nature) go at the time of death? Was he taken immediately into the presence of the Lord, or did he go to the saved compartment of sheol/hades from where he was taken into heaven when Christ descended into hades between His death and resurrection?
Hoyt expresses this latter option this way. “As a result of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, a reorganization took place in the intermediate state. There was a removal of all the righteous from the upper part of sheol-hades, and its gates were barred to entrance by any saved soul thereafter. From this time on paradise is above where Christ is, and the spirits of all the saved go to be with Christ at the moment of physical death” (Herman A. Hoyt, The End Times [Chicago: Moody, 1969], p. 45).
Several passages are cited in favor of this viewpoint. In Ephesians 4:9, Paul wrote that Christ descended in to the lower parts of the earth. Some understand this to mean that our Lord descended into hades between His death and resurrection to take those in the “saved compartment” of hades into heaven. However, the phrase “of the earth” may be an appositional phrase, meaning that Christ descended (at His Incarnation) into the lower parts (of the universe), namely the earth.
Also cited is the account of the rich man and Lazarus which supposedly shows that both men went to hades, the rich man to punishment in one compartment of hades and Lazarus to bliss in the other compartment (which is labeled “Abraham’s bosom” in the story). Clearly the account teaches some important facts about death and hell: (a) there is conscious existence after death; (b) hell is a real place of torment; (c) there is no second chance after death; and (d) the dead cannot communicate with the living. But does it teach two compartments in hades? Not really, for Abraham’s bosom is not said to be in hades but rather “far away” from It. Abraham’s bosom is a figurative phrase for paradise, or the presence of God. It was paradise promised to the repentant thief by the Lord (Luke 23:43), not a blissful compartment of hades.
First Peter 3:18 is also linked with the supposed descent of Christ into sheol/hades. While there between His death and resurrection He announced His victory over sin and removed those in the paradise compartment to heaven. More likely, however, the verse means that the preincarnate Christ preached through Noah to those who, because they rejected that preaching, are now spirits in prison.
According to Harry Buis, the two-compartment theory was a development of the intertestamental period. “The main development of the doctrine of eternal punishment in this period comes from the fact that sheol is now divided into two compartments: one for the good, called paradise; the other for the evil, called gehenna” (The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1957], p. 18. The following pages give proof from the apocalyptic literature of that period).
I believe that the Old Testament saint at death went immediately into the presence of the Lord. The repentant thief was promised he would be in paradise the day of his death (Luke 23:43), and paradise was the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 12:4). At Christ’s transfiguration Moses and Elijah appeared in His presence talking with Him.
Are we to understand that this conversation between Christ, Moses, and Elijah took place in the upper compartment of hades where Moses at least would have been until after the death of Christ? Are we to understand then that the transfiguration of Christ took place in paradise-hades? Are we to understand that Elijah was taken at his translation to sheol/hades and not heaven? I think not; rather, the Old Testament saint went immediately to heaven to wait for the resurrection of his body at the second coming of Christ.
Simply stated universalism states that sooner or later all will be saved. The older form of universalism which originated in the second century taught that salvation would come after a temporary period of punishment. The new universalism of our day declares that all men are now saved, though all do not realize it. Therefore the job of the preacher and the missionary is to tell people that they are already saved. Though Karl Barth denied that he taught the universal reconciliation of all men, he clearly did teach the universal election of all in Christ. Others plainly state, for example, that God’s radical love pursues men until all are saved.
Conditionalism or conditional immortality defines everlasting punishment as utter extinction into oblivion forever.
Eternal destruction in such a passage as 2 Thessalonians 1:9 means, for the conditionalist, a quality of destruction, namely, extinction. “Eternal” is also understood to be a qualitative word mainly; thus, eternal fire means a fire that neither begins nor ends with the present age which gives us no clue as to what happens to those thrown into It. Concerning the parallelism between eternal punishment and eternal life in Matthew 25:41 and 46, one conditionalist says that “we must be careful in pressing the parallel between ‘eternal’ life and ‘eternal’ punishment that we do not fall into any spirit of vindictiveness or ungodly joy at the fate of the wicked” (Edward William Fudge, The Fire That Consumes [Houston: Providential Press, 1983], p. 195). No further exegesis of that passage is offered. The same author states that there is “no clear exegetical basis in Luke 16 for any conclusion concerning the end of the wicked” (p.208).
|AREA OF THEOLOGY||CENTRAL PASSAGES||THEMES IN THOSE PASSAGES|
|1 Cor. 2:10-16||Need for the Spirit’s teaching|
|Ps. 19:1-6||Revelation is worldwide and continuous|
|Rom. 1:18-32||Revelation of the wrath of God|
|Acts 14:17||The providence of God|
|Matt. 5:45||The goodness of God|
|Acts 17:28-29||God is intelligent and living|
|THE LIVING AND TRUE GOD|
|His attributes||Ps. 90:2||Eternality|
|1 John 1:7||God is light|
|1 John 4:8||God is love|
|John 4:24||God is spirit|
|His names||Gen. 1:1||Elohim|
|His triunity||Deut. 6:4||The unity and uniqueness of God|
|Isa. 48:16||Suggestion of Trinity|
|Matt. 28:18-20||Oneness (name) and threeness|
|2 Cor. 13:14||Trinitarian benediction|
|Its Inspiration||2 Tim. 3:16||Bible is God-breathed|
|2 Peter 1:21||Spirit moved human authors|
|1 Tim. 5:18||Deut. 25:4 and Luke 10:7 linked together as “Scripture”|
|2 Peter 3:16||Paul’s writings called “Scripture”|
|1 Cor. 2:13||Words of Bible are inspired|
|Its Inerrancy||Matt. 4:4||Every word came from God|
|Matt. 5:17-18||Jot and tittle|
|Matt. 22:23-33||Tense of verb is accurate|
|Matt. 22:41-46||Letters of words are accurate|
|Gal. 3:16||Singular is accurate|
|Its Canonicity||Luke 11:51||The limits of the O.T. canon|
|Its Illumination||John 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:9-3:2||The Spirit’s ministry in understanding the Bible|
|Eph. 3:10||Their ranking and organization|
|Jude 9||Michael the archangel|
|Ex. 3||Angel of Yahweh|
|Heb. 1:14||Their service|
|Ezek. 28:11-19||His creation and sin|
|Isa. 14:12-17||Details of his rebellion|
|Matt. 4:1-11||His temptation of Christ|
|John 12:31||Ruler of the world|
|Rev. 12:10||Accuser of the brethren|
|2 Cor. 4:4||Blinding unbelievers|
|Eph. 6:11-18||Armor for believers|
|Matt. 17:18; cf. Mark 9:25||Demons are unclean spirits|
|Eph. 6:12||Their ranking and organization|
|1 Tim. 4:1||Doctrines of demons|
|Matt. 25:41||Destiny in lake of fire|
|Gen. 1:26-27||His creation by God|
|Ex. 20:11||The days of Creation|
|Matt. 19:4-5||Christ and creation of man|
| 1 Thes. 5:23; Heb. 4:12;|
|Aspects of the immaterial nature of man|
|Gen. 3:1-7||Original sin|
|Gen. 3:8-24||Penalties for sin|
|Rom. 3:23; 1 John 3:4||The meaning of sin|
|Eph. 2:3||Inherited sin|
|Rom. 5:12-21||Imputation of sin|
|Heb. 7:9-10||An example of imputation|
|Rom. 3:9-18||Personal sins|
|John 8:58||His eternality|
|Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:35||His Virgin Birth|
|John 1:14||His Incarnation|
|John 1:1; 10:30||His Deity|
|Luke 2:52; Gal. 4:4||His humanity|
|Phil. 2:7||His kenosis|
|John 8:29; 1 Peter 2:21||His sinlessness|
|Heb. 4:15||His impeccability|
|Matt. 28:6||His resurrection|
|Acts 1:9-11||His ascension|
|1 Peter 2:8||Preterition|
|The Death of Christ||Mark 10:45||Substitution|
|1 Peter 1:18||Redemption|
|2 Cor. 5:18-21||Reconciliation|
|1 John 2:2||Propitiation|
|The Plan of God in Salvation||Matt. 11:28||General call|
|Rom. 8:30||Effective call|
|John 16:8-11||Conviction of the Spirit|
|2 Cor. 3:7-11||End of the Law|
|Rom. 6:1-4||Union with Christ|
|Assurance Security||1 John 5:10-13||Based on the Scripture|
|Rom. 8:31-39||Because of the love of God|
|Eph. 4:30||Because of the Spirit’s seal|
|Extent of the Atonement||2 Peter 2:1||Ransom paid for all people|
|2 Cor. 5:19||Reconciliation for the world|
|1 John 2:2||Propitiation for all|
|THE HOLY SPIRIT|
|John 16:24; 1 Cor. 2:10-11||His personality|
|Acts 5:3-4||His Deity|
|John 14:17||Contrast between O.T. and N.T. ministry of the Spirit|
|Matt. 12:22-37||Blasphemy against the Spirit|
|Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 6:19||Indwelling|
|1 John 2:20, 27||Anointing|
|1 Cor. 12:13||Baptism into the body|
|1 Cor. 12:7-11||Gifts of the Spirit|
|Gal. 5:22-23||Fruit of the Spirit|
|Acts 19:39, 41||A nonreligious assembly|
|Acts 7:38||Israel as an assembly|
|Eph. 1:22-23||Church, the body of Christ|
|Rom. 16:5||Church in a house|
|1 Cor. 1:2||Church in a city|
|Acts 9:31; 1 Cor. 15:9||Church in a region|
|1 Tim. 3:1-13||Qualifications for elders and deacons|
|Titus 1:7-9||Qualifications for elders|
|Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 12-14||Activities of the church|
|Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:6-8||Discipline by the church|
|Postmillennialism||Dan. 2:35, 44||Stone fills the whole earth|
|Premillennialism||Rev. 20:1-7||1,000 years mentioned 6 times|
|Gen. 15:9-17||Ratification of unconditional covenant with Abraham|
|2 Sam. 7:12-16||Covenant with David|
|1 Thes. 4:13-18||The Rapture|
|Pretribulationalism||Rev. 3:10||Kept from the hour|
|1 Thes. 5:1-11||Kept from the wrath|
|Against Partial Rapture||1 Cor. 15:51-52||All will be changed|
|The Millennium||Rev. 19:15||Christ the ruler|
|Isa. 2:1-4||Jerusalem the capital|
|The Judgments||1 Cor. 3:10-15||Of believers|
|Ezek. 20:34-38||Of Jewish survivors of the Tribulation|
|Matt. 25:31-46||Of Gentile survivors of the Tribulation|
|Rev. 20:11-15||Of unbelievers at the Great White Throne|
|Matt. 25:46; 2 Thes. 1:8-9||Punishment is eternal|