Has the New Testament Replaced the Old? A New Look at 2 Corinthians 3

If a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, what about when the Bible is being divided against itself?  Will it stand?  There’s more and more ministers, Bible teachers and evangelists who are teaching that the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament.  But does the Bible really present two separate revelations, or is it that Christians don’t understand how the New Testament is really still part of the Old Testament?

THE BIBLE – ONE OR TWO REVELATIONS?

The argument that the Bible contains two separate revelations from God has been a part of Christianity almost since its very beginning.  The seed for the Two-Revelation argument was planted when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in 70 C.E. The Christians (Gentile or non-Jewish branch of the early church) interpreted this as God turning His back on Israel and the Jewish people, including the Jewish disciples of Jesus, who were called “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5), or who identified themselves as “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 24:14).

As time went on, more and more Christians began to identify themselves as “the New Israel,” “the New People of God,” and to reinforce this idea, they also taught that “the New Testament” (representing the church) had replaced “the Old Testament” (representing Israel). This belief system became known as “Supersessionism” or “Replacement Theology.”  This doctrine of “Supersessionism” still continues in some branches and expressions of Christianity; however, there are many Protestant denominations who have rejected the idea that the Church has replaced Israel, but most of them still retain the idea that the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament.

OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT – NOT THE BIBLICAL BOOKS?

There’s a wide misconception within the church about what constitutes the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.”  This misconception is the result, I believe, in the same two names being given by men to the two main portions of the Bible.  God never gave these two titles to the books within His Scriptures.  For example, neither God nor any biblical writer ever uses the term “Old Testament” to refer to the first thirty-nine books of the Bible, nor do they ever use the term “New Testament” to refer to the last twenty-seven books of the Bible.  But in the church today, it’s important that we understand this, because there are ministers, Bible teachers and evangelists who are using this misunderstanding to exclude more and more of our Bible from us.

For instance, less than ten years ago, I was listening to a well-known TV pastor and evangelist, and I just could not believe what he told his congregation and TV audience in his sermon:

The life and teachings of Jesus were part of the Old Testament, and since we, as Christians, are not under the Old Testament, then we are not under the teachings of Jesus either. All that’s relevant for us, as Christians, today is from the cross on, and that’s all.

The scary thing to me is that he is not the only one teaching this.  I have found this same idea being taught by more and more ministers, Bible teachers and evangelists.  But can you imagine the audacity of any minister saying that the Lord’s life and teachings were not for Christians?  This means “the Beatitudes,” “the Lord’s Prayer,” the parables of “the Good Samaritan,” “the Prodigal Son,” as well as His standards for discipleship, among all His other teachings are not for Christians today.

And not only is he teaching that we are not under Jesus’ life and ministry, but he doesn’t even realize that the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” do not refer to the books within our Bibles.  How can he accurately teach his congregation the Bible when he apparently doesn’t even understand something as basic as this?

And what’s even more frightening is that I’ve heard ministers and Bible teachers claiming that the book of Acts is “a transitional book,” meaning that God’s focus and teachings, they say, transition away from the people of Israel (first part of the book) to the Gentile (non-Jewish) world (second part of the book).   And when you compare this teaching to the previous one, then it seems logical to conclude that they are both attempting to justify the elimination of even more Scripture from us as Christians: first, the Old Testament; then, the life and teachings of Jesus, and more recently, the first part of the book of Acts.   As a result, my question is, “What other portions of the New Testament will they eliminate next?”

WHAT IS THE “OLD TESTAMENT”?

So let’s unravel this theological mess.  But before we can correctly understand what the Bible means by the “New Testament,” we must first accurately understand the “Old Testament.”  This phrase, “Old Testament” [Gk. palais diatheke] is only found in one verse in the whole Bible: 2 Corinthians 3:14.  It’s not found anywhere else.

But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the OLD TESTAMENT; which veil is done away in Christ.

If we place this verse back into context of the chapter, then what we see Paul contrasting are the writing of God’s law “on the tables of stone” and His law “written in our hearts.”  In all the Bible, there’s only one law that’s been written on “tables of stone”: the Ten Commandments.

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men; forasmuch as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God NOT IN TABLES OF STONES, but IN THE FLESHY TABLES OF THE HEART.  (2 Corinthians 3:2-3; Emphasis Mine)

But if the ministration of death, WRITTEN AND ENGRAVEN IN STONES, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?  (2 Corinthians 3:7-8; Emphasis Mine)

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished; but their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the OLD TESTAMENT; which veil is done away in Christ.  But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. (2 Corinthians 3:13-15; Emphasis Mine)

Clearly, then, the phrase “OLD TESTAMENT” refers to the TEN COMMANDMENTS, and not to anything else in the “Old Testament” Scriptures.   And when we look at the five books of Moses, there are narratives, genealogies, and also commandments, statutes, testimonies, and judgments.  But the Ten Commandments are what is referred to as “the words of the covenant”:

And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water.  And he wrote upon the tables THE WORDS OF THE COVENANT, the TEN COMMANDMENTS. (Exodus 34:28; Emphasis Mine)

And He declared unto you His COVENANT, which He commanded you to perform, even TEN COMMANDMENTS; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone. (Deuteronomy 4:13; Emphasis Mine)

And the LORD delivered to me TWO TABLES OF STONE written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spoke with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.  And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the TWO TABLES OF STONE, even the TABLES OF THE COVENANT. (Deuteronomy 9:10-11; Emphasis Mine)

So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the TWO TABLES OF THE COVENANT were in my two hands. (Deuteronomy 9:15; Emphasis Mine)

Consider these unique features of the TEN COMMANDMENTS:

  • They were the only commandments spoken audibly by God to the nation of Israel as a whole;
  • After God audibly gives the Ten Commandments to His people, Moses goes up the Mt. Sinai, where God adds to the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:22-23:33, where Moses then writes everything down, Exodus 20:1 – 23:33 down in a book.  He then reads the book to the nation of Israel, and Moses calls it “the book of the covenant” (Exodus 24:7);
  • The children of Israel offer burnt offerings and peace offerings of oxen.  Moses takes half the blood and puts in on the altar, and then the other half, he places it in basins, and Moses takes the blood and he sprinkles it on the people, saying, “Behold, the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you” (Exodus 24:8);
  • Afterwards, Moses, Aaron, Nadag, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel had a covenant meal with God, in which all of them saw God (Exodus 24:9-11); and
  • They were the only commandments that were written by the finger of God on two tablets of stone.

This only happened once in all of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings.  It did not happen with any of the other instructions, commandments and laws that God gave to Moses, making this portion of Scripture in all of the Bible unique since God has never again spoken His Word audibly for an entire nation of people to hear at once.

And that the “OLD TESTAMENT” [GK.  palais diatheke] is the TEN COMMANDMENTS is reinforced even more when we go back and look at the event in Exodus 34 that Paul is alluding to in 2 Corinthians 3:

And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses knew not the skin on his face shone while he talked with Him.  And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.  And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation return to him: and Moses talked with them.  And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.

And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.  But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out.  And he came out, and spoke unto the children of Israel that which He commanded.  And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.  (Exodus 34:29-35)

What does Paul mean when he writes, “for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the OLD TESTAMENT [the TEN COMMANDMENTS]; which veil is done away in Christ.  But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart” (2 Corinthians 3:14-15)?  What is “the veil”?  The veil was worn because the people were afraid of the Presence of God on Moses’ face, which came from his times of interactions with God.

So when he says that this “same veil remains untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament” is he saying that they are still afraid of the Presence of God?  Is he saying that his people, the Jews, are still using Moses as a mediator between them and God?  He then says that this “veil is done away in Christ”?  Is this because when they accept Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) as Lord and Savior, the Presence of God comes to live within them?  Is this what he is saying?  But then he concludes by saying that “even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart”?  Is this in reference to all of the five books of Moses, or is this still in reference to only the Ten Commandments?

As you can see, when we start comparing Exodus 34 and 2 Corinthians 3, there are many questions that we can ask and wonder about.  I really don’t think that the point that Paul is making with the veil is as clear as it could’ve been.  It still leaves a lot of questions.

Also, in this chapter,  Paul sees the “Ten Commandments” as “the ministration of death,” because when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the two tablets, the people were worshiping the golden calf, and as a result, three thousand people were killed (Exodus 32:26-28).

SO WHAT IS THE “NEW TESTAMENT”?

So if the “OLD TESTAMENT” is the “TEN COMMANDMENTS” written on “TABLES OF STONE,” then what is the “NEW TESTAMENT“?  If we look at 2 Corinthians 3 again, the “NEW TESTAMENT” is the same “TEN COMMANDMENTS” written on the tables of our hearts by the Spirit of the living God.

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men; forasmuch as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God NOT IN TABLES OF STONES, but IN THE FLESHY TABLES OF THE HEART.  (2 Corinthians 2:2-3; Emphasis Mine)

But in Paul’s epistle, the “NEW TESTAMENT” – the writing of the TEN COMMANDMENTS upon our hearts by the Spirit is what gives us life.

…but our sufficiency is of God; who also has made us able ministers of the NEW TESTAMENT; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter kills (3,000 died at the base of Mt. Sinai), but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)

On the day of Pentecost, the same feast in which the Ten Commandments were originally given, Jesus’ disciples were in the Upper Room, all in one accord, when the Holy Spirit fell on them as “tongues of fire,” and they began to speak in tongues as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  And at the end of Peter’s Sermon that followed, 3,000 people were saved or “made alive.”  Therefore, as Paul says, the Spirit gives life.

Therefore, the “OLD COVENANT,” the Ten Commandments written in tables of stone brought death; whereas the “NEW COVENANT,” the Ten Commandments written upon the heart by the Spirit of God brought life.

In the OLD COVENANT, the Ten Commandments written on tables of stone were an external motivator and, therefore, a “HAVE TO,” but the NEW COVENANT, the Ten Commandments written on the heart becomes an inner motivator and, therefore, a “WANT TO.”

And it is this system of using the Ten Commandments as an external motivator, a “Have To,” that has been done away with in Messiah, because once the Holy Spirit writes the Ten Commandments upon our hearts, then it becomes an inner motivator, a “Want To.”  The old system has been done away, and this new system of having the covenant, “the Ten Commandments,” written on our hearts has come.

So did the “New Testament” replace the “Old Testament”?  Yes, but not in the sense that most Christians believe that it has.

WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES?

The five scrolls of Moses, as well as the rest of the scrolls that made up the Hebrew Scriptures,  were learned the same way they are today: by us reading and studying them.  These scrolls were never written on tablets of stone, so therefore, they are not written upon our heart when we get saved.  Instead, we have to read and study God’s word, and as we “meditate” upon it, rehearse it over and over again within our minds, then its written on our hearts and minds, and we experience the transforming power of God’s word:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And BE NOT CONFORMED to this world; but BE TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:1-2; Emphasis Mine)

 

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“HAS PAUL REPLACED JESUS AS HEAD OF THE CHURCH?”

IS PAUL NOW THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH?  According to a growing number of Christians, pastors, ministers, and Bible teachers, this is the case. Not only do these “Christians” believe that they are to follow the leadership of Paul, instead of Jesus, but they also believe that Paul’s gospel is the one that saves, and not the gospel proclaimed and taught by Jesus Himself!  But how could people so distort and pervert the Bible that they’ve ended up excommunicated Jesus and His gospel from His own church?

This deception and error is predicated on three basic building blocks: (1) the cross is the dividing line between the Old and New Testament; (2) Christians are not under the Old Testament; and since (3) Jesus’ life and ministry is under the Old Testament, Christians are not under Jesus’ life and teachings.  As I am going to show, each of these three building blocks is a direct contradiction to the teachings of the Bible.

THE CROSS – THE GREAT DIVIDING LINE?

First of all, it is commonly being taught that the cross is the great dividing line between the Old and New Testament; however, this is NOT true.  Jesus clearly taught that the end of the Old Testament was JOHN THE BAPTIST, NOT THE CROSS:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.  For ALL THE PROPHETS AND THE LAW PROPHESIED UNTIL JOHN.  (Matthew 11:12-13; Emphasis Mine)

THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS WERE UNTIL JOHN: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it.   (Luke 16:16; Emphasis Mine)

In both of these passages, Jesus makes it clear that the PROPHETIC ASPECT of the Old Testament ended with John the Baptist, he being THE LAST OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET, but the Old Testament itself has NOT ended!  It did NOT end with the cross! What many Christians don’t understand is that the word “New” in “New Testament” or “New Covenant” means “to renew” – NOT “to replace.”  And if you actually go back and read the prophecy of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34, what God changes is NOT the covenant, but the LOCATION of the covenant, and by doing so, He changes us!  Since the problem was not with the covenant – but with us!

The Old Testament could NOT have ended at the cross, because not everything in the Old Testament has been fulfilled.  There’s a great many prophecies that still await fulfillment, including the final restoration of Israel and the rule and reign of Messiah on the Davidic throne.  In fact, there are 800 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, and Jesus fulfilled 300 of those in His first coming; therefore, there are still 500 Messianic prophecies left to be fulfilled when He returns.  So if there are that many Messianic prophecies left to be fulfilled, how could the Old Testament have ended at the cross?

In fact, there are more prophecies and information given in the Old Testament regarding the last days, including those ahead for us than there are in the New Testament.  Also, there’s still yet to come another covenant, according to the prophets, called “the Covenant of Peace” (Ezekiel 34:23-31; Ezekiel 37:15-28), which does not deal with changing people’s hearts, moving the location of the covenant, or the forgiveness of sins as is in the New Covenant/Testament (Jeremiah 31:31-34); instead, it deals with the final restoration of Israel, physical peace, safety and security, and God’s blessings, not at all the same issues.  The “Covenant of Peace” is a perfect covenant for the 1,000 year Millennial reign of Messiah!  All of which is still future, so again, how could the Old Testament have ended at the cross?

Their assumption that it did is based on two erroneous interpretations:

  1.  JESUS SAID, “IT IS FINISHED!” Many Christians think that this statement and the one made in the Sermon on the Mount, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED” (Matthew 5:17; Emphasis Mine] are connected.  Many conclude that since Jesus said the Law and the Prophets would continue until “ALL BE FULFILLED,” and on the cross, He said, “IT IS FINISHED!” Then the Law and the Prophets are now over.  However, this is NOT the case.   These are two different statements made in two different contexts and are NOT interlinked.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that not one single jot or tittle will pass from the Law or the prophets UNTIL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY.  Why?  Because the HEAVEN AND EARTH are the two witnesses that God called to witness the covenant that He made with Israel at Mt. Sinai (Deuteronomy 4:26-31; 30:19).  So as long as the two witnesses exist, God cannot delete anything from His Word, because the moment He does, then HEAVEN AND EARTH, the two witnesses will bear witness against God Himself!   Therefore, when HEAVEN AND EARTH pass away (Revelation 21), as Jesus says, THEN God will be able to delete material from His covenants, but NOT until then!

2.  THE TEARING OF THE TEMPLE VEIL.  Because the Temple veil is torn after Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” Christians have been taught to believe that His death brought an end to the Law and the Old Testament; however, this belief is based on a logical fallacy, called “Post Hoc Ergo Proctor Hoc” (Latin, “After this, therefore because of this”).   This fallacy happens when people believe that just because two events happen together in time that the one event caused the other.  This is, in fact, where many of our superstitions came from, e.g., a mirror breaks and then someone has a bad day; therefore, they conclude that breaking a mirror will bring bad luck.  It’s the same type of logical conclusion.  But as I have previously proven in another article that throughout the Scriptures, the tearing of cloth is an act of mourning.  God had just witnessed the torture and death of His own beloved Son, and in response, God did what any normal loving Jewish father would’ve done in that situation, He took the cloth over His heart – the Temple veil – and He tore it from top to bottom to mourn the death of His Son, and by doing so, He also identified Jesus as His Son (see article: “Why did God Tear the Temple Veil in Half?  Not for the Reason You Think“).

CHRISTIANS ARE NOT UNDER THE OLD TESTAMENT?

Christians are just a “New Testament” name for Gentile (or non-Jewish) believers in God and in His chosen Anointed One (or Messiah).  Because Christians don’t take the time to study the Old Testament, what they don’t realize is that everything in the New Testament ties in to God’s promise of Israel’s Restoration.  In fact, in the book of Isaiah, God gives Jesus, the Messiah, His “mission statement”:

It is a light thing that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the Gentiles, that You may be My salvation unto the end of the earth.  (Isaiah 49:6)

Did you notice that there are three parts to this:

  • To raise up the tribes of Jacob;
  • To restore the preserved of Israel; and
  • To be a light to the Gentiles.

Why?  So that He, the Messiah, “may be My salvation unto the end of the earth.”  This would include finding and restoring the descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel; restoring those from the southern Kingdom of Judah (the “Jews”); and also being the light of salvation to us who are Gentiles (non-Jews).  We see this also in Isaiah 42:6-7,

I the LORD have called You in righteousness,  and will hold your hand, and will keep You, and give You for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

This is what the new covenant is really all about.

ABOUT THE EKKLESIA – ISRAEL?

Did you know that throughout the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Israel is referred to as the Ekklesia, or what is translated in the New Testament as “church.”  That’s right, the Ekklesia did not begin in the upper room in Acts 2, but in Exodus 12, with the first Passover.  And where do we see Jesus first use the word Ekklesia or “church”?  Yes, in Philippi, Caesara, right before Jesus and His disciples were going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.   In fact, in the King James Version, we read as part of Stephen’s defense the following:

This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the LORD God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me [Moses]: Him shall you hear. [Deuteronomy 18:3-4]  This is he, that was in THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us. (Acts 7:37-38)

If the Church was not born until Acts 2, then how was Moses in “the Church” in the wilderness?  The church, like grace, was not a New Testament revelation, but Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom, to bring Israel back to Kingdom and away from religion, to initiate the new covenant and the process of Israel’s restoration, to deal with the sin issue by His death and resurrection, and to keep His promise to Abraham by dying on Passover.  This is why Jesus came, not to begin a “new entity” called “the church.”

Consequently, what Christians have called “the church age” is really God reaching into the nations and working to restore back to Himself three groups of people: (1) those from the Northern Kingdom; (2) those from the Southern Kingdom (Jews); and those of us from the nations, or Gentiles (non-Jews).  The alleged “church age” is really been about Jesus fulfilling His mission statement given in Isaiah 49:6.

THE NEW COVENANT – ISRAEL’S RESTORATION

Throughout the Old Testament, we find almost as many Gentile (or non-Jewish) believers in it as we do in the New Testament.  In fact, all of God’s covenants were open to Jew and non-Jew, but all of them were specifically given to Israel, including the New Testament:

Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL and THE HOUSE OF JUDAH.  (Jeremiah 31:31; Emphasis Mine)

Where in those words do you see that the LORD would “make a new covenant with the world”?  I don’t see those words anywhere here at all.  And who are “THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL” and “THE HOUSE OF JUDAH“?  The “House of Israel” is the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the “House of Judah” is the southern Kingdom of Judah.  After Solomon died, during his son’s Rehoboam’s reign, the Kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.

But in the writings of the prophets, God promised one day that He would restore these two kingdoms together again into one Kingdom under one King, Messiah.  For example:

Thus says the LORD God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, wherever they’ve gone, and I will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:  And I will make them ONE NATION in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and ONE KING shall be king to them all; and they shall be NO MORE TWO NATIONS, neither shall they be divided into TWO KINGDOMS any more at all:…but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be My people, and I will be their God.  And David my servant [an image of Messiah] shall be king over them; and they all shall have ONE SHEPHERD; and they shall also walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them.  (Ezekiel 37:21-22, 23b, 24; Emphasis Mine)

I believe that this lies at the heart of the “gospel of the Kingdom” preached by John the Baptist, Jesus and His 82 disciples (the 12 plus the 70, see Luke 10:1, 17) preached in Israel for 3 1/2 years.  The new covenant was what God said He would use to bring His people back to Him and to bring about this re-unification of the two kingdoms.  This re-unification would not happen all at once, but over a long period of time.  Also notice, God says that when the two kingdoms are brought back under ONE KING, ONE SHEPHERD, that they would “walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them.”  Therefore, how does the new covenant replace God’s law, when it’s supposed to change our hearts so that we will keep God’s laws?

Jesus died to deal with our sin issue, to pay the penalty for our sins, to free us from the law of sin and death, but also, His death would provide the means for this re-unification of these two kingdoms to happen.  His death is, indeed, part of enacting the new covenant; and thereby, begin the process of Israel’s restoration.  This whole division between the Old and the New, and seeing it as a whole new and different program from the Old Testament, are all man-made creations.  They are not based on a whole Bible approach, but in separating the New Testament away from the rest of the Bible.

ALL COVENANTS ARE GIVEN TO ISRAEL

Paul writes in his letter to the church at Rome:

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:3-5)

Paul clearly says here, “the covenants” were given to the Israelites; this includes “the law,” “the service of God,” “the promises,” and ultimately “Christ” as well.  So where do we get the unbiblical idea that “the Old Testament was for the Jews, but the New Testament is for everyone”?  It’s just another man-made myth.

From Adam and Eve, up through to Abram and Sarah, there were no other people but Gentiles [non-Jews], but it is in the life of Abram, where we begin to see this change.  And it is not until God renames and re-creates Jacob into Israel, that Israel comes into existence, and from that moment, Jacob’s descendants became known as “Israelites,” or “the children of Israel.”  And it’s not until the Babylonian Exile, that those taken captive from the Southern Kingdom of Judah are first called “Jews.”

But throughout this history, Gentiles (or non-Jews) were able to also participate in the covenants with Abraham, with Moses and the children of Israel.  In fact, we find Gentiles (non-Jews) in and through the Old Testament, like Rahab, Ruth, Doeg, and many others, and just like the Old Testament, Gentiles (non-Jews) are allowed to participate with Israel in the new covenant as well.  Therefore, this is why I hold to the firm belief that the whole Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, is for all people for all time.

WE ARE ALL STILL PART OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT

Since the Old Testament did not end at the cross and is still continuing until the time period of the New Heavens and the New Earth, then obviously, we are still in the time frame of the Old Testament.  Part of our problem is that instead of seeing the Bible as one continuous revelation, we’ve been taught to split it into two parts, which we have entitled “Old Testament” and “New Testament.”  But in truth, if we study the Scriptures, the point of the new covenant is to change the heart of people so that they will walk in obedience to the commandments God gave to Moses.  For example,

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live…And you shall return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all His commandments which I command you this day.  (Deuteronomy 30:6, 8)

After those days, says the LORD, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them.  (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

The point of the new covenant was NEVER to do away with God’s law or the Old Testament as a whole.  Instead, God is saying with the new covenant that He was going to do something to “renew” and/or “refresh” our experience with it.  This would be accomplished by God giving us “a new heart,” “a new spirit,” and Him putting His own Spirit in us,” transforming our lives, and empowering us “to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them.”

In fact, we could compare the Old Testament to an original computer program, and the New Testament to its most recent update.  If you operate without the update, you miss out on the new features for the program, but if you try to operate only the update, the program will either not run or not run properly.  To have the program run the way the manufacturer desires, you need to run both the original program and the update together: the Old and New Testament as ONE REVELATION, not two.

Obviously, then, as I’ve shown, all three of the building blocks that have led people to believe that the Old Testament has ended, that Christians are not under the Old Testament, and that Jesus’s life and ministry is under the Old Testament, so therefore, Christians are not under the life and teachings of Jesus are all man-made myths based on misinterpretations and misunderstandings, due to people basing things on only what they see in the New Testament, instead of the whole Bible.

THE PROMISE OF A NEW DAY

What we need to look forward to is the return of Jesus and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth.  There is, indeed, a new Kingdom and a new day coming!  In Isaiah 60, God gives the city of Jerusalem, Israel, this promise about its coming glory:

Arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen on you.  For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon you, and His glory shall be seen on you.  And the Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising….

And the sons of strangers [non-Jews] shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister unto you: for in My wrath I smote you, but in My favor have I had mercy on you.  Therefore your gates shall be open continually: they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto you the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought.  For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; yes, those nations shall be utterly wasted.

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, wasting nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.  The sun shall be no more your light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light to you: but the LORD shall be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory.  The sun shall no more go down; neither shall the moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.  (Isaiah 60:1-3, 10-12, 18-20)

What a wondrous day that will be!  Amen.

 

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The Pre-Trib Rapture: Did Jesus Ever Teach This Doctrine?

Did Jesus ever teach His disciples that He would come and remove them from the earth before the Great Tribulation happens?  If you listen to many ministers and evangelists, as well as watch such movie series as Thief in the Night or Left Behind, you would think that this teaching is all through the New Testament.  However, the problem is that Jesus never taught this doctrine; in fact, He taught the exact opposite.

WHAT IS THE “PRE-TRIB RAPTURE”?

According to Christian teaching, there’s coming a 7-year time period known as “the Tribulation,” in which Anti-Christ shall rule over the world, Christians shall be tortured and killed for their faith, the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the earth, culminating with Armeggedon, a thermonuclear World War III, and the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.  The “Pre-Trib (short for Pre-Tribulation) Rapture” doctrine is that there are two comings of Jesus Christ, a secret coming for only His true believers BEFORE this seven-year tribulation period, and His second coming which will occur at the end of the tribulation period.

MY BACKGROUND & DILEMMA

I grew up in the Pentecostal movement and I was taught and believed this doctrine that the “true church” would not go through the tribulation most of my life.  I remember as a teenager going from church-to-church just so I could see another movie of the Thief in the Night series.  It was widely discussed and talked about in churches, so much so, that my fiance’ and I at the time (she’s now my wife) wondered if we would even have time to get married or to start a family.

However, both my wife and I were also taught that we should take the Bible literally for what it says unless it’s obvious that what it’s teaching should not be taken literally.  For example, when Jesus says “I am the Door,” He obviously is not a door, so His statement is not meant to be taken literally, but figuratively.  And here lies my dilemma.  After many years of study and research in the Scriptures and the early writings of the Church, I’ve had to come to the conclusion that a literal interpretation of the Bible does not support the teaching of a Pre-Trib Rapture.

AM I SAYING THERE IS NO RAPTURE?

No, I am NOT saying that.  I absolutely DO believe in the rapture.  As the Scriptures teach, I do believe that there will be a literal resurrection of believers who have died and that those of us who are alive at the time of Christ’s return will meet the Lord with them in the clouds.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:17-18)

My problem is that I cannot find textual evidence in the New testament for a “Pre-Trib or even a Mid-Trib Rapture.”  Now I’ve heard many ministers argue that when Paul writes “comfort one another with these words,” he’s telling us to comfort people with the knowledge that they will not be here for the Tribulation.   However, there’s a problem with their interpretation.

THE PROBLEM WITH THE PRE-TRIB INTERPRETATION

The problem with the mainstream interpretation of this verse is that it takes this passage completely out of context.  The context of this passage is found in verses 13-14 of this same chapter.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

In Thessalonica, there was a persecution going on at the time, and many of the believers were concerned that those who were killed as martyrs for Christ would miss out on experiencing Christ’s coming Kingdom reign.  The “comfort” Paul is encouraging them to give is that those who have died as martyrs for the faith will not miss out on the Kingdom, but will be resurrected at the time of His return, to join those who are still alive, to experience and enjoy God’s Kingdom on earth together.

Consequently, the “comfort” we are to give is the exact opposite of what’s being taught by many churches. The “comfort” is NOT that we will avoid the tribulation, but that even though we may go through persecution, or tribulation, and even die as martyrs for the faith, we will not miss out on Jesus’ future Kingdom reign here on earth.  This is just one example of many passages that are taken out of context to support the Pre-Trib Rapture position.

WHAT JESUS TAUGHT IN HIS PARABLES

If we examine Jesus’ teachings concerning the Kingdom of God in His parables, there’s no indication at all of a Pre-Trib Rapture.

The Wheat and Tares

For example, in His parable of “The wheat and Tares,” where “the wheat” represents the believers (or “the sons of the kingdom”) and “the tares” represent the unbelievers (or “the sons of the evil one”) (Matthew 13:37), the question is asked in the parable, “Do you want us, then, to go and gather them [the tares] up?”  Jesus responds,

No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them.  Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13:29-30)

If we look at this parable, we learn:

  1. The wheat and the tares will grow up together until the time of the harvest;
  2. It will be the tares – not the wheat – that will be gathered up first; and
  3. Then the wheat will be gathered up and put into the barn.

In other words, those who are in His Kingdom and those who are not will grow up together until the time of the “harvest” (i.e., Christ’s return and the resurrection of the dead), and then the unbelievers will be gathered up and separated from the believers by the angels,  and then they “will cast them [the unbelievers] into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42).

Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father;  He who has ears, let him hear.  (Matthew 13:43)

In the Pre-Trib doctrine, it is the righteous that are removed first from the earth, and then seven years later, the unbelievers are gathered up, but in this parable told by Jesus, the unrighteous is removed first shortly before (on the same day) the righteous are gathered up and brought into God’s Kingdom. Obviously, the Pre-Trib Rapture doctrine and Jesus are not in agreement with one another.

A Large Net

Let me give you another example.  In the parable of the “Large Net,” Jesus tells us this parable also about His coming:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto  a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:  Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from the among the just.  And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)

Again, in this parable, we see the same basic pattern of events:

  1. All the fish were gathered together in the same net;
  2. All the fish were drawn to shore at the same time; and
  3. the “good fish” and the “bad fish” are separated at that time.
  4. the “bad fish” are “cast away”

So again, Jesus is telling us,

  1. Everyone, righteous and unrighteous, will be gathered together at the time of the harvest (“the same net”);
  2. It will be at this time that everyone will be brought to judgment (or drawn to shore at the same time”};
  3. At this time, the righteous (“the good fish”) and the unrighteous (“the bad fish”) will be separated; and
  4. The unrighteous (“the bad fish”) will be “cast into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

So in neither one of these parables is there any indication of two separate “harvests,” but only one.   In fact, there’s no indication at all of any other return than the one where He comes to finish setting up and establishing His Kingdom here on earth.  In fact, in speaking about His return Jesus says,

For just as the lightning come from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.  (Matthew 4:27)

The Ten Virgins

In the “Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13), all ten of them are waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom.  Obviously, this cannot include the unbelievers since they are not looking for His coming.  Instead, all ten of them are people who claim to be His followers.  But five of them were wise and came prepared with extra oil; however, there were five who were foolish and did not come prepared.  Now all ten of them fell asleep.  But then, Jesus tells us,

But at midnight there was a shout, “Behold, the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!” Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.”  But the wise virgins answered, saying, “No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and but for yourselves.” (Matthew 25:6-9)

Notice, all ten virgins fell asleep, but it was those who prepared beforehand who were ready when the Bridegroom, Christ, came.  Those who did not prepare beforehand were not ready for Him, and had to leave to try and get what they needed at the last moment.  He then says,

And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and THOSE WHO WERE READY WENT IN WITH HIM to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.  And later the other virgins came, saying, “Lord, Lord, open up for us.”  But he answered and said, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”  BE ON THE ALERT THEN, FOR YOU DO NOT KNOW THE DAY NOR THE HOUR.”  (Matthew 25:10-13)

Notice that it will be those who have taken the time to PREPARE IN ADVANCE that will go in with Him when He arrives.  Those who do not take the time to prepare by studying the Scriptures and developing their relationship with Him will be left out.  They will miss it and will not be allowed to enter.  And here too, there is no second chance, even though these five foolish virgins were those who were looking for His coming before they fell asleep.

THE TIMING OF HIS COMING

We may not “know the day nor the hour,” but this does not mean we will not recognize the season.  The signs of the season we are in are all around us.  But we need to be ready, for His coming will be quick and sudden, and as we’ve seen in His parables, there’s absolutely no indication that He’s planning on coming twice.  In fact, He gives some things to look for as signs of when He is coming:

But IMMEDIATELY AFTER the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Matthew 24:29)

First of all, Jesus said that His coming will happen “IMMEDIATELY AFTER the tribulation of those days,” NOT before it.  Again, the teaching that Jesus is coming BEFORE THE TRIBULATION for Christians is in direct opposition to what Jesus actually teaches.  Although Jesus doesn’t know the “day nor the hour,” He most certainly would know if He would be coming once or twice.  Also, there will be signs in the heavens that will happen right before His coming: (1) “the sun will be darkened;” (2) “the moon will not give its light;” (3) “the stars will fall from the sky,” and (4) “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”  Such a series of events would hardly make His coming a “secret one.”

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus describes this “TRIBULATION” that will be in those days:

For those days will be a time of TRIBULATION such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created, until now, and never shall.  And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect whom He chose, He shortened the days. (Mark 13:19-20)

Jesus tells us that this TRIBULATION will be the worst ever experienced in human history.  That means that it will be worse than the days of persecution by the Apostles and the early church under Nero and Domitian, and even the death camps of the Holocaust.  Are we seriously listening to the warnings given to us by Jesus, or we ignoring His warnings, in favor of listening to the false promises of the Pre-Trib Rapture preachers and teachers?

After warning us of what those days will be like, Jesus then teaches us,

And THEN the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then ALL the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.  (Matthew 24:30)

It will be AFTER these signs happen in the sky that Jesus will come, breaking through the heavens into the sight of all the world.  His coming will not be “in secret,” but He will come for all to see.

A COMPARATIVE STUDY

In fact, if we compare the next verse with what Paul teaches in I Thessalonians, the order of events are in complete agreement:

MATTHEW 24:30-31

I THESSALONIANS 4:16-17

And then the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. For the LORD Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the TRUMPET of God; and the DEAD IN CHRIST shall rise first.
And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and they will GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT from the four winds, from one end of the sky to another.  [Emphasis Mine] THEN WE WHO ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the LORD in the air, and thus we shall always be with the LORD. [Emphasis Mine]

Jesus and Paul here are describing the same event.  However, Paul is adding to our information about it, but these are NOT two different comings, but the same one.  In both descriptions, Jesus appears in the sky, a great trumpet is blown, and then “His elect” are gathered together: first those who were dead, and then those of us who remain.

We see these same series of events in Jesus’ teaching in both Mark and Luke:

MARK 13:24-27 LUKE 21:25-27
But in those days, AFTER THAT TRIBULATION, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in heaven will be shaken, and then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth, to the farthest end of heaven. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

What I find interesting here is that although Mark provides us with the same details as Matthew, Luke summarizes it all.  Like Matthew, Mark tells us that these events will come AFTER the tribulation, but then describes the phenomenon in the heavens which will precede the Lord’s coming.  Luke summarizes this phenomenon and also says that the Lord’s coming will happen after this occurs.

THE ONLY THREE RESURRECTIONS IN REVELATION

Even in the book of Revelation, written in 100 A.D., by the Apostle John, there are only three resurrections mentioned.  There’s the resurrection of the two witnesses during the seven-year tribulation (Revelation 11:3-12), and then there’s the resurrection for the believers at the end of the Tribulation for the Millennium (Revelation 20:4-6), and then a resurrection for the unbelievers after the millennium for the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:12-15).

THE DIDACHE‘S VIEW OF THE LAST DAYS

The early church did NOT believe in two comings, one in “secret” and one in public, even 100 years after the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We can see this in one of the oldest Christian writings outside of the New Testament, called the Didache (pron. “Did-uh-kay“), also called “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles,” dated to have been written from between 75 – 150 A.D.   These were teachings were given and taught among the Gentile Christians of the time, and it ends by describing the events of the last days and the coming of Christ.  I am not trying to say that this writing was “divinely inspired,” but it does tell us how believers who lived during and after the time of the Apostles understood their teachings regarding these same events.  But in this writing, there’s a warning prior to the discussion of the actual events.

“Watch” over your life: “do not let your lamps go out, and do not be unprepared, but be ready, for you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming.” Gather together frequently, seeking the things that benefit your souls, for all the time you have believed will be of no use to you if you are not found perfect in the last time. (qtd. in Trans. Lightfoot and Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., 157-158)

However, when looking at this, what comes to mind for me is how completely different the attitude and beliefs this gives than what many Christians believe today.  For example, many Christians believe in “eternal salvation,” or “once you’re saved, you’re always saved;” however, these believers did not believe that.  They believed that we needed to “watch” or guard our lives, so that “our lamps did not go out.”  This implies, of course, a belief that they could, in fact, “go out,” leaving one in darkness.  Also, instead of meeting together more frequently as we see the day of His return “drawing near,” as is taught here and in Hebrew 10:25, we are meeting less frequently, the exact opposite.

This passage then continues by describing what the last days will be like:

For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will abound, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate.  For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another.  And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and “will perform signs and wonders,” and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before.  (158)

I definitely believe that we are here in the last days when “the false prophets and corrupters will abound.”  They are everywhere we look, both inside and outside of our churches.  In fact, I have seen a multiplication of Scriptural errors and deceptions being taught among Christians than when I was a child.  And as a result, many people who were once “sheep” [true believers] have been “turned into wolves” [false believers], and have left the true faith “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

In addition, “lawlessness,” or iniquity, “continues to increase,” and how many times have we seen Christians “hate and persecute and betray one another”?  Yes, we are here.  And what’s next?  The coming of the Anti-Christ, “the deceiver of the world,” who will “appear as a son of God” and will (1) “perform signs and wonders;” (2) will have “the earth… delivered into his hands;” and (3) “will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before.”

Yes, as these very early believers understood, we will be here for the days of the Anti-Christ and his deceptive lies.  Are we preparing?  Are we getting into the Word so that we will be able to discern the “truth of God” from the lies of the enemy? According to statistics, the answer to that question is “No, we are not.  Instead, again, we are doing the exact opposite.  The biblical illiteracy rate within the church is at a “crisis level,” making them prime candidates for the lies of the Enemy when he comes.  And then it describes the final last days:

Then all humankind will come to the fiery test, and “many will fall away” and perish; but “those who endure” in their faith “will be saved” by the accursed one himself [a reference to Christ].  And “then there will appear the signs” of the truth: first the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of the sound of a trumpet, and third, the resurrection of the dead – but not all; rather, as it has been said, “The Lord will come, and all his saints with him.” Then the world “will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.”  (qtd. in Trans. Lightfoot and Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., 158)

As we can see, these mid-first century to mid-second century believers did not understand Jesus or His Apostles to teach that there was going to be two comings, but only ONE, and that they would be here to suffer persecution, “the fiery test,” of the great tribulation, but that only “those who endure” in their faith “will be saved.”  How very different is this view from many of those who preach and teach today.

LIKE THE DAYS OF NOAH

In addition, Jesus taught that His coming would be “like the days of Noah,”

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark.  And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man.  (Matthew 24:38-39)

Just prior to the flood, life went on just as it always had.  Besides the preaching of Noah, there was no indication that the lives of all the people on the planet were in jeopardy.  Instead, they continued their jobs, getting married, having children, raising their crops, going to the store and paying bills.  It wasn’t until the flood came, that they realized they were about to die.  But at the same time, there was no second chances for these people.  The flood came once, and that was it.  If they were not in the Ark, their lives were lost.

LIKE IN THE DAYS OF LOT

In Luke’s Gospel, Luke records a second example of this same point, not included in Matthew’s Gospel.

It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.  (Luke 17:28-30)

Again, we see the same point being made.  There’s absolutely no indication in the lives of these people that there was anything different on that day than they had lived any other day.  On the same day that Lot and his family was removed from the city, all of the people of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.  Again, there was no warning to the people that they were about to be destroyed, and they had no second chance.

A QUESTION OF IMMINENCE

Jesus tells us that “of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”  So although no one but the Father knows when Jesus will return, Jesus teaches that we are to “keep on the alert” (Mark 13:33).  Jesus couldn’t tell us when to expect Him, because He didn’t know, so all He could tell us is that we needed to be ready and on the alert.

Therefore, be on the alert – for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cock-crowing, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: “Be on the alert!” (Mark 13:35-37)

Now just because Jesus warned us to be on the alert, does that mean He could come anytime?  Actually, no.  The Father has an appointed time for His Son’s return, and it won’t happen before that day, nor will it happen after that day.  But since we do not know what day, month, and year the Father has chosen, we are to remain ready and always be on the alert.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, the deception of the Pre-Trib Rapture is that it gives people the false belief that if they don’t make the rapture, they still have a second chance to get their lives right before the Lord comes back seven years later.  But please understand that this completely violates the comparison that Jesus makes here with Noah and with Lot, not to mention Jesus’ other teachings regarding His return.  Jesus says that people will NOT have a second chance, and that many of those who will not be prepared for His coming will be destroyed; whereas, those who preach a “Pre-Trib Rapture” claim, in contrast to this, that people will have “a second chance.”

Christians need to be preparing themselves for the coming of the Anti-Christ and the coming persecution.  We need to be reading and studying our Bibles and memorizing as much Scripture as possible, so that when our Bibles will be taken away, we will be able to endure.  If we don’t prepare, what will we have to draw upon during those dark days ahead?  How can the Holy Spirit remind us of Scriptures that we have not even studied?  In consideration of the evidence, I think the question you really need to stop and consider is the following:  “Who am I going to believe, Jesus or the Pre-Trib teachers?”

 

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In Mary’s Defense: Proof the Genealogy in Matthew is Her’s

How is it that one genealogy has provoked over 1,900 years of discussion?  And yet Matthew began his gospel with an intended purpose: to not only defend Mary’s character and honor, but to set the record straight regarding the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ conception and birth.  Why was this necessary?  Because there were many rumors and “stories” circulating on what people thought happened.  And even today, when an unmarried woman becomes pregnant, there are rumors and “stories” about what had happened.

A HISTORICAL CONTROVERSY

Now before getting into the evidence, there’s been a long-standing argument between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity.  The Western Branch, comprised of Roman Catholics and Protestant denominations, have traditionally argued that the New Testament was originally written in Greek; however, the Eastern Branch, comprised of the various Orthodox denominations (Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc.), have traditionally argued that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic.  And both sides claim to have the original New Testament – the West with the Greek New Testament and the East with the Aramaic New Testament, called the Peshitta, and both sides having evidence to support their position.  And as I will show, this controversy is an important foundation in exploring the evidence.

THE TESTIMONY OF THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS

However, when we look at the history and writings of the early Church Fathers, we discover that the testimony of FOUR of them is that the gospel of Matthew was, in fact, written in Hebrew and then later translated into Greek.  In Eusebius’ history, he quotes the writings of all four of them –

PAPIAS (60-163 C.E.)
Of Matthew he had stated as follows: “Matthew composed his history in the Hebrew dialect, and everyone translated it as he was able.” (Book 3, Chapter 39:16, page 106)

IRENAEUS (130-202 C.E.)
Matthew, indeed, produced his gospel written among the Hebrews in their own dialect.  (Book 5, Chapter 8:2, page 164)

CLEMENT (150-215 C.E.)
Matthew also having first proclaimed the gospel in Hebrew, when on the point of going also to other nations, committed it to writing in his native tongue and thus supplied the want of his presence to them by his writings
. (Book 3, Chapter 24:6, page 89)

 ORIGEN (184-253 C.E.)
The first [gospel] us written according to Matthew, the same that was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, who having published it for the Jewish converts, wrote it in the Hebrew.  (Book 6, Chapter 25:4, page 215)

Also, Irenaeus (130-202 C.E.) wrote in his writing Against Heresies,

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Book 3, Chapter 1:1).

But in spite of the clear testimony of these early Church Fathers, going back to Papias, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and lived about the time the synoptic gospels are believed to have been written, the dominant opinion of those in the Western branch of Christianity is that the Gospels, including Matthew, was originally written in Greek.

However, Papias would’ve known about the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, because according to Eusebius, the Apostle John himself had read all three of these gospels and had given “his testimony to their truth,” but there were things which he said they had left out “of the things done by Christ among the first of his deeds and at the commencement of the gospel” (Book 3, Chapter 24:7, page 89), so he sought to “fill in the missing materials,” which is why John’s Gospel is different than the other three.

However, since Papias was alive during John’s time and his disciple, then he would’ve known of Matthew’s work as well, in both of the Hebrew and the Greek.  Consequently, it should be noted that the early date of 58-68 C.E. for Matthew’s Gospel is for the Greek version, which means the Hebrew original, if we accept the testimony of Papias, as well as the other early church fathers, would’ve been written years earlier.

ANOTHER CONTROVERSY – THE DATING OF MATTHEW

Although Christian scholars give the Gospel writings a much earlier date of when they were written, for example, Matthew (58-68 C.E.), Mark (67-68 C.E.), and Luke (58-60 C.E.), many modern scholars date Matthew much later (around 90 C.E.), since they believe the Gospel of Matthew had to have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem since in Matthew’s gospel Jesus prophecies of its destruction.  Obviously, since they do not believe in a God who objectively exists and has revealed Himself to us through His Word, and then in His Son, so then in their mind, since Jerusalem’s destruction was prophesied by Jesus, then they believe it had to have been written after the event had happened.

TWO ISSUES WITH THE GENEALOGY

Now that we’ve discussed some of the historical controversies with the book as a whole, there’s two historical controversies that deal specifically with Matthew’s genealogy.  First of all, it doesn’t match the genealogy with Luke’s (Luke 3: 23-38) and yet, in the Greek versions, both are said to belong to Joseph.  How can Joseph have two very different genealogies?  This discussion has been going on  since at least the early second century, C.E.

Another issue is the contradiction between the number of generations Matthew claims to be in the genealogy and what is given there in the Greek and English versions.  In Matthew 1:17, he writes,

So all the generations from Abraham to David are FOURTEEN generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are FOURTEEN generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are FOURTEEN generations. [Emphasis Mine]

But if we go through and count the generations, the numbers are correct, except for the generations from Babylon until Christ (Matthew 1:12-16):

And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechoniah begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; and Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Now if you count the generations here (not counting Jechoniah since he’s mentioned in the previous verse), then we end up with only 13 generations, not 14, as Matthew stated; however, my argument for why this is Mary’s genealogy, not Joseph’s, will correct both  discrepancies regarding this genealogy.

WHY DID MATTHEW BEGIN HIS GOSPEL WITH A GENEALOGY?

Now that we’ve looked at all the foundational historical controversies, let’s ask the important question: Why did Matthew begin his gospel with a genealogy?  I believe that one of the main reasons for this and with the account of Jesus’ conception and birth was to defend the character of Mary (as I will show), as well as set the account straight as to the events of the immaculate conception and Virgin birth.

MARY’S GALILEAN BACKGROUND

First of all, in looking at the character of Mary, we have to consider her Galilean upbringing in the 1st century, C.E.  The Galilee was a well-known “hotbed” of Zealot activity.  The Zealots were political activists that fought against Roman oppression and desired a “free Israel.”  In fact, there are numerous accounts of local Zealots, many of whom may have been family and friends of Mary and her family dying in battle or being crucified by Romans.  If anything, as I will show, Mary was an Orthodox Jewish woman, but the heart of a Zealot burned within her.  She was “a true daughter of David,” who was much more politically-oriented than Joseph.

THE NAMING OF MARY’S CHILDREN

One reason I believe that Mary was much more politically oriented than Joseph was the names chosen for her children.  Although two of them were named after the patriarchs, Jacob (“James” in the Greek) and Joseph (or “Joses” in the Greek), three of them were named after military war heroes: Joshua, Judah and Simon.

Joshua (or “Jesus” in the Greek), was not only the successor of Moses, but he was the greatest military leader Israel had up through the first century, C.E.   And considering he was conceived during Hanukkah (according to research), the celebration of a war victory against the Seleucid-Greek military, it’s no wonder why people had such military expectations of Him.  I believe He will, indeed, fulfill those military expectations in His Second Coming and during His Millennial reign.

Her other two sons, Judah and Simon, also were well renowned war heroes from the the war against the Seleucid-Greeks.  This war was held up as the ideal among the Zealots, who many of them lived and fought there in the Galilee against their Roman oppressors, just as Judah Maccabees and his brothers did against the Seleucid Greeks of their day.  And since Mary grew up in the Galilee, we can see from the naming of the children that her heart was very much like other Galileans of her time: one that desired freedom from their Roman oppressors.  And therefore, when the angel Gabriel came to her during Hanukkah to tell her about Jesus, I’m sure she probably saw this as an opportunity to contribute largely to the war effort and the freedom of her people.

TESTIMONY OF THE VILLAGERS

And I’m sure that when Mary ended up pregnant, there were many speculations about the identity of the father.   Some might think that they would suspect Joseph of not waiting the one-year betrothal period, but his reputation was such that he was not even suspected.  Instead, it was Mary was carried the weight and suspicion of wrong doing which is why Matthew begins his gospel the way that he does.  But even though there were “rumors” flying around about Mary, Jesus is still called “the carpenter’s son.” For example, in Matthew 13, when Jesus goes back to Nazareth and teaches in their synagogue, it’s significant what the village people ask:

Is not this the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary?  and his brothers, James and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?  And his sisters, are they not all with us?  Where then has this man all these things? (Matthew 13:55)

There’s no indication here that they suspected any one specific of being Jesus’ biological father, but there’s a hint that they did suspect it to be someone else other than Joseph.  For example, in the Gospel of John, there’s a hinting of an off-cuff remark made to Jesus, which seems out of place:

Jesus says: “You do the deeds of your father.”
Then they say to Him: “We are NOT BORN OF FORNICATION; we have one Father, even God.”  (John 8:41; Emphasis Mine)

This comment seems like a back-handed insult to Jesus, alluding to the stories of His conception.

THE REPUTATION OF JAMES, BROTHER OF JESUS

Although there were stories circulated about Mary in quiet whispers, they apparently did not interfere with the reputation of the family overall.  For example, according to historical accounts, James was so ultra-Orthodox in his beliefs, practices and lifestyle, that he was called “the Just” or “the Righteous One,” by both followers of Jesus and non-followers alike, and as a result of his “extremely righteous lifestyle,” he was allowed to do what no other non-Levitical Jew was allowed:

He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary [the Temple]…He was in the habit of entering the temple alone and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as camel’s, in consequence of his habitual supplication and kneeling before God.  (Eusebius, Book 2, Chapter 23:6, pp. 59-60)

If it was believed that Mary was a known adulteress, as well as a liar, I’m sure this would’ve never been allowed, even with his righteous lifestyle.  But it may have been the result of Joseph and his family living such an ultra-Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, even by the standards of their own day, which we know because Joseph and James are both called “Just” or “Righteous,” that perhaps, their status within the village was respected and this was not discussed, but it didn’t mean that there wasn’t “talk” about how Mary came up suddenly “pregnant” during their one-year betrothal.

However, based on my research, I believe, as I stated earlier, that one major reason for the inclusion of Matthew’s genealogy and the story of Jesus’ conception and birth right at the beginning of his gospel was to address these rumors and stories.  Consequently, once we examine all of the evidence available, it will demonstrate that Matthew was attempting to off-set the rumors in defense of Mary, as well as connect Jesus to the Davidic throne, but at the same time, this evidence also contradicts the traditional view that the Matthew’s genealogy was Joseph’s and the one in Luke 3 was Mary’s.  The evidence for this, I believe,  is the following.

  1.  THE GREEK MATTHEW IS A TRANSLATION OF AN EARLIER HEBREW VERSION

    The overall evidence strongly supports the view that the Greek Gospel of Matthew is, in fact, a translation from an earlier Hebrew and Aramaic source.   It should be remembered that during their seventy years in Babylon, a lot of Aramaic words were adopted into the Hebrew language.  So actually all of the controversies and problems with the genealogies and the numerical contradiction can all be resolved if ONLY ONE WORD that was mistranslated from the Hebrew-Aramaic into the Greek is corrected.  This one word is found in Matthew 1:16,

    And Jacob begat Joseph the HUSBAND of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.

And within this verse, the problem is the word “HUSBAND.”  You see, in Greek, there’s a clear distinction between the words “father” and “husband,” but this distinction is not clear in Aramaic.

2.  THE ARAMAIC WORD GOWRA

In the Aramaic New Testament, called the Peshitta (pron. “peh-shee-tuh“), the word translated as “husband” is the word gowra (pron. “gow-rah“).  According to several researchers, such as Paul Younan and Andrew Gabriel Roth, both part of the Peshitta translation team, among others online, the word “gowra” can be translated as “man” in the generic sense, or as “husband” or “father” depending upon the context.  For example, in Paul Younan’s article “Use of Orbg in Classical and Contemporary Aramaic Thought,” he writes that in the Aramaic New Testament,

Matthew 1:16 reads, “Jacob fathered Joseph, the hrbg of Maryam.”  The word used here, in verse 16, is Orbg with a 3rd person feminine pronominal possessive suffix or h (i.e., “her gowra“).  [Although] the word has traditionally been translated as “husband,” however, the main Semitic word for “Husband” is f9b (“Ba’la,” or, h19b for “her husband.”)

Examples of the word ba’la can be found in a number of New Testament references, for example: Matthew 1:19; Mark 10:12; Luke 2:36; John 4:16-18; Romans 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7:4, 10. 13, 16, 39; Ephesians 5:33; I Timothy 3:2; and Titus 1:6.

But after establishing this dominant pattern within the New Testament, Younan then asks an extremely interesting question: “Why would Matthew use two different terms, in such a short span of writing (3 verses – 1:16 to 1:19), to refer to Maryam’s ‘husband,’ Yoseph?”  And his answer, based on his research and study of the Aramaic, seems equally valid:

The fact is, he had to distinguish between two different people named Joseph – Matthew is not referring to Mary’s husband in verse 16 at all, but rather to her father!

3.  THERE WERE TWO JOSEPHS?

So there were two Josephs?  Actually, in the first century, C.E.,  there were many Josephs since the name “Joseph” was one of the most popular male names of the time, and therefore, the likelihood that Mary’s father and husband shared the same first name is quite feasible.  Younan, in fact, goes on to say that

Depending on context, it has been shown that Orgb [“gawra”] can mean “man, husband or father.”  The usage in verse 16 would demand that we translate Orgb as “father,” rather than “husband,” since the context is a genealogy.  Verses 18 & 19, however, would demand that we associate that Joseph with her “husband,” since the context is that of a marriage.

Those who are continuing to hold to their view that Matthew was originally written in Greek are dismissing this research as “inconclusive.”  They claim that if Mary was the intended focus of his genealogy, he would have done something unique to indicate that, and they claim that he didn’t.  However, I believe they are in error.  Matthew did do something unique, he added the names of four other women.

4.  THE INCLUSION OF THE FOUR WOMEN.

Although the names of women in a genealogy was not at all customary, if we compare Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies, we notice something unusual in Matthew’s that we do not see at all in Luke’s, the names of FOUR WOMEN, all with a questionable past.

THAMAR (Matthew 1:3).  In Genesis 38, Tamar, a Canaanite woman (a Gentile; non-Jew) Judah’s daughter-in-law dressed up as a Canaanite prostitute to attract Judah, her father-in-law, to have sex with her since he would not give her his third son, Shelah, to be her husband, as was custom, since her husband, Er, and his brother, Onan, had both died.

RACHAB (Matthew 1:5).  In Joshua 2, Rahab, a Canaanite woman (Gentile; non-Jewish) Jericho inn keeper and prostitute, hid and protected the two Israeli spies from capture by the authorities there, and as a result, she and her whole household were saved and became a part of the people of Israel. (Joshua 2:1-24)

RUTH (the book of Ruth).  Ruth was a Moabitess, a Gentile.  The people of Moab practiced child sacrifice as part of their worship to their god, Molech.  And yet somehow she had married one of Naomi’s sons, who then later died, leaving her a widow.  Ruth returns to the land of Israel with Naomi and cares for her.  Ultimately, she marries Boaz, the son of Salmon and Rahab, herself a Gentile convert.

BATHSHEBA, “The Wife of Uriah” (Matthew 1:6).  Although her name is not mentioned, Matthew does allude to her as “the wife of Uriah.”  David had committed adultery with her, and then when she ended up pregnant, he tried to get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba to cover up what he had done.  When that didn’t work, he sent Uriah to the front of the battle to have him killed, and then he marries her.  Although their child dies as part of God’s judgment, she does become the mother of Solomon, who would succeed David on the throne.

When we consider who these women are and their “questionable past,” it is clear that Matthew has incorporated them into the genealogy as part of his argument that just because a woman has “a questionable past” does not mean that God cannot use her, nor does it mean that she should be excluded from God’s plan, since all four women make up Jesus’ genealogy.  Now this argument makes complete sense if the genealogy belongs to Mary, since she is the one who is facing the raised suspicions, but if this genealogy belongs to Joseph, then the inclusion of these four women make absolutely no sense at all, since he is NOT the one under suspicion of acting inappropriately.

5.  THE PROMISE GIVEN TO HER BY GABRIEL

Another reason I believe that this is Mary’s genealogy and not Joseph’s is the message given to Mary from the angel Gabriel in Luke’s Gospel,

Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God.  And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call His name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the LORD God shall give unto Him THE THRONE OF HIS FATHER DAVID: AND HE SHALL REIGN OVER THE HOUSE OF JACOB FOREVER; AND OF HIS KINGDOM THERE SHALL BE NO END. (Luke 1:30-33)

Now when Mary questions how could this happen since she was not married or been intimate with a man, Gabriel explains:

The Holy Ghost [Spirit] shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that HOLY thing which be born of you shall be called THE SON OF GOD. (Luke 1:35; Emphasis Mine)

This explanation was not penned by Mary, but by a trained Greek medical physician.  If anyone would have been suspicious to an immaculate conception, he would’ve been.  But he was clear in the beginning that he had set these things down, so “you would know the certainty of those things, where you have been instructed” (Luke 1:4).  Obviously, he had done “his homework” to check the validity of these things before setting them down in writing.

JOSEPH – NOT OF THE ROYAL LINE?

Now compare what the angel told Mary with what the same angel told Joseph:

You Son of David, fear not to take unto you Mary your wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost [Spirit].  And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20-21)

There’s not one mention here of David’s throne, or the fact of Jesus ruling and reigning over the house of Jacob.  If the Matthew genealogy actually belonged to Joseph, as Christians have been traditionally taught, then wouldn’t it make sense for the angel to speak to Joseph about the throne, instead of Mary? But this isn’t what happened.  The angel Gabriel speaks to Joseph about the spiritual – “He shall save His people from their sins -” but to Mary, he speaks to her about the Davidic throne.

The very fact that Mary, who is the ONLY biological parent of Jesus, is spoken to about the Davidic throne and the Kingdom clearly demonstrate that it is she, and NOT JOSEPH, who is the actual true descendant of David and Solomon, NOT Joseph.  Reaffirming again, that the Matthew genealogy belongs to her and not Joseph, and that his genealogy is the one given in Luke 3.

6.  THE CROWNING OF KING SOLOMON

Although both genealogies trace the ancestry back to King David, only Matthew’s goes through the line of Solomon.  And according to the Scriptures, the royal lineage would be through David, and Solomon and his son, Rehoboam (Matthew 1:6-7), but not through David’s other son, Nathan, seen in Luke’s genealogy.  interestingly, when Solomon is born, the Scriptures tell us “and the LORD loved him” (2 Samuel 12:25), a statement that’s not made about any of David’s other sons, giving us an early indication of who would be chosen to succeed David as King.

And although in I Kings, Bathsheba reminds David that he had sworn by the LORD God that Solomon would succeed him (I Kings 1:17), a promise David reconfirms (I Kings 1:28-30), and then makes it happen (I Kings 1:32-53), in I Chronicles 28, we learn that it was God, in fact, who had chosen Solomon to succeed the throne (I Chronicles 28:5).  Therefore, the royal lineage has to go through Solomon, and not through any other of David’s sons.  And since Mary’s name actually appears in the Matthew lineage, and Mary is only human parent that Jesus has, it only makes sense that the genealogy in Matthew must belong to her.

7.  PAUL’S INTRODUCTION IN ROMANS

Another reason that the Matthew genealogy must belong to Mary since it traces her ancestry back to David and Solomon is the statement that Paul makes in his introduction to the church in Rome.

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures,) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which WAS MADE OF THE SEED OF DAVID ACCORDING TO THE FLESH;….” (Romans 1:1-3)

This is Paul telling us that Jesus was, in fact, physically descended from David, Solomon, and Rehoboam.  Paul did not say that Jesus was descended from David through marriage or even adoption, but through “the flesh.”  He was a physical descendant and, therefore, He has every legal right to the throne.

7.  THE TEACHING OF GOD’S LAW.

Now Jews have traditionally argued that Jewish nationality and tribal identity come through the father, not the mother.  So since God was His father, and not Joseph, they have argued that Jesus does not have the right to be called “a Jew,” “a son of David,” much less “the lion of the tribe of Judah.”  However, it was Mary, not Joseph, who was Jesus’ ONLY physical human parent.  Therefore, the answer lies, not in adoption, but in God’s law given to Moses.

In the Inheritance Laws in Numbers 27, a case is brought before Moses.  The five daughters of Zelophehad, a descendant of Joseph’s, was dead, and their father had no sons, to continue the family line.  Therefore, their inheritance would’ve been lost; however, God tells Moses that their request that they be allowed to inherit along with the other males in the tribe was a legitimate request and was to be honored.

The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: you shall surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and you shall cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. (Numbers 27:7)

This, therefore, provides a legal precedence for Jesus, who does not have a human male parent to be able to inherit His nationality and His tribal identity. In addition, since it is His mother, Mary, who is the true descendant of David, Solomon and Rehoboam, then according to the precedence in God’s law as well, Jesus is the rightful, legal heir of the throne of David and the promised Kingdom, as Paul stated “through the flesh.”

CONCLUSION

There’s more to the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew than to give a list of the names of the family tree.  Matthew wrote it as part of his defense of Mary’s character and also to argue that in spite of a “woman’s questionable past,” God can still use her for His glory and she can even make up the royal family tree of David, Solomon, and ultimately, Messiah Himself.  And finally, Matthew wrote it to substantiate and prove Jesus’ physical legal right by birth to the Davidic throne and to the promised Kingdom of God.

 

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Four Common Deadly Deceptions Being Preached in Today’s Churches (Pt. 2)

In this part of this study, I’ll continue to look at the four common deceptions being preached in the church today.   In the first part, we looked at the deception that “all it takes to get saved is to pray the “sinner’s prayer,” and that “Jesus’ life and teachings are not required for Christians.”  But in this part, we will examine these last two deceptions:

(3) To be saved, we can accept Jesus as our Savior without accepting Him as “Lord”; and
(4) Salvation is an event, NOT a life-long process.

(3) THAT TO BE SAVED, WE JUST HAVE TO ACCEPT JESUS AS SAVIOR
WITHOUT MAKING HIM OUR LORD.

This third error taught by these NTO preachers and teachers is that to be saved, we can accept Jesus as our Savior, but we do not have to make Him our Lord since accepting Jesus as Lord is an additional step beyond salvation.  Why?  Because Jesus has standards that people have to meet to be a disciple of His, and from their perspective, to teach that one must meet these standards to be saved would be adding to “grace” and, therefore, to them, it’s unacceptable.

Many of these NTO pastors and teachers do not really biblically understand “grace,” because they’ve been taught to view it through the perspective of a religion, instead of a Kingdom.  You see, in a Kingdom, the King owns everything: the land, the grass, tress, plants, water, buildings, resources, and even the people.  And not just their bodies, but their dreams, plans, desires, jobs, and all that they produce. So obviously, there’s NOTHING that one can do to “EARN” anything to give to the King, because he already owns it all.  Therefore, if the King decides to do anything for you or me, then it is “unearned” or “unmerited favor,” that is, “grace.”

You see, in the Roman empire, one could pay for one’s citizenship; however, God is the ultimate King of all Kings, and He owns it all, so there’s nothing we can offer Him that He doesn’t already own.  And we can’t buy our citizenship, like in the Roman empire, so that His gift of “salvation” – making us citizens of His Kingdom – comes to us by “grace” [His unmerited favor towards us] through faith [our continuing trust in what Jesus did for us, as well as our continuing trust in God and Jesus as the dynasty of our Kingdom to lead us, care for us, and provide for us.]  Not at all a hard concept when you understand it within the context of Kingdom.

But once we understand “grace” from a Kingdom perspective, we can also understand “works” to be about gaining our citizenship [salvation], not about how we live as citizens.  For example, a person from France can come to the United States and obey all of our laws, but this does not make him a “citizen” of the U.S.  Instead, to become a citizen, he must go through the “naturalization process.”  The same is true of God’s Kingdom.  Obeying all of His laws will not make us citizens of His Kingdom; instead, we must go through His “naturalization process” of believing that Jesus is Lord and that He died for our sins on the cross, that He rose again, and then being baptized in water as part of our repentance for sin.  But once we are saved, God, like the U.S., expects His citizens to keep His laws.

In fact, did you know that nowhere in the Bible does God ever give the right to people to decide what’s required for people to go to heaven?  Nowhere at all.  The very fact that any religious leader thinks that he or she has the right to tell people what they need to be saved at all, based on what they think is right, only proves that they are viewing God and His Word in the context of religion and not in the context of Kingdom.  It is the KING (God) who sets down the requirements one must fulfill to gain entry into His own Kingdom – not anyone else, regardless of who they are.

And God has said in His word that part of the naturalization process to gain citizenship in His Kingdom is that you must “confess” (make a public stand swearing your allegiance and loyalty) that “Jesus is Lord.”  The word “Lord” means “master” or “owner,” and its another term for King.  Jesus is our King, and as our King, He is our Master and Owner.  We BELONG to Him because HE PURCHASED US (OR BOUGHT US) WITH HIS BLOOD, so as His people, He expects our continual love, allegiance and loyalty throughout our lives.

And since He is the KING and LORD, then His opinion, which He has given in His Word, is the ONLY opinion that matters.  He either owns you or He doesn’t.  Jesus doesn’t play this game where you belong to Him when it is convenient for you, but when it isn’t convenient because you want to do something you know He doesn’t approve of, then you are your own boss: “It’s my life, I’ll do what I want to do with it.”  Tell me, where’s Jesus’ ownership of your life in this statement?

(4)  SALVATION IS A LIFE-LONG PROCESS, NOT AN EVENT

The Bible is clear that you cannot be saved simply by saying the “sinner’s prayer.”  Why? Because salvation is a covenantal relationship between a person and God; therefore, as a covenant, it is not a one-time experience, but a life-long journey that BEGINS the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and then continues on UNTIL we come into the presence of the Lord, either at death or His return.

Salvation happens in three interactive stages:
(1) REGENERATION (or “the New Birth”; “Born Again”; or Justification):  That initial stage when we are forgiven, given a new heart and a new spirit, and we are saved from the penalty of sin;
(2) SANCTIFICATION: The longest stage when we are “being saved” from the control and power of sin in our day-to-day life; and
(3) GLORIFICATION:  The final stage when we come into the Presence of God and Jesus Christ and receive our new bodies, either at death or at His return.

Notice that salvation in this journey incorporates all three of these stages.  It does not all happen in the first initial stage.  This is where it begins!  Just think about the Exodus.  If God told Israel, “I am giving you the Promised Land,” but they chose to remain in their homes where they celebrated Passover, never leaving Egypt, would they’ve ever entered the land and been able to enjoy what God had for them there?  No, because in order to actually acquire the land, they had to leave Egypt (our old lives of sin) and make their journey to the Promised Land.  We must do so, likewise, but our Promised Land is God’s Kingdom.

And what is the ASSURANCE or EVIDENCE that we are on this journey with Christ?  It is a “transformed life” and a lifestyle that is continually improving in living in obedience to God and to His commandments, not just going up front and saying “the sinner’s prayer.”  Nor is it just two commandments that we are to follow, but all of them that apply from Genesis to Revelation.

The two great commandments that Jesus quoted was a SUMMARY of the Ten Commandments, which in themselves, are a SUMMARY of the commandments found from Genesis to Deuteronomy.  A SUMMARY does not take the place of what it is summarizing; instead, it just gives a glimpse of how we are to view the material.  The two commandments given by Jesus reveals that Jesus viewed the commandments as expressions of love – NOT “legalism” or “bondage” or “the ministry of death” that you hear from pastors or ministers today.  The law that Paul called “the ministry of death” was NOT God’s law but “the law of sin” seen and manifested through the Oral tradition, a tradition that Jews to this day trace back to Mt. Sinai.  The first use of God’s law is not traced back to Sinai – but to Abraham (see Genesis 26:5).

Therefore, if we claim that we were “saved,” but we are not any different today than we were before we started 6 months ago, a year ago, two years ago, or even three years ago, then we need to question whether or not we were actually saved.  For example, in 2 Corinthians 13, Paul writes,  “Test yourselves to see IF YOU ARE IN THE FAITH; examine yourselves!” (13:5)  Now why do we have to TEST or EXAMINE ourselves on whether or not we are actually IN THE FAITH if all it takes to be saved is a simple prayer?

In John 8, Jesus is speaking to Jews who have put their faith and trust in Him (John 8:31).  By the standards of NTO preachers and teachers,  these Jews should be considered “saved,” and Jesus should be congratulating them for doing all that they needed to do to be saved and go to heaven.  But is this what Jesus did?  No, it isn’t.  Instead, Jesus tells them,

IF YOU CONTINUE IN MY WORD [TEACHINGS], THEN ARE YOU TRULY MY DISCIPLES INDEED,  and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you FREE” (John 8:31-32; Emphasis Mine).

Notice, these are “Jews which believed on Him,” yet Jesus is clearly telling them that believing on Him ONCE doesn’t make them His disciples, but only if they CONTINUE in His teachings, and only by CONTINUING in His teachings will they come to know the truth that will make FREE.  In fact, by the time Jesus continues speaking with them, these “new Jewish believers” are ready to stone Him!  And if this had been Gentile [non-Jewish] believers, they would have done the same!  They would have acted no differently.

So the question you need to ask yourself is NOT whether you went up to the altar and said the “sinner’s prayer,” that’s step #1, but “ARE YOU CONTINUING IN HIS TEACHINGS?”  Where are you today in comparison to where you began?  But throughout this article, what I’ve been trying to show you is the problem these NTO preachers and teachers have created through their doctrine:

  • If Jesus’ life and teachings are NOT for Christians today, as many NTO preachers and teachers are saying, then how can we “CONTINUE” in them?
  • Therefore, the very basis of what makes us Jesus’ “disciples,” according to Jesus, is NOT for Christians.
  • Consequently, based on their NTO logic, a Christian can not become one of Jesus’ disciples since His teachings are not for them.

I hope you can see the fallacies of these men’s teachings since like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, they have invalidated the word of God for the sake of their tradition.

Also,  in Paul’s second epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul is sarcastic, while yet seeking to correct them, for falling for those who are preaching to them “another Jesus” and “another gospel”:

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled [deceived] Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he that comes preaching ANOTHER JESUS, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive ANOTHER SPIRIT, which ye have not received, or ANOTHER GOSPEL, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4; Emphasis Mine)

And just like at Corinth, the American Church has fallen for those who are preaching “ANOTHER JESUS” and “ANOTHER GOSPEL.” And what is sad is that the majority of people who are calling themselves “Christians” have fallen for these four deceptive errors I’ve discussed.

But if we are going to ignore the damage these NTO deceptions are doing to the Body of Christ, then hey, (sarcastically) let’s just open the doors wide for anyone who has anything to say about Jesus: the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Hindus (who teach Jesus is the reincarnation of Lord Krishna) and the Buddhists (who teach Jesus was a reincarnation of the Buddha, who lived 500 years before Jesus), and anyone else we can include.  Because Christianity isn’t about truth but “love” and making people feel good, right?

Hopefully, you know I’m being sarcastic.  Such a move would not, in any way, be wise.  I mean,  just because someone says that they believe in JESUS CHRIST does NOT make them “saved.”  Jesus again taught this:

Not every one that says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name?  And in Your name have cast out devils?  And in Your name done many wonderful works [or miracles]?  And then I will profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW YOU: depart from Me, you that work [or perform or practice] iniquity.  (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus makes it quite clear here that calling Him “Lord” is not enough to get into heaven.  There’s going to be MANY in that day of judgment who will do this, and they will even claim to have done things for Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.  But in spite of this, He will tell them to DEPART from Him.  Why?  Because they continued to live in “iniquity” or “lawlessness.”  This is the English translation of the Greek word ANOMIA (Strong’s #458).  ANOMIA means the following:

  1.  Transgression of the law (used this way in I John 3:4; and
  2.  Not having, knowing or acknowledging the law.

Therefore, for people to live their lives either directly transgressing God’s law or simply by not having, knowing or acknowledging the law in their life is ANOMIA, or INIQUITY or LAWLESSNESS.  And these are the people Jesus is going to say, “Depart from Me.”  These are people who lived their lives ignoring God’s commandments, or not doing “the will of the Father” [i.e., not obeying His commandments from the heart], and as a result, Jesus will let them know that He never truly knew them.  So what we can infer from this statement by Him is that Jesus knows those who live in obedience to His commandments, including the Old Testament commandments, by the power of His Spirit, but not those who claim to be His but continue to live their lives in sin.

In fact, right before this, Jesus gave this important teaching:

A good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree CANNOT produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.   Every tree that does NOT bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.  (Matthew 7:17-20, Emphasis Mine)

Jesus says here that “A GOOD TREE [a “saved person”] CANNOT produce bad fruit [continue in sin].”  So I can see why these NTO preachers and teachers want to eliminate the teachings of Christ from the life of Christians because His teachings contradict their views and ideas of “free grace.”  Therefore, they are willing to sacrifice anything to maintain their pet doctrine, even Jesus Himself.  In understanding this, I wonder in what way, they are any different from the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day?

Jesus says here that “obedience to God” is, in fact, a part of salvation.  Notice, He says here that “Every tree [person] that does NOT bear good fruit is cut down and THROWN INTO THE FIRE.”  Obviously, then, salvation involves more than just the “sinner’s prayer.”  So am I saying that Paul was wrong?  No, I am saying that our interpretation of Paul is wrong.  Although Paul continually taught that our obedience to God’s law does not JUSTIFY us (Stage 1 of salvation), there is no where in Paul’s writings where he teaches argues against the use of the law in our SANCTIFICATION (Stage 2 of our salvation).  In fact, the law’s presence in these teachings is strongly implied or alluded to.  In fact, Paul believed that we and the law has a combined role to play in our own sanctification process.  For example, consider what Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians:

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  (2 Corinthians 16:16)

In this verse, Paul is quoting from Exodus 29:45 and Leviticus 26:12, incorporating God’s law into his teaching here in this passage.  What would be the point of this if the law is no longer valid for the Christian experience?  He then goes on to say,  

Wherefore come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and touch NOT the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD ALMIGHTY.  (2 Corinthians 6: 17-18)

In this case, Paul is quoting from Isaiah 52:11 and Jeremiah 31:1.  So again, if the Old Testament is NOT for Christians as the NTO pastors and teachers say, then what’s the point of quoting something that’s allegedly no longer valid?  Also, notice here that Paul is saying that in order for the Lord to receive us, we must “come out from among them [the world and its ways], and be separate,” to NOT engage in sinful behaviors and actions, by “touch[ing[ NOT the unclean thing” [which are those things God told us throughout the Scriptures NOT to get involved in], and God says, “and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters.”  Just saying a prayer at the altar is NOT enough.  Again, the sinner’s prayer is where salvation BEGINS, Step #1, it is not ALL there is to it.

After quoting these references, Paul then says,

Having therefore THESE PROMISES, dearly beloved, LET US CLEANSE OURSELVES from ALL FILTHINESS of the FLESH AND SPIRIT, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.  (2 Corinthians 7:1; Emphasis Mine)

Notice that Paul clearly says that we are to “CLEANS OURSELVES FROM ALL FILTHINESS OF THE FLESH AND SPIRIT.”  Why would any of this be necessary for us to do if ONLY believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection was all there was for us to do?  Obviously, there’s more to this SALVATION JOURNEY than what many NTO preachers and teachers are saying.   And so let’s ask the question: Why is this process of “SANCTIFICATION” necessary?  Because in Hebrews 12:14, the Scriptures teach us that “without holiness, NO MAN [OR WOMAN] shall see the Lord.”  Explain to me how you plan to be in heaven and NOT SEE God?  You living a sinful life will keep you out of heaven; thus, the need for justification AND sanctification.

It’s funny how these NTO preachers and teachers, who don’t believe that ALL of the Bible for today and for everyone, choose those verses which support their doctrines while ignoring other passages like the one here in 2 Corinthians 16:16-17:1.  Paul makes it quite clear that we have a role to play in our own sanctification.  Yes, God does have a role to play, but so do we.  And although these NTO preachers and teachers talk about God’s role, they claim that if we do anything to assist in that work, then it becomes “works,” and it’s no longer “grace.”  But clearly since Paul is telling us that we are to “CLEANSE OURSELVES from ALL FILTHINESS of the FLESH AND SPIRIT,” then it’s not “works” at all, but part of the salvation process.

Let me add one more point.  These NTO preachers and teachers say that our obedience to the commandments is “works” and not “grace.”  Then, if that is true, then believing in Jesus is also a form of “works” and not “grace,” for John writes in His epistle,

And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment.  (I John 3:23)

Obviously, if obedience to any of God’s commandments is a form of “works righteousness,” as these NTO preachers and teachers say, then according to the Apostle John our believing in Jesus is also one of God’s commandments; therefore, according to the NTO preachers and teachers, it constitutes “works” and not “grace.”  Obviously, then, there’s a major problem in what these NTO preachers and teachers define as “works.”

 

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Four Common Deadly Deceptions Being Preached in Today’s Churches (Pt. 1)

In the church today, there’s a great abundance of wolves and dangers, not only from outside the church, but also inside the church, as well as from those behind many of the pulpits in America.  Paul warned us of times like this prior to his final arrival in Jerusalem:

For I know this, that after my departing shall GRIEVOUS WOLVES enter in among you, NOT sparing the flock.  Also of YOUR OWN SELVES shall men arise, SPEAKING PERVERSE THINGS, to draw away disciples after them.  Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of THREE YEARS I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.  (Acts 20:29-31; Emphasis Mine)

Throughout the church’s history, it has been under attack from the outside and the inside, but in these last days, the deceptions and attacks have become more acceptable by the flock, destroying the lives of many.

Yes, the church is being deceived, and my wife and I have been standing up and yelling to the flock, “BE CAREFUL!  THERE ARE DANGERS!  WATCH OUT FOR THE WOLVES AND THE TRAPS!”  Some have listened, but some have not.  “Deceptions” are defined as “half-truths,” things taken out of context and misrepresented, or just lies that are presented as truth, and if you listen to many of the popular Christian New Testament Only (NTO) ministers and Bible teachers, their “deceptions” are being widely received and embraced by many within the church.  What we need are pastors, TV ministers and Bible teachers who believe in teaching the whole Word of God from cover to cover, but unfortunately, those are becoming increasingly hard to find.  So what are these deceptions being taught?  They are the following:

(1) All it takes to get saved is to pray the “sinner’s prayer;”
(2) Jesus’ life and teachings are not required for Christians; and
(3) To be saved, we can accept Jesus as our Savior without accepting Him as “Lord”; and
(4) Salvation is an event, NOT a life-long process.

(1) ALL IT TAKE TO GET SAVED IS TO PRAY THE “SINNER’S PRAYER”

The first error that’s being commonly taught among many Christian NTO pastors and teachers is that all it takes to get saved is to pray the “sinner’s prayer.”  For example, I was speaking to a minister friend of mine who said that he was at a funeral where the man who had died had lived his life as a gang member stealing, killing and raping women, and there in the congregation were many of his friends and family members who were leading similar lifestyles.  The minister who was conducting the service said to these people that he knew that this person was in heaven, because when he was five he had gone forward to accept the Lord.  Imagine what he had just told all these people?  You can steal, kill, rape and destroy all the lives you want, and still go to heaven, as long as you go forward, say the “sinner’s prayer,” and get your free “go to heaven ticket.”

The “sinner’s prayer” has become the modern day version of “circumcision” in the New Testament.  During Paul’s time, there were those who were saying that all one had to do to get saved and go to heaven was to “get circumcised.”  A minor operation for guys, and “bam,” instant ticket to heaven.  In the world today, it’s “the sinner’s prayer.”  Just go to church, or wherever, say the “sinner’s prayer,” and “bam,” instant ticket to heaven!  In fact, I’ve heard many pastors say after leading people through the “sinner’s prayer,” “I want you all to remember that today, at 12:17pm (or whatever time it was), that you’re now a child of God!  You’ve done everything that you need to do to go to heaven.”  But what these ministers don’t think about is what this strongly suggests: that we don’t have to develop a relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ to go to heaven; instead, all we have to do is simply say the “sinner’s prayer.”  Even though this teaching about the “sinner’s prayer” does NOT line up at all with the teachings of Jesus or the rest of the Bible!

I think many people forget that through most of the history of the church, there were no altar calls, nor was there a “sinner’s prayer.”  Instead, when people wanted to publicly proclaim their allegiance and loyalty to Jesus Christ, they got baptized in water.  This is the pattern we see throughout the New Testament.  In fact, Jesus, Peter, Ananias, and Paul taught water baptism is an important part of repentance (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:12-16; and Romans 6:3-4).  Nor did the water baptism have to happen in church.  For example, Philip shared Christ with the Ethiopian Eunuch and then baptized him, as they were traveling along their journey and came across some water in Acts 8:26-40.

Also, Paul makes it quite clear in Romans 6 that we are not to live our lives any longer in sin.  In fact, Romans 6-8 is Paul’s argument about the fact that since we have died with Christ and been buried with Him in baptism, then we are no longer to live in submission to the control and power of sin.  And then in Romans 8, Paul writes that to be “carnally-minded,” to have your mind on fleshly desires and pleasures (e.g., sex, sensual pleasure, money and material wealth, pride, greed, coveting) “is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is ENMITY [HOSTILE, IN OPPOSITION AGAINST] God; for it is NOT subject to THE LAW OF GOD, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the FLESH CANNOT PLEASE GOD”  (Romans 8:5-8; Emphasis Mine).  And yet, somehow, according to these NTO preachers and teachers, you can go to heaven by simply saying a prayer, even when you continue to live a lifestyle that’s offensive and not pleasing to God.

By these people teaching this, they are discrediting the power of the cross to transform lives from a sinful, me-oriented life to a holy, God-oriented life.  Obviously, if these people continue in sin, even though they prayed the “sinner’s prayer,” then their continued disobedience only proves to others the weakness of the cross – NOT the power of the cross!   Jesus died to free us from the power and control of sin, so we could live a life of holiness before God, not so we could get our free ticket to heaven, while continuing to live in sin.

(2) JESUS’ LIFE AND TEACHINGS ARE NOT REQUIRED FOR CHRISTIANS.

Another error that’s being taught is that Jesus’ life and teachings isn’t for Christians, but it was ONLY for the Jews.  This bogus argument is based on the idea that the great dividing line between the Old and New Testament is the cross.  Therefore, since Jesus’ life and teachings were BEFORE the cross, they don’t apply to Christians.

Consider what this is actually saying:  They are saying that the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, His parables, His description of eternal life, His warnings against Hell – NONE of this, according to them, is for Christians.  They say that the ONLY part of the New Testament that’s for Christians is from the cross on, or the last 32% of the Bible, which makes up less than 1/3!

But did Jesus ever say that He was part of the “Old Testament” as these pastors and teachers say?  No, He didn’t.  In fact, in Matthew 12, Jesus says in regard to John the Baptist,

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is GREATER than he.  And from the days of John the Baptist UNTIL NOW the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.  For ALL THE PROPHETS AND THE LAW prophesied UNTIL JOHN. (Matthew 11: 11-13)

This means that according to Jesus, Malachi is NOT the last Old Testament prophet, but instead, the last one was John the Baptist. Therefore, in contrast to these NTO pastors and teachers who again say the cross is the dividing line between Old and New Testament, JESUS HIMSELF said the dividing line was not the cross, but John the Baptist.  So who are we going to believe: Jesus or these NTO preachers and teachers?

I’ve seen these NTO preachers and teachers draw a line between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and then quote 2 Timothy 2:15 to justify their act.

Be diligent [and study] to present yourselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.

However, when Paul wrote this verse, there wasn’t any New Testament.  Paul’s epistles had been written and the book of Matthew, but that was about it.  But they weren’t in any one collection; instead, they were being circulated around to the different churches.  The rest of the New Testament had not been written yet.  Therefore, the idea that when Paul wrote the words that have been translated as “handling accurately the word of truth” (NASB) or in the King James Version, “rightly dividing the word of truth” to mean to divide the Old and New Testament when there wasn’t yet a New Testament cannot possibly be right.

This is an example of them reading into the text – a mishandling of the text – instead of placing the text back into its proper context and understand it from that context.  You see, when we look at the original Hebrew and Greek documents – rather than our modern English translations – we would see in the original documents, no periods, no commas, no paragraphing, and no chapter breaks, so in order to properly know where one idea ends and another one begins, you have to be able to accurately know where to “divide the word of truth,” not just in one place, but every time there’s a change of an idea.

This is much more likely what Paul meant by this statement than this idea about dividing the Old and New Testament.  Their interpretation again only demonstrates that the NTO people who teach this are imposing their own denominational beliefs into the text, rather than placing the text back into its original historical, social, cultural and linguistic contexts.  Therefore, by doing this, they are clearly misusing Scripture, not properly teaching it.

But in looking at their messed-up doctrine, even though they say that what’s for Christians is from the cross on, they ignore Romans 8, and 2 Corinthians 16-17 and other passages like these, which contradict their teaching that salvation is acquired by only saying “the sinner’s prayer.”  So apparently, the part of the Bible they follow is even smaller than 32%.  And when you figure in that 80% of the New Testament is made up of quotes, references or allusions to the Old Testament, which according to them is not for today, then their Bible is down to maybe 15-18%.

But hey, if these ministers and teachers are right (I’m saying this sarcastically), then why not just send everyone in the world a card with the “sinner’s prayer” on it, and say, “Just pray this prayer, and you’ll receive eternal life and a home in heaven!  Nothing else required.”  Think about how much money and expenses churches could save not having to support missionaries at all, right?

But if that was all that it took, why would Jesus commission us to go DISCIPLE ALL THE NATIONS?  Notice, He didn’t say, “Go and make “saved people” or “religious people,” but to DISCIPLE people; therefore, it only seems logical to say that there is no real salvation apart from discipleship to Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we need missionaries, and we need to do all we can to support them.  Because as far as Jesus is concerned, if you are NOT one of His disciples, then you are NOT truly saved.  It’s really that simple.

In part 2, which will come out tomorrow, Friday, March 15, 2019, I’ll discuss the last two deceptions being preached.

 

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“Is the Old Testament Still Valid for Christians Today?”

The Hebrew Scriptures (or the Old Testament) has been a mystery for Christians since the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  The traditional Christian teaching has been that it ended at the cross, particularly the Old Testament Law given in the first five books.  However, there’s enough textual reasons and evidence given in the Bible to call that traditional teaching into question.

THE HEBREW BIBLE – IT’S THREE PART COMPOSITE

The Hebrew Bible, called in Hebrew the TANAKH is an acronym for the three parts that make it up: “T” for the Torah (trans. “Law”); “N” – Nevi’im (Prophets); and the “K” for the Ketuvim (Writings).  Even though the same books are present in both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, they are arranged differently.  For example, in the Hebrew Bible, the last book is 2 Chronicles, but in the Christian Old Testament, the last book is Malachi.

“TESTAMENT OR COVENANT”?

Although in the Christian Bible, the two parts of the Bible is called the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament” in English, the word “Testament” should have been translated as “Covenant.”  The word “Testament” comes from the Latin word Testamentum, which can mean “Covenant” or “Testament.”  It is the Latin equivalent of the Greek word Diatheke, which can also mean “Covenant” or “Testament,” but diatheke is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word B’rit, which means “Covenant,” but it does not have the meaning of “Testament” in it at all.

There’s a major difference between the words “Covenant” and “Testament.”  It is understood that a NEWER TESTAMENT (like in one’s “Last Will & Testament”) automatically replaces an AN OLDER TESTAMENT; however, this is absolutely NOT TRUE for a Covenant.  A “COVENANT,” on the other hand, can be explained, expounded upon, further developed, and even added to, but it CANNOT be replaced, pushed aside, done away with, or annulled.   Consequently, how one translates the Greek word diatheke has a great importance in how that word is understood.

And since the title “New Testament” actually comes from the prophecy for the “NEW COVENANT” (“Brit Chadasha“) in the book of Jeremiah and a COVENANT is definitely NOT the same thing as a TESTAMENT, our Bibles should have been translated to say “OLD COVENANT” and “NEW COVENANT.”

BUT HOW MANY COVENANTS ARE THERE?

However, even the correction of OLD COVENANT is misleading, because there’s not just one covenant in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament – BUT AT LEAST SEVEN DIVINE COVENANTS!  Some might even argue as many as TEN DIVINE COVENANTS!

All of these covenants are discussed in the Old Testament.  The New Testament only mentions the covenants with Abraham, Moses and the children of Israel, and some parts of the Levitic, but it does not go into the detail with these other covenants that the Old Testament does.  And just as the “New Testament” highlights certain aspects of the Old Testament, so the next covenant will highlight other aspects of it.

WHAT ABOUT THE ADAMIC COVENANT?

Should this be counted among the covenants?  There are many who claim that all of the elements of covenant are there in the Garden of Eden, but I excluded it from the minimum list because the word “covenant” is not used in the Eden account, and I believe it’s because God did not want the word “covenant” associated with Eden.

HOW CAN IT BE DONE WHEN IT’S NOT FINISHED?

So when we consider the fact that there’s another covenant coming, a final covenant, for the Millennial reign, and that God has NOT completely fulfilled all the previous covenants either, then how can we legitimately claim that the “Old Testament has been fulfilled” or that the “Old Testament is no longer relevant”?  Those who make either one of these claims has apparently not spent any time, or very little time, actually studying the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, because if they did, they would see, as I do, what a clearly unfounded claim that they are actually making.

“DIDN’T JESUS SAY ON THE CROSS, ‘IT IS FINISHED’?”

Yes, He did, but He wasn’t speaking about the Old Testament, or even the Law, being finished, but our slavery in sin.  We need to remember that Jesus died on Passover, an observance whose theme was “Freedom from Slavery.”  Although Christianity may consider the Law to be a form of slavery, Jesus did not.  There was only one thing that Jesus ever called “slavery,” and that was sin.  Jesus died to free us from the slavery of sin, and its control over our lives, and by Him dying on the cross, our time of slavery was finished.  (For more information, see my article “Did Christ Bring the Law to an End?”)

FUTURE UNFULFILLED PROPHECIES

Also, there are many future unfulfilled prophecies in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  In fact, there are 500 Messianic prophecies that Jesus will fulfill during His coming return, the battle of Armageddon, and during the Millennium. (I’ll show some sample examples in just a minute.)  So let’s consider this for a moment: If these prophecies are not yet fulfilled, then how can we go around and make such brash and unfounded claims as “The Old Testament has been fulfilled” or “it is no longer relevant”?

ARE WE FOLLOWING THE BIBLE OR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH?

The traditional view of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament was formulated by the Roman Catholic Church.  Rather than taking a literal view of the Scriptures, it spiritualized everything and turned various teaching into analogies.  They taught that the Church was the “New Israel,” and that the Jewish people had been rejected by God and got all the curses, while the church got all the blessings.  In addition, to further illustrate this idea, they taught that the New Testament had REPLACED the Old Testament.  The teaching that the New Testament has REPLACED the Old Testament is still extremely dominant in the Christian faith today.

But this teaching is not based on a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, and for Christian denominations who claim to believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, and yet still teach that “the Old Testament, or even the Law, has been replaced by the New Testament” is in contradiction with itself.  For example, according to Zechariah 14, after Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom, God tells us,

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of ALL THE NATIONS which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to WORSHIP THE KING, THE LORD OF HOSTS, and to KEEP THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.  And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH unto Jerusalem to WORSHIP THE KING, THE LORD OF HOSTS, even upon them shall be no rain.  (Zechariah 14:16-17; Emphasis Mine)

If the Feasts in the Old Testament ended at the cross, as Christianity teaches, then why is God going to require EVERY FAMILY from ALL THE NATIONS to come to Jerusalem during the FEAST OF TABERNACLES to worship the King, Jesus Christ?  And not only the Feast of Tabernacles, but we will be required to worship God on the biblical SABBATH, not Sunday, and on the New Moon feasts:

For as the New heavens and the New Earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, says the LORD, so shall your [Israel’s] seed and your name remain before Me.  And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall ALL FLESH come to worship before Me, says the LORD.  (Isaiah 66:22-23; Emphasis Mine)

Again, if the Sabbath and New Moon feasts ended at the cross, as Christianity teaches, then why is God going to require ALL FLESH to come and worship before Him during those times?  Notice, it does NOT say “all Israel” or “all Jews,” but “ALL FLESH.”  Jew and Gentile alike.  So if the commandments given to Moses was ONLY for the Jews, as Christianity teaches, then why is God going to require “ALL THE NATIONS,” “ALL FAMILIES” and “ALL FLESH” to observe them?

GENTILES ARE GOING TO SEEK TO BE WITH JEWS?

During the Millennium, people from the nations (Gentiles; non-Jews) are going to seek to be around and travel with Jews.  For example,

So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.  Thus says the LORD of hosts, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp [the corner of] the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'” (Zechariah 8:22-23)

At what point in Jewish history has this ever happened?  It hasn’t, at least, not yet, but it will when Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom in Jerusalem.  So how can the Old Testament be “fulfilled,” if this prophecy has not happened yet?

GOD’S COVENANTS WITH DAVID AND THE LEVITES?

Did you know in the book of Jeremiah, God has promised that as long as there’s day and night, God’s covenants with David and with the Levites shall stand.

For thus says the LORD; DAVID shall never want (or lack) a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall THE PRIESTS want (or lack) a man before Me to OFFER BURNT OFFERINGS, and to KINDLE MEAT OFFERINGS, and to DO SACRIFICE CONTINUALLY

How can the Church have replaced the Levitical Priesthood when God clearly promises them that they will always have the position He gave to them as His ministers within the Temple and to offer Him these various animal sacrifices?  If you accept traditional Christian doctrine, then you’d also have to come to the conclusion that God lied to the Levites here.  Either they have the position before God that He says for as long as there’s “daylight” and “night time,” or they don’t?  Yes, the Temple has been destroyed, but it will soon be rebuilt.  And when it is, this promise will again be active.  He goes on to say,

Thus says the LORD, If you can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites My priests, My ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David My servant, and the Levites that minister unto Me.  (Jeremiah 33:20-22)

This prophecy is only two chapters after the prophecy of the “New Covenant.”  Again, how can the New Testament replace or do away with the Law or the Old Testament as a whole when God has promised the Levites and David that His covenant with them would endure until the time period when there would not be any “day time” or “night time” (the time period of the New heavens and the New Earth?)

JESUS COULD NOT BE A PRIEST?

Now Jesus does fulfill the promise to David since Jesus is “the son of David” (or descendant of David); however, Jesus does not fulfill the promise to the Levites since Jesus is not of the tribe of Levi, but of the tribe of Judah.  Even the book of Hebrews acknowledges that Jesus is not of Levitical descent:

FOR IF HE WERE ON EARTH, HE SHOULD NOT BE A PRIEST, seeing that there are priests that [continue to] offer gifts according to the Law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, says He, that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you in the Mount.  (Hebrews 8:4-5; Emphasis Mine)

The book of Hebrews must have been written BEFORE 70 C.E., because according to this passage, the Temple was still in operation in the city of Jerusalem, Israel.  But also notice that the passage clearly says that if Jesus had remained on earth and not ascended into heaven, “HE SHOULD NOT BE A PRIEST.”  Ask yourself the logical question, if the Law ended at the cross, as Christianity teaches, then why couldn’t Jesus have been a priest?  The only logical answer is that the Law did not end at the cross at all, including the Levitical Priesthood and the Temple system.  And because of that, according to the Levitical covenant and laws, since Jesus was a Judean, He was not qualified to function as a priest.

This is the whole reason for the argument in Hebrews for Him being a priest according to Melchizedek priesthood.  If the law was no longer valid, there would not be any need for this argument.  The fact that there was a need for the argument proves that the Law did not, in fact, end at the cross, as Christianity teaches.  Therefore, it was NOT God who brought the Temple system to an end, but the Roman army under the General Titus in 70 C.E.

THE BUILDING OF THE THIRD TEMPLE

The Jews are working on rebuilding the Third Temple, and when they do, they will have God’s full support, because as He promised the Levitical Priesthood, they will always a man before Him to offer the sacrifices unto Him, as long as there’s “daylight and night time.”  Also, in contrast to traditional Christian teaching, the tearing of the Temple Veil when Jesus died had absolutely NOTHING to do with bringing the Temple System to an end either, but was an act of God mourning for the death of His dearly, beloved Son, the same thing we see Jewish men and fathers doing throughout the Hebrew Bible, throughout Jewish history, and among Jews today.  It was the same thing any loving Jewish father would’ve also done in that same position.  (See my article, “Why Did God Tear the Temple Veil in Half? Not the Reason You Think”)

ANOTHER PARADIGM FOR VIEWING THE TWO TESTAMENTS

Rather than viewing the New Testament as a replacement of the Old Testament, which obviously violates Scripture, a better alternative would be to view the Old Testament like the original computer program, and the New Testament as it’s most recent update.  And yes, when Jesus returns, there’s another update coming!  So obviously, if you continue to just run the original program, without the update, you are missing out on the new features that the Creator had intended for you to have.  On the other hand, you cannot just run the update.  It will not run properly, and the result will not be what the Creator intended.  Consequently, in order to get the intended, desired effect by the Creator, we need to run both the original program (“the Old Testament”) and the update (“the New Testament”) together as one new program.

We Need Them Both

There are many places in Paul’s writings, for example, where he teaches us that the Old Testament (or the Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament is an important part of the education and training of the believer (including us today).  for example, in Ephesians 2, Paul writes to the Gentile believers,

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being fitted together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22, NASB)

Notice in this passage, that as believers in Christ [Messiah], our faith is “built upon the foundation of the apostles [i.e., New Testament] and the prophets [i.e., Old Testament]” with “Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,” or the connecting stone.  So if the foundation upon which our lives as believers consists of both Old and New Testaments, then we will need to be taught and trained in both in order for us to gain the foundation, framework and context that God says He desires for us to have to understand and live in obedience to His Word.

Another scripture where Paul indicates we need both the Old and New Testaments is in 2 Timothy, which is an extremely important epistle for believers today to consider when reading and studying Paul’s writings.  The reason this epistle is so important is because it’s the last epistle that Paul wrote before he was sentenced by the Roman Emperor Nero to be beheaded. This is evident in this epistle, for Paul writes,

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:6-7, NASB)

Consequently, then, Paul is fully aware that this is his last opportunity to give Timothy (and us) instruction in regard to the Scriptures; therefore, Paul’s epistle here would have been written after much thought and prayer.  As a result, when we read this epistle and examine what he has to say here, it should be paramount to us in keeping what he says about the Scriptures continually in mind in how we view and understand his previous writings.  For example, Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Notice that Paul points out several important things here.

The topic of his statement here is on “All Scripture.”  This includes, of course, the Old Testament and the New Testament (even though, at this point, not all of the New Testament has been written).  The word translated “All” is the Greek word pas, which can be translated as either “all,” “each,” or “every.”  Therefore, by using this word, Paul is not referring to “All Scripture” in a generic sense, but he is literally referring to “All, Each, and Every Scripture.”

Secondly, Paul points out four facts about “All Scripture”:

“All Scripture is inspired by God.”  The word translated “inspired” is the Greek compound word θεόπνευστος  (theopneustos, Strongs #2315).  It’s comprised of the Greek words, theos meaning “God” and pneo meaning “breathed out,” so it literally means “God-breathed out,” or we could literally translate this as, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” And according to the text, Introduction to Theology, the Scriptures being “God-breathed” means,

by divine “breath,” or power, the Holy Spirit moved the human authors with such purpose that the final product accurately reflected the intention of God Himself (18).

“All Scripture is…profitable”  The word translated as “profitable” is the Greek word  ὠφέλιμος (ophelimos, Strong’s #5624), and this word also means “helpful, serviceable, or advantageous.” Notice that Paul does not say, “All Scripture used to be profitable and advantageous to us, but now that Christ has died on the cross and rose again, only the New Testament is profitable.”  This is NOT what Paul says here, but this is what many ministers teach.  Another variation of this is the teaching that “the Law (of God) is not for today.”  But “the Law” is part of “All Scripture,” and, therefore, profitable and advantageous for the believer. To teach anything else would be a contradiction of Paul’s statement here. Therefore, those who deny that the Old Testament or even God’s Law is “profitable” to the believer today is in direct contradiction to Paul’s statement here.

Also notice that there are four areas, Paul writes, that “All Scripture is profitable” or advantageous or helpful for us as believers:

  • for teaching,” or for instruction and doctrine;
  • for reproof,” or for proof, evidence, conviction (or in being fully convinced);
  • for correction,” or for helping one to “straighten up again”; and
  • for training in righteousness,” or for the education and training, and when needed, the disciplinary correction of believers in righteousness, or in knowing and living the standard of life God expects of us as His people.

And why, does Paul conclude, are these four areas important or needed?  So “that the man [or woman] of God may be adequate [or complete], equipped [or equipped fully or thoroughly furnished] for every good work.”  Consequently, if believers are not being educated and trained in both Testaments or “All Scripture,” then, according to Paul, that individual is not being “fully equipped” or “thoroughly furnished” to do the “good works,” or live the life, that God expects of us.

Therefore, we must conclude that both the Old and New Testaments are important for the education, training and development of all believers today.  However, I am frequently saddened when I hear ministers, evangelists and writers denounce or criticize the writings and ideas in the Old Testament.  They are only hurting people by their comments since they are denouncing the very Scriptures that God says we need for our education, training,  development and growth.  In fact, just prior to Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul advises Timothy,

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

What were the “sacred writings” that Timothy had learned as a child which gave him “the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith”?  Was it the New Testament?  No, it did not exist then.  Paul, here, is specifically referring to the Old Testament.  It was the “sacred writings” of the Old Testament that gave Timothy the wisdom, education and training, he needed to lead him “to salvation through faith.”  And finally, in another passage regarding the Old Testament, Paul writes,

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4, NASB)

I hope you can see now that by not reading and studying  “All Scripture,” both the Old Testament and the New Testament, that we are, in fact,  harming ourselves, and maybe others,  by not getting what we need (or providing what others need) to be “equipped fully” or “thoroughly furnished” “for every good work” that God has called us to do from before the beginning of the world.

TWO REVELATIONS COMBINED

And even in the book of Revelations, we can see evidence that God intended the Old Testament and the New Testament to be seen as a unified whole.  For example, in Revelations 15, John sees a vision of a mass of people who had come through the tribulation period:

And I saw, as it were, a sea of glassed mixed with fire, and those who had come off victorious from the Beast and from his image and from the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.  And they sang THE SONG OF MOSES, the bond-servant of God AND THE SONG OF THE LAMB, saying,... (Revelation 15:2-3)

I  have heard many ministers erroneously teach that this song is being sung to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, but this is not what this says.  Just as THE SONG OF MOSES was a song sung by Moses to God the Father, so THE SONG OF THE LAMB is a song sung to God the Father as well.  And as we can see here, these two songs are being joined together into ONE SONG.  “THE SONG OF MOSES” (representing the Old Testament) and “THE SONG OF THE LAMB” (representing the New Testament and the coming Covenant of Peace”).

SO HAS THE OLD TESTAMENT BEEN REPLACED?

Absolutely NOT!  There’s still many prophecies and teachings that need to be learned from the Old Testament.  Obviously, those who continue to discard it do not understand how much beneficial instruction they are simply “tossing into the trash.”  Those who teach this false doctrine that “the Old Testament has been done away” or “it is no longer valid,” only demonstrate how much of the Bible they truly do not understand or, perhaps, have never taken the time to read or study.   We need to begin teaching a WHOLE BIBLE PERSPECTIVE within the Church, so that we can prepare them for the coming of the Lord and to the establishment of His coming kingdom.   May we all be found prepared and ready at His coming!

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