A CRITICAL REVIEW OF RC SPROUL’S “THE LAST DAYS ACCORDING TO JESUS”

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OVERVIEW:

R. C. Sproul (RCS) describes the four major theological systems that deal with prophetic Scripture (eschatology = doctrine of “last things”) (pp. 193 – 202). He himself he is a postmillennialist. There are two types of postmillennialists, namely full preterist and partial preterists. He identifies himself as a partial preterist.

James T. Bartsch attempted to identify certain features that are critical to the success of Sproul’s theological system and to demonstrate their weaknesses in light of Scripture.

It is his (and our) conclusion that the proponents of Preterism, or Post-Millennialism, though genuine Christians and sincere in their beliefs, hold to interpretations in the area of eschatology that are simply implausible. They can only maintain their views through an inconsistent hermeneutic (method of interpreting Scripture) that refuses to take prophetic passages of Scripture at face value. Then, to support their views, they are forced to take exegetical leaps (interpretational decisions) that simply do not square with the rest of Scripture.

The PDF document, “A Critique of R. C. Sproul’s “The Last Days According to Jesus” written by James T. Bartsch, below, can either be read online or downloaded for free:

A Critique of R. C. Sproul’s “The Last Days According to Jesus”

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JOHN F WALVOORD ON AMERICA IN PROPHECY

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One of the natural questions facing believers, and especially those of the United States of America, is the place of the United States in the unfulfilled prophetic program. In the last number of decades, the United States of America has become one of the most powerful and influential nations of all history, it not the strongest. What does the Bible contribute to the question of the future of the United States?

In keeping with the principle that prophecy is primarily concerned with the Holy Land of Israel and its immediate neighbours, it is not surprising that geographic areas remote from this centre do not specifically future in prophecy and may not even be mentioned at all. No specific mention of the United States or any other country in North America or South America can be found in the Bible. None of the rather obscure references to distant lands can be taken specifically as a reference to the United States. Any final answer to the question is therefore an impossibility, but nevertheless some conclusions of a general character can be reached.

The World Situation At The End Time

The Scriptures provide an outline of major events in the period beginning with the rapture of the church and ending with the second coming of Christ to establish His kingdom. Immediately after the rapture there will be a period of preparation in which the ten-nation confederacy in the Mediterranean will emerge and the little horn of Daniel 7 will be revealed as its eventual dictator. At the same time there will be the emergence of a world church as suggested in Revelation 17.

At the conclusion of this period of preparation the head of the Mediterranean confederacy, who will be the Roman “prince that shall come,” will make a covenant with Israel (Daniel 9:27) which will introduce the second phase of the period, namely, a period of protection and peace for Israel. After enduring for three and a half years or one half of the projected seven-year period contemplated in the covenant, the Roman ruler will take the role of world dictator, assume the prerogatives of deity, and begin the great tribulation with its corresponding period of persecution for Israel and the emergence of a world religion with the world ruler as its deity. This third period will be climaxed by the second coming of Christ to the earth and its attending judgments.

The Relation Of The United States To These World Events

Although the Scriptures do not give any clear word concerning the role of the United States in relationship to the revived Roman Empire and the later development of the world empire, it is probable that the United States will be in some form of alliance with the Roman ruler. Most citizens of the United States of America have come from Europe and their sympathies would be more naturally with a European alliance than with Russia or countries in Eastern Asia. It may even be that the United States will provide large support for the Mediterranean confederacy as it seems to be in opposition to Russia, Eastern Asia, and Africa. Actually, a balance of power in the world may exist at that time not too dissimilar to the present world situation, namely, that Europe and the Mediterranean area will be in alliance with America in opposition to Russia, Eastern Asia, and Africa. Based on geographic, religious and economic factors such an alliance of powers seems a natural sequence of present situations in the world.

If the end-time events include a destruction of Russia and her allies prior to the final period of great tribulation, this may trigger an unbalance in the world situation that will permit the Roman ruler to become a world ruler. In this event, it should be clear that the United States will be in a subordinate role and no longer the great international power that it is today.

It has been suggested by some that the total absence of Scriptural comment on the United States of America in the end time is evidence that the United States previously has been destroyed by an atomic war or some other catastrophic means and therefore no longer is a voice in international affairs. Such a solution, however, overlooks the fact that not only the United States but all of the Americas are omitted from prophecy, and the same is true of countries such as Australia and New Zealand. The fact is there are few references to any country at some distance from the Holy Land. The view, therefore, would be preferable that while the United States is in existence and possibly a power to be reckoned with in the rapidly moving events which characterize the end of the age, world political power will be centered in the Mediterranean area and necessarily the United States will play a subordinate role.

History has many records of great nations which have risen to unusual power and influence only to decline because of internal corruption or international complications. It may well be that the United States of America is today at the zenith of its power much as Babylon was in the sixth century b.c. prior to its sudden downfall at the hands of the Medes and the Persians (Daniel 5). Any realistic survey of moral conditions in the world today would justify a judgment of God on any nation, including that of the United States. The longsuffering God has offered unusual benefits to the United States both in a material and religious way, but they have been used with such profligacy that ultimate divine judgment may be expected.

The question no longer is whether America deserves judgment, but rather why divine judgment has been so long withheld from a nation which has enjoyed so much of God’s bounty.

A partial answer may be found in the fact that the United States of America in spite of its failures has nevertheless been a source of major Christian testimony in the world and has done more to promote the missionary cause in terms of money and men than any other nation. Although the United States numbers only five per cent of the total world population, probably more than fifty per cent of the missionaries and money spent has come from America. In view of the fact that it is God’s major purpose in this present age to call out Jew and Gentile to faith in Christ and to have the Gospel preached in all nations, the prosperity which has been true of America has made possible this end and may have been permitted by God to accomplish His holy purposes.

Another important reason for delay in divine judgment upon America is the Abrahamic promise concerning his seed, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Genesis 12:3). The United States for the most part has been kind to the Jew. Here the seed of Abraham has had religious freedom and opportunity to make wealth. Judgment on other nations has frequently been preceded by persecution of the Jew. The Obama era brought a dark cloud over America’s relationship with Israel, but a new height in the relationship has been reached since President Trump took office..

It is evident, however, that if Christ came for His church and all true Christians were caught out of this world, America then would be reduced to the same situation as other countries. The true church will be gone, and Israel may be persecuted. The drastically changed situation would no longer call for material or political blessing upon the United States. It would therefore follow that with the removal of the principal cause for withholding judgment, namely, the promotion of the missionary cause and befriending the wandering Jew, reason would no longer exist for maintaining America in its present standard of power politically and economically. It may well be that the United States, like Babylon of old, will lose its place of leadership in the world, and this will be a major cause in the shift of power to the Mediterranean scene.

(Main Source: The Nations In Prophecy – John F Walvoord)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (33)

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CHAPTER VIII

The Passion Week (Part 2)

4. Christ’s Authority Challenged

References: Matt. 21:23-27; Mk. 11:27-33; Lk. 20:1-8

The chief priests and elders of Israel confronted Jesus even after He had the day before chased all of the merchants and money changers out of the temple, overturning their tables and spilling the coins all over the floor and rebuking them for making His Father’s house a den of robbers. It seems that these rulers were baffled to discover a means of coping with this Jesus, of getting rid of Him before He got rid of them. Their approach of this occasion was to ask Him: “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” Truth is always consistent, and error is always inconsistent. All Jesus needed to do was to ask them the right question to put them on the horns of a dilemma. So, He said He would answer their question if they would His first answer His. “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men?” After putting their heads together and analyzing the question, they realized they would lose regardless of how they answered. And after what must have been a long, embarrassing pause for them, as the multitude stood silently waiting to hear their answer, they replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus silenced them by saying: “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”

Preachers and teachers of the Word would do well to cultivate the art of questioning. Jesus, of course, was a master at it, as He was of all teaching techniques. Instead of getting into involved arguments the use of the right question will often clinch the truth and stop the mouth of the opposition.

5.  The Parable of the Two Sons

Reference: Matt. 21:28-32

This parable was spoken against the chief priests and elders of Israel. They had just been questioning by what authority Jesus had cleansed the temple and Jesus had caught them in their own trap by His question which they were afraid to answer. Although He did not tell them by what authority He did these things, He did give them this parable about the two sons, and again they were confronted with a question: “Which of the two sons did his father’s will?”

Of course, they had to answer that the first one did, who at first refused but later repented and did his father’s bidding. And again, they judged and condemned themselves by their own words. The publicans and harlots had at first said, “no” to God, but later repented at John’s preaching and did the Father’s will, but the chief priests and rulers who offered lip service to God refused to believe John, and even after John had shown them their true heart condition before God they refused to repent.

They had refused to answer Jesus’ previous question of whether John’s baptism was from heaven or from man, for they knew if they said from heaven, Jesus would ask why they didn’t believe him. But Jesus was not going to let them get off the hook so easily. This parable brought out the truth that they didn’t believe John’s message was from heaven and they therefore were rejecting the council of God against themselves.

6.  The Parable of the Vineyard

References: Matt. 21: 33-46; Mk. 12:1-12; Lk. 20:9-19

It is still Tuesday of the Passion week and Jesus is still being confronted by the rulers of Israel. Immediately after relating the parable of the two sons, He follows up with this one about the householder who sublet his vineyard to husbandmen (tenants). At harvest time he sent a servant to collect his share of the crop, but the tenants beat him and sent him back empty handed. The owner then sent one after another of his servants, all of whom they treated shamefully, even killing some of them. Finally the owner decided to send his well-beloved and only son. Surely, they will reverence him.

It is easy to see that Jesus was reviewing the whole history of Israel. God has sent them one prophet after another whom they rejected and mistreated (cf. Heb. 11:35-38). Think of Jeremiah, thrown into the dungeon, Isaiah sawn in two, John, the last of the prophets, beheaded! And now God has sent His beloved and only Son to them. As Jesus was telling this parable these very rulers were plotting how they might kill Him. And so, Jesus continued with His parable. What did the tenants do to his son? They said: “This is the heir to this property. Let us kill him and the vineyard will belong to us.”

Again Jesus asks His question: “What will the lord of the vineyard do to those tenants?” The Jews replied, “He will come and destroy these husbandmen and will give the vineyard to others.” Luke alone tells us when they heard it they said: “God forbid – may it not be so.” They knew that they were the wicked tenants in the parable, but they couldn’t face up to the punishment. Sinners who know the just judgment of God live in the vain hope that it won’t happen to them. And then Luke tells us that the Lord “looked upon them,” no doubt in pity and in hopes of seeing some sign of relenting, but He saw none and said, “What then is this that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner? Every one that falleth upon that stone shall be broken to pieces, but upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Ps. 118:22,23). How could they escape destruction? It was written in the Scriptures that the Stone they were rejecting would become the Head of the corner and would crush them to dust.

Matthew ends with the additional words of Christ: “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” This statement is usually taken to mean that God will take the Kingdom away from the Jews and give it to the Church. There are only two things wrong with this idea. The first is, that the truth about the Church which is the Body of Christ had not as yet been revealed at the time, and the second is that the Church is not a nation. If one thing characterizes the Church it is that it is made up of all nationalities.

The Church of this dispensation is never called a nation, although Israel, as called out of Egypt, is called a church (Acts 7:38). No, the nation Christ speaks about is the New Israel, the nucleus of which was His little flock, for did He not say to His little group of Israelites: “Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom?” (Lk. 12:32). There will be a nation of Israel in the future to whom the Kingdom will be given.

7.  The Parable of the Marriage Feast

References: Matt. 22:1-14; cf. Lk. 14:15-24

This is the third of the series of parables of warning which Jesus spoke on that Tuesday of the Passion week. It was about a certain king who made a marriage feast for his son and sent out invitations to the guests, and they would not come. He then sent out a second invitation, stating that “All things are ready.” But they made light of it and some even manhandled and killed the king’s servants. So the king sent his army and destroyed these murderers and destroyed their city. He then sent his servants out into the highways, who gathered as many as they could find, and brought them to the feast. But when the king arrived he spotted a man without a wedding garment and asked how he got in without a proper garment. The man was speechless and was bound hand and foot and cast out into outer darkness. And the parable ends with the same words as did the one about the laborers in the vineyard, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The parable in Lk. 14 is very similar to this one, but it was given on a different occasion and is in several respects different. In Matthew it is a wedding feast; in Luke a great supper. In Matthew the rejectors are destroyed and their city burned; in Luke there is no mention of punishment. In Matthew there are two invitations sent; in Luke there is only one. In Luke the excuses are enumerated; in Matthew they are not. However, both parables nave the same general interpretation.

At the first invitation the message is simply, “Come to the wedding feast.” But at the second invitation the message is, “All things are ready.” Both of these invitations went out to the rulers of Israel. The first invitation doubtless refers to the ministry of John the Baptist and the earthly ministry of Jesus, when the Kingdom was near at hand. But it was impossible that all things could have been ready at that time for the establishment of the Kingdom, for Christ made it plain, as did the O.T. prophets, that Christ must first suffer and rise from the dead before the Kingdom could be “ready” (cf. Lk. 24:26; 1 Pet. 1:10,11).

Therefore, there could have been no legitimate offer of the Kingdom until after Christ had suffered. All things would then be ready, and this is doubtless what the second invitation refers to. This invitation was extended at Pentecost and during the early Acts period. In keeping with the parable, this second invitation was rejected by Israel and Christ’s servants were persecuted and slain. The next thing in the parable was the destruction of these murderers and the burning of their city, and we know that the Roman Titus carried this out in 70 A.D.

But from Paul’s epistles we learn that instead of the Kingdom program going on and the marriage taking place, God has suspended this whole prophetic program and has begun a new, secret dispensation of the mystery (Eph. 3:1-9). Most commentators see the fulfillment of this parable in the present dispensation when Gentiles are being saved, and of course, there is a parallel. But the real fulfillment belongs to the future when the marriage of the Lamb will take place (Rev. 19:7-10).

Comment must be made on two details in the parable. It is stated that both good and bad were brought into the feast. This shows that the invitation was not based upon human character, but purely upon the grace of God. After man had so miserably treated God’s servants, any favor shown had to be pure grace. The other detail concerns the man who came in without a wedding garment.

It must be remembered that the King provided everything for the guests, including the proper attire. This fellow apparently liked his own suit better than the one the King provided. But when confronted by the King he was speechless. It reminds us of Paul’s statement in Rom. 3:19: “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” So this man who was clothed with his own self-righteousness was cast out into outer darkness. The Gospel provides a garment of perfect righteousness as a free gift. Those who reject this garment and insist on appearing before God in their own goodness will surely suffer the fate of the man in the parable.

8.  Three Questions by the Jewish Leaders

References: Matt. 22:15-40; Mk. 12:13-34; Lk. 20:20-40

There were three religious-political groups in Israel. The Herodians were the supporters of King Herod and his government. The Sadducees were the religious liberals who denied the existence of angels or spirit or resurrection. The Pharisees were the religious conservatives who had added to the Word of God many traditions and ceremonies. They were the ritualists. All three groups though otherwise opposed to one another, united in an effort to trip Jesus in His words and find some cause whereby they might condemn Him. Perhaps they were aware of how successful Jesus had been in stumping them with His questions, so they decided to use the same tactics on Him.

The Herodians framed their question to try to get Him in trouble with the government. “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?” If He said, “No,” they could claim He was a rebel against the government. If He said, “Yes,” then He would have to deny His claims of being the Messiah. They thought they had Him either way, but He didn’t answer yes or no, but asked to see a coin which bore the image of Caesar, and replied: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” This is, of course, a principle which Paul upholds for our present dispensation (cf. Rom. 13:6,7).

Then came the Sadducees, who deny the resurrection and they thought they had figured out a question about the law of marriage which would cause Him to say something whereby they might accuse Him of breaking the Law of Moses. And so, they related the story of seven brothers who carried out the instruction of Moses in Deut. 25:5, all having had the same woman as wife. “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?” Jesus’ answer to them was that they were ignorant both of the Scriptures and the power of God. Marriage is a relationship in this life only. There will be no such relationship as marriage in the resurrection. There will be no children born in heaven. Resurrection saints will be equal to the angels; that is they can’t be born and they can’t die.

Then Jesus reminded them that at the burning bush Moses called God “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The Sadducees accepted only the books of Moses and chimed that Moses did not teach resurrection. But Jesus here quoted from Moses to show that although these patriarchs had been physically dead for years, Moses spoke of them as living.

“God is not the God of the dead but the living.” So, there must be life beyond the grave. If the patriarchs had become non-existent there was no possibility of a resurrection. But they did exist and therefore could be resurrected.

The Pharisees believed in angels and the resurrection and they seemed happy that Jesus had confounded the Sadducees, their religious antagonists. And so, they got together and one of them, a lawyer (Mark calls him a scribe), asked Him a question, tempting Him: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered by quoting Deut. 6:5, and stating the two most important commands, Love for God with one’s whole being, and Love for neighbor as for self. The scribe replied that Jesus had given the right answer and that the fulfilling of these two commands was more important than all of the entire burnt offerings and sacrifices. When Jesus heard his answer, He said: “Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God.” And we read, “after that no man dared to ask him any more questions.” There were doubtless a few Pharisees who were an exception to the rule, who were honest enough to agree with Jesus as this man did.

9.  Christ’s Unanswerable Question

References: Matt. 22:41-46; Mk. 12:35-37; Lk. 20:41-44

We have called this an unanswerable question, not because there is no answer, but because the Jewish leaders found it impossible to answer without admitting the Deity of Jesus Christ. After the Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees had exhausted their questions on Jesus, and while the Pharisees were still gathered together, Jesus asked them one more question. When Jesus asked, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” He was not asking, “What do you think of me?” He was asking, “What do you think of the Messiah?” Of course, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, but the Jews as a whole did not believe Him.

The Pharisees answered that the Messiah was to be the son of David. Then came the further question, “How then doth David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” (Ps. 110:1).

Not only did Jesus attest the fact that David wrote the 110th Psalm, and that he wrote it under inspiration, “in the Spirit,” and not in the flesh, but what is most important, he stated that a man who should be born of his seed would also be his Lord. The Messiah, according to David, was to be both man and God. In spite of the compelling evidence of this assertion, not one in the crowd of Pharisees answered a word, which was a clear indication that they had closed their minds to all reason and were determined in their hatred of Jesus to destroy Him by whatever means they could find.

10.     Woes Pronounced Upon the Scribes and Pharisees

References: Matt. 23; Mk. 12:38-40; Lk. 20:45-47

Both Mark and Luke give a very abbreviated account of this incident, each devoting only three verses to it, whereas Matthew takes a whole chapter of 39 verses.

The first three verses are important in showing that Jesus recognized that He was still living under the Mosaic dispensation. He plainly told His disciples to obey everything commanded by those who sat in Moses’ seat. This is a very important principle in correctly understanding the earthly ministry of Christ. The New Testament, technically speaking, had not even begun as late as Matthew 23.

Then Jesus warned His disciples, that although they were to obey the Scribes and Pharisees as they dispensed Moses’ Laws, they were not to imitate their lives, for they say and do not. And then follows the long list of grievances against these leaders. The first twelve verses are addressed to the disciples and bystanders; the remainder of the chapter to the Scribes and Pharisees. The character of these leaders can be summed up in two words: their love for authority to lord it over others, and their love of popularity, to make a great show of their piety before men. The disciples of Jesus were to be just the opposite: none were to lord it over others as Rabbi, or Father, or Master. Father in this context has nothing to do with the family relationship of father, but with the spiritual relationship. They were to recognize only One Master, Father, Teacher, and to make themselves servants of all.

Then turning to the Scribes and Pharisees He pronounces eight woes upon them.

  • They shut the door of the kingdom in men’s faces; they didn’t enter themselves, and they wouldn’t let those enter who were trying
  • They took advantage of widows and foreclosed on their
  • They went to any length to make a proselyte and then made him twice as deserving of going to hell as
  • They made the gold in the temple and the gift on the altar more important than the temple and the altar, by saying that a man is not bound by his oath if he swears by the temple or the altar, but is bound if he swears by the gold or the gift. They were thus demeaning God, for putting the gold before God who dwelt in the temple.
  • They were careful to give a tenth of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill, and cumin to God, but neglected the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. They strained out gnats but swallowed
  • They scrubbed the outside of the cup clean, but inside they were full of greed and self-indulgence.
  • They were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but inside full of dead men’s bones and every kind of
  • They built tombs and monuments for the prophets who were killed by their ancestors, saying that had they been in their father’s shoes they would not have done such deeds. Jesus said,

“So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending to you prophets, and wise men, and teachers. Some you will kill and crucify, others you will flog in your synagogues, and chase them from town to town. As a result the punishment for all innocent men will fall on you, from the murder of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Then Jesus turned His gaze upon the city of Jerusalem and wept: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not let me. Now your house is left unto you desolate, for I promise you will not see me any more until you say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

The house which is left desolate refers primarily to the Temple of God, for God was to forsake it and as we shall see from the next chapter, not one stone would be left standing upon another.

Here too we see the mystery of the will of man working against the will of God. Jesus said, “How often I willed to gather your children, but you willed the opposite.” The same verb, “thelo,” to will, is used in both cases. God does not will any to perish, but some will to perish and they will perish (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. 1 Tim. 2:4).

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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BEING RICH – THE WARNING IN JAMES 5:1-5

 

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“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.” – James 5:1

In Luke 16:13 Jesus stated an important spiritual principle: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Because of that, Jesus exhorted,” Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19–21).

Very few other things more clearly reveals the state of a person’s heart than his view of money and material possessions. Many who profess faith in Christ invalidate their claim to genuine saving faith through their materialistic lifestyles—a clear indication that they serve wealth, not God (Matt. 6:24).

James presents a test in chapter 5—that of how one views money. The first six verses of chapter 5 form a strong rebuke—the strongest in the entire epistle. James’s blistering, scathing denunciation condemns those who profess to worship God but in fact worship money. He calls on them to examine the true state of their hearts in light of how they feel about their wealth.

The Bible does not teach that possessing wealth is sinful in and of itself. In fact, everyone possesses wealth and material goods to one degree or another.

Moses reminded the Israelites poised to enter the promised land that “the Lord your God … is giving you power to make wealth” (Deut. 8:18), a truth confirmed by Proverbs 10:22: “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” What is wrong is to misuse one’s wealth. “The love of money “wrote Paul in 1 Timothy 6:10,” is a root of all sorts of evil;” but he later wrote that it is God “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (v. 17).

James, like Paul, cautions against the love of money that leads people to misuse the wealth with which God has blessed them for their own selfish, sinful ends.

James’s sharp rebuke of the wicked wealthy is in keeping with the tradition of the Old Testament prophets. Isaiah repeatedly denounced those rich people who misused their wealth or abused the poor. In chapter 3 he warned,” The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, ‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing My people and grinding the face of the poor?’ declares the Lord God of hosts” (vv. 14–15; cf. 5:8–10). In Isaiah 10:1–4 the prophet gives his pronouncement of judgment on Israel’s wicked rich. In Amos 8:4–10 the prophet prophesied of doom on the wicked rich. Job (Job 24:2–4), Jeremiah (Jer. 5:27–29), Micah (Mic. 2:1–5), and Malachi (Mal. 3:5) also condemned the wicked rich.

James was speaking to those who would hear his letter read in the churches. He aimed his rebuke at people who were in some way associated with the church. He realized that some in the churches to which he wrote claimed to be Christians but were not. Though they may have outwardly professed faith in Christ, their focus on earthly treasure betrayed the falsity of that profession (Matt. 6:21; cf. 13:22; 19:21–22).

Sadly, many in the church today are accepted as Christians because they talk about Jesus and claim a superficial allegiance to Him. Yet an examination of their lifestyle reveals that they do not walk in obedience to His commandments. Their lust for money and possessions betrays their true allegiance (Matt. 6:24; cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17). Believers must be wary of falling into the same sins that characterize unbelievers.

James begins his denunciation with a forceful pronouncement of impending judgment. In light of the inescapable doom that is coming against the wicked wealthy, James warns, come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Weep and howl picture an intense outburst of despairing, violent, uncontrollable grief. The Old Testament prophets frequently described such wailing over the effects of sin (e.g., Isa. 13:6; 15:3; 16:7; 23:1; Jer. 48:20; Ezek. 21:12; Amos 8:3; Zech. 11:2; cf. Matt. 5:4).

The miseries which are coming upon them describes overwhelming hardship, trouble, suffering, or distress when they stand before the Lord in judgment. In Luke 6:24–25, Jesus warned them, ”Woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” Later in Luke, Jesus told a shocking story of Lazarus and the rich man.

James notes four sins that precipitate the severe judgment pronounced on the wicked rich. They are condemned because their wealth was uselessly hoarded, unjustly gained, self-indulgently spent, and ruthlessly acquired.

“Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” – James 5:2–3

Hoarding is the practice of collecting or accumulating something, like money and worldly riches and is one of the most widespread sins of our time. God entrusts believers with material goods so they may use them for His glory. Obviously, Christians are to provide for their families (1 Tim. 5:8). But beyond that, Christians’ resources are to be used to advance God’s kingdom (cf. 1 Chron. 29:3; Mark 12:42–44; Luke 6:38; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 8:2; 9:6–7). Specifically, believers are to use their wealth to win the lost (Luke 16:9), care for those in need (Gal. 2:10; 1 John 3:16–18), and support those in ministry (1 Cor. 9:4–14; Gal. 6:6). Those who name the name of Christ are not to amass a fortune that is uselessly stashed away without regard for God’s will (cf. Job 27:13–17; Ps. 39:6; Eccl. 5:10–11, 13).

Hoarding one’s possessions—whether food, clothing, or money—is foolish. All such earthly treasures are fleeting and transitory. ”Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,” cautioned Solomon. “Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens” (Prov. 23:4–5).

Having exposed the sinful futility of hoarding wealth, James then described the judgment pronounced on the hoarders. Personifying the rust that depicts the futility of hoarding riches, James declared that it will be a witness for the prosecution against the wicked rich. In the judgment, their hoarded, rotted, moth-eaten, corroded treasures will give graphic testimony to the unregenerate state of their hearts. Their covetous, selfish, compassionless, earthbound approach to life will provoke their condemnation.

The last days encompass the period between Christ’s first and second comings (Acts 2:16–17; Heb. 1:1–2; 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20; 4:7; 1 John 2:18; Jude 18). James sharply rebuked them for hoarding their wealth without regard for God’s timetable, the flow of redemptive history, or the reality of eternity. The day of judgment draws near!

Wealth is to be enjoyed as a blessing from God AND used to fulfill His will in meeting needs and advancing the gospel. Those who fail to do that suffer judgment.

“Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.” – James 5:4

The wicked rich were not only guilty of sinfully hoarding their wealth; they had also sinfully acquired it. Far from being generous to the poor as Scripture commands (Deut. 15:9–11; Matt. 6:2–4; Gal. 2:10), they exploited them.

Is this not what is happening in many prosperity churches today, as they make loads of money by giving false hope to the poor and the sick? Or what about the rich who misuses “cheap” labour? Lacking the security of a steady source of income, the poor day laborers depended on each day’s wages to feed and clothe their families. That pay, James warned the wicked rich, cries out against you.

James then added the sobering warning that the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (cf. Deut. 24:15). The painful cries of the robbed, defrauded laborers reached the ears of God—and they would echo there until He acted in righteous judgment. The phrase the Lord of Sabaoth describes God as Commander of the armies of heaven (cf. 1 Sam. 17:45).

A frightening judgment awaits those who unjustly hoard the wealth they rob from the poor. Their victims will cry out for justice to the Righteous Judge and He will not disappoint them.

“You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” James 5:5

Having increased their wealth by robbery and hoarding, the wicked rich added to their sin by using their wealth for their own selfish indulgence. James condemned the wicked rich for living in soft, extravagant luxury at the expense of others. Those who pursue pleasure and luxury often descend into vice in a vain attempt to satisfy their insatiable desires. A life without self-denial soon goes out of control in every area. Paul described such people as dead even while they live (1 Tim. 5:6) because, like the foolish son in our Lord’s parable, they squander everything on loose living (Luke 15:13). Those with money frequently close their eyes to the needs of others and the work of God, living solely to gratify their selfish, sinful desires. And, apart from faith in Christ, they face eternal ruin and loss.

Finally, James accused the wicked rich of having fattened their hearts. The desire for luxury led to vice, which led the unjust hoarders to seek to selfishly indulge every desire of their hearts.

Ironically, one of the wealthiest and wisest men who ever lived provides an illustration of the futility of such self-indulgence. Ecclesiastes 2:4–10 reveals that Solomon left no stone unturned in his frantic pursuit of pleasure. Yet Solomon’s evaluation of his pursuit attests to the futility of such selfindulgence: “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun” (v. 11).

But lavish self-indulgence can lead to something worse than vanity. James warns of a coming day of slaughter—a frightening picture of judgment. In vivid language, he depicts the self-indulgent hoarders as fattened calves, headed for the slaughterhouse of divine judgment. Blind to heaven, deaf to warnings of hell, insensitive to the impending day of slaughter and judgment, the unrepentant, selfish, indulgent hoarders stumble blindly to their doom. Unless they repent, James warns, they will experience eternal damnation.

(Main Source: The John MacArthur New Testament Commentary – James)

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THE POST-TRIBULATION RAPTURE FROM A PRE-TRIBULATIONIST PERSPECTIVE

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WHAT IS THE POST-TRIBULATION RAPTURE VIEW?

One of the most popular views with respect to the timing of the rapture of the church is known as Post-Tribulationism. The rapture takes place when Jesus returns to the earth after the great tribulation period. The church, which consists of both Jews and Gentiles, must therefore undergo the time of trouble which the rest of the people on earth experience. The church will suffer great persecution but will be more or less exempt from the wrath of God which strikes the inhabitants of the earth.

The rapture of the church and the Second Coming of Christ are seen as two parts of a single complex event. The rapture occurs as the Lord is descending from heaven, when Jesus meets the living saints in the air and together, they come to the earth.

Thus, the Post-Tribulation view is different from the Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, and Pre-Wrath view as there is no interval between the catching up of the church and the Second Coming. In fact, they are seen as one event.

Those who hold to the Post-Tribulation rapture position do not all share the same view as to what occurs after the Second Coming of Christ. Some believe there will be a literal thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ upon the earth. They are also known as pre-millennialists because they believe the return of Christ will occur before a literal Millennium.

There are other Post-Tribulationists who do not believe that when Christ returns there will be a literal thousand-year time of peace and reign on the earth. They are known as Amillenialists. They believe the eternal state follows the return of Christ.

There is clearly no agreement among Post-Tribulationists as to whether the return of Jesus Christ will lead to the establishment of a literal thousand-year period of peace upon the earth, a literal Millennium.

In addition, there is no agreement as to what people will populate the kingdom when Christ returns. Will it be believers only, or will unbelievers also enter the kingdom? There is no consensus on this.

There is also a dispute over the types of bodies of those people who will enter the kingdom. Will they be human bodies, or glorified bodies, or both?

While this is not a problem for the  Amillenialists who do not believe there will be a literal Millennium here upon the earth, the pre-millennialists who holds to a post-tribulation rapture do not have a satisfactory explanation as to who will populate the Millennium.

If there will be a literal thousand-year period of peace on earth when Jesus Christ returns, then someone has to populate the earth at that time. According to many promises in the Old Testament there will be both Jews and Gentiles living together during that period. These people live in the same type of bodies we have now; non-glorified human bodies.

Though the curse on the earth will be partially lifted, people will still sin, and they will one day die. They have not received glorified bodies like the believers who receive these bodies at the rapture of the church. There are a number of passages make it clear.

Indeed, the Bible says that at the end of the thousand years there will be rebellion against the Lord from many of those living on the earth.

“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth–Gog and Magog–and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore” (Revelation 20:7-8)

This certainly describes people in a non-glorified human body since a glorified body of the believer can neither sin nor can it die. Where do these unbelievers come from? They are the offspring of those who entered the thousand-year period as believers. They will make their own choice as to whether they will follow Jesus.

Thus, the various views cannot be combined to come to a consensus view of the Post-Tribulation rapture doctrine. While this does not make the doctrine untrue, it does cause one to hesitate in calling this position “the standard view of the church.”

We will state the main arguments which are usually given in support of Post-Tribulationism. As always, we will try to find the best evidence used by those who embrace this system.

  1. The Argument From History

The historical argument is often the first one listed by those who advocate Post-Tribulationism. Simply stated, it is claimed that the view of Post-Tribulationism has been the historic view of the church. The great majority of Bible commentators, no matter what denomination they belong to or theological system they hold, believed and taught that the church will not escape the great tribulation period. This is still true today.

It is wrong to label the Post-Tribulation rapture as the historic view of the church. There was no unanimity of opinion among believers with respect to the timing of the rapture. In church history, the issue is either ignored or dealt with in the most cursory of ways. Many of the statements made by church leaders of the past are contradictory.

Actually, there was no attempt to provide a systematic understanding of this issue until the nineteenth century. Thus, there is certainly no consensus of opinion on the matter.

  1. There Is Only One Coming Of Christ

Post-Tribulationism stresses that there is only one coming of Christ, not two. The rapture of the church occurs with Second Coming of Jesus Christ and this coming is after the great tribulation.

“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

They claim that there is not one passage of Scripture that clearly teaches two separate comings of Jesus Christ. Whenever the Bible speaks of the coming of Christ it is always speaking of the same event. Most of them contend that the burden of proof is on those who see two different comings. There is no need for them to prove there is only one coming.

Post-Tribulationism has never really given an adequate explanation as to why there is such an event as the rapture of the church. In their scenario, Christ takes the living and dead believers to meet Him in the air on His way down to the earth. It seems so unnecessary.

Why raise the dead at this time? They are certainly not in jeopardy from the battles being waged at Armageddon.

However, if the rapture of the saints has just happened then the separation of the sheep from the goats has already occurred! There would be no need to separate the saved from the lost because this has just been accomplished. Therefore, the rapture seems so unnecessary in the Post-Tribulational view of the coming of Christ.

  1. The Resurrection And The Return Of Christ

Another argument for the Post-Tribulation rapture has to do with passages which equate the resurrection of believers with the coming of Christ. The Bible often speaks of the resurrection and the return of the Lord in the same passage. In the Old Testament we read the following.

“But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise– let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy– your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer” (Isaiah 26:19-21).

We find Jesus doing the same thing. In the gospel of Matthew, He is recorded as saying the following about His return to the earth.

“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31).

When Paul wrote to the Philippians he said something similar. He stated that the transformation of our bodies will be at the coming of Jesus Christ.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20,21).

These passages seem to make it plain that the coming of the Lord occurs at the same time as the resurrection of the dead. To many, this is clear evidence of a Post-Tribulation rapture.  Since Scripture says the dead are raised at the coming of Christ and this coming is after the great tribulation period then the rapture must occur after the great tribulation.

The Bible however, often mentions several events together which do not occur at the same time. In the Old Testament, the prophets spoke of the two comings of Jesus Christ as one event. For example, the two comings of Christ are linked together in these two verses in Isaiah.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Two thousand years have already separated Jesus’ birth from His return to the earth. Since we find examples in Scripture of this type of telescoping of events we should not be surprised if we discover this to occur in passages dealing with the Lord’s return.

Consequently, it is possible that the events listed in a particular passage do not all happen at the same time. Therefore, the verses which seemingly place the resurrection of Christians at the time of the Second Coming of Christ can be understood in another way.

  1. The Resurrection Of The Righteous Is A Single Event

There are three passages which seem to prove that the resurrection of all of the righteous believers occurs at the same time. First, Daniel puts it this way.

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:1-2).

Next we discover that Jesus Himself spoke of the “hour” of the resurrection when the believers would be raised together. He said.

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29)

The righteous are raised first then the unbelievers are raised. The Book of Revelation says that the unbelieving dead were not raised until one thousand years after the righteous were raised. John wrote.

“The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5).

If the rapture occurs any time before the Lord returns, as in the Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, or Pre-Wrath view, then what will happen to the people who become believers after the church is caught up to meet the Lord? There does not seem to be any time where they can be raised from the dead if they are martyred.

  1. The Same Greek Words Are Used To Describe

We also find that the same Greek words, parousia, epiphaneia and apokalupsis, which describe the rapture of the church, are also used in other contexts to describe the Second Coming of Christ. Since each of these three words describe both the rapture and the Second Coming the logical conclusion seems to be they are describing the same event. The burden of proof is on those who want to understand it otherwise.

The fact that the same Greek words are used to describe both comings is however irrelevant since we are not dealing with technical terms. In addition, since the rapture and the Second Coming whether, one event or not, are both considered to be the “coming” of the Lord, it is not surprising to find the same words describing both.

  1. There Is No Imminent Return Of Christ

Another formidable argument in favour of Post-Tribulationism is the seeming impossibility of the imminent return of Jesus Christ during the early years of the church. From the New Testament, we find that a number of events would have to take place before Christ could return. They include, but are not limited to, the following.

Jesus said that Peter must grow old and die. Consequently, the rapture of the church could not happen until the death of Peter. This would involve a period of time.

Jesus also said that the gospel must be preached to the entire world. Until the entire world was evangelized, it would not be possible for rapture of the church to occur.

The Apostle Paul said the Holy Spirit showed him that he must visit Rome. Thus, until Paul set his foot in Rome the rapture of the church could not take place.

This is just a sample of what the writers of Scripture predicted must occur in the future. Since these things had to take place, it was not possible for an imminent or any moment return of the Lord for the church. Therefore, it is folly to say that the rapture was looked upon as an “any moment” event for the early church.

In the New Testament there was however an expectation that Christ could come at any moment. We find no indication that believers were looking forward to persecution and tribulation before the coming of the Lord.

The believers were looking for Jesus Christ, not the final Antichrist. Paul wrote to the Philippians that he was eagerly awaiting the coming of the Savior.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

It is difficult to see how Paul can be earnestly awaiting the Savior if he first must experience the seven-year period of persecution, possible martyrdom and then the wrath of God poured out upon the earth.

Indeed, there is an “any moment” expectation of the return of Christ. This could not be true if the church had to go through the great tribulation period.

Careful students of Bible prophecy recognize that the seventieth week of Daniel starts with a signing or the confirming of an agreement between the coming leader of a revived Roman empire, known as the “man of sin,” and the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:27).

Exactly three and a half years into the seven-year agreement the pact with Israel is broken. Three and a half years later, Jesus Christ returns.

The problem with this scenario is that Jesus said nobody knows the day or hour of His return.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

Yet it seems for those who insist that the rapture takes place at the same time as the Second Coming the day could be calculated. It would be exactly seven years from the time of the signing of the agreement or three and a half years after the treaty is broken. Thus, it contradicts the words of Jesus that nobody can know the day or hour of His coming.

  1. The Nature Of The Tribulation Itself Gives Evidence For A Post-Trib Rapture

There are those who teach that this present age in which we live is “the tribulation.” Thus, the church is already passing through tribulation.

Consequently, the “great tribulation” consists of the trials and persecutions which the church is experiencing during this present age. There was great persecution or tribulation for the early church and it has continued until today.

Others say this tribulation is not unique to this age. Indeed, they say it actually goes all the way back to Adam. Whether one accepts that the great tribulation goes all the way back to Adam or that it is unique to the church age, the end result is that the church will pass through the time of tribulation before Christ returns. While it may be more intense before the Lord returns, tribulation is occurring right now. If this is the correct definition of the great tribulation then any rapture of the saints will occur after the tribulation period or at the very least, during it.

However, there are other posttribulationists which see the great tribulation as a future time of trouble which will occur shortly before the return of Christ. They do not believe that this particular period has occurred as of yet. Most posttribulationists would hold to this position.

There is clearly no agreement as to the doctrine of the tribulation. Is it a future time of wrath or is this divine wrath going on right now? If it is going on right now, we may rightly ask when did is start? Was is at the beginning of the church age or does it go all the way back to Adam and Eve?

Post-tribulationists are divided over this. If the great tribulation is going on right now, then will there be an unprecedented time of trouble in the future?

There can be no meaningful discussion concerning the church going through the tribulation until there is some agreement on what is meant by the tribulation. Post-Tribulation does not give only one answer to this question.

  1. Believers Are Never Promised Escape From Tribulation

There is also the issue of believers escaping persecution and tribulation. The Scripture does not teach that Christians are immune to such things. In fact, Jesus said that Christians would face troubles.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The Apostle Paul made the same point. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

Unfortunately, they confuse trials and tribulation, mainly as part of sanctification, with tribulation that relates to the wrath of God. Verses such as the following are ignored:

“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)

“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

  1. There Are Believers On Earth During The Future Tribulation Period

They emphasize that God’s people can remain on earth while escaping His wrath. Scripture gives examples of God’s protection of His own in the midst of judgments. The children of Israel were protected from the various plagues which struck Egypt; they were not removed from the scene. Something similar will take place during the great tribulation. Thus, there is no need to remove them by means of the rapture.

Furthermore, every rapture theory acknowledges that there are believers, both Jews and Gentiles, on earth during this time before Jesus returns.  Nobody denies that there will be believers during this time. The question to be answered is the “identity” of these believers. While those who hold to Post-Tribulationism contend it is the church, there are others who reject this idea. They believe the reference to saints during this period is to “tribulation saints.” These are people who have believed in Jesus Christ after the rapture has occurred.

By misidentifying these people, Post-Tribulationism assumes that the church will remain through the entire period of tribulation.

  1. The Wrath Of God Does Not Occur Until Late In The Seventieth Week Of Daniel

One of the central arguments of the Post-Tribulation rapture position concerns the wrath of God. They usually place the wrath of God at the very end of the tribulation. They do not see the wrath of God as being poured out at the beginning of the period as Pre-Tribulationists do.

Yet we find the wrath of God occurring at the very beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel. Indeed, with the opening of the first seal we read the following judgment.

“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest” (Revelation 6:1-2).

While this intensifies as the time of the Second Coming draws closer, it is wrong to say that it does not occur until the very end of this seven-year period. If the entire seventieth week of Daniel is a time of God’s wrath being poured out upon the earth, then we would expect the church to be removed during this specific period of judgment.

  1. Scripture Makes No Clear Distinction Between Israel And The Church

Most of the people who hold to the Post-Tribulation view do not keep the nation of Israel and the New Testament church as distinct entities. Rather they see the church as a continuation of Israel or the “new Israel” because Israel forfeited their promises of God by rejecting Jesus the Messiah. These promises now belong to the New Testament church.

In support of this idea, it is argued that during the great tribulation period we find both people from the nation of Israel as well as the church saints on the earth. Each of these groups is experiencing the sufferings of this unprecedented time.

Contrary to other views, they do not see the great tribulation as a time in which God mainly deals with the nation of Israel.

The nation of Israel was however specially selected by God to be the people through whom He would reach the world. When they rejected Jesus as their Messiah God temporarily set them aside. His work is now accomplished through the New Testament church which is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. While the nation Israel has been set aside, this will not be forever. During the time of the great tribulation, or the seventieth week of Daniel, God will again deal with the nation Israel.

The full last seven years are however a time when the Lord deals with Israel as a nation as He did during the Old Testament period. Indeed, the angel Gabriel made it clear that it was the future of Daniel’s people which was in view.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city” (Daniel 9:24)

“Your people” is Israel while “your holy city” is Jerusalem. We are now in an interval between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week of Daniel, the church age. Once the church age ends, then the Lord will again deal with Israel. This is crucial to understand.

Since God’s dealings will be mainly through Israel at this time, it is not necessary for the New Testament church, the Christians, to exist on the earth. This is why many believe the rapture will take place before the seventieth week of Daniel.

The Old Testament calls it the “time of Jacob’s trouble” or “distress for Jacob.” The following is recorded in the Book of Jeremiah.

“How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7).

  1. The Last Trumpet Of First Corinthians Is The Same As The Last Trumpet In Revelation

There is also the argument about the timing of the trumpet. In First Corinthians we read about rapture occurring at the time of the “last trumpet.” Paul wrote.

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

This last trumpet is defined in Revelation. John put it this way.

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)

Furthermore, the context in Revelation 11 indicates they are the same trumpet. Indeed, we find that this seventh trumpet takes place the time of the resurrection of the dead. We read.

“The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small–and for destroying those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18)

Consequently, John is describing the same event which Paul wrote about in First Thessalonians 4 and First Corinthians 15; a Post-Tribulation rapture and a resurrection of the dead believers.

While the trumpet reference in First Corinthians is often equated with the last of the trumpet judgments in the Book of Revelation there are some problems with this view.

For one thing, the Book of Revelation had not even been written when Paul wrote to the Corinthians! Therefore, it seems unlikely that Paul’s audience would understand the last trumpet to be equated with future trumpet judgments which had not been revealed yet.

In addition, the trumpet blasts in Revelation are calls to judgment. The sound of the trumpet in Corinthians is a call to meet the Lord. Indeed, it is a joyful sound, not something to be dreaded. This trumpet signifies that the dead in Christ as well as the living believers will be given a glorified body. This allows them to enter into the presence of Jesus Christ.

To sum up, it appears that the Post-Tribulation position does not have adequate answers to all of the objections. While at first this theory may seem like the best way to understand the coming of Jesus Christ, the more one looks at the Scripture the less convincing the arguments become.

Therefore, for many who have looked deeply into the issue of the rapture of the church, the Post-Tribulation answer has not been convincing.

(Main Source: The Rapture – Don Stewart)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (32)

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CHAPTER VIII

The Passion Week (Part 1)

RESUME

The importance of this final week of our Lord’s life upon the earth before His death and resurrection may be seen in the comparative space given to it by the Gospel writers. Matthew devotes seven chapters or 25% of his book to it; Mark five chapters, or 31%; Luke about four and a half chapters, or 19%; and John eight chapters, or 40%.

It is also significant that in the Pauline epistles which are specifically addressed to members of the Body of Christ in the present administration of God there is hardly any reference to the events in the earthly ministry of our Lord and that practically all of his epistles are occupied with Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension. In certain passages Paul tells us, for example, that Christ WAS a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (Rom. 15:8); that Christ “was made of the seed of David according to the flesh,” and skipping over His earthly ministry to Israel he continues, “and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3,4). The same treatment is seen in Gal. 4:4,5: “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

Paul in no way belittles the earthly ministry of Jesus by thus omitting everything between the birth and death of Christ: he simply recognizes that this ministry was only to the nation of Israel, and that he had been given a new dispensation which was based upon the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and upon His heavenly ministry as Head of the Church which is His Body. It has been estimated that if the entire life of Jesus were written with the same detailed coverage given to the Passion week it would fill about eighty volumes the size of the Bible. There can be no doubt but that God in His Word has placed the greatest of emphasis upon the vicarious death of His Son.

The events of the Passion week all took place in and near Jerusalem. On the first day of this week, which is celebrated by many in Christendom as Palm Sunday, Jesus came from Bethany to Jerusalem and as He entered the city riding upon the colt of an ass the multitudes spread their garments in the way and others put palm branches in the way and they cried: “Hosanna to the Son of David.” This is commonly called the Triumphal Entry. He wept over the city and after going to the temple and looking round about on all things, returned at eventide to Bethany.

On Monday He returned to the temple after cursing a fig tree on the way, and there for the second time He drove out the merchants, overturning their tables and declaring that they had made His Father’s house a den of robbers. In the evening He returned again to Bethany.

Tuesday morning Jesus returned to the City with His disciples, and as they passed the fig tree which He had cursed they saw that it had withered away. In the temple He confronted the chief priests and elders who questioned His authority. A great deal of space is given over to His teaching in the temple. Upon leaving the temple He went over to the mount of Olives and sat with His disciples and taught them about the coming great tribulation and other events which would happen at the end of the age just before His second coming back to earth. At the end of the day He told His disciples: “Ye know that after two days the passover cometh, and the Son of man is delivered up to be crucified.” Meanwhile the chief priests and elders were plotting how they might take Jesus, and Judas Iscariot went to them and offered to betray Jesus to them for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus returned to Bethany and there is apparently no record of what transpired on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the first day of unleavened bread (Luke states that the feast of unleavened bread is called the Passover), the disciples asked Jesus where they should prepare to eat the Passover. He told them of the upper room where they were to make ready and there He ate the Passover and spoke His farewell words to the disciples as recorded in John 13-17. Near midnight Jesus and His disciples (Judas being absent) walked up the valley of Jehoshaphat to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed in agony and sweat as it were great drops of blood. There Judas betrayed Him to the mob of Jews, who arrested Him and dragged Him to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, where He was tried before the Sanhedrin and condemned to death. From there He was brought before Pilate, the Roman procurator, who found no fault in Him and sent Him to Herod Antipas for his judgment. Herod was happy to see Jesus because he hoped to see Him work a miracle, but Jesus remained mute in his presence and Herod and his men mocked Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate finally gave in to the cries of the Jews, “Away with Him! Crucify Him!” He was delivered to the soldiers who led Him forth out of the city, bearing His cross, to Golgotha, where they crucified Him, about nine o’clock in the morning on Friday.

The above order of events is that which is followed by most Bible expositors. However, there are those who contend that Jesus must have been crucified on Wednesday in order to allow for the full three days and three nights in the tomb, a period of 72 hours. The traditional Friday date for the crucifixion allows for only one full day and parts of two other days, but it is argued that Jewish law admitted part of a day as a day. For example, Sir Robert Anderson states: “‘A day and a night make an Onah, a part of an Onah is as the whole.’ Dr. Lightfoot quotes this Jewish saying in his Horae Hebraicae (Matt. 12:40); and he adds: ‘Therefore Christ may truly be said to have been in His grave three Onah.. .the consent of the schools and the dialect of the nation agreeing thereunto.’”

The confusion comes about largely by differences between the Synoptics and John. The Synoptics state positively that Christ ate the Passover with His disciples the night before His crucifixion (Matt. 26:17-19; Lk. 22:15); but John states it was the Preparation of the Passover when Jesus was crucified (John 19:14,31,42), which would seem to indicate that Christ was crucified on Wednesday morning, and that the Passover was eaten the next day, that is, after sunset on our Wednesday, remembering that the Jewish day began at sunset and not at midnight as does ours. This point seems further strengthened by the statement in John 18:28, that the Jews would not enter Pilate’s judgment hall on the morning of the crucifixion, “lest they should be defiled,” and therefore not be able to eat the Passover. It is further argued that the Last Supper was not the Passover and that Christ was crucified at the same time the Jews were killing the Passover lambs, thus perfectly fulfilling the type of Christ as our Passover.

For the benefit of those who would like to study the Wednesday theory further we will give a resumé of Dr. E.W. Bullinger’s outline of the Passion Week.

On our Friday morning, which he identifies as the 9th of Nisan, he has Christ’s first entry into Jerusalem, starting from Bethphage {Matt. 21:8,9), riding upon an ass with its unbroken colt (Matt. 21:1-7}. He cleansed the temple (Matt. 21:12-16) and returned to Bethany.

The Sabbath began at sunset Friday, which Christ spent at Bethany resting. This was the 10th of Nisan.

Then after sunset Saturday which was the beginning of the 11th of Nisan, Jesus attended the supper at Bethany at which He was anointed upon the feet by Mary with a pound of ointment of spikenard. The next morning which was still the 11th of Nisan or Sunday. He made His second entry into Jerusalem, that which is usually called the Triumphal entry (Palm Sunday). This entry started from Bethany and the ride involved only one animal, a colt (Mk. 11:1-7; Lk. 19:29-35; John 12:12). He returned to Bethany for the night.

The next morning, Monday, the 12th of Nisan He cursed the fig tree, made a further cleansing of the temple (Mk. 11:15-17; Lk. 19:45,46). Certain Greeks want to see Him. He teaches in the temple and rulers oppose Him. He returns to Bethany at night.

Tuesday morning, the 13th of Nisan, He returns and the disciples notice the fig tree has withered away. He teaches in the temple and gives the first great prophecy in the temple (Lk. 21:5-36). He then goes to the mount of Olives and gives the second prophecy (Matt. 24:1-51; Mk. 13:1-37). And He tells the disciples that after two days is the Passover. He then returns to Bethany.

After sunset Tuesday, which is the 14th of Nisan, He attends the second supper at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, and an unnamed woman pours ointment from an alabaster box upon His head. Judas plots to betray Christ.

Preparation for the Last Supper. The supper eaten. Upper room discourse. They go to Gethsemane. The arrest and trial during the night. Wednesday morning the crucifixion. Burial in haste before sunset, when the “high day” of the Feast began.

Three days and three nights in the tomb, from sunset Wednesday to sunset Saturday, 15th, 16th, and 17th of Nisan. The resurrection occurred at around sunset Saturday.31

It will thus be seen that Bullinger has two separate triumphal entries, two separate cleansings of the temple, two separate dinners in His honor at Bethany, and is anointed by two different women. We feel that the minor differences in the records of this series of events can be explained without making separate events out of them, that there is a satisfactory explanation for John’s statements which seem to disagree with the Synoptics. We will therefore follow the more generally accepted view that our Lord was crucified on Friday and arose early Sunday morning, instead of being crucified on Wednesday and being raised at sunset Saturday. For a complete exposition of these differences and a defense for the Friday date, see Sir Robert Anderson’s, The Coming Prince (chapter IX, entitled,”The Paschal Supper”). We will have more to say on this subject when we discuss the resurrection of our Lord.

1.  The So-called Triumphal Entry References:

Matt. 21: 1-11; Mk. 11: 1-11; Lk. 19:29-44; John 12:12-19

We have called this the so-called Triumphal Entry, not to detract from its glory, but to contrast it with the real Triumphal Entry when the Lord Jesus comes again in power and great glory and enters into Jerusalem and establishes His Kingdom. The contrast is between the King coming in meekness riding upon an ass into a city where He will be put to death as a criminal, and the King riding upon a white horse, coming out of heaven to earth to subdue His enemies in a great display of power and glory (Rev. 19:11-16).

Jesus knew that the Prophet Zechariah had predicted that He would be presented to Israel as their King, meekly riding upon a lowly colt of an ass (9:9), and when He reached the mount of Olives He sent His disciples into the village with instructions to bring a colt upon which no one had ever ridden which they would find tied. Here we see His omniscience in knowing all about the colt and its owners and theft reactions, and His Divine power over creation in being able to ride calmly and peaceably upon an animal which had never been broken.

When the multitudes who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem they went out to meet Him as He came up the Jericho road from Bethany and they cut down palm branches and spread them in the way and others spread their garments in the road and they began praising God and crying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” Hosanna is a word derived from the Hebrew in Ps. 118:25 and has the meaning of “Save now.” Luke tells us that some of the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke His disciples for saying such things, but Jesus replied: “If these hold their peace, the stones will cry out.” Jesus thus accepted the adoration and worship which the multitudes were bestowing upon Him. Luke also informs us that as He drew near to the city He wept over it for not knowing the things which belonged to its peace and predicted the impending destruction because it knew not the time of its visitation. On “visitation” see 1 Pet. 2:12. Israel did not recognize that God was visiting them.

John also adds an interesting sidelight. He states: “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but where Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.” John refers to a similar case when Jesus spoke of destroying this temple and of raising it up in three days (cf. 2:19-22).

We do not read that Jesus did any teaching on this day which is now celebrated as Palm Sunday. Mark tells us that He did go into the temple, and when He had looked round about upon all things, it now being eventide, He went out unto Bethany with the Twelve. Bethany was the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus and was located on the road to Jericho, about 15 furlongs from Jerusalem, by the mount of Olives. It was from this spot that Jesus had made His entry into Jerusalem as Israel’s King, and it was from the same spot, some forty- seven days later, that He made His entry into heaven (Acts 1:3-9).

2.  Cursing the Fig Tree

References: Matt. 21:18-22; Mk. 11:12-14; 20-26

Jesus had spent Sunday night at Bethany and on Monday morning as He returned to Jerusalem with His disciples He became hungry, and seeing a fig tree He came to it but found nothing on it but leaves. Mark tells us that it was not the season for figs. Matthew in vs. 20 and 21 tells of the withering of the tree after Christ had said: “Let there be no fruit on thee henceforward for ever,” as though it withered immediately, but according to Mark it was on the next morning as they passed by that they observed the tree had withered, not simply the leaves had withered, but it had withered away from the roots. The disciples were greatly impressed how quickly the tree had died.

The question which troubles most readers is why Jesus cursed the tree for not having figs, when it was not the season for figs. Edersheim claims: “It is a well- known fact, that in Palestine the fruit appears before the leaves, and that this fig tree, whether from its exposure or soil, was precocious, is evident from the fact that it was a leaf, which is quite unusual at that season on the mount of Olives.” It was a barren fig tree, like the one we considered in Lk. 13:6-9, which was good only to be chopped down. While there is nothing in the immediate context to point to a symbolic interpretation of the cursing of this barren fig tree, there can be no doubt but that the fig is symbolic of Israel, and the events which were to take place that day when He cleansed the temple and the next day in His teaching in the temple all point to the fact that what had happened to the fig tree was exactly what was going to happen to the nation of Israel. Israel had all of the leaves of religious profession, but for the three years that Jesus came looking for fruit He found none.

While the lesson here is primarily about Israel, the application can be made to people in any dispensation. Fig leaves couldn’t provide a suitable covering for Adam and Eve, and they couldn’t satisfy Christ’s hunger. Note some of the things Paul has to say about fruit bearing in this dispensation: Rom. 1:13; 6:21,22; 7:4,5; 15:28; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9; Phil. 4:17; Col. 1:6.

Peter apparently saw no symbolism in the cursing of the fig tree. It was the miracle that impressed him. Jesus answered Peter and said: “Have faith in God,” and proceeded to use the cursing of the tree as an example of faith and the possibilities of faith in prayer. We believe in the literal interpretation of Scripture, but this does not mean that we refuse to recognize figurative and symbolic language where it exists.

When Christ spoke of a faith that would move mountains, we do not believe He was talking about literal mountains. If He was, then there is no record of any one, including Jesus Himself, who had this kind of faith which actually uprooted a whole mountain and cast it into the sea. To do such a thing would cause great loss of human life and damage to property. Suppose for a moment that some one had the faith to cause the Swiss Alps to be cast into the Mediterranean Sea. Can one begin to imagine how many millions of lives would be snuffed out and the worldwide disaster from earth shocks?

It is well-known that “rooting up mountains” is in common Rabbinic use a hyperbole for doing the impossible or the incredible. It was the absence of faith which caused Israel to be barren. What mighty changes could have come about in world history had Israel manifested that kind of faith in God! Israel’s Kingdom could have been established. The Gentile nations could have been brought into subjection. Wars could have been outlawed. Armaments could have been converted into agricultural tools. That which seems impossible to accomplish through one small nation will some day become an actuality when Israel turns in true faith to God. But God has declared that nothing can now produce that Utopia, not even the greatest of faith, until Christ returns and Israel is converted; for Christ Himself declared that there would be wars and rumors of war until the very end of the age (Matt. 24:6,21).

3.  The Second Cleansing of the Temple

References: Matt. 21:12-17; Mk. 11:15-19; Lk. 19:45-48

It is significant that at the first Passover of Jesus’ ministry He cleansed the Temple by driving out the merchants and overturning the tables of the money changers. When asked for a sign to show His authority, Jesus said: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again” (John 2:19-22). Now at the last Passover of His ministry He duplicates this act, and as we shall see in the next section, He refuses to state by what authority He has done this.

As Paul points out in Rom 2:17-24 it was God’s original purpose for Israel to bring the knowledge of God to the Gentile nations, but instead they had caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles. Jesus said the original purpose of God for the temple was that it should be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but they had made it a den of robbers.

After cleansing the temple, the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them. When the chief priests and scribes beheld all of the wonderful works He was doing and when they heard the children crying out in the temple: “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were moved with indignation and demanded that Jesus refrain them. The day before when the crowds cried “Hosanna” as He entered the city and the Pharisees tried to rebuke Him for permitting them to say such things about Him, He replied: “If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out.” In the temple it was the children praising Him, and His reply to the rulers on this occasion was: “Yea, did ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou has perfected praise?” (Ps. 8:2), “and He left them.” What sad words! He not only left their physical presence and returned to Bethany for the night, but He left them in their sin, bereft of God’s presence.

God can use children as well as adults. Strong cites an incident out of Eliot’s novel: “Silas Marner, the old weaver of Raveloe, so pathetically and vividly described in George Eliot’s novel, was a hard, desolate, godless old miser, but after little Eppie strayed into his miserable cottage that memorable winter night, he began again to believe. ‘I think now,’ he said at last, ‘I can trusten God until I die.’”

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

THE MID-TRIBULATION RAPTURE FROM A PRE-TRIBULATIONIST PERSPECTIVE

The+Mid-Tribulation+Rapture
Second. Coming. Rapture. Christ’s Death, Resurrection, Ascension. Eternity. 3 1/2 Years. 3 1/2 Years. 1,000 Years. Church Age. Tribulation. Millennium. The Church will be kept from the last, and worst 31/2 years of the. Tribulation (Dan 9:27; 12:7, 11 and Rev 11:2; 12:6, 14)

WHAT IS THE MID-TRIBULATION RAPTURE VIEW?

While most Christians, who believe in a future rapture, embrace either a Post-Tribulation or Pre-Tribulation view with respect to its timing of the rapture, there is a minority which accepts neither. Instead, they believe that the best understanding of this coming event is to place it at the midpoint of the final seven years before Jesus Christ returns. This is usually known as the Mid-Tribulation rapture view.

It should be noted that most of those who hold this view usually do not use the term “Mid-Tribulation rapturists” to describe themselves. Rather they prefer to classify themselves as holding to Pretribulationism.

The reason for this is that they believe Jesus Christ is coming before the “great tribulation” which they believe occurs during the last half of the seventieth week of Daniel. Thus, while Pre-Tribulationists believe the tribulation lasts seven years the Mid-Tribulationists think that it lasts only three and a half years.

We can explain this view as follows.

1. The Seventieth Week Of Daniel Is Still Future

They believe that the seventieth week of Daniel is future. Thus, Mid-Tribulationism, like Pre-Tribulationism, and many Post-Tribulationists believes this seventieth week is still future.

2. There Is A Three And One Half Year Interval Between The Rapture And The Second Coming

Like the Pre-Tribulation position, those which hold to the Mid-Tribulation theory believe there is an interval of time between the rapture of the church and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is opposed to the Post-Tribulation view which sees no interval. The difference between the Pre-Tribulation and the Mid-Tribulation view is the length of the interval. Mid-Tribulationism has a three and one half year interval while the Pre-Trib view has seven years.

3. The Church Is Found In The Old Testament

Contrary to the Pre-Tribulation view, many of those who hold to the Mid-Tribulation position believe the church is found in the Old Testament. They see the first half of the seventieth week of Daniel as referring to the church.

Furthermore, they believe God’s program with respect to Israel and the church are not kept entirely separate. Instead they overlap. The church will participate in the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week but will not be around when the most severe judgment occurs. They believe that this last half of the seven years is known as the time of “Jacob’s trouble” and deals with the nation Israel.

Contrary to the Mid-Tribulation position, the church is not found in the Old Testament. It is a mystery, or sacred secret, which was not revealed until the New Testament period. Paul made this clear.

“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness-the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:25-27)

Therefore, we should not look for the church in the Old Testament.

4. The Church Is Found In Jesus’ Olivet Discourse

The Olivet Discourse records the teaching of Jesus regarding coming events. It is recorded in detail in Matthew 24 and 25. These chapters are regarded by Mid-Tribulationists as directed to the New Testament church and not merely to a future time for Israel.

Some argue that the apostles are seen as representative of the church and therefore, the rapture of the church is included in these words of Jesus.

As already stated, while God does have distinct programs for Israel and the church, there is some overlap in these programs. We find this overlap in the Olivet Discourse.

The Pre-Tribulation position is that the Olivet Discourse is primarily aimed at the nation Israel. The questions by the disciples, and the answers given by Jesus, are mainly in a Jewish context.

Indeed, the questions were predominantly asked concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple and the coming of the Lord. It is, therefore, a mistake to assume that Jesus’ answers are directed at the New Testament church.

5. The Great Tribulation Lasts Three And A Half Years

This brings us to one of the greatest differences between the Pre-Tribulation view and Mid-Tribulation view. Mid-Tribulationism emphasizes that the New Testament church has been promised that they will experience persecution and tribulation. Once again, context should be considered. Jesus did say that in this world, we will have trials and tribulation, but these should not be confused with the greatest time of tribulation this world has ever seen. The tribulation spoken of in Matthew 24 represents God’s wrath and not sanctification.

Mid-tribulationists point to the frequent mention of 3½ years (42 months or 1,260 days) in Daniel and Revelation as support for their view. They argue that the emphasis on the final 3½ years indicates that only this portion of the 7 year tribulation refers to the time of God’s wrath.

According to them, since all who live godly in Christ Jesus will experience such things, the sufferings of the church in the first half of the seventieth week of Daniel fits with the calling of the church.

Consequently, the first three and a half years of the final seven-year period will find the church on the earth suffering persecution and in many cases, martyrdom. They argue that is the wrath of humans, not the wrath God. The divine wrath, the great tribulation, does not begin until the midpoint of the last seven-year period.

Thus, the Mid-Tribulation view does not see the opening of the seals, as recorded in Revelation chapter six, and the various trumpet judgments which follow, as signs of God’s divine wrath. Indeed, they do not believe the wrath occurs until the last of the seven trumpets sounds. It is however, important to note that only Jesus is worth of opening the seals of wrath.

Daniel was told that the entire period of the “seventy sevens” was explicitly decreed for “his people,” the Jews.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place” (Daniel 9:24).

The programs for the nation Israel and the church do not overlap as the Mid-Tribulation rapture position states. God does not begin the last seven year period of His dealings with Israel until the New Testament church, made up of Jews and Gentiles, is removed from the world by means of the rapture.

Indeed, we never find in Scripture where God is using both Israel and the New Testament church at the same time as His divine agents.

6 The Seventh Trumpet Or Last Trumpet Signals The Rapture

Mid-tribulationists don’t even agree among themselves about where the Rapture should be placed in the book of Revelation. Some place it at Revelation 7:9-17, some at Revelation 6:12-17, others at Revelation 11:15-17, and still others at Revelation 14:1-4. This inconsistency is a major weakness for this view.

According to some, the great tribulation begins with the seventh trumpet in the Book of Revelation. Scripture says.

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever”” (Revelation 11:15).

The seventh trumpet is blown in the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel. This begins the last half of the final seven-year period in which unprecedented judgments take place. The outpouring of the wrath of God is described in detail in Revelation 16-18.

To them, the seventh trumpet is equated with the last trumpet which Paul speaks of in First Corinthians 15:52 and First Thessalonians 4:16. We read the following in First Corinthians.

“In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

This trumpet sounds the call to believers to meet Jesus Christ in the air; the rapture.

Therefore, they argue that the rapture of the church occurs during the midpoint of the final seven years. This is three and a half years before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and before the wrath of God is poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth.

These trumpets in the Book of Revelation are trumpets of judgment while the trumpet associated with the rapture of the church is a trumpet of deliverance from the curse of this earth. The trumpets in Revelation announce God’s wrath is coming while the trumpet that sounds at the rapture calls the believers to come away and be with their Lord.

In his book, “The End – A Complete Overview Of Bible Prophecy and The End Of Days,” Mark Hitchcock summarizes the four differences between the trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15 and the trumpet in Revelation 11:

  • Subject: The one deals with the church, the other with the wicked world;
  • Result: The one results in the catching up of the church to be with the Lord, while the other results in the judgement of the wicked world.
  • Character: The one trumpet reflects God’s grace, the other reflects His judgement;
  • Timing: The one signals the close of the life of the church on earth. It’s the last trumpet of the church age. The other marks a climax in the progression of the Tribulation judgements.

Furthermore, the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11 is not the last trumpet in the Tribulation. At the second coming of Christ a trumpet is blown to gather God’s elect, including the remnant of Israel as well as the tribulation saints (Matthew 24:31). So, the last trumpet argument actually undermines their view. The last trumpet of the Rapture is the final trumpet of this church age, and it will summon God’s people to the great reunion in the sky.

7. The Snatching Up Of The Two Witnesses

Many who hold the Mid-Tribulation position also believe that the two witnesses described in the Book of Revelation represent the church. They are caught away, or raptured at this time. We read.

“But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on” (Revelation 11:11,12)

The three and a half days are thought to symbolize the first three and one half years of the seventieth week of Daniel. The two witnesses are said to symbolize the believers in Jesus Christ. At that time they are taken up to meet the Lord; the rapture of the church.

The two witnesses in the Book of Revelation should be viewed as two human beings living at the time of the end. Indeed, they are called prophets, their unique clothing is described for us, and we are told of the specific plagues they send to those upon the earth.

Furthermore, it is stated that they are killed and that their dead bodies lie for three days in the streets of Jerusalem, a literal city. Then, after three days, these prophets are raised back to life. This is clearly describing two literal people who will be alive at that time. It is not symbolic of the New Testament church and the rapture.

8. The multitude in Revelation 7

Some claim that this great multitude from every tongue, tribe and nation who obviously are up in Heaven—John sees them there—are the Church which has just been raptured out of the world to Heaven as one body in between the breaking of the sixth seal and the breaking of the seventh seal.

So is this “the great multitude” the Church? It really can’t be. The Apostle John clearly stated that all these people who make up this great multitude came out of the great tribulation. In other words, every one of these persons lived here on the earth during at least part of the future Great Tribulation and then come out of that to Heaven.

If this is the Church, then you’re forced to conclude this would be a partial Rapture of the Church or a part of the Church being raptured out of the world. Only that part of the Church which would be alive on the earth during the tribulation of the 70th week of Daniel 9. Where would all the rest of the Church be that has lived and died in the centuries preceding the tribulation? As an example, what about those who already died in Paul’s time and will rise from the death according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

When you look at the rapture passages, it clearly indicates that all the Church is raptured together at the same time as one group, not those from one period of time at one point and those from another point of time at another point.

In addition, when one of the 24 elders said to John, “These are they which came out of the great Tribulation,” the verb translated “came” is in the Greek present tense. The normal significance of the Greek present tense is continuous action.

So, in essence, the elder is saying to John, “These are they who are coming out continuously, one after another, from the Great Tribulation to Heaven.” How? Through death, through martyrdom, or through natural death. Interestingly, Dr. A. T. Robertson who has been regarded as the foremost Greek scholar of America in the twentieth century, talking about the significance of the present tense of this exact verb here in Revelation 7:14 says it’s indicating continuous action. And again, what it’s stating is, these saints are coming out of the Great Tribulation one by one by one by one as they’re experiencing death, either through martyrdom or natural death throughout the course of the second half of the Great Tribulation.

By contrast, the rapture passages indicate that the Church is not raptured one person and then another person and then another person, but the Church is raptured in one lump sum, one group, at the same time caught up from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air and taken to the Father’s house in Heaven to live in the mansions there that Jesus is preparing for His Church right now.

9. There Is No Imminent Coming Of Christ

Since the rapture does not occur until three and a half years into the seventieth week of Daniel, or the Great Tribulation period, there is no such thing as an imminent coming of Christ.

In other words, a number of events must necessarily happen before the rapture of the church occurs. Consequently, believers cannot look for this event to take place at “any moment.” Indeed, there are several biblical predictions which must be fulfilled before Christ can come back for His bride, the church.

The Mid-Tribulation position denies that the coming of Christ could be at any moment. This agrees with the Post-Tribulation viewpoint but is opposed to the Pre-Tribulation view. Pre-tribulationism embraces the idea that the rapture of the church is imminent; it can come at any moment.

While certain events may take place before the rapture of the church, there is nothing predicted in Scripture which must happen before the Lord comes for His bride.

Assuming the Tribulation has not even begun, then Christ can’t come for at least another 3½ years.

10. Mid-Tribulationism Leads To Date Setting

This brings us to the point that the Mid-Tribulation view of the rapture actually allows for date-setting. Indeed, if the rapture comes exactly three and a half years after the beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel then there would be no anticipation of it coming at “any time.” The passages in Scripture about watching and waiting would be meaningless because there would be no need to either watch or wait. Everyone would know precisely when it would occur. Once the covenant with many, mentioned in Daniel 9, is confirmed by the Antichrist, we will know that the rapture is going to take place after three and a half years. Yet the Bible tells us that we do not know when this event will take place. In fact, Jesus said.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36)

Because nobody can know the Lord told us to “watch.” We read. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13).

It is clear from Scripture that the date of the rapture cannot be known. However, according to the Mid-Trib scenario the date can be known.

These are some of the usual objections to the Mid-Tribulation view and they are powerful. We thus conclude that none of the evidence for the Mid-Tribulation rapture view answers the question as to the timing of the rapture. We should therefore look elsewhere.

(Main Sources:

  • The Rapture by Don Stewart
  • The End – A Complete Overview Of Bible Prophecy and The End Of Days by Mark Hitchcock
  • The Great Multitude article by The John Ankerberg Show)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (31)

0 Dispensationalism

CHAPTER VII

The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 7)

35.     The Rich Young Ruler

References: Matt. 19:16-30; Mk. 10:17-31; Lk. 18:18-30

In our interpretation of this story it must be remembered that it took place under the dispensation of Law. When the rich young ruler asked, “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?” the Lord replied with the requirements of the Law. In the dispensation of grace when the jailer asked Paul the same question, Paul replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” The question arises, Does the Bible teach two different ways of being saved: by law keeping and by grace apart from law keeping?

Paul makes clear two facts in his epistles. The first is stated in Rom. 2:6,7,13 that “God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified).” On the surface this sounds as though Paul is teaching that man can be justified by keeping the law.  It is rather a statement of God’s just dealing with man. And Paul goes on to show the second fact that there has never been a man since Adam’s fall that could measure up to that standard; for he proves that all have sinned and the conclusion is inescapable: “Therefore by the doing of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).

Although the young ruler claimed to have kept the Law from his youth, Jesus showed him he had broken the two great commandments of the Law. He didn’t love his neighbor as himself, for he refused to share his wealth with the needy, and he did not love the Lord with all his heart, for he turned away sorrowful and refused to follow the Lord. The ruler had called Jesus Good Master, and Jesus had said, “There is none good, but one, that is, God.” If Jesus was good then He was God. The ruler was not God, therefore he was not good, as he supposed himself to be in his self-righteousness.

The law was given to show man that he is not good, but the Jews as a nation never learned the true intent of the law, as Paul explains in Rom. 10:1-3. Faith is the one thing necessary for pleasing God in every dispensation, but faith was demonstrated in different ways in different dispensations. If God said a flood was coming, faith believed and built an ark. If God said, “without the shedding of blood is no remission,” faith believed and brought an animal sacrifice. But after God had proved the whole human race guilty and had given His Son as the once for all sacrifice for sin, faith no longer engages in things required by the ceremonial law but believes and receives Christ as the all-sufficient sacrifice.

The disciples were astonished by Jesus’ remarks concerning the difficulty of a rich man entering the Kingdom and asked: “Who then can be saved?” Jesus said, “With men it is impossible,” that is, it is impossible for man to save himself. But, “with God all things are possible.” God has done what for man was impossible. He has found a way to justify the ungodly, entirely apart from human merit or goodness.

Matthew, being especially the Kingdom Gospel, records the further remarks of the Apostles which were called forth from Christ’s dealings with the young ruler. They said, “We have left everything and followed you. What will we have?” Jesus told them, “Verily, I say unto you, In the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me shall also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” This is a special reward which Jesus will give to these men, and these only, when He returns to establish the Kingdom of God in this earth. There is personal, spiritual regeneration which the sinner receives when he believes the Gospel and is saved. There is also a regeneration in nature which will occur when Christ returns and removes the curse from nature and restores the earth to its original glory. Peter called it “the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (cf. Isa. 65:17-25; Rom. 8:21).

36.     The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

Reference: Matt. 20:1-16

In order to get the setting for this parable we must go back to the conclusion of Ch. 19. The last verse of that chapter reads: “But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” And the parable ends: “So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen.” The parable was told to illustrate the truth at the end of the previous chapter.

The parable also illustrates the sovereignty of God and His purpose in election. The householder went to the marketplace to hire laborers, going very early in the morning, then at nine o’clock, then at noon, and again at three in the afternoon, and finally at five o’clock, each time hiring idle men. He agreed on a wage with the first ones and told the others he would pay them what was right. At the end of the day he called the laborers together and told his steward to pay them, beginning with the last and ending with the first. The ones who worked only one hour got a penny and when the steward came to those who were hired early in the morning, they supposed they get much more, but they too got one penny. When they complained of injustice, the householder replied: “Didn’t you agree to work all day for a penny? It is not lawful for me to do with my own what I desire? Is your eye evil because I am good? It is my will to give unto these last even as unto you.” We are quite sure that modern labor unions would have taken this householder to court for unfair labor practices, even though the men who worked all day got what was generous pay for that period in history. Man, of course, is not sovereign, but God is, and the householder in the parable represents God.

There are several significant things to notice about the parable. The men in the marketplace were idle. They were unemployed. They did not go out looking for work; instead, the householder came to them and gave them a job. This is a picture of man in his lost condition. He is not seeking God, but instead God seeks the sinner (cf. Rom. 3:11; Lk. 19:10). No one would have been saved unless God had taken the initiative and sought out the sinner.

The interpretation of the parable has to do with rewards in the Kingdom. Martin Luther and others have taught that the penny or denarius represents salvation which each receives whether he has labored much or little: all get the same eternal life. However, such an interpretation makes salvation a reward for work, and salvation is always a free gift. Others have supposed the parable teaches that although salvation is a free gift, all of the saved will receive exactly the same reward for their service, but of course such teaching is contrary to almost every passage dealing with rewards (cf. Matt. 16:27; Rev. 20:13). Some have tried to see in the first who were called the Apostles and the later ones the Gentiles, down to the very last ones to be saved before the Lord comes. The context does not bear out such an interpretation. If the Apostles are represented by the workers hired first, then the parable must teach that they will be the very last and least in the Kingdom, which is contradicted by our Lord’s promise that they are going to be reigning as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel.

It appears that the parable was called forth by Peter’s question: “What are we going to get as rewards for our work?” When a child of God takes the attitude expressed by some who were first called that they deserve more than others,  that they have done more for the Lord, it is evident that his motive for service for God is wrong. God will not forget any labor of love (Heb. 6:10), but work that is done, simply for self-aggrandizement is really not a labor of love. Some great world-renowned evangelist may be surprised at the judgment seat of Christ to discover that some humble believer whose name the world has never heard will receive as great, if not greater reward than himself. God is the One who gives abilities and opportunities and apart from His gifts we could do nothing for Him. We may take credit for leading a soul to Christ, when in fact ten other people had more to do with the result than we did. We must ever remember, as Paul tells us, that the worker is really nothing: he may plant or water the seed, but only God can give the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-8). Some who thought they would be first may end up at the end of the line, and others who took no credit to themselves and placed themselves last may end up at the head of the class.

37.     Christ Again Predicts His Crucifixion

References: Matt. 20:17-19; Mk. 10:32-34; Lk. 18:31-34

Jesus is here on His final visit to Jerusalem. He was walking ahead, leading the procession of His disciples. Mark alone tells us of the emotional condition of the disciples. He says they were amazed and afraid. Other translators say they were filled with alarm, were astonished, filled with terror and dread, dismayed and afraid, in a daze and apprehensive, filled with awe and afraid. There must have been something in the demeanor of Jesus, something strange and foreboding in His manner which struck fear into their hearts.

Jesus, knowing their fears and knowing all that would happen to Him in the next few days, took the disciples aside and told them again of all that would befall Him in Jerusalem. He would be delivered to the chief priests and scribes and then to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged, to be killed, and after three days to rise from the dead. And Luke adds: “And they understood none of these things; and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” The fact that they didn’t understand is evident from subsequent events as seen in the statement of the two on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:21), and in the fact none of them believed He had arisen even after the report of the women who first saw Him after His resurrection (Mk. 16:10-14).

As pointed out earlier, although these apostles had been preaching the gospel of the Kingdom for over three years, it is evident that their preaching contained nothing about the redemptive death of Christ and His resurrection, which truths in our dispensation comprise the very heart of the gospel, (1 Cor. 15:1-4). That is why we must turn to the epistles to learn the secret of the Gospel. We find the revelation of the meaning of the death of Christ only after He had accomplished the work of salvation and had ascended back to heaven, from whence He made known the glorious truth of the gospel of the grace of God.

38.     Ambition of James and John

References: Matt. 20:20-28; Mk. 10:35-45; cf. Lk. 12:50

This incident of the two brothers, along with their mother, requesting a place of preeminence in Christ’s Kingdom is first of all a proof that Christ actually taught that He was going to establish a kingdom here on the earth, which was different from the universal Kingdom of God which has always existed. There are so many proofs of this truth in the Gospels that it might seem trite to even mention it, but there are many evangelical Christians who teach that the Jews were completely mistaken in supposing that the Messiah would establish a literal Kingdom upon the earth and therefore there will never be a Millennial, Messianic Kingdom. This teaching is known as A-millennialism. But if the disciples were so carnal and mistaken in believing that Christ was going to establish such a kingdom in the future, why did Christ not correct their false notions about such a kingdom, instead of telling them it was not in His power to make such decisions? There was surely a Kingdom of God in Old Testament times, as well as when Jesus was on earth, but everywhere in the teachings of Christ His Kingdom was always future. It was near at hand but it was not yet a reality. Therefore, there must be a difference between that which was then present and that which had not yet come into existence.

The request of this mother for her two sons, which stirred up such indignation among the other disciples, simply points out one of the weaknesses of fallen human nature: self-aggrandizement. Man likes to exercise authority, to be able to lord it over others. But the prerogative of lording it over belongs to God alone, so that in Christ’s Kingdom or for that matter, in the life of the Christian today, the Lord should be the only lord. If one wants to be greatest, he should be greatest in caring for and serving others. Paul teaches the same spiritual principles (cf. 1 Cor. 12:25; Phil. 2:3,20,21).

The cup and the baptism to which Christ referred (cf. Lk. 12:50), both point to His sufferings and death and the intimation is that the disciples also would suffer a like fate at the hands of the unbelieving world.

39.     The Blind Men Near Jericho

References: Matt. 20:29-34; Mk. 10:46-52; Lk. 18:35-43

There is a supposed contradiction between the Gospels here, in that Matthew says there were two blind men who were healed, whereas Mark and Luke mention only one, and to further complicate the problem Matthew and Mark both say the healing took place as Jesus was leaving Jericho, and Luke says the healing took place as He approached Jericho. If Mark and Luke had stated that Jesus healed only one blind man at Jericho there would be a contradiction with Matthew. It is not a contradiction to mention only one of the two who were healed. As to the other seeming contradiction it should be pointed out that Jericho in the time of Christ was a “double city.” Cobern states regarding excavations made by Dr. Ernest Sellin: “They did however find a large Jewish town (600-400 B.C.), and proved that the Jericho of Jesus’ day was a double city spreading itself out on both sides of the wadi.” Thus Matthew and Mark spoke of leaving one part of the city and Luke spoke of approaching the other part of this double city.

Mark alone gives us the beggar’s name, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus. He was probably a well-known character in the community, whereas the other beggar was not, and that is probably the reason only Bartimaeus is mentioned. Mark also relates that when told by the crowd that Jesus had stopped and called for him, he not simply “arose,” as in the A.V., but literally “leaped up.”

Jericho was a cursed city (Josh. 6:26 cf. 1 Kgs. 16:34), but wherever Jesus went the curse was lifted. This is no doubt a picture in miniature of what will   happen when Jesus returns and takes away the blindness of Israel and lifts the curse from creation which sin has brought. Christ was made a curse for us to deliver us from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13).

40.     The Conversion of Zacchaeus

Reference: Lk. 19:1-10

The Greek grammar shows that Zacchaeus was not bragging about all of the good works he had done in the past, but of what he was going to henceforth do as a result of his conversion. It was common practice for tax-collectors to overcharge, to place fictitious values on property or income in order to enrich themselves. Zacchaeus vows now to restore four-fold to those he had cheated. According to Ex. 22:1 this was the restoration required of a thief. He was thus confessing his sin and calling it by the proper name. The expression in vs. 8, “I give,” has the force of “I now give,” or “from now on I will give.” He was not only going to restore four-fold where he had cheated others, but was going to give half of his wealth to the poor. He thus stands out in bold contrast to the rich young ruler, who was not convicted of his sinfulness and refused to give his wealth to the needy.

There is an interesting play on words in the Greek text. The tree into which Zacchaeus climbed (translated “sycamore”) was the fig-mulberry (sukomorean, a compound of suke, fig, and moron, mulberry). Then in vs. 8, the expression, “taken by false accusation” is the word sukophanteo, a compound of suke, fig, and phanein, to show: a fig-shower or fig-informer (an informant of the law forbidding the exportation of figs from Greece). It is our English word “sycophant.” The word is used only one other time (Lk. 3:14) where it is translated, “accuse falsely.”

Zacchaeus did not let his physical limitations keep him from his determination to see Jesus. We are reminded of the four men who made a hole in the roof in order to let down the palsied man into the presence of Jesus.

Zacchaeus must have been amazed to hear Jesus call him by name when he had never even seen Jesus before. This must have impressed him of the supernatural character of Jesus. Jesus’ words: “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down, for today I must abide at thy house,” have the ring of kingly authority. Zacchaeus did not extend an invitation, nor did Jesus ask, “May I stay at your house?” It was a command: “I must stay at thy house.”

41.     Parable of the Postponed Kingdom

Reference: Lk. 19:11-28

We are informed that Jesus told this parable because He was near to Jerusalem and because the people supposed the Kingdom of God was going to be set up immediately. The purpose of the parable was to show that the Kingdom would not be established immediately; that the rightful King had to first go into a far country to receive the authority for the Kingdom; and then return to take over the actual Kingship.

It is helpful to understand that a few years prior to this both Herod and his son, Archelaus had gone to Rome to receive authority from Caesar to reign over Judea and had returned to take over the kingship. It is interesting also to note that Jesus spoke this parable in Jericho, the very city from which Herod had gone to Rome and to which he returned and built his palace. Thus the parable is built on an actual historical incident with which the people were familiar.

There is no doubt but that the nobleman represents Jesus Christ, and that the far country represents heaven, and the One from whom the authority is received is the Father. The return must represent the second coming of Christ to earth. There are many Bible interpreters who are fond of spiritualizing the Scriptures, as they call it, although there is nothing spiritual about it. They teach that the Kingdom is purely spiritual; that after His death Jesus went back to heaven in order to establish His Kingdom; that He is now reigning as King, and that all of the promises in the Bible of a literal, physical, earthly kingdom must be spiritualized to mean those blessings which Christians now enjoy; that Jesus will never return to establish a Kingdom on earth, but rather that when He returns He will bring an end to the world with the final judgment and resurrection.

All of these ideas are completely opposite to the teaching of this parable. Herod did not go into the far country and set up his throne there in Rome, and neither is it stated that Christ went to heaven to set up His throne there. Today Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father’s throne (Heb. 8:1; 12:2). And just as Herod’s citizens had sent a message to Caesar saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” so the Jews declared they would not have Jesus to reign over them. And as Herod destroyed his enemies when he returned as king, so there will be a judgment when Christ returns as King and the wicked will be destroyed from off the earth. But those servants who were loyal to the King and had taken care of His business while He was away will be rewarded by being made rulers over various cities in the Kingdom. This is one of the clearest and most important dispensational parables concerning the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom at the return of Christ to earth. There is a somewhat similar parable in Matt. 25: 14-30, told a few days later in the Olivet discourse.

42.     Anointing of Jesus By Mary of Bethany

References: Matt. 26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9; John 11:55-12:11

There are certain problems related to the correlating of these three passages. While the three accounts have much detail in common, there are some differences. The account of the supper at Bethany and the anointing as given by both Matthew and Mark is prefaced by the statement: “ye know that after two days is the feast of passover.” John tells us: “Jesus therefore six days before the passover came to Bethany.. . so they made him a supper there.”

In Matthew and Mark the supper was in the house of Simon the leper, and the woman who anointed Jesus is not mentioned by name. In John nothing is said about Simon the leper, and the woman is named as Mary. This has led some to believe that there were two suppers and two anointings. However, almost everything that transpired at the supper is common to all three records. Most expositors believe that both Matthew and Mark inserted the supper account out of chronological order for a special effect and that therefore there was just one supper. Matthew does not say the supper took place two days before passover, but simply, “When Jesus was in Bethany.” Some have speculated that Simon the leper, now healed, of course, was the husband of Martha.

Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are mentioned by name only by John. Matthew and Mark state that the woman anointed the head of Jesus; John the feet of Jesus. Mark says the ointment was worth above three hundred pence; John says three hundred pence. Matthew and Mark have the disciples indignant over wasting this amount of money; John says it was Judas Iscariot who objected.

None of the differences are really contradictions. Mary could have anointed both His head and His feet. Judas may have started the objection that the ointment could have been sold for three hundred pence, and other of the disciples could have taken sides with Judas and said it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence.

Besides the Lord Jesus there are three characters that stand out in the story. One is Mary. She had sat at the feet of Jesus and learned of Him. She was the only one of the disciples who understood and believed that Jesus would rise from the dead. She anointed His body for burial beforehand. She was not in the group that went to the tomb with spices to anoint His dead body. The Lord rewarded Mary’s love and understanding and devotion by having her name placed in Holy Scripture for millions of people to read about as a memorial to her.

Another character is Judas Iscariot. Here we learn that he was the treasurer for the Apostles and that he was a thief. He objected to what he called Mary’s waste in anointing Jesus with the costly spikenard, because he would like to have seen it sold for three hundred pence and the money put in his bag for his personal use. It may seem strange why Jesus chose a man to be one of His apostles when He knew that he was unsaved. In fact, Jesus stated in John 6:70: “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” And knowing he was a thief, why would He permit him to be the treasurer for the group? It may be speculation, but it may be that Jesus chose such a one because He knew that in any group of God’s people in this world there will always be one or more who are not truly saved. If it could happen in a group which Jesus Himself chose, how much more likely it is to happen in assemblies where ordinary men do the choosing? Therefore, as a practical lesson for today, churches need to constantly be on their guard, especially about those who have to do with money matters. Even a saved person may be such a lover of money that he will steal or misapply church funds. Every safeguard possible should be used to protect both the congregation and the one who is in charge of finances.

Paul was very careful about the handling of money from the churches, but in spite of that he was falsely accused of being dishonest. Paul gives some good advice to churches. One of his qualifications for an officer in the church is that he is “not greedy of filthy lucre” (1 Tim. 3:3). He warns against those who will to be rich (1 Tim. 6:9). And he set an example when he took up offerings from the Gentile churches to help the poor saints at Jerusalem. The churches chose certain ones to travel with Paul to see to it that the money got to its proper destination (cf. 2 Cor. 8:16-24).

The third character is Lazarus. John tells us that many of the common people heard that Jesus was there, and they came, not only to see Jesus, but Lazarus who had been raised from the dead. A great number of Jews had become believers through the testimony of Lazarus, so much so that the religious authorities were seeking how they might put Lazarus to death also. We should like to know what experience Lazarus had during the four days he was dead, but God has not been pleased to satisfy our curiosity. We have no idea if Lazarus spoke anything about that experience. When Paul was caught up to the third heaven he saw things which He was forbidden to reveal (2 Cor. 12:4). Perhaps it was the same with Lazarus.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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SIGNS, WONDERS AND MIRACLES IN THE END-TIMES

counterfeit-christs-antichrist-5-728

The Bible makes it clear that God is not the only one who works miracles. Satan can also perform supernatural signs. Jesus warned three times in Matthew 24 against deceptive miracles in the latter times. He said, “False christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”  Signs and wonders are therefore not always a sure sign of God’s activity, since they can also be performed by false christs and false prophets.

These warnings are very important, for the time is at hand. Christ have said; “Take heed that no man deceive you.”- Matthew 24:4. Deception will play a very big role in the last days, for the “…devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.“- Revelation 12:12.

In the Book of Revelation 16:13,14 under the sixth plague which is still future, shortly before the return of Christ, we are presented with the following words; “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” Notice that the miracles which will be done during the time will be done by devils, meaning demons, yes, fallen angels.

The Apostle Paul gives the same warning in his discourse about the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2.  “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:9,10).

The false prophet (Revelation 13) will promote the authority of the Antichrist, with the ability to perform great signs, even making fire come down out of Heaven.

But before that time comes, Satan will have to do a preliminary work of this miracles. We know that “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).

Satan is using men to deceive fellow men and this he does via ” great signs and wonders” and also unsound doctrines. In this he arises counterfeit prophets. So where do these counterfeit prophets and teachers arise? The Bible is explicit: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you.” (2 Peter 2:2-3). These individuals arise among the professed Christians. They are usually not some blasphemous atheists from somewhere unknown. And other than miracles, what do they do? Peter continues to say, “and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” They will make money or a living out of you and God’s name.

Christ said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heavenbut he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23). What a tragedy!

These individuals call Jesus “Lord, Lord” which shows that they are professed Christians, and notice that Christ says “Many of them” not few. Christ tell them; “I never knew you“. That means that the power behind the miracles done by them was not from God but from Satan. For there are only two powers in this universe, God almighty and Satan.

Remember how the Samaritans who were deceived by Simon? “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one.to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. (Acts 8:9,10). It is no wonder Paul says, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15).

It is also a fact that God can work very powerful miracles. Christ worked miracles. But he also preached the word of the Kingdom. He rebuked error and sin among the people and he told them to repent, but only few accepted him. The problem with many who followed Christ followed him for wrong reasons, that is for miracles that he was doing. “They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?” (John 6:30). And when Christ then began to preach, many stopped following him. Are you following Christ because of miracles and are those miracles from God or Satan? If we just follow because of feelings and emotions and not the Word of God, we will be deceived in an instant.

Christ also told his disciples to do miracles, but they were not just there to heal. Their primary mission was to preach Christ and Him crucified. Unfortunately, even those who work miracles under the power of Satan speak some truth of God in his name, to deceive. God says, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Test all things says the Lord. Do not just believe, test what they say with the scripture and “to the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light (truth) in them.” (Isaiah 8:20). The early Christians “…received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  (Acts 17:11).

So, we need to be very careful in who we dealing with. It is written; “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves…Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:15, 20).

(Partly based on an article posted by News24 on 13 September 2013)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (30)

0 Dispensationalism

CHAPTER VII

The Period of the Perean Ministry (Part 6)

28.    Withdrawal to Ephraim

Reference: John 11:47-54

The reason for the withdrawal to Ephraim was the intense hatred and conniving of the chief priests and the Pharisees. After the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, many more of the Jews believe on Jesus and the rulers feared that the whole nation would become His followers unless they took action to stop Him. The chief priests were Sadducees and His bitterest enemies. The reasoning of Caiaphas, the high priest was that if the whole nation acclaimed Jesus as Messiah and King, the Romans would come in with their armies and destroy their nation. Therefore, it is expedient that this one man, Jesus should die for the people, so that the whole nation should not perish. Caiaphas was not preaching substitutionary atonement: he was merely saying it is either Jesus or them. Either they kill Him or they will all get killed. But at the same time it was true: he being the high priest prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for that nation only (the Jews in the land), but that He should gather in one the children of God which were scattered abroad (the dispersion of Israel). This could not refer to the Gentiles, for they were not the children of God at that stage and they were not scattered abroad. The dispersed Israelites were the covenant children of God and they were scattered among the Gentiles.

It would seem that the Lazarus episode was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Caiaphas said to the others in the Sanhedrin, “Ye know nothing at all.” That is, you don’t understand how serious this matter is. We must take action. And so we read: “From that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.” It was for that reason that Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but retired to a wilderness area to a town called Ephraim, where He continued with His disciples. This takes us back to the record of the Synoptists who record some of the further events before Jesus went back to Jerusalem for His last Passover, where He Himself became the Passover Lamb.

29. Ten Lepers Healed

Reference: Lk. 17:11-19

This story illustrates again the great variety Jesus used in His healing ministry. These ten lepers in a certain village Jesus passed through stood afar off (cf. Lev. 13:45,46), and cried: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus did not anoint them, lay hands on them, or go through any kind of ceremony, but simply said: “Go show yourselves to the priest,” for the priest was the one who had to examine the leper and pronounce him either clean or unclean. It was only after they had started off to find a priest that they were healed. But the unusual thing about this miracle is that only one of the ten turned back to thank Jesus and he was a Samaritan. Un-thankfulness is a sign of apostasy. Paul describes the apostasy of the human race in Rom. 1:21 in this way: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful …” Only one out of ten glorified God and was thankful. Thankfulness is one of the chief attributes of the true believer.

30.     The Coming of the Kingdom

Reference: Lk. 17:20-37

The first two verses of this section are peculiar to Luke. Much of the remainder of the section is repeated in the Olivet Discourse in Matt. 24. We will reserve most of our comments until we get to that part of the narrative.

The Pharisees demanded to know when the Kingdom of God should come. Jesus’ answer has been twisted to mean that the Kingdom of God will never come in a literal sense upon this earth, but that it is entirely a spiritual condition within the hearts of men. Even a superficial reading of the text should be evidence enough that Jesus was not telling these Pharisees who were plotting to kill Him that the Kingdom of God was in their hearts. That would have been the last place to look for the Kingdom of God.

What Jesus said was, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.” The central theme of Christ’s preaching was that the Kingdom was near. The King of that Kingdom was in their midst. The statement that the Kingdom of God does not come with observation does not contradict all of the other statements of Christ about His visible return in power and great glory to establish His kingdom upon the earth. In fact, just a few verses after vs. 20, Christ states: “For as the lightning, when it lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall the Son of man be in his day.” When Christ came the first time the Kingdom was present in His person. It was in their midst, but it did not come with any spectacular, sudden events. It was like the seed that fell into the soil and gradually developed. It is interesting that the cognate verb of the word “observation” is used in Lk. 6:7; 14:1; and 20:20 of the Pharisees, “And they watched (or observed) Him.” They were watching Him, of course, to try to trap Him in either His words or His works whereby they might accuse Him.

While very similar to parts of the Olivet discourse this section does contain several other statements unique to Luke. One is that the days would come when the disciples would long to see one of the days of the Son of man and would not see it; that is, Jesus would be absent from them and they would be going through persecutions and would have to stand alone.

The other is that besides speaking of “as it was in the days of Noah,” here He says: “Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot, they ate, they drank, they sold, they planted, they builded; but in the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all: after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed.”

And finally, there is an additional word concerning those who are taken and those who are left which is not in the Olivet account. Many expositors teach that those who are taken are the saints who are raptured at the coming of Christ. It is evident that the ones taken in Noah’s day were taken in the flood and Noah was left. The same was true in Lot’s case. He was left and the others were taken away. But here the disciple asked, “Where, Lord?” and He answered: “Where the body is, thither will the eagles also be gathered together.” Where are they taken? Surely not to heaven, but to judgment, the same one mentioned in Rev. 19:17,18, which is called the “supper of the great God,” when the eagles will consume the bodies of the ungodly.

31. The Parable of the Unjust Judge

Reference: Lk. 18:1-8

This parable is similar to that of the Importunate Friend in Lk. 11:5-10. There the comparison was between two friends, one which came late at night seeking a favor, and the other refusing to get out of bed to help until he was moved by the importunity of his friend. Here the comparison is between a poor widow who has been wronged and an unjust judge who refused to discharge his obligations to the woman, but who finally did so because he became weary of her continual coming to him.

In neither case does Jesus teach that we have to keep praying until God gets weary of hearing our prayers before He will be moved to answer. Rather, the lesson is that if an unjust judge would avenge this widow because of her continual coming to him, how much more will God avenge His elect which cry day and night unto Him?

The application of this prayer parable is also to the time of the great tribulation through which God’s elect remnant of Israel will go, which will immediately precede the coming of the Son of man, referred to in vs. 8. The answer to this prayer will be the outpouring of God’s wrath upon those who have been venting their wrath on God’s elect.

32. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican

Reference: Lk. 18:9-14

The preceding parable of the Unjust Judge was also eschatological in nature, having to do with God’s elect in the future tribulation. This one is soteriological, having to do with salvation. However, it must be interpreted dispensationally. The Publican’s prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” has been adopted by many evangelists as the model prayer for new converts, only they add, “and save me for Jesus’ sake.”

While it is true that it is only by the mercy and grace of God that any sinner gets saved, this Publican was not simply asking God to be merciful to him. The verb, “be merciful” is “hilaskomai,” to be propitious. It is the same word translated “reconciliation” in Heb. 2:17. The noun form, “hilasterion” is translated “mercy seat,” in Heb. 9:5. By referring back to Ex. 25:17-21 it will be seen that the mercy seat was the lid of the ark of the covenant which contained two tables of the Law. The Israelite killed his animal sacrifice and the priest took the blood and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat. The blood thus intervened between God and the Law which had been broken and effected an atonement for sin.

No doubt this publican had offered his sacrifice and now he prays that God would accept his offering and be propitiated toward him. This was the divine order before the death of Christ. But now since the death of Christ we learn that God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25). Therefore, God has already once and for all been propitiated: there is no need to pray for God to do it again. All we need to do is to receive the propitiation and thus be reconciled through the death of His Son. We do not pray for God to send His Son to die for our sins: He has already done that. Why, then, should we tell new converts to pray that God would be propitiated when He already has been? Rather tell the sinner, or the new convert, that God has been propitiated, that is, that His holiness and righteousness have been completely satisfied by the death of His Son, so that He is now free to justify ungodly sinners simply upon believing in Jesus.

The Pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous and therefore had no need of reconciliation. Jesus said the Pharisee prayed with himself. Even though he told God he was thankful he was not a sinner, his prayer got no higher than his head. He informed God about all of his fine qualities and goodness, while the Publican, convicted of his sinfulness, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote his breast in contrition. This Pharisee fits perfectly into Paul’s description of Israel in Rom. 10:3: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” See Paul’s self- righteousness in which he once boasted and what he did with it after his confrontation with Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:4-9).

33. Teaching on Divorce

References: Matt. 19:3-12; Mk. 10:2-12

If we had only Mark’s account of Christ’s discourse on divorce and the two verses in Luke (16:17,18), we might suppose that there was no situation where Christ would permit divorce. But in this account in Matthew, as well as in Matt. 5:32, He does make the exception in the case of fornication. The Pharisees asked Him about the legality of a man putting away his wife for any and every reason. They hoped to find something in His answer by which they could condemn Him.

As usual, Jesus answered by asking them a question: “What did Moses command you?” And they replied that Moses permitted divorce. But Jesus told them that God’s plan from creation was that man and wife become one flesh and remain in that relationship. However, because of the hardness of man’s heart Moses wrote this law permitting divorce. Marriage is a relationship in the flesh, “one flesh,” and therefore death which brings an end to the flesh, brings an end to the marriage, so that the remaining partner is free to marry again.

Jesus plainly taught that a husband who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the same rule holds for the wife. Paul teaches essentially the same principles for this present dispensation. He teaches that death dissolves the marriage bond (Rom. 7:2,3). In the same verses he taught that a divorced person who remarries commits adultery. He went back to the Eden edict that man and wife become one flesh (Eph. 5:31). He taught that married partners should not separate, but if they do they should remain unmarried (1 Cor. 7:10,11,39). He further taught that when one partner dies the other is free to remarry, but only to another believer.

If a man or woman is married to an unbeliever (apparently married before one of them became a believer), the believer should remain with the unbeliever in hopes of converting him or her to the faith, but if the unbeliever deserts the believer, Paul says the believer is not under bondage in such cases (1 Cor. 7:15). Some understand this to mean that the believer is then free to remarry. Paul also teaches, among other things, that officers in the church should have only one wife (1 Tim. 3:2). Living under the dispensation of grace does not mean that the believer is free to sin. Next to our union with Christ, Paul upholds the marriage union as the highest of all human relationships. In fact, he illustrates our union with Christ by the marriage relationship, teaching that having been raised from the dead through  identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, we are married to Him (Rom. 7:4).

Matthew gives us a little added detail in that the disciples, when they heard what Jesus taught about divorce, said, “If that’s the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” Christ’s answer, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given,” does not mean that His teaching about divorce applied only to the few who heard it. Rather it applies to the statement of the disciples: “it is better not to marry.” For Jesus goes on to say there are three classes of men who remain unmarried: those who are sexually incapable from birth, those who have been made incapable through surgery, and those who for the sake of the Kingdom of God have chosen to remain single. Paul was an example of the latter (1 Cor. 7:7-9,32). Paul does not command celibacy. He says that every man has his proper gift of God. Some are able to live pure, clean lives apart from marriage. Others do not have this gift, and for them, Paul says, it is better for them to marry.

34. Christ Blesses the Little Children

References: Matt. 19:13-15; Mk. 10:13-16; Lk. 18:15-17

Matthew introduces this section with the word then, which indicates that Jesus’ words on the sanctity of marriage apparently prompted mothers in the audience to bring their children to Jesus for His blessing. It is interesting that Matthew and Mark call them “paidion” (young children) and Luke calls them “brephe” (a new born baby). There was probably quite a range of ages represented. The disciples thought it was beneath the dignity of Jesus to be distracted from His more important work by children, so they scolded the mothers who were pressing forward with their little ones.

Mark says that Jesus was indignant with this action of His disciples. Great emphasis is given throughout the Scriptures on the importance of the proper care and training of children, and yet many pastors, like the disciples of old, think it is below their dignity to minister to such. They always want to be delving into the “deep” things of God. Why waste their years of study and training on such simple folk? Relegate the children to those of lesser or no special training!

Both Mark and Luke record the further application which Christ made that unless one receives the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter in. Because children are of such a trusting nature it is doubly important that they be given God’s truth to believe, and to be protected from false teaching which they would receive with equal readiness. Parents who take the attitude: “I am not going to force my beliefs on my children. I am going to let them grow up and choose what to believe for themselves,” are not only unwise but are definitely disobedient to the Scripture (Prov. 22:6).

There are certain Christian denominations which teach that the Church is spiritual Israel and therefore heir to Israel’s covenants. They believe that the children who are members of their church family are children of the covenant and therefore have a special relationship to God which other children do not enjoy. They believe baptism has taken the place of circumcision, so that at baptism the infant is regenerated as a child of the covenant. Some call this “presumptive regeneration,” that is, they presume the child is regenerate until later in life the contrary becomes evident. Thus, churches become filled with young people who presume they were regenerated at baptism but are in fact un-regenerated. Regeneration takes place only in association with personal faith in Jesus Christ.

The logical conclusion of infant baptismal regeneration is that unbaptized children are lost and if they die in an unbaptized state, they will be forever separated from God. Rome tries to mitigate this harsh doctrine by teaching that such infants do not actually go into the fires of hell but are confined to a place called “limbus infantium,” forever shut out from heaven.

Much confusion and harm has been done by a failure to distinguish between Israel and the Church of this dispensation, and the relation of people to the covenants of Israel. Baptism never took the place of circumcision in New Testament times. Both were practiced concurrently by the believing Jews. No child is regenerated by baptism. Children are born with a sinful nature and need to be saved as they become able to personally receive Christ as their Savior. They need the redemptive work of Christ the same as an adult. And on the basis of that redemptive work, God is now free in His elective purposes to apply that work to any and every infant that He chooses to remove from this life in infancy. But God has not set an age of accountability, so that we can say, the child is covered by the work of Christ until he is six or twelve years of age. That age may differ widely with different individuals. We cannot begin too early to tell our children the story of God’s great love and grace in giving the Lord Jesus to die for our sins.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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