Monday, March 4, 2013
As Christians, we believe that, as humans, are comprised of 2 integrated components: the physical body, and the eternal soul. A good analogy to this might be a computer, with our body representing the hardware and the soul representing the software that runs it. Christians also believe that after the physical body dies and decays, the human soul lives on eternally in either Heaven (John 14:1-3), or Hell (Matthew 25:41). In this eternal existence, our souls are not bound by the physical dimension of time as we are now.
The Bible teaches that we are all sinners and that no one can be reunited with our Creator (Elohim) unless we embrace the free gift of Jesus' sin atoning redemption. He subjected Himself to a sacrificial death on the cross in substitutionary punishment for our sins. This death, and victorious resurrection three days later, opens up the path to return to our Heavenly Father for all who lay claim to it (John 14:6)
The big question is: does everyone have the free choice to choose (or reject) God's redemptive gift; or are we already predestined before birth, by God, to believe or not believe? This is the classic battle between Arminianism (Free Choice) and Calvinism (Predestination).
Both of these systematic views are extreme and have plenty of verses from the Bible to "support" most of their assertions, however, as with most seeming contradictions in the Bible, the resolution can be found by digging a bit deeper. The free choice vs. predestination problem unravels when you apply the fact that God inhabits eternity and is not subject to the dimension of time. He sees all history at once. So, In other words, Yes, from God's timeless perspective, we are pre-destined before birth one way or the other to accept or reject Jesus' work on the cross, but from the human 'time bound' perspective, He has given us the free choice to accept, reject, love or abandon Him. Only He knows which path we will take.
H.A. Ironside described all this graphically. He visualizes walking in a hallway and being confronted by a door labeled, “Whosoever will may enter.” He can go in, or not: it is his free choice. He decides to go through. When he enters he discovers a room set up with a banquet table, and he discovers among the place cards, one with his own name on it! He is expected! As he turns to review the door through which he just entered, he see it labeled from this side, the inside, “Foreordained before the foundation of the world!” He has just left the domain of our physical world—and the domain of time associated with it—to enter eternity, where the end is known from the beginning.
THE 5 POINTS OF CALVINISM:
1. Total Depravity: Man is born in a fallen state due to Adam and Eve's decision to sin, he is dead in trespasses and sin, unable to save himself (Col 2:13, Eph 2:5) or even desire a relationship with God. (Mt. 12:34, Rom. 8:7-8, 1 Cor. 2:14)
2. Unconditional Election: The belief that in eternity past, God has has chosen certain people to obtain salvation and others to go to Hell. (1 Pet 2:8) There is nothing a person can do to alter this decision. (Eph 1:4, Eph 1:11, Rom 8:21-30, Jn. 6:44, Mt. 19:25-26
3. Limited Atonement: Jesus did not die for the sins of everyone; only those He chose to go to Heaven. Rebuttal-God is willing that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of Salvation. This argument is weak and unbiblical, see Romans 10:13 & Revelation 22:17. (Calvinism support: Mat 1:21, John 6:37-40, Isaiah 53:8)
4. Irresistible Grace: The belief that God will draw all whom He chose to Himself, regardless of their rebellion against Him. (Titus 3:5)
5. Eternal Security: (or Perseverance of the Saints) The belief that a true born again Christian cannot lose or give up his salvation. The shepherding is God's work, not man's. (John 18:7-11, Heb 6:4-6, Luke 15:11-32)
THE 5 POINTS OF ARMINIANISM:
1. Election: The belief that God, based on foreknowledge, chose those who He knew would embrace the atonement of Jesus out of free choice. This also rejects the belief that God predestined anyone to go to Hell. (Mt. 11:28, Jn. 7:37, Acts 16:31, Rev. 22:17)
2. Unlimited Atonement: The belief that Jesus atoning death on the cross is made available to all people, and is sufficient to pay for the sins of all humanity who have ever lived. All mankind is 'savable'. (Isaiah 53:6, Matt 11:28-30, 2 Pet 3:9, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 1 Timothy 2:3-6, Rom 5:6, 1 John 2:2)
3. Natural Inability: The belief that man cannot save himself, but that the Holy Spirit must affect this new birth within him. (1 Cor. 12:3) Also that man can resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51, Jeremiah 7:24)
4. Prevenient Grace: The belief that the Holy Spirit enables a person to embrace the gospel and cooperate with God in the working out of a person's salvation. (Romans 2:4, Titus 2:11)
5. Conditional Perseverance: The belief that man can choose to reject God at any point and lose his salvation, even after being born again. This rejects the "Once Saved, Always Saved" doctrine of the Calvinists.(I Peter 1:9-10, II Peter 2:20-22)
Love vs. Robotics:
If you ascribe to Calvinism's emphasis on predestination, you forget the stories of Biblical heroes who deliberately chose to deviate from God's sovereign plan and/or commandments, suffering life altering consequences for it.
God does not pre-program or impose His will on our decision making. What then is obedience in faith? Our relationship with Him is a courtship of love between a groom (Jesus) and His bride (the church) - Matt 22:1-14. He makes His will clear, and in response, we have a choice to follow His leading. He does NOT force us to love Him. This would be a contradiction of terms. Remember, "love" is a choice of commitment, not an emotion. If He forced us all to love and obey Him, we would simply be a race of mindless robots.
Here are a few examples of God's chosen people directly rebelling against God's wishes.
• In Numbers 20:8-12, Moses strikes the rock (for the 2nd time) to get water at Meribah instead of speaking to it as God commanded. This destroys the model God was building of Jesus' first and second coming. For this disobedience, God does not permit him to enter the land of Israel.
• Jesus holds the Pharisees and the entire nation of Israel accountable to know the day He would present Himself as King of the Jewish nation (His triumphal entry). Yet only a handful of citizens welcome Him as King as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey the exact day Daniel prophesied that He would. As a consequence for this sin, Jesus pronounces the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Luke 19:36-44)
• Jonah is commanded to preach to Nineveh but flees in disobedience and is swallowed by the big fish.
• Paul is warned 2 times (Acts 21:3 and Acts 21:10) by prophets not to go to Jerusalem, but he chose to go and was killed.
Test and Inspect:
We are told in the Bible to test prophets by inspecting their fruit (Matthew 7:16)
Inspecting the fruit of Arminianism:
In it's most extreme form, Arminianism leads one to believe that if a Christian sins, he loses his salvation and needs to be born again over and over and over. This leads to having no assurance of salvation, living in fear and the absence of true spiritual peace (Philippians 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:7, Joshua 1:5).
Some Arminian believers believe that they can reach a state of sinless perfection, contrary to Ephesians 2:8-9 and many other verses. It leads to a prideful and judgmental attitude. We know that God opposes the proud (1 Peter 5:5).
Inspecting the fruit of Calvinism:
The overemphasis on predestination easily leads to ignoring and opposing mission work and evangelism. What's the need for it since the saved are already predestined for heaven and the lost have no hope. This contradicts Jesus great commission in Matt 28:18.
Many times in an effort to refine their belief system, Calvinists shift focus away from loving and ministering to the needy to contentious arguments about doctrine. (Matt 21:41-46, Rev 2:2-6)
Eternal Security vs. Apostasy:
Can a Christian lose, or walk away from, their salvation? Arminians say yes, and Calvinists say no. Then the question arises: are backslidden believers really ever Christians to begin with? The Bible says that our freedom and liberty in Christ is not a license to sin, and ultimately, only God knows the state of a person's soul. It is comforting to remember, however, that the prodigal son, no matter how sinful his ways became, was welcomed home as a son (with joy and celebration) after repenting of his lifestyle. Jesus also announces in John 18:9 - "Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one."
Thursday, February 28, 2013
The Rapture, (from the word "Rapturo" in Latin) is a common English name for the "Harpazo" event (Greek word) mentioned and modeled throughout the Bible. The Apostle Paul describes it as the supernatural removal of Christians from the Earth, via physical or spiritual ascension, to unite with Jesus in the heavens. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52)
This event is prophesied to happen sometime before Jesus' 1,000 year reign on Earth.
Those who allegorize the Bible tend to believe this event won't happen, or will happen after the last 7 years of the Ant-Christ's rule on Earth (The '70th week' of Daniel's prophecy... see Daniel 9). Since this positions the Rapture to take place after the 'Great Tribulation' dealt out by the Anti-Christ, this view is referred to as Post-Tribulationist.
However, those that take the Bible more literally, or seriously, tend to believe the Rapture will happen before the beginning of the Anti-Christ's rule. This view is referred to as Pre-Tribulationist.
I am convinced that the Pre-Tribulationist view is correct. Here's why:
1. The Church is called and referred to in the New Testament as "The Bride Of Christ" (See Revelation 19:7, Rev. 21:2, 9-10)
Jesus also calls Himself "The Bridegroom", which implies His bride (See Mark 2:19)
One of the most revealing infereferences to the Bride of Christ is in Matthew 25:1-13. This is Jesus' parable of the 10 virgins taking their lamps to meet the Bridegroom. Five were wise and carried extra oil on their journey and five were foolish and didn't have enough oil to light their way to meet the Bridegroom at the marriage feast.
Jesus (The Bridegroom) ends the parable with the words "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." - Speaking of the moment that Jesus will come to unite with His bride (the Church)
It is evident from this parable and many other verses in the Bible that Christians are to prepare and expect Jesus' return at any moment. (Matthew 24:44, Titus 2:11-12, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Thessalonians 1:10)
Here is probably the biggest problem with the Post-Tribulationist view: If the Rapture were going to happen after the "Great Tribulation", we could schedule the exact day of His return. We would know that Jesus would rapture Christians exactly 7 years after the Anti-Christ is elected to power (Daniel 9:27) This would contradict Jesus' words in Matt 25 (you know neither the day or the hour)
2. The whole purpose of Jesus' 2nd coming is to punish those who have followed the Anti-Christ and then set up His 1,000 year reign on the Earth.
Both Jesus and Paul have told us that the true Christians will escape the Tribulation and wrath of God.
1 Thess 5:9 - For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Matthew 16:18 - And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." In Revelation, the Anti-Christ prevails against the Church.
Romans 5:9 - Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
3. The Anti-Christ can not present himself until "The Restrainer" (mentioned in 2 Thess 2:9-10) is taken out of the way. Many believe this to be the Holy Spirit as He indwells the Church, since the Holy Spirit is the only real barrier to sin running unchecked over the Earth.
4. God often uses 'Similitudes' (Hosea 12:10) to teach us. I believe that He models the Rapture in these other Biblical timelines. Enoch was removed (raptured) just prior to the judgement of Noah's flood. Also Daniel is missing from the Fiery Furnace judgement (Daniel 3:23) with his 3 friends.