The Subsequent Experience

The Subsequent Experience

Is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation or inclusive in it?…

Even after a hundred years of modern Pentecostalism there are a growing number of people who are sympathetic to the modern availability of the gifts of the Spirit butreject the idea of them being only available to those who have had an experience ‘subsequent’ to their salvation generally referred to as the baptism in the Spirit

An “Evangelical” is someone who takes the Bible “literally” and regards Christianity as the work of a God who performs miracles, has sent His Son to save lost sinners. Evangelicals believe that God now accomplishes this saving work by the power of the Holy Spirit each time someone is born-again. 

Pentecostals also believe this, but they also believe in the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This belief is what sets “Pentecostals” apart from “Evangelicals”. It is the belief that after the regeneration of a person by the Holy Spirit (being “born-again”), that there is another experience with a “work of grace” that Holy Spirit can accomplish in a believer. This ‘subsequent’ experience with the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the Doctrine of Subsequence. Most Evangelicals believe that when the Holy Spirit saves a soul that His work in the believer in this life is completed and that He now works on the believer only (we looked at this in our study on ‘Sanctification’). 

Pentecostals base their belief that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is another experience to salvation on three sources: the Scriptures, history, and personal experience. 

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SCRIPTURES

In the Old Testament, God established the Sabbath celebration and 7 special festivals. Each of these festivals were symbolic of something that Jesus was to do. 

OLD TESTAMENT FESTIVAL NEW TESTAMENT PICTURE
(a) The Sabbath Foreshadowed the rest from works achieved by Christ’s finished work of atonement
(b) Passover (Lev. 23:3) Foreshadowed the death of Christ as the Ultimate Sacrifice – the Lamb of God
(c) Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:6) Foreshadowed the period of Christ’s death and the bitterness of soul this caused His followers
(d) Firstfruits (Lev. 23:10) Foreshadowed the resurrection of Christ as the first to rise from the dead forever
(e) Pentecost (Lev. 23:16) Foreshadowed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit establishing a new “Commonwealth” (Eph. 2:12)
(f) Trumpets (Lev. 23:24) Foreshadowed the last Trumpet when Christ shall return to judge everybody 
(g) Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27) Foreshadowed the day of judgment when we shall all stand before God and be judged
(h) Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34) Foreshadowed the resurrection of the Redeemed (2Cor. 5:1)

The point here is that we can see a separate Festival corresponding to our salvation through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, that is being born again, and another Festival corresponding to the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. 

Within my lifetime I have witnessed an amazing shift in thinking, practice and response to the charismatic gifts. As a boy I remember when Pentecostals were looked down upon by ‘mainstream’ Christians. They were generally regarded as uneducated, ignorant, and gullible. As Pentecostalism birthed its super-preachers, who often boasted in their lack of education and minimal theological training, this stereotype was often reinforced in the minds of traditional Christians. But then came the charismatic movement which began in the 1960s and reached amazing heights in the 1970s when nearly every mainstream denomination had their pockets of ‘charismatics’. Pentecostals were no longer seen as “them” but were increasingly becoming “one of us”. Evangelical leaders, like Billy Graham, were quick to recognise the rise of Pentecostals and warmly embraced them into his city-wide crusades. Pentecostals had arrived. 

One hundred years on and the influence of Pentecostal churches upon the mainstream, traditional churches can hardly be understated. Pentecostals now form the largest segment of church-attending, active Christians in the world. It is the only expression of the Church that is generally growing worldwide. Pentecostals now hold positions of influence in politics, media, sport, entertainment, literature and community service groups. Pentecostals are now being noticed.

For the most part, Pentecostals have held a wide range of doctrinal positions from Reformed to Arminian, from Calvinist to Semi-Pelagian, from modalistic to classic trinitarian. But the one unifying doctrine which distinguishes them even from ‘charismatics’ is the belief that there is an experience with the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which is evidenced by the receipt of a heavenly prayer language called: tongues. But now Pentecostals are being questioned.

 

HISTORY

Through out Church history there are numbers of documented occasions when believers sought God and were graced by an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the second century AD, somewhere between 135 AD and 177 AD, there was a group in Phrygia (Asia Minor), led by a man named Montanus, who all claimed that they had received the Baptism with the Holy Spirit subsequent to their salvation. They practised speaking in tongues and especially prophesying. [Source: Wikipedia] Records of Christian groups experiencing the subsequent Baptism with the Holy Spirit continue down through the centuries, of note is the experience of the Moravians from August 13th 1727. These believers gathered to pray and seek God. As they did, there was a physical sense of wind rushing into their meeting place and strange things began to take place. This event has become known as the Moravian Pentecost. [Source] Around 1870 in several parts of the globe, there were numerous reports of similar Pentecostal outpourings and stirrings. Figures such as D.L. Moody, Andrew Murray, C.H. Spurgeon have identified themselves with these events. Around the turn of the twentieth century there were several Christian groups in Wales, Australia and the USA which each experienced what they described as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit where speaking in tongues and prophesying resulted.

Today it is estimated that there are over 600,000,000 Pentecostals worldwide who testify to experiencing a subsequent Baptism with the Holy Spirit to their salvation.

 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Some people dismiss personal experience as evidence for proving something. But this is quite unreasonable. Courts of Law place a great deal of weight in people’s experiences to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not. My own story is that I came to Christ in what was for me a dramatic conversion. But it was some time after this that I was baptised with the Holy Spirit when I then spoke in tongues and began to experience other gifts of the Holy Spirit.

When Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-15), something happened which people “saw” (Acts 8:17-18). If they had received the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues and prophesied, this would clearly have been visible.

In Acts 9, Saul is converted to Paul. Later, Ananias lays hands on him and prays for him to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). 

There appears to be two types of “tongues” in the New Testament (1Cor 12, 14). Firstly, there is speaking in tongues which is similar to prophecy. It requires another Holy Spirit gift called interpretation of tongues. This gift strengthens the whole church when it is interpreted. This prophesying in tongues seems to be what was happening on the Day of Pentecost. These recently Spirit-baptised believers were mostly speaking in known languages – even though they had never learned them.

But there appears to another type of tongues. This is used in prayer (1Cor. 14-1-4). When someone prays in a tongue they are not talking to anyone else except God (1Cor. 14:2). When a person prays in tongues they are strengthening themselves spiritually (1Cor. 14:4). 

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What makes someone Pentecostal is not whether they use a certain spiritual gift, or even how they worship, or whether they use choruses or hymns. The distinguishing feature is the belief, promotion, and practice of the doctrine of subsequence. Pentecostals believe, teach and invite people to a subsequent experience with the Holy Spirit variously called being filled or baptised in the Holy Spirit. This is the touchstone of Pentecostalism. Either the charismatics are right- that all of the Holy Spirit in His fullness is given at the point of salvation, or the Pentecostals are right- that one can be saved yet still lacking the ‘Promise of the Father’. Pentecostals are now being challenged. 

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Now there are some, as we have seen, who say that there is really no difficulty about this at all. . . They say that it is simply a reference to regeneration and nothing else. It is what happens to people when they are regenerated and incorporated into Christ, as Paul teaches in 1 Cor 12:13. But for myself, I simply cannot accept that explanation, and this is where we come to grips with the difficulty. I cannot accept that because if we were to believe that the disciples and the apostles were not regenerate until the Day of Pentecost – a supposition which seems to me to be quite untenable.”
GREAT DOCTRINES OF THE BIBLE, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones 

I’ve been reading the life story of the great Baptist preacher, and the world’s greatest ever Christian essayist, F.W. Boreham. He talks about sitting under the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon, F.B. Meyer, and other great men of God. He describes his dramatic conversion in 1888 when aged 17. But he then goes on to describe his encounter with the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands in 1890. From that point he experienced a newness in his walk with Christ, a passion for the lost, and a fresh love for God’s Word. He alludes to what we would call today “gifts of the Spirit” operating throughout his life over his many years of ministry, including discernment and prophecy. He even makes mention of the fact that he was prophesied over as a little baby that he would grow to be a very successful writer. His story is one that is repeated multiplied times over throughout history. People who have been soundly converted have then experienced a later encounter with the Holy Spirit which they refer to as either a baptism or a filling with the Spirit.

For those who see no distinction between regeneration and the baptism in the Spirit salvation was not fiished at the Cross but at Pentecost. Not until the first believers were baptised in the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2 did they simultaneously experience regeneration. The various gifts of the Spirit, including tongues and prophecy, were distributed to believers as the Spirit willed. And this same pattern has continued to the present day. All regenerated believers have whatever spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed. It may take time for a believer to discover this gift, but by virtue of their salvation they have already received the fulness of the Spirit and His gifts in their life. This we might call the doctrine of inclusiveness.

But Pentecostals regard salvation as having been finished by virtue of the Cross of Christ. The blessings of salvation, including our physical resurrection and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, come as a result of Christ’s atoning and redeeming work on the Cross (including His resurrection). Thus, to a Pentecostal, a person can be regenerated but not yet physically resurrected. Similarly, a regenerated person may not yet have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. 

So, according to the Doctor [Martin Lloyd-Jones], the baptism with the Holy Spirit is AFTER regeneration, it’s experiential, and we’re conscious of it, and of course it’s everywhere in the New Testament.”
Adrian Warnock

Pentecostals point to Biblical examples of subsequence. Firstly, the original disciples. At a post-resurrection appearing of Christ He breathed on them and told them to receive the work of the Spirit in their lives – which we might reasonably take to mean regeneration (new birth, salvation). And then 10 days or so later they are waiting for a further encounter with the Holy Spirit which Christ taught was the “Promise of the Father” or the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”. Secondly, the Samaritans who responded warmly to Philip’s preaching were clearly saved. But Philip called for the apostles to come from Jerusalem to pray for these new converts to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 8). Similarly, in Acts 19 Paul enquires of the Ephesian believers as to their response to the Holy Spirit subsequent to believing. Upon discovering that they had not yet received the Holy Spirit, he prayed for them to do so – and they did. 

It’s therefore one thing to assert that the New Testament teaches that the baptism in the Spirit is synonymous with salvation, and another thing altogether to claim that Pentecostals have no basis for believing that it is a subsequent experience to salvation. The latter claim is at least challenged with the Acts narratives which give Pentecostals support for their position. Either way, it should be the modern believer’s earnest prayer to fulfil Ephesians 5:18.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Ephesians 5:18

You do not have to speak in tongues to be saved. You do not have to speak in tongues to be a member of this church. If you have been baptised with the Holy Spirit, there is a strong likelihood that you are now open to being used in the gifts of the Holy Spirit (some of which are mentioned in First Corinthians 12). There clearest evidence that someone has been baptised in the Holy Spirit is that they now continually want intimacy with Christ; they want to continually serve Christ; they love the Church and continually want to see it blessed; they have a burden for the lost and work to see them come to know Christ; and, they produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

If you have never received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and experienced the blessing of praying in tongues, you are invited by Christ to seek the Father for this empowerment for service (Luke 11:13). 

And if the baptism with the Holy Spirit has merely become for you an historic event in your walk with Christ, then Jesus and the Spirit bid you to come back to the Waters and be filled again (Acts 4:30-31).

Christianity’s Most Important Doctrines

Christianity’s Most Important Doctrines

Christianity's Most Important Doctrines

HOW IMPORTANT IS ESCHATOLOGY IN THE SCHEME OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES?

Some people are very passionate about their particular view of End Times (“Eschatology”) while on the other hand, some people are very indifferent about it. Some Evangelical Denominations have very narrow views about what constitutes acceptable views about Eschatology. In some of these denominations they actually make agreement with their End Times position an essential requirement for ordination. Many people find the topic so difficult that they’s rather not even attempt it. One prominent Seattle preacher recently said that discussing aspects of Eschatology was as important as discussing “wookies” (from the Star Wars movie series)! In one respect he is right, in that, there are several Biblical doctrines which are far more important than Eschatology. But…

It’s critical to know what the “most important” Christian doctrines are, before you can assert that or agree with the statement that Eschatology is not among the most important Christian Doctrines. Here are the top 4 most important-

  1. Theology Proper – The Person, identity, nature, attributes, prerogatives and acts of God.
  2. Christology – The Person, identity, attributes, incarnation, ministry, resurrection and glorification of Christ.
  3. Anthropology – Creation, fall, nature, affects of sin, and destiny of mankind.
  4. Soteriology – salvation of mankind from sin, redemption, adoption, reconciliation, regeneration, sanctification, resurrection, judgment, eternal destiny.

These are the most important doctrines of Christianity. They are also referred to as “Primary Doctrines.” This is why many believers do not consider eschatology to be a doctrine that Christians should divide over. Eschatology, they argue, is a doctrine of “Secondary Importance.” After all, speculating about what the Bible says regarding the future is just that: speculation. How then can anyone make a system of speculation the basis for Christian orthodoxy? There is however some hesitation for pressing this point too far. Let me explain why…

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THE BEST STARTING POINT FOR DEVELOPING AN ESCHATOLOGICAL SYSTEM…

There are systems of Eschatology that actually impinge on the four Primary Doctrines. These Eschatological systems distort the identity and nature of God, diminish the glory of Christ and His finished work, and corrupt the Biblical teaching regarding man(kind) and his means of salvation. When an eschatological system does this, it is not only wrong, it is not only harmful, it can literally be deadly!
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If you wanting to form your own view of Biblical teaching on “End Times” then your starting point should be Partial-Preteristism.

If you do not have a system of eschatology, then I would recommend adopting a Partial Preterist Position for the following reasons-

  • This is by far the least speculative
  • It is the most demonstrably accurate
  • It is the most hermeneutically consistent
  • It is the most conservative Biblical position you can adopt. (And when it comes to eschatology we should not only be Biblically faithful, we should be conservative.)

This is because the more speculative we become with eschatology the greater the potential for damage to the Scriptures’ claim to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God in the minds of those who like ‘sheep without a shepherd’.

THE LEAST SPECULATIVE – (Partial) Preterism approaches all of Scripture in the same way, including eschatological passages. It does not assume that a Bible prophecy has not been fulfilled. Instead, it seeks to investigate from history whether it can be shown that a Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled. In fact, “Preterism” means examine the past. It does not endorse the concept of “Double” or “Dual” fulfilment of prophecies. Because it is grounded in historically verifiable data, it does not speculate about the future. Dispensational-Futurism (Pre-Millennialism) on the other hand as made and remade sildly speculative guesses as to how (already fulfilled) Bible prophecies will come to pass in our own day.

THE MOST DEMONSTRABLY ACCURATE – (Partial) Preterism links Bible prophecies with verifiable events from history. Where it cannot clearly do so, it does not speculate. In this way it can demonstrate that all of Revelation chapters 1 to 19 has been fulfilled (which coincides with all of Matthew 24).

THE MOST HERMENEUTICALLY CONSISTENT – Classical (Partial) Preterism approaches Bible Prophecies passages of Scripture in the same way as any other Scripture passage. This is different to other Eschatological systems which require their own “principles” or “laws” to make their system work.

THE MOST BIBLICALLY CONSERVATIVE – Classical Preterism does not try to force contemporary events into the contents of Bible Prophecy. This is one of the reasons why Historicism is not a conservative approach to Scripture because when it was developed during the period of the Reformation, it forced its contemporary events (the Reformation of the Church from the Papal abberations of Scripture and its abuses of power) into the text of Scripture as if these events were the intended fulfilment of these prophecies.

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WHEN ESCHATOLOGY ACTUALLY DOES MATTER…

Dispensational Premillennialism may sound to many like a viable eschatological alternative that well and truly is similarly dismmissed as a doctrine of ‘Secondary’ importance. But there are two reasons why we should be a little less passive in considering this eschatological system. Firstly, it impinges into the doctrine of Christology by promoting the idea that Christ will return to earth, in particular Jerusalem, to re-establish the Throne of David from a rebuilt Temple. To arrive at this interpretation, this system demands that certain Bible prophecy fulfilments be overlooked, others have to be taken in an unintended wooden literal sense, and still others be granted a “second” fulfilment. But if Christ must reinstitute the Levitical Priesthood and re-establish the Temple in Jerusalem, apart from their being no justifiable Biblical grounds for this, the question has to be asked: Why would Christ need to re-establish animal sacrifices?

The passage most commonly mentioned in discussions of the difficulty presented by dispensational literalism is Ezekiel’s temple vision (Ezekiel 40-48). The dispensationalists are looking for a reinstitution of bloody animal sacrifices in a millennial temple built in accordance with the description found in this passage.9 Dispensationalists are careful to specify that these sacrifices are merely memorials of Christ’s death and will be the millennial equivalent of the Lord’s Supper. The problem with this is that Ezekiel’s vision refers to these sacrifices as literally making atonement (Ezekiel 45:15,17,20; Hebrew: kaphar, atone). Of course, a dispensationalist can go to the book of Hebrews to prove that animal sacrifices in the Old Testament never literally atoned for sin (Hebrews 10:4). When the Reformed theologian, however, goes to Hebrews to prove that animal sacrifices were done away forever by Christ’s once for all offering (Hebrews 10:10-18), then that is “theological interpretation” and “reading the New Testament back into the Old Testament,” two practices which dispensationalists routinely criticize.
Grover Gunn, citing- J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), page 519.

Secondly, this eschatological scheme has given rise to “Christian Zionism” which has unswervingly given unguarded support to the State of Israel. Even when the Israeli Government has violated United Nations sanctions, illegally invaded surrounding territories, illegitimately confiscated property, wrongly forced families off their land, and destroyed the homes of Palestinians and the Lebanese, these Christian Zionists have still given their complete endorsement. Here is an unwitting result of an eschatological system: innocent people have been needlessly killed as its collateral damage! Christian Zionists (Dispensational Futurists – Pre-Millennialists) regard the Bible as prophesying that Israel should be re-established as the world-power in these “last days”.

This is why we must be careful about dismissing Eschatological systems as being “inconsequential” or “as important as a discussion about Wookies.”

Understand The Book of Revelation from Dr Andrew Corbett on Vimeo.

I have written an explanation of how Partial-Preterism leads to the best interpretation of Bible Prophecy in my eBook, The Most Embarrassing Book In The BIble, and in my paperback book- The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible.

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Amen.

 Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, Australia July 31st 2010

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What The Bible Says About The Sabbath

What The Bible Says About The Sabbath

What The Bible Says About The Sabbath

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He’s considered to be one of the twenty greatest preachers of all time…

THE RELEVANCE OF THE SABBATH FOR TODAY 

What The Bible Says About The Sabbath
God’s Word tells us that from the beginning He established a “week” and set aside one day out of this seven day cycle to be for rest and reflection – the Sabbath. On that day the people were to respect and honor God by resting from regular activity (such as work activities) and participating in public worship. This was done as a cultural observance up until the time of Moses when it then became part of the Mosaic Law, in particular, The Ten Commandments. Since The Ten Commandments are generally accepted as the sum(mary) of the Natural (Moral) Law, what relevance does one of the most important aspects of the Old Covenant have for us under the New Covenant? While the laws of Moses pertaining to sacrifices, ceremonies, civility, and diet have been abolished in the same way that shadows are abolished at high noon (Hebrews 10:1; Colossians 2:14, 16), does this apply to the Law of the Sabbath if it was given as a Moral Law not a Ceremonial Law? I will present a brief overview of the history and purpose of the Sabbath as revealed in Scripture, then challenge the idea that we should keep the Sabbath today. I hope to show why the “spirit of the Sabbath” gives life, but the letter of the law of the Sabbath brings death and condemnation. 

The Sabbath was also meant to be a public demonstration of Israel’s devotion to God that served as a vital witness of their trust in Yahweh. As such, many of the prophets saw Israel’s spiritual decline and diminished prosperity as directly relative to how they were honouring the Sabbath. For example, Ezekiel accused Israel of abusing the Sabbath by doing their own pleasures and thereby bringing a curse on themselves (Ezk. 20:12, 13, 16, 20, 24; 22:8, 26; 23:38). Knowing that the Sabbath was integrated into the Moral Laws of the Mosaic Covenant and just how seriously the prophets regarded it has led many New Covenant believers to wonder whether they should be similarly observing the Sabbath today. 

“Because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned My Sabbaths ; for their hearts went after their idols (vain pleasures).”
Ezekiel 20:16

A TIME OF REST 

The Sabbath was to be a special of rest for God’s people. It was a sign of the relationship between God and His people. Just as in any relationship there needs to be time set exclusively aside for the other person, so it is with God. The word “Sabbath” actually means: to cease from work. The Sabbath Law was something that God commanded His people to observe. This meant being prepared to make sacrifices in income. However, God promised to bless those who did honor the Sabbath with more than they would have if they didn’t observe the Sabbath. In Exodus 16:5, Israel was told to gather twice as much manna on the day before the Sabbath, so they could rest on the Sabbath from gathering food. Regardless of how much they gathered the day before, they would have exactly what they needed for the Sabbath day. But the people were very reluctant to love God in this way-

“On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather food, but they couldn’t find any. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will you people refuse to obey my commands and teachings? Look, the LORD has made the Sabbath a day of rest for you. So on the sixth day he will give you enough food for two days, but on the seventh day each of you must stay where you are. Do not go anywhere.’ So the people rested on the seventh day…”
Exodus 16:27-30 (New Century Version)

Therefore, God had the interests of His people in mind when establishing the Sabbath. It was to be a time of rest, for them, their families, their livestock, and their land. It seems that mankind is not created to work ceaselessly.

 

OLD TESTAMENT PRINCIPLES

The Sabbath seems to have been established as a principle at Creation. Genesis 2:2-3 says-

“By the seventh day God finished the work he had been doing, so he rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day and made it a holy day, because on that day he rested from all the work he had done in creating the world.”

The Sabbath was dedicated as a holy day for all people from the very beginning of time. By remembering the Sabbath, people would be acknowledging that everything exists because it was created. Thus, the Creator would be honored. This seems to be a major principle of the Sabbath: honor God as the Creator. This was later reinforced to Israel even after they had received the Ten Commandments-

The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.'”
Exodus 31:16, 17 (NIV)

The Sabbath was a time for corporate (community) worship. Today some might argue that you don’t have to go to church to worship God, but no Israelite could argue that way in the Old Testament. In fact, on the Sabbath, the daily offerings and sacrifices made were doubled, and penalties for breaking it were severe. In other words, the Sabbath was a special time for everybody to get together and worship God. Here is another principle of the Sabbath: come together and worship God.

¶“On the Sabbath day, two male lambs a year old without blemish, and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, and its drink offering: this is the burnt offering of every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.
Numbers 28:9-10 

By corporately observing the Sabbath, the Israelites were declaring their trust in God for all surrounding nations, and peoples to witness. It became a sign between God and His people. It marked out God’s people as being distinct from others.

“I am the LORD your God. Live by my rules, obey my laws, and follow them. Keep my Sabbaths holy, and they will be a sign between me and you. Then you will know that I am the LORD you God.”
Ezekiel 20:19-20

The Sabbath therefore formed the principle of: a sign between God and His people. Interestingly, when Israel abandoned Sabbath observance it was a symptom of their heart corruption away from God. They were to be a witness to the nations of God and His love. Yet when they broke and abandoned the covenant they were exiled. They had failed to keep their God given commission to witness to the nations. When they were exiled (between 600-500 BC), there appears to have been a spiritual vacuum in the world. If the people God had trusted to bear His revelation had disappointed Him, there appears to have been no other people used to replace Israel at this point. So, during this period of history, five major religions commenced: Zoroasterianism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Perhaps if Israel had kept its terms of the covenant, these religions may never had started (?). Israel’s decline away from the covenant was symptomatic of their treatment of the Sabbath.

It was given to Israel within the Ten Commandments as the Fourth Command. Even if God had not given any explanations of His commands (which doesn’t appear to be the way He operates), the simple fact that God commanded it is enough. In the same way perhaps as the sacramental Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil served as a test of obedience to Adam and Eve, the Sabbath at least serves as a test of obedience. There is a Sabbath principle of: God has commanded it as a part of the Old Covenant.

 

THE PENALTIES FOR BREAKING THE SABBATH

The Sabbath was a complete rest from work. The penalties for breaking the Sabbath were severe-

For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.
Exodus 31:15 (NIV)

This was no idle threat from our Lord. In Numbers 15:32 we read of a man who was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath to light a fire. The people were confused about what to do with him. After seeking the LORD they were told to stone him to death. It became clear that absolutely no work was to be done on the Sabbath. Readers of the Old Covenant soon realise that the Law demanded a lot of work. This included rigid priestly rituals and ceremonies, animal sacrifices, compulsory annual feasts, and respect for the Tabernacle (its materials and installation). The amount of works required under the Older Covenant has led some less skilled would-be Bible scholars to assume that it was the works themselves that wrought salvation for the devotee. The writer of the Book of Hebrews goes to great lengths to prove that it wasn’t the works that saved anyone under the Older Covenant. He describes them as mere shadows pointing to the real thing. Strangely within the Older Covenant the Sabbath stands as God’s command against any work being done. The Sabbath pictured salvation as rest from works (Heb. 4:1). Therefore the Sabbath was also a shadow (Col. 2:17) of the salvation to come in Jesus. It was: a shadow of the rest to come. It pointed to the time when God would make an end of the Older Covenant, which required obedience in works, where the works would be accomplished by One Man: Jesus. By His efforts, works and deeds, all those who put their faith and trust in Him receive rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28). Thus in Hebrews chapter four, the Sabbath was pictured as a shadow of the rest now realised in Jesus. Paul describes this salvation by saying-

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast
Ephesians 2:8-9

Under the Older Covenant Sabbath, anyone found breaking it, was actually therefore violating a “type” of the salvation that was to be revealed in Jesus. By working on the Sabbath they were in essence saying to God “Your salvation is not enough, I must add my works to it to make it sufficient”. In this light it becomes easier to see why God took such a dramatically stern attitude to those who broke the Sabbath.

THE FIVE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE SABBATH

1.  Honor God as the Creator.

2.  Come together and worship God.

3.  A sign between God and His people.

4.  God has commanded it as a part of the Old Covenant.

5.  It was a shadow of a rest to come.

 

THE NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLE OF THE SABBATH

Now that the Older Covenant has been done away with (Col. 2:14), does the Sabbath have any place today? Some might argue that the Law within the Older Covenant has also be abolished, and therefore the Sabbath is immediately done away with. Yet Jesus said that He came to uphold the Law and not do away with it-

“Don’t think that I have come to destroy the law of Moses or the teaching of the prophets. I have not come to destroy them but to bring about what they said. I tell you the truth, nothing will disappear from the law until heaven and earth are gone. Not even the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will be lost until everything has happened.”
Matthew 5:17-18 (NCV)

The Older Covenant and the Ten Commandments were not synonymous. The Ten Commandments were articulated at the forming of the Older Covenant, as the rules and terms of agreement between the covenant parties (God and Israel). Yet, along with these Moral Laws, other groups of Laws were included: Food Laws, Civil Laws, and Ceremonial Laws. We find the purpose of these Laws explained in the New Covenant.

The purpose of the Moral Law was to reveal sin as sin-

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ “
Romans 7:7 (NKJV)

Paul makes the case in the Book of Romans, that the Law served the purpose of revealing sin, not saving people from their sin. Of interest to this topic, is the fact that of all the Ten Commandments, nine are explicitly restated within the New Covenant. The only command of the Ten not prescribed for the New Covenant is the fourth- the observance of the Sabbath. The reason for has been discussed under the section a shadow of the rest to come. Therefore, the Moral Law does have a place within the New Covenant. It is a fallacy to ignore the Sabbath today on the assumption that it was only a part of the Mosaic Law (the Law given through Moses) which was done away with at the Cross.

 

HONOUR GOD AS THE CREATOR

The first Old Testament principle of the Sabbath discussed here is the principle of honouring God as Creator. The New Testament emphatically declares the exclusive creative activity of Yaweh. That is, God is the sole Creator-

“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible”
Hebrews 11:3 (NKJV)

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
Colossians 1:16 (NKJV)

Would this principle of honoring God one day out of seven be relevant for today? Of worthy consideration at this point would be a casual appreciation of recent history. As evolution has gained more ground as the accepted theory of origins, so the regard for honoring God and respecting this Sabbath principle has declined proportionally. Just as God, the Creator of the universe, rested on the seventh day, God has established this principle for His creation: that they too rest on the Sabbath to remember Him as Creator.

 

COME TOGETHER AND WORSHIP GOD

God has designed a week for His people where they can set aside a day to come together and worship Him. This was the Old Testament principle. It was compulsory and part of the Law. Thus, Jesus was often recorded as being in the synagogue on the Sabbath. His is our ultimate example. The first church maintained the practise of coming together to worship God and appealing to Hebrew readers, their epistle endorses and reaffirms the principle of the regular weekly corporate worship time-

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)

If we were looking for reasons to justify neglect of the Sabbath within the New Covenant, we fail at even this point. If anything, the New Covenant saints should delight themselves even more in seeking to worship freely on a day set aside exclusively for such. Under the Old Covenant it was compulsory and Law, but under the New it is an expression of worship to God and an opportunity to encourage other believers.

 

A SIGN BETWEEN GOD AND HIS PEOPLE

After the Old Covenant had legally come to an end, at the time of the exile into Babylon, the returning remnant of faithful Jews sought to make themselves distinct from the existing inhabitants of Jerusalem. Nehemiah chose the following Biblical method:

In those days I saw men in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. Men from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing– desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity upon us and upon this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.” When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember me for this also, O my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.
Nehemiah 13:15-22 (NIV)

He refused to have the people buy or sell on the Sabbath. As the worldly system tries to overthrow the Church of the Living and Risen Lord Jesus, it seeks to make the distinction between themselves and the pure people of God less and less. With regard to Sabbath, this worldly principle is ever so clear. The Bible student would do well to consider the principles of this form of attack when considering the “mark of the beast” (the worldly system) which will ultimately try to force saints into a situation where they have lost their distinctiveness and can not by or sell unless they dance to the world’s tune, so to speak.

For the Church today there is a desperate need for distinctiveness from the world and other religions. If every believer today was to take seriously this principle of the Sabbath, there would be dramatic impact on our society, which would accelerate the success of world evangelisation.

 

GOD HAS COMMANDED IT AS A PART OF THE OLD COVENANT

The principle of Sabbath obedience under the Old Covenant was possibly the most prominent signs of obedience to God’s Law. As previously stated, while showing that the Moral Law and the Old Covenant were not synonymous, the New Covenant reiterates nine of the Ten Commandments, while omitting the Sabbath command. Therefore, based on this principle alone, the Sabbath is not a New Testament Command. Kevin Conner says-

The Sabbath day, as circumcision, was given as a sign between the Lord and the nation of Israel. It was given for a perpetual Covenant to the nation (Exodus 31:12-18). It was included in the Ten Commandments written on tables of stone (Exodus 20:1-21; Deuteronomy 5:1-21). These were written with the finger of God.
The Jews themselves say that it was never intended for the Gentile but was the heritage of Israel. Sabbath observances presuppose a Temple, a Priesthood and a sacrifice for on this day there to be extra burnt offerings offered, besides the daily sacrifice (Numbers 28:9-10) … The Sabbath to be kept properly had to have the Sabbath sacrifices, the body and blood of two lambs. By this the Lord was teaching Israel that true rest can only be upon the basis of the atoning blood. And of course this necessitated an officiating Priesthood to offer the sacrifices. But the Jew today is devoid of these things, not having their Temple. Hence there can be no true Sabbath without blood atonement. . . When Jesus came, He was born under the Old Covenant to fulfil it and abolish it at the Cross, as to its ceremonial laws. Just before his death He established the New Covenant in His own body and blood (Matthew 26:26-28)
“The Feasts of Israel”, by Kevin Conner, Bible Temple-Conner Publications, Portland Oregon, 1980

On this basis the principle of the Sabbath being a command of God within the New Covenant is without foundation. Yet, for the believer living by the spirit of the law, not its letter, its offers them an opportunity to show to God their loyalty.

 

IT WAS A SHADOW OF A REST TO COME

The Old Covenant saints looked forward to the promise of God, that they would be saved and receive their inheritance: heaven (Heb. 11:10). That promise of a rest from works, and everlasting contentment in heaven, was not to be made possible without Jesus doing all the work necessary for redemption. Thus the Old Covenant saints were not perfected without us who are of the Newer Covenant (Heb. 11:40).

The New Covenant incorporates God’s eternal, and only, plan of salvation. This salvation is received by meeting the Testamental conditions of faith and obedience (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Heb. 5:9) which applied and apply in both the Older Covenant and the New. While the faith required under the terms of the Older Covenant was anticipatory, under the New it is commemorative. Yet the obedience under the Older Covenant required adherence to highly transitory rituals and ceremonies (“works”). These works were like a passing shadow which disappears as the sun reveals its maximum light upon an object. The object of these shadows was the work of Christ, or more accurately, Christ Himself. Each of the Older Covenant’s works finds its fulfilment and completion in Jesus. We now live in a fuller revelation of God’s light, and while there still remains many New Covenant shadows which point to our ultimate inheritance (such as Holy Communion, Water Baptism, Marriage, etc.), the Sabbath stands as one of the greatest shadows of what the New Covenant means: that Jesus Christ is our Sabbath.

In Christ we find true rest (Matt. 11:28). This rest that Jesus spoke with so much enviable familiarity is found in knowing God. As one studies ancient religions of the Far East, there appears to be an ache of the human spirit that comes out in the sacred writings of so many of these religions. That ache is their quest for knowing the True God while settling for a religion of man-made guesses and philosophy. Nearly each of these religions originated with the assumption that if they could know the Supreme Being they would find “rest”. Many of these religions call it being “absorbed” into God. Thank God that there is way to know the True God that He Himself has revealed. In this revelation He also declares, while graciously confirming the ache of every human spirit, that true rest can only come from knowing God (Matt. 11:27-28). So the Sabbath stood as a constant reminder to the people under the Older Covenant that there was rest that they were yet to have. Not until the Jesus came did God’s ultimate revelation of Himself appear to mankind. His life, work, and death have provided the rest that every human soul aches for.

The New Covenant revelation of the Sabbath is only partly fulfilled here and now. There still remains an ultimate rest to be entered into. This rest from our bodies of sin will be realised when we receive our resurrected bodies at the coming of our Lord, and enter into eternal bliss with Him (Rom. 6:4-9; 8:22-25). By celebrating the New Covenant Sabbath, we sacramentally celebrate our awaiting rest. The Sabbath then stands as a shadow in the Older Covenant, and also in the New, though fulfilling the Older Covenantal hopes.

 

SUNDAY AS THE NEW TESTAMENT SABBATH?

At this point the issue needs clarification as to the practical celebration of the Sabbath. Seventh Day Adventists see that the Sabbath is still Saturday, the seventh day. Traditional Christianity has long viewed Sunday, the first day of the week, as the time to celebrate the Sabbath. Perhaps alluding to some contention over this issue during the first century AD, Paul says-

“One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it…”
Romans 14:5-6a

Paul’s solution to each believer was to be fully persuaded that what they were doing was honoring to God. The danger of identifying the “Lord’s Day” with Saturday is the temptation to lapse back into a works mentality of the Older Covenant. For this Paul says to the Galatians with disgust-

“But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”
Galatians 4:9-10

It was the design of God to transfer the celebration of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday based on the following reasons-

  1. That was the Day that Christ rose from the dead.

  2. Sunday marked the beginning of the New Covenant.

  3. The First day of the week represents new beginnings (we are made new in Christ).

  4. It follows the day set aside to commemorate the Older Covenant, just the New Covenant follows the Old.

  5. The Holy Spirit was conferred on the First Church on a Sunday, thus sealing God’s recognition of this day as the Day to celebrate the New Covenant and remember the principles of the Sabbath.

The First Church immediately recognised Sunday as the Lord’s Day, their Sabbath (Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2). Throughout Acts Paul was often recorded going to the local synagogue on the Sabbath for evangelistic reasons. This stands in contrast with his meeting with the local church on the first day of the week to worship, preach and break bread.

The invitation to celebrate our love for, and relationship with, the LORD is made available to every believer worldwide every Sunday. It is not a work, but a response of the heart. Thus, many of the prophets foresaw a day when God would have a people who would love Him not because of an external Law, but because the Law would be written on their hearts (Jer. 31:31-34). This involved honoring God one day out of seven as a special mark of His last days people-

“…They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all
My appointed meetings, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths”
Ezekiel 44:24 (refer to 46:1, 3 also)

PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR EMPLOYING THE PRINCIPLES OF THE SABBATH FOR TODAY

I conclude this survey with some practical suggestions for how we might employ the principles of the Sabbath for today. And I offer a challenge to those Christians who claim that we should continue to observe the Mosaic Sabbath. For those who advocate carrying over the Old Covenant Sabbath into the New Covenant, they must logically embrace all of the associated penalties as well. This includes stoning if found lighting a fire, for example. But if we regard the Sabbath laws and their penalties as revealing our dire spiritual and moral condition (that we are unable to even fully rest from our own efforts to be made right from God) we soon see how the Sabbath pointed to the rest in Christ. Afterall, for those who advocate a carried-over Sabbath for today they must recognise that doing anything on which ever day they decide to observe as as the New Testament Sabbath is going to be almost impossible. In today’s world, motor vehicles create firein their engines which enable them to work, light switches create a small fire-spark which enables electric current and even using an electronic appliances would be a violation of this prohibition. Added to this that most of us use utilities (water, gas, electricity, municipal rates) which is considered trading on the Sabbath! We should soon realise that simply cannot keep the Sabbath in the strictest sense. We must therefore look to embrace the spirit (rather than the letter) of the Sabbath for today. This should look like-

1. Celebrating the “Lord’s day” on Sunday not Saturday for the reasons given above.

2. Using this day as a day of rest (from usual activities) and worshipful reflection.

3. Gathering together with the Body of Christ with whom we are in community for the purpose of congregational worship (which builds our faith in and devotion to Christ), the reception of the explained Word of God (which captivates our hearts and renews our minds) and provides a witness to the world of the saving grace of Christ.

4. The appropriate setting for the proclamation of the Gospel with the object being the conversion of sinners to Christ.

John Stott, in the book- Contemporary Issues Facing Christians Today, answers the question about how we should regulate work and activity on Sundays with the acronym- R E S T –

R ecreation

mergency services

ervices (Utilities)

ransport

But Stott similarly stresses the importance of honouring Sundays in the spirit of the Sabbath (rest and worshipful reflection). Believers should make honouring Christ in a congregational community a priority for their Sundays. And if possible, they should worship congregationally near the beginning of the day and near its close.

 

THE GREATEST EXPRESSION OF THE SABBATH 

The greatest expression of what the Sabbath meant is found in Jesus. He is our Rest. He is our basis of relationship with God. He is our sacrifice. He is our Temple, and everything else typified for the believer under the Older Covenant. The first church recognised that His resurrection was the new beginning and the fulfilment of everything the Sabbath stood for, thus they celebrated the Sabbath on Sunday (the first day of the week). By doing this they were showing their love for God while keeping His Law (Ten Commandments). This is when God has appointed for His people today to meet and worship Him. Not in legalism, but in Spirit and in Truth.

Amen.
© Andrew Corbett, 1998 – 2017

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My Third Biggest Pastoral Paradigm Shift

My Third Biggest Pastoral Paradigm Shift

My Third Biggest Pastoral Paradigm Shift

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
First Corinthians 10:11

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As I reflect on my recent 20th pastoral anniversary of Legana Christian Church, I’ve had cause to reflect on three of my most significant pastoral paradigm shifts. I think I was about 17 years of age when I approached my then pastor, Joseph Bowes, to talk about the growing sense of God’s call on my life to pastor. I had assumed that all young men about that age felt a similar call. Pastor Bowes informed me that this was not the case. It was around this time in the 1980s that I first met Pastor Trevor Chandler who had become an annual visitor to our Geelong church (as he came down from Queensland to Victoria for INTERMIN). But this time (the 1980s) was a bizarre time for Bible Prophecy pundits. It was Trevor Chandler who first sowed the seeds into my soul to investigate rather than blindly accept Dispensational Futurism (which was the predominant view in most Evangelical and Pentecostal churches at the time). And I did.

Pastor Trevor ChandlerPastor Trevor ChandlerPastor Trevor Chandler

My investigation has been shaped by a commitment to the four classic principles of hermeneutics and my interactions with a family member involved in a cult. It was these two factors which led me to write two books about Bible Prophecy (the first one published in 2004 and now has sold over 20,000 copies) and hundreds of articles published on my website which have so far received over 1.13 million views. My conclusions about eschatology is the third of my pastoral paradigm-shifts and has greatly enhanced my pastoring. Here’s how.

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 
Hebrews 1:2

I undertook a College course in Eschatology (from the Greek word, eschaton meaning ‘last things’) in 1991. Even though the course was delivered by a ‘Futurist’ College, the course coordinator exposed his students to various views about Bible prophecy. Futurism (refer to the graphic below for a description of these terms) did not fair well under rigorous scrutiny in this course. We were required to read Options In Eschatology by Prof. Millard J. Erickson, and The Revelation of Jesus Christ by Dr. John F. Walvoord. The first book dismantled ‘Pre-Millennial Futurism’ and showed why it lacked Biblical credibility. The second book was about Pre-Millennial Futurism, including a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. The course coordinator showed the irreparable problems with Dispensational Pre-Millennial Futurism, but the College required that Dr. Walvoord’s book be read and understood as the position we were required to accept.

After completing this formal study in Eschatology, I had a clearer view of what I didn’t believe than what I did. My doctoral research was largely in Church History. This exposed me to the progress of Christian thought down through the centuries. It became increasingly obvious that what most Christians held to today regarding Bible prophecy, the ancient Christians had never heard of!

And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,  and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
Revelation 20:2-3 

Dispensationalism is a way of looking at the Bible. It divides the Bible in a series of dispensations of time and attributes a different means of salvation within each dispensation. Under the Dispensation of Law, a person was saved by keeping the Law. Under the Dispensation of Grace, a person is saved by faith in the finished work of Christ. The idea of Dispensationalism at first sounds reasonable. But as I became increasingly familiar with Church History and the art and science of Hermeneutics (how we interpret the Bible), I found Dispensationalism (which most Pentecostals hold to) untennable. On both counts, I found that Dispensationalism appealed to Church History by reinterpretting it. For example, Jerome (347 – 420 A.D.) used a Latin word that sounds like ‘rapture’ in English, and this was used to justify the Rapture doctrine. Biblically Ezekiel refers to a people which in Hebrew sounds like ‘Rosh’ which Dispensationalists claim refers to modern day ‘Russia’.

A graphic taken from one Dispensational website

When I began to dig a little deeper I found that even the verses used to support the idea of a ‘rapture’ were generally about either the Roman bombardment of Jerusalem where random people would be killed (and the Jewish Historian, Josephus, describes) or the final resurrection. But the most disturbing aspect of Dispensationalism was its dependence on its new ways of interpretting the Bible. For its interpretation to work, it had to invent some new ‘laws’ of interpretation including, The Law of Double Reference also called, The Rule of Dual Fulfilment. One proof-text is offered in support of this: Isaiah 7:14 “Behold the virgin shall conceive”. It is claimed that this was first fulfilled with Isaiah the Prophet’s wife, then again with the Virgin Mary. But there are some serious problems with this idea. Firstly, there is no hint in Scripture that Isaiah’s wife was the intended fulfilment of this prophecy (and I strongly doubt that she was a virgin!) and there is a plain statement in Matthew 1:21 that Mary of Nazareth was the (not “a”) fulfilment of the Isaiah prophecy. But this novel rule/law of Bible interpretation is the foundational principle for the belief that God has merely suspended His Old Covenant with Israel and temporarily instigated a New Covenant with the Church. Dispensationalism claims that God has two existing covenants with two groups of people- (i) Israel, and (ii) The Church.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Galatians 3:28-29 

While I was grappling with all this, my father inlaw died suddenly. I was asked to take the funeral. I had had many conversations with my Hungarian father-inlaw about spiritual things and had met with deep resistance. After the funeral, my mother-inlaw, who I deeply appreciate, expressed her hope that my father-inlaw would be given a second chance to turn to Christ in the Millennial Kingdom on Earth. She had long been persuaded by the teachings of Charles Taze Russell (the founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society). This led to me trying to have a genial written conversation with her about this aspect of Eschatology. Every time I tried to discuss the applicable Scriptures with her, I met with a novel way of interpreting the Scriptures which seemed to take the plain meaning of the text and twist it into an entirely different meaning. This led me to appeal to the classic principles of Bible interpretation.

It was at this point in the ongoing discussions with the my mother-inlaw as we were discussing the finer aspects of Matthew 24, that I realised I was doing the very thing that I was accusing my mother-inlaw of doing: I was reading into the text of Scripture rather than listening to what the text was intending to give out.

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Matthew 24:34

It was Matthew 24:34 which drove this error home to me. I had been taught to read this verse as if it was saying “that” generation, rather than what it actually says – “this” generation. The ramifications of this straight-forward reading are immense and were not lost on the most vocal atheist of the twentieth century, Bertrand Russell, when he was debating C.S. Lewis about Christianity. It was this verse which he used to describe Jesus as either a mere mortal who was deluded, or as a manipulative con-artist who was deceptive. This led C.S. Lewis to essentially concede the debate and later comment about this verse-

I find this the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.
C.S. Lewis

I spent a lot of time researching this verse and trying to reconcile how Jesus could be God in the flesh yet so wrong in His prophecy recorded in this verse. Coincidentally, I also began my series on the Book of Revelation (around 2002). I was determined to only take out of these Scriptures what God had intended to be taken out. I would use the first four principles of hermeneutics and try keep my preconceived ideas out of the text. And while I was working through this huge problem with Matthew 24:34 I was discovering a whole set of new problems with the Book of Revelation if we merely apply the principles of sound hermeneutics to it.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
Revelation 1:3

Exactly the same “problem” occurs in reading the Book of Revelation as occurs in Matthew 24. I had been taught that when Revelation used language like, “soon”, “near”, “at hand”, “now”, “this hour”, it actually didn’t mean it. In fact, what it actually meant was exactly the opposite to these words mean! The only reason plausible for doing this was that a plain reading of the text didn’t fit the Dispensational (Futurist) paradigm! I was resolute to research Biblical eschatology exegetically (taking out of the text only what was originally put into it) rather than eisegetically(reading things into the text). Here’s what I discovered, and why it became my biggest pradigm-shift.

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MATTHEW 24

Matthew 24 was a conversation between Jesus and His disciples on the Mount of Olives. Hence, it is referred to as The Olivet Discourse. The discples point out the Temple to Jesus and how impressive it was. But Jesus dismisses this and declares that it will be dismantled stone by stone. In utter dismay, the disciples ask three questions: (i) When will this happen? (ii) What will be the sign of Your ‘coming’ (Greek word, parousia)? (iii) When will this age (Greek word, aionos) end? Understanding these three questions is essential to understanding this chapter. Jesus proceeds to answer to each question. Consider that. He answered, in detail, each of the three questions. If I was preaching this point right now, I would labour it! And the reason I would do so is because there are some who suggest that after Jesus has answered their questions He then declared that He didn’t really know the answers because He was speaking out of His humanity, not His divinity! I find this opinion of Christ in Matthew 24 nearly blasphemous. (I explain why in this YouTube video.) I would also point out what the disciples asked, not what we think the disciples asked.

¶ As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Matthew 24:3

1. When will these things be? Jesus gives detailed descriptions of what was about to happen and then plainly stated the answer to this question: this generation shall not pass away until all these things take place (Matt. 24:34). A Biblical ‘generation’ is 40 years. If we consider that Jesus spoke these words in 30AD, He has just plainly stated all these things would be fulfilled by 70AD.

2. What will be the sign of Your coming? Note that the disciples did not ask- When will You return? The Greek word hupostrepho is the word they would have used if they had asked, “When will You return?” But instead, they asked When will You ‘parousia’? This word means, reveal, appear, come, but specifically in this context it means, to come in judgment. The disciples had good reason to ask When will You come to judge? because the destruction of the Temple was the pinnacle of God’s judgment on Israel in the Old Testament. This is the climax of the Book of Jeremiah.

3. What will be the sign of the end of the age? Despite the King James Version translating this word as “world”, the disciples did not ask Jesus When will the end of the world be? Jesus has just said that the Temple would be destroyed and the immediate question from the disciples was, When will this (Temple) age end? 

A part of Christ’s answer was that the sun would be darkened, the moon will not give forth its light, and the stars would fall from the sky (Matt. 24:29). Using the hermeneutical principles of Scripture interpretting Scripture we note that in Genesis 37:9 Joseph dreamed a dream about the sun, moon and stars bowing down to him and this was immediately interpretted as the Israel and his family. Later the prophet Isaiah in describing Israel’s rebellion would say that the sun, moon, and stars no longer shine their light (Isaiah 13:10), and Ezekiel would describe rebellious Israel as having their light “blotted out” so God says –

“I will cover the heavens
and make their stars dark;
I will cover the sun with a cloud,
and the moon shall not give its light.”

Ezekiel 32:7

And Joel says-

The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.

Joel 3:15 

What many may not realise is that when Jesus says, Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the Heavens (Matt. 24:30), that He was referring to Daniel 7:13, where it foretells of the Son of Man coming “up” on the clouds of Heaven (not “down”). The expression “the Lord is coming”, often associated with His glory depicted as “clouds” was used throughout the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah 19:1-

¶ An oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.

 

The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible, eBookThus, Jesus was not talking about His return to resurrect and judge the world (described in Matthew 25), but was describing His judgment on Jerusalem and the abolishing of the Old Covenant (the Temple, the Priesthood, and the sacrifices), which were indeed done away with in 70AD when the Romans destroyed Temple stone by stone just as Jesus had said. If you’re interesting in learning more about this, I wrote a book about it! It’s available either as an eBook, or as a paperback.

 

READING THE BIBLE LITERALLY

One of the most obvious problems with Dispensational Futurism is that its predictions based on its interpretations have consistently been wrong. This undermines the credibility of the Bible in the minds of some. As a pastor, I want those whom God has charged me to shepherd to have good reasons to have confidence in the Bible so that when life’s storms and difficulties come, they will find the comfort and peace of God in the words of Scripture. To achieve this I need to help my congregation to understand how to read the Bible. The goal is to read the Bible literally. But there are two types of literal reading. The first is  wooden literal where no allowance is made for metaphors, synedoches, idioms, allegories, parables, poetry, apocalyptic symbolism, perspectives, hyperboles, or narratives. The other type of literal is intended literal. This is where allowance is made for these types of literature and the goal is to discover what the author intended – not what the words the author used could mean.

The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, eBookA few years after my Understanding The Book of Revelation had been released, one interested reader in it (The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible) flew from Brisbane to Launceston to discuss it with me. For him, its contents were not merely theoretical. As I explained in The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible what the future holds for the believer according to the Book of Revelation, especially in the life to come, he shared with just why this was so important to him. He was dying! He had drawn great comfort from discovering that everything in the first 19 chapters of Revelation had been fulfilled whichgave him confidence that the remaining chapters would similarly be fulfilled. But, as this book had been out for a few years, he wanted to personally check if I still stood by its contents. I did and I do. This illustrates the immediate pastoral application of sound eschatology grounded in equally sound hermeneutics. This view is known as Preterism (as distinct from Full-Preterism which regards allprophecy as being fulfilled).

But this paradigm-shift came at a price. I was no longer able to hold ordination with the denomination I was serving in due to their emphatic Futurist Eschatological stance. However, it has been more than compensated for with untold dividends as many people have come to see why we have good reasons to believe what the God of the Bible has said in His Word. As I reflect on each of my three biggest pastoral paradigm-shifts, they have each arisen from a deep desire to faithfully serve God and His people by being faithful to His Word.

¶ I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Second Timothy 4:1-4

 Andrew Corbett

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Can We Take The Bible Literally?

Can We Take The Bible Literally?

Asking a believer if they “take the Bible literally” is like asking a husband if he still beats his wife! The issue of Christians taking the Bible “literally” has become a major point of ridicule – even more recently by President-Elect Obama, who joined the chorus of ridicule by claiming during his election campaigning-

“Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith.” [Catholic News Agency]

Read the full speech by President-Elect ObamaPresident Obama should know better! He is, after all, a self-confessed believer who has been attending church for years. It is incomprehensible that in all that time he never heard a preacher describe Christianity as being the “New” Covenant. Since Christianity is a “new” covenant, why would President Obama ridicule Biblical Christianity by quoting from the “Old” Covenant? By doing this he perpetuated the myth that it is absurd and unreasonable for any rational person to “take the Bible literally.” Perhaps ironically though, in attempting to make his case about the absurdity of taking the Bible literally, President Obama actually committed an error by not citing the Bible literally. That is, the Bible actually does not say that slavery is OK – neither does it say that a child should be stoned if he strays from the faith. But due to the dire lack of Biblical literacy in Western society too few people would even recognise this!

It’s fairly obvious why so many opponents of the Bible are so shrill in their ridicule of Christianity. The claims of Jesus Christ do not sit well with these opponents. In fact, they are downright repulsive! No wonder these adversaries of Christianity want to dismiss the Jesus of the Bible and replace Him with an all-tolerant, non-judgmental, effeminate Jesus. One group called The Jesus Seminar (made up of 150 liberal scholars) rejects any of the Bible as being divinely inspired and nearly all of the New Testament’s record of Jesus’ life and teaching- in fact, of the Lord’s Prayer they claim that only the words “Our Father” are authentic!

But try as they might, the real Jesus – as described and cited in the New Testament – just won’t go away. It’s almost as if there is an invisible Spirit that metaphysically connects with people’s souls about the truth of the words of Jesus in the New Testament- despite how nonPC they might sound today.

Can we take the Bible’s message “literally”? After all, if we do, we all stand condemned because it literally tells us that despite everything being originally created “good” and “very good”, mankind rejected God’s best and exchanged it for Satan’s grand lies: You can make your own rules and be your own god – that is: you can invent and maintain your own religion! Ever since that original lie was swallowed there has been something not quite right about this world. What was originally good became less than good. Yet the goodness of what God originally created – and the original goodness within each one of us – can still be seen by those who are still. And if a person was to look close enough at Jesus of Nazareth in the pages of the Bible they would marvel at how different He is to the rest of us and wonder how any person could be so good.

It is then perhaps incomprehensible to post-moderns how the Jesus of the Bible could be called “good” if He was intolerant – which He clearly was, since He did not tolerate hypocrisy, injustice, or sin. Similarly, post-moderns find the Jesus of the Bible abhorrent because He judged others and even condemned some. In fact, He made the audacious claim that He would ultimately judge the whole world!

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,
John 5:22 

Yet the goodness, wisdom, and moral purity of Jesus of Nazareth is undeniable even by post-moderns so they seek to distance their picture of the acceptable-Jesus from the Biblical Jesus by claiming that the Bible is incoherent, nonsensical, and morally outdated. If post-moderns can achieve this then they can continue to live as if Satan did not originally lie. This is why they claim that the Bible can not be taken “literally” because a literal observance of its teaching contradicts science, common sense and even compassion. One such example by a blogger who objects to the sexual morality of the Bible is-

Now, of course, what most people won’t tell you because they are scared to death of being un-PC about this is that the Bible is full of s—. It also says you can sell people off to slavery, as long as they are not Israelites. Eating shrimp is also an abomination to God (God is one finicky dude). There are dozens of offenses that get you stoned to death in the Bible including cursing at your parents, mixing the wrong types of cloths or plants … and adultery. Oh yeah, adultery. How come no one is going on a national campaign to pass a constitutional amendment against that? Oh, that’s right, a lot of straight Americans do that, so they would like to ignore that part of the Bible. Look, I know the right-wing abuses the Bible for their own seedy purposes. They selectively quote the Bible and leave out whole chunks of it, including the many positive verses about helping the poor and your fellow man. They emphasize the things that divide us and are full of hate. That being said, read the Bible, it’s not a pretty book. It is full of outrages, injustices, violence, mayhem and pure utter nonsensical crap. 
THE HUFFINGTON POST (Blog)

This blogger has joined the new chorus of attempting to paint the Bible as absurd if it is taken “literally”. Therefore, when the Bible places restrictions on sexual activity, it surely can’t be taken “literally”. I’ll conclude in a moment by briefly looking at the connection between how the Bible is to be understood and the moral implications or otherwise of this. For now, let’s look at what “literal” means…

CAN WE SERIOUSLY TAKE THE BIBLE LITERALLY?

Do you expect people to take you literally when you tell them that you are sick to death of taxes? What about telling someone that you laughed your head off at a joke? When a sportscaster says during a football game- “This is literally a massacre!” – what does he mean? What about the blogger cited above? What he mean when he writes that the Bible is full of s – – –? Is he being “literally” correct?

The problem of taking the Bible literally that these post-moderns are presenting is ironically caused because they do not take the Bible literally! To take the Bible “literally” does not mean to take it in a wooden literal sense, rather it means to read it as literature. That is, we are seeking to understand its intended meaning not its range of possible meanings. Thus, in everyday conversation we know that being sick to death means severe frustrationLaughing your head off means that you laughed almost uncontrollably. A massacre on the football field means that the game is totally one sided and one team no longer has a chance of winning the game. We know this because we understand the intended meaning. This is also how we are to read the Bible: understand the intended meaning.

President-Elect Barack Obama supposedly cites the Bible as teaching that shell-fish are an abomination to the Lord. He is alluding to Deuteronomy 14. In this chapter, God gives the Israelites Old Covenant Food restrictions which emphasize that they are not to be like pagan, idolatrous, immoral nations who practiced routine child abuse and degradation of women. These dietary restrictions served a symbolic purpose for a time. But that time ended when God did away with the Old Covenant and established the New Covenant-

¶ Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17 

President-Elect Obama sounds like he is citing the Bible when he claims that the Bible says a child who strays from the faith is to be stoned. This is not even a question of taking the Bible literally- because its not in the Bible! And as for slavery, no where does the Bible say this is “OK” and in fact, the New Testament lists slave-trading among other vile sins-

We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
First Timothy 1:9-10 NIV 

Added to this, it was Christian Bible-believers in the 19th century who began the campaign to end slavery in Western Society. Surely President Obama is aware of this? His statements then about the Bible teaching that it is “OK” to own a slave does not come from a literal reading of the Bible!

To take the Bible literally means that we understand the genre of the literature being employed within the Bible. Is it hyperbole? Is it metaphorical? Is it allegory? Is it apocalyptic? I explore these issues in greater detail in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (preview).

The Sexual Implications of taking the Bible LiterallyOPPONENTS OF THE BIBLE ARE DESPERATE TO MAKE LITERALISM SOUND LIKE LUNACY!

Does the Bible literally teach that shellfish are an abomination to the Lord? The word “abomination” occurs 16 times in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible). “Abomination”, according to Strong’s Concordance of Bible Words, means “morally disgusting“. Among the list abominations mentioned in the Pentateuch are-

        • Idolatry (Deut. 7:25)
        • Not observing the prescribed diet (Deut. 14:3)
        • Offering a defective animal sacrifice (Deut. 17:1)
        • Cross-dressing (Deut. 22:5)
        • Male and female prostitution (Deut. 23:18)
        • Divorce and adultery (Deut. 24:4)

If post-moderns can make these requirements seem ancient, out-of-place, archaic, and old-fashioned, then the one other item, homosexual activity, on this list abominations might also be considered in the same way. This is why many post-moderns have a vested interest in making the Bible sound irrelevant. If it is relevant then it is sexually restrictive!

Which items on this list of abominations are to be still regarded as divine abominations? Can we take a literal understanding of this passage and discover principles for how we should live today? The New Testament teaches that the Sacrificial Laws of the Old Covenant were ‘symbolic’ of Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and have thus been done away with. The New Testament also teaches that the dietary restrictions of the Old Covenant have been done away with. But it not only does not teach that the sexual restrictions of the Old Covenant have been abolished, it actually repeats them as still binding within the New Covenant. The Laws of Sexual Morality are described in Leviticus 18. To break one of these laws was to be “sexually immoral”. It was this list of what defined sexual immorality that Jesus endorsed for mankind when He said-

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
Matthew 15:19 

Therefore the New Covenant upholds the sexual laws of Leviticus 18 and forbids –

        • Incest (Lev. 18:6-9)
        • Adultery (Lev. 18:16, 20)
        • Polygamy (Lev. 18:18)
        • Pedophilia (Lev. 18:21)
        • Homosexuality (Lev. 18:22)
        • Bestiality (Lev. 18:23)

The New Testament reveals that being human is not a matter of having the right DNA or chemical make-up, it is a matter of having a soul. This spiritual nature of every human is activated when we think, dream, create, worship, love, and connect with another person sexually.

¶ There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” 
First Corinthians 6:16, THE MESSAGE BIBLE 

Ultimately, sexual union is one of the most beautiful ways that God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind. In the act of two diverse people: a man and a women, forming an unbreakable covenant (marriage) and joining together in ultimate intimacy, they are sample-tasting who God is: the diverse members of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who eternally experience ultimate togetherness and unity. This is why Satan is so keen to distort God’s gift of sexual intimacy through the encouragement of sexual immorality as condemned in Leviticus 18 and by Jesus of Nazareth.

Therefore, when we truly take the Bible “literally” we do NOT find that God condemns the eating of shellfish, or that He encourages slavery, or even that He commands children “who stray from the faith” to be stoned to death!

What we do find is that the God of the Bible had a set of regulations about clothing, diet, animal sacrifices, that have expired because they were symbolic of what Jesus was to do. But we also discover that the Bible literallyforbids sexual immorality, including pedophilia, bestiality, incest, prostitution and adultery. Yet, it does more than simply condemn these violations. It offers hope. Hope that brings forgiveness. Forgiveness that brings cleansing and freedom to those who are bound in sexual sin.

¶ Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
First Corinthians 6:9-11 

If you realise that you do not have the kind of peace you long for and have unwittingly bought the lie that the Bible cannot be taken literally when it comes to sexual guidelines, there is good news. Jesus Christ offers you His life in exchange for yours. You are literally just one prayer away from discovering that what the Bible literally offers: a new identity, peace with God and eternal life is literally true.

In my eBook I have more fully explained what it means to take the Bible literally. Consider downloading for yourself- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE.

 Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, November 22nd 2008

The Disappointment of Dispensationalism

The Disappointment of Dispensationalism

The Disappointment of Dispensationalism…

Dispensationalism comes in various forms. A “dispensation” is a period of time. An era. In its most extreme form it regards God as having multiple plans of salvation depending on the particular dispensation. These dispensations generally commence with the Dispensation of Innocence and include other Dispensations such as the Dispensations of Works, Law, and Grace. This is contrasted by the orthodox Christian view of regarding God only ever having one means of salvation: the work of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His suffering, death and resurrection. But Dispensationalism is most notably distinguished from orthodox Christianity in the way it regards Israel. Dispensationalism says that God has a distinct plan and salvation for Israel. The roof of Dispensationalism is then supported by the walls of a novel form of end-times teaching. This includes such things as a rapture of the Church, a two-part Tribulation period, the global rule of an Anti-Christ, the reconstruction of a Temple in Jerusalem, the Battle of Armageddon, and then the Return of Christ. Dispensationalist Bible Prophecy teachers have gone to great lengths in their predictions of what the future holds based on their interpretation of the Bible. I have written a separate article on some of these predictions. But there’s a problem. A big problem.

Dispensationalism’s Big Problem

Book of RevelationPut simply, Dispensationalism’s big problem is its inability to consistently forecast world events based on its interpretation of Bible prophecy. The things that Dispensationalism predicted would happen in the 20th century have largely not happened. This is a big problem especially because most Dispensational Bible Prophecy teachers usually add time-frames to their interpretations. For example, Dispensationalists were almost shrill in their claims of what the future held leading up to the year 2000. Some of the most outrageous claims were made about how the Bible predicted the coming Y2K bug!!! When it became obvious that there was no global financial collapse, no revelation of  a world dictator (the “Anti-Christ”), no rapture of the Church, no reconstruction of a Jerusalem Temple, or any other such Dispensational prediction, these Prophecy Teachers became very quiet. Except for some, like John Hagee who presses on with Dispensationalism regardless (I have written about some of his outrageous claims separately).

Here’s a really dangerous example of what I’m talking about-

“2008 – God’s Final Witness
From now until the latter part of 2008, many prophecies are going to begin to be fulfilled, especially the Seven Thunders of the Book of Revelation, which the apostle John saw but was restricted from recording. Those thunders are revealed in this book, as well as detailed accounts of the final three and one-half years of man’s self-rule on earth, which are recorded in the account of the Seventh Seal of Revelation.

Some of these prophecies concern the demise of the United States over the next year, which will be followed by man’s final world war. This last war will be the result of clashing and the governments they sway. Billions will die! This time will far exceed even the very worst times in all human history….”

http://www.the-end.com/

Most reasonable Christians are going to recognise immediately that this type of shrill is certainly outside of the pale of orthodoxy- even for the most extreme varieties of Dispensationalism. This particular author, Ronald Weinland, though, promotes the same kinds of Bible Prophecy interpretation ideas that generally characterise Dispensationalists-

  • He claims that the Book of Revelation was written to describe events taking place today.
  • He claims that God has given him special revelation into the Book of Revelation.
  • He claims that the Book of Revelation addresses contemporary events unfolding in the United States.
  • He claims that the world will get rapidly more evil and that “billions” will die.

This is exceptionally dangerous teaching. It deserves to be tested for its Biblical accuracy. And can even be tested for its prophetic accuracy since he claims that these events will take place in 2008.

In my eBook on the Book of Revelation, I have addressed these types of claims in evaluating some of the ways that people attempt to interpret Revelation. As more Dispensationalists become disappointed with Dispensationalism’s ability to make sense of current events and accurately forecast what the Bible really says about the future it is my hope that they won’t abandon the Bible altogether but will rather relook at what the Bible really says about the future- especially the Biblical Book which promises that the reader will be blessed by its contents- not confused by them.

Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

 Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, March 26th 2008

Download Dr Corbett’s eBook on the Book of Revelation 

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