Monthly Archives: December 2017

Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?

WHY DOES THE BOOK OF ACTS END SO ABRUPTLY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Book of Acts opens where the Gospel Record of Luke left off (compare Luke chapter 24 with Acts chapter 1). Luke is again writing to Theophilus to tell him what happened concerning the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry and His Apostles’ ministry once He returned to Heaven (cf. Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-2). Let us begin with a simple, quick survey of the Book of Acts.

A SIMPLE, QUICK SURVEY OF THE BOOK OF ACTS

Chapter 1 of Acts opens with Jesus Christ spending 40 days in His post-resurrection ministry showing Himself to be alive again with many infallible proofs. He teaches the Apostles all about the kingdom of God. Then, He ascends up to Heaven to His Father’s right hand. In chapter 2, the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the 12 Apostles. Peter delivers his well-known sermon to the nation Israel in Jerusalem. Messiah, whom Israel rejected at Calvary, has resurrected, and will return to set up that Davidic kingdom promised to Israel long ago! Salvation must begin with Jerusalem’s conversion.

As we progress in Acts, we see the expansion of the Messianic Church (Israel’s believing remnant, what Luke 12:32 calls “the Little Flock”). More Jews are responding to the Apostles’ preaching; they are repenting and being water baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, preparing to survive the wrath at His Second Coming. Envious and outraged, the satanically-inspired Israeli religious leaders persecute the Messianic Church, especially the Apostles. Signs and wonders—great miracles—verify the Word of God being faithfully proclaimed. Jesus Christ is alive and well, and the miraculous demonstrations prove that He is the Son of God and working through them.

In chapter 7, Israel reaches the pinnacle of her unbelief. Her religious leadership refuses to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to her through Stephen. Israel experiences her national fall as her leaders stone Stephen to death. Just as God’s wrath is about to come upon unbelieving mankind, in chapter 9, God reaches down in grace and mercy and love to save His chief enemy. Saul of Tarsus, leading Israel’s rejection of Messiah Jesus, meets the Lord Himself and is saved unto eternal life! God commissions him with a new message, the Gospel of Grace, to preach to all nations (Gentiles). A new program, the Dispensation of Grace, has begun. The Church the Body of Christ has started. That wrath has been delayed, having given way to a mystery program God kept secret in Himself until He revealed to Saul.

For the first time, in chapter 10, the Lord Jesus commands Peter to visit and evangelize Gentiles in Caesarea (Cornelius and his Roman associates). We see Gentiles in Antioch taking an interest in God’s Word in chapter 11, Saul of Tarsus eventually heading that ministry. The Jerusalem Church suffers intense persecution in chapter 12 under King Herod—Apostle James is beheaded. Beginning in chapter 13, the Holy Spirit directs the Antiochian Church to send away Saul and Barnabas to preach the Gospel of Grace throughout the Roman Empire. Thus begins Paul and Barnabas’ apostolic journeys. These—four trips in total—will continue until the Acts period ends. Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, will be preached far and wide, and all will hear it!

From chapter 13 onward, the Apostle Paul is the main figure in Acts. Peter and the other 11 Apostles of Israel are passing off the scene because Israel herself has already fallen and has been diminishing since chapter 7. Paul’s ministry is being increasingly established and the Gospel of Grace is spreading farther and farther throughout the world. He visits (among other places) modern Turkey, Syria, Greece, and eventually Italy. Unbelieving Jews have been following and harassing him and his converts for many years. Still, the message of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for man’s sins, is being heard and believed on far and wide. The Church the Body of Christ is growing.

In chapter 15 (Galatians chapter 2), Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem to meet the Jewish Church’s Apostles and elders. Doctrinal issues must be straightened out. Paul teaches these Kingdom saints about the drastic dispensational changes that have occurred thus far. They come to realize how God the Holy Spirit is now working amongst the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry without the Law, without Israel’s prophetic kingdom, without the Gospel of the Kingdom. They see that their prophetic program is fading and Israel is diminishing. They release themselves from their Gentile commission, turning over all lost souls to Paul and Barnabas. The 11 Apostles will stay with believing Israel, the Little Flock. Paul and Barnabas will continue with reaching all unsaved Jews and Gentiles with the Gospel of the Grace of God. Their apostolic journeys continue throughout the Roman Empire. More idolatrous pagans under Satan’s control are being saved unto eternal life!

When Paul returns to Jerusalem in Acts chapter 21 many years later, the unbelieving Jews assume that he has taken a (defiled) Gentile, or non-Jew, into the Temple. An uproar is generated and Paul is physically beaten. The Roman soldiers, learning of the riot, arrest the Apostle. In chapter 22, he delivers a testimony-sermon to unbelieving Israel in Jerusalem, which infuriates them even more. Paul is imprisoned in Jerusalem to stand before Israel’s ruling religious body. Once it is uncovered that unbelieving Jews plot to kill Paul, the Roman army sends him to Caesarea to stand before Judaean Governor Felix. The trial is unfair; Felix keeps Paul illegally bound just to delight the unsaved Jews. Once Festus becomes governor, Paul has been imprisoned for two years (in Caesarea, remember). Festus also mistreats Paul to gain favor with the unbelieving Jews. Having enough of these incessant, unfair legal proceedings, the Apostle says that he appeals to Caesar, the Roman emperor, so that he may hear his case and render justice. Still, before Paul travels to Rome, Festus involves King Agrippa, whom Paul stands before to share his testimony. Agrippa mocks.

Entering a ship as chapter 27 opens, the chained Apostle Paul journeys from Caesarea to Rome. A great storm causes him and his company to be shipwrecked and stranded on the island Melita. Months later, he finally gets to Rome, the world’s capital at the time. In the latter half of chapter 28, he meets with unbelieving Jews who are curious about his ministry. Remember, he is still a prisoner. Soldiers take turns being chained to him. Acts 28:16 says: “And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.”

The closing verses of the Book are Acts 28:30-31: “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

So, what happened to Paul in Rome? How did his trial before Caesar turn out? All we read about is he being under house arrest for two years, during which time he preached the kingdom of God and taught those things regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. Why did Luke leave us in suspense here? Why did the Holy Spirit stop the narrative here of all places? For centuries, theologians have wondered and debated about this sudden ending, this “cliffhanger,” of Acts. We would have expected an adequate conclusion, a resolution of some sort. Alas, there is none. (Or is there?)

THE BOOK OF ACTS, DISPENSATIONALLY DELIVERED

It has been rightly said that the Book of Acts is the most challenging Book in the whole Bible. Why is Acts so difficult? We just saw why, dear friends. It is a transitional Book. God’s dealings with man at the beginning of the Book are overwhelmingly different from His relations with man at the end of the Book. Take, for example, two sample verses from the Book of Acts:

  • Acts 1:6: “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
  • Acts 28:28: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”

Acts 1:6 is an inquiry about when Israel’s earthly kingdom will be established; in stark contrast, Acts 28:28 involves salvation already going to the Gentiles. Recalling what Isaiah 60:1-3 (and other verses) said, Israel was to rise to kingdom glory and then salvation and blessing would flow through them to the Gentiles. Yet, those two verses from Acts do not fit Isaiah’s outline. Israel’s earthly kingdom was never established in the Book of Acts. Jesus Christ never returned to set up His kingdom in Acts. There still has not been that Second Coming in flaming fire taking vengeance on God’s enemies. Yet, Luke writes at the end of Acts that salvation has already been sent to the Gentiles. Surely, this is a departure from prophecy, something entirely different from what the prophets (such as Isaiah) expected.

It is apparent that the Book of Acts really contains two dispensations. God issues a certain set of instructions at the beginning of the Book, but by the end, a new set of divine instructions has already been given. Why this change? Why did God not keep one same body of information valid all the way from chapter 1 through chapter 28? (After all, having two bodies of information is more complicated than having one body of information.) We need not be troubled. We should not be intimidated. If we are willing to submit to the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry, Acts is going to demonstrate itself to us to be a very helpful Book rather than the burdensome text so many have made it.

What is the purpose of the Book of Acts? If it is so confusing, why did God include that record in His Holy Word? Is Acts really out of place in the canon of Scripture? If you asked the average Fundamentalist or Evangelical, or even Roman Catholic, they would tell you that the Book of Acts is the record of the establishment and expansion of the Church the Body of Christ. They would say that it documents the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem all the way to Rome. They assume there is only one Church in the Book of Acts. Also, they assume there is only one Gospel message in the Book of Acts. However, these comments manifest Bible ignorance on their part. They have not really studied the Book of Acts. What they have done is repeated misconceptions and mischaracterizations of Acts, parroting what others assumed about the Book of Acts. Denominational biases—religious traditions—have clouded their thinking. They need to look at the pure Word of God, and stop wresting it to fit their theological system.

The Book of Acts can be outlined using Romans 11:11-14: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

In order to understand this, we must refer back to the words that the Lord Jesus Christ uttered many years earlier. We read in Matthew chapter 12: “[31] Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. [32] And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

Israel rejected and contradicted what Jesus Christ preached to them throughout His earthly ministry, the Books of Matthew through John. The Lord Himself warned Israel that this sin would be forgiven them. On Calvary’s cross, once Israel’s rejection of God the Son came to a head, Jesus Christ cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Israel stumbled at the cross, but did not fall. Going back to Romans 11:11, “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid….”

Romans 9:30-33 explains their stumbling at Calvary: “[30] What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. [31] But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. [32] Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; [33] As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”

Again, while Israel stumbled at Calvary’s cross, they did not fall. At some later point, though, they did fall. Romans 11:11 again: “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” When did Israel fall? Again, we know it was not at the cross because God continued to deal with her in early Acts (chapters 1-7).

In order for salvation to go to the Gentiles, unbelieving Israel had to be set aside for time. Salvation went to the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry (Romans 11:13). Paul was saved and commissioned in Acts chapter 9. That means Israel fell sometime prior. As we mentioned earlier, Israel’s fall was really in chapter 7, when Stephen filled with the Holy Ghost confronted Israel’s religious leaders about their unbelief. They stoned him to death—their final rebellion against the Holy Spirit. As per Matthew 12:31-32, this sin would not be forgiven them. God’s wrath would consume them when Christ would return at His Second Coming to establish Israel’s kingdom.

Going back to Romans 11:11-14, we pick up the thought-flow: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

Hone in on verse 13. Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles”—the man whom God has sent to be His spokesman to the nations. Since Israel had already fallen in Acts chapter 7—and Romans was written in Acts chapter 20—Israel is just another Gentile nation in God’s eyes. Paul is not simply preaching to non-Jews in the Book of Acts. After all, he visits Jewish synagogues and preaches in them throughout Acts (Acts 9:20; Acts 13:5,14,15,42; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:1,10,17; Acts 18:4-8; Acts 18:19; Acts 19:8). Israel fell just before Paul was made an Apostle in Acts chapter 9.

Romans chapter 11 again: “[13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” Why did Paul “magnify”—esteem, praise—his Gentile apostleship/ministry? Verse 14 tells us. He wanted to provoke to emulation some Jews. He desired the unbelieving Jews in the Acts period to behave like his Gentile audience. They too needed to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, for they were all under Satan’s control and were being offered God’s grace. Rather than believing the Gospel of the Kingdom and joining the Little Flock (Peter and the 11), however, they were to believe Paul’s Gospel and become members of the Church the Body of Christ (like us).

The Holy Spirit was conscientious throughout the latter part of Acts to reach lost Jews (those who had rejected the earlier preaching of Peter and 11). He provided them with revelation by sending Paul to preach in their synagogues. Paul, and his ministry companions, updated them concerning the dispensational changes that were occurring. The Jewish Apostles themselves heard about this information in Acts chapter 15 (and Galatians chapter 2) when Paul and Barnabas conferred with them. Jews scattered around the Roman Empire heard it in their respective cities as Paul et al. conducted his four apostolic journeys (Acts chapters 13–28). Since “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22), God sent Paul with the apostolic ability to perform various miracles. Miracles would validate his message as they had corroborated the 12 Apostles’ message.

We want to pay very close attention to the word “diminishing” in Romans 11:12: “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?” While Israel fell in Acts chapter 7, she diminished throughout the rest of Acts. She became less and less of an issue, but God was still speaking to her through Paul’s ministry. While the Dispensation of Grace was operating with Paul during Acts, there was also a transition from Israel’s prophetic program to our mystery program.

In order to show Paul as the perfect replacement for Peter, the Holy Spirit had Paul repeat Peter’s actions. Paul water baptized converts just as Peter did. Peter spoke with tongues; Paul spoke with tongues. Peter laid hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit; Paul did likewise. Peter went to Jews first; Paul went to Jews first. Peter healed the sick and raised the dead; Paul healed the sick and raised the dead. We could go on and on, but suffice it to say that God equipped Paul with power to do what Peter did. This was how God validated His Word amongst the Gentiles: Israel saw her signs and wonders amongst Paul’s Gentile converts. (If you could get this, my friend, you will avoid so much trouble people get into when they deal with this Acts period. However, if you fail to get this straight, you will never understand Acts!)

Three verses are at the heart of Paul’s Acts ministry. Notice them:

  • Acts 13:46: “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”
  • Acts 18:6: “And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”
  • Acts 28:28: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”

Israel heard of her national fall on three occasions. Scattered amongst the Gentile nations, Paul visited her and said in Antioch of Pisidia (Turkey/Asia Minor), “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles(Acts 13:46). He said it again in Corinth (Greece/Europe), “From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles(Acts 18:6). Finally, in the world’s capital (Rome), he said, The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles…” (Acts 28:28). These announcements covered a period of roughly 15 years (approximately one-half of the duration of the whole Book of Acts). Paul is getting farther and farther away from Jerusalem (which was the central city in the prophetic program). Something major has happened, and it does not involve the establishment of Israel’s earthly kingdom.

Contrary to popular belief, Acts was not meant to show us how the Gospel and Christianity spread from Jerusalem to Rome and beyond. “Christianity” as we know it was first identified in Antioch, Syrianot Jerusalem (Acts 11:26)! Furthermore, it is not about how the Body of Christ formed in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and spread beyond. Remember, salvation going to the Gentiles did not happen until chapter 9—Saul was converted long after Acts chapter 2! It is not meant to provide us a pattern for Christian living or doctrine, for many things are changing in the Book. The standards for the Dispensation of Grace are not made clear until Paul’s Epistles, Romans through Philemon. We do not appeal to Acts to find our doctrine, lest we wind up in confusion!

In Acts, God is transitioning from the Little Flock (Israel’s believing remnant) to the Church the Body of Christ, from Jerusalem to the world, from Peter to Paul, from Law to Grace, from prophecy to mystery, from the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Gospel of the Grace of God. Israel, once prominent at the beginning of Acts, is now fallen and diminishing. The 12 Apostles loose themselves from their commission in Acts chapter 15 (Galatians chapter 2). From chapter 9 onward, Paul is conducting a special “signs” ministry to coincide with Israel’s diminishing, that some of apostate Israel believe his Gospel of Grace and join the Church the Body of Christ.

The primary reason for the Book of Acts is to show how God was just, fair, in setting Israel aside for a time. When the Book opened, national Israel refused to hear Peter and the 11 Apostles preach about Jesus Christ. Saul of Tarsus led the rebellion! So, God interrupted that prophetic program and began a mystery program that He had kept secret all along. With Saul, the Apostle Paul, a new Gospel would be offered to man. The Church the Body of Christ had begun and would now form of all believing Jews and Gentiles. Eventually, Israel’s Little Flock was sealed off to new membership. Salvation for lost souls would now be in Paul’s Gospel alone. Alas, all the unbelieving Jews did was harass and persecute Paul… and it was his Gospel of Grace that barred God’s wrath from falling upon them!

God’s purpose in the Book of Acts is not to show us doctrine for today as members of the Body of Christ. (Once more, for that, we go to the Pauline Epistles, Romans through Philemon.) Many heresies and hang-ups have sprung forth from Acts because it is not handled dispensationally. Acts is not our pattern; chapter 2 is not the beginning of the Body of Christ as commonly taught. It was designed to show us how God spoke to unbelieving Israel—first through the 12 Apostles, and then through the Apostle Paul.

Once Paul’s pronouncements against apostate Israel were made, the Book of Acts closed. It was not in God’s design in Acts to give us every little detail about Paul’s ministry and message. (Again, the doctrinal details of Pauline theology are found in Romans through Philemon!) Hence, we do not read about the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome. Acts does not end “abruptly.” Its narrative terminates after it serves its final purpose—Israel’s last warning about her unbelief and salvation going to the Gentiles without her. Israel is not only fallen, but now diminished entirely. Contrary to the “Acts 28ers,” nothing new began with the close of Acts. However, something ended. Paul’s provoking ministry to Israel, the transitional part of the Dispensation of Grace is finished.

Dear friend, read the last 15 verses of Acts very slowly, and you will see the Book end right on schedule. Remember, Paul is in Rome, the world capital at the time. This is God’s worldwide message to Israel:

“[17] And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. [18] Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. [19] But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. [20] For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. [21] And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. [22] But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

“[23] And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. [24] And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. [25] And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, [26] Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: [27] For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Notice Israel’s persistent unbelief accentuated here—cf. Isaiah 6:9-10 and Matthew 13:11-15. After Acts 28:25-27, God warns her no further.)

“[28] Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. [29] And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. [30] And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, [31] Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

Also see:
» Were there two imprisonments of Paul, or just one?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Can you explain the ministry of the 12 Apostles in Acts 7-15?

Were there two imprisonments of Paul, or just one?

WERE THERE TWO IMPRISONMENTS OF PAUL, OR JUST ONE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

At the end of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, was he imprisoned once or twice? (We are well aware that he was in prison for two years in Caesarea [Acts 24:23-27]. This incarceration does not concern us in this study. We are interested in what happened to him at the close of the Book of Acts onward.)

Paul’s group, traveling by ship, arrived in Rome in Acts 28:16. Remember, he was a prisoner, having been arrested back in Acts 21:33 in Jerusalem. Luke closes the Book by reporting in chapter 28: “[30] And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, [31] Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” This was Paul’s “house arrest” period. It was during this two-year timeframe that he penned the Epistles of Ephesians (3:1; 4:1; 6:20), Philippians (1:7,13,16), Colossians (4:3), and Philemon (verses 1 and 9). (Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Romans had already been written during Acts.) Was Paul released from this house arrest? Some say yes; others say no. Let me show you verses that led me to a definite conclusion.

While under the house arrest of Acts 28:30-31, Paul wrote in Philippians 2:23-24 of Timothy: “[23] Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. [24] But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.” Paul said he expected to leave Rome very soon, and he purposed to meet the saints at Philippi. Philemon 22, written around the same time, says: “But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.” Paul expected to travel to Colosse and stay at Philemon’s home. Surely, he concluded, he would be released from his house arrest in Rome.

In 1 Timothy 1:1-3, something changes. He writes as though he is now a free man: “[1] Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; [2] Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. [3] As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,….” He intended to travel into Macedonia, and he asked Timothy to stay at Ephesus to correct erroneous teaching. This was evidently something that occurred after Acts—after the two years of Acts 28:30-31. Paul was released (as he expected).

Titus 3:12-13 was penned contemporaneously: “[12] When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. [13] Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.” Paul was not in Rome here, but in Nicopolis (modern northern Greece)—where he wanted to spend winter. He is not in prison here, but free to travel as he pleases. Surely, he was released from his first imprisonment.

By the time of 2 Timothy, nevertheless, Paul has been arrested and is incarcerated again. This is not merely house arrest as before. Now, he is in a dungeon… awaiting his certain execution. Chapter 2 says: “[8] Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: [9] Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.” Chapter 4 continues: “[6] For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. [7] I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: [8] Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

Second Timothy, in my view, is the final proof that Paul was indeed imprisoned twice at the end of his ministry. The antepenultimate verse the Holy Spirit caused him to write is as follows: “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick” (2 Timothy 4:20). Using a little common sense, the only way Paul could have “left” a man at Miletum is if Paul himself had been at Miletum. He would have thus been free from the Roman house arrest of Acts 28:30-31.

By the way, Second Timothy 1:16-18 is a very touching snippet of the Apostle’s joyous heart in that Roman prison: “[16] The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: [17] But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. [18] The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.”

CONCLUSION

While under the two-year house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30-31), Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. According to Philippians 2:24 and Philemon 22, he expected a release. First Timothy 1:3, Titus 3:12-13, and 2 Timothy 4:20 all indicate he was freed and ministered in various regions—Ephesus, Macedonia, Miletum, et cetera. Finally, he was re-arrested, re-imprisoned in Rome, and executed. Second Timothy would have been written in a dungeon, worse conditions than Acts 28:30-31, just before his death by beheading (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

The only way to reconcile all these passages is to have two imprisonments of Paul. One captivity was Acts 28:30-31 (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon), followed by an interlude of liberty to travel (1 Timothy, Titus), with a second imprisonment a few years later (2 Timothy).

Also see:
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» What is Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theology?

Are we merely interested in breaking up churches?

ARE WE MERELY INTERESTED IN BREAKING UP CHURCHES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

For 2,000 years, our detractors have said that we Pauline dispensationalists are troublemakers. Allegedly, we aim to do nothing more than split up local churches by proving others wrong, nitpicking over final points of doctrine, attacking reputations and religions, disrespecting ecclesiastical traditions, and so on. Is this an accurate representation of us? Are we really sharing the Message of Grace with the sole intention of dividing and destroying local assemblies? Is there any way for us to be “less controversial?” Why, oh why, do local churches split wherever our ministries reach? Is the dissolving of denominational assemblies all that bad anyway?

Dear brethren, let me just go ahead and get it out now. I will never, ever, ever (!) deny that there are some in the “grace community” who have no desire other than to engage in petty arguing, fleshly debates, cheap insults, and idle speculations. They have no clear understanding in sound Bible doctrine but they will criticize others for their own doctrinal deficiencies. (Since I do not share their sentiments, we have parted ways. Whether I distanced myself from them, or they left me, it is for the best.) They love to pick fights in the name of “grace.” They ridicule denominationalists when they themselves are just as ignorant of grace teaching and grace living. They are puffed up in knowledge when they should be using what they know to benefit others (charity). They use a very condescending, sharp tone that derides and infuriates rather than offer Bible information that enlightens and liberates.

Second Timothy 2:24-26 says: “[24] And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, [25] In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [26] And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” We should have a gentle, meek spirit. We should be as patient as possible when dealing with others in the Scriptures.

However, we must remember that there are people in denominations who are just as rude as the “contentious grace brethren.” They want to prove everyone else wrong and their denomination right. We can only spend so much time with them before it becomes futility. Under no circumstances are we to continue arguing with anybody of any persuasion. If they do not want to hear the simple truths of the Word of God rightly divided, then we have better things to do with our time… and we had better get to them!! We wish these willfully-ignorant individuals all the best but there are people who are interested in learning. We need to go seek them instead of spending all our time with the same few who never receive anything.

Again, we should not be rude and crude, nasty and belligerent. Still, no matter how polite we are, how soft-spoken we are, how gentle we are, how loving we are, how tactful we are, how meek we are, the Message of the Cross is offensive. It cancels out works-religion. Galatians 5:11 says to this point: “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.” If Paul preached religious works—in that case, physical circumcision—people would be pleased with him. He would be preaching that man could do something to please God. However, if he preached Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, that work on Calvary meant that “good” works would never be enough to get one to a right standing before God. How “offensive” grace is even today, for it takes away the boasting in what man can do in religion. If there is any bragging, my dear friend, the Bible says it will be in the finished work of Christ alone—and our flesh (sin nature) hates that!!!

Romans chapter 3: “[24] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [25] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. [27] Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. [28] Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. [29] Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: [30] Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. [31] Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

You go to a denominational church and preach that Gospel of Grace, my friends, and there is a 99 percent chance that you will be run right out the door! With that message, you get rid of water baptism, confession of sins, commandment-keeping, Sabbath-day observance, tithing, and so on as necessary for salvation unto eternal life. Faith alone in Christ alone is what God is looking for today. If we do not see any value in His Son and His finished work, He could not care less about what “good works” we do! Again, you preach that, and most of the world will hate you. (Try it and see!)

The Lord Jesus Christ never hesitated in exposing religious error. He did it over and over and over again. Read His scathing rebukes of Israel’s religious leaders in Matthew chapter 23 and John chapter 8. Look at Mark 7:7-13 and John 2:13-17. These were certainly not the “Jesus-is-nothing-but-love-and-kindness” attitudes we hear about in shallow Christian speech today. The Lord never took it lightly when people were deceived in His name and entangled in Satan’s evil world system. It was a very serious matter. He actually called some of His audience “vipers,” “hypocrites,” “whited sepulchres [graves!],” “children of the devil,” “children of hell,” and various other non-flattering titles. Rest assured, there was a lot of “church-splitting” because of Christ’s earthly ministry!

Second Timothy 2:24-26 again: “[24] And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, [25] In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [26] And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” Those in denominations are deceived—stuck in Satan’s trap (just as those in Christ’s earthly ministry). However, we need to be sure that we give them sound Bible doctrine—not with the intention of pointless contending but—with the purpose of allowing them the information needed to escape Satan’s error. (That was Christ’s purpose.) If we fail to approach the situation in the Spirit, and wind up in the flesh, we find ourselves in the snare of the Devil too… and then we need recovery ourselves!

Dear friends, if you never get anything else from this study, remember one thing. Doctrine divides. That is just all there is to it. Those in the ecumenical movement already figured that out; hence, they choose to fellowship around something other than doctrine! They have their experiences, their speculations, their feelings, and they are united therein. Ultimately, their system is void of faith and God’s power because it is wanting of sound Bible doctrine. Do you really want to minimize doctrine as they? Think long and hard about their unanswerable confusion first, and then the answer will become apparent. (I say, “No thanks!”)

In all the years my family has been Christians, we have been through four local church splits. It was always a matter of doctrinal error, never something trivial. We are always striving for a pure church, not a perfect church. If maintaining a pure church means leaving a local assembly, and even parting from family and friends, then that is the way it must be. Our loyalty is to our Lord Jesus Christ alone. If a place does not honor Him in doctrine, we have no interest in participating in their services. I make this very clear to whomever wants to hear. Those who want to keep going to their denominational churches, we are so willing to give them over to their preference.

Second Corinthians 6:14-18: “[14] Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? [15] And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? [16] And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [17] Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. [18] And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (Pay attention to that exhortation in verse 17, “come out from among them, and be ye separate!”)

First Timothy 6:3-5: “[3] If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; [4] He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, [5] Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (Notice that phrase in verse 5, “from such withdraw thyself!”)

Romans 16:17-18: “[17] Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. [18] For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Pay close attention to that phrase, “mark [identify] them and avoid them!”)

Second Timothy 3:1-7: “[1] This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. [2] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, [3] Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, [4] Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; [5] Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. [6] For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, [7] Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (Look at that encouragement in verse 5 to, “from such turn away!”)

Our critics charge us as if the dissolving of denominational local churches is a bad thing. It is abundantly clear from the above verses that the Holy Spirit endorsed separation from apostasy (false teaching in religion). Evidently, He was for “church-splitting” too! If a denominational church breaks up and/or closes, that means a grace church now has an opportunity to rise and replace it in the community. As long as the Message of God’s Grace is clearly proclaimed to the lost (that they may be saved from sins and Hell), and the Word of God rightly divided is taught to the saved (that they may be delivered from spiritual ignorance unto understanding God’s eternal purpose for them), that will be so much more valuable now and in eternity. BELOVED, THIS IS OUR INTEREST!

Also see:
» Does doctrine really matter?
» Why do people get angry when we share right division?
» Should we hate the denominational people who misled us?

What verse says the Bible is without error?

WHAT VERSE SAYS THE BIBLE IS WITHOUT ERROR?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Is the Bible without error? Where in the Bible can I find the Scriptures to back the statement that the Bible is without error?”

Thank you for that Bible question! First and foremost, it should be noted that we are not looking for a verse that explicitly says, “The Bible is without error.” That is not how we study the Bible or use the Scriptures to establish facts. But, there are Bible verses that cause us to believe the Bible is indeed without error, fully authoritative and entirely trustworthy. People do not like those verses; yea, they even wish those verses were not there. Nevertheless, those verses are there, and we will look at them in this study.

Consider the following:

  1. The Bible claims to be the Word of God. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God….” (2 Timothy 3:16). “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation… Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).
  2. The Bible says, “God cannot lie” (Titus 1:2) and “it [is] impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).
  3. The Bible claims to be God’s inspired Word, and it says God cannot Therefore, the Bible cannot teach lies. The Bible does not have mistakes. It has been said, “A man is only as good as his word.” To say that the Bible has errors means that God is not really much of a God.

Let us look at other verses. For example, consider Proverbs 30:5-6: “[5] Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. [6] Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” The Bible says “every word of God is pure.” The Bible is true. When we add to those pure words, we lie and we make the Bible a lie.

Now, Psalm 12:6-7: “[6] The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. [7] Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” The Bible says, “the words of the LORD are pure words.” “Pure” means “free from anything that debases, pollutes, adulterates, or contaminates.” Those preserved words of God are guarded against corruption or contamination. Psalm 119:140 says, “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.” As one refines a precious metal to remove all impurities, so God’s Word is void of error and deception. The Holy Spirit has preserved it to be thus even today.

Let us look at Psalm 19:7-9: “[7] The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. [8] The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. [9] The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” God’s Word is “perfect,” “sure” (reliable), “right” (correct), “pure” (uncontaminated), “clean,” and “true and righteous altogether.” This is hardly the language of a Book filled with errors.

We read where the Bible is called the “scripture of truth” (Daniel 10:21) or the “word of truth.” If the Bible contains errors, then it could not be called the “truth,” could it? Notice:

  • Psalm 119:43: “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
  • James 1:18: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
  • The Psalmist wrote, “I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me” (Psalm 119:30).
  • Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalm 119:160).
  • Jesus Christ prayed to His Father, God, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth(John 17:17). If the Bible is “truth,” and Jesus said it was, could it contain errors? Of course not!

According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Bible is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” God put that profit in His Word in order for “the man of God … [to] be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” The Scriptures contain everything God wants us to know so that we may do everything He wants us to do. If the Bible has mistakes, then that means God withheld some information, or that He was negligent in ensuring we received all the correct information He originally revealed. Could a Bible with mistakes “throughly furnish [equip]” us? No. The Bible would be lacking some information, or it would contain distorted information, and either deficiency would thus disrupt our Christian lives. The assumption is that the Bible is so reliable that you can base your life upon it!

The Bible had better not have mistakes. Remember, a lost person who believes the Gospel of the Grace of God found in the Bible—“Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)—is basing his or her destiny on a Book that better not have mistakes! A mistake in the Bible may very well literally mean the difference between Heaven and Hell!

Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” If we as Christians follow the Bible, the Word of God (and that rightly divided), that will guard us from committing sin. The assumption is that the Bible is true, for if it had errors, then we (following those errors) would commit sin. Psalm 119:11 indicates that the Bible must be true; otherwise, it is of no use to us in avoiding error.

According to Scripture, it is the standard whereby we gauge truth from error, sound teaching from false teaching. The Bible can save us from deception, Satan’s lie program. No book riddled with errors could deliver us from lies. Notice:

  • Isaiah 8:19-20: “[19] And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? [20] To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:13-16: “[13] Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. [14] Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. [15] Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. [16] Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
  • 2 Timothy 3:13-17: “[13] But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. [14] But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; [15] And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. [16] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:2-4: “[2] Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. [3] For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; [4] And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

How can you use an error-filled book to distinguish between truth and error? It does not make sense, my friend. The assumption of the Bible writers is that the Bible is true, true to the extent that it can be used to discern fact from fiction. If we are people of faith, we will simply share their attitude. The Holy Bible is our final authority.

In Luke 4:16-21, the Lord Jesus read from the Book of Isaiah (part of the Bible). Would Jesus have read from a Book riddled with mistakes? Evidently, Jesus thought there was a fully reliable, trustworthy Bible Book in His day. Psalm 138:2 says God “has magnified his word above all [his] name.” Would God exalt a Book with mistakes? Would He ever say that an error-filled book was “greater” than His very name? Of course not! The assumption is that God thinks so highly of His written Word, the Holy Bible, that He has placed it above all His name. His name is above all, and His Word is above all His name! Wow—the Holy Bible is some Book!

Jesus exhorted some individuals in John 5:39, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” Would Jesus suggest people read a book riddled with inaccuracies? Of course not. As the Lord Himself said, “The scripture cannot be broken [is true forever]” (John 10:35).

The Lord Jesus warned in John 12:48: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” On the day of judgment—whether the Judgment Seat of Christ (for Christians—1 Corinthians 3:9-15), or the Great White Throne Judgment (for unbelievers—Revelation 20:11-15)—the Word of God will be used to evaluate the people who heard and read it. God will hold all people accountable to whatever Bible doctrine they had access to. That means Bible preservation is necessary! There must be a reliable Bible for them to access, for God to hold them accountable to receiving, believing, and following it!

If we are going to take the Bible at face value, friend, the Bible claims to be trustworthy and fully authoritative, free from defects and erroneous information. But, here is a word of caution that everyone must understand. Not all “bibles” are actually Bibles!

*PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING ABOUT BIBLE VERSIONS AND PERVERSIONS*

Not every book that claims to be “The Bible” is “The Holy Bible.” There are books with mistakes that claim to be “the Bible,” that are marketed as “the Bible,” but are not the Bible. While they have seeds of truth, they are Satan’s cheap counterfeits (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Peter 1:20–2:3). Thousands of ancient Bible manuscripts exist; however, not all of them are reliable. We can look at verses in these texts and allow them to give their own testimony as to their reliability or faultiness. We can take the King James Bible, which is translated from the preserved Bible manuscripts, and compare it with the modern versions, which are translated from the counterfeit (that is, Roman Catholic) Bible manuscripts. It can be easily demonstrated that the King James text is far superior to the modern English versions. The many verses we listed earlier in this study are true of the Authorized Version King James Bible; they are not true of the modern English versions. Even a scant amount of honest research yields such a conclusion.

Whenever somebody says that there is a “mistake” in the King James Bible, they are simply trying to prove their pet theological belief—that there is no perfect Bible today. The idea that there is no perfect Bible today, no Bible today that carries the same authority as the apostles’ original manuscripts, results from prideful men who believe their seminary education will compensate for God’s negligence. They are trained to believe that God will use their (limited) wisdom of men to “reconstruct” the divinely-inspired text that was allegedly “lost” centuries ago. What fantasy! What delusion! They want to be the authority; they refuse to submit to a mere book, especially God’s Book!

There never was a “lost” Bible, friend. God’s people always have used God’s Word; it is just that forged Bibles (manuscripts and versions) have been used to sidetrack and dupe others. The 1611 King James Bible, its early English predecessors, and their source manuscripts have been used for centuries by the Church the Body of Christ. Unbelieving minds, those who hated the pure Bible text, took certain reliable manuscripts many centuries ago, deliberately altered them, and (the gullible) still take those manuscripts and translate them into new English Bible versions even now. This has been going on especially since the last 100 years. Organized religion (institutions and denominations) has spoiled the Bible text! Beware, beware, beware! The Roman Catholic Church is assaulting the Protestant Bible and most Protestants are totally clueless!

Verses in the New International Version demonstrate to us that it has mistakes. The same is true of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, New King James Version, New Revised Standard Version, English Standard Version, New Living Translation, Amplified, The Message, The Voice, Roman Catholic bibles, Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Translation, and so on. You can check Mark 1:2, Hebrews 3:16, Matthew 5:22 (cf. Mark 3:5), to name a few. We cannot find any such mistakes in the King James Bible. (I have not found any; so if you know of anything suspicious, please let me know.) These false versions (counterfeits) have caused people to doubt the Bible text as perfect. Friend, it is my hope and prayer that you will consider this information, and act accordingly.

Also see:
» Does it matter what Bible version I use?
» Must I study the Bible in its original languages to understand it?
» I am new to the Bible. Where should I begin?

Is Revelation 4:1 a preview of the Rapture?

IS REVELATION 4:1 A PREVIEW OF THE RAPTURE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

In a sincere attempt to prove a pre-Tribulation Rapture—that is, that the Church the Body of Christ will be corporately resurrected and taken up into Heaven before the seven-year Tribulation begins—people will appeal to the Book of the Revelation. Specifically, they seize Revelation 4:1: “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” Is this verse typical of the Rapture?

Dr. Scofield has the following footnote for Revelation 4:1: “This call seems clearly to indicate the fulfillment of 1 Thes. 4. 14-17. The word ‘church’ does not again occur in the Revelation till all is fulfilled.”

That note of the dear Brother is quite puzzling, my friends. There is no “clear” connection between the two passages—unless, of course, you generalize. For example, while they are both supernatural ascensions into Heaven, while they both include a “church,” and while both involve a “trumpet,” that is as far as you can relate them (and even these are not close associations when you actually study them). There are much more definitive dissimilarities than comparisons.

In this author’s view, the following points make a much more compelling case, one that contradicts the notion that Revelation 4:1 is a preview of the Rapture:

  1. Thessalonians involves a resurrection, glorified bodies given to saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Revelation is silent about John getting any new body.
  2. Thessalonians has a shout, voice, and a trumpet, with two blows (“trumps”) of a trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Revelation features a voice as it were of a trumpet. There is no literal trumpet in Revelation, only a simile… a voice likened to a trumpet.
  3. Thessalonians involves a group of people—some living and others deceased (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Revelation has a single, living man (John)—not one dead individual is present there.
  4. Thessalonians speaks of an archangel present (1 Thessalonians 4:16). There is no archangel, or any angel, in Revelation 4:1.
  5. The words spoken to John in Revelation 4:1 are of particular interest here: “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” While the Bible does not say exactly what Jesus Christ will utter in His shout in Thessalonians, we can be sure that He will not say, “I will shew thee things to come.” The Rapture in Thessalonians is not meant to give prophetic insight, a glimpse into the future—this is nonsense. However, the Apostle John, a spiritual leader in Israel (Galatians 2:9), is receiving direct revelation from God concerning end times. He is God’s chosen vessel to deliver the capstone of the nation Israel’s prophetic information (the Book of the Revelation). In stark contrast, the Body of Christ in no way receives end-time (prophetic) messages at or after the Rapture.

THE DISPENSATIONAL DESIGN OF SCRIPTURE MUST BE RECOGNIZED AND RESPECTED

Notwithstanding the difficulties already enumerated, there are major problems in attempting to connect Revelation 4:1 with 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.

Why would we expect to see a “preview” of the Rapture by appealing to John when he did not even have a ministry to the Church the Body of Christ? Never does John write about “the Church the Body of Christ”—that is strictly Pauline terminology. What are we doing consulting a circumcision apostle, John (Galatians 2:9), to provide us with information about us Gentiles? Does not Ephesians 3:2 say “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” was committed to Paul so he could give it to us Gentiles? What details would John give about a set of doctrine he did not even receive? The Rapture is the special coming of Christ to end the Dispensation of Grace. If the Dispensation of Grace was given to Paul, and Ephesians 3:2 says it was, then it is only logical to conclude that Paul alone would write about that special coming of Christ to close the Dispensation of Grace.

All the confusion comes as the result of not understanding the three churches in the Bible (Mosaic Church—Acts 7:38; Messianic Church—Matthew 16:16-18; Mystery Church—Ephesians 3:1-9). Today, in every facet of Christian thought and word, there is a general reference to “the church.” In books, sermons, and so on, preachers and teachers talk about “the church, the church, the church.” They are referring to present-day Christians corporately, but this is problematic because they have dropped the qualifier. They have been conditioned, and they are conditioning others, to believe the only church in the Bible is the group of Christians today. The word “church” is a generic term, and it should be qualified as much as possible. There is more than one church in the Bible than the Church the Body of Christ! If we are talking about Christians today, we should say “the Church the Body of Christ” as much as possible. “The church” is not enough. (This is why even “Church Age” is misleading; “Grace Age” or “Mystery Age” is a better term.)

If we do not make this distinction between churches clear, our audience will always approach the Bible with the “one-church” mentality. A similar confusion is the “one-gospel-in-the-Bible” notion. (This contradicts Romans 2:16, Galatians 2:7, Luke 18:31-34, and so on.) Another mixed-up idea is that of “there is only one baptism in Scripture”—water, water, water. (This contradicts Matthew 3:11, 1 Corinthians 12:13, and others.) Dear friends, we need to break away from shallow Bible thinking and get into the meat of Scripture! Let us not just repeat what others say.

The most basic error from which all the above others descend is a failure to, “Study… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Prophecy is not separated from mystery, Peter is not divided from Paul, Law is not separated from Grace, Heaven is not divided from Earth, Israel is not separated from the Body of Christ. We see the word “church” in Acts 2:47 and conclude it must be the Church the Body of Christ. Roman Catholics see “church” in Matthew 16:18 and they believe it applies to people alive today. They do not see it as Messiah’s Church, which is what Matthew 16:16 says it is. It refers to those Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah/Christ in His earthly ministry. There is no Church the Body of Christ until we come to Paul’s ministry (Acts chapter 9 onward). We do not read about “the Church the Body of Christ” in Scripture unless in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. If we get this straight, the Bible will become so astoundingly clear.

There are various other associated problems concerning the Church the Body of Christ being inserted into the Book of the Revelation. One of these—just as popular as Revelation 4:1 being the Rapture—involves chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation symbolizing the various stages of the Body of Christ throughout the 2,000 years of church history. Church history, it is said, ends by the opening of Revelation chapter 4 (verse 1 supposedly being the Rapture, remember). Again, this is to mix prophecy and mystery, to fail to understand that John was not sent to us Gentiles. Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). If Paul does not mention something, it does not concern us and it is not what God is doing today. To then go grab something from John’s ministry and try to stick it on us is to abuse the dispensational boundaries so clearly evident in the Scriptures. It is to destroy Paul’s ministry and John’s ministry. It is to wreak havoc on the Bible text, to distort it beyond simplicity and verity (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Make no mistake, my dear readers. There is most definitely a pre-Tribulation Rapture, an evacuation of the Body of Christ from Earth before the Antichrist is revealed and begins those last seven years. Second Thessalonians chapter 2 makes that so very clear, as does 1 Thessalonians chapters 1, 4, and 5. Therefore, we do not need Revelation 4:1 to prove a pre-Tribulation Rapture. In fact, as we may very well know, Revelation is Tribulation ground. To find the Rapture in the Revelation is to fall into the trap in assuming the Rapture occurs during the Tribulation!

Also see:
» Did the Church the Body of Christ begin in Acts 2?
» Did John 10:16 predict the Church the Body of Christ?
» Is prophecy being fulfilled in the Dispensation of Grace?

Should we hate the denominational people who misled us?

SHOULD WE HATE THE DENOMINATIONAL PEOPLE WHO MISLED US?

by Shawn Brasseaux

As we Pauline dispensationalists, former denominationalists, look back on our prior (?) way of thinking and living, extremely intense emotions surface. We are saddened and discouraged to realize we wasted all that time, money, and energy supporting the traditions of men. We also feel the other extreme—anger and bitterness—because people betrayed our trust, deceived us, and robbed us in the names of “God” and “Jesus Christ.” We hate them, and want to return to “tell them off,” curse them out, and physically fight them! Animosity consumes us as we boil and fume with rage! (You have never been there before, dear friend, huh?) How do we address and correct such attitudes using Scripture?

A CLEAR GOSPEL OF GRACE

Being born into a “Christian” family does not make one a Christian. Joining a local church and attending weekly (or even daily!) services does not make one a Christian. Walking an aisle and getting water baptized does not make one a Christian. Reading the Bible and reciting prayers does not make one a Christian. All these activities and appeals obscure a pure Gospel of Grace. These works push aside the work of Christ on Calvary. Often, everything but faith in the cross of Christ is stressed at “invitation time.” Instead of urge people to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, preachers stress everything else—cessation of bad habits, weeping and wailing at the “altar” over self-wretchedness, confession of bygone transgressions, “deals” with and promises to God to start living correctly, and so on. The Lord Jesus Christ’s atonement is buried little by little, and the poor lost soul is more confused… and (tragically) just as lost as before!

Thankfully, Father God does not justify us—or make us right in His sight—on the basis of whether or not we can pass theological tests. Neither does He give us righteousness and eternal life because we performed a certain way in religion (rules, regulations, rites, ceremonies, prayers, and confessions). All these erroneous ideas clutter minds and hearts, making it ever so difficult—yea, impossible—to grasp enough Gospel truth upon which faith can rest. This hiding of the Gospel of Grace using religion is just what Satan desires (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)!

God is looking first and foremost for faith, as Hebrews 11:6 says: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Faith is simply believing what God says to you. Notice the definition of Abraham’s faith as per Romans chapter 4: “[20] He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; [21] And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” Abraham was “fully persuaded” that “[God] was able also to perform” “what he had promised.” God had promised him a “seed”—a son, and a nation—and Abraham believed that God could and would bring it to pass. Simple!

What is God’s Gospel message to us today on this side of the cross? What is God’s Good News in this the Dispensation of Grace? It is the redemption from and forgiveness of sins found through His Son, Jesus Christ, and His death, burial, and resurrection. God is looking for people who will recognize their sin problem and trust exclusively the remedy of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork on Calvary. First Corinthians 15:3-4 could not be clearer: “[3] For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; [4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:….”

Certainly, soul salvation unto eternal life is predicated upon faith in this, the Gospel of the Grace of God. With that said, only a fraction of denominational “Christians” are saved. Various misconceptions have caused them to greatly misunderstand Bible-believing Christianity. Make no mistake. Denominational “Christians” are not necessarily saved but there are some saved people in “Christian” churches. They trusted a pure Gospel message but then got entangled with some group in which they were defiled by false doctrine. Although deceived, they are still on their way to Heaven (remember, Heaven is for those who have Christ’s righteousness credited to their account, and such righteousness is found in faith in Christ rather than the believer’s theological mix-ups and hang-ups). Then, you have many people in most groups who were never saved at all because they never trusted Christ as their personal Saviour at all. They are still trying to establish their own righteousness with their own works (Romans 10:1-3)—Christ’s finished crosswork not being enough in their eyes.

A CLEAR OUTLOOK OF GRACE

When babes in Christ—not simply new converts to Christ, but also Christians saved for decades and who have not been grounded in Pauline truth—begin to see glimpses of the spiritual light that dispensational Bible study brings, they get excited (and rightly so). Burdens about the Bible text are lifted. The Scriptures are better understood and enjoyed. They see the dispensational distinctions—the layout of the Bible timeline and the various contrasting teachings, hopes, entities, realms, programs, charges, and so on. Still, the danger is that it can become mere mental gymnastics, information to equip one to engage in intellectual speculations, doctrine used to “beat people up” and make them feel like idiots, knowledge used to puff up and exalt oneself. They must understand that doctrine is meant to profit others rather than fight with them.

Some people use right division as nothing more than a platform for petty arguments and fleshly debates. They purpose, not to edify (build up) their audience, but to destroy (tear down) those with whom they disagree. Contrary to grace, they are contentious, ornery, combative, incessantly bickering about this or that issue. Rather than teaching people, they seek to antagonize them. Sadly, not all Pauline dispensationalists are sincere in their ministries. Some use it to harshly criticize others, mock, pick fights, and so on. The Apostle Paul actually had some such belligerent ministry associates. Notice his words in Philippians 1:15-17: “[15] Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: [16] The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: [17] But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.”

Considering the fleshly tendency of those who have a mental assent but not heart faith, those lacking genuine belief in the soul concerning sound Bible study, the Holy Spirit issued the warning of 2 Timothy 2:24-26: “[24] And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, [25] In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [26] And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” Preaching the right doctrine in the wrong spirit is well… exhibiting wrong doctrine! Brethren, there must be gentleness, meekness (humility), and friendliness; otherwise, hypocrisy arises (preaching grace but not preaching graciously!!).

The reason why the Holy Spirit issued the principles of grace through Paul is made clear in 1 Timothy 1:3-6: “[3] As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, [4] Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. [5] Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: [6] From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;….”

Paul asked Timothy to stay in Ephesus so Timothy would order some of them “that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies.” “Fables” (religious stories designed to teach lessons) and “endless genealogies” (attachments to personalities and celebrities) do nothing but “minister questions” (generate inquiries, always asking but never learning anything solid or certain). Our goal in our teaching ministry is charity, seeking others’ highest good, valuing and esteeming them the way God does. It is love in action. That charity will come out of a “pure” (clean) “heart.” It will spring forth from a “good conscience” (right system of standards and norms). It will come out of “faith unfeigned” (genuine, not fake or hypocritical, trust in God’s Word). Those who depart from sound Bible doctrine—or even sound Christian behavior—will engage in “vain jangling” (profitless, worthless information, conduct, thinking, and so on).

Brethren, we must not be arrogant, self-righteous, aggressive, insulting “know-it-alls.” Remember, Titus chapter 3: “[1] Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, [2] To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. [3] For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Being hateful is the old life we had in Adam, dear friends. Being contentious and foolish is our old identity in Adam. Deception and pride do not belong in our lives now. We are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our attitude and conduct should reflect that new identity. God’s love, not hate, should consume us.

There was a time when we were foolish—yea, we are still foolish to some extent, seeing as to we do not have complete knowledge in the Scriptures as we ought. It makes no sense to get angry with people (rather lost or saved) who are ignorant of the will of God for them. Provided that they are not willfully uninformed or misinformed, we should make every attempt to guide them in the Scriptures. Once they reach the point where they do not want to hear anything, however, we employ 1 Corinthians 14:38: “If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

Countless people have abandoned their denominational churches over the centuries because they have come to understand that the Holy Spirit does not use the traditions of men to guide us in life. Yes, even denominational preachers have forsaken their religious tradition so as to submit to the will of God for today. Perhaps some of those denominational people you know (hate?) may become the former denominational people we were. There is no guarantee, my dear brethren, but please make every attempt possible to reach them with sound Bible doctrine as long as you possibly (and peacefully) can. Someone did it to reach you (yes?)… and now it is your honor to do the same with others. Whether a clear Gospel message to the lost, or a clear Bible study system to the saved, do not be ashamed in proclaiming it!

CONCLUSION

Why we should not hate the denominational people who misled us:

  1. First and foremost, we should not hate them because God does not hate them. Remember, God did not hate us when we were denominational. Yes, when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, on our way to an eternal Hell!, God loved us by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die for us (Romans 5:6-8; Titus 3:3-7). We are to be a reflection of God’s love to those denominational people.
  2. Remember, we too were (and still are) without perfect spiritual knowledge. That is, we continuously read and study the Scriptures every day so we may come to a fuller understanding! As we further allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate the eyes of our understanding, the superfluous and erroneous (denominational) doctrines will be manifested and we can replace them with sound Bible doctrine. We know what it is like to be ignorant… past and present! Now, we reach others as long as we can, that they may be renewed in their thinking too.
  3. Lastly, one day, those denominational people may very well recover themselves out of the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26). Perhaps… just perhaps… they may even become your most valuable ministry co-workers! Let us be mindful to tell them that, when they finally reach the point of utter frustration and complete defeat in religion, there is an answer (and we found it). If they want that solution, they know they can come to us! (If we had an aggressive, overbearing, rude, loud-mouthed approach with them, they will not bother to come!)

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Also see:
» Can we witness “too much” to family members?
» Must one be a “King James Bible Pauline dispensationalist” to have eternal life?
» “If God peradventure will give them repentance…?”