Category Archives: ESCHATOLOGY (END TIMES) / PROPHECY

Will the Antichrist be a Jew or a Gentile?

WILL THE ANTICHRIST BE A JEW OR A GENTILE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Moses says Israel must choose a king from their own brethren as opposed to a non-Jew. Surely, the Antichrist will be a Jew by blood. Deuteronomy 17:14-15: “When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.” There is a strict prohibition as appointing a “stranger” or Gentile.

Furthermore, it is quite unfathomable to think the Jews would look for a deliverer in the form of a Gentile. Throughout the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, raises up and sends Jews as deliverers of Israel—Moses, Samson, King David, Gideon, Mordecai and Esther, Deborah, Jephthah, King Saul, and so on. All were formidable leaders of Israel when the nation needed to be rescued from Gentile oppression. The Antichrist will promise Israel peace and prosperity (see Daniel 11:21,32). Surely, in keeping with the aforementioned Old Testament typology, the Antichrist will be a Jew.

Also, notice Deuteronomy chapter 18: “[15] The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; [16] According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. [17] And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. [18] I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. [19] And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.”

Moses speaks of “a Prophet like unto me.” This man is an individual “of the [Jewish] brethren” and “from among the [Jewish] brethren.” On the basis of Acts 3:19-26, we Christians conclude this was a Messianic promise. Israel is looking for a special someone like Moses (a Jew) and someone from among their own nationality (a Jew). As Christians, we know this to be the Lord Jesus Christ (“Messiah” is Hebrew for “Anointed one;” “Christ” is the Greek equivalent; cf. Psalm 2:2, John 1:41, and Acts 4:26). Today’s Jews overall, however, reject the New Testament as divine and authoritative. They believe their messiah has never come before: hence, they await him (but it will really be the counterfeit messiah, Antichrist).

Satan, the chief enemy of the God of the Bible, always endeavors to counterfeit his Creator’s work so he can be worshipped instead. “I will be like the most High,” Isaiah 14:14 quotes him as declaring. Since Jesus Christ is a Jew, Satan’s “messiah” (Antichrist) will mimic Him as closely as possible. The Antichrist would need to resemble Jesus Christ as many ways as necessary to pass him off as genuine. It will surely be a time of great deception, unparalleled imitation, including “power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).

Daniel 11:36-37 adds this about the Antichrist: “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.” “The God of his fathers”—notice the capital “G”—refers to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This title could refer only to a Jew.

Lastly, the Bible refers to the Antichrist as “the Assyrian.” Assyria was located in present Syria, eastern Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and western Iran.

  • Isaiah 10:24: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt.”
  • Isaiah 14:25: “That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.”
  • Isaiah 30:31:“For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.” (The cross-reference is 2 Thessalonians 2:8.)
  • Isaiah 31:8: “Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be discomfited.”
  • Micah 5:5-6: “[5] And this man [the Messiah, Jesus Christ—verses 2 and 4] shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. [6] And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.”

CONCLUSION

According to Scripture, the Antichrist will be a Jew by blood. Moreover, he will have some connection to ancient Assyria (modern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Iran). Will Assyria be his birthplace? Or where he will have his citizenship? Maybe it will be the origin of his political career? We cannot say anything other than he is an “Assyrian Jew.” Such prophecies obscure to us in the Dispensation of Grace will indubitably be revealed to those to whom the Antichrist’s reign pertains. That should suffice us.

Also see:
» Will Israel’s Little Flock be put to death or not?
» How many angels will be with Jesus Christ when He returns?
» Are those Gentiles in Revelation 7:9?

“So shall we ever be with the Lord?”

“SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

A recurrent idea among Christians is that the Church the Body of Christ will return with the Lord Jesus Christ at His Second Coming. Various and sundry verses are offered as support. However, a careful examination of the Holy Scriptures demonstrates this to be a total misunderstanding of both the purpose of the Body and the objective of the Second Coming. (For more info, please see our related studies linked at the end of this article.)

Years ago, when this author began coming to the knowledge of the truth, better understanding the Word of God rightly divided, he struggled to make sense of the above matter. Were we returning with Christ at His Second Coming, as he had been led to believe for so many years? First Thessalonians 4:17 nagged him: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” What should we make of the phrase, “so shall we ever be with the Lord?” Will we be physically “with” the Lord Jesus when He steps onto the Mount of Olives at His Second Coming? Will we be reigning “with” Him on Earth in Israel’s Davidic kingdom? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Like most individuals, this author assumed the “and so shall we ever be with the Lord” clause meant that we must be in close proximity to Christ at all times once we are raptured. After He takes us into Heaven in that split second of time (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), we will never again leave His side. Wherever He is, we will always be beside Him. Is that what “with the Lord” means in 1 Thessalonians 4:17? No, as this explanation is contrary to many verses in Paul’s writings (we will get to those shortly). First, we need to review the basics.

Creation consists of “heaven and earth” (Genesis 1:1). Offices govern both realms—thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, mights, and every name that is named (Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16). Satan has usurped and corrupted these offices but Father God will bring them all under His authority again through His Son Jesus Christ. In “the dispensation of the fulness of times,” our Heavenly Father shall gather all governments under one Head, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10). He has thus formed the nation Israel to be His earthly people, and the Church the Body of Christ to be His heavenly people. It is one overall kingdom, functioning in two realms, for one eternal purpose! The Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified forever—regardless of the angels and the humans who refuse to participate and accomplish it.

We the Church the Body of Christ have a heavenly destiny not an earthly destiny. Our realm of blessings and influence is the heavenly places. Observe the following:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
  • Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:….”
  • Ephesians 1:20,22-23: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,…. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
  • Ephesians 2:6: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:….”
  • Ephesians 3:10: “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,….”
  • Philippians 3:20: “For our conversation [lifestyle reflecting citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:….”
  • Colossians 1:5: “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;…..”
  • Colossians 1:16,20: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:…. And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:18: “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Consider all the above verses. We are installed to serve in the heavenly places prior to the Second Coming (in perfect accordance with Revelation 12:7-12—Satan and his angels evicted from the second heaven to make room for us there). Therefore, it certainly would not be appropriate for us to use one verse (1 Thessalonians 4:17) to teach that we will come down with Christ to reign on Earth with Him. So, what of “so shall we ever be with the Lord?” In what sense are we “with” Him? Let us quickly survey verses that show us how the English (King James) Bible employs “with” in sentences.

“WITH” (AS IN CLOSE PHYSICAL PROXIMITY, EXISTING BESIDE ANOTHER, ADJACENT OR NEIGHBORING)

  • Acts 8:31: “And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”
  • Galatians 2:3: “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:….”
  • Matthew 9:10: “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.” (A similar idea is found in Matthew 14:9 and Acts 11:3.)
  • Matthew 4:21: “And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.”
  • Acts 11:12: “And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house:….”

(You may also consult Acts 20:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, John 13:18, Acts 9:7, Acts 9:19, Matthew 26:23, Mark 14:18-20, Acts 23:19, Philemon 13, and Acts 27:2.)

The above verses contain probably the most frequent definition of how we use the word “with.” Considering all that has gone before, however, there must be another sense 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is using the word. Our destiny is the heavenly places, recall.

“WITH” (ON THE SAME TEAM, JOINED IN ONE CONDITION, HAVING A SHARED PURPOSE)

  • Acts 16:34: “And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”
  • Romans 1:12: “That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
  • John 13:8: “Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”
  • Philippians 2:18: “For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.”
  • Luke 11:23: “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” Matthew 12:30: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”
  • Luke 1:58: “And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.”
  • Romans 15:30: “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;….”
  • 1 Corinthians 12:26: “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”
  • Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

The idea in these verses is connecting to others around a common goal or experience—rejoicing with others, mourning with others, praying with others, trusting in God with others, and so on. Physical distance is not under consideration. We can do these things with others around the world, though they are quite far from us bodily. If we look at the Bible’s testimony as a whole, this seems to be the most probable notion being communicated by “with” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

CONCLUSION

First Thessalonians 4:17 says, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” The word “with” here is not to be understood in the sense of sitting face-to-face, or side-by-side with another. Scripture also employs the term as united around a mutual action or experience. There is solidarity or camaraderie, teammates achieving one end, fellowshipping as concerning one matter.

In Revelation 3:21, the Lord Jesus says to Israel, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Certainly, Christ is not speaking of one or two thrones in which He, the Father, and all believing Jews will sit around each other. Close physical proximity is not the issue—that would be most absurd. The idea rather is one of unity in reigning (as in, shared authority or mutual power). Redeemed Israelites are extensions of His earthly authority, just as we (the Body of Christ) are extensions of His heavenly authority. For us to be “with” Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:17) is not about us returning to Earth, but rather sharing His governmental influence in creation—namely, the heavenly places—as Israel will share His influence in the offices of Earth’s government.

One passage to summarize with now is 2 Timothy 2:10-13: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” The “reigning with him” is defined in chapter 4 and verse 18 as entering “his heavenly kingdom.” (Notice the idea of teammates throughout these verses. There is no hint of next-door neighbors but individuals associating around a joint conclusion.)

The idea in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 “with the Lord” means we are on His team, ruling and reigning with Him, but in what realm? Paul’s epistles always speak of our (Body of Christ) realm as the heavenly kingdom. In the ages to come, the Lord will be exercising governmental authority and we will be too. It is all one enormous kingdom, spanning between Heaven and Earth, all to exalt Jesus Christ the Lord of glory. Lastly, remember, we can only be so close to Him physically. Millions of believers from the last 20 centuries will be in Heaven. We cannot all be within arm’s reach of Him, and yet we will be “with Him.” Surely, something beyond physical closeness is under consideration in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

ATTENTION: We have released our new seven-hour Bible study series—“The Feasts of JEHOVAH.” These lessons are approximately 65 minutes each, totaling 7 1/2 hours. They are quite advanced, as they build on our five-lesson series “Israel’s Covenants” I taught a month ago. It is best to watch all seven videos in order, as they are progressive. May you be edified, encouraged, and enlightened! Enjoy!! Praise our Lord Jesus Christ! Click here to watch.

Also see:
» Will we return with Jesus Christ at His Second Coming?
» Who are the “saints” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13?
» Can you compare and contrast the prophetic program and the mystery program?

Why did Jesus Christ quote Deuteronomy during His temptations

WHY DID JESUS CHRIST QUOTE DEUTERONOMY DURING HIS TEMPTATIONS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Did you ever realize that Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy during His temptations? Why was He using this Book and this Book alone? Why not appeal to something in Psalms, or Proverbs (passages frequently quoted today in difficult times)? What was so special about Deuteronomy that the Lord Jesus used its passages to ward off Satan’s antics?

Matthew chapter 4: “[1] Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. [3] And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Verse 4 is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3: “And he [the LORD] humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”

Matthew chapter 4 continued: “[5] Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, [6] And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Verse 7 is from Deuteronomy 6:16: “Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.”

Matthew chapter 4: “[8] Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; [9] And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. [10] Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Verse 10 is taken from Deuteronomy 6:13: “Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.”

Matthew chapter 4, verse 11: “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”

In these temptations, also recorded in Luke 4:1-13, Jesus Christ is identifying with His people, Israel’s believing remnant. Deuteronomy records Israel just as they are about to enter the Promised Land under Joshua. Likewise, Israel’s believing remnant, during Daniel’s 70th Week, will soon enter the land. They will be re-gathered into their land at Christ’s Second Coming (Matthew 24:30-31).

Hebrews chapter 4 says of temptations: “[14] Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. [15] For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. [16] Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Satan’s evil world system, as it tempted Jesus Christ before He began His earthly ministry, will test Israel’s Little Flock once our Dispensation of Grace ends with the Rapture. Since Jesus Christ quoted applicable Scripture to overcome His time of testing, they are urged to follow His ensample in their period of testing. He left them a pattern, and just as He was faithful during those challenging times, they can rely on Him to get them through their trial. As He was faithful to Father God, He can enable them to be dedicated to Him (Father). This is “the trial of [their] faith” of 1 Peter 1:7.

First John chapter 2 says to those Jewish believers in the future: “[15] Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. [17] And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. [18] Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” Verse 16 adequately summarizes all temptations—including those of Christ, Israel, and us! “The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”

John’s audience exists in Israel’s program before the Antichrist comes (verse 18). They will be alive when he does appear, and will live as he reigns. The Holy Spirit through John has provided information in 1 John so the Jews can distinguish believers and unbelievers during the end times. They will be able to tell who are God’s people, true Jews, and who are Satan’s counterfeits, unsaved Jews (see 1 John 2:21-23, 1 John 3:6-15, 1 John 4:1-4, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9; cf. Matthew 13:25-30,37-50).

Also see:
» What is the “temptation” in 1 Corinthians 10:13?
» What does 1 John 1:8 mean, “We deceive ourselves?”
» How many angels will be with Jesus Christ when He returns?

Why does Peter start with Samuel in Acts 3:24?

WHY DOES PETER START WITH SAMUEL IN ACTS 3:24?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Why does Peter start with Samuel in Acts 3:24? “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.”

Firstly (and obviously), Samuel was a prophet. Turn to 1 Samuel 3:20, “And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD.” Also, 1 Chronicles 29:29: “Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer,….” (“Seer” is an archaic term for “prophet”—1 Samuel 9:9.) Paul preached in Acts 13:20: “And after that he [God] gave unto them [Israel] judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.”

While it is true that there were prophets prior to Samuel—God using men prior to Samuel to speak for Him (Adam, Noah, Enoch, Moses, Joshua, et cetera)—Samuel was the first to hold the office of the prophet. As seen in Acts 13:20, Samuel was the last of the Israel’s judges (he appeared after the Book of Judges closed). He anointed Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David. David is a preview of Jesus Christ and His reign.

Secondly, Samuel is the first prophet in the order of the prophets. That is, he begins the prophets as in the Bible phrase “the law and the prophets.” (“The Law” is Moses’ writings, the Bible’s first five Books, Genesis through Malachi. The Books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth follow; 1 and 2 Samuel come after. Samuel, obviously, appears in 1 Samuel. Joshua, Judges, and Ruth are overwhelmingly history. Samuel is history but also conveys a great deal of prophecy, especially as related to Israel’s Messiah-King Jesus.)

  • Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
  • Matthew 22:40: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
  • Luke 16:16: “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”
  • John 1:45: “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
  • Acts 13:15: “And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”
  • Romans 3:21: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;….”

Acts 3:24-26: “[24] Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. [25] Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. [26] Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Indeed, “the Law and the Prophets” announced Messiah’s eventual arrival in Israel.

Also see:
» Who are the “prophets” of Romans 16:26?
» Are there modern-day apostles and prophets?
» Why did Jesus forbid others from preaching that He was Christ?

How many angels will be with Jesus Christ when He returns?

HOW MANY ANGELS WILL BE WITH JESUS CHRIST WHEN HE RETURNS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

While the exact number is unknown to us, the Bible still provides us clues as to how many angels will accompany the Lord Jesus Christ at His Second Coming.

  • Deuteronomy 33:2: “And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.”
  • Jude 14-15: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

At minimum, “ten thousands” is 20,000 (or 10,000 times two). To aid our comprehension, God the Holy Spirit in His written Word groups these angelic soldiers into multiples of 10,000. Just how high that number goes, though, is anyone’s guess. For example, there could be millions of angels in the army that Jesus Christ will lead at His Second Coming. Whatever the exact number, these are “the armies of heaven” of Revelation 19:14. Also pertinent to our study is Psalm 68:17: “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.” There are at least 20,000 “chariots of God,” which would indicate there are at least 20,000 angels to drive those chariots! And, just remember, one angel slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36)!!

By the way, the word “saints” confuses people in this context. It is not a reference to Christians here but rather the set-apart, or sanctified, nature of God’s angels. They are the holy angels, “holy” being synonymous with “sanctified,” as opposed to Satan and his angels (cf. Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7,9).

  • Matthew 25:41: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:….”
  • Revelation 14:10: “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:….”
  • 1 Timothy 5:21: “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.”
  • Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
  • Matthew 25:31: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:….”
  • Mark 8:38: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
  • Luke 9:26: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”

You will notice that we answered the question as related to the Second Coming (that is, for Israel). Now, we will reply to it as concerning Christ’s coming for us (the Church the Body of Christ) at the Rapture. Only one angel is said to be present at the Rapture, and he is an “archangel” or head-angel (presumably this is Michael, as he is the only “archangel” identified in Scripture—see Jude 9). “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Also see:
» Do people become angels when they die?
» Who are the “saints” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13?
» Did God give angels free will as He gave to mankind?

What about snake-handling?

WHAT ABOUT SNAKE-HANDLING?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18).

Friend, have you ever heard of handling venomous serpents in religious services? As you read in the above verse, the Holy Bible indeed mentions such a practice. Yet, should we participate in it? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Situated mostly in the “Appalachian” (eastern) and southeastern United States, roughly 100 snake-handling churches exist today on the North American continent. They are usually small assemblies with a Pentecostal or Charismatic background. A special room is maintained to keep the snakes until such “ceremonies.” Some practitioners say that snake-handling demonstrates one’s faith and salvation. Others believe it is necessary for salvation. Whatever the case, they all believe the “Holy Ghost” has come upon them and is now manifesting Himself. They supposedly express their faith in a literal interpretation of the Bible by picking up serpents. (Later, we will treat the Scripture verses to which they appeal.)

Obviously, such endeavors involve great risks. “Worshippers” will pet venomous vipers, hold them, let them slither across their bodies as they dance, sing, roll on the floor, jump, and perhaps “speak in tongues.” There are dozens upon dozens of documented reports of people dying from snakebites in such religious ceremonies. These injuries do not have to be fatal, as medical treatment can be sought. However, that treatment is often refused. They believe God will get them through the pain and help them survive, or He will take their life if it is their time to go. It is better to “do the will of God,” they say, than go to a hospital and receive anti-venom. One such minister, who died some years ago, was bitten nine times before a venomous snakebite killed him. He never once received any medical help and actually lost a part of a finger—then he ultimately lost his life!

SHOULD WE FOLLOW THE BIBLE LITERALLY?

Snake-handling religionists say that they “take the Bible literally.” At first glance, it seems they are correct. But, do they really follow the Bible literally? In the ensuing pages, we aim to evaluate that claim by examining the two passages they quote to defend their practice.

Their primary proof text, of course, is Mark chapter 16: “[16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. [17] And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; [18] They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Indeed, the Bible does say that the above miracles “shall” result. Notice the certainty—it is not “might” or “may,” as in maybe so and maybe not. These supernatural abilities “shall” (not “may” but “shall”) be given to “them that believe.” There is a 100% probability—no question!—that these events will occur. If we take the Bible literally, it does endorse casting out devils (evil spirits). If we interpret the Bible at face value, it does sanction speaking with new tongues (languages never formally learned). If we take the Bible at face value, giving it the literal meaning, it says people will take pick up snakes and not be harmed. If we take the Bible literally, people will drink “any deadly thing” (poison) and they should have no fear of dying. If we are believers in a literal Bible text, we know people will “lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (rather than die). What are we to do, then? Should we practice these things?

Friend, here is what we cannot do. We cannot deny the Word of God. The Bible speaks of exorcism in Mark chapter 16. It mentions speaking with “new tongues.” God’s Word says to “take up serpents.” It speaks of “drink any deadly thing” and “it shall not hurt them.” It supports physical healing—laying lands on the sick and them being cured. By this point, friend, you may find the Bible revolting. You might even want to throw it away completely! Would it surprise you then that some, to sidestep this most vexing passage, have actually argued (because they firmly believed) that Mark 16:9-20 does not belong in the Bible text? Indeed, such people exist… more than you and I realize!!

FAULTY BIBLE TEXT? OR FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS?

It is a sad commentary, but people have been trained to discard any Bible verses they do not understand. Here is an excellent case in point. Textual critics have influenced many to believe and claim that Mark 16:9-20 is not (!) inspired of God because it is “not in the two oldest and most reliable manuscripts.” Of the 600-plus surviving manuscripts that contain Mark, only two omit the passage in question—Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. How can two manuscripts overrule the testimony of 600-plus others? “Scholars” argue that those two are “the most ancient” manuscripts, preferred because they are assumed to be closer to the original writings of the Apostles. This, of course, is a faulty assumption for two reasons.

Firstly, the notion that “minority is best” is silly. If God’s intention was to use two manuscripts to preserve His Word, then why did the saints of old bother to make all the thousands of copies we presently have? Why do textual critics scrutinize 5,500-plus New Testament manuscripts when all they “need” (claim to need) are Vaticanus and Sinaiticus? By their own admission, those two manuscripts have tainted and divergent texts—and the blemishes and discrepancies are “settled” by appealing to other manuscripts. Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are not as reliable as they declare!!

Secondly, “oldest is best” means that alterations to the Bible text occurred long after it was written rather than immediately after. Such a claim is utterly foolish. False prophets and false teachers were conducting “ministries” while Jesus’ Apostles preached in the first century! It would be downright absurd to assume no one corrupted the Bible text until centuries later… especially since we have verses to prove there were Bible corrupters during the days of the Apostles!

Second Thessalonians 2:2 says, “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” Here is a false letter—someone forged it and pretended like Paul wrote it! Paul himself reminded us in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” Finally, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “[13] For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. [14] And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

IF MARK 16:9-20 BELONGS IN THE BIBLE TEXT, THEN SHOULD WE PRACTICE IT? (PART I)

At this point, you sense that this author is advocating the retention (rather than the deletion) of Mark 16:9-20. We should not throw it away simply because two faulty manuscripts eliminate it. The Bible shows us that God the Holy Spirit will preserve His Word through a multiplicity of manuscript copies (Deuteronomy 17:18-20; Psalm 12:6-7; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; et cetera). We do not “re-construct” a “lost” Bible text using a few ancient manuscripts. This is where the textual critics are in their thinking, and it is nothing but human viewpoint. It is not how God views His Word, and it is not how we should understand it either.

Dear reader, maybe you think of this author as a “kook” or “nut” for claiming the bizarre passage of Mark 16:9-20 as inspired of God, genuine, and worthy of our faith as the rest of Scripture. If we keep it in the Bible, does that mean we have to practice its baptism for salvation, casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, drinking any deadly thing, and laying hands on the sick for them to recover?

Let it be known that this passage is actually a “Bible buffet” like none other—a “pick-and-choose” frenzy!!! You will never find someone doing all of verses 16-18, but only snippets. Most Protestants reject the baptism for salvation, but Roman Catholics and Catholic-sympathizing Protestants enjoy verse 16. Some people like to cast out devils and speak in gibberish today in religious services (verse 17). As noted earlier, an even smaller group of church members will pick up snakes (verse 18). Who drinks the poison and survives (verse 18)? Of course, a great number will grab the end of verse 18—lay hands on the sick to heal them. Mark 16:16-20 is not this either/or situation that Christendom has made it out to be. One or two sections of the passage should not be seized; all of it goes together, and all must be taken. All of it is valid at once and it all works exactly as the verses say.

If you have been following thus far, another question has been surely prompted. “Brother Shawn, if these verses are true, then why do people die while joining in ‘faith healing,’ why do they perish from snakebites, why do they lose their lives after drinking poison? Is this not contradictory to the Bible’s declarations? Does God not care to keep His people from such evils? Did He not promise to protect believers in Jesus Christ?” Dear friend, these are wonderful questions. As Bible believers, we have no need for embarrassment or disappointment. God’s Word has the answers. If we are truly willing to look in His Book with open hearts and minds, sincere in our quest, we will be inundated with a flood of illumination. Watch and see!

“NO FAITH?”

Whenever the verses do not work like they say they will, religionists dismiss the activity and dispel the awkwardness by declaring, “The sick person died because of a lack of faith! If he had faith in God, the snakebite would not have been fatal! She should have drunk that poison believing the Lord would protect her! It was just that person’s ‘time to go!’” As you can imagine, friend, these comments are but little comfort to grieving loved ones. Furthermore, such excuses draw the mockery and ire of Bible-haters and Christ-rejecters everywhere. Their response runs along the lines of: “Look at those ignorant hillbillies believing in their book of fairytales! We are people of logic and not blind superstition! Organized religion is the enemy of progress in our society! I abandoned the Bible years ago because of such nonsense! No thank you, I can do without that ‘Jesus’ they praise and worship with snakes and poison!”

How can the average Christian respond? Other than silence, there is a weak answer. They adopt the aforementioned view of the textual critics: “That passage of Mark 16:9-20 is not inspired of God, so it was not backed by the power of God anyway.” This position, while often assumed to be the “safe” one, just undermines the authority of the Bible. It further confuses the minds of the lost people mocking the Book they already hate! To take a negative view of Holy Scripture is to agree with them. As they see it, if Mark 16:9-20 is not of God, why bother to believe ANY of the Bible is? We want to be careful here, friends. Be quite careful here. The Gospel of Grace is in jeopardy.

Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the Bible text, but that still leaves us with a problem. Suppose you take the verse of snake-handling as your own, and you have full confidence in God’s Word—“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them…” (Mark 16:18). So, you take up a rattlesnake, you let it slither on your body, and then it strikes you, sinking its fangs deep into your skin. As you collapse to the floor, the venom coursing through your veins, you cry out with your last breath, “Oh, God, You said nothing would happen! I trusted Your Word and you failed me!” You die.

Any Bible skeptics observing the above situation have all the “proof” they need (they believe) to show “God” is nothing but a figment of our imagination. Snickering, they shake their heads. “Me? Believe the Bible? Never in a million years!” For the rest of their lives, they carry the memory of this appalling experience with them. They venture out on a perpetual crusade, shouting at every Bible-believer, “Go away! What foolishness your Christianity is! Let me tell you about that snake-handling episode I witnessed….” What is saddest of all is that they have been just as deceived as the snake-handlers—confusing Christianity with religion—and now they go around confusing millions of others. More and more people grow opposed to Scripture, all because of misunderstandings.

IF MARK 16:9-20 BELONGS IN THE BIBLE TEXT, THEN SHOULD WE PRACTICE IT? (PART II)

Does the existence of a passage in God’s Word automatically necessitate that we follow it as though it is applicable to us? To wit, can we be Scriptural (follow the Bible) and not do God’s will? Indeed, friend, we can. How dangerous it is to mishandle God’s Word! If we isolate Mark 16:18, we can say, “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Yes, that is what the Bible says, so now let us go do that! Hold on just a second. There is another verse we should look at first.

“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” (Genesis 6:14). Friend, God says to go and build a giant boat of gopher wood. Man did not say that—GOD said it! When are you going to follow the Bible as it reads here? If you have any common sense at all, you would say, “Brother Shawn, God did not tell me to built that boat. God told Noah to build it.” You would be right, my friend. How silly of this author to grab a verse out of context! Maybe he should have read verse 13 first? “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Yes, you are correct. This author was wrong. A Bible verse is not necessarily written to us to follow.

You ask any snake handler, faith healer, or poison drinker if they follow Genesis 6:14 and they will laugh at you. They would be justified in finding levity in the matter, too. However, they are manifesting inconsistency. They refuse to take Noah’s verse as their own but they will steal Israel’s verse! They laugh at one instance of folly yet claim another for themselves! Such is the madness of religion, dear friend, the subtlety of Satan’s policy of evil and the deception of human emotions. Not only must we use the Bible, we must also rightly divide the Bible. It is most hazardous to be Scriptural and not also be dispensational.

Whether you recognized it or not, friend, you just rightly divided the Word of Truth! Instead of trying to follow Genesis 6:14, you knew God was speaking to Noah. You understood God was not addressing you. The LORD God gave Noah some information to believe and act in accordance with, but that was God’s Word to Noah. This is a simple illustration of the heart of dispensational Bible study. Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” When we “rightly divide” the Bible, we recognize distinctions God has made in His Word. It is important to see that God says different things to different people at different times in history. The Bible is a progression revelation; more information is disclosed as time passes.

The most fundamental right division that God has made in His Word—and we would do extremely well to recognize it—is between prophecy and mystery. We need to compare two verses to begin to comprehend how God has set up the Holy Bible. We will look at Acts 3:21 and Romans 16:25.

Acts 3:19-21: “[19] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

This is the Apostle Peter preaching to the nation Israel. It is what the Bible calls “prophecy”—defined as that “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” When God created man and commissioned him to function on the Earth, Adam was given revelation as pertaining to God’s earthly purpose. Notice Matthew 25:34: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:….” Since man’s creation, God has endeavored to establish His kingdom on the Earth. When Adam sinned, sided with Satan (the Devil), mankind became God’s enemy. Once the nations rebelled against God at the Tower of Babel, He responded by forming the nation Israel (Genesis chapter 12). Israel is the means whereby God will have an earthly people, individuals who can then accomplish His will on the Earth.

Now, we will look at another passage of Scripture. Turning to Romans 16:25-26, we read: “[25] Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [26] But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:….”

In addition to prophecy, we have something in Scripture called “the mystery.” While God was unveiling prophetic information, He was simultaneously withholding mystery information. He never told anyone that secret until a certain point in time in the Bible. In Acts chapter 9, He began to show that secret to man. This event was the salvation and commission of the Apostle Paul. Paul thus wrote Romans 16:25-26—“the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now [as in Paul’s ministry] is made manifest.”

As we already discussed, God instituted the prophetic program to concentrate on establishing His earthly kingdom. However, what about Heaven? After all, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” There is more to creation than Earth, so what is God’s method for establishing His kingdom in the heavenly places? We know nothing about that until we come to Paul’s apostleship. In Pauline doctrine, God reveals the secret of His will—how He will gather all governmental authority in His Son Jesus Christ, not just on Earth (prophecy), but also in the Heavenly Places (mystery). Paul’s books, Romans through Philemon, speak of God’s heavenly people. This group is called the Church the Body of Christ. We would do well to read summary verses.

Ephesians 1:9-10: “[9] [Father God] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:….”

Colossians 1:16-20: “[16] For by him [Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”

As Peter addressed the nation Israel (Acts 3:19-21), so Paul addressed the Gentiles or all nations. Romans 11:13 says, “For I [Paul] speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:….” What happened to God’s earthly program with Israel? Will He ever bring it to fulfillment? Is it abrogated forever because Israel crucified Christ? Have we replaced Israel? What is God doing today? Paul’s ministry and writings, Romans through Philemon, provide detailed answers. We have no reason to be ignorant, and yet that is exactly where most church members are today. They have not used the Bible rightly divided, and thus split off into thousands of opposing sects, denominations, factions. Immense spiritual darkness covers their hearts and minds. It is like they have no Bible, no revelation from God, at all!

Now, let us return to our previous comments about God’s earthly kingdom. The Bible says, “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22). In other words, God uses miraculous demonstrations—signs and wonders—to teach Israel various and sundry lessons (doctrine). When the Lord Jesus Christ showed up in the Books of Matthew through John, His earthly ministry, He had come to convert idolatrous, deceived Israel to Father God. Jesus was Israel’s long-promised King, so the good news God had for Israel was aptly termed “the Gospel of the Kingdom.”

Matthew 3:1-2: “[1] In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, [2] And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 9:35: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”

Matthew 10:5-8: “[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [8] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Luke 8:1: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,….”

The common theme in the above verses is, obviously, “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” but also miracles that confirm that message being preached. To demonstrate that God’s earthly kingdom was within Israel’s grasp, the signs of that kingdom were unmistakably evident. There would be no devil possession in the earthly kingdom of God (Zechariah 13:1-2); therefore, Jesus and His Apostles cast out evil spirits. There would be no bodily illness in the earthly kingdom of God (Isaiah 35:3-6); consequently, Jesus and His Apostles performed healing miracles. These were “the powers of the world to come,” Hebrews 6:5 remarks. Such “gifts of the Holy Ghost” signified that God’s earthly kingdom, “the world to come,” was near (Hebrews 2:3-5). Israel could have entered by faith in Jesus Christ!

All this was said—and yes, this author understands, it is a lot—simply to bring us back to Mark 16:16-20. The background has been painstakingly laid (thank you for your patience, dear reader), so now we can notice and better understand the context of the passage under consideration. Verse 15 is the context, so we need to begin there. Jumping in at verse 16, 17, or 18 is completely unwise!!

Mark 16:15-20: “[15] And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. [16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. [17] And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; [18] They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. [19] So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. [20] And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”

Verse 15 introduces this whole section as involving the preaching of “the gospel.” What is that Gospel message? Is it the Gospel of Grace that we preach today, as commonly assumed? No! Just days earlier, the Lord Jesus spoke of this gospel of the kingdom” in Matthew 24:14—“this” is a highly important word. The signs and wonders of Mark chapter 16 do not apply to our Gospel. It applies to “the gospel of the kingdom”—if, if, and I know that is a big if!!!—we believe the Bible instead of blindly following religious tradition. Look at the close of Mark chapter 16: “[20] And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” Does this not sound like what we were just discussing about validating the Gospel of the Kingdom? Indeed, it does! Do you see, friend, how the Bible just flows together so beautifully when we rightly divide it, comparing Scripture with Scripture, and keep religious tomfoolery and church tradition out of it?

Some argue that there is not one instance of snake-handling in Scripture (this, other than their “oldest is best” textual argument previously mentioned, is their “strongest” reason for rejecting Mark 16:18). While it is true that no Apostles ever took up venomous serpents to “worship God,” there is an interesting account in the Bible of a deadly viper attacking Paul and it not harming him. This is the second proof text of today’s snake-handling crowd, so it behooves us to examine it now.

Acts chapter 28: “[1] And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. [2] And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. [3] And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. [4] And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. [5] And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. [6] Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”

It may help if you re-read that lengthy excerpt, dear friend. What was Paul doing? Was he handling snakes while singing hymns and dancing around that campfire? Of course not! He was gathering wood for the fire, and, without warning, a snake lashed out at him and bit him. This is certainly not like the serpent-handling of modern religion. Paul was not playing around with snakes to “praise God.” He was not seeking injury or deliberately attempting to put himself in harm’s way as fools do in religion today. Now, that may sound harsh, but it must be said. Today’s snake-handling is just plain foolishness.

There is no one operating in faith with snake-handling today. It is not the God of the Bible working. The Spirit of God will only do what the Word of God says, and the Word of God says the Holy Spirit is not doing this today. Such abilities have no relation to us the Church the Body of Christ. We are not waiting for the earthly kingdom of God. We are not looking for the signs of the coming kingdom on Earth. We are not preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. Hence, we never read in Paul’s epistles (Romans through Philemon) about laying hands on the sick, casting out devils, and picking up venomous serpents. They are signs of Israel’s kingdom program, and that program is temporarily suspended while God is dealing with us in the Dispensation of Grace. Read Romans chapters 9-11 for all the details. Also see our “Can you explain Paul’s ‘Acts’ ministry?” article linked at the end of this study.)

So, you probably want to ask another question: “Brother Shawn, what is the explanation for what snake-handlers are doing today? If it is not God the Holy Spirit, then who or what is behind such a practice?” Such people feel an adrenaline rush, an emotional high, and they misinterpret it as the Holy Spirit of God coming upon them. “His presence” is actually nothing but deceptive emotions completely out of control! We naturally fear wild and dangerous creatures, and our bodies react by producing adrenaline (which “stirs us up” to fight or take flight!). Moreover, religion can have an extremely powerful influence over our hearts and minds, just as alcoholic beverages (Revelation 17:2). Therefore, we have to constantly (daily) stay in the Bible rightly divided. It guards our minds and hearts against Satan’s policy of evil. Do not forget, you can follow God’s Word and be completely out of God’s will. Not only do we use and quote the Bible, we use and quote the Bible rightly divided!

In addition, here is something else to consider about Acts chapter 28. Notice how the Holy Spirit is careful to write in verse 6 that there was not so much as swelling on Paul’s body. Not only did he not die, there was absolutely no indication he was even bitten!! He did not cry out in pain or fall to the ground. You look at snake-handling religionists’ bodies today, friend, and you see various scars. Some have permanent bodily impairment—missing or deformed fingers, limited hand dexterity, and so on. (And, of course, you can find them in the cemetery as well!!) They speak of suffering “excruciating” pain. One such minister claimed he hoped to never die in such a horrible manner. He eventually died from… of all things… a fatal snakebite!

Okay, so we understand that Mark chapter 16 is indeed God’s Word, but it is not God’s Word to or about us. What do we do now? Is there any hope in understanding this mysterious passage as it relates to Israel’s program? Will anyone ever successfully/safely practice the snake-handling passage of the Bible? Yes! (Just not us, and just not today!)

IF MARK 16:9-20 BELONGS IN ISRAEL’S PROGRAM, THEN WHAT PURPOSE IS THERE OF SNAKE-HANDLING?

The operating system of Israel’s program is the Mosaic Law (also called the Old Covenant). If Israel disobeyed God’s Word, she would be punished. He would use hardship to try to correct her misbehavior. Leviticus chapter 26 details those curses or chastisements. Notice: “[21] And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. [22] I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. [23] And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; [24] Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.”

Did you catch verse 22? What will the LORD God do to rebellious Israel? Will He not send wild animals to attack and kill them? Yes, He will. As an illustration, read 2 Kings chapter 2: “[23] And he [Elisha the Prophet] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. [24] And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. [25] And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.” These young people mocked JEHOVAH God’s messenger, and so the LORD God introduced a new phase of intensified judgment (the chastisement phase described in Leviticus 26:22).

Numbers chapter 21 speaks of God judging Israel for her unbelief and wickedness: “[5] And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. [6] And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. [7] Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. [8] And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. [9] And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Paul’s commentary in 1 Corinthians 10:9 summarizes—“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.”)

Before the Lord Jesus Christ ever spoke of those serpents in Mark chapter 16, God had already judged Israel with wild beasts—including venomous snakes. He used His creation, the animal kingdom, to punish the faithless, idolatrous Jews. Notice now Jeremiah 8:17: “For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.” Remember, God sent literal snakes to kill rebels amongst the Jews in Moses’ day, and Jeremiah says it will happen once more.

As we look beyond our Dispensation of Grace, friend, to when Israel’s program resumes, God must finish Israel’s stages of punishment. The curses of Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28 will be brought to the full, and then God will cause all these times of suffering to disappear with the Second Coming of Christ. Israel, believing Israel, will be blessed of God as they enter His earthly kingdom. Unbelievers will be consumed in His wrath, but Israel’s believing remnant will survive!

The Apostle John provides the final piece of the “snake-handling” puzzle. We read in chapter 6 of the Book of the Revelation, yet future from us: “[7] And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. [8] And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Notice the wild beasts are consuming humans like never before. Unbelievers will perish. However, believing Israel will physically survive because God has promised them victory over serpents (and, by extension, all harmful creatures). Mark 16:15-20 is part of the Divine commission that Israel will follow in the end-times. Friend, it has nothing to do with us! Remember, dispensational Bible study! Notice the audience of the passage before you claim the passage as your own!! This is taking the Bible literally!

By the way, before we summarize and conclude, let us listen to Exodus chapter 4: “[1] And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. [2] And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. [3] And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. [4] And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: [5] That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.”

Snake-handling was one of the signs the LORD God gave Moses the ability to perform to convince unbelieving Israel. If you continue reading the passage, the second was the miracle of physical healing (verses 6-7—another Israeli kingdom sign, remember!!). Snake-handling symbolizes spiritual deliverance, exorcism (casting out devils—Satan is a snake or deceitful being in character, as Genesis 3:1, 2 Corinthians 11:3, and Revelation 20:2 show). No matter what Satan would do, God would ultimately deliver Israel from Satan’s grip. This was the purpose of Moses’ snake swallowing up the snakes Egypt’s satanic magicians had “conjured” (Exodus 7:10-13). Israel will have similar victory in the end-times, freedom from Satan’s control. The snake will harm the unbelievers, but Israel’s believing remnant will survive!

CONCLUSION

Particularly in the southeastern United States, one will discover small religious groups that participate in snake-handling ceremonies. Why this extreme behavior? Is it Scriptural to handle venomous vipers with the understanding that they will not harm us? What are we to believe if deadly snakes do strike and kill Christians?

If you follow religious news, you will occasionally find an article about an individual who has died at church because of a snakebite. This person was said to be “weak in faith.” Had he or she believed God when holding the snake, the snake would not have bitten. While we should certainly take the Bible literally—as we do any book, right?—there is a second key to keep in mind when approaching the Scriptures. We have to be very careful to look at contexts. If we take the Bible literally when it endorses snake-handling, should we not also take it literally when it says such a practice is not given to or about us members of the Church the Body of Christ?! We cannot claim a passage in “faith” when faith is also believing the passage when it says we are not its audience! Mark 16:15-20 is all about the Gospel of the Kingdom; it has absolutely nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with Israel during the end-times.

First Corinthians chapter 14: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” In snake-handling circles, “the Holy Ghost takes control of them.” It is all about “feelings.” Yet, if the Holy Spirit were truly leading them, they would listen to these verses that the Holy Spirit penned! Paul is our apostle (Romans 11:13), and God through him commands us no such things about handling snakes, drinking poison, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils, water baptizing, and so on.

The test for spirituality today in this the Dispensation of Grace is not whether or not one handles venomous snakes, speaks in tongues, drinks poison, heals the sick, raises the dead, or even keeps the Saturday Sabbath. According to the Holy Spirit (see verses above), spirituality today is measured according to whether or not an individual pays attention to Pauline revelation. The Lord Jesus Christ committed to Paul the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 3:1-2), so it naturally follows that the Spirit of God would lead us to listen to the words He spoke to us in the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. Again, there is nothing in Pauline revelation about taking up venomous snakes. Such instructions have a special place on the Bible timeline (future from us). When we “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we recognize that those directions do not apply to our time. Friend, right division is literally a life-or-death situation in this case. Playing with harmful snakes may be fatal… and we will die such a painful death while quoting Scripture!!

Also see:
» Does Mark 16:18 teach that chemotherapy will not harm us?
» Should I speak in tongues?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?

Is Matthew 25:31-46 a plan for our salvation unto eternal life?

IS MATTHEW 25:31-46 A PLAN FOR OUR SALVATION UNTO ETERNAL LIFE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Concluding His renowned Olivet Discourse (end-times prophecy), the Lord Jesus Christ said in Matthew chapter 25: “[31] When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: [32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: [33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

“[34] Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: [35] For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: [36] Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. [37] Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? [38] When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? [39] Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? [40] And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

“[41] Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: [42] For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: [43] I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. [44] Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? [45] Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. [46] And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

Dear Roman Catholics, and various other precious “good works people,” appeal to the above passage as proof that God certainly rewards us on the basis of our good deeds. They point especially to verses 34 and 46: “[34] Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:… [46] And these shall go away into … life eternal.”

In summary, they say that if we help the poor and visit the sick, God will reward us with eternal life and let us enter His kingdom. While the passage surely stresses good works resulting in eternal life, there is something very important that we need not overlook (as they do). Just because a verse is in the Bible, that does not mean that verse is to or about us. Who is the audience of these verses? We do not appeal to Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry to see how salvation unto eternal life works for us today. After all, Saint Paul is God’s spokesman to us Gentiles: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office” (Romans 11:13). Saint Paul is our apostle.

Contrariwise, Jesus Christ said that His ministry was not to us Gentiles. He especially commanded His 12 Apostles (Peter included) not to preach to us Gentiles. Therefore, when we seize upon Matthew chapter 25 as applicable to us, we mishandle God’s Word. “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:5-7). “But he [Jesus] answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24). Saint Paul said in Romans 15:8: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision [Jews] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:….” There are no Gentiles in these verses!!

Returning to Matthew chapter 25, verse 40: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In light of the fact that Jesus Christ was sent to the nation Israel, that means that His “brethren” in this passage are none other than Jews, believing Jews. Verse 32 says that “all nations” (Gentiles) will come before Jesus Christ when He sits on the throne of His glory (yet future from us), and they will give account to Him for whether or not they blessed Israel with material goods. This is in perfect accordance with the Abrahamic Covenant. God stipulated in Genesis 12:1-3: “[1] Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: [2] And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: [3] And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

Matthew 25:31-46 can be recapitulated as follows. The Gentiles who blessed Israel in the seven-year Tribulation (prior to the Second Coming of Christ), these nations will enter the subsequent Millennium of Revelation 20:1-6. They will be blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… life eternal” (Matthew 25:34,46). Those Gentiles who cursed Israel, these nations will be cast into Hell—“ye cursed, everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels… everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:41,46). This is a national judgment, the Judgment of the Nations, rather than individuals (although individuals are obviously involved). Matthew 25:31-46 in no way applies to us for the following reasons.

Firstly, Saint Paul says that Israel is currently fallen. Salvation is coming to the Gentiles without national Israel. 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.” (Did you see Paul’s ministry in verse 13? Rather than God’s Word coming to us through Israel, His message comes to us through Paul!)

If there is no Israel today in the Dispensation of Grace, then it is impossible to bless or curse Israel today. Romans chapter 11 goes on to say that Israel is temporarily blinded: Israel has no spiritual standing before God today. God considers her just another Gentile nation: “[25] For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. [26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: [27] For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. [28] As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.”

Secondly, we do not have a works message from God delivered us through Saint Paul the Apostle. Those of the aforementioned “good works” crowd go around bragging that James chapter 2 says we need faith and works to be justified. They will then use Matthew chapter 25 as a supplement: “We show our faith by our works. As Jesus said, we help the poor, orphans, widows, infirm, elderly, and so on.” Friends, this is certainly not faith. Faith is defined as believing what God said to you. God never told us (or them) that we have to fulfill Matthew chapter 25 to obtain eternal life. The message God has to tell us Gentiles without Israel’s rise to kingdom glory, is that we do not work for salvation.

Look at what God through Saint Paul tell us Gentiles in Romans 3:19-28: “[19] Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. [20] Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. [21] But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; [22] Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [23] For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; [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.Is there anything about blessing Israel? Helping the poor? Visiting the sick? Nothing!

Saint Paul also penned in Romans chapter 4: “[1] What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? [2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.Again, is there anything about blessing Israel? Helping the poor? Visiting the sick? Nothing!

Dear friends, how silly it is to ignore God’s Word to us (Pauline doctrine), then grab something in the Bible that is not to or about us, and finally pretend it is to or about us! In the case of the Gentiles in Matthew chapter 25, they have faith and works because their message from God requires faith and works. If they believe God’s Word—that Israel is God’s special nation (Genesis 12:1-3)—then they will have works to prove their faith. God tells them (not us but them) to bless Israel. If they curse (mistreat, ignore) Israel, they will not have eternal fellowship with God. These cursers of Israel will be tossed into Hell whereas the blessers of Israel will enter the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ. That will be the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant—blessed because they blessed Israel or cursed because they cursed Israel. Again, through Israel, God will bless all nations.

Let us look at James chapter 2 for a few moments: “[14] What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? [15] If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, [16] And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? [17] Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. [18] Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. [19] Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. [20] But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? [21] Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? [22] Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? [23] And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. [24] Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. [25] Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? [26] For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Dear friends, before we yank this passage too as though it is written to or about us, we had better look at James 1:1. James says he is writing “to the twelve tribes scattered abroad.” This is not Gentiles. This is the nation Israel, for Israel alone has 12 tribes. Since Israel is God’s literal, physical, visible, earthly people; He wants them to have literal, physical, visible, earthly works. Gentiles who have faith in Israel’s program will have works to show their faith as well. See Rahab’s example of blessing Israel noted in James 2:25 (historically, this occurred in Joshua 2:1-24 and Joshua 6:17-25). After all, these people have a works message from God. Faith is first and foremost, trusting God is first and foremost, but works follow (prove) their faith.

In the case of us in the Dispensation of Grace, this is not true. We do not have a works message from God. Our message is grace, and grace says not to work! Jesus Christ did that work at Calvary to please God and make us acceptable to Him. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is what we have to trust—place our faith in—in order to have eternal life today. We do not have to worry about what God told Israel or Gentiles in her prophetic program. They are not us and we are not them!

Let us go now to Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Israel did not learn this lesson; hence, they crucified Jesus Christ (see Romans chapters 9 and 10 quoted below). Her message from God was faith and works; instead, she stayed in unbelief and tried to substitute faith with works, rather than having faith and then works.

Romans chapters 9 and 10: “[9:30] What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. [9:31] But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. [9:32] Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; [9:33] As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. [10:1] Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. [10:2] For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. [10:3] For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

Today’s aforementioned works-religion people are in the same satanic trap. Self-righteousness has consumed them, just as it did Israel of old. They can quote the Bible all they want, and still wind up in Hell! How critical it is for them to learn this verse: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We must separate God’s Word to us (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon) from the rest of Scripture. It is a matter of getting the right Gospel message out of the Bible that applies to us. How dangerous it is to grab verses out of context, especially verses that have absolutely nothing to do with us!!

Saint Paul the Apostle, when asked about salvation unto eternal life, replied as follows: “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). Romans 3:22 says: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:…” First Corinthians 1:21: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Galatians 3:22: “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Once more, there is nothing here about works. Faith and faith alone is the issue today as pertaining to justification unto eternal life, forgiveness of sins, a home in Heaven. That is “the Gospel of the Grace of God” committed to Saint Paul’s trust and our trust (Acts 20:24).

Now, dear friends, let it be clearly understood we do good works as Christians, but not to become Christians. Thanks to religious tradition, there is great confusion here—and there should not be. We are saved by grace through faith without works, but that does not mean that God does not care how we live. He saves us in order to do good works in and through us; we are not saved to continue in sin.

Romans 6:14-15: “[14] For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. [15] What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

Ephesians 2:8-10: “[8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Titus 2:11-15: “[11] For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, [12] Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; [13] Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; [14] Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. [15] These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”

Also see:
» Is grace “a license to sin?”
» How do we not “live after the flesh” if we live in bodies of flesh?
» Who are the “fatherless” and “widows” of James 1:27?