Category Archives: ESCHATOLOGY (END TIMES) / PROPHECY

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?

Who are the “three shepherds” of Zechariah 11:8?

WHO ARE THE “THREE SHEPHERDS” OF ZECHARIAH 11:8?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Zechariah 11:8 is one of the most disputed verses in Zechariah. It says, “Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.” Who are these “three shepherds?”

Probably the oldest explanation is that they are the three classes of rulers in Israel—prophet, priest, and king. The prophet is God’s spokesman to man, the priest is man’s mediator or representative to God, and the king is the governmental leader.

Another possibility is that the three shepherds are the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. These three prominent groups derided and opposed Jesus Christ most vehemently during His earthly ministry. They were false teachers in Israel.

There may be a third option, which cannot be discerned at this time. Since the verse is in a prophetic context, its meaning will be clearer to those who live in the future (after our Dispensation of Grace).

Whoever the “three shepherds” are in Zechariah 11:8, we can be sure that they are unbelieving leaders in Israel. They hate the LORD God and He hates them. He punishes them by taking their lives, that they mislead His people no more.

Also see:
» Who is the wounded man of Zechariah 13:6?
» Should we use the term “pastor” or “bishop?”
» Who or what are the “Chemarims?”

Was Luke 21:20-24 fulfilled in A.D. 70?

WAS LUKE 21:20-24 FULFILLED IN A.D. 70?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, if you are familiar with prophecy preachers and teachers, you will have invariably heard the recurrent reference to A.D. 70. Is this year significant in Scripture, as so frequently claimed? We are not interested in theological speculations or religious traditions. “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Luke 21:20-24 is perhaps the passage most commonly utilized to uphold the “A.D. 70” position: “[20] And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. [21] Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. [22] For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. [23] But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. [24] And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

Dr. Scofield attached the following footnote to verse 20:

“Verses 20, 24 are not included in the report of the Olivet discourse as given by Matthew and Mark. Two sieges of Jerusalem are in view in that discourse. Luke 21. 20-24 refers to the siege by Titus, A.D. 70, when the city was taken, and verse 24 literally fulfilled. But that siege and its horrors but adumbrate the final siege at the end of this age, in which ‘the great tribulation’ culminates. At that time the city will be taken, but delivered by the glorious appearing of the Lord (Rev. 19. 11-21). The references in Mt. 24. 15-28, Mk. 13. 14-26 are to the final tribulation siege; Lk. 21. 20-24 to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. In Luke the sign is the compassing of Jerusalem by armies (Lk. 21. 20); in Matthew (24. 15) and Mark (13. 14) the sign is the abomination in the holy place (2 Thes. 2. 4).”

Is Luke 21:20-24 in fact, as commonly assumed, a reference to Titus attacking Jerusalem in A.D. 70? While this author once held that view, he has since studied his Bible to see that A.D. 70 is not found here or anywhere else in Scripture. In this study, he will offer his four reasons for abandoning the “A.D. 70 interpretation.”

1. WILL ISRAEL BE DISPERSED NEAR THE END OF THE TRIBULATION, JUST PRIOR TO CHRIST’S SECOND COMING?

The “A.D. 70 proponent” says: “No. Israel was scattered in the A.D. 70 invasion of Jerusalem, but will not be dispersed at the end of the Tribulation. Since Luke 21:24 says Israel will be ‘led away captive into all nations,’ the verse must be speaking of A.D. 70.” (What Scripture can this individual offer to verify his assertion that Israel will not be scattered in the Tribulation? This author knows of no such verse.)

In contrast, this author replies, “Yes, Israel will indeed be scattered at the end of the Tribulation.” Zechariah 14:1-4 says: “[1] Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. [2] For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. [3] Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. [4] And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”

Verse 4 is obviously Christ’s Second Coming, when Jesus Himself literally stands in wrath and judgment on the Mount of Olives (cf. Acts 1:9-12, especially verse 11). Verse 3 of Zechariah chapter 14 is the Battle of Armageddon, which is paired with the Second Coming. Verse 2, of course, would also be tied to that Second Coming.

What exactly do we find in Zechariah 14:2? “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” Does this not resemble Luke 21:24? “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” There is war in Jerusalem, the city is captured, the houses are robbed, the women are sexually assaulted and enslaved, half of the city is taken away captive, and a remnant survives and remains in the city. Zechariah and Luke are prophesying the same event!

In light of the above analyses, the “A.D. 70 interpretation” of Luke 21:20-24 only complicates the Bible. On the basis of Zechariah 14:1-4, we would be forced to infer that the Second Coming occurred in A.D. 70. Did it? The preterists say yes, but this author disagrees. He abandoned the A.D. 70 interpretation once he saw these dangerous implications. It is totally inconceivable that Jesus Christ returned in A.D. 70 and fulfilled all Bible prophecy. That was 2,000 years ago, and Satan is working mightily on Earth even now. Israel is still fighting to keep the Promised Land from domineering Gentiles. She is still without her Davidic Kingdom. The curse of sin has yet to be lifted. Is this as good as it will get? Has Christ returned?! (No!) When Christ returns to our planet—yes, that Second Coming is future—we can be absolutely sure all of these problems will be solved. This is how we know Christ did not return in A.D. 70.

2. WHERE DOES LUKE 21:21 FIT ON THE BIBLE TIMELINE? A.D. 70? OR IS IT YET FUTURE?

Read verse 21: “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.” According to Matthew chapter 24 (verses 14-21), this will be in the midst of Daniel’s 70th Week. Luke 21:21 must be future because this verse is true during the Antichrist’s reign. Otherwise, we entertained the idea that the Antichrist came in the A.D. first century and forced Jews to flee from Jerusalem then. So, if that is the case, is there a future Daniel’s 70th Week and a future Antichrist? Or, as the preterists argue, is all now past? Inserting A.D. 70 in the Scripture here just adds difficulties… needless snags that could be avoided.

3. WAS “ALL” OF BIBLE PROPHECY FULFILLED IN A.D. 70?

Verse 22 of Luke chapter 21 says, “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Were all Bible prophecies fulfilled in A.D. 70? As briefly noted earlier, the preterists believe that. Furthermore, if we say Luke 21:20-24 applies to A.D. 70, we have no other conclusion to reach but to agree with them—that all prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Was it? Be consistent, dear friend. Do not split up the passage; we do not have liberty to do that. Friend, we cannot have it both ways. Either all four verses are future from us, or all four are history from us.

4. LUKE 21:23 SPEAKS OF GOD’S WRATH ON ISRAEL, YET THERE IS NO WRATH IN THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE!

Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry never, ever spoke of A.D. 70. Verse 23 foretells wrath: “But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.”

There is absolutely no wrath of God being displayed in this the Dispensation of Grace. Israel as a nation does not exist in our dispensation. She is fallen, temporarily blinded; it serves no purpose to judge her when her program is not even operating right now! Read Romans chapters 9-11, friend, and you will see the dispensational boundaries that cannot be crossed. “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). Keeping prophecy and mystery separate is absolutely critical to our understanding the Holy Bible.

Romans chapter 11: “[11] I say then, Have they [Israel] 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?…. [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:….”

Second Corinthians chapter 5 characterizes this the Dispensation of Grace: “[17] Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. [18] And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. [21] For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles [all nations]” (Romans 11:13). As God’s spokesman to all nations, Paul was led on 13 occasions to write, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 3). Each of Paul’s epistles greets the world (including fallen Israel) with “grace and peace” (opposite “wrath and war”). Again, 2 Corinthians 5:19: God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Because of Calvary, God is not angry at nations today. He is being kind to them!

Concerning “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2), God’s attitude toward all nations is “grace and peace.” There is no Law system operating today as in Israel’s program. Israel’s Law system was simply to prove that God would have to save mankind according to His grace, not man’s religious efforts. Now, He is manifesting His grace (unmerited favor) to mankind in a very special way today—the soul salvation found in Jesus Christ’s shed blood. In the Dispensation of Grace, God is freely and unconditionally offering the nations (including Israel) salvation through Jesus Christ. God is longsuffering, and has been for 2,000 years, for the people of the world to respond in faith. Once they trust His Son, He permanently reconciles with them individually.

Again, through the cross of Christ, God is offering to all nations—all the world—a chance to be reconciled with Him. He has suspended Israel’s special status, that all nations approach Him on an equal basis. They can come as individuals (faith in Christ alone) and join the Church the Body of Christ. This began with Paul’s salvation in Acts chapter 9, and carries on even now. It was true in A.D. 70, which shows us that God could not have poured out wrath on Israel (Jerusalem) in A.D. 70. Luke 21:20-24 applies to a future time, a period after our Dispensation of Grace, when God will pour out His wrath on sinners! Until then, Paul’s salvation is the pattern: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

CONCLUSION

Based on the aforementioned Bible verses, what are to believe about A.D. 70 and Luke 21:20-24? Does the Bible speak of A.D. 70 at all?

  1. Israel being scattered is not limited to A.D. 70. According to Zechariah 14:1-4, there will be a dispersion of Israel just before the Second Coming of Christ. If the scattering of Israel in Luke 21:24 is A.D. 70, that leaves open the possibility that the Second Coming occurred 2,000 years ago as well. This is exactly what the preterists believe, but this author rejects that postulation entirely. In fact, we know that Luke 21:24 is speaking of Israel’s dispersion just before the Second Coming because verses 25-28 are the Second Coming and its precursors. A.D. 70 is not in view in Luke 20:21-24.
  2. Israel fleeing to the mountains in Luke 21:21 is yet future because the companion verses Matthew 24:15-21 and Mark 13:14-19 are also future (the Antichrist desecrating the Jerusalem Temple). Luke 21:20-24 is entirely forthcoming—none of it was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Furthermore, despite what people say about Luke 21:24 supposedly pointing to A.D. 70, its companion verses (verses 21-23) look 2,000 years into the future… to a time even beyond our day. A.D. 70 cannot be inserted here.
  3. Luke 21:23 allows only “all” prophecies to be fulfilled—yet, “all things” were not fulfilled in A.D. 70. Or, if we believe Luke 21:24 was fulfilled in A.D. 70, then we make ourselves vulnerable to saying all of the passage (including the Second Coming and its signs in verses 25-28) was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Was all Bible prophecy fulfilled in A.D. 70? If not, then Luke 21:23 says verse 24 was not fulfilled in A.D. 70 either.
  4. The most glaring error in saying Luke 21:24 was fulfilled in A.D. 70 is to insert the prophetic program into the mystery program. We have the awkward transition from mystery to prophecy and back to mystery again. The Dispensation of Grace (mystery program) is operating with Paul’s ministry in Acts, but it would have to give way to the prophetic program in A.D. 70 so Jesus’ words in Luke 21:24 can be fulfilled. We now have Jesus in His earthly ministry predicting an event in the Dispensation of Grace, which weakens the “secret” emphasis of said dispensation. Mystery somehow (?) returned after A.D. 70, which is where we find ourselves today. If all prophecy has been fulfilled, then the prophetic program is permanently terminated instead of temporarily interrupted.

If the “A.D. 70 interpretation” stands, unanswerable confusion results. There is no smooth narrative in the Bible passages. Two attacks of Jerusalem are not in view in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21. These verses look toward one attack of Jerusalem future from us—just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. In no way would Jesus in His earthly ministry speak of an event that would happen in the Dispensation of Grace. Jesus Christ would never reveal the Dispensation of Grace in His earthly ministry because that information would be kept secret until He revealed it to Paul (Ephesians 3:1-11).

While much more could be said, this author believes the dangers of “A.D. 70” have been underscored enough that this study can now conclude. A.D. 70 has nothing to do with anything in the Bible and the Bible has nothing to do with A.D. 70.

Also see:
» Are we “doom and gloom” prophecy believers?
» What is the Dispensation of Grace?
» What do you mean—“the prophetic program” and “the mystery program?”

Is the United States’ recent embassy move to Jerusalem a fulfillment of Bible prophecy?

IS THE UNITED STATES’ RECENT EMBASSY MOVE TO JERUSALEM A FULFILLMENT OF BIBLE PROPHECY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The prophecy preachers are excited now that the United States has relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem! Is there any merit in their elation? Could this news be a sign of Jesus’ soon return?!

Someone points to Zechariah 8:22, “Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.” By having its embassy in Jerusalem, the United States is allegedly drawing worldwide attention to said city. Perhaps other nations will follow the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? They may even flock to the city en masse!

In His famed Olivet Discourse, Jesus laid forth many specific details about end-times prophecy. Two questions had generated that sermon: “And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” (Luke 21:7). The more famous version is Matthew chapter 24; Mark chapter 13 is a third account. Matthew 24:3: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” What we want to know about these verses is that they outline the various “signs,” or indications, of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Luke 21:20 says: “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” Certain prophecy preachers see here the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict having been intensified by the embassy transfer.

Making history, United States President Donald J. Trump will be meeting with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un next month. Some have gone so far as to see this predicted in Daniel chapter 11—the interaction of “the king of the north” and “the king of the south.” While we can see a connection of North Korea and the king of the north, the United States can hardly be considered “the south.” (For the record, the king of the north and the king of the south would be in reference to the land of Canaan—the land north of Canaan [that is, Syria] and the land south of Canaan [namely, Egypt]. North Korea and the United States have absolutely nothing to do with Daniel chapter 11! President Trump and Dictator Kim Jong Un are not there either!)

So, what are we to make of these current events? Should we be alarmed, excited, or indifferent? Rather than offering opinions, hunches, speculations, and the like, we will look at facts.

Firstly, we should point out that very rarely is the Bible ever used as God intended. This author, many years ago, was caught up in “seeing the Bible in the newspaper and nightly news.” When some world event occurred—especially concerning Israel and/or the Middle East—he arrived at the conclusion, “How close we are to the Lord’s return!” It was 70 years ago this month that Israel was founded as a modern nation. For seven decades, Christian people have been saying, “Israel is in the land and the Lord’s coming is near!” (A good many of these individuals have since died, having never seen His coming.) Rather than using the Bible properly, they rely on the traditional (ly wrong) approach the preachers and teachers learned in seminary and Bible College. The scoffers and skeptics then use this as ammunition to discredit the Bible. No, the Bible is not discredited; Bible corrupters and Bible abusers are discredited. These are nothing but cases in point for the need of proper Bible study. As you can see, people grab verses from just about anywhere in Scripture and try to make it fit a modern situation.

The only verse in the Bible that tells us to “study” the Bible also tells us how to study the Bible: “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). If we keep looking and reading, we will find other verses to help us understand exactly what it means to “rightly divide the word of truth.” Two passages very helpful in that regard will be shared now.

Peter the Apostle preached in Acts chapter 3: “[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.” If we get nothing else from this, friends, we at least understand that God told man some information since Adam’s creation. God was unfolding His plan and He was revealing it to man piecemeal (little by little).

Paul the Apostle was led to write something quite different in Romans chapter 16: “[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:….” With Paul’s ministry God is revealing some information He has kept secret since Adam’s creation.

Did you notice the simple divisions presented by the above verses? In the Scripture, there is revealed truth and there is hidden truth. Revealed truth is prophecy—something God spoke since the world began. Hidden truth is mystery—something God kept secret since the world began. There is absolutely nothing difficult here unless we have a denominational system to defend or a church tradition to maintain. It is so crystal-clear if we just let the words of God say what He means and mean what He says.

Let us offer a few more verses about special Paul’s ministry and message. When he was converted on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9, Saul had a personal face-to-face meeting with the ascended Lord Jesus Christ. Years later, in chapter 26, Paul provides his testimony: “[15] And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. [16] But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; [17] Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, [18] To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” We want to notice that Jesus Christ personally commissioned Saul of Tarsus as the apostle, or sent-one, of the Gentiles (verse 17). Romans 11:13 thus says, “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.” And, Ephesians chapter 3: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.”

All of this shows us that, if we ignore Paul’s writings—the Bible Books of Romans through Philemon—we are disregarding God’s Word to us the nations. We do not go to Christ’s earthly ministry to find current divine revelation (remember, Jesus will not reveal the mystery until Paul’s ministry some years later). It makes no sense to grab Matthew chapter 24, or Luke chapter 21, or Mark chapter 13, and try to find us or God’s present dealings with man. How silly it is to yank a verse from Zechariah or Daniel and make it fit in this the Dispensation of Grace! Daniel and Zechariah had no idea about us the Church the Body of Christ.

If prophecy is ongoing, then that means the mystery program has stopped. If the mystery program is ongoing, then that means the prophetic program has stopped. Both cannot be operating because they are so radically different. Prophecy involves the nation Israel; mystery involves the Church the Body of Christ. We should stop mixing Israel and the Body of Christ, Law and Grace, Heaven and Earth, Prophecy and Mystery. Such mingling has caused absolute confusion in churches for thousands of years now.

Never once did the Apostle Paul—God’s spokesman to us Gentiles—ever tell us to look for “signs” of Christ’s return. We can search Romans through Philemon in vain. “The Jews require a sign,” 1 Corinthians 1:22 says. Are we Jews?! Then why are we looking for “signs?” In fact, as members of the Church the Body of Christ, we have no reason to be looking for the Second Coming of Christ anyway (which is what Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21 anticipate). The Second Coming is prophecy whereas we are living in the mystery program. We are not looking for the coming as predicted in Matthew through John. Rather, we are looking for the coming as found in Romans through Philemon—Christ’s secret coming for His Body. This is commonly called “the Rapture,” although the Bible uses terms such as the “resurrection,” “redemption of our body,” “our gathering together unto Christ” (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 2 Timothy 2:18; et al.).

While interesting, today’s events are not fulfilled Bible prophecy. According to Romans chapters 9-11, prophecy is temporarily paused!

Also see:
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?
» Should I be concerned about the four “blood moons?”
» Are we “doom and gloom” prophecy believers?