Unity

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

Vol. 117 No. 2
February 2002

I pray … they should be one” (Jesus). The fact that the Lord prayed for unity among his disciples has been used to generate a hateful judgmental rejection of those who “having heard the word, hold it fast.”

Not a few among us incorrectly claim that Jesus’ prayer for oneness means doctrinal purity must yield to fellowship with all who profess to accept Jesus as the Son of God … and some go so far as to say that the unity must extend to religions that reject Jesus as the unique Savior of the world – which, of course, makes the cross meaningless.

Well, let us look at the prayer once again. The exact words of Jesus are, “Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me” (John 17:20-21).

Jesus prayed for those who believe on him through the word of the apostles – which was not their word, but the word given to them by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:13).

Paul made the point that he had not received the gospel from men, but it came to him “through revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12).

It is by the power and truth of the word of Christ that belief comes (Rom. 10:17).

Belief and faith in the New Testament translate the Greek word pistis. This word is sometimes translated “faith” and other times it is rendered “belief.” There is therefore no essential difference in faith and belief in New Testament usage.

Those who hear, receive, and obey the word of Christ as reported by the apostles through the agency of the Holy Spirit are believers. All others have a dead faith, or no faith at all. Demons are said to believe and shudder (James 2:19), but demons are not saved. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Matt. 8:28-29), but do not obey him, and, therefore, their worthless faith is dead (James 2:26).

When Jesus prayed for those that “believe on me through their word,” he was obviously and undeniably praying for those whose belief was sincere and strong enough to obey him. Only such believers were the subjects of the Savior’s prayer for unity. To make the plea of oneness apply to unbelievers or professing believers who do not- or will not- obey him is egregious.

For example, the Bible teaches that baptism is to be administered to penitent believers (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16), and involves burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:4-5; Col. 2:12). Its purpose is a new birth (John 3:5), a washing away of sins (Acts 22:16), and is unto (to obtain) the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Baptism saves because it is the point at which salvation from alien sins occurs (1 Pet. 3:21).

There are several possible reactions to this biblical teaching on baptism. The correct response is to accept what the Bible says and practice what it teaches about baptism. However, a person may (a) disregard what the Bible says about baptism involving immersion and insist on sprinkling as a substitute, or he may (b) deny that the candidate for baptism must believe and repent, or (c) that baptism is the new birth, or (d) some combination of these possible responses.

Others may insist on baptism being a burial and resurrection but stoutly deny that it brings forgiveness and salvation, asserting that salvation comes at the point of faith before and without further works of obedience – all of this without any credible scriptural proof and in defiance and denial of unmistakable Bible teaching.

How is it possible for a person who accepts the Bible teaching that baptism is a burial and a resurrection (Rom. 6:4-6; Col. 2:12) to have unity with one who rejects what the Bible says and teaches that baptism is sprinkling?

How is it possible for one who knows that “except one be born of water and the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5) to unite with someone who advocates the false idea that the new birth into the kingdom of God does not involve water?

Here is another illustration: the Bible teaches that in making music in praise of God we are to sing (Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16-17; James 5:13). The believer is also told “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God” (2 John 1:9). To emphasize: anyone who goes beyond the New Testament command to sing and uses machinery in an attempt to worship deity has not God. … He is without God. … He is devoid of a right relationship with his Creator.

Now, how can a believer who has God be “one” with another person who does not have God?

Contrary to what some seem to think, those who first raised the appeal on the American continent for a restoration of the New Testament church were primarily and above all else concerned with going strictly by the Bible. The idea that “calling Bible things by Bible names and doing all things in the Bible” way was also a basis for unity came later.

Here was the sequence: those who first raised the clarion call for a return to the new covenant pattern of teaching, work, and worship were members of various denominational churches. Many were Presbyterians, some were Methodists, others were Baptists, or were identified with some other Protestant or Anglican denomination. Their study of the Bible convinced them that the creed books of their assorted religious orders were wrong.

If the Bible is right, inherited depravity, direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the human mind, salvation by faith alone and through grace only, impossibility of apostasy, mechanical instruments in worship of God, and ecclesiastical hierarchies are wrong. Their plea was, “Let us cast aside the creed books that are of purely human origin, and go by the Bible only, which is given by revelation of Jesus Christ.”

There is a magnetic power in the magnificent plea to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.”

It is right. It is scriptural. It is charming and, when properly presented, almost irresistible, though it is always possible to deny the obvious.

Search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me [Jesus]; and ye will not come to me, that ye may have life (John 5:39-40).

In other words, there can be a rejection of the teaching of Jesus while the person is claiming to search the scriptures in pursuit of righteousness.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven (Jesus of Nazareth).

Some honor God with their lips but their heart is far from him (Matt. 15:8).

Note, too, that Jesps is in a familial·relationship with those who do the will of God (Mark 3:35). The implication is that if the will of God is not honored with obedience then there is no fellowship with Jesus.

Shall we fellowship those whom Jesus rejects?

When the 19th-century pioneers of the restoration of New Testament Christianity began to “speak as the oracles of God,” and reject human creeds that vainly “teach as their doctrine the precepts of men” (Matt. 15:9), they were driven out of their denominational affiliation.

When Campbell spoke the truth on the two covenants and baptism, he was forced out of the Redstone Baptist Association. They would not accept the teaching of the Bible, and Campbell would not turn away from that teaching. There was an impasse. All of the early advocates of restoration had the same experience.

Now, what makes anyone today think that the denominations will tolerate the whole truth on baptism, or worshiping God only in song, or the Holy Spirit working through the revealed and confirmed word?

The creed books are still preferred above the Bible.

When people do “the will of God from the heart” and steadfastly refuse bowing to manuals and disciplines of mortal origin, there will be a dichotomy – an irreconcilable difference. To bridge the chasm the Bible must be compromised because most men will not give up their cherished human creeds. They “love vanity, and seek after falsehood.”

It is embarrassingly tragic when some among us present the champions of denominationalism as heroes, and brand those who stand staunchly for the Bible, the Bible only, and nothing but the Bible as culprits.

Some use Jesus’ prayer for unity as an excuse to wrongly accuse the faithful of being the cause of division. The saints are browbeaten in public discourse because they will not forsake eternal verities, and those who place man-made creeds above Christ are adored.

Guilty about what? – Guilty at being ourselves, guilty at not being ourselves. I don’t know: guilty at feeling guilty, guilty because we don’t feel guilty. Above all we want to confess – to anybody about anything (Cecil jenkins, Message From Serius, 1961).

Self-contempt and self-loathing cause some national leaders to travel the world apologizing for the imagined sins of previous generations (but never mentioning their own iniquity).

We may feel noble for confessing when we haven’t done anything wrong. Many religious leaders have fallen into this error.

God grant that we never express regret and ask forgiveness for being right. And may he give us the inner strength to stand foursquare for the saving gospel though the entire world may frown its displeasure.

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2: 17).

Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word (John 17:20).

I have given them thy word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17:14).

P.O. Box 690912
Houston, TX 77269-0912

Limited Atonement?

By Dr. John Hobbs

The third cardinal doctrine in Calvinistic Theology is the doctrine of “Limited Atonement.” It is the “L” in the T-U-L-I-P acrostic. Most Calvinists prefer the term “Particular Atonement” or “Definite Atonement.”

What Calvinists Believe About Limited Atonement

The Canons of Dort, article 8, states, ‘It was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and only those, who were from eternity chosen to salvation.’

Henry Fish, a Baptist wrote in 1850, ‘Did the atonement, in its saving design, embrace more then the elect? The elect only; for whatever he designed he will accomplish, and he saves only his people from their sins.’

David Steele and Curtis Thomas wrote, ‘But He came into the world to represent and save only those given Him by the Father. Thus Christ’s work was limited in that it was designed to save some and not others.’

WJ. Seaton said, ‘Christ died to save a particular number of sinners.’

Lorraine Boettner said, ‘The value of the atonement depends upon, and is measured by, the dignity of the person making it; and since Christ suffered as a Divine-human person the value of His suffering was infinite … The atonement, therefore, was infinitely meritorious and might have saved every member of the human race had that been God’s plan.’

Ralph Gore wrote, “Christ died for the elect. The extent of the atonement is identical with the intent of divine election.”

Paul Enns wrote, ‘If God is sovereign (Eph. 1:11) then His plan cannot be frustrated, but if Christ died for all people and all people are not saved then God’s plan is frustrated.’

R. B. Kuiper said, ‘God purposed by the atonement to save only the elect and that consequently all the elect, and they alone, will be saved.’

The question may be put this way: When Christ died on the cross, did he pay for the sins of the entire human race or only for the sins of those who he knew would ultimately be saved? Calvinists would answer the latter group.

Wayne Grudem wrote: The term that is usually preferred is particular redemption, since this view holds that Christ died for particular people (specifically, those who would be saved and whom he came to redeem), that he foreknew each one of them individually (cf. Eph. 1:3-5) and had them individually in mind in his atoning work.

 

The Foundational Basis for Limited Atonement

The doctrine of Limited Atonement is based on the concept of double jeopardy (trying a person twice for the same crime). The argument goes like this: If Jesus died for the sins of all men, then the sins of all men are paid for and one has already been judged for those sins. On the Day of Judgment, if God would bring a man into judgment and commit him to hell even though Jesus had already paid for his sins, God would be putting that person in double jeopardy. God would be unjust – something he is not (Deut. 32:4).

The argument is: Since we do not permit double jeopardy in our own legal system, surely we would not expect God to do something we would not do.

Calvinists argue therefore – Jesus actually died only for the sins of the elect, the chosen, the saved.

However, just because there is an analogy from a human viewpoint, this does not prove that it coincides with the truth of God’s word.

Isaiah 55:8-9 states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Proverbs 14:12 states, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.” We are warned: “Lean not upon thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

We do not formulate doctrine by analogies or examples. They may illustrate doctrine, but they do not prove doctrine. We must determine truth from the Word of God and not human reasoning. There are some great truths of scripture which are beyond our comprehension and we accept because the Bible teaches them (such as, the Trinity, God’s love, nature of sin, and such like), and therefore are not proved by reason, but are known by revelation.

Scriptures Used by Calvinists to Support Limited Atonement

Matthew 1:21 states, “For it is he that shall save his people from their sins.”

Jesus “loved the church and gave himself up for it” (Eph. 5:25).

Romans 4:25 reads, “Who was delivered up for our trespasses.”

Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:10 reveals, “We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.”

Romans 8:32 declares, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.”

Acts 20:28 states, “To feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.”

In John 10:15 Jesus said, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “Him who knew no sin he made to be [a] sin [offering] on our behalf.”

Galatians 1:4 says, “Who gave himself for our sins.”

Ephesians 1:7 says, “In whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.”

Titus 2:14 states, “Who gave himself for us.”

Calvinists use the above Scriptures as proof texts that Christ died “only” for the elect.

Christ died for his people. That is the main point of these verses! However the Bible does not teach Limited Atonement – that Christ died “only” for the elect, “only” for a limited class.

Calvinists “twist” and “pervert” other plain Scriptures that clearly teach that Christ died for all men. They do so unto their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:15-17). When we come to the Bible, we must take all of it to arrive at total-saving truth. Psalms 119:160 states, “The sum of all thy word is truth.” Matthew 4:4 says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” It takes all of Scripture for the man of God to be complete (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We must preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Christ died for all men. Christians appreciate the fact that Christ died for them. The verses used by Calvinists emphasize that point. Unbelievers do not appreciate that fact and therefore do nothing about it.

A True Story Concerning Hebrews 2:9

In 1980, I took second year New Testament Greek through Wheaton College at the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Dallas, Texas. My professor was Dr. John Werner, an outstanding world-recognized Greek scholar. But, he was a Calvinist through and through. One day we were reading the book of Hebrews in class. When it came my time to read, I was to translate Hebrews 2:9. I translated the verse, “But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death only for the elect.”

My professor and the class laughed. After the laughter subsided, I added, “Excuse me – that should be – for every man.”

Brethren, if the grammar makes sense, anything else is nonsense. To deny that Jesus tasted of death “for every man” is to deny the plain and clear teaching of Scripture! Dr. Werner agreed that the verse should be translated “for every man.” But, he denied that is what it meant. He believed that it meant “every redeemed man” even though that is not what the text says!

We should not base biblical doctrine on “feeling” or “thinking.” Biblical doctrine is based on God’s Word!

If the Holy Spirit wanted to say that Christ died only for the elect, he could have easily done so. But, he did not do so. There is no “specific” passage in the entire Bible that teaches Limited Atonement.

Wayne Grudem, a Calvinist, says, “Hebrews 2:9 is best understood to refer to every one of Christ’s people, every one who is redeemed.”

Grudem is reading the Bible with his rose colored glasses on and sees what he wants to see instead of what is really there! The text does not say that Christ tasted of death for every “redeemed” man. Grudem is reading into the text something that is not there. This is something that God’s Word explicitly forbids (Rev. 22:18-19; 1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:8-9; 3:15; 2 John 9-11; Matt. 4:4; Prov. 30:5-6; Deut. 4:2; 12:32).

The words every man in Hebrews 2:9 are translated from the Greek word pantos (in form it is a genitive masculine or neuter singular word from the adjective pas, pasa, pan meaning “all” or “every”).

Bruce says:

So far as the form goes, pantos might be masculine (“everyone”) or neuter (“everything”); but since our author’s concern is with Christ’s work for humanity, and not with cosmic implications of His work, it is more probable to be taken as masculine.

Alford says, “The singular brings out, far more strongly than the plural would, the applicability of Christ’s death to each individual man.” Jesus died for each individual person (which equals all mankind). The singular pantos emphasizes his care and love and concern for every human being!

This fact is a strong factor for each individual person to give his life back to him and live a holy God-fearing life (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

This same Greek word, pantos, is found in Matthew 13:19 and is translated “when any one.” It is obvious in Matthew 13:19 that the Greek word refers only to lost human beings.

It is interesting that the Greek New Testament uses the word pantos at least once specifically to refer “only” to condemned human beings. Calvinists say that the word pantos in Hebrews 2:9 refers “only” to saved “redeemed” people. If the word pantos in Matthew 13:19 refers only to lost people who will spend eternity in hell, does that mean that in Hebrews 2:9 that the same group is being considered? No!

Can the word pantos refer to all mankind including those who appreciate Christ’s death for them? Of course! Christ “tasted of death for every man.” It is important to understand that the meaning of pantos will have to be determined by the context. Therefore, we can conclude that in Hebrews 2:9, the Greek word pantos refers to all humans period – not just the saved, not just God’s special people. Jesus died for all humans – those who are lost and those who are going to heaven. Calvinists deny the plain teaching of God’s Word and add to it when they say Jesus tasted of death for every “redeemed” man.

An Examination of God’s Word and Limited Atonement

The Bible is very clear that Jesus died for the sins of “all men” and not just for “the elect.”

Consider these passages as to who Jesus died for:

  1. John 1:29: “the one that taketh away the sin of the world” – i.e. all mankind
  2. John 3:16: “the world” – i.e. all mankind
  3. John 4:42: “This is indeed the Saviour of the world” – i.e. all mankind
  4. John 12:47: “I came … to save the world” – i.e. all mankind
  5. Romans 5:6: “Christ died for the ungodly”
  6. Romans 5:8: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”
  7. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “he died for all”
  8. 2 Corinthians 5:19: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” – i.e. all mankind. Those who believe in Limited Atonement say this refers to “the world of the elect.” Again, they are adding to the Word of God.
  9. 1 Timothy 1:15: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
  10. Timothy 2:6: “Who gave himself a ransom for all”
  11. 1 Timothy 4:10: “Who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe”
  12. Titus 2:11: “bringing salvation to all men”
  13. Hebrews 2:9: “He should taste of death for every man.”
  14. 2 Peter 2:1: “Denying the Master that bought them” – Christ provided redemption for the false prophets but they refused to accept it.
  15. 1 John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” – i.e. all mankind
  16. 1 John 4:14 “The Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” – i.e. all mankind

A Study of 1 John 2:2

One passage that must be the focus of our attention is 1 John 2:2. Here John wrote, “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.”

Vine defines “propitiation” as “a means whereby sin is covered and remitted.” The text is very clear that sin covering has been provided “for our sins” – that is, Christians’ and “for the whole world,” or all humanity. If there was ever a verse in the Bible that taught the possibility of unlimited salvation – this is it!

Brown says that the word “world” is the “sphere of human beings and of human experience.” The apostle John uses the word “world” several times to refer to all humanity (John 1:29; 3:16-17; 4:42; 12:46-47; 1 John 4:14).

It is sad that some people “twist” the scriptures from their true meaning (2 Pet. 3:15-17). The same basis for forgiving one man’s sins is also the same basis for forgiving the sins of all men – the death of Christ.

It is not implied or taught that sins are forgiven unconditionally. The Bible does not teach the doctrine of Universalism, i.e. all men will be saved. The Bible does teach that only those who appropriate the blood of Christ over their sins will be saved (Rom. 6:3-4, 17-18; 1 Pet. 1:22; Rev. 2:10; 7:14).

Wayne Grudem, a Calvinist, writes, “The preposition ‘for’ [in 1 John 2:2] is ambiguous with respect to the specific sense in which Christ is the propitiation “for” the sins of the world.

The Greek word translated “for” in this verse is peri, and means ‘concerning’ or ‘with respect to.” It does not define the way in which Christ is the sacrifice with respect to the sins of the world.

It is consistent with the language of the verse to say that John is simply saying that Christ is the sacrifice available to pay for the sins of anyone and everyone in the world.”

There are several problems with Grudem’s twisting of Scripture:

(1) Grudem does not deal with the word world in his defense of Calvinism. It is obvious that John uses the word “world” in the verse and in the other verses cited to refer to all humanity. Jesus died for all mankind.

(2) It is true that the word for in the phrase for the whole world is the Greek word peri. I agree that it means “concerning” or “with respect to.”

Robertson says that pen has a sense similar to hyper in the verse. The word hyper means “in behalf of.” It must be pointed out that the word for in the phrases for our sins and not for ours only in 1 John 2:2 is translated from the Greek word peri.

The Holy Spirit inspired John to use the Greek word peri three times in 1 John 2:2. This word is sufficient to define the way Christ is the sacrifice “for our sins” but not “for the sins of the whole world.”

Grudem says that the preposition peri “is ambiguous.” He is straining the gnat and swallowing the camel in order to avoid accepting the clear truth. Grudem would say that its third use in the verse is ambiguous but not its first and second uses.

The emphasis in the verse is on Christ’s “propitiation” — not the preposition “for.”

John says Christ’s propitiation is “for our sins” and “not for ours only” but also “for the sins of the whole world.”

A Study of 1 Timothy 4:10

Paul wrote, “For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe.”

This verse is important to the discussion. Here the apostle clearly states the salvation of all men. He does not teach Universalism. But, he does teach that salvation has been provided for all men, i.e. all humanity. However, that salvation is appropriated and appreciated by those who believe. All men are potentially saved by Christ’s death, but only those who appropriate the blood of Christ over their sins will be saved.

Grudem says:

He [Jesus] is referring to God the Father, not to Christ, and probably uses the word ‘Savior’ in the sense of ‘one who preserves people’s lives and rescues them from danger’ rather then the sense of ‘one who forgives their sins,’ for surely Paul does not mean that every single person will be saved.

Grudem misses it again.

(1)    No, Paul is not teaching that every single person will be saved. No New Testament writer ever taught that.

(2)   There is no problem with taking the word Savior as referring to God the Father. He is the Savior of all men in that He sent Jesus to die for all men (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). The Father and the Son are one in purpose, aim, plan, and design (John 10:30).

(3)    For Grudem to say that the word Savior does not refer to “sins” shows his theological bias. In Matthew 1:21, the child is to be called Jesus. Why? Because he will save his people from their “sins.” The word “Jesus” means “Savior.” Grudem does not want 1 Timothy 4:10 to refer to “sins,” so he denies it.

(4)    God desires “all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). Salvation for “all men” has been provided (1 Tim. 4:10). However, this salvation is “specially” for those who “believe.” This word does not imply that all will be saved. The Greek word malista translated “specially” is also translated “particularly” or “especially” in 1 Timothy 5:17 and “above all” or “especially” in 2 Timothy 4:13. Paul is saying that God is potentially the Savior of all men. For the individuals who “will” to come to the Lord, these individuals “will in no wise be cast out” (John 5:40; 6:37).

J.W. Roberts wrote, “He is the savior (potentially) of all men, but especially (or actually) of believers.”

Dr. J. C. Davis states, “God is the potential Savior of all men (John 3:16; Rom. 10:13; 2 Pet. 3:9). God is the actual Savior of believers” (Heb. 5:8-9; 2 Thess. 1:8; Rev. 2:10).

J. N. D. Kelly wrote, “Paul is no doubt giving expression to his conviction that the certainty of salvation belongs in an especial degree to those who have accepted Christ.” True!

1 Timothy 4:10 is like Galatians 6:10. Christians are to “work that which is good toward all men and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.” We have an obligation to do “good toward all men” (even the ones who have not named the name of Christ). But, we have a special obligation to help those who are Christians. Christ died for all men but especially for those who believe.

An Invitation Is Given to All Men

In Matthew 11:25, Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The church, the bride as it is called, and the Holy Spirit perpetuate that invitation as shown by John in Revelation 22:17:

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.

The invitation is given to all men. Why offer salvation to all if that is not possible? The text says “whosoever” will.

God Desires All Men to Be Saved

In (2 Peter 3:9) we read:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

God wants “all” to come to repentance! Boettner, a Calvinist, denies that it is God’s plan for all to be saved. Seaton, a Calvinist, asks, “The over-riding question must always be the Divine intention; did God intend to save all men, or did He not?”

The fact that God desires that “all” should come to repentance implies that God has provided provisions for “all.” Christ died for all men. This verse teaches that if a man is lost, it is against God’s will because he wants “all” to come to repentance and be saved.

In 1 Timothy 2:4, Paul wrote, “Who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Here again God’s Word is clear. God desires that all men be saved.

In (Ezekiel 33:11) we read:

As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

God desires that the wicked turn from his evil ways and live. God does not want or wish that any person be lost.

Paul Enns, a Calvinist, wrote, “If God is sovereign then His plan cannot be frustrated, but if Christ died for all people and all people are not saved, then God’s plan is frustrated.”

God is sovereign, but his plan involves the free will of man. His plan is that those who by their free will elect to believe and become obedient will be saved.

God is “frustrated” or “grieved” when men do not respond to his saving grace (Gen. 6:5-6; Mark 3:5; Luke 19:41; Eph. 4:30).

God’s desire and will is frustrated when men are lost. God wants “all” to come to repentance and “all men” to be saved. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). “God is not willing that any should perish” (2 Pet. 3:9).

But, some will perish — not because Jesus did not die for them. He died for each individual person to show his intense love. If an individual is lost, it is because he has rejected God’s intense love. God does not desire it that way. But, he respects the right of a person to make his own decision.

Pardon for Sins Can Be Rejected

It is possible for pardon and salvation to be offered and rejected. In 1829 two men, Wilson and Porter, were apprehended in the state of Pennsylvania for robbing the United States mail. They were indicted, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging. Three weeks before the scheduled execution, President Andrew Jackson pardoned one of the men, George Wilson. This was followed by a strange decision. George Wilson refused the pardon! He was hung because he rejected the pardon.

Today, God has provided eternal salvation and pardon for all men. He has accomplished this by sending his one-of-a-kind Son to die for the sins of each and every individual person. However, this salvation can be refused.

If one chooses not to appropriate the blood of Christ over his sins initially and continually, he is refusing and rejecting the salvation which has been provided for him by God Almighty. While we can recognize the foolishness of such a decision, we must be aware of the fact that the majority of mankind will refuse their pardon (Matt. 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24). How sad!

Why Did God Create Man?

A lady asked me, “Why did God create man if he knew so many would be lost?”

This is a thought-provoking question. I answer this with two thoughts:

(1)    Whatever God does is right and just. We may not understand what he does but that is because we are human and finite while he is divine and infinite (Isa. 55:8-9). Deuteronomy 32:4 states, “For all his ways are justice: A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he.” God himself asked Job, “Wilt thou even annul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be justified?” Job attacked and condemned the present righteousness of God. Job sinned by doing this. Job later repented Job 40:35; 42:1-6).

(2)    I think the answer to this tough question is that God respects our free moral agency. If a man is lost, it will be his fault — not God’s! God has done everything possible for the salvation of each person. God will not overtake one’s will and force him to obey. Life is what we make it! We can avail ourselves of God’s love or we can spurn it and reject it. The choice is ours (Deut. 30:11-15; Joshua 24:15; Acts 2:37, 40).

Seaton, a Calvinist, said, “If it was God’s intention to save the entire world, then the atonement of Christ has been a great failure, for vast numbers of mankind have not been saved.”

Seaton misses it. Christ’s death was not a failure. The failure is man’s free moral will. Man by his own free will chooses not to obey. Christ is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9; cf. John 3:36; Rom. 6:17-18; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17).

On the Day of Judgment if a person is cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity, it will be his own failure – not God’s! The failure lies with man not with God.

Calvinists say they focus on God’s sovereignty while we focus on man’s free will. I say it is not an either/or situation; it is a both/and situation. Both of the these concepts are respected in the scriptures. We must accept both.

Conclusion

To deny the Bible teaching that Christ died for all is to make God a respecter of persons – unjust and unmerciful. The doctrine of limited atonement is false. All men are potentially saved. If a person refuses pardon, death is not the fault of the one who offered mercy, but of the one who refused to accept it.

(Editor’s Note: The word atonement means to cover or conceal. It is an Old Testament word and is not found in the New Testament. The sins of people before the cross could be atoned, but after the cross the sins of the obedient believer were forgiven. There is a dramatic difference. Under Moses there was a remembrance made of atoned sins year by year [Heb. 10:3 — the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins]. The blood of animals could cause God to overlook sins while remembering them year by year, but could not remove the sins. This was atonement. The blood of the Lamb of God is able not to merely cover or bypass sins, but to remove every transgression and disobedience. To receive the forgiveness available in the blood of the cross, one must obey [Heb. 5:7-8].)

The Seal and Earnest of the Spirit (E. Trimble)

By Earl Trimble

Vol. 107, No. 12

In its noun form the word earnest appears only three times in the New Testament (2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:14). In both of the Second Corinthian verses the word is used in the phrase, earnest of the Spirit. In the Ephesians verse it appears in the phrase, earnest Of our inheritance.

Thayer defines the Greek arrabon (translated earnest in these three passages) as “a foretaste and a pledge of future blessedness” (p. 75). Interestingly, Thayer likens foretaste to “tasted” as found in Hebrews 6:4 (“tasted of the heavenly gift”), in Hebrews 6:5 (“tasted the good word of God”), and I Peter 2:3 (“tasted that the Lord is gracious”). The idea of tasting is “to partake of, to enjoy, to experience.”

An analysis of these three verses reveals the contextual usage of the word earnest.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:5
“Now he that establisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”

“Now he that wrought us for this very thing is God, who gave unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”

Attention is called to three words used in these two verses as defined by Thayer:

  1. Anointing (chrisma): “a miraculous gift”
  2. Seal (sphragidzo): “to mark with a seal”
  3. Earnest (arrabon): “foretaste and pledge of future blessedness”

Notice also the usage of the expression, an anointing, as referring to a miraculous gift in I John 2:20, I John 2:27:

“And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things … his anointing teacheth you concerning all things.”

Brother Guy N. Woods (in his chart #20, used in his debate with Given 0. Blakely on the subject of the Holy Spirit) says (regarding the word earnest),

The word is used three times in the New Testament, but always in a figurative sense: in the first (2 Cor. 1:22) it is applied to the gifts of the Holy Spirit which God bestowed upon the apostles, and by which he might be said to have hired them to be the servants of his Son; and which were the earnest, assurance, and commencement of those far superior blessings which he would bestow on them in the life to come as the wages of their faithful services: in the two latter (2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14), it is applied to the gifts bestowed on Christians generally upon whom, after baptism, the apostles laid their hands, and which were to them an earnest of obtaining a heavenly habitation and inheritance, upon the supposition of their fidelity.

The contextual setting wherein the words (anointing, seal, and earnest) are used, show their relativity to the Holy Spirit as being the miraculous gifts that God bestowed upon the apostles and early Christians through agency of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, their primary application was to those of that age and not to us today. The word anointing is not applicable to us in any sense, who live in the post-miraculous era. The words seal and earnest could be said to apply to us today only in a secondary sense.

Ephesians 1:13-14
“. . . ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s. own possession. . . .”

In commenting on Ephesians 1:13, J. W. Shepherd says, “They [the Ephesians] received the gift of the Spirit in its miraculous manifestation. We do not; but we receive it in our hearts and bring them in subjection to it” (Gospel Advocate Commentary, p. 27). Commenting on verse 14 (p. 28), he uses the meaning of Romans 8:16-17 to illustrate the meaning of the earnest of our inheritance. He says, “It is rather the very work of the Spirit himself.” Then he explains how the Christian’s godly life, as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), is the assurance of God’s approval. David Lipscomb adds: “So much of real spiritual blessings as he enjoys is heaven already in his heart; what he has in the work and fruits of the Spirit is for him alike pledge and foretaste.”

Is it reasonable that the Spirit, himself, given to Christians as a seal and earnest for confirming God’s approval and guarantee (as some contend) would himself be dependent upon “outside evidence” (i.e., God’s word) to confirm his indwelling? It is the result of the indwelling, and not the indwelling itself, that serves as the seal and earnest. Testimony and confirmation by the Spirit is dependent upon action and not passivity on his part unless there was an effect, the cause would serve no purpose. Some, in contending for a direct, personal indwelling, are ready to admit to direct operations (miraculous manifestations) of the Spirit in the Christian’s life today.

Actually the Spirit proves his indirect indwelling, not in being passive, but rather by being active in producing fruit iii the Christian as the result of his teaching. This work performed by the Spirit in today’s Christian is accomplished indirectly through the medium of the all-sufficient, Spirit-empowered word (John 6:63, John 6:68; Acts 20:32; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12, et al).

Has Man Outgrown the Gospel?

By Allen Webster

Vol. 107, No. 11

Time is changing. The new soon becomes old; the modern becomes ancient; the technological breakthrough becomes yesterday’s news; the popular becomes lost in the latest; and the up-to-date is soon out-of-date.

Eternal truth never changes. It reads the same today as yesterday and as it will tomorrow. It is “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Those who would change it become “accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9) and find that it will meet them in judgment unchanged (Rev. 20:12).

Modem man feels he has outgrown the ancient gospel. He thinks an absolute standard is obsolete. Exaltation of self and sensuality replace the idea of sin and spiritual death. He ridicules blood and the need for forgiveness. He scoffs at the virgin birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, and miraculous resurrection of Christ. He regards these as myths of a bygone era.

Has Man Outgrown the Gospel?
Never! The only way man can outgrow the gospel is to conquer sin. He has not. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” was true in Paul’s day and is true today. Sin is still the transgression of the law of God (I John 3:4), which can include violating one’s conscience (Rom. 14:23), omitting a duty (James 4:17), and lawlessness (I John 3:4).

Never! God, not man, determines what is sinful; sin will not change. Men may call sin by another name, but that will not alter what it really is. Forgiveness is still the most basic spiritual need that man has (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23). The only way a person can be forgiven is through the gospel (Rom. 1:16).

Never! The gospel is the power to overcome temptation (Eph. 6:17), and man needs its power because temptation is still with us. Mankind has not conquered carnal desires. He still gives in to the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:15-17). He cannot overcome without the power of the written word (Heb. 4:12).

Never! The devil is still “as a roaring lion” walking about “seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). Man is still in danger; therefore he needs the unchanged gospel, for it is God’s great power to save. When humans can defeat Satan without the truth, then they will no longer need the truth. They cannot. No one is strong enough to conquer the Evil One without an “it is written” (Matt. 4:1-11).

Never! The soul of man needs food. If man could invent a substitute for “soul food,” he would not need the gospel, but he has not. Peter stated that the soul feeds on the “sincere milk of the word” (I Pet. 2:2), and Paul wrote that he could progress to eat “strong meat” from the hand of God (Heb. 5:12-14). The gospel fills those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).

Never! Man still needs a map to heaven. Men try to invent a roadway to heaven, but these maps will only get one lost. If we follow the road of “faith only” or the lane of “direct operation of the Holy Spirit” or the path of “once saved always saved,” we are traveling a broad way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). Only Christ and his gospel can lead one to heaven (John 14:6). “I must needs go home by the way of the cross; there’s no other way but this.”

Jesus plainly stated the conditions by which men can reach much needed salvation. A sinner must believe in Christ (Mark 16:16), decide to change his sinful life (repent) (Luke 13:5), confess the sweet name of Christ (Rom. 10:9-10), and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:4). We can choose to heed these scriptures or harass them, to read them or reject them, to respect them or ridicule them. Still, the same ancient gospel is the cure for all the spiritual ills of men! Why not obey today?

What About the Rapture?

by Joe E. Galloway

Vol. 106, No. 6, 7, and 8

The rapture is a widely accepted denominational doctrine. Popular TV and radio evangelists teach this idea. Several best-selling religious books deal with this subject. Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth, became a Hollywood movie. This book, first printed in 1970, was so popular that by 1976 it had gone through forty-two printings!

The result of this blitz of teaching is alarming. The news media mentioned the War in the Persian Gulf as maybe connected with Armageddon. Many people are using the term “the rapture” as if it was a commonly known and established future event, but the word “rapture” is not in any credible translation of the Bible.

The denominational idea of a coming rapture confuses folk and makes it difficult for them to understand and accept the truth. It is necessary to combat this false teaching before we can begin successfully to teach basic Bible truth. Some members of the church have accepted the teaching as Biblical. Brethren, we must teach the truth on “end times” and answer this false doctrine.

This incorrect view of “the rapture” says that Christ will soon appear and take the saved away from the earth for a seven-year rapture, leaving the unsaved on the earth to suffer. Most of us have read articles or heard hair-raising stories on what these people say will occur when Christ raptures the saved.

The anecdotes tell of men waking up and finding their wives and children mysteriously gone. Others, at work, abruptly disappear from their machines and desks. Drivers and pilots suddenly vanish, causing crippling crashes.

Those not raptured panic, not knowing what has happened. The phone lines are jammed as people call the police, the newspaper office, the radio station. Disorder is rampant. Finally, some slowly realize the “rapture” has taken place, and they, not ready, were left behind. Meanwhile, the saved have inexpressible bliss.

TOO NEW TO BE BIBLICAL

Few people seem to know this unbiblical teaching is somewhat new. Although the false doctrine of premillennialism has been around for a while, dispensational premillennialism (from which comes the rapture idea) is dated from about 1830, beginning with John N. Darby and the start of the Plymouth Brethren movement.

One writer claims the two-stage idea of Christ’s coming commenced with Miss Margaret MacDonald in Port Glasgow, Scotland a few years earlier. No one can trace it back before the 1800’s. This shows the doctrine to be unscriptural. It started 1700 years too late to be from God!

THE DISPENSATIONAL PREMILLENNIAL THEORY EXPLAINED

Dispensationalists, generally, teach that all human history falls into seven divisions. They disagree on the designations and the exact periods covered in the first five dispensations, but all agree we are now living in the sixth period, called, by them, the Dispensation of Grace. They expect the seventh dispensation to last one thousand years and call it, The Millennium.

Most say the Dispensation of Grace will soon end with the reputed rapture. The living righteous will be caught up to meet Christ in the air to be judged and rewarded. The rapture lasts seven years (the “final week” of Daniel’s prophesy – Daniel 9:27)

On earth, during this seven-year period, is The Great Tribulation. During the first part of this period, the Jews in Palestine make a covenant with Antichrist. They rebuild the temple, renew its sacrifices, and convert many to Judaism.

In the middle of this seven-year period the Antichrist breaks covenant with the Jews and demands to be worshiped. Multitudes are slaughtered in a great persecution.

After seven years, Christ comes back to earth with the raptured saints. Dispensational premillennialists call this The Revelation. The battle of Armageddon is fought and the Antichrist is destroyed in the war.

The righteous dead are, at last, remembered and resurrected. All the nations are judged. The millennium begins. Christ rules the world from earthly Jerusalem, sitting on David’s literal throne. After the thousand years, Satan is loosed for a little while. After Satan’s last fling, the wicked dead are resurrected and judged in “The Great White Throne Judgment.”

A PROOF TEXT

Teachers of dispensational premillennialism claim First Thessalonians teaches their speculation about a rapture and tribulation and millennial reign of Jesus on earth. “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” (1 Thess. 4:17).

The verse does mention the living saved, along with the resurrected saved, caught up to meet the Lord in the air, however the passage speaks of what occurs after all the dead are raised and judged and says nothing of a secret rapture. The passage also indicates the redeemed in Hades are resurrected and the saved on earth are transformed simultaneously.

The book of First Thessalonians does not teach a clandestine return and rapture but says, “he (Jesus) shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). This is one of the noisiest verses in the Bible! The verse says, “the dead in Christ shall rise first.”

Verse 17 says the saved of earth shall, with the sainted dead, be caught up “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” The word “so,” most people know, is an adverb of manner, and means “in this manner,” that is, “in the air,” shall we ever be with the Lord.

The rapture notion teaches, instead, that only the living righteous will be caught up in the air to be with Christ for seven years. Then they are to return to earth with him in The Revelation.

The advocates of a covert coming of Christ and the rapture say the Bible pictures the final coming Jesus as like a thief. So, they think, he will sneak in and snatch the saved from the earth secretly, like a thief doing his work.

The Bible does not teach the act of Christ’s coming to be as a thief, but says “the day” comes like a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2). This does not teach that Christ will be sneaking in and out but shows we cannot know when Christ is coming.

CONTRARY TO BIBLICAL TEACHING

Many things in this fanciful doctrine contradict Bible truth! The word “rapture” is not Biblical. Hal Lindsey says it is not in the Bible and tells us not to look for It (The Late Great Planet Earth, page 126). Consider some discrepancies of this doctrine with God’s revealed truth.

First Discrepancy

The idea that the saved are to be taken from the world, while the lost remain, violates Bible teaching. The parable of the tares (Matt. 13:24-30; Matt. 13:38-43) disproves this notion. The wheat and the tares grow together “until the harvest” (13:30). Jesus tells us “the good seed are the children of the kingdom” and “the tares are the children of the wicked one” (13:38). “The harvest is the end of the world” (13:39). The sacred scriptures say the good and the bad will “grow together” until the “end of the world.” In the final harvest the householder will command, “Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in the bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (verse 30). Jesus’ interpretation of the parable says, “The Son of man shall send forth his angles, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun” (verses 41-43). The impress of the passage is a simultaneous judgment of the saved and the lost. The parable says the lost are to be cast into the fires of hell at the same time the saved go to their heavenly mansions.

Second Discrepancy

Dispensational millenarians teach separate resurrections of the good and evil. According to them, the transformed righteous of earth are swept away to a seven-year ecstasy. After the seven years, the sainted dead are resurrected to take part in a victorious 1,000 year earthly kingdom. After this, the wicked are resurrected. This makes different resurrections separated by at least 1,000 years.

Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29).

Some try to dodge the force of this by saying that “all” simply refers to the saved. Jesus takes care of this quibble- “they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” The ransomed and the dammed are raised the same hour.

Third Discrepancy

The rapture theory demands a secret coming of Christ. In discussing the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus told his disciples not to believe it if some said, “Lo, here is Christ, or there” (Matt. 24:23-26). Jesus explained, “For as the lightening cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:27).

Just as all see the flash of lightening, so Christ’s ultimate coming will be open and public. It will not be an event so secret that most of mankind will not even realize Christ has returned until many hours afterward. Acts 1:11 tells us, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” When he comes again, “every eye shall see him” (Rev. 1:7).

Fourth Discrepancy

The rapture speculation of millennial dispensationalists demands two future, literal returns of Christ. They call one return “the rapture” and the other return “the revelation.” Jesus promised, “I will come again” (John 14:3). He did not say, “I will come again and again.” Hebrews 9:28 tells us that “unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” A third literal coming of Jesus is not promised in the holy scripture.

Dispensationalists downplay what the Bible says about a second literal coming by calling it the first and second “phase” of his second coming. This does not remove the fact they teach he is coming two more times, with seven years between his second and third coming. The Bible teaches one, still future, literal coming of Christ!

Fifth Discrepancy

A seven-year period of great tribulation on earth triggered by the second, literal coming of Jesus is not in the Bible. Matthew 24:21 mentions “great tribulation” at the destruction of Jerusalem – not after this age and the destruction of the earth.

The great tribulation of Matthew 24 cannot refer to Jesus’ last coming. The passage tells his followers not to return to their houses for possessions and speaks of the difficulty of being pregnant or nursing a baby and of the inconvenience of fleeing during the winter or on the Sabbath, all of which is meaningless, unless he is speaking of Jerusalem’s destruction, and not of his second, final coming. If Jesus is coming again to steal, like a thief, the good folk from the earth, it is pointless to tell them not to pack their clothes nor urge them to pray nor to have babies, nor that it is winter, nor the Sabbath day when he comes to zing them into rhapsody.

Revelation 7:14 speaks of victorious saints who suffered “great tribulation” on earth, who are rewarded by the Lord in heaven. There is no passage in all the Bible that speaks of a great tribulation after the Christian age. The Bible speaks instead of great comfort for the redeemed at the end of this period.

Sixth Discrepancy

The antichrist concept of millennialism is foreign to the scriptures. Antichrist simply means a person who is against Christ. The term is never used in the Bible to designate a leader of the forces of evil at the end of time.

1 John 2:18 helps answer this false emphasis. John said, “even now are many antichrists.” The antichrists of John’s day disprove the claim that one antichrist will appear after this age.

A list of those identified as the antichrist is amusing – Napoleon, Wilhelm, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Henry Kissinger, and Ronald Reagan. Soon someone will add Suddam Hussein to the roll. The prophets for dispensationalism are obviously wide of the mark, but that does not seem to bother their followers. They commonly ignore Deuteronomy 18:22! The prophets of the rapture, who teach lies, are the tail (Isa. 9:15)

Seventh Discrepancy

The battle of Armageddon, according to dispensational millenialists, is a war between the forces of the antichrist and those of Jesus at his literal, second coming. Revelation 16:14 mentions a “battle” and Revelation 16:16 mentions a place called “Armageddon.” Neither the antichrist nor Christ’s last coming is mentioned in this passage.

Pre-millennialists say prophetic statements should be accepted in an unqualified sense. The battle of Armageddon is therefore a verbatim, carnal warfare. Some claim the carnage will be so great blood will really flow to the depth of the horse’s bits – horses will be swimming in human blood.

Will they accept as literal “three unclean spirits like frogs” coming “out of the mouth of the dragon” to gather the kings to battle? The war of Revelation 16 is no more literal than is the instigator a literal frog who comes out of the mouth of a literal dragon.

Eighth Discrepancy

Advocates of the rapture say the earthly phase of the kingdom of heaven is to begin when Christ comes a second time unto salvation. The bible says the earthly phase of the kingdom of God now exists and will end when Jesus appears a final time.

The kingdom of heaven, which John the Baptist said was at hand, began on the Pentecost of Acts 2, during the Roman empire as foretold in Daniel 2:44. First century saints were in it (Col. 1:13-14; Heb. 12:28). At Jesus’ last coming he will deliver an already established kingdom to God the Father (1 Cor. 15:23-25).

Ninth Discrepancy

Dispensationalists list as many as seven separate days of judgment. All such false teachers list at least three days of judgment – one at the claimed rapture of the saints, another for the nations after the assumed seven-year tribulation, and a third at the end of the so-called millennium.

The Bible teaches one day of judgment. Near the end of the gospel of Matthew we read of the day of judgment at least four times (Matt. 10:15; Matt. 11:22-24; Matt. 12:36), and “judgment” (singular) at least two more times (Matt. 12:41-42). “He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world” (Acts 17:31). The idea of various days of judgment for various groups of people is alien to the Bible.

“As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:27-28).

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Anti-Christs (antichrist)

By A. B. Gregoreo

Vol. 121, No. 08

No other term in the Bible stirs the imagination and fires such wild speculation as that of “antichrist.” The speculation is extreme among those religious teachers holding the various premillennial theories. It is the stuff of scary movies and novels that attract multitudes of superstitious worldlings. In their ignorance, authors weave a web of error. God’s word provides the light that will help us understand the who and what of “antichrist.”

The term is a combination of “anti’ and Christ. “Anti” has two basic meanings: (1) “over against,” hence one who puts himself in the place of Christ; (2). “opposition to,” i.e., one who stands in opposition to Christ.

From first to last, the story of the Bible is that of Satan’s attempts to take the place of God, and his opposition to the Creator’s rule and will. This was first displayed in heaven in the misty past when certain angels, not content with their position, sinned and were cast down to hell (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). Satan then appeared in Eden to corrupt the only creatures made in God’s image (Gen. 3:1-6).

In Noah’s day he nearly succeeding in snaring all of humanity in his vile net (Gen. 6:9-12). In Egypt, Satan’s man enslaved the Hebrews and slaughtered their male children. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, crushed God’s people and demanded that they worship his image (Dan. 3:1-5).

The Holy Spirit inspired Daniel to foresee Satanic efforts to hinder and even destroy God’s cause. From the broken Grecian Empire he saw a “little- horn that rose up to persecute God’s people (Dan. 8:9-14; 23-25). This represented the Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes (176-164). He hated the Jews and their religion. Their temple he robbed. He placed an image of Jupiter in the Holy of Holies. A swine was sacrificed on the sacred altar and the temple defiled with its blood. He forbade circumcision. Every copy of the Hebrew Scriptures that could be found was destroyed. He tore down the walls of Jerusalem. Truly he was anti-God.

Daniel also saw yet another little horn that persecuted God’s people. It sprang from the Roman Empire and most likely represented the vicious emperor Domition (Dan. 7:23-26). From Nero onward most of the Roman emperors were antichrist.

Jesus was confronted by antichrist forces of evil. At his birth, wicked Herod the Great sought to have him murdered. When his ministry was launched, the Jewish hierarchy waged an ongoing war against him and his teaching. Ultimately they secured his death. The Master warned his disciples of imposters who would claim to be Christ, i.e. messiah (Matt. 24:5). With deceitful signs they would lead many astray, even among the elect (Matt. 24:24).

Paul warned of a coming “man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:1-12) — described as the “son of perdition.” He would oppose and exalt himself against all that is called God or worshiped. He would sit in the temple of God and set forth himself as God. His coming would surely be a work of Satan. He would use lying signs and wonders to deceive people. This malevolent spirit of anti-Christian iniquity was already at work in Paul’s day.

The apostle John wrote of “antichrists,” not just one single evil individual. In his day there were already many antichrists. They formerly had been among the faithful churches but they have gone out from them because them were no longer with them in heart and mind (1 John 2:18-19). They were liars because they denied that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22). They denied his Sonship to God. They were false prophets. In their teaching they denied Jesus had come in the flesh, i.e., his incarnation. They were actively at work in John’s day and he warned the brethren to reject and avoid them. They were deceivers (2 John 7). Because they did not abide in the doctrine of Christ, they had not God (2 John 9). There is an attitude or spirit held by certain false teachers then and now which John labels “anti-Christian” (1 John 4:1-3).

Antichrists are of two varieties. There are those yet within the church. Paul warned the Ephesian elders, “From among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). He likewise warned Timothy that “some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Such antichrists seek to corrupt the faith and practice of the church. They seek power and control over congregations.

Some create their own churches that compete with Christ’s church for the souls of men. These are counterfeit churches that do great damage to Christianity. We see popes who put themselves in the place of Christ, claiming to be the head of the church (Eph. 1:22). Of similar nature are the founders and heads of denominations. Founders and leaders of all the cults that pervert the message of the Master seek to situate their “church” in the place of Christ’s sacred body as antichrist. Most prominent in this class of antichrists are those theologians and “pastors” who have embraced one of the many varieties of religious skepticism. Claiming to be Christians, they deny Jesus existed from eternity, that he is God, that he was virgin born, that he worked genuine miracles, that his death secured for- give of humanity’s sins, and that he arose and ascended back to heaven. Occupying positions in seminaries and churches, these unbelievers are against Christ and his holy Cause.

Then there are those antichrists who in no way are associated with Christianity. They are unbelievers of every stripe who hate Jesus, his church, his word, and his disciples. Their hatred drives them to make war against the saints (Rev. 12:13-17). This warfare can be violent, physical persecution such as Rome and Jews employed in the early years. Modern examples of this violent anti-Christian spirit are seen in Russia under Communism, China, Cuba and most Muslim nations.

The opposition of unbelieving anti-Christians can be ideological such as presently prevails in academia, the media and the entertainment industry. They ignore the existence of Christianity, or they marginalize Christians. They subject them to ridicule and continual assaults on their faith. This opposition can take the form of legal harassment. Anti-Christian organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State use every legal trick to hinder, hobble, and undermine the influence of Christianity in America.

Imagining antichrist to be some horrid supernatural enemy who is to come at the end of our age, many are ignorant, blind, and unaware of the antichrists working in their very midst!

Paul describes the end of all such anti-Christian enemies, “Whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8). In the day when the Christ returns, “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God “ (Phil. 2:10-11). This will certainly include every person who has set himself in the place of Christ or worked against his cause!

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