A RAPTURE AT THE END OF THE WORLD

rapture-with-Jesus-Christ_thumb.jpg

rapture with Jesus Christ

The main positions on the rapture place it sometime around the beginning, the middle, or the end of the Tribulation of the End Days. I will argue that the rapture will take place just before the combustion of the world at the end of time. There are problems with each of the mainstream positions on the rapture, and there are even reasonable arguments against the rapture theory I want to advance. However, my theory seems the most logical for at least two reasons: the others are in contradiction with the account of the First Resurrection in Revelation, and also, the arguments against my theory do not preclude it. There is also significant positive evidence for a rapture after the age of peace and some may find that it amounts to proof.

First of all, let’s just establish that the rapture does occur. Paul describes it clearly in 1 Corinthians 15, particularly in the first verse when he says, “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” The only way that is possible in the context there is if we are transfigured before death.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Paul also gives a clear description of the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4. Here Paul emphasizes that all Christians have a place with Jesus: the dead will be resurrected and then the living will be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (v.17)

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel,and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.

So from these two passages in Paul we must notice a few things.
1) in a twinkling of the eye God will transfigure the living (this is what we call the rapture)
2) the order is first that Christ will return (accompanied by certain signs) (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
3) and then the dead will be resurrected (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
4) and after the resurrection, then those alive will be transfigured (1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Corinthians 15:51-53)

One more significant scripture on the rapture, though we will not analyze it yet, is Matthew 24 in which Jesus speaks somewhat cryptically. That is one of the places we hear of two people together,  ‘one taken, another left’.

So what is the controversy? Paul has explained clearly that there will be a rapture for believers. The main issue is the timing. Revelation’s detailed treatment of the End Times does not give much clear information on the rapture. If the rapture came before tribulation or during tribulation, why does the passage above in 1 Thessalonians 4 tie the resurrection and rapture to the coming of Christ? We read He comes first, and with a trumpet, a shout and the voice of an archangel. Would one say that such a coming is either before the tribulation or during the tribulation? Matthew 24:27 says that “like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be.” Then can we say He comes publicly in glory before the tribulation to resurrect and rapture, or in the middle of the tribulation in that way, and then He returns again to win the battle of Armageddon? I don’t think so. But let’s look more at Matthew 24, because it is so valuable. In it, Jesus addresses His disciples for one of the last times.

Matthew 24:20-31
Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.  For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen.  And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.  Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him.
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  Remember, I have told you ahead of time.  So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him.  For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be.  Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 
“Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.  Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heave unto the other.

We see here
1) The elect will be there at the end. Why else would the days need to be cut short? (v. 22)
2) Jesus’ anticipated return is “immediately after the suffering of those days” when the “sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.” (vv.29,30) In other words, the one whom many will be waiting for, wishing He were even in the wilderness or the inner room, will not come until at the end, with those signs.

We are many times told to wait on the Lord. We are told to wait on Him and expect Him for a coming at the end of Tribulation. Read how Luke 21 has the matter.

Luke 21:20
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.
Luke 21:25-28
And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

So the pre-tribulation and mid-tribulation theories are very hard to support when 1 Thessalonians 4 places the rapture with the return of Christ, and the return of Christ according to Matthew 24 and Luke 21 is at the end of the Tribulation period. However I don’t believe in a rapture at the end of the tribulation period either, despite the seemingly strong indications we have seen to expect it then. The following passage is crucial and proves all three popular theories of the rapture wrong.

Revelation 20:4-7,11,12
I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection…[they] shall reign with him a thousand years.   And when the thousand years are expired…And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

This means
1) For a thousand years only martyrs of the Tribulation will live and reign with Christ. (v. 20:4) This selective resurrection is called the First Resurrection. (v. 20:5)
2) After a thousand years is the general resurrection. Then we are judged for life or death. (vv. 20:7,11,12)

As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:15,16, the “dead in Christ shall rise first,” and “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep.” That means that the rapture must take place at the end of the Millenial Reign just after the general resurrection. 

The option for the time of the rapture left is that when “rest of the dead” are raised, after the thousand years, there will be a rapture of the living at that time.  And there is actually very strong evidence that this interpretation is correct.  The following verses show that the resurrection of the dead is at Christ’s Coming and that this is at the end of creation.  That essentially decisively settles the issue of when the rapture takes place because it must take place at the time of the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:23-26
in Christ shall all be made alive.But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 
For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

So we see above that Christ comes at the end, turns the kingdom over to His Father, and His rule in power is different then.  Perhaps the role of our Lord is as High Priest more than ruler.  At the end, seemingly when death is to be destroyed, and this will be verified below, we read that all will be resurrected and made alive. (The resurre1 Corinthians 15:21,22)  The rapture cannot occur until then.

The vivid picture of the rapture as occurring in a “twinkling of an eye” is found in this same 15th chapter in verses 51 and 52.  Then Paul says this,

1 Corinthians 15:53-57
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This passage concerns the exchange of a corruptible body for a body of spirit.  It occurs when “death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54)  But as Paul has said in the 26th verse of this 15th chapter, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  Paul is giving clear testimony that the rapture occurs when death has come to an end.  Death begins when our immortality begins.  That is the end, after the thousand years are finished, after the combustion of the universe, when we are all judged.  This conclusion is further verified by the fact that in Revelation 20:13,14 describe how death and Hades give up the dead in them and are then thrown into the Lake of Fire.  This takes places after the thousand years at the Last Judgment of all mankind.

There are intuitive reasons this makes sense.
1) The other plan would remove all believers from Earth just when He begins the founding of the glorious Peaceable Kingdom.  Instead, the world, which will be rallying to God in righteousness, will benefit from the leadership of those who believe.
2) People will call on the Lord in mourning just before He arrives. But not all who call on the Lord will be saved, but those who do His will. (Matthew 7:21) To remain on Earth gives them a chance to prove their fidelity, thereby giving more meaning to that verse.
3) The glory of the Lord will cover the Earth as the waters cover the sea. People will know Christ and be filled with the Spirit. For a thousand years the wicked Powers that Be, including the Devil, will be thrown down, and the world will live much closer to the way God has always desired. Then Christ will want to show His triumph and favor to His worshipers in Spirit and Truth. Facing the worst and overcoming it by relying on Him, Christians (not everyone) will be spared the final combustion of the world at the end because they do not deserve that destruction. God will show the difference in how he treats the righteous compared to the rebels.

While this theory makes sense intuitively for those 3 reasons, and while it appears to be a necessary view for those who believe scripture, there are certain objections that are reasonable.

Rapture just prior to the total combustion of the world seems objectionable because
1) Matthew 24 and other places in the Gospels sound as though the rapture is at the Second Coming
2) Shouldn’t scripture indicate this theory more clearly if it is right? When does it speak of a Third Coming, since He must after all, come back for the rapture to take place?

There may be more objections but I will try to address both of these. The first objection, that Christ seems to say He will “gather His elect” at the time of His return seems the strongest objection. Matthew 24:30,31 says,

30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven,and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heave unto the other.
Matthew 24:30,31)

On my theory, the Second Coming of Christ, when He defeats the Anti-Christ, is simply not distinguished here from a later Third Coming at the end of this creation with its resurrection and rapture. That sounds strange and like it makes Matthew 24 very cryptic in communication. That is true to an extent, however, it is completely typical of prophetic statements, and Christ is “the Prophet”.

Prophecy sometimes condenses two or more events, to make them sound one. I want to establish this in scriptures by a number of examples. Probably read at least the first one, but if you accept it, feel free to skip below to the discussion on the second objection. So the first example is,

Malachi 4:5
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD

Jesus taught that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of this prophecy, but while that does happen prior to the great and dreadful day of the Lord, a reader of Malachi might have expected it to be immediately preceding that great and dreadful Day. In fact the gap is at least about 2000 years. Remember that many of Christ’s disciples expected that reign with an iron scepter to come immediately and condensation of scripture like this is a major reason Jewish people held that expectation.  The gap between Matthew 24:30 and 24:31, which is the time I propose is collapsed in prophecy, is only 1000 years, thus also reasonable. Now various scriptures lend intertextual support to the idea that “the” Coming of Christ will be the Second Coming. However, first of all, Malachi also strengthens the condensed view of that Dreadful Day in chapters 2:17-3:2.  And secondly we will show that there is more intertextual support for a Third Coming.

In Acts 2:17 Peter condensed a great deal it seems in describing these as the Last Days. In Peter’s second epistle, the Apostle explained that what seems delay to us can be swift in the Lord’s time, 

Daniel 9:24-27 is another example of condensation. The prophecy is that there will be seventy weeks and many people find this to be an incredibly solid prophecy of Christ’s birth and death. The final week almost all interpreters understand as the Tribulation but there is no clear indication of a gap in time in the text. We are presuming, probably rightfully so in my opinion, that the prophecy has condensed time, (between Jesus’ death and the Tribulation).

The end of Isaiah, below, is another example. Verse 23 speaks of the world worshiping God in Zion during the Peaceable Kingdom on Earth. Verse 24 portrays the witness of the defeated and slain enemies of God as an eternal act of witness. However this eternal witness only takes place after the end of this creation (see Revelation excerpt beneath the one from Isaiah).

Isaiah 66:23,24
23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.
24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Revelation 14:10-11
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 [any man who received the mark]
shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

A reader could get the idea that people on Earth will always be looking at these tormented dead. (Though admittedly this is not what it says.) In reality, Isaiah has condensed time; he has condensed this creation with the next so that the viewing of the slain Anti-Christ worshipers in eternity seems a more palpable reality.

The prophecies in Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning Babylon may also be a condensation. Those two prophets may be predicting the fall of the historical Babylon in a number of places, but this seems to blend into the distant perspective of a prophecy of the End Times. For we read in Revelation 18:21,

“And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.”

Furthermore the typical way for Christ and the New Testament writers to characterize His return is a great condensation. One would tend to get the impression it would happen very soon. This is not failed prophecy. Christ explains in Matthew 24 that many things must happen first, and Paul explains in 2 Thessalonians that the “Son of Perdition” must be revealed first, and Peter explains in his second epistle that God has His own sense of time and thousands of years may be imminent to Him. But in many other places the Coming is given as very urgent.  The actual time of prophetic fulfillment is much more distant than it naturally seems. Therefore a gap in the fulfillment of a prophecy between one verse and the next, as between Matthew 24 verse 30 and 31 is natural.

In Matthew 24 Jesus also condenses time in other places. In verse 20, speaking only to His disciples about the End Times, he says, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.” This makes it sound as though they will be in those times. And reading Paul especially it sounds as though he was constantly expecting the end. Jesus also tells the Sanhedrin in Matthew 26:64 that they will see Him coming on the clouds of Heaven. The Sanhedrin must see Jesus once they are resurrected to see Him in His Coming despite the way the prophecy sounds it will happen before they die. It sounds very soon, but reason demands that the prophecy was intended for some time much later (around resurrection). The same is true of Matthew 24:30,31. The narrative sounds straightforward, but we know it cannot be because the general resurrection must occur before verse 31.

Matthew 24:30,31
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Matthew 24:34
 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

It sounds as though Jesus is saying “I will do A, then I will do B straightaway.” But what He really says is, “I will do A, and I will do B, and in one generation all those things will be fulfilled.”  To understand the time period Jesus was indicating we might want to know how long a generation is.  By the Second Century had Jesus’ prophecy failed? The Greek word for “generation” is more complex than ours, but Christ seems to use it of people of a certain era or epoch, or of a certain type. (Luke 16:8)  If a thousand years is as a day, how long is a generation?

We could complain that this is obscure and that we should take it more plain. But there may be no more plain interpretation if we take the various scriptures seriously and Jesus sometimes speaks in ways that are easier to misunderstand than to understand. For instance,

John 2:19
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

So I have given 5 examples of condensation in prophecy:
Malachi 4:5
2 Peter and the Combustion of All
Daniel’s 70 weeks
The End of Isaiah
The Fall of Babylon
The Coming of Christ in the Gospels

I supplied these examples as evidence that scripture often portrays something relatively near in time and something far off as though they are one. Lacking outside information one could be unlikely to find the seam in the scripture to indicate there are two different narratives there. In Matthew 24, it is the Disciples who conflate these times in their response to Jesus when He says that the stones of the Temple will be thrown down. “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?” (Matthew 24:3) They are asking three questions as though they are equivalent. Jesus gives them the essential information. Because prophetic condensation is typical in the scriptures it is reasonable, given strong supporting evidence, to allow that Matthew 24:31 could take place much later than Matthew 24:30.

The key argument that the verses are separated in time is that the general resurrection is not until “after the thousand years” (Revelation 20:5) and this event is the sine qua non of the rapture (2 Thessalonians 4:16,17). Paul’s writings also demand a rapture at the time of the end of creation as we see in 1 Corinthians 23,24,51-57.

Let’s move on to the second objection.

Objection #2) If true, shouldn’t scripture indicate the theory of a post Millenial rapture more clearly? When does scripture speak of a Third Coming, since after all, He must return for a rapture?

I would argue that the New Testament does strongly hint at a final return of the Lord before the final combustion of the universe.

The first piece of evidence is when Peter refers to the end of this creation as the Day of the Lord – to come as a thief in the night. Remember that in Matthew 24:43 Jesus describes Himself as a thief who will return at an hour unknown when there will be a rapture and unexpected destruction.

2 Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

This is a strong indication that the Lord will be present before the destruction of the world. If the Lord appears, and described with the rapture language of Matthew 24, then we have more reason to think this may be when the Church is raptured.

Below, Paul also makes it clear that Jesus will return to judge the world.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”

Here Paul writes that in “that day” “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed” will be the end of unbelievers, and they will be sent into everlasting destruction away from God’s majesty.  This separation occurs on “that day” Jesus comes, not after a wait of 1000 years. At that time He will also be glorified before His saints and admired by them.  But a final judgment such as this cannot take place until the end. Therefore we know that Paul speaks of Jesus’ Coming as not just a time of eternal judgment for some, but the time of eternal judgment of Revelation 20. This Day is also Peter’s Day of the Lord, the combustion.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:7 above, believers rest together. Paul had already written to that church, in 1 Thessalonians, a vital prophecy about this issue.

1 Thessalonians 5:2-

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

Like Peter, Paul describes a “Day of the Lord” which means a “sudden destruction” to the world. Can such an appearance and rapture take place at the Second Coming? We know from 2 Peter 3:10, the passage above in 2 Thessalonians, and 2 Timothy 4:1, quoted below, that the appearing of Christ means the time of judgment.  Moreover, would the end of Tribulation be similar to the normative conditions of the days of Noah and Sodom?  Revelation shows the world in catastrophe and full of terror before Christ’s return. (Revelation 6)

2 Timothy 4:1
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.

Reading that verse alone we may think the judgment is to prolong life or end life at Armageddon, but other passages, such as 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, do not allow that interpretation.  How could there be an eternal separation, spoken of in Revelation 20 and above, when more souls would still be born? Is it really possible for the rapture to be followed by the redemption of more Christians? Paul addresses all the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, saying that living or dead, at the resurrection and rapture, “we will be with the Lord forever.” (v.17) Then would only some be gathered? That is certainly not the portrayal in Revelation 20. If you say more souls would yet be born, when would the people born after the rapture be resurrected or raptured?  As Revelation teaches, aside from the martyrs, there is one day for resurrection, when death and Hades give up their dead and are then thrown into the lake of fire. On that day, all believers in Christ will comer together in joy.

2 Corinthians 1:14

“As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 

In order to show that scriptures are not silent about a Third Coming we have quoted scripture to show that Christ comes at the time of the combustion of the world, that His appearing will be a time of eternal judgment, and that His appearing will be a time when all believers are gathered together to admire Him. We also remember that in Revelation 20 we are taught that when the world flees away from God, then all are resurrected and judged according to what they had done.

Let’s move on to examining other ways in which a Third Coming is indicated by scriptures.

In Matthew 24:42-25:46 gives four parables for the return of Christ. All four show His return to be a time of judgment.  Then Christ will return again at the end of the Peaceable Kingdom, since that is the time of judgment. Moreover, the context of that passage (Matthew 24:40-42) seems to be the rapture at the end of the Age.

Matthew 13:37-42 draws a strong linguistic parallel between the gathering of the wheat and tares and the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 by the use of similar verbs for “gather”. Both passages also depict the angels as those who gather.  The harvest of souls then, must be at the end of the world, the saints are gathered and separated then, and not before. 

Another objection is probably very important to some Christians: that the Coming of Jesus at the Rapture is with the last trumpet blast. (Given at our three major texts: 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, Matthew 24, and 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.) Readers may tie the sign of the trumpet to texts that definitely sound like the battle of the End Times for instance in Isaiah 27:13, and Zechariah 9:14. Furthermore the trumpet and the “cry of command” in some translations of 1 Thessalonians 4:16, sound like preparations for war, and the Battle of Armageddon is the ultimate war. Readers are right to point this out, however there is also a war at the end of time, so it too has a military context. The nations have at that time gathered against Israel and the universe is about to be utterly destroyed, so a commanding shout is in order. What God created with a word, he rolls up with a shout.

Conclusion

If my argument about the timing of the rapture is right, we will all sleep before taking on an incorruptible body.  (We won’t be immediately transplanted to Heaven on our death. To this point see 1 Peter 5:4 and 1 John 3:2.)

Because this article is long I will just review the argument quickly.

People will be waiting on Earth for Jesus during the Tribulation. We know that because Christ warns us against believing in a secret coming since He will come like lightning visible to the whole world (Matthew 24:26,27). Luke 21:28 says, “when these things [dismay] begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” That redemption I propose is His military intervention to save the world and usher in a Peaceable Kingdom.

The snag on the theory of rapture around the time of the Armageddon, or any tribulation theory, comes out prominently in Revelation 20 where we learn that the Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah occurs for a thousand years during which time none are resurrected except 144,000 saints of the End Times. Since the rapture is inseparable from the resurrection, the rapture must wait until the end of the Peaceable Kingdom.

There are two major objections to this view. First is that Matthew 24:30,31 sounds as though the rapture occurs as soon as Jesus returns to defeat the Anti-Christ. My response was to show how prophets commonly condense time, foreshortening things in the distant future the way that clouds on the Western horizon can give the appearance of lighting up as one mass.

The second objection is the notable silence in the Bible on a late rapture or Third Coming. My response is that the Bible does do things to indicate, though somewhat subtly, that Jesus will come back a third time, and that the rapture must occur then.

Examples of these hints include that Matthew 24:40-25:46 portrays the rapture as a piece of the final judgment, which we also independently know happens at the very end of the world. There is at that time a separation of the righteous and wicked in four different parables demonstrating eternal judgment. The Bible thereby indicates that Christ will come at the time of the final judgment, also pointing out that it is the time of the rapture. Matthew 13:37-42 creates a parallel with Matthew 24:31, implying that the rapture is a gathering by the angels at the final harvest. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 and 2 Timothy 4:1 also point to a Third Coming since the return of Christ there is simultaneous with the judgment of the wicked.

The Peaceable Kingdom is a time of untold righteousness on Earth when the glory of the Lord will cover the Earth as the waters cover the sea. The world will have been worshiping God and Jesus and bringing Him great pleasure and delight. His longsuffering to see His vision for peace and righteousness on Earth will reap a harvest of glory for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is His vision from the beginning, see Genesis 1:28-30. Israel will be holy and its territory will be enlarged. For these reasons it seems natural that God would prefer to translate the entire Church into spirit, giving them honor rather than the humiliation of destruction, as though God had failed. At the end, God will be resurrecting all, should He then destroy His Church before resurrecting them too?

MAYA ANGELOU EXCERPT. MANY AND MORE.

maya angelou 1

maya angelou 2

From, Many and More
by Maya Angelou

There are many and more
who would kiss my hand,
taste my lips,
to my loneliness lend
Their bodies’ warmth.

I have want of a friend.

There are few, some few,
who would give their names
and fortunes rich
or send first sons
to my ailing bed.

I have need of a friend.

There is one and only one
who will give the air
from his failing lungs
for my body’s mend.

And that one is my love.

DO BABIES HAVE SOULS?

three-infants_thumb.jpg

three infants

Is a person the result of accident or were we created on purpose? We each have souls that are eternal and we each were made with a plan from before time; a design of our life unto eternity. What is a fetus in the womb? Some people say it is a person, a baby. One thing is even more clear, it is a potential person. Therefore when a person aborts the fetus in their womb they end the life of a soul that would be born and grow up on this planet; that could take breath and hear the Word of God; that could make its own decisions. That soul, even if it is not present in the womb, has been cut off from the trajectory of its life. It is a person because if it were not it would not be born with a soul ready to live out its days and make eternal decisions.

Since 1973 there have been about 50 million abortions in the U.S. Over 70% of abortion clinics are in minority neighborhoods. This is the slaughter of some very beautiful people.  Why is it ok to kill children in the womb? In what way is it a right for a mother to kill her child? Why are some people, usually women, so fierce in the defense of that legal option?  In their outrage they make it seem like a baby with a secure right to life is a moral abomination. We avert our eyes.

This is a video about a clinic whose doctor was charged with gross misconduct (8 murders). It can be pretty graphic, but nonetheless, it makes me realize how badly we need to look out for each other. If we do not look out for each other, some of us will be complicit with the predators and others will be predators.

If you are a woman who has had an abortion there is a recourse for you and there is a path to reconciliation with God.  His name is Jesus Christ and He died for us to live to Him.  He was willing to die to show His love for us.  Have you ever loved someone so much that you would die for them.  God is perfect love, His sacrifice is perfect.  That sacrifice is hallowed and must only be made once,  It has the power to restore any sinner and bring anyone into eternal life.  My sins are abominations.  I have sinned grievously both before and after finding out that Jesus is God and lives.  But there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  I don’t want you to grieve or feel unloved.  Find that sweet and merciful love in our God who knows us so well.  We are beloved to Him and He knows how to heal our hurts.  If He did not stand for sinners why would He die.  it is His glory that He loves you and calls you to come to Him.  Amen.

WHAT JUDGMENT IS ALLOWABLE?

Jesus and Social Justice

Praise God who alone is good.  He forgives our sins and establishes righteousness by instruction and justice.  To know God as a righteous God of mercy and love should not distance us from embracing a knowledge of Jesus as a Judge we delight in.

2 Timothy 4:8
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Whether God desires that we judge is a complex issue calling for interpretation of various types of judgment. Without knowing how to fully explore the topic, some things are clear. (If you like, refer to the bottom of this post to see the scriptures cited.)

1) we should judge ourselves and show mercy to our neighbor. (1 Corinthians 11:31, Luke 6:37, James 2:13)

2) there is a place for judgment. Jesus says that the Pharisees should have practiced the weightier matters including judgment. Paul says that we are to judge those in the church but not those outside it. Paul specifically asks the church of to appoint someone to judge in their church, and he also establishes standards of separation within a church. (The church seems to be told in 1 Corinthians 5 to expel certain people, for example, fornicators and drunkards, from their community. If that were not the case how could they avoid associating with them and eating with them? Therefore it seems a corporate matter, not a private matter.) Also, Paul writes that the saints shall judge the world and angels. 1 Corinthians 5 describes Paul’s guardianship of that church by excommunicating one of their members. In the next letter Paul makes a point of sharing how hard that decision was for him, how he stimulated that decision in the majority out of love for all, and how he desires that the man be restored, his punishment having been sufficient. In 2 Corinthians Paul does warn them that he will come and apply judgment according to the Spirit, something which St. John also seems to be saying in 3 John. (Matthew 23:23, 1 Corinthians 5:12, 1 Corinthians 6:2-5, 2 Corinthians 2:3-8, 2 Corinthians 13:2, 3 John 1:10)

3) criticism is different than judgment. James, who said if we judge we are not doers of the law, but judges, also made critical remarks, as do other Apostles. For instance, “ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain.” Jude writes in his thirteenth verse of false brethren as “foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” These are moral judgments in a way. They are judgments in the sense of bringing to conscious articulation a state of immorality. But they are not in themselves seek the neighbor’s condemnation. Both epistles emphasize that the Lord will judge. (James 4:2, James 5:1-6)

4) unfair judgment may be connected to treating with contempt, or despising someone. Paul and James both seem to make this connection. (Romans 14:3,4, James 2:3,4,6)

5) unfair judgment may be connected to malicious blasphemy. This is what the Greek means when James says we ought not judge and speak evil of our brethren. (James 4:11,12)

6) to judge properly means to discern what is in the heart not the outer appearance. What does God say comparing David’s brothers to His anointed?

1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

And again in John Jesus says,

John 7:24
Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.

To judge properly means to see things the way they really are, going on a discerning faith not on what the eyes see. Here in John, Jesus is referring to His opponents’ superficial way of judging the law, so the instruction is not as literal as merely a physical matter. In this case, pietistic people judged God for healing on the Sabbath because that was considered a violation of the law. Sometimes seeing things more deeply means being more critical and sometimes it calls for an act of appreciation or forgiveness.

Jesus brings this teaching to bear in relating to the Pharisees again two chapters later.

John 9:39-41
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

The Pharisees probably left this conversation rightfully feeling they had been threatened with judgment. They consider themselves to be seeing and so cannot be made to see, therefore their sin remaineth. One must repent in order to be saved. This is like Jesus’ saying “I have not come to save the righteous but sinners.” Does he really not want to save anyone righteous? He means He does not save those who are convinced they are righteous and will not come in contrition and find life. We have to consider ourselves sinners. So the Pharisees I believe were threatened, and that is a popular interpretation.

However, there is a more positive aspect here also. Those which see not might see means that we who do not see the light will see it. We will find truth and prudence if the Lord is pleased to save us. That is also a normal interpretation. Jesus next says that He will make the seeing blind, and His judgment can do that in a miraculous way. When He helps us judge ourselves, change from our evil thoughts, examine our false standards of right and wrong, get rid of a regard for outer appearances, then He makes us blind. Being made blind to the misleading guidelines we have cultivated in our hearts it is possible to see our neighbor in a realistic and loving way and not judge him or her. 

That’s all I have for now.  Please be blessed and enjoy Christ’s mercy.

Scripture References

1 Corinthians 11:31
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

Luke 6:37
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

James 2:13
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

Matthew 23:23
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

1 Corinthians 5:12
For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

1 Corinthians 6:2-5
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

2 Corinthians 2:3-8
And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.

2 Corinthians 13:2
I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare:

3 John 1:10
herefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

James 4:2
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

James 5:1
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

Romans 14:3,4
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

James 2:3-6
And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

James 4:11,12
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

Genesis 1-3. Speaking Through Allegory.

Creation

Many people who question the relevance of the Bible and the divinity of its authorship go to the very start to pose their question. Has God really said the world was made in 6 days? Has God really said the world is 6000 years old? Admittedly, there is room to doubt the creation account, for example on scientific grounds. But if we read the great masterwork of the world, let us first allow that if it is indeed the Word of God, the text must be sophisticated enough and layered enough to reward its study by angels for all eternity. To paraphrase pastor J.C. Ryle, ‘to have unanswered questions in the Bible does not disturb me. The natural world is filled with puzzles and if they are not solved I do not assume a flight of meaning and reason.’ If we do not understand Einstein’s theory of relativity on the first hearing do we assume that Einstein was wrong or a fool?

Throughout the Bible there are tip offs that some of the text is a very carefully prepared allegory. But also some of the text, like the incarnation of God and His death and resurrection, must be completely historical to be relevant. The Bible never insists it should be read as literal history, but it does claim a divine origin.

Here, part of what I try to show is that the creation account is an allegory. Let’s be clear. Allegories and metaphors can be just as true as things true in the simple sense. For instance, Pharisees were truly wicked tenants of a vineyard who killed the owner’s son to seize his inheritance.  It is allegory and completely true.  It pierced them to the quick.

Before we get into the details of Genesis 1-3 you may want to read over it or at least have your Bible open. I refer to two creation accounts in Genesis. The first is the seven days of creation between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:3. The second is the account of the creation of Adam and Eve in chapters 2 and 3.

The creation account is a hard place for Christians to argue a literal text since it is on the whole so clearly allegorical. An example of this are the names of Adam and Eve. The Hebrew word “adam” can mean the man, Adam, or the race “adam”, that is, mankind. He symbolizes our displacement from paradise, and has a universal relevance. God gave him the name Adam also so that we would more easily recognize him as earthy man. (“Adam” also means ground.) Meanwhile Eve’s name and place are, in a way, great beyond that of any other mortal with the exception of Mary in the Catholic tradition. Her name means “life” since she is the mother of all living and bears the Seed to come.

Let’s restate this information. The first man was Man. His wife was Life. In the first garden, was a tree of Life. The creature made from the ground, Ground, had a helpmate, Life. Life ate the fruit of Knowledge, and the Man ate the fruit of Knowledge, and Life and Man died. Doesn’t this sound like allegory?

But a literalist, and there are many who are much better Christians than I am, might say “if Adam and Eve are historical though, aren’t these names the right names?” Yes, their names would be appropriate either way but the story of Adam and Eve in Eden is universal in many ways, and their names suit their typic roles. Consider the first use in Genesis of the word “adam”.

“And God said, Let us make man [adam] in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man [“adam”] in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27,28)

We can read this blessing as intended for mankind. That is one accepted interpretation. This reading seems demanded the first time hearing the account because we haven’t even heard of Adam. And hearing God’s words in this first chapter as pertaining to all humanity also rings true because this first creation account is a kind of panorama of perfect order with mankind at the center of the universe on and inhabiting the whole planet (not just a garden.)

But reading the next chapter, another equally plausible interpretation joins it as we read about Adam. His name is one of the terms in that passage. He is literally the man. This is like when David heard the parable of Nathan and said “I am the man”. Well, in the creation allegory, Adam is our man. He is the representative of the terms of the covenant and bears the name of those involved. It is like if there was a contract between “company” and “employee”, and in the training video there was someone named “Employee”. Of course, Adam fails to keep the specific terms of the covenant as laid out in chapter 2, though they were not burdensome. So Adam bears this typic name as a kind of incarnation of man in the terms of the perfection of the divine creation laid out in chapter 1.

And there is no reason, when a character can be the perfect incarnation of a general class, and that term (here, “man”,) can be explicitly carried through, to presume he will also be a historical and unique individual. Jesus Christ is a counter-example, as the perfect incarnation of the Word itself and a unique historical person. The difference is that Jesus was not the incarnation of a general class, but of His own essence.  When I say Adam can be the perfect incarnation of a general class I mean that God wanted to make a man, so He made Adam.  That was His man, that was His pure, unadulterated, representative copy of what a man is.  He was someone made in God’s image.

Other examples of hints of the allegorical nature of the creation account are the fact that Jesus says that neither He nor His Father have yet rested, but have worked. In this case Jesus seems to be explaining that the Sabbath rest of God in Genesis should not be taken as a literal historical event. The Sabbath rest is still to come. Then the Lord will have His holy rest.  And so the Seventh Day in the first account is a prophecy and not literal.  The Sabbath is the “Amen” to “Today”; this time when we walk in need of salvation. 

Another clearly allegorical feature of the first account is the way that there are days before the creation of lights in the firmament. Even if the Hebrew word is considered to itself mean “a time period” and not only day, the word is still used allegorically to mean a 24 hour period. A sign of this is the fact that nights are mentioned in the counting, not only a “day”.

Then there is Eden. Is Satan in fact a serpent literally? Is he a snake in the simple, basic sense? No, he is a great dragon and a spirit. But he did not just take the form of a snake to tempt Eve. He was a snake, more subtle than the other beasts of the field, and he was cursed to always crawl on his belly. The second creation account reveals a huge amount of information but only some of it is by a literal telling.

Another example of allegory in Eden is the death of Adam. Here the text casts Adam out of Eden and casts him out of allegorical rendering. He goes on living in the mundane world, spiritually dead. The garden in general is a tremendously fertile allegory. It means youth, romantic love, innocence, springtime, Heaven on Earth, the feeling of eternity in time, the natural. Such things accompany life without sin, living with God’s approval. The Eden symbol springs naturally from the facts of the allegory.

The trees at the center of the garden must be allegorical. Is there a place where they might be found on Earth? Now the fruit of life is hidden by angels, until eternity. Where is this? Literally in the Middle East as described in Genesis? Revelation 2:7 says that the tree of life is in the paradise of God, which suggests Eden. And Revelation 22:2 says that the tree is in the Heavenly City, therefore that is where the paradise is, above.

To my mind that sufficiently shows that the two creation accounts are allegorical. What do you think? To prove this I will only add one more argument, a famous one. Cain’s wife. But this is outside Eden where most of us are. There are women to be found outside Eden. Rarely are they found inside it. (Do not awaken love until it pleases.)

That is the first part of this article. Now I would like to look at what we can learn from the fact that the creation account is largely allegorical.  

It took me a long time to notice what happens on Day 2.

“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.” (Genesis 1:6-8)

This firmament is where, on Day 4, the sun and stars are placed. That firmament is the heavens, not Heaven. But on Day 2 waters remain above these heavens. What is this? Perhaps they are spiritual waters which signify either Heaven or the boundary to Heaven. The waters below the firmament are later to be called the seas.

The Bible is the divine light, a revealing Word.  And just as God writes Heavenly words in scriptures in the form of allegories, things too are tied figuratively from Earth back to Heaven.  One example of this is taking the sacrament of communion. Another is when a believer forgives his neighbor, which results in them being forgiven. An earthly marriage has a Heavenly parallel. So does caring for a child. Death has a Heavenly meaning. The reason death exists, in my interpretation, is so that we can know better the power of Jesus being forsaken by His Father in death. Our human separation from God through sin at any rate, is matched by the separation of the Son from the Father.

The things on Earth have their corresponding things in Heaven. Rocks have the Rock, bread has Living Bread, families have the one family, water has spiritual Water, blood has the blood of Christ. God is all in all and He incorporates all things in Him as One magnificent ultimate reality. This earth is derivative of Him. We are the figure of speech, not the things of Heaven.

So on Day 3, when vegetation is created, what higher significance does this have? In the New Testament people are spoken of as trees.  Brambles are contrasted with the good fruit of fig trees.  And Jesus wears a crown of thorns before His death. These briars don’t appear until the punishment of Adam. Jesus is first promised in the same conversation in which the thorns are threatened. He bears our iniquity, our wretched wages.  So His emphasis on this plant is a beautiful example of textual interconnectedness.

Another similar one is Jesus receiving the wine vinegar upon a hyssop branch.  Hyssop branches were used in sacrificial ritual.  The point is that some vegetation created on Day 3 bears good seed, and I surmise has a holy significance that defines its relation to Heavenly transactions.  And other vegetation, perhaps has a mixed or negative significance.  The trees at the center of the garden are excellent examples of this. Perhaps after the Fall, some fruit became committed to bearing seed in deep abysses.

Another touch of allegory appears in the second creation account when Adam is made from dust. This happens, by the way, during the third day, not the sixth as in the first chapter. If Adam the earthy man is made from dust, what are the angels made from? Angels may correspond to stars. There is a textual association between them in Revelation 1:20, Job 38:7, and Psalm 147:4. The stars are made of the billowing stuff of the heavens and the angels perhaps are made of the plenitude of the dust of the glorious Heaven. So perhaps angels are made from “stardust”.

It may be that the Adamic Fall can teach us about the Fall of the angels in Heaven, but it is not clear exactly how to me. What if the two trees, and I admit this is just an idea, are really one tree? Perhaps it is a tree which draws together all creatures to live or die. After all, Eve refers to one tree in the middle of the garden as forbidden which is a natural answer since it is the only one forbidden.  Yet it may be significant that to her there is one “tree which is in the midst of the garden.”  She is the mother of the living and from knowledge and one thing this means is that in our conscience is the spring of our repentance, salvation, knowledge of God, and eternal life.

“[the serpent] said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)

While the Lord only prohibited the fruit from one tree, both trees were effectively sacrosanct and off limits for man.  Why do they not eat of the fruit of Life?  It may have been that before dying they felt no need and the Lord had not drawn them.  At any rate, it was to keep man from this fruit that the seraphim and a flaming sword are placed at the entry to paradise to keep us from the fruit.  But does He not invite us to eternal life and does He not teach us the knowledge of good and evil.  The Lord has made us in the day of our creation in His image and likeness and part of that means eating from the trees (or possibly tree) of knowledge and life.

Jesus says that He is the Gate and that those come enter through Him can come and go, but that those who sneak in are thieves and robbers.  Could it be that those who eat of the tree when permitted, going through Christ, find eternal life, while those who eat when forbidden find death? The tree of life is in the paradise of God and in Heaven. (Revelation) So if that is the center of paradise, wouldn’t the tree of knowledge be there too? Perhaps.

Eating that fruit was our Fall. But then how can we say some have life while others have death.  We all die through Adam, but still there is a difference.  The knowledge of fallen Adam is different than the knowledge of Abel, though Abel was mortal too. When a creature rebels against God they do become like God, but it is not necessarily by being powerful, or an actual rival in any way. Rebels of God inherently become godlike by making themselves a rule unto themselves. They feel estranged and outcast. Their minds and hearts twist. They become proud and mocking despite the threat of inevitable death. They also become afraid as Adam did. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1) Things take on a sarcastic, worthless aspect, while the enduring value of some things is painfully clear. People and angels in such a state naturally want to bring others down to where they are and make others fall into the second death. All of that cruel twisting of the mind, and clarity about what is valuable, is a kind of knowledge of good and evil.

But for a righteous person like Abel, knowledge of good and evil seems to begin as simply the conscience. When one enters the Lord there is another level of knowledge which opens up. That is the ability to discern spiritual things. Understanding the sayings of Christ in your head and your heart means that you have spiritual understanding. John says that such things cannot be understood by unbelievers.

“They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:5-8 KJV)

God has angels guard the tree of life lest Adam come back and live forever. Where is the tree of life hidden? It is hidden in the same paradise, in the kingdom. In us. That is where the thieves break in and steal. They want to live and when they eat of this spirit in us, or from our souls, it gives them a taste of what they want. But do they live forever? The fire is unquenched and their worm shall never die. They never rest and that may be the sense in which those who gain an eternality endure endless death. May God have mercy.

Yes, may God have mercy.  I know the Lord can straighten all of us out. “The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.” (Luke 3:5) Nothing is too hard for God.  There is no one He cannot save. And He loves us and He  God has shown the willingness and shrewdness in saving me despite a terrible series of tragic sins.  Any reader despairing of salvation because they do not think they love God, or because they think they are a child of the Devil, I invite to read my post, “Does God Desire To Save Everyone?” under the “Scripture” category.

Finally, I would like to draw some conclusions about the two creation accounts.  They seem to contradict each other in the Day of man’s creation.  They seem to contradict Jesus’ word on whether God has rested.  The perfection of those seven days seems undermined by the immediate Fall of Adam.  But such fodder for skeptics is part of the complexity of God’s Word.  I want to just point out a couple things relating the accounts.

The first creation account is God’s grand idea. A perfect order in which man, made in His image, peacefully rules a beautiful Earth. This idea is a reality because we have His unction to rule in blessing. Our place is blessing, we find it in virtue. But is that idea a reality, or is the reality not much more disturbed? The blessing was disturbed by sin, as the account of our Fall explains. We were cursed and lost paradise. Christ is the gate. The second account is that beautiful update of the reality our weak nature meant to God’s beautiful plan. It has meant complications and pain. It has also meant that God would be the Seed born of woman to bring us back. But the first creation account is still true, we are the centerpiece of this world, the beloved objects of God’s attention and affection, and His seventh day rest awaits the faithful.

AUTHOR REVIEW: J.C. RYLE

J.C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle lived in a time of great revival in English churches, (1816-1900), but he was too zealous for the well-being of his neighbor to rest easy. In eloquent yet plain language Ryle moves me with his sincere love for God and man. A high Victorian with sober morals and devout manner, he reached out to people from all walks of life, from blue collar workers and farmers to wealthy bankers, from whose ranks his family was drawn. If you are a Christian seeking useful exhortation listen to Ryle. If you are unsure of the case for Christ, or just want to know what a real Christian is like, listen to Ryle.

Here is an excerpt from Ryle’s Practical Religion which is now available on sermonaudio.com as a free audio book.

“To be really happy a man must be able to look on every side without uncomfortable feelings. He must be able to look back to the past without guilty fears. He must be able to look around him without discontent. He must be able to look forward without anxious dread. He must be able to sit down and think calmly about things past, present, and to come, and feel prepared. The man who has a weak side in his condition, a side that he does not like looking at or considering – that man is not really happy.”

“Talk not to me of your happiness if you are unable to look steadily either before or behind you. Your present position may be easy and pleasant. You may find many sources of joy and gladness in your profession, your dwelling place, your family, and your friends. Your health may be good. Your spirits may be cheerful. But stop and think quietly over your past life. Can you reflect calmly on all the commissions and omissions of bygone years? How will they bear God’s inspection? How will you answer for them at the last day? And then look forward and think on the years yet to come. Think on the certain ends to which you are hastening. Think of death. Think of judgment. Think of the hour when you will meet God face to face.”

“Are you ready for it? Are you prepared? Can you look forward to these things without alarm? Oh, be very sure if you cannot look comfortably at any season but the present your boast of happiness is a poor unreal thing. It is but a whitened sepulchre, fair and beautiful without, but bones and corruption within. It is a mere thing of a day like Jonah’s gourd. It is not real happiness…”

“To be truly happy your joy then must be founded on something more than this world can give you. To be truly happy you must be able to look on every side: above, below, behind, before, and feel that all is right. This is real stirring, genuine happiness.”

Sermonaudio.com has thousands of free sermons, mostly contemporary. Two of Ryle’s books, “Practical Religion” and “Holiness” can be heard here. Having listened to Practical Religion I recommend it ardently and am confident it can help many people. It starts on page 5 of Ryle’s listings while his book “Holiness” starts on page 6.

If anyone has any other recommendations for sermons to be heard online please let us know in comments.  Thanks and be blessed.

Is Masturbation A Sin?

Saint Philomena Cathedral

If God gave us One Word, one sufficient testimony, then let us give credit to God that His infinite wisdom has supplied us with consistent and profound instruction. If angels will study scriptures with joy forever, then we should give God credit. If an astrophysicist told us some mystifying formula we would not disregard it, or scoff, just because we didn’t understand. How much more should we trust the mind of the infinite God. Let us be open minded about accepting whatever command God has given us on the issue of masturbation.

In morality generally, the standard God has given is difficult. Let us be encouraged by the earnestness we need because sometimes we are called to strenuous effort. That is unavoidable no matter the path we take. So what gate do we go through? As Peter said, with the end of the world in mind, “what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:11)

And Paul said, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

Likewise neither have I attained consistent uprightness in the matter of sexual morality. Don’t think I am a hypocrite. Even the murderer can tell you that murder is wrong.

What are the sexual options according to Jesus? We will see below that the only sexual option left available to a person is heterosexual marriage. In that context it is embraced as a good for mankind, even a mandate for many. Marriage is encouraged for those with a strong attraction, that is, most of us. (All this is in 1 Corinthians 7:1-9) But in the passage below we see which forms of sex are not permissible. Though the Mosaic law is not binding, these activities are explicitly called unrighteous. While all Christians sin, if we are not walking in the way, we will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9,10
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

Here we see fornicators, (people who have sex outside marriage,) adulterers, and abusers of themselves with mankind, (those who engage in homosexual sex,) will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The passage continues.

1 Corinthians 6:11-20
“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Paul here explains the unique seriousness of sinning by sex by explaining that the Lord died for us and rose for us, forgave us, made us new, and has a unity with us in Himself and the Holy Spirit, so that if we unite with a prostitute we become joined with someone else in a way that contaminates the Temple of God, forgetting His glory and power.

Pre-marital sex is forbidden in several places in the New Testament, for instance Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, and below.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, [lust] even as the Gentiles which know not God:

But we are not intending to address premarital sex primarily but masturbation. The Bible does not use the word masturbation or address it very explicitly, but the instruction we receive is there and we should take it seriously. The key argument I can advance is to ask you, “if masturbation is not a sin, if it is clean, and does not defile then would Jesus Christ have done it? Marriage was not right for our Lord since He is the Bridegroom of the whole Church. Then would it be right for Him to relieve His passion this way?” No, of course, the Lord would not do that because it is not morally perfect. It is a sin.

God is well understood by His character of selflessness and lack of greed. Masturbation is only for the self and cultivates greed. One cannot masturbate without greed coming into play. We are instructed to die to the world, sin, flesh, and the self. This takes place by our own death on the cross through faith.

We are crucified, and dead to sin, but live to God. (Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:11). We “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24) And we ought to live by putting to death the deeds and manner of the flesh. (Romans 8:13) Moreover, Jesus told us when He walked among us, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) All of this means a kind of mortification of the body, to spiritually overcome the impulses of the body as though putting it to death by the sanctifying Spirit, often with the help of discipline. The body doesn’t know the spirit. It was “free” from the narrow way. But if we uproot the weeds of the body’s wild interest, we can find much greater peace and meaning in our lives, not to mention righteousness and salvation. Helpful discipline may include prayer, fasting, avoiding moral mistakes like being loose with the truth, and searching repentance. Sometimes pain helps a person find God, even if it is merely beating the breast. Paul says, “I chastise my body, and bring it into servitude, lest by any means, having preached to others — I myself may become disapproved.” (1 Corinthians 9:27) Apparently the word for chastise means beat black and blue. Now we are to mortify our flesh so that it does not have power over us, and this means we cannot empower the terrible root of selfish lust to take hold of the Temple which we are.

Colossians 3:1
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, [lust] and covetousness, which is idolatry:

If it is not something right for a Temple of God, then are we really meant to do it since we are a Temple of God? We will be judged for every idle word, and we are to keep the giving of thanks on our lips. (Matthew 12:36, Hebrews 13:15) And Paul teaches the propriety of such single mindedness, saying, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

Jesus is the ultimate example of this mortification of the body. He lived in order to die for us that we may know God and live. His whole life was a sacrifice. He never lost a moment at the television or in merely private reverie because He was our perfect Servant. Jesus admits that while the eunich is blessed to receive the word of warning about marriage, (“he that is able to receive it, let him receive it,”) it was implicit that many would marry. (For context on marriage, see Matthew 19:3-12.) The options here notice are marriage and being a eunich. It is not, marry or have an active life of serial monogamy; nor is it an option to find an outlet by oneself. Eunichs have no sex drive, and that means mortification of the body. In context I think we can understand that many people must deal with some sex drive outside of marriage and they should find a way to pray through it without sinning. If we sin we have an advocate in Jesus. He is with us, expects us to keep His holy law. He commands us to believe. He commands us to be saved, so don’t despair.

Now right after this conversation, in Matthew, children come up to Jesus and He lays hands on them and blesses them. This goes back to the primary argument. Jesus is pure and does not sin. In saying marry or be a eunich, the sinless Lord implies He has kept His vessel clean and can bless the children without any guilt, because He is clean.

The golden rule is the sum of the law. In the application a man proves his character and manifests his walk, that is, by how he strives to interpret and apply love in his life. To an extent the golden rule sounds easy; merely be a good neighbor, harmless perhaps, and beyond that do what you want. However it is more accurate that our private indulgence, or lawless selfishness, our excessive attention given to the flesh, will impact our ability to be selfless with our neighbor and produce the right fruits. One could say in a similar way it is no sin to swear when we are alone because our neighbor never knows, but our virtue is affected. We cannot have salt water and fresh from the same source. (James 3:12) We must be as virtuous as we can all the time to begin to show proper gratitude to our Savior. This life is not our own.

So while the Golden Rule is the whole law, to love one another selflessly we must die utterly to ourselves, to greed and selfishness. Therefore there is no room for perfection mixed with private wealth, with greed, with drug use, with swearing; the command to love means a total transformation, replacing everything unspiritual with what is truly spiritual. There is no time off of being a Christian, angels are perfect and they do not leave off of the love of the Lord and the righteous things He has taught so that they can take a vacation into error. To know the Lord and love the Lord necessitates earnest service and walking in the Spirit to the best of our ability. We have enough of an enemy in the Devil without joining him and making the job of the Lord harder.

We have flesh and our flesh is fallen. If we walk in the Spirit we will not walk in the flesh. (Galatians 5:16) Masturbation makes the total mortification of the impure urges of the body impossible. It is not dying to oneself, the flesh, sin and the world.

Is there more explicit instruction in the New Testament regarding masturbation? If you want to look into more verses, there are some below. Thanks. Comments welcome.

Romans 6:11-13
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 6:16-23
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive yourbenefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:1-7
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:1-8

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

1 Peter 4:1-5
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

Galatians 5:13-26
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

1 Thessalonians 4:7
For God has not called us to impurity, but to sanctification.

Galatians 6:8
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Romans 13:14
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

Ephesians 5:1
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)