The Throne Room Vision

Revelation 4:1-3
The End Times

In my last post, we examined a summary of the Four Views of all Seven Letters and begin to look at the Four Views of the Seven Sealed Scroll.  In this post, we begin our journey into the heavenly visions that Yochanan recorded beginning in Revelation 4.

There is an abrupt shift in setting between chapters 3 and 4, from the Seven Messianic Communities in Asia Minor to God’s Throne Room in heaven.  At the beginning of the vision of the horrible disasters to come, God reassures His people through Yochanan that He is still on the throne and in control.  Regardless of what terrible things are about to happen, the final stage is set for the redemptive work of Yeshua.

1 After these things, I looked; and there before me was a door standing open in heaven; and the voice like a trumpet which I had heard speaking with me before said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after these things.” 2 Instantly I was in the Spirit, and there before me in heaven stood a throne, and on the throne Someone was sitting. 3 The One sitting there gleamed like diamonds and rubies [1], and a rainbow shining like emerald encircled the throne.” ~ Revelation 4:1-3 (CJB)

Chapters 4 and 5 seem to detail the events that occur in heaven after the Rapture, and chapters 6-18 the events that occur on the earth after the Rapture.  It is the same event told from two different vantage points.

After these things takes us into the third section of the Revelation, as outlined by Yochanan in chapter 1.  19 So write down what you see, both what is now, and what will happen afterwards.” Revelation 1:19 (CJB) Write down what you see chapter one; what is now chapters two and three; what will happen afterwards chapter four through the remainder of the book.

In this new division of the Book of Revelation, something most dramatic is transpiring:  the Rapture, the removal from the earth of all true Believers, The Bride of Messiah!  It is interesting that the Messianic communities are mentioned nineteen times in the first three chapters and then is completely omitted and not mentioned again until chapter 22.  16 “I, Yeshua, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the Messianic communities. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star. ~ Revelation 22:16 (CJB).  Therefore, now one of two things must have happened: either the body of Believers has been completely wiped out by Satan, or God has taken it from the world in an act that is known as the Rapture.  This is the pre-tribulation viewpoint to which I personally subscribe.

These words of Yeshua assure us:18 I also tell you this: you are Kefa,” [which means ‘Rock,’] “and on this rock I will build my Community, and the gates of Sh’ol will not overcome it.” ~ Matthew 16:18 (CJB emphasis added).  Therefore, we cannot conclude that Satan has overcome it, and indeed must conclude that the Messianic Communities have been taken from the earth by God.

In deliberating the Rapture question, it would be good to consider briefly the other two views of the Second Coming of Yeshua held by some theologians. One is the mid-tribulational view and the second is the post-tribulational view. The interesting thing about these two views is that they differ only as to the time placement of the final shofar. The mid-tribulationalists place the sounding of the seventh trumpet in the middle of the tribulation, whereas the post-tribulationalists place it at the end.

Both groups make the claim that the final shofar mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and the shofar of Revelation 11:15 are synonymous.  The shofars of Revelation are different from those of 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16. The shofars of Revelation are clearly identified with judgment, whereas the shofars of 1 Corinthians 15:51 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 signal a call to the elect of God. The shofars of Revelation are sounded by angels, but in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 it is called the God’s shofar.  John Walvoord (a Futurist) explains why understanding that these are two different shofars is so important.  Understanding this one concept alone greatly undermines the positions taken by mid-tribulationalists and post-tribulationalists:

The most damaging fact in the whole argument, however, is that the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11 is, after all, not the last trumpet of Scripture.  According to Matthew 24:31, the elect will be gathered at the coming of Jesus to establish His earthly kingdom “with a great sound of a trumpet.” While post-tribulationalists hold that this is identical with the seventh trumpet, mid-tribulationalists cannot do so. In fact, it is not too much to say that this one reference alone spells the doom of mid-tribulationalists.

Note that the open door in heaven Revelation 4:1 contrasts with a closed door on earth Revelation 3:20.

Instantly I was in the Spirit, and there before me in heaven stood a throne.  As you read this, your attentions immediately drawn to the throne.  The throne is mentioned nine times in the first six verses and a total of seventeen times in chapters four and five.  It appears forty-six times throughout the book of Revelation.  The activity around the throne is one of the key themes in Revelation.

The One sitting there gleamed like diamonds and rubies, and a rainbow shining like emerald encircled the throne.  The one sitting upon the throne is God the Father.  Later, the Son approaches the throne in Revelation 5:6, and the Spirit is pictured before the throne in Revelation 4:5. A rainbow is a real event that appears even in earthly skies.  Warren Wiersbe adds to this:

The rainbow reminds us of God’s covenant with Noach (Gen. 9:11-17), symbolic of His promise that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood.  God’s covenant, as we shall see, was not only with Noach, but with all of His creation. Usually, a rainbow appears after the storm; but here, we see it before the storm.

Ask yourself, how could you even begin to imagine how you would describe God’s physical appearance?  My head hurts just asking the question.  Does He even have a physical appearance or is He a spiritual entity?  Based on B’resheet 1:26 (CJB), God must have a physical appearance as He said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in the likeness of ourselves…”.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 4:1-3 [2]

Historicist and Preterist Approach:

Historicist and Preterist interpreters see in chapters 4 and 5 an interlude before the appearance of the first rider (on the white horse) in chapter 6, which is the victorious Roman army on its way to Jerusalem in 67 CE.

Preterist interpreters also point out that Yochanan’s vision is very like Ezekiel’s vision in the first-half of his book.  The only major difference being the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE (Ezekiel) and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE (Yochanan).  In addition, they interpret the repeat of after these things at the end of the first verse to imply a first century fulfillment.  The Seven-Seale Scroll beginning in chapter 5 is God’s judgment against Jerusalem and the subsequent breaking of the first seal depicts the war between Israel and Rome from 66-70 CE.

Futurist Approach:
Futurist interpreters believe that at the end of chapter 3, the Rapture of Believers takes place: Come up here. (4:1). The period that follows, beginning with chapter 4 and ending with the Battle of Armageddon (19:19) and the 1000-year reign of Yeshua on earth (the Millennium; chap. 20), covers a terrible seven-year period at the time of the end referred to as the Great Tribulation (see 7:14and Matthew 24:21). These seven years are the same as the 70th set of seven years the prophet Daniel spoke about (see Daniel 9:27).

Idealist Approach:

After these things, does not mean this is what will happen next, but this is the vision I saw next to the Idealist interpreters. The entire church age depicted in chapters 1-3 from an earthly standpoint will now be viewed again from a heavenly viewpoint.

In my next post, we will continue to explore Revelation Chapter 4.

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[1] Other translations frequently use “jasper and carnelian or rubies.”

[2] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg

Summary of the Four Views of the Seven Letters and Sealed Scroll

The End Times

In my last post, we completed the seven letters to the Messianic Communities in chapters 2 & 3.    In this post, we will examine a summary of the Four Views of all Seven Letters and begin to look at the Four Views of the Seven Sealed Scroll.

Before we get started on the Four Views, I wanted to share a crib chart produced by the ESV Study Bible.  Due to the limitations of WordPress in handling large charts, you need to download the PDF version here.

Special Comparative Note on Chapters 2 ~ 3 [1]

Having considered Yeshua’s assessment of the historical state of the seven churches, we are prepared to go on to the prophetic events about which He wished for them and us to be informed.

In view of the Historicists, the letters contain cryptic reference to the conditions in which the whole church would be found at varying times in her history.  The church at Ephesus represents the church in Yochanan’s own day, while the church at Laodicea stands for the church in the End Times.

The Preterists consider the letters to apply to little else than the contemporary situation of the seven churches as they existed in Yochanan’s time.  As with all biblical epistles, however, application to similar churches of any time is acknowledged.

Futurists may side with the Historicists or, alternatively with the Preterists and the Idealists interpreters regarding the application of the letters, though they see the reference to what is now, and what will happen afterwards ~ Revelation 1:19 (CJB) as referring to the end of the present age.

Idealist interpreters see the purpose of the book as communicating to the whole church the facts of God’s sovereignty in history and His vindication of the righteous.  The seven churches symbolize the church of all times, and the letters apply to any churches in which relevant circumstances prevail.

Special Comparative Note on the Seven Sealed Scroll [2]

What events do the mysterious scroll and its unsealing represent?  When do these events occur?

Historicist Approach:

  • Unsealing of the scroll represents the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • The seal-sequences begins the reign of Domitian (who died in 96 CE) and follows the decline of the Empire through the invasions of the Goths and Vandals in the fourth and fifth centuries.
  • Alternative Historicist opinions will be surveyed as we go through the remainder of our study.

Preterist Approach:

  • Unsealing of the scroll represents the judgment of God upon Jerusalem (66-70 CE). 144,000 Judean Believers escape to Pella.
  • The Four Horseman represent the Roman invasion of Israel to quell the Jewish rebellion (66 CE), bringing bloodshed, civil war, famine, death, and ultimately the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Futurist Approach:

  • The scroll and its unsealing represents the Rapture of the church and the beginning of the Great Tribulation (4:1, per the dispensational view). 144,000 Jews of the End Times are saved.
  • In the End Times, the Antichrist rides forth conquering on the white horse; war, famine, and cosmic disturbances (possible nuclear war) follow.

Idealist Approach:

  • The scroll and its unsealing represent God’s dealings with mankind, seen in cycles of war, martyrdom, and judgment recurring repeatedly throughout history.
  • The visions underscore God’s sovereignty in the rise and fall of earthly kingdoms and His protection of the saints in the midst of political upheavals, without tying thee experiences to specific Historicist.

In my next post, we will begin to explore Revelation Chapter 4.

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[1] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg

[2] Ibid.

Eternal Security ~ Encore

Response to Comments

In my last post, I wrapped-up the series on Eternal Security.  As promised, I want to take a few minutes to respond to the comments made in the last several posts.

As a reminder, this series was inspired by my own quest to answer the question:  Can I Lose My Salvation? I did my best to present both sides of the coin impartially.  I spent a lot of time praying in addition to reading and researching Scripture, commentaries, study notes, dictionaries, theology books and other related material.  In my last two posts, I answered the question by stating that theologically, I am a Calvi-minian and am in no fear of losing my own salvation.  My responses are italicized.

In Eternal Security ~ Pat 21, Michael from altruistico posted:

Good morning, Donald;

Can a Christian lose salvation? First, the term Christian must be defined. A “Christian” is not a person who has said a prayer or walked down an aisle or been raised in a Christian family. While each of these things can be a part of the Christian experience, they are not what makes a Christian. A Christian is a person who has fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and therefore possesses the Holy Spirit (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8–9).

I don’t disagree!  Trust and obey, there is no other way.

So, with this definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? It’s a crucially important question. Perhaps the best way to answer it is to examine what the Bible says occurs at salvation and to study what losing salvation would entail:(See: Can a Christian lose salvation? @

Michael, you have stated your position in your usual excellent manner.  We obviously disagree on the issue of can a Christian as you’ve described above and in your post, turn his back on His Savior and walk away.  I do believe it is possible by his own free will, but highly improbable by the working of the indwelling Ruach. 

Secondly, we must look to the question of “Is it possible for a person’s name to be erased from the Book of Life?” First, Scripture is clear that a true believer is kept secure by the power of God, sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), and of all those whom the Father has given to the Son, He will lose none of them (John 6:39). The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29b). Salvation is God’s work, not ours (Titus 3:5), and it is His power that keeps us.

If the “anyone” referred to in Revelation 22:19 are not believers, who are they? In other words, who might want to either add to or take away from the words of the Bible? (See: “Is it possible for a person’s name to be erased from the Book of Life?” @ ).

Michael, I going to take a pass on this position as my next series will be a look at the End Times.  I’ll examine this issue then.

And thirdly: We must answer the question “If our salvation is eternally secure, why does the Bible warn so strongly against apostasy?” The Bible teaches that everyone who is born again by the power of the Holy Spirit is saved forever. We receive the gift of eternal life (John 10:28), not temporary life. Someone who is born again (John 3:3) cannot be “unborn.” After being adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15), we will not be kicked out. When God starts a work, He finishes it (Philippians 1:6). So, the child of God—the believer in Jesus Christ—is eternally secure in his salvation.

However, the Bible also contains some strong warnings against apostasy. These warnings have led some to doubt the doctrine of eternal security. After all, if we cannot lose our salvation, why are we warned against falling away from the Lord? (See: “If our salvation is eternally secure, why does the Bible warn so strongly against apostasy?” @ ).

I think I laid out my position of Apostasy clearly in Eternal Security ~ Part 4 & 5.  I stated above: I do believe it is possible by his own free will, but highly improbable by the working of the indwelling Ruach, for a believer to Apostatize.  

In Eternal Security ~ Part 23, Wally from Truth in Palmyra posted in response to a question I asked on where we disagreed:

I think it comes down to the extent of perseverance of the saints, Don. I know you lean towards even a saved believer being able to walk away from his salvation. I actually believe we might WANT to, and even intend to.  I just don’t get on board with the idea that, no matter how much we might think we want to walk away, or plan to, that God will actually let us. I honestly think in that case He revokes our will and keeps us anyway. He loves us so much that He stops us from being stupid.

I’m not convinced that He revokes our will; but, by the indwelling of the Ruach it’s not a fight that I think I could win.  It is that indwelling that I consciously rely on to keep me from doing the ultimate stupid. 

Also, in Eternal Security ~ Part 23, Patrick from Serving Grace Ministries commented:

I think you [Wally and I] are both right. It would be ludicrous to believe that the God who draws all men unto Himself would let go easily. Also, notice that Hebrews 6:5 the author (who I believe to be Paul) is dealing with the issue of maturity in the things of God… those who have advanced beyond the elementary teachings of the Gospel but have flowed in the gifts of the Spirit.

Patrick, you’ll get no argument from me, except for the authorship of the Letter to the Messianic Jews (Hebrews).

 And, Spaniard VIII from SPIRITUALMINEFIELD commented:

I disagree with Wally that God takes away our freewill, its unBiblical. I do agree with Wally that you cannot lose your salvation because Jesus plainly said so in John 10:28. Even though you have freewill, you will never choose to abandon Christ, its impossible. Why? Because through faith in Jesus we are born again, becoming a new man, not the same as the old one. Our soul becomes totally devoted to Jesus Christ. If we can lose our salvation, then we never had something that was eternal. Either we have it or we don’t. Thanks for the ping Son.

See my response above to Wally’s comment and the following.

Interestingly, over the last couple of days in my daily readings (both Scripture and devotionals) I have been seeing passages or comments that support the “once saved, always saved” credo of classical Calvinists. “He who wins the victory will, like them, be dressed in white clothing; and I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life; in fact, I will acknowledge him individually before My Father and before His angels.” ~ Revelation 3:5.   I’m not there yet, but who knows what the future may hold.  Regardless, I am convinced that I am saved and won’t be left behind.

I close with the following two quotes from devotions I have read in the last two days.

“So how does a branch keep from being pruned from the vine? If God is the divine gardener and we are the branches, how do we make sure that he doesn’t target us for trimming? How can we make sure that we survive the gardener’s shears?  Stay united with me, as I will with you — for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me” ~ John 15:4. According to Yeshua, the secret to growth is connection. The way we stay healthy is simply to stay attached. The formula for more fruit is to remain on the vine. To feed from its roots. To stay plugged into the source of all life. [1]

“As God’s child, live today with the surety, hope, and courage that come from knowing that your standing before God is secure.”  [2]

In my next post, I share about Hanukkah.

Click here for PDF version.


[1] Embracing Eternity: Living Each Day with a Heart Toward Heaven ~ December 16th.

[2] New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp ~ December 15th.

Eternal Security ~ Part 23

Perseverance of the Saints

In my last post, we looked back at Calvinism and Arminianism Contrasted and I stated my position on each issue, except Perseverance of the Saints.  In this post, I will now address that issue and wrap-up this series on Eternal Security.  I have color coded each of the cells using the three colors of a traffic signal with green signifying agreement; yellow for a mixture of both [orange in WordPress] ; and, red for disagreement.

[WordPress did not allow me to format the table like I wanted it to appear.  You may want to click on the PDF version below.]


Doctrine Arminianism Calvinism My Position
Perseverance of the Saints Believers may turn from grace and lose their salvation. Believers will persevere in the faith. Believers are secure in their salvation; none will be lost. See discussion below.

The whole issue of Perseverance of the Saints is tied up in the issue of Apostasy, Election, God’s Sovereignty and (Man’s) Free Will.  I’ve covered each of those issues at length in previous posts.  Let’s take a quick look back at what we have learned.


In Eternal Security ~ Parts 4 ~ 6 we learned the definition for Apostasy and looked at several passages from Scripture that alluded to Believers possessing the ability to renounce their faith in Yeshua as their Redeemer.  Perhaps the clearest was Hebrews 6:4-6.

“For when people have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh, and tasted the goodness of God’s Word and the powers of the ‘olam haba [this age] — and then have fallen away — it is impossible to renew them so that they turn from their sin, as long as for themselves they keep executing the Son of God on the stake all over again and keep holding him up to public contempt.” ~ Hebrews 6:4-6

“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” ~ Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)

Clearly, to accept the premise that a true Believer can walk away from salvation in Yeshua implies Man’s Free Will is already considered in God’s Sovereignty.  The verse under consideration here refers to a class of people who cannot “be brought back to repentance.”  The issue is not whether God would forgive them if they repented, but whether there is any way to bring them to repentance at all.  The answer is NO.

God’s Sovereignty and (Man’s) Free Will

In Eternal Security ~ Part 7, I declared that I accepted what  A.W. Tozer’s had to say on this topic.

“I believe in free will. Free will was given as a gift of God – He’s given us a little provisional sovereignty out of His absolute sovereignty … God Almighty is sovereign, free to do as He pleases. Among the things He is pleased to do is give me freedom to do what I please.  And when I do what I please, I am fulfilling the will of God, not controverting it, for God in His sovereignty has sovereignly given me freedom to make a free choice.  And when I make a choice, I’m fulfilling His sovereignty, in that He sovereignly wills that I should be free to make a choice.

If mankind does indeed have the free will to accept or reject the Ruach’s prompting to accept Yeshua as the Son of God by faith, then it only seems logical to me that once accepted s/he can recant that decision.  Certainly, we all know of friends, relatives or acquaintances who have initially rejected the calling of God to salvation and then have later accepted the reality of their need for Eternal Security.

Now, I freely confess, having walked with Him for the last thirty-eight years, I cannot imagine how I could possibly overcome the power of the Ruach within me to keep me on the straight and narrow to fall into Apostasy.  Nor, can I imagine how anyone else could commit such an Unpardonable Sin (see Post 20).  As A.W. Tozer stated: “Anyone who is concerned about having committed the unpardonable sin may be sure he or she has not!”


Having been trained in the ministry under the auspices of the Assemblies of God, I would be remiss in not sharing their doctrinal statement on the Security of the Believer.  The full statement can be obtained here.

Let me highlight a couple of paragraphs in that statement:

Certainly, there are true Christians who believe and teach Calvinism; there are also true Christians who believe and teach that men and women have free will. Unfortunately, both sides have spent more time arguing doctrinal terminology and interpretations of theology than reaching out to a lost world. The irony of the disagreement is that Calvinists, who believe in predestination, are sometimes more active in witnessing and evangelism than Arminians who believe that man has a free will and should be encouraged to accept Christ as Savior. God, of course, looks on the heart and the actions rather than on the eloquence with which one defends a position. 

Once saved can mean forever saved – if one continues in faith, growing in sanctification and holiness day by day. But God will not arbitrarily usurp mankind’s free will. Our sovereign God does not overrule free will just to prove He is sovereign.

I would also be remiss if I did not share with my audience a couple of blog posts that have been shared with me that take a different approach to this issue of Can I Lose My Salvation?

The first is by my good friend, Wally Fry at Truth in Palmyra.  Click here

The other two-part post is from Spaniard VII at Spiritual Minefield.  Click here and here.

I leave you with my final answer to the question I originally asked and three quotes from people who have influenced by walk with Yeshua:

  • Yes, I believe it is possible, but highly improbable to lose your salvation. I have no doubt, I will not lose mine.
  • “In God’s faithfulness lies eternal ” ~ Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)
  • “This is how God will revive a church and the only way He will do it: there must be among us a oneness of determination to glorify the Lord alone. The Lord will not ask if you are Arminian or Calvinist, but He will ask, ‘Are you determined to glorify Me alone?’” ~ A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)
  • Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life~ 1 John 5:12 – 13 (ESV).

In my next post, I hope to respond to your collective comments regarding the content of this series.

Click here for PDF version.

Eternal Security ~ Part 7

God’s Sovereignty and Free Will

In my last post, we dug deeper into Hebrews 6:4-6 with some experts that have a different take on what the author of Hebrews may have meant when he wrote this passage.  In this post, we will explore a different, but I think related issue ~ God’s Sovereignty and Free Will.

In our American culture, we are raised to value our individual freedoms.  The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the “Bill of Rights,” literally scream freedom and free will.  As a matter of fact, the Tenth Amendment specifically states that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, or prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people (emphasis added).  In short, we are free to do whatever we want to do as long as we accept those consequences for doing something we are legally not entitled to do.  Clearly, I have the absolute right and free will to arm myself under the Second Amendment and the freedom to not exercise that right.

The concept of free will appears extensively in the writings of the Tanakh, but generally in relation to the “free will offerings” outlined in Leviticus 7:16;22:18, 21, 23; 23:38.  The concept is not as prevalent in the Brit Hadashah.  Yeshua stated, “No one takes it [His life] away from me; on the contrary, I lay it down of my own free will. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again. This is what my Father commanded me to do.” ~ John 10:18. Again, in relation to an offering, Sha’ul writes, I tell you they have not merely given according to their means, but of their own free will they have given beyond their means.” ~ 2 Corinthians 8:3. And in his letter to Philemon, Sha’ul writes,“but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.” ~ Philemon 1:14 (NASB)

In “Rightly Dividing the Word,” Rev. Clarence Larkin [1] wrote:

“There is no question but that the “Doctrine of Election” is taught in the Scriptures, and that it applies not only to “service,” but to “salvation.” It is equally true that the “Doctrine of the Freedom of the Will” under certain conditions is also taught. We may not be able to reconcile the “Sovereign Will of God,” with the “Free-will of Man,” but that is no proof that they are not reconcilable. They are the corresponding halves of the Doctrine of Salvation, “Election” is the Godward side, and “Free-will” the manward side.”

I take from this statement that we have the free will to accept God’s gracious gift of salvation through faith in Yeshua and the free will to reject that offer.

A.W. Tozer [2] has this to say on the topic of free will in “The Attributes of God – Volume 1: A Journey into the Father’s Heart:”

“God is good toward all who accept His goodness. And for those who reject His goodness, there’s nothing that even the Almighty God can do if He’s going to allow man his free will—and I believe in free will. Free will was given as a gift of God—He’s given us a little provisional sovereignty out of His absolute sovereignty. He has said, “I’ll allow you, within a little framework, to be your own boss and to choose to go to heaven or to hell.” If a man will not take God’s goodness, then he must have God’s severity toward all who continue in moral revolt against the throne of God and in rebellion against the virtuous laws of God.”

In “The Attributes of God – Volume 2: Deeper into the Father’s Heart,” Tozer expands on his doctrine of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will which in the interest of space, I only quote in part.

“The matter of man’s free will versus God’s sovereignty can be explained in this way: God’s sovereignty means that He is in control of everything, that He planned everything from the beginning.  Man’s free will means that he can, anytime he wants, make most any choice he pleases (within his human limitations, of course).  Man’s free will can apparently defy the purposes of God and will against the will of God.  Now how do we resolve this seeming contradiction?

Down through the years, two divisions of the church have attempted to resolve this dilemma in different ways. One division emphasizes the sovereignty of God, believing that God planned everything from the beginning, that God ordered that some would be saved and some lost, that Christ died for those who would be saved, but He didn’t die for the others who would not be saved. That is actually what followers of John Calvin believe.

On the other side, there are those who say that Christ died for all and that man is free to make his choice. But those who teach the sovereignty of God in this exclusive way say that if man is free to make a choice, then God isn’t sovereign.  Because if a man can make a choice that God doesn’t like, then God does not have His way.

God’s sovereignty means absolute freedom, doesn’t it?  God is absolutely free to do anything He wants or wills to do—anywhere, anytime, forever.  And man’s free will means that man can make any choice he wants to make, even if he makes a choice against the will of God.  There is where the theologians lock horns like two deer out in the woods and wallow around until they die. I refuse to get caught on either horn of that dilemma!  Here is what I see: God Almighty is sovereign, free to do as He pleases. Among the things He is pleased to do is give me freedom to do what I please.  And when I do what I please, I am fulfilling the will of God, not controverting it, for God in His sovereignty has sovereignly given me freedom to make a free choice.

And when I make a choice, I’m fulfilling His sovereignty, in that He sovereignly wills that I should be free to make a choice. If I choose to go to hell, it’s not what His love would have chosen, but it does not controvert nor cancel out His sovereignty. Therefore, I can take John Calvin in one hand and Jacob Arminius in the other and walk down the street. (Neither of them would walk with me, I’m sure, because Calvin would say I was too Arminian and Arminius would say I was too Calvinistic!)

But I’m happy in the middle. I believe in the sovereignty of God and in the freedom of man. I believe that God is free to do as He pleases and I believe that, in a limited sense, He has made man free to do as he pleases—within a certain framework, but not a very big one. After all, you’re not free to do very many things. You’re free to make moral choices. You’re free to do a few things, but not that many. But the things you are free to do are gifts from the God who is utterly free. Therefore, anytime I make a choice, I’m fulfilling the freedom God gave me and therefore I’m fulfilling God’s sovereignty and carrying it out.

God has said that those who follow Jesus Christ and believe in Him shall be saved, and those who refuse shall be damned. That’s settled—eternally, sovereignly settled. But you and I have freedom in the meantime, to do anything we want to do. And though most people think very little about it, we’re going to answer for that someday, according to the sovereign will of God.

God has certain plans that He is going to carry out. “The LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet” (Nahum 1:3KJV). When God is carrying on His plans, He is moving in a certain direction. When the enemy comes along (exercising the little freedom God has given him to be an enemy of God) and intersects the will and purpose of God, then there’s trouble. As long as we move in the will of God, everything goes smoothly. But when we get out of the will of God, then we have trouble on our hands.”

It’ hard for me to argue with Tozer.  I’m beginning to think I might be a Calvi-minian.  In my next post or two or three, I will explore Calvinism followed by Arminianism.

Click here for PDF version.

[1]  Rev. Clarence Larkin (1850–1924) was an American Baptist pastor, Bible teacher and author whose writings on Dispensationalism had a great impact on conservative Protestant visual culture in the 20th century. His intricate and influential charts provided readers with a visual strategy for mapping God’s action in history and for interpreting complex biblical prophecies.

[2] Aiden Wilson Tozer (April 21, 1897 – May 12, 1963) was an American Christian pastor, preacher, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor.  For his work, he received two honorary doctoral degrees.

Eternal Security ~ Part 6

Apostasy ~ Part 3

In my last post, we began to unpack Hebrews 6:4-6 by looking at two commentaries.  In this post, I want to dig a little deeper into Hebrews 6:4-6 with some experts that have a different take on what the author of Hebrews may have meant when he wrote this passage.

“For when people have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh, and tasted the goodness of God’s Word and the powers of the ‘olam haba [this age] — and then have fallen away — it is impossible to renew them so that they turn from their sin, as long as for themselves they keep executing the Son of God on the stake all over again and keep holding him up to public contempt.” ~ Hebrews 6:4-6

 “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” ~ Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)

The authors of the Life Application Bible Commentary have this to say, in part, about Hebrews 6:4-6:

“There are four main interpretations of this passage.

  1. One interpretation states that this passage means Christians can lose their salvation. According to this interpretation, the four phrases describe Believers. … This salvation allows them to “taste the heavenly gift”; that is, they have come to know Christ, the one who came from heaven, so they experience salvation and the gifts that the Spirit gives … While we can agree that the phrases may describe Believers, we cannot accept this interpretation that Christians can lose their salvation. This idea is dismissed by other portions of Scripture (see John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39).
  2. Some interpret this passage as hypothetical: “if it were possible.” This interpretation, however, is unnatural and does not fit into the greater context of 6:7-8.  If this passage were only hypothetical, then the warning would be unnecessary.  Because the warning is urgent and real, we dismiss this interpretation.
  3. Another interpretation is that the writer may have intended to illustrate someone who seemed to be a Christian but really never was a true follower of Christ. All of the descriptive phrases could describe someone who is not really in the faith. That person could be “enlightened,” for the word was used by the early church to describe Christians who had been baptized and had professed Christ.  The person could have “tasted the heavenly gift,” if this phrase refers to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The person could have been a “partaker of the Holy Spirit,” if that phrase means that they fellowshipped alongside true believers and witnessed the Spirit’s work. Non-believers (even Judas Iscariot) saw the Holy Spirit work, heard the “good word of God,” and saw the “powers of the age to come.” … This interpretation is acceptable when considered in the greater context.  Hebrews 3:16-19 reviews how each Jew living in the wilderness had seen God’s great power, had eaten manna, had accompanied God, and had looked like God’s people, yet they never entered the Promised Land.  The writer did not want the Christians to fall into the same category and experience the same fate.
  4. Another reasonable interpretation arises by linking this portion of Scripture with 10:25-31 (another severe warning). The writer of Hebrews was warning against a specific kind of apostasy: forsaking Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for sins and returning to animal sacrifices as a means of atoning for sins. Thus, the severe warning is for those Jewish Christians who had originally accepted Christ’s redemption through his shed blood and then reverted to offering up the blood of bulls and goats as a means of cleansing their sins.

In the first century, a pagan who investigated Christianity and then went back to paganism would make a clean break with the church. But for Jewish Christians who decided to return to Judaism, the break was less obvious. Their lifestyle remained relatively unchanged.  But by deliberately turning away from Christ, they were cutting themselves off from God’s forgiveness.  Those who truly believe are glorious saints; those who reject Christ are un-believers, no matter how well they behave—thus, this warning not to “fall away” (Hebrews 2:1; 3:12).

It is impossible for people who have professed to be Christians and have experienced all of the beautiful gifts described in these verses, then have turned away from Christ to turn around and repent again since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.  It is impossible because these people show contempt for Christ through their deliberate actions.  It would be like personally crucifying Christ again. Many have argued whether someone who turns away from Christ can be restored to Christ.  Some point to this passage to prove that a backslider cannot be restored.  But “backsliders” are not the subject here.  This passage refers to people who walk with Christ for a while and then deliberately turn around and walk the other direction, rejecting Christ.  Hebrews 10:26 says, “For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (nrsv). These people can never be restored because they will not want to be restored. They have chosen to harden their hearts against Christ. It is not impossible for God to forgive them; rather, it is impossible for them to be forgiven because they won’t repent of their sins.”

Here is my favorite paragraph in their commentary on this passage (emphasis added):

“In the final analysis, having a debate about the meaning of these verses should not be a priority for churches today. What matters most is the warning against apostasy, and the warning must be taken seriously.  The passage describes people in our churches who act like and seem to be Christians, but who have not truly believed.  When those assumed to be believers turn away, the debate may take place afterward, ‘Were they originally believers or not?’ But people reading these words must heed the warning, not just debate the issue.”

The authors of another favorite commentary I check frequently, “Hard Sayings of the Bible,” have this to say, in part, about Hebrews 6:4-6:

“Most Christians know of individuals who for one reason or another have left the faith. They may not have actually denied the faith, but they are certainly not practicing the faith.  For such people this is a very troubling passage.  Is there anyone who cannot be brought to repentance?  Can a person have shared the Holy Spirit and then be lost?  And are these people really eternally lost? Is this really a description of a Christian?

First, this passage is not unique but rather is part of a group of passages concerning people who cannot be forgiven or brought to repentance.  Mark 3:28-29 refers to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. … In 1 John 5:16 the author speaks of a “sin unto death” (KJV) about which, the elder implies, prayer is useless.  Finally, the verse under consideration here refers to a class of people who cannot “be brought back to repentance.”  The issue is not whether God would forgive them if they repented, but whether there is any way to bring them to repent at all.  The answer is no.

Second, the people under discussion are fully initiated Christians. In the preceding passage, the author contemplates whether he should discuss Melchizedek, a difficult teaching, or return to the basic teachings of the faith. … But he will not return to these teachings, for he knows these readers. They are fully initiated Christians. There was nothing defective in how they were brought to Christ, so there is no use in going back over the basics.

Third, what is the author’s concern about these people? Hebrews 6 is an excursus [an appendix or digression that contains further exposition of some point or topic] the author inserted into the argument because he is afraid that when he gets to the difficult subject of Melchizedek the readers will “turn him off.” …  Throughout the book he is concerned that they will leave their Christian faith and return to Judaism. … The author is warning them before he brings the difficult teaching not to apostatize, because the consequence of such an action is damnation.

His warning comes as a description of what it would mean to apostatize. That he is talking about full-blown apostasy is clear, for he uses the phrase “they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Hebrews 6:6). That is, they once confessed that Jesus was Lord and Messiah, which means they repented of the injustice of the crucifixion.  Now in rejecting the faith they are declaring that the crucifixion was correct after all – Jesus was a blasphemer and not Messiah.  Such a public recantation exposes Jesus to public disgrace.

What, then, is the author of Hebrews saying? … His arguments to keep them in the faith must come from deeper truth, not from a clarification of the foundational truth.  He then points out by way of warning that if fully initiated Christians turn their backs on Christ, they will so harden themselves that nothing anyone can do will bring them back to repentance.  Their end result will be eternal damnation. … They may be on the verge of apostasy, but they have not made the decision and crossed the line.”

Although we have spent three posts on this topic of Apostasy, and we will come back to it before the series is completed I’m sure, it is time to move on.  However, as much as I want to move into examining Calvinism and Arminianism, I want to delay until we examine a related topic to Apostasy ~ God’s Sovereignty and Free Will.

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Eternal Security ~ Part 5

Apostasy ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to explore the issue of Apostasy and Backsliding.  In this post, I want to dig a little deeper on the issue of Apostasy by turning to Hebrews 6:4-6.

As I was contemplating and praying about this topic of Eternal Security, my daily reading plan through the Brit Hadashah, Psalms and Proverbs from YouVersion lead me to the Letter to the Hebrews.  This passage hit me up alongside the head:

 “For when people have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh, and tasted the goodness of God’s Word and the powers of the ‘olam haba [this age] — and then have fallen away — it is impossible to renew them so that they turn from their sin, as long as for themselves they keep executing the Son of God on the stake all over again and keep holding him up to public contempt.” ~ Hebrews 6:4-6

 This passage appeared to confirm my understanding that a born-again, spirit-filled Believer could indeed apostatize.  So, off to my electric library I went.  One of the resources I read was “Understanding Assurance and Salvation” by Robert E. Picirilli. [1]  I will be quoting from this book frequently as we continue in this series.  Reverencing this passage, Mr. Picirilli states:

“For those who believe in the possibility of personal apostasy, the book of Hebrews as a whole and Hebrews 6:4-6 in particular is one of the most important passages involved in providing a biblical basis for the view. The greater part of this chapter, therefore, is devoted to a thorough exegesis of this key passage in the context of the book and to treat questions about how it relates to the possibility that a truly regenerate person may ‘fall from grace.’”

For those who may not be familiar with the term exegesis it essentially means an “explanation or critical interpretation of a text.”  You may have heard the phrase, “you should never take a text out of context.”  He goes on to state:

“One of the requirements of good exegesis is to understand how a given passage fits into its context. In this case we should consider the general thrust of Hebrews as a whole.  These three verses come in the midst of a book that has perseverance for its major theme…an exhortation to preserve is at the heart of every major section of the book (Letter to the Hebrews).

Hebrews frequently encourages the audience to endure and warns against leaving the faith (see Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:1-29).  The warning passages exhort the kehilah to remain faithful to the teachings of Yeshua.  The author of Hebrews was exhorting the readers to remain faithful to the Messianic movement and not return to the Temple sacrifices and Judaism.

Does the Passage Describe Genuine Believers?

The people that the writer of Hebrews describes are said to have experienced four positive things. The question, then, depends on the meaning of these four clauses.

  1. They once been enlightened. This seems to refer to the spiritual enlightenment we associate with salvation. The Greek verb phōtizō means to give one light or bring him into light. The very same description appears again in 10:32, where also there is no reason to doubt that the writer consciously uses it to mean conversion.
  2. They tasted the heavenly gift. The people being described, “experienced” the heavenly gift.  Interpreters are not unanimous in identifying this heavenly gift, but the disagreement is more technical than substantial. The various interpreters suggest salvation, eternal life, forgiveness of sins, the Ruach HaKodesh, or Yeshua Himself.  Probably the best conclusion is that it means salvation and what goes with it: justification and eternal life in Messiah.
  3. They become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh. The word sharers in the Greek is metochos which means “to have together with,” is apparently used by the writer of Hebrews exclusively to refer to Believer’s common participation in things related to their salvation.  In Hebrews 3:1 we are sharers of the heavenly calling; in Hebrews 3:14 sharers in the Messiah; and in 12:8 sharers of the discipline that distinguishes between true sons and bastards. Either of these three, or the one here, will by itself should be adequate to identify such a sharer as a Believer.  To have the Ruach, in common with other Believers, is certainly to be a Messianic Believer.  Receiving the gift of the Rauch is a regular way of stating what it means to become a Believer. (See Acts 2:38-39 and Galatians 3:14).
  4. They tasted the goodness of God’s Word and the powers of the ‘olam haba. We meet tasted again; see above on the second clause. Those described have tasted God’s Word. This means that they have experienced the goodness that God has spoken of.  God has spoken good to those who put faith in Him, and these have experienced that good.  The same sentiment is captured by Kefa: “For you have tasted that Adonai is good.” ~ 1 Peter 2:3.Furthermore, they have tasted the powers of the ‘olam haba. Powers, in the Greek is dynamis, which can often means miracles (as in Hebrews 2:4).  In its broadest sense, supernatural workings. Believers, though still living in the present age, have already begun to experience the supernatural workings characteristic of the age to come. This includes more than we need to discuss here, but regeneration and the gift of the Spirit are the initial powerful works of the age to come that all Believers have in common.

Of these four clauses as a whole, then, we conclude that one would be hard put to find a better description of genuine regeneration and conversion.  Either of them will stand by itself in this respect.  The four together provide one of the finest statements about salvation, from its experiential side, that appears anywhere in the Scriptures.

Does the Passage Describe Apostasy from Salvation?

The answer to this question resides in the meaning of the clause and then have fallen away.  There is not much dispute about the meaning of the words, most interpreters readily accept that to have fallen away as used here leaves a person outside a saving relationship with Yeshua.  That is what apostasy means. In light of the contents of the entire book of Hebrews, fallen away is obviously synonymous with drift away (Hebrews 2:1), apostatize from the living God (Hebrews 3:12), shrinks back (10:38), and turn away from Him when He warns from heaven. (Hebrews 12:25).

According to Mr. Picirilli, the NASB provides an especially clear and accurate translation of this passage.  “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” ~ Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)

It seems clear that the Apostasy of these verses is a final and irreversible.  Picirilli concludes:

“This apostasy is therefore much more serious than what most people mean by Backsliding.  Since salvation is first and always by faith, this apostasy involves a willful defection from the saving knowledge of Christ, a final retraction of faith from Him in whom alone is provision for forgiveness of sins. The apostate forsakes the cross where he found redemption: ‘By renouncing Christ they put themselves in the position of those who, deliberately refusing His claim to be the Son of God, had Him crucified and exposed to public shame.’”

I would be remiss if I didn’t include David Stern’s notes on this passage for his Jewish New Testament Commentary.  I have kept his formatting intact in this quote.  My only change is to modify the names of the books of Scripture he references.

“These verses (4-6) have been commandeered into service of the most amazing variety of theological positions.  Arminians (named after their supposed founder, Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609)) take them as proof that it is possible for someone who has once been a believer to fall away from faith irretrievably.  Calvinists (after John Calvin (1509-1564)) interpret them in such a way as to make that a practical impossibility.  The dispute between them has fueled many fires, but often forgotten is the author’s purpose, which is not to deal abstractly with the “eternal security of the believer,” but specifically with his readers’ concern that unless the Levitical sacrifices required by the Five Books of Moses are offered their sins remain unforgiven.  Whether they had in fact reintroduced sacrifices on their own cannot be determined from the evidence of this book. But it is obvious that they were fixated on the sacrificial system; and it becomes the author’s task to show them that Yeshua’s atoning death and his elevation to the office of cohen gadol has brought about “a transformation of Torah” (7:12) which alters the sacrificial system and priesthood.

Here is a review of the author’s argument in these verses. He speaks of people who have:

  1. once been enlightened, so that they know who Yeshua is and what he has done;
  2. tasted the heavenly gift of God’s forgiveness;
  3. become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit whom God gives only through his Son Yeshua (this terminology makes it impossible that the author is referring to pseudo-believers, because only true believers become sharers in the Ruach HaKodesh);
  4. tasted the goodness (compare Psalm 34:8) of God’s Word and tasted the powers of the ʿolam haba, which is interesting terminology for the gifts of the Holy Spirit as enumerated in 1C 12:8-10

When people who have experienced salvation in such a deep way and then have fallen away from faith by trusting not in Yeshua’s own sacrificial death and high-priestly office but in animal sacrifices and the system of cohanim which the Torah set up to administer them—then it is impossible to renew them so that they turn from their sin, as long as for themselves they keep on executing the Son of God on the stake all over again. The reason is that they ignore what his death on the stake means, as proved by their trusting in animal sacrifices instead of His sacrifice. Thus they keep holding him up to public contempt by not glorifying his death as an atoning death but seeing it as having no special significance, so that his execution as a criminal becomes the dominant fact about it.

I am indebted to Jerome Fleischer, a Messianic Jew with a ministry in the San Francisco area, for pointing out to me that the author’s purpose in these verses was not to provide fuel for the Calvinist-Arminian controversy of 1500 years later, but to turn his readers’ concern away from animal sacrifices and toward the significance of Yeshua’s final sacrifice (my emphasis added). This is clear from the context of the following four chapters, which deal with precisely this question and which constitute the heart of the book.

However, it is possible to make a midrash on these verses which does deal with the Calvinist-Arminian controversy. Calvinism teaches the eternal security of the believer. It is possible to define “believer” tautologically [superfluously] in such a way that no one so defined ever falls away; but then no one could be certain he is a “believer” until his life had ended. For it is manifestly possible for a person to trust the Messiah as fully as he knows how, by any imaginable subjective or objective measure of his ability to trust, and to experience subjectively all the benefits of faith, and still at some point later to fall away. If that happens, it is impossible, so long as he remains in such a state, to renew him again so that he turns from his sin. Why? Because God has given him everything he can give, yet he now refuses to accept his status as righteous with God, along with the implied responsibility of living a holy life. In vv. 7-8 these good gifts of God are compared to rain, intended to make a good crop grow; but if an evil crop comes, it is in due course burned—a reminder of the fate of the wicked on the Day of Judgment. But the New Testament’s way of dealing with the security of the believer is different. Yochanan articulates it well: “The way we can be sure we know him is if we are obeying his commands” (1 Yochanan 2:3-6).

Some, insisting on the eternal security of one who has confessed the Messiah, understand this passage to say that carnal believers will be deprived of rewards (1C 3:8-15&N), or that they will spend the Millennial Age (Revelation 20:2-7) in Outer Darkness (see Matthew 22:13-14) instead of ruling with the Messiah.”

In my next post, we will continue to unpack the topic of Apostasy by examining other expert’s thoughts on Hebrews 6:4-6.  My goal is to try to provide a balanced approach between the two main positions (which I will present soon) to this issue of Eternal Security.

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[1] Robert E. Picirilli, former academic dean and professor of Greek and New Testament studies at Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, Tennessee, has been teaching, preaching and writing Arminian theology for more than 45 years. Since 1983, he has served as the General Editor of The Randall House Bible Commentary and, in that series, contributed the volumes on 1, 2 Corinthians; Ephesians; Philippians; and 1, 2 Thessalonians. His other published works include the books Paul the Apostle, Book of Galatians, Romans, and A Survey of the Pauline Epistles, as well as numerous booklets and articles in denominational publications and theological journals.

Eternal Security ~ Part 4

Apostasy ~ Part 1

In my last post, we began to look at the concept of Eternal Security.  We will be coming back to that topic throughout this series as we discuss other aspects of it.  In this post, we will explore the issue of Apostasy in more detail.  We will, also touch on the issue of Backsliding.

 In Part 2 of this series, I provided a brief definition of Apostasy.  The Greek word is aphistēmi which means to “depart, draw (fall) away, refrain, withdraw self or falling away.”

In the Brit Hadashah its usual meaning is that of a religious defection.  The Spirit expressly states that in the acharit-hayamim [End Times] some people will apostatize from the faith by paying attention to deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” ~ 1 Timothy 4:1. Watch out, brothers, so that there will not be in any one of you an evil heart lacking trust, which could lead you to apostatize from the living God! ~ Hebrews 3:12.   This is called “apostasy from the faith:” a secession from the kehilah and a disowning of the name of Messiah. The grave nature of Apostasy is shown by such passages as:

 “For if we deliberately continue to sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but only the terrifying prospect of Judgment, of raging fire that will consume the enemies. Someone who disregards the Torah of Moshe is put to death without mercy on the word of two or three witnesses. Think how much worse will be the punishment deserved by someone who has trampled underfoot the Son of God; who has treated as something common the blood of the covenant which made him holy; and who has insulted the Spirit, giver of God’s grace!” ~ Hebrews 10:26-29 Continue reading “Eternal Security ~ Part 4”

What Does Yeshua Say About the End Times – Part 3

In my last post, we looked at the beginning of the birth pains of the END TIMES.  In this post, we look at more warnings of Yeshua’s revelation of what is to come.

“Your Under Arrest”

“At that time you will be arrested and handed over to be punished and put to death, and all peoples will hate you because of me.  At that time many will be trapped into betraying and hating each other, many false prophets will appear and fool many people; and many people’s love will grow cold because of increased distance from Torah.  But whoever holds out till the end will be delivered.  And this Good News about the Kingdom will be announced throughout the whole world as a witness to all the Goyim.  It is then that the end will come.” ~ Matthew 24:9-14

Yeshua personalized His prophecy by explaining that the talmidim themselves would face severe persecution; thus, they must be on their guard in order to stay true to the faith.  Believers have always been hated by the world, but here we have an acceleration of persecutions and murders.  All nations will be involved.  This certainly was not true in the history of the early church.

As the early church began to grow, most of the talmidim experienced this kind of persecution.  Luke recorded many of these persecutions in the book of Acts.  Yeshua didn’t say it, but the talmidim would learn that loyalty to Yeshua meant separation from Judaism.  Two of the talmidim listening to Yeshua (Peter and John ~ Mark 13:3) faced the Sanhedrin not long after Yeshua’s resurrection (Acts 4:1-12).  At that time, they certainly remembered these words of Yeshua.  Because of the talmidim’ belief in Yeshua, the Jews would denounce them as traitors or heretics and pass down the sentence right in their synagogue.  They even would condemn Believers to death.

Not only would the talmidim face hatred from religious and civil leaders and their own families, they would be hated by all nations.  For a Jew to believe that Yeshua was indeed the Jewish Messiah would soon become very dangerous because it would lead to hatred and ostracism.  And Yeshua’s words looked forward to a time when hatred of Believers would grow.  As Believers, we should not be shocked or surprised that the world hates us (see John 15:18-21).  On the other hand, we shouldn’t be overly suspicious or totally withdraw from the world (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-11).  To believe in Yeshua and stay strong to the end (v. 13) will take perseverance because our faith will be challenged and opposed.  Severe trials will sift true Believers from phony believers.

Folks it is going to get messy!  If you’re the type who likes harmony in all relationships, you’ve got problems ahead.  Yeshua indicates in many ways how problematic relationships will get before He comes again.

  • People you considered Believers will turn against you.
  • Admiration for your faith will give way to tolerance, then to spite, then to hate.
  • The justice system you believed would protect you will decide to oppress you, and then threaten you, and finally exterminate you.

What’s to be done?  Stay faithful to Yeshua, loyal to all who call him Lord, true to your calling as best you understand it.  Stay alert and focused.  God’s Word is truth, and God will see you through.

Yeshua warned that such severe persecution may lead to the defection or falling away of some members.  It will lead to betraying and hating each otherThe fear and persecution will be so intense that people will betray and hate in order to keep themselves safe.  It will not be popular or respectable to be a Believer.  It will be dangerous.

Not only will Believers face defection and betrayal from within the body, but also false prophets will appear and their teachings will fool many peopleThe Old Testament frequently mentions false prophets (see 2 Kings 3:13; Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 23:16; Ezekiel 13:2, 3; Micah 3:5; Zechariah 13:2).  False prophets claimed to receive messages from God, but they said what the people wanted to hear, even when the nation was not following God.  We have false prophets today, popular leaders who tell people what they want to hear – such as: “God wants you to be rich,” “Do whatever your desires tell you,” or “There is no such thing as sin or hell.”  Yeshua said false teachers would come, and He warned His talmidim, as He warns us, not to listen to their dangerous words.  Second Thessalonians 2:3 mentions the day of Apostasy when the Anti-Messiah will use the persecution to influence others to lose hope in the Second Coming or even to abandon their profession of faith.

False teaching and loose morals bring a particularly destructive disease – the loss of true love for God and others.  Many people’s love will grow cold when sin turns our focus on ourselves and our desires.

Only Yeshua’s faithful followers will enter God’s Kingdom.  The stress in this verse is not on endurance, but on salvation; the verse offers both a promise and a warning.  The end refers to the consummation of the Kingdom at Yeshua’s return.  This became a precious promise to Believers who were struggling during intense persecution throughout the history of the kehilah.  Enduring to the end does not earn salvation for us; it marks us as already saved.  The assurance of our salvation will keep us going through times of persecution.  While some will suffer and some will physically die, none of Yeshua’s followers will suffer spiritual or eternal loss.

[Remember that I am not advocating a pre-trib rapture position, although that is currently my position.  What I know for sure is that we currently are going through times of upheaval and those who come to faith as a result of the Great Tribulation will go through even more difficult times.]

Yeshua predicted that His followers would be severely persecuted by those who hated what He stood for.  In terrible persecutions, however, they could have hope, knowing that salvation was theirs.  Times of trial serve to sift true Believers from false ones.  When you are pressured to give up and turn your back on Yeshua, don’t do it.  Remember the benefits of standing firm, and continue to live for Yeshua.

Let me close on a more positive note.

“And this Good News about the Kingdom will be announced throughout the whole world as a witness to all the Goyim.  It is then that the end will come.” ~ Matthew 24:14

Yeshua said that before His return, the Good News of the Kingdom (the message of salvation) would be preached throughout the world.  Some have misconstrued Yeshua’s predictive prophecy; it does not necessarily mean that every last tribe must hear the gospel before Yeshua returns.  But this was the talmidim’ mission – and it is ours.  Yeshua talked about the end times and final judgment to emphasize to His followers the urgency of spreading the Good News of salvation to everyone.

Although persecution is inevitable, we must never give up our mission to preach the Good News to “all the nations to the Jew first and then the goyim.”  (See Romans 1:16.)  We need to start with our family, friends and neighbors.  Yeshua predicted a great missionary expansion to the entire world before He would return.  By the time Matthew’s readers would hear these words, Yeshua’s prediction had already begun to be fulfilled.  Reaching all the nations began at Shavuot (see Acts 2:5-11) and was spreading to the entire world (Romans 1:5, 8; 15:19; Colossians 1:6, 23; 1 Timothy 3:16).

Next week, we will continue in Matthew 24 to learn more about what Yeshua has to say about the END TIMES.

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