Friday, June 1, 2018

Guest Post: Kingdom/Dominion Theology

By Dave Hunt 
(from 1987)
There are many factors that make up the growing apostasy and seduction of the church. One of the most alarming, least understood, and fastest spreading errors is the teaching that earth instead of heaven is the ultimate home for the church, and that her goal is to take over the world and establish the kingdom of God. Only then, it is said, can Christ return—not, however, to take us to His Father's house as He promised His disciples in John 14, but to reign over the Kingdom which we have established for Him. As we mentioned in the last chapter of Seduction, if the real Jesus Christ is going to catch His bride up from earth to meet Him in the air (1 Thes:4:17), then those who work to build a kingdom for a "Christ" whom they will meet with their feet planted on earth have been under heavy delusion indeed! They have been working for the Antichrist!
One hears a great deal about Christ returning only when the church is a unified, vibrant, forceful, spotless, wrinkle-free Bride (Harvest Time, Nov. 1986, etc.). There is no scripture to support such teaching. Nor is it logical that Christians who happen to be alive when Christ returns must attain to perfection in order to join (at that heavenly marriage to the Lamb) millions of Christians from past ages who attained to no such perfection at all.
The only righteousness that any of us has is that of Christ himself. Our works qualify us for rewards but not for heaven. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord" (2 Cor:5:8) is as true of carnal Christians when they die as it is for the most victorious. Christians from all ages "must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Cor:5:10), and when our works have been tried with fire (1 Cor:3:13-15) and in shame we have confessed our sins and failures (1 Jn:1:9) and He has wiped "all tears from [our] eyes(Rev:21:4), then and not until then will His bride be without spot and wrinkle, united before the Father's throne in heaven and ready to join in that great feast above!
We ought to seek to live holy and faithful lives to His glory. His coming, however, is not dependent upon that small fraction of the church alive at the time reaching some perfection which millions and perhaps billions of Christians already in His presence through death have never attained.
This teaching can be traced back several centuries, but its recent explosion dates from the Latter Rain, or Manifest Sons, movement that began in 1948 in Canada in apparent revival. It was declared to be heresy by the Assemblies of God in 1950. Its relationship to the positive-confession (Hagin, Copeland, et al.) and discipleship (Mumford, Simpson, et al.) movements is clearly established. Obviously, if we can get whatever we confess, then we ought to confess healing and immortality and peace and prosperity and salvation for the world. This is in fact where the name "Manifest Sons" comes from: the last-days overcomers must manifest total victory over all foes in these bodies without a resurrection, even over death.
Earl Paulk is a major leader in this movement as are John Giminez of Rock Church and Bob Weiner of Maranatha Ministries, active on college campuses across the country. Pat Robertson at times sounds as though he leans strongly toward this position (for example, his Dec. 9, 1984 talk at Bob Tilton's church), as does James Robison. Hardcore Manifest Sons teachers make such statements as, "You can study books about going to heaven in a so-called 'rapture' if that turns you on. We want to study the Bible to learn to live and to love and to bring heaven to earth." (See Beyond Seduction, p 244.)
Others are more cautious and even devious in their statements. Earl Paulk, for example, claims to believe in the Rapture in spite of the fact that he has written entire books denouncing it. Just as Mormons use words such as salvation, eternal life, God, etc. but have their own meaning, so those in this movement use terminology with accepted meaning for other Christians in order to confuse. It is a mistake to assume that by "Rapture" Paulk means being caught up to meet Christ in the air with the resurrected saints and taken to heaven. Like the "Happy Hunters" (who tell of seeing a huge Christ at a crusade in Fresno—presumably not as tall as Oral Roberts' 900-foot Jesus— and Christians being raptured up into Him and being recycled back to earth) those in this movement use the term "Rapture" to signify reaching a new oneness with Christ that enables them to fully manifest His power and glory.
Prophetic scriptures are either denied, interpreted as having already been fulfilled (much of Revelation happened at A.D. 70, for example) or spiritualized. The church is Israel, which no longer has any place in prophecy as a nation; Armageddon is the ongoing battle between the forces of light and darkness; the Antichrist is a spirit not a person; we are already in the Great Tribulation and the Millennium both, etc. Instead of exegeting the Bible, there are new revelations. For example, the brochure for the Atlanta '86 conference for pastors, held at Paulk's church with speakers such as Oral Roberts, Tommy Reid, et al., declared that Christ's return was being held up by the reluctance to accept new revelation. The latter are presented by a new class of prophets who cannot be judged but must be obeyed.
Closely related in belief are several other groups: reconstructionists such as Gary North, et al., as well as Christian socialists such as Jim Wallis (of Sojourners), Tom Sine, et al., whose major focus is upon cleaning up the earth ecologically, politically, economically, sociologically, etc. They imagine that the main function of the church is to restore the Edenic state—hardly helpful, since Eden is where sin began.
Many groups are beginning to work together who disagree on some points but share with the New Agers a desire to clean up earth and establish the Kingdom. I expect such cooperative efforts to grow, even involving Christian leaders who are not aware of what they are actually promoting. One example is the Coalition on Revival, which includes such evangelical stalwarts as Joseph Aldrich, Bill Bright, Armin Gesswein, Josh McDowell and J.I. Packer, who are not aware that the actual intention of the leaders of COR falls in line with what we are discussing.
I give brief attention to this subject in the last chapter of Beyond Seduction. A more detailed treatment is provided in Whatever Happened to Heaven? Be on your guard. Keep close to our Lord and to His Word. Be Bereans who don't rely upon the interpretation of someone else (be he Dave Hunt, Robert Schuller or anyone) but who know what they believe and why on the basis of God's Word.
Last month we referred to the growing kingdom/dominion/restoration movement, and the related danger of sincere people being involved in a vast international cooperative effort to bring peace and justice upon the earth through humanistic means. Sojourners magazine (headed by Jim Wallis) boasts that it "has become a connection point...creating a network of faith and action among evangelicals, Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, the historic peace churches, the charismatic renewal, the peace movement, and non-Christians looking for a faith that touches the world they live in." Any such "faith" that this ecumenical movement (which includes non- and even anti-Christians) can agree upon is obviously not the faith once for all delivered to the saints for which Jude tells us we must earnestly contend. In fact, this cooperative effort effectively undermines true biblical faith.
Significantly, the Pope is emerging as the inspirational leader in an unprecedented international ecumenism. He has cleverly declared that "liberation theology" (divested of Marxism) is the hope of the world and that a common concern for the welfare of humanity will be the means of uniting all religions into one. Mother Teresa is the champion of the humanistic ecumenism which the Pope advocates and she has become so highly respected that to criticize her would be unthinkable. She is the epitome of good works, selfless love and Christlike living—or so it seems. Yet she enjoys the acclaim of everyone in all religions, which is very un-Christlike (Mat:10:22, Mk 13:13).
The reason for her popularity (which has deceived many evangelical leaders into unreservedly praising her) is her universalism. Although she seems to glorify Christ, she says He is in everyone. Indeed, AIDS victims are declared to be "Jesus in a pitiful disguise." In her speech at the United Nations after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (Jesus never gained such acceptance by the world), Mother Teresa explained that she wanted to get everyone to pray because prayer "purifies the heart," and when the heart is pure you "see God in everyone." Hers is the "god" of all religions. Her goal is to bring everyone "nearer to God," and when that happens, she explains, if you are a Buddhist you become a better Buddhist, if a Hindu you become a better Hindu, etc.
We cannot fault her selfless, sacrificial example of charity. It is staggering that this woman has been responsible for taking 40,000 derelicts out of the gutters of Calcutta and her work is spreading around the world. There is, however, something more important than helping the suffering and afflicted to die in a clean bed. It is in fact not love at all to clean them up only to let them go out into eternity without Christ. That is comparable to carefully attending to a blister on the finger while ignoring the fact that the patient has a ruptured appendix.
Both in Calcutta and New Delhi, Pope John Paul II declared that he had come to learn from the great spiritual heritage of India. (This "great spiritual heritage" of Hinduism has left India the poorest, most pitiful country in the world.) One year ago he "walked down the aisle of Rome's main synagogue to thunderous applause and sat beside Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff." The historic event was described as "an unprecedented papal gesture to end nearly 2,000 years of enmity between Catholics and Jews." The Pope has met with leading Muslims and Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama, and in doing so has repeatedly called for a uniting of all the world's religions. Last October 27 he succeeded in gathering at Assisi representatives of most of the world's leading religions in a "Day of Prayer for Peace." In his invitation he declared that "the challenge of peace, as it is presently posed to every human conscience, transcends religious differences."
It is a powerful appeal: the necessity to unite to rescue the world from a nuclear holocaust and to work together in the humanitarian cause of the poor and needy. And along with this is the equally irresistible power of a common mystical experience of "God" that frees one from the necessity of theological arguments and thus dissolves the basic conflict between religions. The charismatic movement is made to order for the new ecumenism and significantly it is the charismatics who are almost frantically pushing "the greatest move of unity in history." An integral part of this "move" is Protestant-Catholic "unity" which has Protestant charismatics overlooking fundamental doctrinal differences and embracing occultic practices.
With the clear biblical warnings of a coming world religion (Rev:13:4,8) we do well to watch these developments carefully and to seek to rescue as many as we can from compromise that denies the true faith. TBC
By Dave Hunt

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Guest Post: Our Focus is Heaven

The Bible begins with God creating the universe and it ends with Him destroying it entirely and creating afresh a "new heaven and a new earth" (Rev:21:1). From beginning to end history is the eternal God fulfilling His immutable purpose. Once we get a clear view of the cosmic proportions of God's plan, we lose any delusions as to our own greatness and are delivered from all mistaken notions that we can somehow fulfill human destiny by our own efforts.
Of course that very delusion fuels the humanist's cosmic aspirations. As part of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), President Carter, a professing Christian, cast this message into the cosmosaboard the Voyager spacecraft. It was addressed to any spacefaring civilization that might chance to intercept Voyager:
This is a present from a small distant world...attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope join a community of galactic civilizations. This [is] our hope and our a vast and awesome universe.
Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, The White House - June 16, 1977
Far from hoping to join a community of galactic civilizations, the Christian looks forward to the destruction of the present cosmos and the creation by God of a new universe that will be inhabited by a new race of twice-born children of God, who have received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and have been made new creations in Him. Once that tremendous fact grips one's heart it becomes clear why salvation must be by grace alone; it is nothing that we deserve or could accomplish, but it must be entirely God doing for us what we could never do for ourselves.
A new heaven and a new earth inhabited by a new race descended from a new Adam, Jesus Christ himself! That is God's purpose and it is staggering to contemplate! From this perspective, it is ludicrous to imagine that the church by organizing conservative voters or even by preaching the gospel is going to establish God's kingdom. The true and eternal kingdom of God involves not just this small planet but all creation, including the purging by the blood of Jesus and the remaking of heaven itself. Nothing could be better established from Scripture and logic than the glorious fact that the ultimate fulfillment of God's purpose is something that only He can accomplish. Obviously we can only be part of it as we allow Him to have His way in and through us.
This realization puts us on our faces before God in wonder and worship, and causes us to yield ourselves wholeheartedly to His will. Unfortunately, that awesome sense of the greatness of God and the cosmic and eternal proportions of the work that He is doing seems largely absent from Christianity today. Could this be why so many carry the self-imposed burdens of the many "programs" they are trying to put into effect in order to "live victorious lives" or to "advance the cause of Christ"? When we see that the task is totally beyond our capabilities, then we cease from our striving and begin to allow Him to work in and through us by His mighty power.
Many object to this heavenly/eternal perspective as "pie-in-the-sky in the sweet-bye 'n' bye" talk. There are warnings about being so "heavenly minded" that one is of "no earthly good." We must be practical, so the argument goes, meeting first of all the earthly needs of ourselves and others and doing our best to make this world a better place for everyone.
Yet Christ himself continually turned the focus of His followers from earth to heaven. Throughout Scripture we are counseled to live at all times with the understanding that life on this earth is very brief and that it is followed by an eternal existence of either indescribable bliss in God's presence or unbearable agony in separation from Him. Peter declares that the knowledge that "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise [and] the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Pt 3:10) causes us to live godly lives. And John adds that the hope of being transformed into His likeness when He shall appear causes us to purify ourselves (1 Jn:3:2-3).
Of course, the greatest motivation is the love that is born in our hearts as we realize that the Creator of the universe loves each of us so much that He became a man to die in our place. This love has captured our affection so that we gladly declare that we are His and His alone for eternity. Accepting the death of Jesus Christ as our own death, we have given up life as we would have lived it so that He can live His resurrection life through us. The eternal Kingdom has already begun in every heart where the King reigns! Moreover, as His bride, we long to be united in that heavenly marriage with Christ our Bridegroom and to honeymoon with Him forever in His Father's house! Forever we will worship and praise the One who has made all things new!
Many would have us believe that self-love is the answer to the world's ills. Both Christian leaders and the unsaved are teaching and preaching this lie. It is self-love that has wrought the ills of the world: greed, lust, and envy. And yet proponents of self-love or self-esteem say this is what will bring inner peace.
A recent newspaper article stated, "About the same time they learned their former governor was holed up in Japan studying Zen [Buddhism], Californians were given the nation's first governmental task force devoted to boosting self-esteem. The Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility will spend $735,000 over the next three years trying to prevent crime, drug abuse and other social ills by making folks feel better about themselves."
Peace cannot be achieved personally until the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, reigns in our hearts. And peace on this earth will not be seen until the King of Kings comes to reign. But startlingly enough, even His presence will not turn men from their self-determination to rule their own kingdom (see Rev:20:7-10).
Message 7 in the new video series "Seduction and Beyond" presents further thoughts on kingdom/dominion theology:
You see, the kingdom of God is not the millennium. The Word of God distinctly tells us, "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom: "You get that in Psalm 145. Even Nebuchadnezzar knew that. You get that in chapter 4 and chapter 7 of Daniel. Isaiah:9:6, that verse that we know so well, that we quote each Christmas particularly: "For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulders. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father..." And then what does the next verse say? "And of his kingdom and peace there will be no end." No end.
Yet, the millennium ends, and with the greatest war the world has ever seen. Satan has been loosed, he deceives the nations and they march upon Jerusalem. At that time, Jesus himself has been reigning over this earth for 1,000 years. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb. (Isa:11:6). He has brought peace to this earth. It is not the kingdom of God, but the final proof of the incorrigible nature of the human heart. And there is no hope except we deny self and take up the cross and follow Jesus Christ. The kingdom involves a new heaven and a new earth (Rev:21:1). And that new universe is only to be inhabited by those who have been willing to become new creatures in Christ Jesus. Who have allowed Jesus Christ to take over and make them new. And for whom old things have passed away; all things have become new. They look to Him and to Him alone to be their life; to be their all....
The Bible should be reverenced as doing all that words can do to bring us to God—that is, to point the way. But the life-giving power of Christ does not reside in Greek and Hebrew syntax, but in the quickening of the Holy Spirit; for "the gospel is not in word only, but in power and in much assurance of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thes:1:5). What folly to ascribe to the letter of Scripture that power which the words themselves most plainly tell us is solely in the quickening Spirit of God!
Yet Scripture has suffered this very perversion of teaching at the hands of those who claim to uphold most ardently its infallible inspiration. Thus, many profess a sound doctrinal understanding of the letter of Scripture, but at the same time they reject the very work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives to which the plainest meaning of the Scripture they so zealously study and guard would point them!
By Dave Hunt

Monday, April 2, 2018

Guest Post: The Preaching of the Cross

In our great concern over the growing apostasy and in our zeal to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, we must constantly take heed of our personal relationship with and testimony for our Lord. And to do this, we must always keep foremost in our hearts and minds the Cross.
Scripture makes it very clear that the cross of Christ is the heart of the message we preach, the determinant of our relationship to this evil world, and the secret of victory over the world, the flesh and the devil in our daily lives. Christ reminded His listeners repeatedly that it was not possible to be His disciple and thus a true Christian without denying self and taking up the cross to follow Him. I think the Bible makes it clear what this means, although there is also more depth of truth in the Cross than we will be able to fathom in this life.
Paul wrote, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor:2:2). This characterized his consistent conduct and the message he preached. For him there was one important rule: "Not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ be made of none effect" (1:l7). We dare not compromise, dilute or try to improve, with man's wisdom, the straightforward simplicity of the Cross. To do so destroys its truth and power to save others and to deliver us from succumbing to daily trials and temptations.
We have a tendency to forget that "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness" (1:18). One of the greatest problems today is the often well-intentioned attempt to reinterpret the gospel to make it sensible and acceptable to the natural or carnal man. Instead, the unchangeable message must change the thinking and lives of those who receive it or it cannot change their eternal destiny. Let that never be forgotten. That transforming power is missing, both from the gospel preached to the lost and from the Christian's life, when the sharp sword of the Word with its radical message of the Cross has been sheathed in the popular psychologies and self-oriented thinking of our day.
What we are trying to say is illustrated through a man who had the most amazing and unique testimony of anyone who ever lived. A resident of death row, he knew on the day of his execution, as footsteps came resolutely down the corridor, that he was going to die. When the door of his cell swung open, however, the jailor spoke these astonishing words: "You are being set free. Another man is dying in your place!"
Of course, I'm referring to Barabbas, the only man who ever lived who could literally testify, "Jesus died for me, in my place!" But Barabbas was not saved. Why? Simply because the death of Christ had freed him to live his own life. Yet that is often today's self-centered understanding of the gospel: Jesus died for me so that I can live for myself, for worldly success and happiness, and go to heaven when I'm too old or too sick to enjoy earthly pleasures anymore. Against that false impression, A.W. Tozer wrote:
Among the plastic saints of our times, Christ has to do all the dying and all we want is to hear another sermon about His dying—no cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.
People would come to Christ promising to follow Him wherever He would lead. His reply was simple: "Let Me make it very clear. I'm heading for a hill outside of Jerusalem called Calvary, where they will crucify Me. So if you intend to be true to Me to the end, take up your cross right now, because that is where we're going."
Of course no one did that. Even His closest disciples all forsook Him and fled to save their own lives. Nor would it have saved their souls had they died on crosses erected beside His. He had to die in their place. But after His resurrection they were changed men, no longer afraid to die for their Lord. For then they understood and believed and gladly submitted to the truth: Christ had died in their place because they deserved to die. His death was not to deliver them from death, but to take them through death and out the other side into resurrection.
At last they understood and believed. Acknowledging that God was just in condemning them to death for their rebellion against Him, they accepted the death of Christ their Savior as their very own. They had died in Him; and believing that changed everything.
In Galatians:6:14 Paul writes, "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." As those who have been crucified with Christ, we have been completely cut off from this world. One of the problems with today's Christianity is its attempt to make itself appealing to the spirit of this world and thus to become popular with the world. Christ would no more be popular today than He was in His day; and He said that those who hated Him would hate His disciples. So John wrote, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 Jn:2:15).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul explained further: "For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you" (2 Cor:13:4). How are we weak in Him? Not in our relationship to sin or Satan or to the temptations of this world, over which we have the victory through Christ. We are weak in the same way that He was weak, i.e., in that He did not fight to defend Himself or His kingdom against the political or military might of this world. His victory (and ours in Him) over Satan also came in submitting to death: "That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb:2:14-15).
It is not through gritting our teeth and determining by our will power that we overcome temptation, but in accepting the fact that we are dead in Christ. The dead no longer lust, lose their tempers or act selfishly. Our victory is in our being "dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom:6:11). We have given up life as we would live it in order to experience His life being lived in and through us. The life He gives is resurrection life, and only those who are dead can receive that. We cannot know the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ, until we have willingly accepted His death as our death.
These few thoughts scarcely scratch the surface of the meaning of the Cross (which includes, of course, the Resurrection). In meditating upon this greatest event of all time and eternity, we begin to see both the horror of our sin and the amazing love of our Lord—the two chief motivations for holiness. May we abide in His love, that the Cross so fully proved, and become the messengers and channels of that love to the world for which He died.
By Dave Hunt

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Guest Post: Imminence

We have discussed the kingdom/dominion/reconstruction/COR movement a number of times. I consider it to be the fastest growing adverse influence in the church today, and thus a primary cause for concern. It is helping to set the stage for the coming world government of the Antichrist by confusing key issues of prophecy. Of course, those involved in this movement would sincerely deny that they are helping, or that they wish to have any part in helping, the Antichrist in any way. There is another and more subtle danger—the undermining of one's personal spiritual life as a result of this movement's unbiblical teachings.
Those who believe that they must take over the world and establish the millennial kingdom for Christ in His absence either reject the Rapture or relegate it to such a distant and unimportant position that it has no practical value in their lives. This has serious consequences because the hope that Christ could return at any moment is intended by God to be one of the major purifying factors in the Christian's life (1 Jn:3:3). I believe that John is referring both to doctrinal as well as moral purity by the phrase "purifieth himself." The two go together, yet doctrine is now frequently avoided as a cause of division rather than what it actually is, the necessary container of truth.
One of the most unpopular doctrines today (in stark contrast to its prominence only a few years ago) is that of the Rapture—Christ catching His bride away to heaven (1 Thes:4:13-18). Because Christ has not come "quickly," as He promised (at least by our definition), there are those who consider the Rapture a topic to be avoided. However, the great number of statements in the Bible regarding the end times in general, and the Rapture in particular, suggest that this whole area should be a prominent part of our Christian faith and life.
With respect to the Rapture, we are repeatedly urged to have an attitude of watching and waiting. Why is this attitude commanded by Christ? Does its value for us, and the importance the Bible obviously attaches to it, reside primarily in the Lord's return actually being imminent? Indeed not.
Whether or not the Lord's return is imminent for us, we now know in retrospect that it was not imminent for all those generations of Christians who came before us. If the sole value of their "expectancy" lay in its being satisfied, i.e., in it being true that the Lord would come imminently—then the fact that Christ has not yet returned would leave us without any explanation for why the Lord urged this "expectant" attitude in the first place. Therefore there must be something important, something integral to a good Christian life, about the attitude of expecting Christ's return at any moment. What could this be?
There can be no doubt that believing that we could be caught up at any moment imparts an added seriousness to our lives. We won't be here forever, so we should make every minute count. Moreover, it makes us insecure in our tendency to identify ourselves too closely with a world which does not hold our ultimate destiny, and reminds us of our true citizenship in a world to come which is based upon eternal rather than earthly values. This attitude certainly ought to characterize a Christian life, and a lively sense of the possibility of Christ's imminent return is more than justified if it has this good effect on us.
But doesn't the possibility of imminent death supply exactly the same motive? No. While it supplies a very powerful motive indeed, there is a great difference. The expectancy of being caught up at any moment into the presence of our Lord in the Rapture does have some advantages over a similar expectancy through the possibility of sudden death:
(1) If we are in a right relationship with Christ, we can genuinely look forward to the Rapture. Yet no one (not even Christ in the Garden) looks forward to death. The joyful prospect of the Rapture will attract our thoughts, while the distasteful prospect of death is something we may try to forget about, thus making it less effective in our daily lives.
(2) While the Rapture is similar to death in that both serve to end one's earthly life, the Rapture does something else as well: it signals the climax of history and opens the curtain upon its final drama. It thus ends, in a way that death does not, all human stake in continuing earthly developments, such as the lives of the children left behind, the growth or dispersion of the fortune accumulated, the protection of one's personal reputation, the success of whatever earthly causes one has espoused, and so forth.
One way that people cope with the finality of death is through such forms of pseudo-immortality—ways in which we, or things we cared about, "live on" after we are gone. Even Christians, who have genuine immortality to look forward to, may nevertheless be tempted to find consolation in some of these forms of pseudo-immortality. The Rapture, however, undercuts all of these; and to whatever extent these pseudo-consolations are weakened, our post-mortem hope becomes purified of its earthly elements. Being thus forced to face the fact that our destiny lies in heaven, we will be motivated to live with that goal in mind.
(3) The incentive provided by death is weakened somewhat by the fact that we generally have at least some control over its relative imminence. Certainly we are radically contingent beings, and our lives could be snuffed out at any time. But this is not the way people usually die. The cancer victim could have refrained from smoking, or added more fiber to his diet, or sought treatment earlier. The guilty auto accident victim could have driven within the speed limit or taken a taxi when he had too much to drink.
Though death can come suddenly and without warning we are not complete masters of our own fate), it is nevertheless true that we make decisions daily that increase or decrease the chances of our dying tomorrow, next month, or in ten years. This not-altogether-illusory sense of control over the time of our death reduces its incentive for godliness by making us feel that we can afford to postpone a closer relationship with God until next week, next month or next year. In contrast, we have absolutely no control over the timing of Christ's return to earth. It will just happen "out of the blue." Belief in the imminent return of Christ, then, does not allow us to postpone anything.
The whole dominion/reconstruction movement is too wedded to an ongoing earthly process stretching into the indeterminate future to be truly faithful to the totality of what Scripture says about being sufficiently disengaged from this world to be ready to leave it behind at a moment's notice. I am concerned that the Reconstructionists and the Coalition on Revival as well as other kingdom/dominion advocates are fostering a false conception of our earthly ministry—a conception which we must guard against lest we subtly fall into an attitude like that of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, for whom Christ's return to earth represents an interference with the mission of the church. He has Christ thrown into prison, where he visits him to complain:
There is no need for Thee to come now at all. Thou must not meddle for the time, at least...fortunately, departing Thou didst hand on the work to us. Thou has promised, Thou hast established by Thy word, Thou has given to us the right to bind and to unbind, and now, of course, Thou canst not think of taking it away. Why, then, hast Thou come to hinder us?
All human beings are tempted to be more at home in the world than they should be. Christians are not exempt from this temptation, and when they succumb it often leads to an effort to reinterpret Scripture accordingly. Reconstructionists exemplify this temptation, some even taking it to the point of claiming that Christ returned in a.d.70 in the person of the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and excommunicate Israel—and that this was the day of the church's wedding to Christ prophesied in Revelation 19!
Christ's return before they have taken over the world would be as inconvenient to the Reconstructionists and others in the kingdom/dominion movement as it was to the Grand Inquisitor, and for the same reasons.
Our hope is not in taking over this world, but in being taken to heaven by our Lord, to be married to Him in glory and then to return with Him as part of the armies of heaven to rescue Israel, destroy His enemies and participate in His millennial reign. Yet too often those of us who claim to believe this hold the belief in theory only, while denying it with our lives. Our hearts should be in perpetual wonder and joy at the prospect of being suddenly caught up to be with Christ, our bodies transformed to be like His body of glory and to be wedded to our Lord for eternity.
Heaven is not so much a location somewhere as it is being with Christ wherever He may be in the universe at the time, for we will be perpetually in His presence. It is not so much a place as it is a state of being, enjoying a heavenly existence that is beyond our present understanding but which ought to be our continual and exciting anticipation. And in our transformed bodies, made like His body of glory, in which we will share His resurrection life, we will reign with Him over this earth for 1,000 years. Then we will spend an eternity during which He will be perpetually revealing to and in us more and more of Himself, His love and grace and kindness.
Part of the problem with the kingdom/dominion/reconstruction movement is its mistaken notion that mortal man can accomplish what only immortal Man, our risen Lord, and we as immortal resurrected beings with Him, can perform. Do not settle for anything less than the fullness of what Christ has promised! The glory of the eternal kingdom that He offers is light years beyond the COR agenda of Christianizing and taking over this present world in these bodies of weakness and corruption.
We can miss His best by refusing to take seriously what the Bible clearly teaches and by not standing firm for sound doctrine. And we can also miss out on our true reward by attempting to live in our own strength the Christian life which only Christ can live through us. May we be true to His Word and to Him in our daily lives. The joy and glory He has planned and in which He desires that we participate is more than enough to excite and inspire and motivate us. "Set your affection on things above" (Col:3:2)! TBC
By Dave Hunt

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Guest Post: Roman Catholicism

By Dave Hunt
Last month, in relation to the shocking rise of anti-Semitism among Christians, we referred to the incredible claim by the Reconstructionists that Christ's promise to "come again" was fulfilled when "He came" in AD 70 in the person of the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and slaughter the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. In fact they claim that the entire Olivet Discourse (Mat 24-25) and all of the prophecies in Revelation (except for Rev:20:4-22:21) were fulfilled at AD 70.
This particular theory was invented in the early 1600s by a Jesuit named Alcasar to counter the Reformers' claim that the Roman Catholic Church was the "great whore...MYSTERY BABYLON" sitting on the beast in Revelation 17. In a stroke of genius, Alcasar realized that if he could establish the theory that Revelation had all been fulfilled by AD 70, then its prophecies could not possibly apply to the Roman Catholic Church. That scenario was eagerly adopted by the Reconstructionists, in spite of the fact that the Book of Revelation was written at least 20 years after AD 70, which destroys this fantasy. For those interested in a scholarly discussion of the date of John's writing, Dominion Theology, Blessing or Curse? by H. Wayne House and Thomas D. Ice is recommended.
In addition to data from the first century, the history of the Roman Catholic Church itself provides overwhelming evidence that the Reformers were correct: John's vision went far beyond AD 70 and was astonishingly accurate. In fact, the undeniable development of the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages into all that John attributes to the "woman sit[ting] upon a scarlet coloured beast" (Rev:17:3) is almost as powerful a proof for the validity of the Bible as the preservation and return of Israel to her land.
The Christianization of the world being pursued today with high hopes by the Coalition on Revival (COR) and other reconstructionists was accomplished 1,600 years ago under the Roman Emperor Constantine and his successors. Far from producing the benefits COR promises, however, it was the undoing of the early church. "Christianity" became so dominant that its profession was essential for those who wanted to gain social, political or even military recognition. As a result, Romans "converted" by the thousands, thus polluting the church. Augustine himself lamented,
The man who enters [a fourth-century church] is bound to see drunkards, misers, tricksters, gamblers, adulterers, fornicators, people wearing amulets, assiduous clients of sorcerers, astrologers...
He must be warned that the same crowds that press into the churches on Christian festivals, also fill the theatres on pagan holidays.
Roman paganism had simply taken on a thin "Christian" veneer to survive to this day under the cloak of Catholicism in an even more dangerous form. As head of the pagan priesthood (a position Constantine never renounced), it seemed only natural that the emperor should also function as de facto head of the church. As such, Constantine convened, gave the opening address and played a dominant part in the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicaea in 325. Thereafter, the emperors, in partnership with the popes, maintained "the unity of the faith" by persecuting and killing in the name of Christ those who dared to disagree with their dogmas and decrees. Pope Leo I—ascribing to the secular authority an "infallibility" that would later be claimed by the popes—flatteringly declared that the emperor was "incapable of doctrinal error."
It was the emperor who was first called the "Vicar of Christ"—a title inherited by the popes when the Roman Empire disintegrated. Constantine's title of Pontifex Maximus as leader of the pagan priesthood was also taken by the popes. Thus the head of the Roman Catholic Church is called the "Roman Pontiff" to this day. In fact, during the Middle Ages, the popes circulated what is generally believed to be a forged document called The Donation of Constantine in order to give legitimacy to papal powers they were exerting over kings and kingdoms.
The Donation declared that Constantine had moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople in the East and deeded the Western Empire, with all the attendant imperial authority, to Pope Sylvester in order to "exalt the most holy See of blessed Peter in glory above our own Empire and earthly throne, ascribing to it power and glorious majesty and strength and Imperial honor." It further declared:
And we command and decree that...the Pontiff who occupies at any given moment the See of that same most holy Roman Church shall rank as the highest and chief among all the priests of the whole world and by his decision all things are to be arranged concerning the worship of God or the security of the faith of Christians.
In recompense for this we concede to...the Pontiffs who will preside over the See of blessed Peter until the end of the world...our Imperial palace of the Lateran...the crown of our head...[and] the tiara; also the shoulder covering ...the purple cloak and the crimson tunic and all our Imperial garments...
We confer on them also the Imperial sceptres...the spears and standards...the banners and various Imperial decorations and all the prerogatives of our supreme Imperial position and the glory of our authority...[and]...the city of Rome and all the provinces, districts and cities of Italy and the Western regions, relinquishing them to the authority of himself and his successors as Pontiffs by a definite Imperial grant...
Whether the Donation is a forgery or not, the fact remains that the popes used it to justify not only their power but their regal vestments, religious paraphernalia and the pomp that surrounds their office to this day. Moreover, historians proclaim with one voice that the papacy stepped into the gap left in the West by the collapsing Empire, and the sceptre of the Roman emperors unquestionably passed to the popes. Historian R.W. Southern points out,
During the whole medieval period there was in Rome a single spiritual and temporal authority exercising powers which in the end exceeded those that had ever lain within the grasp of a Roman Emperor.
Even military leaders and kings were forced, no matter how unwillingly, to bow the knee to the pope in recognition of the all-pervasive power which the Church wielded over the masses of people. Add to that fact its great wealth, and the Church was a formidable force that even the most powerful rulers found easier to join in partnership than to fight. Historian Walter James reminds us that there was another even more compelling reason why every knee bowed to the popes—which today's Catholiccatechisms still insist is valid:
The Papacy controlled the gateway to heaven which all the faithful, including their rulers, hoped earnestly to enter. Few in those days doubted the truth of this and it gave the Popes a moral authority which has never been wielded since.
During the Middle Ages the power the popes wielded reached awesome heights in remarkable fulfillment of the vision given to John in Revelation 17 of that magnificent "whore" headquartered in a city located upon seven hills (v 9) and which "reigneth over the kings of the earth" (v 18). The identification is unmistakable. As Southern points out, the medieval church held the "power of life and death over the citizens of Christendom and their enemies within and without....Popes claimed the sole right of initiating and directing wars against the unbelievers ...[and to protect] their territorial interests." For example, Pope Innocent III never lost a battle! No one could withstand him.
This astonishing power over kings and kingdoms had already been demonstrated even before the Empire's collapse. Take for example the humiliation of Emperor Theodosius in 390, who was required to make public penance upon threat of excommunication. As a later example, consider Charlemagne being crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III during Mass in Rome's St. Peter's on Christmas Day 800 A.D.or the humbled Emperor Henry IV, waiting barefoot in the snows at Canossa to make his peace at last with Pope Gregory VII in 1077. Apparently unaware that he was admitting the fulfillment of John's apocalyptic vision, Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) asserted in no uncertain terms the authority of the Church over all secular powers. Pope Boniface VIII reiterated Innocent III's assertion of absolute dominion over kings in his Bull Unam Sanctam (1302).
The Roman Catholic pope, successor to the ancient Roman emperors, continues to wield similar power today. Most nations—including the United States—maintain diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Even the Soviet Union has maintained high-level contacts with the Vatican over the last two decades, and aides to the Pope and Gorbachev have been negotiating to set up a meeting between these two powerful heads of state. Like other secular rulers, Gorbachev is driven by necessity—he knows and respects the power of the Vatican, which rules over more than 800 million Catholics worldwide. In contrast, there are less than 60 million Lutherans. Today the Lutheran World Federation has its offices at the headquarters of the infamous World Council of Churches, which works for ecumenical union with Rome.
The charismatic movement has been particularly vulnerable to union with Roman Catholicism ever since Catholics began to "speak in tongues." One wonders, however, why most Catholics who have allegedly been baptized in the Spirit become even more enamored of prayers to Mary and various "saints," the reoffering of Christ in the Mass, and other serious heresies so contrary to what the Holy Spirit has declared in Scripture.
The predominant cry today is for "unity." It was the principle weapon with which the Roman CatholicChurch attempted to stop the Reformation. Luther was urged to "keep in mind the unity of the holy, catholic, and apostolic church...." As though faith is believing anything, rather than commitment to truth for which we must contend, Earl Paulk suggests that Paul's "unity of the faith" (Eph:4:13) has nothing to do with doctrine. Paulk advocates unity not only with Catholics but even with Mormons. A unity in which sound doctrine plays no part is very appealing to those who wish to be "positive" at all cost. It is today's major weapon in reversing the Reformation.
Among so-called Protestants today, the great issues of the Reformation for which thousands were martyred have been forgotten or are no longer considered important. Describing his feelings as he watched Pope John Paul II perform the unbiblical "sacrifice of the Mass" during his visit to Los Angeles in September, 1987, Robert Schuller reportedly said, "I cried through most of the Mass, because there was nothing that he said in words or in theological content that didn't harmonize with my own belief system." At that time Schuller confided to Catholic priest Michael Manning,
It's time for Protestants to go to the shepherd [the pope] and say, "What do we have to do to come home?"
In contrast to Schuller's attitude, we do well to remember the words of Bishop Ryle. Referring to Bloody Queen Mary's brief re-introduction of Catholicism into England and the resulting death by fire of 288 Christian leaders in four years because they refused to accept Transubstantiation, Ryle wrote with great passion,
I wish my readers to remember that the burning of the Marian martyrs is an act that the Church of Rome has never repudiated, apologized for, or repented of, down to the present day....
Never has she repented of her treatment of the Vaudois and the Albigenses; never has she repented of the wholesale murders of the Spanish Inquisition...never has she repented of the burning of the English Reformers.
We should make a note of that fact and let it sink down into our minds.
Doctrine is important. Truth is vital. We are urged to contend earnestly for the faith. One day we must all stand before our Lord to give an account. In subsequent newsletters, if the Lord tarries and spares us, we want to suggest some ways in which we can contend constructively and effectively for biblical truth. We must not only believe the truth, but we must act upon it and contend for it.  TBC