Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Journey to The Arm of the Lord

“You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah (Psalm 77:15)”

Many Israelites (“the sons of Jacob and Joseph”) as well as Gentiles were redeemed long before the cross of Jesus Christ. They were saved by faith in the True and Living God. Paul says, quoting Genesis 15, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” Abraham was Jacob’s grandfather and lived hundreds of years before the Law was given through Moses.

Asaph, here in Psalm 77, speaking of the Lord’s Arm says, “Your Arm redeemed your people.” At the time of Asaph there was the covering for sin available through the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament Law, the Mosaic Law that God gave the Israelites after He delivered them from slavery in Egypt, hundreds of years after Abraham lived and trusted in God. But, through Jeremiah God said that He would make a New Covenant with the House of Israel, not like the Old Covenant made in the desert (Jeremiah 31).

Before the cross of Christ, Gentile believers were saved by faith, in some cases without the Old Covenant, and Israeli believers were saved by faith through the Old Covenant, until the time of the Messiah (see Galatians 3:19). With the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, and His death and resurrection for the sin of the world, God has made a New Covenant with His people Israel and redeems all people through faith in Jesus. His death and resurrection was predicted in Israel through the prophet Isaiah more than 700 years before the time of Jesus. This prophecy is found in Isaiah 53. Since the birth of the Church after Jesus rose again, God saves any person (Jew or Gentile) that will truly repent of their sin and believe that Jesus died for their sins, turning to Him as their Lord and Savior.

So, Psalm 77:15 speaks of the redemption by faith for His special people Israel, but also all who would call on His Name after the Messiah would come and die for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Thirdly, Psalm 77:15 looks forward to the Second Coming of Christ and the establishment of his Messianic Kingdom on earth directly after His return, and fourthly, to the New Heavens and New Earth coming at the end of the 1,000 year Messianic reign of Jesus on earth (Revelation 20-21:1-8).

Now, let’s look at this phrase in Psalm 77:15, “You have with your Arm redeemed your people…” This description of God's “arm,” what does that mean? We know that God the Father is Spirit, so He does not have a physical arm.

In Hebrew, “zrowa” means arm, but it is used in many passages figuratively to represent strength. And in many verses it means the strength, might and power of the LORD. Its figurative use paints a picture for us so that we can “see” God reaching into our world and accomplishing His will. But, the Apostle John quotes Isaiah’s use of the phrase, and in so doing he applies it to Jesus- as a title.

In John chapter 12:37-38 he says of Jesus, “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the Arm of the LORD been revealed?"

John quotes Isaiah 53:1 as speaking of Jesus as the “Arm of the Lord!” The word “arm” should be capitalized in our Bible when it is used as a title of Christ. Isaiah 53 is clearly about the Messiah and John confirms that Jesus is “the Arm of the Lord” whom most did not believe in.

This phrase only appears in one other place in the Old Testament. The phrase “the arm” or “Your arm”, etc.., speaking of the Lord’s strength, and the Messiah in certain contexts, does appear in other places in the Old Testament, but the whole phrase “Arm of the Lord” only appears in John 12:38, Isaiah 53:1, and Isaiah 51:9.

“Awake, awake, put on strength, O Arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Are You not the Arm that cut Rahab apart, and wounded the serpent (Isaiah 51:9)?”

Rahab is a reference to Egypt when God delivered Israel from enslavement. The serpent is probably a reference to crocodiles in the Red Sea as they crossed over during the Exodus. Egypt is used as a prophetic type of sin in the Bible, and Israel’s deliverance from captivity in Egypt is a type of the believer’s deliverance from sin and death through the redemption found in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 51 as an amazing chapter to read in its entirety, but I have shared in this article a journey that led me to another verse in this chapter. And I hope this next verse brings as much comfort to you as it did to me when I saw it. Isaiah 51:5 says,

“My righteousness is near, My salvation (Hebrew: yesha) has gone forth, and My Arm will judge the peoples; The coastlands will wait upon Me, and on My Arm they will trust.”

In Hebrew the word “coastlands” is ‘iy (ee) and effectively means Gentiles here. Um, if you’re not Jewish, that’s you and me! And the “Arm,” that’s Jesus!

And here is what got me: “and on My Arm they will trust.” I immediately see a young child laying across their father’s arm, fully trusting in and resting in their father’s strong, loving embrace. He is holding us, keeping us safe and keeping us near. And how has the LORD accomplished this? The Arm here is Jesus Himself, our Savior, our Lord, our Redeemer. He is the One mentioned in Psalm 77:15 who redeems God’s people.

Are you trusting in Jesus? Do you have the assurance of resting comfortably in your Father’s Arm, in His strength and blessing? If you do not know God, He is calling you to become His child today. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. No good work will ever make up for the sin we’ve committed, or make us right with God. But Christ’s finished work on the cross paid the price for our sin. You can be made right with God through Jesus Christ. When you repent of your sin and turn to Jesus, you will be born again, set free from sin and death. You will have the promise of eternal life through Jesus, the Messiah. Turn to Him today. Trust on the Arm of the LORD!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Guest Post: The Most Important Commandment

Tom: Dave, as you know, last week we talked about the biblical view of love, beginning with the Great Commandment. I want to read that again for our listeners. This is from Mark 12, I’ll read verse 29-31. “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Now, Dave, you say that God commands us to love Him with all our heart because nothing less could save us from our incorrigible enemy, self. So, God is actually giving us the solution to our worst problem, isn’t He?
Dave:  Well, I would say so. He is the solution, of course. And to turn from ourselves to Him, as we mentioned in our last program—our problem is self. Self had its awful birth in the Garden of Eden, as we all know, when Satan deceived Eve into thinking she could improve herself by eating of that fruit. And all she was thinking of was self. “I, my, me, how beautiful, how attractive it looks to me, how delicious it would taste to me, how wise it will make me.” She wasn’t thinking of Adam. She certainly wasn’t thinking of God. She trampled upon the rights of her husband. She didn’t consult him at all, but she listened to Satan’s voice, and she was very self-assertive, very self-centered, self-interested; and that’s where . . .
Tom: This is stunning because it was prior to sinning, prior to her really disobeying God, but she was leaning in that direction. I mean, she didn’t come from a dysfunctional family—I mean, we’ve kidded about that, but really, this was a perfect environment, perfect, certainly in God’s love for them, for Adam and for Eve.
Dave: You can’t blame it upon anything except Eve herself, and Adam himself. That really raises a problem—in some ways, a philosophical problem that philosophers have philosophized about for centuries. But for God to create creatures—that’s what we are, we’re creatures created by God—who have the power of choice, who are morally responsible and who can determine what they will do, what they will believe. That was a very dangerous thing, because what will prevent us from thinking of ourselves. So even a perfect, sinless Adam and Eve, since they had the power of choice, it would be inevitable that they would choose self. The Bible defines sin as coming short of the glory of God, and any creatures that are less than God would make less than godly choices.
Tom: Right.
Dave:   Would come short of the glory of God. So this is why Jesus said, “You must deny self. Take up the cross and follow Me.” But our whole society . . . and it has come into the church, as we’ve mentioned, I don’t want to hammer away on that again, but . . . is taken up with self. Self-improvement, self-development, self-confidence, self-image, self-love, self-expression, self-assertion, self-ad nauseum, on and on it goes.
And Jesus, in contrast, said, “Deny self. Take up the cross. Follow Me.” So this is what He’s trying to express to us in this statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
But, Tom, can I go back to something before that?
Tom: Sure.
Dave: Jesus is quoting from the .  .  . it’s known as the shema, Deuteronomy:6:4. And you could say almost, well there was a command even before “Love the Lord your God.” He said, “Hear, O Israel. Listen to me, Israel.” So we don’t want to emphasize that, but we really need to listen to the Lord. We really need to listen to His Word; and faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
But let me just take a minute. In the shema, He says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” Now, you read that. That’s what Jesus is quoting. But in the Hebrew, it’s rather interesting. Wherever—maybe this is too elementary for many of our listeners, but I think some of them would find it helpful—wherever you see “Lord” in small caps, all caps, in the Old Testament, that’s Yahweh, “Jehovah,” some people call it. And wherever you see “God,” it’s generally Elohim, which literally means “gods.” All through the Old Testament, you have a plurality and a singularity. You cannot explain it away.
Elohim, I think, is about 2,500 times in the Old Testament, and I think Yahweh is about 9,000 times in the Old Testament.
So, here’s what it says, “Hear, O IsraelYahweh our Elohim is one Yahweh. And the word “one” there, in the Hebrew is echad. It doesn’t mean a singular, but it means a joining together of more than one into one.
Tom: A collective.
Dave: Right. So, in Genesis:2:24, when God presented Eve to Adam, husband and wife, and they became one flesh—two became one—that’s echad. Or, in other places where a number of men became one troop. Or Ezekiel:37:17, where God said to take the stick of Judah and the stick of Israel, and they would become one—one nation. So that’s echad. So the God of the Old Testament, the God of Israel, is not a singular being, but a unity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this is what Jesus quoted.
And then it goes on: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” And how can I love Him if I don’t know who He is, if I have a false idea of Him?
Tom: Right.
Dave:  So He’s explaining; He’s presenting Himself, and it’s important that we understand this.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, I want to quote a couple of other scriptures. In Jeremiah:29:13, it says, “And ye shall seek me and find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Now, this is a command of God, and if it's a command of God, we have to be able to do it. But how do we go about searching for God with all our heart? Now, before you answer that, let me give you my own crisis of faith, which I’ve mentioned on the program before.
After being a Christian for—I don’t know, five or six months—I really had a . . . my appetite for God’s Word seemed to really be insatiable. And I got to this verse, that I was to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my strength, and so forth, and I just had to close the book. Because I said, “I can’t!” I wanted to do everything that was in the book, remember? I have a Catholicbackground, you want to get it done, you want to do what it says. And I felt that way as a former Catholic. But here was something that I knew I could not do. But now I know I can do it!
But mainly, and I don’t want to answer this . . .
Dave: Well, how are you going to do it, Tom, then? We talked about it last week that now you said you couldn’t do it, and now you believe you can.
Tom: Yeah. Well, I called you up on the phone, and you said, “Tom, now you’re understanding what Christianity’s about. It’s “not by might, nor by power,” that is, the “self” doing it. It’s by God’s Spirit. That not only will He enable you, He’ll give you the desire, and you will grow in Him. You will get to know Him better. And the better you know Him— we mentioned this last week, but, I go way back with this, and I’m not saying that I’ve arrived, but I do know Him better; I do understand more and more what He has done for me, what He continues to do for me. And why He would even do something for me is more than I can take sometimes, you know, in my heart.
Dave:  Well, you were quoting from Jeremiah, and the Lord says, “You will seek for me and find me, when you seek for me with all your heart.” The word “me” is important. A lot of people want some kind of a god that’s like a magic genie. You rub the lamp and here it comes, “At your service. What would you like?” That’s the kind of a god that . . . To most of us, prayer is a religious technique to get our own way.
Tom:  In many cases.
Dave: Yeah. We try to talk God into working out our plans the way we would like. And so, God becomes sort of a Star Wars force that we can manipulate to get what we want. That’s not the God of the Bible, and if a person is seeking that God, they will not find the true God.
So, the true God is saying, “You will seek for Me and find Me, when you seek for Me with all your heart.” Do I really want to know the God who is so pure, so holy, that He cannot tolerate sin at all for one moment. Do I want to know the God who is so great that I’m nothing! Is this the God that I want to know? Or do I want to know a God that I can sort of put my arm around, and say, “Okay, God, you know, I’ve got a little favor I’d like to ask of you.” Or some kind of white-haired grandpa up in the sky with a long beard who will pat me on the shoulder when I do something wrong and say, “That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
Or do I want to know the God who is so holy that sin must be punished: the penalty must be paid. Do I want to know the true God, or do I want to know a false god. And, by the way, there are false gods. There. Are. False. Gods. People have false ideas of God, and there are idols, for example, that have been constructed by pagans here and there. There are millions of these idols in India. And the Bible—Paul very clearly says in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 that the Gentiles who give offerings to these idols are giving offerings to devils. That demons literally use these idols as a front for their activity.
Tom:  Yeah, but, Dave, these people are sincere. Doesn’t sincerity count for something here?
Dave: Tom, I don’t believe you can be sincere and worship an idol.  You know, Isaiah mocks them.
Tom: So, it’s not really sincerity, it’s really delusion, based on self and what self wants.
Dave: I think it’s a . . . the Bible says, “Of this they are willingly ignorant. They don’t want to know the true God. The prophet, Isaiah, you remember—God is inspiring him. He mocks them! He says they cut down a tree. Part of it they cut up and warm themselves, they build a fire with it, and they roast their meat on it. Part of it, they take a little splinter and picks their teeth. And then, part of it, they make a god out of it! It has eyes—it can’t see. It has ears—it can’t hear. You have to carry this thing. It has legs and feet, but it can’t walk. You’ve got to carry it.
And then, Isaiah says, “They that make them are like unto them. Their hearts are darkened.” How could you imagine that a little god that you formed out of wood or stone or clay—that you yourself have made—that this has power?
So, . . .
Tom: Somebody says, “Well, I don’t worship idols.” No, that applies to the god of your own imagination, one that you have created, crafted, in your head to do your bidding  . . .
Dave: And, Tom, we have this in the church as well. We have a teaching that came out of Group Publisher, to “visualize God.” How can you visualize God? “He dwells in a light that no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen or can see,”
So, whatever “god” you’re going to visualize in your mind, you might just as well make this god out of wood or stone or clay. This is a false god.
Or, the teaching in the church—many Christian psychologists: “Well, if you really want to understand the Bible, visualize Jesus. See Him there, and He will really speak to you.” Now you’ve got a fraudulent Jesus. You’ve made him up with your imagination, so . . .  “You will seek for me,” God says, “and find me, when you seek for me with all your heart.”
And we do not create God in our imagination. We do not create Him in our mind, or with our hands . . .
Tom: Dave, let me quote Hebrews:11:6: “But without faith, it is impossible to please him, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Dave: “Him,” right. I’ve probably said it before, Tom, but nobody remembers what I say anyway, but I can remember as a young Christian reading that verse and thinking, Ahh! There’s the formula of success! I can get that Cadillac. I can get that big house. I can get what I want.He’s a rewarder of those that seek Him!
And then it finally hit me. Wait a minute! If you’re seeking Him, what will He reward you with? Himself! He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Well, then, He would reward them with Himself. You wouldn’t want something you weren’t seeking. Wouldn't it be a bad bargain if you seek God, and He gives you the whole world and you miss Him?
So, we have people who are interested in the gifts that God gives, but not interested in the Giver of the gifts.
And, again, Tom, I’m not trying to be critical. It’s in my own heart. And we’re trying to learn from the Word of God.
Tom: We’re trying to understand the Scriptures, and we began with loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, all your strength, all your mind . . .  yet, if this is a false god we’re going after, it’s all for naught! How can you love something false, although we do?
Dave:  And at the same time, Tom, as we mentioned at the last program, there’s an element of fear involved. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It’s the beginning of understanding. And this God that I’m going to love—that I do love—that I’m seeking with all my heart, and I want Him to reveal Himself to me, is so awesome, there has to be a sense of awe and reverence, and really fear, before this God.
That raises a problem. It’s like the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. God came down. The mountain was on fire. Smoking. It was shaking like an earthquake, with the power and the glory of God. God spoke to them with an audible voice! Gave them the Ten Commandments, and they promised to keep them.
But do you remember what they said to Moses? “You go up to the mountain. You get close to God! We don’t want to get any closer than this, because it’s too awesome! It’s too frightening!”
Well, they had the understanding of fear of the greatness of God, but they did not have the understanding of God’s grace, His mercy, and His love.
So these two have to come together if I’m going to really know the true God. And very often when I watch television—Christian television, which I do very seldom—sometimes in some church services, I don’t think the God they’re talking about is the God of the Bible. They don’t treat Him with reverence. They don’t treat Him with awe. But it seems the God they’re talking about is someone that they almost have on a string, and he does what they want him to do. He performs when they want him to perform. He does miracles when they want him to do miracles. And they’re using him to their own end.
And again, Tom, I keep saying it. I’m not trying to be critical. I’m just trying to bring some correction into my own heart from the Word of God, and hopefully into the hearts of others who are listening, and maybe even something that will influence the church, that will influence our worship as we come together to praise God and to worship Him.
Tom: Dave, when we look to the psalms, for example David crying out or using the analogy of a deer thirsting  or panting for the water, or, Psalm 63, verse 1: “O God, I seek thee. My soul thirsteth for thee.” I’m sure we have listeners out there, thinking, That’s what I really want! I want that. I know I’ve gotten in this and gotten into that and maybe even deluded myself this way, but that’s what I really want!
How do I, how can my heart become like David’s, you know, a man after God’s own heart? How can I have this thirst, have this hunger for Him, that’s not just sincere but it’s in truth?
Dave: I think it’s fairly simple, Tom. Well, for example, if I said, “Tom, I’d like to introduce you to the  . . . (well, the things that the world goes for, but . . .) the world’s greatest athlete!” Or “the world’s most powerful politician, the greatest ruler, the wealthiest man . . . “  And let’s say that they’re good people as well as that. We do give honor to men. And we’re interested in knowing people who have some power, some greater knowledge than we have, and we would consider it a privilege if such a person would take you under their wing, and be a real genuine friend to you.
But this is the God who created the universe! Wouldn’t I want, rather, to know Him? To seek Him? He is so far beyond anything that any human being could be. He’s infinite, in love, in patience, perfect, in mercy and grace and power! And He loves me! He created me! He created us for a purpose! He made us in His image, in fact. And those of us who are Christians, who have opened up our hearts to Christ, He has come to live in our hearts! Now I wouldn’t think you would have to get behind somebody and shove them and say, “Wouldn’t you really want to know Him?” When I understand . . . I begin to understand a bit of who He is, how wonderful He is, I want Him! I long for Him! As a deer pants after the water brooks, so my soul thirsts for You, O God!” And we would say that with the psalmist, and with Paul, speaking of Christ and of God, who are one, “O that I might know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings (whoops!), being made conformable unto His death.” Oh, there are some things that are required in knowing Him. He’s going to conform me to His image. He’s going to discipline me, He’s going to guide me, and make me what He wants me to be. That’s why I want to know Him, and this is all involved in it. How could we hold back from that desire?
Tom:  And if the desire is really sincere, God has His love letters for you. It’s called God’s Word, and as we—Dave, you rattled off a lot of things about God’s qualities and His character, but you didn’t make them up. You found them in God’s Word. And that’s our encouragement to everyone listening to this program.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Guest Post: End-Time Events

*Especially insightful article by Dave Hunt from nearly 30 years ago. How things have developed since then!

e have now entered the last decade of the second millennium since Christ's birth. One is tempted to cry out: Will our Lord ever return to reign personally upon earth and usher in the Millennium? Why has He waited so long? We must not forget that the return of Christ is intimately linked with the coming of the Antichrist—who can only be revealed in his time (2 Thes:2:6-8).

I remember, as a young boy in the late 1930s, listening with special interest whenever preachers presented from familiar scriptures the prophesied "signs" that would herald the approach of Christ's second coming. There was much speculation about current developments: What was the significance of the Great Depression? Where did President Roosevelt's New Deal, with its innovative economic and banking measures, fit in? And what about Hitler—could he be the prophesied Antichrist? He was certainly a prime suspect!
Even back then, there was a very firm consensus on at least two points: Israel would have to return to her own land in unbelief, becoming a nation there once again; and the Roman Empire must be revived. These convictions were held in spite of every indication to the contrary. Confidence in the Bible alone caused us to believe that what seemed at the time to be preposterous would indeed come to pass—perhaps even in our lifetime.
Of course, applying prophecy to the present world had its difficulties. For example, since the days when she had been part of the Roman Empire, Britain had acquired a worldwide empire of its own upon which "the sun never set." Would that all be part of the "revived" Roman Empire? Again there was a firm conviction that Britain would have to lose her far-flung colonies in order to be included in the new union of Western Europe. Unthinkable in those days when "Britannia ruled the waves"! Yet we accepted such "impossibilities" by simple faith in God's prophetic Word.
Much of what I learned as prophecy in my youth has since become history. The seemingly impossible has happened, including the astonishing rebirth of the nation Israel. To a large extent she remains in unbelief and rebellion against the One who, nevertheless, still calls Himself "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." Make no mistake, the Israelites are there in fulfillment of God's promises and under His protection. Jeremiah 30-32 is sufficient (and there are many other similar scriptures) to clear up any doubt on this subject. It includes:
Israel...I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee,yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure....
All they that devour thee shall be devoured....Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations....He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock...and they shall not sorrow any more at all....
Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars...If those ordinances depart from before me...then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation.... Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that...[Jerusalem] shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.
And the revival of the Roman Empire? That staggering event now looms on the horizon. In 1992 the European Economic Community will officially become one massive entity with the power to dominate the world. And now that the Berlin Wall has crumbled and the entire Iron Curtain is being shredded, the dream of worldwide peace and prosperity seem within our grasp. Yet there is an essential element which I do not recall hearing about in my youth. Nor is it generally mentioned today. The ancient Roman Empire was a pagan religious entity headed by an emperor who was worshiped as God—and that aspect must be revived as well (2 Thes:2:4Rev:13:4,8)!
There has been much talk of the "revived Roman Empire" as a political, economic and military power. Seemingly forgotten is the essential role religion played in the world of ancient Rome. Like Gorbachev today, Constantine understood. A brilliant military commander, he also had the genius to recognize the need for a union between paganism and Christianity. By giving the latter official status, he brought internal peace to the Empire. In addition to the title Pontifex Maximus, which the emperors bore as heads of the pagan priesthood, Constantine, as the self-appointed civil head of the Church, became known also as the Vicar of Christ and the Bishop of Bishops. These three titles the popes, as his successors, retain today.
Concern for the religious unity of the Empire caused Constantine to call the first ecumenical Church Council—at Nicaea. There this pagan "father of ecumenism," the "first pope," gave the opening address and enforced unity upon the quarreling bishops. When the Empire later disintegrated politically under the onslaught of the Barbarians, it was held together religiously by the all-pervasive presence of the Roman Catholic Church, with its ingenious ecumenical blend of paganism and Christianity still headquartered in Rome. Thus, it was to the popes, successors of the pagan emperors, that the world of the Middle Ages looked for leadership in the longed-for revival of the Roman Empire—unaware that it was prophesied in the Bible as something evil upon which God's judgment would fall.
Hoping to usher in that long-awaited event, Pope Leo III, who'd had his tongue and eyes torn out by a mob seeking revenge for his unbearable tyranny and wickedness, groped his way to the side of Charlemagne, placed on his head a crown and declared him to be "Emperor"! It was Christmas day of a.d.800. The King was attending mass at St. Peter's in Rome. Abjectly pledging his loyalty, the Pope knelt before Charlemagne, whose protection he desperately needed. Yet Leo was also cleverly reasserting the popes' traditional claim to the authority to install or to excommunicate and dethrone kings and emperors. (See Rev:17:9,18"...that great city...on seven mountains... which reigneth over the kings of the earth.")
If the EEC is to fulfil the prophesied last days revival of the Roman Empire, then it must include these two elements: A new pagan "emperor" who will be worshiped as God (i.e., the Antichrist); and the restoration of a concomitant religious authority. There must be a partnership between the Antichristand the head of the world church, identified in Revelation 17 as "Mystery Babylon." Even Catholicapologist Karl Keating admits that Babylon signifies Rome. The current pope, John Paul II, is working feverishly to merge all faiths. He obviously understands that not only Protestants and Catholics but all mankind must unite in a new world religion.
Taking great strides in that direction, the professing evangelical church is steadily surrendering everything gained at the Reformation in its accommodation to Roman Catholicism and to its close relative, New Age paganism. Many of the shocking ways in which even children and youth are being drawn into the latter are revealed by Johanna Michaelsen in Like Lambs to the Slaughter. Of course the public schools have played a key role in the seductive process. A major concern of Christian parents which has led to the burgeoning home schooling movement has been the imposition of secular humanism upon students by the public school system. However, something even more subtle and deadly is being developed for leading youth into the coming world religion. Surprisingly, it will involve teaching about religion in public schools—in the name of religious liberty!
After the Supreme Court's 1963 decision banning prayer in public schools, any mention of religion disappeared almost completely from the classroom. Yet in that decision the court had encouraged religious discussion, declaring that "one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion." To fill the vacuum they themselves created, public educators are suddenly exhibiting what National Council on Religion and Public Education president Charles Haynes calls an "exploding interest in teaching about religion."
Directing this new movement is the Williamsburg Charter Foundation, "a private education group...committed to producing actual class materials by 1990...." Curriculums are already being tested in public schools. The Williamsburg Charter is backed by a veritable Who's Who of America's top leaders. Its support has joined together in common purpose such diverse persons and organizations as the Mormon Church and National Council of Churches, with the National Association of Evangelicals; the Muslim American Community, with the American Jewish Committee; NOW's Molly Yard, with Beverly LaHaye and Phyllis Schlafly; People for the American Way's Norman Lear, with James Dobson and Chuck Colson. Billy Graham gave the keynote address at the impressive signing ceremony June 25, 1988. It was attended by such international observers as Feodor Burlatskij, chairman of the Soviet Commission on Human Rights.
In his recent meetings with John Paul II, Gorbachev acknowledged the vital importance of religion and pledged both religious freedom and a restoration of relations with the Vatican. He and the Pope were described by the December 2 Los Angeles Times as "Two of the most compelling figures on the world stage today." It is all hauntingly reminiscent of Constantine's ecumenical achievements!
The aim of the Charter (which was echoed by Gorbachev and the Pope) seems commendable: "...we who sign this Charter, people of many and various beliefs, pledge ourselves to the enduring precepts of the First Amendment...commit ourselves to speak, write and act according to this vision and...urge our fellow citizens to do the same." The Charter recognizes and seems to decry "the de facto semi-establishment of a wholly secular understanding of the origin, nature and destiny of human kind" and promises to foster religious liberty for all. At the same time, however, ideas are expressed that spell trouble for Christians.
Those signing the Charter may have the best of intentions, but as a practical matter it is impossible to teach about religion without making pronouncements that are at best superficial and at worst inaccurate. For example, the curriculum's description of Islam (perhaps for fear of, like Salman Rushdie, having a price put on on one's head), omits the fact that killing non-Muslims and apostates is the shortest route to Paradise and that the most important verses scattered throughout the Koran advocate such killings. A comparison between Jesus, who said we should love our enemies, and Muhammad, who taught and practiced killing them, would be instructive, but is avoided. Nor is there any mention that a Muslim can marry four wives, beat them if they displease him and divorce them at his whim. Yet how can one really teach about Islam or any other religion without revealing the whole truth and making comparisons?
Predictably, the evils of "Christianity" are exposed, with no mention that such practices are contrary to the Bible. The very usage of the term "Christian," without clarification, is consistently misleading. To the Jews, Hitler was a "Christian," and indeed he declared that "National Socialism is positive Christianity"a monstrous lie. The Catholic enforcers of the Spanish Inquisition, in which Jews were slaughtered, "converted" under threat of death, and forced to flee the country are described as "Christians" in the curriculum. The suggestion is then made that Vatican II transformed the CatholicChurch into a champion of religious freedom. This is false, but what child would know the truth that the Pope's pledge of religious freedom is as hypocritical and treacherous as Gorbachev's?
Biblical Christianity will be the inevitable victim of such misinformation. It offers salvation by grace through faith in Christ and His sacrifice for our sins—while salvation by works is offered in varying forms by all other religions. A major aim of the Charter is to dispel "the spiritual divisiveness, born of creeds." Students will learn that it is both impolite and irrelevant to suggest that any one religion is right. Such broadmindedness is very appealing, especially to children. Thus the major lesson learned will be that Christians are bigots and that differences in religious beliefs are far less important than "world peace."
The Charter pointedly declares, "Justifiable fears are raised by those who advocate theocracy or the coercive power of law to establish a "Christian America" (p 15). That Christian fundamentalists are a threat to peace and intend to take over the world has long been the contention of atheists, humanists and such organizations as People for the American Way. We can hardly deny this accusation in view of statements by the Reconstruction/Kingdom/Dominionists. Paul Crouch, for example, in a recent broadcast, declared with anger and determination in his voice, "We are well able to possess the land. We're going to get violent; and if necessary we're going to take these air waves and these stations for God by force!"
An unbiased, nonreligious teaching of religion is impossible. Students will learn to see religion as a functional means to an end, that end being a Gorbachevian tolerance of all beliefs in the interest of world peace. Thus, the foundation will be laid for a new world religion that sees "truth" as less important than human fulfillment on this earth and ultimately deifies man. You may wish to point this out to the Christian leaders who are presently supporting the Charter

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Guest Post: What is Unbiblical Christianity?

Tom:  Welcome to Search the Scriptures Daily! In this first segment, we’re going through Dave Hunt’s book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, which we’ve been using because of its emphasis on the critical necessity of searching the Scriptures for understanding the Christian faith. In fact, if it’s not biblical Christianity, it’s not Christianity.
Now, Dave, I can imagine some of our listeners reacting to that statement, thinking, well, it’s rather cavalier. But it’s not. It’s just simple truth, isn’t it?
Dave:  Well, where do we find out about Christianity? From the Bible! So, are you going to come up with some ideas on your own? I mean, isn’t Jesus Christ—isn’t He the Head of the church? Isn’t He the One after whom Christianity is named? Well, then, I guess that’s the authority we go to.
Tom: Right. Dave, in chapter seven of your book, you begin the chapter by quoting two verses from the Old Testament: Exodus:20:24-26, where God gives instructions for constructing an altar, and then you quote Genesis:11:4, which gives man’s ideas about building an altar for spiritual gain.
How do these verses relate to mercy and works?
Dave: Well, we can certainly see how they relate to works! In Exodus 20, God says there is to be absolutely no human involvement in this altar. The altar is to be built of earth. If you can’t get enough earth to scrape together—the ground is so rocky— build it of rocks. But you cannot lift up your tool on it. You don’t carve the rocks. You don’t add any human embellishments. The altar of earth is a place where you offer a sacrifice. It has nothing to do with human works. And they are forbidden to go up by steps.
Then, in Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel, where they’re going to build a ladder—well, they’re going to build a tower—and by steps of their own making, they will climb right into heaven!
So, one is certainly the very opposite of the other. Babel is a rejection of what God says. How can there be any human effort? And didn’t Christ pay the penalty? Now, if it’s mercy, how can you merit mercy? Someone is merciful to you because you don’t deserve to be pardoned. They’re doing it not because you are worthy of it, but they’re doing it out of mercy.
Paul, in Romans, he contrasts “grace” and “works.” If it’s by work, then it’s not grace. If it’s by grace, it’s not by works—otherwise, grace isn’t grace and work isn’t work. And mercy is very similar to grace.
Tom: Dave, to go back to these scriptures—so, God, in a sense, is laying out something practical but also something very symbolic. And we could look to it—we don’t build altars today, but these scriptures have great meaning to us in terms of what God is telling us: that we cannot come to Him through anything that we might do.
Dave: It is absolutely essential that we understand that salvation is not by works. And it is an affront to God, it is an insult to God, to offer anything. And yet, this is what religion is all about! All religions partake of this error. Paganism, all ritualism, sacramentalism, the robes, the incense, the gilded altars, the ceremonies . . .
Tom: The Liturgies . . .
Dave: Yes, the Liturgies, the sacraments . . . they think that this is somehow efficacious, that this is pleasing God, or pacifying God, and that this is somehow earning God’s merit. I think of the chapter we discussed, “Well, what about the temple? Solomon’s temple was beautiful.”
These were all specifically designed by God. He said, again and again, “See that thou make all things after the pattern that was showed to you on the Mount.” It was a pattern of things that were yet to come. All the sacrifices were a picture of Christ, the Lamb of God, who would come and bear away the sin of the world. And it had to be exactly the way God said, because it was a picture of a reality that was yet to come.
Now the reality has come. Christ has come. He has paid the penalty for our sins. And the various cathedrals—I mean, you’ve visited them in Europe, all over the world—the altars . . . it’s amazing! Not only did Israel fall into this—the high places. The heathen, the pagan nations around them, they worshiped their Gods at high places. It’s like, again, it’s as you say, symbolic of man’s effort. Or the pilgrimages, you know. We were recently (maybe I mentioned this on the radio; I’m not sure, but . . . ) we were recently over in Slovakia, and we visited—outside of this town—they called it Calvary! It has an Orthodox church up on top of it, and it has a path winding up, with various little shrines on the way. And people come by the thousands and walk up this on their knees! Bloody knees, some of them. People who are somehow trying to suffer in order to get merit with God. No! There is no merit in that, and there is no merit . . . the church today has two ordinances: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Neither one of them has any merit in themselves. They are pictures of something that has happened in reality. If you are not a believer, you have not met Christ, you are not—as Paul said—crucified with Him; you have not accepted His death as your death, and you have not experienced new life in Christ by believing the gospel, then baptism means nothing! It will not help you. It can only delude you if you think it will help you.
So, the Bible teaches not infant baptism but believer’s baptism. In Acts 8, the Ethiopian, remember, said to Philip, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?”
Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, then you can be baptized.”
So Baptism is not efficacious, it has no power. It is symbolic. It is a remembrance, or a declaration, that you have died in Christ and been raised to new life. The Lord’s Supper, we take the bread and the cup. It is not . . . we are not eating the body and blood of Jesus. That would do you no good. We are not gaining some spiritual power, spiritual life, by this. We are remembering. Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of Me.” We are remembering something back there that happened 1,900 years ago—the penalty was paid. Christ died for our sins.
So, even the ordinances that we have today have no power in themselves. They are symbolic or a remembrance of something. So it was with the Jewish Levitical priesthood. The robes they wore, the . . . whatever it was that they did, those priests had no power to communicate spiritual life. They were simply following a pattern that God had given them that was looking forward to something that was to come.
Now, in contrast, all of the religions of this world including Christianity, which has partaken of the same errors of paganism, it believes that it has some power—that there is a priesthood with power. The robes, or the rituals, or . . .  whatever . . . have some power in themselves. It is absolutely contrary to the Bible. It is an abomination to God, and we have to come to God depending upon His mercy, not our works.
Tom:  Dave, your answer for me personally, it gives me some insights, because sometimes I think, Well, why is God so particular? Why did He lay it down so carefully and He tells us to be careful in what we do? And I think you’re answering that, because we have to stay with the pattern and what the pattern that He presents means. I think about—you mentioned ordinances, like baptism and the celebration of the Last Supper, “communion” for some; “eucharist” others would call it. It’s interesting historically to see how those ordinances changed into sacraments. First of all it began with the elders—and there were only certain people who could actually . . . well, there were only certain people who could perform these in the early church. It had to do with elders, and then it was bishops. Out of that—I think the reason for it was because they started to see something efficacious. They started to mystify that Christ’s presence was there, so you could only have individuals who were of a certain order, a certain spirituality. Out of that, what developed? Sacerdotalism, or the priesthood. So then we had priest who could only do this.
So, my point here is . . .
Dave: Then they claimed to have the power to change it into the body and blood of Christ.
Tom: Right.
Dave: And they took on themselves an authority that was never given by the Bible, which then gave them power over the common people, who then could only get to God through them, and it was exactly what the rabbis had done, and Christ condemned them for it in His day.
Tom:  Right. And it begins with getting away from the pattern, from the carefulness of what God institutes—or has instituted. You know, it’s man developing his own program around it, taking something and really corrupting what God has given. That's, as you started to say, look at all the religions of the world. Take the sacrifice that you find in pagan rituals—I think this is a corruption of what God instituted back . . . I think it began in the Garden of Eden, when God killed two animals, took the skins, and gave them to Adam and Eve to clothe themselves.
Dave: Well, everything in a system . . . I mean, for example, in Tibetan Buddhism they have the priesthood; they have the nuns; they have the incense; they have the holy orders; they have the monasteries and the convents; they have the robes. It’s very, very similar to what you would find in Roman Catholicism today! I don’t think it developed out of Roman Catholicism. I think it is part of a problem. You see, Babel—and the idea of building a tower that would reach to heaven and so forth—that’s a perversion that comes from man’s own pride, his desire to somehow present himself to God. You have it with Nadab and Abihu, who offered strange fire on the altar, and God killed them for this! And, as you said, it goes back to the Garden of Eden. Is God precise? Do we take His Word seriously? He said, “Don’t eat of that tree! If you do, you’ll die!”
Now, that would tell us that something that seems to be very unimportant, and maybe we ought to pay attention to details. You don’t negotiate with God. You don’t revise what He has written. But we have people today who are revising His Word. It upsets me! Some of the modern paraphrases—sometimes they even claim to be translations. They’re not translating the Bible. They’re paraphrasing it. They’re embellishing it. They’re putting their own ideas in there. They don’t think that God . . .
You know, it’s like an editor would do. Well, I mean, I do it to myself, and you do the same. We write something, and then we look at it, and we don’t like it. I mean, it needs to be improved. I sometimes rewrite things five or six times, and then if I saw it a year later, I would rewrite it again, if I had the opportunity.
You don’t do that with God’s Word! When God said it, that is it. He is perfect! But we have men who want to rewrite God’s Word. Of course, we have people today who claim it isn’t God’s Word; our seminaries who are denying that it’s God’s Word. “Well, it wasn’t really six days,” you know, “that the earth was created in. And we don’t think it was a worldwide flood, you know, and what about this . . . ?”
Wait a minute! Is it God’s Word or isn’t it God’s Word. Does God know what He’s talking about? Then, why do we try to improve upon it? So, this is what, I suppose, that chapter at least is somewhat about—mercy and works. Are we going to rely on God’s mercy? Or are we going to offer something to Him that we think is an improvement upon His way of salvation?

Tom:  Dave, one of the enigmas of all this is man, who is in rebellion against God, is very religious. I do find that . . . I’m not saying . . .  Well, even the Buddhists, who are atheists, they’re very religious. The atheists, in terms of their ideas and beliefs, they’re very religious. But more than that, we find people who develop ritualism, who are looking for formulas, religious ideas, concepts—whether it be the New Age, whether it be Wicca, occultism, whatever it might be.
Dave:  Or it’s worshiping “Mother Earth,” worshiping the atom, worshiping space. Carl Sagan was a pagan. He would get very religious in the presence of the Cosmos. That really is their god, the materialist. And his God is some kind of a force that is hidden in matter and it brings forth order and life and so forth. That’s his god.
Now, it’s very similar, Tom, to the person who may even call himself a Christian, but he’s not willing to submit to Christ. They call themselves atheists, but yet they have, as you said, a religion. Einstein was certainly not a believer in the God of the Bible, but he believed that there was some kind of a force out there—some kind of a power that organized things. But it’s a power that we can manipulate. The scientist can tap into this. He can discover how this all works, so, in the final analysis, he is God, just as Satan promised Eve in the garden. “You can become one of the gods.”
Tom: Or, he, as Lucifer, promised himself in the very . . . in heaven!
Dave: Exactly. So it is impossible for any human being to escape this religious consciousness that there is a God, but he perverts it, and it is in religion itself that the perversion becomes the worst. I mean, it is more obvious in man’s religions, because this is how he thinks that he’s approaching God and pleasing God and so forth. And it is right here that the perversion becomes the greatest. And it is in our relationship to God that we have to recognize . . .  You know, Tom, I often talk to God about this. I say, “Lord, I don’t . . .”  It’s frightening when you think God never had a beginning. He didn’t get to be God. He didn’t somehow come from nowhere, and somehow become God. God is God! The I AM. And when you think about that, it just is beyond—it’s boggling! “God, You never had a beginning! I can’t fathom that! You always are! You are God from eternity to eternity!”
And then we dare to think we can offer this incredibly . . . well, incredibly infinite—infinite is incredible. This God! We think we can offer Him something! Or we can improve upon His Word. Or we can negotiate with Him! Or we can just ignore Him, and we can make up our own religion. We can make up our own way of life, and so forth. What an affront it is to Him to see His creatures that He created—He gave them life and existence—and they ignore Him!
We’re building, you know, our own little empires. We’ve got our politicians; we’ve got our parties; and we’ve got our United Nations, and we’ve got our plans and our programs, and man, somehow, is going to make something out of this earth, and he’s going to bring peace and prosperity and blessing, and yet, we are the ones who made a mess out of this world. The whole problem is that we don’t pay attention to God. We don’t even . . . many people who call themselves Christians, and I speak to my own heart: How seriously do I take the Bible? This is God’s Word. This is supposed to be a lamp to my feet, a light to my path. This is supposed to be my guide. Then you have . . .  “God says, My people have forgotten Me days without number.” This is the whole problem in the world. We’re all playing God, and we ignore God, who has given us His Word, and we go about our business.
Or, when we come to Him—we go to our churches on Sunday morning, and we’re going to pay Him some pittance, you know. We’re going to acknowledge Him. And we have our own ways of doing it. We’ve got our own little formulas that we’ve fallen into, and that goes for Protestants as well as Catholics.
Tom, we call this program Search the Scriptures Daily, and it speaks to my heart, as well as, I hope, to the listeners. We need to search the Scriptures. We need to get back to God’s Word and treat it like it is God’s Word, and thank Him for His mercy and His grace instead of trying to offer our pitiful rituals or whatever they may be, and trying to impress Him some way, and learn His ways, and trust Him.
Tom:  Why, Dave? Because for all of what you said with regard to the rebellion of man, nevertheless, God sent His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe upon Him would have eternal life.
Dave: He came to die for our sins, to pay the penalty that we deserved and that His own justice demanded.
Tom:  Right. In terms of works, the only work that we can do is to be separated from God forever. That’s the penalty. In other words, I’m saying if you want to pay the penalty, you want to appease God—I don’t know if that’s the right word, but you have to die for your sins, or turn to Christ, who paid the full penalty
Dave: Accept His death. Now, the Bible does teach works, of course. We’re not putting works down. But works are not for salvation, but they are as a result of salvation. We have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
Tom: Dave, you’re right! Works—well, first of all, works cannot pay the penalty. Only Christ’s death could pay what we couldn’t pay.
Dave: We are created in Christ Jesus, Ephesians:2:10 says, “unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” So now it is God who works in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure. So our works are not our own fleshly efforts, but it’s Christ living within us, and now, the Christian ought to be characterized by good works, but it’s the life of Christ in him, not his efforts to appease God.