Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Original Sin?

A commonly held view is that we were all born sinners. This view is based on what is called the doctrine of Original Sin. Which belief holds that because of Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden (see Gen 3.) all mankind were born sinners, as if "sin" were a physical phenomena that passed down to us genetically, causing us to be sinners.
This view taken for granted as true by most Christians is tacitly false! But before we can consider the truth, we must avoid the smoke screen of labels we so readily place on each other, and one another's views. Much like in modern politics, we label one a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat. These labels can obscure the truths we face in society, and are actually smoke screens which seek to polarize us against each other as Americans, and nullify true and honest debate over political and social issues. And so we should avoid labelings such as Arminianists versus Calvanists, or Augustinian versus Pelagian.
To be sure, Original Sin is not held to be true within Judaism. If this is so, it should cause us as Christians great ponder. Why? Because for us, Christianity was not meant to be an elaboration of the Jewish faith, but a fulfillment of it. Thus, other than revealing Who the Messiah is, and His teachings, the rest was already in place through Judaism. And so, if the Jews don't believe in Original Sin as presented above, why do we?
Scripture, of course is the final arbiter of these matters. And to be sure, each will state his case based on their favorite texts. But the Bible cannot support both positions.
Some of the texts oft quoted in support of this doctrine, there are:
  • Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.- Psa 51.5.
Yet is that what this text teaches? It is enough to say that while we were being formed in the womb, and during our very birth, it was in an iniquitous world, and into a sinful environment. As the apostle John said, ...and the whole world lieth in wickedness- 1Jn 5.19b.
  • Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned- Rom 5:12.
I think that this text has been made to say more than it actually does. The possibility of sin entered the world through Adam's transgression, or the phenomenon of sin entered into the world, not the sinfulness as a state of being for the human race, i.e. I'm human, therefore I'm a sinner. Death as a consequence for sin is attached to sin in the world. You sin once, as did Adam, you die (eventually). Notice the reason that death is universal, because that all have sinned.

The issue is a serious one, and has led to gross error in the Church. Because it promotes an erroneous view of what sin is. It turns sin into a physical phenomenon that is passed (some say through the blood!) down from father to son, and upon all Mankind. This relieves you and I of the responsibility of moral obligation. How could God judge me for my sins if I only did that which was my nature to do? Was I not born a sinner? Is a snake blamed for being a snake? Isn't it doing what is its nature to do? And yet the Bible defines sin thus, ...for sin is the transgression of the law-1 Jn 3.4b.
And to be sure, Adam was not born a sinner, yet he brought about the dynamics of sin and death into the world, albeit activated through our personal participation.
Neither did the angels that sinned have to be born sinners in order to damn themselves through transgressing God's moral law (2Pet 2.4). In fact, Peter's entire point would be lost if the angel's sin was not comparable to ours, which would not be the case if we were born sinners. Yet there is the reward of unrighteousness- v.13a, why? Because there is such a thing as blameworthiness and praiseworthiness, which would not make any sense if we were born with the natural predilections to sin. These were acquired through our freely choosing to disobey God's moral law of love for self-grattification, albeit at a very young age. But likewise our salvation through the cross of calvary, while also not automatic, but was freely chosen by those of us who believe.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Nature of theTrue Church

What is the nature of the true Church?

Recently, Joseph Ratzinger, whose Pontifical name is Pope Benedict XVI, reiterated that the Roman Catholic church was the true church, the only one that Jesus Christ came to establish on earth. And that, while the Greek Orthodox was the closest to being a real church, the protestant churches are not true churches as they do not have apostolic succession. But exactly what is the true Church that Jesus came to establish?

Before this can be answered, we must first say what the true Church is not:

1. The Church is not a human institution;

2. The Church is not a centralized organization;

3. The Church is neither Catholic, nor Protestant while including both Catholics, and Protestants;

4. The Church is neither headed by one man, nor by a group of men though containing leaders and leadership;

5. The Church cannot be licensed to be such, nor does She receive the "right" to be such by human government;

6. The Church cannot be overcome, divided, nor polluted by sin though including those who are saved out of a world of sin, and are being sanctified at varying degrees of maturity and purity.

Jesus Christ said, ...upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it- Mt 16.18b. This is true, not because the Church is built upon apostolic succession, even if we talk about Peter (whose name in Greek is Petros- a stone), but because it is built upon this rock which in Greek is the word Petra-a massive rock or stone, a cliff or ledge. But this rock of which Jesus spoke is the very revelation that, thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.-v.16b. Thus this Rock upon which the church is built is Jesus Christ Himself.
This brings us to the heart of the issue: What is the nature of the true Church?

Jesus said, Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.-Mt 18.20.
And of Jesus it is written, and gave him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all- Eph 1.22b-23. And of the Church it is written, Now are ye the body of Christ and members in particu
lar- 1Cor 12.27; and again, so also is Christ-v.12b, which text thus calls the Church. The apostle Paul also spoke of the relation of Christ and His Church in reference to the creation of Eve from Adam's side, and how that Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh-Gen2.23a (cp.Eph5.30-32), and to say, He that loveth his wife loveth himself-v28b.

This is a holy mystery. Let us approach this with fear, and reverence. To touch the Church is to touch Christ. This is why when Paul who was Saul persecuted Her, Christ appeared to him, and said, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?-Acts 9.4b. The Church is not an organisation, but an organism: a body whose Head is Christ. Is Scripture simply speaking in metaphores? No. This is spiritual reality. And a believer's degree of realisation of this determines his spiritual maturity and rank before God.

The Church is repeatedly identified with Christ. And so the true nature of the Church is Christ.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Partial Rapture Theory

The rapture of the Church has long been a hot topic amongst Christians. And the various schools of thought on it are many, and the debates at times intense. In fact, I usually avoid the topic amongst other Christians, unless someone really wants to know what I believe. But here is the perfect forum for discussion.
The particular position a person may have about the rapture, whether pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation (and there are other positions as well), all depend on a seven year period which is referred to as the "Tribulation", the last three and a half years of which are called "the Great Tribulation". There is much Scripture that these positions rest on, but the amount of seven years is based on the text in Da 9.27, as it refers to a week of years. But nowhere in Scripture is this seven year period called the Tribulation.
Yes, the Great tribulation is often mentioned, and yes it is three and a half years, or forty two months long, but the term,"Tribulation" as a title referring to this period is unscriptural.
This is not a mere mincing of words. For a huge event such as the "rapture" of the church is directly defined relative to it. For the pre-tribulation adherent would argue that at the beginning of the seven year period the rapture would take place. But because Scripture does't call the first three and a half years "tribulation" one could be lulled into a deceptive peace and safety, even deception (Mt 24.4-5; 1Thess 5.3; Rev 6.2). Especially here in America, where we enjoy a life of ease, and would not wish to endure any global chaos.

Be it known, that each position can be proved, and has been supported by Scripture.
And yet all the Scriptural texts which support the position that I held to for years (until about 1994), the Pre-Tribulation rapture, all mention preconditions. This is very important. Because at the same time, there are other texts in the Bible which support both the Mid-Tribulation (
Dan 12.1-3, 7-13; Mt 24.13-15; 1Cor 15.51-54; Rev 11.15; 12.7-14), and the Post-Tribulation rapture (Mt 24.31; Mk 13.27; and Rev 20.4-6)
. And not until we are willing to see this point, that all three positions are scriptural, can we begin to see these prophetic truths more clearly, and understand our brothers' positions.

Scriptures which show a pre-tribulation rapture with preconditions are:

  • Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.- Lk 21.36
While yes, this text promises that we may be able to escape all He prophesied of in Luke 21, the precondition is that we must watch and pray always which speaks of that prayer without ceasing mentioned by the apostle Paul (1Thess 5.17).
  • Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly- Rev 3.10-11a
And as this text indicates, we can be kept, not from the coming global temptation itself (as if we remained here, but were protected), but from the hour itself, which speaks to the time frame. But the precondition here is that we kept the word of His patience.
  • And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred and forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads...And they sang as it were a new song before the throne...which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and unto the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.- Rev 14.1, 3-5.
The 144,000 are a symbolic number given to those who are, redeemed from the earth, from among men and are identified with the first fruits unto God. The preconditions mentioned above are pretty straight forward: they are sexually pure, they follow the Lamb wherever He goes, in their mouth is no guile, and they are without fault before God's throne. But there is more in the above text:

Being the "first fruits" places them first in the order of His rapture of the saints. For the apostle Paul wrote, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.- 1Cor 15.22b-23. This is a Holy mystery, that the 144,000 were truly Christ in the earth. But for now, the term, "first fruits" ties them to the order of harvesting prescribed by Moses as a type of the rapture:
There is the bread of the first fruits (Lev 23.20) which points to the first fruits rapture (1Cor 15.23a), Christ the first fruits; then there is the general harvest (Lev 23.22a), which is the general rapture at the last trumpet (1Cor 15.23b), they that are Christ's at his coming; finally, there are the gleanings of the harvest (Lev 23.22b), the believers left as gleanings for the poor and stranger of the earth who yet need a witness in those terrible days. Their rapture would be referred to in the texts that deal with the post-tribulation.

In conclusion, the partial rapture theory deals with part of the first resurrection, which is the resurrection of life (Jn 5.29; 1Cor 15.23-24; Rev 20.5-6), the second resurrection is that of damnation. The first resurrection occurs over a span of time stretching from an unknown time frame, any where from just prior to the seven year period of Dan 9.27, (or not long into it) unto after the millennial reign of Christ! Even if one adhered to a pre-tribulational position, he could not deny that God still talks about the first resurrection after the thousand year reign! And so the other translations of saints occur roughly three and half years later, then again after the period called the great tribulation. But even then, a resurrection occurs again when Christ's reign in the Millennium ends. Thus we're not talking about a one-time event over which we fight as to when exactly it will occur. But then again we are challenged, that if we seek to "miss" all the trials and tribulations associated with these prophesies, then we ought to strive to walk even as He walked (1Jn 2:6), and perhaps as Enoch, walk straight into heaven (Gen 5.24; Heb 11.5).