Thursday, February 28, 2008

Grieving Scofield Ministries Web Reader!

Below is a recent email from one of our faithful web readers. This is very typical of emails I receive weekly. The paradigm shift is here! Values, mores, biblical discernment, are all shifting to the left. It is affecting our general population and our churches. And, it is moving far more quickly than I could have ever imagined!

Good morning, Dr. Couch, I hope you're doing well. Thank you for continued faithfulness to the Word and great teaching. Your ministry is a continued blessing to many, and I try to share what I have learned from you as much as I can. I consider you my head pastor, my mentor in the faith.

Over the years I have found myself becoming more and more particular about who I will listen to or read. I believe this is a function of my growing spiritual maturity and discernment, which is not of myself but can only be a gift of God. Authors that I used to love and rely on for their spiritual insights no longer have anything to say to me, and in some cases, I realize there are significant gaps or problems with their theology. I go into a Christian book store and look at the top ten bestsellers, and they're all either worthless fluff or just plain heretical. Of course, part of the problem is that so few of the popular authors or pastors are truly dispensational. If you're not dispensational then you're going to have very faulty view of much of the Bible.

I used to like to read some Christian Living books, but eventually came to realize that there was no meat in their teachings, and their theology was very weak. Not long ago I read a book by John Eldredge at the urging of my wife, and it was a fairly interesting read, but there was no real substance to the book. Most of it was just common sense that I already knew, or emotional fluff. There was no meat there. There are so many popular Christian authors today that are like that - Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, etc. One big reason I left my last church is because they wanted me to stop teaching the Bible to my Sunday school college age class, and start studying the book "Blue Like Jazz".

I'm not saying I don't read other books, I do. Like you, I'm a history buff, and I even enjoy a good fiction book now and then. I just think that the majority of the popular books you find in the Christian bookstores are at the least, a waste of my time, and at worst, false teaching. What do you think about this?

I think the majority of Christians in our churches today are very immature believers. They don't really know the Bible, and they don't even care. I won't ask what's responsible for this - I know that people prefer to hear things that make them feel good about themselves, or will "tickle their ears", methods that sound new and exciting, etc. Most Christians don't really want deeper teaching of the Bible. I totally agree with you that we're into the Apostasy spoken of in the Word where people will not endure sound doctrine. This does not surprise me.

Sorry for the long lead-up, my question is really in two parts: On a general level, Is there anything we can do about this (other than pray)? How can we convince people that they need to stop just drinking milk, and start eating meat? How can we get people to learn to discern? People are flocking to these megachurches where they don't really teach the Bible! In my spirit this disturbs me and frustrates me, because I feel sometimes like I'm a lone voice crying in the wilderness, that there's something wrong with me. I'm sure you can relate to that feeling.

A more specific question is, How do we respond to people when they ask, "Why don't you like (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, insert popular Christian author/speaker here)? They have such good things to say, and they do so much good work!" My wife and I struggle with how to answer this question, and it is asked by some of our friends. I try to say that these people have some significant problems with their theology, and I would rather listen to people who teach sound doctrine from the Bible. This answer doesn't seem to satisfy people, probably because most people don't care about theology anymore, and think with their emotions.

How would you respond to these people? I would really appreciate your insights. God bless you!

I want to thank this supporter for his candid letter. In his evil secular psychological writings, behaviorist Carl Rogers is one of the leading self-actualization writers that has destroyed biblical truth. He wrote: “Experience is, for me, the highest authority. … Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research — neither the revelations of God nor man—can take precedence over my own experience.” I answered in my book The Fundamentals for the Twenty-First Century (Kregel):

Secular universities now brainwash their students in Rogerian philosophy and psychology. In popular form, even the world calls the society of the mid-1970s through the 1980s the “Me Generation.” Does this not remind us of Paul’s words of men being lovers of self, arrogant, ungrateful, unloving, without self-control, conceited, “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:1-4).

Such a philosophy is a secular apostasy that has the seductive power to pull all the churches to its grasp and set up the kind of last-days “difficult times” described by Paul to Timothy.

Pampering the self, the New Age movement promises a new world through psychics, astrologers, goddess worship, holistic health, yoga, and ecology. “Be happy and fulfilled” is the goal of whatever technique used for actualization.
In my opinion what we all were so blessed with in the past is now dying. And, there will never be a going back!

Thank you for your letter.
Dr. Mal Couch

You Are An Emerging Church Junky If ...

  1. In order to be more informal on Sunday mornings, you don't put starch in your Sunday blue-jeans.
  2. You have trouble deciding what part of "Christian Yoga" is not Christian!
  3. You think an organ is a body part.
  4. You equate the Prince of Peace with Green Peace.
  5. You always spiff up your footwear once a week - that is, you faithfully polish your open toed sandals each Sunday for church.
  6. To you an old folk song would be Amazing Grace.
  7. You believe the twelve most popular and different English versions of the Bible were written by the twelve apostles.
  8. You always wonder what the pastor is up to if he opens his Bible.
  9. During the regular Sunday morning devotional in church you never look down at your watch. You look down at your stop watch!
  10. You think your church is going to the dogs if it does not have tennis courts and a Sushi Bar.
  11. You think stay-at-home moms have apostatized from doctrinal truth.
  12. You believe religiously everything you hear in the Health Section on the evening news.
  13. You use the word "safe" (as in, "Are my kids safe?") over fifty times in conversation every thirty minutes.
  14. You have been so brainwashed with political correctness you do not understand the tongue-in-cheek truthfulness and the humor in the above statements.

Monday, February 25, 2008

America Must Pray -- President Benjamin Harrison

President Cleveland's immediate successor and political adversary, whom he would later defeat in 1892, was the godly Benjamin Harrison. Like Cleveland, Harrison belonged to the Presbyterian Church from his earliest days. He was active in his local church and practically grew up in prayer meetings. His mother reinforced in all her five children the need to pray throughout the day, always ending with a silent prayer. On being elected President, he issued an executive order that no government business would be done on Sundays unless an emergency arose.

When Harrison moved to the Executive Mansion, so did his father-in-law, John Scott, a Presbyterian minister, who each day at breakfast opened up the meal with prayer. Completely absorbed with his trust in the Lord, Harrison issued a record number, eight, of proclamations for national days of thanksgiving and prayer between 1889 and 1891.

As his first term was coming to an end, he was accused of using his prayer proclamations for political advantage. This was a setback to him and he refrained to do so from then on. During his reelection battle, his wife, Caroline, was fighting TB. She died just two weeks before the election. He credited prayer with keeping him afloat both spiritually and emotionally during this time of losing her and of being defeated at the polls.

America Must Pray -- President Grover Cleveland

While shifts were taking place in America away from spirituality, Grover Cleveland, the only President to serve two nonconsecutive terms in office, was a case in point of working hard to advance prayer in the nation.

The son of a Presbyterian minister, he was obliged as a boy to attend two services each Sunday and also the Wednesday night prayer meeting. Because of this he developed a strong devotional and prayer life. The Cleveland household was very devout. Grover’s sister became a missionary to Ceylon and his brother, William, became an ordained Presbyterian pastor. His brother married Grover and his fiancĂ©e in the White House, the only presidential wedding ever held in the Executive Mansion.

Cleveland had earlier dated a thirty-five year old widow who gave birth to a son shortly after her husband died. Cleveland was accused of being the father. The woman was later placed in a mental institution and he was spared the problems he would have had if they had married. But this relationship brought about a scandal just as he was running for President. Cleveland confided in his memoirs that only prayer got him through the ordeal.

As President, Cleveland was supposed to offer a statement during the Thanksgiving Season. He wrote:

On this day let all secular business be suspended, and let people assemble in their usual places of worship and with prayer and songs of praise devoutly testify their gratitude to the Giver of every Good and Perfect Gift.

His presidential proclamation was replete with references to the need for setting aside one day of the year to give thanks to God and to find ways for families to reunite. It was a directive that came as close as any to capturing the essence of the holiday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It’s Easter Again

It’s Easter again. Colored eggs. Baskets of grass. Cute bunnies. New clothes. Lilies. But what does all of this have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?
Actually nothing, except there is a faint connection with the idea of new life and His coming forth from the grave. However the problem is that we see too much that is raw paganism at this time of year. A second problem is that the world sees the bunnies but misses the doctrinal truth that Christ’s resurrection proves that God is through with our sins. They were nailed to the cross and purged by the sacrifice of Jesus.

The word Easter, and what is done during this period, is pure pagan. It is actually the springtime sacrificial festival named for the Saxon Goddess Eostre, or Ostara, a European form of Astarte. Astarte was the Lady of Byblos, the Great Goddess in the Middle East. She was Egypt’s Hathor and Cyprus’ Aphrodite. She was worshiped by Indo-European cultures, and was typified by India’s Mother Kalie as the symbol of Nature. The waters of the Ganges flows down into an unknown sea near Eostre’s far away dwelling place.
Astarte was called "the true sovereign of the world." In other words, Easter has both a Babylonian and a Hindu connection!

The Easter bunny is older than Christianity itself. It was the Moon hare sacred to the goddess in both Easter and western nations. Rabbits also typify to the pagan world new life because they multiply so quickly.

Easter showed its pagan origin in a dating system based on the old lunar calendar. It is fixed as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, formerly the "pregnant" phase of Eostre passing into the fertile season.

The Church festival wasn’t called Easter until the goddess’ name was given to it in the late Middle Ages. The Persians began their solar New Year at the spring equinox, and up to the middle of the 18th century they followed the old custom of presenting each other with colored eggs. Eggs were always a symbol of rebirth; usually the color was red, symbolizing new life.

In Bohemia villages, girls acting as priestesses scarified to the Lord of Death and threw him into the water, singing, "Death swims in the water, spring comes to visit us, with eggs that are red, we carried Death out of the village, we are carrying Summer into the village."
In Russia the people laid red Easter eggs on graves to serve as resurrection charms. Besides the symbolism of new life in rabbits, the Easter baskets represent the womb of life, the green grass placed inside pictures the Goddess causing the plants to grow.
In some pagan cultures the Great Goddess was the "createss" whose World Egg contained the universe in embryo. The World Egg was identified with the moon. Heaven and earth were made of the two halves of the eggshell. The first deity to emerge from it was the bisexual Eros the Desired One.

The egg was a common Oriental image of creation. A curious 16th century Easter tradition was known as "creeping to the cross with eggs and apples". The eggs symbolized birth and the apples death. Carpets were laid down in the churches so that royalty could crawl in comfort.
Though most Christians today argue that all the Easter trappings, baskets, eggs, bunnies, are harmless, this is certainly not true. There is no way one could connect for small children the Easter "stuff" with the resurrection of Christ.

For the culture in general the meaning of Easter Sunday is lost. But even for children in Christian families the emphasis is misplaced and clouded over by the egg hunts, baskets and candy. Somewhere, Christians must say enough is enough!

Somewhere, believers in the Lord must refuse to pander and prostitute themselves to the pagan beliefs of the past.

Some have well suggested that the name Easter Sunday should be changed to Resurrection Sunday. Pastors should speak out against the traditional "Easter" traditions. But they should focus on the glory of the resurrection of Christ. Why did the Lord come out of the grave?

What is the importance of the resurrection? It demonstrated He was the Holy One of God. It exhibited God’s divine power but also Christ’s power over death.

It also makes Christ now our eternal high priest. Paul writes that Christ "was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification" (Rom. 4:25), thus it proves that our salvation is an accomplished fact.

Finally the gospel itself cannot be defined without including the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

"He was buried and raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:1-6). With His resurrection He set us, the captives, free!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Prophecy Concerning the Gentile Nations

By Dr. Mal Couch

Some weeks ago I did a question concerning the nations and made mention that the European peoples came through the line of Noah's son Japheth. Many wanted more information.

All remember the story of Noah's drunkenness on this side of the Flood. A critical event took place before his three sons (Ham, Shem, Japheth) as Noah lay sprawled out naked before them. His son Ham apparently looked at his father's situation with much glee and disrespect (Gen. 9:21-23). Because of this sin, Noah used of God made a prediction that Ham's far-off son, Canaan, would be cursed and become a slave people to the children of Shem, who in turn would be the core people from which the Jews, the redemptive nation, came (vv. 25-26).

However, God would "enlarge" ("make wide") and bless Noah's son Japheth (v. 27). And in a historic context, but also with a metaphoric sense, Japheth would "dwell in the tents of Shem," i.e. be blessed by what would happen in God's providence with Shem. (The Jewish people would be known as the S[h]emites!)

This is a very broad, wide, and far-encompassing prophecy with an expansive sweep. But the point that is made is clearly understood by all commentators.

The name Japheth means in Hebrew May he have space. His sons as seen in the Genesis Table of Nations (Gen. 10) would be: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. These names clearly point to Japheth as having been the progenitor of the Indo-European peoples who lived to the north and west of Israel. (Holman Dictionary) This is agreed to by almost all scholarly historians. In other words, the European peoples, descendants of Japheth would be most blessed by Shem. And this blessing would come through Christianity which had its most concentrated influence on Europe.

Early on the gospel was taken to Africa and to India, but these two continents basically rejected the truth. The message of salvation through Christ failed to make a permanent and deep impact with the peoples of these regions of the world.

The orthodox Jewish rabbis on Genesis 9:26-27 write:

"The God of Shem." The meaning is, Blessed be the God who will, in the days to come, keep His promise to the descendants of Shem—the Israelites—the promise to give unto them the land of Canaan for a possession, and to be their God and their Guide.

Japheth is the progenitor of the Indo-European or Aryan peoples, receives the blessing of worldly prosperity and widespread dominion, but he was to dwell "in the tents of Shem," Friendly relations should subsist between the Semitic and Japhetic races. This is the first of the universal forecasts in Scripture of the day when enmity between nations will be forgotten, and they will unite in acknowledgment of the God of Israel. (Soncino Commentary, Genesis)

Stigers writes:

The fact [is] that the Japhethite nations have been the major beneficiaries of the Gospel in the last two millennia. From these [European] nations, millions have been brought into the house of God through believing in the resurrected Christ. Their widespread [influence on] the globe is referred to in the words "God will enlarge (lit., make wide) Japheth. That the Gospel is meant is the thought to be preferred. (Commentary)

Leupold adds:

For in reality, [Shem's] descendants, the Indo-Europeans or Aryans, do spread out over vast stretches of territory from India across all Europe and of a later date over the Western Hemisphere. (Commentary)

Unger summarizes:

[In 9:27] the use of the generic name of God, Elohim, implies that the proper name of Jehovah "was the particular property of the Shemites." The Japhetic line is predicted to enjoy not only expansion in temporal possessions, but spiritual blessing as well. … Christianity has had great outreach upon the Japhetic peoples of Europe and America. (Commentary)

While it is true that "God so loves the world" (John 3:16), the fact is that He has not sent the gospel equally to all of the nations. Salvation is His own prerogative by which He blesses some but not all. All stand equal before Him as equal in their sins! The Lord gave the entire world over to its sinfulness to do what it wishes (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). He then applies salvation to whomever He wills (Eph. 1:3-12). God is in charge of His own history!

But it must be remembered, those of us who are "Japhethites" can not boast as if we are better than others. In God's providence we were blessed in a very personal way by the revelation of salvation in Christ, that was first predicted in a wide sweep in the prophecy of Genesis 9. Also, those who are not of the descendants of Japheth must also be thankful that salvation came to them. All stand guilty before God; and all who know Him through Christ stand blessed under His marvelous grace!

The fact still stands, coming from the Genesis 9 prophecy, that more of the Japhethite descendants have been blessed and have come to Christ than from any other part of the world!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

America Must Pray - President William McKinley

Admiral George Dewey soundly defeated the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines on May 1, 1898. The war was officially over by that Christmas. Upon the decisive victory, President McKinley addressed a meeting of fellow Methodists, taking the opportunity to share his motivations for leading the country into war. Part of the reason was, he explained, to spread the foundations of Western civilization, democracy, and Christianity to people everywhere.

He said:

I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. Then it came to me. We need to take to them and lift them up, the Philippine people, with the education about civilization and to Christianize them and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died. And then I went to bed and went to sleep and slept soundly.

Mission work would come slowly to the Philippines. It would not be until after World War II that mission activity would increase. Many thousands of Protestant churches were planted at that time along with seminaries and Bible institutes. But now the nation is moving rapidly to Islam and the gospel is being smothered over and the truth is being lost to the population!

Mark Twain vilified McKinley as not worthy of the presidency, though the accusations were uncalled for. Raised a devout Methodist, he professed faith in Christ at the age of ten. All who knew him claimed his faith was real and that he was a genuinely pious leader.

On the election eve of 1896, when it appeared he had won against William Jennings Bryan, McKinley’s supporters went to the home of his elderly mother and found him and his wife, Ida, kneeling in prayer before the Lord. His mother was heard to say in prayer: "Oh, God, keep him humble!" She was not disappointed in her prayer. When he was sworn in as President, his hand was on the place in Scripture that reads: "Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this Thy people, that is so great?"

On Sunday evenings, McKinley would invite friends to the Executive Mansion for services. He would invite a clergyman to teach and lead in singing hymns. McKinley would always include his two favorite songs: "Nearer, My God, to Thee" and "Lead, Kindly Light."

After being reelected in 1900, a year later McKinley attended the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. It was September 5, 1901, and McKinley closed with a speech: "Our earnest prayer is that God will graciously vouchsafe prosperity, happiness, and peace to all our neighbors, and His blessing to all the peoples and powers of the earth."

As he was leaving an anarchist by the name of Leon Czolgosz stepped forward and shot the President. He lingered for a week after surviving two operations to remove the fatal bullet. When he would come to he was saying the Lord’s Prayer. His final words were: "It is God’s way, His will not ours, be done."

America Must Pray -- Theodore Roosevelt

The melody was one of the most favorite in America. It would be used to support the lyrics of one of the best remembered hymns. Andrew Jackson loved it and so did General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate army. It was the great song: How Firm A Foundation. President Theodore Roosevelt, the hero of San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War (1898), said "it is just about my favorite hymn of all." But earlier, during the Civil War, the hymn was sung by both the North and the South, from one end of the country to another. Few can forget the words
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said?
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Fear not I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

America Must Pray -- Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani

The revisionist documentaries on television always show the evil colonialism of American and European Christianity. How dare we invade other countries, send in missionaries, and take away the gods and the paganism of indigenous people! Mean, mean Christians!

The revisionists are masters at rewriting history. They hate the idea of Christianity so much they will ignore and/or distort its influence to the maximum. But the truth is something else.

At the Philadelphia Shipyard in 1843, dignitaries, servicemen, and clergy gathered to launch a new ship. The prayer over the vessel went something like this:

O Eternal God may the vessels of our Navy be guarded by Thy gracious providence and care. May they not bear the sword in vain, but as the minister of God, be a terror to those who do evil. Hasten the time when the principles of holy Christianity shall so prevail that none shall wage war any more. All of which blessings we ask through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thanks to the financial support of wealthy Christian businessmen, such as Rockefeller, Wanamaker, and McCormick, American missionaries were able to take their message to Japan, China, India, and Africa, often under the protection of the U.S. Navy. The Lord’s Prayer and other prayer tracts were now being printed in the thousands for foreign converts. No one can understand the political, social, and spiritual dynamics that were involved in America unless they understand what was happening in evangelism and missions.

The revisionist story today is that mean-spirited Christians took away the totem poles, the wooden idols, of the American Indians and from the pagans of Hawaii (and stopped the human sacrifices in Hawaii). We "imposed" our Christian faith on them and destroyed their cultures! But the truth is far from this propaganda! What happened in Hawaii is a prime example.

The prayers of American and English Christians played a vital role in Hawaii. In 1778 the English captain James Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands, originally called the Sandwich Islands. U.S trading vessels brought missionaries, and in time, the son of the Hawaiian King Kamehameha, abolished the native paganism and called for American Protestant missionaries to come and settle there. Thousands of his subjects were converted to Christianity.

By the mid-nineteenth century, American businessmen followed and brought a certain prosperity to the natives. King Kamehameha IV traveled throughout Europe and England and in time established the Church of England in the islands. He and his wife became devout Anglicans. The King and his wife Emma took great pride in promoting Christianity and Christian charity work. The King personally translated the English Prayer Book into the Hawaiian language.

Because of a lot of political intrigue, a later Queen, Queen Liliuokalani, was thrown into prison for eight months. While there she composed what would become the Hawaiian national anthem, "Aloha Oe—Farewell to Thee"). She also prayed much to her God and composed this invocation during her captivity:

Lord, thy living mercies,
Is high as the heavens,
It tells us of thy truth,
And ‘tis filled with holiness.
For thy grace I beseech thee
Bring us neath thy protection
And peace will be our portion
Now and forever more. Amen.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Greek Exegesis of the Rapture Passages: 1 Thess. 2:18-19; 3:13



Paul told the Thessalonians how he wanted to come and see them yet he had been stopped by the Enemy! Still, from a distance, he had continual concern for them and felt a kindred bond. Though he could not be there in person he was with them in spirit. But someday they would all be in glory with Christ and God the Father when the rapture takes place!

Free Greek Translation:

[We want to come back to you] … for who is our anticipation or joy or crown of exultation? Are not in fact even you [when we face Him] our Lord Jesus at [the time of] His Coming? (1 Thess. 2:18-19)

… so that [He may] firm up the hearts of you faultless, [by your living] in holiness [when you appear] in the [very] presence of the God and Father of us and with the arrival of the Lord of us, Jesus, accompanied by all the holy ones of Him! (1 Thess. 3:13)

1 Thessalonians 2:19:
FOR WHO IS OUR ANTICIPATION. (gar) "Of course we want to come back, for (gar) etc." (The Expositor's Greek New Testament) In the verses before Paul made it clear he wanted to see the Thessalonian Christians face to face. He was most eager to do this.

ARE NOT IN FACT EVEN YOU. "In fact" is the emphatic use of the conjunction kai. "Are not in fact (kai) you [these things]?" (Dana & Mantey) To Paul the Thessalonian church is in fact his "hope, joy, and crown" when he arrives in heaven. This was a hallmark congregation that in the good sense Paul was proud of because of their witness to the world.

This is a rapture passage because they will be Paul's joy when they arrive in glory and stand before the Lord Jesus. How do they get to heaven and stand before His presence? When He comes for them in the rapture: "At His coming." And even though they would not live to experience the rapture (and not experience) death, their souls would return with Him and they would be given their new, eternal bodies. Then all the church saints ("Those in Christ," not the Old Testament saints), both those whose souls have been waiting in heaven who come down and then receive their new bodies, and those of us who are alive when this happens get our new bodies, together then both groups will stand before the Lord in glory!

BEFORE. (emprosthen) The word means "in front of, ahead, before, in the presence of, in the sight of, in the face of."

"In the presence of" means "in front of, standing before someone, a face to face encounter." This is not about standing before Christ when He comes down to earth to judge the world but it is a standing before Him in glory—clearly a rapture passage. It parallels the idea of the church saints going to heaven as seen in 3:13.

THE COMING. (parousia) The parousia must be interpreted by context. There is (1) the coming of Christ to reign on earth and (2) there is the rapture coming. Context determines the difference. Here it is the rapture because He comes to take us home. Parousia is a compound word. para=alongside, ousia=a participial form of the "to be" verb eimi. It can be translated "the coming alongside." In Classical Greek the verb is pareimi. A.T. Robertson says en ta parousia is a Locative of "Expression of Time" and can be translated: "at the time of His coming."

It must always be remembered that Paul did not know God's timetable for the rapture. The rapture did not come and take away the Thessalonian believers but it certainly could have happened at any moment. It will now be some future generation that will experience this "blessed hope"—of not experiencing death.

1 Thessalonians 3:13:
SO THAT HE MAY FIRM UP THE HEARTS. (starizo) From this word we get the word steroids. "To make something hard or firm, to fix, establish, strengthen." As a Present Infinitive in the LXX it is used as a Hebraism translated "to SET one's face." (Arndt & Gingrich) Or, to have one's emotions made strong with a firm resolve!

Paul wants the hearts of these believers, while waiting for the coming of Christ, to be hardened, made firm, in their moral and spiritual convictions while waiting to go home to be with Christ in the rapture. They will then at the BEMA judgment face God with unblemished holiness for their labors here below!

HEARTS OF YOU FAULTLESS IN HOLINESS. "Fautless because of [experiential, living in time] holiness." (Dana & Mantey) If because of is correct, Paul is arguing for the believer's mature walk, daily spirituality and morality, so that "the saint in Jesus" may stand before God uncensored by the way he lived. "Mature and settled sanctification in the eyes of God [as we stand before Him] is the object in view." (Ellicott) Paul does not want the believer to be ashamed when those believers, the children of God, stand before the Bema judgment for their Christian works.

Since there is now no salvation or judicial judgment for the believers in regard to their eternal destiny (Rom. 8:1), this "standing before Him" has to do with rewards.

BEFORE THE GOD AND FATHER OF US AT THE COMING. When will believers face (come before) both Christ (1 Thess. 2:19) and God the Father? Robert Thomas notes:

The final accounting Paul alludes to will take place in the personal "presence of our God and Father." The local force of 'in the presence of' obtains whenever this preposition relates appearance before a judge (Matt. 27:11; 25:32; Luke 21:36; 2 Cor. 5:10; contrast 1 Thess. 1:3; 3:9; 1 John 3:19) (cf. BAG p. 256). Earlier, Paul has made 'our Lord Jesus' the judge at this scene (1 Thess. 2:19). This is no contradiction. The unity of the Father and Son, just seen in v. 11, allows a joint judgeship. The BEMA of Christ is with the Father in His heavenly throne (Rev. 3:21; cf. Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3; 10:12). This hearing will take place at the future 'visit' ('in the parousia, the coming') of the Lord Jesus (cf. 2:19).

WITH ALL HIS SAINTS. This ties directly to 1 Thessalonians 4:14 where Paul says Christ returns, for "even so God will bring with Him (with Christ) those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." There are two events that happen here at once. (1) The souls of the departed are brought back with Christ and given their new bodies. (2) And a split second later "we who are alive and remain until the rapture coming (parousia) of the Lord, shall not precede (go before) those who have fallen asleep" (vv. 14-15). Those who come with Christ from heaven are instantly given first their new, eternal bodies.

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. (v. 16)

Even one of the amillennial guys, William Hendriksen, has to admit that these verses sound like what dispensationalists/premillennialists are saying. He writes in his commentary:

One sometimes wonders whether the difficulty of conceiving the saints as coming with the Lord has led to the unnatural construction. Whether or not one happens to belong to the camp of the Premillennialists, in all fairness to them, one must admit that when they link with all His saints with the immediately preceding words so that we get "at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" they are intirely correct! As we see it, they [Premillennialists] (as well as others who do not share their millennial views) are also correct in interpreting the term saints (hagios) as referring to the redeemed and not to the angels.

CONCLUSION. Thank you amillennial guy Dr. William Hendriksen!

Monday, February 11, 2008

America Must Pray - The Prayers of the Slaves

The prayer meetings of the slaves was a time of social gathering but also a time of putting 'everybody's heart being tune.' Prayer meetings could be loud, and joyous times or, if there was fear of the master, gatherings in which prayers were barely heard and only said above a whisper to avoid detection.

Some slaves were determined to pray together. They would stay up all night and travel far into the woods in order to gather for praying sessions. They called the rendezvous points "hush harbors." Here they would recount the stories from the Old Testament and relate how God had spared His chosen people from slavery. Preachers were not needed at these gatherings since everyone had something to say. Later, Black elder/pastors began to lead the slave congregations. They became the leaders of the slave communities.

The prayer meetings were important because the slaves could forget the sufferings of the past week. Because of this, the slave communities became very spiritual. They did not put all their trust in this present life. They would say, “Thank God, I shall not live here always!” At the end of each service everyone would shake hands, wishing one another well until their next meeting, and then softly sing a spiritual as they returned to their cabins.

One former slave, Tom Robinson, remembers the prayers and the spiritual life of his mother:

I can just barely remember her. But I do remember how she used to take us children and kneel down in front of the fireplace and pray. She'd pray that the time would come when everybody could worship the Lord under their own vine and fig tree - all of them free. It’s come to me lots of times since. There she was a 'praying. All over the country the same prayer was being prayed. Guess the Lord done heard the prayer and answered it.

America Must Pray - Samuel F. Smith

Smith entered Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts in 1832. Later he was hired by Lowell Mason, the music editor and composer, to translate a collection of German songs brought back from Europe. As he pored over the material, he found one tune, "God Bless Our Native Land" particularly appealing. The melody had been used throughout Europe and had served as the accompaniment to Britain's "God Save the King." Both Beethoven and Haydn had used the tune in striking variations in some of their own compositions.

Earlier, the tune had been used in America for such patriotic anthems as "God Save the President" and "God Save George Washington."

Convinced the country needed its own national anthem, Smith went to work composing lyrics to the melody. He finished it, as he said, "in a brief period of time at the close of a dismal afternoon." Part of the words went this way:

My country 'tis of Thee [God],
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrims' pride!
From every mountainside,
Let freedom ring!

Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To Thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!
Five hundred children premiered the piece singing it during a Sunday school celebration at the Park Street Church in Boston on July 4, 1832, and within months it had been performed throughout the country. Knowing many languages, for the rest of his life the Reverend Samuel F. Smith traveled the world over as a Baptist missionary. Living to the ripe old age of eighty-six, he composed well over 150 hymns!

America Must Pray - Andrew Jackson

In the summer of 1832, at the end of Jackson's first term as president, cholera was raging across Europe, killing tens of thousands. It seemed to be heading for the U.S. as well. The Reformed Church of America called upon Jackson to call designate a day of fasting and humiliation, and prayer to protect the people of this country from the disease.

Jackson stubbornly refused and said it was not the role of the president to call for such religious expressions. Senator Henry Clay offered a "prayer" bill but Jackson announced he would veto it. Clay backed down.

"Old Hickory" Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, won sympathy from the country earlier when his wife, Rachel, died just before he had been sworn in as president of the nation. There had been trouble earlier. Rachel had been previously married to a scoundrel who was a rounder, and who had terribly mistreated her. Thinking her divorce had gone through, she and Jackson were married. When it was discovered the divorce had not been consummated, Rachel and the president took a terrible hit socially. Naturally, they had to be remarried!

Just before Jackson was sworn in, Rachel must have had a heart attack because she died suddenly. Jackson was spiritually and emotionally humbled. He was grief stricken by his wife’s death. But with the pain, he found endearing consolation in praying. Every evening in the Oval Office in the family quarters, Jackson would end his day by unclasping the locket around his neck with Rachel’s picture, and then place it on the table in front of him. He would then open his prayer book and read for an hour. On more than one occasion aides coming to see the president after hours found him immersed in prayer.

Jackson won a second term and swore in his inauguration to "Beseech the hands of God to override all my [wrong] intentions and actions and inspire the hearts of my fellow citizens that we may be preserved from dangers of all kinds and continue forever a united and a happy people."

As time went on, Jackson dodged the assassin's bullet while attending a funeral in Washington. He became the first president of the U.S. whose life was threatened while in office. Because of all he had gone through Jackson became stronger spiritually.

Writing to a nephew he and Rachel had adopted, he said,

I nightly offer up my prayers to the throne of grace for the health and safety of you all, and that we ought all to rely with confidence on the promises of our dear Redeemer, and give our hearts to Him. This is all He requires and all that we can do.

Monday, February 4, 2008

America Must Pray: George Washington Carver

Carver should be recognized as the most important Black leader in America. Unfortunately many do not see his contributions in that light. Carver was born a slave child toward the end of the Civil War. His parents were killed by Night Riders coming from the Kansas Territory. Carver was raised by a Christian White family who took him in as their own.

Being a sickly child, he would often lie in bed and memorize large portions of the Psalms and Proverbs. Instinctively it seems, he early on had a great curiosity about plants and flowers. He would collect specimens in jars and place them on the mantel at home. When it was time to go to school, he was not allowed to attend the local schools because he was Black! Instead, he was home schooled by his foster

Carver applied and was accepted at several colleges but when he arrived on campus he was turned down because of his color. While this broke his heart, he was finally accepted at a small university where he majored in biology. He began to catalog many specimens of plants and grasses, and in time, was recognized as an expert in such cataloging. As well, as a young man, he became a concert pianist and did fairly well at portrait painting. He graduated from college with a Masters degree in biology.
Booker T. Washington opened a new Black college in Tuskegee, Alabama, and hired Carver to head up the agriculture department. As a totally dedicated Christian, Carver would begin each day with prayer out in the woods by a stump. Carver’s genius became known worldwide. He helped revitalize the soil of the state of Alabama by crop rotation, and by the introduction of the peanut as a sell-able food crop. From the peanut he discovered many products, including peanut butter. He also did food research work with pecans, sweet potatoes, and other plants. He developed disappearing ink for the Army, and the process for quick freezing food. By the time he died in 1943, Carver had helped revive the economic conditions of the southern Black communities but as well as all farmers. From the sweet potato and the peanut, he developed instant coffee, shaving cream, axle grease, milk flakes, talcum powder, synthetic rubber, and shampoo.

Carver’s spirituality was awesome. He believed prayer helped him make a viable contribution in the world. He is said to have prayed all day long, from the time he got up until bed time! He never married and never cashed his checks from teaching at Tuskegee. Those checks went back to the school upon his death. For decades he taught a Sunday school class for his students. He readily let people know that he prayed constantly and talked with God in his laboratory. He urged his students to do likewise.

Just before he died, President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to Tuskegee and honored him. Unfortunately, for years the Black community did not. They felt he was "an Uncle Tom" and was not militant enough towards the White world.

It is said that Carver only missed one day from teaching school. That was the day he went into the woods and prayed all day about marrying a certain girl. When he came out of the woods he had his answer. He remained a bachelor dedicating all his life to serving Christ!

America Must Pray: John D. Rockefeller

For many the name Rockefeller means the ultimate as a business scoundrel and crook. And it is true that he created an oil monopoly with his fast growing Standard Oil Company that was cornering the market in the new petroleum industry. However it must be realized that at that time (the late 1800s) monopolistic practices had not been thoroughly defined. But there is another story to Rockefeller.

Born in 1839 in upstate New York, Rockefeller was a faithful member of the Baptist Church. He held fast to his spiritual convictions and gave millions of dollars away to missions, medical research, and universities. Living in Cleveland for over forty years, he rarely missed Sunday and Friday evening services at the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church. From 1872 to 1905 he actually served as the Sunday school superintendent at his church. He believed "the Bible to be the most important inspirational instrument in stimulating prayer and right living." In studying the Bible he would often sit back in silence and reflect for a moment on a verse he had just read. Only then would he be ready to pray.

Another giant of commerce was John Wanamaker of Philadelphia. At a prayer service in 1856, when he was eighteen, he became a Christian and pledged that from that night on he "wanted to be more like Christ." In time he would become the best known Christian layman of his generation as a member of the Disciples of Christ. (This is not the same as the Church of Christ of today!)

Wanamaker was not afraid to testify of his love of Christ. In one of his great department stores in Philadelphia he constructed what was called the "Grand Court." In it he finished this open and wide room with massive Corinthian columns. It could hold up to fourteen thousand people at a time. He built the world’s largest organ with 28,000 pipes, producing a sound many called simply "glorious." While organ recitals were going on, salespeople would hand out prayer tracts to customers. Besides holding organ concerts, religious services were often held in the Grand Court.

Wanamaker insisted that the organ concerts and times of prayer were not meant to increase business.

Later Wanamaker joined the Presbyterian Church and like Rockefeller, he also became a Sunday school superintendent, holding that position for sixty-five years. Often he would take the pulpit and speak.

Being a deeply devoted and spiritual Christian he delivered a prayer and said: "Oh, Lord, You have told us how to pray. Help us to shut the door, shutting out the world, and the enemy and any fear or doubt, which spoils prayer. May there be no distance between our souls and You!"

America Must Pray: George Duffield

In 1857, just before the Civil War began in 1861, the nation fell into a deep economic depression. Though conditions improved by 1859 thousands of businesses had been destroyed. But at the same time a recovery had begun. However because of the pain and destruction of the depression, across the country as if with one voice, businessmen began to meet daily at noon for prayer, Bible reading, and singing. This continued for years and became known as the Businessmen’s Revival.

This prayer time each day reaffirmed the strong convictions of the country’s commercial class, and it was a no-nonsense, unapologetic affirmation of biblical revelation. The theme song of many of these groups was Stand Up For Jesus, that went like this:

Stand Up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.

The song had been written by Presbyterian minister George Duffield when the words came to him as he listened to the dying words of a young friend the Reverend Dudley Tyng. Tyng, after having preached to five thousand men at one of these Businessmen’s Revivals, was patting a mule on his farm when one of his clerical robes and the sleeve got caught in a running corn thresher. His arm was torn off. Tyng immediately passed out for loss of blood. Duffield found his friend in the field dying. Carrying him up to the farmhouse Tyng came awake momentarily. Holding Duffield’s hand, Tyng looked up and whispered, "Tell them, tell them to stand up for Jesus." And with that he died. Duffield later put those words into lyrics he was inspired to write. Within weeks the song was published and was sung in every Protestant church across the land. It became the unofficial anthem of the Businessmen’s Revival movement!



Paul commends the Thessalonians for their open reception of the gospel. He tells them that the news of their faith in Christ had gone throughout Macedonia and Achaia and beyond. Paul accounts how they quickly turned from idols and now diligently serve the living God, and eagerly await His Son from heaven. They are doing both: serving and waiting!

Free Greek Translation:

You absolutely turned from idols to presently be serving a living a true (real) God, and to presently be eagerly waiting for His Son from the heavens, whom [God] absolutely raised from the dead ones, who [will be] DRAGGING, RESCUING us [to Himself] from the Wrath which is coming!

1 Thessalonians 1:10

TO WAIT. (anameno) "To up abide, remain." "To specifically be waiting." Used only here in the New Testament. It is a Present Infinitive. This parallels "to be serving" in verse 9. Serving (douleuein} is a Present Infinitive and could be translated "To be continually enslaved, serving as a servant."

The ana of the anameno intensifies the word which can be translated "to eagerly be presently waiting.

Even Covenant theologian and amillennial guy, William Hendriksen, sees this as a rapture passage, in that Christ could come at any time for His own. He writes:

      The force of the verb to wait must not be lost sight of. It means to look forward to with patience and confidence. It implies (both in Greek and in English) being ready for His return. The thought of His coming does not spell terror for the believer, … for it is this Jesus who rescues (is rescuing) us from the wrath to come.

JESUS, WHO DELIVERS US FROM THE WRATH COMING. Paul is here introducing the rapture concept and he will develop it out further in 4:13-18.

Delivers (ruomenon) is in the Present Active Participial form (deponent). According to Arndt & Gingrich it means "to deliver, rescue, save." Several contexts where the word is used are interesting: "saved from the jaws of the lion" (2 Tim. 4:14); "delivered from the power of darkness" (Col. 1:13).

Alford believes the participle (ruomenon, used here) could act as a descriptive of Christ's office. "Our Deliverer". Or, "The word may be used of a substantive, "Jesus, our Deliverer." (Pulpit Commentary) Robert Thomas well notes:

      Jesus [is the One] who will return as Rescuer ("who rescues", is a timeless substantive denoting one of His characteristics) of living Christians from the period of divine wrath at the close of the world's present age of grace. Used technically, as it so frequently is in the NT, "wrath" (orgas) is a title for the period just before Messiah's kingdom on earth, when God will afflict earth's inhabitants with an unparalleled series of physical torments because of their rejection of His will (Matt. 3:7; 24:21; Luke 21:23; Rev. 6:16). (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)

Coming back to the word deliver (ruomai)—it is from the classical Greek word eruo. In Koine Greek the e is dropped. In classical Greek the word is translated as "drag away," implying force. "To drag away the body of a slain hero." "Drag away, rescue friends." Vincent translates the word with the force of the Middle Voice, i.e. "To draw to oneself." "With the specification [from] evil or danger." The Coming Wrath is an evil. It is not the final Great White Throne Judgment or of Christ coming to earth to judge the nations at the beginning of His Millennial reign! This Present Participle could also have the force of a Prophetic Future: "The One who will drag us [to Himself]."

THE WRATH. (tas orgas) Coupled with the descriptive "The One Coming." The Coming One is a Present Active Participle (deponent) of erochomai. With the article: "The Wrath (absolutely)." (Vincent) "The Wrath absolutely Coming!" Or, the Wrath "which is already coming." (Ellicott) Ellicott further writes: "The Wrath is on its way to the world, to appear" as the seven-year tribulation!

CONCLUSION. This is a rapture passage because it speaks of a right now waiting. The Thessalonians were eagerly waiting as intently as they are presently serving. The dragging away speaks of the rapture. When Christ comes, as the Son of Man to reign, He takes up His kingly role in Jerusalem. Believers in the church age are dragged away from an impending disaster, i.e. the seven-year tribulation period. The church does not go through the seven-year period of horror! No where in 1 or 2 Thessalonians does Paul used orge to describe the present suffering of the believers of the church age.

The word ek (out from) is interesting. It is used to describe the fact that Christ comes "out from heaven," "out from the dead (the dead ones)," and He delivers us "out from the Wrath that is Coming." That is, away from it!

Saturday, February 2, 2008


By Mal Couch

There are two stories in the Pentateuch concerning Moses striking the rock in the desert—Exodus 17:5-6; Numbers 20:7-13. In the first reference Moses is instructed by the Lord to strike the rock before the elders. In the second reference he is told to simply speak to the rock in the presence of the people. Because he struck the rock in anger in the Numbers account, God placed a penalty on Moses that he would not enter the Promised Land. Scholars have puzzled over the difference in Moses' actions and the significance behind the striking of the rock itself.

EXODUS 17:5-6
The context of chapter 17 is the quarreling and the rebellion of the people in the wilderness wandering. They were short of water and had lost their trust in the Lord to provide. In their anger against Moses they were on the verge of stoning him to death (v. 4). God instructed Moses to take the staff, the rod that he carried, and lead the elders up to Horeb and strike the prominent rock so that these men could view his actions (v. 6). The staff represented the authority of God that was carried about by Moses. It was called "the staff of God" (4:20; 17:9).

The Jews later would not be reminded of the spiritual blessing of this event, but instead, they would have to recall their sin of quarreling and testing the Lord. Moses named the place Massah (to test) and Meribah (to quarrel) (v. 7). But it is in the New Testament that we would see the blessing side of this event. God's Spirit was providing the people food (the Manna) and the Jews in the wilderness would be drinking "the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the Rock was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). Interestingly, though the rock in Exodus 17 represents Christ, the Lord says of Himself that "I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb" (v. 6). This is a Theophany in that it was actually Christ, the Angel of Jehovah, in appearance before Moses and the elders. He is standing on the rock signifying that the rock represents in actuality Him and His presence before them.

In the wilderness only the Jewish elders were to be witnesses to the event of the striking of the rock. But Zechariah speaks of the striking of the Shepherd with the results, that "the sheep may be scattered" (Zech. 13:7). This would take place by the authority of the elders and by the actions of the Romans. This prophecy was fulfilled by the elders of Israel and by their hatred of Christ when He stood before them at His trial. The priests and leaders, all of them, condemned Christ to be worthy of death. They buffeted Him and turned Him over to the temple officers who struck Him with blows from their hands (Mark 14:64-65). But of course, in God's strange providence, He Himself was the final cause of the Shepherd being stricken for sinners. Isaiah prophetically writes: He would be "smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isa. 53:4). As the rock that would be struck, Christ would be delivered up to the elders of the Sanhedrin, "to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death" (Matt. 20:18).

NUMBERS 20:7-13
On the other occasion when the people were thirsty, the events that transpired were different. Aaron was to accompany Moses, with Moses' staff of God's authority, and come before the people, the congregation, and simply "speak to the rock before their eyes" which would yield its water (v. 8). Before the assembly of the people Moses showed his great anger toward them and cried out: "Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" (v.10). Though it may have been tongue-in-cheek, Moses received his instructions from the Lord. He was not to ask the people what they wanted!

In his anger, Moses struck the rock twice instead of simply speaking to it as God instructed (v. 11). Now the Lord was angry because Moses and Aaron had disobeyed His instructions. If the rock represented Christ it had already been struck just one time, which was a type of His death on the cross. He is not to be struck a second time.

The Lord said: "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them" (v. 12). Moses would be able to see the land before he died but he would not enter it.

The Rock, Christ, had to be struck the first time because this was a type of His death on the cross. But the second time pictures God's grace. We, as Moses, only have to ask for the blessings that come from His provision, i.e. the water.

Other lessons come from these accounts. We have to do things God's way and not ours. Another lesson comes from Numbers 20:10. Moses said to the rebellious people, "Shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" The provision of the water was a miracle from God. Moses and Aaron were not the cause of the blessing; they were simply the Lord's servants. On their own they could do nothing!

Though Jesus is represented in this rock in Exodus and Numbers, the rock also represents God the Father as well. Moses says of the Lord that He is "The Rock! His work is perfect" (Deut. 32:4). The power of the Egyptians was like a rock but not like the Rock of Israel (v. 31). Though the world may be strong in its sins it does not have the final power and authority that belongs to the God of Israel!