The Life Cycle of a Modern Church

Every church begins in hope.  Whether it is a new denomination or new local church, the common attitude among the founders is that God is going to be pleased with this effort because it constitutes either an extension of His realm of authority or a purification of it.  The former refers to the planting of churches in new locations for the purpose of gathering “unchurched” (or “dechurched”) people.  The latter refers to those who come out of an existing denomination or local church because of the perception of error or apostasy in the existing environment.  In either case, spirits are high and founders are expectant of God’s blessing.

The next stage is growth as the founders reach out to others to share their excitement.  Regardless of theological issues, sociological and organizational dynamics usually combine to foster growth.  Newcomers join and hopes remain high…as long as the growth continues.

Sooner or later, the last stage of church life is reached either when growth subsides and the congregation cannot financially sustain itself or when perceived error or apostasy arises and some within feel called to step out and start another denomination or church.  And thus another cycle begins.

It’s a dismal cycle because it always ends up the same place it started.  (For this reason, it’s a circle as well as a cycle.)  Moreover, it does not advance the realm of God’s authority – it merely avoids that authority while paying lip service to it.  I say this because God’s authority is advanced when people obey Jesus and there no record in the Bible of Jesus commanding anyone to start denominations or churches.

To avoid this cycle, the Lord brought in the kingdom of God at the close of the New Testament age so that church life would no longer be necessary.  You see, the New Testament church itself started in great hope but was eventually plagued with error and apostasy, as the letters of the New Testament amply testify (both prospectively and contemporaneously).  For this reason, God designed that the church age should last just one generation, succeeded by the eternal kingdom age – that is, the age of eternity in which we live.

People who choose to pursue church instead of the kingdom of God are doomed to the negative cycle described above.  It has never been avoided and never can be avoided.  If you are happy with your church right now, just give things time.

The only solution to this vain pursuit is to do what the Lord said to do: seek the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31).  This kingdom can be found by following the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, who speaks in our consciences.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

There Will Never Be Another New Testament Church Just as There Will Never Be Another Ancient Israel

The New Testament church was unique.  It cannot be duplicated.  It existed at a crucial juncture in history just as Jesus Christ Himself existed at that juncture.  In fact, that church’s most important task was to bear witness to Him and His resurrection.  That we now have the New Testament is evidence of their success in this regard.

Ancient Israel was also unique.  It was a nation chosen to bear witness to the Creator God in a world of many competing deities.  Ancient Israel was raised up by God from the descendants of Abraham to establish monotheism and destroy polytheism in the world – among other purposes.  That monotheism dominates the world today is evidence of their success in this regard.

We live today in what the Old Testament and New Testament called “the day of the Lord.”  In this day, it is the kingdom of God (sometimes called the kingdom of heaven) which is God’s instrument just as Israel and the church had been His instruments in days past.  Israel and the church were both subject to corruption which is why they were only temporary vehicles until God could establish His eternal kingdom through Jesus Christ (that is, the Messiah of Israel).

The kingdom of God is invisible, indivisible, and incorruptible.  You enter it by living righteously in the sight of God which is founded upon faith in Jesus Christ.  It has nothing to do with church and nothing to do with modern Israel.  As I said above, there will never be another church like the one in the New Testament.  The churches of our day are futile attempts to imitate the New Testament church.  It is as vain today to build churches as it would be to sacrifice animals in Jerusalem.  (See Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church.)

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Only Because of the New Testament Does the Old Testament Apply to Us

The Old Testament was written to the ancient nation of Israel – that is, the Hebrews of old, not today’s Israel.  Therefore, if you are part of the 99+% of the world’s population that is not Jewish (i.e. if you are a Gentile)…or even if you are part of the less than 1% of the world’s population that is Jewish, the Old Testament as originally written doesn’t apply to you.  In other words, 100% of the current world’s population is not addressed by the Old Testament.  I say that modern day Jews are just as unaddressed by the Old Testament as Gentiles because there is no sacrificial system (with its priesthood and other supports) in place today that would be necessary to practice Old Testament commands.

The New Testament, however, describes a way in which the Old Testament can be understood and practiced by all people – Jews or Gentiles.  That way is through the understanding given by Jesus Christ – the Messiah whom the Old Testament promised.  This understanding makes the Old Testament speak of spiritual truths rather than of physical practices.  You will gain a sense of this as you read the New Testament.

A notable example of this is the New Testament book of Hebrews which describes how Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself displaced the entire system of animal sacrifice.  In reading this explanation, your appreciation and understanding of Christ – and God – will grow.  Your subsequent reading of the Old Testament books which describe animal sacrifice (e.g. Leviticus) will be thus enhanced as you see the life of Christ foreshadowed – not as something you should go out and do to an animal.

The New Testament makes clear that the true value of reading the Old Testament comes only through the lens that is Jesus Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The New Testament Is the Headline and the Old Testament is the Story

If the Bible were a newspaper then the New Testament would be the headline and the Old Testament would be the story.

For this reason it would probably make more sense for the New Testament to precede the Old Testament in our Bibles.  You can’t fully appreciate this point unless and until you read carefully all the references the apostles made to the Old Testament.  It was their Bible – all the Bible they had!  And it was more than enough for them.  They never expressed any discontent with its sufficiency.

If you’ve read the headline, you have the gist of the story.  But if you want the richness of detail which brings full understanding…read the story.  Just be sure to read it with the headline in mind.  Otherwise, you’ll become distracted with the issues of ancient Israel.  Your interest is in spiritual truth which transcends the ages because it is eternally valid.

You don’t buy a newspaper just to read the headline.  Read the headline and the story.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The New Testament Was Written for New Testament Times

If the apostles wrote in expectation that their writings would be collected and labeled the New Testament hundreds of years later, they gave no indication of it in what they wrote.  On the contrary, what they wrote pulsated with concern for their contemporaries.  For they were all preparing for the day of the Lord, which the Old Testament had long promised.  Which day, John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth had said was soon going to dawn.  (See Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.)

In writing for their contemporaries, the apostles wrote either because they were bearing witness to Jesus and their early proclamations of His message (i.e., the Gospels and Acts) or because they were addressing issues which arose among believers in various locations around the Mediterranean Sea where the message had reached (i.e. all the rest of the New Testament letters, or epistles as they’re sometimes called).

Leaving aside for the moment the eyewitness accounts of the four gospels, it’s clear that the apostles did not write at all in order to supplement the Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament).  It’s obvious that the apostles considered the Scriptures sacred and sufficient.  The problem-solving concern that drove most of their letter-writing was directed at producing a better understanding of those then-existing Scriptures – not producing alternative Scriptures to replace the then-existing ones.

As for the gospels, those were indeed intended to supplement the Scriptures – but again, not to show the Scriptures insufficient.  On the contrary, the purpose was to show how correct and reliable those Scriptures had been.  The gospels thus testified dramatically of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures we call the Old Testament.

We might wish that the apostles had written more for us today and less for their contemporaries.  On the other hand, they actually served us best by writing for their contemporaries because this leaves us driven to read both testaments for a full understanding of the times in which we now live – and eternally will live.  (See All Bible Prophecy Has Been Fulfilled.)  We should not be allowed to build our understanding of God on the New Testament alone.  The way that it was written guarantees that we cannot succeed at such an effort.  God be praised!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Without the Old Testament, the New Testament Is an Unexplained Mystery

If there were no Old Testament, hundreds of New Testament passages would vanish for the New Testament writers were constantly appealing to the Old Testament.

The apostles appealed to the Old Testament because it gave the explanation and meaning of what they had personally witnessed: the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel.  Without an Old Testament, there’d be no Israel, no Messiah, no Nazareth, and no Jesus (who was Himself a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the Jacob whom God had named Israel, which stuck as a name for all the descendants).

Therefore, without the Old Testament, the New Testament would be the eyewitness testimony that a man had been raised from the dead and ascended into heaven – without any rationale for the event.  But no – it wouldn’t even have been that because Jesus would not have been crucified had He not answered in the affirmative the question, “Are you the Christ (i.e. the Messiah)?”  Had there been no Old Testament, there would not have been such a question.

Thus, without the Old Testament, there is hardly anything left in the New Testament to analyze.  With the Old Testament, the New Testament is the most wonderful explanation of God we could have ever imagined.  In fact, it is more than anyone ever imagined.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Without the New Testament, the Old Testament Is an Unsolved Mystery

If there were no New Testament, we’d have to acknowledge that the Old Testament is but an unsolved mystery.

Consider the world today without the New Testament:  The Old Testament would have promised a Messiah who never came.  This would call into question the very existence of God.  For how could the Israelites have been redeemed from slavery in Egypt apart from the explanation of God’s miraculous involvement?  How could Israel’s prophets have given their lives for a God of their own imaginations?  Or, if you assert that God truly spoke to them, how could the promises they made on God’s behalf be so empty?

The Judaism of today must rely on tradition, other documents (e.g. the Talmud), and ethnicity to make up for the fact that the Old Testament by itself portrays either a God who promises things He cannot deliver, or a nation that invented its own God – neither concept very conducive to a successful religion. 

Better to simply acknowledge that the Old Testament was never intended to be presented to the world without fulfillment by the New Testament in a reasonable period of time.  Indeed, Jesus of Nazareth appeared some 400 years after the last Old Testament document was written.  Mystery solved.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The New Testament Quotes the Old Testament but Not the New Testament

The New Testament writers frequently cite the Old Testament as authoritative, but very rarely make a similar appeal to other New Testament books.  Why?

The New Testament writers considered what we call the Old Testament to be the Holy Scriptures of God.  If they considered their own writings as fitting into that category, they did not build any extended case for themselves.  We certainly consider their writings in the category of Holy Scripture, but not because the apostles took any glory to themselves.  Rather, we regard the New Testament as the word of God because these documents are consistent with each other and utterly faithful to the Old Testament.  Furthermore, the New Testament bears witness to the experience of Jesus of Nazareth – the only reasonable, fitting, and credible explanation ever given to the Old Testament.  More than an explanation, the New Testament is the continuation, completion, and consummation of the Old Testament.  The New Testament provides the only appropriate answers to the questions raised by the Old Testament.

The testimony of the apostles in the New Testament is this: “Here’s what we saw and heard of Jesus of Nazareth; He’s the Messiah of Israel, as all these scriptures we’re quoting will attest.”  Of course, these “scriptures” come from the Old Testament.

The New Testament makes very little reference to itself.  It makes constant reference to the Old Testament.  This lack of self-consciousness coupled with its preoccupation with the Old Testament makes the interdependency of these two sets of documents all the more credible…and awe-inspiring.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The New Testament Cannot Stand on Its Own

The New Testament cannot be understood independently of the Old Testament.  All the roots of New Testament thinking reach deep throughout Old Testament soil.

Without having the Old Testament as context, the New Testament would merely be the witness to a man raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.  As astounding as it is, this resurrection is insufficient for our edification, exhortation, and comfort without the explanation that the Old Testament gives to this event.

Through the New Testament’s explanation of the Old Testament, we understand that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the signature and inaugurating event which determines that humanity’s ultimate destination after this life will be in heaven (Everyone Is Going to Heaven).

To think that the New Testament is superior to the Old Testament, or somehow independent of the Old Testament, is therefore to greatly misunderstand it.  The New Testament and the Old Testament are two sides of the same coin – each depending on the other and utterly inseparable from each other.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Old Testament Is a Mystery Which Only the New Testament Can Explain

The Old Testament is a mystery document when it comes to its prophecies of Messiah.  Oh, it’s very clear that a Messiah is promised.  But the many promises and prophecies were impossible for the Jews to piece together into a single coherent picture.  You can tell from reading the New Testament that there were different and conflicting ideas about the Messiah held among the Jewish population.  Only in the actual life of Jesus Christ (actually in His life, death, and resurrection) could all the foretelling be seen coming together in a single person.  Even today, Jews who don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah can’t come together in a single view of who that Messiah is or would be.

Why then is the New Testament placed after the Old Testament in our Bibles instead of before?  The current order implies that the Old Testament can be properly understood without first referring to the New Testament.  This is demonstrably false.  For one thing, without the New Testament the Old Testament is a document that is of little pertinence to any of us.  The Old Testament was written to the citizens of ancient Israel.  Since less than 1% of today’s world population is Jewish, that means that over 99% of us aren’t authorized to practice its dictates.  And since modern Jews no longer have the means or will to practice animal sacrifice, they, too, are unable to obey many of its most prominent provisions.

What then is the solution?  Read the New Testament first!  The New Testament writers believed fully in the Old Testament and prescribed the ways in which the Old Testament can be understood and obeyed by all people of all nations.  Therefore, if you have a heart to obey the Bible, read the Old Testament through the eyes of the New Testament…lest three-fourth’s of the Bible’s direction be deprived you.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The New Testament Explains That the Old Testament Is About Jesus

The New Testament doesn’t merely state that the Old Testament is about Jesus – it explains this point in significant detail.

The New Testament writers (that is, the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ) quoted, referred, and alluded to the Old Testament hundreds of times.  In doing so, they were sometimes affirming the understandings that Jews had always had (e.g. when they affirmed that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem: Matthew 2:4-6 quoting Micah 5:2), sometimes expanding those understandings (e.g. when they pointed out that the great prophet that Moses had predicted was literally, not figuratively, raised up: Acts 3:18-26 quoting Deuteronomy 18:15 and others), and sometimes completely upending previous understandings (e.g. when they explained that the Messiah had to be cursed before He was blessed in order that the world might be saved: Galatians 3:13 quoting Deuteronomy 21:23).

In their constant references to Old Testament verses and concepts, the apostles thoroughly explained how those verses and concepts were written with Jesus in mind, even though the initial readers of the Old Testament documents wouldn’t have known this – especially not in such explicit terms as are presented in the New Testament.  For this reason, it would help readers of the Bible if the New Testament came before the Old Testament.

The apostles do so much in the New Testament to explain the Old Testament.  This understanding should not be postponed until the reader has completed the Old Testament.  Rather, this understanding should precede the reading of the Old Testament for today’s readers.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Since the Old Testament Is Not in Chronological Order, Why Does the New Testament Have to Follow It?

In ordering its individual books, the Old Testament does not follow a strict chronological order.  Rather, the books are grouped first by genre (e.g. law, poetry, prophecy), and then generally, though not always, in chronological order.  This categorization of books was deemed more helpful than a pure chronological ordering.

The New Testament, in its subdivisions, is likewise first ordered by genre (i.e., gospels, then epistles).  Moreover, the ordering within genres shows no consistent guideline of chronology.  Of course, this might be expected since the New Testament documents were all written by contemporaries and they did not include precise dates in what they wrote in the way that we do today.

Therefore, since date of writing is not fully governing the ordering of Bible writings, why then couldn’t the New Testament precede the Old Testament?  This would certainly lead to greater understanding for those who chose to read the Bible themselves in order to better understand God.

I am not suggesting that the interior order of either testament be rearranged.  Jews already order the Old Testament (what they call the Tanakh) differently from how Christians order it and this causes no insurmountable confusion.

I am only suggesting that reading the Bible beginning to end, as it is currently arranged, is inconsistent with the understanding that the New Testament gives to the Old Testament.  To read the New Testament first would allow the reader to better understand what the Old Testament says to us.

Specifically, the New Testament says that the Old Testament is about Jesus.  Reading the Old Testament without guidance on that point would be comparatively unproductive.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Why Does the New Testament Follow the Old Testament in our Bibles?

The first New Testament documents were written a few hundred years after the Old Testament was completed – the Old Testament itself having taken over a thousand years to produce.  Thus the New Testament documents were simply appended to the Scriptures of that day (that is, what we call the Old Testament) thus giving us the Bible we have today (that is, Old and New Testaments).  Therefore, the New Testament documents come last only because they were written last.

The New Testament does not present itself, however, as an addendum to the Old Testament.  Rather, these documents present themselves as a new way to read the Old Testament.  What new way, you ask?  As being fulfilled through the life, death, resurrection, and second coming of Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah of Israel.

Before Jesus, the Old Testament was a forward-looking document of hope.  Through Jesus, and the New Testament produced by the apostles He had chosen, taught, and commissioned, the Old Testament became of document of faith (that is, hope realized).  What the prophets of the Old Testament had promised, the apostles of the New Testament were reporting as being fulfilled.

The Old Testament was therefore no longer to be read as unrealized, but rather as realized.  This can produce enormous differences in the meaning of its words, as the apostles’ quotations of the Old Testament amply demonstrate.  (For example, the Old Testament’s instructions about circumcision were now understood to refer to a spiritual reality performed by God on human hearts –  a huge difference for those intent on not merely reading, but also doing the word of God.)

Therefore, to read the Old Testament before reading the New Testament (in the way a conventional book is read) is to read the Old Testament in an old, obsolete, and inappropriate way.  The only proper way to read the Old Testament is in the way the apostles of the New Testament prescribed.  Otherwise, a reader would have to unlearn much of his Old Testament understanding once he got to the New Testament.  Therefore, it might make more sense to put the New Testament first in our Bibles.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.  For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The New Testament as Introduction to the Old Testament

If the New Testament were positioned before the Old Testament in our Bibles it would serve as a wonderful introduction to the Old Testament. 

The New Testament was written by the apostles.  The Old Testament was the only Bible that the apostles had.  They were not writing the New Testament to replace the Old Testament, but rather to explain it.  What better introduction of the Old Testament to read, therefore, than its explanation by the apostles of our Lord?

It is not necessary for our understanding that the New Testament sit before the Old Testament in our Bibles, but it would be more consistent with the Bible’s message if it did. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.  For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Why Not Put the New Testament Before the Old Testament in the Bible?

It is correct to view the Bible as a single book with a single author (God).  But it is also right to acknowledge that this book is a “library” – a collection of scores of writings which God inspired through many different individuals over a 1,500-year span of time.  These writings therefore reflect varied genres, styles, time periods, and personalities even though all the writers were associated with the nation of ancient Israel and shared its culture and values.   

Because most people are used to reading a book by beginning at the front and continuing to the back, and because they sometimes don’t fully appreciate the diverse library between the Bible’s covers, they start off in Genesis.  This is not a problem right away because Genesis contains some fascinating stories.  The same is true of the first half of Exodus.  The second half of Exodus, however, contains instructions to ancient Israel that don’t have any apparent bearing on life today.  Therefore, the reading gets sluggish.  Somewhere in Leviticus, readers hit a full stall…and some never recover. 

An interesting and valuable solution would be to put the New Testament first.  That way, the first document read would be the Gospel of Matthew.  The reader would be confronted immediately with Jesus Christ – the focal point of the Bible.  If the reader continued to read left to right, he would be thoroughly imbued with the importance of Jesus before tackling the Old Testament books.  Moreover, the New Testament books are constantly referencing Old Testament books so a context is created for reading the Old Testament properly.

What do I mean by “reading the Old Testament properly”?  The superficial meaning of the Old Testament documents gave way to their ultimate spiritual meaning through Jesus Christ.  For example, Isaac was a type of Jesus (Genesis), Passover was a picture of how Jesus saves humanity from its sins (Exodus), and the lambs offered in Leviticus typified Jesus’ unblemished sacrifice for us.  It wasn’t that the initial superficial meanings of those texts weren’t valid.  They were.  It’s just that such meanings were temporary until the One to whom all those writings pointed arrived.  Now, we look to the Old Testament to tell us about the same One the New Testament tells us about.

Some will complain that putting the New Testament first would put the Bible out of chronological order.  But the current order itself is not fully chronological.  Rather, the writings are grouped by genre within testament, and then only chronological order within genre.  And, even then, there are exceptions to strict chronological order within genre.   

The point here is that Jesus Christ is the subject of the Bible – all of the Bible.  Putting the New Testament first would serve to emphasize that point.  But it’s just a suggestion.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Challenge from a Churchgoer – Part 4

If you want to read the earlier parts of this conversation, click on Challenge from a ChurchgoerChallenge from a Churchgoer – Part 2, or Challenge from a Churchgoer Part 3.

Churchgoer:  Well, at one point you said I did not use Scripture, but then cited verses that I alluded to. I was assuming you would know, and you did know the passages what I said was based on.

I guess I have a unique viewpoint having worked with churches of different varieties over many, many years.  Right now, I am in contact with about fourteen hundred churches. I have spoken in hundreds of fellowships and have had associations with hundreds of pastors and when all is said….there is not much difference. We are united by Scripture and a love of Jesus. I see how much we are alike rather than how much we differ. Isn’t it a contradiction to believe that all are saved, but then be so harsh on churches. If everyone is right and going to heaven then all churches are right too. In fact, it would not be possible to do wrong.

My response:  Yes, you mentioned two verses, but, as I showed, neither one justifies your position.  Thus your exaltation of churchgoing is rooted in tradition (or something else) and not Scripture.

Indeed, there must be something that unites you to these churches besides “Scripture and a love of Jesus,” because you and I both exalt Scripture and love Jesus…and you don’t seem to feel similarly united to me.

As for being harsh, I have not been more so with churches than Jesus was with the Pharisees or the moneychangers. Those groups, too, exalted their traditions over Scripture.

I do say that everyone is going to heaven; I do not say that everyone is right. Unfortunately, it is more than possible for all of us to do wrong. For this reason, God tells us to repent, and indeed repentance must be our lifestyle if we are to enjoy the fullness of His blessings in this life and the fullness of His honor in the next.

Surely you don’t mean to suggest that because everyone is going to heaven, we should feel free to sin – though it sounds like you do.

That everyone is going to heaven is an even better reason to repent than the possibility of going to hell, because the latter calls on a motive of self-interest (even self-preservation) while the former calls on a motive of loving Him who first loved us.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Bookmark and Share

Challenge from a Churchgoer – Part 3

If you want to see the earlier of this conversation, click on Challenge from a Churchgoer and/or Challenge from a Churchgoer – Part 2.

Churchgoer:  I am not exalting the organized institution of “church.” I am confident of those people who attend that in some way they are there because they are seeking God and His Kingdom. Scripture says not to forsake the fellowship of the saints (other believers and not the Catholic view of Saints). It does not say you must be sitting on the pew at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. I go because I enjoy seeing the people there and seeing what I can learn from the sermon. Very often I am teaching SS or speaking at a church somewhere. I see a church building as a meeting place for God’s people and I appreciate all the church buildings and people that attend and built them as a witness of a kingdom phrase repeated in the NT, “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed…..that fills the whole earth.” You know the statement. Each year 44,000 new churches open their doors for the first time. Everyday 166,000 people hear the Gospel for the first time. There are 27,000,000 new Christian every year. The Bible has been translated into 4661 languages. 74% of the world’s population has heard the gospel at least once. Whenever I go to speak at a church I always look for the cornerstone and when the building went up. I spoke at a church just over a week ago where the cornerstone said 1930. I expressed appreciation for the vision of those people during the depression that built that building as a witness and meeting place for God’s people. Eighty years it has been open and used for services. Isn’t that a great testimony?

My response:  The defense of church that you are here offering is quite similar to the one offered to Jesus of the temple in Jerusalem just before He was crucified in its shadow (“Teacher, behold, what wonderful stones and buildings!”). Moreover, it is a defense that could be offered – with numbers that vary, of course – by any member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Roman Catholic Church, mainline liberal denominations, or any other kind of religious body that has buildings and is growing. Even Jewish synagogues could make this argument – not to mention Islam and other religions. There are even some social and civic organizations that could make this argument! Your threefold argument is essentially the same one any of them could make: 1) We enjoy getting together, 2) We promote God and His ideas, 3) Our numbers are growing.  Just as you believe in your organizations, others believe in theirs.

The most remarkable aspect of your defense, however, is that you offer no Scriptural foundation for it (other than a fleeting reference to the kingdom of God growing, which, again, could be applied to any organization that grows). I say “remarkable” because you started this discussion with an appeal to Scripture and its authority in such matters. Oh, yes, you did allude to Hebrews 10:25 but that verse says to “not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” Today’s Christians do not assemble together – they assemble separately. Even in small cities, there are multiple churches – often across the street from each other. How is that following Scripture? If Jesus wanted us to lay many church cornerstones there would be instructions in the New Testament to that end. Instead, we find reference to but one cornerstone – Jesus Christ Himself.

We do not need to build churches in order to translate the Bible and spread the gospel. In fact, church building just distracts from those more worthy purposes.

You say that you’re not exalting the “organized institution of church.” Yet almost every church today (at least in this country) has legal by-laws, corporate status, and a tax-exempt status – even the small ones. Where is it then that institutionalism is being avoided?

At one point you say or imply that there are well-intentioned people seeking God, going to church for that purpose. With this, I agree with you. But this is all the more reason we should warn and spare such people from the institutionalism that permeates churches of today. If we are to keep these well-intentioned people from being disillusioned, let us tell them of Jesus and spare them of church and the distractions it brings.

I return to that which you appealed in the beginning: Scripture. It says to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” You and I have no disagreement at all about the authority of Scripture. Our disagreement is about what Scripture authorizes. It’s pretty clear that it has not authorized the divided churches we see today. What it has authorized is the kingdom of God, which is invisible to the human eye but to which we all owe allegiance.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.  For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Bookmark and Share

The Parousia by James Stuart Russell

I am not the first person to declare that Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again – not by a long shot!

In 1878, James Stuart Russell wrote The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry Into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming.  In it, Russell argued that the Second Coming is an accomplished event – the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans being the most notable earthly fulfillment of that set of prophecies.  The book is still available today from a variety of sources.  It’s even available online, being old enough to have lost copyright protection.

I myself have not read the book.  I have read its Table of Contents (which is a quite thorough outline of the book) and sampled its pages.  I have also read reviews of the book – both positive and negative.  This is how I know the book’s basic argument.  I do not therefore offer the book as proof for my belief.  For that, I rely exclusively on the Bible.  I mention the book, however, so that 1) you may know that this idea of a past Second Coming is not unheard of, and 2) so that you might refer to the book should you find his arguments easier to follow than mine.

I should also mention that there is a school of thought called Preterism into which Russell’s views fall.  Not all preterists would agree with everything that Russell writes (in fact, there are varieties of preterists), but the point is, again, that the idea that Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again is not one that is new to the earth.  In fact, there are preterists who trace their views all the way back to New Testament times, declaring that it is the “futurist view” (that is, the belief that Jesus’ Second Coming is still future) that is “the new kid” on the theological “block.” 

Again, I am not suggesting that Russell specifically or preterists in general would support everything that I write.  Nor am I suggesting that I would support everything they write.  Nor yet am I saying that I derived my ideas from any of these people because I certainly did not.  I learned these things by reading and studying the Bible, and only learned about these folks afterward.   

All I am saying is that even if not widely accepted, the idea that Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again has been around for a long, long time and it has been held by many, many people.  If you’re rejecting it because it’s new to your ears, you owe it to yourself to check further.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Bookmark and Share

Where Is the Spirit of the New Testament Church Today?

Where can you find in the world today the spirit that animated the New Testament church?  (By the way, you can understand the word “spirit” in this question either as “general attitude and values” or as “the Holy Spirit” and the answer will be the same.)

Certainly you will not find this spirit in today’s activities of church building or church administration.  The spirit animating those who pursue church growth and church government today have nothing to do with the spirit that animated the church in the New Testament.  Therefore, you will not find the spirit of the New Testament church in anything having to do with organizing churches or organizing Christianity.  Whoever seeks to manage God’s people today is usurping the role of the Leader of  True Christianity.

Where then can we find the spirit of the New Testament church today?  In those who proclaim and practice Jesus as Lord.  That is, in those who proclaim the sufficiency of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:2-3; read further in this chapter and you will see that Peter is urging his readers to seek the kingdom of God which was soon coming and would supplant the church as God’s vehicle for saving activity just as the church had supplanted the nation of Israel in this regard).  Jesus is more than enough (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

If those preaching to you want you to know, understand, and appreciate Jesus Christ, then they are like those in the New Testament.  On the other hand, if they want you to join their church, ministry, or movement, then they are of a different spirit.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Challenge from a Churchgoer – Part 2

If you have not seen the first part of this conversation, click on Challenge from a Churchgoer.

Churchgoer:  Perhaps my view of the church is open and filled with grace and mercy the way Jesus would do.  My view of the church is not as an institutional organization, but rather failed human people who have a heart for God.  We have Jesus in common.  We have been led astray by mistaken teachers and we develop mistaken ideas outside of Scripture.  However, Jesus as God’s only begotten son who showed us how to live, died on the cross for us and rose from the grave is central.

My response:  Would that your view of those who do not go to church were as “open and filled with grace and mercy” as is your view of those who do.

Moreover, keep in mind that not all churchgoers are honoring Jesus and His word; neither all are nonchurchgoers dishonoring Him and His word.

Your acknowledgment of the failings of church merely confirm that it is no longer a divinely-led organism as it was in New Testament times. It is a man-made organization, with all the good and bad that go with being man-made. At best, it is as well-intentioned as Peter offering to build a tabernacle for Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration – and just as misguided and useless.  At worst, it’s as self-serving and defiant of God as was Pharaoh or Jezebel.

Nonetheless, I have not forsaken church to pursue the kingdom of God because of church’s failings, but rather because of Scripture which tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God” – said kingdom promised to come by the end of the New Testament age (Matt 16:28).  Hence, the kingdom of God is the legitimate heir of the New Testament church – said kingdom not coming with signs to be observed (Luke 17:20-21).

When you exalt today’s church, you are obscuring the kingdom of God – just as I used to obscure the kingdom of God when I insisted that people to go to church. I thought that one served Jesus by serving church, but Scripture eventually taught me that church was a distraction from an omnipresent Jesus.

In New Testament times, Jesus sat at the right hand of God while the church prepared for His coming, but since then He has come in His kingdom to fill the heavens and the earth as Almighty God (Isaiah 9:6-7).

And, yes, Jesus showing us how to live, dying on the cross for us, and rising from the grave is central to all of this. May His name be exalted more and more!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.  For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Bookmark and Share

Challenge from a Churchgoer

Churchgoer:  You know, Mike, most of what you say is very good and on target.  However, there are some points inconsistent with what the Scriptures say. Those points make the overall item as tangled as fishing line can get. Sometimes it would take pages for me to sort out what you say in a sentence, and I really don’t have time, and I question if you would listen anyway. Most of your ideas are rooted in Scripture, but what of the ideas that are not.  What is the source?  The reason for false religion are ideas that are man-made. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself.  By what authority do we change those ideas?

Here is an example….I understand the human failings of the local church, however you can’t throw out the biblical concept of The Church as it is the Bride of Christ. So when you speak of church, what are you referring to?  I am not expecting you to answer as this is an example of areas of what I feel is confusion.

My response:  You and I are in complete agreement that Scripture must be the standard by which all our ideas about God are evaluated, and that it’s the insertion of man-made ideas which tangles (like fishing line) and contaminates our thinking. On this point, I agree with you without reservation.

Where we part company is on the issue of which specific ideas are man-made. I think your idea of the church, for example, is man-made. Not the idea that the church is the bride of Christ, of course, for that is clearly a scriptural idea. Rather, it is your idea that today’s church is a legitimate heir to the New Testament church. Today’s church cannot possibly be the same as the one in the New Testament. For one thing, today’s church is not one body – it is a thoroughly dismembered body, with thousands upon thousands of different denominations.  Scripture makes clear that the kingdom of God is not divided. I could say more, but like you, don’t want to invest a lot of time in writing things that will not be given due consideration.

Perhaps we should simply agree to disagree, finding our common ground on this truth: Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, the life – and the more He is proclaimed, the better off the inhabitants of the world will be.

(See Part 2 of this exchange here.)

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Criticality of the Old Testament to New Testament Understanding

Apart from the Old Testament, the New Testament is an astounding set of documents for the simple reason that they solemnly testify to the fact that God raised a dead man…all the way to heaven.  However, for the full meaning and all the implications of that event, the New Testament alone is not enough.  You must incorporate the Old Testament to understand the New Testament’s message.

It is interesting that the books of Romans, Hebrews, and Revelation are generally considered the New Testament’s most formidable challenges for study – and it is these comparatively lengthy New Testament epistles that each make extensive use of the Old Testament by quotation, reference, and allusion.

Bear in mind that the New Testament was written by Jews about a Jew.  Everything took place in a thoroughly Jewish setting.  Even when events took the apostles beyond Palestine, the Jewish synagogue was the first place they preached when entering a new locale.

Thinking you can understand what Jesus taught in the New Testament without studying what was taught in the Old Testament is asking for confusion and error.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Book of Hebrews – Gateway Between the Testaments

Every New Testament book provides linkage to the Old Testament because the apostles and their colleagues who wrote the New Testament documents viewed the Old Testament as the word of God.  They never called it the “Old Testament.”  Rather they called it “the Scriptures” or “the Law of Moses and the Prophets” or other such terms.  And they constantly appealed to its authority.

The book of Hebrews provides a particularly wide gateway between the two testaments.  In fact, to study the book of Hebrews is to engage in a study of the Old Testament because the arguments of Hebrews are built entirely on quotes, references, and allusions to the Old Testament.

If you would understand the Old Testament the way Jesus understood it, study the book of Hebrews. 

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Bookmark and Share

The New Covenant Replaces the Old Covenant, but the New Testament Doesn’t Replace the Old Testament

The Old Covenant which God made with Abraham and documented through Moses was indeed made obsolete by, and was replaced by, the New Covenant made through Jesus Christ and the sacrifice of His life through the cross of Calvary.

However, the New Testament – which are those documents written in testimony of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – not only does not replace the Old Testament, it actually affirms and makes clear the Old Testament’s true meaning.

Let me say these things again:

The New Covenant does away with the Old Covenant, but the New Testament substantiates the Old Testament.

Anyone who says he follows the New Testament but does not regard the Old Testament, does not actually follow the New Testament either.  This is because the New Testament is constantly quoting and appealing to the Old Testament.  No one could properly heed the New Testament without reading it in context.  And the Old Testament is the primary context of the New Testament.  The apostles who wrote the New Testament were constantly appealing to the Old Testament’s authority – because they considered it the word of God.

The meaning that the New Testament writers give to the Old Testament is one that largely escaped the notice of ancient Israel because this meaning could only be realized once Messiah fulfilled all the prophecies of suffering and then rose from the dead.  The revelation of Jesus Christ imbued the Old Testament with new and even greater significance, transforming it into a document full of eternal meaning.

The Old Covenant is obsolete.  The Old Testament stands forever.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Jesus Our Rest

Jesus was foreshadowed in Lamech’s prophecy of Noah when it was said, “This one shall give us rest…”  (Genesis 5:29).

Jesus was foreshadowed by Melchizedek who was the king of Salem (that is to say, king of peace) (Genesis 14:18).

Jesus was foreshadowed in the Sabbaths decreed by Moses, for these were to be days of rest (Exodus 20:8-10).

Jesus was foreshadowed in the life of Solomon whose name meant “peace” and whose reign was marked by “rest” that God gave on all sides (1 Chronicles 22:9)

Jesus was foreshadowed in Isaiah’s prophecy of “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9).

Jesus came and offered rest to all who would come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

He offers that same peace and rest to all who come to Him today for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrew 13:8).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

As David Was to Solomon, So God the Father Was to Jesus the Son

King David had wanted to build a house (temple) for the name of the Lord.  However, he had shed so much blood that God determined it should be David’s son Solomon who would build the house instead.  David’s successful wars on behalf of the Lord enabled him to bequeath to his son a kingdom of peace.  Indeed, God promised David that He would give rest and quiet in Solomon’s reign.  In fact, the root of Solomon’s name is connected to Shalom (peace) and Salem (peace) or Jerusalem (foundation of peace).  Therefore, David was the warrior king who yielded the privilege of building the Lord’s house to his son, the king of peace.

Similarly, the God of the Old Testament (called “Father” by Jesus) was involved in wars and bloodshed because of His redemption of Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt and because of his conquest and defense of the land of Canaan on Israel’s behalf.  Thus He yield to His Son – the Prince of Peace – the task of building a house for God’s name.  And indeed some people struggle to see the connection between the God of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament.  Yet it is the same God operating in different circumstances and for different purposes.

The Old Testament age was God’s way of preparing for the New Testament age.  In the Old Testament, God planted His plan of salvation.  In the New Testament, He harvested it.  In the Old Testament, God operated through a nation of people to build an visible earthly kingdom.  In the New Testament, God operates through a single Man to build an invisible heavenly kingdom – in which we may all participate day by day through faith.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Kingdom Is the Lord’s

The last line of the last verse in the very short book of Obadiah says, “the kingdom will be the Lord’s.”

This describes the age in which we live…and in which we will always live.  The kingdom is the Lord’s, and the Lord is the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you would relate to God, relate to Him.  If you would seek the kingdom of God, seek Him.  If you would serve the kingdom of God, serve Him.

You see, the kingdom of God is a very personal thing.  It is the most personal of things.  God relating to you.  God relating to me.  God relating to everyone through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The kingdom of God has no human intermediaries.  You need no pastor, bishop, or other spiritual leader.  You need no group of brothers and sisters upon whom to rely.  You may relate directly to the Lord Jesus Himself and rely entirely upon Him.  For this reason God became a person, so that you could relate to Him on that basis.  He – the Lord Jesus Christ – has revealed Himself to you.

Do not think of the kingdom of God as an impersonal or ethereal thing.  It is personal.  Obey the king – it’s as simple and straightforward as that.

The kingdom is the Lord’s!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Bookmark and Share

Predestination Guarantees You a Place in Heaven, but Which Place Is Up to You

You may have read the posts from the previous two days: The Sense in Which Predestination Is True and The Sense in Which Predestination Is False.  If so, you know that Everyone Is Going to Heaven, but that we still have many choices to make in this life…and that those choices are important.  Let me be more specific.

Upon hearing that everyone is going to heaven, some people assume that it doesn’t matter how we live on earth.  On the contrary, it matters a great deal.   For one thing, the more morally we live here on earth the more protected we are from the evil consequences of sin.    For more on this, see Judgment Is Upon Us.

As for heaven, though our inclusion is insured, there can be a great deal of variation in what happens to us there.  As Jesus said, “Many who are last [here] will be first [there], and many who are first [here] will be last [there].”  There are many people who have lived lives that the world considers inconsequential, yet God takes great delight in them.  The One who sees every sparrow fall also sees every act of kindness even if no human eye ever took notice.  And, conversely, be assured that importance or celebrity status on earth is no guarantee whatsoever of the same in heaven.

Therefore, know that your eternal destiny is heaven – but that how you live here will impact the quality of experience you have there…significantly.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Sense in Which Predestination Is False

Perhaps you read yesterday’s post The Sense in Which Predestination Is True.  As for the sense in which it is false, there are those who teach a doctrine of predestination which says that only some people are  going to heaven.  (Of course, the “some” usually includes the people who are teaching this doctrine – how convenient for them!)  This doctrine is false, of course, because Everyone Is Going to Heaven.

This doctrine is also false because it is a form of fatalism.  That is, the supporters of this false doctrine believe that God has determined every aspect of a person’s life so that human beings are powerless to alter their direction.  God’s fundamental message to mankind is “Repent!”  This would be futile for Him to command if He’s the one controlling who can and can’t obey it.  Fatalism saps life and hope.  God, on the other hand, gives us life and hope.

Do not buy in to a doctrine of predestination that limits heaven to a few and renders every human being nothing more than a robot controlled by God.  Instead, believe that all of us are destined to heaven but that we have millions of choices to make that will determine how we get there…and what our experience there will be like once we arrive.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Bookmark and Share

The Sense in Which Predestination Is True

Some form of the word “predestine” occurs in the Bible six times (Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29,30; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Ephesians 1:5, 11).  It speaks of God’s ability to make things happen for us independent of our decisions.  It does not mean that we have no choices to make.  On the contrary, just because the parent can control the environment in which a small child lives does not mean that the child has no ability to choose.  On the contrary, a small child in a playpen can make a great many choices even though he may not leave the playpen.  Thus, God sets the boundaries of our environment and takes certain actions of His own in it without removing our ability to make choices which improve or detract from our well being.  Let’s be more specific.

Prior to creating the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them, God determined that we would all go to heaven.  Thus our destination (heaven)…was pre-determined.  Thus, predestination – or, to remove the hyphen, predestination.  In other words, God determined from the beginning that though human beings would be born on earth, they would live ultimately and eternally in heaven.  (For more, see Everyone Is Going to Heaven.)

So, the first aspect in which predestination is true is that all of us have the same destination in eternity.

The second way in which it is true is that it is only the destination that is predetermined.  The route to that destination varies by our choices.  That is, how we get to heaven and how soon we get to heaven is something that varies by every individual person.  Therefore, do not live under the falsehood of fatalism.  Your life is yet to be fully created and lived.  We have choices today.  Let’s make them wisely.  Your destination is secure, but you are choosing the route by which you get there.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

The Key to Understanding the Book of Revelation

The reason that the book of Revelation is so often misunderstood and misquoted is that readers jump over the easy parts and try to comprehend the hard parts.  If they paid more attention to the easy parts, they wouldn’t be so quick to distort the hard parts.

What are the easy parts?  Well, if you’ve ever tried to read it you’ll notice that it is a letter written by the apostle John on behalf of Jesus.  It’s directed to seven churches in seven cities of what we today call Asia Minor (John just says, “Asia” but since he names the cities we can look on a map and see where they are).

Both Jesus and John knew that the contents of the letter were likely to be misunderstood, so they make something crystal clear in the beginning and again at the end of the letter.  Two times in the first chapter and five times in the last chapter the letter says that the events described would occur soon.

It is impossible to misunderstand the letter on this point.  Yet people ignore this fundamental point all the time.  If the timing was near future in the late 1st Century A.D., how could it be anything other than past to us in the 21st Century?

Therefore, anyone who interprets anything in the book of Revelation as prophesying something yet in our future is off base, having ignored the book on one of its central and most easily understood points.

Read or re-read the first and last chapter of Revelation and look for the seven affirmations of the nearness of fulfillment.  Of course, if you think the book is wrong on this point of timing you won’t want to waste your time interpreting anything else in it because you would believe that it couldn’t be trusted.

The good news is that you can trust the book of Revelation.  Everything happened just as the Lord Jesus told the apostle John that it would.  For more, see All Bible Prophecy Has Been Fulfilled or Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.