Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why do some people see UFOs and some don’t?

Question: Why do some people see UFOs and some don’t? Why do even some sincere Christians see UFOs but others don’t? I believe these UFOs reveal nonphysical demonic activity, but they have been captured on video, and even the US military has claimed to have seen them. Do you believe that UFOs can manifest themselves in a visible physical manner? Or are these fancy camera tricks in order to hype up something that isn’t real?
 
Response:  We agree with you that UFOs are demonic manifestations. The fact that they have been captured on video only confirms what Scripture tells us. Angels (whether good or evil) have, on occasion, appeared in a recognizable form, such as the serpent in the Garden. Second Corinthians 11:14, speaking of the devil and his demons, notes, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”
We should therefore not be surprised to hear reports of “heavenly” apparitions appearing to Catholics or the alleged angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith. This is of particular interest in view of the warning in Galatians:1:8: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
Furthermore, it is not surprising that UFOs /ETIs have been reported throughout history. Why a UFO may appear to one individual and not to another is open to speculation. Perhaps some may be more open to deception, such as treasure-hunting occult practitioner Joseph Smith. We know from Scripture that “[Our] adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pt 5:8). The implication is that not everyone is readily devoured. Why would Satan waste his limited time and effort on people who wouldn’t believe it?
Historically UFO appearances have mimicked the technology of the age. Ancient Egyptian accounts tell of a time when “sky gods” came down to Earth. They flew through the sky in what were described as “flying boats,” bringing laws and wisdom to men. Sightings in the late 1800s took the form of spheres or cigar-shaped craft similar to early dirigibles or balloons. Disk-shaped flying objects have been allegedly recorded since the Middle Ages, although one publicized sighting of a saucer-shaped object as late as June 24, 1947, is much better known. This was followed by what have been described as thousands of similar sightings. With such sightings being very common, the term “flying saucer” was interchangeable with “UFO” into the 1960s. In recent years, the flying saucer has been superseded by other alleged UFOs, such as “black triangles” (“Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defense Region: Executive Summary,”  Scientific and Technical Memorandum , 5/2/00), mimicking more recent developments in military aircraft such as the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter/bomber. Satan is not a creator; he is a counterfeiter.
In  TBC  April 1995, Dave Hunt wrote: “There are no physical ETIs. The only intelligent life beyond earth is all in spirit form: God, angels, Satan and demons. Satan and his minions are able to invade the physical realm. Satan put boils on Job, caused Sabeans and Chaldeans to rob Job and kill his servants, caused a ‘great wind’ to destroy a house and kill Job’s children—and in each case one person was left alive to bring the news to Job. Satan transported Christ to the top of a mountain and to the pinnacle of the temple. Jannes and Jambres (2 Tm 3:8) were able to duplicate by the power of Satan many of the miracles Moses and Aaron performed by the power of God.
“What limits there may be upon satanic ‘power and signs and lying wonders’ (2 Thes:2:9) we don’t know: Satan will cause the whole world to worship Antichrist as ‘God’ (Rv 13:8). [Since the Garden of Eden], mankind has remained open to contact and receiving advice and help from demons who are manifesting as UFOs and masquerading as ETIs. All of this helps to set the stage for the last days ‘strong delusion’” (2 Thes:2:11).

Source: UFO's

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spiritual Fitness

jan_nl_image_360.pngThe term “fitness” is one of the favorite marketing buzzwords that has attracted many to health clubs and spas, and it even has an appeal for those who are so out of shape that it remains yet wishful thinking. There is little doubt that the physical part of life just seems better when one is physically fit.
The Bible gives some credence to this idea in 1 Timothy 4:8, where Paul tells Timothy that bodily exercise profits [a] little. The verse continues, “but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” In other words, godliness, which is the spiritual exercise of living out what the Word of God teaches, is significantly more to be sought than “bodily exercise” in order to improve a believer’s everyday life on earth as well as to yield rewards in one’s eternal life.
The goal of spiritual fitness, according to the Scriptures, must be godliness. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to “exercise thyself” unto godliness, and Peter declares that God has given believers “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 1:3). I hope that every believer reading this desires to achieve that goal no matter how far short of it he might feel that he comes right now. The good news is that there is good news, no matter what one’s condition!
In the sports world, when a team is struggling in more than one aspect of the game, many coaches have their teams return to practicing the fundamentals of the sport. That usually gets things turned around and headed in the direction of improvement. Such an approach may also be helpful for those who want to achieve spiritual fitness but are not exactly sure how to go about it. (And I am not recommending seeking out so-called “spiritual directors” or “spiritual coaches,” who frequently utilize the latest trends, methods, or techniques that are far from what the Scriptures teach.)
What are the scriptural fundamentals for growing in godliness? First of all, it must begin with a new birth. As Jesus declared to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God….Ye must be born again.” (John 3:3,7—emphasis added). Without that transformation of being born spiritually from above, it is impossible for anyone to manifest godliness. This new birth comes about when a person admits that he is a sinner, turns to Jesus by faith alone, believes that He paid the full penalty for his sins, and accepts the free gift of salvation that only Jesus could and did provide. He then becomes a “new man”: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Even though he has been miraculously transformed into a new being, a born-again believer retains his old nature, but no longer is he under its sinful control: “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:8-10 —emphasis added). “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). We shouldn’t be surprised, however, when within the born-again believer, the resident old nature, though no longer in control, causes a sometimes-fierce struggle in our hearts and minds. This spiritual battle will continue throughout our temporal lives, but daily victory can be ours. Why? Because God himself has provided everything that a believer needs to grow in “righteousness and true holiness.”
What are some of these things that He has provided? One help that is foundational is that the Holy Spirit indwells every Christian at the moment that he believes the gospel. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17).
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is foundational, for without the Spirit of Christ, there would be no life in Him. This could be compared to having the latest model car but the engine is missing. Just as an engineless car would be useless regarding the purpose for which it was intended, so a person who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit (and thus does not belong to the Lord), is helpless when it comes to living above one’s circumstances, being a light in the world, and ultimately spending eternity fulfilling God’s plan for us. The analogy may be a little rough, but I think you get the point. On the other hand, the person who is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ has all that he needs to live a life of godliness—as long as he avails himself of it—which certainly includes being spiritually fruitful and productive.
Consider the incredible abundance that the Holy Spirit provides for the believer. He, the third person of the Godhead, is the born-again Christian’s comforter (which includes the meaning “strengthener”), teacher, enabler, empowerer, guide, convicter of sin, revealer of truth, baptizer, and imparter of numerous spiritual gifts. It was through the Holy Spirit that we received the Word of God: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). And it is through the Holy Spirit that we gain understanding of the Scriptures: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
The Holy Spirit’s involvement in giving us the Word of God and its value in equipping us in Christ is clearly revealed in 2 Timothy 3:15-17: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Indeed, God’s miraculous revelation through the Holy Scriptures is truly the Lord’s instruction manual, informing us of what we need to know in order to live a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and the Holy Spirit is the One who empowers us to carry out the teachings of Jesus, who is the Living Word.
Jesus is the God-Man. He is eternally God, and through the incarnation He became the perfect Man. He will never cease to be both God and Man. We are finite beings, so that idea, along with others (such as the doctrine of the Trinity), may seem incomprehensible to us. As long as we are still in these earthly bodies, we will never be able to fully comprehend our Infinite God. Therefore we trust what He has communicated to us through His Word, and one day, we will be with Him and will know Him in perfect truth (1 Corinthians 13:12). In our pursuit of godliness, Jesus not only gave us instructions, but He, as the perfect Man, also demonstrated the necessity of depending upon the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Consider the following verses:
“And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1). “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about” (Luke 4:14). At a synagogue in Nazareth He declared himself to be the prophesied Messiah by reading from the Book of Isaiah. His words began with the statement, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4:18). Our Lord not only demonstrated the importance of the Holy Spirit in His life as the perfect man, but He also emphasized the same for all who would follow Him: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24—emphasis added).
Although this article began by making references to physical fitness as an analogy, there is a critical difference between one’s penchant for physical exercise and one’s pursuit of godliness. Too often the former focuses on self, whereas the latter cannot. It must be “other-directed.” Godliness is manifested in one’s love for God and for others. This is made abundantly clear through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which God has provided to every believer in order to enable each one to grow in godliness and to be of benefit to one another. Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, said: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.…And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7-13).
As described above, the gifts of the Spirit will certainly generate individual godliness, but, as noted, they also help us to grow even more as we minister to others. Peter, in his first epistle, confirms that the gifts are for all believers and are to be directed for the good of one another: “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same, one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).
The development of spiritual fitness is directly related to one’s dependence upon the Holy Spirit. He has given to every believer one or more gifts to be used as He wills and enables. If we do not yield to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, then the gifts are not being exercised, and both we and the body of Christ are deprived of what has been given for the equipping, building up, and edification of the saints. Sadly, in these days of prevailing end-times apostasy, the church is backing away from the spiritual strengthening that God has provided through the Holy Spirit, who is often a much-neglected Friend. This is most evident in the area of spiritual discernment.
Although spiritual fitness is certainly aided by the operation of the gifts of the Spirit, there is another important exercise of the Holy Spirit that is a support for godliness and is necessary for God’s exceptional empowerment in order to accomplish His will: being filled with the Spirit. The Scriptures are very clear in the exhortations for believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit; John the Baptist was filled with Him, as were his parents; Peter was filled, and so were Paul, Stephen, Barnabas, and the disciples. In addition to these, every believer is exhorted to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and with the fruits of righteousness (Philippians 1:11).
In his Believer’s Bible Commentary, the late William MacDonald (who was a TBC Board member) shared these biblical principles regarding Ephesians 5:18, “How then can a believer be filled with the Spirit? The Apostle Paul does not tell us here in Ephesians; he merely commands us to be filled. But from other parts of the word, we know that in order to be filled with the Spirit we must: 1) Confess and put away all known sin in our lives (1 John 1:5-9)…. 2) Yield ourselves completely to His control (Romans 12:1-2)…. 3) Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16)…. 4) Finally, we must be emptied of self (Galatians 2:20)….” Mr. MacDonald then quotes an unknown author: “Just as you have left the whole burden of your sin, and have rested on the finished work of Christ, so leave the whole burden of your life and service, and rest upon the present in-working of the Holy Spirit. Give yourself up, morning by morning, to be led by the Holy Spirit and go forth praising and at rest, leaving Him to manage you and your day. Cultivate the habit all through the day, of joyfully depending upon and obeying Him, expecting Him to guide, to enlighten, to reprove, to teach, to use, and to do in and with you what He wills. Count upon His working as a fact, altogether apart from sight or feeling. Only let us believe in and obey the Holy Spirit as the Ruler of our lives, and cease from the burden of trying to manage ourselves; then shall the fruit of the Spirit appear in us as He wills to the glory of God” (pp. 1945-1946).
No one can obey Jesus’ command, “Take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21), without the enablement of the Holy Spirit. A person who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t utilize the power of the Holy Spirit in his life, perhaps because of wrong teaching or simply because of personal apathy, will likely be crushed by the cross that he is attempting to carry.
Spiritual fitness is vital and more crucial for believers than ever before. Times of persecution loom on the horizon for Christians in countries in the West, where seduction rather than overt persecution has until now prevailed. We can learn from the example of Paul and Barnabas: “But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:50-52).
Therefore, our encouragement and prayer for all of us who know Jesus and desire to glorify Him is this: Let the study of His Word be our continuous habit, and let the leading, guiding, and filling of the Holy Spirit be our daily experience. That is true spiritual fitness!  TBC

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Woman Rides the Beast


Are you missing half the story about the last days? Virtually all attention these days is focused on the coming Antichrist--but he is only half the story. Many people are amazed to discover in Revelation 17 that there is also another mysterious character at the heart of prophecy--a woman who rides the beast.
Who is this woman? Tradition says she is connected with the church of Rome. But isn't such a view outdated? After all, today's Vatican is eager to join hands with Protestants worldwide. "The Catholic church has changed" is what we hear.
Or has it? In A Woman Rides the Beast, prophecy expert Dave Hunt sifts through biblical truth and global events to present a well-defined portrait of the woman and her powerful place in the Antichrist's future empire. Eight remarkable clues in Revelation 17 and 18 prove the woman's identity beyond any reasonable doubt.
A provocative account of what the Bible tells us is to come.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tell Catholics the Truth!!


This presentation is by Mike Gendron of progospel.org. You will learn truth and why it's so vital we act in love towards Catholics and share the truth with them!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Our Hope!

   Such is the prospect which is before the Christian. He shall indeed die like other men. But his death is a sleep-a calm, gentle, undisturbed sleep, in the expectation of being again awaked to a brighter day, 1 Corinthians 15:6. He has the assurance that his Saviour rose, and that his people shall therefore also rise, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20. He encounters peril, and privation, and persecution; he may be ridiculed and despised; he may be subjected to danger, or doomed to fight with wild beasts, or to contend with men who resemble wild beasts; he may be doomed to the pains and terrors of a martyrdom at the stake; but he has the assurance that all these are of short continuance, and that before him there is a world of eternal glory, 1 Corinthians 15:29-32. He may be poor, unhonoured, and apparently without an earthly friend or protector, but his Saviour and Redeemer reigns, 1 Corinthians 15:25. He may be opposed by wicked men, and his name slandered, and body tortured, and his peace marred, but his enemies shall all be subdued, 1 Corinthians 15:26,27. He will himself die, and sleep in his grave, but he shall live again, 1 Corinthians 15:22,23. He has painful proof that his body is corruptible, but it will be incorruptible; that it is now vile, but it will be glorious; that it is weak, frail, feeble, but it will yet be strong, and no more subject to disease or decay, 1 Corinthians 15:42,43. And he will be brought under the power of death, but death shall be robbed of its honours, and despoiled of its triumph. Its sting from the saint is taken away, and it is changed to a blessing. It is now not the dreaded monster, the king of terrors; it is a friend that comes to remove him from a world of toil to a world of rest; from a life of sin to a life of glory. The grave is not to him the gloomy abode, the permanent resting-place of his body; it is a place of rest for a little time; grateful like the bed of down to a wearied frame, where he may lie down and repose after the fatigues of the day, and gently wait for the morning. He has nothing to fear in death; nothing to fear in the dying pang, the gloom, the chill, the sweat, the paleness, the fixedness of death; nothing to fear in the chillness, the darkness, the silence, the corruption of the grave. All this is in the way to immortality, and is closely and indissolubly connected with immortality, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57. And in view of all this, we should be patient, faithful, laborious, self-denying; we should engage with zeal in the work of the Lord; we should calmly wait till our change come, 1 Corinthians 15:58. No other system of religion has any such hopes as this; no other system does anything to dispel the gloom, or drive away the horrors of the grave. How foolish is the man who rejects the gospel—the only system which brings life and immortality to light! How foolish to reject the doctrine of the resurrection, and to lie down in the grave without peace, without hope, without any belief that there will be a world of glory; living without God, and dying like the brute. And yet infidelity seeks and claims its chief triumphs in the attempt to convince poor dying man that he has no solid ground of hope; that the universe is "without a Father and without a God;" that the grave terminates the career of man for ever; and that in the grave he sinks away to eternal annihilation. Strange that man should seek such degradation! Strange that all men, conscious that they must die, do not at once greet Christianity as their best friend, and hail the doctrine of the future state, and of the resurrection, as that which is adapted to meet the deeply-felt evils of this world; to fill the desponding mind with peace; and to sustain the soul in the temptations and trials of life, and in the gloom and agony of death!
 —Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Saved? From What?

John MacArthur


Whenever I have preached through the story of Jesus' birth, I am struck with the simplicity and profundity of the Christian gospel. You can see it from the very beginning. It's right there in what the angel said to Joseph, "You shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).
When the Father gave the incarnate Son a name, He proclaimed His rescue mission in no uncertain terms. Jesus, the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Joshua, means "Savior." Now, "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the Savior-that's been the joyful news from the start.
But you might ask the question: "A Savior to save us from what?" That's certainly a fair question. The word savior implies that we need to be saved from something. Saved is a synonym for rescued or delivered. It implies there's some kind of threatening condition, a dangerous, desperate, or deadly condition from which we need to be rescued. The question is, from what?
If you listen to the way some preachers speak about the gospel, quite frankly, the condition of unbelief doesn't sound so grave. You get the idea that humanity mainly needs to be rescued from its lack of fulfillment. Maybe your marriage hasn't worked out according to plan; or your child isn't turning out to be tomorrow's Copernicus or Einstein; or your dream career has turned out to be a dead end. You understand. You look at the travel brochures; you really want a month in Europe, but you end up with a three-day trip to see the in-laws. Life just doesn't deliver.
According to the gospel some are preaching, Jesus will take care of all that. Jesus will fix your marriage; He'll help you raise confident kids, brimming with self-esteem; He'll help you climb that corporate ladder or breathe new life into your business. The only danger from which you need salvation is the shattering of all your dreams. Everything you've longed for has turned out to be a nightmare, and that's the way it's going to end. But Jesus will take care of it-He'll rescue you from your unfulfilled life.
I've also heard people presenting the gospel as if the great hope of salvation is relief from debilitating habits. Jesus has come to enable you to get control of your life. He's the step stool, the boost you need to get out of the hole you've fallen into. That salvation is especially attractive to a society like ours that is overcome by lust and passion. Many are enslaved by sinful habits: drinking, smoking, pornography, even overeating. Obesity is on the rise in many countries-in America it's almost epidemic. Angry outbursts and uncontrolled tempers destroy homes and relationships. Sexual sin, both homosexual and heterosexual, plagues the entire world-AIDS ravishes entire continents. But Jesus will come along and fix all that. He'll pluck you out of the flood of dissipation by saving you from your drives and desires so you won't destroy your life.
Will the gospel deliver you from an unfulfilled life? From enslavement to debilitating habits? Absolutely, but that needs to be qualified. There is a sense in which the gospel secondarily makes an application to those things. When you are genuinely converted, you belong to God and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart. You do have a new reason to live; you have the hope of eternal life and the promise of heaven. That has a dramatic effect on the lack of fulfillment in life. And when you experience the power of the Holy Spirit to change you, you'll see victory over the debilitating habits and passions that your sinful nature generates. That's all true. But those are not the primary issues in salvation.
Finding fulfillment and overcoming bad habits cannot be the most important concerns of the gospel. Why not? Because not everybody in the world is unfulfilled. In fact, I think this idea of lacking fulfillment is a byproduct of our western culture. Throughout the world, there are many who live expecting very little out of life. They don't experience a lack of fulfillment-there's nothing to fulfill. On the other hand, many people are very content with their present condition. They've got all the wine, women, and song money can buy. And not everyone is driven to a point of desperation and disaster by their passions either. There are people who have a certain measure of self-control. So those things cannot be the universal problem.
The real problem is sin and guilt. That's the issue. God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from the consequence of our sin, and everybody falls into the category of sinner. It doesn't matter whether you're among the haves or the have-nots, whether you have great expectations or none at all, whether you're consumed by your passions or exhibit a degree of self-control and discipline-you are still a sinner. You have broken the law of God and He's angry about it. Unless something happens to change your condition, you're on your way to eternal hell. You need to be rescued from the consequences of your sin. Those are the principal issues the gospel solves.
The truth is, even when you are delivered from the ultimate danger of God's wrath against sin, you might never realize your dreams. When you come to Christ, the Lord realigns your thinking so that all you ever wanted, all you used to strive for, you count as loss, waste, garbage (cf. Paul in Phil. 3:4-8). Coming to Christ means the end of you. Also, though you'll experience the power of the Holy Spirit to gain victory over sin, you may never attain total dominance over your drives and passions this side of heaven. Like Paul, you will strive with sin to your dying day (cf. Rom. 7:13-25). Issues of fulfillment and sinful passions will be dealt with, in the Lord's time and in the Lord's way. So if you've come to Christ primarily to find fulfillment or to escape from bad habits, Jesus may not be what you're looking for.
The church needs to get back to remembering that God sent His Son into the world to save His people from their sins. A proper presentation of the gospel should focus on that. The angel told Joseph: "He is the one who will save His people from their sins. That is why you must name Him Jesus." Humanity's real destroyer is sin, and the guilt for sin is a real guilt, a God-imposed guilt that damns to eternal hell. That is why people need to be saved, rescued, and delivered. That is what people must understand in the gospel, and that is what we must proclaim.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Late Great Rapture Theory?


An excerpt from  Whatever Happened to Heaven?
 
In the early 1970s the rapture was the most-talked-about topic in the church. [Hal Lindsey’s bestselling book,  The Late Great Planet Earth ], had captured the attention and imagination of his generation. Pastors preached about heaven and Christians eagerly anticipated being caught up at any moment to meet their Lord in the air. Even the secular world became familiar with the concept. There were movies, such as  The Omen , about the end times. Radio and television mentioned the Second Coming frequently, and cartoons and bumper stickers also took up the theme. One of the latter solemnly warned: “I’m leaving in the rapture, ride at your own risk!’’
All of that has changed. The bumper stickers have worn off, the movies have lost their appeal, and the sermons have gone on to currently popular themes....
The Late Great Planet Earth  had only suggested that Christ’s statement concerning “this generation’’ might possibly indicate a fulfillment within 40 years from Israel’s rebirth. Yet that possibility had metamorphosed (though not so intended by Hal Lindsey) into  necessity  in the thinking of so many Christians that when 1981 came and went without the rapture there was considerable disillusionment with the pretribulation position. Doubts had already been mounting as that key date had approached. In fact, by the late 1970s the posttribulation view had gained a substantial following even in denominations and institutions that had long been bastions of the (until then) dominant pretribulation position.
Needless to say, January 1, 1982, saw the defection of large numbers from the pretrib position. At that point, however, the posttrib theory looked no better, because the Great Tribulation obviously had not arrived on schedule. To many it seemed that the only option remaining was the postmillennial view, a minority belief that had all but died out among evangelicals. After being generally written off, however, as Gary North admits, and in spite of the apparent unreasonableness of the AD 70 scenario, the postmillennial view is once again staging a dramatic comeback.
The New Issue: Rapture or No Rapture
Now that 1988 has become history without the appearance of the Great Tribulation or the Antichrist—and with the prospects of Armageddon fading into the future...the controversy is no longer between a pre-, mid-, or posttrib rapture as it has been for so long. The issue has become “rapture or no rapture.’’ And the latter view is gaining strength so rapidly that it promises to become the predominant belief in the near future. While most postmillennialists believe in a rapture, as we have already noted, it is so far in the future as to have little practical effect upon an individual’s life and offers none of the purifying and motivating hope normally associated with the expectancy of the imminent return of Christ.
Most Christians no longer know what they believe about prophecy and now realize that their previously held opinions must be given an honest and careful review. Many who were once excited about the prospects of being caught up to heaven at any moment have become confused and disillusioned by the apparent failure of a generally accepted biblical interpretation they once relied upon. Those who believed in the rapture because it was popular are, of course, abandoning it now that it has become unpopular. They never had a good reason for what they believed based upon their own carefully weighed convictions. It is sad that so few Christians know the Bible for themselves.
The church is now ripe for the developing views of history and prophecy that either downplay or eliminate the rapture and put the emphasis upon “Christianizing’’ (in contrast to “converting’’) the world. A new genre of books espousing the idea that “victory in Christ’’ means a Christian takeover of this world is coming off the presses and selling well. Such ideas are being successfully taken into mainstream evangelical churches [which] represents a major theological shift in the church....
Being taken to heaven in the rapture has been to a large extent replaced by the rapidly growing new hope that the church is destined to take over the world and establish the kingdom of God. The focus has turned from winning souls for citizenship in heaven to political and social action aimed at cleaning up society. Scarcely a sermon is being preached about the world to come. Attention is focused instead upon achieving success in this one. If we have a big enough march on Washington and vote in enough of our candidates, then we can make this world a beautiful, safe, moral, and satisfying “Christian’’ place for our grandchildren. This is a very enticing scenario....
Whatever Happened to Heaven?
The expectancy of the Lord’s soon return which was so evident in the 1970s at the peak of the popularity of Hal Lindsey’s  The Late Great Planet Earth  has all but vanished from the church. Today there is scarcely a favorable reference to the rapture from most pulpits. And the hymns that once expressed the church’s longing for heaven are now heard only at funerals.
There has developed a surprising and growing antagonism against eagerly watching and waiting for Christ’s return, which surely was the attitude of the early church. The pendulum is swinging to an outright rejection of not only the pretrib but also the premillennium rapture....
We could cite the current struggle going on in the Southern Baptist Church as one example. It is the largest Protestant denomination, but is presently losing members at a surprising and growing rate to independent churches that deny the rapture, deny any place for national Israel in prophecy, and believe that an elite group of “overcomers’’ will soon manifest immortality in their bodies without the resurrection or the Second Coming, and take over the world for Christ. Only then will Christ return—not to take His bride home to heaven as the Bible clearly teaches, however, but to reign over the kingdom that she established for Him here on this earth. One of the leaders in this movement writes:
You can study books about going to heaven in a so-called “rapture’’ if that turns you on. We want to study the Bible to learn to live and to love and to bring heaven to earth.
Is this issue even worth discussing? After all, what does it matter when Christ comes or when or how the kingdom is established? Is eschatological debate of any significance? A partial answer would lie in the fact that “last days’’ prophecy is a subject that takes up about one-fourth of the Bible. How could we dare to suggest that the Holy Spirit would give such importance to something that in the final analysis really doesn’t matter? Based only upon the amount of attention given to it in the Bible, when and how and why Christ returns must be of great importance both to God and to us. We need to seek to understand why.
One reason for the significance of this issue should be quite obvious. Paul tells us that Christ is going to catch His bride away from this earth to meet Him in the air— “and so shall we ever be with the Lord’’ (1 Thessalonians:4:17). Consequently, those who expect to meet Christ with their feet still planted on earth—a “Christ’’ who has arrived to take over the kingdom they have established in His name—will have been badly deceived. In fact, they could have been working to build the earthly kingdom for the Antichrist. Yet this teaching that we must take over the world and set up the kingdom for Christ has become the fastest-growing movement within the church today.
Changing Attitude toward Israel
One of the key doctrines of this movement is the claim that the church is now Israel, heir to all of her promises, and that national Israel has been cut off from God and has no further place in the prophetic scheme. This new focus on an earthly inheritance for the church has further turned the hope of being taken to heaven in the rapture into an object of ridicule. It has also produced a drastic change in attitude and a serious reduction in the evangelical church’s traditional support of Israel, an about-face that is being viewed with alarm by that tiny nation. Bill Hamon’s  The Eternal Church  is one of the popular books promoting the theory that the church is Israel and that Christians are now establishing the kingdom of God. Hamon reports that Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Bible Training Center uses his book as a textbook and that it has been found to be a “valuable and indispensable tool’’ by: “Kenneth Copeland, Earl Paulk, Jerry Savelle, Gary Greenwald, John Gimenez, Ken Sumrall...and many other classical Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders.’’
Speaking at Edmond near Oklahoma City on April 11, 1988, Rick Godwin, a long-time associate of James Robison and popular speaker on Christian media, delivered the type of anti-Israel rhetoric that is becoming so typical in charismatic circles: “They [national Israel] are not chosen, they are cursed! They are not blessed, they are cursed!... Yes, and you hear Jerry Falwell and everybody else say the reason America’s great is because America’s blessed Israel. They sure have. Which Israel?  The  Israel—the church.... That’s the Israel of God, not that garlic one over on the Mediterranean Sea!" Earl Paulk’s criticism of national Israel and those who look favorably upon her includes the ultimate accusation:
The hour has come for us to know . . . that the spirit of the antichrist is now at work in the world . . . [through] so-called Holy Spirit-filled teachers who say, “If you bless national Israel, God will bless you.’’
Not only is this blatantly deceptive, it is not part of the new covenant at all!
Currents of change are sweeping through the world and the church. In the crucial days ahead, the evangelical church could well suffer a division over the rapture and the related issue of Israel comparable to that experienced by the Catholic Church as a result of the Reformation in the 1500s. Nor would it be surprising if, in the cause of “unity,’’ the larger faction in Protestantism moved much closer to ecumenical union with Catholicism, which has been traditionally anti-Semitic and discarded the rapture about 1600 years ago....
The Real “Inconvenient Truth”?
We must beware that in our zeal to “change the world for Christ’’ we do not become so wedded to an ongoing earthly process stretching into the indeterminate future that we lose our vision of heaven. We cannot be truly faithful to the totality of what Scripture says unless we are sufficiently disengaged from this world to be ready to leave it behind at a moment’s notice.
There is cause to be concerned that the Reconstructionists and the Coalition on Revival as well as other kingdom/dominion advocates could be fostering a false conception of our earthly ministry—a conception which we must guard against lest we subtly fall into an attitude like that of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor. For him, Christ’s return to earth represented an interference with the mission of the church. He has Christ thrown into prison, where he visits him to complain:
There is no need for Thee to come now at all. Thou must not meddle for the time, at least. . . . fortunately, departing Thou didst hand on the work to us.
Thou has promised, Thou hast established by Thy word, Thou has given to us the right to bind and to unbind, and now, of course, Thou canst not think of taking it away. Why, then, hast Thou come to hinder us?
All human beings are tempted to be more at home in this world than they should be. Christians are not exempt from this temptation, and when they succumb it often leads to an effort to reinterpret Scripture accordingly. Reconstructionists exemplify this temptation. Christ’s return before they have taken over the world would be as inconvenient to the Reconstructionists and others in the kingdom/dominion movement as it was to the Grand Inquisitor, and for the same reasons.
Our hope is not in taking over this world but in being taken to heaven by our Lord to be married to Him in glory and then to return with Him as part of the armies of heaven to rescue Israel, destroy His enemies, and participate in His millennial reign. Yet those of us who claim to believe this too often hold the belief in theory only, while denying it with our lives....
It seems ironic that the possibility of the rapture, which ought to bring great comfort, has caused great controversy as well. We dare not, however, in the name of unity and the avoidance of controversy, abandon the hope given to us in [the] Scriptures:
Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed [all, dead and living, in one instant].
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians:15:51-53)
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians:4:16-18)