Penalties, and Growth
by Mark Mountjoy
“Judging the Competition”
One evening a fellow and I were riding in the back of a truck after a hard day of work back in the early 1980s and the subject of Mormons came up. This fellow was a Baptist and he was asking “why Mormons could not just believe the Bible instead of going on wild forays of interpretive flights of fancy?” He criticized Mormons for making a mess out of the New Testament, so I asked him to turn to Mark 13 and tell me what he thought Jesus was talking about there? He said, “The Second Coming.” I pressed him about the context of the Destruction of the Second Temple and then he started fudging. He may not have realized that the Baptist church was founded on the idea that the Apocalypse was literally “around the corner”—in the 1600s (almost 500 years ago) and his church is really doing something the Mormons are doing: Making a mess out of the obvious!
We are by no stretch of the imagination suggesting that Baptists are not Christians (far from it), but we are suggesting (as we will in this essay) that it is far far easier to be hard-hearted, critical, and overbearing on others than to actually beef up on one’s own knowledge about why Christianity is right on the very things it advocates in the pages of the New Testament. The truth is this: The Olivet Discourse, by itself, will not support a Second Coming that is grammatically and historically detached from the abomination of desolation and destruction of the Second Jewish Temple; it is impossible.
Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on the same premises of eschatology that drove Baptist zeal and evangelistic outreach back in the 17th century: It was the belief that the Second Coming was getting ready to happen. Smith, in fact, believed the Second Coming would happen within 56 years or by 1891.1
Some of this new insight will necessarily mean becoming acquainted with Midrash and essential interpretive sciences of the Second Jewish Commonwealth and, by the way, the weightiness of who Roman Catholics are and their “sins” become less and less defining as this journey progresses and the deeper one goes the brighter the New Testament becomes without also becoming less spiritually relevant.2
Because getting the Olivet Discourse wrong when it is a MAJOR part of the New Testament and its theme is 75% of the story means that one is just as culpable as a Mormon for ignoring what is otherwise only too obvious and chasing shadows in hopes of modern latter days, which is but a figment in religious imaginations. In blunt terms, there could be no last days and latter days that last entire twenty centuries from a 6 Sivan A.D.33 start date: That does not make any sense on the bare face of it!
Ignorance is Bliss & Scripture Twisters
My pastor at a non-denominational megachurch in my hometown was a Scripture twister (and he didn’t even care). One night I was reading 1 Corinthians 15:53 about the Rapture and it occurred to me that the Apostle Paul was actually saying it would happen at the LAST trumpet. But there are seven trumpets in the Book of Revelation. So there I was musing about this and could not wait to get to our next Bible study where I could ask this question:
So if we are going to be changed in the twinkling of an eye, but it will be at the last trump, how can that happen at the beginning of the tribulation which starts with the first trumpet sound? When he heard that he froze for a moment and then he went into auto-pilot (which is understandable). His answer was a garble of “even though it says the last trump that does not mean it is necessarily the last in the sequence.”
See what just happened? He did not have to change anything he believed because he threw out an answer that basically said nothing at all!3
I did not pursue the issue because I also was scared where delving might lead us both! You could say that there is a tension between curiosity and fear of discovery and the unknown when you are faced with seriously exploring the Bible.
Jews for Jesus and Wishful Thinking
I came home from the south to visit my parents and my little brother Steve was telling me about a Jewish lady he met who believed in Jesus. He had her address and I contacted her. I was totally amazed at the idea that someone who was Jewish also believed in Jesus. When I went over to her house she was very welcoming and courteous.4
But she had some news that was somewhat strange and alarming to me: She told me she had a little secret. She had me turn to Daniel 11 and read about the anti-christ and then she said, she knew by the way it was worded that the anti-christ was not going to be a Gentile person but a Jewish person. I had never heard anything frightening like that in any of the many books I then had on Bible prophecy.
They all taught from Hal Lindsey, to Salem Kirban, that this figure would come from Europe, a revived Roman Empire, and a peace treaty with the state of Israel (which we sincerely believed was fast approaching). Now, this Jewish Christian lady is telling me the wording indicates this man will be Jewish! I was dismayed and awed at the same time! And she was right! Why would it say he will not honor the god of his father but a strange god, a god of forces?5
1983 Nashville Adventures
Nashville, Tennessee, the home of the Grand Ole Opry House and Southern Hospitality—kindness, warmth, and welcoming of visitors to their homes—was also a place where I unexpectedly met a group of street preachers I had never heard of before: “Jews for Jesus.” What an amazing concept! But I decided to throw some queries at them to see what would stick and what would just roll off. I asked them about Matthew 24 and what they thought it meant. As expected they went into the whole Third Temple spiel. But I stopped them and pressed them on the matter and I could see it was disappointing and upsetting to them and I left them alone. It is well to remember that everyone has a reason they think their belief is important and everyone has some reasons why they think their belief matters—and why an opposite belief does not count.
In cases like these, I strongly believe that it is good and right not to ride roughshod over other people’s beliefs no matter how strongly you are convinced your interpretation is right. Another thing is this: If you are really right then your graciousness towards those who differ should be magnified and you should be less threatened by what contradicts and even willing to hear the other person out (and they will surely return the favor, if not in the short run, in the long-run).
The Pentecostal tradition of my Christian ancestors was Methodist and Pentecostal and therefore Wesleyan and Arminian and my Anglo-Saxon ancestors were probably Roman Catholics not Calvinist, either. I was raised as a Trinitarian Pentecostal and just like others, you see in life what you are trained to expect and you ignore the rest. And then you find out there are Christians who believe in fate and unchangeable fatalism and that everyone who does not believe in fatalism was fated to believe that way—and God is in a big huff about it, they say.
They call it God’s sovereign grace and they treat it like it is a club of the “Elect” who, through no merits of their own, were chosen to be saved before the foundation of the world. What a concept—but I could not accept it!
And the reason I could not receive it is becuase I could not help but see the variety of contradictory beliefs even among Calvinists: Calvinists who believe in total cessation of ALL gifts of the Spirit, while other Calvinists believe they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and they claimed they actually spoke in tongues! Calvinists who believe Amillennialism is signed, sealed, and delivered by Jesus and the Apostles, and Calvinists who believe Premillennialism is the way, the truth, and the life! I mean, I am looking at this variegated scenario and asking myself, Don’t they see they are making choices? Or, to put it another way, Why would not Calvinists be completely uniform since God has but one sovereign will for one and all?!
Then exactly why is there eschatological diversity in Calvinist camps? It is difficult to believe that anybody other than John F. MacArthur believes you can take the mark of the beast and still be saved!6 Is he violating the sovereign will of God by saying that or is God making him differ from all other Calvinists both in that regard and the fact that he’s a Premillennialist surrounded by Amillennial Calvinists? I’m just asking!
We Never Changed
It’s sad to say it, but it is still nevertheless true: Some Christians are growling under their breath at God or let’s say they are growling at the New Testament whenever they try to slog their way through the Book of Revelation. Why do some Christians have this low boiling resentment, though? Well, let’s just say: When you do not know the setting (but think you know for sure the setting is the Roman Empire) it is very hard to make heads or tails out of what is exactly going on in that last of books of the New Testament!7
There is an urge to amputate the Revelation because they can’t interpret it! All this deeply matters even to the Christians whose bragging rights include the claim that they never changed a single thing in Christianity in the last entire 20 centuries! They see that everyone else has got the Book of Revelation wrong but their wrath against this one book is fueled by one fact: They can’t figure out what it means either, even though they claim it’s their book and theirs to interpret!
This can be really off-putting and frustrating! But this is especially so when you’ve gotten through four accounts of the biography of Jesus and pretty much understand the point of it all. Then there is the Book of Acts, which is a history of the actions of the Apostles in the Holy Land and the Diaspora, and Luke’s writing style and pace is not very hard on the brain either.8
The epistles of Paul and the book of Hebrews can pose some challenges, but you can get through them with the idea that there are doctrinal basics about the person of Jesus, the Good News, our walk in the Spirit, our expectation of the day of the Lord and our life with God in heaven. The little epistles after Hebrew that we call Catholic pose no major hurdles but then comes the Book of Revelation with these major, major social upheavals and roiling disasters, strange numbers (small and large), and numbered judgments that are portrayed as all-consuming and universal in scope.9
And the very fact that it says from the word go that these are to be soon puts an urgency upon the message that is hard to justify when you don’t even know who the characters are supposed to be! And where fools rush in where angels fear to tread, wiser heads realized instantly that just because you can assign the meaning of the characters in the book does not mean that you should! It would, Christians feel, be very nice if we had some traditional guidelines to go by that could give us a better sense of confidence, however, when we consult the Church Fathers there is mass confusion on the subject even dating back to before the rise of Bar Kokhba and a quarter-century later under the shenanigans of Montanus and his two priestesses!10
And, where over there in that church there is so little confidence that Revelation is entirely avoided, over here in this church there is so much overconfidence that Revelation is for all intents and purposes their own private puzzle to be toyed with; played with and rearranged at will! Now Gog and Magog are the U.S.S.R. until suddenly it is not! Once Jesus was going to Rapture the Church seven years short of the fortieth anniversary of the modern State of Israel, but now he’s not! The mark of the beast was going to be connected to a Sears credit card, but now that Sears Roebuck, Inc has gone the way of the hula-hoop, well, you get the point.
The point is this: The Dispensational story is a narrative in the making. “Fake it till you make it,” if you like. It will be one thing for 10 or 20 years and then another thing, but it is definitely a work in progress.11 Christians from the church I grew up in are not even bothered by the fact that we were disappointed not only during the riots of the 1960s but also in 1980 and 1988. In fact, after the 1988 debacle we (like most other Christians in this country), had turned our attention to the next date: The year 2000 and Y2K. We did all this without missing a beat! And when even then nothing happened, short-term memory loss helped us carry on as if nothing majorly wrong has happened in respect to our public claims about Jesus our Lord till this very day!
Spiritualizing the Book of
Revelation for Ulterior Motives
There are also other Christians who are blinded to what the New Testament says due to their innate hatred of all things Roman Catholic, and they are loath to do justice to the Book of Revelation for four major reasons:
(1) It will mean getting off their favorite Catholic scapegoat.
(2) Their rule of CENI–command, example, and necessary inference, that would seem to demand an approach to the controversy by consulting internal evidence before external authorities first, gets tossed out of the window in favor of Polycarp’s testimony. Why?
(3) Instrumental music is definitely spoken of as used by Christians in heaven - Rev. 14:2 and 15:2.
(4) The existential conflict of being fundamentally wrong about the timing of the resurrection of the dead directly conflicts with the SOS doctrine of the silence of the Scriptures—because the Bible is not silent about the resurrection and judgment of the dead occurring in direct tandem with the great tribulation and destruction of Jerusalem (Rev. 6:9-11; 11:7-18; 14:14-20; 16:15-21, and 19:19-21).
In fact, a Roman Catholic friend of mine quipped that he had some friends who would not be interested in being Christians if they thought the Bible was not specifically condemning the Roman Catholic Church! Spiritualizing the book and transforming it into a private abstraction is an escape from having to deal with it as a more or less straightforward account about how the Second Jewish Commonwealth self-imploded and slipped forever into history. One can still harp about pyramid church government and Roman Catholic leadership sins and imaginary wilderness journeys until Martin Luther and other Reformers and Restoration efforts showed up on the scene. One can continue to vilify instrumental music, even though there is NO indication in the Gospels (Lk. 15:25) and John (2:1-12 cf. Eph. 5:19, Ps. 33:2) that the Jews refrained from its use in their Second Temple or their homes. And Christians, in two places in the book of Revelation, are said to be harping with their harps (not their throats because throats are not harps!).
Some people will argue that it was just a symbol, but does it make sense for God to use a “symbol” of Christians actually sinning in heaven? And this is a lot to have to handle when you have stridently declared and condemned other Christians to the Second Death for something that the Apostle even allowed (Psalms) which includes instruments of music in praise to God. It was John Calvin who brought in the exclusion of instruments and he got it from Greek Orthodox Church fathers, but not from the Apostle Paul, not from John, not from Jesus, and certainly not from King David!
I know, this is a lot. Not pushing anyone around nor wishing to be strident about it at all. It’s just me and you in the privacy of this website so there’s no pressure at all to believe one way or another. This essay is mainly about my experience and how I saw innocent ignorance (my own and that of others), hypocrisy (again, my own and that of others), and mendacity—my own and that of others. I clearly remember having Bible studies and hoping to God that the person I was trying to convince was more or less Scripturally illiterate and would not end up asking me a question that would put me on the hot seat that I could not get off. So I know that feeling; I know what that is like! I remember being in a standing room only Bible study that I have done weeks of PR promoting and another brother hosted it at my residence and he had another brother read a passage out of Colossians 2 where the Apostle Paul said,
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? (Col. 2:8-22)
I thought we knew what everything in the Bible meant! But when the brother read verse 22 I remember the thought flew through my mind like a bird flying over a tree: Do we even know what we are talking about? I did not doubt God, the Apostle Paul or the New Testament, I just heard something read without missing a beat and realized that I had never heard anyone explain what “taste not, touch not, and handle not, which all perish with the using, but the body is of Christ.”
In time and through study I would later realize that those Judaizers who were so worried about minutiae, would end up suddenly and violently perishing in the very system they wished to re-enslave the Colossian Christians into—and that makes sense that Paul is telling them that the substance of the Law (the Temple and its services) were preparatory, but those engaged in it as if it was a be-all and end-all would die in it, and their demise would happen in the not-to-distant future!12
Calling an Idea a “Menace” Without Knowing
the First Thing About A World Lit Only By Fire
Now, we can discuss what can be perceived as a “menace” Ooh! Just that one word alone sounds, well, menacing! The first crack into the manner and way I was using the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Mark, Luke and John to woo people to become Christians came when I started critically looking at how I was constantly using Luke 13:1-5:
There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:1-5)13
Learning about the Second Jewish Commonwealth is a lot different than learning about the history of the Roman Catholic church for one main reason: The Roman Catholic church did not exist when the Bible was written, in the Old Testament, Deuterocanonical period, nor the New Testament. There was not a single Roman Catholic on the face of the earth when our Lord walked the streets, lanes, and byways of Judæa!
There were Romans, but, in many ways, they too are not the center of the story as the civilization of the Second Jewish Commonwealth can only be since
(a) the church started in downtown Jerusalem not downtown Rome (Acts 2)
(b) the church started on the second mandatory Jewish international convocation: Shavuot (Acts 2)
(c) the church arose on Jewish premises and assumptions about Old Testament prophecies (Acts 2)
(d) the church is a byproduct of alternative Midrash offered by first Christ, then the Apostles of Christ (Acts 2).
(e) the church’s interpretations have to do with the hopes and dreams of Israel (not the ambitions of the Romans and their imperial goals (Acts 2).
The Romans had the worldly lordship over the Second Commonwealth, but did not understand its religious motivations or ambitions in any friendly light! They could not understand the insurrections, they could not understand the propensity of charismatic leaders and this bizarre and insatiable desire to lead people either into staying holed up in Jerusalem (where it was very dangerous to be) or ele into the middle of nowhere (where is was equally troublesome) all in hopes of miraculous signs of deliverance.14
On the other hand, we have Christians who know every minute detail of the Roman Catholic Church and this serves the backdrop of their “understanding” of New Testament prophecy and the logic of the church today; But this is, on the very face of it, patently erroneous and necessarily false.
Some Would Rather Be Wrong With
the Masses Than Be Right and Alone!
Now, some of the ideas (certainly not all) are probably completely new to Christians who have all their lives been fed a steady diet of Futurism and reasons why our Saviors return is just around the corner. Sometimes we question this, but very often we just go with the flow when things don’t work out.
But if we knew the real reasons why things keep going wrong I am afraid that many people would rather stay with the thinking of the multitude than to make any issue out of it and stand for what is true and right. But this idea of going along to get along really violates a commandment God gave: “Do not follow a multitude to do evil neither turn after many to wrest judgment” (Exodus 23:2). In every downfall of the Hebrew and Jewish people, there was that tendency to run blindly after trends, sexual, religious, moral, governmental, you name it. To say it all in a word, it does not matter if there are Four Views of Bible prophecy or forty views of Bible prophecy.
If we all begin with the biography of our Lord, which is encapsulated in four Gospels, we will be able to be on the same page by having the same foundational premises to build upon. However, since the Four major views of Bible prophecy are dominant in the Christian world, the actual singular, contextual, and historic apocalyptic teachings of the New Testament do not resonate in the popular Christian imagination. Tragically, the actual point of the Christian Scriptures seems obscure, hidden, unapparent, and unrecognizable at this time!
We can agree with Christians on many core issues, about God, faith, salvation, eternity even, but not about Bible eschatology. The Bible is very clear once we exclude the little sleight of hand moves that happens whenever we move through the Olivet Discourse. And if we can build up respect in Christians for what Jesus said about first-century Jerusalem and her culpability in the murders of the prophets and saints we are almost to our goal of finally being understood.
So take a look at what our goals are: Train potential converts to read the Olivet Discourse and follow Jesus’s claims grammatically through the Olivet chapter. This can be done with Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Once this test has been passed we have three results that will serve as a bedrock, rock-solid foundation for the Book of Revelation to sit on: The Second Temple is connected to the abomination of desolation, the abomination of desolation is connected to the great tribulation, and the great tribulation is connected to the Second Coming, the resurrection and the judgment, Satan is cast out but returns and there is a second attempt at fulfilling a kingdom of God established by force of arms, but this too, fails, and the Israelite State is wiped from history in a universal destruction which is followed by the descent of God’s house, not built by the hands of any man, that, in a nutshell, is the salvation story that Jesus died on the cross to make it possible for us to participate in and look forward to!
At every opportunity we should be teaching the Gospel, that is the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus. Then, if a person is willing to repent and turn to God we should discover from them if they want to confess publicly that Jesus is the Son of God and have them baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, but if they have already been baptized admit them into our fellowship without contention (because it does not matter whose water it was because the Bible says there is one baptism)!15
Hard Names and Stereotypes
In existing Christian churches problems around rethinking eschatology can quickly heat up and one should not be naive and think they probably won’t when it is more likely that they probably will. It may likely take the shape and form of transmogrifying legit disciplinary texts into descriptors and stereotypes of the people we disagree with religiously. Brother Mark can suddenly turn into just “Mountjoy” and that hurts! This is a game Christians have played for a long long time.
It is all too easy to characterize someone we do not see eye to eye with as a “ravening wolf” and a “hidden reef” than to actually dig deep down and find out where they are coming from and what new (or overlooked) suppositions their seemingly strange outlook is coming from.16
Christians may mistakenly think what they know about studies in Bible prophecy is an open and shut case and everything they currently think about it is black and white until they realize they are in over their heads. Then the story may suddenly change and they may resort to the fallacy of “special pleading” which goes something like this:
Whereas I (and my church) am confident, you are arrogant; I am aggressive, you are ruthless; I am reasonable, you are out of your mind; I am frank, you are rude; I am flexible, you are inconsistent; I am full of insight, you are conniving; I am thorough, you split hairs; I am curious, you are nosy; I am excited, you are delusional; I am steadfast, you are pig-headed; I am open minded, you are liberal; I am a free spirit, you’re playing fast and loose with the Bible!17
To be sure, our new position may be invalid. We could be wrong (let’s be real). Or their position may seem perfectly valid but after research into the matter, it may be discovered that their arguments actually do not hold up. It may turn out that they've missed key points which would naturally reverse the direction of their logic—or what they say may end up proving too much, only to prove nothing at all.
But to brand others as “ravening wolves” is really an exercise in fear-mongering out of one’s own fear of Scripturally justifying a cherished doctrine one has always held near and dear. I can say, honestly, that for about ten years after I began to understand the Rapture doctrine (which was around 1969), I hoped with everything in my being that it was true. It was not that I could justify it with the Bible, but that I heard about it every time I turned around. And my parents caused me to have existential pain, I did not have a storybook childhood and I wanted and needed to disappear! It was in songs, it was in sermons, it was in Bible movies (A Thief in the Night). Religiously manufactured dangers were what was given to us to digest as par for the course in First Born Church doctrine and everybody assumed it was true that out of nowhere Christians could just disappear because it was “time.”
So that when I was in my teen years and kept running into Jehovah’s Witness zealots left, right, and center, I remember trying to be open-hearted enough to try to grasp what their interpretation of the relevant facts was. I will not say I wasn’t intimidated by the apparent far superior knowledge of the Bible (because our Pentecostal church actually frowned on bringing a Bible to church if you were not a Bishop, elder, minister, or Deaconess). They even believed in women in Church leadership, but an ordinary lay Christian bringing the Bible to church and asking questions was “strange” in their way of thinking about spirituality.
I was thirsting for knowledge and a sister denomination, the Assemblies of God, had a very nice bookstore near my job downtown and I used to go there at least five days a week before going to work. Then I used to go to a nearby public library where I ran into this on-fire Jehovah’s Witness guy who knew his Bible like the back of his hand. I thought all Christians believed the same things and he stunned me when he suggested that the Trinity was of the devil. I could not even defend it and, to be honest, the word Trinity was something I believed, but I did not know what it was. I did not know my church believed Jesus was part of God. Up to that point, I thought that Jesus was some hero guy from Nazareth, Israel who got crucified because he wanted to set up the kingdom of God, but the people rejected him and he would come back on some clouds and try to do it a second time. This is why our church was so excited about the birth of the State of Israel. To them, it meant the time was near for Jesus to get it right.
When this Witness guy explained to me what the JWs believed I came to the library in the days following and looked up books on Jehovah’s Witnesses and found out the skinny on them! I was shocked at how many times their prophecies had failed dating all the way back to 1878 and 1881, 1914, and 1915, 1918, 1925, 1940, 1975, and finally they claimed Armageddon would for sure happen by the year 2000!18 I remember thinking to myself that the First Born Church could be wrong and what would I do if 1988 came and the went and the whole 1948-1988 Israel talking point was an exaggeration, a pure fabrication; a bunch of hot air? I was going to be mad: I knew that much!
I did believe it was true, but I also knew that time would determine the validity of the belief. The fear of being unprepared to defend my faith drove me to contact the man who baptized me, Dean B. Thomas. He was a very knowledgeable and patient man, but he was not of the opinion that Jehovah’s Witnesses were lost. He did not see them as a threat (and I did). So I ran to the Assembly of God bookstore and found books written by Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, and other writers like Paul Little, Know Why You Believe, and Kenneth Boa, God I Don’t Understand, others included William J.Schnell’s, 30 Years a Watchtower Slave, (which totally flabbergasted me!!) and also I remember seeing a book on the shelf called, The Dark Side of the Millennium—which terrified me because I knew our Church believed the millennium would be this paradise Utopia—and I did not want to read something that was contradictory to that hope. Also, Dr. Walter Martin, an American Baptist minister, wrote: The Kingdom of the Cults.19 By his ministry materials, my young mind was able to understand the difference between a Christian church and a cult. And the kind, but forceful way he expressed himself was entirely edifying, exciting, and educating.
Triumphing over my own ignorance, hypocrisy, and mendacity to see, with clearer eyes, what this book represented to the world at first, and how I can use it now to traverse this undertaking we call life, is an idea that truly amazes me and has never grown boring, irrelevant or old. I remain as fascinated about Christianity now as I was when I first read,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. . .The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This is a quote from John 1:1-3, 14 of the brand new New International Version of the Bible, which had only the New Testament that year. In the summer of 1976 and realized, for the very first time, that Jesus, that Crucified hero from Nazareth, Judæa was GOD, I actually was tickled because the First Born Church never made that clear to me even though they do believe it. Anyway, in 1977 I opened my wings and flew away from them and joined the Church of God in Christ because I could not understand the FBC insistence on drinking water at communion instead of grape juice or wine.
None of their excuses made any sense to me and I knew I was getting nowhere by trying to make it an issue. Some told me I was going to hell for drinking grape juice and my family was slightly annoyed that I joined a rival Pentecostal church but I was 17 and itching to get myself closer to what I thought was right. So I was a member of two churches at the same time: the non-denomination church that was heavy on teaching and was an interracial congregation, and the Church of God in Christ on Sunday nights where I could sing and clap and feel the zeal and joy of my Christian salvation.
I also went to the non-denominational church on Wednesday nights and served as a Sexton for them on Saturdays. I went to the Church of God in Christ on Sunday nights and for prayer or revivals whenever I could.
Through every situation, and every circumstance, and in spite of disappointments, and disillusionment, (everything was not all bad); there also have been awesome moments of joy the growth, and the exhilaration of being a Christian, and looking back I remember saying it then and it has proven to be continually true: This Christian life is going to be interesting! I knew it would be, and this has proved to be true!
1 Joseph Smith’s prediction about the Second Coming here.
2 The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism, Pesher and Peshat and Remez click this link.
3 Coordinating 1 Corinthians 15:52 with Revelation 11:15 will automatically destroy the Dispensation pre-tribulational timetable and mean Christians do not disappear before the tribulation begins! This is a scary possibility when your idea of the event is that the Rapture is a pre-trib escape (which the Bible actually does not teach).
4 So, the expression “you get more flies with honey than with vinegar” means it is a good idea to be nice to others. You can win over people more easily by being polite and kind. Being mean or unpleasant is like being full of vinegar. You will push more people away by acting sour or bitter.
5 “And he shall not regard any gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, neither shall he regard any deity: for he shall magnify himself above all. And he shall honor the god of forces on his place: and a god whom his fathers knew not he shall honor with gold, and silver, and precious stones, and desirable things” (Daniel 11:37-37).
6 In Revelation 14:9-11 is states categorically that if any man worships the beast and his image, receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand their damnation is sure and certain, yet this popular Calvinist minister, who is trusted by millions boldly proclaims that a Christian can take the mark of the beast and repent of it afterward. Click this link.
7 I even saw a Christian priest on the Isle of Patmos, in the very same cave where the Apostle John was when he received the autograph folio actually made an offhand remark about how the Book of Revelation could not be understood and when I heard what he said and how he said it I was truly astonished!
8 I highly recommend Russian Bible scholar Irina Levinskaya’s The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting/ Volume 5 Diaspora Setting. ISBN 0-8028-2437-4, published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapid Michigan. Among many astonishing things, you will discover in her research: The name “CHRISTIAN” was not given to the New Testament people of God by the Romans or the Syrians, the Holy Spirit himself gave us that name (chapter 5, p. 91!!)
9 Signs, symbols, the Temple of God, seven-headed beast, a seven-headed dragon, 6 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls and 7 thunders, strange numbers: 42 months, 1,260 days, Babylon the Great City, 100 lb hailstones, one thousand years, Gog and Magog, a little season, then heaven ( a city four-square). No direct quotes but only allusions from the Old Testament and the Deuterocanonicals and the Gospels. The first steps a serious, sincere, and seeking Christians need to take is to obtain research on the civilization of the Second Jewish Commonwealth, the Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism, Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah, The Jewish Revolts Against Rome, Bar Kokhba. I cannot stress enough, dear friends, that the Book of Revelation is NOT about any judgment against the Roman Empire itself, instead, God used the Roman Empire to judge the Second Jewish Commonwealth and the whole process was complete within one generation, by A.D.136. You do not need to leave your Christian church, you do not even need to become a Christian all over again, you must not be baptized again, and you must not conclude that God did not love you before you knew the answer. Stay where you are, be quiet and grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
10 Montanus had two female colleagues, Prisca (sometimes called Priscilla, the diminutive form of her name) and Maximilla.
11 From the time of Darby and McDonald the Dispensational message has excited and enthused but not delivered and it has been evolving since Darby and Margaret McDonald first conceived of it and it has been only a little more reliable than the Watchtower’s questionable prophecies. Yet ALL of the New Testament prophecies in the Olivet Discourse came 100% true within 100 years of the prophecies and Hadrian plowed the city, just as the Prophet Micah foretold he would 750–700 B.C.
12 Judaizers of Damascus were suddenly killed in a mass blood-bath near the destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem (Wars of the Jews 2.20.2:559-561).
13 I was not the only one that was noticing that we were using this verse in conflict and violation of the CENI principles (command, example, and necessary inference). And it seemed like the longer we were paying attention to it the more it was bothering us. This nudging kept on nagging at my conscience until the whole bottom fell out from under me when I saw that there is nothing pro or anti-Roman Catholic in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John nor in the Book of Revelation!
14 Judas of Galilee and Theudas were notorious for leading their duped followers out into the wilderness - Acts 5:37, But in Josephus, Wars of the Jews the nationalist leaders also put the people in grave danger by having them either stay in Jerusalem to fight the Romans and the Jerusalem Aristocracy or else gamble their safety on places that seemed impregnable like Masada—which was also a bad mistake!
15 Any and all prospective members to any allied organization we form should be questioned if they know who Jesus is according to John 1:1, 3, and 14 and what the Gospel is and if they have obeyed it according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 8:36-37; Galatians 3:26:27 and 1 Peter 3:21.
16 Using the words of Acts 20:29-31 as if Paul were defending the idiosycratic doctrines of some present-day Church is foul play and cheating, for sure! If Paul recently departed from any church we know about today, then we certainly stand corrected. With that said, there are other Bible passages that also serve as weapons completely out of context, e.g., Romans 16:17-18; Galatians 1:6-9; Titus 3:10-11; 2 Peter 3:4-17, and 2 John 9. If someone claims that what we believe is a real offense against God and the Church then they should follow the procedures Jesus enjoined in Matthew 18:15-17.
The steps are one on one, if that does not work bring two more witnesses, and if that does not work TELL IT TO THE CHURCH. There is nothing in Jesus’s commandments about a secret elder or ministerial Star Chamber. To be clear, the final step is that the WHOLE church gets to hear what the controversy is all about.
17 This conversation was adapted to this essay using an example of special pleading found in Attacking Faulty Reasoning, A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Argumentation, by T. Edward Damer, p. 123.
18 See JWFacts.com for more on the history of the spectacular Bible prophecy failures of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and New York. To be fair, it should be noted that Evangelical authors are even more prolific with false Bible prophecy declarations than the Witnesses have been! But because of hypocrisy they brazenly criticize Jehovah’s Witness without thinking about all the false prophecies they have commandeered about the modern State of Israel and the so-called end which is supposedly near.
19 Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, ISBN-13: 9780764232657, Sixth Edition, 2019.
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