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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thoughts on the Rapture

'Then we who are alive [ and ] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.' ( I Thessalonians 4:17 )

I would say, without a doubt, that this is the first place that most Christians will point you to when you ask for a Scriptural basis for the 'doctrine' of the Rapture. There are other passages, as well, that are used to 'prove' that a 'rapture' will, or even did, happen at the end of the age, following immediately on the heels of the resurrection.

The number one definition given by the Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary for 'rapture' ( noun ) is, 'an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion'; other definitions involve a highly emotional, or mystical experience: only thirdly do they posit that is is 'the final assumption of Christians into heaven during the end-time according to Christian theology.' So what are we to make of all this talk of a 'rapture', mostly by dispensationalists, but in one for or another, by most futurists, and even purported by some preterists?

There are those, in the preterist camp that believe that I Thessalonians 4:13-17, along with maybe places like I Corinthians 15:52, teaches that there was a physically literal 'rapture' ( according to the modern Christian's definition of 'rapture'-see above ). I have made the point, in the past, that if we are to take Paul's language in I Thessalonians 4 in a physically literal way, then we must apply the same hermeneutic to similar language used elsewhere in Scripture, not just Paul's writings, but the words of Christ Himself, and even others of the apostles. Most dispensationalists, I'm sure, would have no problem doing that, and even many futurists, but as preterists, especially; we should know better! We know that Jesus' similar language in Matthew 24:31 is metaphorical of the gathering together into one 'place' of the Body of Christ ( think of the Genesis Creation here, and 'the waters under the heavens' ). It is also clear, using a historical and grammatical hermeneutic and especially keeping in mind the covenant context, that Jesus words, in fact all of the so-called 'New Testament', were nothing new. Taken in a physically literal way, though; it is easy to see where one could find support for the 'Rapture Theory', which I believe, was not revealed ( or held ) until back in the 19th century, to a young Scottish woman, and lately upheld by false prophets like Harold Camping.

I have often said that the most important part of that passage in I Thessalonians 4, comes in the last phrase, which, interestingly enough, echoes the words of the prophet Hosea ( Hosea 6:2b ); Paul wrote 'And thus we shall always be with the Lord'. No matter how we will, or have gotten there, or even where 'there' is; I believe that most Christians would agree that this is the whole point of  our redemption/salvation, that, as in the Garden, Christians will be, or are, depending on where you are in your theology, with the Lord, enjoying His Presence forevemore. As believers in Fulfilled Eschatology; we realize that we are in that Presence now, but there are those who believe, from passages such as I Corinthians 5:6-8, where Paul wrote, 'So [ we are ] always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.' that our physical bodies must expire before we can truly 'be with the Lord'. Paul's words in I Corinthians 15:50, that 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God', also seem to lend credence to this idea, that we cannot enter the Kingdom, or be in God's Presence until we pass from this physical existence. As I have reasoned before though, in a previous article; no one will argue, I believe, from Paul's statement in Romans 8:8, that 'those who are in the flesh cannot please God', that there is just no pleasing God until we shuffle off this mortal coil! That's just a silly, ridiculous idea, and one which could lead, who knows where! We should see that Paul's use of the word 'flesh' here, as in most other places, refers, not to our biological bodies, but to the old covenant body of death, which death, which body, was done away, was transformed ( Philippians 3:21 ) in Christ! So also, when Paul talks about meeting the Lord in the air; the first thing we should do is compare Scripture with Scripture, noting how this phrase is used elsewhere in the Bible!

'In the Air'

No; we're not discussing Phil Collins here, although we may discuss Genesis! When reading the phrase 'in the air', you might remember, again, Paul's words in Ephesians 2:2, about 'the prince of the power of the air'. This phrase is most famously, probably, used by those of the dispensational persuasion, when describing  the workings of 'Satan'; to those I would remark, in an off-hand way, that Paul is, for one thing, reminding his brethren Who the real Power of the air is, and to show that though this 'spirit' held sway 'in the air'; it was there where the followers of Jesus would meet with Him and be in His Presence forever! In this; Paul was comforting his brethren, as in Romans 16:20 ( 'And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. ' ), that no more did this 'spirit' have the power, but that Jesus' victory had wrested even what power he had from him.

We read in Genesis 1:26 that Adam was given the dominion over 'the birds of the air', which, by extension, might be said to be over the air itself. Another word that Scripture uses to define the air, or sky, is 'heaven', so when Paul related to the Thessalonian Church that they would 'meet the Lord in the air'; he might just as easily said that they would meet the Lord ( God ) in 'Heaven', or His domain, or realm! I must say that the Greek words here are a bit different, though not not all that much in actual meaning.

Those that purport a belief in a 'rapture'; when asked for old testament support for such a 'doctrine', might bring up the 'rapture' of Enoch and Elijah. Other than the fact that 'Enoch walked with God', for which reason 'God took him', and that 'he [ was ] not'; Scripture doesn't have a whole lot to say about 'the ascension of Enoch', but we can read a bit more detail about Elijah's 'rapture'. I wrote an article several years ago, where I mentioned this 'taking up of' of Elijah. II Kings 2:11 says that 'Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven'. In the article that I referred to; I mentioned the theory that this may not have been, as you will get from a purely physical understanding of this short passage, a physical event, an actual taking of Elijah into the realms of glory, as it was a physical manifestation of a spiritual truth, that of the glory of God, and His holiness, and that these 'chariots' were really just manifestations of cherubim ( I Chronicles 28:18 ). It is clear from the account that Elijah, like Enoch before him, was 'taken', but that he was transported to the Presence of God at that point; Scripture does not clearly say. There are places, like Hebrews 9:8, that indicate 'that  while the first tabernacle was still standing', that are used to show that these realms were not opened to 'mere' men until Christ's Parousia ( Presence ), but the writer of Hebrews only said that 'the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest', not that men could not enter previously. We can only speculate as to whether Enoch, Elijah, and probably Moses, were taken straight to the Presence, or whether, as is orthodox, I believe, among many believers in Fulfilled Eschatology, they simply waited in the grave until the Revelation of Jesus Christ. That, however, may be another subject for a later article.

As many wise people have noted; 'words have meaning'.  The Free ( on-line ) Dictionary, not unlike Merriam-Webster's above, as the number one definition of the word 'rapture', gives this meaning; 'The state of being transported by a lofty emotion; ecstasy.'. Only thirdly does this dictionary bow to the un-orthodox traditions of men, and say that it is 'The transporting of a person from one place to another, especially to heaven.' With the main definition of the word being that it is simply an emotional high, of sorts, a euphoric feeling, if you will; how is it that so many Christians have gotten the idea in their heads that it is descriptive of our escape from this realm to another, better realm? Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, 'the grass is always greener........................' I wonder if the dictionary people have a bent against Christianity, since what many Christians describe as 'the Rapture', is really just a feeling of euphoria.

I think it was Fanny Crosby who penned the line 'But purer, and higher, and greater will be, our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see'!

Seeing Jesus, and enraptured with His grace,
Charles Haddon Shank






Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Truth Has Made Us Free

Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.

                                                                                                                           Proverbs 25:26 ( ESV )

When Peter was asked by a bunch of ( Re? ) publicans if His Master paid the temple tax, like a good Jew, he responded in the affirmative; of course He does.................right? After they had gone into the house, a bit later; Jesus asked Peter this question, 'From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?' When Peter responded that it was 'from strangers'; Jesus reminded him that 'then the sons are free'. Nevertheless; Jesus went ahead and paid the temple tax, not because He must, but because He could.

Most Christians today believe that we should obey 'the powers that be', for they are ordained of God ( Romans 13 ), and obey them as long as they do not command us contrary to the Law of God. Well; that sounds okay, as far as that goes, maybe, but from places like the passage in Proverbs that I quoted above: is it right for Christians to bow to the laws, the unjust laws for that matter, of unrighteous men? Not to get too far into it, for as we know, Scripture can get pretty graphic, but the verse above, in the Hebrew, alludes to the nether region, the unmentionable parts of a woman, and how when a righteous man bows before the wicked ( metaphorically or actually ), he is really whoring himself before that person, or image.

Although there are more and more who are waking up to it, I daresay that most people in this country do not even realize how unjust, to say nothing of their unrighteousness, and how unscriptural many of the statutes of this nation are. I am not a lawyer, and I do not claim to know a whole lot of 'legalese', but I am one of those, praise God, who are waking up to the unbiblical and unconstitutional laws that have been foisted upon us by our 'leaders'. Both Christians and non-Christians alike, lovers of liberty all; have begun to unite under one common banner and to fight this unjust theft of our liberties!

Getting to the point; by prostrating ourselves, as those whom Christ has made righteous, before the wicked leaders of this once Godly nation, before 'Caesar'; we have done nothing different than the old covenant children of Israel. We have committed spiritual adultery, harlotry, in fact, by quivering before them, and even, whether through fear, or otherwise, trusting in them for our sustenance, rather than in the God who provides, Yahweh, or Jehovah-Jireh!

We were not set free, just as God's old covenant 'children' were not, so that we could 'go back to Egypt', so that we could once again be in bondage to those who make a mockery of our God, and His perfect Law of liberty! We were set free, as were they, so that we, in our liberty, could freely serve God, and exercise the dominion over His creation of which He has made us stewards.

We are kings! Who are we to abdicate our God-given position and pay homage to Baal?? At this point, you may begin to see where this is going; how far do we go in our exercise of our liberties, our dominion as kings? Though it's very arguable, as we saw earlier, in Jesus' statement, whether or not we even owe those obeisances, whether literal or figurative, to these 'powers that be', especially wicked and ungodly ones, it is clear that our Christian duty is first and foremost to our Creator and His Laws, not to those whom we have allowed to take dominion over us; we are to render unto Him our worship, ascribing worth to Him alone. As one of our wise and good elders once said ( and I love this phrase ), Jesus is Lord; Caesar is not'!

For too long, we as Christians, as kings and priests, ordained by God, have prostrated ourselves, bowed, and given way to the wicked, mostly out of fear, but also out of ignorance. We need to wake up to the higher calling that God has called us to, start taking up the reins of government, whether it be family, church, state, or all three, and begin to exercise the dominion that God has given us, to take back the freedoms and liberties that He has granted! It is only through His Word, and the Berean study and anointed preaching of it, that we will begin, as many have already, to realize our exalted position, and having done all, to stand.....................and fight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by God's grace, alone,
Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Teats, Triggers, and Tyrants

I will not take a bull from your house, [ nor ] goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest [ is ] Mine, [ and ] the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field [ are ] Mine.      Psalm 50:9-11

Lest I be accused of pulling this Scripture out of context; the only real import this passage has on my topic here, is that all these things belong to God; not us, and certainly not some silly, puffed up tyrannical despot.

Commenting on the recent raw milk raid on some poor operation out in California that's only trying to make a better life for the next generation through healthier eating; a friend of mine stated, in almost enraged shock, 'my God; they're squeezing cow's teats, not triggers!' The recent raid, though almost laughable, is only a symptom of a looming, and seemingly irreversible ( without bloodshed ) problem; our federal government is playing God again! The banning, and even criminalizing of things as simply good for you as raw milk is like barely scraping the top of the iceberg that sank the Titanic! I mean, 'really'; when you think about all the good things that God has given to us, everything necessary for health and happiness; the federal government has, in their 'messianic complex', in their finite 'wisdom', deemed it necessary, because many people lack responsibility and the common sense God gave a horse, to say, 'here; we'll just ban it, or regulate the hell out of it', thus taking the burden of responsibility off of our shoulders, because we're just too stupid and senseless to know better! Well, needless to say, 'it don't work that way'! We're all still personally responsible before God, and even to each other, as the people of God.

'Jesus is Lord; Caesar is not!'

These words were spoken by the same good friend that I quoted earlier, and they're also from the same sermon, not surprisingly. Jesus is Lord, and 'Caesar', whatever shape or form he may take, is not! What does this really mean, besides, as Peter said, 'we ought to obey God, rather than men' ( Acts 5:29 ) While we must certainly disobey authority when 'it' commands us to do something contrary to the Law of God ( wow; chew on that one for awhile ), we are also given a certain set of duties by God, and these include many of the principles set down by our 'founding fathers' in the documents upon which this once-great country was founded. Many of the freedoms granted to us by our Creator, by divine right, but also set down in these founding documents, have been stomped on, obliterated, and just plain ripped from our 'cold, dead fingers'. Unfortunately; we can't lay all the blame on 'Caesar! Although most 'Christians' acknowledge, in word at least, the Lordship of Jesus, in action, many prove what they really think of their 'Lord', while they lay their 'crowns' at Caesars feet!

Jesus is Lord; Caesar is not!

Not that it would have done any good to remind them, but those agents who rushed that raw milk 'factory' had no real authority to shut them down. I say this without knowing the whole story, or even many details, but I can tell you how 'udderly' ridiculous it was! I mean, guns drawn to stop illegal 'production' of something that is doubtless worlds better for you than the pasteurized, processed stuff that the FDA has approved. For far too long, 'Christianity', while lauding Jesus as Lord, has bowed the knee to Caesar, acknowledging him, in action, anyway, as Lord, looking to him for our salvation; all, or mostly, because of a faulty, and even a misinterpretation of Scripture. 'Caesar' is NOT Lord! Jesus told Pilate 'You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin' ( John 19:11 ). Paul wrote to the Church at Rome ( and this is the passage that 'Christians' love to use, to excuse their false worship ), 'Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God'. These 'authorities', whether we like them or not, are ordained by God for the punishment, or chastening of His people, but to blindly follow just any 'authority' based on Romans 13 is almost ridiculous as, say, a raw milk raid.

What does truly belong to 'Caesar'? Maybe a better question would be, 'who is Caesar?'! "Caesar' is who we say he is, right? In this once-great country, this form of government 'of the people, by the people, for the people' has dictated that we the people should determine who our 'Caesar' should be. Do we then owe that 'Caesar' our allegiance? Excuse my French, but 'hell no!' We owe God, Jesus our Lord our allegiance, and only Him; He is a jealous God, after all! As a minister of God, for good; the Scriptures tell us how we are to treat those whom He has set over us, but when they cease to be a minister of good, and forget their place which God has granted them; then is when we must refuse to bow to them, and do all within our power to remove them from their exalted place of authority. Caesar does not own the cattle on a thousand hills; Jesus does, and therefore Caesar does not own the raw milk that comes from those cows; Jesus does, and he has entrusted that milk, among other things, to the stewardship of His people. Our cowardice, when it comes to rolling over and playing dead at 'Caesar's' command; needs to stop; and by the grace of God; His people are beginning to stand up, and say, 'hey; that's not yours ( Caesar's ); that belongs to our Lord, and to us, His people!' Jesus is Lord; Caesar is not!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

JEW-HATER!!!

What preterist out there, hasn't, at one time or another, not to mention those that hold to 'Replacement Theology', or anyone who doesn't uphold the nation/state of Israel as the true people, or Israel of God, been labeled anti-semitic? I know I have and other friends of mine who hold views somewhat similar to my own have. It's not that I mind being called something I'm not ( you know, 'sticks and stones............' ), but it's so far from being the truth, and I daresay that this is the case with many who are so wrongly accused.

What does Scripture say constitutes a Jew? Never mind the argument that the very word 'Jew' is derivative of the tribe of Judah; God said that a true Jew is one of faith, who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, He, through Paul, said that 'those who are of faith are sons of Abraham' ( my favored version, NKJV, adds 'only' to the beginning of this statement, but since it's not in thee Greek; I won't argue that point here ). I've been over this before, but when Paul said earlier, in the book of Romans, chapter 9, that , 'they [ are ] not all Israel who [ are ] of Israel'; I get quite heated, sometimes, when I ruminate on this! What else could this possibly mean, especially in conjunction with passages like Galatians 3:7, except that Israel is the people of God; period!

It's been made clear to me that the physical descendants of Abraham were simply pictures, as I often say, of the true 'Israel of God' that Paul wrote of in Galatians 6:16, the greater spiritual reality of God's chosen people, through promise, and not physical birth-right.

Merriam-Webster's On-line dictionary defines a 'semite', as 'a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs', so, to call us anti-semitic is really unfair, and untrue, because, among most of us anyway, it is not really a racial thing, but a belief in action, or religious thing. At this point in time, especially, maybe, because of 9//11; we, as a nation, have a tendency to be leery of those of Arabic descent; so who's racist and anti-semitic, again?

I was called a 'Jew-hater' once, to my face ( who knows how many called me that behind my back ), by a dear friend of mine who has since passed on, and hopefully knows the truth now. He was pretty sick at the time, and as some would say, probably 'not in his right mind', and I quickly forgave him. It didn't really bother me, because I know the Truth, but I give this as an example for those who are often labeled accordingly. We are not Jew-haters; rather, we are Jew-lovers! Like I said earlier; Scripture says that the true Jew is the one who has faith  ( believes ) that Jesus was the Messiah, and is the Son of God. In other words; those who actually see Israel for who she is, the Bride of Christ, now the Wife of God, the Church, and who love the brethren, are the exact opposite of anti-semitic, because we are not racially-motivated, as those who support the nation/state of Israel without compunction, but rather, we love those whom the Scriptures say are the true Jews, whether they be Caucasian, Hebrew, or Arab, Chinese, Mexican, or Negro.

Just some thoughts,
Charles Haddon Shank