Sunday, October 30, 2011

End Time Thoughts and Theories - Summary of My Current Understanding

Since I first started to read and study the Bible around age 11, I have been drawn to the end time prophecies. My early years of reading Revelation, Daniel, Ezekial, and the words of Jesus Christ showed me many astounding things were going to happen in the future. However, understanding how it all fit together, or when these things were going to occur was impossible for me to comprehend.
 
At age 16 I learned an important key to understanding the Bible and prophecy was to have the Holy Spirit as your teacher.
 

And this is the promise that He has promised us: everlasting life. These things I have written to you concerning those leading you astray. But the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true and no lie, and as He has taught you, abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He is revealed, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him in His coming.

(1 John 2:25-28 MKJV)

We also have a more sure Word of prophecy, to which you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Daystar arises in your hearts, knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture came into being of its own private interpretation. For prophecy was not borne at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke being borne along by the Holy Spirit.

(2 Peter 1:19-21 MKJV)

And that when the end time prophecies are being fulfilled the unbelieving will be "blind" to what is really happening.
 

And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, so that all those who do not believe the truth, but delight in unrighteousness, might be condemned. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,

(2 Thessalonians 2:11-13 MKJV)

But of the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that I write to you. For you yourselves know accurately that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety! Then sudden destruction comes on them, as travail upon a woman with child. And they shall not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief. You are all the sons of light and the sons of the day. We are not of the night, or of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us watch and be calm. For those sleeping sleep in the night, and those being drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be calm, having put on the breastplate of faith and love and the hope of salvation for a helmet. For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we watch or sleep we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort one another, and edify one another, even as you also do.

(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 MKJV)

 
* You must be born again to even begin to understand the "mysteries" of God.

For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

(Ephesians 2:8-9 MKJV)

And a few other clear verses that explain that our eternal life and forgiveness is free and based on what Jesus Christ has done for us, and not anything we have done, nor what we will do are:
 

But as many as received Him, He gave to them authority to become the children of God, to those who believe on His name, who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but were born of God.

(John 1:12-13 MKJV)

But now a righteousness of God has been revealed apart from Law, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets; even the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ, toward all and upon all those who believe. For there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;
(Romans 3:21-24 MKJV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Romans 6:23 MKJV)

And one of my favorites,

I have written these things to you who believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have everlasting life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.

(1 John 5:13 MKJV)

 
Plus many many more, John 3:36, 5:24, Eph. 1:7-14, Titus 3:3-7, Acts 16:30,31, Acts 13:38,39, Acts 10:43, Acts 15:7-9
 
* Is the subject "Important" for us to study?
 
I believe we are instructed to learn and understand as much as we can about all things God has in His Word.
And while the "exact timing" may not be knowable, I believe more attention needs to be given to the subject of Eschatology.
 
I Thess: 5:19-22 "...But examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good;..."
 
II Tim. 2:14-26 "Be diligent...accurately handling the word of truth...correct those who are in opposition..."
 
I Peter 2:2 "...milk of the word..."
 
I Peter 3:15 "...ready to make a defense to everyone...for the hope that is in you..."
and
Hebrews 5:11- 6:1 Going beyond milk and the elementary teaching.
 
 
* When is the Rapture?
 
Rapture ( Meeting the Lord in the Air ).
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The doctrine of the "post-tribulation rapture" was taught by Christianity starting in the first century CE and was popular until the 19th century. It is still held by some Christians. It teaches that when Jesus Christ returns to earth after the tribulation, believers who are alive at the time will be changed into immortal glorified bodies.

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A relatively new competing belief promoting a "pre-tribulation rapture" was developed during the 19th century ( John Nelsen Darby was one of the first to teach it, and has become a near universal belief among fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians. This belief has Jesus returning towards the Earth before the tribulation. Christian believers -- both dead and alive -- will rise in the air to meet him in the sky. It will occur without warning. Believers in the pre-tribulation rapture have eagerly anticipated the event since the 1840s and have never given up the hope that it will occur in their very near future.

*** The "Post-Tribulation Rapture" fits the scriptures clearly, and the idea of a "pre-tribulation rapture" requires "reading into" the verses something that is just not there.
Let's take a look at what the scriptures say:
*****************************************************

But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you be not grieved, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him all those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. For we say this to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not go before those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. 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 so we shall ever be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 MKJV)

But of the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that I write to you. For you yourselves know accurately that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety! Then sudden destruction comes on them, as travail upon a woman with child. And they shall not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief. You are all the sons of light and the sons of the day. We are not of the night, or of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us watch and be calm. For those sleeping sleep in the night, and those being drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be calm, having put on the breastplate of faith and love and the hope of salvation for a helmet. For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we watch or sleep we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort one another, and edify one another, even as you also do.

(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 MKJV)

Now we beseech you, my brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you should not be soon shaken in mind or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word or letter, as through us, as if the Day of Christ is at hand. Let not anyone deceive you by any means. For that Day shall not come unless there first comes a falling away, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself forth, that he is God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?

(2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 MKJV)

Behold, I speak a mystery to you; we shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in a glance of an eye, at the last trumpet. For a trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.

(1 Corinthians 15:51-52 MKJV)

And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the heavens. And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

(Matthew 24:29-31 MKJV)

And Jehovah shall be seen over them, and His arrow shall go forth like the lightning; and the Lord Jehovah shall blow the ram's horn, and shall go out with the windstorms of the south.

(Zechariah 9:14 MKJV)

And the seventh angel sounded. And there were great voices in Heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ. And He will reign forever and ever.

(Revelation 11:15 MKJV)

 

Return of Jesus Christ and Believers meeting Him in the Air, according to the Bible

After much Bible study, and reading what the bible "scholars" have to say on the subject, I've narrowed down the main verses that speak of the return of Jesus Christ, and the "translation" of living believers who will be changed in a "twinkle of an eye". Read them carefully. Feel free to read in context before and after each passage. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom to understand them clearly. And it should be noted you will not find the word "rapture" in any of these verses, because the word is not used in the Bible anywhere. And while the following verses are not ALL that touch on the subject, they are the clearest and most widely quoted to teach about the return of Jesus Christ, and what the believer should expect to happen at that time ( or shortly before that time ). There are many whole chapters of the Bible that reveal details about the "time of trouble", the "beast", and the "wrath of God", and therefore I have not attempted to include them.

And at that time Michael shall stand up, the great ruler who stands for the sons of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation; until that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

(Daniel 12:1-2 MKJV)



And as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must occur; but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to be afflicted and will kill you. And you will be hated of all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another. And many false prophets will rise and deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will become cold. But he who endures to the end, the same shall be kept safe. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all nations. And then the end shall come. Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand). Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains. Let him on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house; nor let him in the field turn back to take his clothes. And woe to those who are with child, and to those who give suck in those days! But pray that your flight is not in the winter, nor on the sabbath day; for then shall be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days should be shortened, no flesh would be saved. But for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened.

(Matthew 24:3-22 MKJV)

For as the lightning comes out of the east and shines even to the west, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered. And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the heavens. And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

(Matthew 24:27-31 MKJV)

Then two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Therefore watch; for you do not know what hour your Lord comes.

(Matthew 24:40-42 MKJV)

And saying these things, as they watched, He was taken up. And a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they were looking intently into the heaven, He having gone, even behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into the heaven? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the way you have seen Him going into Heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount Of Olive Grove, which is a sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem.

(Acts 1:9-12 MKJV)


And His feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall divide from its middle, from the east and to the west, a very great valley. And half of the mountain shall move toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

(Zechariah 14:4 MKJV)

And it shall be in that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour on the house of David, and on the people of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of prayers. And they shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be bitter over Him, as the bitterness over the first-born.

(Zechariah 12:9-10 MKJV)

Behold, He comes with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, and those who pierced Him will see Him, and all the kindreds of the earth will wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.

(Revelation 1:7 MKJV)

looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

(Titus 2:13 MKJV)

But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you be not grieved, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him all those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. For we say this to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not go before those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. 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 so we shall ever be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 MKJV)

Behold, I speak a mystery to you; we shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in a glance of an eye, at the last trumpet. For a trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and when this mortal shall put on immortality, then will take place the word that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory.

(1 Corinthians 15:51-54 MKJV)

For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which also we are looking for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our body of humiliation so that it may be fashioned like His glorious body, according to the working of His power, even to subdue all things to Himself.

(Philippians 3:20-21 MKJV)

But of the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that I write to you. For you yourselves know accurately that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety! Then sudden destruction comes on them, as travail upon a woman with child. And they shall not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief. You are all the sons of light and the sons of the day. We are not of the night, or of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us watch and be calm. For those sleeping sleep in the night, and those being drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be calm, having put on the breastplate of faith and love and the hope of salvation for a helmet. For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we watch or sleep we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort one another, and edify one another, even as you also do.

(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 MKJV)

Now we beseech you, my brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you should not be soon shaken in mind or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word or letter, as through us, as if the Day of Christ is at hand. Let not anyone deceive you by any means. For that Day shall not come unless there first comes a falling away, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself forth, that he is God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And now you know what holds back, for him to be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already working, only he is now holding back until it comes out of the midst. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness in those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, so that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, so that all those who do not believe the truth, but delight in unrighteousness, might be condemned. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 2:1-14 MKJV)

And I saw Heaven opened. And behold, a white horse! And He sitting on him was called Faithful and True. And in righteousness He judges and makes war. And His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head many crowns. And He had a name written, one that no one knew except Himself. And He had been clothed in a garment dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in Heaven followed Him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, so that with it He should strike the nations. And He will shepherd them with a rod of iron. And He treads the winepress of the wine of the anger and of the wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His garment, and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw one angel standing in the sun. And he cried with a great voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, Come and gather together to the supper of the great God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of commanders, and the flesh of strong ones, and the flesh of horses, and those sitting on them, and the flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth and their armies, being gathered to make war against Him who sat on the horse, and against His army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet doing signs before it, (by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast), and those who had worshiped his image. The two were thrown alive into the Lake of Fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were slain by the sword of Him who sat on the horse, it proceeding out of His mouth. And all the birds were filled from their flesh.

(Revelation 19:11-21 MKJV)

*** Theories about When the End will Come.
 
** 6000 years for the "rule" of Man, and 1,000 years for the Kingdom of God on Earth, or 1 week, with the 7th day ( 1,000 years ) being the Sabaath, or Jubilee ( both setting a part the 7th part as holy and special in the Law, see Lev. chapter 23, Deut. 16, Ex. 23:10-17 ).
 
** Also, some of the pieces of the puzzle point towards the return at the end of the "Sixth" Day ( 6,000 years ) from the Creation of the world.
With the 7th Day ( 1,000 years ) being the "Sabbath" or millenium kingdom when Jesus Christ rules and reigns on the earth. 
 
Hosea 6:2 "After two days He will bring us to life: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight."
 
Exodus 19:10,11 "...the third day the Lord will come down"
 
II Peter 3:7,8 "...with the Lord one day is like a thousand years..."
 
Psalm 90:4 "For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or a watch in the night."
Luke 10:35  Good Samaritan left for 2 days worth of money and then he will RETURN
 
Job 5:19 "From six troubles He will deliver you, Even in seven evil will not touch you."
* Yeah, I know I may be stretching this verse too far, but many are just examples of the pattern of 6 and then 7th, or 2 then the 3rd.
 
Exodus 24:15,16 "... six days, and the seventh day..."
 
Matthew 16:28-17:2 "...six days later...He was transfigured before them..."
Revelation 20:6 ...reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
 
Also, suggesting the Return of Christ as 2,000 years after He left is,
2 days ( 2,000 years ) , and return the 3rd day ( begin the 1,000 kingdom ).
When the Lord God appeared to the Israelites at Mount Sinai they were told,
Ex: 19:15 ( be ready for the 3rd day ),16 ( voice of trumpet ), 17 ( meet with God )... referenced Heb.12:18-29
 
Most Bible scholars agree the Earth was created around 4004 B.C. ( plus or minus a few years ).
 
And the "theory" that the "Rule of Man" did not start until Adam and Eve sinned, and were put of the Garden of Eden, is one explaination why the 6,000 years has not yet expired ( since it's currently late 2011, and we are still watching and waiting ).
 
If the return is to follow a "time line" or "an appointed time" as has been suggested, then I would purpose ( remember this is just a theory, and subject to change if new and better information becomes available ), we can count forward from both the "fall of man"  30 - 35 years after creation. This is only a number I picked to fit with Christ's ministy some time around 25 - 31 A.D. or 4,000 years later.  It could be much less, or several decades longer, but it had to be well before Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old and out of the Garden for some time. And this would put date of the Cruxification of Christ ( Passover, 30 A.D. on a Thursday afternoon, 31 A.D. on Wednesday afternoon....  exactly when is a whole other topic to dig into ), to be used determine the "end of the 6th day" and the beginning of the "7th day" ( 1,000 year Kingdom ). And the after the 7,000 years, we are told that current heavens and earth will be destroyed, and replaced by a new heaven and a new earth ( II Peter 3:10 -13, Rev. chapter 21 ).
 
Also, there is strong support that the Return of Christ will be in the Fall.
One reason being, that Christ fullfilled 2 of the 3 major Feast of the Lord at His first coming.

You shall keep a feast to Me three times in the year. You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. You shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, in the time appointed of the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And no one shall appear before Me empty. Also the Feast of Harvest, the first-fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field. Also the Feast of Ingathering, in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God.

(Exodus 23:14-17 MKJV)

( Also see Deut. chapter 16, Lev. chapter 23 ) .
 
He became our sacrifical "Lamb of God" who took away the sins of the world at Passover.
And after His resurrection, He was taken up into Heaven, and the Holy Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost ( Feast of Harvest, first fruits ).
Those were the first 2 of 3 major Feast that were "appointed" to be "a statue forever in your generations".
The 3rd is the Feast of Ingathing ( or Booths or Tents ).
Details about the Feasts and how they are prophetic in design is something I will try to cover in depth at a later time.
 
 
This 3rd Feast is 6 months ( or 1/2 year ) after Passover.
And time of Tribulation is 3 1/2 years long ( Dan. 12:7,11,12, Rev. 12:6,14,, , and should therefore "begin" at Passover, and end 3 1/2 years later at the Feast the In Gathering ( possibly the "end of the year" - see: Ex. 23:16 )
 
This would put the "end" or "return" of Christ around late Sept - early Oct. 2030 or 2031.
The time of Tribulation ( and rule of the anti-christ and the beast ) begin 3 1/2 years earlier in Spring ( at Passover time ).
And if we have 3 1/2 years of "Beginning of Sorrows" ( Matt. 24:1-14 ), then the "Abomination of Desolation" standing in the holy place ( Matt. 24:15-22, Dan. 11:31,12:11 ), signals the beginning of the Great Tribulation lasting another 3 1/2 years. The 7 years would begin in the Fall of 2023 or 2024.
 
NOTE: As there are several "variables" and some lack of certainty in exact dates, this "date" approximation could vary by several years more or less.
Please don't hold me to it. Like many before me, I may be forcing the "facts" to have Christ's return appear to be something I could live to see.
 
 
I am confident that there will be no "secret" rapture of the church. And that our meeting the Lord in the air will not occur until He returns to set up His Kingdom.
So, should the events in Daniel and Revelation begin to come to pass, then you should know that our Lord's return is very near.
 
If you are living through these times, and are a true believer, you should be able to recognize the "signs of the times" ( Matt: 16:2,3   ) and the "parable of the fig tree" ( Matt.24:32,33 ).
And even though we can not know the "day or hour", we should be able to know / recognize when we are in the midst of this prophetic time ( I Thess. 5:1 - 11 ).
 

But of the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that I write to you. For you yourselves know accurately that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety! Then sudden destruction comes on them, as travail upon a woman with child. And they shall not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief. You are all the sons of light and the sons of the day. We are not of the night, or of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us watch and be calm. For those sleeping sleep in the night, and those being drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be calm, having put on the breastplate of faith and love and the hope of salvation for a helmet. For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we watch or sleep we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort one another, and edify one another, even as you also do.

(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 MKJV)

and
 
*** Can we know the end is near or how it will unfold? I believe there are a lot of scriptures on the matter, and it is worthy of study.
 
Hebrews 10:25, "...assemble...exhorting...AS YE SEE THE DAY APPROACHING."
 
Matt. 25:4 - 9 "wise" virgins were ready and not surprised
 
I Thess. 5:4 we "are not in darkness that the day should overtake you like a thief"
 
Dan. 12:10 " the wise shall understand"
 
Matt: 24:32-34 Parable of the Fig Tree
 
Luke 12:54 - 57   when you see a cloud you know it's going to rain, or when the wind blows..... "do you not analyze this present time?"
 
I John 2:27 "...His anointing teaches you about all things..."
 
** And closing ( for now ),

What to do when the end is upon us.

I hope to be with other believers studying, praying, singing songs, and rejoicing that our Lord, our Savior, and our King is soon to arrive, and set all things "straight".
As He is the only Hope ( our Blessed Hope ) for the people of all the nations and the planet it's self.
  
Isaiah 26:20, 21
 
"Come, my people, enter into your rooms,
And close your doors behind you;
Hide for a little while.
Until indignation runs it's course.
For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
And the earth will reveal her bloodshed
And will no longer cover her slain."
 
* Some will speak out, take action, and may be martyred.
 
Daniel 11:31-35
 
Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up  the abomination of desolation.
By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.
Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days.
Now when they fall they will be granted a little help and may will join with them in hypocrisy.
Some of those who have insight will fall in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.
 
NASB translation
 
 
 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is Love All You Really Need ?

1Co 13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
1Co 13:2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1Co 13:13 But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
 
Love is extremely important, and very necessary, but it must be "relevant" and "focused".
And scriptures clearly couples the "excerise" of love with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Php 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;
Php 1:10 so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ;
 
Col 1:9  For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Col 1:10  to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
 
Col 2:2  that their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ,
Col 2:3  in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.
Col 2:4  This I say, that no one may delude you with persuasiveness of speech.
Col 2:5  For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
Col 2:6  As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,
Col 2:7  rooted and builded up in him, and established in your faith, even as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Col 2:8  Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ:
My point is:
Yes, let all be done in Love, but don't forget to use your brain.
It is God's desire that we grow in the knowledge of the truth, and walk in this truth.
Sharing it with a world that is walking in darkness.
Letting your Light shine involves a lot more than a friendly smile, and helping those in physical need.
It is their spiritual need that must also be addressed.
 
Don't just be "nice" to those around you. Give them something of eternal value.
Share the truth of the Gospel.
Introduce them to the Creator of the universe. Tell them about the gift of eteranl life that was bought and paid for by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Tell them about forgiveness that comes by faith.
Tell them about God's love. The Love that sent His only begotten Son, in order that they could receive everlasting life as a free gift by trusting in Jesus, the Christ, as their Savior.
That they can become a child of God by this simple act of faith.
 
Letting your light shine, should bring this knowledge and truth.
And your words should add "spice" or "flavor" to those with whom you speak.
You should be overflowing with this "truth". It should pour out of your life, and into those around you.
Encourage your fellow brethren, and be a light to those who lack the "knowledge" you have as a child of God.
 
Col 4:5  Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
Col 4:6  Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one.
2Ti 2:15  Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.
 
1Pe 3:15  but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear:
 
Gal 6:10  So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith
 
****
 
1Jn 2:15  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1Jn 2:16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
1Jn 2:17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1Jn 2:18  Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour.
1Jn 2:19  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us.
1Pe 4:7  But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober unto prayer:
1Pe 4:8  above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins:
1Pe 4:9  using hospitality one to another without murmuring:
1Pe 4:10  according as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God;
1Pe 4:11  if any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God; if any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Free Grace Statement of Faith

Free Grace Statement of Faith

1. Theology Proper

We believe that there is one true God, eternally existing in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—each of whom possesses equally all of the attributes of deity and elements of personality (Deuteronomy 6:4; Psalm 90:2; Matthew 28:19; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Revelation 1:4-6).

2. Jesus Christ

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is fully God and perfect man, deity incarnate, born of a virgin, and neither sinned nor could have sinned. By His death as a substitute for sinners He infinitely satisfied divine justice and salvation for all who believe in Him.

He arose from the dead in the same body, though glorified, in which He had lived and died. His resurrection body is the pattern of that body which will ultimately be given to all believers (John 20:20; Philippians 3:20-21).

The Lord Jesus Christ, in His glorified body, is now in heaven, exalted at the right hand of God the Father, where He presently fulfills the ministries of Representative, Intercessor, and Advocate for the saved (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 9:24; 1 John 2:1-2).

3. The Holy Spirit

We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity. He is, always has been, and always will be fully God, with intellect (1 Corinthians 2:11b), emotion (Ephesians 4:30), and will (1 Corinthians 12:11). He has been intimately involved in all that God does, including creation (Genesis 1:2), justification (Titus 3:5), and sanctification (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Holy Spirit gives each believer one or more spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11; 1 Peter 4:10). He gives these gifts "for the common good" (Ephesians 4:11-18), in order that believers might serve one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Some spiritual gifts, such as apostleship, miracles, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healings, and prophecy, were given for the foundational period of the church (Ephesians 2:20), and are not normative for today (Hebrews 2:3-4).

4. The Scriptures

We believe that the Scriptures (not the men) are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God moved holy men to write (2 Peter 1:20-21) and He made certain that what they wrote was without error in the original documents. He has revealed Himself and His eternal plan to mankind in the Bible. Divine inspiration extends equally and fully to all parts of the Bible. The Bible is a necessary source of spiritual sustenance for the believer and is able to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

6. Satan

We believe that one of the greatest angels, Lucifer, also called Satan or the devil, sinned through pride and rebelled against God (Ezekiel 28:12-19; Isaiah 14:12-15). Satan now rules as the "god of this world." He was judged at the cross (Genesis 3:15), though the execution of that judgment will not take place until Christ's Second Coming." After his final defeat he will be cast into the lake of fire where he will experience conscious eternal torment.

7. Anthropology

We believe that the first human, Adam, was created in the image of God. Through disobedience he sinned and thus was alienated from God, died spiritually, and suffered the corruption of his nature (though still retaining the image of God), rendering him unable to please God (Genesis 3:1-19).

This fall took place at the beginning of human history, and all individuals born since then suffer these same consequences—are fallen, sinful, and lost and are thus in need of the saving grace of God (Romans 3:10-20). This saving grace cannot be experienced by any person in the world apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9). All children are held in the grace of God and covered by the blood of Christ until they reach the age of accountability (Deuteronomy 1:39; 2 Samuel 12:23; Jonah 4:11; Matthew 18:2-5).

8. Eternal Salvation

The sole condition for receiving eternal salvation is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died a substitutionary death on the cross for man's sin and rose from the dead (John 3:16-18; 6:47; Acts 16:31). No act of obedience, preceding or following faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, such as commitment to obey, sorrow for sin, turning from one's sin, baptism, or submission to the Lordship of Christ, may be added to, or considered as a part of, faith as a condition for receiving eternal salvation (Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Titus 3:5). This saving transaction between God and the sinner is simply the giving and receiving of a free gift (John 4:10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17).

9. Eternal Security

We believe that any person who believes in Jesus Christ for eternal life receives that gift which, as the words eternal life suggest, can never be lost. Every child of God possesses this eternal (or everlasting) life and, being regenerated, justified, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, is safe and secure for all eternity. The believer is eternally secure since Jesus Christ irrevocably guarantees it (John 6:35-40; 11:25-27, Romans 11:29). Therefore, it is inconsistent with the gospel and with Scripture to seek to gain or keep eternal salvation by godly living.

10. Assurance of Salvation

We believe that assurance of eternal salvation is sufficiently grounded on the promise God makes in His Word that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ possesses eternal life (John 5:24; 1 John 5:9-13). Since a person can know whether or not he believes the gospel, no other basis for assurance is needed. Good works, which can and should follow regeneration, are not an indispensable verification of saving faith, even though they may have a secondary, confirmatory value (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8).

12. Sanctification

We believe that sanctification is past, present and future. At the moment one believes in Christ, he is positionally sanctified, or set apart to God (1 Corinthians 1:2, Hebrews 10:10), which is a past event for all believers. Presently God is working to conform believers more and more to Christ (Hebrews 10:14). However, believers may thwart this work and even in the godliest of saints this work will not be perfectly or fully accomplished prior to death or the rapture when all believers will become sinless (1 John 3:1-3).

13. The Christian Walk

We believe that the ultimate goal of the Holy Spirit's work in the believer's life is to produce spiritual maturity reflected in consistent Christlike behavior and attitudes (Galatians 5:22-25; Colossians 1:24-29). Therefore, obedience to the Word of God, while not necessary for obtaining eternal salvation, is the essential responsibility of each Christian (Romans 6:12-23; 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4; Hebrews 5:13,14). However, the Bible does not teach that this obedience will be manifested uniformly in all believers. If a believer does not yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his experience, failure will result, evidenced by sinful acts or even prolonged disobedience (1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Galatians 5:16-21).

Confession of sins is an essential aspect of ongoing fellowship with God (1 John 1:9). Whenever a believer is made aware of some sin in his life, he should be open and honest with God and confess it. As long as a believer remains open and honest with God, he continues to walk in fellowship. If a believer chooses not to do this, he will incur the loving discipline of God (Hebrews 12:6), and loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3).

Our motivation to walk in fellowship with the Lord is partially out of our gratitude for what He has done for us at the cross, and partially out of our anticipation of the rewards we will receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ, In order to bring glory to Him for all eternity. 

14. The Church

We believe that the Church, that is, the body and future bride of Christ, is a spiritual entity made up of all believers of this present age. The Church was born on the day of Pentecost. It does not replace Israel, and the promises to Abraham and David are not fulfilled in the Church age. Since Pentecost all who believe in Christ are members of the Universal Church.

The Universal Church is visibly functional through groups called local churches which meet regularly in identifiable locations. These should be governed by their own leadership (1 Corinthians 1:1-2; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17), and the congregation is responsible to submit to its leadership (Hebrews 13:17).

The Word of God commands believers to gather together in local congregations, to devote themselves to worship, prayer, the teaching of the Bible, observance of the ordinances of water baptism and the Lord's Supper, the edification of the body, and an active witness to the unsaved world. A local expression of the church is found wherever Christians meet regularly in obedience to these commands (Acts 2:42).

The Lord gave the church two ordinances to be practiced until He returned. The Lord's Supper is to be conducted regularly by believers in remembrance of Christ's death on our behalf. The other was Believer's baptism. We are to urge those whom we lead to faith in Christ to publicly profess their faith in Christ by being baptized (Matthew 28:19, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Church discipline should be a vital part of church life. Steps of church discipline may include confrontation by one person, by several of the church leaders, by all of the church leaders, and, finally, if the person refuses all efforts to bring him to repentance, exclusion of the individual from the Lord's Table until he does repent (Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1).

15.  Evangelism and Discipleship

We believe that the Lord Jesus sent His apostles out to make disciples of all the nations (commonly called the Great Commission). This was to include evangelizing the unsaved with the message of the Gospel of God's free grace, and then baptizing and teaching those who came to faith in Christ. The Lord wishes all believers to become disciples and carry on this work until He returns  (Matthew 28:18-20).

16. Future Events

We believe that the next great event in the fulfillment of prophecy is the coming of the Lord Jesus in the air to receive to Himself both the dead in Christ and believers who remain alive (1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11). The rapture will take place before the seven-year period called the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27; 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9). * NOTE: I personally believe the return of Jesus will be at the end of the Tribulation period at the Last Trump, and just moments before His physical return on the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem.
 
The Tribulation will be climaxed by the second coming of Christ. After His return He will set up a kingdom headquartered in Jerusalem from where He will reign for one thousand years (Psalm 2; Revelation 20).

Believers will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ before the Millennium begins in order to be rewarded according to what they done during their lives to bring glory to Christ (1 Corinthians 3; 2 Corinthians 5; Romans 14). Unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium has ended to determine the severity of their punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20).

17. The Eternal State

We believe that at physical death the believer enters immediately into eternal, conscious fellowship with the Lord and the unbeliever into eternal separation from Him. The bodies of all the dead shall be raised: those of believers to a resurrection of glory; those of unbelievers to a resurrection of eternal condemnation. All of the lost will experience conscious punishment in the lake of fire, forever (Luke 16:19-31; Philippians 1:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; 2 Peter 3:8-13; Revelation 20:1-15; 21:1-22).




Reference = www.freegracealliance.com/covenant.htm

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Bible teaches that works will follow a saving faith and that the works contribute nothing to salvation. - Or Does it?

Mike,
 
I am glad to hear you firmly believe that salvation is a free gift, received by trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation, forgiveness and life that is eternal.
However, I still can not accept the teaching  "that works will follow a saving faith".
 
What works exactly would "follow" a person who had trusted in Jesus Christ to be his Savior?
 
And what "sins" would be an indication of that a person did not have "saving faith"?
 
How "good" or how "changed" does a person have to be to "know" they are saved?
Or for other believers to be able to "judge" if that person "really" believed ( trusted ) in Christ for salvation?
 
If I trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior, and commit a "grievous" sin, does this mean I never really believed?
 
Perhaps because you've lived a "Christian" life so well, you assume that others who truly believed must do like wise. That is not what I see in scripture. The Bible is FULL of "saved" believers who stumbled and sinned. Paul's two letters to the Corinthians ( whom he had lived with and taught ) is full of warnings to these "saints" about their less than holy living ( fornication, disputes amount themselves, drunkeness at the Lord's Supper, etc ), yet he continually appeals to them as brethren and his children.
Remember King David ( adultery and murder ), and Peter who first denied Christ, and later separated himself from the Gentiles ( Galatians chapter 2 ) and needed to be rebuke by Paul for his hypocrisy? And there are many more examples.
 
Just because some one has / is trusting in the Lord for salvation, it does not mean they are going to be a light or bear fruit.. that is the desired result. It is not the norm or even common. The parable of the sower is often interpreted to mean only 1 of the 4 is saved. I would say, that Christ was pointing out that only a few will bear fruit. Many "believe", but few "follow". To "follow" means to be a disciple. To be a disciple means to put yourself last, and everything, everyone else ( the Lord's work ) first. It is something we will receive blessings for in this life, and rewards for in the future ( 2 Timothy 2:11-13), but not all will receive rewards ( I Cor. 3:10-15 ), because they did not build on the foundation ( Not serving the Lord after trusting in Him for the forgiveness of their sins ).
The Book of James is written to Believers. James is not questioning the salvation of the saints he is writing to. He is warning them that you can't just going around saying "I'm a Christian" and but act just like the world, and not expect some type of judgment from God ( same type of warnings Paul makes to the disobedient believers in Corinth ). Abraham proved he trusted God in all things, and was willing to kill his son to prove it, and this is why he is called the friend of God. This is "faith" in the Love, and Power of God. James does not contradict what Paul stated in Ephesians 2:8,9 or Romans 4:4,5 or 6:23. Nor is James adding to the clear teaching John writes in his Gospel ( using the word believe 33 times, and stating the purpose of the writing was that you might Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31 ).
 
1st John on the other hand is not written to the world, but to the church, to believers, to the saints, and his warnings are about not be so foolish as to think one can "ABIDE... remain in a close and settle union" with God, and love the world, hate your brother, etc. and say you "Know" God ( the word used in the Greek means to "know by experience" ). It's all about our "fellowship" with our heavenly Father and our fellow brethren after we have been born again.
 
The gospel John includes references to those who "believe" but were hiding it ( John 12:42,19:38 ). Which to me is another "proof" that believing in Christ does not allows "show", and therefore not a true teaching ( that works "follow" some one who has believed ).
 
And my biggest concern is that if one starts teaching "works" must follow "true" believing, then some will also think that the false gospel of "Lordship Salvation" is okay too ( the teaching that one must commit to follow Christ and become a Disciple in order that one receives the "gift" of eternal life ).
 
*** That is my short answer. What follows is the long answer written by some one else with whom I agree, and who's material I have used in the past ( no need to re-invent the wheel ) to help explain my Biblical point of view on various doctrines.
 
**********************************************
 
"Saved by Faith", or "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved", but what does that really mean?
And if I trust Him as my Savior, will my life automatically "show" I have been born again, and now possess eternal life?

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEAD AND HEART BELIEF?

You may have heard the phrase, "easy believism." In essence, they are saying that faith holds some merit because they are saying that the way you believe is the determining point in your salvation rather than the object of your faith, which is Jesus Christ. Of course, there is a difference between believing facts about Jesus Christ (such as His virgin birth and His resurrection) and believing in Him to be your Savior. But the difference is in what you believe, not how you believe.

Let me illustrate. Suppose a good friend of yours were to promise to give you five dollars tomorrow. Who or what gives you the money, your friend, or your faith in your friend? Christ promises to save all those who believe in Him. It is not a person's faith that saves him, but the object of his faith, Jesus Christ.

Some people even go so far as to make a distinction between believing in one's head and believing in one's heart. The basis of this teaching is the assumption that the word "believe" means more than intellectual assent. However, the Greek word translated "believe" is "pisteuo," and it literally means "to believe, trust, or rely upon," nothing more.

But doesn't the Bible teach that a person must believe in his heart? Yes, but what exactly is the heart? Does this mean that a person must believe with his emotions, intellect and will?

The primary meaning of the word "heart" is "mind." It is interesting to note that the Greek word for "bowels" is synonymous with our word "heart" and the Greek word for "heart" is synonymous with our word "mind." According to Greek scholars, "bowels" referred to one's feelings and affections. Good Scriptural examples of this are found in First John 3:17 and Matthew 9:36. The same Greek word is translated "bowels of compassion" in the former verse and "compassion" in the latter.

When Christ referred to the heart, He was primarily referring to the thinking and reasoning faculties of man. Examples of this are found in Matthew 9:4 and Luke 5:22:

"And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think you evil in your hearts?" (Matthew 9:4);

"But when Jesus perceived their thoughts He answering said unto them, What reason you in your hearts?" (Luke 5:22)

It is also interesting to note that while Romans 10:9,10 talk about believing with your heart, in verse six of the same chapter it says, "Say not in your heart..." This phrase was a Hebraism for "think not." So speaking in your heart and believing in your heart both refer to a mental process.

Those who teach that it is not enough to give intellectual assent are saying by their own definition that Abraham and all those who follow his example of faith are not saved! What exactly do I mean?

In Romans 4:21-24, it explains, "And being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his" (Abraham's) "sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead."

Scripture's own definition of faith is "being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform" (Romans 4:21). Thus, faith is simply taking God at His word.

Christ made this clear in John 5:46 and 47, when He said, "For had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe My words?" If these unbelievers had taken Moses at his word, since he prophesied of Christ, they would have taken Christ at His word.

MUST CHRIST BE ONE'S LORD TO BE ONE'S SAVIOR?

Now some teach that the faith which saves a person must include a commitment of that person's life. These individuals use the phrase, "receive Christ as Savior and Lord." In other words, they are saying if you want Christ as your Savior, you must be willing to make Him the Lord and Master of your life.

This, however, is not in accordance with Scripture concerning what a person must do to have eternal life. We don't give Christ control of our lives or anything else. He gives us eternal life as a free gift, by just trusting in Him. When you start talking about making Christ the Lord of your life, you are then talking about service, not salvation!

If giving your life to God were a condition to receive eternal life, the Apostle Paul would not have pleaded with Christians to do just that. In Roman 12:1, he said, "I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." If Paul considered a commitment of one's life a separate and subsequent decision apart from salvation, shouldn't we also? He placed a commitment under the category of service to God, not salvation.

There is a vast difference between believing in Jesus Christ and serving Him. Believing in Christ results in one's becoming a child of God, while serving the Lord results in one's becoming a disciple. Salvation is the result of Christ's work on the cross, received by faith. Nothing in the life of the believer adds to or takes away from his perfect security; salvation cannot be lost. But discipleship comes only through a life of dedicated service to the Lord and can be lost because it is based upon the believer's faithfulness. Salvation secures a place in heaven, while discipleship secures rewards in heaven. Before embarking upon a life of service for the Lord, Christ cautions to count the cost (Luke 14:26-33). How different is the offer of salvation in which the Lord beckons, "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17).

In John chapter 8, it clearly shows the distinction between believing in Christ as Savior and becoming a disciple. It records how that in response to Christ's teaching, many became believers. Jesus addressed those who believed in Him and explained that to become His disciple it was required that they continue in His word. It says in John 8:30-32, "As He spake these words, many believed on Him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed: and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Thus, all believers are not disciples - only those who commit their lives to Him.

Surrendering or yielding your life to the Lord is certainly something of yourself. If you thought you had to give Christ control of your life in order to be saved, you would be depending upon your giving of yourself to Him plus your trusting Him to get you to heaven. This is a mixture of God's grace and your works. A requirement for being God's obedient child is to allow Christ to control your life. To take a requirement for obedience and make it a requirement for salvation is nothing less than teaching good works for salvation.


BUT IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE, WON'T YOU SHOW IT?

Some people say that if you really believe in something, then your life will show it, meaning of course, that if you truly believe in Christ, then you will follow Him. But is it really true that if you truly believe in something, your life will evidence that belief? Don't you know a lot of people who believe, who truly believe, they must be good to go to heaven, but who aren't being good themselves?

Besides, when you trust Christ to save you, what you're believing is that He's the One getting you to heaven. You're not trusting Him with your life here on earth. Trusting Him with your life here is a separate decision from trusting Him with your eternal destiny. Salvation is reliance on His work alone. Trusting Him to live through you is a decision which is to be made after you're saved. And if you do have faith or trust in Him in this regard, then your life will show it because believing in Christ to live through you requires work, faith AND work.


DOESN'T A PERSON'S LIFE AUTOMATICALLY CHANGE?

Many use Second Corinthians 5:17 to prove that a person's life will automatically change after he trusts Christ. This verse says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:" (literally, `there is a new creation') "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

Please note that it doesn't mention anything about a gradual change but dogmatically states that "all things are become new." It is not speaking of a transformation, but of a new creation, the bringing in of a new thing, not the change of the old. Furthermore, for everyone who is in the new creation, the old has passed away - there can be no return to it.

Also, the very next verse says, "And all things are of God Who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ." So when he speaks of being a "new creature," he isn't speaking about the condition of a believer's life, but rather of his new position.

Every man is part of the old creation by physical birth. Scripture describes every unbeliever as spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). Upon believing the Gospel, an individual is born into God's family and thus becomes part of the new creation.

By very nature the things that do constitute "all things" referred to in this passage are of necessity the work of God. What person could take himself out of the power of darkness and place himself into the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13)? Who could make himself a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)? Who could produce the new birth (John 1:13) and place within himself the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:12,13)?

Another proof that Second Corinthians 5:17 isn't speaking of a changed life is the phrase "in Christ." Second Corinthians 5:21 says, "For He has made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." In other words, the way to have eternal life is not found in what we do ourselves, which amounts to self-righteousness, but rather in having a perfect righteousness given to us when we trust Christ as our Savior. Now when God looks at me as far as salvation goes, He no longer sees me in my fallen condition, but rather, He sees what Christ did for me (placed me in a new position); so from that viewpoint, all things are become new.

The fact that this verse is ever used to show a person's life changes is ironic because it just so happens that it was written to the worst group of believers addressed in the New Testament. Just to mention a few of the things they were guilty of, one of them was committing incest and the rest were condoning it (First Corinthians 5:1-5); some were getting drunk at the Lord's Supper (First Corinthians 11:20-32); there was division and strife among them (First Corinthians 3:3,4); and they were falling for false teachers (Second Corinthians 11:4). So this clearly shows that this verse couldn't possibly be referring to a person's life changing.

In contrast with the teachings of the changed life, the Bible teaches that for those who decide to serve the Lord, the battle has just begun. The old nature is in rebellion against God's will and doesn't want to submit to Him (Romans 8:7); it is in warfare against the new nature (Galatians 5:16). The believer though, who consistently yields to his new nature is promised that the Holy Spirit will produce these characteristics in his life: "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith" (literally, `faithfulness'), "meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22,23).

Just as there are laws in the physical universe, there are also spiritual laws, one namely, "Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). A believer has the choice of yielding to his old nature and reaping God's chastening (Hebrews 12:6), or yielding to his new nature and reaping God's blessings (James 1:25).

The people who preach that your life changes when you believe are in essence saying that the Holy Spirit automatically takes control without your having to yield to Him. If that were the case, then why are believers commanded to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)? And why does the Bible make a distinction between a carnal and a spiritual believer?

The Apostle Paul, when addressing the Corinthians who had been believers for about five years, wrote, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ... For you are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are you not carnal?" This is found in First Corinthians 3:1-3. Paul looked at these believers' lives and saw the results of their being controlled by the old nature (envy, strife, division). He didn't ask them to question their salvation, nor did he question their salvation (he still called them brothers), but rather told them they were carnal believers. He didn't tell them that a Christian couldn't do those things, for he knew only too well that when a person becomes a Christian, his old nature isn't eradicated or in any way changed.

In Romans 7:19, Paul told of the battle he found true in his own life when he attempted to live the Christian life in his own strength. "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." Think of it, one of the greatest believers of all time was fighting to do the right things that he himself didn't want to do and he was fighting not to do wrong things that he wanted to do.

What the Apostle Paul did tell these believers though, is that there are godly incentives to live a godly life. One of these is found in First Corinthians 3:8, "... every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." This is the same encouragement Christ gave to His children when He told them, "... lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:20).

Let's look at the passage where Paul describes the judgment for a Christian's works. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw: every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (First Corinthians 3:11-15).

Paul compares the believer's life to a building which is being erected on the foundation of Jesus Christ, Himself. Only those works done for Christ, which are compared to gold, silver, and precious stones, will be rewarded. Works not done for Christ amount to wood, hay and straw and will result in a loss of rewards for the believer. This passage says very clearly that after some people became believers, they did absolutely nothing for the Lord. They are just as much saved as the ones who did something for Christ; the difference however will be in the rewards they receive.


HOW DOES A PERSON EXPERIENCE A CHANGED LIFE?

God's will for all His children is that they experience a changed life. Jesus explained how this was possible. It says in John 8:31,32, "Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed on Him, If you continue in My Word, then are you My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." The Lord was speaking of making them free from being slaves to sin, which is referred to in verse 34.

Everyone is born with a fallen human nature inherited from our foreparent Adam (Romans 5:12,19). When a person is born into God's family, he receives a new nature, which is the Holy Spirit, Himself, indwelling that person (First Corinthians 6:19,20).

Just as the old nature is the source of our sinful inclinations, now any source of righteousness will spring from the Holy Spirit. At any given moment, the believer is either controlled by his old or new nature. The believer determines which by yielding to one or the other.

Romans 6:13,16 state, "Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God ... Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey." If you are habitually yielding to your old nature, you are a slave to that nature and are termed a carnal believer. However, if you are habitually yielding to your new nature, you are God's servant and are called a spiritual believer.

And what exactly does it mean to yield? If you were to tell your son to mow the lawn and he were to reply, "Dad, I'm yielding to you right now; I have the proper mental attitude," however, he doesn't mow the lawn, is he yielded? Of course not. Christ commanded all believers, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). You aren't yielding until you are obeying that command.

CAN A CHRISTIAN BE IDENTIFIED BY HIS WORKS?

There is a major distinction drawn in the Word of God between what a person has to do to become a child of God and what a person has to do to be an obedient child of God.

One is attained through faith in what Jesus Christ already accomplished 2,000 years ago and the other is attained through faith in what Jesus Christ is doing currently, coupled with works performed by the believer. Failure to separate the two has resulted in needless confusion and a message that will not save a person from going to hell.

One becomes a child of God by faith and one becomes a disciple, or an obedient believer, by faith and works. The way I can know a person is a believer is by his words, not his works; but the way I know a person is a disciple is by his works, not his words. And those who think that you can tell whether a person is a Christian or not by his life often quote the Scripture, "You shall know them by their fruits."

But of whom was Christ speaking when He said, "You shall know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16)? Verse 15 explains, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them" (false prophets) "by their fruits."

Christ was telling them how to determine whether a person was a false prophet or not. Please note that you wouldn't be able to tell they were wolves by looking at them; they were disguised as sheep. Let's read on.

"A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them" (Matthew 7:18-20).

We can know that these fruits cannot be good works because, continuing in Matthew, Christ said, "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name? And in Your Name have cast out devils? And in Your Name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them I never knew you: depart from Me, you who WORK iniquity" (Matthew 7:22,23). Christ was foretelling of a day in which many erroneously will think they will be spending eternity with Him on the basis of their works. So obviously the fruit is not good works. Christ said, in verse 21, "Not everyone who says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven."

And what is God's will for the unbeliever? Jesus said, "And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40). So the reason these people were told to depart is because they thought they were going to spend eternity with God because of what they did; they had never believed on the Son for eternal life.

So how can we identify a false prophet? What exactly is the fruit? Christ, Himself, explained, in Matthew 12:33-37, "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned."

Thus I can determine whether a person is a false prophet by his message, not his deeds. In fact, if the way a person lived determined whether he were a Christian or not, then the religious leaders who rejected Christ would be considered Christians.

Christ Himself said of the scribes and Pharisees, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appears righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matthew 23:27,28).

Thus, I repeat, the way I know a person is a Christian is by his words. If a person tells me that he thinks he has to be good to go to heaven, then I know by his words that he is not depending on Jesus Christ to get him there. And the way I can identify a disciple is by his works.

ISN'T THE CHRISTIAN LIFE A WALK OF FAITH?

Trusting Christ as Savior is a one-time act in which you are trusting Him with your eternal destiny. It can never be repeated. Just as you were once physically born into this world, a person is once spiritually born into God's family when he trusts Christ as his Savior. This is what Scripture defines as being "born again" (John 1:12,13; 3:3).

Now as a child of God, you are told to walk by faith (Colossians 2:6). And walking by faith is simply trusting Jesus Christ to live His life through you day by day. As Galatians 2:20 states, "I am" (literally, `I have been') "crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

And how do I know if I am walking by faith? Simple. Faith in the Christian life will always be accompanied by works. James 2:18 explains, "Yea, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

When you talk about walking by faith and say that this walk is other than a life of good works, then you are the individual to whom the phrase "faith without works is dead" is addressed.

A parallel can be drawn with Christ's words when He said, "If a man loves Me, he will keep My words ... He that loves Me not does not keep My sayings" (John 14:23,24).

Thus Jesus Christ, Himself, said the criterion for knowing whether a man loves Him or not is his works, not his words. A person can talk about how much he loves Him, yet if he isn't keeping His commandments, does He love Christ? So if a man were to say he has faith, yet he doesn't have works, does he have faith? No, because faith without works is dead.

But can a person have faith in Christ to save him and not have faith in his Christian life?
Yes, because faith in the Christian life produces works, which result in rewards, but we have already read where some believers will have no rewards in heaven. First Corinthians 3:15 says, "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." This verse clearly teaches that there will be believers in heaven with no rewards. And again, the only way that could happen is if a person did no work for Christ. First Corinthians 3:8 says, "... every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." Thus these particular people did have faith in Christ to save them, but they never had faith in their Christian life. They were saved by faith, but they never walked by faith.

And what works are involved in this walk of faith? The four basic ones are:

1) Sharing the Gospel (Matthew 4:19, 2 Corinthians 5:20 )
2) Studying the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Peter 2:2 )
3) Praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17);
4) Meeting with other believers (Hebrews 10:25).

Every person who trusts Christ as his Savior is born into God's family a spiritual baby. God's will for His children is that they grow to be spiritually mature Christians. Just as you must eat properly and exercise to be physically fit, so in order to be spiritually fit, you must study the Bible (which is likened unto food) and put into practice the things you learn from the Bible (which is exercising spiritually).

One of the distinguishing characteristics separating spiritual babes from the spiritually mature is Bible knowledge. A lack of knowledge on the part of believers is responsible for much confusion concerning doctrine. Instead of comparing Scripture with Scripture, they begin comparing teacher with teacher and by so doing, leave themselves open for every kind of false teaching. The Apostle Paul admonished concerning this very thing when he said, "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Ephesians 4:14).

And when it comes to the doctrine of salvation, the Scriptures teach that faith and works can't be mixed. It says in Romans 11:6, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace."

But some might object saying, "Doesn't James chapter 2 teach that faith without works is dead?"
Yes, but this has absolutely nothing to do with salvation; it has to do with discipleship.

James 2 is probably one of the most misused and misunderstood chapters in the Bible. It is used by some people to teach that faith in Christ alone will not save you. Others teach that if your life doesn't change when you trust Christ, it is evidence that you really didn't believe, (which is like putting salvation on the level of a small pox vaccination that perhaps won't take). Both of these ideas have led to a warped view of the Scriptures.

As for people who use this passage to support the idea that faith alone won't save a person, let me explain. Heaven is either a gift or a reward; either it is determined by what we do or we have absolutely no part in it. Romans 4:5 states, "But to him that does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." As previously quoted, the Apostle Paul said, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace." That's like saying, "If heaven is a gift, then it is not a reward: otherwise a gift is not a gift." And for a person to say that faith without works is dead with reference to salvation is for him to say a free gift is a reward, which it can't be.

WHY DOES JAMES SAY, "FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD?"

The epistle of James was written to a group of people who were already children of God. James addressed them as brethren. In James 1:22,25, he went on to say to them, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves ... But whoso looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed" (not saved) "in his deed."

Good works don't have any part in making you a child of God, but they certainly determine whether you are an obedient child of God or not. Obedience results in God's blessings in a person's life, whereas, disobedience results in God's chastening. It is not the person who knows God's will that God is going to bless, but rather the one who does His will.

The believers whom James was addressing were guilty of showing favoritism to the rich people who came to their assembly. They claimed to be loving their neighbors as themselves, but in actuality they were hypocrites. They were treating people differently because they didn't have money or dress well (James 2:1-11). So James admonishes them, "So speak, and so do, as they that shall be judged" (literally, `as they who are about to be judged') "by the law of liberty ... What does is profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and has not works? Can faith save him?" (James 2:12,14).

The Greek construction of the question, "can faith save Him?" requires a negative answer; therefore, the reply is, "no, faith alone cannot save him."

Now according to Ephesians 2:8,9, in order to be saved, a person must have faith and no works; yet according to James 2:14, a person can't be saved without works. Some people have tried to explain this away by saying that the faith that saves produces works; however, James didn't say faith produces works; he said faith alone can't save.

JAMES WAS WARNING OF IMPENDING DISCIPLINE

The problem is quickly solved when you realize that the word "saved" isn't always used in reference to salvation from hell. In James 5:15 he uses it in reference to being saved from physical death, and in James 2:14 he uses it in reference to being saved from God's discipline.

James was warning of impending discipline the Lord was going to bring into these Christians' lives. It is not the believer who talks the good talk who avoids God's discipline; it is the believer who lives the good life.

These believers talked about love but were not practicing it. James 2:15-17 explain, "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit? Even so faith, it if has not works, is dead, being alone."

Words alone could not supply the needy believers with food and clothing. Telling someone who is cold and hungry to be warmed and filled is to do absolutely nothing for that person. To be of profit, those words must be accompanied by works. They were to supply food and clothing for those in need, not just talk, because, "faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone."

These believers apparently claimed to have faith, but without works, that sort of faith could not save them from God's judgment in their lives. That's why James said, "So speak, and so DO, as they that shall be judged" (literally, `are about to be judged') "by the law of liberty" (James 2:12).

Now since James was addressing believers, he was not talking about their receiving judgment in hell. For the believer there is no such thing as coming into judgment as far as one's eternal destiny is concerned. Christ said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he who hears My word, and believes on Him who sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation;" (literally, `judgment') "but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).

James makes it abundantly clear that he is speaking of faith in the Christian life, and faith in the Christian life will always manifest itself in works. A parallel passage can be found in First John 3:17,18, "But whoso has this world's goods, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." If I say I love fellow believers, yet when they are in need I don't help them out, then in truth, I don't love them.

BUT EVEN THE DEMONS BELIEVE AND THEY TREMBLE

Many times those who think that one must submit to the Lordship of Christ in order to be saved will support their view by the passage in James which says the demons believe and tremble.

James wrote, "You believe that there is one God; you do well: the demons also believe, and tremble. But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:19,20).

People who use these verses to teach that it is not enough just to believe in Christ for salvation don't realize what they are saying.

First of all, there is a big difference between believing in Christ and believing that there is one God. Believing that there is one God is not going to save anyone - even the Jews who rejected Christ believed that.

Second, why would James use demons as an example of saving faith when there is no hope of demons being saved anyway. The Scriptures teach that since Christ didn't die for angels (Hebrews 2:16).

So James is not using the demons to prove that you have to do more than just believe in Christ to save you from hell. James was using satire to reprimand these disobedient believers. To paraphrase, he is saying, "Big deal if you believe in God, so do the demons. You can talk all you want about faith, but without works all your so-called faith is dead."

James continues by using Abraham as an example. Verse 21 states, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac, his son, upon the altar?"

Now in Romans 4:3-5, Paul uses Abraham as an example of a man who was justified by faith alone, apart from any works. "For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him Who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

It sounds like a contradiction between Paul and James, but in reality, they are speaking of two different events in Abraham's life. Paul, in the book of Romans, deals with the faith Abraham had which resulted in his salvation and James deals with the faith Abraham had which resulted in his friendship with the Lord. It was by faith alone that Abraham became a child of God, but it was by his faith and works that he became a friend of God. It is important to realize that there are more than thirty years between the two occurrences referred to by Paul and James.

Notice at what time in Abraham's life he was justified by works. James 2:21 says, "when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar." God had already promised Abraham that the Messiah was going to come through the line of his son Isaac. Isaac was unmarried at the time, and Abraham knew he would yet have to marry and have a child in order for God's promise to be fulfilled. When Abraham was commanded by the Lord to offer Isaac as a burnt offering, he knew God wouldn't break His promise and he trusted God to raise Isaac from the dead.

And where did I get that? Hebrews 11:17-19 explain, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall your seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure."

When God told Abraham to go and offer his son as a burnt offering, Abraham could have replied, "Now Lord, I know You've already promised to have the Messiah come through Isaac and I know You can raise him up from the dead, but there is no way I'm going to take his life." Abraham could talk all he wanted about faith but the proof that he really did have faith was his works. Without the works, there is no faith. However, Abraham truly did have faith that the Lord would do what He promised as was proven by his obedience and Abraham "was called the friend of God" (James 2:23).

Once a person is a child of God, he is always God's child regardless of what he does (John 6:37). However, a person is not God's friend unless he is doing the things God commands. Jesus Christ said, "You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14).

Being God's friend is synonymous with what the Bible terms "fellowship." The word "fellowship" means "partnership" and conveys the idea of having things in common with another individual. Thus, a believer who claims to be having fellowship with the Lord and is living a life of sin obviously is not having fellowship. He will come under the chastening hand of God, but nonetheless, he is still on his way to heaven.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN?

With this distinction in mind, some verses in the Epistle of First John touching on the same subject become clear. The First Epistle of John was written combating a false teaching called "Gnosticism." The "Gnostics," as they were called, were a group of people who claimed to have a special relationship with the Lord and yet they believed it didn't matter how a person lived. The word "Gnostic" comes from the Greek word "gnosis" which means "to know by experience." Nine times the Apostle John presents tests for knowing whether a person is in fellowship and he uses the verb "ginosko" from which the Gnostics got their name. John made it abundantly clear that the way a person lives has everything to do with knowing the Lord as a Friend.

Now the word "ginosko" is not to be confused with another word also translated "to know" in First John and that is the word "oida." The word "oida" is not speaking of an experiential knowledge, but rather of knowing something as a fact. For instance, First John 5:13 explains that those who believe in Christ can know as a fact that they have eternal life. To further illustrate, think of the relationship between a father and a son. The son knows as a fact that he is his father's son, but if asked if he were his father's friend, his answer would be based on his past and present experiences with him.

With this distinction in mind, let's look at First John 2:4 where the word "ginosko" (meaning, "know by experience") is used. "He who says, I know Him and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in Him." Thus, he is not speaking here of knowing Christ as Savior but rather of knowing Him as Friend. And he makes it clear that knowing Christ as a Friend is based on the way a person lives.

Another word which is helpful to know in distinguishing between salvation and fellowship is the word "abide," which is the Greek word "meno." It literally means, "to abide, to remain in a close and settled union." It is used often of persons abiding in a home and implies friendship and communion.

With this understanding, let's look at First John 2:6, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked." So again, John is saying that knowing the Lord as Friend, abiding in Him, has to do with the way we live.

Sadly enough, what was intended by the Apostle John to let a person know if he were in fellowship with the Lord or not has been misused by some as being the proof of one's salvation. This has resulted in needless despair for many and in false assurance for others. We are not to determine whether we're saved by the experiences in our lives; we're to base it upon the never changing Word of God. Christ said, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

IN CONCLUSION

Paul wrote that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for every person who believes it (Romans 1:16). Picture, if you will, a circle representing the Gospel. Anything outside of the circle comes under the category of human effort. The further the person is from the circle, the clearer he sees the issue - God's grace versus his works. The closer he gets to the truth, however, the harder it is to see. How much better to be far away and realize how lost you are. About ninety-nine percent of these people, when asked if they think they're going to heaven, reply "I hope so," because they believe heaven is determined by the way they live their lives.

The Name "Jesus" means "God our Savior." If you place your faith in Him alone you can know as a fact you possess eternal life. You can have Scriptural assurance of your salvation!

"These things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life." (First John 5:13)