New Age Deism III: Manuscript Preservation

“Ac 17:11, 12 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”

The apostle Paul had just spent three fruitful weeks in Thessalonica. Although many of the Thessalonians had believed, as evidenced by the later “Epistles to the Thessalonians,” the unbelieving Jews created such an uproar in the city that Paul was forced to flee for his life to the nearby city of Berea. In verse 11 we find Paul in the synagogue at Berea preaching to the Jews there.

When we read this passage, we might picture in our mind the apostle Paul preaching from a pulpit while the congregation busily flip through their leather bound Bibles. Such was not the case. Searching thru the manuscripts of the synagogue would have been a laborious task. Very few, if any, households owned personal manuscripts they could leisurely search through at home. A skilled scribe would labor from nine months to a year to produce a single copy of the 39 books of the Old Testament, making them too expensive for the average Jew to own.

There are 3 basic facts about bible manuscript transmission we need to keep in mind as we consider the preservation of God’s Word.

(1) They were given by God, through inspiration, to and for His people, not to the world at large.

Rom. 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew? … 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”

2 Tim. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”

(2)The Jews, primarily through the Levitical priesthood, were the custodians of the Old Testament Scriptures (Deuteronomy 31:9-13, 2 Chronicles 35:3). The primary purpose of the Old Testament was to teach the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the requirements of God in Worship and Service, and to point to Jesus, the coming Messiah and His future Kingdom. As evidenced by the text of Acts 17, the Jews considered the Scriptures to be the all authoritative Word of God by which they tested any teaching that might be contrary to Scripture.

In 2 Kings 22 we learn that the Old Testament manuscripts were lost or destroyed in the idolatrous culture of Judah during the 55 year reign of King Manasseh, however, the Word of the Lord had been preserved in the Temple, by God’s providence . The discovery of it and its effect on the kingdom of Judah is recorded in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 33-34.

Jeremiah the prophet of Judah during that time tells us in Jeremiah 11 just how pervasive idolatry had become during the reign of Manasseh and in Jeremiah 19 he pronounces God‘s judgment on Judea and Jerusalem as a result.

“Jer 11:13 For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal.”

“Jer 19:3 Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle.”

Near the end of his reign, Manasseh was captured by the Assyrians and taken to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11). Although, Manasseh repented and was returned to the throne in Jerusalem, it seems to have been too little, too late. While Manasseh removed the idol he had placed in the Temple, broken down the heathen alters and commanded the people of Judah “to serve the Lord God of Israel,” the people continued their sacrifices in the “high places” as before,

2Ch 33:17 Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, [yet] unto the LORD their God only.”

When Manasseh died, his son Amon became king in his stead. Amon served two years and then was assassinated by his servants. The people were so angered by the assassination of Amon, they killed the assassins and chose Amon’s eight-year old son Josiah as their king. Evidently, they approved of the idolatry and licentiousness that prevailed under the rule of Manasseh and Amon and assumed it would continue under Josiah, but God had other plans.

2Ch 34:3 For in the eighth year of his (Josiah‘s) reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images.

After purging Judah and Jerusalem of the idolatry of his fathers, Josiah sought to repair the Temple, which had deteriorated during the reign of the former kings. During the process of renovation, ordered by Josiah, the high priest Hilkiah found a copy of the Book of the Law and sent it to king Josiah (2 Kings 22:8-11, 2 Chr. 34).

“2Ch 34:14 And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the LORD given by Moses.”

We are not told exactly what the book was that Hilkiah found. It could have been all the Old Testament Scripture written up to that time, or it could have been just the five books of Moses. Some “modern critics” have speculated that it was only the book of Deuteronomy written by a scribe during or shortly before the reign of Josiah. It could also have been the book of the law commanded by Moses to be placed in the side of the ark in Deutefonomy 31.

“De 31:9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel.”

“De 31:26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.”

Or, it could have been the “master copy” of the law kept in the Temple for use by the scribes in reproducing copies for the Levites whose job it was to teach the law to all the inhabitants of Judah.

“2Ch 17:7-9 Also in the third year of his (Jehoshphat‘s) reign he sent to his princes, to teach in the cities of Judah … And with them he sent Levites, priests…and they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the LORD with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.”

Whatever it was, it was immediately recognized and accepted as the Word of God. And, it is an excellent example of God’s preservation of His Word through acts of His providence. As more scripture was written by the inspired prophets and historians they were added to the collection of Temple manuscripts to be copied by the scribes. This process continued until the last of the minor prophets, MalachI, was written near the end of the fourth century B.C. completing the canon of Old Testament Scripture.

The scribe was a highly respected and influential office requiring both skill and talent. Scribes were motivated by the certain knowledge that they were copying the very Words of God. To minimize the possibility of human error, manuscripts were written in columns with a uniform number of lines. The characters in each line were counted and recorded in the margin. And, they were subject to peer review. When a copy was finished, other scribes checked each scroll for errors; the final check was then made by a priest. Manuscripts that were less than perfect were destroyed and had to be copied over again. Only those manuscripts that had survived the scrutiny of scribal editors and priests were put into use by the Levites.

During the captivity the Temple at Jerusalem was no longer available to the Jews for worship, and the use of synagogues for teaching the Word of God, prayer and worship was instituted, and continues to this day. (Animal sacrifices were only allowed in the Jerusalem Temple by Mosaic law). Copies of the manuscripts making up the Old Testament canon became the “Textus Receptus” of Judaism, received by all the synagogues as the Word of God.

These manuscripts were collected, collated and compiled by a group of scribes and Torah scholars known as the Masaretes in the seventh century A.D. This text, known as the Masoretic Text, became the source text for virtually all translations of the Hebrew Old Testament into other languages, including the English language Bibles of Today. For the most part, it seems to have escaped the ravages of modern critics except for the most rabid anti-scripture fanatics.

New Testament Manuscripts

(3) Just as the Levitical priesthood was the custodian and conservers of the Old Testament Scriptures, the apostolic churches were the custodians and conservers of the New Testament Scriptures.

“Joh 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

“Joh 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

“Joh 17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”

“1Ti 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

Within a few years after the death of the apostles, there were thousands of manuscripts circulating among the churches. However, not all of the manuscripts written by the apostles were considered inspired by God and received by the churches. For example, in the epistle to the church at Colosse, Paul mentions an epistle to the church at Laodicea.

“Col 4:16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.”

For some reason, known only to God, the epistle to Laodicea, mentioned here by Paul, was not preserved and circulated among the other churches so as to become a part of the New Testament canon. The method of preservation and transmission of the New Testament seem to be as follows: The inspired writer created a manuscript and submitted it to a particular church. That church’s scribe or scribes would then make copies and send to other churches. If a small church did not have a skilled scribe, they would conceivably make a copy which they would keep and send the original to another church that did have scribes for professional copying.

If, indeed, this was the process of transmission, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John would probably have been submitted to the Church at Jerusalem; the Gospel of Luke as well as the book of Acts would have been submitted to the church at Antioch since that was the “home base” of Paul and Luke. Hebrews, Jude, James and the epistles of Peter and John were probably submitted to the church at Jerusalem. The Pauline epistles along with Philemon, Colossians and the other recipients of Paul’s epistles would almost certainly have found their way to Antioch for copying. An exception to this list might be the book of Revelation which logically would have been sent to Ephesus since it was both the church of John at that time, and the first church mentioned by Jesus in the book.

After the persecution that arose in Jerusalem and the martyrdom of Stephen, the center of Christianity shifted from Jerusalem to Antioch. Antioch also became a major copying center for the manuscripts received by the early churches. In fact, Antioch was the source of so many manuscripts that an entire “text family” is referred to by modern critics as “Antiochian type” manuscripts. These make up the greater part of the “majority manuscripts” also known as the “received text.” The term “Textus Receptus” (English: received text) simply means the texts that were received as the Word of God by a consensus of all the early churches.

In considering these manuscripts we must keep in mind that the earliest churches of the apostolic age were autonomous, individual churches whose only authority was Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and the Old Testament Scriptures. There were no denominations, formal associations, or organizations of churches with the authority to direct the policies and actions of individual churches. The heresy of the Nicolaitans (Hierarchical church government), referred to by Christ in the second chapter of Revelations, would not come into full bloom until the second and third centuries. (more on this in a later article).

As manuscripts were copied and distributed by the Christian Scribes, after being checked by other scribes and elders in the copying church, they would be again scrutinized by the receiving church. Manuscripts that were found to have errors or other corruptions were either destroyed or set aside not to be used or passed along to other churches. These “defective” manuscripts would account for a large percentage of the “minority manuscripts” that would eventually become a part of the “critical text” used in modern translations.

All Bibles in other languages were translated from either the “Majority” or the “Alexandrian” texts until 382 A.D. when Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus I to translate a new Latin Bible to replace The Vetus Latina (“Old Latin”). The Vetus Latina was a collection of manuscripts used by the non-Greek speaking churches of the Roman Empire. These were translated into Latin during the mid-second century from the Greek “majority” or “Antiochian text” in use by all the Greek-speaking churches and became the preferred “Bible“ of churches speaking only the Latin language.

Jerome’s translation, produced from a mixture of Alexandrian and Antiochian texts, came to be known as “The Vulgate” but did not become popular among the Latin speaking churches until Latin became a “dead language” used only by the elites and intellectuals some 900 years later. It was formally declared to be the “official” Bible of the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent (1545-63 A.D.) The Vetus Latina continued to be the popular version used by most Latin-speaking churches, especially the churches that refused to bow to the church of Rome, such as the Waldenses and other non-conformist groups until well into the middle ages. It may even have been the Latin version used by Wycliffe to translate the first English New Testament.

Another important translation compiled in the middle of the second century was the Syrian version known as the Peshitta. This version is written in Syriac, a regional dialect of the Aramaic language. Like everything else in Bible history, the origin and transmission of the Peshitta has been so scrambled by “critical scholarship” that it is difficult to state with any certainty it’s origins and transmission prior to the sixth century. For example, the Assyrian Church of the East, backed by many modern Syriac scholars, claims that the original New Testament manuscripts were first written in Aramaic and translated into Greek at Edessa.

Among western churches the “scholars” dominant belief is that the Peshitta was translated at Antioch from the Koine Greek spoken by the common people of the first century, the original language of the New Testament. It was translated between 150-175 A.D. and considered by most Syriac scholars to be “the queen of translations”. The early Peshitta contained only the four Gospels, Acts, and the Pauline epistles. Second Peter, Second and Third John, Jude and the Acocalypse were missing, as were all of the “catholic epistles”. These were incorporated into the Syriac canon much later, possibly as late as the 5th to 7th centuries.

Like most Bibles, the Peshitta, still used today by the Eastern churches, has been revised many times. However, there is little doubt that the original Peshitta was translated from the received, or majority text. The source for the additions and revisions is less certain. There is creditable evidence that both the Old Latin and the Old Aramaic Bibles, the Vulgate and the Peshitta, were translated by the scribes at Antioch between 150 and 170 A.D. Undoubtedly, there were other translations into other dialects and languages by individuals during the early centuries of the church age. Most of these would have been translated outside the “church” by false prophets and heretics of one type or another. Because of their obscurity and isolation, they are more likely to contain errors and deliberate attempts to obscure or change Bible doctrine. They also would be more likely to escape the attention of persecutors whose intent was to stamp our Christianity. No doubt, some of these would be the progenitors of some of the “minority texts”.

One of the axioms of Westcott and Hort, the fathers of modern textual criitcism, and their successors, is that the oldest manuscripts are to be considered as “closest to the original autographs“, therefore, most likely to be the more authentic “reading”. The “elephant in the room” overlooked by modern critics is the historical context of the churches from the first to the fourth century.

For over two-and-a-half centuries following the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, the new churches underwent a level of persecution not to be repeated until the dark ages. The first persecution was by the Jews beginning with the martydom of Stephen, one of the seven deacons. John foxe in his “Book of Martyrs” tells us that under this persecution more than 2,000 Christians were put to death. And then, there was the short persecution mentioned in Acts 12 by Herod Agrippa in which the Apostle James was killed.

“Ac 12:1-2 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.”

In 54 A.D. the psychopath Nero became empror at Rome. In 64 A.D. the city of Rome suffered a disastrous fire, destroying a major part of the city. Many citizens claimed Nero himself had started the fire to clear land for a palatial complex he planned to build. To deflect criticism from himself, Nero successfully convinced the people that the cause of the disaster was the Christians, setting off one of the cruelest persecutions imaginable. The persecution reached its peak in 67 A.D. Thousands of Christians perished, some were doused in flammable materials, and while still alive, placed on stakes and burned to provide light to Nero’s gardens. Both Peter and Paul were martyred during this persecution.

Nero committed suicide in 68 and was followed by Domitian, who in 81 A.D. set off another persecution of Christian. Christianity was outlawed, and a law was made that no Christian brought before the tribunal could escape punishment without first renouncing his faith. Anyone suspected of being a Christian was given a test oath. If they refused to take it they were sentenced to death. If they confessed to being a Christian they were also sentenced to death. It was during this period of persecution that the apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos and wrote the Book of Revelation.

The third persecution was instituted by Trajan in 108 A.D. and continued under his successor Hadrian. There were, between 67 A.D. and 313 A.D., when the Persecutions by Roman Emperors ended, a total of ten periods of persecution. In addition to the three already mentioned, there were: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (162 A.D.), Severus (192), Maximus (235), Decius (249), Valerian (257), Aurelia (274) and the last and most vicious of all, Diocletian (303).

Persecution was not uniform throughout the empire. For example, as vicious as the persecution under Nero was, it was primarily carried out only in the confines of Rome. Although the persecutions instituted by the emperors were intended to be throughout the empire, the severity of the persecutions seems to be dependent on how cruel the governors of the various provinces were. The two periods of persecution with the most bearing on our present subject were the one under Decius (249 A.D.) and Diocletian (303).

These two periods of persecution were directed toward the destruction of Scripture rather than the destruction of life. In fact, the lives of christians who surrendered their Scriptures were spared; the surrender of their Scriptures being considered sufficient repudiation of their Christian faith. This led to two schisms in the Nicolaitan churches, Novatianism and Donatism.

After a period of persecution ended, many Christians who had denounced their faith sought readmission to membership in the Churches. Following the rein of Decius, followers of Novatian, a Roman priest, opposed the election of Pope Cornelius, elected to replace Pope Fabian who had been martyred during the Decius persecutions. Novatian himself was martyred under the persecutions of Valerian between 257 and 260 A.D. His followers became a schismatic sect who opposed the the leniency of the churches in forgiving those who surrendered their Scruiptures to the heathens.

A similar group emerged in Northern Africa among the Berber Christians after the Diocletain persecutions. This group was known as Donatists, named after the Berber Christian Bishop Donatus Magnus. The Donatists were a major force in Africa until well into the fifth century.

The success of Decius and Diocletian in destroying Christian Scriptures is evidenced by the fact that of the 5,000+ majority manuscripts extant today, few, if any, are dated earlier than the fourth century. However, once the persections ended by the Edict of Milan signed by Emperors Constantine and Lininius in 313 A.D. decreeing religious tolerance to all religious groups throughout the Roman Empire, the churches quickly began to replenish the supply of Scriptures among the faithful Bible-believing churches.
The Antiochian-type manuscripts quickly became the Scriptures accepted and used by the Bible-believing churches once again. The Alexandrian-type manuscripts were mostly rejected or ignored by the churches . Hence, today the surviving Antiochican-type manuscripts are numbered in the thousands while the Alexandrian-type manuscripts are numbered in the hundreds.

Modern New Age Deist-critics are quick to point out minor variances among the Antiochichian-type manuscripts in order to “sell” the NA/UBS “Critical Texts” drawn mostly from Alexandrian-type manuscripts to an unsuspecting Christian public. The variances pointed out as “variant readings” and “textual errors” are usually differences in spelling, punctuation, word order, etc.

In order to better understand how insignificant these “variances” are, picture yourself strolling through the Great Smokey Mountain National Forests. You will see hundreds, maybe thousands, of Oak Trees. Not one of those Oak trees are “exactly” like any other. Yet no one, with any knowledge of trees has any trouble identifying the Oaks. They are easily identified by their general apperance, their leaves, and their fruit–acorns. As Jesus said “by their fruit, ye shall know them”.

If we apply this same test to our discussion of Bible texts, here is what we find: Bibles translated from Antochican-type texts bear fruits of revival, salvation, faith, and sound doctrine. The fruits born by Bibles translated from the “Alexandrian-type critical texts” are doubt, confusion, and liberal or “fuzzy” doctrine.

New Age Deism: Part Two

   God’s Providence or Inspiration?

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” –Ecc. 1:9

For over 400 years the “King James only” controversy has been a source of consternation among Christians. It should not be. Since Satan first said to eve, “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”, (Gen. 3:1) Satan has been untiring in his effort to create doubt in the minds of God’s people as to the reliability of His Word. Why should we be the exception?

The label “King James Only” was given to those Christians who believe the KJV to be the Word of God in the English language by the “any ole book’ll do” crowd. It’s not new. The KJV has been under attack throughout its 400 year history, in spite of the fact that it has been blessed by God more than any other version. Neither of these labels accurately reflect the views of those to whom they are applied.

The “any Bible” group believes that the true Word of God has been lost over the centuries, but that it can be recovered through the “science” of textual criticism. In the meanwhile, they are content to use whatever Bible version best suits their personal spiritual and intellectual preferences.

The “King James Only” group believes that the KJV is the Word of God in the English Language and reject other versions as unnecessary and counter productive to our faith, in that they imply the KJV cannot be trusted, is in error and needs to be corrected.

Users of the King James Bible are often asked, “Do you believe the King James Version is inspired by God?” An accurate answer to that question requires an understanding of the difference between the “providence of God” and “the Inspiration of God.”

Most of us believe that the original manuscrips from which the KJV was translated were inspired by God and are preserved by God’s providence. We believe further that the translation of those manuscripts into the English language was superintended by the Holy Spirit protecting it from error.

Inspiration is a one time communication between God and the inspired author who recorded God’s words. In inspiration, God deals with individuals directly so that each book of the Bible has a single author.

With Providence, God works “behind the scenes:” so to speak, using multitudes of people and events, often seemingly unrelated, to bring about His will. Providence can only be seen through the lens of hindsight. It is only through observing the workings of God in the events of history that we can clearly see His providence.  Both providence and inspiration are unmistakably taught in the Bible.

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Providence “Literally means foresight, but is generally used to denote God’s preserving and governing all things by means of second causes.” Although the word “providence” only appears once in the Bible (Acts 24:2), and that in a flattering remark by the orator Tortullus, at the arraignment  of Paul before Governor Felix; the evidence of God’s providence is found on almost every page of the historical books of the Bible.

The one that most readily comes to mind is the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, the most frequently referenced story in the Old Testament. The story begins in Genesis chapter 15, and continues through Exodus Chapter 14. If you haven’t read it lately, I suggest you do, noticing the “coincidences” that, had they not happened, God’s promises and prophecies to Abraham concerning his posterity could not have been fulfilled.

In Gen. 15:5 when Abraham was ninety-nine years old and yet childless, God made him a promise:

“And [God] brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” (Gen:15:5)…..

A few verses later God gives Abraham a prophesy concerning the fulfillment of that promise.

…“And [God] said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;  And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Gen. 15:13-16) (emphasis added)

Four generations later, God, through His providential processes, sets events into motion that would result in the literal fulfillment of this prophesy. God, who sees “the end” from the “beginning,” often speaks of prophesies as though they were already accomplished, as He does here. Although more than four hundred years would elapse in “our time” from when God begins to fulfill the prophesy until it is finished, God sees those years as one event.

The two main characters in the story of God’s deliverance of Israel are Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, and later, Moses. I am sure that Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and father of Joseph, had no idea of the chain of events he was setting in motion when he, in an act of fatherly concern, sent his young son Joseph to check on his older brothers who were in the fields tending the family’s sheep. One cannot read the story without marveling at the times the providence of God (we might call them coincidences) appear. For example, Jacob’s sending Joseph to the fields, his brother’s attempt to kill him, and the caravan of Ishmaelite merchants, who had perhaps been traveling for days or even months, and “just happened” to be passing by at exactly the right time for Joseph to be sold to them as a slave, thus preserving his life.

Arriving in Egypt, Joseph just happened to be sold to Potiphar, a Captain of the guard. Later when Joseph just happened to be alone in the house with Potiphar’s wife she tried to seduce him. As a result of Joseph’s refusal to yield to the temptation, he just happened to wind up in prison along with Pharaoh’s baker and butler, where God gave him the opportunity to interpreting two dream for them. Coincidently, both men had different dreams on the same night… and on the story goes. Space does not permit listing all of the “providentially-coincidental events” in Joseph’s life or in the life of Moses which followed some four hundred years later, but, I’m sure you get the picture.

Similar stories are found throughout the Old Testament, continuing in the New Testament and the life of Christ and the establishment of His church. The Old Testament canon ends with the book of Malachi. All the prophesies concerning the coming of the promised messiah had been written and God closes the curtain for four-hundred “silent” years. However, behind the curtain God was busily preparing the world for the coming of the Messiah and the building of His church.

Between 336 and 323 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered most of the Mediterranean world from Greece to India, spreading the Greek language and Culture throughout the civilized world of that time. Following Alexander, the Romans began expanding their empire, and by the time of Christ the Roman government ruled Europe and the Middle East. When God again raised the curtain of silence with the book of Matthew, the cultural “homogenization” brought about by the colonizing practices of both Greece and Rome; the adoption of the Greek language as a common language; and the political stability provided by the Roman government had created an ideal environment for the ministry of Christ and the Spread of His church during the first century A.D.

The same providence of God that preserved and guided the lives of Joseph and Moses created the linguistic and political environment that greeted the birth of Christ, making it possible to fulfill the promises to Abraham and the prophecies of  the Old Testament concerning Jesus. There is also ample evidence, both biblical and historical, that God also preserved His Word through the centuries following the close of the New Testament canon which ends with the Book of Revelations.

Indeed, it would be an unjust God who would judge mankind according to His Word, if that Word did not exist or was not always available for those who would seek it. Millions of people during the past four centuries have believed that the King James Bible is the infallible, complete, living Word of God, preserved and handed down from the apostles and prophets, and translated into our language under the providence of God.

In our next few articles we will endeavor, if God wills, to show how God has preserved his Word down through the Ages, so that each of us can have and hold in our hands, a book that we can confidently say, “This is the Word of God, obey it.”

To be continued…

New Age Deism

New Age Deism

“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (7) Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” –Psalm 12:6,7

Psalm 12:6,7 is one of the clearest and strongest statements in the Bible concerning the doctrine of Scripture preservation. This Psalm was written by King David about 1,000 B.C. Both Jews and Christians for the next 2,800 years considered this passage to be a promise from God to His people to preserve His words until the end of time. Today, very few English language Bibles carry the same wording, subject or meaning as in Verse 7. The above quote is from The King James Bible. The following are typical quotes from other versions.

New Living Translation: “Therefore, LORD, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation,”

English Standard Version: “You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever.”

New American Standard Bible: “You, O LORD, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever.”

International Standard Version: “You, LORD, will keep them safe, you will guard them from this generation forever.”

New International Version: “You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked,”

New International Readers Version: “Lord, you will keep needy people safe. You will always keep sinners from hurting us.”

In each of these instances the translator violates one of the fundamental principles of proper English grammar, Substantive words or phrases always refer to the nearest antecedent, in this case, the “pure words” of verse six. These examples can only be viewed as an attempt to obscure the eternality of God’s Word.

What Happened?

In the middle of the nineteenth century the “new science” of Textual Criticism began to be introduced into our bible colleges and universities. I refer to this new science as “New Age Deism” because of its similarity in thinking to the old “Deism” heresy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The new deists believe that God inspired (created) the Bible in the form of manuscripts written by men inspired by God. Like the deists of old, they believe that God completed His creative work, and then stepped aside, leaving its destiny to the ravages of time and the foibles of human nature.

The original manuscripts or scrolls on which God’s words were recorded were long ago worn out, destroyed during times of persecution, or otherwise lost to the progress of time. Today, there is not a single “original” in existence, and has not been for many centuries. We have only copies, of copies, of copies, etc., from which to ascertain the words and will of God.

Using extant (existing today) manuscript copies and fragments, from various sources, modern scholars attempt to reconstruct the original text of Scripture. Sorting out these manuscripts and fragments and determining which ones are authentic and which are spurious is a part of “textual criticism.” The end product of this process is referred to as “source text” and is used to translate the original language into the various versions of the Bible.

There are today, more than 200 versions of the English Bible sold by publishers around the world. As you can see from the six examples given at the beginning of this article, these versions do not always agree with each other, even though they are all translated from the same source text, with the exception of the King James version. The result is a confusing collection of Bibles with different wording and different messages concerning many of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. The variety of bible translations in our churches has caused, and is causing, major problems for churches everywhere.

The faith of many Christians in the trustworthiness of the Bible they are using for their bible study and personal devotions is undermined. Many become discouraged, believing they cannot understand the Word of God without a knowledge of the original languages. Church attendance continues to fall and many churches have closed their doors forever.

There are many spiritual and cultural reasons for the decline in church attendance and Christian living, but certainly, the “confusion of Bibles” is one of the major factors. Mankind needs rules to live by. The new deistic thinking prevalent today calls into question the existence of any dependable, objective standard by which to govern our lives and worship our God.

This New Age Deism has so infiltrated and influenced our bible colleges that very few pastoral and missionary students graduate and enter into the ministry without first being indoctrinated in this modern heresy. Since most born again Christians still believe in the infallibility of their Scriptures, this conflict of beliefs cause many pastors to become hypocrites in the pulpit. While they preach to their congregations that the Bible from which they preach is the infallible, inerrant, eternal Word of God they secretly believe in their hearts that no Bible on earth meets this high standard, including their own.

The three men most responsible for the plethora of Bible versions used among Christian churches today are Brook Foss Westcott (1825–1901), Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828–1892), and Eugene A. Nida (1914–2011). Neither of these three man give any reliable testimony of their conversion to Christianity or to having a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Westcott and Hort both seem to base their hope for eternity on their infant baptism and connection to the “church”. Nida’s testimony is that he “went forward” during his family church’s “alter call”, at the age of four, after which his proud mother constantly encouraged him to become a missionary, which he finally did.

Both Westcott and Hort questioned the inspiration of Scripture, denied the doctrine of infallibility, and believed the creation story in Genesis and many other biblically recorded events to be myths. Both were enamored with their contemporary, Charles Darwin and were confident that his theories would be proven right in the end. They also denied the doctrine of eternal punishment, and both were favorable to the Roman Catholic doctrines of purgatory, baptism, justification by works and other Catholic doctrines. Westcott was a devout socialist and postmillennialist, believing the “church” could create Heaven here on earth. Both he and Hort were caught up in the spiritualism fad of the late nineteenth century, becoming founding members of a club called the “Cock and Bull Club,” which they called the “Ghostly Guild.” Its purpose was for “the investigation of ghosts and all supernatural appearances and effects, being all (the participants) disposed to believe that such things really exist”…

In spite of all this, Westcott and Hort enjoyed some fifty years of being accepted by the churches of Europe and America as the foremost Bible Scholars of their time. In 1881 they published “The New Testament in the Original Greek” which was to become the standard text on which all modern English Bibles today are based . The WH text has been edited and revised many times by others, eventually developing into the latest version of the Greek New Testament, The Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies/ (NA/UBS) Greek text, now in its 27th edition. However, after all the editing and revisions applied to the text by other “Bible scholars” during the twentieth century, it still remains essentially the same text as the Westcott and Hort text of 1881.

Assuring bible publishers they will always have new editions and/or versions to publish, the United Bible Societies established the self-perpetuating “Committee on Bible Translations” (CBT) in 1965 to translate the New International Version, and to continue monitoring advances in bible scholarship and changes in the common language. The intent is to continue to edit and/or revise the UBS/NA texts to insure that bible versions using that text are kept up to date with the latest advances in “Bible scholarship.”

There are over 5,000 manuscripts in existence today, divided into two text “families:” the Majority Text and the Minority Text. More than 95% of the “Majority manuscripts” agree with the traditional text underlying all Christian Bibles published before 1881. These include, the Old Latin Bible, the Syrian Bible, the Tyndale Bible, the Great Bible, The Bishop’s Bible, The Geneva Bible, the King James Bible, Luther‘s German Bible, and others. These manuscripts are collectively known as The Majority Text, The Byzantine Text, The Antiochian Text, The Universal Text, The Received Text or the Textus Receptus.

The remaining texts, estimated by some scholars as less that 2% of the total number of extant manuscripts, are referred to as The Minority text and form the basis for the Greek New Testaments published after 1881, from the Westcott and Hort text to the very latest United Bible Society /Nestle-Aland text from which virtually all modern English Bibles are translated.

As “scholars” debate, argue, posture and otherwise confuse bible-reading and bible-believing Christians about manuscripts, one question is almost completely overlooked: What does the Bible teach about the inspiration and preservation of Scripture? Until we have satisfactorily answered this question, all the scholarly wisdom of college professors, Bible teachers, and Bible critics amount to nothing.

The word “manuscript” does not appear in the Bible. However the phrases, “Words of the Lord,” “Word of the Lord,” “Words of God,” and “Word of God,” are found 328 times in the Old and New Testaments. This number does not include the number of times the phrase “My Word(s)” and “Thy Word(s),” referring to God’s Word are used. It is the Words of the Bible that are inspired, not the manuscripts those words were recorded on.

There are hundreds of passages in the Bible that bear testimony to the authority, inspiration and preservation of Scripture, below are four of the best known examples from the New Testament.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16)

“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
(Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21,33)

Every quote in the New Testament of an Old Testament scripture bears witness to the writer’s belief in the preservation of God‘s Word. When Jesus says in Matt. 4:4 “it is written” he states his belief in the authority of a statement given by God and recorded by Moses some 1500 years before. And, he uses the present tense, is written,” and not the past tense, “was written.” The same is true in 2 Timothy 3:16 when Paul says, is given by inspiration of God,” not “was given.”

When Jesus says, every word,” in Matthew 4, or Paul says in 2 Timothy 3, all scripture,” they are both saying that Scripture is not just an inspired book, but, that every word in it, both collectively and individually, is inspired and authoritative. Also notice in Matthew 5:18 when Christ says, “My words shall not pass away!” He does not say, “My thoughts shall not pass away,” “My doctrine shall not pass away,” or “My teaching shall not pass away,” but, “MY WORDS shall not pass away.” Again, it is the words that are inspired, no more and no less. Once God has spoken, His words are eternal. “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psalms 119:89) This fact destroys the entire foundation on which New Age Deism is based. We do not need the Word of God restored. We already have it. We have always had it. We will always have it. We just need to believe it, and to obey it.

This brings us to a discussion of Eugene A. Nida mentioned above. Nida began his career in 1954 as a linguist for the American Bible Society, a member society of the United Bible Societies, . He quickly moved up to the position of Secretary for Translations. A dedicated ecumenicist, Nida was a major figure in the joint effort between the Vatican and the United Bible Societies (UBS) to produce cross-denominational Bibles in translations across the globe. The New International Version (NIV) is the crowning achievement of this effort in the English Language.

Nida is best known for his development in the use of “dynamic equivalent” translation, later changed to “functional equivalent”. Both of these expressions are usually described as “thought-to-thought” or “sense-to-sense” translations. Both are essentially very bad paraphrases which Noah Webster defines as:

PAR’APHRASE, verb transitive To explain, interpret or translate with latitude; to unfold the sense of an author with more clearness and particularity than it is expressed in his own words. ~Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language

When you paraphrase the Word of God, you no longer have THE Word of God, you have the translator’s understanding of its meaning. Since it is the Holy Spirit that reveals the meaning of God’s Word to believers, a thought-to-thought translation is, at best, only the translator’s commentary on the words translated. A Bible version can rightly be called “The Word of God” only to the extent that it contains accurate word-to-word translations of the original Words of God. It is God’s words by which man will eventually be judged, not what we believe God meant or should have said.

The Church’s role in America’s Culture War

Introduction 
America is currently engaged in the longest Religious War since the Reformation, a war between Biblical Christianity and secular Humanism. Make no mistake about it; we are in the midst of a very grim war in which only one side can triumph, a war waged, not with bullets and bombs but with ideas and reason; A war that few Americans recognize and even fewer understand the serious consequences for the loser. The battlefields are our churches, our courts, our schools, our legislatures, and our political institutions. At stake are our Republic and the traditional American Culture left to us by our forefathers.

Although the struggle between good and evil began in the Garden of Eden, the religious war in America started in the latter part of the colonial period during the “Unitarian controversy”, the first major political assault in modern times was launched in the Presidential campaign of 1912 when four political parties vied for the office of President. All four nominated progressive (American Socialist) candidates, leaving the American people to select between the lesser of four evils. The party platforms on which the candidates ran were all slightly different, but all contained the most important planks of the then defunct Peoples Party; a graduated national income tax; the popular election of Senators, and protective tariffs, among other things.

Eugene Debs was nominated by the Socialist Party, Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt by the Progressive Party, Woodrow Wilson by the Democratic Party and incumbent President William Howard Taft by the Republican Party. Taft and Roosevelt split the Republican vote giving the Presidency to Woodrow Wilson. In 1913, the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments to the Constitution were ratified, paving the way for the Socialist’s primary goals of income redistribution and a consolidated national government. The Seventeenth Amendment providing for the popular election of Senators weakened the protection of the Tenth Amendment making the consolidation of national government all but certain. Since that time, successions of Progressive Presidents and Congresses have waged a relentless attack on the institutions of American Society.

It is only since the election of socialist Barack Obama and the rise of the patriot movement, known collectively as the Tea Party Movement, that many Americans have become aware of the battle raging around them and the possible devastating consequences of its outcome. However, of those who are now paying attention to what is going on, few recognize the real nature of the conflict. Most see it as a political struggle for control of government and the enemy as the socialists in the progressive Democrat party, when in reality it is a conflict between two worldviews for control of the American culture. The real enemy is the progressive religion of Humanism that has become the Official religion of government, political progressives and the Democrat Party, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12)

The identity of a nation is determined by the nature of its three primary components, its form of government, its economic system, and its common culture. In America, the form of government is drawn from the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence and codified in our Constitution. The Constitution contains the rules and limitations placed on the federal government, but deals only tangentially with the culture and the economy. American Socialists are determined to destroy all three components of American society and replace them with the institutions of socialism based on the progressive-socialist religion of Humanism. For the most part, they have been successful in shredding the Constitution and corrupting our culture and economic system without the American people fully understanding what is happening.

The American Culture

The American culture is built on the foundation of our Christian principles; not the denominational doctrines quibbled over among America’s nine hundred self-identified Christian denominations, but the principles set forth in the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible. Our Founders recognized the necessity of a religious foundation for our culture in order for the Constitution to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. John Adams, our second President, stated plainly that, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

George Washington reminded the American people of the importance of religious principles in connection with governance in his Farewell Address when he said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.”

“Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation deserts the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”(1796)

The wisdom of President Washington has become evident over the past few generations with the left’s determination to cast out the moral values on which our culture is built. Along with the efforts of American Socialists (progressives) to purge Christianity from our culture and replace it with the modern religion of Humanism, we have witnessed a steady decline in the moral foundations of our politics and economy as well.  We marvel at the equanimity of our elected officials as they look directly into the lens of the TV camera and lie to us with a sanguine belief that the American people will believe their fabricated assertions in spite of the evidence of experience and common sense; unfortunately too many of us do.

Our economic system rests on the centuries old principles of free market capitalism where individuals make their own economic decisions based on their perception as to what is in their own and their family’s best interest. The system worked fine in the days when “a man’s word was his bond”, and deals were sealed with a handshake. However, the corrupting influence of the continuous, incremental successes of American Socialism has replaced free market capitalism with an amoral, and often immoral, “crony capitalism” and is moving us ever closer to the centrally planned economy coveted by socialists the world over.

Both our political and economic well-being is dependent on the moral character of the culture that gave it birth. As Benjamin Franklin Observed on the final day of the Philadelphia Convention, “I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

As we continue to move further into the twenty-first century we have to make a national decision; we must decide which course we will follow. One leads to a return to liberty and prosperity, the other to poverty, misery and servitude to the state.  There can be no middle ground. We cannot compromise with an enemy whose objective is to destroy our way of life. It must be defeated. Have we, as Franklin mused, become so corrupt as a nation that we can only be ruled by despotism? Are we so lacking in character that we prefer the false security promised by American Socialism, or are we willing to take the risk proposed by a growing number of Patriots and battle for liberty, freedom and a return of the blessings of God, settling for nothing less?

Church And State

Of all the institutions in America that affect our culture, there are none more important than the Church. And yet, for the most part the modern Church has remained on the sidelines as our culture continues to decline and we move ever closer to a point of no return. In fact, many churches give “aid and comfort” to the enemy by embracing many of the Humanist religious doctrines espoused by progressives. There are many reasons why churches do not become publicly involved in the political and cultural controversies of the day. Perhaps the most prominent one is the doctrine of “separation of church and state”. 

It should be pointed out however, that this is neither a constitutional doctrine nor a Biblical doctrine. It is taken wholly from a metaphorical clause in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1801 in reply to a letter from the Danbury, Connecticut Baptist Association, seeking assurance that Jefferson, as President, would respect “freedom of conscience”. In his reply Jefferson writes, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

The first clause of the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” This clause actually establishes the independence of religion from the legislative and judicial powers of the federal government, not separation. It also prohibits the federal government from regulating or otherwise interfering with any form of worship or expression of religious faith, publicly or privately. Over time, this “first principle” of religious liberty has morphed into religious toleration only, applying mostly to Christianity. In practice, Christianity is heavily regulated by all levels of government today. Christian worship or expression is limited to places of worship, religious gatherings or among willing acquaintances. It is prohibited in virtually all public venues and events.

As Christianity is forced out of our public institutions by law and popular opinion, it has created a vacuum of faith that has been filled with the progressive religion of Humanism. Anthropogenic climate change, environmentalism, LGBT equality, internationalism, “reproductive rights” (abortion), multi-culturism, and sodomite marriage, are all Humanist religious doctrines supported and promoted by government through legislation, the courts and bureaucratic rule making. These same Humanist doctrines are taught in all our educational institutions and propagandized through the popular media.

Humanist religious doctrine is presented and defended as being based on “settled science”. It represents logical conclusions drawn from the acceptance of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution popularized at the turn of the twentieth century. Evolution is the accepted science of our day, but it is by no means “settled science”. Most people are surprised to learn that there are over a thousand scientists, every bit as credentialed as those who teach evolution, who oppose evolution theory. Creation science is a fairly new scientific discipline that has experienced rapid growth and increasing acceptance over the past two or three generations. The reader can type the term “creation science” into an internet search engine and find a plethora of scholarly websites, white papers, theses, articles, books and video presentations on the subjects of creation science.

Both the evolution scientists and the creation scientists are usually educated in the standard scientific disciplines of physics, anthropology, geology, astronomy, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, etc., but they often arrive at completely opposite conclusions from the same data. Beginning with a preconceived hypothesis that the theory of evolution explains the origin of all things, the evolution scientist concludes that, “the universe [is] self-existing and not created…that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as a result of a continuous process [of evolution]”. The creation scientist begins with a preconceived hypothesis that the Bible story of creation is the true explanation of the origin of the universe and all life, and he finds ample support for the faith-based belief that, “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is,” (Exodus 20:11)

Evolution Science and Creation Science generally agree on those things that can be studied and tested in the physical world using scientific methods. It is when Evolution Science leaves the world of science in the here and now and speculates about events before secularly recorded history that the diversity of opinion arises. All the confirmed findings of real science are consistent with claims of Creation Science that the universe and all its life forms could have come into existence as described in the creation story recorded in the Book of Genesis.

On the other hand, Evolution Science has a number of problems with both science and reason; matter evolving from nothing and life evolving from inanimate objects are two of the most obvious. According to evolutionism, in the beginning there was nothing. Over time, this “nothing” gathered itself into a highly charged ball of energy, possibly no larger than the period at the end of this sentence. At an unspecified point in time, billions of years ago, the ball of energy spontaneously exploded (the Big Bang), its fragments creating the universe. A tiny part of that exploding universe, Earth, just happened to end up at precisely the right location, and with just the right amount and types of resources to support life. A molecule of these resources eventually evolved into a living cell that grew, divided and multiplied, gradually evolving into all the living things on earth.

Evolution was presented by Charles Darwin in 1859 as a theory: “an idea of or belief about something arrived at through speculation or conjecture.” (Encarta), not a theorem: “a proposition or formula in mathematics or logic that is provable from a set of axioms and basic assumptions.” It was routinely referred to by writers of science textbooks as “Evolution Theory” until fairly recently.  It was not until sometime around the middle of the twentieth century that it started to be accepted by the academic science community as “settled science”. The speculative claims of Evolution Science about how the Universe, earth and mankind came into existence still have to be accepted by faith without objective scientific proof of their validity. For that reason, evolution should be considered as a religious doctrine not a system of scientific facts.

Of course, the same thing could be said of creationism; however Creation Science does not claim to prove the creation story. It only claims to show that proven scientific facts do not contradict any of the events or circumstances recorded in the Book of Genesis, possibly by eyewitnesses to those events, during man’s first 1700 years on earth. Christians readily admit to accepting the Biblical record on faith alone. While the findings of Creation Science may strengthen the Christian’s belief in the accuracy of the Biblical record, they are irrelevant to his faith.

The Bible And Politics

Christians often give as their reason for not being involved in the culture war politically as a belief that the New Testament teaches we should “suffer evil”, “turn the other cheek”, and “submit to all the laws of government”. Their usual authority for this is Matt. 5:39 “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” And, I Pet. 2: 13-14 “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” In the quote from Matthew, Jesus is warning against the very human desire for personal revenge and “getting even”. In I Peter, Peter is encouraging good citizenship as a testimony to the Gentiles.

At the time of Christ and the founding of the Church, Rome had consolidated its authority over the entire civilized world and was generally at peace. It had a pagan, idolatrous culture with many different religions and gods. Because of the many and varied religions practiced in Rome, for the most part, religious freedom was permitted and citizens could practice whatever religion they wished. The persecution of Jesus and the early Church came, not from the Roman Government, but from the Jewish religious leaders of that day. Due to the short period of history covered by the New Testament and the fact that whatever political strife that existed within the Roman Empire at the time did not substantially affect the ministry of Christ or the Church there is not a lot of guidance in the New Testament for the modern Christian to determine how we should deal with the apostasy and political animosity prevalent in America today. For answers we need to look to the Old Testament.

Some might object that the Old Testament does not apply to the Church and that we should seek answers only in the New Testament. However, in 2 Timothy 3:16 the Apostle Paul reminds the young preacher Timothy that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” At the time Paul wrote this, the New Testament was not complete and the New Testament canon had not been firmly established; Paul was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures.

There is certainly no shortage of Old Testament teachings and examples of God’s dealings with nations and governments that would apply to conditions in America today. We can open the Old Testament randomly at any page, and the chances are good that before we have read more than a few pages we will learn something about God’s standard for dealing with nations, governments, cultures and leaders. The Old Testament is a history of God addressing the apostasy and idolatry that was rampant throughout the history of Israel.

Two lessons stand out about God’s relations with men and nations. First, God usually  works through people to carry out his will. Second, God routinely uses nations and governments to chastise and punish His people for disobedience, apostasy and idolatry. One of the most familiar stories in the Old Testament of God using a nation and its ruler to punish his people is the story of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, who God sent to punish Judah for the iniquity that took place under King Manasseh. Parts of the story are found in two historical books and five prophetic books in the Old Testament. The most important parts are found in 2 Kings and the Book of Daniel.

2 Kings 21, records the reign of Manasseh over the Kingdom of Judah, 2“And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.”

As a result of the idolatry that permeated the culture of Judea during the reign of Manasseh, God pronounced judgment on the land through His prophets.

11” Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: 12 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.”

Even here, however, we see the longsuffering and mercy of God. After the death of Manasseh, his son Josiah took the throne. Josiah, after rediscovering the Books of the law, led a revival in Judah. The idols were destroyed and the groves were burned. The people returned to the worship of the Lord. It was not until the reign of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah that God brought the judgment prophesied against Judah.

24:1“In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. 2 And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servants the prophets. 3Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did;”

From these and hundreds of other passages in the Old Testament we can see that God punishes and chastises his people when they turn their back on Him and reject his commandments. Perhaps not as dramatic as the founding of Israel, but nevertheless, just as certain, America was founded as a Christian nation. It was not until after a series of Supreme Court decisions in 1962 and 1963 that America officially rejected God in our national public life. (Engel v. Vitale, 1962, Murray v. Curlett, 1963, and Abington Township School District v. Schempp, 1963); dissenting Justice Potter Stewart criticized the Court’s ruling saying, “It led not to true neutrality with respect to religion, but to the establishment of a religion of secularism.”(Humanism)

A statement by Thomas Jefferson in his Notes on the State of Virginia is certainly appropriate here, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever..;

Events over the past dozen or so years, when viewed in the light of history and Scripture, can easily be seen as the beginning of God’s judgment on America. The Church today (in the institutional sense) is much like the Church at Laodicea described by Jesus in Revelation 3; “15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:”

Today’s “Laodicean” Church of provides a mixture of psychology, philosophy, entertainment, clichés, and platitudes, with an occasional Bible reference thrown in to give it a Christian flavor. It watches with equanimity as our culture, our political system, and our economy collapse. It is neither Christian nor pagan, embracing many of the Humanist’s doctrines so as not to appear staid or old fashioned. It values inclusivity with little or no standards for church fellowship. It strives for self-aggrandizement and worldly success rather than the glory of God. The “Laodicean” Church has become as “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal”. (1 Cor. 13)

The Last Days

False prophets are one of Satan’s favorite tools for misleading the Children of God. Prophesy was not given by God that we might be able to predict the future, but that when prophesied events take place we might understand and glorify God. “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations,” (Deut. 30:1) Since the desire to predict the future is a part of human nature, Bible prophesies concerning the last days are fertile ground for false prophets. Much mischief has come to the Church from attempting to establish the prophetic chronology of events prophesied in the Bible concerning the Return of Jesus Christ to earth. The nineteenth century witnessed the rise of several new “Christian” denominations inspired by false prophets who believed they had determined the time when Christ would return for his saints.

In 1822 William Miller, a Baptist lay preacher, produced a twenty-point document in which he wrote the following; “I believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ is near, even at the door, even within twenty-one years,—on or before 1843”. Miller began publicly proclaiming his new doctrine, based primarily on the book of Daniel, in 1831. By 1840 Miller’s beliefs had become a national movement. By 1844 over a million copies of his writings were in circulation. Several dates were proposed for the return of Christ, with the final date being set as October 22, 1844.

When Christ failed to return on the expected date, many of Miller’s followers became discouraged and left the movement, returning to the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Campbellite churches from whence they came.  Others stayed true to the faith, and after some adjustments in prophetic doctrine formed into what is today, the seventeen million members strong, Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Around 1870, Charles Taze Russell, combining some of the teaching of the Adventist movement with the Pyramidology of Charles Smyth and Joseph Seiss, began developing a new prophetic chronology for Christ’s second coming. Russell and his associates later formed the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society. Russell was succeeded in 1917 by Joseph F. Rutherford who, in 1931, introduced the name of Jehovah’s Witnesses to distinguish his group from other groups associated with the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society. Today this group claims a worldwide membership of over seven and three-quarter millions followers.

Another prophetic doctrine that was popularized during the “Second Great Awakening”, not quite as radical, yet very important in the days in which we live, is the doctrine of the Rapture. Many born-again evangelical Christians are aware of the corruption in our government and culture. They see the immorality and lasciviousness in our entertainment industries, and the licentiousness creeping into our civil laws; yet they fail to see the seriousness and urgency of these changes in our culture in relation to themselves.

Rather than actively resisting the evils in society, their attitude seems to be, “we know that in the last days there is to be a great falling away and a time of troubles, but our duty is to hold fast to the faith and to look and pray for the coming of the Lord.” They know that tribulations are coming but are persuaded that the Rapture will rescue them from having to endure it. There are many New Testament passages that seem to support this belief. 2 Peter 3, and 2 Timothy chapters 3 and 4 are perhaps the two best examples.

The Rapture

For more than ten years in my early Christian life I wholly believed in the doctrine of a secret Rapture; my church taught it and my Pastor preached it. As a new Christian, whatever my Pastor taught, I accepted as Biblical truth. Later I surrendered to the ministry and enrolled in Bible College. One day, our hermeneutics professor assigned our class the task of substantiating a pre-tribulation Rapture, using the Bible only. I, of course, was certain this would be an easy assignment. I still recall the anguish of soul, as I diligently and daily searched the Scriptures, slowly beginning to realize that what I had previously believed so strongly may be different from what the Bible actually taught.

It is easy to find proof in the Bible for that which we already believe. I often think of an event that occurred during the third visit of Jesus with the disciples after His resurrection, recorded in John, chapter 21. Jesus had just charged Peter to feed His lambs and His sheep as a sign of his love for Christ, He then tells Peter, “18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, follow me.”

20 “Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.”

23” Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?”

We could easily speculate from this exchange that Peter harbored some jealousy toward John because of his relationship with Jesus. That may be true; however, that is not what the passage is about. We could also speculate that Peter started the rumor mentioned in verse 23, but again, the passage does not support that. The valuable lesson we learn from this passage is to  never base our belief on what we think the Bible means but rather, on what it actually says. A belief based on an implied meaning we find in a text must always give way to a clearly written contradiction elsewhere.

At another time our hermeneutics professor asked us to explain the meaning of Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;” It was utterly amazing to listen to the speculation of the class as to what message Mark was attempting to convey. Some related it to Genesis 1:1, others to the ministry of John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Still others focused on Jesus as the Son of God. The lesson the Professor was trying to get across to his aspiring students was not to read more into a passage than was actually there.

With that thought in mind. Let us consider the doctrine of the secret Rapture and how it relates to the Church in the twenty-first century.

The word “Rapture” is not found in the Bible, although the idea is found throughout the New Testament. Its meaning is to be “caught up” or “taken away”. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 the Greek verb form ρπαγησόμεθα (harpagisometha), is used, which in the KJV is translated, “caught up”. The word “Rapture” is believed to have been coined by John Nelson Darby sometime around 1830 from the Latin word, “raptus” which means “a carrying off”.

Darby was ordained as an Anglican priest in the Church of Ireland in 1826. While recuperating from a serious injury he sustained in a fall from his horse in 1827, he spent his time studying Bible prophesy and revising his theological views, particularly in eschatology (Bible Prophesy). During this time he began meeting with an interdenominational Bible Study group who simply called themselves, “The Brethren”.  In 1831 he separated from the Church of Ireland and a year later presented his beliefs concerning dispensationalism and a pre-tribulation Rapture at a prophetic Bible Conference held at the Powerscourt estate near Enniskerry, Ireland. Darby is considered to be the father of dispensationalism.

The Bible study group Darby was associated with eventually became known as the Plymouth Brethren. In addition to its teaching on dispensationalism and a pre-tribulation Rapture, Plymouth Brethren also objected to the use of clergy, insisting that the Holy Spirit could speak through any member of the assembly. Darby traveled extensively throughout Europe and Britain, eventually arousing the ire of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

In the June 1869 issue of Sword and the Trowel, Spurgeon commented on a treatise by a Mr. Grant; “Mr. Grant has done real service to the churches by his treatise on ‘the heresies of the Plymouth Brethren’, which we trust he will publish in a separate form. It is almost impossible for even his heavy hand to press too severely upon this malignant power, whose secret but rapid growth is among the darkest signs of the times.”

The teachings of John Darby were widely disseminated in America during the twentieth century through the popularity of the Schofield Reference Bible published in 1909 by Cyrus Schofield, Bible Colleges such as the Dallas Theological Seminary and two bestselling authors, Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye.

Hal Lindsey graduated  from the Dallas Theological Seminary in 1958 earning a Master of Theology degree. After working with Campus Crusade for Christ for several years Lindsey published his bestselling book, The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970. After selling several million copies in hard cover, the book was republished by Bantam Books as a paperback, selling over 28 million copies by 1994. It was also made into a popular 1979 movie, starring Orson Wells. The book featured the dispensational eschatology of Darby including the pre-tribulation Rapture.

The most widely known author of “Rapture” literature is Tim LaHaye, the writer of more than fifty books, both fiction and non-fiction. The most popular of his books were the “Left Behind” series of apocalyptic fiction depicting life on earth after the Rapture. Between 1995 and 2007 LaHaye published a total of 12 titles in the series, selling over 65 million copies.

By the end of the twentieth century virtually all of the fundamental, evangelical denominations had accepted the doctrine of a pre-tribulation Rapture. Lay Christians and Ministers were heavily influenced by Schofield’s comments on the Rapture found in his study notes.  Nominal Christians and many un-Churched of all persuasions were persuaded by the books of Lindsey and LaHaye.

What someone believes about a secret Rapture and the chronological sequence of events accompanying it is not essential to the gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and should not be a test of Christian fellowship. However, it is a stumbling block for many Churches, Pastors and Christians, excusing them from defending the faith against the continuous onslaughts of Humanism and the corruption of our culture as they patiently wait for the Rapture and the hoped-for deliverance from the troubles prophesied for the end of the Church Age.

For this reason alone we should learn and teach as much as we can concerning what the Bible actually teaches about the second coming of Christ. There are more than thirty passages in the New Testament that refer to Jesus returning to gather up his Church, most of them unequivocal and not open to speculation. For example,  “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2, 3)

The passage most often quoted by pre-tribulationists is I Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:16;

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

5 1But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night .3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

A common misperception among New Testament Christians was that the return of Jesus was imminent.  That idea still persists today among pre-tribulationists. The saints at Thessalonica were becoming concerned because some of their brothers and sisters were dying and Jesus had not yet returned. Paul wrote this passage to comfort the loved ones of those who had died. (Verse 18) Jesus and the New Testament writers did not teach an imminent return. In fact, there are many prophesies given in the New Testament that are to be fulfilled before Christ’s return. The phrase that fosters the belief of an eminent return is, “as a thief in the night” used by Paul in verse 2, Chapter 5 above. Peter uses the same phrase in 2 Pet. 3:10. These are the only two places in the New Testament were the phrase is used.

Jesus uses the word “thief” in the same sense in the parable of the unfaithful servant in Matt. 24:43, and Luke 12:39. He also uses it in Rev. 3:3 as a warning to the Church at Sardis, and in Rev. 16:15 as a general warning. In all of these passages where Christ is pictured as coming unexpectedly as a thief, it is as a warning to non-believers and unfaithful Christians, but as Paul says in verse 4 above, “ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” Notice the usage of pronouns in verses 3, 4, 5 and 6.

This passage also calls into question the idea of a “secret Rapture”. Verse 16 says Jesus will return, “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:” Couple this with the descriptions of the Rapture in Matthew 24:40, 41 and Luke 17:34, 35, “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left,” and it is difficult to understand how the Rapture  could be in secret without someone noticing. Certainly if a family was sitting at dinner and mom or dad, or one or two of the kids suddenly disappeared, someone would notice and tell others.

Paul continues to address the expectation of the Thessalonians for an imminent return of Christ in 2 Thess. 2:1-12 where Paul beseeches, “2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”

“3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”

The “man of sin” in verses 3 and 4 evidently is a reference to the “Beast” of Revelation 13, and “the abomination of desolation” in Matt. 24:15, and Mark 13:14, foretold by Daniel the prophet.

None of the many passages in the New Testament concerning the return of Christ for His Church reveal a definite sequence of events as they relate to the great tribulation, with the exception of two, Matthew 24 and Mark 13. In Matthew 24 we read;

“24 1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

“3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”

Mark identifies the disciples who spoke privately with Jesus as John, Peter, Andrew, and James. (Mark 13:3) Note that the disciples asked three questions, (1) when shall these things be; the destruction of the temple? (2) What will be the sign of Jesus’ coming? (3) What will be the sign of the end of the world (age)?

Most Bible commentators relate this passage to the destruction of the Temple by the Roman general Titus in 70 A.D. That is speculation on their part and may or may not be true. It is also possible that Jesus chose not to answer the first question, instead giving a summation of the entire Church age up to the time of his return in verses 29 – 31, including the Great Tribulation in verses 15 – 22.

Matt. 24:  “4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

8 All these are the beginning of sorrows”. (Run-up to the Tribulation?  Sounds like the twentieth century)

9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

“14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come”. (Also see Rev. 14:6)

The phrase “gospel of the kingdom” is used only three times in the Book of Matthew — here, and in Matt. 4:23, and 9:35. However, the phrases “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God”, which appear to be synonymous, are used 86 times in the four Gospels and is the central theme of Christ’s preaching throughout the New Testament. Jesus continues…

“15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand)”

(Daniel 11:31, “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.”  Daniel 12:11, “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”)

Matt:24 “16 Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day:

21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

From the description given in verses 21 and 22, this could not be the tribulation brought about by Titus. It is said to be worse than any in the four thousand years preceding, including those of the Egyptian Pharaohs, Babylon, the Medes and Persians, Greece and Rome (“since the beginning of the world to this time”); and worse than any since, including those of the Dark Ages, the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land, The Holy Roman Empire, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc. (“nor ever shall be”) This passage can only be referring to The Great Tribulation.

Matt 24:  23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

25 Behold, I have told you before. 26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 28 For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

This passage and the parallel passage in Mark 13: 24-27 are the only two passages in the New Testament that clearly gives a time sequence connecting the Tribulation and the Rapture. In order to establish either a pre-tribulation Rapture or a mid-tribulation Rapture we have to explain away the phrases “immediately after the tribulation” in verse 29 and “after that tribulation” in Mark 13:24.

Our purpose is not to proselytize for a post-tribulation Rapture, although if we have piqued your interest and your independent study of Scripture with the aid of the Holy Spirit convinces you, so be it. Our purpose here is to show the very real possibility that the Church will go through the Great Tribulation, the necessity of preparation, both spiritually and mentally, and to encourage pastors and laymen alike to take a more pro-active role in resisting the evils of Humanism that permeates our culture.

Everywhere, when Christ or the Apostles warn us about the end times or the Return of Christ for his Church we are exhorted to watch. But, what are we to watch for? I have heard more than once from the pulpit, “Jesus could come before this service ends.”  If that should happen, I fear there would be more stripes given out than rewards. (Luke 12:42-48) The command to watch is a warning not to slack off in our devotion to Christ, especially as we see the day approaching.  One such warning is found in Luke 21: 34-36.

“34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

Pre-tribulationists often read the words in verse 36 as implying that Christians will be taken out of the world before “these things that shall come to pass”. Matthew uses a similar phrase in Chapter 24:13, 13 “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” A synonym for the word saved is “rescued”. Since this passage is talking about the Tribulation, Jesus is saying that those who endure to the end of the tribulation will be rescued; by the Rapture.

Just what we are to be watching for is found in the parable of the fig tree. “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors”. (Matt: 24: 32, 33) Jesus is talking here about the signs He has just given to the four disciples who asked. The most important sign is the “abomination of desolation” in verse 15, which ushers in the most severe part of the tribulation that “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved”. It is this sign that gives hope to those Christians that are found watching that they may endure to the end and be rescued. They know they only have to hold out for a short time until Jesus returns to rescue them.

The Watchman

When we are dealing with Bible prophesy, we need to be careful that we teach only that which is revealed in the scriptures. We know from history the damage and destruction that can be brought about by false prophets, and we are not prophets, false or otherwise. God makes it clear in Deuteronomy 29: 29 that, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” There is no need for prophets today because everything we need to know is revealed in the Scriptures by prophets of the past.

There is certainly enough revealed in the Bible concerning how God deals with cultures and nations who defy him that we do not need to claim the gift of prophesy to know that the hand of God that was once the source of so many blessing for America, is now a hand of judgment. We need only look at the changes that have transpired over the past century in our culture, our politics, and our churches, and realize that God’s longsuffering and mercy cannot last forever, to recognize that America is in danger of His wrath and in fact, may be experiencing it already.

Awareness of these facts should make the responsibility of the Church, its Pastors and its Teachers clear. The Churches are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Pastors and teachers are the watchmen for the Church. The warning given by the Prophet Ezekiel should be heeded by our Church leaders of today.

Ezekiel 33:2-11; 2 Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: 3 If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; 4 Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.

7 So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. 8 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

10 Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? 11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Remember, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” This passage is certainly appropriate for the churches of the twenty-first century as we see the doctrines of Humanism crowding the doctrines of God out of our culture daily.  The satanic doctrines of Humanism; abortion, sodomy, and environmentalism (Earth worship), promoted by our public institutions, that defy the authority of God and even question His very existence, can no longer be ignored by the churches.

There are several things in this passage that should be profitable for us today. First of all, we see that the sword is brought upon the land by God himself in response to the iniquity of its culture. Second, note the three-fold audience to whom this message is addressed, the watchman, the entire culture, and the individual. Third, the end goal of the message is that they “turn from their way and live”. Fourth, the watchman is selected by “the people of the land”. In the Church that would be the Pastors and teachers. If America is to avoid the wrath of God, there must be a national repentance and a return to God with an acknowledgement of His sovereignty over all the affairs of nations. If the people will not hear because, as Franklin said, “the people [have] become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other”, the church will have done its duty and the blood of the land will be on the heads of those who promote America’s official religion, secular Humanism.