There is great political, social and religious upheaval in the world. In the professing church we are witnessing significant and troubling changes and departures both in doctrine and in practice. More than ever we stand in need of a clear understanding of what is taking place in these last days (1 Tim. 4:1-7; 2 Tim. 3:1-4:4; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 3:1-9; 2 Thess. 2:1-13). This paper is meant to assist us in understanding the various positions and trends of our day. The determining factor is our attitude toward the written Word of God, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). Faith is taking God at His Word and acting on what He has said. It is the only way to please Him (Heb. 11:6) and the only way to show ones love for Him (John 14:21-24; 15:9-10; 1 John 2:3-6; 5:2-3; etc.). God is looking for those who "tremble at His Word" (see Isaiah 66:1-2). May we be among those who take Gods statements in the Bible very seriously and who are willing to amend our lives in favor of what God has said.
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Let us now consider the following areas of doctrine, to better understand some of the dangerous trends of our day:
1) THE BIBLE
Many so-called "evangelicals" today claim that the Bible is authoritative in all that it teaches and that it is an infallible guide in matters of faith and practice, but they also claim that it is not inerrant (totally without error) when it comes to such areas as science, history, chronology, genealogies and other "non-revelatory" areas. This dangerous position undermines the absolute truthfulness of God's Word by declaring that the Bible contains numerous scientific, historical and chronological errors. It was Fuller Theological Seminary that led the way in informing the evangelical world that the Bible we trust in and teach from is fallible and full of erroneous statements! What blasphemy! Harold Lindsell in his book, The Battle For the Bible, exposed this unbiblical and unorthodox position. According to the Bible, ALL SCRIPTURE is Gods Word and is totally and wholly free from error (2 Tim. 3:16; John 17:17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; etc.). Gods Word, the Holy Bible, is ABSOLUTE TRUTH given to us by the God who cannot lie. Beware of anyone who says that the Word of God contains error. Gods Word is trustworthy. It is found to be so by the trusting heart. See our literature items, The Bible-How Firm A Foundation, The Book of Books and The Difficulty of Making Accurate Predictions--An Evidence of the Divine Inspiration.
2) HERMENEUTICS (INTERPRETATION)
The Bible must be interpreted in a consistent literal manner, which is the way language is normally understood. We recognize that Bible writers frequently used figurative language which is a normal and picturesque way of portraying literal truth. The Scriptures must be understood in the light of the normal use of language, the usage of words, the historical and cultural background, the context of the passage and the overall teaching of the Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15). There are some who generally interpret the Bible literally except when they come to prophetic passages. As a result, passages that relate to the future of the nation Israel are spiritualized and applied wrongly to the church (thus we have amillennialism, postmillennialism, etc.). Those who consistently interpret all the Bible literally, including the prophetic passages, must come to a careful objective conclusion resulting in the Biblical or dispensational position. Remember, God means what He says and says what He means. With humble minds and open hearts we need to take God at His Word. See our study, Do You Interpret the Bible Literally? Six Tests to See if You Do
3) THE PERSON OF CHRIST
Without question the Bible teaches the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ--that He is completely and fully GOD (Matthew 16:16; John 1:1; 5:17-18; 10:30-31; 20:28; Tit. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Jer. 23:5-6; Mic. 5:2; etc.). We are commanded to separate from all those who knowingly deny this doctrine (Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:10; 2 John 9-11). The denial of the full deity of Christ is characteristic of many of the false cults of our day. The Lord Jesus Christ is the LORD and the LIVING GOD. The Bible and God the Holy Spirit point to Him and all should acknowledge Him as SAVIOUR and LORD. See our study The Deity of Christ.
There are those today who deny the eternal Sonship of Christ. They teach that Christ is God and that He is eternal, but that He did not become the Son until the time of the incarnation. Those who deny the doctrine of Christs eternal Sonship would include Ralph Wardlaw, Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, Jimmy Swaggart, Walter Martin and Dakes Annotated Reference Bible. Popular Bible teacher John MacArthur once wrote: "The Bible nowhere speaks of the eternal Sonship of Christ....He was always God, but He became Son. He had not always had the title of Son. That is His incarnation title. Eternally He is God, but only from His incarnation has He been Son...Christ was not Son until His incarnation...His Sonship began in a point of time, not in eternity" (Hebrews  in his comments under Hebrews 1:4-6). This is serious error. In 1999 John MacArthur published a written statement in which he claimed to abandon the incarnational Sonship view and embrace the eternal Sonship view. However, the former error is still to be found uncorrected in many of his published works. For further study see the book, The Eternal Sonship of Christ, by George Zeller and Dr. Renald Showers ($5.00). See also The Eternal Sonship of Christ-A Brief Summary of this Vital Doctrine, and Why the Middletown Bible Church Left the IFCA.
4) THE WORK OF CHRIST
HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS
There are some today (especially those holding to a Reformed position), who while emphasizing mans total depravity and Gods sovereign election, have erred in teaching that Christ did not die for all men, but only for Gods elect (only for those who eventually will be saved). One Reformed theologian made this remarkable statement: "As a reformed Christian, the writer believes that counselors must not tell any unsaved counselee that Christ died for him, for they cannot say that. They must present the good news that Christ died on the cross in the place of His own. He died that all whom the Father had given to Him might come unto Him and have life everlasting. No man knows except Christ Himself who are His elect for whom He died" (Competent to Counsel by Jay Adams, p. 70). Popular Bible teacher, Dr. John MacArthur, is also now teaching that Christ died as a Substitute only for those who will believe: "Not one for whom He died can possibly miss heaven" (Tape GC 80-123). This teaching runs counter to the clear statements of Scripture: Isaiah 53:6; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:2; John 1:29; etc. See our papers entitled For Whom Did Christ Die? and The Cross-Work of Christ - Is It Limited or Unlimited? and The John MacArthur Study BibleSome Areas of Concern (50Ę).
HIS BODILY RESURRECTION
Unbelievers have long denied the bodily resurrection of Christ, but in recent years we are hearing similar denials from those who claim to be Bible believing or evangelical. Until recently those who were evangelical in their faith held as a cardinal doctrine that Christ rose from the grave in the same physical body in which He was crucified. They acknowledged that His resurrection body was immortal, but physical nonetheless. Today, some in the evangelical community who still use the term "bodily resurrection" mean something quite different than what has been historically understood by that phrase. Some are now contending that the resurrection body was only "spiritual" or immaterial (not "flesh"). They deny that the resurrection was empirically observable or historically verifiable.
The words of our Lord Jesus are clear: "Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple [the temple of His body--see v.21), and in three days I will raise it ['it' referring to the temple which they would destroy] up" (John 2:19). In other words, the body that the Lords enemies would destroy was the same body Jesus would raise up! What kind of body was it? "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). For further help on this controversy, see The Battle For the Resurrection by Norman Geisler.
5) THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
God the Holy Spirits ministry is to bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ so the sinner can be saved and so the believer can have a Christ-centered, not a self-centered life.
The Pentecostal movement, as well as the more recent Charismatic movement, teach that not every believer has received the Holy Spirit. Those in these groups believe that the reception of the Spirit is an experience that takes place subsequent (following in time) to salvation. The Bible teaches that every believer has received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; Rom. 5:5; 2 Tim. 1:14; 1 Cor. 6:19). These groups also teach that Spirit baptism is an experience subsequent to salvation and not enjoyed by all believers. According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, however, Spirit baptism is that wonderful work of God whereby all believers are placed into the body of Christ the moment they are saved. See our literature items entitled The Modern Charismatic Movement - 35 Doctrinal Issues and God's Gift of Tongues--the Nature, Purpose and Duration of Tongues as Taught in the Bible.
The Holy Spirit, dwelling within every saved person, is the earnest (pledge, down-payment) of the believers inheritance, the guarantee of the believers eternal salvation (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30). There are some who confuse the BAPTISM of the Spirit with the FILLING of the Spirit. See our chart which compares and contrasts these two important ministries of the Holy Spirit: The Baptism and The Filling.
6) THE ETERNAL SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER
The Bible declares that all the redeemed, once saved, are kept by Gods power and are thus safe and secure in Christ forever (John 5:24; 6:37-40; 6:47; 10:27-30; Rom. 8:28-39; 1 Pet. 1:5; Heb. 13:5; etc.). This does not mean that every PROFESSING believer is safe and secure in Christ forever, because not every person who PROFESSES Christ actually POSSESSES Christ (1 John 5:12). Every person needs to make sure of His salvation by making sure that he has a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Have you trusted in Jesus Christ and in Him alone for your eternal salvation?
Many groups (including many holiness and Pentecostal groups) believe that "continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ." This position makes salvation depend upon the faithfulness of man rather than upon the Word and promises of a faithful God. We are saved, not because of our ability to hold on to Him, but because of His ability to hold on to us (John 10:27-30; 1 Pet. 1:5). The God who saved us is also able to keep us: "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). See our study entitled Eternal Security and also the a study on Continuing in the Faith.
There are others who teach that a believer may never give any evidence that he is saved. The Bible, however, clearly reveals certain marks or signs of spiritual life which should characterize every child of God (1 John 2:3-4; 3:14; 3:6-10; James 2:17-26; etc.). Those who consistently live in sin need to examine themselves to see if they have really believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and experienced His saving grace (2 Cor. 13:5; Matthew 7:21-23; Rom. 6:1-2).
There are some today (Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow, Bob Wilkin, those belonging to the Grace Evangelical Society, etc.) who teach that a truly saved person can completely depart from the faith, deny Christ totally, teach against the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, reject the truth of the gospel, habitually persist in sin (such as homosexuality, drunkenness, adultery, etc.), perform evil works as a way of life and although he will not inherit the kingdom, he will enter the kingdom and will be counted forever among the redeemed. In teaching such things they are giving a false sense of security to those who may not be safe at all. If a person believes like an unsaved person, thinks like an unsaved person, acts like an unsaved person and rejects the truth of the gospel like an unsaved person, then it is reasonable to conclude that he is an unsaved person, regardless of some profession of faith he may have once made. See our study The Theology of Zane Hodges and Joseph Dillow and the Grace Evangelical Society and A Refutation of the Teachings of Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow, etc. by James Ventilato. See also Those Who Do Not Inherit the Kingdom.
7) SPIRITUAL GIFTS
The Pentecostal movement (and recently the Charismatic movement and the "Third Wave" or "Vineyard" movement) teach that the supernatural gifts such as prophecy, tongues, healing, etc., are still operative in the church today. Others (such as Hal Lindsey, John D. Jess, Billy Graham, etc.) see the problems and excesses of the Charismatic movement, but they maintain that God does still give the gift of tongues today, and that it must be regulated according to the principles given in 1 Corinthians 14. The Bible teaches that the gift of tongues CEASED early in the history of the church and that the other sign gifts were done away as the New Testament Scriptures were completed and their authority became established (Heb. 2:3-4; 1 Cor. 13:8-10; 2 Cor. 12:12).
There are some who teach that the gift of prophecy is still given to the church today even though there is no longer the office of prophet. They wrongly define "prophecy" as "the ability to understand and to engage in the exposition of the Word of God" (Billy Graham) or as "the ability to proclaim Gods Word" (John MacArthur). Such definitions are faulty in that they fail to distinguish between the gift of teaching and the gift of prophecy. According to these definitions, every gifted pastor or teacher would be exercising the gift of prophecy. In the Bible, prophecy is always a revelatory gift whereby the speaker is giving forth Gods Word infallibly. Today the gift of prophecy is not given, nor is it needed, because the Bible (66 Books) is all-sufficient for the Church. We do not need added revelations. The entire body of truth which we need has been once for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 3). Gods Word, the Bible, is all we need. See Revelation 22:18-20.
See our literature items entitled God's Gift of Tongues and The Modern Charismatic Movement - 35 Doctrinal Issues [PDF Version] and 1 Corinthians 13 and Temporary Gifts.
8) THE CHURCH
The Bible teaches that the Church age began on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2; compare 1 Corinthians 12:13 with Matthew 3:11; 16:18; Acts 1:5 and Acts 11:15-17). Thus we must strongly disagree with those who begin the church sometime prior to Acts 2. We must also strongly disagree with the position of most covenant theologians that the church consists of the elect of all ages (including Old Testament saints). No, the church consists of all saved persons from the day of Pentecost to the day of the rapture. We also find the position of the ultradispensationalists to be out of harmony with the Word of God because they mark the beginning of the church either in Acts 13 or in Acts 28. See our study When Did The Church Begin? See also the very helpful book Dispensationalism, by Charles Ryrie and also There Really Is a Difference by Renald Showers.
Amillennialists and others who deny a literal, earthly kingdom for Israel teach that the promises God gave to Israel in the Old Testament are fulfilled "spiritually" in the church. Thus the nation Israel is robbed of its promised millennial blessings, and Gods distinctive purpose and program for the church is confused or entirely misunderstood. This problem is encouraged in Bibles and books. For example, in many Cambridge editions of the Bible and in the Thompson Chain Reference Bible there are headings on the top of the pages found in the book of Isaiah which read: "Gods mercies towards His church," "The church comforted," "Gods promise to the church," "The restoration of the church," "The church exhorted," "The churchs glory in the access of the Gentiles," "The prophets zeal for the church," "God calleth Cyrus for His churchs sake," etc. In reality, the prophet Isaiah says nothing about the church. The people of God in Isaiahs day were the people Israel (the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). The truths of God are to be our possession, but in Gods good order. The Apostle Paul had much to say about the church, but the prophet Isaiah was silent on this topic. See The Greatness of the Kingdom by Alva McClain and The Basis of Premillennial Faith by Charles Ryrie.
Replacement Theology is very popular today and teaches that the church has replaced Israel in the program of God and that the numerous kingdom prophecies found in the books of the Old Testament prophets will remain unfulfilled. We totally reject this notion and find it to be completely out of harmony with the simple statements of Scripture and the unconditional commitments which God made to His chosen nation. "Hath God cast off away His people? God forbid!" (Rom. 11:1).
Dispensationalism is the result of a literal, normal interpretation of Gods Word. It is letting the Bible say what it says in light of the language, context, grammar, etc. The believer who interprets the Bible literally, understanding the text in its normal and natural sense, may be called a dispensationalist. Such a person believes that God means what He says and says what He means, and because of this we can take God at His Word in a literal, straightforward manner. There is a dispensational adage which says this: "When the PLAIN SENSE makes GOOD SENSE seek NO OTHER SENSE lest it result in NONSENSE!" Do You Interpret the Bible Literally? Six Tests to See if You Do
Gods Word is interpreted correctly only when dispensational distinctions are recognized, such as the difference between Israel and the church (1 Cor. 10:32), the difference between the two resurrections (Rev. 20:4-6), the difference between the various judgments and the difference between law and grace. God will surely fulfill His covenant and kingdom promises to the nation of Israel (Jer. 31:31-37; 33:15-26). In every age, regardless of Gods distinctive dispensational programs, men have always been saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8; Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-10). The glory of God is the governing principle and overall purpose for Godís dealings with men in every age. In every dispensation God is manifesting Himself to men and to angels so that all might redound to the praise of His glory (Ezekiel 36:21-23; Eph. 1:6,12,14; 3:21). Dispensationalism places the glory of God above everything else, whereas there are those who tend to emphasize soteriology (Godís purpose in saving men) above everything else. The salvation of souls is but one of the means by which God brings glory to Himself. See There Really Is A Difference by Renald Showers, Dispensationalism by Dr. Charles Ryrie. See also our numerous studies Dispensationalism.
We reject the extreme teaching known as "Hyper (or Ultra)-Dispensationalism" which opposes either the Lords Supper and/or Water Baptism as Scriptural means of testimony for the church in this age. Ultradispensationalists, as already mentioned, err in saying that the church began years after the Day of Pentecost mentioned in Acts 2 (some say it began in Acts 13; others say it began in Acts 28). Other characteristics of ultradispensationalists: 1) They teach that the "church" in Matthew 16:18 is different from the "church" revealed by the Apostle Paul; 2) They teach that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:2,8) is not for the church today (they say it was a Jewish commission relating to the Gospel of the Kingdom); 3) They teach that church truth (mystery truth) was revealed exclusively to Paul (but see Eph. 3:5) and that no church truth was revealed prior to Pauls revelation of the mystery (but see John 10:16; 14:3; 14:17; 14:20; 17:20-23; etc.). 4) They teach that there is a difference between Pauls early and later ministries. See Ryries helpful discussion in Dispensationalism, Chapter 11 (Ryrie also lists some additional characteristics of Ultradispensationalism).
In recent years a new, compromise position has emerged known as "PROGRESSIVE DISPENSATIONALISM." Those dispensationalists who have embraced this position have moved away from the Biblical position and have moved much closer to the position of Covenant Theology. It is a middle position between Covenant Theology and dispensationalism and is very similar to non-dispensational premillennialism (sometimes called "historic premillennialism") such as that taught by George Ladd. The key issue involves the kingdom rule of Christ as promised throughout the Word of God. Covenant Theology teaches that the kingdom-age promises are now being fulfilled in and by the church. Hence they equate the church with the kingdom. Dispensationalists maintain that the church is not the kingdom. The millennial kingdom is not inaugurated until the second coming of Christ.
Progressive dispensationalists agree with Covenant Theology in teaching that when Christ sat down at the right hand of the Father He inaugurated the Davidic kingdom. Hence they teach that Christ is today sitting on the throne of David in heaven. Progressive dispensationalists teach a confusing "already/not yet" dichotomy. On the one hand they teach that the Davidic kingdom is ALREADY here; but on the other hand they teach that it is NOT YET here and awaits future fulfillment. Progressive dispensationalists also disagree with the concept that the church is distinct from Israel. Their minimizing and blurring of these distinctions brings them dangerously close to Covenant Theology. Two excellent books exposing the errors of Progressive Dispensationalism are Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie (Moody Press) and Progressive Dispensationalism edited by Ron J. Bigalke Jr. (University Press of America, 2005).
Some of the other problems with Progressive Dispensationalism: 1) They believe strongly in dialogue with those of divergent positions (such as with non-dispensationalists); 2) They are highly critical of dispensationalists of the normal kind; 3) They teach that Israel and the church are "one people of God"; 4) They deny the parenthetical nature of the church; 5) They deny that the church is a mystery unrevealed in the Old Testament; 6) They deny that the kingdom was postponed due to Israels rejection of the King; 7) They still profess to hold to a pretribulation rapture position but they do "not desire to make this a determining touchstone of dispensationalism" (Saucy); 8) Some Progressive Dispensationalists, such as Blaising, are even teaching that tribulation saints are part of the body of Christ; 9) They use a questionable hermeneutic called "the complementary hermeneutic" which is a departure from sound, literal interpretation; 10) While claiming that Progressive Dispensationalism is only a healthy development of dispensationalism, their system of doctrine is actually an unhealthy departure from the essential teachings of dispensationalism. See our study entitled Progressive Dispensationalism [PDF Format Only] - Is it a Development of Dispensationalism or a Departure from Dispensationalism? See also Progressive Dispensationalism -- An Analysis which incliudes an interesting comparison between Progressive Dispensationalism and Neo-evangelicalism. See also another related study: Progressive Dispensationalism-When and Where Does Christ Sit Upon the Throne of David?
10) THE TWO NATURES OF THE BELIEVER
Every saved person possesses two natures, with provision made for victory of the new nature over the old nature through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25; Eph. 4:22-24; etc.). There are some who teach that the old nature has been eradicated and rooted out of the believer resulting in sinless perfection. The Bible makes it very clear that sinless perfection cannot be attained this side of heaven (1 John 1:8,10).
There are others who teach that although a believer can and does sin, he does not possess two natures. They teach that the believer in Christ possesses only one nature, the new nature in Christ. David Needham popularized this view in his book Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? John MacArthur follows this same view: "Biblical terminology, then, does not say that a Christian has two different natures. He has but one nature, the new nature in Christ. The old self dies and the new self lives; they do not coexist. It is not a remaining old nature but the remaining garment of sinful flesh that causes Christians to sin. The Christian is a single new person, a totally new creation, not a spiritual schizophrenic" (Ephesians, p.164).
According to Gods Word the believer has two natures--one because of ones physical birth (because of the FIRST ADAM) and one because of ones spiritual birth (because of the LAST ADAM). The Biblical truth that the believer has two natures is essential for the real and right outworking of the indwelling Christ and God the Holy Spirits overcoming ministry.
For help in understanding the two natures of the believer, read Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth by C.I. Scofield (especially the chapters entitled "The Believers Two Natures" and "The Believers Standing and State"). Another helpful book relating to this subject would be The Complete Green Letters by Miles Stanford. The Middletown Bible Church also has some helpful literature dealing with the two natures of the believer, including Dr. John MacArthurs One Nature Position (31 pages, $1.50). See also the study entitled The Believer's Standing and State.
11) THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST AND THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM
The second coming of Christ is that great future event when the Lord Jesus Christ comes in His literal, resurrected, glorified body to reign and to rule as KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS over all the world. This follows the tribulation period (Daniels 70th week). A failure to rightly understand the Kingdom reign of Jesus Christ opens the way for serious misinterpretation of God's prophetic Word.
Ones view of the second coming hinges on ones understanding of the millennial kingdom (Rev. chapter 20). This kingdom is described in detail by the Old Testament prophets, and the kingdom promises and predictions are not being fulfilled in and by the church today (as many teach). For example, Isaiah chapter 2 and Isaiah chapter 11 demand a future fulfillment because the conditions described in these chapters have never been fulfilled since the fall of man. See our paper entitled A Comparison Between our Present World, the Millennium and the Eternal State (5Ę). For a definitive study on the kingdom, see The Greatness of the Kingdom by Alva McClain and the classic work The Theocratic Kingdom by George Peters.
One very active group worthy of mention are the postmillennial reconstructionists [their position is also known as theonomy or dominion theology]. Their leaders have written many books and have thus gained a considerable following. They teach that the mission of the church is to reconstruct society and bring in the kingdom by adhering to and by legislating Biblical law (the law of Moses). They are militantly anti-dispensational, referring to dispensationalists as "pessimillennialists" (because they claim our position is so pessimistic). Postmillennial reconstructionists misunderstand the true mission of the church. Our mission is not to convert the world. See our book, The Mystery of Godliness ($6.00).
Reconstructionists generally teach that the great tribulation and Christ's second coming has already taken place in history and was fulfilled in 70 A.D. This position is known as preterism. For a refutation of this, see our paper, The Great Tribulation - Future or Fulfilled?
12) THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH
Among those who rightly believe that Christ will return before the millennial kingdom (premillennialists), there are some who falsely teach that the church must go through the tribulation. This is a posttribulational position. Others wrongly teach that Christ will return for the church in the middle of the tribulation period (midtribulational position). The Bible teaches that Christ will return for His church before the time of tribulation (Rev. 3:10; etc.) and that His coming is IMMINENT (it may take place at any time). This is the pretribulational position. One of the best studies defending the pretribulation rapture is the book Maranatha--Our Lord Come! by Dr. Renald Showers. See also our 24-page booklet Will The Church Go Through The Tribulation?
In more recent times a new position has been developed called the "PRE-WRATH RAPTURE" position. This view wrongly teaches that the rapture will take place immediately after the great tribulation and prior to the Day of the Lord (the day of Gods wrath). According to this view the rapture cannot take place until at least five years after the beginning of Daniels 70th week. This view places the rapture somewhere in the middle of the last 3Ĺ years (somewhere in the middle of the great tribulation). According to this view, the rapture of the church will not take place until approximately three-quarters of Daniels 70th week has elapsed (Daniels 70th week consists of the last seven years before the second coming of Christ). For a refutation of this view, see our study entitled Pre-wrath Confusion.
Non-dispensationalists, especially those of a reformed persuasion, often mock the doctrine of the rapture and seek to discredit it in any way they can. These men often hold to a position known as "preterism" which means that they believe that most prophecies have already been fulfilled in history, especially in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. See our study, The Great Tribulation - Future or Fulfilled?.
13) THE EARLY CHAPTERS OF GENESIS
The historical and scientific accuracy of the early chapters of the book of Genesis is being questioned and doubted by many today. Many teach that the "days" in Genesis 1 are vast time periods rather than 24 hour days as the Scriptures teach (Exodus 20:9-11). Others (including some otherwise sound men who have perhaps been misled by the notes in the Scofield Bible under Genesis 1:2 and/or Isaiah 45:18) allow for a time gap of millions of years between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Such a position is grammatically impossible and scientifically unnecessary. See our papers entitled The Six Days of Creation--Were They Days or Ages? and The Gap Theory.
Generally men hold to the "day-age" theory or the "gap" theory because they feel the pressure to harmonize the Biblical statements with the conclusions of modern evolutionary science with respect to the age of the earth. Such harmonizations, however, are unnecessary! Let it be recognized that the evolutionists are wrong and the Bible is right! According to the Scriptures the age of the earth is to be understood in terms of thousands of years, not in terms of millions or billions of years, as the evolutionists have wrongly assumed.
The Bible also clearly teaches that man was created supernaturally by God from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7), and not by any evolutionary process (such as a descent from ape-like creatures). Creationists also maintain that God judged the entire world in the days of Noah with a worldwide, universal flood. To say that this was merely a "local flood" is highly inconsistent with the clear Biblical statements and even with the geological evidence as interpreted by unbiased minds. See our study Science, the Scriptures and the Saviour (100 pages, $2.00).
There is rapidly developing movement of our day, often including men of unquestionable scientific credentials, who are emphasizing intelligent design. These men are seeing major problems with the theory of evolution and are beginning to realize how bankrupt this theory really is. Although many of these men are not Bible believers and although many of them do not believe in an early earth, yet their contributions to the cause of scientific creationism are highly significant. They are producing many very helpful books, among which are these classics: 1) Evolution--A Theory in Crisis (Adler and Adler) by Michael Denton (medical doctor and molecular biologist); 2) Not By Chance--Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution (The Judaica Press) by Dr. Lee Spetner (PhD in physics from MIT); 3) Darwin's Black Box--The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (The Free Press) by Michael Behe (Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University); 4) Darwin on Trial (Inter Varsity Press) by Phillip Johnson (Harvard graduate, a lawyer who served under Chief Justice Earl Warren). Since this book was published Johnson has written other books against evolution and related topics.
14) SALVATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH
Many, especially among Reformed theologians, are teaching that FAITH is the gift of God. They often try to base this upon Ephesians 2:8-9. The New England Bible Conference Doctrinal Statement of Faith, which is based upon the original IFCA statement, presents the Biblical position: "We believe that salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." This statement says that salvation, not faith, is the gift of God (which is what Ephesians 2:8-9 really teaches). This gift of salvation is received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus. Faith is the "hand of the heart" which reaches out and receives what God has freely offered.
Much confusion arises when we tell the unsaved that faith is the gift of God. . If faith is the gift of God, then how do I get this gift? Do I sit back and hope that I am one of Gods elect and that God will sovereignly bestow His gift of faith upon me? Or, do I pray to God and ask Him to grant me the gift of faith? If we pray for faith, then we have changed what God has told us to do in order to be saved (compare Acts 16:30-31). We must not pervert the gospel of Christ by making the condition of salvation prayer instead of faith. For a complete discussion of this problem, see our paper entitled What is the "Gift of God"?.
15) LORDSHIP SALVATION OR SALVATION BY GRACE?
Salvation is by grace alone. It is "by grace through faith" (Eph. 2:8-9). To receive this so-great salvation man must simply "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 16:31). Today there are those who are seeking to place additional requirements upon the sinner such as these: "You must surrender to the Lordship of Christ." "You must submit to His authority." "You must obey His commandments or at least have a willingness to obey." "You must fulfill all the terms of discipleship," etc.
We must remember that it is not our COMMITMENT that saves us; it is CHRIST who saves us. It is not our SURRENDER that saves us but our SAVIOUR who does. It is not what I do for God; its what God has done for me. Each person needs to make sure that he is standing fully upon Christ the solid Rock, not upon the sinking sand of his own fragile commitment. See our papers entitled Saved By Grace Alone [A Clarification of the Lordship Salvation Issue], A Comparison and Contrast Between SALVATION and DISCIPLESHIP, Charles Spurgeon and Lordship Salvation and The Relationship Between Good Works and Salvation.
Another perversion of the gospel comes from the "free grace" camp. Men such as Zane Hodges, Robert Wilkin and John Niemela are now teaching that to be saved it is not necessary to believe that Jesus Christ was God incarnate who died for our sins and rose again. This new, simplified, "crossless" gospel declares that the only thing a person needs to believe is that Christ guarantees eternal life to whoever believes (John 6:47), whether or not the person really understands who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished by way of the cross and empty tomb. Hodges sets forth this new gospel in his articles entitled, "How to Lead People to Christ," (Part 1 and Part 2), found in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Autumn 2000 and Spring 2001). While John 6:47 is certainly a wonderful salvation promise, it is not the heart of the gospel (see 1 Cor. 15:3-4). Paul taught that the "preaching of the cross" is central to any faithful preaching of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17-2:2). It is also of utmost importance that the sinner understand WHO IT IS that he is believing in (see John 8:24; Matt. 16:13-17; 1 John 4:1-3; etc.).
16) ETERNAL CONSCIOUS PUNISHMENT (HELL)
More and more so-called "evangelicals" are abandoning the doctrine of eternal conscious punishment. For example, Clark Pinnock, once considered an out-and-out evangelical conservative, now teaches that "the wicked do not experience conscious punishment, but rather cease to exist" (The Baptist Bulletin, 10/93, p. 36).
Many other evangelicals are teaching that there is redemptive hope for those who in this life never hear the gospel of Christ (see Bibliotheca Sacra, April-June 1994, pages 142-143). The obvious question must then be asked: If the untold thousands do not need to hear the gospel of Christ in order to be saved, then why is missions so important? Are missionaries really needed?
People have a problem with hell for two basic reasons: 1) They do not understand the terribleness of sin. 2) They do not understand the awesome holiness of God.
The above statements and comments are not intended to comprise a complete doctrinal statement, but merely to call attention to some of the trends and issues and doctrinal problems of our day. A complete doctrinal statement is available upon request.
THE FOLLOWING DEFINITIONS MIGHT BE HELPFUL:
1. LIBERALISM -- Religious liberalism involves the elevation of human reason and judgment above the Holy Scriptures. It denies the divine inspiration of Gods Word and leads to unrestricted criticism of any Biblical viewpoint or position. It is a total denial of God and His Word. Because there is no unifying discipline there are many divergent views among religious liberals. The Difference Between Liberalism and Biblical Christianity
2. MODERNISM is that theological position which rejects any or all of the Bible as the Word of God, denying the supernatural elements of the Bible and the miraculous character of the Person and work of Christ, magnifying the false doctrine of the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. Modernists emphasize the social gospel as opposed to the New Testament gospel of grace to the individual. Though sometimes differentiated, there is no essential difference between liberalism and modernism. They both represent unbelieving manís rejection of the revealed Word of God, especially as pertaining to the Person and work of Christ. See our chart entitled The Difference Between Liberalism and Biblical Christianity.
3. NEO (NEW)-ORTHODOXY is that inconsistent and illogical contemporary movement of theological deception, also called "Crisis Theology" or "Barthianism," which is a reaction away from liberalism but which constitutes a failure to return to the historic Christian faith. It emphasizes a subjective authority of the Bible and uses evangelical terminology while embracing the destructively critical conclusions of modernism with respect to the Bible. Neo-Orthodoxy is an old idea in a new dress whereby the Word of God is made to be subject to the ideas of man. The proponents of this view would be such men as Karl Barth, Emil Brunner and Reinhold Niebuhr.
4. NEO (NEW)-EVANGELICALISM is a theological movement of neutralism affecting orthodox Christianity, designed to close the gap between fundamentalism and neo-orthodoxy. Dr. Harold J. Ockenga, who coined the term "neo-evangelicalism" in 1948, believes that the movement is characterized by 1) a repudiation of separation; 2) an emphasis upon social involvement; 3) a determination to engage in theological dialogue and debate; 4) a reexamination of certain theological problems such as the antiquity of man, the universality of the flood and Gods method of creation (see Ockengas forward in The Battle for the Bible by Harold Lindsell).
In 1956 Christian Life magazine carried an article entitled "Is Evangelical Theology Changing?" This article clearly revealed eight characteristics of this "new" evangelicalism: 1) a friendly attitude toward science; 2) a willingness to reexamine beliefs concerning the work of the Holy Spirit; 3) a more tolerant attitude toward varying views on eschatology (end time events); 4) a shift away from so-called extreme dispensationalism (as found in the Scofield Bible notes); 5) an increased emphasis on scholarship; 6) a more definite recognition of social responsibility; 7) a re-opening of the subject of Biblical inspiration; 8) a growing willingness of evangelical theologians to converse with liberal theologians (to have dialogue).
This movement, though friendly towards the liberals, is characterized by an antagonism towards fundamentalism (they fear being considered "narrow-minded," "old fashioned," "unscientific," "overly dogmatic," or "separatist"). They have special antagonism towards pretribulational dispensationalism. They also tend to emphasize "love" above truth or doctrine, and they attempt to accommodate Biblical Christianity and make it acceptable to the modern mind.
Dr. Ockenga has listed four agencies which have perhaps done the most to advance the cause of the New Evangelicalism: 1) The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE); 2) Fuller Seminary (although in recent years this school seems to have abandoned almost all of its evangelical moorings); 3) Christianity Today; 4) The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
For help in understanding the subtleties and dangers of neo-evangelicalism see The Challenge of a New Religion by Carlton Helgerson and The New Evangelicalism by Charles Woodbridge. See also our paper New Evangelicalism.
5. YOUNG EVANGELICALS are the new generation of evangelicals. The name "young evangelicals" was popularized as the result of a book by Richard Quebedeaux by that title. New evangelicalism has reaped a new generation of "young evangelicals" who take a position that is even further away from Biblical truth. Indeed, the young evangelicals consider their new evangelical "parents" as far too conservative, and they wish they would be more involved in the social concerns of our day. The older generation of new evangelicals are alarmed by the leftward trend of these "young evangelicals" (as evidenced in Lindsellís book, The Battle For the Bible) and yet this older generation should have realized that a slight deviation from truth at first will become a serious departure as time passes on. Young Evangelicals use evangelical vocabulary. They have a "form of evangelicalism" but it is lacking the power thereof. The movement is characterized by all of the weaknesses of new evangelicalism (as mentioned above); however, these weaknesses are greatly magnified. Apostasy (departure from the Christian faith) is most often a one way street!
6. COOPERATIVE EVANGELISM is the evangelistic arm of new evangelicalism. It is that effort to promote the Gospel by bringing fundamentalists into an unequal yoke with theological liberals, Roman Catholics, Charismatics and other divergent groups. Cooperative Evangelism is sometimes referred to as "ecumenical evangelism." The movement is marked by a consistent neglect of the Biblical injunctions that speak of separation from those who teach false doctrine (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:10; 2 John 10; 2 Tim. 3:5). Converts are often sent to the church of their choice (whether it is Bible believing or not). The chief promoter of this type of evangelism has been the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
See Biblical Separation and The Tragedy of Compromise by Dr. Ernest Pickering and also our papers entitled The Beauty of Separation, Billy Graham--Is He Right or Wrong? and Contemporary Evangelism in Light of Gods Word.
7. ECUMENISM is that movement which seeks the organizational unity of all Christianity and ultimately of all religions. It is a unity which is not based on truth and doctrine. Its principal advocates are the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches in the United States of America.
The following are two current examples of ecumenism:
1) EVANGELICALS AND CATHOLICS TOGETHER: On March 29, 1994 a document entitled, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" (E.C.T.) was initiated by Charles Colson and endorsed by 39 scholars and Christian leaders made up of both Evangelicals and Catholics. It represents the Protestant Reformation in reverse. Instead of separating from Rome with all its false teachings, it encourages evangelicals to embrace Catholics as fellow Christians. This ecumenical document wrongly assumes that Roman Catholics are true Christians who should be considered as "brothers in Christ" and therefore should not be evangelized. See the booklet Holding Hands With the Pope by Dr. Ernest Pickering.
2) PROMISE KEEPERS: This is a mens movement founded by Bill McCartney, former head football coach for the University of Colorado. Its ecumenical goal is to bring men together from all denominational backgrounds. McCartney as well as Randy Phillips (President of PK) are both affiliated with the charismatic Vineyard movement. The emphasis of Promise Keepers is upon ECUMENICAL UNITY at the expense of BIBLICAL TRUTH; FLESHLY LOVE at the expense of BIBLE DOCTRINE. The movement embraces men from all doctrinal backgrounds including Catholics and Mormons. McCartneys Vineyard Pastor, James Ryle, is on the Board of Directors of PK. Ryle declares himself to be a modern prophet and in 1990 he asserted that God instructed him to reveal to the church that both the Beatles and their music were the result of a special anointing of the Holy Spirit intended to bring about worldwide revival!
A Promise Keepers movement for women has also been started. The great tragedy of Promise Keepers is that so many so-called Bible believing pastors and other evangelical leaders have become caught up in the movement because of a desire to raise up godly men, but have totally failed to discern the doctrinal compromises of this movement. Two excellent booklets are recommended: 1) Promise Keepers and the Forgotten Promise by Dr. Ernest Pickering [Baptist World Mission, PO Box 1463, Decatur, AL 35602]; 2) Promise Keepers by Rick Miesel [Biblical Discernment Ministries, PO Box 679, Bedford, IN 47421-0679]. See our paper on The Importance of Doctrine and The True Biblical Concept of Love [A Campus Crusade Critique].
8. CHARISMATIC RENEWAL is that movement which emphasizes the sign-gifts of the Spirit, especially the gifts of tongues, healing and prophecy. Charismatic Renewal has penetrated all the mainline Protestant denominations and has rapidly swept into the Roman Catholic Church. Charismatic converts are told to stay within these churches and to seek to "renew" them by their presence within. Thus the movement is serving as a great impetus to the ecumenical movement. The Charismatic Movement makes experience, rather than doctrine, the basis of Christian unity. What a person believes and what church a person attends is irrelevant. What really matters to them is that all can share the same "Pentecostal experience." A more recent phase of the Charismatic movement is the Vineyard Movement (known also as the "Third Wave" or "Signs and Wonders movement"). The emphasis of this movement is upon the gift of prophecy.
A popular new fad of the charismatic movement is called "Holy Laughter" where the "worshippers" go into fits of uncontrollable laughter, falling to the floor, etc.
See our detailed study entitled The Modern Charismatic Movement (PDF Verson 42 pages).
9. REFORMED THEOLOGY is a movement of our day promoted chiefly by books. Reformed theologians of the past and present have been prolific writers. Their writings have flooded the Christian book market. There are many positive aspects of this movement: reformed men consider the Bible to be inerrant and the only rule of faith and practice; they exhibit a healthy fear of God and a strong abhorrence for sin. In general it has been a God-honoring movement which has preached Christ, detested sin, and acknowledged that God rules on His sovereign throne.
Some of the erroneous doctrines which are often promoted by Reformed Theology are these: 1) Christ died as a Substitute only for the elect. He did not pay deaths penalty for all men. 2) Regeneration precedes faith. That is, before a person can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ he must be born again. One must have the life of God before he can believe. 3) Faith is the gift of God [they base this on Ephesians 2:8-9]. If a person is to be saved, then God must somehow bestow this gift upon the sinner. 4) Gods moral law (the Ten Commandments) is the believers rule of life. 5) A sinner must acknowledge and surrender to the Lordship of Christ in order to be saved (Lordship salvation is a view that is embraced by many Reformed men).
We have studies which deal with all of these issues: Problems of Reformed Theology.
The great and godly men of the Reformation were used by God to uncover vital truths from the Word of God such as 1) the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures; 2) justification by faith; and 3) the universal priesthood of all believers. The Reformers, however, were very weak in the areas of prophecy and ecclesiology (the church). So too, modern Reformed theologians are usually amillennial or postmillennial, having never freed themselves from the allegorizing method of Origen and from the church/kingdom concept of Augustine. They do not follow the literal/historical/grammatical method which interprets Biblical prophecies in their plain, obvious and normal sense.
Most Reformed theologians also embrace Covenant Theology. They are opposed to dispensational theology. Reformed/Covenant theologians teach that the Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church are one people, the church being the continuation and successor of Israel. The "Church" is usually understood as embracing the saints of all the ages. They say that the church, as the successor of Israel, has now absorbed and appropriated Old Testament prophecies and promises. This system of theology is directly opposed to dispensationalism which makes a clear and Biblical distinction between Gods program for Israel and Gods program for the church. See our notes entitled Shedding Light on Dispensations.
10. PSYCHOHERESY. This is a term used by Martin Bobgan in his series of very helpful books on this subject. It refers to the psychological seduction of Christianity. There are many influential men and authors who claim to be "Christian Psychologists" and who claim to offer "Biblical Counseling." They have taken the man-centered theories of secular psychology which have originated from unregenerate, unbelieving men (such a Freud, Jung, Rogers and a host of others), and they have given these ideas and theories Christian names, seeking to offer these to the church as the real solution for Christian living. The only real solution is to reject all such traditions of men (Col. 2:8) and to recognize that the Word of God is totally sufficient for the church and for believers when it comes to how we are to live and change (2 Tim. 3:16-17). In other words, the real answer is found in the Word of God. We must not look elsewhere, especially not to the foolish theories of men who reject the Word of God (1 Cor. 1:20; 2:14).
11. CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC (CCM).
This is a legitimate and justifiable concern for it has brought another form of the world system into the church. Churches which have opened their doors to contemporary music may tolerate God-honoring, Christ-centered traditional church music, but probably not for long. The singing of contemporary, worldly music by the increasing contemporary, worldly congregation will eventually dominate the services. Thankfully there is music being written today that is true to Godís Word, reverent in tone and glorifying to God. We enthusiastically support all of the efforts of godly musicians to provide Christís church with beautiful and Christ-honoring music which is characterized by beautiful melody, glorious harmony, flowing rhythm and words that are God-centered and based on the rich truths of the Bible.
The problem we face today is that worldly music with its rock beat and sensual style is flooding into the churches and being embraced by those who should know better. We are told that music is neutral and amoral, and yet even unsaved musicians know this is not the case: "Music is made up of many ingredients, and according to the proportion of these components, it can be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic. It has powers for evil as well as good" (Dr. Howard Hanson, former head of the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY). We, therefore, strongly oppose trying to put good words to rotten music. We also seek to resist the trend of our day which is to replace the great hymns of the faith with shallow choruses which may have emotional appeal, but which do not adequately feed and nourish the soul. We have gladly embraced a traditional worship style that honors God and shows Him true reverence and awe. See our booklet, Carelessness and Casualness in Worship and also a helpful study on Reverence in the Local Assembly.
12. THE MEGA-CHURCH MOVEMENT.
The emphasis in this movement is upon church growth at the expense of healthy spiritual development and self denying discipleship. It is a growth based upon marketing principles rather than being founded on the safe and solid principles of the Word of God. It involves giving people what they want rather than giving people what God says they need. Entertainment is paramount, rather than edification in the whole counsel of God. Godly standards are avoided. The preaching of the Word, which ought to be central, is minimized and diluted with drama and music and all kinds of programs designed to please and entertain the audience and promote a "feel good" atmosphere. The goal is to attract the masses rather than to exalt the Christ who is despised by the world. The result is an anemic, powerless, cross-less Christianity that is exactly the opposite of what a lost and dying world needs to see. Recommended for study: This Little Church Went to MarketóThe Church in The Age of Entertainment by Gary E. Gilley (Xulon Press).
13. MYSTIC MEDITATION AND CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER.
Ancient mystical practices are being introduced into countless churches under the umbrella of the spiritual formation movement. Also known as contemplative spirituality, this belief system has roots in mysticism and the occult. Such things as labyrinths, breath prayers, centering prayer, the silence, yoga, the Desert Fathers, spiritual formation, and contemplative prayer are entering the Christian church, especially in the mega-churches, the purpose-driven churches and in the so-called "emerging church." This influence is also being felt in Christian colleges and seminaries. Prominent Christian leaders are now urging followers to practice meditative techniques. Recommended for further study: A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen (Lighthouse Trails Publishing Company, 2nd edition, 2006); This Little Church Stayed Home by Gary Gilley (Evangelical Press, 2006); Church on the Rise by Larry DeBruyn. See Contemplative Spirituality Contrasted With Biblical Christianity - A Helpful Chart.
14. THE EMERGING CHURCH.
This new movement is so full of post-modern nonsense that is difficult to define. The following book devotes two very helpful chapters to it: This Little Church Stayed HomeĖA Faithful Church in Deceptive Times by Gary Gilley (Evangelical Press, 2006).
13. BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY is that Biblically-loyal minority movement of our day, composed of men and women, boys and girls who know their God and seek to honor and obey His only written revelation. It is simply a restatement of the historical Christian faith, especially that of the first century church. Godís Word, the 66 books of the Bible, is regarded as absolute, final, infallible, authoritative and totally inerrant (John 10:35; 17:17).
Let us hear and heed the words of Dr. G. Campbell Morgan:
"There is a toleration which is treachery. There is a peace which issues in paralysis. There are hours when the Church must say NO to those who should ask communion with her, in the doing of her work, upon the basis of compromise. Such standing aloof may produce ostracism and persecution; but it will maintain power and influence. If the Church of God in the cities of today were aloof from the maxims of the age, separated from the materialistic philosophies of the schools, bearing her witness alone to the all-sufficiency of Christ, and the perfection of His salvation, even though persecuted and ostracized and bruised, it would be to her that men would look in the hour of their heartbreak and sorrow and national need. The reason why men do not look to the Church today is that she has destroyed her own influence by compromise."
In these days, let us be found as Bible believing men and women, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Let us be understanding the times and knowing what we ought to be doing and why we are doing it! In these difficult and challenging days, may we be "valiant for the truth upon the earth" (Jer. 9:3).
[This Booklet Revised 6/95, 10/96, 6/97, 11/98, 1/01, 10/02, 12/06]
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