A Protestant Purgatory!
An Extended Review of a Book by J. D.
The following review was written by Robert Sumner and first appeared in The Biblical Evangelist. Robert Sumner kindly gave us permission to use his review on this website. May the Lord use this review to help the readers understand the very serious errors that are taught by J. D. Faust.
THE ROD: WILL GOD SPARE IT? By J. D. Faust; Schoettle Publishing Company, Hayesville, NC; 29 Chapters, 438 Pages; No Price Given
If the author is looking for a fight, he is bound to get a number of them when preachers read this book. He opens with a chapter about "accountability truth" and insists that Christians are going to be accountable to God not only for good works as believers, but for bad ones as well. We couldn't agree more and it is something we have highlighted strongly throughout the 60 years of our ministry, pointing out as he does that the main accounting will be at the Judgment Seat of Christ. However, when he goes on to make this accountability a punishment that denies some believers entrance into the millennial kingdom and places them in a Protestant Purgatory, we couldn't disagree more!
Alas, some of the "puffs" for this book, given in the front, seem to imply that if you don't agree with its teaching you are denying the Bema Seat, especially as it relates to "the terror" of the Lord. We vigorously object to such a conclusion.
Faust's teaching is not at all new, of course. No false teaching is. I recall being on the old Council of 14 of the General Association of Regular Baptists when we were faced with the problem of one of our highly revered and respected leaders teaching this idea, saying worldly Christians would be cast out into outer darkness as a temporary judgment for unconfessed earthly sins. He based his conclusion on a misunderstood parable, just as Faust bases many of his.
Is Faust Teaching a Protestant Purgatory?
In fairness to the author and his supporters – he seems to have quite a few – he vigorously denies (and his supporters join the chorus) that he is teaching a Protestant Purgatory. The denial starts on page xii of the Foreword (by ex-Catholic priest Bill Jackson, a good man whose writings we have promoted strongly over the years). The author even has one full chapter (#9, "A Protestant Purgatory?") denying it and repeated shouts by others in the book swell the disclaimer chorus. Alas, when we read it we thought of Abraham Lincoln's question to some in his day, "If you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does he have?" The answer, as Honest Abe smilingly noted, was "Just four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one."
And, in this case, for someone to deny that a Protestant Purgatory is being taught doesn't escape the fact that what is being presented is exactly that! To quote the response of Hamlet's mother regarding the Queen's vow to remain a widow if her husband died, Shakespeare had her say, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." In this book, the gentleman and his supporters 'doth protest too much.' It also seems significant that the book's subtitle announces: "An Exhaustive Study of Temporary Punishment for Unfaithful Christians at the Judgment Seat and During the Millennial Kingdom" (emphasis added).
In short, Faust denies the term but teaches the act. That is why we used an exclamation point and not a question mark in the title of our review; we are not questioning whether he does, but declaring it. Faust explains the difference between his Purgatory and Rome's as being that the latter experience it "to become a child of God and live in eternity." In the first place he misunderstands Catholicism; its dogma teaches Catholics are already the children of God (children of Catholics are born that way, according to Rome's dogma!) and the purpose of Purgatory is refinement, making them worthy of Heaven. In short, isn't that being "punished" for sins which Calvary apparently failed to make provision? Is there much difference between the purgatories of the Vatican and Faust?
As for whether Romanists teach that Purgatory is "to become a child of God" as he claims, let me quote one of his own authorities on the subject regarding Rome's position: "The doctrine of purgatory does not, therefore, involve the idea of the future redemption of the impenitent. 'The souls who go to purgatory are only such as die in the state of grace, united to Jesus Christ. It is their imperfect works for which they are condemned to that place of suffering, which must all be there consumed, and their stains purged away from them before they can go to heaven'" (emphasis added). That sounds to me exactly what Faust is saying. The major difference between the two, it seems to me, is that Roman Catholics might get out of their Purgatory sooner (victims of Faust's will be there over 1,000 years)!
Again, quoting a Romanist authority, "The almost universal belief prevailing among Roman Catholics, though they do not consider torment by fire as being de fide, but only the most probably opinion – is that purgatory is a place of suffering or punishment for imperfect Christians," then adding his definition of it "as a place of temporary punishment" (italic in original). Again, isn't that latter exactly what Faust is saying? It is, in fact, the same wording as he has in his subtitle.
Faust's Actual Teaching
Let's see whether Faust actually teaches a Protestant Purgatory. For example, in one place, after speaking of the lost experiencing the second death in the lake of fire, he adds, "Yet, Christians are warned about the danger of being temporarily 'hurt' by this Lake of Fire." Oh? Where is that warning? He offers Revelation 2:11: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." Then he says, "After being slain by the Lord's fiery breath at the judgment seat, unfaithful Christians will then be banished to the underworld for 1000 years" (emphasis added). Doesn't that sound like a 1,000-year-long Purgatory to you? It does to this reviewer. (Actually, he is talking about well over a thousand years – his chart in the book shows them being cast into the Lake of Fire after the rapture and before the Great Tribulation.)
But is this what Revelation 2:11 is saying? Of course not! It is not saying it CAN be done, but that it CAN'T be done! It is the same as the companion verse in the next chapter, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Revelation 3:5). In both passages God is promising what He will not do to overcomers, not what He will. The overcomer will not be hurt by the second death, he will not have his name blotted out of the Book of Life.
To which the Faust supporters would respond, "That is only for overcomers, the good guys at the Bema." But who are the overcomers? By comparing Scripture with Scripture we have the answer: "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (I John 5:4,5, emphasis added). And that is given in a context about believers as obedient commandment keepers (Vss.2,3), but who are called "overcomers" because they trusted Christ, not because they were obedient to God's commands! An overcomer is anyone who is "born of God" by "believing" in Jesus the Son of God. In short, Faust claim of Christians "being temporarily 'hurt' by this Lake of Fire" and "banished to the underworld for 1000 years" is brought about by subterfuge, taking Scripture out of context. (More on "overcomers" later.)
We found it interesting that he introduced his chapter "Trial by Fire" with a quote from Ambrose (340-397), taken from a University of Chicago Press book, The Birth of Purgatory (originally published as Naissance du purgatoire, English translation by Arthur Goldhammer): "…all shall be subjected to examination by fire. For all who want to return to heaven must be tried by fire" (Faust's emphasis). He then quotes I Corinthians 3:13 and concludes, "A literal fire will also punish the unprofitable servant himself (I Corinthians 3:14,17, Revelation 2:11, etc.)" (our emphasis).
A "literal fire"? Says who? If the fire is literal all the sense goes out of that Bema Seat passage in I Corinthians 3. It the fire is literal, so are the "wood, hay and stubble," and so are the "gold, silver and precious stones." Is there anyone in his or her right mind that thinks there will be literal cords of wood, bales of hay, bundles of stubble, bricks of gold, pounds of silver, or stacks of precious stones at the Bema Seat? Of course not! And if they are figurative, by the very basics of hermeneutics, so is the fire – and we are bold to say what that fire probably figures: the holiness of God. There is all the "terror" we need: facing God's holiness with our puny works, our failures and omissions of duty.
The expression "he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (Vs.15) doesn't mean going to Hell for 1,000 years, but is used something like we would say "by the skin of his teeth" – a narrow margin, something like "a brand plucked out of the fire" in Zechariah 3:2. I might add that Faust tries to answer this argument and keep the fire literal and the works figurative; alas, all he does is unconvincingly dance around the issue.
But does the passage about the Bema Seat in I Corinthians 3 teach that Christians whose works are wood, hay and stubble will suffer fire? Of course not! As anyone can see who will even casually read the passage, it is the works that are burned, not the Christians! The fire will test all the believer's works and he will be rewarded for those that stand the fiery test; there will be loss, of course, for what is burned by the fire.
One of the 20th century's finest Greek scholars, A. T. Robertson, put it like this: "It [i.e., the fire] is a metaphor that must not be understood as purgatorial, but simple testing (Ellicott) as every fire tests (the fire itself will test, to pur auto dokimasei) the quality of the material used in the building, of what sort it is (hopoion estin), qualitative relative pronoun." G. G. Findlay in The Expositor's Greek Testament expressed it: "it signifies to fine, inflict forfeit (in pass., suffer forfeit) of what one possessed, or might have possessed." That is it; nothing more. And Findlay calls "the fire of purgatory…an idea foreign to this scene." It is strictly a matter of gaining or losing rewards. Period.
Faust makes much of the passage in II Corinthians 5: 9-11, "Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences," highlighting especially the phrase "the terror of the Lord."
While that phrase is literally "the fear of the Lord" (ton phobon tou Kuriou), we don't mind his following the KJV translation. Peter used the same word in I Peter 3:14 (and the KJV rendered it "terror") about what mere men could do in persecuting Christians. Paul used it of the lost ("no fear of God before their eyes") in Romans 3:18 and of Christians ("perfecting holiness in the fear of God") in II Corinthians 7:1.
Faust tries to interpret this "terror" as "temporary death after death" (his emphasis) and asks, "What could the phrase 'the terror of the Lord' mean if it does not have anything to do with some type of death?" The answer is simple. Without going into any great detail, here is one biblical illustration: Acts 9:31, "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied." The Greek there is the same as in II Corinthians 5:11. In one case it is the reaction at the Bema Seat, in the other (where there is certainly no suggestion of any kind of death), it is the reaction of Christians who are walking with God in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. So much for "temporary death after death" for believers. It was regarding this verse that he quoted John R. Rice, who didn't believe for a minute what Faust is teaching.
Faust attempts to answer Samuel L. Hoyt's articles in Bibliotheca Sacra about the Bema Seat, but he is not very successful. He quotes him about "receiving back" for bad works: "The answer rests in the fact that unworthy, sinful deeds merit no reward…Reward will be granted only for righteous deeds." Faust answers, "Reward can be either positive or NEGATIVE" (his emphasis) and to prove it he offers Romans 11:22 ("the goodness and severity of God," his emphasis).
Alas, again he has taken a text out of context. Paul was talking about the favor of God in this passage, cutting off Israel and grafting in the church, warning that He could reverse the situation again. Was he talking about both "goodness" and "severity" for the children of God? Of course, not! The severity was for, as the passage plainly notes, "unbelievers." The believers were "standing by faith" and receiving His "goodness," while the "severity" was for those broken off "because of unbelief" (Vs.20).
It is interesting what Faust didn't quote in the Hoyt item above (the ellipsis). Here is the missing section, which offers solid explanation: "An unfaithful Christian receives the appropriate recompense for that which is worthless, namely, no recompense at all. For example, a student who turns in a worthless assignment receives a failing grade. He receives what he deserves. His poor work results in a just recompense, a loss of the grade that could have been his if his work had measured up to the established academic standards. Likewise an unfaithful Christian will receive the commensurate recompense for his worthless works. He will receive no reward at all for those particular deeds." Amen!
And here is what Hoyt wrote immediately following his words quoted by Faust: "All sinful deeds, thoughts, and motives will be consumed instantaneously as works of the flesh which are unworthy of reward. Some Christians will stand empty-handed, without excuse, having had much of their work and service rendered unworthy of reward. They will experience a real and eternal loss of reward, but they themselves shall be saved, yet so as through fire." Amen again!
Just as at the harvest it will be easy to separate the wheat from the tares, so at the Bema Seat the fire will quickly and permanently distinguish that which is worthy from that which is worthless. There is nothing here to indicate Christians will be cast into outer darkness for over 1,000 years to be punished for their failures.
Punished in Hell 1,000 Years for Sins Christ Atoned?
As for his claim Christians will be "punished" a thousand years in Hell for their bad deeds, those are the same bad deeds for which Christ was "punished" at Calvary. Doesn't Faust know that "bad deeds/works" are sins and for him to say believers will be "punished" for them (instead of "suffering loss" by losing rewards) is an insult to the finished work of Christ? Our Lord says to His Father regarding all the sins of His own, "Charge that to my account!" Faust is offering the Christian community a bad case of double jeopardy, suffering in Hell for 1,000 years and spending that millennium weeping and wailing and gnashing teeth after Christ already suffered and paid the debt in full!
Isn't he aware of the Scriptures that guarantee believers their sins are removed as far as the east is from the west, buried in the deepest sea, and remembered no more – already forgotten by God? Yet Faust says the unfaithful Christian will suffer in "the same place as the unbeliever and hypocrite until after the millennium." The author needs to settle in his mind whether or not "bad works" are "sins." If they are, it is unquestionably a horrible case of double jeopardy, a Christian suffering for sins for which Christ already suffered "once for all."
He defends his understanding of "punishment" from Paul's use of the word in II Corinthians 2:6 regarding the excommunication of an erring brother from the church. However, the word there (the only place it is used in the entire Bible) is epitimia, a word originally showing "the rights and privileges of citizenship," but later coming to mean an infringement of those rights imposed by a judge (so several Greek authorities, Vine for example, whom we have referenced here). To use it with allusion to rewards for believers would merely be saying that the Judge penalizes the defendant, a citizen of His country, by refusing rewards that would otherwise be his. There is no thought whatsoever of a purgatory-like punishment in any of the passages about judgment for Christians.
Faust argues that since chastening and scourging are the lot of Christians in this life it follows the same kind of response will be true after death for those who need it. That reasoning is not necessarily true, but much of what he says pursues that idea. In fact, what is God's purpose in chastening His children in this life? We are told in Hebrews 12:9-11, "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
One purpose is to make us partakers of His holiness. That will have already been accomplished before the Bema Seat since I John 3:2,3 say, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." Those standing before Him at the Bema will be perfectly clothed in His righteousness; they will have no need of chastening. Not so, says Faust, the majority of Christians won't be like Him until after the millennium, when they've suffered the pangs of Hell for over a 1,000 years.
Another purpose for earthly chastening is that Christians might produce "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" as a result. Since no Christian will sin in Heaven (or in the millennium, either, for that matter), there would be no need for chastening at the Bema. They will live lives manifesting the peaceable fruit of righteousness all of the time. Aren't you eager, as I am, to reach that state of perfection?
A part of Faust's problem is with his understanding of punishment. He seems to demand all God's chastening to be corporeal punishment. It is not necessary for God to use the rod to punish in every case. Sometimes He may say, "Go stand in the corner," or, "Go to your room and go to bed without any supper." More to the point of the Judgment Seat, it will be something like telling a child, "Since you disobeyed me so severely you cannot go to the Mall with me. I am going to take your brother instead." In short, the 'punishment' of the Bema Seat (if one insists on calling it punishment, which Scripture does not) will be "loss" – what the Christian doesn't receive. In some cases, it will even include the loss of crowns he had already earned that will be taken from him (see II John 8 and Revelation 3:11) and given to another, one more faithful and more deserving.
Paul was talking about faithfulness/accountability when he wrote to the Christians as Corinth: "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" (I Corinthians 4:1-5).
Who will have praise of God when Christ comes to judge His own? Paul says, "every man!" Faust makes that read for some of the all, "And after I've praised them I'll send them to Hell for 1,000 years of suffering, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth." Don't you believe it!
Which brings up a matter that distressed us throughout this book. Faust will twist a Scripture to give it an application that agrees with him, then he will use that interpretation as a foundation to go on and make other passages come to kindred false conclusions, harmonizing with his foundation. That may be good debating, but not good hermeneutics.
It is interesting that the word "punished" only occurs 4 times in the New Testament, twice when Paul was giving the testimony of his conversion and saying what he had done and planned to do to Christians at Jerusalem and Damascus. Once it is used of what will happen to the lost when Christ returns (II Thessalonians 1:9), and once about Lot and the Sodomites, saying in II Peter 2:9, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." The latter is a good illustration of what will happen when Jesus comes: the saved will be delivered – even such backslidden creatures as Lot, who certainly deserve the harshest of punishment – while the unjust will be punished. But to say the Lots are to be punished with the unjust is certainly going far beyond what is written.
Another Scripture he takes out of context is Philippians 3:10-14. Amazingly, Faust quotes Philippians 3:11 and says "the goal of every Christian should be to win eternal life a thousand years earlier than the Great White Throne" (the boldface italic is our emphasis, the regular italic is his). He then adds, "There is nothing figurative about the words of Philippians 3:11. To spiritualize the resurrection in that chapter is to cast doubt on the literalness of any resurrection, in any verse." Is that true? Alas, the resurrection in verse 10 cannot be a literal resurrection because it comes before the suffering! Paul said, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." One must experience the power (and that is a spiritual experience) of Christ's resurrection before he can become a partaker (and that can be a literal experience) of Christ's sufferings. Faust wants the "attaining [the winning] unto the resurrection from the dead" to be, both in Paul's case and ours, a result of our good works. That's expecting a lot from "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) containing "no good thing" (Romans 7:18), isn't it?
He says being a part of the "first resurrection" is a "prize" for Christian winners, not a right of every believer (in fact, he says "the majority of Christians" will not make it into the millennium). He uses the word "prize" in Philippians 3:10 and I Corinthians 9:24 as proof. He proves too much! In the first passage Paul had just finished reciting the good deeds of his religious morality and said he counted them as dung so that he might "win Christ." If the first resurrection is "a prize" won for living right as a Christian, salvation must likewise be "a prize" lost sinners like Saul of Tarsus win.
As for the prize in the Corinthian passage, Paul identifies it as one of the crowns given faithful Christians at the Bema Seat, not an award that gains an individual a part in the first resurrection. I will not take a back seat to any preacher in demanding holiness in the life of a believer, calling for separation from the world and all its allures, warning of the consequences of sin in the life, and urging all to strive for the prizes (rewards) offered for faithfulness to Christ Jesus – but never as an effort to obtain the first resurrection! In Faust's view, the winner of the race will be crowned, but all the losers in the race will be scourged! That is 'not exactly' what the passage is saying!
By the way, earlier in his book Faust refers to I Corinthians 9:24-27 and asks, "What does it mean to be a 'castaway' at the future judgment seat?" Well, in the first place we think he is talking about being put on the shelf while down here ("after I have preached to others," being yanked from the race by the Divine Coach) – the idea is one of being disapproved for service – but even if he were talking about the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Greek, A. T. Robertson tells us, is autos adokimos genÇmai and is literally, I myself should be rejected.
Paul didn't want to be put on the shelf. And he wasn't either, since at the end of his ministry he reminded Timothy, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (II Timothy 4:7,8). He was not put on the shelf; he earned the crown.
By the time we finished examining the book we had become amazed at how much of what Faust was saying was merely philosophy ("it seems," "it would appear," etc.). Some times when he quotes a passage about those partaking of the first resurrection having done good deeds or being martyrs, he blandly makes those deeds the basis of their partaking – something going far beyond what is written, of course.
We mention below his lengthy quote of Lactantius. What we don't mention there is what another of Faust's sources said about him. Talking about how he lived in a time of heavy persecution under Diocletian, but didn't experience any himself, the writer said: "Some think, and this seems to be reasonable, that Lactantius escaped suffering for his faith because he was generally regarded as a philosopher, and not as a Christian writer; and, indeed, to judge from his De Opificio Dei, he appears to have been more attracted by the moral and philosophical aspects of Christianity than by the supernatural and the dogmatic. In fact, in all the theological works of Lactantius is manifest the influence of his early studies of all the masterpieces of ancient rhetoric and philosophy…" (emphasis added).
That Lactantius was a great orator we do not deny – some called him "the Christian Cicero" – but our concern is with what he said, not the polish with which he said it. After speaking of his "form and diction," Faust's source (not quoted by him, of course) goes on to say, "The case is quite otherwise with the exposition of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity in detail. In the midst of admirable philosophical developments, as with other writers of this class, we meet with many mistakes, many erroneous views and half-truths…."
Referring to the highly reputed church historian, another one of Faust's sources (he refers to him 10 times according to his Index), the same source in the same place says: "Dr. Schaff gives the following summary of the doctrinal views of Lactantius Church Hist.3:957): '…In the doctrine of sin he borders upon Manichaeism. In anthropology and soteriology he follows the synergism which, until Augustine, was almost universal. In the doctrine of the Trinity he was, like most of the ante-Nicene fathers, a subordinationist. He taught a duplex nativitas of Christ, one at the creation, and one at the incarnation. Christ went forth from God at the creation as a word from the mouth, yet hypostatically."
So much for Lactantius. By the way, Faust's source, Le Goff (The Birth of Purgatory), says Lactantius "believed that all who died, including the righteous, would be tried by fire" (emphasis added), so that would even mean those Faust calls "holy." No exceptions.
In Faust's thinking, some references to eternal life mean "eternal life" and sometimes they don't. He says, "In conditional passages addressed to Christians, 'eternal life' would simply refer to 'age-lasting life' in the future millennium" (our emphasis). Who decides which is which? Why Faust does, of course, making them fit his purgatorial theory. Incidentally, Faust's argument here is the same one the annihilationist uses, that the punishment is not forever and ever but only "age-long."
How Many Times Will Christians Die?
The Word of God says it is appointed unto Christians once to die (Hebrews 9:27). Faust says it is appointed unto Christians who do not "win" the first resurrection to "twice to die," once when leaving this life and another time after the Bema Seat. Weird, isn't it? He says all Christians will be raised before the millennium, but some will not "stay raised!"
Faust works in an extra resurrection for Christians based on his understanding of I Corinthians 15:22-25. Here it is, Paul giving the order of the resurrection: First, Christ, the firstfruits (we have no problem with that, of course); second, afterward "they that are Christ's" at His coming (to deny that all the Christian dead experience this resurrection is to deny that some believers "are Christ's," which takes a wilder leap of imagination than we can muster); (3) then cometh the end, which he makes out to be a third resurrection for Christians, those who have already been raised once. That's right, he makes the word "then" another resurrection for saints!
He explains it, "This teaches that after the millennial kingdom there will be some saints who missed the First Resurrection that will be resurrected to immortality." Is this true? No, "the end" is described in that very same verse as "when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power" (emphasis added). Someone who can read "then" into a statement proving an extra resurrection for Christians – those who have already been resurrected once in the second of the three sequences – deserves some kind of an exegetical award, but not one of honor.
Actually, the Greek here is eita, which merely denotes sequence of time. The final resurrection will be the resurrection of the Christ-rejecting lost, of course. As the context indicates, Paul is talking about the fact that all will be raised by Christ (all who died in Adam, which includes those eventually saved and those eventually lost, as per verses 21 and 22), and the third and final resurrection in that sequence is the lost, the Christ rejectors.
But what about the impressive array of Fundamentalists and other Premillennialists Faust quotes as saying (or, usually, just implying) they agree what his thesis? Well, in a number of them – men I knew personally or have read after voluminously – I know they did not hold his position.
For example, he quotes the late Dr. John R. Rice (whom I, as the author of his authorized biography, probably know more about than any other man living, except possibly his sons-in-law) in a way that even he appears to hold Faust's position. In his only real quote of Rice (he lists him 3 times in his Index, but once is for a listing in his Bibliography – he lists everyone found in the Bibliography again in his Index, which we found strange) of the Tears In Heaven booklet, and once quoting the Sword web as saying Robert E. Neighbour "often shared conference platforms" with him), he quotes him as speaking of the "terror" of that time (and it will be terror, too), then concludes the quote, "In Heaven it will be terrible to face Christ who saved you and keeps you, in your shame over your wasted life!…I am not speaking of punishment now, but tears, of shame and sadness." Of course Rice was not speaking of punishment – he did not believe the Bema Seat was a time of "punishment," but only a time of loss. (Faust speaks of "loss" as being punishment, but that is not how Rice used the term – and he certainly didn't believe Christians would be "banished to the underworld for 1000 years" if their works proved to be of the wood, hay and stubble variety!)
Several of those whom Faust quotes say it is obviously something awful, but they have no idea what the passages really mean, other than they are true. In his case, to quote the old saw, "fools rush in where angels fear to tread," he happily informs readers of what the others didn't know and refused to speculate: believers will be cast into Hell for over a thousand years, to be punished for their sins (bad works).
Faust repeatedly describes the Bema Seat as a time of punishment for worldly Christians, going above and beyond what Scripture actually says. Suffering l-o-s-s does not spell suffering p-u-n-i-s-h-m-e-n-t. The only 'punishment' the accounts of the Bema Seat speak of is loss – not outer darkness, participating in the second death, or suffering temporarily in Hell. The Scripture speaks of what those whose works were wood, hay and stubble won't receive, not what they will.
He doesn't take every one he quotes out of context, of course. He doesn't have to. Some he quotes are partial rapture men, some posttribulationists, some postmillennialists, some preterists, some amillennialists – the whole ball of wax. The first man he quotes on the first page of the first chapter is Robert Govett. He taught a partial rapture and if being included in the rapture is based on a Christian's good works, we are not surprised that Govett thinks entrance into the millennium is also based on a Christian's good works. The only man he quotes more is D. M. Panton, which is not especially surprising either. They were teammates, both of the same era, both pastored the same church (one succeeded the other), and it was a teacher-disciple sequence. It is not strange that the student had the same views as the instructor. So Faust's two chief witnesses are both promoters of a partial rapture and a partial first resurrection! It figures; they go together like flies and honey.
Discussing his theory of selective-resurrection he quoted F. W. Grant as 'confessing' "it was the belief of practically 'all' of the premillennialists a century before him." Here is Grant's quote, exactly as Faust gave it: "The recognition of the first company here [i.e. Revelation 20:4] also removes another difficulty which troubled those with whom the 'blessed hope' revived at the end of the last century – that the first resurrection consisted wholly of martyrs" (emphasis, I assume by Faust; he doesn't say). Now I am an easy-going, charitable kind of critic, but where in the world does in say in that quote that "the belief of practically 'all' of the premillennialists" in that period was that Revelation 20:4 taught a selective-resurrection (only martyrs)? That some had a difficulty, I acknowledge – but "practically all"?
He followed that "majority rules" theme with Henry Allen Ironside. He started his "Accountability Truth in History (Part 1)" with a quote from his Lectures On the Revelation: "But there are those who tell us, and their number is not few, that only the strong spiritual members of the church are designated in Scripture as overcomers…." (boldface emphasis added by Faust). Since he doesn't indicate whether or not Ironside was agreeing or disagreeing with him – the inference is that he was – whenever you find ellipses it is helpful to check the context.
In this case, here is what the good Dr. Ironside went on to say, giving the rest of his paragraph: ". . .and that the woman pictures the church as a whole; whereas, the man-child symbolizes the overcoming part of the church who, they say, will be raptured prior to the great tribulation, while the rest of the church will be purified through that time of trouble. But Scripture definitely determines the untruthfulness of this contention, for we are told distinctly. 'Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.' An overcomer is one who has personal faith in Christ, and every believer in this sense overcomes. Those who do not are proven not to have real faith, and are simply professors, not possessors. This theory, to which I refer, denies the unity of the body of Christ: it fails to recognize the intimate relation existing between the head and all its members" (boldface mine). In short, Ironside was not even talking about the millennium, but the Great Tribulation, and he blasts Faust's "theory" (as he called it). That is not the kind of witness I would like to have for my case.
By the way, if Faust stated his own position about the rapture – pre, post, mid, pre-wrath or partial – I missed it. His chart does not make it clear, only that it is before the millennium. I would assume, since he believes good works will get a Christian into the millennium, he also believes that good works will get one into the rapture. That is what his heroes (the two he quotes the most in this book, Panton and Govett), believed and taught.
We had trouble, too, with his falsely judging the motives of Christian leaders. Oswald J. Smith is a case in point. Saying that Smith's acceptance of D. M. Panton's views early in his ministry "obviously drove Smith's early missionary zeal." (Now, how would he know that?) Then he adds that Smith's views "were later watered-down due to the temptation and dangers associated with his immense popularity." Oh my, oh my, what a vicious and wicked judging of Smith's motives – an example of what our Savior spoke so strongly against – when he doesn't have one iota of fact to back it up. That is like if I said, "The reason Faust wrote this book was to make big bucks with a controversial tome." I don't say that, of course, because I don't believe it. But I would have as much proof for saying so as he did in maligning Smith.
Smith wrote and taught – and I had the honor of
preaching in his Toronto church while he was still there – what he did from
personal conviction. If Smith were the kind to listen to "the temptations and
dangers associated with his immense popularity," do you think for a moment that
he would have switched from a pretrib position to a posttrib one – at a very
time when almost everyone was pretrib? Faust has done a disservice to the memory
of a good man who wasn't always right, but who was always sincere. . .and
What About the Church Fathers?
The reader will probably be impressed early on with how many men in antiquity he quotes as agreeing with him – all the way back to the Church Fathers – until he recalls that all the cultists do the same. It is not difficult to go back in time and find someone as mistaken as you on just about anything. Several are men who flip-flopped on eschatology, holding one position one time and a contrary position another time. It is easy to quote such men during the period when they agreed with the author! He also quotes, as noted above, an impressive array of Fundamentalists and the inference is that they agree with him. The ones he quotes with whom I am familiar I feel he has misrepresented make me suspicious of the ones with whom I'm not familiar, of course.
Speaking of Church Fathers, in his chapter "Trial by Fire" he has a section he calls "Some Early Christian Testimonies Concerning Trial by Fire," in which he lists by name about a dozen of those men as teaching his idea of a Christian Purgatory. I found it extremely interesting that I was able to find quotes for all but one or two of the men he named in support of his position being quoted by Romanist authorities as teaching their idea of Purgatory!
One of the Fathers Faust names in support of his position was Hilary. The Bishop of Poitiers, he taught that every Christian would be forced to go through these fires, even the Virgin Mary! He was not without other theological problems, either. To quote church historian Philip Schaff, "…he could not get clear of subordinationism, nor call the Holy Ghost downright God." In short, he taught that Christ was inferior to the Father and never got to the place where he could attribute deity to the Holy Spirit. He also taught a 3-fold birth of the Son of God: 3 incarnations!
Another was Ambrose. The Bishop of Milan declared: "We must all pass through the fire, whether it be John the Evangelist, whom the Lord so loved that he said to Peter, 'If I will that he remain, what is that to thee; follow thou me.' Of his death some have doubted, of his passing through the fire we cannot doubt…." Well, I don't doubt that John died, but I certainly do doubt that he is going to be in Purgatory/Hell for over a thousand years.
Another of his sources is Jerome. He compared Christians at the Bema Seat with the 12 tribes of Israel. He likened the 10 tribes to "heretics" and the other 2 tribes "to the Church, and to sinners [members] of the Church, who confess the true faith, but on account of the defilement of vice [vitiorum sordes] have need of the purging fires." He also said: "As we believe that the torments of the devil, and of all infidel [neqatorum] and wicked men who have said in their hearts 'There is no God,' are eternal, so of sinners, although Christians" (emphasis added).
He has a lengthy quote from Lactantius (in fact, it is almost half of the latter's Chapter 21, "Of the Torments and Punishments of Souls"; by the way, Lactantius was a layman, not a minister). However, here is something Faust doesn't quote from the earlier part of that short chapter: "For even angels fear God, because they can be chastised by Him in some unspeakable manner; and devils dread Him, because they are tormented and punished by him." Since he gives demons a special listing, he is obviously speaking of angels currently in good standing before God when he speaks of fearing Him. He doesn't say, however, what behavior on the part of these good angels would invoke "unspeakable…chastening."
I thought he referenced Origen as one of his supporters but I cannot find it now (his General Index is less than perfect and he has no Scripture Index). No problem. If he didn't cite Origen I'll do it for him. He wrote frequently about this "Judgment-day Fire" (which is one of Faust's expressions) and even said the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter would pass through it, although he graciously said in their case they would hear the words, "When thou passest through the fire, the flame shall not harm thee." By the way, Origen is given as one of the two "creators/founders" of the Roman Catholic Purgatory in one of Faust's major sources, The Birth of Purgatory. He believed the refining fires would bring about the redemption of everyone, no matter how wicked – even Satan and the fallen angels – and that Hell was only a temporary abode. The same source calls Augustine "the true father of Purgatory," refining his thoughts after the death of his mother, Monica. That may be why one cannot tell any real difference between the Roman Catholic idea of Purgatory and Faust's Protestant one.
The author of that work, Jacques Le Goff, says "…in modern Catholic theology, Purgatory is not a place but a 'state.' The Tridentine Fathers, anxious in this respect as in all others to avoid contamination of the faith by 'superstition,' expunged the idea of Purgatory from dogma." So while Romanists are going "soft" on Purgatory, Faust wants evangelicals to go "strong." Strange, isn't it?
Pope Gregory I (also known as Gregory the Great) is the one whom the historian Dollinger credits with adding "the idea of a tormenting fire" to Purgatory. Dollinger also says Purgatory "as a burning-away of sins" was "an idea unknown in the East as well as the West" until Gregory introduced it. Up until then, the belief was "that after death those who were not ready for heaven were kept for some time in a state of preparation, and that the prayers of the living were an advantage for them."
In our judgment, the Poet Dante may have done as
much as anyone to popularize the idea of Purgatory in the minds of the common
Proving by Parables!
A great deal of Faust's 'scriptural proof' for his Purgatory is from the parables. One of the first things my professors drummed into my head in seminary was: don't ever try to prove doctrine by parables! Parables illustrate doctrine (a parable is an illustration; that is what the word means, "to throw along side," to illustrate). All the cults prove their points by parables because it is fairly easy to make a parable teach anything you want it to teach if you ignore the thrust of its single intention. As a general interpretive rule of thumb, a parable has one single point and when individuals try to get a host of additional thoughts from every aspect of the parable is when they get into big trouble, big time. Alas, if you took away Faust's parabolic arguments his case would collapse like a house of cards in a Texas tornado.
His favorite parable, perhaps, is the one following Christ's parable in Luke 12 about the goodman of the house being prepared for the coming of a thief, and concluding, "Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not" (Vs. 42). Peter asked the Lord if He had spoken that parable "unto us, or to all," and then Christ gave the parable about the steward, this favorite of Faust. Christ noted, if he served as a wise and faithful steward, "Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath" (Vs.44). On the other hand, "But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Vss.45-48).
What is the central truth of this parable: the return of Christ and Christians being ready by faithfully serving Him. What are the incidentals of the parable upon which we dare not base doctrine? Cutting him asunder, appointing him his portion with unbelievers, and beating him with few or many stripes according to what knowledge he had. To these Faust happily attributes sending believers to Hell with unbelievers (he limits that to more than a 1,000 years, but if you are going to make doctrine out of the incidentals of a parable, note that our Lord gave no such limit, simply saying "his portion" would be with them), and beating them (from which Faust gets his "punishment").
It is also noteworthy that in our Lord's application of this parable He said, "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division" (Vss.49-51, emphasis added). What was He talking about? Fire at the Judgment Seat? No, fire "on the earth!"
Faust is also confused about the intent of the Book of Hebrews, trying to make every statement therein apply to the saved. Quite the contrary, the Book is written to professing Christians and several times the writer stops and gives strong parenthetical passages to warn those who are only professors to get the real thing, to become possessors! For him to take these warnings and apply them to Christians burning temporarily in Hell is wrong, wrong, wrong. (See the reviewer's commentary, Hebrews: Streams of Living Water, which should be available about the first of the year!)
Some of Faust's arguments are not even clear to us. For example, talking about the futurist view of Revelation 4-22, which both of us hold), he says: "Dean Henry Alford (1810-1871) once accused the Futurist interpretation of being a Jesuit heresy since Francisco Ribera (1527-1591) also taught it." Why would he do that? Alford was a Futurist himself, a dyed-in-the wool Premillennialist.
Where's the Dividing Line?
One thing Faust doesn't make clear: what is the line in the sand that, if a believer crosses, he must spend over 1,000 years in Hell as punishment? Is it carnality and worldliness in 5% of his Christian life, 10%, 20%, 30%, 50%? What is it? The reader of this book is left without a clue. If he replies with a line he uses a lot, "any unconfessed sin," who doesn't die with unconfessed sin? Someone murdered by a jealous husband while at the altar repenting and confessing? Even he would not be confessing everything, only his adulterous actions.
There is a lot more I would like to say but this review has already been much longer than the book deserves. (A proper review would have more pages than Faust's book in order to scripturally deal with all the problems and misunderstandings he raises.) We simply do not have the time, the space, or the inclination to do it. If what we have written doesn't convince you, God bless you anyway!
Let me offer this passage in closing: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do" (I Thessalonians 5:9-11). Notice that whether a Christian lives or dies ("wakes or sleeps") he is going to "live together with Him." It doesn't say some will go to live with Him when he dies ("sleeps") and other believers when they die ("sleep") will be separated from Him for more than 1,000 years in outer darkness – weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth. No, all will live together with Him.
Speaking of the Thessalonians, don't forget the great "rapture" passage in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 with which believers have been so long "comfort[ing] one another" (Vs.18) – for over 1,900 years in fact. In it, Paul assured one and all that when raptured, "so shall we ever be with the Lord" (Vs.17). Not so, says Faust; only the ones who can prove themselves worthy will "ever be with the Lord," the others must suffer Hell for over a thousand years.
Faust explains that one by saying, "The Thessalonians were very holy," so Paul could assure them with that promise. Does that mean the rest of us are taking it out of context when we claim His Word that, when raptured, we'll "forever” be with Him? Even if the Thessalonians were holy (which we are not denying), Paul includes all those "which sleep in Jesus" in the promise they will "ever be with the Lord" from the rapture on (Vss.14, 16-17). Can Faust assure us that they, too, like the Thessalonians, "were very holy"? We think not.
If you get the idea we are not enamored with this book, you've grabbed the brass ring and get a free ride on our mythical merry-go-round. Don't waste your money on it! In our humble judgment, it is one of the worst books to be published by a Fundamentalist thus far in the 21st century! It has been a long time since your reviewer has been so incensed at what an evangelical was teaching. I do not say that with malice aforethought, but from studied consideration of what I have read.
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We have other documents which evaluate the teachings J. D. Faust and of other men who teach similar doctrines relating to kingdom exclusion. Please consider the following:
The Middletown Bible Church
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