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Ministry and Preparation for Ministry VII

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Question #1: 

Hi Bob,

I have three questions for you about living in light of the understanding that the Tribulation will begin less than nine years from the time of writing this. The first two are related.

1. 401(k)/Saving for Retirement – All of my relatives have asked me if I have a 401(k), and they’re all mortified when I tell them I don’t. My employer will match up to half of 6% of my salary, and they all tell me “it’s free money!” Here’s the thing: I’ll be 29 this coming March. When Jesus returns in 2033, if I’m still alive, I’ll be 44. I feel like it would be a waste of money that I’d never get to use. Even hypothetically, if the Lord doesn’t return in 2033, with the way the nation and the world has been going economically and otherwise, I don’t think my generation, if we’re able to retire at all, will be able to before we’re 80+ years old. (As an aside: my mom constantly asks me what I’m going to do when it’s 2035 and Jesus still hasn’t come back. I jokingly reply, “I’ll consider amillennialism.”) I feel like there’re better things that I can do with the money now (like donating it), than accruing some “free” money my employer contributes that I’ll never be able to touch because the mark of the beast is going to be implemented when I’m about 40. What do you think? Am I a moron for not putting money in a 401(k)?

Response #1: 

1) 401K: It's entirely up to you. I would take the money because you never know what will happen in life. That is true even though the Tribulation arrives on schedule. It's dangerous to make assumptions about the details of what will happen because we only know the general outline from what the Bible has to say. When I first went on active duty as a newly minted lieutenant, I was about to opt for "no military insurance" because, as in your analysis, it seemed like a waste of money I could put to better use – until a captain asked me, "so if you're killed in combat, you're going to stick your parents with the funeral expenses?". I took the insurance. Analogously: "So if you end up having to work right through the Tribulation (Matt.24:40-41), and its time to flee Babylon, you're going to stick your fellow believers with the [what could be exorbitant] cost of moving to Israel?"

Question #2: 

2. Buying a house – Most of my relatives have asked me when I’m going to buy a house. Quite frankly, I’m probably going to want to move out of this apartment in the next few years and I’m considering it. I looked at the financing and could probably afford it. But, with the Tribulation looming, it’s not like I’d be living in the house all that long. I suppose I could sell it and downsize back to an apartment as the Tribulation approaches, but it seems like a lot of unnecessary time and effort. Also I’m single, and a whole house/property is difficult for one person to maintain. I’d rather be spending that time and effort in spiritual growth, and allow an apartment owner to take care of utilities and property maintenance. What’s your opinion of taking such a big life step as buying one’s first home with the Tribulation coming in less than a decade?

Response #2: 

2) House: Another personal decision. Everyone has to live somewhere. And having a roof over one's head is a blessing that should never go unappreciated. We are told to be satisfied if we have food and clothing (1Tim.6:8), and it is about these necessities that our Lord told us not to worry (Matt.6:25). Having a place to live in the bargain is God's blessing. So the right question to ask is the "why" in regard to options if a person has these. Whatever living situation contributes most to the pursuit of your goal of preparation for and engagement in ministry is to be preferred – and there are a lot of moving parts there. Location, for example (being close to work gives a person more time, e.g.); optimal study situation is a consideration; expense of course too, because if a person has to work harder and longer for place A than place B, will the drain on preparation and engagement in ministry and spiritual growth be worth it? Also, last I heard, you felt that a family was in your future. It's not practical (nor probably fair) to expect a wife not to want/have a house.

Question #3: 

3. Attending/joining a local church – I think we’ve discussed this a little before and I know you’ve written plenty about it, but it’s another thing that is pressing in my life right now. I have a desire for in-person fellowship with other believers, but I don’t want to sacrifice Truth for the sake of fellowship. I want to be in an environment that provides spiritual growth. If spiritual growth is like a highway, I would say that quality teaching like yours at Ichthys is like driving down the highway in a Bentley. I feel like most churches today would rather sit down in the middle of the road and sing “Kumbaya”. If I could at least find a church that’s like riding a bicycle down the highway (like John MacArthur’s church where he preached through the entire New Testament but it took him 42 years), I would consider attending because at least they’re trying for spiritual growth and may make some progress at it over time.

There’s also issues of doctrines related to eschatology and ecclesiology, specifically I’m thinking pre-trib rapture and water baptism respectively, that I would find difficult to reconcile (especially if they would require water baptism for “membership”). Especially with these two doctrines, to get the plain message of scripture so wrong, it makes me wonder what else is being taught in error. I should note that I think water baptism is a more forgivable offense on this account due to its history in the church visible—although I still see no reason to be water-baptized, especially if it’s required for “membership” in some congregation. I would rather go to a church that teaches amillennialism than one that teaches a pre-trib rapture. Even these two doctrines would be forgivable for the sake of fellowship, I suppose (except requiring water baptism), if the church was really concerned with in-depth teaching of the scriptures. Maybe I could find one of those if I looked hard enough, but logistically, on any given Sunday I’m either in NY or NJ, with no consistency as to how many weekends in a row I’m at either location. Am I supposed to be a part-time member of one or two congregations?

The reason I bring this up now, is that when my dad was in the hospital two of his friends asked me about church membership. His friend is a lawyer, and is apparently graduating soon from some kind of ministry school, and he gave me a mini-lecture about how “iron sharpens iron” and we must “not give up meeting together” so we must have fellowship with other believers, etc., etc. Now, his friend was much less aggressive in his approach and he had nicely asked my mom and me if we wanted to attend a service at his messianic synagogue. My mom seemed excited and I was curious so we accepted the invitation, and tomorrow (Saturday) we’ll be attending. He gave me the details yesterday and I looked up their website. I can already tell from the website and the one sermon they have on Youtube that this will probably be the only time I attend. Their mission reads in part, “We are returning to Messiah's Judiasm, the Judaism he lived, taught and died for, and rose for,” yet they wear yarmulkes and tallits, and recite the Kaddish—all Jewish traditions that developed long after the time of Jesus. Also, I got a third of the way through the sermon and realized that I wasn’t getting anything out of it.

I’ve heard warnings about the spiritual dangers of a being a so-called “Lone Ranger Christian” who isn’t a member of a local church. I think that if one is totally adrift without any steady source of solid teaching, then maybe it is dangerous. However, I don’t think the way I’m running my race (to use Paul’s metaphor) is dangerous and sinful because I don’t attend a local church, or have regular fellowship with masses of people who call themselves Christians. So aside from the one I asked above, my questions are: am I doing something wrong by not attending a local church? Is it wrong to consider it a waste of time to assemble with other self-professed Christians who aren’t much concerned with spiritual growth through the in-depth study of the scriptures?

Yours in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior,

Response #3: 

3) Church: The church-visible is fatally invested in the status quo, and that explains the massive guilt trip it wants to put on everyone who is not showing up Sunday morning somewhere, joining, tithing, working, and doing all the other things that constitute "being a good Christian" in the traditional mold. The true purpose of assembly is doing what the Lord wants us to do, namely, communion in the Word of God so as to grow and progress spiritually and to help others do likewise through our own ministry. If local churches were putting that purpose first, it would be a wonderful thing. Some (I hope) may be, but if so they are very few and far between in Laodicea. So if the choice is A) to go to church the traditional way but not grow or progress or minister in anything but the most superficial way, or B) do what the Lord wants and act in all ways in a manner pleasing to Him, then I, for one, have no doubts about what is right for me.

Again, it's a question of motives. If the motive is inappropriate guilt, that is a very bad reason for getting involved in this sort of thing. If the motive is a desire for social life (finding the right woman), I have to say that whenever we personally force this issue it usually turns out wrong. The Lord knows very well what your needs are and He is going to work things out for you in just the right way – to the extent that you let Him by trusting Him and being patient. The latter was never my strong suit either (in anything), and most of the self-induced suffering I have known in my life resulted from that tendency toward impatience.

So if you feel compelled to "go to church" for reasons of conscience, feeling as if this is what scriptures and the Spirit are guiding you to do, I certainly wouldn't dream of even arguing against that. And I also know that the Lord can provide such places. Whether the recent place reported is such a provision, based on your description, I certainly have my doubts. But I'm pretty sure Ichthys was . . . and is. As I like to say, "Ichthys is my church". That certainly would elicit scoffs from people who are "nodding to God" by enduring Sunday morning, dressing up and going to coffee hour, putting money in the plate and half-heartedly belting out doctrinally incorrect hymns, then listening to a series of stories and illustrations that have nothing to do with the truth in fact (but are often designed to provoke one emotional response or another).

I'm pretty sure I don't have to belabor this. I do wish for you to find a good place. I certainly don't wish for you to compromise what you know in your heart to be true, not even a little bit. That road always ends in a bad place. From my point of view, moreover, you already know 100 times more about the actual truth than any "pastor" whose sermonizing you'd be subjecting yourself too (maybe it's time to think about your own ministry).

(12) When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? (13) Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Isaiah 1:11-12 NIV

I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.
Amos 5:21 NIV

"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the Lord Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands."
Malachi 1:10

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
1st Corinthians 11:17 NKJV

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hi Bob and family,

I had a wonderful ‘seed thought’ this morning and I thought I’d share it with you.

When you think of men like Job and Daniel and many others, the Bible gives us a beautiful insight into their character, which is so inspirational and you see just how they loved to talk about God with others and fellowship amongst each other. I long for days like these but in this Laodicean age, finding others with similar dispositions is becoming ever more difficult and sadly, I can just about count on one hand those who are willing for sweet fellowship these days. I just love talking about God and Jesus to anyone who will listen – my eyes are constantly looking for the mark of a lost sheep, my ears are continually listening for the bleating of a lost sheep yet if I dare to speak, most look at me as if I’m from another planet. If only they’d realise how soon this life is over and just how much there is to lose.

You might remember the story that I told you – about THE ETERNITY MAN – who was inspired by a preacher who was shouting ETERNITY, ETERNITY, OH WHERE WILL YOU SPEND ETERNITY (see the link).

So much so that he went out every day for 34 years and wrote ETERNITY on the streets in Sydney. I am inspired by this man yet I feel so helpless and even more, so worthless just thinking about his zeal, which was just a simple one-word sermon – there aren’t many like him anymore.

It is spiralling out of control and the vortex of this whirlpool is getting faster and deeper and dragging more into it when it doesn’t have to be this way.

Which is why Bob, I love ichthys so much – your dedication in the work you have done and are continuing to do is truly an inspiration to me. When I was searching for help via the internet looking for truth I would type in specific questions and after cross checking everything I was reading from my Bible it didn’t take long to determine fact from fiction. I can’t remember when I first came across ichthys and it was an unassuming site, no hoopla or razzmatazz, no glossy photos, just plain facts (I should have saved it right then) and after passing it by, something was trying to redirect me back but I couldn’t find it for some time – I was so very happy when I eventually found it again.

The Spirit, my Bible and ichthys is my church – I no longer have to search.

Will make this do for now and again dear Bob, with brotherly love,

Response #4: 

Great to hear from you, my friend!

And thanks for your generous words. I value you and your dedication to the Lord and to His truth very much, and I keep you and your family in my prayers daily. I'm happy to hear that you are continuing to press forward and are ever looking to engage with the truth – this seems to be a particular ministry the Lord has given you, and I have been praying for your success therein as well.

Your observation reminds me of our Lord's words:

“But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
Luke 4:25-27 NKJV

Of course they sought to stone Him for saying this. But we can rejoice in being in the good company of those who love the truth – even if it is a small and widely scattered one.

David's "mighty men" were previous of lowly stature, especially when they fled to the desert to join him, debtors and outcasts and men of low esteem in the world's eyes – but their names and deeds are inscribed in the Bible forever.

Keep up the fight.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob and family,

I have just read your Saturday posting (14/4/18) of emails regarding the ‘catching away’ at the END of Tribulation and sadly, it seems many are still misguided by false doctrine on this subject.

Even though clear evidence is there in ‘black and white’ so many still refuse to believe it and I often wonder, did they form those opinions on their own observations from scripture, and if they did, then it shows a complete lack of understanding of the truth of the matter. Or, were they taught it by someone else and they believed it because it sounded right – they didn’t really know and thinking of the alternative is just too hard to accept and they don’t want to face the prospect of possibly being martyred out of fear – surely God wouldn’t put us through that, would He?

So many things come down to the fact that we are all given a free choice – to believe what is said in scripture or to believe their own thoughts, which may or may not have been instigated by their own reasoning. The sad part about this, either way, when those who can’t or won’t believe it until they see it, maybe all too late.

It would be so easy to believe that Jesus will come and take us away before the horror begins, which only leads to a dangerous complacency but scripture tells a different story. Those who fall victim to this ideology and succumb to a false hope and security will only result in a serious lack of a ‘preparedness of mind’ that somehow it isn’t really dangerous because the Tribulation won’t ever have to be endured.

This is the very question the disciples asked Jesus and if it were before Tribulation, then He would have said so. But He clearly said after and only God has the right to change that.

“You cannot read Matthew 24 without concluding that Jesus placed the ‘catching away’ immediately after the Tribulation of those days. For those who believe that the catching away comes before Tribulation, they should look again at the scriptures that contain the word Tribulation. The O.T. uses it 3 times, the N.T., 19 times. If the catching away comes before Tribulation, shouldn’t one of those 22 passages teach us something about the catching away happening before Tribulation? But in all the 22 instances, there isn’t one verse which says it happens before Tribulation. There is however, a very clear verse which says it happens after Tribulation – Matthew 24: 29 and is supported by verse 30.”

This false belief, from what I have found in conversations with all manner of persons, is shared by so many and even though I try (by your example) to lead them into the truth gently, sometimes a shock will be the only way to shake some Laodiceans out of apathy. There are many analogies that describe this human situation and offhand I can’t think of the best one to use – except to say that human nature is what it is. The hardest part in this, (and I know you have been dealing with it for so long yet you still remain gracious) is knowing what is right and try as you might, some will never listen – no wonder He said there are none so blind they cannot see and none so deaf they cannot hear – it is so frustrating not being able to change anything. I guess ‘free choice’ says it all, you are free to believe whatever you believe.

Will make this do for now and again dear Bob, with brotherly love,

Response #5: 

Great to hear from you, my friend!

Thanks as always for your trenchant observations. May I ask you the source of the material in quotations here (i.e., all after "You cannot read Matthew 24 without concluding . . .")? Is this something you wrote? It's quite good!

It does seem that it will take quite an event to get most people paying attention – perhaps the onset of the Tribulation.

Keeping you in my prayers, your family too (especially those two boys of yours).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi Bob and family,

Thank you for your reply to my email concerning the apathy that abounds in society across the board these days.

Sadly, for some time now I have realised that Australia is a ‘Godless country’ even though it is considered Christian by the world. I was born on just before D-Day and in early memories growing up I can always remember there was a Godly Christian attitude in most Australians, even if it was just a ‘right behaviour’ handed down, which is no longer the case and makes me wonder what the era of Philadelphia was like.

Remembering your work in The Seven Churches of Revelation where you break the 7 eras into time zones with Laodicea beginning in 1882, just six decades or so before I was born – yet I see a tremendous degeneration in my country since the early 50’s to what it has now become in a mere 60 years or so. People no longer feel safe in the environment we live, which is a sad indictment and I would imagine you would echo these thoughts. I can remember a time not that long ago when front doors and windows were left unlocked – keys were left in cars, no-one would dare to do that these days. And there is only worse to come, which only serves to re-enforce the need to cling to Jesus and never let go of His hand.

I first found ichthys about 4 or 5 years ago and prior to that time I used the internet, typing in specific questions that I was thinking about looking for answers and I can’t remember exactly where I found the passage you asked about but it was one of the first that changed my mind to believing in the post-trib view. It’s probably not verbatim but it’s pretty close and is easy to remember – once having changed your mind you tend to dismiss all previous thoughts but remember the ones that mean something.

And of course ichthys cemented that view and my prayers are that He will preserve you through the coming days and that ichthys would always have free course in this world – free from satanic interference.

Will make this do for now dear Bob and again with brotherly love,

Response #6: 

Thank you my friend. I appreciate all you prayers – and especially THAT one!

Keeping you in mine as well.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
(Revelation 22:3-4)

I know that we serve God on Earth by spreading the Gospel message, helping those in need, and other Christian examples of how we are to serve God. In eternity, I know we won't get tired from serving God because we would probably never get tired because of our glorified bodies. But what exactly are we going to do to serve Him in the Eternal State? It must be a special opportunity to serve God. I also noticed that the gates of the Father's House are never shut (Rev. 21:25), and I wonder why? The bible says that "all" creation fell since the first sin of Adam and corrupted all things. Would this include the plants too? Is it possible that God will create new forms of life that are teeming in the universe, and that we have to "minister" to them somehow in what we are not aware of right now.

These thoughts often make me wonder what the angels did before the creation of man as they "served God". I find this question very intriguing and am clueless. Perhaps we will be serving God Almighty in the same ways the angels served God. I know that we can serve God by serving others and God. I would be enthralled if I knew that we can travel across the Universe in the blink of any eye or the travel of a blink.

God Bless,

Response #7: 

First, there is so much more about eternity that we do not know than what we do know – and there is a good reason for that. Until we experience the resurrection, until we see God in His glory face to face, until we are liberated from this corruptible world, we lack all frame of reference for the surpassing joy that will be ours on that glorious day to come.

God doesn't need anything. And He has supplied everything. And the most important thing He supplied was the Gift of His Son, without whose sacrifice we would all be lost.

In terms of service to the Lord here and now, what the Lord wants and what He is getting are largely two different things. He wants us to grow spiritually and to progress in our walk with Him – without which two things all "service" the way the church visible usually defines it will be at a very low level necessarily. Secondly, the service we are supposed to be doing has everything to do with the truth, making it available and understandable for others, since that is the bedrock of everything we are supposed to be doing personally. But the church visible sees service mostly through a materialistic rather than a spiritual lens. Thirdly, true service – sharing the gospel with someone who really wants it, ministering the Word to those who desire it, helping these efforts until one comes into one's own life ministry – is a gift and a blessing for us. We are merely "worthless servants" (Lk.17:10); anything we are granted to be able to do – to do in truth – for the Church of Christ is a great blessing.

The angels worship the Lord and we will worship Him for all eternity. He needs nothing. We will be fulfilled and thrilled by our ability to worship Him, to fellowship with Him, to appreciate and thank Him for all He's done for us . . . dying for us and bearing our sins.

Will there be other aspects to all this? Undoubtedly. But we really can't know until the time. As it says, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1Cor.2:9 NKJV; *cf. Eph.2:7).

And, incidentally, the "curse" in Revelation 22:3 is a ms. mistake. The Bible actually says, "no more division". On that glorious day, the entire family of God, the Church, the millennial Friends of the Bride, and all the elect angels, will be "one" with one another forevermore, praising and enjoying the Lord we love in unison and bliss, world without end.

In anticipation of that wonderful day to come.

In Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Matthew 21:12-14 puts me in mind of the Second Advent. First the cleansing of the Temple and next the healing and restoration of that which is sick or malformed. Is this a parallel that works?

Response #8: 

It certainly does adumbrate what will happen at the second advent when there is a complete cleansing of the third temple before the Messiah takes up His reign there.

Question #9: 

As I thought about Matthew 22:21, I wondered if our Lord was also subtly referring to the responsibility of man to worship only God. The government has a right to our taxes and our respect for the Law. But it has no right to our worship. So when it arrogated the place of God to itself, we are not obliged to accord it anything due to that place. Is my reading right?

Response #9: 

That seems to me to be a reasonable application of the passage: our Lord's contemporaries were using religion as an excuse to resist authority whereas the correct approach is to respect authority out of a greater respect for God.

Question #10: 

[question about relationships in eternity]

Response #10: 

It's never wise to "go beyond what is written", and I believe I have been careful not to do so. If I say either "yes" or "no" then in either case I will be passing beyond what I think it is possible to say from scripture. There are reasonable arguments to be made either way, but it is better not to exercise oneself on this question (in my view), to accept as true the things that are given to us to know, to resist drawing conclusions about "what it will be like" when all we know for certain is that "it will be blessed beyond what we can presently imagine", and to trust the Lord that it will be fine, either way. There won't be any complications of the sort we see today if the answer is "yes", and we won't be missing out on anything at all if the answer is "no"; so it really is better to put oneself in a posture of "probably not but unknown" and forget about the issue.

Question #11: 

Is there anything to know about the ten nations that Israel will replace in the land God promised to them? Why does God say of only the Amorite that their iniquity was not yet complete? Were the other nations already confirmed in their iniquity? Or was the Amorite just representative of all the other nations that Israel would replace?

Response #11: 

They were told to annihilate them all, after all. The fact that they never did and that remnants of all ten survived is a testimony to the fact that Israel was never particularly obedient to the Lord, even in matters that should have been easy for them to respond to.  Sometimes the Bible helps us to learn by showing us negative examples and encouraging us not to follow them.

Question #12: 

In Isaiah 11:6-9, is the Lord speaking just of Jerusalem or of the whole earth in the Millennium? Also, does this mean that creation will be restored to pre-Fall status when all animals fed on vegetation and there were no carnivores? I assume because of the sacrifices that at that time, human beings will still eat meat? I think that the comment about the little boy leading animals is another indication that human beings will be restored to rulership over creation during the Millennium.

Response #12: 

I take these wonderful conditions to be particularly true of Israel but to spill over to the entire earth when the Messiah rules it (see the link: "The Millennial Kingdom").

Question #13: 

What modern nations do Assyria, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath and the coastlands in Isaiah 11:11 correspond to?

Response #13: 

That depends on, for example, which time frame we are talking about vis-à-vis e.g., Assyria. But to the point of the question, this is a sampling of foreign nations not meant to be complete ("islands of the sea" including, for example, the entire western hemisphere and Atlantic littoral). The point is that wherever there are Jews, they will be brought back to the land when our Lord returns: their return will be complete (see the link).

Question #14:  

In Isaiah 11:15, what is the "Sea of Egypt"? Is that the Nile? And what is the River? Is that the Euphrates?

Response #14: 

This "tongue" is the gulf of the Red Sea between Sinai and Egypt proper, the very body of water crossed during the exodus. The point is that whether coming from the south or the north (drying up "the River"), all obstacles to the return of the people of Israel will be divinely removed and the return supernaturally assisted in every way (see the link).

Question #15: 

You wrote: "Furthermore, each member of the Trinity had a hand in our election (that is, our selection into the family of God): the Father planned our selection (through foreknowledge: that is, knowing in advance our willingness to believe in His Son); the Holy Spirit executed our selection (through sanctification: that is, separating us in principle from all that is profane in the world, and dedicating us, or consecrating us to serve God); the Son paid for our selection (through redemption: that is, buying us out of slavery to sin through the precious price of His death for us on the cross)."

Could you clarify Spirit's role here? Do by "executing our selection" you mean both the Spirit convicting us of our sin before we are saved and then His empowerment to live a Christian life?

Response #15: 

The Spirit is the One who places us into union with Christ, the action which makes our prior selection a present reality – that is the "execution", making us one with the Lord forever.

Question #16: 

You wrote: "He did not, in fact, bleed to death (Jn.19:33-35)."

Did you choose this particular reference to show that the blood came after our Lord was pierced following His death rather than as he was dying?

Response #16: 

If our Lord had bled to death, there would not have been this outflow of blood when He was pierced by the lance.

Question #17: 

You wrote "Besides normal help and support to our church and fellow Christians, we were all given a particular spiritual gift by the Holy Spirit when we accepted Christ as our savior (1Cor.12:11). It may help to think of this as a "spiritual aptitude" for certain kinds of work necessary to help believers grow. Not everyone is cut out to be a missionary, for instance. But God has sprinkled this gift among us, and as believers with this gift grow spiritually and begin to wonder what their special area of ministry should be, they naturally gravitate to where their spiritual talents lie: the mission field in the case of this example. Let me stress here that the proper function of spiritual gifts requires prior spiritual growth, and even the correct identification of one's gift takes time and growth to achieve."

I don't believe the scripture gives the basis to be dogmatic about it, but do you think that although we receive the gift at salvation, we could see a "foreshadowing" of it or a certain set of characteristics and predispositions which were indicating how we could serve the Lord even when we were yet unbelievers? This question appeared to me when Curt also made the point about us receiving the gift at salvation. After I got saved, I did realise that the Lord called me to become a teacher, but looking back now at the dark pre-salvation time, I can see how, indeed, this was always going to be God's perfect plan for me, since He has given me all that is needed to teach, even if I was wasting all the God-given capabilities before salvation. It all became clear and it all came to be fully realised after I became a believer, this is when I understood that God's plan is the only way to fulfil and put to use all that He has given me, and yet the "natural" abilities were there even before that.

Response #17: 

I think you put the matter very well. The gift is, among other things, the authorization from God to go forth (when prepared) and minister according to the gift given. And there is also an empowerment from the Spirit to do so. Without out those two things, and also without the gift itself, even natural abilities (which of course also come from God) are incapable of functioning. So even if an unbeliever wanted to teach the Bible and had massive natural talent in all manner of areas which contribute to being a good Bible teacher, it would come to naught. Likewise, a believer who is both gifted and talented in the area of teaching but who is not prepared and who is unwilling to be instructed in and believe the truth will also not have a successful teaching ministry, even if he is widely hailed as a "great Bible teacher" (because God will be the Judge of that).

Question #18: 

You wrote: "A similar phenomenon is the temporary resuscitation of believers who had died immediately prior to our Lord's crucifixion; by bringing them back to life temporarily, God validated after the fact for all to see the efficacy of His Son's work on the cross for us all (Matt.27:52-53)."

How do we know these were bodies of believers who had died immediately prior to the crucifixion? I thought these could have been bodies of believers who have died at any point in the past up to the crucifixion.

Response #18: 

On the one hand, bodies decay; on the other hand, all previous instances of resuscitation had always involved only a short time in the grave (Lazarus was exceptional for being "four days dead" before being revived). Also, if these were "long dead" believers, how would anyone have recognized them so as to understand the miracle? I think too that it would have been a bit unfair to revive someone who had been long dead – what kind of a life would he/she be coming back to but one of penury and loneliness on account of having no home, friends, family or occupation or possession? The only way this would seem to have been a blessing would have been if the individuals were very recently deceased and coming back to their still grieving families.

Question #19: 

Although you do make this point in the text (paragraph starting with "On the other hand, "returning" to the "land of unbelief" is often a deceptive process."), I though I would mention that it is exactly this danger that maybe you could expand on. How we can be drawn away from faith and not just through sin, but through activities which are not sinful themselves. This suggestion comes both through departure from faith I have observed, which has occurred exactly in this way, and through the observation of lukewarmness killing Christians, to the point of them being on the verge of losing their faith. Although sin is often the main reason for such downward spiral, Satan often uses even more subtle tactics, as you point out, and the tactic I have seen to be very effective is distracting the believer from the Word and spiritual growth through things which are not themselves evil and so great spiritual vigilance is required to detect their net effect on faith. Even a hobby which may seem quite nice and appropriate - even for a Christian, has been observed as causing individuals to spend less and less time in the Word until faith was probably totally devoured.

Response #19: 

It's a good point (and as I say any one of these studies could be re-written and expanded). Perhaps this would be a good theme to keep in mind for your own writing. This comment comes in the context of the parable of the Sower and I usually say something about this issue when the parable comes up - as it often does (see BB 6A link).

Question #20: 

You wrote: "So what Peter is telling us here is not so much how to handle our attitudes towards our fellow Christians (although that is certainly a part of it); his real emphasis in giving us this exhortation is focused on having us "put our money where our mouth is", so to speak."

I must say I'm not exactly clear about the distinction between "handling our attitudes towards our fellow Christians" and "put our money where our mouth is".

Response #20: 

The distinction is between merely having a loving attitude towards our brethren (and refraining from doing things we should not) on the one hand, and actually doing what we ought to be doing to help them in a positive way on the other, not just in James' example of charitable giving to a person in need, but also in providing them with the benefits of our spiritual gifts and Christian service in encouragement and prayer and according to whatever our particular gifts happen to be.

Question #21: 

Hi Bob and family,

Just a quick note to let you know that I have taken an excerpt from my END OF DAYS article concerning the strait gate which in my opinion is probably one of, if not the most important parables that Jesus said and so many just do not understand the verses in Matthew 7: 13 & 14 and what they really mean. I have always thought the strait gate and salvation are linked.

I have taken this excerpt and added some things to it to make it as understandable as possible and without any doubt whatsoever as many have told me the END OF DAYS is too long. (How rushed people are these days that 30 pages are too long to read!!? But I think it’s more than that – this ‘I want it now’ society won’t bother if an article is more than half a dozen sentences, which tells a story of lukewarmness doesn’t it.)

I’m wondering if you would be kind enough to add it to your special topics pages so that perhaps ichthys readers may get some value from it.

If you would like to do that I will send it to you for you to have a critical look at it and I would appreciate your comment on it. There are only 5 pages so it won’t take much of your time and if you see anything that needs changing I am happy to do that.

I am hoping not to overstep the bounds of manners and that it isn’t too much of an inconvenience to you.

Will make this do for now dear Bob and with brotherly love,

Response #21: 

I would be MORE than happy to post your link (now available at the link), or even post it as a webpage / PDF or other file at Ichthys.

I do understand your frustration. People are always asking me to "summarize" and "write shorter". I'm just not built that way, however. But it is to be commended that you are willing to do this. There is always one sheep that needs to have the shepherd go the extra mile. Or in Laodicea is seems like the ratio is reversed with only one that doesn't need searching after, and with 99 spread out all over the countryside at varying distances. So what you are doing is indeed valuable ministry, my friend.

I have actually been praying for an expanding of your ministry.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

Nero is the sixth king, I think you say on the website. But there were more emperors after him. So it is just because of the dynasty ending? It seems a little weird to me.

Response #22: 

Yes, Nero ends the Julio-Claudian dynasty AND he was the emperor when John wrote these words in the Spirit (Nero is "the one who now is"). The last apostle and the last of the Caesarians passed at about the same time.

Question #23: 

Why were the next emperors not counted? Did something happen to the empire after Nero that made it less than it was?

Response #23: 

John is writing about the situation while he was alive; so this reflects the actual situation: five emperors were dead, one, Nero, was still alive, and one, antichrist was "yet to come" – and still is yet to come. The Julio-Claudians, the family of Caesar, are the ones who established the empire and set its pattern. So it is also appropriate from that point of view that they are the ones to be used for the symbolism here (no need to do what Gibbon did and take things down to 1453 and the fall of Constantinople!).

Question #24:  

"They will never enter My rest." Are all of them unsaved? Does He mean the rest of the Millennium or the rest of the New Heaven and Earth? Was it like the Millennium was being offered then, but they said no, or...

Response #24: 

If we are talking about Hebrews, Paul is using the warning example of the exodus generation who were not allowed to go into the rest of the land of promise, so as to encourage his readers not to follow that same terrible path. The "rest" in Hebrews 3-4 is the day by day rest of faith that has replaced the Sabbath rest of the Law (see the link).

Question #25: 

Are all those people unsaved then? And . . . [details omitted]

Response #25: 

If they died without faith they are / were unsaved, even if they once had faith (apostasy; see the link). If they maintained their faith in the Lord until the end, they are / were saved. If they continued as believers but strayed far from the Lord, then it is likely they died the sin unto death (though in that case they would still be saved; see the link). Paul wrote this letter to a congregation which was spiritually slipping and we don't know which of them responded (we will find out later of course); he uses the example of the exodus generation and with the exception of Caleb and Joshua all of those people at the very least fell into the "choked by thorns" category. How many were saved and how many lost we can't say. But that is not where a believer wants to be, namely, in a place where people can't tell whether or not you are an apostate and whether or not you died the sin unto death.

I don't have any problem with believers having a disciplined approach to life in whatever they do – as long as it doesn't get to the point of legalism or pride. If I, out of a sense of responsibility and a desire for a good witness, take good care of my yard, that is fine. If I start taking inordinate pride in it, that is a problem; if I consider myself better than others who don't do so, or look down on them for this reason, that is a bigger problem; if I waste a lot of thought, time, effort and resources unnecessarily beyond the point of reasonable upkeep, that is making things worse than if I let the grass grow. This is all to a large extent a matter of degrees, of course. Like many things in the Christian life, avoiding extremes is a wise policy. There is a "sweet spot" between never even combing one's hair and going to an expensive stylist twice a week, e.g.

Question #26: 

When It says in Philippians "whose god is their belly', is this kind of like making a god of money, or something else?

Response #26: 

Ecclesiastes 6:7 says "All of man's labor is for nothing more than to fill his stomach" (NET), and the "belly" here at is a reference here at Philippians 3:19 is to false teachers making money off of ministry, maximizing the shearing of the sheep with little or no care as to their welfare.

Question #27: 

I am coming to think that it is a principle in the Bible that believers should care about their physical appearance to an extent, and to an extent make themselves presentable. I don't want to bore you with a dissertation, and it might seem obvious to, but it is a new thing for me. I was wondering if you agreed?

Response #27: 

Anything we do which the Lord considers "good" will not fail to receive its due reward. When it comes to anything good to do, something is always better than nothing, I like to point out. The mistake many believers make is adopting the mind-set of "well, if I can't do it all / everything up to my standards, then I won't do anything". That viewpoint usually ends up in doing nothing and nothing does not receive a reward like something does.

Question #28: 

Dear Professor

Thank you for your inspiring teachings and replies to so many email questions from believers. (This one does not require a response).

I have surmised that it is a great faith and devotion to the Truth in Christ that enables you to answer so many readers questions, many of which to you, a man of great scriptural understanding, find so basic that it is unfulfilling to engage with, particularly having to repeat yourself in so many different ways.

Then again, the Lord said follow me, and I believe He explained the kingdom of God in so many ways.

Thanks for reading my emails and another little update if I may.

Yesterday while endeavouring to progress with my little pet index on your site, amidst constant interruptions, I was prodded to visit a chap in the local hospital, especially since his distraught Filipino wife dropped in here on her way home to a nearby town 50 km away before it got too dark. He is waiting to see today whether he is transferred to the city again for his cancer treatment. She had mentioned that she had asked her Catholic priest to call into the hospital to talk to him. She is also concerned about his eternal soul and her husband not having the Catholic rites for salvation. “Braving the cold”, for a few seconds, I had my wife, who had spent hours with him the previous day, drop me off to be with him. After a couple of hours the Catholic priest, a fairly young and handsome chap from India, dropped in to see my friend and I felt the priest was not so enthusiastic to see me with him. We had had awhile back a few cordial sidewalk conversations in which he conceded that celibate priests was not scriptural but man made. Before his arrival my friend and I discussed his beliefs, how he had tried quite a few religions, none of which took his fancy. We agreed on the “direct access” to the throne of grace through our only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ , and that it is not necessary any longer for a “priest” as a go between. Even though she had gone home, it was difficult to speak the truth while trying not to further distress his already distraught wife.

So the priest, my friend and I, discussed the scriptures ( he did not visit for this!), avoiding any contending for doctrine. My friend gave me some of his teachings and thanks to your excellent ministry I was confident presenting my beliefs, throwing in for good measure the Coming Tribulation, the antichrist and his backers, and the mark of the beast. I did notice subtle significant differences in the priest’s and my understanding of the last days. I would like to discuss with him further in a cordial manner his understanding of the Tribulation as time restricted us and he excused himself.

Perhaps partly I may have hoped he would not be involved in my persecution in the near future, that he may at least ponder these things, but most of all for “scale fall”, as with Paul; then again that was foreknown in the plan of God, and worked into history (or as you correctly say, His Story). I also would like my friend to enjoy the true Kingdom of God to come.

Then today, an old haunt from the past, I had “forgotten about”, that bothered me when I read in the the scriptures is in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. (Now that I located it in the Blue Letter Bible, and read it again, I strangely feel some glimmer of hope returning). Even in the mormon religion we were taught that charity is the pure love of Christ. I never really felt I was capable of possessing this “pure love of Christ” no matter what I did, so could not be saved in spite of my confessing to God my sins, and Christ paying the price for all sin. I imagined that even if I could give away all that I possessed to show my “love” for Christ, that it would not be good enough as I did not accomplish it with the right motive or “pure” feelings. The natural man in me could not get it right. So I questioned my motives for going to see my friend yesterday. I was a bit annoyed giving up my knitting which I am wanting to complete. Guilt. Yet I felt the Lord wanted me to go and I should have been more enthusiastic about it. It shouldn’t be a big deal to give a cup of cold water to one who may be a true believer. I actually enjoyed being with him.

I went to see him again today and he said the priest put some oil on his hand, but he did not understand what it meant, or give it any great meaning. I was all the time hoping he had not given in to rituals that do not save and I was sure I would refuse such an offer from the priest in like circumstances. Then again my wife is not so adamant a Catholic, or even a Catholic at heart, as she now joins with me in learning and worship with former Catholics, our Filipino couple friends. I felt today that maybe I wasn’t as spiritually prepared to help strengthen my friend adequately before the priest came back and “got his way”. Perhaps my sensing the Spirit was with us the night before was not correct, and now Satan was mocking me for my feeble efforts after I felt my friend and I were spiritually on the same page.

It seems from the Corinthians chapter above, you could have the best ministry, flog yourself to exhaustion, give away everything to the poor and be rejected for lack of charity. Wrong selfish motives to get in the door just to “earn” a great reward. Sorry, I am coming over as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal myself. Possibly regurgitating unresolved doubts after over a quarter century of mormonism and not properly understanding scripture. Some doubt and feeling unworthy and a fraud.

It seems that putting down my knitting, for a little crocheting (which the knitting has inspired), has triggered doubts about my own genuineness to the Lord. Afraid of the “I do not know you” from our Lord.

Tonight I thought how a horrible darkness beset me today. How not only do I pray “Thy Kingdom come”; but also for the destruction of ALL false religions mentioning some by name including the Catholic Religion. I certainly visited with a desire for my friend's eternal welfare and not for any confrontation, and it seemed there was none. But it appears not all spirits are pleased.

So why do I persevere? Only because I believe Jesus when He said, what with man it is not possible, with God all things are possible. I have imagined that the most ecstatic feeling as being an acknowledgment from our Lord He is pleased with me to some small degree at least. And my gratitude He allows me to “do” something “for” Him.

Tonight, I praise our God in “delivering me from the evil one”. My hope is through the transforming of the Spirit, through faith in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Your student in Him with power to save.

Response #28: 

I like the conclusion at the end of your email. Emotions are tricky things and they can deceive us BOTH ways. That is to say, we can get too pleased with ourselves and too cocky about what WE are doing; but we can also get ground down and get down on ourselves for very small things and for things that aren't even our fault. If success were the measure of ministry, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and most of the OT prophets would be looking at goose eggs on the reward score board. But we know that is not the case. The Spirit is the One doing the evangelizing / leading to the truth. We can be pleased when He uses us in that process, but even we are "flubbing it" from our point of view, He can and will use our willingness to minister to the willing; and even if we are "nailing it" from our point of view, rejection has nothing to do with our presentation but with the free will of the one rejecting the Spirit's presentation of the truth.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9 NKJV

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.
2nd Thessalonians 3:13 NKJV

Keep up the good work, my friend.  Perseverance in service to the Lord is how the crowns of reward are won (see the link).

In Jesus Christ before whom we shall all give an account,

Bob L.

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