As expressed in the two preceding chapters, not every commandment in the Bible is directed to us who live in the Church Age. We cannot, and should not, follow or attempt to follow every commandment given in the scriptures. For example, in Genesis 6:14 we find the commandment to "make thee an ark of gopher wood." If we are to obey every commandment in the Bible, why not this one? The obvious answer is that God was speaking to Noah when He told him to build the ark.
That is right; God was speaking to Noah and not to us! It is scripturally incorrect for someone to apply to himself biblical commands addressed to someone else. We should not attempt to follow every commandment in the Bible. This simple example of Noah provides a starting point that will help us determine the extent of this truth. If every command written in the Bible is to be followed and obeyed by everyone, here a sin offering and a priest make atonement for sin.
Leviticus 4:20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.
Before the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, one function of a priest was to make atonement for sin. Some churches believe that a priest must still be involved in the forgiveness of sin, but this belief comes from applying scripture out of context. No earthly priest has any involvement in atoning or forgiving anyones sin today. The Lord Jesus Christ, our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1), made the final atonement (Romans 5:11) and there remains no more necessity to sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:11-12). Thus, we no longer need priestly atonement. If the church must be patterned after verses like the one here in Leviticus, where is your bullock of sacrifice? What was the purpose of the sinless sacrifice of the Lord if a priest continues the sacrifices today?
The two examples from Genesis and Leviticus may seem obvious. However, these two are presented to reveal the importance of considering the distinctions that must be made in other passages too. An individual can learn from reading scripture doctrinally applicable to another person or group, but he is not commanded to keep every command simply because it is contained somewhere in the Bible.
The different spokesmen in different ages gave different instructions from God. Whose "mail" (instructions) should we read and heed? Every Bible student must determine where to find Gods applicable direction in His word. Is Gods direction for us today found in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, when the Lord said He was "not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24)? Is Gods direction found primarily in Hebrews, where the Bible instructs the Readiness saint and refers to the Second Coming and the Millennial rest (Hebrews 4:1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, etc.)?
Gods specific directions for the Church are found predominantly in the thirteen epistles that God used Paul to pen for the Church Age; each epistle or book begins with Pauls name. These books are:
To further the point, consider the following question: what scriptures are most often used when trying to lead someone to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Many people have used the verses from the book of Romans first because they give a complete, concise picture of what one must know and believe to be saved. Some even call these verses the "Romans Road" to salvation. It is not coincidental that these verses occur in Pauls first epistle.
Romans chapter 2 the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (2:4-5)
Romans chapter 3 all have sinned (3:23)
Romans chapter 5 while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (5:8)
Romans chapter 6 the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (6:23)
Romans chapter 10 whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (10:13)
Why do you suppose that so many are led to go to the epistles of the Apostle Paul? Many preachers, teachers, and evangelistically-minded persons follow the precepts of right division in practice, but do not always know the reason why. These soul winners are led by the Holy Spirit of God, even unknowingly. The reason a person uses Romans and not a book like Hebrews to lead another person to a saving knowledge of the Lord will be demonstrated shortly. The book of Hebrews is written to the Hebrews (Jews) primarily covering future events, whereas Pauls Church Age epistles (with his name as the first word) are addressed to the Church today.
The Message of Hebrews
The book of Hebrews begins by referring to "the fathers" and "the prophets" (of the nation of Israel). When reading the book of Hebrews, one should liken it to reading mail that is not all addressed to you. You can certainly learn from reading someone elses mail, but you should not attempt to treat the message as though it was all expressly directed at you.
Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
One might wonder why the message of Hebrews is addressed to the nation of Israel when the previous thirteen epistles address the Gentiles. Shortly after the cross, the nation of Israel was cast away (Romans 11:15) and broken off (Romans 11:17) because of unbelief. The Gentiles were grafted in, thus ending Gods dealings exclusively with the Jews. After the Church Age following the Rapture, the Hebrews (Jews) will be Gods tool to evangelize the world once again.
The Jews did not accept their Messiah at His first coming. Soon after the Rapture of the Church, God will once again be dealing with and through the Hebrew (Deuteronomy 15:12) nation of Israel (thus the assumption for Gods titling the first of future New Testament prophecy books "Hebrews" and calling out the 144,000 Hebrews to preach during the Tribulation). Today, God has chosen to use the Gentile nations rather than Israel, expressing His command and guidance to the Gentiles primarily through the Apostle Paul. However, one must also take into account that these books were written during the New Testament (Hebrews 9:15-17) and have application not necessarily found in the Gospels.
Placing a Church Age Christian under Tribulation doctrine found in some of the general epistles can in some cases be heretical. The general epistles also contain warnings and instructions for a person to follow in the Tribulation. The Church will not be on this earth for the Tribulation. Applying the wrong scriptures to the Church today causes great confusion and God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33).
The Readiness Books Versus the Church Books
This subject of eternal security introduced here will be more fully developed in Chapter five. The Bible tells Christians today that they are sealed with the Spirit of God "unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30). A convert in the Tribulation is not sealed in the same fashion. A person must "endure to the end" experiencing salvation at the end of the Tribulation. Any person who takes "the Mark" at any point in time during the Tribulation cannot be saved no matter what "profession of faith" he makes before or after that time (Revelation 14:9-11). Each person m-u-s-t endure to the end (Matthew 24:13, Hebrews 10:26).
Have you ever wondered why some denominations and cults use the Bible to teach that you can lose your salvation today? If a person backslides in the Tribulation, he backslides all the way into hell. A person must endure "unto the end." Hebrews tells the Tribulation saints that they will be Christ's house if they remain "firm unto the end."
Hebrews 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Now compare the conditional "security" found in Hebrews versus the assurance that the Christian finds today in Pauls epistle to the Corinthians.
II Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
Do you see the difference? All Christians should recognize eternal security of salvation as a fact. It should also become evident that certain churches do not teach eternal security today simply because they misapply some of the contradictory doctrine found in the general epistles.
Two comparisons of Pauls epistles (Colossians and Second Corinthians) versus the doctrine of the book of Hebrews should further illustrate the differences. The doctrine of the book of Hebrews differs from doctrine of eternal security given by the Apostle Paul to the Church. For instance, a Tribulation saint will be a partaker of Christ, IF . . .
Hebrews 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
This verse says that one is made a partaker of Christ only if he holds out "unto the end." Compare this to what Paul says in Colossians. Paul makes no reference to holding out to the end and makes no indication that one can "lose his salvation."
Colossians 1:12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
This Church Age passage comforts the Christian because the Father "hath" (past tense) made us meet to be partakers. This differs dramatically from the "if" expressed in the book of Hebrews. Furthermore, Paul points out that the Lord will confirm us unto the end (I Corinthians 1:8). Thank God, Christians are in Christ and sealed there by the Holy Spirit of God.
Below are two more passages comparing the issue of salvation security for the Church Age Christian to that of the Tribulation saint. Hebrews chapter six again warns the backslider during the Tribulation. The Tribulation saint had better not backslide, or else he will end up in hell. He cannot be renewed.
Hebrews 6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
In rightly dividing the Bible, we do not have to "spiritualize" plain passages like these by claiming that they do not mean exactly what they say. We can interpret these passages literally. However, we must realize that these verses have future application, speaking to a future group of people and are not doctrinally applicable to the Church in the same way.
Hebrews says that it is impossible to renew these once enlightened partakers of the Holy Ghost. These people have "tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come. The "world to come" has direct application to the millennium (Matthew 12:32, Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30, Ephesians 1:21). Hebrews 2:5 indicates that the writer of Hebrews is speaking of the "world to come" (Luke 11:2 and Revelation 12:10).
Compare this impossibility of renewal, as expressed with a person in the Tribulation, to what Paul tells us in the following verse.
II Corinthians 4:16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
Praise God! It may be impossible for a person in the Tribulation to be renewed but the Christian today is "renewed day by day." The book of Hebrews is very clear. Hebrews 6:4 is referring to a persons being enlightened, tasting the heavenly gift, being partakers of the Holy Ghost, backsliding and losing it all. It is impossible for a person in the Tribulation, who receives the light and the Holy Ghost, to be forgiven "if they shall fall away." Those in the Tribulation cannot renew themselves unto repentance because they crucify the Lord Jesus Christ again and put Him to an open shame.
Verses such as these demonstrate why some churches teach that one can lose his salvation. The confusion over salvation security arises from misapplication of the message. This misapplication is analogous to reading another persons mail and applying it to yourself (the Church) rather than to the group to whom the mail was intended (the Hebrews).
The Apostle Paul
The importance of understanding the peculiarity of the Apostle Pauls ministry introduced here, will be further developed in Chapter six. Today, God commands us to read, study, understand, and follow the writings of the Apostle Paul. Paul, as our God-given spokesman, teaches us that we are saved and sealed forever by the Holy Spirit. God led Paul to write the following:
I Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
If, over 5,000 years ago, a person or group was commanded to follow Noah and, much later, others were to follow Moses, why should it seem odd that God would have a primary spokesman for the Christian believer of today? God deals through a spokesman and we had better listen and take heed to what our spokesman has been led to say to us. The largest and most doctrinally unsound "church" in the world declares that it follows Peter. This group is correct to follow a spokesman. Unfortunately, they are laying claim to following the wrong one. The Bible makes it clear that we should not be following the Apostle Peter today as the God-given spokesman to the Church. God leads Paul to emphasize his particular ministry by writing this command twice in the same book!
I Corinthians 4:16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
Do you want to understand the whole Bible? It cannot be done unless we first determine the method by which the Bible must be studied, learned, and followed. Consider another command Paul was led to write:
II Timothy 2:7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
We can understand the entire Bible from cover to cover only if we first do what this verse says. If you consider what Paul says, you will listen to what he says about salvation (as in Romans) and will rightly divide the Bible according to what Paul says in II Timothy 2:15. Neither will you take this particular Hebrews doctrine and apply it to the Christian today, thus believing and teaching people that they can lose their salvation. Compare the two groups of scriptures in chart 3.2 and prayerfully decide what God would have you do. Are you going to follow the left side or the right side of the chart? Are you on the left side (before the Rapture) or the right side (after the Rapture)?
The previous chart is not meant to imply that God has no Church Age doctrine to be found anywhere else in scripture other than Pauls thirteen Church Age epistles. However, the main point to consider is whether the particular truth presented elsewhere contradicts the plain teaching of the Apostle Paul to the Church. If it contradicts his teachings, it cannot be Church Age doctrine. If it agrees or complements his teachings, one cannot ignore it. (An example would be to the truth taught about fellowship with the Lord in First John 1:9 and the need to examine oneself and act upon this self examination as found in First Corinthians 11:28-32.)
The Kingdom Gospel
The subject of the Kingdom Gospel, introduced here, will be more fully developed in Chapter four. Let us consider Peter for a moment. When he preached prior to the cross and for a period of time after the resurrection, his primary focus was not to preach the Gospel of the Grace of God. Rather, he preached about the kingdom. The Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist preached the kingdom also. They were announcing the promised kingdom to the Jewish nation. One cannot read the next verse and be ignorant of this truth without simply rejecting what is plainly written.
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The Lord Jesus Christ preached about the kingdom. He preached that the "kingdom of heaven is at hand." At hand means within reach. Israel did not accept the Lord, but instead crucified their future King. The kingdom will not be established until after the present Church Age and future Tribulation. The kingdom is a synonymous designation for the 1,000-year reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is yet to come (Revelation 20:4). The kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God will once again be on this earth simultaneously.
The next chart depicts how the Gospel of the Kingdom was preached. However, the actual beginning of the kingdom would not occur until thousands of years later, following the Second Coming. We know that almost 2,000 years have transpired since the Lords first coming.
Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom during His earthly ministry. He instructed His apostles and disciples to preach the same gospel.
Matthew 4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
No Bible-believing preacher today preaches the Gospel of the Kingdom. He preaches instead the Gospel of the Grace of God. In later studies, the critical distinctions between these two gospels will be examined. There is a big difference between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24). They differ in their main message: the former talks of a King reigning, while the latter speaks about trusting in the Saviour who has sacrificed Himself by shedding His blood on the cross of Calvary.
Understanding the difference between the Kingdom Gospel and the gospel preached today would clarify many other issues as well. For instance, the healing of all manner of sickness and disease accompanied the preaching of the Kingdom Gospel. The next passage demonstrates this truth.
Matthew 9:35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
Mark 1:14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
The Kingdom Gospel preached in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will go back into effect after the Church Age. These future events are clearly covered in some of the last nine books of the Bible (Hebrews through Revelation). Anytime we read from a doctrinal perspective, we must consider to whom the passage is being addressed. We must consider what period of time is being covered. This Gospel (of the Kingdom) must be preached "in all the world" before the end comes.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (This "end" refers to the Second Coming, not the Rapture. This "end" also refers to the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom and not to the preaching of the Gospel of the Grace of God. Therefore, the whole world will hear the Gospel of the Kingdom prior to the end of time as we know it.)
The last nine books of the Bible listed in the next chart, cover the period of time in which this Kingdom Gospel will be reinstated. This truth does not preclude many of these general epistles from containing Church Age doctrine too. The key to application: so long as the particular scriptures do not contradict the Apostle Pauls explicit instructions to the Church, they can have Church Age application.
The Book of James
If we do not rightly divide the Bible, we cannot understand it. Verses from one division (or time period) will seemingly contradict those from another. We looked at some problems associated with eternal security and the book of Hebrews, but these are not the most serious of problems. Passages dealing with salvation are even more critical. Bible believers know that the scriptures plainly teach that a person is justified by faith without works (Romans 3:28). But not everyone teaches or believes this. Many baby Christians "lose" their salvation with the next passage when someone tries to doctrinally apply it to salvation during the Church Age.
James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Have you ever wondered how a person can get saved, experience the joy of salvation and then be convinced that he can lose this salvation? The "teacher" usually takes him over to one of the books listed on chart 3.4, especially the book of James. There the saved baby Christian is convinced from the Bible that he can lose his salvation or that works are the only way to remain saved. He will be convinced that he has done something or can do something to lose his salvation although simple faith saved him. New Christians who do not become grounded in the scriptures immediately following salvation are extremely susceptible to this type of deception. They expose themselves to either intentional or unintentional twisting of the scriptures (II Peter 3:15-16).
One must consider that if any Tribulation saint takes the Mark of the Beast, there is no hope (Revelation 14:9-11). Faith alone will not save him. The book of James has some doctrinal application to the Tribulation. Thus, the book of James is addressed in the first verse of the first chapter . . . "to the twelve tribes" when God will once again be using the Jews to spread His message.
James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
When reading the Bible, one should always check to see if the Bible indicates which individuals it is addressing. Simply by reading the address, it is easy to see whose "mail" we are reading in the book of James. If this is your mail, to which one of the twelve tribes do you belong? The book of James is addressed to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad during the Tribulation period. Two areas dealt with in James, the necessity for patience and the condemnation of the rich, clearly reveal the Tribulation flavor of the book of James.
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