THE FALSE AND THE TRUE
THE FALSE AND THE TRUE Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
It appears we Evangelicals in some instances are presenting a false program of salvation. We have borrowed verses here and there, taking them out of their context, and have concocted a "ticket to Heaven" that is valid even when there is no change in our behavior. Since change in our behavior is God's purpose under all covenants, we really are missing the mark.
Table of Contents
THE FALSE AND THE TRUE
I don't know how we got so far off the track!
What is the source of the idea that believing in the Lord Jesus, apart from a change in our behavior, saves us from Hell and brings us to Heaven? Do you know? It certainly is not the Bible!
It is obvious Jesus did not come to deliver us from Hell on the basis of a belief system, except in a secondary sense.
Now, what do I mean "it is obvious." I mean it is obvious from the Scripture.
There is not one passage of Scripture I know of that tells us Jesus came to deliver us from Hell by believing in Himself apart from a change in our behavior. Do you know of any passage of the Bible that states clearly the Lord Jesus came to save us from Hell by believing in Himself? There ought to be at least one such passage given, considering how often this thought is expressed in today's preaching and teaching.
Let's think about this for a moment.
Every verse in the New Testament that refers to people in Hell or on their way to the Lake of Fire reveals the reason to be that their behavior was not pleasing to God. There is not one instance, to my knowledge, of a person being assigned to Hell or the Lake of Fire because of unbelief in Jesus. Isn't that an awesome fact, in that we preach if you believe in Jesus you will not go to Hell?
The rich man was in Hell because he was not generous to the poor, a transgression of the Law of Moses. He was sent to Hell because he did not share with the poor, not because he did not believe in Jesus.
The goat nations will be sent to the fire because they were not kind to the Lord's brothers, not because they refused to take the "four steps of salvation."
The Antichrist and the False Prophet will be cast into the Lake of Fire because they are wicked, not for not believing in Jesus.
At the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age there will be people who will be cast into the Lake of Fire because their works are wicked. There is no evidence in the Scripture that they rejected Jesus. Probably most of them never heard of Jesus. They were judged according to their works.
The foolish virgins had the door shut in their face because they were foolish, not because they rejected Christ.
The man who buried his talent was put out into the darkness because he was a lazy servant, not because he rejected Christ.
The person who worked miracles in Jesus' name was driven from Christ's Presence because he was wicked, not because he did not profess faith in Christ.
The Lord's servants who were beaten with lashes did not do His will. It was their behavior, not their belief system, that was at issue.
The Lord told the believers in Thyatira that He would repay them according to their deeds. He said nothing about their belief in Himself.
The Lord did not place much emphasis on the beliefs of the seven churches in the province of Asia, that they did not believe in Him. The bulk of His admonitions concerned their behavior.
Whenever the Lord spoke of coming and chastening His people He never once raised the question of doctrine or of believing in Himself, it always had to do with their behavior.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, which is a long definition of "the just shall live by faith," describes obedience and behavior, never belief.
Where, then, did we get the idea that making a statement of faith about Jesus saves us from Hell and brings us to Heaven? Where did this doctrine come from, since it is not in the Scripture?
What I am saying is that we are preaching an incorrect message.
Let's look at it from God's point of view.
God created people on the earth. The first two people disobeyed God. They ate something they were not supposed to eat. This is why they were put out of the garden, not because they did not believe in God but because of what they did.
God did not say, "You did not believe in me." He asked, "Have you eaten of the tree I commanded you not to eat from?"
One might object, "by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they were revealing their lack of faith in God. This precisely is my point. Genuine faith always is demonstrated in appropriate behavior. There is no such thing as an abstract faith, a faith that does not act in some manner. A faith, or belief, that does not respond in some type of behavior is not faith at all. It is a mental assent to a doctrine or fact. Faith apart from works is dead, and a dead faith produces nothing in the Kingdom of God.
When God dealt with the patriarchs and prophets it always was in terms of their behavior. God always rewarded righteousness and punished wickedness.
Am I correct so far?
Now I understand both Jesus and the Apostle Paul stressed believing in Jesus. This is a fact. The famous John 3:16 stresses belief in Christ.
But there are two aspects we must consider. The first is that the emphasis on Christ was to turn the people from faith in Moses to faith in Christ, not to present belief in Jesus as an alternative to righteous behavior. This was true of the statements of both Jesus and Paul.
How could Jesus point to belief in Himself as an alternative to righteous behavior after He gave the Sermon on the Mount? Would He tell us to build on the rock of obedience to His teaching and after that tell us such obedience no longer is necessary? This is ridiculous!
The second aspect to consider is that belief in Christ was never once (as far as I know) presented as a means of escape from Hell and entrance into Heaven, as it is preached today. The issue always was death and life, not Hell and Heaven. "Should not perish but have everlasting life."
One may reply that death is the same as Hell and everlasting life is the same as Heaven. This is not the case. Death and life are conditions of the personality. They have to do with our relationship to Christ. Hell and Heaven are not conditions of the personality but actual places in the spirit realm.
Sin and the consequent spiritual death originated in Heaven around the Throne of God as Satan, a covering cherub, decided to supplant the place of the Father. Heaven therefore is not our goal because going there solves nothing as far as the Kingdom is concerned. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who Himself is our Goal, the Divine Life that He Himself is, as Paul told us so emphatically.
We are trying to escape Hell. God wants to deliver us from death.
We want to go to Heaven. God wants to bring us to life.
God did not say to Adam and Eve, "In the day you eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you will surely go to Hell." God said, "In the day you eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you will surely die." These are not the same consequences although they may be related ultimately.
Death, not Hell, passed upon all people because of the disobedience of Adam. You can't do much about Hell and Heaven today. You have to wait until you die before you experience them.
But each day of your Christian discipleship you are choosing between spiritual death and spiritual life. Therefore there is an enormous practical difference between looking at Christ as our deliverer from Hell and looking at Christ as our deliverer from death.
Many—perhaps most—of the Christians in America are living in spiritual death. This is obvious from their behavior. All the while they believe they have their pass out of Hell and into Heaven. This is why they do not change their behavior. This is why the Christian churches are full of hatred, division, slander, gossip, backbiting, drunkenness, pornography, child molestation, jealousy, arrogance, haughtiness, smugness, fornication, and every other demonic behavior.
One mother was heard to say, "I know my son is a drunkard but at least he is saved." By this she meant at one point he had taken "the four steps of salvation." His profession of belief in the "four steps" guarantees his escape from Hell and entrance into Heaven when he dies, according to her thinking. Do you believe this is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God?
Let us put ourselves in God's place for a moment.
What does God desire of people and what does God expect to be the outcome of the new covenant?
God is looking for living stones in His eternal house, for a wife for the Lamb, for sons, for brothers of Jesus Christ, and for a royal priesthood that will be able to govern the saved nations of the earth.
Can you see that a person who "believes in Jesus" is useless for God's purposes until his belief in Jesus produces a new creation in his or her personality.
Christians in America have on the back bumper of their car a sign that reads, "Christians are not perfect, just forgiven." By this they mean they have been taught that to escape Hell and go to Heaven requires that they have only to "believe in Jesus." This type of "belief," one that does not produce a radical change in behavior, is probably closer to mental assent than it is to genuine faith in God.
Also, there is no love for God in this doctrine. Belief in Jesus Christ has become our fire insurance. We are not seeking God or His will; we are trying to gain assurance that we won't be punished. We don't really care whether or not God is pleased with our person and behavior. In fact, we are attempting to get around God's righteous, holy nature by holding Him to certain verses of the Scriptures taken out of context.
But isn't this the Gospel—"Believe in Jesus Christ and you will not go to Hell but to Heaven when you die"?
No, this is not the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Gospel is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be "saved"! We are assuming that being saved means we escape Hell and go to Heaven. But there is no Bible to verify this definition of what it means to be saved. It merely is our tradition.
What, then, does it mean to be "saved"? To be saved is to be rescued from the power of Satan and to be brought into the Kingdom of God, that is, into the doing of God's will.
But isn't this the same as escaping Hell and going to Heaven?
No, it isn't. The two are very different concepts. Which one we hold may make a dramatic difference in the way we behave.
Escaping Hell and going to Heaven, especially as it is preached today, does not stress a change of the individual. However, being rescued from the power of Satan and being brought to God always results in a change of behavior. How could it be otherwise? We understand, therefore, that the very essence of salvation is change in the behavior and personality of the believer.
We are preaching currently that the four steps of salvation are a kind of magic. This is exactly what we are presenting—a kind of magic. Say these words, make these statements, and you now are free from Hell and on your way to Heaven.
Added to this totally unscriptural concept is the doctrine that the grace we receive as a result of our reciting of the magic formula takes the place of a change of our behavior. Think about it. Isn't this the general understanding of grace?
You know, the New Testament just does not read this way! The New Testament is mostly about leading a righteous, holy life. Read it and see for yourself. From Matthew through Revelation, the Bible is full of commandments given by Christ and His Apostles. There is no hint in the New Testament of the kind of salvation we are presenting today, the magic of the profession of belief in Jesus as a means of shielding our behavior from God's eyes. It simply is not there! We have heard the traditions for so long we cannot see what the Book says!
Pronounce the formula! Then Divine grace steps in such that no change in your behavior is really necessary for your escape from Hell and entrance into Heaven.
As far as God's needs for a house, a place of rest, sons, brothers of Jesus, a bride for the Lamb, a royal priesthood, these are hardly mentioned in today's preaching. I guess the assumption is that if you say the magic formula all these are given to you by grace, that is, by imputation.
We Americans like devices that produce what we want with little or no effort. We would really enjoy an exercise machine that is operated by electricity and requires no effort at all on the part of the athlete. We would buy a pill that enables us to eat all we want and not become overweight.
But what about the new covenant, the Christian covenant?
We would prefer one that requires only a statement of belief and makes no other demands on our time, efforts, or pursuits. Is this a fact? We Americans are busy people!
Well, you can find such a program of salvation in most Christian churches. In fact, there are churches that poll the community to find out what kind of assembly the people want. How do you think Jesus feels about this way of arriving at the manner in which the service should be conducted?
However, the reason God gave us a new covenant is that He was dissatisfied with the old covenant, the Law of Moses.
Why was God dissatisfied with the old covenant?
Because the people kept on sinning and rebelling and God does not want sinful, rebellious people around Him. No sinful, rebellious person can have fellowship with God. Is that true?
So God gave a new covenant.
Why did God give us a new covenant, do you think?
God gave us a new covenant because the old covenant did not produce better people, which is the goal of every Divine covenant.
What does God say about the new covenant?
God says I will write my laws in their mind and on their heart.
The eternal moral law of God is written in our mind so we can understand it and on our heart so we will have the instinctive nature to do God's will.
Would you agree this is the new covenant?
If so, then our preaching today that believing in Christ is a ticket by means of which we escape Hell and go to Heaven, and this without a radical transformation of our personality and behavior, is not the new covenant.
What is our modern preaching? It is a form of an ancient philosophy called Gnosticism.
We are preaching a false gospel today in the Christian churches. What we are claiming cannot be supported by the Scriptures except for a few verses taken out of context.
The current Christian message is false, unscriptural, destructive. It is not satisfying God's needs.
God looks down on man. He sees man's wretched moral condition. He cannot have fellowship with man.
What is God's solution? How would you solve the problem if you were God?
Would you give a formula, an incantation which if said and believed would bring people into Paradise while they were still sinful and rebellious? Would you do this?
Or would you devise a means of forgiving them and then set about to change them into the image you desired? If you had the power to do both, which would you choose to do?
God has chosen to do the latter. He devised a means, by the blood of the cross, to forgive mankind. Then He sent grace into the world, not to be a substitute for a change in personality but the means of changing the sinful personality—the very opposite of the way grace is defined today.
The true program of salvation includes an ongoing forgiveness, provided we are following the Spirit of God. The end result of the various forms of Divine grace issued to us is a new creation in the image of Christ. As we then keep the commandments of Christ, the Father and the Son come and make Their eternal abode in us.
The three dimensions of the program of salvation are revealed in the three major convocations of Israel and also in the three major symbols of Judaism.
The three convocations of Israel are:
The three symbols of Judaism are:
Can you see that these two sets of three correspond?
Passover corresponds to the Altar. The two symbols tell us in order to begin the program of salvation, of removal from the personality of Satan and rest in the Personality of God, we must have our sins forgiven by means of the blood atonement made by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
The blood of the Lamb gives us the <I>authority to begin the program of salvation.
The feast of Pentecost corresponds to the Lampstand. These portray the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the <I>wisdom and <I>power to go through the program of salvation.
The feast of Tabernacles and the Booth reveal the ultimate intention of God, which is that we become His eternal dwelling place.
To be saved is to be brought from our membership in the adamic race and installed at God's right hand as a living stone in His eternal temple.
Can you see how totally different this program is from that of belief in Jesus being a pass out of Hell and a ticket to Heaven? Salvation is not a change of place; it is a change of personality and the establishment of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is not a ticket to another place. It is a process of judgment, deliverance, transformation, and indwelling. Quite a different matter, wouldn't you say?
To begin the program of salvation we must tell God that we trust Him to forgive our sins through Christ. Until we do this God will not hear us. We are cut off from His Presence because of our guilt.
Next we are to be baptized in water, declaring we have been crucified with Christ, have risen with Him, and have ascended with Him to the right hand of God in the highest Heaven.
When we come out of the water we should be filled with the Spirit of God, the "oil on the blood." It doesn't always happen this way but it ought to.
Now we are dead. Now we have risen with Christ to walk in newness of life. Now we have the authority to enter the Kingdom and also the power to do so through the Holy Spirit.
At this point the work of salvation begins in earnest. The Spirit of God begins to judge the worldliness, lust, and self-will found in our personality. We go through many fiery trials as God saves us from Satan by removing the graveclothes of sin, so to speak.
Even the righteous are saved with difficulty. God has removed us from Satan. Now He is removing Satan from us.
We will not be prepared to meet Jesus when He comes, and participate in the attack of Armageddon, unless we previously have gone through the program of judgment and deliverance. Of what use would a worldly, sinful, self-willed believer be in the attack of Armageddon or the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth, which is the purpose of the next coming of Christ?
There is another issue in the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles. It is the exchanging of our life for the Life of Christ.
If we are to appear with Jesus He must have become our Life.
Now, how does this work?
It works as we choose either to grasp our joy or else to give our joy to Christ.
We must lose our life that we may save it, and losing our life means trusting our joy to Christ.
There may be something we desire terribly. Or we may be in a prison of circumstances we detest.
What are we going to do about it? Are we going to lose our life in Christ, or are we going to grasp our joy and save our adamic life? Perhaps you are at this very point of decision right now.
If you choose to grasp your joy and save your life, you will not appear with Christ. You will be fortunate if you do not lose your place in the Kingdom altogether. If you are saved it will be by fiery punishments and perhaps total loss of inheritance. Make no mistake, Christ can be very severe!
If you choose to turn your joy over to Christ and lose your life in Him, the future may appear bleak. But there always will be enough joy and motivation to enable you to keep pressing forward each day.
When you do not have the ability to proceed any further, this is the opportunity for the Life of Jesus to take over. You are being crucified, but Christ is raising you up. Death, and life! Death, and life! You have the sentence of death in yourself that you do not trust in yourself but in Christ who raises the dead.
You will keep being brought down to perplexity, discouragement, weakness, confusion, perplexity. All these are an opportunity for the Life of Christ to live in you, if you resolutely look to the Lord and refuse to complain about the tools God uses to bring you down to death.
At each point of critical decision you can choose to save your life by going your own way, or you can give your life to the Lord.
If you choose your own way, you will miss the glory of the Kingdom being offered you. If you keep choosing Christ, your adamic nature will be crucified and you will live in eternal, incorruptible resurrection life. There is no other method by which His Life can become your life.
We can see that there are not only four steps of salvation, there are four million steps of salvation. We keep on receiving Christ, receiving Christ, receiving Christ, day after day, year after year. We keep our eyes on Him. This is how we are savedby believing in Jesus constantly, not just by making a one-time profession of belief in doctrinal facts. Can you see the difference between the "ticket" concept and the true work of God through Jesus Christ in the human personality?
There is no power in Heaven or on the earth that can stop you if you follow Jesus, only your own unbelief and disobedience.
Thirty or forty years of rugged, cross-carrying obedience will transform you from an adamic soul into a life-giving spirit able to bring the Presence of God to other people. You then will be ready to rule the nations alongside the Lord Jesus Christ.
Salvation brings us from the mud to the Throne of God. It is a pilgrimage of faith, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful, always challenging and purposeful.
Salvation is a process. It begins when we accept the atonement and place our first personality on the cross with Jesus. It is finished when we are in the image of Christ and filled with all the fullness of God.
The other gospel, the false way of the "ticket," is utterly destructive. We have millions of church people in America who think they are going to be "raptured" into Heaven (even though there is no Scripture for such an idea). Then they suppose they will participate in the marriage of the Lamb, and after that lay around in their mansion for seven years.
When the time arrives for the Lord Jesus to come and take His place as King of kings on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the "saints" will get up from their couch in their mansion, suddenly become fierce warriors and mighty kings, mount the white war stallions, and descend in thunderous fury to crush Antichrist, the False Prophet, Satan, the kings of the earth and their armies, and anyone else that dares get in their way. They always have been anxious to force their will on others and here is their sublime opportunity.
After seeing Christ crowned on the Temple Mount they will ride off with their rod of iron without waiting for directions (just as they do today) and then fight against one another over who gets what nation to rule, in the meanwhile gossiping about their fellow rulers.
Such believers will govern the nations when hens grow teeth.
This is the kind of nonsense being preached today all over the world. It may be some type of gospel, but it certainly isn't the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
I don't know how many people the Lord Jesus will bring back, in the present hour, to the original Gospel of the Kingdom. Hopefully quite a few. But I have no doubt the babylonish confusion that exists today will only grow worse as the believers deceive themselves and other people.
The believers who maintain their own life, their self-will, will proceed to slander and accuse the true saints. They are the synagogue of Satan, the synagogue of the accuser. Don't worry about them. Act toward them like your Lord acted toward Judas. Even though Jesus knew Judas was a devil He let the scenario play out until Judas hanged himself.
We are not to worry about our accusers, for they will be many if we choose to return to Jesus. We will make ourselves a prey of the religious people. But God is with us and He will build His own Church. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. Therefore we place all the self-willed believers in His hands.
"Believe in Jesus and you will not go to Hell but to Heaven." This is not the Gospel. The Apostle Paul did not use the term "Hell" once, as far as I know. How then can escape from Hell be the primary emphasis of salvation? If the Apostle to the Gentiles did not mention in his epistles escape from Hell, how can it be the principal message of the Gospel? Shouldn't the emphasis of our preaching and teaching correspond to the emphasis of the New Testament?
Christ did not come to save us from Hell but from the sin that always and eternally belongs in Hell.
The Gospel is: "Receive the blood atonement for your sins. Be baptized in water. Take your place on the cross with Christ and with Christ at the right hand of God. Now follow the Spirit of God as He directs you in putting to death the sins of your flesh. Meanwhile, as you submit to the ministry of fervent believers, Christ will be formed in you. You are being born again. You are passing from death to life. Show your love for Christ by keeping His commandments, and the Father and Christ will come and make their eternal abode with you.
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Fight the good fight of faith.
Endure to the end and you thus will be saved from Satan and brought into the Person and will of God through Christ.
God is seeking a house, a place of rest for Himself. This is the purpose behind the creation of man. Any program that does not provide a house for God, a holy temple in which God can find rest, is not the Divine program of salvation.
As long as we are filled with the love of the world we cannot serve as a house for God. God cannot find rest in us until the love of the world has been removed from us.
As long as we are yielding to the passions and lusts of our flesh we cannot serve as a house for God. What fellowship can God have with evil?
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." (II Corinthians 6:16,17NIV)
As long as we are filled with our self-will and personal ambition we cannot possibly serve as the house of God. How can God find rest in us when we are being driven about by our own will, our own desires? He cannot and He will not attempt to do so. If we would be the house of God we must turn over to God all of our own plans and ambitions.
We may be forgiven, but that is beside the point. The purpose of the Gospel is to provide a house for God. Until that house has been prepared, God's will has not been accomplished in us.
The true Gospel of Jesus Christ does indeed create a house for God, a place where He can rest. The program of salvation we have outlined above provides such a holy house and place of rest for God and for us also.
Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? (Acts 7:49NIV)
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22NIV)
But using the name of Jesus Christ as a pass out of Hell and a ticket to a mansion in Heaven solves none of God problems, meets none of His needs. The stated purpose of the current formula is not to please God but to protect us from suffering and bring the untransformed believer to the great retirement home in the sky.
The operation of Divine grace commences when God calls us out from the world, without reference to our goodness or badness, and then proceeds to transform us into a new creation of righteous behavior, holy personality, and stern obedience to God. The current definition of grace, which is Gods willingness to bring us to Paradise apart from any significant change in our personality, is a fiction produced by the mind of religious man.
It is true that we are saved by faith. But genuine faith in Christ brings us to Him, and then He commands us, through His Apostles, to live righteously. This is the trap into which believers fall when they are told they are saved by faith alone. They say they have faith in Christ, but then they do not obey His commands written in the New Testament. Therefore they are disobedient; and there are no disobedient people in the Kingdom of God, because the Kingdom of God is the doing of God's will in the earth.
If Jesus asked you to do something, would you say to Him "I don't have to obey you because I am saved by faith alone"? The New Testament contains a list of His requests.
When we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God forgives our sins for eternity so our conscience remains perfect and undefiled. Now He is making us holy by writing His eternal moral law in our mind and heart. Once this process begins we are never to sin deliberately. How are we to refrain from sinning while God's law is being written in our personality? We refrain from sinning by praying and living by the Spirit. When we live by the Spirit we do not gratify the desires of our sinful nature.