Far too much of the present interest in heaven, angels, and the afterlife stems from carnal curiosity. It is not a trend those of us who accept the authority of Scripture should encourage or celebrate. Any pursuit that diminishes people’s reliance on the Bible is fraught with grave spiritual dangers—especially if it is something that leads gullible souls into superstition, gnosticism, occultism, New Age philosophies, or any kind of spiritual confusion. Those are undeniably the roads most traveled by people who feed a morbid craving for detailed information about the afterlife by devouring stories of people who claim to have gone to the realm of the dead and returned.
Scripture never indulges that desire. In the Old Testament era, every attempt to communicate with the dead was deemed a sin on par with sacrificing infants to false gods (Deuteronomy 18:10–12). The Hebrew Scriptures say comparatively little about the disposition of souls after death, and the people of God were strictly forbidden to inquire further on their own. Necromancy was a major feature of Egyptian religion. It also dominated every religion known among the Canaanites. But under Moses’ law it was a sin punishable by death (Leviticus 20:27).
The New Testament adds much to our understanding of heaven (and hell) but we are still not permitted to add our own subjective ideas and experience-based conclusions to what God has specifically revealed through his inerrant Word. Indeed, we are forbidden in all spiritual matters to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Lazarus of Bethany fell ill and died, and his body lay devoid of life and decaying in a tomb for four days before Jesus raised him (John 11:17). A whole chapter in John’s gospel is devoted to the story of how Jesus brought him back from the dead. But there’s not a hint or a whisper anywhere in Scripture about what happened to Lazarus’ soul in that four-day interim. The same thing is true of every person in Scripture who was ever brought back from the dead, beginning with the widow’s son whom Elijah raised in 1 Kings 17:17–24 and culminating with Eutychus, who was healed by Paul in Acts 20:9–12. Not one biblical person ever gave any recorded account of his or her postmortem experience in the realm of departed souls.
The apostle Paul had an experience of heaven so real he wasn’t sure whether he had been physically carried there or merely caught up in a vision. He mentions the experience only once—reluctantly—because false teachers were challenging his authority, and this heavenly vision was a vital affirmation of his apostolic credentials. But he had kept completely silent about the whole affair until fourteen years after the fact. Even then, he framed his testimony as a third-person narrative:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise. (2 Corinthians 12:2–3 ESV)
Despite the third-person pronouns, this was clearly Paul’s own experience, because he shifts into first person as soon as he starts talking about how God humbled him in the aftermath of that experience:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. (2 Corinthians 12:7 ESV)
The typical contemporary evangelical response to an event like that would be to write (or have a ghostwriter produce) a sensational account. It would be filled with specific details of what heaven is like and what’s currently happening there. A large publishing conglomerate would publish it, and once it was clearly established as a blockbuster, they would start working on sequels and movie rights.
But having mentioned the fact of his experience, the apostle Paul declines to give any details whatsoever. He merely says that he “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4 ESV). He employs a Greek expression that means it is not lawful for any human to speak of the things he heard.
So Paul, who had been called to one of the most important apostolic roles in the early church, was forbidden to discuss what he saw and heard in paradise. The brief three-verse account he gives of his vision makes quite a stark contrast to all the currently popular volumes written by people who claim to have been to heaven and come back.
Why would it have been unlawful for Paul to describe what he heard in heaven? After all, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the apostle John each had visions of the very throne room of heaven and wrote about what they saw and heard. Their accounts are even part of inspired Scripture.
That is precisely the point. Those in the Bible who wrote about seeing heaven were expressly commanded by God to do so and were carried along by the Spirit of God as they wrote (2 Peter 1:21). The relatively brief accounts they each gave are part of the God-breathed text. The Almighty Himself had those men record that information for our benefit in the precise words that He chose. No extrabiblical account of heaven can legitimately make that claim.
Those who demand to know more than Scripture tells us are sinning: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV). The limits of our curiosity are thus established by the boundary of biblical revelation.
(Adapted from The Glory of Heaven.)
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RICK WARREN CALLING FOR UNITY WITH ROME
This month, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church gave an exclusive interview with Catholic television channel EWTN, complete with effusive praise for the Catholic Church and the popes and a call for unity with Rome. He praised the works of Catholic contemplative “saints” such as St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, calling their books “great classic devotional works,” ignoring the fact that they held to a false sacramental gospel and venerated Mary as the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven.
Warren said that Saddleback uses Roman Catholic contemplative prayer methods such as the very dangerous “centering prayer,” and Saddleback’s “spiritual director” was trained by a Roman Catholic named Jean Vanier. (See “Silence vs. The Silence” at www.wayoflife.org.) In fact, he said that when he was writing The Purpose Drive Church he would get up in the morning, light candles, and start writing.
He called Pope Francis “our pope” and said, “For authenticity, humility, Pope Francis is the perfect example. He is doing everything right.” Warren said that Saddleback recently received a delegation from the Vatican consisting of about 30 Catholic bishops to study the church’s “style of evangelization.” Warren said, “I fully support the Catholic Church’s New Evangelization,” which is a program to regain lapsed Catholics to the false Catholic faith and which is centered around veneration of Mary.
Celebrity culture has few defenders.
That’s why they call TMZ a “guilty pleasure.” No one believes hours spent catching up on drug-addicted child actors or the latest rumored baby-bump are a good use of their time. The personalities themselves, elevated for our consideration, are far from edifying. “Empty calories” is putting it charitably; partially hydrogenated trans fats is more like it.
The only thing worse than celebrity culture, is celebrity culture in the church.
Abusers in The Christian Church: The Five Stages of Biblical Repentance
“One of the strangest and most deplorable phenomena I’ve ever encountered in the Christian church is the tendency of many believers to take the side of the abuser in domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault cases, particularly if the abuser is a pastor or leader in the church.”
I’m trying to figure out how to distinguish between authority and authoritarianism. Any help you can give me would be much appreciated because while I think I can tell the difference, I’m finding it difficult to define the difference. I think I know it when I see it, but can I explain it to someone else? Not so easy.
But let me take a stab at this and please jump in with your own suggestions and corrections. I’ll begin with some broad definitions:
Authority is the lawful use of lawful authority: God, the church, the state, or a business has given someone the right to govern and guide your life in a certain area, and that authority is being exercised in the right areas in the right way.
Authoritarianism is the exercise of unlawful authority: It’s someone who has not been given any authority over my life trying to rule and run my life, or someone who has authority in one limited area of my life, trying to rule and run other parts or every part of my life.
Authoritarianism is also the unlawful use of lawful authority: Someone takes the authority they’ve been given and abuses it by exercising it in ways that only benefits them and usually damages me.
I’m sure you can come up with better definitions, but how about we try to put together some marks of authoritarianism. What does this look like? How do I recognize it? How do I know if I’m being authoritarian or just exercising legitimate authority? How do I know if I’m being a victim of authoritarianism? Let’s see if we can build a description of “Mr Controller.”
On Monday, the following message was posted on the Pope’s official Twitter account: “Inequality is the root of social evil.” This follows on the heels of several other extremely harsh statements that he has made about capitalism over the past year. The Pope appears to believe that inequality is one of the greatest evils that humanity is facing. So if we redistributed all money and all property and made sure that everyone had an equal amount, would that wipe out social evil? Of course not. Such a notion is absolutely absurd. Being the Pope, he should know that the evil that we see all around us is not the result of the distribution of wealth. Rather, it is the result of humanity’s deep rebellion against God. Yes, the fact that the wealth of the planet is being increasingly funneled to a very small minority at the top of the pyramid is a major problem. This is something that I have written about repeatedly. But the answer is not to make sure that everyone has the exact same amount of money and property. In the end, that would only turn us into North Korea. (Read More….)
According to shocking new numbers that were just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 percent of American families do not have a single person that is working. So when someone tries to tell you that the unemployment rate in the United States is about 7 percent, you should just laugh. One-fifth of the families in the entire country do not have a single member with a job. That is absolutely astonishing. How can a family survive if nobody is making any money? Well, the answer to that question is actually quite easy. There is a reason why government dependence has reached epidemic levels in the United States. Without enough jobs, tens of millions of additional Americans have been forced to reach out to the government for help. At this point, if you can believe it, the number of Americans getting money or benefits from the federal government each month exceeds the number of full-time workers in the private sector by more than 60 million. (Read More…..)
The United Nations, Western governments, media, universities, and talking heads everywhere insist that Palestinians are suffering tremendous abuses from the state of Israel. Conversely, the greatest human rights tragedy of our time—radical Muslim persecution of Christians, including in Palestinian controlled areas—is devotedly ignored.
Exclusive: Dr. MacArthur discusses many crucial issues including the myth that he declared at the Strange Fire conference that all charismatics are not saved. Topics will range from social justice to feminism in modern-day evangelicalism to his thoughts on the unbiblical film, Heaven is Real. Don’t miss this exclusive interview. Listen now before it rolls into the Situation Room. Click here to listen now
I remain, even in these feel good days, a Protestant. What I protest is what my fathers protested—the folly of the Roman Catholic church. Such can get you in great deal of hot water these days. Everyone wants to go along to get along. Trouble is, Rome still teaches a false gospel, still calls for the damnation of people like me who preach the true gospel. Now I am happy to confess that explaining the nuances that separate infusion from imputation, distinctions between justification and sanctification can require a bit of theological training and historical understanding. I’m sorry to confess that Christians generally have precious little of either. If we can’t see what the big deal is with a little contemporary modalism, if we want to open the tent wide to welcome in those nice Mormons, what chance do I have for making the case that Rome is outside the pale?
Our ignorance is likewise apparent in how we look at the recent canonization of Popes John and John Paul (13th and 2nd respectively). I fear we think that what Rome did was merely to give them a super-duper merit badge. We cheer politely, even if we are a little fidgety about Roman theology, in the same way we would cheer politely if our crazy uncle won the big horseshoe tournament at the state fair. The craziness we’re not sure about, but he’s kin and did well.
These two forms of ignorance, however, come together. That we don’t understand the nuances on justification is why we don’t understand what just happened in the canonization. The church at Rome just determined that these two popes exceeded God’s expectations for obedience. These men not only were able to escape the punishment of purgatory, having no need to purge their sins, having already achieved the holiness necessary to enter heaven. Not only that, but all the merit they achieved which was beyond what was required was deposited, along with the merit of Christ, into the Treasury of Merit. This merit can become yours, via the purchase of indulgences.
For Christians desiring to learn more about the background of homeopathic remedies, and how they were developed, please consider reading the free, online e-book Alternative Medicine: A Mind Blowing Magical Mystery Tour by Steven Ransom. (** Please note that if you click the preceding link to the book, the book will automatically begin downloading **)
Magical Mystery Tour documents the bizarre beginnings of homeopathy, a very popular alternative treatment that once only existed on the fringes of the culture, within the New Age movement, but has now become mainstreamed, and is sadly even being embraced by Christians today. (Just a few background facts: Samuel Hahnemann was the developer of the homeopathic theory. Edward Bach came along later and systematized Hahnemann’s theory into what is known today as the Bach flower remedies, pictured above, and widely available today.)
He hasn’t been a pastor for a few years. Now it looks like his new title will be Guru Rob Bell. Apprising Ministries fills you in.
by Mike Ratliff
And why not do evil that good may come?–as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:8 ESV)
The debate in the visible Church in our time concerning the need for Christians to walk in Repentance is actually quite perplexing to those of us whose hearts and consciences are bound to the Word of God. It clearly exhorts us all to repent and walk in righteousness. I had a conversation with a Pastor a several years ago at lunch following his sermon that Sunday morning. We discussed the dreadful condition in the visible Church in which most professing Christians appeared to be very immature and in bondage to their flesh. I asked for his opinion of why that was so. His response was that it was the result of the Church not being the Church as God designed. There was little or…
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