Daily Archives: June 4, 2014

Questions about the Church: What Is the Church Age? Where Does the Church Age Fit in Biblical History?

 

An “age” is an historical period of time or an era. Some historians divide human history into many epochs and name them according to their defining characteristics: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Middle Ages, Modern Age, Postmodern Age, etc. Biblical history, too, can be divided into different eras. When those divisions emphasize God’s interaction with His creation, we call them dispensations. More broadly, biblical history can be divided into two periods, roughly following the division of Old and New Testaments: the Age of the Law and the Church Age.

The Church Age is the period of time from Pentecost (Acts 2) to the Rapture (foretold in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). It is called the Church Age because it covers the period in which the Church is on earth. It corresponds with the dispensation of Grace. In prophetic history, it falls between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel (Daniel 9:24–27; Romans 11). Jesus predicted the Church Age in Matthew 16:18 when He said, “I will build my church.” Jesus has kept His promise, and His Church has now been growing for almost 2,000 years.

The Church is composed of those individuals who have by faith accepted Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord (John 1:12; Acts 9:31). Therefore, the Church is people rather than denominations or buildings. It is the Body of Christ of which He is the head (Ephesians 1:22–23). The Greek word ecclesia, translated “church,” means “a called-out assembly.” The Church is universal in scope but meets locally in smaller bodies.

The Church Age comprises the entire dispensation of Grace. “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). For the first time in history, God actually indwells His creatures, permanently and eternally. In other dispensations the Holy Spirit was always present and always at work, but He would come upon people temporarily (e.g., 1 Samuel 16:14). The Church Age is marked by the Holy Spirit’s permanent indwelling of His people (John 14:16).

Scripture makes a distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church (1 Corinthians 10:32). There is some overlap because, individually, many Jews believe in Jesus as their Messiah and are therefore part of the Church. But God’s covenants with the nation of Israel have not yet been fulfilled. Those promises await fulfillment during the Millennial Kingdom, after the Church Age ends (Ezekiel 34; 37; 45; Jeremiah 30; 33; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 19).

The Church Age will end when God’s people are raptured out of the world and taken to be with the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:51–57). The Rapture will be followed in heaven by the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6–9) as the Church, the Bride of Christ, receives her heavenly reward. Until then, the Church carries on in hope, exhorted to “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Salvation: What Was the Old Testament Way of Salvation?

 

How people were saved during the time of the Old Testament is a confusing question to some. We know that, in the New Testament era, salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8–9). Jesus is the Way (John 14:6). But, before Christ, what was the way?

A common misconception about the Old Testament way of salvation is that Jews were saved by keeping the Law. But we know from Scripture that that is not true. Galatians 3:11 says, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ ” Some might want to dismiss this passage as only applying to the New Testament, but Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4—salvation by faith, apart from the Law was an Old Testament principle. Paul taught that the purpose of the Law was to serve as a “tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Also, in Romans 3:20 Paul makes the point that keeping the Law did not save either Old or New Testament Jews because “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.” The Law was never intended to save anyone; the purpose of the Law was to make us “conscious of sin.”

If the Old Testament way of salvation was not keeping the Law, then how were people saved? Fortunately, the answer to that question is easily found in Scripture, so there can be no doubt as to what was the Old Testament way of salvation. In Romans 4 the apostle Paul makes it very clear that the Old Testament way of salvation was the same as the New Testament way, which is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. To prove this, Paul points us to Abraham, who was saved by faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). Again, Paul quotes the Old Testament to prove his point—Genesis 15:6, this time. Abraham could not have been saved by keeping the Law, because he lived over 400 years before the Law was given!

Paul then shows that David was also saved by faith (Romans 4:6–8, quoting Psalm 32:1–2). Paul continues to establish that the Old Testament way of salvation was through faith alone. In Romans 4:23–24 he writes, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” In other words, righteousness is “credited” or given to those who have faith in God—Abraham, David, and we all share the same way of salvation.

Much of Romans and Galatians addresses the fact that there is only one way of salvation and only one gospel message. Throughout history people have tried to pervert the gospel by adding human works to it, requiring certain things to be done to “earn” salvation. But the Bible’s clear message is that the way of salvation has always been through faith. In the Old Testament, it was faith in the promise that God would send a Savior someday. Those who lived in the time of the Old Testament looked forward to the Messiah and believed God’s promise of the coming Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53). Those who exercised such faith were saved. Today we look back on the life, death and resurrection of the Savior and are saved by faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for our sins (Romans 10:9–10).

The gospel is not an exclusively New Testament message. The Old Testament contained it as well: “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:8–9, quoting Genesis 12:3).

As early as Genesis 3:15, we see the promise of a coming Savior, and throughout the Old Testament there are hundreds of promises that the Messiah would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21; cf. Isaiah 53:5–6). Job’s faith was in the fact that he knew that his “Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Clearly, Old Testament saints were aware of the promised Redeemer, and they were saved by faith in that Savior, the same way people are saved today. There is no other way. Jesus is “ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11–12, quoting Psalm 118:22).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Brokenness?

 

In this world, broken things are despised and thrown out. Anything we no longer need, we throw away. Damaged goods are rejected, and that includes people. In marriage, when relationships break down, the tendency is to walk away and find someone new rather than work at reconciliation. The world is full of people with broken hearts, broken spirits and broken relationships.

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). There is something about reaching a breaking point that causes us to seek the Lord more sincerely. King David was once a broken man, and he prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me … The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:10, 17). There are some things in our lives that need to be broken: pride, self-will, stubbornness, and sinful habits, for example. When we feel our brokenness, God compensates: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit” (Isaiah 57:15).

The Bible says that God breaks those who are proud and rebellious. The mighty Pharaoh set himself against God, but God broke him and freed His people from bondage and shame. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high” (Leviticus 26:13). God punishes all those who proudly resist Him. “My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit” (Isaiah 65:14).

To us, broken things are despised as worthless, but God can take what has been broken and remake it into something better, something that He can use for His glory. Broken things and broken people are the result of sin. Yet God sent his Son, who was without sin, to be broken so that we might be healed. On the night before He died, Jesus broke the bread and said, “This is my body, which is broken for you.” He went all the way to Calvary to die so that we can live. His death has made it possible for broken, sinful humanity to be reconciled to God and be healed. Without the broken body of Jesus, we could not be made whole. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Only when we surrender to Christ can we be restored and transformed. Such surrender requires a brokenness on our part (Luke 9:23). Romans 6:1–14 describes how believers become dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. Claim the promise that cannot be broken: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.… The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:19–22).

Jesus viewed all things in the light of eternity, and so should we: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2–3).

God draws us, He calls to us. He longs for us to come to Him so He can heal us. Often, we are unable to hear His call because we’re so busy with other things—our lives, our families, our work, our own problems and unhappiness. Sometimes we must be broken before we realize our need. And our deepest need is to be reconciled to God. Only then can we be made whole (Matthew 5:5).

The solution can never come from our own efforts or striving, but comes only from Him. Only when we recognize our need for God are we able to take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on God and Jesus Christ. Only when we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about what Jesus did for us can we begin to heal. Only when we admit our need and ask God into our life, can God begin to make us whole. Only when we confess that we are broken can God make us into what He wants us to be. Once we let go of self and place God at the center of our lives, everything else falls into place (Matthew 6:33).

During the final week of Jesus’ life, He was eating a meal, and “a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head” (Mark 14:3). The woman’s action of breaking the alabaster jar was symbolic of a couple of things: Jesus would soon be “broken” on the cross, and all who follow Him must be willing to be “broken” as well. But the result of such costly brokenness is beautiful, indeed.

Surrender to God and allow Him to make you whole, to give your life meaning, purpose and joy. Trust Him. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Responding to Pastor Danny Cortez: Preparing for the Tsunami

 

Over the course of the next few years we will experience a tsunami of  compromise and change relating to homosexuality, marriage, and a plethora of related concepts within what was formerly known as evangelicalism.  Holding to a consistently biblical and historical view of sexuality, gender and marriage will become more and more rare, and those who do so will be marginalized in the extreme.  Just look across the Atlantic at European nations such as Sweden to see the reality headed our way: the clear suppression of specifically Christian viewpoints on moral and ethical issues by official policies and agencies.  Those who do not see the intimate relationship between our ability to define sin and the proclamation of the gospel will find excuses to get around the problem, excuses already being offered by “gay Christianity” and its promoters such as Justin Lee, Matthew Vines, and scholars such as James Brownson.  The totalitarians on the left are happy with such compromisers, as they have nothing to fear from them.  But those who will not join in the movement will find themselves marginalized in all aspects of our culture.

On this edition of the Dividing Line I took the time to review key elements of Pastor Danny Cortez’s emotional explanation to his congregation regarding his “change of mind” regarding homosexuality.  There was nothing new in his comments: Brownson, Ken Wilson, and others had pronounced all these arguments before him, and with far more clarity.  But to watch a congregation split by its pastor’s “change of mind,” when we have so often examined, and found deeply wanting, the arguments he puts forward, is deeply concerning.  My hope is that by examining these arguments again we can, at the very least, fulfill our role as salt and light, and that the Lord will encourage His saints in their prophetic role.

Here is the audio player for the show:

Here is the YouTube link:

Source

%d bloggers like this: