Tag Archives: Christ

A commonly misinterpreted verse: Philippians 4:13

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Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through him who strengthens me”) is one of the most misinterpreted verses in the Bible. I used to misuse it. I can’t remember the last time I heard it used correctly. It is one of the top 10 searched verses on biblestudytools.com, along with another frequently misused verse, Jeremiah 29:11.

We can’t ignore 2 Timothy 2:15 (Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.).  Getting Bible verses wrong isn’t a felony, but if we love God and our neighbors we’ll want to be careful with his word and humbly change our views once we realize we’ve been mistaken.

I enjoy the Pyromaniacs blog and agreed with the basic premise of Self-esteem, Possibility Thinking, and Philippians 4:13 .

That verse is not a manifesto for self-esteem and possibility thinking —although it is often used that way. People quote the verse as if it meant “With Jesus’ help you can achieve whatever dream you have for yourself.” That’s not the idea at all. Paul is speaking as a man who wants to do the will of God and knows he is too weak and sinful to do it, but he is laying hold of Christ’s power to do in him what he knows he cannot do on his own.

I agreed with the first part but not as much with the last part. Yes, people misuse the verse to mean that they can accomplish all sorts of things through Jesus. It is technically true that we could accomplish great things with Jesus, of course, but that isn’t what Philippians 4:13 means. The verse refers to Christ’s power doing something very specific in the believer, not some sort of general power.

I love using Phil 4:13 as an example of how to read in context. You don’t need to be a Greek scholar.  You don’t need to read the entire Bible, or all of Philippians, or chapter 4 or even a paragraph to get the real meaning. Just go back one verse!

Philippians 4:12-13 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Verse 13 is Paul’s secret for being content in all situations. That’s it. Do every thing through Jesus and you can be content in everything. It isn’t about what you accomplish, it is about how you do whatever you do.

For starters, remember that Paul wrote this letter from prison.  Having done prison ministry for years I assure you that if the believers there could do “all things” in the context most people us it, they would start by getting out of prison immediately.

I would never actually say this to someone because it would come across too snarky, but when people quote Philippians 4:13 I’m tempted to ask, “Really? You can do all things through Christ? Does that include reading scripture in context?”

Instead, I say something like, “Oh, yes, Paul’s secret for being content in all situations. I love that verse.” I usually get a slightly puzzled look in return, but I hope they re-read it themselves and see what I meant.

Some people may think they’ve lost something special when they realize they’ve misinterpreted the verse. But did they really think that Jesus was going to help them win every race, get every job, get A’s on every test, leap tall buildings, etc.?

This theme of contentment and being strengthened by Christ is found in other passages as well.

Being content sounds bland compared to our worldly desires, but what a phenomenal blessing the real interpretation of Philippians 4:13 is! How wonderful would it be to have contentment in every situation in life? That’s the true promise of scripture that we seek and rejoice in.

As often happens, the real meaning of the verse is better than what we wanted it to mean.

Also see Reading the Bible in Context for a very important lesson and other examples.

“And what if we picked the wrong religion? Every week we’re just making God madder and madder.”

Someone Tweeted this today so I thought I’d rerun it with some bonus features.

_____

The title is from the episode of The Simpsons where Homer decides to stop attending church.

Marge: I can’t believe you’re giving up church, Homer.

Homer: Hey, what’s the big deal about going to some building every Sunday?  I mean, isn’t God everywhere?  And don’t you think that the Almighty has better things to worry about than where one little guy spends one measly hour of his week? And what if we picked the wrong religion?  Every week we’re just making God madder and madder.

Bart: Testify!

Marge: [Groans]

In one of those odd ways where someone speaks some truth without knowing it, it reminds me of this important passage:

1 Corinthians 15:12–18 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

So the Apostle Paul seems to agree with Homer, at least in one sense: If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we are misrepresenting God – and that’s never a good place to be.   And the writers even have Homer realizing that not all religions are the same.  How do you discern which is right?  Look at the facts.

But the evidence points to the fact that He did rise from the dead, and that changes everything.

—–

As I noted in a recent post, Christianity is unique in that it is testable and falsifiable.  You can research the truth claims yourself.  Christianity involves knowledge, truth claims and faith in evidence.  Many people think religions are just a matter of opinion or are the result of “blind faith,” but that is the opposite of Christianity.

There are all sorts of apologetics resources (see the links to the right of this blog) or even simple things like the minimal facts approach, where nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements and 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.  He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.

The Christian view that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts is highly supportable and logical.

This explains those who reject God.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

This sums it up as well:

To defy the Creator’s commands, you must ignore His exclusive right to rule His own creation as He wishes. You have to exalt yourself to a level of imaginary importance that would make Him at least second in command–if you are that generous–and place yourself first in command over the part of His creation you want to control–in this case, yourself. The arrogance of such a feat is astounding…No wonder there is a Hell! — Jim Berg

It is foolish and rebellious to think that you get to define whether God exists and what He must be like. Repent and believe while you still have time. Eternity is a mighty long time to suffer for your pride.

I don’t know, but I’ll find out

question-mark.gifA favorite updated for your reading pleasure.

The title contains seven really important words for evangelism and apologetics (defending the Christian faith).

1 Peter 3:15-16 gives the following command to Christians:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

So we must be ready to graciously explain why we believe in Christ. But there will always be questions we don’t have the answers to. Sometimes when we get stumped we resort to poorly made arguments such as “Because the Bible says so!”  Or worse yet, we avoid conversations completely because we are afraid of looking bad.

But when we don’t have well reasoned answers to share we should not make them up. This is a corollary to the advice about the first thing to do when you have dug yourself into a hole (Stop digging).

Consider the following benefits of being willing to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

  • It is a humble response. You burst the stereotype that Christians are smug know-it-alls who aren’t willing to listen.
  • It takes pressure off of you, and most importantly, gives you the confidence to engage in conversations without thinking you must know everything.
  • It keeps you from giving bad answers. Remember that one bad argument can undermine ten good arguments. Skeptics will seize on it and use it to justify their position.
  • It gives you time to prepare better answers.
  • It lets you make an appointment to come back later to talk about God. This is invaluable, as you can approach the person later and say, “Remember when you had that question about ______”
  • You will build your own confidence when you research the issues and realize that we’ve been answering tough questions with intellectually satisfying answers for thousands of years.
  • By taking the objection off the table temporarily, you can shift back to the Gospel, as in “While I can’t answer that right now, here is what I do know . . .”

Of course, you may use different words to convey this. You might say, “That’s a good question. Let me think about it and get back with you. Thanks for giving me something to think about,” or something similar. The main thing is to humbly convey that you listened to what the other person said, that you don’t have a ready answer and that you care enough to do some research and get back to them.

Keep in mind that just because you don’t have an answer right then doesn’t mean that Christianity isn’t true. If the essentials of Christianity are true (e.g., Jesus is God, He is the only way to salvation, the Bible is authoritative and accurate, etc.), then they are true regardless of whether someone can explain them or not or whether someone wants them to be true. All you need to know is where to go find the answers to the tough questions. You can maintain your confidence in what you do know to be true. In fact, when we respond graciously to critics we come across more confident than if we get overly excited and emotional.

This works on other topics as well, such as pro-life reasoning.

Hat tip for parts of this: Stand to Reason

Missing the point on Matthew 25

I find several common themes of those who reflexively quote Matthew 25 (“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”).  It is a great passage that many sound teachers use properly, but false teachers abuse it regularly.  It is the pet verse of the Leftist writers and commenters at the Sojourners’ blog but they never get it right.

1. They don’t speak up for the 3,000+ of “least of these” who get killed in the womb every day because they are unwanted by their parents. They support the party whose platform calls for more abortions via taxpayer-funding. Who could be more vulnerable than those being killed for being unwanted?  If they applied this properly then they are killing Jesus in effigy by supporting abortions.

2. They don’t understand the context of Matthew 25: It is written to brothers and sisters — i.e., fellow believers — those in the church, not everyone else.

3. They think that lobbying Caesar to take from neighbor A by force to “give” to neighbor B qualifies as obeying Matthew 25. But take that to its logical conclusion: Would it qualify as obeying to lobby the government to make other people visit those in prison on your behalf, as also mentioned in that passage? Of course not. Jesus told you to do those things yourself.

4. They don’t read to the end of the chapter, because they typically deny this part:

41 “Then he will say to those on his left,‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  . . .45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Do all those quoting Matthew 25 to justify forced wealth redistribution as a Christian act also affirm the truth of eternal punishment?

5. Do they think He is the King of the universe who will really return and glory and make a final judgment of people?

Matthew 25:31–33 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

—–

If you want to argue it is good public policy to do certain things, then feel free. But that is not what Matthew 25 means.

Matthew 25:31–46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

More about Gandhi

If you want to see people get spun up, ask if Gandhi is in Heaven or Hell.  You don’t even have to pick a side.  The point of that link was that our ultimate destination depends on whether we accepted God’s terms and conditions — that is, did we repent and trust in Jesus, or not?  People rarely realize that it is just as judgmental to say he is in Heaven as it is to say he is in Hell.

He did have a great position on abortion that you should remind his defenders about every chance you get:

It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime. (quoted in Krishna Kripalani’s “All Men Are Brothers: The Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi”)

 

Here are some other things to consider when people treat Gandhi as some sort of Junior Jesus.  Did you of know these things noted in Was Mahatma Gandhi really a good person?

  • Although credited with leading India to independence from Britain, Gandhi actually undermined this effort. Between 1900 and 1922, he ­suspended his civil disobedience at least three times, even though more than 15,000 supporters were in jail for the cause. (When Britain finally did withdraw from India, it was largely motivated by their anti-imperialist Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, and the fact that Britain was nearly bankrupt from the war.)
  • Gandhi was dangerously politically incompetent. He ­advised the Jews to adopt nonviolence toward the Nazis, and wrote a letter to ­Hitler starting with the words “My friend”. He also advised the Jews of Palestine to “rely on the goodwill of the Arabs”. Fortunately for their existence, the Jews ignored him.
  • As well as calling Hitler his friend, Gandhi and Mussolini got on well when they met in December 1931. Gandhi praised Mussolini’s “service to the poor, his opposition to super-urbanization, his efforts to bring about a coordination between Capital and ­Labour, his passionate love for his people.”
  • Gandhi was outstandingly racist, describing “the raw Kaffir” as someone “whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a number of cattle to buy a wife, and then pass his life in indolence and ­nakedness,” and saying of white Afrikaaners, “We believe as much in the purity of races as we think they do.”
  • He was also a hypocrite on many levels. He prevented his son marrying a Muslim despite publicly promoting Muslim-Hindu unity. He denounced lawyers, railways and parliamentary politics, yet he was a professional lawyer who constantly used railways to get to meetings to argue that India ­deserved its own parliament. And although he is known for his hunger strikes, his official position was that these were “the worst form of coercion, which militates against the fundamental principles of non-violence” (in which he believed).
  • His views on nakedness and sexual chastity were also belied by his depraved behavior: when he was in his 70s he encouraged his ­17-year-old great-niece, Manu, to be naked during her “nightly cuddles” with him. After sacking several long-standing and loyal members of his 100-strong ­personal entourage who might disapprove of this part of his ‘spiritual quest’, he began sleeping naked with Manu and other young women also.
  • Despite being thought of as a peaceful man, he was vicious and callous. “There will be no tears but only joy if tomorrow I get the news that all three of you were killed,” he once told some of his workers. To a Hindu he once said, “I do not mind if each and every one of the 500 families in your area is done to death.” And he forced Manu, his niece (remember the “nightly cuddles”), to walk through a jungle known for harboring rapists—just so she could retrieve a pumice stone he liked to use on his feet. When she returned in tears, he “cackled” with laughter and said: “If some ruffian had carried you off and you had met your death courageously, my heart would have danced with joy.”
  • In 1908 he left his wife for a German man named Hermann Kallenbach. “Your portrait (the only one) stands on my mantelpiece in my bedroom,” he wrote to Kallenbach. “The mantelpiece is opposite to the bed.” Gandhi nicknamed himself “Upper House” and Kallenbach “Lower House.” The two pledged “more love, and yet more love—such love as they hope the world has not yet seen.”

Also see Reasons to stop quoting Gandhi:

Gandhi spoke and lived out a wealth of worthy truth; I would never suggest we should ignore all of it. God is the God of truth, so we should be confident enough to claim it wherever it springs from. For clarification: my main issue is the ad nauseam use of one particular Gandhi quote, provided almost exclusively by Christians as a rebuke to other Christians. It goes:

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

. . .

Imagine a Christian leader standing up before the media masses and saying to the modern world,

“I like your Gandhi, but I do not like your Hindus”

or

“I like your Muhammad, but I do not like your Muslims.”

Doesn’t sound as cute and enlightened, eh?

That quote, which many Christians use as a sort of self-flagellation, demonstrates Gandhi’s pride.  He thought he was better than Christians and didn’t need Jesus.  He was wrong.

Normally I wouldn’t recommend this . . .

. . . but I encourage Bible-believing Christians to visit the Sojourners’ blog and comment there.   Yes, I know they are led by Jim “the Gospel is all about wealth redistribution” Wallis and they live a lie each day, pretending to be centrists — and Christians — when they are really to the left of the Huffington Post.

But oddly enough they are letting Bible-believers post comments now without moderation.  I’m not sure if it is because they moved to a Facebook comment format or if their moderators changed.  Either way, there are several solid commenters there and we often outnumber the Leftists!  So be sure to visit and comment or at least “like” the comments you agree with.  It is great to know that visitors who read the comments will see some balance and the truth.

The commenters are often used to an echo chamber (they know that Sojo is really a Leftist front) so they go into full freak-out mode when their assertions are politely but thoroughly debunked.  I have had multiple theological Liberals get so frustrated with having their arguments annihilated that they deleted entire threads that they started!  Think about that: If you were winning a debate would you delete the thread?  It just happened again on this post where a Leftist calling God a “she” was referring to Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, etc. as Christ-followers and great theologians.  I need to start copying those before they get deleted!  (Unfortunately, if the originator deletes a comment then the replies go with it.)

So be your usual polite, fact-based, Bible-based selves and weigh in when you have time, or at least “like” the comments you agree with.  It is a great opportunity to stand up for the truth and expose their dark, anti-biblical views.

Marks of a False Teacher

The Bible warns many times of false teachers.  Here is a good list of hot to spot them:7 Marks of a False Teacher | Challies Dot Com.  I would add that false teachers will downplay, mock or reject any passages you mention about false teachers.  Hat tip: Pastor Timothy.

Here are a few:

False teachers miss what is of central importance and focus instead on the small details. Jesus diagnosed this very tendency in the false teachers of his day, warning them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23). False teachers place great emphasis on their adherence to the smaller commands even as they ignore the greater ones. Paul warned Timothy of the one who “is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:4-5).

False teachers obscure their false doctrine behind eloquent speech and what appears to be impressive logic. Just as a prostitute paints and perfumes herself to appear more attractive and more alluring, the false teacher hides his blasphemies and dangerous doctrine behind powerful arguments and eloquent use of language. He offers to his listeners the spiritual equivalent of a poisonous pill coated in gold; though it may appear beautiful and valuable, it is still deadly.

False teachers are more concerned with winning others to their opinions than in helping and bettering them. This was another of Jesus’ diagnoses as he considered the religious rulers of his day. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matt 23:15). False teachers are ultimately not in the business of bettering lives and saving souls, but of convincing minds and winning followers.

 

Superman combo

Random Superman things . . .

1. I see very few movies, so I’m not sure if I’ll see the Man of Steel.  But it does sound really good.  The bad guys are evolutionists — how sweet is that?!

[T]his Man of Steel movie is one of the most spiritually symbolic and Messianic-image-packed treatments ever made about this character. Here, Clark Kent even comes to understand—at the age of 33, no less—his responsibility to step up, face off with and destroy an ultimate evil that threatens all mankind.

But that’s at the end. At the climax. All through this film dialogue and images hint at connections between Superman and Jesus. Several people, from Jor-El to Jonathan to Zod’s female second, Faora-Ul, talk to Clark about his ability (or lack of ability) to save the people on his adopted planet. Superman levitates with his arms spread in a cross-like form on several occasions. When he goes to his church to ask a priest for advice, the camera’s eye frames a stained-glass representation of Christ over the young Clark’s shoulder. The priest tells him, “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later.”

After Clark rescues a bus full of children, a kid’s mother states, “This was an act of God!” Clark asks his dad, “Did God do this to me?” When Lara worries about her infant son’s safety on Earth, Jor-El assures her, “He’ll be a god to them.” Bad guy Kryptonians tell Superman that they will win because “evolution always wins.”

2. When digital photography and editing came out in the late 90’s I had fun with the girls and with Junior Achievement classes by taking pictures of them with their arms over their heads and then putting them in 8×10 Superman photos like this (except with the kids, instead of Wishbone as a puppy).  They had no idea why they were posed like that until they saw the pictures.  Good times.

SuperWishbone

3. Enjoy this Stephen Crowder video about how Superman would have to act if he were in a union.

Do you accept God’s forgiveness?

I’ve enjoyed R.C. Sproul’s Does Prayer Change Things? that is available for free on the Kindle app (you don’t need to own a Kindle).  As always, Sproul makes profound points in brief and understandable ways.

Here he tackles a common issue, namely that of confessing to God and asking forgiveness but not forgiving ourselves (or not accepting forgiveness, however you want to look at it).  I’ve experienced this myself and seen it with others, especially when doing Kairos Prison Ministry.  We do a lot of forgiveness exercises — forgiving others and asking forgiveness — but as you can imagine these guys have a lot to feel badly about.

We have God’s promise that when we confess our sins to Him, He will forgive us. Unfortunately, we don’t always believe that promise. Confession requires humility on two levels. The first level is the actual admission of guilt; the second level is the humble acceptance of pardon.

A woman distraught about a guilt problem once came to me and said: “I’ve asked God to forgive me of this sin over and over, but I still feel guilty. What can I do?” The situation did not involve the multiple repetition of the same sin, but the multiple confession of a sin committed once.

“You must pray again and ask God to forgive you,” I replied.

A look of frustrated impatience came into her eyes. “But I’ve done that!” she exclaimed. “I’ve asked God over and over again to forgive me. What good will it do to ask Him again?” In my reply, I applied the proverbial firm force of the board to the head of the mule: “I’m not suggesting that you ask God to forgive you for that sin. I’m asking you to seek forgiveness for your arrogance.”

The woman was incredulous. “Arrogance? What arrogance?” She was assuming that her repeated entreaties for pardon were proof positive of her humility. She was so contrite over her sin that she felt she had to repent for it forever. She thought her sin was too great to be pardoned by one dose of repentance. Let others get by on grace; she was going to suffer for her sin no matter how gracious God was. Pride had fixed a barrier to this woman’s acceptance of forgiveness. When God promises us that He will forgive us, we insult His integrity when we refuse to accept it. To forgive ourselves after God has forgiven us is a duty as well as a privilege.

That is some serious good news, and a great reminder that God’s standards are infinitely higher than mine, and that I should immediately accept his forgiveness and move on.  Otherwise, among other things, I am ungratefully refusing his extravagant gift of grace.

If you like the “Left Behind” end times teachings, you may not like this post

And by “may not” I mean “definitely not.”  I updated this because I saw a Facebook thread that advanced the pre-tribulation rapture with a lot of bad arguments.  I was about to write a new post, then did a search and realized I had already done one!  I’m not sure if that is good because the work was already done or bad that I have such a poor memory.

I think it is valuable to understand the different orthodox interpretations of the book of Revelation.  But the most important thing is to ensure that you have trusted in Jesus for you salvation.  If you get run over by a bus today that will be your own “personal rapture,” in that you’ll be facing Jesus with your eternity already determined, one way or the other.

An agnostic friend used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Come the rapture, can I have your car?”  We had few things in common theologically but we both weren’t keen on the likelihood of the pre-tribulation rapture (that is, the teaching that Jesus will bring all believers to him before 7 years of his final return, thus avoiding a period of mayhem and intense persecution).  This is a sadly serious issue these days, what with Harold Camping’s claims a while back that brought such embarrassment to the church.  Such foolishness is un-biblical and is a distraction and embarrassment to Christianity.  Atheists had a field day mocking it, and who can blame them?

While I think we should be charitable about non-essential Christian beliefs, this is a teaching that can be harmful to people.  What does it do to someone’s faith when they think they’ll escape worldly persecution via the rapture and then it doesn’t happen?

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason gives two good reasons why the pre-tribulation rapture is not what the Bible teaches.

The first observation I made was that this doctrine, the disappearance of the church seven years prior to the return of Christ, is not a doctrine that anyone in the history of the church ever held to until about 150 years ago. That was the first red flag. There might be justifiable explanations for that and some people make those explanations. But my question is, if the Bible teaches this, why didn’t anybody see it for almost 2000 years? All of the church fathers expected to see the Antichrist which would leave at least a mid-trib rapture. My suspicion was, the reason the church didn’t see it for 2000 years is because it wasn’t there. The information about the rapture actually came from a prophecy that was external to the Scriptures, the Plymouth Brethren prophecy. With that prophecy in place, people went back to the Scriptures and then began to see what they saw as hints of this doctrine in different passages.

It is technically possible that the church just got it wrong for 1,850 years, but it seems that the burden of proof is on those introducing a new theology.

More importantly, what does the Bible say?  Greg explains that  1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15, the two most commonly cited passages, give a time frame, and it isn’t pre-tribulation.

Let’s try to pull this together. It is very important for us to start from a foundation of an explicit Biblical teaching on this issue so that we can build from there and take what is really clear and then answer the other objections based on what we know to be true from the clear text. We have two passages that give, by all counts, an explicit description of what has been called the rapture. Both accounts tell when it is going to happen. They say it is going to happen at the coming of the Lord. That is our explicit foundation. Both describe it, both tell when. Now the question becomes, which coming of the Lord does the author here, Paul, have in mind?

Here is my answer. The second coming. Not the third coming, not the one-and-a-half coming. The passages call it the coming of the Lord. Not a coming. They call it the coming of the Lord. I don’t know how it can be made more clear. It is very straight-forward. What some want to do is bring a lot of theology from the outside and twist the plain sense of those words. They say, “Well, he’s coming in the air.” What does that have to do with anything? In both cases, Paul calls it the coming of the Lord. And he says, right after that, then comes the end. That’s the order. The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 9 “In as much as Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin to those who eagerly await him.” My point is that there are only two comings. The coming when Jesus accomplished the work of the cross, and the second coming.

And here is a simple explanation about Matthew 24, often cited by pre-Trib folks as a proof-text.

We read about the second coming in Matthew 24. That is a visible, powerful and conclusive coming. He says everyone will be able to see Him, right? Paul says these events that are called the rapture happen at the coming of the Lord and the coming of the Lord, according to Jesus, is visible and there is only one second coming. This falls together so neatly, I don’t know why it isn’t more obvious to more people.

Read the whole thing.