Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: prophecy

He hath torn and he will heal

I took our little Pookie to the vet a few days ago; Pookie being our three year old Flame Point Siamese. This was a follow up visit after his latest ear infection had cleared up; the vet is trying to figure out why he so often gets these infections.  Her theory now is that it may be a food allergy.

Pookie makes these trips a few times each year and nothing horrible has happened to him yet, still he does not like these trips to the vet. He complains all the way there, all the time he is there, and only a little less when he know that he is on his way home.

Once we are home he is my friend again. He is a very friendly cat and will often come to me to let me know he values our friendship and wants a tummy rub. My wife is the one who applies the medicine in his ear, something he would dearly love to avoid. Yet when she sits in the recliner and puts her feet up, he will come and curl up in her lap. In other words, this little guy holds nothing against us for the scary treatment we sometimes mete out.

That reminds me of the words of the prophet Hosea that I quoted in the title. Sorrow and pain are a part of every human life, some experience less than others, some much more. Sometimes it is obvious that we are suffering the consequences of something that we have done; at other times it seems like we are victims of random acts of fate. Whatever the case may be, it would have been in God’s power to prevent the pain and sorrow.

Job found that it was futile to demand that God give an account of these things, partly because the interplay of our actions with the actions of others around us, aided and abetted by unseen spiritual forces, is simply beyond the capacity of our understanding.

Besides, blaming God, or demanding an answer of God, will do nothing to make our circumstances any better. Yes, God allowed this to happen. But, He is also the only one who can help us in such circumstances. So may we come to Him without bitterness or recrimination, love Him and seek His help and comfort.

That is the message of Hosea 6:1-3. Here is the full text of that message.

Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.

The Bible is enough

Many years ago, when Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth was the “Christian” publishing sensation, the pastor of the church we were attending chose to use that book as the basis for weekly Bible study through the winter. I won’t name the city, church or pastor. Spring came, we finished the book, and then during a private visit the pastor told me he didn’t believe anything in the book, he just thought of it as a way to get some people interested in Bible study.

I was shocked that he didn’t believe the book, which at the time I considered to be gospel truth. I was equally shocked that he would lead a Bible study that taught something he did not believe was Biblical. As time went on, I read more and more books by highly regarded authors expounding the same subject matter as Hal Lindsey’s book and I began to grow disenchanted. Henry Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, Lewis Sperry Chafer and many others , presented the dispensational, pre-millenial doctrine as unquestionable, Bible-based truth. Yet each one presented this supposedly foundational truth in a way that differed from all the others. The disillusionment was furthered by reading a book by Chafer that was written around 1940 and identified Benito Mussolini as the Antichrst who was at that very time setting up his end time kingdom.

The pre-millenial doctrine continues to generate endless speculation and has enabled writers to sell millions of books, tapes and even movies. In recent years, we are seeing a lot of books tying events in the Middle East to Bible prophecy and producing many fanciful scenarios of how this will all play out.

Another theme that has sold a lot of books in recent years is stories of visits to heaven, particularly by little children. I haven’t read any of these books, but I gather that some of the details don’t bear much resemblance to what the Bible tells us about heaven.

Now, one of the boys who was credited with multiple visits to heaven has denied the whole story. Alex Malarkey was in a serious automobile accident when he was six years old, was in a coma for several months and is left with a spinal cord injury causing major physical impairment. A book, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, was written about his supposed heavenly experiences in the months following the accident. His mother. Beth, has suggested for years that the book was not to be trusted, but did not want to put words into her son’s mouth. Alex is now 16 and recently wrote the following letter:

Please excuse the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.

I did not die. I did not go to heaven.

I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.

It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of heaven outside of what is written in the Bible . . . not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.

In Christ,

Alex Malarkey

The book names Alex Malarkey as co-author with his father. The parents are no longer together and the mother, Beth Malarkey is the primary care giver for Alex and his three younger siblings. She states that Alex has received no money from the book, nor much support for his medical needs. The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven has now been withdrawn from the market.

Books like this are not what you want to give to your unbelieving friends. When the illusion is shattered and the story is revealed to be bunk, they are apt to think that means all of Christianity is bunk. Alex and his mother are right, we do not need colourful stories of doubtful veracity to prove the Christian way,  the Bible is enough.

Brad Wall’s Christmas message

Seven hundred years before the First Christmas, one of many promises by Old Testament prophets was made about the coming of the Christ.

“For unto us a child is born,” wrote Isaiah, “unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Peace? Isn’t that the promise of Christmas? Not just peace between nations but between each of us . . . toward each of us . . . for each of us.


These are the beginning words of the Christmas message of Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan, which is printed in most newspapers in our province.

We are told that we live in a post-Christian era, a time when most people are not familiar with the Bible and don’t want to hear anything about what it says. Yet for several years now our premier’s Christmas message has had a distinctly Biblical and Christian theme.  Nevertheless, when surveys are done of the population’s approval of government leaders across Canada, Brad Wall’s name usually heads the list.

Blaise Pascal on the prophecies

If a single man had written a book foretelling the time and manner of Jesus’s coming and Jesus had come in conformity with these prophecies, this would carry infinite weight.

But there is much more here. There is a succession of men over a period of 4,000 years, coming consistently and invariably one after the other, to foretell the same coming; there is an entire people proclaiming it, existing for 4,000 years to testify in a body to the certainty they feel about it, from which they cannot be deflected by whatever threats and persecutions they may suffer. This is of a quite different order 0f importance.

 

Since the prophets had given various signs which were all to appear at the coming of the Messiah, all these signs had to appear at the same time. Thus the fourth kingdom had to come in when Daniel’s seventy weeks were up and the sceptre had to be removed from Judah.

And all this came to pass without any difficulty. And then the Messiah had to come, and Christ came then, calling himself the Messiah, and this again without any difficulty. This cleanly proves the truth of prophecy.

The empty pew — why?

Fifty years ago the Anglican Church of Canada asked well known author Pierre Berton to write a book on the state of the church and how to rejuvenate it. The book was called The Comfortable Pew, and it created a sensation when it was published. Here is a one sentence summary of the book that I found on the net: “He said the church had failed as an instrument of social justice and no longer served as a conscience for the nation holding people accountable to a high ethical standard.”

Ten years ago the church hired a consulting firm to advise them on demographic trends and the future of the church. As I recall the report stated that if present trends continued, in 75 years there would be two members left in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Pierre Berton’s talents in writing and historical research enabled him to write a number of best-selling books about important events in Canadian history. The Comfortable Pew was a good read too, but I fear that his vision of what people need from a church was distorted.

He wasn’t alone in that. Many church leaders have tried a variety of approaches and tactics to make their churches more attractive and relevant. Most of them have bombed.

The social gospel has been tried, especially here in Saskatchewan, and hasn’t created a more Christ-like society. Prophecy has enriched a few writers, but it doesn’t fill many churches anymore. Mussolini wasn’t the Antichrist after all; most of the generation alive in 1946 is no longer alive and Jesus has not returned. Christian rock music isn’t enough to fill churches Sunday after Sunday. If pop psychology is your interest, there are many other places to find it. None of these things are relevant to the real needs of mankind.

Unfortunately, far too many churches are focussing far too much of their energy and attention on things that have nothing to do with meeting the real needs of the people sitting in the pews. And little by little the pews are becoming empty.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit

The Bible speaks of three types of baptism: the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of believers by water and the baptism of suffering. Of the three, the most important is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as it is a precondition for the other two. There is evidence of this Holy Spirit baptism throughout the Bible.

The anointing oil which was poured upon the head of priests and kings was a type of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, imparting to them the sanctification and spiritual gifts needed to lead God’s people. First was the anointing of Aaron, the first high priest, by Moses:
And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him. (Leviticus 8:12)

The anointing of kings; the first example is Saul, the second is David:
Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. (I Samuel 10:1, 6, 9-10)
Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. (I Samuel 16:10)

A prophecy of the anointing of the Messiah:
Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Psalm 45:7.)

There are many prophecies in the Old Testament of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all believers:
Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. (Proverbs 1:23)
For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. (Isaiah 44:3)
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27.)
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (Joel 2:28-29)

John the Baptist also prophesied of the pouring out of the Spirit upon all believers, calling it a baptism:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. (Matthew 3;11)

The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at the beginning of His ministry:
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. (Matthew 3:16.)

Jesus foretold that believers would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit:
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63.)
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:5)

The disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit:
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)

Cornelius and his household were the first Gentiles baptized with the Holy Spirit:
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 10:45.)
And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. (Acts 11:15-16.)

Testimonies of Paul and John on the efficacy of the baptism or anointing of the Holy Spirit:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. (Titus 3:5-6.)
But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:20, 27)

Pauls description of the effect of the baptism of the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 )
For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. (Ephesians 5:9.)

Note the consistency in all the examples of the Old Testament anointings and in the prophecies and examples of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They all show the anointing or baptism as a pouring or sprinkling, the Spirit coming down from God above upon the heads of men and women. There were often outward signs, such as prophesying or speaking in tongues, but the enduring proof of the anointing or baptism was a new heart and a transformed life.

Echoes of invention

The Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) gradually began to downplay some of the distinctive teachings of Daniel Warner, leading some of those who believed strongly in those teachings to leave the church. In 1980, Daniel Layne left the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) and assumed the leadership of those who had separated from that group.

Layne accepted Warner’s prophetic revelations, adding a little more from Revelations chapter 8. The space of about  a half hour was interpreted as half a century and the starting date as 1930 when they believed the mother church had fallen into apostsy. Counting 50 years from then brings one to 1980 and Daniel Layne, when the seventh trumpet is said to have sounded.

This group calls itself the Church of God (Restoration). It may be better known to many as the Gemeinde Gottes as it has had a special appeal to German-speaking Mennonites in Canada and Bolivia.

A friend recounted observating a conversation between a minister of this group and a minister of another denomination. The Gemeinde Gottes minister stated that he had given his heart to the Lord the first time he was called and that as far as he was aware he had never sinned.  Another man, who had been silent up to that point, said: “That thought itself is sin!” That brought the conversation to an abrupt end.

The prophetic interpretations of Warner and Layne are examples of eisegisis, of reading into the Bible what you want to find there. The year for a day interpretation of Daniel’s 1260 days is generally accepted as the inteded meaning. The dates of 270 and 1530, however, have no significance in history and appear to have been picked to make things work out to the desired end. The century for a day interpretation has no support in the Scriptures, or elsewhere. It appers that Warner began with the 1880 date and worked backwards. The 50 years for half an hour interpretation of Layne is equally meaningless, simply an attempt to explain his 1980 defection.

I’m not meaning to imply that Warner and Layne were scoundrels, intentionally deceiving their followers. I think they were as gullible as their followers. Unfortuneately, gullibility is nowhere listed as a Christian virtue. It would have been much better if they and their followers had been like the Bereans, searching the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11). That is called exegisis, when we search the Scriptures to see what they say, rather than seeking a verse or two that we can use to support our cause.

Herbert W Armstrong was a master at eisegisis, and there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that he was a scoundrel. The church he founded has renounced his teachings and changed its name. Nevertheless, there are ten or twelve denominations carrying on his message. It seems that when one has the persuasive skills to make a teaching based on twisted Scriptures seem credible, it takes a long time for the echoes to die awy.

How to invent a church

Let’s say that I am a young man on fire for the Lord, thrilled by what God has done for me and eager to share this good news with others. But I can’t find a church that sees things exactly the way I do. What shall I do?

Well, if my name is Daniel Warner, here is what I do. I assume all the churches that exist are spiritually dead, not necessarily all the members, but the churches themselves. Moreover, it seems that since the apostolic age there has not been a church with the true light that God has given to me. And lo and behold! The Old testament prophet Zechariah said that this is the way it would be. There would be a long period of darkness, “but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light” (Zechariah 14:7). This can only mean one thing, now is the evening time of the world, the light has returned and it is up to me to spread the news of the evening light.

Searching the Scriptures a little further, I find in the 7th chapter of Daniel the prophecy of the little horn which shall make war on the saints for a time, and times and half a time. This little horn can be nothing else but the Roman Catholic Church which began in 270 AD. A time, and times and half a time means three and one half years, taking each day for a year, and counting 1260 years from 270 AD, gets us to 1530 AD, when Protestantism overthrew the power of Catholicism. But then the book of Revelation, in chapter 11, speaks of God’s two prophets, the Spirit and the Word, lying dead for three and one half days. Now, in this case the days must represent centuries.

That would bring us to 1880, which is the year I am living in right now. Do you see? There it is prophetically foretold that this year the restoration of the work of God, and His Church, would begin. And that ministry has been committed to me.

The above information has been culled from Birth of a Reformation, Life and Labors of D. S. Warner, written by Andrew L. Byers and published in 1921. Mister Warner’s handling of Scriptures seems more than a little suspect, but he succeeded in gathering a considerable following, known today as the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana).

There were prolific songwriters among the early leaders of this church, among them Daniel S Warner himself, Andrew L Byers, Benjamin B Warren, Charles W Naylor, Dennis O Teasley and Clara M Brooks. The melodies are catchy, some of the messages are standard evangelical fare, but many carry a distinctive message that may escape the notice of the unwary.

For instance, the song Once Again We Come, by C W Naylor, is a celebration of the coming of the evening light, and contains the lines: “Thou hast led us safely on, To the blessed light of the present day, Where the darkness now is gone.” Once one knows that the darkness refers to the centuries when the church of God had ceased to exist and the blessed light of the present day refers to Daniel Warner’s Church of God, the song loses its charm.

Daniel Warner believed that he had received the second work of grace, a second work of the Holy Spirit which eradicated the root of sin from his life and enabled him to live without sin. He earnestly believed that when others received this second blessing it would unite their hearts in Christian unity. This is the meaning behind his song The Bond of Perfectness. Though the second work of grace is not actually mentioned in the song, the idea of sinless perfection is really what the song is celebrating.

There you have it; inventing one’s own church is quite simple. Far too many people have done it and are still doing it. Of course there are big problems with most of the churches around us, but Daniel Warner’s method is not to be recommended as a solution. A better approach would be to ask, where is the church that Jesus said He would build?

Jezebel

These things saith the Son of God, . . . I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. Revelation 2:18-20

There was a church of wonderfully consecrated and dedicated believers in Thyatira. All was well, except that they were paying too much attention to that woman Jezebel and as a result some were falling into serious sin.

There have been many more Jezebels since the end of the first century AD, of both genders. But I would like to nominate Ellen G White as a prime candidate for this role in our era.

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I believe William Miller gets a bum rap. He really believed he had calculated the exact date of our Lord’s return. Twice. After the Lord did not return on schedule for the second time, William Miller admitted he had been deceived and abandoned the Advent movement altogether. Ellen G White stepped in to take the leadership, and her prophecies always came to pass.

Or so she said. Christ didn’t return on the appointed date? Of course He did! Although He didn’t return to earth as first thought, He entered into the sanctuary in heaven to cleanse it in preparation for His return to earth. And so on. She had an explanation for everything. Her expositions of the Scriptures and the coming return of the Lord, written in numerous books, became known as the Spirit of Prophecy.

I once got into a discussion with an Adventist about the meaning of Matthew 25:46 — And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. We were both aware that everlasting and eternal were translations of the same Greek word. I understand then that everlasting punishment will have the same duration as eternal life. My friend did not agree, for the Spirit of Prophecy said that everlasting means temporary, not eternal. And there our discussion stalled; I would not accept the testimony of Ellen G White and he would not accept the words of Scripture except as explained by Ellen G White.

I bought a set of My Bible Friends some forty years ago. In every story there were elements reported as fact that I could not find in the Bible. That gave me an uneasy feeling and those books didn’t last long in our home. Years later, I told my Adventist friend that I hadn’t been sure whether those insertions were imagined by the writer of the book, or if they came from Ellen G White. “They come from Ellen G White,” was his reply.

Some of those things may have been removed from later editions, but many lasting impressions have been left on those who were raised with Seventh Day Adventist Bible Story books. Like the idea that the smoke of Abel’s sacrifice rose straight up to heaven and the smoke from Cain’s sacrifice clung to the ground. I suspect that comes from Ellen G White, but I’ve never wanted to wade through her writings to find out for sure. (In  other instances, God showed his acceptance of a sacrifice by sending the fire to consume it. I doubt that the sacrifice of Abel was any exception.) I do know that the idea that the star of Bethlehem was the light emanating from the angel host comes directly from Ellen G White.

Did Ellen G White truly mistake her imagination for prophetic messages from the Holy Spirit, or was she knowingly trying to deceive? My best guess is that she really believed herself to be the channel which God used to reveal His truth to the world. In any case, there is a seductive appeal to her explanations that appear to explain many things in the Bible without requiring the seeker to actually search the Scriptures. Her influence has reached far beyond the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and its many splinters.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church publishes a wide array of attractive books for all age groups. Perhaps even more serious than the propagation of Ellen G White’s false prophecies, is the subtle inducement these books give for an imaginative approach the Scriptures that leads readers to be moved by the contents of their imagination rather than the contents of the Bible.

The fulness of the time

Galatians 4:4: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.

This phrase, “the fulness of the time,” indicates that Jesus came at the most opportune moment in history. What were the conditions that made this the right moment for the Saviour to come into the world?

The last king of David’s line was carried away captive by Nebuchadnezzar. Since that time Judah and Jerusalem had been vassal states in turn of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Herod the Great became king in 37 BC, the first king of Judah since the Babylonian conquest. However, Judah was now a province of the Roman Empire and Herod was not a descendant of David. In fact he was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau, not Jacob (later named Israel).

The great empire of Alexander the Great was split into three parts after his death and there were many years of war between the three kingdoms. Judea suffered much from these wars, as did the other parts of the empire, but the Greek language was firmly established as the common language over all the conquered territory.

The Hebrew alphabet was the first phonetic alphabet, but consisted only of consonants, the Greeks added vowels. Now there was a common language and a complete, easily learned, writing system that could be used to spread the gospel. The Old Testament was translated into Greek and this was the version of the Scriptures in common use in the time of Jesus.

When the Romans conquered southern Europe and Asia Minor, they built roads to link all the Empire. In addition, they established the rule of law and placed Roman detachments over all the territory. Now the whole Empire was readily accessible by the Roman highways and travel was safer than at any time in the past.

All the conditions were now in place for the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the Empire by itinerant preachers and by the written word.

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Daniel 9:24-25).

If we date the beginning of the seventy weeks from the time Artaxerxes commanded Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city, then the baptism of Jesus and the beginning of his messianic ministry was exactly the beginning of the seventieth year of Daniel’s prophecy. God had been at work amid the confusion and strife of the preceding centuries to prepare the world for this moment – the fulness, or fulfilment, of the time.

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