“It’s not just that we don’t know our Bible but that we have so fragmented, dissected, and compartmentalized the Bible that we have lost sight of its great overarching story.”
Hugh Whelchel i
Occasionally I ask myself, what motivates me to write. In response, I would have to say it’s religious opposition and a deeply seated desire to see the church walking in truth. The idea of walking in truth, in my mind, means a church that is trained appropriately in the Word. I don’t see that happening at any of the churches I have been a part of.
An aspect of that opposition recently occurred as a “brother” in Christ, told a friend of mine, that I believe life has to be one-way, mine. Have you read any of my posts? Do I present myself like that? Hardly, I attempt to show God’s word as the only basis for truth, and, in a manner that people can understand. I suppose, to some degree, that means adding my commentary to what I write in an effort to promote understanding, but leaving the decision-making process to the reader, as they accept or reject God’s word. With that understanding you are not rejecting me, you are denying God’s truth and mercy, as you refuse what God’s word says.
Elijah, the prophet, bemoaned his situation and cried out that he was alone in Israel.
1 Kings 19:9-10 NASB Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10) He said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
And yes, that is the way I feel some days. God’s response.
1 Kings 19:18 NASB “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
I realize that I am not alone, but the number of those who are passionate about God are few. I am fortunate to sit with a few of them on a weekly basis.
Having had someone say of me, “he believes it has to be, his way or no way,” is somewhat like a slap in my face, and I can tell you I am highly intolerant of actions like that. So, why would someone say something like that about me? Perhaps it is because I am very passionate about truth and God’s word.
Sending everyone to hell at the Great White Throne has nothing to do with truth; it merely demonstrates how adamant this man is about judgment, something we are to leave to Jesus, [especially since ALL judgment has/or will be given to Him.]
The Apostle Paul was not put off by the scholars of the Berean community. In fact, he thought highly of them. This body of believers did their research and found that Torah and Tanakh validated what Paul was saying. Having legitimized Paul’s statements they believed. When you consider the limited resources, these men had, our accolades for them should be even more significant.
Let me give you an example of what this opposition to, and the rejection of, the truth looks like.
The man who leads the Monday morning study, once again pointed out that he was an ordained Bible study leader, not a pastor. As the leader, he has just about every week, exclaimed that everyone brought to the Great White Throne judgment is sent to hell. If you are a reasonable student of the Bible you should be asking, is that a correct statement? The answer is NO, but why would you know that?
Because you have read the Word of God, as you should; you looked at the context; compared alternate texts and scenarios, and, like a hungry pet who has, awaited you to come home so they can eat, chewed on and ingested every word so that you could understand the depth and meaning of the Greek words being used and their Hebrew origins. But here is where the problem lays, as statistically, no one does that?
The statistical work I am going to show you were undertaken by Lifeway Research in 2014. Here is an excerpt from Christianity Today.ii
“Some Stats to Consider
Americans read the Bible on occasion—churchgoers a little more. In a recent LifeWay Research study, we learned the following about our Bible reading habits among church attendees. They indicated that they read their Bible as follows:
19% – Every day
26% – A few times a week
14% – Once a week
22% – At least once a month
18% – Rarely or never.
There are a couple of interesting takeaways from this study. Almost 60% of churchgoers open our Bibles at home during the week at least once. And for every person who is reading his/her Bible every day (19%), someone isn’t… at all (18%).”
Do you think, in this condition of apostasy, that the numbers would improve any as time progresses?
I was pondering this idea before pulling up the statistical information. My guess/estimate would have been about 20% of the “church” actually reading their Bibles every day. But even then I could see a problem with that number because I sit with some of these 20% per-centers, and know for a fact that they will not move off their traditional interpretations and understandings regardless of what you show them in scripture. Are you beginning to see a problem? Illiteracy has no option but to run rampant through the church; And, it is not just the church. I just read yesterday, 5/10/2018, that schools have found they are going to have to take down the analog clocks on the schoolhouse walls and replace them with digital clocks because no one can read them.
Let’s go back to the significant false teaching of the morning “bible” study – how that everyone coming before the Great White Throne goes to a fiery hell.
The first question is: how does one study the Bible? It seems to me that everyone should know how to do this; in truth, I had to learn how.
Every student should:
Read the text without a premise.
As you read ask, what is this passage supposed to be saying to me?
Do not merely assume that the teacher standing before you, saying things like, “What Paul is saying here,” is the truth. [Here is a heads up. Paul, a former Pharisee, a man who was very skillful at what he did, had no problem speaking to JEWS, about this new life and grace found in Christ. This is the case as Saul/Paul spoke about the Hebrew wording within the Law and the Prophets and pointed out the evidence in those words, which led to an understanding, in those who chose to listen, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah they longed for. Paul made it clear that our acceptance of Yahshua brought about this life and the hope we have come to understand.]
The idea of reading without a premise can be applied to my pastor’s sermons since he has a motive and a point to be made. In pushing his motive, he has created a premise and is working to make the scriptures fit his premise. These directed efforts often work in opposition to my understanding of Bible study.
Look at the context.
An example of this applies to what I am going to analyze momentarily – Matthew 25, where we see the sheep and the goats at the throne of judgment. The context surrounding this word picture begins in Matthew 21, when Jesus rides into Jerusalem, on the back of an unridden donkey – the Rolls Royce of the day, and He is perceived as the Messiah Israel hoped for. Unfortunately, He did not do what the disciples, nor the people expected, as He overturned the sellers tables, chairs, and loosed their merchandise where they had been selling, in the court of the Gentiles. And then, Jesus got into a verbal confrontation with the elders and Pharisees. All this activity shook the disciples and prompted them to ask, “when will all these things come to pass, and what will be the sign of your coming as the Messiah.
I am always analyzing the scriptures even as the pastor speaks. I examine the context and what the interlinear Greek or Hebrew dictionary says the words mean. Occasionally, the pastor is preaching in opposition to what the words mean. As a side note: Pastor and I had a bad moment one day, as he challenged me about my intensive focus on end times and the eschatology books of the Bible. In his indictment of me, he said, “Notice how in my sermons, I present the gospel in a manner that brings about change in people.” I try not to overthink the pastor’s words that day, but isn’t that what the Word of God is supposed to do, change people?
Look for a comparative text.
Many of the Calvary Chapel pastors, like Don Stewart or the late Chuck Smith, used to say, “allow scripture to define scripture.” What does that mean? As I read the Revelation, I see where John, on two occasions, in speaking to the churches, uses the term the Synagogue (Rev 2:9, Rev 3:9.) Why is this significant? Because John, was not writing in code as some would ascribe, he was writing to Jewish converts/followers of Christ. And therefore, spoke in a language they would immediately understand. Greek, of course, was one aspect of this language but the other carried the oral history and word stories from the Old Testament. The evidence for this is rather extensive and is demonstrated in the writings of James (James 2:2) and the Apostle Paul. Read Acts 18. In every city we find Paul entering the local Synagogue and preaching. For over fifteen years Paul preached, almost exclusively, to Jews. It was only after years of abuse at the hands of religious Jews that Paul finally said, and I am taking this message to the Gentiles.
The Apostle John, James, Peter, and Paul focused their attention on the Jewish community. Peter, although he had a brief exchange with the Roman Centurion’s family, maintained, as did James and John, a focus on Jews. [Read Paul’s account in Galatians 2,] Many of these believed for years that this gospel of Jesus was meant exclusively for Jews. Peter, in 2 Peter 3:10 says,
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” NASB
This passage has clear and definite associations with Isaiah 13:9; Jeremiah 46:10 among others.
In conjunction with the idea of comparative texts, was the indication that everything, aside from direct revelation from the Holy Spirit, came out of the Torah and Tanakh. Paul’s letters; James words on wisdom, and the Revelation that John conveyed, all came from the Old Testament. We can put this idea of comparative texts into action where Revelation speaks of a multi-headed beast with crowns and horns (Revelation 13:1). This imagery is found in multiple locations but primarily in the words of the prophet Daniel (Daniel 7:7).
Matthew 25:31-45, where we see the sheep and goats, is a comparative text. The words Jesus spoke were in response to questions His Jewish disciples ask him, and those words made sense to a Jewish audience. If you had been a student in Synagogue school you were expected to memorize the Old Testament teachings. Therefore, one might expect that these people were looking for these events to happen.
Try to take in as much of the background wording into consideration as you can.
When I look at Matthew 25:31-45 in the NASB, the segment that speaks of the sheep and goats carries the headline, The Final Judgment. That headline in itself gives me nothing of value except as a reference point. If I were looking for a direct association to the final judgment, there is nothing within these verses that define this explicitly by using that terminology.
Can I find an inference of final judgment in verse 31?
Matthew 25:31 NASB “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
Here you see the Son of Man coming in His glory.
This is the same Jesus that Stephen saw, as he stood before the Jewish council (Acts 7:55-56,) and it is the same Jesus that Daniel saw in Daniel 7:13.
And, He will sit on His glorious throne.
There is a passage in Joel 3:12 that would cause the audience listening to the speaker that day to take note. Joel 3:12 LITV Let the nations be awakened and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat. For there I will sit to judge all the nations all around.
This passage in Joel can easily be associated with the judgment we are about to see in Matthew 25. These two points alone do not convince me, as we see Jesus coming in Revelation 19 prior to Him being seated for judgment, and, there is no account of Him sitting upon His throne in Revelation 19.
To be honest, I have to stretch my mind a bit to see the final judgment. However, if I look at the next verse, the finality suddenly becomes clearer, especially if I have an understanding of Joel 3:12. [Mat 25:32 And before Him shall be gathered all the nations;]
There is only one glorious throne.
Is this the same throne that we see in Revelation? We have to look at Revelation 20:11 and see if there is something here that matches.
Revelation 20:11 NASB Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
A great white throne
Our only references to a white throne come from 1 Kings 10:18 and 2Ch 9:17, and they are effectively the same story
1 Kings 10:18 NASB Moreover, the king made a great throne of ivory and overlaid it with refined gold.
Ezekiel tells us what he saw, Ezekiel 1:26 NASB Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man.
lapis lazuli – Sapphire – Clear heavenly blue. Apparently, the color is insignificant.
In 1Kings 10:18 it is clear that this is a great throne, and in Daniel 7:9 Daniel sees the throne as being fiery flames.
Although you don’t see this happening in Matthew 25, Revelation 20:7-8 tells us that after the thousand years, Satan is released from his prison and he deceives the nations. Those nations, in turn, surround the city of God in an attempt to kill God and His people. Those gathered are killed in an instant. The next event scripture shows us is the gathering of the nations, or, as Matthew 25 puts it, the dead are brought before this great throne.
Although my methods of sorting out what I read, and disseminating the false teachings I hear, might be different than what you learn in seminary, they work for me. You also just got the added benefit of some insight into a false teaching that seems to enjoy sending all who approach the throne of judgment, to hell. A serious look at scripture will demonstrate that such a teaching is blatantly false and damaging to our understanding of who God is.
iThe Church’s Secret: Biblical Illiteracy in the 21st Century, Hugh Whelchel, writing for the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics. March 13, 2017. https://tifwe.org/the-churchs-secret-biblical-illiteracy-in-the-21st-century/
iiBiblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge