My Personal Christian Blog

Thanks for sliding into my blog site. This blog bog is a spin-off from my website at Call me a Night Owl, as my full-time mission and hobby are jabbering from midnight until 8 a.m.ish with chatter bugs across the world. Hoot, hoot! Being a retired newspaper guy and a Curious George, I've written and assembled a whack of stuff that I hope you'll find interesting and thought-provoking. Check out the Stories bar on the right side, below, for all my articles - from my web site and this blog.

June 16, 2016

Biblical Resurrections YET to Transpire

             (Left click to enlarge the above chart.)

Paul Tatham

Eschatology is the branch of Bible prophecy that deals with “end-times” events, most of which have yet to be fulfilled. 

Eschatology covers a myriad of details, some of which are rather vague and leave students of the Word scratching their heads. In that regard, it is akin to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, another topic that scholars have debated for centuries. 

Most Christians can agree on the main events and general timeline of eschatology, but the Bible leaves the door ajar for differences of opinion regarding the details. For that reason we cannot be overly dogmatic. 

Below is my view, but yours may differ. None of us has all the answers. I have intentionally omitted numerous details, only because I wanted to present merely the setting for each resurrection. 

One aspect of eschatology over which there is confusion has to do with the various resurrections. They are listed below. All but the last resurrection is for believers, not unbelievers.

Biblical resurrections always refer to physical dead bodies, not disembodied spirits. 

Resurrected bodies will be somewhat different from our earthly bodies, but they are not ethereal ghosts. Furthermore, biblical resurrections never refer to the soul as being resurrected; it’s always just a person’s dead body.

The souls of believers who die go directly to Heaven--at least those who die in the Church Age—but the physical bodies of believers remain in the ground until a resurrection takes them to Heaven. 

The souls of unbelievers who die now go directly to Hell, while their bodies remain in the ground until a future resurrection in which both their body and soul will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20).

The bodies of all saints will need to be resurrected and refurbished, at some point, to make them suitable for Heaven. Paul makes it clear that flesh and blood, which is mortal and susceptible to decay, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. That eternal kingdom is inhabitable only by those with resurrected, glorified bodies (I Cor 15).
Resurrection #1

The first resurrection takes place at the Rapture--an archaic, albeit extra-biblical term, that means “a carrying off” (I Thess 4; I Cor 15).

This event could take place at any moment. Christ will come to the sky (not the earth), the dead in Christ (those who had accepted Christ during the Church Age, which began at Pentecost) will be resurrected from their graves, and the rest of us will follow. We’ll all be “beamed up” into Heaven!

In that resurrection, the “dead in Christ,” plus those alive at His return, will be given refurbished bodies, likely akin to Christ’s resurrection body, which was physical but possessed special properties (I Jn 3:2; Phil 3:20-21). It could be recognized, touched, able to eat, able to appear and disappear, etc. 

When Jesus appeared to His followers on the evening of Easter Sunday, He told them that a “spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Lk 24). I John 3 assures us that “we shall be like Him.” Our old physical body will not be totally abandoned, nor is it totally retained. It’ll be a hybrid, perfectly suited for the glories of Heaven (I Cor 15:49; Phil 3:2021). 

When our bodies are refurbished for Heaven, this is called “glorification.”

Justification—we were saved from the penalty of sin 
Sanctification—we are being saved from the power of sin 
Glorification—we will be saved from the presence of sin

Resurrection #2

After the Rapture, the next event on the prophetic calendar is the Tribulation. 

This will be seven years of “Hell on Earth,” quite literally, and  involve a cast of nefarious characters and nasty goings-on. This is when the Antichrist, and similar evildoers, come into play. It’s sometimes referred to as “Daniel’s 70th Week” and described in detail in the book of Revelation.

Personally, I do not think that Christians living at this time will have to go through the Tribulation, having been beamed home at the Rapture before the fireworks begin. There are good Christians, however, who believe Scripture teaches that they will have to endure at least some of the Tribulation before the Lord rescues them.

At the end of the Tribulation, the Lord will return to Earth (the Mt. of Olives, to be exact) accompanied by the saints He had taken home to Heaven earlier at the Rapture. At the Rapture the Lord returns For His saints; seven years later He returns With His saints. 

Technically, this end-of-Tribulation return is called the “Second Coming,” although some refer to the Rapture by the same name. Perhaps we can think of the Second Coming in two phases—one at the beginning of the Tribulation and one at the end. 

Early in the Tribulation, there will be 144,000 Jews who will come to the realization that the Man they mistakenly rejected was the Son of God. They will repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. 

They will then evangelize worldwide and win a vast number of gentiles to the Lord. Those who do respond to the gospel message of the 144,000, by the way, will likely be those who have never heard the gospel before. 

Many of those who accept Christ during the Tribulation will be martyred by the Antichrist for their faith. Some will be beheaded. Their dead bodies will be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation (Rev 20:4).

When Christ, along with His heavenly saints, returns to Earth at the end of the Tribulation, He will establish His millennial kingdom. We saints will be joined by the resurrected Tribulation martyrs, as well as those saints who physically survive the Tribulation, to reign with the Lord on Earth for 1,000 years. 

Although it is difficult to be dogmatic on this point, the resurrection of the dead that takes place at Christ’s Second Coming--at the end of the Tribulation--will likely also include all pre-Pentecost dead believers, including all the Old-Testament saints (Job 19:25-27; Is 26:19; Daniel 12:12; Hosea 13:14).

Resurrection #3

After the Tribulation, the next event on the prophetic calendar is the Millennium. This will be 1,000 years of “Heaven on Earth”--just the opposite of the Tribulation--in which the world will revert to its utopian Edenic state. It will be blissful. 

As stated earlier, the millennial kingdom will be initially populated by the Tribulation saints who survive horrific persecution. They will live to enter the Millennium, have offspring, and live to be a ripe old age (Is 65:20). Some will live the entire 1,000 years; some won’t.  

Millennial believers who die before the end of the Millennium will need a resurrection body that is ready for a pristine existence throughout the eternal state that follows. There must be some kind of resurrection for them at the end of the Millennium. Such a resurrection, however, is only implied in Scripture, not explicitly stated.

Millennium believers who do not die during the Millennium will, nonetheless, need a body suitable for the Eternal State. Presumably, God will miraculously refurbish their bodies. These believers will be given resurrection bodies without having to die, just like those living believers taken up at the Rapture. 

All those who enter the Millennial will have survived the Tribulation. In the Millennium, they will have children born to them during the 1,000 years.

Those children will need to “get saved” if they want to spend eternity in Heaven. Possessing freewill, some of those children will reject the Lord, just as people do in our age, and will be dealt with at the Great White Throne Judgment along with the rest of lost humanity of all ages.

Resurrection #4

After the Millennium, the entire universe, including the Earth, will be destroyed with fire (II Pet 3). This is necessary to purge God’s creation of its endemic evil and decay brought about by man’s sin. In its place God will create a New Heaven, a New Earth, and a New Jerusalem (II Pet 3; Rev 21), the latter of which will be the eternal abode for all saints of all ages.

After that will be the final resurrection. It is designated for unbelievers of all ages, unlike all previous resurrections that were meant for believers. They will stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20). 

Anyone whose name is not recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life—and not one name will be found—will be cast from the presence of God to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, which will replace Hell. This is described as a dreadful place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” and where “the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.”

Summing up . . . 
Resurrection     When     Who

#1 - At Rapture (beginning of Tribulation). Church Age dead believers.

#2 - At Second Coming (end of Tribulation). Believing Tribulation martyrs plus, likely, pre-Pentecost dead believers.

#3 - At end of Millennium. Believers who die during the Millennium.   

#4 - At end of Millennium. Unbelievers of all ages, raised to appear at the Great White Throne Judgment.

June 12, 2016

If the Dead Could Speak

By Paul Tatham 

Exceeding any other life event, a funeral is the one occasion in which attendees will have their hearts most softened, focused, and receptive to  what God’s Word says about the hereafter.

One of the most interesting New Testament parables is that of the rich man and Lazarus, recorded in Luke 16. Lazarus dies and ends up in Heaven; the rich man dies and ends up in Hell. The reasons are not revealed.

The rich man, “being in torments,” yells across the “great gulf” that separates the two domains in a desperate attempt to catch the attention of Abraham in Heaven. “Please, Abraham,” he pleads, “send Lazarus to warn my five brothers still alive back on Earth, ‘lest they also come into this place of torment.’”

It is a sobering depiction of the two final destinies of all mankind, made all the more poignant by the fact that the account may be more than simply a parable but, instead, an actual true story. After all, Scripture never identifies it as a parable and, furthermore, biblical parables never name names.

But whether a parable or an actual case, Luke 16 is a chilling rendition of utter panic! You can hear the desperation in the rich man’s terror-filled voice as he tries to describe the urgency of his fate.

On bended knee, no doubt, he shrieks out two requests—firstly, a mere drop of water to cool his burning tongue and, secondly, that Lazarus be allowed to leave Heaven for a brief mission back to Earth in order to warn the rich man’s brothers that Hell is, indeed, a very real place.

If the unbelieving dead today were given voice, no doubt they would echo both sentiments. Serenely lying in his casket, while a minister misleadingly assures those who have come to pay their respects that “he’s in a better place,” the deceased’s wishes are frustratingly given no heed.

He’s screaming from his place of torment as the minister drones on about how the departed loved the game of golf. “In fact, he’s probably playing Heaven’s back nine right now,” he quips. The audience chuckles contentedly.

“There are no golf courses here!” the corpse silently hollers. “Tell them to
avoid this place at all costs!” But his warnings go unheard.

In another respect, funerals for those who do know Christ as their Savior can be almost as frustrating as funerals for those who don’t. We know that the dearly departed himself is in Heaven, a place so transcendent that the Apostle Paul was at a loss for words trying to describe it (II Corinthians 12).

The deceased is, indeed, in a far better place, and we all rejoice in that fact. When he put his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, typically years earlier, his evasion of the horrors of Hell was guaranteed for all eternity. John 6:37 assures us that “him who comes to Me I will in no wise cast out.”

The frustration factor, however, comes into play when we realize that some who attend the funeral may not be Heaven bound. 

The person in the casket knows Christ but the same cannot necessarily be said of all his loved ones paying their last respects.

Those relatives who know not the Savior are in big trouble and don’t realize it. They are barreling along a dark mountain road at night without any headlights. 

Unless they receive Christ as their Lord and Savior they are headed for the precipice. They are bound for a lost eternity, where they will doubtless meet the rich man, still languishing in Hell, in addition to an innumerable throng of others for whom there is no hope.

While his soul is enjoying the delights of Heaven, the dead believer is perhaps viewing his own funeral service from above. He’s appreciative of all the accolades, to be sure, but his heart is burdened. He has but one message on his mind: warn everyone in attendance that there is only one way to join him in Heaven and thereby avoid the flames of Hell.

But the deceased no longer has a voice. He must rely entirely on the pastor who is officiating the service. The dead is hoping against hope that the minister will forego some of the anecdotes about the deceased’s love of fishing and center, instead, on what it means to be a fisher of men.

Endearing anecdotes certainly have their place, but the emphasis of any believer’s eulogy should land squarely on the gospel. 

Exceeding any other life event, a funeral is the one occasion in which attendees will have their hearts most softened, focused, and receptive to  what God’s Word says about the hereafter.

To allow such an opportunity to slip through one’s fingers is unconscionable. In fact, I would dare say that ministers who do will one day stand before God Himself to give an account.

Keep this in mind, dear believer, the next time you sit in your pastor’s office making funeral arrangements for a loved one. For Heaven’s sake, literally, make sure the gospel takes precedence over all else. That means two things:

·     * If the deceased knew Christ as his Savior, tell the story of how he came to Christ (often called his testimony). Give it prime space in the eulogy. Put it in writing on the bulletin handed to attendees.

·     * Make sure someone—typically the pastor officiating—gives a clear explanation of God’s plan of salvation. I have attended too many funerals in which the pastor’s presentation of the gospel was anything but clear. Instead of calling upon any unsaved in attendance to acknowledge their sinful condition and accept Christ’s payment on the cross on their behalf, a watered-down version is presented.

Too frequently, the “gospel” is feebly presented as “God wants to take control of your life,” or “God wants to be your friend” . . . whatever that means

The lost need to understand that they are truly lost and without hope of ever stumbling into Heaven under their own steam. 

They must acknowledge their sinful condition (Romans 3:23), believe that Jesus was God’s Son who died a substitutionary death for their sins (John 3:16), and realize that their good works won’t get them even a one-day pass into Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Lastly, in lieu of flowers, friends of the departed are often asked to make a donation to a charity. Flowers are lovely, of course, but charities certainly outlast them.

My point, however, is that not all charities are created equal. Instead of contributions to a civic club, the Red Cross, or a local hospice, give serious consideration to an evangelical Christian organization, where those donations will bear eternal fruit.

Christian organizations typically garner support only from Christians, while secular charities have a much deeper pool from which to draw. And, furthermore, winning the lost to Christ is not part of their mission statement.

By putting into practice some of these simple suggestions, we can transform the funeral of a believer from merely a “lovely service” into a powerful life-changing event that will give voice to the one trying desperately to shout from the grave.

June 5, 2016

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Part 1 of 2

By Paul Tatham

I Cor. 12:4 — “There are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit”
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are found in Rom 12, I Cor 12, Eph 4, I Pet 4

1. Prophecy 

Speaking a specific message from God,   appropriate for the occasion.    
Perhaps more of a forth-telling than a fore-telling.

2. Ministering  (a.k.a. Helps)
Serving others.

3. Teaching 

The ability to clearly explain and apply the Word of God.
 (It’s been said that the teacher speaks to the head while the prophet speaks to the heart.)

4. Exhorting 

The ability to stir up believers by encouraging, advising, or correcting them.

5. Giving
 The desire and ability to give generously to the work of the Lord.

6. Ruling  (a.k.a. Governments)

The ability to take charge and provide leadership

7. Showing Mercy

Showing compassion when the opposite would be justified

8. Word of Wisdom 

Sharing specific and appropriate words for the occasion.

9. Word of Knowledge 

Knowing something through a specific revelation of the Holy Spirit

10. Faith

Faith that acts in response to the known will of God

11. Healing

Ministering physical, mental, or emotional healing.

12. Miracles

Ministering with supernatural manifestations

13. Discernment of Spirits 

Ability to discern the source, whether divine or demonic

14. Tongues

Receiving a message for the church from God, while in church, then announcing it to the congregation in no known earthly language   

15. Interpretation of Tongues

Translating a tongues utterance in church into a known earthly language that the congregation can understand

16. Apostles 

A messenger commissioned and sent forth as the authorized representative of the sender; often applied to missionaries

17. Evangelist

Ability to clearly explain the gospel

18. Pastor 
A “shepherd” who leads, feeds, and guards the     “flock”

19. Hospitality

Sharing what you have in order to minister to the body of Christ

Can you identify your gifts?

June 4, 2016

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Part 2 of 2
Q & A

By Paul Tatham

What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
They are special enablements, abilities, and talents given by God to every Christian.

When do Christians receive their gifts of the Holy Spirit?
Likely at least one gift at their conversion and others subsequently as they grow in the Lord.

When do Christians receive the Holy Spirit Himself?
At their conversion. This is sometimes referred to as the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor 12:13).

When are Christians filled with the Holy Spirit?
Typically, at several times throughout their life as they yield themselves to the Lord. But we all need an occasional refill because we tend to “leak”! 

When a person is baptized by the Holy Spirit, at conversion, the Holy Spirit is made resident. 

Each time a Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit, subsequent to conversion, the Holy Spirit is made president. In the New Testament, you often read of so-and-so, “who being filled with the Spirit,” accomplished mighty things for God.

How many gifts does the average Christian have?
At least one but often more (I Pet 4:10).

Can a Christian have all the gifts?
Not likely.

Is there one particular gift that all Christians possess?

How many gifts are there?
Numbers vary, since some abilities mentioned in the New Testament may not be labelled as “gifts,” per se. Furthermore, some gifts seem so similar to other gifts that they may be one in the same.

What is the purpose of the gifts?
For the building up of the church (Eph 4:12). A strong local church will have a wide representation of gifts, each functioning for the benefit of the whole.

Is each of the gifts defined in the Scriptures?
Only rarely. Most often we are left to guess at the definition, based upon the name of the gift coupled with examples of its use. This is one aspect of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that can be frustrating.

Can your gifts carry over into your profession by helping you do a better job at work?
Likely so, although there is no biblical precedent.

Christians are enjoined to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (I Cor 12:31). So which gifts are the best ones?
The gifts are nowhere ranked by importance, so we don’t know exactly which ones are more valuable.

I Cor 14:39 says that we should “covet to prophesy,” so perhaps prophecy is the most important gift.

I Cor 14:12 says that we should “seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” This likely means that we should covet those gifts that are most needed or useful in a particular local church, and that would vary from church to church. Some churches are in dire need of members who possess certain gifts.

How can you tell which gifts you have?
It should feel comfortable and natural to you. And it should be confirmed by fellow believers.

Is it possible for one of your gifts to lie dormant and unused?
Yes, sadly it happens all the time. I dare say that it’s highly likely that most gifts lie dormant throughout the average Christian’s entire lifetime! See II Tim.1:6.

Are all the gifts “alive and well,” operative for today?
This is a hot-potato issue among evangelicals. Some contend that all the gifts are still in play, while another school of thought contends that some of the gifts concluded their usefulness at the completion of the canon (c. 100 AD). 

The latter group posits that the so-called “sign gifts” (healing, miracles, tongues) were necessary while the New Testament was being written but not afterward. 

When the New Testament was not yet finished, they contend, these more spectacular gifts were necessary to validate the message of the apostles. When the New Testament was completed, people needed only to hear the completed Word of God for themselves. No other “fireworks” were necessary.

Personally, I believe that all the gifts are operative for today, with the pivotal verse being I Cor. 13:10. Some argue that because there has been occasional abuse in the exercise of at least some of the gifts that that proves they are dangerous, divisive, and even invalid. 

But abuses have existed in other doctrines, for example the Lord’s Supper in which some were getting drunk (I Cor 11:21), yet we don’t jettison that sacrament. Instead, Paul dealt with the abuses, just as we should today with abuses that occasionally arise in the operation of the gifts. Just because there are automobile accidents we don’t ban automobiles. We must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Some Christians actually fear the Holy Spirit. Like an unruly child, we think that He doesn’t know how to behave in church. When we turn over our church services to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, things can sometimes get messy. That can be embarrassing and frightening, even when the “decently-and-in-order” protocols of I Corinthians are followed to the letter. 

The Holy Spirit cannot be scripted, but we would much rather know what is coming next. We don’t like surprises. Because the Holy Spirit often operates on His own timetable, and in His own way, we would rather just quench the Spirit (I Thess 5:19) and keep Him in a box. At least while at church. 

Even Pentecostal/charismatic churches sometimes shy away from the “sign gifts” being exercised in the main service, because they tend to startle visitors. Pastors don’t want to lose customers because people are too upset to attend their church.

Is the doctrine of the gifts of the Holy Spirit a crucial, non-negotiable issue, falling within the same camp as the virgin birth, Christ’s death for our sins, and the inerrancy of the Word?
Yes, the gifts of the Spirit, as a whole, is a vital, non-negotiable doctrine. But some of the details regarding just how those gifts function today is up for negotiation.

I notice that two of the gifts are in the plural—“gifts of healing” and “various kinds of tongues.” What does this mean?
The Scriptures never explain this. Perhaps, among those with the gift of healing, an individual may be gifted in healing certain types of ailments, similar to medical doctors who are specialists. 

Some believe that there are two types of tongues, with one being the “gift of tongues” that is possessed by some Christians and used in the local church setting. The other type of tongues is a private “prayer language” given to some Christians who have undergone a filling of the Holy Spirit.

Are tongues earthly foreign languages unknown to the speaker? Or is it glossolalia?
There are good people on both sides of this argument. Some believe that the gift of tongues is rapturous, divine “gibberish” (called glossolalia) that the speaker utters in church and is followed up by someone else with the gift of interpretation who can translate the message into a known earthly language that the congregation can understand.

It can be argued that the only New Testament instance of tongues as an earthly foreign language, and not glossolalia, was in operation in Acts 2’s account of the Day of Pentecost. All other instances of tongues were glossolalia—the so-called “tongues of angels” (I Cor 13:1)--meaning that they were uttered in no known earthly language.

So what exactly happened in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost?
Some hold that the only time in the Bible that tongues is not glossolalia is on the Day of Pentecost. On that day, Jews from all over the Roman Empire were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate this holy feast, and they spoke a variety of native, provincial languages. 

The "other tongues" (Acts 2:4) meant that the 120 gathered in the Upper Room suddenly started praising God in their own provincial languages when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. They then went downstairs, still praising God in their native languages. 

This drew crowds, who gathered around those of the 120 who were speaking their native language. Peter then called for everyone's attention and preached to everyone in the common language (likely Latin). As a result, many were saved.

So what is the purpose of tongues?
There is a variety of positions on this, but the purpose is likely best explained as God having a special message that He wants to communicate to a particular local church. That message could be any number of things—a warning, a word of encouragement, a directive, etc.