Friday, December 30, 2005

Satan's Conqueror

I've taken a break from posting.... and this is just a Devotional from gty.org

December 30
Satan's Conqueror
"Since . . . the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (Heb. 2:14-15).
To be free to live with God and share in all His blessings, someone had to shatter Satan's death grip on us. Sin is what gives Satan his powerful hold on us, but the power itself is death.
Satan knew that God required death for us because of sin. He knew that all died in Adam--that death became a certain fact of life. And he knew that men, if they remained as they were, would die and go out of God's presence into hell forever. So he wants to hang onto men until they die because once they are dead, the opportunity for salvation is gone forever.
To wrest the power of death from Satan's hand, God sent Christ into the world. If you have a greater weapon than your enemy, then his weapon is useless. You can't fight a machine gun with a bow and arrow. Satan's weapon is death, but eternal life is God's weapon, and with it Jesus destroyed death.
How was He able to do it? He rose again, proving He had conquered death. That's why He said, "Because I live, you shall live also" (John 14:19). His resurrection provides the believer with eternal life.
Nothing terrifies people more than the fear of death. But when we receive Christ, death in reality holds no more fear for us since it simply releases us into the presence of our Lord. We can say with Paul, "To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). Rejoice that you have placed your hand into the hand of the conqueror of death, who will lead you through death and out the other side.
Suggestion for Prayer:
Ask God to give you a greater realization that He has conquered death to help you live life more fully to His glory.
For Further Study:
Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. How are we to live our lives based on what we know about death?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Beautiful Stained Glass


Beautiful Stained Glass Done by my wife for this years Christmas Program.

who is the antichrist?

This is a good article by Hank Hanegraaff

CHRISTIAN RESEARCH INSTITUTEP.O. Box 8500, Charlotte, NC 28271Web: http://www.equip.org/ Tel: 704.887.8200 Fax: 704.887.8299Tue Dec 20 23:20:20 2005
Article: JAA666

who is the antichrist?

This article first appeared in the Ask Hank column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 28, number 1 (2005). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org/
For centuries Christians have speculated about the identity of the Antichrist. Likely candidates have included European monarchs and popes of the Roman Catholic Church. Major international crises of the twentieth century provided other prime suspects such as Adolf Hitler, Mikhail Gorbachev, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden. American president George W. Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair have also surfaced on the lists of prophecy pundits.
So, who is the Antichrist? Rather than joining in this sensationalistic game of pin-the-tail-on-the-Antichrist, Christians need only go to Scripture to find the answer. The apostle John exposed the identity of antichrist when he wrote, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist––he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22–23 NIV). In his second epistle, John gives a similar warning: “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7 NIV). John did not reserve the title “antichrist” for any one particular individual; rather, he taught that anyone who denies the incarnation, messianic role, or deity of Jesus is the antichrist.
John did indicate in the book of Revelation, however, that one individual would personify evil in a unique way as the ultimate archetype of all the types of antichrist. Instead of referring to this individual as the Antichrist, John referred to him as “the Beast.” So, who is the Beast of Revelation? Again we must properly interpret Scripture to find the answer.
First, John explains to his first-century readers that with “wisdom” and “insight” they could “calculate the number of the Beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666” (Rev. 13:18 NIV). It stands to reason, therefore, that the individual John had in mind must have been alive during the first century. No amount of wisdom or insight would have enabled first-century Christians to identify a far-future individual. It would have been cruel and dangerously misleading for John to suggest to first-century Christians that they could identify the Beast if in fact the Beast was a twenty-first-century institution or individual.
Furthermore, an examination of the historical context in which John was writing reveals that John was appealing to a widely used method of associating each letter of the alphabet with a corresponding numerical value. This process is known as gematria. According to gematria, six hundred sixty-six is the sum value of the Hebrew letters (not recognizable to the Roman authorities of John’s day) that spell the name of the first-century Roman Emperor whom the great nineteenth-century biblical scholar Milton Terry called “the veriest incarnation of wickedness”: Nero Caesar.
Ancient accounts of Nero’s life, most notably that recorded in The Twelve Caesars by second-century Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, identify Nero as a desperately wicked individual who grossly violated each of the Ten Commandments through a long litany of disgusting demonstrations of depravity. Included among his appalling atrocities were his castration of a young boy named Sporus whom he then married publicly, his persecution of the Christians whom he had dressed in tar jackets and put on stakes and then burned at night to light the streets, his demand to be worshiped as God, and the brutal murders of some of his closest family members, including his mother Agrippina, his wives Octavia and Poppaea, and Poppaea’s young son, Rufrius Crispinius, whom Nero had drowned during a fishing trip for allegedly playing childhood games in which he pretended to be the Emperor.
Finally, Nero is rightly identified as the Beast of Revelation––the archetypal Antichrist––because of the unique and horrible quality of the “great tribulation” he ignited. The horror of the great tribulation included not only the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, but the persecution of the apostles and prophets who penned the Scriptures and formed the foundation of the Christian church of which Christ Himself was the chief cornerstone. Thus, Nero and the great tribulation he instigated are the archetypes for every antichrist and tribulation that follow before we experience the reality of our own resurrection at the second coming of Christ.
— Hank Hanegraaff

Tribulation and the Amillennialism view

A friend asked a question similar to this:How does this view look at the Revelation Tribulation?
Chris 12.21.05 - 12:09 am

The next posting will try to answer this question>>>

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Warning to the Intellectually Convinced

www.gty.org

Devotion posted on the Grace To You website for the date of: 12-19-05

A Warning to the Intellectually Convinced
"How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard" (Heb. 2:3).
I will never forget a lady who came to my office, confessing that she was a prostitute and was desperate for help. I presented the claims of Christ to her and asked if she wanted to confess Christ as Lord of her life. She said yes and prayed, seemingly inviting Christ into her life.

Then I suggested that we burn her book of contacts. She looked at me incredulously and said, "What do you mean?" "If you want to live for Jesus Christ," I explained, "and you've truly accepted His forgiveness and embraced Him as Lord, then you need to prove it." "But that book is worth a lot of money," she said. "I don't want to burn it." After putting it back in her purse, she looked me right in the eye and said, "I guess I don't really want Jesus, do I?"

When it came to counting the cost, she wasn't ready. I don't know whatever became of her, but my heart aches for her and others like her.

I'm sure you know people like her--they know and believe that Christ is the Savior, they know they need Him, but they are unwilling to make a commitment to Him. Perhaps they even go to church and hear the Word of God. They are like the proverbial man who says he believes a boat will keep him afloat, but never sets foot in one.

Those people are the most tragic of all. They need to be warned--to be given a powerful shove toward Christ. May the Lord use you as His instrument for that purpose in the lives of many who are on the edge of a decision for Christ.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Ask God to soften the hearts of people you know who understand the facts of the gospel, but haven't yet made a commitment to it.

For Further Study:

Read Matthew 19:16-22. What kinds of questions should you ask of someone who appears eager to become a Christian?

An Overview of Amillennialism

Click the link to see Charles Spurgeon's views on Eschatology.

Some of his views agree with Amillennialism and some views disagree...

Below is a section on Amillennialsim:

An Overview of Amillennialism

    The eschatological view of the millennium known as "amillennialism" literally means "no millennium." In some senses the nomenclature is not entirely accurate and many who hold this position today prefer the label of "realized eschatology" for their position. In Spurgeon's day the designation, amillennialism, was unknown. William Cox, with perhaps excusable hyperbole, states:

The name is new, and there have been times in history when these teachings were not pronounced with vigor. But amillennial teachings are as old as Christianity itself. Amillennialism has always been the majority view of the historic Christian church, even as it remains today.74

Amillennialism, despite Cox's assertions, is normally said to trace its lineage back to the time of Saint Augustine (354-430), who identified the church with the kingdom. According to Clouse:

. . . the statements in the Book of Revelation were interpreted allegorically by Augustine. No victory was imminent in the struggle with evil in the world. On the really important level, the spiritual, the battle had already been won and God had triumphed through the cross. Satan was reduced to lordship over the City of the World, which coexisted with the City of God. Eventually even the small domain left to the devil would be taken from him by a triumphant God.75

The influence of Augustine led to the amillennial, or what Peters called an "anti-millennial" view.76 This view of no millennium became the official view of the Catholic Church and would be the original view of the Protestant reformers. As Peters states:

They (as e.g. Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Calvin, and Knox) occupied the Augustinian or Popish position. . . that the church, in some sense, was the Kingdom of God (preparatory to a higher stage), and that the millennial period (one thousand years) included this dispensation or gospel period (some of the millennial descriptions being applicable only to a future period either in heaven or the renewed earth), and hence was nearing its close.77

This eschatological view was firmly embedded into the Reformed Tradition by the works of John Calvin. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin wrote a section entitled, "The Error of the Chiliasts" in which he stated:

But a little later there followed the chiliasts, who limited the reign of Christ to a thousand years. Now their fiction is too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation. And the Apocalypse, from which they undoubtedly drew a pretext for their error does not support them. For the number "one thousand" (Rev. 20:4) does not apply to the eternal blessedness of the church but only to the various disturbances that awaited the church, while still toiling on earth. On the contrary, all Scripture proclaims that there will be no end to the blessedness of the elect or the punishment of the wicked.78

Spurgeon, whom has been seen to consider Calvinism to be the essence of Christian theology,79 was well aquainted with all of Calvin's view and considered his commentaries to "be worth their weight in gold."80 The amillennial view of Calvin, while not well-developed, continued in the Reformed Tradition as Augustine's views were not challenged on this issue. Amillennialism was then carried into Puritan theology by the classic Institutio Theologiae Elencticae of Fran├žois Turretin (1623-87). Turretin has been described as "something of a gloomy amillennialist."81 Kennedy states of Turretin:

Turretin opposed the crasser, heretical chiliasts who anticipate an earthly millennium with sensual pleasures (including many wives and Jewish worship restored in Palestine) as well as the innocuous millennialism of such seventeenth- century Reformed theologians as Joseph Mede and Johan Heinrich Alsted. This kind of historical hope Turretin simply could not accept because he believed that the church must suffer, not reign in this life.82

    Perhaps the outstanding delineation of an amillennial position was that of Patrick Fairbairn (1805-75), professor at the Free Church College in Aberdeen. His commentaries on Ezekiel, Jonah and the Pastoral Epistles were highly recommended by Spurgeon.83 Fairbairn's classic work, The Interpretation of Prophecy (1856), laid out both an amillennial (although again it was not known by that designation) eschatology and hermeneutic. Fairbairn's understanding of prophecy is that it was to be interpreted more in a symbolic sense, as he states in commenting on the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:2:

It is impossible, excepting on the most arbitrary and forced suppositions, to bring such statements into harmony, if they are understood absolutely, and applied simply to the personelle of Satan. . . to consider the binding of Satan in a strictly personal light, is but another example of the intermingling of the literal with the symbolic, which has so greatly retarded the proper understanding of the prophetical Scriptures.84

Fairbairn also viewed the martyrs under the altar (Rev 20:4) as "symbolic,"85 referring to all of the saints throughout the ages; he also viewed the millennium as referring to the eternal state.86 Fairbairn also rejected a literal interpretation of prophecy (which he viewed as part and parcel of the premillennial and to a lesser degree the postmillennial positions) as "essentially Jewish."87 Peter Masters, a fervent amillennialist, praises Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel by saying:

Fairbairn sets aside historical and literal views of Ezekiel, and presses Christian-spiritual (or typical) views. Thus the vision of the dry bones is linked with Isaiah and Daniel passages to depict the day of resurrection; while the reuniting of the kingdom of the 'David' refers to the eternal kingdom of Christ.88

    Moving into a modern articulation of the amillennial scheme Anthony A. Hoekema, one of the most articulate spokesmen for this position in recent times, states:

The term amillennialism is not a happy one. It suggests that amillennialists either do not believe in any millennium or that they simply ignore the first six verses in Revelation 20, which speak of a millennial reign. Neither of these two statements is true. Though it is true that amillennialists do not believe in a literal thousand-year earthly reign which will follow the return of Christ, the term amillennialism is not an accurate description of their view. Professor Jay E. Adams of Westminister Seminary in Philadelphia has suggested that the term amillennialism be replaced by the expression realized millennium.89

From Hoekema's statement one can see the essence of the amillennial position, namely that he does not "believe in a literal thousand-year earthly reign which will follow the return of Christ." The amillennial position can be defined as a belief that:

. . . the Bible does not predict a period of the rule of Christ on earth before the last judgment. According to this outlook there will be a continuous development of good and evil in the world until the second coming of Christ, when the dead shall be raised and the judgment conducted. Amillennialists believe that the kingdom of God is now present in the world as the victorious Christ rules his church through the Word and the Spirit. They feel that the future, glorious, and perfect kingdom refers to the new earth and life in heaven. Thus Rev. 20 is a description of the souls of dead believers reigning with Christ in heaven.90



Four basic premises of amillennialism and then six chronological details:

1. Christ has won the decisive victory over sin, death and Satan.

This victory of Christ's was decisive and final. The most important day in history, therefore, is not the Second Coming of Christ which is still future but the first coming which lies in the past. Because of the victory of Christ, the ultimate issues of history have already been decided. It is now a question of time until that victory is brought to its full consummation.91

2. The Kingdom of God is both present and future.

Amillennialists believe that the kingdom of God was founded by Christ at the time of his sojourn on earth, is operative in history now and is destined to be revealed in its fullness in the life to come. They understand the kingdom of God to be the reign of God dynamically in human history through Jesus Christ. Its purpose is to redeem God's people from sin and demonic powers, and finally to establish the new heavens and the new earth. The kingdom of God means nothing less than the reign of God in Christ over his entire created universe.92

3. Though the last day is still future, the church is in the last days now.

When I say, "we are in the last days now," I understand the expression "last days" not merely referring to the time just before Christ's return, but as a description of the entire era between Christ's first and second comings. . . In the light of these New Testament teachings, we may indeed speak of an inaugurated eschatology, while remembering that the Bible speaks of a final consummation of eschatological events in what John commonly calls "the last day" (John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48). The fact that we are living in the last days now implies that we are already tasting the beginnings of eschatological blessings —that, as Paul says, we already have "the first fruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:23).93

4. As far as the thousand years of Revelation 20 are concerned, the church is in the millennium now.

The amillennial position on the thousand years of Revelation 20 implies that Christians who are now living are enjoying the benefits of this millennium since Satan has been bound for the duration of this period. As we saw, the fact that Satan is now bound does not mean that he is not active in the world today but that during this period he cannot deceive the nations —that is, cannot prevent the spread of the gospel. . .Amillennialists also teach that during this same thousand year period the souls of believers who have died are now living and reigning with Christ in heaven while they await the resurrection of the body. Their state is therefore a state of blessedness and happiness, though their joy will not be complete until their bodies have been raised.94

    While the amillennialist does not believe in a physical kingdom, and holds the 1,000 reference in Revelation 20 to be figurative; they do believe that Jesus will physically return to the earth. Chronologically, the amillennial scheme views the Second Coming of Christ as a single and unified event. After a period of increasing lawlessness and apostasy (although as Hoekema points out this "cannot prevent the spread of the gospel"), Christ will return. At this time the resurrection of the just and unjust will take place, as well as the glorification of those believers who are still alive on the earth.
    While admitting the "rapture" of I Thessalonians 4:17, amillennialists view this event as a meeting of "raised and transformed believers"95 who meet Christ in the air and then return with Him to reign together in the New Earth, which most define as heaven or the eternal state. Also at this time the final judgment of the unbelievers and the rewarding of believers will occur and the eternal state will commence. Charles Wannamaker states this clearly in his commentary on the Thessalonian epistles:

Those who meet the Lord in the air (the space between the earth and the heavens in Jewish cosmology) are caught up in a heavenly ascent by the clouds without any indication that they then return to earth. Apart from the possible connotation that ajpavnthsi" might have for a return to earth, the rest of the imagery (the clouds and being caught up with the Lord) are indicative of an assumption to heaven of the people who belong to Christ. That Paul adds his own definitive statement concerning the significance of this meeting in the clause kai; ou[tw" pavntote suvn kurivw/ ejsovmeqa ("and thus we will always be with the Lord") suggests both living and dead Christians will return to heaven with the Lord, not only to enjoy continuous fellowship with him, but also in terms of 1:10, to be saved from the coming wrath of God.96

Thus, for the amillennialist, the rapture is used by God to remove the living and dead saints from the earth, transforming them for and transferring them to heaven; while at the same time the judgment of the living and dead unbelievers is carried out.
    While the terminology for amillennialism has been altered slightly since the time of Spurgeon, the essential features have remained the same. Those Spurgeon identified as "Preterist"97 would fit into the amillennial scheme. Again the "Preterist" position holds that the prophecies of Revelation, are not really all that prophetic, since the "fulfillment of the apocalyptic taking place roughly contemporaneously with the Scriptural account of it."98 With that as the case, then the account of the millennium in Revelation 20 is not speaking of a future event, but rather the kingdom of God already functioning with Jesus seated in heaven. The chart below presents what can be called the sine qua non of the amillennial system.

Essential Features of Amillennialism
  1. Satan has been defeated and is currently bound.
  2. The Millennium is the current Church Age. (although some of this school will identify the millennium with the eternal state)
  3. The Resurrections of the Just & Unjust occur simultaneously to the return of Christ.
  4. There is no sense in which the millennium has reference to a material, earthly kingdom.
  5. The Church is the succession of Israel in God's plans.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Doctrine Is Practical


A guest-post from my favorite preacher
From Phil Johnson

Doctrine Is Practical
by John MacArthur
I have in my library a book by the spiritual father of a quasi-Christian cult. He argues that doctrinal statements, systematic theology and propositional truth claims are contrary to the spirit of Jesus' ministry.That seemed a rather bizarre notion when I first heard it years ago.
But the belief that Christ is against doctrine is a notion I seem to be encountering with increasing frequency.No idea could be much further from the truth. The word doctrine simply means "teaching." And it's ludicrous to say that Christ is anti-teaching. The central imperative of His Great Commission is the command to teach (Matthew 28:18-20).Yet there's no shortage of church-growth experts, professional pollsters, and even seminary professors nowadays who are cautioning young pastors that doctrine is too divisive, too threatening, too heady and theoretical—and therefore simply impractical.Impractical? I agree that practical application is vital. I don't want to minimize its importance. But if there is a deficiency in preaching today, it is that there's too much relational, pseudo-psychological, and thinly life-related content, and not enough emphasis on sound doctrine.Moreover, the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is completely artificial; doctrine is practical. In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine, because there's ultimately no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God's Word.Practical insights, gimmicks, and illustrations mean little if they are divorced from divine principle. Before the preacher asks anyone to perform a certain duty, he must first deal with doctrine. He must develop his message around theological themes and draw out the principles of the texts. Then the truth can be applied.Romans provides the clearest example. Paul doesn't give any exhortation until he has given eleven chapters of theology.He scales incredible heights of truth, culminating in 11:33-36, where he says, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."Then in chapter 12, he turns immediately to the practical consequences of the doctrine of the first 11 chapters. No passage in Scripture captures the Christian's responsibility in the face of truth more clearly than Romans 12:1-2. Resting on eleven chapters of profound doctrine, Paul calls each believer to a supreme act of spiritual worship—giving oneself as a living sacrifice. So doctrine gives rise to devotion to Christ. What could be more practical? And the remainder of the book of Romans goes on to explain still more practical outworkings of one's dedication to Christ.Paul follows the same pattern in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. The doctrinal message comes first. Upon that foundation he builds the practical application, making the logical connection with the word therefore (Romans 12:1; Galatians 5:1; Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 2:1) or then (Colossians 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1).So we have imposed an artificial meaning on the word doctrine. We've made it something abstract and threatening, unrelated to daily living. That has brought about the disastrous idea that preaching and teaching are unrelated to living.The scriptural concept of doctrine includes the entire message of the gospel—its teaching about God, salvation, sin, and righteousness. Those concepts are so tightly bound to daily living that the first-century mind did not see them as something separate from practical truth.The New Testament church was founded on a solid base of doctrine. First Timothy 3:16 contains what many expositors believe is an early church hymn: "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." There, in capsule form, is the basis of all Christian teaching. Without that, no practical application matters.The next few verses of 1 Timothy describe what happens when men depart from the basis of biblical truth: "Some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth" (4:1-3).In other words, lying, hypocrisy, a dulled conscience, and false religious practices all have root in wrong doctrine.No ministry activity is more important than rightly understanding and clearly proclaiming sound doctrine. In 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, Paul commissions two young men to the ministry. His central theme is the importance of adhering to sound doctrine.Paul charged Timothy: "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following" (1 Tim. 4:6). "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching," Paul adds, "persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (v. 16).Titus 2:10 says we "adorn [or honor] the doctrine of God" by how we live. When it comes to affirming sound doctrine, what we do carries far more significance than what we say. That's why it's disastrous when a pastor, seminary professor, or any kind of Christian leader fails morally. The message he proclaims is that his doctrine is unrelated to life. And for those whose lives he has touched, doctrine becomes merely an intellectual exercise.True doctrine transforms behavior as it is woven into the fabric of everyday life. But it must be understood if it is to have its impact. The real challenge of the ministry is to dispense the truth clearly and accurately. Practical application comes easily by comparison.
John MacArthur

God of Love - and Hell???

I've added the below audio which is an Q&A from gty.org

http://gty.thedesignpeople.com/files/audio_qna/mp3/loveandhell.mp3

This answers the previous post on Universalism.

Universalism


Below is a link to the conversation about Universalism:

http://www.countrysidechristian.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=86

Below is My Response to a Universalism posting on a Message Board:

I'm always cautious when somebody says that they interpret the Bible Literally. It usually isn't as good as it sounds.

We should interpret the Bible with the Bible and the best way we can do that is look at the Newtestament and see how Jesus, Paul, and Peter interpret the Old Testament. Then bring out of the Bible what it is saying.
If you go to the Bible looking for Universalism... You'll find it. If you go to the Bible looking for the DaVinci Codes, you'll find it. If you go to the Bible with the latest in News, You'll think that the Bible was talking about that too. (Jack Van Impie Style)

If you go to the book Mobie Dick looking for Universalism you'll find it there too.

Below is an article from CARM. Christian Apologetics Research Ministry.



Universalism

http://www.carm.org/uni/universalism.htm

Universalism is the teaching that all people will be saved. Some say that it is through the atonement of Jesus that all will ultimately be reconciled to God. Others just say that all will go to heaven sooner or later, whether or not they have trusted in or rejected Jesus as savior during their lifetime. This universal redemption will be realized in the future where God will bring all people to repentance. This repentance can happen while a person lives or after he has died and lived again in the millennium (as some "Christian universalists" claim) or some future state. Additionally, a few universalists even maintain that Satan and all demons will likewise be reconciled to God.
Nevertheless, both facets of universalistic belief are in serious error. People will suffer eternal damnation (Rev. 14:11) and the demonic forces have no redeemer. But, in my opinion, though universalism is a grave error, holding to the idea that all will be saved in itself does not automatically make someone a non-Christian. Please see Can a Christian be a Universalist?
However, there are those within the universalist camp (who claim to be Christian) who also deny the doctrine of the Trinity and, thereby, the incarnation of the Word of God as God the Son. They also deny the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit. Usually, these denials are held by Unitarian Universalists, though others who are not of the Universalist camp also deny the Trinity. Those who deny these essentials cannot be classified as Christians.
To deny the deity of Christ, is to deny one of the essential doctrines of salvation. In this sense, those universalists who deny the deity of Christ are in a false religious belief system. Of course, when one essential doctrine is denied, many other historic biblical doctrines are also denied and salvation is void because the object of faith is false.
There is no official "Universal Salvation Church" denomination but there is a Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The UUA can be classified as non-Christian because it denies the deity of Christ, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, etc.
It is not possible to categorize all of universalists into one tidy doctrinal category. Its adherents vary in belief. Some are Arian (God is one person, Jesus is a creation). Some are Trinitarian. Others even lean toward new age concepts of man's divinity.
So, universalism is not really a doctrine that identifies a group. Rather, it is a doctrine of different, even contradictory groups, who all claim universalism.

The problem with words

The cults are particularly guilty of using biblical words with non-biblical definitions. This is absolutely necessary among them in order to maintain some sort of internal consistency of theology. So too, with many universalists. Hell can mean non-existence, after-life consciousness, or this present life on earth. Some universalists believe that all punishment is accomplished here on earth, while others believe it is future event with a loss of rewards, and not a physical punishment. The punishment in both groups is corrective and limited. It will last only as long, and only be as severe, as it takes to accomplish its corrective purpose, which is to bring all mankind to a state of holiness and happiness in obedience to God. Of course, the problem with this is that it strongly suggests that a person is made worthy to be with God through his own sufferings and corrections in the afterlife.
In universalism, the word "eternal" means "without end" when it comes to salvation, but not when referring to damnation, even though the same word is used for both and in the same context (Matt. 25:46). Universalists divide history and the future into different "eons" or "ages" and assert that punishment is "age-lasting," not eternal. The term "Son of God" is claimed by all groups as an accurate description of Jesus, yet to some it means a created being and to others it means God in flesh. Therefore, determining which belief is held by which universalist is often difficult and it requires digging.

Misrepresentation

Universalists often use the most negative terms to represent historic positions they disagree with. For example, regarding the damnation of the unsaved, instead of saying that historic Christianity teaches that those who reject Christ will suffer eternal damnation, they frequently say that historic Christianity teaches that "God can't save everyone and wants to torture most of humanity forever." Or, it is often implied that God will not torture people forever because "God is not sadistic enough to send people to hell." Such emotionally slanted words reveal a hostile bias against historic doctrines and is an unfair description of those beliefs. It is a surprisingly common tactic among universalists which demonstrates their lack of objectivity and sheds an automatic cloud of doubt upon their observations.

Conclusion

As you can see, universalism covers a wide range of beliefs. Though belief in universalism, in and of itself, does not automatically void salvation, it has the potential danger of allowing false teachers to abide alongside true believers as well as deny basic Christian teaching such as eternal damnation. Therefore, to determine if a universalist is Christian, you must delve further into other areas of his belief system.
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Your Elect Brother

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Priest With Dirty Clothes" Click Here to Listen


Dr. R.C. Sproul tells of a young priest who falls from his horse. The mud ruins his garments, dashing his hopes of appearing before the king. But the great prince offers his own beautiful clothes, echoing the timeless message of the Lord Jesus Christ atoning for our sin and clothing us with the robe of His perfect righteousness, without which no one can see God. (See Image link below)