Does Man Have Freewill or Are We Predestined?

FreeWl-PrDstI want to state at the start that the Bible is clear that all religions do not lead to God or heaven. Jesus declared “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).

Of course a person can choose not to believe the Bible is true and the Word of God and that Jesus died for their sins. That is a person’s “freewill” decision.

Clearly man has the ability to choose and to reject.  Nonetheless that does not mean a man’s will can countermand God’s Sovereign will.

What God Knows

Does God know what will happen before it happens?  If so, is that because He can see into the future or does God control events?  Or is it both . . . or neither?

What God Did

Intriguing questions to be sure, so necessarily a good starting point is to examine God’s Word as did the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11)[i].

Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Mt. 25:34).

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. . . . If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:16-19).

For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

As I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:2-3).

[Jesus who was] delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of [d]godless men and put Him to death (Acts 2: 23).

Js Pilate

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur (Acts 4: 27-28).

Repent therefore and be converted, for the blotting out of your sins, so that times of refreshing may come from [the] presence of the Lord, and he may send Jesus Christ, who was foreordained for you, . . . (Acts 3:19-20; Darby).

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. . . . (Romans 8:29-30).

To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, . . . (1 Peter 1:1-3).

. . . but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God . . . (1 Peter 1:19-21).

. . . we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory . . . (1 Cor. 2:7).

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:4-6).

In Him [Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, . . . (Eph. 1:11).

All who dwell on the earth will worship Him [Christ], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain (Rev. 13:8).

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come (Rev. 17:8-9).

There are many more verses throughout the Gospels the Epistles which speak of “the elect” of God.  So what the Bible clearly teaches is God has predestined those who would trust Christ for their salvation in this life and eternity.

Why Are Some Men Lost

Why are some men saved and why other men lost?  The reason “according to Augustine is that God predestined some men to eternal life . . . they do so on God’s choice—not their own.”[ii]

God could have chosen to save no one.  Thus the salvation of even one person is due to the mystery of God’s sovereign grace.  This is the doctrine of double predestination.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways . . . For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (11:33-36).

But what of man’s will?  Is man then just an automaton?  Empirically that is not the case because many, many reject Christ’s free salvific gift.

I believe it is the case that man’s freewill is not mutually exclusive of predestination.  “God’s predestination does not mean that we cannot make free will choices.  God predestines in and through our choices because God is all-knowing and all-powerful.  He knows what we will do because he knows all things.  He cannot not know all things.  So, whatever you choose to do out of your own free volition is known.  But his knowing doesn’t mean you don’t freely choose.”[iii]

The human mind is finite and God’s mind is infinite so it is no wonder there is much in the Bible that is a mystery to us.  Nevertheless it is critical to accept the plain meaning and truth of God’s Word and not allegorize it or twist it to mean something its author did not.

“Mysteries are forced upon us by the facts of God’s Word; we are not inventing them ourselves. Since His written revelation teaches concepts that appear to be mutually exclusive, we must realize that with God both truths are friends, not enemies. In God’s higher rationality, things that we think must be either-or can in reality be both-and [emphasis mine].”[iv]


[i] All Scripture taken from the NASB version unless noted.
[ii] Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines That Divide (Grandrapids: Kregel Publications, 1998), 158.
[iii] Matt Slick, “If Predestination Is True, Then How Can There Be Free Will?” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM);  https://carm.org/if-predestination-true-then-how-can-there-be-free-will
[iv] Ken Boa, “Divine Sovereignty vs. Human Responsibility,” Bible.org: https://bible.org/article/divine-sovereignty-vs-human-responsibility

FreeWl-PrDst

 

Jesus’ Inside the Park Homer

First Base5_jesus-crucifixion

When we speak of the key elements of the Gospel account what are we signifying? I mean what are the essentials?

Do we believe that Christ’s death on the cross was salvific for all mankind? After all, did not Jesus proclaim “Teltelestai;”. . .  “It is finished”?

The second part of verse 30 tells that “He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” Obviously that means Jesus’ body died, but was that all?

Let’s consider this more closely.

The cross was a horrendous way to die—it was designed to be. Consider that while Jesus was on the cross; as bad as the torturous pain and anguish were, especially with the torture of having to try to pull yourself up to breath and then sliding back down the coarse surface of the beam—there was something much, much, much worse going on.

That was the Father’s Wrath. Jesus was suffering ultimate torment for each person’s sin that ever lived or ever will live. He was suffering the Father turning his back on Jesus until this terrible task was completed; until every sin was “paid in full” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; NASB).

Though Jesus’ dying was a necessary condition for our atonement, his death in itself was not sufficient to cover our sins. The Catholic Church’s crucifix still has Christ hanging on the cross. Jesus has not even been buried!

Although it was a necessary condition that Jesus dies for every man who ever lived or whoever will live, it was not a sufficient condition for the salvation of all men.

In other words, though Jesus death was necessary for you to be saved. Nevertheless it was not sufficient to save you until you make the choice[i] to fully trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Thus when Jesus cried out it is finished he declared that our sins had been paid for. Our debt was paid in full! Think of it like a gift card. However you cannot obtain the free gift until you redeem the card.

But is that the full package? No, there’s more.

Second Basemartin-resurrection-morning-new-image-smallest

The narratives in the Gospels tell us Christ is risen. In Matthew’s account we read,

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you (vv 5-7).

John gives us the first promise of the resurrection of Christ’s Church:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3).

Although Jesus’ death provided a way of salvation for mankind, death had not been conquered. Jesus’ resurrection, however, conquered death. Because death could not keep Jesus in the grave, the grave also cannot ultimately hold those who have trusted in Christ alone as Savor and Lord (John 14:6).

It is the case then that the Bible also promises that because Christ was resurrected, we too will be resurrected to be with Him. When Jesus Christ returns for His Church scriptures proclaim we will be taken up to be with Jesus in our glorified bodies.

 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:53-55).  See also Acts 2:24; Romans 5:10, 21; 1 Cor. 15:54-55; Heb. 2:14.

Paul is actually quoting from the Old Testament passage in Isaiah 12:8 where it state that God “will swallow up death for all time.”

In Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica he again affirms this:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; see also 1 Tim. 6:13-15).

This makes it very clear that those that have died and those who still are alive when Christ takes His Church home will be resurrected (or raptured), because Jesus Christ was first resurrected. This is The Blessed Hope (Titus 2:11-14).

If that is not enough Christ tells us in Revelation 20:6

Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

Third Base627427bc05bfd61647ca0bc4e82f8592

As Christians we celebrate the advent of God coming to dwell with man at Christmas. Our second High Holy Day is what most people call Easter.[ii] I prefer Resurrection Day; the day Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

Good Friday is the day Christ was crucified and is celebrated by some churches.

“That greatest of all events, really, in the life of our Lord, the culminating event, the triumphant finale to His life on earth is probably the most neglected event in the life of Christ.”[iii]

Jesus alluded to his ascending back to the Father right after his resurrection. When Mary recognized Jesus at the tomb “Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God (Jn 20:17).’”

The actual event is recorded by Mark and also by Dr. Luke:

 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).” “And He [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.  While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven (Luke 24:50-51).”

The Ascension marked the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly work. When Jesus departed he opened the door for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit couldn’t fully come until Jesus left. Furthermore “the ascension really is an incredibly important event, the culminating reality of His entire life and ministry. . . . He is the one and the only one who having accomplished our redemption was received back into heaven.  This is the final divine affirmation, stamp of approval on His ministry.”[iv]

AscendedWhen Jesus ascended to heaven His divine attributes and glory were restored fully. He was no longer confined to His corporeal nature or limitations; Christ was again fully glorified.

In his High Priestly Prayer in John 17:4-5 Jesus prayed “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.  Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

The Base Ball Analogy

The earth is our Home Base. Satan threw Jesus a curve (he thought) which he smacked hard off the wall, but it was not an over-the-wall homer.

When Jesus died on the cross, Satan’s team thought they had won. But Jesus was just rounding first base.

The resurrection was second base, but Jesus wasn’t done yet. He hung around for forty days, putting the final touches on the foundation of what would be His Church. He was driving for third base.

Then Jesus ascended back into heaven; to the Father. That was third base, but Jesus didn’t stop at third, he rounded third driving for Home Base. That will be the “New Heaven and a New Earth (Rev. 21:1).baseball


[i] Theologically it is, in fact, the Holy Spirit that calls and draws each person to Christ. There is nothing, nothing, we can do on our own to reach God.

[ii] The word “Easter” most probably comes from the pagan name Ishtar, the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.

[iii] John MacArthur, “What the Ascension Accomplished,” https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-411/what-the-ascension-accomplished

[iv] Ibid.

Who is Mystery Babylon?

mystery-babylonThe Catholic Church has been founded in heretical doctrine since its establishment.

It has distorted biblical truths by adding, subtracting, or changing what the Word of God actually declares. This article is about the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church.

What follows is an excerpt from a blog article I ran across in on a website called European Institute of Protestant Studies. I have been studying theology and apologetics for forty years but the extreme occultic nature of this shocked me.

It is every bit as occultic as the Masonic Lodge or The Church of the Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. and it is almost as maliciously evil as Islam.

Now to be clear what follows is from the Jesuit Order.

It is called the Jesuit Extreme Oath of Induction. There are two versions, but they vary little.

The first is the Oath is also quoted by Charles Didier in his book Subterranean Rome (New York, 1843), translated from the French original. Dr. Alberto Rivera, who escaped from the Jesuit Order in 1967, confirms that the induction ceremony and the text.

The second is the Jesuit Oath recorded in the Journals of the 62nd Congress, 3rd Session, of the United States Congressional Record (House Calendar No. 397, Report No. 1523, 15 February, 1913, pp. 3215-3216).

As they are quite lengthy I will not quote them in their entirety. For the complete ritual go here or here.

Tocropped-calcuttajesuitslogo set this up “when a Jesuit of the minor rank is to be elevated to command, he is conducted into the Chapel of the Convent of the Order, where there are only three others present, the principal or Superior standing in front of the altar.”

On either side stands a monk, one of whom holds a banner of yellow and white, which are the Papal colors, and the other a black banner with a dagger and red cross above a skull and crossbones, with the word INRI, and below them the words IUSTUM, NECAR, REGES, IMPIOUS. The meaning of which is: It is just to exterminate or annihilate impious or heretical Kings, Governments, or Rulers.

Upon the floor is a red cross at which the postulant or candidate kneels. The Superior hands him a small black crucifix, which he takes in his left hand and presses to his heart, and the Superior at the same time presents to him a dagger, which he grasps by the blade and holds the point against his heart, the Superior still holding it by the hilt, and thus addresses the postulant:”

The Superior priest begins the ritual with a lengthy hortatorial oath beginning thus:

My son, heretofore you have been taught to act the dissembler: among Roman Catholics to be a Roman Catholic, and to be a spy even among your own brethren; to believe no man, to trust no man.jesuit-logo

It goes on to posit that the postulant is to pretend he is in agreement with whatever religion, sect, or denomination is mixing with at the time—he is after all a spy. He is to obtain “their confidence, to seek even to preach from their pulpits.”

As with Islam’s taqiyya, lying to gain an advantage, so too the Jesuit is do what is necessary, even going so far as to denounce vehemently the Catholic Church and the Pope to gain the upper hand.

The Superior continues with:

You have been taught to insidiously plant the seeds of jealousy and hatred between communities, provinces, states that were at peace, and incite them to deeds of blood, involving them in war with each other, and to create revolutions and civil wars in countries that were independent and prosperous, cultivating the arts and the sciences and enjoying the blessings of peace.

All of this is to the end that the apostate Catholic Church “might be the gainer in the end, in the conditions fixed in the treaties for peace and that the end justifies the means.”

It goes on of more of the same and echoes strongly what has been already stated. The postulant then must assert his loyalty . . . to Christ? No no, he must to be all things to all men, for the Pope’s sake, whose servants we are unto death.”

Not for Christ who died for all, but for a man, a little minded, power hungry man with the title of Pope.

When the Superior concludes the postulate or candidate gives an affirming response which begins thusly:

I, ______ now, in the presence of Almighty God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the blessed Michael the Archangel, the blessed St. John the Baptist, the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul and all the saints and sacred hosts of heaven, and to you, my ghostly father, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus . . .

Notice Jesus Christ is not mentioned in any of this! The Society of Jesus clearly has nothing to do Jesus, but this satanic society of the Jesuit Catholics.

Now comes the horrendous declaration of death.

The postulant further promises to wage war “secretly or openly against all heretics.” Heretics are defined as anybody not a Catholic.

He is to do this upon direction and “exterminate them from the face of the whole earth” and killing them regardless of

 . . . age, sex or condition; and that I will hang, waste, boil, flay, strangle and bury alive these infamous heretics, rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women and crush their infants’ heads against the walls, in order to annihilate forever their execrable race.

This is perhaps where Islam took some of their sick dogmas from.

This closes out with a Q & A between the Superior and the Postulate. This you can look this up for yourself if interested here.

However the last command of the Superior is this:

Go ye, then, into all the world and take possession of all lands in the name of the Pope. He who will not accept him as the Vicar of Jesus and his Vice-regent on earth, let him be accursed and exterminated.

Adam and Eve bought into Satan’s “small lie” in the Garden and man and Creation was cursed. In the fullness of time God will redeem it all, but it will be bloody and painful for those who do not Do you know the True Christ.

The True Church of Christ awaits the Blessed Hope.

Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Yes, I was there. And, I hope, so were you.

For if you were not then you are not redeemed and rescued.

The path to the cross, preceded by cruel torture and floggings with whips with shards of bone tied in, ended in supreme humility “with the victim naked, with no rights, no reputation, and no recourse”[i] other than a slow, excruciating, death by suffocation.

Jesus Christ was crucified on a Roman cross. It was designed for cruelty. The cross humiliated its victims. The cross was used to execute those who were cursed to the utmost.

I was at the cross when Jesus died.  It was my sin that put Jesus on that cruel cross-my sin!

Because I was there I am redeemed. 

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . (Ephesians 1:4-5).

There were two criminals on each side of Jesus. One saw who Jesus really was and turned to Him and said, ““Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”

The great theologian Sir Robert Anderson wrote:

The cross has shut up man to grace or judgment. . . . Every effort to recover themselves is but a denial of their doom, and a denial too of the grace of God, which stoops to bring them blessing where they are and as they are.”

We need to confess our sins and like the thief ask Jesus to “remember me when You come in Your kingdom.”

If Jesus had stayed in the tomb he was buried in all of this would be moot.

The really great news is Jesus did not stay in that tomb–He arose.

Jesus resurrection is our resurrection, because Jesus rose, we shall too. The preeminent kingpin of the Christian faith is the Truth of the Resurrection.

The apostle Paul told affirms this in his letter to the church at Corinth.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:20-22).

He is risen; He is risen indeed.


[i] Erwin Lutzer, Cries From the Cross (Chicago: Moody Press, 2002)

The Struggle with Living Out the Christian Faith.

This is a reprint of a survey done by the Barna Group


America may possess the world’s largest infrastructure for nurturing human spirituality, complete with hundreds of thousands of houses of worship, thousands of parachurch organizations and schools, and seemingly unlimited products, resources and experts.

Yet, a new study from the Barna Group identifies an underlying reason why there is little progress in helping people develop spiritually: many churchgoers and clergy struggle to articulate a basic understanding of spiritual maturity. People aspire to be spiritually mature, but they do not know what it means. Pastors want to guide others on the path to spiritual wholeness, but they are often not clearly defining the goals or the outcomes of that process.

The research was conducted by Barna Group in partnership with Living on the Edge (www.livingontheedge.org) and included a nationwide, random sample of adults and a similar national survey among Protestant pastors, exploring definitions of, perceptions about, and perceived barriers to spiritual maturity. 

Five Challenges

The study showed five significant challenges when it comes to facilitating people’s spiritual growth.

  1. Most Christians equate spiritual maturity with following the rules.

One of the widely embraced notions about spiritual health is that it means “trying hard to follow the rules described in the Bible”81% of self-identified Christians endorsed this statement, and a majority agreed strongly (53%). Even among those individuals defined by their belief that salvation is not earned through “good works,” four out of five born again Christians concurred that spiritual maturity is “trying hard to follow the rules.”

  1. Most churchgoers are not clear what their church expects in terms of spiritual maturity. 

An open-ended survey question asked churchgoers to describe how their church defined a “healthy, spiritually mature follower of Jesus.” Half [50%] of churchgoers simply said they were not sure, unable to venture a guess regarding the church’s definition. Even among born again Christians – that is, a smaller subset of believers who have made a profession of faith in Christ and confessed their sinful nature – two out of five were not able to identify how their church defines spiritual maturity. Among those who gave a substantive response, the most common responses were having a relationship with Jesus (16%), practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study (9%), living according to the Bible (8%), being obedient (8%), being involved in church (7%), and having concern for others (6%).

  1. Most Christians offer one-dimensional views of personal spiritual maturity. 

A second open-ended question probed self-identified Christians’ personal definition of what it means to be a healthy, spiritually mature follower of Jesus, regardless of how they believe their church defines it. One-fifth [20%] of self-described Christians were unable to offer an opinion. Other identified elements included: relationship with Jesus (21%), following rules and being obedient (15%), living a moral lifestyle (14%), possessing concern about others (13%), being involved in spiritual disciplines (13%), applying the Bible (12%), being spiritual or having belief (8%), sharing their faith with others (6%), and being involved in church activities (5%).

Born again Christians were similar in all respects to self-described Christians except they were more likely to mention having a relationship with Jesus (30%) as the sign of spiritual maturity. Further reflecting a lack of depth on the subject, the open-ended questions typically produced, on average, just one response from survey respondents, despite the fact that interviewers repeatedly probed for additional or clarifying comments.

  1. Most pastors struggle with feeling the relevance as well as articulating a specific set of objectives for spirituality, often favoring activities over attitudes.

The research among pastors highlighted several inter-related challenges. First, while nearly nine out of 10 pastors said that a lack of spiritual maturity is the most significant or one of the largest problems facing the nation, [yet only] a minority of pastors believe that spiritual immaturity is a problem in their church. A second challenge is that only a minority of churches has a written statement expressing the outcomes they are looking for in spiritually mature people. A third challenge is that pastors often favor activities over perspectives in their definitions of spiritual maturity. Their metrics for people’s spirituality include the practice of spiritual disciplines (19%), involvement in church activities (15%), witnessing to others (15%), having a relationship with Jesus (14%), having concern for others (14%), applying the Bible to life (12%), being willing to grow spiritually (12%), and having knowledge of Scripture (9%).

  1. Pastors are surprisingly vague about the biblical references they use to chart spiritual maturity for people.

One of the reasons churches struggle with making disciples may relate to the lack of clarity that pastors have about the underlying biblical passages that address the process of spiritual maturity. This is most clearly reflected in the huge proportion of pastors who give generic responses when asked to identify the most important portions of the Bible that define spiritual maturity. In fact, one-third of pastors simply said “the whole Bible.” Other generic responses included “the gospels” (17%), the New Testament (15%), and Paul’s letters (10%).

[In reality it is discipleship]

In all, the survey showed that three-quarters [75%] of pastors gave some type of generic answer to this query. In addition, one out of every five [20%] pastors gave a semi-generic response, such as “Romans” or the “life of Christ.”

As for verse-specific responses (mentioned by just one-fifth [20%] of pastors), the most common passages included: Galatians 5, John 3:16, Ephesians 4, Matthew 28, and Romans 12:1-2. Just 2% of pastors specifically identified the Galatians 5 passage relating to the “fruits of the Spirit,” which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Theme specific answers represented just 7% of responses, including the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, the Great Commandment, and the Beatitudes.

Five Opportunities

The research also identifies a number of opportunities that can be leveraged to address the problems related to spirituality maturity.

  1. Christians and pastors have clarity about the major boundaries that must be addressed to tackle the problem.

What are the perceived reasons that people do not grow spiritually? Self-identified Christians were asked about the obstacles they experience while pastors were queried to see how well they understand the barriers facing their congregants.

Church leaders believe the three primary obstacles to people’s engagement are lack of personal motivation (32%), other competing obligations and distractions (26%), and lack of involvement in activities that nurture growth (19%).

In this respect, they do not seem too far off in their perceptions. Born again Christians identify distractions (24%), lack of motivation (20%), and lack of involvement (13%) as challenges they face, even if two of the three are mentioned less frequently by adults than pastors. Born again Christians, however, are more likely than pastors to identify sinful behaviors and habits as tripping them up (14% of believers versus 8% of pastors).

  1. While most Americans are relatively content with their spirituality “as is,” millions aspire to grow spiritually.

Most adults think of themselves as both spiritually healthy as well as spiritually satisfied, which is both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is that most people’s satisfaction can lead to complacency. One opportunity is to connect with the 18 to 20 million Americans who describe themselves as spiritually unhealthy or as dissatisfied with their personal spiritual maturity.

Still, a majority of adults say they are “completely” (14%) or “mostly” healthy when it comes to spirituality (40%); nearly two-thirds of Americans describe themselves as “completely” (22%) or “mostly” satisfied with their spirituality (43%). The opportunity among these individuals is to help them move beyond complacency and embrace a deeper understanding of spiritual growth.

  1. Compared to older believers, Christians under the age of 40 are less satisfied with spirituality and less “rule oriented.”

Young Christians show signs of spiritual openness that older adults do not. People under the age of 40 are different than those Christians over 40 by being less satisfied spiritually and also rating their spiritual health less favorably. In addition, the generational difference over rule-following was striking: most Elders (ages 63+) and Boomers (44 to 62) strongly endorsed the spiritual metric of rule-following (66% and 56%, respectively); however, fewer than half of Busters (25 to 43) and Mosaics (18 to 24) embraced this view (45% and 33%). Among the young, this signals a dangerous propensity to rethink the Bible’s standards, but it also shows unique responsiveness to grace and forgiveness.

  1. Pastors realize they need more help when it comes to assessing spiritual health.

Just 9% of clergy said they were completely satisfied with their ability to measure and assess the spiritual health of their congregation. Still, few pastors (8%) were expressly dissatisfied, leaving a majority of leaders moderately satisfied. Perhaps churchgoers would become less complacent about self-evaluation as pastors embrace more effective forms of evaluation for their congregations.

  1. Pastors tend to be harder on themselves than are congregants.

About 1 out of 10 pastors said the church itself was a barrier to people’s growth, while none of the churchgoers offered a similar critique. Similarly, when asked to rate the church’s ability to help people grow spiritually, pastors were significantly less likely (6%) than churchgoers (33%) to give the organization high marks, reflecting the fact that pastors are often their own toughest critics. The opportunity is to forge a greater sense of partnership and mutual esteem between leaders and laity to address the challenges, to work against self-deception in the process, and to craft deeper, more appropriate routes to spiritual maturity.

Implications

David Kinnaman, President of the California-based research firm, directed the research project. He pointed out several implications of the study:

“America has a spiritual depth problem partly because the faith community does not have a robust definition of its spiritual goals. The study shows the need for new types of spiritual metrics. One new metric might be a renewed effort on the part of leaders to articulate the outcomes of spiritual growth. Another might be the relational engagement and accountability that people maintain. Of course, spirituality is neither a science nor a business, so there is a natural resistance to ascribing scientific or operational standards to what most people believe is an organic process. Yet, the process of spiritual growth is neither simplistic nor without guidelines, so hard work and solid thinking in this arena is needed.”

“As people begin to realize that the concepts and practices of spiritual maturity have been underdeveloped, the Christian community is likely to enter a time of renewed emphasis on discipleship, soul care, the tensions of truth and grace, the so-called ‘fruits’ of the spiritual life, and the practices of spiritual disciplines. [Kinnaman errs here.  What he misses is that without discipleship there will be no spiritual maturity, fruits of the spirit, etc.] A related challenge is that as spiritual formation becomes ‘trendy’ it will inevitably become ‘watered down’ with products that over-promise or are simply counter-productive. Leaders have to take on this issue more effectively, and part of that task is weeding out the good from bad.”


Research
This report is based upon nationwide telephone surveys conducted by The Barna Group with random samples of adults, age 18 and older, and Protestant clergy. The survey among adults was conducted in August 2008 among 1005 adults randomly selected from across the continental United States. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The survey among pastors included 611 clergy, with a maximum margin of sampling error of ±4.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Statistical weighting was used to calibrate the sample to known population percentages in relation to demographic variables.
“Born again Christians” are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as “born again.”
The Barna Group, Ltd. (which includes its research division, The Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that conducts primary research on a wide range of issues and products, produces resources pertaining to cultural change, leadership and spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, bi-monthly update on the latest research findings from The Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (http://www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources, both free and at discounted prices, are also available through that website.
© The Barna Group, Ltd, 2009.

The Seven Hebraic Feasts and their Relationship to Prophecy

In Leviticus 23, we find that the Festivals of the Lord were appointed times established as yearly rehearsals that taught both historically and prophetically the whole plan of God concerning the coming of the Messiah and the redemption of Israel and the Church.

The first four feasts have been fulfilled and the Jewish community celebrates them historically.  They are Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.  These four Spring Feasts are considered to be an interrelated whole where Pentecost is the completion of the process begun at Passover.

  • Passover – pictures the death of Jesus Christ
  • Feast of Unleavened Bread – pictures the burial of Jesus Christ
  • Feast of First Fruits – pictures the resurrection of Christ
  • Pentecost – pictures the descent of the Holy Spirit & the birth of the Church

biblical-holidays

While the first four Festivals occur in close proximity, an entire season passes before the Fall Feasts begin.  This long period represents the dispensation of grace that we now live in.  The last three feasts (Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles) are celebrated in the Fall season and are yet to be fulfilled so they remain prophetic in nature.

  • Feast of the Trumpets – pictures the Rapture of the Church
  • Feast of Atonement – pictures the Second Coming of Jesus Christ
  • Feast of Tabernacles – pictures the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ

The final three feasts are also known as Rosh HaShanah (Feast of the Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Feast of Atonement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
The Feast of Trumpets may soon find its prophetic fulfillment.  Here are some reasons why the Rapture may occur during this Festival:

  • All the Spring Feasts were fulfilled at Christ’s first coming, and on the exact day of the feast.  All the Fall Feasts picture the Second Advent, and the Feast of Trumpets is the first of the fall feasts, picturing the Rapture.
  • The Feast of Trumpets is when the “last trump” of the Rapture of 1st Corinthians 15:52 is blown (also see 1 Thess. 4:16).
  • The Feast of Trumpets is known as the Wedding of the Messiah, and the Church is the Bride of Christ, and the Rapture is when the Church is caught up to heaven to be wed with Christ.
  • The Feast of Trumpets happens on the “new moon”, which is 29.5 days after the last one, meaning it might occur on the 29th or 30th day, nobody knows for sure.  “Of that day or hour no man knows” is an expression referring to this feast, and thus, the Rapture.
  • “Of that day or hour no man knows, but my Father only” is an expression used by a groom when asked when his wedding will be.  He says this because it is his Father that will tell him when his preparations on the bridal chamber are completed and it is time.  Again, the wedding pictures the Rapture.
  • The “Open Door” of the Rapture is a symbol of the Feast of Trumpets.  “Thus says the Lord GOD: The gate of the inner court that faces east shall be shut on the six working days; but on the Sabbath day it shall be opened and on the day of the new moon it shall be opened”.
  • There are seven days of awe in between the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement.  These picture the seven years of Tribulation.  Atonement pictures Satan being defeated and cast away at the end of the Tribulation.  If you add the two-day Trumpets feast, and the Day of Atonement, the 7 days of awe are “ten days of tribulation” which might be referred to in Revelation 2:10.
  • In the Jewish Wedding, the groom comes for his bride “like a thief in the night” to take (seize / Rapture) her away and into the bridal chamber for the bridal week at his father’s house.
  • The Feast of Trumpets is also known as the coronation of the Messiah, when He will start reigning as king, thus the beginning of the “Day of the Lord”, which includes the Tribulation.

Israel Targeted

The following is an excerpt from my soon to be released book Collision Course: Abraham’s Dual Lineage; Legacy to a Fallen World.


Israel is a tiny egalitarian island in the midst of a sea of murderous, tyrannical, and barbarous Islamic pagans.  Their singular aim is to rule the entire world by first annihilating all those of Hebrew descent, then Christians or anyone failing to embrace Islam.

Why is this so?  Where did this stated hatred of Jews and anyone non-Muslim come from?  Did this hate begin with the man Muhammad or from elsewhere?  Why has Islam been able to reignite itself so powerfully?  Why now?

A Voyage Through Time                                                       

Americans under the Obama regime were unarguably living under the most corrupt government in our nation’s history.

Globally despotic governments are flexing their muscles—China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran.  The institution laughingly called the United Nations is quiet except for its unanimous anti-Semitic rants against Israel.  “Despite the massive number of tragic deaths and collapse of rule of law in countries such as Syria, Iraq Sudan, and Libya, only Israel is obsessively indicted again and again and again, always with the assumption that the Jews are to blame for everything.”[i]

The Middle Eastern countries are on fire with a ruthless hatred of Jews and Christians with Iran and ISIS thugs the lead arsonists.  All over the globe Islam, despite its lawless atrocities, is given a virtual pass on honor killings, rapes, murders, and terrorisms.

What in the world is going on?!

Transcendent Conflicting Forces

We recognize there are two transcendent, conflicting authorities in this world.  They are evidenced by good and bad.  We see them every day of our earthly lives, the virtuous versus the evil, wickedness in opposition to righteousness, betrayal as opposed to loyalty, truth contrasted with deceit, the divine compared to the demonic, and Godliness versus the Satanic.

God is The Transcendent Divine Being who created all things (Isaiah 40:21-22).  The opposing evil authority is Satan, a created spirit being who has no power over God.  Satan chose from the beginning to rebel against God, yet from before creation was defeated at the Cross (Colossians 2:14-15).

We see these antithetical, superior powers looking back through history.  Most importantly for us in the here and the now we see them in current events.  The real question is, “Do we merely “see” daily pedestrian events or are we aware enough to comprehend their direction toward God’s divine goal?”

Here’s what I mean.  I don’t mean to sound heartless, but some tragedies are all too familiar events.  For example a man kills several people in a hold-up.  This is tragic, heartbreaking; but it is not an earthshaking event and its impact is confined to a “small locale.”

A second example is similar.  Again a man kills multiple victims.  But this man is flying a plane into a building.  Both the people in the plane and the building die.  Even so if it involved only one small plane and one building perhaps it is an accident and nothing exceptional.  But flying two jet liners into the World Trade Center, killing thousands becomes something that is not a commonplace mundane killing.

As we now know that event on September 11, 2001 was the reigniting of a volcano lying more or less dormant with only relatively small eruptions since the defeat of the Mohammedans in the fifteenth century.  What we then see is the Mohammedan religion or Islam against the rest of the world—Islam versus the “Jew pigs,” infidel Christians, and all non-Muslim people.

This is a divine collision course instituted in the Bible—surely you saw it?  No?  Not to worry.  We are going on a voyage that will hopefully illuminate the links in the chain of scripture alongside the links of temporal history and the events prophesied to finish out time.

Man Rejects the Garden Path

It is impossible for us to envision the elation, joy, and ecstasy Adam and Eve must have enjoyed communing with God one-on-one, actually walking with the God of Creation, seeing Him every day.  Can you imagine seeing the face of God and experiencing Him in a one-on-one relationship, literally walking and talking with Him face-to-face?  It is unfathomable to us that name the name of Christ.  It is an unimaginable event, virtually incomprehensible for us living in the fallen world of today.

In spite of God’s perfect Creation and man’s ability to daily communion with God and the indescribable beauty of the New Creation, man chose his own way and rebelled against God. Man’s Original Sin in the Garden set the course of man irreversibly and was the beginning of an ever-widening breach between God’s Way and man’s way, between faith-fulness and faith-lessness, and ultimately between life and death.

Some years back Don Francisco released Adam Where Are You which musically proclaims the genesis, the beginning—and the Fall; the beginning of the end:

Rulers of a kingdom, full of joy — never marred by any pain,
The morning all around them seems to celebrate the life they’ve just begun;
And in the majesty of innocence the king and queen come walking in the sun
But the master of deception now begins with his dissection of the Word

And with all of his craft and subtly the serpent twists the simple truths they’ve heard,
While hanging in the balance is a world that has been placed at their command
And all their unborn children die as both of them bow down to Satan’s hand. . . .

It will be evident as our voyage continues that this is the way of God and the way of man.  God magnanimously extends His bountiful grace and man choses his own way.

Inevitably compelling questions flow from the account of man’s fall.  “Was God unable to stop Adam and Eve from rebelling?”  “Is Satan more powerful than God?” The Westminister Confession of Faith’s eloquent response asserts that “God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.”[ii]  Genesis begins with the New Creation, hope, and life.  But the over-arching précis of God’s sovereign plan is encompassed in the words of Joseph to his brothers; you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (viz. Gen. 50:20).

In Genesis 3: 15 we discover the first Messianic prophecy regarding the seed of Woman and the coming Redeemer and Messiah.  The word seed in the original language is both masculine and singular.  Nevertheless the word seed is multifaceted and in the original Hebrew text it is zerá:

The term in Gen. 3:15 has enormous implications. It is clearly singular, not plural, indicating that the entire line of descendants from our first parents is being treated as a unit. The word is flexible enough to mean one person (Christ), who represents the entire human race, mankind in general (italics mine).[iii]

The import of this is not restricted to only the Old Testament discourse.  Paul speaks of it to the Galatian church when he declared:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise (3: 16-18; italics mine).

God’s curse promised enmity as well.  That is, a deep seated animosity between the woman and her tempter; the seed of the woman and the seed of the tempter; the collective descendants of humanity and the followers of Satan.  But it is also the case that the meaning of seed refers to specific individual descendants of the woman.  In the prophetic oath known as the Adamic Covenant God declared:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman [between Satan and God’s creation, man], And between your seed [Satan’s] and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” [Satan will ultimately be crushed by Christ, but Satan will injure and mar God’s Son corporeally and His Creation] (Gen. 3: 15; NASB).

The animosity prophesied in chapter three catapults into reality in chapter four with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain—Cain the wicked seed and Abel archetypical of the righteous seed.  The offspring of Satan are those people who reject God by faith.  I think the case can be made that the word “seed” is also a general referent to the “offspring of evil” and the “offspring of good.” God created all things perfectly; however creation since the Fall has been allowed to deteriorate under Satan’s curse.  “The Lord’s curse turns its direction from the serpent to the evil power that animated it”[iv]—Satan.

Additionally Sir Robert Anderson tells us, “Genesis introduces us to the dramatis personæ of the sacred volume, and gives us insight into its plot and purpose.  There we have the record of the Creation and the Fall, the judgments of the Flood, the apostasy and scattering of the descendants of Noah, the call of Abraham, and the . . . promise of the ‘seed of woman,’ and in the typology of the book we have the prophecy and the pledge of Redemption.”[v]


[i] Joseph Klein, “Israel Braces for Propaganda Assault by the U.N.” (Frontpage Mag, June 16, 2015).

[ii] Westminister Confession of Faith, 26.

[iii] Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, NASB, exec. ed. Spiros Zodhiates, “Lexical Aids to the Old Testament,” Strongs # 2233, 1723.

[iv] Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 139.

[v] Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince, 80.