Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part XII “Nothing can separate us From Jesus!”

Misquote: Nothing can separate us From Jesus!” This misunderstanding hinges on taking Romans 8:35-39 out of context and paves the way for dangerous doctrines. Here’s the abused reference:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? . . . neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:35-39.

Actually, WE can separate ourselves from the love of God (which is action – not emotion!) through disobedience and our own lack of faith-born action.

To understand and apply Paul’s intended message, we must answer these questions:

  1. “Who was Paul speaking to and in what context?”
  2. “What is the ‘love of God’?
  3. “Who are ‘we’ who can’t be separated from God’s love?”

Let’s tackle the question regarding Paul’s audience and the context of his letter to the Church in Rome first. Paul was speaking to both Jew and non-Jew (Gentile) believers, and the overarching theme of his letter was the gift of salvation and eternal life to those who choose to follow, being led by the Spirit. This theme included a reminder that nothing can keep the righteous from God’s mercy and protection. Here’s a breakdown of the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter.

Chapter One: The righteous live by faith; all others will experience God’s judgment (v.17-18).

Chapter Two: More about the judgment of the righteous, who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” will attain eternal life (v.7) and the unrighteous who practice evil and will suffer God’s wrath.

Chapter Three: All – both Jews and Gentiles – have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Righteousness isn’t attained through works of the Law (note: this is a reference to the Law of Moses and NOT ammunition to claim that belief needs not result in action!).

Chapter Four: More about righteousness through faith (not works under the Law).

Chapter Five: The gift of redemption through our Christ. Also included is a reminder about what the faithful may need to endure and the growth that comes as a result: “. . . tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; . . . through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (v.3-5).

Chapter Six: God’s grace offers no leeway to continue in sinful behavior. We are to be obedient and not sinful (see “live by faith” in Chapter One; “doing good” in Chapter Two; perseverance in Chapter Five, etc.). “. . .  But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed . . .” (v.16-17).

Chapter Seven: Comparing and contrasting the law of God and the law of sin.

Chapter Eight: No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. By the way: the way ‘in’ is used implies that there’s no distinction between us and our Christ with regard to our behavior . . . “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (v.9)  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (v.14)

Next, we need to define the ‘love of God’ the righteous can’t be separated from. This is the action-based agape love made manifest by God’s grace through Jesus’ sacrifice. It has nothing to do with emotion and is the same kind of ‘love’ we’re told by Jesus to have for him and our God through obedience (John 13:34-35 and 14:15-31, James 2:14-26, and many others). This is the ‘fruit’ resulting from the Spirit at work in the lives of the righteous. No obedience to God and Christ’s commandments, no Spirit. No Spirit, no fruit . . .

Finally, although it should be clear now, let’s look at ‘who’ can’t be kept from God’s saving grace. As we saw in several chapters climaxing with Chapter Eight, they are the righteous – those who are led by the Spirit, live by faith, do good, persevere, and are obedient to our God and Christ. They don’t practice sin and aren’t those who only believe and yet don’t act.

In summary, these early chapters of the letter to the Romans establish a baseline of righteousness and unrighteousness and introduce the choice that can bring life. Those who choose to accept God’s gift of redemption through an ongoing covenant by being will be rescued from God’s judgment to come, and nothing can change that. Conversely, the unrighteous disobedient (including those ‘believe’ but are inactive) will experience God’s wrath. Be righteous and live!

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part XI: “Jesus can’t come back until we evangelize the world!”

Misquote: Jesus can’t come back until we evangelize the world!” This is based on taking Matthew 24:14 out of context and without consideration of its collaborating text in the Revelation given by the very Jesus that spoke of this topic to His disciples while He was on earth.

I’m intrigued that churches propagating this false doctrine will also tout a contradicting ‘imminent return’ doctrine that claims Jesus can come back at any moment . . . (please see my earlier blog titled, “Jesus can come back at any moment!” for more information). Claiming that Jesus must rely on mankind for the timing of His return (which is actually determined by God the Father!) is certainly contradictory to an ‘imminent return’ position!

Additionally, evangelizing every human on planet earth from the time of Jesus until the end would be quite impossible. I’ve heard many interesting theories about how we can do this today with the Internet or radio as some people try to rationalize a position where we dictate the timing of Jesus’ return to earth; however, our present day is just a bump in the long road from Jesus’ time until the very end. The fact remains that there’s no way every man, woman, and child from Jesus’ time until the end of all time could’ve been, or can be, evangelized.

Whether it could happen is irrelevant anyway. Consider the verse in its context and what you’ll learn is that the preaching of the Gospel to the entire world will be one step in an end-times sequence just before, and leading up to, Jesus’ return and our gathering.

Here’s the abused verse and its context of Matthew 24:3-31 (similar to Mark 13:4-27 and Luke 21:7-28).

Verse 3-8 (from Jesus’ time until just before the end): As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. [compare to the events revealed by the breaking of seals 1-3 in Revelation Chapter 6]

Verses 9-13 (introduction to the Great Tribulation that will come at the end): “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

Verse 14 (this is the verse taken out of its context): “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” [see Revelation 14:6 for a reiteration of this ‘preaching of the Gospel’ that will happen just before the gathering of Jesus’ followers and the wrath of God on all who are left on earth]

Verses 15-26 (more about the Great Tribulation that will occur just before Jesus returns to gather His own for the marriage supper in heaven):Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place . . .  For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. . . . [the persecution and death here are reiterated by Jesus in the events of the 4th and 5th seals of Revelation Chapter 6]

Verses 27-31 (the ending of the Great Tribulation with a complete darkening and the gathering of Jesus’ own): “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. [this darkening at the end of the Great Tribulation and at the time of our gathering is reiterated by Jesus in the event of the breaking of the 6th seal of Revelation Chapter 6]

In summary, the preaching of the Gospel Jesus refers to will be done by heavenly messengers at a very specific point in the last days as the Great Tribulation of the Antichrist is brought to a close and the wrath of God is about to begin. It will be a last chance for repentance.

But . . . remember that Jesus commanded us to tell others about the good news of salvation – God’s grace that offers us a way out of the judgment to come. After all: How will they hear if we don’t tell them?

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of this very important topic, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!