Tag Archives: Bible

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part V

“God Needs an Audience”

Misquote: “Where two or three are gathered, God’s there too!

I’d always found this popular church cliché confusing, as it indicates that God needs an audience to show up. The basic truth is that God and our Christ are in heaven – the kingdom of God – making preparation for coming reconciliation of the saints to our God . . . and judgment. In the meantime, those who have entered into a covenant with God through our Christ’s sacrifice have received the Holy Spirit to teach, comfort, and intercede for them until His return.

At any rate, here’s the biblical reference taken out of its context:

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”—Matthew 18:20.

What you’ll discover if you read the entire chapter, keeping verse 20 in its context, is that the theme of Matthew Chapter 18 is salvation from coming judgment.

Verses 1-5: Those who are ‘heaven-bound’ will have to be ‘like’ children in their innocence and humility.

Verses 6-7: But, beware of the things that can keep us from being children of the most-high God and headed for His kingdom.

Verses 8-9: Do what you have to do to avoid sinful behavior and the judgment and wrath of God that will come as a result to those who are not His.

Verse 10: Intend nothing against those who are our God and Christ’s! This appears to go along with the rest of the verses that tell us to not cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.

Verses 11-14: Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to save the lost from coming judgment and punishment. This directly supports God’s will – His plan of reconciliation with mankind – and, again, is why we must not put up any roadblocks as admonished in the previous verses.

Verses 15-20: Those who are children of the most-high God must do what we can to aid in His plan of reconciliation by identifying and correcting sinful behavior in others within the Church. Quoting from the Torah in verse 16 (see Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15), Jesus is telling His disciples that His children within the Church must bring at least two other followers with them to address the sinful behavior if the offender refuses to listen during private correction. Why two or three witnesses? Failure to repent (change of action that comes from a change of heart) of truly sinful behavior will lead to a spiritual death sentence. This requirement of two or three witnesses was implemented to justly condemn a person to death in ancient Israel (i.e. Deuteronomy 17:6).

To summarize, we’re to believe and act appropriately out of belief. Those actions should often involve teaching, discipling, and correcting sinful behavior for the benefit of our brothers and sisters as we do what we can to aid our God in accomplishing His plan to reconcile mankind to himself at the end of time.

Remember – God doesn’t need an audience of two or three to show up . . . just you. As a follower of our Christ, you already have His Spirit within you and that connection to the Father of Spirits!

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Next week, we’ll look at some relatively harmless misquotes (but misunderstandings nonetheless) as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture: “In Jesus’ Name” & “The Bible says you can’t add to or take away . . .”.

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part IV

“No Weapon Formed Against me will Prosper” & “I can do all things Through Christ”

Let’s continue our Apocalyptic Misquotes with a look at more abuses that support a false and dangerous spiritual rock star mentality.

Misquote #1: “No weapon formed Against me will prosper” I’m continually amazed that we’ll justify our lack of biblical study in part by claiming that the Old Testament doesn’t apply to us. And, yet, we’ll pluck Scripture out of its context to support bad doctrine. Here’s the abused reference for this week’s misquote #1:

 “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.—Isaiah 54:17.

In this example (in its entire context), God is issuing a warning and promise through Isaiah about Israel’s current disobedience and loss of protection, and last-days reconciliation with Him. This is part of a near-far prophecy where God is basically saying to Israel, “You’re going to get a smack-down because of your unfaithfulness, but I’ll bring you back to me in the end and no one will harm you because of My protection.

Unfortunately, out-of-context abuse of this reference bolsters today’s Christian spiritual rock star doctrine that God will give us anything we want and nothing bad will happen to us. So, when someone’s prayer isn’t answered the way they believe it should have been and when bad things do happen, common responses from within or by others include, “The devil must be after me!” or “There must be something wrong with your spiritual walk!”.

Neither is necessarily true. First, Satan has no authority or influence on true followers of our Christ. Second, neither God nor our Christ ever promised earthly prosperity or escape from sickness or danger. We’ll talk more about ‘why bad things happen’ in a future blog; however, Jesus’ true followers can expect tribulation now and in the last days (e.g. Matthew 24:9 & 21; John 16:33; Romans 5:3 and 12:12; 1Thessalonians 1:6; Revelation 7:14, 13:10, and 14:12). We’re told to ‘count the cost’ (Luke 14:27-33). And, try telling the apostle Paul that there must’ve been something wrong with his spirit life because of all the trials he had to endure . . . (check out 2Corinthians 11:23-27).

Misquote #2: “I can do all things Through Christ” Here’s yet another verse that, when taken out of context, lends itself to spiritual rock star and superhuman ways of thinking.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13.

This verse is abused because it, like the others we’ve studied recently, has been taken out of its context. Read the entire chapter to determine the intent of the writer, and you’ll find that Paul is saying he has learned to be content in any situation.

Remember 2Corinthians 11:23-27 from Misquote #1? Good. Then you should understand that Paul had persevered through many trials experienced while doing Jesus’ will: preaching the good news of salvation from God’s coming judgment to the lost – all in support of the Father’s overarching will, which is to reconcile mankind to Him.

Christ’s strengthening and resulting perseverance were possible because Paul was doing the will of our Christ and God as he sought the ‘kingdom of heaven’ (cf. Matthew 6:33).

So, if you want the Spirit of God to strengthen you in your activities, aiding in perseverance, then make sure that whatever you’re doing is in pursuit of the will of God as you seek His kingdom before all else.

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Next week, we’ll look at another great example of personal interpretation and bad hermeneutics as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture. The next topic: “God needs an audience to show up – where two or more are gathered . . .”.

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part III

“Jesus Can Come Back at Any Moment”

Let’s continue our Apocalyptic Misquotes with a look at an abuse that gives birth to an erroneous end-of-the-world timing and reflects poor hermeneutics.

Misquote/False Statement: “Jesus can come back at any moment!” This is perpetuated to support faulty end-times imminent return and pre-tribulation rapture doctrines. It’s made possible by taking texts like Matthew 24:36 and 1Thessalonians 5:2 and out of context and misquoting them at the same time (the Day of the Lord refers to the judgment of God to come in every case, which will come as a surprise to the wicked, – not to the gathering of the Saints).

so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. . . . But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. . . . Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. . . . But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” — Matthew 24:33-44.

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord [referred to many times in the Old Testament end-times prophecies] will come just like a thief in the night. —1Thessalonians 5:2.

You may be tempted at a glance to think that the return of our Christ will indeed be a surprise and could happen at any moment.  However, look at the verses leading up to and including Matthew 24:33 and you’ll find that Jesus gave signs to watch for.

What you’ll also learn through study of Scripture is that the return of our bridegroom at a ‘day and hour known by the Father alone’ reflects His fulfillment of the traditional betrothal and marriage processes whereby the Father determines when it’s time for the marriage supper to take place. He alone, after all preparations have been made including the building of the house for the new couple (remember, this is just one of several things Jesus referred to in mirroring the betrothal and marriage processes!), will send the groomsmen into the streets with shouts and trumpet blasts to announce that the time for the marriage supper had come. Related marriage fulfillment references to check out:

  • Betrothal – The Father has chosen us as a ‘bride’ for His son: Ephesians 1:3-5 and 2Corinthians 11:2
  • Betrothal – The cup of contract/covenant (cup of Ketubah): Matthew 26:28
  • Betrothal – The Father and Son preparing a place for us: John 14:2-3
  • Marriage – The gathering at the trumpets/shouts of the groomsmen once preparation have been made: Matthew 24:31 and 1Thessalonians 4:16
  • Marriage – The marriage supper/second cup of the covenant – ‘cup of blessings’:  Matthew 26:28-29 and Revelation 19:6-9

And, regarding abuse of 1Thessalonians 5:2: Paul is reminding Christ’s followers that the judgment and destruction of the wicked will be a surprise to them but that we, as followers, should NOT be surprised . . .

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Please join me next week when we’ll continue teaching about (and hopefully correcting) bad doctrine and misquotes with these common abuses: “No Weapon Formed Against me will Prosper” and “I can do all things Through Christ“.

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part II

“1,000-year-long God Days” & “Robbing God”

Let’s continue our Apocalyptic Misquotes with a look at abuses that give birth to erroneous end-of-the-world timing, extortion, and prosperity gospels (see Part I for a more complete introduction).

Misquote #1: “One of God’s Days Equals 1,000 of our years” Nearly every manmade last-days doctrine has been created and perpetuated by being selective in identifying supporting Scripture, spiritualizing or ignoring contradictory passages, or taking verses out of context to prop up an agenda. At least one major example takes 2peter 3:8-10 out of its context to support a belief that one of God’s days equals a thousand of our years.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. —2Peter 3:8-10.

Why is this done? To help validate several bad doctrines:

  1. Creation was done in six days, which really equaled 6,000 years.”
  2. Each of our millennia equaled one day of creation. So, since the earth is 6,000 years old, we’re at the end of the creation period and it’s now time for Jesus to come back for the last day: the millennium kingdom! That means he’ll come back at any time!
  3. Often coupled with the example in #2 is a position that Jesus can come back at any moment (imminent return). This is supported in part by abuse of 2Peter 3:10, “Jesus will come back like a thief!” However, the “Day of the Lord” is always a reference to the coming wrath of God, not the return of our Christ for His bride.

Here are two things to carefully consider when attempting to understand Peter’s real intent behind what we read in 3:8-10:

  1. The word ‘like’ is used here. This indicates simile and not a literal one-for-one meaning. For instance, I might say, “Being married to my wife Joanne is like heaven on earth!” Of course, I’m not telling you that my marriage is heaven itself. . .
  2. Equally important as considering the use of ‘like’ is the context Peter is using. He’s referring to God’s patience with us in relation to His coming end-of-the-world judgment. In other words, ‘God’s timing is His timing . . .’ Judgment of the wicked is coming, but God is taking His time to give mankind a chance for reconciliation before then.

Misquote #2: “”You’re robbing God if you don’t pay your tithes to the church” This extortion of Saints and perpetuation of deadly prosperity gospels has gone on in the Church for roughly 1,800 years and has been made possible in great part by an abuse of Scriptures such as Malachi 3:8-10.

Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” —Malachi 3:8-10.

I’m intrigued by the fact that while nearly every Christian religious leader will tell you that we’re no longer under the Law, they’ll imply that you’re under at least one: tithing. But, my desire is to stay objective and teach. So, let’s take a look at several problems with this abuse of Malachi 3:8-10.

First, in context, God is admonishing the nation of Israel for not keeping the covenant with Him through the bringing of tithes to the temple. This was critical not only to the worship of God, but it was vital to the survival of the priests and their families. In fact, this tithe was their inheritance whereas the other tribes received parcels of land within the borders of Israel as their inheritance. Here’s a very brief breakdown of Malachi’s message from God:

  • Chapter One: God admonishes the priests for their unfaithfulness in keeping the Law (as related to sacrifice) and resulting lack of respect.
  • Chapter Two: God continues by claiming the priests have turned from the righteous ways of Levi. They mistreat their wives and engage in divorce, which God hates.
  • Chapter Three: The kingdom of God and of Christ; judgment; verses 8-10 deal with the nation as a whole robbing God by not brining in the inheritance of the priests, used to sustain themselves and their families.

Second, our covenant with God through the Christ doesn’t rely on any rule or subdivision of the Law of Moses. Read Acts 15:29-20 and 21:25, and you’ll find that new, non-Jewish converts to the faith had only these specific requirements: stay sexually pure and be careful of the source of their meat.

Third, there is absolutely no New Testament mandate to tithe. What you will find with regard to the giving of our resources:

  1. We are to give without mandate or limit to care for the brothers and sisters in Christ. We see an example of this with the collection taken up by Paul to send to Jerusalem during a time of great trouble and famine.
  2. There was no example in the first century of today’s church model that requires vast resources for salaries, building projects, utilities, etc.
  3. Besides the benevolence we saw in #1 above) we see only one other use of funds in the first century church: benevolence to care for those who spent their time traveling to spread the Gospel and couldn’t work. Interestingly, Paul did this and yet worked when he could and took no money from those he ministered to . . .

Note: I’ve been asked, “Won’t God still bless my tithes anyway?” Well, who knows . . . Again, there’s no requirement for us to tithe and, just as with the Pharisees who weren’t to neglect the weightier matters of love and mercy for sake of legalism (Matthew 23:23), we’re still supposed to obey the commandments to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ who can’t work including those who spend all their time spreading the good news of salvation to the lost.  So, help fund churches and their programs if you’d like.  However, be sure to still be obedient out of faith through benevolence.

For more information regarding the timing of the return of our Christ, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Also, keep an eye out for my upcoming blog on Tithing and for the book I hope to publish later this year titled, “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss”.

Next week, we’ll look at bad doctrine related to the timing of Jesus’ return and the apparent need for God to have an audience to show up as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture.

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part I

“God has a plan for me!” & “The Last Generation”

Today’s Jesus culture and its focus on experience over obedience have left the Church largely scripturally illiterate. This is supported by statistics reporting that 95% or more of people who say they’re Christians don’t’ study the Bible regularly or thoroughly or actively engage in discipleship. Evidence of this sobering trend pops up regularly in the form of misquoted and abused Scripture spouted as out-of-context clichés or carelessly misrepresented words of God, our Christ, the prophets, or the apostles.

My use of Apocalyptic in the title is two-fold: One, to represent the unfortunate abuses of end-times / apocalyptic references twisted to support manmade end-of-the-world doctrine and, two, to represent the incredible magnitude of inadequate training of the Saints and the resulting lack of faith building and scriptural abuse. So, we’ll look at two examples weekly with one related to the return of our Christ (or at least related to apocalyptic literature or prophecies) until I’ve run out of low-hanging examples.

Let’s begin Apocalyptic Misquotes Part I with a look at abuses that give birth to a spiritual rock star mentality and erroneous end-of-the-world timing.

Misquote #1: “God must have a specific plan and purpose for my life!” This is a common Christian culture cliché based on taking Jeremiah 29:11 out of context. First and foremost, we are compelled by Christ and others (like the apostle Paul) to follow; that way may be difficult and costly (from a worldly point of view). Second, the context is God’s admonishment to Israel during her exile to Babylon and is a reiteration that He has a last-days plan for that nation to be reconciled to Him. Abuse of these words of God today plays right into a spiritual entitlement mentality and promotes the question, “Common God – what do you have for Me?” instead of “God – what can I do to help You in Your desire to be reconciled with Your creation?

Misquotes #2 & #3: “Jesus said the generation that sees Israel become a nation in 1948 will see His return!” and “Jesus said the generation witnessing the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD will see His return!” Both are wrong and are abuses of the following verses in the support of pre-tribulation (former) and preterist (latter) end-times views.

  • Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.  —Matthew 24:32-33.
  • Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. —Matthew 24:34.

In context, Jesus is just telling His disciples that the generation that sees the signs He’d just revealed in verses 21-31 will see His return (‘when you see this, you will see that’) to gather His ‘bride’ for the marriage supper in heaven. (See Matthew 24:30-31 and 26:29, and Revelation 7:9-17 and 19:5-10 for examples of prophetic and apocalyptic glimpses of the betrothal and wedding shadow Jesus is fulfilling (and will complete) with those who will enter into a covenant with Him.

By the way: the original idea of a 40-year generation and a 1988 return of Jesus didn’t happen (as you can surmise) so the debates about longer generational lengths such as 70 years rage on as men struggle to validate faulty doctrine.

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Next week, we’ll look at bad doctrine related to tithing and 1,000-year-long God days as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture.

How to Study the Bible . . . or NOT!

True faith – confidence – is based on our exposure to, and understanding of, God’s words and testimonies contained in the Bible. How we interpret it is vital to ensuring we “get it right.” Getting it wrong could have devastating consequences. Those who mislead others will be judged accordingly. Ignorance could lead to experiencing God’s wrath, disappointment, deception, a falling away from the Christian faith, etc.

Rule number one of Bible interpretation: do everything possible to determine the writer’s original intent. Rule number two of Bible interpretation: see rule number one. Figuring out what the text writer meant to say to the intended audience should be your primary focus.

The next goal of Scripture interpretation should be to find out how the message applies today (there’s only one meaning of the text, but possibly multiple applications). A good understanding of grammatical principles and attention to format and message context will help ensure your success.

Here are some tips for effective biblical study:

  • Be prepared to study through guidance by God’s Spirit (having a teachable spirit and a good attitude, etc.)
  • Take Scripture literally whenever possible and look for the simplest meaning first
  • Consider the author and audience
  • Consider historical/cultural background first
  • Compare translations for consensus
  • Consider apocalyptic symbols and look for explanation in Scripture (nearly all are explained somewhere in the Bible!)
  • Use study tools (like e-Sword) and aids whenever possible (i.e. concordance or dictionaries)

Work to understand what God, His son, the prophets, or the apostles intended to say to their audience – not what you’d like their words to mean to you. Remember: only one meaning, many potential applications.

God gets the Final Word!

We hear the phrase, “the Word of God!” quite often. And, we quote Paul who told Timothy that, “All Scripture is inspired by God . . .” But, what is that Word of God or Scripture? The fourth-century Vulgate? The 1560 Geneva Bible? The 1611 King James Bible? ‘Our Daily Bread’ devotional? None of them, actually.

The Scripture Paul referred to is the Torah, or Old Testament, available in Hebrew and in Greek in the first century. It was what the Bereans used to hold Paul accountable for his teachings of the prophetic fulfillment of the coming Christ by Jesus.

The word (lower-case ‘w’) represents the words spoken by God as when He spoke the world into existence or when He spoke of the coming Christ and our reconciliation with God through Him. In fact, the Word (upper-case ‘W’) is the manifestation of the reconciliation word(s) of God (i.e. Revelation 19:13).

So, what is the Bible and where does it come into play if not necessarily the Word of God? It’s a collection of ancient texts consolidated by groups of men after much arguing and debate; it contains the Torah and many first and second-century documents.

The Old Testament Torah is a collection of oral traditions, historical documentation, personal reflections of wisdom and love and lamentations, and prophecies – both current to the times and futuristic in nature. These were inspired by God and written by men.

The New Testament is a similar collection of historical and eyewitness accounts, letters full of wisdom from apostles, and prophetic and apocalyptic literature. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension were reiterations of what was spoken of or influenced by Jesus as was the Revelation given to John later. This collection was also recorded by men.

We’re creatures of free will and of differing intelligence levels and backgrounds. So, it’s truly amazing that God entrusted us to record anything related to Him or our Christ. But, despite that and the transliterations, translations, and interpretations that have introduced minor discrepancies in today’s Bible, the core words of God that promise hope of the future through the Word – our Christ – stands untarnished and remains intact.

What Word do you subscribe to?