Thursday, December 20, 2018
Attacks on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (“Bible Alone”) are frequent and most of them come from members of the Catholic Church. These attacks come in many forms and we’ve addressed many of them here on this blog.
But yet another subtle attack on Sola Scriptura comes from some Catholics’ interpretation of Nehemiah 8:1-8. This passage is about the return of some of the Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem who had been exiled to Babylon seventy years earlier.
In Nehemiah 8, the wall had been rebuilt and a special solemn gathering of the Jews was called to read the Book of the Law to the people. At this time, several leaders were called on to help with this endeavor. Today’s enemies of Sola Scriptura focus on this verse:
“So they read in the book in the Law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:8)
They’ll say, “You see! The common people needed a ‘magisterium’ here, an authoritative interpreter. They needed leaders and teachers who could infallibly tell them what the Scriptures said. They couldn’t interpret the holy Scriptures on their own and they didn’t dare use ‘private interpretation’!”
Now, we don’t discourage the role of teachers in the church today, since they are certainly a biblical concept. Anyone saying that we don’t need teachers would be misrepresenting Sola Scriptura. But there is not a hint of the need for an “infallible magisterium” in this chapter in Nehemiah, and it is not at all the purpose of this passage to condemn private interpretation.
So, what’s the point of this passage in saying that the leaders gave the people the “sense” of the meaning, “causing them to understand” (v. 8)? Does this mean that the common people were not allowed to interpret Scripture, but could only understand it from God-inspired interpreters? No, it doesn’t. Does this disprove the doctrine of Sola Scriptura? Not at all.
Many years earlier, in Deuteronomy 31:9-13 Moses commanded a similar solemn reading of the same Law every seventh year. But there was nothing mentioned here about interpreting God’s Word at that time. So why was there no need to interpret for the people in Moses’ time? By contrast, why did Ezra have to interpret the Scriptures for them in the book of Nehemiah?
We have to remember that for Nehemiah and his people, it had been 70 years since the Jews had been in the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the use of the Hebrew language by the Jews was not as common in Babylon. No doubt, many Jews had died within that time and a new group of young Jews existed which had been raised in Babylon. The Jews had assimilated into the Babylonian culture and language, and most of the Jews were now speaking the Chaldean (Babylonian) language and/or Aramaic. But Ezra’s reading of the Law (in Nehemiah 8:8) was probably in pure Hebrew, to which many of the Jews were not accustomed. Thus, the need for interpretation.
So, no, Sola Scriptura is not refuted in Nehemiah 8:1-8 in the least. This passage does not demonstrate that an infallible magisterium (as the Catholic Church claims to have) is necessary.
Thursday, November 29, 2018
The doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaches that the Rapture of the church (i.e., the sudden removal of true believers worldwide) happens shortly before the start of the Tribulation. The Tribulation (also known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble”) is a seven-year period of extreme chaos, death, destruction and punishment such as the world has never seen coming upon this unregenerate and evil society.
So, what is the origin of the Pre-Trib doctrine? Is it biblical, or is it something made up by man?
What Do Catholics Say?
Many Catholic apologists claim that John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) was the originator of this teaching. We know of no official statements from the Catholic Church claiming this, but there is an article on this topic over at Catholic Answers making this claim. The article has no specified author, but it does have the nihil obstat and imprimatur, which are the Catholic Church’s seals of approval, so that certainly gives the article some weight (according to the Catholic Church). It says that “…all Christians agreed that the rapture… would occur immediately before the Second Coming, at the close of the period of persecution… But in the 1800s [refering to the time of Darby], some began to claim that the rapture would occur before the period of persecution…” and that “…no Christian had heard of it in the previous 1800 years of Church history.” See here:
Author and former editor of (Catholic) Envoy Magazine Carl Olson says that “John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)… formed the dispensationalist system… the concept of a pretribulation Rapture was unheard of prior to that time” and that it was Darby who “solidified the belief in the 1830s…” and that the Pre-Trib Rapture was “the modern creation of Darby…”:
Catholic apologist Tim Drake writes, “This theory [the Pre-Trib Rapture doctrine] traces its roots to the 1830s and John Nelson Darby…”:
Popular Catholic author and apologist Steve Ray also claims that “The Rapture is a new Protestant doctrine…” and that it “was never taught in all of church history until the mid-1800’s when two women had an ecstatic vision…” (which is allegedly where Darby got the idea of a Pre-Trib Rapture):
The people at the CatholicBridge.com website also tell us that “John Darby… put forth the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory around 1830 after traveling to northern Scotland to meet with Margaret McDonald, a woman who had a ‘vision’ during a serious illness…”:
And the highly popular, internationally known Catholic author and speaker, James Akin, who is a senior apologist at Catholic Answers, also claims that dispensationalism (which ties in closely with the Pre-Trib Rapture) “was started in the 1830s by an Englishman named John Nelson Darby”:
These are just some of many Catholic apologists who make this claim concerning Darby and the Pre-Trib Rapture.
Pre-Trib Is Pre-Darby
But it can be demonstrated that at least some concept of a Pre-Trib Rapture existed long before Darby’s time. For the record, it is not just Catholics that have fallen for the idea that Darby started the concept, but some Protestants have, as well. For instance, Dave MacPherson wrote concerning this topic, but his work has been refuted by articles such as these:
According to the links just above:
· Dave MacPherson wrongly attributes the origin of the Pre-Trib Rapture to (occultic influenced) Margaret McDonald, from which Darby supposedly stole the idea.
· Mac Pherson’s work is lacking in historical method, and his book, The Rapture Plot is defective, lacking in substance, and it distorts history.
· His attack on the Pre-Trib view is described as ridiculous
· MacPherson overlooks the fact that Darby developed his concept of the Rapture in the winter of 1826-1827, three years before he even met Margaret McDonald.
· McDonald’s handwritten account of her “Pre-Trib” prophecy actually has nothing at all in it that suggests a Pre-Trib Rapture!
· There is no hard historical evidence that McDonald, Edward Irving (a Scottish minister who allegedly influenced Darby), or his followers (the Irvingites) ever held to pretribulationism, so how could they be the very source of Darby’s Pre-Trib view?
· Darby’s understanding of the Pre-Trib Rapture was the product of the development of his personal interactive thought with the text of Scripture.
It is true that the modern Pre-Trib concept was highly developed and popularized by Darby, but to say that a Pre-Trib idea was “unheard of” before Darby is simply false. The following sources promoted, or at least mentioned, some type of pretribulationism before the time of Darby in the 1800s:
Morgan Edwards (1722-1795)
Thomas Collier (1615-1691)
Brother Dolcino (1250-1307)
Pseudo-Ephraem (4th to 8th Century)
The Apocalypse of Elijah (3rd Century)
Irenaeus (140-202 A.D.)
The Shepherd of Hermas (140 A.D.)
Champions of History?
Catholics are almost always the ones to point to history when trying to prove their point, but according to the articles linked above, history does not at all support their case concerning Darby being the creator of the Pre-Trib Rapture.
In fact, we would strongly assert that the Pre-Trib Rapture is indeed a BIBLICAL concept. See here:
So, if the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is not the correct view, then perhaps it is the Post-Tribulation view (where the Rapture happens after the Tribulation, at the time of Jesus’ literal return to earth, also known as the Second Coming). This is the view of the Catholic Church (as well as some Protestant groups).
But if the Post-Trib view is true, then:
- Where is the imminency? Where is the concept that Jesus could appear at any time?
- Where is the “business as usual” idea?
Matthew 24:36-39 and Luke 17:26-29 tell us that Jesus’ coming (of which the time is unknown) will happen during a time in which people will be experiencing a “business as usual” status (i.e., people will be doing the normal, everyday stuff - building, planting, marrying, etc.). But the Bible also tells us:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from Heaven, and the powers of Heaven shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven… (Matthew 24:29-30)
Sorry, but we can hardly call this “business as usual.” At this point will be many supernatural and frightful events happening. The Bible clearly tells us of a coming with unknown timing, a time of relative peace and prosperity (Matthew 24:36-39 and Luke 17:26-29), and another coming with incredible disasters and heaven-shaking signs and events (Matthew 24:29-30), which is a time that can be calculated and determined. These two cannot be the same event. So, either Jesus is contradicting Himself… or, there will be two separate events, or phases, of his coming. We prefer to believe the latter.
- If Post-Trib is true, then at what point do the resurrected believers enjoy their mansions of which Jesus spoke?
In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2-3)
Jesus said that He would go (to Heaven - where God’s house is) and prepare a place for us. He then said He would come to receive us (to be with Him), obviously, in this context, to enjoy the mansions that He prepared for us. We need to go to Heaven to enjoy our mansions, right? But if He only comes back after the Tribulation, when He touches down on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4) and sets up His kingdom here… then we don’t get to live in our mansions in Heaven, do we?
In the Pre-Trib view, the church (all true believers) are taken up to our mansions (as promised) before the Tribulation. And we will be in Heaven while the “earth dwellers” (Revelation 3:10; 6:10; 11:10; 13:14) are enduring the wrath of God for their rejection of Him. And while in Heaven, we will enjoy the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9) before we come back to earth with Him to reign. This makes much more sense in light of His promise about the mansions.
- If the church of Jesus Christ must go through the Tribulation, then why does Jesus make the Tribulation conditional for the church of Thyatira?
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, EXCEPT they repent of their deeds. (Revelation 2:22 - NASV)
Apparently, those repenting of their sins would not have to go into “great tribulation.” Those repenting would be part of the true church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the church does not go through the Tribulation.
Furthermore, another of the seven churches that Jesus addressed, the church of Philadelphia, is promised the same thing:
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)
The “hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world” is none other than the seven-year Tribulation. Jesus Christ, Himself, promised to keep the church, the true believers, FROM (Greek “ek,” meaning “out of”) that temptation.
- If the church has to go through the wrath and judgment of God (in the Tribulation), then why was the angel who was bringing judgment to Sodom and Gomorrah restricted? Why did he tell Lot that he and his family had to first be removed from Sodom before its judgment?
Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come hither… (Genesis 19:22)
In other words, the angel is saying, “I can’t destroy this place until you and your family are safely out of the area.” The righteous are sometimes disciplined by God, but they are never to partake of God’s wrath and judgment.
Remember, Jesus used the picture of Lot escaping Sodom as an example of His coming:
As it was in the days of Lot… (Luke 17:28-30)
- If the Tribulation comes first, along with the antichrist, then what was it that was hindering the antichrist from appearing?
2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 gives us a hint that something is now holding back the antichrist from appearing. If it’s not the church of God, or the Holy Spirit’s influence in the church, then what exactly is it that is holding this false messiah back. Something significant is now preventing the antichrist from appearing on the scene, and we believe it is the true church, because Christians are salt and light in this wicked world (Matthew 5:13-16).
- If the Pre-Trib Rapture is not true, then why were the Thessalonians shaken and confused when they thought that the Day of the Lord (the Tribulation) had come upon them? (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)
They already knew that Christians must suffer persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:4). Paul had already warned them, so that was not an issue with them. What troubled them is that someone wrote a false letter to them, forging Paul’s name and saying that the Day of the Lord had come. They were troubled because they knew that they were not supposed to go through the Day of the Lord / Tribulation. That false letter contradicted what Paul had told them about the Rapture in his first letter (1 Thessalonians).
- Also, could not the Rapture, itself, be the very cause, or catalyst, that triggers the Tribulation, and a perfect time to usher in the antichrist to present “solutions” to the chaos of millions of people on earth missing?
See these articles suggesting the Rapture as the cause or beginning of the Tribulation:
The U-Turn To Earth
One argument that Post-Tribbers use is that Jesus will come in the clouds and the church will rise to meet Him in the air and then we will all make a U-turn and come back down to earth with Jesus. They say this because some claim that the Greek word for “meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is a technical term used to describe the people of a city going out to meet a conquering king or dignitary approaching the city. And the people would then accompany him back to the city. Post-Tribbers see this as what should happen when Jesus returns to earth.
But in the following link, the author points to Michael R. Cosby, a Post-Trib Professor of New Testament and Greek, who at first believed the same thing, but then experiencing a “disturbing exercise in scholarly honesty,” discovered, to his horror, that applying the term in this way was wrong and was simply eisegesis [i.e., reading something into the text, rather than letting it speak for itself]. See here:
One last thing. The Tribulation period is about God’s wrath. Never are God’s people (who are faithfully following Him) the objects of His wrath! This punishment is not for the church (the bride of Christ). And no good husband, especially Jesus Christ, would thoroughly beat his bride till bloody before taking her out to eat. But that would be a proper analogy of the Tribulation and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb if the Post-Trib view is true.
Remember, the Tribulation is called the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” God re-named Jacob “Israel” (Genesis 32:28). So, the Tribulation is mainly about the nation of Israel and God’s dealings with them (Daniel 9:24), it is not about the church.
Of course, there are other views of what will happen in the end times. Unfortunately, all the details are not conveniently found in the same chapter of a single book in the Bible, therefore one must do some research to put the puzzle pieces together. But taking Scripture together as a whole, we believe that the Pre-Trib position makes the most sense of all the data.
So, since the concept of the Pre-Trib Rapture is biblical and historical, the false idea that Darby “started” this concept is indeed a deception.
Sunday, October 28, 2018
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
The Catholic Church officially teaches that Peter is the rock of which Jesus was speaking in the verse above. Furthermore, according to the Catholic Catechism, it is Peter alone whom Jesus made the rock and foundation of His church:
“The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the ‘rock’ of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock…” [directly referring here to Matthew 16:18] (CCC #881).
But did Peter know this? Did he believe all the things that the Catholic Church is saying about him? If he did, how could we find out? Except for Jesus Christ, who is it that would have surely known, better than anyone else, the truth about this special role that was assigned to Peter? Wouldn’t it be Peter, himself? No doubt.
But did Peter believe that he was the rock? One sure way to find out is to look at his statements in Holy Scripture. In the book of Acts, we see this same apostle Peter making a defense before the elders and rulers of Israel concerning his healing of the lame man at the gate of the temple. Peter boldly tells these leaders:
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby you must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)
Here, Peter is referring to a very important foundational rock, or stone. It is unmistakable that the stone of which Peter is speaking here is Jesus Christ, Himself. No Catholic would disagree with us there. But Peter didn’t equate this rock with himself, and he didn’t tell the elders that he (the apostle) was the stone upon which the church was built, nor did he ever mention this special role that the Catholic Church gives him. It certainly would have been a great time to do so. Peter could have said, “Hey, why are you guys harassing me? Don’t you know that I’m the rock upon which the church is built?” But apparently, Peter wasn’t even aware that he was the rock. He points only to Jesus.
Furthermore, in his own epistle, Peter again mentions this same “stone of stumbling,” this “rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8). But again, it is the Lord Jesus Christ that he is speaking of here:
“Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.” (1 Peter 2:6-7)
Ok, so nothing here about Peter being the rock or stone upon which the church is built. Strange, if Peter really is that foundational rock, isn’t it? A Catholic may object at this point and say that they don’t claim that Peter is the cornerstone, only Jesus is. But again, here, in light of this “rock” and “stone” language above, in which Peter quotes Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16 (who refers to Jesus as a sure foundation stone), he (Peter) had a perfect opportunity to mention his special role as the foundation of the church, but neglected to do so.
Furthermore, his epistle (the book of 1 Peter) was written to the “strangers” (i.e., the church) “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1), and it was written largely to instruct and comfort persecuted Christians. But would a responsible apostle withhold such important information (i.e., how he is the foundational rock) from many who were facing martyrdom? Isn’t this information much too critical to overlook?
Why would Peter deny the members of the churches in these areas this special information about who he is, and how important this role is. Why withhold the critical news that he (Peter) alone, was the very foundation of the church? Isn’t that really important? The Catholic Church certainly thinks it is. So why did Peter never say to these people, “You must follow my church” or “Remember, I am the rock upon which the church is founded”?
Maybe… just maybe… it’s because that isn’t the case. Maybe this “important” information was omitted because Peter is NOT the rock that the Catholic Church says he is. Maybe the church was NOT founded upon Peter alone as claimed in the Catechism. Maybe his role is greatly exaggerated by the Catholic Church, deceiving its members. We believe that this is indeed the case.
In conclusion, the apostle Peter mentions Jesus Christ as the Cornerstone and Foundation of the church (as noted above) and he mentions all Christians as being “lively [living] stones” (1 Peter 2:5), but he never mentions himself as any special stone / rock, much less the lone foundation of the church. Although the apostle Paul speaks of the prophets and apostles (plural) as the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20), Peter simply calls himself a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1). Obviously, Peter did not know that he, alone, was the rock because that’s NOT what Jesus was telling him in Matthew 16.
We have dealt with the concept of Peter as “the rock” in much more detail in a previous article that can be found here: