Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

WORLD EVENTS

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Up In The Air

Friday, October 20, 2017
At what point in The Great Tribulation are we, the church, raptured?  I struggle to understand who this "multitude" mentioned in Revelation chapter 7 is and at what time they arrived.  Is there any information from the Bible that gives us any idea of when we will be raptured?  Do we suffer through the tribulation with the unsaved?  Do we all die as martyrs?  Do we get "caught up" before the Tribulation begins?

Sincerely,
Looking Ahead

Dear Looking Ahead,

The word ‘rapture’ means ‘caught up’ in Latin.  The term ‘rapture’ is used to describe an event that many think will take place right before the days of tribulation in Revelation.  The problem with this theory is that it is wrong.  There will be a time when all christians will be caught up into the air to be with Christ – the end of time (1 Thess 4:14-18).  The book of Revelation doesn’t describe events in the future; it describes events in the past.  The book of Revelation deals with problems that the church was to “shortly” see come to pass (Rev 1:1).

Furthermore, the tribulation taught by many denominations is based off of a misinterpretation of Matthew chapter twenty-four.  Matt 24 is dealing with the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Jewish temple that would happen in 70 AD.  If we carefully pay attention to the context, Jesus is talking about the Jewish temple’s destruction, not a worldwide trial thousands of years in the future (Matt 24:1-2).  Jesus specifically said that the tribulation would occur within that generation’s lifetime (Matt 24:34).

There will be a day when all the faithful are caught up to meet Christ in the heavens.  The day He returns (Acts 1:11), all mankind will be judged at the same time (Jhn 5:28-29).  In that great day (Jude 1:6), the whole world will be burned up with fire (2 Pet 3:10-12).  There will be no post-tribulation, pre-tribulation, semi-tribulation, etc.; there will only be the great Day of Judgment (2 Pet 3:7, 1 Jn 4:17). If you would like a more in-depth look at the book of Revelation, we have a series of classes on the book that can be found here.

Constantinian Shift Pt. 2

Thursday, October 12, 2017

(This question is a follow-up to “Constantinian Shift”)

I am glad you have corrected your statement about Constantine "forcing" all to convert to Christianity.  There is a very fine line between statements of historical truth and statements meant to lead a reader to a conclusion by implication and exaggeration.  My only issue with your line of reasoning has to do with how you determine what is historically reliable and what is not.  You cannot have things both ways.  When presented with historical sources and actual named witnesses to a questioner laying a foundation of an organized church before Constantine, you rejected the history outright and claimed it was contradictory and unreliable (see your response to "A History Of Error" in the Catholic archive).  Then in response to other topics (canon of New Testament and Constantine's activities), you relied on extra-biblical historical accounts.  So on one hand, you are relying on history to make some points, while on the other hand, you are rejecting history to disprove other points.  I am hoping you see this contradiction as I really don't want you guys to keep sawing off the very branch you are sitting on in an attempt to influence your readers away from a faith you don't agree with.  Why do you accept the testimony of the witnesses to Constantine's subtle ways of influencing conversion?  What makes you think those extra-biblical accounts are reliable?  How do you know the early church historians (bishops and clergy) that attest to an organized church before the famous edict are unreliable?

Sincerely,
Cite Your Sources Please

Dear Cite Your Sources Please,

We appreciate your concern over our use of extra-biblical history.  Let's see if we can quickly clarify.  We use historical resources as reliable sources in regards to Constantine because that is the ONLY history of Constantine we have.  The Bible never directly deals with Constantine; therefore, we are left to use secular history as our only guide.  You may have misunderstood our statements about Constantine – we do believe Constantine forced people to obey his state-run religion.  As we mentioned in the last post, he forced them by using inducements.

The times that we have stated that the early church historians were being unreliable or contradictory is when we do have a biblical account to compare it to.  The Bible is always the first and foremost guide in church history, and the Bible soundly condemns Catholicism's practices.  Therefore, people who lived and taught anything in opposition to the Bible are wrong, no matter whom they are.  There were early church historians that were beginning to move toward the Catholic way of functioning before the era of Constantine (Constantine simply is the historical demarcation point when things began to quickly move downhill), but the fact that early church writers taught things contradictory to Bible teachings discredit them in doctrinal matters.  We can trust early historians in secular history unless they prove otherwise (i.e. contradict the majority of historians); we can trust early historians in religious history unless they prove otherwise (i.e. contradict Scripture).  Hopefully, that gives you some clarity as to why it seems like we are "cherry picking" the history that we want.  Everything gets compared to Scripture – even early church writers.

Constantinian Shift

Friday, October 06, 2017
In a previous post, you stated "Both the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church trace their history back to the days of Caesar Constantine.  …Constantine made Christianity the national religion and forced all people to join it.  By forcing people to join Christianity, Constantine removed all traces of the volunteer Bible-based faith that Christ died for."
The edict of Milan issued by Constantine only proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire.  There is no historical record of Constantine "forcing" anyone to become christian.  Constantine was actually against conversion by coercion: “It is one thing voluntarily to undertake the conflict for immortality, another to compel others to do so from fear of punishment”.  As a student of history, could you please clarify for me your historical sources for your previous statements regarding this period of Christianity?

Sincerely,
Cite Your Sources Please

Dear Cite Your Sources Please,

You are correct that the edict of Milan only proclaimed toleration and that Constantine is on record as saying that conversion by coercion was a bad thing, but like all good politicians, what Constantine said and what he did were two different things.

Constantine issued the edict of Milan legalizing Christianity and then subsequently began to provide “inducements” to conversion.  These inducements included:

  1. Government-conferred benefits for church leaders (this included immunity from military service)
  2. Cash gifts to congregations
  3. Building elaborate buildings for churches
  4. Christians received career advancements within the government over and above pagans
  5. Exile of preachers that upset him (even subsets of Christian beliefs – such as Arianism)

These inducements are well-documented in various sources, but one good book to look at is “Christianizing the Roman Empire” by Ramsay MacMullen.  It is also important to note that the edict of Milan, which legalized tolerance, was only the beginning of a movement to make Christianity a state religion.  The edict of Milan promoted tolerance in 313 AD, but by 380 AD, emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official state religion, and in 392 AD, all other worship was made illegal.  Constantine was the tip of the spear for a movement to turn Christianity into a government entity (eventually Catholicism) over the next hundred years.

Fa La La La La La La La La

Monday, October 02, 2017
I love Christmas, and I don't celebrate it as a religious holiday, but a cultural one (because it's not in the Bible).  However, I love Christmas music, but when the hymns which are associated with Christmas come on with instruments, I want to make sure I'm not sinning by hearing/singing the songs.  I know I'm not listening to them with the intent to praise God, so my question is... is it okay to listen to Christmas hymn music? Or when the hymns come on, should I change it?

Sincerely,
In The Christmas Spirit

Dear In The Christmas Spirit,

This is an issue that good brethren disagree on and certainly falls within the category of being an individual conscience issue.  Some brethren believe that it is impossible to listen and sing along with religious Christmas music without it being a form of worship; others feel that there is a distinction between listening and singing for your own personal enjoyment and actively worshipping.  There are good points to be made on both sides of the argument.  There are several things to consider before you decide to listen or to refrain:

  1. Rom 14:5 says that in cases such as these it is important that “each man be fully assured in his own mind”.  Whatever you decide to do, make sure that it is a conscious decision, not just a reaction to peer pressure or the feelings of the moment.  Honestly look at yourself and ask the question, “Do I believe I can do this without feeling like I am sinning?”  It is not always easy to discern the line between singing along as a form of entertainment and singing along as worship. You must decide for yourself if your behavior crosses the line between personal enjoyment and active participation in a form of worship God doesn’t desire.
  2. Can you do this with a clear conscience? If you cannot feel completely convinced in your mind that what you are doing is acceptable before God, you have to refrain. Whatever cannot be done in faith is sin (Rom 14:23). Even if you rationally believe that you can do something, if your conscience is still bothered – it is best to avoid the activity.  God wants all of us to listen and obey our conscience (1 Tim 1:5).
  3. Is your behavior hurting others’ conscience?  There may be times where you cannot listen to certain music for the sake of others.  If something you are doing is offensive or a stumbling block to other brethren, it is always best to refrain from doing it while they are there (1 Cor 8:11-12).  We must always consider how our choices are perceived by others… as well as how we personally feel.

If you factor in all three of those categories, you will be able to make a sound decision as to how you personally should proceed.

Costumes, Candy, And Controversy

Wednesday, August 09, 2017
Why do christians celebrate Halloween when it has to do with Satan?   Halloween began when the Romans worshiped other "gods".  That is what I have studied; if this is so, then christians that celebrate this tradition are following Satan’s road.

Sincerely,
More Trick Than Treat

Dear More Trick Than Treat,

Good and faithful people debate this issue all the time, but, yes, you can celebrate Halloween without sinning.  Halloween does have its roots in pagan rituals.  All Hallow’s Eve is often associated with evil spirits, demon worship, voodoo, and witchcraft.  It is, however, also associated with happy scampering children whose most wicked intent is the desire to glut themselves on candy. New Year’s Eve could be viewed the same way.  New Year’s Eve is often associated with inappropriate male and female interaction and drunkenness.  It is also associated with fresh starts, reflective new beginnings, and an evening of friendship and brotherly kindness.  These holidays can be a good thing or a bad thing.  Though the origins are pagan, many holidays have pagan beginnings that are no longer a part of the modern tradition.  How you participate and your reasons for participating will make the difference.

  1. God soundly condemns witchcraft and any magical arts (1 Sam 15:23, Acts 19:19).  Anyone participating in Halloween in an occult way is sinning.
  2. Christians are supposed to focus on pure and holy things (Php 4:8).  Many of the costumes that are worn during Halloween are macabre, violent, or ghoulish.  Christians should think very carefully before placing too much emphasis upon dark things.
  3. Christians should dress modestly (1 Tim 2:9).  Many costumes, especially those worn by adults, are immodest.  A holiday is not an excuse for dressing in an ungodly way.
  4. Don’t participate if it will bother your conscience.  God tells us that we should always keep a pure conscience (1 Tim 1:5).  If you can’t do something in faith, it is sin (Rom 14:23).

After considering these principles – go get some candy corn!

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