December 19, 2014

Video: Pope Francis Reclaims Vatican's Role as Diplomatic Mediator

The crucial role played by Pope Francis in bringing Cuba and the United States together signals that history's first Latin American pope has no qualms about putting the Holy See on the front lines of diplomacy, especially for a cause it has long championed.

The Vatican said Wednesday that Francis wrote to President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in recent months, and invited them to resolve their differences over humanitarian issues, including prisoners. In addition, the Vatican said it hosted U.S. and Cuban delegations in October "and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both parties."


The Rapture (Part 23)

Andy Woods

Dr. Andy Woods
Sugar Land Bible Church

My previous articles commenced a series on the rapture of the church. We began with the question, "What is the Rapture?" This question can best be answered by noting ten truths about the rapture from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. We then moved to a second main question, namely, when will the rapture take place relative to the coming seven-year Tribulation period? We offered the contention that believers can develop certainty that they will be raptured before the Tribulation period occurs for at least seven reasons. Now that we have dealt with these two questions, we began to explore some of the weaknesses associated with the other competing views that seek to answer the question, "when will the rapture take place relative to the coming Tribulation period?" At least five differing perspectives exist. We noted at the onset that it is important to understand that all of the non-pre-tribulation positions have a difficult time handling the seven arguments favoring pre-tribulationalism previously discussed in this series. We have already noted the problems associated with mid-tribulationalism. In the last article we began to scrutinize the arguments favoring post-tribulationalism. In this article, we will continue to scrutinize post-tribulationalism.

Post Tribulation

Post-Tribulation Rapture

Post-tribulation rapture theory contends that the rapture will take place at the end of the coming Tribulation period. This view typically sees no distinction between the rapture and the Second Advent and thus seeks to harmonize all references to Christ's return as taking place at the end of the future Tribulation period. Those adhering to the post-tribulation rapture typically rely on at least one of four arguments to support their position. In our last article, we noted that post-tribulationism errs in superficially connecting Paul's depiction of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58) with the events of Matthew 24:30-31. We now move on to the second argument that post-tribulationalists use to support their view.

2. According to Revelation 20:4-6, the resurrection of all believers will transpire at the end of the Tribulation period thereby necessitating that the rapture will also take place at this time. These verses say, "Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 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." Post-tribulationalist George Eldon Ladd even goes so far as to assert that these verses represent the only New Testament passage pointing to the time of the rapture. [1] The simplest response to this assertion is that the resurrection spoken of in these verses is speaking only of the resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs. Revelation 20:4 clarifies exactly which resurrection is in view when it says, "And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (italics added). Thus, Geisler explains, "Revelation 20:4-6 is speaking of the believers who have died during the Tribulation, not those resurrected at the Rapture" (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58). [2]

Moreover, the superficial points of similarity that seemingly unite Paul's presentation of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58) with Revelation 20:4-6 are outweighed by a vast difference that distinguishes these sections of Scripture from one another. Although Revelation 20:4-6 does speak of a resurrection of deceased saints, it says nothing about a translation and resurrection of living saints as Paul emphasizes in his discussion of the rapture. For example, Paul's rapture presentation uses terminology such as "we who are alive and remain" (1 Thess. 4:15, 17) and "we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed" (1 Cor. 15:50). Such phrases are not found in Revelation 20:4-6. Thus, Ryrie observes, "...Revelation 20:4 speaks only of a resurrection of the dead, not of a translation of living people, a truth that is prominent and a vital part of the other descriptions of the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-58)." [3]

If Revelation 20:4-6 is not speaking of the rapture of the church and if the church's rapture already transpired before this resurrection predicted by John takes place, then why is it called "the first resurrection" (Rev. 20:5-6)? When John mentioned "the first resurrection" in Revelation 20:5b, he had in mind merely that this resurrection will occur before the final resurrection for all unbelievers that will transpire at the end of Christ's one-thousand year reign (Rev. 20:5a). He was not referring to the first resurrection ever in human history. Indeed, John could not have in mind the first resurrection ever since such a proposition would also mean that even Christ's resurrection would not count as a bonafide resurrection! John's use of the word "first" in Revelation 20:5-6 was only in reference to the first in a series rather than the first ever. Such a method of communication would be the equivalent of my wife telling me that she was "first" going to go the grocery store and then "last" she was going to drop off the laundry. Here, she would be using the word "first" only relative to "last" going to drop off the laundry. She would not be saying this would be her first time ever that she had gone to the grocery store. John uses the word "first" in the same sense in Revelation 20:5-6.

In sum, having previously answered the question, "What is the rapture?", we noted at least seven reasons that affirm the pre-tribulational rapture view. We then began interacting with the other positions on the timing of the rapture. In this article, we have observed that post-tribulationism errs in superficially connecting Paul's depiction of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58) with the first resurrection in Revelation 20:4-6.

(To Be Continued...)


[1] George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), 165.

[2] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol. 4 (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 2004), 654.

[3] Charles C. Ryrie, What You Should Know About the Rapture, Current Christian Issues (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 63-64.

December 17, 2014

The Lordship of Jesus Christ

Charles Bing
Dr. Charles Bing
GraceLife Ministries

Jesus is Lord. No one who believes the Bible denies that. But what does that mean and how does Christ's lordship apply to our salvation and our Christian life?

The Meaning of Lord

The word usually translated Lord in the New Testament is the Greek word Kyrios. It is sometimes used as a title of respect, much as we would call someone sir. We see this in Acts 16:30 when the Philippian jailor addresses Paul and Silas as "Sirs" (the plural, kyrioi).

Lord is also commonly used as a title with the name Jesus Christ. As a title, it not only shows respect, but also reflects who Jesus is. He is the Lord. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into the Greek Septuagint, the Hebrew name for God, YHWH, was usually translated Kyrios, or Lord. YHWH conveyed first of all deity, but implied all the other aspects unique to deity such as Creator, Owner, Ruler, Judge, Redeemer, and Savior.

The Lordship of Christ in Salvation

The Lordship, or deity of Jesus Christ, is essential to our salvation. Consider some of the things that Jesus did for our salvation only because He is the Lord God:

  • He became the perfect sacrifice for our sins, without spot or blemish.
  • He gave His life as a sacrifice for all mankind—past, present, and future.
  • He rose from the dead to live and offer us eternal life.
  • He promises, provides, and secures the eternal life of all who believe in Him.

It is only because Jesus is in the position of Lord God that He can save us and gives us eternal life. While Lord speaks of His position of deity, the name Jesus speaks of His humanity and role of Savior, because Jesus means Savior. In the name Jesus Christ, Christ means Messiah, the One anointed or chosen by God to be the Savior and King.

So Lord is a title that primarily conveys Jesus' deity. What this means for salvation is that Jesus has the power and authority to save sinners because He is God. What this does not mean is that sinners can only be saved if they submit to Him as the Ruler of their lives. Ruler is only one subset of deity, and it is arbitrary to make that one divine function and position into a subjective demand. As the word implies, salvation requires a Savior. Jesus came to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15; 4:10) and He can because He is God. Sinners need a divine Savior.

It is one thing to say that to be saved a sinner must acknowledge the divine authority that Jesus has as God or as the Son of God. It is quite another thing to say that to be saved a sinner must submit to Jesus as the Ruler of his life. The first acknowledges Jesus' objective position and power as God, the second demands a person's subjective response to Him as Ruler. The Bible has examples of unsaved sinners who addressed Jesus as Lord without submitting to Him (e. g., John 4:11, 15, 19; 9:36). To further illustrate, we could say that during World War II General Douglas MacArthur saved the Philippines. He was able to save them because he had the position and power of a four star general of the United States Army. To the people of the Philippines, however, MacArthur was not their general, nor were they required to submit to him as their general. They only needed to accept the "salvation" that he offered them.

John MacArthur

The View Called Lordship Salvation

There is a view that teaches a sinner must submit to Jesus as Ruler of his life in order to be saved. Proponents of this view call it Lordship Salvation, though it should be called Commitment Salvation or Submission Salvation since it emphasizes the unbeliever's subjective response to Jesus Christ as Ruler. Lordship Salvation confuses the objective position of Jesus as Lord with the subjective response to one aspect of His lordship—rulership. Not only does this view reflect poor theological method—soteriology should not be built merely on titles, but it contradicts the Bible's teaching of salvation by grace through faith. The grace that saves us is the free, unmerited, unconditional gift of God. Making a sinner's submission to Jesus as the Ruler of his life a condition for salvation destroys the grace of God which makes salvation a free gift that can only be received through faith (Rom. 4:4-5; 11:6; Eph. 2:8-9).

Lordship Salvation is also arbitrary because it only emphasizes rulership in the divine title Lord Jesus Christ. To be consistent, they should require sinners to accept Jesus as the Creator, Sustainer, Judge, Prophet, Priest, and King, because all these and more are aspects of His deity. Furthermore, they should demand acceptance of all that the name Jesus means, and all that the title Christ means.

Teachers of Lordship Salvation often derogatorily refer to those who believe in the freeness of grace in salvation as no-lordship, or non-lordship. Of course, this is incorrect and deliberately misleading. Their error comes from confusing the objective position of Jesus as the Lord with one's subjective response to Jesus as their Lord and making it a requirement for salvation. Those who believe in the freeness of grace believe that Jesus must be the Lord (God) to be Savior. The response required of an unbeliever is simply to believe the gospel—who Jesus is, what He has done for our salvation, and what He promises us. There is no lexical or biblical basis for defining believe as submit. Believe simply means to be convinced of something or persuaded that it is true. There are even biblical examples of those who had submitted to Jesus as their Ruler but were not saved (Matt. 7:21-23), and those who were saved when not submitted to Jesus as their Ruler (Acts 5:1-10; 19:18-19).

We are not saying a person who comes to Jesus as Savior deliberately rejects the rulership of Jesus Christ. We are saying that to demand a sinner to submit to Him as Master is simply not the issue in salvation, much less is it reasonable to demand this of one who is spiritually dead.

The Lordship of Christ and Sanctification

While we reject Lordship Salvation and its requirement that sinners must submit to Jesus as the Ruler of their lives, we enthusiastically embrace the term Lordship Sanctification or Lordship Discipleship because submitting to Jesus as our Ruler is what the Christian life is all about. Once we know Jesus as Savior, we must learn to relate to Him as our new Master.

Many passages admonish us who have believed in Jesus as Savior to now relate and submit to Him as Lord. The point of Romans 6 is that now that we have a new Master in Jesus Christ, we should submit ourselves to Him. Romans 12:1 urges us to present ourselves as "living sacrifices." We live and die to the Lord (Rom. 14:8-9). As believers we are told to "sanctify the Lord God" in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15) and to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). Such admonitions would not be needed if we had already done all that in order to be saved.


We cannot make Jesus Lord; He is the Lord! We can only submit to Him as servants. As our divine Savior He saves us; as our divine Master He sanctifies us. To keep the grace of the gospel free we must not confuse the faith required of an unbeliever for justification with the many aspects of submission required of believers for sanctification.


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