November 21, 2014

Video: Awkward Moment When State Dept Caught Supporting Terror Organization

That awkward moment when you get caught supporting a designated terrorist organization...

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November 20, 2014

Revelation 3:20 and Asking Jesus into Your Heart

Charles BingDr. Charles Bing
GraceLife Ministries


"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (Revelation 3:20)

"I asked Jesus into my heart" is a common way Christians relate their salvation testimony. Preachers, teachers, witnessing Christians, and gospel literature frequently end their gospel presentation with the invitation to "Ask Jesus into your heart." When we look at the practical, theological, and biblical objections to this phrase, we may decide to use different language.

heart jesus

Practical Problems

A woman related how as a child she was lying on her stomach in bed when her mother told her she needed to ask Jesus into her heart. She rolled over onto her back so that Jesus could come into her heart. This story illustrates how children think in concrete terms. It is easy to see how such an appeal can miss the gospel message altogether. Left with this imagery, we understand why assurance of salvation is a big problem with many children. They don't feel Jesus in their "hearts." Adults too are left with a subjective evaluation of whether they feel Jesus indwelling them. "Asking Jesus into you heart" easily breeds confusion and undermines the true basis of assurance, faith in God's promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ as Savior.

Theological Problems

Most Roman Catholics would say they receive Jesus Christ into their hearts and lives when they eat the communion elements at church. But a physical transaction involving food, the digestive system, or the heart organ has nothing to do with receiving eternal life. Again, asking Jesus into the heart or receiving Him into one's life does not deal with the issue of one's sinful condition and Christ's provision for sin's penalty through His death and resurrection. A person is diverted away from the gospel message if "asking Jesus into your heart" is the condition for salvation.

Biblical Problems

Those who defend the invitation "Ask Jesus into your heart" usually cite Revelation 3:20. But as we interpret the passage in its context, we find that there is no basis for this invitation here.

In the larger context, the book of Revelation was recorded by John to inform and prepare readers for the end times (Rev. 1:19). Within this general purpose, chapters 2 and 3 address contemporary churches and their respective situations. Six of the churches are displeasing to the Lord Jesus Christ and are told to repent. In contrast, the Gospel of John, which was written to tell readers how to have eternal life (John 20:31), never uses the word "repent" but uses "believe" almost one hundred times as the condition for salvation. This in itself is sufficient reason not to model our evangelistic invitation from the words of Revelation. When Revelation includes a clear invitation to salvation in 22:17, it echoes the invitations of the Gospel of John with "Come" and "take the water of life" (John 4:10; 6:37, 44, 65).

We also observe that Revelation 3:20 is part of Christ's message to the church in Laodicea. Churches are composed of believers, but believers can be displeasing to the Lord by disobedient actions and sinful lifestyles (for example, the Corinthian church). The message to these and the other disobedient believers in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 is not to get saved, but to repent of that which displeases the Lord.

The Laodicean believers are not good or useful to Christ because they are like lukewarm water. He would prefer them to be like hot or cold water, because each has its respective useful purposes. Lukewarm water is useless, unpleasant, and thus spit out (vv. 15-16). They think they need nothing in their relationship to God, but the Lord's assessment is very much to the contrary (v. 17). In verse 18 Jesus counsels them to buy gold, garments, and eye salve. This cannot speak of salvation because salvation is by grace without cost. Jesus speaks of paying the price for the things that are of spiritual value to the Christian. Further evidence that they are believers is the Lord's reassurance in verse 19 that He only reproves and chastens those He loves. The command to "be zealous and repent" is then illustrated by verse 20.

Verse 20 shows how these believers can repent by responding to Jesus' invitation to renew fellowship with Him. Jesus has been excluded from the fellowship of the church, so He knocks seeking entrance. Since a church is made up of individuals, the invitation is to whoever in the church "hears" and "opens the door," a picture of receptivity. The promised result is that Jesus will come "in to" him. It is important to know the original language Jesus used. He did not say "into" to denote contact with (which would use the Greek eis), but he said "in to" to denote motion toward (using the Greek pros). The different emphases between the two prepositions can be seen in John 6:35:

"He who comes to (pros) Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in (eis) Me shall never thirst."

Jesus will come in to where the receptive person is (not inside him) to eat together with him. The imagery of eating together is a common biblical and cultural picture of fellowship. The reward of sitting with Jesus on His throne is not a result of salvation, but a reward for the conquering or victorious Christian (v. 21).

Objections

Some will say, "But are we not supposed to ask Jesus for eternal life as indicated by John 4:10? Yes, for eternal life; but there is no biblical precedent for asking Jesus "to come into your heart." Ask is an analogy for believing. Others may also refer to John 1:12 to say we must receive Christ. But that verse uses receiving Christ for the result of salvation, not the means of salvation, which is to "believe in His name." Others might argue that many people get saved by asking Jesus into their heart. We would respond that if they were saved, it is because they also understood and believed the gospel. No one can be saved by only asking Jesus into his or her heart. We would also add that there are many people without assurance of salvation because they responded to this confusing invitation.

Conclusion

When presenting the gospel, we should be as biblical and as clear as possible. We have an overwhelming biblical basis for telling people to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who died for our sins, rose again, and guarantees our eternal salvation. There is no good reasons to use the confusing gospel-evading, and unbiblical invitation to "Ask Jesus into your heart."

November 19, 2014

Reexamining an Often-Overlooked Kingdom Passage—Genesis 1:26-28

Michael VlachDr. Michael J. Vlach
MikeVlach.com


As I study God's kingdom program I am struck by the importance of Gen 1:26-28. I often don't see this passage brought up in discussions of the kingdom of God or millennium. But its importance is front and center for the kingdom issue and we all should wrestle with its implications.

Here we are told that man is made in the "image" and "likeness" of God. To be made in the image and likeness of God means that man is a son and a king. He is like God in some ways (although not God), and he represents God.

And since man is made in God's image he has an important function. In addition to multiplying and filling the earth, He is to "rule" and "subdue" the earth and its creatures:

"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'" (Gen 1:26)

"...subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Gen 1:28b)

Kingdom Mandate

The "Kingdom Mandate"

As one made in the image of God, man is a king and vice-regent tasked by God to rule over God's "very good" creation (Gen 1:31). Some have called this task the "cultural mandate." Others refer to it as the "creation mandate." I like to call it the "kingdom mandate." God the ultimate King tasks man as a vice-regent and king to rule over the realm of His creation. This passage has kingdom fingerprints all over it.

There are many truths found in Gen 1:26-28 and we cannot survey them all here. But we do see one very important thing. The primary task of man is to rule and subdue the earth for God's glory. We know that with the Fall of Genesis 3 man not only died in his relationship with God, he utterly failed the kingdom mandate. Instead of man successfully ruling from and over the realm of earth, the cursed ground would now frustrate him with thorns and thistles and eventually swallow him up in death. Even to this day we experience the turmoil of a creation that often works against man bringing disaster and death. Man certainly has successes at times with technological and medical innovations but is far from having a successful reign over the planet. In fact sinful man often uses his ingenuity for purposes that are harmful to both people and nature. We are hard pressed to claim that mankind is fulfilling the rule and subdue mandate successfully. It is not happening today.

But does man's failure remove his God-given task to rule and subdue the earth? The answer is clearly no. Psalm 8:5-8, which is a commentary on Gen 1:26-28, shows that the right to rule the earth still belongs to man. The text states:

Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

Note the kingly terms used of man—"crown," "glory," "majesty," and "rule." And it is directed to the realm of God's creation on the earth. This shows that although man failed the kingdom mandate with his rebellion in Genesis 3, the mandate to rule and subdue the earth has never been revoked. Hebrews 2:5-8 also quotes Psalm 8 indicating that man's right to rule is still in force. The one caveat, though, is this truth—"For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him" (Heb 2:8b). Thus, man still has the right to rule but as of yet, we are not seeing this fulfilled—"we do not yet see all things subjected to him." This directs our attention to the future.

The successful reign of man from the earth over the earth is still to come. In fact, in Heb 2:5, the writer refers to the "world to come." Man's successful reign and fulfillment of the Gen 1:26-28 mandate awaits a coming world.

What happens in the world to come? Jesus returns. And the kingdom reign of Jesus the Messiah happens. First Corinthians 15:24-28 indicates that Jesus will fulfill the kingdom mandate with His kingdom reign:

then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

Note a few things here. First, verse 27 quotes Psalm 8 which shows that subjection of the world is in Paul's mind. Thus, there is an earthly focus to this reign of Jesus.

Second, Jesus is the ultimate Man who fulfills the kingdom mandate. Sinful man could not fulfill it, but Jesus the perfect "Last Adam" (see 1 Cor 15:45) can and will fulfill it.

Third, we see that Jesus "must reign." It is God's plan for Jesus the Son and Messiah to have an extended visible reign upon the earth. This must be the case since God wants and expects the kingdom mandate of Gen 1:26-28 to be fulfilled successfully and it has not occurred yet. Note also Psalm 2:6 where the Father says of the Messiah, "I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain."

Fourth, when Jesus completes this successful reign He then offers His kingdom up to God the Father and subjects himself to the Father (1 Cor 15:24, 28). At this point the eternal kingdom of the Father becomes the focus.

Thus, when we examine 1 Cor 15:24-28, we see a successful reign of Jesus the Messiah from and over the realm of earth where the first Adam (and all of us) failed miserably. This successful reign begins at the time of Jesus's second coming (see Matt 19:28; 25:31; Acts 3:20-21). The cross of Christ is the basis for the reconciliation of all things (see Col 1:20), but the reign of Jesus the Messiah over the earth awaits the future.

Another point is key as well. When Jesus reigns over the earth, those who belong to Him will reign with Him. The saints share in His reign! In Rev 5:9-10 we are told that believers from all ethnic groups who are saved by Jesus' blood "will reign upon the earth." As Jesus reigns on the earth, those who have believed in Him will do so as well. So not only does Jesus the ultimate Man rule over the earth successfully, he shares His reign with those who identify with Him. This is affirmed in Rev 2:26-27 where Jesus says that His kingdom reign over the nations (of Psalm 2) is shared with those who belong to Him.

In conclusion, as I study the importance of Gen 1:26-28 and see its truths affirmed in both the Old and New Testaments, I am convinced that a proper study of God's kingdom program must grapple with the implications of this passage. It affirms that man is tasked with ruling from and over the earth for God's glory. Yet man failed this task. Other passages tells us that during this age the mandate still exists but is not being fulfilled yet. But when Jesus, the ultimate Man and King returns and establishes the kingdom, then the kingdom mandate will be fulfilled by Him. It will also be participated in by those who identify with King Jesus. This successful reign will be followed by a "Mission Accomplished!" from the Father and the transition to the kingdom of the Father occurs.

In a coming blog I will discuss the significance of Gen 1:26-28 in regard to the various millennial kingdom views.

 


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