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Friday, January 30, 2009

Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage (6) A real life "Case History"

In order to illustrate the application of the principles which I’d come to understand from scripture, let me first recount a real life situation which was shared with us a few years ago by a young woman who had divorced the man to whom she was married. Secondly, I’d encourage you to consider the following question for yourself,….. “What would I have taught this young woman or how would I have advised her if she had been talking with me?” and thirdly, I will share with you what we taught her and to what conclusion she came as a result.

Anita, (not her real name), was a young Christian woman in her mid or late twenties who was brought into our lives by another Christian woman whom we knew. She seemed to desire to get to know the Word of God better and always enjoyed the company of other Christians. Some time after we first met her, we invited her home for dinner in order to get to know her better.

In the course of our conversation, she began to open up about her past and shared that while she would love to be married and raise a family, she believed that such an option was not open to her. When we asked her , “Why?”, she shared with us that she had been previously married and divorced. Many of her friends had counseled her and encouraged her to forget the past, remarry and get on with her life. But she said to us, “I have never had liberty in my conscience to consider remarriage because of what the Bible says about remarrying after divorce.” (She was thinking of Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10:11&12: “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication ,and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her that is put away doth commit adultery.”
“And He saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committieth adultery.”)

Anita explained to us that, before she had married him, she had lived for a time with this man who was divorced from his first wife. In fact, she personally knew his wife and children. She told us that she had been awfully burdened with guilt about her ongoing relationship with this man because they were not married. She felt that if they could just get married, that would solve the problem as they would no longer be “living in sin”.

So, at last, he agreed and they were legally married. But to her dismay, her feelings of guilt were not allayed but rather intensified! To make matters worse, the man she married soon began to physically abuse her! And so, she recounted to us, she had finally divorced him and thus ended her relationship with him.

On account of the choices she had made, the consequences she had reaped and the understanding which she had of the scriptures at that time,….she felt that she had no option but to remain single the rest of her days. She was willing to do so, but deeply longed for love and a family of her own.

Now, had you been the one to whom Anita had shared her story, how would you have responded? Would you have agreed with her? Would you have shared another understanding of the scriptures with her that might have given her other options? Or would you not have had confidence to give her any teaching at all? Please pause for a few moments to consider these questions before continuing….

Personally, having recently come to consider every scripture in the Bible which seemed to relate to the marriage and divorce issues, I realized that without personal knowledge of all the details, it would be foolhardy to give advice one way or the other. But I was confident that there is no moral situation so tangled that there is not a righteous remedy if one is willing to be obedient and submissive to God. So I asked Anita if I could share some things with her that I had recently learned from the scriptures. She was glad for me to do so.

So I opened the scriptures to Genesis 2:18-25 and read the passage to Anita and then turned to Matthew 19:1-9 and had her read it. I briefly recounted how the Lord Jesus set forth, in Matthew 19, six features which defined marriages which God joined. We then talked about each of the six perversions of marriage which were the opposites of these six marks. Then , to be sure Anita understood, I asked her to read Matthew 19:1-6 again and to explain back to me the six features of marriages which God joins. She had understood and was able to clearly explain them back to me.

Rather than telling her anything, I asked her, “Anita, have you ever been a spouse in a marriage which God has joined?” She paused for a few moments to consider, and then she clearly responded, “No, I haven’t! The marriage which I had was marked by only five of these, not six!” When I asked her, “Which one was lacking?” She immediately responded, “My marriage was an adulterous one because the man I married had divorced his first wife and she was still living!”

Anita, realized for the first time that she had never been in a marriage union which God had joined. Rather, her marriage had been one which was judged by God from the moment it was entered into and ought to have been put asunder because her relationship with the man in question had been an adulterous one, even after they were married!

Hearing her conclusions in the matter, I said to her, “Anita, if all that you have recounted to us is true, I see no scriptural hindrance to you entering into a future marriage should the Lord bring along a Christian man who is not divinely joined to a living spouse.”

I’ll never forget the look on her face as Anita heaved a big sigh and exclaimed, “This makes so much sense! NO ONE has EVER explained the scriptures like this to me before!”

The conversation we shared with Anita that afternoon taught me at least two vital lessons:
(1) Everyone’s “first marriage” is not necessarily joined by God! And
(2) There are many who, through similar experiences and similar misunderstandings of scripture, are either trapped in marriages which God has judged or believe that any remarriage after divorce from such a marriage would be adulterous!

I am more firmly convinced than ever before that scriptural teaching on these matters is vitally important! Every misunderstanding of scripture causes people to believe a lie of the Enemy (Satan). And every lie of Satan that is believed brings those who believe it into bondage. (Bondage is the inability to be or to do what God intends.) But the Lord Jesus declared, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (That freedom is the ability to be and to do what God intends!)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage (5) Six Marks of a Marriage Joined By God

As I was in the process of my personal study of this vital subject in the early 90’s, I recalled the first lesson in hermeneutics (interpretation) that I received when I was just a young boy….John Coyle, the pastor of the Orangeville Baptist Church in the late 1950’s and early 60's, taught us a simple lesson about the word “therefore”! He said, “Whenever you see a “therefore”, stop to see what it’s there for! That word will always refer back to what you read in the immediately preceding context.”

This unforgettable lesson came back to mind as I read Matthew 19:6 “Wherefore they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

I knew then that the answer to the question “What is it that God joins?” would be found in the context of Matthew 19 immediately preceding verse 6!

And so I made the following observations from the text of Matthew 19:3-5:
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
(A) They were talking about a human relationship. (man and wife)

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
(B) The Lord Jesus said it was to be a heterosexual relationship. (male and female)

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother,
“Leaving father and mother” was not simply setting up a new home and family unit in a different home, for by Jewish custom the groom brought his new bride into his father’s home! Rather the idea in this expression is that a man leaves the family of his parents in order to find a wife from another family.
(C) Thus the Lord Jesus was saying that it was to be a non-incestuous relationship (not joined to a near relative).

and shall cleave to his wife:
(D) It is to be a non-adulterous relationship (i.e. not his neighbour’s wife or his brother’s wife, but his wife!)

And shall cleave unto his wife:
(E) It is to be a marital relationship (i.e. with distinct relationships as husband and wife.

and they twain shall be one flesh?
(F) Although the OT scriptures never condemned, warned against or reproved polygamous marriages, this statement of the Lord Jesus no longer leaves the door open for “they three” , “they four” or “they seven” to be one flesh! Very plainly, He says, “They twain” (just the two of them!) shall be one flesh.Thus we see God’s intention affirmed that marriage is to be a monogamous relationship.

Once God, in Christ, had revealed the full scope of His intention for the marriage relationship by these six marks (human, heterosexual, non-incestuous, non-adulterous, marital and monogamous), He immediately revealed three vital truths about such a relationship:

(1) Two people who are joined together in such a relationship are “no more twain”! The expression “no more” (Greek OU KETI) always designates situations where change has taken place that cannot be reversed at least in this life. The former condition "twain” has ceased and the latter condition “one flesh” has become the lifelong condition of the union which it describes.

(2) While Malchi 2:15 alludes to the fact that God “makes one”, yet here in Matt.19 the Lord Jesus has revealed the exact nature of the kind of union which God is joining…"what therefore God hath joined together…” and

(3) Such unions that God joins, He expressly forbids man to put asunder! “let not man put asunder.”

As I pondered these six marks of marriages which God joins, I realized that there are three such features in which the man and woman are the same and three features in which they are different !

They are the Same:
-Human relationship: they are of the same species.
-Non-adulterous: they are in the same condition (neither are joined to another spouse who is yet living).
-Monogamous:
they are in the same union (both are joined only to each other).

They are Different:
-Heterosexual: they are different genders (male and female).
-Non-incestuous:
they are from different families (i.e. Jones and Smith!)
-Marital:
they have different roles (i.e. husband and wife) they are now much more than simply “friends”, “lovers” or “fianc├ęs”.

How fitting that the marriage union of two people who are each tripartite beings (spirit, soul and body) should be marked by six necessary features! In three of these God has designed that they will be the same in order to be suitable for each other and in the other three, God has designed that they will be different to insure that they will be complementary to each other!

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36

Monday, January 26, 2009

Marriage, Divorce and remarriage (4) Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Today, in this continuing series, we'll consider a passage of scripture which, in my opinion, is the most misunderstood passage of scripture in the Bible on the subject of divorce. It was also this passage (grossly misunderstood as it is) which was the basis for another commonly accepted idea which I had inherited from my parents and my grandfather who was a preacher….namely that “If anyone is divorced, Deut.24 forbids them to remarry the spouse from whom they were divorced.” People who hold to this view, as I myself did for many years, do NOT understand that scripture not only speaks of two kinds of marriages (marriages which God joins and marriages which He judges) but they do not understand that scripture also speaks of two kinds of divorces (divorces which God forbids and condemns and divorces which He commands and blesses)!

I have read scores of commentators on Deut.24:1-4 and I have not found one yet who knew what it was talking about. Not one of these published commentators had any idea as to the meaning of “uncleanness” in verse 1! Most of them acknowledge that it could not have been adultery for such would have required the death penalty and NOT a bill of divorcement and a divine permission to remarry! But beyond this, I have not yet found any commentator who is able to identify exactly what “uncleanness” Moses was referring to!!

However, if anyone with a good concordance simply does a word study on this word “uncleanness”, the Hebrew word ERVAH, and observes how it is commonly used 39 times prior to Deut.24, they will discover for themselves what it means and will quickly realize that the Israelites who first heard or read Deut.24 would have known what Moses was talking about! They would have known how he had used the word previously!

The word ERVAH is translated “nakedness” 3 times in Gen.9:22,23; 23 times in Lev.18 and 6 times in Lev.20. In all 32 instances it refers to immoral sexual relations between people of near kinship (i.e. incest)!

In 7 other instances, prior to Deut.24, the word is used as follows:
-It is translated “nakedness” 2 times in Gen.42:9,12 of Joseph’s feigned accusation to his brothers that they have comes as spies to see “the nakedness of the land of Egypt”.
-In Ex.20:26 Israelites were forbidden to have steps up to their altar to the Lord so that “their nakedness would not be discovered thereon.”
-In Ex.28:42 the priests were to wear “breeches” to cover their “nakedness”.
-In Lev.18:19 and 20:18 “nakedness” refers to sexual relations with a woman during her menstrual period, and
-In Deut.23:14 the word is used once translated “unclean thing” or “nakedness of a thing”. Here the Israelites were instructed to cover the excretions of bodily wastes outside their camp so the Lord would not see any “unclean thing” in them.

So the word “uncleanness” in Deut.24 must be understood in light of its usage previous to this chapter (as is noted above).

Then the meaning of the word must meet three conditions mentioned in Deut.24:1:
-It must be something discovered after the marriage has taken place.
-It must be something which prevents the woman from having favor in her husband’s eyes any longer, and
-It must be something in her, and not something which she has done.

Further, a right understanding of this “uncleanness” must explain..
- how and why the woman is defiled,
-why she is defiled in relation to the first husband but NOT in relation to a possible second husband,
-how this “uncleanness” is an abomination to the Lord, and
-how “the land is caused to sin” by it.

The only possible usage of the word which fits all of the above requirements is the following case:
After the two have married, he discovers that they are actually near relatives. i.e. They have unwittingly become involved in an incestuous marriage! Had they done this knowingly, they both would have faced the death penalty without mercy. (Lev.20:10-14) But Deut.24 is the merciful provision of God to deal with such a sin which is done in ignorance.

Thus it is easy to understand why the woman could marry another man and not be defiled with him as she would be with a near relative, and thus why she is expressly forbidden to remarry the first husband….it would be deliberate incest in such a case!

So rather than forbidding the reconciliation of couples joined by God who divorced unscripturally, this passage is simply forbidding the remarriage of couples who have entered into marriages which God judged and who were scripturally divorced from such defiling relationships!

A very interesting case of a situation of this very nature came to light in the UK just a little over a year ago:
Separated twins marry, forced to break up in UK
Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:45am IST

LONDON (Reuters) - Twins who were separated at birth and raised by different families met later and married but were forced to break up when they discovered their true identities, a British legislator said on Friday.
"It's a tragedy for the couple who are involved, a terrible tragedy. Everyone's hearts will go out to people caught up quite unwittingly in a case of incest of this kind," David Alton, a member of Britain's upper House of Lords, told BBC radio.
Alton first raised the case during debate on a proposed new law on in vitro fertilisation (IVF). He says it highlights the need for children to know who their parents are.
He fears that under the new law, the biological identity of one parent of a child born as a result of IVF could be removed from the birth certificate, creating the potential for similar tragic mistakes to occur.
Alton told parliament last month he had heard about the twins from a High Court judge who had dealt with the case.
"It involved the normal birth of twins who were separated at birth and adopted by separate parents," said Alton, who has no party affiliation. "They were never told that they were twins."
"They met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction" and they got married, he said.
"When they did come to know their true identities it led to their having to separate and also to a lot of heartbreak," Alton said on Friday. News reports said their marriage was annulled.
No further information was available about the twins or where they were from.
"This isn't a regular occurrence but it could become one with large numbers of people now being born by IVF and not knowing their true identities," Alton said.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, now working its way through the British parliament, recognises same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos.
"The government ... have not accepted the argument that you should have the right to know who your biological father is on the birth certificate," Alton said.
"It would be a terrible act of deception, with the state colluding in that deception, to remove the biological identity of your father from the birth certificate," he added.
Pam Hodgkins, head of a group that helps adults affected by adoption, said the story of the twins was very tragic.
"It is a lesson that we need to learn and apply to the situation of donor-conceived children," she told Sky News.
"Whilst ... nowadays it would be most unusual for siblings to be separated ... the risk of secrecy affecting the lives of people born as a result of egg and sperm donation is exactly the same as the risks that have affected adopted people in the past," she said.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft)
© Reuters2008All rights reserved
Site where this article is found: http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-31365220080111?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true

I trust that this modern day application of the principles of Deut.24 clearly illustrates the scriptural reasons, provisions and requirements for terminating a marriage which is judged by God. (To be continued….)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage(3) Two Kinds of Marriages, Two Kinds of Divorces

As the scriptures were challenging and expanding my thinking relative to marriage, they also radically challenged my former ideas concerning divorce! Prior to this study, the only scripture that would have come to my mind relative to divorce was Malachi 2:16 which says, “For the Lord God of Israel saith that He hateth putting away.” On this basis I believed and taught that “God hates divorce!” But, I was to learn that this was the last statement of many in the OT relative to divorce and that it was in the context of descriptions of “treacherous dealings” against one’s brother, against the Lord, Himself, (v.11) and against the wife of one’s youth (vs.14,15,16) The entire context of this statement is the background of disobedience to God. Prior to this time, I had absolutely no idea that, in specific cases, divorcing a wife could actually be an act of obedience to God!

So you can imagine my surprise, while reading through the Book of Genesis, when I discovered that the first divorce in the Bible was actually commanded by God, Himself!!! And the man who put away his wife in that first instance was Abraham, the only man in the Bible who was called “the Friend of God”! (James 2:23) The sad story begins in Gen.16:3 when Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to be his wife. That marriage which was contrived apart from any direction from God was ended by Abraham’s obedience to the command of God in Genesis 21:9-14. The word that is used of Abraham’s “sending away” of Hagar is the same word that is used in Malachi 2:16 of the “putting away” which God hates!

But, as I continued reading, I was to find that there were a number of instances in both the Old and New Covenant scriptures where God commanded men to divorce their wives!
(1) Abraham was commanded by God to divorce Hagar.
Gen.21
(2) In Deuteronomy 24 we find instructions of God given through Moses to any man in certain circumstances to put away the woman whom he had married. (more on this key passage later.)
(3) In Ezra’s day, 113 named Israelite men, who in disobedience had married foreign wives, (Contrary to the explicit command of God in Deut.7:1-6) obeyed the command of God through Ezra the scribe and put away those wives and even the children which they had by them! (Ezra 9 and 10)
(4) During the ministry of John the baptizer, John reproved Herod (who had married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias) in these words, “It is not lawful for thee to have her.” Matthew 14:4 Notice that John did not say, “It was unlawful for thee to take her, but since you can’t unscramble scrambled eggs, just carry on!” Rather, John applied the law of Leviticus 18:16 to a Gentile king and declared that he was violating the law of the God of heaven by retaining as his wife the woman whom John declared was still his brother Philip’s wife! John was the prophet of God who laid down his life for his convictions on divorce and remarriage!
(5) In I Corinthians 5 we learn that a man in the Corinthian ekklesia had actually married his father’s wife
(a violation of Lev.18:8) and the ekklesia was in such a fleshly state that they actually gloried in the fact of this perverted relationship! So Paul firmly called upon them to put that man away from among them in order to bring him to repentance and restoration. Then in II Corinthians 2:1-11, we learn that this man was brought to repentance, did put away his father’s wife and was restored to the enjoyment of fellowship with God and with the other saints at Corinth!

These scriptural examples, instructions and commands regarding divorce completely “upset the entire applecart” of my former thoughts relative to divorce!!! But imagine my consternation when I also discovered that great blessings were promised to men who, for scriptural reasons, for the sake of the name of Christ and for the sake of the Gospel would forsake wives and also children! Such promises are found clearly stated in Matthew 19:29,30 and Mark 10:29,30. These are two chapters where the Lord Jesus dealt specifically with the matters of marriage and divorce! I used to think that the forsaking of wives and children in these passages had to do with temporary absences from home while men went out preaching the Gospel or teaching. But such an idea is clearly refuted by I Cor.7:3-5! Scripture never justifies any husband to be apart from his wife or from normal marital relations for preaching or teaching! The only reason for which such is justified is when it is done by mutual consent for prayer and fasting!

I saw that every instance in scripture where divorce was commanded by God, the marriages which such divorces terminated were marriages of disobedience which were contrary to the plan of God at their very beginning. The remedy for disobedience to God and His Word is always obedience to the same.

So I realized for the first time in my life that there were two kinds of marriages:
(1) there are marriages which God joins and
(2) there are marriages which He judges.

This also helped me to realize that there are two kinds of divorces:
(1) Divorces which put asunder what God has joined are forbidden, condemned and hated by God.
(2) Divorces which put asunder what God has judged are commanded, commended and blessed by God.

So in the process of my study, I had to face the fact that centuries before God said he hated divorce (the disobedient kind) He was actually the one who instituted divorce as the righteous remedy for marriages which were marked by disobedience and defilement from their very inception! (To be continued…) BTW, remember that if you have questions, objections, or suggestions of any kind (even direct challenges to what I have noted in these posts) your comments are welcome (below) or in private emails to me at bwood4d@gmail.com

Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (2)

Realizing how vitally important it was in our day and age to have a thoroughly Biblical view on these matters, and realizing that my current (inherited) views were woefully lacking, I purposed to spend as long as the study required in order to come to a Biblical understanding of marriage.

So I purposed to read the Bible through from cover to cover with the intent of noting, listing and carefully considering every reference…
- to marriage, divorce and remarriage,
- to sexual relationships and
- to divine instructions, warnings, commands, prohibitions, blessings and promises that were related to the marriage relationship or to its perversions.


As my study progressed, I wrote to a friend, “In spite of all the confusion among godly men on the subject of divorce, I’ve been encouraged by James 1:5 that a right understanding of the scriptures is possible and most necessary. It seems most evident to me that, if some scriptures create problems to my way of thinking on a subject, my thinking is either faulty or incomplete. So I’ve been trying to locate and evaluate every biblical passage dealing with the marriage relationship and its abuse to try to get a full picture of the subject.”

Something that impressed me early on in my study was that when God had first brought Eve to Adam in the garden, there is no record of any instructions being given them relative to marriage! But as the inspired scriptures were given and began to be written by Moses, we are given the pattern principles of marriage stated positively in Genesis 2:
(1) No helper suitable for Adam among the animals: Marriage is to be a human relationship.
(2) A woman is brought to a man:
Marriage is to be a heterosexual relationship.
(3) A man is leave his father and mother to find a wife: Marriage is to be a non-incestuous relationship.
(4) The man is to cleave to his wife:
Marriage is to be a non-adulterous relationship.
(5) The man is to cleave to his wife: Marriage is to a marital relationship.
(6) A man and a woman (singular) are to be one flesh: Marriage is to be a monogamous relationship.

But in the book of Genesis, we find examples of bigamy, polygamy, and divorce with no reproof of these practices by conscience or divine revelation.
We find instances of incest, harlotry, and sodomy reproved by conscience but not reproved by any divine revelation or prohibition.
We find divine judgment meted out for sodomy but only adultery is actually reproved by divine revelation. (Gen.20:3)

So notice with me, the progressive manner in which God, in the scriptures, reveals His positive pattern for marriage by way of the contrasting negative prohibitions:

I. In Genesis: -only adultery is ruled out. (20:3) *non-adulterous relationships only
II.In Exodus
: -adultery is ruled out (20:14,17)
-bestiality is ruled out (22:19) *human relationships only
III. In Leviticus: -adultery is ruled out (18:16,20)
-bestiality is ruled out (18:23)
-incest is ruled out (18:7-18) *non-incestuous relationships only
-sodomy is ruled out (18:22) *heterosexual relationships only
IV.In Deuteronomy:
-adultery is ruled out (22:22)
-bestiality is ruled out (27:21)
-incest is ruled out (23:30; 27:20,22,23)
-sodomy is ruled out (23:17) and
-pre and post-marital relationships are ruled out (22:20-29 & 23:17)
*marital relationships only

But throughout the entire OT there is no divine reproof of polygamy! This is only revealed as we come to NT times:
(V) In Matthew and Romans: -polygamy is ruled out. (Matt.19:5) “They twain (the two of them) shall be one flesh.” (Romans 7:1-3) “So then, if while her husband liveth she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress.” Thus we see that God’s design for marriage is that it is not only a human relationship, a heterosexual relationship, a non-incestuous relationship, a non-adulterous relationship, and a marital relationship, but it is also to be a monogamous relationship.

Thus, I began to see that these six features not only define the very nature of God’s design for marriage but also define negatively every possible sort of perversion of that relationship.

I was deeply impressed that it was not until God had completely revealed not only His positive pattern for marriage but also had revealed the opposite perversions that he spoke for the very first time of “that which God hath joined together” with the accompanying prohibition, “Let not man put asunder.” Matthew 19:6

In the last 10 years or so, I have asked many ministers, pastors and preachers who are “registered marriage officers” a question which not one yet has been able to answer! If they don’t know the answer to this question, you can be sure that few if any of those whom they are marrying know the answer either! And this, I believe is the number one reason why divorce rates continue to rise and may even be higher among professing Christians than even in the world!

This is a question which , I believe, ought to be answered by every “marriage officer” as well as by every couple contemplating marriage and, by all means, by every couple contemplating divorce!

That question is this: “What is it that God joins?” Is it every marriage? Is it every “legal marriage”? Is it every “Christian marriage”? I think you can easily see the problems with any such answer!
One of the first preachers to whom I asked this question acknowledged that he did not know. So I pressed upon him the vital importance of this matter by a second question: “If we have no idea what it is that God joins, how can we have any idea what it is that He forbids to be put asunder?" I maintain that widespread ignorance of the answer to this one question is the prime reason why marriages are entered into so lightly and are exited just as lightly!

If every marriage officer not only knew what it was that God joined but purposed never to marry any couple which God would not join
If every couple contemplating marriage not only knew what God joined but also purposed that they would only marry if God would join their union, and….
If every couple contemplating divorce not only knew what it was that God joined but also purposed not to put asunder what God had joined…. divorce rates would plummet very quickly to zero!

Personally, I am firmly convinced that the answer to the question, “What is it that God joins which He also forbids to be put asunder?” …. is marriages which at their very commencement are marked by all six of the features (above). It is for this reason that I call these the “Six Marks of A Marriage that God Joins”. (To be continued…)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (1)

I don’t know of any subject that is more thorny, that has stirred up more strife and contention, that has caused more division among the people of God than this one! So a word of caution is in order.... I do not write this post, nor any other on this blog, to convince the reader of my point of view, to stir up strife or contention or to cause believers with varying opinions to divide from one another. My purpose (as with every post on this blog) is to simply chronicle how the Lord has used a wide variety of people to challenge and change my thinking and even affect the course of my life. I do not present my views here as being the “final word” on these matters, but simply record how my thinking has radically changed in the process...and is likely to continue to undergo further change as the Lord continues His work of transforming me into the image of Christ!

I should begin this post(or rather this series of posts!) by explaining where my thinking commenced and why it has changed over time relative to the matters of marriage,divorce and remarriage.

Like most people, my original thoughts and beliefs about many things, including marriage and divorce, were inherited directly from my parents. My parents believed
(1) that marriage was a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman,
(2) that divorce for any reason was wrong and contrary to the mind and will of God and thus
(3)that any remarriage after a divorce, while one’s former spouse was still living was also contrary to the mind of God.
Thus, as I grew into adulthood, I knew that many marriages were breaking up and ending in divorce (even among Christians!) and that many such people were remarrying. But I believed...
(1)that all such divorces were disobedient to the word of God and
(2)that all remarriages of divorced people (whose original spouses were still alive) were also acts of disobedience to God and
(3)that such remarriages were adulterous relationships.

I held these views for many years apart from any personal study of the scriptures. Thus they were simply “inherited opinions” on my part but I could not say that they were personal convictions of mine based on personal study of the scriptures!

Thus the first real challenge to my views on marriage and divorce came from another Christian, Steve Kember. I had moved with my wife and family from Collingwood to Norwich in March of 1989 in order to help Steve in Gospel outreach in this community and in the establishing of a local assembly of believers. In work such as this, one continually encounters folks in all kinds of marital situations.

If I was ever to list men that I knew who had the gift of an evangelist, Steve Kember would be the first on that list! He has a heart for the lost and has invested many years of his life seeking out those who are lost and patiently pointing them to the only Saviour of sinners. Since we have known Steve and Merle, they have sought out and have purposefully settled in 8 or 10different “out of the way” communities across Canada. In each one they have invested their time and energy getting to know and befriending people in those communities, and then sowing the Word of God into their minds and hearts. Steve has spent more time calling door-to-door than any other man that I know. He spends his days in this way seeking those who have an interest in spiritual things and then most often spends his evenings in small Bible studies in people’s homes further explaining the Gospel and instructing new believers whom he has lead to Christ.

So, as Steve saw many divorced and remarried people come to know the Lord, he had a natural desire to see them go on to live their lives for Christ and to minister effectively to others. Steve believed that when a person came to Christ, the sins of their past were forgiven and they were to move on from that point in the enjoyment of the grace of God without any changes in their marital status. I discovered that many other Christians shared Steve’s viewpoint.

I agreed that when people’s sins were forgiven, all sins were forgiven including divorce and remarriage! But I also believed that teaching new disciples involved teaching them to observe all the things the Lord had commanded His disciples. Thieves were to stop stealing and work to meet their own needs as well as to give generously to others. Liars were to stop lying and to begin consistently telling the truth. Drunkards were to no longer get drunken but rather to live their lives soberly and righteously. And those who lived in sexual immorality were to terminate such immoral relationships and to live righteously.

Those, like Steve, who believe that folks who get saved in various “divorced and remarried” relationships should maintain those current marriage relationships often express their thoughts in this way, “You cannot unscramble scrambled eggs!” However, they would make exceptions to that rule … If the two people who are married are...
(1) the same gender (because their ongoing relationship would be characterized by sodomy) or
(2)are siblings (because their ongoing relationship would be characterized by incest).
But such people do not generally believe that divorced and remarried folks should separate if spouses of one or both from previous marriages which God had joined are still living (i.e. if their ongoing relationship is characterized by adultery.)

To me, this did not seem to be a consistent manner in which to counsel folks relative to former sins and how to turn from them. But I was immediately confronted with another matter which was equally inconsistent in my own beliefs!.... If, as I’d always believed, divorce for any reason was wrong and contrary to the mind of God, how could I counsel any married people to divorce, even if their marriages were characterized by sodomy, incest or adultery????

I knew then (finding myself between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”) that I had a problem and that something in my own inherited belief system was wrong! So I was driven, out of necessity, to begin to search the scriptures to find the truth. I knew that scripture rightly understood would never leave one with a contradiction and (closely related to this idea), I also believed that there is no sinful behaviour or practice, no matter how “scrambled” it may be, for which God does not have a righteous remedy.
So, with these conundrums before me, I was driven to search the scriptures relative to the matters of marriage and divorce. I had many surprises in store as I learned that scripture had far more to say about these matters than I had ever dreamed! (To be continued….)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Arnold Adams' Wise Investment Counsel

Since 1976 when my thinking on insurance had been deeply challenged, I’d personally begun searching out scriptural principles relative to finances. I’d begun to realize that scriptural principles in these (and many other) matters were diametrically opposed to common sense ideas in the world.
I’d learned that borrowing money was a practice never encouraged in scripture and one that was, in fact, forbidden and warned against. “Owe no man anything but to love one another.” Rom.13:8 and, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” Prov.22:7 Rather than lending, we are encouraged in scripture to freely give when others are in need and that if we give to one in need, we are actually lending to the Lord and He will definitely repay! Matt.5:42; Prov.19:17. I’d also learned by experience that lending was one of the quickest ways to destroy a friendship! When one finds it impossible to repay a loan, his own inability to do so and the lender’s expectation of repayment destroys the relationship between former friends! But giving freely to meet needs builds and strengthens friendships.

I’d also learned that co-signing for a loan or “becoming surety for another’s debts” was another practice forbidden and warned against in scripture. (Prov.6:11; 11:15 and 17:18) And the entire idea of “saving” money, which most modern financial planners say is absolutely essential, is forbidden by the Lord Jesus, Himself! He called it “laying up for yourselves treasures upon earth”! (Matt.6:19) In contrast, His counsel which is a stark contrast to the concept of “saving” is “laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven”! Matt.6:20

One night, after a ministry meeting, I was standing in the company of a number of other young men talking with an older brother, Arnold Adams, of Orillia. The conversation had somehow turned to financial matters and investments. Mr. Adams, a man we had all come to know, love and respect commented, “The only wise investments are eternal investments!”
When someone asked him what he meant, Mr. Adams replied, ‘If you are going to make eternal investments, you’ve got to invest in eternal commodities!” He then paused while we tried to digest that thought in order to understand where he was going! But he continued, “There are only two of them……people are eternal and the Word of God is eternal! So if you invest your lives seeking to get people into the Word of God and the Word of God into people, you will have investments which you will never lose but which will continue to pay rich dividends for all eternity! But by way of contrast, Mr. Adams also warned us with these words, “If you invest in anything else, you will lose it all, for everything else is going to burn!

With those few brief sentences, I believe Arnold Adams gave us the best financial advice we could ever receive! I don’t recall now who the others were who heard that counsel and I don’t know how it affected them or if they even remembered it. But I know that those few sentences were etched indelibly in my mind and have since guided me at many points in my life, when decisions had to be made in financial matters!

Mr. Adams’ remarks that night also helped me to understand and appreciate the Lord Jesus’ teaching in Matt.25 regarding the stewardship of the servants to whom the Master entrusted “talents” while He was on a long journey. I’ve often heard that passage used to justify various forms of monetary investments in order to receive greater returns which could then be invested in “the Lord’s work”! But after hearing Mr. Adams’ counsel on “eternal investments” I began to understand Matthew 25 in a whole new light!

Two common errors that are made by those who use this passage to justify earthly “investments” are these:
(1) They calculate the “returns” of various investments in time. But the value of the investments of servants in Matthew 25 are not calculated until the time of the Master’s return! When the value of worldly investments (Christians’ bank accounts, RRSP’s, stocks and bonds etc) are calculated at His return, they will all be just as worthless as the one talent that was buried in the earth. For that is precisely where they will be!
(2) They calculate returns based on man’s “interest rates”! But they forget that the very best “interest rate” that any earthly investor can hope for is just “peanuts” compared to the “30 fold, 60 fold and 100 fold” returns which are promised on “ eternal investment portfolios”! Matt.13:23 and Mark 4:8

It is for these reasons that I always enjoy it when insurance salesmen or others call who want me to consider investing in their schemes or plans! I tell them about the One who has given me “Life Assurance” and “Fire Assurance” which are entirely free to me and have no premiums! Since “insurance plans” are only good “in case of” certain calamities, they do not really offer “life insurance” or “health insurance”! What they offer is only “in case of illness” or “in case of death”. It is really only “sickness insurance” or “death insurance”! When folks call, offering some new investment scheme, I always love to tell them about the 30 fold, 60 fold and 100 fold returns on my investments! I always tell them that if they can offer returns which are better than what I’m already guaranteed, not only for time but for eternity, I’ll buy!!! I haven’t yet had to spend a penny on such temporal scams!! How much better to invest everything we can in getting people into the Word of God and the Word of God into people!


Arnold Adams was a man who lived what he taught! He invested his life preaching the Gospel and teaching the scriptures to the Lord’s people. He didn’t bother with investments in things which were not eternal. Less than a year ago, (February 6th, 2007) he consciously stepped onto the shores of home and left his earthly body at the age of 93.
I had the privilege of being at his funeral and it was one of the most joyful celebrations I’ve ever attended, but I’m sure it paled in comparison to his reception in glory as he met His Saviour face to face!

You can read two tributes to Arnold Adams at http://www.truthandtidings.com/issues/2007/t20070502.php

http://www.truthandtidings.com/issues/2007/t20070503.php

Friday, January 16, 2009

Three New Covenant Dramas

After Mrs. Williams’ example had caused me to seriously consider that God may well have given us three “dramas” to symbolize three important truths relative to our relationship with Him, my attention was drawn to Israel just prior to the giving of the Old Covenant at Mt. Sinai. God had given them 3 physical practices which would distinguish them from all other peoples on earth. They were to be distinguished by:
(1) Circumcision of all their male children on the 8th day after birth. (This was a once for all action done shortly after birth.)
(2) Observance of the Passover,a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt. (This was a meal that was eaten annually as a memorial of deliverance.)
(3) The 7th day sabbath was to be observed by them forever. (This was a continual practice to remind them of their unique relationship to their God.)

In a similar way, I began to wonder if the three “dramas" we have been considering have been designed by God to distinguish God’s New Covenant people, the ekklesia, from all other peoples on earth.
(1) Baptism is a one time event to be done immediately after new birth.
(2) The Lord’s Supper is the eating of a meal in memory of the One who delivered us from sin and this is to be done as often as we eat bread and drink the cup.
(3) Acknowledgment of headship by what we do with our heads while praying and prophesying is a continual testimony to the fact of our submission to God’s established order of headship.

Notice that these three dramas have a number of similarities:
(1) Each has two components which are meaningless if they stand alone and thus each requires two actions of obedience:
- Baptism is what is done with the dead and the living (burial by immersion and raising
by emergence).
- The Lord’s Supper is what is done with the bread and the cup. (eating and drinking).
-The acknowledgment of headship is what is done with the head and the hair. (covering
or uncovering the head while praying or prophesying and keeping men’s hair from getting long and allowing women’s hair to grow long.)

(2) Each dramatizes two aspects of the believer’s relationship to Christ:
-The first is the acknowledgment of relationship, i.e. our union with Christ in death and
resurrection. Rom.6:3-11
-The second is the enjoyment of fellowship, i.e. our communion in the body and blood
of Christ. I Cor.10:16-22
-The third is the acknowledgment of headship, i.e. our submission for the honour and
glory of Christ. I Cor.11:3-15

(3)Each drama has a primary audience for whom it is intended:
-The intended audience of a believer’s baptism is God. “Baptism…the answer of a good
conscience towards God.” I Pet.3:21 Some baptisms had no human audience but all were seen of God. Acts 8:38; 16:25-33
-The intended audience of the Lord’s Supper is people. “Ye do shew the Lord’s death until He
come” I Cor.11:26. “Shew” is the word “proclaim” which is always used in scripture of addresses to people.
-The intended audience of what believers do with their heads and their hair is the angels.

“…because of the angels.” I Cor.11:10. Angels cannot read our minds but do observe our actions and our speech.

(4)The “players” in each of these dramas are to be a particular kind of people:
-Those who are baptized are to be disciples of the Lord Jesus, i.e. they that gladly
receive His Word. Matt.28:19 and Acts 2:41
-Those who remember the Lord Jesus in breaking of bread are saints who call on the
name of the Lord. I Cor.1:2
-Those who to acknowledge God’s order of headship are also saints who call on the name
of the Lord. I Cor.1:2

(5)Each of these dramas are to be "played out" at particular times:
-Folks are not to be baptized as unbelievers but only after they have been baptized in
the Spirit into the Body of Christ. Rom.6:3; I Cor.12:13
-Believers are to remember the Lord as often as they eat the bread and drink the cup.
I Cor.11:24-26. The scriptural pattern for doing this is daily. Acts 2:42,46 Just as steadfast
continuance in the apostles' doctrine and in prayer means daily attention to those practices, so too steadfast continuance in fellowship in breaking of bread also means that this will be a daily priority.
-Believing men and women are to uncover/cover their heads whenever they,
themselves, pray or prophesy; and believing men are to keep their hair from growing long and believing women are to allow their hair to grow long continuously. I Cor.11:4-15

(6) "Players” in each of these dramas have a common reason for doing so:
-Baptism is commanded by the Lord Jesus. Matt.28:19
-Breaking bread in remembrance of the Lord Jesus is also commanded by Him.
Luke 22:19
-The written instructions relative to what men and women are to do with their heads and
their hair, I Cor.11:1-16 are also the commandments of the Lord. I Cor.14:37

I have often thanked the Lord for Mrs. Mabel Williams, her quiet and godly example, and how He used her to challenge my thinking and cause me to consider these matters much more fully after I observed her obedience to Him in the privacy of her own home!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Church "sacraments", "ordinances" or "dramas"?

Before sharing how an elderly sister inadvertently challenged my thinking regarding certain practices which churches designate by the words above, let me briefly discuss how these words are generally used.

Your own religious background and upbringing most likely have shaped your thinking regarding which of the above words you would use to denote such practices as communion or baptism. Those in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed traditions would call these practices “sacraments”, i.e. outward signs which they believe bestow or communicate inner graces from God. Roman Catholics would include 5 other practices with communion and baptism for a total of 7 sacraments, while Reformed congregations would only acknowledge two “sacraments”.

Most evangelical congregations which are not Reformed would call baptism and communion “ordinances”. While recognizing that they are outward acts which speak of inner or spiritual realities, they would not see the acts themselves as actually bestowing grace but simply symbolizing or testifying to facts already established.

But all would agree that neither the word “sacraments” nor “ordinances” are scriptural words which are used to specifically designate communion or baptism. There are many other “ordinances” mentioned in scripture but when we speak of “church ordinances” we generally mean physical acts or practices which believers in the Lord Jesus are commanded to observe to which God has attached spiritual significance.

Growing up in Baptist meetings and then having fellowship with believers in assemblies of brethren (Christians gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus), we traditionally acknowledged “two ordinances”: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But in the brethren assemblies another physical practice having spiritual significance was also observed but was not designated an “ordinance”. In these assemblies men kept their hair short and women generally grew theirs longer and men uncovered their heads in assembly meetings and women, in those meetings, covered theirs.

When I was just a young boy, most women covered their heads or wore hats in public and in church meetings. But when the styles changed and women no longer wore hats in public, hats also disappeared from church meetings. But in the assemblies, with which we were associated for 16 years, women continue to cover their heads in assembly meetings because of the teaching of the first half of I Corinthian chapter 11.

But it was while we were in the assembly that met in the Gospel Hall in Collingwood, Ontario that my thinking was challenged by an elderly sister in the assembly whose name was Mabel Williams. Mrs. Williams’ husband, William Williams had passed away some years before but they had served together for many years as pioneer missionaries in Venezuela. Regarding scriptural principles of Gospel preaching and assembly gatherings of first century Christians, William Williams had written a book, “It Can Be Done”. It was his personal testimony that first century church practices were still valid and could be followed with great blessing even in the 20th century.

I never had the opportunity to meet William Williams. But our family often enjoyed Mrs. Williams’ kind and generous hospitality and I occasionally helped her with chores in her yard or doing simple repairs to her home in Collingwood. One Saturday morning I was doing some chores in her yard and went back to the house to inquire what she wanted me to do next. As I stepped through her front door, I found Mrs. Williams on her knees in prayer in her own living room with her Bible open in front of her. Nothing was unusual about this, but what struck me and deeply impressed me was that she had her head covered with a veil!

The assemblies where Mrs. Williams enjoyed fellowship with the Lord’s people taught that women’s heads were to be covered only in assembly meetings. But the thought that struck me at that moment was, “Mrs. Williams is not guided in this practice by what the assemblies teach, but rather by what the Word of God says!

I had not given this matter any serious thought before this moment, but seeing Mrs. Williams with her head covered in prayer in the privacy of her own home, I instantly recalled that I Cor.11 did NOT instruct men to uncover and women to cover their heads in assembly meetings, but rather whenever they were involved in one of two activities, namely when they, themselves, were praying or prophesying!

And this got me pondering another radical idea! Is it possible, I wondered, that there may not be just two but rather three physical practices which portray spiritual realities which are important to God? You can call them “sacraments” or “ordinances” if you like, but I began, not long after this, to think of such practices as “DRAMAS”! A drama tells a story, and it seems to me that every time a believer is baptized in water, every time we break bread and remember the Lord Jesus and every time believing men pray with their heads uncovered and believing women pray with theirs covered we are telling very important stories!

I began thinking of the stories that are told when we obey the Lord's commands in these matters:
- Baptism tells a story about the dead. (It is a picture of a burial.)
-Our remembrance of the Lord in communion tells a story about the bread. (It is a picture of His body.) and
- Our conduct when praying or prophesying tells a story about our Head! (God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of the man and man is the head of the woman.)

(There is so much more, so I must continue at another time!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Puzzled by Albert McShane!

As I mentioned a few days ago…it was Albert McShane, an older brother from Ireland, who made a statement which first got me thinking “outside of the box” of the traditional interpretation of John 14. In a 1989 Toronto conference Bible reading on John 14, he made a statement that surprised me….Regarding the Lord Jesus, statement, “I go to prepare a place for you”, Mr. McShane commented, “He’s going away by dying for us.”

That one statement stuck in my mind because it was so radically opposed to everything I’d ever heard or believed about John 14 previously!!

However, as I began to study the chapter a few years later and checked out Mr. McShane’s suggestion with the text, it seemed to be entirely in keeping with John 14,15 and 16! I concluded that if His “going away” actually was His going to die on the cross, consistency with the text would demand that His “coming again” would be His coming out of death by resurrection. As I’ve recently shown, this is entirely consistent with the Lord Jesus’ teaching in John14,15 and 16.

So when I found a later article written by Mr. McShane, you can imagine my surprise to learn that, in spite of believing that the Lord’s “going away” was His going to die on the cross, he still believed that His “coming again” was His coming from heaven at the rapture!

In the August 1996 issue of “Truth and Tidings” (a Bible teaching magazine), brother Mc Shane wrote an article, “A Comparison of John and Paul”, in which he wrote the following:
“John… records the Lord's wonderful promise to His own, "I will come again and receive you unto myself' (John 14:3). In this promise we have the "rapture" referred to, for it is not Christ coming down to earth to set up His kingdom, but rather His coming to take His own to the many mansions.”

From a man who stated his belief that the Lord Jesus’ going away (John 14:2 and 3a) was by His death, I cannot for the life of me understand how he could still retain the idea that the rapture (the Lord Jesus’ coming from heaven) was the subject of John 14:3b!

Since brother McShane was promoted to glory in 2002, I cannot contact him to ask him, personally, about his understanding of John 14. So I have been doing some research to try to locate any written or spoken ministry of his relative to John 14. Just this morning I have ordered from the UK two recordings of Bible readings on John 14 which Mr. McShane conducted. So I hope to learn more from those.

If anyone reading this post knows of any writings of his on John 14 or of any other audio recordings of ministry of his on the same chapter, I would very much appreciate hearing from you! You can simply leave a comment below or email me at bwood4d@gmail.com.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Where Did the Lord Jesus say He was as He spoke John 14?

The answers which I discovered in the very text of scripture relative to the questions in previous posts made me realize that Albert McShane had realized a truth of scripture that many others had missed entirely, i.e. that the Lord Jesus was speaking about "going away" by dying for us within a few hours, NOT about ascending to heaven some 40 days later! But before I could entirely reject the common teaching which I had believed and taught for years, I had to be absolutely convinced in my own mind by seeking answers to a number of other crucial questions.....

4.Probably the most important question of all was this: "Where did the Lord Jesus say that He was at the moment when He was speaking the words of John 14:1-4,6,7,9 and 10?" The reason why this is a most important question is this: The Lord Jesus said...."I will come again and receive you unto myself that WHERE I AM (present tense as he was speaking) there ye may be also." He did not say, "...that where I will go (future tense) there ye may be also."

In John 14:10,11 the Lord Jesus told His disciples precisely where He was at the moment He was speaking to them. "Believest thou not that I AM IN THE FATHER and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me (the Lord Jesus was the Father's house!), He doeth the works. Believe me that I AM IN THE FATHER, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake."

5. When the Lord Jesus said that He was "the way, the truth and the life", did He claim to be "the way to heaven" or "the way to the Father"?

"...no man cometh unto the Father but by me." John 14:6
I don't know why, but I had always understood, in spite of what the verse said, that it really "meant" that Jesus was the way to heaven!!!

6. Does scripture teach that, after Jesus came back OUT OF DEATH in resurrection, believers in Him are actually IN THE FATHER?

Yes, it does! John 14:20 says, "In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father and ye in me and I in you." Also 1 John 2:24 says, "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father."

7.Does scripture teach that, when the Lord Jesus returns FROM HEAVEN, believers go TO HEAVEN?

No, It doesn't! As I searched out the answer to this question, I was absolutely astounded to learn that when the Lord Jesus descends from heaven there is not a single line of scripture that teaches that He takes a "U turn" in the clouds and returns to heaven!! Rather scripture clearly teaches that His return will be in like manner as the disciples saw Him go!

-When He went, He ascended from earth to heaven, so when He returns, He descends from heaven to earth! (Acts 1 with Zech.14)

-He ascended from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12) and will descend to the very same spot!! (Zech.14:4,5)

-He was last seen in the clouds (Acts 1:9) and, as He returns, He will be first seen in the clouds (Matt.24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; I Thess.4:17 and Rev.1:2)

It is we who make the "U turn"! We ascend to meet the Lord in the air (I Thess.4:17) and then will be manifested with Him (II Thess.1:10) as He continues His descent to the Mount of Olives the very same day. (Zech 14:4,5)

When I first heard Mr McShane speak in Toronto in 1989, I had no idea that the idea he suggested from John 14 would have such radical effects upon my thinking and convictions relative to end-times prophecy!! But the questions that were thus raised and were being answered by the very words of scripture were challenging everything I'd ever been taught about the coming of the Lord! The next question for which I had to find a scriptural answer was this....


8. Does scripture promise believers rest from trouble seven years prior to the Lord Jesus’ REVELATION? I had always been taught, believed and had taught to others the idea of a "pre-tribulation rapture" of the saints 7 years prior to the Lord Jesus' revelation in power and glory. This question compelled me to search the scriptures to see whether or not these things were so. (Acts 17:11). I was astounded again to discover that scripture never once teaches such an idea but actually answers the above question with a resounding "NO!"

The very words of scripture declare (1) what God is going to recompense to those who trouble the saints, (2) what God is going to recompense to us who are troubled and (3) when those promises will be fulfilled. In II Thessalonians 1 the apostle Paul declared these truths in no uncertain terms "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Thess.1:6-8)

All my former teaching on this subject of the coming of the Lord was shaken at it's foundations when I saw that the very words of scripture showed me that the catching up of the saints, the gathering of the elect from earth and heaven and our redemption, the redemption of our bodies, occurs AFTER the tribulation! See Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, Luke 21:25-28, and Romans 8:23 ( The “redemption” of our bodies Rom.8:32 and the "redemption" of Luke 21:28 is the very same word and the very same event!)
Thus, I believe scripture clearly teaches a post-tribulation rapture.
But another very commonly accepted teaching was also to be challenged in my mind by the very words of the text of scripture!....

9. I asked, "Does scripture ever teach that believers "go to heaven when they die or when the Lord comes?" (I could not have been more surprised when I saw that such a belief had no grounds whatsoever in the scriptures!)

No, it doesn't! The truth of scripture is that people go to heaven when they live NOT when they die! All in scripture who ever went to heaven, went there while their physical bodies were alive!
-Enoch
Gen.5:24 and Heb.11:5
-Elijah II Kings 2:11,
-the Lord Jesus Acts 1:9-11,
-the apostle Paul II Cor.12:2;
-the apostle John Rev.4:1,2;
-and every believer Ephesians 2:6) One of the many blessings with which we have already been blessed in heavenly places in Christ (Eph.1:3) is that we have already been ‘seated in heavenly places (literally "above the heavens"!) in Christ". Ephesians 2:6 This not simply "positional truth" as many claim! It is an actual fact! This is as much an actual and very practical fact as the following:
-the fact that we died with Christ Romans 6:2
-the fact that we rose with Christ Col.3:1 and Eph.2:5
-the fact that we are all baptized in one Spirit into one Body I Cor.12:13
-the fact that we are forgiven Romans 4:7; Ephesians 4:32; I John 2:12
-the fact that we are justified Romans 5:1
-the fact that we are in Christ and Christ is in us John 14:20
-the fact that we have been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's son Colossians 1:13
-the fact that we are accepted in the Beloved Ephesian 1:6
-the fact that we have been indwelt by the Spirit of God John 14:17
-the fact that we have been sealed by the Spirit untio the day of redemption Eph.1:13,14
-the fact that we have been made nigh to God Eph.2:13
-the fact that we have been reconciled to God Eph.2:16
-the fact that we have access by one Spirit unto the Father Eph.2:18
-the fact that we are built together as a habitation of God Eph.2:22 etc, etc, etc!!!

Thus, when the Lord Jesus said, "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" ....He was NOT speaking of going away to prepare dwelling places for believers IN HEAVEN! He was speaking of going away to Calvary and into death so that when He came again out of death in resurrection power, we might be IN THE FATHER where He was! John 14 is all about relationship in the Father, NOT about "rapture into heaven"!

The latter view cannot be substantiated by any other actual statements of scripture! Although it is a very commonly accepted teaching and not even questioned by most, I have come to the conclusion that it is nevertheless an unscriptural teaching!



(I fully realize that such things are a radical departure from what many of you have been taught all your lives. I do not expect you to change your mind after reading a few of my posts on the subject! Search the scriptures for yourself and ask as many questions as you like and purpose to find answers to those questions in the very words of scripture. Feel free to ask such questions in the comments below and let us search the scriptures together for the anwers.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

IN HEAVEN OR IN THE FATHER??

As I began to study John 14 in earnest, the question that I wanted to answer from the very text of scripture was this: “Did the Lord Jesus, in John 14, speak about going to heaven and thus preparing a place for us IN HEAVEN, or did He speak of going to the cross to prepare a place for us IN THE FATHER?”

So here are the questions I asked along with the results of my findings:

1.Which is in the context of the chapter? Heaven or the Father? "Heaven" is mentioned 19 times in John's Gospel but the nearest places to John 14 are 12:28 and 17:1. So it is difficult to maintain that "heaven" is the subject under discussion in John 14! But "the Father" is a major theme in John's Gospel. He is referred to 119 times in all but is found 21 times in John 14 alone! So “the Father” definitely is in the context of this chapter!

2.Where, what, or who is "the Father's house" in which there are many "mansions", "abodes" or "dwellings"? Is this a place in the universe i.e. “heaven” or is it a person? The Greek word translated "mansions" is MONE (Strong's #3438). It is only used one other place in scripture and that is John 14:23 “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (Notice here that the abode of both the Father and the Son is with people who love God and obey His Word.)

MONE is derived from the Greek word MENE (Strong's #3306). This word is used by the Lord Jesus in John 14 and 15 of the "abode" or "dwelling" of divine persons and of believers. In all of these cases the "abode" or "dwelling" is a person or a person’s love! As the Lord Jesus uses the word in these two chapters, He never once uses it with reference to a place!
John 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth <3306> in me, he doeth the works.
John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide <3306> with you for ever;
John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth <3306> with you, and shall be in you.
John 14:25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present <3306> with you.
John 15:4 Abide <3306> in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide <3306> in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide <3306> in me.
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth <3306> in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
John 15:6 If a man abide <3306> not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
John 15:7 If ye abide <3306> in me, and my words abide <3306> in you, ye shall askwhat ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye <3306> in my love.
John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide <3306> in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide <3306> in his love.
John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain <3306> in you, and that your joy might be full.

Since the Father dwelt in the Lord Jesus (John 14:10), the Lord Jesus, Himself, was the Father's house! “In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.” There are many mansions/abodes/dwelling places in that house and thus believers abide in Christ. (John 15) Our being “in Christ” is a very oft repeated theme throughout the epistles!

Believers are also the habitation or house of God! Ephesians 2:22; I Tim.3:15
This very radical teaching of the interhabitation of divine persons and the saints was introduced for the very first time by the Lord Jesus, Himself, in John 6:56. It was never mentioned anywhere else or at any time prior to John 6. But the Lord Jesus develops that truth in John 13-17 and then the apostles expanded the revelation of that awesome truth throughout the epistles.

So all the scriptural evidence relative to “mansions", "abodes" or "dwellings” in the context of this portion of John’s Gospel reveals that the Lord Jesus was speaking not about a place but rather of persons!


3.Where was the Lord Jesus "going"? From where would He be "coming again" to receive His disciples unto Himself so that they could be where He was? Was He going to heaven for a long time, or was He going into death for a little time?

In order to answer these questions we need to find out what scriptural facts would be true at his "going" and what scriptural facts would be true at His "coming again".
Notice the following things that the Lord Jesus said would be true when He went away:
-"yet a little while and the world seeth me no more" John 14:18
-"a little while and ye shall not see me" John 16:17
-"ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful" John 16:20
These things were true when the Lord Jesus went to Calvary and died, not when He ascended up into heaven! The world (unbelievers) never saw the Lord Jesus alive again after He died. And His disciples were sorrowful after He died (Luke 24:17). But when the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven the disciples were not sad but rather were filled with great joy! (Luke 24:50-52)

Now notice the things that He said would be true at His "coming again":
-"I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am (I am in the Father) there ye may be also...no man cometh unto the Father but by me." John 14:3,10,6
-"but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also." John 14:19
-"At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me, and I in you. " John 14:20
-"and, again a little while and ye shall see me because I go to the Father." John 16:16
-" Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: but your sorrow shall be turned into joy" John 16:20
-"I will see you again, and your joy no man taketh from you." John 16:22
-"And in that day ye shall ask me nothing...Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it unto you." John 16:23
All of these things were true after the Lord Jesus returned in resurrection. We do not need to wait for His return from heaven for these things to be true! We are in the Father, we live, we know that the Lord Jesus is in the Father, and we in Him and He in us, we may have fullness of joy, and we can ask the Father anything in His name and He will give it to us.

Here again, there is not one detail that the Lord Jesus said would be true at His “going” which fits with His ascension into heaven! (See Luke 24 and Acts 1) They were all true when He died on the cross!
Nor is there any evidence in scripture that even one of the things that the Lord Jesus said would be true at His “coming again” that must wait until He returns from heaven! They all happened after His resurrection!

By the time I had realized these simple truths from the text in the very words of the Lord Jesus, Himself, I knew that brother Albert McShane was onto something that many other teachers and commentators had missed!

But I still had many more questions which needed answers. So will continue in another post…

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

John 14: Ascension, return & rapture OR cross, resurrection & relationship with Father?

A few weeks ago, I listened to the CD of that entire John 14 Bible reading which was recorded at an Easter Toronto Conference in 1989. Harold Paisley, the brother who had opened the Bible reading, stated quite emphatically, “The first three verses tell us of the rapture.”, “This is the foundation teaching on the rapture.” And “I go, speaks of His ascension.” Five other preachers seemed to agree with brother Paisley.

However, when Albert McShane had a chance to make a few comments, I was astounded for I’d never heard such ideas before! Brother McShane said, “He’s going away by dying for us!” And later on he commented, “The Lord is showing them that He is going to the Father and to bring them to Himself.”

I did not immediately study this question for myself but these thoughts were stored for future reference. But when I began to study John 14 for myself a few years later they came to the fore and I had to investigate the question: “Did the Lord Jesus, in John 14, speak about going to heaven to prepare a place for us in heaven OR did He speak of going to the cross to prepare a place for us in the Father?

I knew that answering this question would have far reaching effects on what I believed about many things!
For example:
(1)Was the Lord Jesus in John 14 talking about a far off “coming again” , i.e. the rapture (our being caught up to meet the Lord in the air), which is yet future for us today OR was He talking about a very near “coming again” which would transpire within a few days, i.e. His resurrection, which is now an historical fact for us as New Covenant believers?

(2) Did the Lord Jesus yet have unfinished business to attend to after His ascension, namely the preparation of a place for us in heaven , OR did He really mean what He said on the cross, namely, “It is finished!”

(3) Is it true that “believers go to heaven when they die” OR has everyone without exception who has ever gone to heaven gone there while they were alive in their physical body???

(4) Did the Lord Jesus or do any of the scriptures teach that, when He returns from heaven, He will make a “U turn” and take us back to heaven with Him, OR do the scriptures teach that when He returns from heaven we are caught up to meet Him in the air and that we take a “U turn” and return with Him to the earth?

The answers to all of these and many other crucial questions are inescapably based on this crucial teaching of the Lord Jesus, Himself, in John 14! Therefore it is vitally important that we understand what the Lord was teaching His disciples and us in this pivotal chapter!

When Albert McShane spoke his own simple observations at that 1989 Easter Conference in Toronto, I’m sure he had no idea what radical changes his words would effect in the mind and heart of a young man who was listening in that huge auditorium! (To be continued….)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Transformed Thinking re. the Lord's Going and Coming Again in John 14

At a conference convened on the Easter weekend of 1989 by Gospel Hall Assemblies in Toronto, I attended a Bible reading on John chapter 14. Seven different preachers from Canada, the United States and the UK participated. But, of that hour-long Bible reading, one sentence spoken by one brother is all that I specifically remember! I did remember that most of the men in that Bible reading believed that when the Lord Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you…” , He was referring to His ascension to heaven. And concerning the Lord’s next statement, “And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also,” they believed that the Lord Jesus was speaking of His return from heaven to receive believers at the rapture to be with him in heaven.

So in the midst of a discussion where 6 men believed that the Lord Jesus’ “going away” was by way of His ascension, the statement that stuck so clearly in my mind years later, was this,
He was going to go away by dying for us.” I think this idea lodged itself indelibly in my memory simply because it was so radically different to every thought I’d had about John 14 before!

It is only recently that I’ve been able to contact the brother who for years has recorded the messages at the Toronto Conferences. He kindly agreed to search his archives of conference messages, record that Bible reading on a CD and mail it to me. So I want to express my deep appreciation to Jeff Macko of Toronto. Through his diligence I have been able to identify the man who planted a very important “seed thought” into my mind back in April of ’89!

That man was Albert McShane, an older brother from Northern Ireland. In the August 2002 issue of the magazine, “Truth and Tidings” I discovered that Mr. McShane was promoted to glory on May 20th, 2002, 13 years after I heard him in Toronto.

Albert McShane

It was not until the late 1990’s that I began a personal study of John 14. It was only then that the thought, planted by Mr. Mc Shane, came back to mind. So I began to investigate to see whether there was any merit to his suggestion. If one understood that the Lord Jesus’ “going away” was actually His going into death on the cross, consistency with that idea would demand that His “coming again” would be his coming out of death in his resurrection! If that was the case, another question also had to be answered…namely, “Where was He (as He spoke these words to His disciples)?” and thus, “Where would we be when received unto Himself?” As I searched the text for clues in the Lord Jesus’ own words, I found two facts that amazed me because they were so simple and yet I had never noticed them before!

The first clue was the Lord Jesus’ statement in John 14:11 where He told his disciples where He was (present tense) as He was talking with them. He said, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me:” I then realized that I had always misunderstood what He had said in Verse 3! Although the verse says, “I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also,”…..I had always thought it meant, “I will come again from heaven (an idea which is utterly foreign to the context!) and receive you unto myself; that where I am going, (i.e. to heaven) there ye may be also”!!!

The second clue came when I read verse 6 and realized that I had understood that it meant something very different from what it actually said! This is what I’d always understood from verse 6…”Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man goes to heaven but by me.” But for the first time in my life, I realized that the Lord Jesus meant exactly what He had said, i.e. “…No man cometh unto the Father but by me”!!

It was only then that I began to realize the extent of the false ideas I’d unwittingly adopted from totally false assumptions about this chapter!

I’d been taught all my life that the Lord was talking here about “going to heaven” and “coming back from heaven” so that we might be where He was “in heaven”! But now I realized that not only was “heaven” never mentioned in John 14, it was not even a major theme in the entire Gospel of John! (It is mentioned twice in ch.1, 3 times in ch.3, 9 times in ch.6, once in ch.12 and once in ch.17.) But in contrast, “the Father” is mentioned 119 times in John’s Gospel and 21 times in ch.14 alone!

I began to wonder, how could so many people have been so wrong about the understanding of this favourite passage of scripture??? How did we assume the Lord Jesus was talking about being in heaven when in actual fact he was talking about being in the Father???

Before I could think of teaching such a radically “new” idea, I had lots more questions that had to be answered from the very words of the text. (I’m sorry, but those will have to wait for my next post!)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Helen Allen's Conversion to Christ

A few weeks after I was saved, I was baptized again and was soon received back into the assembly at the Collingwood Gospel Hall (this time as a genuine believer!) We continued to gather there with a few of the Lord’s people until March of 1989. It was then that we felt the Lord was leading us to Norwich (about 3 hours to the south west) to help another brother, Steve Kember, who was preaching the Gospel there and seeking to establish a new assembly of believers in that area. But here, let me share a bit of Helen’s story…

Helen Ferguson married Steve Allen and their daughters, Stephanie and Cassandra were born before we left Collingwood. When we left, Helen remembers that I asked her to be sure to call me as soon as she got saved! She agreed to do so. (But I was to wait over 8 years before that call came!)

Helen had been about 14 years of age when the others in her family had been saved. She professed to be saved as well. The Christians were so thrilled that it seemed no one seriously questioned Helen about her own experience of salvation but accepted her simple testimony at face value. But it was not long before Helen realized she did not have peace with God. She often heard folks talking about her and saying, “Helen is such a good girl!” But in reality, these comments only made it harder for her to really come to grips with where she actually stood with God. But finally at the age of 19, Helen realized she could not let herself or others continue under such an illusion. She knew she must acknowledge openly that she did not have peace with God, that she was not a child of God and that she did not belong in an assembly of believers. So she withdrew from the assembly. She had no idea how the Lord would use her decision to speak so loudly to me about my own standing with God!

Like many who have often heard the Gospel preached, Helen struggled with what it was to “believe”. Intellectually, she accepted the truth of the Gospel message and could honestly say she had never disbelieved it! But knowing facts about Christ and resting in confidence upon His finished work for her own salvation were two different matters!

She longed to be saved and attended Gospel meetings regularly . In 1996 two preachers – Tim Walker and Jim Beattie came to Collingwood for a series of Gospel meetings. She wished they would come for a visit with her at home but was too timid to ask them! But one night after a meeting they asked her if they could come to see her. She gladly agreed!

In conversation with her, it did not take them long to realize that Helen was struggling with what it meant to “ believe” the Gospel. So Tim Walker asked her, “Helen, if your husband, Steve, wrote you a letter –would you believe what he wrote to you?” She responded, “Of course I would!” She understood clearly, the illustration: Not only had God given His Son, the Lord Jesus, but He had also written a letter (the scriptures) to tell her what Christ had accomplished for her.

Then Jim Beattie turned to Titus 1:2 and read the words of the apostle Paul concerning the truth of the Gospel , “..in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested His word through preaching…”

Helen then realized, that if she could not only trust the facts of what her husband might write, but also rest in full confidence that he wrote the truth, how much more could she rest in full confidence for her eternal salvation upon the faithfulness of a God who could not lie! And so it was that Helen Allen, at the age of 35, came to personally rest in faith upon the faithfulness of God revealed in Christ. It was then that, in the words of John 5:24, she “passed from death unto life”!

So you can imagine how thrilled I was, over 8 years after we had moved from Collingwood, to receive a phone call from Helen telling me that she had at last trusted Christ as her own Saviour and had the peace of God knowing her sins were forgiven!

(In my next post I’ll return to the spring of 1989, about a month after we had moved to Norwich. At a Conference of Christians in the city of Toronto, during a Bible reading on John 14, a radical idea would be suggested by an older preacher from Ireland. That idea would eventually upset my former understanding of the coming of the Lord and the order of events of end times prophecy!)