A Tale of Two Churches

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Paul once prophesied that a day would come when many lose faith and apostatize. In refuting the idea that the Lord’s return had already occurred, Paul said this: “No one is to deceive you in any way! For it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction . . .” (2 The. 2:3).

I have written about the Antichrist—the “man of lawlessness”—here, but the first part of the verse is the topic at hand. Paul clearly said that, before the end, the “apostasy” would take place. This term (apostasia) is used just twice in all the NT, and it refers to a “defection” or “revolt.” Acts 21:21 is the only other time it’s used, where it refers to leaving the customs of the Mosaic Law. Likewise, the apostasy Paul is referring to is a defection from the Christian faith: a “falling away” of the church.

Jesus spoke about this, saying: “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Mt. 24:10-11). It is also echoed in a text like 2 Timothy 4:3: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” In my last article, I discussed some of what these “itching ears” are being taught.

There will be a time when many fall from the faith and the church splits into two groups: the Bride of Christ and the apostate church. In fact, I believe we are seeing this play out right in front of us. Certainly, false teachings and apostasy have always existed but both have picked up a speed of late rivaled only by light itself.

The late archbishop, Fulton Sheen, described the apostate church with stunning accuracy more than seventy years ago. In his 1948 “Signs of the Times” sermon, he said this about the church that would be governed by the Antichrist and established through Satan:

“He will set up a counter-Church which will be the ape of the Church, because he the Devil, is the ape of God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of the Antichrist that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ. In desperate need of God, whom he nevertheless refuses to adore, modern man in his loneliness and frustration will hunger more and more for membership in a community that will give him enlargement of purpose, but at the cost of losing himself in some vague collectivity.”

I invite everyone to take a moment to truly reflect upon this statement. It’s both powerful and prescient.  

The final phrase stood out to me, in particular: “ . . . enlargement of purpose, but at the cost of losing himself in some vague collectivity.” This almost flawlessly epitomizes the members of the apostate church. They are part of something, but also nothing.

This is not about those who loosely claim to be “religious” or would say, if specifically asked, that they believe in God. Such people carry no spiritual weight and are not even thought to. Rather, the apostate church is about those who outwardly carry the banner of Christianity and seek to be its representatives.

This is a church full of people, many of whom are actively involved in local congregations (if not functioning as pillars). These are pastors, youth pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, vestry members, communications coordinators, and a host of other roles. They set up websites and perform online ministries. They lead small groups and arrange gatherings. This church is rich in congregants who are eager to “do church together” and invite others to join in. They sing songs and pray lengthy prayers. They offer a wealth of ways that one can worship God and participate in fellowship. Their lives revolve around Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings, and unscripted times when the need arises. They are nothing if not dedicated.

All these things are true and yet, somehow, this church is bereft of power. It’s vapid and empty; truly hollow. It’s the luscious fruit that turns to mush when you take hold of it; deceptively rotten. There is shine but no substance. It is a lamp that bears no light—a heap of salt without flavor. Their spiritual roots go no deeper than their deepities. This church boasts a nebulous concept of love, at the expense of its ability to seek justice. It teaches people to be “nice” but never to be courageous. It favors agreement over clarity and comfort over truth. It fears death but despises life. Secular experts are its prophets and apostles. Its priests wear lab coats and create deceptive models. It values knowledge over wisdom, possessing little of the former and none of the latter.

This church’s members have Jesus on their lips but Caesar in their hearts and minds.

I could go on, but we cannot allow these poetic descriptions—though realistic—to detract from the point. The apostate church is not some abstraction or a cautionary tale of what may “someday” come to be.

Make no mistake about it: the apostate church is here.

It exists all around us. If you wish to see it, simply read the latest article of your mainstream Christian publication, or listen to its biggest voices take to radio or television. Hear them tout the Covid vaccine gospel, stating that “Jesus would advocate” for them, that they are a “gift from God,” and even that the aborted children used in the creation and/or testing of the vaccines are comparable to Jesus giving his life for the world. Learn how they have opened their doors as vaccination centers and rallied members to go out into their communities, not proselytizing for Jesus but seeking souls for the likes of Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates. At the same time, they condemn the “conspiracy theorists” who raise serious concerns about the origins of the virus, our possible role with it, how it has been reported, and what agenda may really be pushing it all. Observe their outer mask that says nothing of Christ but simply reads, “vaccinated.”

[All this, as deaths and injuries from the injections are proving to be a serious problem. The issues with reporting the cases and deaths have been known from the onset, and the overall narrative has never added up. I discuss these things throughout this blog, especially within its endnotes. Please check this out, you will find it interesting]

Watch them unabashedly support the abomination of God’s marriage covenant. See them ignore the many who were murdered, maimed, or financially destroyed by the “peaceful protests” of 2020, while echoing false narratives about events that literally pale in comparison. Watch them blissfully ignore the incalculable death and despair brought about by the lockdown measures our governments have thrust upon the world. So long as we “crush the virus”—and the lockdowns have done no such thing—the collateral damage is irrelevant. Observe them as they promote globalist health agendas and a one world religion. Read their scientific doctrines about how God’s glorious act of creating humanity was accomplished through evolutionary processes that neither directly involve God nor could even have anticipated our existence.[1]

More to the point, see how their “Christian perspectives” align with those from the secular world on virtually every consequential matter.

Maybe that’s the ultimate indictment. The apostate church is nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the world because it’s just like the rest of the world. Ironically, its religious zeal has caused it to merge with a community that despises God and worships Caesar. But there certainly is an “enlargement of purpose” in this “vague collectivity.” They have joined the masses—become one with the world—at the expense of their Christian identity.

As Jesus put it: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mk. 8:36)?

The good news is that the true church, the Bride of Christ (or the remnant), cannot fall. It will not be overtaken. It cannot be destroyed by the media, corrupt politicians, optional Christianity subscribers, the spiritual forces of evil, or anything else in the cosmos. Many will (and are) defecting from true faith but this act is resulting in the purification of the Body of Christ. The church is being pruned, and the dead branches will be bundled and burned.

When Jesus returns, he will indeed find faith on earth. It will not come from the non-believing world or the apostate church that mirrors it. Jesus will find faith in his beautiful Bride, the glorious and holy church that has no spots, wrinkles, or blemishes (Eph. 5:27).

While the apostate church will be awaiting its destruction, the true Bride will be anxiously awaiting the return of the Bridegroom. The marriage supper of the Lamb will certainly occur, and blessed are those who are invited to it.

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Looking for a new book to read? Check out my books below:

God Made the Aliens: Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact

Spiritual Things: Exploring our Connection to God, the Angels, and the Heavenly Realm

Missing Verses: 15 Beliefs the Bible Doesn’t Teach

The Death Myth: Uncovering what the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife

Footnotes


[1] As one of countless possible examples, consider evolutionary creationist, Kenneth Miller. In his book, Finding Darwin’s God (272), he said: “mankind’s appearance on this planet was not pre-ordained”, and that we are, “an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.” If you’re wondering how that squares with God directly creating man in His image and as the pinnacle of Creation, it doesn’t.

Optional Christianity

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I could have called this blog “Lukewarm Christianity,” but there is far more involved here than apathy.

As time goes on, and I get a better and better pulse for what passes as “Christian” in 21st century America (and beyond), I cannot help but mourn in my spirit. Though I am certainly not comparing myself to the prophets and apostles of Scripture, I feel that I at least share the same sadness and astonishment that they felt in their respective eras.

They had to watch their fellow Jews and Christians fall from faith. They witnessed the rise of hollow religion: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mt. 15:8). They saw many not only apostatize but become reprobates. The prophets watched as the people rebelled against God, rejected their messages, and put them to death. The apostles watched the Jewish leadership cheer at the death of Jesus, proclaiming “we have no king but Caesar!”

I—like those of you who are reading this, even if you don’t realize it—am watching the church erode around me: right before my very eyes. It has become feckless and neutered of its power. When you get down to it, this isn’t simply the corruption of an institution; it is the splitting of the most spiritually powerful institution in world history. 

There are now two clear and definable churches that exist in the world: the Bride of Christ (or the remnant) and the apostate church. We might compare these two establishments to the righteous and wicked “women” of Revelation. One gave rise to the Holy One and the other martyred God’s holy ones. One is pure and the other adulterated. While this stark contrast once applied to the Jewish people, it now applies to the Christians. The existence of these two churches is something I will exclusively cover in the next article.  

At present, I want to touch upon one of the primary reasons why the corporate Body of Christ has come to such a pass: why it has so clearly devolved into two different bodies.

Though it has been a lengthy process, the 21st century manifestation of the church has been massively tainted by false teachings. It has embraced heresy wherever you look. One of those problematic heresies is that following God’s commands is optional. Put another way, our part with Jesus in no way depends upon our obedience. The obsession—coupled with the bastardization—of the doctrine of “salvation by faith alone” has much to do with this issue, to be sure.

However, the church’s overall dearth of theological understanding, lack of conviction, and absence of genuine zeal cannot be reduced to a false view about faith and works. While this may be a large piece of the puzzle, it is still but one piece.

In “Q and A” form, let me show a few ways that this frequently plays out.

Q. Should we use our time, energy, and resources for God’s Kingdom? A. Absolutely. But the effort spent on these things plays no role in salvation.

Q. Are works involved in salvation? Do I need to do anything? A. Absolutely not. Simply believe and it’s done!

Q. As a follower of Jesus, do I need to be baptized? A. Well . . . you don’t need to be baptized, but you probably should.

Q. Must I actively read the Bible and be informed about the Christian faith? A. “Must” you? No. Knowledge doesn’t factor into salvation. But you should certainly try to be informed.

Just in these examples, I guarantee that some readers are already festering frustration. I am supporting works righteousness, right? Aren’t I attempting to make Christianity into a to-do list, rather than a matter of simple belief? (I point you to this article about faith and works).

At present, let’s take this another direction.

Consider this in a personal way. What if you truly believed that the things above ultimately have no role in your salvation? That is, whether you do them or not—and to whatever extent—it would neither qualify nor disqualify you from being saved.

How would you live? Would you leave sin and strive to be more like Christ? Would you give of your time and resources? Would your life be about spiritual transformation and reaching others for the Kingdom of God?

While most of us know the true answers to these questions, some will of course puff out their chests and say, “Yes. I would do all this even if I didn’t need to.”

Nonsense. But let’s look at this one more way. While so many other things could be included, ask yourself what the result would be if we taught new Christian converts the following things:

1) You are saved apart from your personal obedience.

2) Salvation is 100% about what Jesus did and 0% about you do.

3) Baptism is suggested but not necessary in salvation.

4) Spreading the gospel and making disciples is also suggested but not necessary in your salvation.

Unfortunately, we don’t have to ask what the result “would” be.

Vast numbers of church leaders have been teaching others these very things for eons. I have seen it firsthand, and in far too many church settings (though certainly not in all). I have read it in books and articles, heard it in sermons, and I have most definitely observed it via innuendo. One could write a book about all the common beliefs held within the church that are not scriptural!

In that vein, a fundamental—but often ignored or contested—teaching of the Bible is that people are not good. In fact, we are fallen and helpless apart from God’s activity in our lives. We inherit both the nature and body patterned after Adam, but we will need to be transformed into the image of Christ and receive a body like the one he rose from the grave with (1 Cor. 15:45-49). The Bible sets a high bar for morality, and there is a distinct reason for that: people tend to do only what is required. That is, most of us will do the bare minimum.

Give your child the option of cleaning their room once a week or once a month and see which they choose. Tell someone they can make the same salary by working either twenty hours a week or forty and see which they choose. Tell them it doesn’t matter how much work gets done when they are clocked-in and see how much they accomplish. Even the present—and completely corrupt, I might add—virus crisis is proof of this. The government has given people so much money to sit on their duffs that countless places cannot find employees. Why go to work if I can get paid to entertain myself? As one CEO recently put it: “If I was in my 20s and didn’t really have a career path laid out, I’d stay home and make the $18.80 an hour playing PlayStation until four o’clock in the morning.”

Scripture sets a high bar because God knows people, and He knows them much better than we do. God knows that people, in general, will seek out the lowest possible bar. It is human nature to do so. This is especially true if the same ends can be achieved by whatever means.

And that is exactly what we are dealing with, here. When the church tells its members that things are optional—that their salvation will not be affected, one way or the other—we all know how that will end. We now have swarms of misled people that either fail or refuse to do things because “they don’t need to.” They don’t actively engage the culture for Christ. They don’t worry about making converts, much less disciples. They put off being baptized or never do it at all. They neglect to do good deeds, to the glory of the Father in heaven (Mt. 5:16). “Technically speaking,” it’s all optional.

The damage that has been done cannot be calculated.

But the result has been a sifting process: a separation of the wheat from the chaff. We have an apostate church that views Christian living as optional. “As long as I believe that Jesus died for me, nothing else is needed. I am saved.” Thus, we have a license. This is a license to sin. It’s a license for spiritual apathy. It’s a license to live like Adam rather than Jesus.

Paul faced this mentality and flatly rebuked it: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (Rom. 6:15). James faced it, too: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (2:14).

The root of the problem can be answered with one point, which should serve as a reminder to us all: God does not make suggestions; He gives commands.

We are commanded to do good works.

We are commanded to be baptized.

We are commanded to be transformed into the image of Jesus.

We are commanded to preach the gospel and make disciples, baptizing them also.

We are told that, without carrying our crosses (Mt. 16:24) and following these commands (Jn. 14:21), we will be among those gathered and burned (Jn. 15:6). As Jesus once remarked:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Mt. 7:21-23).

In this sobering reality, we see the terrible cost of “optional Christianity.” The lie will result in the condemnation of many, and it is a lie belonging only to the apostate church and the satanic powers in charge of it.

That doomed and defective church is the topic of the next article.

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Looking for a new book to read? Check out my books below:

God Made the Aliens: Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact

Spiritual Things: Exploring our Connection to God, the Angels, and the Heavenly Realm

Missing Verses: 15 Beliefs the Bible Doesn’t Teach

The Death Myth: Uncovering what the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife

Is Baptism Necessary?

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Baptism has forever been one of the church’s most sacred sacraments. Even so, right now—today—a tremendous number of people who have professed their belief in Jesus are facing a major dilemma: do I need to be baptized? They are wondering, is it really necessary for salvation and will I be condemned without doing it?

In truth, people throughout the centuries have faced this quandary and many have no doubt anguished over it. This is very, very unfortunate. The reason is that the question, “Do I need to be baptized if I believe in Jesus?” should never exist. It shouldn’t be debated and puzzled over.

There should not have been doubts about the necessity of baptism over the last two thousand years, nor should there be any now. The answer is an emphatic “yes.”

All who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior need to be baptized, and as soon as possible.

If we are allowing Scripture to guide us on the matter, this teaching becomes irrefutable. The problem, of course, is that the Bible has often taken a back seat to human wisdom. Consider the following passages. Note that I have placed bolded italics at critical spots in each of them, so my emphasis!

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

“The one who has believed and has been baptized will be saved; but the one who has not believed will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). Note the second part too, which excludes the possibility that baptism (without belief) can save.

“In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:11-12).

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

1 Peter 3:20-21 makes this parallel between the Flood and baptism: “In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.” Baptism is an outward pledge—a symbol—of our allegiance to God.

There is a clear parallel between having our sins washed away and being baptized. It’s not surprising, then, that from these passages the church derived its creedal statement: “We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins.”

It is certainly worth noting that being baptized is a sign of following in Christ’s footsteps. Prior to truly beginning his ministry, Jesus first knew that even he needed to be baptized. When John asked him why he had come to be baptized, Jesus replied: “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15).

We learn from the Gospel of John that Jesus’ disciples were also baptizing people, even more than John the Baptist (Jn. 4:1-2). And why wasn’t Jesus baptizing them? John the Baptist plainly revealed the answer to this question: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt. 3:11).

These passages are straight to the point. The practice of the apostolic church was to preach the gospel and then baptize those who believe. This was not seen as two wholly separate events, as it is by most churches of our time. It was not about bringing people to Christ and then scheduling a baptism for the third quarter of the year, next November, or if the person ever feels like doing it.

The apostles and earliest disciples took new converts right to the nearest spot where baptism could be done, without delay. Acts 2:41 says, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Belief and baptism were really seen as one continuous act.

There are many more passages that could be mentioned, but this should prove the point. As far as the Bible explains things, those who believe must be baptized.

BUT . . . don’t you know about the thief??

Without fail, some will point to the thief on the cross and proclaim, “See, see! The criminal was saved without being baptized!” Apart from being about the only example in Scripture one could point to—the ultimate “proof text,” as it were—there are two powerful reasons why this objection is completely baseless.  

The first is that there was literally no way for the criminal to have been baptized. Was Jesus supposed to say, “Hey, even though we are both suffering beyond all compare and have only hours to live, let’s get you off that cross so you can get dunked!”? Would the Roman guards have agreed to that, anyway? These are rhetorical questions. If ever there were such a thing as extenuating circumstances, this was it.

Can’t God save one man, in an incredibly unusual situation, without him being baptized? Does that really have to apply to all people? I think not.

The second reason is that the new covenant had not officially begun until Jesus died on the cross. As Jesus said, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30); he had fulfilled Scripture and the old covenant requirements. This is why the temple vale was immediately torn in two (Mt. 27:51). Afterwards, those who follow Christ were commissioned—by Jesus himself—to preach the gospel of salvation and baptize those who believe:

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).

Again, baptism was being done prior to Jesus’ resurrection (as mentioned earlier). But it certainly took on an intensified purpose and became an imperative after the Resurrection.

Now, is it still the case that someone might come to Christ but be physically unable to be baptized? In a word, NO. Or, at least, almost always no. I remember baptizing my dying grandmother just a month or two before she passed. She had terrible COPD and severe osteoporosis. Her bones had become so brittle that they could break if she simply bent the wrong direction too quickly. Still, she received Jesus and knew she needed to be baptized. She was sprinkled with water and asked to recite her baptismal vowels.

There are very, very few cases where someone who believes cannot be baptized. As the old saying goes, “where there’s a will there’s a way.” God can provide a way, just as He did along a desert road when Phillip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). The man was compelled, there and then, to be baptized. It’s as though he just knew it must follow his acceptance of Jesus as Lord.

Those who are trying to find justification for not being baptized are simply making excuses. This speaks far more about their faith and heart condition than anything else.   

That said, it is important to note once more that baptism means nothing without faith. Someone can easily go down into the water as a sinner and simply come up as a wet one. The baptism part is unconditionally connected to the faith part.

Here and now, I strongly encourage anyone reading this to do those two things. 1. Believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and accept him as your Savior. Then . . . 2. Go and be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Don’t rely on excuses or attempt to find logical explanations to get around being baptized. Simply obey the commands of Christ: believe and be baptized. Do this today! Further, this is something believers should want and be compelled to do. Believing in Jesus should propel us toward obeying him, and this encompasses being baptized.

Jesus was baptized. The apostles were baptized and baptized others. Jesus commanded all his followers to be baptized and to baptize others.

This is one of those biblical issues that does not leave a lot of room for disagreement or debate.

In the end, can I say that it’s impossible to be saved without being baptized? In a sense, it’s like asking if someone can wait to repent until they are on their death bed. I can’t say yes or no to a certainty, and such judgment will not be up to us anyway (thankfully). 

What I can say, on both matters, is that no one should try to find out.

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Looking for a new book to read? Check out my books below:

God Made the Aliens: Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact

Spiritual Things: Exploring our Connection to God, the Angels, and the Heavenly Realm

Missing Verses: 15 Beliefs the Bible Doesn’t Teach

The Death Myth: Uncovering what the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife

The Greatest Denomination

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When I was young, there was an entertaining TV series called Highlander. The main premise of the show was that the protagonist, a man named Duncan MacCleod, was an immortal being who battled other immortals for global supremacy. As the theme goes, certain individuals were blessed to be immortals and only found out about this power upon their first death.

The recurring catchphrase of the show was as compelling as its many electric fight scenes: “In the end, there can be only one!” The “one” was of course a reference to the final immortal. When this person had finally defeated every other immortal opponent, he or she would reign for eternity as the ultimate warrior.

Taking out the obvious issue of trying to physically eliminate all competitors, the myriad church denominations of the world sometimes engage in a type of spiritual battle for ultimate supremacy. They vie for the crown of being the truest representation of what the Bible intended the church to be and, as expected, there can be only one!

In a moment, I will show that this issue has literally existed for as long as the church has. However, I have been tracking the matter for quite some time and it seems clear that the battle is heating up. As our world continues to devolve into further lunacy, certain churches struggle to stake their claim as the “true” or most complete denomination on earth.

It must first be mentioned that most denominations who seek to convince others of their supremacy do not typically state things so plainly. They don’t come out and say, “We are the greatest denomination and you must be a part of it to be saved!” No, it’s rather more subtle than that most of the time.

For a few examples, I have summarized several trains of thought that exist today.

“We are the true church that traces its lineage back to the apostles themselves. We are the spiritual descendants of Peter, whom Jesus gave headship over the church. Apart from us there is no salvation.” (CCC 846)

“We are the ‘remnant church’ of the last days. We are the church who keeps the commandments of God.”

“We are the church that exercises the full gifts of the Spirit, because we speak in tongues. We ‘have the Holy Spirit’.”

“We are the church who is dedicated to holy living. We proclaim the necessary teachings about sanctification.”

If you read between the lines—and these views are typically spelled out in the details of their beliefs and on the pulpit—what they are saying becomes clear. If you are not part of “our” denomination—be it Roman Catholic, Adventist, Pentecostal, 3CU, etc.—then you are on the outside looking in.

If you aren’t part of the Church Jesus allegedly founded through Peter, then you aren’t part of the church at all. If you aren’t part of the remnant church who “keeps God’s commandments,” then you are (by default) not truly keeping the commandments. If you don’t speak in tongues, then you don’t fully have the Spirit in your life. If you aren’t involved in the holiness churches, then you aren’t concerned enough with holy living.

All this creates an “in group” and an “out group.” For all intents and purposes, if you aren’t a part of a particular denomination then your salvation is uncertain (at the least). Certainly, many churches do not hold to such teachings. The truth, however, is that more do than you may think. Again, if you read between the lines.

“We aren’t ‘saying’ . . . we’re just saying .”

I want to bluntly and flatly state that any such view should be anathema.

All notions that salvation can be limited by the location of our church, by who we rub shoulders with, or by any human control whatsoever should be completely condemned.

Why? Because Scripture clearly teaches that there is indeed one church: the corporate body of believers that are unified by our common faith in Jesus and our commitment to live out the faith through action. There is no if you are also part of this denomination, or if you also focus on this collection of teachings,” or anything of the sort.

There is no “if.” There is no “also.”

Paul often discussed what it meant to be a part of the church. That is, the global body of believers (often spelled with the “little c”) and not a specific denomination. As previously mentioned, this issue arose at the very onset of the church’s existence because something like denominations were already forming. The fabric of denominationalism was not sown at the Great Schism or even as a result of the Protestant Reformation. The spread of denominations has certainly intensified over time but it has always been observable.

In numerous epistles, Paul described the friction that existed between the “circumcision group” and the Gentile converts. The circumcision group was comprised of Jewish converts that continued to believe that the laws of the old covenant needed to be kept. Many of these were laws that Paul specifically addressed as being fulfilled in Christ (Col. 2:16-17). But it wasn’t enough that they try to keep the laws. These individuals tended to force OT law keeping down the throats of the new Gentile converts, creating a serious problem in the early church.

At one point, Paul even “opposed Peter to his face” because he had ceased keeping unnecessary aspects of the Jewish law but capitulated to the circumcision group when they were around:

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of some men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and separate himself, fearing those from the circumcision” (Gal. 2:11-12).

This is one example of how mini “denominations”—ways of classifying believers—were forming; there was the group who believed you had to keep the Mosaic Law and the group that did not. This may not fit with a truly robust definition of a “denomination,” but it certainly fits the basic criteria. There was an “us” and a “them,” and the two struggled to even keep company (as Peter’s hypocrisy illustrates).

But there is further evidence of different factions springing up at the earliest times. In 1 Corinthians, Paul addressed groups who wanted to classify themselves by leader:

“My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 1:11-12).

Paul’s response was succinct and powerful: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul” (1:13)? The passage continues by further emphasizing that baptism had indeed been another (but connected) source for the divisions (1:14-17).

Paul’s point should have been clear enough. Being part of the church is not about who preached to you or who baptized you; it was about the one whom the preaching revealed and whom all believers are baptized into. No matter how you came to believe, who baptized you, or who your church leaders are, all are under the Lordship of Jesus himself.

One cannot “divide Christ.”

This is made clear in other texts, too. Take what Paul said to help heal the friction between the Gentile converts and the circumcision group in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The concept of being “one in Christ Jesus” is consistent throughout Scripture (Eph.2, 1 Cor. 12:12-31).

Being a member of the body of Christ (i.e. the church) is not dependent upon age, race, gender, location, or time period. It’s also not dependent on your pastor, your priest, what form of catechesis you go through or even what denomination you claim to be a part of.

Then what is it that makes people “one in Christ Jesus” and a part of the church? Well, it’s the same thing that enables salvation. Romans 10:9 reads: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Now, this commitment of faith was also expected to be manifested through action. Faith and works go hand in hand, and Jesus told his followers that anyone who follows him must  “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24).

Scripture details other essential teachings that unite all believers in the church. On these issues, deviations are not permitted. Many of these formed the basis for the later Ecumenical Creeds, which were intended to be “catholic”—that is, universal—in nature.

These essential beliefs are sometimes called “kerygma,” a Greek word that literally just means “proclamation” but came to refer to the core teachings of the gospel. Paul described some of these in 1 Corinthians 15:

“For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (15:3-5).

One cannot be a Christian—a part of the greater church body—if he or she willingly and knowingly denies these teachings. To subtract any part of this is to mutilate the gospel message. If Jesus had not accomplished these feats, then he simply wasn’t God’s Messiah. Thankfully, Jesus did fulfill all these requirements.

The central point in all these examples is, again, that being part of the church depends absolutely nothing on what denomination you are involved with. Sure, there are heretical groups (like unitarians) that do not confirm the essential teachings of Scripture, such as the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and others. We should not only avoid such churches (if you can call them that) but should make every effort to repudiate their claims.

However, those represent a very small percentage of denominations. Most traditions affirm the teachings of Scripture previously mentioned and are largely separated by non-essential matters. I invite you to look into the fundamental beliefs of a broad spectrum of denominations. You will find that the parallels far outweigh the discrepancies.

And frankly, this is exactly what we should expect.

If you think about it, the global church body can only be logically connected by our central beliefs. Believers have existed from scattered countries around the world for most of the last two millennia. Being part of “the church” cannot be reduced to what denomination one aligns with or it’s precise governmental structure, what their preferred worship style is, who their leaders are, how they view the elements (bread and wine) of the Eucharist, how frequently they fast, or anything of the sort.

Such things are either transitory or preferential. This is not to say that preferential or non-essential beliefs don’t matter, or that such things cannot (at times) infringe upon essential beliefs.

It is to say that, given the time and distance that separates the faithful, it could only be a commitment to the essential teachings of Scripture that ultimately unites believers. Nothing else could reasonably transcend time, culture, socio-political boundaries, church leadership, and similar factors.

The church’s identity is found in its head, who is Jesus.

Do you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, that he died for our sins, conquered the grave, and then ascended to the right hand of the Father?

Do you carry your cross and live by the essential teachings of Scripture, to the best of your ability?

These matters are what define a true believer. This is what secures one’s place in “the church.”

And the church is the greatest denomination ever.

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Looking for a new book to read? Check out my books below:

God Made the Aliens: Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact

Spiritual Things: Exploring our Connection to God, the Angels, and the Heavenly Realm

Missing Verses: 15 Beliefs the Bible Doesn’t Teach

The Death Myth: Uncovering what the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife

Revelation 13: Two “Beasts” and a “Mark”

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Intro

“But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’ ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered” (Jn. 19:15).

Few topics in the Bible have generated more intrigue over the last two thousand years than the “beasts” of Revelation 13. More than that, the “mark of the beast” has perhaps been the most enigmatic topic in all of Scripture. In this article, I want to try to make some sense of these difficult issues and provide a foundational way that we can understand them.

Before getting to the beasts and the mark of the beast, let’s dispense with the clearest topic involved: the identity of the “dragon.” In no uncertain terms, the “dragon” is Satan. This is clear from the text itself, and there is virtually no debate among scholars—of any period—about this point. The dragon is Satan.

That was easy! But what about the two “beasts” of Revelation 13? These definitely require a more thorough explanation.

Part 1: The Beast from the Sea

The first beast John saw is said to come from “the sea” (13:1) and is best understood as a worldly empire. The sea was thought to be a place of great evil in Jewish tradition,[1] which stands in contrast to the holy realm of heaven. Biblically, the sea also often represents the world of the Gentiles prior to the coming of Christ, since they were viewed as paganistic and as not participating in the true faith of Yahweh. By extension, this world of the Gentiles came to represent antagonistic socio-political powers.

“The sea” suggests a force whose origin and power are unholy in nature. In general, you might liken this to a totally corrupt political power. This does not suggest that there is not a religious aspect at play. Rather, it means that the only gods it recognizes are false gods.  

This had clear meaning in the world that the early church found itself living in. Rome ruled the known world, and emperors even came to view themselves as deities who demanded worship. As time went on, the Roman authorities became very hostile to those who would not accept the emperor as a god or were seen as religious troublemakers. Nero Caesar—Rome’s fifth emperor—played an especially destructive role in the Christian community.

It is said that the beast had “a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority” (13:5). It is this leader that is so often called the “Antichrist.” According to ancient historians, Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire was utterly brutal and lasted forty-two months (Nov 64-Jun 68). Why is that significant? It’s important because Revelation also states that the “mouth” of the beast exercised its power for forty-two months (13:5). Interestingly, this is the length of time earlier prophesied by the prophet Daniel concerning the “fourth beast” and it’s “little horn.” [2]

For these reasons, and his connection to the number 666 (discussed later), Nero was almost certainly the man Revelation portrays as the leader who emerges from the sea beast. At the least, he is the one whom John wanted his audience to compare this evil figure to.

Besides persecuting God’s people, the sea beast receives great adoration: “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” (13:4). All inhabitants of the known world worshipped Rome and it’s evil rulers, unless they were written in the book of life.

A final—but crucial—aspect of the sea beast is that one of its “heads” acquires a mortal wound which, incredibly, was healed (13:3). There are a few possible explanations for this. I explain these options for those interested in this footnote,[3] but suffice it to say that the Roman Empire (and possibly even Nero himself) can be easily connected to the “fatal wound” of 13:3. This is a quick look at the sea beast and it’s evil ruler, but both will continue to come up.

Part 2: The Beast from the Earth

The second beast comes from “the earth,” or literally from “the land.” We are immediately tipped off to the fact that this beast wields significant religious power. More specifically, it’s a false system that masquerades as genuine religion: “It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon” (13:11b). Jesus is called the “lamb of God” in Scripture, certainly designating his sacrificial power but also the mild manner in which he came. The “lamb” reference clearly alludes to something that looks virtuous and unassuming but is definitively not.

This beast comes in a “gentler” form than the sea beast but still speaks with the voice of the dragon. This is in direct alignment with the works of Satan, who “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).

The earth beast is also called the “false prophet” (Rev. 20:10). Its sole purpose is to promote the sea beast in its efforts to glorify the dragon. The earth beast directs people to the sea beast, who in turn does the dragon’s bidding. In effect, we have a religious power that is aiding a vast political power.

The two beasts are joining forces to do the dragon’s work. 

Quite intentionally, Revelation is suggesting that this trio forms an “unholy Trinity” that seeks to replace the triune God in people’s hearts. For its part, the earth beast performs false miracles in order to deceive the people of the world, and it possesses the power to cause those who refused to worship the image of the first beast to be killed (13:14-15).

This appears to apply most directly to the corrupt Jewish authorities of the day. Not only had many of the Jewish leaders refused to accept the Messiah, they also joined with the Romans in putting him to death and persecuting his followers. This was even true of the high priest (Caiaphas), who stood as the top representative of the Jewish religion. I wonder: does the high priest have a parallel figure today that stands—by his own, self-proclaimed authority—as the figurehead of the church?

In their affirmation that “Caesar is king,” the false religious beast (from the earth) was giving power to the empire beast (from the sea). This would have been rather obvious to those Christians living during the persecution of the first century.

Would such an alliance be obvious to us today?

Part 3: The Mark of the Beast

Within the earth beast’s mission, we see one of the most historically enigmatic prophecies in all of Scripture:

“It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666” (13:16-18).

What could this “mark” be alluding to? In order to fully answer that question, we must look at the Old Testament for a moment. On at least five occasions in the OT, the Jewish people are commanded to place God’s laws on their hands and on their heads.[4] This was the most sacred duty—contained within the Shema—for those who worshipped Yahweh. They were instructed to instill God’s laws in their lives: “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads (Dt. 6:8).

This was not intended to be taken literally, though many Jewish leaders did so (Mt. 23:5). Instead, this was a symbolic gesture of one’s allegiance to God. Binding the laws to the forehead meant ingraining them into the mind. What about the right hand, though? In Scripture, the right hand symbolizes honor and power. For example, notice that Christ ascended to the “right hand” of God (Mk. 16:9). However, it can also represent the actions we undertake.

When Revelation talks about the “right hand,” it is talking about carrying out the actions of our will: acting upon what is in our hearts and minds.

This reveals the beast’s agenda. In opposition to putting God’s laws in your mind (forehead) and carrying them out in your actions (right hand), the earth beast forces people to put the dragon’s laws in their minds and express them in their actions. Without becoming a part of the beast’s program, you could not fully participate in society. This certainly became true for Christ’s followers, many of whom were essentially exiled from normal life within the empire under penalty of death. The choice was simple: either get with “the program” or pay dearly.

But what about the number 666?

In a general way, 666 designates an ultimate falling short of God’s goodness. Seven is the holy number of perfection throughout the Bible and is used repeatedly. But there is a deeper meaning, here. Many coin inscriptions of the day venerated the emperors, and some containing the name Nero Caesar—the Roman emperor who massively persecuted Christians in the mid-late 60’s—added up to 666 when evaluated in the Hebrew numerical value system. Revelation follows suit with certain Jewish groups that used cryptic number systems (called “gematria”) and words, in order to get a point across to the learned members of the audience without making it obvious to the Roman authorities. As a word example, both Revelation and 1 Peter refer to Rome as “Babylon.”[5]

Moreover, certain manuscripts of the book of Revelation have the number of the beast as 616. But why? If you added up the value of similar inscriptions from the eastern part of the Roman Empire—which varied slightly from the others—you would come up with 616 rather than 666. Whatever the case, this is clear evidence that Revelation’s Antichrist was either supposed to be Nero or was pointing to a figure that would resemble him.

(Now, as I discuss at the end, Nero would have been a typological fulfillment of the Antichrist figure. He likely points forward to another ruler that will arise at the very end times.)

The corrupt Jewish leaders were forcing others to worship the Roman Empire, and the “mark” is the clearest evidence of that. While coming in the form of genuine religion, they were carrying out the plans of Satan. Even Paul was doing this, prior to his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). This is exactly why Revelation tells us that the earth beast “looked like a lamb but spoke like a dragon.”

Part 4: Application for Today

What should we take from all this?

This discussion of the two beasts—and the “mark” imposed by the earth beast—leads to two key takeaways for those of us living today.

This first takeaway is that the mark of the beast is not one single, solitary thing. Let me be clear: I believe that the end time events could well involve a physical token for those who have rejected the truth and have chosen to worship Satan instead of God. We need to be vigilant of such a thing, which may already be in the works.

However, the mark wouldn’t just be a barcode, or just be a microchip, or just be a vaccine, or just be a digital tattoo, or just be any one thing.

Indeed, the mark is much more than one physical display of allegiance; it is an entire system of things. The mark is a lifestyle and a comprehensive mindset. It’s something that designates the total will and desire of those who follow Satan, just as the “seal of God” designates the will and desire of those who follow God (7:3, 9:4).

The mark of the beast is an unholy collection of lies and laws that the deceived “tie to their hands” and “bind to their foreheads.”

This includes both believing (head) and doing (hand) the will of the dragon, in all ways of life. For a few relevant and timely examples, it may include things like promoting abortion, supporting violent riots in the name of “social justice,” accepting deceptions about health and safety, embracing a “new normal” and a “global reset,” idolizing “experts” and agenda-driven leaders, voting for individuals who will implement evil policies into law, buying into the globalist agenda and—lest we forget—labeling all opposing perspectives as “conspiracy theories” that must be censored. I have little doubt that those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah were similarly ridiculed.

Essentially, accepting the mark of the beast means accepting the “Caesar” of the day as your god. This applies to people of all generations.

This leads naturally into the second takeaway. The parallels between the time leading up to the Roman persecution and our present age cannot be missed. Prior to Jesus’ arrival, many from within the Jewish leadership had either abandoned or purposely attempted to suppress the belief that the Messiah would come. This is evident by how many Jewish believers rejected Jesus, especially in the higher ranks.

Before Jesus’ sentencing, the chief priests—the Jewish leaders who should have been pointing others to the long-awaited Messiah—showed exactly where their true allegiances were. They had sold out to the cultural leaders of the day and had lost all sense of spiritual time. Maybe the Messiah will come someday. Even so . . . “We have no king but Caesar.”

Anyone who has been paying attention would know that a similar thing is going on within the church in 2021. The identical thing, really. Many no longer believe the Messiah will come (again): that Jesus will not return. Those who should be pointing to this event are instead placing their trust in man. It’s about whatever the culture says: whatever those in authority tell us to do. Many religious authorities are even suggesting that the church must merge with all religions and the principle powers of this world, in order to “move forward.”

A united world, holding hands in perfect solidarity, is the pipe dream of the future. For many years, this utopian dream was the express property of the secular world. Now, it is quickly becoming the church’s great hope as well. Throw out the primacy of any one religion. Be sure to be “inclusive,” affirming that all lifestyles have equal moral footing. As we are so often told these days, “we’re all in this together!” All we need to do is rely on the “experts” and those in charge. All we need to do is seek a united world—one that does not recognize religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any of the like.

It is this very motivation—man’s desire to rule itself—that once gave us the Tower of Babel and a host of horrors throughout the centuries. Globalism is the goal, plain and simple.

We need one government, one currency, one religion emerging from the many, one governing set of rules, one fight against climate change, one uniform response to pandemics, and so forth. As Pope Francis recently put it, these things represent the “new way” or the “new things of the Spirit” that the “God of surprises” has in store for us.[6] This is the way “forward,” we are told.

But I don’t see progress in any of this. I see a rather familiar mantra: “We have no king but Caesar.”

Conclusion

How, then, can we ultimately understand the two beasts and the mark of the beast? I believe we can see human history as a giant building period. The powers of darkness were with Adam and Eve in the Garden and have never left. Satan’s work only intensified after Christ’s coming and will continue to do so as history reaches its climax.

The dragon’s agenda, the mark of the beast, the “secret power of lawlessness” (2 The. 2:7) and the “spirit of antichrist” (1 Jn. 4:3) have been present in our world for a very long time now.

In this sense, people have been accepting the mark of the beast for the last two thousand years (and more, really). We must always remember that the words of Scripture were not recorded simply for those living in the last days of earth but were relevant to people of all generations and locations. What happened to the Christians in the first century served as a fulfillment of Revelation 13 but also points forward to what will occur at the very end times. The events of the first century served as a “type” or a precursor to what will occur before Christ’s return.

There will be an empire that joins forces with a false religious power to persecute believers. A wicked ruler in the manner of Nero will appear. People will be forced to receive the comprehensive “mark of the beast,” and those who receive it will be turned over to Satan.

Revelation 13 and the mark of the beast is not solely about the past or the future, but about both.

Of course, it’s also about the present. Today, we all face the choice of worshipping God or worshipping Satan via our commitment to false religion and the evil rulers of our present age.

The question is, can we see where this critical choice intersects with our reality and with our time? Will we be able to see the events leading up to Jesus’ return, OR will we choose to be the modern-day chief priests and point to another lord?

While the fools will follow Caesar, the wise will live by a very different credo.

“We have no King but Jesus.”

Looking for a new book to read? Check out my books below:

God Made the Aliens: Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact

Spiritual Things: Exploring our Connection to God, the Angels, and the Heavenly Realm

Missing Verses: 15 Beliefs the Bible Doesn’t Teach

The Death Myth: Uncovering what the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife

Footnotes


[1] God’s flooding of the earth and the destruction of humanity (save for Noah’s family) has etched the raging seas as a place of great terror in Judeo-Christian thought. As another example, Psalms 74:14 and Isaiah 27:1 refer to a creature called “leviathan,” which was characterized as a terrible sea creature and an alias of Satan.

[2] Daniel describes this exact time period, when discussing the “fourth beast” (Rome) in his vision: “He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time” (7:25). Time, times and half a time equates to about 3-1/2 years, or 42 months.

[3] One explanation is rooted in the belief that Nero himself (or perhaps later, Domitian) would return and assume the role of the Antichrist. Such was his reign of terror that many believed him to be almost indestructible or at least able to conquer his own death. Another, more likely, view is that Nero’s death brought about a terrible wound for the Roman Empire in general. His death introduced a devastating period where the normal government was suspended and the reign of emperors was broken (for a short time). However, the Roman Empire recovered from the “wound” and reassumed its dominance in the world. It is even thought that Christ’s work may have fatally wounded the beast (Rome), though it continued to live afterwards. For more on these views (and others), check out the many commentaries on this page.

[4] See Exodus 13:6, 9 and Dt. 6:8-9, and 11:18.  

[5] See Revelation 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2, 10, 21 and 1 Peter 5:13. Since Babylon was the evil OT empire that destroyed the temple and exiled God’s people, they came to stand as a symbol for other wicked empires. In the first century, that meant Rome. It also points forward to the final empire that will persecute God’s people prior to Christ’s return.

[6] This terminology is used throughout Pope Francis’ new book, Let us Dream. See especially Part Three: A Time to Act.  For a look at why this is so deeply problematic, see Taylor Marshall’s video, “One World Religion.”

What is the Resurrection?

Part I

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (Jn. 11:25).

One of the most powerful proofs that Jesus is the Son of God was his ability to raise people from the dead: to “resurrect” them. Not only was he raised from the dead by divine power, Jesus was able to do that for others. His friend Lazarus discovered firsthand what it’s like to die but, more importantly, what it’s like to be brought back to life: “. . . Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (Jn. 11:43-44).

Further, Jesus also raised Jairus’ daughter and a widow’s son from the dead. Even his apostles raised individuals back to life through the Spirit’s power.

Long before the time of Jesus and the apostles, the prophet Daniel clearly stated the truth about the final judgment and the resurrection: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (12:2). Even before Daniel, the prophets Elijah and Elisha raised people from the dead,[1] and someone was raised merely by touching Elisha’s bones (2 Ki. 13:21)!

The Bible is both clear and consistent in its teachings about our ultimate hope. To be “resurrected”—that is, to be brought back to life in bodily form—is the goal of our faith.

(Strangely, this magnificent expectation is not at all what many within the church focus on when discussing the afterlife, but I will get to this problem in Part II)

The resurrection of the dead is not simply an historical issue, either. Rather, it is one of the most pivotal aspects of the end times and Christ’s return. What Jesus did for Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter and the widow’s son, he will one day do for each of us. At Christ’s coming, believers will corporately be raised from the dead and given new bodies. It is just as Jesus once told the Jewish leaders: “Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (Jn. 5:25).

In two of the most robust teaching sections of the New Testament, the apostle Paul discussed the resurrection in great detail. In 1 Thessalonians 4, he described the order of events that will occur at the climax of human history: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (4:16). He goes on to specify that living believers will then be “caught up” (“Raptured,” as some call it) to meet him in the air.

It is this event—the resurrection—that should be the chief source of hope and encouragement for believers. As Paul said, this belief is what makes us different than “the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (4:13).

Praise be to God that we can live in hopeful expectation of Jesus’ return and our own victory over death!

The second section to mention is 1 Corinthians 15, which is easily the most exhaustive discussion of the resurrection in the Bible. In 15:42-49, Paul points out that all believers will receive a resurrection body and that those bodies—those “spiritual bodies”—will be like Jesus’ (not Adam’s); they will be “imperishable,” “glorious” and “powerful.”

Just as Jesus was raised with a transformed body, so shall we be. For more on Jesus’ resurrection body and what ours will be like, see my blog here.

Part II

Thus far, I have explained what the resurrection of the dead is about. To be sure, this alone is more than worth focusing solely upon and stands alone as its own topic. There are, however, many important considerations that stem from it. I will now look at some of these issues and return to the “problem” I promised to address at the beginning of the blog.

To get us started, ask yourself this basic question: Is there any purpose to the resurrection? On it’s face, this might seem like an absurd thing to ponder; of course there is a purpose to it! I just discussed the purpose of the resurrection, right? On closer reflection, however, it is an incredibly reasonable—and even necessary—question to ask.

The reason is that many within the church believe in a view of the afterlife that stands in direct opposition to the resurrection.

I have covered this issue extensively, both in blog and book form. Broadly speaking, the most common belief about the afterlife is that, when we die, our “inner soul/spirit” survives the death of the body and proceeds to live elsewhere. The “elsewhere” part is not overly important at present, but those interested in the possibilities can look at this blog.

Besides the fact that this is not the scriptural perspective on things, this view is especially problematic when it comes to the issue of the resurrection. Consider this: If it is true that we each possess an immaterial soul that will consciously persist at death, what is the point of the resurrection? Why is it necessary?

The very purpose of the resurrection is to be brought back to life, and in bodily form. If you recall Jesus’ earlier words in John 5:25, the dead will “hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” If the dead in Christ are already functioning as disembodied beings (i.e., are alive), it is literally impossible for them to be brought back to life. It is literally impossible for them to hear Christ’s voice and to live again. This would be like waking someone up who wasn’t asleep, taking a bath with no water, or combing your hair after shaving your head.

It can’t be done.

More than that, believing that deceased people are living in heaven, hell, or anywhere else, is to make Jesus into either a liar or a very confused person. Neither can be true of the God-man.

As more time has passed since I first truly evaluated the subject of the afterlife, I find myself even more perplexed about the state of things. You would think this is a simple concept to grasp: there are living people, and there are dead people. The dead are not living; they are dead. To be dead most specifically means to not be alive. Nevertheless, a huge percentage of believers don’t see this connection and, furthermore, are not taught to see it.

But there is one more brief point worth making. Since resurrection is, in the biblical sense, a concept that deals exclusively with bodily existence, its entire purpose is lost if you don’t need a body to live in the first place. If we can live as disembodied beings, then the addition of the resurrection body at a later time is completely unnecessary. In short, why add the body?

How can you bring people “back to life” if they are already alive, and why give them bodies if they were doing just fine—perhaps living in heaven, even—without them?

There is simply no reasonable answer to these questions. That being the case, what we are left with are irrational explanations. For example, scholars have suggested that death itself does not concern the soul or human consciousness.[2] Instead, when the Bible says “death,” it is only referring to the death of the body. We don’t die, as in “cease to consciously exist.” Only the body does that, but the soul continues right on without it.

There’s scarcely a stitch of biblical or rational support for this belief, but it’s the type of thing one must assert if they are going to hold to the typical view of the afterlife. When dealing with those who believed that the human soul survives the death of the body and lives on its own, the esteemed Reformer and scholar, William Tyndale, had this to say:

“And ye, in putting them [the departed souls] in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection . . . And again, if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?”[3]

He was right: what cause would there be of the resurrection, if the dead are already living? Tyndale’s rhetorical question accurately shows that there would not be any “cause” or point to it. The central purpose of resurrection is to raise people back from the dead, not to give more life to the living.  

In the end, the resurrection is the great aspiration of the Christian faith (Phi. 3:10-11). Jesus’ return—along with our being raised from the dead and given transformed, “spiritual bodies”—is the corporate hope that the Bible describes throughout its pages.

Most emphatically, it is the hope of the resurrection—and not the hope of living in heaven without a body—that should have us eagerly awaiting our Lord. Any teaching to the contrary may be called many things, but “biblical” would not be one of them.

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Looking for a new book to read? Check out my books below:

God Made the Aliens: Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact

Spiritual Things: Exploring our Connection to God, the Angels, and the Heavenly Realm

Missing Verses: 15 Beliefs the Bible Doesn’t Teach

The Death Myth: Uncovering what the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife


[1] See 1 Kings 17:21-22, 2 Kings 4:34-35.

[2] For two examples, see J.P. Moreland and Gary Habermas’ book Beyond Death (228) and N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope (171).

[3] William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s dialogue.  Parker’s 1850 reprint (book four, chapter four, 180-81.)

Titles Available from Brian M. Rossiter

The following books are available in both paperback and eBook versions. I have provided brief descriptions of the books below, but the full-length descriptions can be read by viewing them on Amazon. You can also preview each book by clicking the “preview” tabs. Also, be sure to check out the many blogs on this site!

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God Made the Aliens reveals the incredible parallels that exist among the heavenly beings of the Bible, the visitors described in other ancient traditions, and the “aliens” of ancient astronaut theory. Along the way, it uncovers myriad ways that extraterrestrial entities have shown themselves to the world.

There is a hidden world around us . . .

Spiritual Things describes that heaven is separate realm of existence, and how the heavenly beings are able to step into our world to interact with us. This books discusses the following topics and many more:

-What it really means to be made in the image of God.
-How we experience angels, and what role they have in our lives.
-The true nature of spiritual beings.
-What the Bible says about the afterlife.

The Death Myth investigates what the Bible actually says about the afterlife, and carefully explains how an honest reflection on the traditional Christian view of death will show that this view is often misguided.

This traditional view—that the deceased persist and live on as conscious immaterial souls—is a doctrine that while tenable may not cohere with scriptural truths about the nature of the soul and body, the timing of the resurrection, and the meaning of salvation. 

Does the Bible really teach that? Missing Verses discusses 15 popular Christian beliefs that do not align with biblical teaching. This includes topics like:

-All Sins are Equal

-Everything is God’s Will

-People are Suffering in Hell

-Angels Don’t Have Bodies

This text is ideal for group study and all small group settings!

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Be sure to check out my writings on this site, such as my most recent article about 2 Thessalonians 2 and the “Deluding Influence.”

2 Thessalonians and the “Deluding Influence”

(You can subscribe to my new channel here and like my Facebook author page to keep updated on all articles, videos, and books.)

The Bible, especially the New Testament, teaches that there will be a conclusion to the human story: an “end of the age,” as it were. There are numerous expectations that we are called to be aware of, which I have previously discussed here.

In this article, I want to examine one specific part of these end time prophecies: the “deluding influence” of 2 Thessalonian 2:11. More than that, I want to offer something of a thought experiment that speaks to our overall belief about the end times.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:11, the apostle Paul made the following claim: “For this reason God sends them a deluding influence so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” Here, Paul was clear that there will be a “deluding influence”—literally, a “working of delusion”—that enters the world at a specific point in time. The statement is situated in the context of Christ’s return and the events that will surround it. We are dealing with the very end: the last things that will happen on earth.

Though it says that God will send the delusion, this should be understood as God giving people over (God’s “permissive will”) and ensuring they are susceptible to it. Those who believe “the lie” and fall for the deluding influence will already be hard-hearted and unrepentant. We know this because the emergence of the “lawless one,” or the Antichrist, will prove this:

“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (1 The. 2:9-10, my emphasis).

The lawless one will use counterfeit miracles to deceive people, and those who are deceived will be given over to fall for the deluding influence. It all works together.

Paul was speaking of a lie that will top all lies: a Great Deception, if you will. This would effect the entire world and cause the deceived to completely fall under Satan’s persuasion. There is little doubt that this is directly connected to the “mark of the Beast” described in Revelation 13.

My question is this: how many Christians truly believe this will happen? I don’t mean in some abstract, “yeah the end will come someday,” sort of way. I mean in the sense that we could see it happening in front of us, right here and now.  

Would we be able and willing to see the Great Deception, if it did come in our lifetimes? Are we even open to the possibility?

It is difficult to think of an example that would check all the boxes and provide an ideal glimpse at what the “lie” and the “deluding influence” will look like. However, I think it is possible to use a real-life example of something that can at least serve as an adequate representation.  

For the sake of discussion, let’s consider the current pandemic and the global response to it.

Before doing so, I want to make something clear: I am not saying that Covid-19 and the collective global reaction is, to a certainty, the “deluding influence” or Great Deception that is spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2. My point is that it may fit the criteria quite well. At minimum, it provides a case study of what we should be looking for: a global issue that wreaked health and economic havoc everywhere it went but was propelled by lies and a historically unprecedented overreaction (at best).

Notice that I said it was an overreaction “at best.” At worst—but, to me, the more likely scenario—there has been far more at work. There are lies present within almost every part of the narrative, ranging from global entities like the World Health Organization (WHO), to those leading national response teams (like Dr. Anthony Fauci), to smaller levels of government (state and local) and most definitely in the media coverage. Some of these entities have made the rules, while others have simply played the game and followed along.

It all started with a massive lie, coming from the Imperial College in the UK. Neil Ferguson’s model–released in mid-March of 2020—concluded that 500,000 people in the UK and more than 2 million people in the US would likely die from Covid-19, if extreme measures weren’t taken to stop the spread of the virus. Obviously, it was thought to be at least as devastating in other countries (like the 100,000 that were proposed to die in Sweden by June). They also said that roughly 3.4% of all people who got the virus would die, and the WHO and other authorities peddled this figure as well. That was a huge number to project, and it has turned out to be FAR too high. We now know it was completely outlandish and absurd, really.

In May of 2020, just two months after making his phony projections public, Ferguson resigned from his role as advisor on the coronavirus.

It was the Imperial College model that largely helped to jumpstart the hysteria and cause countries around the world to begin instituting widespread lockdowns.

The narrative was almost immediately given a few fresh wrinkles, taking an interesting (and strategic) turn. “It’s not about what the virus will do to you,” they said, “it’s about what it will do to someone else if you give it to them.” As a complementary piece, we were told that many people will be “asymptomatic”—meaning, they would have the virus without showing many (or any) symptoms—but would still be able to spread the virus to much more vulnerable people.

And just like that: We all became carriers. Like the virus that turned everyone into zombies (“walkers”) from the TV series, The Walking Dead, Covid had infected the entire population. As such, we needed to operate as though every person was a walking petri dish.

We were even told that we had to do all of this, in order to keep the hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. Of course, that never happened (save for a few areas). Instead, the hospitals were economically decimated and countless people have suffered (or died) because they were unable to receive care for non-Covid matters.

The effect of the Imperial College model, combined with the “it’s about others” and the “asymptomatic spreader” narratives, resulted in nothing short of an epic catastrophe.

Businesses were closed. Schools were dismissed from all in-person activities. Elective procedures were almost completely eliminated and, as a result, many hospitals have permanently closed their doors. Sporting events, concerts, and all mass gatherings were banned. Air travel came to a screeching halt. We were all told to practice “social distancing” at approximately six feet and that contact with one another was just too risky.

It didn’t take a genius to see what this would do to our societies. Anyone with a level-head and a clear mind understood that the “cure” would be much worse than the “disease.” Some thinkers immediately began crafting articles and books to show the tremendous problem, such as the brand-new book, The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe. Also, Alex Berenson’s Unreported Truths about Covid-19 and Lockdowns has been exposing lies for months now.

Of course, thousands of other “experts” have been against these measures from the beginning. Unfortunately, they are rarely covered or have even been censored. More than 6,000 experts have signed an anti-lockdown petition, citing its “irreparable damage.” Even the good folks at the WHO finally reversed course, stating the lockdowns were a very poor idea. Our extreme reactions—which the WHO strongly urged, mind you—were not only excessive but extremely costly. They now estimate that world poverty could double within the next year. One official warned:

“Look what’s happened to smallholder farmers all over the world. Look what’s happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.”

Again, this should have been obvious from the beginning. I believe that it was well known and that most who were pushing the fear knew it. But acknowledging this early on would have prevented the use of the virus for myriad political, economic and societal purposes.

Even now, huge numbers of businesses remain totally closed and a lot will never reopen. The authorities still demand that we walk around with some type—any type—of facial covering. Sports teams play in empty stadiums (if they play at all). Kids suffer the effects of remote learning, which includes malnutrition, radically impaired education and a lack of social development.

We now have numerous vaccines (symptom suppressors, really) being injected into the public—made available at “warp speed”—that we are told will save the human race from a virus that poses virtually no threat to healthy people. Healthcare companies (like Pfizer) and tycoons (like Bill Gates) will stand to massively cash in on the endeavor. Will everyone be asked (forced) to get it? We are well on our way. Further, what health concerns will arise from this new and relatively unknown type of vaccine? What kind of precedent does all this set?

Don’t worry about it. Don’t ask any questions.

It is important to note that none of these measures had ever been taken before. There is still no clear reason as to why the world has treated this particular virus so differently: so very differently. Before we knew virtually anything about the virus and its effects, we were told to expect a “new normal.” No matter what, the world would be—must be—forever changed.

But why must the world be forever changed, and how did certain authorities and media outlets know that would necessarily be the result?

Much more could be said, as the lies, position reversals and overall misinformation seem to know no bounds. I have included a litany of reasons below this article as to why we should all be highly skeptical of the current death count in the US, for example. But this should provide enough information for the matter at hand.  

So, what is the tie in with the “deluding influence”?

If you put this in the context of 2 Thessalonians 2, we find a sobering connection. We have the following parallels between the “deluding influence” and the virus/response:

-It has radically influenced not just a part or parts of the world, but the entire world. Both the virus and the lockdowns have sent the globe into chaos. This has never happened in our history, especially not on this scale.

-It was based on a total lie: a faulty model that never had any basis in reality. The Imperial College model was a fraud, and it was predicated on the idea that we would do nothing at all to slow the spread or protect people (which was not going to happen).

Additional lies emerged, when it became obvious that people weren’t dropping over as if this were Ebola. We were told it was about “someone else” and not us, that everyone should be viewed as a carrier, and that staying an arbitrary distance away from people and wearing any type of face covering were imperative steps to stop the spread.

Now, we find ourselves with wrecked economies, with radical increases in suicide, depression, domestic abuse, and substance abuse, and with a much greater reliance upon our governments and world leaders to control our lives: to “take care of us.”

Most importantly, we are massively pliable. We are ready (and apparently willing) to do whatever we are told, as long as it is done in the name of “safety.”  

This all gets at the bigger issue, and my central purpose in writing.

My main concern here is not per se with the virus, the global response to it, or even the clear discrepancies (putting it mildly) involved, though these elements are extremely important. Instead, my main concern is with what my fellow Christians are expecting.

I wonder how many of us are even open to seeing the deluding influence, like Paul described in 2 Thessalonians 2:11.

I have encountered numerous believers who completely dismiss all notions that any event—much less, this event—can be related to the “end times.” In fact, numerous pastors and teachers have attempted to call me out personally, because I have challenged the reporting of the virus and our radical response. I am a “conspiracy theorist” for merely questioning the powers that be. This, even as the “powers that be” (like the WHO) have slowly come to admit that our response to the virus was perhaps completely misguided.

Strange how that works.

However, I think the scrutiny should go in exactly the opposite direction. If a Christian can observe a global phenomenon—complete with all the problems I previously mentioned—and not even raise an eyebrow, this tells us something very important about them.

It tells us that they would never be open to a global deception, the literal existence of an Antichrist figure, a satanic world power or anything else. People of this stripe cannot, in principle, accept that a massive deception could sweep over the world and cause us to believe “the lie.” Any such event would always be a “conspiracy theory.” Always.

But it tells us something even deeper, doesn’t it? Being closed off to the existence of the “deluding influence” reveals a complete rejection of all end time events in Scripture. In other words, they don’t really believe any of it will happen. Hence, they can toss out entire chunks of the Bible and ostracize those who make the mistake of taking them seriously.

In closing, I would like to make a solemn suggestion: If you doubt that the Great Deception (or other end time events) can happen in your lifetime, you’d better hope that it doesn’t. Because, if it does occur, you will almost certainly be taken in by it.

. . . And there may not be any more “conspiracy theorists” around to point a finger at.

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End note: Why Should We Question the Covid-19 Death Numbers, and Are the Vaccines Truly “Safe”?

It is now almost unanimously reported that nearly 600,000 Americans have died from (not simply “with”) Covid-19.  This is not just purposely misleading but is flatly wrong. There are many reasons we can be sure of this.

First, the testing has been a disaster. PCR testing is, by the admission of its now deceased creator (Kary Mullis), not a reliable type of testing for a pandemic situation. It amplifies DNA sequences to absurd levels and counts trace elements as “cases.” Hence, those testing positive with no symptoms (the “asymptomatic” people). Numerous sports teams have displayed false positives, as have countless people from around the country. Even my governor (OH-DeWine) magically tested both positive and negative in the same day! Any honest person knows there have been serious problems in this capacity.

Second, the CDC itself came out long ago saying that a very small percentage (only about 6%) of Covid deaths were brought about from the virus alone. That is not necessarily uncommon, since most who die from influenza (the flu) or pneumonia have other  underlying illnesses. The truly uncommon part is that most who die “from Covid” have about 2.6 other major underlying conditions (comorbidities). Plus, the overwhelming majority of deaths have been in the elderly community, those who are ≥65 and especially ≥85.  

All this means that, for those who died from Covid, they were sick and frail to the point that the virus simply pushed them over the top. They were waiting for something to take them, which the flu, pneumonia or bronchitis probably would have done. In other words, most of these people (sadly) were going to die from something in this general time frame.

(Grown up moment – This is how life works. People who get old and sick die, and Covid has mostly claimed those who fit into this category. If you are even relatively young and healthy, you have almost nothing to worry about.)

Third, there is the way the deaths are being counted. The CDC officially classifies Covid deaths as “All Deaths Involving Covid-19.” That’s a HUGE net to cast, especially when you consider that there are additional categories that smash Covid together with pneumonia and/or the flu. So, was it Covid that killed them . . . or was it pneumonia, or the flu, or one of the patient’s probable major underlying illnesses? Did they actually die because of Covid or simply with Covid?

These questions are rarely asked. Instead, the death will be listed as Covid (and only Covid) in terms of how it’s reported to the public.

(By the way, it still appears that the yearly flu has magically accounted for almost no deaths this year: about 6,700, according to the CDC. I wonder where those tens of thousands of deaths went?)

Fourth, we have also known for a long time that hospitals have a serious financial interest in declaring a death a “Covid death,” especially if a ventilator was used. The head of the CDC admitted this, and even left-leaning news outlets like the USA Today “fact checkers” have. If it is at all possible to claim a Covid death, many healthcare facilities are going to do it. (Especially since the lockdown destroyed their incomes by not allowing elective procedures.)

Fifth, many people were literally killed because certain governors mandated—as Cuomo in NY certainly did, and Whitmer in MI seems to have done—that nursing homes take Covid patients. Similarly, some facilities forced people onto Covid floors that no doubt resulted in non-Covid patients acquiring the virus. This doesn’t even include the list of states (and the FDA) that banned the use of hydroxychloroquine on Covid patients, which a lot of people feel would have saved many lives. Physicians were strongly discouraged from prescribing other therapeutics (like ivermectin) even though many experts attest to their efficacy. Thousands of people who died from Covid did so unnecessarily. It was essentially murder.

Sixth (and last), there is the anecdotal evidence that almost all of us are aware of. Whistleblowers and concerned doctors and nurses from all over have been screaming—even risking or losing their jobs—about how we are recording deaths. The list is far too long to mention. God as my witness, I’m not sure I personally know a medical professional who believes this whole ordeal is on the up and up. Those who assert that it is typically have a clear political interest in doing so. (Keep the fear going, drive down the economy, harm Trump, use it to gain power, etc.)

Given all these factors, we’re supposed to just accept the death count they’re giving us?

Bottom line: Even IF we can trust that the testing was correct in the deceased individuals, AND that our healthcare facilities have been completely honest/accurate with their death certificates, the simple truth is that another comorbidity may have been the main cause. Most were also in the category of “old and infirm,” and would have passed in this general time frame regardless.  The middle-aged to younger crowd has little to worry about, especially children.

Reporting that almost 600,000 people have died from Covid (!) is not only misleading but is a farce. It is just a continuation of the scare tactics we have seen from the beginning.

But Are the Vaccines Safe?

According to the mass media and most government mouthpieces, without question. But in reality, not hardly.

Here is but a taste of the reasons we can be sure that the powers mentioned above are lying.

The FDA and CDC’s own VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Reporting System) program has documented that as many people have died following Covid “vaccine” injections than from all other vaccines combined in the last decade. You read that correctly, and those who study such things nearly all agree that most vaccine injuries are either not reported or correctly linked to vaccines. Of course, the CDC is a god when it supports the proposed narrative and a devil when it doesn’t. As expected, there are now countless media outlets looking to destroy VAERS’s credibility. It’s like clockwork. Make a claim contrary to the narrative of “safe and effective” and you will be sabotaged. Just ask the former head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, who recently said that the coronavirus likely escaped from the Wuhan lab (thus, it was also created there).

Alternative outlets like LifeSite News, The Epoch Times, and TruNews have documented countless cases of adverse vaccine effects and even deaths. Not surprisingly, all have been deplatformed across virtually all social media outlets and destroyed in the “mainstream” media (CNN, MSNBC, NYT, etc.). The same applies for most other alternative news sites and even independent healthcare professionals who have spoken out.

The J & J vaccine was put on a halt within the U.S., and others have been suspended or banned in various parts of the world (like Denmark and Norway). This has been done because of blood clots, bleeding problems, strokes, heart attacks and other unpleasant problems.

Lastly, we all know people who have been affected. I personally know over a dozen people who became sick or even bedridden for a short time from the injections. One of these individuals passed out and lay unconscious for nearly two days immediately following his second dose, waking up in a puddle of his own urine. Others have had continuous bleeding problems and menstruation issues. These things are happening all over the place, but you’ll never see it discussed in the media or by public health officials. It’s not part of the narrative, and it’s that simple.

And this is only to speak of the short-term problems, not the long-term problems that will be associated with these injections.

To the question of whether the pandemic was a “plandemic,” I have zero doubt at this point. There is far too much to say on that to write it here, but I leave you in James Corbett’s highly capable hands to start going down that rabbit trail. Start here. (Yes, he too was deplatformed by YouTube)

Looking for a new book to read? Check out my books below:

God Made the Aliens: Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact

Spiritual Things: Exploring our Connection to God, the Angels, and the Heavenly Realm

Missing Verses: 15 Beliefs the Bible Doesn’t Teach

The Death Myth: Uncovering what the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife

Did Jesus Favor Peter?

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For centuries, the character of the apostle Peter and his relationship to Jesus has been the subject of much discussion. In fact, Peter’s place in the New Testament (NT) has even proven to be a divisive issue between Christians of various backgrounds.

I am not going to make these disagreements the central point of this article, though most of what I cover will speak to these matters. Rather, I am mainly concerned with evaluating Peter’s relationship with Jesus and how people of faith might appropriately understand one of the NT’s most important characters.

And make no mistake about it: Peter is easily one of the most important characters in the NT, if not the entire Bible. The Gospels—primarily the “synoptics”[1]—affirm that Peter was one of three apostles who Jesus took into his inner circle. Of the twelve apostles Jesus called, only brothers John and James (sons of Zebedee), and Peter were given this distinction. Since Jesus was actually a cousin to John and James (Jn. 19:25-27)—together called the “Sons of Thunder” (Mk. 3:17)—Peter’s acceptance as a non-relative was both powerful and telling.

Being part of Jesus’ inner circle meant that Peter would be privy to things that most the other apostles were not. Peter was able to see Jesus raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mk. 5:37-43). In the Garden of Gethsemane—before Jesus would be apprehended and taken to his eventual demise—Jesus selected only Peter, John and James to accompany him to a private place of prayer (Mk 14:32-34).

Most notably, Peter was brought to attend Jesus’ Transfiguration (discussed later).

If we look at the book of Acts—which is really the second part of Luke’s Gospel—Peter is given priority throughout the entire first part of the book (cc. 1-12). He clearly plays a prominent role in the first church council (Acts 15) and is considered to be a pillar of the church. While the authorship of these books tends to be hotly debated, Peter is also traditionally credited for writing two letters of the NT: 1 and 2 Peter.

Between the Gospels, the book of Acts, and 1 and 2 Peter, no one can deny that Peter’s life and teachings cast a large shadow over the narrative of Scripture.

Of course, being given such an in-depth glimpse at Peter’s role in Jesus’ ministry and the life of the early church reveals some blemishes, too. On one occasion, Jesus gave Peter some of the harshest words recorded in the NT:

“Jesus turned and said to Peter: Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mt. 16:23)

The only other individuals that Jesus directly associated with the workings of Satan were the corrupt scribes and Pharisees (Jn. 8:44) and Judas (Jn. 6:70), whom would betray him to his death.

What caused Jesus to use such harsh words with Peter?

In short, Peter enjoyed his privileged position as a close disciple of the most famous rabbi of the day (and history). Peter wanted no part of Jesus giving his life away, because that would mark the “end of the ride,” so to speak. As a result, Peter took the great Rabbi aside and reprimanded him:

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!” (Mt. 16:22).

In doing so, Peter not only broke with showing his rabbi respect but was essentially trying to convince Jesus not to fulfill his purpose on the Cross. Hence, Jesus returned Peter’s rebuke in stern fashion.

Curiously, this event came very shortly after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah (Mt. 16:13-20). No sooner did Peter ace his most important test that he blew the next one. This is a common theme for Peter. On another occasion, he saw Jesus walking on rough seas towards their boat and asked if he could come out to meet him (Mt. 14:22-32). Peter actually began walking on the water like Jesus until his own fear seized him and he began to sink. Jesus delivered a harsh pronouncement:

“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

[On a humorous side note, he did something of the sort again later. Seeing Jesus on the shore, Peter proceeded to excitedly jump half naked into the water to swim to him! Personally, I envision Forrest Gump’s response after seeing Lt. Dan, seen here.]

Then there was Peter’s comment during the Transfiguration. Though he had been taken to observe one of the most miraculous events in Jesus’ ministry, he couldn’t help but put forth an absurd—though probably well-intentioned—comment. After seeing Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus on the mountain, Peter proposed that they should all stay up there instead of returning to continue Jesus’ ministry: “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Lk. 9:33). The notion was so misguided that even the Gospel writer, Luke, made a special comment about it (9:33)!

That’s right: the proposal was bad enough that Luke’s commentary on the event was forever ingrained in Scripture!

In a sense, these events serve as a microcosm of Peter’s character. He was exuberant about Jesus and was often the first to react. On the other hand, this compulsion sometimes revealed his lack of faith and understanding.

To return to Peter’s most serious shortcomings, let’s examine the most famous example. Peter denied his association with Jesus three times, after Jesus had been taken captive by the Roman authorities. Questioned every which way about his involvement with Jesus, Peter thoroughly denounced him (Lk. 22:54-62).

It is popularly believed—even among certain scholars—that Jesus reinstated Peter after the Resurrection. This event is called the “Restoration of Peter.” While meeting with the apostles on the seashore, Jesus asked Peter three times if he “loves” him, to which Peter responds that he does love Jesus. To some, this means that Peter had redeemed himself for his three denials.

However, other thinkers (including me) view this differently. Jesus used a form of the term agapaó, which often represents a very strong form of love (as in John 3:16). Peter responded with a form of the term phileó, which can functionally be the same but may represent a lesser intensity. The first two times, Jesus uses agapaó and Peter responds with phileó. On the last occasion, Jesus now switches to phileó, thus perhaps suggesting that he had lowered the bar.

This may have been Jesus’ way of saying, “Peter, do you even have affection for me?”

As numerous scholars have pointed out, it is true that the terms agapaó and phileó were often used interchangeably within the Gospel of John. But in the context of this one exchange, it seems highly unlikely that the words have no deeper meaning. The difference in terms sticks out like a sore thumb, frankly. More than that, the text specifically notes that Peter “was grieved” when Jesus questioned him the third time (21:7). If Jesus was simply smoothing things over and reinstating Peter, Peter himself didn’t get that impression.

One does not become grieved if they feel good about the conversation, right?

Even when Peter was selected to privately join Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane—a privilege that only he, John and James were given—Peter came up short. Jesus specifically told his three closest followers to “Stay here and keep watch” (Mk. 14:34). Jesus ventured off by himself to pray for a short time and returned to see the three men fast asleep. He specifically called out Peter, saying, “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?” (Mk. 14:37).

Besides these examples, Peter was also called out for hypocrisy by the apostle Paul. Paul explained in his letter to the Galatians:

“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy” (Gal. 2:11-13)

With all this said, it would be incredibly unfair to leave our discussion of Peter on this note. It is true that he was whimsical, sometimes spiritually dim, and that it took him a long time to truly figure things out.

But figure it out, he did.

Acts reveals that Peter performed many great signs and was an extremely well-respected leader of the church after the Ascension. In fact, people believed so much in Peter’s ability to heal that they brought the sick into the streets in the hopes that his shadow might fall on them (5:15)!

Further, Peter very bravely went before the Sanhedrin, declaring: “We must obey God rather than men” (5:29). The risk of being imprisoned and persecuted was no longer a concern for Peter. Finally, there is very strong evidence that Peter was ultimately martyred for his faith. There is no greater display of faith than martyrdom.

So, what is the verdict to the original question: Did Jesus favor Peter?

To me, the answer is both yes and no. There is no refuting the fact that Peter was part of Jesus’ inner circle. As such, this was certainly an indication of the closeness he shared with Jesus and that he was going to be used for special purposes. Jesus engaged with Peter at some of the most critical times in his ministry, inviting him to private occasions and allowing him to see the Transfiguration. Clearly, he even empowered Peter to perform signs and miracles, as evidenced in the book of Acts.

However, did Jesus favor Peter to the extent of making him the leader of the entire church and giving him control over heaven and earth? No, not by a long shot.

While it is important to note that Jesus gave Peter the “keys of the Kingdom of heaven” after he correctly recognized that Jesus is the Messiah (Mt. 16:19), this cannot be viewed in isolation. Just two chapters later in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus in fact tells his collection of apostles that they all have power to “bind” and “loose” things in heaven and on earth (Mt. 18:18). The “you” statements are plural!

After the events described within the first portion of Acts, the apostle Paul clearly takes center stage and does so for the remainder of the NT. This is even true in terms of authorship, with Paul having about 6-7 times the number of biblical writings than Peter.

If Peter was intended to be the sole head and authority of the early church, it doesn’t seem that everyone else got the memo. Despite his privileged position within Jesus’ inner circle and in Acts 1-12, the plain truth is that Scripture does not elevate Peter above all other followers of Christ (particularly John, James and Paul).

Going a step farther, Jesus mentioned that, “ . . . whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (Jn. 14:12). Those who follow Jesus—those within the church—are given the power in the Kingdom. The Holy Spirit empowers all who believe.

Along those lines, one reason Peter’s life was so important is because he was very much “one of us.” Peter was excited about his relationship with Christ and, though he slipped up on more than one occasion, he never stopped actively seeking God and relying on His grace. To me, this is exactly what his dialogue with Jesus on the seashore was all about (Jn. 21:15-19). While he did not give Jesus the perfect response, Jesus still invited him to continue the journey of spiritual growth.

More than that, Jesus did not cast him aside. He told Peter to keep going: to keep working at his faith. Jesus ended his dialogue with this clear message to Peter: “Follow me!”

Fellow believers should view Peter with respect and admiration, appreciating his relationship with Christ and his role in the early church. He became a fine man of faith who was willing to give his life for the sake of getting Christianity off the ground. However, to view him as having powers that exceeded the rest of the apostles or as the first in a mortal line that would have dominion over the church is clearly a step too far.

We can truly appreciate the person of Peter without turning him into something that neither he nor the rest of the earliest church intended.

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Looking for a new book to read? Check out my books below:

God Made the Aliens: Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact

Spiritual Things: Exploring our Connection to God, the Angels, and the Heavenly Realm

Missing Verses: 15 Beliefs the Bible Doesn’t Teach

The Death Myth: Uncovering what the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife


References/Footnotes

[1] The “synoptic Gospels” is a name given to Matthew, Mark and Luke. The name means “seen together,” and reflects the fact that these three accounts share a great deal of similarities (events, order of events, parables, etc.).