Monday, April 12, 2021

Tongues Prophecy

 

Tongues And Prophecy…Are They Gifts In The Church Today?

Ishmael Abrahams, Biblical Authority Ministries, April 12, 2021

Introduction 

Have you been at a church gathering and suddenly you hear a bunch of sounds that are reminiscent of gibberish (i.e., speaking in tongues)? Did you feel out of place? I’ve been to some from time to time.

Perhaps you grew up in a charismatic church like this and you don’t think much about it. If so, did you ever wonder why most other churches don’t speak in tongues or prophecy in their services?

These are the things I’m going to discuss—in a kind and civil manner but also with boldness while using a lot of historical and biblical information as well. 

Leading Up To Modern History 

Did you ever hear about Martin Luther or John Calvin speaking in tongues? Nope. Did you ever hear of the early church fathers from the second century forward speaking in tongues? Nope. From the completion of the New Testament in 1st century until 1900s, you’d be hard pressed to find churches from the Orthodox, to the Oriental, to the Roman Catholic, to Protestants that were speaking in tongues (FYI, these are the four major church splits since the inception of the church in the first century)!

You might find a scattered person here or there that had deviated into this type of thinking (tongues or prophecy) throughout church history, but nothing like what we see today. Yet in the early 1900s, a few churches began blaring in tongues and interpretations. Stop for a moment and ask a serious question—why is this the case? What happened? Let’s (author and reader) analyze this, but you need some crucial background information before we dive into the meat.

The 1800’s: That Time Of “Reinterpreting” The Bible   

The 1800s were an odd time for the church as a whole. There were a lot of great individual local churches particularly in the West like Europe and the USA. But something began to happen in their midst that would baffle even the most ardent Bible believer. Massive numbers of people began reinterpreting the Bible—sometimes due to influence of alleged new “prophets” or other outside ideas being imposed on Scripture. These precursors are important to this discussion. 

Advent of Genesis Compromise

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, secularists (anti-God, non-Bible believers) and deists (those who believe some sort of “god” exists but not a revelatory God like that of the Bible, but instead, a “distant god” who merely set things in motion) began discussing long ages and denying the commonly held ~6,000 year old age of the earth. Many Christians, accepted what these Bible attackers were saying and reinterpreted Genesis to mean that God created over long ages instead of six normal-length days and that man showed up millions of years later than land animals that had come and gone.

They also reinterpreted the worldwide, global Flood of Noah to be a little local flood in the Middle East. The idea of millions of years comes from geologic rock layers. These layers, were largely produced in the Flood of Noah over the course of about a year. So Christians who were compromising with long ages, had to get rid of a global flood so they could have the rock layers as evidence of millions of years. So Genesis 6-8 were reinterpreted. 

This movement still exists today where Christians are influenced to believe in millions of years prior to Adam. Gap theory, day-age (like progressive creation), theistic evolution/evolutionary creation, framework hypothesis, and many other forms of reinterpretations now plague many churches as a result.

Sadly, many Christian proponents of long ages accept the anti-Genesis understanding of origins and reinterpret what God says. This is called syncretism or compromise, where Christians are mixing their religion with secular religion.

Advent Of Modern Cults 

Many cults began springing up in the 1800s too. Mormons reinterpreted the Bible to have many gods and Jesus is but one of them—and they claim that you can become one too! The Mormons changed many passages in the Bible (Joseph Smith Translation, aka., King James Version [of 1833], New Translation, or Inspired Version) and reinterpreted the Bible in light of its alleged new prophet Joseph Smith (d. 1844).

Jehovah’s Witnesses also claimed to have a new prophet, Charles Taze Russell, and changed the Bible (New World Translation) and reinterpreted Jesus to be a created being—the archangel Michael, and published his "Studies in the Scripture" in 1886.  They came out with new prophecies in their Watchtower, now Awake!, magazine, many of which have proved to be false but they are still promoting their religion nonetheless.  

Adventist Movement 

Jehovah’s Witnesses were one group that came out of the Adventist movement. Adventists were in the vein of William Miller (d. 1849), which is why Adventists are often called Millerites or Millerism as well. William Miller and other Adventists fervently believed the end of the world was imminent and would occur at any moment. Therefore, they often made claims of when Christ would return. Of course, that all turned out to be wrong.

Jehovah’s Witnesses were no differently in that they repeatedly claimed by prophetic knowledge exactly when Christ would return to the year—but these turned out to be false prophecies too. 

Seventh Day Adventists (SDA’s) also came out of the Millerite movement. Claiming to be a prophetess, Ellen White (d. 1915) reinterpreted the Bible and had subsequent “prophetic” writings to be vegetarian and so on. Like Jehovah's Witnesses, White held that the soul is not eternal and that the unsaved would be annihilated instead of spending eternity in hell. This is a subtle denial of man being made in the image of an eternal God. White was a prolific writer in the last half of the 1800s and early 1900s. 

More cultic groups arose out of this movement. Christandelphians, Branch Davidians, and the Worldwide Church of God all came out of the Adventist movement and they reinterpreted the Bible to be unitarian and have Jesus as a created being. Some of these other Adventist groups also do not believe the soul to be eternal, like Jehovah’s Witnesses and SDA’s.

Advent Of Dispensationalism 

John Nelson Darby (d. 1882) was most responsible for modern views of dispensationalism and the “rapture” in the 1820s-1830s. He was instrumental in the early Plymouth Brethren denomination and then later founded the Exclusive Brethren churches (also called Darbyites or a sect called Darbyism).

His futurism eschatological scheme ended up with a two-fold return of Christ due to influence by alleged prophetess Margret MacDonald. It is frustrating that some claim that she invented the rapture or that she was purely responsible for influencing Darby, but that is without warrant. At most, she did have a small influence. Furthermore, Darby disagreed with MacDonald on many things but the point of a twofold return, he utilized.

Like Adventists, Darby saw the return of Jesus being immanent very soon. An extremely influential dispensational leader Clarence Larkin saw the return of Christ a little bit later than Darby. In his 1918-1920 book, Dispensational Truth (p. 16), Larkin predicted Jesus would return in the year AD 2000. Again, from an historical perspective, that prediction as well as Darby’s immanent return view turned out to be wrong.

Being schooled as a lawyer, Darby developed a new method of interpreting the Bible unseen in any church in history, particularly the law. He saw previous laws  (in total) be done away in his 7 [newly defined] “dispensations”. So the only rules to follow were the new ones as the old ones were tossed out at particular times/dispensations in history. In other words, all Old Testament law is done away with and the only law to follow now is if a new law is stated or reaffirmed in the New Testament. So history is seen as a series of 7 dispensations with different laws at each dispensation (hence, the name dispensationalism).

Dispensationalism also sees among the saved—one through Christ and the other by the nation of Israel. Dispensationalism sees distinctions between the church and Israel and one day the church will end (at the rapture) and God will return His focus to the new nation of Israel.

Dispensationalism, both its interpretive themes and eschatology, quickly found its way into many churches in the 1900s. Particularly, many Baptist churches today use the Exclusive Brethren dispensationalism for interpreting the Bible and its eschatology. Darby’s pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture scheme is an easy test to see if people hold to Exclusive Brethren teachings of dispensationalism.

The point is that the 1800s saw some crazy things happening where churches were neglecting what the Bible clearly says and were happy to reinterpret the Bible to have whatever they wanted. These churches became cults or to otherwise compromised with millions of years, dispensationalism, false prophets, or other doctrines that deviate from the clear teachings in the Bible. The 1800s saw movements with new prophets and prophetesses, as well as other biblically deviations.  This bring us to…the Holiness movement—which is what triggered a campaign that would develop into modern tongues and prophecy.

The Holiness Movement 

The Holiness movement began in the 1840s by a Methodist Episcopal named Phoebe Palmer. She was a very influential evangelist and writer. Palmer held that belief in God was enough to assure salvation and that Jesus was to return very soon, like contemporaries Darby and Miller. But again, this never happened. Even so, this gave an urgency of her evangelism.

Palmer also held a position that a person can be entirely free from sin and attain perfection on this earth. This is in opposition to traditional church teachings that we all have original sin inherent from when we sinned in Adam and our perfection will not be complete until the general resurrection with new bodies. But this new view held that with effort, one can attain personal perfection in this life.

This influence led to Pentecostalism. If you work to attain this “perfection” or “sinless state”, often through emotional experience, you can have a “second blessing” of the Spirit which opens the door to prophecy and tongues and seals you in perfect sinless state of being.

A big problem with this is that only Christ is sinless and it is his sinless righteousness that needs to be imputed (i.e., transferred) to us for entrance into a perfect heaven. Thus, we are seen as spotless because of Christ, not because of our works. Even Paul in Romans 7:14-23 was not able to be sinless yet he could speak in tongues and prophecy (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13:2, 14:18). According to Matthew 7:22-23, prophesying is not a sign of true faith either.

Though many in the Holiness Moment (and its “daughter” Pentecostalism—more in a moment) do not hold to a works-based salvation, some can be led into it if they are not careful. Nevertheless, in the 1800s, there were movements that opened the door to supposed new prophets and a movement that that led to alleged new prophecies, miraculous healing, and tongues.

Pentecostalism And Charles Parham 

The Holiness movement lead to a charismatic system known as Pentecostalism where those who get saved are migrating to a post-conversion religious experience called “baptism of the Holy Spirit”. Thus in a similar fashion to what happened at Pentecost, believers are supposed to experience prophecy and tongues like what happened at Pentecost in the New Testament (Acts 2). Hence the name “Pentecostal” or “Pentecostalism”.

There are two levels to this “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” in Pentecostalism. The first is initial signs. Then when one moves on to maturity (perfectionism), then they can be fully immersed in prophecy or speaking in tongues. Many Pentecostals also believe in another gift—that of miraculous healing.

Leading the charge for Pentecostalism was Bethel College in Topeka, Kansas, with its director and founder Charles Parham, a former Methodist who was heavily influenced by the Wesleyan Holiness movement. Parham believed that the Holy Spirit directly communicated with him (i.e., like other alleged prophets often claimed).

Parham didn’t believe in hell for the unsaved, but rather annihilationism (i.e., that the soul would cease to exist for the unsaved) like Jehovah's Witnesses and Ellen White. He also believed in a partial rapture where only tongue-speakers would be raptured—note the influence by Dispensationalism and Exclusive Brethren teachings from Darby. Parham also believed that Adam was not the first man that God created. This is but a small list of deviations to which he held.  

He pushed his students to await the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 1901, his first student to speak in tongues was Agnes Oznam (later, LaBerge)—speaking in an unknown tongue, that onlookers thought might be Chinese. But upon further analysis, it was not Chinese or any other known language. Then more students joined in. Parham and his class began viewing these as signs that the end was near; therefore there was an urgency to begin evangelizing—though it was met with little success. From an historical perspective, the end wasn’t near by the way.

In 1903, Parham began teaching faith healing. Then the charismatic movement began to grow, particularly in 1906 in Los Angeles. There was a major evangelical event called the Azusa Street Revival. Many people in LA  began “speaking in tongues” and expressing other alleged "gifts". William J. Seymour, another of Parham’s students, saw what was occurring in LA and saw it as demonic as opposed to spirit-filled. As a result, he and Parham parted ways.  

As the Pentecostal movement grew, it took over certain churches that became Pentecostal or in other cases, they formed their own denominations and grew from there. There are three major groups of Pentecostals today:

1.     One group teaches that Baptism of the Holy Spirit was only for people who have been [1] converted and [2] have been sanctified (made holy or perfect). This comes directly from the Holiness movement and is largely held by those came out of the Methodist and Nazarene denominations to switched to become Pentecostal such as the Church of God and the Church of God in Christ denominations. They hold to a three step process--having these two points as precursors to Baptism of the Holy Spirit:

a.       Justification or forgiveness of sins when one puts their faith in Christ

b.      Sanctification or “the second blessing” when you are being made perfect

c.       “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” when you have been sanctified and receive the gift of tongues, prophecy, and/or healing

2.     Another group that says that the Holy Spirit was for every believer. This was largely for those churches that became Pentecostal that were originally Baptist. The Assemblies of God denomination is an example here. The step of sanctification is obviously null and void for this group to attain the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”.

3.     The third group of Pentecostals is modalistic and oneness (i.e., God is unitarian). Thus, they are cultic like Charles Taze Russell's Jehovah's Witnesses. They deny that God is Triune (one God, three persons). They hold that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are just different modes of the same person as opposed to distinct persons. Any oneness Pentecostal church holds to unitarian view of God such as the Apostolic Pentecostals or United Pentecostals.    

This brief introduction is really just a taste of the influence of the Pentecostal and Holiness Movements sitting in our backyards today. Among the many popular Pentecostals today are Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn.  

What Does The Old Testament Say? 

From the end of the first century to almost AD 1900, churches were not speaking in tongues, doing miraculous healings, or prophesying in the spirit for church services. This now brings up an obvious issue. Was the church wrong for about 1800 years, was there a "reopening" of gifts, or is this new movement of Pentecostalism in error?

This is a big deal if you aren’t paying attention. Bear in mind that most churches that came out of the Reformation oppose Pentecostalism—still to this day! 

Note some parallels to this modern movement. Mormons in the 1800s said the church had it wrong for 1800 years and the Joseph Smith, a self-proclaimed prophet, and his followers are here set everyone straight. Jehovah’s Witnesses said the church had it wrong for 1800 years and another self-proclaimed prophet Charles Taze Russell and his followers are here to set the church straight. Now Charles Parham and his followers are saying the same basic thing! This should be a red flag. Let’s check this against Scripture.

What does God say? The Old Testament prophesied that prophecy (i.e., there will be no more prophets) would cease upon the destruction of the Temple’s sanctuary, when it would be burned with fire per Psalm 74:3–9:

Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations. The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary. Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place; They set up their banners for signs. They seem like men who lift up Axes among the thick trees. And now they break down its carved work, all at once, With axes and hammers. They have set fire to Your sanctuary; They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name to the ground. They said in their hearts, "Let us destroy them altogether." They have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land. We do not see our signs; There is no longer any prophet; Nor is there any among us who knows how long. (Psalm 74:3-9 NKJV, emphasis added)

Building on this, Daniel points out that when the sanctuary is destroyed and the things in it with fire and broken down and all the meeting places (e.g., synagogues in Israel) are destroyed, there will no longer be any prophet in the land. Daniel 9:24-27 says:

"Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate." (Daniel 9:24-27 NKJV, emphasis added)

Vision and prophecy shall cease when the Holy City (that is, Jerusalem per Nehemiah 11:1, Isaiah 52:1) and sanctuary (that is, the Temple; e.g., 1 Kings 6:19) are destroyed which occurred in the first century around AD 70.

One might initially object and say this is in reference to the first time the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586-588 BC. After all, the Psalms were written well before that destruction. However, prophets like Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Obadiah still existed when the Babylonians came in and destroyed Solomon’s Temple. They were prophesying before, during, and afterward. There were prophets afterwards too (think of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah). Biblically, vision and prophecy didn’t cease when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple.

Also, the prophecy doesn’t exactly match the Babylonian captivity. For instance, the items were largely taken out of the Temple by the Babylonians and were later returned and not destroyed (2 Chronicles 36:7, Ezra 5:14, etc.). Contextually, the event in question is clearly in reference to the first century because Jesus, the Messiah, must bring an end to all sacrifice and make and end of sins per Daniel.

No doubt these prophecies are about the destruction of the Temple when the Romans carried off and destroyed the items from the Temple in AD 70. It was after Jesus sacrificed Himself to solve the sin problem. The Romans burned up all the synagogues in the land (meeting places). This is why the Psalm passage and the Daniel passage are referring to the first century event.

So vision and prophecy (i.e., new prophets) are no longer possible after the New Testament was completed by AD 70. God has sealed it up when the Bible was completed. This means Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Margret MacDonald, or anyone else claiming a prophetic word is not a prophetic word from God. 

So for 1800 years, the church was largely silent on prophecies in church for a good reason.

What Does The New Testament Say? 

Apostles of Christ were given authority over prophets and, together with the prophets of the Old Testament, are the foundation with Christ as the chief cornerstone (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:28–29; Ephesians 2:20; 2 Peter 3:2). The implication is that any alleged prophets after the Apostles of Christ are still subject to the Apostles’ teachings as superior to any of their alleged writings or sayings (i.e., the New Testament which holds authority over any of them).

This is consistent with previous revelation being used to judge any alleged new revelation. The New Testament was defended by using the Old Testament for example (e.g., Acts 17:2, 18:28).

In the New Testament, Jude 1:3 affirms that the faith was once for all delivered to the saints (Christians) now that Christ fulfilled the Old Testament (e.g., Matthew 5:17; Acts 3:18). So there is no reason for the faith to have to change; it was completed and salvation was made possible once and for all. If it is once for all, then no new prophecy is required as the completed Bible is sufficient for all. Thus, Scripture is sufficient (i.e., the doctrine of sufficiency would be called into question if new prophecy is afforded). 

Furthermore, the New Testament affirms that tongues and prophecy were to cease as well. It is contained in 3 chapters in 1 Corinthians. It is lengthy but the context is vital. 1 Corinthians  12:27 – 14:40 (NKJV) says:

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28  And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29  Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30  Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31  But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2  For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3  But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5  I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? 7  Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? 8  For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9  So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.

10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. 11  Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. 12  Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. 13  Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.

15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. 16  Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? 17  For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.

18  I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; 19  yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20  Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.

21 In the law it is written: "With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me," says the Lord. 22  Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 23  Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24  But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25  And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.

26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

27  If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28  But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30  But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31  For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33  For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35  And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

36 Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37  If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38  But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39  Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. 40  Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians  12:27 – 14:40 NKJV, emphasis added)

Until AD 70 when vision and prophecy were sealed up, the Corinthian church regularly had tongues and prophecy. But tongues and prophecy were to cease as prophesied by Paul. Paul stated, “But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.”

In the context of tongues and prophecy at church services to the Corinthians, Paul instructed that women are not to engage in these things and if they had a problem with understanding tongues or prophecy at the service, then they should wait and ask their husbands at home (1 Corinthians 14:27-35). At the church in Corinth prior to AD 70, they were to have no more that 3 people doing tongues or prophecy at the service.

But when the perfect had come, the written Word of the Holy Spirit (i.e., the complete Bible with 66 books), these gifts were no longer necessary. The prophetic mysteries were now revealed to the saints (e.g., Colossians 1:26-27, Romans 16:25, and Ephesians 3:8-11). Unlike Daniel (Daniel 12:4-9) or Abraham (John 8:56) who had to look forward to it mysteriously, the mystery of Christ has been made known to us through prophecy in the New Testament books.

Tongues, prophecy, and knowledge [of understanding prophetic mysteries] came to an end just as Paul had prophesied and just as the Psalmist prophesied and just as Daniel had prophesied. God’s perfect Word was complete by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, these temporary gifts can now be done away with: tongues, prophecy, and knowledge (regarding prophetic mysteries). 

Consider the converse. If these things did not cease, then Paul would be a false prophet. Daniel would be a false prophet too. So would Asaph, the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 74.  

Objection: What about Joel’s prophecy which reopens prophecy and spiritual divine gifts as “latter rain”? 

In an effort to get around this problem of silence for so long since the First Century, some Pentecostals argue that there was indeed a silence and an end to the gifts but in AD 1900, things were reopened. This idea from the Holiness movement was expanded as the Latter Rain movement. Now with the Pentecostal movement, to become fully whole, one is to expect the “latter rain” gifts as mentioned in the book of Joel to allow speaking in tongues and prophecy [as a result of Baptism of the Holy Spirit]. 

This is supposed to occur immediately prior to the second coming of Christ and the judgment. Joel 2:21-27 says:

Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the LORD has done marvelous things! Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength. Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you — The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month. The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.  You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame. (Joel 2:21-27 NKJV, emphasis added)

Then Joel continues:

"And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28-32 NKJV)

This latter rain in Joel 2:23 is no different from any other latter rain mentioned in the Bible (Deuteronomy 11:14; Proverbs 16:15; Jeremiah 3:3, 5:24; Hosea 6:3; Zechariah 10:1; and James 5:7). It was favorable physical rain in the context of watering the crops—with the exception of Proverbs 16:15 which with uses this favorable rain cloud (based on literal latter rain) as a metaphor as receiving positive favor from a king. 

Using Joel 2:23 as a springboard, some Pentecostals relate that this is similar to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our modern times. In other words, the “initial rain” was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, then it ceased, and now with the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900s, this is the “latter rain” where tongues and prophecy are reopened.

The problem with this is the context. Joel 2:28 only mentions one outpouring of the Holy Spirit with no hints at a secondary one. This prophecy entails its occurrence after the restored blessing to Israel. Thus Joel’s prophecy, which is explained in the book of Acts, is seen as fulfilled per Peter speaking in the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and this outpouring preceded the judgment of Israel (e.g., Luke 11:50; Hebrews 10:29).

This outpouring is discussed in detail in Acts 2:1-12. Peter, by the power of the Holy Spirit which was now poured out, explains:

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. "For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.  And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:14-21 NKJV)

This outpouring reopened the canon of Scripture so the New Testament could be written as God had been silent regarding additions to His written Word for 400 years. The prophecy of the turning point from silence is given in Malachi 4:5-6 regarding the coming of Elijah (Matthew 17:10-13).

Of course Christ, the Living Word, spoke directly to man during His incarnation (Hebrews 1:2). And the Holy Spirit, now poured out, was responsible for reminding the Apostles and guiding them into all truth (John 16:13; Ephesians 6:17; 2 Peter 1:21; Revelation 19:10).

Apostles were appointed first in the church followed by New Testament prophets (who were under the authority of the apostles) who are responsible for the sufficient 27 books of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20; 2 Peter 3:2; Jude 1:3).

Peter reiterated that Joel was fulfilled when he said, "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear" (Acts 2:33). Any application of this to modern times is not warranted from the Scriptures and is a mere conjecture (arbitrary). 

Furthermore, if this latter rain was supposed to come just before the judgment, did we miss the judgment? From 1901 to today (2021), its been 120 years of supposed latter rain and still no judgment. Take note that the duration of supposed latter rain far exceeds the time from Pentecost, which was just after the Ascension of Christ (AD 33) to the close of the New Testament (AD 70). Judgment came in AD 70 on the Jews, Jerusalem, and the Temple (e.g., Hebrews 10:29) only about 47 years after the supposed initial rain!

Conclusion 

The Scriptures are complete and no new prophecy is required. The Christian faith has once for all been delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). The canon is closed and the temporary gifts poured out in apostolic times ceased in the first century. And Scripture doesn’t reveal that these special gifts will be reopened on this side of heaven.   

Parham and Pentecostalism is part of a movement that came at a time of reinterpreting Scripture and an open door to hosts of false prophets in the 1800s. There is no need to deviate from the clear passages in Scripture to reinterpret it so that tongues and prophecy can come back.

Interestingly, churches who are not part of this movement often get criticized for not placing an emphasis on the Holy Spirit. However, this is an arbitrary charge. For 1900 years, churches honored the Holy Spirit by honoring Christ’s work and honoring the Word of the Holy Spirit—the Bible. If one is to place an emphasis on the Holy Spirit (which isn’t a bad thing by the way), it had better be done in accordance with the Holy Spirit’s teaching in Scripture, in contrast to the new allegations presented by Parham et al. 

The Elephant In The Room 

So let’s now deal with the elephant in the room. If these tongues and prophecies in Pentecostal churches are not from God, then who are they from?

·        It is possible they are from oneself. A person can deceive themselves into believing things (James 1:14-15).

·      Another possibility is that it is Satan and demons. The Bible reveals that they have spoken too. Satan spoke and/or worked through a serpent (Genesis 3:1-4; Revelation 12:9, 20:2), the King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:12-17), Judas (John 13:27), and Peter (Matthew 16:23). Demons have spoken and taken over people as well such as Legion in Mark 5:9, the little girl in Mark 7:29, the mute man in Luke 11:14, or the slave girl in Acts 16:16.

·      There were also false prophets (e.g., Bar-Jesus, that is, False-Jesus in Acts 13:6) and false teachers (2 Peter 2:1) that permeate the church from the earliest days until now. These can be known by testing them against the absolute authority of the 66 books of God’s Word.

God commands:

Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21 NKJV) 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1 NKJV)

God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Test the spirits against the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). For Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) seeing whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Keep in mind that the Pentecostal movement can be traced back to one man, a teacher named Charles Parham, who put his students to the fire to do this. One of his prized students later parted ways with him because he was convinced Parham’s movement was becoming demonic (William Seymour).

A Call To Repentance 

If you have been involved  in prophecies and tongues, then what you’ve read here might be a bit of a wake-up call. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not enemies with my Pentecostal brothers—we’ve stood side-by-side praising God together. But in truth, this is where the rubber hits the road with most Christians outside the Pentecostal movement and why they do not affirm Pentecostal teachings.

Imagine standing before God and when questioned about tongues and prophecy, the best response is “well, I trusted Parham and his followers”. Perhaps it is time to humbly reevaluate these issues and be in prayer. It’s time to get back to God’s Word.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Eternal Security

 

What About Eternal Security?

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, March, 16, 2021

 

Introduction 

When you get saved—are you always saved or can you lose your salvation and have to regain it from time to time? Whole churches have been split on this since the Reformation and is still a hot button issue 500 years later.  

There are several passages of Scripture that discuss eternal security.  Here are a few: 

"You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. "I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me. "It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, And there was no strange god among you; So you are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And I am God. "Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?" (Isaiah 43:10-13 NASB) 

"But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. "I and the Father are one." (John 10:26-30 NASB) 

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. (1 John 2:15-20 NASB) 

"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:37-40 NASB) 

Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him (1 John 3 NASB) 

The Doctrine of Eternal Security 

The doctrine of eternal security is essential for the Christian to better understand God’s grace. The Bible teaches that salvation is of God (Ephesians 2:8) not of us. Before we are saved, we are dead to sin. “And you were dead in your trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1). Some may want to claim that we were drowning in sin and we reached out our hand for God to save us, and He reached down and saved us. 

Actually, as the Scripture records, we were more rightly dead, not drowning, already lying on the bottom of the lake. He had to come down and resuscitate us—like Lazarus dead in the grave—only Christ could bring life back into him (John 11:14-45). 

 

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9 NASB) 

Please note clearly, there is nothing we add to our salvation. God found us spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14) and dead in our transgressions. We were dead to sin and Christ made us alive. Because our salvation is entirely of God, we can do nothing to add to it or take away from it. Are we mightier than God? Absolutely not. 

Since God has “made us alive” there is nothing we can do to make ourselves spiritually dead, otherwise we control our salvation, not God.  If this were possible, we can add salvation and remove it when we want based on our thoughts and actions. 

Allow this illustration to help explain it: being born into a physical family mirrors being born into the family of God. The family you were born into will forever be your family. There is nothing you can do to exit that family. As long as you live you will have the genetic makeup of your parents.  You can move across the earth, deny them, you can even murder them, and they are still your family. You can do nothing in your power to erase the fact that you are part of that family. 

So it is in the family of God. Once you are born into the family of God, you have no power or ability to remove yourself from it. Why? Because you don’t have the power to do so in the same way you had no power to get into it (this is not to deny man’s responsibility though which is a different topic). It was the Holy Spirit prompting and convicting you (2 Thessalonians 2:13, John 16:7-8, Titus 3:3-5, 1 Corinthians 12:3). 

It is so important to understand this point because if one does not recognize that salvation is totally a gift from God and nothing of oneself, it reduces the concept of grace and there are implications. If salvation is of one’s doing, it is not a free gift. Therefore, if one can lose and gain it based on their thoughts and actions, it is a work, and that is not in accordance with the clear teaching of Scripture. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, see also Titus 3:5-7)

Therefore, believing that one can lose salvation can, but doesn’t always lead to a road of salvation by works. Though this doesn’t negate one’s salvation, so please do not confuse this issue. Further reading of Romans 8:38-39, Ephesians 1-2, 1 Corinthians 1:12-14, and Titus 3:3-7 would be of great help.

Answering objections 

Objection: What about Hebrew 10:26? 

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. (Hebrews 10:26-27 NASB) 

This doesn’t say that those who are in Christ will lose their salvation but says that if they willfully sin after knowing not to, the Law’s sacrifices can’t help. God will still judge his peoples’ sins and all of us will give an account of our sins. This is the culmination in the context if we continue reading to Hebrews 10:30. This is also confirmed in Romans 14:12. Thank the Lord that Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to Christians. 

Objection: What about Hebrews 3:6-14? 

But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house — whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, 

"TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS, WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me, AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS. "THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS’; AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, ‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.’" 

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. (Hebrew 3:6-14 NASB) 

Note that those who turn away from the living God are unbelievers in verse 12. There is no reason to propose they believed prior to this. They may have tasted the heavenly blessing, but it was never theirs. If Christians follow after these sinful unbelievers, then they run the risk of being hardened or stagnant in their Christian faith, but not a loss of salvation. But Christians should recognize that these are sinful and want to turn from such things.     

Objection: What about Hebrew 6:4-6? 

And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:3-6 NASB) 

This is a passage where the writers of Hebrews draw a comparison with a more mature topic (Hebrew 6:1-2). And clearly this is referring to people who have been saved “enlightened”, “tasted the heavenly gift”, “partakers of the Holy Spirit” and so on. But the key is given in verse 3. Verse 3 indicates the following verses (4-6) are a hypothetical situation as indicated by “if God permits”.   

The point is simple, if one could lose their salvation, then they can never be saved again because Christ would have to die on the cross and put Him to open shame again for them, which will never happen.  So the hypothetical resolve concludes that one cannot lose their salvation and is consistent with other passages in the Bible. 

This has strong implications.  Consider if one does lose their salvation and fall away even in a minute manner of momentary doubt.  In keeping with such a philosophy, then that person would be lost forever with no possibility of salvation. This would mean that someone of the vilest and evilest of intentions would have a better possibility of entering into the kingdom of heaven than a person who has been trying and yet stumbled briefly in their faith. But the key in this passage is that this was a hypothetical to show that salvation really is eternal life, and not temporary life.     

Objection: What about Matthew 7:21 where it says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven”? 

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "So then, you will know them by their fruits. "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew 7:15-21 NASB) 

The context clears this up easily.  It is referring to false prophets who do not bear good fruit.  See Matthew 7:15.  So they were never saved it the first place.  

Objection: What about 1 Corinthians 9:24-27? 

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. 

They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:23-27 NASB) 

Paul is pointing out a contrast between the race being run for the Gospel and a physical race by runners. With runners, they all run and yet only 1 receives a prize and it is it will be forgotten in time anyway (perishable). But in contrast, Christians run for an imperishable crown—and there is no uncertainty about it. This crown being eternal life and one can be certain of it as Paul says in verse 26.  

Also in contrast to a physical race, those running toward an imperishable crown all win, not just one. So Paul sets the example, that if you know what you are running for and know you will win, then run the race the race like you mean it, and that is what he is doing. So he disciplines himself to run race to win, not sitting around on his laurels and failing to try (i.e., be disqualified). And this discipline leads to his preaching.    

But take note of the phrase “when I have preached to others”, which immediately precedes becoming disqualified. So what would Paul be disqualified from? Is it the imperishable crown or the right to preach the Gospel? This is the crux of the issue. This phrase, “when I have preached to others” is placed perfectly to reveal that the disqualification in reference is to preaching, not to eternal life.  

And this makes sense of the context. If Paul is slack about running the disciplined race when preaching, then he would not be qualified to be their preacher. But he does it for the Gospel’s sake to be fellow partakers with those he is preaching to (verse 23).  

Objection: What about Luke 13:24? 

And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ "Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. (Luke 13:23-28 NASB) 

In verse 24, it reveals that there will be many who seek the Lord but will not enter. But take note that seeking the Lord is not the requirement for salvation, whereas a saving belief in Jesus Christ is. For example the Bible says: 

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16  NASB) 

The Bible does not say: 

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever SEEKS Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16  NASB) 

The Bible says: 

And after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:30–31 NASB) 

The Bible does not say: 

And after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

They said, "SEEK the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:30–31 NASB) 

So the people in Luke 13:24 were not saved in the first place, so they did not fall away from salvation, since they never had it.    

Final thoughts 

John makes a powerful statement when he wrote: 

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13 NASB) 

How could anyone know they have eternal life if it could be snatched from them at any time? The fact is, if a person could lose their salvation at any moment, then they can’t know for sure that they have eternal life. If they could walk away at anytime, then this would presents a serious problem for John’s statement. For such a guarantee could not be decreed unless one stood firmly until the end of their life, without doubt; but John, speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit, said they could know well before the end of their life. 

When the Lord says eternal life, He means it; it is eternal, not to be taken away at any moment. So to reiterate Isaiah: "And I am God. "Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?"

 


Friday, March 12, 2021

Unborn Saved?

 

Can Unborn and Young Children Who Died Be Saved?

B. Hodge, Biblically Authority Ministries, March 12, 2021

  

Thank you for contacting the ministry. I want to give my personal views and I know others may disagree with me but my hope is to help give comfort to fellow Christians who ask about this serious topic. I am open to the possibility that I am wrong and ask forgiveness up front. Nevertheless, I ask that my fallible response not be a reflection of a perfect God and His Word. 

Who Are Sinners?  

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 NKJV) 

Romans 5:12 also indicates that all have sinned because Adam sinned. Isaiah 48:8 (speaking of Israel and Judah) and Psalms 51:5 (speaking of David) alludes to the sinful nature of children even in the womb. The punishment for sin is death (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23). 

Why do I start here? There are some people who try to argue that the unborn (or even newly born children) are sinless or without sin—blameless and pure in the sight of God. Thus, they can be saved by having a form of righteousness and purity apart from Christ. I want to caution people from using this argument because there are significant theological problems with this view.  

Consider the implication of the unborn if they are not sinners. If the unborn have not sinned, then they cannot die because the punishment for sin is death. Sadly, they can die whether by miscarriage, abortion, still born, etc. God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18) so, as we (author and reader together) just read, all are sinners. I have four children in my house and from personal experience, I can attest from the moment they were born, they are definitely little sinners. 😊 

There is another theological problem if we assume that the unborn are not sinners. In Romans 5:6-8 and 1 Timothy 1:15 both indicate that Jesus came to save sinners, i.e., the ungodly. If the unborn are sinless, then Jesus didn’t die for them. This would pose a problem for the unborn then since no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).  If they were not sinners, they wouldn’t even have the possibility to go through Jesus so they wouldn’t make it to God the Father in Heaven.  

Another theological issue is in Hebrews 7:26 where Jesus is set apart from sinners as He is the only one blameless and pure. If there are others who are blameless and pure, then Jesus wouldn’t be set apart in that respect. 

In our hearts, we desperately want children to be blameless and pure but they inherit sin because we were all in Adam when he sinned. 

Let me explain this further. My life came from my parents and your life came from your parents. Where their life come from? It came from their parents…all the way back to Adam and Eve. When Adam sinned our life was wrapped up in Adam so his sin is also our sin. This is called original sin because it came from the original sin in the Garden of Eden. We are sinners by the nature of our life going back to Adam but we are also sinners by our own actions and choices. Hebrews 7 reveals: 

Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. (Hebrews 7:9-10 NKJV) 

Note that Abraham’s great grandson Levi was considered “still in the body” of his ancestor Abraham when Abe paid tithes to a priest called Melchizedek. Thus our life was indeed in Adam when he first sinned. The Son of God—Jesus Christ, being the Creator God Himself per John 1, Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1, was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) yet came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3) to save sinners. So to argue that children are without sin would be to negate that they have the possibility of salvation. 

Significance of the Sinless Christ 

Jesus, being sinless, meant that rightly, He shouldn’t have been able to die either. Recall that death is the punishment for sin. But Jesus should not have been able to die. So how is it that He was able to die on the cross? According to the Bible, Jesus became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) in order to die. 

Upon Christ’s death via the Roman crucifixion incited by the Jews (including the High Priest himself), the infinitely powerful Son also took the infinitely powerful punishment we deserve from the infinitely powerful Father. Christ’s spilt blood satisfied God’s wrath upon sin and makes salvation possible. 

Thus Christ’s righteousness can be imputed (or transferred) to us when we repent of our sin and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior (Romans 4:23-5:1) by believing in His death, burial, and resurrection (John 3:16-18, Romans 10:9). 

Salvation is a work of God and a free gift offered to sinners (Ephesians 2:8). So believers are seen as without blemish and pure and spotless as the perfect bride of Christ to enter into a perfect heaven (Revelation 21:27)  with a  perfect God for eternity. 

Jesus being the new federal head of humanity (Matthew 28:18, 1 Peter 5:11), unlike Adam (who led us into death through sin) cannot sin and therefore cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13); so for eternity we will never fall back into sin and death. This is why we can have eternal life enjoying God’s goodness forever (e.g., Daniel 12:2, Matthew 25:46). 

Are human babies “human”? 

It is hard to believe that people in our culture fail to understand this basic fact of life, but yes. human babies are human—even the unborn. They are people, albeit younger, but people nonetheless and we were all like this except Adam and Eve. Our respective grandparents were made with fully mature bodies and God supernaturally gave them life—this is not a problem because God is omnipotent (i.e., all-powerful). 

Some evolutionist have argued that babies are not yet human but going through evolutionary animal phases during embryonic development (called: “embryonic recapitulation”). Sadly many are deceived into believing this religious view as it is taught in most state schools. This religion is why some people try to justify abortion children. 

Even so, such a story is absurd as babies are unique persons from the moment of fertilization where a new child is made by the combining of the DNA from both mother and father. At no stage in the womb are baby humans going through animal phases—and this can be eye witnessed today through technology. 

Sadly, many Christians today try to mix their religion with the secular evolutionary religion. In doing so, some join with this idea of human babies are going through animal phases in the womb and they assume their baby can be aborted because it is just like an animal and not made in the image of an eternal God to have an eternal soul yet. 

Thus, they reason that the child in the womb isn’t eternal but more like an animal and so salvation isn’t necessary for discussion. Even so, murdering a child is simply that—murder and God will deal with those sins on judgment day if one doesn’t repent. God is merciful to those who humble themselves and admit and repent of their sin to Him.   

 

Don’t Be Rash 

For many years, I quickly assumed that the children that died early or were aborted were saved without much thought. I do want to encourage caution on this position though too. If this position is taken, then the conclusion could result that Christians should encourage abortions and the murder of the young particularly among non-believers, so that these children can be saved. Of course, this should never even be a thought of Christians who should be holding to the sanctity of life and the repeated biblical commands not to murder. 

But look at the converse. Consider the possibility that all the aborted, still-born, or miscarried children are lost for eternal damnation. Such a  sobering thought could dissuade even the most ardent evangelical from action knowing that nearly a billion children have been aborted the world over since I was born in the 1970s. Although one can see why Christians often stand up against abortion and the killing children. But let’s look at this issue in more detail before succumbing to such a rash conclusions one way or another.  

How Do We Know If Someone Is Saved? 

Jesus died for all (who receive Him—e.g., John 12:48) including those prior to and after His death on the cross and resurrection as indicated in Hebrew 2:9. The Old Testament people of God could not testify of Jesus in the flesh because He hadn’t come yet but they knew God and with Jesus being God, they were His when they placed their faith in God. 

The godly Old Testament persons looked forward to Christ’s finished work on the cross and His resurrection in the same way we look back to what Christ did. This is why the Greek word for “everyone” in Hebrews 2:9 indicates all people of all time – Old Testament, New Testament, those up to now, and those hereafter until Christ bodily returns.  

But determining who is saved and not can become a hairy situation sometimes – from a human perspective that is. Of course, God knows and He is the best judge anyway.   

If someone were to ask me if someone walking down the street was saved, that would be a very difficult task to ascertain, unless I could ask that person. And then see if they were producing the fruits a Christian should produce as a potential confirmation (e.g., Luke 6:43-44). 

Let’s face it, a non Christian can lie and say they are a Christian even when they have not received Christ as their Lord. Leading atheist Richard Dawkins often calls himself a “cultural Christian” or “cultural Anglican” (the Church of England).[1] He is by no means a follower of Christ. So seeing fruits are a good confirmation but even then it is still not absolute.  

When it comes to children—namely the unborn, seeing fruits and even asking is impossible from a human perspective. So in reality, it would be extremely difficult for me to say if anyone is saved or not. But that is really between God and that person, even the youngest of children. 

God Searches And Draws All People 

God says He searches all hearts for example when He is speaking to Solomon: 

"As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. (1 Chronicles 28:9 NKJV) 

This includes the heart of children – even in the womb. It is God that draws them to Himself.  Consider: 

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44 NKJV) 

Jesus affirmed that He draws all people to Himself: 

"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." (John 12:32 NKJV) 

The unborn are people and Jesus said He draws them. This means that God has drawn children  in the womb that is about to be aborted and a child that dies while very young, even after being born. For one to be saved though, God is the one who works in them and who of us can know who the Holy Spirit has saved in the womb and young children out of the womb? 

God, who knows the future, is aware if a child is about to be aborted, die early of disease, or other problem. Who are we to say that God has not already been working in the hearts of the unborn and the young children who have been born and will die soon. God has mercy on those on whom He wills to have mercy. 

Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.  (Romans 9:18 NKJV) 

I believe that children can be saved even though they are extremely young but they can only be saved through their faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6). It would not be via any other means. 

If someone argues that a child is too young to be saved because they do not have sufficient understanding to properly ascertain a thorough comprehension of the salvific work of Christ unto saving believability then we must ask how young and how much understanding must one have? (See what I did there—did you have to read that sentence twice?!? 😊). Don’t forget that it is a child-like faith that is the type of faith for which we strive (Matthew 18:2-4)! 

What I’m getting at is that salvation is predicated on Christ’s work in one’s heart by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3) unto saving faith—not the depth of knowledge that we learn about Christ and His Work. I am still learning daily about His awesomeness and am overwhelmingly dwarfed by the immensity of the wisdom in His Word. I feel like a child in the depth of what I want to know about God and His Word. Consider the fact that we are all very young little children to someone like Jared and Methuselah who lived 962 and 969 years old respectively. 

David 

Now consider Psalm 22:10:

I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God. (Psalm 22:10 NKJV) 

The Bible teaches us that David, while in the womb, knew God and was His (Psalm 22:10).  Take note that this doesn’t negate that David was sinner prior to birth. 

Now the point I’m getting to is that there is a difference in being aware of sin and being a sinner. Even now, there are adults living that don’t realize they are sinners and are well beyond the state of awareness. Does this make them sinless? No. 

So with respect to the unborn, just because they are unaware that they are sinners, does this make them sinless? No. We are committing the logical fallacy of equivocation when we equate being sinless with salvation. There were elect angels (e.g., 1 Timothy 5:21) that did not sin and thus were not in need of salvation. The only way we can have salvation is to be in need of salvation (i.e., be in sin). Being sinful doesn’t negate salvation, but what it does do is give eligibility to be saved through Jesus Christ. If children weren't sinners, they couldn't be saved.     

But I believe children and the unborn have the possibility of salvation because the Bible says that the Lord was David’s God as early as the womb (Psalm 22:10). Psalm 22:9, just before this, indicates that God gives trust as well. Jeremiah was a similar case—God both knew and sanctified Jeremiah in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). 

Therefore, there is the possibility that even extremely young children can be saved for their faith in the Lord Jesus – as far back as the womb as in the case of David and Jeremiah. Though we need to be careful about projecting this to all children in the womb. Because God has not revealed that all children in the womb are His. Judas wasn’t and he was in the womb once too. Consider these passages: 

Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right. (Proverbs 20:11 NKJV) 

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise child will delight in him. (Proverbs 23:24 NKJV) 

Children can be known by their deeds and even have wisdom. It is the Lord that gives wisdom (Proverbs 2:6). So at early ages, the Lord is already working in children as well. Has He drawn them to salvation? That is between the Lord and the child.   

But a little more comfort presents itself. You may also recall the instance with David’s young child in 2 Samuel 12:15-22 indicating that even though the child died, David would again be with him.  This indicates that the child was still in the care of God and thus Jesus Christ and David was saved (Psalm 27:1). 

Judas 

Consider another instance. Judas. Satan entered him and he betrayed Christ (John 13:27). He committed suicide by hanging himself (Matthew 27:5) then later his body fell and was split open (Acts 1:18). But Jesus said of him: 

"The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." (Matthew 26:24 NKJV) 

"The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born." (Mark 14:21 NKJV) 

It sounds as though the nature of a child dying prior to birth has a better outcome (i.e., still born or miscarriage) than dying in sin as Judas did. However, the word for “born” means “to beget” or to be fathered”. So the passage may be saying prior to Judas’s conception/fertilization from his father (i.e., when he was beget). Does this mean it would have been better for Judas to have remained in the his father’s loins rather than to have been made. Anything would be better than an eternal hell in which he now is.  

The Ten Commandments 

The Ten Commandments states something that has intrigued people down through the ages. In the Second Commandment, God writes: 

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6 NKJV) 

The last part of this discusses God’s judgment of iniquity down to the third and fourth generation of children to those who hate God. Consider this with regards to the children of those who hate God and have them aborted. The punishment for abortion is immediate in having your child taken away from you. 

But look also to the blessing. God shows mercy to a thousand generations of children of those who love God. David was a great example here. David did love the Lord. Although he sinned and had a child with Bathsheba in adultery and murdered Bathsheba’s husband, the child was taken from them regardless of David’s subsequent actions. David repented, he did love God even though he made mistakes. And he was comforted in knowing that the He would again see the child when he would die many years later.        

My Fallible Final Remarks 

The point in all this is that there is much to consider. But as a fallible humans on this side of heaven, it is difficult for me to put a perfect answer down on paper for this difficult subject. God simply didn’t reveal enough for me to be definitive. Although I must caveat, perhaps God did and I am just not able to have reasoned it yet. If so, the fault is mine alone. 

I also understand that people asking this question have often undergone loss and for that I’m sorry. It can be difficult. You may think that I don’t know how to deal with this loss but the fact is I do. My wife and I lost a child to a miscarriage many years ago and it is a painful reminder of a sin-cursed and broken world. It was unbelievably tough on us. It is all the more reason to turn our eyes to Christ who is the Great Healer. 

From this perspective, my advice is time and prayer are among the best things you can do. Search the Scripture and find comfort in Christ and remember that God knows all things and He knows best and He is a righteous judge—far better than you or me. With sincerity, take humble comfort in that.     

 

 

 

 

 



[1] For example see: Dawkins, the Cultural Christian? December 15, 2007,  https://answersingenesis.org/christianity/dawkins-the-cultural-christian/.

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