Commonsense Christian Apologetics

My apologies for the long length of this post…this one is just under 3,000 words.  The usual length of my posts I like to keep around 300-800 words.  I thought you might like this piece in its entirety.

This is the introduction to my new book God Didn’t Create Robots: Commonsense Christian Apologetics…which I just completed revising…and is available on Amazon and Kindle in about a week.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”                                                                    (Heb. 11:6)

I once had a lively discussion with a borderline agnostic/atheist who said that he did not dismiss the idea that God existed…but that he needed more objective, foolproof evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible and Christianity.

In pondering our talk afterwards, I thought of all of the evidences that are out there in the observable world…easily accessible through commonsense contemplation…that in the hands of a skilled litigator in a courtroom…for example…would not only convince most jurors of the existence of God…but also of the divine origin of the Bible and its message.

In better hands than mine (except when I have the anointing of the Holy Spirit like Peter before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:8-12 or Philip in Acts 8:26-40…which can be experienced by all Spirit-born Christians for sharing our faith in Jesus Christ)…there are dozens of very persuasive arguments for the existence of God…many of which are the obvious “miracles” we experience and see all around us…that we accept as “normal” and take totally for granted.

A few of these obvious evidences might be the miracle of sexuality…or digestion…or our respiratory system…our constant heartbeat…or our balanced and symmetrical locomotion and motor skills…all of which shout-out for design rather than random chance assemblage.

Another obvious, commonsense evidence for the existence of an intelligent designer God is the universal cuteness of any infant—a human toddler, a lion cub, a Labrador puppy, young ducks swimming after their mother in a pond…totally inexplicable and unnecessary under a Darwinian naturalistic framework…having no survival-of-the-fittest value.

Certainly the mystery of human speech and the natural inclination of youngsters to acquire, understand, and accurately differentiate subtle concepts in language and communication…at a phenomenal rate of speed…is a reality far too complex and functionally coherent to be lightly accepted as the result of gradual descent with modification…rather than ingenious, conscious design at a brilliantly creative level.

In sports…our incredible facility to be able to play professional ice hockey in the NHL…to run back the opening kick-off 100 yards for a touchdown in college football…to hit a 95 mph fastball 400 feet over the left-field fence for a homerun in baseball…to play tennis, pin-pong, badminton, volleyball, run track, run a marathon, complete the Tour de France, surf the North Shore in Hawaii, and score a goal in World Cup soccer…these are physical acuities that are so advanced, so complex, so finely tuned, and so functionally integrated…that to ascribe these to gradualistic, random chance, trial-and-error processes as asserted in the theory of Darwinian evolution…when we see and observe nothing incrementally progressive and transitional in a major, creative sense anywhere in the natural world currently or in the course of natural history…seems on its face to be beyond nonsensical.

Certainly, the existence of the moral framework that permeates all of the social interactions between people…which we take totally for granted… needs explanation…such things as romantic love, friendship, loyalty, bravery, humor, forgiveness, standing up for the right thing even when it costs us something, giving value to other people through respect…and the flip-side—lying, cheating, prejudice, selfishness, injustice, and evil…all of which in the hands of a skilled debater could be plausibly argued to be far beyond the creative naturalistic reach of material particles and energy…given that particles and energy demonstrate no capacity for creating complex and functionally integrated systems or concepts.

Add to this the mind-boggling Age of Information explosion of the last two or three decades…in which intelligence has been linked to the origin of information wherever we find complex and functionally integrated systems in human creations…in computer software codes, literary books of every genre, inventions of every type…which corresponds to the information-rich realities we find in the natural world such as the Big Bang, the Anthropic Principle, the Cambrian Explosion, DNA code, and the body-plan architectures and lifestyle habits of every living creature…to name only a few examples.

Curiously, in the area of the fine arts…we see the unavoidable necessity of the inclusion of the overcoming of evil…fundamental within the storyline fabric of movies, theater plays, and books…coming from a modern popular culture that otherwise avoids the acknowledgment of the concept of biblical sin.  How can the existence and complexity of evil…sliced-and-diced in every which way in enumerable storyline settings and conditions…of unending fascination and interest to the human psyche…how can this be the product of mere material particles and energy according to the philosophical worldview of naturalism?

As a non-scholar layman in the areas of theology and biblical studies…along with millions of other common Christians around the world simply following Jesus within their journeys of faith…I sense that the centuries old paradigm conflict between philosophical atheism and Christianity is at a balanced apex…at a tipping-point where the evidences for theism may now begin…if it has not already…to surpass the now archaic logic and arguments against supernaturalism and the miraculous in the Bible.

The Big Bang philosophically opened wide the door for intelligent agency…introducing in the first split-seconds of creation all of the natural laws of physics, chemistry, and mathematics… along with time itself…and all of the material particles in the right quantities and proportions to produce the universe we now observe today…out of nothing…sometime around 14 billion years ago.

If an independent agent God can do this at the beginning of the universe…then the philosophical objection by skeptics that God cannot introduce creative life and “miracles” into the natural world…incorrectly viewed by some as a “closed system” up until a few decades ago…is now debunked by the discoveries of science through the identification of massive amounts of complex and functionally integrated systems of information…everywhere we look in the living and non-living natural world.

The concept of an independent agent…God…injecting vast amounts of complex information into our world utilizing creative foresight…such as the DNA code…the unimaginably brilliant folding of amino acids into proteins…and the body-plan architectural information stored somewhere in the embryonic development structure of the living cell that builds cells and tells them their unique function and location in the dividing and expanding embryo…is very similar to our own use of accumulated information and premeditated creative foresight in the planned and premeditated assembly of houses, automobiles, airplanes, laptop computers, and pharmaceutical medicines.

In this book, I attempt to add some commonsense Christian apologetic arguments into the ongoing debate.  Some such topics are:

First, is there a persuasive rationale to explain the humility of Jesus…outside of the standard and perfectly valid explanation that this is simply part of the divine character of God?

Is there an ingenious, underlying theme within the humility of Jesus that transcends the imagination of human literary invention…and at the same time serves as inspiration for Christians?

Is the concept of respect…the giving of value to another person…the central issue at play behind the purpose of the creation of this world and our participation in it?

Does the humility component of the life-script of Jesus Christ divide out and expose the destructive element of rebellious self-sovereignty…resulting in the utter rejection and non-valuing of the Son of God Jesus…in a way that forever identifies the moral downside of: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6)…as demonstrated through the cross of Calvary (Jn. 15:18-25)?

Second, how would anyone other than God compose a life-script for a perfect Person Jesus Christ that gets Him to the cross?  Is this idea too farfetched and innovative…as to fall clearly outside of human literary imagination…and therefore be divine in its origin?

What aspects of the human character would be identified with pinpoint accuracy in this life-script composition…that would infuriate conventional thinking to such a degree in first-century Israel…that would get a perfect Person Jesus all the way to the cross…and not to mere house arrest, exile, or censure?

Third, how could anyone other than God compose a life-script complex enough for Jesus Christ the Son of God…that results in a broken heart on the cross (blood and water coming out of His pierced side…John 19:34)?

How do you break the heart of God…as invented literary fiction…without at the same time violating the very thing that worldly conventional normalcy and thinking detests the most…the acknowledging of the existence of human sin and self-centeredness… absorbed by Jesus on the cross…as the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin?

Fourth, where does the delicate balance of belief and unbelief come from?  Why isn’t this balance overwhelmed in favor of one direction or the other?

Fifth, what explains the odd existence of the two main contrasting worldviews…self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty…for human beings alone?  This clearly does not originate from nature.  Lions display only one lifestyle habit…there are not two different competing approaches to being a lion.  The same goes for every living creature in nature.  For every living creature each lifestyle habit is distinctly unique…but uniform throughout that creature type…for lions, cheetahs, leopards, tigers, elephants, giraffes, alligators, and zebras, for example.

Yet humans have two optional worldviews to freely choose from…self-sovereignty or God-sovereignty…both radically different in the course and purpose of our lives.  The complexity of the differences that divide these two worldviews is far beyond any plausible explanation of their origin by way of the naturalistic, gradual trial-and-error evolution of material particles and energy as asserted in the theory of Darwinism.

Coming back to my discussion with the agnostic/atheist man insisting on objective, visual, foolproof evidence for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity…for Christians…the answer to this issue is both easy and difficult.

If Jesus a few days after the resurrection walked down the middle of main street and right into the temple in Jerusalem…then like doubting Thomas all of the common people along with the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes could examine his wounds and observe His resurrected new body…and accept as proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the Son of God.

But accepting the visual evidence…producing absolute knowledge like two plus two equals four…or the existence of the noonday sun…accepting the evidence that Jesus is the divine Son of God is not the same as being willing to follow Him.  The Pharisees and scribes would have looked at the resurrected Jesus…talked with Him…examined His healed wounds…and then said: “Great…good for you…but we still choose not to follow you.”

Absolute knowledge by visual, empirical observation does not alleviate…does not displace…does not remove…self-sovereignty.  Jesus walking into the temple in Jerusalem after His resurrection…offering absolute proof of His divinity in rising from the dead…does not equate to everyone freely choosing to make Him Lord and Master of their lives.

After the resurrection…revealing Himself to the Pharisees and scribes would not have produced biblical faith…defined as willingly allowing God to displace our ways with His higher ways…as ancient in Jewish history as the calling of Abraham to leave Haran and go to Canaan…as basic to Judaism as it gets…and fundamental to the Christian concept of picking up our cross to follow Jesus.

A person does not have to be a scholar to see in the Bible and to experience first-hand…that God initially takes people having hidden potential…yet at the start are broken, lost, and aimless in life (Mt. 9:10-13)…and through the divinely supportive respect and acceptance over time of salvation, redemption, and the life-altering insertion of a God-composed adventure of faith…turns them into something better that they could not have previously imagined.

This is one of the main themes of the Bible.  Some people will accept God’s lead and follow Him into their destinies…others will push God away and follow their own course.

This in itself should be a telling argument against the random-chance naturalism of self-sovereign worldly conventional thinking…by virtue of the sheer inexplicability of the origin of the concept of biblical faith and its persistent longevity.  Naturalism, if true should produce one monotonous, homogeneous human mindset…one lifestyle habit per creature type…like the rest of the living world.

The complexity of the information content, the innovative originality of the main concepts, and the utter crash and collision with worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…makes a compelling commonsense apologetic case for the divine origin of the journeys of faith recorded in the Bible…above and beyond humanistic literary invention.

This is the contribution to the marketplace of ideas I would like to introduce in this book…moving the argument for the truthfulness of the Bible farther down the road for the Christian and the skeptic alike.

Finally, if we have a conflict or an issue with some colleague at work…and we discuss this with a friend who thinks well of us…that friend will give us the supportive benefit of the doubt upon hearing the details.

But a person who is a friend, yet who may not think as highly of us, may automatically take the side of the other person in the dispute…upon hearing the details…and begin to question our handling of the situation…in a knee-jerk, critical fashion…not giving us the benefit of the doubt.

The biblical narrative stories of faith are filled with people giving God the benefit of the doubt in their adventures of faith.

Every positive person of faith in the Bible has a personal relationship with God that has the universal element of giving God the benefit of the doubt…even amidst difficult and challenging events, and the negative direction of outward appearances.

Biblical characters that immediately come to mind in this regard are Abraham going to Canaan (Heb. 11:8), Joseph in Pharaoh’s prison hanging on to the promise of his two earlier dreams received years before in Canaan (Gen. 37:7, 9), and Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:11, 4:20).

Jeremiah has a continual, ongoing dialogue with God about the stubborn unbelief of the Jerusalem leaders.  Elijah complains bitterly to God about the overwhelming pushback and resistance he is encountering in his calling as a prophet in apostate Israel under the rule of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.

Other notable people who gave God the benefit of the doubt through difficult challenge are Joshua, Samuel, David, Job, Ruth, Hannah, Esther and Mordecai, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and all of the minor prophets…to name only a few in the Old Testament.

The Psalms in the Old Testament are filled with people having a personal relationship and dialogue with God…giving God the benefit of the doubt to come through for them in the middle of challenging difficulties.

People of faith in the New Testament actually spent time physically with Jesus the Son of God (Jn. 1:14)…and gave Him the benefit of the doubt amidst pushback and resistance to His message and ministry…of deadly intensity (Jn. 11:8, 16).

This idea of the people of faith giving God the benefit of the doubt during the course of their journeys of faith…giving to God the value and worth…that putting trust and faith in another person entails…has enormous commonsense, apologetic value as an argument for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible.

This has apologetic value by virtue of its existence as evidence of a relationship…evidence that would not hold water for a moment…if it was not in fact true.

As a secondary, subtle element in the plotlines of every biblical narrative story of faith…giving God the benefit of the doubt is not something that can be fabricated or faked into fictionalized relationships…certainly not into the unconventional relationships between people and God.

This element is integrally baked into every biblical adventure of faith…and cannot be homogenized out without damaging the story.

This component of giving God the benefit of the doubt is a powerful clue that these relationships…these stories of faith…are real.

A moral concept as subtle yet as powerful as this could not be the product of collusion on the part of the 40 different authors spanning 1,500 years in the writing of the Bible…universally giving God the benefit of the doubt from Genesis through Revelation…from beginning to end…without the slightest hint of progressive evolution or creative development in the portrayal of biblical faith.

The life-stories of Abraham through Paul in the Bible…all depicting biblical faith having this common element of giving God the benefit of the doubt…as religious fiction invented by human writers inspired out of the narrow realm of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking alone…as an explanation for their origin…is nonsensical.

Like the massive infusion of creative information that entered into the natural world to form the complex living creatures during the Cambrian Explosion of 530 million years ago…inexplicable as a materialistic or naturalistic event…the correct answer to the question of the origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith is that they are a divine creation of God.

The complex and functionally coherent information that enters into the human experience…suddenly and instantly in the form of a God-composed adventure of faith…starting with Abraham…is the action of an independent agent God…providing commonsense apologetic evidence for both His existence…and for the truth of the Bible.

Mechanical robots cannot fathom the concept of respect.  Neither can robots plumb the depths of giving someone the supportive benefit of the doubt of placing faith, trust, and dignity in another person…extending the gift of value, worth, and validation to that person.

Our analytical capacity for moral reasoning…wrapped within our physical living body having all of the marvelous abilities and talents we possess…may be the single-most, top-tier apologetic evidence for the existence of God…easily accessible to commonsense contemplation.

Offences Must Come 3

From The Cross in the End-Times

One of the important questions explored in this book, is whether or not this all-important journey of faith, which is a God-led tour into the discovery of the fundamental issues that are the basis for eternal happiness and peace, comes to an abrupt halt for Christians at the start of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period through the rapture of the church?  If the seven-year tribulation is a culmination of the theme of the story that God has been writing over the last six thousand years, through the Bible, through the nation of Israel, through the church age, and through the journeys of faith that Christians are currently experiencing, then the natural conclusion would lead a person to think that the church would be a major participant, rather than an absentee raptured bystander, in this final chapter of redemptive history.

The tribulation is the crisis-filled environment of events and circumstances capable of bringing the substandard qualifications of the deceiving, negative attack-ad specialist Lucifer out into the open.  God has perfectly timed this absolute and final exposure of truth versus error, of the demonstration of pure love versus self-centered ambition, of the characters and motivations of everyone, to be revealed for all to see at the close of human redemptive history.  The universe and our natural world were created for just such an explosive final ending.

Finally, if Jesus was the leader of a small band of warriors like David, when He stood up to read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, the townspeople would never have reacted with such outwardly violent opposition to His words (Luke 4:28-30).  The townspeople would have respected His worldly power and feared His military might, keeping their opinions to themselves.  Jesus is led by the people of Nazareth to the edge of a cliff to be thrown over to His death because Jesus has no worldly influence, honor, or respect to intimate anyone.

The townspeople in the synagogue in Nazareth ask: “…is not this the carpenter, the son of Joseph?”  The growing reputation of Jesus as a prophet came from areas outside of His hometown (Luke 4:14).  Jesus had no reputation as a “somebody” in a worldly sense to be feared and respected.  Jesus was an outcast and lowly among his native town.  He did not fit-in in a worldly sense.  Otherwise the people of Nazareth would never have thought they were free to be offended with Jesus to the point of throwing Him off a nearby cliff.

Jesus is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God sacrifice for our transgressions within a worldly-free package having no pedigree, wealth, social standing, or outward appeal.  Jesus did not resort to appealing to worldly power.  Jesus lived a spotless life amidst no worldly influence, material success, or cultural acclaim.  Yet Jesus purchased through the cross and the resurrection the power to give eternal life.  Jesus has the power to effectuate the second birth of John 3:3.  Eternal life through the Son of God comes through zero worldly stature or authority.  This means we can live godly lives “in Christ” pleasing to the Father, likewise with or without any worldly acclaim, influence, or stature.

But more importantly for the discussion in this chapter, the complete lack of appeal to worldly influence in the life and ministry of Jesus tells us that Jesus as King and Ruler is the diametric opposite of hypocrisy.  Jesus does not have to resort to worldly acclaim, influence, and appeal to impress the world.  Jesus is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God sacrifice despite being devoid of outward worldly appeal.

By contrast, the son of perdition of 2 Thessalonian 2:3 to be shortly revealed by the upcoming events and circumstances of the great tribulation…the negative attack-ad character-assassin specialist…is the vilest hypocrite.  He promises peace and safety according to a modified version of the promise of worldly power he made to Jesus of Nazareth in the temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13), without the lightest intention or capacity to offer anything other than destruction and ruin for all who choose to follow him.

In my opinion, the Christian church has to participate in the exposure of this vast contrast between the genuine King and Ruler of the realm, and the counterfeit impostor who would like to overthrow God and assume His position.  The only Person in all of existence smart enough to outmaneuver and trap Lucifer in his deceptive lies and hypocrisy is God Almighty.  But for our benefit, for a discovery of the knowledge of good and evil to reach its full extent, the Christian church will be engaged in the middle of the action as previewed in every narrative story of faith recorded in the Bible.

Offences Must Come 2

From The Cross in the End-Times

The entire course of human redemptive history might be partially characterized as God allowing the consequences of unqualified ambitious rebellion to demonstrate its ill effects through real-life situations and circumstances.  The platform of information that makes up God’s qualifications and positive agenda, which is deceptively by-passed in a beauty contest based solely upon outward appearances, and which is ignored altogether in a cleverly conducted attack-ad campaign, God has nonetheless managed to submit into the human experience through the four dimensions of space and time.  The credentials and qualifications of Lucifer to be able to criticize God, which should have been required upfront and carefully examined in the Garden of Eden, but which were gullibly accepted by mankind without question, are now being exposed and scrutinized in agonizing detail through the long course of human history.

Lucifer can say whatever he wants using words alone.  But the difference between the disaster that occurs when man sits atop the throne of his life as a spiritual rebel against God, contrasted with the glory of redeeming character transformation that rescues people from personal destruction through repentance and a journey of faith following Jesus Christ as Lord, is acted out every day through the medium of this current life on earth.  The real truth regarding the credentials and character of God are being discovered every day in the progress being made in Christian apologetics, in the field of intelligent design, in Christian service to the world, and in individual journeys of faith following Jesus Christ.

God could alternately choose to write across the sky this afternoon with large flaming letters for everyone on earth to read, that Jesus Christ the Son of God is the outward expression of the Triune nature of God, and to worship only Him.  But then the freedom to choose between belief and unbelief would also end this afternoon.  And a journey of faith voluntarily following Jesus Christ through this broken world, having real consequences and eternally valuable spiritual lessons, would also come to an end.

Mankind’s corporate enlistment by Lucifer into his rebellion against God does not excuse our individual rebellion.  Each of us has individually sinned against God in our own rebellious ways.  When we repent and ask God’s forgiveness, He forgives each of us individually.  God places His hand upon our shoulder, looks into our eyes, and says: “I forgive you.”  But even though God completely and thoroughly forgives us, we are still in the same vulnerable, uninformed position regarding the nuances of deception as were Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Even though the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, we still have the issues of Lucifer’s successful temptation in the Garden of Eden to resolve.  For the remainder of our Christian lives, we still have to wrestle against this self-centered fallen nature we inhabit (Romans 7:23-25).

This is why God created the vehicle called a journey of faith, and why He gave us the Holy Spirit to live within us to lead and guide us into all truth (John 16:13).  This is why God inspired the writing of the Bible, recording the adventures of the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments as patterns and examples of His correct interaction with His followers.  This is why the current environment of our broken world is the proving ground for truth and error to be a demonstration in action.  This is why God allows belief and unbelief to operate side-by-side in opposing tension in our world, not decisively exposing the ultimate pros and cons of truth versus error, for the time being.  Christians have to experience first-hand for ourselves the truth or falsity of this enormously destructive attack-ad by Lucifer, first proposed in the idyllic Garden of Eden so long ago, that our happiness somehow lies in being our own gods atop the thrones of our lives, apart from God.  For Christians to become spiritually wise, mature, and savvy regarding the knowledge of good and evil, these first-hand experiential lessons must be out-there and in-play within the context of real life situations and circumstances.

Offences Must Come (Mt. 18:7) 1

The question can reasonably be asked, why did God not openly expose Lucifer in the Garden of Eden?  Why did God not thoroughly and irreparably expose Lucifer during the ministry of Jesus Christ in the first century?  Why does God allow Lucifer to continue this hiding-game of deception even to this day?  Why will Lucifer be able to continue as a formidable deceiver and a liar, apparently part-way into the Great Tribulation, before he is finally exposed and revealed according to this 2 Thessalonians 2:3 verse?  Why does God allow what amounts to the equivalent of an open forum process, where unbelief, rebellion, and deception have a viable platform, to continue unabated to express their destructive world-views under the cover of high-minded, good-natured, and well-meaning debate?  Why does God allow people the total freedom to continue to make eternally decisive, self-destructive wrong choices?

Lucifer’s classically deceptive statement in the Garden of Eden reads: “Ye shall not surely die.  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).  Mankind, represented through Adam and Eve, sadly swallowed this massively deceptive temptation “hook, line, and sinker”, without requiring the slightest backup evidence or character references from Lucifer to qualify him to be able to make such cleverly disguised, yet boldly critical statements about God.

One answer to the question why God has not thoroughly exposed Lucifer is contained within the nature of Lucifer’s rebellion, and the subsequent fall of man.  Lucifer’s rebellion against God in heaven had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of God’s management of the affairs of the universe.  Lucifer wanted God’s seat of power…pure and simple.  Lucifer’s rebellion was a raw power-grab.  Lucifer offered himself as a credible leader in place of God based upon appearances rather than substance.  Like Absalom’s rebellion in the Old Testament against his father David’s reign as king, no attempt at high-minded debate regarding competence, credentials, or agenda was made.  Like Absalom, Lucifer depended upon good looks, appealing charm, and persuasive smooth-talk, leaving out any specifics as to how things could be done better under his rule.  Absalom rode upon the coattails of his father’s existing beneficial reign as Israel’s King, with Absalom’s supporters uncritically assuming that Absalom possessed the same high quality of character and leadership abilities as David, yet in a more popular and outwardly charming package.   Lucifer, like Absalom, offered himself as an improvement in place of the existing ruler God, rather than offering an improvement in the ideological agenda to replace the existing policies and leadership regime.

Lucifer’s rebellion was an attempted coup, a change of personnel, not a reformation of ideas.  Lucifer has no ideas of his own, no positive agenda, other than to steal and corrupt God’s existing program.  Lucifer by nature is a destroyer, not a builder, with the fatal character flaw of insatiable ambition.  God lovingly created mankind with a need for fellowship with God, and Lucifer cleverly hides within religion, inserting himself into the very seat and object of worship where God should rightfully reside.

This is the really dangerous and eternally threatening part of Lucifer’s rebellion contained within the subsequent fall of mankind.  A brilliantly executed negative attack-ad campaign by Lucifer against God, combined with deceptive good looks and charm, do not make a qualified god who can effectively and capably rule the universe.  But this approach almost enabled Absalom to topple his father David from the throne of Israel.  This approach did actually bring about the successful temptation in the Garden of Eden.  We see the negative consequences of sin as objective fact every day in our newspapers and on the nightly news.  This cleverly and cunningly devised challenge to God’s rulership and authority, even though it contained absolutely no substance and had no positive agenda of its own, nonetheless required an equally well thought-out and executed counter-response from God at the highest level.

When is the Best Time to Shake-Up the World 2

When we look back through the Bible, we can see the enormous care that God took in keeping the ability of people to believe or not to believe, in balance.  The fact that God the Father orchestrated the ministry, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God in the midst of a busy and populated first-century Roman occupied Israel in such a way as to leave in place the free-will ability of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, rulers, and a large segment of the populace to remain after-the-fact in unbelief, has to be one of the great spiritual engineering marvels of history.

The timing of the rapture is therefore critical.  The nature and intent of its impact changes dramatically, depending on when it occurs in relation to the end-times tribulation events.  Place it too early, and it upsets the balance between belief and unbelief.  Place it too late, after multitudes have already received the mark of the beast and are beyond pardon, and the evangelical value it affords as a powerful sign to the world of the truth of the Christian gospel message is lost forever.

If the rapture is placed well beyond the midpoint of the tribulation, after tens of millions of Christians have been martyred for refusing the mark of the beast, as alluded to in Revelation 7:14, 12:11, and 15:2, then the rapture is not intended as a sign at all, but rather as a well-timed escape mechanism to remove the church from the earth sometime around Revelation 16:15.  The rapture is like the main ingredient in the cooking of some precisely prepared gourmet meal.  The timing of its addition to the process must be perfectly coordinated to achieve the desired outcome.

The long-awaited rapture cannot be about something as relatively trivial as the removal of the Christian church simply to be out of harm’s way before the massively unsettling but defining tribulation period.  Since when is the God of the Bible overly challenged by the threat of invading Midianites, or invading Philistines, or Pharaohs, or Egyptian chariot armies, or the parting of the Red Sea, or kings like Nebuchadnezzar, or a fiery furnace, or a den full of lions, or 450 prophets of Baal, or any of the other tribulations facing the people of God in the Bible?

The timing of the rapture, placed just prior to the start of the tribulation, has no clear basis in scripture one way or the other.  The pretribulation rapture teaching is one plausible construction of events according to a particular school of thought.  The doctrine of imminence absolutely requires that the rapture occur before the tribulation, only if we define Christian hope as something outside of Hebrews chapter eleven, outside of John 21:18-19, outside of Acts 9:16, and apart from the Holy Spirit inspired character-stretch toward the excellence of a “better resurrection” of Hebrews 11:35.

If it is true that the unique nature of the rapture will clearly reveal itself as the rapture, and nothing else, then this important observation needs to be factored into our end-times calculus.  If it does not make sound biblical logic, or even worldly-astute common sense (based on the accuracy of modern investigative journalism) that the rapture can occur at the beginning of the tribulation, because it would prematurely give away too much world-shattering information at the wrong time, then it becomes the nearly unavoidable conclusion that the un-raptured main Christian church will enter into at least some portion of the seven-year tribulation period.

When is the Best Time to Shake-Up the World 1

This observation, if accurate, sheds light on one of the key biblical end-of-time events.  A rapture of the Christian church that occurs at the beginning of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period, upsets the delicate balance of belief and unbelief, right at the critical time-period when we enter upon the last seven years of human redemptive history.  If the rapture is such an obvious disappearance of hundreds of millions of Christians only as an isolated event in the twinkling of an eye, does this highly public sign of the truth-claims of Christianity skew the delicate balance of people’s freedom to remain in skeptical unbelief regarding the existence of God at the most inopportune time?  This clear-cut demonstration of the truth of the Christian message through a pretribulation rapture would be occurring at the very outset of the time-period when the great arguments against God are made by the little horn of Daniel, and during the last great harvest of lost souls as prophesied in Matthew 24:14.

In this era of accurate investigative journalism and worldwide media coverage, have we missed the obvious and unavoidable conclusion that the rapture will be clearly identified as the rapture, thus greatly affecting from that point forward, in the short time remaining, people’s calculations regarding their final decision to accept or reject Jesus Christ as their Savior and Messiah?  Has the term “rapture” and its meaning, made familiar through books and movies, already entered the popular vocabulary and psyche to the point that the “horse has already left the barn” in terms of people’s future recognition and identification of a pretribulation rapture taking hundreds of millions of Christians off the earth?

Pretribulation rapture proponents would capably argue that the rapture is precisely the explosive event needed to set in motion the final push for the worldwide evangelism of Matthew 24:14.  But let us stand back for a moment and take a detached, mezzanine view of this idea.  Is removing all of the Christians off the earth the best way to commence evangelizing the earth?  Is a planet empty of all Christians the ideal environment for starting the worldwide effort to evangelize the last remaining group of lost sheep predestined for salvation?  Does a simple reading of Joel 2:28-29 contemplate a world full of mature Christians willing and able to serve, or a world that is altogether empty and devoid of the main Christian church?

In order to support a biblical last-days prophecy interpretation having a rapture that occurs prior to the tribulation, and to harmonize this with other end-times prophetic scripture, we have to invent the entirely new theological framework of dispensationalism, which did not exist prior to the beginning of the 19th century.  Is the time placement of the rapture pretribulation too radical a choice if this requires an artificially constructed, major transitional breakpoint at the disappearance of the Gentile church age raptured into heaven, dovetailed with a newly created body of Jewish Messianic Christians converted to evangelize the remainder of the world until the end of the tribulation period?  This major bump, this passing of the relay-race baton to a new evangelical workforce as a result of the removal of the Christian church pretribulation, forms the basis of dispensationalism.  Or by contrast, is the best way to evangelize the planet to pour out God’s Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-29), including the New Testament blend of Gentile and Jewish Messianic Christians that make up the current body-of-Christ on earth today?

The exchange that the Antichrist, alluded to in Daniel 7:20-27, Daniel 8:17, and Daniel 8:23-25, has with the saints of the Most High (Daniel 7:22-25), implies that for a period of time at the beginning of his reign, when the Antichrist “destroys wonderfully” to the point of the wearing down of the saints of the Most High, that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are still functioning.  The usurping, false, second-advent counterfeit messiah the Antichrist temporarily wins the verbal battle through a deceptive message of falsely secured worldly peace and prosperity.  If this is a period of intense battle between freely articulated conflicting worldviews, in which the Antichrist prevails through the deceptive appeal of worldly salvation from our current political, social, and economic problems, then the enormously important finely-tuned balance between the freedom to believe or not to believe in God must still be fully in play.

The overly simplistic teaching that Jesus will rapture His beloved Bride the Church into heaven before a period of tribulation and judgment begins upon the earth, as if that is the rationally normal default expectation, entirely misses some critically important realities.  The last days tribulation period is more complicated than Jesus simply sparing the church from the narrow-gate (Matthew 7:13-14) unpleasantness of tribulation.

If God raptures hundreds of millions of Christians, and all of the children under the age of accountability off of the earth pretribulation, then the balance of evangelical outreach based upon truth-preaching is essentially over.  If the rapture occurs pretribulation then nearly everyone on the planet will be aware at the beginning of the tribulation period that there is a strong probability that the biblical prophecies surrounding the rapture are accurate and true.  Belief in Jesus Christ as Savior will then automatically shift over for many people into the category of being an inarguable fact, like the existence of the noonday sun, or like two plus two equals four.  A pretribulation rapture would have the same effect upon the delicate balance between belief and unbelief that a resurrected Jesus walking through the streets of Jerusalem in broad daylight would have had from the first century onward.  The virtue of discovering God through faith and trust, because we have examined the issues involved, and examined the value of abandoning self-sovereignty in pursuit of a journey of faith following God, is partially or entirely lost once the existence of God is reduced to the world of involuntary, observable fact accessible to everyone.  The rapture recognized as The Rapture, and nothing else, is a major milestone event having enormous implications in both the spiritual and natural realms, and has the potential to throw belief and unbelief out of balance depending upon when it occurs.

Raptured People will all be Christians 2

In today’s pretribulation rapture discussion in Christendom we are missing the obvious.  Any numerical quantity of people noticeably disappearing with or without their clothes in a worldwide manner, above the unrealistically understated number of 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000, for example, would garner immediate attention and be attributed by the general populace as a divine act of God with no other plausible causation.  No imaginable space alien invasion or natural force could discriminately take 100% intact, whole people totally into thin air, vanishing completely.  No one would think this surgically accurate and precise removal of whole people without leaving behind body parts or any other visible trace could possibly be anything other than some inexplicably divine act of God.  Couple this with the singular nature of those taken, the expanded number of this group to be in the hundreds of millions, and the only plausible explanation of this totally implausible event would be the rapture and nothing else.

This does not mean that the world would believe the rapture explanation as incontrovertible proof to motivate them to surrender and yield their lives in faith to Jesus Christ.  It simply means that everyone would have heard this rapture explanation as the leading, most plausibly acceptable explanation for the disappearance of hundreds of millions of Christians.  Left-behind people after a pretribulation rapture are by definition skeptics and unbelievers.  Just because they hear and process the information that the rapture is the cause of the disappearances, does not mean necessarily that many of them would reconsider and embrace change in their lives on account of this information.

What makes this a critical issue in our centuries-long, ongoing recovery of truth regarding biblical end-times prophecies, is that God the Father did not previously choose to have the resurrected Jesus walk through the main streets of Jerusalem in route to entering into the Temple.  God did not choose a wide-scale public demonstration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, as the means to generate commendable, virtuous, and salvation quality faith.  The contemporary skeptics observing a resurrected Jesus walking into the first-century Temple in Jerusalem would indeed acknowledge the supernatural nature of this occurrence.  But this would probably not generate repentance and separation from self-sovereignty leading to salvation faith for them, any more than seeing Jesus miraculously cleanse lepers, restore sight to the blind, or raise Lazarus from the dead could just a few short weeks earlier.  The all-important point here is that God Himself did not choose to upset the delicate balance for belief and unbelief, although He easily could have done so at this most opportune time by introducing the element of incontrovertible proof into the equation of His new covenant outreach of love to mankind in the first century.  Romans 10:17 sums this up beautifully and simply: “So, then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”