Jesus – Organized Religion = Biblical Christianity

Jesus minus organized religion equals biblical Christianity.

Does this surprise you?  It shouldn’t.  Organized religion has been giving God a bad name ever since the Israelites came up with the golden calf when they tired of waiting on Moses.

Even the church of the New Testament was corrupted within its first generation, as the apostles make clear.

What then shall we do?  Forsake organized religion and love Jesus Christ.  He is God.  He is spirit and is everywhere.  He will hear you when you pray.  He will guide you in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

I must warn you: Christians will disapprove of you if you try to follow Jesus without following them.  But you can endure persecution just as Jesus did – by loving and praying for those who persecute you.

Follow the Bible’s prescription.  That is, abandon church and serve Jesus.  Stop living for yourself, and instead live for Him.  It’s called seeking the kingdom of God.

Bible notes on this post.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus to those who want to hear about Him without having to join a group.

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51 Responses to Jesus – Organized Religion = Biblical Christianity

  1. jason says:

    It seems to me you’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater. True, much of Christian history is marred by dissention and persecution. But does this mean we should abandon “church” altogether? Even a cursory reading of the NT reveals that following Jesus’ and the apostles’ teachings involves being with other like-minded believers and being under the leadership and teaching of elders. Otherwise, much of NT doesn’t apply.

    Are you saying that Christians do not need to be under the leadership of pastors and elders? (I’m not talking bad, corrupt ones, but biblical ones)

    If a brother is caught in a sin and is unrepentant, how is this dealt with apart from a church body?

    Exactly what do you mean when you counsel others to “forsake organized religion”?

    • Mike Gantt says:

      True, much of Christian history is marred by dissention and persecution. But does this mean we should abandon “church” altogether?

      Yes.  With over 30,000 Christian denominations and counting, if today’s church is the body of Christ it is the most dismembered body that ever was.  The church of the New Testament was a transitional phase between ancient Israel and the Kingdom of God.

      If you will, there is a true church today (i.e. the kingdom of God) and it consists in those who hear the voice of the Shepherd…and do it.  His sheep know His voice.

      Even a cursory reading of the NT reveals that following Jesus’ and the apostles’ teachings involves being with other like-minded believers and being under the leadership and teaching of elders. Otherwise, much of NT doesn’t apply.

      The Bible gave specific instructions about how Noah was to build the ark, yet Moses did not follow them.  Moses gave specific instructions about how to build a tabernacle but Jesus did not follow them.  Instead, Moses and Jesus drew principles from the prior words of God.  We should do the same.

      Are you saying that Christians do not need to be under the leadership of pastors and elders? (I’m not talking bad, corrupt ones, but biblical ones)

      Every human being needs spiritual leadership.  However, in the kingdom of God we receive it from Jesus Himself and therefore do not need it from other humans.  This is the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-12).

      If a brother is caught in a sin and is unrepentant, how is this dealt with apart from a church body?

      In the first place, I know of hardly any church bodies that practice this.  But to answer your question, I think the Alcoholics Anonymous people call it an intervention.  In other words, you don’t have to be a Christian or go to church in order to confront someone about a sin or find others to support you in that effort.

      Exactly what do you mean when you counsel others to “forsake organized religion”?

      Forsake human spiritual leadership and seek Jesus Christ our Lord.

      For more, see The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now and Church Is Not the Answer.  Or better yet, see this Introduction/Overview, of which these two posts are a part.

    • Kevin says:

      Under the “leadership” of pastors? For crying out loud, there is only one head and that is Christ. I don’t need a pastor or priest as a go between. We are all part of the Royal Priesthood of Bellevers. Organized religion is why Christianity is in decline. Sad.

  2. Steve says:

    Moses was never required to build a floating vessel for the salvation of Israel. Jesus was never required to build a place of worship for the Jews.

    Where are you going with this folly?

  3. jason says:

    “30,000 Christian denominations”?

    This is a demonstrably exaggerated number. There’s very good reason to think that the number is far, far lower than this. But even assuming for the sake of argument that there are tens of thousands of denominations, it is still a much better option than what you are proposing. Since you believe that churches are unnecessary, and that each individual can just follow Christ alone, you have in essence made a situation in which every person is his/her own denomination. Instead of thousands, you now have millions, or even billions. That is hardly an improvement.

    Was the NT a “transitional phase”?

    The NT does not say this. Where do you see this?

    “The Bible gave specific instructions about how Noah was to build the ark, yet Moses did not follow them. Moses gave specific instruction about how to build a tabernacle but Jesus did not follow them. Instead, Moses and Jesus drew principles from the prior words of God. We should do the same.”

    I’m not clear in what you’re saying here, but I’ll take a stab and let you correct me. There are commands given in Scripture that are individual and contextual in nature. God gave specific commands to Noah to build the ark, and it was for a very specific purpose that God himself made clear would not be needed again. There was no reason for Moses or anyone else to build another ark. Yet there are also universal commands and principles in Scripture. We are to follow these.

    “Every human being needs spiritual leadership. However, in the kingdom of God we receive it from Jesus Himself and therefore do not need it from other humans . . . Forsake human spiritual leadership and seek Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    The passages you cited (Jeremiah and Hebrews) do not prove your thesis. A couple of points: (1) the “transitional period” you speak of, with its elders and congregational rules, would totally contradict your thesis. Either the new covenant began with Christ, or it didn’t. (2) the author of Hebrews did not view the Jeremiah passage the way you do, since he said “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls” (Heb. 13:17a). (3) the rest of the NT affirms the need for human leadership. For example, 2 Tim. 4:1-4 speaks of those who refuse to heed “reproof, rebuke, and exhortation,” all things elders in a congregational environment preach and teach about. It’s hard to see how this passage can apply in such an individualistic understanding.

    “In the first place, I know of hardly any church bodies that practice this. But to answer your question, I think the Alcoholics Anonymous people call it an intervention. In other words, you don’t have to be a Christian or go to church in order to confront someone about a sin or find others to support you in that effort.”

    And what if people refuse to listen to counsel? What if they say to you, or group of like-minded people confronting them: “I don’t need to listen to you. I have the Bible, and the way I read it, what I believe, and what I’m doing is fine.” What would you say in response? What *could* you say?

  4. Mike Gantt says:

    Jason, there’s a lot to your comment so I will answer you one part at a time, as I have time today.

  5. Mike Gantt says:

    As for the number of Christian denominations, I think I found this number in a Wikipedia article. I cannot locate it now, but the World Christian Encyclopedia (see this page) does use this number.

    However, for the sake of argument you could reduce the number as much as you want and you’d still never get to one, which was the only number the apostles would ever allow (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). They would not allow the body of Christ to be severed. Today’s would-be “body of Christ” is dismembered beyond recognition no matter how many pieces you count.

    Your analogy to what I propose doesn’t work because a denomination claims authority over believers while I am saying that no believer has authority over any other believer.

  6. Mike Gantt says:

    Was the NT a “transitional phase”? The NT does not say this. Where do you see this?

    Don’t you see it all over the New Testament? Everyone was expecting the coming of the kingdom of God (the coming of the Lord, the day of Christ, the day of judgment, and so on) before that generation completely passed away. This is practically undeniable. For this reason there is no succession plan for church leadership given in the NT, as there was a clear succession plan for kings and priests in the OT. And for this reason church leaders today can’t agree on who’s in charge. The answer? The Lord is, because the kingdom of God is here.

  7. Mike Gantt says:

    Regarding your breakdown of the Noah-Ark and Moses-Tabernacle issue, yes, you and I are on the same page here.

  8. Mike Gantt says:

    Regarding your reference to the new covenant (Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8), it came into effect at the coming of the kingdom of God (coming of the Lord, day of Christ, and so on). Therefore, the writer of Hebrews said about congregating in 10:25 “…as you see the day drawing near.” That is, all the teaching of people was to prepare for that day.

    As best I can tell, all 27 of the NT documents were written before the coming of the Lord and therefore human leadership of local (but unified) congregations would be appropriate in that time frame. It is only with the actual coming of the kingdom (including its King) and the new covenant that human leaders and their congregations would become obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).

  9. Mike Gantt says:

    And what if people refuse to listen to counsel? What if they say to you, or group of like-minded people confronting them: “I don’t need to listen to you. I have the Bible, and the way I read it, what I believe, and what I’m doing is fine.” What would you say in response? What *could* you say?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your question.

  10. Mike Gantt says:

    I think I’ve addressed everything, but if I missed something please let me know.

  11. Steve says:

    Out of the 27 book of the Greek, most if not all refer to the strengthening of congregations (churches). The congregations where places of instruction and encouragement for the continued purpose of preaching and teaching the good news of God’ kingdom. Additionally, as a christian body, each one of these congregations were under the subjection of elders such as Timothy and Titus ( who was sent to the Corinthian congregation by the Apostle Paul). And then, there are the traveling overseers such as Paul ( who was an Apostle to the nations and who wrote 14 book of the greek scripture in support of this fact), Luke (who wrote the book of Acts of the Apostles) and Barnabas just to name a few. 

    All of these were leaders within  the Christian congregation, all of whom were in subjection to Christ Jesus, who was is in subjection to Jehovah. 

    There is no mention of individuality as part of pure worship. All of those that brought in outside teachings were removed from the congregation. 

    God’s word tells us that he would take out a people for his name (found in the Hebrews scriptures).  This alone would require organization and not individuality.

    There have only been two organizations associated with the true and correct way of worshipping Jehovah mention in the bible after the flood, the nation of Israel (where you could worship Jehovah as a proselyte if not born a Jew) and the Christian congregation (which was comprise of Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles). 

    2 Timothy 3:16- clearly states “All scripture ( not just the ones you like, that support or theology) are inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight,……

    Mike, why can you not accept the counsel and move on?

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Steve, you are overlooking the fact that all that instruction that was taking place in the churches according to the 27 books of the New Testament books that you rightly mention, was preparing people for the soon coming kingdom of God. All I’m saying is that it came (see below), Why do you persist in clinging to the old way? That would be like clinging to the nation of Israel when the church came.

      Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again

      The Kingdom of God is Here and Now

      All Bible Prophecy Has Been Fulfilled

    • Giles says:

      Leaving aside arguments about a transitional phase I must agree with Mike that The Way is not a religion. James was a practicing Jew, that was his religion and that of Jesus first followers. Gentile disciples did not follow that religion. A movement including some from one religion and others from none can’t be a religion. That much is obvious. As for elders and deacons, they didn’t make the decisions. Paul writes to the churches not the leaders, with the admitted exception of the pastoral epistles. He tells the Corinthians to disown the man living with his stepmother, not their elders. Even Peter the head apostle could be rebuked by the upstart Paul. So you can have your meeting together and your elders, but not this religion called Christianity, about which the Bible is silent. That said, if anyone wants to follow any religion, no problem! Just don’t tell me I have to also.

  12. jason says:

    “Your analogy to what I propose doesn’t work because a denomination claims authority over believers while I am saying that no believer has authority over any other believer.”

    Don’t miss my point. If believers are to just seek the Lord apart from any teachings or leadership from other believers (as you said in another comment, no one taught you these things), then what would ensue, and what has ensued, is that each person has his/her very own personal belief system and ethic. I have met many others who shun church and “go it alone” on the spiritual front. They all have their own system of understanding, and, interestingly enough, none are anywhere near where you are in understanding. Who is right? There are only three possibilities:

    1. You are correct. This must mean you more spiritual (or not, perhaps God just chose to give you these revelations) than they are and have learned the true way that has escaped all of the believers since the first or second century.
    2. One of them is correct. This must mean one of them is more spiritual . . . etc.
    3. None of you are correct.

    If one or two is the answer, it raises some disturbing questions. Why did God leave this truth uncovered for nearly two millennia? How does one truly know his/her way is *the* way, as opposed to one of the multitude of others? (you can’t merely say “Jesus showed me” – every individualist and cult leader says this).

    If three is the answer, we are left with either (a) no one can know these things because the Bible is untrustworthy, or (b) the answers lie somewhere within the established church. We both disagree with (a). But that seemingly leaves us an uncomfortable task, namely, figuring out what to believe amongst the myriad of denominations. Yet I think there’s good reason to do just that.

    Despite their differences, the vast majority of churches affirm: a Trinitarian understanding of God; human teaching and leadership in local churches; a future Second Coming of Christ; a future, bodily resurrection of believers; the divine inspiration of Scripture; salvation by God alone, through Christ alone, unaided by human effort; the existence of an eternal hell, to be inhabited by Satan and his demons, as well as those who reject the Lamb; the necessity of the Gospel message being proclaimed throughout the world; baptism and discipleship of believers; celebration of the Lord’s Supper/Communion . . . the list can go on and on.

    Now you might want to point out the differences, but you first need to look at the similarities. For the things they have in common, you reject, at least most of them. Ask yourself, Is it really rational to think that they have held these doctrines in error for many centuries, only to have *you* uncover the truth and reveal their many errors? How do you *know* you are right?

    • Mike Gantt says:

      I would subscribe to much of your logic here, except that you tend to take an “all-or-nothing” view of correctness. This, I think, is one reason you don’t end up with a satisfying conclusion. When I say “all-or-nothing” i mean that your options are framed as Individual A being correct or Individual B being correct or Denomination X being correct. It is far more likely that each of us as human beings is correct on some issues and incorrect on others. Even denominations get many things right – at least as far as what they say (As Jesus would describe their problem, “They say things but do not do them”). The truth is that in the kingdom He is the Lord and we are all servants. And He judges each of us based on the knowledge we have. That being the case, who are we “to judge the servant of another? To his own Master he stands or falls.” (Romans 14:4) We must each be accountable for the truth that is revealed to us.

      For me, and apparently for you as well, the Scripture is arbiter in all these issues. I derive my positions from my understanding of it. To the degree I am wrong, God will judge me for it. That is a fearful thing, and all the more so because I am proclaiming my understanding publicly through this blog. Woe to me if I am misleading others. On the other hand, woe to me if I remain silent about His glory when I see my fellow human beings ignoring it. There is a straight path I must walk if I am to have His blessing. Here is a post I wrote titled The Protestant Reformation Fell Short, which I think is relevant to this exchange we are having.

      The argument you make in your penultimate paragraph could, with just a few tweaks, be made on behalf of Rabbinic Judaism against Christianity. With a few different tweaks it can be made on behalf of Roman Catholicism against the Protestant Reformation. It could even be made on behalf of Eastern Orthodoxy against Roman Catholicism. The logic of it says “Isn’t tradition more reliable?” If you read the Bible, you will see this logic being applied against God’s prophets from one end to the other. Noah was alone, Abraham was alone, Isaiah was alone, Jeremiah was alone, Ezekiel was alone, John the Baptist was alone, Jesus was alone. Taking refuge in the majority instead of in the Lord is, alas, a perennial mistake we make (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

      How do we know that the truths I proclaim have not been revealed to many other people over the generations…and even now? Just because God reveals a truth to a person does not mean he will speak it. And even if he speaks it, it does not mean anyone else will believe it. I wonder how many of God’s truths have been revealed to the heart of a human being but died stillborn because of the suffocating and stultifying effect of the world we live in? It is not easy to birth truth into an ungodly world. It brings pain. But the pain is worth it because of the joy that revealed truth brings (Deuteronomy 29:29). And because of all the blood (pain) that the prophets – from Abel to Zechariah – spilled on behalf of the truth (not to mention the apostles, and, of course, Jesus our precious Lord) we can now walk in the light of the kingdom of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! To Him be the glory! He is here and now – let us obey Him!

  13. Steve says:

    Mike,
    I must bow out. The truth is the truth. There is no need to debate. Clearly, as Jason has put it, you have your own belief system. No matter what the whole bible says on any particular subject, you find a way fit what the bible teaches into your own belief system.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own set of fact. We will agree to disagree on most of your blogs. I am convinced that you are interested in Internet traffic and not bible truth. Spirituality is not for entertainment purposes. Gaining spirituality is serious for truth seeker. And it is spirituality that Adam lost for mankind when he chose for himself what was right and wrong. You sadly are doing the same.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      The truth is the truth.

      Agreed.

      There is no need to debate.

      Agreed.  Once two people have heard each other, exchanged views, and understood each other, yes – if there has been no movement on either side, it is time for both to move on.

      No matter what the whole bible says on any particular subject, you find a way fit what the bible teaches into your own belief system.

      I had no belief system into which I could fit the Bible.  On the contrary, it is God, through the Bible, who has given me my beliefs.  In other words, I’ve had to abandon my belief system piece by piece in order to embrace what the Bible teaches.

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own set of facts.

      Agreed.

      I am convinced that you are interested in Internet traffic and not bible truth.  Spirituality is not for entertainment purposes.

      In all my seeking of God, nothing has been more important to me than the truth.  God knows this and will bear me witness in your conscience if you will listen to Him.  Your opinions here are way off base; there is nothing factual about them.

      Gaining spirituality is serious for truth seeker.  And it is spirituality that Adam lost for mankind when he chose for himself what was right and wrong. You sadly are doing the same.

      Adam lost fellowship with God when he chose to ignore the word of God which had been spoken to him and listened instead to a voice which contradicted it.  I’m happy for you to forget me, but may the word of God always be remembered…and heeded.

  14. jason says:

    First, I don’t think you’re correctly using Rom. 14:4. All of Paul’s letters are about teaching right doctrine, promoting right practices, and correcting those who are in error. It would be really strange for him to contradict everything else he wrote and taught on the subject. Instead, when the verse is considered in its context, Paul is referring to those things that are gray areas of Christian practice (Should I eat this or not? Should I worship on this day or another?), and not core Christian teaching.

    Next, let me say that I’m not defending tradition, in as far as we’re talking things like the priesthood (Catholicism) or pretty buildings with steeples (most of Protestantism). What I will defend is a *traditional* understanding of the most important doctrines presented in Scripture. So when I speak of the similarities of the various denominations throughout history, I’m not talking about peripherals or minutiae; I’m referring to the *most* important things. Yes, each church and each individual will, to a certain extent, have a unique set of doctrines. But the *basics* of the faith – and many of these beliefs I listed in my last comments – have been understood since the beginning.

    Let me give an example. You propose that all prophecy has been fulfilled, including Jesus’ return; therefore human leadership is unnecessary. Yet when we read the earliest post-biblical Christian writings we do not see this understanding anywhere. Some of these men were alive at the time of the apostles, and some were even disciples of them. Are we to assume that a knowledge of the Lord’s coming totally evaded these second and third generation leaders? It just seems strange that Jesus came back and nobody noticed.

    Concerning the aloneness of some important biblical characters:

    “Noah was alone” – this was out of necessity; there’s no mention of congregations.

    “Abraham was alone” – again, out of necessity; nothing here to speak about human leadership.

    The prophets were alone – they often were alone, but a couple of points. One, this was a specific call to specific people, for a specific purpose. Two, there’s no general command to leave congregations. Though Israel often was sinful and had corrupt leadership, interestingly, never are the people called to go it alone.

    “Jesus was alone” – yes and no. This is a bit more complicated, but one thing is for certain, Jesus *did not* counsel anyone to leave their congregation. In fact, the opposite is true (cf. Mt. 23:2-3)

    You rightly state “Woe to me if I am misleading others.” But when you tell people to leave their churches; when you write that the Lord has already returned; when you teach that everyone will be saved; all of these teachings make you a teacher and, in a very real sense, a spiritual leader. You should be absolutely certain before making such claims of truth, especially considering virtually no one throughout history has held all of these to be true (at least simultaneously; though you might say, “how do you know, maybe some did” – but that is purely speculative, *at best*), the great importance of the doctrines, and the implications of holding those teachings. So let me tweak and reframe what I stated last time. Either (a) you have been given spiritual insight that apparently no one else in the past 1900 or so years has been given – at least none we know of, or (b) you are deceived and another of a long list of teachers who have left the church and arrived at a completely new understanding of faith and practice. What I’m trying to get through to you is this: there’s a very good chance you’re wrong.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      First, I don’t think you’re correctly using Rom. 14:4. All of Paul’s letters are about teaching right doctrine, promoting right practices, and correcting those who are in error. It would be really strange for him to contradict everything else he wrote and taught on the subject. Instead, when the verse is considered in its context, Paul is referring to those things that are gray areas of Christian practice (Should I eat this or not? Should I worship on this day or another?), and not core Christian teaching.

      Our respective understandings of Romans 14:4 are very similar.  What accounts for our differences is that Paul was preparing the disciples for the coming kingdom of God – I believe that kingdom came in the time frame Paul expected and you do not.  With the kingdom, there would be more “gray areas” because God would be directing individuals instead of congregations.  As confirmation, note that the gray area in Romans 14 involved individual activities outside of the context of congregational life.

      Next, let me say that I’m not defending tradition, in as far as we’re talking things like the priesthood (Catholicism) or pretty buildings with steeples (most of Protestantism). What I will defend is a *traditional* understanding of the most important doctrines presented in Scripture. So when I speak of the similarities of the various denominations throughout history, I’m not talking about peripherals or minutiae; I’m referring to the *most* important things. Yes, each church and each individual will, to a certain extent, have a unique set of doctrines. But the *basics* of the faith – and many of these beliefs I listed in my last comments – have been understood since the beginning.

      Are you forgetting that Jesus’ fulfillment of Messianic prophecy so defied long-standing theological understanding that the spiritual leaders of His day thought they were doing God a favor to kill Him?  To them, Jesus was violating “the most important things” about what they had all long believed – “important doctrines presented in Scripture,” “basics of the faith…understood since the beginning.”

      Let me give an example. You propose that all prophecy has been fulfilled, including Jesus’ return; therefore human leadership is unnecessary. Yet when we read the earliest post-biblical Christian writings we do not see this understanding anywhere. Some of these men were alive at the time of the apostles, and some were even disciples of them.

      We don’t know that “nobody noticed.”  It was a perilous time – the greatest tribulation the world has ever known (Matthew 24:21).  Few documents survived.  Given the personal nature of the kingdom, true believers would be individually obeying Christ and have no congregations to preserve their writings even if any were produced.

      Apparently, all the apostles died violently, save possibly John.  Before they died, the apostles themselves warned of the apostasy that would occur in the church just before His coming.  As an example, consider Paul speaking to the elders, telling them to their faces that some among them would participate in this widespread apostasy (Acts 20: 29-30).

      Are we to assume that a knowledge of the Lord’s coming totally evaded these second and third generation leaders? It just seems strange that Jesus came back and nobody noticed.

      Does it seem equally strange to you that Jesus came the first time and His own nation didn’t notice?  If the congregations of Judaism can stand today on the conviction that their ancestors could not possibly have missed the coming of the Messiah, then it is not strange that the congregations of Christianity can stand today on the conviction that their ancestors could not possibly have missed the second coming of Messiah

      “Noah was alone” – this was out of necessity; there’s no mention of congregations.

      Actually, there was a congregation in the early days.  It met at the Tower of Babel, and God broke it up.

      “Abraham was alone” – again, out of necessity; nothing here to speak about human leadership.

      But Abraham is spoken of as an example for us over and over.  If his experience was “of necessity” and anomalous, why then didn’t the Bible used the example of a congregation-attender instead?  Abraham’s faith was notable precisely because he placed it in God without need of affirmation from other human beings.

      The prophets were alone – they often were alone, but a couple of points. One, this was a specific call to specific people, for a specific purpose. Two, there’s no general command to leave congregations. Though Israel often was sinful and had corrupt leadership, interestingly, never are the people called to go it alone.  “Jesus was alone” – yes and no. This is a bit more complicated, but one thing is for certain, Jesus *did not* counsel anyone to leave their congregation. In fact, the opposite is true (cf. Mt. 23:2-3)

      Have you never read 2 Corinthians 6:17, which itself is a quotation of Isaiah 52:11?  Or what about Hebrews 13:13-14?  And do you really think Matthew 23:2-3 implied that Jesus wanted His apostles to maintain credentials with their home synagogues?  On that basis, Christianity today would be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rabbinic Judaism.

      Since the Fall, God has sought for us “a kingdom which cannot be shaken.”  Any human congregation has to have human leadership, and it can always be shaken because human leadership can always be corrupted.  This was the experience of ancient Israel and it was the experience of the New Testament church.  This is why we need the kingdom of God – we need a leader who cannot be corrupted.  There is only one of those, and His name is Jesus.

      Leaving a church will do no one any good – it is following Jesus that will do them good.  Abandoning the church will be of no value if the person doesn’t seek the kingdom of God in its place.  We sell all that we have in order to gain the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45-46).

      Either (a) you have been given spiritual insight that apparently no one else in the past 1900 or so years has been given – at least none we know of, or (b) you are deceived and another of a long list of teachers who have left the church and arrived at a completely new understanding of faith and practice. What I’m trying to get through to you is this: there’s a very good chance you’re wrong.

      There is always a chance that one of us is wrong.  We cannot, however, use this as an excuse to avoid taking a stand.  I take my stand on the Scriptures of the prophets and the apostles.

      “Broad is the way that leads to destruction and many are those who enter by it…and the way is narrow that leads to life and few are those who find it.”  If you think there is “safety in numbers” when it comes to following God, you are misleading yourself.

  15. jason says:

    The difficulty in discussing Scripture with you, Mike, is that your full-preterist hermeneutic prevents any serious dialogue. For example, you mention Heb. 13:13-14 as evidence of believers being instructed to be individualists and to shun human leadership. The problem I see when reading the whole chapter is that these verses are bookended by just the opposite sentiment: “remember you leaders” (v. 7), and “obey your leaders and submit to them” (v. 17). But you will say those statements were only for the transitional church, and not for us today, while vv. 13-14 should apply to us today, since they seem to imply a believer who is alone in the wilderness, so to speak, with only Christ as leader. So what you’ve done is effectively shut down any serious biblical challenge to your views. This amounts to cherry-picking, but you’re not seeing this because of this dubious idea of Jesus already returning. That’s why I’m appealing to the earliest extra-biblical writings.

    “Few documents survived.”

    This is simply incorrect. We have very good and varied textual evidence. I could mention several, but let me begin with Polycarp. He was widely believed to have been discipled by the Apostle John himself, and his life bridged the 1st and 2nd Centuries, between the apostles and the second generation of believers. We still have his letter to the Philippians. There is nothing there indicating apostasy, but there is plenty showing he considered the teachings on leaders to be still in force (I urge you to read it). It is a stretch, to say the least, that Polycarp was an apostate because he kept the commands of John and the other apostles, never realizing that the Lord had already returned and effectively eradicated these things. Indeed, there was apostasy very early, but it largely took the forms of Gnosticism, legalism, and antinomianism.

    “Broad is the way that leads to destruction and many are those who enter by it…and the way is narrow that leads to life and few are those who find it.” If you think there is “safety in numbers” when it comes to following God, you are misleading yourself.

    It’s interesting you quote a verse from a passage that’s difficult to reconcile with universalism, but, be that as it may, I want to clarify some things about “numbers.” I’m not one to go with the crowd. And I don’t think the Bible leads us to do this. But neither should I have to choose between joining the wide way, and just going my own way all alone. I’m not proposing merely joining the biggest group and hoping the majority is correct. That would be foolhardy. Rather, I’m saying that there is much to be learned from the believers who came before us, what they believed of first importance, what they found to be at odds with Scripture. Many of these important truths (not minor ones, remember), you outright reject. That raises a red flag immediately. You have come up with your own way. You think it’s from Jesus Himself, but how do you know? Again let me ask, there are thousands of people with just this same mindset, and few will agree on even minor doctrines, let alone major ones. My question to them is the same as mine has been to you. How do you know your way is the right way?

    My concern for you, Mike, is for your soul, as well as for those who read your writings. For if the Lord has yet to return, the Scriptures are still in full force for our lives. You have not only rejected basic Christian truths, but have taught others to do the same. I’ve tried to show that the evidence suggests there has yet to be a Second Coming, as evidenced by the continuity of belief between the apostles and the next generation of leadership. I hope you heed my counsel to repent and submit yourself to the leadership of the church Jesus instituted and is now Head of. Though imperfect, it is still *His* church.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Jason, if you wish to avoid cherry-picking you should consider context – specifically, reconsider all the statements from Hebrews that you have referenced in the context of the whole letter.  It was written in “the last days” (1:2) to people who were not paying sufficient “attention to what they’d heard” (2:1).  They had become “dull of hearing” (5:11) and were in need of “exhortation” (13:22).  The thrust of the entire exhortation was to wake them from “sluggishness” (6:12) and provoke them to “faith” (11:1-40).  In this call to faith they were further exhorted to apply “diligence” (4:11; 6:11), “discipline” (12:5-11), and “patience” (6:12, 15) to the effort.  That the letter was a clarion call to faith is impossible to deny.  Further, it carried a sense of urgency because “the day was drawing near” (10:25).  This “day,” of course, was the day of the Lord (the day of Christ, the coming of the kingdom of God, etc.) which was a theme running through the entire New Testament.  The writer of this letter knew that its readers would soon be entering into an age when faith in the Lord was the entire basis for relationship with God.  If the believer was to continue to have a congregation to rely upon, what need would there be for the urgency?  Re-read the letter in the light of Jeremiah 17:5-8 and see that the writer was warning that all visible props were soon to be removed (for kingdoms that have them can be shaken – 12:27).  That’s why he wrote that without proper preparation, they would miss the Lord’s coming (12:14).

      As to your mention of individuals who bridged the apostolic and post-apostolic generations, there are few from whom we have extant writings – Polycarp, Clement, Ignatius, and Papias – and in the case of the last, only select quotations of what he wrote and the not full writing.  Nonetheless, what we have confirms the apostasy, for, as you say, in Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians “there is plenty showing he considered the teachings on leaders to be still in force.”  That is, he was focused more on church than he was the Lord. Contrast this with Peter who says that shepherds should be ready to hand over their staffs to the Lord (1 Peter 5:1-4).  Remember also that Paul had warned that the shepherds who were false would seek to “draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).  Am I saying Polycarp was a bad man?  No; I’m just saying he was caught up in the spirit of flesh that tired of waiting on the Lord and chose instead to put their faith in something they could see.  This is the same type of error into which Aaron fell with the golden calf, Saul fell when he wouldn’t wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice, and Demas fell when he deserted Paul.  There is a reason that post-apostolic authors do not make it into the canon.

      I am glad to hear you say that you are “not one to go with the crowd.”  Paul exhorted in Romans 14:22 “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.”  He did so knowing that “the day” was at hand (Romans 13:11-12) and that there would soon be a separation of sheep and goats (Matthew 25) with those who hear the Shepherd’s voice following Him (John 10) and the goats left following each other (2 Corinthians 10:12).  How can you read the New Testament and deny that its writers expected the coming of the kingdom in that generation?  And if you don’t deny it, how can you feel comfortable with saying they were simply mistaken about the timing?

      And if the church you see is “His church,” how do you account for the fact that He said there would be “one flock with one shepherd”?  If the body of Christ is what you can see with your physical eyes, how do you account for its dismemberment (especially in the light of Paul’s denunciation of such dismemberment in 1 Corinthians 1)?

    • Mike Gantt says:

      This question is for Jason or for anyone else reading it:

      Are there any truths as important, as sacred, and as inviolate as “Jesus is Lord” and “the Bible is the word of God”?

  16. jason says:

    “If the believer was to continue to have a congregation to rely upon, what need would there be for the urgency”

    Your question assumes your conclusion. Believers are called to constant urgency because “no man knows that day or hour.” If we are like the foolish virgins, we will be left and in danger of God’s wrath. The better question for you is what can possibly be the reason for this urgency, if your understanding is correct? Let’s look at it. You say Christ came back very early (probably 1st C) and that few noticed. But no one was judged at that time, and they all had a lifetime to repent. And if they didn’t in this life, they definitely would in the next. Why the urgency?

    There’s a lot to respond to, but the real barrier right now is this issue of the Lord’s coming supposedly having already occurred. Without either time or space to be exhaustive, let me give a few comments on this.

    First, concerning the writers of the NT thinking the end was near and that the Lord was soon to come back. Perhaps they did think that the Lord would return in their lifetime. After all, Jesus did tell them to be vigilant, for “no man knows that day or hour.” But their anticipation of his soon return does not entail the necessity of his return in their lifetime. Nor does it undermine the NT. The writers are very careful with their words, as guided by the Holy Spirit. Well, as time marched on, and the Lord Jesus did not appear as quickly as expected, many brothers began to “fall asleep” and this unsettled some. Additionally, scoffers came, ridiculing the idea of the Lord’s return. If his return truly was “soon,” “near,” “approaching,” and “at hand,” then where was he? In answer, Peter writes a response found in 2 Pt. 3:2-15a. Some relevant points:

    1. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise . . . but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish.” Peter is saying that the tarrying of the Lord is at least partially attributed to the desire for more people to repent and turn to him. Now if Jesus has already returned (as you say) *and* people can still repent and turn to him despite that, Peter’s words are of no effect. What do you think he meant?
    2. The day of the Lord was to be one of great, and literal, upheaval in earth and heaven (vv. 10-12). This is not merely metaphorical or symbolic language, otherwise Peter’s exhortation to his readers in v. 11 makes no sense. What is something to prompt his readers to holiness and godliness? The fear of the Lord and the knowledge of what was going to transpire in the world! This is the most straightforward reading of the text.
    3. There will be a new heavens and a new earth (v. 12). Just as the rest of Peter’s text about the destruction/burning of the former, so also we can rightly assume there will be replacements – or, more likely, the old will be burned as in refined, reformed and transformed. You don’t seem to believe this. Why?

    “There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God after it has come with power.” (Mark 9:1)

    Does this mean that the 2nd Coming must have happened in the disciples’ lifetimes? No. There is good reason to think Jesus is referring to his soon transfiguration, something only a few (3) would witness.

    1. Context – in each Gospel account, the statement is immediately followed by the Transfiguration. The flow of the text naturally leads us to see a connection. Since there were no breaks in the Greek texts, it reads like this:
    “… will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God after it has come with power. And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them.”
    2. Peter interprets the Transfiguration this way (2 Pt. 1:16-18). Jesus’ prophetic statement is not intended to be heard as saying that some alive then would witness his actual 2nd Coming. Rather, he was speaking of his power and majesty being revealed to a few (in a few days as it turned out), a sort of preliminary view, if you will, of who he is and of what His coming would be like.

    Additionally, it could be argued that John was given a further glimpse of his coming (Revelation), and that this vision also fulfills Mark 9:1.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg, I know. But what I’ve mentioned here casts serious doubt on the very basis of your thesis that Jesus has already come back. Verses like these have kept virtually all believers through the centuries from thinking this.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      That the urgency about the coming of the day of the Lord is passed does not mean at all that the urgency about our need for repentance is passed. On the contrary, we are being judged, and will be judged, for every sin we commit. Therefore, to be slow about repentance is to stockpile judgments against ourselves.

      As for your saying that the Transfiguration was the coming of the kingdom that Jesus had promised, He Himself refuted that notion when He, subsequent to the Transfiguration, agreed with the Pharisees that the coming of the kingdom was in their future. However, at the same time He made clear to the Pharisees that the kingdom of God was not coming with signs to be observed (Luke 17:20-21) – a point you seem no more willing to accept than they were.

      As for the reason that the Transfiguration followed seamlessly in the narrative from Jesus’ proclamation about the coming of the kingdom in their lifetimes, it was to provide heavenly confirmation to what Jesus had told them on earth. In other words, lest they had any doubt about the veracity of Jesus’ promise, the experience of the Transfiguration should dispel it for them. Indeed it did, as Peter describes the effect it had on them when he wrote that it made the prophetic word “more sure” (2 Peter 1:19).

      As for your mention of John, his book says twice in the first chapter and five times in the last that the coming of the Lord was highly imminent. His language on this point is explicit and unmistakable, unlike the amazingly figurative language he uses in the body of his letter.

      Joy to the world! The Lord is come; let earth receive her King!

      • jason says:

        Before I give a fuller reply . . . are you equating the kingdom of God with the Second Coming of Christ? Or, to put it another way, are you saying that the kingdom came with that Coming? And prior to Christ’s return, believers were not in the kingdom?

        • Mike Gantt says:

          Of course. Why would you think the Second Coming of Christ is something different from the coming of the kingdom of God?

          • jason says:

            “He made clear to the Pharisees that the kingdom of God was not coming with signs to be observed (Luke 17:20-21) . . . Why would you think the Second Coming of Christ is something different from the coming of the kingdom of God?”

            Jesus gives the Pharisees two truths about the kingdom in the Luke passages you cite: (1) it does not “come with signs” and, (2) it is “in the midst of you.” It is this second part that you need to understand. But to accept this means that you will need to rethink your idea of Christ already returning and the church age ending.
            When speaking of the kingdom of God (and heaven, per Matthew), we must see that believers from the earliest days were in it. It was “not of this world” and was not observable. But it was indeed present, and yet Christ had not yet returned and believers were still under human leadership. There are many passages that prove this, here is but one: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:13).” Paul’s readers were saved and in Christ’s kingdom, no question about it. And yet they were still in individual churches (1:2, 4:16).

            But there is also a future aspect to the “coming,” which will be the final kingdom. This will be visible to all, joyous to those eagerly awaiting it, devastating to those who will be cast out. It will be the full manifestation of God’s kingdom.

            So, absolutely I agree with Jesus, the kingdom is not observable right now, just as he said. Yet it is in our midst, just as it was in the days of the apostles. And just to clarify, I am not equating the Transfiguration with the coming of the kingdom. It was intended as an example – to those few chosen to observe it – of Christ’s glory and how he would be seen when coming in power back to the earth. Therefore, it fulfilled Christ’s words in the previous verse.

            You mentioned John and how he spoke of Christ’s coming as “highly imminent.” Revelation is tricky, to put it mildly, not just because of the symbolism, but also because John wrote the book while “in the Spirit.” Like the prophets of old who were given visions of the future, John had no idea when these things would take place (as Jesus said no one would). But he did know that believers are always to be vigilant, like the five wise virgins. So it is not at all surprising that he writes of these things being “near” and of the Lord “coming soon.”

            A second point to mention is that it isn’t clear how much of biblical prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem. There is some evidence that at least much of the Olivet Discourse and Revelation have been fulfilled by that historic event. Many dispensationalists wouldn’t like hearing me say that, but that’s where the evidence leads. The question is, How much prophecy was fulfilled by that? I suspect quite a lot, but most definitely not all. Yet the parts it would cover can answer some of the “imminent” language.

            Just as the early believers were in the kingdom and in local congregations, so should believers realize they are in the kingdom, yet also should be part of a local church.

            • Mike Gantt says:

              You are astounding in that you claim to agree with Jesus by describing a point of view that is completely at odds with His! When He was asked about His coming He gave an unequivocal answer (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21). Yet you say that the coming of the kingdom is both present and future, that it already has come and yet will come – thus making the word “coming” meaningless. Jesus gave a straightforward answer to the question while you are engaging in double-talk about it.

              Has the Lord come in His kingdom- yes or no? You are answering “yes and no” which is merely vacillation (2 Corinthians 1:17-19). My answer is “yes.”

              By the way, Jesus’ reference to the kingdom being in the Pharisees’ midst (Luke 17:20-21) was a reference to Himself. He was fully subjected to the kingdom of God and it operated through Him. His point to them was that if they didn’t recognize the kingdom of God in Him, they wouldn’t recognize when it came in the lives of others later. And indeed they didn’t.

              Another important point at which you are completely at odds with the Bible is your assertion that “John had no idea when these things would take place (as Jesus said no one would).” Both Jesus and John claimed the exact opposite of what you are saying. Jesus gave signs as to when His coming would be near (Matthew 24:32-33). For this reason Paul could point out to the Thessalonians that one of the important signs of the end had not yet occurred (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) – a sign that, later on, John would testify had finally been fulfilled (1 John 2:18; 4:3). Jesus indeed said that no one would know the day or hour, but He said that in the context of telling them they would certainly know the season (Matthew 24:32-36). If Grandma says she’s coming to visit in the spring, we might not know the day or hour but we know the general time frame. By taking Jesus’ words about the day and hour out of context, you rob them of His meaning. You then use His out-of-context words to mean something contradictory to His general teaching on the subject.

              As to your claim that statements at the beginning and end of the book of Revelation like “the things which must shortly take place,” “the time is near,” and “I am coming quickly,” don’t really mean that but rather mean something like “Be vigilant for it could be soon,or two thousand years from now, or even longer” – well, I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether or not yours is a Holy Spirit-inspired interpretation of the Bible’s words.

              As for me, I find your views not only unbiblical, but actually antibiblical.

              • jason says:

                “Yet you say that the coming of the kingdom is both present and future, that it already has come and yet will come . . . Has the Lord come in His kingdom- yes or no? You are answering “yes and no” which is merely vacillation (2 Corinthians 1:17-19). My answer is “yes.”’

                You have misunderstood me somewhat. Let me preface this by saying Scripture often challenges us. One of those ways is through tensions in the text. I’m not talking contradictions, for I don’t believe the Bible has any true ones. But there are cases where certain doctrines, certain concepts must be taken as a whole before coming to a firm conclusion. One such concept is the kingdom of God. There are passages that clearly and unequivocally teach that the kingdom was present in the first century (Col. 1:13; Heb. 12:28; 1 Thes. 2:12; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20), and others that teach with equal clarity that the kingdom will come at the end of the age when Christ visibly returns (2 Tim. 4:1,18; 2 Pet. 1:11; ). The best way to approach this apparent conflict is to recognize that there is an “already – not yet” aspect to the kingdom. It came in without fanfare, invisible, not of this world (John 18:36); yet it will be fully realized at the end of the age when Christ establishes his eternal kingdom on the new earth (2 Pet. 3:12-13; Rev. 21:1-4)

                Understand, I’m not saying “yes and no” with regard to the kingdom in the same sense. Rather, I’m saying “yes and no” in the sense that it has come in the hearts of believers now, but will be fully manifested at the end of the age. That is the conclusion the Bible leads us to, and we must read it for what it says, not what we want it to say.

                “As to your claim that statements at the beginning and end of the book of Revelation like “the things which must shortly take place,” “the time is near,” and “I am coming quickly,” don’t really mean that but rather mean something like “Be vigilant for it could be soon,or two thousand years from now, or even longer” – well, I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether or not yours is a Holy Spirit-inspired interpretation of the Bible’s words.”

                I am simply letting Scripture interpret itself. Again, we see that Peter recognized that the timing of the Lord’s return might be a good deal longer than expected, so he gives the “thousand years” and “day” analogy, telling his readers that the Lord’s coming is determined by his patience (2 Pet. 3:8-10). It is ironic that you speak of “Holy Spirit-inspired interpretation” when your own contention that the Lord’s Second Coming was in the 1st C., that everyone will be saved anyway, and that there will be no New Earth, only heaven, does not fit this passage. In fact, it cannot be made to fit it, because it flatly contradicts it.

                Additionally, we must see that we are in the “final hour” as John says. This has been true since the first believers. It was not true that the end might suddenly come upon the earth prior to Jesus first coming; but it is true that the end might come suddenly now (since his coming). In other words, the Parable of the twelve virgins would not have applied to earlier generations of Israelites; but it does apply to all believers since. Its message: be vigilant, for you don’t know when your Master will return, it will be unexpected.

                Also, let me repeat that some prophecy was fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Much of the imminent language could actually be referring to this monumental event.

                Finally, regarding John not knowing the timing of the end. Let me be more clear. John did not know when the *end* would come, nor did he know when the *signs* he saw would appear. They could happen in his lifetime, or they might not. You are mistaken in your comparison of 2 Thes. 2:1-12 and 1 Jn. 2:18; 4:3. There is no fulfillment of the “man of sin” in John’s epistle. John says: “every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” (4:3). The “spirit of the antichrist” is in the world now, yes, but this is a spirit of unbelief in Jesus, and not anything like what Paul is describing.

                • Mike Gantt says:

                  Jason, I understand your discomfort with words like “vacillation” and “contradiction,” but you cannot make your problem go away simply by using a word like “tension” to replace them.  In doing so, all you’ve done is transferred the blame for the problem from yourself to the Scriptures: “No, it’s not me Jason who is saying two different things – it’s the Scriptures!”

                  I see no tension in the text and certainly no contradiction, and therefore I have no reason to vacillate.  (The two sets of verses you use to set up the “tension” don’t conflict; no verses in the first set declare that the kingdom had already come.)  The Lord and His apostles expected the kingdom of God to come in that generation, that they were living in “the last days,” and anyone who reads the New Testament with an honest heart has to acknowledge this.  If you are unwilling to acknowledge it, I cannot help you.

                  If what you were saying were true, the entire New Testament would read differently than it does – starting with Matthew 24-25 which is Jesus’ straightforward and extended answer to the question, “When will You come and the age end?”

                  There is no already-not yet equivocation in Jesus’ Matthew 24-25 answer.  On the contrary, He lays out a timetable which requires all the events He describes to have occurred in that generation (Matthew 24:32-34).  And the language you want to impose on Jesus (e.g. be always vigilant because it could happen in any generation) is not only absent, but it’s contradicted by what is present.

                  Further, if you want to say that John in 1 John and in Revelation was not making a claim that the end was imminent, then I don’t see how we can have a rational discussion about the timing of the end.  You are trying to make his words say the exact opposite of his obvious intent!

                  Nevertheless, I’ll try to speak to some of your other points.

                  I am simply letting Scripture interpret itself.

                  Oh, how I wish you would.  Instead, you seem to set up tensions between various verses and then choose a meaning which cannot be traced to either verse (e.g. “The kingdom of God comes in two different senses” which makes any timetable nonsensical).

                  Again, we see that Peter recognized that the timing of the Lord’s return might be a good deal longer than expected, so he gives the “thousand years” and “day” analogy, telling his readers that the Lord’s coming is determined by his patience (2 Pet. 3:8-10).

                  You’ve grossly misrepresented Peter.  He said explicitly that the Lord would not be slow about His promise, and that if there were any delay at all it would only be so that more might repent.  He went on to say that his readers could actually “hasten” the day of the Lord’s coming (which is a logical conclusion of his stated point).  Where you got the idea that Peter was saying that “the Lord’s return might be a good deal longer than expected” is somewhere other than the text.

                  Peter’s point that there might be some delay fits perfectly with what Jesus had predicted.  Remember, Jesus said that His disciples would know the season but only the Father knew the day or hour.  In other words, within the general timetable God had left Himself the ability to choose the exact moment so as to maximize the number who would repent.  Peter was therefore reinforcing what Jesus taught in Matthew 24-25 while your theory would toss Jesus’ teaching out!

                  It is ironic that you speak of “Holy Spirit-inspired interpretation” when your own contention that the Lord’s Second Coming was in the 1st C., that everyone will be saved anyway, and that there will be no New Earth, only heaven, does not fit this passage. In fact, it cannot be made to fit it, because it flatly contradicts it.

                  I didn’t say there wouldn’t be a new earth.  On the contrary, Isaiah promised a new heavens and a new earth.  He did not, however promise a new Sheol (i.e. Hades) – that which was under the earth – and that’s another way we know that everyone is going to heaven.

                  Additionally, we must see that we are in the “final hour” as John says. This has been true since the first believers. It was not true that the end might suddenly come upon the earth prior to Jesus first coming; but it is true that the end might come suddenly now (since his coming). In other words, the Parable of the twelve virgins would not have applied to earlier generations of Israelites; but it does apply to all believers since. Its message: be vigilant, for you don’t know when your Master will return, it will be unexpected.

                  If your view were true, John would have written “we are not necessarily in the final hour.”  Instead, he wrote emphatically that it was the final hour (1 John 2:18).  Don’t you see that your interpretations are like that of a man who says “black is white” and “up is down”?  As for the virgins, you have lifted this parable from its context.  Recall that it is part of the Matthew 24-25 Olivet Discourse in which Jesus said all these things would happen in that generation (Matthew 24:34).  Once again you have taken Scripture’s words out of context and portrayed them as having the opposite meaning of what they have in context.

                  Jason, I like your spirit and I believe that you love the Lord.  Moreover, you did not invent the point of view you are arguing.  It is the standard evangelical view.  I used to believe and teach it myself – until I stopped imposing traditional views upon the Scripture and let it speak for itself.  A big part of this learning occurred when I determined to start heeding the Lord in my daily life no matter what it might cost me.

                  Yes, millions of people believe the point of view you are expressing.  But they believe it because someone else taught it to them, not because they read the Scriptures with an open mind and came to this conclusion.

                  I encourage you to open your heart completely to the Lord and read the Bible asking for nothing but God’s truth.  And always keep in mind that truth is not determined by how many people believe it.  The truth is the truth even when no one believes it.

      • jason says:

        Regarding your statements about “judgments” and our “being judged,” you will need to clarify. What I’ve read you say amounts to us being eternally sorry for our sins, or something to that effect. So Stalin will be saved despite his hatred of God and his killing of tens of millions of people. His judgment will be that he will feel bad about it? Will there be differing levels of this “feel badness” depending on our sins? Does it matter whether one repents in this life or the next in relation to judgment? How does this diminish the joy of heaven, or does it?

  17. jason says:

    Are there any truths as important, as sacred, and as inviolate as “Jesus is Lord” and “the Bible is the word of God”?

    just to mention a couple:

    the Trinity – this has to do with the very nature of God

    Salvation by grace alone through faith alone – this is how we are saved and can be in relationship with God

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Romans 10:9 says that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you shall be saved. Even if the Trinity were true, you can’t add it as a requirement to this promise – otherwise you’re adding to the word of God, a practice of which God takes a dim view (Revelation 22:18).

      As for your statement about “salvation by grace alone through faith alone,” it is true but it is derived from, and rests upon, the truths of Jesus being Lord and the Bible being the word of God. For to be saved by declaring “Jesus is Lord” based on “the Bible being the word of God” is obviously a transaction of grace and faith. It could not be anything else.

      That “Jesus is Lord” and that “the Bible is the word of God” are the two irreducible truths upon which all other truth is founded, and by which all other truth can be found and measured.

      • jason says:

        I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. You asked for truths “important,” “sacred,” and “inviolate.” If the Trinity is true (and it is), then this is what the Bible has revealed to us about God’s very nature, and gives great insight into how he has worked in the world to create, and to redeem. To deviate from this truth greatly hampers faith and leads to many other errors.

        How we are saved is also of great importance. Whether reducible or irreducible is irrelevant. Mormons believe the two “irreducible truths” you cite, yet also believe God is a glorified man from the planet Kolob who had celestial sex with the heavenly mother to produce all beings (including Jesus and his “brother” Satan). So . . . using your two truths, how do you measure Mormonism?

        • Mike Gantt says:

          What I’m getting at is a way to sort out truth from error. If you do not identify which truths are greater you do as the Pharisees who lumped their ideas with the word of God (Mark 7; Matthew 23) and ended up with “Corban” and “tithing dill and mint” as important as the great commandments of God (love Him and love others).

          The Mormons err for the same reason as the Muslims: they contradict both of the great truths I mentioned. They elevate Joseph Smith and Muhammed, respectively, thus minimizing Jesus as Lord. And they both minimize the Scriptures by making the Book of Mormon and the Quran, respectively, equal to the word of God. All their other errors flow from these two.

  18. Mike Gantt says:

    Jason, please read Whatever Became of Jesus Christ? which is the biblical case for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ having occurred when and how Jesus and His apostles said it would.

    This short book deals first with the issue of timing – that is, when Jesus and the apostles said the kingdom would come.  Then it deals with the issue of nature – that is, what would the event be like.

    As for timing, the book makes the case that Jesus and His apostles were correct about the timing and that it would occur in that generation.  As for nature, it makes the case that Jesus and His apostles taught disciples to look for a spiritual, not a physical, event (that is, a heavenly event with earthly consequences) – and this is consistent with the thrust of the entire New Testament, which is to get people to look at like spiritually instead of according to what their physical eyes can see.

    If you have questions or reservations about anything in the book, there is a mechanism there for making comments and asking questions just as there is here.

  19. jason says:

    “I encourage you to open your heart completely to the Lord and read the Bible asking for nothing but God’s truth. And always keep in mind that truth is not determined by how many people believe it. The truth is the truth even when no one believes it.”

    To give you a brief testimony of my understanding seems to be in order. Some time ago I began questioning much of the teaching I had heard from church. In comparing some of these doctrines to what I was studying on my own, some things just didn’t add up. As a result I changed my views on eschatology and soteriology. But other doctrines that I initially questioned, I found to be biblical. One of these is the Trinity. It’s not that the vast majority has believed it throughout the centuries, but rather the Scriptures, when taken as a whole, teach it.

    My point here is twofold. One, most thinking believers experience doubts and raise questions regarding the teachings they are hearing. This is not bad in and of itself, since even the Bereans were commended by Paul for doing the same. But one must be extremely careful when disagreeing with the major doctrines of the faith (Something I’ve mentioned before). And one must realize that something just might be amiss if his combination of denials and affirmations not only contradict all creeds throughout the centuries, but even all known individual believers throughout the centuries. You can argue, “well maybe some did”, but that is an argument from silence, wishful thinking at best.

    Two, no one is truly equipped to go it alone. Though I changed my views on some things, it was through the reading of and interaction with other faithful Bible interpreters that I came to my understanding. You seem to think that this is not only unnecessary and undesirable, but even unbiblical. In fact, you say everything you know was taught you by God himself. What I find interesting about that: (1) having such a view means you cannot be corrected by anyone else, for your theology will not allow it. If you do happen to be wrong on a matter, you will not hear it, because to do so would place much of your theology in jeopardy; (2) you are self-refuting yourself, because everything you write is intended to teach other believers. If human leadership and teaching went out around the 1st C., then once someone is saved, he/she must rely on God from then on – no discipleship, no instruction, no guidance, other than “here, read the Bible, and let God guide you.” But teaching your own biblical and systematic theology to both believers and non-believers is what your blogs are all about. If your theology is correct, are you not in essence saying that the Holy Spirit needs help in instructing believers today?

    As I’ve said before, a great many people have done just what you’re doing. Staying away from church and going it alone, “letting go, and letting God” so to speak. And they are a theologically diverse group of people.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      God has almost 7 billion children on the earth, and I am but one of them. I would prefer to keep my thoughts to myself, but could hardly claim to love Him or my brethren if I did. I came to all my conclusions by His grace. I was by no means seeking to distance myself from church or its classic doctrines. In fact, I hold steadfastly to what I was taught from the beginning: Jesus is Lord and the Bible is the word of God. Where I have separated from tradition it is because commitment to Jesus and the word of God required me to do so. I have not “gone it alone” as you say. Quite the contrary, I have followed Him. And I have counted the cost of doing so. I am subject to correction by every one of my brothers and sisters. You yourself have been taking advantage of this right. I read everything you say in the sight of the Lord and all that has happened so far is that the weakness of your arguments has reinforced the truth of what you rail against. He is the stone which the builders rejected, and yet He Himself is the cornerstone.

      My fundamental message to my fellow human beings is that we must repent. The church must repent most of all because it possesses the truth of Jesus Christ and its hypocrisy is making it harder for others to repent. I myself was a pastor; I have repented of preaching church. Now I merely preach Christ. (Merely!)

      Do not be like those in John 5 whom our Lord criticized (especially verses 43-44). They would believe no individual, but wanted a speaker to have credible human backing. This, even though God’s pattern had so often been to speak through a voice in the wilderness. Instead of trusting in people, be a person who says, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” I have no more right than any of the other 6.8 billion people on the planet to speak in His name – but neither do I have any less right, or responsibility, to do so.

      Repent, and follow Jesus Christ our Lord!

  20. jason says:

    Regarding the kingdom of God . . .

    Your thesis concerning the kingdom of God has already been refuted, but you’ve yet to realize it. Perhaps that is partially my fault for not explaining clearly enough or getting bogged down in several related subjects. Let me be a bit more to the point. I’ll simply quote a couple of verses, and offer a few comments.

    “Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There!” for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.’” (Luke 17:20-21)

    My contention is that the Colossians verse below effectively interprets Jesus’ statements to the Pharisees. Paul is clear and concise. You will need to deal with the verses cited before shrugging off the “already-not yet” interpretation I’ve put forth.

    “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Col. 1:13; see also Heb. 12:28; 1 Thes. 2:12; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20)

    Next, I want to point out that you have put yourself in quite a pickle in your interpretation of the Luke passage. You affirm that v.20 is dealing with the Second Coming of Christ and the invisible ushering in of the kingdom, and that this was still to come at that time. But you also state that v.21 has Jesus stating that the kingdom of God was in their “midst” through his own presence. The problem with that line of reasoning is that Jesus is answering the question of when the kingdom would come, and he says that it is already present. They’re thinking is “when will it” and Jesus is telling them “it already is.” Let me explain this way. When Jesus says “for” he is getting ready to conclude his previous statement. He says, in essence, the kingdom isn’t something observable, proven by the fact that it is already here. Look at the passage again:

    “The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed,

    *For*

    it is in the midst of you.”

    The “in the midst of you” statement is Jesus’ proof of the kingdom not being observable. Your contention that Jesus embodies the kingdom does nothing to help you here. For if that is all he is saying, he has not adequately concluded his previous remark (assuming your view were correct – that the kingdom was yet to come).

    You seem to think that Jesus’ language in the first half of his statement indicates a still future coming of the kingdom (“is not coming”). But he affirms it is already present in his next statement, as I’ve just shown. Also, he is answering the Pharisees question in like manner. He is more or less restating their position, then correcting it. Your interpretation also happens to be incorrect.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      In Luke 17:20-21 and throughout the gospels, Jesus was preparing His generation for the coming of the kingdom of God, in which He would be the King and they would be the subjects. When He said that the kingdom of God was in their midst it was with the Father as King and Jesus as the subject. Jesus was pointing out to the Pharisees that if they didn’t recognize Him as subject to the kingdom of God, neither would they recognize when the kingdom finally came and others were subject to Him.

  21. jason says:

    These will be my last comments here. My goal has not been to argue for arguments sake. It has been to engage you with biblical truth in the hope that you would see that your theological foundation is shaky. And it has been to plead with you to repent of these errors and return to Christ’s church. The two truths you begin with are indeed true, but this is not enough (even the enemy knows these full well). If you are right, and I’m wrong, I’ll gladly repent in the afterlife, and we’ll both be in heaven. If I’m right, and you’re wrong, you lose everything.

    You cannot afford to be wrong about these things, Mike. You have zero room for error. May God grant you repentance leading to life (2 Tim. 2:25-26).

    • Mike Gantt says:

      I agree with you: if Jesus and the Bible are not enough, I’m done for. However, I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him. To Him be the glory both now and forever. He Himself is the life to which all godly repentance leads.

      As for you, consider that Christ indeed has a church in the earth today. It consists of those who hear His voice and do His will. He Himself knows who they are (2 Timothy 2:19). However, even if you (or I or anyone else) could discern them, He would not have you (or I or anyone else) trust in them. Rather, He would have you trust only and always in Him. He is the one who suffered and died for you. You are bought with the price He paid. It is to Him you owe your fealty. I hope you will reconsider the idea of giving it to another.

      Beyond that, I repeat that I like your spirit. May you grow in your love for Him and may all things go well for you.

  22. Sam says:

    That was quite a dialogue. In all my life I have only met two people whom I understood to be “true” Christians — that is, to have “the mind of Christ”. Neither of these individuals had any agenda of their own, and truly, honestly cared more about others than they did for themselves.

    Neither person was my kin or of my church. My mother was a Christian fundamentalist and a classmate of Billy and Ruth (Bell) Graham, as was my childhood pastor. I spent years in Bible Conferences, Bible studies, and churches all over New England and the South, and have read the Bible several times. As a young person I was taught ad nauseum about my “old man” (the flesh) and “spiritual warfare” and “putting on the whole armor of God”. Even though I was an English major and teacher, I was never able to make much sense out of the Bible (or Shakespeare either, for that matter). So it was in my latter years that I took to reading other’s views (Lewis, Chesterton, James, Turek, Schaeffer, and many others), and following blogs such as this one.

    Jason represents to me all of the Christians I have known all of my life — including the aunt who now hounds me continuously about being “a backslider”. Mike Gantt is possibly the third person I have ever met who actually seems to understand the Bible. N.B. — I have no idea how or why. Why is that?? He is not trying to start a “cult”. I must accept his explanation of trying to follow Christ at all cost, wherever that leads — which is here. I will be the first to admit that I have a limited range of experiences with a finite group of Christians and churches — but it seems to me large enough that I am able to form some educated opinions and guesses.

    For the life of me I cannot understand why Universalism is any more sinister than Predestination, Election, or Free Will. Mike Gantt seems genuine to me. Yet my aunt and many others I know would label him a “heretic”. I watched Franklin Graham do that to Rob Bell (“Love Wins”) recently. I watched Julia Sweeny discuss “Leaving God” while crying over lost traditions and rituals. I really don’t care about ritual, interpretation, doctrine, or anything else too dense for even educated people to follow for more than a few minutes. Basically it seems to me the modern-day equivalent of the “angels dancing on the head of a pin” arguments from the middle ages.

    So I am confessing before God and these witnesses that I am either too lazy or too stupid to understand the Bible. And, for whatever reason, Mike Gantt is not. I will keep reading his words, because in 62 years on this planet he is one of less that five people I have met who extends some type of hope to someone like me. (And while I can anticipate his response, it doesn’t make me any less thirsty for what he has to say.)

    I am not alone in my confusion and hopelessness. As I observe the society in which we live, I am actually much less connected to the ennui and rot which fills the minds of most. I am the contemplative sort, who, while admittedly confused, at least continues to seek meaning and truth on a daily basis. Most others are either too distracted or have simply given up. For now, the best I can do is hope that George MacDonald, Mike Gantt, and Rob Bell are right.

  23. Jason Allen says:

    Jesus teaches me through example to be calm and at peace and confident in his love and presence…..i don’t always live up to these examples but when i take time in my mind to listen and pray then i’m as sure of him always being here as i am of my wanting him here.

    When you guys find that you no longer need to agree/ disagree or hold an opinion or belief ….you will find a very liberating place…just as Jesus explained. The Kingdom of God is within us all, the ability to reach out, to love, to feel suffering and pain, to pity and to heal…..the only belief or opinion that we need is that he is always here…always with us,,,,,and when we listen….we hear, feel, know………to me its like finding a warm bright grassy clearing in a forest or like breaking the surface of the water after a long dive…….its a very beautiful thing……
    Take care friends and God bless
    Jason.

  24. A.W. says:

    Thank you for this. I normally feel alone about this and at times people a part of organized religion have looked down upon me for feeling this way about church buildings/gatherings. What I was taught being brought up in a church building turned me from God (my family tried a few wanting the best for us when we were kids). Only after truly reading myself and letting go of everything religion taught me have I felt closer to God. At times, I feel that since my only option to fellowship with multiple believers is inside the church building that I am all alone and not a part of the body, but I know that God said I am a part of the body, of the people that ARE the church. If you type in google: ‘Should Christians go to church’, you’d be amazed at the judgement and condemnation given to those who don’t go to a building to be a part of the church(the body; the people). It does cause me some doubt in my own convictions and some confusion, but religion only makes me want to run far, far away from the only Savior and my only hope. It’s a dark and scary road to think that without church you can’t have God, so you turn your back on both. I never want to go to that place again, so I will follow Christ the way that the bible tells me to and pray that it is enough.

  25. Mark says:

    Must worship GOD in truth and spirit. Church is not a building it is the Assembly of believers in Christ.

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