Joseph Herrin (11-04-08)
II Thessalonians 2:13
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Yahshua Christ and our gathering together to Him…, let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first…
Apostasy: to divorce from truth
The Spirit of Christ has brought to my attention an alarming trend among the body of Christ. I have been aware for many years that most Christians do not study their Bibles. This becomes obvious when I receive correspondence from believers. I have attributed much of this to a lack of interest in spiritual things. Christians find their attention drawn to a multitude of activities in this materialistic society, and the Bible often seems an unattractive choice to spend their time when they could be watching television, or pursuing some other worldly entertainment.
Many Christians have left it up to their pastors and Bible teachers to do the actual study of the Bible, looking to ministers to tell them the things they need to know. The great error of this is that the ministers know there are many things the body of Christ does not want to hear. There are certain Scriptures that if taught upon would lead to personal strife and possibly cost the minister their job, so a great many doctrines and passages of Scripture are either avoided, or reinterpreted in some unsound manner. The apostle Paul prophesied that this would be the state of the last days of the church in which we now live.
II Timothy 4:2-4
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
We find very little reproving, rebuking and exhorting taking place among the body of Christ today. Sadly, many in the church have gone beyond a mere apathy toward studying the Scriptures, and now they will not “endure” sound doctrine. This was manifested recently when a brother told me he did not want to speak to me about doctrine, having concluded that to do so was divisive.
People of God, true doctrine is divisive. It divides truth from error. Many who are wed to myths and fables, who have embraced false doctrines, react very strongly when someone asks them to sit down and examine carefully what the Scriptures actually teach. A mindset has gripped many believers where they have concluded that it is okay for Christians to believe whatever they choose to believe, and that any interpretation of the Scriptures is legitimate if a person believes it. Such a conclusion is not only fallacious, but has resulted in much loss in the lives of the people of God.
II Peter 1:19-2:1
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
The apostle Peter in using the word “prophecy” is not speaking merely of Scriptures that foretell future events. The word “prophecy” means “words spoken by inspiration.” The men who were inspired to write the Scriptures were prophesying as they penned every line. Peter goes on to speak of false teachers arising among the body of Christ who will introduce destructive heresies. How will these heresies be discerned and refuted since the people of God have abandoned the study of the Scriptures and have concluded that doctrine is divisive and therefore to be avoided?
The apostles appointed by Christ to establish His church upon a sure foundation emphasized the need to study the Scriptures and to discern them correctly. They would be appalled to discern what has occurred in the church at this hour. The Bible may be a best seller, but it is little read, and seldom studied. In addition, many new translations of the Bible have been produced to make it more “readable,” but in the process, many errors and inaccuracies have been introduced. Accuracy in translation has been replaced by a focus upon creating a translation that is entertaining, that will attract people’s interest.
There are some truly abominable Bible translations around today. The publishers of the NIV Bible have produced a gender neutral translation in order to be politically correct. The great error of doing so is that the Holy Spirit did not inspire men to write the Scriptures in gender neutral language. Gender is indicated throughout the Bible. Such translations reveal a lack of fear of God, and a destructive pride that places man’s thoughts above those of man’s Creator.
Another translation horror is Eugene Peterson’s The Message. This Bible reads like a slangy, casual conversation. It is not really a translation at all, but rather a paraphrase. No one who wants to seriously study the Bible would choose this translation, for there is such a wide divergence from the original Spirit inspired Scriptures as to make a study of original intent and meaning impractical.
Some believers have written to me to ask what translation I use in my studies, and which translation I am using when I provide Scripture quotations. Since I was an adolescent I have not relied upon a particular translation of the Bible in my studies. As a child I was given the King James Bible, and this was what was predominantly used in the churches I grew up in. Even so, when I was no older then a very early teenager I acquired a copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew and Greek word definitions, and I spent uncounted hours looking up specific words to ascertain their original meaning and to see how the translators rendered the word in various occurrences.
I was often astonished to find that the translators would render a single Hebrew or Greek word in more than a dozen different ways, often contradictory, frequently obscuring the true meaning of the original writer. For over ten years now I have used PC Study Bible as my chief study tool. In this computer based program I have the following translations, which I frequently cross reference and compare:
New American Standard Updated
New American Standard
New King James
Young’s Literal Translation
The Amplified Bible
King James Version
American Standard Version
New International Version
Greek New Testament (transliterated)
Hebrew Old Testament (transliterated)
Hebrew and Greek Interlinear
In addition to this I have hardcopies of a number of Scripture translations that I often refer to when studying, including the following:
The Concordant Translation
The Scriptures (Divine Name Translation)
The Companion Bible (E.W. Bullinger’s extensive notes included)
The Holman Bible
The Recovery Bible
And lastly, I at times reference other Bible translations through the Internet which I do not have in my possession.
Very frequently in my studies I will use the Interlinear Bible. This places an English Translation beside the original Hebrew and Greek words, and includes the Strong’s reference numbers for each word. A simple click on the Hebrew or Greek word will pull up the definition from Strong’s Concordance. Robert Young also has produced a similar concordance, which I have in hardcopy, as well as being the translator of Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible which I reference very often.
A click on the Hebrew or Greek word will also allow me to pull up the following:
The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
New Unger’s Bible Dictionary
Easton’s Bible Dictionary
Fausset’s Bible Dictionary
Nelson’s Bible Dictionary
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Nave’s Topical Concordance
And various other reference works.
When I include Scripture quotations in my writings I do not cite the translation unless I have made no changes to it. Oftentimes I will use a translation such as the New American Standard Bible as the basis for a quotation, but I will make changes where I have discerned that a word has not been translated accurately for understanding. I also place the divine names of God back into the text where the translators have replaced them with titular substitutes, a practice I find to be unfaithful to accurate translation.
Some of the study aids in PC Study Bible I use regularly, and others rarely, but I have found them all helpful on occasion. Because I long to discern the truth of God’s words, I have accumulated these various resources to help me in my studies. The apostle Paul admonished Timothy in the following way:
II Timothy 2:15
Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.
[The Amplified Bible]
It requires patient study to rightly divide the word of God. I know Christian men who have spent hundreds, and even thousands of dollars, upon some hobby. Men who are hunting, fishing, automobile, stereo, ham radio, sports, and bicycling enthusiasts have often spent a great deal of money, devoted great amounts of time, and educated themselves to become both knowledgeable and skillful in the area of their interest. Yet these same men will often argue that they are unable to manifest the same attention to the study of Scriptures.
People of God, we will pursue that which is important to us. Our actions reveal what is in our hearts. If a man will buy a fishing boat costing thousands of dollars, a truck to pull it with, equip it with rods and reels and bait and tackle, and spend the money for licenses and fuel; if he will read the fishing magazines, and study where the fish are, when they are feeding, what they are biting; if he will find others with similar interests and spend hours conversing with them, learning new things, and increasing his knowledge and skill, but will not apply the same devotion to study of the Bible, it is not because he is incapable, or does not have the skills necessary. It is because he does not have the desire.
Christ did not go down to the local seminary or university to choose His disciples, men who would later become the apostles of the church. He chose fishermen, a tax collector, a political zealot, and other common men. These men traded a passion for other things for a passion for knowing God. This led them to apply themselves with great devotion to new interests. We read of these men:
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
These men did not reason that they lacked the ability to study the word of God in order to teach it accurately. They did not say, “I am a fisherman, not a Bible scholar.” They became Bible scholars, devoting themselves to its study and teaching, relying upon the Spirit of Christ to instruct them as they did so, and they were able to lay a foundation upon which the church of God could be firmly established.
There is no less need in this hour for men and women to manifest this same devotion to Christ and His word. I am appalled at the attitude that would seek to place these two things at opposition to one another. Some say “Let’s just focus upon Christ and avoid doctrine.” What folly this is. The Scriptures include doctrines of the Christ, and any who fail to rightly discern these doctrines will find themselves running their race in vain.
I Timothy 4:6
In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Yahshua, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.
I Timothy 6:3-4
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Yahshua Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing…
A people who “will not endure sound doctrine” will find themselves led away from godliness and from a correct understanding of Christ and His kingdom. Men and women are divorcing themselves from truth at their own peril. There is an incredible amount of deception abounding in this late hour, and conditions will grow worse. The people of God will be urged to embrace one error after another until there is no truth left in the foundation upon which they are standing. Already the foundation has been seriously eroded, and rotten planks have replaced that which was once sound.
Many are saying, “All that is truly important is relationship. We must lead people to relationship with Christ and relationships with one another.” The subtle, yet insidious error of this mindset is uncovered when one sees that this Christ with whom they are in relationship is not the Christ described in the Scriptures. It is a Christ of their own imagination and creation.
Many are proclaiming a Christ that bears no resemblance to the Son of God. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, they have formed a golden calf and called it Yahweh.
He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to Yahweh.”
What has happened in times past was written for our instruction. The people of God took their gold jewelry and asked Aaron to fashion for them a god like the gods of Egypt, one they could worship and who would applaud their carnality. Aaron fashioned this idol and the people said, “This is your god,” and they called it “Yahweh.”
Can you not discern that the same idolatrous actions are being carried out in this very hour among the people of God? Do not be fooled because Christians say they are worshiping Christ. Many are worshiping an image of Christ they have created. They have commissioned minsters to fashion an acceptable image of Christ for them, but this image bears no more resemblance to the Son of God than the golden calf resembled Yahweh.
The Israelites acted in an unrestrained manner in front of this calf. They danced and played the harlot, engaging in sexual immorality, all the while saying it was done as a festival to Yahweh. How many Christians today are acting in a similar immoral fashion? Multitudes who confess to worship Christ are focused upon material possessions, upon pleasure, and are engaging in all manner of behavior that is displeasing to God, but the god they have fashioned smiles on it all. The god they have fashioned even tells them they are blessed as their lives become more filled with the excesses of selfish living.
The people and the ministers today have fashioned a new christ who is all love and tolerance. This christ does not punish sin, and never manifests anger or displeasure at man. This christ is not exclusive. He says he is one way to God, perhaps the best way, but not the only way. This christ does not make sin and repentance a focus of relationship to himself or the Father. His message is simply “come to me as you are, and remain essentially as you are, and I will embrace you and love you.”
This new christ makes men and women feel good about themselves, even while they are living self-focused lives. These men and women can be living in sin, seeking to serve both God and mammon, but the christ they have formed smiles upon it all, and says, “I love you. Do not trouble yourselves about such things.”
People of God, this is the subtlety of the deception of this hour. Satan knows he does not need to get people to deny Christ with their mouths. All he needs to do is get them to embrace an image of Christ that is false.
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”
Christ warned His disciples in advance that these things would happen. There are false Christs in profusion in existence at this hour. Multitudes have fashioned new images of Christ that are divorced from the truth. How will the people of God know the counterfeit unless they study the true. The Scriptures reveal the true image of Christ.
“You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me…”
A people who do not study the Scriptures will be easily fooled by the counterfeit doctrines and counterfeit Christs that abound in this hour. In the next part of this writing I will address some of the specific counterfeits that are being embraced enthusiastically by those who have allowed themselves to become divorced from the truth.