The Three Stages of New Testament
By William Handschumacher
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
Before reading the following
information, some comments
and clarifications are needed.
Due to its importance, this part of our study is repeated in several other articles and commentaries on our website. As a result, some readers may find it repetitious. Due to the current state of apostasy within Christendom, it is necessary to discuss these basic salvation truths, which are rooted in God’s Grace. In our various studies and writings, we constantly refer to something called ‘Galatian religion, Galatianism or the Galatian error’ – which are theological terms used by various Bible scholars. Saint Paul condemned this dangerous counterfeit brand of Christianity in his ‘Epistle to the Galatians’, which is where Galatian religion derives its name. It was also rejected by the ‘First Jerusalem Council’, consisting of the entire apostolic leadership of the early church (led by James our Lord’s half-brother) in Acts chapter 15.
Galatian religion is created when church leaders reinsert various parts of the Levitical Law of the Old Testament (consisting of 613 commandments) into their evangelistic message ... after Jesus fulfilled and ‘took it out of the way’ (Matthew 5:17, Colossians 2:13-14, Ephesians 2:11-22).
This popular, yet illegal act
of reinserting the Law as
'conditions for obtaining and
keeping salvation' - now makes
God's gift of eternal life
dependent on both obedience
to the Law and Grace...which
mixes Law and Grace together.
As a result of this popular
practice, God's gift becomes
nonsensical and Christ's
salvation is redefined into
something our Heavenly Father
However, Hebrews 7:11-22 states that God was required to annul (invalidate) the old Levitical order - including its law (known as the law of Moses) when Jesus, from the tribe of Judah (not Levi), became the new ‘High Priest’. This made the Levitical Law (or the Law of Moses) obsolete ... which required it to be replaced with “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”, or the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13). As a result, the Grace-based principles and rules of the New Covenant is what now governs Christ's new priestly order of Judah ... and all true believers in the Church.
Paul validates this Biblical
truth in Romans 8:1-4 by
“... the law of the Spirit of
of life in Christ Jesus has
set me free from the law of
sin and death. For what the
law could not do in that it
was weak through the flesh,
God did by sending His
We should remember that a counterfeit of anything (such as counterfeit money) is designed to be indistinguishable from the original. As a result, this popular spiritual counterfeit known as Galatian religion looks and sounds ‘Biblical’ ... and tricks a majority of church leaders and their followers into believing that it’s authentic Christianity. It has plagued the church since the first century – so it’s not some new doctrine. Mainline denominations, on both the Protestant and Roman Catholic sides of the isle, have based their foundational doctrines on its teachings. Galatian religion, which also refers to itself as Biblical Christianity and Biblical Theology, perverts Christ's salvation and leads many Christians astray in their faith without their knowledge (Galatians 1:6-8).
According to C.I. Scofield - the
architect of the popular Scofield
Reference Bible - those who
embrace Galatian religion, rather
than authentic New Testament
Christianity are often referred
to as being 'Galatianized'.
[ End of Comments and Clarifications ]
Following the crucifixion of Christ and the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit now indwells all true believers. As a result, salvation is received in an entirely different way, when compared to the previous Old Testament program. Scripture refers to this new era as;
The Ministry of the Spirit, The New Covenant and The New and Living Way of Christ (Luke 22:20, 2 Corinthians 3:4-11, Hebrews 8:6-13, Hebrews 10:19-23)...where the Christian's present and future salvation takes place in three distinct stages.
Notice that the Holy Spirit plays a dominant role in all three.
THE FIRST STAGE:
Receiving Eternal Life Through The New Birth
We receive eternal life as a free and unmerited gift by simply placing our faith in Christ. Jesus referred to it as being 'born again' - or the new birth. According to the New Testament and contrary to popular church teachings, no special works, behavior or obedience is required in the first stage. As outlined in the following Scriptures; it involves simply asking the Lord Jesus Christ, in faith, to save us by believing in His resurrection and “calling upon the name of the Lord”.
"But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:8-13)
"...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7)
At the exact same time salvation is received, God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence (indwells) our physical body and remains forever (See the words of Jesus in John 14:16-17, John 16:4-16, Matthew 28:20 and Hebrews 13:5-6). The New Testament refers to this indwelling of the Holy Spirit as ‘sealing’ - which is a one-time event. Contrary to popular Galatianized church teachings, a Christian is not ‘sealed’ when they are saved, then unsealed when they sin – then sealed again when they repent. The ‘sealing’ happens only once and remains in force until Jesus Christ returns at the end of the age.
The following Scriptures testify of this truth:
"In Him (Jesus Christ) you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14 - Also Read About “God’s Guarantee” In 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 2 Corinthians 5:5)
Notice that the sealing of the Holy Spirit is also called ‘God’s guarantee’, which ensures that our salvation (or ‘our inheritance’) will remain in force until Jesus returns to receive His purchased possession ... which is the Church consisting of all believers in Christ.
Important Note: The Bible teaches that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is an empowerment (Jesus called it "an enduement of power from on high" in Luke 24:49), which is generally received after an individual is saved. It is not to be confused with the 'sealing of the Holy Spirit' that occurs at our initial salvation when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us ... and transforms our physical bodies into 'the temple of the Holy Spirit' (Ephesians 1:13-14, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Both impartations (the sealing with the Holy Spirit and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit) can occur at the same time in unique situations. Yet, contrary to popular church teaching, the pattern in the New Testament indicates that they are often two separate events.
Ministries, churches and movements that carry the label; 'Full Gospel' correctly believe that all nine "gifts of the Holy Spirit" listed in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 continue to operate in the Church of Jesus Christ today. Unfortunately, a vast majority of churches and denominations reject this belief. These nine 'gift ministries', revealed by Saint Paul, are sprinkled throughout the Body of Christ and given to various members 'as the Holy Spirit wills'. They are then used by God to both govern and bestow spiritual benefits to the Church ... and they continue to operate until the Church Age ends at the rapture - or 'day of redemption'. Due to time and space constraints we will not discuss the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in this study. However, interested readers can obtain more information HERE
THE SECOND STAGE:
God Begins His Work Of Sanctification
After we freely and securely possess eternal life, the Holy Spirit (who now indwells and seals us) begins an internal life-long work known as ‘sanctification’ where He teaches us to avoid sin and obey Christ’s authority as Lord. As a result – and contrary to many Galatianized church teachings, learning to turn away from sin and other forms of Christian obedience comes into play only after we possess eternal life – and must never be used as ‘pre-conditions’ to be saved. It means that God’s free gift of eternal life remains in our possession if we suffer severe moral setbacks ... or even total failure during the sanctification process. We continue to possess eternal life because it is not dependent upon any of our righteous works or merit (Romans 4:4-8). Paul was speaking about this aspect of sanctification when he said;
"....being confident of this very thing, that He who begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phillipians 1:6)
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)
Unfortunately, those who live under Galatian religion have convinced themselves that feverishly ‘working out salvation in fear and trembling’ (doing good works and performing Christian service) is the way God’s gift of eternal life is obtained and kept. Yet, Saint Paul refers to this aberrant view of salvation as 'spiritual bondage' (Galatians 5:1).
THE THIRD AND FINAL STAGE:
Our Salvation is Fully Realized At
The Rapture And Resurrection
The same free gift of eternal life that believers initially receive - is fully realized (fulfilled) when Jesus Christ returns at a future event called the rapture - which includes a resurrection of believers who have died. At this event our physical bodies are changed from mortal to immortal and ‘caught up’ to meet the Lord Jesus in the air ... and then remain with Him forever. Contrary to popular Galatianized church teachings, the rapture is never to be understood as a reward for good behavior, righteous works or Christian service. It is a 'Grace-based salvation event' that brings the Church Age to a close. Participation in the rapture is a direct result of possessing God’s free gift of eternal life and being indwelled (sealed) by the Holy Spirit.
Only those who are sealed with
the Holy Spirit will participate
in the rapture.
The rapture is one of the most hotly debated topics in the Church today. A growing number of ministers view it as something that causes division and threatens their congregation. For this reason, they warn that debates about the rapture are unimportant and should therefore be avoided, since it has nothing to do with salvation.
This statement is very misleading since Saint Paul taught that the rapture has everything to do with our salvation.
Paul teaches extensively about the rapture in his Epistles to the Thessalonians. He describes it as the method God uses to remove the Church before His judgment is poured out. This 'removal' results in sending us to live with our Lord forever in heaven, which is the ultimate goal of salvation.
Paul describes this event in
the following way ...
"For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
Note: Judgment is often referred to in the Bible as 'the wrath of God'.
The Holy Spirit is the One
Who Quickens the Believer
at the Rapture
As we learned in the section entitled 'the first stage of salvation' - the Holy Spirit comes to indwell all true believers in Christ at their initial salvation (the Bible calls it 'sealing'). This is the defining characteristic of authentic Christian salvation. Contrary to popular opinion, if you aren't indwelled by God's Holy Spirit - you are not saved regardless of how holy, godly and righteous you try to live. Whoever has the Spirit of Christ living inside them - possesses eternal life. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ living inside them - does not possess eternal life. In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul connects God's indwelling presence to something called 'the quickening of our mortal body'.
For all believers in Christ, this
'quickening' only happens at the
rapture when our mortality is
changed to immortality. This is
the same 'quickening' that Jesus
experienced while in the grave
following His crucifixion--which
resulted in His resurrection.
(1 Corinthians 15:50-55)
Since it is the Holy Spirit that
does the quickening ... those who
do not have the Holy Spirit living
inside them will not be quickened.
Paul makes the following comments
concerning these issues ...
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Romans 8:9-11)
Important Note: some believers will be alive on earth at the time of the rapture, while the bodies of those who have died are in the grave. This is why the rapture (or translation of living believers) also includes a resurrection of those who are deceased (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-55). According to Paul, the resurrection happens first, then those who are alive are changed (or quickened) ... and both groups are 'caught up' to meet Jesus Christ ... in the air. It is true that the word 'rapture' is not found in the Bible. Yet, the phrase 'caught up to meet Christ in the air' which communicates the same idea ... is in the Bible. We should understand that the rapture or 'translation / quickening' is not The Second Coming of Christ, which occurs 7 years later at the end of the Tribulation. At the Second Coming, Jesus Christ returns all the way to Jerusalem on earth to establish His Kingdom. But, at the rapture, Jesus only comes in the air above the earth long enough to quicken and remove His Church, and then takes this entire group back to heaven.
In Paul's epistles to the Thessalonian and the Corinthian churches, detailed information is provided about the rapture (or 'catching away'), which includes a reference to 'sudden destruction' that occurs shortly thereafter. Yet, it was Jesus who provides the first glimpse into this intense period of tribulation that will suddenly and unexpectedly fall upon everyone living on earth. Since Jesus and Paul are speaking about the same end-time event, we must read what both men have to say to get a more complete picture. In this situation, what is referred to as 'tribulation' is actually a 7 year period of Divine judgment (also known as God's wrath) sent upon 'the whole earth' because of their rejection of God's Son and His freely offered Grace-based salvation. If you live anywhere on earth during this time there will be no place to hide. According to Christ, everyone living on earth will suffer (and many will die) under this judgment. Jesus describes it in the following way;
"For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be." (Mark 13:19)
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come upon you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:25-36)
Speaking about the same event,
Jesus provides even more
details concerning the day
judgement initially falls
... and what follows.
"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-29)
And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven (Luke 21:11)
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; mens hearts failing them for fear; and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21:25-28)
(Notice that Jesus specifically mentioned Noah and Lot as examples.)
Obviously, the following question
must now be answered:
What about those who received God's Son
and accepted His salvation? Isn't God
being unjust by forcing them to be judged
with everyone else--for a sin they did
We find that Abraham confronted God with this same question shortly before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As a result of His 'Just' nature (and Abraham's persistent intercession), God spared righteous Lot and his family by sending angels to remove them to a place of safety 'outside the city'.
By reading the entire account in the book of Genesis, we discover that the angels told Lot that they couldn't destroy (send judgment upon) the city until after he was gone.
This is an important truth that exposes much of the false teaching that currently exists about the 'catching away of the Church'. Pertaining to the 'last days' (or what many call 'the end-times') Jesus said that the whole earth would enter a period of intense judgment.
This also leads us to the conclusion
that the only way to avoid the
judgment (as in the Old Testament
example of Lot's escape from Sodom)
is to somehow be taken to a place of
safety 'away from the earth'.
Regardless of how incredible this sounds, God actually has no other choice if He is to preserve His reputation as 'a Just Judge' ... since an unjust judge would place both the righteous and the unrighteous under the same judgment.
GOD'S ESCAPE PLAN
This is why Paul said that a 'catching
away of the Church' (or rapture) would
occur first - and Jesus said that God
would make a way of escape for those who
are worthy (or righteous). The rapture
is God's escape plan for the righteous
which takes place before judgment falls.
Lot's escape from Sodom - with angelic
help - is an Old Testament 'type and
shadow' of God's future escape plan for
all those living after the cross who are
saved by the unmerited and undeserved
Grace of Christ.
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
"But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant worman. And they shall not escape. But you brethren, are not in darkness, so that this day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-10)
"Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away (the departure of the Church) comes first, and the man of sin (the anti-christ) is revealed, the son of perdition ..." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 - Comments Added)
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?'" (1 Corinthians 15:50-55)
Due to it's unbiblical practice of
intermingling (and not 'rightly
dividing') the tenants of both the
Old and New Testament programs,
Galatian religion teaches a corrupt
and misleading version of the
Amazingly, this is why some Galatianized Bible teachers insist that a 'pre-tribulation or before judgment' rapture - as taught by both Jesus Christ and Paul - is heresy. Think about that. There are many different and confusing variations of this corrupt rapture doctrine' that won't be discussed here. The most popular is what some theologians call 'Post-tribulationalism' ... where God's escape plan for the righteous doesn't take place until after the 7 year world-wide judgment has ended. However, if this is true ... then the 'Divine escape plan' previously taught by Christ becomes nonsensical ... since there is no need for an escape, after the destruction it is designed to avoid has ended.
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