Urgent Questions

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Tongues—Devilish or Divine?

Tongues—Devilish or Divine?

By Irvin Baxter

 

It is plainly taught in the scriptures that speaking with tongues was not an unusual occurrence in the early church. Every prominent account of conversions in the apostolic church either plainly states or else strongly implies that the convert did speak with other tongues upon being filled with the Spirit of God. (See Acts 2:1-4, Acts 8:12-18, Acts 10:44-48, Acts 19:1-6.) To the above most Bible students would agree.

 

It is when we discuss the place of tongues in the present Christian church that controversy arises. There are three general lines of thinking on this subject: 1. Tongues have ceased. 2. Tongues are optional. 3. All who receive the Holy Ghost do speak with tongues.

 

Seeing that these positions are opposed one to the other, it is required of every sincere person to “Search the scriptures; for in them ye THINK ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39) “ . . . Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) We all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We all must give account of ourselves to Almighty God. Since every individual is responsible to God alone for his salvation, let us cast aside the opinions of men and consider each of these positions in light of the scriptures.

 

Tongues Have Ceased

 

We have chosen to examine this position first because if this be true, there is no need to investigate the doctrine of “speaking with tongues” any farther.

 

Let us begin by establishing more thoroughly what is believed by the proponents of this doctrine and reasons given for this belief. It is believed that the Apostles actually did speak in other languages under the influence of the Spirit of God. It is also conceded that those with whom the Apostles had contact also received what is sometimes called the “miraculous gift of the Holy Ghost” (speaking with tongues). It is dogmatically asserted, however, by those of this persuasion that no one after the Apostolic era could possibly receive the Holy Ghost, speaking with tongues. The reason given for the sudden halt to this glorious experience is that all miraculous manifestations of God to the church ceased upon the death of the Apostles and of those with whom the Apostles had contact. The lone scripture given to support this theory is I Corinthians 13:8-12

 

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall 1 know even as I am known. 

 

Notice that verse 8 is a prophecy that some day tongues will cease. There is no doubt about it. There will be a time according to the Bible when men will no longer speak with other tongues as the spirit gives utterance. The question we must answer is: “When did this prophecy actually state that tongues would cease?” Verse 10 identifies the time as “. . . when that which is perfect is come.

 

Those who contend that tongues have ceased teach that “that which is perfect” refers to the New Testament scriptures, and that upon completion of the New Testament all speaking with tongues ceased. However, there are several discrepancies in this argument. Notice that at the same time tongues are to cease, verse 8 teaches that some other things are also to be discontinued.

 

“. . . whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” Whenever tongues are to cease, knowledge is also to cease. If knowledge has not yet ceased, then tongues have not ceased either. Now we know definitely that knowledge has not ceased. We still have colleges, seminaries, Bible studies. etc. If knowledge has ceased, why are you now reading this article?

 

“. . . whether there be prophecies, they shall fail..” At the same time tongues are to cease, prophecies are to cease. Now if tongues have ceased already, that means prophecy has also ceased never to be resumed. This, however, is contrary to the scriptures. For the scriptures teach that during the tribulation, a time yet to come, two witnesses shall prophesy for three and a half years. (Rev. 11:3) Since prophecy has not yet ceased and since knowledge has not yet been discontinued, then it is very evident that neither have tongues ceased. It is also shown since tongues have not ceased that “that which is perfect” referred to in I Cor. 13:10 is not the New Testament. Certainly the New Testament is perfect, but there are many other things which are also perfect. Jesus Christ was perfect, but he did not cause a halt to speaking with tongues. The gift of the Holy Ghost was perfect, yet the speaking with tongues accompanied the Holy Ghost. So we see it is necessary to study the context of this passage in order to know the time indicated by “when that which is perfect is come.”

 

In this connection let us look closely at verse 12: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Now, seeing through a glass darkly refers to our present mortal state. Then face to face speaks of the time when “that which is perfect” is come. When shall we see Jesus face to face? At the return of Jesus for His church, whereupon we shall be changed from mortal beings to immortal beings. (I Cor. 15:50-54, I Thess. 4:13-18) This is when we shall see Him face to face, and this is when we shall know even as we are known. Do any of us now know Jesus as He knows us? No! We merely know Him in part, but THEN (when that which is perfect is come) shall we know even as we are known. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. He knows our downsittings and our uprisings. We do not know Him that fully now, but we shall some day know as we are known.

 

In view of the above we can see that “. . . when that which is perfect is come” refers to the time when we have received our immortal bodies and are in the presence of the Lord forever. It is at this time that tongues shall cease, knowledge shall vanish, and prophecies shall fail. Knowledge will vanish because we shall know all things. Tongues will cease because the fundamental function of tongues is to speak mysteries unto God. “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” (I Cor. 14:2) When we stand face to face before the throne of God, there will be no need to speak mysteries in the spirit.

 

We see then, that there is absolutely no support for the teaching that tongues have ceased. If the original church of Jesus Christ practiced speaking with tongues, why shouldn’t the present church of Jesus Christ speak with tongues? Did not the Lord promise through the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost. “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:39) He was referring to the gift of the Holy Ghost accompanied by speaking with tongues; and Peter was saying that it was promised to those who were yet afar off. This includes people in our present time. If God has promised it to us, why not believe it, embrace it, and receive it?!

 

Tongues-Optional or Necessary?

There are two principal schools of thought among those who believe that speaking with tongues should be in the Christian’s life today. The first view states that some people who receive the Holy Ghost do speak with tongues, while others who receive it do not. The second teaching holds that all who receive the Holy Ghost do speak with tongues, and that tongues is the sign that a person is being filled with the spirit.

 

The first question that we must answer then is, “In the early church did all who received the Holy Ghost speak with tongues?” Let us examine the historical record given to us in the book of Acts. There are four in-depth accounts of people receiving the Holy Ghost. The first of these is found in Acts 2:1-4.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Notice that here they were ALL filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues. All who received the Holy Ghost here spake with other tongues. Now let us look at another instance found in Acts 10:44-46.

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.

Here again, all who received the Holy Ghost did speak with tongues. Further, this scripture teaches that the way they knew that these individuals received the Holy Ghost was “for they heard them speak with tongues.” It is evident that speaking with tongues was the sign that people had been filled with the Holy Ghost.

 

Acts 19:6 records: “And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”

 

Again in this record of the Holy Ghost outpouring, we see that those receiving the Holy Ghost did speak with tongues.

 

The last account of people receiving the Holy Ghost which we would like to discuss is found in Acts 8:14-19.

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

This is the only full account of conversion in the book of Acts (the history book of the early church) which does not specifically state that those who received the Holy Ghost did speak with other tongues. However, if we will study the above passage we can show that they did in fact speak with tongues when they received the Holy Ghost at Samaria. The author of the book of Acts merely did not explicitly say that they spake with tongues because by this time it was an accepted fact that tongues was the accompanying sign of the Holy Ghost.

 

Notice here the setting. The Samaritans had believed and had been baptized. (Verse 12.) Yet Peter and John came down from Jerusalem to pray for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. (“For as yet he was fallen upon none of them:”) Now the question is, “How did they know that the Holy Ghost had fallen upon none of them?” Was it not because they had not heard them speak with tongues? Then verse 17 emphatically declares, “Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” How did they know they had now received the Holy Ghost? There obviously was a sign. Let’s go on to verses 18 and 19. This passage states that Simon SAW that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given. Now, if there were no visible manifestations accompanying the Holy Ghost, what did Simon see? Also notice what Simon the sorcerer did. He offered the apostles money, saying, “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Why would Simon offer money for the power to lay hands on people that they might receive the Holy Ghost? Simply because he had watched the apostles lay their hands on the people and had seen them begin to speak with other tongues as the spirit gave utterance. He thought within himself. “If I could lay my hands on people and they would speak in other languages that they had never learned before, that could be turned into quite a money-making proposition.” So we see that even though Acts 8 does not say they spake with tongues when they received the Holy Ghost, it is very evident that they actually did. If you ask a shoe clerk to bring you a pair of shoes, you don’t say, “And be sure to bring the tongues.” You know when you get the shoes that you get the tongues of the shoes along with them. The same is true with the Holy Ghost. Acts 8 did not say that they spake with tongues because the author assumed by this time everyone knew that when an individual receives the Holy Ghost, he does speak with tongues!

 

Thus we see that in every account of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in the early church the recipients did speak with other tongues when they were filled. Acts 2—tongues. Acts 8—tongues. Acts 10—tongues. Acts 19—tongues. If every time they received the Holy Ghost they spake with tongues, why should we believe that we have received the Holy Ghost without speaking with tongues? Mark 16:17— “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they SHALL SPEAK WITH NEW TONGUES.”

 

If tongues are not the sign that a person has received the Holy Ghost, how are we to know that we have received it? Some say that a person receives the spirit automatically when he believes. (See Acts 19) Others contend that the spirit comes when an individual is baptized. Those holding the above views insist that we must accept by faith that we have received the spirit with no outward manifestation or definite spiritual experience. Can these teachings stand the test of the scriptures?

 

Acts 8:12 records: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Notice! These Samaritans had believed and had been baptized. According to the foregoing doctrines, these people should have now had the Holy Ghost. Yet Acts 8:14-16 plainly tells us that Peter and John “when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them;)” They hadn’t received the Holy Ghost! What does this teach us then? Even though we may have believed and also been baptized, this does not mean we have received the Holy Ghost. How then can we know that we have received the Holy Ghost? How did the apostles know when Cornelius’ household received it in Acts 10:46? “For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.” What more proof do we need? When you receive the Holy Ghost you will know it; for you will speak with other tongues as the spirit gives utterance.

What Do You Mean, Born Again?

What Do You Mean, Born Again?

By Irvin Baxter

 

Born Again web

The term “born again” is one of the most used phrases among present-day Christians. Yet, if asked what the term born again means, most church members could not give a clear explanation. The importance of this subject is shown in what Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Jesus is saying that to be born again is to be saved. Being born again is the plan of salvation that Jesus authored at Calvary. It is imperative that we understand what is required for us to be born again!

 

All agree that when Jesus went to the cross, He brought in the means of salvation for everyone who will accept it. But what really happened at Calvary? What can it do for me? How do I accept what was done there in my own personal life?

 

At Calvary, there were three steps to the work of Christ: death, burial, and resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-4). It is very easy to see that these three steps make up the act of being born again spoken of by Jesus (John 3:1-5); to die, to be buried, and to rise again—that is to be born again. So we see that Jesus, through His death, burial, and resurrection, bought for us the plan of being born again spoken of in John 3:3, whereby we receive salvation.

 

The fact that Jesus purchased a plan of salvation for us is the greatest news the world has ever received. The thing we must understand is that not only was it necessary for Jesus to do something, but also it is absolutely essential for us to act upon what He did. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

 

Now the astonishing thing is that Nicodemus was a religious leader of his day; yet, he had no concept of what it meant to be born again! We find that the very same thing is true in the day in which we live. Many men and women who fill positions of spiritual leadership in our world have no real understanding of the born again experience. Nicodemus inquired of Jesus in John 3:4, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”

 

Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” You can’t be born again of a woman. The second birth is a spiritual birth.

 

Notice that Jesus said without being born again we cannot see or enter the kingdom of God. In other words, we cannot be saved. On the day of Pentecost when Peter preached the first message after Calvary, the men cried out, “What must we do?”

 

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Peter was giving them the plan of salvation: repentance, baptism, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost. If being born again is to be saved, Peter was evidently talking to them about being saved.

 

Remember, there were three steps to Calvary: death, burial, and resurrection. The way to accept Calvary in our individual life is to accept the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We don’t have to literally die, be buried, and rise again. Jesus was our substitute and did this for us. All we must do is accept what He did by spiritually dying, symbolically being buried, and spiritually rising again.

Repentance

We take on His death by repentance, which is spiritual death. When a person truly repents, he dies out to his own will, renounces it forever, and vows to live from that time on according to the will of Jesus Christ.

Baptism

We take on His burial by baptism in water, by immersion into His name. Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism”. Baptism must be done by immersion; for something cannot be buried by sprinkling a little dirt on top of it. That burial, after a few days, would certainly prove to be insufficient! Furthermore, every baptism of which we have biblical record was administered by immersion. That alone should determine our course of action on this matter.

Infilling of the Holy Ghost

Finally, we partake of the resurrection of Jesus Christ by the infilling of the Holy Ghost. This is the new life that enables us to live as a Christian should.

 

We see then that being born again means to spiritually die—repent; symbolically be buried—baptism; and spiritually rise again—receive the Holy Ghost. Thus, in plain language an individual must repent of his sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ by immersion, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It says in I John 5:8, “And there are three that bear witness in the earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” What is the one thing in which the spirit, water, and blood agree? Is it not the new birth? Blood covers our sins at repentance; the waters of baptism wash them away, thus making us clean for the Spirit to come into our lives to dwell. When the Roman soldiers thrust the spear into Jesus’ side after He died, the scripture tells us that there came forth blood and water (John 19:34). This was for cleansing of the nations. It takes blood and water to eradicate sin. Blood is the cleansing agent, and water is the flushing agent. When a jar is washed for canning, soap AND water are necessary to cleanse that jar so that it might be filled with good fruit. Likewise, blood and water are necessary to cleanse the human soul so that it may receive the Spirit of Christ, which is the Holy Ghost. This teaching was verified by Peter when he said, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Repentance and baptism are both absolutely essential for the remission of sins!

 

Paul taught that the three steps of Calvary is the gospel that we should preach. In I Corinthians 15:1-4 he tells us, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I have preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” Paul went on to say in II Thessalonians 1:7-8, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul told us that the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. How can we obey the death, burial, and resurrection? We obey by repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost as we have previously explained. Notice that the Lord Jesus is to appear “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel.” It is absolutely necessary for every human being to obey the gospel by being born again. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7).

The Old Testament Speaks of the Born Again Plan

Let us consider another biblical lesson given to us concerning this subject. The Bible teaches us that the things of the Old Testament were types and shadows of the things to come. When the priests of the law ministered by offering sacrifices, there were three major steps to their duties.

 

First they slew the animal to be offered on the brazen altar. The blood here was shed and caught into a container for use in the Holy Place. The flesh of the animal was to be consumed by fire. This teaches us the first step of salvation—repentance. When we repent, we present our bodies a living sacrifice, and our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus.

 

After the shedding of blood, the priests were ordered to wash at the laver and to cleanse themselves with water in preparation for entering the Holy Place. The laver, a round fountain-like structure, was overlaid in the bottom with a looking glass. When the priest bent over to wash, he was able to see himself so that he could be sure that he was clean. When an individual is baptized, he should examine himself to be sure that he is leaving the world behind once and for all.

 

We see then that the second step of the tabernacle ministry plainly teaches us of water baptism. Blood and water were used to cleanse and prepare them for entry into the Holy Place, even as blood and water cleanses us in preparation of receiving the Holy One into our lives!

 

After cleansing, the priest would take the fire from the brazen altar and enter through the veil into the Holy Place. The Holy Place had no doors or windows through which light could come. The only light would come from the golden candlesticks. These candlesticks consisted of seven wicks fed by oil from seven bowls. The wicks had to be lit with the fire brought by the priest from the brazen altar. The uniting of the oil and fire at the candlesticks to produce light is a perfect type of the Holy Ghost and fire promised to New Testament believers (Matthew 3:11). Without the light of the Holy Ghost we could not see to live in the Holy Place, which is where every Christian should live.

 

God spoke of His great plan of redemption in the Old Testament in types and shadows; and then in the New Testament He spoke plainly to us so that we would have no doubt of His will! Once again we recall the words of 1 John 5:8, “There are three that bear witness in the earth, the spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.” This Old Testament lesson beautifully reaffirms to us the absolute necessity of the full born again plan in each life for salvation!

Some Common Misconceptions 

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

Acts 16:30-31 reads this way, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Many have taken this scripture to teach that all that is required for salvation is to believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world; and from that point on the individual is saved. It is definitely true that an individual must believe that Jesus is the Savior in order to be saved. However, Paul, who spoke these words in Acts 16, has some further teaching on the subject in Romans 10:13-15.

 

Let’s consider the text: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” If we wanted to be absurd, we could take this thirteenth verse to teach that all an individual must do for salvation is to call out the name of Jesus one time and he has received salvation. Paul tells us they can’t call on him in whom they have not believed. Furthermore, he said that they couldn’t believe in him of whom they have not heard. We cannot merely believe. We must believe something about Christ. When Paul told the jailer in Acts 16 to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he went on to speak unto him the word of the Lord (verse 32). The word which Paul spoke was apparently the gospel; for the result in verse 33 was that the jailer and all his house were baptized at midnight. That’s how essential baptism is for salvation. Paul took all these people out at midnight and baptized them!

 

Some would object here by saying that we are saved by faith alone. It is true that we are saved by faith, but it is also true that true faith always produces action on the part of the believer. Let’s study from James 2:14-22 to verify this point.

 

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works; shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thus how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?”

 

When an individual believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, what do they believe about Him? They believe the gospel, which is the death, burial, and resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-4). James teaches us that faith without action is dead, or it is not really faith at all. When a sinner hears the true gospel and truly believes, he will obey the gospel. An individual obeys the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ by repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking with other tongues. (see our booklet “Tongues—Devilish or Divine?”). This is the salvation of Calvary! “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (made complete).

 

If you are still having trouble conceding to this teaching because of the element of works involved, let’s reason concerning one more point. Being born again —repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost is not considered by God to be a work. In Titus 3:5 we are taught, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost”. This scripture tells us that regeneration, which is being born again, is not a work of righteousness.

 

Concluding this matter, we will cite a familiar biblical example. In the great revival at Samaria in Acts 8:5-23, a sorcerer named Simon heard the preaching of Philip. He believed and was baptized and continued with Philip beholding the signs and miracles that were done. Many people would say that because Simon believed, he was saved. Yet the Apostle Peter said of him in Acts 8:23, “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”

 

It is impossible for anyone in the bond of iniquity to be saved; for the scriptures tell us, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Simon believed and was baptized, but he had not received the Holy Ghost; therefore, he was not born again. We cannot be half-born and survive. The entire work of Calvary is necessary for our salvation.

The Thief on the Cross

Many have asked, “If an individual must repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost for salvation, how was the thief on the cross with Jesus saved?” (Luke 23:38-43). First of all, it was impossible for anyone to be born again at that time, for the born again plan was not yet complete. Jesus had not died, been buried, and risen again. God has always had a plan of salvation for each dispensation of time. In Noah’s day the only way of salvation was to get into the ark. In Moses’ day the only plan was the law. In the church dispensation, the only way to be saved is to be born again. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye MUST be born again.”

Conclusion

May we point out as we conclude this study that we have been given the first church and the Apostles after which to pattern our teaching and practices. In each recorded account of conversions under the Apostles’ ministries, the three steps of being born again are evident. In Acts 2:38 it was repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost. In Acts 8:12, Acts 10:44-48, and Acts 19:1-6, we find the born again experience taught and received. Why should we vary from this practice when we are to be built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone?

 

Do not allow anything to turn you aside from this truth: you must be born again. If you haven’t as yet, you should do so today!

 

For more information on this subject, please call 1.866.310.5010. Or, if you would like to study this topic further, view our Salvation Package (consisting of four, 1-hour DVDs).

 

What Is Armageddon?

What Is Armageddon?

By Irvin Baxter

 Mountain of Slaughter

The word “Armageddon” appears only once in the Bible. Armies will be gathered together “into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16). Looking at the origin of the term, “Armageddon,” we see that “Har” means “mountain.” Next is “Gadad,” meaning “cut off,” as in a slaughter. This “Mountain of Slaughter” will be the site of large-scale death and destruction.
 
The valley of Megiddo, part of the Plain of Esdraelon, will be the main location of  “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). Historically, it is the site of many military clashes. Barak and Sisera, Gideon and the Midianites, the Philistines and Israel, the Crusaders and the Saracens, Napoleon and his foes, and General Allenby and the Turkish army all fought major battles here.
 
Jesus will overthrow a gathering of nations at Armageddon in “the latter days” (Daniel 2:28). The Antichrist will be destroyed “with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). After the Great Tribulation, Jesus will return to “judge and make war” (Revelation 19:11), to judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-46) and fight the battle of Armageddon.
 
 

All Nations Invade Israel

The “kings of the east” will invade Israel at Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16). Zechariah 14:2 says that “all nations” will be gathered against Jerusalem at Armageddon. It doesn’t seem feasible that troops from over 190 nations could gather in Israel for the Battle of Armageddon. But a global force representing all the nations of the world, probably under a UN resolution, will gather to invade Israel.
 
Great armies from the West and East, filled with hostility toward each other, but united in their opposition to the God of Israel, will try to combat the overwhelming, divine power of Almighty God. (Psalm 2:2; Isaiah 34:2; Revelation 17:14). Russia, Iran, Turkey, Libya and Ethiopia are some of the nations named in Ezekiel 38. See Revelation 19:11-21 and Ezekiel 38 and 39 for additional descriptions of Armageddon.

Mystery Babylon – Who Is It?

Mystery Babylon – Who Is It?

By Irvin Baxter

“And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Revelation 14:8

 

When will the prophesied fall of Babylon happen?

Revelation 16:16 announces the beginning of the Battle of Armageddon: “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
 
The next three verses record the fall of Babylon the Great. “And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air…and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.”
 
This passage clearly teaches us that the destruction of Babylon will take place at the time of the Battle of Armageddon.
 
Since we know that the Battle of Armageddon occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation, after the reign of the Antichrist and after the Mark of the Beast, it is obvious that Babylon has not yet fallen.

 

Another prophecy of Babylon’s Destruction

The entire ministry of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was devoted to prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of Israel into Babylonian captivity. He also prophesied the return of Israel to Jerusalem after 70 years and foretold the ultimate destruction of Babylon.
 
The prophecy against Babylon is found in Jeremiah 50:1-23.
 
“The word that the LORD spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet. Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken…For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein… Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.”
 
Verses 17 and 18 establish for certain when this destruction of Babylon was to occur:
 
“Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria.”
 
The above scriptures teach us that this particular prophesied destruction of Babylon would occur during the era of the Babylonian empire of Nebuchadnezzar.
 
Furthermore, verses 39-40 declared that Babylon would never again be inhabited. “Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands will dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever…”

 

The two destructions of Babylon foretold…

The prophecy of Jeremiah clearly stated that Babylon would be destroyed, never to be inhabited again. Yet the book of Revelation prophesies the destruction of Babylon at the time of Armageddon. How do we reconcile what appears to be a biblical contradiction?

 

Literal Babylon vs. Mystery Babylon

The physical city of Babylon was originally built by Nimrod after the flood. It was located on the Euphrates River, about 55 miles south of where Baghdad, Iraq stands today. The name Babylon came from the Tower of Babel that was constructed there.
 
Babylon became a large city of global prominence around 1728 BC during the reign of Hammurabi. The glory years of Babylon were achieved under Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC). The city declined during the reign of Belshazzar, and came to ruin when Xerxes, the Persian king, destroyed it in 478 BC.
 
Thus, Jeremiah’s prophesied destruction of Babylon was accomplished, and, just as the prophecy said, it has never been inhabited to this day. Saddam Hussein launched a project to rebuild Babylon in the late 1980’s, but the effort was halted by Gulf War I and has yet to be resumed.
 
But if Babylon is never to be rebuilt, why are two entire chapters of the book of Revelation devoted to the destruction of Babylon? And why is the destruction of Babylon clearly described as occurring at the time of Armageddon?
 
The Babylon described in Revelation is called “Mystery Babylon.” The prophecy of Mystery Babylon is found in Revelation 17:3-5.
 
“So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
 
 

Who is Mystery Babylon?

A mystery is something secret or hidden— a thing that some understand while others do not. In Revelation 17, there are several clues given to the identity of Mystery Babylon. We will discuss four of them here.

 

Clue #1.  Mystery Babylon is a city

Notice in the above prophecy that a woman is used to symbolize Mystery Babylon. Verse 18 of the chapter tells us that the woman is a city. “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”

 

Clue #2.  Mystery Babylon presides over a vast international system

In verse 1, we are told that the woman sits on many waters. Verse 15 explains the meaning of the waters. “And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”
 
Not only is this woman a city, but the city is apparently the headquarters over a vast international system.

 

Clue #3.  The city sits on 7 hills

In verse 3, we are told that the woman rides on a beast with 7 heads. Verse 9 reveals the meaning of the heads. “And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.”
 
Remember, we’ve already learned that the woman is a city. This passage tells us that the city sits on seven mountains. There is a city on earth that is known as “The City of Seven Hills.” It’s the city of Rome.
 
But is Rome the headquarters for an international power that rules over “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues?”
 
The Vatican claims to rule over one billion Roman Catholics worldwide. Remember, this prophecy was written long before the Catholic Church existed and long before Rome became her headquarters.

 

Clue #4.  She is clothed in purple and red

Revelation 17:4 “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:”
 
There are two ruling bodies in the Roman Catholic Church: The College of Cardinals and the College of Bishops and Archbishops. These two bodies are somewhat like the Senate and the House of Representatives here in the US.
 
An article appeared in The Criterion, a Roman Catholic publication, July 1, 1988. The article was entitled, “More than You Want to Know About Cardinals.” It stated, “Cardinals wear red, while non-Cardinal Bishops and Archbishops wear purple.”
 
So let’s review. Mystery Babylon is a city that sits on seven hills. Rome is known worldwide as “The City of Seven Hills.”
 
Mystery Babylon is to “sit” on peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues.” Rome is headquarters for the Roman Catholic Church, claiming one billion members worldwide.
 
Mystery Babylon is described as being clothed in purple and red. The official colors of the two ruling bodies of the Roman Church are purple and red.
 
One other factor should be understood. In Revelation 17, God chose to use a woman—a whore—to symbolize the Roman Catholic Church. Why?
 
It’s really very simple. In scripture, God always used a woman to symbolize a church. He used a virgin to represent His true church (II Corinthians 11:2), and He used a harlot to represent a false church—as he did in Revelation 17-19.
 
There can be only one conclusion: The Vatican is the Mystery Babylon of Revelation. And it is this false religious system that has deceived the people of the world that will be destroyed at the time of Armageddon.


How Do I Become A Christian?

How Do I Become A Christian?

By Irvin Baxter

How does a person become a Christian?

There are some popular misconceptions, such as a Christian is a person who has joined a church, adopted a creed, or believes in God. The problem is, churches and creeds can be false, and even the demons believe in God (James 2:19). But none of these address the sin problem.

Abundant Life

God wants to give us an abundant life, overflowing with joy and peace, through a relationship with Him. (John 10:10). This gift is so priceless that there is no way we could ever be good enough to deserve it. The Bible says that all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). When anyone does something that God has not prescribed or is not of Him, that person has sinned. Sin causes a separation between us and God (Isaiah 59:2) and the result is wrath (Ephesians 2:3) and death (Romans 6:23).

The Author of Our Salvation

Jesus purchased our salvation when He went to the cross at Calvary. His death was the sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God (1 John 4:10). The good news, the gospel, is that Jesus died on the cross for sinners, was buried, and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The only way to be saved from wrath is to obey the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8). How do we obey the death, the burial, and the resurrection? If a person dies, is buried, and is raised again, that would be called being “born again.” So, Jesus authored the plan of salvation through His literal death, literal burial, and literal resurrection. However, now He says to us,

“…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:7) [NKJV].

Repentance

We don’t have to literally die, literally be buried, and literally rise again. He did that for us. We accept His death by dying to self, renouncing a self-serving life, and giving our life to Jesus Christ, saying, “I’m now giving my life to You. You’re my Savior, and You’re also my Lord.” Many want Jesus to be their Savior, but they don’t want Him to be their Lord. But we can’t get Him, unless we have both Lord and Savior, because that is what He is. Once we make the decision that from this day forward Jesus will be the Lord of our lives, we’ve taken the first step–repentance.

Baptism

Next, the Bible teaches that we are baptized into His name, and that’s when our sins are remitted. The Bible says, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38) [NKJV].
 
This means that payment is being made for our sins. The Bible says that, “as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death…” (Romans 6:3) [NKJV]. When we go down in baptism by immersion, in the name of Jesus Christ, His death is applied to pay our sin bill. We all sinned. Therefore, we all deserved to die. But He didn’t want us to die, so He came, and didn’t sin, and died in our place. When we are baptized in Jesus’ name, we are united into His burial. So, we experience a spiritual death in repentance. Then we experience a spiritual burial in baptism.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost 

Finally, God has promised that, as we obey the death and burial of Jesus Christ by repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name, we can partake of the resurrection of Jesus through the infilling of the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking with other tongues. We are able to worship in spirit and truth, set free to not only pray with the mind or understanding, but also with the spirit. This is what gives us the power to live a new life that is pleasing to God, set free from guilt and slavery to sin. No longer blind, weak and hopeless, we are “…fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.” (Romans 12:11-12) [NKJV]
 
If you are not sure that you are a Christian, and want to be delivered from God’s righteous judgment, then put your trust in the One who died for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Turn from your sins, and obey the gospel through baptism in Jesus’ name and the infilling of the Holy Ghost. Remember, “You must be born again.”

When is the Rapture?

When is the Rapture?

By Irvin Baxter

 

We Shall All Be Changed

In the Bible, 1 Corinthians describes our final victory:

Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Paul says this occurs at the last trump, which the Bible tells us is the seventh trumpet. 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 11:15 are referring to the same thing. For the trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised, and we shall be changed.

 

Transformed Instantly

At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, all born again Christians will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). At the sound of the “last trumpet,” the dead who were born again during their lifetime will be resurrected from the dead. At the same time, those who are born again and still alive on earth will be transformed instantly, from mortal beings to immortal beings. Romans 8:11 tells us that our mortal bodies will be made alive if we have God’s spirit living in us.
 
It is often taught that at the rapture all of us will instantly disappear, but that is not what the Bible says. It says we will be changed in a moment and in the twinkling of an eye. When Jesus Christ was caught up, He was seen leaving the earth. Just as they were able to see Jesus go, so will people be able to see the church go.

 

Of That Day and Hour No One Knows

“But of that day and hour no one knows,” Jesus said to His disciples on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:36). Some say we cannot know the day and the hour when Jesus will return and gather His church to Himself. But others claim that Jesus was speaking only to people living in the first century, not to people living today.

 

The Times and Seasons

Just before He was caught up to heaven, Jesus’ disciples asked, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Jesus replied specifically about what would happen “at this time.” In other words, His response was particularly directed to the first century generation in which they were living. He said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.” (Acts 1:7) Will we also, then, be unable to know the times and the seasons?

 

The Sons of Light Will Know

The answer to this question is found in Matthew 24:34, in which Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” “This generation” refers specifically to the people who live to see all of the terrifying events that Jesus had just mentioned as increasing immediately before His return; such as wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes in various places, widespread famine and disease, and the Antichrist’s rise to power. Paul validates this view, saying,

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5

 
We will know, according to Paul, the times and the seasons. If we pay attention we will see the day of the Lord coming. This settles the controversy about knowing the times and the seasons, but what about knowing the day and hour?

 

Those in Darkness Are Surprised

1 Thessalonians 5 and Matthew 24:42-43 teach us that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. The master of the house will not know what hour the thief will come. The thief clearly represents the Lord. The master of the house was living in darkness and was not ready for the coming of the Lord. Unbelievers are the ones who will not know the hour of the Lord’s coming. Paul explicitly states that the coming of the Lord would only be a surprise to those living in darkness. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 indicates that, unlike the situation with unbelievers, the day of the Lord will not overtake His children of light as a thief in the night. If we keep studying the scriptures, and strive to understand current events in light of Bible prophecy, we will know the generation and the times and seasons. And as the time draws nearer, we may not only begin to understand the day of His return, but the hour also.

 

The Harvest of the Earth

In chapter 14 of Revelation we see a vision of Christ reaping a harvest.

And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. Revelation 14:14-16

Jesus compares souls to a harvest in John 4:35. The reaping of the good harvest of the earth is the rapture of the church. This harvest that He reaps is immediately before the wrath of God, described in Revelation 14:17-20. Thus, the rapture of the church occurs just prior to God’s wrath.
 
The harvest signals the end of this age, at which time Jesus Christ will come back for the rapture of His church and the Battle of Armageddon. Jesus prophesied of the harvest. We call it the “rapture,” although the word “rapture” is not found in the Bible. It is merely a word we use that means “the catching away”. 1 Thessalonians speaks of this “catching away.”
 
“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.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17

 

Immediately After the Tribulation…

Those of us who have been taught a pre-tribulation rapture cannot read Matthew 24 without concluding that Jesus placed the rapture immediately after the tribulation of those days.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:29-31

 

Not a Salvation Issue

The timing of the rapture seems to be the most controversial of all prophecy teachings. However, whether it will occur before, during, or after the tribulation has no bearing on your salvation. God can come for any one of us at any time. Jesus said in Matthew 24,

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Matthew 24:42-43

 

At Any Time

Whatever you believe about the timing of the rapture, or whether you even believe in Bible prophecy, if you were to die right now, you would be immediately removed from the earth to stand before your Creator for judgment. The Bible says, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:18) This is not the time to emphasize only the parts of the Bible we like, to make us feel good. But it is time for us to make sure that our lives are in line with all the teachings of God’s Word. If ever there were a time to walk closely to God, this is the time, as we see the day of the Lord drawing near.