Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Church’s Heavenly Minded Views Can Stifle Its Duties to Earthly Matters

A Review of The End Times Passover
by Dave MacPherson

     I find myself going back, time and time again to Joe Ortiz’s book, The End Times Passover, which in essence is becoming more of a biblical text for me than just another commentary on Bible prophecy.
     As one who has spent over four decades rebutting the many myths and revisionism surrounding the birth of rapturism, I am not only convinced that it is a historically contrived plot to divert God's children from His true Gospel, the more I read Joe Ortiz' book (The End Times Passover) the more I am convinced that we now have easy to understand hermeneutical evidence that out right debunks this mythology, proof that will endure any form of academic and or biblical scrutiny.
     For example, in one of his chapters (#10, with the title, Heavenly Minded) Joe has provided me with remarkable insight that deals with one of the biggest misconceptions we have concerning what happens when we die, and what we have been led to believe is the Christian’s final destination. Joe Ortiz has received much criticism about his Bible findings concerning this topic, and for the most part, critics feel his views fly across the face of one of the most endearing aspects of what Christians have been taught since they first heard about Heaven in Sunday school, and or from our parents. Not a day goes by where we don’t hear about a person passing away and the most often heard phrase we hear is he (or she) is now in a better place, up in Heaven with Jesus.
     The quality of Joe Ortiz’ in depth study on this and many other Bible topics that he conducted over a 20 year period of time, before publishing this book, is demonstrated by his mastery of ascertaining definitive meanings of key words in scripture. For example, the major point he makes as he literally tears down Tim LaHaye’s entire “Left Behind” premise (which is based on scripture found in Luke 17:34-37), is that many prophecy students and teachers present inconsistent claims in their polemics based on their failure to correctly interpret certain words in the Bible. Joe proves his point as he shows us that the word “left” used twice in Luke 17:34-37 actually means “to forgive.” The Greek word to define “left” in these verses is “aphiemi” which is used in various other forms but yet means the same thing, such as its usage in the Lord’s Prayer, And [forgive] us our sins; for we also [forgive] every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil, (Luke 11:4)
     He also shows us how this same word aphiemi is rendered suffer in the verse in Luke 18:16, where Jesus warns people to be cautious how they treat the little children, But Jesus called them unto him, and said, [suffer]the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
     Joe pounds his point home that a person can understand the specific intent of key words to ascertain their respective meanings in certain verses by making a reasonable word comparison study that can leave no doubt as to what each word really means. It is obvious by these examples that the word “left” can mean nothing else but to “forgive, allow, leave alone,” which thoroughly and accurately tosses Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” thesis out the window. But yet, LaHaye has sold over 65 million copies of his books, which demonstrates that most Christians do not adequately study their Bible, and they end up sharing with millions of other Christians a doctrine that goes against the will of God.
     Just as Joe shows us this glaring example of how he used an etymological approach to key words in the Bible to present a profound case against the Rapture to Heaven mythology, he brings that reality closer to home as he explains two other heavenly minded concepts that have been misinterpreted for centuries. For example, most folks interpret John 14:2, where it states, In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. The majority of Christendom has accepted this to mean that Jesus is now in Heaven preparing their future residences, mansions in the sky, if you will.
     Joe points out that the Greek word to define the word mansion is mone, which is used only twice in the Bible, which means an abode, an abiding, according to the Greek dictionary. Jesus says there are many abodes in His Father’s house. Although Jesus never describes what these abodes are, the only other clue we have is seen in verse John 14:23 where that same word mone is found and used in an almost diametrically opposed definition that doesn’t even resemble any mansion whatsoever: Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our [abode] with him. This is remarkable in that in verse 2 the Greek word mone is rendered as mansions, which appear to be stable and planted in Heaven, if we are to accept the most popular interpretation of this verse. But, further down in verse 23, we now see that same identical word is rendered as a mobile abode, one that Jesus tells His disciples that if they love Him and keep His commands, He and the Father will love him, and that they will come unto him, and make their abode with them. Many scholars believe that the latter verse is speaking about the Holy Spirit abiding in the believers, being that this is the main topic of the entire chapter of John 14. If this be the case, then the rendering of the word mone as being mansions (as many have interpreted, including the translators of the Bible) seems out of place, here, unless we can recognize that the abodes (or abidings) Jesus speaks of are actually dealing with the part of the rewards (our new habitations) that believers receive when Jesus returns, (Revelation 22:12). The reward here is identified by the Greek word oiketerion (which is used only twice in the entire Bible), that speaks of the incorruptible body believers will inherit and clothe themselves with, the same immortal casing (if you will) that angels currently exist with.
     Nevertheless as Joe proves, that place that Jesus is preparing is not a mansion but it obviously deals with a bigger issue, as Joe clearly defines the Greek word topos (place) in great detail, which actually encompasses and describes the positional status the saints will have in God’s kingdom.
     The word place in the Greek is the word topos which, according to all Greek dictionaries, actually means (metaphorically) the condition or station held by one in any company or assembly; license, occasion and or an opportunity. If Jesus meant He was going back to Heaven to prepare some type of a compartment, apartment, a chamber (or even a mansion) it would be more appropriate to use the Greek word tameion. Jesus did not say He was going to heaven to prepare a mansion for believers, he said He was going to prepare a place for them. Some Bible versions say he was going to prepare a room. Obviously there is a major difference between a room and a mansion; therefore Jesus cannot be speaking about preparing either. He clearly states He is going to prepare a place for them. Well, both room and place use the same Greek word topos to identify what it speaks of. A good example of how that word is to be used is when we say, “I have room in my heart for Johnny or there is a special place in my heart for him,” but we are obviously not speaking about having a compartment in my heart where I would try to squeeze Johnny into it. Ergo, the definition of topos used in John 14:2 discusses the positional status we will play in God’s kingdom.
     In essence, what Joe presents is evidence of exactly what Christ is doing when He says he is preparing a place for you: He is recording our works which will determine the positional status we will attain in His soon to come Kingdom on earth. This recordation process is spoken of in Malachi 3:16: Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard [it], and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
     Joe again proves his etymological astuteness as he digs for the deeper meaning of words as he presents us another example of how Christians for many years have adopted certain doctrinal positions based on hearsay (dare we say heresy?) rather than scrutinizing God’s word at a much deeper level. Concerning what Paul was really saying in Philippians 1:23, when he stated, For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. Joe shows us that Paul was not speaking about dying and departing to Heaven. Paul was actually stating that he desired the return of Christ!
     Joe points out that the word for depart is the Greek word analuo, which is used only twice in the entire Bible. The other verse where analuo is used is found in Luke 12:36, where it speaks about the Lord returning from a wedding: And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will [return] from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. The word in the Greek that defines depart and the word return in these two verses is identical, analuo. There can be no confusion that the word analuo has various and different meanings, since it is only used twice in the entire Bible. The word, in both instances means the same thing. Joe aptly points out that two of the most prolific Greek scholars in the last two hundred years (W.E. Vine and E.W. Bullinger), who have written their own Greek dictionaries, jointly agree to the true rendering of the Greek word analuo, which they interpret it to means the return. Now mind you, both of those scholars believed in the Premillennial, Pre-Tribulation Rapture to Heaven theory. It is ironic (as Joe points out in his book) how the academic acumen of these two astute Bible scholars actually ends up refuting their premillennial polemic.
     Joe also does the same thing with the verse found in 2 Corinthians 5:8, a verse that millions of Christians use to back up what they believe happens once they die, that they immediately go to be with Jesus in Heaven: We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Now, while Paul would prefer to be at home with the Lord, this verse does not say this is exactly what happens after death. The entire chapter of 2 Corinthians 5 breaks down exactly what Paul is discussing about his dilemma. Paul is saying he wished he were no longer in this fleshly body he has but is looking forward to the new body (2 Corinthians 5:1-5) he will receive when Jesus returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 at The Resurrection).
     The scriptural verse that Joe uses to nail shut the Rapture coffin with greater confirmation is found in Philippians 3:10-11, which clearly states that Paul knew he would not go to Heaven upon his death, otherwise, why would he yearn to experience the same resurrection Jesus Christ experienced:That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
     These points that Joe provides his readers are not new. The verses he quotes to prove them have always been in the Bible. But yet, theorists (especially Rapture theorists) pound away certain contrived notions until the faithful will say, “OK, OK, I got it,” but seldom do they go home and check the information out for themselves. Joe Ortiz spent over 25 years of his life doing the checking for us after reading probably every Rapture book ever written, cross-checking the information presented by Rapture theorists with not just one Bible version, but over 20 different ones and their corresponding lexicons, concordances, Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, figures of speech manuals, historical records, etc., solely to ascertain beyond a shadow of a doubt as to what certain key words really meant, what were their intended application by each writer, which were always corroborated by other scripture, which Joe provides his readers in almost every instance.
     And now, I understand that Nathaniel Thomas Wright, the man Newsweek calls “the world’s leading New Testament scholar,” wrote a book in 2008, called Surprised by Hope, which literally supports Joe Ortiz’ findings that Heaven is not the destination of believers after death (most certainly not in any Rapture to Heaven scenario) nor upon the return of Christ to rule and reign on earth, forever. I plan to read Wright’s book, but I trust those who have shared with me this information, as well as the works by many others who are emerging with similar data to confirm what Joe Ortiz wrote over 25 years ago.
     Most people who are aware of my books and articles recognize that I make no claim of being a Bible scholar. If anything, I am a humble journalist who has dedicated over 45 years of research into the origins of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture to Heaven theory. I am convinced this theory has no biblical merit, nor academic standing, whatsoever. After reading and re-reading Joe Ortiz’ book, The End Times Passover, I have become more convinced that this “Left Behind” doctrine is not only a myth, it is having a detrimental effect on the much needed growth and maturation of the church.
     The “Left Behind” doctrine puts pressure on Christians to support a political movement that there is a geopolitical kingdom in store for the state of Israel, a myth that many fine scholars (such as O. Palmer Robertson, Stephen Sizer, Steve Wohlberg, Hans LaRondelle, Barbara Rossing and so many others) have proven time and again this will not be the case.
     More importantly, the Bible (as Joe Ortiz exhaustively cites throughout his book) proves that what we call the “church” is really a body of believers of thousands of varying nationalities and racial groups, including Jews, Hispanics, Asians, Africans, et al, who believe in Christ; an assembly and or congregation of millions of people from throughout the entire world. They include people of faith going back as far as Abel up to and through the patriarchs, prophets and apostles, who were not seeking a temporary resting place (such as the country we know as Israel in the Middle East); but they were looking forward to the true Promised Land, a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God, (Hebrews 11:13-16).
     As Joe Ortiz presents us with more than sufficient scripture in his book to prove this point, this city is New Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, which (Revelation 21:2-3 clearly states) comes down from Heaven, where God and the Lamb of God will dwell within the Holy City, right here on earth, with mankind, forever!
     No! We never go to Heaven after death, or during any so-called catching away to Heaven, nor even after the Second Advent. But most certainly, as Joe Ortiz’ book, The End Times Passover, ever so adroitly proves, after everything has been said and done, Heaven comes down to earth (see Hebrews13:14), in answer to the most important prayer we were instructed to recite on a daily basis, the Lord’s Prayer: After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10).

Dave MacPherson is the author of numerous books on the Rapture, including "The Rapture Plot", "The Incredible Cover Up", "The Great Rapture Hoax", "Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin" and "Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture."

For more information about the author of this blog and his books, The End Times Passover and Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation please click on Joe Ortiz