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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 44)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Established November 2008                                                        Published weekly on Friday

1 Corinthians                                                                            Lesson 44    

Welcome to HBS.

In our lesson last week Paul addressed those Believers in Corinth who denied the important doctrine of the resurrection of the dead (15:12-13).  The Bible doesn’t say how this error entered their assembly or when, but the Bible does say it had obtained a strong foothold in their church.  Perhaps a member of the Sadducees spoke to some of the members of this church and after hearing his opinion on the subject they were led to reject this teaching.  It’s also likely the Greek philosophy regarding resurrection, which was in vogue at that time prejudiced these people’s minds (Acts 17:32; Ephesians 4:14).

To counter the Corinthian’s doubt and negativity concerning the resurrection of the dead, Paul introduced a condensed argument for the Truth of Christianity; the very foundation of our faith.  He begins with the resurrection of Jesus Christ’s Body, which was not a new body but the same one that was in the tomb; the first fruits, of those who are asleep.  In doing so, Paul gives this assembly information that is clear, concise, and impossible to contradict, so that their faith may be complete and in expectation that their divisions and rivalry’s would cease (Acts 23:6, 26:6-7; 2 Timothy 1:12).

Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 15:21 and we’ll read through verse 24.

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For since by one man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own order:  Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,

In verse 21 Paul communicates the same truths found in Romans 5:12-21.  Adam (by a man) is the “federal head” of the human race, so then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men (and women).  The second Adam, Jesus Christ (by a man also) brings about the resurrection of the dead to all that believe and come under His Federal Headship (see verses 45, 47-49).  Therefore, all of mankind falls into one of two families, those who are of Adam, the unjust, and those who are of Christ Jesus, the just.  For Paul writes:  God is the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). 

Bear this in mind as we look at Paul’s statement in verses 22-23 once again.

When Paul said, For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own order:  Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (v22-23), he’s referencing the resurrection of the righteous Believers which will occur in stages.  It has already commenced with Christ, the first fruits.  This event will be followed by God’s Church, beginning with those who have died in Christ Jesus and then those who are still alive, being caught up and away (that is, Raptured) to meet the Lord in the air – this is the imagery of the main harvest spoken of in Leviticus 23 (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Leviticus 23:22). 

God has been filling up the Body of Christ, His Church, for 2,000 years.  So, when God decides “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in,” i.e. when the last Believer is baptized into the Body of Christ (Romans 11:25), Jesus Christ will come to gather His Church unto Him; this will certainly be the “main harvest” of Believers.  The final two resurrections of the righteous will occur at the end of the Tribulation, at the Lord’s Second Coming.  These will be the Tribulation martyrs; all those people who are going to be saved during the Tribulation thanks to the efforts of the 144,000 Jewish men from the twelve tribes of Israel.  The “gospel of the kingdom” or “believe in Jesus’ name” will be the good news that saves in the last days and these men of God will travel the globe preaching it, under tremendous opposition and pressure (Matthew 25:31-46).  A great multitude will be saved, which no one could count (Revelation 7:9) but many of these will be martyred for their faith.  Then the Old Testament Believers will be resurrected.  These two resurrections symbolize the gleanings and the four corners of the harvest (Revelation 20:4; Daniel 12:1-2).

After God removes His Church from this planet, He will close the door on the Church Age, in so many words, and remove the restrainer or the Holy Spirit from this planet (2 Thessalonians 2:7).  The next event on God’s timeline is the Tribulation.  The Bible does not say when it will begin, but at that time God will resume His Prophetic Program with the nation of Israel (and not the church).  The church is history; the only people left on earth are unbelievers at this point in time.   This prophecy was spoken of by Daniel:  Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to (what) finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in (what) everlasting righteousness, and to seal up (here it comes) the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”  (Daniel 9:24 – KJV)

490 years were determined for the nation of Israel but when the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was cut off, i.e. crucified, God’s time clock stopped at 483 years, leaving 7 unfulfilled years of prophecy (Daniel 9:26).

Now, some archeologists and chronologists, while digging around in the dirt, have actually found the decree that Daniel mentions here that gave the Jew permission to return to Jerusalem after their Temple had been destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar.  That document was dated, March 14, 445 BC.  Counting from that date up to the date Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is 483 years exactly. That was prophecy fulfilled – once again, to the letter.  But the entire prophecy said 490 years.  483 years were completed up to the Cross, so there’s 7 years of unfulfilled prophecy still remaining, or Daniel’s 70th week.  

Believers will not experience one minute of the Tribulation or God’s wrath.  If you don’t believe Paul’s gospel, you need to be concerned.  It’s going to be a time of imaginable calamity and suffering on a world-wide scale.  The Bible says people will seek death during the Tribulation, but it will not come (Revelation 9:6).  The book of Daniel gives us the event that will trigger the Tribulation period:  And he (the anti-christ) will make a firm covenant (peace treaty) with the many (the nation of Israel primarily) for one week (7 years)… 

Now, how many people and governments have been working on a peace plan between the nation of Israel and its neighbors over the years?  I’ve lost count but the USA has been involved in the majority of these.  The counterfeit christ will arrive on the scene, bringing all parties to the table, and finalize an agreement guaranteeing peace for Israel; and that’s what the Jews have been asking for peace and safety with their neighbors.  He’s going to get the job done!  But it’s all a lie!  (Ezekiel 38)

Just as the stage-hands prepare the scenery night after night for the shows on Broadway, those with eyes that see and ears that hear understand the world-stage is being prepared for the arrival of the anti-christ.  The world is facing problems no man can solve – the world’s problems are only getting bigger, taxing the world’s economies and the world’s governments ability to manage them. 

How many nations/governments have barely escaped bankruptcy, borrowing money against that day?  The USA itself is 20 Trillion dollars in debt and can barely keep up with the interest payments while keeping all of its social programs and commitments solvent.  50 years ago President Johnson declared war on poverty in America.  In that time, American taxpayers have spent over 22 trillion dollars on anti-poverty programs.  Look around you.  How’s that plan working?  Are we any better off today than in 1964?  My wife and her friend volunteer in a homeless shelter serving food to those in need and it’s not enough, so I’m asking, “What have we got in exchange for all that money?” (Mark 14:7)  By the way, how’s the war of drugs going?  I think you know the answer to that question…

How many wars or skirmishes are being fought around this planet right now?  Does anyone know?  The USA has been battling terrorists since I was in high school and we’re no closer to a solution today than the day it commenced.  America still bears the scars of September 11, 2001; the day Islamic Terrorists attacked America and the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 2,996 and injuring more than 6,000 others.  Many lives have been lost since then in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, including the streets of America – people killed by Islamic terrorists seeking martyrdom. 

The bullets and missiles are flying, people are dying, but I’m not seeing any progress.  Having worked my entire adult life at the Veterans Administration, what I have seen is our valiant men and women in uniform returning from the fight permanently injured, mentally or physically, and the fighting continues unabated.  Then there are those veterans, men and women, who have chosen suicide as the only solution to their pain; the latest statistics put the number at 26 veterans per day committing suicide, since the VA is incapable or unwilling to assist them.  Our president and our elected officials have no answer to any of these problems – they play golf, go on vacation, or take a long break from Washington, D.C. (I believe this is called a recess) instead!  Reminds me of the emperor Nero who played his fiddle while Rome burned…

But one day a man will rise up from the area of the old Roman Empire, according to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:26-27), and he will command the attention of the world.  He will possess superior knowledge and his speech-making ability will captivate audiences world-wide.  But mainly he will express the ability to solve all the world’s problems.  The Bible calls him “the man of lawlessness or the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

It bears repeating, The Day of the Lord, the Tribulation, or God’s Wrath, is something no believer of Paul’s gospel will experience.  Paul stated quite clearly the Lord will rescue Believers from this dreadful time (1 Thessalonians 5:9).  The imminent return of the Lord taught by Paul was not the Lord’s Second Coming as revealed by the prophets.  It was a new and previously unknown event, which is was why he called it a “secret.” 

There are two reasons for the Rapture: 

#1:  the salvation of the believer’s body with the resurrection body, i.e. the glorification process (Philippians 3:20-21). 

#2:  the rescue of all Believers who are alive at the time from the wrath God intends to bring upon mankind and the earth (John 3:36; 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9)

In the following verses Paul explains how the resurrection of Jesus Christ leads to the resolution of all things (24-28).

Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and authority and power.  He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.  For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.  But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.  When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

Starting at verse 24 with Paul’s statement:  Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and authority and power,  his announcement is in line with Daniel’s interpretation of Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar’s upsetting dream:  In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever (Daniel 2:44).

In Ephesians 1:10, Paul reveals God’s purpose in history:  …with a view to an administration (dispensation) suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.  In Him…  Here Paul wrote of the “gathering together” or the “summing upof all things in Christ – in Him.  In 1 Corinthians, he looks forward to the time when all things are resolved in Christ Jesus and He presents it all to God the Father, giving glory to God who authored His eternal plan for the ages. 

When He has abolished all rule and authority and power – God has never left His throne in heaven, if I may use that imagery.  Another way of putting this is, God is sovereign and always will be, but He has permitted man, Satan, and death a measure of authority and power here on earth.  But their assignment is only temporary.  The Lord Jesus Christ will take His rightful place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, meaning after the resurrection, God the Father will resolve every matter, according to His will (Philippians 2:9; 1 Timothy 6:15).    

He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet (v25) -  Paul is speaking about that period of time at the end of the Jesus Christ’s millennial reign – that glorious 1,000 year age of righteousness on the earth (Revelation 20:1-6).  Only Believers will go into God’s 1000 year kingdom on earth, but the Bible teaches us because the earth’s population was decimated by the last 3.5 years of Tribulation, a.k.a. the Great Tribulation years, the people in the Millennium are going to witness a great population explosion (Jeremiah 30: 19-20).  By the end of the 1,000 years there will be millions of people born under Christ’s reign and a great many of these will not accept Him as their Savior.  During this time period, Satan is bound in a bottomless pit.  But the adamic nature in mankind has not been eradicated in mortal mankind, i.e. those who are still being born.  Those who are born during the 1,000 year reign of Christ can still refuse to believe on Him for their salvation and a great multitude will.  Near the end, Satan will be released from the bottomless pit to tempt mankind once again and there will be a Satan-inspired rebellion (Revelation 20:7-10).  Every generation of man is to be tested and this period of time is no exception.  We already know the outcome; Jesus Christ will crush this rebellion.  The fire of God will come from heaven and devour them thus putting all His enemies under His feet (Revelation 20:8-9). 

The last enemy that will be abolished is death – Scripture clearly says death will be present during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:9; Isaiah 65:20).  But afterward, death will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.  It will truly be the last enemy that will be abolished (Revelation 20:14).

Death is the enemy of all mankind.  It doesn’t surprise me in the least that humanity doesn’t view it this way.  The majority of mankind doesn’t know God or His Word so they accept death for “what it is;” the end.  But Believers know death is but the beginning of something far bigger than what we’ve experienced in this life.  It’s actually the beginning of life; God calls this eternity. 

Let’s go to verses 27-28.

For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.  After the Rapture of the Body of Christ to be with Lord, will come “the end,” or as I’ve already mentioned, the age of God’s Grace gives way to the day of God’s wrath, and then the next event of God’s timetable is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth to judge and reign with His kingdom saints for 1,000 years (v25).  (See Hebrews 2:6-8; Revelation 20:1-4) – For He must reign, until He has put all His enemies under His feet (v25). 

Thus, all redeemed mankind will finally be the victor over creation instead of its victim.
He will fulfill the LORD God’s original command to “have dominion” over creation and “subdue it,” (Genesis 1: 26-31), rather than being dominated by it.  This, of course, is out there in the future, but we rejoice in it now, by faith.  For Hebrews 2:8-9 declares:  But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him.  But we do see Him who was made for little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. 

When all of God’s enemies have been conquered, death will be the last enemy of God to be destroyed. 

…so that God may be all in all - here Paul is saying when the Son delivers all over to the Father, then God will finally be all in all.  Paul is coming at this from the perspective that right now God the Father has regained His rightful place, in part, in the heart, soul, and mind of the Believer but not in the unbeliever.  This verse is saying the day is coming when God will be All in All – the nearest condition we find for this before “the end,” is during the Millennium, when God’s people (Believers every one) all over the world will dedicate themselves and their all to the glorious King, the Lord Jesus Christ (Zechariah 20:3, 7-9).  For God will not be all in all until the last enemy (death) is destroyed. 

But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.  When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all (v27-28).

Here Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us) that the Son will not be superior to the Father someday.  When Paul said, the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him this means the relationship of Father to Son will be unchanged for eternity.  This is no way implies the Son is inferior to the Father, instead it demonstrates the administrative order of the Godhead.  A son is always in submission to his father, even if both are equally well off financially, hold the same title or rank, wielding equal authority.  George Bush Jr. will always be the son of George Bush Sr. for example.  Thus, God the Father will always be God the Father, and God the Son will always be God the Son, and for all eternity they will continue to relate to each other as Father and Son. 

In Revelation 5, the entire universe gathers about the throne to worship the Lamb that was slain, crying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing,” (Revelation 5:12 – KJV).  Everyone is invited to worship the Son.  But a time is coming, says Paul, when the work of the Son in subduing a lost creation will be finished.  When the full results of the atonement of the Cross have been completed and all the harvest of the earth is gathered in, then, according to this account in Revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ returns the kingdom to the Father in order that God, The Holy Trinity to be specific, may be everything to everyone, or that God may be all in all. 

Let’s move on to verses 29-32 where Paul resumes his logical arguments for the resurrection of the dead Believer’s body at the Rapture.   

Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead?  If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?  Why are we also in danger every hour?  I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.  If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me?  If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.

Here in this section Paul returns to the principle of the resurrection of the dead in Christ Jesus, which was interrupted at verse 19, presenting this puzzling verse in doing so:  Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead?  If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?

I did some research on verse 29 and discovered there are at least thirty different interpretations (or attempts at interpretation) and none of them are in harmony.  Albert Barnes, a noted Bible scholar, and a man I respect, had this to say about this passage:  “There is perhaps no passage of the N.T. in respect to which there has been a greater variety of interpretations… and the views of expositors now by no means harmonize as to its meaning.” 

He then presents a list of different viewpoints taken from Pool’s Synopsis, whittling all these down to two, stating his preference but explaining he is not fully satisfied with any interpretation thus far… which means even Albert Barnes came up empty on this passage. 

 Instead of offering my opinion, making it 31 interpretations, without the support of Scripture to back it up, I prefer to leave this passage right where we found it and move on to the next verse.  There are difficult passages in Scripture, we’ve come up against two of them so far in this letter to the Corinthians, but I rest on the fact that the Bible may not tell us everything we want to know, but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know. 

Skipping ahead to the next sentence, we have this statement from Paul:  Why are we also in danger every hour?  Here Paul asks a question about himself and his co-workers.  If you know anything about Paul and those who labored for the gospel that saves in this dispensation, then you’re aware no matter where he went preaching it, he suffered for doing so.  He said his very life was always in jeopardy, recalling his contest with veritable beasts at Ephesus (v32) (1 Corinthians 15:32, 16:9).  

What does it profit me?  If the dead are not raised, In other words Paul is saying, instead of serving God, instead of looking ahead to a future reward, this activity was more than idiotic; and if he died while doing it, what does it profit me?  If there was no resurrection from the dead, Paul asks, “Why risk my life every single day, if the dead are not raised?  What advantage could there possibly be in this?”  Instead of incurring dangers and trials aplenty daily, it would be a better plan to sit down and join with the Epicureans in saying,  Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (v32).

This phrase appears to have been taken from Isaiah 22:13 and was used by those who believed and taught the doctrine of the resurrection, showing that the denial of it opens a “door” to all kinds of debauchery.  These are not Paul’s own words folks, they are written tongue in cheek, so to speak, which means he does not approve of such conduct.
These are the words of a philanderer, a person, who lives for today with very little thought of the damage this lifestyle does to one’s body, soul, and spirit; one who does not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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Friday, September 23, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 43)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Established November 2008                                                        Published weekly on Friday

1 Corinthians                                                                        Lesson 43         

Greetings and welcome to HBS.

Last week we began studying the third part of 1st Corinthians. In this next section, Paul is writing to these Believers about some vital Church Age topics associated with Jesus Christ’s resurrection.  He uses Scripture to explain that “death is not the end.  This is due to the fact that some of these folks did not believe their bodies would be resurrected from the dead (15:12-13).  Paul wants these Believers to know those who have perished in Christ Jesus have not died in vain and those who remain have a glorious hope, and he begins his explanation with this statement:  But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who are asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20).


The Feast of First Fruits

Following the rule of “First Mention” leads us to Leviticus 23.   Here Moses gives us an account of the Seven Feast Days of the LORD.  These weren’t just feast days; they were a prophecy and a foreshadowing of future events along God’s timeline.  Some of these prophecies have been fulfilled; those that remain are “shadows of things to come,” of which Christ is the substance and the subject (Colossians 2:16-17).  These Feast Days were instituted by the LORD God and therefore are holy events, meaning these Feast days had to be kept as God ordained them; the Jews had no choice in the matter. 

The Seven Feasts Day of the LORD may be divided into two sections of four and three.  The first section of 4 include:  “Passover,” “Feast of Unleavened Bread,” “First Fruits,” and “Pentecost.”  There was an interval of four months followed by the next group of 3:  “The Feast of Trumpets,” “Day of Atonement,” and “Tabernacles.”  The Three Great Feast days were:  Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.  They extended from the 14th day of the first month to the 22nd day of seventh month. 

The first four Feast days foreshadow Truths connected with this present dispensation (the Grace Age) and those who form the heavenly people of the Lord – the church.  The last three Feasts foreshadow the blessings in store for God’s earthly people, the Jews. 

The Passover Feast took place on the 14th day of the month, the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the next day, which was the Sabbath, and the following day, which was the “morrow after the Sabbath,” the Feast of First Fruits was kept.  The offering was a sheaf reaped from the waving fields of the ripened harvest, and carried to the priest to be waved before the LORD for acceptance, and was to be followed by a Burnt, Meat and Drink-Offering, but no sin offering.  The Burnt-Offering was to be a male lamb without blemish, one year old. 

The Feast of First Fruits was a type and foreshadowing of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He arose on the “morning after the Jewish Sabbath,” and His resurrection is spoken of by Paul, as the “First Fruits” of the resurrection of the dead.  As the “corn of wheat” (John 12:24) Jesus Christ was buried in Joseph’s tomb, and His resurrection was the First Fruits of the Harvest of those who will be Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:23). 

When the priest on the day of Christ’s resurrection waved the sheaf of first fruits in the Jewish Temple, it was done before a “rent veil” (Matthew 27:51).  For the substance (Jesus Christ) had come, as God promised, and so the shadow had passed away… the empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathea strongly proclaimed the Great First Fruits Sheaf had been reaped and waved in the Harvest Temple of God, figuratively speaking.

Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 15:20

The Order of Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15

20: But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who are asleep. 

Bible Study Tools

Based on my own experience, if you mention the word dispensationalism in a Bible study group it will most likely produce one of these responses:  some people will find fault with it and they’ll want to argue the point, others will excuse themselves and walk away, and some people won’t have any idea what you’re talking about.  So, it goes without saying there are varying opinions on the subject and downright disagreement as to the number of dispensations in Scripture.  Some say there are none, some say there are two; others offer five, others hold to seven, while others maintain there are eight; then there are those who say there are 37… and so on.

The subject of dispensations in Scripture initiates controversy, but most Bible scholars will agree on the “three-fold division of God’s Word,” i.e. a divinely prescribed method for understanding this book.   Since every Believer is commanded by God to study their Bible, this benefits us all:  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 - KJV).

Now, two things come to mind immediately:

1:  If Paul said we are to rightly divide the word of truth, it goes without saying there is a wrong way to divide it. 

2:  Believer’s study God’s Word for the purpose of showing themselves approved unto God.  The Believer’s goal, therefore, is not to be ashamed accurately handling the word of truth while they’re here on earth relaying God’s complete message of Truth to Believers and to the unsaved; for we are the Lord’s ambassadors in this “strange,” “inhospitable” land.  The Bible says we’re just passing through this place; this is not our home (2 Corinthians 5:20; Hebrews 13:14-16; 1 Peter 13:14).   Looking at the bigger picture, one day future every Believer will stand before their Creator to be rewarded, or not, for the things they have done in the flesh.  This has nothing to do with one’s salvation, but they will give an account of themselves at the Bema Seat and be rewarded based on how faithfully they served the Lord.  How well they accurately handled the word of truth will be one of the topics of discussion.   You don’t honestly think God gave us His written word only to leave it on a bookshelf or on the coffee table do you?  Will the Lord say you were a workman who does not need to be ashamed on that great day?   (1 Corinthians 9:4:27; 2 Timothy 2:5)

How do Believer’s reach this objective?  The answer is given in this same verse – rightly dividing the word of truth.  Not only is this the key to having God’s approval, when Believer’s study the Scriptures it’s the key to understanding His Word. 

While the Bible is written for all classes of people, and for our learning, it is not addressed to all peoples in general, but part of it is addressed to the Jews, part of it is addressed to the Gentiles, and a part of it is addressed to God’s Church.  These three groups constitute the three classes into which humanity has been divided by God (1 Corinthians 10:32). 

Therefore, while the Bible was written for the instruction of the Church, it is not all written about the Church.  The Church is not mentioned in the O.T.  It was “hid” from the Old Testament prophets and people of God (the Jews) until God chose to reveal this “mystery” (secret is a better word) to Paul and disclosed by him in Ephesians 3:1-10. The Old Testament is mostly taken up with the history of one nation, that would be Israel, looking to the day when their promised Redeemer and King would come and establish His earthly Kingdom overthrowing all human rule and authority (Genesis 12:1-3; Isa 9:6-7).  This means Jesus Christ did not come to set up the Christian Church.  He came to His own (the Jews) to fulfill the promises made to the fathers (Romans 15:8). 

When someone takes the Old Testament promises that belong solely to the nation of Israel and applies them to God’s Church, they are in effect robbing the Jew of that which is exclusively his and vice-versa.  It’s like reading someone else’s mail and then attempting to apply the promises and best wishes therein to your self – it just doesn’t work.  It’s also like putting the Bible in a blender, pushing the puree button, and then doling it out to the people.  It’s no wonder people say, the Bible doesn’t make sense.  The Bible makes perfect sense, if you apply the principle of right division.

A Three-Fold Division

God Himself never changes.  In His character and nature He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  His dealings with mankind, however, have undergone changes down through history – changes made necessary by changes in man, himself, starting with the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden, after the fall.  Identifying these changes is a basic issue in studying the Bible dispensationally, for a dispensation is a particular program that God administers (or dispenses) for humanity’s obedience and welfare.  In his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes:  Whereof I am made a minister, according to the (what) dispensation of God which is given to me for you (God’s Church), to fulfill the word of God (Colossians 1:25 – KJV). 

Our Apostle Paul provides the best example of this “key” to understanding the Scriptures, i.e. the Three-Fold division of God’s Word.  In Ephesians 2 we find these three terms:  Time Past, But Now, and the Ages to Come.

Time Past

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:  (Ephesians 2:11-12- KJV)

But now

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  (Ephesians 2:13)

Ages to Come

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  (Ephesians 2:7)

The terms Time Past, But Now, and the Ages to Come, help us to understand our Bible from Genesis to Revelation – rightly divided.  This isn’t a N.T. revelation, by any means, for the written word of God began with a man named Moses, a man called into service by the LORD God, a man who was inspired by God to write the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch).  This means when Moses began to write, there was already a Time Past, a But Now, and an Ages to Come!  Put another way, there has never been a time in human history when this Three-Fold division of God’s Word did not exist. 

Moses emphasized this Truth to God’s people in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 4, when he wrote:  For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that created man upon the earth… (Deuteronomy 4:32 - KJV)

Skip down to verse 40:  Thou shalt keep therefore His statutes and His commandments, which I command thee this day

You have to back up to verse 30 for this one:  When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days

Here Moses urges the Israelites to carefully consider the days that are “Past,” “This Day,” and “The Latter Days.”  Moses’ writings match up rather well with Paul’s in Ephesians 2:  Time Past, But Now, and The Days to Come which tells us these expressions are not exclusive to God’s Church. 

God’s Word itself provides us with the key to understanding and right division for Moses and the prophets point us to Jesus Christ:  And having begun from Moses and from all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27 – Berean Literal Bible). 

Concerning the New Testament

Time Past:  In Matthew through John we find the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ to His own, the nation of Israel.  In the book of Acts we have the fall of Israel and salvation going to the Gentiles through the ministry of our Apostle Paul.

But Now:  Romans through Philemon provide the doctrine for the Church Age; God’s dispensation of Grace.

Ages to Come:  Hebrews through Revelation focus on the Ages to Come when God will bring to fruition His purposes for both the nation of Israel and the Body of Christ.
All of this brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and the reason for this brief talk on rightly dividing the word of truth for Paul begins with the signpost, But now 

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the (what) firstfruits of those who are asleep.  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own order:  Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (not the second coming of our Lord, but His coming in the air to gather) those who are Christ’s (unto Himself at the Rapture).  (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) 

The term “But now (v20) is an expression used often by Paul to mark a dramatic contrast to what had been “before,” but had now been changed by God’s divine will.  With this expression he communicated the great Truths vital to one who has believed his gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 2:16).  Whenever you encounter the phrase, consider it a “signpost” that notes “before” and “after” reality.  The “before” was our state before Christ’s finished work of the cross and God’s revelation of these Truths to our Apostle Paul.  The “after” is the new state of things as the result of Christ’s finished work of the cross and His revelation of the mystery to Paul (Ephesians 3:1-12). 

For example:  Romans 3:21 says, But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested (put in the spotlight), being witnessed by the law and the prophets – the “before” is prior to Paul salvation required a Jew to exercise faith and keep the Law.  The reality of Christ’s finished work of the cross and God’s revelation of these Truths to our Apostle Paul, or the “after,” is Paul revealed that salvation is by faith (alone) apart from keeping the Law.  (See other examples of But Now at:  Romans 3:21, 6:22, 7:6, 11:30, 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 12:18, 12:20, etc.)

But now Christ has been raised from the dead - we’ve examined the fact that Christ has been raised from the dead.  Paul has demonstrated beyond all doubt that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and the importance of believing this Truth.  Here, he simply affirms the fact saying, But now Christ has been raised from the dead!  However, he’s also saying, “But pay close attention to what God is doing now.”

The first fruits of those who have fallen asleep - I reminded you in my opening statement that some of these Believers did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (15:12).  They had believed in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and that was one thing, but they couldn’t wrap their “thought processes” around the idea that their dead bodies would be resurrected in the future; the idea was preposterous. 

Now some Jews believed they would experience a resurrection one day future and others did not.  What does this book say?  For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all (Acts 23:8).  It’s possible a Sadducean influence had infiltrated this church which caused some of these Believers to doubt and question Paul’s teaching on this vital church doctrine. 

However, Jesus Christ clearly said there would be “life after death” for those that believed.  In her declaration of faith, Martha told Jesus, “I know he (Lazarus) will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.  (John 11:25-26)

Getting back to Paul’s statement concerning the first fruits, you have to have some understanding of the Old Testament economy to get a handle on what Paul’s actually saying.  I know some people don’t bother to visit that portion of their Bible, but they should, as Paul said, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).  We don’t ignore any part of it. 

Leviticus 23 gives us the Seven Feasts Days of the LORD God.  These were for the nation of Israel and they had to do with the Law and Temple worship.  We find the LORD God’s command concerning the Feast of First Fruits in Leviticus 23:9-10.  Essentially, the Israelites were to enter the barley field, while it was still green and growing.  As they looked out over that field, scattered here and there, would be heads of yellow grain reaching for the sun.  In the farming community of Indiana, where I was raised, we called these eager beavers “volunteers,” as some plants ripens early.  The workers would go and gather these ripened heads, along with their stems, enough to have a bundle of them, and they took them to the priest.  This was their wave offering before the LORD.  What we have here, then, is a picture of the eventual barley harvest which came from the dead ground unto new life.   The wavesheaf symbolized the LORD God proving He could defeat death and give (eternal) life for all those that believed (Acts 26:23).

Verse 10 also mentions the harvest.  After they had gone in and harvested the main part of the field, the LORD God said they were to obey the following instructions found in Leviticus 19:9-10b:  Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very (four) corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest… you shall leave them for the needy (the poor) and for the stranger 

Those are the three “stages” of the Jewish harvest as God ordained them.  First the Jews would go into the green field and take a sampling of the early ripening heads of barley with their stems.  This would be their wave offering.  Later, at the appropriate time they would go in take the main harvest, remembering to leave the four corners of the field and the gleanings for the needy (the poor) and the stranger in the land.  Bear this in mind as we consider what Paul wrote:  But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who are asleep. 

The Lord Jesus Christ said there would be two resurrections:    “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to the resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29).   

Our Apostle Paul confirms His statement in his oral defense before Felix when he stated that he believed the teaching of the prophets:  that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15). 

Of course, people have adopted the opinion that the two resurrections in these passages will occur at the same time; meaning they will take place simultaneously.  Therefore, there is only one resurrection.  However, a careful examination of the Scriptures will show that God’s Word has established the fact that the resurrection of the righteous (those right with God) will actually occur in stages.  Put another way, the Bible does not teach one resurrection or even two resurrections.  It actually teaches that there will be two resurrections in type which will be conducted in stages, resulting in several resurrections – at least four by my count. 

The Resurrection of the Just

That the resurrection of the righteous will occur in stages is clearly taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20-24.  In fact, the first stage of the resurrection of the righteous has already occurred.  Look again at Paul’s statement in verse 20:  “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” 

Verses 22-23 goes on to explain that all who have died in Christ will be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.

I’ve already given you the imagery of the Harvest that Paul chose to use in illustrating these verses and how it was conducted in three stages.  It began with the gathering of the first fruits which were offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD God.  The harvest came next.  But, if you’ll recall, they didn’t go in and strip the field clean.  The four corners and the gleanings were left for the needy (the poor) and the strangers in the land (Leviticus 19:9-10)

Using this imagery, the Bible presents the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the First Fruits of the resurrection of the righteous.  The gathering of the Church Age saints, those who have died first, and then those who are still alive at the appearing of the Lord in the air (the Rapture).  This is the general harvest stage of the resurrection of the righteous (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). 

But there is a third and final stage to this resurrection of the righteous.  It is the four corners and the gleanings of the harvest field, and it occurs at the end of the Tribulation when the Lord’s Second Coming takes place.  At that time two final groups of the righteous will be resurrected:

The Tribulation martyrs (Revelation 20:4)
The Old Testament saints (Daniel 12:2)

I know some people have been taught differently, but I ask these folks to consider these two important facts from Scripture:
#1:  The Rapture event is a promise from God to His Church and to His Church only. 

#2:  The book of Daniel makes it clear the O.T. saints will be resurrected at the end of the “time of distress” a clear indication of the Tribulation period or the time of “Jacob’s trouble” (Daniel 12:1-2).

So, the first resurrection, “the resurrection of the righteous,” occurs in three stages, it has already begun with Jesus Christ, continuing with God’s Church at the Rapture, and culminating with the Tribulation martyrs and the Old Testament Believers at the Second Advent of Jesus Christ. 

The Resurrection of the Unjust

The second type of resurrection, “the resurrection of the wicked” (Acts 24:15), will take place all at one time at the end of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.  This is at the time of the Great White Throne Judgment, the judgment of those whose names are not found written in the book of life (Revelation 20:11-15).

Every person who died in unbelief will be resurrected at this time, regardless of when he or she may have lived and died, whether before or after the Cross.  This resurrection will also include the unjust that died during the Tribulation and the Millennium reign of Jesus Christ.  You see, not everyone will accept Jesus as their Savior during the Millennium. 

There will be no need for an additional resurrection of the righteous at the end of the Millennium, because all those born during that time period who accept Jesus as their Savior will live to the end of the Lord’s reign (Isaiah 65:19-20).  As the lifetime of a tree, so shall be the days of My people…” (Isaiah 65:22-25).  In other words, life spans during the Millennium will mirror what they were at the beginning of time, before the flood – Adam lived 930 years for instance. 

Paul’s saying the resurrection of Jesus represents the Believer’s resurrection, because if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection Romans 6:5).  The resurrection of Jesus Christ also anticipates our resurrection, because we will be raised with a body like His (Romans 8:22-23; Philippians 3:21).

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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