One Book Rightly Divided (Unpublished
Chapter 1: Why This Book?
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Have you ever considered why so many churches disagree on major doctrines yet claim to use the Bible to prove their particular doctrinal beliefs? How can so many people use the same book and yet maintain a plethora of schisms and divisions? For instance, consider the following teachings made by various groups with the scriptures used by them to support their respective positions:
When did the New Testament begin?
The New Testament began immediately following Malachi.
The New Testament did not begin until after Christ’s death.
Does the Holy Ghost ever leave a person?
God’s Spirit can depart from or leave a person because of disobedience.
1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11
The Holy Ghost seals the Christian until the redemption and glorification of his mortal body.
What is the purpose of water baptism?
Water baptism is an aspect of the Gospel and bestows the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Water baptism simply identifies Christians with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection and is not part of the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 1:17
How is a person saved and is that salvation secure?
People are “saved” by enduring to “the end.”
Matthew 24:13, 22
Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are saved by grace through faith and are eternally secure.
Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9
By reading these seemingly contradictory statements together and considering each of the referenced scriptures, some people have concluded, “You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say.” Sadly, that conclusion is quite true! In fact, some of the most egregious errors taught are simply Bible truths twisted to fit a particular and preconceived theological stance.
To further complicate matters, far too many Bible teachers and students simply parrot what they have been taught rather than allowing the scripture to establish, define, and confirm or refute their position. The fact remains that you can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say simply by ignoring context or by twisting God’s intended meaning and purpose. Although it takes great effort to learn the Bible, neither God nor His word is ever self-contradictory as this work will endeavor to illustrate.
People desiring spiritual truth can only acquire this truth through diligent search of the scriptures (John 5:39). Nevertheless, how each person approaches scripture determines the extent of truth derived. No teacher (other than the Spirit of truth) can be depended upon to give the truth infallibly (John 16:13). Men are but mere mortals, and this includes both teacher and student. Therefore, God called all to be students, but students dependent upon His help recognizing that both we and our teachers are prone to err.
Herein lies the crux of the problem: so many different denominations and churches exist, each claiming correct interpretation of the Bible, each claiming to have unlocked the hidden truths of scripture. They all seem to claim that searching the scriptures, using their methods, is the only way to arrive at the truth. Can they all be right and still contradict one another? The obvious answer: “No!”
So, Why This Book?
This book presents the scriptural teaching by which anyone, regardless of denominational affiliation, can determine the proper context when reading various Bible passages. This approach to Bible study, if done according to the divine mandates of God, yields sound doctrine along with proper application!!! It is not intended to be an end-all to Bible study, but simply a spring board. Likewise, it is not intended to be purely systematic producing some type of mindless robotic study. That has never worked! Hopefully, the material herein serves as a starting point for those seeking to grasp truths commonly overlooked and ignored.
When the student takes the scriptural approach—rightly dividing the word of truth, he can reconcile what may at first appear to be contradictory scriptures. He can then easily recognize and understand the reasons for the differing beliefs or positions of the various churches and denominations. Once the student reconciles these scriptures, he can know and stand firm on the truth without being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
The biblical command to study the Bible along with the instructions for how to study it are emphasized within one single verse. This verse offers insights into the command and application of one of the primary keys to understanding how God laid out the Bible. It also reveals how its truths can be consistently applied. Ignoring this verse not only hinders Christian growth but also prevents one’s attainment of scriptural knowledge and truth. The Bible says to
2 Timothy 2:15 Study (the biblical command) to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing (the instruction for how to study) the word of truth.
Interestingly, not every version of the English Bible today offers its readers both commands—to study and to rightly divide God’s word. Far too many eager Bible students are left in the dark because the translations from the Alexandrian texts blur God’s intended meaning with unwarranted deviations from the truth.
If these truths are indeed the keys to unlocking sound Bible doctrine and proper application (and they are), alternative readings handicap the reader. Christians trusting in those flawed expressions often fail to understand the need for “dividing” the scriptures. In missing this truth, Christians fail to grasp the difference between the various ages (and people groups) within scripture. Some of the most egregious false doctrines spring forth from these errors even though well-meaning people may be guilty of spreading these falsehoods. For example, replacement theology (the teaching that the Church replaces Israel as God’s chosen people) serves as a pervasive teaching with damnable heresies as the outcome. Most, if not all, of their false teachings can be refuted through this method of Bible study.
Proceed with Due Caution
Dividing God’s word to any extreme outside of the Bible’s parameters is both harmful to the body of Christ and detrimental to sound doctrine. Please understand that if the Bible can be rightly divided, it can certainly be wrongly divided. The Devil assuredly will bask in the ensuing confusion anytime the Bible is handled incorrectly.
The point to always keep in mind is that dividing the Bible does not imply that some verses are unimportant or lack relevance. In fact, an overall guide for any Bible study should be to heed the admonition concerning the entire Bible found in the third chapter of Second Timothy.
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
The reader should acknowledge and heed the scriptural admonition that ALL SCRIPTURE IS PROFITABLE and that all scripture is profitable first and foremost for doctrine! No scripture needs to be ignored or given any lesser degree of importance. The entire Bible, verse by verse, should be read, studied, believed, and taught. However, context is always the key! For this reason, this book emphasizes contextual Bible study which has been neglected or ignored for far too long by far too many Bible teachers.
This study begins by presenting the following simplified timeline as a tool to help obey the command given in 2 Timothy 2:15. The timeline will be explained and developed in detail throughout this chapter and further expanded throughout the book.
The Basic Timeline
It is easy to prove that the Bible opens at the beginning (Genesis) and closes at the ending (Revelation). The problem occurs when people mess up the middle. God laid the Bible out in a “semi-chronological” order from beginning to end. Timelines (used in this book), although imperfect, demonstrate the chronology of events contained within their related books of the Bible. The far left of the first chart shows the beginning of the Bible record (Genesis). The far right of the chart shows the end of the Bible record (Revelation). As our study progresses, the intervening books of the Bible will be added to the timeline.
Book Groupings (Chronological)
Stating that the Bible is “semi-chronological” simply means the Bible generally follows a chronological format, yet the Bible is NOT unconditionally or absolutely chronological. What is meant by generally chronological may be best understood by considering the events recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, commonly called the “Gospels.”
To be perfectly chronological, each one of these books would have to begin at a point where the previous book ended. For example, the book of Mark would continue at the point where Matthew ended. When considering the Bible on a timeline, it is necessary to group some books together (i.e., the four gospel books). These four books fall within an obvious chronology—their entire content follows after the events of the Old Testament. In addition, this group concludes with the ascension as also recorded in Acts chapter one (the next book). It is critically important to mention that this point does not preclude the four Gospel books from containing yet unfulfilled prophecies that fall outside this set time frame.
In spite of the obvious chronology of the Gospels as a whole, they are not a continuous dialog when considered within their distinct section. Other sequential books of the Bible, that are not strictly chronological, are also divided into groups of books. These other groupings are developed later.
Book Groupings (By Audience)
Although the Bible books can be divided chronologically, the most basic method of dividing them involves the primary group of people to whom God was/is speaking. God unquestionably applies certain truths to certain groups at certain times and these truths do not always apply to all others. Consider this: does every doctrine in the Bible apply equally to each of the following groups:
· Jews under the Mosaic law?
· Gentiles without the Mosaic law?
· Christians living today?
· Jews enduring the time of Jacob’s trouble?
· The earthly people dwelling within the future kingdom?
The simple answer, No! Every passage of scripture does not equally apply to each of these groups. Therefore, as you read any passage from the Bible, ALWAYS consider this question: “To whom does this doctrine primarily apply?” There is no disputing the fact that the Bible contains scriptures which apply to groups of people in other time periods which are not directly applicable to the child of God living TODAY. Attempting to make everything apply to saved people today is New Testament Christian-centric and has produced some of the most damnable heresies and schisms.
Understanding this concept serves as one of the key elements to uniting various groups to accept dispensationalism, that is, the study involving rightly dividing the word of God. To some extent, every Bible student believes in “rightly dividing,” otherwise, New Testament churches would meet on Saturdays, the meeting houses should be identified as “temples,” and these temples would have literal altars for animal sacrifice.
Instead, every Bible believer recognizes Jesus as the perfect sacrifice knowing that Christ fulfilled the law’s demands in their entirety. Additionally, the Bible believer knows why the Christian church scripturally sets aside the first day of the week as its primary day of assembling and not the seventh day of the week (Mark 16:9; John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).
As you will see in detail later, “rightly dividing the word of truth” begins by simply dividing the books of the Bible into sections based upon the primary group of people to whom God was/is speaking. Because the Bible contains material addressed to different people groups during various time periods, the student must be careful to keep in mind that the entire Bible is for you, but not all of it is written to you. With this foundation firmly established, we can explore some additional details added to the basic timeline chart.
The Cross, Empty Tomb, and Resurrection
The first symbol on the chart (toward the left) signifies Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection which occurred approximately 4,000 years after Adam and about 2,000 years ago. (Combining the Old Testament genealogical expressions with our current calendars reveals that about 6,000 years have transpired from the creation of Adam to the PRESENT DAY.) The event recorded in the next passage took place about 4,000 years after Adam’s creation.
Mark 16:5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
The period after the cross and prior to the Rapture/Blessed Hope is known as the Church Age. NOTE: Although the charts reflect some extremely defined lines and points, they are not intended to reflect pinpoint precision as to the exact timing of each and every event. This holds true concerning the details added to the charts later. It is simply impossible to predict the plethora of variants that people will read into a picture or a simple chart. The authors simply plead for some grace from their critics. Additionally, although the lines seem rigid and fixed, the groupings simply cannot reflect the many transitions from any one period to the next.
The Rapture of the Church/The Blessed Hope
The next symbol is commonly referred to by various synonymous terminology. It is most commonly called the Rapture of the Church (or the Blessed Hope) but also known as the translation of the saints or the believer’s catching away. Regardless of the chosen designation, the Church’s Rapture is the next major event on God’s prophetic timetable. The arrow pointing up indicates a time when the Church Age saints are “caught up” in the clouds to meet the Lord. The descending arrow represents the Lord’s descent from heaven to meet the saints “in the air.”
Although the word “Rapture” is not found within the Bible itself, its use to describe a true biblical concept is as warranted as other acceptable terminology. For instance, most Bible students are also familiar with the word Trinity (also not in the Bible) which describes the three persons of the Godhead. The following are a few of the many proof texts for the Rapture with the key words of “gathering together,” “rise,” “caught up together,” “changed,” “raised,” etc.
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 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. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
The period of time following the Rapture is known as Daniel’s Seventieth Week and lasts for a period of seven years. This period of time is most commonly referred to as the Tribulation, but this terminology has become increasingly confusing as some try to distinguish between the future period of time and the troubles faced by Christians throughout time.
Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
The Second Coming
The third symbol, the single arrow pointing down touching the horizontal line, indicates the Lord’s Second Coming. It is important to distinguish between Christ’s coming for the Church at the Rapture where He meets the saints in the air versus the Second Coming where Christ actually comes back to the earth. The arrow touches the bottom line signifying that the Lord’s return here is to the earth and not simply to the clouds. Sometimes, the Second Coming is referred to as the Second Advent.
Jude 14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. … 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
The Second Coming prepares for and establishes Christ’s earthly, millennial kingdom. During the kingdom, the Lord Jesus Christ will reign upon the earth from His throne in Jerusalem.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Among other events, the Great White Throne Judgment will follow the kingdom. The book of Revelation goes on to declare that this present heaven and earth will be destroyed by fire and will be replaced by a NEW heaven and a NEW earth.
Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
Where Are We on the Timeline?
The timeline (chart 1.40) presently depicts the Church (in the period of time labeled “Church Age”) swiftly approaching the event called the “Rapture” of the Church Age saints. The following verses clearly indicate why we refer to this period as the Church Age.
Ephesians 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Ephesians 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
1 Timothy 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
It is commonly believed that the Church Age will last approximately 2,000 years (Hosea 6:2; 2 Peter 3:8). This concept can be derived through the study of biblical principles and natural patterns. Seven is God’s number of completion (seven days of creation, seven days in a week, seven years in Daniel’s Seventieth Week, seven colors of the light spectrum and rainbow, seven notes of the musical scale, etc.).
Assuming that God’s pattern of seven (completeness) holds true concerning God’s historical and prophetic dealings with man, the approximate (~) length of the Church Age can be ascertained as follows. The genealogical lists of the Old Testament verify that approximately 4,000 years transpired from the creation of Adam to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ. Additionally, we are assured that Daniel’s Seventieth Week is a seven-year period of time and that the future coming kingdom is precisely a 1,000-year period. Let’s do the math:
God’s number of completeness = 7,000 years
Less the Old Testament = ~4,000 years
Less the future kingdom = ~1,000 years
Equals the Church Age = ~2,000 years
Note: This numerical study is not an attempt to date the Rapture or Christ’s Second Coming. It is simply a means to illustrate the lengths of time in God’s dealings with man and the approximate length of the ongoing Church Age which equates to approximately 2,000 years.
Our calendar places us approximately 2,000 years after the time of Christ and at a point very close to the Rapture as illustrated on the timeline. Most Bible students would not disagree with the events and times depicted in chart 1.40, nor would they disagree that the Church finds itself within its “last days.”
2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
These “last days” or “latter times” of the Church are marked by a period of increasing apostasy just prior to the Rapture of the Church. This is why God’s open-ended biblical description of deception and godlessness are stated as becoming more wicked—worse and worse. This seems like a most definitive assessment of our current times as the world witnesses the disintegration of societal norms.
2 Timothy 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
The reason Paul and all Bible-believing Christians have believed in the imminent return of Christ at the Rapture is found in the first verse of the book of Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews acknowledged that the last days consist of the entire Church Age (a time in which God has “spoken unto us by his Son”).
Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
The Church has been in the last days since its inception. In fact, Paul so strongly anticipated the Lord’s imminent return that he incorporated the self-inclusive pronoun of “we” repeatedly to describe those who could be alive at Christ’s return for the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17). That’s imminency!
Although the canon of scripture has been completed for almost two millennia, the illumination of God’s revelation contained within scripture continues to shine brighter with each passing day. This is because God knows His prophetic timeline.
Behind the scenes, God has been orchestrating the prophetic fulfillment. Today’s increased focus upon end-time’s events can be most assuredly attributed to the fact that the current generation will likely experience an unfolding of Bible prophecy like no previous generation. Interestingly, the description of the Church’s last days as perilous times concludes with an ominous assessment. It points directly to man’s inability to know and recognize the truth. Men will be
2 Timothy 3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Throughout history, preachers and Bible teachers have viewed prophecy through the lens of personal perception. During the great revivals (or awakenings), when souls were being saved by the thousands, teachers and preachers commandeered the promises of Israel. They assumed the vast revivals would ultimately usher in the kingdom. Although, they were truly witnessing some of the greatest days of the New Testament Church, they failed to understand that apostate times would follow and prevail. We are in those days. The previous generations were a great way off from the events we now see on our horizon. These events are staring us in the face. In the words of John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
 It is not the intention of the authors to mathematically pigeon hole the Church Age into a 2,000-year period. Everything may point to this age winding down but only God knows when the Blessed Hope will take place ending this age rather abruptly. It is important to note that the Church Age could have ended any time during the last two millennia.
Read chapter 2
Read chapter 2