1. We believe the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God, without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men and the Divine and final authority for Christian faith and life.

    We believe in the verbal (the Spirit of God guiding in the actual choice of the words used in the original writings), plenary (extending to every word) inspiration of the Bible. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul says that “All Scripture is ‘God-breathed’ and profitable…” The “all Scripture” includes all sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament includes Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44), and the New Testament includes the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s Epistles, all the General Epistles and Revelation (John 16:13-15; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 
    2 Peter 3:16; Revelation 22:18). When the Bible speaks to science and history (or any other subject) it speaks without error and with ultimate authority. The statement “God-breathed” emphasizes the source of the inspiration as being from God. Since God is infinitely perfect, then His Word is infinitely perfect – without error. 

    The question arises, “How, then if the Word came through imperfect men (vessels), could it be a perfect product? In the same manner as Mary was “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit to bring forth the perfect Living Word (John 1:14) Jesus, so too the men were “carried along” (2 Peter 1:20- 21) by the Holy Spirit as the Author wrote the perfect (inerrant) Word of God. Thus, we believe that the original autographs of the inspired author’s are without error.

    The Scriptures, Old and New Testament, are the “complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men…” That means that there is to be nothing added to God’s revelation as we find it in the completed Canon of Scripture (Revelation 22:18). The “apocrypha” has not been generally recognized by most conservative scholars as meeting the tests of canonicity. The three general tests of canonicity are: 1) The test of authority. In relation to the Old Testament books, this meant having the authority of a lawgiver or a prophet or a leader in Israel behind them. In connection with the New Testament books this meant having the authority of an Apostle behind the books that were accepted into the Canon. This meant that the book either had to be written by an apostle or backed by one so that either way there was Apostolic authority behind the book. 2) The test of uniqueness. To be taken into the Canon a book had to show internal evidence of its uniqueness as an evidence of its inspiration. 3) The test of acceptance by the churches. “. . . there was no book that was doubted by any large number of churches that eventually was accepted into the Canon.”* At the council of Carthage, (A.D. 397) the twenty-seven books of the New Testament were recognized as fixed and canonical by the church. It was not until much later at the council of Trent (A.D. 1546) that the Roman Catholic Church deemed the apocryphal books as canonical. We do not believe the apocrypha is legitimately a part of the Canon.

    Personal salvation for the believer is found only in the Scriptures (John 20:31; 2 Timothy 3:15) for all of the Scriptures (Luke 24:27) speak of the Savior: the Old Testament looking forward to the First and Second Advent, and the New Testament looking back to the First and forward to the Second Advent and subsequent reign of Christ and the eternal state (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

    Because the Scriptures have their origin in God, They are the “final authority for Christian faith and life.” If God is the Sovereign Creator of all things (Colossians 1:16-17), then all creatures must ultimately answer to Him (Hebrews 4:12-13). We find His revealed will for the universe, and believers specifically, in the Word of God. His revealed will is limited to the Scriptures and therefore, any document, creed, profession, etc. outside the Scriptures is not authoritative for the life and practice of the believer (again, Revelation 22:18).

  2. We believe in one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    The “Shema” which means “hear,” is the basic confession of faith for the Israelite and says, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, The LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) This clearly reveals God as one (monotheistic) God (see also John 10:30; 14:9; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). At the same time there are many very clear statements of the Scriptures that show that God is three in person (Isaiah 48:16; 63:7-10; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). 
    What makes God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit One is the essence (the nature or character) of God. God the Holy Spirit is spoken of as God when we compare Isaiah 6:8-9 with Acts 28:25-26 and Jeremiah 31:31-34 with Hebrews 10:15-17. We also see that God the Holy Spirit is spoken of as God in Acts 5:3-4 when Peter rebukes Ananias for lying to the Holy Spirit (v.3) and to “God” (v.4). God the Son is spoken of as God clearly from several passages – see: Isaiah 9:6-7; John 1:1,14 and Hebrews 1:3,8. Each member of the Godhead possesses the perfect and infinite eternal character of God. God is one in essence but three in person. 

    Some of the most commonly understood attributes of God are: His sovereignty (Psalm 115:3), righteousness (Psalm 11:7), justice (Psalm 89:14), love (1 John 4:8), eternal life (John 1:2), omniscience (Psalm 139:1-6), omnipresence (Psalm 134:7-12), omnipotence (Jeremiah 32:17), immutability (James 1:17), and veracity (Titus 1:2). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit possess the above mentioned attributes equally, infinitely and eternally. In Their essence They are absolutely the same or “One.” However, the person of the Father is not the Person of the Son or Person of the Spirit, but He is God in essence and attribute and so too the Son and the Spirit. The works of the Godhead help illustrate the diversity and the unity of the Trinity:

    All three persons of the Godhead are said to take part in both Creation and Salvation. Creation: It was the Father’s design/plan (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3); the Son executed the work (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16); and God’s Holy Spirit prepared for the work (Genesis 1:2). The God of the Bible, Who is one in Essence and three in person, is the Creator (and sustainer) of all things.

    Salvation: It was the Father’s plan (motivated by His love, John 3:16), The Son, submitting His will to the Father, accomplished the work on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), and the Holy Spirit applies/effects the salvation to the believing sinner (Ephesians 1:13-14). The God of the Bible, Who is one in essence and three in Person, is the author and finisher of our so great salvation.

    God the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, did not become the Son at the incarnation; nor did He have a beginning – He eternally existed before the incarnation and before time as the Son of God (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; Hebrews 1:8-12; Revelation 1:8). The incarnation marked the time when He willingly took on the flesh of humanity (minus a sinful nature coming from Adam) and became a man. At that moment the Son of God became the unique God-Man of the universe. The sonship of Jesus Christ is eternal and was in no way affected by the incarnation.

  3. We believe that Jesus Christ is true God and true man having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He died on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. Further, He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He is now our High Priest and Advocate.

    That Jesus Christ is true God (John 1:1; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:3) and at the same time true man (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 1:31; John 1:14; Romans 1:3; 8:3; I John 4:2) is demonstrated very clearly through Scripture. Jesus had to be born of a woman to be a man (Galatians 4:4), however, the woman, herself being a sinner (Luke 1:47), was “overshadowed” (Luke 1:35a) by the Holy Spirit; so that the “Holy Offspring” (Luke 1:35b) would be just that…Holy – begotten of (Holy) God and without sin. The sinful nature of man was passed on to the human race physically through the biological father’s semen (Romans 5:12). While Romans 5:12 is dealing with the theological implication of mankind’s corporal identity with Adam as the spiritual head, it is also true that he is our physical head and progenitor and thus passes on to each person the very physical condemnation of the curse. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 also clearly communicates that the sinful nature of man (which results in spiritual death) is passed on by the man and not the woman. Christ therefore, being born of a virgin, was truly human without inheriting the sinful nature, therefore maintaining His impeccability (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:14). Being born with an impeccable nature, Jesus Christ then lived a perfectly sinless life in thought, word and deed (Acts 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

    The Scriptures maintain that the reason that Christ died was for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-12; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5; 1 Peter 2:24). His sacrificial death was one of substitution for every man that has ever lived or will ever live on the face of the earth (John 1:29; I Timothy 2:4-6; 1 John 2:2). He did not die only as an example or an object lesson or any lesser reason than for the actual payment for the sins of all mankind. The sufferings of Christ including His life and leading up to the actual crucifixion were not in any way a part of the atoning work of Christ for our sins. The complete atoning work of Christ was accomplished while He hung on the cross and then died. The final three hours on the cross is when it is believed that the Father poured out the sin of all mankind on Jesus and executed His full righteous judgment on those sins. At this time, as part of the payment for sins, Jesus suffered separation from God (spiritual death – Matthew 27:45-46) and finally physical death (John 19:30).

    The resurrection of Christ was no less than a physical, bodily resurrection (Luke 24:39-43; 1 Corinthians 15). The Savior would have to rise physically in order to fulfill the literal promises made to Israel of a King who would return to reign on the earth in Jerusalem from the throne of David (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89; Isaiah 9; Zephaniah 3; Zechariah 14). The resurrection is especially significant in that it validates the integrity of the offer of the Gospel. There is eternal life in Jesus Christ Who was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). We see in Romans 1:4 that the resurrection is a declaration from God that Jesus is the Son of God. Without the resurrection there is no payment for our sins and no hope of eternal life for the believer… our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). Christ ascended into heaven bodily and literally in time-space-history (Acts 1:9). He presently resides in His glorified state at the right hand of the Father (Acts7:56; Ephesians 1:20). Christ will return at His Second Coming in all His glory and power – unveiled (See Matthew 24:30; Revelation 19:11-16). 

    The present functions of Christ as the High Priest is that of intercessor and advocate for the saints (Hebrews 7-10; 1 John 2:1). This means that Christ is our intermediary to the Father (John 14:6). When we sin and are accused by the adversary (Revelation 12:10), we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1) Who defends our sonship with the Father and our eternal salvation and eternal justification before the Father on the basis of His shed blood and resurrection.
     

  4. We believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, and during this age to convict men, regenerate the believing sinner, indwell, guide, instruct, and empower the believer for godly living and service.

    During the present (church) age, the role of God the Holy Spirit is to “bear witness” (John 16:26) of Jesus Christ in His physical absence from earth. This is to the advantage of the plan of God in reaching the nations for Christ, because Jesus, being limited to a physical body, was limited to time-space-history. In the present church age, God the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of all men throughout the whole world (John 16:7-11). This does not mean that the Holy Spirit makes one believe in Christ. Jesus says that the purpose of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as seen in John 16:7-11, is so that in His absence, all men throughout all the world can fall under the conviction of their spiritually bankrupt state and imminent judgment if they remain in a state of unbelief. When this unregenerate person simply believes (that Christ died for his/her sins and was raised again), then God the Holy Spirit immediately regenerates that person in their ungodly, but believing state (Romans 4:5). In regeneration, the Spirit gives the believing sinner spiritual life (Titus 3:5) making them a child of God (John 1:12). When the sinner believes, God the Holy Spirit permanently indwells (seals) him until the day of redemption as a deposit, guaranteeing his redemption (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30). This makes the believer eternally secure in his salvation. 

    As the believer pursues a life of faith, God the Holy Spirit will instruct and illumine him/her in His Word (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Ephesians 6:17). He will guide and empower the believer who is in humble submission to Him (Romans 8:1-27: Ephesians 4:30; 5:18; Galatians 5:17-25). It is only through this ministry of the Holy Spirit to the believer that godly living and service in the church is possible. Any works (ministry or system of morality) that is not accomplished under the control, power, or influence of the Holy Spirit will be burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ 
    (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 1 Thessalonians 1:3a).

    There is much confusion today regarding the “filling” of the Holy Spirit. The Scripture teaches that the moment a person places their faith in Christ, the Spirit permanently indwells (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13, 14; 4:30) him/her. The believer still retains a sinful nature along with the indwelling Spirit of God. Herein lies the conflict that Paul discusses in Romans 7:7-24, which is the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Paul exhorts the believers in Galatia to “walk by the Spirit” and thus, “not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Being “filled” with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) is as simple as the believer trusting God by faith in his daily life. Sin is rebellion and the believer that sins must confess his sin to the Lord in repentance (1 John 1:9). At that moment, he is “filled with the Spirit.”

    To “walk by the Spirit” (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16) is to live moment by moment in obedience to God by faith and not by sight. We cannot find Scripture that supports a “second blessing” of the Spirit, insofar as the Holy Spirit gives the believer a “greater measure” of His Spirit subsequent to salvation. The believer receives all the Spirit of God that he will have at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). 1 Corinthians 14:1-34 lays out specific instructions and guidelines for the sign-gifts of tongues, prophecy and special words of knowledge. Regardless of what an individual believes concerning these gifts, no one can argue that they are to function in an orderly manner and for the edification of the church body. It is our opinion that most of the “activity” of the Spirit that we see in the charismatic movement today is mostly misguided emotionalism and seems to ignore the very clear instructions of 1 Corinthians 14. The work of the Spirit of God never contradicts His Word.

    The manifestation of the spiritual gifts in the believer’s life must also be in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul, speaking to the very gifted church in Corinth, spoke of the “more excellent way” of love (1 Corinthians 13). The believer must never lose sight of the fruit of the Spirit of Love in his desire to edify the body through a spiritual gift. The issue for the believer after salvation is his being “spiritual,” walking by faith, in submission to the Spirit (Galatians 5:25); and not “carnal,” walking by sight is submission to the flesh (Galatians 5:17). Through the wonderful ministry of the Holy Spirit, God has given the believer everything he/she needs to serve Him and live a holy life.
      

  5. We believe that man was created in the image of God but fell into sin and is, therefore, lost and only through regeneration by the Holy Spirit can salvation and spiritual life be obtained.

    Man has been “stamped” with the very image of God, having life, intelligence, emotions, determination (will), and morality. Man became a representation of God on earth to the angelic hosts (Genesis 1:27; Ephesians 3:10,11). This image, though tainted by sin, was not lost after the fall (Genesis 9:6). God placed man on earth to be His delegated authority over the earth (Genesis 1:28), to “subdue it and rule over it.” He was to rule in dependence upon, and in submission to, God. When man rebelled against the revealed will of God, he forfeited the place of dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:27, 28; Luke 4:6). Man, along with creation, would have to live under the consequences of his rebellion (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:22) until the Second Advent and subsequent earthly, millennial reign of Christ (Isaiah 11:6-9; 35:9; 65:25).

    When man sinned, he died spiritually, was separated from God and condemned to God’s eternal judgment (Genesis 2:17; John 3:18,36; Romans 3:9-18; 5:12-14). As mentioned above (#3), all men since Adam have inherited this spiritual death at the point of conception (Romans 5:12). Although Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world, man is still spiritually dead and must be “born from above” (John 3:3-6) and justified (Romans 3:24; 4:5) to be saved. At the moment of faith in Christ, he receives eternal life (John 3:15, 16, 18, 36) as a gift (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8,9) from God. God the Holy Spirit actually does the work of regenerating (giving spiritual life to) the believing sinner (Titus 3:5). Apart from faith in Christ and the accompanying work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, no one will have eternal life, but will abide under the wrath of God forever (John 3:18).
      

  6. We believe that the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe, and only such as receive Jesus Christ are born of the Holy Spirit and, thus, become children of God.

    The blood of Jesus Christ was shed once for all men’s sins (Hebrews 9:26). The substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (Isaiah 53; John 1:29), is the only means of salvation for man (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Justification (to be “declared righteous” on the basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed to the believer Romans 3:21-24; 4:5) and salvation (freedom from the penalty of sin, Romans 3:25, 26) come through no other means other than the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It was the shed blood of Christ that paid the price for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). The price was infinitely expensive, but “paid in full” at one special moment in time when Christ died on the cross (John 19:30). 

    When He rose from the dead, He demonstrated that the payment for sins was acceptable to the Father. At the moment of faith, God imputes to the believing sinner His own perfect righteousness, thus declaring him righteous or “justified.” The only ground for justification and salvation is Christ’s death and resurrection. Any attempt on the sinner’s behalf to be justified for salvation by the works of the flesh (and apart from the imputed righteousness of Christ) is the epitome of arrogance and deserving only of God’s condemnation. 

    This arrogance is rooted in “self-justification,” which is an attempt to establish a righteousness of one’s own (Romans 10:3) and will always “fall short” (Romans 3:23) and will be condemned at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). At the Great White Throne Judgment, the books of works will be opened and it will ultimately be proved that all the good works that man could muster, when relied upon instead of the righteousness of Christ, will actually become the basis of condemnation when they are found bankrupt in comparison to the infinite righteousness of God (Revelation 20:12-13). God’s justification of the “ungodly” is on the basis of faith, not works (Romans 4:4-8). This salvation is “by grace, not works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    When the unregenerate sinner believes, then God the Holy Spirit regenerates him to become a child of God (see above #5). It is upon reception of this new spiritual life that he/she is born as a new spiritual creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) as a child of God (John 1:12). This new birth is always and only through faith alone in Christ alone plus nothing.

  7. We believe that water baptism and the Lord’s supper are ordinances to be observed by the Church during the present age. They are, however, not to be regarded as means of salvation.

    Water baptism is and always was a religious mode of “identification” of the participant with a new sect or group. Thus, when a New Testament believer was being baptized (in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), he was identifying himself with Christ and the church. This is a public confession that may or may not incur a cost to him, depending on the societal reaction to the church at the time. We believe that it is very important for the believer to publicly identify himself with Christ and the church in water baptism.

    Water baptism plays no part whatsoever in the personal eternal salvation of the participant. Paul sets “baptism” and “the gospel” in direct contrast to one another in 1 Corinthians 1:17 saying that God sent Him “not to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” It is the gospel that saves (Romans 1:16), not baptism. Having said this, we do believe that baptism is an ordinance to be observed by the church during the present age.

    The ordinance of communion was given to the disciples in the Upper Room by Christ (Matthew 26:26-28) as the inauguration of the New Covenant promised to Judah and Israel (Jeremiah 31:31). The New Covenant was given by God in keeping with the promises made to Israel that grew out of the Abrahamic (Genesis 13-15), Palestinian (Deuteronomy 28-30), and Davidic Covenants (2 Samuel 7). When the Messianic kingdom did not come because of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah (See Acts 7 & 8) the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles (Acts 28:28) and so was its commemoration in communion. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:23, states that he personally “received from the Lord…” the ordinance of communion. It is from this passage that we know that communion is definitely (a regular object lesson) for the church today for the purpose of remembering the essentials of the gospel of Christ. Communion is in no way a means of salvation or cleansing from sin.
      

  8. We believe that the true Church is composed of all such persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are united together in the Body of Christ of which He is the Head.

    Every person who personally believes that Christ died for his or her sins and was raised again is a born-again child of God. 1 Corinthians 12:13 states that the believer is placed by God’s Holy Spirit into “one body.” The Body of Christ is the Church of which He is the Head (Ephesians 4:15, 16). This is a work of the Spirit at the moment of faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:19-22).

    The universal (true) church is made up of all believers from Pentecost to the Rapture, both Jew and Gentile believers (Ephesians 3:1-6). The Gentiles are “fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6). As stated above, the “promise” is dealing specifically with the New Covenant as stated in Jeremiah 31-33. Through the hardness of Israel, the Gentiles have been grafted into the olive tree – Israel (Romans 11:1-25). This “body” of Christ is a new spiritual group of people that, according to the sovereign will and plan of God, will have a time of completion (Romans 11:25). When the “fullness of the Gentiles” have entered into the body of Christ through salvation, the church will be “taken away” or “raptured,” ever to be at home with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 2 Corinthians 5:8). After the church is removed from the earth, God’s plan will continue with the nation Israel commencing with the seven year Tribulation, called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7; Matthew 24, 25; Revelation 4-18).

    The local church (a geographically limited group of believers assembling together) is part of the universal church. The Epistles are addressed to local churches (Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2) and are appli-cable to all church-age believers who make up the universal church. 
     

  9. We believe that only those who are, thus, members of the true Church shall be eligible for membership in the local church.

    As the local church seeks to manifest the honor due to Christ through His church, it only makes sense that she be comprised of bona fide believers. As people seek membership in the local church, in order to maintain spiritual unity, it is imperative that it be a requirement that they be regenerated “born-again” by the Spirit of God. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-12, Paul speaks of those being “outside” or “the world” as distinctly the unbelieving world and “brothers” or “those within” as distinctly believers who are a part of the local church. It seems abundantly clear that the local church is to be made up of believers only (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:2; Ephesians 3:6). 
     

  10. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Head of the Church and that every local church has the right under Christ to decide and govern its own affairs.

    The church is a living organism – the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:15,16). She was created by the Father and designed to span over centuries of time and over thousands of social, geographical, ethnic, economical, and cultural boundaries. This makes the church unique as a living organism. When one church begins to dictate the affairs of another, this stifles the unique ministry of the Holy Spirit in that local assembly. No church should look just like another church any more than any family should look exactly like another family. Two churches can both be very healthy and yet look very different in order, function, dynamic, and ministry. God has delegated to the local church the responsibility to appoint godly leadership (Acts 6:3; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). When a church fails to do so they will encounter problems (Acts 20:28) and this should not corrupt other churches because of denominational ties. The structure set up on the above passages lends itself to an autonomous local church and not a hierarchy that governs several churches.
     

  11. We believe in the personal premillennial and imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and that this “Blessed Hope” has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer.

    The Second Coming of Christ will occur in two stages. Both stages will occur before the prophesied millennial-kingdom reign of Jesus Christ (This premillennial understanding of the end times is consistently the view of those who employ a plain, normal and literal, hermeneutic (Bible study method) in Bible interpretation.) A premillennial understanding of the Scriptures consistently maintains a distinction between God’s program for Israel and God’s program for the church. 

    The first stage of Christ’s return is for His Bride, the church. This is what most refer to as the “Rapture” or “catching away” (John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). In the Rapture, Christ returns, but not to come all the way to the ground, as we are to meet Him “in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This will occur before the “wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Revelation 6:16), or the tribulation period (Revelation 4-18). That means that the Rapture is pretribulational (the view that the Free Church fathers firmly stood on according to Arnold T. Olson in his book This We Believe, pp. 317-328). The Rapture and not the Second Advent is called the “blessed hope” in Titus 2:13. The language in the Epistles clearly make the Rapture an imminent event. In 1 John 3:2-3, John says “We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 

    If John, who wrote the Revelation, believed that the church would pass through the tribulation before this “hope,” he would have written something regarding the “signs” of His coming as we see in Matthew 24. His message would have sounded very similar to Jesus’ in the Olivet Discourse when He is speaking of the end of the age and the tribulation… “he who endures to the end will be saved (delivered).” 

    However, Paul and John give a completely different message than the message that Jesus gave the disciples (representative of the nation Israel during the Tribulation period) in Matthew 24. The disciples were to look for the “‘signs’ of His coming” that clearly indicate the seven year tribulation period at the “end of the age.” (Daniel 9:27). 

    The church age believer is to look for Christ Himself as the next stage in the plan of God. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Paul says that we are “. . . to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the ‘wrath to come.'” The “wrath” is the tribulation period, and Paul says we are to be delivered from it… we are “not destined” for this wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9)! He further exhorts that we are to “comfort” one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11). Paul exhorts the believer in Titus 2:13, to be looking for the appearing of Jesus Christ “in the present age” (12b). Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 15:51 that “we shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed.” Apparently Paul believed that there was no future prophetic event on God’s calendar remaining before the catching away of the church.

    In light of the teaching of the Rapture by Paul, we believe that there are two stages of the coming of Christ, one for the church before the tribulation, and one after the tribulation at the inception of the millennial reign of Christ on earth. We believe that is why Paul refers to the imminent translation of the church as a “mystery” (something previously unrevealed). This was a prophetic event that was not revealed through the prophets of the Old Testament. However, the Second Coming of Christ at the “end of the age” and at the beginning of the kingdom age is clearly prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah 24:17-23; 40:1-11; 52:1-10 ; Daniel 7:13-14; Joel 2:28-3:2; 3:18-21; Amos 9:14-15; Micah 4:1-8; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Haggai 2:6-9; Zechariah 8:1-8, 20-23; 9:9-10; 12:10-11; 14); and the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13; Luke 21:8-33). The purpose of the Second Advent is for the judgment of the nations and the deliverance of Israel at the end of the tribulation. Revelation 19:7-16 shows that the church is already with Jesus in heaven when He returns. In order for the church to be with Jesus at the Second Coming, She would have had to have been translated sometime before this event. The Rapture is the Church’s “blessed hope” and occurs before the entire tribulation period.

    The reason that the “blessed hope” or “Rapture” has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer is that the appearing of our Bridegroom is imminent and that the next order of events is our being face-to-face to the Lord Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Colossians 3:23-25). At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bride will be purged of Her worthless deeds and clad with Her righteous works (Revelation 19:7-8).

    The possibility of seeing the Bridegroom (Jesus) face-to-face at any moment is a powerful motivator to the believer to be found pleasing to Him at His return (John 14:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Revelation 19:1-8). 
     

  12. We believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead; of the believer to everlasting blessedness and joy with the Lord; of the unbeliever to judgment and everlasting conscious punishment.

    In speaking about that body of resurrection, Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, reveals the mystery that, the living saint’s body will be instantly “changed” to take on an imperishable and immortal (body). This immortal body is the body that the believers (who have fallen asleep – died) will receive at the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This body will not be “perishable” so we can assume that this body will not have a sinful nature that is resident in our present “body of death” (Romans 7:24; 8:23-25). It is in this new resurrection body that the believer will enjoy eternal relationship, proximity and blessing with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17b).

    After the Rapture, there are yet two resurrections mentioned – both are in Revelation 20. The first resurrection (20:4-6) speaks of believers that had been martyred during the tribulation and subsequently resurrected after the tribulation in order to rule with Jesus during the 1000-year kingdom. The second resurrection (20:11-15) speaks of all unbelievers of all ages that died in unbelief. These are raised to be judged by Christ and then sentenced to the lake of fire for all eternity. This is called the “second death” (v. 14) for the simple reason that these people die twice: One time physically at the end of their earthly life, and a second time to experience an eternal state of “death” in a literal place called the lake of fire. This is a place reserved for everlasting conscious punishment and separation from God (Matthew 25:41, 46). This lake of fire is “under the earth” and all that abide there will be in a continual state of recognition of the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:10-11).