Why This Book?
Have you ever considered why different churches disagree on many of the major doctrines, yet most of these churches use the same Bible to prove their respective doctrinal beliefs? For instance, consider the following contradictory teachings made by various churches, with scriptures cited to “prove” each position:
The New Testament begins immediately following Malachi (Matthew 1:1).
The New Testament does not begin until after Christ’s death (Hebrews 9:17).
Water baptism bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
Christians with the death, burial and resurrection (Colossians 2:12).
By reading these seemingly contradictory scriptures, some have concluded, “You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say.” The truth is, that conclusion is correct! You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say, simply by ignoring context. However, the Bible is not self-contradictory, as this work will endeavor to illustrate.
People desiring spiritual truth can only acquire this truth through a diligent search of the scriptures (John 5:39). However, how they search the scriptures will determine the extent of truth derived from this search. Many different denominations and churches exist, each claiming to be correctly interpreting the Bible and attaining spiritual truth. Each claims 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?
Purpose: This book presents the scriptural system (i.e., approach to Bible study) by which anyone can determine the proper context when reading various Bible passages and establish sound doctrine from these passages. When the student takes the scriptural approach—the right division approach—he can reconcile what may first appear to be contradictory scriptures. He can easily recognize and explain the reasons for the differing beliefs or positions of the various churches and denominations. Once he reconciles these scriptures, a person can know and stand firm on the truth.
Command: The biblical command to study and instruction for how to study the Bible are found in the same verse. This verse is the key to understanding how the Bible is laid out and how it is to be applied. Ignoring this verse will hinder Christian growth and the knowledge of scriptural truth. This verse is:
II Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (A.V. 1611—King James Bible)
The preceding scripture quotation comes from the King James Bible (KJB). The KJB is the only version of the scriptures on the market today that gives both commands—to study and to rightly divide the Bible. Yes, the Bible is to be “stud(ied)” and must be “divid(ed)” as scripturally commanded. If a person follows this direct command and approach to Bible study, he will be able to reconcile the various church and scriptural doctrines, and come to the right doctrinal position every time.
Caution: As with all extremes, dividing the Bible to an extreme is also negative. Dividing the Bible does not imply that some verses are not important or that they lack relevance. The guiding verse when dividing the Bible is II 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 must never forget that ALL scripture is profitable and it is profitable for doctrine! None of it needs to be ignored. None of it needs to be given any lesser degree of importance. It all must be read, studied, believed and taught verse by verse.
A person can lose the Spirit through sin (I Samuel 16:14, Psalm 51:11)
The Holy Spirit seals the Christian and will never leave him (Ephesians 5:30).
Time-line (of ‘Division’): This study uses the following time-line as a tool to help obey the command given to us in II Timothy 2:15. The time-line will be explained and developed in detail throughout this chapter and will be expanded throughout this book.
Basic Time-line: God laid out the Bible in a "semi-chronological” order from the beginning to the end. A time-line helps to more easily visualize the chronology of events and the related books of the Bible. The far left of the chart shows “the beginning,” as recorded in the beginning of the Bible (Genesis). The far right of the chart shows the new heaven and new earth, referred to at the end of the Bible (Revelation). As our study progresses, the intervening books of the Bible are added to the time-line.
Book Groupings: Saying that the Bible is “semi-chronological” simply means that the Bible follows a generally chronological format, but that not everything in the Bible is in an absolute chronological order. What is meant by generally chronological may be best understood by considering the events as they are recorded in the four books of 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. It is necessary to group these four books together, when looking at the Bible on a time-line, because they are not absolutely chronological. Other sequential books of the Bible, that are not strictly chronological, are also divided into groups of books. These other groupings are discussed later.
Rightly Dividing: The books of the Bible are divided into categories based upon the primary group of people to whom God is speaking. Consider this: does every doctrine in the Bible apply equally to each of the following groups.
· The Jews under the law?
· The Jews under the law?
· The Gentiles?
· The Christian living today?
· The Tribulation saint?
· The person living in the Millennium?
No! Therefore, as you read a passage, ask yourself this question: “to whom does this doctrine primarily apply?” For example, the Bible deals differently with the Old Testament saint living under the law; the Spirit-filled Christian’s attempts to live the will of God today; and the Tribulation saint’s avoiding the Mark of the Beast. There is no disputing the fact that the Bible contains scriptures which fundamentally apply to groups of people in other time periods, but which do not directly apply to the child of God today.
As you will see in detail later, to “rightly divide” your Bible is simply to divide it into sections based upon the primary group of people God addresses in each section. You must remember that the entire Bible is for you, but not all of it is written to you. Now that this foundation has been established, it is time to add a little more detail to the basic time-line chart.
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.
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Explanation of symbols:
1. Cross: The first symbol (on the left of the chart) signifies the crucifixion of the Lord, which occurred about 4,000 years after Adam and about 2,000 years ago. (Combining our calendars with the Bible’s chronology and genealogy shows that about 6,000 years have transpired from the creation of Adam to the present day.) The period after the cross and prior to the Rapture is known as the Church Age. NOTE: Although the charts reflect some very fine lines drawn on them, they are not meant to reflect pinpoint precision as to the exact timing of each event. Additionally, the groupings simply cannot reflect all of the transitions from one period to the next. The book of John is a prime transitional example. The fine lines drawn on the charts are not meant for the reader to miss the transitional nature of books like the gospel of John. It is equally unwise to allow the chart divisions to effectively eliminate from the church today the many important applications found in the book Hebrews.
2. Rapture: The next symbol is the “catching out of the saints” commonly referred to as the Rapture of the Church. The two arrows meeting in the clouds signify the Rapture. The arrow pointing up indicates a future time when the resurrected bodies of the saved are “caught up together” in the clouds to meet the Lord. The arrow coming down represents the Lord’s descending from heaven to meet the saints “in the air.” Although the word Rapture is not found in the Bible, its use to describe a true biblical concept is as acceptable as using the word Trinity (also not in the Bible) to describe the three persons of the Godhead. Here is the Rapture:
I 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.
The period following the Rapture is known as the Readiness Age which includes the Great Tribulation. (Note: the time-line is NOT to scale, for this period is but seven years.)
3. Second Coming: The third symbol, the single arrow coming down, indicates the Lord’s Second Coming. The arrow touches the bottom line signifying that the Lord will return to the earth at the Second Coming (unlike the Rapture where Christians meet Him in the clouds). The Second Coming is also known as the Second Advent. All dispensationalists refer to the period following the Second Coming as the 1,000-year Millennium orKingdom Age.
During the Millennium, the Lord Jesus Christ will reign on the earth. Following the Millennium, the Great White Throne Judgment will take place. After the judgment of the lost and those saints that came through the Tribulation and Millennium, the heaven and earth will be destroyed by fire and God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).
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