Friday, August 28, 2015

Why I Believe In A Pre-Tribulation Rapture Pt. 5 - The First Resurrection


It's easy to confuse the first resurrection with the Rapture. After all, they both involve resurrected bodies. The Rapture isn't exclusively a resurrection. By that, I mean that yes, the saints that have gone before us will be reunited with their bodies and have them transformed into immortal and incorruptible bodies just a moment before we, who are living, have our bodies transformed in like manner. It isn't described as the first resurrection, but as being caught up. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with with 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." (1Thessalonians 4:16-17 KJV) 

The first resurrection won't involve the living, but the dead in Christ. Here we see both the living and the dead being "caught up" to be with the Lord forever. It's not known as a "resurrection Rapture," but only as the Rapture (the catching away of the living and dead in Christ). The Rapture won't be the first time that the dead have been resurrected either. If you remember, immediately after Jesus rose from the dead, others rose from the dead as well. 

"Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matthew 27:50-53 KJV)

It would be just as easy to confuse this with the “first resurrection” as it would be to confuse the Rapture with the "first resurrection."

So when does the "first resurrection" occur?

"And I saw thrones, and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for their witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, nor in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 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." (Rev. 20:4-6 KJV)

This scripture specifically mentions events that will occur only at the time of the Tribulation. Those who participate in the "first resurrection" were beheaded for their witness for Jesus and for the word of God, did not worship the beast, and did not receive the mark of the beast on their hand or forehead. It's clear that the "first resurrection" occurs AFTER the Tribulation, when Jesus returns to Earth along with those who had been raptured seven years prior. Nowhere in this portion of scripture does it mention that those alive in Christ will be caught up together with them. This event happens seven years AFTER the event known as the Rapture. 

Many will continue to support the idea of a post-Tribulation Rapture, but that just isn't the case. This "first resurrection" is exclusive to those who have experienced death and there is nowhere in scriptures of this kind that describe the catching away of those who are living as well. If you read the following verses, you'll see what I mean:

"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (Rev. 6:9-11  KJV - bold mine) There is nowhere in this scripture that even eludes to the fact that those who are alive will be caught up with them. This event coincides with Christ's return along with those who participated in the Rapture seven years before. 

God is very specific when He is describing those who are "under the alter." 
  • They are the souls who were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
    • Christians will be killed during the Tribulation
  • They are told to "rest yet for a little season."
    • "little season" - Remainder of the Tribulation
  • They are to wait until their fellow servants/brethren are killed as they were. 
    • Their fellow brothers and sisters will be killed during the Tribulation in the same way they were
These souls aren't representative of every Christian who is waiting to be resurrected at a post-Tribulation Rapture. These are specific souls that have been persecuted and killed because of their faith and it is during the seal judgments that they are first mentioned, linking their persecution and deaths to the Tribulation. These souls mentioned here in Rev. 6:9-11 are the same souls mentioned in Rev. 20:4-6. They are the souls who are part of the "first resurrection" and who "lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." The importance of the "first resurrection" cannot be understated. After the pre-Tribulation Rapture, the "first resurrection" will be vitally important. It will give those who had previously rejected Christ the opportunity to repent, believe, and be saved before their physical death. They are assured that even though they did not participate in the Rapture, they will participate in the "first resurrection" and live and rule with Christ for a thousand years! They have escaped the curse of the second death. The Rapture was their wake-up call, and many will heed that call.

Is there a second resurrection?

Well, yes and no. It's not specifically called the "second resurrection." It's called the "second death." It occurs at the White Throne Judgment after Satan is finally defeated and condemned to eternity in hell. It is at this time that those who died apart from God, are resurrected and stand before Jesus to be judged by the law of God, receiving the eternal destiny that they have chosen for themselves… eternity in the lake of fire and brimstone. This is why you need to repent and believe, so that you can be part of the experience known as the Rapture or, if you are left behind, be a part of the first resurrection. Just as those who take the mark of the Beast are automatically condemned to Hell, those who are part of the “second death” are destined to spend eternity in Hell.

If you'd like to read the other articles in this series, please click on a link below:

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Monday, August 03, 2015

The Spirit Of Python Is A Spirit Of Divination And Nothing More


Over the past few weeks, I've heard references regarding something called the "spirit of python." This teaching has obviously been around for a few years, so I thought I'd take a closer look at what this is all about. I've taken the time to read what people have had to say online and I've watched some videos on the subject. I've been sitting on this article, tweaking it here and there and waiting for someone to respond to my social media posts, offering up some information that I haven't yet considered; something... anything that would add to what I've already learned about this subject. None has been forthcoming, so here is my opinion on this subject.

The teaching I've heard starts off, simple enough, with a scripture that makes mention of the subject of this article:

"And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: 17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. 18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. 19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains were gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, 20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans." Acts 16:16-21

The first thing someone will tell you when discussing this subject is that the word "divination" that is found in verse 16 isn't the proper translation of the Greek word being used here. The Greek word is puthón.

Vine's Expository Dictionary describes the word puthón this way: 

(Eng., "python"), in Greek mythology was the name of the Pythian serpent or dragon, dwelling in Pytho, at the foot of mount Parnassus, guarding the oracle of Delphi, and slain by Apollo. Thence the name was transferred to Apollo himself. Later the word was applied to diviners or soothsayers, regarded as inspired by Apollo. Since demons are the agents inspiring idolatry, 1Cr 10:20, the young woman in Acts 16:16 was possessed by a demon instigating the cult of Apollo, and thus had "a spirit of divination."

What does that mean? It means that spirit of puthón is associated with a false religion. This demonic spirit has a major role in the protection and assistance of those who practice divination. So in Acts, when it's said that the woman had a spirit of puthón, it's referencing the demonic spirit that protected and assisted those who practiced divination. That's why KJV translates that word as divination instead of the word python. Although python is the English translation of this word, it's difficult, scripturally, to connect it's behavior with that of an earthly python.

Let's look at the behavior of this woman. We know that she:
  • is possessed by a demon.
  • can tell people about things in their personal lives and predict their future.
  • is a slave being used to make money for her masters.
  • is exalting Paul and Silas instead of God.
  • is making herself equal with them by associating with brethren who exhibit supernatural abilities just as she does, and with no official rebuke from them.
How does Paul handle the situation? Well, at first he does nothing but ignore her. Why is that? Scripture isn't clear about why he waited to cast out that demon, but an educated guess would be that it was probably because the Holy Spirit was instructing him to wait.

Days later, Paul's heart becomes grieved. Again, why? Once again, scripture isn't clear why, but we can take another educated guess. I can think of several reasons:
  • Here we have a slave woman who Paul can see is under a demonic influence. Her greedy masters, are using her spiritual state to make themselves rich. 
  • The demon who is possessing this woman knows who Paul and company are, and declares it openly. Do her masters repent and ask for forgiveness and for the Apostle to drive the demonic spirit from her? No.
  • This demon tries to blend in with the Jesus crowd in order to deceive the populace. If he can make himself out to be a spirit of light, when he is in fact a spirit of darkness, he can deceive an even greater number of people and pollute the message of salvation with it's own brand of false religion.
  • Like Satan in the Garden of Eden, this spirit of puthón mimics it's master and speaks just enough truth to deceive people into believing that it's the author of truth. God alone is the source of all prophecy and revelation. He alone is the Author of truth.
Whether it was one or a combination of these things, or something else entirely, that caused Paul's heart to grieve, he takes care of the situation by casting out the demon. Once the slave woman's masters realize what's happened, they panic. They've just lost their moneymaker and they're not happy about that. They complain to the local authorities, who then punish Paul and Silas by whipping them and throwing them into prison.

"And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charing the jailor to keep them safely: 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks." Acts 16:22-24

The spirit of puthón is a demon that protects and assists those who practice the sinful act of divination. This demon, under Satan's direction, seeks to displace God as the author of truth. Satan knows that mankind responds more readily to something that is seen than something (or someone) that is unseen. We see examples of that in the scriptures all the time. One that sticks out in my mind is 1 Samuel chapter 8, where Israel rejects an unseen God in favor of being led by a king that they can actually see. 

Satan takes advantage of this human desire by providing mankind with a flesh and bone individual who practices divination under the influence and protection of what cannot be seen, the spirit of puthón.

I guess I interpret this scripture differently than the mainstream python crowd. I see this as a warning. It's an example of how the enemy wants to destroy mankind's faith in God. Satan attempts to deceive us by demonstrating his power through humans, who don't understand that these false "prophets" are operating under the influence of the spirit of puthón. This demonic spirit speaks enough truth to be believable while still deceiving the victim. This is what we see in this portion of scripture. This demon possessed woman was making a lot of money for her masters. Business was good because her clients believed she had the supernatural power of prophecy. This demon was proving itself to be successful in its purpose... to take people's eyes off of an unseen God, who alone is the source of all prophesy and revelation, and instead focus their eyes on him.

We have educated Christians taking this portion of scripture and using the word "python" to create a whole new, and in my opinion un-biblical, teaching. We go from a bible study to story telling. We go from the word of God to the word of man. We go from discussing the spirit of puthón as being one that protects and assists in the act of divination and one that tries to create an alternate belief system, to being one that is blamed for many of the ills of Christians worldwide.

We leap out of the bible and take the physical nature of a python and transpose that into Christian teaching related to this portion of scripture. In any other circumstance, it would be considered a false teaching and maybe even the teachings of cults, but because it's being taught in the mainstream Christian community, it's being lauded as solid biblical teaching.

Here are some of the things I've read and heard:

"One of the only named spirits in the Bible, the python spirit is a coiling spirit that works to squeeze out the breath of life (the Holy Spirit) and cut off your lifeline to God (prayer)." Charisma Magazine - Sep 25, 2014

"It's not just natural things, you know, keeping you from prayer. I'm busy, I gotta do this, I gotta do that. It's a spirit called python that wants to choke your prayer time out of your life..." Jentezen Franklin. This gentleman has a teaching called, "Spirit of Python: Snake Eggs in Your Head." The description reads, "Sin begins in the mind. Not as an act of the body, not with the act of the soul. It begins with a thought that lies in the mind like a snake egg until it is hatched. What we continually think on, we eventually act on. In this message we learn that we may not always be in control of what enters our minds, but we do have control over how long it stays. But we can get victory. We can renew our minds and get the snake eggs out." 

That's right, folks. Scripture has been twisted to the point to where we're being told we have snake eggs in our mind, which, of course, means that this "spirit of python" is the sole reason for our negative thoughts. It doesn't come from any other demon or even from our own flesh. No, it's the dreaded python spirit. Sorry, I don't mean to be flippant, but spiritual snake eggs? Really? It seems like the spirits of fear, lust, anger, confusion, etc... are out of a job because all these attributes are now assigned to the spirit of puthón.

This demonic spirit seems to be receiving plenty of notoriety as of late. If there's one thing that this spirit has not been lacking, it's the attention that Christians have been giving it and the growing list of things that they have accused it of being responsible for.

This teaching states that this "spirit of python" doesn't strike outwardly with venomous fangs. On the contrary. It's reported that this demon quietly seeks out it's prey and warps itself around them and ever so slowly and subtly squeezes the spiritual life out of them. You know, like an actual earthly python. That is in direct conflict with what the bible says happened in this instance. This demonic spirit was everything but subtle when it had its run-ins with Paul and Silas. It made itself known immediately and it was large and in charge (until it was cast out, of course). Taking this attribute of an earthly cobra and trying to transfer it to this demonic entity just doesn't fit in with this particular scripture, now does it? Unfortunately, this entire teaching is wrapped around (no pun intended) this one portion of scripture because there aren't any other scriptures concerning this demon to support this false teaching.

This false teaching also includes the idea that this demonic spirit can choke a marriage, choke a ministry, choke your joy, choke your finances, choke your prayer life, choke your spiritual relationship with God... choke, choke, choke. An attribute of a python is once again erroneously transferred to the spiritual description of this demon in a way to make you believe that when you've reached a point of stagnation in your walk with the Lord or you become limited in other areas of your life, it must be because of this particular demon's influence.

It seems that this demon can slowly squeeze the Holy Spirit right out of you. Ready to jump some hoops? 
  • An earthly python squeezes you until you have difficulty breathing. This attribute is incorrectly transferred to the spirit of puthón.
  • Breath is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
  • Since the demon is supposedly squeezing the spiritual breath out of you, he's actually squeezing the Holy Spirit out of you.
I wasn't aware that any demon had authority over the Holy Spirit. In fact, I'm positive that none of them have the authority to "choke" Him out of our lives. 

As this false teaching reveals, anything that goes awry in your life can be attributed to this demonic spirit. Demons must love getting credit for things they don't do. Are we so busy trying to shift the blame for the negative situations in our lives that we're actually willing to give credit to a demon that has nothing to do with it? Just as the populace was giving credit to the demon for the prophecies it was giving through the woman in the related scripture, are we giving credit to him for things that he doesn't even do? Are we building up this demon to be more than what he is? I believe the Christian community is doing just that.

Don't feel like praying? It's not your own spiritual laziness, it's the fault of that python spirit who wants to cut off your breath and prevent you from speaking with God.

Feeling the financial squeeze and don't want to tithe? It's not your reluctance to rely on God to provide for your needs, it's that python spirit that's strangling your finances so that you can't tithe. 

The congregation of your church isn't growing? It can't be the perception that others have of your church, or that the Holy Spirit isn't providing the increase, it must be that python spirit strangling church growth.

Your children have become rebellious? It can't involve the spirit of rebellion or the fact that you're not paying enough attention to them or giving them proper discipline in their lives. It must be the spirit of python coming in to strangle all the joy out of your life.

You must see where I'm going with this. When we begin labeling the attributes of a python in the physical world and use those attributes to describe this spirit of puthón in the spiritual world, we're going a bit too far. Where does it end? Negative thinking, fear, depression, etc... it's all being attributed to this "spirit of python." What negative thing in a Christian's life can NOT be attributed to this demon?

I know I'm going to get some serious heat about this. Too many Christians are too invested in this teaching to stop and give what I have to say serious thought. There are Christians that I respect who are spreading this teaching throughout the body of Christ. I don't believe it's scriptural and because of that, I have to speak up. My concern can't be about how it will be received or whether people will block me on social media. Sometimes in a battle it's only you and the Lord. I've experienced that more than once in my lifetime. I know that there are others out there that just can't seem to make the connection between the story in Acts 16 and this teaching on the "spirit of python," but they are unwilling to go against the flow and speak out. That's okay. I'll do it for you.

To Recap

Here is what I believe the spirit of puthón to be:
  • It is a demonic spirit.
  • It's name is descriptive of its association with divination.
  • It deceives mankind and takes their attention off of God by promoting a different belief system.
  • It is bold, like it's master, Satan.
  • It's main purpose is to entangle people in the occult (palm reading, tarot card readings, séances, occult rituals and chants, crystal ball reading, etc... which are all forms of divination). This can lead to participation in other occult practices, like voodoo, incantations, witchcraft, etc...
  • It exhibits no other power or influence but that which is associated with divination.
    Here is what I do not believe the spirit of puthón to be:
    • It is not the cause of almost every negative thought.
    • It is not a spiritual being with the attributes of a physical reptile.
    • It does not operate in "restricting" or "choking" or "crushing" Christians in almost every area of their lives.
    Personal Experience: I have to admit that I have had experience with this demon in the past. I now know what his name is, and that's a plus. As a young Christian, I experienced the temptation of becoming involved with something that would give instant gratification... the occult. I thought about it, purchased a book on the subject, tried to make contact with ghosts (which are just demons in disguise) and even purchased and used a Ouija board (with results). The answers I received frightened me, which prompted me to repent and throw all of that demonic stuff away. This preceded what was to happen years later...

    Second Hand Experience: Twenty-six years ago, I was married. Three years later, my wife left me and the children for personal reasons that I won't get into here, except to say that she wanted to do what she wanted and when she wanted, and the family was holding her back, so she moved on. What I didn't find out until a few year later was that my wife, who was a new born again believer when we were married, had become involved in the occult. She was seeing a "witch" and was participating in tarot card readings. She eventually purchased a set of these cards for herself. From what I understand, she used them often.

    Why am I sharing this with you? Because I know from personal experience that this "spirit of python" acts just like it did in the scripture quoted at the beginning of this article. It didn't come in quietly and start squeezing and choking me, nor did it seem to have that effect on my wife. The spirit of puthón's influence made us believe that we could have power of our own and have it in this world. It was a seductive temptation that both she and I fell to at different times in our lives. It is not difficult for me to understand how this woman described in Acts 16 made so much money for her masters. 

    We fight against powers and principalities all the time. I just don't believe that this particular demon is responsible for everything that people want to attribute to it. I believe that it's function is clearly stated in scripture and that people have taken the "python" thing totally out of context and given it a meaning it was not intended to have. They have taken a spirit whose sole purpose is in protecting and assisting one who uses the satanic power of divination and has built that demon up to be more than what he actually is. 

    If I had to boil all of this down to one sentence, it would be this: The spirit of puthón is a demon of the occult that exhibits no other ability other than those associated with divination.

    Here is my hope, that either:
    • I am right and that what I consider to be a false teaching will be shown for what it is.
    • I am wrong and have somehow missed a mention of other scriptures that would reaffirm this teaching of a "spirit of python," at which point I will update or delete this article.
    If you believe that I have the wrong end of the stick, then please share your thoughts below with scripture to back up your statements. These scriptures must apply to the subject of this article. All other comments may be deleted. I know that this subject can be a divisive one, so I'm hoping we can have a calm discussion about this subject.

    If you like this article, or any of the other information on this web site, please consider following me. You'll be one of the first to be notified when I create new content! You'll find the section at the top of the right hand column on this page. It says, "Follow Tribulation Harvest by Email." After entering your email address, you may be prompted to sign in to your Google account. Thank you!!!

    Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!