Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting over his priceless racing memorabilia, broaches the subject of limited atonement as opposed to unlimited or universal atonement believed by a large number of Protestant evangelical theologians. To yield to the Protestant assumption of universal atonement nullifies the necessity of repentance, overcoming, and sanctifying. Atonement is indeed limited, confined to certain parameters and applies to certain conditions. The proof texts for universal atonement immediately break down when the conditions are spelled out, namely the necessity of the Father's individual calling rather than blanket salvation or amnesty for all who mention the name of Christ, whether they repent or not. The parable of the man cast out of the wedding feast for not having the right garment indicates that there are conditions for salvation. The prospect of atonement and salvation is available to everybody, but only those called by the Father—not by an evangelical altar call—are eligible. After the calling, a cleaning up process (sanctification) is needed to transform the crude clay prototype into a dazzling clone of God. People are called and resurrected in a specific order, when the Father can be sure of the maximum probability of spiritual success. Those who are called are expected to yield to God's precious law to the extent that they will be totally composed of Holy Spirit (Hebrews 8:10; Jeremiah 31:31, God's Law in action). Currently, Jesus Christ is working with a small selected group of individuals (the Israel of God, Galatians 6:16) for the expressed purpose of helping in an infinitely larger harvest during the Millennium and the Great Throne Judgment. Even though Christ's sacrifice was made at a specific historical time, the callings and atonements are made in stages, dependent upon compliance to God's standards.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that the adjective preternatural refers to 1.) something beyond nature and to 2.) something well-planned in advance, maintains that God intended the majority of human beings to be saved. When we measure the ripple effect of all the sins committed from the time of Adam and Eve until now, we realize how greatly the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is needed. The promise given to Abraham that his descendants would number more than the sands of the seashore certainly points to the requirement of a preternatural intervention. Indeed, the majority of Abraham's descendants, along with the Gentiles, have polluted themselves with lawlessness, incurring the wrath of God. Simeon recognized the uniqueness of the infant Jesus—a human whom God would prepare unlike any before Him to bring about reconciliation of mankind with God the Father, achieved through an unnatural crucifixion of a sinless Being. Jesus was the only individual equipped to carry out the project God the Father had sent Him to accomplish—equipped though His birth as a fleshly human being and through His position as the only begotten of God, having the Holy Spirit without measure. From His birth in a stable to His agonizing and unnatural crucifixion, Jesus faced persecution His entire life. Destined for the fall and rising of many, His words would pierce many, repelling as well as drawing. Because of His sinless life, Jesus' death was unnatural, abnormal, unreasonable, but all that was God's preternatural solution for the salvation of mankind.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting that we are all "cut from the same cloth" as our original parents, reminds us that God was aware from the beginning that the free will He gave us in order to develop character, coupled with our carnal nature, made us highly vulnerable to sinning—and highly vulnerable to the natural consequence of sin, death. As it worked out, all God's creation is now under the curse of sin—death. God, before He created Adam and Eve, preternaturally (that is, using forces outside those of the natural world) and meticulously planned the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to save humanity from this horrible curse. With the sacrifice of Jesus freely given to justify us initially, plus the on-going gift of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, we have the ability of overcoming and growing in godly character—growing into the image and likeness of God. Christ, until His very last breath, with clarity of thought, went forth as a willing sacrifice, not as a victim. Christ gave His called-out ones the "blueprint" of the changes needed to transform into His image. Not judging it robbery to be equal with God the Father, He nevertheless emptied Himself of His Divinity, humbly taking on the role of a fleshly bond servant, willing to accept whatever God the Father gave Him to do. On our spiritual trek, we must assimilate the same mindset, loving God with all our heart, and others as ourselves.
Mark Schindler, focusing on the seventh day, the last great day of Jesus' final Feast of Tabernacles, admonishes us to look beyond the significance of our own calling, realizing that the sacrifice of Christ was intended for all men with the hope that they also would be added ultimately to the family of God. We need to allow our Heavenly Father to infuse us with big-picture thinking, realizing that God's work is much greater than our calling, but is in fact a work enabling all of mankind to have access to God the Father. God has purposely given us, as God's called ones, the position of "trainees" as a part of the First Fruits to expedite this marvelous project. The seventh day Sabbath has always served as God's signature, a key to understanding redemption and healing. The seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles contained a traditional water ceremony, which Jesus greatly magnified, prophesying that whoever drinks of the living water (symbolic of God's Holy Spirit) will manifest rivers of living water flowing from them. . Understanding the pattern of seven, the signature of God, gives us a deeper appreciation for the God we serve, enabling us to realize that the Great God has been working to complete His plan down to the tiniest detail. From the creation of the Sabbath and the annual Holy days, including the seven Sabbaths we count to Pentecost, we see how God is working to bring all mankind into His family in systematic stages, beginning with the First Fruits and ending with a great harvest of the rest of mankind in the White Throne Period, after which God will be all-in-all. The number seven is a kind of divine motif, God's signature, a signpost for His called-out ones to build faith, whether we consider the land Sabbath, counting seven Sabbaths to Pentecost,or the 49 years followed by the Jubilee, which typifies the eighth day, contemplating a grand expansion of the family of God.
John Ritenbaugh reflecting on the curse imposed upon Satan and the enmity created between the serpent's seed and Eve, asserts that, paradoxically, this curse could be considered a blessing for those called of God, providing a practical means by which God creates character in those whom He called out before the foundation of the world. This understanding runs counter to the faulty dispensationalist theory which assumes that God, as a somewhat absent-minded tinker, must continually adjust His method of giving salvation (moving away from works to grace), making it easier and more inclusive. Dispensationalism assumes too much randomness or chance in God's plan, overlooking the intense purpose and planning of God's mind, having pre-planned or pre-destined all of us individually before the foundation of the world. Christ has full control of the church. Everything of consequence, including the development of our character, is engineered by Him; we did not find God by ourselves, but were chosen. The mystery of His plan, hidden from the world, has been revealed to the saints. The God who designed complex cells, molecules, and atoms certainly has the savvy to design a viable plan of salvation. God has had the same plan from the beginning of the world, having chosen us as the weak of the world so that no flesh could glory. The called-out church was not a passing fancy of God, but an entity which has been on His mind from the very beginning. Nothing happens randomly; God is in total control; the death of a sparrow (a rather insignificant and drab creature) does not occur without His full attention. We, like the sparrow, are undistinguished and drab by the world's standards, but given a glimpse of the mystery that God is reproducing Himself, bringing us altogether into one family in His Eternal Kingdom, at which time mother Eve's seed, from the line of Seth to the present, will be glorified.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the life of Ryan Leif, an athlete who had all the advantages, suggested that his stupidity ended up mitigating his advantages and achievements. As he started his rookie year, he fumbled and made many errors, destroying his reputation as a sterling quarterback. His subsequent life went downhill, as he succumbed to controlled substances, leading to burglary and other crimes. He sits in a jail cell in Montana, deemed a failure, down in the gutter. If we do not establish a relationship with God, we will also be failures. Thankfully, in the Great White Throne Judgment, these failures will be turned into successes if those God resurrects establish a relationship with God. Access to God is made possible only through His calling. Everyone alive has sinned; without God's Spirit, it is impossible to access God. The world will be in a debased state until the time of Christ's return, when God's Spirit will be generally available, poured out on all flesh. The Great White Throne judgment will feature a mass physical resurrection, beginning with the House of Israel followed by the rest of humanity. God will convert all of humanity from all time since the Garden of Eden. Psalms 105 and 106, considered teaching Psalms, set the ambience for this time period, expressing the yearning desire to be included in His Kingdom, and declaring God's praises to everyone, exhorting everyone to seek the Lord. We are encouraged to see God at our side through our spiritual wilderness journey, a parallel to the wandering of our forebears on the Sinai. Those in the Great White Throne Judgment will undergo the same process, but will not have Satan and a corrupt world to contend with. They will have to contend with carnal nature. Priests and Levites will be reprogrammed to do their jobs right, distinguishing between the sacred and the profane. God has always been faithful with His part of the Covenant; sometimes our forebears totally forgot His faithful providence. Psalm 106 indicates that Israel's sins eroded th
Among the Old Testament's books of wisdom, Ecclesiastes stands as one seemingly out of place: full of frustration, blunt, and even a little hopeless. However, since God is its ultimate Author, its themes are realistic and necessary for us to grasp. With this article, John Ritenbaugh begins an extended series on Ecclesiastes and its trove of deep understanding.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing on Deuteronomy 30:19-20, reminds us that we are called to a lifetime of decisions and judgments. We have problems with judging fellow brethren in different groups of the greater Church of God, of which at least three claim to be the only true church. This intemperate judgment may come back to bite the biter in a painful place. Judgments must always be open to new information; a fellow servant never falls on our judgment or estimation of him. It is terribly difficult at times to recognize the tare or to recognize the true wheat. Christ's judgments are made according to what each person has been given. We need to internalize this practice of judging and evaluating, especially regarding our brother or fellow servant. We cannot possibly know the levels of gifting God has bestowed on the other members of God's family. Just because we understand an aspect of spiritual truth does not mean that God has gifted the other member to comprehend it, or vice versa. God gifts each person as it pleases Him. God provides the hearing ear, understanding, and wisdom, both in the physical and spiritual dimensions. Not everybody has ears to hear in both dimensions. Even the converted do not comprehend the full spectrum of parable-centric teaching, often containing multiple layers of meaning. The secret things belong to God; the revealed things become our property on a need-to-know basis, only when we have developed the ability to use the information responsibly, using the mind of Christ. We have been given spiritual gifts to serve the entire congregation as they are needed.
With many "churches of God" around the world claiming to be part of or even the only church of God, the question "Is There a True Church?" is a pertinent one. John Ritenbaugh examines, not their claims, but what the Bible reveals about the makeup of God's church, especially as time draws near to the return of its Head, Jesus Christ.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: Two of history's wisest men, Job and Solomon, contemplated the possibilities of an afterlife for human beings, and both concluded that something better awaited men and women on the other side of death. ...
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that God is a working God, creating holy, righteous, divine character with the goal of recreating man in His image. From the time of our justification until our glorification in God's Kingdom, it almost seems 'downhill,' with sanctification being a difficult road. Works are not only required during sanctification, but they determine to a great degree the magnitude of our ultimate reward. We are God's creation, created for good works. As the clay, we must allow God to mold us into whatever He wants, cooperating with Him until we are fully in the image of His Son, a brand new spiritual creation. Until then, we are commanded to make life-and-death choices, with the emphatic admonition of choosing life or putting on Christ and putting off the old man. We are begotten children of God, protected within the metaphorical womb of the church, until the spiritual birth at our resurrection. We are also metaphorically a work in progress, as in the construction of parts of a building. Ultimately, all individuals who have ever lived will be judged according to the quality of their works; people will be judged according to what they do after they make the covenant with God. Works are required and rewarded.
Having a goal is a wonderful thing, but it is worthless without a plan for achieving it. John Ritenbaugh contends that Christians also need to have a conscious plan in seeking God, recommending several essential qualities that must be included in any successful course of action.
We have been called, not just to believe in Christ, but also to overcome sin, an action that takes a great deal of effort. John Ritenbaugh takes pains to explain God's act of justification and what we are required to do in response.
Peter's statement that Jesus 'preached to the spirits in prison' (I Peter 3:19) has for years baffled many a Bible student. Richard Ritenbaugh examines this verse in context, showing that the traditional interpretation is woefully off-base to the point of suggesting a totally unbiblical conclusion.
For centuries across Europe, Catholicism taught that the Jews were guilty of deicide—the murder of Jesus Christ. At various times in its history, the Church felt no compunction to ghettoize the Jews, ostracize them, confiscate their goods, and murder them. Charles Whitaker shows how false teaching like this can lead to horrible results.
After debunking the popular assumption that this is the only day of salvation, Martin Collins describes the minuscule spring harvest (the first resurrection) and the abundant fall harvest (the second resurrection), which are the respective times of calling and glorification. The Holy Spirit has the following effects or functions: It1) combines with our human spirit, bearing witness that we are the children of God; 2) impregnates us with God-life, enabling us to become heirs; 3) gives us the spirit of understanding; 4) imparts the love of God within us; 5) gives us faith (by which Jesus performed His miracles); 6) enables us to overcome, transferring us from self-centeredness to God-centeredness; 7) enables us to produce holy character, fulfilling God's purpose of reproducing Himself.
The doctrine of resurrections is one of paramount importance for the Christian. The third resurrection, however, is one that most of this world's Christianity ignores—but it is the one that shows God's ultimate justice and how He will deal with incorrigibly evil people in godly love.
The doctrine of resurrection is one of the chief teachings of Christianity. For the billions of people who have never known the truth, the second resurrection offers them an opportunity for future salvation.
Richard Ritenbaugh suggests that both the time element and the significance of the Great White Throne has been lost on most of the Catholic and Protestant world because they refuse to keep God's Holy Days. Far from being the dreadful Dies Irae, not only does judgment proceed from the throne of God, but also salvation and eternal life. There is a good, perfect balance of His severity and goodness, something a perfect judge should have. Because of His perfect holiness and righteousness, every individual will receive a "fair shake."
If God is manipulating everything in His sovereignty, why pray? What does prayer teach us? John Ritenbaugh explains why the sovereign God commands us to come before Him in prayer.
One aspect of sovereignty that causes some confusion is predestination. John Ritenbaugh explains how God's sovereignty does not remove a person's free moral agency.
The Last Great Day is the final holy day of the year, and it depicts the final steps in God's plan. After this—eternity!
Are the unconverted dead lost? John Ritenbaugh answers that there is hope for them! This part of God's plan is typified in the meaning of the Last Great Day.
John Ritenbaugh demonstrates the relationship of God's will, predestination, and choice (or free moral agency). Using the analogy of a child summoned by a parent to clean up his room, he points out that the dawdling, complaining, and other acts of disobedience are not predestined nor are they part of God's will. Acts 13:48 and Romans 8:29-30 indicate that predestination (an ordained divine appointment) is part of the conversion process. Considering our calling (I Corinthians 1:26-27) as weak, base, and foolish, we need to develop the proper humble recognition of whom and what we are in relation to the Sovereign, making choices based upon the value we place on God's love and His Revelation to us.
John Ritenbaugh insists that God does not love everybody equally. Nowhere does He tell us to prefer the world of the ungodly, adopting the pagan customs of the world's religions. Though God commands us to love our enemies, He does not tell us to be kindly affectionate to them. Though God says He is not willing that any should perish, universal salvation is not a doctrine of the Bible. The objects of God's love in John 3:16 are His begotten children who have reciprocated His love by keeping His laws, the same ones mentioned in I John 3:1. God loves His own.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the pouring out of water as a symbol of the pouring out of God's Holy Spirit during the Second Resurrection. The vast majority of people who have lived on this earth have never heard the true Gospel of God's Kingdom. God, not willing that any should perish, has a timetable, carefully calculated to allow people to receive and respond to the truth at their maximum opportunity for salvation, each in his own order. The Judgment indicates a process, requiring considerable time, a turning point, leading to a just and equitable decision. This conversion process, requiring the use of His Spirit, symbolized by water has already begun for God's called-out ones. Without the quality of life imparted by God's Holy Spirit, eternal life is not worth living.
John Ritenbaugh affirms that Jesus Christ's sinlessness was not the result of being a programmed automaton, but instead as a result of volition or choice—actively struggling against carnal pulls and temptations, enabling Him to fully empathize and have compassion on those tempted in like manner. He experienced exactly the same kind of temptations and suffering we experience, qualifying Him for the role of High Priest, bridge-builder between man and God, the same role for which members of God's called-out Family are also qualifying. Like our Elder Brother, we must learn righteous judgment by continually exercising our spiritual muscle, practicing making choices, distinguishing right from wrong, but building godly character and spiritual maturity through the enabling power of God's Holy Spirit.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon Jesus' calculation upon the time of arrival at the Feast of Tabernacles, indicates that Jesus carefully took into account many variables to maximize His effectiveness at this event. The myriad opinions of the crowd concerning Jesus were all conditioned from their perspectives and traditions, but hardly ever from God's perspective. Jesus demonstrated that the only way to learn the doctrine of God is by doing it. He also taught us to look for God not only in the extraordinary, but also in the ordinary. Jesus warns the crowd [and us by extension] that the time to seek God is now, while we still have a sense of spiritual need (or hunger) lest we permanently miss out on the opportunity. Cuing in on a water ceremony performed daily at the Feast, Jesus drew a spiritual lesson, dramatizing the need for God's Holy Spirit without measure. Amazingly, throughout these dramatic encounters with the public, Jesus had deliberately chosen a course that would lead to His death rather than to immediate power and adulation.
John Ritenbaugh suggests that Matthew, a former publican, wrote an orderly account of the Gospel easily outlined and analyzed. This account included Christ's genealogy, the circumstances of His birth, John the Baptist's introduction of Christ, Christ's presentation to the local congregation, the sermon on the mount (a collection of sayings that Matthew had collected over 30 years), the rising of the opposition (Pharisees, Sadducees, and local synagogue leaders), the installation of Jesus' personal staff (the twelve apostles), ordinary men ranging from a hated publican to a revolutionary zealot to a plain blue collar contractor, and working men, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, called not so much for their current abilities, but as to what they would become by yielding to God, much the same as it is for all of us. The commission to the disciples evolves from their preliminary marching orders to go to the House of Israel to their ultimate commission of going to the Gentiles. The observation is made that the disciples seem to appear in groups of four, with one disciple assuming the leadership position of each group. Jesus warns His disciples then and now to be aware of persecution from inside the church, the government (incited by slander and libel) and our own families. Jesus cautions us never to fear or show timidity because our lives are entirely in God's hands and He will provide us whatever resources we need to overcome and build character in our brief 70 to 80 years we are allotted to live in mortal flesh. If we remain steadfastly loyal to God, we will experience abundant life in His family and Kingdom. [NB: This series of Bible Studies from 1981-82 is incomplete.]
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