Sunday, January 18, 2015

Any More from Heaven?

       The dictionary is a book with authority. If two persons have a disagreement about the meaning of a word, the dictionary has the power to settle it, because its definitions have been approved by language authorities. But one can see how the authority of the dictionary has been extended, enlarged, and changed over the years. A current dictionary has more words than a dictionary from a hundred years ago. The meaning of some words today is different than a century or two ago. The dictionary never seems to be complete, and it doesn’t remain current for very long. It must change as language changes.
     Unlike the dictionary, the Bible does not change with time, nor does it lose its authority or power. God said He would protect His Word so that no one could harm it. David said that God’s Word is settled in heaven forever (Psalms 119:89), a place where neither moth nor rust can cause damage, nor thieves can break in and steal (Matthew 6:20). This does not mean the Bible will only be preserved in heaven, because what good is God’s Message if man cannot have access to it here on earth? No, God also keeps His words safe here on earth from generation to generation. Today we have the same words God gave to holy men hundreds and thousands of years ago, and we can read them, and study them, and live by them. “Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever” (Psalms 12:7). Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

     Although God revealed his will progressively over thousands of years, there came a time when He had said everything He needed to say to man. In the last book of the Bible, He says that if anyone dares to add to its words, or take away from them, He will punish him with terrible plagues, and take away his salvation (Revelation 22:18, 19). This is a terrible sin to commit. Since Revelation was the last book of the Bible, this meant there would be no more books, or chapters, or verses, or words to be added.
     The Bible declares that God’s Word is perfect and complete. It has all that man needs to please Him, and live an abundant and victorious life. Second Peter 1:3 is one such verse: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” Another one is 2 Timothy 3:16-17: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
     The abundant life declared in these Scriptures is not just a nice thought, or an experience reserved for “super” Christians. This is for every single Christian who believes God’s Word and obeys it (Romans 3:22).  Isn’t this wonderful! God made sure the Bible had everything we needed today! However, we must not receive the words of the Bible as the words of men, but as what they really are—the Word of God. “Ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Ephesians 1:19 says that God’s mighty power will work with “exceeding greatness” in us if we believe.  The Bible that we hold in our hands today has enough power to change us and give us life abundant if only we believe it!
     While today the modern Christian counselling movement has sadly influenced many to believe that the Bible does not have all the answers we need to have an abundant Christian life full of joy, the Apostle John tells us that the things he had written were able to give us full joy (1 John 1:4). God said it. Do we believe it?
     The Bible shows us further that from the start God has given us through His Word everything we needed to withstand Satan’s temptations, and remain standing at the end of our trials. Read about the armour of God in Ephesians 6. There we find that God has already provided us with a complete armor. If we wear the whole armour of God, we will “be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” and “to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (verses 11 and 13). What more do we need? If God was able to make all grace “abound to every good work” for the early church believers (2 Corinthians 9:8), can He not do the same for us today? Sure He can, and He does! We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!
     Therefore, God will not add any more content to His Word. He will not give us any further revelation than what He has already given us in the Bible. Unlike our dictionary, the content of this Book does not need to be changed or modified. In fact, it is the other way around. We ourselves must be changed and sanctified by it: “[Christ gave himself for the church] that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26). Do you believe without a shadow of a doubt that God’s Spirit will use the Bible, and only the Bible, to cleanse you from every uncleanness and sin in your life if you are willing? Nothing else can do this for you.

What Is Adding or Taking Away?
     We tend to think that adding or taking away from Scripture only means adding or omitting words from the Bible. But it actually begins before that. Following the illustration in the introduction, how does a dictionary get modified? First, a group of people change the meaning of a word, and use it frequently in their speech. Next, other groups of people adopt it, until finally, the vast majority of people use the new meaning. This is when language authorities consider modifying the dictionary, because the new meaning has become so widespread.
     Something similar happens with God’s Word. When a person receives extra-biblical[1] information through a vision, a dream, or from an angel, it does not get added immediately to the Bible (that would be too obvious!), and seldom does this happen. It is spread to others by word of mouth, broadcasted through the radio and the TV, printed in books and magazines, and preached across the pulpits. But the fact that some Christians have visions, or receive messages from angels does not mean God has been communicating with them. Matthew 7:22 declares that hell-bound people can prophesy, cast out demons, and perform miracles. Many people in both Christianity and pagan religions receive messages from the spirit world, but that does not mean they come from God.
     The Bible says clearly, “If he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Corinthians 11:4). There are three “anothers” here. The second and third “another” mean another kind (Gr. heteros) of spirit and gospel (e.g. different as in an apple and an orange). The first “another” means another of the same kind, which looks identical in many ways (e.g. another as in an apple and another apple). False teachers preach a Jesus who, at first sight, is identical to the real Jesus. The only Jesus we must follow is the Jesus of Scripture.
     Galatians 1:8 pronounces a curse on anyone, even an apostle or an angel from heaven, who preaches any other gospel. The verse can also be translated as follows. “Though we or an angel from heaven preach a gospel besides (Gr. para; as in parallel) that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed”. Therefore, a parallel gospel or word from God means extra-biblical revelation that agrees with Scripture! An example is when Satan tempted Jesus. He actually quoted Scripture word for word, but it stood for another parallel gospel meant to deceive. This should not come as a surprise, because “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
     Another example of this is the demonized man Jesus encountered in the synagogue. Evil spirits had revealed to him things that were true and agreed with Scripture. He said, “I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God” (Luke 3:34). That a vision portrays something that is true is not proof enough that it comes from God. The same applies to extra-biblical revelation that agrees with Scripture.
     Someone asked this question: “If the Devil only quoted Scripture, would you allow him to preach over your pulpit?” What did Jesus say to him? “Get thee hence Satan”. All this teaches us that we should not only reject extra-biblical revelation that disagrees with Scripture, but also reject that which agrees with Scripture. We are warned to contend for the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), lest we fall under God’s curse. It’s not speaking of a faith given to the saints once upon a time, but a faith that was delivered once and for all. No more revelation is needed.
     Suppose someone would say, “But this doesn’t mean we can’t receive other revelations from God, besides the Bible. We simply may not add them to the Bible” However, this seems to defeat God’s purpose for prohibiting additions to the Bible. God has given us all the instruction we need to find His will, and live a godly life. And to accept any extra-biblical revelation would be to deny the sufficiency of Scripture, and undermine the finality of biblical authority.[2] Dare we say that, while we may not add revelation to the “Bible” itself, we are free to publish it in another book on the side? Of course not; that would be absurd. God condemns all extra-biblical revelation. Claiming any further revelation as divinely inspired opens the door to the awful influence of deceiving spirits, and puts us dangerously close to the curse of Revelation 22.
     Are we in any way limiting God by saying that He does not give any further revelation? Not in the least. We must simply limit ourselves to what God has said in His Word.

Ways of Adding or Taking Away
     We know that adding or taking away from Scripture can mean altering the words of the actual Bible, as when a translator adds or omits words from it. But, as we have said a few paragraphs before, it can also happen when people accept and spread extra-biblical revelations that disagree with Scripture, as well as agree with Scripture.
     The obvious manifestations of adding or taking away are when people receive dreams and visions, or hear voices that teach things that disagree with Scripture. We may wonder who would fall for this type of deception. But surprisingly, there are many sincere believers who follow a Charismatic type of persuasion that actually believe this way. Some say they don’t worship the Book, that the voice of the Spirit is greater than the Bible, and that we shouldn’t limit God by a book (i.e. the Bible). In these circles, leaders caution people not to think too deeply and not to read the Bible. Amazing, but true! It is sad that so many sincere people are ensnared by this, and are in danger of God’s judgement.
     Other ways of adding or taking away can be more subtle. It can take the form of sincere believers, and even children, receiving dreams and visions that depict scenes in Heaven, Jesus, and concepts that do not necessarily contradict Scripture, but are not revealed in Scripture. This would fall into the category of extra-biblical revelation that seems to agree with Scripture. But as we have seen, this also is condemned by God. The Bible says that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). Many are the things that could arise from human imagination or demonic suggestion that do not appear to contradict revealed truth, but cannot be proven or disproven. God deliberately chose to limit revelation, and gave us everything we needed to have life abundant. He does not reveal any more, because He has revealed all that is necessary.
     Furthermore, at a public level, and in a more indirect way, adding or taking away can occur when preachers, teachers, and authors twist Scripture to fit their own desires and lifestyles, and teach a gospel that suits the whims of their audience and readers. It happens when religious people refuse to take a stand against false doctrine, and ignore Scriptures that convict them of sin.
     It can also happen at a personal level. When an individual knows he is living in sin, or holds to a false idea, in essence, he can add or take away from Scripture, by ignoring or twisting the Bible where it doesn’t agree with his lifestyle. But the Bible condemns this very harshly:
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).

Why Do People Add or Take Away?
     In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, God teaches us that a time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine. They will seek out teachers that will teach them exactly what they want to hear, and will not listen to the truth. They will turn to fables, or myths (muthos). And they will do this because of their own lusts. Evil desires are a very common reason why Christians turn away from the truth, and accept twisted teachings and false gospels. This is why they turn to made-up stories about Creation, the nature of man, sin, Heaven, and many other things.  Friends, this is happening today, and in our circles!
     Many Christians allow themselves to be in a tough predicament. They know that the Bible condemns current extra-biblical revelation, but they also sense the sincerity of those who have had them[3]. This becomes more apparent when the subject is a child. We assume that a child is innocent and sincere, and will not be touched by Satan. And understandably so, it is difficult for us to grasp why God would allow Satan to influence or possess young innocent children, but Scripture is clear that these things do happen. One example is found in Matthew 17:18. But we must not be deceived by Christian sincerity or childhood innocence. In Matthew 7:22, those who appeared before God said they had prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and even performed miracles in His name. But God said, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity”. Sincerity and miracles do not prove that something comes from God.
     Another reason for accepting extra-biblical revelation may be simply a lack of faith. When we don’t believe that God carefully inspired His Word so that today we have everything we need to live a godly and victorious life, then we will tend to look for other things that make us feel more spiritual or more blessed. We will start to believe that seeing miracles or visions of angels and Heaven will increase our faith. But the Bible doesn’t say “blessed are those who experience miracles or see Jesus”; rather, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

     Not unlike the dictionary, the Bible is a book with authority. Each and every word in the Bible is what gives the Bible its authority. Its pages are full of different statements that speak to many subjects in life. It also contains repeated statements meant to give God’s words proper weight in their place and context in Scripture. Taking away any words, even repeated statements, is condemned by God. Likewise, adding any words, even if they agree with Scripture, comes under God’s severe judgment. The canon of Scripture is closed. Therefore, while the dictionary needs to be constantly updated, the authority of God’s Word is complete. We must only believe it in order for it to have power in our lives, for there is no more revelation from Heaven than that which has been given us in the Bible.
     “Unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2). May we be among those who mix God’s Word with faith, and someday will hear His blessed words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).
-E.S. Gutwein

[1] Not to be confused with valid present-day used by God to encourage His children and show them His love and care. By extra-biblical revelation we mean additional information from the spirit world that apparently gives new insights not found in Scripture, claims to confirm details already revealed in the Bible, or gives personal instructions to people. And also, not to be confused with natural revelation (Romans 1:20).
[2] Very recently, it has been reported that Alex Malarkey, from “The Boy That Came Back from Heaven,” recanted the stories found in this book written by his father. One of the teenager’s statements were: “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.” (“Setting the Record Straight,"
[3] The reality of these occurrences is not denied. These things happen—for real! Of course, some are common hallucinations, but others are true revelations from the spirit world. And there can be many logical causes: anesthetic drugs, extreme fatigue, high fevers, lucid dreams, demonic influence, demonic possession, etc. 

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