New book casts doubt on Joseph Smith’s alleged visions

If Christians believe the risen Jesus appeared to the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, why shouldn’t they accept Joseph Smith’s claim that this same Jesus appeared to him in New England in 1820?

This is the central question Robert M. Bowman Jr. addresses in Jesus’ Resurrection and Joseph’s Visions: Examining the Foundations of Christianity and Mormonism. It’s a question worth exploring across the pages of this well-written and carefully documented new book.

Bowman, widely regarded as the leading evangelical scholar addressing Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness interpretations of the Bible, is well qualified to examine the evidence – both the claims of the apostle Paul and of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Bowman approaches his study using evidence and reason – evidence meaning factual information that provides objective support for a particular conclusion, and reason meaning the use of methods of drawing conclusions from available information.

This is a fair-minded approach upon which skeptics and true believers may agree. It holds both the Bible and the Latter-day Saints’ additional scriptures (The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants) open to the same levels of scrutiny. In the end, Bowman shows that Paul’s claims to have seen the resurrected Jesus are well-grounded in evidence and reason; Smith’s claims of seeing Jesus are not.
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The Father is God

This is the 13th in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available by contacting the MBC or through Amazon and other booksellers.

There is little dispute among professing Christians that our Heavenly Father is God. This is true even among the most prominent forms of counterfeit Christianity.

For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the deity and personhood of Jehovah, whom they identify as the Father, even though they deny the doctrine of the Trinity and embrace unbiblical views about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints profess belief in Heavenly Father, or Elohim, whom they worship as the god of this world, although he is one of a multitude of gods and potential gods.

These doctrinal distinctions highlight the importance of defending historic Christianity. If we fail to understand the Father correctly, and if we miss the clear teachings of Scripture with respect to His relationship with the other members of the Godhead, then the biblical doctrines of creation, redemption, and restoration suffer as well.

As Robert Morey writes, “The notion that all religions worship the Father just under different names is an idea totally foreign and antithetical to the Bible. Only the Trinitarian can truly worship God the Father because only the Trinitarian worships the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
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What does it mean to be regenerated?

This column is excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available from Amazon and other booksellers.

Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings a sinner from spiritual death into spiritual life. While Christians may disagree about such issues as the relationship between regeneration and baptism, or whether regeneration precedes faith, it is biblically faithful for a follower of Jesus to say, “I am regenerated.”

While the Greek noun palingenesia appears only twice in the New Testament (Matt. 19:28; Titus 3:5), the concept of regeneration, or new birth, is a consistent theme of Jesus and the New Testament writers. Jesus makes it clear that people must be “born again,” or “born of the Spirit,” if they are to see the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3, 5).

The work of the Holy Spirit, making an individual a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), prepares that person for the future work of Christ as He creates “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Pet. 3:13). All those the Spirit regenerates are assured a place with Christ when He refurbishes the cosmos, purging it completely of sin and its stain.

Regeneration is necessary because the Bible describes unbelievers as the walking dead. Not only are they spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), but they are depicted as natural / without the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14); blinded in their minds (2 Cor. 4:4); bound by Satan (2 Tim. 2:26); alienated from God (Eph. 4:17-18); enemies of the Lord (Rom. 5:6-11; Col. 1:21-22); condemned in their unbelief (John 3:18); and in spiritual darkness (Acts 26:18; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9).

Regeneration is a one-time, non-repeatable act by which the Holy Spirit enters the dead human spirit of a sinner and makes him or her spiritually alive. Regeneration also is permanent. That is, a person whom God foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies cannot lose the gift of regeneration without losing all of the associated links in God’s golden chain of redemption.
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Seven promises in Revelation 22 (Conclusion)

There are at least seven promises given to us in Revelation 22 that confirm Jesus’ victory over Satan, sin and death. These promises also assure us that all the effects of the Fall are reversed in Christ’s finished work and the salvation He has provided for us by grace through faith.

In the previous post, we looked at promises 1-4. We conclude our brief survey now.

Promise No. 5: Light (v. 5)

Before creation there was darkness (Gen. 1:2), but God, who is light, brought light into the universe. Just as darkness is the absence of light, so evil is depicted in Scripture as darkness because it is an absence – perhaps more accurately, a shunning – of God’s holy presence. Eternal separation from God is called “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12).

While Jesus suffered the wrath of God for the sins of the world there was darkness over the whole land (Mark 15:33). Unbelievers love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). Jesus came to deliver us from darkness (John 12:46). Darkness is associated with Satan and his kingdom (Acts 26:18; Rom. 13:12; Col. 1:13).

But in the New Jerusalem there is abundant light; in fact, there is no need of the sun, moon or stars, or of any artificial light, because God provides light for us. Why is this light promised to us? Because Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12).
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Seven promises in Revelation 22 (Part 1)

There are at least seven promises given to us in Revelation 22 that confirm Jesus’ victory over Satan, sin and death. These promises also assure us that all the effects of the Fall are reversed in Christ’s finished work and the salvation He has provided for us by grace through faith.

In this regard, we should view Revelation not merely as a book of frightening – and often confusing – imagery, but as a book of warm and assuring promises about God’s sovereignty over human affairs and angelic conflict. In the end, we who read, hear and heed the words of this prophecy are indeed blessed because we know the God who created all things is faithful.

Promise No. 1: Living water (v. 1; see also Rev. 21:6; 22:17)

There was a river in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10) that served as the source of four other rivers. But when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden they lost access to this pure source of water and drank from streams now affected by the Fall. A person may live for up to 40 days without food but only three days without water. The body itself is made up largely of water, so water is essential to life. Jesus often spoke about water as an image of eternal life supplied by the Holy Spirit (see John 4:10-14; 7:37-39).

In the New Jerusalem, we see a river of pure, living water flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life may drink freely from it. Ezekiel also had a vision of pure water in the glorious future temple (Ezek. 47:1-12; see also Zech. 14:8). This living water depicts the Holy Spirit who inhabits the human spirits of believers but is cut off from unbelievers (Rom. 8:9).
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