The Rod: Will God Spare It? Second Edition. By J.D. Faust. Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing Co., 2003. 454 pp. Paper. $22.00.
What happens when a Christian sins? Depending on the nature and extent of the sin, a Calvinist would say that the Christian is not a Christian at all—he was not saved to begin with as evidenced by the fact that he did not persevere in holiness until the end of his life. Similarly, an Arminian would say that the Christian lost his salvation because he did not persevere in holiness until the end of his life. Others would say that since Christ has forgiven our sins already that nothing happens—there is no future recompense. Still others would say that once a Christian obtains a certain level of spirituality or receives the second blessing or gets the anointing, etc. that he no longer actually sins. Most readers of this publication are premillennialists who would agree that even though a Christian is eternally secure, he should strive to live a holy life and avoid sin, that a Christian can suffer the consequences of sin and receive chastisement from God in this life, that all Christians will give an account of themselves at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and that at this judgment, a Christian can receive rewards or suffer loss. J. [Joey] D. Faust, the pastor of Kingdom (formerly Refuge) Baptist Church in Venus, Texas, and the publisher of a weekly e-mail newsletter (The Kingdom Alert) is a premillennialist who takes the Judgment Seat of Christ a step further—quite a bit further.
The Rod: Will God Spare It? is Faust’s “exhaustive study of temporary punishment for unfaithful Christians at the Judgment Seat and during the Millennial Kingdom.” This is actually the third edition of this book. The first was a “trial balloon” with the slightly different title of Will God Spare the Rod? The (true) second and third editions differ in many ways from this “pre-publication edition.” The differences between the editions of The Rod: Will God Spare It? appear to be slight. Most noticeably, there is an additional entry in the glossary, the general index is a little different, and a Scripture index has been added.
The occasion of the book is the increasing number of complacent, worldly, carnal, rebellious, sinning Christians who, knowing that they are eternally secure, live their life in such a manner because they have no “accountability truth” that they must give an account of themselves to God and face the possibility of not only missing the millennial reign of Christ, but being slain by God at the Judgment Seat of Christ and banished to hell to suffer punishment for the duration of the millennium—only to be restored at its end. According to Faust, the disobedient and unrepentant Christian is ultimately secure, but will not be “raised to everlasting life” until the Great White Throne Judgment (p. 153). It goes without saying that Faust considers most people to hold a defective view of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The book can basically be divided into three parts. Faust builds his case slowly in the first twenty-four short chapters. The first chapter introduces the reader to the “accountability truth.” This is followed by a digression of four chapters that examines antinomianism, Calvinism, Arminianism, future rewards, and the chastisement of Christians in this life. In chapter Six, the prospect of chastisement at the Judgment Seat of Christ is introduced. From there Faust introduces the concepts of “kingdom exclusion” (chap. 8), “the Christian’s temporary prison” (chap. 10), “death at the Judgment Seat” (chap. 13), “temporary soul death” (chap. 14), “hurt of the second death” (chap. 15), “passing through the fire of God’s judgment” (chap. 16), “banishment to the underworld” (chap. 17), “the prize of the first resurrection” (chap. 18), “millennial incarceration” (chap. 20), “the millennial book of life” (chap. 21), and “the reward of eternal life” (chap. 23). The missing chapters are digressions that do not introduce any new “accountability truth.”
The second part of the book is a lengthy chapter on “Objections and Questions Answered.” But in addition to answering what he perceives as potential objections, Faust introduces other details of his “accountability” system: Some Christians in 1 Thessalonians 4 will not always be with the Lord (pp. 249-56), some Christians in 1 Corinthians 15 are not raised to immortality (pp. 257-62), some Christians absent from the body will not be with the Lord (p. 274), and the teaching that God will perform a “preliminary judgment” on Christians before the Judgment Seat of Christ (pp. 275-76).
The third part of the book consists of three chapters (totaling almost 100 pages) containing quotes from men like George Peters, Robert Govett, J. R. Graves, G. H. Pember, Oswald J. Smith, Robert Ketcham, William H. Griffith Thomas, Philip Mauro, I. M. Haldeman, Hudson Taylor, J. A. Seiss, Watchman Nee, Robert Neighbor, D. M. Panton, and assorted Church Fathers on “accountability truth in history.” No evidence is presented that any of these men taught exactly what Faust believes, but there is no question that many of them did teach some of what Faust believes. Of course, many other premillennial writers could be cited to the contrary, and all amillennialists and postmillennialists could gather their own quotations in support of their position.
The most objectionable thing about Faust’s “accountability truth” is that “every Christian must therefore come into contact with the fire that issues out from before the Lord’s throne” (p. 155). He bases this on a misinterpretation of “the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor 3:13). Instead of every Christian receiving “the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10), Faust has the fire trying the Christian himself “when he walks across it before the judgment throne of God” (p. 162). It is “the unfaithful Christian man himself that shall be literally burned” (p. 161). This being “cut asunder” (p. 128) by fire is being “hurt of the second death” (p. 171). The Christian is then punished further in “the fiery prison of the underworld” (p. 179). In reply to the charge that this teaching sounds like purgatory, Faust responds that the “Biblical truths of millennial exclusion and millennial chastisement were perverted into Rome’s monstrous Purgatory” (p. 90). To disagree with how he applies certain Scriptures, is to be labeled a Bullingerite or hyper-dispensationalist (pp. 76, 266).
Just what does a Christian have to do in order to not be raised with a body sufficient to abide the fire of the Judgment Seat of Christ? Faust responds: practice “disobedience and sloth” (p. 143), “practice rebellion and unfaithfulness” (p. 215), “walk in the flesh” (p. 247), and perform “unfaithful deeds” (p. 161). And what does a Christian have to do in order to participate in the “selective resurrection” (p. 197)? Faust responds: “suffer with Christ” (p. 72), “abstain from practical iniquity” (p. 80), “abstain from sin in the first place” (p. 251), and “fear, hope, and strive until the end” (p. 243). But he also says that if a Christian sins “willfully” he will receive future judgment (p. 251). In fact, “one willful sin (worthy of exclusion) after salvation makes us worthy of temporary soul death” (p. 209). But alas, Faust never tells us what a sin of this nature consists of.
One thing he does tell us, however, is that if Christians “repent” (pp. 2, 23, 100, 143, 158, 171, 182, 183, 215, 218) or “confess their transgressions and seek mercy in fear” (p. 284) in time, then they will be safe; that is, every Christian will not “receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).
In addition to these problems, The Rod: Will God Spare It? suffers from too many assumptions: Paul wrote Hebrews (pp. 136, 176, 251), the sea of glass (Rev 4:6) is the lake of fire (p. 146), the “much sorer punishment” (Heb 10:29) is the second death (p. 143), suffering for Christ is suffering against sin (p. 260), overcoming is exercising “practical holiness” (p. 187), fighting the good fight (1 Tim 6:12) is “keeping the reward of the millennium in the forefront of our minds” (p. 226), the joy of the Lord (Matt 25:21) is the millennium (p. 80), Hades and Gehenna are the same place (p. 112), to walk in the flesh means to suffer for Christ (p. 73), the beasts (Rev 5:8) represent “some Christians who will be translated alive before the tribulation” (p. 37), the book of life (Rev 3:5) is the “book of practical righteousness and millennial life” (p. 214), and so on.
On a minor note, some of the footnotes and parts of the Bibliography are incomplete, the unnecessary spaces between paragraphs make the book appear longer than it is, and Scripture references in parentheses are spelled out instead of being abbreviated.
One other teaching of Faust that is strangely omitted from the book (except for a veiled reference in the glossary [p. 413]) is the doctrine of the selective rapture; that is, all Christians are not raptured together at one time—the most faithful ones go up first. Faust apparently believed that this teaching would unnecessarily turn people away from “accountability truth.”
Aside from calling attention to the serious nature of the Judgment Seat of Christ, the book is at best a curiosity. It is recycled Pember, Lang, Govett, and Panton with some additional twists that will further drive people away from real “accountability truth.” By inventing a Protestant purgatory, it is Faust who holds defective views on accountability truth. Believers are accountable, but secure now and forever.
Laurence M. Vance