Peter Ruckman:The Big Flap and the Rod

I share Peter Ruckman’s belief that the Authorized Version is the inspired Bible (Scriptures) in English. There have been thousands (mainly among the common people), who have believed this truth before Ruckman (for example, see William B. Riley’s, “The Menace of Modernism,”1917). An increasing number of fundamental Christian teachers have moved toward this position in recent decades; some, because of Ruckman’s writings; others, in spite of them.

In 1984, Peter Ruckman wrote an article called, “The Big Flap.” It does away with the “rod of God” for unfaithful Christians at the Judgment Seat of Christ by giving the warning passages in Matthew, Hebrews, and the Book of Revelation entirely to TRIBULATION believers. In this article, he writes:

“Of all the Biblical truths which we have printed in 57 books, through a period of 24 years, the most objectionable to the modern ‘Fundamentalist’ is the Biblical doctrine of a faith-and-works setup in the Great Tribulation (Daniel’s Seventieth Week) which does not match the faith-and-grace setup found in the Church Age in the Body of Christ. No Biblical doctrine was ever labeled ‘heresy’ as much as this one, especially by Baptists and Charismatics. Of course no rebuttal is given….First, how is one to explain the fact that over 500,000,000 professing Christians (Catholic, Lutheran, Methodists, Anglicans, Holiness and some interdenominational groups) have always believed that a Christian CAN ‘lose’ salvation when only two groups (historically) believe that they COULDN’T (Baptists and Presbyterians)? Are we to assume that 90 percent of the professing Christians, including John Wesley, Francis Asbury, Henry C. Morrison, Peter Cartwright, Bob Shuler, Sam Jones, and their converts, had no scriptural BASIS or scriptural GROUNDS for their belief?”

In 1995, I corresponded with Peter Ruckman. I showed him that some of the greatest premillennial Bible teachers (whom he has praised in print), have found another way to explain the warning passages to believers WITHOUT having to teach his new heresy of ETERNAL salvation through faith and WORKS for the MAJORITY OF BELIEVERS IN HISTORY (i.e. the OT age, the Tribulation age, the Millennial age). I showed him that the warning passages refer to where the Christian will spend the Millennium (the prize). This leaves salvation in eternity (the gift) to be free through faith alone, while leaving plenty of room for the warning passages. He refused to debate the issue in public, saying (in his customarily, abrasive manner), that I was not ready to debate such a topic, and that he was too busy.

I spent the next few years studying the Scriptures, and gathering further documentation from 2000 years of PREMILLENNIAL HISTORY proving that we do not need to invent an ENTIRELY NEW DOCTRINE that NO ONE HAS EVER TAUGHT BEFORE. I do agree with Ruckman that neither Arminianism, or Hyper-Calvinism, can harmonize and rightly interpret the Scriptures. However, the entire history of premillennialism is filled with the doctrine that MANY Christians will not be present with Christ during the Millennial glory, who nevertheless remain eternally secure. These Christian teachers are divided concerning WHERE the banished Christian spends the Millennium. Nevertheless, a good number have taught that the unfaithful Christian spends the Millennium in the underworld.

I wrote to Ruckman in 1995, and said: “Your theory is based upon a preconceived opinion taught to you by tradition.” He responded by writing (among other things) : “That tradition has never been taught.” Therefore, Ruckman claims that he is the ONLY one that has straightened out ALL of Christendom for almost 2000 years concerning the warning passages. And he does so by teaching that Matthew, Hebrews and the Book of Revelation, teach salvation by faith and WORKS, and a possible loss of eternal salvation.

Bullinger is the “soil” out of which Ruckman’s new heresy has sprung forth. This was the “tradition” which I was referring to. It is hyper-dispensationalism. There are varying degrees of this teaching. Ruckman does not deny water baptism for this age. But in other ways, he goes beyond Bullinger and the other hyper-dispensationalists.

By removing the present-day Christians from the commands, promises and warnings of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels, much ROTTEN FRUIT results in Christian CHARACTER. This was documented years ago in H.A. Ironside’s, “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth.” Here is Ironside’s testimony in 1938 concerning the fruit of hyper-dispensationalism:

“Having had the most intimate acquaintance with Bullingerism as taught by many for the last forty years, I have no hesitation in saying that its fruits are evil….it has lifted up its votaries in intellectual and spiritual pride to an appalling extent, so that they look with supreme contempt upon Christians who do not accept their peculiar views….So true are these things of this system that I have no hesitancy in saying it is an absolutely Satanic perversion of the truth….It is affirmed with the utmost assurance that the Gospels are wholly Jewish….In view of all this, may I direct my reader’s careful attention to the solemn statement of the apostle Paul, which is found in 1 Timothy, chapter 6: ‘If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the WORDS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself….Notice, Timothy is to withdraw himself from, that is, to have no fellowship with, those who refuse the present authority of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ….If a man refuses these words, whether on the plea that they do not apply to our dispensation, or for any other reason, the Spirit of God declares it is an evidence of intellectual or spiritual pride. Such men ordinarily think they know much more than others, and they look down from their fancied heights of superior Scriptural understanding with a certain contempt, often not untinged with scornful amusement, upon godly men and women who are simply seeking to take the words of the Lord Jesus as the guide for their lives. But here we are told that such ‘know nothing,’ but are really in their spiritual dotage, ‘doting about questions and strifes of words.’ The dotard is generally characterized by frequent repetition of similar expressions. We know how marked this symptom is in those who have entered upon a state of physical and intellectual senility….The word-sick man over-estimates altogether the importance of terms. He babbles continually about expressions which his brethren scarcely understand. He is given to misplaced emphasis, making far more of fine doctrinal distinctions than of practical godly living. As a result, his influence is generally baneful instead of helpful, leading to strife and disputation instead of binding the hearts of the people of God together in the unity of the Spirit.” (Ironside, “Wrongly Dividing The Word of Truth”)

Ruckman’s doctrine teaches that there is no direct, doctrinal application of the commands and warnings of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels and in the Book of Revelation to present-day believers. This branch of Ruckmanism grounds believers in the true Bible, but then blocks the direct, doctrinal application of MOST OF IT in the realm of moral commands and warnings. Paul said the “fruit” of such teaching would be, “strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings…” (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

On the other hand, Kingdom Exclusion (i.e. the doctrine that unfaithful Christians lose the Millennium, not eternal salvation) has brought forth MUCH FRUIT in the early martyrs, in the Chinese Christians under Communism (influenced by Watchman Nee), and in scores of missionaries and Bible teachers.

In the latest issue of Peter Ruckman’s, “Bible Believer’s Bulletin,” (April, 2003, Vol. 27, No. 4), Ruckman decided to publish a “review” of my book “The Rod: Will God Spare It?” Ruckman never states that he has even READ my book. And it is obvious by his unbelievable statements, that he simply doesn’t know what he is talking about concerning my book, much of premillennial history, or this doctrine of Millennial exclusion.

Ruckman begins by writing:

“As the shades of night rapidly fall on the close of Laodicean apostasy (Rev. 3:17), it is accompanied by ‘appropriate literature’ that is ‘timely’ for the audience to which it is given…”

The reader is supposed to believe that in an age which ABHORS the doctrine of spanking children, executing murderers, and any accountability IN GENERAL, it is “Laodicean” to tell a bunch of Christians (who are so immersed in the world that they brag of reading “Mad” and “Crack” magazines, etc.), that they can be temporarily PUNISHED in TERROR at the Judgment Seat of Christ and BANISHED from His Millennial Kingdom if they are found to be unfaithful by the Lord!

Yes, the reader is to believe (in this age of psychological pampering and Robert Schuller “love”), that the teaching that a Christian needs to REALLY fear God in regard to the Judgment Seat of Christ is LAODICEAN! Have a nice fantasy. It is the LAST thing this age of Christianity desires to hear.

Ruckman continues: “The latest fruitloop to write a book wrote to me several years back, and like most ministerial rejects, he was trying to find him his ‘place in the sun’ by taking on ‘the fastest gun in the west, etc.”

Children learn in basic Sunday School that we should not absolutely judge the hearts of people. This is what ELIAB did to David:

1 Samuel 17:28…..I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.

Ruckman ASSUMES that my motive for sending him some sermons that I had preached on the Judgment Seat in 1995 (to which he chose to respond), was NOT because I was filled with SORROW that the King James Bible movement was being associated (in part) with Ruckman’s heresy that it is POSSIBLE for a man (in certain dispensations) to be eternally saved through faith and WORKS.

Ruckman writes: “He actually was so anxious to disprove ‘Ruckman’s teaching’ on faith and works in the Tribulation that he converted the entire Bible into a Baptist textbook for Bible believing Baptists in the Body of Christ.”

The TRUTH is that Ruckman’s name is only mentioned one time in my 411 page book, and that is in footnotes! And it is a generic quote from a HISTORY book he wrote. Ruckman’s DOCTRINE is not even mentioned ONCE. My goal in writing this book was to present to Christians the proof that there is a Biblical way of understanding the warning Scriptures that they have probably never even heard of before, and that this view has been taught abundantly in history by some of the most well-known, PREMILLENNIAL DISPENSATIONALISTS.

Ruckman writes: “Those who slipped [on the fire before God's throne] would spend 1,000 years in the Lake of Fire.”

Here we get to the proof that Ruckman either did not read anything in my book but the Table of Contents, or else, there are other serious problems. I teach in my book that the fire before God’s throne (see Daniel 7:10) is first used to try God’s own people (“judgment must begin at the house of God”). There is never one place in my whole book where I state that ANY Christian will spend 1000 years in the Lake of Fire, let alone be in there with the Beast and False Prophet! I teach that every unfaithful Christian will spend 1,000 years in the underworld (not the Lake of Fire). There is a whole chapter in my book called, “Two Phases at the Judgment Seat,” which any child can read and see what I plainly teach. For example, on page 173, I write:

“First there will be the ‘stripes’ before God’s throne; secondly there will be a ‘casting’ into the underworld when the throne descends down to earth.”

Again, on page 180, I write: “One might wonder how disobedient believers get from the Lake of Fire to the underworld. After the judgment is finished, angels will gather up all of the unfaithful Christians who were tried and slain before the throne.”

It almost appears that Ruckman has not even seen my book, but is simply writing his review based on another, unscholarly review he has read. Notice some more evidence.

Ruckman writes: “Now, you would have to see this depraved, psychotic mess to believe it.”

We are not yet convinced that Ruckman has SEEN it. If he has seen it, he needs to READ THE BOOK before he takes it upon himself to review it.

Ruckman writes: “If you will read the list of ‘fellow truth’ scholars you will find that not ONE major source he listed indicates the scholars would think of believing such a thing: the list includes Cotton Mather, Oswald Smith….”

First, COTTON MATHER is not even IN MY BOOK! The name “Mather” is found once in the book as an introductory quote at the head of a chapter, and the quote is from INCREASE Mather. The quote reads: “Certainly, new discoveries of old truths ought not to be branded with the odious name of novel opinions.” Yet, in the Table of Contents, I give an entire list of people who believed that not all Christians would reign or even be with Jesus in the Millennial Kingdom. There is no “Mather” in the list.

Secondly, notice again Ruckman’s statement in full: “If you will read the list of ‘fellow truth’ scholars you will find that not ONE major source he listed indicates the scholars would think of believing such a thing: the list includes Cotton Mather, Oswald Smith, Paul Rader, Robert Ketchum, George Lange, Philp Mauro, Jessie Penn Lewis, Isaac Haldemann, George Pember…Polycarp….Since not ONE MAN cited ever mentioned being ‘cut up’ at the Judgment Seat of Christ or having his soul ‘killed’ or spending 1,000 years in the Lake of Fire….”

Notice my words which Ruckman leaves out, in order to set up his straw men:

“In the previous chapter, we noticed some great premillennialists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries such as G.H. Pember, Robert Govett, S.S. Craig, Watchman Nee, D.M. Panton, G.H. Lang, A.G. Tilney, etc. that clearly embraced and confessed both millennial exclusion and a temporary Hell for unfaithful believers….Some of the other writers mentioned in the previous chapter simply stated that they believed in millennial exclusion in the same manner as some of these influential men. (Perhaps this was an easier way to refer to such controversial truth in public.) Others simply stated that they believed the First Resurrection and the millennium were conditional for Christians; we may never know where exactly many of these writers placed the disobedient Christian during the Thousand Years. Yet, such excluded Christians must reside somewhere! This present chapter will document many of the writers that believed in selective-resurrection and/or literal chastisement at the judgment seat, who were born before 1800. These earlier premillennialists were usually less clear concerning what exactly happens to the unfaithful Christian when excluded from the millennium. Perhaps not many would have advocated a temporary Hell; yet, practically every premillennialist during this period advocated millennial exclusion/selective resurrection! To save space, only a sample of these will be listed. As we make our way to the ancient premillennialists of the first few centuries of the Christian era, the doctrines of temporary Hell and chastisement at the judgment seat will again come prominently into view!” (Introduction to chapter 28 of “The Rod: Will God Spare It?”)

Therefore, in review, Ruckman wrongly states that I believe that unfaithful Christians spend 1,000 in the Lake of Fire. I have never written such a thing or believed it. Secondly, he invents a name that is not even in my list. Thirdly, he leaves out disclaimers such as you find above. And finally, he fails to tell you that ALL of these people did teach Millennial exclusion. And some taught exactly what I teach.

Ruckman quotes Pember’s name and denies that he teaches a Christian can be banished temporarily to Hell (underworld). Any person can immediately test Ruckman’s “scholarship” by looking at “Pember” in my index and then looking at the quotes himself! Or, if he doesn’t trust my ability to read and type, Pember’s works are reprinted and still available today (Schoettle Publishing, 706 896-3333).

Here is some biographical information concerning Pember from my book:

“G. H. Pember is best known today for “The Earth’s Earliest Ages” (1876). It predicts the rise of Theosophy (i.e. Christianized occultism) in the last days. At one time, Pember was recognized around the world for his writings on Bible prophecy:

‘G. H. Pember was a noted teacher of scripture in the latter decades of the nineteenth century in Britain. He gave special attention to interpretation of prophecy in relation to history, both ancient and modern.’(“The Witness”)

“One of the most valuable expositions of prophecy ever published. It is written in a popular and interesting style, and handles with masterly discriminating, scholarly research, and eloquent description the principal prophecies of the Bible.”

(“The Prophetic News”)

“…one of the best Bible scholars in Great Britain.” (Wilbur Smith)

Even Charles Spurgeon (who was never quick to approve of prophetic studies) was inclined to call Pember’s “The Great Prophecies” an ‘investigation of prophecy in an intelligent manner, with a calm and judicial temper.’ (S&T, 1882)”

Notice the following quotes from Pember, as found in my book:

“Surely, if they leave the world fully justified, but incompletely sanctified, it follows that they will be hurt of the Second Death, though only temporarily….” (Quoted on page 143 of “The Rod”; From George H. Pember, “The Great Prophecies Of The Centuries Concerning The Church,” London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1887; reprint, Miami Springs: Conley & Schoettle, 1984, 114-115)

“Those servants of the Lord who shall be found to have been faithful will be judged worthy of the First Resurrection, and will immediately be made Priests of God and His Christ, and will reign with Him for a Thousand Years….But the unfaithful servants will be banished into the darkness without the pale of the Kingdom, where they will be detained, and dealt with according to the sentence of the Lord, until the Last Day. Then, when the time of reward has passed by, He will raise them up to everlasting life…but can it be that children of God will, in any circumstances, need literal cleansing fires for the completion of their sanctification? Believers as a body repudiate such a suggestion: they have never been taught, that those who are saved by the Blood of Christ can possibly have anything to suffer after the close of the present life….If, then, there be any logical sequence in the pas-sage, THE SALTING MUST TAKE PLACE IN HELL. And, since the Lord is here dealing with the faults of believers, what can the salting with fire mean but the burning away of corruption?…the Second Death is nothing less than the Lake or Fire and Brimstone…Surely, if they leave the world fully justified, but incompletely sanctified, it follows that THEY WILL BE HURT OF THE SECOND DEATH, THOUGH ONLY TEMPORARILY; for the life of Christ is in them, and must finally vanquish the power of death….Of course, when we speak of the sanctification of the overcomer as not having been completed, we have no thought of absolute holiness in our minds, but only the standard which God has appointed for attainment in this present life….” (quoted on page 342 of “The Rod”; from G.H. Pember, “The Great Prophecies Of The Centuries Concerning The Church,” vol. 4, Conley & Schoettle, 1984, 104-105, 110-111, 114-115)

Now, how do we explain the fact that Ruckman is unable to look in the Table of Contents of the book he is reviewing and read “George Hawkins Pember” and SEE FOR HIMSELF what the man obviously believed? Is this a case of denial? Only God knows. Concerning G. H. Pember, Ruckman has written:

“No man who read the works of PEMBER, Weiss, Newell, Larkin, McClain, Peters, or Roy Kemp on Revelation would have any trouble in grasping 85% of the book in one reading.” (Ruckman, “The Book of Revelation”; The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series)

I certainly agree. But I wonder if Ruckman has read much of Pember or Peters? Both have been reprinted. G. N. H. Peters believed in a partial rapture, and was much closer to my position than Ruckman’s. And Pember (like Govett, Fry, Watchman Nee, Craig, Tilney, and other premillennial greats) believed as I believe on the Judgment Seat and the Millennial Kingdom. Furthermore, one must confess that the entire body of writings from premillennial Christians of the first three centuries either taught full-blown Arminianism, or they taught exactly what I am teaching. Tertullian states that the early martyrs “prayed to have part in the first resurrection.” He also writes: “We do confess that a KINGDOM is promised to us upon the earth….After its thousand years ARE OVER, within which period is completed the resurrection of the saints, who rise, sooner OR LATER according to their deserts, there will ensue the destruction of the world….”

Polycarp writes: “…into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that ‘by grace ye are saved, NOT OF WORKS,’ but by the will of God through Jesus Christ….But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, IF we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, falsewitness; ‘not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,’ or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what THE LORD SAID IN HIS TEACHING: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged; forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy….IF we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, ‘we shall also reign together with Him,’…In like manner, let the young men also be blameless in all things…[for] neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the KINGDOM OF GOD….”

In these earliest Christian writings, the “Kingdom of God” refers to the MILLENNIUM (see 1 Corinthians 15:24). For example, notice these words from Irenaeus, a pupil of Polycarp (120-205 A.D.):

“Therefore we should not be puffed up…. But we should beware lest somehow, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins but rather be SHUT OUT from HIS KINGDOM (Heb. 6:46)….For what are the hundred-fold [rewards]….? These are [to take place] in the times of the KINGDOM, that is, upon the SEVENTH DAY, which has been sanctified, in which God rested from all the works which He created, which is the true Sabbath….For AFTER the TIMES OF THE KINGDOM, he [John] says, ‘I saw a great white throne, and Him who sat upon it, from whose face the earth fled away, and the heavens; and there was no more place for them….”(“Against Heresies”)

My book is filled with Scriptures and quotes showing the great number of Christians who believed in Kingdom Exclusion. Many of these believed that the PLACE of temporary exclusion is Hell, or the underworld. My teaching is not new. It originates in a plain reading of the Scriptures, and it has brought forth great fruit in history. However, Ruckman’s teaching that the Lord’s words to disciples in Matthew and the Book of Revelation, etc., have no direct, doctrinal application to modern Christians, and that salvation can be gained through works in certain dispensations, is certainly new. And the very Bullingerite soil in which this new teaching originated is historically known for the rotten fruit of harsh judging of hearts and motives (evil surmisings), railings, etc. I will let the reader judge whether or not Ruckman’s character also fits this description.

Response to Larry Vance’s Review of “The Rod:”

Vance’s review makes too many UNSUPPORTED accusations. It does avoid the bombastic tirades of many detractors. It is Vance that has assumed that the warnings in the Pauline Epistles are DIFFERENT than the warnings to believers in Matthew, Hebrews, Jude, Revelation, etc.