Is the ‘Scarlet Thread’ doctrinal or a religious lie?
“I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” 1 John 2:21 KJV
Are there multiple plans of salvation throughout the scriptures or only one? Those who study the Bible carefully can clearly see that God has dealt with man differently during different ages, or dispensations. Those who cling to one plan of salvation, however, often recite or make reference to the ‘Scarlet Thread’ that they say ‘runs all through the Bible’. Now this sounds good, but is it doctrinal? Let’s take a look.
The Scarlet Thread
The scarlet thread teaching originates from Joshua 2. Two spies had been sent to Jericho in advance of the Israelites’ taking of that city. The spies were hidden in Jericho by Rahab the harlot, who expressed her faith in Israel’s God and protected the spies (Hebrews 11:31 KJV). Rahab allowed the Hebrew spies to escape from Jericho by letting them down through her window by means of a rope made of scarlet thread. As they departed, the spies told Rahab, “thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee.” (Joshua 2:18 KJV), with the promise that she and her household would be kept safe in the coming invasion. By faith, Rahab obeyed: “And she said, “According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.” (verse 21).
Non-dispensationalist claim that while it’s easy to dismiss the color of Rahab’s rope as mere coincidence, the scarlet thread color is significant. They claim that the rope in her window was a “sign” of her faith and led to her salvation, as she was not destroyed with the rest of Jericho. The scarlet rope—the color of blood—worked for Rahab much as the blood of the Passover lamb had worked during the exodus, which becomes a symbol of the blood of Christ. Non-dispensationalist often refer to this as “the scarlet thread running through the Bible.” By this they mean that the Bible’s theme is Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for the redemption of mankind, “the blood of Christ runs throughout the entire Bible”.
However, the problem with this interpretation is that:
- In context, the scarlet thread is only a reference to saving Rahab and her family’s physical lives
- To apply this doctrinally promotes both Calvinism and Mormonism heresies as Rahab’s actions also accounted for her family’s “salvation”
- Neither Rahab nor her family were redeemed to go to Heaven when they died.
- There is not mention of the promise of Christ’s crucifixion anywhere in the passage.
Therefore, is the “One Plan” of salvation teaching doctrinal?
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” 2 Tim 3:16 KJV
Is the Scarlet thread teaching a true doctrinal reference to only ONE plan of salvation throughout the scriptures? Observe the following:
Using the law of first mention, where a doctrine is mentioned for the first time and to study the first occurrence of the same in order to get the fundamental inherent meaning of that doctrine, let us compare and contrast the first occurrence in scripture when sinful man accounted for acceptance or rejection with God (Cain & Abel), vs church age acceptance or rejection with God today.
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” Genesis 4:3-7 (KJV)
Cain & Abel – acceptance or rejection of God based on THEIR works (1 John 3:12 KJV)
Church age today – acceptance or rejection based on receiving Jesus Christ (John 1:12 KJV)
Cain & Abel – acceptance or rejection of God based on the righteousness of THEIR works (1 John 3:12 KJV)
Church age today – acceptance or rejection based on receiving the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-22 KJV)
Grace & Faith:
Cain & Abel – acceptance or rejection of God based on grace through faith in an animal sacrifice COMPLETELY OF THEMSELVES (1 John 3:12 KJV)
Church age today – acceptance or rejection based of God based on grace through faith in Christ Jesus and that NOT OF OURSELVES (Eph 2:8-9 KJV)
Permanent forgiveness of sins:
Cain & Abel – None (Heb 10:4 KJV)
Church age today – accomplished IN Christ (Colo 1:14 KJV)
Things that are different are not the same. Salvation in Cain & Abel’s time period was not identical to the churches in acceptance, righteousness, grace, faith, or in forgiveness of sins with God; how is this so if there is only ONE plan of salvation throughout the scriptures?
Did the OT Saints understand and preach salvation through future observation of the Scarlet thread?
“For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.” Isaiah 28:11-12 (KJV)
Another teaching that’s often pushed by most Non-dispensationalists is that salvation through Christ death, burial, and resurrection was always known and preached by several OT Saints. Any serious student of scripture would know this is not so. The OT Saints did not have a complete written revelation like we today have preserved in the KJV. Isaiah did not know the name of Jesus Christ when he prophesied in Isaiah 53, neither was the the gospel of the grace of God made known during Christ’s earthly ministry:
“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” Deuteronomy 19:15 (KJV)
WITNESS #1: The Lord Jesus Christ
“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” Luke 18:31-34 (KJV)
WITNESS #2: The Apostle Paul
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (KJV)
WITNESS # 3: The Apostle Peter
“Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” 1 Peter 1:12 (KJV)
The Scarlet Thread is great when preached as instruction in righteousness and the Biblical study of types; but to doctrinally teach that the Scarlet thread was observed and trusted by OT Saints throughout the scriptures is simply a religious lie. On the contrary, the doctrinal application of the Scarlet thread proves that salvation in the OT is not the same as salvation in the NT.
References: Got Questions
Jimmy Randolph is a veteran, husband, father, Bible believer and a devoted student of the word of God. He was called to preach on the street in 2012, and maintains a strong, personal tract witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.