Monday, August 31, 2009

Closer and Closer

My apologies for being late with this post, but I traveled to California for a wedding this past week and was unable to post on schedule. Hopefully things will return to normal this week. Until then, there are as always more developments in the Middle East that we should be aware of. I'm sure by now if you follow my blog you are aware of my opinion that the next major conflict with Israel will be the events outlined in Isaiah 17, and that those events will most likely be initiated by Israel's attempt to deal with the Iranian threat. I have included some links to news reports from last week which give indications these events are much closer than many believe. Keep watching.

updated 9/4/09 *****,0,7428703.story

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shook Up About Missing the Boat?

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Thess. 2:1-2 NASB

So it would appear that last weeks blog attracted just a little more attention than others, which leads me to believe it's obviously a subject of interest to most of us who are anxiously watching for the day. With that in mind I thought I would share my thoughts on another portion of scripture that, though well known, is sometimes misunderstood if not examined closely in relation to the context in which it was written. I'm talking here about the second letter written by Paul to the church at Thessalonica.

To do this, I'm going to use a tool I came up with that I use when I study the scriptures. I call it the rule of three w's. What, why, and whow. ( Yes, I know, whow is misspelled but it's easier to remember the rule of three w's than two w's and an h! Remember I teach high school students; it works, trust me. )

So what is the problem in the church at Thessalonica? Paul tells us immediately in verse 1 that the subject of the letter is about the rapture ( parousia ) of the Church when Jesus comes to take us home to be with Him. Then, according to verse 2, Paul says they were "shaken" and "disturbed". This is one of those times where I think it's really important to look closely at the meaning of the words Paul uses. Shaken is saleuō in the Greek and means "agitate" or become "insecure" in mind. Disturbed is throeō in the Greek and means "clamor" or "tumult". So the picture Paul gives us is that the believers in the church are in an uproar, really agitated because they have become insecure in something they believed, but now have doubts about, and obviously it has to do with the rapture. Paul then identifies the reason at the end of verse 2 when he refers to someone claiming by "spirit, message, or letter" that the day of the Lord had already come.

This brings us to the why question. Why were they so shook up? This is the part I think gets missed most often when studying this passage of scripture. They were shook up because they had been told by someone that the tribulation had already begun, and they had missed the boat! They were still on earth! This passage is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. You see, if Paul hadn't taught the pre-tribulation rapture, these folks wouldn't be all shook up now would they? They were in an uproar because they were under the impression Paul had taught them wrong, or they had done something wrong to get left behind. You see, at the time of this letter, the Church was undergoing persecution from Rome and it was easy for people to believe that the bad things they saw happening all around them fit the picture of events that take place during the Tribulation. Unfortunately, all it took to shake them up was someone to suggest that their belief in the pre-tribulation rapture was wrong. So it's up to Paul to set them straight again.

Whow does Paul go about doing this? Simple really. He just reviews the main points he taught about Jesus' return when he started the church, and then later in his first letter. What Paul chooses to "re-teach" is this. One, he differentiates between "the mystery of lawlessness" and "the man of lawlessness". The mystery of lawlessness is the evil in this world produced by Satan and his angels. The man of lawlessness is the coming world leader, or anti-christ, who will be revealed at the beginning of the tribulation. Paul makes the point that although evil forces were at work already, they are being held in check by "he who now restrains".

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains {will do so} until he is taken out of the way. 2 Thess. 2:6,7 NASB

We know that Paul is referring to the work of the Holy Spirit, alive in the hearts of believers today, and I like how Paul gently reminds these believers that they too "know" what is restraining. Paul goes on to say that even though the works of evil were occurring, the man of lawlessness had yet to appear, and could not appear until the Church had been "taken out of the way".

How often do we too need to be "reminded" of what we have already been taught, yet somehow begin to forget or doubt? I know I'm guilty of that, so I sure can't get down on these poor folks. I'm sure there are plenty of believers today who may be in the same position those in the church at Thessalonica. We see all the terrible things going on in the world around us, events we know are the signs Jesus said would occur at the end of the age, and I'm sure there are those saying we have already entered the tribulation period. But you know something, we can't have entered the tribulation because as Paul so simply said, the church is still here!

Evil is present, but so are we; the Church, the body of Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that we are as close to leaving this world as we can possibly be. If you find yourself in the same position as those believers back then, the best advice I can give you today is the same advice Paul gave the church in Thessalonica:

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word {of mouth} or by letter from us. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. 2 Thess. 2:15-17 NASB

Keep watching. Today may be the day.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Don't Forget the Pre in Pre-Tribulation

a prefix occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, where it meant “before” (preclude; prevent); applied freely as a prefix, with the meanings “prior to,” “in advance of,” “early,” “beforehand,” “before,” “in front of,” and with other figurative meanings (preschool; prewar; prepay: preoral; prefrontal).

"For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think {He will.} Matthew 24:44 NKJV

As I have had the opportunity to teach about what the Bible has to say on the subject of the end of this age, I often hear the same questions which in turn tells me many are confused about the same things. One of these concerns the timing of the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation.

I am one of many who hold the position that the Church is taken away to be with the Lord prior to the beginning of the Tribulation. Those who believe this are called Pre-Tribulationists, as they believe the Church is raptured Pre-Tribulation. The questions I most often hear regarding this position reflect an interest in knowing how far in advance of the beginning of the Tribulation the rapture may occur.

The answer to that question is simply there is no way to know because God chose not to reveal the specific time He would send His Son to take us home. This resulted in what is called the Doctrine of Imminence, or the belief that Jesus could return for His Church at any time as there are no biblical requirements or preconditions to be met before the Rapture. Jesus did, however, go into great detail about what the world would be like, and events that would take place, immediately preceding the start of the Tribulation.

What I have found lately is that because so much time has passed between the teaching by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, and the obvious occurrence of many of the signs Jesus told us to watch for, a school of thought has begun that the Rapture of the Church will occur on the same day the Tribulation begins. This then, allows for the possibility we may know when it will occur because there is plenty of evidence to suggest the Tribulation will begin on one of the Feast Days appointed by God for the nation of Israel. Obviously, because the Fall Feast Days are quickly approaching, speculation is rampant that the Rapture is going to occur on one of these days.

Now let me quickly add that it is entirely possible this may happen, and personally, as a result of my studies of the geopolitical relationships and events in the Middle East right now, I can see the Tribulation beginning very very soon indeed. If the Tribulation were to begin in September on one of the Feast Days, it would not surprise me in the least. But this leads me to the point I want to make as reflected in the title of this post. Let's not forget the "pre" in "pretribulational".

so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, {right} at the door. Matthew 24:33 NASB

We obviously are seeing many of the signs that Jesus told us to watch for, and this means, as He said, He is right at the door. All He has to do is get the ok from the Father, and He can open that door and take us away to be with Him. "Pre" means before, and considering the events that Daniel tells us occur at the beginning of the Tribulation, it seems logical that the Rapture of the Church could well be the event which puts in motion others resulting in the enforcement of the covenant which starts the Tribulation period. The Rapture may not precede the Tribulation by much, but I think it reasonable to believe it does not occur on the same day the Tribulation begins.

God, in His great mercy, has delayed the rapture so as to offer the gift of eternal life to as many as He could. Our responsibility while we watch is to tell as many as we can about the future of this world, and the salvation available to all who believe. Even more so as we see the signs of His coming before us, and the knowledge that our time here on earth is rapidly coming to an end.

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Matthew 24:42 KJV

Join me in being "on the alert" and "watching". Today could be the Day!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Agony of Waiting

I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.
Psalms 69:3 KJV

How do you cope with waiting? We live in a world that embraces and often demands instant gratification, so it comes as no surprise that even believers have difficulty waiting. Yet when we study the scriptures, a reoccurring theme from God is often our need to wait upon Him! Obviously God in His wisdom has decided there are lessons to be learned from waiting, since I'm sure most of us have cried out much as David did that we are weary from waiting. But are we alone in this? Look at what Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans.

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body. Romans 8:22,23 KJV

Why does the entire creation groan? No doubt because of the changes brought about by the fall in Genesis where even the shape of this world was altered by the introduction of sin. Notice that Paul is telling us here that both nature and man are waiting for the exact same event; the return of Christ!

I have noticed lately that many believers are becoming weary from waiting for the return of the Lord for His church. Although we as believers know without a doubt that what we are seeing today are the labor pains leading up to our Lord's return, it is still difficult to watch what is occurring all around us, and patiently wait for His return. I'm sure I'm not the only one to notice a recurring theme in the headlines lately. Look at these examples from just this past week.

Demonstrators disrupt health care forums...
Democrats: 'Angry mobs' out to 'destroy Obama'...
It's real anger - not 'manufactured'...
Opponents of Healthcare Plan Take Glee in Democratic Anger...
Conservatives blame liberal union for town hall violence...
Protest against Obama’s health care reform continues...
Right-wing protest over President Obama’s Health Bill ends in violence...

Is it no wonder we find it difficult to wait upon the Lord? We watch as our nation experiences anger, protest, and even violence. Yet that it what is expected of us as believers, so I think it important that we should be looking for some of the reasons God asks this of us. I would like to share just three ideas I have about why we as believers find ourselves in this situation right now.

One: We are being prepared to fully appreciate eternity with our Lord.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB

The more we must endure down here increases the joy we will find when we finally experience the glory of life with God in the place He has prepared for us. The longer the wait, the stronger the anticipation and the greater the appreciation.

Two: We are being strengthened with power from above which allows us to complete the tasks He has set for us here.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 KJV

We know what is expected of us here on this earth, and it should come as no surprise that the opportunities to share our faith will increase dramatically as the end draws near. In a way, you could say this is our time to shine, and God has promised to give us the strength necessary to succeed.

Three: We are to be living examples of His faithfulness.

For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations. Psalms 100:5 KJV

I have three daughters who are grown and living on their own now, and one of the lessons about life that I often have an opportunity to share with them is God's faithfulness. Of course I have to explain to them it's easier for me because I am a little older than they are (okay, a lot older) but having experienced more examples of God's faithfulness makes it easier to accept whatever situation I find myself in. I simply remind them of the situations in their past when they were in agony about waiting for something, yet God always came through. In these situations God demonstrates His faithfulness to us, and also through us so others can see.

At times, waiting can be agony. I won't deny that and neither will you. I am so ready for Jesus to return, but He isn't here yet and we are being asked to wait a little longer. How long? I have no idea, but it certainly doesn't look like it will be much longer until the labor pains will be over and we will be delivered to glory with Him, and the world to tribulation. There are reasons to making us wait. Look to God for strength, and be busy making the most of the opportunities we have in the short time we have left.

Keep watching.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Apostasy and The Emerging Church

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.Let no one in any way deceive you, for {it will not come} unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
2 Thes. 2:1-3 NASB

What is "apostasy"? It is simply a falling away or retreat from the gospel that was taught by Jesus, and the instructions given to us in the Bible. Now that seems to be something that most people would think could never happen. Christians abandoning the precepts taught in the Bible? Yet some of the largest and most popular churches in America today are doing exactly that; rejecting or trying to reinvent the teachings of the Bible. What I find truly amazing, though, is that few recognize this is not a new tactic by Satan to attack the Church.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?
Gen. 3:1 NKJV

I find it interesting that Satan's first attempt to introduce sin into the world was to cast doubt upon God's own words. Yet here we are, how many thousands of years later and Satan is doing the very same thing, only changing the wrapping on the present so to speak. What believers find today are either purpose driven churches which ignore large portions of the Bible which reveal a different portrait of God than the one they want to see, or the Emerging Church movement,which by their own admission, says Christianity needs to be "reinvented", re imagined, and reconstructed to appeal to the world today. But under the guise of becoming more appealing to people of other faiths, they are in essence laying the foundation for the one world religion of the Antichrist. Am I the only one who thinks these people are in essence saying God got it wrong in the first place? Sort of like, " thanks God, but we will take it from here and make it better"?

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.For 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 Cor. 11:3-4 KJV

Obviously God knew full well as we approach the end of this age, believers would in fact begin to follow false teaching by the the pastors we should be able to trust. Why is this? Two reasons. One, Satan knows we want to hear what we want to hear.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
2 Tim. 4:3 NASB

Two, all too many believers would rather trust what they are taught, and not put forth the effort to do their homework and study the scripture to make sure that the teaching they receive is in accordance with scripture. This allows Satan to do his work by corrupting some who teach.

For such [are] false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore [it is] no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
2 Cor. 11:13-15 KJV

So where does that leave those who desire to be genuine followers of Christ, worthy to be known as "Christians"? I think the answer might be in what Paul called the "simplicity" of Christ in the passage above. How is it simple? Let me share the way I have chosen to teach the gospel to youth during my ministry over the years.

One thing I have found all high school age kids have in common is their desire to get a drivers license. I was no different, and have personally been a car nut since I was 16. I have even been fortunate to have owned a few "rods" over the years. So why do I bring that up? Because Jesus taught about cars. Really. CARS

C. Confession. The first thing we need to know is our responsibility to confess our sins before God.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 NKJV

A. Acceptance. Secondly, we need to accept the gift He has given us, and ask Him to come into our lives.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
John 1:12 NKJV

R. Repentance. Third, we must repent of our sins, which means not just saying we are sorry, but turning away from them and attempting not to repeat them.

The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, [fn] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2 Pet. 3:9 NKJV

S. Sanctification. This is the process of growth we strive for in trying to become more like Christ in our daily lives with the help of the Holy Spirit.

But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,
2 Thess. 2:13 NKJV

Now maybe you think that is an overly simple way to present the gospel, but I truly believe God never intended salvation to be complex. There is no reason to try and change what the Bible teaches just because we don't like it, or are uncomfortable with it, or think we can make it better. After all, what did God say through Paul and Silas?

So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Acts 16:31 NKJV

Watch out for those who try and reinvent the simplicity of the Gospel.