Sunday, November 29, 2015

Signs of the Times

This week, like many of you, was a week not only of Thanksgiving, but visits by family and friends.  As such, I chose to take a week away from writing but still wanted to share something with you.  Today’s post is borrowed from the Omega Letter, a website I frequent for the many wonderful commentaries it contains.  The following is from Pete Garcia, one of my favorite writers, and an extremely knowledgeable teacher. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me.

COE Part II: A Chosen Generation by Pete Garcia

Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time, a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial and made great lamentation over him.  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.  Acts 8:1-3

After Christ ascended the disciples waited in Jerusalem for ten days until the Feast of Pentecost began.  It was then that in a most spectacular fashion the promised Helper, the Holy Spirit descended upon the 120 disciples as a mighty rushing wind and upon each of them who believed as ‘cloven tongues of fire’.  They began speaking in other languages, so much so, that it began drawing attention to the rest of the Jews there that had gathered for the Feast of Pentecost.  It was then that Peter, the group’s leader stood up in the Temple area and began preaching his famous sermon, heavily pulling from the prophet Joel and began by saying…Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem…

That day, nearly 3,000 Jews came to faith in Jesus the Christ.  The Jewish Sanhedrin had thought that by publicly humiliating and brutally killing their leader, Jesus of Nazareth, that it would dissuade future converts and be the death knell to their fledgling cause.  But now that appears to have backfired and the Sanhedrin were getting desperate.  In their desperation, they sought more drastic and violent methods to quell this growing movement.  Enter Saul of Tarsus.

Saul, having proven himself worthy at the stoning death of Stephen, was on his way to Damascus to continue his work of persecuting and imprisoning these early followers of Jesus Christ.  He didn’t know Jesus Christ personally but thought the audacity of a man to claim equal power with Yahweh was blasphemy worthy death. But it was on this road that his life and that of human history would be forever changed.

Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.  Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”  Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  Acts 9:1-5

God then selected a man named Ananias to care for Saul…and for good reason, Ananias was hesitant at first.

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”  Acts 9:15-16

And suffer he did.

From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting’s often, in cold and nakedness (2 Cor. 11:24-27)

Saul, who would later have his name changed to Paul, would go on to become the biggest contributor and architect of New Testament theology.

He attributed himself as the ‘least of the apostles’, and one born out of due time but would be used by God as His preeminent spokesman to the Jews and Gentiles concerning all the major doctrines we study today.  Saul was in his former life, a Pharisee trained under Gamaliel, from the Tribe of Benjamin, and was presumably very well versed in the Hebrew Scriptures.  But what Paul came to know and teach concerning this New Testament came directly from Christ Himself.  Considering the first words that Christ ever spoke directly to him would come to shape his understanding and nature of the fledgling Church for the rest of his life.  Saul wasn’t simply attacking believers of Christ, he was attacking Christ Himself.
This Church, whom Christ Himself is building through God the Holy Spirit, was not just believers waiting on a promise.  These believers were and are the corporate, multi-membered body of Christ, of which, He is the head of.  (Col 1:18; Eph. 5:23)

The Church then is the universal body of believers, who have been baptized into this unified body, not through water, but by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13-14)  This diverse body of believers has been and is currently adding members to this corporate body ever since.  But this filling of the Body of Christ will not go on indefinitely.  There is a number and name, known by God, at which the ‘fullness of the Gentiles’ comes in.

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  Romans 11:25

Although Paul was not the first to mention the concept of the Rapture of the Church (John 14:1-3), he was the first to systematically teach and explain this mystery.  That just as the Church had a sudden and miraculous beginning (Pentecost; Acts 2), likewise it will have a sudden and miraculous ending (the Rapture; 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15).

Connected to, but different from the fullness of the Gentiles is the Age of the Church…of which we have been in for almost 2,000 years now.  It is believed by many that this was chronicled ahead of time by Christ in the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches found in Revelation 1-3.  These letters can be matched to the seven churches that Paul wrote as well as the seven kingdom parables found in Matthew 13.  These letters serve a four-fold purpose in their divine expository;

    Admonitory for all churches
    Towards individuals as well as congregations
    Due to their arrangement, spell out (or outline) prophetically, the epochs’ the Church    would transition through.

The Church as a body of believers is neither Jew nor Gentile, but a new group altogether. (1 Cor. 10:32)   But over time, who and where the Church came out of began to become less and less Jewish, and more and more Gentile.  The church began exclusively with Jewish believers centered in Jerusalem, but as Paul’s (and the other apostles) missionary journeys began to spread the Christian faith around the known world, Gentiles flocked to the light of the Gospel. (Starting in Acts 8:4-8, and 10)  An unfortunate and probably unintended consequence of the Gentile converts was that they intentionally (and unintentionally) brought in customs and rituals which over time, began to change the nature and teachings of the Christian religion itself.  By the 3rd century, Christians almost exclusively came out of Gentile communities.

Having been sacked in 70AD by the Roman legions, Jerusalem, and the temple lay in ruin and the Jewish people had been scattered.  Their misfortune seemingly served as a powerful and tangible proof to the early Christians that the Jews must be cursed.  They assumed that due to the Jew’s culpability in the crucifixion of their Messiah that they had finally fallen out of favor with God and that He was now exacting divine justice.  To the burgeoning Gentile communities within Christendom this seemed as some sort of license to carry out God’s judgment on the Jews for God.  This allowed for the errant teaching of Replacement Theology (RT) to flourish.  RT began circulating through teachers like Origen and Augustine and taught that the Jews were no longer God’s chosen people, but that the church had replaced Israel and that the Kingdom was now.

Interwoven between the geopolitical and the prophetic we see how Christ’s knowledge of things to come is outlined fairly clearly in the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches.  Twice Christ chastises those who ‘say they are Jews but lie’.  But these letters in their multi-faceted fashion, prove that they were as applicable to the 1st century believer as they are today.

Ephesus: 30-100 AD Apostolic church, chastised for having lost their first love.
Smyrna: 100-300 AD, persecuted church, told to hold fast and they will receive the crown of life
Pergamum: 300-600 AD, mixed marriage, instead of the Church going out into the world, the world comes into the Church
Thyatira: 600-Present, ‘perpetual sacrifice’ would come to represent the Roman Catholic system
Sardis: 1500-Present, the dead church of orthodox Protestantism
Philadelphia: 1700-Present, the remnant church who remained faithful to true Biblical doctrines
Laodicea: 1900-Present, the ‘luke-warm’ church of whom Christ remains on the outside asking to come in.

Whether these seven churches represent actual era’s or stages within greater Christianity still has many divided.  This author believes they do for the following reasons;

    They are placed by Christ in the book a prophecy (Rev. 1:3)
    They were to be read and understood by all the churches
    They are multi-faceted in content simply by the people Christ is addressing. 
    The fact that Revelation is largely sequential in its outline (Rev. 1:19), thus the order and arrangement of these letters are in keeping with this pattern

If this pattern is true, and the seven letters not only speak to those specific churches in 1st century Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) but also to churches of all ages, then we truly are in the last days.  Churches today have largely been relegated to the ‘irrelevant’ section of the goings on.  Thus, in an attempt to remain relevant in a world whose moral compass is spinning wildly out of control, a majority of churches are trying their best not to offend anyone.  Whether they are homosexual, Islamic, Atheistic, etc.   The Apostles Paul, Peter, and John all warn of this and stated that even in their own day;

…For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves…Acts 20:29-30

From the Apostle Peter’s vantage point, he warned of the apostate and heretics who would come;

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

From Christ’s half-brother, Jude, who later wrote that by his own day, the apostates and heretics were firmly planted;

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)

And so, it has been since then, that men and women have crept into the congregations teaching doctrines of demons and adding to or subtracting from the Word of God.
But despite the warnings and the general downturn in the world’s condition that was already foretold of it is not up to man whether the Church will succeed or fail in the long run.  Christ didn’t say that men would build His church but that He would. (Matt. 16:18-19)  The Church was known by God before the foundation of the world was laid. (Eph. 1:4)  We were to be God’s greatest demonstration of grace and mercy beginning with the sacrifice of Himself. (Romans 5:8) Although the world is sinking deeper and deeper into darkness, we need not worry about the outcome of our trials and tribulations.  Furthermore, Peter writes…

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Reason for Thanksgiving

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of My Father's hand. "I and [My] Father are one."
John 10:22-30 NKJV
A question many of us have heard asked at this time of year is “what are you thankful for’?  As believers, I am sure we all share the thankfulness of knowing our salvation is guaranteed by the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but we also have many other promises from Him to be thankful for as well.  I personally, am extremely thankful for the promise of deliverance from the evil which is to come upon this earth, the beginnings of which we can see all around us, by the rapture of the Church which will occur when Jesus returns in the air to take us home to be with Him forever.

As I watched along with you the violence of the past ten days or so, I was reminded again of the promise to deliver us, and wondered as most of us do, “how long O Lord? It was then that God reminded me of something I learned a few years ago while studying the Feasts of Israel. There is an old Jewish saying that I have read many times over the years which says simply that “coincidence isn’t kosher”.  I don’t recall when I first read that, but it is something that I have always remembered when I study the Word because of my personal belief that God intended every word, and even the very punctuation to be placed exactly where we find it.  I believe this is exactly what Jesus was referring to when He made the following statement to the disciples in what we know as the Sermon on the Mount.

“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.     Matthew 5:18  NKJV

It is because of this that I have become very sensitive to the structure of God’s Word as well as the content, and one of the things I habitually do is look to see where and when certain words are repeated in scripture and how they are used in order to better understand the meaning of what I am reading.  I recall as a parent using certain words, and often repeating them at times, when I wanted to make a point to my children in the hope that they would remember whatever it was that I was trying to convey.  I believe God has done the same thing in His Word to us, which is why I always take a closer look when I find certain words which are repeated.

Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, is considered to be one of the minor holidays in Israel, and is not one of the seven major feasts instituted by God in the Old Testament.  Yet we do find it mentioned in the New Testament in this passage from John, and when we read these verses we find that it plays a rather important part in the life of our Lord.  I have always found it curious that throughout His early ministry, Jesus seemed to go out of His way to avoid stating specifically that He was the Messiah, the Son of God.  It almost seemed as if He was waiting for a particular, appointed time to do it, and on this particular day, the Feast of Dedication, we find that Jesus was asked this very question as He walked in the temple.

Since Jesus answered this question the way He did, this was obviously the day He was waiting for. Yet it is not the fact that Jesus answered the question plainly and unequivocally that caught my attention, but rather His use of a particular word in His answer which I find not only interesting, but rather intriguing considering we know He chose His words carefully and deliberately.  You see, twice in this passage Jesus uses the word “snatch” when referring to His “sheep”.  Now as I have said, repeating a word always gets my attention so I first of all wanted to look closer at the original Greek, and also look to see if it is used elsewhere in the Word and the context in which it is used.
When I did this, no surprise, I again was reminded why studying the Word is so much fun to me.  The word for “snatch” that Jesus uses here is harpazo, meaning to seize, carry off by force, to claim for oneself eagerly, to snatch out or away.  I’m also sure most of you recognize this as the very same word used by Paul in Thessalonians to refer to the rapture of the Church.  The word rapture simply comes from the Latin translation of harpazo, and this is the event that we as believers are all looking forward to with great anticipation. 

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.                1 Thessalonians 4:16-17  NKJV
Obviously my first thought was that this is not a coincidence, but rather an intentional use of the same word.  Unfortunately though, the next step is to try and come up with an explanation as to why?  This is where most of us could probably come up with our own, and probably very different explanations.  Many have speculated in the past, however, that Hanukkah would be a perfect time for the rapture of the Church for many different reasons.  Of course, although I might agree, I also firmly believe that the rapture could occur on any given day and is not restricted to any of the Jewish holidays.  Yet the use of the word harpazo on Hanukkah by our Lord, certainly gives one pause for thought.  Is God, through His Word trying to give us a clue as to when He will send Jesus for His bride? 

As we watch the world seemingly descend into darkness, the conclusion that the rapture must be near is virtually inescapable.  How wonderful it would be for the Church to go home during this season of thankfulness and celebration of the birth of our Savior. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, and as we give thanks for all that we have, may we all remember to give thanks to God for His gift of salvation to us through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  If you have never made the decision to accept that free gift I encourage you to do so today.  Simply ask God to forgive you of your sin based on your belief that Jesus died to pay the price for your sin, and turn over control of your life to Him.  You can do that right now by praying a prayer just like this one;

"Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen."
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.     1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fake and Bake

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.   Revelation 3:14-16  NKJV

As a result of possessing skin from the “northern” gene pool, I have always had difficulty tanning, and in fact, as a result of too much exposure to the sun suffer from some skin issues which demand annual visits to my dermatologist for treatment.  Years ago, rather than listen to the laughter from my daughters because of my white legs during the summer months, I resorted to using a self-tanning lotion which they immediately dubbed “fake and bake”.  I confess it does have its limitations, but from a distance the results are better than the alternative.  As I thought this past week about the church at Laodicea, it occurred to me that the term my daughters coined could just as easily apply to people who give the outward appearance of true believers, but on the inside are desperately in need of a Savior.

Of the seven churches mentioned by Jesus in the beginning of His book of Revelation, I must confess that the church of Laodicea has been the most difficult for me to comprehend over the course of my study as a believer.  That is, until now.  You see (as I admit my age here) becoming a believer during the evangelical movement of the sixties and maturing during the Jesus movement of the seventies, I simply could not understand how a church could exist such as the Laodicean church described by Jesus.  Yet today we find the “emergence” of exactly what Jesus foretold so many years ago.

To make something lukewarm, you obviously mix together both hot and cold to arrive at a “compromise” temperature.  This is something I am an authority on since winter has finally arrived in the Northwest and my wife and I have begun our annual war over the thermostat.  The result is always the same as while both of us might not get what we want; neither of us is uncomfortable to the point of demanding a change.  As I thought about the state of the church today, and especially these words from Jesus concerning the Laodicean church, my thoughts continually returned to the words lukewarm and compromise.

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—Revelation 3:17  NKJV

A fact that many are not aware of is that the meaning of the word Laodicea is “rule of the people”.  I would think that this is probably one of the first of many mistakes this church is making in that rather than looking to God for guidance on what He expects from them, they look to themselves for approval.  Did you notice Jesus’ response to this?  “Because you say”.  How sad is it that a church can exist which simply tells itself that it is rich and in need of nothing because they are all comfortable doing what they want.  The truth is, according to Jesus, they are “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”.

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.                       Revelation 3:18-19  NKJV

Although the church at Laodicea believed it was rich and in need of nothing, it was in reality poor because the “riches” they were so confident in were of their own efforts, and not from God.  Rich in the eyes of the world, they were poor in the eyes of God as a result of the absence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in their church.  The error of the Laodicean theology is that your eternal security can be assured by simply being a “follower” of Christ.  Unfortunately, this is in direct opposition to the Word of God which states plainly that we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to receive eternal life.  The end result of this mistaken teaching is a church full of followers, but no believers.

 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.   Revelation 3:20-21  NKJV

I learned this verse as a child in Sunday School, and like many of you, have never forgotten it.  It has long been used as a tool in witnessing and sharing the good news with those who have not yet accepted the gift of eternal life, and presents a beautiful picture of the love that Jesus has for all of His children.  Yet it was quite a long time before I personally understood the context of this verse, and exactly how Jesus was using it to send a message to a church empty of true believers.  Although seemingly unaware of their need, Jesus stands at the door knocking to come in and anyone who hears and invites Him in will receive the free gift of salvation.

Have you opened the door of your heart and invited Jesus to come in?  If not, you can do that right now wherever you are.  Simply pray a prayer like this and begin a new life with Jesus, and know you will spend eternity with Him.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

We Can Overcome

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?    1 John 5:4-5   NKJV

If we consider the extent to which many believers are beginning to feel persecuted, and combine that with the turbulence we see politically, economically, socially, as well as the ever increasing geological and astronomical events, is it any wonder many believe the word “overcome” is especially appropriate?  As difficult as our circumstances may be, as frightening as events around us may seem, as tempting it might be to consider stepping back from our witness, is it not reassuring to know that not only are we encouraged to overcome, but can take heart knowing we have the promise of God that we can overcome this world because He already has.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33  NKJV

The Greek word for overcome is nikaƍ, which means literally to conquer, or to be victorious.  In other words, we as believers are encouraged by the knowledge that God has already conquered this world, and because He lives in us, we too have already achieved the victory.  As funny as it may sound, we are running a race which, by God’s grace, we have already won.  For believers, the outcome of the race before us is predetermined and this knowledge is the source of the strength we need to battle whatever this world may throw in our way as we approach the finish line.

I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.       1 John 2:14  NKJV

All too often we as believers struggle with the feeling that we are failing in our attempts to live the life that God expects from us.  When life presents us with problems or struggles or persecution and we fail to react or perform in the manner we feel would be acceptable to God we often despair that we will ever get it right.  Those feelings come because we make the mistake of focusing on the problem facing us rather than the victory we already have by the grace given to us when we first believed.  You see, we have already won because our faith is in Jesus, and He has already overcome the world.

Our final victory is already assured by the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and all who have accepted that gift are overcomers.  The word overcome, used to describe those who have made this choice, is found throughout the New Testament but primarily in the letters to the seven churches found in the Book of Revelation.  In these seven letters we find seven spiritual sins the churches are guilty of, and the overcomers are those who stay true to the gospel.  It is here where Jesus reveals the rewards overcomers will receive when the race is finally over and we join our Father in Heaven. 

The letters to the seven churches spell out seven things that believers are encouraged to overcome, and if you read them they seem to be incredibly appropriate to the world we live in today, especially as we see the finish line approaching.

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’Revelation 2:4,7  NKJV

To the church in Ephesus believers are warned not to forget their first love, which was sharing the Gospel with an unbelieving world.  This church was caught up in doing works, which while good, is not the primary purpose for which the Church was created.

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” ’  Revelation 2:10-11  NKJV

The believers from the church in Smyrna were to be tested and suffer for their faith, many to the point of death.  Although tempted to renounce their faith, they are told they have nothing to fear from death because overcomers who die in faith, receive eternal life.

“But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’  Revelation 2:14-17  NKJV

The overcomers in Pergamum were believers who stayed true to the Gospel and were not taken in by doctrines which taught practices which were unbiblical, and obviously pagan.  The sword of his mouth Jesus speaks of is the Word of God, by which all teaching should be examined.

“Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. “But hold fast what you have till I come. “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-   Revelation 2:24-26  NKJV

Overcomers in Thyatira were believers who were not taken in by teaching which tried to add traditions or non-biblical practices or works as parts of the Gospel.  Here believers are told to reject what some in the church might try to add as part of salvation, and live by faith alone.

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.   Revelation 3:1-5  NKJV

Satan’s plan for the Church has always been to weaken it by watering down the true Gospel.  Just as he did in the Garden of Eden, he attacks the authority of God’s Word and soon the church is teaching there are no absolutes. Overcomers in Sardis are those who watch for false teachings and strengthen the true Gospel.

“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.   Revelation 3:8-12  NKJV

The best promise of all is given to those overcomers of the church at Philadelphia.  These are true believers who hold fast to the true Gospel of grace through faith by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins.  Here those who have persevered are promised that they will be delivered from the tribulation period which will come to test the whole world.

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.   Revelation 3:15,16 NKJV

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.   Revelation 3:20,21  NKJV

Finally we come to the apostate church.  Rather than believers, they call themselves “Christ followers”.  Rather than teaching the gospel of grace through faith, they teach good works and service.  Unfortunately for them, Jesus tells them quite plainly that He is outside knocking to get in.  Overcomers are those who hear His knock and invite Him in.

Seven letters to seven churches and the message is, for the most part, exactly the same.  Although it is important to live our lives as a witness for Christ, and that our behavior reflect the attributes taught by His Word, overcomers are those who guard the true Gospel of Christ in a world that desperately wants to see it go away.  Satan’s plan has always been to somehow introduce false doctrines and teachings which turn people away from the true gospel of grace through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, and that has never been more evident than what we see today in the seeker friendly, Christ follower, service oriented, emergent church.

So prevalent has this apostate church become that those who choose to be overcomers and stand by the true Gospel of Christ will most certainly, in one way or another, suffer persecution for their faith.  The reason we are called overcomers is that not only must we overcome the false teachings of the church, we must also overcome the abuse we will be subjected to because we choose not to conform.  We can overcome because Jesus already has.

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.”


Keep watching.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Delusional People

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.   2 Thessalonians 2:9-12  NKJV

If you have followed the rhetoric by those of a liberal bent being directed towards Christians lately, you may have noticed that some of the terms they use come directly from the Bible.  Unfortunately for them, however, is that they fail to notice that those terms are not used in the Word in reference to believers but rather are reserved to describe nonbelievers.  You see, rather than believers being “delusional” because of their beliefs, it is the unbelievers who reject the truth as revealed by God who are described in this passage from Paul as being deluded.

In this chapter, Paul is addressing the believers at Thessalonica concerning their fear that the tribulation might have already begun.  Here Paul reassures them by explaining just what needs to occur before that time begins.  As he describes the coming of the antichrist, he makes it very clear that his acceptance will be abetted by the fact that those who remain after the rapture of the Church are here “because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved”.  The truth, according to one commentary I read, is that these people will be deceived by the antichrist because they want to believe his lies.

What we see right now, all around us are the lines being drawn between those who choose to believe the truth as God has revealed it and those who choose to reject it.  The Greek word for “delusion” is translated as a “mental straying, error, wrong opinion relative to morals or religion”.  If one chooses to believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then there should never be any question as to what to believe because the Word makes it abundantly clear what God thinks, especially as it pertains to morals and religion.  The only question before us is do we choose to accept and believe, or reject and disobey?

In the first chapter in the book of Romans, Paul explains in more detail what delusional people are like.  We are basically told that it is when a person chooses to reject the truth of God; God will then “give them up” to their choice to be “deluded”.  The Greek phrase used here means simply to allow or permit them to believe as they wish.  As one commentator put it, “people can eventually come to the place where it is impossible to believe”.  Neither you nor I know where this line may be drawn, but God does.  It is at this point that God will then “give them up” and allow them to believe the lies they have chosen to follow.  Paul describes them this way;

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;  Romans 1:18-28  NKJV

The “debased” mind in verse twenty eight is also translated “reprobate” in the King James Version, and in the Greek it literally means “unapproved, i.e. rejected; by implication, worthless (literally or morally):—castaway, rejected, reprobate” according to Strong’s Definitions (1890).  If you are like me and look around at what we are seeing today from society as a whole, and witnessing the scorn and persecution of believers beginning to make the weekly news, does it not feel as if the stage is set for the ‘delusion” to take place? Considering the extent to which many have not only rejected, but are beginning to attack those who choose to believe the truth, is it hard to understand why they will be so easily deluded by the appearance of the antichrist at the end of this age? 

When discussing the passage from Thessalonians, Ray Stedman put it this way; “However, the deception can only take root in those who do not receive the love of the truth. These people are ready for the deception of the antichrist, because they want a lie, and God will send them a strong delusion.”  This delusion will be the man of sin who deceives the whole world with his “power, signs, and lying wonders”.  People will flock to him and believe because they have already rejected the truth of God and want to believe the lies the antichrist has for them.

Paul makes it very clear that these people have no excuse.  It is not that they don’t know of God, but rather that they have seen and chosen to reject. Now you tell me, who do you believe is truly delusional; those who have chosen to believe the “love of the truth” or thosewho exchanged the truth of God for the lie”?  This world may well be full of delusional people, but according to God, it’s not His believers.

Keep watching.