Sunday, June 26, 2016

Where was Daniel?

"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, “that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; “and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”   Daniel 3:1-6  NKJV

I am sure I have mentioned before how fortunate I feel to have been raised in a Christian home and attending church all of my childhood.  I have so many memories of sitting in Sunday School and being fascinated by the stories from the Bible we were taught every week.  One book in particular which most all of us can claim to be familiar with is the book of Daniel.  The stories of his capture and being taken into the king’s court as a youth, interpreting the king’s dreams, being thrown into the lion’s den, the fiery furnace, and the handwriting on the wall are just a few which I remember.  Did I mention the fiery furnace?  Good, because as I was studying this week I learned yet again something I had never considered before, and something which affirmed my belief in the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.

As most of us probably know, the story revolves around the decision by King Nebuchadnezzar to build an image of gold and compel everyone in the country to bow down and worship before it.  Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, chose not to comply and were thrown into the furnace of fire as a punishment for their refusal to worship.  As we all know, they not only did not die, but were joined by someone Nebuchadnezzar described as looking like ”a son of the god’s”.  As often as I have read and listened to this story, however, although I had considered that Daniel was not present when it all happened, I had never really considered just why he was not and if there was a particular reason why.

As I looked into that this past week I was a little surprised to find that many believe that this was an example of Old Testament typology, or a picture if you will, illustrating  a future event.  The event they believe this story shows us is the rapture of the Church, and the trouble facing those who are left behind.  As I thought about it, it certainly did begin to make sense, especially if you look and compare what happened in Babylon with Daniel being gone and out of the picture and those left behind having to make a choice with what we are told will happen during the tribulation period after the Church is gone.

"Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."   Revelation 13:11-17  NKJV

Jack Kelley of “Gracethrufaith” describes these events in his commentary on the book of Revelation this way;

"He heads up the one world religion, and makes certain that it’s united in its worship of the anti-Christ. Building a great image of him, he uses supernatural power from Satan to give it a semblance of life and makes everyone worship it on pain of death. Because no one can tell if another person is really worshiping or just going through the motions, he devises a test. Those who are loyal to the anti-Christ and truly worship him, must agree to take a mark to prove it. It will not only demonstrate their sincerity, but allow them to participate fully in mainstream life without fear. Refusing the mark means they’ve given their heart to Jesus. If they’re caught, the penalty is death. And even if they’re not, they will face a nearly impossible challenge in just staying alive."

Am I the only one who finds this interesting?  I truly had never looked at the story of the fiery furnace as a type of the worship of the beast during the tribulation, and certainly not considered that the absence of Daniel was a type of the rapture of the Church.  This though, is why we study the Bible, and why I enjoy so much taking the time to allow the Spirit to teach.  Of course, what I also learn is that I don’t know nearly as much as I might think I do, and there never seems to be an end to just how much there is for me to learn.  What I find more interesting though is just how often the Spirit has been drawing my attention lately to the subject of the rapture of the Church.  I just can’t help but wonder.

Keep watching.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The True Gospel or a Social Gospel?

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”    Galatians 1:6-9  NKJV

Let me begin this morning by asking a question of you, the answer of which I think I already know.  My question is this; “how many of you would like to be cursed by God?”  Now like I said, the answer to that is predictable, but let me go even further.  The word in this passage for “accursed” in the Greek is anathema; a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed”.  Now speaking for myself, I am pretty sure I would do anything in my power to avoid giving God the Father any reason whatsoever for passing that sort of curse on me.  Yet unbelievable as it is, at this point in time many in the Church are doing exactly that.

I’m speaking, of course, of the resurgence in popularity of the social gospel movement which is found in so many churches today, especially those which subscribe to the emergent church model.  I have spoken about this before, but the Spirit led me this week to revisit the subject, and share a few new thoughts about where we see the church as a whole going today.  While many feel that the emergent church movement is a relatively new concept, the truth is that the social gospel they have chosen to repackage and present as new and socially relevant has been around for quite a while.

The beginnings of what we know as the social gospel movement actually began in the late 1800’s by way of a Baptist minister named Walter Rauschenbusch.  After studying theology at the University of Rochester, an institution funded by John D. Rockefeller, he began teaching and writing about a Jesus who, rather than coming to save sinners from sin, actually came to introduce a gospel which believed in social activism which would improve the world by reforming politics and introducing a universal church sharing the same beliefs.  The result was a turning from sharing the Gospel as Jesus taught, and teaching instead a gospel which believed society could change the world for good through social justice, political reform, and religious unity.

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”     2 Corinthians 11:13-15  NKJV

As I have watched what many conservative commentators have described as the downfall of our country as a result of rampant liberalism, the thought occurred to me that we could also make the case that the Church itself is on much the same path.  Although we can see the movement away from teaching about the need for repentance of sin and being born again as Jesus taught has been going on for some time, it is only lately with the appearance of churches which teach a “social gospel”, and the emergent church movement which has attracted so many, has this difference become so apparent.

“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 Thessalonians 2:3  NASB

The Greek word “apostasia” literally means to fall away, or defect from something previously believed to be true.  When speaking to the Thessalonians’ about the rapture of the Church, Paul makes it clear that many will fall away and defect from the truth of the gospel before the Church is taken away.  Since so many who choose to study the prophecies of the end of the Church Age believe we have arrived at that point in time, and the rapture could occur at any moment, should we as believers be surprised at the state of the Church in light of the apostasy Paul warned us about?

“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”   James 3:1  NKJV

What you will find in many of these emerging churches is the avoidance of teaching the Gospel as Jesus taught, and replacing it with the social gospel, which is simply the focus and emphasis on works done in the name of Jesus.  These churches choose to describe their members as “followers” of Jesus, and place a great emphasis on “doing” rather than “believing”.  These churches are filled with programs and service opportunities which satisfy the desire of their members to be busy for God, yet ignore the teaching by Jesus that belief comes before works.

“Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”  John 6:28-29  NKJV

“And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  Acts 16:30-31  NKJV

“Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  John 3:3  NKJV

“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

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”  Ephesians 1:13-14  NKJV

If you look closely at the Church today and the majority of those which could be described as subscribing to the emergent church model or teaching a social gospel, is it any wonder that the last church of this age revealed to us in the book of Revelation as the Laodician church is also one in which Jesus appears standing on the outside knocking to come in?  The sad fact is that as a result of not teaching the Gospel of Jesus as He taught it, with the emphasis on being born again as a result of believing in His sacrifice for our sin, these churches are full of what they call “Christ followers” but very few true believers.

“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”             Matthew 7:22-23  NKJV

Doing good works in Jesus’ name is what we are called to do, but Jesus made it clear that choosing to believe in Him comes first, and the works come as a result of our belief. The Word of God is clear that it is not enough just to follow, you must believe.  Do you believe?  Have you personally prayed to God and asked for forgiveness of your sins by the power of the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ?  If so, you are born again as Jesus taught, and someone who can proudly say “I am a believer”. 

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”       John 14:12  NKJV

“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  John 20:30-31  NKJV

“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  Romans 10:9-10  NKJV

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”             1 John 5:11-13  NKJV

It’s possible you are reading these words today and have never told God that you truly believe in the sacrifice He made for you by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins. If that is the case, simply pray a prayer like this; Jesus I know that I am a sinner, and have sinned against you.  I believe you loved me enough to send your Son Jesus to die for my sins, and that He rose from the dead so that I can live.  Forgive me of my sins and come into my life and help me to live for you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”                 John 6:37-40  NKJV

Keep watching.