Sunday, October 15, 2017

Keep Watching



For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  2 Timothy 4:3-5  NKJV

Why are we still here?  You would not believe how many have asked that question now that the predicted days of our departure have come and gone.  The signs appeared, speculation was rampant, and still we wait upon the Lord.  I am certainly as disappointed as anyone that the rapture has not yet occurred, but I refuse to be discouraged.  Yet many are, and for this reason I thought I would repost a column I wrote back in January of this year in the hope that you would be “encouraged” and not “discouraged” that God has seen fit to tarry.

Standing on the Promises of God

So 2016 comes to an end and the Church is still here.  If you are a watcher like I am, I am sure you are more than aware of all of the failed dreams, visions, and predictions of the past year that claimed we would be gone by now.  Something I learned as a small child and something I am equally sure most of you have learned by now is that the greater your expectations are, the more disappointed you are when it doesn’t come to pass.  As believers, our hope and expectation is in the Lord and the rapture of the Church to be with Him forever in our heavenly home.  Yet although the signs are all around us we finish another year still here on this earth struggling with our feelings.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that there are three steps leading downward we need to avoid at all costs, and by understanding what they are we can begin to maintain our perspective and better cope with the situation we find ourselves in as we wait patiently for our Lord.  It would appear to me that Paul might have been dealing with this in his letter to the church at Philippi, and his advice to them certainly seems to me to provide us some help while struggling with our feelings as we watch and wait.

Disappointment

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.    Philippians 3:20-21  NKJV

Paul’s first reminder to the church is that we have a promise from God that Jesus will return to take us to heaven, the place prepared for us to live for eternity with Him.  When we accepted His gift of eternal life, we became citizens of heaven and although we may be living on this earth right now, it is but temporary and we have a promise from God Himself that we need to remind ourselves of daily in order to avoid the disappointment which can come from our having to wait.  This earth is not our home, and we need to focus on His promise rather than the disappointment of still being here.

Discouragement

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.    Philippians 4:4-7  NKJV

Have you found yourself becoming discouraged by having to wait so long for our deliverance from this world?  Have you considered that discouragement is one of Satan’s best weapons against believers who choose to watch for Christ’s return?  Disappointment, if left unchecked, leads directly to discouragement.  Have you ever noticed that inside of the word discouragement is the word courage? One of the first things that can happen to a discouraged believer is losing the courage to speak of what he or she believes in.  Paul says to rejoice always!  Have you talked with God about your struggles?  Have you told Him you are disappointed and discouraged?  Paul says if we do, His peace will surround us and help us guard against this downward spiral.

Despair

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.    Philippians 4:8-9  NKJV

To me, despair is the bottom of the emotional hole Satan wants all of us to fall into.  Despair is a total lack of hope, and it is a result of focusing solely on the negative, and ignoring all of the positive promises of God that are available to us as believers.  Paul says here to meditate, the Greek word for number, all the things God has done and promised to do for us.  To combat despair, believers need to number the many blessings we do have, and the future blessings we have been promised which will help us regain the trust that we will receive that which has yet to be given. 

I began this article by mentioning there were a few failed predictions of this past year.  To be truthful, I think I can safely say that this year will also give rise to many failed predictions.  As believers, we need to be especially careful to focus solely on what the Word of God says, rather than what man might say based on his own calculations and observations.  Many predictions for this coming year are already making news, and many of them concern astrological signs.  I thought I would leave you with an excerpt from an article by Jack Kelley written back in 2011 which contains some advice many of us should take to heart as we watch for the rapture of the Church.

So how could an idea like this one become so easily accepted by so many? It’s because as a Church we are a people of zeal without knowledge. For several generations now our leaders have consistently misinformed and misled us and we’ve been too lazy to search the Scriptures on our own to see if the things they’re teaching us about the End Times are true. As a result some who should know better can be fooled into believing that applying astrology to the interpretation of Scripture is a legitimate approach, even though its practice was a sin in Old Testament times (Lev. 19:26 KJV).

Some of us want the rapture to come so badly that we’ll believe anything we’re told that points to an early fulfillment even though it’s certain to result in disappointment. Sure the Bible says there’ll be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, but there have always been such things, and history has shown that seeing them is no excuse for ignoring sound doctrine. These signs are meant to support what the Bible says, not replace what it says.

This is an application of Paul’s warning that in the last days people would not put up with sound doctrine but would gather around themselves teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

So when someone comes out with a new idea based on eclipses, or comets, or even Scripture, don’t assume he’s done his homework. And that includes articles you find on this site. Do what Paul told you to do and search the scriptures daily to prove whether these things be true (Acts 17:11).

As the time grows shorter there will be all kinds of false information bombarding us. Some will be out of ignorance and some will be out of malevolence. Either way you could easily become confused or discouraged. Do your homework. Make sure you understand why no part of Daniel’s 70th Week, which begins in Rev.6, can take place until the Church is gone.

https://gracethrufaith.com/end-times-prophecy/why-sept-29-will-not-fulfill-rev-12/#more-27926

I can’t help but remember the words of an old hymn I learned in church as a young believer which says simply, “I’m standing on the promises of God.”  Amen.


There is no question in my mind that the rapture of the Church could happen at any time.  The signs we have all observed are there to tell us the time is near, but speculation as to a specific date for our departure is ill advised at best.  As believers we need to focus on "why" we are still here and fulfill the ministry of the Church until He comes for us. 

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Sacred Assembly



‘For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.  Leviticus 23:36  NKJV

This past week we were treated to an annual occurrence which for some reason I always look forward to and that is what is called the “harvest moon”.  I live in an agricultural valley and believe it or not, you can see farmers still baling hay in the light of the moon in an effort to get it in the barn before it is ruined by rain, which lowers the value dramatically.  Of course, there are many other harvests going on too, as many are picking over the last of their gardens before the first frost arrives to end the season.  This time of year, however, always reminds me of just how often the subject of “harvest” occurs in the Bible, and especially as it refers to our expected rapture of the Church.

Of the seven appointed feasts of the Lord given to the nation of Israel, the last one, called the Feast of Tabernacles, is arguably the most festive and celebratory.  It is a seven day celebration of the ending of the harvest, the forgiveness of sins on Yom Kippur, and a time of feasting as the people are allowed to eat of the tithes they brought to Jerusalem.

“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. “And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. “But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, “then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. “And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.  Deuteronomy 14:22-26  NKJV

Originally, this feast lasted seven days, but it was later expanded to eight, with this last day given the name “shemini atzeret” which means “sacred assembly”.  It is taken from the passage in Leviticus 23 where God institutes this eighth day and refers to it as such.  This term is mentioned several times in scripture, and Jesus also chooses this day to make an interesting announcement.

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  John 7:37-39  NKJV

Why do I call this interesting?  The Holy Spirit was not given to believers until the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two, which most consider to be the day the Church, the body of Christ, was created.  So in truth, this statement by Jesus was a direct reference to the Church, which had yet to be created, given before His crucifixion and resurrection.  Another reason I find this last day interesting is the following passage from Joel which refers to a “sacred assembly”.

“Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room.”    Joel 2:15-16  NKJV

Many have suggested the opinion that this passage might be a reference to the rapture of the Church when it talks about the bridegroom going out from his chamber to claim his bride.  Although that may or may not be the case, Jesus, as well as Paul certainly taught that Christ returning for the Church will mirror the traditions of a Jewish wedding.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  John 14:3  NKJV

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’  Matthew 25:6  NKJV

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

After receiving permission to fetch his bride from his father, the bridegroom comes with a shout and the blowing of a ram’s horn.  It usually would occur at midnight, and he would call out for his bride to join him for the ceremony.  When Paul tells us in his letter to the Thessalonian church that Jesus will return in the clouds and call for the Church to join Him, it mirrors this tradition perfectly.  At some future date, known only by God the Father, Jesus will receive permission to return for His bride, the Church, and He will call out with a shout and a trumpet blast, for us to join Him in the air.

Regardless of whether or not the eighth day celebration, the sacred assembly, proves to be the time of the Church being caught up to meet her groom in Heaven, we as believers have much to be thankful for and setting aside a day to celebrate the gift of eternal life which has been promised to those who have chosen to believe is certainly a great idea.  If you have never given your life to Jesus and accepted His gift of eternal life which is free for the asking I would urge you to do it today.  The time is short, and as we see the world in free-fall it is obvious to those who do believe that we could hear the trumpet blow and be caught up to heaven at any time.

Keep watching.  

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Day of Atonement



Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land.
(Lev. 25:9)

September 20th, 2017 at sundown, the holiest day of the Jewish year began. Many who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast, and attend synagogue services last night and today. The name “Yom Kippur” means “Day of Atonement,” and that pretty much explains what the holiday is. It is a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year.

Many religious Jews believe that in Heaven books recording all the deeds of mankind are opened on Rosh Hashanah beginning an annual review of man’s behavior. Those whose behavior has been exemplary in every respect are given another year of life, those who have demonstrated no redeeming qualities are scheduled for death, and those who fit neither category are given 10 days until Yom Kippur to right all the wrongs committed during the year just past.

Days Of Awe

These 10 days are called the Days of Awe because each man’s destiny hangs in the balance as he goes about asking forgiveness  for sins committed against Him (violations of His Law) and from friends and neighbors for wrongs done to them.  On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed and the books are closed for another year. So this day is, essentially, their last appeal, their last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate their repentance and make amends.

Yom Kippur is a Holy Sabbath; no work can be performed. Jews refrain from eating and drinking even water. It is a complete, 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur.

In ancient times, Yom Kippur was the only day of the year when it was permissible to speak the Name of God. During a great and solemn ceremony at the Temple, two goats were brought before the High Priest. One was a goat “for the Lord” to be presented as a sin offering as commanded in Lev. 16:7-10. The other was called “the scapegoat” because all the sins of the nation were symbolically placed upon its head, and it was led outside the city. The goat for the sin offering had done nothing to deserve this, but was killed to remind the people that only the shedding of innocent blood could atone for their sins. The death of the two goats symbolically set aside the sins of the nation, made their offering acceptable and gave them another year of peace with their Creator. Lying prostrate before Him the people spoke the Name of God in heartfelt thanks.

Holiday Leftovers

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from Jewish tradition. When the goats were brought before the High Priest, their respective roles in the ceremony were determined by lot. Two golden lots were placed in a golden bowl and as he placed his hand upon the head of each goat, the High Priest reached into the bowl and pulled out one of the lots. Before the cross the goat that was to be presented to the Lord as a sin offering was always on the right hand of the High Priest. After the cross it never was.

While the scapegoat was symbolically receiving the sins of the people upon its head a scarlet ribbon was tied from one of its horns to the door of the temple. Just before the goat was led from the Temple into the wilderness this ribbon was cut in two, leaving some on the horn and some on the door. According to tradition, at a predetermined location outside the city, the goat was pushed off a cliff and fell to its death. All the years before the cross, at the moment of the scapegoat’s death, the piece of ribbon on the temple door turned from red to white recalling the passage from Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” After the cross this never happened again.

The Law Is Only A Shadow …

Some Christians believe that the Lord Jesus began His ministry on Yom Kippur announcing in effect that the judgment that was due mankind would be borne by Him instead (Luke 4:16-21) and that man no longer need live in fear of judgment nor have to endure the 10 Days of Awe every year.

It’s easy to see the Lord in the role of our sin offering, whose shed blood purchased our pardon forever (Hebrews 10:1-4). And at His trial before Pontius Pilate, wasn’t He chosen to bear our sins while Bar Abbas was released? But He was also our peace offering. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20). He is our peace, who has broken down every wall (Ephesians 2:14).

So why was the goat chosen for the Lord never on the right hand again? And why did the ribbon no longer turn white at the death of the scapegoat? The One Who had fulfilled the role that the two goats only symbolized had come. It is He Who sits at the right hand of the Father and it is He Who has forever taken away the sins of all who would accept Him. Where the reality has come the shadow is no longer effective. (Colossians 2:17)

History To Prophecy

The prophetic fulfillment of Yom Kippur will come at the end of the Millennium at the so-called Great White Throne judgment, when all the unsaved dead are brought back to life to be judged according to their works. (Revelation 20:11-15). The books will be opened for the last time and those from all ages who have refused the pardon purchased for them at the cross will bear the full responsibility for their sins against God and man, destined to spend eternity in shame and torment. But those who have accepted the Lord’s pardon are at peace with God, and will spend eternity with Him and shine like the brightness of the Sun. Shalom.


Today, Saturday September 30 is Yom Kippur.  This past week has certainly been one of reflection for me as I have read and studied much that has been written about this day, including this one by Jack Kelley which I have chosen to share with you.  It is my hope and prayer that all who read this will reflect as well on the fact that by the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, our sins can be forgiven and we can spend eternity in Heaven with Him.  The signs of His return, the labor pains He told us would occur, are happening all around us and He could call us home to be with Him at any time.  If you have never made the decision to accept this free gift of salvation, or are in any way unsure of your eternal destiny, I encourage you to pray this prayer and accept God’s promise to save you.

Jesus I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin, and I ask you now to forgive me of my sins. I want to receive your gift of salvation so please come into my heart and help me to live for you from now on. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Behold the Bridegroom Comes



An article by Jack Kelley

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’  “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’”  ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’  “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matt. 25:1-13).

What’s That All About?

This parable is often incorrectly described as having to do with the church, especially by those who cling to the post-tribulation rapture viewpoint. Let’s apply some standard rules of interpretation to see what it really means.

As for the timing of the event, there’s little debate since it’s clearly disclosed. The opening phrase “At that time” refers to several earlier references in the Olivet Discourse all pointing back to Matthew 24:29 which says, “Immediately after the distress (tribulation) of those days…”

This verse of course refers to the Great Tribulation.  It’s a 3 1/2 year long sequence of judgments begun by the appearance of the “abomination that causes desolation, standing in the Holy Place,” commonly thought to be the anti-christ standing in the newly rebuilt Jewish Temple in Israel proclaiming himself to be god.  Paul prophesied this in 2 Thes. 2:4.

So the timing of the parable is just after the end of the Great Tribulation, when what’s left of the world awaits the appearance of Messiah, the King. But notice, they’ve been waiting a long time, implying that the story actually began much earlier, and is now concluding.

The parable centers around 10 virgins, or bridesmaids depending on which translation you prefer, awaiting the appearance of a bridegroom. The Greek word is parthenos, which always describes someone who has never had sexual intercourse. The use of the word bridesmaid comes from an attempt by translators to adhere to the context of the story. But in any case, here’s where some knowledge of 1st century Jewish wedding traditions comes in handy.

Can I Marry Her?

In those days when a man took a fancy to a young woman, he approached her father to ask for her hand in marriage. A brief negotiation followed where the price he was required to pay as compensation for the family’s loss of their daughter was determined. It was called the bride price. If acceptable, and if the daughter agreed to become the man’s wife, they were officially betrothed and he went away to build a home for them next to his father’s house. This could take some time, and the couple rarely met again until the father of the groom pronounced the newly built home fit for habitation. Only then was the date set, and the man given permission by his father to go collect his bride for the wedding.

During this time the young woman was to watch and wait. She and her bridesmaids were to maintain a constant state of preparedness, since the wedding date would not be known to her until the bridegroom actually appeared. For his part, the groom would usually try to show up unexpectedly to surprise her, carrying her off suddenly “like a thief in the night” when no one would see them. When the bridesmaids discovered the bride had been “snatched away” there would be a great torch-lit procession, announcing to the whole town that the wedding banquet was about to begin. This was typically a seven day celebration during which the bride and groom were hidden away in their private rooms while the whole town made merry. The father of the groom picked up the tab for the festivities.

I Can See Clearly Now

Against the backdrop of this tradition, the meaning becomes clear when we insert the actual characters that those in the parable represent. To do this, we’ll rely on the principle of expositional constancy, from which we learn that symbolism in scripture tends to be consistent. For example, whenever yeast is used symbolically it always refers to sin, while symbolic use of the word rock always refers to the Lord, etc.

All through the scriptures, whenever the term bridegroom is used symbolically, it always refers to the Lord. And no one argues that the Bride of Christ is uniquely descriptive of the church. Obviously, the bridesmaids are not the Bride so they can’t represent the church. In fact, the Bride is never mentioned anywhere in the parable, and in any case could never be refused admittance to her own wedding banquet.  She was obviously spirited away earlier while the bridesmaids slept. The bridesmaids represent people on Earth during the Great Tribulation after the church has gone.

Got Oil?

Now it’s time for the wedding banquet but some bridesmaids lack sufficient oil to light the way. Asking to borrow some from their friends they’re refused, since there might not be enough to go around, and are sent off to buy some for themselves. By the time they return, the banquet has already begun, the door is closed and they’re denied admission, the bridegroom claiming that he doesn’t even know them.

Checking on the symbolic use of oil, we find it refers to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a gift uniquely given to believers at the moment of salvation. You can’t get it for others nor can they give any of theirs to you. Each of us has to receive it by ourselves and for ourselves.

During the Church Age the Holy Spirit is sealed within believers as a guarantee of our inheritance. But no such guarantee is mentioned for Tribulation believers (Rev. 14:12).  In fact Rev. 16:15 specifically warns them to stay awake and maintain their righteousness, symbolized by keeping their clothes with them. (Clothing is often used to represent righteousness, as in Isaiah 61:10). Rev. 16:15 implies that Tribulation believers are responsible for remaining steadfast in their faith to avoid losing their salvation. Matt. 25:8 agrees, telling us that all 10 virgins had oil in their lamps at the beginning, but the five foolish ones didn’t have enough to carry them through.  All 10 bridesmaids fell asleep and their lamps were in danger of going out. Only 5 had the ability to replenish their lamps with oil they had brought, and they refused to lend any to the others.

The 5 bridesmaids with oil represent those who will have given their hearts to the Lord during the tribulation period after the Church has gone and stayed faithful, while those without it symbolize others who haven’t. Only those who’ve remained faithful will be invited in.

What’s That Supposed To Mean?

So what does the parable mean? First of all, I’m convinced it’s not trying to hint at the timing of the Rapture. I believe it’s sole purpose is to serve as one of the clearest warnings the Lord ever gave to those He would find still on Earth when He returns, and that’s to make sure they remain faithful and ready to receive Him no matter how long they have to wait.

When the Lord comes back at the End of the Age, He’ll find both believers and unbelievers present on Earth. Having previously spirited His bride (the church) away, He’ll now decide who among the Tribulation survivors should be allowed to participate in the blessings of His Kingdom, using the presence of the Holy Spirit in each one’s life as the determining factor. Those in whom the Spirit resides when He returns are invited in but those without it will be excluded.

Because just as importantly, the parable teaches that His return signals the deadline after which even the request to be saved and receive the Holy Spirit will be denied. (The foolish virgins, as the story calls them, were on their way to replenish their oil when the bridegroom arrived.) The door will be closed, and the Lord will deny ever knowing those who’ve come too late.

By not remaining faithful, these tribulation believers, who are not part of the Church, will have disqualified themselves from participation in the kingdom.  Once everyone sees the Lord returning on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory, the opportunity for them to restore their salvation will have ended.  Salvation has always been by faith and faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see (Hebr. 11:1).  Selah 3-21-04