Saturday, June 1, 2019

WILL WE BE MARRIED IN HEAVEN?

This question has often been asked by married people. Some are hopeful that such will be the case, while others are fearful that they might be eternally saddled with their spouse. My wife has asked me that question on a number of occasions (though I am not sure if she likes the idea of us being forever married or not!). As part of being human, God has created us to have many kinds of social relationships, so this is really a pretty good question. But maybe we should rephrase the question and ask “will we be married in eternity?” In approaching an answer to this personal and practical question, there are a number of things that should be factored in. There are four preliminary observations that I would like to make.

#1 - There are three distinct phases in the future life of the believer. • Death or Rapture---As we presently live our lives, we know that eternity lies ahead of us. Life on this earth for the believer in Jesus will end in death, or hopefully, the rapture event (that sudden, supernatural removal of the Christian to be with Jesus Christ). In either case, the believer will be in heaven. If it is the rapture that removes us, then a resurrection body will be received at that moment. If it is death, then we are taken into the Lord’s presence in heaven, but there is no resurrection body received. That body is received at the rapture. The point is that between now and the future kingdoms of God (millennial and eternal) there is a time of transition about which we know very little, and that includes the matter of marriage.

  • The Millennial (Messianic) Kingdom---The 1,000 year of Jesus Christ on this present earth will be a kingdom rule that will include people in their physical bodies. Many or all of these will be married and this allows them to reproduce, thus populating the messianic age. These have made it alive through the time of tribulation and marriage will be part of their experience in Christ’ kingdom. An example is seen in Ezekiel 44:22 where priests, who serve in the Millennial Temple, are given guidelines about their marriages. But in the Millennial Kingdom, there will be believers from all the ages who have now been resurrected and who will have resurrection bodies. There is no mention of a marriage relationships of these who are in resurrection bodies. However, in the Millennial kingdom, there are males who have resurrection bodies, such as King David and the 12 apostles (Ezek. 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Jer. 30:9; Matt. 19:28). So males do exist (suggesting females will also). And we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection body, though different in many ways, is the same body. If there are males, then it is highly likely there are also females.
  •  The Eternal Kingdom of God--- This phase of the future kingdom of God is spent on the earth, which is why God will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 22:1). It is stated that God will “come down” to the earth and dwell among His people. It is intriguing to think about what life will be like in that setting. A critical word that this verse uses is the word “new” (kainos). God is going to make all things “new” (21:5), including the “new” earth (22:1). The word carries with it the idea of something that is “fresh” but not strangely different. This would tell us that the new, eternal phase of the kingdom of God is most likely a fresh version of the old creation. This would take us back to Genesis 2 where man, woman and marriage were all part of the original idea of God.

#2 - The idea that everyone in the future kingdoms will be similar or identical in nature or form (homogeneous) is simply not true. There is a prevailing thought (even among some theologians) that all people will be the same. We are just part of the glorified glob of saved humanity that will forever be the same and do the same things forever. We will be sort of like chocolate chip cookies produced and packaged in a factory; all look alike with the identical shape, color and even with the same number of chips. But that is not true. As an example, in the eternal kingdom of God, on the new earth, there will be both kings and nations (Rev. 21:24-26). This simple statement reveals that there will be differing ranks/status among people, and also that the human race will be subdivided into kingdoms. One has to wonder if there are kings, could there not be (as is normally the case) queens as well? And isn’t it logical that these nations will be further subdivided into tribes, clans and families?

#3 - Genesis 1 and 2 revealed God’s “very good” plan for this earth.
Whenever we interpret the Book of Revelation, we must keep in mind God’s original plan in the creation recorded in Genesis. This “plan A” was declared by God Himself to be very good, and Revelation is seen as God restoring (and even upgrading) the original plan. And in the original creation, social relationships, such as marriage, were part of human experience.
A problem we face is that Adam and Eve sinned too quickly and so we don’t know what an expanding unfallen human race would have looked like. If sin had not entered into the human experience, then the human race would have multiplied into great numbers, and divisions of some sort would have naturally come about; such as, families, clans, tribes and nations.

#4 - Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:30 does not exclude the idea of marriage.
The cynical Sadducees had presented Jesus with their cutesy question about a woman who legitimately married 7 brothers, according to the levirate marriage law. No child was born was born after the first brother married the woman, and, therefore the Law, stated that the close relative should step in and marry the woman and raise up offspring (to be credited to the dead brothers’ account). In their story, she ended up marrying all 7 brothers with no children ever being produced. And so they wanted to know who, of the seven brothers, would have her as a wife in the resurrection. Jesus rebuked their ignorance and stated that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.” The life in eternity indeed will be different in many ways, and the lack of reproduction is one of those differences. In the eternal kingdom, since there is no death, there will be no need or place for procreation. (Otherwise we might find the human race going through the Adam/Eve failure again). Procreation, which was designed for the first creation, in the marriage relationship, will not be part of the resurrection life which is the focus of His answer. Jesus is not declaring that there will not be close, loving, personal relationships in the future kingdom. Procreation will not be part of resurrection life which is not the same thing as saying that marriage will not be part of resurrection life.

SOME POINTS TO CONSIDER IN ANSWERING THE QUESTION

First, the redeemed human race will not be one uniform whole. We will not be just a large mass of sameness. The fact that there are kings and nations in the final, eternal phase of God’s kingdom informs us that we will be divided into national groups. Within nations there is always further subdivisions; into tribes or clans or families. This raises the prospect that marriage might well be part of those subdivisions. If so, the loving, close relationship that God originally intended could well be part of the scene, apart from the aspect of reproduction. Remember that jealousy, selfishness and anger which damage and destroy marriages today will not be part of human experience there. So for those who live in dread that they might be married to a substandard spouse, you need to reflect on the fact that sin and the flesh will no longer be part of human life. Then and now are not the same.

Second, God designed marriage, before the Fall, as part of His “very good” plan in Genesis, designed to better the lives of unfallen Adam and unfallen Eve. And, apart from the need for procreation, why could this not be included in His design for mankind in the future? Surely there will be some sort of close, personal relationships provided for mankind.

Third, getting back to the Sadducees for a moment. Their ridiculous question does raise the matter of the complexities produced by divorce and by death. Numerous questions come to mind, such as what happens if a person has had more than one spouse? I can’t answer that because I have no idea. But not being able to answer this question does not mean that God cannot answer it. Just like we wonder what happens at the resurrection to physical bodies that no longer exist (completely disintegrated in the ground, or eaten by a school of piranhas, or totally burned up). What will happen to these folks at the time of resurrection? I can’t answer that one either, but my guess is that God can and will. No one misses out on the resurrection. And, by the way, remember Jesus did rebuke those Sadducees for their real ignorance on the matter of the power of God. And we might add, the wisdom of God. Because we can’t explain something does not automatically mean that God is stumped by it as well.

And fourth, the Apostle Paul’s extended discussion of the resurrection body, in 1 Corinthians 15, informs us that it will be the same body (male and female too?) and yet there will be some differences….same but changed. Luke 24, gives us some descriptions of the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus, which confirms what Paul is teaching. So there seems to be a lot of significant carryovers into the resurrection body which we will dwell in for all eternity.

And so, while we can’t give a definitive answer to the question, “will we be married in heaven?”, we can say that close, loving, social relationships were always a part of God’s plan for His people. And this we believe will very much be part of life in the future, forever kingdom of our good God. I do think we will be thrilled and amazed by what He has prepared for we who are His children, born into His family by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s gonna be good!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

REAL AUTHORITY---NOT IN MOSCOW, OR D.C.

As we watch leaders and nations vying for position and power, we can sometimes feel overwhelmed and powerless, forgetting that the real authority in this world resides at the Throne. It is valuable for us to periodically remind ourselves that all power in the world and universe is found with the Lord God. I believe we often will forget this basic truth as we watch arrogant men strut around making claims, issuing threats and seeking to impress with their positions of power. We fail to remember that the authority they have is delegated, limited and it is very temporary.

In the marvelous heavenly scene, recorded by the Apostle John in Revelation 4 and 5, we are ushered into the place where authority is centered. There we observe the transference of ruling authority from the Father to the Lion-Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. Final authority has always resided at the throne of God. And in this scene, preparation is being made to take back the planet from the “god of this world” and his minions. At first, when the call goes out “who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” there is a stony silence in the universe. John is grieved because this signals the status quo; that is, Satan and his people will continue their cruel rule of the earth. But then, the electrifying word goes out: “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” qualifies, and, therefore, He can take the book out of the hand of the One on the throne. This gives Him the authority to deal with Satan and those men who have been given authority by him. But when the Lion-Lamb takes the scroll, the heavenly scene then changes dramatically and there is immediate praise and singing from an untold multitude of angels and men. This event signals the soon termination earth’s domination by the Devil and his malevolent forces.

This transference of authority from the Father to the Son is something that is seen in other places in the Bible. Daniel 7 records the same scene though using different imagery. There the Ancient of Days is seen giving ruling authority to the Son of Man. But the result is the same: dominion and power are His. In John 5, Jesus boldly declared that all authority to judge and to give life was granted to Him. In Luke 19, as Jesus headed to Jerusalem for the last time with His disciples, He informed them that (like the nobleman in His parable) He would not be establishing His messianic reign at that time but needed to go into the “far country” (heaven) to receive ruling authority. And then, when He received that authority He would return back to the earth and would deal with His servants, and then to deal severely and finally with those who would not acknowledge His right to rule.

All of these scriptures align perfectly with Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 where the Son is seen sitting in a place of honor at the right hand of the Father. He sits until His enemies are defeated totally, and then He returns and rules over the entire earth, not only as the King of Israel but as the King of all the gentile nations. His power will be absolute. The authority of the final, forever kingdom of God will never be usurped. There will be no creaturely coups.

The King has yet to return in power and glory and set all things right. But He will. And we who believe in Him and follow Him need to keep this future reality in mind. Presently, we may not be possessors of any sort of great authority, but we do have the power to obey. In His perfect timing, Jesus Himself will handle the Evil One and all of his forces, both demons and evil people. He is neither impressed nor is He intimidated by boastful Satan or strutting people. But, as He instructed His followers in Luke 19, we are to energetically be doing His will in the time that we have. We serve the One and only, King of kings, with whom resides all authority in this universe. So whatever, happens in Washington DC or the world, it surely is important for us to focus on the fact that we belong to the One who possesses all authority.

In Psalm 2, the Father speaks:

“He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them (the rebellious kings of the earth). Then He will speak to them in His anger, and terrify them in His fury: But as for me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

And then the Son speaks: “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘Thou are My Son, today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.”

How helpful it is to focus on these ultimate realities.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What Exactly Happens to Us at Death?

This question seems to be one that we should be able to answer quickly and easily. “We believers go to be with Jesus” is the expected (and correct) answer. However, recently I have had several people probe the matter a little further, wanting to know what does or does not take place when one dies. So, I thought it might be good for us to freshen up our thinking on the subject.

First, we need to remind ourselves of the biblical view of death. Though death is both real and inevitable, it is unnatural. When God created His “very good” creation, death was not a part of it. The sin of Adam and Eve brought death into the world, according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12. But death was never intended to be part of the human experience, and this is why, eventually, death will be finally conquered and completely banished from the new creation (1 Cor. 15:26).

In the Bible, there are three kinds of death (Eph. 2:1; Rev. 20:14; Gen. 35:18-19). Death basically means “separation”. Death does not mean non-existence nor does it mean annihilation. Of the three kinds of death, first, there is spiritual death (the separation of a person from God---a condition that we are all born into); the second death (the eternal separation of a person from God in the “lake of fire”---which will be the terrible experience of all who do not receive God’s gift of eternal life); and then there is physical death
(the separation of the material part of man from the immaterial part---something that all will experience unless the Rapture takes place first).

And while all these forms of death are very important, the people who talked with me were particularly focused on the matter of what happens at the moment of physical death. The Bible is abundantly clear that at physical death we do not become angels; nor are we reincarnated, coming back as a German Shepherd or even as a German. We do not change who we are when we die physically.

The Bible is also clear on the matter that at death a person is in a conscious state. There is no such thing as “soul sleep”, a doctrine promoted by the Seventh-Day Adventists and a few others. What is less clear, however, is whether or not a person, in their conscious condition, has a temporary body or not. (We are speaking about the time of physical death which takes place before the time of resurrection). We don’t know for sure if the immaterial part of a person is housed in some sort of material body. The best we can offer is the presence of the Old Testament hero Moses at the “transfiguration” of Christ. He appeared in bodily form even though this appearance was chronologically prior to Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Jesus was the very first person resurrected; that is, the body was changed in such a way as allowing it to live forever. While a few like Lazarus were raised from the dead, they were still in their earthly bodies and not in a resurrection bodies. All like Lazarus, died again. So, based on Moses, perhaps we do not exist in spirit form but have some sort of “clothing” for our immaterial parts. It would not, of course, be a problem for the Creator to call such bodies into existence.

But once again, the question. “What exactly happens when we die physically?” In answering this, there are some great truths for us to hold onto. First, believers in Christ are guaranteed that nothing, including death, will ever separate them from the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:38-39). This all-inclusive statement by the Apostle Paul gives us an incredible level of comfort. We will NEVER be separated from Him and that includes at the moment of death. Second, believers in Christ never need to fear what happens at the moment of death. Death is not some long foreboding tunnel we must with fear travel through. There is no valley of the shadow of death for the follower of Jesus. In the NT, physical death for the believer is put in very non-frightening terms, such as “sleep” (Note 1 Thess. 4:13-15). Death for the believer is never framed in terms that are dreadful or frightening. Third, and of greatest important, is that the NT Scriptures assure believers in Christ that death brings them immediately into the glorious presence of Jesus Himself. There are two passages that are grammatically and theologically powerful (2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23). In these scriptures, the Apostle Paul declares, without any reservation, that believers can only be in one of two places. They are either here on earth or they are with the Lord in heaven. We are either here or we are there. There is no third option. This absolutely rules out the Roman Catholic doctrine of “purgatory” as a stopping off point on one’s travels to heaven. The moment a believing person takes their last breath here on earth, they are with the Savior. They exhale here and inhale there. And again, these verses rule out other options, such as the Adventist’s idea of “soul sleep” (where the believer goes out of existence until the time of future resurrection).

So the precise, strong grammar that is used in Philippians and 2 Corinthians limits the options to two. And, they also include the point that there is no time lapse between physical death and being with Jesus. Death brings a believer instantly into the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So while none of us reading this article has experienced death, and therefore, we have no personal experience in the matter, we can with absolute certainty know what takes place when a believer dies. This truth is not our wishful thinking, but it is our living, resurrected Savior who is the

Monday, March 4, 2019

SALVATION IN THE COMING TIME OF TRIBULATION

This past couple of weeks I had the opportunity of teaching the books of Daniel and Revelation to a fine group of students at the Jackson Hole Bible College. Like many believers, they really didn’t understand at first that the purpose of the coming period of tribulation is to save people; first Israel, but also multitudes of gentiles. God doesn’t need 7 years to judge people, but time is needed for the gospel to be given out and for people to ponder and respond. Salvation is God’s great desire. In Psalm 2, after clearly warning the unbelieving kings of the earth about their judgment, the Psalmist encourages them to avoid that by turning to the Lord.

Now it is very true that the Scriptures inform us that this age will climax with a chamber of horrors commonly known as the Tribulation. This seven year period of time will bring an unprecedented time of trouble for the whole world. (Note particularly Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1; Joel 2:2). There never has been, nor will there ever be a time like it. .

Tribulation Terror


Most people, even those who are not believers in the Bible, have some knowledge of “Armageddon” and realize that the Bible talks about the earth ending with great catastrophes. While many predictions concerning the end of the world has come and gone, still many movies are made and TV shows created which have end times destruction as a theme. But even these miss what the Bible says. 

God’s wrath will be poured out in a most powerful way during those seven years. In giving us the basics of the judgments of God’s wrath, the Apostle John records, in Revelation, that there will be 19 specific judgments. These judgments are said to be “birth pains” indicating that after they begin they will grow worse and worse and closer together as the seven years proceed along. This lets us know several basic points: (1) that the majority of judgments take place in the latter part of the Tribulation, and that (2) the last judgments will be worse than the initial ones. These 19 judgments will devastate the world. Body counts are given for 2 of the 19 judgments (the 4th Seal and the 6th Trumpet). In these two judgments, 50% of the population of the earth dies. But when we look closely at the rest of the judgments, it is quite clear that the death toll far exceed 50%. We are probably not too far off by saying that 80-85% will perish. So if the Tribulation begins with the population of the earth being 7 billion, then those that die under the wrath of God will be around 6 billion. All that in 7 years. .

But death will also come at the hand of Satan. Satan will use the Great Harlot (Rev. 17) and the Antichrist (Rev. 13) to shed the blood of millions of God’s people. This incredible loss of human life coupled with unprecedented earthquakes (two of them that move the entire crust of the earth), burning of earth, destruction of the oceans and fresh water sources will make this the worst period in all of human history. It is no wonder that Jesus observed that unless God had limited this time to just 7 years no human being would be left standing (Matt. 24:22). .

Tribulation Salvation
In spite of all this mayhem and destruction, judgment is really not the main reason for the Tribulation period. If all God wanted to do was judge evil men and nations, then he could do it in 7 minutes (such as with Sodom and Gomorrah). He would not need 7 years but could get His point across much quicker. But salvation of people is God’s great purpose and that does take some time. The gospel must be proclaimed and men hear it and then chose to respond to Jesus Christ or not.

(1) Saving Israel. In His covenant promises to Abraham (and Abraham’s descendants) God declared that He would bring Israel into the New Covenant. The New Covenant deals with salvation and the forgiveness of sins. In all the centuries since Jesus came and died on the Cross, the nation of Israel has never turned to Him. And yet Jesus was abundantly clear when He declared that He would not return to the earth again (the 2nd Coming) until Israel turned to Him in faith (Matt. 23:39). Saving Israel is God’s first and primary order of business in the Tribulation. And He will accomplish this great goal as these Scriptures state with clarity. .

“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in: and thus ALL ISRAEL will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’ ‘And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’” Romans 11:25-27

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people (Israel) and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.” Daniel 9:24

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you...I will put My spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” Ezekiel 36:25
Israel begins the Tribulation as an unbelieving nation, but that rapidly begins to change, probably as the 144,000 Jewish evangelists begin to make an impact. Jesus said that about half way through the Tribulation, Israel would begin to be persecuted “on account of My name” (Matt. 24:9). Now Israel has been and continues to be persecuted by the gentile nations, but not because she has identified with the Lord Jesus Christ! The 144,000 (Rev. 7) along with the “two witnesses” (Rev. 11) apparently have a huge impact on the nation of Israel, so that by the end of the Tribulation “all” Israel has come to faith in Christ. With the salvation of Israel, the Great King Jesus can now return. But before He does there are many more that need saving. This will be the ultimate fulfillment of Genesis 12:3---“in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” .

(2) Saving gentiles. In the Old Testament, it was always God’s plan to reach the gentile nations through Israel. The Israelites were to be a light to the gentiles. Unfortunately they behaved badly and never really were that light bringing the knowledge of the Lord Jehovah to the nations. But that changes dramatically in the Tribulation. They will be a beacon light in that terribly dark period of time. According to Revelation 7:9-14, millions upon millions from every nation will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It is important to observe that these people (of Rev. 7) were saved during the Tribulation period and not during the ages of the church or some other time. And while they died for their faith, the number of them runs in the millions. .

Some Concluding Thoughts
This short study should remind us that the Lord delights in saving people and is committed to doing that. Judgment is not what He delights in, but rather the regeneration of lost people. The Tribulation, while having terrible judgments, is primarily a time for salvation. God will fulfill His commitment to save Israel, and Israel in turn will be the ones who spread the truth of God which results in so many gentiles coming to know Jesus. (It is likely that with all of the outpouring of the supernatural that there will be no atheists or agnostics during the Tribulation. The issue is whether you will side with Jesus or with Satan/Antichrist). .

I asked the students at Jackson Hole Bible College to tell me what impacted them the most in our study of Revelation. It was encouraging that many of them stated that this study of future things prodded them to want to share the gospel of Christ with others. Today God wants us to share the Good News about Jesus. And perhaps our obedience in this matter, will cause some in the Tribulation to come to Christ. Imagine if you shared the gospel with a person on Wednesday (and there is no response) and then the Rapture takes place on Thursday. The seed we planted could still bear fruit in those days of the Tribulation. God simply loves to save people.

Friday, February 1, 2019

PROPHECY IS STILL IMPORTANT

In the past two months I have had the opportunity of opening the Word of God at a couple of prophecy conferences. Both pastors and people at these conferences were delighted to spend some concentrated time looking at what the Scriptures reveal about future events. I was told by numerous individuals that it had been years and years since such a conference was held. And they said that they just couldn’t understand why prophecy conferences are almost non-existent in the American church today. Sadly, their observation is accurate as the absence of prophecy conferences is almost universal in the American church.

These fine folks are correct and there are several reasons for this phenomenon. First, many a pastor believes that prophetic subjects are just too controversial and, therefore, they stay away from it. They see prophecy as a divisive doctrine. This has led churches to adjust their doctrinal statements. Some do not even include “eschatology” in the church’s doctrinal statement while many others make their statement on future things amazingly vague. Second, many feel that they need to deal with the “real issues of life” and prophecy simply doesn’t fit well into the real world where people live. They believe that prophecy is just a lot of speculation and the church doesn’t need that but rather needs teachings on real life issues. Third, a pastor confided in me that he was never taught eschatology in a meaningful way in his seminary studies. In this case, he was happy to have someone come in and deal with the subject of future things. But he represents a rather large number of men who simply did not spend time studying biblical prophecy as part of their training. A fourth reason for the absence of prophetic teaching in churches is that prophecy is seen as the domain of those who live on the lunatic fringe. And, to some extent, there is some validity to this viewpoint. It does seem that there are many too many on television, radio and especially the Internet, who abuse the prophetic scriptures. Every day they declare that this prophecy or that one over there is being fulfilled. And people can be told only so many times that the Rapture will take place on such and such a date, or that Trump, Putin, Assad or whoever is fulfilling a certain prophecy. And time after time, these events or leaders don’t turn out as declared by these modern day prophets with the result that people soon write off prophecy as irrelevant, nonsensical or worse.

But Jesus, the prophets and the apostles certainly did not view the prophecies of scripture this way. As a reminder, let’s consider the immense practical value of biblical prophecy in the lives of both believers and unbelievers.

(1) Biblical prophecy is essential in believers’ developing a two-world view. A two-world view has to do with living well in this world while keeping an eye focused on the world to come. This is, in fact, the world view of scripture. It enables the follower of Christ to be “in” the world without being “of” the world. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul was declaring in Philippians 3:14 ff.
“I press towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude…For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…”

And Hebrews 11 reveals that all these OT saints had this two-world view.

Today, the pulpit’s emphasis is on a one-world (this present one) perspective. And believers with a one-world perspective simply do not and cannot live as they ought to for Christ because the quality of their life depends heavily on how things go in this life.

(2) Biblical prophecy is designed to aid us in our ongoing struggle with sin.
All of us daily deal with the culture, the forces of evil and most of all with our own flesh. Logically and biblically, when a person lives consciously with the reality of seeing Jesus, they have a mighty spiritual weapon in their personal war against personal sin. This is stated by John and illustrated by Jesus.

“And now little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming….And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He is pure.” (1 John 2:28; 3:3)

“But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘my master is not coming for a longtime,’ and shall begin to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards;…” (Matthew 24:48-49)


When a believer is not exposed consistently to the two-world view, he slips into a one-world view, and a result is that he is deprived of truth that deters sin in his life. Several years ago I was conversing with a pastor who said that he stayed away from prophecy in his preaching and teaching. I asked him if he wanted his people to live sanctified lives. He, of course, did want that very thing. And he later confessed that he hadn’t seen the connection between biblical prophecy and personal sanctification. And to his credit, he shared that he was going to rethink his position.

(3) Biblical prophecy provides us with a valuable mindset when facing trials. No one I know of delights in having trials and trouble in their lives. There are, as we all know, a variety of reasons for why these come into our lives. Going through difficult, distressing times is not easy. But when we realize that these are very temporary in light of eternity and when we pass the test this enables the Lord Jesus to reward us in greater ways, then a new perspective comes our way.

Consider again the words of Peter and James.
“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)


Both of these writers make it clear that the results of trials go beyond this life. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, rewards will be greater for the person who passed the test of trials. Does that not provide each of us with great encouragement to look beyond the troubles and trials of life to the great outcome? It was said of Jesus that “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). The cross did not bring joy, but the results of the cross which would bring many into His redemption and kingdom.

(4) Biblical prophecy creates a framework for making better decisions in life and for prioritizing life itself. Present priorities come into clearer focus when we see them in light of future realities. When we see what is ahead of us, we can make much better decisions in life. This was the basic point the Apostle Peter made in 2 Peter 3:10-14. When we become convinced that life in the forever kingdom of God is impacted by what we do now, that makes a difference in how we made decisions and how we order our lives. When we come to believe that placing “funds” in the Bank of Heaven, where those funds never deteriorate (Matt. 6:19-21), will bring amazing dividends, this changes our perspectives. Jesus said that when our treasures are in the Bank, our hearts will follow. And this priority will be impact us in the present.

(5) Biblical prophecy gives clear warnings to unbelievers. Those who have not placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are given a “heads up” by scripture. The Bible clearly sets forth the consequences of refusing God’s free gift of eternal life. What awaits the unbeliever is an eternity away from God in a place called “the lake of fire.” The descriptions of this eternal condition are legitimately frightening. Fair warning is given to those who will not turn to Christ for eternal life and the forgiveness of sins (2 Thess. 1:8-10).

Conclusion. It is hard to look at these scriptures (and so many more) and the truths contained in them without concluding that biblical prophecy really is important and is designed to impact the way we live right now. Biblical prophecy is not so much about satisfying our curiosities about the future, but rather changing the way we live in the present in light of the future. Prophecy does remain important and eternally relevant.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

KEEPING AN EYE ON EUROPE

In biblical prophecy, Europe plays an important role in end time events. It is the area where much of the old Roman Empire existed. And today it is one strategic place where the political pot of globalism/nationalism is boiling.

The Biblical Setting.
The prophet Daniel revealed that after the Antichrist (Daniel refers to him as the “little horn”) is identified by his covenant agreement with Israel (Dan. 9:27), he begins his quest for domination by defeating 3 nations of Europe (Dan. 7:24). After this “depriving of sovereignty” of these 3 nations, apparently 7 other European nations simply acquiesce to his great power with the result that a 10 nation union is formed, with the Antichrist coming from an 11th nation. The setting geographically for the defeating of the 3 nations is where the old Roman Empire existed which is fundamentally the region of Europe. This is seen in Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 where the “little horn” and all the other horns (nations/kings) emerge out of the fourth empire, which is Rome.

The Antichrist’s nation is clearly quite powerful because the covenant agreement with Israel is put together while the Antichrist is over just his own nation. The Bible does not reveal the specific reason why the Antichrist goes to war and defeats these 3 nations; whether it is over economic issues or nationalistic matters or military conflicts. But whatever are the causes, when the proverbial dust settles, there is a union of 11 nations that are united primarily, or exclusively, in the area of Europe.

The scriptural picture of the Antichrist is clearly that he is a man of war; one that cannot be defeated (note Dan. 11:36-37, 42-44; Rev. 13:4-7). Eventually, he will become the sovereign of the planet and will rule the entire world for a period of 42 months (Rev. 13:5). This will remain until he is brought to his end by the returning King Jesus (Rev. 19:19-21). But it all begins in Europe. And this should be one reason for periodically taking a look at what is happening there.

It should be observed in Daniel’s vision (7:1-28) that when the Antichrist (“little horn”) begins his conquest it will be by defeating 3 nations, and then apparently pressuring 7 others to join him. This suggests that when Antichrist wars against the 3 nations that they are independent nations each with its own king. Theoretically, the 10 could be in a union together, but the text does not point in that direction.

The Situation in Europe Today.
As the world enters the new year of 2019, Europe is in turmoil as the forces of nationalism are striking back against the forces of globalism. Nationalists want to retain the uniqueness of their nations with their own cultures, borders and known way of life. They are seeing their way of life disintegrate as globalist policies of open borders and socialistic agendas are put in place. In his own unique way, President Donald Trump rejected globalism. He said, “A globalist is a person that want the globe to do well, frankly not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that.” The ordinary man on the street in many western countries, and numerous other countries as well, has a similar perspective and is beginning to resist the intelligentsia who advocate the idea that the narrow national interests of nations must be set aside in favor of trans-national institutions and laws. The globalist has a very simplistic view of the world, and lives with the delusion that a one world government will unite everyone and solve the basic problems confronting the people of the world. But it does seem that at this moment, globalism (which has been the agenda of the intelligentsia since the end of the Soviet Union) is retreating some while nationalism is growing. But the battle between the two is intense.

Britain is in a full blown crisis as it is facing a kind of political meltdown over Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit). The leaders are at odds with one another and there is great fear among the people of that nation. And there does not appear to be any solution on the horizon. The French president, globalist Emmanuel Marcon has an active hatred for nationalism and those who support it (like Donald Trump). Marcon thinks that nationalism means you don’t care about others, and so arrogantly and “righteously” pushes his globalist agenda. But the average French citizen is not at all happy about the policies and philosophy of Macron as is indicated by rioting in the streets of Paris and many other cities. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is getting increasing push-back over her open borders policy which is what globalists subscribe to (as in our own border debate).

The Future of it All.
The matter of exiting the European Union is a red-hot issue in several European countries and it remains to be seen how things develop in the immediate future. There are likely a number of twists and turns yet ahead. It may be that nationalism gains back some lost ground. It can be said, however, that eventually there will be a European Union which will be under the direct control of the malevolent end time figure commonly called the Antichrist. Globalism will win out. Daniel and Revelation are very clear about this. However, the victory of globalism will be very short-lived. If we acknowledge the scriptural length of the tribulation as 7 years, with a special focus on the last half of the time, which is said to be 42 months or 1260 days, then we can see how very brief will be globalism’s success.

Dividing the human race into nations was God’s plan, globalism was not. The Tower of Babel revealed early on that globalism only breeds evil and degeneracy among men. And in the end, the same reality will be the experience of mankind as the end times unfold. Nations were God’s idea, and even in the kingdom of Jesus Messiah (the millennial kingdom), there will be nations (note, for example Zech. 14:16-19). And once that 1,000 year period is over and the eternal kingdom on the new earth is entered into, there will be kings and nations (see Rev. 21:24-26).

Down through human history, men have dreamed of becoming the ruler of the world, but without success. The day of that dream being fulfilled is coming as the Antichrist will be the first true globalist. In the meantime, preparations are underway for that to take place. Fortunately, the Scriptures are crystal clear on the ultimate end of things.

Monday, December 3, 2018

BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND

The above title comes from a chapter title in Stephen Covey’s #1 national bestseller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The book came out in the late 1980s and I can remember reading it for a leadership course. I was impacted by a number of points made by the author, but perhaps his second chapter impressed me the most. I would like to give an lengthy quote from the beginning of that chapter. While Covey’s point was really very important, there is something of much greater significance to his point, far beyond what Covey likely had in mind. And I want to look at that after this story that he tells.

“IN YOUR MIND’S EYE, SEE YOURSELF GOING TO THE FUNERAL OF A LOVED ONE. PICTURE YOURSELF DRIVING TO THE FUNERAL PARLOR OR CHAPEL, PARKING THE CAR, AND GETTING OUT. AS YOU WALK INSIDE THE BUILDING YOU NOTICE THE FLOWERS, THE SOFT ORGAN MUSIC. YOU SEE THE FACES OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY YOU PASS ALONG THE WAY. YOU FEEL THE SHARED SORROW OF LOSING, THE JOY OF HAVING KNOWN, THAT RADIATES FROM THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE THERE.
“AS YOU WALK DOWN TO THE FRONT OF THE ROOM AND LOOK INSIDE THE CASKET, YOU SUDDENLY COME FACE TO FACE WITH YOURSELF. THIS IS YOUR FUNERAL, THREE YEARS FROM TODAY. ALL THESE PEOPLE HAVE COME TO HONOR YOU, TO EXPRESS FEELINGS OF LOVE AND APPRECIATION FOR YOUR LIFE.

“AS YOU TAKE SEAT AND WAIT FOR THE SERVICE TO BEGIN, YOU LOOK AT THE PROGRAM IN YOUR HAND. THERE ARE TO BE FOUR SPEAKERS. THE FIRST IS FROM YOUR FAMILY…THE SECOND SPEAKER IS ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS, SOMEONE WHO CAN GIVE A SENSE OF WHAT YOU WERE AS A PERSON. THE THIRD SPEAKER IS FROM YOUR WORK OR PROFESSION. AND THE FOURTH IS FROM YOUR CHURCH…WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN SERVICE.

“NOW THINK DEEPLY. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE EACH OF THESE SPEAKERS TO SAY ABOUT YOU AND YOUR LIFE? WHAT KIND OF A HUSBAND, WIFE, FATHER OR MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE THEIR WORDS TO REFLECT? WHAT KIND OF A SON OR DAUGHTER OR COUSIN? WHAT KIND OF A FRIEND? WHAT KIND OF A WORKING ASSOCIATE? WHAT KIND OF CHARACTER WOULD YOU LIKE THEM TO HAVE SEEN IN YOU? WHAT CONTRIBUTIONS, WHAT ACHIEVEMENTS WOULD YOU WANT THEM TO REMEMBER? LOOK CAREFULLY AROUND YOU. WHAT DIFFERENCE WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE MADE IN THEIR LIVES?”
In a powerful way, Covey has actually hit upon an important biblical life principle. He uses a funeral (our own funeral) to get us to think about how we want to our lives to be remembered, and what kind of a legacy we would like to have. His point, of course, is that if you want things to end in a wonderful way, it is necessary to plan and work towards that end; thus the chapter title, “Begin With the End in Mind.”

For the believer, the greater application goes far beyond our earthly funerals and takes us to the coming Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10); an event that is as certain as the fact we got up this morning. So make some time, take a moment in a quiet space, and think deeply about what it might be like when we appear before the Lord Jesus. As you stand before the Lord in all His splendor and glory, you probably want to hear Jesus say to you, “well done, good and faithful servant.” I certainly want that. And if that is your desire, then it is certainly a most excellent one. However, wishing it to be so does not guarantee it will take place.

In his “begin with the end in mind”, Stephen Covey observes that so much in the life of an effective person is “twice created.” By this he means that there is a mental creation of that which we want to do, and then the task of creating the plan, with all its components, to bring about the desired end. If, as followers of Jesus Christ, we say that we want to hear Him say “well done, good servant”, we have done the first creation of mentally setting forth our goal in life. But that alone is not sufficient. We must “create” the plan for getting to the great goal of our mental creation. If you are building a house, you mentally come to know what you want (family room, great room, office space, place for the kids to play, certain features in the kitchen etc). Then comes the task of creating the blueprint, the construction plans and so on, in order to bring that house to completion.

After we believers decide we really do want to hear Jesus’ word of commendation, we then need to plan on how we are going to get to that great goal. Fortunately, we don’t have to do this from scratch. The blueprint of the Scriptures has laid out quite clearly how we can achieve that great goal of “well done, good servant.” While the following is not an exhaustive list, it will get us going. Let me suggest for your consideration, seven basic areas to analyze and plan. None of this can be quickly so don’t try to accomplish this between commercial breaks on a TV show.

(1) My walk with Christ. Without any doubt, this is the foundation for a believer hearing “well done, good and faithful servant.” Jesus Himself was abundantly clear when He told us to “abide in Him”; that is, to remain in constant fellowship with Him (John 15:1-11). If we do this then our lives are guaranteed to be fruitful. There is a lot involved with this, as most of us know. We need to be confessing our sins, having regular uninterrupted times with Him, checking ourselves daily to detect the infiltration of idolatry into our lives and certainly dealing with the Lordship of Christ in the various areas of our lives. (Luke 9:23-34; 14:25-35; Eph. 4:20-32; 1 John 1:9; 1 Cor. 10:1-23). Objectively, how is my walk with Christ?

(2) My family. Each of us has a role in a family, both immediate and extended. It could be as a husband, wife, son, daughter, aunt or uncle, grandparent, cousins and so on. What would we want Jesus to say about our family life at the Judgment Seat? (Keep in mind that such details will be important there, as even a “cup of cold water” will be remembered. Mark 9:41). The husband who says he wants to be the best of husbands, but never spends time and focus on his wife, needs to rethink the way he is being a husband. The child who wants to be a “good child”, but challenges parental authority or only selectively obeys the parent, is likely not going to get positive reviews at their appearance before the Lord. If a parent wants their child to follow Christ, but does not purposely and regularly instruct them in the things of the Lord, then it is time to add planned instruction to the family schedule and likely remove some other things. If we come up short with our behaviors and actions in our family life, then it would be prudent to carefully make adjustments in what we are doing. (Eph. 5:22-6:4; Deut. 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-21).

(3) My stewardship. The scriptures don’t stutter when they tell us that the most fundamental requirement of a steward is that of faithfulness (! Cor. 4:1-2). A steward is one to whom the master has given resources and responsibilities. Every believer is a steward. We have been given spiritual gifts, natural abilities, financial resources, mental capacities, opportunities and jobs. (Eph. 4:7, 11-16; Gal. 6:6-10; 1 Tim. 6:17-19; 1 Cor. 4:7). The great question at the Judgment Seat will be “were you faithful with what I gave you?” Best we ask that question now and be very candid in how we answer it.

(4) My church. The Church, the body of Christ, is very important to the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus. Every believer has privileges and obligations, as “believer priests” to function faithfully in that setting (1 Cor. 12:7-27; Heb. 3:1-5). A healthy local church requires more than 20% involvement (which is said to be the usual percentage of believers who are active in ministry). Each of us has been given spiritual gifts which are to be used in that setting. Granted, some gifts/people are more prominent in any given local church. But prominence is not the issue; faithfulness in serving, giving, fellowshipping, and worshipping is the issue. So how are you doing? Also, Jesus values as well the attempt to “preserve the unity of the church” (Eph. 4:1-3), and this is important as churches tend to split and divide over many matters. Are we healers or dividers?

(5) My employment. Being a diligent, hard-working, honest worker is one way that we honor Christ and represent Him well in this world. It makes little difference if we are in a profession that is seen as highly admirable or one that is not thought of so highly. Wherever Christ has put us, we are to work as though He alone were our boss (He really is). Do our fellow workers look at us and see those wonderful qualities that reflect well on our Father (Matt. 5:16)? (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:7-12; Prov. 12:11; 22:29) Are there work related areas that need to be cleaned up or changed?

(6) My neighbors and friends. We realize that we also have both relationships and responsibilities towards those outside the body of Christ. To these we are to live as “lights” and are, therefore exhorted to be characterized before them as thankful people and not as complainers (Phil. 2:14-16). We are also the carriers of the “good news”, that good word that eternal life and the forgiveness of sins is available to them through Jesus Christ. We are to be alert to doors that the Lord opens for us in sharing our faith with others (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 17:17). How are we doing in this arena?

(7) My speech. I include this as the last basic category because Jesus indicated that how we talk is so very important (Matt. 15:11, 18-19) and reveals so very much about where we really are in our spiritual maturity. We are told that life and death are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21). The wise man or woman controls their tongue (Prov. 15:1-2; 16:27-28; 17:27-28; 18:2, 6-8, 13). The NT tells us that the tongue is one of the objective indicators of our spiritual maturity (James 3:2ff.). It tells us that we are not to let unwholesome words come out of our mouths but only words that build other people up (Eph. 4:29). Is our speech all that it should be? Any adjustments needed?

So we who want to hear Jesus say “well done, you good and faithful servant”, need to move beyond “creating” the vision of the end goal, and “create” the path to get there; a path really laid out for us in the Scriptures. How many of the above areas need adjustments, either significant or minor changes?

Such a second “creation” takes time; some quiet time. Such is needed if we are really serious about hearing “well done”. It takes more than wishful thinking, but requires candid analysis of how we are really doing life. For me, this was one of those exercises that changed the trajectory of my life (and is an ongoing process). It takes some effort to be sure, but it will be worth it all when we see Jesus (and we will).