Monday, August 31, 2020

THE TEMPORARY WINNER: GLOBALISM


The current political battle, between those who want a global world order versus those with a commitment to nationalism, is also a biblical battle. Whether it is European nations attempting to get out of the European Union, as Britain did, or whether it is the current American nationalism in “making America great again”; the fact is that both biblical history and biblical prophecy come to bear on this subject. And while we are rightly quite interested in the political matters, it is important to make sure that we have an understanding of the biblical matters.

(1) Nations are God’s idea. God brought nations into existence at the Tower of Babel. The main reason for God’s “coming down” to scatter mankind as they were laboring on their tower building project at Babel, was to keep evil from deepening and spreading further. God declared that “nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them” (Gen. 11:6). He was not talking about their architectural pursuits but about their sinning. Because of man’s fixed depravity, he will always involve himself in evil. But it gets worse when he unites with other equally sinful people. The masses tend to take sinful behavior to a deeper level. What an individual might not do alone, when they join a mob or a gang, they will do some pretty wicked things. So, by means of instantly creating new languages, God forced mankind to divide and begin national groups as found in Genesis 10 (Note that Genesis 10 takes place chronologically after the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11). So, while sin would not cease because of this dividing, the extreme demonstrations of sin would be muted. Conversely, a unified, one-world approach would drag mankind down as far as it could go.

The Apostles were certainly not na├»ve when it came to understanding that governments can be evil. Rome was hardly the example of righteous rulership. However, the Apostles also understood that government is an important means, ordained by God, for the restraining of evil (Rom. 13:1-4). Paul observed that they do “bear the sword” and they know how to use it. Even bad governments do some restraining of evil. If they didn’t, their own national experience would be continual chaos.

It should not come as a surprise then that Satan, the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31) would be against God’s purpose in this matter of nations. We learn from Jesus’ temptation account that the nations of this world system have been “handed over” to Satan (Luke 4:5-6). But while the Evil One does manipulate and influence nations, using evil leaders and demonic forces (note also Dan. 10:20), his ultimate goal is something far more sinister. It is not simply making nations evil, but it is making the world evil. And biblical prophecy sheds abundant light on the matter.

(2) One world government is Satan’s clear goal.  God is the sovereign over all of creation, which is something that the Devil has always aspired to (cf. Isa. 11:12-14). The book of Revelation is quite clear that Satan is going to come close to fulfilling his wicked desires when he rules and is worshipped through the Beast (a.k.a. the Antichrist---Rev. 13:2-17)). This one world government will flourish for a very short period of time, namely for 42 months (Rev. 13:5-7). Though brief, this time will be the wickedest and most rebellious time ever. Unrestrained evil will dominate the planet. The control of the human population will be the greatest ever, as the Evil One institutes an absolute authority using the infamous mark of “666”. His purpose in this is to be worshipped by mankind. This is where the world is headed, and the world will indeed arrive at this destination. This kind of evil is why God shook things up at the Tower of Babel. Even though Satan knows all of this, in the book of Revelation, he works tirelessly to bring about the fulfillment of his global rule, as found in Revelation 13.

All through history, the Devil has employed godless people to further his schemes. And the world that we live in today experiences the same thing. Today, incredibly wealthy globalists are working at bringing about a one-world government. Names familiar to us have this as their stated goal. This is not a conspiracy theory but really a conspiracy fact, and something which will, in God’s timing, take place. As countries, including our own, move away from God’s righteous standards in ordering national life, the move towards a one-world system becomes easier to achieve. One purpose of this short article is to make it clear that the conflict is not so much about Republican vs. Democrat, but rather it is part of the ongoing conflict between God and Satan. Globalism is one of the “doctrines of demons”. The globalists will eventually win, though the victory will be short lived and will not produce what they suppose it will produce. Satan’s apples have always had worms in them and this globalism apple is one of the wormiest and the rottenest of all.

The fundamental, fatal flaw in globalist thinking is their view of the nature of man. Globalists see man as inherently good (which makes them inherently good also). In their view, the ills and evils found in the world have come about because of greedy big business, corrupt politicians and bloodthirsty warmongers. All these realities flourish in the nationalist incubators, and so, the world finds itself in its present condition. Likely these greedy, corrupt, bloodthirsty folks will need to be eliminated. Arriving at a one world order will get rid of the above and allow mankind to flourish. Biblically, such a view is totally out of touch with reality, and incidentally, in opposition to man’s history as well.

(3) One world government is God’s stated goal. Satan has always been a counterfeiter, taking what God has created and revealed, making his own version of those things. Ruling the world was not really the Devil’s idea. God is to be King. So, when the Evil One wants to be like God, it is no surprise that this includes ruling the world.

We as believers in the Lord Jesus understand that Jesus Christ will establish His righteous kingdom on this planet. So, after the counterfeit kingdom of Satan, the authentic kingdom of King Jesus will come. The prophets and apostles spoke often, and in great detail, about the peace, joy and abundant blessings that will be characteristic of Jesus Messiah’s kingdom. His will be a glorious, benevolent dictatorship. It will be utopia. Mankind will experience what God intended from the very beginning in Eden because man’s core problem of sinfulness has been fully taken care of by the Cross. First will come the one-thousand-year rule of Christ on this present, curse free earth; and then, the eternal kingdom of God on a new earth. Godly globalists will prevail! God, on oath, has said it will take place.

It is worth noting that there will be nations in the future, forever kingdom of God, and these nations will have a prominent role (see Rev. 21:24-26). Nations in the perfect future kingdom will obviously not have the function of restraining evil. There is no evil. We, therefore, conclude that nations will have new purposes in eternity. Perhaps, since God and His creation and His future kingdom are highly organized, nations will enable us to better serve and worship God. Clearly, Revelation 21 is letting us know that redeemed mankind will not be some huge mass of humanity, but will be divided up. Stay tuned on this one.

In the meantime, before the Devil’s globalism becomes a reality, we believers need to be alert to opportunities to inform those around us that they can have a part in the coming reign of Messiah Jesus, and His wonderful and glorious global rule. Our participation in this marvelous future kingdom comes when we place our faith in the Savior-King who will return to this earth as He promised His followers He would do. That will be amazing for us, but we need to remind ourselves that globalists are in great need of the Savior also. 

The best days are yet ahead. Even so come Lord Jesus! 


Monday, August 3, 2020

STANDING STRONG FOR CHRIST IN A HOSTILE CULTURE


          How are we, as followers of Jesus, to live in a cultural setting that is swiftly becoming quite hostile to Jesus. When times become ominous, people often respond by hiding and thinking only about self-preservation. This is part of the great attractiveness of the “prepper” mentality, as they stockpile food, weapons, water and whatever they believe will give them a measure of safety and security.  And while we understand that the wise man sees danger and is careful to avoid it if possible (Prov. 27:12) and that there is wisdom in preparing for the “winter season” (Prov. 6:6-11), the Lord Jesus has put us in this culture for such a time as this. We are here to represent Him and not hide in a bunker, physical or mental.

What we know.  First, all that we need for living a God-pleasing life, in any cultural setting, has been given to us in the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:3). Nothing we face or experience is not, in some way, dealt with in the Scriptures. So, we have all the truth we need. It is true, of course, that the Holy Spirit has been given to each of us and He enlightens, directs and empowers us to live well for the Lord Jesus. The Apostles of the Lord lived all of their ministry lives in hostile environments; first among the Jews and then among the Romans. And so, they write the scriptures guided by the Spirit, but also from personal experience with a hostile cultural setting.

          Second, we know how all of this will eventually end. Biblical prophecy is designed to aid us in living better right now. Prophecy does not stutter or stammer when it tells us that the Lord God is sovereign over the men and nations of this world, and that He is neither impressed nor intimidated by their rantings and threats. (We discussed this in last month’s study of Psalm 2, “And God Laughs”). His plans for the future will bring great salvation (Rev. 7) to mankind along with great judgment (Rev. 6, 8, 9, 16). The chances of all these prophecies being fulfilled are 100%. Satan, the Antichrist, the False Prophet and all their minions will not thwart or delay by one minute, God’s executing perfectly His divine will. The appearing of our Lord Jesus remains our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) and the Father’s plan of installing King Jesus over the coming, glorious kingdom remains a certainty. These truths are designed to strengthen our inner person by reminding us of the ultimate outcome of world events. They strengthen us in order that we might live confidently, and even boldly, in a cultural setting where God’s standards are viewed with utmost contempt and the idea that God (if there is one) has any relevance. 

          Third, we are to actively represent our great God in this world. Jesus reminds His followers, (in Matt. 5:16) that we are to shine as lights in the world, and by so doing, bring honor to Him. We are not to hide the light by putting it under a basket (or in a bunker). Most of us don’t think we are that great or important, so that it will not make much of a difference what we do. But, throughout the Bible we have accounts of how God made significant impact in situations by using just one individual (and often one that was not in a position of power or authority). We are here at this time to be used by Him among our family, friends, fellow believers and the acquaintances that we come across. He has people and situations that He wants us to influence and, therefore, to represent the Lord Jesus. Remember, we are never called upon to be famous, only faithful. And it is likely that our being faithful will take place outside the bunker. Paul’s exhortation to believers 1900 years ago is just as vital today. In Ephesians 5:11-17 (ESV).

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light….Look  carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

 

          Fourth, in connection with the above, we need to remember the fact that even those who are vehemently opposed to the Lord and His standards are, nevertheless, in desperate need of His saving grace. The Apostle Paul was motivated this reality of people’s true condition and not by what they try and project (2 Cor. 5:16). They need a Savior. And, as it turns out, we remain the only ones who can tell people that the Lord loves them and has provided eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. So we need to remind ourselves that we are Christians first and Americans second. And as Christians, Jesus has given us the task of sharing the good news (Matt. 28:19-20).

          Fifth, we must be ready to obey God first, and then to obey government. This might prove to be an area where we need to wisely apply biblical truth. There might come situations where we must decide to obey God rather than men. Every now and then the early church had to do so (Acts 4:19-20). And our current climate may bring believers once again to that place mentioned by the Apostles. Christ, not Caesar, gives the Church its marching orders.

Sixth, Jesus was crystal clear that when we identify with Him, the world (Satan’s system) will hate us for it (John 15:18-20; 17:11, 15-16). So hostility from this culture is to be expected. But if this experience does arise in our lives, we will never be abandoned by the Lord and, therefore, we are not to live in fear. (Heb. 13:5b-6). The spirit of fear, which often leads to the “bunker mentality” is not to be true of us. Paul, living in the hostility of his age, said that “God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7).

What we don’t know.  First, we don’t know how the current cultural collapse in America will play out in the coming days. Will it continue or accelerate? Will it be hindered by the Church coming alive? At this point, we don’t know what the November, 2020 election will produce. We are informed, however, by Daniel that God sets up and removes leaders according to His plans and purposes (Dan. 2:21). So no amount of money spent, shady politics, lies or deceptions will change what God is going to do. Pray we may and must. God is sovereign in these matters but He does factor in the prayers of His people. Ultimately, our trust lies in Jesus and not in a person or a party.

Second, obviously we do not know when the Lord Jesus will come and take His Church to be with Himself and thus trigger the events of the Tribulation (Matt. 24:36; 1 Thess. 4:13-17). There are no necessary events or signs which must take place before the end time events unfold. His return truly is an imminent one, and we are to keep one eye on the heavens. And, in spite of those who annually predict the rapture in connection with the fall Jewish feasts, we simply do not know when the Lord Jesus is coming for us. But once He does come, the world will be faced with supernaturalism of an unbelievable nature and extent. 

So, to each of us the Lord has put us in this time to represent Him and to wisely do so in what is clearly an evil age where increasingly good is called evil, and evil is designated as good. In the bunker? Get out. The Lord will direct our paths.


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

AND THEN GOD LAUGHED

The world we live in seems to be turning upside down. One year ago we would not have imagined what we are seeing, hearing and experiencing today. It seems so surreal and many sit dazed by what now exists. Present is a unique global pandemic which has motivated millions to dramatically change the way they live life. Many people are living with such anxiety that they seem afraid to step outside their homes lest they be attacked and destroyed by Covid-19.  Added to the fear of this disease are the endless television and the internet clips, showing rioting in city after city accompanied by looting and destruction. More clips record the defacing and destroying of monuments and statues, and much more media communications, which indicates that our way of life is unexpectedly changing. The rising prominence of groups such as Black Lives Matter (which is really not about people with black skin but is a Marxist movement bent on bringing down capitalist America), Antifa and others which have come out of the shadows to brazenly declare their goals. And added to all this, real leadership is lacking on so many levels. Many too many politicians use all of the above to advance their personal agendas, and especially their all-consuming lust for power and control.
So what do we do with all of this?  We are to do what believers have done throughout the ages, and that is to shift our focus off of the events swirling around us and refocus back on the great Creator-Savior God that we know and serve. Many portions of Scripture help with this, but Psalm 2 does it as well as any. So take a moment and open your Bible to Psalm 2 and we will take a brief stroll through this powerful portion of Scripture. It is designed to give great clarity and peace to our lives as we are reminded of important truths.
PSALM 2 is a psalm that is referenced numerous times in the New Testament. It was, according to Acts 4:25-26, written by King David. The Psalm itself informs us that the Son (the Anointed One/Messiah) will receive His inheritance, which is said to be all the nations of the world. His reign will be on this earth and He will rule from Zion, after His enemies have been defeated. The Psalm has four distinct parts to it.
In 2:1-3, David speaks. He is amazed at the amazing lack of wisdom seen in the kings of the earth who actually believe they can successfully resist and defy God. David just cannot believe they hold to the foolish idea that they can break free from the Creator and His Anointed, and to somehow remove His rule and influence from the earth. What David observed is much the same we are presently witnessing. Most all of the world’s rulers do not want God’s standards and laws to dictate their decisions or their actions. These rulers of men are badly deluded into thinking that the earth belongs to them and that they can dismiss God’s rule. They are, of course, simply following the philosophy of their “father”, the devil. Their attitudes and actions are deliberate and are not the result of a lack of information. It is also clear that they have a particular hatred for the Father’s Anointed One, none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. In their arrogance and hate, they are determined not to be bound, in any way, by His rules, and they have no intention of having Him rule over them. Isn’t this description by David being replicated today in our world today?
  2:4-6 records the words of God the Father who breaks the silence by laughing at these pathetic “powerful” kings. God in heaven is clearly not threatened or intimidated in the least by their arrogant boasting, and is unfazed by their threats. And as we witness our world in the grip of this spiritual insanity (which could be preparatory for the end of the end times), we really should listen most carefully to this inspired Psalm. God has displayed extraordinary patience with sinful mankind and their opposition to Him (remember 2 Peter 3:9-10). But David sees a time when God’s patience is exhausted and His righteous wrath is dramatically displayed. These who so aggressively opposed the Lord God will then be stricken with total terror as they hear the words of the angry God and experience His almighty hand of judgment. They thought they could thwart God and keep Him from fulfilling His covenant promise to David (2 Sam. 7). But this they cannot do. He will place His King (the Messiah, son of David) as ruler on the Temple Mount; that is, Mount Zion. This is how all of this will eventually end and that is great news.
2:7-9 are the words of the Anointed One as He proclaims God’s word. The “decree” of the Lord is a reference to the Davidic Covenant which states that the great descendant of David will indeed rule forever. We should remember Psalm 89 where God took an oath that nothing would prevent the Son from ruling over the entire earth. God said in 89:34-35, “My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of my lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness, I will not lie to David.” The fulfilling of this promise by God is an absolute certainty, even if the power brokers of the world deny that such things will ever happen.
        Now, the Anointed One (the Lord Jesus) declares that His right to kingship is based on His sonship. And while His eternal sonship is implied, the sonship that is in view in this psalm is the one linked to His incarnation, death and resurrection. It is this aspect of His sonship based on the Davidic Covenant, which is the basis for asking the Father for His inheritance. His inheritance, as it turns out, is not just ruling over Israel, but it is over all the nations on this present earth, even over all the nations currently in rebellion against Him. These nations will be forced into submission, and the Anointed One will crush all rebellion and resistance. These insolent, arrogant kings of the earth will come to their end as they hear the laughing of God in their ears. It is said that the Son will rule with a rod of iron, which is a phrase used several times in the Book of Revelation to tell us that in the coming kingdom of Jesus there will be zero tolerance for any overt sinning and rebellion. It is important to note that no such ruling by Jesus has yet taken place, and the “rod of iron” is certainly not in evidence today. So theological positions which present Jesus as ruling in His messianic kingdom now, just do not align with Psalm 2, nor with the numerous scriptures like it.                              
        But back to the point concerning today. All these rulers and all these groups which boldly pronounce that they are independent of any god, especially the Creator God and His Anointed One, will be bowing the knee to Him (Phil. 2:9-10). This does give perspective, does it not? The rioters, the supposed brilliant people of this world and the politicians will all bow before Jesus, the Anointed One.
2:10-12 gives the final counsel of God (maybe God the Spirit?). The leaders of the nations of the earth are told to take this coming reality of the Son’s installation as king most seriously. God prefers to save rather than judge. But when His appeals are rejected, the severe judgments of God will surely come. (We should remember the important revelation of God in Exodus 34:6-7 where God’s patience and consistent love is seen, and yet, if mankind will not respond to that, then His holiness requires that He judge). Here in Psalm 2, these leaders are told to worship God with reverence. In the Scriptures, reverential awe of God is always evidenced by obedience and submission to God. So much better for all if the leaders of these nations gladly submit to Him. Millennial blessing will be theirs.
There is simply no question as to how things are going to come out, sooner or later. Our all-knowing, wise and good God will, at some point, decide to end the present domination of the earth by the “god of this world”. We take great comfort in the truth of Psalm 2 that His wonderful purposes will not be thwarted by these rulers of the nations of the earth. This reality is to be our focus and our perspective.
In a time of oppression and persecution long ago, the Apostle Paul reminded Timothy that living life afraid and intimidated is not appropriate for the child of God. He stated that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear) but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).  Now as we view our present world, we may think that such things can’t exist in us. But they can, as these attitudes are produced by the all-powerful Spirit of God who dwells within each and every believer. He can produce in us these supernatural attitudes. And the Spirit does so in close connection with the truth found in the Word of God and applied in our lives; truth such as Psalm 2.

Monday, June 1, 2020

SATAN: HIS KNOWLEDGE, ACTIVITIES AND PREPARATION FOR THE END

Satan has always been deeply involved in the world’s politics, economics, hostilities and deceptions. He is, after all, the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31; Eph. 2:2). When we view the tensions and issues in this world, we generally focus on Russia, Washington D.C., Hezbollah, China and several others. And, if you are at all like me, the tendency is to forget the very active involvement of Satan and his forces in all of this. For some high tech, sophisticated Americans this kind of “Satan talk” seems downright medieval or perhaps just foolish. But as followers of the coming King Jesus, it is not. And for us, it is wise to periodically reflect on biblical realities, including those truths that tell us of God’s clear plans for the future of this world, as well as of the goals of the “god of this world”.  We are aware that we live in an unsettled world. It is coronavirus infected, and it has an abundance of dictators, terrorists and other unsavory persons. If we look carefully, we can observe the philosophy of globalization gaining strength and seemingly pushing us towards the end times. The ever new and changing technology now enables the power brokers of the world to pretty much control the economics of the world. So, in all of this, we ask, is Satan really running this show? If so, does he have a goal in mind and a plan to reach that goal?  Let’s remind ourselves of some satanic truths.
(1) Satan does not know when the end time tribulation events will come.  Lest we think that Satan has some form of omniscience, let’s recall that he definitely does not know when the end will come. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus was as clear as can be when He declared that only the Father knows when the final days will come. And He noted that not even angelic beings were knowledgeable of this fact. This is why Satan is at a disadvantage regarding end time events. This is why Satan always has and always will have an “antichrist” ready to go at a moment’s notice (because that is likely all he will have). Some 80 years ago, many evangelical preachers pointed to Adolf Hitler as the likely Antichrist. And he probably would have been if God had given the green light for the final days. But He didn’t and so Hitler wasn’t. Satan just does not know when the prophesied end times will commence but he is always working at putting necessary things and people in place.
(2) Satan has a goal for this world system that he is in charge of.  Revelation 13 gives insights into Satan’s passionate desire to be like God and rule over all the nations of mankind. He is the first and greatest globalist. (Note that God ordained nations for man to live in and as a means of putting a lid on evil; Genesis 10 and 11). Using the Antichrist and the False Prophet, they will form the unholy trinity and will come as close as Satan will ever get to being king of the world. Nothing less than absolute domination of this world is the goal of the Evil One. This is his great goal and he will have his way for about 42 months.
(3) Satan has “action steps” which he will use to achieve his desired goal.  There is no doubt that Satan has for millennia observed mankind and in his brilliant, but perverse, mind he knows what works so very often. C. S. Lewis captured the “wisdom” and insights of Satan and demons in his classic tale of the “Screwtape Letters.” And if C.S. Lewis was right, a lot of understanding of man’s behaviors and tendencies have been cataloged by the forces of evil. For example, in today’s coronavirus environment, Satan has seen again that people will give up much for self-preservation, including their health. This observation is actually thousands of years old. In his dialogue with God about the man Job, Satan said, “skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:4). In his observation of people, Satan has learned that being healthy is a primary concern for humans. Even “independent, self-reliant" people can quickly cave in when life and health are seemingly threatened. And this is a reality in our present environment. We sometimes wonder why in the end times people will so quickly give in to the Antichrist (and to Satan who empowers him—Rev. 13:4-7). When a person sees their health or wealth being endangered, it seems that for many it is now time to bargain, compromise and be done (if need be) with personal liberties. Was this not an observable phenomenon in German, Japan and Italy in World War II? And we are presently seeing it today in our own country and around the world. As we noted in previous articles, the coronavirus pandemic is not a sign of the end times, but there is significant illustrative value in it. As we observe present events and see how people are responding, it gives insights into how mankind behaves and how it will behave. And it sheds some light on how Satan and the Antichrist will control people, even using the infamous “mark of the Beast.”  
(4) Satan always works in the minds of people to inculcate those “doctrines of demons” which are intended to bring about his desired goals.  The Apostle Paul spoke of this in 1 Timothy 4:1 when he put the spotlight on deceiving demonic beings and their distorted doctrines. These fallen beings originate and propagate philosophies that find their way into the human experience. This is an important point for us to remember. What is being espoused by some mocking late-night talk show host, or proclaimed by some radical left-wing politician has its origins at Lucifer University. Whatever philosophies or ideas will bring about the intended one world government of the Devil will be used. Most of our great thinkers are simply “useful idiots” involved in a much larger cause which they likely know nothing about. The battle has always been for the mind and will continue to be the case all the way to the end of human history.
(5) Satan will have some success but it will be short-lived.  Like a flash of lightning, Satan’s glory and success will light up the world and then quickly be gone. God is patient, but He is not tolerant. One wonders why Satan continues on his present course when he realizes his fate. Don’t you think that he has memorized the Book of Revelation? Surely, he knows how his efforts will end. But Satan is the classic example of what sin does to a created being. Sin distorts, hardens and deceives. He does understand his end, but apparently doesn’t believe it or think about it. But the Lord Jesus Christ will come in glory and terminate his plans, goals and all his “kingdom”.
As Americans, we have pretty much been insulated from many of the evil things that have plagued men and nations for most of earth’s history. This was because our republic was essentially based on the principles of God as found in the Scriptures. And adhering to those dynamic truths, America was a stable nation and one blessed because there were good consequences to abiding by God’s truth. We have, since the 1970s, been rapidly moving away from that foundation and now sense that instability has come upon us. 
What shall we do now? The answer is found in an old hymn. We are to “trust and obey for there’s no other way.”  And while we can involve ourselves in the political arena, we should remember that we hold a dual citizenship. We are first and foremost citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20). And as such, our primary loyalty and devotion is to our King. Each day we have an opportunity to be faithful to Him. That we can do. Faithful to Him in our relationships with others; in our worship of Him; in our praying without ceasing; and in whatever He might give us to do that day. As Jesus recommended, we are to live life in “day tight” compartments. This we can do. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

CURRENT EVENTS and PROPHETIC EVENTS

First, I apologize. As you sit under “house arrest”, it is quite likely that the last thing that you want to hear about is Covid-19. Like a dense fog, Covid-19 fatigue has settled on us all. The fog engulfs us all day, every day. And so, it is possible that some of us just might become violent if one more person dares to tell us to wash our hands for 20 seconds, and to make sure we stay 6 feet away from those disease-bearing friends and family members. And, by the way, don’t forget to wear your mask and latex (or non-latex) gloves. The good news here is that this short article is not about any of the above. But all of the above have produced an amazing crop of prophetic weeds. And I do sense that we might need some theological “Round-Up”. I would like to add some points to the discussion we had last month on this matter, since prophetic type articles, blogs and whatever keep on appearing, even from some folks that we might consider reliable.   
These voices, for example, inform us that we are “dangerously close” to the beginning of the Tribulation; or, the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem is a sign of the end times; or, the earth is experiencing the beginning of the “birth pains” that Jesus spoke about. And there are dozens more like these. But as we hear these statements (and most likely will continue to hear them) and as we evaluate them, we do need to remind ourselves of some fundamental truths. Let me share a few while we, of course, stay six feet away from one another.
  1. Jesus could return at any moment. This biblical truth is true no matter what is going on in this world. This is the “blessed hope” of the believer in Jesus (Titus 2:13). No event or series of events must come first, nor is there any event which signals that Jesus is coming for His bride at the Rapture event. We ought to be among those who “love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8); that is, we really want to see the Savior and be with Him. As was true at His first coming, so it will be true at His return; at just the right time Jesus came into the world (Gal. 4:4). He might return today, but coronavirus is not an indicator of His coming.
  2. The USA is not a prophetic indicator. It is natural for us to look at moral decay, church apostasy and other circumstances in America and think that these kinds of things point to the end times. They certainly point to what happens to a nation when it decides to abandon the standards of God’s Word. But we need to reflect on the fact that the Bible does not see or use the USA as a prophetic indicator (even if we do live here!) Nations have come and gone in the last 2000 years and when they walk away from the true God, certain negative things take place. So, while we are rightly disturbed and angered by the killing of babies, terrible crimes and immorality, and the obliteration of the family unit as God gave it, these realities simply do not tell us that we are in the time of the end. We might be near it, or maybe not. What happens in the USA is not that which tells us we are in the last days. 
  3. The nation of Israel is the prophetic indicator. This is not the place to expound on the many biblical passages where the restoration of Israel back to their land is the sign of the end times. But it is. After millennia away from the Land, the Jewish people in their unbelief have been coming back, from over 80 different nations. In the OT, God repeatedly said “I will” do this thing. I will bring them back to the Land and then I will bring them back to Myself. Israel is the great indicator that we are moving towards the climactic end time events when God will save His people and millions of others in this world. And it is then that King Jesus will come to establish His messianic (millennial) kingdom on this present earth. God’s working among His people Israel is the end time indicator.
  4. The concept of “birth pains” is tribulation truth. “Birth pains” is an OT phrase used by Jesus and Paul that pictures the judgments that will take place during the tribulation period. They picture these coming judgments as becoming more intense as the tribulation moves along. And as they take place, they will occur closer and closer together. But these “birth pains” are tribulation judgments not present-day events. And it is not correct to say, as many are, that the current pandemic or some recent earthquakes are indicators that birth pains have begun. These today are neither the tribulation birth pains, nor are they “pre-birth-pain” birth pains. Mankind, unfortunately, has had these kinds of events, along with famines and war, as a part of living in this fallen world. History has recorded a multiplicity of times when pandemics, earthquakes, famines and warfare have rocked the world. However, the birth pains of the tribulation are uniquely intense and destructive. Jesus and several OT prophets have declared: “there has never been a time like this and there never will be again.” Simply put, these birth pains are totally unique in the experience of mankind. 
  5. Present events can be illustrative. As noted in last month's article, the current coronavirus pandemic does not indicate that we are in the end times. But it can supply an illustration of what these kinds of things might look like. We can get some idea of how destructive some events might be in the end of time. In our day, we have video footage of tsunamis, caused by earthquakes, killing hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of hours. Those images are imprinted on our minds. In World War II, we have seen how famines can kill millions of people and how war itself eliminates tens of millions. So, with our technology recording these events, we have a pretty good idea of how destructive these forces can be. And they are really just mild forms of it. When we read in the Scriptures of the presence of these destructive judgments during the tribulation time, which clear well over 50% of the earth’s population, we can now better imagine what it will be like. We have seen similar kinds of things, but these things were not tribulation “birth pains.” 
  6. Control what we can. Most of us are smart enough to realize that there is so very little in life that is actually within our control, or often, even our influence. But there is something we can control; namely, how we live today. As stated last month, this current pandemic did not blindside the omniscient God who is our Father in heaven. He not only knew about it but He in some way has a hand in it, for His own purposes. And because we happen to be alive at such a time as this, the Lord undoubtedly has things for each of us to do. We are to represent Him in a culture that is increasingly denying Him. We can speak and be more than a silent witness. I do believe that since you and I are still breathing, He has something specific for us to do. It probably is not something spectacular which will put us in the news, but under His direction it is valuable and it is most likely eternal. 

We really shouldn’t let this crisis “go to waste.”  Our objective ought to be to serve Him right now, and allow Him to guide us into His purposes for us during Covid-19. Though the Lord Jesus could come back at any moment, this pandemic is not an indication of that coming. There are a lot of nervous and stressed people around us who might need a word or act from us. And I can imagine that the Holy Spirit, who does personally guide us, perhaps has some specifics in mind.  


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

GOD, COVID-19 AND THE END TIMES


It does seem that every politician, company, government official and email contact wants to give us information, assure us of their concern for our well-being and exhort us concerning Covid-19 (the current coronavirus). Some of it is helpful while others aren’t. Perhaps we are all getting a little weary of the subject.
But when the matter of signs of the end times comes up and the suggestion is made that this virus points to us being in the end times, we who are students of the Word of God need to see if there is any validity to these ideas and proclamations. So, seeing that I have some time on my hands, I thought it might be helpful to remind us of certain biblical realities.
(1) God is involved in this coronavirus event. Daniel (Dan. 2:21a) and Paul (1 Thes. 5:1) tell us that God is in charge of the sequence of events in human history as well as the significant turning points in that history.  So major events (such as World War II and 9/11) and the order of all events are under the direction of the Sovereign God. He is a God of great detail, and He rules over His creation. And although latitude is given to Satan and fallen men, God has His own “end game” in view at all times. He uses the right players and events at just the right time to move history along towards His predetermined end. Daniel reminded the sinful, rebellious king Belshazzar that the “Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind” (Dan. 5:21). So, with this in mind, it is safe to say that God is indeed actively involved in this event. Why? That we don’t know, except to say that the Lord is always trying to get the attention of sinful people to bring them to Himself, and that these kinds of events somehow contribute to bringing about the end times. Not only did this current event not sneak up on Him, but He was and is moving it along as best fits His overall purposes. 
(2) Is Covid-19 an indication that we are in the Tribulation period, or does it tell us we are fast approaching the Tribulation? Yes, there will be plagues during the Tribulation period. People are correct when they note that point. In fact, plague (disease) along with war, famine and unrestrained activity of wild beasts are part of the Tribulation judgments (Rev. 6:8).  These four realities are, according to dozens of Old Testament passages, revealers of the “wrath” and the “hot anger” of God (e.g. Ezekiel 5:13-17; 14:21; Jer. 16:4-5, etc.). God directed these judgments against Israel in the Old Testament and these four will again be seen in their greatest intensity during the Tribulation (the 70th Week of Daniel). However, the Tribulation period, according to Jesus and the prophets (Matt. 24:21; Dan. 12:1; Jer. 30:7; Joel 2:2), is a unique and unprecedented period of time; unlike any time in human history. In fact, the Apostle John writes (Rev. 6:8) that 25% of the earth’s population will perish in these first four judgments of the Tribulation period; which means that (considering the earth’s present population) 2 billion people will perish from the first four judgments, including plague (disease). So, what is taking place today is simply not what will take place during the period of tribulation.  
Also, some are saying that Covid-19 indicates that we are close to the end times because these are part of the birth pains that come before the tribulation period (Matt. 24:8).  However, the birth pains Jesus refers to take place within the tribulation period itself and, as previously stated, are absolutely unique in intensity (and perhaps location). They are not before the Tribulation, but in it.  Earthquakes, warfare, plagues and famine have always been part of the history of fallen man; and that is why we need to remember that when they occur during the Tribulation period, they will be unprecedented in their intensity. For example, an earthquake (such as the more recent one in Japan) can measure 9.1 on the Richter scale. This is a huge quake, but not unprecedented.  However, the world after the Flood of Noah has never seen a 12.1 earthquake (or maybe even greater). The Tribulation will have at least 2 earthquakes of a magnitude never seen before. So, it will be all the birth pains, including plagues. They are terribly bad and they are without precedence. 
(3) Never let a crisis go to waste.  This has notoriously been the thought of some politicians who would use any crisis to further their own political and personal ends. But there is an element of truth here for the believer in Jesus.  This Covid-19 events did not blindside the Lord our God. He did see this coming (obviously), long before any person did. So, it is logical that we use this event to be proactive in our service and relationship with Him. There are a number of things that the Holy Spirit might lead us to do. Some ideas:
  • Take this time to reflect and meditate on the Lord and His ways (Psalm 145:5; 77:11-15).  We live so much of our lives in the “laser lane” of life; always on the go. In quietness, seek Him. It is often in the context of being still and meditative that the Lord speaks to our hearts and reveals Himself and His will in fresh ways. For some of us this could be a wonderful experience.
  • Read the Word and other good books. It might be challenging to read portions of the Bible that you haven’t read for a long time. We often excuse our inattentiveness to Scripture because of our packed schedules. They aren’t so packed now, and such reading might prove more valuable than re-runs on TV.
  • Look for opportunities to connect with others via phone, email, skype, texting, etc. And let your confidence in our Good Shepherd who is sovereign and gracious be seen. There are a lot of nervous, frightened people who likely could use your input and perspective. Many in our culture no longer have their diversions at hand right now and something of the shallowness and emptiness of their lives is surfacing. It’s scary for them. It might be an opening for us.
  • As we have contact in our neighborhoods and the few places we might connect with others, let your confidence in Christ the Lord be seen.  After all, now that God has gotten their attention, we can give them the really good news. One evangelist said just the other day that he is finding people far more open to hearing about Jesus and spiritual matters because of Covid-19.  Like the experience with 9/11, this could just be a little window of opportunity that has been opened for us. So, let’s keep alert to such opportunities.
None of us knows how all this will play out in the coming weeks or perhaps months, so maybe it would be wise to contemplate what the Lord would have us do. We do have the Good Shepherd who is all powerful, wise and good and can lead us into some fruitful times during Covid-19. 
                                                                                                               

Monday, March 2, 2020

A PROPHETIC POINT FOR THE CHURCH AGE


          When we think about Bible prophecy, our thoughts usually immediately go to the subjects of the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennial Kingdom or perhaps some future judgments.  And this is good since truths about these coming events indeed are to powerfully impact our present thinking and our present living.
          The Apostles, however, also included in their pronouncements truth which prophetically relate to how this church age will end.  They were unusually concerned with what the church would be like when this age came to its end. Prior to the Rapture event when Jesus Christ suddenly and supernaturally takes His Bride, the Church, to heaven and out of this world; there will be an invasion of false teachers with their false teachings that come into the Church. Now we know that Satan, since the Garden of Eden, has used false and distorted ideas as his primary tool in countering God’s work in the world. This is nothing new. But the Apostle foresaw a time when falsehood in the church would explode leaving believers in grave danger.  Large numbers of men and women would seduce the saints with their damaging doctrines.  These terrible teachings would hurt believers in this life as well as affect the life to come. And while we cannot set dates and times, we are certainly seeing such an explosion of falsehood and distortion of God’s truth. Teachers and preachers today can get their teachings out to the public very easily and broadly because of the new and growing technologies that have come into existence.
          But the fact remains, what the Apostles saw coming may well be with us now. A great deal of ink was used on this subject by the Apostles, but I want us to be reminded of five truths they predicted (direct by the Holy Spirit).
(1) A Departure. As the church age moves on and gets closer to its end, teachers will depart from healthy doctrine and in its place substitute man pleasing ideas (2 Tim. 3:1; 4:3-4) and over the church age this will get worse and worse (2 Tim. 3:13).  And in the western church especially, this now seems to characterize much of the preaching and teaching. Chaff is everywhere but good wheat is hard to find.
(2) A Mega Movement. This distorted doctrinal preaching and teaching will attract large numbers of people (2 Pet. 2:2). Jesus had taught in His parables of the “mystery kingdom” (mainly the church age) that the “kingdom” would grow large but would also grow more corrupt (Matt. 13). People are attracted to these teachers in large numbers because they tell them things they like to hear. Gone from the teachings are the hard truths such as coming judgment for sin, the fear of God (which is to be in balance with the love of God), personal holiness and other doctrines which make demands on people.
(3) A Sinless Message. These teachers do not define and denounce sin which is such a real part of our experience and struggles. The Scriptures inform us that they avoid speaking about sin because they themselves indulge in sinful lifestyles (2 Tim. 3:2-5). Instead they promote both directly and indirectly hedonism and materialism to the immeasurable damage of believers (2 Pet. 2:18-20). Like the false prophets in Israel, their “ministries” are spiritually empty and actually lead people away from the Lord God (note Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 13). Their distorted view of God and His ways make it impossible for people to know Him and properly relate to Him.
(4) A Subversive Approach. The consistent warning by the Apostles is that these false teachers are within the church. They are not outsiders (Acts 20:28-30; Jude 4, 12; 2 Cor. 11:13-15). Special scrutiny is to be given to those in the church with positions and titles because they are the ones who have authority and are, therefore, most influential in the church. The idea that it is outside cults and movements that are the danger is simply not the case. Paul warned that “among your own selves (the elders) men will arise” who will promote distorted doctrines (Acts 20:30).
(5) A Sacred Responsibility. It is the God-given responsibility of the elders of the church to expose and refute these counterfeit doctrines (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:9-11). The sad reality, however, is that too many elders in the local church today seem incapable of this, as they appear to have neither the knowledge nor the courage to do this critical task, which protects the flock of God from these dangerous doctrines. Avoiding judging false teachings in the name of tolerance is not at all acceptable. As the Apostles Paul and Peter instruct (2 Tim. 2; 1 Pet. 3), they are not to be harsh or arrogant, but are to kindly refute those who are promoting satanic ideas (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
We can never declare that the Lord will be retuning on such and such a date because sound doctrine no longer characterizes the western church. What we can say is that He might indeed be coming very soon because the ongoing departure from the truth of God in “the church” is yet another one of the props on the prophetic stage; pointing to the possibility that it is close to curtain time, and the beginning of the final act of human history known as the Tribulation.
      In the meantime, until the curtain goes up, you and I need to become better students of the Scriptures, coming to understand them and apply them to life. And we need to increasingly “contend earnestly” (Jude 3) for God’s truth, and to “expose” the distorted doctrines that are being promoted in the church (1 Tim. 4:1; Eph. 5:11). This contending for the faith is part of what a faithful servant of Christ does. This may never be behind a pulpit speaking to thousands, but more likely will be one on one with a fellow believer who has been seduced by man pleasing ideas. We must never be proud or argumentative, but we must be clear, compelling and full of conviction in our handling of truth. Remember that it is only God’s truth (the wheat) that transforms lives. Chaff never does that.