Thursday, April 1, 2021

Maintaining and Maturing a “Two-World View”


As our culture rapidly departs from God’s truth, it descends into its own truth, which is constructed of deceptions, half-truths, slanted propaganda and outright lies. As the prophets of the Old Testament observed, they now call evil good, and conversely good is now evil. In such an environment, it is absolutely essential for the follower of Christ to have a maturing two-world view. A two-world view is what characterized the people of faith in Hebrews 11, as well as the likes of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8-21.  

THE FIRST WORLD is the one we live in now. Satan, the “god of this world”, is opposed to that which the Lord has created, and which God has declared to be the best for mankind. These God-ordained entities include the key elements of family, the church and the concept of nations. The Lord has established these to help restrain sin and give to man what is best for him. But Satan works relentlessly at removing them, which explains the approaches of cultural Marxism growing rapidly in our country. Transgenderism, homosexual marriage, the widespread promotion of the LGBTQ agenda, inculcating young children with sexual perversities, unrestrained sexual activities and the explosion of pornography are all aimed at destroying the nuclear family. 

The church is clearly a target as well. The radical left partners with Islam, protecting and promoting it, for the one goal of destroying the church. And this reality is aided by “progressive” Christianity with its downplaying of prophetic truth which stimulates a two-world view. It is replacing God’s truths with its emphasis on “social justice”. And they all engage in the hateful name calling of believers who stand for the authority of God’s word. All this is all aimed at destroying the church of Jesus Christ. Open borders, rejecting “American exceptionalism”, and the rapid promotion of almost anything global is all aimed at destroying nationalism and patriotism. Nations were put in place by God after the Tower of Babel to help put a lid on sinful behavior. And while evil men lead nations into some terrible evils, the reality is that the one-world government of the Antichrist that is still to come will bring evil to its zenith. Globalism is where this world is headed. 

In a prophetic discourse (Luke 21:10-36), the Lord Jesus declared what would happen in this present world. In 21:8-11, He stated what would take place in the first years  of the coming Tribulation period. Unusually intense famines, wars, earthquakes and plagues (perhaps Covid-22, 23 and 24) will hit hard with over 25% of the world’s population dying during those first years (according to Revelation 6:8). 

Then Jesus said that “before these things” take place (21:12), in this church age, there are going to be some very difficult times for His people. Believers will be persecuted and betrayed even by close family members. But all this has a purpose, and that is that we believers will have the opportunity and privilege of giving testimony concerning Jesus (21:13). And the good news is that we will be given all that we need at that moment to be able to speak boldly, wisely and accurately about the truths of God (21:14-15). 

In 21:20-24, Jesus then continued speaking of the coming destruction of Jerusalem (which took place in AD 70). These are called “days of vengeance” because that generation of Israelites, who rejected Jesus as Messiah, would pay a heavy price for their stubborn refusal to accept Him. 

In 21:25-28, the Lord then returned to the subject of the Tribulation period, pointing out the supernatural displays and destructions that will be experienced in the second half of this seven-year period of time. It is worth noting that men’s response to these events will be “dismay”, “perplexity” and “fainting from fear. Man’s philosophies and solutions to the world’s problems never ever bring the results that they advertise. They always bring despair to people. The cultural Marxists of our day speak (as they always do) of the utopia that lies ahead when the world gets rid of the out-of-date restraints such as the nuclear family, the church and nations. But such naivete will be exchanged for fear and despair. As the world descends into the nightmare, known as the Tribulation, uncertainty and terror will grip the minds and hearts of those who refuse to bow before the Lord Jesus. 

THE SECOND WORLD is the one guaranteed to us by the Risen Christ. A biblical worldview has this as an essential ingredient.  We are to live in this world but with an eye on the world to come. God has promised His children that our best days lie ahead of us. And He has set forth some of the realities that lie ahead of us. It is good for us to remember these matters, since they were given to give stability in unstable times.

  • The Rapture or Death. In either case, the believer immediately enters the presence of the glorified Christ, while getting rid of the sinful flesh which plagues us in this life. There is no third option, such as purgatory or “soul sleep”, but instantly we are with our Savior. All of the burdens and trials of this life are immediately set aside as we will begin to experience the wonderful world to come.

  • The Judgment Seat of Christ. This time of rewarding is to give us added motivation to live well for Christ in this world. It is a reminder that we are to be faithful to Him as good servants. Our salvation is never in question at the Judgment Seat, since our salvation is a free gift that we cannot earn. But the level of our fellowship and participation in the future kingdoms of God is affected by the outcome of Christ’s evaluation of us at the Judgment Seat. This was one of the primary motivations that the Apostle Paul had in his life (2 Cor. 5:10-16). We are not called to be famous, but faithful to what the Master has given to us, His servants. And each of us, as we live our lives on a daily basis, can be faithful to Him.

  • The Messianic (Millennial) Kingdom. We, as the “bride of Christ” will be part of this kingdom, as God is going to fulfill His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in a coming 1,000-year reign of Jesus, son of David. The Old Testament prophets gave great detail about this aspect of the future kingdom of God, as did some New Testament writers. This reign of King Jesus will be on this present earth and will be characterized by a radical change in the spiritual dimension. Jesus will not be the carpenter from Nazareth, but will be seen in His great glory (as He was on the mount of Transfiguration). Satan and his forces will be imprisoned in the abyss for that thousand years, which means that neither Satan’s activities or Satan’s world system will exist. Furthermore, the world will then be characterized by righteousness, peace, joy and a full knowledge of the Lord. None of these exist in today’s world, so we really have to work hard at imagining what such an atmosphere will be like. The physical world will be marvelously changed as the curse will be lifted, making the entire earth fertile and capable of abundant fruitfulness.  Disease and deformity will no longer exist. Violence which characterizes the animal kingdom will vanish as harmony exists even among the animals. And the same holds true for mankind. The earth will go back to what it would have been like before the curse of Genesis 3 was placed on it.

  • The Eternal Phase of the Kingdom of God. At the time of mankind’s fall, God embarked on a program to restore and reconcile all that was lost there in the Garden of Eden. We are going back to paradise. Once the thousand year of the Messianic (Millennial) Kingdom is completed, God will destroy the old heavens and old earth and will create new heavens and earth, patterned after the original creation. It is on this new, perfect earth that God will dwell among His people (Rev. 21:1-5) and we will at last fully experience what our Good God has always wanted for His children.

IN THE MEANTIME, ACCORDING TO JESUS. In the Luke 21 passage, Jesus gave to His people truths for us to live by in this world, as we keep an eye on the world to come. 

  • Be prayerful (21:36). Of course, we should pray (but frequently we don’t). As we live in a morally and spiritually decaying culture, we can become fearful, resulting in a greater danger of compromising God’s truth. Jesus’ point is that we need to pray for the strength to remain steadfast and loyal to Him and to His Word.

  • Be honored (21:13-15). It is a great honor to represent the Great Creator God, and we have been selected to give “testimony” about Him to an unbelieving world. And when we think about it, with eternity’s values in view, what a privilege to represent Him, and to be empowered by Him.

  • Be diligent (21:34-35). We daily must evaluate how we are living, keeping in mind that cultural pressures can lead us into harmful living because either we compromise God’s standards or we just give up and hide somewhere. Life in this world has never been easy, but the cultural decay with its onslaught against the righteous standards of God make it harder. 

  • Be loyal to Jesus Christ (21:16-17). Jesus reminded us that even good friends and family members might let us down and even betray Christ. Divided loyalties are not to characterize us. In His ministry, time and again, Jesus made it clear that even family relationships cannot replace our loyalty to Him. We will, He says, give an account to the “Son of Man” (21:36).

And while we pray “even so, come Lord Jesus”, we are to maintain and mature our two-world view until we do see Him.


Thursday, March 4, 2021

THE APOSTASY AND THE HARLOT

It seems that the Apostles were acutely afraid of false teaching getting a foothold in the church; and so, they often wrote about it, warning believers to be on the alert.  Satan’s tried and true method of attempting to thwart God’s work in this world is through the introduction of distorted doctrines. He has been quite successful at it, and seems to be getting even better.   

The Apostle Paul informed believers, in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, that at the end of this age there would be a monumental, deliberate defection from the truth of God (“apostasy”). “Apostasy” carries with it the idea of “rebellion.” And today, most of the “Christian” world, including so-called evangelicals, can be found denying or casting doubt on the fundamental truths of the faith. What Paul warned about, later on the Apostle John gave additional details, in his prophetic revelation concerning the “great harlot” found in Revelation 17.

There are several insights from John that we can glean from his exposure of the coming “great harlot.” We need to remember that the imagery found in Revelation comes almost exclusively from the Old Testament. A “harlot”, as used by Jeremiah, Hosea and other prophets, was not a common prostitute. Rather when the prophets said that Judah and Israel were “harlots”, they were focused on the idea that Israel was the wife of Jehovah, and that instead of being faithful to her marital vows, she was unfaithful to her husband (e.g., Jer. 3:6-10). Israel and Judah went after other gods, and were, therefore, guilty of spiritual adultery. John is using “harlot” in the same way, which tells us that the “harlot” he is speaking about claims a relationship with the true God and Jesus Christ. The “harlot” of Revelation 17 would be “Christian”. But she is terribly unfaithful to Him.

The Composition of the Harlot. It is helpful to note that John says that the “great harlot” is the “mother of harlots” (plural) in Revelation 17:5. This would point to the reality that there are numerous “Christian” religious systems that make up the totality of the harlot. In the world today there are many religious systems that lay claim to Jesus Christ, but have long departed from the Truth (which is Jesus Himself in John 14:6). One cannot legitimately claim a relationship with Jesus Christ while, at the same time, be denying His truth. It could well be that some or all of the following would compose the harlot system: Roman Catholicism, apostate Protestantism, Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, various “Christian” cults and numerous other “Christian” systems.

The Influence and Power of the Harlot.  It is clear from John’s discussion in Revelation 17 that the Harlot wields tremendous power. First, in general it is seen that she has influence over the kings of the earth (17:1-2). There is an intimate and powerful connection between these political leaders and this religious system. And clearly, this indicates that she is a factor in the world order at that time and is deeply involved in the political realm. Second, and more specifically, the Harlot is seen as riding (controlling) the scarlet beast (17:1-7), which has earlier been identified as the Antichrist. Apparently, she will provide some cohesion which will help hold together Antichrist’s new empire. It is fascinating to learn that she actually has a control over this man who would initially rule in Europe (in the first half of the Tribulation) and then rule the world (in the second half of the Tribulation). Such a situation reminds us of the relationship that existed between the Pope and the kings of Europe during the middle ages. The Harlot is clearly one with significant influence.

The Great Wealth of the Harlot. Great wealth often brings with it great power and influence. Money does talk, in fact, it yells. And the Harlot is seen as being incredibly rich (17:4). It is extremely rare when great wealth does not bring with it great corruption and/or great authoritarianism. The Harlot is noted for being rich and we can only imagine what that will look like during these days of rampant evil. Her wealth will impact her influence in the world order.

The Killing of Believers by the Harlot. Remember that apostasy is a willful rebellion against the truth of God. Apostates deliberately, and knowingly, depart from God’s truth. It is not a mistake on their part or a matter of ignorance. And this deliberate departure from God’s truth is usually evidenced by their intense hatred of those who hold tenaciously to the truth of God. During the first half of the Tribulation period, she is the one who purposely and energetically murders God’s children. She is said to be “drunk” with the “blood of the saints” (17:6). She hates believers who adhere to the Word of God. It would hardly be the first time in human history that religion tries to eliminate God’s people from the earth. Religious leaders put the Lord Jesus to death and religious leaders will be putting Jesus’ people to death in the Tribulation.

The End of the Harlot. About the mid-point of the Tribulation period, she will be totally eliminated from the earth. All her wealth and power will be no more. At that time, there will be only one accepted religion in the world, and that is the worship of Satan and the Antichrist. All religions will be brought to an end. They were put in place by the Evil One until his great goal of being worshipped is brought to fruition. The Harlot will be destroyed by the Antichrist and his 10 subservient kings who have a deep and abiding hatred for her (17:16-17). These will actually be carrying out God’s will in the matter. And, in heaven, there is great rejoicing over the fact that the Harlot is no more (19:1-3) and that God has avenged the blood of His people.

                        Our Response to the Coming Apostasy

As believers in Jesus, we will not be here when the Harlot appears. We will have been removed by the Lord Jesus and taken to the Father’s house. But this does not mean that we are not seeing significant defection from the truth of God in our own day, which may be preparing the way for the emergence of the Harlot. 

Our task is to “hold fast” to the Word of God and not compromise it. As stewards, we all are accountable to One on what we do with His truth. The storm clouds are on the horizon and are likely coming our way. Too many churches are already compromising with the culture and, in so doing, are denying the authority of God’s Truth in doctrine and in life. Those who defect from the truth do and will pay a high price for that. The Scriptures tell us to “be faithful” and to “hang in there”. God can and does use His faithful men and women. It is important that we (like Daniel in Daniel 1:8) make up our minds that we will not defile ourselves with this culture. We need to make up our minds that we will be even better students of the Word, that we can give an answer for our hope and faith to anyone who should inquire. These are great days to be bearers of the Truth.


 

Monday, February 1, 2021

PAUL AND THE PROGRESSIVE’S PERSPECTIVE ON PROPHECY

 

One of the disturbing realities that we, as believers in the church face, is the invasion of “progressive Christianity.”  And it is not just into liberal churches where this theological poison is found, but increasingly into so-called evangelical churches. “Progressive (I prefer “regressive”) Christianity” not only is bringing in several New Age ideas and practices, but it is raising doubts in peoples’ minds about most every doctrinal area that we hold onto as basic to our faith. Now, we have neither the space or the inclination to discuss this subject in this article, but mention it because, not surprisingly, the “progressives” also cast aside biblical prophecy as irrelevant and unimportant to “real life.” Unfortunately, that position is not new, but this “progressive” form is reinforcing that position in the minds of church leaders and those in the pews. But, let’s not listen to some “progressive” pastor on this matter, but rather to a Christ-chosen apostle; in this case, the Apostle Paul.

(1) Biblical prophecy was part of Paul’s basic theology course for new believers.

When we look back at Paul’s journeys in the Book of Acts, we note that he went to Thessalonica on his second trip. It was unfortunate for him that the environment there became so hostile that he had to flee Thessalonica after being there just 3 or 4 weeks. Yet, in spite of his brief stay there, biblical prophecy was a key element in his theological training of these new believers. If prophecy was truly irrelevant, then Paul somehow did not get the memo. In First Thessalonians, he taught them about the Rapture event and the coming Day of the Lord. In Second Thessalonians, he reminded them of truths related to the Antichrist and certain other end time events. But we need to observe what he also said in that context of prophetic teaching.

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well....” (1 Thess. 5:1-2)

“Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thess. 2:5)


Paul, other apostles and Jesus Himself would weave prophetic truths through their messages because those truths were not irrelevant, but were a key ingredient in helping God’s people live sanctified lives; in helping them prioritize life better; and helping them develop a correct world view. Far from being peripheral theology and out of touch with “real life”, all these understood that God’s prophetic word brings wonderful support to the life of the follower of Jesus Christ. And because that is the case, teaching biblical prophecy was seen as a foundational theological area. And nowhere in scripture does that change!

(2) Biblical prophecy understood and applied brings a believer to an important level of spiritual maturity.  As the Apostle Paul was under house arrest in Rome, he shared with the saints at Philippi something of his philosophy of life. And it is quickly seen how prophetic truths played an important role in forming his thinking.

...I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward 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; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you...brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”  (Philippians 3:12-17)

As we look at the details of his worldview, there are four truths that stand out to me. First, Paul realized that Jesus had purposes for his life, as He does for each of us as well (he was “laid hold of” by Jesus Christ). His life had great significance. This reality, which included truth about the future, gave to Paul a single-minded focus for living his life. God did indeed have a “wonderful plan” for his life which energized the way he did life. And while none of us are apostles, we are here in this world at this time because Christ has a purpose for our lives. Second, as he lived his purposeful life, he refused to look back on past failures (like killing and imprisoning Christians) or even on past successes. Looking back has the effect on hindering present progress (like a runner who never looks behind him in his race because that will cause him to break stride). Causing believers to look back is one of Satan’s most effective ploys in keeping Christians from living well for Christ (2 Cor. 2:5-11).

Third, the Apostle’s focus was on the future, namely on two events. First, the “prize” that he spoke of is yet another reminder that Paul lived with a certain focus on the coming Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 3:10-4:5). His future accountability to Jesus Christ, and the eternal results of that time of evaluation was one of the great motivations in his life (2 Cor. 5:10-16). The other event mentioned here was the Rapture, the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He expected Jesus to come at any moment and this had a powerful effect on the way he lived. These future events were consistently part of his worldview as he lived for Christ here and now. Apparently, these prophetic truths are not so irrelevant after all. 

And fourth, this worldview of Paul is a mark of Christian maturity. There is a notable level of spiritual maturity in those who understand and live according to this perspective. The word “perfect” in 3:15, carries with it the idea of maturity, not perfection. Biblical prophecy really is an important part of Christian maturity because he helps develop the two-world view (living in this world with an eye on the world to come). This two-world view is what characterized each and every individual mentioned in Hebrews 11, the chapter on great people of the faith. They lived as strangers and pilgrims in this world and did so with an eye on what God had in store for them in the future when He would bring to fruition His grand purposes for believing mankind. Paul was distressed by those who “set their minds on earthly things'' (3:19), which is the one-world view which characterizes “progressive Christianity.” My guess is that the Apostle’s distress level would be greatly elevated today as he viewed the one-world emphasis so prevalent in the church.

(3) Biblical prophecy brings a passion for living.  It is worth noting that Paul speaks of our heavenly citizenship, our transformation and the Lord’s appearing (3:20), and this brings a kind of energy (“eagerly wait”) to our lives. Such a view assists the believer in not being overwhelmed by the trials, dangers, disappointments and concerns of this life.  This view actually aids us in living much better.

It really is a sad thing when Christian leaders dismiss biblical prophetic truth as unimportant and not 

worthy of one’s time and attention. What wonderful assurance the prophetic word gives to His people, 

and for “progressive” leaders and others to deny that to believers borders on the criminal.     

Saturday, January 2, 2021

WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE CHURCH---MAYBE IN 2021?

It used to be that January 1st marked the time when people would make New Year’s resolutions and, perhaps, construct personal three-year plans. This year there seems to be less of all that, as people’s main goal seems to be survival. There is an unprecedented level of uncertainty in life today. But, for the believer in Jesus Christ, there are many certainties which need to shape how we approach today and all the todays of 2021. Our future is inseparably bound up with the character/attributes of our Lord. (Check last month’s article on the certainty of prophecy being fulfilled because of God’s attributes).

Every now and then it is helpful and healthy to review truth, even truths we have known for many years. The Lord Jesus’ relationship with His Church follows that pattern of the ancient Jewish wedding ritual. In that wedding pattern, the first thing to happen was that the bridegroom would come in a torch light procession to get his bride and then go to his father’s house (note Matthew 25:1-11).  So, when the Apostle Paul describes the removal of the church from the world (the rapture event), he is careful to tell us that the Lord HIMSELF will come for His bride (1 Thess. 4:13-17). It is personal. Angels are not sent while Jesus remains in heaven waiting for the bride to arrive. Bringing His bride (the church) back to the Father’s house is a task He takes on for Himself. In ancient times, there was no set time for His coming for the bride. He did not tell her: “I will pick you up at 7:40pm”. The general time was known, but the exact time was not. This, of course, parallels our situation today. He has not given us a date or time for the Rapture. However, the Scriptures have enough information in them to let us discern that we are most likely in the end of the end times. The setting on the world stage is really in place (especially Israel being back in their ancient land) and there is no need for major adjustments to take place. The only issue is when the curtain goes up on the final act. So, the Bridegroom Himself will come and fetch His bride. 

The second part of the Jewish wedding pattern was the actual marriage itself. Revelation 19:7-8 speaks of that next part of the wedding. It takes place in heaven, and for the first time (aside from the first year or two after the Day of Pentecost) the entire church is together in one place. The bride is in heaven and she is seen as putting on beautiful garments, which represent the righteous deeds of church-age believers. This tells us that the event we call the “judgment seat of Christ'' where believers are rewarded has taken place. And now, being properly dressed, the wedding will take place. Jesus had told His apostles that He would come and take us to the Father’s house, and this is what He has now done. Remember that the purpose of a marriage is to unite two people into one; with the result that where one person goes, the other goes. From this time onward, Jesus and His bride will not be separated. (As a theological side note here; these two events of the judgment seat and the wedding pose a very real problem for those who believe in a post-tribulational rapture. How can believers go up and meet Jesus in the air and then immediately return to the earth with Him? No time is allowed for these two very important events given in Revelation 19 to take place; important to Jesus and to the bride.)

The third part of the Jewish wedding was the wedding feast. At the time of the wedding, an announcement is made in heaven: “blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9). At that moment, the wedding supper/feast has not yet occurred and is yet future. It is a blessed person who gets to participate in this future event of the wedding feast. However, the next immediate event in Revelation 19 is the Second Coming of Christ to the earth, and His bride goes with Him. This leads us to understand that the wonderful, joyous wedding supper is the Messianic/Millennial kingdom itself. In fact, Jesus used a wedding feast to illustrate His kingdom (note Matt. 22:1-14). The Scriptures do inform us that joy is one of the notable characteristics of the kingdom reign of Jesus (note Heb. 1:8-9). So, the wedding feast is the wonderful 1,000-year reign of King Jesus.

These things are certain. And in a time when uncertainty, with its frequent companions of depression, fear and anxiety, are now painfully present in our culture, the certain promises of God help dispel those unwelcome companions.

In light of the unusual days we are in, it might be good for us to actually make some new year’s resolutions. Perhaps, resolving to be a better student of the Word than we have been in the past (which would likely have a time element attached to it). Perhaps, resolving to be more attentive to ways we can serve the Lord Jesus; looking for new ways to minister to other believers and/or talk to others who have little certainty in their lives because they do not know the Savior. It is very possible that the Lord and the Spirit might like to show us some specific areas we can serve.

It seems very possible that our culture is going to continue to decline and with it a growing hostility to those who follow Christ; and that we might become more like so many of our brothers and sisters in this world who are targets of hostility. We do not know what 2021 will bring forth but we do know that the Bridegroom could show up at any moment. Whatever, 2021 brings we can have our best year ever because Jesus remains our Good Shepherd.