Christianity 201

November 19, 2022

A Promise with a More Sure Foundation

Wondering what this place we call “Earth” looks like at the end of time? You don’t have to read Revelation at all (though it helps!) to get a picture of what God has in store when he declares this chapter of our story done, and moves on to the next.

Today we’re back for a second time at the site Following Jesus Today, and the writing of David W. Palmer, who with his wife Rosanna are involved in itinerant ministry in Melbourne, Australia. Clicking the original title of today’s article below will allow you to read it where it first appeared in 2018.

Tribulation, Trumpet, Treasure, Triumph

(Matthew 24:29-30 NKJV) “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (30) Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Reading of Jesus’s triumphant return never gets old: the sun and moon will go dark, stars will fall, and powers will shake. Every eye will see the “Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” At that point, those in rebellion against his rule will have indescribable regret. Wow! I sure don’t want to be in their shoes.

Thinking about Jesus’s “coming on the clouds” helps us keep our focus on the big picture; which in turn, motivates us to keep our confession, walk in the spirit, and remain upright:

(2 Peter 3:10-12 NKJV) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (11) Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, (12) looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?

The Holy Spirit reminds us of the greatness of our majestic Lord, and our need to keep ourselves blameless and without spot:

(1 Timothy 6:13-15 NKJV) I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, (14) that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, (15) which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

We see that in this passage, the Holy Spirit urges us to keep “this commandment without spot.” What is it?

(1 Timothy 6:11-12 NKJV) But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. (12) Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

The Holy Spirit urges us to stay out of worldliness, to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness, and to “fight the good fight of faith.” He also reminds us of the incomparable and exceeding majesty of our glorious Lord, calling him “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”

When our magnificent Monarch returns, he will gather us out of the world before he does anything else:

(Matthew 24:31 NKJV) “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Our “gathering together unto him” is going to be a glorious event; we are Jesus’s treasure—his bride. We sure wouldn’t want to miss the gathering he initiates, or be left out by any angelic neglect or laziness. (I’m not at all suggesting that any of God’s trusted angels would ever neglect their duty; I say it somewhat jokingly merely to set up a stark contrast in preparation for a point that’s coming.) Here’s what the Holy Spirit says about this “gathering,” meaning, “complete collection:”

(2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 NKJV) Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, (2) not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had [already] come.

Interestingly, the word for “gathering together”—used here for his gathering of us—is used again in the New Testament. But this time, the emphasis is on us gathering ourselves for worship and fellowship meetings:

(Hebrews 10:25-27 NKJV) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (26) For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

When Jesus’s angels gather us together at the sound of the trumpet, we sure don’t want to be forgotten, left out, or simply overlooked. Similarly, Jesus doesn’t want any of us to be absent when he calls us to gather ourselves together, regularly; he also wants a complete gathering—no one absent by neglect or laziness.

Why is he so motivated in this? The Holy Spirit says that when we gather—for church meetings, home groups, or fellowship with trusted, likeminded people of the same heart and spirit—he wants us to “exhort one another.” He also wants us to “motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24 NLT). The Greek word behind this means: to incite or provoke each other into living right.

In Hebrews 10, the Holy Spirit follows his urgent directive about regular meetings with a warning. It begins with the word, “for,” implying that what follows is the reason we need to keep up the uncomfortable confronting meetings. What’s his reason? “For if we sin willfully after … certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Wow! This is heavy. The Holy Spirit implies that neglecting the meetings—where our feather’s are ruffled and our love is encourage—is the first step into “willful sin.” Let’s stay in the light, endure the correction, and put right what we need to. This, according to this passage, is necessary for staying out of willful sin.

The stakes in this are very high. If we stay in love and good works, and if we remain in Christ, walking in the spirit, and by his grace living a holy life, his return will be a glorious graduation into triumphant splendor and eternal rewards. But if we are drawn away by the rampant temptations in the season just prior to Jesus’s return, we will face the same fate as the world: “fiery indignation.”

Jesus assures us that God’s warnings about these things is not only very solemn, but that it is also absolute and final; it is more durable than even “heaven and earth:”

(Matthew 24:34-35 NKJV) “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. (35) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

To “endure to the end” through all of this, we will need God’s grace. Thankfully, our wonderful God has made this available, and we can access through faith at his “throne of grace” by his “Spirit of grace” and the “word of his grace” (See: Rom. 4:16, Heb. 4:16, Zech. 12:10, Heb. 10:29, Acts 14:3, 20:32).

What’s more we need—yes, according to the Holy Spirit we need—some other people in our lives who know us well enough to be in our face confronting us when necessary. For our success, it is essential that we have good, holy, sincere people for serious regular fellowship—those with whom we can formulate ways to exhort, provoke, and incite each other to holy living—love and good works. We need partnership with genuine believers with whom we can create a culture of Bible study, word meditation, prayer, worship and confession.

Today, we conclude with Jesus pressing us to “learn” and to be aware of the season:

(Matthew 24:32-33 NKJV) “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. (33) So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!

And … remember that the word is permanent, the earth and the world’s system are no, so let’s focus on what is “more sure:”

(2 Peter 1:19-21 TLB) So we have seen and proved that what the prophets said came true. You will do well to pay close attention to everything they have written, for, like lights shining into dark corners, their words help us to understand many things that otherwise would be dark and difficult. But when you consider the wonderful truth of the prophets’ words, then the light will dawn in your souls and Christ the Morning Star will shine in your hearts. For no prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself. It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God.

 

 

November 1, 2022

Looking Past the Second Coming

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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A year ago we introduced you to “Come and See” daily devotions. “Evangelical Ministries International is a London (UK) ministry with a Vision to ensure the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached throughout the world.” Although the page isn’t presently active, they’ve left a number of interesting topics for us to discover, most of which are presented in multiple parts; so there are two links in today’s reading.

Something to Look Forward to (I)

  “But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13).

One of the greatest sources of strength to the weak is the ability to envision or imagine what lies ahead. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was encouraged by the glimpse of what should come after his suffering. In the Bible we read: looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, New King James Version).

The Book of Acts 1:11 (New King James Version) also recorded the hopeful message an angel of the Lord delivered to more than four hundred witnesses after Jesus was taken up to heaven from this earthly realm. He says: Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.

The purpose of this devotional is to look at what lies ahead even after the much-awaited Second Coming of Jesus. These are events that nobody would want to miss. For example, the Bible states:do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? (1st Corinthians 6:3, New King James Version).

This is a remarkable statement and it follows that no pleasure derived from sin should ever be worth the risk of missing the experience described. Thus, how would you determine how well an angel has performed?  This scenario illustrates your supremacy over all spirits: either evil or good. If the good ones shall be appraised by the saints of God, then binding the evil ones should not be an issue for you here on earth: “…. whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven (Matthew 18:18a, New King James Version).

Sitting down as a judge to appraise and evaluate the angels of God, based on the performance of their duties, is an exceptional privilege that is not to be missed. One could imagine, for example,  rating angels based on their ability to provide songs of worship to the King of Kings or rating them during their rehearsal or audition. No wonder Jesus asked: for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36, New King James Version).

There is nothing worth gaining in this world at the expense of your soul. You must never lose your salvation or get tired of serving the Lord. There are many good things to look forward to in heaven even after the second coming of Jesus Christ. We read in the Bible: “… eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9, New King James Version).

Let us pray: “Father, by your unfailing mercy and power, let me not miss eternity with you in heaven,” in Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

Something to Look Forward to (II)

As we continue to walk diligently with God, we should be aware that whatever lies ahead of us is beyond our imagination. In the Bible we read: while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2nd Corinthians 4:18, New King James Version).

God does not do anything without a purpose. The strange encounters of John the beloved in the Island of Patmos did not just happen by chance. The Book of Revelations was essentially intended to give us something extraordinary to look forward to, especially after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Book gives many vivid descriptions of happenings in heaven.

For instance, concerning the beauty of God’s throne, we read: and He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald (Revelation 4:3, New King James Version). Surely, nobody reading this account would want to miss seeing it.

In addition to the comfort and splendour of God’s presence, there are many events we would not want to miss. The most crucial one is the final judgment of Satan and death. The Bible states: and the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10, New International Version).

Without any doubt, the devil is a very proud being and will make constant efforts to lure us all to his side through sin. He would not want anyone to witness his final irreversible fall, judgment and destruction. The happiness we feel when judges or panel of juries on earth deliver deserved judgments against the wicked is nothing compared to the happiness we will feel in witnessing the ultimate end of Satan and his fallen angels.

Lastly, there is no wise earthly being who would want to be left out of the eternal pleasure available in God’s Majestic Palace. King David said:You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11, New King James Version). He also said:  “ … for a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10). There is more to look forward to in the presence of the Almighty God.

Let us pray: “Father, by your unfailing mercy and power, let me not miss eternity with you in heaven,” in Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

 

October 28, 2022

“And Then…” – John’s Vision Concludes

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:24 pm
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John transitions into the final section — for us, the final two chapters — of his vision with a simple word, “Then.”

Today we’re featuring an author for the first time. His domain name is korgrocker, which I’m going to assume in a reference to synthesizers and keyboards. The blog is called Being a Pilgrim. He’s currently reaching the conclusion of a detailed look at the Book of Revelation. Clicking the header which follows will let you read this where it first appeared, and then click on the header “Blog” to see earlier posts in the series.

The New Heaven and Earth

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”
Revelation‬ ‭21:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The horrors of the scene involving the fiery lake were fading from John’s vision. There was a momentary pause in events, defined by the first word in Revelation 21 – “then”. In a previous part of John’s vision, he saw the Great White Throne appear, and the earth and sky tried to hide from God’s presence. Well, we now know what had happened to them, because we are told that they just “disappeared“. And they took the sea with them. So the scene before John was blank. But then he could hardly believe his eyes. He blinked just to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. A marvelous sight came into view, displacing the darkness. A new heaven and a new earth appeared. New. Did that mean a new creation, as we read in Genesis, or did the new heaven and earth just appear, fully finished and ready to go?

We consider our current earth and the sky above it. A finely tuned creation of atoms linked together to form an infinite number of different animal, vegetable and mineral products. Products that include and sustain the life we know so well. And to support those products, the physical properties of the sun and gravity, amongst many others, ensure a stability that has sustained the earth in its right place in space since the universe was created. Scientists talk about the “Goldilocks zone”, a planet’s position within a solar system where life as we know it can be sustained. But it’s more than that – we are God’s creation. Our planet and all its contents. And God has removed the old so that He can bring in the new.

God is always creating something new, though. He didn’t make the world and its contents and then walk away, letting animals or plants get on with life, or not, as the case may be. Just look at our world every spring, when new plant growth spurts out everywhere. And the miracle of a new baby. Even under the curse of sin, our natural world is designed to be able to renew itself. We also have the miracle – yes, that is what it is – of spiritual birth. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Jesus told Nicodemus in that famous conversation recorded in John’s Gospel, that rebirth is essential for entry into God’s Kingdom. We read His words in John 3:3, Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”” Sadly, being “born again” has acquired negative connotations, bing ridiculed by many, even other Christians. But it’s another example of God’s design for His creation.

The old earth and heaven needed to be replaced. Sin and wickedness had trashed it. But not a problem to God, and He started with the new Holy City, the New Jerusalem. John gets a glimpse of it coming down from God’s home in Heaven, and it looks wonderful, made like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband”In his vision, John gets to view a “spoiler” of what it is like. Just a foretaste of the most wonderful place ever seen.

But back to our spiritual rebirth. Are we pilgrims “born again”? If we’re not sure, a question to God will soon clarify our positions. Being birthed into God’s amazing Kingdom, while we get the chance here on Planet Earth, is an introduction to our new life with God in eternity. We have the opportunity to live in His kingdom, as well as being part of our world’s kingdom, right now. There is a stark contrast. But one day the old kingdom will disappear, and we will fully enjoy being part of the new. Wonderful!

Dear God. There are exciting times ahead for those who have been birthed into your Kingdom. we praise and worship You today. Amen.


 

Note from Paul: I’d appreciate your prayers. Yesterday morning the dentist was unable to complete repair of a tooth, and sent me home with the work undone. The pain on Thursday night (as I format this) was intense, leaving me in agony.

June 8, 2022

As Sure as Tribulation Arrives, Restoration Will Come

George Whitten is the editor of Worthy Devotions which is part of a multi-media ministry to which we paying a return visit today. Click the title to read this where it first appeared, and then take a few minutes to browse the site.

Seek Him now, and Don’t Forget about the Restoration!

Deut 4:30-31 When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

We’re hearing a lot of talk lately, on the internet and elsewhere, about the “End of Days”. The Hebrew phrase, “acharit hayamim”, often translated, “latter days” refers to the “end of days, or “last days”, mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, and refers to a critical period late in human history which is characterized by a great “pandemic” crisis and an ensuing panoramic recovery.

First used in Deuteronomy 4:30, quoted above, “acharit hayamim” entails a prophecy of “tribulation” which eventuates in God’s people turning back to seek Him with all their hearts, bringing about their restoration.

This theme of “tribulation” and “restoration” may be the most significant in all of scripture. The above passage, written to the people of Israel, prophetically encompasses their entire history and eventual recovery, salvation, and Kingdom restoration.

At the present moment, we may well be focused on the “tribulation” part of “acharit hayamim”. Yeshua (Jesus) prophesied specifically that famines, pestilences, and earthquakes would precede His coming, and were but the “beginnings of sorrows” [Matthew 24].

At this very moment many of us may be trembling at these developments and the “doom and gloom” which they portend…yet might we miss the significant fact that both testaments predicted exactly what we are seeing? The sovereignty, omniscience, and revelation of the Creator have been downloaded to humanity through the Scriptures, clearly pointing to His existence and redemptive purpose.

There lies our opportunity and blessing. Yeshua, who knows all things from the beginning to the end, revealed all the relevant details of the “acharit hayamim” (Last Days). Why?… so that we might quake in terror as they begin to transpire? But He says, “…likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” [Matthew 24:33]…the promise of His return!

And, that is where our focus must remain. Our God will restore all things, both for Israel and for us according to the covenants He has made….when He returns! Restoration is the unequivocal promise of Heaven. The “tribulation”, “beginning of sorrows”, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, WHATEVER!…. All these are signs, portents, and even promises, that our God is real, true, and utterly faithful, and we must declare, encourage, and stand in the knowledge of Him. The troubles themselves are a powerful testimony of the Messiah’s identity, His redemption, and His promises. So, if the days are evil, make the most of the time! These are days of tremendous opportunity. Remember His promise of restoration!

April 8, 2022

The Future Role of the Holy Spirit

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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NIV.Rev.22.3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.

Today we have a most interesting topic for your consideration, and a new writer to introduce. Nick Cady is part of the Calvary Chapel movement, is the lead pastor of a Colorado church, is the host of the Theology for the People Podcast, is the author of The God I Won’t Believe In, and had things gone differently, would have been involved in ministry in Ukraine this past month. He blogs at Theology for the People. We selected this article from his backlist blog posts, and encourage you to read it where we found it by clicking the header below, and then take some time to look around at other resources.

What is the Role of the Holy Spirit in Eternity?

Recently someone submitted this question:

Both God the Father and the Son have distinct and obvious eternal roles that we see played out in the Bible, with Jesus being more obvious, but as I was thinking through the role of the Holy Spirit in eternity, I couldn’t come up with anything concrete.
Could you give a brief overview of the roles of the triune persons of God as it pertains to eternity? I’m mostly interested in the Holy Spirit, but would love a pastor’s perspective on the other two also.

The “Ontological Trinity” and the “Economic Trinity”

There are two fields of discussion when it comes to the Trinity. The “ontological” and the “economic.” “Ontological” refers to who God is, i.e. that which pertains to being, whereas “economic” refers to what God does.

Specifically applied to the Trinity, study of the “ontological Trinity” is focused on those parts of the Bible which communicate that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet these three, while distinct persons, are one God. Study of the “economic Trinity” is focused on the passages in the Bible which tell us what each of these three persons does as their role in “the Godhead.”

So, ontologically, it is important to point out that eternality is part of God’s nature. God is eternal, and each person of the godhead is eternal. So, the role of God in eternity is merely a continuation of who God has been until now, and who God will forever be.

However, the question above is about the economics of the Triune God after this present age is over, and we have transitioned into what the Bible calls “the new heavens and new Earth.” What will the functions of the three persons of the Triune God be in “the age to come”?

The Role of the Son in the Age to Come

The Son, we are told, is currently seated at the right hand of the Father, and for eternity he will reign and rule as king over all of redeemed creation. (See Revelation 22:3)

Currently, Jesus is making intercession for believers, advocating for us, and is seated on a throne, but for eternity, all we really know is that he will be an eternal sovereign, ruling over a kingdom of righteousness and peace which will never end.

The Role of the Father in the Age to Come

Along with ruling over the redeemed creation from a heavenly throne, revelation tells us that God (not necessarily just the Father) will be a source of light, which will preclude the need for the sun to illuminate, since God himself will be our light.

The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Age to Come

The one thing that sticks out about the Holy Spirit’s role in eternity, is that, whereas the Father and the Son have a throne in the New Heavens and New Earth, the Holy Spirit does not (Revelation 22:3).

Beyond this, I can’t think of any verses which speak specifically about a role of the Holy Spirit in the age to come – but that is not surprising, and here’s why:

What we read regarding the economic Trinity mostly has to do with the work of God to redeem human beings. Remember, the Bible is a book about Jesus: who he is, and how he saves us.

Since the Bible is focused on the story of the salvation and redemption of humankind, it does not tell us very much about what God did before creating the world, nor does it tell us much about what God will do after the redemption of the world is complete.

“The Great Story Which No One on Earth has Read”

This reminds me of the final paragraph of C.S. Lewis’ The Final Battle, which is the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, which is full of allegories about biblical passages and teachings.

C.S. Lewis poetically describes “the age to come” in this way:

“…but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about what the three persons of the Trinity will do in eternity, because that is not the story which the Bible exists to tell.

God Will Do What God Did Before

Prior to the creation of the world, it is important to remember that God existed from eternity past. Without human beings to rescue, sanctify, and redeem, what did God do?

What we can be sure of, is that God was neither bored nor lonely.

From eternity past, the one God, who exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existed as a mutually edifying and glorifying community unto himself. Creation, was God inviting us to join in the “perichoresis,” the eternal relationship which exists between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, sometimes referred to as “the dance of God.”

In other words, in eternity, we can expect that God will do what God did before: delighting in himself, with each person fueling this mutually edifying and glorifying relationship.


Second Helping: By the same author, check out, Will We Really See Our Loved Ones In Heaven?


NIV.Rev.21.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

 

August 12, 2021

Should Christians Watch the News?

If this were a century ago, the title would be, “Should Christians read the newspaper?” I also realize the phrase, “watch the news” implies the legacy television networks, whereas many of you get your current events through the internet, one way or another. Should Christians have a daily (or every other day) input of current events in their reading diet?

And I would answer with a resounding yes, which I recognize will indeed alienate some readers.

But this is 2021, post-Covid’s outbreak, and post-America’s federal election. Some people are simply “newsed out” while others debate the validity of certain media which disagree with their biases.

When the Sadducees came to Jesus in Matthew 16, it’s not immediately clear if they were asking for a miracle on the spot, some revelation of the divinity of Jesus, or, in the terms of which Jesus grants their request, some eschatological insight. He answers them,

NIV.Matt.16.2,3 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

It’s an analogy to be sure, beginning with the idea that today we might express as “wet your finger and hold it up to see which way the wind is blowing.” But on a deeper level he’s saying there are signs and it’s incumbent on us to be able to interpret them. That implies knowing what’s going on in your community, your nation and your world.

Some people devour local news. It’s good to be invested in your community. I’ve seen pastors who have never bothered to listen to local radio or subscribe to the local paper. Within a few years they’re off to another community, and I suppose they consider themselves citizens of heaven first, and getting to know the nuances of their city, town or village simply not worth the investment.

But other people major on world developments and then go to extremes trying to do the interpretation. A large container ship gets stuck in a canal for several days, and it’s a sign we’re heading toward one world government, they say. Because a boat got stuck.

In my youth, I was taught that “a wise person keeps abreast of the times.” When I went to find this verse however, I could only locate this rendering in the original edition of The Living Bible:

TLB.Proverbs.24.3,4 Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.

All that to consider a quotation from Karl Barth, with a short post which appeared in 2015 at the blog of Geoff Sinibaldo. Click the header appearing next to read it there.

On Barth, the Bible and the Newspaper

Most preachers know the quote attributed to famed theologian Karl Barth:

We must hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”

We have an inherent need to be relevant to our hearers. It is important to us as Christian leaders to both make the Bible come alive and speak to the real world concerns in which people live. The Bible and the newspaper balance those needs, but there is a cost. Sometimes we have such a desire to stay relevant we try to prove our relevancy by starting with the newspaper and working our way back to scripture and the tradition. Observation and revelation are not mutually exclusive, but they are not necessarily equal partners either. One interprets the other as a lens to read the other. It seems in our contemporary age where the church as a trusted institution and scripture as a trusted authority hold less sway with people, for well-founded and explicable reasons. As a result, we have inverted the relationship of revelation and observation, giving more weight to what we can see and experience with the hope that our faith might have something to say in response.

I recently discovered that the more accurate version of Barth’s quote is:

Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” (Time Magazine, May 1, 1966.)

This makes me a little less nervous than the popularized version of this quote.  We are not to give equal value to God’s word revealed and handed down through the generations and the daily word reported and experienced with the fresh voice of a journalist this morning. We don’t just read the newspaper and figure out what to do about it on our own. Nor do we keep our head in the book, and shut the doors to our churches and leave personal experience aside.  We need a contemporary voice and one of wisdom that scripture provides.  The preacher’s task (as is the task of every believer) is to connect the stories of God and God’s people with our own. Our story is interpreted in light of what we know about God, and what we know of God primarily comes be what is revealed. For Christians that revelation is given in Jesus; so that the themes of God walking alongside us, welcoming us, including us, forgiving us, healing us, raising us and sending us become the interpretive lens in which we engage the real world around us with all its corruption, pain, division, violence and suffering.

The ancient stories of the Bible are not out of touch with life filled with technology, travel and the influx of ideas. The truths told in those stories are just as relevant to our lives as they have been to former generations. Stories of jealousy, selfishness, greed, destruction and betrayal – can be ripped right from our own headlines today, and stories of compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice and faithfulness are needed now as much as ever before. The constant voice of scripture within those ancient texts is one of discernment – “Where is God in all of this and where is God leading us?” Those are not questions the newspaper asks, but one we can continue to ask as we read it.  We certainly could use that voice in our world and in our relationships today.  Martin Luther once reflected that Jesus only matters when he is Jesus, “for me.”  Faith is always a contemporary exercise revealed in the present. Our task is to pay attention – not just to the world around us; but to God’s story entering our own lives and experience so we can better engage our neighbors’ concerns and challenges. Barth’s reflection about the news and the Good news provides both wisdom and relevancy. We need both voices, and too often sacrifice wisdom for the sake of relevancy.

One more piece on relevancy is an honest confession: I don’t read newspapers; at least not in their printed versions.* I find they often offer one voice and/or perspective in a time where many voices compete for our attention and allegiance, and it is helpful to find a variety of thoughts on any given subject.  Yet I must also claim my own bias – and that is to see the world through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and take it from there.

So I offer this 21st century update, on what I think what Barth was trying to say:

“We must hold the Bible in one hand, and our hand-held device in other – filled with Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, blog subscriptions, news articles from a variety of sources and perspectives, societal studies, and local gossip. We must open our own experiences to reflection, and listen for God moments in the stories of others. We must look beyond our doors, books and screens, and spend some time in the real world, in our community among our neighbors and through our networks as we pay close attention to those voices too.

Yet at its heart, scripture still interprets them all, interprets us all, and brings us into God’s timeless truth again and again to us…right now.”


But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)


*  I know it is a contradiction, but in our digital age I do still love the feel of a real paper book. For those who love the feel of a real newspaper, I understand that too.

July 23, 2021

Christ’s Ultimate Authority at the End of Time

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Once again we’re back at the website of The Superior Word Community Fellowship in Sarasota, Florida and pastor Charlie Garrett. Last time, they were studying 3 John, and today, a year later, they are heading to the final two chapters of Revelation. It’s hard to jump into the middle of this, but hopefully it whets your appetite and if you want to get into deep detail on the New Testament’s last book, this is a great website to check out. Clicking the header which follows gets you to today’s piece.

Revelation 20:1

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. Revelation 20:1

With the introduction of Chapter 20, a new vision is also introduced. John begins it by saying, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven.” There is no reason to assume that this is not the Lord. He is coming down from heaven with a set purpose. As such, it is another aspect of the many roles of what Christ has come to do. Just as heaven opened and He came riding on a white horse in verse 19:11 in order to fulfill His role as the returning Lord and the conquering King, here, (assuming it is the Lord) He is coming down from heaven “having the key to the bottomless pit.”

The Lord is the One who has final authority over the bottomless pit. In Revelation 9:1, it said John saw “a star fallen from heaven to earth.” He then noted that “to him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” Being given a key means another gave him the key. Nothing is said about that now. Thus, the key is already in the possession of this angel. Along with the key, it says, “and a great chain in his hand.”

The Greek reads “upon his hand.” It signifies that in His hand rests the authority of binding with this chain. What will be done with it demonstrates that this is most probably Christ Jesus who bears it. Without taking the symbolism too far, one can almost imagine it is as if the chain is held upon His hand and, without words, hinting, “Here is the implement of your confinement, and it is I who have the authority to use it to bind you.”

Life application: So far, the bottomless pit has been mentioned in Chapter 9 in connection with locusts which were sent to harm men and who had over them the destroyer – Abaddon (Apollyon). It was also noted in Chapter 11 when speaking of the beast that would come from it and kill the two witnesses. Finally, the bottomless pit was mentioned in 17:8, again referring to the beast that would come out of it.

This pit, or abyss, then is not the place of final destruction, but a place which is under God’s control to which, or from which, these evil beings are directed to meet God’s sovereign plans for humanity. As He directs, these beings follow that direction. This is a good lesson for readers of the Bible to understand, and it is one that is also understood from the book of Job.

There is no wickedness, evil, or producer of evil that can thwart God’s plan. Anything which occurs does so to meet God’s overall good purposes and He is in control of all things. If we can truly grasp this and believe it, then no matter what happens, we know that it is being worked out for our good and for God’s glory. This should be an immensely comforting thought for us as we walk in a world that often contains difficulties, trials, and sadness. God is in control, and He has His great hand upon you – even when it doesn’t seem so.

Be of good cheer, God has your back. He has proved it through the redemptive narrative, and it is summed up in the incarnation. Everything ultimately points to what God is doing through His Son, JESUS!

Prayer: What a great comfort it is to know that You truly are in control. Despite the evil that surrounds us, the troubles that come our way, the terrible choices our leaders make, and also in the forces of evil that constantly try to mislead us, You are still there taking care of us and tending to us. You are working it all out for our good. You are great, O God! Amen.

July 7, 2020

Heaven and The New Jerusalem: What’s the Difference?

Although some of the articles I have written here over the years get repeated occasionally, as a general rule, pieces written by third parties do not. However, I noticed this 2011 piece has had what is, for this site, a fair number of comments, including a recent question, and I thought we’d make an exception.


While the blog The Pursuit of the Deeper Truth and Proper Christian Experience has a rather long title, and a bias toward the writings of Witness Lee and Watchman Nee, here at Christianity 201, we’re an equal opportunity blog with a bias toward anything that gets us thinking and studying. In today’s spiritual climate, there is much interest in heaven and the afterlife, and it’s so easy to hear a phrase like “New Jerusalem” and rush to the conclusion “New Jerusalem = Heaven.” Thomas Marvin sees each differently and clarifies that with this post originally titled

Heaven or the New Jerusalem — Is There a Difference?

“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev. 21:2)

Fundamentally Different, Not Just a Matter of Semantics

Many people unintentionally, mistake the New Jerusalem for heaven. When I was a child, I remember singing a song that says:

“I’ve got a mansion just over the hill top
in that bright land where we’ll never grow old
and some day yonder, we’ll never more wander,
but walk those streets that are paved with gold.”

I may have gotten a few words wrong, but the gist of the song is pretty clear. That is, that we’re going to heaven—“to that bright land where we’ll never grow old” and “walk those streets that are paved with gold.” However, in aspiring to heaven, the writer was, in referring to golden streets, addressing an attribute of the holy city, New Jerusalem.

In the many years since my childhood days of singing that song, I’ve never once read in the Bible where it says that heaven has golden streets. However, Revelation 21:21, in speaking of the New Jerusalem, does say “the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” You can see from this illustration, the thought of heaven having golden streets, is just one example of the confusion of heaven and the New Jerusalem.

Well, someone may say, “Aren’t they one and the same—heaven and the New Jerusalem? I say heaven. You say New Jerusalem. It’s all about the same.” However, the opening verse I referenced points to a distinction. In Revelation 21:2 it says that the holy city, New Jerusalem is coming down out of heaven. This verse directly indicates a difference, for the New Jerusalem to come down out of heaven indicates that the two expressions are not synonymous.

Then what is the distinction?

Heaven, God’s dwelling (1 Kings 8:50), the place of His throne (Isa. 66:1), and the place where Christ ascended physically after His resurrection (Acts 1:9-11) is no doubt a physical place. However, the New Jerusalem is not a physical place “to which we go” but the greatest sign in the entire Bible (see Rev. 1:1) signifying, God’s spiritual, eternal building of divinity and humanity. It is the eternal, consummation of all God’s work in humanity throughout the ages, a mingling of God and man to be the mutual dwelling place for both God and all His redeemed people for eternity.

What difference does it make anyway?

The view you have between the heaven and the New Jerusalem can change your entire Christian life. If your view is that a Christian’s eternal destiny is simply to “go to heaven” when we die, you may feel that as long as you are born again or regenerated, you are basically waiting to go to heaven. In addition, one with this concept might consider their service to God in this age ends with helping as many perishing people as possible to also go to heaven when they die. This heaven or hell gospel has unfortunately caused many a well-intended Christian to miss out on the deeper meaning of their Christian life on earth today. This kind of view of a Christian’s eternal destiny is “locational,” basically a change of place, from earth to heaven, instead of hell.

From Revelation 21:2, however, we can see that the New Jerusalem is “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” From verses 9-10, we can see that the bride, the wife of Lamb is the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. I’d like to point out again that this city is “out of heaven,” so it is not heaven. Second, I’d like to point out that this city is married to the Lamb, Christ (John 1:29). Such a bride is adorned for her husband (v. 2). This implies that a process of getting ready is necessary. A bride must match her husband, to be his counterpart.

Likewise, we must be “adorned” to marry Christ, to be His corporate counterpart, His wife. Anyone you marry must be “bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh,” even as Eve was to Adam (Gen. 2:23). To be bone of Christ’s bones, and flesh of His flesh, we must be the same as Christ in life and nature. We also must grow up in His life unto maturity (Eph 4:13, 15-16). Christ, would be humiliated to marry an immature bride. He would rather wait. Such has been the case for nearly 2,000 years of church history. Christ is waiting for His bride to be prepared.

Where is the bride for Christ to come back for?

So to make my point, the New Jerusalem is not a “locational” matter—a change in location, but an “intrinsic” or “essential” matter—a change of essence or constitution. We’re not just going to the New Jerusalem, we’re becoming the New Jerusalem. To be in the New Jerusalem, one must first become the New Jerusalem. Through the process of God’s complete salvation—the regeneration of our spirit (John 3:6), the transformation of our soul (Rom. 12:2), and the glorification of our body (Rom. 8:30), we must become the same as Christ in life and nature but not in His Godhead, being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Such a change in essence requires that once we are saved, we cooperate with God’s central work, that is to allow God to work Himself into our entire being (1 Thes. 5:23; Eph. 3:17). Only in this way can we become the proper constituents for the building of Christ’s Body today and of the New Jerusalem for eternity. Only in such a way can we be Christ’s bride, adorned for our dear Husband.

How is this Bride-city being prepared today?

In between the type of Adam and Eve, the first couple, in Genesis 2:18-23 and the fulfillment of this type, in the eternal couple in Revelation 21-22, we have the process of preparation in Ephesians 5:25-32. Here we can see the church, for whom Christ died in the past (v. 25), being sanctified in the present (v. 26), and presented to Christ, as His glorious bride in the future (v. 27). If we see that our eternal destiny is to become Christ’s bride, the holy city, the New Jerusalem, we will not foolishly waste our precious time today. Rather we will redeem every day to pursue Christ (Phil. 3:12), to gain Him and be found in Him (vv. 8-9) and to be sanctified by Christ, by enjoying the daily washing of the water in His word (v. 26). In this way we will be daily renewed (2 Cor. 4:16) to become as “new” as the New Jerusalem.

Such a life of redeeming the time, by understanding what the will of the Lord is (Eph 5:15-18), will bring us onward to God’s eternal goal and cause us to daily live a bride-preparing life, a life of preparing ourselves to become Christ’s bride, the New Jerusalem, for our eternal marriage.

I believe, I’ve made my point, that is, that we need to be spiritually preparing today for our coming marriage to Christ. For those who still have some concerns about believers going to heaven, and how that fits with the New Jerusalem, Witness Lee does a better job than I can of addressing the matter in chapter 18 of his book, The Church as the Body of Christ.


I’ve closed comments here this time, in order that you can respond if you wish at the original post, as it appeared in August, 2011. Click here. See especially the comment/question at #20

December 22, 2019

An Advent / Prophecy Mix

Today, an original article from some previously published material invites us to think of ways the second coming of Christ could be similar to the first. But as you read this, remember there will also be dramatic differences…

Consider for a moment two aspects of the advent of Christ as it might relate to his second coming:

  • The timing of His coming
  • The nature of His arrival

The timing of His coming

I’ve heard many sermons about the fact that before the time of Christ, we find what Christians call the “inter-testamental period” wherein the prophets seem to be silent. It’s a kind of ‘calm before the storm’ before Jesus breaks on the scene and teaches like no other rabbi or prophet ever.

Will there be a calm before the storm before Jesus returns a second time? The voices (prophets if you will) of our day are being silenced. In the east because of the rise of militant Islam or religious radicals in places like India. In the west because of the rise of militant atheism or political correctness. Could it be that the second coming of Christ will take place in a time where the voices of the prophets are not heard in the land?

The nature of His arrival

We tend to think of Jesus’ arrival on earth at Bethlehem, but really Jesus arrived so to speak when He began His public ministry. You can date this arrival by His submission to John’s baptism and identification by John as “the lamb of God;” or you can choose the wedding at Cana or the beginning of His teaching ministry.

We tend to think of Jesus’ second arrival as being signaled by the sound of trumpets and his appearance on a white horse.

I am not, in the following paragraphs, suggesting that it’s possible that Christ has already returned and is alive and on earth now; so please don’t write me off as a heretic.

For the next two paragraphs, play a game with me. Not because I personally believe this, but because it stretches our imagination.

What I’m wondering is, if it’s possible for Jesus to embed himself here on earth somehow for a short period of time, and then, suddenly, there is the sound of trumpets, there is the appearance of the conquering King on a white horse (as opposed to the submission symbolized by the donkey the first time around) and every eye sees and every ear hears. I say that only because that was the nature of His first coming. There was a beginning in Bethlehem that preceded — in this case by 30 years — the beginning of His taking up His spiritual office.

Before you jump all over this and find it full of flaws, remember, at the time of His birth, it is the belief of many commentators that nobody understood the “…then a virgin shall conceive…” passage as meaning exactly how we know today the story played out. There wasn’t the “messianic mindset.”

Bruxy Cavey is a pastor and author who maintains the prophecy should be read ‘backwards’ to see how God was in control all along, not ‘forward’ to try to predict the future. We can’t read forward. On the other hand, controversial author and pastor Rob Bell teaches that every Jewish girl envisioned herself as being “the one” who would give birth to the Savior. Though all was quiet on the western eastern front, there was great expectancy. None of this type of speculation discounts the aspect of “being caught up to meet Him in the air;” the idea that the quietly building return should not have its moments of drama. (We can’t edit out verses of scripture just because they don’t fit with our particular model!)

I’m just saying it would be most consistent if, in addition to the timing of His second coming following the pattern of His first coming; that the nature of His arrival should also include something that has an element of ‘process’ to it. That perhaps instead of looking “up” we should be looking to the left and to the right. Scanning the horizon for the Lion of Judah who has massed his forces, or, more likely, will mass his forces, right here prior to that moment when every eye will see and every ear will hear.

Or perhaps it’s something closer to the more traditional view, but there is a physical presence — similar to the angels at Bethlehem singing ‘Glory to God in the highest’ — followed by the taking up of the spiritual office. A period, a moment filled with signs in the skies followed by a dawning of the great significance of what is happening. Only instead of it taking up to a year for the Magi to arrive on the scene bearing gifts, we have CNN carrying the event live.

Either way of course, it will also be a dramatic intervention into world history on a par equal to His first coming; but seen and known by everyone instantaneously.

The point is, ultimately we just don’t know. However, though we don’t know “the day nor the hour,” we can know “the times and seasons.” And we can be prepared. Are you?

My point is to ask, “What if…?” We read scriptures with so many built-in assumptions — as I am sure Old Testament saints did with the writings available to them — and I think we need to be challenged to think outside the box, without tossing out the basic elements necessary for the Grand Story to play out to completion. Is it heretical to ask, “What if…?”? I think the next chapter will be full of surprises on so many levels.

I Cor 2:6 Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. 7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.” NLT

June 26, 2018

Explaining the Phrase, “Spirit of Antichrist”

Today we’re paying a return visit to GotQuestions.org. This is a great site to know about if you’ve… got questions. (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?) Here’s a link to their archive page which categorizes their different topics covered. Today a much-discussed but often mis-used term, the idea of the “spirit of (the) antichrist.”

What is the spirit of the antichrist?

The phrase spirit of the antichrist is found in 1 John 4:2–3:This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

It’s vital to understand the context of John’s statements. A predominant worldview when he wrote this letter suggested that diverse spirits were at work in the world. Many false teachings, mystery religions, spiritual experiences, and variations of Christianity were emerging at the time. The spiritual atmosphere was not unlike the one present in our world today. People entertained countless views regarding truth.

John presented a definitive solution for wading through this variety of beliefs and teachings. He instructed his readers to pay attention and test the spirits: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

But how do we test the spirits? How can we discern which teachers are imparting truth? How do we recognize the spirit of the antichrist?

These “spirits” John spoke of were not merely disembodied, supernatural beings. John taught that a prophet or teacher was the actual mouthpiece for a spirit. Spiritual doctrines are promulgated through human spokespersons. Teachers of truth are filled with the Spirit of God and thus are agents who speak for God. Teachers of falsehood are spreading the “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1, NASB).

So, the first test relates to theology or doctrine: “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 2). We can ask, does the content of the person’s teaching acknowledge that Jesus Christ—fully God and fully human—has come in the flesh? If the answer is yes, then we know the Spirit of God inspires that person. If not, his entire teaching ought to be rejected. This particular test was especially apropos in John’s day, as the heresy of Gnosticism was becoming prevalent; Gnosticism taught that Jesus only appeared to have a human body but was not actually a flesh-and-blood person.

Next, John says, “But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:3). Anyone who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Bible presents Him is inspired by the spirit of the antichrist.

The word antichrist means “against Christ.” People who say that Jesus is not from God are controlled by the spirit of the antichrist. Satan opposes Christ, and he desires to deceive people into a false view of who Jesus is. The spirit of the antichrist teaches against Christ. To twist the truth about Jesus Christ is to pervert the gospel. Satan works to spread lies about Christ and keep people in the dark: “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1:7).

The spirit of the antichrist is the birds that eat the seeds along the path in Jesus’ parable (Mark 4:4, 15). It is “the god of this age” who blinds the minds of unbelievers, keeping them from seeing “the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is “the father of lies(John 8:44). The spirit of the antichrist is “the great dragon . . . who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9).

The Bible teaches that the world will eventually produce a world ruler, called “the beast” in Revelation, who will wield great power and demand worship of himself. He will have “a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies” (Revelation 13:5) and is empowered by Satan (verse 2). He is called “the man of lawlessness . . . the man doomed to destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. This final Antichrist will be the culmination of the evil workings of Satan throughout the centuries. The Antichrist of the end times will embody all the deception and perversion of truth that the spirit of the antichrist has always promoted. Today, “the secret power of lawlessness is already at work” (verse 7). The same spirit that will empower the Antichrist of the last days is currently operating in the world to bring confusion and deception to the issue of Jesus Christ’s person and work. “This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:3).

Even given the pervasive influence of the spirit of the antichrist, there is no need to fear. As John reminds us, the Spirit of truth indwells all believers and provides protection from the spirit of the antichrist: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

We have some practical ways to distinguish the false spirit of the antichrist from the true Spirit of God: “[False prophets] are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (1 John 4:5–6). Those who are influenced by the spirit of the antichrist are of the world. They have the same values as the world; therefore, the world listens to them. Those who acknowledge Christ have His Spirit of truth, and they embrace the apostles’ message. The gospel the apostles preached is never popular in the world, but it is that very gospel that holds the power to save, through God’s Spirit of truth (Romans 1:16).

The believer’s job is to test the spirits carefully (1 John 4:1). We must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, ESV). We should not automatically embrace the message of any preacher or teacher simply because of his or her reputation or credentials; rather, we must listen cautiously to their Christology. What they say about Jesus is of utmost importance.

June 20, 2018

Overrealized Eschatology

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

This is our very first time with Ted Gosard who blogs at Jesus Community. Like our sister blog, Thinking Out Loud, Ted has an extensive blogroll of interesting websites and writers which I encourage you to be aware of. Given the wide mix of authors we introduce here, we thought this article provided balance on what can be a sensitive, personal subject for some. Click the title below to read this at source.

The Deeper Life Mystique and Mistake

March 8, 2018

Signs of the End: Mark 13

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Should we expect the world to end soon? Are the signs that the end is near lining up? Some take Jesus’ words in Mark chapter 13 to refer to the end times and the signs to watch for. However, others think it has nothing to do with the end of the world and everything to do with the destruction of Jerusalem long ago in the first century. How are we to know? Let us dig into Mark 13 and see what we can learn:

1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, . . .  Mark 13:1-5

Let us first consider that we have a statement, a question, an answer, and a fact.

  • First the statement: Jesus says the Temple will be destroyed.
  • Then the question: The disciples ask when the Temple will be destroyed.
  • Let us jump now to the fact: Forty years later the Temple indeed lay in ruins.

Given that Jesus tells the disciples the Temple will be destroyed, the disciple ask when, and the Temple is in fact destroyed within forty years, it is reasonable to expect that at least some of Jesus’ answer has something to do with that destruction of the Temple. But is Jesus only speaking about the destruction of the Temple? Let’s take a look and think about how it affects us today.

Verses 5-13 can be understood to refer to either the first century or to the end times. The followers of Jesus did experience persecution then, and have continued to experience persecution at various times and places ever since. But let us dig deeper into the rest of the chapter.

14 “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 15 the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16 the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not be in winter. 19 For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 21 And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’—do not believe it. 22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be alert; I have already told you everything. Mark 13:14-23

Ironically, in our day it is so easy for the reader to not understand what the “desolating sacrilege” refers to in verse 14. But in the first century, the typical Jew and Jewish Christian would have understood the reference to the book of Daniel as pointing to previous sieges against  Jerusalem by foreign armies. Jesus is teaching the disciples here to watch for signs of another siege. When it happens, do not fight, but flee. Some will point to verses 19 and 20 and declare that such intense suffering can only refer to the end times. However, Jesus is using the common literary device called “hyperbole” and Bible scholars point out that the Jewish historian refers to this same destruction of Jerusalem in a similar way. We should also point out that under a siege in the first century, many Jews would have been watching for a Messiah to rescue them from the enemy. Hence Jesus’ instruction to watch out for false Messiahs. By the time Jerusalem falls Jesus has already effected a much grander rescue.

24“But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. Mark 13:24-27

Some think these verses continue to refer to the destruction of the Temple in the first century. However, many many think this refers to the return of Jesus that we still await sometime “after” (verse24) the suffering of the destruction of Jerusalem. We ought not to get too caught up in expecting stars to literally fall. This is poetry here and just as we might call an event of great significance an “earth shaking event”, the stars falling and the powers shaking alert us to a very significant event. The destruction of the Temple in the first century was a significant event as it signalled a new era. However the return of Jesus will be even more significant, signalling the beginning of a new “age“.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Mark 13:28-31

Those who understand all of Mark 13 as referring only to the end times tend to trip over verse 30 since that generation certainly has passed away and we are still waiting. However, there is no problem when we understand that Jesus is referring here to the destruction of the Temple. In fact while many translations tell us, like our NRSV here, that “he is near” in verse 29, the “he” is supplied and some translations go with “it is near”, that is, the destruction of the Temple. Jesus is now answering the original question of the disciples. Verse 29, “when you see these things” refers back to verse 14, “when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be”.  So to answer the question of the disciples, watch for the armies approaching (and run for the safety!).

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” 13:32-37

Here we have a contrast. The signs of the destruction of Jerusalem are clear, and you need to act on those signs. However “that day”, that is, the day of the Lord’s return as spoken of in verses 24-27, will come suddenly and without warning. There are no signs to watch for, one just needs to be always ready.

SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH US TODAY?

  1. Take to heart that Jesus was correct about the destruction of the temple. Mark, along with most of the NT was written prior to the destruction of the Temple. Jesus’ prophetic words of judgement against the Temple did come about. He is to be trusted.
  2. Take Jesus seriously. With regard to his return, there are no signs to watch for. We do well to keep this in mind when people try to sell us books about when we can expect Christ’s return. They don’t know.
  3. Look Forward with Hope and Anticipation. In verse 7 the Greek word telos is not just “end”, but “goal”. It really is not the end, but a milestone, and a new beginning. We can also think of the “birth pains” of verse 8. No one asks a pregnant woman “when does your pregnancy end?”. We ask when the baby is to be born. What begins is worthy of greater excitement than what will come to an end.
  4. Be ready. How do we get ready? We look to the One who gets us ready. Within a week of speaking of the destruction of the Temple and his Second Coming, Jesus gave his life for us on the cross. Are you ready?

Should we expect the end to come soon? No one knows but God alone, but we should be ready for Christ could arrive at any moment.



All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (26 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

 

December 4, 2017

Identifying The Spots and Wrinkles

When He cometh, when He cometh,
To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

– William Cushing, 1856


Do you hear them coming, brother?—
Thronging up the steeps of light,
Clad in glorious shining garments,
Blood-washed garments, pure and white

’Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb;
’Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

– Ralph Hudson, 1892


Today we’re back with Patrick Hawthorne who blogs at Serving Grace Ministries. Click the title below to read it at source (with comments) and then click “author’s blog page” to view other articles.

Has the Separation Begun?

A passage that has always troubled me is Ephesians 5:27 which reads,

“…that He (Jesus) might present her (the Church) to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

While the “what” of the verse is self-explanatory, the “how,” of the verse is not.  How will the Church – the Body of Christ Jesus – be without spot or blemish?  It’s obvious that the Church has some serious issues that need dealing with, but how will the Lord deal with these issues prior to His return?

Lately, the Lord has been revealing things to me about the Church so that I might pray more effectively.  One way was through a vision while in prayer, A Body Out of Alignment. Another way was through the Word, Storm On the Horizon. This latest has come through a conversation with my mom.  As a side note, never discount nor limit the way in which the Holy Spirit may speak to you.

As I was speaking with my mother about this burden to pray and write concerning the Church she said to me, and I paraphrase, “Did you know that the spots and blemishes of the Church are people?”  Of course I asked her to explain.  “Yes,” she said, “Look at 2 Peter 2:13 and you will see that the spots and blemishes are those within the Church who appear to be part of the Body but practice wickedness and deception.”  Naturally, my curiosity was peaked.

At the first opportune moment I went to those verses.  Sure enough 2 Peter 2:12-13 read,

“But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, 13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,

(2 Peter 2:12-13 NKJV underline mine).

The spots and blemishes written of are church members.  These are they who live two lives; one life is in the church and the other is in the world. Suddenly things were making sense.

As I previously wrote, I believe we are in the season of the last of the last days.  I don’t know how much longer till Jesus returns but all indications reveal that we are close.  Could it be that the prophecy of Malachi 3:16-18 may occur prior to His return?  Could it be that the separation of the wheat from the tares within the Church has already begun?  Maybe… Be blessed.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.17 “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels.  And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”18 Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.  (Malachi 3:16-18 NKJV underline mine)


Lyrics for When He Cometh and ‘Tis a Glorious Church from TimelessTruths.org

November 15, 2017

Is This the End?

This our ninth time returning to the writing of pastor B. J. Rutledge.  These articles kicked off a sermon series at his church.  First, he wrote a shorter introduction:

Sometimes I think we’ve become a desensitized to the tragedies that happen around us. The news will sensationalize it for a while, but then there’s the next story. We care about the people impacted, but if it doesn’t hit close to home we don’t dwell on it too long. However, when we experience a personal tragedy, a question that lingers in the back of our mind or may be asked is: “Where’s God in all of this?”

Our country has been experiencing many tragedies over the past few months: the horrific shooting[s]… hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding. We’re also very aware of the tragedy that impacted our southern neighbors as another earthquake ravaged Mexico City. There’s horrible violence and flooding going on in Asia…

Two days later he posted our key article for today:

Are These THE END TIMES?

In light of all the chaos going on in our country and world, I get asked this question from time to time.  Here are a few things I believe.

Throughout history when there have been major wars or many natural disasters, there’s an increased focus on “the end times” among Christians.   This is good because it reminds us to focus on the fact that Jesus will return and time as we know it will end.

Every day we get closer to the End Times, and Scripture gives us numerous signs we can look to and expect; like what Jesus told us in Matthew 24.   However,  Jesus was clear to His disciples and us:    36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.    Matthew 24:36-42 NIV

Here’s what I suggest we keep in mind:

  • Jesus will return as He promised
  • Every day we’re getting closer
  • No one knows when He will return
  • We need to be ready every day  (1 John 2:28)
  • We need to share the truth about Jesus with as many people as possible

He then linked to an article from the Billy Graham Association:

Q: How bad is the world going to have to get before God finally steps in and Jesus comes back? I get very concerned when I see all the evil things that are happening in the world today. Are we living in the last times?

A:

The Bible warns us against making precise predictions about the exact time of Jesus’ return—but His return is certain, and we may well be living in the last days before He comes again. The Bible says, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:12).

Shortly before returning to Heaven Jesus told His disciples that someday He would come back to establish His Kingdom. But before that could take place, He said, certain things would have to happen—and we see many of these today. For example, He said that before His return the Gospel must be preached throughout the world (see Mark 13:10). Never before has this been possible—but now it is, through radio and the Internet and other modern means of communication.

You also have placed your finger on another sign Jesus gave: Satan’s final attempt to halt God’s work through a massive onslaught of evil. Our world is no stranger to evil; Satan has always been working to stop God’s plans. But God’s enemies now have access to modern weapons of mass destruction, and no one can predict what the outcome will be. Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. … Nation will rise against nation” (Matthew 24:6-7).

The real question, however, is this: Are you ready for Christ’s return? You can be, by turning to Him and putting your faith and trust in Him. Don’t take His warnings lightly, but commit your life without delay to Jesus Christ.

Are you ready for Christ’s return?

Read the full set of five questions and answers from Rev. Graham at this link.

September 11, 2016

Where is God’s Heavenly Kingdom?

by Russell Young

   The location of the kingdom of heaven may not seem important, however knowing its setting might bring clarity to some important issues.  Due to lack of understanding people have entertained, and do entertain, all kinds of fanciful thoughts concerning heaven itself. The imaginations of many allow them to consider an eternal utopian existence somewhere in the grand beyond.  Most people have probably developed their own impression of God’s eternal kingdom.

The Bible reveals some truths that should impact our lives.

There are two locations revealed that apply to God’s heavenly kingdom. At this time, he is both building his kingdom and has a kingdom. He manages or reigns over his creation from heaven and will continue to do so until his Son has perfected his creation.  “Then the end will come when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24-25 NIV) When the reign of Christ is completed and the kingdom given to the Father, God’s heavenly kingdom will begin.

The second location for God’s heavenly kingdom is revealed as being on earth.  Heavenly, in this case, means heaven-like, or as existed in heaven.

John testified that he saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, “coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Rev 21:2 NIV) He had a vision of the Holy City descending to the new earth.  Some take this to mean a newly formed earth, however “new” in Revelation 21:1 comes from the Greek kainos and refers to newness–especially in freshness and not properly in respect to age. (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #2537) The new heaven and the new earth will bring glory to God.  The Lord is making everything new (Rev 21:5), including the hearts and minds of those who will dwell with him.

The prophets wrote of a renewed earth. Isaiah has recorded, “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” (Isa 40:4 NIV) Zechariah revealed: “The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah.  But Jerusalem will be raised up and remain in its place, from the Benjamin Gate… to the royal winepresses.  It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure.” (Zech 14:10, 11 NIV) Further description can be found in Isaiah 35:6─10. “Those passing through will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden.’” (Eze 36:35 NIV) And, the Lord revealed that “there is no longer any sea.” (Rev 21:1 NIV)

Paul stated that “this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Cor 8:31 NIV) Further he taught of the “frustration that God’s creation is enduring as it waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed … in hope that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.” (Rom 8:19…21 NIV)

The purpose for a new earth must be put into perspective.  God had created and had declared his creation to be very good.  He had a purpose and had exercised his power to accomplish his good pleasure.  The evil inclinations of humankind (Gen 6:5) had prevented the fulfillment of his objective, but one day it will come about.  When those who have honored him through their own free will are chosen, his creation will be liberated and his heaven-like (heavenly) kingdom will be established on earth.  All things will have become new.

Everyone needs to recognize that God loves his world (Jn 3:16), not just humankind. The Lord prophesied that at the time of the sounding of the seventh trumpet the time had come for “destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18 NIV) The earth is intended to be preserved for the future.

The revelation of a new heaven and a new earth, and the teachings that accompany it should give humankind pause to think.  It is not just a pardon that God’s people require; it is a transformation of their souls, hearts and minds into those whose imaginations are not constantly evil (Gen 6:5); they must become an offering acceptable to God. (Rom 15:16) Those who are chosen will be in the likeness of his Son (Rom 8:29), “a new creation.” (Gal 6:15) When his creation is refreshed to the state he had called “very good” his plan for creation will be completed. His heavenly kingdom will be on earth. This time, however, “everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Mt 13:41 NIV) will be weeded out of his kingdom and it will be eternally righteous.

Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tar from their eyes.  There will be no more crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4 NIV) God will finally have the created kingdom that he had envisioned and it will be on earth.

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