Is talking about the rapture relevant or necessary?


This, as with everything I write, started with a conversation. In this case, a conversation that turned out one-sided and ended with the other person telling me that discussions about the rapture are filled with fallacies, and comparable to eating a cupcake, nutritionally pointless.

 

Let us try to avoid the fallacies and see what scripture admonishes us to teach.

 

I want to begin with Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

It seems Paul’s purpose in writing was meant to strengthen their faith and give them an assurance of Christ’s return. Throughout the letter to the Thessalonians we gain clues that will support why we need to have an enthusiasm for the “rapture”. Most of Paul’s letters had a doctrinal section and a practical section. The practical lends itself to chapter four, and that is where I am headed.

 

Background and Setting

“Thessalonica (modern Salonika) lies near the ancient site of Therma on the Thermaic Gulf at the northern reaches of the Aegean Sea. It may have been a vacation attraction because of the thermal springs. This city became the capital of Macedonia (c. 168 B.C.) and enjoyed the status of a “free city” which was ruled by its own citizenry under the Roman Empire.” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, Copyright © 2005 by John MacArthur). Sometime during the early centuries of the spread of Christianity, Thessalonica came to be nicknamed “the orthodox city” because of its Christian character (Dean Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, New York: Cassell and Company, Limited, 1904, p. 364). Salonika is still an important city in Greece. Because of the Jewish dispersion it is estimated that one-third of the population was Jewish. The Jews brought with them their ethical, monotheistic faith, quite the contrast to the Greeks and Romans they were living with.

 

Situation

While preaching Jesus as Messiah (the Jewish king) in Thessalonica, Paul had been accused of preaching another king besides Caesar (Act_17:7). The very young Thessalonian church continued to experience persecution after Paul’s departure, but he encourages them with the promise of a future hope, which applies even to those who have already died (1Th_4:13-18). (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener)

 

Paul’s entrance and exit from Thessalonica are recorded in Acts chapter 17. It did not go well and noble men escorted Paul and Silas to safety where they traveled on to Berea.

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. (Acts 17:1-14 NASB)

Because of the nature of the letter, and the soundness of the biblical doctrines, I tend to make several assumptions. First, I presumed that Paul had a reasonable amount of time with them. Secondly, I assumed that he had established some elders in this church and that might have happened. The third thing dominant in my thinking is the depth of conversation about the things of God he was able to have with them. Most people will struggle for months over the concept of eternal salvation, and yet in Christ this is well-defined. A simple example of this is found in: (John 10:28 NASB) and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

 

Paul reasoned with them for three Sabbaths.

I cannot imagine that he took non-Sabbath days off. Three weeks might not have been enough time for him to set up his tent making operations, making a couple of dollars to buy groceries, but you can certainly make a huge impact on receptive ears in three weeks. Nonetheless, in three weeks he gave them a solid foundation and a bit more.

What I have to remind myself is that Paul’s first stops were always to the Synagogues. Here you should find people who are well established in the law and the prophets due to oral tradition. The truth the Holy Spirit built into Paul was based in the Law and the Prophets, so he does have a common ground. In recovery, I have found that the greatest testimony of Christ’s work in me has everything to do with what I personally know and have experienced – freedom and hope. This is what Paul found and this is the message he spread.

Jewish ways and tradition run deep, but then history proves that so does the affinity for idolatry, but we will ignore that for the moment seeing as we all struggle with that one. Within three weeks, many are ready to kill Paul, or at minimum run him out-of-town. It may have been a free city and not under the heavy hand of Rome, but insurrections were put down swiftly. Regardless, Paul and Silas are now gone.

Due to a bible study I attended, my focus lately has been on the later half of chapter four, beginning with this: 1 Thessalonians 4:13 NASB (13) But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

I think it is brilliant how the Holy Spirit, open so much truth just in one sentence. Paul used the word for uninformed, not because he had left it out of his three-week crash course, but because someone had muddied up the water of truth; probably by bringing in external circumstances into the picture. You know how some people are so good at pointing out the obvious to you, for the express purpose of keeping you founded in sound doctrine. I suspect they mean well, but their delivery has no intent other than pointing out your fallacy, and how improperly discipled you apparently are, while making, themselves look better.

Another aspect of this verse is the ramification of being asleep. No, I am not talking about falling asleep in church; I do it all the time. Besides, I am often tired by the time I get there, and the setting is perfect for sleeping. Asleep should mean dead, sort of, if it were not for the fact, our soul never dies. Ah, come on now, even atheists believe in ghosts. Why would Paul have to have a conversation about them grieving over some that have died? No one is saying that it is not okay to grieve your loss of a loved one. However, if I have hope, another aspect of Paul’s conversation, then I should understand that because they too had a relationship with Jesus Christ, I would see them again. This one verse carries the idea of our being with Jesus; due to something we like to call the rapture, written all over it.

The same guy that shut down our morning conversation, because he alone felt that the mention of the rapture deserved the brunt of his displeasure, feels strongly that we should only focus on the doctrines of the church. Really, what does that mean, because those can be different depending on what denomination you are. Doctrines, in general, are the basics that establish our relationship with God. An example might be found in the Apostles creed:

I believe

In God the Father.. Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into Hades; the third day he rose from the dead;

I believe in the Holy Ghost;

The holy catholic Church; the communion of saints;

The forgiveness of sins;

The resurrection of the body;

And the life everlasting.

There are at least five other versions of the creed, none wholly in agreement with the other. So, which doctrines are we to preach to people? While there are only four words in here that give me grief, the overall is impact is YES, this is what I believe. These things validate our hope. Moreover, if my argumentative friend were to read them again, he might realize that they include the concept of the rapture.

It is clear that Paul believed whole-heartedly in the harpazo, or snatching away of the church. My friend had to let me know that “the rapture did not exist until the 1800’s.” Moments like this make me wish my brain worked better. How dare you accuse me of dispensing fallacies when you make an uneducated statement such as he did. While it may be true that the terminology “rapture” did not become popular until the 1800’s, does not make it a meaningless term. The word rapture is a derivative of the Latin word rapiemur and is found in the Latin Vulgate. It effectively means a snatching away.

From Wikipedia:

The Latin Vulgate translates the Greek ἁρπαγησόμεθα as rapiemur,[21] from the verb rapio meaning “to catch up” or “take away”.[22]

21   1 Thessalonians 4:17. deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera et sic semper cum Domino erimus (Latin Vulgate).

22 Clouse, R.G. (1984). Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. p. 908. ISBN 0-8010-3413-2.

Let us get something straight now. Jesus only guaranteed us a few things:

  1. In this world, you will have tribulation.

What does that mean? It means that the potential of things going extremely hard and you being killed are a harsh reality

  1. You, as a follower of Christ, will be hated by all men.

That includes religious folk.

  1. Jesus said, I will not leave you, nor forsake you. I will come back for you.

Tribulation ≠ Wrath. Tribulation is a way of life, and NO, God is not terribly interested in whether you drive the newest Mercedes-Benz.

  1. There is a valid hope, and it includes a life with the Father in a land of peace.

Some of the questions you have to ask yourself, if you are trying to make a decision as to whether the rapture is relevant or not, is:

    • Are there two or three witnesses?

I recently looked this up. Of the books of the New Testament, there are only two in which I cannot see any reference to end times and the rapture.

    • Who spoke about it and can we trust them?

This one scares me because it is so pathetic. Paul never left the subject untouched, whether he called it our hope or our gathering to Him.

Jesus spoke about it. John’s gospel is one the largest collection of references to the concept.

John 14:3 ASV And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 14:18 KJV I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

  • Is it possible that there are other terms being used and I am missing this?

Absolutely! It is called:

  1. (Coming) 2 Peter 3:3-4 KJV Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, (4) And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
  1. 2 Thessalonians 2:1 KJV   (1) Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
  2. Mark 14:62 KJV And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
  3. 2 Corinthians 1:14 MKJV (14) even as you have recognized us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as you also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.

You should get the idea by now.

1 Thessalonians 4 may answer any questions we have, if we give it a chance.

1 Thessalonians 4:14 MKJV (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him all those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again” This is one of those things that define us; it is essential, doctrinal, and foundational truth for every believer.

“..even so God will also bring with Him all those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.” I can apply this statement to two things. First, since the dead in Christ will rise first, they will be with him and possibly be considered to be brought with Him. The second is at the end of the seven-year period, the time of God’s wrath upon the earth.

Zechariah 14:5 KJV And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.

Here is the passage that tends to trouble me.

1 Thessalonians 4:15 KJV (15)   For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord” If Paul has to reestablish where his inspiration is coming from, that tends to tell me that these people had really had their boat rocked.

Speaking from experience, I came to the Lord at perhaps age 12. I tend to cling to that age as a reference point. In reality, evangelistic preachers would come about every six months. I, like so many others, would go down front to repent and be born again; why, because I never had an assurance of my salvation. Mom did not help much with that, as she would emphasize that some minor stupidity we pulled as kids needed to be repented of, or God just might bypass us and we would end up in hell. Needless to say, most of my childhood involved fear.

“, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” This tells me that one of two things have affected them. Someone has come behind Paul and preached a message that confuses or contradicts what Paul had taught, or tribulation, a perceived evidence of the seven-year period after the rapture, has come in their minds.

I do not know when this started, but I can tell you that we have done this to ourselves. The seven-year period is called the time of God’s wrath upon the earth. Jesus indicated that it would be a time of such great tribulation, that no one would survive unless God shortens time. It is a time of judgment. If I were Paul and I only had three weeks to bring you up to speed, establishing that you are no longer under condemnation for sins would be high on my list of points to make. Just because we are forgiven, purchased out from under the debt we owed, does not give us that full access we see; acceptance of Jesus Christ as the one that paid that price does.

I do not understand for the life of me, why God needs these old bodies, but he seems to want to have them attached to the souls they belong with.

This next verse is the snatching away for which we long. We, out of habit, call it the rapture.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 KJV (16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

For me, the key argument about why I should understand, believe, and preach the coming of Jesus Christ, something I happen to believe is imminent, comes in the next verse. It also happens to be the last verse of chapter 4.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 KJV (18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Placement is everything. Since Paul had encouraged and admonished the church already, then it makes sense to say, use these words to comfort one another. If he had placed this sentence else where in the text, then I would have to wonder what kind of documents to they have to refer to, to gain this encouragement. You do realize, that all they had was the Holy Spirit and their memories to hold them together.

I believe, especially now, that we were meant to understand and preach this message. I believe it is even more relevant today because many around us have seen these prophecies happen before their eyes. Israel becoming a nation is one of them.

No the subject is not new, even Daniel ends with this hope.

Daniel 12:1-4 KJV And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.   (2) And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.   (3) And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.   (4) But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

 

 

 

 

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Our lead in to Matthew 2


What an interesting transition. Our lead-in to Matthew 2 tells us: That Joseph was a good man. Mary was probably in trouble, though she had done nothing wrong. Joseph took her into his home before the usual time, disregarding the pressure that may have come at him as well.

Suddenly I realize that am not aware of where they came from. Sadly, I have never been aware of where they were living when all this started. Nazareth, as we learn from Luke’s gospel, was not Joseph’s hometown. I assumed that Bethlehem was where Mary was from as well. This is one of those reasons that we should compare notes with the other gospels when we are trying to get the bigger picture.

Luke’s gospel tells us that they came from Nazareth, and went to Bethlehem. Here is why:

“Now in those days an order was published by Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be registered. This was the first registration taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all the people went to their hometowns to be registered. Joseph, too, went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was a descendant of the household and family of David. He went there to be registered with Mary, who had been promised to him in marriage and was pregnant.” (Luke 2:1-5 ISV)

So all my rants and perceptions about them being outcasts have more to do with Joseph’s family rejecting the two of them, as they tried to find a place to stay in Bethlehem. Perhaps I am wrong in assuming that common courtesy and hospitality existed in this period of history. Maybe Joseph has been gone so long that he is barely remembered. Who knows? Even here in Bethlehem, if challenges came up, how easy would it be to say, this is my wife and she is with child. Who would question that?

It is clear that Mary and Joseph did not go around announcing that this was the coming Messiah. If they had done that Herod would have had been no need to question the wise men, or the religious Jews about where this Messiah and rightful heir to the throne was.

I do not think that most people would have paid attention if they had declared that this coming baby was the Messiah. All of Israel expected some grand entrance associated with a warrior king, not some poverty-stricken family, with a baby coming.

Matthew 2:1-2 NET.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Wise men?

They were Magi: A magus, the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc. (Thayer’s definitions)

These wise men were men that had emerged from Daniel’s tutelage of the Magi.

Daniel 4:9 LITV O Belteshazzar(Daniel), master of the magicians(astrologers), because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no secret troubles you, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its meaning.

Did it ever occur to you that there could have, and should have been others that understood and paid attention?

Certainly, the shepherds were wise enough to come. Around Christmas of every year you see the sentence, “Wise men still seek him” and that is certainly true. However, this is very telling of the Jewish people; they knew by oral tradition, based in the Law and the prophets that the Messiah was coming.

Many have decided, after having read the bible, that it borders on impossible to figure out when future events should occur. We are even told, concerning the coming our Lord, that no man knows the precise time. Nevertheless, Daniel was able to figure out that the end of Israel’s captivity in Babylon was near. Did that mean freedom was immediate? Daniel sought the Lord for an answer.

Daniel 9:2-3 KJV “In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (3) And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:”

God’s response spelled out: Israel’s release from captivity; the death of the Messiah; the destruction of the temple in 70 AD; Antichrists covenant with Israel for seven years, and his breaking of that covenant at the mid-point; the abomination of the final temple, and the desolation of Israel. Once it starts, this time will continue until the end of those seven years.

Why then, if Daniel can figure things out, no one else can? Ah, but they could, and several did. The religious Jews, when brought before Herod, were able to tell Herod that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem. Apparently, they knew.  What we see is an intentional refusal of the Messiah.

Matthew 2:3 NET. When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him.

Herod was an insecure man. You can rest assured that his lookouts saw the wise men coming. The Magi had done their homework, and were looking for the sign of His arrival. Having found it they began their journey. I can understand Herod’s fear, but why is all of Jerusalem afraid, unless, they fear the repercussions of a bipolar king.

Josephus can well understand the meaning of these words. Herod in his rage over his family rivalries and jealousies put to death the two sons of Mariamne (Aristobulus and Alexander), Mariamne herself, and Antipater, another son and once his heir, besides the brother and mother of Mariamne (Aristobulus, Alexandra) and her grandfather John Hyrcanus. He had made will after will and was now in a fatal illness and fury over the question of the Magi. He showed his excitement and the whole city was upset because the people knew only too well what he could do when in a rage over the disturbance of his plans.” (RWP)

Having Herod perceive this as an attempt at an uprising, and the repercussions of that, may well be the basis of Jerusalem’s fear. It will only be days before Herod tries to kill off this young contender for the throne.

Matthew 2:4-6 KJV “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”

Herod quickly gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together. He demanded an answer, and they gave him what they knew. However, you find these same men denying the deity and veracity of Jesus, even though they knew that his birth fulfilled prophecy. Their hypocrisy screams in the face of God.

Now Herod knows that he has a potential threat. A young boy should be an easy target. Perhaps these wise men have a more precise location, seeing as they are interested in going there; a blatant and notable difference from the religious Jews.

Allow me to insert a break here.

While the general population of religious Jews is in denial about the Messiah, some are not. We are aware of the shepherds and the wise men, but who else has been paying attention?

I want you to look at Luke chapter two with me.

Luke 2:15-17 DRB “And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us. And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.”

Luke 2:21-33 DRB “And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons: And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon: and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. And the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, He also took him into his arms and blessed God and said Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace: Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel. And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him.”

The Message version describes Simeon like this:

Luke 2:25 MSG  “In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him.”

Then there was Anna. She was very old, but she understood.

Luke 2:36-38 ISV “Now Anna, a prophetess, was also there. She was a descendant of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was very old, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow for 84 years. She never left the Temple, but continued to worship there night and day with times of fasting and prayer. Just then she came forward and began to thank God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

No, not everyone was blind to his birth.

Matthew 2:7-10 ISV “Then Herod secretly called together the wise men, found out from them the time the star had appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem. He told them, “As you go, search carefully for the child. When you find him, tell me so that I, too, may go and worship him.” After listening to the king, they set out, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were ecstatic with joy.”

The wise men understood that Herod had an alternative motive and they were going to have no part of it. Notice when they relocated the star that they were ecstatic with joy.

Here comes the part where you get your traditional Christmas manger scene destroyed.

Matthew 2:11 ISV “After they went into the house and saw the child with his mother Mary, they fell down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure sacks and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Nope, He is no longer in a manger. In addition, notice that there is nothing said about how many wise men are here, or the quantity of treasure containers. This is another of those things in scripture about which we have made assumptions.

Matthew 2:12 ISV Having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they left for their own country by a different road.”

God cared about wise men, and warned them in a dream that they should take another way home. I can see this serving two purposes: One, it keeps Herod from killing them since they are no longer useful, and two, God has a plan, and it does not include having His only son killed prematurely.

Matthew 2:13 ERV “After the wise men left, an angel from the Lord came to Joseph in a dream. The angel said, “Get up! Take the child with his mother and escape to Egypt. Herod wants to kill the child and will soon start looking for him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to come back.””

How old is Jesus at this point? Our evidence is really based upon Herod’s assessment. He had questioned the wise men, because his intent was to kill the child. They apparently told Herod that it had been two years since they had seen His star in the East. Since the star appeared at His birth, then all male children, two and under would be killed.

I think I have always wondered what became of the gifts the wise men brought. I think it is safe to say that these gifts financed, not only the trip, but their lives while in Egypt.

Matthew 2:16 KJV “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.”

What horrors as so many children were innocently slaughtered.

Matthew 2:17-18 ESV “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: (18) “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.””

Jeremiah 31: 15 is what they pulled from. Rachel is now symbolic and gains it fulfillment with the deaths of these children. However, this is yet to be fulfilled in the destruction of Israel during the years of wrath.

“But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19-23 ESV)

Most people fear the prophetic. Maybe they mostly fear prophetic people. I suppose that is understandable considering the television representations we get to watch. At this point in history, God had been silent for four hundred years. Suddenly he shows up in dreams. It was not unusual for God to talk to his people in this way. That made Mary’s story a little easier to handle.

Given the green light to go back home, with the disclaimer, “all who seek the death of Jesus are dead” you might think Joseph would be comfortable going back to Bethlehem. Life had worked out okay there. But when he learned that Archelaus was ruling Joseph goes around Judea and back to Nazareth. Matthew writes this as though Nazareth is a new and unfamiliar experience for them. They have been gone for a few years but comments made toward Jesus, as far south as Jerusalem, show that his birthing reputation was well-known.

Matthew 2:23 ESV And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

I have looked in scripture for the prophet that spoke these words but cannot find him. In reading the notes in my Dakes’ bible, he says, these words were spoken but not recorded. Considering that so much of what we read is passed on through oral history and learning, it makes sense.

             Everything was going according to God’s plan.

Posted in Things I have never noticed before, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s talk about prophecy for a moment.


You need to understand something; prophecy is not something that must be feared unless you are the one in error. There are exceptions to everything and there is no denying that The Revelation (of Jesus), that John saw, is filled with some scary aspects. However, in most cases the prophetic word is meant to turn your life toward safety and hope. Now should the one in error not respond appropriately, then they are subject to the parameters that God pronounces.

God’s methods of operation at not dark secrets, and God declared his plans and intentions throughout his Word. Jesus the Messiah is that Word, and how did God handle his coming? He used prophets. Men that heard his voice and were brave enough to give it to the people.

Many are afraid of the prophet, while others have no respect for them. For me, the prophets Samuel and Elisha are two that would have given me some concern had they showed up at my door. Samuel hacked king Agag to pieces, while Elisha called bears down upon some young men that were mocking him.

Some, say prophets are no longer necessary and do not exist. I do not know how you ignore those that truly move in that realm. The problem for the believer is how do you sort out the quacks from someone who is real; more on that shortly.

I get emails and posts on Facebook with the new and fresh prophetic words. These words are brought by highly acclaimed, airbrushed, portfolio faces, which in many cases make their living speaking at prophetic conferences. I flat-out ignore most of them. Why would I do that? Because in the midst of obvious, impending chaos, they declare that God is bringing us into a time of roses to smell and fields of clover to roll in. If they were talking about heaven that might make sense, but it does not help me now, and if Heaven was the subject then their public word needs to be more focused.

Look around you; do really see good things coming? Neither do I, and yet when I tell people, that all these things are signs of His imminent coming for those that await him, they respond with, that’s impossible for not all the lost have heard the gospel, and people like you have said that for two thousand years. The responses only prove that most of the church has their head buried in the sand.

How do we define the true prophet?

Initially it can be difficult, for one of the things we have to look for is: do their words come true.

Deuteronomy 18:22 (AMP) When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or prove true, that is a word which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

In the Old Testament, they were told to judge the prophets harshly if they were false. You could get yourself stoned to death, a less than glamorous ending.

Deuteronomy 18:20 (KJV) But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

This, fortunately, is not what we see anymore. This should however have a tremendous influence on how you make your delivery. I know it concerns me. I try to steer away from the, “thus saith the Lord” statements. Besides that, he has never spoken to me in Elizabethan English. I have prefaced some of my statements with, I hear this in my spirit, or does this mean anything to you.

Strangely, Moses spoke to the people and said:

Deuteronomy 18:9-15 (AMP) When you come into the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of these nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, or who uses divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and it is because of these abominable practices that the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless [and absolutely true] to the Lord your God. For these nations whom you shall dispossess listen to soothsayers and diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.   The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet (Prophet) from the midst of your brethren like me [Moses]; to him you shall listen.

Therefore, instead of Israel following after the abominations of the land, God was going to bring them prophets to guide them. We find these ruling the people in the days before they had to have a king like the other nations around them.

The prophets included:

Ahab saw Elijah as an enemy because Elijah always brought bad news.

Elisha was Elijah’s replacement, and operated under a greater anointing than his teacher Elijah.

Samuel was placed under the care teaching of the priest Eli. Unfortunately, Eli did not control his sons and Samuel had to call him down for it. Samuel went on to anoint two of Israel’s first kings.

Deborah the prophet fit her situation perfectly. She had the leadership skills a challenged Israel needed, and she had a remarkable relationship with God

There were many other prophets and some had a direct impact on the decisions of kings, while others warned the nation of its sin and consequences.

Many of the prophets, while not false (it would take years in some cases for the word to come to pass) were beaten, imprisoned and in some cases killed, primarily by religious leadership. It was not a highly desired job.

In looking for the definitions of a prophet, the first is found in the Old Testament.

Numbers 12:6-7 (KJV) And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.

Even this passage gives an exception to Moses. I am not clear on the specific reasons why Moses was so different. Perhaps the burning bush and still small voice episode had something to do with that.

It was more common for God to talk with man through visions, most often while the recipient sleeps.

Take the time, on your own to look up these passages:

Genesis 15:1, Genesis 46:2; Job 33:15; Psalm 89:19;

What we read in Genesis 15 comes off as though this happened in living color, right before Abram’s eyes, but it was a dream; a very vivid dream. However, God treats this vision as reality. This vision is the covenant that God made with Abram/Abraham.

In the New Testament, we see John the Baptist acknowledged as a prophet. He preached a mean sermon on repentance, but the thing we see as significant was his recognition of Jesus, his cousin, as the Messiah.

Jesus, after withstanding the abuse of the Jewish leadership; referred to himself as a prophet, when he said, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. (Mark 6:4).

While John announced that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus did everything. He healed, cleansed, spoke life over and into people, and by his word forgave their sins. This was scandalous and unheard of. It also got him killed. True, it was God’s plan and our redemption, but nonetheless dangerous work.

The Apostle Paul wrote about the gifts that God places in us on several occasions.

(Gr. charismata), gifts supernaturally bestowed

Many believe that this stuff was just for the early church and no longer necessary, therefore done away with. Hardly, see the following passage.

Romans 11:29 KJV For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Repentance here is the Greek word ametameletos, and means irrevocable. They are here to stay.

One of our primary sources defining prophecy as an active method of the Spirit communicating with the church is Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11 KJV)

            I know what happens when most read this; they let ritual, tradition, and fear take over. They deny the very existence of these things, or even worse, attribute them to the devil. Attributing the things of God to the devil, is the thing that really got Jesus worked up. He told the Jewish religious leaders that they had crossed the line and were now blaspheming. Considering how many of us worry about whether we have blasphemed or not, you now have Jesus definition of it. Do not go there.

The context of the working gifts continues in I Corinthians 12, but there is no direct mandate for participating, not everybody does. Do not take this as an excuse to berate those that do.

The writer of Hebrews tells us:

God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will. (Hebrews 2:4 ASV)

The “them” here, is the church. If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, then you are one of them. God is actively involved in reaffirming us by the gifts he bestowed upon us. Having spent some time in recovery and coming to realize just how frail we are, it makes all the sense in the world that he would want to keep us mentally sound. Because when you are mentally sound, you make better decisions.

I understand that prophecy is a valid and active New Testament gift, optimistically you do as well. Many continue to deny prophecy its place. I can tell you that most of our modern, civilized churches reject the gifts of the spirit. The only gift my church cares to hear about is service, and they will find a place for you as a door greeter or working in the parking lot. Maybe that is not so bad. Stephen made good use of his time and became a pillar of the early church.

Now the hard part; I imagine that you figured out that I have no issue with the gift of prophecy. I do have issues with people who make the church and myself, look like fools. The main reason that happens is that some think we have to be flamboyant or extreme.

Some, operating under the guise of prophecy, have spoken in tongues as if they are speaking to the entire church. There is no reason for that to happen and Paul explained why.

He that speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church. Now I would have you all speak with tongues, but rather that ye should prophesy: and greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. But now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching? (1 Corinthians 14:4-6 ASV)

            If I open my mouth and blaze away, anticipating that someone will interpret what I just babbled on about, then all I have done is scare people, caused confusion, and intentionally caused people to look at me.

Here is a good rule of thumb. Do not blaze an audience with your gift of tongues, unless you have an interpretation. Since you are skillful and have the interpretation, then treat it like a prophecy and speak in the language of choice for your audience.

Yes, God has spoken through me, but never about someone’s future.

It has typically been in random moments like a conversation, or when I am involved in a time of prayer with someone. Typically, I say something that seems completely out of left field. My hope at those moments is that this is making sense to the person I am talking to. They typically look at me and ask, how did you know that? My response oftentimes is, I know nothing. As I was talking, I heard it and repeated it to you. The impact is amazing, and I cannot tell you how many times it has brought me to tears, because not only the person is blessed but it speaks to me as well.

I might as well tell you that I am sure I was called to be a prophet. Do not ask me to explain that. My search for answers to this are an aspect of what I wrote on this blog.

Now what do I do with it? I can tell you that for about twenty-five years I ran from it. Oh, do not get me wrong. My two heroes are Elijah and Samuel, not because I need people to fear me (I am a huge man and that is already a problem) but because I want people to understand the mighty God I serve.

You have to understand that God never thought for a moment that he would be able to separate the man from mouth. Therefore, every word you deliver will carry an aspect of your personality embedded in it. Perhaps that is why God chose you and me. Perhaps that is why God chose John the Baptist. If anyone came off as a biker, it was him.

I said all that to say this, prophets have varied approaches. I have watched a fellow tear his life up and yet he is willing to respond immediately when God asks him to speak to someone. This puzzles me, and honestly, makes me jealous.

I, however, have lived in fear all my life, and had a mentor urge me to give out what God was speaking through me. Eventually I was giving words to the entire church body. I even had the worship leader and drummer wait for me on several occasions.

Why that all sounds so encouraging, much like living a fairy tale as things were going well. What you do not consider is that there is a learning curve to everything. I had the pastor admonish me by saying; can’t you give a word without crying? My mentor friend kept telling me that no one could hear me, so I had to focus on getting louder. (I can tell you I thought I was yelling.) Then there was my internal battle of the mind that struggled to keep me out of it. This is never about you. I never got comfortable.

After about six weeks, I did finally get loud. I remember the day. I thought I could hear the glass in the windows shaking. When I was done I wanted to hide under a rock, but there was none, just me, and everyone is looking at me. Now when you are by nature an introvert, this is not comfortable. I was met at the door the following week by the pastor. He told me that though there was nothing about what I said that could be contested by God’s word, several folks complained that I made God sound mad. I was told my career here was over and any further words for the body would be written and passed along to him for approval. There in lies the problem. The Holy Spirit would prompt me to speak and rarely give more than an opening word or two. Trust me, I had many internal arguments with Him over this. Effectively, I was done at that church.

I have not spoken openly to a body like that since. I wish I could describe the incredible growth and feeling I experienced during that time. I have no idea where that guy went at this point. I am so grieved at the destruction Satan used against me, and that believers helped him.

Just so you know, I have not shut my mouth, I am just much more low-key about what I do. My self-esteem was shattered. I was lied to by that pastor and made to jump through hoops that he had no intention of honoring.

I hear the Holy Spirit speak to me about the world around me, and he encourages me to pray for people as well as speak words of encouragement to them. Recovery has helped to fill some of those passions for me.

If you have read some of my writings, then you know that I am a prophecy nut, I guess I have always been, but like most, I could not make heads or tails out of any of it. I also see things in my spirit and it does not look pretty, but I struggled at times to define what I see, and that bothers me. I question, if I could spell things out with clarity, would people flock to me, and my head swell, probably. Maybe this is how God keeps me in check.

I have a brother that also hears from the Lord. Recently he came by the house. As we talked, he wrote on a pad and pushed it toward me. Here is what the pad had on it.

Now!↓

War and crime increase. 

Religion blamed for all turmoil.

        God purges religious leaders.

Government dissolves churches.

Three and one half years of peace.

Three and one half years of intense tribulation.

If someone handed you this, what would you do with it? I will tell what I do; I attempt to confirm it against several known things. (The Word of God being primary.)

What do I know? I know that: the time of God’s wrath lasts seven years; that the antichrist character makes a treaty with Israel at the beginning of this time period we like to call the tribulation; He breaks that same treaty and another character unleashes all his fury upon Israel and the world. That is the easy part and anyone could point this out to me. If that was the case, I might just give them the grace and say thanks for sharing that with me.

Now it gets harder, but I have an advantage, God has already shown me these things in my spirit. Therefore, confirmation of the spirit is a second test. I can also use common sense. However, there is more to the prophetic word than what I can see on the televised news. Just look around and ask yourself, is war and crime increasing, absolutely.

This is tougher, “Religion blamed for all turmoil.” I cannot say that I am seeing that yet. However, what is going on in the world? Islam, the religion of peace, is ramping up the violence on an exponential scale. What is the governmental response, these are isolated incidents. The other end of this scale is America’s homeland security declaring that outspoken conservatives, military veterans, and people who have strong biblical opinions are now deemed high security risks. We are only days away from them coming after church going folk.

 

What do I do with this part – “God purges religious leaders.”

I did a Google search and this is what I find.

  1. An article dated April 13, 2014 reminded me of a former Calvary Chapel pastor Bob Coy. (I loved listening to this guy.) He apparently got involved with a woman who was not his wife, and admitted that he struggled with pornography.
  2. Ted Haggard (evangelical Christian) New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Ted Haggard was Head of the National Association of Evangelicals from 2003 -2006 and senior Pastor for the New Life Church. Haggard it appears was clear about his position on many issues of morality including homosexuality declaring “we don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It’s written in the bible.”  In Nov 2006 he was leading a charge to ban gay marriage in Colorado when the gay prostitute he had been seeing for the previous 3 years stepped forward apparently having just become aware of who his client was and being appalled by his hypocrisy. Initially Haggard denied all allegations against him including taking methamphetamine until the evidence was overwhelming. At this point, he resigned all his positions of power and agreed to undergo counseling for his sexually ‘deviant’ behavior. https://listdom.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/10-religious-leaders-fall-grace/
  3. ZENTATSU RICHARD BAKER (Buddhist) of the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC), had affairs with his students.
  4. Warren Jeffs born in 1955 and former president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints based in Utah. Jeffs followed the FLDS tenet of ‘Celestial Marriage’ and taught that a church member needed at least 3 wives to get into heaven and that the more a man had the closer he was to heaven. It is claimed that Jeffs had around 70 wives some of which were as young as 12 when they married. In addition, Jeffs was the only person in the church allowed to perform the marriage ceremony and was responsible for assigning wives to husbands plus he had the authority to reassign wives and children to other families if the men did not fully conform to the church beliefs. In 2006-7 he was charged with allegedly arranging marriages with adult men and underage girls and 8 additional counts of sexual misconduct with minors. He was found guilty of 2 counts of rape as an accomplice and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Jeffs’ later admitted to committing immoral actions with a sister and a daughter. In 2007, he resigned as leader of the church and confessed to his followers that he in fact was not the chosen prophet. https://listdom.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/10-religious-leaders-fall-grace/
  5. Jimmy Swagart, an Assemblies of God preacher was busted twice with prostitutes. He is back on television.

There were much more than these. I do not point them out to berate them but show you that perhaps God is purging our churches. This, by the way, only proves that they are human and have flaws. Preaching false messages and leading people to turn away from God is the bad thing.

The statement on my brothers list states, that the government will dissolve churches. It does not take much imagination to see that coming, although I do not know if something like this is not on our presidents’ list of orders to sign.

The last two lines are straight out of the bible and easy to say. Even the History channel did a high impact version of the aftermath of the rapture. Those that watched it said that it could easily motivate people to find the Lord so that they could escape all that turmoil.

What I know is that as believers, Christ, and the Apostle Paul, tell us that we are not destined for wrath. That term is specific to the seven-year period after the rapture, but Jesus said, in this world you will have tribulation. Many, depending on where you live, are experiencing that now. The one thing that is positive in all this is that we can have a hope in spending eternity with Christ, in peace.

Posted in Deception, Prophetic, Thoughts, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bema seat of Christ. Romans 14:10


I had not been to senior bible study at my dad’s church for several months. I was injured at a job and I am not working, but that is no excuse to not stay active in God’s word and fellowship with “believers.” The man who leads the study is a math teacher at a college. I guess that is why it is so hard for me to understand why he feels he has to yell to emphasize some aspect of scripture. Today, as usual, he was yelling. He opened with, I need to say something, then proceeded to demand that we smile more and win more lost to the Lord, because we will have to contend with the judgment seat of Christ.

It has gotten to the point that when I hear stuff like this that it almost makes me ill. He never even referenced where this passage was found, I looked it up for myself. Therefore, it was just a manipulative rant. This kind of preaching makes me feel used and deceived. I came for a bible study and he wasted my time.

I suppose that some good comes from moments like this because it prompted me to take an in-depth look at something I was unfamiliar with. The entire thrust of this judgment seat comes from this verse: (Romans 14:10 KJV) But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

I cannot remember one time that someone has preached on this without adding a double dose of guilt and manipulation. Is that what this is intended for? The only way to sort this out and find the intent of the passage is to look at the context. In that light, I give you Romans 14:1-23

This is not an attempt at a thesis of great depth, merely an examination of scripture; something I find very helpful to understanding.

(Romans 14:1 KJV) Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

That could be clearer, so let us look at it using the Message version:

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with–even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.”

Wow, there is nothing condemning about that, unless you are the person doing the jumping.

(Romans 14:2 KJV) For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

That seems simple enough. I meet with some guys at a McDonald’s restaurant. We tend to talk about the Lord, but this particular morning one of the more outspoken guys shows up late and taunts us with, what have we learned today? Strangely, one fellow had decided to talk about our bodies inability to process pork, and how God knowing this, saved Israel tremendous grief by instructing them to not touch pork, because they would not have had the enzymes necessary to add to their diet. Where did all that come from? The latecomer locked on to the food aspect and turned it into an adamant rant about diet and the government’s efforts to kill us with GMO foods.

Obviously, he fit into the group of those who jump all over people, inundating them with his strong opinion. This is not the first time he has done this.

(Romans 14:3 KJV) Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

The Amplified says it like this: Let not him who eats look down on or despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains criticize and pass judgment on him who eats; for God has accepted and welcomed him.

(Romans 14:4 KJV) Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

We seem to have made a big jump from talking about followers of Christ, to servants. How did that happen? Let us look at another version and see if it gives us any clarity. The Bible in Basic English states: Who are you to make yourself a judge of another man’s servant? it is to his master that he is responsible for good or bad. Yes, his place will be safe, because the Lord is able to keep him from falling. Are we not servants of God? Jesus went on to say, you are no longer servants, but friends. You can look this up in John 15:15. We are clearly sons as well. Galatians 3:26 ESV “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

This verse speaks to another aspect of our relationship with Christ/God for it conveys that since we belong to Christ/God, then it is his responsibility if we stand or fall. Can I take that literally? I believe that it is as literal as his life, death and resurrection. Should I ask that question of some, I will get a very religious and hostile answer.

If we are to think of ourselves as slaves, then who is our master? Well, I suppose that depends on the depth of your understanding of your relationship with Christ. Ideally, we gave him our lives.

Paul, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, writes this letter to Romans, stating: (GW) “The servant will be successful because the Lord makes him successful.” Could that be anymore clear? The discussion about eternal salvation seems to be a non-stop battle, and yet here is a huge argument for the fact that it exists.

(Romans 14:5 KJV) One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

In the Good News bible, this reads: Some people think that a certain day is more important than other days, while others think that all days are the same. We each should firmly make up our own minds.

(Romans 14:6 KJV) He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

From the “GNB”: Those who think highly of a certain day do so in honor of the Lord; those who will eat anything do so in honor of the Lord, because they give thanks to God for the food. Those who refuse to eat certain things do so in honor of the Lord, and they give thanks to God.

Here is where this really begins to answer questions directed at the Bema (judgment) seat.

(Romans 14:7 KJV) For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

I need to restate for clarity. The Good News bible does just fine: “We do not live for ourselves only, and we do not die for ourselves only.”

If there are questions about the Bema/Judgment seat of Christ, it is only because people who take this idea out of context, and use it to manipulate followers of Christ, who cannot seem to stand on their own two legs because they will not read the bible for themselves. Perhaps the short answer to the question, is as Robertson’s Word Pictures explains: “But to the Lord, as he shows in Romans 14:8, life and death focus in the Lord.”

(Romans 14:8 KJV) For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

For whether we live, we live unto the Lord;

and whether we die, we die unto the Lord:

whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

What would it be like to live this focused?

 The next verse is self-explanatory.

(Romans 14:9 KJV) For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

“Christ died and rose from death to live again” This is the basis for our salvation. This was the price paid for our ransom, and the reason that we have this hope of a life with Him in eternity.

Here is one of the places where we get the Judgment/Bema seat of Christ.

(Romans 14:10 KJV) But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

This needs clarity so I give you the Bible in Basic English: “But you, why do you make yourself your brother’s judge? Or again, why have you no respect for your brother? Because we will all have to take our place before God as our judge.”

How did this essay open? “Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with”. Therefore, the thrust has everything to do with undo judgment, and over what, trivial things.

Some respond to this with, we have to adamantly come against those who do not come into line with doctrine. The greater question is, whose doctrine, yours or a particular denomination?

(Romans 14:11 KJV) For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

(Romans 14:12 KJV) So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

How do you think you will feel, standing before Christ’s judgment seat, as you try to defend the abuse and manipulation you performed in the name of religion?

(Romans 14:13 KJV) Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.

The focus shifted from the judgment of Christ, to let us stop judging, and stop making people stumble.

 

I do not feel the need to continue in chapter fourteen, since my point was to show a context for Paul to talk about the judgment seat of Christ. This, like Romans 3:22 levels the playing field. When we judge other believers, we are trying to show ourselves as superior, perhaps even more intelligent? The result is someone is walking away bruised and wounded.

A short time ago, as I sat for dinner at our recovery meeting, a man I know came and sat by me. We did the usual greetings, with shallow, guarded responses. However, this time I did something different. I asked him if he wanted to talk about the incident he briefly mentioned. He spoke about how someone had approached him under the pretense of helpful counsel, and proceeded to verbally accost and strip all self-esteem away from my friend. Tears began to well in my eyes as I listened. I know what this feels like when the well-meaning spiritually disembowel you.

I will let you in on a little secret. The brother I was listening to had done this very thing to me in the past. Thankfully, God healed that in me, and I can honestly say I really value this man, but there was so much lost time treating the wounds that no one could see.

 

I throw this last question at you for extra credit. I do not expect an answer.

In Romans 14:9, Paul makes the statement: “Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” The living makes sense to me, for that is who I am because of my life in him. This life is the basis for my salvation.

Who is this dead Paul is referring to? We have a huge clue in that Christ is the Lord of these dead.

Consider that at the rapture, the dead in Christ rise first and then we, who remain and are alive, will be caught up to meet him in the air. Okay, but where are these dead people?

Let me give you some scripture that may help you form an answer about the dead.

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

Can this passage from 2 Corinthians also mean, that if we are no longer home in the body, then we are with the Lord? 2 Corinthians 5:6 KJV “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:”

1 Thessalonians 4 is Paul’s response to the Thessalonica body of Christ followers, who had fears that the dead will not hear the call or be excluded, and that they might have missed the rapture because the persecution they were experiencing was intense enough to make them think they were in the wrath (tribulation).

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 KJV (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. (16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

The thought process I go through questions, why does God need a body to rapture us?

Is there any doubt for the believer, that Jesus is Lord over everything? Take this thought one step further and ask, does the person have to have a relationship with Jesus Christ for Him to be able to claim that position? If you are like me, then you look around you. It does not seem that Jesus has control of anything if I based my assessment upon what I see. Fortunately, God is focused on the unseen world, the one that is more real, and the one that really matters. Satan’s end is well mapped out, and God is not a liar.

When you look to the thousand-year reign, you find nations having to come yearly, take part in the Feast of Tabernacles and offer sacrifices at the temple. As an aspect of their obeisance, they must bow before Him as Lord. This says nothing about the condition of the heart, does it? However, they are subjecting themselves to Him as Lord. (Revelation 15:4)

Tabernacles, Feast of

The third of the great annual festivals of the Jews (Lev_23:33-43). It is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Exo_23:16; Deu_16:13). It was celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tisri, and the celebration lasted for eight days (Lev_23:33-43). During that period the people left their homes and lived in booths formed of the branches of trees. (From Easton’s bible dictionary)

If you look up the phrase, “the dead” in scripture, you will find things like this:

Psalms 115:17 NASB “The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence;”

Psalms 88:10 ESV “Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah.”

Ecclesiastes 9:5 ESV “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.”

The point of view here is in the context of a Jewish mentality. They too awaited an afterlife, but they had no understanding of being in Christ, as we do; to them death may have been nothing more than a quiet waiting time.

Revelation chapter 20 talks about the dead being raised. It describes this as the first resurrection. This is very telling, as we tend to think of the rapture of the “dead” as the first resurrection, but clearly, it is not.

Now we are dealing with another set of dead people, different from the dead mentioned in Romans 14:9. Therefore, who are these dead we see now.

Revelation 20 shows us those whom have died from the beginning of time without a religiously defined relationship with God. We assume that these are hopeless with no comprehension of God. God separates them into two groups, the sheep and the goats. The Father grants them entrance into eternity. Shocked, they express their puzzlement and a realization that they really do not deserve eternity with God. God responds to their questions about why with, when I was hungry, thirsty, having no clothes, or thrown into prison, you came and helped me. Did you notice that He said, when I was hungry … this tends to look like the concept of being in Christ at this point.

 

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The rapture or end times in virtually every book of the New Testament.


I am no longer afraid of tackling Revelation or studying the end times. The result of that change in me makes me want to talk about it every chance I get. Since I have heard it said that the rapture, and end times, in one form or another, is spoken of in every book of the New Testament. Let us just see.

 

Matthew

Matthew 25:1 KJV Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

 

Mark

Mark 8:38 KJV Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

 

Mark 14:62 KJV And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

 

Mark 15:43 MKJV Joseph of Arimathea, an honorable counsellor, who also waited for the kingdom of God, came and went in boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

 

Luke

Luke 12:35-37 KJV Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; (36) And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.   (37) Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.

 

Luke 17:30 MKJV Even so it shall be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

 John

John, is easy. (John 14:2-3 KJV) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

 

Acts

Acts 1:11 MKJV who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into the heaven? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the way you have seen Him going into Heaven.

 

Romans

Romans 8:19 KJV For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

 

1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 1:7 KJV   So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

1 Corinthians 4:5 MKJV Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. And then shall each one have praise of God.

 

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 4:14 KJV   Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NASB (1) For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2) For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,   (3) inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.   (4) For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. (5)   Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.

 

Galatians

Galatians 1:3-4 NASB Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, (4) who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Galatians 5:5 NASB For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.

 

Ephesians

Ephesians 5:27 MKJV that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.

 

Philippians

Philippians 1:6-10 MKJV (6) being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, (7)   even as it is righteous for me to think this of you all, because you have me in your heart, inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you are all partakers of my grace. (8)   For God is my witness how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. (9) And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in full knowledge and in all perception; (10)   that you may distinguish between things that differ, that you may be sincere and without offense until the day of Jesus Christ,

 

Philippians 3:20-21 KJV (20) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (21)   Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

 

Colossians

Colossians 1:21-23 MKJV   (21) And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled (22) in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish, and without charge in His sight, (23)   if indeed you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard and which was proclaimed in all the creation under Heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister,

Colossians 3:4 MKJV When Christ our Life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

 

1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 1:10 KJV (10) And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

 

2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 1:7 KJV (7) And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

 

1 Timothy

1 Timothy 6:14-15 KJV That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: (15) Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

 

2 Timothy

2 Timothy 4:8 KJV Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

 

Titus

Titus 2:13 KJV Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

 

Philemon

Hebrews

Hebrews 9:28 KJV So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Hebrews 10:36-37 KJV For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. (37) For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.

 

James

James 5:7 MKJV Therefore be patient, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and has long patience for it, until he receives the early and the latter rain.

 

1 Peter

1 Peter 1:5 KJV Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

2 Peter

2 Peter 3:12 KJV Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

 

1 John

1 John 3:2 KJV Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

 

2 John

2 John 1:8 MKJV Look to yourselves, so that we may not lose those things which we worked out, but that we may receive a full reward.

 

3 John

 

Jude

Jude 1:21 KJV Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

 

Revelation

Revelation 1:7 MKJV Behold, He comes with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, and those who pierced Him will see Him, and all the kindreds of the earth will wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.

I mentioned, in opening, that I love to talk about the soon return of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Would you believe that a fellow “believer” disgustedly said to the group I was addressing, I do not understand why we have to talk about this. There is so little said about it, and few understand the end times anyway.

Daniel may not have understood the signs and the times but he pursued an understanding anyway, and with the help of an angel came to realize that the captivity of Israel at Babylonian hands was almost over. Later, we see wise men (Magus) that had learned because of Daniel’s pursuits, coming  to find this Messiah that Israel should have sought themselves.

I have found the one who set me free, his name is Jesus Christ.

 

 

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On finding the character of Jesus – Matthew chapter 1


There was a time, when after spending most of my life in church, that I felt like I had heard every story or read it. For several years I could not stand the thought of opening my bible; that made sense to me for I had heard all the stories, and it was rare that anyone applied life to them, or they used the scriptures to manipulate through guilt. Fortunately, I have not experienced that lifeless feeling for several years now. I decided that, for me at least, I would not read any aspect of the bible without applying flesh and blood to what I was reading.

The men’s bible study I am a part of is looking at Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge. Because the focus of the book is on finding the character of Jesus, a character that seems to know no restraint, it only makes sense that we find these characteristics in the gospels as we go. The leader of the group has a couple of week’s head start on me, and so I opted to jump straight into Matthew’s gospel.

While my motivation was to look at Jesus’ character, I am struck by this lead in to those who would have helped to form Jesus character that I see in the opening verses of Matthew’s gospel.

I do not know that the translators meant it to come off this way, but I love how this is stated in the ESV – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way“. This strikes me as firm and decisive, something that I can trust.

“When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph”

That seems simple enough, something that happened everyday I imagine. It was anything but ordinary, especially when you were poor. The family must have initially been elated to have someone like Joseph ask for their daughter’s hand. It meant a possible break from poverty, and certainly implied that their daughter would not have live an impoverished life. Betrothed; by definition, one who is, legally pledged to be married. At this point, she is scarcely a teenager at best, with evidence of womanhood.

“..betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”

Both parties in this agreement attested to the purity and uprightness of their character; Joseph may have been able to speak about his own character, and they knew of him, could agree with his statements. The parents would have attested to Mary’s and therefore put the entire family name on the line. However, she is found to be with child”, and they know it was not Joseph. At this point, the assumption has to be, someone has committed adultery. It does not matter what the excuses are. You are in legal agreement to a marriage, a contract that is treated no differently than the consummation itself, and you are pregnant. The law calls for death.

If any man commit adultery with the wife of another, and defile his neighbour’s wife: let them be put to death, both the adulterer and the adulteress. (Leviticus 20:10 DRB)

 Had things gone differently Joseph would have come to collect his bride when their home was completed or the betrothal period ended. However, in the midst of the preparation time, she is found to be with child (from the Holy Spirit).

Work that out in your head for a moment. She is probably only a few months pregnant at the most, and not showing at all. Therefore, this finding to be with child would have to be the result of her going to friends, or female family members and telling them that she missed her period. The family probably dismissed her initially as merely missing her period, after all, she is young and has never given us any reason to mistrust her; but wisdom cautiously watches for the next period to come or not. Besides, community, tradition, and a close abidance to Jewish law would have helped to keep most in-line. At such a young age, how would Mary have known about missing periods and what that could mean? It is probable that she naively began to question what was happening to her, and that would have opened the door to some horrific accusations and negativity.

I tried to talk about these things with my girlfriend. Her response was, she knew because the angel told her. I am not so sure about that. They did not have “health education” classes as we had to go through. Luke’s gospel gives us some additional detail about that conversation, so let us explore that for a moment.

Luke 1:26-38, (ESV) In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Did anyone else notice Mary’s response to what the angel said? “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” I see no great understanding of life and anatomy in that response, but she is very much aware that it takes two people to make a baby. Obviously further explanation is in order. Perhaps this is when Gabriel said, “Listen! You will become pregnant and will give birth to a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” She comprehended what pregnant was, but this was like speaking another language to her. Mary responds with, “How can this be, since I have no [intimacy with any man as a] husband?” (Luke 1:34 AMP)

Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man

Something we seem to forget; from Malachi to the announcement of Jesus birth was four hundred years of silence. Sure, you might be able to flash back to the old stories about the prophets and how angels interacted with people, but most did not. What they thought about was stoning a young girl that is probably misleading and the man who got her pregnant. You can rest assured that Joseph took some scathing glances.

The next few verses speak toward Joseph being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, that says nothing about the kinsfolk and rumormongers about town. How much less pressure Joseph would have experienced had he said, yes, we were intimate. Do not think for a moment that he escaped scrutiny; he would have been the first person they asked, but this was a man’s world and they were already legally bound, so the abuse would have been minimal.

Matthew 1:19 ERV “Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man. He did not want to cause her public disgrace, so he planned to divorce her secretly”

How does that work? Everyone in town knows you were under contract to be married. In addition, the word spreads quickly about pregnancies in a small town. So, how is possible that he would just make her go away?

(to sendG630 her awayG630 secretlyG2977 ) Odd how they used the Greek word apoluo twice; the word means to set free or dismiss.

That title, a good man, it says much about you and yet it does not stop you from being human. The NASB used the word righteous to describe Joseph. If you look up the Greek word, you find: upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God. This begins to answer some other questions about how Jesus gained his understanding of who God was.

Joseph, lying in his bed, is ruminating over what has happened, and how. Whom do I blame, what about my reputation, my business, and how do I get out of this quietly. Joseph apparently intended to free her from their marital contract and cut his losses on this deal. However, after the angel talks to him, he does something unusual; he takes her into his home.

In a sense, Joseph provided a covering for her “sin”

She had done nothing wrong, but you know the community was going to quickly come down on her, and hard. Again, how would I know this? Use your head. How long after this, are they given the instructions to flee to Egypt? Not long; long enough for Mary to visit Elizabeth. However, on their return, to complete the census in their hometown where all the relatives are, NO ONE takes them in. They cannot even get a room in local hotel.

This is one of those “AHAH” moments where I suddenly get it. As many have stated, Joseph was symbolic of Jesus who covered us when we were caught in our sin, removing us from the shame and punishment due.

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

This is about the time the “angel of the Lord” appears.

but after he had planned this, there appeared an angel of the Lord to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, fear not to take Mary your wife home, for what is begotten in her comes from the holy Spirit.”(Matthew 1:20 Moffatt NT)

I wish I could have read his mind at this point. There had to have been a comprehension in the Jewish mind, that there was a reality of the Spirit or angels, or else how would any of this make sense, and it did. When Daniel wrote about the angel he saw, he described himself falling on his face as though he was dead. It seems they can be rather intimidating based on size alone. Perhaps appearance helps to convince you that you need to respond appropriately, to what they tell you. I do not think that they merely come to intimidate. I suspect that you have a tremendous sense of understanding and, I want to say peace, but considering stories of angel appearances in scripture, and they were carrying swords that might not be the case every time.

            Maybe we chose to believe at times, or maybe we just need to be reminded of some previously understood truth that redirects our mind back to God’s plan, like we would know what that was. (We do know God’s general outline, but the minute details, those involving our lives we know little about. Some will try to refute that conclusion, because in their minds all has gone according to their plan – up to the point that they die quickly of some acute type of cancer that they did not see coming. See what I am saying.)

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled

And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21 ASV)

Thayer Definition: Jesus = “Jehovah is salvation”

It is so hard to see the good that is coming, especially when you are neck deep in the bad.

One of the commentaries I read several years ago stated that Jesus would have been called a Mamzer. A mamzer (Hebrew: ממזר‎) is a person born from certain forbidden relationships, or the descendant of such a person, in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish religious law. A mamzer is someone who is either born of adultery by a married Jewish woman and a Jewish man who is not her husband. (Wikipedia)

Today, we are surrounded by children who have no fathers. My own daughters grew up without me. Do we call names and punish the fatherless, no because it seems every other child has had that fate, but this was the brutal mid-eastern world.

Tradition tells us that the woman, if left alive, would have had her house painted to mark her, as an adulterer, and the boy would have never been allowed into the synagogue to gain any formal teaching. This was Jewish law. They would have had to move somewhere where nobody knew them, and then Jesus and the family would stand a chance. Joseph bypassed much of this backstabbing by taking Mary into his home immediately, but then there is that issue of no relatives taking them during the time of the census.

Though we are not clear on when Joseph died, but it seems that he or Mary got the family out of Bethlehem and moved to the slums of Nazareth. (Yeah, I know, on what premise would I say slums of Nazareth. What was Nathanael’s response to Philip, when he learned that the savior that prophecy spoke of, was here; what good thing comes out of Nazareth?)

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23 KJV)

We have our own personal expectations of how life should treat us, but it does not always align with God’s plan. To start a married life under a cloud would not have been my choice. Suddenly now the Savior is coming and Joseph gets to be the step dad. Having played that role it has it’s good and bad points, especially when you are told, you will never be my dad. That kind of comment tends to close doors rapidly, and hey, is there any doubt that Jesus knew who his real Father was?

One might ask who was this prophet. I know that I read things like Matthew 1:22-23 and wonder, who said that? The answer was Isaiah, so for Joseph, this is a word he should trust. No, Joseph did not have the prophet come to him and personally clear things up. The usage of the word good tells me that Joseph had a deep understanding.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 KJV)

This all may well have come clear to Joseph as the angel spoke. I wonder why God chose to not make all this clear to us.

And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25 NASB)

Even if God had sent an angel to you, as he did to me, and laid your life out before you; would it change your life, helping you to avoid the pitfalls; probably not. Joseph still had to bust his knuckles trying to make a living for the family that continued to grow.

As for me, I was a younger man of about twenty-five when Jesus appeared to me. I honestly cannot remember if I was asleep or awake, it was that real. (If you think about the covenant God made with Abraham, and how God walked between the bloody parts of the sacrifice as he said to Abraham, “as for me”. This all happened in a dream and yet it was a real as it gets, and the basis for the character of God that we still live by.) Unfortunately, instead of writing it down, which I thought about doing, I said to myself, this is so vivid and real, that I will never forget it. When I awoke in the morning, I remember a tremendous feeling of joy, and I knew that the end was filled with such a peace, but I could not remember a word. Almost forty years later, I still weep over losses, regrets and pains that I experience.

What does this tell me? That all this was done, that it might be fulfilled.

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“This is not about post rapture believers..” A response to a Facebook post.


Let us just say, I have a strong interest in prophecy, end times, and the study of Revelation, always have, and though some have passed through the church and brought moments of clarity, others followed right behind them and muddied up the waters for me. Personally, I found this very frustrating. One man, Hilton Sutton came to the church and brought some clarity, this was a turning point for me in that I now had an unquenchable desire to understand end times prophecy. Gaining a momentary clarity is fine, but once he left and there was no one there that provoked a pursuit in the understanding of biblical prophecy I found myself floundering. Since what I just described happened in the late 1980’s, can you imagine how disillusioned I might be that I have only in the last few years come to understanding the allusion and imagery we have to deal with when reading Revelation and Daniel. The thing that opened up end time’s prophecy for me was coming across a book called, The Islamic Antichrist, by Joel Richardson. Mr. Richardson followed up his first book with one called The Mideast Beast. In it, he gives you an intense look into scripture, with associated current and historical events, thereby leaving no doubt in your mind.

There was a day in which I saw a post on Facebook where the person making the post referenced Revelation 13:7 and stated, this is not about post rapture believers, this is about us, the church.” It seems only right that I give you this scripture before we look at it to see if it paints the picture that this person sees. I will also tell you that there is no short rebuttal because the simplest of answers are always met with arguments; most of which are based in assumption, faulty logic, and inappropriate traditions of religion.

Revelation 13:7 KJV And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

In perusing this verse my first question is, who is this “him” that John is being shown? You have to ask, because at face value, depending upon the translation you use, your mindset immediately becomes fixated and therefore tries to find that one person, world leader. As we progress in our reading of the Bible, it is true that someone eventually becomes the mouthpiece for the beast, but even he will have a limited influence and step aside for another more violent. Scripture calls this last person the false prophet.

And there was given unto him(it) a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
(Revelation 13:5 KJV)

The Greek word translated as him is autos, and can just as easily mean it. The Modern King James version correctly translated this by using the word “it” instead of him. However, the vagueness of the word “it” defies our desire to attach an identity to the beast. Religion, operating on the idea that we should be looking for a person to define the beast, have given the title to many people – some deservingly so, but they were still wrong.

Secondly, in focusing on the beast as an “it”, we note that it is given power to make war with: the saints and to overcome them, and all kindreds; tongues, and nations. The MKJV uses the word tribes instead of kindreds.

What kind of understanding do I gain from this information?

Anyone, a minimal amount of knowledge of scripture, knows that the end times are particularly harsh toward followers of Christ; primarily during the last seven-year period designated as the time of God’s wrath upon the earth, even though religion calls this the tribulation. One can easily figure out that almost everyone not following after the beast will be killed during this time, and not by God.

Daniel recounts his vision in Daniel chapter seven. “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them” (Daniel 7:21 KJV) What Daniel describes is a parallel to Revelation 13:7, and the horn he sees is the “it” that John describes in the Revelation, and at minimum, an aspect of one of the beasts.

Since we know, based upon the explanation that the angel brought, that the beasts represent kingdoms or empires, then this “it” has to be an empire too. We also learn that since the kingdoms Daniel saw were destructive, this too is a destructive empire. An aspect of Revelation 13:7 defines that for us: “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”

Can anyone decisively say that there is one entity whose sole purpose is to wage war with the people of God, and is doing that?

While there are many Christians and tribes, and nations now coming under attack, there is not an overall defeat, and a few governments that are still standing in the face of the enemy. This does not necessarily mean that this is not the beast that is attacking them. However, the world is certainly not seeing this thing in its full fury. It was Jesus that informed us that the onslaught would be so great that the potential to kill everyone outside of the beast’s ideology is possible.

Matthew 24:22 MKJV And unless those days should be shortened, no flesh would be saved. But for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened.

The word translated as beast is the Greek word therion, and means a dangerous animal. Again, there are plenty of people who have been deemed animals, and deserved to be called that, but attributing that designation to a single person does not make it a proper definition. Since this is akin to Daniel’s vision, and the statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw, then we know that this is the fourth kingdom, and because of its matching symbolism we also know that this is an extremely dangerous kingdom.

As a stand alone verse, there is nothing that defines this beast adequately, nor is there anything in the passage that gives us a time frame, nor does it demonstrate whether it is a pre or post rapture scenario.

So, is Revelation 13:7 a picture of Pre or Post rapture?

The short answer is pre-rapture, but we need something beside Revelation 13:7 to prove this.

There are inherent problems in understanding and placing this evil empire into a particular period. The difficulty primarily arises out of our attempts at defining the beast using the traditional religious understanding and logic that we commonly apply to end times events.

Our first problem here is that Daniel 7:3 tells us that there were four great beasts.

Each one of these beasts could have presented similar issues and problems, not only the Christian community but also the world in general. One in particular, the fourth beast, gained a particularly frightening identity, and seems to have no purpose aside from destruction. Moreover, this fourth beast is NOT directly identified, as the first three were, and so the common assumption is that this has everything to do with Rome and by extension the Roman Catholic church. You should be able to pick up on the ramifications of that.

“After this I looked in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, frightening and terrifying, and very strong. And it had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the rest with its feet. And it was different from all the beasts before it; and it had ten horns.” (Daniel 7:7 MKJV)

Our simplest method of gaining clarity is to look at the context surrounding this singular passage in Revelation 13 and try to find out if this statement, “this is not about post rapture believers, this is about us, the church” is a true statement.

Revelation 13:1-10 MKJV (1) And I stood on the sand of the sea, and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns. And on its horns were ten crowns, and on its heads was the name of blasphemy. (2)   And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and its feet like those of a bear, and its mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him its power and its seat and great authority.   (3) And I saw one of its heads as having been slain to death, and its deadly wound was healed. And all the earth marveled after the beast.   (4) And they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with it? (5) And a mouth speaking great things was given to it, and blasphemies. And authority was given to it to continue forty-two months. (6) And it opened its mouth in blasphemy toward God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, and those dwelling in Heaven. (7) And it was given to it to war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given to it over every tribe and tongue and nation. (8) And all dwelling on the earth will worship it, those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world. (9) If anyone has an ear, let him hear. (10)   He who leads into captivity will go into captivity. If anyone will kill with the sword, he must be killed by a sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

The first two verses of Revelation 13: 1-10 are very telling, and we learn where the beast gets its power.

“And I stood on the sand of the sea, and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns. And on its horns were ten crowns, and on its heads was the name of blasphemy. And the beast, which I saw, was like a leopard, and its feet like those of a bear, and its mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him its power and its seat and great authority.” (Revelation 13:1-2 MKJV)

As John stands “on the sand of the sea”, he is looking at vast numbers of people. Thousands of years of world conflict, and yet this vast number of people have all been affected by the same theme, the beast. There is no way that one man, or animal, could live for this extended period. Therefore, the obvious assumption is that the beast represents a very dangerous empire. This is clear when I read about it Daniel.

“the dragon gave him its power and its seat and great authority”

“The dragon gave him (edōken autōi ho drakōn). First aorist active indicative of didōmi (to give) and dative case autōi (the beast). The dragon works through this beast. The beast is simply Satan’s agent. Satan claimed this power, and offered it to Christ: (Robertson’s Word Pictures)

And he said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will go down on your face and give me worship. (Matthew 4:9 BBE)

And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. (Luke 4:6 KJV)

“- and Christ called Satan the prince of this world”: (Robertson’s Word Pictures)

Now is the time for the world to be judged. Now the ruler of this world will be thrown out. (John 12:31 ERV)

“I will not talk with you much longer. The ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me. (John 14:30 ERV)

“and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16:11 LITV)

While it may not help to answer the question of whether this is speaking about the church, references to the beast do not have to represent a man, and can easily fit into the category of a ruling body, and are certainly fulfilled by an encompassing demonic power. Since we know that Revelation 13:7 is another description of the prophecy seen in Daniel, then we know that the beast empires were clearly defined, and three of them are essentially gone from the picture. They are the: Babylonian (Assyrian); Medo/Persian; Grecian. We also know that the Grecian empire sustained a division after the death of Alexander The Great, and was redistributed between four generals. Of those four, only two made a global impact – the Seleucid Empire and the Ptolemaic. The Seleucid Empire effectively comprised the Assyrian people and Islamic nations that we are now dealing with.

Revelation 13:4 tells us that “they” (the nations?) worshipped the beast.

Now what do we do with that? We already understand that the beast represents a deadly empire, but there is no singular, deadly empire ruling yet. However, there are multitudes of deadly entities, wreaking havoc globally, with one common ideology. Do I have to say it? Islam. Islam, no matter whether you are Shiite, Wahabi, or call yourself Boko Haran serves one common god – Allah.

Is it possible then, that Revelation 13:4 is referring to a current and deadly religion as the beast? This opens a complex issue, because the God of Israel had already made it clear to his people, and us, that there are no other gods (This declaration took place long before Mohammed decided that there was a god called Allah). All this of course makes Allah a false god. The goal in apologetics is to show, primarily by scripture, the truth that there is nothing out there but God alone. A few examples might be:

Isaiah 43:10 CEV My people, you are my witnesses and my chosen servant. I want you to know me, to trust me, and understand that I alone am God. I have always been God; there can be no others.

Exodus 34:14 AMP For you shall worship no other god; for the Lord, Whose name is Jealous, is a jealous (impassioned) God,

Exodus 20:23 ISV You are not to make gods of silver alongside me, nor are you to make for yourselves gods of gold.

Deuteronomy 4:27-28 NASB   (27) “The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. (28) “There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.

One of the most telling clues about the timing which can applied to Revelation 13:7, is found in Revelation 13:5.

Revelation 13:5 LITV And a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies was given to it. And authority to act forty-two months was given to it.

This is most likely the second half of the seven years of wrath. Many like to call it the great tribulation. Moreover, since this takes us to the midpoint of the seven years of wrath, then taking a chronological approach tells me that Revelation 13:7 has nothing to do with the church.

There is another aspect that seems to throw the casual reader for a loop, and that is the beast making “war with the saints.” There is no denying, that Paul called the early church members saints, but since the church is not destined for wrath we should have been caught up in the snatching away, prior to this widespread slaughter of the saints. Before I try to develop this I need to remind you that Jesus guaranteed you “the modern believer” one thing very specific, “in this world, you will have tribulation!” While it may be great for you, it is no where close to being the great tribulation that comes during the time of God’s wrath.

Jesus, speaking to his religious detractors said, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” You can find this statement, and its context in Luke 3:7.

We are, in majority, saved from the wrath.

“but God commends His love to us in this, that we being yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified now by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:8-9 LITV)

And, meant to be delivered from the wrath.

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10 KJV)

If the church is gone, then who are these people called saints that this “beast” is killing?

They are those that did not go in the rapture, and have come to a recognition of Jesus as Lord during the time called the tribulation, and because grace is no longer a benefit, they are paying the greatest price of commitment with their lives. We are surrounded by those that claim a religious Christianity, some do so merely because they live in United States. This means nothing. Look at this passage from Matthew 25

Then shall the kingdom of Heaven be likened to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. The foolish ones took their lamps, but took no oil with them. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes! Go out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps have gone out. But the wise answered, saying, No, lest there be not enough for us and you. But rather go to those who sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came. And they who were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Afterwards the other virgins came also, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Truly I say to you, I do not know you. Therefore watch, for you do not know either the day or the hour in which the Son of Man comes.
(Matthew 25:1-13 MKJV)

Did you notice that they were all virgins, and they all had the same invitation. However, some did not make it in. Preparation, willingness, and desire seem to be key here, not title. You have no exclusivity because you can label yourself. I will tell that one of people that bullied me in high school came to the forty year reunion and introduced himself as Pastor. I asked him when he became a follower of Christ. He responded with, oh, I was a Christian in high school. To which, I responded, so was I, and I quite vividly remember you and the crowd you hung out with, mocking and torturing me because I had openly admitted my Christianity. We did not talk much after that; that seemed to be his choice.

As Bob Dylan once said, it may be the devil, or it may  be the Lord, but you are going to have to serve somebody.

Revelation 13:8 states, “And all dwelling on the earth will worship it, those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world.”

Because we have Daniel 9:27 as part of our forensic evidence, we know that a representative of the beast will make a peace accord with Israel for a seven year period. Half way through that treaty he will break the treaty and thus begins a wanton slaughter of those who refuse to claim allegiance to the beast. This in no way excludes the current and ongoing slaughter of those outside the fellowship of the beast, but this slaughter indicates that the dominance and influence of the beast will be global and sufficiently armed to be able to carry this out.

That was certainly the long way around, but I am optimistic that it paints a picture of the rapture of the church and the coming slaughter of those that refuse to worship the beast. We religious folk like to call the time after the rapture of the church, the great tribulation. The problem with that mentality is that it ignores the ongoing tribulation of the church at present, and we are not even there yet. Jesus spoke of a time, that is coming, in which it would be rare that anyone survives unless God cuts the time short, and he does. This is referred to by Jesus as a time of great tribulation, and therefore probably the basis of why we call it, the great tribulation. What the seven years that follows the snatching away of the church is, is a time of God’s wrath being poured out upon those left upon the earth that have rejected him.

            May I suggest that you come to him now, while it is still convenient and comfortable. All it takes is you believing that he died for you, and provides you with the promise of a future with him in glory. You cannot do this on your own, and that is why he came. Ask him to come into your life, turn the life that you cannot handle over to him, and he will come into you and make his home in you.

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On finding the character of Jesus


The men’s bible study I am a part of is currently looking at Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge. Because the focus of the book is on finding the character of Jesus, it only makes sense to the leader and me, to find these characteristics in the gospels as we go. The leader of the group has a couple of week’s head start on me, and so I opted to jump straight into Matthew’s gospel. I suppose at this point it might help with your understanding if I told you that there was a time, when after spending most of my life in church, that I felt like I had heard every story or read it. For several years could not stand the thought of opening my bible; and why not, I had heard all the stories, and it was rare that anyone applied any life to what they were talking about. Fortunately, I have not experienced that for several years now, but I decided that, for me at least, I would not read any aspect of the bible without applying flesh and blood to what I was reading.

While the thrust of the book was to look at Jesus character, I am struck by this lead in to Jesus character that I see in the opening verses of Matthew’s gospel.

I do not know if meant for it to come off this way, but I love how this is stated in the ESV – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way“. This strikes me as firm and decisive, something that I can trust.

“When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph”

Betrothed; by definition, one who is, legally pledged to be married. At this point, she is barely a teenager at best, with evidence of womanhood.

“..betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”

Had things gone differently Joseph would have come to collect his bride when their home was completed. However, in the midst of all this preparation time, she is found to be with child (from the Holy Spirit). Work that out in your head for a moment. She is probably only a few months pregnant at the most, and not showing at all. Therefore, this finding to be with child would have to be the result of her going to her female family members and telling them that she missed her period. The female members of the family might have dismissed her with merely missing her first period, but wisdom cautiously watches for the next period to come or not. How could I, a man, come to that conclusion. History, a close community, tradition, and a close abidance to Jewish law would have helped to keep most in-line.

How would Mary have known about missing periods and what that could mean at such a young age? Someone had to tell her, and that would have opened the door so such horrific pressure and negativity. I tried to talk about these things with my girlfriend. Her response was, she knew because the angel told her. I am not so sure about that. Luke’s gospel gives us greater detail about that conversation, so let us explore there for a moment.

Luke 1:26-38, (ESV) In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Did anyone else notice Mary’s response to what the angel said? “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” I see no great understanding of life and anatomy in that response. Obviously further explanation is in order. Perhaps this is when Gabriel said, “Listen! You will become pregnant and will give birth to a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” She knew what pregnant was, but this was like speaking another language to her. Mary responds with, “How can this be, since I have no [intimacy with any man as a] husband?” (Luke 1:34 AMP)

Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man

Mary certainly had a backbone of steel to stand her ground, stating that the baby is of God. To most hearing this, it would have seemed so foolish, and typical of someone trying to cover up some sin.

Something we seem to forget; from Malachi to the announcement of Jesus birth was four hundred years of silence. Sure, you might be able to flash back to the old stories about the prophets and how angels interacted with people, but most did not, they thought about stoning a young girl that lied and the man who got her pregnant. You can rest assured that Joseph took some scathing glances.

The next few verses will speak toward Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, that says nothing about the kinsfolk and rumormongers about town.

This seems rather appropriate as we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I hope you have the life of Christ within you, as he is the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to you.

God’s love and peace abounds toward you.

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Thoughts on the Warrior mentality.


After one of our recent men’s breakfasts as I stood during worship, trying to get my mind focused on the Father, these images and thoughts came to me. I saw myself as a small child, perhaps about twelve, dressed in what looked like ancient Roman battle dress. What I saw made me look comical. Almost as fast, I saw myself as a grown man, but this time I was fumbling about, trying to put on this armor of God[i]. In either case, I was ill prepared to battle anything. My mind quickly put these two scenes together as the Spirit of God started speaking to me about the warrior mentality we try to push on believers.

This particular Saturday morning, having experienced sixty years of life, I wondered how many other men are like me and do not have a clue. Most of us have been faking having some kind of control over our own lives by putting on a macho show for the guys, who, like me, are just faking it. Sadly, I think we have at least learned how to be just aggressive enough to intimidate people and keep them from probing into the damaged hearts we carry.

I realize what this warfare preparation is meant to get people ready for the varied spiritual battles[ii] we have to face, and hopefully to cover each others back, ideally before the attacks come[iii]. However, this attempt at preparation tends to miss two groups: those that are embroiled in battle and seem to have no armor at all, and those that were never taught how to fight.

We tend to talk about putting on the armor of God as if it is a foreign substance; something that you must use when you are knowingly going into battle. The reality is, your thinking should be more like a bodyguard, constantly prepared for that “it’s not a matter of if, but when,” situation. Trust me, most of the time the battle will come to you.

A few days before this, I had watched a television show called Ancient Assassins. What caught my attention was the older leaders efforts to train his bodyguards in preparation for the “what if” situation. The examples were appropriate to the seventeenth century in which this took place, and fitting for an opponent reaching across his body to draw a sword, what do you do if they strike from above, or slash at you from a low angle. The last one I mention is the one that we followers of Christ seem to deal with the most. Considering that it seems as though most of the attacks against us feel like sneak attacks, what do you do to prepare for the attack that comes from behind?

Therein lies the problem, where does one learn these skills?

Having recently been invited to watch a friend’s son play soccer, this idea of being taught how to prepare for battle became very clear. This young man seemed to have no clue that: he was in a battle; that this will most likely hurt; that no one cares about your hair; and that many situations, like this one, demand focus and training; even worse, he has a dad that chooses not be involved in his life.

That young man playing soccer that day could have easily been me, because as a child with undiagnosed learning disabilities, I can remember playing baseball, standing in the outfield, picking daisies, and singing some stupid song over and over. I had no clue what the game, or the life I was going to experience, demanded. I had no idea that this moment in time, lost in the outfield, might be a microcosm for my life to come.

I cannot remember having a strong motivation to be competitive. Why tell you that, because all life seems to grow from our experiences, where interaction is thrust upon us. Classrooms always have a few children that quickly answer questions and therefore gain the positive attention of the teacher. In my case, I was always on the edge of obscurity because I just did not get it and was not assertive enough to ask questions.

The other prevailing aspect of grade school is the playground, where pecking orders are established. You quickly begin to realize who the bullies are. I understand, for I had issues with games like dodge ball, where a cluster of the most aggressive kids you knew, intentionally tried to knock your feet out from under you. My solution for that non-sense was to play marbles (which I used to be good at) while honing my skills at avoidance, and isolation.

No, not all were bullies, but they were certainly competitive, and aggressive. I had no idea how to be that kind of person, because as a child I lived under the threat of severe punishment if my mother ever learned of me striking back at someone.

The bottom line, no one taught me to fight the good fight of faith[iv] as a child, but even worse, I was never taught to fight at all.[v] Do not get me wrong, I am not trying to glamorize socking someone in the nose, but if your life is frozen by fear, you will do nothing, and worse, you will probably preach that we should be a community of do nothings, and God never asked us to do that.[vi]

I realize that at some point you have to own your life and your decisions, but what if your decisions were framed by a lack of training, and responsible role models. Then I need to find people that are willing to be my role model and get myself retrained. (That concept seems so irrelevant at this point in life.)[vii]

If being a warrior is what is demanded, somehow I found that place.

I do not know how I did it; perhaps just spending time in God’s Word that created that warrior image inside of me. (One of my favorite characters in the bible is the prophet Samuel. Samuel had his issues, we all do, but he was not the typical pale skinned Pastor.[viii]) It does not matter where this image came from, but somewhere along the line, I developed what I thought was a warrior’s mentality. Here is a thought; maybe I watched too many highlights of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. What I have come to realize is that there are times the warrior mentality will get you killed over foolishness.

If my focus is on the two groups I mentioned earlier, then how do we change the outcome of their battles?

To those that find themselves already in this position: embroiled in battle, with no apparent armor. If you are in Christ, you have an advantage already. This of course means nothing if you do not understand the relationship you have with Christ. (If I were your enemy, I would make it my goal to see to it that you never comprehend this idea.)

Here are some verses that speak toward your place in Christ and what it does for you:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,   (Ephesians 1:3 ESV)

The general idea is this, God, well pleased with the actions of His Son, enthroned him next to himself. Everything necessary was done to restore man and creation. It would seem that if God sees that in his Son, and we are in the Son now, then he should see those traits in us.

How does that help you when you stumble incessantly, as I do?

An aspect of constantly stumbling is wrapped up in our lack of faith. Do not get all depressed because I made that statement, thinking that you have to work harder. For whatever the reason we choose not to believe that the price Jesus paid was enough. I am sure that Paul was speaking to something of this nature when he wrote to the church body in Rome.

Since the composition of the early church was primarily Jewish by tradition, they too were steeped in the Law of Moses. Following the law only pointed out our sins.

 (Romans 3:20, 21 ERV) “.. no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin. But God has a way to make people right, and it has nothing to do with the law. He has now shown us that new way, which the law and the prophets told us about.”

 This knowledge was not something new, they just did not see it, or worse, they refused to see it. If you have come to know this Jesus Christ, then you have seen it, and God made you right that day, whether it feels like it or not. He will make anyone right in his eyes if they come to Him and believe.

 (Romans 3:22,23 ERV) “God makes people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. He does this for all who believe in Christ. Everyone is the same. All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.”

Maybe you noticed what made this happen, this life we now have in Christ. It was only by his grace. Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship, explains grace as simply as this: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Even if you had been the most pompous and arrogant Pharisee, following every law to the letter, it would not have gained you an advantage, for it is a free gift, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.

(Romans 3:24,25 ERV) “They are made right with God by his grace. This is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God gave Jesus as a way to forgive people’s sins through their faith in him. God can forgive them because the blood sacrifice of Jesus pays for their sins. God gave Jesus to show that he always does what is right and fair. He was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And in our own time, he still does what is right. God worked all this out in a way that allows him to judge people fairly and still make right any person who has faith in Jesus.”

I understand that we need to change the course of this dangerous, overflowing river called our thoughts by aligning and replacing our thoughts with His. I am telling from experience that this is not as easy as it sounds, for you will be met with the most vile of opposition and it will be disguised as friends, family, and those who claim to mean you well; they do not, unless what they bring you is directly from God’s word.

My suggestion is to start feeding yourself on the character of God. Find out who he is. Allow Him to build an image of his love toward you, and understand that God, in the person of Jesus, displayed a fierce anger toward religion and its phoniness. You need to find the true God and the true you. Yes, this is going to take a little more time than you anticipated, but then how long have you been mired in this despair you feel? Get yourself into recovery; there are some sober and sane people there, but keep in mind that we are all still broken, and that will not change completely until the day we meet Him face to face.

Give healing some time, as I must do, for the day will come when clarity will be a constant aspect of your life, and you will be the sage that others come to for help. Aside from that, we followers of Christ have a hope, and that is eternity with the one who paid the price for our freedom by giving His life on our behalf.

[i] Ephesians 6:10-18

[ii] 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (ERV) “We live in this world, but we don’t fight our battles in the same way the world does. The weapons we use are not human ones. Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy’s strong places. .”

[iii] You can argue all day long, but you cannot prepare for everything. If that were the case, then ancient warlords would still hold their ancestral rule over nations.

Ecclesiastes 9:12 (ERV) “You never know when hard times will come. Like fish in a net or birds in a snare, people are often trapped by some disaster that suddenly falls on them.”

2 Timothy 2:24-26 (KJV) “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”

[iv] 1 Timothy 6:12 ERV We have to fight to keep our faith. Try as hard as you can to win that fight. Take hold of eternal life. It is the life you were chosen to have when you confessed your faith in Jesus–that wonderful truth that you spoke so openly and that so many people heard.

[v] 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ERV (3) We live in this world, but we don’t fight our battles in the same way the world does.   (4) The weapons we use are not human ones. Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy’s strong places. We destroy people’s arguments,   (5) and we tear down every proud idea that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We also capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.

[vi] Deuteronomy 11:8 KJV Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it;

[vii] When King David is about to die, he calls Solomon before him and gives him a talk on wisdom. Considering how poorly David handled his own life, and the lack of parental care he showed his children, I suppose this makes sense. He had not sat down with any of them and told them how to handle life; Bathsheba could be a striking example of that. Here are his words to Solomon:

1 Kings 2:1-4 CEV “: My son, I will soon die, as everyone must. But I want you to be strong and brave. Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go. You and your descendants must always faithfully obey the LORD. If you do, he will keep the solemn promise he made to me that someone from our family will always be king of Israel.”

One might assume from this that God is our only hope and that in staying under the umbrella of God’s mercy we gain knowledge of him. Solomon certainly was not going to learn it from his dad.

[viii] 1 Samuel 15:32-33 ERV Samuel said, “Bring King Agag of the Amalekites to me.” Agag came to Samuel. Agag was tied with chains and thought, “Surely he won’t kill me.” (33) But Samuel said to Agag, “Your sword took babies from their mothers. So now, your mother will have no children.” And Samuel cut Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal.

 

 

Posted in Hope, Thoughts, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fighting with a paper sword


A Jehovah Witness came to the door and I responded to her immediate question with, I am a believer in Jesus Christ and anxiously await his return. At that, she turned over the Watchtower magazine she held in her hand, and pointed to the section entitled: Why pray for God’s Kingdom to come? She pointed two things out to me.

  1. That “Jehovah has also chosen a group of Jesus’ followers to be associate rulers with Jesus in the kingdom.”

They reference Luke 11:2; 22:28-30 to prove their point. Luke 11:2 says nothing about ruler-ship over any kingdom but it does speak about praying to the Father in Jesus name.

And He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. (Luke 11:2 NASB)

The implications are huge.

If the Jehovah’s Witness are telling us that we can pray and in a sense force the kingdom to come, how does that align with God’s will, especially if the kingdom looks like what I desire with no concern for God’s plans? Does not 1 John 5:14 tell us that we have to align ourselves with God’s plan?

“And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14 MKJV)

How does one speak to the creator of the universe in such familiar tones without having an intimate relationship? Moreover, how does one have an intimate relationship with a person they do not know? Considering the fallacies integrated into the translations JW’s set their hopes upon, how could the person knocking on my door know this Jesus Christ whom I love and serve?

The JW’s do not believe that Jesus was God on the earth, and yet He made that clear as he walked among the people for three years. It was Jesus that said, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Fairly well stated, and yet the JW’s believe, Jehovah God existed from the beginning. His first creations were two angels, Michael (who later becomes Jesus) and Lucifer. Jehovah God created all else through his firstborn, Jesus (Michael).” Those who refuse to look at the truth will always find a way to bash and ignore it. Perhaps a portion of Paul’s letter to the Colossian church might help to convince a reader of who Jesus is.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him — all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers — all things were created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross — through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-20 NET.)

Whom was Jesus talking to when he made these statements about his deity? The first thing to consider here is the context of what he said. He was responding to his disciples, and he was answering a Jewish oriented question. The boys had argued about which one was greater or better than the other, and how that person would be able to dominate the others. There is something screwed up in that kind of thinking from the get go and Jesus was not going to tolerate it. Therefore, what we see is Jesus straightening them out.

What does this kingdom look like?

In Matthew 4:23 we have Jesus, “teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” So, an aspect of the kingdom is healing. Jesus words also conveyed that the kingdom is for the poor in spirit – Matthew 5:3. According to Matthew 19:14 it is filled with little children. In Mark’s gospel chapter one, verse fifteen, Jesus said, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Perhaps I am not to be stressing over any kingdom to come, because it is already here, and I just need to wait and have it revealed; that will happen in His timing.

One last thing and I will move on. Jesus told those listening that God cares about the needs of birds and how he knows what people need, therefore we are not to be so wrapped up in needs, but merely seek Him. Look this up in Luke’s gospel chapter 12:29-31

The other scripture reference they use is: Luke 22:28-30

You are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I appoint a kingdom to you, as My Father has appointed to Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30 MKJV)

If I use this as a foundational verse for my religious doctrine of ruling in the new kingdom, then perhaps I should be very concerned about how I judge now, for we are told that the manner in which we judge is the way we will be judged. There is of course a context to this passage as well. He was speaking to his disciples, and you are not they.

The second thing she pointed out.

  1. “Soon, God’s kingdom will take action against all opposers of God’s rule. So the prayer for God’s kingdom to come is a request for God’s government to replace all human governments.” The scriptures referenced were Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 11:15, 18.

Let us see if Daniel defines the paragraph for us.

I saw in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And dominion and glory was given Him, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages, should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 MKJV)

One like the Son of man” a common reference to Jesus Christ.

the Ancient of Days” – God himself.

that all peoples, nations and languages, should serve Him.

I do not see how this defines a replacement of all human governments. To merely use the term nations tends to show that they have a governmental rule. There is no denying that there is a possibility that God will overthrow all governments, but that is not what this passage says. What it says, is that they will serve God. (Read about this in Zechariah chapter 14. Pay close attention to verse 16 -18 where it says, everyone who is left of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” So, scripture makes it clear that nations continue to exist through the thousand-year reign. (Revelation 20:4-6)

Let us try the two verses the magazine suggested from Revelation 11:15,18 to see how they apply to the doctrine.

At the sound of the seventh trumpet, loud voices were heard in heaven. They said, “Now the kingdom of this world belongs to our Lord and to his Chosen One! And he will rule forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15 CEV)

Since the idea is that God’s government will reign and all human governments will come to an end, I suppose the secondary hope is that those chosen will hold a high-ranking cabinet position, collect a large salary, and be able to dominate over others. Do you get that from this passage? No. What you see is the kingdom of this world belonging to the Lord and his chosen one.

Question: If I take this passage literally, then how many people do we count, two, the Lord and his Chosen one. However there is a problem with the literal approach because anyone who has spent time in the Bible knows that there are those that are in Christ that have been removed from the earth seven years earlier, and scripture tells us that they are “in Christ.” Scripture really does not speak that openly of where they are, and yet we know they are with Him, somewhere.

Another group that seems to be ignored, and yet is not distinctly mentioned in this passage are the martyred saints.

The Apostle John told us that their numbers were uncountable, but we also know that they specifically are to reign with Christ during the thousand years. (Revelation 5:10; 20:6) That alone exceeds the idea that 144, 000 select will have that priority. The only reference to 144,000 is when God seals that many Jews that are not tainted by the world. (Revelation 7:3,4) These apparently walk untouched through the seven years of wrath we like to call the tribulation, and seem to serve as priests in the temple of God that will be in the New Jerusalem. This city and temple play an active role during the 1000 years.

Since that did not answer the question of who is in charge, perhaps Revelation 11:18 will.

When the nations got angry, you became angry too! Now the time has come for the dead to be judged. It is time for you to reward your servants the prophets and all of your people who honor your name, no matter who they are. It is time to destroy everyone who has destroyed the earth.” (Revelation 11:18 CEV)

Now this actually sounds like something we could build a doctrine around, so let us look at it for a minute.

Now the time has come for the dead to be judged.”

Since we are hoping for a removal of human government and God’s government replacing it, what need is there if the humans are dead?   Under a literal interpretation, the idea that God needs to set up his own government does not fit when I use this passage. Perhaps being dead plays a role in the human governments being removed from power. Judgment is a thought-provoking idea, but loses steam quickly when I look at the context of the passage for it opens with, “and the nations were angry, and thine anger did come.” The implications are that something drastic has transpired and, in general, the nations have been wiped out. This does not really speak to governments but we will not exclude that yet.

Where in scripture and chronological time do we find a judgment of the dead? Again, you know the answer to this if you study your bible. This occurs at the end of the thousand years where Christ and the martyred saints have reigned.

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:11-12 KJV)

Revelation 20 happens at the white throne judgment seat. The dead are brought before Him; not the living; not the believers; and not martyred saints, just dead folk. I know what you are thinking; how does this speak to the period of its occurrence? Good question; all we have to do is to look at the context (which I did not give you) and we can sort that out quickly.

Revelation 20:7-10 KJV “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, (8) And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. (9) And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (10) And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

I cannot say with confidence that this is what we are seeing in Revelation 11:18, but I still believe it is a poor choice on which to build a doctrine representing a change of leadership. At best this may be representing the mid-point of the seven years of God’s wrath upon the earth, and though it is hard to understand how anyone survives God’s onslaught, we know they do, or there would be no need for Christ to come at the end of seven years with a sword, executing vengeance. We also see that rebellion will continue, to some degree, during the thousand years because there are statements telling us that no evil will be allowed in the City of God. (You can look up this aspect that speaks to exclusion of the vile in Revelation 22:14-15) If God wipes out all evil and its associated government, then where do these people come from?

How do we explain what appears as discrepancies between Revelation 11:18 and Revelation 22:14-15? We may not have to because another aspect of God’s word is that so much of it is a broad-spectrum picture. An example of this could be the 2000-year, momentary gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of years, in which Christ physically comes back to earth. Thinking like this forces us to consider what is outside the box. In this case, we may be seeing things in Revelation 11 that transpire a few years later in Revelation 22. The prophecy to Daniel stated, “Seventy weeks are decreed as to your people and as to your holy city, to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24 MKJV) We can say with confidence that the Most Holy has not been anointed, and so we await the bringing in of the everlasting righteousness; the seventieth week, as far as anyone can tell, has not started yet; or has it.

What else happens here in Revelation 11:18?

Rewards are given” – but to whom?

  • “To your servants,” – This is an interesting usage of a phrase because it actually means a slave. This is problematic mainly because it becomes a hard sell. God has not demanded a slave/master relationship, but one in which we have dedicated ourselves in subjection to him as a child. I made the decision to do that because of the realization that I can do nothing without him. In my broken world where I barely trust anyone, he made the first move, proving his love for me by giving His Son Jesus Christ. It was all I could in response – love him back and give myself to him.
  • “To the prophets” – The prophet was a foreteller or by analogy an inspired speaker. The “modern” church has denied, ignored, and refused to listen or allow the prophets to operate within the church body, allowing their fears to control them. Let us do the gutsy thing for a change and believe that God put them here for a purpose and his purpose is not complete yet.
  • To the saints – Saints means those that are sacred. That definition is given sporadically to those that follow Christ, but more definitively to those that are martyred for their faith in the only God, not Allah. We, as a human race, have made it through October of 2014, and the rise in the number of “Christians” or infidels, as Islam puts it, being martyred is rising on a daily basis. God’s word tells us that this will get out of control.
  • To those (great and small) that fear your name – This is a conundrum because we have to define who these people might be. The first clue we have in defining them is the fact that they fear your name. Because we know that these are among those getting rewards, we comprehend that there is a positive spin to this, and yet this does not define them as followers of a particular religious sect, but those that have a deep respect for God’s name. God is not a respecter of persons. When it came to picking a king God told Samuel that he looked at the heart, not the external appearance, so, this really has nothing to do with an external appearance does it? It is talking about those who have attained success in the world’s eyes, and those that have nothing in comparison. That they fear His name is the important thing.

Here is an extensive list of scriptures that speak about a rewarding of the Saints.

The reward is from God

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: (Romans 2:5-7 KJV)

Keep in mind that this rendering according to your deeds can also bring about his wrath.

Knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance, which is your [real] reward. [The One Whom] you are actually serving [is] the Lord Christ (the Messiah). (Colossians 3:24 AMP)

Our real reward is our inheritance. Ephesians chapter one tells us that we have obtained our inheritance. Studying this concept out in Ephesians tells us that our reward then, has everything to do with our acceptance, forgiveness, and the idea that God wishes to show us the things he planned for us all along.

The reward comes through grace and faith alone

Romans 4:4-5 should be one the LDS completely ignore because it flies in the face of their works based system. What the passage tells us is that while there is reward to this life in Christ, it has everything to do with believing on Christ’s actions.

But to him working, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt. But to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5 MKJV)

Romans 4:16 seems to stand on its own for understandability, but then it also depends on what translation you read. I chose this version because of its readability without having to dive into the context.

Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God’s promise is assured by his great kindness. This promise is not only for Abraham’s descendants who have the Law. It is for all who are Abraham’s descendants because they have faith, just as he did. Abraham is the ancestor of us all. (Romans 4:16 CEV)

Let’s assume for a minute that all we had was the King James Version.

Rom 4:16 “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed:..”

The first three words have me thrown for a loop, for several reasons. First I have to decide what the “it” is, and that forces me to look into the context. Secondly, because the words “it and is” are grayed out, I should not even consider that they are there, as grayed out words were added for comprehension or understanding.

What then is the context that applies to Romans 4:16?

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. (Romans 4:13-15 KJV)

Allow me to reassemble this in a form that makes sense to me. Therefore, the promise of a reward (I need to have that clear in my head, and it really has nothing to do with worldly gain.) was not only to Abraham but to his seed also, and those that have received Christ are of that seed. While keeping the law maintains civility, it has nothing to do with gaining this promise of a future life and hope in Jesus Christ. It has everything to do with a faith in God’s Son, a faith that makes us right in His eyes. The Jews tried going the law route and this tells us that it made their faith void and the promise of no effect to them. Sadly, this can happen to anybody. (Read Romans 8: 14-17)

The JW’s stand on the street corners and walk through neighborhoods, expressly for the purpose of earning a place in a future kingdom, one in which they have no assurance. I suspect some actually believe they have a chance to attain to one of those 144, 000. That becomes a problem since they are tightly defined as Jews.

Is of God’s good pleasure

Mat_20:14-15; Luk_12:32;

Let’s camp out on the verses in Matthew for a few minutes.

Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ (Matthew 20:14-15 NET.)

There is a context, and it is not what we typically think. I decided that you needed to see the entire “parable.”

As Jesus was telling what the kingdom of heaven would be like, he said: Early one morning a man went out to hire some workers for his vineyard. After he had agreed to pay them the usual amount for a day’s work, he sent them off to his vineyard. About nine that morning, the man saw some other people standing in the market with nothing to do. He said he would pay them what was fair, if they would work in his vineyard. Therefore, they went. At noon and again about three in the afternoon he returned to the market. And each time he made the same agreement with others who were loafing around with nothing to do. Finally, about five in the afternoon the man went back and found some others standing there. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. Then he told them to go work in his vineyard. That evening the owner of the vineyard told the man in charge of the workers to call them in and give them their money. He also told the man to begin with the ones who were hired last. When the workers arrived, the ones who had been hired at five in the afternoon were given a full day’s pay. The workers who had been hired first thought they would be given more than the others. But when they were given the same, they began complaining to the owner of the vineyard. They said, “The ones who were hired last worked for only one hour. But you paid them the same that you did us. And we worked in the hot sun all day long!” The owner answered one of them, “Friend, I didn’t cheat you. I paid you exactly what we agreed on. Take your money now and go! What business is it of yours if I want to pay them the same that I paid you? Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Why should you be jealous, if I want to be generous?” Jesus then said, “So it is. Everyone who is now first will be last, and everyone who is last will be first.” (Matthew 20:1-16 CEV)

Did you notice that pay was the same for everyone?

As I have studied, end times events and tried to discuss these things with some, I get angry arguments and rebuttals; I wonder why? It is not so different from what Jesus conveyed in the story he told. It, by the way is not just some bizarre analogy he made up, it conveys what I hear today.

In Revelation 20 we the white throne where all the dead are brought before Him. He separates those dead into two groups, the sheep and the goats. The goats are sent to eternal destruction, while the sheep are allowed to enter into the kingdom. Seems like a good thing and rather benign, but when you begin to point out how Revelation 20 and what Jesus conveyed in Matthew 20:1-16, religious people get very upset. (I know this because I too have found myself upset by what I pointing out.) The response is something like this, I have wasted my years living right, focused on what religion and God wanted, not allowing myself any fun, and sacrificing my free time for the Lord; only to have God give these people, that have done nothing, that, in my mind, qualifies them to enter into the kingdom. Yet, there he goes, inviting them in. They get the same reward as I do, and he lets them in at the last minute.

Yeah, I know, it is hard to swallow and comprehend, but it’s there.

The last verse referenced is Luke 12:32

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32 KJV)

While the context might be applied to the small group of followers that hovered around Jesus, problem is that Jesus expanded that flock to include the Samaritans, and no decent Jew would allow them to be considered Jews. Therefore, what we have is Jesus effectively taking the gospel to the gentiles, and by extension, the nations. Now then, who is the kingdom for?

My bible tells me that God desires that none should perish, but then I suppose that is what the Witnesses go door to door, or stand on street corners for, winning the lost so that they too can enjoy the kingdom that is to come; or is it?

The gift of God is free, and it is by faith in the one who paid it all by giving his life for us, and then rising from the dead. His name is Jesus Christ and he is the Son of God. Choosing the life he offers is the way into this kingdom and it is available to anyone who will come.

 

 

Posted in Cult teachings, Deception, End times, Hope, In Christ, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments