The Start of a Spiritual Revival?

The Start of a Spiritual Revival?
Vol: 140 Issue: 20 Monday, May 20, 2013

Many Bible prophecy teachers anticipate a world-wide Christian revival in the last days, but just as many others believe it will be a spiritual or religious revival instead.

On the Day of Pentecost, at the birth of the Christian Church, Peter explained the miracle that took place when they preached and everyone who heard them heard the message in their own tongue;

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:” (Acts 2:16-19)

In Scripture, the ‘last days’ refers to the whole of the Church Age, in the sense that it began with the Ascension of Jesus and it will end with His return at the Rapture.  But the ‘last days’ have a starting point, and they have an ending point.

“And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Since Jesus could have returned at any time, in any generation, from the days of the Apostles until this moment, the ‘last days’ refer to the Dispensation before the Milliennial Kingdom is set up according to Isaiah 66.

So those who argue for a ‘last days’ Christian revival conclude that, just as the Church swelled at its birth at Pentecost, so too, will it swell with believers just before Jesus’ return, as part of the general connecting of all the dots and tying up all the referential loose ends.

Those who argue AGAINST a true Christian revival in the last days point to the Scriptures for the last days that warn of a great ‘falling away’ and the rise of an apostate Church in last days.

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” (1 Timothy 4:1)

They argue that the spiritual revival of the last days refers to the counterfeit religion of Revelation 13:11:

“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.”

Assessment:

No matter which view you take, revival is in the news. A recent column published in Insight on the News carried the title, “Analysis: Start of a Spiritual Revival?”

The column relies on the findings of Christian pollster George Barna, who has determined “that we are witnessing a slow but steady development of more traditional religious behavior in the Western states.”

According to Barna’s survey, the share of adults reporting they had read from the Bible during the last week — not including Sunday service — rose from 37 percent in 1994 to 44 percent this year.

It was in this category that the increase was most noteworthy in California, Oregon and Washington state, where Bible study among residents rose from 29 to 44 percent in the last decade.

Similarly, participation in small groups for prayer, Bible study and fellowship shot up from 11 percent to 26 percent in the West, Barna reported. Nationwide, it rose from 12 percent to 20 percent.

But at the same time, Barna found, weekly church attendence has remained relatively stagnant over the same period. It also found that those who say they shared their faith with non-believers fell between 1999 and 2004 from 58% to 55%.

It would seem, from Barna’s polls, that the revival sweeping America is divided into two factions. Barna calls them, the ‘Mainstream’ Church, and the ‘Parachurch’. Bible study groups have more than doubled, but weekly organized church attendence is flat. The signs of the times have many people seeking Jesus, but they are bypassing pre-packaged religion and going directly to the Bible.

And no wonder. In many mainstream churches, God has many names, including Allah, or Buddha, as well as Jesus Christ. The Bible, as a doctrinal source, is secondary to church law or tradition. There are mainstream churches that embrace homesexuality, others that question the Deity of Christ, and still more that reject doctrines like the Virgin Birth.

Leaders of mainstream ‘Christian’ denominations have gone on record as doubting the Death and Resurrection.

There are two forms of Christianity in the world today. The cultural Christianity of the mainstream, and the growing Bible Christianity of the parachurch.

While the fields are truly ‘white with the harvest’ the labourers within the parachurch of one-on-one evangelists remain few, and the competition is fierce.

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it,” Jesus said. (Matthew 7:14)

The enemy wants to keep that gate locked. That is the reason for the existence of the Omega Letter. To teach people how to teach people to find the key.

We are living in the last of the last days, and the responsibility we bear on our collective shoulders is enormous.

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” (Ezekiel 33:6)

Note:  This weekend some friends came over with disheartening news.  Their church is closing.  Many of the churches in our area have recently closed their doors.  Some of these churches blame finances and allude to church attendance, apathy and just plain discouragement for the shut downs.  Although this brief was written in 2004, its’ forecast for the upcoming days (now) is pretty accurate.  The call for watchmen is ever more important as many, many of our prophecy teachers are being called Home. 

Today’s Featured Commentary: Head in the Clouds

Loving the World

Loving the World
Vol: 140 Issue: 18 Saturday, May 18, 2013

”Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

In times like these, that’s great advice – but with the economy on the brink, the world on the brink of war, the country on the edge of default and your 401k forcing you to reconsider the prospect of retirement at any age, it’s hard advice to follow.

I know lots of Christians that wax eloquently against ‘loving the things of this earth’ that suddenly turn apoplectic when their own personal comfort zone is threatened.

It always reminds me of the 400 lb preacher I once saw who pointed his stubby finger accusingly at his audience as he roared, “If you smoke, you’re defiling the Temple of the Holy Spirit!”

Everybody loves the things of this world, when you get right down to it.  Love your dog?  Your kids?  Your wife?  Love being in your own personal comfort zone at home?

You can run down the whole list of things you love in your own mind.  You don’t feel ‘dead’ to the people or things that you love – what does that mean to your salvation?

Is this a conditional statement?  Does it mean that unless your affection is set on things above, unless you are dead to the things of this earth, your life isn’t hid with Christ in God?

One of the central themes of Bible Christianity is;

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1st John 2:15)

This is one of those cognitive dissonance moments.  You know how Christians are supposed to feel about the world and all that is in it – but you still love the things you love.  You even throw around quotes like, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” – but you still love the things you love.

You love the Lord and you love your fellow man.  You love your church family.  You love your OL family.  You love your country.

You know you aren’t supposed to love your life, but you do everything in your power to make it as comfortable as possible.  You know that you love your life.  If you didn’t, you’d be a prime candidate for suicide counseling.

Christians try to parse this until they read it to mean, “love not sinful things” or “don’t love the world too much” but Jesus confronts us with an either-or ultimatum: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Which presents us with an enormous conundrum.  There are those who scrupulously practice religious asceticism, which is the practice of austere self-discipline in order to achieve a higher spiritual ideal – (think monks in hair shirts).

But the rest of us aspire to live in warm houses with comfortable beds with a loving family and a loyal dog named Shep.  Sometimes, we even criticize our brethren for loving the things of this world – while worrying about our own 401k.

What is it that I am trying to say here?  That we’re all sinners?  Well, . . . yeah.  But you already knew that.  I can find a dozen verses that clearly command us not to love the world or the things that are in it.  But you do anyway — and you know it.  Then you criticize other Christians for loving some things of this world, usually the things that you don’t.

“If they love that, they can’t really be saved.” Or, “if they were really saved, they wouldn’t love that.

Assessment:

What does “really saved” mean, in context?  Bible salvation refers to the redemption from sin through the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Gospel (Good News) is that salvation has been secured on our behalf.  The Book of Romans contains what is often called “Roman’s Road” to salvation.

Salvation requires a recognition of one’s personal sinful state (Romans 3:23) It demands an understanding of the consequences of sin (Romans 6:23) and that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 5:8 explains that our salvation is a product of the unfathomable love of God, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 10:9 tells us that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:13 summarizes salvation thusly: “whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Jesus described salvation as being “born again”. “ . . “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6)

This isn’t a figure of speech.  It is an actual rebirth of one’s spirit, which dies at the moment we commit our first sin.  The soul of an unregenerate man only receives input through his five physical senses.

When he is saved, his spirit is “quickened” opening up a new source of input to his soul.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 2:14)

That sense of spiritual discernment comes from the awakening of the spiritual senses.  Now the soul gets input through both the physical and spiritual gateways.  It is this transformation that the Bible refers to as a “new creature”.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

The purpose of the first part of today’s OL was to illustrate the Bible’s principle that,

“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 19:30)

I believe that principle illustrates what happens to those to define salvation as something somebody else doesn’t have because they aren’t living according to their understanding of the Bible.

Which is to say, “love not the things I don’t love.  The things I love aren’t sinful,” — while ignoring the fact that loving them is.

Salvation creates a new creature with a direct spiritual connection with the Holy Spirit.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16)

If it is possible for a person to lose one’s salvation, Hebrews 6:6 teaches that it is impossible for such a one to be born again, again.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost . . if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

Why would “renewing them again unto repentance. . . put Christ to an open shame?”

During His Agony in the Garden, Jesus prayed,

“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy Name: those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost. . . Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:12,24)

The open shame is found in the fact that He was unable to keep such a one by His sacrifice, despite the testimony of Scripture:

“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12-14)

The regenerate man whose spiritual eyes have been opened cannot commit spiritual suicide because his spirit is directly indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.  “Falling away” is defined in the eyes of the beholder, not the eyes of God.  God says you already fell away when you decided to buy a comfortable shirt instead of one made of sackcloth.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in it.”  Doesn’t say a word about loving the things of this world in a righteous way.  Remember the rich man who went away sorrowful because he had many possessions?

Aren’t you glad you weren’t offered that same choice?  Oh, wait.  You were.  And unless you live under a bridge in a cardboard box, you probably made the same choice the rich young man did.

Except that you are saved by grace through faith, not works, lest any man should boast.  Your life is hid with Christ in God.  Your life is ‘hid’ in Christ — when God looks at you, He sees Christ and judges you accordingly.

You aren’t hid in Christ because you are righteous – nobody is.  You aren’t even hid in Christ because you try to be righteous.  You are hid in Christ because all your works are as filthy rags before the Lord. (Isaiah 64:6)

The sinning Christian loses irreplaceable opportunities to lead others to Christ. (Ephesians 5:14-17)  The sinning Christian will suffer loss at the Bema Seat. (1st Corinthians 3:11-13)  The sinning Christian will be chastened by the Father. (Hebrews 12)

And the sinning Christian can render himself so useless to the Lord that the Lord will take him home prematurely.

“. . . There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1st John 5:16)

But what the sinning Christian cannot do is “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.”  Because “by ONE offering He hath perfect forever them that are sanctified.”

It really isn’t all about us.  It is all about Him.

Dogma

Dogma
Vol: 140 Issue: 17 Friday, May 17, 2013

The dictionary defines ”doctrine” as ”a set of true beliefs that define the parameters of a belief system.”  So then, ”doctrine” can be either true or false, relative to the standards of the belief set.

It is the same in politics as it is in religion.  The “Truman Doctrine” was rooted in the belief system that the only way to stop communism was to prevent its spread.  The “Truman Doctrine” was rooted in the belief that democracy and capitalism were superior to communism and a state-managed economy.

Doctrine’s twin sister is “dogma” which is defined as “absolute beliefs that transcend reason.”  Dogma is no less binding that doctrine, with the exception that doctrine relates to a belief set, whereas dogma can itself become a belief set.

The rules that define capitalism are called ‘capitalist doctrine’.  The rules that define Marxism are called ‘Marxist dogma’.  The reason is because capitalism has been proved true in both theory and practice.

Capitalism is essentially the world’s economic fall-back system.  When there is no other system in place, capitalism naturally flows in to fill the vacuum.  Every underground economy is capitalistic – the most pure example of capitalist doctrine would be a prison system.

Everything inside a prison system operates on the principle of capitalism – currency can be anything from food to cigarettes to other contraband.  Some inmates become bankers, others collection agents.  If there is a buyer, a seller, and a medium of exchange, that is capitalism.

So, as you can see, ‘capitalism’ has a doctrine.   Marxism, which cannot exist independently, operates according to principles that defy both logic and reason.

Marxism never makes it into a prison economy.  There is no room in prison for the kind of Marxist dogma that dictates that the poor deserve a portion of the spoils of the rich.

America is a capitalist society currently being operated according to Marxist dogma – which explains why Obama’s plan to dump a trillion dollars into the economy made things worse, instead of better.

It is a dogmatic belief among those on the Left that government is the answer to any problem.  It is a ‘dogmatic’ belief because it is a) absolute; and b) transcends reason.

Fedex, Purolator, UPS, DHL and a hundred other courier services owe their existence to the fact that the US government runs the Post Office.   Nobody doubts that.  If you “absolutely, positively” wanted to be sure your package gets delivered overnight, would you take it to the Post Office?

Obama is the single biggest purveyor of liberal dogma to ever take a seat in the Oval Office.  He has made expanding the reach of federal government into private life the exclusive goal of his administration, almost to the point of obsession.  (Maybe not even ‘almost’)

This is a perfect example of an absolute belief that transcends reason.  Obama once cited the Post Office to prove that government health insurance wouldn’t bankrupt the private insurance industry:

“I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. I mean. If you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.”

If ever there were a case of faith transcending reason, Obama made it with that statement.

Assessment:

I caught a snippet of a TV news report in which San Franscisco mayor Gavin Newsom was criticizing a decision made by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  Newsom spearheaded the ‘sanctuary city’ movement wherein the city refuses to enforce US immigration law.

Typical of dogmatic liberal thinking, the ‘sanctuary city’ movement is dedicated to the proposition that people who disobey laws they don’t like, such as immigration law, will magically become law-abiding citizens if not prosecuted for their initial crime.

But since liberal dogma is rooted in an absolute belief that transcends reason, what happened instead was the city became a magnet for street gangs.  So the Board of Supervisors voted to extend the sanctuary protections to include juvenile gang members charged with felony crimes.

This was even too much for Gavin Newsom.  In the sound byte I heard, Newsom seemed genuinely incredulous:

“The sanctuary city was never designed to be in any way, shape or form a framework where people can commit crimes and be shielded against those crimes,” said Newsom. “I mean that’s perverse, it’s absurd.”

Of course it is absurd.  It is also the next logical step in liberal dogmatic thinking.  Liberal dogma explains how California can remain liberal in spite of the wreckage liberal dogma has wrought on the once-most successful state in the Union.

It explains why inner-city blacks continue to vote for liberal Democrats even as their cities crumble around them.  It explains how the Obama adminstration can claim that 250,000 new taxpayer-funded government jobs can be counted as positive job creation.

It is an article of liberal dogmatic belief that civil-service jobs are better than private sector jobs anyway.  They pay better, they provide better benefits and it is almost impossible to get fired.  So of course the creation of a quarter-million new government jobs represents hope and change.

Another word that lends itself well as a substitute for liberal dogma would be liberal delusion.  Delusion is defined as;

 “a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary.”

I’ve often pondered the ‘strong delusion’ Paul spoke of in his second letter to the Thessalonians.  There was a heresy circulating the church at Thessolonika to the effect that the Lord had come, and that the Day of Christ was at hand — and that they had been left behind.

The ‘Day of the Lord’ refers to the Tribulation judgment.  The ‘Day of Christ’ refers to the Millennial Reign that follows.  What was concerning the Thessalonians was that they had missed the Rapture, this is how Paul opened the discussion:

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him”  (2nd Thessalonians 2:1)

Paul then outlines the sequence of events leading into the Tribulation Period.  First comes ‘a great falling away’ from the faith that will clear the way for the man of sin to be received as a messiah-figure.

Paul says that ‘mystery’ of iniquity doth already work.  Paul used the Greek word “musterion’ which means ‘to shut the mouth’  — in the sense of silence imposed by intiation into secret religious rites.

It sounds like a perfect substitute description for dogmatic liberal thinking.  Liberal dogma says that the same government that runs the Post Office can successfully run the entire US health care system.  But the same liberals who make that argument have Fedex and UPS account numbers taped to the inside of their desk drawer.

But liberal dogmatic belief is that this time, it will turn out differently.  It’s like renting “Old Yeller” over and over again, hoping that this time, they won’t shoot the dog at the end.  It is a ‘musterion’ to anybody —  but those initiated into liberal dogmatism.

Paul says that first comes the “musterion” — an atmosphere of sin and rebellion so pervasive that people will believe what they know to be a lie, simply because the lie better suits their preferred ideology.  But Paul says that the musterion is currently restrained:

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth will let, until He be taken out of the way,” Paul writes in verse 7.

The word “letteth is translated from Paul’s original Greek “katcheco”  which means.;

“to hold fast, keep in memory, possess, seize, retain, stay, take or withhold.”

(See if you can make sense out of verse seven’s katcheco without finding a reference to the indwelling Holy Spirit as the “He’ in this verse and the ‘taken out of the way’ meaning anything other than His ministry of restraining evil.)

So, following Paul’s sequence of events aimed at assuring the Thessalonians that they had not missed “the gathering together unto Him” first comes the musterion, then the removal of the katcheco and, then shall that Wicked (anomos) be revealed.”

The KJV makes ‘that Wicked’ a personal pronoun — it refers to an individual anomos, which means,

“one not subject to Jewish law, by implication, a Gentile, positively wicked, without law, lawless. transgressor, unlawful, wicked.”

Paul says that the anomos will be embraced by them that perish (apollumi) meaning;

“to destroy, die, lose, or perish” BECAUSE “they received not the LOVE of the truth, that they might be saved.”

Liberal dogma is a delusional ideological worldview that embraces ideological absolutes that transcend reason that is rooted in the rejection of traditional values as outdated and irrelevant.

Hope is therefore defined by change.  And since ‘change’ is, by defintion, a state of constant alteration, hope remains a constant because it is a hope for change.  Does that make your head hurt?  It’s supposed to.  It is a delusion that only works if you have no love for the truth.

So first comes the musterion, then comes the removal of the katcheco, followed by the revealing of the anomos whose dogma will be embraced by the apollumi.  But as long as the katcheco remains, liberal dogma will remain a musterion.

Until He be taken out of the way.   Because that’s the next event in Paul’s sequence.  Along with the vessels He indwells.

Maranatha!

Orginally published

Today’s Featured Commentary: Pizza, Nazi Israel & Whining Christians

The Predestination Controversy

The Predestination Controversy
Vol: 140 Issue: 16 Thursday, May 16, 2013

One of the most controversial points of doctrine (after the Rapture) among believers is the doctrine of ‘predestination’.

‘Predestination’ is generally misunderstood as the belief that God chose you to be saved before the world began.  And that there are others who He does NOT choose.

As the Bible presents it, ‘predestination’ is simply Divine foreknowledge.

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29)

Predestination is a central point in Calvinism, which helps to explain why it is so controversial.  Most Christians shun the label ‘Calvinist’ altogether, not sure if they are ‘hyper-Calvinists’, ‘modified Calvinists’, or indeed, if they are Calvinist at all.

The main argument against predestination is that it mitigates free will.  If one is predestined to be saved, then God made the choice for you so where is the free will?  Foreknowledge is not predestination anymore that Bible prophecy is.

In both instances, God knows the future, but the choices that bring about that future are made by man.  Their free will is unaffected.  God knows the future — they don’t.

Within Christianity, there are two basic schools of thought on issues of salvation, grace and faith — Calvinism and Arminianism.  There really isn’t a third — any other position is a modification of one of these two.

For the most part, mainstream Protestants and Pentecostals embrace Arminianism, which conforms to the Catholic positions adopted at the Council of Trent.

The Arminian school of thought rejects Dispensationalism, pretribulationalism, and the doctrine of eternal security and embraces Replacement Theology.

The term ‘Arminianism’ comes from Jacobus Arminius who was a Divinity Professor at Leiden University in Holland early in the seventeenth century.

The Five Points of Arminianism:

1. God has decreed to save through Jesus Christ those of the fallen and sinful race who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe in Him, but leaves in sin the incorrigible and unbelieving.

2. Christ died for all men (not just for the elect), but no one except the believer has remission of sin.

3. Man can neither of himself nor of his free will do anything truly good until he is born again of God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

4. All good deeds or movements in the regenerate must be ascribed to the grace of God but His grace is not irresistible.

5. Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit to persevere in the faith.  But it IS possible for a believer to fall from grace and lose his salvation.

According to Arminianism, then, salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God and man.  One is saved by grace through works, and one’s salvation is maintained by not sinning — at least not habitually.

Sort of like maintaining a balance between good works and bad works.

The Five Points of Calvinism:

1. Total depravity of man: Man is unable to believe the Gospel apart from the Holy Spirit and cannot respond on his own.  Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ – it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature.

2. Unconditional election: God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will.

3. Limited atonement: Jesus didn’t die for ALL men, just for those who were predestinated to receive Him. (Points #2 and #3 are the ones that give rise to the most objections.  Even from those who believe that the Jews were similarly chosen exclusively through the sovereign election of God)

4. Irresistible Grace: The internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion.

5. Perseverance of the saints: (Eternal Security) All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved.  They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.

Calvinism teaches that salvation is entirely the work of God; God chose His elect, the Son died to pay their sin debt, and the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the Gospel.

The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone.  In this view, it is God, and not man, that determines who will be saved and who will be lost.

Both suffer from the same fundamental flaw in thinking — that foreknowledge is the same as predestination.  Simple logic tells you that because you don’t know your own future, your free will decisions are unaffected by the fact that God does.

Assessment:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the CALLED according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

The goodness of God in converting and saving sinners encourages others to hope in His grace and mercy.  Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not of works, lest any man should boast.  These things are not brought to pass by any thing done by us, therefore all boasting is shut out.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5)

It is the free gift of God, and the effect of being quickened by His power.  It was His purpose, to which He prepared us, by blessing us with the knowledge of His will, and His Holy Spirit producing such a change in us, that we should glorify God by our perseverance to holiness.

‘Holiness’ (Gk hagiasmos) means ‘purification’ which is a PROCESS, also accomplished by God through Jesus.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you will PERFORM it UNTIL the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phillipians 1:6)

There are no Christians more deserving than others.  Because you have not yet achieved the state of holiness others have does not mean you are less favored.  We all come to the Cross equally lost, and we all came away equally saved.

Salvation is an eternal state for which each of us were chosen before the world began.

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” Paul writes to Timothy, (2 Timothy 1:9)

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that CANNOT LIE, PROMISED before the world began. . .” (Titus 1:2)

We are eternally secure, because we are eternally saved, which was accomplished in the Mind of God when each of us was called — BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN!

Let’s bring it together.  Nobody can come to Christ unless they are drawn by the Father, who provides us with both the extension of the offer of salvation and the faith necessary to receive it, a calling that was sealed in heaven before the world began, according to His purpose and grace.

Our salvation is immediate and eternal, but our purification is a process, which, having been begun in us at the moment of salvation, will be performed in us — BY CHRIST — until the day we stand before Him.  Lest anyone should boast.

That’s not my opinion of what the Bible says — look up the verses in context and see if you can make them mean something else.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:23-24)

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

Legalism runs counter to the clear teaching of Scripture.  This is a very difficult doctrine to both teach and understand.  It sounds like a license to sin.  It is not.

It is an understanding that our relationship to Christ is unique — that God knows our hearts, and has already judged us accordingly.  So that sin cannot reign supreme in our mortal body and thereby render us useless to our calling.

If the enemy can convince us of our own personal unrighteousness (of which each of us is acutely aware) or cause us to doubt the truth of Scripture or of our faith (which is a gift from God, lest anyone should boast) or cause us to doubt our own salvation, then we will not be able to effectively wield the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

God has a plan for each of us, and His plan is to send us to seek out and introduce others to their Savior.  That is our assignment on this earth.  THAT is our ‘calling.’  To spread the Gospel.

As Christians, we have an awesome responsibility before God.  We have been assigned to seek out the lost and offer them the Gospel.  To accomplish our mission, we need to be fully equipped for the task.

That is what eternal security is all about.  Not a license to sin, but rather a certain knowledge that our sin is forgiven.

The most effective weapon we have in our war with the enemy is the knowledge that he cannot take away our salvation.  There is never a time when we are unworthy to tell others of Jesus Christ.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1st Peter 3:15)

Note: May this brief bless your personal ministry today.

Today’s Featured Commentary: Who in the World is Ben Gazzi?

Why A ‘Tribulation’?

Why A ‘Tribulation’?
Vol: 140 Issue: 15 Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What is the purpose of the Tribulation period?  That should go a long way toward helping us to understand whether or not the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation Period, out of it, or after it.

We begin with the Prophet Daniel.  Daniel was given a vision of history as it would unfold.  Daniel foretold the rise and fall of three great empires and the rise, fall and revival of the last great world empire — that of Rome.

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation 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)

We’ve dealt with the nuts and bolts of Daniel 9:24 previously. (See Daniel’s Seventieth Week, Feb 22, 2002)

But here is a quick review of the salient points:

1. ‘Weeks’ refer to ‘weeks of years’ – 70 7 year periods equalling 490 years using the Hebrew ‘shabua’ or ‘heptad’ the way we use the Greek ‘decade’ in our culture to divide years into groups of ten years each.

2. The angel specifically said this period was for Daniel’s people (Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem).

3. Within this time frame six things will be accomplished; 1) finish the transgression, 2) make an end of sin, 3) make reconcilation for sin, 4) bring in everlasting righteousness, 5) seal up the vision and prophecy and 6) anoint the Most Holy.

All of these are clearly directed at Israel.  Points 1-3 were settled for the Church at Calvary, points 4-6 take place at the end of the Tribulation, after the 2nd Coming, with the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom.

The first 69 weeks –483 years, concluded with the Messiah being ‘cut off, but not for Himself” (Dan 9:26). Then there is a pause in God’s Plan for Israel while He turns His attention to the Church.  Daniel is told the 70th week opens with the antichrist ‘confirming a covenant between Israel and the many’ (Daniel 9:27)

Daniel indicates the Tribulation Period is for Israel’s national redemption.  That theme is picked up by Zechariah 12-14 and is further outlined in Revelation Chapters 4-20.

Jeremiah says it is the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’.

“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of JACOB’S TROUBLE,(emphasis mine) but he shall be saved out of it.” (Jeremiah 30:7)

“For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet I will not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” (Jeremiah 30:11)

There is also a second group of people that go through the Tribulation.

“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)

Note the phrase, ‘them that dwell upon the earth’.  We find it six other times; Rev. 6.10, 8:13, 11:10; 13:8; and 17:8.

In 8:13 a threefold woe is pronounced against them because of the final three trumpets, which are to come.

They are the ones who gloat over the death of the two witnesses in 11:10; and worship the beast from the sea in 13:8.

In 13:14 they are the individuals who are deceived by the beast from the land into making an image of the first beast.

The earth dwellers gaze in wonder at the scarlet beast in 17:8, while 13:8 and 17:8 adds that their names are not written in the Book of Life.

By contrast to the ‘earth-dwellers’, Jesus says of the Church in His prayer at Gethsemane;

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16)

Clearly, since the Tribulation period is the time of Jacob’s Trouble, was pronounced upon Daniel’s people and Daniel’s city, and its purpose is to accomplish for Daniel’s people in the last days the same thing accomplished for the Church at the Cross, the Tribulation period is for the Jews.

Just as clearly, according to Jesus, it is also to judge the earthdwellers whose names are not written in the Book of Life.

If there is a purpose for the Church in the Tribulation Period, there is no express mention of that purpose in Scripture, although Scripture is clear regarding both Jews and ‘earth-dwellers’.  And the ‘earth dwellers’ can’t be the Church, since their names are not written in the Book of Life.

Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, specifically at verse 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.”

What ‘wrath to come’? Romans 8:1 says I am already delivered from being condemned to hell.

“There IS therefore NOW no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. .

Now skip forward to 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9.

(3) “For when THEY shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon THEM, as travail upon a woman with child; and THEY shall not escape.” (Note the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’)

(5) “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: WE are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let US not sleep, as do others; but let US watch and be sober.” (Note the change — ‘they’- ‘them’ become ‘we’- ‘us’)

(7) “For THEY that sleep sleep in the night; and THEY that be drunken are drunken in the night.”

(8) “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”

Ok – let’s stop here.  There is clearly a distinction between Jews, ‘earth-dwellers’ and ‘us’ — the Church.  Now look up at verse 8’s reference to ‘the hope of salvation’.

What does that mean — ‘hope’ of salvation?  Salvation from what?

My salvation comes with an iron-clad guarantee, signed in Blood.  I don’t ‘hope’ for salvation — I am saved now.

Clearly, taken in context, the ‘hope of salvation’ referenced by Paul can’t be salvation from hell.

But salvation from the ‘wrath to come’ is indicated by the context and consistent with the doctrine that says,

“I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them from my hand.” (John 10:28)

And the ‘wrath to come’ is the Tribulation period – the time of Jacob’s Trouble.

The argument for a pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church is consistent with Scripture.  Keep in mind that the salient point is not so much ‘when’ as it is “Who” is coming.

Because Jesus is coming.  And soon.

Note:  The original publication of this briefing was October 6, 2005.  For many this is review but it is an important review as Jack outlines the “Why?”  It is incumbent upon us to be able to answer this type of question for those who are “new” in Christ for their personal edification.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)

Today’s Featured Commentary: The Plausible Impossible

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness
Vol: 140 Issue: 14 Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The phrase ‘bearing false witness’ means lying, but it can also mean much more than that.  Judicially, it means to testify falsely against someone else, which in Moses’ day could easily result in someone’s death.

Those who testified against Jesus at His trial bore false witness against Him.   Bearing false witness is a crime against God, it is a crime against the person falsely accused and it is a crime against the person hearing the false witness.

That is the reason that God included bearing false witness among the Ten Commandments.  There are only TEN Commandments listed out of all possible sins, so it is not unreasonable to assume they are the sins God finds most reprehensible.

Bearing false witness is such a major offense that merely being accused of it is damaging.  What does one say in response to being called a liar?

“I am not?”  Really?  What would a liar say?  Well, he would most likely say, “I am not!” BECAUSE he is a liar.  That is why even the charge is damaging.

The serial accusations of lying lodged against George Bush were so damaging that the mere mention of his name in some circles is enough to start an argument.

This, despite the fact I’ve yet to find even a single, provable lie he had personally told during his entire eight years in office.  He didn’t lie about Saddam’s WMD because he had no more way of knowing the truth than did the rest of the world.

Take away THAT lie and the subsequently alleged lies that rest upon that one all fall apart.  Can’t lie if you don’t know.  At worst, you can be mistaken.

What I find interesting, however, is that being accused of lying is only damaging if one is essentially an honest man.  If everybody already knows a guy is a liar, then the charge of ‘liar’ evaporates due to lack of interest.

Call an honest man a liar and it can destroy him.  Call a liar a liar and it somehow makes him stronger.  When he does tell the truth, it somehow seems to lend it more credibility, since everybody knows he usually lies.

I don’t think anybody really doubted Obama was a liar before they voted for him — Obama established his spotty relationship with the truth during the Jeremiah Wright non-scandal.

Obama was a member of Wright’s church for 20 years.  He was married in that church.  His children were baptized in that church.

But when Jeremiah Wright’s fiery, anti-American, anti-white and pro-Nation of Islam sermons went public, Obama pretended to have ‘no idea’ what his pastor of 20 years’ position on these subjects were.

It was either a preposterously transparent lie, or Obama has the discernment of a schoolboy.  Amazingly, the public decided that one lie does not a liar make.

And since then, Obama has been elevated to a standard one might call, “above the truth.”  When it’s Obama, it isn’t so much that he is lying as it is that he see things in a more transcendent manner than the rest of us.

Obama’s entire first year has been a litany of lies.  If you actually sit back and tally them up, its really quite stunning.

Obama even lies when the truth would serve him better.

Assessment:

One would think that Obama’s first year in office would give him pause. It didn’t.   He gave an interview to George Stephanopolis on ABCNews to explain the devastating loss of Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat to an unknown Republican.

“People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years,” Obama told Stephanopolis.

I’m not sure if Obama is bearing false witness or if the strain of his office has made him delusional.  The liberals in Massachusetts were so angry and frustrated about George Bush that they elected a Republican to replace Ted Kennedy?

Obama’s lies are so pervasive one wonders if he is even aware of them — or just how many there are.

“My father was a goat-herder.”  No.  He was a privileged and educated government employee who attended Harvard.

“If it wasn’t for the Selma March, I’d never have been born.”  No.  Obama was born four years before the Selma March.

“My name is African Swahili.” No.  Barack is an Arab name meaning ‘blessed’.  Hussein is hardly Swahili and Obama is also Arabic.

“I never practiced Islam.”  That is also not possible, since he attended Indonesian Islamic schools and was registered as a Muslim.  The records are not in dispute.

“An article in EBONY moved me to run for office.”  The article cited in Obama’s book does not exist.

“I am a law professor.” No.  He was a senior lecturer.

“I was a Constitutional Lawyer.” No.  He was a senior lecturer.

“I have released all my state records.”  No comment necessary.

“I passed 900 bills in the State Senate.”  No.  He passed 26, most of which were written by others.

“I am as patriotic as anyone.”  Compared to whom?  He was the only candidate photographed with his hands at his sides during a Pledge of Allegiance recitation.  There was a Che Guevara flag displayed at his Chicago campaign headquarters.  He voted against making English America’s official language.

“I am against single-payer, universal health care,” he said in a nationally televised 2008 debate.

In 2003, he told a gathering of union members, “I happen to be a proponent of single-payer universal health care covereage.”

Last year, when defending his universal health care plan that he denied was a universal health care plan, he said of those who pointed out that it WAS a universal health care plan:

“There are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness. These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation: that is, that we look out for one another; that is, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.”

That’s pretty spiritual for a guy who campaigned as a ‘Christian’–  but hasn’t darkened the door to a church but once since coming to office.

So when Obama lies, it isn’t a big deal.  Everybody expects him to lie.  What would be a big deal would be to catch him in the truth.

He pushed through the stimulus without anyone reading it on the grounds that if not, unemployment could go as high as 9%.  With it, he promised it might briefly reach 8% before falling back down.

It passed ten percent halfway through his first year.  Include those who are working part-time or those who’ve just given up looking and the true figures are close to 19%.

He has tripled the deficit in his first year, and the Dems in Congress are proposing raising the debt ceiling an ADDITIONAL $1.9 trillion to allow for more deficit spending.

Five years ago, the gross national debt was $8 trillion — if the debt ceiling increase is approved, this year it will be at $14.9 trillion, equally nearly 100% of America’s annual GDP.

Five years ago, the federal spending deficit was $333 billion.  It is projected in 2010 to pass $1.75 trillion dollars.

During his ‘false witness’ speech,  Obama employed the Marxist ‘bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat’ strategy of accusing the rich of exploiting the poor.

“Throughout history, whenever we have sought to change this country for the better, there have always been those who wanted to preserve the status quo,” he said. “These always boil down to a contest between hope and fear.”

In this contest, his hopes of introducing universal health care risks being trumped by fears of universal bankruptcy.

But in the end, it isn’t about Barack Obama.  It is about bearing false witness.  Obama’s supporters would leap on me for calling their hero a liar, but the statements he’s made are easily documented and so are the facts that dispute them.

Was he lying when he was for universal health care in 2003, or when he was against it in 2008?  Since he is still stumping for it now, one of those statements MUST be a lie.

But for most of his supporters, that’s ok.  He’s Barack Obama.

I doubt that anybody really and truly believes that Barack Obama is Constitutionally eligible to be president.

Because to believe that, one has to come up with a logical reason explaining why he is paying a legal team a million dollars a year, out of his own pocket, to hide the circumstances of his birth and education.

I can’t come up with anything that makes sense — and neither has anybody else that I’ve heard try.  The Left says it is to ‘protect his privacy’, but he is the President of the United States — the most public job in the world.

There were no concerns about John McCain’s privacy when his qualifications were questioned by Congressionl Democrats due to his having been born on a US Naval base.

I used to wonder about the “Big Lie” the Apostle Paul spoke of.

“And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, ” Paul writes in 2nd Thessalonians 2:11.

What seemed to strike a sour note to me was that Paul seems to suggest they knowingly believe the lie.  Paul speaks of “them” in a monolithic sense — they ALL embrace the lie.

That always baffled me — who would knowingly embrace a lie?  It was a mystery to me.

But nobody dares to question what is obviously a lie because they fear the truth more.  If Obama is ineligible, the ensuing Constitutional crisis could split the nation, possibily even spark civil war.

If he were ineligible, everything he has done to this point is nullified.  Every bill, every treaty, every law, every executive order, every appointment — all of it would be null and void.

Nobody is even sure who would replace him.  Joe Biden was elected on the same corrupt ticket.  And if Biden is deemed ineligible, the next in line for the White House would be Nancy Pelosi!

Nobody WANTS to hear THAT truth.  So as a nation, we are prepared to entertain a bit of false witness, to overlook the lies and the liars, because the truth would be too dangerous.

And the circumstances of “The Lie” are not quite as mysterious to me as before.  There ARE times when knowingly embracing a lie can seem the safest course of action.

Better the devil you know, or so the saying goes.  Me, I have my doubts.

Note:  Having only been in office for two years at the time when this brief was originally published, Obama’s list of lies is tremendous and the liar’s list continues to grow.  This is proof positive that lies have the destructive capacity to bring down the most powerful nation on earth.

It Ain’t Easy, Being Clean

It Ain’t Easy, Being Clean
Vol: 140 Issue: 13 Monday, May 13, 2013

Among this morning’s emails was one from an OL member asking me to comment on Matthew 12:43-45.  It wasn’t any more specific than that, but the first words that came to mind as I was re-reading the verses became the title of today’s brief.

Because it ain’t easy, being clean.

“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.  Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”

I was amazed at how little commentary has been offered on these verses — not many of those in my library had anything to say — those few that did mostly focused on the meaning of the phrase “walking through the dry places”  or applied it to the unsaved Jews of that time.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible had such difficulty sorting out these verses that it complained,

“The general sentiment which our Saviour here teaches is much more easily understood than the illustration which He uses.”

Barnes’ ultimately decides that the Lord is teaching that it was about the Jews’ request for a sign from heaven that would prove Jesus was the Messiah, therefore:

“though He should give them such a sign–a proof conclusive and satisfactory; and though for a time they should profess to believe, and apparently reform–yet such was the obstinacy of their unbelief and wickedness, that they would soon return to them, and become worse and worse.”

It’s a reasonable interpretation, in the context of Matthew 12:38:

“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from Thee.”

But if that is what the Lord intended, then I’d have to agree with Barnes — He picked a pretty obscure illustration.

There is a principle in philosophy known as “Occam’s Razor” for its originator, Sir William of Occam, expressed as “entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem” or, entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

Summarized, “Occam’s Razor” concludes that that the simplest and most obvious explanation tends to be the best one.   Had Barne’s applied Occam’s Razor to Matthew 12:43-45 he would have been less piqued at the Savior for His ‘obtuse’ reference.

Sometimes we miss what the Lord is saying because we’re too busy trying to figure out what He is trying to tell us.

It’s a sad commentary on the effect political correctness has had on the English language that it is necessary to clarify what I mean by ‘equal’ before going on.  “Equal” means “the same” as in “two plus two equals (is the same as) four.”

In my intended meaning in this context, equal means ‘the same’ in the sense that things that are different are not the same.

That said, we all come to the Lord equally soiled and we are all washed equally clean by the Blood of Redemption.  That is the one and only time in our existence in which all men and women are truly equal.

We were equally lost and we were equally saved.  We all tremble equally under the shadow of the Cross.

But as individual saved Christians, we become as unique from one another as our fingerprints.  Before we were saved, we were equal in that we had no relationship with God.

As Christians, we aren’t part of a religion, but instead, we enter into a unique personal relationship with Christ.

Think about what that means.  You have a personal relationship with lots of different people — and no two relationships are the same — every one is different.  Even among members of the same family, there are relationships that can bear a strain, and those that are as fragile as glass.

My relationship with my grandfather was warm, but formal and proper.   My brother, on the other hand,  could joke and kid around with him in ways that, had it been me, would have made both of us uncomfortable.  Same grandfather, two different relationships.

At the point of salvation, the Bible says that we don’t simply change our relationship with God, but rather, that we are  actually transformed into new creatures.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”  (Galatians 6:15)

So, once we were all equally lost.  We came to Christ equally desperate for salvation.  We came away equally clean, in that all our sins were washed away.  Then we became brand-new creatures, no longer the same, in that each of us entered into a unique personal relationship with Christ.

Because we are unique individuals within an unique individual relationship, some Christians mature much faster than others.  Some Christians can’t get enough of the Word of God — others think an hour a week at church is plenty.  Others don’t go to church at all.

One can substitute one’s own judgement as to whether or not somebody is saved based on that kind of criteria — and lots of Christians do.

Personally however, I think that substituting my judgment for God’s is not only foolish, it is dangerous.  I know that my own relationship with Jesus is different than it is with others because I’ve heard other Christians pray.  They don’t all pray the way that I do.

I’ve seen the way other Christians live.  They don’t all live the way that I do.  I’ve seen the way other Christians worship.  They don’t all worship the way that I do.

On the other hand, I’ve also spent a lifetime in this world surrounded by lost and dying sinners.  The only thing different between them and me is that I know I’m forgiven.

I notice that we still all sin the same way.

Assessment:

I don’t have much trouble grasping what the Lord was telling His disciples.  It wasn’t delivered in a vacuum.  The Lord was speaking to flesh-and-blood men about flesh-and blood-issues.  I am flesh-and-blood.  What are my issues?

The Lord is real and I am real.  Our relationship is real.  It’s me that He is talking to.  I find that is the best place to begin when trying to understand Scripture.  Not where it applies to others.  Where it applies to me.

When I first got saved, I was instantly delivered — I suspect my story is not that unique.  I was instantly delivered from my most besetting sins — for a time.

When I first got saved I was a young policeman in Texas.  I was on fire for the Lord.  I quit smoking. I quit drinking.  I quit swearing.  I was ready to stand before the Bema Seat and hear the words,  “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

One day a cigarette rolled out from under the car seat of my police patrol car as I braked at a stop light.  That was when I discovered how good I was and what a faithful servant I was.

Before my shift was out,  I had lighted that cigarette.  Before the night was out, I was in a drunken contest with my friends down at the local cop bar to see who could tell the dirtiest joke.

I don’t know how it happened — it just did.  One day I was Joe Christian and the next I was Joe Carnal.

The honeymoon was over.  Those demons to whom I had ceded sovereignty over my lusts and addictions had been evicted — until I invited them back in.

I hadn’t had a cigarette in months — it would be many years before I could make that statement again.  I suddenly found it almost impossible to form a sentence without swearing.

It went from bad to worse to worst.  I would attempt to force myself into a mini-revival — it was almost like a drug addict trying in vain to recapture that first ‘high’ — but that which had been handed to me as a gift became a daily struggle.

“But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”  (2nd Peter 2:22)

Of course, that was thirty years ago.  I’ve spent the last twenty years deeply immersed in Bible study, and have been in full-time Christian service almost that long.  The Lord has blessed me well beyond what I deserve — He has allowed me to study with some of the greatest Bible teachers of this generation.

And since I have been blessed so richly and so undeservedly, out of sheer gratitude, I have conquered all my demons and no longer struggle with sin.

(And YOU can, too!  Just send a stamped, self-addressed envelope and five dollars to . . . .)

Wouldn’t it be nice?  Would that it were true!  But it ain’t.  I still suspect my struggle is more difficult than it is for most Christians.  (I bet some of you think yours is tougher than mine.)

I know that I can think of a dozen Christians off the top of my head that I think are more spiritually-minded and have better self-control than I do.

But here’s the thing.  I’d also bet they each have lists of their own — and I’ll even bet that some of those lists include me among their ideal Christian examples.  Their lists are wrong.  So is my list.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, as the old saying goes.  But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

Everybody has their own struggles and no two struggles are the same.  What is simple for one person is a struggle for another.   I know a fat guy who has no struggle not being gay.  I know a congenitally skinny guy who has no struggle with the sin of gluttony, but he drinks like a fish.

The Apostle Paul also had his struggles with sin.

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”  (1st Timothy 1:15)

Paul even took his struggles directly to the Lord Jesus Christ, as I am sure that you have, and I have.  Paul was blessed above what he deserved with spiritual insights and revelations from God.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.”

Pay close attention to Paul’s reasoning.  He believed that the thorn in his flesh, (which he described as the messenger of Satan), was there to keep him humble.  Paul evidently felt he was humble enough — so much so that he took it to Christ on three separate occasions.

Note the Lord’s reply to Paul’s prayer.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficent for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Returning to our original topic, the intended lesson of these three verses is to remain vigilant and guard the entrance to the heart.  The man whose heart has been cleansed is not invulnerable.

And there is a penalty for returning, like the dog, to his own vomit.  The Lord says that the state of that man is worst than the first.  That doesn’t mean that person is lost — he is still the same new creature he was on the day he was saved and transformed.

But it was a lot easier when first he was delivered from that unclean spirit.  Anybody who was delivered from smoking but then relapsed and tried to quit again knows exactly how much harder it is the next time.

But it doesn’t mean that you’re on your own.  The Lord isn’t finished with you yet — but it can sometimes feel like it.  We’re up against a lot more than just our own lusts and desires.  Sometimes, just being delivered is too easy.

It ain’t easy being clean.  But it isn’t supposed to be.  If it wasn’t a struggle, then the victory wouldn’t be so sweet.

Originally Published: November 12, 2009  

Today’s Featured Commentary: Ubiquity

No Red Union Suits, Either

No Red Union Suits, Either
Vol: 140 Issue: 11 Saturday, May 11, 2013

Heaven is a difficult concept to picture in our minds.  It is simply beyond our experiential capacity for us to step out of space and time and imagine eternity.  It is even more difficult to imagine eternity in a place where there is no sin, no conflict, no sickness, no death, not to mention a place of eternal joy that never grows old.

Eternity is a long time, but ‘eternity’ is ‘a long time’ the way a billion dollars is ‘a lot of money’.  It takes a carefully constructed word picture to bring it into focus.

I heard ‘eternity’ described this way, once, and it helped.  Suppose a seagull were to take a grain of sand from the East Coast and drop it off on the West Coast.  Every ten thousand years, our seagull would transport another grain of sand from the East Coast to the West Coast.

When every grain of sand on every beach on the entire East Coast has been transferred to the West Coast (one grain at a time, every thousand years), that would constitute the first ten seconds of eternity!

Mankind is created in God’s Image, according to Genesis 1:26, and after God’s likeness.  But it doesn’t necessarily follow that we look like God, or that God looks like us.

Jesus revealed,

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

God’s ‘image’ and His ‘likeness’ refer to His eternal nature, not His cosmetic appearance.

Monkeys look as much like men as any of the other lower order of animals.  They look enough like men to argue that, if man is in God’s image, then so are some species of monkeys.

Connecting the dots, then, Jesus tells us that God is a Spirit, and Genesis tells us that we were created in God’s Image and in His Likeness.

Scripture teaches that man was created with an eternal spiritual component.

A Spirit, in His Image, that is eternal in nature, in His Likeness.

That which is eternal is that which, by definition, cannot die, and cannot be killed.  But it can be destroyed.

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Note the subtle shift in Our Lord’s Words when He moves from the temporal to the eternal.  The body can die, the soul cannot be killed, but both can be ‘destroyed’ in hell.

There are those who teach that this means that hell isn’t a place of eternal torment, but rather a place where the condemned soul is annihilated.

The Bible speaks as much of hell as it does of Heaven; indeed, in His ministry, the Lord spoke MORE of hell than he did of heaven.  Scripture divides ‘hell’ — as we understand it — into two phases.

There is hell, and then, later on, the Lake of Fire.

“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14)

It is the ‘Lake of Fire’ that some teach is the place of annihilation.  The Scriptures teach otherwise.

We are created with an eternal element, as we’ve already established.  That which is eternal cannot be killed, but it can be ‘destroyed’.  But ‘destruction’ means eternal separation from God, not annihilation.

Jesus explained in the story of Lazarus and the rich man;

“There WAS a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores. . . .”

Both of them died, the Lord explains, and each went to his place, Lazarus to Paradise, and the rich man to hell.

“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:19-20-23)

At the time of the story, Jesus had not yet redeemed humanity, and the righteous dead went to Paradise, which, the Lord taught, was separated from hell by a great gulf or chasm;

“And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” (Luke 16:26)

At His Death, Jesus ‘descended into hell’ [which also included at that time, Paradise] in order to liberate the righteous dead and take them to heaven;

“Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)” (Ephesians 4:8-10)

Once the righteous dead were taken to heaven, hell was expanded to make room. Those in hell will be ‘cast into the Lake of Fire’ at the second death, the Scriptures say.

There are those who will point out that the word ‘hell’ (sheol) has two meanings; it means both ‘the grave’ and the place where departed spirits go.  So they argue that hell is not really a literal Bible teaching.

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” (2nd Thessalonians 1:8-9)

Note the phrase ‘everlasting destruction’ and reconcile that, if you can, with the idea of ‘annihilation’.  It takes some real imaginative interpretation to get there from here.

‘Everlasting destruction’ isn’t the same as ‘annihilation’ — which is instantaneous and permanent.  And things that are different are NOT the same.

Hell is a place of punishment that the Lord described THREE times, using exactly the same words;

“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44,46,48)

When the Lord chooses to repeat Himself, it is because He wants to make sure we get it right.

Jesus said the rich man was ‘in torments’, desiring that Lazarus,

“dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:24)

So, from our Lord’s Lips to our ears, we know it is a place of torment, involving ‘flames’ where ‘their worm dieth not’.  Jude 13 reveals it is a place of eternal darkness.

While those in heaven will meet and recognize their loved ones, those in hell will spend eternity like the unidentified rich man, nameless, alone and in utter darkness.

The story of the rich man reveals hell to be a place of consciousness, a place of eternal remorse, a place without hope, a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a place of eternal flame.

Jesus says of the hellbound sinner that it would be;

“better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

Jesus said of Judas that;

“woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24)

Hell is worse than violent death and worse than having ever been born at all.  Jesus’ words make no sense if Judas were facing ‘annihilation’ in hell.  How could NOT existing (annihilation) be worse than never existing?

On the other hand, eternal torment would be MUCH worse than never having existed at all.  The difference is obvious without having to conduct any special Scriptural gymnastics to prove it.

And if the plain sense of Scripture makes perfect sense on its face, why seek a different sense?

Hell is given over to the Lake of Fire at the second death at the conclusion of the thousand year Millennial Kingdom Age.  The beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the Lake of Fire, where, Revelation 20:10 says that “they shall be “tormented day and night for ever and ever’ — not annihilated.

Eternal life and eternal death are two sides of the same coin in that they are BOTH eternal, since we are created in God’s Image, which is eternal Spirit.

It is often argued that, ‘a loving God wouldn’t send people to hell’ — and that argument sounds logical because it is true.  A loving God wouldn’t send people to hell — and He doesn’t.

A loving God would provide an escape from eternal condemnation, which is different than expecting Him to change the nature of the punishment.

Hell was created as a prison and place of punishment for the rebellious angels.  When man joined in the rebellion, he condemned himself to share their prison.

But,

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Heaven doesn’t require cream cheese to make it heaven, and there are no red union suits in hell.  Both are real and both are eternal because we are eternal and, as eternal beings, we have to continue our existence somewhere.

God prepared a place for those who love Him and who want to spend eternity with Him.  And He created a place for those who reject Him and rebel against His rule.

And He gave us a free choice to decide which we would prefer.

We are the watchmen on the wall.  For those of us that know the truth, that is an awesome thing to contemplate.  It rekindles a sense of urgency for the lost.

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” (Ezekiel 33:6)

The Omega Letter’s mission is to prepare the saved for the work of the ministry by comparing the Scriptures to the signs of the times and providing evidence of the lateness of the hour and the soon coming of the Lord.

Our secondary mission is to examine the deeper truths of Scripture so that we are better prepared to answer the skeptic’s questions and make clear the choices that are set before him.

It is incumbent upon us to be prepared,

“and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)

May God continue to sustain and provide for us as we continue in our mission.

Until He comes.

Unchurched America

Unchurched America
Vol: 140 Issue: 10 Friday, May 10, 2013

According to USAToday, a new survey of U.S. adults who don’t go to church, even on holidays, showed that 72% of the unchurched in America agree that, ”God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists”.

But the same percentage also agree with the statement, “The Church is full of hypocrites.” LifeWay Research, the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, based in Nashville, conducted the survey of 1,402 “unchurched” adults last spring and summer.

For the purposes of the survey, ‘unchurched’ is defined as people who have not attended services at a church, synagogue or mosque at any time in the past six months.

The survey also discovered that one in five Americans say that they never go to church — the highest percentage ever recorded by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. (In 2004, the percentage was 17%)

The survey, it should be noted, does not differentiate between Christians and Deists, that is to say, the criteria was simply a belief in a monotheistic Supreme Being.

For example, among the participants, only 52% agreed with the statement that “Jesus died and came back to life.”

And 61% say the God of the Bible is “no different from the gods or spiritual beings depicted by world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc..

Given that Buddhism doesn’t have a god of any description and that Hinduism has literally millions of ’em, it is safe to assume that only a tiny minority of the ‘unchurched’ in this survey are actually born-again Christians.

The USAToday article also included its own reader’s poll:

“There exists only one God, the God described in the Bible.”
Strongly agree: 51%. Strongly disagree: 37%.

“I think Christianity today is more about organized religion than loving God and people.” Strongly agree: 55% Strongly disagree: 18%

And finally,

“Christians get on my nerves.”
Strongly agree: 39% Strongly disagree: 25%

Indeed, according to LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer;

“Non-churchgoers lean to a generic god that fits into every imaginable religious system, even when (systems) contradict one another.”

“If you went back 100 years in North America, there would have been a consensus that God is the God in the Bible. We can’t assume this any longer.”

What this means, according to Stetzer, is,

“We no longer have a home-field advantage as Christians in this culture.”

What it underscores is the apostatic state of mainstream Christian religion in America.

Assessment:

This is a lot to take in — especially since the OL is specifically designed to meet the needs of unchurched Christians.

For that reason, I suspect that these survey results don’t come as a complete surprise to at least some of our fellowship — but it is somewhat disturbing to see it laid out in print.

There are probably as many reasons for the ‘unchurched’ as there are unchurched Christians.

More than a few of us might find some level of agreement with the statement that “Christians get on my nerves,” although most of us probably never put it in those terms, not even to ourselves.

Not ALL Christians, of course. Just the ones who get on our nerves.

(If you are among those who strongly disagree with that statement, you probably don’t watch a lot of Christian TV.)

I also suspect that some unchurched Christians don’t go to church because it makes them feel worse than staying home does.

You spend your whole week working on your relationship with the Lord, only to go to church on Sunday and find out [again] that you’re not doing it right.

You learn all about what not to do, but precious little about what you should be doing.

Or you discover that salvation is a free gift of grace through faith, but now that you are saved, you are suddenly expected to start earning it.

For a free gift, it seems to have a lot of strings attached.

You have to dress a certain way, you have to act a certain way, you have to behave a certain way, and if you don’t pass muster, well-meaning Christians suggest that maybe you aren’t really saved after all.

Then there is the issue of guilt. Although God has delivered everybody else at church from their bad habits, yours still stubbornly stick with you. What’s your problem?

Instead of spending an hour in uplifting fellowship with other Christians, you’re focused on making sure that nobody sees the nicotine stains on your fingers.

(And prepared, in case somebody asks, to make excuses.)

All the rest of the time, you are confident in your relationship with the Lord. Except on Sunday.

The purpose of the Biblical church model is to encourage believers in their walk of faith and empower them to carry the message to the lost.

The fact that there are so many unchurched is evidence that element is missing from most mainstream church organizations — not that fewer people believe in God.

Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, noted that 78% of the unchurched in the survey would “be willing to listen” to someone tell “what he or she believed about Christianity.”

And 89% say they have at least one close friend who is a Christian.

“What surprised me is the openness of the hard-core unchurched to the message of God and Christianity — just not as expressed in church,” director Ed Stetzer says.

“It’s a personal thing, not an institutional thing. It’s a matter of starting conversations.”

(Like being prepared with the answer to the question, “What’s this world coming to?”)

I believe that the decline of the American church as an institution doesn’t necessarily translate into the demise of American Christianity.

It is instead a mile-marker along the way to its ultimate fulfillment — with the return of its Founder on the last day.

The Apostle Paul writes,

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:3)

There is a progression here. First comes the falling away, and then, the revelation of the man of sin. The ‘falling away’ here comes from the Greek apostasia from which we get our word ‘apostasy.’

Apostasy means a “desertion of or a departure from one’s faith.” The ‘unchurched’, according to this survey, haven’t fallen away from their faith — its more the other way around.

As McConnell noted, 78% of the unchurched are hungry for the Word, but they don’t believe that is what they get from attending church. So they don’t go.

The majority believes in God, but they don’t know Christ. (But the survey says that they’d like to.)

That brings things full circle from the 1st century church, (consisting of those ‘called out’ from the organized religion of the day and into faith in Christ alone,) to the last generation church — also ‘called out’ from the organized religion of the day and into faith in Christ alone.

The torch has been passed from organized religion back into the hands of the church of called out ones. There has never been an opportunity for one-on-one Christian evangelism like there is today.

The fields are truly white with the harvest, as the Lord said they would be. I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating.

Every person you meet has an eternal destiny. Either they will spend eternity in the presence of Christ, in eternal peace and joy, or they will spend an eternity apart from Christ, alone and nameless, sharing the in the Lake of Fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Where they spend eternity may depend on you.

The Omega Letter exists for the purpose of ministering to the called-out ones of the last days, to equip them and prepare them for their individual battles against the prince and power of the air.

I earnestly solicit your prayers that we will be successful in our mission in the coming year. And together, may we bring many souls to Christ, in the time remaining before He comes.

Maranatha!

Note: We echo Jack’s petition for prayer for the successful mission of the Omega Letter.  Last night many OL members met for Communion in the chat room.  It was a blessed time to share with like minded believers from various parts of the world.  It was a nice surprise to find this brief this morning, confirming that we are indeed one in the Spirit.

Today’s Featured Commentary: On Scorpions & the Middle East

”Christians” Without Christ

”Christians” Without Christ
Vol: 140 Issue: 9 Thursday, May 9, 2013

”And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.” (Revelation 13:11)

This verse serves as the introduction to the false religion that will sweep the world under antichrist during the tribulation.  Note than John describes the False Prophet as having two horns like a lamb, but that he ‘spake as a dragon’.

The symbolism here is sublimely obvious.  This is, after all, the Bible.  We are introduced to the ‘dragon’ during the Tribulation in Revelation 12:3, where;

“there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.”

The dragon is clearly identified in Revelation 12:9:

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

So, the dragon is Satan and it is his doctrine that will form the foundation of the religion of antichrist.  However, it will appear to be a form of Christianity, symbolized by ‘the lamb’.

The identity of the Lamb within the context of the Book of the Revelation is equally unquestionable:

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)

It is tempting to insert Islam as the false religion of the last days that will sweep the world during the Tribulation Period.  Islam already claims a third of the world’s population, practices forced conversions, routinely uses beheading as a form of execution, and pretty much fits the character of the theocracy in John’s description.

But it is an impossible stretch to envision Islam in the context of a counterfeit Christianity.  Islam’s hatred of Christianity stretches back to the time of the Crusaders, and its hatred of Israel traces back to the sons of Abraham.  No Islamic would identify themselves religiously with either Christianity or Judaism.

But the antichrist is accepted, at least for a time, as Israel’s messiah.  (2nd Thessalonians 2:4, John 5:43, Matthew 24:15) That completely disqualifies Islam from either direction.

And John is too definite about his depiction of a form of Christianity without Christ for us to wish away as inconvenient to a theory.

Assessment:

When asked of the signs of His impending return by His disciples, the very first sign Jesus cited was that of religious deception.

“For many shall come in My Name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Matthew 24:5)

“And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.” (Luke 21:8)

In the last century, there has been an explosion of religious cults that claim to be Christian, while simultaneously denying Christ.

Most call themselves ‘Christians’ use the Bible as their Sacred Scripture, and may even have the name of Christ in the title of their church… but they say that “Jesus is not God”, or that Jesus Christ is god as much as you and I are god, like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

A research paper entitled, ‘Churches and Church Membership in the United States, 1990’ ranked the Jehovah’s Witnesses 9th among the top 10 religious bodies with the most churches in the US.

The Mormons ranked 8 among the top ten, whereas the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Church of England, ranks 10th.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the official name for the ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ was founded by Charles Taze Russell in 1852, with the first formal organization being founded in Pittsburgh in 1872.  They now number three million worldwide and growing, based on the following doctrine:

Jehovah’s Witnesses see the doctrine of the Trinity as a demonic doctrine. Their theology strips Jesus of His Deity, claiming He is not God, but ‘a god’ a created being on a par with Lucifer. They deny the physical resurrection of Christ, and deny the doctrine of an eternal hell.

In the past, they have officially announced the date of the Second Coming of Christ and Armageddon on six different occasions: 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, and 1975.  Yet their membership is among the most active, and their ranks continue to swell.

The Mormons are officially called, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”  Numbering over ten million, they are one of the fastest growing religious cults in the world.  Among their doctrinal teachings is that God was once a man who became God.

The Mormon god has a physical body, as does his wife, the heavenly mother.  Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate gods.

Worthy men may one day become gods themselves.  Jesus was married and had children with the two sisters of Lazarus, Maria and Martha… and Jesus became God.  And so can a Mormon.

“As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man can become”, is one of the most famous aphorisms of the Mormons.  This elevation to godhood is only open to faithful male Mormons, but this concept of “every man is god”, has been taken up by the New Age Movement, (but using different methods to become god.)

Man as god is also the central tenet of secular humanism, another ‘religious’ cult that has taken root and thrived in the very heart of our global institutions, as well as most national governments.

Then there are the others; Christian Science Church, founded in 1875 by Mary Baker Eddy.  The cult is neither Christian, scientific, nor a church, but wields huge influence through its prestigious daily newspaper, “The Christian Science Monitor.”

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.  It’s doctrine is utterly bizarre; Mankind is descended from a race of interplanetary omnipotent gods called “thetans”.

Gradually they evolved by reincarnation to become humans who could not remember their deified state, but every human is a god!  The problem is the “engrams”, the traumatic experiences in past lives, which impede spiritual progress, and they are the reason of all diseases.

The only remedy is ‘auditing’ which is very expensive.  Auditing runs about $300 per hour, and courses, high level courses, of up to $10,000 or $50,000.

In Scientology, Jesus is not the creator.  He was in control of supernatural powers, “cleared” from mental defects, but he was not an “operating thetan”.  Initially, Hubbard taught that Jesus did not exist.  When Hubbard later acknowledged his existence, he claimed Jesus was gay.  The Holy Spirit is not mentioned. Salvation comes after many “auditings.”

The Worldwide Church of God was founded in 1934 by Herbert W Armstrong.  At his death, his son, Garner Ted Armstrong took over the leadership of the Church.  It teaches that the 10 lost tribes of Israel are the British and that the American descendants of the British are the “Chosen People of God”.  England is “Ephraim”, and the USA is “Manasseh.”

The WWCG teaches that all other churches teach in error.  They deny the existence of the Trinity, and include keeping the Jewish feasts, the Sabbath, and keeping kosher.  Armstrong once taught that Queen Elizabeth now sits on the Throne to which Christ will lay claim at His return.

Each of these former cults are now part of mainstream American Christianity, with huge influence that is translating into rapid growth.

Scientology’s apologists include people like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Isaac Hayes, Patrick Swayze and even Greta Van Susteren of Fox News.

Christian Science has the ‘Monitor’; the Jehovah’s Witnesses sell 100,000 tracts every day door to door; and the Mormons have their own state, Utah, complete with senators and congressmen.

Armstrongism has its “Plain Truth” Magazine, “The World Tomorrow” television program and Garner Ted Armstrong’s “Philadelphia Trumpet” and “Key of David” television program.

Then there are the ‘Moonies’, founded in 1954 by Sun Yung Moon.  The ‘Moonies’ are nothing short of nuts.  They deny Christ’s Deity, claiming Jesus was the illegitimate offspring of Zechariah and Mary.

Moon claims to be the third Adam, the second Christ, and God himself incarnated.  AND . . . Moon owns “The Washington Times” and “Newsworld Magazine.”

The point is this.  Each of these cults, claims to be Christian, while simultaneously denying His Deity.  Each is in a position of tremendous influence.

While some of the media organs are currently benign, (Moon has a ‘no-influence’ contract with Washington Times Editor in Chief Wesley Pruden, who insisted on it before accepting the job), it wouldn’t take much for them to be retooled as propaganda tools to advance the concept of Christians Without Christ as a workable religious system.

The proof is in the preponderance of them that exist already.

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. . . And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1st John 2:22, 4:3)

Note: This brief was originally published October 14, 2005.  Since then, there has been a noticeable acceptance of cults being recognized as “Christian”.  The search phrase used this morning to find this brief was, “be not deceived”.  We will do well to remember that in the upcoming days.

Today’s Featured Commentary: Behold, A Pale Horse