Yardstick Salvation

Yardstick Salvation
Vol: 156 Issue: 22 Monday, September 22, 2014

One of the most profound evidences that these are the last days before the return of Christ for His Church is borne out by the shifting battlefield tactics being used by the enemy.

As we get closer to the end of the age, there is a spiritual battle ongoing for the hearts and minds of men being waged with an intensity unlike any in history.

The airwaves are saturated with psuedo-Christian subliminal messages that reinforce all kinds of false, but reasonable sounding counterfeit alternatives to salvation.

If you watch family-values oriented entertainment, you will learn that when people die, they become angels and come back and help other people.

You can also tune into TV ‘evangelists’ to learn how to buy your way into heaven (by sending payments directly to them).

Our social structure teaches that all religions are equally valid and that there are as many ways to God as there are religious systems.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, former President Bush took that position, claiming that the god of Islam is the same God worshipped by Christians and Jews. It has since become a secular article of faith rigidly defended by the Politically Correct.

Science, as a discipline, has pretty much dedicated itself to disproving God exists in the first place — even if it has to violate its own canon of ethics in order to do so. Allow me to sidetrack for a moment and explain.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that energy spontaneously tends to flow only from being concentrated in one place to becoming diffused or dispersed and spread out.

In other words, all things break down eventually. A hot frying pan cools when removed from heat because the energy in that hot pan flows out into the cooler room air.

The opposite never happens.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics explains why paper, trees, coal, gas and all things like them burn, why sand and dry ice even in pure oxygen can’t ever burn, why the sun will eventually cool down, why iron rusts, why there are hurricanes or any weather at all on earth, what makes things break, why houses get torn apart in tornadoes or explosions, and why everything living tends to die.

Science demands empirical evidence; that is to say, before something can be a scientific fact, it must first be able to be demonstrated in a lab experiment.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics can be demonstrated by closing up your house for five years and letting it ‘go to seed’. When you come home again, you will have your proof that things, left to themselves, deteriorate.

The theory of evolution requires reversing the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Somehow, your abandoned house will eventually clean and fix itself up. I’d like to see that demonstrated in a lab.

The only thing about evolution that is demonstrable is that somehow, a ‘theory’ evolved into a ‘fact’ — all by itself.

Yet all these concepts are continually hammered into people — from turning into angels to denying God even exists. And if we have learned anything about how the human brain works at all, we know that the best way to teach something is by constant repetition.

Consequently, there are probably as many opinions being offered about how to get to heaven as there are people who have them. At one time or another, all of us have run into somebody who is planning to trust that his good works will counter-balance his bad ones.

Or people who think that simply believing there is a God will go to heaven. Others think going to church is their ticket. Some think that anybody who has led a ‘good life’ will be granted admission.

Others believe that keeping the Ten Commandments will get them into heaven. As long as you never break one of them in your entire life, it’s a good plan.

(Interestingly, about the only religious system that secularists are certain won’t get you to heaven is Biblical Christianity. There is NO defense for Biblical Christianity — it is too intolerant to be tolerated by the tolerant.)

For the rest of us, it’s even less logical than planning for retirement by buying a lottery ticket.

At least, with a lottery ticket you have one chance in a several million of winning.

Assessment:

It is the mission of every Christian to 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,” according to 1 Peter 3:15.

That is why your Omega Letter exists — to supply you with the ammunition and a tactical plan of battle — before you step out onto the battlefield.

The battle is of eternal importance. Every person we meet over the course of a day has an eternal destiny. They will spend eternity in unspeakable joy in the Presence of Christ, or they will spend a Christless eternity in unspeakable torment.

Those who think that living a ‘good life’ — or that the scales will balance out somehow in their favor before the Throne — start out with a misunderstanding of their relationship with God.

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. ” (Romans 3:20)

Being ‘good enough’ is a belief structure that measures one person against OTHER people. THAT is the fatal flaw that proves salvation must be a function of grace and not works or behavior.

‘Good enough’, compared to whom? Mother Teresa? Your cousin Phil? The Pope? Bashar al Assad?

Whose yardstick do we use to measure “good enough”?

Mine? Your pastor’s? The Pope’s? My wife’s? You see the problem. Everybody’s yardstick is a different length. No matter how we measure good enough, it really isn’t good enough — because we’re not in charge of that. We only think we are.

The only fair standard against which God could measure ‘good enough’ would be His own. Since God is sinless, He can not stand sin, or people with sin. To be good enough for God means to be sinless — an obvious impossibility.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Think of it this way. If three of us throw darts at a dart board and one gets two inches away from the bullseye, another four inches away, and another misses the board completely, which one of us actually hit the bullseye?

The reason for the ‘hope that is in you’ is the knowledge of the fact that missing the bullseye means exactly that. NOBODY hit it — except Jesus.

But in a dart game, it only takes one guy on the team to hit it for that team to win. The Bible says that team membership is sufficient — if you are on the team that hit the bullseye.

It is incumbent upon each of us, who have been granted the unspeakable gift of salvation, to teach other people how to join the team.

Repent (change your mind) about your sin nature and your ability to clean up on your own. Trust Jesus.

“To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:26-28)

“Seeing then that we have a great high Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” (Hebrews 4:14)

Until He comes. Maranatha!

Featured Commentary: The Anti-Rapture ~ Pete Garcia

The Other Side of the ‘Great Debate’

The Other Side of the ‘Great Debate’
Vol: 156 Issue: 20 Saturday, September 20, 2014

If one sits down with a Christian Reconstructionist to discuss the major doctrines of the Church, including salvation, sin and the Deity of Christ, one discovers that the proponents of that doctrine are as sincere as you and I, and love the Lord as much as we do.

They are as well-versed in Scripture as you and I and are as confident of their understanding as we are. Moreover, and maybe most importantly, they are as sincere and unshakable in their beliefs as you and I.

Did you ever wonder whether or not the Rapture detractors might be right when they make their arguments against what they deride as the ‘Great Escape’?

I mean, when you sit down and try to explain to someone what the Rapture is all about, doesn’t it occasionally make you wince? Don’t you ever wonder whether or not the Rapture really WAS an invention of J.N. Darby in the early 1800’s as the preterists often argue?

And don’t you sometimes wonder, if the Rapture is such a key component of Bible doctrine, why there are so many mainstream Christian denominations that neither teach nor believe in it?

Dispensationalists make up but a tiny minority of the professing Church, while almost all mainstream Protestant and Catholic Churches ignore Bible prophecy as irrelevant.

Indeed, the world’s largest Christian denomination, the Roman Catholic Church, denies any possibility of a Rapture at any time. Catholicism teaches that, even saved people still have unforgiven sins at the time of their deaths.

Purgatory, according to the Catholic encyclopedia, is a “place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions. “

Depending on one’s sins, one could spend hundreds, or even thousands of years, in Purgatory, unless some living person prays you out of there by obtaining from the Church something called a ‘Plenary Indulgence’.

A Catholic Rapture therefore stands in direct contradiction to the Vatican doctrine of Purgatory.

Christian Reconstructionism, which represents the majority of mainstrean theological thought, teaches that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled with the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70.

It teaches that Jesus will not return again until the Second Coming and His Second Coming will not occur until Christianity becomes the world’s dominant religion and the world itself is prepared by the Church to accept Him when He comes.

So, we return to the central question. Since they represent the majority of the professing Church, and are as studied, as certain and as sincere as you and I are, is it possible that maybe they are right, as well?

After all, each of us claims to serve the same Jesus and each of us uses the same Bible to gain our understanding of both Jesus and our faith. But we reach entirely different conclusions from our studies.

And things that are different are not the same.

When applied to a sinner seeking forgiveness for his sins and trusting in Jesus for salvation, sincerity is an essential element.

One cannot fool God. But sincerity is no substitute for scholarship, and one can be sincere and be sincerely wrong.

The doctrine of the Rapture, when expressed out loud and described to an unbeliever, sounds almost like a science-fiction story or a religious fable. Especially when one is articulating it to a skeptic.

Until one compares it to the more mainstream interpretations. They share a common denominator that, to a discerning Christian, leaves no doubt as to which view is in error.

Note that Catholics must finish paying for their sins in Purgatory before they can enter heaven. And whether or not they enter at all depends on their state of grace at the time of their death.

Whether or not they make it to Purgatory depends on their own works, and when they get out is conditional on their making their own payment for sin.

Note that Reconstructionism demands that man purify himself by his actions and conduct, thereby influencing the world for good until eventually, all men turn to Christ, at which time, the Lord will return.

In other words, Jesus can’t come back to the world until we human beings make it a fit place for Him to set Foot on. It is therefore not up to Him, but up to us.

Both views subtly deny His Deity, while elevating man to the place where he plays a role in his own salvation.

In this view, the forgiveness of Christ is not all-sufficient and His power is limited and conditional upon human behavior.

Jesus cannot keep you after salvation unless you are somehow able to keep from sinning from there on in. If you sin hard enough, you will sin yourself out of His Hands, in spite of His promise;

“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s Hand.” (John 10:28-29)

Man cannot help but want to play a role in his own salvation. It is a matter of pride. The very first time it rears its head in human history is in the Garden of Eden.

Compare the First Lie with the doctrine of conditional salvation:

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Starting back to front, is it possible for a fallible human being to know good from evil? We can know right from wrong, but good and evil are not actions, they are outcomes, and only God knows outcomes.

One can give a bum on the street some money for food. That is a good thing.

The bum spends the money on crack cocaine, and then kills an innocent person while under the influence. That’s an evil thing.

Both events sprang from your gift of money. Was giving the bum the money a good thing, or an evil thing? Right and wrong are obvious. Good and evil are the provinces of God.

But according to Reconstructionism, the world is too evil a place for the Lord to return to, and it is the role to the Church to make it ‘good’.

The next lie, in reverse order, is that ‘we shall be as gods’. James writes that

“There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy . . .” (James 4:12)

Salvation is the sole province of God.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

Note there are two elements to this verse, ‘grace’ and ‘faith’. One of them is a ‘gift of God’. Which? Is it ‘grace’? Only if one redefines an action to become a thing. ‘Grace’ means ‘a gift’.

One cannot give grace AS a gift. It is not a thing, it is the extension OF a thing. Which brings us to the second element, the element of ‘faith’.

FAITH is the gift of God, not grace, which is the extension of the gift itself. That means that even that saving faith is not of ourselves, but is God’s gift to us.

Our role as an active participant in our salvation is therefore excluded. We are not ‘as gods’ — no matter how sincerely we want to believe otherwise.

The third lie, in reverse order, is that by straying away from the Word of God, ‘our eyes will be opened’ to truths that would have otherwise escaped us.

Note that when the serpent asked Eve to repeat God’s prohibition, she replied,

“of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Genesis 3:3)

God never told her not to ‘touch it’ — she added that part, which provided the serpent with all the leeway he needed to cast doubt on her understanding of the rest.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired TO MAKE ONE WISE, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat . . ” (Genesis 3:6)

Returning to the original question, is it possible that our understanding of eternal security is wrong and that the mainstream was right all along?

That there is no Rapture, that Bible prophecy was all fulfilled already, and that we are simply seeking some mythical “Great Escape?”

After all, they argue, why should one generation, out of all those who came before, be chosen as the generation that will never die? It is a compelling argument. Viewed that way, it doesn’t really seem fair. Who do we think we are?

The Rapture is as unearned and undeserved as our salvation, which we obtained through God’s extension of grace whereby He gifted us with saving faith. That saving faith is in the unearned remission of our sins which was obtained on our behalf on Calvary’s Cross.

We’ve explored the Scriptures that clearly promise a coming Rapture, and examined all the various views at one point or another. A pretribulation Rapture of the Church is in harmony with the Scriptures for the last days. Fairness, insofar as mankind views fairness, is irrelevant.

‘Fairness’ as we understand fairness, would be when each of us pays our own way. But all of us are saved on the understanding that Jesus was condemned ‘unfairly’ for sin and His payment was therefore acceptable payment for our own sins.

Faith in Christ means faith in Christ, not in men, or in our own actions, or in what we believe sounds fair.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Flahback: An Evil Under the Sun

Flahback: An Evil Under the Sun
Vol: 156 Issue: 19 Friday, September 19, 2014

It is pretty obvious that the Omega Letter qualifies as a ‘right-leaning publication’ in the current political vernacular. It might be useful to examine what that means, and why.

To begin with we unashamedly admit we tend to view things from a conservative perspective, which is the political equivalent of the ‘Right’, whereas those who view things from a liberal perspective constitute the ‘Left’.

The degrees to which each side are willing to compromise their views are ‘moderates’ and the extremes to which each side put ideology ahead of common sense make up the ‘far right’ and ‘far left’.

The terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ were coined after the pattern of the post-revolution French parliament to seat liberals to the left and conservatives to the right in the debates. Got it so far?

Liberals derive their authority to govern from the will of the people as expressed by majority vote. Liberals believe that the majority is the ultimate moral force.

Liberals believe in ‘progressive thinking’ — out of which comes support for abortion, gay rights, intrusive government, mandatory state education, removal of religion from public discourse and education, etc.

To obtain the authority to govern, they advocate a kind of modified Marxist philosophy of class warfare, pitting the wider voter pool of poor voters against the somewhat smaller voter pool of affluent voters.

‘Tax cuts for the rich’ is a slogan that only thinly disguises the Marxist philosophy that private property should be reapportioned by the state — what we used to call ‘communism’.

Liberals tend to view the Constitution as a ‘living document’ — presumably so it can be tortured into saying whatever they want it to say. Hence the ‘discovery’ by a Massachusetts court of a Constitutional ‘right’ to gay marriage.

Following Bush’s re-election, thousands of what might qualify as ‘extreme’ liberals promised to pack up all their stuff and move to Canada.

Although ‘promising’ isn’t the same as actually ‘doing’, liberal newspapers like the New York Times made it appear as though a mass exodus to Canada was in the works.

Assessment:

There is no place for God in the American political left. Oh, they claim that there is, but that is another example of how liberals operate. God is invited, but only if He will tone down His opposition to the left’s political platform.

For the American right, the authority to govern isn’t derived from the will of the people, it is granted by the Creator. While the majority can rule on points of policy, the power to legislate is limited.

While the Congress can legislate tarrifs, levy taxes, and provide for the common good, they cannot overturn principles of common law such as ‘Thou shalt not kill’ in order to permit abortion, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ in order to excuse perjury, or overturn ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’ by encouraging kids to turn their parents in for punishing them for breaking household rules.

Conservatives don’t see America as a democracy, they see it as a Constitutional Republic. The Constitution isn’t a living document to be tortured until it says what they want it to, it is the supreme law of the land just the way it is.

To a conservative, the 1st Amendment’s guarantee that ‘Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion’ doesn’t mean kids can’t say the Lord’s Prayer in school, it means that Congress can’t pass a law respecting the establishment of a religion.

Similarly, where the 1st Amendment says, ‘nor prohibit the free exercise thereof,’ it means that Congress can’t tell kids they CAN’T say the Lord’s Prayer in school.

To a conservative, a local school board ISN’T the Congress, the CONGRESS is the Congress. The mayor of Boise, Idaho isn’t the Congress. One judge isn’t the Congress. The Ten Commandments are NOT a ‘religion’ and there is no difference between kids studying Islam in school and kids studying Christianity in school.

Conservatives find no conflict between the Ten Commandments and the rule of law represented by the Constitution.

Because the Bill of Rights extends to all citizens, no special ‘rights’ need be ‘discovered’ to permit women to practice birth control by murdering their babies in the womb, or a right to gay ‘marriage’ or the right of the state to impose an education system in place of the right of parents to educate their own children, or the right of the government to regulate what they are allowed to learn.

Conservatives believe that ‘progressive thinking’ doesn’t mean seeking ways to impose Marxist collectivism and confiscatory redistribution of wealth, but rather means finding ways to make capitalism work for all its citizens.

A quick read through Ecclesiates is illuminative;

“A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left,” writes the Preacher. (Ecclesiastes 10:2)

One need only listen to the rantings of the left to see the truth of his next statement,

“Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.” (10:3)

One thinks of the New York Times celebration of the decision of some liberals to move to Canada to protest the reelection of the president for Solomon’s next verse to fall into context:

“If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.” (10:4)

“There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler,” the Preacher writes, before lighting into the class warfare tactics so dear to the hearts of the left. “Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.” (10:6)

That is not to say that the rich are better than the poor. But it is folly to believe that the poor employ the rich — it is the other way around. The ‘no tax cuts for the rich’ slogan is folly incarnate, yet it is a battle cry of the liberal left.

The liberal worldview offers its adherents dependency. It promises that its leadership will take care of them and provides for their needs by confiscating resources from those who work hard and redistributing it to their dependents, calling that ‘leveling the playing field’.

They oppose putting power in the hands of the people. Consider the opposition to allowing younger workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in high-yield private accounts, which would also make them less dependent on the government in their old age.

They oppose home-schooling, which gives parents the power to raise and educate their children as they see fit. The goal, as they ‘level the playing field’ is to bring everyone to the same level on dependency on government, making government the supreme being.

Dr. Howard Dean, former head of the DNC, exemplifies the moral bankruptcy of the Left. In a press conference after his acceptance speech in 2005, Dean promised to ‘reach out’ to the ‘evangelical community’, telling the Washington Times that “We have to remind Catholic Americans that the social mission of the Democratic Party is almost exactly the same as the social mission of the Catholic Church.”

Dean’s cynical effort to pander to the right is exposed by his inability to distinguish between ‘evangelicals’ and Catholics, and his reliance on the ignorance of his audience being equal to his own.

Can Dean possibly believe that American Catholics share the social mission of abortion on demand, the abolition of school prayer, mandatory state education and gay marriage? Or that they share the social mission of ‘evangelicals’, if he could figure out what THEY were?

Paul called this ‘having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.”

I am often accused of being a Republican, [I am not] because I have nothing good to say about Democrats [which is, unfortunately, true].

I opened by acknowledging that the Omega Letter qualifies as a ‘right-leaning’ publication, and promised to explain what that means and why we lean that way.

Ecclesiates was written by King Solomon, whom the Bible says was Israel’s wisest king ever. He calls their platform an ‘evil under the sun.’ He offers the choice between wisdom and folly and outlines how to distinguish between the two.

“A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.”

Featured Commentary: After the Tribulation ~ Alf Cengia

Hey — What’s With All the Punditry?

Hey — What’s With All the Punditry?
Vol: 156 Issue: 18 Thursday, September 18, 2014

Every few weeks or so, somebody will drop me an email saying something like, ”Hey! All you ever talk about is politics and current events. I thought this was a Bible prophecy website!”

You’re right. I’m sorry. It is supposed to be dedicated to the movement of Bible prophecy in this generation. So this morning, we’ll discuss Bible prophecy.

According to the Prophet Daniel, in the last days, there will rise to power, a confederation of ten ‘kings’ who will preside over what, combining Daniel’s description with historical hindsight, can only describe a revived form of the old Roman Empire.

Daniel spoke of the ‘people of the prince who is to come’ as being those who would destroy the ‘city and sanctuary’. The ‘prince who is to come’ is the antichrist. The city and the sanctuary were destroyed by the Roman legions in AD 70.

So, if this is the generation that will see the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, there should exist a political entity that more or less mirrors Daniel’s description.

Of course, such a political entity exists today.

I’d tell you more, but that would be too much about current events and politics and not enough about prophecy.

The Apostle John said that in the last days, those subject to the antichrist’s government will be required to submit themselves to receiving a mark, either in their right hand or forehead, without which, ‘no man might buy or sell.’

This economic mark will be more than simply economics, however. According to the Apostle John, it will also be an expression of worship.

“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:15-17)

Of course, while the antichrist has not yet made his appearance on the scene, if he were to show up tomorrow, he’d find that the necessary systems to make all this happen already exist.

But that would require examining current technology as well as the current political atmosphere before one could get any sense of how close such a prophecy might be to being fulfilled.

But if I was going to discuss either the current technology or the political attitudes that lend themselves to the creation of such a system then this would be punditry instead of prophecy, no? Today, we’re going to ignore current events and stick just to prophecy.

The Prophet Ezekiel predicted that “in the latter days” there would arise a great alliance of nations, under the leadership of a political power referred to as “Gog and Magog.”

Gog and Magog will align themselves with the nations of Persia, Togarmah, Gomer, Libya, Ethiopia, and a bunch of others. Once assembled, they will invade Israel.

On the other side are a bunch of other nations; “Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish and all the young lions thereof,” Ezekiel says. These nations will oppose Gog-Magog. Not militarily, but diplomatically.

“Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13)

Gog, Magog, (and all the other countries Ezekiel predicted would be allied with them) exist today, in exactly the alliance structure foretold.

And if we were planning to discuss either politics or current events today, well, then, I could tell you who they all were. But today, I am sticking strictly to Bible prophecy.

One of the great mysteries of the Book of the Revelation is the manner of death prescribed for those who refuse to take the Mark of the Beast. In the Big Picture overview, it looks a bit like this:

There will be a false religion that will contain elements of Christian imagery, but doctrinally, John says it will ‘speak like a dragon’. It will demand that those it deems unbelievers either convert to the new religion or submit to death by decapitation.

What kind of religion could possibly win enough popular support to be viable when its doctrine calls for beheading people in the name of its god? Does such a religion exist? Is it possible that this prophecy is coming true in this generation?

If we were discussing current events and politics, I’d be happy to answer all of these questions. But today, we’re only discussing Bible prophecy.

After all, I’m a Bible teacher, not a pundit.

The Apostle Paul once outlined the social, political and moral characteristics that will dominate cultural Christianity in the last days under the general heading of a warning:

“This know also, in the last days, perilous times shall come.”

From there, Paul outlines the things to watch for that will indicate that those perilous times have arrived.

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2nd Timothy 3:1-5)

So, have we reached the point of  ‘perilous times’ yet? My answer is, “Absolutely.”

This is a letter-perfect description that, were we discussing current events and politics, would be as crystal-clear to you as it is to me.

But we’re NOT discussing current events and politics this morning. We’re discussing Bible prophecy. (I’m a preacher, not a pundit!)

According to the Words of Jesus from the Olivet Discourse, the generation that will see His return will be one marked by deception, wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes and pestilences ‘in diverse places’.

Does this generation qualify? Does it fit the Bible’s description?

I’d discuss that, but today, we’re avoiding politics and punditry to stick to Bible prophecy.

Jesus also described,

“signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)

He said of these things,

“when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)

But to figure out when these things were beginning to come to pass would require some examination of current events and global politics.

And today we’re sticking strictly to Bible prophecy.

According to the Bible, the antichrist is part of an unholy trinity, consisting of Satan, the antichrist and the false prophet. The antichrist comes to power by deception, Paul tells us in 2nd Thessalonians.

He presides over a government that is party strong and partly weak, like iron mixed with clay, Daniel says.

He controls a global economy and global government, John says. His partner has control of the global religion, which prescribes death by beheading for infidels who refuse to convert.

So, for these to be the last days, there must be a revived form of the Roman Empire, but unlike Rome, partly strong and partly weak, but with a strong centralized government and banking system.

And a viable, global religious system that governs by terror and insists on submission or death by decapitation.

It all exists today and I can prove it. But that would require introducing politics and current events into the discussion. I promised today we’d only discuss Bible prophecy, not politics, punditry or current events. I kept my promise, too.

Learn anything?

Featured Commentary: The Proof is in the Archeological Pudding ~ J.L. Robb

Four and Twenty Elders

Four and Twenty Elders
Vol: 156 Issue: 17 Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It was the Lord Himself that outlined the Book of His Revelation in three distinct parts; “that which thou [John] hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” (Revelation 1:19)

The Apostle John had just recorded the messages to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor as given by Jesus when John was suddenly whisked in his vision from his cave on Patmos to a scene in heaven.

The Book is therefore divided thusly:

Revelation 1:1-20 – “the things which John hast seen” — the vision of the Lord Jesus Christ in Glory.

Revelation 2:1the things which are. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write”, through to Revelation 3:22 — ” . . . let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”;

And finally, “the things which shall be hereafter”

This final division is the longest, since it covers the period from the Tribulation to eternity future. But let’s examine them in order.

The first two parts of the outline are essentially undisputed by scholars — for obvious reasons. The second outline concludes after the Churches have been addressed and evaluated and promises are made to “him that overcometh”:

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

Let’s examine “him that overcometh” in context. Back up one verse with me — it would seem that “he that overcometh” is he that opens the door to the Lord and invites Him in to ‘sup with him and he with Me.”

No mention of overcoming persecution or hardship or trouble or tribulation here. The counsel is offered to those that the Lord says specifically that He loves, but “rebukes and chastens” to “be zealous therefore, and repent.”

So in context, those among the churches (His Bride) that are zealous and repent and invite Him in for fellowship, Jesus calls ‘overcomers’. But Jesus says that they are those ‘who overcame even as I overcame.’

Some argue this means that overcomers are those who suffer the Tribulation Period or those who refuse to take the Mark.

The problem with this view is that the Lord is still addressing those of the present tense second outline — “the things which are.” The Tribulation,” which must be hereafter,” hasn’t started yet.

Let’s connect the dots so far. The Lord overcame by dying and being resurrected. John is being addressed by the resurrected Jesus in His resurrection Body. And Paul says that we shall also receive a resurrection body just like it.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”

There is a future event — the Rapture of the Church, which Paul describes this way. First, the dead in Christ are resurrected, then we who are alive and remain are immediately translated into our resurrection bodies, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

That is the only sense in which we human beings could EVER be said to have overcome even as Jesus overcame. Jesus never sinned. (I did and do) He paid the penalty for sin on my behalf at the Cross, (I cannot) then was resurrected and bodily ascended into heaven signifying the conquest of sin and death.

To argue that I must suffer as He did in order be an overcomer during the Church Age is to turn the doctrine of soteriology (salvation) on its head.

So the only similitude that logically fits the “overcomers” metaphor is that of the Lord’s bodily resurrection and ascension, and the Rapture’s bodily resurrection and ascension.

Finally, the angels present at the Lord’s ascension confirm that; “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.”

How was that? Quietly, and without fanfare, and witnessed only by the Apostles who represented the embryonic Church.

It makes no contextual sense to read ‘overcomers’ as those who come out of the Tribulation.

Assessment:

Chapter Three concludes with Jesus walking among the golden lampstands of the Church on the earth. At the beginning of Chapter four, a great thing has just transpired.

The third division of the outline of Revelation — that which must be hereafter — begins when John’s perspective shifts from that of the earthbound churches to that of heaven.

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”

“Hereafter what?” can only have one logical answer. Hereafter is when the overcomers of the Church Age are taken up to heaven with Jesus in like manner as the Apostles had seen Him go.

“Hereafter” begins at the Throne Room of God:

“And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” (Revelation 4:2-4)

Who are these four and twenty elders? Let’s establish who they are not, first. They are not spirits. Spirits don’t sit. Spirits don’t wear clothes. Spirits don’t wear crowns. They are not angels.

 “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders:” (Revelation 5:11)

Nowhere in Scripture are angels numbered specifically. Cherubim (living ‘beasts’) are numbered (there are four) but angels are ‘a multitude’ or an ‘innumerable company’ but never twenty-four. Angels don’t wear crowns. They don’t wear clothes and they NEVER sit in the presence of God.

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;” (Revelation 5:9)

The twenty-four elders are the Blood-bought redeemed of mankind — the representatives of the saints of God. They number twenty-four, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel, and one for each of the Twelve Apostles.

Together, they make up the redeemed society of mankind through the ages.

All twenty-four of them are seated before God’s Throne before even the FIRST of the seals has been broken. The twenty-four elders are in their places as they watch those who come out of great tribulation, their robes washed in the Blood of the Lamb, the Tribulation Saints martyred for their witness of Christ.

The outline of Revelation remains constant from the moment John arrives at heaven’s open door until it concludes in eternity future.

John’s perspective is that of heaven, where he is already in the company of the twenty-four elders when the very first seal is broken, bringing down the first of twenty-one judgments upon a sinful, Christ-rejecting world.

There is a clear division between that which is and that which shall be hereafter and the primary difference is that of perspective.

When talking about the Church, John is with Jesus is on earth, among the lamp stands.

When speaking of the Tribulation judgments, John is in Heaven with Jesus and the twenty-four elders who are not spirits, not angels, but rather the redeemed of God, who wear crowns, clothes and sit in His Presence. They are already there and seated when the first of the seals are broken.

They are already there and seated long before the first of the Tribulation saints start to show up after the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are sealed and indwelt by Holy Spirit.

No matter how one slices and dices it, the twenty-four elders are in heaven with John long before the first Tribulation saints begin to arrive. And so is the Church.

“. . . and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:17-18)

Praying for the Tools

Praying for the Tools
Vol: 156 Issue: 16 Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In AD 64 the Great Fire of Rome decimated ten of the city’s fourteen districts.  The fire spread quickly and it burned for five and a half days, according to contemporary historian Tacitus in his ”Annals of Rome.”

The works of Tacitus, a Roman senator and historian, span the period of time from the death of Augustus Caesar sometime around the year 14 AD to the death of Emperor Domitian in 96 AD.

Thus Tacitus provides a secular eyewitness account of events from the perspective of Rome from the period of the Resurrection to the time of the Lord’s appearance to John on the Isle of Patmos.

There are other surviving histories from the period; those of Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, Cassius Dio and Suetonius.  Like any true eyewitness accounts, they disagree according to perspective.

At the time of the Great Fire, the sitting emperor was Nero, adopted son of Emperor Claudius.  Cassius Dio blamed Nero for the fire, writing that Nero had agents fire the city to make way for a new building project.

As the city burned Suetonius says, Nero sat on Palantine Hill, playing his lyre and singing, “The Sack of Illium.”  It is from Suetonius’ account that the popular legend that “Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned” is based.

Tacitus noted that the rumor had begun to take hold among the population and so Nero blamed the Christians to deflect blame away from himself.  Brace yourself: it makes for some pretty horrific reading:

“As a consequence, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [or Chrestians] by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but, even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. In accordance, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not as much of the crime of firing the city as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

Suetonius writes in his work, “The Life of Claudius” that “Jews instigated by “Chrestus” were expelled from the city.”   The Book of Acts records this event as well.

“After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.” (Acts 18:1-2)

Pliny the Younger also makes reference to “Chrestians” as does Flavius Josephus who mentions both Christians and Jesus.)

Let’s pause here and make a few summary observations.  The first and most important is that the real, historical emperor Nero could not have blamed the Great Fire of Rome on Christians had there not been a real, historical Christ.

Secondarily, note that Nero was also a real historical figure.  When Rome burned, enough of his own population blamed Nero that Nero found it necessary to seek out a scapegoat to deflect the blame elsewhere.

Nero blamed the Christians. Then he blamed the Jews. He blamed everybody but Nero.  As Nero’s end approached, he reportedly cried over and over, “What an artist dies in me!”

But it was the popular perception that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” that history remembers.

Because it was so bizarre.

Assessment: 

When it comes to Barack Hussein Obama, I feel like I’ve hit the saturation point. But there is yet one issue we need to address before settling in to witness what the Obamanation maketh desolate in the days ahead.

What should we, as Christians, do about Barack Obama? One of our members quoted 1st Timothy 2:1-2:

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

The general thought is that this verse calls on Christians to pray for those in authority. When we use the term ‘pray for’ — correct me if I’m wrong — it is generally used in the positive sense.

That is to say, when you pray for somebody or something, you are praying for a positive outcome — for them.

But that’s not exactly what Paul is telling Timothy. Let’s break it down into its component elements.

Paul’s first point is that the supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks offered should be on behalf of all men.

Secondly, they should be offered (on behalf of all men) for kings and those in authority to a specific purpose — that is to say, Paul is telling Timothy to pray for something from God concerning kings and those in authority.

Finally, Paul gets to the actual prayer, which is that we (Christians) be permitted to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (ie practice our faith without interference.)

I’d like to believe that this verse exhorts us simply to pray for the success of our political leaders. In the end, the prayer is offered on behalf of the Church, not for kings and those in authority.

In Paul’s day, that would have been Nero. Nero’s political platform called for the extermination of the cult of Christianity that was sweeping the Roman Empire.

Could Paul have been exhorting Timothy to pray for Nero’s success in destroying the churches Paul dedicated his life to planting and nurturing?

Consider the famous evangelist, Corrie Ten Boom. When Holland was occupied by the Nazis, she worked tirelessly to hide and save Jews from the death camps.

But Holland was under Nazi occupation, making Adolph Hitler the ‘king’ in authority. Paul certainly wasn’t exhorting Corrie Ten Boom to pray for Hitler’s successful administration.

Then there is Romans Chapter 13 to take into account. In this passage Paul writes:

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”

When Paul notes that the powers that be are “ordained of God” he is stating the obvious.

God has His purposes and He is the one who sets up and tears down kingdoms according to His will. Therefore, Paul tells us not to rise up against those powers because resisting the powers ordained by God is akin to resisting God Himself.

“Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.”

Again, it is important to remember that the Apostle Paul’s world was ruled by the Emperor Nero. And it was Nero who ultimately took Paul’s head. Yet of Nero, Paul the Apostle writes;

“For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:1-4)

Nero is “the minister of God TO THEE for good” — because “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)

Paul knew that God had a purpose for Nero that would ultimately work together for ‘good’ — from God’s perspective. Historians look back on the early Church and credit Nero with inadvertently helping it grow.

The Christians in the arenas faced horrifying deaths with such serenity that it made the witnesses wonder what there was about this Christianity that inspired such faith and courage?

Whether Nero wanted to be used by God or not was irrelevant. God used Nero to His purpose. While the ‘good’ was not that clear to Paul and probably completely obscured from most other martyrs, they trusted the Lord that there was a purpose for both Nero’s reign and their own martyrdom.

So they prayed, not that Nero would accomplish HIS will, but rather that God would use Nero like the tool that Nero was in order to accomplish GOD’s will.

The early Christians undoubtedly prayed that Nero would be unsuccessful in his efforts to exterminate Christianity, and they probably prayed that lots of other programs he instituted would fail.

The Bible never tells us to pray for the will of the person in authority to be done. Instead it reminds us that God put that person in authority because it is God’s will that ultimately matters. Good and evil are outcomes and therefore, to quote Obama himself, “above our pay grade.”

Nero was evil, but God’s purpose was to use Nero to advance the growth of the Church, which was good. But that didn’t mean Nero’s persecution of Christians was right or that Christians who fled persecution were wrong. Right and wrong are the choices placed before the individual, not good and evil.

Joseph’s brothers intended evil for Joseph when they sold him into slavery in Egypt. They didn’t know God would use that evil act to save them from starvation during the famine to come.

I can’t pray for Barack Obama to be successful in poisoning the judiciary with liberal activist judges. I can’t pray that he’ll be successful in his efforts to remove all legal restrictions on abortion.

Or that he’ll be successful in overturning the ban on gays in the military or expanding the definition of marriage. Or any of at least two dozen other issues. Indeed, I must pray that he fails.

On these issues, I can only pray that God’s will be done, according to His purposes, and study the Scriptures to see what the Lord wants us to know about those purposes and how they relate to our mission of leading as many to Christ as possible in the time allotted to us.

It is a conundrum. How does one pray for one’s nation while praying for the failure of its leadership? It boils down to the black and white issues of right and wrong. Pray for what is right. Speak out against what is wrong.

And in all things, His will be done.

Featured Commentary: Dreams and Dogma ~ Wendy Wippel

You’re Not a Monkey’s Uncle

You’re Not a Monkey’s Uncle
Vol: 156 Issue: 15 Monday, September 15, 2014

”Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?” (Romans 9:20)

New discoveries by leading genetic researchers continue to change our understanding of who we are, where we came from, and, perhaps, when we will leave, according to the results of several new studies.

In the lead study, reported in the journal Nature (2006), scientists created the first map of the human genome that shows that large segments of DNA are missing or duplicated between normal, healthy people.

Known as copy number variants (CNVs), some of these altered DNA sequences can be responsible for increased susceptibility to cancers and many other diseases, the study team says.

The new map provides a much clearer picture of human genetic variation, says geneticist and co-researcher Charles Lee of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.

“This evidence is showing that we are more genetically unique from one another—we all have individualized genomes,” he said.

The findings “will change forever the field of human genetics,” commented James Lupski, professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

“One can no longer consider human traits as resulting primarily from single base pair changes,” he said. “This is perhaps the most important breakthrough in human and medical genetics in several decades.”

Until now it was assumed that the human genome, or “book of life”, is largely the same for everyone, save for a few spelling differences in some of the words. Instead, the findings suggest that the book contains entire sentences, paragraphs or even whole pages that are repeated any number of times.

The findings mean that instead of humanity being 99.9 per cent identical, as previously believed, we are at least 10 times more different between one another than once thought – which could explain why some people are prone to serious diseases.

Among the other conclusions reached by this study is the fact that chimpanzee DNA is not virtually identical to human DNA, as previously believed.

So much for being a monkey’s uncle.

Assessment:

DNA is nicknamed ‘the Book of Life’ by geneticists because encoded in our DNA is all the necessary information that makes life possible.

DNA encodes our red blood cells, and the heart that pumps them. DNA encodes our hair follicles, and the color of the hair in them. DNA encodes our bones, and the muscles attached to them.

And DNA thoroughly destroys any argument of random creation, since it proves all the details of your life were encoded in advance, right down to one’s individual disposition.

It is the DNA structure that ‘creates’ life in the same sense that inputting certain information into a computer ‘creates’ the results intended by its programmer.

Comparing the Scriptures to DNA research, one can make a powerful argument for predestination, without impugning our free will.

Although they haven’t completely unlocked that part of the human genome, geneticists believe that when you will die and what you will die of is already encoded in your DNA.

Barring some accident, your are already predestined, by your genetic code, to live a finite period of time before your DNA activates the disease already encoded in your DNA that will ultimately kill you. That doesn’t mean you don’t have free will.

You could still kill yourself. Or battle the disease medically. But depending on your DNA code, the treatment will either work or it will not.

You have nothing to say about how you were programmed, yet your free will remains unfettered.

It is no accident that scientists have dubbed DNA ‘the Book of Life.” They took their imagery directly from Scripture, because Scripture has already outlined how it works.

Psalms 139 begins:

“O Lord, Thou has searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassed my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue but, lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether.” (v.1-4)

Scripture teaches that we are individuals by sovereign Design, rather than by a combination of random chance and our own choices.

Scripture says,

“For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalms 139:13)

Science also now says that our genetic code is imprinted on each of us from the womb.

The Scriptures say,

“I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Science agrees that we are unique individuals whose differences are predetermined. While the Scriptures assign that marvel to our creation by a sovereign God, science assigns the same marvel to the uniqueness of our DNA encoding, while denying the existence of an Encoder.

“Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in THY BOOK ALL MY MEMBERS WERE WRITTEN, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalms 139:16)

According to the Bible, God knew who and what I would be while I was ‘under construction’ in the womb, according to the genetic Book of Life that contained all my relevant information.

Geneticists say they can determine these same details, one’s sex, hair color, physical strengths and weaknesses, susceptibility to disease, and even one’s susceptibility for sin, based on the information encoded in the DNA before one is born.

Geneticists have discovered genetic markers that predispose some people to criminal behavior, violence, drug abuse or alcoholism, for example. These discoveries have resulted in the development of a scientific sub-discipline called ‘behavioral genetics’.

DNA can determine the probability of mental illnesses, physical deformities, things like Down’s Syndrome, and a host of other genetic factors that will determine everything from how I process information to predicting the way I will react to that information.

In light of advances in DNA research, arguing against a Creator to initially program our DNA is like arguing that once a computer builds itself, it writes its own programming, turns itself on and decides for itself what it wants to work on and for how long before automatically self-destructing.

It makes as much sense as believing one is a monkey’s uncle. Which makes no sense at all.

What makes sense is a Creator God Who built me a certain way, left me with free will choices to make the most of it, and, since I am predisposed to make the wrong choices in certain areas of my life, also made a way for me to live in His sight for eternity, despite my built-in shortcomings.

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:22-23,28)

Featured Commentary: Peace of Mind in Perilous Times ~ Pete Garcia