What’s In a Name?

What’s In a Name?
Vol: 171 Issue: 19 Saturday, December 19, 2015

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it . . .” (Ephesians 5:25)

This morning, I had to take Gayle to the emergency room to be treated for the Flu That Will Not Die. While I am still somewhat under the weather, compared to Gayle, I am in the pink.

She was diagnosed with bronchitis that the doctor said would have become pneumonia, had we waited another day or so.

What is of interest to this morning’s Omega Letter were the questions we were asked during the admission process.

Since Gayle can only make a sound reminiscent of squeezing a rubber ducky, I took the point position, translating, if you will, for all the earnest-looking people who came to visit us with clipboards, pens and endless questions.

There was a gauntlet of clipboards we had to run in order to get to the prize; a little treatment room where she could finally see a doctor.

In each case, as the person responsible for the bill, I gave them my name and billing address and related information. Then when we got back to Gayle, they asked me, “What’s your wife’s name?” , to which I replied, “Gayle.”

Then they asked me if Gayle’s last name was the same as mine. Four different times, which led me to suspect that the first person to ask wasn’t an idiot, as I had immediately assumed. It seemed to me, an idiotic question, but, evidently, it was routine.

After about the fourth time, I said as much. The admission’s clerk looked at me somewhat sheepishly, and said, ‘Well, you know a lot of people nowadays. . .” before allowing the sentence to just trail off.

Now, I am not uninformed about such things, or naive to any measurable degree, but somehow, it sounded so, well, WEIRD to have the question asked of us.

While we were waiting, Gayle croaked, “It’s supposed to be an honor to take your husband’s name,” to which I replied; “What?”, since she sounds, as I said, like a rubber ducky Bailey used to play with.

After a couple of tries, I got the gist of it, which made me think even harder. (Ultimately giving me a headache, since, while I am much better than Gayle, by any independent standard, still at death’s door myself).

But, all I brought to the table in our marriage was my name. It is more than a social affectation. I brought my name, Gayle brought the baby equipment, and together, that’s what creates a family.

There are a lot of kids running around with hyphenated names, which is generally another way of expressing the fact the child was born out of wedlock.

(There’s another name for THAT, too, and I sure wouldn’t want to hang it around my child’s neck because my wife wanted to look like she was politically correct)

The family unit is under attack in our culture like never before. Families today are lumped into different categories; traditional heterosexual, non-traditional heterosexual,(living together without marriage) single parent, (an unmarried or divorced parent) or non-traditional (and non-existent) ‘families’ consisting of gay partners and adopted children.

The ‘traditional heterosexual’ family, (the non-hyphenated, both parents at home with kids that came to the world in the usual way) has become a non-protected, unacknowledged minority in much of America.

A recent book called “Uncle Sam’s Plantation” written by a conservative black female author points out that, until 1965, the strongest family units in America could be found among American black families.

Author Star Parket points out that today, 78% of black families are of the non-traditional single parent unmarried variety.

Feminist Judith Stacey was quoted saying, “The belief that married-couple families are superior is probably the most pervasive prejudice in the Western world.” Prejudice?

Another feminist, Toni Morrison, argues, “The little nuclear family is a paradigm that just doesn’t work.”

Alice Walker in “Embracing the Dark and the Light,” Essence, July 1982, writes, “…I submit that any sexual intercourse between a free man and a human being he owns or controls is rape.”

Then there is Andrea Dworkin: “Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership.”

I refer you to the verse that I opened today’s OL with. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.”

Christ came into the world to save it, protect it and nurture it, and ultimately, to voluntarily lay down His Life for it. Ownership?

Paul writes, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, [Daddy] Father.” (Romans 8:15)

Assessment:

In explaining the covenant relationship between God and humanity, God uses the traditional family as the basis for our relationship to God, since it was God who ordered the traditional family relationship.

Ephesians 5:22-24 says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, AS UNTO THE LORD. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

The feminists and God-haters and homosexual lobbies see those verses as being akin to involuntary servitude, or slavery or some similar nonsense, instead of seeing the instructions for what they are.

A family, as seen through the eyes of God, is a single organism. The Church is depicted as the Body of Christ. A family is therefore one body, and there are no two-headed creatures in nature, apart from mutants or Dr. Doolittle’s two-headed ‘Pushmepullyou’ whose very name explains why such a creature can’t exist. It would pull itself apart trying to head off in opposite directions.

Paul continues, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be ONE FLESH.” (Ephesians 5:28-31)

Hence, the practice of a wife taking her husband’s name. It symbolizes the fact the two are now one. “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33

The Christian husband who interprets 5:22 as meaning a wife is an involuntary slave will have much to answer for before God, since his obligation to his wife is not only the greaterresponsibility, but also the more difficult. 

The husband unwilling to voluntarily lay down his life for his wife, or who thinks his wife is his slave, is falling short of his responsibility to love his wife as he loves his own body. 

This morning, I joked with Gayle, “Honey, please get better. We’re almost out of clean clothes and I’m STARVING.” In a God-centered marriage, there is no room to misinterpret that as anything else BUT a joke.

Implicit in the joke is the overt recognition that without my wife, I would be helpless. Without her, I am half a creature. Without her, I am a head without a body, as useless as a body without a head. (Or one with two heads and no sense of direction).

I can see why the Enemy hates the family unit, and why he is trying, in these last days, to destroy it. To divide, and thereby, to conquer.

The enemy plan is to create a world dependent upon him, and his antichrist, for its survival. In my world, he won’t be able to do that.

Because I am dependent on Gayle, Gayle equally dependent on me, and both of us consequently, dependent on God.

Originally Published: January 3, 2004

Honey, Vinegar and Flies

Honey, Vinegar and Flies
Vol: 171 Issue: 18 Friday, December 18, 2015

I used to know a fellow, let’s call him “Bill” who was afflicted with a most annoying habit. When he wasn’t finishing my sentences for me, he was either correcting my grammar or my pronunciation.

One could seldom finish an entire sentence when talking with Bill: I once caught myself speaking faster in the hope I could get to the end of it before he did.

(Of course, then I’d make some kind of grammatical error as a result and he’d correct that. . . Grrrr)

The worst part about it was that he was just a heckuva nice guy in every other respect. He was one of those guys who’d climb a tree to fight a bear if he thought it might be helpful; in fact his annoying tic was part of that “I-just-wanna-help” mindset.

Personally, I didn’t mind it so much . . . as annoying as it was, he had a terrific grasp of the English language and an amazing vocabulary, so I learned something in almost every conversation.

But not everybody wants to hang around with a guy whose favorite Reader’s Digest section is “It Pays To Increase Your Word Power.” People don’t appreciate being around other people who make them feel stupid.

Of course, I’ve always been a writer and so words (and their proper usage) are more important to me than most, but not every body appreciates being corrected every other sentence. So this guy didn’t have many friends, despite the fact he lived to be helpful.

Sometimes, one can be so helpful that it begins to drive folks away.

Back in the 1960’s Walter Martin made a name for himself in evangelical circles when he began his ministry, the Christian Research Institute, following a series of successful books exposing false Christian cults.

In his first book, “The Rise of the Cults“, Martin exposed the doctrinal errors of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Mormonism, the Theosophical Society, and took on “Father Divine” a cult leader from Brooklyn who claimed to be God. “The Rise of the Cults” was published in 1965 and is reputed to have sold nearly a million copies since.

In the 1980’s Martin turned his critical eye away from non-Christian cults to less obvious heresies within Christianity, most notably the “Word of Faith” movement popularized by guys like Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin.

While Martin was critical of these teachers’ claims concerning their views of Christ, healing, faith, and prosperity, Martin was generally acceptive of the charismatic movement, editing and reprinting DL Moody’s book on spiritual gifts called “Secret Power.”

When Martin died in 1989, he was succeeded by Hank Hanegraaf in a takeover still being challenged by Martin’s surviving family.

Hanegraaf’s “The Bible Answer Man” program claims to present the only “true” Christian doctrine.

Assessment:

I have a copy of Hanegraaf’s 1993 book, “Christianity in Crisis” in which he highlights some of the more outrageous doctrinal claims made by some of the ‘regulars’ on TBN, from founders Paul and Jan Crouch to Benny Hinn, Copeland, Hagin, etc., etc.

It’s a pretty good book, if one is the kind of person who would seek Bill out at a party to chat with. But if you just want to be sure that you are right with God, then Hanegraaf’s book raises a lot more questions than it answers.

Suppose, just for a second, that you’ve just finished reading Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth.”

Having read the book and compared it with the Bible and the morning newspapers, you became convinced from the evidence that God is real, that He sent His only Son to have a relationship with you, and you need only accept the Gift of Pardon Hal says Jesus already procured for you.

You’re heading to work, mulling it all over. Then you turn on Hank Hanegraaf’s radio program and learn that Hal made it all up. All Bible prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70. The evidence was all just a clever ruse designed to sell books.

Or you pick up Hannegraf’s book, “Christianity in Crisis” and discover that every single TV preacher is a lying con man who will say anything if it increases donations.

If these are the cream of the crop, then does anybody know the real truth? Can anybody know the real truth?

It’s been rightly said that a man with one watch always knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never quite sure.

What is a guy who hears the Gospel of Love — from the same lips that tell him how cynical and manipulative most Christian preachers really are — supposed to think?

We have entire threads in our member’s forums dedicated to ‘exposing’ this guy or that guy’s false teaching. Generally speaking, it goes like this. One guy starts a thread exposing some other teacher’s false doctrine.

Suppose somebody else in that thread got saved watching Jack Van Impe, for example. Then somebody starts ripping into his ministry over something he said.

Now, that new Christian starts to wonder. . . if JVI is really a cynical liar, then how can I be sure I am really saved?

So he jumps in to defend JVI, except he’s really not defending JVI — he’s defending his own salvation. (From another Christian! How confusing is that?)

Next thing you know, the debate isn’t about doctrine anymore. It’s about being right. For the guy who found Christ through JVI, it’s even more important than that.

It’s about the efficacy of his salvation experience.

Mature Christians have a tendency to forget how difficult it is for new Christians. Nobody wants to think they’ve been sold a bill of goods by a slick operator.

They have barely gotten a grasp of salvation by grace through faith and now they find themselves in a bar fight over whether or not JVI has correctly interpreted a verse they’d never heard of until now — and now they are locked in combat over the messenger.

I believe that God intended for there to be some degree of doctrinal ambiguity in the Scriptures. The Book of Genesis records God’s decision to confound human speech and divide mankind ethnically.

The people of Babel had set out to build a tower to which they could seek refuge should God ever again decide to destroy the world by flood.

“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Genesis 11:4-5)

The issue wasn’t that God believed they could actually build a tower that would ‘reach unto heaven’. It was because they were unified under a single leader. Separating them into smaller, like-minded groups prevented one person, in this case, Nimrod, from uniting them in rebellion against God.

In the Church Age, we are separated doctrinally for the same purpose. It is not until AFTER the Holy Spirit’s restraining influence is withdrawn from the earth that the world is once again united under a single political and religious authority.

We even have a word to describe human effort to try to overcome these doctrinal differences. It is called ‘ecumenism’.

“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:” (Luke 12:51)

When we set out to ‘prove’ that this guy or that guy is really a heretic, consider what it is that we are claiming for ourselves in so doing. The Roman Catholics call it speaking ‘ex cathedra’ — what the RC calls the “Doctrine of Infallibility.”

Non-Catholics take great joy in running down the list of ‘infallible’ papal statements that have since been reversed or modified by subsequent papal pronouncements. Then they turn around and assume for themselves that same mantle of infallibility while explaining why nobody (else) is infallible.

You were once a baby Christian. Think about how confusing it all was.

There is a place for doctrinal study and doctrinal discussion. It is incumbent upon us to hold, “fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9)

A ‘gainsayer’ is a person who twists doctrine for his own gain, rather than that of the Kingdom. That is not the same thing as a person who sincerely holds to a doctrinal worldview because he believes it to be true.

I believe that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation. If somebody wants to know why, I am more than happy to explain why I hold to the view that I do. That doesn’t mean somebody else who disagrees isn’t sincere, or is deliberately teaching error.

Someone can be sincere and still be sincerely wrong. Even more importantly, they can be sincerely wrong on some minor point of doctrine and still be every bit as saved as you are.

We are exhorted to ‘hold fast’ to our doctrine, but the ‘Prime Directive’ so to speak, is not to finish everybody else’s sentences or correct every minor point of doctrine, but to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ paid the penalty due for our sins and made a way for us to have eternal fellowship with God.

It is a fine line to walk, but nobody said being a Christian was easy. Paul divided the Word into two parts; the ‘milk’ and the ‘strong meat’.

“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” (Hebrews 5:12)

We are to spread the Good News, and to be ready to give an answer for the reason of hope that is in us to a hopeless and dying world. That ‘hope’ isn’t found in accepting my interpretation of minor points of doctrine.

That hope is found in the fact that Jesus accepts us as we are, not in converting everybody else into scholars of our chosen discipline of Scriptural interpretation.

The Apostle Paul could have been reading one of our forum threads when he wrote:

“For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”

(Or, “I am of Copeland; I am of Crouch; I am of Lindsey; I am of Kinsella”; etc.)

“Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”, Paul asks. (1st Corinthians 1:12-13)

It is one thing to present sound doctrine in the context of Scripture. It is another thing altogether to target this ministry or that one for some minor doctrinal differences or toss around phrases like ‘false teacher’.

The Omega Letter is designed for mature Christians — it’s mission is to equip you with the tools necessary to be an effective witness for Christ in your day-to-day evangelistic efforts.

But taking that as a mandate to expose ‘false’ teaching only makes one effective with people that already agree with them.

“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.  (1 Corinthians 8:1)

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

What are your own motives? Do you want see people come to Christ, or to come to your point of view? Are you correcting out of love? Or to show off your own knowledge?

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (Colossians 3:13-15)

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time and a place for everything, including doctrinal debates. I can’t tell you when the time is right and when it isn’t. But you can tell for yourself.

Sharing the Gospel of Christ isn’t supposed to make you mad. If it does, it’s time to step back and take another look at the Big Picture.

“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace,” writes James, the Lord’s brother. (James 3:18)

Or, put another way, ‘you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.’

Food for thought.

Originally Published: March 3, 2008

Featured Commentary: Sola Scriptura and Cosmic Temples ~ Alf Cengia

The Dispensations And the Ages

The Dispensations And the Ages
Vol: 171 Issue: 17 Thursday, December 17, 2015

Paul wrote to Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2nd Timothy 2:15)

The first thing to notice is that if there is an admonition to ‘rightly’ divide the Word of truth, then that is to prevent dividing it ‘wrongly.’

Having established from Scripture the possibility of wrongly dividing the Word, we need to understand what Paul meant by ‘dividing’ the Word to begin with.

The clearest and most obvious division is the one between the Old and New Testaments. Pretty much everybody agrees on that, across the spectrum.

The Omega Letter’s doctrinal worldview is shaped primarily by Dispensationalism, or systematic theology.   Systematic theology views Scripture as unfolding progressive revelation and doctrine.

Dispensationalism means, “the act of dispensing or something dispensed; a specific arrangement or system by which something is dispensed.”  The ‘something’ being dispensed in this case is God’s message.

Dispensationalism is one of those doctrines, like pretribulationism or a pre-trib Rapture, that has no specific bearing on salvation or eternity, in the sense that one needn’t be a Dispensationalist or believe in a pre-Trib Rapture to be saved.

But you wouldn’t know it from the heated debates it spawns among Christians.  So I’ll say it again.  One need not accept either Dispensationalism or pretribulationism to be saved.  But without it, Bible prophecy loses its coherence.

One of the first objections offered to Dispensationalism is also one of the weakest – that Dispensationalism is a relatively recent doctrine.  It isn’t.  It is as old as the division of the Testaments.

But let’s stipulate that the modern understanding of Dispensationalism is relatively recent. If one wants to date it to Darby in the early 1800s or Clarence Larkin in the early 1900s, I’m ok with either one, because it makes no difference to the weakness of the argument.

Until the prophecies for the last days began to take shape in a coherent form, there was nothing around which to form a systematic understanding.

There was no need to seek a deeper understanding of the Scriptures until one became aware of existing misunderstandings.  

The misunderstanding of the Law of Moses wasn’t apparent until Jesus delivered, or dispensedthe Good News of the Gospel and explained the purpose for the Law.

The Law was given to convict sinners so that they would recognize the need for salvation byfaith, since the Law proves salvation by keeping the works of the law an impossible mission.    

The division between the Dispensation of the Law and the Dispensation of Grace could not be plainer. But when the signs pointing to the soon return of Christ started to take shape, so did the prophetic outline. 

The doctrine isn’t of recent origin, but I’ll stipulate that its rise to prominence is as recent as the resurgence of prophetic fulfillment that demanded its exploration.  

Assessment:

Although we often use them interchangeably, (myself included) there is a distinct difference between an “Age” and a “Dispensation”.  An Age is marked by a period of cataclysmic change to the earth, like the Flood or the change at the 2nd Coming that ushers in the Millennium.

Properly, there are three Ages;  Antediluvian (before the flood)  this present Age (Age of human government: Flood to 2nd Coming) and the Age of Ages (2nd Coming to the New Earth)

But there are seven Dispensations of God’s revelation to man.  God’s administration to man changes as God progressively reveals Himself. 

The Dispensations are divided thusly:

Dispensation of Innocence: It is important to understand the difference between innocence and righteousness.  Innocence cannot be righteousness (or holiness) until tested.  Innocence is one step from either holiness or sin.   Adam failed the test, beginning the next dispensation.

Dispensation of Conscience:  During the Age of Conscience, God permitted man to do as his own conscience dictated.

It shows what man will do when guided only by his conscience. Adam and Eve had no conscience before the “Fall.” Conscience is a knowledge of good and evil, and this Adam and Eve did not have until they ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree.

Conscience may produce fear and remorse, but it will not keep men from doing wrong, for conscience imparts no “power.” 

Dispensation of the Patriarchs:  This extended from the call of Abraham through the Exodus, when God gave Moses the Law on Mount Sinai.

Dispensation of the Law: This Dispensation began with Moses and lasted for roughly 1500 years before it ended when the Messiah was ‘cut off, but not for Himself,” rending the Temple curtain at the Crucifixion.     

Dispensation of Grace:  This present Dispensation began at Pentecost and is distinguished by the unique indwelling of believers by the Holy Spirit.  During this Dispensation, individual salvation is extended to “whosoever will” by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, ‘lest any man should boast’ (of his own righteousness).  (Ephesians 2:8-9) 

The Dispensation of Grace ends with the withdrawal of the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit at the Rapture (together with the indwelt Church), which allows for the man of sin to be indwelt by Satan.  This begins the 70th Week of Daniel;

The Dispensation of Judgment, the Tribulation:   There are three groups that face concurrent judgments during the Tribulation, not as individuals, but nationally or corporately.

The first to face judgment will be the Church caught up at the Rapture and judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ at the beginning of the Tribulation. (2ndCorinthians 5:10).

Obviously, if the Church is being judged at the Bema Seat, they can’t also be under the judgment of Tribulation.

This period is known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 3:4-7, Daniel 12:1) during which time the Jews will be judged during the Tribulation under antichrist and saved nationally at the 2nd Coming.

The third group to face judgment during the Tribulation are the Gentile nations.  The Gentiles will be judged at the end by Jesus and divided into ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’ nations based on how they treated Israel.

The ‘goats’ will be destroyed on the spot.  The ‘sheep’ will be permitted to enter the next Dispensation, (which is also an “Age”)

The Millennial Kingdom:  This is a Dispensation in that it marks a shift in God’s relationship to man (Jesus rules Personally) and an Age, in that it marks the end of Human Government at His cataclysmic Return. 

Bible prophecy follows a beautifully organized, progressively revealed plan whose Divine nature is revealed in that it can only be read from back to front;

“telling the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done.”  (Isaiah 46:9-10)

I would not be afraid to mount the argument that there has been more Divine revelation concerning unfolding Bible prophecy in the past six decades than in all the centuries from the conclusion of the Book of Revelation to the restoration of Israel in 1948.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the divisions between each of the Dispensations are distinct and identifiable.  The Dispensation of Grace is clearly divided in Scripture from the Dispensation of Judgment.

The Bible clearly identifies three separate judgments during the Tribulation Period and three different groups to be judged. Each is judged differently and each judgment is rendered at a different time. 

The Jews are judged under antichrist during the Tribulation and are redeemed by the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10) at its conclusion.

The Gentile nations are judged at the end by Jesus Christ, with the sheep on the right hand and the goats on the left.  The sheep nations are permitted to go on into the Millennial Kingdom

The Church is judged at the beginning of the Tribulation at the Judgment Seat of Christ which is then followed by the marriage supper of the Lamb.   

Do you see the systematic nature of Bible prophecy? Bible prophecy is by definition Divine revelation, and for the generation that witnesses it unfold, that revelation is progressive; more is revealed with each passing day.

However, if the Church is physically present during the judgment of the Tribulation, the system collapses. 

There is no explanation for how the Church can be overcome by Satan as recorded inRevelation 13:7 without directly contradicting the promise of 1st John 4:4.

John tells me that He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world. 

But the Tribulation Saints are overcome by Satan.  Is He that is in me also in them? If so, this is impossible.  If not, but I am present at that time, is He still in me?  

If He is, then I cannot be overcome.  If He is not, then He forsook me before Jesus came, directly breaking His Promise.

Returning to my earlier point, NOBODY is saved according to what they believe about the Rapture or the Tribulation.   We are saved by grace through faith in the finished Work of the Cross, not by our understanding of Bible prophecy.

But Paul called Timothy “a workman” – a laborer of Christ.  As such, his toolbox is the Word of Truth.  Not all Christians are called to be workmen.  And not all Christians heed the call they are given.

But if one is to be a workman for Christ, he will only be as good as his tools.  I’ve examined the other toolboxes carefully and repeatedly to see if I could find evidence of a similarly clear system. 

Scripture says that God is not the Author of confusion. But the moment that one erases the line between the Dispensation of Grace and the Dispensation of Judgment, the system of progressively unfolding revelation collapses into confusion. 

Where is the Holy Spirit?  I am still indwelt? Are the Tribulation Saints?  Can they be overcome?  Can I be overcome?   What about the Promise? 

Am I judged under the Cross at the Bema Seat?  By antichrist during the Tribulation?  Or both?  Or at the end, with the sheep and goats?  Or must I endure all three judgments?  

Bible prophecy, systematic theology and Dispensationalism are mutually dependent disciplines in that one cannot fully understand any one of them without a grasp of all three.

You needn’t believe it to be saved.  But you do if you want to understand Bible prophecy. 

You can try to invent your own system — lots of them do.   Look at the all the failed efforts to pinpoint the date of the Rapture or to identify the antichrist.    

And in the end, they were all wrong.   The dates came and went.  The candidates rose and then fell. If these workmen weren’t ashamed, they should have been.  

The Apostle Peter explained, “Knowing this first”  that the prophecies of Scripture are of no‘private interpretation’.  That particular Scripture is often used to refute Pre-tribulationalDispensationalist doctrine by those who have what amounts to their own different and thereforeprivate interpretation.

They were sincere.  But they stepped outside of Scriptural boundaries as necessary to make their scenario work. Those workmen failed to rightly divide the Word.  

Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints.” (Colossians 1:25-26)

It wasn’t the Bible that was wrong.  But that’s not what their disappointed students thought.

Originally published: May 11, 2010

Featured Commentary: Here Comes the Sun ~ J.L. Robb

Three Felonies a Day

Three Felonies a Day
Vol: 171 Issue: 16 Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A few years ago, a Boston-based civil liberties lawyer wrote a book entitled “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.”   According to Harvey Silverglate, that is how many felonies the average American unwittingly commits in the course of a normal business day.

By design, the law is built up over time by court decisions, statutes and regulations. Sometimes even criminal laws are left vague, to be defined case by case.

Technology exacerbates the problem of laws that are so open and vague that they are hard to abide by, to the point that we have all become potential criminals.

Silverglate describes several cases in which prosecutors didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand technology. This problem is compounded by a trend that has accelerated since the 1980s in which prosecutors have trended toward abandoning the principle that there can’t be a crime without criminal intent.

Silverglate offers as one example the story of a Massachusetts man who was charged with violating that state’s wiretap laws.  His company’s mail server routinely intercepted and copied emails as part of the process of shuttling them through the internet.

That is exactly how our own mail servers work. That is how ALL mail servers work.  The mail is copied, transmitted and then the copy is immediately deleted.  There is no criminal intent.

Prosecutors chose to interpret the ISP’s role of momentarily copying messages as they made their way through the system was no different than wiretapping private communications.   The case went through several rounds of litigation, with no judge making the obvious point that this is how ISPs operate.

After six years, a jury found the defendant, Bradford Councilman, not guilty.   But not until after Mr. Councilman went broke defending himself.

Under the English common law we inherited, a crime requires intent.  But that protection is gradually disappearing.   Silverglate writes in his book:

“Since the New Deal era, Congress has delegated to various administrative agencies the task of writing the regulations,” even as “Congress has demonstrated a growing dysfunction in crafting legislation that can in fact be understood.”

Here is how it works in practice.  Prosecutors identify a defendant they want to ‘go after’ and then they sift through the various laws to look for a violation they can use to prosecute under.

Recently a number of states have passed laws against cyberbullying.   The legislation was enacted in response to a heart-breaking case in which 13-year old Megan Meier committed suicide after supposedly receiving messages from a sixteen-year old boy named Josh Evans.

The two teens had been exchanging messages for about six weeks, but Evans’s messages had grown steadily more hostile. According to reports, his last message to Meier was that she was “cruel” and a “bad person.”

But it turned out that Josh Evans didn’t exist.  He was really Lori Drew, the mother of another teen with whom Megan had been fighting.  Meier, who had battled depression all of her young life, hanged herself in a closet.

When investigators uncovered the whole story, the public was outraged because there was nothing to charge Lori Drew with.  So they passed local ‘cyberbullying’ laws while the Congress debated national legislation.

The law would prohibit using the Internet to “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person.”   

The Omega Letter regularly causes emotional distress to somebody.  It is not possible to stay true to the Word of God without causing emotional distress in some quarters.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ ‘is the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father’ but by Jesus.  That can cause a substantial amount of emotional distress to those who believe otherwise.

After all, if the only way to heaven is through Jesus and one is a non-Christian, that means that no matter how many times a day they pray or perform other religious duties, then they won’t make it. But saying so is offensive.

Three felonies a day.  I can do that standing on my head.

Assessment:

One might assign evil intent to lawmakers but I don’t think so.  In the Megan Meier case, one can only assume that lawmakers were genuinely attempting to right a wrong while ensuring protection for other potential victims.

But there is another law in operation here, known as the Law of Unintended Consequences.  The Bible explains it this way.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” 

It is a principle God thought was so important that He included it twice – Proverbs 14:12 and again in Proverbs 16:25.   

There are so many different laws aimed at protecting so many different groups that it is all but impossible for a person to make his way through the day without breaking at least some of them. 

We’ve seen how easy it is for a clever prosecutor to identify a target and then look for a law to prosecute him under when Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby was charged with felony perjury because he couldn’t keep the details of a ten minute phone conversation from two years previous straight.

Libby was being investigated over the Valerie Plame Affair in which prosecutors were attempting to blame senior members of the Bush administration for ‘outing’ Plame as a CIA agent.

By the time Patrick Fitzgerald convened a grand jury, he already knew that the leak came from a career civil servant at the State Department and NOT anyone in the Bush administration.  The leaker, Richard Armitage, was not even a Bush supporter.

But once Fitzgerald identified his target (which was any senior member of the Bush administration), finding a law under which to prosecute him was child’s play.  

The Bible says that during the last days, being a Christian will once again become a crime as it was during the early days of the Church.  Under the present-day legal code, that is already true. 

It is illegal to preach or teach certain tenets of Christianity in public in America.  It isn’t “illegal” in the sense that there is a law making Christianity a crime – what is illegal is offering offense to a person – whether intended or not.

We are living in the last days before His return. Although the Rapture precedes the Tribulation judgments that is not the same thing as saying that nothing bad will happen as long as the Church is here. 

It only means that the Rapture will precede the revelation of the antichrist – not necessarily his system.  The concept of political correctness as we understand it today was among the first things Jesus addressed in His reply to the question, “what will be the sign of Thy coming”?

“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” (Matthew 24:10)

Jesus said that when these things begin to come to pass, to look up and lift up our heads, for our redemption draws near.   For nine years, we’ve been recording on a daily basis events that dovetail precisely with the prophecies of Scripture for the last days.

When we started out, the idea that the Omega Letter would ever have to worry about censorship or that we would ever have to worry about being prosecuted for telling the truth was laughable.  That was then. This is now.

And thirteen years later, nobody is laughing anymore.

Originally Published: July 19, 2010

Misunderstanding The ”Great Escape”

Misunderstanding The ”Great Escape”
Vol: 171 Issue: 15 Tuesday, December 15, 2015

One of the principle misunderstandings concerning the Rapture revolves around its purpose. Critics of a pre-Tribulation Rapture deride it as some pie-in-the-sky ‘Great Escape’ for Christians living in the last days.

There is no such promise of ‘escape’ from tribulation, they argue, and (correctly) point out the Bible’s promise that ‘in this world ye shall have tribulation’ so the pretribulational hope of a ‘Great Escape’ is not only delusional, it is unscriptural.

The fact is, if the pretribulational hope WAS for a ‘Great Escape’ from tribulation, they would be correct. There is NO promise that the Church will escape tribulation, but there is an iron-clad promise that the Church will not go through the seven years of tribulation described by Jeremiah as the ‘Time of Jacob’s Trouble’ or outlined by Daniel as Israel’s ’70th Week.’

There are several reasons for a pretribulational Rapture, not the least of which is the purpose of the Tribulation in God’s unfolding Plan for the ages.

The purpose of the seven year Tribulation Period is two-fold. The first reason is to fulfill Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 Weeks. The angel told Daniel that:

“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)

Note there are six elements to the fulfillment of this prophecy. First, to finish Israel’s sin – the rejection of the Messiah at the First Advent.

Then there is a skip forward in time to His Second Advent, at which time, an end will be made of sin, reconciliation will be made for Israel’s iniquity, everlasting righteousness will introducedto Israel, Israel’s Scriptures will be vindicated by the fulfillment of all prophecy and finally, the return of Christ at the conclusion of the war of Armageddon, at which time He will be anointed and will take His seat at the Throne of David.

Between the First and Second Advents there is the Church Age, a ‘mystery’ unrevealed to the Hebrew prophets. That is why Daniel’s outline of 490 years of Israeli history doesn’t anticipate a gap between the ‘cutting off of the Messiah’ at the end of the sixty-nine weeks of years and the confirmation of the covenant by the antichrist at the onset of the 70th. (Daniel 9:27)

From Daniel’s perspective, it is an unbroken narrative of what would befall ‘his people’ (the Jews) and ‘his holy city’ (Jerusalem), culminating with the ‘anointing of the Most Holy’ at the conclusion of the 70th week and the ushering in of Isaiah’s Millennial Kingdom. There is no role set aside for the Church in prophecy during the 70th Week, since it is reserved for Israel’s national redemption and their acceptance of the Messiah.

The Church has, by definition, already accepted the Messiah and was redeemed at the Cross.

The second purpose Scripture gives for the Tribulation Period is that it is a period of judgment against those who reject Christ and embrace the antichrist.

Since Christians who accept Christ were already judged at the Cross, there is no role set aside for the Church in the judgments pronounced because,

“Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” (Revelation 9:21)

Repentance is a necessary condition of salvation, it is that repentance that causes us to seek forgiveness at the Cross in the first place. Since believers in the Church Age became believers by repenting, there is no purpose for bringing the judgment of an unrepentant world on the Church.

The Rapture isn’t a ‘Great Escape’, contrary to popular belief. The Rapture occurs when the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit is removed with the Church to allow the onset of the 7 year period of unrestrained evil that occurs during the Tribulation. (2nd Thessalonians 2:7)

The Rapture is the Blessed Hope of the Church, but it’s primary purpose is not so much a ‘rescue mission’ as it is a necessary function of the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of restraining evil. Since we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, when the Restrainer is withdrawn, so are we, since we are His vessels.

Therefore, it is certain to conclude that the Church won’t be here for the Tribulaton itself, since withdrawing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit from the believing Church would leave them spiritually defenseless at a time of maximum need, something Jesus promised He would never do.

Jesus said we could trust Him that He would never forsake His Church, and His Church is defined as being composed of believers who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you FOREVER. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

But there is no reason to conclude the Church will be Raptured for the purpose of providing a ‘Great Escape’ for, as I said, the Rapture is necessary to withdrawal of the Restrainer, rather than a rescue mission to the Church.

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)

Christians have suffered in every generation, and continue to suffer persecution and death for their faith today in places like Vietnam, China, Sudan and most of the Islamic world.

There is no promise to the Church of the last days for a ‘rescue’ but rather, the Rapture is thefulfilment of an EXISTING Promise Jesus made that the Holy Spirit would Personally indwell believers and guide us in all truth ‘forever’.

“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 14:2-3)

For believers, our finite understanding of ‘forever’ begins with Pentecost and continues to the Rapture, at which point ‘forever’ takes on its eternal meaning for all believers covered under the Covenant between Jesus and the Church.

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

Originally Published: February 6, 2005

Featured Commentary: Double Vision ~ Wendy Wippel

”The Horse Doesn’t Eat Cucumber Salad”

”The Horse Doesn’t Eat Cucumber Salad”
Vol: 171 Issue: 14 Monday, December 14, 2015

Nobody knows who invented the first postal system – it was probably the same guy who inventing writing: “Hey! I just invented writing.  Come on over and I’ll tell you what this letter says!” The first postman was probably that guy’s slave.

Early postal systems were developed by Hammurabi, Sargon II, King Cyrus the Great and Darius of Persia.  But they weren’t designed to deliver mail so much as they were designed to gather intelligence.

(But that was before postal unions.  Since then, all intelligence has been banned from the postal serviceFor example, to address public complaints about slow service inside post offices, the USPS removed all the clocks.)  

Until the invention of the telephone, the postal service represented the only option for communication across long distances.  A person in New York might write a letter to a person in San Francisco and might receive a reply in less than two months.  

In 1860 Johan Phillip Reis produced a device that could transmit musical notes and on some occasions, intelligible speech.  The Reis transmitter was difficult to operate, but since it could transmit human voices over distances, it could be called a “telephone” – even if nobody could use it except Reis.

Later, Thomas Edison tested the Reis equipment and found it capable of transmitting human speech, including “the inflections of the voice, the modulations of interrogation, wonder, command, etc.” 

Alexander Graham Bell is credited with having invented the telephone in 1876, but it was actually invented much earlier, in 1832, by an Italian inventor named Antonio Meucci.

Meucci patented his teletofono in 1871, but, Meucci, who frequently lived on public assistance, did not renew it after 1874 because he was short ten bucks.

Indeed, in 2002 the US House of Representatives passed a resolution that recognized Meucci’s pioneering work on the telephone, saying;

“if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell.”

But since Meucci didn’t renew, Canadian Alexander Graham Bell was first to get to the patent office with his own telephone invention, barely beating Chicago inventor Elisha Gray, who tried to patent his telephone device on the very same day.

Which in retrospect, I think, may have been a good thing.  Somehow, “Gray Telephone” doesn’t have the same ring to it as does “Bell Telephone” – it sounds like a telephone service for spies.

And “Meucci Teletefono” — it just doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue. (In fact, it tends to make it hurt).

History tells us that the first words ever spoken over a telephone were uttered by Alexander Graham Bell; “Watson, come here! I want to see you!”  That is sort of true. 

They were the first words ever spoken in English over a telephone.

In reality, Johann Reis was the first person to ever transmit human speech over the airwaves via an electronic device, sixteen years before Bell used his to phone Watson.

Maybe if Reis were calling someone to do something useful, like ‘come here’ or “pick up a loaf of bread and two quarts of milk” then Johann Reis might be history’s Alexander Graham Bell.

That could have changed history.  When Bell Telephone’s monopoly was broken up into regional phone companies, they were immediately nicknamed “Baby Bells.”

If Reis had been the official inventor of the telephone, then the breakup into regional phone companies would probably have been nicknamed, “Reis’s Pieces” — and then how could ETphone home? 

In any event, it was Johann Reis, not Alexander Graham Bell, who uttered the immortal words that made up the first sentence ever transmitted by telephone:

Das Pferd frisst keinen Gurkensalat.”

It means, “The horse doesn’t eat cucumber salad.”

Assessment:

In summary, then, the history of communications goes like this.  First, somebody invented writing.  Then he wrote a message and sent it via somebody else, thereby inventing the postal service. 

But by 1860, so many people were trying to feed cucumber salads to their horses that it necessitated the invention of the telephone.

One can instantly see the advantages of a telephone over the Pony Express.  Once they stopped feeding their horses cucumber salads, the Pony Express could get a message across the country in a matter of weeks. 

With the advent of the telephone, the same message could be transmitted instantly.

(“Das Pferd frisst keinen Gurkensalat.”  It DOESN’T? Gee, thanks.) 

But telephones were bulky, expensive gizmos tied to telephone poles by wires on one end and bolted to the wall of your house on the other.  In 1973, Dr. Martin Cooper of Motorola figured out a way to transmit telephone service over a radio link, creating the first mobile phone. 

In 1983, the first commercially available cellular phones were hard-wired into vehicles.  By 1990, there were 12.4 million cell phones worldwide.  By 2010, there were 4.6 billion mobile phones — at which point we stopped talking on them.   

The first text message was sent from a computer to a mobile phone in December 1992. The message, “Merry Christmas” unintentionally threw human civilization back to the days when horses ate cucumber salads.

We have gone from the invention of writing to the invention of mail to the invention of the telephone to the invention of the mobile communications device that we use to write letters instead of talking. And according to a recent study conducted by Pew Research Group, that’s the way we like it.

According to Pew, some 83% of Americans own cell phones and three fourths of them send and receive text messages on their phones.  Of those that use texting, the majority would prefer sending or receiving a text to making or receiving a phone call.

Text users send or receive an average of 41.5 messages per day and more than half of them would rather you texted instead of phoning them.  Those that don’t text make or receive an average of twelve phone calls per day.

I enjoy the irony of having come full circle from the invention of writing as a method of communication five thousand years ago, to the rediscovery of writing as a preferred means of communication by the most technologically advanced among us.

Having discovered texting only recently, I am surprised to discover that I concur with the majority – I would rather receive a text that I can read at my leisure and reply to only if necessary to having to subordinate all my other activities to answering the telephone.

What does it all mean?  I am not entirely sure when it comes to humans.  But thanks to the advances of technology, entire generations of horses have never experienced the delights of a cucumber salad.

Originally Published: September 22, 2011

Featured Commentary: The Day of the Lord ~ Pete Garcia

The Gifts of the Spirit

The Gifts of the Spirit
Vol: 171 Issue: 12 Saturday, December 12, 2015

I remember one Christmas when I was a little boy and my little brother got a gift that I had really, really wanted. I wanted his gift so badly that I didn’t even care about the gifts I had already received.

I would have traded any of mine for his, but that’s not how it worked in my family. Once you received a Christmas gift it was forever yours — but only yours. And you had better like it — or be prepared for a long speech about the expense and effort that went in to choosing it –( just for you)!

Plus, there was always the risk that next year, you would get the ‘gift of the ungrateful’ — which was no gift at all. That way, one would have a reason to be ungrateful. 

Most Christians are aware that God also bestows spiritual gifts on each of us at birth. What most Christians are NOT aware of is that spiritual gifts are given to each human being, not simply to Christians. 

The Apostle Paul reveals that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (1st Corinthians 12:7

The main spiritual gifts are; 1) a word of wisdom; 2) a word of knowledge; 3) faith 4) healing; 5) discernment; 6) divers kinds of tongues; 7) interpretation of tongues. 

Other’s have identified other spiritual gifts; the Pentecostals have identified nine, others have identified twenty-eight . . . but we’ll stick with these seven for the purpose of our study. 

That is not to say that there are only seven, or exactly twenty-eight. I personally agree with Zola Levitt, who defined a spiritual gift as “anything a person can do supernaturally well.”

We are born with our spiritual gifts — whether or not we choose to accept them as such doesn’t come until salvation. But the gifts are there. Have you never looked at an unbeliever and thought to yourself, “what a waste of such a gifted individual?” 

There are particularly gifted secular analysts; political, social, economic, strategic, and so on. These folks have the gift of discernment. It isn’t something you can learn so much as something you can’t help. Analysis demands the gift of discernment. 

Some believers are gifted with the gift of healing. So are some unbelievers. Many unbelieving but gifted healers enter the health profession, demonstrating their considerable gifts without ever acknowledging the Spirit Who bestowed them. 

The same can be said of wisdom, knowledge, even tongues (in the sense of having a ‘gift’ for languages). Not to mention faith. Many unbelievers are gifted with incredible faith. (Believing in evolution takes more than just ‘faith’ — it requires, to quote Hillary from the Petraeus Hearing, “a willing suspension of disbelief” — but its adherents are nothing if not faithful.)

Muslims have faith. Buddhists have faith. Even atheists have to take it on ‘faith’ that there is no God, since they have even less proof of God’s non-existence than believers have of His reality. 

The issue isn’t over whether or not one is gifted, but rather how one uses those gifts. One can use one’s God-given gifts to serve themselves (and the enemy) or one can use them to serve the Lord. 

“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:29

You can’t repent to get a gift, and God won’t repent the gifts He has already given you. Note that each of the spiritual gifts are not so much something you have as something you are. Take the gift of discernment, which is one of my spiritual gifts. 

One day, my brother was visiting and he commented on a news story we had just seen. 
The story was blatant propaganda (to me) but my brother totally missed it. So I broke it down and showed him the various parts that, when put together, painted a picture that was entirely opposite to the actual truth. 

He looked at me and said, “The way your mind works scares me. You see a hidden agenda behind everything! How can you stand it?” 

I’ve always had the gift of discernment — it’s just that it wasn’t until I came to Christ that I began to use it for the purpose God intended. 

Paul makes the point that, while ‘the manifestation of the Spirit (spiritual gifts) is given to every man to profit withal’, not every man accepts the call to use his gifts in the service of the King. 

I know many a gifted speaker who can sway thousands with that gift but who use it exclusively to their own profit. 

The interesting thing about gifts is that we almost always see our own as inferior to somebody else’s. I am always stunned when a church soloist or music minister comes up to me and gushes, “I wish I had your gift!” 

First off, I always wished I could sing. Secondly, I wouldn’t wish the gift of discernment on anybody. (Trust me. Ignorance is bliss.) 

Believers are gifted to a Divine purpose. We don’t know exactly how God uses our gifts but we know that God has a plan. 

Paul notes that, as believers, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” 

For that reason, Paul says, “the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?” 

To further illustrate his point, Paul asks rhetorically, “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” (1st Corinthians 12:13-17)

The issue of spiritual gifts is one of those divisive doctrines that reminds me of being a kid at Christmas. We all want the gifts we don’t have, often to the degree that we fail to recognize the ones that we do. 

We noted that both the ‘gifts and calling’ of God are ‘without repentance’. The Spirit gifts us, then calls us to use those gifts in His service. Whether we accept or reject the call, the gifts remain ours. 

How can you know if you are using the gifts God gave you? The best answer to the question is found in the great Zola Levitt’s definition of spiritual gifting — spiritual gifting is something that you can do supernaturally well. 

I know a preacher whose gifts are music and faith. (Those gifts are most apparent when he preaches. He has a great voice and he has faith that nobody else can tell he has neither knowledge nor discernment.)

Similarly, I know a music leader who is doubly gifted in knowledge and discernment — (and HIS gifts are most apparent when he sings.)

Each of us is gifted by the Spirit for the express purpose of edifying the Body of Christ. You can’t tell if you are using the gifts God gave you or the gifts you wish God gave you. 

But you can bet your life that everyone else you know can.

Originally Published: February 5, 2008

Power to Deceive

Power to Deceive
Vol: 171 Issue: 11 Friday, December 11, 2015

One of the hallmark signs of the last days before the return of Christ is that of deception on a global scale. The Bible says that the antichrist’s entire platform is built on deception.

“And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” (Revelation 13:14)

When asked, ‘what will be the sign of Thy coming’, Jesus’ reply began with the words,

“Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matthew 24:4)

The Apostle Paul, in his 2nd letter to Timothy, speaking specifically of the last days, warned,

“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2nd Timothy 3:13)

The prophet Isaiah, also writing of the Tribulation Period, prophesied;

“I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” (Isaiah 66:3)

Contrariwise, Paul says of the Church of the last days,

“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1st Thessalonians 5:4)

The ‘day’ to which Paul is referring is the day of the Rapture of the Church, a secret event that Jesus said would remain secret, because,

“. . . if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.” (Luke 12:39)

Suppose that it became common knowledge that the Rapture was definitely going to take place on January 1, 2016. 

Recall the ‘Millennium fever’ period just before the turn of the century. The lyrics to a popular song of the time makes my point;

“Two thousand, zero zero / party over / out of time / So tonight we’re gonna party like its 1999.” 

That pretty much sums it up. If we knew when the Lord was coming back for sure, you can bet that the day before, there’d be a whole lotta repentin’ goin’ on.

But up until then . . . well, human nature is what it is. Christians are only human, after all.

“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:42)

Assessment:

In this generation, deception has taken on a new dimension. A lie isn’t a lie, it is ‘spin.’ Truth is relative — one man’s ‘truth’ is another man’s lie — it all depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is, and so forth.

“And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His Name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. ” (Revelation 13:5-6)

The Bible says that during the seven-year Tribulation Period, a political leader will emerge from the ashes of the Roman Empire, seize control of the reigns of global power, and then use that power to unleash a world-wide persecution of Christians and Jews that will result in the deaths of millions.

For most of my lifetime, the whole idea sounded preposterous. The world, at the time I entered it, had just emerged victorious from having vanquished just such a foe. 

Indeed, during the Second World War, there were plenty of books sold naming Adolph Hitler as the antichrist and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as his false prophet, so closely did the Axis resemble Revelation’s picture of the unholy alliance. 

But Hitler wasn’t the antichrist. He persecuted the Jews, but the Bible says that, under the real antichrist, he will persecute the Jews of Israel, who will inhabit Jerusalem. 

And Hitler tried to seize control of the whole world. The Bible says that the antichrist will have it handed to him, just as Germany handed control of itself over to Hitler. 

Hitler didn’t control the global propaganda machine, just the one in Germany. Still, propaganda proved its power. In a single generation, Hitler was able to transform the most cultured nation in Europe into a nation of bloodthirsty murderers. 

In a single generation, German Jews went from being treasured members of the German population to subhumans deemed fit only for fertilizer. 

The German propaganda machine was directly responsible for the murders of at least twelve million Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, mental patients and others deemed unfit to live. 

Next door, Josef Stalin’s propaganda machine convinced the Russian people to murder some fifty million of their own, for one reason or another. 

Russian propaganda was, to Western ears, laughable. But until the Berlin Wall collapsed, the average Russian believed that Russia invented everything worth having, and whatever the West had, we stole the designs from them.

The Bible says that one day, someone will seize control of the spin machine and make it his own. It says that he will deceive a willing public only too happy to hear what they want to hear, even if it is obvious deception, because they WANT to believe it. 

The Apostle Paul, writing of the events leading up to the revelation of the antichrist, told the church at Thessolonica;

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:11-12)

This generation has been conditioned for the past fifty years to accept lies as truth, and to disparage truth as lies, if it tickles their ears and suits their bias.

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth will let, until He be taken out of the way. And THEN shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

The only thing standing in ‘that Wicked’s’ way is the Church. For now.

Originally Published: June 22, 2005

Featured Commentary: Sensitivity Training ~ Alf Cengia

The Indictment

The Indictment
Vol: 171 Issue: 10 Thursday, December 10, 2015

According to the Bible, one day as Jacob was cooking a red stew, Esau came in from the wilderness ‘and he was faint’. Genesis 25:29 tells us of the episode that gave Esau his nickname, “Edom.’

“And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.” Which means red).

The Bible doesn’t go into detail about Esau’s condition beyond that, but it is worth considering the context. 

Esau was out ‘in the wilderness’ at a time when the ‘wilderness’ was a huge, dangerous and inhospitable place populated by wild animals and roving bandits. 

When Jacob demanded Esau’s birthright as first-born in exchange for a bowl of red stew, “Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?”

Clearly, Esau was ‘faint’ with hunger and exhaustion, but given context, Esau could have been in very bad shape. 

It was a dirty trick on Jacob’s part, and it set the stage for conflict that continues to this day. 

The Prophet Obadiah picks up the story of the Edomites and their abuse of God’s people, God’s land, and God’s Holy Hill, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. 

Obadiah accuses Edom of “violence against your brother Jacob.” (v.10) Not just an ACT of violence, but constant, systematic and unrelenting violence.

Some Bible prophecy is near term, some long term, and, in come cases, like Obadiah’s, it is a single glance that encompasses a a broad period of time. Obadiah’s vision spans the entire scope of history from the first destruction of the Temple to the end of time. 

That Obadiah’s prophecies extend into the present day is evidenced by his references in verse 15-17 to the Day of the Lord, the recovery of the Temple Mount and references to land not yet recovered by Israel. Obadiah’s prophecy begins with the ancient Edomites and tracks their physical and spiritual descendants to the last days. 

So, can we determine their modern identity with any degree of confidence based on the Scriptures? 

Assessment:

The most compelling Scriptural evidence to identify the Edomites is found in Ezekiel 36:5

The first fifteen verses of that chapter give God’s viewpoint regarding the ownership and eventual disposition of what the world calls the “West Bank.” 

Ezekiel describes a conspiracy between the nations of the world and “Edom” to misappropriate that land that God had granted to Jacob. 

The book of Obadiah is also closely related to the prophecy of Ezekiel 35, which is a prophecy against the same group of people.

“All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; that they eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.” (1:7)

The ‘Palestinians’ are a ‘confederacy’ rather than a people. They have conspired with Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iran and the Saudis to lay claim to the West Bank as their ‘ancestral homeland’. Jeremiah 48-49 includes prophecies against these modern Islamic states, and provides additional support for the identification of the Palestinians as the Edomites. 

Further nailing down the identification of modern Edom is Obadiah 1:8:

“Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?”

The ‘wise men out of Edom’ are the imams and Islamic preachers who preach the destruction of Israel from the “Mount of Esau” (the stolen Temple Mount v.16). 

Let’s examine some of Obadiah’s indictments against Edom and compare them to Israeli-Arab conflict:

1) Violence against Jacob: “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.” (v. 10)

2) Celebrating Israel’s calamities: “But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger;” (v.12a)

3) Handing over the Jews to their enemies: “neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.” (v. 12)

4) Taking possession of the Jewish holy places: “Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity.” (v.13)

5) Mocking the God of Israel and His People from His Holy Hill: “For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.” (v. 16)

6) And finally, the destruction of something Obadiah calls “Mount Esau” — a symbolic reference to Esau’s deity, Allah, on ‘Mount Zion.”

“And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.” (v.21)

In case that doesn’t make the case for you, Obadiah’s chief indictment against Edom is its systematic, constant and unrelenting violence against Jacob. 

Let’s revisit that verse, substituting the word ‘violence’ with its Hebrew equivalent and look at the indictment one more time in context:

“For thy HAMAS (violence) against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.” (Obadiah 1:10)

Originally Published: November 22, 2006

Saved?

Saved?
Vol: 171 Issue: 9 Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Being ‘saved’ — by definition — means that until the moment of salvation a person is ‘lost’.  To someone that IS lost, this is a very difficult concept to communicate.

Generally speaking, the Omega Letter is primarily aimed at those who are already saved, and today’s is no exception, so don’t write this one off as a refresher that you don’t need. 

If salvation means to be ‘preserved or delivered from destruction, danger or great calamity’ the skeptic cannot even consider his need to be saved unless he first recognizes such destruction, danger or great calamity exists.

There is something to be learned from the atheist that denies the existence of heaven and hell, but admits to fearing death.  If there is no certain judgment beyond the grave, what is there to fear?

To the atheist or “free thinker”, death is merely a cessation of consciousness, an end to existence.

But absent the fear of judgment, what is so terrifying about death?  We aren’t terrified to go to sleep.  We aren’t terrified of general anaesthesia, in and of itself, before an operation.

Humanity fears death because of the existence of God, whether the atheist wants to admit it or not.  This instinctive knowledge of God colors our every action, whether one is a believer or not.

We are all built with a God-shaped vacuum in our being.  Humans try and fill that void with all kinds of things; money, drugs, sex, pagan religions, personal relationships, and on and on, but nothing ever quite fits except God.

The problems arise when one attempts to communicate the need for salvation without first communicating what one is being saved from.  The atheist demands to know, “how can a loving God condemn people to hell?”

That seems a fair question, but it isn’t.  It`s as loaded as a set of crooked dice.

It is the nature of all human beings to sin, which further separates them from God, which turns that aching void into an insurmountable chasm.  It seems too wide to cross.

All human beings are sinners, by nature and by personal action, and none are righteous.  Some may sin to a greater or lesser degree, but all have failed to attain to the standard of God, which is perfection of character, spiritual righteousness and performance (Romans 3:9-10)

Since God created man in His eternal image, all human beings have an eternal destiny.  We were created to spend eternity in God’s presence, but the fall of man and our inherited sin nature render us ineligible for heaven.

But being created in God’s image, that is to say, with an eternal spiritual component, we have to go somewhere.

The Lord created the Lake of Fire for the devil and his rebellious angels, and not for mankind.  But sin bars us from heaven.  And since we are eternal, when we shuffle off this mortal coil, we cannot simply cease to exist, can we?

So if not to heaven, well, then, there is only one other place left.  God doesn’t condemn us to hell, we condemn ourselves by choosing to go there.

It IS a choice, but it is NOT God’s choice.  If it were God’s choice, He would not have provided the way of salvation.

Confronted with the choice of condemning the human race, God’s choice was to bear the condemnation in His Own Body at the Cross, so that the human race might be saved through faith in His accomplished work.

Through Jesus Christ, God paid our ransom to deliver us from the bondage (and the consequences) of sin.

Sin places humanity into a state of captivity from which a price must be paid in order that a person might be redeemed or purchased out of that state.

The state of captivity, brought about by the sinful condition of humanity, is like a slave market where people are sold as the possession of the purchaser, and in order to be free, the slave must pay for a release or deliverance; this is a ransom.

Humanity is “sold under sin” (Romans 7:14) and therefore falls under the judgment of God.

The judgment has already been pronounced by God and the penalty is eternal death.

The death of Jesus Christ is the ransom paid in order to redeem the human race from the penalty of sin.  The ransom is paid to God, as a payment for the release of humanity from the penalty of their sinful state. (cf. Matthew 20:281 Peter 1:17-191 Timothy 2:5-6Galatians 3:13)

God’s perfect justice demands that a penalty for sin be paid.  Jesus Christ is a propitiation that satisfies the justice of God and allows Him to forgive sinful human beings through His mercy and grace.

By committing sins, which all have their direction toward God, humanity has become separated and alienated from God.  A reconciliation cannot be effected because humanity cannot meet the requirements of God in a sinful state and cannot be removed from the authority of judgment by God.

It is Jesus Christ who is the Mediator of the reconciliation between man and God.

Finally, God Himself provided a Substitute to pay that penalty for us.  The perfect and sinless life of Jesus Christ is the substitute for that of sinful human beings, and His death is also a substitute for the eternal spiritual death that has been pronounced as the judgment against all sinful human beings.

The problem with salvation, from the perspective of the lost, is admitting that they have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Pride will not let them depend entirely on the substitutionary payment made on their behalf — pride demands that they participate in some way in the process.

But to the lost, participation in the process means giving up all the stuff they like, living like a monk, wearing a hair shirt and walking around praying all the time.  It is too much to contemplate, so they prefer not to contemplate it at all.

Being saved means BEING saved.  One doesn’t save oneself from drowning — in fact, a drowning person’s panicky flailing about can pull down both parties.  Being saved means relaxing and allowing Jesus to save you.

Your participation is limited to accepting the fact you cannot save yourself.  The world would have you to believe that it is up to you.   It seems to make sense, at least on the surface.  I’ve used the following analogy before, but it bears repeating here.

Imagine you have a child that gets lost in the woods for days. You are out there, searching under every bush for your lost child, when suddenly, you see him afar off.  You run to the child, calling his name, as he runs to you, in slow motion, like in the movies.

Both of you have your arms outstretched, but, just as you are about to embrace your lost child, you notice that he is all dirty and smelly and matted from his time in the wilderness.

So, instead of embracing your lost child, you hold him at arm’s length, scold him for being dirty, and tell him you will embrace him after he’s had a bath.

That is the way the lost generally understand salvation.  That before they can embrace Jesus, and He them, they must first clean themselves up.

That is too big a job to contemplate, and so when they hear Him calling, they hide under a bush.

The lost fail to grasp the simplicity of salvation. Ephesians 2:8 explains,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: “

Look at the elements: For BY GRACE are ye saved — through FAITH — and THAT not of yourselves — it is a GIFT of God.

It is so simple that most people can’t explain it, and even if they can, even more can’t accept it without further complicating it.

God grants the ‘grace’ (an unmerited, undeserved gift) which you received through faith — a faith that is ‘not of yourselves’ but is rather a gift from God.

There is no room in that equation for us to play any greater role than to accept that gift with humble gratitude.

Thank you, Jesus, for the Gift of eternal life.  I pray right now that You will burn its truth into my soul, and help me to communicate to others their need for salvation.

“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude:24-25)

Because He IS able.  Trust Him.

Originally Published: November 26, 2001