The Blasphemy of Jesus

When reading Matthew 26 where Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin for them to judge Him, no doubt you’ve seen the extreme reaction by Caiaphas the high priest.  Caiaphas is interrogating Jesus and is getting frustrated because He doesn’t say a word in His defense.  Finally, in this confrontation Caiaphas has had enough.  Matthew 26:62-66 tells us what happens next:

And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

What is it about the declaration Jesus makes that sets Caiaphas off so much?  The typical thinking here is that the high priest takes the implication of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God as being the blasphemous statement, but it’s actually more than that.  There’s a deeper meaning in what Jesus said.  It’s this connection that Caiaphas immediately made and which caused him to condemn Jesus because of this particular blasphemy in his eyes.

Note again verse 64:

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus says that He will come on the clouds of heaven.  This is the problem that Caiaphas has, and of course, the question is “Why?”

For the answer we need to look deeply into the Old Testament and how it portrays God.  Beyond that, we must see how other gods in the Ancient Near East were portrayed.

The Canaanite god Baal was considered one of the foremost deities of the nations, and of course, one of those which the Israelites continually got into trouble by worshiping him.  Ancient texts describe Baal as “the Charioteer of the Clouds.”  He was a god that rode around in this manner and smote his foes.  In this context of the Ancient Near East, the Israelites were very familiar with this depiction.  This was the neighborhood in which they lived, and given their constant flirtation with gods other than Yahweh, they knew intimately of Baal’s characteristics and descriptions.  In fact, it was for this reason that the Pharisees in Jesus’ time were so strictly legalistic.  They wanted to make sure that they were completely following the Law set down by Yahweh so they wouldn’t drift into the worship of other gods such as Baal as they had in the past.

In the Deuteronomy 32:8-9 worldview which comes about following the Tower of Babel incident where God scatters mankind to the nations, God in this passage assigns the nations to other gods, in fact, to the sons of God:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

He then calls out Israel as His special people which He does through Abraham and Sarah.

God’s divine sons become corrupt through their free will and set themselves up as gods over each of their nations.  This doesn’t sit well with God and He condemns them in Psalm 82:

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

The Old Testament writers knew of these dynamics and the interplay between Yahweh and His corrupted divine sons that He has judged and found wanting.  In the inspiration of Scripture, God has its writers make a clear distinction between Him and these lesser, created beings.  What they do is replace Baal as the rider on the clouds with the One true God.  We see this in several places.

Psalm 68:32-34

O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
sing praises to the Lord, Selah
to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and whose power is in the skies.

Psalm 104:1-3

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;

Isaiah 19:1

An oracle concerning Egypt.

Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.

None of this is problematic for Jesus.  However, there’s a passage that brings all these other references together which Jesus specifically links to in His statement.  It’s Daniel 7:9-13 that causes Caiaphas to issue the death penalty:

“As I looked, thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.

“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.

This is an amazing passage.  It shows God’s divine council in session depicted by the thrones and the court.  And who shows up?  The Son of Man riding on the clouds of heaven.

Look once again at what Jesus says to Caiaphas in Matthew 26:64:

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus has just told Caiaphas that He is this One in the heavens.  He is the Son of Man.  Not only that, but the connection as noted above in the various psalms is that Yahweh is the one who rides the clouds.  Jesus has made the very clear declaration that He is Yahweh.

This is beyond the pale for Caiaphas.  It’s absolute blasphemy from his perspective.  There is only one God in the Israelite understanding according to the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Is it any wonder that Caiaphas tore his robes?

Jesus is indeed who He says He is.  He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  He is above every other god because all were created by Him.

There is coming a day when the people of Israel will finally acknowledge this truth that Caiaphas and the Jews in that day denied.  It will conclude the horrendous 7-year period of the Tribulation.  As Zechariah 13:9 says, it will be a wonderful day for all of God’s people:

“And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

Jesus & the Sons of God

I read a fascinating book recently that has changed how I look at the entire scope of Scripture.  That’s a tall order because most of us gain a certain bias through the teachings we’ve had via sermons we’ve heard and various studies in which we’ve engaged.  My Biblical view is and remains one that looks to the fulfillment of all things.  I view the world through the lens of Scripture, but it’s one with an entirely prophetic bias.

This has not changed; what has changed is that I’ve gained a larger scope of this prophetic worldview.  In this, my view of spiritual warfare has broadened immensely.  I’m seeing things in Scripture that before I simply passed by.  This is giving me an even greater appreciation for the wonder of God and the supernatural aspect of His kingdom.

The book I read is The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael S. Heiser.  It’s a fairly weighty book with copious footnotes.  Dr. Heiser has also written a condensed version of this book called Supernatural, whose intent is to make the ideas and concepts more accessible to the general lay public.  I’m currently reading that as well to reinforce the ideas and understanding I gained through the larger book.

This message isn’t intended to provide a review of The Unseen Realm.  That would take many such articles.  What I will say is that Dr. Heiser presents a view into God’s unseen realm through his discussion of what is known as the Divine Council.  Because the ramifications of the council extend throughout Scripture, it’s extremely important to understand that it exists and from it have come numerous references and implications in God’s Word that the vast majority of readers completely overlook.

The term “the sons of God” is a direct reference to this council.  These are the “benai Elohim” in Hebrew, also seen in the Bible as “the morning stars” and “the hosts of heaven.”   These are part of God’s family, the divine branch.  We see the sons of God in Job 1:6 and again in Job 2:1 where the angels present themselves before God.  These passages give us a glimpse into heaven with the gathering of these divine beings:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.

In Deuteronomy 32:8-9 we see them again.  Many commentators want to assign this passage to the sons of Israel; this is how many Bible translations read.  But if you look at the footnotes, you’ll see the correct translation from the Septuagint that it should be “the sons of God.”  (Note: I’m using the ESV translation in all the Bible passages referenced.)

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

There’s much to unpack in this passage, which I won’t do at this time other than this: Here, God is telling us that this is a Romans 1:24 moment in the Old Testament:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves

Mankind had an opportunity to follow the God of gods, Elohim of the elohim, but it chose not to and disobeyed once more at the Tower of Babel incident.  Thus, God assigned man to the not-so-tender mercies of these other divine beings that He set over the nations, but Israel He reserved for Himself.

My point is to show that the benai Elohim are mentioned throughout the Old Testament.  It is also relevant to note that the term is used in the New Testament referring to those who have become believers in Jesus Christ.  Humanity is the other branch of God’s family, one that will itself become divine some day when believers receive their glorified bodies and we become like Jesus just as 1 John 3:2 tells us:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

The connections between the Old and New Testaments are fascinating and worthy of discussion at another time.

In Psalm 82, one which is frequently misunderstood, we see in verse 1:

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

In this psalm God condemns these gods, these elohim, who have become corrupted in their oversight of the nations that was assigned in Deuteronomy 32.  In Psalm 82:6 God says to these beings:

I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

These gods, these divine beings set over the nations became corrupted through their free will, just as man did.  As a result, He has sentenced them to death.  If God was speaking to Israel, to its rulers, why would He tell men that they would die like men?  These are Divine Council members who have rebelled against Him.

This brings me to John 10:34-39 where Jesus is speaking to the Jews:

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

The most common approach is for commentators to say this means that Psalm 82 and Jesus’ statement are referring to the Pharisees and other religious rulers.  I don’t think so.  Jesus is here saying that if He called the divine beings gods, how much more is He God—as the Son of God—than these entities who sit in God’s presence?  He is God’s actual Son, more than a created being like these others.

It’s for this and other such supposedly blasphemous statements that the Jews wanted to seize and stone Jesus.  We’ve seen numerous instances before where He had to literally disappear from within their midst; here He does it again.  In a sense, this is a kind of Rapture that happened to Jesus in multiple instances because it wasn’t yet His time.  You’d think they would have gotten a clue.

Jesus is more than a benai Elohim, a son of God; He is THE Son of God, the Name above all names.  What are some of these names?  Satan, Chemosh, Molech, Ashtoreth, Rimmon—all Divine Council members in heaven who rebelled because of their belief that they were equal to or greater than the One true God, the Lord of lords.  All these were lords over their earthly domains, all given territory as we see in Deuteronomy 32, but they will go down to Sheol and die like mere men (Psalm 82:6).

Have you ever considered these Bible passages in this light?  It’s eye-opening and astounding.  It provides a more comprehensive understanding about the Bible’s great theme of redemption.  It rounds it out our entire view of Scripture and, I think, even brings revelation.

The spiritual warfare playing out around us is a result of these rebellious divine beings, ones like the Princes of Persia and of Greece seen in Daniel 10:13,20:

The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia.

Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

Look again at the incredible statement that the angel who has come to Daniel tells him in Daniel 10:21:

But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

Michael alone is on God’s side as archangel over Israel, God’s Promised land—the land and the people that He took for Himself.  Apparently, there were no other divine rulers over the nations at that time who were loyal to God; they had all turned away.  Is it any wonder the people in the nations worshiped these other gods?

Here’s a thought for our present time: If the corruption of these divine beings who are the princes over the nations of the world has worsened; if every divine ruler over every nation has decided to lift himself up to fight against the God of Israel and the God of all true believers, Jesus Christ, is there any question as to why the world is what it is today?  Truly, this cosmic-geographical battle will only intensify and become horrendous during the Tribulation.

Only when Jesus returns to slay the unbelievers of the nations who gather against Him at Armageddon will these rebellious divine rulers likely see their end.  The Bible doesn’t clearly tell us how this will work.  Perhaps Isaiah 34:1-4 gives us a glimpse:

Draw near, O nations, to hear,
and give attention, O peoples!
Let the earth hear, and all that fills it;
the world, and all that comes from it.
For the Lord is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.
All the host of heaven shall rot away,
and the skies roll up like a scroll.
All their host shall fall,
as leaves fall from the vine,
like leaves falling from the fig tree.

This appears to be another passage that speaks both to the natural realm and the spiritual one.  To be devoted to destruction by God is for Him to completely annihilate.  As the nation’s armies, or hosts, are devoured at the breath of Christ when He returns, this may also be indicating that this is the point at which the corrupt divine rulers over these nations are also done away with and Psalm 82:6 applies.

Will they be thrown into the abyss along with Satan prior to the Millennium?  Or will God allow them to stick around until Satan’s final rebellion when he’s cast into the Lake of Fire?  I can make arguments for both.

The certainty is that the White Throne Judgment is their final end, as it is for Satan and all unbelievers.  God will bring His ultimate plan of redemption to a conclusion at that time.  Sin and evil will be no more.  How glorious will be that day!

A Conspiracy Theory About the Garden & the Fall

Did you ever have one of those days when you began pondering the mysteries of God and wonder how something happened or came about in the Kingdom?  That’s been me lately.

Recently I’ve been studying the pagan religion of Hinduism, and how the practice of yoga plays into that.  As someone has said, “There is no Hinduism without yoga, and no yoga without Hinduism.”  Let me establish right from the beginning that yoga has no place in the life of a believer or in the church.  Because of its relationship to Hinduism, any practice of yoga calls demonic forces into play.  The Western acceptance of yoga comes from New Age spirituality.  The yoga practitioner, e.g. even someone who engages in Transcendental Meditation (TM), is flirting with the occult.

The yoga positions can ultimately lead to an awakening of a demonic power known as Kundalini.  In yoga there are seven psychic energy points in the body.  This psychic energy is pictured as a serpent that initially lies coiled at the base of the spine.  Upon practicing yoga and meditation, the serpent is awakened and begins to travel up the spine through these psychic energy points known as chakras.  Practiced deeply enough, the energy can be focused through a point on the forehead between the eyes, in what is called the third eye.  Many psychic/spiritual manifestations can occur through this process, and particularly when it reaches the third eye.  (By the way, that’s why all Hindus place that red dot on their foreheads in this position.  It’s an acknowledgment of their supposed godhead and the power of yoga to awaken it.)  The final release of the energy through the last chakra at the top of the head is supposed to lead to a state of final bliss known as nirvana.  This is the ultimate goal of the yoga practitioner because, in the Hindu belief system, this is when the person merges with the godhead, realizes his oneness with all of creation, and effectively become god.

Obviously, this is all absolutely contrary to what the Bible teaches and is exceptionally dangerous.  A follower of Jesus Christ should NEVER practice yoga or go anywhere near the occult.

Having said that, I believe there is a mystery here.  I also don’t believe that we’ll truly know God’s real intent or unveiling of this mystery until we’re with Him.  But, that doesn’t hinder us from thinking and speculating.  We’re human, after all, and God made us to inquire and to seek out His mysteries.

I want to be very careful in how I express all what I’m going to explore next because there is such potential connection with the occult and things that God never intended for man.  You have to understand that as a fiction writer I “go places” in creating scenes and scenarios that a lot of people may not even come near.  So, please, give me a little latitude with this and hear me out.

What occurs in yoga in the traveling of this Kundalini serpent through the psychic energy centers is part of the mystery.  It’s real.  It happens.  When people practice yoga, these chakras are opened and greater awareness, albeit of a demonic nature, occurs.

Here’s my key question.  Where did this come from?

Here’s my answer.  It had to originally come from God.

God is our creator.  Everything in the world came from His creative mind.  What is within each human being had, therefore, to come from Him.  This means that these seven psychic energy centers within each person had to be placed there by God.

Chew on that a minute.  The fact that they are currently used for a demonic purpose is the rest of this story, but Satan didn’t put them inside us.  He only figured out a way to use them to his purposes

My theory—absolutely, completely speculative, but not without some Biblical foundation—is the following.  The host of heaven (i.e. the sons of God, the morning stars, the angels) celebrated the creation of the world and all things in it when God did His work in seven days.  We see that in Job 38:4-7:

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

When God made man, is it possible that He showed the “blueprints” to the angels?  I believe He did.  My theory is based on that assumption.  Recall in Job 1:6:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

Consider also 2 Chronicles 18:18-22 in which the prophet Micaiah is summoned to the kings of Judah (Jehoshaphat) and Israel (Ahab) and describes how a lying spirit is placed in the mouths of false prophets:

18 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. 19 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ 21 And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 22 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The Lord has declared disaster concerning you.”

Notice how God consults those around Him, the host of heaven.

There is much more to this, but what we see in these verses is what is known as the Divine Council.  God’s creation in the heavens is part of an assembly that He consults.  God is completely sovereign and His will is always done, but He works through His creation.  An aspect of this could have been the revealing of His divine “blueprint” for the final glorification of man.

When Satan rebelled against God, what did he do?  He went to the Garden of Eden to corrupt mankind.  He tempted Eve and through her Adam fell.  Satan asked Eve one critical question, “Has God truly said?” (Genesis 3:1) and made one fatal statement: “For God knows that in the day you eat of the fruit your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Satan taught man to first question God and then to aspire to be like Him.  This led to the fall of man.  It resulted in our DNA somehow being corrupted by sin, so that within every person there is a sin nature.

Now, let’s suppose that Satan knows that God has put within every person something very special—call it an essence of the fulness of the Spirit that will be activated within us at the appropriate time.  This essence, however, was never intended by God to be used by mankind in the flesh as we know it.  It was to be initiated by God at some point in the future.  It may very well be that it’s connected to our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  Perhaps this essence was only intended to become manifest once we’ve become like Jesus and are given our glorified bodies after the resurrection.  Remember that 1 John 3:2 says:

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Don’t forget that in our glorified bodies, at some point, we will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3)—probably fallen angels.  How do we do this without something greater within us that enables this?  Is part of it the living water that bubbles up within us flowing to eternal life?  (John 7:37-39)  Is all this interconnected?

What if this essence, the living water, is the Spirit of God with definitive attributes?  Isaiah 11:1-2 speaks of this specifically regarding Jesus:

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

There are seven qualities, characteristics, or manifestations of this essence of the Spirit.  They are:

  1. Spirit of the Lord
  2. Wisdom
  3. Understanding
  4. Counsel
  5. Might
  6. Knowledge
  7. Fear of the Lord

Remember how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, and after that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Him?  (Luke 4:14) Was this the true awakening of the Son of Man into the power of the Son of God?

This is also the sevenfold Spirit mentioned in Revelation 1:4 and 4:5:

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne

 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God

Going back to yoga and the seven chakras.  I couldn’t definitively correlate these psychic energy centers that Satan has constructed with the true seven Spirits of the Lord, but I suspect that was the intent in the counterfeiting plans of the adversary.

I guess this is where the conspiracy theory really kicks in.  Knowing these spiritual things, Satan decides to use them in his ages-long quest to displace God and take down His creation to the pit of hell with him.  The fruit that Eve eats, however it works, is the gateway.  It’s part of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; it opens man’s eyes to that which he isn’t supposed to see at this time.  But he does.  The sin nature comes in and the ability to access this spiritual essence comes about.  At this point, God has to expel Adam and Eve from the garden, because He can’t also have them partake of the tree of life and live forever in this sinful state with dormant powers and capabilities we were never supposed to have in the flesh.  That would really mess things up.

Mankind is now infected with the sin of desiring to be like God.  Adam and Eve never went any further in their quest for ultimate knowledge, but that doesn’t stop Satan, because their descendants certainly pursue it.  He has now made a way through the very mechanism in man’s body that will ultimately be used for good when born-again believers are glorified and we have spiritual bodies.  Satan can tempt man to awaken his godhead now in his fleshly state.  He devises yoga within the pagan Hindu culture and makes this spiritual quest the ultimate achievement of man.  He spreads it worldwide through the practice of yoga in the New Age movement.  But it must be gained only through endless lives recycled again and again, all based on how one lives his life at any time.  Theoretically, man’s karma enables him to progress spiritually through the cycle of reincarnation and attempt to become god even as he focuses solely on himself.  Very diabolical, and opposed to the truth, which is found in Hebrews 9:27 that:

it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.

The bottom line in this conspiracy theory is that Satan, as he so often does, uses the good things of God, twists and corrupts them, and causes many to fall away from eternal life that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Don’t be deceived, and don’t be tempted by something that seems good, but can only end in death.  God’s plan for us is so much better, and He will reveal it in His own time.

Discernment Ministries

In these latter days, there is a great need for discernment in the church (and in the world) because of the rise of heretical teachings and apostasy.  Pastors and teachers, left and right, are embracing what they may think are truths, but upon examination are not Biblical.  This is a strong indication that our time on earth is growing short.  Deception is rampant.  False teachers, messiahs, and doctrines are so prevalent as to make us dizzy as we turn first one way then another to vet their Scriptural veracity.

We know the verses warning of these times:

1 Timothy 4:1-2

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

1 Timothy 6:3-5

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

1 Timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

2 John 7-11

I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

There are many other such verses.

This has led to numerous Discernment Ministries that examine potentially questionable people, both what they say and what they do, potentially being the operative word.  One person’s practices might be of concern to one group, but not to another.  Generally, I think these ministries can be valuable to the Body of Christ.  I say generally because there are countless such ministries that do nothing but criticize in an unscriptural manner.  A quick example is that many of us believe whole-heartedly in the pre-Tribulation Rapture.  There are criticizers of this position who “discern” that it is errant, believing that its supporters are leading many straight into the throes of the Tribulation where those hapless followers will lose their salvation.  From what I’ve seen and heard, there’s quite a rabidity to a lot of these anti-pre-Tribbers.  This has led to numerous un-Christian-like verbal attacks, which leaves a lot of us scratching our heads.  Maybe the discerners in this instance should look in the mirror.

There are also many good ministries bringing a discerning spirit into the marketplace of Christian ideas.  Like all of us, the folks doing these ministries are fallible and subject to error.  They can also jump to conclusions that may be warranted, but perhaps should have been validated more fully.  In any of these circumstances, because of the public nature of the Internet where all things said never die, reputations can be tarnished on one side or the other.

Mistakes happen.  Misunderstandings can abound.  People and ministries get hurt.  Resolving a discerned error from either side of the position can be difficult.  Once the damage is done, again warranted or not, it’s hard to undo.

In a prior post I mentioned that recently I got involved at the periphery in a discernment dispute.  Because I happen to have some minor connections to the people on both sides of the issue, I believe the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me just watch from the sidelines.  My heart in this instance was to attempt to bring truth and resolution into the issue.  Both sides had valid arguments in my estimation.  It grieved me that the public nature of this situation seemed to bring a hardening from both camps.

The purpose of this particular message is ultimately one of methodology.  How should a discernment ministry go about its task?  I won’t dwell on these points, but try to succinctly lay them out.

  • The first and most obvious is that the Word of God should be the foremost means by which anyone is judged. Does the ministry in question adhere to Scripture?
  • When an issue arises and a question is asked whether someone is deviating from Scripture in their teachings, the source should always be noted.
  • There should be an investigation of the one accused of heretical teaching. Is there a consistent pattern of errant doctrine?  Or, are there simply things spoken that could be up for misinterpretation?  I think one aspect of this should also be to validate those various sources that led to the issue at hand.
  • The evidence should be accumulated and examined. Does it rise to the level of concern?  If the answer is yes, then the case continues.
  • If the discerning ministry believes a teacher has gone off the rails, the resolution effort MUST begin with the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

  • Every attempt should be made to go directly to the source for a direct confrontation in love. If we can’t follow the example of Jesus here, we’ve got more issues than discernment.
  • This one-on-one discussion should address all the issues of concern through a Biblical lens. From this encounter all aspects of the issue should be explored.  Resolution is the most desirable outcome in which one or both of the parties repents.  It’s possible the discerner was wrong; there must be admittance of error on whichever side it lies.  Paul in 1 Timothy 4:6 tells us the value of a discussion that gets at the truth:

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.

  • Sometimes, for one reason or another, access to the potentially offending party is difficult. Hopefully, however, the discerner can reach out to others who might have access to the person accused of speaking falsely.  If a public ministry, perhaps there’s an accountability board through which someone can go.  If the ministry has a public presence on Facebook or other social media, perhaps there is a closed group that can be joined and access attempted through the administrators of the group.
  • If neither of these approaches is successful and the discerner believes the public outing of the errors is necessary, that point is the one which corresponds to Jesus saying that it must be told to the church, in this case whatever forum the discernment ministry uses for its public exposure.
  • Even after this public outing, there should be every attempt at resolution. Often publishing on the Internet has the effect of getting people’s attention.  As Christian brothers and sisters, we MUST do everything in our power to bring the love of Christ into the situation.  Repentance, apology, forgiveness, whatever is needed should happen.  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:15:

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are NOT optional in the Kingdom of God.

Shalom.

Who Travels the Stairway to Heaven?

This morning in my daily Bible reading I came across the following verse in John 1:51, in which Jesus tells his soon-to-be disciples the wonders that await them as they follow Him:

“I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

How many times have I read that and moved on?  Quite a few, but not today.  The study notes in my Bible stated:

“Jesus represents himself as the ladder by which God’s revelation comes to the world (cf. Genesis 28:12).”

Because of the ladder reference, I knew what Genesis 28:12 was going to tell me before I turned there.  This is the story of Jacob on his journey back to reconcile with Esau.  He stops for the night, pulls up a comfortable rock to rest his head upon, and then:

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

Wow!  Once again, how many times have I read that and never related it to Jesus?  Yet the purpose of the entire Old Testament is to point to Jesus.

What does this tell us about the communication between heaven and earth and the access from earth to heaven?  Why did these verses rise to such an intense level of interest for me today?

Very briefly, I’ll answer the second question first.  Without using any names or specifics, let me just say that I got into the middle of a controversy and am trying to act as a facilitator/mediator.  The core issue is whether or not there is heavenly communication to loved ones or others on earth following death.

To most of us the answer should be obvious.  The Bible in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says:

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.

Very clear.  We are not to communicate with the dead.  Doing so is an abomination to the Lord.  This is called necromancy.

What happens following death?  For a clear picture we turn to Luke 16:19-31, which is Jesus’ story of The Rich Man and Lazarus.  Most Bible commentators believe this is a real incident since Jesus uses a real name, the only time He does so in such a story.  The rich man dies and goes to Hades; Lazarus dies and goes into the arms of Father Abraham.  There is an unbreachable chasm between the two places.  The rich man begs Abraham to help him in some way, but that is impossible.  Then he begs for Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers about this awful place.

First, in Luke 16:26 Abraham says:

“And besides all that, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross from there to us.”

Then in Luke 16:31, Abraham nails the coffin shut on the rich man’s hopes that his brothers will turn from their wicked ways:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Apparently, some people will never turn to the Lord.

The account in Luke 16 may raise the question, how does Jesus figure into this death scenario given Abraham as a main actor?  Personally, I think, since Jesus is the teller of this, that He may be using Abraham symbolically for Himself.  The reason I think this is because of 2 Corinthians 5:8, which says:

we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

Our New Testament understanding is that upon death we immediately go to be with Jesus.  I think this may also be a disembodied spiritual state at this point.  We are at rest following death and remain that way until certain prophetic events occur.  The main one in this regard is the Rapture.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 Paul spells this out:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

We learn in this passage that it’s ONLY upon the Rapture that those who have died in Christ are raised into glorified bodies.  How do I know this?  Because of 1 John 3:2:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Okay, what do we know from all this?  Luke 16 doesn’t refer to a chasm between earth and heaven, but between Hades and heaven.  However, I think we can infer from Jesus’ own words that there is also a separation between earth and heaven.  When we die, we go to be with Jesus.  We’re only given new bodies following the Rapture.

That would mean that those in heaven right now do not have bodies.  That would also mean that anyone having a glimpse into heaven—which may or may not be valid; that’s not my point of contention here—will see, not necessarily their loved ones in actual glorified bodies, but perhaps a vision of that as a representation of what will be in the future.  (If it’s a true vision from God, which again, is another issue altogether.)

Now let’s go back to my original verses in John 1 and Genesis 28.  I believe the Bible tells us here that the only means by which there is communication or passage between heaven and earth is through Jesus.  He is the ladder.  Who do we see traversing Him, i.e. the ladder?  Only angels.  We know that angels are God’s messengers, so this makes sense.  They go from heaven to earth on divine missions and then return.  The key to any of that is Jesus.  He has to be the purpose and completely integral to what the angels do at God’s direction.

We have absolutely no evidence that deceased loved ones go up and down this ladder, nor that there’s any approval of anything remotely like that.

The only conclusion, then, is that anyone thinking they’ve had a visitation from heaven by a deceased loved one is being deceived.  As 2 Corinthians 11:14 says:

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

Thus, for someone to see their deceased son, daughter, mother, father, etc. is seeing a deception from Satan himself.  He can appear as an angel.  Surely, he appears as a dead son to grieving parents.

And unfortunately from this, many people can be led astray away from the truth that is Jesus, and Him only.

The Psalm 83 War: Part 1 of 6

This entry is the first of a 6-part series plus a 7th entry addendum on the Psalm 83 War.  The potential for such a war is disputed among Bible prophecy experts.  One of the first that I’m aware of to explore that this war is not yet a completely fulfilled prophecy was Bill Salus.  I consider Salus an original thinker when it comes to examining Bible prophecy with a fresh set of eyes and thinking out of the box.  I highly recommend his works.

The controversy of this psalm concerns the time and extent of the war’s fulfillment.  Many prophecy teachers conclude that it was completed at the time of Israel’s birth on May 14, 1948.  Many of the same attacking nations discussed in Psalm 83 were a part of those hostilities.  In my mind, again heavily influenced in this regard by Bill Salus, I think the Psalm 83 War has yet to see a final conclusion.  I’ll give my reasons as this series unfolds.

First, let’s look at Psalm 83:

1 Do not keep silent, O God!
Do not hold Your peace,
And do not be still, O God!
For behold, Your enemies make a tumult;
And those who hate You have lifted up their head.
They have taken crafty counsel against Your people,
And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.
They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation,
That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”

For they have consulted together with one consent;
They form a confederacy against You:
The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites;
Moab and the Hagrites;
Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek;
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
Assyria also has joined with them;
They have helped the children of Lot. Selah

Deal with them as with Midian,
As with Sisera,
As with Jabin at the Brook Kishon,
10 Who perished at En Dor,
Who became as refuse on the earth.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and like Zeeb,
Yes, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 Who said, “Let us take for ourselves
The pastures of God for a possession.”

13 O my God, make them like the whirling dust,
Like the chaff before the wind!
14 As the fire burns the woods,
And as the flame sets the mountains on fire,
15 So pursue them with Your tempest,
And frighten them with Your storm.
16 Fill their faces with shame,
That they may seek Your name, O Lord.
17 Let them be confounded and dismayed forever;
Yes, let them be put to shame and perish,
18 That they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord,
Are the Most High over all the earth.

We’ll break this down a little and initially discuss verses 1-4 and then verses 5-8 in this post, with subsequent verses and analysis in latter blog entries.

Verses 1-4:

Here we see that the enemies that are gathering are considered to actually be against God, even though their intent is to come against Israel.  We can’t ever forget that Israel is the Promised Land and the Jews are God’s Chosen People.  He considers them the apple of His eye.  Is it any wonder that when nations come against her, they come against the One who created her for a special purpose?  Never forget the seminal verse regarding this point.  It is Genesis 12:3:

I will bless those who bless you [Israel],
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

As you can see, coming against Israel is a risky business.  Doing so exacts the wrath of God upon anyone or any nation who tries harming Israel.

The enemies are cunning.  They are plotting against Israel, conspiring to come against this nation that God loves so much.  In fact, God cherishes the nation of Israel.  If we ask why He loves Israel so much, we may as well ask why He loves each of us so much.  He simply does.

The intent of Israel’s enemies is to completely destroy her, to bring about her total annihilation.  There’s nothing subtle about this.  They want to wipe Israel out as if she has never existed.

So much do they desire this destruction that they believe in accomplishing it that Israel’s name will be remembered no more over the face of the entire earth.

Verses 5-8:

The purpose of Israel’s enemies is unified.  They meet and plot together in a formal alliance.  They form a confederacy and have a covenant among them to accomplish their single purpose.

There are 10 members of this group, and the psalm names the conspirators.  Depending on the Bible translation you read, the names can be slightly different, but that’s only a matter of semantics.  Here are the 10 nations noted with the indication of who they are today.  Remember, the way the world looked back at the writing of this psalm is not the same as we have today, but we do have the remaining people groups that still exist and populate today’s various nations.

  1. Tents of Edom – Palestinians and Southern Jordanians
  2. Ishmaelites – Saudis (Ishmael is the father of the Arabs)
  3. Moab – Palestinians and Central Jordanians
  4. Hagrites – Egyptians, aka Hagarenes (Hagar, the consort of Abraham, was Egyptian; Ishmael was their son by permission of Sarah, Abraham’s wife)
  5. Gebal – Hezbollah and Northern Lebanese
  6. Ammon – Palestinians and Northern Jordanians
  7. Amalek – Arabs of the Egyptian Sinai area
  8. Philistia – Hamas of Gaza Strip
  9. Tyre – Hezbollah and Southern Lebanese
  10. Assyria – Syrians and Northern Iraqis

As you can see, this is an intriguing group.  Who are some of them?  Aren’t there various peace treaties in place that seem to make the inclusion of various ones of these peoples problematic?

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll discuss these conspirators at greater length and hopefully bring clarity to some of these questions.

The Parable of the Tenants

Matthew 21:33-46:

“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

In this parable Jesus tells of a landowner with a vineyard who builds a wall around it to protect his investment.  He dig a winepress to harvest the vineyard’s bounty, and he erects a watchtower to oversee all that goes on.  Finally, the landowner rents out the vineyard to tenant farmers, then he goes on a long journey thinking his investment is safe.  When it’s time for harvest, the landowner sends his servants to collect the fruit, but the tenants seize each of the servants and kill them.

The landowner eventually sends his son to collect what’s owed him, but the wicked tenants kill him too.  The consequence for the tenants is that when the landowner himself returns, those tenants will have a wretched end.  The landowner will rent out the vineyard to other tenants who will be honest and faithful and give back their share at harvest time.

The vineyard that Jesus speaks of is Israel.  When God gave the land to the Israelites, He placed His protection around it and assured that it would produce a great bounty.  He promised in Deuteronomy 28 that if Israel followed God and all His ways, she would receive much blessing.

At the time of God’s choosing, i.e. the time of the harvest, He sent many prophets and finally His Son, Jesus Christ, to collect what was due Him.  He expected the Jews to obey, worship, and adore Him.  Instead, they killed the prophets and worshiped idols.  Finally, they killed Jesus and went so far as to accuse Him of being from Satan.

For their disobedience and rebellion, the curses of God—long since prophesied and known from Deuteronomy 28 and many other places in holy Scripture—came upon Israel.

Two times over the centuries Israel was scattered from the land.  The first complete dispersion concluded in 586 BC.  The final scattering was a two-part event.  The destruction of the temple occurred in 70 AD and the final dispersion of Israel from the land happened in 135 AD.

Following the first rebuke by God, he graciously brought them back after seventy years to the land.  Unfortunately, their hard hearts caused such rebellion, ending in their crucifying Christ, that God cast them out of Israel for 2,000 years.

This period since Jesus is known as the Church Age.  The Church is the new tenant that God gave the harvest to in order for them to share with Him.

For 2,000 years Israel was wretched, naked, and seemingly abandoned by God.  But He has gathered them again in the land of Israel.  He is not through with His chosen people, the apple of His eye.

Israel is destined to experience the time of Jacob’s trouble described in Jeremiah 30:7, which is the 7-year Tribulation in order that she might be saved.  Just like many people need to be completely broken in order to truly turn to Jesus, this is how it will be with Israel enduring the horrors of the wrath of the Lamb during this time of judgment:

Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.

As the verse says, a remnant will survive.  They will acknowledge the landowner’s Son as Messiah and God.

This remnant of Israel—finally obedient—will go into the Millennium with the Name of Jesus on their lips and serve God for all eternity.

Persecution in America

Persecution in America is nothing like in other parts of the world.  If you are at all aware, you know that in the Middle East, i.e. Islamic nations; in China, a Communist/atheist nation; in Hindu; Buddhist; and pagan nations, persecution is so much worse than anything we know.  In these places, Christian believers are beaten, tortured, raped, and killed.  Jesus is a forbidden Name, and having possession of a Bible can lead to severe punishment, even as great as death.  We don’t see these things happening in America.  Yet.

Two recent incidents I’m aware of tell me that there is a gathering storm.

The first came from PJ Media and the American Family Association as they reported on a disturbing incident.  A pastor by the name of Ramin Parsa fled Iran for America to escape persecution.  He and two other Christians were at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.  He struck up a conversation with two Somali-American Muslim women, not at first talking about the gospel.  They asked him if he was Muslim.  He replied he was a Christian.  They asked him about his conversion from Islam, and he began telling them his story.

Another Muslim woman overheard the conversation.  This woman was not a part of it in any way.  Regardless, she summoned a security guard who told Parsa no soliciting was allowed in the mall.  He explained he wasn’t soliciting, simply having a discussion and answering interested questions.  But he stopped at the guard’s request.

Parsa and friends went to a nearby coffee shop in the mall thinking that was the end of it.  They came out of the shop where now three security guards were waiting.  They arrested him, saying, “You cannot talk religion here.”

The two Somali women he had been speaking with saw this and argued with the guards, saying they wanted to hear what Parsa had to say.  It made no difference.  They handcuffed him to a metal chair in the basement of the mall.  They refused to give him water.  They refused to allow him to go to the bathroom.

The police finally came after four hours of this kind of treatment.  They took mugshots and fingerprints.  Then they charged him with criminal trespassing.

He had to pay $78 to bail himself out at 2 AM, when his friends were at last allowed to pick him up.  Parsa said, “I’ve been through this in Muslim countries for passing out a Bible.  I didn’t expect it to happen in America.”

There’s another incident I’m personally aware of that I want to relate.  A lay pastor in our church got a job that was perfect for him at the time while he continued to send applications for a pastoral position.  On one of his first days at work, he had the opportunity to speak with a woman who was having difficulties.  I believe this had something to do with a homosexual issue in her family.  He spoke lovingly and plainly about God’s plan for us as His creation.

Another woman, not a part of the conversation, overheard it and complained to the boss about the discussion.  As a direct result of this interaction, he was immediately fired.  Oh, yes, one more element in the account: The place of employment was a Christian nursing home.

Here we have people not even involved in a discussion who complain to authorities and drastic measures are then taken against them because they’re Christians.  In America.

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning

Jesus tells us in Luke 6:22 the following:

 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.

Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12 assures us:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Although we’re very comfortable in America, Scripture tells us this is not the norm as we follow Jesus.  It will continue to get much worse from here as we go deeper into these end times.

Once the world enters the 7-year Tribulation following the Rapture of the true Church, persecution will very much be the norm for those who choose to follow Christ during that horrendous period of lawlessness.

The Apostle John reveals in Revelation 6:9 how people who turn to Jesus will end up:

“I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained.”

The Bible doesn’t tell us to look for the Antichrist.  We are to look for the coming of Jesus for His Church, His virgin bride, those who are true believers and followers of Him.  As importantly, we’re to be aware and ready so that He doesn’t come for us like a thief in the night.

Open your eyes.  Watch what’s going on around us in the world.  Notice those living in darkness and rescue them if you can.  This dramatic increase in tribulation tells us that time in this age is drawing to a close.

Maranatha – Come, Lord Jesus!

Doors

There are two kinds of doors mentioned in the Bible.  One is bad, the other is good.  We need to know which door to enter in order for us to live life as God wills for us.

Proverbs 5:8 continues the thoughts of Solomon as he instructs his son.  He gives much advice to avoid sin, particularly that of fornication or adultery.  The verse says:

Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house.

Solomon is saying to his son, and to all men, to avoid the door of the temptress, i.e. the one who will lead you into darkness.

His advice also pertains to other sins, or other temptations that will inevitably take us into dark places.  Think of the door into the bar where you take that first drink of many.  Who are you drinking with?  How about the door of the cupboard in your house where the liquor is stored?  Is temptation always at hand?  What about the door into the drug dealer’s house who supplies weed, meth, or crack?  I know people who have never left the room alive after entering that door.  Don’t forget your car door that enables you to drive to these places.

These are all doors to stay far from if God is first and foremost in our life.

And that ends up being the question: Is God first in your life or do these substances and experiences take a higher priority?

We all have to choose.

Jesus said in John 10:9:

“I am the door.”

How many of us shy away from choosing that door to walk through?  Yet, the door of Jesus brings life, whereas the doors of temptation bring nothing but death.

In Jesus’ letter to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22, He makes this very point in verse 20.  He says:

“Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.”

This invitation is to a church that is lukewarm and about to be spit out of Jesus’ mouth.  It’s a serious invitation with disastrous consequences for not heeding it.

Are you lukewarm in your faith?  Will you be found wanting when Jesus returns for His Church at the soon-to-come Rapture?

I’ve previously expressed that based on numerous verses in the Bible, I have concern that many who are lukewarm in their faith may not be taken in the Rapture in order for them to be refined in the fire of the Tribulation.

I don’t know this for certain and exactly how this will work, but I do know that Jesus will soon take His church from this world that it may be delivered from the wrath to come as 1 Thessalonians 5:9 tells us.  This is not meant to foster fear, the soon return of Jesus is meant to encourage holy living.  All it takes is repentance, a change of heart, and a change of lifestyle.

Be sure you’re not lukewarm.  Don’t take the chance that you’ll be left behind.  Walk through the door to Jesus and truly live for Him.

Prophecy Update 2-1-19 – China

In today’s posting I want to call your attention to China.  As most people are aware, China has long been communist and atheist.  Because Christians haven’t worshiped the state there, they have been the target of persecution for many years.  China fears Christians, or any group for that matter, that doesn’t put the regime first.  Essentially, if people don’t say, “Hail Caesar,” they aren’t loyal subjects and are thus worthy of persecution and elimination.

A January 18, 2019 article in LifeSite News led with this headline:

“Chinese government to rewrite Bible to make it more Communist”

According to the article, China last year embarked on a 5-year plan to make Christianity more compatible with so-called authentic Chinese and socialist values.  This is an effort to bring all religions into line with Communist ideology.

It reminds me of Nazi Germany in World War 2.  During that time the government wanted all churches to fall in line with Nazi philosophy and declare it compatible with Christianity.  Sadly, many churches with their high-ranking pastors and leaders agreed to this and experienced a great apostasy.  It was from this situation that Dietrich Bonhoeffer became known for opposing this collaboration between church and state, and ultimately dying for his bold stand against it.

Following the Nazis, Communists came to power in Eastern Europe.  There was a gathering of church leaders in Romania sponsored by the communist government, which convened a congress of all Christians in the capital parliament building.  Over 4,000 priests, pastors, and ministers from all denominations attended.  One after another these “men of God” declared that Christianity and Communism were fundamentally the same and could co-exist.  Shamefully, this gathering became known as the Congress of the Cults.

Richard Wurmbrand, who years later founded Voice of the Martyrs, was in attendance and spoke to the congress.  Because he was well-known, everyone hoped and expected him to praise Communism as the others had.  Instead, he praised only Jesus Christ and said that the loyalty of the church should be to Him first, foremost, and only.  As result, Wurmbrand ended up spending 14 years in prison for opposing the State, much of it in solitary confinement.

Back to the LifeSite news article: Here we have the Chinese government in its attempt to conflate Communism and Christianity; they want to make it “Chinese Christianity.”  They plan to do this by re-translating the Bible and re-writing Biblical commentaries.  They even plan to merge the Old Testament with Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings.

If you’ve read the Book of Revelation, you’ll recall that it has a strong warning against this kind of Biblical corruption.  The Apostle John in Revelation 22:18 says:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.”

These are strong words, and the Chinese aren’t the only ones to not heed them.  They’ve been ignored by various cults over the years, including Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and even the Roman Catholic Church.  Yes, I lump Catholicism in with these other groups as a cult.  Once you examine what the Church in Rome has done to corrupt the Scriptures, you won’t be able to do anything but agree.  We’ll cover this another time to highlight how far from the truth of Bible the Vatican has gone.

A couple more items about China:

  1. According to the ministry, Back To Jerusalem, the Chinese government has hired 500 spies, mostly of college age, to infiltrate the Chinese house church movement. Pastors and others arrested from this effort are being held in so-called “black” detention facilities, i.e. secret prisons.
  2. From a recent VOM newsletter comes a report that at least 250 churches across China have been closed or demolished in the last two years. Most are unregistered house churches.  However, even the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches have come under pressure with 140 of them closed in a single province in the last eight months.  Henan province is reportedly the worst area with persecution.  Government authorities have removed crosses, confiscated or destroyed property, and fined or arrested church leaders in over 4,000 churches there.
  3. Persecution is increasing in China as the State grows more concerned about the flourishing underground church movement that has resulted in 100M believers in the country.

Jesus said in John 15:18:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.

Jesus also said in John 16:33:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

What we see in China is only a small fraction of the tribulation, persecution, and suffering to come for those who come to Christ after the Rapture.  In America, we’ve been greatly blessed and not experienced these things.  Yet, those who do, say that they’ve grown through it to deeply identify with Jesus and His sufferings.  Through these things, the church has grown immensely in these persecuted lands.  Tertullian, an early Christian author, famously said: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  This couldn’t be more true.  Just look at the growth of the underground church in China that has flourished in difficult times.

One final note about China:  Revelation 9:16 speaks of army of 200M coming across the Euphrates River from the East.  The description could fit that of a massive Chinese army, or some kind of demonic army.  This army is considered the 6th Trumpet plague and will kill many.  If it pertains to China, this adds to the wrath that God is storing up for that nation, i.e. those who don’t bow their knee to Jesus.

In conclusion, we in the church in America may or may not taste of this persecution prior to the Rapture and the 7-Year Tribulation.  Certainly, those who become Christian following the Rapture will experience much.  Conditions are growing darker for Christians in America each day.  It’s certainly possible we could soon see our neighbors, along with the State itself, coming against us in unheard of persecution prior to the day of our Blessed Hope.  One thing we do know: for those who go through the Tribulation because of their unbelief, and for those who don’t choose Christ prior to that period, it will be the most horrific time ever to come into this world.

I urge you: make sure you’re walking with Jesus and following hard after Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Then whatever comes our way, Jesus will see each of us through it.