Abraham, Melchizedek, & Righteousness

We don’t hear a lot about righteousness these days, but it’s one of the keys to our relationship with the Lord.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines righteousness as “acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin.”  Our moral law comes from God, so if we act in accordance with that, we experience freedom.  In our fallen state, however, it’s an impossible task for us to live and walk in such a way that we have freedom from guilt or sin in and of ourselves.

Even in the Old Testament we see that righteousness came through someone else.  In Genesis 14 Abram’s (Abraham) nephew Lot was taken by hostile forces.  When Abram learned of this, he took those loyal to him and rescued Lot against overwhelming odds.  Upon his returning victorious with all the goods he’d captured, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, came out to bless Abram.

Through this blessing, Abram in return gave Melchizedek a tithe of ten percent of all that he’d gained.  Why would he do this, i.e. giving so much of the spoils of war to a man he may not even have known?

Melchizedek was both a priest and a king.  Most importantly, he served as priest of God Most High.  Melchizedek was a Canaanite, yet he served the One true God just like Abram.  Because of how Hebrews 7:3 describes Melchizedek, many people believe that he was a divine being, perhaps the incarnate Christ:

He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

In actuality, there’s no Biblical evidence to support this idea besides the language in Hebrews.  This notion arose in the Intertestamental, or Second Temple, period, but Old Testament Scripture doesn’t give any indication of divinity.  More than likely, he was simply a human foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.

Here’s where it gets interesting because of the connecting words and meanings in the Hebrew.  One of the meanings of Melchizedek’s name is “My King is Righteous.”  The king that Melchizedek served was God, i.e. Yahweh.  Another name for God is Jehovah-Tsidkenu.  Tsidkenu derives from the last part of Melchizedek’s name, i.e. tsedek (tsedeq).  Tsedek according to Strong’s #6664 means righteousness.  Jehovah-Tsidkenu means “The Lord our Righteousness.”

Abram knew that God is just and righteous and that Yahweh gave Abram this astounding victory.  As a result, Abram gave the tithe to Melchizedek who served God Most High so as to bless God in return for His blessings on Abram’s endeavors.  Although this event occurred prior to the time when Abram would be tested as to whether he would sacrifice his own son Isaac for the sake of obedience to the Lord, it was one of many times in his life that Abram proved faithful and demonstrated where his heart lay.  It rested with God.  This act of sacrifice—and that’s what it was, i.e. the giving of a portion of the spoils of war—showed Abram’s heart and his faith in God.  Through this Old Testament example, we see Abram believing that the God he served could grant him righteousness.  It wasn’t through his own efforts, but through the One to whom he looked for his salvation.

In these New Testament times, in a way, it’s simpler for us.  When we believe the blood of Jesus is sufficient to remove all of our sins and we become new creations in Christ, it’s His cloak of righteous that we wear.  Just like with Abram who knew he couldn’t be righteous unto himself, neither are we.  But as believers in Christ’s atoning work on the cross, we are righteous even as He is righteous.

When we gain something, be it a paycheck, a financial windfall, or a blessing of some other kind, and from that we give a tithe of what we’ve received, and we do it with a heart of gratitude to the Provider of all things, that act is one that blesses God.  We’re not under an obligation to sacrifice or give, but God certainly smiles upon a willing heart that looks upon the Lord and wants to please Him.

Jehovah-Jireh is truly “The Lord our Provider.”  He is the source of all blessings: all that we have in this life.  When we give back to Him through our tithes and offerings, we’re simply thanking Him in return for His gifts to us.

In these last days, Jesus asked whether He would find faith on the earth when He returns.  I think one way that we can inoculate ourselves against the falseness and lawlessness of this age is to bless God with everything we have—even our very lives.  In doing this, we remain under the protective umbrella of God’s grace and actually strengthen our faith as a result.  His righteousness reigns and draws us nearer to Him.

Antichrist’s Covenant with Israel & The Catholic Church

Original thinkers appeal to me—those who think out of the box.  Some of this ilk naturally end up far-afield and are completely wrong.  Others go against the grain of doctrine, i.e. what we know because that’s what we’ve always believed.  But, as Dr. Michael Heiser, one of my favorites in this thinking out-of-the-box category says: “What you know may not be so.”

A thinker and writer in the prophecy realm that I like a lot is Bill Salus who broke on the scene with his book Psalm 83 – The Missing Prophecy Revealed.  Here Salus disrupted the long-held thought that this psalm was an already completed prophecy, likely having been fulfilled in 1948 when Israel became a nation and was immediately attacked by neighboring countries that wanted to wipe her off the map.  That was certainly true, but in digging deeper Salus concluded that this earlier war may have simply been a foreshadowing of a latter days, i.e. current times, prophecy that is close to actual fulfillment and will likely happen prior to Ezekiel’s War.  There is much Scriptural evidence to support this view.

Salus followed up Psalm 83 with a series of books dealing with Now, Next, and Last prophecies.  It’s his thinking in The Next Prophecies that I want to comment on regarding the Catholic Church because of a recent news article.

In the same vein as Dave Hunt, who elaborated on the role of the Catholic Church in the Tribulation in his extensive work A Woman Rides the Beast, Salus examines this idea further The Next Prophecies.  As do many, he ties Catholicism into the Church of Thyatira, but he goes beyond that.

We know from Daniel 9:27 that the beginning of the Tribulation occurs when the Antichrist makes or confirms a covenant between Israel and an unidentified third party.

“And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”  (ESV)

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.  (KJV)

Most scholars leave it at that.  Not Salus.  In his studies, he came across Isaiah 28:15 and 28:18 and connected the dots.  These verses say:

[15] Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,

    and with Sheol we have an agreement,

when the overwhelming whip passes through

    it will not come to us,

for we have made lies our refuge,

    and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;

[18] Then your covenant with death will be annulled,

    and your agreement with Sheol will not stand;

when the overwhelming scourge passes through,

    you will be beaten down by it.

Where else have we seen death and Sheol?  In the Fourth Seal in Revelation 6:7-8, we learn that:

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

We have a connection between death, Sheol (Hades), and the covenant.  Israel makes this covenant that will not stand.  In fact, it will be destroyed when the overwhelming scourge comes along.  The question becomes: Who or what is behind the need for this devastating covenant that Israel feels it’s necessary to enter?  Essentially, who is the rider bringing death and Hades upon Israel whereby she believes she must agree to this covenant for protection?

Salus posits that it’s the Catholic Church.

Let’s hold that thought and go to our recent news about this wayward religion.  (And, briefly, I say it’s wayward—or worse—because the dogma of the church insists that salvation is not Jesus ONLY, but Jesus AND.)  On November 18, 2019 Pope Francis attacked fundamentalists, specifically calling them out in Argentina, his native country.  He said “fundamentalism is a scourge.”  That sounds awful.  Who could be the terrible people behind this that has so riled Pope Francis?  Well, since there aren’t any Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists in Argentina, guess what?  He’s talking about Christian fundamentalists.  And who are these radicals?  Basically, Bible believing Christians who take the Word of the Lord literally.

One of the interesting aspects of history that Dave Hunt pointed out in his book is that the Catholic Church has an extensive record of persecuting those with whom it disagrees.  True Christianity has often been the target.  Also, interestingly, the Vatican has never apologized for this travesty, nor has it removed from its books, the dictate that requires it to conduct such atrocities.

From A Woman Rides the Beast:

The oppression, persecution, and even martyrdom of those who refused allegiance to Rome has been her consistent policy. (p. 122)

Pope Gregory IX (1227-41) declared it the duty of every Catholic “to persecute heretics.” … Such persons were to be tortured, imprisoned, and slain. … “Of the eighty popes in a line from the thirteenth century on” writes de Rosa, “not one of them disapproved of the theology and apparatus of Inquisition.” (p. 124)

His [Pope Pius IX] Syllabus decreed the union of Church and state, that Roman Catholicism must be the state religion everywhere, that the Church may use force to compel obedience, that there is no hope of salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church, etc.  The Syllabus has never been rejected or amended and remains the belief of the Roman Catholic Church today, though unenforceable in most countries. (p. 126)

Thus Roman Catholicism became “the most persecuting faith the world has ever seen…” (p. 243)

Remember that this terror, this evil of such proportions that it is unimaginable today, was carried on for centuries in the name of Christ by the command of those who claimed to be the vicars of Christ. … She [the Catholic Church] has not repented or apologized, and she dares to pose even today as the supreme teacher and example of morals and truth.  Remember also that the doctrines which supported the Inquisitions remain in force within the Roman Catholic Church even at the present time. (p. 250)

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Office of the Inquisition still occupies the Palace of the Inquisition adjacent to the Vatican, though under its new name, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.  Its current Grand Inquisitor, who reports directly to the pope, is the former Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger [at the time the book was written in 1994; Ratzinger subsequently became Pope Benedict], whom Time has called “the world’s most powerful cardinal [and] the Catholic Church’s chief enforcer of dogma…” (p. 261)

Now let’s connect the dots.  What happens following the Rapture, i.e. when the true church, which generally won’t include the pope and loyal followers in the Catholic Church, is snatched into the clouds by Jesus?  (I do believe that some number of Catholics are certainly saved, but they are born-again in spite of the Vatican’s teaching and not because of it; these would be Raptured.)

It will be a time of great chaos and confusion.  Different entities will all vie for power even as the Antichrist makes a name for himself.  The One World Religion will be forming.  More than likely this will coalesce under the ecumenical umbrella of the Catholic Church.  She has been working that angle for many years, reaching out to Islam, Hinduism, and other pagan religions telling them that all are part of the brotherhood of man under God.  Mary is a key figure in this outreach and already revered by many other faiths.  The Catholic Church will become one big happy family under the banner of Catholicism and the pope who makes it all happen.  Except for those left behind who realize their error in not accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior when they previously had the opportunity.  These will read the Bible.  They will understand that salvation comes only in Christ alone through faith alone; that the Catholic Church is telling lies for all its happy talk that the blasphemers have been removed and the world is now a better place.

Remember the Vatican “Office of the Inquisition” now called the “Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith?”  My money (were I a betting man) would be on its Grand Inquisitor looking to make a name for himself.  And how better to do that than round up the heretics who refuse allegiance to the Catholic Church?  What does one do to something that is a scourge, i.e. a blight, a plague?  Eradicate it.  Fundamentalist Christians, new in the faith, will be a Bible-believing people, anathema to the Catholic Church that doesn’t want anyone reading and believing the Word of God.

Those who come to faith in this time, as during the Tribulation itself (because remember, this is still in a gap period after the Rapture prior to the covenant and the beginning of the seven years), will understand the seriousness of their commitment to Christ.  The persecution will begin, and it will likely get ugly very quickly as the Catholic Church seeks to quash any opposition.  It may very well turn into a worldwide pogrom, and many new Christians will face the renewed Inquisition that insists the heads of these dissidents be removed.

The Catholic Church has always had a problem with Jews and Israel, and that issue will also rise to prominence.  Israel will watch these proceedings carefully and realize that she will be next on the Catholic agenda.  With this incredible worldwide violence, this will provide a means for the Antichrist to display his diplomatic skills.  What better way to bring peace to the world than to broker a covenant between the persecuting Catholic Church and Israel?  And boom!  The Tribulation begins at that point.

Death and Sheol have raised their ugly heads in this scenario.  The Catholic Church will perpetrate great atrocities with many causalities.  Satan’s demonic legions will certainly be out in force.  The covenant will bring a false peace to Israel for three and a half years, protecting her from the Catholic scourge sweeping over the earth.  Only after the Antichrist has shown his true colors and Israel realizes her mistake that he is not their Messiah will many Jews finally turn to Christ.

It will be an awful time, yet glorious in the sense that God’s Chosen People come to believe Yeshua, Jesus Christ, in large numbers.  What grief they’ll have in understanding how long they’ve rejected the One who came to save them, yet how joyful they will be as their hearts swell with the Holy Spirit who comes to live inside them.

Truly, this will be the time when the people of Israel echo the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:39 in which He declares:

“For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Whose Kingdom Is NAR Ushering In?

In a most amazing passage, Isaiah details his standing in the throne room of God with all its might and majesty.  In Isaiah 6:1-10, he sees God’s glory and knows His holiness:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

 “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

God is about to commission Isaiah, but before he can do anything for Him, he must be cleansed.  Only after this has been accomplished with the burning ember does God then ask whom He will send.  Only after Isaiah’s realization of his uncleanness and the burning out of his sin through Isaiah’s repentance is he actually worthy to be sent out by God to do the tasks He has assigned for him.

It is at that point that God directs Isaiah to the people to preach the Good News, to speak of God’s redemption, but only in the context of turning from worthless idols and the depravity of the sin that ensnares them.

But God already knows in His omniscience that the people are far from Him and will remain so; that they won’t turn from their wicked ways so as to hear, to see, and to be healed.

Isaiah’s commission is in actuality no more than how we likewise are commissioned by God.  We must acknowledge our sinfulness and our inability to change that within ourselves.  We must repent with the realization that only through the blood that Jesus shed for us are we worthy to go forth as His ambassadors.  The free gift we receive in our salvation is to be clothed with the righteousness and holiness of Jesus Christ.  Without those garments, we are miserable, wretched, and poor, unable to do anything worthwhile for God’s kingdom.

Why then, would the so-called apostles and prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement think they can commission others to go out in the Name of Jesus, to do His works, and to see a worldwide revival that subjugates all of humanity to Christ; that through their efforts, they will hand a Christianized world to Jesus when He returns?

Why ask this question?  Because the evidence points to NAR leaders sending out eager disciples to do just this, but without the necessary cleansing.  In a previous article I wrote about The Send that occurred earlier in 2019.  Fifty thousand young people gathered in great enthusiasm in order that they might bring healing to the nations, see wondrous works, and usher in the next great kingdom of God.

Here’s the problem.  At this event, no doubt many who came were born again.  Unfortunately, it’s highly likely that a great many of those who filled the stadium in Orlando weren’t saved.  God’s holiness was not preached that day.  The trials and tribulations that Jesus assured would come our way as His followers were never mentioned.  Through the words of the leaders urging on these young people, none brought the acknowledgment of sin and the necessity of repentance.

They all raised their hands and said, “Send me!” but that’s not something that He can or will do without the precondition that they be consecrated by His blood.  As a result, these enthusiastic followers [of what or of whom?] will go out into the world to a people who are unhearing and unseeing.  That’s the world we live in today; one that has turned its back on God.  Thus, without God’s stamp of approval upon these eager young ones, they cannot be witnesses for Him because they haven’t been sanctified.

They will go out in their own power and soon be swept away by the forces of the world and the delusions foisted upon them by the enemy who knows their true spiritual state.  And that’s the sad part of this whole story.  Rather than preparing the way for Jesus and His kingdom, they’re doing just the opposite.  The next great kingdom of this world, as foretold in Scripture, is the kingdom of the Antichrist.  Delusion will be heaped upon delusion and lawlessness will increase, even as we’ve seen it get worse before our very eyes in these last few years.

There may well be a great revival in the very last days, but it’s not going to happen before the Rapture and the soon-after Tribulation.  Many will come to Christ during that horrible 7-year period, but the cost will be high, and God’s throne room will be filled with those multitudes who choose physical death over eternal death.  Many souls will be saved then, but it won’t be through the efforts of NAR’s disciples.

Deception is rampant today.  It is increasing.  Oh, that we might be a discerning people!

Christian Fiction as Preparation for These End-Times

While this essay may seem somewhat self-serving, my intent is a larger point than it being about me, so please hang in there if you will.  I began writing novels before I knew the Lord.  My first book wasn’t all that good, but it was therapeutic and cathartic, as it enabled me to express and let go of feelings I had built up in the course of an unpleasant divorce.  At that time, I wrote because I liked to read and also thought I could add to the suspense and thriller genres.

Fast forward a number of years.  I had stopped writing due to the busyness of life.  Then God got ahold of me.  Still busy, but in my salvation, I determined to follow hard after the Lord.  Being born again through the blood of Jesus wasn’t something I took lightly.  I’m one of those who came to know God through fear (of being left behind!) and have had to experience His love in order to bring balance to my faith and witness.

About six years ago through God’s providence, I began writing again and quickly transitioned back to the long form of the novel, which works best for me.  Because I now had a Christian perspective, everything I wrote, by necessity, had to reflect the nature of my faith and, more importantly, have a redemptive purpose to give glory to God.  Additionally, since I’d gotten saved through reading the Left Behind series, I had a passion for the prophetic and for end-times scenarios.  Thus, my writing gravitated toward bringing forth my Christian worldview through a Biblically prophetic and eschatological lens.

My quest to know God and to understand His ways more deeply has led me into interesting research.  I continue to read a lot and also listen to much teaching on YouTube.  In my meanderings, I was introduced to fallen angels and some of the more interesting, unusual passages in the Bible, such as the Genesis 6:1-4 account of the sons of God cohabiting with human women and creating Nephilim offspring.  All this brought me to writing Alien Revelation, which deals with these ideas in a fictional, present-day narrative.

Upon the book’s release, to my surprise, I was contacted by a fellow who wanted to review the book for his Christian website.  Reviews—good ones obviously—are very helpful to a writer, so I agreed.  I didn’t know anything about Peter Younghusband and his review website: https://perspectivebypeter.com/ but once he told me he liked the book very much and was giving it a positive review, I naturally wanted to learn more about his process.

Even more surprising in this episode was Peter giving the novel the Christian Redemptive Fiction award.  What was that?  It turns out that Peter teams up with David Bergsland, who maintains the http://radiqx.com/ website.  Their desire is to advocate for Christian fiction that truly gets to the heart of our faith.  In their deliberations about this, they realized that too many stories that have a Christian label are really only that on the surface.  They don’t reflect the depth of faith, nor do they portray the intense spiritual battle that we face.  Peter and David realized that as we near the return of Jesus, this spiritual warfare is increasing, as the Bible has so plainly stated that it will.  To encourage Christian writers to more accurately portray these concepts, David wrote a guide called A Spiritual System for Rating Books: https://indd.adobe.com/view/8e4a7c49-2393-4b74-a52a-c2b6fedfa0e9?red=a.  Through the guidelines outlined in this booklet, Peter and David seek to highlight the work of Christian authors that meet their stringent criteria.

Now, I won’t get into the rating system used; you can read that for yourself.  The real issue here is how we as faith-filled believers who enjoy reading have been lulled into thinking that Christian fiction need not reflect the depth of faith as we know it, nor the realities of spiritual warfare, nor the intensity of the times as we approach the Rapture.  By reviewing fictional books that provide deeper insights into these areas and awarding those authors who bring these things forth, Peter and David hope to increase the quality of what we read in this Christian genre.  I have no doubt that had they been reviewing and awarding when This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti came out, that book would have earned their highest acclaim.

I think there’s great value in that.  For one, it’s an acknowledgment to authors that what they write can have significant impact.  If we show in our fictional context that our faith matters, to ourselves and to others—as we read these accounts—hopefully our desire to grow closer to the Lord will increase.  For readers to see that books don’t have to be secular to tell a good story is also quite important.  Christians don’t have to settle for books that omit God or denigrate Him.  One of the first strong Christian women I knew was an actress and director.  She taught me that we shouldn’t let the world take up all the oxygen in the arts, that Christians can and should reclaim that space to the glory of God.  That’s what Peter and David hope to do in their efforts of awarding Christian authors who dive into and adhere to these deeper elements of our faith.

What I realized in reading David’s spiritual rating booklet and receiving the Christian Redemptive Fiction award for Alien Revelation and now subsequently for my novel, The Tattooed Cat, is that what they seek is exactly what I try to convey in my writing.  I want that depth and reality.  I want to portray the challenges many face in their walk with Christ, or even before as they struggle to come to faith.  I want to demonstrate that spiritual warfare is real and intense, yet that we, as our fictional characters do, can overcome because Jesus overcame first.

Good Christian fiction has the potential to lead people to faith in Christ.  I know that because of my personal experience with Left Behind.  Through the reviews and awards that Peter and David bring to the table, good Christian fiction can also prepare us for the battles ahead as this world grows increasingly lawless and dark.  The bottom line is that good Christian fiction can help us move toward deeper faith as we look up and await Jesus’ return.

NAR’s Last Days Revival

Our church has a seniors’ ministry which I’ve studiously avoided.  I certainly qualify in the appropriate age range, but I engage in a bit of denial.  When I meet people and they ask me what I do or if I’m retired, I tell them I don’t use the “R” word; I’m too busy.  That being said, our seniors’ ministry brought in a speaker that I felt I had to hear, so my wife and I attended the evening to listen to him.

I’ve recently been on the warpath about the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).  I’ve written about it in this space and have serious issues with the whole movement.  First and foremost, for me is its veering from Scripture as to how it views end-times events.  NAR goes by other names including Dominionism and Kingdom Now, and those describe what its adherents believe will happen in the earth in the latter days.  Many believe we’re in that period, but they also believe that through the efforts of NAR and its disciples that the world will turn en masse to Christianity.  As a result of NAR’s evangelization of the world, they will bring it into submission so as to hand a Christianized planet to Jesus.  In their theology, Jesus won’t return until they have brought the world to believe in Christ.  It is their doing that heralds His return.

The speaker invited to the seniors’ event was a so-called apostle.  It always raises red flags for me these days when someone is self-proclaimed like that.  Because of some of the NAR discussions we’ve had of late, our interim pastor, who has many years of solid experience, has absolutely come on board watching for potential NAR applicants in our search for a full-time pastoral candidate.  We’ve got our NAR antennae out because its tentacles reach far and wide.  It’s a movement that is insidious and has subtly invaded many denominations, including the Assemblies of God, of which we’re a part.

Because our interim pastor has known the speaker for many years, he told him up front before his message, that we’re not “going there” with heavy NAR emphasis.  During his message, the speaker made many good points, but as usual with NAR folks, because of how their unbiblical beliefs are slipped in, many people can miss them.  That’s what I was on alert for.

He made several points that correlated for me with NAR teaching.  Briefly, a couple of them that I won’t elaborate on were decrees and visualization.  He said that when the Bible talks about proclaiming the Word of the Lord, this is the same as us prophesying or decreeing that things we say will happen.  He also had the group innocently close their eyes to visualize a scene and ask God how that would apply to us.  The problem with this is that visualization has Eastern religious / New Age roots.  This particular exercise might have been harmless, but the continued practice could very well lead one into subsequent issues, such as visualizing Jesus as your constant friend and companion coming alongside you at all times to bring counsel.  That’s an open door to acquire a demonic spirit guide.

The passages that our speaker discussed that really got me thinking were Acts 2:17 in which Peter at Pentecost is quoting Joel 2:28-29.

Here’s Peter:

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,

‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

    and your young men shall see visions,

    and your old men shall dream dreams;’”

And here is Joel:

“And it shall come to pass afterward,

    that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

    your old men shall dream dreams,

    and your young men shall see visions.

Even on the male and female servants

    in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”

What’s the difference between these two passages?  Effectively nothing, except the audience.

Many believers look at Joel and they see the church in this end-times event.  But that’s not right.  Far too many pastors these days apply Scripture that pertains to Israel as if it were for the church.  The problem is that what was meant for Israel was meant for Israel.  We can and often should apply lessons learned in the Old Testament to today, but to consider Israel as symbolic for the church simply doesn’t wash.

God has not forgotten His chosen people; He has not abandoned them as many in the NAR camp believe, as do numerous other groups such as Catholics and mainline Protestants.  No, God’s promises to Israel still hold; the Bible is very clear about that.  All we have to do is read it and not spiritualize its message.

That begs the question: When will Joel’s prophesies take place since they obviously haven’t yet occurred?  When will Israel’s sons and daughters receive the Spirit of the Lord so as to have dreams and visions?

If we properly understand Ezekiel 37, we realize that Israel has come together as foretold in that chapter.  The dry bones, muscles, ligaments, and flesh have risen in Israel, but the nation is secular.  It is far from having had the Spirit breathed upon it that the people might turn to the Lord.

This great last days revival for Israel can only occur during the Tribulation.  It will only happen after God’s wrath and judgment falls upon the nation in the last 3½ years of horror upon the earth following relative peace for Israel in the Tribulation’s first half.  It is only then that, as Zechariah 13:8-9 declares, Israel will finally turn to Jesus as Messiah:

In the whole land, declares the Lord,

    two thirds shall be cut off and perish,

    and one third shall be left alive.

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.’”

The great last days revival in Israel, which includes dreams and visions for many, will happen only during the Tribulation.

What about Peter’s prophecy in Acts?  Some who believe in prophecy have stated that, since these are the last days, these prophetic dreams and visions must happen in this current time period.  Or, as NAR would have us believe, they’ll sweep over the church so that the entire world will come to Christ.

That understanding, however, runs counter to the rest of what Scripture details will happen in these latter times.  We’re told in various places that the world will grow increasingly lawless.  The church itself will fall into great apostasy.  A remnant of the church will be Raptured.  The Tribulation will fall upon this world as God judges it for its unbelief.  Where is the great revival in this scenario?

I believe, just as Joel’s prophecy speaks of occurring during the Tribulation, that Peter’s does as well.  Revelation 7 outlines how a great multitude from every nation will come before the throne.  We’re told specifically in Revelation 7:13-14 why they’re in heaven:

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

These are Tribulation saints—a great multitude—who have died for their having come to faith during this most awful of times where persecution of the followers of Jesus kills vast numbers.

Sounds like a great last days revival to me.  Or, as Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins so aptly named it in the Left Behind series, it will be a Soul Harvest.

What I see in Peter’s prophecy correlated to Revelation is that when the sons and daughters have prophetic dreams and visions, they must happen during the Tribulation.  What they then proclaim likely contributes to the persecution against them; thus the multitudes who perish and appear before the throne of God.

Rightly divining the Word of God, particularly in these perilous times, is more important than ever.  No one of us is ever going to completely interpret all Scripture correctly.  There’s too much going on in it and too many mysteries that God has reserved to reveal only when we’re with Him.  What we can do, is get right those things He has made clear.

God has plainly shown us the arc of what these last days will look like.  The NAR folks have chosen to interpret that according to their own desires.  When anyone does that, rather than follow God’s clear Word, they’re looking for trouble and inevitably end up with aberrant theology.

Prophecy Update – America’s Financial Doom

I know, that’s a cheery title for this essay.  Unfortunately, the facts bear out that our time of financial prosperity is short.  As has been cited by many writers besides me who look at the world’s condition through a Biblical, prophetic lens, regardless what the pundits may say, conditions on this earth as we know them aren’t going to remain this way much longer.

Actually, there are two views in America that seem to prevail right now.  The first is by those who hate President Trump, among them the mainstream media, the progressive/liberal elite, those who desire the downfall of this nation such as Antifa types or Islamic sympathizers, and the political class, either Democrat or Republican, that love the Deep State.  This group prognosticates doom and gloom in every scenario they encounter because they want the uninformed masses to believe the lies they continue to promote, whether it’s to turn good economic news upside down or to twist the truth of their involvement in the attempted overthrow of a duly elected president.

The second group is the cheerleaders, often believers, but typically those who don’t understand the prophetic implications in the Bible.  Too many Christians of this stripe have apparently embraced an existing scenario that ignores deep underlying financial issues in this country, or have bought into the belief that the Church will turn this nation around through their efforts at evangelizing via extreme Spirit-led ministries (i.e. those involved with the New Apostolic Reformation).

Scripture tells us what is really going to happen.  It doesn’t give us an exact timetable, but it does indicate seasons and signs.  One such sign is the actual financial condition of America, the leading light in the world for peace and prosperity because of our wealth, military power, relative social stability and political sanity.  The season that we’re in is the calm before the storm.  If these four pillars of our country were to collapse, where would we be?  What would happen in the rest of the world?  The answer in a nutshell is chaos.

There are well-known names in the financial world who write from a macro view.  In so doing, they examine conditions and trends and report on them rather than the detail of individual stocks.  In an article one such expert recently wrote, he outlined the trouble our nation is in because the financial foundation, not only in the U.S. but around the world, is crumbling.

Despite his being secular, what I’ve seen, however, is how much this man’s ideas (and those of others of like mind) match Biblical themes.  To illustrate, I’ll paraphrase some of his quotes from this article along the way.

Within the next two years, the world will see increasing numbers of bankruptcies, people losing jobs, banks collapsing, and financial devastation around the world.

This will lead to a plunging stock market and the probability of a recession.

Why such joyful news?

I’ll give you a quick summary.

World debt is increasing at an astronomical rate versus world income.  It is currently three times the amount of the global gross domestic product (GDP).  Eventually this kind of debt catches up with you.  A reckoning is coming.

Federal debt in the United States versus what we take in via federal tax receipts is about four times greater.  That’s a recipe for going broke.

An ongoing dilemma is how rapidly our nation is aging, which places increasing strain on Medicare and Social Security.  Who will pay these bills?

When we examine America’s federal debt versus our GDP growth, we see that it has grown twice as fast over the last ten years.  This has been the result of the super-charged government stimulus programs.

Government stimulated debt cannot cause real economic growth—that’s an impossibility.

The path paved by debt leads us down the road to Venezuela, where we have to print more money until the point is reached that a wheel-barrowful is needed to buy a loaf of bread.

As that disaster hits the common man and the poor get poorer, amazingly enough, the rich thrive.  It takes us to the barnyard of Orwell’s Animal Farm where “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Why is this?

We get a clue examining household net worth as a percentage of GDP.  Household assets are typically comprised of real estate, stock, and bonds.  These are valued more highly than the underlying economy, i.e. the income generated in this nation.  At the ear-popping levels that our household assets are valued, they’ve reached more than bubble stage.  Something is going to burst one of these days.

Back to Animal Farm territory, let’s consider the distribution of wealth in America.  It’s clustered primarily at the top 10% of the population.  More than that, it’s growing about four times faster among this elite group than in the rest of our country.

This results in the common worker having to put in twice the hours today simply to afford basic items like a pickup truck or average house.  In the next severe market downturn, individuals in this category may lose everything.

Welfare recipients, i.e. who depend on the government for their livelihood, are at great risk when the money stops.  Victimhood is already running rampant.  People are triggered at the merest slight.  We haven’t seen anything yet.  At the point that food stamps or welfare checks are halted, the real trouble will begin.

A major basis for all the debt we’ve racked up goes directly to our having abandoned the gold standard many years ago.  If we look at the Dow Jones index as a ratio of gold, we get a troubling picture.  The stock market, for all its nose-bleed heights, actually looks more like a bear market when this index is considered.  In fact, measured in relation to gold:

Compared to gold in 2000, the Dow Jones average in real terms is only half what it was then.

Finally, many of us are aware of this next trend, and it makes us shake our heads in dismay.  Approval of socialism is increasing rapidly among young people.  In the 18-29 demographic, approval of socialism since 1990 has risen by over 50%.

We should be alarmed at these trends.  They show us why calamity is almost upon us.  It won’t be long before economic conditions in America are at the brink.

Out of control federal debt, average Americans who in real terms are falling farther and farther behind, a desire to turn this nation into a socialist paradise; is it any wonder that the time is coming when America will lose its standing in the world?

What will that look like?  Those peace and prosperity pillars I mentioned earlier: wealth, military power, relative social stability and political sanity; all these things are teetering on the edge.

But then we have this statement by Jamie Dimon, CEO of Chase Bank, in an interview on 60 Minutes recently.  He said that the U.S. economy is gangbusters, in fact it’s “the most prosperous economy the world has ever seen.”

This blithe confidence that nothing will go wrong is probably what should give everyone pause.  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 24:37-39:

“For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

When Jesus returns, everything appears prosperous.  That is what massive amounts of debt have done to corrupt the thinking of even brilliant financial minds like Mr. Dimon.  Does unsustainable debt equal prosperity?  We might want to think again.

What will be the triggering factor unleashing the powers of darkness that destroy these pillars and sets the stage for the downfall of this country?  I can think of no other event than the Rapture of the Church.

God’s hand holds all these aspects of our nation in place.  By all rational logic, our debt-fueled house of cards should already have come tumbling down.  It’s His timing that will allow the debt condition to come to its natural fruition and bring ruin.  For the time being, we continue on our merry way.

Now, it’s certainly possible that God will deign to give us, His Church, a taste of this financial tribulation that will beset our nation and the world.  We shouldn’t fool ourselves that we’re immune.  But we can rest assured that before the developing lawlessness that results in everything getting completely out of hand, God will remove us from the scene.  As I’ve exhorted in other places, our job as faithful believers in Jesus Christ is to wait expectantly for His return.  While we wait, we’re also to occupy.  Let us continue the tasks that God has set before each one of us, whether we’re young or old.  Do them well, and witness to this lost and dying world that will soon experience the wrath and judgment of a just God.

NAR Purposes vs. Jesus’ Purposes

In February 2019 a huge event was held in Orlando that attracted 50,000 young people.  It was birthed by one of the so-called apostles and prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and included many leaders of that movement.  There was high energy and determination; there were encouraging declarations; there were many prayers and expectations.  It was all for the Great Commission “to catalyze every believer into a lifestyle of Christ-like action,” but the question is: Was there any fruit?  Why or why not?

The event was called The Send.  Its purpose was to initiate a worldwide revival to bring all people everywhere under the umbrella of the church and the authority of Jesus Christ.  On the surface, it looks so good.  Who could argue with the premise that we should evangelize the nations to bring them to Christ?

Unfortunately, there are a few problems.

Undoubtedly, some number of the youth assembled in the Orlando stadium were unsaved, probably also unchurched.  Doubtless, many who attended were born again.  Saved or not, that doesn’t necessarily make a difference as to whether or not they were deceived.

What could possibly be wrong with what went on at this all-day rally for Jesus?  If we’re rah-rah! for Jesus, isn’t that all we need?

The answer is no.  We also need true, Biblical doctrine behind whatever we do.  We need knowledge and understanding.  Lacking that, we go in ignorance and error.

The main thrust of The Send was to energize these masses with the mission of Matthew 28:19 to go into all the nations.  However, what will these young people go with?  For what purpose?

These youth were exhorted to win the world for Christ, to heal the sick, and to emphasize the move of the Holy Spirit in their efforts.  Again, who can argue against that?

I for one.

During the entire day, from what I’ve seen, not one of the leaders on stage proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ as being about redemption from sin; that it requires repentance, surrender, salvation, the Lordship of Christ, and the hope of His resurrection.  Nor did they happen to urge those listening to read the entire Word of God and to believe it.  Worse, they proclaimed a future entirely devoid of what Scripture declares will occur in this world, and is currently happening.  No one told these youth that if they go out in the Name of Jesus, there is a high likelihood they will be persecuted.  No one told them that Jesus is returning soon, because the leaders of The Send don’t believe that He is.

The Send promoted evangelism, but did so without a Biblical foundation.  These young people were told to go out and win people to Christ in the absence of helping them to truly acknowledge and confess their sin so they could lay it down at the foot of the cross.  If those who heard the words of the “apostles” and “prophets” on the stage didn’t get that message, how could they convey it to others?

The entire event was based on feelings; the crowd was effectively told to seek the experience of healing for themselves and others and through that many would come to Jesus.

When they were told that God was doing a new thing in the earth and that through them, the whole world would turn to Jesus, they believed a lie.  The world is on a downward trajectory.  It is moving increasingly toward lawlessness, disobedience, and rebellion.  All we have to do is read the Bible and believe it, not to inject our own wishes and desires onto Scripture.  It is not our work that will bring the return of Jesus, it is God’s doing alone.  The promotors of this event believe that Christians must bring the world into submission to Christ.  Why?  Because they’ve had “new revelation” from God.

The reality—what the Bible says—is that soon the Church of Jesus Christ will be Raptured.  There will be a 7-year Tribulation.  After that, Jesus will rule and reign on the earth for 1,000 years.  In all this, God is in charge.  He will make it happen exactly as foretold in Scripture.  For the promoters of The Send to tell these youth that it’s their efforts that lures Jesus back and brings peace on the earth is a satanic lie.

Jesus had a few things to say to His disciples before He was crucified.  Typically, we say that someone’s last words are important.  In that respect, what Jesus instructed in those final hours should guide us as well as them.

In John 13-17 we have significant detail about the last supper; what Jesus said and did.  In this space we can’t cover everything completely, but let’s quickly look at a few of them.

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.  They were to serve others as He did.

Jesus told them to abide in Him and to do so by keeping His commandments.  They were to live their lives for God and His kingdom, not for the world.  Yes, the disciples could ask the Father for good fruit (such as healing) as a witness, but to simply go out in the name of healing without the Gospel wasn’t something Jesus taught.

Jesus gave them the Great Commandment to love God by loving others (Matthew 22:37-38).  Because they were no longer servants, the disciples were actually friends of Jesus.  Because of that, they could bear good fruit in His Name.

Jesus warned the disciples that many would hate them because they came in His Name.  Through that hate, the disciples would face much persecution, but Jesus would be with them always.  Indeed, they would have tribulation, but through Jesus the disciples could persevere because He has overcome the world.

Through the Holy Spirit, the world would be convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  In all this, Jesus would be glorified and made known.

As the disciples went into the world, their purpose was to declare Jesus’ Name to the glory of God Almighty.  The disciples would make other disciples.  The Word would be preached, and the love of the Father would go forth.

Because the disciples had been with Jesus for three and a half years, they had the foundation by which to go out into the world.  They would win many to Christ, but time was short.  As He had previously instructed, difficult times would come and many would fall away.  He never conveyed the message that His disciples could clean up the world and make it righteous so as to hand it to Him on a silver platter when He returned.

This is the belief of the NAR folks.  They believe in Dominionism; that the dominion of Christ in the world will be accomplished through their doing.  The Kingdom Now is what they seek to bring about.  The end they proclaim is absolutely contrary to what God declares is coming soon.  We don’t have new revelation and a new reformation as the name of their movement implies.

The deception of NAR propagated through events like The Send is a tragedy.  It sends forth ignorant young people who don’t know the Word of God.  It attempts to win others to Jesus through a healing ministry that lacks the Gospel of sin and repentance.  It emphasizes experience and feeling rather than the Word of God.

We need to pray that these enthusiastic disciples who are going forth as a result of The Send will come to know the real Jesus, the real Gospel, and that they will go into the world preaching righteousness and holiness.  In that, they will truly see good works: healings and other miracles.  More importantly, they’ll see salvation in Christ alone.  They’ll likely also experience persecution and suffering.

To go out unprepared, perhaps even unsaved?  This is a recipe for failure.

Jesus Glorified – How Does That Work?

In church on a recent Sunday our pastor gave us a good reminder.  He emphasized the dual nature of Jesus: fully God and fully man—what is called the hypostatic union—which is completely incomprehensible to us.  We can understand half of one and half of the other, but 100% of both?  Does that make sense in a world of mathematical logic?

Nevertheless, the Bible teaches us that Jesus was just that.  It’s what makes Him qualified to be our Savior.  Only a man could be punished for the sin of mankind; only God could have conceived of this incredible sacrifice and done it in the first place.  All this got me to thinking…

It’s the human side of Jesus that I want to briefly discuss in this essay starting with Acts 7:54-56 which sets the stage:

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

We all know this well.  Stephen has raised the ire of the Jews by his witness of Jesus.  They’re so convicted they can’t stand it and rush at him in a mad frenzy, stoning him to death.  At the moment before his life here on earth extinguishes, Stephen has the incredible sight of Jesus, as a man, standing in heaven beside the Father and welcoming him home.

The favorite term Jesus used for Himself was Son of Man.  No doubt the purpose was to drive home this aspect of his nature: 100% Son of God; 100% Son of Man.  Jesus entered this world as a human being, born of a virgin.  He lived as a human, and He died on the cross as a human.  Then He rose as a human and as a glorified man stood at the right hand of God as God.  During His sojourn on earth as a man, He was also fully God.  Mind blowing.

As a man, He was composed of flesh, bones, and blood.  He shed His blood on the cross in atoning for our sins.  Life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:13).  Jesus had to have the blood of a man to sacrifice and atone for us as He did.

Interestingly, after Jesus rose and appeared the first time to the disciples, Thomas wasn’t present.  Despite an earlier declaration of faith that he would die with Jesus (John 11:16), this time he doubts.  He won’t believe until he himself sees the risen Jesus.  Jesus does Thomas one better by appearing again and urging him to touch the nail holes in His hands and put his hands into the gaping spear wound in His side.  Then Thomas believes.

But look at this: Jesus has these holes in His body.  If you’ve ever been around someone with serious wounds, you know how carefully doctors treat them today.  With large wounds, because they don’t heal easily, they often use a wound vac to pull out the moisture.  It’s a long process.  Infection can easily set in.  Yet here was Jesus with these wounds and no such aftereffects.  He has a big hole in His side, but no evidence of blood or weeping in the wound, let alone any issues with the robustness of Jesus.

Why is this?  The reason is that He has been glorified.  His body has changed from one with flesh, bones, and blood.  But to what?  Here’s the key question for me: Does Jesus in this glorified state still have blood?

I propose that He did not and does not.  Remember, His body now is of a spiritual nature.  Do angels have blood?  I think blood is a unique characteristic of life on earth, but it’s not in the heavenlies.

If that premise is true, what does that mean about Jesus once He became glorified?  What does that mean for us as believers who are Raptured and are changed in an instant?  At that moment, the Bible says we will be like Jesus (1 John 3:2).  The analogy is of the transformation of a seed that dies in the ground and becomes something entirely new.

If Jesus no longer has blood flowing through His veins, does He have anything like that in His glorified body?  Is there something that brings life?  What if He indeed has something that animates Him in this spiritual, yet somehow human, state,?  If it’s not blood, what is it?  I suggest that it’s the living Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit at our salvation comes to live inside each believer.  That’s an amazing mystery in itself.  The Spirit in the Bible is described as living water.  What if at the point of our glorification when we become spiritual beings like Jesus, that it is this living water, this Spirit of the living God, which now flows through our veins?

Wouldn’t that explain a lot of the mystery?  Jesus has no blood, yet he is flesh and bone.  He is alive and transformed into something beyond our ability to comprehend.  We will be like Him.  We will likewise be flesh and bone.  But something has to animate us to give us life.

In Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37), what happened?  The bones came together with flesh, but they had no life.  Only when the Spirit of the living God came upon them and in them did they have life.

If this hypothesis is correct that we are filled with the Holy Spirit literally as our lifeblood when we’re glorified, this has another future ramification.  The question is asked, “What will keep man—even in a glorified state—from choosing to sin in the future and rebel against God?  If the Holy Spirit is within us as our very lifeblood, wouldn’t that reduce, if not eliminate, any inclination on our part to disobey God (besides, of course, a voluntary and overwhelming desire to completely please God)?

Obviously, none of what I suggest can be proven at this time.  We’ll have to wait for when we come face-to-face with our Lord and Savior to understand this mystery more fully, when we become what we shall be.  However, the idea makes more real what is sung in the song “No Longer Slaves” when it says:

… You have chosen me

Love has called my name

I’ve been born again, into a family

Your blood flows through my veins.

Whom Will God Rapture? – The Philadelphia Church

Have you ever heard someone say, “God is a gentleman; He would never force someone into heaven who doesn’t want to go?”  If that’s true, and many of us believe it is, then why do we insist that God will force Christians (i.e. those who are truly saved versus those who simply consider themselves Christians), who don’t believe in the Rapture, in fact, who, may actually mock it, to go to heaven at that time when Jesus comes in the clouds to snatch away His church?  Doesn’t that go against this truism that everyone believes?

I’ve recently been exploring this question of Whom Will God Rapture? in a series of articles.  It’s controversial.  I’ve had people write dumping various Scriptures on me, even some contesting that there is a Rapture.  In these various responses, no one has shown me any Bible passages that conclusively demonstrate that salvation equals Rapture.

As I’ve tried to make clear, the way my thinking has moved is that I think someone can be saved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be Raptured.  Where does the Biblical text say that?  Actually, there are a number of parables that argue against that possibility.  I discussed that when I examined the Parable of the Virgins.  There are others.  Today I want to examine Jesus’ own words to the seven churches in Revelation.

Before I do that, however, let me simply make two observations.  In the Exodus, every Israelite was told and knew that they must apply the blood of the lamb on their doorposts in order to escape the avenging angel when it passed over.  Do you think all did?  Or might there have been some Israelites who scoffed at that?  What would have happened to those mockers?  Without the blood, they would have lost their firstborn.  Surely, this happened given human nature with its unbelief.  They still joined in the Exodus, but they paid the price in great tears for not adhering to the Word of the Lord.

We know that in the Tribulation, which has as its primary purpose the salvation of the Jews, many in Israel will not turn to Jesus as Messiah.  Zechariah 13:8-9 says:

In the whole land, declares the Lord,

    two thirds shall be cut off and perish,

    and one third shall be left alive.

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.’”

We might look at this as a salvation issue; however, couldn’t we also consider it from a Rapture-like perspective?  One-third of the Jews will be saved, i.e. Raptured into the Millennium.  The other two-thirds, those who didn’t believe, those who mocked, are left behind, in this case, to suffer death.  It’s not a perfect analogy, but I think it has some analogous potential.

With that introduction, let’s turn to the churches in Revelation.  Many commentators agree that these churches represent not only the original, actual churches but also potentially seven eras of church history, and a foreshadowing of seven types of churches that may apply today to individual believers.  First let’s look at the Philadelphia church in Revelation 3:7-13, the one most closely aligned with the Rapture.  To save a little space in this post, I’ll summarize what Jesus says to them and to the other churches as we examine their situations.

To Philadelphia, Jesus knows their faith, how they’ve kept His Word, and haven’t denied God.  They have little strength, yet they persist in belief with patient endurance against those who came against them.  Jesus promised, to this church alone, that He would keep them from the wrath to come.

We’ll go to the end with the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-22.  They say they’re rich.  Indeed, they’ve prospered and need nothing.  But they’re actually wretched, poor, blind, and naked.  Jesus commands them to buy gold refined by fire and to wear white garments so as to clothe themselves in His holiness.  He urges them to buy eye salve.  Why?  So that their eyes might be anointed and opened.  He loves them, but will reprove and discipline them.  Jesus stands at the door and knocks, but what happens to those who don’t answer and get right with Him?

Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6 has a reputation for being alive, but they are actually dead.  Their works aren’t complete.  If they don’t wake up, Jesus will come like a thief in the night against them.

The church of Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29 has done many good works, but they’ve entertained and tolerated serious immorality.  They eat foods sacrificed to idols.  If they don’t repent, Jesus will throw them into the sickbed of tribulation, even strike their children dead.  Only a few don’t hold to this church’s heretical teachings and gain Jesus’ approval.

In Pergamum in Revelation 2:12-17 Jesus declares that He will war against them with the sword of His mouth, that is, with the Word of God because of their heresies and idol worship.

Suffering Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11 is the only church besides Philadelphia not to receive condemnation and the threat of consequences for their actions.  They have suffered much persecution and tribulation; thus, they will receive the crown of life.

Finally, Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7 has abandoned its first love, i.e. Jesus and all He represents.  If they don’t repent, He will remove their lampstand.  The lampstand symbolically represents the church itself as Revelation 1:20 notes.  This church will completely lose its status as a church without repentance.

What’s the application of these churches to today?  The churches of Philadelphia and Smyrna are those which love God, His Word, and are faithful without condemnation and without consequences for their sin.  They are what I would describe as the true church.  Those in Philadelphia eagerly anticipate Christ as their blessed hope.  These are believers who look up and desire the soon return of Jesus.  Smyrna are those in countries that severely punish believers in Jesus Christ, yet hold firmly to Him despite persecution and death.  Their tribulation and faithful endurance keep them firmly in Christ’s grasp.  They, like the Philadelphia believers, will be Raptured; I don’t think there is any doubt about their meeting with Jesus in the clouds when He comes.

Here’s a point, however, I’d like you to consider.  Do you believe that every believer today fits the profile of the Philadelphia church?  I certainly don’t.  A remnant, holding on for dear life while faithfully keeping God’s Word?  Don’t many believers—be honest now—actually look more like the description of the condemned churches?  If this is true, then what about the promise of keeping them from the wrath to come?  It only applies to Philadelphia (and, I argue, Smyrna).  Every other church, i.e. effectively those who look like those other churches in the practice of their faith, aren’t promised delivery from God’s wrath.  The Bible simply never says that.

Believers (once again I stress these are saved) who fit the profile of the other five churches are the ones I believe are at risk of missing the Rapture and going into the Tribulation.  Each of these church types has serious issues in the eyes of God.  He warns each one of them that unless they get their act together and their heart right with Him, there are consequences.

Laodicean believers: Jesus will reprove and discipline.

Sardis: He will come like a thief in the night.  Where have we heard that before?  1 Thessalonians 5:2:

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

Matthew 24:43:

But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

2 Peter 3:10:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

The Rapture will be an absolute surprise to Sardis-type believers.  When the thief comes, it’s never a good thing.

Thyatira: This is highly representative of the Catholic church.  Think about Mary idolatry.  Think about the Eucharist, i.e. eating foods sacrificed to idols.  What is the sickbed of tribulation if not THE Tribulation?

Pergamum: They earn Jesus’ wrath to the extent that He wars against them with His Word.

Ephesus: The threat is loss of church status.

All these churches are types and shadows of Christians today in various stages of apostasy or heretical belief against God’s clear Word that Jesus will return prior to the 2nd coming for those who desire Him to return.  How many of these other church type believers want Jesus to Rapture them?  Most don’t believe in the Rapture, many think it is the same as the 2nd coming, thus not anything that pertains to them, or they actually mock those of us who eagerly anticipate being airlifted from this lost and dying world.

Is the Rapture escapism?  Sure, why not?  Why would any believer not want the Rapture unless he loves the world more than Christ?  In that case, why wouldn’t Jesus allow this believer to experience what the world really is, a place of lawlessness and unbelief?  Doesn’t Jesus want His church to be purified as silver and gold?  Doesn’t He want His bride to actually want to be with Him?

Here’s Isaiah 30:19-20:

For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.

God does not hesitate to give His children affliction and adversity if they need it in order to truly turn their hearts to Him.  The Bible teaches that great apostasy comes in the last days.  We are seeing that.  Churches are dropping like flies into the ointment of false teachings.  Too many believers are having their itching ears satisfied with unbiblical doctrine.  This world is their best life now.  The church will Christianize the whole world and hand Jesus this marvelous present when He returns.  If we don’t enforce social justice or care of the environment, we’re not living for God.  Not, and double not.

Nobody, except a few today, want Jesus to come soon.  Somebody, please tell me—reason with me from the Scriptures; don’t just throw verses at me—why Jesus won’t give these believers exactly what they desire?  And what is it they want?  To stay in this world when the rest of us depart because their eyes are on that which is here around them; not on Jesus Himself.

Martyrdom & NAR

Because of the ten years I’ve been associated as a volunteer with Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), I’ve gotten a perspective of the church and of Jesus Christ that, frankly, few Christians are privileged to witness.  In this time, I’ve read the classic book by Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured For Christ, a couple of times and his more in-depth narrative titled In God’s Underground.  I’ve gone through Jesus Freaks multiple times as a devotional, along with Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and read a number of other books recounting the lives of those who faithfully followed Jesus through persecution and suffering.  Additionally, I’ve studied Islam to better understand its ways and how it is so aberrant in its theology.  VOM has many regional conferences around the country every year, and I’ve gone to most of those in my area.  At these events I’ve heard the stories of those who have experienced much mistreatment at the hands of those who hate Christ and met some of them.  All this has had a profound impact on my faith.

In these years I’ve had the opportunity to bring some of the VOM story to various groups of Christians, including church congregations.  Inevitably there are a very few who are touched by these accounts of martyrs for the faith.  For the most part, however, the vast majority of those who listen would rather not hear.  The incidents of torture and severe maiming are too much for them—too graphic.  Others are seemingly not touched at all.  It’s like the proverbial water rolling off a duck’s back.  Some people will give money to the cause because they care; some—forgive my cynicism—perhaps because they want it to go away, and by donating they assuage their conscience.

I finally had the opportunity to watch the movie of Tortured For Christ that VOM recently released.  Other than the heartrending scenes of evil and grace, none of it surprised me since I’ve been immersed in the environment for years.  What watching it did do is make me come away thinking of my recent studies.

I’ve spent some time lately examining NAR and its beliefs.  The New Apostolic Reformation, along with its brothers, Dominionism and Kingdom Now theology all have a preterist and mainly a-millennial mindset.  Beyond that, they tend to be hyper-charismatic.

I have a Pentecostal view of the times in which we live.  I believe the gifts we see operative in the Book of Acts are very much alive today.  In fact, it floors me that people think they ceased at the end of the first century with the death of the Apostles.  The truth is that we need those gifts today more than ever to witness to the power and authority of Jesus Christ in order to combat the very active powers of darkness around the world.  If you’ve spent any time reading about or listening to the miraculous conversion stories in Muslim nations, you know what I’m saying.  (Read Tom Doyle’s Dreams and Visions, if you want an inside view of this). Jesus today still appears in dreams and visions.  God heals those who are dying.  He shows up where Allah is silent.  Our God, our Savior, is a God who cares and moves in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances.

All that said, hyper-charismania is off the charts for me.  As far as I’m concerned, the purpose of these gifts of the Spirit is to point people toward Christ and to draw them into His kingdom, not to glorify our experiences and feelings.

When I see the foolishness of the NAR “apostles” and “prophets” (that’s another issue; don’t get me started on that) as to how they operate, it blows me away that people are so drawn in and deceived.  I recently viewed a video of a service at Bethel (one of my favorite whipping boys) where the preacher spoke of the gold dust of heaven.  Lo and behold!  Out of the heating ducts, gold dust blew around for a while awing the congregation with the wonder of God that He would do something so incredible.  Bill Johnson subsequently came out and spoke.  For him this was so commonplace that he basically ignored the remaining particles that floated down.  All I can say is: “Is this the best that God can do?”

But no!  Other Bethel videos show devotees being slain by the spirit.  Similar to what happened at the Toronto Blessing, they roll around, do somersaults, and bark like dogs.  Oh yes, God is so glorified I want to retch.  Why lower case “s” for spirit in this instance?  Well, what spirit is this?  Then the participants are urged to call down angels: “Come down!  Come angels, come!”  I keep looking in vain in the Bible for these examples of true Christianity.  Since when do we command God what to do?

The comparison of these who claim that God is moving in their midst set against the backdrop of those who are tortured for Christ is stark.  God will not be mocked.  There are, no doubt, many serious people seeking the Lord who have been deceived by this faux strain of faith.  Are there some actual healings and utterances of prophetic words?  Yes.  Satan allows the mixing so as to claim a mantle of truth.  Tares with the wheat.  But look at how far from a deep understanding of what God actually desires for His people these teachings lead.

Does gold dust point to Jesus?  Is my heart posture enhanced when I bark and roll like a crazy man?  One of NAR’s female prophets speaks while shaking her head back and forth so fast that it gives me a headache just seeing it.  Oh yes, she also kicks off her shoes for added effect.  Where, oh where, are Isaiah and Jeremiah?  I’ll bet they’d have something to say about all this.

God wants a people who love Him and love others.  It’s evident in the way He sustains those who endure for Him.  It’s this witness that grows the church and makes serious disciples.  All this other stuff is distraction and one more piece of evidence that the hour is late.  Our Savior is coming soon.