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.

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

In Matthew 19:30, Jesus tells his disciples:

“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

This leads me to the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16.

Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this situation:  A landowner hires a number of workers early in the morning and promises to pay them a certain amount.  Throughout the day, the landowner goes out to the marketplace and hires more workers, promising to pay them a day’s wages.  Finally, an hour before quitting time, he hires the last group.

When the day is finished and it’s time to be paid, the last workers to be hired are paid the same wages promised to the very first group of workers early in the morning.  These workers who have labored all day figure that because they’ve worked so hard and so long, surely the landowner will pay them more than the last bunch who only worked an hour.  Unfortunately for them, the landowner says he has no obligation to pay them anymore than what he promised.  That’s what they agreed to and that’s what they’ll get.  The landowner tells them that if he wants to pay someone he hired later the same wage as those whom he hired first, that’s his prerogative.

Jesus then repeats what He said at the beginning of the parable in Matthew 20:16:

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

What does this mean?

The first are those who have status, wealth, and esteem in the world, even in the church.

The last are the unknowns and those considered unimportant.

In the age to come there will be many who considered themselves above others, but will find their position in the kingdom won’t be as exalted as they believe now that it will be.  There will also be those who are left behind when the Rapture comes despite what they considered of themselves, or perhaps are separated as a goat in the Great White Throne Judgment.

Remember Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus warns:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

On that day, many will be surprised—some to eternal torment, some to an unexpected eternal glory.

This teaching of the vineyard reveals that entrance to God’s Kingdom is a matter of privilege—God’s unmerited grace upon us, not of merit.  He has chosen us because our hearts were right with Him.

Jesus warns us of three harmful attitudes:

  1. A feeling of superiority over others
  2. Failure to share God’s grace toward others
  3. A spirit of envy toward the spiritual blessings of others

Let us remember to love God in Christ, and through Him to love others as He has loved us.

On Eagles’ Wings

Our God is a supernatural God.  We see that throughout the Bible in the many miracles, signs, and wonders that He performs.  In the Book of Exodus, He brings about ten terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt in the earth, the heavens, and upon man.  No doubt, he can do anything, even what to us is seemingly impossible.  Thus, in their exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites reach the Red Sea and are seemingly trapped, God parts the waters to enable them to cross.

Prior to that, the Israelites went from Rameses, Egypt where Pharaoh had a palace to Succoth by the Red Sea.  According to various maps, that distance from Rameses to Succoth appears to be about fifty miles.  There were 600,000 men that left Egypt.  When women and children are added, the number of individuals likely totaled over 2 million people.  It was a slow-moving caravan with all their goods and everything they brought out of Egypt with them.

For comparison, the caravans of illegal aliens traveling through Mexico these days to breach the U.S. border, typically travel 20-30 miles a day.  These people aren’t hauling nearly the amount of goods that the Israelites did.  Remember, God had them plunder Egypt before they left.  They had gold, silver, and many goods.  Also, although some of the illegal alien caravans are large, i.e. several hundred people, those numbers don’t compare to the number of Israelites fleeing Egypt in the exodus or in another incident I’ll note below.

This leads me to a question.  Does it make sense that this group could have gone fifty miles in the natural course of things before Pharaoh came to his senses, sent chariots after them, and caught up?  It seems doubtful to me.

Now listen to God speaking in Exodus 19:4:

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

This verse triggers more questions in my mind.

  • Is being carried on eagles’ wings simply an expression?
  • Or was there something more literal that occurred?
  • Could God have supernaturally transported this group some part of the way?
  • He directed them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night—this was supernatural in itself. But did something else go on to get them to their destination?

There’s an interesting corollary, or subsequent event, to this incident in Revelation 12.  Here, Satan and his angels are thrown out of heaven.  He greatly persecutes Israel, which is signified by the woman who had given birth to a Son.  Recall that in Matthew 24:15-16 Jesus warns Israel through His Olivet Discourse to the disciples:

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

The abomination of desolation is the Antichrist wreaking havoc in the temple, desecrating the Holy Place with a pagan sacrifice.  When he does that, Jesus says to the people of Israel, now it’s time to get out of Jerusalem.  Flee to the mountains.

The most common understanding of where people will flee is to the mountainous enclave in Jordan known as Petra, which is about 102 miles away.  I was there last year.  It’s an incredible place where the Jews could easily live, be provided for by God., and be protected by Him.  As an aside: if you saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, that part was filmed in Petra.

Here’s the narrative: At this time the Antichrist is looking for blood.  He wants to kill all the Jews.  His time has come and bloodlust is upon him.  Again, there will be women and children—how many total people we don’t know.  As of 2015, there were about 850,000 Jews living in Jerusalem alone.  There will have been much persecution of the Jews by this time and likely many will have perished in the Tribulation.  Also, this warning certainly applies to more than just the Jews in Jerusalem proper, but to all in Israel.  Even at the worst case where many have lost their lives, I’d certainly have to estimate that we could be talking half a million people—500,000.  That’s a lot of folks to get from here to there.  Everyone could drive but what if there are roadblocks?  How do all these Jews get to Petra?  Once more we ask: Does God supernaturally deliver His people?

Then we turn to Revelation 12:14:

 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.

As before in Exodus, we have the Israelites being pursued by a bloodthirsty tyrant, and God uses the same symbolic language.  On eagles’ wings He brings them to this safe place.

My thinking is that there may be more going on here than we can see through simply a quick reading of these verses.  God is jealous for those He loves.  He does what He must to protect them.

I want you to remember this in difficult times in your life.  God is jealous for you.  He’ll do for you what He previously did and will do in the future for the people of Israel.

God will deliver you on eagles’ wings.  Trust Him.  Put your faith in Him.

Remember, 1 John 4:4 assures us:

Greater is He who is in each of us, than he who is in the world

Devotion: Jesus & His Father’s House

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

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:1-6

This passage is most familiar to us because of the last verse, John 14:6:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

It’s an amazing statement and one of the most controversial ever made in the world.  Purveyors and followers of the world’s other religions become indignant at the hubris of Jesus.  Can you imagine their outrage that a religion as outlandish as Christianity could have a concept so foreign?  Don’t all paths lead to God?  Well, all except for Buddhism which disavows that there is a God.  Let’s try again.  Don’t we all serve the same God?  Um, not quite.  Islam believes in only the oneness of its god; the Trinity is a heretical concept.  One more.  How about New Age?  Not so much.  New Agers are big on witchcraft, the occult, and divination.  The God of Christianity says those are an abomination.  Maybe this doesn’t work so well after all:

All these different ways contribute to the problems in the world.  Sometimes it seems like we have nothing but trouble.  The teachings of many religions are an attempt to make sense of the ills around us.  Some disavow the concept of reality (Buddhism).  Others dictate that if we make more trouble by killing others that’s a good thing (Islam).  Still others teach that we’ll go around and round through many lives and finally come out perfect in the end (Hinduism and New Age).

Jesus taught that we’ll have trials and tribulations, but in Him and through Him we can persevere.  As a result, we’re not to worry and let our hearts be troubled.  In Him we have peace.  Through our faith in Christ, we also know that our God is not only merciful, He is just.

These troubles we have in this world?  When we’re in Christ we are assured that God’s justice will prevail.  All around us we see those who hate and despise God and seem to prosper.  We also see those who love Jesus and suffer terribly.  Those who have riches in this life, unless they know Jesus as Savior and Lord, won’t be so fortunate in the next life.  People mistreated and persecuted now but who trust in the Lord have a glorious future.

Jesus is preparing a place for them, and all of us who love Him.  The grandeur of such a house will overwhelm us all.  I think of the negro spiritual: I’ll Fly Away and of the slaves who endured such suffering, yet with a song like this looked forward to eternity:

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

They had hope, despite the terrible conditions under which they lived and labored.  It’s this confident expectation that Jesus brings us in this life.

How will we who live now fly away?  We have the anticipation of the Rapture.  Jesus says in our verse above that He is coming back for us to take us to His father’s house.  These aren’t idle words.  This isn’t a promise that’s in some distant, obscure future.  This is a promise for NOW!

This age in which we live is coming to an end.  All prophetic signs are converging and pointing to the soon-return of Jesus and the coming wrath of God upon an unbelieving world.

That mansion Jesus is building awaits us.  His return is near.  Soon we’ll take up residence in His Father’s house.  Soon, and very soon, we’ll fly away.

Counterfeit Redemption

When I was saved and born again in 2005, my pastor impressed on me the importance of reading the Bible daily.  He held a Bible up over my head and said that everything in our lives must come under the Word of God.  Being brand new in the Lord and having no idea what real Christianity was all about, I believed him.  I desperately wanted to walk with the Lord, and I was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish that.

Since that time in nineteen years as I write this, I’ve completely read the entire Bible through at least twenty-five times.  I’ve read it through with a year-long Bible reading plan, and I’ve also read through a number of times with a Bible in 90 Days plan.  When I’ve completed those ninety days, I go right into the New Testament and read that as often as I can the rest of the year.

I think from this you can see that I believe it’s critical for my walk with the Lord to constantly be in His Word and to know the big picture of the entire Bible.  By the way, when you read the Bible through in ninety days, because of the compressed time period, you really get a good sense of its continuity and are able to piece many things together that you might not have done in reading it over a longer period.

A major aspect of my reading God’s Word like this is that it’s helped me to better know His heart, will, and commands for our lives.

There’s a passage in Exodus that I recently came across, which, based on my reading pattern noted above, I’ve read at least twenty-five times.  However, this time I made a connection that I never had previously.  This is one of the benefits of the continual reading of and washing yourself in God’s Word.  You provide the opportunity for God to reveal things to you in His timing.  You can only do this if you’re regularly in the Word.

Exodus 13:14-16:

“In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

From this passage we see that the firstborn of Israel were to be redeemed to bring the clean out of the unclean.  This act was to be a reminder for the Israelites of their position with God.

Now let’s go to Revelation 13:16-17:

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

This passage speaks of the Beast that comes out of the earth during the Tribulation.  The beast is the false prophet, not the Antichrist.

Of course, the first thing I noticed is the similarity in the marks.  The first in Exodus is from God, the second in Revelation is from Satan.  As usual, Satan is a counterfeiter.  I don’t think he has an original bone in his body; he can only copy something from God and twist it for his evil purposes.

I never thought of the mark of the Beast having a religious connotation.  Normally we look at it as a means of control so that people must take the mark if they wish to eat or engage in any commerce during the Tribulation.  But, given the first usage by God, I think another way we can look at the mark of the Beast is as “redemption” during this time of horrors.  Taking the mark means people will be “clean”; they’ll be “protected” by the religion of the beast.  The added benefit is that this redemption gives them the right to buy and sell.  It makes them special and have a unique position with the god of the Tribulation.

This will be just one of the many deceptions that blind the peoples of the earth in those days.  Make sure you have God’s mark upon you today—that you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ—and that true redemption will protect you from God’s coming wrath upon an unbelieving world.

The Twitter Swamp

Most of you are familiar with the social media platform Twitter.  You may also be aware that many people communicate extremely vile things on it.  It seems that no one stops to think.  Is what I’m saying uplifting in any sense of the word?  It appears that the majority of people don’t care.  They just initiate some awful statement or respond hatefully from the depths of their sinful hearts.

The Bible speaks of this condition in Luke 6:45 and, as usual, nails it:

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

Twitter truly is a swamp.  Certainly, some good things are said and occasionally there are positives that come from it.  But the vast majority of what is communicated seems to be sordid and full of hate.

James 1:19 exhorts us that:

everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

That doesn’t appear to be the modus operandi on Twitter, does it?  In fact, it’s usually the last thing that happens in social media today.  And each day it grows worse.

Are you surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  That’s why studying Bible prophecy is so valuable.  You can know the future and prepare your heart for it.

Twitter is the forerunner of things to come.  During the Tribulation, the Antichrist comes on the scene.  Initially, he’s considered as reasonable and a man of peace.  If he uses Twitter or other social media platforms, he’ll be thought of as tolerant and a promoter of the unity of diversity.  But that’s only his initial persona to gain power.

As he cements that power by the mid-point of the Tribulation, he devolves into something much worse than we see on Twitter today.  Revelation 13:5-6 describes his coming to power and what Antichrist will be like:

There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

Lovely, right?  The words coming out of his mouth will be worse than anything that emerges out of the Twitter-verse today, hard as that is to imagine.

More than that, the Antichrist’s blasphemies will be embraced by the world and it will follow him.  By that time, the language he spouts will be the norm for the world.  You don’t like some of what’s said in movies, music, or TV talk shows today?  Just wait, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

Paul in Philippians 4:8 gives us good advice on what to say, think, hear, and watch:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

This is good advice in these last days.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and your heart centered on Him.

Don’t get sucked into the sewer, the swamp, the morass of social medial or any other situation.  Avoid saying and doing things you’ll regret on the day you’re face-to-face with Jesus.

Corrupting Influence of Sin

Today, I’ll start with an analogy.  It’s rather gross, but at the same time, I think, quite effective.

Consider a brand-new toilet bowl.  It’s clean, white, no hint of anything that might mar its pristine surface.  It gets installed in your home and it isn’t long before it’s not quite so pretty.

A little bit of rusty brown appears on the bowl under the water.  Quickly that brown stain spreads and the entire bottom is covered in this unsightly color.  Eventually you get out the Lysol, the brush, and you scrub it—it’s not going to clean itself!  Otherwise, the stain will just get worse.

This is how sin works in our lives.  We think we’re clean and sparkling, but we don’t realize there’s something at work against this wholesome exterior we portray.  We let in a sinful thought and commit a sinful act there.  Soon, if we don’t eradicate the effects of this sin, it spreads.

Here’s how the Bible puts it in James 1:14-15:

but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Sin can quickly and easily corrupt us if we don’t deal with it.  And how do we do that?  We can’t clean up our own sin like we can scrub a toilet bowl.  The only way is by repenting and giving it to God.

Now let’s look at another example.  It’s quite evident that sin is greatly increasing in the world.

The news is full of hate, the vile remarks people make, and the things they’re doing that are an abomination to God.  Many even celebrate this sin.  Twitter, where so much hate spews in this realm has been rightly described as a sewer.

What we see now is only a precursor of what is to come.  We think it can’t get any worse than this, then it does.  One prominent Christian radio host has repeatedly said, “I never thought I’d see the day.”

When the Rapture occurs and the Restrainer is removed, lawlessness will increase exponentially as the Tribulation advances.  We know the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit resident in true believers within the Church.  After the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will still be present in the world, however, He will probably operate more like in Old Testament times.  Many people will be saved, the Holy Spirit will at the least convict them if not indwell them, but the restraint the Holy Spirit exercises now won’t be there.

Lawlessness will consume the world—just as that brown stain in the bottom of your toilet will consume the entire bowl unless you clean it.  This is a picture of the horrors of sin and lawlessness during the Tribulation: they lead to death.

God in His mercy has decreed the Tribulation will last only seven years.  He says in His Word, in Matthew 24:22:

If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

In other words, the world would destroy itself if God didn’t intervene.

That intervention brings the return of Jesus Christ.  At that time the entire world will acknowledge Him as Lord:

  • Some to eternal torment
  • Some to eternal glory

Be sure you’re ready for when Jesus comes the first time for His saints in the clouds in the Rapture.  When He comes in His glory with His saints at the end of the Tribulation, it will be much too late.

Prepare your heart and live everyday like it’s your last day before you face Jesus.

It may be!

Welcome to Looking Up

The name of this blog is taken from Luke 21:28 where Jesus says: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

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Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Reading in Matthew 18 about the parable of the unmerciful servant made me reflect back to verses I discussed in a previous blog post.  In Romans 2:4-5, the Apostle Paul says:

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

Here the extremely serious question arises as to whether those who are professing Christians, yet who are stubborn and have unrepentant hearts, will be Raptured with the true Church of Jesus Christ, or must go through the refining fires of the 7-year Tribulation, otherwise known as the Day of God’s Wrath.

Following on that, let’s review Matthew 18:21-35:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Notice in this parable that the man has an impossible debt.  Yet his master has mercy on him and forgives it all.

This is our sin condition before the Lord.  Our sin is so great that we can never conceivably repay it.  However, God in His great mercy, in the sacrifice of His Son, has forgiven us.  Through this free gift of salvation, God forgives our sins as far as the east is from the west.

But this same man has a debtor. Unlike his master, he doesn’t forgive this man’s debt.  Despite his pleas, the who owes the debt is cast into prison.  Understand: he’s thrown in prison until he can repay the debt.

How can this possibly happen?  In prison, you can’t work.  It’s an impossible situation.  This man will never be able to repay the debt.

The master hears of this situation, and it angers him greatly.  He tells the man that because his master had mercy on him, so should he likewise have mercy on others and forgive their debts.  So incensed is the master at this man’s heart condition that he reverses his initial mercy because of the unforgiveness this servant harbors.  The master throws him in debtor’s prison until he can pay.  Again, this is an impossible situation.  He can never repay such a debt.

God likewise commands us to be merciful to others.  He commands us to forgive others their sins against us.  We are not to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness in our hearts.

If we continue to do so, there is a consequence.  Let’s look at the last verses of this passage again:

In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

Do you see that?  If we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us!

What does He mean that He’ll hand us over to the jailer to be tortured?

This is the impossible circumstance.  It illustrates the critical importance of forgiveness in God’s Kingdom.

Is this a situation where someone in sin doesn’t gain heavenly rewards?  Does it mean someone losses their salvation?  Can this imply that an unforgiving heart, just like in the Romans verses, may cause a believer living in this sin to go through the Tribulation for his heart to get right?

I don’t know the answers, but this Scripture gives a clear, unmistakable warning.  God’s mercy is greater than anything we can imagine.  However, He expects us to reflect the love of Christ in our lives.

If we live in the sin of unforgiveness, there may be terrible consequences for us as a result.

Inconceivable Persecution

I was sitting in my living room in the early morning for my prayer time.  The lights were out.  It was quite dark outside.

I began thinking about my brothers and sisters in Christ who are regularly persecuted in many countries around the world.  This includes the Middle East in Muslim nations, China which is communist and atheist, Southeast Asia where they are communist and Buddhist, India with Hindu persecution, and Russia which is communist.  There are others.

There are generally two types of persecution.  One is where the governments outlaw Christianity.  It is a threat because Christians worship God and not the state.  The second is where family, friends, and neighbors come against Christians because they are different—Christianity is a different religion to the prevailing culture or it is against their pagan traditions.

It is not unusual in these places for Christians to be privately at home or gathering secretly to worship and their enemies learn of their beliefs.  Once they do, it’s not long before they harass or outright attack them.

Think about this.  You’re at home like I was, praying, and reading your Bible.  Suddenly, in the dark your door is broken open and armed men rush in.  They’re shouting, cursing, and they roust your family from their beds.  Immediately they search your house looking for forbidden materials.  They seize your Bible.

You and your family are taken to jail where you sit for days undergoing intense questioning.  The interrogation may continue for weeks.  You may be tortured.

Why do they treat you like this?  The authorities want names of other believers.  Christianity cannot be tolerated because these people and governments see it as a threat to their existence, regardless of how passive or non-evangelical someone might be.  For those who work actively for the Lord’s purposes, they are an even greater peril to the prevailing culture.

Some of our brothers and sisters are imprisoned like this for years.  They have no trial.  They undergo regular beatings.  Torture may be a daily occurrence.  Some are put to death.  Their families may be threatened with death unless the Christians divulge the names of others who follow Jesus Christ.

What would you do in such a situation?  What would I do?

For us in America, this scenario is inconceivable.  But others face it every day.  Persecution to them is as normal as the sun rising daily in the east.

In the coming 7-year Tribulation with the rise of the Harlot world religion and the Antichrist, incredibly, many will choose to follow Jesus rather than take the mark of the Beast.  They will be hunted and severely persecuted.  What I described earlier will become the norm for all those who decide the One true God is worth their very lives.

Most newly minted Christians in the Tribulation, in fact, will pay with their lives.  Why do I frame it this way?  Because all true followers of Jesus Christ will be Raptured from the earth by Jesus before the Tribulation when God pours His wrath and judgment upon an unbelieving world.  Unbelieving is the key.  Thus, the only Christians during that time will be those who come to the Lord following the Rapture; these will be “newly minted.”

These new believers will face severe persecution and death.  They will also know what they’re getting into, just as Muslims today who convert from Islam.  Apostasy warrants the death penalty for them.  True faith in Christ during the Tribulation will warrant it for these new Christians.  Here is Revelation 20:4 giving us insight into this:

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Aren’t you glad you’re a true follower of Jesus Christ?  That you won’t have to endure the incredible suffering that will soon come upon this world?  And if you’re not a believer, don’t wait until it’s too late—make that decision today!—because great deception will come upon the earth during the Tribulation ,and you may not even be able to choose Christ as your Savior because of the overwhelming spiritual darkness.

Rejoice in the Lord and be thankful for His mercy!