Luke 17:32 – Remember Lot’s Wife

There are several passages that we look at to give us a deeper understanding of Jesus’ return.  Luke 17 is one of them.  In this chapter, it’s the Pharisees who first ask Him about the coming Kingdom of God, rather than His disciples who do so in Matthew 24.  Jesus’ cryptic response is that it will come in ways they don’t expect and not necessarily visible initially to the naked eye.

Of course, the religious leaders at that time were looking for their Messiah to be a military conqueror of the Romans.  That was far from God’s intent in His first visit as the incarnate Jesus.

The text doesn’t say this explicitly, but it appears that Jesus’ next description of His return was strictly to His disciples, and that the Pharisees were no longer present.  This discussion about the end times seems to be at a different point from when the disciples had brought up the magnificence of the temple, which prompted Jesus’ response in Matthew.  In this instance, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem and happens shortly after he heals the ten lepers.

As in the parallel text, Jesus warns His disciples not to be deceived by false Christs.  Speaking of His 2nd Coming at the end of the Tribulation, He says in Luke 17:24 that all upon the earth will see His return:

“For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.”

That will be a day that no one can miss.

But first, before that fearsome and glorious day, many signs will occur.  The times will be similar to those of Noah’s and Lot’s days.  For the people living then there was a type of normality.  As we look upon this prophecy today and see the condition of the world, it’s apparent that normal may not mean normal in the sense we might have described it in the past.

In speaking of Noah and of Lot, we know that there was great depravity around them.  The earth in Noah’s time had been filled with such wickedness, because of the transgressions of the sons of God and their Nephilim offspring corrupting all of mankind, that God had no option other than to destroy everyone except the righteous Noah and his family.  Times may have been normal, so to speak, for the earth’s inhabitants, but they were by no means without significant perversion.

The same applies to Sodom and Gomorrah.  The immorality and degradation of all humanity in those cities was a normal way of life for those people.  However, it was not normal in any sense of the word in relation to how God expected man to live.

What is the parallel to Noah and Lot besides the debauchery of the times?  It is how Noah and Lot were rescued out of those circumstances prior to God raining down destruction.

Some commentators have suggested that Jesus’ description of what will happen in Luke 17:31 refers to His 2nd Coming:

“On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.”

It certainly could be that; I’m not dogmatic about what I’ll next suggest by any means, but let’s look at this a different way.

Perhaps this refers to the desolation of abomination with the Antichrist’s unholy sacrifice in the temple at the midpoint of the Tribulation.  Perhaps it means the end of the Tribulation when the angels of God gather up and separate the tares from the wheat, i.e. the wicked from the good.

However, perhaps it refers to the Rapture, and something very few people have suggested (I actually know of only one other person who has proposed this interpretation, so it’s very much out of the mainstream).  Let’s add the next two verses in Luke 17:32-33 for our discussion:

“Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”

What do we know about Lot’s wife?  Our presumption is that she still had an attachment to the worldly life and the fleshly existence she knew in Sodom and Gomorrah.  As a result, with God knowing her heart, she was still effectively a part of those cities and didn’t want to depart.  This led to God turning her into that pillar of salt.  She looked back, lusted after her former life rather than desire to escape it, and God gave her the consequences.

Stick with me.  The next verses, Luke 17:34-35, appear to refer to the Rapture in how people will suddenly disappear:

“I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”

(Some Bible translations add verse 36: “Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”)

What if Jesus is saying that at the Rapture, those who should and could be snatched away will have a choice?  What if, in that moment when Jesus comes on the clouds, the archangel shouts, and the trumpet sounds, that God will allow people to choose whether to depart from the earth or to express their fleshly desire to remain – just like Lot’s wife?  Rather than a wholesale snatching of believers away, perhaps God will allow those who have been pre-Tribulation Rapture skeptics and others (i.e. carnal believers) who love life on earth to stay if they wish?  After all, don’t we always say that God never forces us to do anything that we don’t want to do?  In our free will choices, we can always reject God’s way.  Is this passage actually conveying that truth?

The final verse in Luke 17:37 could pertain to this idea:

And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

What will happen to those who go into the Tribulation?  There will be much death.  Could it be that in this scenario that those who choose this path become meat for the vultures?

What I’m not saying in this framework is that these who remain aren’t saved or that they wouldn’t still end up in heaven.  I’m also not applying a works-based salvation to this concept.  It becomes a heart issue.  Does someone love the Lord and want to be with Him, or is his love divided between heaven and earth?  Perhaps experiencing some of the Tribulation is a necessary wake-up call for someone to wholly love God and for him to have the believing loyalty that He requires of us?

I don’t know the answer to this alternative interpretation of this passage as to whether this is what God intends.  What I try to do is read and interpret God’s Word as best I can.  Sometimes He has a deeper meaning than that which we see on the surface.  I think it’s healthy to ask questions rather than to simply go with the narrative that has always been.  As long as we keep the true doctrine of the Word, some of these other more obscure passages can certainly be open to a different interpretation.  Do we always read while in the box, so to speak, or can we sometimes jump out of the box to consider another method of understanding?

In the end, we know God’s love for us is beyond our understanding. And He gives us His best, even if we don’t always understand why or how.

1 Samuel 28:15 – Life Beyond Life?

During the reign of Saul, there was little he did that pleased the Lord.  One such act that could have been a positive for him in God’s eyes, but turned out poorly, revolved around witchcraft.  Multiple times Saul disobeyed the command of Yahweh.  The prophet in 1 Samuel 15:23 laid this out specifically for Saul:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

Disobedience to God is rebellion is sin is witchcraft.  It’s part and parcel of idolatry that is an abomination to the Lord.  Saul traveled down this path and had been exceedingly grievous to God.

Despite this, the one positive thing he did was expel practitioners of the occult arts from Israel, as noted in 1 Samuel 28:3:

“… And Saul had put out the mediums and necromancers out of the land.”

This was apparently in obedience to God’s command in Deuteronomy 18:10:

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.”

Too bad Saul didn’t stop there.  But, he had no restraint within himself.  Saul had lost much of his moral compass.  At a time of crisis with the Philistines threatening Israel, Saul became afraid.  This led him first to that which he should have done all along.  In 1 Samuel 28:6, we learn:

And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.

Immediately upon receiving no answer from Yahweh, he asked if any mediums remained in Israel.  He was told that there was still a witch at En-dor.

Mediums and others who engage in the occult know where their power comes from.  They connect with demonic spirits, and in so doing deceive those who come to them for spiritual guidance.  When a person seeks to hear from the dead, mediums practiced in their art know that the spirit which arises is not truly the one who is sought; rather the medium knows that it’s a demon impersonating the dead.

In Saul’s case, when the witch summoned Samuel, she was expecting the result she’d always gotten, i.e. a deceiving spirit.  Instead, she was shocked.  Why?

She knew the difference between the inhabitants of the demonic realm from the real spirit of a dead person.  We see this in 1 Samuel 28:12:

When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.”

How do we know this is actually Samuel appearing rather than a demonic apparition?  The Bible tells us plainly.  Saul knew it was Samuel, then the text in 1 Samuel 28:15 says:

Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?…”

Furthermore, in 1 Samuel 28:16-17, we have a confirmation:

And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.

We have no doubt that this is indeed Samuel, risen from the depths of Sheol for the purpose of relating to Saul what is to come next for him.

Demonic spirits do not know the future.  God does.  Here in 1 Samuel 28:19, He imparts to Samuel a prophetic Word that seals Sauls fate:

And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.

It causes Saul to faint in fear knowing that tomorrow he will die.

This incident shows us Biblically that life persists after death.  There is no soul sleep as some would argue or annihilation.  As discussed in the commentary about the rich man and Lazarus (http://garyritter.com/luke-1626-a-great-chasm/), the place of the dead is one where people live on.  If they don’t know the Lord, they are alive in torment; if they do, since the time of Jesus, they go immediately into His presence after death to await bodily resurrection.

There is life after life.  The question for everyone still alive, whose fate has not yet been sealed, is where they will go upon death and how they will spend eternity.

God gives us all the free will choice to make that determination for ourselves.  We can choose to reject God and thus choose eternal torment; or we can choose life more abundantly through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

If there are any of you reading this who haven’t yet repented of your sins, asked God for forgiveness, and trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, it’s not too late.  But this age is nearing its end.  Not much time remains.  Don’t think you can wait until the last minute.  Will that really be a sincere declaration of faith, or will it only be a desperate attempt to avoid the fires of hell?  God knows our heart.  He wants yours.  Words matter little.

Truly seek the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and you will have nothing to fear.  Rather, you’ll have a glorious eternity in the blessed hope of Jesus Christ.

Luke 16:26 – A Great Chasm

In all the parables Jesus told, He never used proper names; He would simply give a description of a person, e.g. “the rich young ruler.”  There was one exception to this general rule, and that was in His recounting the incident with the beggar, Lazarus, and the rich man.  Because of the use of Lazarus’ name, it is believed that Jesus spoke of an actual event.

In this story Lazarus had nothing in this life, whereas the rich man had all that he ever wanted.  Both of them died.  The rich man went to Hades (the Greek term; Sheol being the same place in Hebrew), while Lazarus went to be in the place described variously as Abraham’s bosom or Abraham’s side.

It is important to note that the direction of Sheol or Hades is always down in the Bible.  Everyone, good or wicked went to Sheol.  For instance, here is David in Psalm 30:3:

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;

    you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

This is Psalm 49:13-15 penned by the sons of Korah:

This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;

    yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah

Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;

    death shall be their shepherd,

and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.

    Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,

    for he will receive me. Selah

The righteous of God always believed that despite their initial destination as Sheol, Yahweh would rescue them from this place of eternal agony and silence.

In Jesus speaking of this place where the wicked rich man went, we learn that there is constant torment, thirst, and anguish.  Luke 16:24 gives us the rich man’s very words:

“And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’”

On the other hand, Lazarus doesn’t experience anything like this.  He is with Abraham in a place of comfort.  Jesus tells us the difference between where these two men ended up had to do with how they lived their lives.  Because this relates Old Testament theology, it is  based on works depending on how someone followed the Law of Moses.  The rich man had no mercy on the poor; in his life he had the acclaim of others and wealth that he used only for himself.  We don’t learn as much about Lazarus other than he suffered in his poverty.  Despite that, perhaps he obeyed the Law – the text doesn’t tell us.

A key aspect of this incident is the description of Hades.  Abraham speaks of this in Luke 16:26:

“‘And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’”

In this place of death there are apparently two compartments, with one being for the wicked – the place of torment; and the other being for the righteous – the place of peace.  Between these two sections is a great chasm that cannot be breached.  Those in the location of Lazarus cannot cross to Abraham, and those with Abraham cannot go to the side of the ungodly.

What is exceedingly interesting is when the rich man calls out to Abraham to warn his brothers about this awful place so that they won’t end up there.  Abraham tells him (notice that they can speak to each other over this distance of separation) that his brothers have the Law and the Prophets.  In other words, everything they need for salvation is found in the Old Testament.

The rich man wants Abraham, who is deceased, to somehow appear to his brothers.  That is, he wants the dead to warn them because he figures the shock would be enough to set them straight.  But Abraham tells him in Luke 16:31 that if they don’t obey what they’ve already been given, his warnings would do nothing.

“He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Jesus, in relating this incident, is speaking of Himself.  There are those who have every opportunity to repent and be saved.  Despite that, they will reject even the evidence that His resurrection brings.  The dead – even coming back to life – cannot rescue the dead in this world.

A couple more notes about this.

  1. When Jesus was crucified, and the thief crucified beside Him believed in salvation through Him, Jesus told the man that he would that day be with Him in paradise.  Because Jesus had not yet risen from the dead, He, like everyone else up to that point, would go down to Hades.  It was only after Jesus rose from the dead that those who die believing in Him go directly to be with Him in heaven and thereby bypass Hades as the place of death.
  2. We are told that when Jesus descended to Hades that He had the keys to the prison that held the Old Testament saints, and that He set these captives free.  Once He completed those three days in hell, Jesus released all those kept in the side of Sheol with Abraham and brought them with Him to heaven.  He also demonstrated to those in the unrighteous compartment how He had now won the victory over death and the grave.  Paul repeats in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 what the Old Testament in Hosea 13:14 told believers:

“O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When Jesus came to live and die and rise again for us, He changed everything, even the dynamics of death.  Because He lives, we also will live.  Praise be to the Lord!

1 Samuel 24:13 – Out of the Wicked

Upon Saul’s having proved that he wasn’t worthy of being anointed by God for the kingship of Israel, he still clung to that position in his unrighteousness.  Disobedience to God took Saul down the path of greater disobedience.  He did what was right in his own eyes, but little of it was Godly in any way.  Once he strayed from doing what was right, it became easier for him to continue doing what was wrong.  The voice of Saul’s conscience – placed in him by the Holy Spirit of God – became dulled.  That connection with the ways of God was severed over time, and wickedness inevitably ensued.  This is what happened with Saul.

When God’s Spirit departed from Saul, an evil spirit took His place.  Instead of listening to what Yahweh desired, Saul heard the demonic voice and obeyed it.  That voice whispered in his ear that David was against him and desired to usurp the kingship from him.  In reality, of course, Saul’s position had already been stripped by the Lord.  Still, God’s plans for David hadn’t yet come to fruition, and He allowed Saul to remain as king.  During this time, with the urging of the evil spirit oppressing him, Saul purposed to chase down David to kill him.

Scripture describes numerous encounters the two men had as Saul attempted to eliminate the one he viewed as his rival and the absolute threat to his kingdom.  Through it all, God protected David.  In the process, God also gave David the opportunity to prove his allegiance to His ways, and he came through them with flying colors.

In one such instance, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself.  By **coincidence** David and his men happened to be hiding in the depths of that very cave.  David’s men urged him to take advantage of the situation by killing Saul, so as to be done with all that they’d been enduring.  Instead, David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe.  When Saul departed the cave, David followed him.  At a distance he revealed to Saul, by showing him this piece of his robe, how he easily could have killed him.

David had an unusual – to us – perspective.  Since God had initially anointed Saul, it was up to Him to remove him.  David had likewise received God’s anointing, but his belief was that since Saul remained as king, it wasn’t his place to kill him.  However, David also knew that Saul wasn’t operating under the good graces of God.  In the exchange after David took the piece of the robe, he quoted a saying in 1 Samuel 24:13 that applied to the situation:

“As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you.”

This wasn’t a proverb that David penned, but we see the general principle in many other verses of Scripture.  Proverbs 6:12-15 says:

A worthless person, a wicked man,

    goes about with crooked speech,

winks with his eyes, signals with his feet,

    points with his finger,

with perverted heart devises evil,

    continually sowing discord;

therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly;

    in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.

Psalm 34:21 tells us:

Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

Wickedness begets wickedness.  David understood this.  He knew that God would judge between him and Saul.  His job was to walk in the ways of the Lord – in righteousness.  Calamity would come upon Saul in God’s timing.

In the verbal exchange between them, the Spirit of truth came over Saul and he declared what he had denied for so long.  1 Samuel 24:20 records his acknowledgement of what was inevitable:

“And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.”

Righteousness will always prevail because it is God’s nature for it to do so.  It may appear as if wickedness will rule the day, but God’s intent will inevitably come to pass.  The timing for God to prevail over evil isn’t usually that which we desire, but it’s always for the good.  David knew this, and he lived it.

We would do well to absorb this lesson from David.  These latter days in which we’re living are exceptionally trying.  We see the condition of man’s heart with the evil that has resulted in the world, and it grieves us.  But God will prevail.  His timing is perfect.

Our task is to follow hard after the Lord – even as David did – and He will deliver us when that perfect timing is realized.

Luke 15:30 – This Son of Yours

We all know the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The younger of two sons demanded his inheritance while his father was still alive and went to a foreign land, where he squandered it.  In his dissolute living he finally realized the foolishness of his actions and how he was wasting his life.  Luke 15:17 tells us that when he finally “came to his senses,” that was the point where he decided to humble himself and return home to ask forgiveness of his father.

Many of us see ourselves in this parable or we know someone who fits this description.  This is the person who may never have known God or perhaps did and walked away from the faith for some reason.  Many folks like this spend years wandering in darkness, imbibing sexual appetites, doing drugs or drinking excessively, perhaps engaging in occult practices that are anti-God and demonic.

Often, it is because of the prayers of a few who have never given up on this prodigal that he reaches certain depths in the depravity of his lifestyle that he comes to his senses.  A well-publicized example of this is with Brooklyn Tabernacle (New York City) Pastor Jim Cymbala’s daughter, Chrissy.  Chrissy has written a book called The Girl in the Song (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PCK25LA) that describes all that happened to her.  Here is an excerpt from the Amazon book description:

Chrissy grew up surrounded by the beauty of love and the ugliness of pain. The daughter of a pastor whose church was located in a rough-and-tumble area of Brooklyn, she witnessed the ravaging effects of the streets on the lives of the most desperate—drug addicts, derelicts, and other destitute people. Yet her own home was a haven of warmth, filled with affection and love.

Then something happened that tore her away from it. With the flip of a switch, Chrissy fell deeper and deeper into deception where haunting images and songs pointed to one thing—perfection. Longing to be the girl in the song, she became entangled in an obsessive relationship. Before long, secret after secret led her down the path to becoming someone she didn’t even recognize.

Prodigals; they happen despite intense faith and serious devotion to God in a family.  In these situations, there can come a “But God…” moment.  As with Chrissy, the prodigal reaches the end of herself, and God touches her, bringing her to her senses so that she might return to the Father.

In some families there is the faithful son or daughter who didn’t go down this destructive path.  As in the parable, we can imagine there might be some resentment at the returning brother or sister.  Here this child remained, stayed obedient, and who is it that is feted?  The one who lived a dissolute lifestyle.  It could certainly cause such a sibling to question why he or she bothered.  Much like the brother in the parable.

Are there not many who have been raised in the church and remained home and faithful, never straying by engaging in illicit sex or partying to an extreme?  They’ve always been the good child who never gave anyone cause for concern.  These are the ones who are often the pillars of a church.  They’ve been there through thick and thin and are noted as such.

Have any of these ever felt like the son who stayed at home?  Particularly in churches that reach out and welcome “sinners” into the congregations, how might the loyal, non-troublesome, members feel?  Often the troubled ones who become part of a church require extra attention because of their ignorance of Godly ways and immaturity in the faith.  They may be like many in the Corinthian church that Paul had to rebuke and discipline in order to get them on the right track.

The “older sons” who have stayed devoted and unwavering may harbor thoughts such as those expressed in the parable in Luke 15:30:

“But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”

Is it possible for them to feel resentment and complain to the Father, “When this son of yours came, look how well you treated him.  Why him and not me?  Why don’t I get the fatted calf?”

It would be understandable for someone left home and obedient to cry out to God in this way.  Yet, look at what the Father says to this dutiful son in Luke 15:31-32:

“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.  It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

The one who stayed home is every bit as loved.  However, the love of the Father is so great, and He is so merciful, that He wants none to be lost and perish.  We celebrate the lost souls who return home (or come home for the first time), but we shouldn’t forget to love on those who have always been there and consistently done the bidding of the Father.  They should be reminded that they are as valuable as the Prodigal.

1 Samuel 17:26 – Defying the Armies

While David was yet a youth and Saul was still king, the Philistines were a powerful force that constantly oppressed Israel. In those days, the two armies gathered on opposing mountains that stood above the Elah Valley.  For forty days the Philistines taunted Israel with their superior might.  During this time of testing their champion, Goliath, would come out every day and shout obscenities at the Israelites.  What was worse is that he would curse the Name of Yahweh, and all the Israelites would do in response was shrink in fear.

David’s father sent him from the fields where he guarded the sheep to the battleline in order to bring refreshments to his brothers.  Upon his arrival, he heard Goliath challenge Israel and blaspheme Yahweh.  This incensed David, and in 1 Samuel 17:26 we learn:

And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Look at the indignation David had for this man – giant though he was – at his attitude toward God.  It outraged David that this mere human would defy Israel – God’s Chosen People – the armies of the living God.

This isn’t the only time David expressed this sentiment.  He went to Saul and offered to confront Goliath, despite his being so young (perhaps around sixteen?).  In that conversation David explained how he had taken on more fearsome enemies than Goliath in the form of wild beasts while protecting the sheep.  Here again, in 1 Samuel 17:36, David declared what was on his heart:

“Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”

Goliath was a pagan who despised God.  In his opposition and defiance of Israel, he dishonored Yahweh’s Name.  This grieved David, and he wouldn’t let that stand.

In confronting Goliath, David took five stones from the brook that runs through the valley.  It is thought the reason he picked up five stones was that Goliath was one of five giant men – perhaps his brothers – in Gath (2 Samuel 21:15-22).  Perhaps he knew of them and wanted to be ready in case they came out against him.  Once more, as David faced Goliath, we see the third time he expresses his indignation in 1 Samuel 17:45:

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

David simply wasn’t going to allow Goliath to take the Lord’s Name in vain and attempt to humiliate those whom He had chosen to be His inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9).

Consider David’s faith and trust in God.  It was absolute.  As he came before Goliath, he had no doubt that he would prevail because he knew without any hesitation whatsoever that his confrontation was a righteous one, and that God would enable him to prevail.  Of course, He did.

David’s incredible confidence came from this understanding that he declared in 1 Samuel 17:46-47:

“… that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” 

He knew that when he operated in the will of God, it was His battle to fight and win.  David was simply God’s instrument in the flesh, and he understood this.  It is for this reason we see and understand how God considered David a man after His own heart.  He believed absolutely in Yahweh as the God of all creation above every other god.  His faith was such that he never turned away from this belief and trust.  His believing loyalty to Yahweh alone was unshakeable.  Because of this, God blessed everything that David did because His favor was upon him.

What would happen if today we had the same attitude as David?  What if when someone spoke against the Name of Jesus, we would rise up in indignation and proclaim Him as our Savior and Lord regardless where we were and whatever the circumstances?  What if we didn’t cower in the fear of man for our faith in the Lord and weren’t ashamed of the Gospel?  What if the church over the years had taken this stand rather than desire to accommodate the culture and become part of the world?

We can only surmise as to the latter question.  The church of Jesus Christ has become compromised and has little strength or respect.  Scripture tells us this would happen in these latter days.  However, we as individual believers can still make a difference.  We can personally stand against the tide of unbelief that is sweeping the world.  We can understand that, just as Jesus said, we will face persecution.

However, in these tribulations that we encounter, if we hold fast to what we have in Christ, God will honor our perseverance and love for Him.  He may not deliver us out of these difficulties, but he will bring us through them with His presence.  Just as with David, the Lord will bless and favor our efforts.  We can count on that.

As the world grows darker and the faith of many is shaken, if we stand firmly for God and declare our believing loyalty in Christ, He will make our joy complete and strengthen us in our trials.

Awaken Proph Upd 4-14-21 – New Age in Church

Awaken Bible Prophecy Update 4-14-21 – New Age in the Church

The church that Jesus Christ founded – that was birthed at Pentecost as described in the book of Acts – has been falling into apostasy for years.

Discussion points:

* New Age (generally)

* New Age Belief Summary

* Christian Yoga

* Enneagram in the Church

* New Age Consciousness

* My comments

Sources:

* New Age (generally)

http://www.christiananswersforthenewa…

* New Age Belief Summary

http://www.christiananswersforthenewa…

* Christian Yoga

http://www.christiananswersforthenewa…

* Enneagram in the Church

https://www.watch.org/subscribers/koe…

* New Age Consciousness

https://www.watch.org/subscribers/koe…

* My comments:

My website:

http://garyritter.com/

Amazon link for Awaken Bible Study Notes:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08NDXFD51/

Luke 14:28 – Counting the Cost

It’s an astounding fact that western Christianity has largely made itself no Christianity at all.  How is it that we’ve come from the early church, in which the apostles and the followers of Jesus were severely persecuted, to a place where following Jesus is made to be like having a boy- or girlfriend?

In those days after the crucifixion of Jesus and for centuries afterwards, His disciples knew how difficult and costly it was to belong to Him.  Every single one of the apostles, except for John, were put to death by the authorities, often after extreme torture.  John himself suffered persecution, just not unto death.

The Roman emperors realized the menace Christianity was to the State.  When all citizens were required to bow down and worship Caesar, and the only ones who didn’t were the Christians, these absolute authorities saw that such dissent would cause them to lose power.  Since power and control were what they lived for, these heads of state had to destroy that which threatened their position.  Such thinking continued from the Roman Empire with its emperors to the Catholic church with its popes.  True Christianity demanded obedience to God alone; the Vatican required that people obeyed the pontiff as – supposedly – Christ’s representative on earth.  When Bible believing Christ-followers saw that the man at the top of the Catholic church was flawed and sinful and his decrees against the ways of God, those who loved the Lord had to stand against Rome’s way.  Persecution followed.

Jesus spared no warning when He spoke of how difficult it would be to follow Him.  In Luke 14:27-28 He said:

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”

Bearing one’s cross and counting the cost aren’t words that speak of an easy life.  Of course, the cross in Jesus’ time was an instrument of torture by the Roman government.  Implying that someone must take such a burden of potentially being crucified required serious consideration on the part of a person thinking of following Jesus.  That was indeed an expensive cost.

Christ-followers in the 10/40 Window generally have that same decision to make.  The dynamics in Muslim, Hindu, and Communist countries demand that people follow those ideologies and religions exclusively.  Someone rejecting them and turning to Christianity knows how difficult this will be.  He’s seen it in the culture around him.  He’s observed how anyone declaring Jesus is Lord rather than Mohammad, thirty million gods, or no God at all brings down the wrath of friends, family, and the State.  He can lose everything, from his possessions, to his position, to his relationships, to his life.  He must do what Jesus said in Luke 14:33:

“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

He must renounce everything and all expectations that this life will be easy.

Thus the question: How did Western Christianity evolve to the belief that – pick one:

  • This should be our best life now?
  • The gospel is about social justice?
  • Jesus demands that we worship the earth?
  • The Bible tells us that race and racial equity are the keys to heaven?
  • We can shape our own reality by thinking and saying the right things?
  • Etcetera

Seems like a perversion of what Jesus intended, doesn’t it?  Bad thinking, however, isn’t isolated to our current times.  When Saul became king in ancient Israel, Yahweh required certain acts of obedience from him.  Over the course of time, Saul proved that obeying the Word of God wasn’t his priority.  After failing to honor the Lord with the best of the spoils of war, and instead setting up a monument to himself (1 Samuel 15:12), Saul learned the price of these wrong actions when the prophet Samuel had to set him straight and declare the bad news to him.  In 1 Samuel 15:22-23 we see the consequences:

And Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,

    as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

    and to listen than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of divination,

    and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

    he has also rejected you from being king.”

We learn so much from these few verses:

  • Obedience is better than sacrifice
  • God equates rebellion to divination
  • To presume upon the graces of God is an immoral act that He likens to idolatry, i.e. following gods other than Him

Saul’s sins caused God to strip away the kingship of Israel from him.  And that brings us to another question.  Would the presumptions noted above for the Western church grieve God in a similar manner to how Saul caused Him sorrow?

For presumptions they are.  If Jesus died for the true Gospel, and the Western church is propagating a false gospel with little to no cost of discipleship, what will  God’s judgment be upon this false church with its aberrant Christianity?

Sadly, we already know the answer from Christ’s letter to Laodicea in Revelation 3:16.  Jesus says He “will spit [vomit] you out of My mouth.”

This is the norm today in our apostate church.  Many have fallen away and many more will depart from the faith.  On the other hand, there remain a faithful few – a remnant, if you will – who desire to follow our Lord at any cost.  If we are to see Him face-to-face and rejoice in doing so, shouldn’t we determine here and now to trust in Jesus whatever it costs?

1 Samuel 14:12 – Against All Odds

Early in the days of Saul’s kingship, the Philistines gathered a large army to come against Israel.  One contingent of this force camped upon a rocky plateau called Michmash, which provided a strategic advantage for the Philistines.  Upon seeing how powerful and well equipped this army was, the Israelites trembled in fear and hid themselves.

Wanting to prove himself worthy of leading Israel, Saul offered a burnt offering to the Lord.  Unfortunately, he was disobedient in this.  Samuel had told him to wait for him to come.  Because of his impatience, Saul didn’t wait the full seven days, “forced” himself to make the offering and received both Samuel’s and Yahweh’s condemnation for his foolish disobedience (1 Samuel 13:12-14).

Perhaps to prove God and Samuel wrong in their judgment of him, Saul brought his men to Michmash to fight the Philistines.  In those days, the Israelites had no swords because they had no blacksmiths under decree by Philistine.  Presumably Saul’s men had slingshots as some type of weapon!  Only Saul and his son Jonathan had swords.

Jonathan had to be quite young; the text doesn’t tell us, but he was likely 13-16 years old, and quite brash.  Along with his armor-bearer, he took a response to his challenge to the Philistines as a Word from God, and ascended the cliff to the Philistine encampment.  In 1 Samuel 14:12 we see how this played out:

And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”

Up Jonathan went with an astounding result as recounted in 1 Samuel 14:15:

And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic.

This panic led to Saul bringing his forces against the Philistines and routing the enemy.  Now, there is more regarding Saul, his lack of wisdom in decreeing a foolish vow, and what subsequently occurred with Jonathan, but let’s move to later times.

During World War II, British forces in Israel (called Palestine at the time) were fighting Arab armies.  A Turkish regiment had strategic control over the region by having encamped on the heights of Michmash.  The circumstances were dire for the British, and the next day’s battle was crucial.  The night before that engagement, a British major was studying his Bible and ***coincidentally*** came across the account of Jonathan taking on the Philistines.

The major realized that their military situation was strategically exactly the same as what Scripture recounted with what Jonathan faced.  The enemy had the high ground and was positioned to destroy the opposing army.  The major consulted with his commanding officer and relayed how the Biblical narrative could provide the means for victory when there was seemingly no way for it to happen.  That night, the British forces climbed that same cliff that Jonathan had with his armor-bearer and surprised the Turkish garrison.  Against all odds they routed the Turks as they became confused and went into a great panic.  This became a turning point in the war for the British to defeat the Arab armies, ultimately leading to the formation of Israel as a nation on May 14, 1948.  This true event is recounted in the DVD series Against All Odds that describes this incident plus many others that show God’s protective hand upon His people Israel (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HC26L4M/).

The Bible tells us that Israel is God’s Promised Land and the Israelites His Chosen People.  His hand has been on Israel to accomplish His purposes ever since He called Abram out of Ur to be His special heritage.  God has intervened on behalf of Israel in the past, and He will do so in the future.  We do well to watch all that happens In Israel.  It is the key to God’s divine time clock, and how He will bring all His prophetic promises to fulfillment.

1 Samuel 12:21 – Empty Things

“And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.” (1 Samuel 12:21)

How the world loves to pursue empty things!  All of humanity has a void in their heart and seeks to fill it, yet they almost always seek to do so in ways that don’t include their God and Creator.  Since the Garden, men have desired to replace God with that which the world offers; not that which only He can give.  It creates a hopeless situation that leads to death, yet man doesn’t learn from his past and continues his useless journey.

Jesus came to fill that emptiness we all experience.  He proved that He alone was the One who could take away the ache and loneliness of mankind.  In His incarnation Jesus stressed the necessity for following Him and turning from the world when He said in Luke 13:24:

“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

What is the narrow door?  Opposed to that, what is the wide door?

The narrow door is the one that Jesus showed leads to Him.  And where is He?  In heaven.  With God the Father.

Why is it that so many people desire – or at least say they desire – to go to heaven, yet have no interest in following Jesus?  That seems to be a contradiction and hypocrisy, doesn’t it?

To follow Jesus means to surrender who we are and to lay down our very human agendas.  In that, God requires we no longer exalt ourselves and the things of this world.  Rather, as we place what we want at the foot of the cross, we are to obey God’s commands.  It means that all of our faith be invested in Christ alone.  When we do this, we trust in God with believing loyalty, and we follow no other gods.  This is so contrary to human nature – our free will rebels against giving up the power, authority, and independence we think we have.  We are self-pleasuring creatures, and the notion that we must do what Someone else tells us is an intolerable thought.  The narrow door that Jesus spoke of has little appeal.  We’d rather turn aside after empty things that in our vain imaginations we believe are profitable.

Sadly, it is this turning aside that causes us to eagerly head toward the wide door.  Just like the people of Israel wanted a king so as to be like all the surrounding pagan nations (1 Samuel 8:5), men generally want to do what others are doing.  Despite thinking we want independence, we actually prefer to be exactly like everyone else.  In fact, as the mob gathers, we are drawn to it.  Instead of being that lonely person who resists the thinking and actions of the crowd, we meld with it and become part of the nameless, faceless entity that loses its ability to think.  We listen to the voices that stir us to rebellion against God’s way because that is our nature.  Having deceitful hearts, we love to be deceived.

The wide road is evident today as the world moves toward the Tribulation.  Authority says wear a mask, isolate yourselves from others, take a vaccine to be safe.  Isn’t there safety in numbers (as long as we don’t actually gather)?  Apparently, since so many blindly walk this expansive highway.

Those who have resisted and engaged in independent thought and research to seek the truth are mocked, vilified, and nullified.   Their voices are silenced so that those traveling the wide road won’t hear them.  Ignorance and arrogance feed on themselves.  They grow larger and more pronounced.  Their desire to persecute those in the opposition who don’t comply with the narrative increases by the day.

A vivid example of this is the church in Canada that has resisted their government’s mandate.  GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta continued to hold services despite the authorities demanding they shut down to supposedly prevent further spread of the Wuhan virus.  Their following God’s command to continue meeting was contrary to government policy.  The authorities punished the church’s pastor, James Coates, by throwing him into jail for 35 days and imposing a fine.

The church continued to meet.  They decided to enter the narrow door.  The week following their continued disobedience to government dictate by gathering on Palm and Easter Sundays, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) erected a double-layer fence around the property to prevent people from entering the premises, even going so far as to set up roadblocks against entry.  Faithful church-goers in response tore down the fence so they could worship, which they did outside (yesterday, as I write this).  For this affront, the government dispatched 200 armed troops.

This is Canada, part of the so-called free world.  It’s not China under a communist dictatorship.  Because this situation hasn’t yet completely played out, we don’t know how it will end.  I wonder what the troops would have done if they’d been at the church earlier in the day when the people tore down the fence so they could gather to worship?  Would they have fired on them?  Will such an atrocity still happen?

Look at where the wide door leads.  It opens to tyranny.  It’s at the end of an anti-God road that wants nothing more than to thwart the things of God and to punish His people.

What will happen as these kinds of situations develop in America?   They will, you know.  Will pastors and their churches stand against their overweening government like Pastor Coates and GraceLife Church?  Or will they, like so many did in Nazi Germany and under Soviet domination capitulate?  Will they say, “We follow God alone”?  Or will they say, “Of course we can embrace atheist communism”?  We’re drawing near to a tipping point.  Churches will soon have to decide their fate similar to this one in Canada.

The Bible tells us that most churches will succumb to worldly pressure.  They will complete their journey into apostasy, and in so doing, usher their people into the Tribulation.