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Thy Kingdom Come . . . . By Ed Wood

Matthew {6:9-13} After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (The speaker here is Jesus.)

It is probably safe to say that all Christians, and perhaps a large number of non-Christians as well, recognize the words above which have since become known universally known as the “Lord’s Prayer.” In this article we’ll focus specifically on the ones which concern God’s coming kingdom. Strangely enough, Christians don’t entirely agree on when it will come, or how it will come, or even what it is! Let’s see if we can sort out some of these mysteries.

Let’s see first if there is an equivalence between the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven. In the following passage, Jesus relates how one must enter the former and some of those who will be there:

Luke {13:24-30} Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all [ye] workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you [yourselves] thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and [from] the west, and from the north, and [from] the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

Concerning the manner of entering the kingdom of heaven we have Jesus saying:

Matthew {7:21-23; 8:11} Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity . . . And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

With these passages, it appears that the kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven are clearly one and the same. Let’s see now if we can determine whether this kingdom already exists or is something yet to come. From the Old Testament we have:

Genesis {28:10-12} And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and [put] them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

Ezekiel {1:1} Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth [month,] in the fifth [day] of the month, as I [was] among the captives by the river of Chebar, [that] the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.

Daniel {7:9} I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment [was] white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne [was like] the fiery flame, [and] his wheels [as] burning fire.

Luke {2:13} And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  (This is a verse from the account of the appearance of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds who were tending their flocks in the night.)

This evidence clearly shows this magnificent kingdom is already in existence “someplace” in a realm quite distinct from our own. However, from what we see below, it also appears to be closer than we might think:

Matthew {3:1-2} In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew {4:17} From that time* Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. *The time after John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod..

Matthew {10:5-7} These twelve* Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into [any] city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. *The twelve apostles

Matthew {12:27} And if I * by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast [them] out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. *Jesus

 “The kingdom of heaven is at hand . . . the kingdom of heaven is come unto you.” From what Jesus said and did above, something of God’s kingdom is already here, ushered in by the Lord himself. Yet one must remember that the Bible has to be taken in its entire context, not just by selected passages. What then, are we to make of this?

Revelation {21:1-5} And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

Clearly the kind of world we are living in now is nothing if not a direct opposite of what God’s kingdom is like. The explanation for this seeming contradiction might be resolved in the verses below:

Matthew {13:31-32} Another parable put he* forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.. *Jesus.

With this passage, we introduce the added element of time. Just like the grain of mustard seed in the parable above, I believe that though Jesus initiated the coming of the kingdom of God during his First Advent, it will only arrive upon Earth in its full maturity after the conclusion of the Millennium with all the characteristics described in the Revelation account.

In the three years of his public ministry, Jesus gave other tantalizing “previews” of this kingdom by his words and deeds. Some appear in the Beatitudes (Matthew chapters 5-7) and show us quite profoundly just how different the standards of this kingdom are compared to those upon which the world has operated ever since Adam and Eve lost Eden. Jesus also healed the incurable, somehow multiplied a few fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands, calmed a raging storm in the Sea of Galilee, and brought the dead back to life just by his word. These actions demonstrated that he had truly initiated the kingdom of God on Earth.

Two Conflicting Kingdom Views

There are two primary differences of thought about the nature of this kingdom in the present world. One says the full benefits of the kingdom are already available while the other maintains that while began with the arrival of Jesus, we do not have access to all of them yet. So, which one is right? The answer is obvious enough, found just by looking at the world around us.

We certainly do not see the paradise described in Revelation, but a sin-damaged planet that’s getting worse by the hour. Even so, it is not totally divorced from God’s Presence or influence. Perhaps the best way to look at it is how things were during Jesus’ ministry. To be sure, the world was far from an idyllic place while he walked among us that first time, but as we have seen he did introduce aspects of the kingdom of heaven into our world. Yes, it’s true that there were miraculous events recorded in the Bible prior to Jesus’ life, but with the arrival of God in human form, the veil was drawn back more than ever before. His teachings, miracles, and, most of all, his resurrection and ascension were unmistakable revelations of a coming age will be totally different from the one we and our ancestors have experienced since the Fall.

At this point, I think we can agree that the kingdom of God, though initiated nearly 2000 years ago has yet to arrive in its completeness. The next logical question we should address is how that’s going to happen. Again, there are two basic and opposite views.

How the Kingdom of God Will Arrive:  Two More Conflicting Views

The first is called “dominionism” and its adherents claim that the church will slowly transform this world into the kingdom. Once that’s done, Jesus will return to rule and that will be that. Think of it as culminating into a universal Christian theocracy, if you will.

Dominionism, whether overtly expressed or not, has influenced much of the modern church today. For example, from the Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church we have in this prayer for peace:

O Almighty God, kindle, we beseech thee, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with thy wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquillity thy dominion may increase till the earth is filled with the knowledge of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (BCP page 207).

The petition in the prayer is for God to guide those who lead the nations with the “wisdom” to “in tranquility” turn our troubled planet into a utopia Of course, anyone who is familiar with Bible prophecy is keenly aware that the Last Days will be characterized by anything but tranquility. All human government falls far short of God’s standards, even the best of them. In his God’s eyes they all look “beastly” (Daniel, chapter 7). The worst “beast government” of all will be controlled by the worst beast of all, the Antichrist (Daniel, chapter 7; Revelation, chapter 13).

Here’s a thought: If Christians are to ultimately take over the world, what does the condition of Twenty-first Century Earth say about the kind of job they’ve been doing for the last 2000 years? Shouldn’t things be a whole lot better by now if Christians are supposed to be moving humanity toward utopia through their own efforts?

A final proof of the error of the dominionist viewpoint is that the Bible tells us unambiguously that believers (or saints) will most certainly not prevail by their own methods to establish the kingdom of God on Earth:

Daniel {7:21} I beheld, and the same horn* made war with the saints, and prevailed against them. *The Antichrist.

Revelation {13:6-7} And he* opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. *The beast, referring to the Antichrist.

The rule of the Antichrist, aided and abetted by a second beast known as the false prophet (Revelation 13:11-18), will only end by the return of Jesus, not by anything even the saints of that day can do:

Revelation {19:19-20} And I saw the beast*, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet** that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. *The Antichrist ** The second beast.

Interestingly, this idea of a world take-over by some type of human government is not a new idea, nor is it limited to dominionism. It has parallels to the Islamic belief that it a Muslim theocracy will one day rule the world under the “mahdi.” It can also be found in Hitler’s assertion that his Third Reich would rule the planet for a thousand years and Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s claim that Communism would one day “bury us” (the capitalist countries comprising the free world) in a speech he gave in the 1960’s.

I think what we see here is Satan’s tendency to repeat one of his strategies with only the details and faces being changed. It seems safe to conclude therefore that Dominionism is nothing but a rehashing of an old tactic that has failed every time throughout history because it is nothing more than a lie. The devil is merely exploiting once again the classic human inability to learn much from history.

The alternative to this, for lack of a specific name, we can call “Anti-dominionism” and define it as the course of history being totally under God’s control with the ultimate result of “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). It is only into this new reality, free from the sin that poisoned our universe in the dim past, that God’s Kingdom will finally at long last arrive and only at his direction and timing, not ours!

Concluding Thoughts

Does this mean that we as believers are to just sit back placidly and wait for it to happen? I think not because Jesus said:

Luke {12:35-37} Let your loins be girded about, and [your] lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed [are] those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.

Matthew {28:19-20} Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world.

We are to be watching continuously for his return and to be getting out his message while we watch because it is only by the truth that we can stand against the evil that is growing exponentially in our End-Times World. By doing so we will add to the count of citizens who will enter that promised kingdom of God and live forever where:

Revelation {21:4} God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

From all indications, the time is short, maybe even shorter than we can imagine. So, we would be wise to remember Paul’s words as he quoted Isaiah (Isaiah 49:8):

2 Corinthians 6:2} For he* saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation. *God

It’s time to get busy, don’t you think?

Isaiah’s End -Times Earth: The Human Condition – By Ed Wood

In the previous article, we took a look at the physical conditions that would characterize the planet as history comes to its inevitable conclusion. It seems that to get a more complete picture, we should take a look at what kind of people will populate this disintegrating world.

Where it Began

Isaiah {5:20-21} Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto [them that are] wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Human beings are great at self-justification ever since the Fall in the distant past. Way back when, God gave the first two people an entire world, perfect in every way. Death, hardship, disease, and pain was unknown. They needed only to reach out their hands to get fruit from the trees which God had caused to grow in Eden. Only one thing was off-limits – the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I’ve often wondered about why God would have even put this tree in the garden in the first place. Wouldn’t the subsequent history of the human race been so much better if it hadn’t been there in the first place? To be sure, it would be presumptuous for me to give you a definitive answer, but I can’t help to speculate all the same. I believe it has everything to do with free will. It would have been easy enough for God to hard-wire his first pair of creation to always follow his dictates. But he did not. Perhaps the reason for this is that forced devotion is nothing but a lie and the Bible teaches us that Satan is the father of all lies (John 8:44), not the God of All Creation. God wanted people to be able to make a choice – to genuinely choose him or not. But more often than not, we still don’t and the world and society we wake up to every day is the sad result.

Adam and Eve made the first bad choice in human history and immediately tried to justify it:

Genesis {3:6} And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and ave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

It’s even better if there we can find someone else to blame, as Adam and Eve did when God caught them:

Genesis {3:12-14} And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

Adam blamed Eve for giving him the fruit, no to mention God for giving him Eve in the first place.  Eve blamed the serpent. Any of this reasoning sound familiar? It should in a time where standard procedure is to blame someone else for messing up, rather than ourselves.

The results of our initial fall have plagued the human race making much of its history the dark tale that it is. Over and over empires have risen and fallen in a process that has hitherto been inescapable. The United States which was founded on Judaeo-Christian values is certainly on its way to collapse as it increasingly turns away from God and his biblical principles. Behaviors and lifestyles which were once considered aberrant are either now embraced as a new norm or excused by reclassifying them as a psychological or physical disorder, thus relieving those who perform them of personal responsibility.

Let’s look at some particulars which apply to the fall of societies of the past:

Moral Inversion

Of course, we already have seen Isaiah’s short but profound assessment of End-Times society. The kind of world he saw in the future is hauntingly familiar to those which  preceded him in the distant past. Genesis, chapters 6-10 gives us an account of the status of the kind of society that existed during the time of Noah:

Genesis {6:5-6} And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

The dire situation of those days was no doubt aided and abetted by the half-human, half demonic giants (Nephilim) that existed at that time (Genesis 6:1-4). Apparently Earth itself was affected, as we have seen in a previous article:

Genesis {6:11-12} The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.

In fact, it was so bad that the only remedy was for God to totally erase it and start over with Noah and his family. Interestingly Jesus said:

Matthew {24:36-37} But of that day and hour knoweth no [man,] no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe [were,] so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Since we can rely on the absolute certainty of Jesus’ words, this kind of society will exist once again at the end of history. Let’s see where we already are in reference to those of the past.

The Acceptance of “Alternate Lifestyles”

Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of morality gone awry today is the growing acceptance of homosexual behavior in most of western civilization. For example, in the United States alone homosexuals are being accorded hate crimes protection which heterosexuals do not have, being allowed to marry and adopt children, serve in the military, and in many protestant denominations be ordained clergy people.

Though not speaking specifically of the acceptance of same-sex relations, this has indeed been a problem throughout the human race’s tenure on Earth, and the Bible has many references to it and its eventual results of a moral reversal upon any civilization, the most prominent being the account of the conditions characterizing Sodom and Gomorrah:

Genesis {13:13} But the men of Sodom [were] wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.

It is very likely this wickedness was broad-spectrum, not confined to any one failing, but rather to a multitude of evils. Peter once said:

2 Peter {3:9} The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

God is a God of patience, holding back on judgment in hopes that a person, or collectively, a society, will turn back onto the right path. He’ll also spare it to save a righteous remnant as we can see in this discourse:

Genesis {18:23-32} And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that [are] therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the  righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which [am but] dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for [lack of] five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy [it. ] And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do [it] for forty’s sake.  And he said [unto him,] Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do [it,] if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy [it] for twenty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy [it] for ten’s sake.

We all know how this turned out. God couldn’t find any righteous souls in these ancient twin cities of evil other than Lot and his family. In an exchange between Lot wishing to protect the visiting angels the Lord had sent to survey the situation from his neighbors we discover one specific evil which afflicted this society:

Genesis {19:4-5} But before they lay down, the men of the city, [even] the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where [are] the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know *them.* The term “know” here is used in the same context as in Matthew 1:25, which means have sexual intercourse.

It is sad, but true, that this same acceptance of perverted behavior prevalent in Sodom and Gomorrah, and such great empires of the past as Greece and Rome is now being repeated in Europe and the Americas. It is certainly not occurring in a vacuum, but rather is but one symptom of many. For the two cities of Abraham’s time its end came as a result of direct divine intervention once Lot and his family were told to depart:

Genesis {19:24-25} Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

Sometimes God employs the tools at hand as we see him use the Hebrews to execute judgment on the evil original inhabitants of Canaan, of the Assyrians to bring it to the northern kingdom if Israel which had become corrupted, and Babylonians to do the same thing to the southern kingdom of Judah for the same reason. If powerful empires like those of the past can fall, there is no reason to think the even one as strong as the United States is immune. The common denominator is that no society can call “evil good and good evil” forever, be it from thousands of years in the past or right outside the door today.

Genetic and Electronic Manipulation

Technology has reached the point where the separation between the organic and inorganic is quickly fading. Implantable devices to aid failing ears, eyes, and hearts are already commonplace. Advances in genetics are creating modifications to existing life. Though many of these have positive benefits, as with any technology they can be misused for evil purposes. Adolf Hitler engaged in research to create a master race and it may not be long before the first trans-humans created by mechanical and genetic means walk the Earth in a terrifying replication of the Nephilim super beings of Genesis, adding yet another element to the scenario Jesus himself revealed which we mentioned in the beginning of this article – that of the days of Noah revisited. Now we’ll look at more examples from the New Testament.

1) Idolatry and Apostasy

Luke {21:8} And he* said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am [Christ;] and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. 

I Timothy {4:1} Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.  *This is now the case in much of Western Protestantism. Such departures from biblical doctrine such as pluralistic salvation, acceptance of homosexual behavior even among the clergy, and even the incorporation of pagan practices have become commonplace in many of the mainstream denominations today.

2) Persecution of Christians

Matthew {24:9} Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and yeshall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.  

3) Family conflicts

Luke {21:16} And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and [some] of you shall they cause to be put to death.  Jesus is the speaker here. 

4) Wars

Luke {21:9-10}But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end [is] not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 

5) People become heartless:

Matthew {24:10,12}And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. . .  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 

The words above are all from Jesus himself. Below, we get Paul’s words:

6) The increase of the acceptance of homosexual behavior and the reason for it:

Romans {1:21, 26-27}Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

7) A summary of end-times humanity:

Romans {1:29-32} Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

2 Timothy {3:1-5} This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Concluding Thoughts

When we read all these words written thousands of years ago, it is both striking and chilling just how familiar they sound to we who reside in the Twenty-first Century. One cannot pick up a newspaper or listen to the news on radio or television and not know that something is clearly wrong. Attending this realization is another that it all appears to be totally out of our control, and on a large scale that’s certainly true. Those of us who read and believe the Bible know the path history must inevitably follow – and we are seeing it happen before our eyes.

On a personal level the situation is very different. God created each of us with a free will, giving each one of us the ability to decide where we will spend eternity. This all depends on whether we accept Jesus’ offer of salvation or not. As he explained to the apostle Thomas, he is the only way to achieve it:

John {14:6} Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

But be warned – the Bible tells us that this opportunity will not last forever:

Isaiah {55:6} Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.

2 Corinthians {6:2b} . . . behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.

Isaiah’s End-Times Earth – By Ed Wood

 

A Ravaged World

            Of all the ancient prophets of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament in the Christian version, Isaiah (circa 8th Century B.C.) was clearly the most prolific. Some of what he had written has already come to pass, perhaps the most spectacular example being this:

Isaiah {44:28 – 45:4} That saith of Cyrus, [He is] my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call [thee] by thy name, [am] the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.

When one realizes that what he related here was not to happen until the 6th Century B.C., his incredibly accurate account, even to the actual naming of the Persian king Cyrus the Great, certainly gives him credibility. That being said, it is probably safe to assume that what he said about events in advance of our own time over 2700 years later will be similarly reliable – and remarkable!

Since the mid 1960’s the environmental movement has flourished, its premise being that the earth and its resources are finite. The images from space of our fragile world seen at a distance floating alone in the blackness of space have no doubt reinforced that reality. (Along those lines, take a look at Isaiah 40:21-23 and Job 26: 7-10 for a “modern view” of Earth.) All the indications are pointing to the reality that this is true and that our unwise use of our world is having increasingly pronounced consequences on all levels. Did Isaiah see this coming as well? Judge for yourself:

Isaiah {24:1-3} Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.

In the passage above, Isaiah details a wholesale wasting of the earth that ultimately will affect everything and everyone, regardless of location or economic status. He is not alone because even a cursory reading of the book of Revelation affirms this repeatedly with graphic clarity depicting the earth as being subject to great upheavals, some due to our own actions, most, however, due to God’s direct intervention as a kind of last-ditch effort to get wayward humankind’s attention.

But at this point most of our problems seems to be the result of our own actions. God called upon us humans to take care of the planet he had made and blessed with life in all its diverse forms (Genesis 1:26-29). Quite frankly, based on the alarming rates of species extinctions in this time, we’ve done a lousy job of it. The next verse is clear enough about that:

Isaiah {24:4} The earth mourneth [and] fadeth away, the world languisheth [and] fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

            The passage above goes far beyond the idea of just breaking the physical laws God set forth under which our living world functions to a more fundamental concept – we have broken God’s moral rules as well and it is no doubt that this is the prime and underlying reason we are in trouble environmentally. Isaiah says as much below:

Isaiah {24:6-12, 17-20} Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted do sigh. The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth. They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it. The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in. [There is] a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction . . . Fear, and the pit, and the snare, [are] upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, [that] he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake. The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.

            You’ll notice there is a gap in the above. The reason for that is that the intervening verses jump ahead in time before Isaiah returns to his theme of a ruined Earth.  Also, note the concluding references to the earth being “shaken.” According to USGS data, earthquakes have increased dramatically in both frequency and intensity worldwide since 2002.

Since the Bible follows its own rules of evidence (two or more witnesses – see Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; John 8:17), we see repeated confirmations of the world being damaged in the Book of Revelation. Some of this again is no doubt done by our own hands, up to and including what might be the deployment of a nuclear device (Revelation 8:10-11), while such “natural” disasters such as earthquakes might truly be “Acts of God” in response to evil. Jesus has said that the last days of earth would be as the “days of Noe (Noah),” [Matthew 24:37]. Then, as it will also be in the future, there was just no other remedy to human sin but God’s profound intervention.

Right now, God is restraining himself from drastic actions, but this will not last indefinitely:

Isaiah {42:14-15} I* have long time holden my peace; I have been still, [and] refrained myself: [now] will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once. I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools. * God.

Why such restraint? The answers may be found here:

2 Peter {3:9} The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

2 Thessalonians {2:7} For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he* who now letteth** [will let***,] until he**** be taken out of the way. * God ; ** withholds; *** withhold (from the Greek word katecho, Strong’s Concordance);  **** the Holy Spirit. The reasoning here is that every believer is a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:8; 1 Corinthians 3:16) and in the removing all believers from the earth at the Rapture, God also removes the Spirit’s present restraining influence of evil, allowing the Antichrist to come to power.

It is important to realize once again that God sent the warnings to Isaiah sometime during the Eighth Century B.C. Here we are over 2700 years later and for the most part his message has been ignored.

Yet despite the inevitability of the deterioration of Earth, I believe that we still have a responsibility to do whatever we can not to make the situation worse. God gave us this marvelous world as a gift, the only one we know for sure is capable of supporting life in this entire universe. To purposely abuse it even at this late stage in history is, to my mind, showing ingratitude. This is certainly not to say we should buy into the “new world order” philosophy that the more extreme segments of the environmental movement are currently pushing to usurp national sovereignty for their own purposes of gaining influence and power. It is more a case of having the common-sense attitude of not trashing our own “living room.”

I believe we have arrived at a unique time when the convergence of stresses in the political, religious, economic, and environmental conditions of our present day are unprecedented in human history. Yet Jesus told his disciples that what we are experiencing today is but the “beginning of sorrows:”

Matthew {24:3-8} And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all [these things] must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom*: and there shall be  famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these [are] the beginning of sorrows. *Military conflicts in the 20th Century killed more people and caused more damage than any other time in history. Revelation reveals that warfare will continue ultimately culminating at the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-14; 19:11-16).

            The Lord also told us what we should be doing right now:

Luke {21:28, 36} And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh .  .  . Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

 

The Light in the Darkness

As bleak as things look right now, it will soon get a lot worse. However, this is not the end of the story because with the physical return of the King of Kings, everything will begin to change:

Isaiah {11:1-9} And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

When Jesus, the Word of God through whom all things were made (John (1:10), comes back with his saints (Daniel 7:18-22; Jude 1:14-15) to put an end to the Battle of Aramageddon and initiate his rule upon the earth (Revelation, chapter 19), not only will those mortals that remain alive after the Tribulation experience true and pure justice for the first time since the Fall of Man (Genesis, chapter 3), but the planet itself will be restored to a near-Eden state. Isaiah reveals more of what life will be like on Millennial Earth:

Isaiah {35:3-10} Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them [that are] of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come [with] vengeance, [even] God [with] a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame [man] leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, [shall be] grass with reeds and rushes. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it [shall be] for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err [therein. ] No lion shall be there, nor [any] ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk [there:] And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

             Isaiah {55:10-13} For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap [their] hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign [that] shall not be cut off.

             As wonderful as life will be during Jesus’ 1000 reign on a renewed Earth, even this will pale in magnificence compared the eternal realm to follow:

Isaiah {65:17} For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

Revelation {21:1-4} And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

  

Conclusion

             It seems as if the philosophical battle between faith and science has always been a part of human culture. Until Jesus returns it is likely to remain this way. Perhaps the basic reason is the rigidity of the most zealous proponents of each viewpoint. Neither side willing to consider that maybe, just maybe, the other might have some valid points.

I have personally found that, more often than not, agreements between what the Bible teaches and what modern science expresses are much more common than one would think. Science accurately points to the incredible order and design of the universe, the Bible accurately points to the One who caused it to exist in the first place.

In short, science tells us the “How,” the Bible tells us the “Who.”

In our brief study of Isaiah’s prediction of the kind of world that will exist at the end of this present age, it seems that one indeed does complement the other. But unlike the fearful and dark future science envisions, the Bible tells us that ultimately the best is yet to come!

MIND GAMES – By Camilla Smith

Question.  How much time to you give to your Beloved Heavenly Father?

Another question.  How much time are you spending watching videos about giants, fallen angels and CERN?   How many hours are you worrying about politics and making America great again? Reality shows?   Celebrity stories?   Video games?   How’s that working for you?   How does it make you feel?   Sad?  Depressed?   A little nervous and anxious?   Can you still function?

The internet is chock full of stuff of legend (or what we were told were legends—guess the jokes on us—it’s all real).  All this “stuff” is really fascinating and unfortunately, it’s part of the reality that we know now, and will help keep ourselves and others from being deceived.

But does it get into our heads?   What is it doing to us emotionally, psychologically, spiritually….physically?    I’ve worked in the medical field for 36 years.   If ever there was a definition of epidemic…it’s a psychological epidemic these days.   Millions are living in a constant state of FEAR!

Here is truth.   You do not HAVE to go down the path of anxiety and depression.   It’s not necessary to let anyone label you with panic disorder, anxiety attacks, or PTSD.  If you are told you have it, and if you believe it, you have a good chance of becoming it.   You don’t HAVE to own it.  You don’t have to take that shiny spanking new “psychological ID card” and put it in your wallet and let that be your identity.   You don’t have to become that person they’ve just diagnosed you as being.   Don’t let yourself become “Hi, I’m Susie and I have anxiety.”

“”And who of you, by being worried, can add a single hour to his life?”  Matthew 6:27.

Anxiety, depression and panic are of the devil.   Our enemy, ha’shatan (satan), loves a worried and frenzied mind.  He lurks around you, waiting for that worry to begin and he pounces on it, sending you into a Tasmanian tailspin.  He’s a master deceiver and he loves to confuse and distract us.  He’s our adversary and he loves to keep us going at such a whirlwind pace that we have no time to connect to our Savior.   I have to say—by what I see every day in my work, he’s doing an awesome job of keeping people in a state of fearfulness and panic.   What good is worry?   It’s wasteful and frankly, doesn’t it make you MAD that a demon could get in your mind and make you worry?   Worry will not solve any problem you have…it is actually like a form of worship–worshipping a problem (and sometimes a “problem” that doesn’t even exist).   You have the Power of the Blood of your Mashiach, Yahshua, for taking down strongholds!   These are demonic strongholds, plain and simple.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses (strongholds).”   2 Corinthians 10:4.

Coming from a “former” chronic worrier—it took me 52 years to figure out that I can’t fix other people.   I can’t fix their problems, I can’t fix their illnesses.  I can’t make others happy.   I can’t fix the world’s problems.  I can’t end hunger, cure disease or stop crime.   I can’t make people not worry.   Yahshua tells us NOT TO WORRY!   Why do we continue to do it?   Stop!   Pray!   Stop and Pray!!

What are you filling your mind with?   What are you watching?  Do you watch TV shows, movies or the news (sad but true) that make you feel combative, irritable or angry?   What are you reading and who are you talking to?   How much time do you spend on social media that might be agitating and yes, frankly, depressing you?

Or, are you making Your Father in Heaven your primary focus—are you yoked to Him?   Do you stay in constant communication with Him all day, every day?   When something happens, do you immediately think, “What am I to learn from this, Father?”  Is He your All In All?   For Your Father’s Mighty Arms is where your peace lies, my friends. 

The internet and its hot topics have drawn us in.   We know more now than we ever really wanted to know, don’t we?   I certainly don’t like knowing that much of the history we were taught is a “gigantic” coverup.   No pun intended there.

But I firmly believe YHWH is telling us, “Enough.  It’s enough now.  You know what you need to know—now come back to Me.”  

It’s time to stop the madness, saints.   Disconnect from the world and tune in to your Master.   It’s time to walk and talk with Him and pray us Home.

Enoch was taken Home.   He was walking with YHWH and then he “was not”, for he was taken.   Gee, do you suppose there is a message in Enoch’s story for us who are waiting for Yahshua to call us up?

WHAT DOES “WATCH” REALLY MEAN? – By Camilla Smith

My heart is heavy today. I will try to put in words what I’m feeling the Father is impressing on me to share.

We “watchmen on the wall” have been blessed with such a network of technological wonder. Social media, the internet, face-time, blogs, tweets, and twitters to name a few.   We have access to every piece of information we could ever ask for (that in and of itself is a mystery to me—just who IS the internet?). Much of that information, these days, is false.  We know that now. We think we’re getting correct information from our sources, and in many cases, we are. But, is it bogging us down—sorting it all out?

What I’m saying is…with all our efforts at piecing together this mystery called the Rapture of the Church, are we neglecting our relationship with our Almighty Father? Are we leaving Him on the back burner while we feverishly pour through, sift, investigate, navigate, post, un-post, comment, un-comment, agree, disagree, and agree to disagree? To what end, my fellow watchmen? When do we stop our endless search for the “key,” and turn to our Father and say simply, “Father—we’re at the end of it all here. We can’t possibly know Your thoughts, Your ways, Your timing…You’ve told us that Yourself!   Father, is it now time for us, Your servants, to stop looking for clues, and start hitting our knees?”

Or maybe this, “Father, we’ve tried and tried to do Your will, keep ourselves and our fellow brothers and sisters informed, stay apprised of the news, tie events to Scripture, and rightly divide Your word. Is it time, Father, to leave this in Your hands and realize that You desire US? Are we focused more on YouTube than on You?”

I’m so guilty, completely guilty…. countless hours. And there my Bible sits. Waiting for me to pick it up. I utter prayers, short ones, repetitive, not always wholehearted ones.   And there His Word sits. It hurts my heart to say these words.

And, let me make it very clear. I LOVE our prophecy community. I LOVE our leaders and teachers whose due diligence is incomparable. I LOVE that each and every one of us who loves Bible prophecy can’t get enough of end times updates. I LOVE and am so GRATEFUL for our prophecy experts who keep us informed—the hours, the sweat, the blood, the tears, they put into their messages, I can’t even imagine. They’re living their call. They’re feeding their flocks. The Father must be well pleased with their dedication as they combat the daily ravages and assaults launched upon them (this is NOT one of those).   We’re so grateful. We soak in their every word! We are consumed by it. I imagine the Father must find great joy, knowing that we want to be with HIM! And yes—there are fantastic and valuable teachings on YouTube. I’m so grateful for online sermons and teachings and have benefited greatly from them.

But are we WITH HIM while we’re still here? He’s calling for us soon…but He hasn’t YET. Are we making Him NUMBER ONE in these waning weeks, days, or hours that we have left? Maybe He’s waiting on us, my dear brothers and sisters. Maybe, He wants us to cut the ties. Separate out. Leave our gadgets alone and spend that time in His Word, in His presence…pitching our tents with Him and Him alone. And maybe He just wants to hear, finally, exhaustively, “Father, Your Will Be Done. Father, Your Kingdom Come.”

 “It is the glory of the Father to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search out a matter.”   Proverbs 25:2

“O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of YHWH!   How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways!”   Romans 11:33

“The secret things belong to the Father, our Elohim, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”   Deuteronomy 29:29.”        

Indeed, it is a conundrum. There is a fine line. We have an excitement that is palpable in our souls and we yearn for revelation and insight. We long for Yahshua’s calling for us in that glorious day—The Rapture! More now than ever, we must pray for discernment and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance as to the perfect balance. We must always watch and heed the signs. We’re watchmen—that’s what we do. My brothers and sisters, we’ve left “normal” and there’s no turning back. We’re in uncharted waters here. We’re being purified. We’re being readied. We’re being drawn to the Heart of our Elohim. We’re almost Home.

Beloved Abba Father,

We thank You for the blessings You give us each day. Father, we ask that You forgive our shortcomings and convict us where we need to improve. Father, we ask that You help us, Your servants, to maintain focus in these final hours of history. Abba, we pray that You help us grow and be washed in Your Word, and that You remind us and keep us trained on Your Promise, Your precious Son, Yahshua, Your Holy City, Yerushalayim, and the Apple of Your Eye, Israel. Father, we beseech You to bring Your Kingdom to fruition and bring judgement on the evil that surrounds us more and more each day. And Father, please fill us with Your Holy Spirit—Your Ruach Ha’Qodesh, and grant us strength and grace to seek Your will in our lives, and the desire to have the Mind of Yahshua. Remind us to pray Your Word to You and share it with those whom you give us opportunity. Thank You, Father. Until we see You face to Face, we come before You humbly and expectantly.

Ah-Mein.

ARE YOU PESTERING GOD? (The Father’s Importunity) – By Camilla Smith

We live in an environment of endless pursuit of answers.    Many of us are getting feverishly excited as we try to figure out the nearness of the Rapture, study the order of the Father’s “appointed times” (Jewish Feast dates), look for answers to historical mysteries that are being uncovered, and try to pinpoint Bible prophecy and the end game of the wars and final events.   We’re watching harbingers, looking at cycles, crunching numbers, and searching skies and the Scriptures–all of this is necessary and edifying.   Prophecy teachers have put in hundreds, probably thousands of hours trying to help us all put the puzzle together and to their credit, many of them have taught us remarkable things.   We seek answers and signs from our Heavenly Father, but what if He is waiting on us?

What is our call as watchmen on the wall?   Here it is, plainly in Scripture:  Isaiah 62:6-7 tells us “I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, all the day and all the night, continually, who are not silent.  You who remember YHWH, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”

Obviously, He wants us to pray unceasingly about this.   He wants us to come to Him about bringing in His Kingdom.   We’re waiting on Him, while He’s waiting on us!   Watchmen, it is time to start a revolution of approaching our Father respectfully, yet expectantly, in asking for our Marriage to Yahshua to take place.  A Kingdom Come Revolution, if you will.

First, we need to come BOLDLY to the throne rather than being so willy-nilly.  We seldom recognize the authority that we possess as a result of our love for Jesus.  I’ve kicked it into high-gear prayer mode, a step short of demanding (maybe beseech sounds better) that He bring our marriage to the Lamb to a real-time fact rather than our whining and begging every day.  Yes, many God-fearing men came BOLDLY before the throne.  It’s time for our marriage, inheritance, and eternal life with Christ to begin.

God being God will accomplish all of his salvations whether this side of the Rapture or during the Tribulation.   We lovers of Jesus say that it’s high time that our Messiah be elevated throughout the world and that every knee bow to the King of Kings.  Just like the fellow who pounded on his neighbor’s door for bread because of his importunity, we pound our prayers before the throne of God to ACT in our behalf.  Jesus tires of our repenting—we know that we are sinners, but if He can forget our sins, then we must also.

Think about this:  When satan was approaching the throne having to ‘ask’ God if he could put Job thru the ringer, God, knowing Job’s heart and faith, said OK to satans ‘requests’. Now if God allowed satan to test Job, His desire for us is to get serious about ‘demanding that our marriage take place’ may be the very thing holding Him back (tarrying)!   If we pray like that, God will have the legal right to answer us now instead of tarrying. He needs to tell satan that He is obliged to complete His program because the prayers of the saints have reached His Throne.  “The effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous man availeth much.”  James 5:16  

While we scramble with day-to-day living, seeking Him, learning, listening and watching, are we earnestly, humbly, yet boldly approaching our Father, asking Him to perform His will?   Are we praying multiple times a day, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done”, or are we mumbling our memorized prayers as we drift off?   I’m guilty of this myself–but NO MORE.   From here on out, (and if He sends Jesus for us today, even better),  I resolve to continue to boldly, precisely and specifically importune the Father and give Him NO REST, asking that He fulfill His will, send Yahshua Ha’Mashiach for us, and begin the transformation to eternity with Him.

So where is your heart—here, or Up There?   If it is with Him, in His Kingdom, then let the “petitioning” begin.   He’s given us His permission, even instruction, to do so.   Put this PRAYER INTO PRACTICE every day!  Give Him no rest…No rest.

As I concluded writing this, I had a strong urgency about Jerusalem, and how MUCH the Father loves His Qodesh City.   Saints, it is imperative that we pray for Yerushalayim at this critical time in history.   “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”  Hebrews 13:14.   It is also imperative that we understand how MUCH He loves Her, “The bride, the wife of the Lamb” Revelation 21:9.

Dear Abba Father, my Master, my Adon, please hasten the day when you put your government in place. Those days will see Egypt, Israel, and Syria as friends. Yahshua, we, the world need this, and it is obvious that it can only come through judgment, just like you said. Let the Day of the Lord arrive.  Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done.  Father, we pray Your words for Yerushalayim, “We pray for the peace of Yerushalayim; may they prosper who love you.  Peace within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.”  Father, we pray this in Your Son’s Mighty Name, Yahshua ha’ Mashiach.       

 Your servant(s)

The Seven Churches of Revelation – Part Two – By Ed Wood

The Church at Thyatira

Revelation {2:18-29} And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet [are] like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last [to be] more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have [already] hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The next church, represented by the ancient one of Thyatira, was the one which came to exist as a direct result of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. By the end of the Fourth Century, it was ironically the dominant faith in the Roman Empire, which had once done its worst to eradicate it. Over the course of time it split into eastern and western factions, namely the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches which still exist today.

Jesus praised the original church at Thyatira and by inference, its present incarnation in the two churches mentioned above, for its “works, and charity, and service, and faith,” patience, and thy works; and the last [to be] more than the first.” Clearly both have excelled at both in spreading the word across the globe, stepping in to aid in charitable ways, and persisting in these efforts across the centuries, right up until the present time.

But along with commendation there is condemnation, namely its association with “Jezebel.” As is the case with apocalyptic writings, our task is to try to determine the meaning of its symbolic references. In this case, it would seem that a strong case could be made that this is a reference to the wife of Ahab, king of Israel circa 919 – 897 B.C. According the account in 1 Kings, Jezebel was the daughter of King Ethbaal of Tyre and an ardent worshiper of the pagan god Baal. Ahab was very accommodating to his wife’s idolatrous worship and promoted its practice in his kingdom and in the persecution of God’s prophets such as the most prominent of that time, Elijah.

Though neither the Roman Catholic nor Orthodox Churches promote “Baal worship” both have unfortunately incorporated into their beliefs the practice of praying to Mary, the mother of Jesus and other assorted saints. In the Roman Catholic Church the term “saints” has evolved from the biblical meaning which applies it to all believers to someone in whose name a miracle has been accomplished due to prayers made to them. It is hard to imagine how everyone who is familiar with the First and Second Commandments can in good conscience accept a practice of praying to anyone other than God or enlisting the aid of any “intercessor” other than Jesus Christ himself when the Bible is quite clear on both of these matters:

Exodus {20:1-5} And God spake all these words, saying, I [am] the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.

1 Timothy {2:5} For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

A simple question I’ve always had is: Since we already have access to God through his Son, why would we need a “second stringer?” I’ve never gotten an answer from anyone who endorses this practice.

Another form of idolatry is the concept of church tradition being put on an equal or even superior basis as Scripture because here we have the exact situation experienced by Peter and the apostles shortly after the birth of the church:

Acts {5:28-29} Did not we* straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. *Members of the Sanhedrin are speaking here.

In this case the Jewish religious authorities were arrogating to themselves the “final word,” when that actually belongs to God alone.

Church “tradition” across denominations has too often darkened its history with such excesses as the Inquisitions, anti-Semitism, the condoning of slavery and racism, making a mockery of what Jesus actually taught.

The message from Jesus to the church of Thyatira, and, we may assume its future representatives, does indicate that its members which do not subscribe to these serious errors but regard Scripture, “rather than men,” to be the ultimate authority regarding doctrine, will be duly rewarded in the life to come, being part of Jesus’ government on Earth when he returns.

To be fair, by virtue of their being so many diverse versions of the Christian Church today, it is probably fair to say most of them have doctrinal problems, except the Church of Smyrna which we explored in the last article and has since disappeared into history and the Church of Philadelphia, along with its present incarnation, which we will examine a little later. Both of them received only praise from Jesus.

Before we move on, it is important to mention that we have arrived at a significant point in our exploration. Remember that in the last article it was mentioned that the first three churches have disappeared into the past? Let’s take a moment to look at how the message to each of them concluded:

For Ephesus:

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

For Smyrna:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

For Pergamos

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth [it.]     

Contrast this passage in the conclusion of the message to the church at Thyatira:

But that which ye have [already] hold fast till I come.

In this case the indication is that this church will still exist in some form – at the time Jesus returns! As we look at the remaining three addressed in Revelation, we see the same indications. This may yet be one more sign that his return may be very soon indeed. That being said, let’s continue with our next church.

The Church at Sardis

Revelation {3:1-6} And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee*. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. * This is just one example of an unexpected return of Jesus (only for his followers, in this case) in complete contrast to the time when it is unmistakable to the whole world (Revelation 19:11-16). In order for both accounts to be true, they must be referring to two different events.

This is thought to represent the churches broke away from the Roman Church as it existed during the Reformation. Its most prominent feature is that it emphasized the doctrine of salvation through grace, not works and was likewise critical of what was considered corruption and other doctrinal errors of the Roman Catholic Church.

However, when reading the passage concerning it, it appears that though it might have started out on the right path, it quickly lost its way and was therefore admonished to “strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die.” Could this be reflective of the manner in which the majority of the Protestant denominations today have embraced biblically contrary doctrines such as the acceptance of active homosexual behavior, a denial that Jesus himself as being the only way of salvation, a rejection of his physical resurrection and the reality of a literal afterlife at all, and refusal to believe in his return to this planet to establish his everlasting Kingdom?

Verse 3b of this chapter also clearly indicates that most of this church won’t be ready for the Lord’s return. In other words, it will be just as big a surprise to it as to the non-Christian world alike because there is scant attention given to Bible Prophecy in most of the church today, regardless of denomination. But all is not lost because there is the hopeful mention of those who “have not defiled their garments” by accepting the “doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1) and will one day literally walk with Jesus in his kingdom to come.

 

The Church at Philadelphia

 Revelation {3:7-13} And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David*, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.** Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, [which is] new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and [I will write upon him] my new name***. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. * Perhaps this means that As David was a conquering king over his adversaries, so Jesus is likewise over his. Of course, we are clearly not yet at the point where the results of his victory is fully realized, any more than David’s were immediate in his age, but the Bible teaches that one day they will be (Revelation, chapters 21 & 22).

** The indication here is that this church will be here on Earth in the present time and will be removed from the “hour of temptation (trial),” a good interpretation meaning the rapture, after which the Tribulation years will begin.”

*** Just as the false prophet will lead people to be marked with the name of the beast (antichrist), so God will cause his own to be marked as described above. Revelation 14:1 shows a partial fulfillment of this as regards to Israel.

As with the church as Smyrna, Jesus has only praise for the one at Philadelphia. In this case, it does not represent any single denomination but is comprised of all believers no matter which one (or even none at all) to which they belong. I suppose it would be safe to say that in many churches these days they adhere to the authority of Scriptural teachings in spite of what’s being preached in their pulpits. Why they choose to remain in some of them rather than leave is complex. Some, no doubt, stay in the hopes of changing them and getting them back on course. Others stay because they’ve gone to the same parish all their lives and don’t want to be uprooted. It’s probably safe to say the former are “Philadelphians” because having the courage of one’s convictions and bucking the tide is not an easy thing. As for the latter, the quality of their faith and is only something that God can decide.

Now it does not mean these individuals are perfect when it comes to doctrine because all of us are subject to what Paul said so well due to our human limitations:

1 Corinthians {13:11-12} When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

What is does say is that to the best of his or her ability, each defends the faith using the Bible as the standard, regardless of the opposition or immediate consequences. As far as the Western world is concerned, this church is sadly losing ground in the Western world, something Jesus no doubt saw coming 2000 years ago:

From the passage above we have:

Revelation 3:8 . . . . for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word . . .

And from Luke 18:8, Jesus said: Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

This is certainly not reflective of the quality of faith of its constituents. If anything, persecution, whether it be comparatively mild as in the U.S. (so far, at any rate!) or openly violent as in the recent cases of Muslim attacks on the Copts in Egypt, it has only served to strengthen their resolve to stand by their faith.

Smyrna and Philadelphia represents the church at its best. Now it’s time to look at it at its worst!

The Church at Laodicea

Revelation {3:14-22} And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.* He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

* Again, this is suggestive of this church being around in the present and those who do not follow its error will be saved.

It is probably no accident that the Laodicean Church shows up last, because this is indeed the state of affairs we increasingly have today. Jesus has nothing to commend in this one. We can look at it as being comprised of what I call “Comfortable Christians.” They show up each week, listen to latest non-judgmental the humanistic doctrine which pretty much teaches “anything goes.” Here’s an example from Pew Research (May 12, 2015) regarding the acceptance of homosexual behavior:

Denomination                                 Year 2007                             Year 2015

Roman Catholic                                    58%                                       70%

Mainline Protestants                             56%                                       66%

Orthodox Christian                               48%                                        62%

All Christians                                        44%                                        54%

Historically Black Protestants               39%                                        51%

Evangelical Protestants                       28%                                        36%

Mormon                                                24%                                       36%

Jehovah’s Witnesses                           12%                                        16%

If this one example of biblical doctrine being rejected in the church is representative of an overall erosion of the following scriptural precepts in today’s church, it is affecting all of them. Interestingly, the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, despite their other serious doctrinal errors, are doing better in this particular case than all the rest of them.

As a former life-long member of the Episcopal Church, I’ve personally seen this denomination fall apart doctrinally. Though the decline was decades in coming, in 2003 its decline into error became most evident as its triennial convention gave its assent to ordaining an open homosexual to the office of bishop. Now actively homosexual clergy people are no longer the uncommon. In the case of TEC, this was just the beginning of its descent into apostasy.

Former presiding bishop Kathryn Schori preached a “mother Jesus,” pluralistic salvation” (meaning that Jesus is not the only way to salvation (TIME Magazine, July 10, 2006), and that “confessional Christianity,” (i.e. that an individual can be saved by confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior) was a “great Western heresy” (opening remarks to TEC’s 76th Convention in July 2009). In the case of the Episcopal Church, there has been a ruthlessness exercised in any member parish not willing to “roll over” for these errors – the loss of its funds and property under the Dennis Canon which states that the church buildings and funds are only held in trust for their respective dioceses, not owned by their members. How this unjust principle ever got ratified into canon law seems positively devilish. The sad part about all this is that TEC is not unique because such heresy would find a welcome in most of the major protestant churches in Europe and North America.

Perhaps the biggest reason heresy has been so easy to foist on members of these denominations is that “Comfortable Christians” are also “lazy Christians” who never bothered to pick up their Bibles and read for themselves.

If one doesn’t know the truth, how can one possibly reject the lie?

Concluding Thoughts

From the best to the worst, the churches of Revelation present the whole spectrum. It seems fairly obvious where we must be in history based on where the church is now and where it is increasingly headed. I’ve personally watched the death spiral of the Episcopal Church from the inside and must admit I was amazed not only at the magnitude of its descent but the speed at which it occurred. I’ve watched many of the other Protestant denominations on the very same trajectory. If allowed to continue unabated, how long would it take before the percentages above top out at 100%? Based on the aforementioned acceleration into acceptance of the “doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:2), it indicates that it will not be allowed to continue much longer.

For we who believe, this is just one more sign for us along with so many others that the time of our redemption must be very, very, near!

It has never been more vital than right now to keep looking up!

The Seven Churches of Revelation – Part One – By Ed Wood

In the second and third chapters of Revelation, Jesus had messages for the seven churches which existed in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) at the end of the first century A.D. This was the time at what would ultimately become the last book of the Bible was given to the apostle John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2), while he was exiled on the island of Patmos.

A reasonable question for us would be: “How does it apply to us now almost 20 centuries later?” Were Jesus’ words intended only for those churches at that time, or do they have significance for the present day?

The answer is that many Bible scholars believe that every one of those ancient churches were also prefigurements of churches which were to follow. Let’s look at each one of them and see if this is a valid claim. First, the introduction:

Revelation {1:12-16} And I* turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks [one] like unto the Son of man**, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and [his] hairs [were] white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes [were] as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance [was] as the sun shineth in his strength.

*John ** Jesus

This is followed by an explanation by Jesus of what the candlesticks and stars represent:

Revelation {1:19-20} Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels* of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. * From the Greek aggelos which means “messenger” (Strong’s Concordance). It can refer to a heavenly messenger or a human one. In this case and in the passages to the churches which follow, it is most likely directed to their respective human chief pastors who served as “messengers of the Word.” It wouldn’t have been necessary to give the message to John had God chosen to employ heavenly angels as he did to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the fields (Luke 2).

Now we will look at each one of the churches in turn.

The Church at Ephesus

Revelation {2:1-7} Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have [somewhat] against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

This church bears many parallels to the first which began on the day of Pentecost in which the apostles received the initial and permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). It is commended for its stance against evil and false doctrine, yet, as time went by, it, too, became subject to error. In fact, many of Paul’s letters were meant to address various errors and conflicts which had sprung up. Its members had left their “first love” of proclaiming the Gospel without distortion and of not living in harmony with each other.

One of the several characteristics which earned them praise, however, was their rejection of the “deeds of the Nicolaitanes.” there are two possibilities regarding this reference. The first is that it is referring to the followers of Nicolaus, a heretic (Strong’s Concordance). It may be the same Nicolas, a pagan convert from Antioch Syria, who became one of the initial deacons (Acts 6:5) but later reverted again to paganism.

A second other possibility is that there were church leaders who ran roughshod over their adherents since the term “Nicolaitan” translates as “victorious over the people” (Strong’s). There have been plenty of examples of religious leaders doing just that throughout history, a sorry trend that when practiced to its extreme even brings death.

Perhaps both characteristics were in play at the time Jesus related his words to John.. The Lord then concluded by saying anyone belonging to this church who overcame all the failings he indicated would be live on eternally in paradise.

The Church at Smyrna

Revelation {2:8-11} And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and [I know] the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but [are] the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast [some] of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Jesus had much earlier told his disciples:

John {15:18-19} If the world hate you, ye know that [it hated] me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

The Lord became the first object lesson of that hate at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government. This persecution continued with vigor upon his followers. If there was one person who personified all those trying to crush them it had to be Saul of Tarsus, a Roman citizen and Pharisaic Jew whose self-chosen role was to track them all down and deliver them up in chains. Armed with the appropriate letters and the power from the religious authorities, he headed for Damascus to do just that – until his encounter with the post-ascendant Jesus changed his whole life. Saul became Paul, the writer of most of the epistles comprising the New Testament and the greatest evangelist of the gentile world of his time. Though Simon Peter played some part in that outreach (Acts, chapter 10), his mission was primarily to his Jewish kinsmen (Galatians 2:8).

Unlike the church at Ephesus, Jesus found no fault within it and the “overcoming” he spoke of was not against any error on its part, but against the outside forces opposing it. Those who did resist, even to the point of death, would be given the “crown of life” and not be subject to the “second death” described in Revelation 20:14-15 where the unsaved would be condemned to the lake of fire forever. Instead, they would be “blessed and holy,” (Revelation 20:6) and reign with Jesus during his Millennial Kingdom. In fact, except for John, all the apostles, including Paul, were martyred for the faith.

The Church at Pergamos

Revelation {2:12-17} And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges*; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, [even] where Satan’s seat [is:] and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas **[was] my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam***, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. {He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the  churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone****, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth [it.]

* See Hebrews 4:12.

** Probably the Bishop of Pergamos who was killed by being thrown into a brass bull statue which had been heated to a lethal temperature.

*** Balaam – a fortuneteller hired by the Midianite Balac [Balak] to curse the Israelites but who refused, (Numbers, chapters 22-24). Balaam was later killed by them (Joshua 13:22). A negative comment about him shows up in 2 Peter 2:11-15 and the historian Josephus (Antiquities, Book 4, chapter 6) suggests that though he would not curse the Hebrews outright, he advised Balak to use the Midianite women to tempt the men and lead them into idolatry. This account supports Peter’s contention quite well.

**** The “white stone” analogy may have a double meaning. First, at the conclusion of a trial, those deciding on the accused’s fate would either cast a white stone for acquittal or a black stone for condemnation. Second, it was also the custom for one giving a party to send a personalized greeting – a white stone- to those invited with a message on it intended specifically for them. I believe this is telling us that those who did as Jesus directed would receive both acquittal for their sins and a new home tailored precisely for them in the world to come (John 14:2-3).

            Many Roman emperors made it their business to exterminate the new faith. If Nero (A.D. 54 – 68) wasn’t the worst, he was certainly on the short list for being so. In the year 64 the city was devastated by a fire and he promptly blamed to the Christians, having them put to death in his own garden. Peter and Paul met their ends during his reign – Paul was likely beheaded, since he was a Roman citizen and Peter crucified upside-down because he was not.

Despite the ongoing persecutions of many the Roman emperors, the Christian faith still grew for the next two centuries. In the year 312, there was a turn-around. Emperor Constantine the Great had a vision described by his son’s tutor Lactantius which directed him to put the sign of the cross on his soldiers’ shields and go into what is called the battle of Milvian Bridge at which he was successful. From that point on Christianity became an accepted religion and was now intertwined with Constantine’s government itself.

The church of Pergamos has been compared with this “state church.” The original church existed right in the midst of “Satan’s seat,” and the description describes the stresses it was under in that pagan city. It is easy to imagine the “state church” was subject to many of the same stresses producing idolatry and apparently including a “victory over the people” approach practiced by its leaders. A combination of church and state, i.e. a theocracy, has historically never worked out in the long run. Ancient Egypt had its pharaohs, Rome had its supposed “divine” emperors. The Roman Catholic Church had its share of supposedly “infallible” popes who were clearly corrupt, insane, or both and whose “Nicolaitan” approach taken to extremes resulted in the Inquisitions at its worst, or simply keeping its members in check with the threats of damnation for failing to adhere to church doctrine, even if it was scripturally unsound.

Protestant sects were and currently not immune to such abuses when they are tightly enmeshed with the civil government as witnessed by such tragic events the Salem Witch Trials, the unopposed disgrace of racism by nominally Christian churches in the United States right into the Twentieth Century, and the “Reich Church” of the Nazis in the last century. This list, sadly, like the number of demons in the possessed Gergasene demoniac, are legion (Mark 5:1-20).

Though I believe that a separation of church and state is a necessity for the reasons above, this is not to say the biblical standards of morality and justice should be excluded from civil authority. In America, I believe our government was at its best when this was the case. The founding fathers certainly believed that, too, and it is only in the last few decades that this principle has become increasingly abandoned.

In my view, the government also crossed the separation principle of the First amendment when in 1963 the Supreme Court presumed to tell Americans when and where they may or may not pray – in our schools, for example.

In the face of this, I present these two questions: Where was and is the opposition of Christian Church to this blatant intrusion on our freedoms and as a society are we better off now for it?

Concluding Thoughts

This is a good stopping point in our exploration of the seven churches of Revelation because despite their differences, these first three have one thing in common – all have slipped away into the pages of history.

The Ephesian Church came to an end when the last of the original apostles died (once again including Paul,) which was followed by the persecuted church of Smyrna. This is not, by any means, to say true Christians are no longer subject to persecution. For over 2000 years Jesus’ words of John 16:33 have been confirmed repeatedly.

It finds its harshest extremes in autocratic nations today which are officially atheistic or under fundamental Islamic rule and in more subtle forms where Bible-believing and affirming Christians find themselves excluded from the established denominations which have “gone rogue” and fallen into apostasy.

The difference, I believe, is a question of magnitude. In its time, the Smyrnan church was the target of what was essentially a world government as far as the Mediterranean region of the world is concerned. We are not likely to encounter anything like this again until the Antichrist appears and proclaims himself as “God.” in which the entire planet will be involved, though the trend away from a Christian world view is already well under way in Western civilization.

Nor does there presently exist any neo-Pergamos Church in which a fusion between civil government and a Christian church comparable to what existed in Constantine’s time. This, however, will likely be replicated in the Tribulation as well with a “one-world religion” operating in concert with a “one-world government” under the control of the aforementioned Antichrist.

Now this is not to say that modern churches may not still have shared characteristics with these historical ones, because they certainly might. However as entities in and of themselves, the three we have examined so far have ceased to exist.

But what of the final four? Have they all disappeared into the past as well?

That’s just one of the questions we’ll examine in the next article.

New Heaven, New Earth, New Jerusalem – By Ed Wood

Matthew {6:10} Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven. *The speaker here is Jesus, responding to his disciples’ request on teaching them how to pray. 

Isaiah {64:4} For since the beginning of the world [men] have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, [what] he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. 

1 Corinthians {2:9} But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Revelation {21:10} And he* carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light [was] like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. *An angel. The narrator is John the apostle, also author of the Gospel of John. 

I began this article right after taking my usual predawn walk. It’s February in New England. The day is warmer than normal, but was still in the mid-thirties, the air crisp and refreshing. I was surrounded by the sounds of birds greeting the arrival of the new day, each with his or her own song. A waning crescent moon hung to the south in a blue sky punctuated by high cirrus and lower alto-cumulus clouds, all of which promised a gorgeous sunrise. It did not disappoint when the still-hidden sun touched the clouds with an orange glow which changed to yellow and then white as it cleared the horizon.

My thought was, “How can it get better than this?”

The answer is, as we’ll see, it’s going to get a lot better! (But the road to that time will be rough, to be sure, as we’ve seen in my Olivet Series.)

The fact of the matter is that this small space and time of personal tranquility is becoming increasingly rare in a world that is, quite frankly, falling apart on every level you can imagine. You have only to watch the TV, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper to have that unceasing message driven home that the human race is one messed-up species.

Added to the mixture are the increase of stresses on Earth itself. Earthquakes, extremes of weather, and the global temperature rising as the planet’s atmospheric greenhouse gases increase. Yes, I realize many think the latter is a bogus claim, but for me the science is unmistakable. Carbon dioxide levels are now at 400 parts per million which are historically high.  Since this gas is transparent to visible light and opaque to infra-red (heat), the visible sunlight gets through to hit the ground and the re-radiated heat gets trapped in. Now a modest greenhouse effect is good. In fact, without it, Earth would be a frozen ice world like Hoth of Star Wars fame. But too much of a good thing is not necessarily better. Now we can reasonably debate over how much of this is due to human activity and how much is due to natural causes, but from all the evidence, global warming is a real deal.

That being said, we must be on particular guard for those who would use this issue as an excuse to consolidate political or economic power for themselves in the promotion of global authority verses national sovereignty. My biggest problem with the green movement is that there is virtually no mention nor serious effort on its part to push development of the one technology that would drastically curtail carbon emissions from fossil fuels which is nuclear fusion. This is seven times more efficient than our current fission technology and the fuel source is hydrogen, one of the two components of plain water. Hydrogen fusion is also safer, cannot cause a melt- down, and does not produce the tons of spent nuclear fuel which has to be stored away for millennia in a containment system which does not current even exist. What are they waiting for?

The Bible does tell us though a one-world government is ultimately coming under the Antichrist, there is no reason for us to not to resist the any impetus toward global government by any faction as best as we can for as long as we can. However, let’s concentrate on the purpose of this article which is to look ahead to a future so stunningly magnificent that we can only imagine it in a very partial manner. I’m sure John himself found himself quite limited in his description of the Ne Jerusalem and the new universe which will one day exist having only words available to describe it. Nevertheless, his account is still compelling and wondrous.

John’s first impression of the New Jerusalem was one of a “bride adorned for her husband, (Revelation 21:2) and follows it in Revelation 21:10 as filled with light, the source of which is God himself, shining throughout its crystalline structure. Throughout the Bible there are many references to God and Jesus and light. Interestingly, even in our present universe, light always travels 186,000 miles per second in a vacuum, no matter where you happen to be or how fast you’re moving. If we expand the definition of light to include all forms of it above and below that which is perceptible to the human eye, it is omnipresent, even existing as a faint background radiation from the very fabric of space itself. In Einstein’s famous equation of E = mc2, the conversion of matter to energy and vice-versa is based on the speed of light. Life needs heat so the molecular activity necessary for life can exist, plants need it for photosynthesis, and animals need the plants. It’s that simple.

Now this is not to say God is a beam of sunlight or the hiss of that ancient background radiation, but for some reason he chose to apply the term light to a description of himself for us to ponder, appreciate, and wonder upon. Like the light he created, he is omnipresent and very necessary for all life anywhere it might be in all its many forms. We have here a tantalizing mystery the fullness of which may have to wait for the new life to come. How very appropriate that John describes the New Jerusalem is a brilliant city of divine light!

Next we learn of some more of its physical characteristics:

Revelation {21:23} And had a wall great and high, [and] had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are [the names] of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.  And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred [and] forty [and] four cubits, [according to] the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was [of] jasper: and the city [was] pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city [were] garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation [was] jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a  chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;  The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates [were] twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city [was] pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb [is] the light thereof.

From the description we see God’s City is “foursquare,” or cubical, each side measuring “twelve thousand furlongs.” A furlong is 660 feet so 12,000 of them equals 7,920,000 feet or 1500 miles exactly. Now stop and think about that a moment – the New Jerusalem is a cube 1500 miles per side! To put this into perspective, it would cover about half the United States. Each side is about 70% the size of the moon, or about the size of Pluto! So, we are talking about a city of planetary dimensions!

We see it has twelve foundations of precious and semi-precious stones inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles, twelve gates made of single pearl with twelve angels bearing the names of the tribes of Israel, three per side of the city, which are inserted into a 216 foot high jasper wall. The latter, when you think about it, is actually tiny compared to the overall size of the city, but the fact that it exists must have some significance. The streets within are made of transparent gold.

In our modern age, cities artificially lit with bright lighting is commonplace, but in John’s day light was limited to dim flickering lamps, torches, or the like.  Imagine how the apostle must have wondered at the steady brilliance of God’s heavenly city! Even to us I am sure it would be a stunning sight since the source of this light is not electrical in nature but, as we’ve already seen,  a radiance emanating from God himself!

Before we see what comes next, let’s consider the implications of a city of this immense size being able to land on Earth. From what we know about the physical laws of our present-day universe, it’s not possible.

The Roche Limit

I’m sure just about everyone has seen pictures of Saturn. If you’re fortunate enough to have or know someone with a telescope, odds are you gotten direct a look at it yourself. The first time I saw it in the days of my youth, I couldn’t believe it was real. There it was, a small yellow disk encircled with marvelous rings just floating up in the sky. Saturn is not alone with a ring system, but the ones it has are the most impressive of the lot, easily seen in even a small telescope. In subsequent years we’ve gotten a much closer look, most recently by the wildly successful Cassini mission and its wonderful images sent back to our small world across anywhere from three-quarters to over a billion miles away, depending on its orbital location relative to Earth. The next likely question one would ask is, why do they exist at all?

There is something called the Roche limit which states that a moon or other sizeable celestial body can’t remain intact should it drift to close to a planet (or anything else with a large gravity field like a star or black hole). The limit is around 1.22 times the primary’s diameter and for Saturn with a diameter or 75,000 miles it works out to be about 92,000 from its center or 54,000 miles from its surface. Get any closer than that and you would not want to be living in an outpost on that object because it would start coming apart under your feet. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration because in most cases it’d take quite a while for the disintegration. ( Probably wouldn’t be a good idea to invest in real estate there at any rate!) Scientists believe this is already happening to Mars’ inner moon Phobos which displays strange grooves across its surface and is very near the Roche limit of 5000 miles from the planet. Given sufficient time it will one day break up into rings, or ring arcs.

The reason for this is actually not hard to comprehend if we observe how things behave in orbit. For example, the International Space Station, which is only about 250 miles up, goes around the Earth in 90 minutes. Weather satellites which are in geosynchronous orbits that keep them over the same spot relative to the Earth’s surface are 22,300 miles up, completing one revolution in 23 hours and 56 minutes, same as one rotation. The moon takes roughly a month and is about 238,000 miles away. The rule is, the higher the orbit, the slower an object will go.

For small things like artificial satellites, spacecraft, small asteroids, and meteors, the Roche effect is too small to be a problem. For something really big, it’s a whole new story. Bring the moon within 6000 miles of the Earth’s surface and the parts of it which are on the side farther away will try to go into orbit at a slower rate than those parts on the nearer Earth. Ultimately would successfully go their separate ways because the tidal stresses would be stronger than the molecular forces which holds the moon together. The result would be a huge and respectably sized-ring around Earth.

If you think this is bad news for the moon, it is also bad news for the Earth because the increasing effects of the moon’s gravity as it approaches would play havoc. We’re not just talking about super-high sea tides, but land tides as well. Our planet would be subject to earthquakes beyond anything we have ever known since humans have walked upon it. It would not surprise me if the frictional forces generated liquefied Earth’s surface into molten lava. Depending on the moon’s trajectory, impact is a possibility and the results of that are easily imagined.

Since we already know the New Jerusalem is a huge object, it is probably safe to assume that even if present-day Earth’s gravity didn’t pull it apart and if it has a gravity field of some type of its own, the consequences to our planet would be similarly catastrophic. This problem doesn’t even consider the problem of trying to land a 1500 mile tall object on a planet only 8000 miles in diameter. The top of the city would reach 1500 miles up, far past our atmosphere, except for its lower levels, and beyond the orbits of the space station and low-Earth orbiting satellites.

In my opinion, John’s vision of the New Jerusalem coming to Earth require a whole new set of rules. This appears to be exactly what God has promised to do.

And he* that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. (*God) (Revelation 21:5a)

After the seven year Tribulation time, Earth is brought back to a near-Eden condition (Isaiah 35:1-10). The desert will bloom, people will experience miraculous healing (something that was prefigured prominently during Jesus’ first coming). In this passage we see an interesting account of there being some kind of “highway” called the “way of holiness” where only the “redeemed” and “ransomed of the Lord” will have access to Zion with “everlasting joy upon their heads.” Is this yet another prefigurement of what we see in below?

Revelation {21:24-27} And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither  whatsoever] worketh abomination, or [maketh] a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Or is the ancient prophet actually giving us a look ahead to the new existence in the new realm? We know that there will be redeemed saints on Earth during the Millennium from Revelation 21 and they will reign as “kings and priests” with the Lord during that time (Revelation 1:4-6). No doubt they will also enter into the age of the new heaven and new Earth, thus making their joy truly everlasting.

One may rightly ask why will it be necessary for the complete transformation of Millennial Earth into Eternal Earth because the former certainly sounds grand enough. The answer is – sin. The beautiful and bountiful Earth of the 1000 year rule of Christ will still bear the taint of sin introduced by Adam and Eve’s initial rebellion which opened the door for the devil to walk in. The evidence of this is found in Zechariah 14:16-19 and most notably in Revelation 20:7-15. In order for creation to be totally rid of this curse, a repair job isn’t enough and a complete rebuild must occur. Sin and its author must be eliminated because primary effect of sin is death (Romans 6:23). I think that death actually extends far beyond that of the individual right across the entire universe.

Think about it – nothing we know of last forever in our present cosmos. Plants die. Animals die. We die. Even stars and galaxies eventually die. Hot things cool off, cold things warm up. Our present realm is losing the amount of its usable energy and there is nothing that can reverse the process. The scientists give this a fancy name calling it increasing entropy or growing disorder in the universe. Barring divine intervention, it will eventually turn into a cold, dark nothingness. No stars, no planets, no life. Even matter itself may cease to exist entirely.

Yet we know from the Bible that all that the originator of evil and all that has fallen under his sway will be dealt with forever and the final enemy to be defeated will be death itself when sin is purged once and for all from existence.

1 Corinthians {15:26} The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death.

Only then can eternity come and only then will John’s marvelous account of what Jesus revealed to him with God coming to live with us forever in his glorious city come to pass, a place of indescribable beauty where the very river of life itself flows from the Lord himself. Best part of all? It’s where Jesus even now is building the mansions that believers will inhabit for all eternity and where we will see God face to face (Job 19:25-27;1 Corinthians 13:9-12).

Final Thoughts

In the new life in the new creation to come, the Bible tells us that the New Jerusalem will one day arrive on Earth, albeit a totally different Earth than the one that exists today. We know people will come to it from outside, which indicates that there must be a place from which they will come. That may sound fairly obvious, but it’s significant because it leads us to wonder what kind of “place” it might be. For that, we can only speculate.

Personally I envision something unlimited magnitudes above in magnitude and size of what we once had in Eden before our original parents opened the door to Satan and sin. Eden must have been absolutely stunning in its own right – no violent storms, no noxious plants or animals, and no death. It seems certain enough that all the best of Eden will be retained on New Earth and greatly improved upon. Whereas Eden had only two people to accommodate, New Earth will be host to billions of believers at least.

All of their time will be spent in God’s Presence and light, whether in the New Jerualem or out in the countryside. I imagine there will be a great deal of time spent just celebrating and rejoicing with God in New Jerusalem. When not there, perhaps the now-immortal saints will explore their new world, walk through its forests, climb its mountains, swim in its waters, and enjoy an everlasting fellowship with every other saint.

Perhaps we’ll get to meet the greats of the Bible like Moses, Abraham, David, Ruth, Esther, and the apostles as well as those whose faith was known only to God and themselves while they lived their mortal lives. But I’m sure the dream we all share is to see our loved ones and fellow believers, young, immortal, and radiant and to know that we will never be separated from them again.

After our sojourn on this world which has never been kind to those who have put their trust in God, often making us strangers in a strange and often unfriendly land, we will at last be welcome and know without doubt that were are home at last!

OSAS, The Whole Story – By Jack Kelley – Grace Thru Faith

I received a few comments after posting my last article “The Departure,” attempting to take me to task over my position of “once saved, always saved.” I am sharing this excellent and thorough exploration of the Doctrine of Eternal Security, written by my friend Jack Kelley, who is now with the Lord and with whom I wholeheartedly agree, rather than engage in individual debates from several who follow my blog in my comments section. – Terry

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

If you follow our “Ask a Bible Teacher” feature, you know how many comments I’ve received lately that question the Doctrine of Eternal Security (aka Once Saved Always Saved or OSAS). Based on their content I’ve concluded that many people neither understand OSAS nor have they considered the alternative.

Let’s Begin At The Beginning

It’s time to set the record straight once and for all. What does it take to be saved? I think the best answer to that question is the one the Lord gave in John 6:28-29.

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Here was a perfect opportunity to list all the things we have to do to meet God’s requirements. Jesus could have rattled off the 10 commandments. He could have repeated the Sermon on the Mount. He could have listed any number of admonitions and restrictions necessary to achieve and maintain God’s expectations of us. But what did He say? “Believe in the one He has sent.” Period. It was a repeat of John 3:16, confirming that belief in the Son is the one and only requirement for salvation.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

A few verses later in John 6:38-40 He said that this wasn’t just His idea, as if that wouldn’t be enough, but that His Father was in complete agreement. And not only would our belief suffice to provide us with eternal life, but that it was God’s will that Jesus lose none of those who believe. You and I have been known to disobey God’s will, but has Jesus ever done so? And isn’t He the one who’s been charged with the responsibility for keeping us? Let’s read it.

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40)

Just in case we missed this promise, Jesus made it again even more clearly in John 10:28-30. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Father and the Son have both accepted responsibility for our security. Once we’re in Their hands, no one can get us away.

I have purposely only used words straight from the Lord’s own mouth to make this case because I can already hear the choruses of “Yes Buts” mounting as those who refuse to take them at face value get ready to trot out their favorite verses denying Eternal Security, misinterpreted though they are.

The one characteristic of God’s that gives us the most comfort is knowing that He can’t lie or change His mind or contradict Himself. He can’t say something in one place and then say something entirely different in another. He’s consistent. If He says that we’re saved solely because of our belief in Him, and that He’s accepted responsibility for keeping us so, then we can count on that. As we’ll see, anything in the Bible that seems to contradict these simple, straightforward statements has to be talking about something else.

But first, since He puts so much emphasis on belief, let’s take a closer look at that word. What does He mean when He says “believe”? It must be more than just a casual thing because reliable statistics show, for example, that 85% of those who come forward to “receive the Lord” at a crusade or other evangelistic outreach never form any connection with a church or Bible Study or in any other way demonstrate a relationship with the Lord afterward.

And Jesus spoke of the seed that fell on rocky places. He said, “This is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.” (Matt. 13:20-21) If these people were saved and then fell away, all His promises above have been broken. There must be more. So what does it mean to believe?

The Greek word for believe is “pistis.” According the Strong’s Concordance, it’s a “conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it.” In connection with the Lord Jesus, it means “a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God.”

The Apostle Paul gave us valuable insight into the nature of this belief. He wrote, If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

This isn’t just some intellectual thing that carries us away on the words of a captivating speaker, only to leave us flat a short time later. It’s a conviction that’s formed deep in our heart, the realization that Jesus is not just a man. He’s the Lord Himself, and He took upon Himself the penalty due us for our sins, which is death. And to prove that God counted His death as sufficient, He raised Jesus from the dead to be seated beside Him in the Heavenly realms. (Ephes. 1:20) Since God can’t dwell in the presence of sin, and since the wages of sin is death, every one of our sins has to have been paid for. If even one remained unpaid, Jesus would still be in the grave. We have to believe that Jesus rose from the grave in order to believe that we will.

It’s that kind of belief that gets you saved and keeps you that way, because it sets in motion a chain of events that’s irreversible. There are four links in this chain. You supply two and the Lord supplies two. You hear and believe, and the Lord marks and guarantees.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

The word translated “deposit” is a legal term. Today we would say Earnest Money. It’s a down payment that constitutes a legal obligation to follow through with the purchase. If you’ve ever bought any Real Estate, you’re familiar with the term. If not, here’s another example. It’s like we’ve been put on “lay away.” The price has been paid and we’ve been taken off the display shelf until the one who has purchased us returns to claim us. In the mean time we cannot be bought by anyone else, because we legally belong to the one who has paid the deposit. “You are not your own,” we’re told. “You were bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

All of this happened at our first moment of belief, before we could do anything to either earn or lose our position. The man on the cross beside Jesus is the prototype for this transaction. Having done something bad enough to get himself executed, he was promised a place in Paradise solely because he believed in his heart that Jesus was the Lord of a coming Kingdom.

Paul made it even clearer when he repeated this incredible promise in 2 Cor. 1:21-22. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

This time He removed all doubt as to just Who it is that keeps us saved. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. What could be clearer?

Union And Fellowship

If the Doctrine of Eternal Security is so clear then why all the disagreement about it? I’ve found two reasons. The first is the two-sided nature of our relationship with the Lord. I call one side Union. It’s eternal and unconditional, based only on our belief. Ephesians 1:13-14 describes our Union with God, sealed and guaranteed. Once we’re born again, we can’t become unborn. It’s good forever. The Holy Spirit is sealed within us from our first moment of belief until the day of redemption.

I call the other side Fellowship and it’s a bit more complicated. Fellowship is that state of continual closeness to God that enables Him to bless us in our daily lives, by making things happen for us and protecting us from attack. It’s like He’s teamed up with us to give us a supernatural advantage. Fellowship is defined by 1 John 1:5-9 as being both Earthly and conditional upon our behavior. Even as believers, as long as we’re here on Earth we’ll continue to sin. Since God can’t abide in the presence of sin, our unconfessed sins interrupt our Earthly relationship with Him and may deprive us of blessings we might have otherwise received. We’re still saved in the eternal sense, but out of Fellowship here on Earth.

When we’re out of Fellowship, we’re legitimate targets for our enemy’s mischief, just like Job was. His sin was self-righteousness and because he wouldn’t confess it, God had to let Satan afflict him in order to bring him to his senses. For a New Testament illustration, look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32) Like the younger son, we’ll still belong to our Father’s family, but won’t receive any of its blessings while we’re out of Fellowship. And like both Job and the Prodigal, when we return to our Father and confess our sins, we’re immediately purified from all unrighteousness and restored to Fellowship.

One reason that many Christians live such defeated lives is that having only learned about the Union part of being a believer, they only know that God has forgiven their sins and that they’ll go to be with Him when they die or are Raptured. They don’t realize that they still need to confess every time they sin to stay in Fellowship. And so, being deprived of God’s providence, they may become discouraged and even stop praying and attending church. Other believers, who don’t understand the dual relationship either, look at the mess they’re in and think they must have lost their salvation. Like Job’s friends, they look in God’s Word for confirmation, and by taking verses out of context, believe they have found the proof.

Union and Fellowship are not just New Testament ideas. In the Old Testament, even when Israel was being obedient in thought and action, doing their best to please God, the priests still had to sacrifice a lamb on the altar every morning and every evening for the sins of the people. 1 John 1:9 is the New Testament equivalent of those daily sacrifices for sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. It was written for believers who are already saved, but are in danger of being out of Fellowship because of their sins.

The Gift And the Prize

The other reason people get confused is that there are two types of benefits in Eternity. The first is the free Gift called Salvation that’s given to all who ask in faith irrespective of merit and guarantees our admission into the Kingdom. Ephesians 2:8-9 is the model, saying that salvation is a Gift from God.

The second consists of Heavenly rewards we can earn for the things we do as believers here on Earth. Philippians 3:13-14 are good verses for explaining this. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. In addition to the Gift, there’s a Prize.

A gift is something given out of love, irrespective of merit, and is never taken back. A prize, on the other hand, is something we qualify for and earn. And if we’re not careful we can lose it. (Rev. 3:11) Paul had already received the Gift of salvation, it was behind him. Now he was focused on winning the Prize as well.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he explained the difference in greater detail. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

No Olympic athlete was satisfied just to have qualified to participate in the games. Everyone wanted to win the victor’s crown. Likewise, we shouldn’t be satisfied just to have received the Gift of salvation. We must now live our lives as believers in such a way as to win the Prize as well.

The Bible calls some of these prizes crowns, and while the athlete’s crown soon wilted away (it was a wreath of ivy) the crowns believers can win last forever. They’re worth making some sacrifices for. That’s why Paul said, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Cor. 9:27) The crowns are identified as the Everlasting Crown (Victory) in 1 Cor 9:25, Crown of the Soul Winner in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thes 2:19, Crown of Righteousness in 2 Tim 4:8, Crown of Life in Jas 1:12 and Rev 2:10, and the Crown of Glory in 1 Peter 5:4.

The difference between the Gift and the Prize is also seen in 1 Cor. 3:12-15. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

At the judgment of believers, the quality of our work on earth will be tested by fire. Only work that survives the test will bring us a reward. But notice that even if all our work is destroyed in the fire, we’ll still have our salvation. Why? Because it’s a free Gift, given out of love, irrespective of merit.

The Lord mentioned other rewards as well. In Matt. 6:19-21 He advised us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

There are things we can do as believers while here on Earth that will cause deposits to be made to our heavenly account. Some believe that this passage refers to the way we use the money we’re given. Do we use it to enrich ourselves, stacking up possessions that far exceed our needs? Or do we use it to further the work of the Kingdom? Here’s a hint. Our tithe is what we owe to God. It’s what we do with the money we have left that really counts. And with the measure we use, it will be measured to us. (Luke 6:38)

To summarize, in the New Testament there are verses like Ephesians 1:13-14 that talk about Union. There are verses like 1 John 1: 8-9 that talk about Fellowship. There are verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 that talk about the Gift and there are verses like 1 Cor 9:24-27 that talk about the Prize.

Union verses:
The verses that stress belief, explain the permanent nature of our bond with God, and are directed toward eternity are Union verses.

Gift verses:
Those that involve grace and faith are Gift verses.

Fellowship verses:
Those that require work and are directed at the quality of our lives on Earth are Fellowship verses.

Prize verses:
And those that require work and involve eternal rewards are Prize verses.

When you view Scripture from this perspective, all of the apparent contradictions disappear and you no longer have to wonder why God seems to be saying one thing here and something different there. The issue becomes one of correctly identifying the focal point of the particular passage you’re looking at. Determine the context by reading verses around it, and assign it to one of the four categories.

Give Us An Example

Hebrews 6:4-6 is a passage often cited in opposition to Eternal Security. The entire letter is to Jewish believers who are being enticed back into keeping the Law, so the context is New Covenant vs. Old. And in verse 9 the writer hints that he’s been talking about things that accompany salvation. That tells us that verses 4-6 are not related to salvation but things that accompany it. More importantly the idea that a believer could do something to irretrievably lose his salvation is in direct contradiction to the very clear promise that the Holy Spirit is sealed within us from the very first moment of belief until the day of redemption.

So what could these believers be in danger of falling away from due to their sins? Fellowship. And what could prevent them from being restored? The practice of Old Covenant remedies for sin rather than invoking 1 John 1:9. They’d be relegating the death of the Lord to the same status as that of the twice-daily lamb. The Law was only a shadow of the good things to come, not the realities themselves. Once the Reality appeared, the shadow was no longer effective. And what would be their penalty? Living a defeated life, bearing no fruit, all their works burned in the judgment of 1 Cor. 3. But still saved? Yes. Hebrews 6:4-6 is a Fellowship passage.

Suppose There Is No Security?

In closing, let’s look at the alternative. What are we faced with? If Hebrews 6:4-6 for example applies to our salvation then if we ever sin after being saved we’ll be lost forever with no way back, because the Lord would have to be crucified all over again to retrieve us. The New Covenant would be worse than the Old, not better. They were condemned for their actions. According to Matt. 5 we’d be condemned for our thoughts. They couldn’t murder. We couldn’t even be angry. They couldn’t commit adultery. We couldn’t even have a lustful thought. Think of it. No anger, ever. No lust, ever. No envy, ever. No idolatry, ever. No favoritism or discrimination, ever. No impure thoughts or deeds of any kind, ever. Is this the Good News, the incomparable riches of His Grace? Did God become man and die the most painful death ever devised only to put His children into an even more untenable position than before? Are we saved by grace only to be placed under the constraints of an even more severely administered law? I can’t believe so.

Some take a more moderate view of this saying that God would never take back the gift of salvation, but that we can return it. To justify this position they have to put words in the Lord’s mouth. When He says in John 10:28, “No one can snatch them out of my hand,” they have to insert the phrase “but us” after “no one”. Same with Romans 8:38-39.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. They have to insert the phrase “but us” after “in all creation”.

None of this defense of Eternal Security is intended to condone sin. As an indication of our gratitude for the gift of salvation, believers are continually admonished in Scripture to live our lives in a manner pleasing to God. Not to earn or keep it, but to thank the Lord for giving it to us. And to help us do that, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us to guide and direct us, and to pray for us. Since the Spirit of God lives in us we are no longer controlled by the sin nature and can choose to please God by the way we live. And even though we do this out of gratitude for the Gift He’s already given, which is Union with Him, He blesses us both here on Earth (Fellowship) and in Eternity (the Prize). Selah 10-07-06

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