Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Second Coming

I feel like the time is right to share my views about the return of Jesus. I believe it's usually referred to as … "the second coming." Why share now? Take a look at the world; the Holy Scriptures are being fulfilled faster than ever before. The whole world is on fire! The only thing that will save Israel from total destruction by her enemy’s will be the return of Jesus … only they don't know He's the one they are looking for … but this time they won't reject Him.

As far as Christians are concerned, there are two different views held about His return. One is the "rapture" of the church in secret, and the other is the "revelation" of Christ, a revealed return in which all will see Him.

I must first make you aware that the term "rapture of the church," or the word "rapture" itself isn’t used in the Bible. How did this phrase become so popular if it’s not scriptural?

A young Scottish woman named Margaret MacDonald had a dream in 1830, and sent handwritten copies of her "revelation" to Edward Irving, a controversial minister drawing large crowds to his church in London.

Most people thought this "new truth" was something Irving found in the Bible, and being a popular preacher, his views were quickly adopted. The young woman was not credited with the vision at first because ... "She was a female in the male-dominated theological world of 1830; she was young; she was uneducated; and she had been a Christian only a year."

Her dream contained all that is taught today ... meeting the Lord in the air, secrecy, suddenness, invisibility, imminency, and a pre-tribulation separation of believers and unbelievers. (I will speak to this later when dealing with "the tares and wheat" that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 13:24-43.)

Irving’s views influenced C. I. Scofield, whose Bible popularized the new theory, and within a few years it became the greatest evangelistic preaching tool they could use. "Jesus could come back tonight! Are you ready?" For over 1800 years nobody had even heard or thought about "a rapture." Even Jesus never spoke about it!

The word "rapture" comes from the two words "caught up" found in Paul’s teaching in 1st Thessalonians 4:17 which we will look at later. In this study, we will look at what the Bible has to say about the "return of Christ" … how it will happen, where it should happen, and whether scripture says it will happen.

When Jesus was taken up to Heaven in a cloud from the Mt. Of Olives in Acts 1:9-11, two men or angels robed in white tell all those who watched Jesus leave this earth, that He will come back the same way he left, in the clouds, in the sight of man!

Zechariah 14:1-12 says when the Lord (Jesus) comes back and sets His feet on the Mt. of Olives again, it will be during a war, commonly called the battle of Armageddon. A side note … verse 12 sounds exactly like what happens to human flesh during nuclear war. "Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth."

At this present time Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons for the total annihilation and destruction of the nation of Israel. How long can it be before this war begins?

If … His return during the Battle of Armageddon is the second coming … then it can also be referred to as the Revelation of Christ, which starts His millennial (1,000 year) reign, at the end of the seven years of Tribulation.

John wrote in Revelation 1:7 … "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." (Wail … means specifically, to beat the breast in grief, to lament, mourn.) Why would they wail? Because they will have to admit that Jesus was who He said He was.

Both Old and New Testaments confirm His physical return to the earth, therefore His return or second coming is doctrinal. Where doctrine becomes a little unclear or (fuzzy) is in the difference between the "Revelation of Christ" and the "Day of Christ."

The Apostle Paul in (1st Corinthians 15:12-57) teaches us about death and the resurrection of the dead. But we need to pay close attention to verses 20-24"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God ..." (Notice only one return is spoken of.)

I want to pursue two points here. First ... the resurrection is at His coming. Second … then cometh the end. What end is Paul speaking of? I believe it is the end of this present age ... the dispensation of grace which we are living in.

After the second coming the world will be in a new dispensation called the millennium … where Jesus will rule on earth for 1,000 years.

The Apostle Paul continues in verses 51-52 ... "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."

He calls what happens a mystery … and because of what we read in scripture concerning the end times … it truthfully remains a mystery or as I describe the end times, it's a little bit fuzzy.

Paul writes that we will be changed at the last trumpet, at the end. Paul thought he would see Christ’s return in his lifetime. Paul uses "we" three times in verses 51-52.

Compare this with 1st Corinthians 1:7-8 where Paul wrote that he was ... "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ … unto the end … in the Day of our Lord …" The word "coming" in the Greek means … (an appearing, a manifestation, to be revealed) which to me sounds like ... the revelation of Christ.

All this happens "at the last trump." Could this trump be the same as the last of the seven trumpets in the book of Revelation that brings the last of three "woes," the seven vials of Gods judgment and wrath that is poured out during the great tribulation? (Revelation 11 & 16.)

Paul wrote to people or churches he knew in simple letter form without any numbered verses or chapters, and they should be read as such. In his first letter to the Thessalonian Church, Paul tells them about the "rapture, the catching away" of the church in ...

1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 (edited) … "I would not have you to be ignorant (unlearned) about those who are asleep (have died) … We which are alive and remain (survive) unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which sleep (died) … The Lord Himself shall descend … The dead in Christ shall rise first … Then we which are alive and remain (survive) shall be caught up (raptured) together … with the Lord …"

Remember, Paul’s letter doesn’t stop at the end of chapter four, so keep on reading in the next chapter. After Paul tells the church about the rapture, he tells them when it will happen!

"Of the time (when all this happens) ... you know perfectly ... when they shall say, peace and safety …"

Paul is speaking of the same period of time that Daniel spoke about concerning the anti-christ's rule during the seven year tribulation.

Daniel 8:25 … "And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; (Jesus) but he shall be broken without hand."

At the second coming, the rapture or revelation of Jesus (both of which may be the same) Daniel says the anti-christ is defeated, (at the battle of Armageddon) and the dead in Christ are then resurrected.

Daniel 12:1-2 … "And there shall be a time of trouble, (tribulation) such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, (the resurrection) some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."

Now let me go back to the phrase Paul used in 1st Thessalonians 4:17 … "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together …" The word remain in the Greek means "survive." I wish he would have just said … "we which are alive" … but he didn't, he added the word survive. This makes me question why Paul in his original writing chose this word. Could it be that he seemed to think that believers would go through the tribulation? If you look at his second letter to this church he definitely points to that.

In 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul continues his end times instruction to this church with this second letter. There had been some letters passed around with his name forged on them. So Paul tells this church, even if someone gives them a signed letter as from him that says … "the day of Christ (the rapture) is at hand" … don’t be deceived … "for that day shall not come, except" … these three things must happen.

"There will be a falling away first."
"The man of sin is revealed."
"He sits in the temple of God as God."

A falling away? Could this be those who were told Jesus would come back before the tribulation, and now their "faith" fails them when they see these things taking place?

Revealed? Is Paul saying that the anti-christ will be seen by believers before the rapture?

Sits in the temple? Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 24:15. Jesus said ... "When you see this abomination … standing in the Holy Place …" Paul agreed with Jesus.

Could it be that Paul thought the "Day of Christ" (Rapture) and the "Day of the Lord" (Revelation of Christ) were one in the same? Some of that (fuzzy) stuff again.

Do I believe in a rapture? Yes … but not as it is commonly taught today. What is taught today is Margaret MacDonald's dream … that Jesus comes back in secret to rapture the church which causes a pre-tribulation separation of believers and non-believers. This teaching declares that Christian believers are taken first and then some seven plus years later at end of the Great Tribulation the non-believers are gathered for judgment.

I stated earlier that I would speak about "the tares and wheat," the example Jesus used to illustrate the end times. I want you to look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 13:24-43 as He teaches His disciples about the harvest at the end of this age.

Matthew 13:30 ... "Let both (tares and wheat) grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, (sinners) and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat (believers) into my barn."

A little later Jesus explains this parable to His disciples ...

Matthew 13:38-39 ... "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one ... the harvest is the end of the world."

The secret catching away of believers (wheat) before non-believers (tares) is the complete opposite of what Jesus taught His disciples. Am I going to accept the words of Jesus, or a young girls dream?

Comments welcome.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Chief of Sinners

1st Timothy 1:15 … "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."

As Saul of Tarsus, being full of faith and love for God … but yet at the same time in ignorance and unbelief about Jesus, operating in persecuting rage ... his statement "of whom I am chief" as seen in this light, is strictly and literally true. If we take the whole of the apostle’s conduct into consideration, previous to his conversion upon meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, was there a greater sinner converted to God? Not in his own mind anyway.

None, not one ... he was the chief ... and by keeping the persecution of the church in his memory, he asserts in this statement … of all people that the Lord Jesus came into the world to save, and of all that he had saved to that time, "I am chief."

Humble as he now was speaking to Timothy, anyone who knew how shockingly brutal and cruel he was before, most likely would have agreed with his assessment of himself. He believed he was what he said.

"Of whom I am chief" … or first, number one. The word he chose to use, "chief" denotes eminence, as to stand above others so that he occupied the first rank among sinners.

This does not mean that he had been the greatest of sinners in all respects, but that in some respects he had been so great a sinner, that taken as a whole there were none who had surpassed him. I am sure the main sin which he refers to was the part which he had taken in putting the saints to death.

Other than persecuting the saints, the youthful Saul of Tarsus appears to have been eminently moral, and his outward conduct was in accordance with the strictest rules of Jewish Law. After his conversion, he never attempted to justify his conduct, or excuse himself. He was always ready to admit to its fullest extent, the fact that he was a sinner.

Paul was so deeply convinced of this, that he carried with him the constant impression that he was eminently unworthy. He does not say merely that he had been in the past a sinner, but he speaks of it as something that always pertained to him … "of whom I am chief."

The two words … "I am" … denote present tense, right now I am, or so he felt.

I once had a Dean of a Bible College tell me that truly spiritual people, never see themselves as spiritual. They always see their flaws and weaknesses. I guess it's because they measure themselves using Jesus as the yardstick. None of us can measure up to Him. I think Paul was that way also.

What are we to conclude about Paul? Was he in his past life the chief of sinners? In his eyes … without a doubt. What about after he met Jesus? Did he mean that his present conduct allowed him to keep the title of chief sinner?

Didn't he say in 1st Corinthians 9:27 … "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."

Paul is saying that he keeps his body, his passions under control, under subjection to his spiritual will … he doesn't let his carnal natural man rule.

I find it hard to believe, that Paul meant he was a habitual sinner, unable to control and dominate his carnal flesh. Yes, he did sin. He said so in ...

Romans 7:14-21 ... “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I … For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”

Does Paul sound just like us? We want to do what is right, but our flesh has a mind of it's own. The body of flesh never got saved, just our spirit with-in … so the battle between the will of our spirit and the desires of the flesh continues until we learn to overcome the flesh and bring it into subjection as Paul said, but that is only going to happen with the help of God's Holy Spirit.

Now let me go back to what Paul is writing to Timothy. He says in the next verse (vs. 16) … "Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy; that in me First, Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern To Them which should Hereafter, believe on him to life everlasting."

Paul is saying that God showed him mercy and grace so He could use him as an example … if Paul could be saved … anyone can be saved.

In view of his past deeds, mainly, the persecution of the church that made him the chief of sinners, Paul is saying ... "If you want to look at an example of the longsuffering and patience of God, look first at me. Use me as a pattern for all those who might follow."

If Jesus Christ, with whom there can be no respect of persons, saved Saul of Tarsus, then no sinner need despair or be without hope.

Comments welcome.

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's None of our Business

God is in charge of what happens, when it happens, how it happens and why it happens. This is true of all events from the beginning of time. He does this for our good and His glory.

God is not the author of sin, yet evil serves His purposes. He does not violate our free will, yet free will also serves His purposes. We’re not supposed to understand all this ... we’re simply supposed to believe it.

Has anyone ever said to you … "That's none of your business." Well, in a way, this is exactly what God is telling us in the scriptures I have selected below. There are some things that are God's business alone.

Deuteronomy 29:29 … "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but the things which are revealed belong to us …"

In this verse we see a distinction is made between the secret things and the revealed things. I believe God only reveals to us what we need to know. Some things remain hidden from us.

Proverbs 25:2 … "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing …"

This statement can cover a whole host of things from how long we live, to what His intentions for your future are. God doesn't want you to know everything that's going to cross your path. God will not tell us everything or answer every question we have … including why He does this or that.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 … "Remember also your Creator, that you are not your own, but His property now …"

And is it not true that God, as the potter can make you into any vessel He chooses? Does He not have that right? You are His … Jesus bought you with a price … His death on the cross. And even if you are not a believer, you still belong to God, you are not your own, if only because as your Creator, He made you.

Isaiah 8:17 … "And I will wait for the Lord, Who is hiding His face … and I will look for and hope in Him."

Some of the time it feels as if God is testing us by leaving us totally alone. Oh, He doesn't forsake us … it just seems that way.

Isaiah 14:24 … "The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand …"

This is speaking of the absolute will of God … when He decrees something … it must come to pass. It cannot be resisted … it must happen. That which God Sovereignly decrees will absolutely come to pass.

Isaiah 45:15 … "Truly You are a God who hides Himself …"

This is the second time Isaiah said something like this. Again, it's God's business how He conducts Himself. Jesus said in Luke 11:9 … "Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking …" (Amplified) God isn't playing hide and seek with us … but if you feel He is hiding from you, just keep on seeking and you will find Him. He's never too far off.

Isaiah 55:8-9 … "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."

We are fallen creatures, and as such we just don't think like God does. And as far as I know we never will. According to Genesis 6:5 … "Every imagination and intention of all human thinking is evil continually" (Amplified) … which is why Paul wrote that we need to … "be transformed by the renewing of your mind ..." (Romans 12:2)

1st Corinthians 2:16 … "For who has known or understood the mind and purposes of the Lord …"

When I was younger, (I'm speaking at least 40 years ago) I thought I had an answer for most questions raised about God. The past 40 years or so have allowed me to come up with a much more honest response to questions about God.

"I really don't know" … many times is the best answer to give. At least it's always an honest answer. And there isn't any shame in saying, "I don't know."

Why do I say that? Because there are secret things as well as revealed things. If God keeps some things secret, it's because … it's none of our business.

Comments welcome.

Friday, September 9, 2011

No Mercy

The other day I was asked this question, a question that has been asked many times by many people … "Why did God show no mercy and kill everything that breathed, when the children of Israel took the Land of Canaan?"

Here are God's commands to Israel …

Deuteronomy 7:2-6 … "And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them:
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.
For thou art a holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth."

The caution is against any communion with idolaters as well as idolatry itself.

Deuteronomy 7:16 … "And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee."

This relentless doom of extermination which God denounced against those tribes of Canaan cannot be reconciled with the attributes of the loving character of God ... except on the assumption that their gross idolatry and enormous wickedness left no reasonable hope of their repentance from their sin.

If they were to be swept away like the people of Noah's day or the people of Sodom and Gomorrah ... wicked sinners who had filled God's measuring cup up to the top with their iniquities ... then it mattered not in what way God wiped them off the face of the earth. The judgment was inflicted; and God, as Sovereign, had a right to employ any instrument He pleased for executing His Holy judgments.

Everything … used, touched, owned, or born to them, was tainted with the sin of idolatry and had to be destroyed … God's Holiness demanded it.

The people of these abominations must not be mingled with the holy seed, Israel ... lest they corrupt them. It was better that all these lives should be lost from the world, than the true worship of God, should be lost to Israel.

As for the infants, they were guilty of the original sin brought in by Adam; they had a sin nature and was therefore at the disposal of their creator; but even being innocent infants, it was really a great favor to them to be taken in infancy, rather than reserve them, had they lived, unto the judgment of the sin of idolatry, which their parents were sure to lead them in.

God … knowing that the sin of these other nations would be like a "cancer" to Israel; the only way to keep it from infecting His people was with the total destruction of everything in the Land of Canaan that breathed … man, woman, child, infant and animal. The cancer had to be removed.

I also believe God was using this as a warning, as an example to Israel; do not follow the way of the Canaan idolaters or the same fate awaits you.

God is Love … but … God is also Holy.

I was also asked this follow up question. "Sin is still in the world today; so why doesn't God do the same thing today?"

Because of Jesus.

God poured out all of His wrath against man's sin upon His Son on the cross. Jesus paid the full price for sin. Nothing more will be added or needs to be done about sin. There will be no other sacrifice.

It's Jesus or nothing. God is satisfied … no more blood is to be spilled.

The blood of Jesus was sufficient.

Comments welcome.

Friday, September 2, 2011

They Won't Go There

I've heard it said that it's foolishness to believe in God. That's what all the smart people say. You know who I'm talking about … the intellectual ones that have all the right answers with the knowledge that the college professors and university instructors have filled their tiny little minds with at these institutions of higher education.

This type of thinking can include science, sociology, philosophy or any other category dealing with the study of human opinion. They all come up with the same result … that man is at the top of the food chain. Man has become his own god.

But in my simple thinking … the intellectual ones with all the education have never given me the answer I need that totally satisfies the simplest question I believe that can be asked. "How did the universe come into being if there is no God?"

I've heard many theories over the years that supposedly become "fact" just because some scientist declares it to be so. After all … he has the education and the degree. And when I am told that an ameba crawled out of a swamp, grew legs and eyes from the sun shining on warts … I'm supposed to believe it? Get real. Don't insult what little intelligence I have.

Just what is an ameba anyway? It's a … "Naked parasitic protozoa that form temporary pseudopods for feeding and locomotion." What? Are you kidding me? These things would die before they could grow into anything else.

Did you ever talk to a child about 5 or 6 years old? They play the … "Why" … game with you. If you try to explain something to them, many times you hear … "Why?" So you give another answer and get another … "Why?" On and on it goes, right?

You see, I play the same game with those who refuse to even look at or consider the intelligent design found in creation. My question to them can also be unending … "Where Did That Come From?"

Everything needs a start, a beginning, so I just walk them back in time as far as they want to go. A million years, 500 million, 200 billion … it doesn't really matter. If science claims that some unknown spore started life on the earth, I want them to tell me … "Where Did That Come From?" In fact, when that question was addressed by the scientific community, do you know what they said?

"It came from some other galaxy in the universe. It came from outer space."

Brilliant. With this answer, all they have done is move the problem somewhere else … they haven't answered the question. The scientific community says … "We will follow this question of how the world began and pursue the answer wherever it leads us."

Except when it leads to God. They won't go there. Not God. Not a creator.

Okay, let's go on further. If this "spore or whatever" came from somewhere else in the universe, this creates another problem. Where did the universe come from? Oh yes, I forgot … the big bang theory.

Even if there was a big bang … wouldn't it only be a reaction from something already there. Then the real question would be … what is the first cause that created the big bang? Where did that material or substance come from? It couldn't have come from outer space … because the big bang started the whole universe … right? So how did they solve this problem?

Science has now decided that it is possible, without anything being there … no sub-atomic particles, nothing, absolutely nothing … that a cosmic explosion happened. From absolutely nothing. Give me a break.

Someone find me a 5 or 6 year old child. I would like him or her to explain to these intellectuals the meaning of … nothing. Nothing is … nothing. Even basic math agrees with that. If you have zero and you add another zero to it, it's still zero. Yes, I understand that theoretically in mathematics if you subtract 10 from 0, in theory you get negative 10.

But in the real world where I live … if I don't have any money in my pocket and I reach into my pocket to take out a dime … I don't end up with a negative 10 cents. In reality my hand is still empty. Nothing will always be nothing … unless something is added to it. Something material. If I add a dime to the nothing in my pocket, I will now have something in my pocket … the dime I put there.

But you know what? I really am amazed at everything man has accomplished through science. But I think scientific knowledge about … "nothing" … has exceeded their understanding.

Nothing is nothing. There is nothing too explode. Except my mind … thinking that this is why the world is in the mess it's in. They are the same idiots who are running the world. They are educated beyond their intellect.

There is no other answer. The universe has a creator. There is a God. But science won't go there … even though it leads there.

In the oldest book of the Bible, we find a description of the universe in Job 26:7 … "He (God) … hangeth the earth upon nothing."

Before anyone knew or thought about the earth being round, the Word of God proclaimed it almost 3,000 years ago in Isaiah 40:22 … "It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth …"

Isaiah 42:5 … "Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein …"

Science has proven that the universe is increasing in size. All the galaxies are moving away from each other. God is stretching them out just like Isaiah said.

Isaiah 44:24 … "Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things …"

Isaiah 51:13 … "Forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth …?"

This is exactly the problem with man in general; he has forgotten that we have a maker and creator. But this is not the problem with science. The problem with science is, if they come up with a hypothesis or theory that includes the possibility of God; along with God comes the possibility of God's judgment some day.

And that's the one place they won't go.

I've said many times … "They are wasting their time trying to find intelligent life somewhere else in the universe. They can't even find intelligent life here on earth."

Comments welcome.