A Church on Life Support


Let’s continue on in our study of the letters to the churches in Revelation. Up to this point, we have studied the church that lost its first love; the church under intense pressure; the church where Satan’s seat of authority ruled; and the church that tolerated Jezebel.

Now, let’s look inside the message to the church at Sardis.

Sardis was situated in the middle of Hermus valley, at the foot of Mount Tmolus, a steep and lofty spur which formed the citadel. It was about 2.5 mi. south of the Hermus. Today, the site is located by the present day village of Sart, near Salihli in the Manisa province of Turkey, close to the Ankara – İzmir highway 45 mi. from İzmir. The city was captured by the Cimmerians in the 7th century BC, by the Persians in the 6th, by the Athenians in the 5th, and by Antiochus III the Great at the end of the 3rd century BC. Sardis was the chief seat of manufacturing. The most important of these trades was the manufacture and dyeing of delicate woolen stuffs and carpets. A woolen garment called the himation (outer garment worn by men and women) was produced in Sardis. Sardis was the oldest, possibly the wealthiest, and best defended city which we will study.

The message to the church in Sardis contains no warnings against the doctrine of Balaam; no commands to stop the ministry of Jezebel; no direction to avoid the deep secrets of Satan; no message to a pastor who is in fear; no warnings regarding the existence of a synagogue of Satan. The reputation of the church was impeccable. It appeared that all was going well in Sardis. Even though there was a large Jewish synagogue in Sardis, we are given no indications of persecution. There was no poverty and no internal conflict.

Jesus begins the message by reminding those in the church that He is the One who possesses the seven Spirits of God.

The seven spirits of God are not specifically identified, so it’s impossible to be dogmatic. Revelation 1:4 mentions that the seven spirits are before God’s throne. Revelation 3:1 indicates that Jesus Christ “holds” the seven spirits of God. Revelation 4:5 links the seven spirits of God with seven burning lamps that are before God’s throne. Revelation 5:6 identifies the seven spirits with the “seven eyes” of the Lamb and states that they are “sent out into all the earth.”

There are at least three possible interpretations of the seven spirits of God. The first is that the seven spirits of God are symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The Bible, and especially the book of Revelation, uses the number 7 to refer to perfection and completion. If that is the meaning of the “seven” in the “seven spirits,” then it is not referring to seven different spirits of God, but rather the perfect and complete Holy Spirit. The second view is that the seven spirits of God refer to seven angelic beings, possibly the seraphim or the cherubim. This would fit with the numerous others angelic beings that are described in the book of Revelation (Revelation 4:6-95:6-1419:4-5).

A third possibility is based on Isaiah 11:2, which says, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” This could possibly explain the seven spirits of God: (1) Spirit of the LORD, (2) Spirit of wisdom, (3) Spirit of understanding, (4) Spirit of counsel, (5) Spirit of power, (6) Spirit of knowledge, (7) Spirit of the fear of the Lord. The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically who/what the seven spirits are, but the first interpretation, that they are the Holy Spirit, seems the most likely.

Jesus identifies Himself as the owner of the seven stars. The fact that the stars are in Jesus’ right hand indicates that they are important and under His authority. The right hand is a sign of strength and control. Jesus explains to John that the “stars are the angels of the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). An “angel” is literally a “messenger.”

Jesus is the perfect leader of the church, the final authority, the controller of the church’s destiny, and the agent that makes all things happen in the church.

Jesus tells the church at Sardis that, although their reputation is one of vitality and life, they are actually a dead body. They are not dying they are already dead in His eyes!!

Jesus command to the church is: “Wake up!!” The church at Sardis had gone to sleep just as the apostles went to sleep on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Personal comfort and need has taken precedent over the gospel. While there are a few things in Sardis that appear to be biblically functioning, they are on life support – they are ready to die. Their works – while having an appearance of function, are dead in motive and authority.

Jesus states: Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.

The people in Sardis have forgotten what it is like to be changed by the power of the Word of God.

Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” Luke 8:18

The Word of God was no longer the final authority and therefore, they were having their authority and freedom taken from them. The Word of God cannot be changed; we must hold fast to its truth.

If our lives and the Bible are in conflict, what must be changed is our behavior not the Word of God.

When a church reaches this point, changing programs is not the answer. Repentance is the answer. It must be immediate and visible to the congregation so that the congregation sees the need to repent as well.

Jesus states that if they do not wake up to the call to repent, He will come upon them as a thief, and they will not know when the discipline will appear. As stated earlier in our talk about Sardis’ history, the people of this city knew what it was to be conquered – to be brought down. Jesus said that they must remember their history and repent.

Just as in most churches, there is a remnant that love the Lord and are obeying Him. These folks will not be held responsible for the sins of the church or its condition.

Note: If God tells you to stay in a unrepentant situation, you will not be held accountable for the sins around you.

As Jesus speaks to the overcomers in Sardis, He again uses a local reference to hammer home His point. Sardis was a leading textile city – a maker of garments that were popular for men and women. Jesus states that He who overcomes will be clothed in white garments that He has made – garments which represent the righteousness and purity of those who wear them. Jesus also states that the names of those who overcome will remain in the Book of Life.

It stands to reason that those who do not will have their names blotted out or removed from the Book of Life. Those who remain in the Book will be confessed by Jesus as His own before the Father and His angels.

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38

 

Advertisements

The Church Nobody Wants to Attend


Today, I want to continue with our study of Jesus’ messages to the seven churches of Revelation by taking a look at what was said to the church of Smyrna.

Smyrna was an Ancient Greek city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. This place is known today as Izmir, Turkey. Due to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defense and its good inland connections, Smyrna rose to prominence. As one of the principal cities of Roman Asia, Smyrna vied with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title “First City of Asia.” There was a Christian church here from a very early time, probably originating in the considerable Jewish colony.  A mob of Jews and pagans abetted the martyrdom of Polycarp in AD 153. Christian tradition tells us that Polycarp was a disciple of John and was ordained as bishop in Smyrna by John the apostle. He was burned at the stake and stabbed through the heart because he refused to burn incense to the Roman emperor.

As far as the message to the church, it is interesting to note that the message to the church at Smyrna begins with the same comment by Jesus that each message does:

I know your works.

Jesus is telling each church (and us) that He intimately knows how we live – what we use our energy on. It is important for us to know that, while people may be fooled by the outside front we put on for others, Jesus is not. He is acquainted with how we truly live our lives.

As the Lord continues with His message, we find out some things about the church in Smyrna.

The church in Smyrna may not have been the most successful looking church from the outside and might not have been one attractive to join. It was a church which was undergoing tribulation.

Tribulation – thlípsis – properly, pressure (what constricts or rubs together), used of a narrow place that “hems someone in”; tribulation, especially internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, “without options”).

The church at Smyrna was under tremendous pressure, with seemingly no options for escape. This was probably occurring due to the persecution of the church by Roman authorities. It is believed and backed up by Jesus’ message that the persecution was brought on by unbelieving Jews who incited the Roman authorities against the church.

Two interesting notations are made by Jesus about these unbelieving Jews:

While it is rarely disputed that these persecutors were ethnic Jews, Jesus says that they are not truly Jews. This reminds me of the revelation given by the apostle Paul in the book of Romans:

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. 2:28-29

The apostle Paul wrote these words after telling us that there is no partiality with God; Gentiles who worship Him and live godly lives will be accepted and unbelieving Jews will not be.

Jesus said another interesting thing as well: He equated the actions of the unbelieving Jews with that of Satan. Scripturally, actions that are of the flesh are no different to Jesus than actions directly from Satan. When Saul of Tarsus was persecuting believers in Jesus and was confronted by the Lord on the Damascus road, Jesus said these words:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Acts 9:4

Attacks against God’s people are attacks against Jesus!

Jesus also tells us that the church in Smyrna was in poverty. This word is used to describe being without physical resources. While we are not sure as to why, this could have been a result of the persecution they were enduring.

So, this was a church enduring intense pressure and in financial need.

Could it have been easy to judge this church as having problems? Or, as a church that God had abandoned?

Jesus said they were rich! We must be careful about our opinions of what is happening and not use unbiblical standards to judge a people!

Unbiblical standard:

How much money do they have? Are they growing numerically? Are they being well spoken of?

If this wasn’t enough, Jesus said it was going to get tougher. Some of the members were about to be imprisoned and tested for ten days. The number 10 in the Bible seems to represent:

Holiness to God; authority; completion of judgment.

This was the church’s direction from Jesus:

“Be faithful and I will rescue you!”

“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Sometimes, God is glorified by our faithfulness in tribulation and not our rescue from tribulation.

The crown of life is given to those who serve Jesus faithfully in this life in the face of persecution and trial.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

As He often does in these messages, Jesus uses an illustration that the people of the area are familiar with to drive home the truth of His message.

In verse 8, Jesus introduced His right to give this message by saying:

“These things says the First and Last, who was dead, and came to life”

In verse 11, Jesus said:

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”

The church in Smyrna was facing life and death. If they held on to their faith in Christ, it meant death in this world. Jesus acknowledges their situation and encourages them by saying:

“I am the God of First things, but I’m also the God of Last things. I am God in the midst of your death. I rule in death, just as I rule in life. I was dead myself, but came to life. So, shall you.”

Don’t fear natural death; instead fear the second death – the death from which no man returns.

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

There is more to life than what we see and know. An absence of trouble does not prove that a church is a church of Christ. A church’s faithful perseverance through trials, attacks, and tribulation prove that they are a church that pleases God.

Goodbye First Love!


Last week, we began a look at the messages sent to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. Last week’s blog served to help us understand what the apostle John was seeing during the impartation of the messages to the churches.

We learned that John saw seven golden lamp stands in his vision; each lamp stand representing a church. When I visited the Temple Institute in Jerusalem I saw the recreated lamp stand for the Third Temple.

Now, let’s dive into the first message given by Jesus Christ to John. This message is for the church at Ephesus.

The church in Ephesus is the church of the seven that we are most familiar with. Not counting the reference here in Revelation and the epistle that was written to the church; the city is mentioned twelve times in the New Testament. Here are some excerpts:

Paul sent Tychicus and Timothy to Ephesus – Timothy being sent to command certain people to stop teaching false doctrines in the church.

Paul preached in Ephesus for two years in the hall of Tyrannus because a great door of ministry had been opened for him in the presence of many adversaries.

Paul became aware of the ministry of Apollos in Ephesus.

As a result of Apollos’ ministry, Paul found believers who were not baptized in the Holy Spirit in Ephesus and laid hands of them for the infilling.

The seven sons of Sceva encountered the demoniac who said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about – but who are you?” in Ephesus.

Magic books were burned in Ephesus during the awakening.

Paul fought wild beasts in Ephesus.

Paul told the Ephesian elders before his trip to Jerusalem that he would see them no more.

These are just a few of the events we know happened in Ephesus. Christian tradition tells us that the apostle John was released from the island of Patmos and spent his last days in the city of Ephesus.

Ephesus was a major city in Asia Minor or Anatolia as it was also known as in those days. People came to Ephesus to shop in the bazaars, dip in the hot baths, visit the prostitutes, and worship the goddess Artemis. Ephesus was the center of worship of Artemis also known by her Roman name, Diana.

In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, the wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress tree were sacred to her. In later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithya in aiding childbirth.

Outside of the city limits was a large grove named Ortygia which was revered as the birthplace of Artemis.

Into this environment, a thriving church was born.

Now, let’s look at Jesus’ message to this church.

On the surface, it appeared that the church in Ephesus had it all together. Jesus commended their works (how they actually lived), their labor (ministry), and their patience. He also commended their ability to identify false apostles.

In those days just as it is today, teachers were going around seeking a following and money through their claim to be apostles. The Ephesian church did not tolerate or give a place to these liars.  We also have the first mention of a group called the Nicolaitans in Ephesus. While it is not exactly clear who these people were and what they believed, Jesus said he hated their deeds. Several early church fathers said that these people were followers of the deacon, Nicolas mentioned in Acts 6:5. They record that he began to teach corrupted doctrine including such things as the sharing of wives and involvement in idolatrous ceremonies. Clement said that they were “abandoned to pleasure like goats.” Jesus commended the Ephesian church for their rejection of this doctrine.

This church was a strong church; strong in character; strong in biblical knowledge; strong in patient prayer.

Yet, Jesus said that He had this against them:

You have left your first love.

This is a scary insight to me:

How do you maintain strong prayer, a strong biblical foundation, strong discernment, and great ministry and do that without loving Jesus more than anything else?

If they were not operating from a motivation of love for Jesus, what motivation were they operating from?

This causes me to tremble because it lets me know that, if we are not listening to Jesus and following His lordship, we can look like a great church but actually be in danger of having Jesus shut down the ministry of the Holy Spirit among us!

Apparently, this church had lost its sensitivity to the Spirit in the midst of what looked like spiritual success. They were not aware of their condition and were probably celebrating their successes. As they looked around, I wonder if they considered themselves to be preeminent among the churches. Jesus said that they had actually fallen from a high position and needed to repent for their motivations.

Wow!!!!

Jesus reminded the Ephesian church that He held the destiny of the messengers of these churches and the actual churches themselves in His hand.

What is Jesus saying to Capstone in this message? Will He find an ear to hear among us?

Remember the grove dedicated to the worship of Artemis that was located in Ephesus? People came from all over the world to gain her favor. Jesus used His knowledge of what was happening in Ephesus to say these words:

To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.

To him who rejects this deception, I will give to eat from the tree of life found in the midst of the Paradise of God! The tree of life is found in two places: the Garden of Eden and in the New Jerusalem. We know that the way to the Garden of Eden is banned from man on earth. But, Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

The word “paradise” is an old Persian word that means “an enclosed garden”.

Want a return to a Garden of Eden like life? Then, keep Jesus as your first love and do not allow anything else to take the place in your heart that only He should occupy! 

Lord, may our church love you more than anything else!

 

 

I’m Coming Mimi!


As I was spending time in prayer this week, I felt the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit tell me to write about the return of Jesus.

While there are differences of opinion among our family members as to when Jesus’ return will happen, the key point that we must focus on is that He is coming!!!

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:16-17

When Jesus returns, there will be a shout, and the sound of a trumpet, and the emptying of graves and the flight of the believers. No fear of heights! No need for wings! Jets will have to move out of the way to prepare a pathway to the reunion of the righteous! Get out of the way stars! Get out of the way sun and moon! The victory parade of the righteous is happening!

I grew up with people who believed in Jesus and I heard about His return all my life. My grandmother used to talk about something called, “The Rapture”. She would say, “Parkey, you have to be ready! Jesus is returning for those who are His!”

What is this “rapture”?

Rapture – the Latin word for “caught up, to seize, to carry off, to snatch away”.

My grandmother told me that we need to be busy while we are on the earth to minister to others, yet her focus was always upon this “Rapture”. Everything she did revolved around the certainty of this singular event.

Jesus talked about this event; angels talked about this event; the apostles talked about this event – the return of Jesus Christ is the central event of all Christianity!

 Jesus talked of His return over and over. In the book of Revelation, Jesus says:

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 22:12

Believers in Jesus need not fear hell. Jesus has taken their punishment upon Himself. Yet, a sobering and wonderful thought lies in the fact that each of His children will stand before the Lord to receive our reward. The seat of reward is called, “The Bema Seat”.

The concept of the Bema Seat comes from the ancient Olympics, where a judge would sit on the Bema Seat at the finish line. The judge’s purpose was to determine what position the runners came in-first, second, and so on-and then to give out the appropriate rewards. That is the imagery behind what is known as the Bema Seat. 

Also known as the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema Seat is described in 1 Corinthians 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.”

Your gold, silver, and costly stones are works done for the glory of God, with the right motive, and in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Each of us who are believers will have this appointment with Christ.

The Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ are separate events.

The Rapture occurs when Jesus returns for His church. 1 Cor. 15:51-52

The Second Coming of Christ occurs when Jesus returns with His church to defeat the Antichrist and begin His Millennial Reign. Rev. 19

When will this rapture occur?

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. Matt. 24:36

Many have tried to predict, and up to this point, all have been wrong!

People are still trying to predict the time of Jesus’ appearing. While He gave us signposts to know it is near, prediction is not to be our focus. Look at what Jesus said to His disciples upon His departure:

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time, restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8

This is a word for you and I. We are to focus on being His witnesses not trying to figure out His return. If you’re ready, you’re ready whenever He comes!

For those who are not living in view of His return, the day WILL catch them unaware.

But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 24:48-51

What are they going to say when the church is gone?

That a cataclysmic leap in evolution took place? That the “weakest” of society were suddenly destroyed to make room for the survival of the fittest? That the sky rolled back and those who were stuck in the past were abducted by aliens?

I don’t know but you don’t want to be here while they try to explain it.

But, for those who live with His return at the center of their existence:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen!”

Then one of the elders answered saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”So he said to me, These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:9-17

Can you see yourself in that gathering? If not, how do you get there? 

I see my grandmother there! “I’m coming, Mimi, just like you told me!”

 

 

 

 

Second Coming of Christ


Today, I will write what I believe will be the next to the last blog in the current series about the last days. In these blogs, I’ve presented what I consider to be an overview of what will happen at the end of this age. Some topics we’ve looked at up to this point include characteristics of the last days, the rapture, and the tribulation.

Now, let’s look at the Second Coming of Christ and the events leading up to His return.

At His first appearance, Christ came as a baby. He grew into a man with His purpose being to redeem humanity back to God. The next time He comes will be different from the first. Jesus will not come as a baby but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will be coming to destroy the forces arrayed against God and to deliver His people.

In order to get a good grasp upon His second coming, let’s take a look at the events leading up to His appearance.

Before Christ’s return, the world will be in a terrible period called “The Tribulation.” Terrible judgments from the hand of God will be poured out upon the earth during this period. As we said last time, one of the most terrible judgments will be the rising of a satanic leadership team which will rule most of the known world. Known biblically as the Antichrist and the False Prophet, these two men will seek to change the laws of the world under the guise of peace.

In the middle of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will come up with a plan to put a stop to the Jewish sacrifices that are being offered in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. Whether this is a response to animal activists demanding the stop of animal sacrifices or for another reason, the Antichrist will enter the Temple, stop the sacrifices and declare himself to be God.

Daniel 11:31-32: “And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”

 While this is happening on earth, there will be a war in heaven. Michael and his angels will defeat Satan and his angels, confining them to the earth. (Revelation 12) This is the beginning of the three and one-half years in when Satan will persecute Israel and the true church of Jesus Christ. Jesus said of this period of time:

“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Matt. 24: 15-21

During this period, God will send two witnesses who will prophesy, perform miracles, smite the earth with plagues, and destroy any who try to stop them. At the end of their ministry, the Antichrist will kill them. Their bodies will lie in the streets of Jerusalem for three and one-half days. At the end of these days, the Lord will raise them from the dead and call them up to heaven.

At the end of the final three and one-half years of the Tribulation, the seven final plagues or judgments of God are poured out upon the earth. The sixth judgment is the gathering of the armies of the Antichrist together to invade Israel. The battle will be joined at the Plain of Megiddo, a place biblically known as Armageddon.

It appears, according to Zechariah, chapters 12-14 that Israel will fight valiantly but lose ground. The IDF will make its final stand in the city of Jerusalem; possibly even losing half of the city in the battle. With defeat appearing certain, the seventh judgment will be poured out upon the earth; Jesus will appear at the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4). When His feet touch the mountain, a great earthquake will occur splitting the Mount of Olives in two, killing seven thousand people in the process. Israel will recognize their Messiah and receive Him as Lord and God, fulfilling the word of the Lord given by Paul in Romans 11:25-26 – “and all Israel shall be saved.”

During this time, great hailstones will fall from the sky with each hailstone weighing approximately 75 LB. With the armies of heaven with Him, Jesus will but speak a word and the entire army of the Antichrist will be destroyed. Revelation 14:19 tells about the extent of the victory:

“So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside of the city and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.”

One thousand six hundred furlongs is approximately 200 miles!

Then comes the end of the Tribulation.

The Antichrist is captured, along with the False Prophet. They are cast alive into the lake of fire. And the rest of the Antichrist’s army is killed with the sword from the mouth of Jesus.

The final event of the Second Coming is the captivity of the devil.

An angel comes down from heaven with a great chain in his hand. He binds the devil and casts him into the bottomless pit until the end of the millennium.

This ushers in the final period of the End Times called the Millennial Reign of Christ. This we will look at next time.

The Satanic Leadership Team


For the last three times we have been together, I have been writing about the end times.  If you are new, this is intended to familiarize you with the events that are prophesied to occur at the end of the age. So far, we have:

Discussed the signs that let us know we are in the last days.

Studied the rapture: what it is and when it will occur.

Defined the Tribulation and the signs of its arrival.

This time, we will take a look at some significant people and events of the Tribulation.

The Tribulation will be the most traumatic period in the history of the world. During this period, God will pour out His wrath upon the earth in a series of judgments which are described at length in the book of Revelation.

Satan will be unusually active during the Tribulation and his work will center around two individuals.

  1. Antichrist

The Antichrist is a man who will be given enormous power by Satan. He will use this power to become the dominant leader of the world.

Revelation 13:1-2: “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. Verse 7-8: “And it was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given to him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The book of Revelation, as well as most prophetic literature is written in figurative language. Each description of the Antichrist details a feature of his nature or dominion. In Revelation, he is called, “the beast.” In Daniel 9:26, he is called, “the prince who is to come.” Whatever the description, this man will be enormously powerful and deceptive. He will not only rule over the world politically but will also use his power to become the object of the world’s worship. Yet, the worship of this man will be more than the worship of a man; it will be overt worship of Satan himself.

Revelation 13:4: “So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast.”

The Antichrist will probably initially appear on the scene as a man of peace. He will guarantee peace for Israel and the Middle East by brokering a seven year peace treaty. It appears that this treaty will include the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. After this, he will begin to assert his power. He will initially have power over one nation. He will then conquer three more nations and then, assume authority over a ten nation federation which will lead to his power over the entire world.

His plan for world domination (probably described as “world peace”) will include three tenets:

One world currency

One world government

One world religion

His society will be cashless with every transaction electronically monitored. He will accomplish this by each person receiving a mark on their right hand or on their forehead which will be necessary to buy and sell.

How can a man rise to such authority?

Possibly by emulating the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Revelation 13:3: “I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.”

In response to rebellion, war, or even the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses of God in Jerusalem, the Antichrist will go to Jerusalem and stop all sacrifice to anyone other than himself and will declare himself to be god. He will persecute Israel and those who are Christians. His maniacal reign will only be stopped through divine intervention of the Lord Himself.

  1. False Prophet

The False Prophet will assist the Antichrist by performing miracles which will cause the entire world to worship the Antichrist and Satan. This demonic religious man will even be able to make an image of the beast “come to life” to deceive the people. He will make fire come down from heaven and will be a major part of the deception of promoting the Antichrist as God. It is through the False Prophet, that the plan for one world currency and religion is conceived and enforced.

Revelation 13:11-17: “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire to come from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

At the end of the Tribulation, the Antichrist and the False Prophet will be defeated in war by Jesus in the presence of His followers and they will be locked away in the lake of fire forever.

Next time, I’ll write a little about the Second Coming of Christ.

The Tribulation


This is the third blog focusing on the “last days”.  The first blog was a definition of and a description of the period known as the “last days.” The second blog focused upon the Rapture of the church.

This time, we will look at another important event of the end times – an event known as the Tribulation.

The term “Tribulation” is God’s description of a seven year period of unspeakable horror. It is the beginning of what is described in the Bible as “the day of the Lord.”

1 Thessalonians 5:1-4: “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!,’ then “sudden destruction” comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.”

When describing the Day of the Lord, the prophet Amos said this:

“Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light– pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?” 5:18-20

The Tribulation will be the most traumatic period in the history of the world, and it will be especially difficult for Israel. Jeremiah 30:7 calls this period, “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” During this time, God will pour out His wrath upon the earth in a series of judgments which are described in the book of Revelation, chapters 6-19.

I said in another blog that the Tribulation will be a period that lasts seven years. We know that because of the prophecy of Daniel, found in chapter 9:27. The Tribulation will occur during the “seventieth seven” or “seventieth week.” Prophetically, the term “seven” or “week” is used to describe a seven year period.

What is the purpose of the Tribulation?

  1. To bring the nation of Israel to the place that they will recognize Jesus as Messiah.

Matthew 23:37-39: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

  1. To judge the Gentile nations for their efforts to exterminate Israel.

Zechariah 12:9: “It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”

  1. To pour out God’s wrath upon all who reject the gospel.

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:5

  1. To allow a Christ rejecting world to experience what they have lived for: a world ruled by Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet.

“No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.” 1 Corinthians 10:20

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.” Psalm 53:1

In Matthew 24, Jesus gives His description of the Tribulation. In verses 4-8, He describes the events of the first half. In verses 9-14, He details the events of the last half. In verses 21 and 22, He makes this bone-chilling statement:

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved.”

So intense is the suffering that Revelation 6:15-17 says this:

“The kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’”

As I have said in the first blog, the Tribulation will not take place until the “falling away” (Greek. Apostasia) takes place. Studies in the U.S. reveal that only about 17.7% of the American population goes to a house of worship today. What more has to happen for us to “fall away” as a people?

 “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.” 2 Thess. 2:3

So, according to what we have talked about in our Rapture discussion and in this writing, we believe that the Tribulation will not occur until three things happen:

  • The Rapture of the church occurs.
  • The falling away comes.
  • The Antichrist is revealed.

Next time I write about the end times, we will study more about the significant people of the Tribulation and the actual events that will occur during the Tribulation period.

The Rapture


Are we truly in the last days of our world? How do we know we are? If so, what can we expect to happen in the days to come?

The Bible gives us signs that identify the period known as the “last days”. Last time we were together, I wrote about some of those signs.

We found according to scripture, that the last days actually began upon the birth of Jesus. The book of Hebrews begins by telling us that the last days began with the appearance of Jesus to His creation. Although the appearance of Jesus was an event that occurred nearly two thousand years ago, the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:8-10 teaches us that God counts time more in opportunities to repent than in days, weeks, months, and years. Suddenly, just as in the days of Noah, the end will come as a thief in the night with Jesus returning for His church and those left behind will encounter tragedy and pain like no other period in history.

In the last blog, we looked at some characteristics of the last days; attitudes and happenings that will be signs of the prophesied spiritual condition of those days.

Today, I want to look at another event of the end times: an event known by the church throughout history as “the rapture.”

1 Corinthians 15:51-58 details the event we have come to know as “the rapture.” It is interesting to note that the word, “rapture” is not in the scripture. But, neither are several words we use to describe biblical realities like the words, “Trinity” or “missionary.”

The word “Rapture” in Scripture is taken from the Latin “rapio” for the two words “caught up” used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. 

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

A day is coming when a shout shall come from heaven followed by a trumpet blast and the graves of all those who knew Jesus as their Lord and Savior will arise from the dead and those who are still alive will be “caught up” with them; flying like Mary Poppins without the umbrella and we shall be united together with the Lord in the air never to be separated from Him or one another again!

The word “rapture” is used to describe:

An intense feeling of pleasure or joy.

The book of Titus describes the appearing of Jesus for His children “the blessed hope.” The birth of Jesus started the beginning of the last days. The rapture of the church will signal the beginning of the end times.

Just like many doctrinal positions, the rapture of the church is an event that has several viewpoints.

I want to share those quickly with you now.

  1. Partial Rapture

Belief in this view is that those who are saved and sanctified (living an obedient life) will go to be with Christ while saved, yet unsanctified Christians will remain behind to be purified through the Tribulation. I have problems with this view due to our salvation being a work of Christ alone and the fact that the body of Christ is to be undivided.

  1. Post Tribulation Rapture

Belief in this view is that Christians will go through the Tribulation to receive their inheritance at the end. While I can see why some people believe this, I have some problems with this view. The Tribulation has a purpose: to judge the world and reveal the wrath of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:9: “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Revelation 3:10: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

The Old Testament story of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt which according to 1 Corinthians 10 is a type of what is to come shows the Israelites protected from the judgments of Egypt. At this point, I believe we will not go through the Tribulation.

  1. Mid Tribulation Rapture

Again, while I can see why some believe this view, I don’t believe it for the same reasons I don’t believe in post Tribulation Rapture.

  1. No Rapture

There are some that believe that the church will become so victorious that it will usher in the Millenial Kingdom of Christ.

2 Timothy 3:12-13: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

2 Timothy 3:1: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come..”

In Matthew, chapter 24, Jesus gives His disciples a glimpse of the events of the end times and of His coming. War, persecution, offense, false prophets, apostasy…….these are the events foretold by the One who knows the end from the beginning! Sounds slightly different from what is known in church circles as “Kindgom Now.”

  1. Pre Tribulation Rapture

In this view, Jesus will return for His church and that event will usher in the beginning of the Tribulation.

When you are studying the rapture of the church, there are several things you need to keep in mind. First of all, the second coming of Christ is in two parts, separated by a period of seven years. 

The first part is sometimes referred to as the “Rapture” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:52-58). The second part occurs when Christ physically, bodily returns to this earth on the Mount of Olives from which He ascended. The interval between these two events, known as the Tribulation and Great Tribulation, is divided into two, three-and-a-half year periods each. The seventy weeks described in Daniel 9:24-27 speaks of this period as well. The term “week” meaning a seven year period.

The Great Tribulation is the “wrath to come” from which the believer is delivered by the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). The children of God, “because they have kept the word of His patience, will be kept from that hour of trial.” (Revelation 3:10).

I believe that the Scripture teaches that Christians will not be judged with the world when God pours out His wrath in the day of the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” Scripture teaches us to look for the Lord’s return, not for the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:10 and Titus 2:13).

Whatever God has in store for us, it will be for His glory and could happen at any moment!

Jesus said regarding His second coming, “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” We should live like Jesus is coming today. As we saw through looking at the characteristics of the last days, we are closer than we dare dream!

 

Between the Rock and a Hard Place


Mark 11, verses 27-33 reveal Jesus’ answer to one of the questions posed Him by the chief priests, scribes, and elders. The leaders were baffled at the boldness of Jesus as He turned over the money changers tables and drove out of the temple those who bought and sold. The question that the leaders wanted answered had to do with authority. They saw themselves as being the group who had authority over what went on in the temple and here, we have a carpenter rearranging things like He owned the place!

Their question was, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?”

Maybe they should have thought more before they asked this question. I’ve found out that Jesus knows the heart like no one else and can point out problem sources that we didn’t know existed.

So often, Jesus points something out to us by asking a question. He answered the leader’s question with a question intended to reveal their hidden motives.

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John–was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.'”

With this simple question, Jesus leads them directly into “a trap”. The “trap” was intended to reveal to them a hard place against God that was residing in their hearts.

These men wanted position, power, greed, and recognition more than they wanted the glory of God. Jesus knowing this, exposed it. He knew that they didn’t want anyone else getting any recognition as an instrument of God and they wanted spiritual control over the people. At the same time, Jesus knew that they were afraid of the people; needing their tithes, acclaim, and praises to prop up the ungodly agenda they harbored in their hearts. Any answer to Jesus’ question would reveal their sin but instead of repenting, they simply chose not to answer.

The Bible calls Jesus “The Rock of our salvation”.

Psalm 144:1: “Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

You could say that Jesus’ question to the leaders caused the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders to be “caught between the Rock and a Hard Place”. The Rock is Christ Jesus the Truth. The hard place was the refusal to acknowledge Jesus and His Word.

Have you ever been caught between the Rock and a hard place in your own heart?

The leader’s refusal to acknowledge the truth kept them in bondage and caused them to be cut off from further revelation. Jesus’ response to their refusal to be honest was simply:

“Neither will I tell you…”

You cannot pick and choose which revelation you will believe.

Once you say “No” to Jesus, it becomes easier to say “No” again and again!

The words “No Lord” should never be found in the same sentence!

Our responsibility to His Lordship is to say “Yes” to Jesus! If we do so, we set up the appropriate conditions for Him to use us and for Him to bring further revelation into our lives!

When Jesus leads you into “the trap” of exposing the hardness of your heart, repent – accept His truth, and go forward in Him! Do you want to be used by Him?

Humility is the key that unlocks the door to greatness in God!

“Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” Proverbs 18:12

Lord, break any hardness of heart out of me! I want my heart soft and pliable in Your hands! Teach me to say “Yes” to you, no matter what!