PREPARING FOR THE LAST DAYS

PREPARING FOR THE LAST DAYS

A STUDY GUIDE SERIES: BOOK FIVE

Five essays on the victorious Christian life by Robert B. Thompson

Compiled and Edited by

Edward J. Reiter

Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface

The Ninety-First Psalm

    Summary#1

    Questions#1

Kept From Temptation

    Summary#2

    Questions#2

For What Are You Preparing Yourself?

    Summary#3

    Questions#3

A Warning to the Backslider

    Summary#4

    Questions#4

I Never Knew You

    Summary#5

    Questions#5

Answer Guide

Bibliography

About the Author

Preface

Are there conditions on which Divine protection depends?

Which is the greater danger to the Christian—tribulation or temptation?

Is it necessary to prepare ourselves to enter and possess the scriptural land of promise?

Is there any peril in neglecting our salvation and yielding to the pressure of the world spirit, the seductions of the flesh, or the imaginations and drives of personal ambition?

Why must we resolve with steel hardness to never exercise any gift we have been given apart from the direction of the Lord?

The answers to the questions above may reveal much about the current state of Christianity as a whole, as well as the condition of our individual hearts.

This book is not only an effort to provide scriptural answers to these questions but also aims to provide the guidance necessary to grow into obedient followers of Jesus Christ.

Each essay is followed by a summary review and five questions drawn from the reading. An answer guide is provided at the end of the book.

May God enable us to increasingly begin preparing for the last days and grow into His fullest measure of righteousness, holiness and obedience.

Edward J. Reiter

Escondido, California

March 2002

THE NINETY-FIRST PSALM

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalms 91:1—NIV)

It is of great importance to note the condition on which Divine protection depends. The condition is that we dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

It is not enough to have "accepted Christ." Taking the four steps of salvation is not a ticket to the continual blessing of God. We must be dwelling in Christ right this minute if we expect to be protected by Him.

How do we dwell in Christ? By looking to Him at all times, for all decisions, under all circumstances. We must live in Him, talk to Him, think about Him, seek His guidance continually. Christ always must be uppermost in our mind.

We must be presenting our body a living sacrifice, setting our mind on things above, giving thanks for every blessing and letting our requests be made known to Him.

Dwelling in Christ is a way of life. In all our ways we must acknowledge Him. If we will keep on acknowledging Christ in the small things we will find that we do the same in great crises. It is in the "small" matters that we forget to acknowledge the Lord, and it is in the small matters that we get tripped up.

"Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." The days ahead in America are going to be tumultuous. There will be turmoil, people running here and there in their confusion. The individual who is dwelling in Christ will have rest. He is living in God's shadow. He does not fear death or whatever else the future holds for Him.

I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." (Psalms 91:2—NIV)

God is our refuge. When the outside world grows dark and dangerous we run to God just as a child runs to his mother or father. We take refuge in Him.

God is our fortress. When the enemy approaches we go back to the fort. We are safe behind the impenetrable walls of the Lord. The forces of darkness have no power that can possibly breach those walls. No siege no matter how long maintained by the enemy can bring about surrender. We are safe in the Lord.

The Lord is our God, not pleasure, not money, not entertainment, not violence, not witchcraft, not our stomach, not popularity, not success, not our talent or education, nor any human being, but the Lord. We worship Him alone because He has removed our idols from us.

We trust in God because He remains faithful under all circumstances. There is much talk today about faith, and faith is important. When we have faith we have the victory and we can forge ahead.

Trust is different. Trust is our helpless dependence on God's absolute faithfulness. Sometimes we get pressed past the point of faith and all we have left is a blind trust that God somehow is up there and will pull us through. In our moment of weakness and defeat we are not able to express faith, but we can trust. We are not in happy victory, but we are trusting; and this helps us to throw off fear.

Have you been there? I have!

Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. (Psalms 91:3—NIV)

Satan is always setting snares to catch the believers. These are hidden along the paths where we usually walk.

If we are not in prayer, if we are living carelessly, if we are not abiding in Christ, we may suddenly find ourselves caught in the snare of temptation and sin. The Lord advised us to pray "Lead me not into temptation." But we thought this prayer was for those ungodly sinners somewhere. We did not realize we are just about to find ourselves in a situation where we cannot escape.

If we had been abiding in Christ as we were supposed to He would have kept us from getting caught.

Sometimes the Lord permits Satan to sift us, even when we have been praying and are being careful. Then we experience pain and confusion. If our faith does not fail the Lord will bring us through in triumph. But we must never force ourselves out of God's prison, because to do so we have to break God's laws. We are to keep before the Lord, waiting patiently for Him. In due time He will deliver us.

"He will save you from the deadly pestilence." There are several major pestilences in America today, such as AIDS, other venereal diseases, cancer, tuberculosis, and diabetes. I do not say these never afflict Christians for sometimes they do. Yet we have God's word that He will save us.

What do we do when we or a loved one come down with some dread disease? We pray, pray, pray, in the meanwhile pressing into God with all our strength. He always hears us.

Notice the following, for it presents an apparent contradiction:

You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. (Luke 21:16-18—NIV)

"They will put some of you to death." "Not a hair of your head will perish."

When we are abiding in God, He always saves us from the deadly pestilence and from every other harm. And yet sometimes Christians become ill and die. But the Scripture cannot be broken.

The answer to this seeming contradiction is that God does not regard our flesh as having eternal significance. "The flesh profits nothing," Jesus exclaimed.

God knows the number of hairs on our head. Let us say we burn to death in a fire. All of our hairs are burned up. Have they perished? No, not at all. Why? Because God will raise them in the resurrection.

So the Word holds true. When we are abiding in Him God <MI>always<D> saves us from genuine, lasting harm, just as He promised.

We need to get a more Heavenly look. We need to set our mind on things above. We need to establish our treasures in Heaven!

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalms 91:4—NIV)

We are entering perilous times, an age of moral horrors. There are deep cultural divisions in our society, and not just along racial or religious lines. The problem has to do with values, with some favoring a licentious life-style while others are more conservative in their viewpoint. So intense are the feelings being generated that civil war, perhaps on a relatively minor scale, is not an impossibility. Demagogues will use the passions to build a following by attempting to force the divisions into the channels of race or religion, creating stereotypes. The media will do the same for the sake of sensationalism in order to sell papers.

Also, because of the prevalence of sin, it is not unlikely that God soon will be visiting us with various catastrophes, such as earthquakes, famine, and economic collapse.

We Americans are not accustomed to war being fought on our soil, or the depths of privation suffered by other nations. But things may change rapidly.

Then we believers in Christ are going to be very thankful for the covering of God's mighty protection, for the bulwarks He provides against the attacks of the enemy.

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, (Psalms 91:5—NIV)

Numerous American people are afflicted with fear, with anxiety, with depression. You would think that with all the material blessings we enjoy we would be relatively free from fear. This is not the case.

Clinical anxiety and depression are not dismissed with "Just praise the Lord and have faith!" They are actual sicknesses for which various medicines have been developed.

It is not unusual for dedicated Christians to have emotional problems based in fear. Sometimes professional advice is very helpful and necessary. But again, a consistent trust in the Lord will eventually bring victory over fear.

The "arrow that flies by day" speaks of war. We in America have not experienced war on our land to the extent true of Germany and England, for example. I think this is because of the Christian values that have permeated our culture. God has protected and blessed us.

But these Christian values are often mocked and despised today by a sizable part of the population. As a result we are losing our strength and Divine protection. It may be true that we are going to be visited with war unless there is wholesale repentance, a turning to God and especially to righteous behavior.

If war should come we can remain free from fear if we are willing to abide in Christ. Of what are we to be afraid? If there is famine or danger, Christ is with us and will provide and protect. Should we or our loved ones be killed, we go to a much better place. So there is no basis for fear for the individual who loves the Lord and looks to Him continually.

Nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. (Psalms 91:6—NIV)

The hospitals of America are filled with people suffering from dreadful diseases. How terrifying must be the diagnosis of AIDS, and yet God is still present for the person who will turn to Him. Numerous Americans pick up the telephone to hear that their biopsy, or the biopsy taken from one of their children, is positive. Terror strikes! The wage earner, concerned for the welfare of his family, awakens in the night with chest pains. Terror strikes!

But God's unchanging Word says we will not fear these. Only by maintaining a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ can we be delivered from the fear of the sickness that stalks in the darkness.

"The plague that destroys at midday." Of late in America we have had destructive hurricanes and floods. If we Christians do not repent of our wicked ways and turn to the Lord, praying every day for our nation, we may see many more such violent expressions of nature's fury. I think the blood of the aborted fetuses is crying to God from the ground. The result may be paralyzing floods, earthquakes, and fires that will affect more than some small geographic area.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. (Psalms 91:7—NIV)

The current preaching concerning protection from the disasters that appear to be at hand is that we have no need to fear because we will fly home to Heaven before any of this takes place. Thus the believers do not get down to business with God in many instances. Why should they? They won't be here!

Some teach that Christians from the first century have been expecting an any-moment rapture. (I do not believe unbiased scholarship bears this out.)

In any case, stop and think! For two thousand years, it is claimed, Christians have been expecting an any-moment rapture. But during that time how many Christians have been tortured and murdered because of their faith? Since this undoubtedly is true, would they not have been wise to be prepared just in case the rapture did not come in their lifetime? For two thousand years!

So it is today. Would it not be wise for us to preach that Christians should prepare themselves to stand in the evil day, just in case another thousand years transpires before the Lord returns?

"Yes, but we know He is coming very, very soon."

There is evidence in the Apostle Paul's writings that he thought the Lord was coming very, very soon.

The Lord said, "Behold I come quickly." This was spoken two thousand years ago.

It also is a fact that major prophecies are yet to be fulfilled, such as the rise of Antichrist and the gathering of the nations against Jerusalem. These shall take place prior to the coming of the Lord. Teaching to the contrary is based on speculations and emotions, not disciplined biblical exegesis; at least this has been my experience.

When the dispensational model is placed over the text of the New Testament it creates numerous inconsistencies that must be explained away with remarks such as: "that verse applies only to the Jews"; or "there are things we don't understand"; or "the people of Paul's time could read between the lines and understood his reference to mean other than what appears on the surface"; or, even more suspect, "the Greek term apostasia (revolt against authority) means ‘falling away from the earth’."

This sort of biased explanation would not be permitted with any cardinal doctrine of Christianity. Why is it tolerated with the blessed hope of the Church?

The Lord's protection is not withdrawal to Heaven, it is as it states: "A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you." This is the scriptural comfort. The notion that prior to the rise of Antichrist we will be caught up to Heaven is not scriptural. There is not one verse in the Bible that states the purpose for the catching up of the saints at the appearing of the Lord is to protect them from harm. Not one! Not one verse!

I think the minister whose intention is to preach and teach the Word of God should consider ceasing announcing a pre-tribulation "rapture" of the believers until he or she can find at least one verse that states clearly the purpose of the catching up of the believers is for the purpose of protecting them from harm.

You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. (Psalms 91:8—NIV)

We will not be hidden away in Heaven when destruction comes, unless we have died in the meantime. Rather we will be present on the earth where we can observe the punishment of the wicked.

Note the following:

The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. (Psalms 37:12,13—NIV)

Today in America we see what many of us perceive as the exalting of wicked people. When we behave righteously and suggest that others should do the same, they become exceedingly angry. Those who do not fear the Lord rail against "those right-wing fundamentalists who are destroying the Republican party." It may be noted that this is a stereotype because there are many Americans who are not Christians who are righteous and have integrity.

Please observe carefully, in the above verse, that the conflict is not between those who are Christians and those who are not, but between the righteous and the wicked.

Many Christians are wicked. Many non-Christians are righteous and have integrity.

The wicked do not become too upset over our faith in the blood atonement or our talk about going to mansions in Heaven. Rather they "plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them" over issues of righteous behavior. For example, in past years we have had a president who lied to the country. Some of the people are concerned about this. But it appears many Americans seem to view lying as pardonable human frailty. There is a schism here and it is giving rise to violent passion.

Now notice, the Lord does not gnash back at the wicked and He does not want you or me to be gnashing back at them. The Lord laughs at the wicked because He knows their day of punishment is coming. He wants you and me to laugh with Him and realize the Lord is in control and the wicked shall be punished in due time.

If you find it impossible to laugh with the Lord, then pray until you can, until He lifts your anger and bitterness. The Lord does not honor or accept our fretting. Fretting leads only to sin. The wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.

Be an Isaac and laugh at the wicked. They will need your help and prayers soon enough.

If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge—(Psalms 91:9—NIV)

All of the above help and deliverance depends on our abiding in Christ. Abiding in Christ does not mean that at some past time we have taken "the four steps of salvation." It means that right now, this very minute, we are looking to Jesus for all we are saying, thinking, and doing. We actually are abiding in Christ, living in Christ as in an environment, holding all our decisions, worries, fears, hopes, dreads, and dreams before Him so that we do not take one step out of His will. Only then can we claim the promises of the ninety-first Psalm.

David says, "even the Lord, who is my refuge." The Lord was David's hiding place. It also is true that the Spirit of Christ dwelled in David and was saying that God the Father is Christ's dwelling place. The Lord Jesus always dwells in God and lives by the Life of God. So it must be true that we always dwell in Christ and live by the Life of Christ.

Then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. (Psalms 91:10—NIV)

A similar promise is as follows:

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalms 34:7—NIV)

In order to have such protection we must fulfill the conditions. It is not enough just to attend a Christian church. It is not enough to believe correct doctrine concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not enough to take the "four steps of salvation." It is not enough to be able to look back at a point in time and say "I accepted Christ" or "I was born again at that time."

Salvation is always "today." The Kingdom of God is as a seed. It is alive in us and growing if we are tending to it. But it is entirely possible for that seed to perish without bearing lasting fruit.

The Kingdom of God is not a ticket. We cannot be a Christian yesterday. We cannot be abiding in eternal life yesterday. Either our life is in Christ and drawing eternal Life from Him or else the forces of decay and death are moving in and we are approaching judgment and condemnation.

There is no message more needed in America today than the truth that yesterday's salvation is not at work today, unless we are abiding in Christ.

There are numerous verses in the New Testament that remind us of the need to be abiding in Christ moment by moment, and of the fatal consequences of living in the world while trusting in some past religious experience to insure our entrance into Heaven when we die.

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:39—NIV)

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. (II Peter 2:20—NIV)

There are many such warnings in the New Testament. Yet the current preaching of sovereign, unconditional grace proceeds as though such exhortations did not exist. The Christian churches are not prospering today, in terms of growth in righteous, holy living, because the contemporary teaching in numerous instances is not scriptural. We have departed from the Word and the lampstand, the testimony, has been removed from us. We have been weakened spiritually and we do not realize it.

What can we do? We can return to the Scriptures and start teaching, verse by verse, what the texts state rather than our traditions. If the ministers in America would return to the Bible and preach and teach the inspired texts we soon would have the national repentance that is needed if the nation is to survive.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; (Psalms 91:11—NIV)

We do not know too much about the great multitude of angels that God has created. We do understand that many of them rebelled and today we wrestle against them—some apparently who at one time were highly placed in the spiritual hierarchy.

Why do we have to wrestle against them? It is because they are in rebellion against Christ. They are losing their places of authority to Him and His saints. They stand against all we would do to obey and please Jesus Christ.

God's reaction to the rebellion of the angels has been to create man, and to place man on the highest throne. In fact, God is moving His throne from Heaven to the hearts of His obedient sons. From there He shall reign for eternity.

What then of the angels? The righteous angels have been made ministering spirits that God's sons may be enabled to overcome the rebellious angels and to take their places on the thrones formerly occupied by the rebels.

An angel strengthened Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Angels rejoice when a sinner repents and turns to God. Christ announces the name of each victorious saint in the Presence of God and His angels.

Now we find that God commands His angels to guard those who are abiding in Christ, to guard them in all their ways. We do not see the angels but if we are performing God's will they watch over us with the greatest care no matter what we are doing. If they did not we soon would be destroyed.

They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Psalms 91:12—NIV)

The angels of God guard us in all our ways so very carefully that we do not even trip over a stone. This statement is advising us that God attends to the smallest detail of our daily activities.

I think we are lifted up and delivered on many, many occasions of which we are not aware. This care and attention to detail is constant. The demons would soon make our life miserable and dangerous if we were not guarded with the greatest care.

Again, this promise is to those who are living at all times in communion with Jesus Christ, not typical American churchgoers who spend an hour or two in church on Sunday and then live in the flesh for the remainder of the hours of the week. Such are not disciples. They pass in America for Christians but by the Bible definition they are not Christians. They are not seeking Jesus Christ in every aspect of their life. Therefore the ninety-first Psalm does not apply to them.

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. (Psalms 91:13—NIV)

It is likely that no reader of these lines will ever tread on a lion, or a cobra, or a great lion, or a serpent. What, then, is being promised here?

The lion and serpent represent the power of Satan. The true Christian, the disciple of Jesus, is to have no fear of what Satan or his angels and demons can do.

Do you remember how Dagon, the fish god of the Philistines, suffered when faced with God's Ark? So it is true that when the victorious Christian comes face to face with the works of Satan it is Satan who is destroyed.

We Pentecostal people are superstitious. We tend to peep and mutter concerning the forces of darkness rather than meeting them confidently, knowing from the Lord Jesus that He has given us authority and power over all of them.

Sometimes we make the mistake of rebuking demons or yelling at them. This not only is weak and fruitless but is interpreted by the demons as worship. They love attention.

We are not to rebuke the devil but resist the devil. We resist the devil by serving God and behaving righteously. Satan is terrified of the righteous and he flees in disarray.

Soon he returns and endeavors to deceive our mind. For he cannot possibly harm us unless he can persuade us to disobey God in some area. Satan has no power over us unless we are sinning. Then he can get past our protection even though we name the name of Jesus Christ.

Christianity can be one of two things in our life. It can be a religion we subscribe to, obeying its tenets just as the Muslims and Buddhists obey the tenets of their religion. In this case the ninety-first Psalm does not apply to us. Christianity has been, at least until recently, the prevailing religion in America.

Or, Christianity can be a daily experience with the living Lord Jesus Christ, in which we look to Him continually, trusting in Him for every aspect of our life. We are to present our body a living sacrifice, setting our mind on things above, carrying our cross behind Jesus, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord at all times. We slowly but surely are learning to live by His body and blood just as He lives by the Life of the Father.

We are to abide in Him as He abides in the Father.

Which are you? Are you a member of the Christian religion? Or are you a branch from the true Vine, bearing the fruit of righteousness and praise that the nations can observe? Are you showing forth the light of your good works that people may glorify God, or does your religion consist mostly of attendance at church on Sunday while your personality remains basically unchanged?

Dagon, the fish god, fell before the Ark of the Covenant. Satan and his helpers will fall before you if you are being created the dwelling place of Christ.

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name." (Psalms 91:14—NIV)

Loving the Lord and acknowledging His name are the conditions on which we are rescued and protected. To love the Lord and acknowledge His name do not always mean we are trying to convert people to the Christian faith.

To love the Lord is to invite Him into every area of our personality and behavior.

To acknowledge the Lord is to call on Him for assistance in every aspect of life, honoring Him and thanking Him continually for the help and wisdom He is giving us continually.

There is much evangelizing being carried on in the United States as ministers seek larger churches and followings. Sometimes such evangelizing is a proselyting to our religion more than anything else. However, it may be true that good has come from the desire for greater numbers.

I think if we will love the Lord fervently and acknowledge Him in all our ways we will win souls to the righteous Jesus, not just make another adherent to our religion. Whether or not this is true, it is a fact that the Christian testimony in America has been harmed by the behavior of some of the Christians. The American people are cynical and are turning to other religions to satisfy their hunger for God and the supernatural.

Nevertheless, our God is the one true God. Jesus Christ is alive and in charge of the universe. He will rescue and protect us if we will love and acknowledge Him continually.

"He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him." (Psalms 91:15—NIV)

There is a tendency among American Christians to attempt to find a formula that will guarantee a successful marriage, a peaceful home life, health, peace, and happiness. We ought not to be looking for ways in which we can use the things of Christ to get what we want.

The Lord does not invite us to put our faith in faith but in Himself. We are to call upon Him constantly, giving thanks and letting our requests be made known to Him. Christ answers us, not as the metaphysical response to some formula we have managed to apply correctly but as a Person, a genuine living Person.

God is not a source of power we are to tap by applying religious principles. How many books are there in the Christian book stores that suggest this very thing?

God is a Person. Jesus Christ is a Person. God is our Father. Jesus Christ is our older Brother.

Christ did not come to earth to demonstrate spiritual principles that we are to imitate and thus receive miracle-working power. Christ came to earth to die as an atonement for the sin of the world. Then He rose from the dead in flesh and bone form. He is a Person!

Then He ascended, meanwhile giving the Holy Spirit to His beloved saints in the form of wisdom, knowledge, miracle power, healing virtue, and so forth, the purpose being to build them up in His image.

When a sufficient number have come to spiritual maturity He shall return with them and install His Kingdom on the earth. They are His Bride, His brothers, His very Body. They are absolutely one with Him. He is their Life. He is the Vine and they are the branches. They are one in Him just as He is One in the Father. They follow Him wherever He goes.

To attempt to imitate Christ in order to gain power and wisdom that one can use for his own purposes (however clothed in religious terms) is to be the same as Satan: to want to be like God without becoming part of God. To approach the Christian salvation in this manner is to partake of the spirit of Antichrist and the False Prophet. This approach sells books and so it finds its way into the Christian book stores, which sometimes seem oblivious to the merit or lack of merit of the merchandise they are selling.

"With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." (Psalms 91:6—NIV)

How long is a "long life"? A long life is a life long enough to be satisfactory.

Many older Christians are held here beyond their appointed time, I believe, because we are reluctant to let them go. Extraordinary medical procedures are adopted that keep them "alive" far past the time when they are really living here on earth.

Sometimes they are chained here by our prayers when actually God has plans for them in the spirit realm that will make them gloriously happy. Our desire to keep them here is understandable but is it selfish? We must ask ourselves this.

There ought to be a time when we are ten years of age or eighty at which we understand our work on earth has been completed, when we are a mature cob of corn in the ear, so to speak, ready to be put in God's barn to await the day of resurrection.

Are we so in love with this valley of the shadow of death in which we struggle to survive that we are willing to resist our entrance or the entrance of a loved one into a world of peace and joy?

God will satisfy us with as many years as necessary to fulfill our own need for ripening and to make the contribution assigned to us. He knows all our days and they already have been written.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:15,16—NIV)

Let's do our best for God while we are alive on earth. We will enter the next stage of our existence soon enough.

God will show His salvation to those who are abiding in Him. His salvation is not as apparent as we might think. We have not seen it just because we have "accepted Christ."

Receiving Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior is the beginning of the good fight of faith. It is the first step on the path to eternal life. Many forces arise to try to take our crown, to prevent us from bearing lasting fruit.

The gate is small that leads to life and the path is constricted and filled with obstacles. But if we persist, day after day, in seeking God we will find Him.

Everyone who asks shall receive.

Everyone who seeks shall find.

To him who knocks the door shall be opened.

For some of us there have been many years of patiently bearing our cross behind Jesus. As we near the end of our pilgrimage He becomes ever more real and present. We cannot see what is ahead as clearly as we would prefer, but we have enough intimations of what it will be like to keep us going. There is a joy before us that makes it possible for us to bear our cross.

We know by faith that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. And so we keep on plugging ahead, realizing that what we desire in our heart cannot be found in the present life.

God knows those who are His, and they have been commanded to depart from sin and lawlessness. They are as arrows hidden in His quiver, waiting for the attack upon the enemy.

There is an astounding amount of wickedness being practiced in the day in which we are living, at least in America. Abominations that have taken place each day are described in the newspaper. We scarcely can comprehend the depths of depravity to which people are falling, and yet we can say in our heart "There but for the grace of God go I."

There is no question that we are approaching days of moral depravity, social uproar, and possibly economic woes and even war. However, we are not ready to have our orderly existence disturbed. The American people are accustomed to supermarkets with well-stocked shelves. Most people have at least something to eat each day and a place to keep warm.

If real trouble does come to our land we shall see widespread crime and much selfishness as our spoiled citizens seek to keep from being denied what they want or need, even if they have to harm other folks in order to be satisfied themselves. We are not used to being deprived of the necessities of life.

The nation will be in dire need of people who can stand in confidence and reveal the faithfulness of God, who understand that death will bring those who are trusting in the Lord Jesus into a much better world.

Only the Christian people have a solid foundation on which to rest. Only the Christian people are the light of the world, and if they are all taken up with their own concerns the rest of the Americans will have no place to turn for help. The Christian ministry must begin to warn the believers of what is ahead and prepare them not only to survive themselves but to be aware of the wealth of spiritual provision they can access in order to help the frightened people around them.

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, (Nahum 1:7—NIV)

Summary#1

It is of great importance to note the condition on which Divine protection depends. The condition is that we dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

It is not enough to have "accepted Christ." Taking the four steps of salvation is not a ticket to the continual blessing of God. We must be dwelling in Christ right this minute if we expect to be protected by Him.

How do we dwell in Christ? By looking to Him at all times, for all decisions, under all circumstances. We must live in Him, talk to Him, think about Him, seek His guidance continually. Christ always must be uppermost in our mind.

We must be presenting our body a living sacrifice, setting our mind on things above, giving thanks for every blessing and letting our requests be made known to Him.

Dwelling in Christ is a way of life. In all our ways we must acknowledge Him. If we will keep on acknowledging Christ in the small things we will find that we do the same in great crises. It is in the "small" matters that we forget to acknowledge the Lord, and it is in the small matters that we get tripped up.

In order to have such protection we must fulfill the conditions. It is not enough just to attend a Christian church. It is not enough to believe correct doctrine concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not enough to take the "four steps of salvation." It is not enough to be able to look back at a point in time and say "I accepted Christ" or "I was born again at that time."

Salvation is always "today." The Kingdom of God is as a seed. It is alive in us and growing if we are tending to it. But it is entirely possible for that seed to perish without bearing lasting fruit.

The Kingdom of God is not a ticket. We cannot be a Christian yesterday. We cannot be abiding in eternal life yesterday. Either our life is in Christ and drawing eternal Life from Him or else the forces of decay and death are moving in and we are approaching judgment and condemnation.

There is no message more needed in America today than the truth that yesterday's salvation is not at work today, unless we are abiding in Christ.

There are numerous verses in the New Testament that remind us of the need to be abiding in Christ moment by moment, and of the fatal consequences of living in the world while trusting in some past religious experience to insure our entrance into Heaven when we die.

Christianity can be one of two things in our life. It can be a religion we subscribe to, obeying its tenets just as the Muslims and Buddhists obey the tenets of their religion. In this case the ninety-first Psalm does not apply to us. Christianity has been, at least until recently, the prevailing religion in America.

Or, Christianity can be a daily experience with the living Lord Jesus Christ, in which we look to Him continually, trusting in Him for every aspect of our life. We are to present our body a living sacrifice, setting our mind on things above, carrying our cross behind Jesus, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord at all times. We slowly but surely are learning to live by His body and blood just as He lives by the Life of the Father.

We are to abide in Him as He abides in the Father.

Which are you? Are you a member of the Christian religion? Or are you a branch from the true Vine, bearing the fruit of righteousness and praise that the nations can observe? Are you showing forth the light of your good works that people may glorify God, or does your religion consist mostly of attendance at church on Sunday while your personality remains basically unchanged?

Questions#1

1. How do we dwell in Christ?

2. To have Divine protection what must be true?

3. If Christianity is not merely another religion, what is it?

4.What should be the basis of our relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ?

5.Characterize the walk of discipleship:

KEPT FROM TEMPTATION

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. (Revelation 3:10—NIV)

The Greek term translated "to test" has several shades of meaning, as it is employed in the New Testament. It can refer to any kind of testing or sifting, the idea being we are examined to see what we will do or can be provoked or seduced into doing.

I believe the meaning in Revelation 3:10 (above) emphasizes seduction, a drawing away from righteous behavior. I derive this from the following verses:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12,13—NIV)

When we consider this passage we see it is referring to Christians, because the people under consideration at one time had loved Christ.

We see also that the issue is not tribulation or suffering. The issue is "wickedness." This is why I refer to the coming period as "the age of moral horrors."

We may notice in the history of the world that persecution and suffering serve only to strengthen the true saints. The problem arises when there is much wickedness, the ready availability of moral sin.

Antichrist's tactic in the last days will include persecution and suffering, but these will only refine the true saints.

Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand. (Daniel 12:10—NIV)

There will be, if I am correct, an unprecedented worldwide revival in the not too distant future. At this time it may happen that a majority of earth's people will make a profession of faith in Christ.

But, as always happens after a great revival, there will be a cooling off period. It will be during the cooling off that Antichrist will gain power by enlisting the support of people who believe in God. The new believers will be swept off their feet because of the seeming friendliness of Antichrist.

The Christians will let their guard down. Moral depravity will come forth to an extent never before witnessed on the earth. The majority of those who had professed faith in Christ will grow cold. Only a holy remnant will remain and be ready to receive Christ at His return.

The sincere believer will ask himself, "How can I be certain I will be kept from being drawn away by moral temptation?"

It may be noted at this point that even in the present hour some pastors and believers are being seduced by pornography, especially that presented on the Internet. We do not have enough spiritual strength to stand when physical lust is presented so graphically.

This is why the Lord Jesus gave us His guarantee of protection.

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. (Revelation 3:10—NIV)

This verse is used by dispensationalists to prove that the believers in Christ will not be present on earth during the "great tribulation."

Let us remove this error before we proceed.

When Paul was teaching the Thessalonian believers he remarked about their abundance of suffering, and then promised them they would be relieved by the coming of the Lord to destroy Antichrist, not relieved by being removed from the earth but relieved by God's vengeance on Antichrist and wicked people.

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you And give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (II Thessalonians 1:6-8—NIV)

The above statement is so clear that the seeker after truth will undoubtedly be convinced. As for the others, they are blind to the truth and cannot perceive what is plainly written no matter how much Scripture is presented.

Back to our verse.

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. (Revelation 3:10—NIV)

Notice that the promise of being kept is addressed to those who "endure patiently."

Again:

But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13—NIV)

Saved from what? Saved from losing his love for Christ as a result of the abundance of wickedness.

In Revelation 3:10, the verb translated "have kept" is the same Greek word translated "will also keep." The word means to watch over, preserve. It often is employed to mean keeping Christ's commandments.

The concept is that if we are willing to keep Christ's command to endure patiently throughout the period of temptation, Christ will keep us from losing our love for Him.

Many of my readers will have received Christ at some point in their life. They are saved by faith in the blood atonement made by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Through the blood they have the authority to approach God.

Many will also have prayed until they have been anointed with the Holy Spirit, probably yielding to the point of speaking in tongues.

These two experiences are of God. But they are not strong enough to guarantee our safety throughout the age of moral horrors, the time of the increase of wickedness and lawlessness.

We can observe today that numerous people who have received Christ and also have spoken in tongues are falling into temptation. They are not strong enough to stand when the opportunity to sin is so great. They are being overcome by the attractions and guarantees of the world, by the lusts and passions of their flesh, and by their personal ambition.

God has made provision for our protection during the dangerous and yet wonderful days of the closing of the Church Age. God's provision is not to remove immature people to Heaven. It is to bring the believers to maturity and fill them with His Presence until they are more than conquerors no matter how thoroughly sin fills the earth.

The Divine provision has to do with patient endurance and the resulting protection the Lord has promised.

We have been saved through the blood. We have received the Holy Spirit. Now it is time for the Father and the Son to enter us in a manner greater than we might have believed possible during the Church Age.

Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks [Pentecost] and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: (Deuteronomy 16:16—NIV)

There are three great works of grace under the new covenant.

There is salvation through the blood of the cross, corresponding to Passover.

There is the empowering by the Spirit of God, corresponding to Pentecost.

There is the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in the believer, corresponding to Tabernacles.

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:23—NIV)

I have written much about the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. The aspect I wish to stress in the present essay is the role of our will as we enter the third great work of Divine grace.

When we are saved and filled with the Spirit our will has not been affected too much. We still are in water to the knees. We still can churn about as we please.

If we are acquainted with today's Christian churches we may have noted that there is a great deal of willfulness, of the seeking of preeminence, of divisiveness, of personal ambition, of jealousy and envy. All these traits of the self-centered personality are exhibited. The leaders sometimes vaunt themselves, obviously seeking their own glory.

My point is, basic salvation and the baptism with the Holy Spirit are not sufficient to deal with the self-will so prominent in the Christian churches.

The central characteristic of Satan, of Antichrist, of the False Prophet, is self-will. All the other sins spring from self-will.

Satan wants to be like God but yet maintain his self-will.

Satan seduced Eve into exercising her will against God.

The first sin was not immorality, murder, or covetousness, the first sin was disobedience.

The first punishment was not entrance into Hell, it was death. This is because self-will separates us from God.

The Christian churches of today are filled with self-will.

In the secular realm in America, self-will is glorified. The rights of the individual are elevated over the rights of society as a whole. This is Antichrist.

We cannot endure patiently with Jesus Christ unless we are willing to let the Lord crucify our self-will. It is our personal cross that will keep us from being deceived by the wickedness of the last days. Jesus will guard us against deception if we will agree to patiently bear our cross. Our cross will destroy our self-will if we will bear it faithfully.

We have been saved. We have been filled with the Spirit. Now we must go back to the Lord. God is not requiring of most of us to attempt to save the nations of the earth. What God is looking for in our day is believers who will return to Him and allow Him to deal with the worldliness, lust, and self-seeking in their personality.

The seven furnishings of the Tabernacle of the Congregation portray our growth in Christ, commencing with the Altar of Burnt Offering and finishing with the Lid of Propitiation (Mercy Seat).

While we are at Pentecost we are at the place of the golden Lampstand. The Lampstand was the fourth furnishing. The Lampstand was the most ornate of the seven furnishings of the Tabernacle and threw light on Table of Showbread and the Altar of Incense. So it is that Pentecost is beautiful and illumines the other aspects of God's dealings with us.

We of Pentecost are standing at the Lampstand.

The next furnishing, the one following the Lampstand as we approach the Veil, was the Altar of Incense. The Altar of Incense, the fifth furnishing, was the last stop before we passed through the Veil into the very Presence of God.

The spiritual fulfillment of the Altar of Incense is characterized by the cup of suffering. It is here we bow in death to our self-will. It is here we cry "Not my will but Yours be done" and drink the cup of total obedience to God's will.

Our Pentecostal experience strengthens us so we can hold up our body as a living sacrifice to God in fulfillment of the Altar of Incense.

Another type of our death to self is the River Jordan. We must die here to all of our personal ambition before we can begin the conquest of the land of promise.

Yet another type of our death to self is the Jewish Day of Atonement or Day of Reconciliation. We are reconciled to God by submitting to His perfect will in every aspect of our personality and behavior. The Day of Atonement is a period of warfare as God comes against everything in our personality that is not in harmony with His will.

Pentecost is so attractive! The work of the Spirit draws people, and here we are!

Now we are facing death.

It is over the issue of suffering and death to self that the current Charismatic movement will be divided. A remnant will go the way of the cross. The majority will seek to go forth under their own guidance and attempt to use their spiritual gifts to save the world. Such are very impatient with the subjective concerns and writhing on the cross of those who have returned to Christ, and often slander them. Such slander is part of the sufferings of Christ that the remnant shall endure.

But the majority will continue on, rejoicing because some of the leaders of government are joining them. Antichrist will capitalize on the self-centeredness of the Christians. The self-willed Christians will support the Antichrist system, thus becoming the False Prophet.

While both Antichrist and the False Prophet will each be epitomized by single individuals I believe, the spirit of Antichrist and the spirit of the False Prophet dwell in the heart of the self-willed person.

Antichrist is self-will in the political realm. The False Prophet is self-will in the religious realm. The two will join forces in the future.

The Pharisees, priests, scribes, and elders of Jesus' day were self-willed. They did not murder Christ because they wanted to indulge in the lusts of the flesh but because they were envious. In their envy they did not hesitate to employ the services of that former representative of the Antichrist system, Pontius Pilate.

Self-willed religious people will join self-willed secular people in the last days. I think in some instances the self-willed Christians will join with the Antichrist forces and drive the remnant from the major cities of the earth, scorning and persecuting them. It has happened before in history!

It is the False Prophet who strengthens and helps Antichrist and brings him to the pinnacle of power. But finally the secular will destroy the religious.

The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. (Revelation 17:16—NIV)

The main issue of the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles, as distinguished from the first two works of grace, is our will, our obedience to God the Father.

The Kingdom of God is the doing of God's will in the earth as it is performed in Heaven.

When we first receive Christ our fleshly personality is left intact.

When we are baptized with the Holy Spirit our fleshly personality remains intact, as we can see from the behavior of Pentecostal people.

Now God is ready to change our fleshly personality. How does He do this? By bringing numerous situations into our life that tear down our self-will and personal ambition. God knocks out the props from under us until we come up out of the wilderness of judgment leaning on our Beloved.

We Christians are not always aware that our suffering results from God's judgment on our personality. If we are to be worthy of the Kingdom of God we must submit patiently to our sufferings, always turning to God for help.

Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (II Thessalonians 1:4,5—NIV)

When we are frustrated, in pain, resisted, or knocked down in some other manner, we are not to complain or blame God, people, or the devil. We are to stay before God faithfully and patiently, in the meanwhile always praising God and letting our desires be made known to Him.

Suffering is such a blessing if we use it to drive us to Christ! Before we suffer we grow careless and foolish. We let our spiritual guard down. We speak idle words. We are not fit for the Presence of God. Then calamity overtakes us and we turn to God instead of giving in to fear, dread, and blaming others. How sincere our prayer becomes, how pure, how strong, how fervent!

The purpose of our suffering is to purify us from sin, to drive us to God in prayer. It is through such pain and fear that we are pressed into God. If we receive suffering correctly our self-will, that supreme enemy of God, is crucified. It is then we find peace and holiness.

Every time you are confronted with disaster or trouble of some kind, pray! Keep on praying! Use your trouble to drive you to Christ.

God has a great throne in Heaven where His will is done. But the angels, led by Satan, rebelled against God. At this point God charged His angels with error and conceived a tremendous plan. God's plan includes placing His new creature, man, in charge of His creation.

But God had to go one step further. If He assigned all authority in the heavens and on the earth to man, there would be a clear danger that man would fall through pride and disobedience. He would become another Satan. Also, God is not willing to give His glory to another.

Therefore as part of His plan to place man in control of His creation, God created a throne room in each individual. God is in the process of moving His throne from Heaven to the hearts of His sons. Then the sons will be part of Himself through Jesus Christ. They will not be separate from God, and so when God gives them authority and power He is giving it to Himself. He is not giving His glory to another.

Basic salvation includes our being forgiven through the atonement made by Jesus Christ. This does not change what we are and we still are on the throne of our own personality.

The baptism with the Holy Spirit includes the Presence of God's Spirit upon us and in us. However, this does not change our motives for we still are on the throne of our own personality. This is where the Pentecostal people are today.

Now God is asking us if we will permit Him to enter the throne room of our personality; if we will step down from the throne and permit the Father and the Son to take Their place as the origin of our will and motives.

Since the essence of the human being is his will, we can see that God is asking nothing less than the surrender of our right to be ourselves. God is requiring that we enter the same relationship with Jesus Christ that Jesus Christ has with the Father.

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57—NIV)

That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21—NIV)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20—NIV)

The message to the church in Laodicea may be directed especially toward the closing days of the Church Age. The Lord had little praise for this church. It seems the church was on friendly terms with the government for it had become wealthy and needed nothing. The believers were spiritually lukewarm and lacking in insight and righteousness.

Yet to this apathetic group was given the supreme invitation:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:20,21—NIV)

The Lord Jesus is standing before the believers in our day. He is requesting entrance into our personalities.

If we hear Him knocking we are to open the door of our heart. If we do this He will come in and eat with us and we with Him. He eats of the worship and obedience of our personality. We eat of His flesh and drink His blood. It is this continual eating and drinking together with Him that brings us into the intense, fiery union that characterizes the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, the third great platform of Divine grace.

As we persist in living in union with Him, overcoming all that would draw us away into more external interests—even religious interests—we gain the right to sit with Christ on His throne.

Where is the throne of Christ? It is in Heaven at the right hand of God. It also is in our heart.

Jesus Christ also overcame. He is seated with His Father on His great throne in Heaven, and we are there with Him.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6—NIV)

But perhaps more importantly, the Father also is enthroned in the heart of Christ. Christ sits with the Father on the throne of His own heart.

Although at first we are to get off the throne of our personality that Christ and the Father may rule there without conflict, the time will come, if we are faithful in overcoming all that comes against us, when we will be invited back on the throne of our own heart that we may govern there with the Father and the Son.

This is how I interpret the above passage (Ephesians 2:6).

It is important that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies at God's right hand. But it is even more important that God and Christ are ruling from within us and we with Them.

Heaven is the Throne of God Almighty, but the Throne is coming to the earth to reside for eternity in Jerusalem.

At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. (Jeremiah 3:17—NIV)

And again:

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. (Revelation 22:3—NIV)

Can you see the enormity of what is being suggested in the above two verses? The new Jerusalem will be the Throne of Almighty God.

Since the new Jerusalem is the glorified Christian Church, we are saying that the Christian Church is destined to become the Throne of God. And since the name of the holy city is engraved on each overcomer, then each overcomer will be an integral part of the Throne of the living God.

It is my opinion that the transfer of the Throne of God from Heaven to the hearts of His victorious saints will take place at the time of the heaviest spiritual darkness earth has known. It is when darkness shall cover the earth and thick darkness the people that the Glory of God will rise on His saints.

In Mount Zion, that is, in the warlike remnant of saints, there shall be deliverance throughout the dark hours of Antichrist's rule. Antichrist will have authority to reach into the heavens and shake the forces there, and so it is absolutely necessary that an even greater authority and power be issued to the saints. Otherwise we could not overcome the massive weight of spiritual darkness and evil soon to cover the earth.

The water of eternal life always flows from Throne of God, from nowhere else.

The entrance of the Throne of God into the personalities of the victorious saints is the Kingdom of God and the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles.

When God's Kingdom comes into the earth God's will is done in the earth. This is why if we are to move past the Pentecostal experience into the Tabernacles experience we must make Jesus absolute Lord of our life. We have received Him as our Savior. Now we must receive Him as our Lord.

The greatest King of all is standing at the door of the saints. He is the Lord of Glory, the Lord strong and mighty in battle against all who would oppose the will of His Father. When the Father has brought all in subjection under Christ, then will Christ Himself be subject to the Father that God may be All in all.

So the call is, "Open up gates of your heart and let the Lord enter." You have been saved through the blood, you have been filled with the Spirit of God. Now it is time to permit the Father and the Son to make Their eternal abode in you.

The earth is the Lord's with all its resources and all those who dwell on the earth. God left the earth because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. God will return to the earth when the obedience of His sons has been fulfilled. Then He will avenge all disobedience.

Will you be one of those who is willing to surrender his right to be himself that Christ may make you part of Himself? Only in so doing can you pass from Pentecost to Tabernacles.

If you insist on remaining at Pentecost that you may retain your right to serve Christ on your own terms, you will be in clear danger of being deceived during the age of moral horrors. Christ will not guard you against deception because you have not been willing to patiently keep His Word. You have decided to go your own religious way.

Why not cease from your dead religious works and enter the rest of God? Blessed are those who die in the Lord from this time forth. You will be able to rest from your own works while the mighty works of Christ in you will accompany you through the darkness that soon is to come.

Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty—he is the King of glory. Selah (Psalms 24:7-10—NIV)

Summary#2

We can observe today that numerous people who have received Christ and also have spoken in tongues are falling into temptation. They are not strong enough to stand when the opportunity to sin is so great. They are being overcome by the attractions and guarantees of the world, by the lusts and passions of their flesh, and by their personal ambition.

God has made provision for our protection during the dangerous and yet wonderful days of the closing of the Church Age. God's provision is not to remove immature people to Heaven. It is to bring the believers to maturity and fill them with His Presence until they are more than conquerors no matter how thoroughly sin fills the earth.

The Divine provision has to do with patient endurance and the resulting protection the Lord has promised.

We have been saved through the blood. We have received the Holy Spirit. Now it is time for the Father and the Son to enter us in a manner greater than we might have believed possible during the Church Age.

The Christian churches of today are filled with self-will.

In the secular realm in America, self-will is glorified. The rights of the individual are elevated over the rights of society as a whole. This is Antichrist.

We cannot endure patiently with Jesus Christ unless we are willing to let the Lord crucify our self-will. It is our personal cross that will keep us from being deceived by the wickedness of the last days. Jesus will guard us against deception if we will agree to patiently bear our cross. Our cross will destroy our self-will if we will bear it faithfully.

We have been saved. We have been filled with the Spirit. Now we must go back to the Lord. God is not requiring of most of us to attempt to save the nations of the earth. What God is looking for in our day is believers who will return to Him and allow Him to deal with the worldliness, lust, and self-seeking in their personality.

When we are frustrated, in pain, resisted, or knocked down in some other manner, we are not to complain or blame God, people, or the devil. We are to stay before God faithfully and patiently, in the meanwhile always praising God and letting our desires be made known to Him.

Suffering is such a blessing if we use it to drive us to Christ! Before we suffer we grow careless and foolish. We let our spiritual guard down. We speak idle words. We are not fit for the Presence of God. Then calamity overtakes us and we turn to God instead of giving in to fear, dread, and blaming others. How sincere our prayer becomes, how pure, how strong, how fervent!

The purpose of our suffering is to purify us from sin, to drive us to God in prayer. It is through such pain and fear that we are pressed into God. If we receive suffering correctly our self-will, that supreme enemy of God, is crucified. It is then we find peace and holiness.

Every time you are confronted with disaster or trouble of some kind, pray! Keep on praying! Use your trouble to drive you to Christ.

The Lord Jesus is standing before the believers in our day. He is requesting entrance into our personalities.

If we hear Him knocking we are to open the door of our heart. If we do this He will come in and eat with us and we with Him. He eats of the worship and obedience of our personality. We eat of His flesh and drink His blood. It is this continual eating and drinking together with Him that brings us into the intense, fiery union that characterizes the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, the third great platform of Divine grace.

As we persist in living in union with Him, overcoming all that would draw us away into more external interests—even religious interests—we gain the right to sit with Christ on His throne.

Questions#2

1. What can we learn from the meaning of the word "test" found in Revelation 3:10?

2. Concerning the danger of the hour in which we live what provision has God made for our protection?

3.What will keep us from being deceived by the wickedness of the last days?

4. How are we to respond to frustration, pain, or resistance in our life?

5. How do we gain the right to sit with Christ on His throne?

FOR WHAT ARE YOU PREPARING YOURSELF?

Heaven as the Land of Promise

The traditional land of promise is Heaven. Even secular society views the Christian religion as the attempt of people to avoid Hell and enter Heaven. Jewish people talk about going to Heaven even though their Bible does not mention Heaven as far as I know. They have joined us Gentiles. I think the Muslims also believe Heaven to be the goal of salvation, the land of promise.

Our idea of Heaven follows pretty well what was true of the Garden of Eden. The setting will be one of great natural beauty. There will be flowers, grass, trees. Children will be playing. Perhaps there will be animals. Some think so.

One preacher stated that when we are caught up to Heaven our pets will be caught up along with us. Our dog will appreciate this because she had been taught that dogs would not be permitted to enter the city. She is a kelpie and wants to be close to us at all times.

One of the main blessings of Heaven will be peace, rest, joy, and an abundance of love. We certainly look forward to freedom from dread.

Many of us hope to be rejoined with deceased loved ones.

It is our belief there will be no pain in Heaven. Even though we may have suffered much in this life, may have died in the midst of suffering, there will be no suffering once we get to Heaven. C. S. Lewis raised a question about this in his book, A Grief Observed. Lewis said there really is no Bible proof that we will not continue to suffer in Heaven. He knows for sure now.

Some believe we will be playing harps in the Presence of God. How are you on the harp? I am a pianist myself. Maybe the angels will teach us how to play the harp.

I never found the time to learn Chopin’s Nocturne, No. 2 in E flat Major, a piece I enjoy. I love to hear it performed. Maybe you can play it. I am not certain where Chopin went after he died but I am pretty sure Bach and other great musicians are there, and one of them can teach me.

Mansions are an important part of our belief. We look for a splendid home, perhaps several stories high and free from dust. (Let all the sisters say "Hallelujah!") It has been mentioned that we may have diamonds in our backyard, though I don't think most Christians are excited about the prospect of having diamonds on their property. Diamonds are hard on your feet. What people want is love, joy, peace, contentment, freedom from pain, worry, a deep sense of security.

Speaking of feet, I think the idea of golden slippers is probably folklore. It seems to me that wearing golden slippers and walking on a street of gold could make one wish for sandals and grass. Perhaps it was poor folk that made up the part about golden slippers. Sholem Aleichem tells of a beggar who wanted a hot roll and butter when he got to Heaven. Life does beat the starry wonder of the universe out of us, doesn't it?

Of course, we hope to have no contact with Hell.

We look forward to seeing God and Jesus. No doubt there will be any number of angels walking or flying around. It will be very interesting to see and perhaps visit with intelligent beings who are not human.

We think there will be music there and many places of interest to visit. Perhaps we will see famous Christians of history, such as John Wesley or even the Apostle Paul. Maybe Adam and Eve, our great grandparents, will be there. They have a lot of explaining to do, but I will forgive them. How about you?

We hope we will be rejoined with our family, but since Jesus said there is no marriage in the world to come we are not sure how this will work out.

One fairly common belief is that even though we may have not served Jesus fervently there is no problem. After we die, or at the latest when the Lord comes, we will be changed in personality, becoming a giant of faith, a ruler over the nations. What a stretching that will be for some of us!

How governing the nations fits in with resting in peace in our mansion we are not sure. Maybe we will stay in our mansion in Heaven while the Jews govern the Kingdom on the earth.

It is generally believed that the Lord will come soon to bring us to Heaven. Numerous Christians are looking for an any-moment "rapture" in which they will be carried up to Heaven before the rise of the Antichrist and the period of trouble known as the Great Tribulation.

Where the resurrection fits into this picture we are not sure, but its purpose appears to be to bring us to our mansion in Heaven. What we will need with a resurrected body in Heaven I do not know. Anyway we go to Heaven when we die so who needs a resurrection!

It seems to be a common practice now to prepare for the "rapture" by jumping up and down. We sent some of our young girls to a youth camp recently and they were encouraged to jump up and down to get ready for the "rapture." Personally I think a better preparation for the "rapture" would be to forgive our enemies. But aerobic exercises are usually helpful, especially for those of us who are older.

Perhaps jumping up and down next to the pews would be more necessary for the older believers and those who are overweight since the boys and girls jump around too much already.

Now the question is, What will we do in Heaven for eternity? We can't talk about the weather since the weather is always perfect. Since there are no responsibilities, except perhaps for governing the nations of the earth, no trouble, no pain, no suffering of any kind, no death, just endless joy and peace, do we just rest forever? Is there anything to do? Can we do whatever we want? Will it be possible to sin?

If two people want the same thing, how will this be resolved? It seems when Satan and God were in Heaven together they both wanted the same thing.

Will our personality be changed to where we are content to do nothing of significance? Maybe there are computers or other items of interest.

Adam and Eve possessed many of the blessings we have mentioned. Yet they brought ruin into Paradise. Will we be able to sin and bring ruin into Heaven? What will change us so we no longer can sin?

Some have said we will be praising God for ten thousand years. I have noticed that fifteen minutes is a long time for people to praise God unless there is a special Presence of God in the meeting. Perhaps there will be such a Presence of God that we will be able to praise God for ten thousand years. Are you really looking forward to this or are you tired and desire to rest for awhile?

Are you deeply interested in a mansion or do you care more for who will be in the mansion? Would you rather be in a mansion with people you don't care about or in a tarpaper shack with people you love? What does your answer tell us about your deepest desires?

How would you feel if Jesus asked you to do something you really did not want to do? Maybe no such thing takes place in Heaven.

But what do we do?

What does Heaven mean to you? Would you change anything I have suggested?

I asked one person what he wanted to do in Heaven. His answer was, "Play golf." I found this interesting because there are beautiful golf courses in our area. Yet he wants to go to Heaven to play golf. What do you want to do in Heaven?

I hope I have included many of our thoughts and hopes concerning Heaven. If such be the case, how do we prepare ourselves for going to Heaven? Or is any preparation necessary?

We have already mentioned preparing for the "rapture" by jumping up and down. If this preparation is necessary, the pastors may wish to pay special attention to preparing the elderly or those with arthritis. A physician's advice may be indicated. We certainly do not want the infirm to be left behind. In fact, if the State of California gets wind of our preparations for the "rapture" they may insist that provision be made for the handicapped.

When we built our baptistry we had to make provision for those who might be strapped to a gurney and still desire to be baptized. Rather than secure a block and tackle to the ceiling and lower them into the water while on the gurney we stated our intention to sprinkle these candidates with water. How much more important would it be to insure that all members of the congregation are able to participate in the any-moment "rapture"!

Certainly we must have our sins forgiven if we hope to go to Heaven and escape Hell. The traditional preparation includes taking the "four steps of salvation." The four steps of salvation consist of a doctrinal statement pieced together by taking fragments of verses from several books of the Bible.

The four steps of salvation then become our ticket. The important thing is not to lose the ticket, although many believers contend it is impossible to lose one's ticket. Once we profess faith in Christ we are assured that no matter what we do we will escape Hell and go to Heaven when we die.

Other than this, no preparation appears to be necessary. We do not really have to gain victory over worldliness, bodily passions, or self-will because we will be made holy and righteous by dying or by the coming of the Lord.

As far as the rewards to the overcomer are concerned, we are an overcomer automatically by taking the four steps of salvation, it is claimed. Thus we are assured of our place on the Throne of Christ, although how this is related to our time spent in our mansion is not certain. Maybe we go back and forth between the Throne of Christ and our mansion.

The Bible says we have died with Christ and have risen with Him to the right hand of God. Again, it is difficult to see how this fits into having a moment's rest in our mansion. Perhaps once we die we come down from the right hand of God so we can enjoy our mansion.

Incidentally, some have said that if you eat fruit the juice evaporates so it will not soil your robe. Also there apparently is no dust to disturb the cleanliness of every room of your mansion.

Which reminds me, someone informed us that although the army of saints follow Christ in the attack of Armageddon, they do not actually fight because they would get their robes dirty. Only Christ does the fighting. (Doesn't anyone care if Christ's robe gets dirty?)

It may be possible to eat whatever you want and never get fat or worry about a heart attack. Think of it!

One part that I like is the thought of going to the beach and not having to be concerned about the little children drowning. I have not really enjoyed the beach since our two boys came along, although as a youngster I spent the summer on the beach, which was only a couple of hundred yards from our house in Connecticut. I am a great worrier. Hopefully there will be nothing to worry about in Heaven.

Do you suppose there will be beaches in Heaven?

The evangelists have informed us there is absolutely nothing we have to do to prepare ourselves to go to Heaven, to enter our land of promise. Jesus did it all for us. All we have to do is accept the gift of salvation. How wonderful! It's like someone giving you a grand piano and also the ability to play Beethoven sonatas. What could be more exciting than that for a musically inclined individual who has only mastered chopsticks? And our hands may be large enough to stretch three octaves and never get tired. Now we can play the Appassionata as Beethoven meant it to sound.

There you have it—glory upon glory facing you, an any-moment "rapture" to look forward to and no painful preparation needed. This thought is especially pleasing to Americans who desire to be totally healthy with excellent muscle tone and yet never exercise and eat all they please.

As for going through a tribulation, forget it! God loves us too much to permit us to suffer. We are going to go to Heaven on flowery beds of ease in spite of the old hymn. The saints of old may have had to sail through bloody seas but ours is a new day. We can have our cake and eat it too.

Take the four steps of salvation, jump up and down next to your pew so you will have a head start and get there before the other believers. This way you can pick out a better mansion.

I heard a preacher explain that since the Lord made heaven and earth in six days we can only imagine the kind of mansion we will have now that God has been building them for six thousand years! Just think of it! Aren't you just dying to see what your new house will look like?

The Earth as the Land of Promise

Now we will consider an almost totally different viewpoint concerning the land of promise of the Christian—that our inheritance is the earth, with Heaven being thrown in for good measure.

Whenever we teach that the earth is our land of promise people think we are members of Jehovah's Witnesses. We certainly have no bad feelings toward Jehovah's Witnesses but we do not happen to belong to this particular group.

There are at least two significant problems with the first viewpoint, from my own point of view. The first is, since I am an anxious, goal-driven, Type-A, busy individual I would find it difficult to do nothing but rest for eternity. If I ended up in the place described above I would wonder if I had missed God or got off on the wrong exit.

In fact, our family doctor said it was useless to talk to me about going on a vacation because it would present just another problem to me, something to worry about until it was concluded. We have had this particular doctor for many years and he is extremely insightful. He said I would have to learn how to rest while I am working. I am trying desperately to rest while I am working.

The second significant problem is that the concept of Heaven being our land of promise is almost totally unscriptural. If you give this some thought you can see it is an important issue.

What I wrote above is not what I believe to be true but what other Christians believe.

You may respond, "What do you mean Heaven is not our land of promise? Didn't I get saved so I can go to Heaven and escape the fire? What do I get out of this anyway?"

It is not my intention to rob any believer of his or her main hope. Please keep on with what you always have believed and do not read further in the present essay.

I will take it for granted that from now on, in this essay, I am dealing with those who believe the Bible. The others have left to go about their daily tasks, pausing occasionally to take little jumps so as not to be caught unprepared.

The Bible teaches clearly, and has always taught clearly, that the earth is our land of promise, our inheritance. Of course we will inherit the best of Heaven too because, as we read in the last two chapters of the Book of Revelation, the Throne of God and of the Lamb is coming down through the new sky to rest forever on the new earth.

No true Christian wants to remain in the spirit realm with four-headed creatures full of eyes when God and Jesus are on the new earth. Am I right about this? How do you feel about this?

"But doesn't the Bible teach we will go to Heaven and live there forever?"

No, and you should go and get your money back for any book that tells you that.

"But doesn't the Bible tell us Jesus is coming to catch His waiting bride away."

No!

"Doesn't the Bible tell us we will be raised from the dead so we can go to live in Heaven?"

No!

"But doesn't the Bible promise me a mansion in Heaven?"

No!

"Didn't Jesus say His Father's house is Heaven"?

No!

Why don't you stop reading and find clear passages of Scripture, kept in context, that teach the things we have just said are not found in the Bible. If you cannot find any, then we can proceed with our discussion.

After you pick yourself up off the floor, would you like to think about what the Bible does teach?

The Bible teaches that six thousand years ago man already had most of what we think of as Heaven, and he had it on the earth. Heaven was on the earth somewhere near where Iraq is now. God was here. Everything was here that anyone would want.

Well, we lost it. We invited Satan and his angels to live among us. This was not a good idea as we have seen.

Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. A redeemer is someone who restores what was lost. Jesus came to restore that which we lost because of our inexperience in things of the spirit realm. Since we were not created in Heaven but on the earth, and therefore did not lose Heaven, Jesus came to restore us to Paradise on the earth. How about that!

The first job to be done was to take care of the guilt that man brought on himself. God the Father will not accept people who are guilty of sin. Therefore Jesus Christ had to come to earth to make an atonement for the sin of the world. This He did, and now God will receive us when we come to Him.

So the guilt has been taken care of. But Satan is still here in our inheritance. Of this we are certain.

If we are to establish the identity of our land of promise we must pay careful attention to the following passage:

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter ; you will dash them to pieces like pottery. (Psalms 2:8,9—NIV)

God the Father invited Jesus to pray and ask for the nations and the ends of the earth as His possession. The nations and the ends of the earth are the inheritance of Jesus Christ. The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and those who dwell therein.

Because the nations and the ends of the earth are the inheritance of Jesus Christ they also are our inheritance, for we are coheirs with Him.

So consider, the guilt of mankind has been forgiven. Jesus paid the price but He still does not possess His inheritance nor do we.

Did Jesus come only come to forgive our sins? No, He came to destroy the works of the devil, especially the works of the devil in the earth.

At the present time Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, waiting until God makes Jesus' enemies His footstool.

Why is God waiting?

Jesus could have taken control of the earth two thousand years ago, just after His resurrection from the dead. He had the power. He could have saved us two thousand years of human agony.

But it is God's intention that Jesus have a company of brothers, or a bride if you prefer, with whom to share the inheritance.

Therefore the purpose of the Church Age has been to call forth the brothers of Jesus Christ and conform them to His image that He might be the Firstborn among many who will share the spoils with Him.

This is where you and I come in.

The next great move will be for the Lord Jesus to return with His brothers and receive His and their inheritance, namely the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. Of course, Satan and everything to do with Satan must be destroyed from the earth if Paradise is to be restored.

Are you getting the picture?

Can you see now why Satan has instructed the churches that they must fly out of here, that the Lord is coming to take us to Heaven? Wouldn't you teach the same thing if you were Satan? Do you think he wants Jesus and His brothers to come and ruin everything he has built?

This is why we are practicing for the rapture, with Satan's encouragement. He wants us out of here so he can continue to "eat the dust" of human flesh, just as God has forced him to do.

I think Satan would like to give us all a swift kick to help us up to the great retirement home in the sky.

For myself, I don't intend to leave my turf, my inheritance. How about you? Let Satan leave. This is our place.

The Bible tells us that when the Lord appears to take over His (and our) inheritance, we are going to appear with Him.

In several instances in the Old Testament and the New the coming of Christ and His saints is pictured as the attack of an invincible army.

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand—A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. (Joel 2:1,2—NIV)

I know some claim the second chapter of Joel is talking about grasshoppers. Don't you just know the Day of the Lord is the coming of grasshoppers.

Well, if some hold fast to grasshoppers, let's go to another place.

Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things, says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 4:3—NIV)

The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14—NIV)

No grasshoppers here!

It looks like we are going to be busy when the Lord returns. Some are teaching that we are going to be caught up to Heaven, go through a judgment in which every person who has taken the four steps of salvation hears: "Well done, good and faithful servant" (even though he or she has been neither good nor faithful—it all is by "grace" you see, there is no reality to it), and then return seven years later as fierce as Genghis Khan, ready to rip up the earth.

Can't you picture it? After we have spent seven years sitting around talking small talk with the neighbors, eating ice cream by the gallon and never getting fat, barbecuing steak night after night without having a heart attack, suddenly we are going to mount our white war stallion and come thundering down through the clouds to confront an amazed Antichrist, the kings of the earth, Satan, the fallen angels (some of whom are as large as a continent), and self-willed religious people.

Can't you just picture your Christian friends returning with Christ to crush the wicked under their feet after having lived the good life for seven years!

The stuff that is preached today is enough to make a horse laugh and grow feathers.

I am going to stick with the Bible and the rest may do as they like.

The Bible says the Lord is coming with a shout, the voice of Michael, and the trumpet of God, and those who died in Christ are going to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. It says nothing about going to Heaven. All the saints who return with Christ have already been in Heaven, some of them for thousands of years, and their desire is to return to the earth, not to make a U-turn so those who are alive at the time can get to sit in their mansion for seven years.

Since the Bible teaches we are going to return with Christ and release the creation from the bondages of sin and corruption, what does this tell us about how we should prepare ourselves?

We have to learn to live in iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.

First of all, we are going to govern the nations with a rod of iron. The rod of iron is the scepter of iron righteousness held by Christ and every true saint. That iron is being created in us now as through the grace of Christ we overcome every enemy.

We are going to have to live with the consuming Fire, our holy God. Everything in us that is flammable must be fireproofed. Each day of our life we must press further into the holiness of God. Through the Spirit of God we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We must be sternly obedient to the Father. If there were one disobedient person in the army of Christ the invasion of the earth would be jeopardized. Remember Achan!

Every trace of worldliness must be destroyed out of us.

Every trace of the lusts and appetites of the flesh must be destroyed out of us.

Every trace of self-will must be destroyed out of us.

Christ must be brought to maturity in us.

The original sin was disobedience to God. We cannot possibly return to earth and restore Paradise if we ourselves are disobedient.

Many believers are disobedient to Christ. They do not have a prayer of being in the army of the Lord that will return with Christ.

"Ah, but I am saved by grace!" Saved by grace my foot!

You mean even though you are disobedient to God He sees you through Christ, so in God's eyes you are not really disobedient and will return to rule the nations with a rod of iron? Is this what you believe? Doesn't your common sense tell you better than this?

I guess common sense is not as common as one could wish, when we see people rushing to the Bible book store to buy the latest book that gives the date of the "rapture." People make a lot money writing and selling these books. If the Christian book stores had integrity they would offer a money-back guarantee in case it didn't take place!

The author should give back every penny of royalties if it doesn't happen. He should not be getting rich telling people something is going to happen and getting them all excited when he doesn't know what he is talking about. Don't you agree? People get sued today when something they sell doesn't work like it is supposed to.

Maybe we enjoy having our ears tickled and don't mind wasting a few bucks. Do you suppose this is the case?

Conclusion

There are two visions of the land of promise. One is Heaven. The other is the earth. One of these is not the Bible vision. The only way we are going to find out which is the true vision is to read the Bible.

Does the Bible speak of parks, trees, flowers, children playing, mansions in Heaven where we sit and talk small talk with our friends and relatives?

Does the Bible tell us the Lord is coming to catch us up to Heaven where we will spend eternity?

Or does the Bible tell us the Lord is coming to the earth to establish His Kingdom so justice will prevail among the nations? Will the meek, the teachable of the earth, inherit Heaven or the earth? What does the Bible say?

Do both Testaments stress the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth or our eternal life in Heaven?

We spend our whole life learning to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He changes us into the image of Christ. Are we being changed so we will more effectively live in Heaven or rule the nations on the earth?

Think about the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection from the dead is a central act of redemption. Today we are stressing the ascension because we want to get out of here as soon as possible. But the ascension is not an act of redemption, it is only one of our first steps in the Kingdom after our resurrection. If we don't have a decent resurrection we certainly don't want to be caught up and face Jesus!

It is the resurrection that is central to the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Christian churches seem to be unaware that our behavior today is having a direct effect on the kind of resurrection we shall experience. As we are sowing we are going to reap.

Now, why are we going to be resurrected? Why is our mortal body going to be redeemed, made alive by the Spirit of God?

Is our body going to be raised from the dead so we can go to Heaven? This does not make sense. We go to Heaven by dying, by leaving our body, not by gaining it back. The truth is, the resurrection of the mortal body has nothing at all to do with going to Heaven.

We are raised from the dead so we can live on the earth. Once we lose our body to physical death we are not permitted to live on the earth and bother people from our position of invisibility; at least most people are not allowed to do this.

As soon as our body is redeemed we can live once again on the earth.

To those who are worried about losing Heaven, don't be! Heaven is coming to the earth. The Lord Jesus is going to rule from Jerusalem during the thousand-year Kingdom Age, and you want to be with Him. I sure do not want to be stuck up in Heaven when Jesus is down here. Do you?

Then after the thousand-year Kingdom Age the Godhead will descend to the earth in their Tabernacle, which is the Christian Church. You don't want to remain asleep in your mansion in Heaven when God and Christ are down here, do you?

I didn't think so.

The best of Heaven is coming to the earth. It came two thousand years ago in the Lord Jesus Christ. It will come again soon in the Lord Jesus and His brothers, the members of His Body.

After a thousand years of adjustment the entire Group is coming down in the form of the new Jerusalem, the holy city. Then the earth will be Paradise once again. The difference is, the sons of God will be sitting in the thrones of judgment and rulership, making sure there are no more rebellions.

To keep something for eternity you have to be given it, lose it, and then get it back the hard way. The race of Adam received Paradise, lost it, and then will get it back the hard way. The Lord Jesus did not come from Heaven to do the whole job for us but to help us restore what was lost. If He did the whole work Himself we would lose it again, because it is in the regaining of it that we learn the value of it and how to keep it.

If your goal is eternal residence there is little you have to do. Hold on to your ticket. Don't be too bad. Practice jumping up and down in case the "rapture" includes the physical body. Some say it does and some say it doesn't. Have some warm clothes laid by because it gets cold when you get up in the region of the clouds.

Don't worry about your bills, the wicked can pay them while you are sitting in air-conditioned comfort, eating popcorn and watching the Jews without the Holy Spirit preach the Gospel in the face of Antichrist. Won't that be fun for us! Not for the Jews, of course.

However if your goal is to inherit the earth then the demands on you are total. You must lay down your life, take up your cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. You must turn over your life to Him without reservation.

Prepare yourself to suffer. No one who has not suffered will govern the nations with Jesus Christ. No cross, no crown! We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation.

You must cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He conforms you to the moral image of your older Brother, the Lord Jesus. You must be recognized as a son of the King, just as was true of Gideon's brothers.

Every moment of your time, every calorie of your energy, must be devoted to looking to Jesus and serving Him. You have no other calling than that of saint.

You must labor with Christ until you overcome the sin that presses on you. The winners will return with Jesus and inherit the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. The Bible does not comment too much about the Lord's servants who are losers except they lose their talent, are cast into outer darkness, have the door shut in their face, are driven from the Presence of Christ, are beaten with lashes, and are cut in pieces and given a portion with the unbelievers.

If you are to inherit Heaven there is little you must do. If you are to inherit the earth you must undergo total transformation. God is not saving what you are but saving you from what you are. He does not want any more snakes in the garden.

So we see that our objective makes a difference in terms of our conduct. We go to Heaven by grace, we remain unchanged, and we praise God for ten thousand years for receiving us into Paradise while we still are morally corrupt.

Or we inherit the earth, are transformed morally, filled with all the fullness of God, and given nations of people to love and to teach the righteous ways of the Lord. Perhaps the kind of land of promise you desire to inherit tells something about the type of person you are. Do you think so? What do you really want?

Do you want to be with the Heaven crowd and sit around all day talking small talk, admiring your mansion and rejoicing over your diamonds? Or do you want to be with those who follow Jesus into the conflict of the ages, tearing down and destroying the works of evil until they are totally driven from the earth? Then will nature break forth into singing and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

While you are sitting in Heaven you might wish you had prepared yourself to be down here enjoying the fun.

I'll tell you what. I will trade my mansion and diamonds for your people. Is it a deal?

Summary#3

At the present time Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, waiting until God makes Jesus' enemies His footstool.

Why is God waiting?

Jesus could have taken control of the earth two thousand years ago, just after His resurrection from the dead. He had the power. He could have saved us two thousand years of human agony.

But it is God's intention that Jesus have a company of brothers, or a bride if you prefer, with whom to share the inheritance.

Therefore the purpose of the Church Age has been to call forth the brothers of Jesus Christ and conform them to His image that He might be the Firstborn among many who will share the spoils with Him.

Since the Bible teaches we are going to return with Christ and release the creation from the bondages of sin and corruption, what does this tell us about how we should prepare ourselves?

We have to learn to live in iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.

First of all, we are going to govern the nations with a rod of iron. The rod of iron is the scepter of iron righteousness held by Christ and every true saint. That iron is being created in us now as through the grace of Christ we overcome every enemy.

We are going to have to live with the consuming Fire, our holy God. Everything in us that is flammable must be fireproofed. Each day of our life we must press further into the holiness of God. Through the Spirit of God we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We must be sternly obedient to the Father. If there were one disobedient person in the army of Christ the invasion of the earth would be jeopardized. Remember Achan!

Every trace of worldliness must be destroyed out of us.

Every trace of the lusts and appetites of the flesh must be destroyed out of us.

Every trace of self-will must be destroyed out of us.

The traditional preparation includes taking the "four steps of salvation." The four steps of salvation consist of a doctrinal statement pieced together by taking fragments of verses from several books of the Bible.

The four steps of salvation then become our ticket. The important thing is not to lose the ticket, although many believers contend it is impossible to lose one's ticket. Once we profess faith in Christ we are assured that no matter what we do we will escape Hell and go to Heaven when we die.

Other than this, no preparation appears to be necessary. We do not really have to gain victory over worldliness, bodily passions, or self-will because we will be made holy and righteous by dying or by the coming of the Lord.

However if your goal is to inherit the earth then the demands on you are total. You must lay down your life, take up your cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. You must turn over your life to Him without reservation.

Prepare yourself to suffer. No one who has not suffered will govern the nations with Jesus Christ. No cross, no crown! We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation.

You must cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He conforms you to the moral image of your older Brother, the Lord Jesus. You must be recognized as a son of the King, just as was true of Gideon's brothers.

Every moment of your time, every calorie of your energy, must be devoted to looking to Jesus and serving Him. You have no other calling than that of saint.

You must labor with Christ until you overcome the sin that presses on you. The winners will return with Jesus and inherit the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. The Bible does not comment too much about the Lord's servants who are losers except they lose their talent, are cast into outer darkness, have the door shut in their face, are driven from the Presence of Christ, are beaten with lashes, and are cut in pieces and given a portion with the unbelievers.

If you are to inherit Heaven there is little you must do. If you are to inherit the earth you must undergo total transformation. God is not saving what you are but saving you from what you are. He does not want any more snakes in the garden.

Questions#3

1. What is Jesus Christ’s inheritance?

2. At the present time Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, waiting until God makes Jesus' enemies His footstool. Why is God waiting?

3. Since the Bible teaches we are going to return with Christ and release the creation from the bondages of sin and corruption, what does this tell us about how we should prepare ourselves?

4. Why is it important to think about the resurrection from the dead?

5. How do the demands upon us differ when we make our goal to inherit the earth rather than live in Heaven?

A Warning to the Backslider

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (II Peter 2:20,21—NIV)

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:30-32—NIV)

There are verses in the Bible that bring comfort to the person who wants to believe and serve God—assurances that what Christ has begun in our life Christ will finish. There are other verses in the Bible that should terrify the individual who is neglecting his or her salvation, who is yielding to the pressure of the world spirit, the seductions of the flesh, or the imaginations and drives of personal ambition.

In our day in America the numerous assurances are presented again and again but one does not often hear the terrifying warnings. All of the tribes are on Mount Gerizim proclaiming the blessings. Mount Ebal is silent.

The purpose of the present essay is to attempt to bring back a wholesome balance to the Gospel of the Kingdom by emphasizing the terrifying warnings found in the Scriptures that are addressed to the backslider.

The above two passages represent one of the numerous seeming contradictions found in the Scriptures. The first passage is saying that if we go back into the world it would better had we never been saved in the first place. The second passage is saying that when we are judged for having transgressed against the Lord in some manner He disciplines us so we will not be condemned with the world.

How we treat seeming contradictions in the Scriptures is critical to our ability to rightly divide the Word of truth. One incorrect way in which to approach a seeming contradiction is to fasten on the side we prefer and ignore the other. This approach seems to be the way in which Christian deductive theology has been constructed.

Another incorrect way is to seek a "balance" such that neither verse is taken in the fullness of its apparent meaning. To do this is to end up with a soup that is neither hot nor cold.

The only correct manner in which to approach two seemingly contradictory statements in the inspired text is to regard each as the unchanging Word of God and to accept it fully, even though we cannot for the moment understand how the two statements can possibly be reconciled.

There is no way we can waltz around the first passage (above), claiming it does not apply to Christians, or it is spoken only to Jews (a favorite technique for evading the inconsistencies of current Christian teaching.).

Notice whom Peter addresses:

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: (II Peter 1:1—NIV)

Obviously Peter is addressing all true Christians.

Now, what does the Apostle say?

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (II Peter 2:20,21—NIV)

Peter states: "If an individual escapes the corruption of the world by knowing Jesus, and then goes back into the world and is overcome, it would be better not to have known the way of righteousness to begin with."

The full force of this declaration is not to be diluted in any manner. The Word of God has spoken. A person who has begun on the way of righteousness (not who merely has taken the "four steps of salvation," he or she has actually started walking in righteousness), if this individual then returns to the world he is worse off than if he had never started to follow the Lord.

If the reader cannot accept the passage as it stands it would be a waste of time to continue with our essay. Our position is that the Word of God is to be taken as it stands and not cut and trimmed to fit the popular American Hollywood gospel.

In the second passage the Apostle Paul is discussing taking the Communion with an unacceptable attitude. Paul says we ought to judge ourselves, implying that we should look to see if our heart is right before we receive the body and blood of the Lord Jesus.

If we go ahead and receive the Communion elements with a wrong attitude, then God judges us and chastens us so that we are not condemned with the world. At least, this is how I read it.

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:30-32—NIV)

This passage also is to be taken full bore. Its implications are not to be minimized in any manner. If we participate in the Communion with things in our heart that ought not to be there, God sees this. God then disciplines us to the point of sickness and death that we not come under the judgment of the sinful world.

It reminds one of Cain. He presented his offering to God. But envy and strife were in his heart, and God was not pleased with Cain's act of worship for this reason.

If we take the first passage and ignore the second, then we have a rigid formula of salvation. If the believer should be seduced back into the world he or she never should have been saved in the first place. The oversight of God and the working of the Spirit of grace are not taken into consideration. The way of Christ is not this harsh or unsympathetic.

If we take the second passage and ignore the first, which is the trend today, we have eternal security. Although eternal security is not a cardinal doctrine of many Christian groups, most Christian teaching stresses that once a person makes a clear commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ he then can never be lost. And so the unscriptural doctrine of eternal security actually carries the day.

But aren't these two concepts mutually exclusive? I don't believe so.

Yet one passage states that if we begin in Christ and then turn back into the world we are worse off than if we had not started. The other portrays God as intervening so the Christian with the wrong attitude is not finally condemned.

It may be true that we are speaking of two different conditions. In the first passage the believer has turned away from the path of righteousness and gone back into the world. The Divine Seed has been choked out by the cares of the world. He has put his hand to the plow and then turned back. He has run out of oil. He has left his talent buried in the ground. His end will be the outer darkness, according to the Gospel accounts.

None of this is true of the second passage. The heart of the worshiper is with the Lord. He is there with the brothers and sisters taking the Communion. But for one reason or another he is not relating properly to his fellow Christians. Also he is treating the sacrament as an unholy thing. God looks down and is not pleased.

But this individual has not turned away from the path of righteousness, has not gone back into the world, the Divine Seed has not been choked out by the cares of the world, he has not left his talent buried in the ground, he has not run out of the oil of the Spirit, he has not turned back from the field he is plowing. God judges him worthy of the Kingdom and sends sickness or death upon him that he might be saved, just as Paul delivered the incestuous Corinthian to Satan for the destruction of his flesh that his spirit might be saved in the Day of Christ.

By the way, the result of taking the Communion with a wrong attitude, and the assigning of the incestuous believer to Satan, reveal the utter falsity of the popular teaching that the blood of Christ covers us so God cannot see our behavior.

Before we get into the terrifying warnings to the backslider, let me remind the reader of the many marvelous promises of God found in the Scriptures, declarations of the watchful care and awesome power of the One who has called us to Himself.

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. (Romans 8:38,39—NIV)

And again:

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. (II Timothy 1:12—NIV)

Having brought to mind the saving power of God, a power that is ready to work on behalf of anyone who keeps plowing ahead with the Lord even though there are significant flaws in the personality, let us consider some of the statements found in the Book of Hebrews. The Book of Hebrews is a warning to the backslider.

First of all, what group was being addressed in the Book of Hebrews? Those being addressed were Jewish Christians. They were experienced believers who now were beginning to grow cold. The long periods of boredom that often occur in the Christian life were having their effect. The excitement was over, and now came the years of patient endurance when nothing exciting was taking place. But it is in such times that the saints are made.

The internal evidence of the epistle suggests that they were "saved," as we use the term, and knew the Holy Spirit and also the miracle power that prefigures the coming Kingdom Age.

In addition they had responded joyously and victoriously to severe persecution.

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:32-34—NIV)

These were not exactly new converts!

The Book of Hebrews is a book of warning to experienced Christians who, after having received Christ as Savior and been filled with the Holy Spirit, were neglecting to press forward vigorously and diligently into the rest of God, that is, into the place where they were dwelling in untroubled rest in the center of God's will.

Evidences of this primary theme appear throughout the epistle. The departure into the discussion concerning the Old Testament sacrifices was for the purpose of showing that the new covenant is superior to the old. It is superior because it includes the power to remove sin rather than just forgive sin, as was true of the blood of bulls and goats. The idea is that there is much more than only forgiveness for us under the new covenant and we are obligated to press into it.

Now let's examine the thesis of the Book of Hebrews, the exhortation to press into the rest of God and the penalty for becoming careless in the things of salvation.

For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. (Hebrews 2:2,3—NIV)

The idea here is that if every violation and disobedience under the old covenant was punished, we shall not escape if we ignore the provisions of the new covenant.

This passage, particularly verse three, is often preached to the unsaved. It is not addressed to the unsaved. It is addressed to experienced saints who were not pressing forward to the rest of God. The idea is that of ignoring something we already possess.

But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (Hebrews 3:6—NIV)

Can you see that we are the house of Christ only as long as we "hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast"? It is said today that salvation is not conditional. The truth is, our being saved depends on our response. The Hebrews Christians were drifting away from their courage and hope.

That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, "Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways." So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest." (Hebrews 3:10,11—NIV)

The writer reminds these seasoned Christians how the Jews started out from Egypt, a type of being saved initially, and then were prevented from entering the land of promise, a type of not finally becoming part of Christ.

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12—NIV)

When previously discussing the passage from Second Peter we spoke of the believer who turns away from God. But what is the penalty for doing this? Peter told us the penalty was to end up in a worse condition than when we started out as a Christian.

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:14—NIV)

The penalty is to not share in Christ.

The absolute unwillingness of modern Christian ministers to accept the above as it is written has brought chaos into the churches.

Salvation is a goal we pursue, not a ticket we receive at the time of taking "the four steps of salvation." As we can see, we are not saved in Christ until we persevere to the end of our discipleship. He who endures to the end shall be saved, just as the Lord said.

The branch that does not bear the fruit of the moral image of Christ will be cut out of the Vine, out of Christ. This is the Word of God. It must be preached today for we are losing a whole generation of American believers. They think they are saved and on their way to Heaven but they are not participating in the program of redemption, the process of deliverance from the influence of Satan and entrance into the Person of God through Christ.

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (Hebrews 4:1—NIV)

To be in the rest of God is to be doing God's will sternly and perfectly. Yet we hear Christians saying today that no one can do God's will perfectly. It is too hard.

The truth is, we either press into God's rest or we are in danger of not being accepted in Christ in the Day of the Lord. We absolutely must cease from our own works, our own plans and schemes, and find God's will for our life. Until we do this we are not qualified to be resurrected and caught up when the Lord returns.

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14—NIV)

The writer refers to these experienced believers as babies who cannot be fed the meat of the Word. Why can't they be fed the meat of the Word? Because they have not trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

What would the writer of the Book of Hebrews say if he saw the churches of today? We are being told there is no evil, we are saved by an unconditional amnesty and so there is no need to worry about our behavior. We are advised that God sees us only through Christ and so whatever we do is righteous.

It is time now for God to baptize His churches with fire. We must become aware of Divine judgment so we can tell what part of our behavior is sinful and what is righteous. Whatever is sinful must be firmly denounced and renounced so the Holy Spirit can remove all uncleanness from us. Only then can Christ grow in us to the point that we can judge with righteous judgment. When we can judge with righteous judgment we will be able to digest the meat of the Word.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, Who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, If they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (Hebrews 6:4-6—NIV)

I have never read an editor or commentator who would accept the above passage, so great is the apostasy of our time. This passage is the same as all the others in the Book of Hebrews. It is warning us of the danger of turning away from Christ once we have started.

These were not new converts, as we can tell from the text. They had experienced the fullness of the apostolic power available in their day.

But are we saying that if someone sins he or she immediately is cut off? We are saying nothing of the kind. We are claiming, rather, that if an individual follows Christ for a period of time, being established in the faith, and then turns and leaves all he has witnessed and goes back into the world, Christ would have to be crucified again for him in order for him to return. He is in serious trouble to say the least.

I know of one case where a brother who had been rejoicing in the Lord and working in the Kingdom fell into sin. Instead of confessing his sin, repenting, and going on with the Lord, he continued in his fallen state.

Finally his health was so bad he thought back to what he had left. I did what I could to comfort him and advised him to go to church at every opportunity in the hope he would regain the joy of salvation. But I will tell you he was a sorry sight, wearing an old coat, unshaven, trembling with fear. He was in serious spiritual trouble and he knew it.

On another occasion a Pentecostal woman married a man who did not believe in tongues, although he was a Christian. He liked to say "tongues are of the devil."

After several years of marriage, and he had had a chance to see that his wife was a solid Christian, he still was saying "tongues are of the devil."

Then the Lord spoke to him. The Lord said, "Never say that again."

The point is, the Lord does not jump on us when we go against some Bible truth. Jesus did say that anyone who spoke disparagingly of the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven in this world or the world to come. The husband was clearly guilty. But the Lord did not spring the trap. He waited until the husband knew that his repeated statement was not appropriate. Then the Lord spoke to him. As I heard the account he obeyed the Lord. I am certain that if he had defied God he would never have been forgiven, just as the Lord said.

So the fact that God's Word says the Christian who turns away cannot be restored, the reference is to a seasoned Christian who willfully and knowingly leaves Christ and goes back into the world. He may cross the line into the place of no return. This is serious business!

The same thought is repeated immediately.

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6:7,8—NIV)

Again let me remind us of the saying of Jesus that the branch that does not bear fruit will be cut out of the Vine, out of Christ. If this is not a terrifying thought I do not know what is!

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. (Hebrews 6:10,11—NIV)

Is the above verse saying that we make our hope in Christ certain by helping God's people? Are we saved by works? Indeed we are, in this sense!

But notice: we do not work for our salvation but we must work out our salvation. Salvation is something that must be worked out. If we do not work it out then we do not arrive at the destination. We work out our salvation by doing all that Christ and His Apostles commanded. If we do not continue in these good works, which are the proof of our continuing faith and hope, then we are going to bear thorns and briars. The end of this is to be burned.

But will we be "saved"? I guess it depends on what one means by saved. If by saved we include being burned in the fire and not made a part of Christ, I suppose so. On the other hand, we may find ourselves in the outer darkness where people are weeping, and gnashing their teeth in terror and in anger against God.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, But only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26,27—NIV)

The writer has not changed readers. He still is speaking to the holy brothers. A reading of the context will confirm this fact.

If the Christian disciple chooses to keep on sinning after having receive Christ no sacrifice for sins is left. He would have to crucify Christ again to be saved. The sinning Christian can expect judgment and a raging fire . He has become the enemy of God.

This is what the Bible says.

Notice also the next verse.

Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:28-31—NIV)

It is still the same writer, still the same people being addressed, still the same thesis. These Christians are reminded that whoever rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy. But the believer who continues to sin after having known the way of righteousness shall be punished with much greater severity than was true of the days of Moses.

Whom does the Lord judge? His people! Not the unsaved world, "His people"!

For whom is it a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God?

His people!

I do not know how many American Christians will receive the above passage, but it is just as much Bible as John 3:16. If I am not mistaken we are in for a rough time in America as God invites His people to return to Himself.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36—NIV)

Can you see how the same theme keeps being repeated? The Jewish Christians were not persevering. They had been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, as we use these terms, but then they stopped pressing forward. Maybe they were told they would be "raptured immediately," but I doubt it.

In any case, it is clear that if we are to receive what Christ has promised we must faithfully keep on doing the will of God day after day until the time of our death. We must fight the good fight. We must run the race as someone who is determined to win. Salvation is a goal in Christ for which we must fight; toward which we must run with every ounce of strength in our personality.

For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:37-39—NIV)

The just shall live by faith. Living by faith means we do not shrink back but keep pressing forward in Christ.

If we shrink back we will be destroyed, as far as having any part in Christ is concerned.

If we keep pressing forward in faith we shall be saved in Christ. Therefore salvation is a goal toward which we must keep fighting, running, and pressing. There is to be no looking back once we put our hand to the plow.

The entire eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is a definition of "the just shall live by faith." We discover in this chapter that true faith is hope in the invisible God that He will reward those who seek Him diligently. We find also that faith is the obedient response to that which has been revealed by the Lord.

Faith is not so much a doctrinal stance as it is a life of seeking God and of obedience to what He shows us. There are other kinds of faith, such as miracle-working faith. But the faith by which the righteous live is that of a steady seeking of God and delighting in God.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1—NIV)

Here the theme is repeated. We are exhorted to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Paul employs the figure of running a race as does the writer of Hebrews. The Christian life is not one of adopting a set of theological positions and then waiting to go to Heaven. Rather it is a race. Paul tells us that we must run with the idea of winning, not jogging along aimlessly. Toward the end of his life Paul still was endeavoring to win, to gain Christ.

How many believers in America are striving with all their might to gain Christ? These are the true disciples of the Lord. These and these alone will be raised from the dead and caught up to meet the Lord when He appears.

The remainder are just churchgoers. Probably the churchgoers who are not fervent disciples are in the majority. What their end will be I have no idea. I do know the Bible means exactly what it says, and it is the overcomers who will inherit the Kingdom of God.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:4—NIV)

Are we to be struggling against sin or did Jesus do it all for us? What do you think, from the above verse?

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. (Hebrews 12:16,17—NIV)

Why are we reminded of Esau? Because of the thesis found in Hebrews that if we turn away from Christ we lose our birthright as a son of God. When this happens there is no gaining it back. A terrifying warning indeed!

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, For our "God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28,29—NIV)

The thought of our God being a "consuming fire," and that we are to worship Him with a corresponding awe, needs to be emphasized in the Christian churches of America. As I see it there is altogether too much silliness and foolishness; too much of the attitude that we have God in our pocket, so to speak, and He is standing around waiting to see how He can be of service to us, how He can help us have more fun.

I do not believe the Christians in Sudan, China, Pakistan, and Egypt are having much fun these days; and I do not think they are too worried about who wins the Super Bowl. Do you?

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5,6—NIV)

God is with us and will help us. He never will leave us. If we keep serving Him with a glad heart, bearing patiently with the numerous and severe trials that all of us experience, He will bring us safely to our destination.

But we Americans must remember that much of the world is suffering hardship. People in some of the other countries do not enjoy the comforts we do, nor do many of them have the knowledge of the Scriptures or access to Bibles that is true of us. The scriptural principle is: "To whom much is given, of him shall much be required."

We have been given much. We cannot feed all the hungry of the world or clothe all the naked, although we wish we could. But one thing we can do: we can live each day unto the Lord with all the diligence we can apply and not be drawn off into the fascinations of the American culture. We can redeem the time by using to the best advantage all we have been given. In one manner or another, by giving or serving or praying, we must do our part to build up the Body of Christ.

We owe this to the suffering members of the Body of Christ worldwide.

The day may soon come when it will be we Americans who are suffering many hardships. Then we will expect the Christians in other countries to do all in their power to serve Christ so that God will hear them when they pray for us and help us through the night we may be called upon to endure.

Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter. (Hebrews 13:22—NIV)

The Book of Hebrews is an exhortation to careless Christians, warning them of the consequences of not serving Christ with their whole heart.

In the light of the severity of the warnings, we have concluded that it is time for a reformation of Christian thinking in America. How do you feel about this?

Summary#4

There are verses in the Bible that bring comfort to the person who wants to believe and serve God—assurances that what Christ has begun in our life Christ will finish. There are other verses in the Bible that should terrify the individual who is neglecting his or her salvation, who is yielding to the pressure of the world spirit, the seductions of the flesh, or the imaginations and drives of personal ambition.

In our day in America the numerous assurances are presented again and again but one does not often hear the terrifying warnings. All of the tribes are on Mount Gerizim proclaiming the blessings. Mount Ebal is silent.

The just shall live by faith. Living by faith means we do not shrink back but keep pressing forward in Christ.

If we shrink back we will be destroyed, as far as having any part in Christ is concerned.

If we keep pressing forward in faith we shall be saved in Christ. Therefore salvation is a goal toward which we must keep fighting, running, and pressing. There is to be no looking back once we put our hand to the plow.

The entire eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is a definition of "the just shall live by faith." We discover in this chapter that true faith is hope in the invisible God that He will reward those who seek Him diligently. We find also that faith is the obedient response to that which has been revealed by the Lord.

Faith is not so much a doctrinal stance as it is a life of seeking God and of obedience to what He shows us. There are other kinds of faith, such as miracle-working faith. But the faith by which the righteous live is that of a steady seeking of God and delighting in God.

God is with us and will help us. He never will leave us. If we keep serving Him with a glad heart, bearing patiently with the numerous and severe trials that all of us experience, He will bring us safely to our destination.

But we Americans must remember that much of the world is suffering hardship. People in some of the other countries do not enjoy the comforts we do, nor do many of them have the knowledge of the Scriptures or access to Bibles that is true of us. The scriptural principle is: "To whom much is given, of him shall much be required."

We have been given much. We cannot feed all the hungry of the world or clothe all the naked, although we wish we could. But one thing we can do: we can live each day unto the Lord with all the diligence we can apply and not be drawn off into the fascinations of the American culture. We can redeem the time by using to the best advantage all we have been given. In one manner or another, by giving or serving or praying, we must do our part to build up the Body of Christ.

We owe this to the suffering members of the Body of Christ worldwide.

The day may soon come when it will be we Americans who are suffering many hardships. Then we will expect the Christians in other countries to do all in their power to serve Christ so that God will hear them when they pray for us and help us through the night we may be called upon to endure.

Questions#4

1.How should we respond to seeming contradictions in the Scriptures?

2. Summarize the Book of Hebrews:

3. Why is entering God’s rest so important?

4. What does it mean to live by faith?

5. How should we who have been given so very much respond?

I NEVER KNEW YOU

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:21-23—NIV)

Meeting Man's Needs or God's Needs?

I have been very concerned, and I know you have too, at the turn things have taken in the Christian churches. We have become man-centered. The Gospel of the Kingdom, which is a hope for a glorious future, especially for those who are suffering, has become a way of helping us have a prosperous, successful, fulfilled life in the present world.

Can you remember some of the old hymns, how they spoke of patiently following the Master: "Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free? No, there's a cross for everyone and there's a cross for me"; "I'm going through, Jesus, I'm going through. I'll take the way with the Lord's despised few"; "I have decided to follow Jesus. Though none go with me, still I will follow."

Can you remember these? What has happened to them?

The popular Christian books of today are those that offer formulas for a happy marriage, how to have an improved love life, or how to make more money. I do not say there is no need for advice for married people, anger management or financial counseling. But how many books and seminars have as their topic the happy, successful person as compared with those that tell of God's need for His people to come to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ?—that stress the need for patient, stern obedience to God?

Would such books and seminars attract anyone?

God was not created to meet our needs. We were created to meet God's needs. God needs a living temple. God needs a helper suited for the Lamb. God needs a body for His Christ. God needs brothers for the Lord Jesus. God needs people who can judge mankind and the angels as well. God needs a material expression of Himself, a fullness of Christ. God needs! God needs!

How concerned are you with God's needs? Or do you see Christ as the means of getting what you desire?

God's Great Plan Requires Our Barrenness

God has a huge plan, a blueprint for bringing into existence a world of perfect, total love, joy, and peace. I think God envisioned the new world of righteousness even before He created, through Christ, the angels and cherubim

Here's the rub. In order to create such a world God needs a royal priesthood, a holy city, that can govern the new world, maintaining iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern, strict obedience to the Father. Such a priesthood cannot be formed in any manner other than by bringing its members through barrenness, through deprivation, through the removal of reliance on the world for security and survival, through complete purification from sin, and finally through the destruction of self until it is Christ who is living rather than the individual.

The royal priesthood will be God in Christ in the saints governing and blessing the saved of mankind. This is the Kingdom of God.

Notice how God deals with the royal priesthood to teach them dependence on Himself:

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:1-3—NIV)

Notice also that when God is forming the members of the new Jerusalem, the tabernacle of God that will dwell among people on the new earth, He causes them to suffer barrenness. God intervenes in the normal course of their lives, as He did with Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah, Zachariah and Elizabeth, so that when they bring forth the Glory of God it will not be by human means but Divine intervention. God wants His Glory to be revealed in humans, and this requires considerable pain and stress on the part of the chosen humans!

But the fruit proceeding from the suffering one is abundant—worth waiting for!

"Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the LORD. (Isaiah 54:1—NIV)

Is God dealing with you in this manner? Then rejoice! You yet shall be part of the new Jerusalem if you wait patiently for God and do not break out of the prison He has placed you in.

O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. (Isaiah 54:11,12—NIV)

What are we saying? We are saying that today the Lord is looking for those who will forget about most of the unscriptural notions of today's Christians and return to the Lord, separating the precious from that which is worthless. Those who do this will be a minority, a Gideon's army. But it is these who finally, through the Presence and Power of God, will win victory for all Israel.

Antichrist and the False Prophet

The church world that we know, particularly the Charismatic world, is going to be divided, I believe. There will be a despised remnant whom the majority of the churchgoers, as well as the secular population, do not understand. The majority will become the False Prophet mentioned in the Book of Revelation, the beast coming out of the earth. One of the characteristics of the despised remnant will be they are seeking to meet the needs of God rather than the needs of man.

If we were students of Church history we would be aware of the uniqueness of our day. Never before have so many believers been introduced to the workings of the spirit world. Over the last fifty years divine healing, tongues, prophecy, miracles, have come into the possession of an increasing number of God's flock.

We now are at a crossroads. Should we attempt to use our spiritual gifts to improve the condition of the world, or should we turn back to Jesus Christ and allow Him to use us to meet the needs of God? The difference between these two approaches is the difference between the Holy Spirit and the False Prophet, between Jesus Christ and Antichrist.

We are at this fork in the road today. Which way should we go?

Antichrist

And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. (Revelation 13:1—NIV)

Our interpretation is as follows: the dragon is Satan. The sea represents the mass of mankind. The beast coming out of the sea is the great impostor, Antichrist. The ten horns symbolize Antichrist's power in the world. The seven heads speak of perfect wisdom. The ten crowns portray the authority in the world that God has assigned to Antichrist in order that God's great plan may be carried out.

I think that Antichrist, as revealed in world government, is the spirit of libertarian democracy, the rule of man as distinguished from the rule of God.

At the beginning of the nation of America two forces were active. One was the Christian force. The other force was that of revolt against the authoritarian governments of Europe. Thus our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written by men who, although heavily influenced by their Christian heritage from England, were nonetheless seeking human freedom of expression rather than righteousness and obedience to God.

For two hundred or so years there has not been clarity, it seems to me, on the enormous gulf between the pursuit of righteousness and the pursuit of happiness. Up to the present the Christian force has been accepted as somehow part of America, somehow part of democracy.

Now, more than ever, the social fabric is ripping. The rights of man are prevailing over the rights of God, as we see in the legalizing of abortion and homosexuality. The Christians are being forced to lose ground inch by inch. They are seeing their values despised, trampled under foot.

We are at the point where God and Satan are facing each other. The force of God (Christianity) and the force of Satan (democracy) have been mixed together in America, somewhat indistinguishable in one melting pot, so to speak. This no longer is the case. Definition is upon us.

Antichrist emerges from the "sea," that is, from the multitudes of mankind. So it is today that we see in the nations of the world a desire for man to govern his government. Rule by the people sounds so right, so noble, so Christian. Actually it will never work.

Libertarian democracy will always lead to anarchy as various groups and individuals force their way into the leadership vacuum and seek the power to control other people. Of course the political action groups will mouth the acceptable shibboleth that all they are doing is "for the people," but the same selfish disregard for the actual welfare of the people prevails as fully as it did in the oppressive European monarchies. Nowhere can self-seeking be seen more clearly than in political leaders.

Government by the people makes it possible for Satan to impose his will because there is no statesman, no leader with principle and integrity, installed by Divine appointment. The ambitious men and women climb the ranks by currying favor, lying, and treachery with Satan working in the midst. Principle and integrity are often disregarded if not scorned. The only form of government that will bring righteousness and justice is a monarchy in which the king is God-fearing, strong, just, and merciful, seeking the good of his kingdom while ruling with an iron hand.

The False Prophet

Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. (Revelation 13:11—NIV)

Antichrist is man attempting to be his own god in the political-social realm. The False Prophet is man attempting to be his own god in the spiritual realm.

The False Prophet comes out of the earth, that is, out of the soul of man. He "had two horns like a lamb" meaning he is seeking a double portion of the power of the Lamb, that is, of Jesus Christ. But he speaks with the voice of the dragon, of Satan. The voice of the dragon always accuses the saints and always says "you shall not surely die." We shall hear both of these aspects of the voice of Satan with increasing clarity in the days to come.

I never knew you. One may wonder, "How could people seek and exercise a double portion of the power of the Lamb, of Christ, and yet be of Satan?"

For an answer to this question, look again at our introductory Scripture:

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:21-23—NIV)

Can you see from the above that you can prophesy in the name of Jesus, you can drive out demons in the name of Jesus, and you can perform many miracles in the name of Jesus, while calling Jesus Lord! Lord!, and still not enter the Kingdom of Heaven? still have it true of you that the Lord Jesus never knew you? still be considered an evildoer?

That it is possible to use the power of the spiritual world in Jesus' name and still not be known of Christ is a fact very much in need of publication in the Charismatic ranks.

As God and Satan are facing each other in the days in which we live we will witness a tremendous rise in man-centeredness in the governmental-social realm and a tremendous rise in man-centeredness in the Christian realm.

But what about the other religions? Believe me, during the titanic spiritual struggle of our day the religions other than Christianity, in spite of their claims and sword-rattling, are bit players in the scenario. The struggle is between Christ and Antichrist, the Holy Spirit of God and the False Prophet.

What will be the outcome of the man-centeredness in both the governmental and spiritual orders? You guessed it. The two will join ranks!

Using the power of the Lamb without the Lamb. Now, let's take a closer look at our Scripture and give it some careful thought.

Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:22,23—NIV)

Now, how can this be?

How can a believer call Jesus "Lord" and work miracles in His name, and then be rejected?

God will honor the name of Jesus. If we are religiously ambitious we can use the name of Jesus to heal the sick, raise the dead, work other miracles, speak in tongues, prophesy, and do all else than can be performed by the faithful.

There are principles that can be exercised in the realm of spirits. They work even though the minister is not in touch with the Lord; the Lord does not know him or her.

We see this in the so-called "faith" ministry of today. It often works! It is not faith in the Lord Jesus but faith in faith.

Some of the proponents of this Christless practice say that the Bible and Jesus are one and the same. Therefore if you speak the words of the Bible you are speaking the words of Jesus. All you need is faith to believe that what the Bible states will come to pass. If you want to be popular and make a lot of money, this is the way to go. People will be healed. The deaf will hear. The blind will see. So what is the problem?

Let's look at our passage once more.

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:21-23—NIV)

There are two aspects we must consider, found in the above passage.

First, we must be doing the will of the Father.

Second, we must not be evildoers. We must be keeping the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.

It is not enough to "make it work." We must be doing the will of God and we must be living a righteous, holy life if we expect to have fellowship with Jesus Christ.

"But isn't it God's will that people be healed?" Right here is the problem. Much of today's Christian ministry proceeds on the assumption that we know God's will.

"Isn't it God's will that everyone hear the Gospel?

"Isn't it God's will that everyone be saved?

"Isn't it God's will that everyone be healed?"

This is how a great part of the Christian ministry operates today. We are trying to do God's work without knowing for sure what God is saying; what God is doing. This is never the way of Jesus Christ or of the Holy Spirit. This is the False Prophet.

We are blind leading the blind. We do not know what Christ is saying today. We read the Bible and suppose we know what to do. We don't, in numerous instances. We are guessing. We are making assumptions.

Because it is possible to use the name of Jesus apart from Jesus, any enterprising person can go forth and do "great things for God." He will be acclaimed in this world. He very well may be rejected by Christ in the next age because he was not doing God's will, only what he supposed was God's will.

This is to put the head of man on the Body of Christ. This is the False Prophet.

In the hour in which we are living God is ready to demonstrate unprecedented power. As we have stated, the Charismatic movement will be divided into two camps.

There will be a minority, a remnant who will go to the cross with Jesus. They will be blind and deaf to mental reasoning and impressions. They will look to Jesus for every decision of life. God will judge them until all worldliness, sin, and self-will have been driven from their personality.

They may not be fruitful in the beginning, or they may. Who can tell what God will do with an individual? But in the end they will possess all things.

In the meanwhile the majority of believers will be learning how to work the spirit realm. Miracles will be commonplace. How wonderful! We can go forth and do great things in the name of Jesus. This "successful" group will not tolerate the idea of suffering, of patient waiting on the Lord. They are upbeat, enthusiastic. Their assemblies are exciting places to go. They are expert in marketing techniques. They are on the move for God and the communities are responding.

Meanwhile the remnant are patiently listening for the voice of the Lord, who keeps pruning and chastening them. They know what it means to carry the cross behind Jesus.

Which group are you in? Which group do you want to be in?

The False Prophet gives life to Antichrist. In the last days democracy will prevail, in the major countries, over other forms of government, as I see it; over all forms of socialism, totalitarianism, monarchy, and feudalism. This is because Satan can make the greatest inroads with human beings when they are not being restrained.

Recently a friend applied to the state in which we live for a license to provide day care for small children. She was told there must be no restraint on the children, no spanking, no "time-out" procedures. The misbehaving child must be diverted from destructive behavior with an interesting activity or permitted to vent his rage by pounding on clay dough.

Much of my life has been spent working with children. I know from experience how totally impractical this is. There are children whose willful behavior cannot be diverted and who will destroy the social environment if not restrained.

What is the source of this impractical set of rules? It is none other than Satan who knows what a prey to demons the human being becomes if he or she is not restrained at an early age.

Such restrictions accompanying a license are utterly reprehensible and destructive. It is the Antichrist spirit, that of man making himself god. The god within the human must be permitted unhindered expression. The result is an open door for Satan and his demons to enter.

We can see the result of contemporary educational psychology and curricula in the schools in America in the present hour. How long will it be before teachers must carry guns and wear bulletproof vests in order to protect themselves?

Think of it? Grade school teachers carrying guns and wearing bulletproof vests! Teachers having to hide their coffee for fear a young student will put poison in it! What a wonderful, democratic nation—an example for the other ignorant, misled countries to emulate? God help us in our blind pride!

At each new instance of violence in the schools society cries "Why? Why?"

The answer is, the immorality in America is removing the shield against satanic activity. There is no possible answer to the violence of the schools except a return to prayer, moral behavior, and the Scriptures. Since this is not an acceptable alternative the destructive behavior will increase. But the leaders and teachers will keep projecting the image of the glory of America while all around them is corruption, suffering, and death.

In the scientific disciplines truth is sought through means of research and experimentation, the testing of hypotheses, the statisticians employing null hypotheses, let the bodies fall where they may, so to speak. But in the social disciplines bias and persuasion are employed so the preconceived agendas may be carried out. Thus the social scientists are ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth concerning human behavior, precisely as the Scriptures state.

As we have said, there are two massive forces coming to maturity in the world, forces of which the seeds were planted from the beginning of time. The one force is self-centeredness in the governmental-social realm. The other major force is self-centeredness in the spiritual realm.

In addition to these forces there is another force that will finally prevail. The third force is God in Christ in the believers who have turned away from self-rule and are utterly dependent on Jesus Christ for their every move, their every decision. Though the self-centered forces will seem to prevail in the world, and the despised remnant will be driven into hiding, in the end all that is self-centered will be shaken and removed and God will roar out of Zion, His true Church.

The Book of Revelation points out that the False Prophet, man-centered Christianity, will assist Antichrist, the man-centered social order. The first beast of Revelation will be assisted by the second.

He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:12-17—NIV)

You can see from the above that the False Prophet, the second beast, will make it possible for Antichrist, the first beast, to succeed. It is the False Prophet who will make the people of the earth worship the first beast. It is the False Prophet who will perform great signs. It is the False Prophet who will deceive the nations into setting up an image in honor of the beast. It is the False Prophet who will force people to receive the mark of the beast.

Now you can see the reason for the following passage.

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." (Revelation 14:12,13—NIV)

Today Dispensational teaching is advising us that we do not have to keep the commandments of God. This is the spirit of the False Prophet. Of course we have to keep God's commandments. Of course we have to remain faithful to Jesus.

We must die in the Lord. We must count ourselves crucified with Christ. Only then will we be able to rest from our own works during the night when no man can work, and yet bring forth the deeds of God.

You may think, "Christian people will never support the secular government in this fashion. Christian people would never use the name of Christ to work miracles and support Antichrist."

When religious people think they are doing God's will, and they are not accustomed to waiting on God until they know what God's will actually is, then they are capable of anything.

Consider the scribes and Pharisees, the chief priests and elders of Israel. They were of God's chosen people. They were thoroughly convinced they were doing God's will. Do you suppose they had any idea Jesus was the Messiah who was to come?

The Jews were so utterly perverse they tried to kill Jesus for reminding them that Elijah and Elisha sometimes ministered to people who were not of Israel. The leaders watched Jesus carefully to see if He would heal someone on Shabbat. The members of God's chosen nation sought to kill Lazarus because people were believing in Christ because of his being raised from the dead.

Finally the custodians of the Law actually given by Jesus on Sinai cried out for His murder.

So don't tell me what Christian people who are ambitious but not hearing from Christ will do under certain circumstances.

As I see it, the majority of the Charismatic people will end up cooperating with a humanitarian leader who asks them to help him end the problems of the world. It is but a step from such cooperation to the persecution of those weird people who are more intent on worshiping God than they are on solving the problems of the world.

Do you want to see a picture of how God wants a Christian assembly to be? It may surprise you.

And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:"Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:2-4—NIV)

This is a picture of what a Christian assembly should look like. Every member is standing before the Throne of God. They have been made as transparent as glass because the Divine Fire has driven worldliness, lust, and self-will from them.

They have gained victory over the beast, his image, and the number of his name.

The beast is the spirit of man-centeredness, man making himself God. The image of the beast is what we call "spin" today. The self-centered Christians will project a world ruled by democratic government, providing peace and plenty for all. The number of the beast's name is 666, a trinity of sixes. Six is the number of man because man was created on the sixth day. 666 is man making himself God.

God has given harps to the true Christians. He Himself has become their Song.

They sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, not as in that wretched Dispensationalism that seeks to separate the Lamb from Moses, the Christian Church from God's previous work with His timeless saints.

They praise, worship, and adore God, recognizing that He alone is holy and that all nations will come and worship before Him. God's righteousness has been revealed in Christ and those who belong to Christ, while the wicked have been judged.

This is a true portrayal of the exemplary Christian assembly.

Go to any Christian gathering today. What will you find? The accent is on people, what people plan to do "for Christ."

It is not often one finds an assembly, seminar, or convocation where God is adored. Time may be set aside for praise and worship but it is clear there is a human agenda. To just wait on the Lord without making plans to save the world seems to be difficult for us.

I personally am sick of hearing what people are going to do. I want to hear about the wonderful works of God and how the nations will finally come and worship before Him.

You know, it is not our responsibility to save the world. Our responsibility is to adore the Lord and to obey Him implicitly.

We see, then, that self-centered Christians will be deceived into supporting the Antichrist government.

Already in the United States we have a government which has legalized abortion and homosexual unions. What is next? In the newspaper we find a publisher in China producing a book that describes the alleged immorality of the leader of a democratic nation and a professed Christian. Can you imagine with what reverence the Chinese people will regard this statesman? The Chinese leaders are tough and wise and in some instances have rejected Christians because of their immorality. All nations recognize and respect virtue and China is no exception!

Please do not interpret the above as an endorsement of the torture and murder of Christians and other people who disagree with Chinese policy. The Chinese leaders responsible for atrocities will answer for their practices in the Day of Judgment. Nevertheless, I think the dynamics are as stated above.

It is not possible for many of our political leaders to stand before the Throne of God on the sea of glass mixed with fire. They do not have the harps of God. Yet they sometimes are referred to as being Christians.

Things are on the road toward definition.

Political parties in power always seek to present an image of a prosperous country. They will work together with any religious group that enhances that image, seeking the welfare of mankind.

Often, however, as we read in the Bible, the true prophets of the Lord proclaimed doom. Think of Jeremiah, for example. The kings of Israel had their palace prophets who kept on speaking of good things to come from the Lord. These prophets the kings favored. The true prophets were often imprisoned or slain.

So it will be in the near future. The man-centered churches will cooperate with democratic government to bring peace and security to the world. But the despised remnant, those who are hearing from Christ, will speak of God's concern with righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God. They will be sponsoring a negative image as far as the government and the majority of Christians are concerned.

How do you think an Antichrist government will act toward those who are proclaiming the words of God rather than speaking of glorious bridges to the future where mankind is living in peace and prosperity? How do you think the leaders of the self-centered churches will act toward those Christians who are prophesying against the government, not cooperating, endangering those who are endeavoring to serve Christ without hearing from Christ?

How did the palace prophets receive the true prophet of the Lord? How did the chief priests and elders receive Messiah Jesus? How did the Jews receive the Apostle Paul? Did they not incite the political leaders against him?

As you may have concluded by now, Antichrist and the False Prophet will persecute viciously those who do not cooperate with the formation of a bright new world.

The Antichrist spirit will be personified in the kindest, most generous, capable administrator you can imagine. He (or she) will be personable, attractive to young and old. But in his (or her) heart will burn the fires of Hell, the life of Satan. However, only the remnant, those who are living close to Jesus, will be able to see past the benevolent, gracious appearance.

There is one thing carrying our cross does for us, it enables us to keep from being deceived.

Commanding Stones To Be Made Bread

One of the three temptations that all sons of God must overcome is that of commanding stones to be made bread, apart from the prompting of the Lord.

Jesus had been without food for many days. He was in an inhospitable environment.

At this point Satan provoked Christ to work a miracle. "If you are the Son of God, turn the stone into food."

The Lord's response was, "Man does not live by food alone but by the Words coming from the mouth of God."

The point is, we are not to use the gifts of God to provide our needs. God will nourish us according to His will.

During their wilderness journey the Israelites were deprived of many creature comforts, including the food of their choice. All they had to eat was a light kind of wafer termed "manna." We mentioned the manna previously in this essay.

God desires that we learn to live, not by our trust in the things of the world but by our trust in His provision. Whether they enjoyed it or not, the manna was always there.

In recent years, as the knowledge of spiritual gifts has increased, there are Christian leaders who see the possibility of using such power to enhance our lives in the present world. Thus we have the "faith" and "prosperity" messages. These are early forms of the False Prophet.

Antichrist leaders will not be slow to see the possibilities in such power. They will enlist church people in the attempt to meet the needs of mankind.

Jesus prophesied that those who believe in Him will perform the same works He did, and greater. We are coming to the fulfillment of this prophecy.

God wants to pour out unprecedented power in our day. But God knows that such power tends to corrupt His servants.

Even William Branham was finally deceived by the acclaim of Christians and lost the purity of his ministry by regarding himself as a great prophet.

Audrey and I were at a meeting in Long Beach, California. Brother Branham told the audience that his advisers were not content that he pray for only a few people during the service. He must have a healing line like the other healing evangelists.

At the meeting we attended, Brother Branham divided the service into two parts. During the first part he ministered by revelation to a handful of people. It was glorious.

Then he had us sing "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name."

After that he had a healing line. In the line were two acquaintances of ours, a father who never had been sick in his life (according to his testimony) and his son who was severely mentally retarded.

When the two came before Branham he prayed for the father. When I saw this I knew his advisers, though not intending to, had put out the eyes of the man with the spectacular word of knowledge. He was as Samson grinding at the mill of human opinion.

Suppose in the future, God gives you the gift of multiplying food, as God will to some in the last days ("The works that I do you shall do").

Let us then suppose God tells you not to use your gift until He directs you to do so. When people found out you had the means to end the problem of hunger in the world, how do you think they would respond? How do you think an Antichrist government would respond?

How do you think the Christian leaders would respond? The Jews tried to make Jesus a king but He refused. Yet with His power He could have turned the Roman Empire into a model kingdom. He could have fed the starving, abolished slavery, and brought peace to the world.

You would be terribly pressured to use your gift for the benefit of mankind just as William Branham was pressured by those who traveled with him.

You probably would give in to the social pressure and try to use your gift apart from the Lord in some socially sensible and defensible manner.

God has lost more than one servant because their gift led them astray. God does not like to lose servants!

Jesus refused, as hungry as He was, to turn the stones into bread. He could have! But apparently the Father said "no."

If you and I are going to escape being drawn into the Antichrist-False Prophet duet we will have to resolve with steel hardness to never, never, never exercise any gift we have been given apart from the direction of the Lord. We must be prepared to resist all pressure no matter who the pressure is coming from, though it be the highest government official or all the Christian leaders in the land.

We are not among those who are trying to save the world. Rather we are trying to please God, to worship Him, to always do His will without complaining, to be the slaves of Jesus Christ.

Truly the world has awful needs, physically and spiritually. It is not our responsibility to meet those needs. Our responsibility is to worship and serve God.

If we do we will find that by following God strictly and sternly we have become a greater help to mankind than would have been possible had we attempted to meet the needs of humanity in our own strength and wisdom.

What I am saying here may sound correct and easy to practice but the pressures of Satan and human flesh make such rest in God very difficult to find and keep.

Yes, God wants to entrust awesome gifts to us in these days, and we should be praying for rain in the time of latter rain. But most importantly God is seeking servants who will not move according to human reasoning but will be led by the Spirit of God in all they do.

You Shall Not Surely Die

Now we come to the greatest of the problems facing American Christians. Satan is telling us we shall not surely die if we disobey Christ, if we walk in the flesh, and we are believing it. Of all the things I teach the one that meets the most resistance is the scriptural truth that salvation is not a ticket but a process, and that process can be aborted by our unwillingness to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.

Satan has been so successful in blinding the believers and their leaders to what the New Testament states clearly that they absolutely reject the fact that an individual can make a profession of Christ and then fall away from God. They are incorrect in this, as the future will reveal. This is the work of the deceiver.

Satan has been condemned to the Lake of Fire. But Satan knows it is given to the saints to be the judges of men and angels. Therefore Satan is attempting to convince God's judges that no matter what people (or angels) do they should never be severely punished.

But God's judges who sit with Christ on the great White Throne will not be moved by human judgment or mercy. They, like their Lord, will judge with righteous judgment for they will listen for the judgment of God. To such it is given to forgive and retain sins, to open and close the doors to the Kingdom of God, to eternal life. Those who intend to be part of this royal priesthood, to whom the thrones of judgment are to be assigned, must learn now to listen to God and follow His Word and not be moved by the spirit of humanism that has so heavily infiltrated Christian thinking.

The greater part of the Charismatic movement will accept the satanic doctrine that man must not suffer (in the hopes that Satan will not suffer). The majority are so accustomed to leaning on human reasoning they can be deceived readily. The believers act according to how they feel and what their traditions teach. They are ignorant of the Scriptures, as can be seen by their acceptance of the doctrine of the "pre-tribulation" rapture—an unscriptural teaching that any high school student with a working knowledge of the New Testament could refute with ease.

The doctrine of the rapture is based largely on an interpretation of symbols rather than the writings of the Apostles. Everyone knows that the interpretation of symbols must be based on the clear scriptural teaching of the Apostles. Doctrine simply cannot be derived from an interpretation of symbols, such as the male Son of the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation.

The despised remnant will hold firmly in mind that God is as severe as He is good. They will utterly reject the idea that people will never suffer.

Many of today's false teachings are based on the idea that those who make a profession of Jesus Christ will never suffer.

When Satan in Peter tried to stop Jesus from going up to Jerusalem and making an atonement for the sins of the world, Jesus recognized the source instantly. Wasn't Peter being a friend? Yes, in the human sense. No, in terms of God's plan to redeem the world through the blood atonement. Thus it is true that human love will always, without realizing it, tend to destroy the greater good that God intends. That which appears to be merciful and compassionate is actually destructive.

The teaching of the "pre-tribulation rapture" of the saints, a device to escape suffering, comes from "You shall not surely die."

The teaching that no Christian need be concerned about the Judgment Seat of Christ is based on "You shall not surely die."

The overemphasis on God's love and the rejection of His severity proceeds from "You shall not surely die."

The Dispensational teaching of a state of grace that prevents God from seeing our actual behavior is derived from "You shall not surely die."

The extension of imputed righteousness far beyond its appointed bounds is founded on "You shall not surely die."

The concept of "eternal security" is the outcome of "You shall not surely die."

The notion that we not obligated to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles is related to "You shall not surely die."

The doctrine that if we have faith we will not suffer comes from the same source as "You shall not surely die."

Thus we see that a significant part of the doctrine of the Christian churches is coming from Satan. The Bible has been replaced by the traditions of the believers, traditions that reflect the desire of Satan to influence God's judges to the point they no longer will be able to judge the angels or themselves. Why will they not be able to judge the angels? Because they themselves are committing the sins that began with the angels. They are powerless to judge because they themselves are guilty!

This is what Satan desires: one great soup of people who serve Christ with their mouth but whose hearts are worldly, lustful, and disobedient to the Father.

Satan has largely accomplished his goal in the Christian churches of our day. We do not know the Lord. We are preaching a man-made gospel with no Divine fire in it. We have lost the axe head, borrowed from the saints of the past, and are trying to chop trees with the helve. We are going forth without Christ to save the world, not because we fear God and desire to serve Him but because we want to shield people from Divine judgment.

We have turned the Great Commission into a message to sinners that if they will make the right profession they do not have to keep the commandments of Christ. Furthermore, God will never punish them no matter what they do, and certainly Hell and the Lake of Fire are out of the question. A loving God would never do this to them.

But the hard words that Jesus spoke concerning what He will do to people at His return were spoken, for the most part, to His servants.

We are in deception. Satan has done a masterful job of leading the believers astray.

Today the Spirit of God is looking for those who will turn away from the multitude of "exciting" projects to save the world, who will return to the worship of God through Jesus Christ, who will humbly wait for His Presence and guidance.

If you intend to seek Christ you better not expect other Christians to cheer you on. They well may tell you that you ought to get busy and go out and save people from Hell. It doesn't matter whether or not the sinners serve God and live a righteous life just as long as they are not punished. This is pure humanism, placing the interests of people above the interests of God.

God has not called us to shield people from His wrath. God has called us to faithfully bear witness of His Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Christ, so those who choose to do so may turn from their wicked ways and enter righteousness and eternal life.

Eternal life is not a gift that is given to those who profess faith in Christ but then do not turn away from sin. Eternal life always is the result of righteous, holy behavior. It is those who do the will of God who live forever.

It is the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. God's goal for man never, never changes. The amount of grace available and the demands on us increase from covenant to covenant. But God's heroes of faith began with Abel, not with the Apostles of Christ.

Will we ever come out of the present mess? Perhaps a few of the Christians will hear the voice of the Lord and turn to Him. But any believer can choose to turn away from trying to do the work of Christ apart from Christ, can come quietly to the Lord and listen for His voice.

It is not important that we work miracles or prophesy. But it is extremely important that we do the will of God. It is extremely important also that we are not evildoers.

One thing is of supreme concern—that Jesus knows us.

If Jesus does not know us, then all is lost as far as we are concerned no matter what we may have seemed to accomplish in His Kingdom.

Summary#5

God was not created to meet our needs. We were created to meet God's needs. God needs a living temple. God needs a helper suited for the Lamb. God needs a body for His Christ. God needs brothers for the Lord Jesus. God needs people who can judge mankind and the angels as well. God needs a material expression of Himself, a fullness of Christ. God needs! God needs!

How concerned are you with God's needs? Or do you see Christ as the means of getting what you desire?

In the hour in which we are living God is ready to demonstrate unprecedented power. As we have stated, the Charismatic movement will be divided into two camps.

There will be a minority, a remnant who will go to the cross with Jesus. They will be blind and deaf to mental reasoning and impressions. They will look to Jesus for every decision of life. God will judge them until all worldliness, sin, and self-will have been driven from their personality.

They may not be fruitful in the beginning, or they may. Who can tell what God will do with an individual? But in the end they will possess all things.

In the meanwhile the majority of believers will be learning how to work the spirit realm. Miracles will be commonplace. How wonderful! We can go forth and do great things in the name of Jesus. This "successful" group will not tolerate the idea of suffering, of patient waiting on the Lord. They are upbeat, enthusiastic. Their assemblies are exciting places to go. They are expert in marketing techniques. They are on the move for God and the communities are responding.

Meanwhile the remnant are patiently listening for the voice of the Lord, who keeps pruning and chastening them. They know what it means to carry the cross behind Jesus.

Which group are you in? Which group do you want to be in?

If you and I are going to escape being drawn into the Antichrist-False Prophet duet we will have to resolve with steel hardness to never, never, never exercise any gift we have been given apart from the direction of the Lord. We must be prepared to resist all pressure no matter who the pressure is coming from, though it be the highest government official or all the Christian leaders in the land.

We are not among those who are trying to save the world. Rather we are trying to please God, to worship Him, to always do His will without complaining, to be the slaves of Jesus Christ.

Truly the world has awful needs, physically and spiritually. It is not our responsibility to meet those needs. Our responsibility is to worship and serve God.

If we do we will find that by following God strictly and sternly we have become a greater help to mankind than would have been possible had we attempted to meet the needs of humanity in our own strength and wisdom.

Questions#5

1. What two things must we take into consideration regarding Matthew 7:21-23?

2. What two forces found in the Book of Revelation are coming to maturity in the world at the present time?

3. What can we learn from the temptation of commanding stones to be made bread?

4. Upon what common ground are many of today’s false teachings based?

5. What kind of person is the Spirit of God looking for today?

Answer Guide

The Ninety-First Psalm

1. By looking to Him at all times, for all decisions, under all circumstances. We must live in Him, talk to Him, think about Him, seek His guidance continually. Christ always must be uppermost in our mind.

We must be presenting our body a living sacrifice, setting our mind on things above, giving thanks for every blessing and letting our requests be made known to Him.

Dwelling in Christ is a way of life. In all our ways we must acknowledge Him. If we will keep on acknowledging Christ in the small things we will find that we do the same in great crises. It is in the "small" matters that we forget to acknowledge the Lord, and it is in the small matters that we get tripped up.

2. In order to have such protection we must fulfill the conditions. It is not enough just to attend a Christian church. It is not enough to believe correct doctrine concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not enough to take the "four steps of salvation." It is not enough to be able to look back at a point in time and say "I accepted Christ" or "I was born again at that time."

Salvation is always "today." The Kingdom of God is as a seed. It is alive in us and growing if we are tending to it. But it is entirely possible for that seed to perish without bearing lasting fruit.

The Kingdom of God is not a ticket. We cannot be a Christian yesterday. We cannot be abiding in eternal life yesterday. Either our life is in Christ and drawing eternal Life from Him or else the forces of decay and death are moving in and we are approaching judgment and condemnation.

3. Christianity can be one of two things in our life. It can be a religion we subscribe to, obeying its tenets just as the Muslims and Buddhists obey the tenets of their religion. In this case the ninety-first Psalm does not apply to us. Christianity has been, at least until recently, the prevailing religion in America.

Or, Christianity can be a daily experience with the living Lord Jesus Christ, in which we look to Him continually, trusting in Him for every aspect of our life. We are to present our body a living sacrifice, setting our mind on things above, carrying our cross behind Jesus, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord at all times. We slowly but surely are learning to live by His body and blood just as He lives by the Life of the Father.

4. There is a tendency among American Christians to attempt to find a formula that will guarantee a successful marriage, a peaceful home life, health, peace, and happiness. We ought not to be looking for ways in which we can use the things of Christ to get what we want.

The Lord does not invite us to put our faith in faith but in Himself. We are to call upon Him constantly, giving thanks and letting our requests be made known to Him. Christ answers us, not as the metaphysical response to some formula we have managed to apply correctly but as a Person, a genuine living Person.

God is not a source of power we are to tap by applying religious principles. How many books are there in the Christian book stores that suggest this very thing?

God is a Person. Jesus Christ is a Person. God is our Father. Jesus Christ is our older Brother.

Christ did not come to earth to demonstrate spiritual principles that we are to imitate and thus receive miracle-working power. Christ came to earth to die as an atonement for the sin of the world. Then He rose from the dead in flesh and bone form. He is a Person!

To attempt to imitate Christ in order to gain power and wisdom that one can use for his own purposes (however clothed in religious terms) is to be the same as Satan: to want to be like God without becoming part of God. To approach the Christian salvation in this manner is to partake of the spirit of Antichrist and the False Prophet.

5. Receiving Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior is the beginning of the good fight of faith. It is the first step on the path to eternal life. Many forces arise to try to take our crown, to prevent us from bearing lasting fruit.

The gate is small that leads to life and the path is constricted and filled with obstacles. But if we persist, day after day, in seeking God we will find Him.

Everyone who asks shall receive.

Everyone who seeks shall find.

To him who knocks the door shall be opened.

For some of us there have been many years of patiently bearing our cross behind Jesus. As we near the end of our pilgrimage He becomes ever more real and present. We cannot see what is ahead as clearly as we would prefer, but we have enough intimations of what it will be like to keep us going. There is a joy before us that makes it possible for us to bear our cross.

We know by faith that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. And so we keep on plugging ahead, realizing that what we desire in our heart cannot be found in the present life.

God knows those who are His, and they have been commanded to depart from sin and lawlessness. They are as arrows hidden in His quiver, waiting for the attack upon the enemy.

Kept From Temptation

1. The Greek term translated "to test" has several shades of meaning, as it is employed in the New Testament. It can refer to any kind of testing or sifting, the idea being we are examined to see what we will do or can be provoked or seduced into doing.

I believe the meaning in Revelation 3:10 emphasizes seduction, a drawing away from righteous behavior. I derive this from the following verses:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12,13—NIV)

When we consider this passage we see it is referring to Christians, because the people under consideration at one time had loved Christ.

We see also that the issue is not tribulation or suffering. The issue is "wickedness." This is why I refer to the coming period as "the age of moral horrors."

We may notice in the history of the world that persecution and suffering serve only to strengthen the true saints. The problem arises when there is much wickedness, the ready availability of moral sin.

Antichrist's tactic in the last days will include persecution and suffering, but these will only refine the true saints.

2. We can observe today that numerous people who have received Christ and also have spoken in tongues are falling into temptation. They are not strong enough to stand when the opportunity to sin is so great. They are being overcome by the attractions and guarantees of the world, by the lusts and passions of their flesh, and by their personal ambition.

God has made provision for our protection during the dangerous and yet wonderful days of the closing of the Church Age. God's provision is not to remove immature people to Heaven. It is to bring the believers to maturity and fill them with His Presence until they are more than conquerors no matter how thoroughly sin fills the earth.

The Divine provision has to do with patient endurance and the resulting protection the Lord has promised.

We have been saved through the blood. We have received the Holy Spirit. Now it is time for the Father and the Son to enter us in a manner greater than we might have believed possible during the Church Age.

3. The first sin was not immorality, murder, or covetousness, the first sin was disobedience.

The first punishment was not entrance into Hell, it was death. This is because self-will separates us from God.

The Christian churches of today are filled with self-will.

In the secular realm in America, self-will is glorified. The rights of the individual are elevated over the rights of society as a whole. This is Antichrist.

We cannot endure patiently with Jesus Christ unless we are willing to let the Lord crucify our self-will. It is our personal cross that will keep us from being deceived by the wickedness of the last days. Jesus will guard us against deception if we will agree to patiently bear our cross. Our cross will destroy our self-will if we will bear it faithfully.

4. When we are frustrated, in pain, resisted, or knocked down in some other manner, we are not to complain or blame God, people, or the devil. We are to stay before God faithfully and patiently, in the meanwhile always praising God and letting our desires be made known to Him.

Suffering is such a blessing if we use it to drive us to Christ! Before we suffer we grow careless and foolish. We let our spiritual guard down. We speak idle words. We are not fit for the Presence of God. Then calamity overtakes us and we turn to God instead of giving in to fear, dread, and blaming others. How sincere our prayer becomes, how pure, how strong, how fervent!

The purpose of our suffering is to purify us from sin, to drive us to God in prayer. It is through such pain and fear that we are pressed into God. If we receive suffering correctly our self-will, that supreme enemy of God, is crucified. It is then we find peace and holiness.

Every time you are confronted with disaster or trouble of some kind, pray! Keep on praying! Use your trouble to drive you to Christ.

5. The Lord Jesus is standing before the believers in our day. He is requesting entrance into our personalities.

If we hear Him knocking we are to open the door of our heart. If we do this He will come in and eat with us and we with Him. He eats of the worship and obedience of our personality. We eat of His flesh and drink His blood. It is this continual eating and drinking together with Him that brings us into the intense, fiery union that characterizes the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, the third great platform of Divine grace.

As we persist in living in union with Him, overcoming all that would draw us away into more external interests—even religious interests—we gain the right to sit with Christ on His throne.

Where is the throne of Christ? It is in Heaven at the right hand of God. It also is in our heart.

Jesus Christ also overcame. He is seated with His Father on His great throne in Heaven, and we are there with Him.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6—NIV)

But perhaps more importantly, the Father also is enthroned in the heart of Christ. Christ sits with the Father on the throne of His own heart.

Although at first we are to get off the throne of our personality that Christ and the Father may rule there without conflict, the time will come, if we are faithful in overcoming all that comes against us, when we will be invited back on the throne of our own heart that we may govern there with the Father and the Son.

For What Are You Preparing Yourself?

1. The nations and the ends of the earth are the inheritance of Jesus Christ. The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and those who dwell therein.

2. Jesus could have taken control of the earth two thousand years ago, just after His resurrection from the dead. He had the power. He could have saved us two thousand years of human agony.

But it is God's intention that Jesus have a company of brothers, or a bride if you prefer, with whom to share the inheritance.

Therefore the purpose of the Church Age has been to call forth the brothers of Jesus Christ and conform them to His image that He might be the Firstborn among many who will share the spoils with Him.

3. We have to learn to live in iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.

First of all, we are going to govern the nations with a rod of iron. The rod of iron is the scepter of iron righteousness held by Christ and every true saint. That iron is being created in us now as through the grace of Christ we overcome every enemy.

We are going to have to live with the consuming Fire, our holy God. Everything in us that is flammable must be fireproofed. Each day of our life we must press further into the holiness of God. Through the Spirit of God we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We must be sternly obedient to the Father. If there were one disobedient person in the army of Christ the invasion of the earth would be jeopardized. Remember Achan!

Every trace of worldliness must be destroyed out of us.

Every trace of the lusts and appetites of the flesh must be destroyed out of us.

Every trace of self-will must be destroyed out of us.

Christ must be brought to maturity in us.

The original sin was disobedience to God. We cannot possibly return to earth and restore Paradise if we ourselves are disobedient.

4. The resurrection from the dead is a central act of redemption. Today we are stressing the ascension because we want to get out of here as soon as possible. But the ascension is not an act of redemption, it is only one of our first steps in the Kingdom after our resurrection. If we don't have a decent resurrection we certainly don't want to be caught up and face Jesus!

It is the resurrection that is central to the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Christian churches seem to be unaware that our behavior today is having a direct effect on the kind of resurrection we shall experience. As we are sowing we are going to reap.

5. If your goal is to inherit the earth then the demands on you are total. You must lay down your life, take up your cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. You must turn over your life to Him without reservation.

Prepare yourself to suffer. No one who has not suffered will govern the nations with Jesus Christ. No cross, no crown! We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation.

You must cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He conforms you to the moral image of your older Brother, the Lord Jesus. You must be recognized as a son of the King, just as was true of Gideon's brothers.

Every moment of your time, every calorie of your energy, must be devoted to looking to Jesus and serving Him. You have no other calling than that of saint.

You must labor with Christ until you overcome the sin that presses on you. The winners will return with Jesus and inherit the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. The Bible does not comment too much about the Lord's servants who are losers except they lose their talent, are cast into outer darkness, have the door shut in their face, are driven from the Presence of Christ, are beaten with lashes, and are cut in pieces and given a portion with the unbelievers.

If you are to inherit Heaven there is little you must do. If you are to inherit the earth you must undergo total transformation. God is not saving what you are but saving you from what you are. He does not want any more snakes in the garden.

So we see that our objective makes a difference in terms of our conduct.

A Warning to the Backslider

1. How we treat seeming contradictions in the Scriptures is critical to our ability to rightly divide the Word of truth. One incorrect way in which to approach a seeming contradiction is to fasten on the side we prefer and ignore the other. This approach seems to be the way in which Christian deductive theology has been constructed.

Another incorrect way is to seek a "balance" such that neither verse is taken in the fullness of its apparent meaning. To do this is to end up with a soup that is neither hot nor cold.

The only correct manner in which to approach two seemingly contradictory statements in the inspired text is to regard each as the unchanging Word of God and to accept it fully, even though we cannot for the moment understand how the two statements can possibly be reconciled.

2. The Book of Hebrews is a book of warning to experienced Christians who, after having received Christ as Savior and been filled with the Holy Spirit, were neglecting to press forward vigorously and diligently into the rest of God, that is, into the place where they were dwelling in untroubled rest in the center of God's will.

Evidences of this primary theme appear throughout the epistle. The departure into the discussion concerning the Old Testament sacrifices was for the purpose of showing that the new covenant is superior to the old. It is superior because it includes the power to remove sin rather than just forgive sin, as was true of the blood of bulls and goats. The idea is that there is much more than only forgiveness for us under the new covenant and we are obligated to press into it.

3. To be in the rest of God is to be doing God's will sternly and perfectly. Yet we hear Christians saying today that no one can do God's will perfectly. It is too hard.

The truth is, we either press into God's rest or we are in danger of not being accepted in Christ in the Day of the Lord. We absolutely must cease from our own works, our own plans and schemes, and find God's will for our life. Until we do this we are not qualified to be resurrected and caught up when the Lord returns.

4. The just shall live by faith. Living by faith means we do not shrink back but keep pressing forward in Christ.

If we shrink back we will be destroyed, as far as having any part in Christ is concerned.

If we keep pressing forward in faith we shall be saved in Christ. Therefore salvation is a goal toward which we must keep fighting, running, and pressing. There is to be no looking back once we put our hand to the plow.

The entire eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews is a definition of "the just shall live by faith." We discover in this chapter that true faith is hope in the invisible God that He will reward those who seek Him diligently. We find also that faith is the obedient response to that which has been revealed by the Lord.

Faith is not so much a doctrinal stance as it is a life of seeking God and of obedience to what He shows us. There are other kinds of faith, such as miracle-working faith. But the faith by which the righteous live is that of a steady seeking of God and delighting in God.

5. God is with us and will help us. He never will leave us. If we keep serving Him with a glad heart, bearing patiently with the numerous and severe trials that all of us experience, He will bring us safely to our destination.

But we Americans must remember that much of the world is suffering hardship. People in some of the other countries do not enjoy the comforts we do, nor do many of them have the knowledge of the Scriptures or access to Bibles that is true of us. The scriptural principle is: "To whom much is given, of him shall much be required."

We have been given much. We cannot feed all the hungry of the world or clothe all the naked, although we wish we could. But one thing we can do: we can live each day unto the Lord with all the diligence we can apply and not be drawn off into the fascinations of the American culture. We can redeem the time by using to the best advantage all we have been given. In one manner or another, by giving or serving or praying, we must do our part to build up the Body of Christ.

We owe this to the suffering members of the Body of Christ worldwide.

The day may soon come when it will be we Americans who are suffering many hardships. Then we will expect the Christians in other countries to do all in their power to serve Christ so that God will hear them when they pray for us and help us through the night we may be called upon to endure.

 I Never Knew You

 1. First, we must be doing the will of the Father.

Second, we must not be evildoers. We must be keeping the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.

It is not enough to "make it work." We must be doing the will of God and we must be living a righteous, holy life if we expect to have fellowship with Jesus Christ.

2. As we have said, there are two massive forces coming to maturity in the world, forces of which the seeds were planted from the beginning of time. The one force is self-centeredness in the governmental-social realm. The other major force is self-centeredness in the spiritual realm.

The Book of Revelation points out that the False Prophet, man-centered Christianity, will assist Antichrist, the man-centered social order. The first beast of Revelation will be assisted by the second.

3. One of the three temptations that all sons of God must overcome is that of commanding stones to be made bread, apart from the prompting of the Lord.

Jesus had been without food for many days. He was in an inhospitable environment.

At this point Satan provoked Christ to work a miracle. "If you are the Son of God, turn the stone into food."

The Lord's response was, "Man does not live by food alone but by the Words coming from the mouth of God."

The point is, we are not to use the gifts of God to provide our needs. God will nourish us according to His will.

4. Many of today's false teachings are based on the idea that those who make a profession of Jesus Christ will never suffer.

When Satan in Peter tried to stop Jesus from going up to Jerusalem and making an atonement for the sins of the world, Jesus recognized the source instantly. Wasn't Peter being a friend? Yes, in the human sense. No, in terms of God's plan to redeem the world through the blood atonement. Thus it is true that human love will always, without realizing it, tend to destroy the greater good that God intends. That which appears to be merciful and compassionate is actually destructive.

5. Today the Spirit of God is looking for those who will turn away from the multitude of "exciting" projects to save the world, who will return to the worship of God through Jesus Christ, who will humbly wait for His Presence and guidance.

If you intend to seek Christ you better not expect other Christians to cheer you on. They well may tell you that you ought to get busy and go out and save people from Hell. It doesn't matter whether or not the sinners serve God and live a righteous life just as long as they are not punished. This is pure humanism, placing the interests of people above the interests of God.

God has not called us to shield people from His wrath. God has called us to faithfully bear witness of His Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Christ, so those who choose to do so may turn from their wicked ways and enter righteousness and eternal life.

Eternal life is not a gift that is given to those who profess faith in Christ but then do not turn away from sin. Eternal life always is the result of righteous, holy behavior. It is those who do the will of God who live forever.

It is the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. God's goal for man never, never changes. The amount of grace available and the demands on us increase from covenant to covenant. But God's heroes of faith began with Abel, not with the Apostles of Christ.

Bibliography

The essays, summaries, and answers for this study guide series were provided from the following works of Robert B. Thompson, as published by Trumpet Ministries, Inc., Escondido, CA.

The Ninety-First Psalm (2001)

Kept From Temptation (2001)

For What Are You Preparing Yourself? (2001)

A Warning to the Backslider (2001)

I Never Knew You (2001)

About the Author

Born in Portland, Maine, in July 1925, Robert B. Thompson spent his formative years along the rugged coastline of New England. He was converted to Christ in 1944 while serving with the U.S. Marines in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. A year later, after the conclusion of WWII, he was called to preach the gospel while stationed in Sasebo, Japan.

A former educator, lecturer, and public school administrator, he holds the degree of Doctor of Education from the University of Rochester, New York, and possesses three Life Credentials in the State of California. After many years of work in secular education the Lord burdened his heart to write concerning the works of redemption which come after the Pentecostal experience.

He and his wife, Audrey, have served since February 1976 as pastors of Mount Zion Fellowship in Poway, California. Dr. Thompson has authored more than three hundred books concerning the Christian salvation.

                                                                              

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