MATTHEW, CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Lord Jesus said deception would abound in the last days. Our opinion is that the current vision of the coming of the Lord is not scriptural. Perhaps we should take another look at one of the important biblical discussions of our blessed hopeChapter Twenty-four of the Book of Matthew.
Table of Contents
MATTHEW, CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." (Matthew 24:1,2)
It must have been wonderful being able to watch the Lord and listen to Him. His disciples had no idea what a privilege was theirs. What any of us wouldnt give to be able to talk to Jesus like that. And some day we shall!
Yet, the day in which we are living is even more marvelous. We are being brought forward to know the real Christ.
What do I mean by "the real Christ"?
The Lord Jesus on the earth had a double identity, just as we do. There was His visible body, the physical house in which He lived; and then there was the real Person who was invisible to people on the earth. All that the disciples could see was his visible body. But we are approaching the day when we shall see Him as He is.
If we are to see Christ as He is, He first must be formed in us until we have been adequately strengthened in the inner man. We must be made like Him in every respect, first in the inner, true man, and then in the outer man. Flesh and blood cannot look on God and live!
The fact that the disciples wanted to call His attention to the buildings of the Temple of Herod is interesting. Your remember that the Lord as a boy had been in the Temple, so He already would be familiar with it. Perhaps much more had been added to it from the time Jesus was twelve years of age.
Isaiah tells us that the Servant of the Lord is blind. This means the one who serves Jesus does not see as others do. He sees as God sees. And God saw that the Temple was to be demolished in a few years. I would like to see things as God does, wouldnt you?
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3)
"When will the Temple be thrown down," they asked, "and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?"
Little could they know the Temple would be torn down in A.D. 70, while the end of the Church Age and the coming of the Lord would not occur for thousands of years after that.
Notice the expression "the sign of your coming." The Greek term used here for "coming" is parousias.(par-oo-SEE-ahs). This is important to note. It is the Greek word used throughout First and Second Thessalonians for "coming."
Some are teaching that the coming of the Lord described in the fourth chapter of the Book of First Thessalonians is referring to a special, "secret rapture." If it were, a different Greek term would have been used. The common use of parousia in First and Second Thessalonians and Matthew, Chapter Twenty-four tie together the two descriptions of the Lords coming, or so it seems to me.
There is only one coming of the Lord, not two, and it is the parousia that the Lord Jesus describes in answer to the questions asked by His disciples.
As we read what Jesus said after this we can see how accurately He predicted the history of the world from the time He was asked about His coming and the end of the age.
Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, I am the Christ, and will deceive many." (Matthew 24:4,5)
I dont know quite how to take the above verses. "Many will come in My name," the Lord said. Perhaps throughout Church history there have been many people claiming to be the Christ. I do not know. During my 58 years as a Christian I do not know of anyone claiming to be the Christ. Maybe this sort of thing will take place just before the Lord returns.
I do know there is much deception today, and I have been writing about the current errors for several decades. Perhaps the fundamental deception is that under the new covenant our behavior is not related to our salvation. It may be that the widely held error of the pre-tribulation "rapture" is related to the view of grace as an alternative to righteousness.
I know one thing: the standard of Christian discipleship is abysmally low in the United States. Unless radical change occurs in our country, there will be few believers who will hear the "Well done" of the Lord when they die.
I believe the Lord wants to bring revival in our day so numerous people around the world are saved and delivered from Satans power. Yet it seems to me that instead of turning to prayer and holy living to bring revival, the emphasis is on various management techniques. From my point of view, using management techniques to perfect that which was begun in the Spirit is to put our hands on the Ark of the Covenant. Spiritual death instead of genuine revival is sure to occur.
How do we "watch out" for deception? We must pray every day that God will not let us be deceived. Maybe it is your opinion that God will never permit you to be deceived. For myself, I have been deceived on a couple of occasionsand this happened when I was seeking the Lord with all my might. So I have learned to pray every day, "Father, in Jesus name, dont let me be deceived." Anyway, Jesus directed us to pray that God would not lead us into temptation, didnt He?
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:6-8)
We are not to be alarmed when we hear about the wars that are taking place today. Neither are we to fret ourselves because of the wickedness and perversity in so many areas. Fear and fretting pull us down from our high place in God. We have to "see to it" that we are not shaken by what we are witnessing.
"Such things must happen"! Why must they happen?
God does not cause wars. Satan using the personal ambition, lusts, and fears of people, causes wars.
The existence of wars, of famine, of other problems in the world, cause many people to question God. There are people will not accept Christ because children are starving in some countries.
Why does God permit such suffering to occur when He has the power to prevent it? It is because the history of the world has been designed as a great audio-visual presentation. The purpose for the audio-visual presentation is that all the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth might see what happens when angels and people set their will against the will of Godas Satan did originally.
A glorious new world of righteousness will come into view as soon as God is certain all of His creatures have seen and experienced the results of sin. God is bringing to pass His desire that never again will there be any form of sin and rebellion in His creation.
If God could have accomplished His goal in a more pleasant manner you could be certain He would have done so. Instead of taking away from people the power of choice, God sent His Son to die on the cross as an atonement for the sin of the world. This is Gods way of dealing with sin.
If God intervened in the world in order to prevent sin, people would never have the opportunity to choose of their own volition to embrace righteousness and renounce wickedness. This is what God wantspeople who are wise in the ways of good and evil, and who have chosen to embrace good and reject evil.
God could have prevented the rebellion of Adam and Eve had He so desired. But God wants sons who can be exposed to wickedness and of their own will put it behind them. "Get behind me, Satan."
It is an elaborate plan, from the human point of view, but a plan of such wisdom and effectiveness that it is an occasion for worship and rejoicing on our part. Isnt that so?
God is able to prevent wars. Why doesnt He do this?
God has a vast plan that was put into operation when He created the earth and the people on the earth. God is preparing people who will be able to fill the roles in the Kingdom He is creating, such as living temples in which God can dwell for eternity; brothers for the Lord Jesus Christ; a Wife for the Lamb; a royal priesthood who will govern the works of His hands. God knows exactly what He is doing with every person on the earth.
This is why fretting is sinful. When we fret about the wickedness in the earth we are declaring God does not know what He is doing, or is to weak to control the events on the earth. It is true rather that God is preparing a kingdom that will bring righteousness, peace, and joy to all people who love truth.
Wars have occurred throughout history, but they are not the sign that the end is here. There is to be all sorts of trouble, famines, and earthquakes. Again, these are not the indicators of the end of the Church Age. Rather, such painful episodes are the beginning of birth pains.
What is to be born as the world travails in pain? The Kingdom of God is to be born.
The birth of the Kingdom always produces pain. As the Kingdom is formed in us our natural man, our first personality, is required to lose its life. This is painful, but flesh and blood, the human personality, cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Only that which is born of God can inherit the Kingdom. And so we enter the Kingdom through much tribulation, much chastening of our personality.
The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. From the time of Christ there have been many wise people, educators, politicians, philosophers, who have assured us that their way would bring us peace and joy, if not righteousness. But every one of them has failed. Nor will any of the plans of brilliant people bring peace and joy to mankind. Only God can bring us peace and joy, and God has chosen the Lord Jesus Christ to be His Representative in the earth.
There is only one rightful King of Gods creatures, and that is Jesus Christ. All others are usurpers. The Throne belongs only to Jesus. He alone is the Prince of Peace. There will be no lasting peace on earth until Christ returns. But when He does return with His saints, the whole earth will be filled with righteousness, peace, and joy.
It is as true for us as an individual as it is for a nation, for the whole world. Only Jesus Christ can bring us the love, joy, and peace that we desire so fervently.
It is amazing that Christ could so accurately predict history two thousand years ago, isnt it? So many leaders have promised peace, but have failed in their attempts.
Of recent times those who have promoted communism as the way to bring material security to the masses succeeded only in elevating the "party bosses," who then exalted themselves just as did the capitalists whom they succeeded. All these noble plans fail because the heart of man is sinful and self-seeking. Only Jesus; only Jesus can bring true and lasting peace to an individual; to a nation; to a world. This is because Jesus begins with the heart of the person, and creates His peace there. This the political leaders cannot do, even when their motives are pure.
"The end is still to come." There is coming an end of the Church Age. The Lord will return with His saints and powerful angels. Satan, the babylonish religious systems, the demons, the Antichrist world spiritall are to be driven from the earth thoroughly and completely. Then the world of nature will break forth into singing. Then the wild animals will lie down with the tame. Then will the smallest child be safe though he or she wanders through the forest alone at night.
But none of this will be true until Jesus comes. In fact, we of today, at least in America, are facing a period of physical and moral horrors. This is because of the widespread immorality and self-seeking that abound here. There is little fear of God in the land, and we must be chastened severely.
But for those who hold fast to their faith in Jesus, a glorious future awaits.
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, (Matthew 24:9,10)
I know there have been terrible persecutions of the Jews and the Christians throughout the history of the world. Jesus was speaking to Jews at the time, but not to the Jewish race as such. Jesus was referring to those who have placed their faith in Him. We know this because He said we will be hated by all nations because of Him.
I may be incorrect, but I dont believe this has come to pass as yet. By and large, the Christian Church, in one form or another, has played a major role in world history since the time of Christ. It may come to pass in the future that all nations will hate the Christian people.
From where we stand now, this is difficult to picture. What would have to take place to cause the entire world to hate us?
I know in America there is talk about the so-called "religious right." How people love to form stereotypes; as though all Christians felt the same way about every issue.
At the present time, America is supporting the nation of Israel. This is costly. One of the principal reasons why we are not free from terrorism is that we are perceived by the Arab nations as being the friends of the race of people whom they view as not fit to live on the earth.
Can you believe in todays paper there was an acknowledgment that the European Union is seen as friendly toward the Arabs, and America is seen as the friend of Israel? How quickly things are shaping up!
A lady in our church told us last Sunday that she had heard a young man say that we could eliminate terrorism in our country by dropping an atom bomb on Israel.
If there are major terrorist activities in our country in the future, such that millions of people are killed or otherwise affected, it will dawn on our citizens that if they turned away from helping the Jews we might be a lot safer. They could continue in their materialistic comforts. Beer and television!
However, true Christians will never turn away from assisting the Jews. This is because our salvation has come from Jews; our Bible was written by Jews; our Lord was born and grew up in a Jewish household. How can we turn away from the Jews?
I realize many Jews want nothing to do with Christians. They have been persuaded we are attempting to convert them. It is possible that in the future they will come to understand the truest friends they have are the Christian people. I know there are numerous Christians who have no intention of attempting to make proselytes of the Jews. Rather we will stand with them because they are the Lords people.
Perhaps it will be because of our kindness toward the Jews that all nations will come to hate us. The Lord said it would happen, and so it shall.
The Lord also said at that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.
This would not surprise me at all. Right now our churches are filled with people who have no intention of denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following the Lord. They call themselves Christians but they are not. They might refer to themselves as Christians but many of them are not. They are church members, good people as people go, and constructive members of society. But a Christian is much, much more than this.
If it comes to the place where we are severely persecuted, how many of todays American Christians will remain true to the faith and to each other? Would you hazard a guess? My guess is we would lose at least three-fourths of todays believers, if not more. They have been taught they are going to be carried up to Heaven in a "rapture" before they are inconvenienced. What will they do when their religious affiliation costs them their job, or family, or they are tortured or imprisoned?
The father that stands true in such an hour may find that his children are willing to turn him in to the authorities. This day may not be far off?
Personally I believe it is time to cease from the churchy foolishness and get down to business with God. Jumping up and down next to the pew to prepare for the "rapture" is not going to prepare us for what is ahead. We are going to have to put on the whole armor of God so we can stand in the day of trouble that is coming. How do you feel about this?
And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (Matthew 24:11)
Again we see the emphasis on deception.
It is my point of view that the fundamental, Bible-believing churches are not doctrinally sound. I dont know if the preachers and teachers of today would be classified as "false prophets." My idea of a false prophet is someone who deliberately is leading people astray. I think, rather, that the errors are taught in Bible commentaries, seminaries, and Bible schools. Our Christian leaders today are repeating what they were taught, just as their teachers repeated what they had been taught. I dont know how all these errors began, so I certainly am not pointing the finger at anyone. Perhaps it is true that false prophets do not realize they are false prophets!
When I first became a Christian I came under the influence of the Navigators. Anyone familiar with the Navigators knows how they reverence the Word of God. I was told by fellow marines, more experienced in Christ than I, that the Bible was the infallible Word of God. They instilled in me the idea that we should study the Bible constantly and memorize as many passages as possible.
This I set out to do. That was over fifty years ago. I still have that same awe of the written Word of God.
After I received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues, the Lord began to teach me the Scriptures. I already was familiar with the Bible in that I had been studying it and memorizing passages for about four years. The familiar passages began to open up to me in a fresh way, a way that I knew was not traditional This insight, if we wish to call it that, has continued to the present hour.
At first I became angry when other people did not have the same understanding as myself. This attitude is ridiculous, of course. About twenty or so years after attending Bible school, during which time I gained a doctorate in education at the University of Rochester, in New York and had earned tenure in school systems in New York and California, Brother Pickthorne in Palo Alto, California suggested that I write down my ideas. I have been writing them down ever since (more than thirty years).
I am not angry now, probably because I have had the opportunity to disseminate my thoughts to quite a few people. It helps to have somebody agree with you.
I suppose the first conflict I had with traditional thinking had to do with the idea that no one can really do Gods will. "We are saved by grace," I was admonished. The commandments in the New Testament are there only for the purpose of showing us we must be saved by grace." Can you imagine this?
Just writing this irritates me, so it seems my old nature is not dead yet.
When I was saved on the island of Oahu, near Pearl Harbor, and began to attend meetings with other marines in the Quonset hut, we all talked about grace and the so-called "rapture." I had a Scofield Bible and assumed the editors notes were sound doctrine. I know better now!
Grace, grace, grace; rapture, rapture, rapture; Heaven, Heaven, Heaven. We sang the old hymns of the Church, and also some Stamps-Baxter hymns. Do you remember the shape notes? Did you "fly away, O glory"?
My conversion to righteous behavior happened when I was writing The Tabernacle of the Congregation. The chapter was "The Holiness of the Tabernacle." It must have been the Lord that stirred my mind. For whatever reason, I began to think about the whole idea that the commandments found in the New Testament were not there to be obeyed but to point out our need of a Savior. Have you ever been taught that?
So I began to read the Epistles to see what was said about grace and what was said about living righteously. I thought I would write down the passages and examine them.
I soon gave up. There just were too many passages commanding us to live righteouslyhundreds of them!
Have you any idea what a shock this was to me? I saw that the basis of fundamental Christian theology was unscriptural. I have been writing about this fact ever since.
About five or so years ago I began to understand how the error concerning "grace" occurred. When Paul maintained we are saved by faith and grace instead of by works, we Gentile assumed by "works" Paul meant our efforts to live righteously. But Paul did not mean this. If this were the case, Paul was making Divine grace an alternative to righteous behavior. Needless to say, such a destructive concept is not found in the New Testament.
Whenever we read Pauls words in his epistles, especially in Romans and Galatians, we must keep in mind constantly that Paul is fighting against those who were teaching that we are obligated to perform the works of the Law of Moses. Remember, the first Christian church comprised 5,000 observant Jews, all fiercely obeying the Law of Moses. Some of them, the Judaizers, were attempting to force Gentile Christians to do the works of the Law.
When Paul said we are saved by faith in Christ and not by works, Paul meant the works of the Law, not the works of righteous behavior. Several times in his epistles Paul warned us that if we yield to our sinful nature we will reap destruction; we will die spiritually. Obviously Paul was not suggesting that we are not to live righteously.
I realize the transition from the Law of Moses to the new covenant is not as easily understood as one could wish. The prevailing interpretation appears to be that God made the Jews live righteously but now we do not have to live righteously. We Christians, under a superior covenant, do not have to live righteously!
Isnt that a peculiar viewpoint?
Yes, we are to turn away from the scroll of the Law and look up in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation and righteousness. This absolutely is true. Grace frees us from any obligation to the Law of Moses. The Law was given by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
But what is to happen once we look up in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ and disregard the Law of Moses?
Immediately the Holy Spirit begins to point out to us the deeds of our sinful nature. As He, the Spirit, points out to us some area of sinful behavior in our personality, we are to denounce this action as sin and vigorously turn away from it. God through Christ gives us the strength to do this. Then our sin is forgiven and we are cleansed from all unrighteousness.
Cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the work of cleansing us from all unrighteousness, and following the Lord as He is formed in us, is the program of salvation.
Salvation includes forgiveness and deliverance. We are viewing salvation today as being primarily forgiveness. In actuality, forgiveness is only a means of authorizing us to continue in the work of deliverance. Apart from deliverance there is no salvation, no Kingdom of God, no new covenant.
So the difference between the Law of Moses is not that under the Law we had to live righteously and under grace we do not have to live righteously. If that were the case it would be well we never had been born; for there would be no glorious hope of a new world of righteousness.
The difference is that under the Law of Moses we had to learn the statutes and obey them as well as we could. Under the new covenant we follow the Spirit of God as He leads us to crucify our natural man. The Law of Moses deals with the behavior of people, telling them what they can do and cannot do. The new covenant deals with the sinful nature itself, commanding our adamic personality to submit to crucifixion that the Holy Spirit may destroy our sinful nature, form Christ in us, and guide us in righteous behavior.
The New Testament commandments are to be obeyed, and these are a guide to us. But the heart of the new covenant is our crucifixion with Christ and our entrance into His resurrection Life. The result is we grow in iron righteousness of behavior; fiery holiness of personality; and stern obedience to the Father.
But we must keep in mind that our crucifixion with Christ and our entrance into His resurrection Life will not occur unless we faithfully keep the commandments issued by Jesus Christ and His Apostles.
Two goals are set before us: to be conformed to the moral image of Jesus Christ; and to enter untroubled rest in the very Center of the Person and will of God.
We see, therefore, that the standard of behavior proceeding from the new covenant is infinitely higher than the standard of behavior set by the Law of Moses.
Therefore to view the transition from the Law of Moses to new-covenant grace as relief from having to serve the Lord in righteousness is totally destructive of Gods intention under the new covenant. Such a bizarre interpretation must have come from the wily mind of Satan, whose one interest is to keep Gods people from behaving righteously.
Somewhere in the early days of the Christian Church, the goal of salvation changed from the bodily resurrection of the saints and the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth, to escape from the earth by dying and going to the spirit Paradise, to Heaven. I assume this change was due largely to the influence of the early philosophy of Gnosticism.
It is possible also that the idea of the Christian salvation being directed toward our going to Heaven by means of a correct belief in theological facts, rather than being the Divine means of creating man in the image of God, also could be traced to Gnosticism. This would be a valuable subject for a dissertation by a candidate for the Doctor of Theology.
When we view salvation as a ticket to Heaven, rather than the bringing forth of a new creation of righteous behavior, all sorts of problems occur back along the line. Problems will occur in any system when an incorrect goal is established.
For example: the current error termed "eternal security." This unscriptural teaching holds that after a person once makes a sincere profession of faith in Christ, no matter how he or she behaves after that, he or she will go to Heaven after spiritual death. (You can imagine what a force this doctrine has been in preventing growth in righteous behavior!)
Now if we no longer view salvation as being the means of bringing us to Heaven when we die, but as the means of destroying the sinful nature from us and the forming of Christ in us, the doctrine of eternal security loses its rationality.
If we say we are saved even though we are yielding continually to our sinful nature, and salvation is the putting away of our sinful nature, then we are not making sense. Can you see how important it is to have the correct goal?
Another example is that of referring to being "saved" as something that took place years ago. "I was saved twenty years ago"this sort of thing.
If salvation is a daily process of putting away sinful tendencies and having Christ formed in us, how can we say sensibly that we were saved twenty years ago? We could say we were saved from smoking twenty years ago, and this would make sense. But how about the challenges of today? Are we being saved from the sin that is seeking to seduce us today? Salvation always is "today."
All that truly matters in life is our relationship to Jesus Christ right now. If we begin to sin, our past righteous behavior will not be recognized. If we turn from our sin and begin to behave righteously, our past sin will not be mentioned to us. This is the way things work in the Kingdom of God.
Still another problem with viewing salvation as a ticket to Heaven is that it removes the need for us to seek the Lord today. "If I have my ticket, and dont behave too badly, I am sure to escape Hell and go to Heaven when I die."
This is not a scriptural or fruitful attitude. When we understand salvation to be the changing of us into the moral image of Christ, and entrance into untroubled rest in the Center of Gods Person and will, then we have a job to do each day.
Each day we are presented with a challenge to our abiding in Christ, and with the grace to overcome the challenge. Each day it becomes more difficult to abide in Christ, and each day we have more experience in warfare and are given more grace. There is not a second to be wasted. Our life on earth is so short that the Lord wants to take advantage of every fleeting moment to work the required changes in us.
Can you see how destructive of the Lords will is the idea that we are holding our ticket to Heaven and living an ordinary human life? We are putting into the future what must take place today?
I believe it first dawned on me that our land of promise is not Heaven, while I was writing The Land of Promise. I began to realize Canaan, the land of promise toward which the Israelites journeyed, was not a sound type (symbol) of Heaven. Do we enter Heaven by warring against one city after another?
If Heaven is not our land of promise, our Canaan, then what is?
Our first battle is against the compulsions of our sinful nature. It is not easy to emerge victorious in the struggle against the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul.
Then too, we have to struggle to enter untroubled rest in the Center of Gods Person and will. Jesus invited us to be with Him where He is, that is, in the Center of the Holy Fire that is God. So many forces and ambitions, fears and desires, strive continually to keep us from resting in Gods restthe rest that began after six days of creation.
Dangers without and fears within! Another real problem is the wickedness, the fraud, the deceit, the perversity, the surround us. We are tempted to fret, to lash back, to complain. When we do we lose our peaceful rest in Christ at Gods right hand. Indeed, we have to labor to enter the rest of God.
Certainly one of our battles has to do with our desire to dwell continually in Christ at the right hand of God. There are so many forces that seek to bring us back down to earthly life! Paul advised us to place our attention on things above. But many distractions attempt to defeat us. Do you find this to be true in your life?
Another battle we have has to do with our pursuit of eternal resurrection life. We are endeavoring to live in resurrection life now, and we hope to receive a body of resurrection life when the Lord returns. But our sinful nature is always attempting to flood us with the love of the world, with various lusts and passions, and with our self-will. We have to war against these continually.
If we are victorious in the fight to remain in the Center of Gods fiery Person, and if we attain to the fullness of eternal, incorruptible resurrection life in spirit, soul, and body, then we shall be given the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth, inasmuch as these are Christs inheritance and we are coheirs with Him.
Perfectly and always at home in Christ in God; filled with the fullness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and a vast inheritance of people to whom we will bring the Presence of God. These form our land of promise. How does this strike you? Do you still prefer to sit in a mansion in Heaven and do nothing while the Lord Jesus Christ is in Jerusalem on the earth, sitting on the Throne of David?
I suppose God would give you your mansion in Heaven if this is what you truly desire. But as for me, I want to be with the Lord Jesus as God gives Him the fullness of His inheritance in the earth.
The unscriptural "rapture" is, of course, a desire of the lukewarm Christian to escape the troubles of earth and ascend to material wealth in the spirit Paradise.
There is no love of God in the hope of the "rapture." There is no love of people in it. It is a purely self-centered expression of the earthly desires of the immature believer to escape trouble and be comfortable.
The catching up, mentioned in the fourth chapter of the Book of First Thessalonians, has to do with the victorious saints being resurrected and then caught up to meet the Lord Jesus. At that time Christ will be poised in the air, ready to descend and install the Kingdom of God on the earth. With this in mind He has Michael sound the trumpet of war that will call up His soldiers so they all can descend together.
To view the catching up as a means of enabling immature Christians to escape the evils of Antichrist and the dangers of the Great Tribulation would be humorous, were it not for the fact that this unscriptural belief is leaving the believers unprepared for what we are facing in the futureperhaps the near future!
As I said, if the terrorists are able to kill millions of Americaand terrorist doctrine teaches that a large country can be conquered only by means of terrorismand the American people see their trouble as arising from our support of Israel, then you can count on it that we will abandon Israel. The American people are spoiled with material riches, and they will abandon anyone who causes them to lose any of their luxuries.
The Christian of integrity who is seen as supporting Israel, the source of his salvation, will be the object of unprecedented viciousness. This is what I believe may take place in the future.
Another truly destructive doctrine is that believers in Christ will hear nothing negative at the judgment seat of Christ.
The Apostle Paul told us plainly, while speaking to the Christians in Corinth, that we all shall appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ and receive what we have done while living on the earthwhat we did while in the physical body.
Pauls purpose in writing II Corinthians 5:10 was to warn Christians that when the time came to receive their house from Heaven, that house would reflect the way the behaved while on the earth. The context of II Corinthians 5:10, the verse that tells us about the Judgment Seat of Christ, includes Pauls discussion of the house from Heaven.
If we have served the Lord faithfully, our house that will clothe our resurrected flesh and bones, will be fashioned like that of the Lord.
If we have not served the Lord faithfully but have chosen to live in the lusts and passions of our sinful nature, then this is the kind of house from Heaven we will receive.
Here is the perfect justice of God, isnt it? We will be clothed with our own works.
The teaching of today, for the most part, does away completely with this warning. The idea is that because of grace, each believer will receive a glorious body like that of the Lord Jesus Christ. It doesnt matter that Paul said we would receive the good or the bad we practiced. Because of grace we will receive nothing negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ, only the blessings of the Lord.
Isnt that interesting? The Christian who has spent his or her years in the meanness, bitterness, unforgiveness, divisiveness, hatred, covetousness, worldliness, selfishness that characterize so many church members, will hear nothing negative at the Judgement Seat of Christ; but on the basis of grace will be given a body just like that of Jesus.
This will happen on the day pigs fly!
The truth is, according to the Apostle Paul, the meanness, malice, bitterness, unforgiveness, divisiveness, hatred, covetousness, worldliness, selfishness, criticism, slander, gossip, will all be present in the house from Heaven this individual receives in the Day of Christunless, of course, the believer repents of his or her behavior. In that instance he or she will be chastened in the present world rather than at the coming of the Lord.
This is what the Bible teaches.
Ill tell you what todays preaching reminds me of. Lets say you want to get more sleep in the morning. You have to get up at six oclock to go to work. When six oclock arrives, you are so tired! So you turn your clock back to three oclock. Now you can safely sleep for three more hours until your alarm clock shows six oclock.
Isnt that a wonderful solution for those who like to stay up late at night? Just turn the clock back. Now you can sleep in as long as you want.
How about that plan? Isnt it a good idea? Why not? Because it actually is six oclock no matter what your clock says.
So it is with the Judgment Seat of Christ. Todays preachers say you are about to be caught up to Heaven in a rapture. Then you will be judged and given unimaginable rewards, even though you have never denied yourself, taken up your cross, and followed the Lord. Isnt that wonderful? Who cares what Paul said. We want you to be happy and feel secure (and come to our church). Just set the clock back. Enjoy!
I do get sarcastic, dont I? But at least I am not angryat least not like I was. Just ask the people in our church. They say I dont yell anymore or do anything like that.
In fact, one of our young preachers is doing the yelling for me.
I could mention the unscriptural "faith" message, the "prosperity" delusion, the "imaging," speaking "creative words," the "power of positive thinking," and so on. These are not helpful, to be sure. But as far as I can see they are nowhere near as destructive as the fundamental error that Divine grace has been issued to us to use as an alternative to a change in our behavior.
Have I covered all of todays unscriptural beliefs? Probably not. If I think of any more I will add them later on.
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)
Playing on the love of the believers for themselves, the thought has been pushed that the Lord will come and deliver us before the Great Tribulation. In fact, such preachers use the statement of Paul that God has not appointed us to wrath. This is confusion. Tribulation and wrath are not at all the same thing. We must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God. Wrath, on the other hand, is not redemptive.
In any event, the problem is not tribulation. It is not tribulation that will cause the love of the majority of believers to grow cold, it is wickedness. Because of the increase of wickedness, not tribulation, the love of most will grow cold.
Wickedness is on the rise in the world, and in America. This is what we have to watch out for, not tribulation but wickedness.
My guess is that it would be easier to serve the Lord where there are difficulties, even persecution, than where there is material comfort and much wickedness, as there is in the United States today. How do you feel about this?
I dont think an increase of wickedness will affect those who love Jesus with their whole heart; but it certainly will cause the love of those who are halfhearted to grow cold. Perhaps I am wrong about this.
But notice "he who stands firm to the end will be saved."
This verse is the death knell for the belief "once saved, always saved." We are not saved until we stand firm to the end.
What do we stand firm against? You guessed it. Wickedness! We are saved if we stand firm against wickedness until we leave this earthI guess thats what the Lord means by "the end." Anyway we are to firmly reject wickedness until we are not faced with it any longer.
Do you know, I read the footnotes of a popular Evangelical Bible that stated we are saved by a sovereign grace whether or not we stand firm to the end. Salvation is administered to us sovereignly, so standing firm to the end has nothing to do with it.
We are in pretty bad shape doctrinally when devout Evangelical scholars are willing to write that the Lord was mistaken in what He said. Isnt that a fact?
We notice also that wickedness is going to increase. I have been saying for several years that we are approaching an era of moral and physical horrors. We see the beginning of this in the willingness of the American government to sanction homosexual behavior and the aborting of fetuses. But, as I said, these two behaviors are only the beginning of what the future will hold.
Since the time of the rebellion against the monarchies of Europe and the emphasis on the rights of man, there has been a rise in unlawful behavior. The idea is to cast off all restraint. Whatever people desire they have a right to possess. Whenever a law prevents people from enjoying themselves, that law must be changed.
We in America are so immersed in this philosophy it is difficult for us to see how it leads to wickedness. We suppose Christianity and democracy are pretty much the same philosophy. But Christianity is the rule of God. Democracy is the rule of the people. These are not the same.
Abominations are protected by the Constitution of the United States. We do not see clearly yet, but the potential for wickedness is present. Wickedness may increase dramatically in the near future, and there may not be too much that sincere Christians can do about it. It is the way things are going.
There is no use fretting about it. Our task is to lead a righteous life in the midst of it. We are to be a testimony of Gods Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Christ. Our Kingdom is not of this present world system.
Before the Lord Jesus returns, the civilized nations of the earth, at that time forming one great city through telecommunications, will be a revelation of the darkest areas of Satans personality. There will be no limitations on human behavior. The vilest impulses of the human personality will be practiced before the Lord returns and God pours out the bowls of wrath.
When God does pour out the bowls of wrath, the superheated atmosphere will create huge skin cancers. People will move about in the hell that the earth has become, drinking blood, cursing God, gnawing their tongues in agony, but without a God-given desire to repent.
Once we permit wickedness into our heart, and do not repent, God will open His hand and give us our desires. The holy remain holy and the vile remain vile. The way of the Lord must be made straight before He returns!
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
I cant remember when it became clear to me that the Gospel was not about our going to Heaven but about the Kingdom of God coming to the earth. This fact is so clear in the New Testament that one wonder how we ever got off the track.
When I started preaching the Kingdom of God (like John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles) there were those who thought I had joined the Jehovahs Witnesses. I am sure the Jehovahs Witnesses are as fine people as one could hope for; but noI have not joined their ranks.
But it shows you how far we have departed from the Bible.
Imagine, being misunderstood by Christian peopleby Christian people yet!for preaching the Kingdom of God.
The denomination of which I am an ordained minister and a pastor is as good as any; perhaps better than many in some respects. But the expression "Kingdom of God" does not appear in our Statement of Faith. Does it appear in your "Statement of Faith"? Remarkable, isnt it? The Lord Jesus Christ came and preached the Kingdom of God. His parables are about the Kingdom of God. And the term is not in our "Statement of Faith." Something ought to be done about this. Dont you agree?
"This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
The end of what? The end of the Church Age, I presume.
Or maybe the end of the opportunity to believe the Gospel and be saved from wrath.
"The gospel of the kingdom." What, pray tell, is the Gospel of the Kingdom? What is the Good News of the Kingdom?
The Good News of the Kingdom is that the Lord is going to return to the earth and put an end to sin and injustice. The peoples of the earth will have righteous and compassionate rulers. The curse will be lifted from nature. The little children will play happily without the danger of sickness of war.
Such is the Gospel of the Kingdom preached by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles.
What in the world are we preaching today? It is more like Gnosticism than it is the Christian Gospel.
The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.
The promise for the last days is that the Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth will be preached throughout the earth. I believe this is the latter, or spring, harvest rain promised in the Old Testament and the New.
Zechariah invites us to pray for rain in the time of the spring rain. This is what we should do.
As I mentioned previously, some of the Spirit-filled denominations, having begun in the Spirit, are turning to management techniques to propagate their salvation message and build churches. I may be wrong, but I do believe if the same energy and determination were applied to praying for the harvest rain we would accomplish more. How do you feel about this?
I guess the end-time witness will be borne whether we pray or not. But maybe we can hasten its coming. Anyway, the Bible says to pray for rain in the time of the spring rain.
Notice that the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached as a testimony, or witness, to all nations; and then the end will come.
Notice the expression "as a testimony." I think this is vitally important.
We would perceive the Lord to be saying the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all the nations so some will be saved. This is not what it says. Rather, it says "as a testimony." We think only in terms of getting people saved and adding them to a church..
The Bible always says exactly what it means.
You can bring the Divine testimony without anyone being saved (as we use the term "saved") and still be successful. You are successful if you have presented accurately the Person, will, way, and eternal purpose of God.
You can preach and have many people "receive Christ," and not successfully bring the Divine testimony to them. This is done all the time in America.
There is an abundance of Christian preaching and teaching in America but practically no Divine testimony. Why is this? It is because of a lack of integrity, of godliness, on the part of the ministry.
I am not intending to be critical. It is just a fact that those who are ministering believe grace is an alternative to godly character. So the emphasis is on getting a lot of people in the building whether or not righteousness is being practiced.
If you think I am mistaken, look at the opinion many people in the United States have of the Christians, or of the preachers. What kind of reputation do the television evangelists have?
By and large, the Christian preachers and believers in America are tolerated at this time, but they are not viewed as pillars of righteousness. But they should be and must be if there is to be a testimony.
Whether or not people repent and are baptized when they hear the Gospel is their business. Whether or not the ministers live a godly life is the ministers business.
The Lord demands that His way be made straight. The Lords way in America has not been made straight because the emphasis is getting more and more people into our building and not teaching the believer that are now in the churches that they must live righteous, holy, obedient lives. The churches are full of spiritual babies because they have not been taught the New Testament, only the prevailing traditions.
We read in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation about the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to every nation. The "two witnesses" refer to Christ, and to the members of His Body who have been tested and proven faithful.
Notice that these testify in "sackcloth." Sackcloth represents repentance and humility.
The ministry of today is not clothed in sackcloth. Fine cars, expensive clothes, and arrogance often characterize the ministry of today. Not always, but often. In the days that are ahead the witnesses of God will be marked by a humble and repentant attitude, just like the Apostles of the Lamb.
We can pray for the last great testimony to begin, and we can prepare ourselves by coming before the Lord and repenting of whatever behavior proves to be displeasing to Him. We can behave like the Lords servants and not like high and mighty representatives of religion. The common people heard Jesus gladly because He did not act arrogantly like the scribes and Pharisees. He did not assume the lordly airs of the elders of Israel. Neither must we!
I was reading the Book of Jeremiah this morning. I noticed the power, the seriousness. You can feel the weight of it. I do not feel this in todays salvation message or in the churches among the people. The power of God is missing. Judgment is missing. The Presence of the Lord is often missing. Too much sweetness and light.
One of the choruses compares Christ to a portrait by Monet. As beautiful as a painting by Monet. Can you imagine comparing the Fire of Israel to a painting by Monet? The people have been burned and dont perceive the difference.
Today in America some of the fast-food chains are being sued because people eat too much, become obese, and then suffer the bodily illnesses that accompany obesity, such as diabetes. Is this or is this not a sign of a degenerating society?
We Americans are being coddled by people who are seeking to remove what money we have from us. It is as simple as that. The love of money is the root of all evil.
I am afraid there is some of this coddling spirit in the American ministry. We have forgotten the Gospel is a sellers market. We have what people must have if they are to be approved of God. The Holy Spirit will convince them of this. Instead we are doing everything we can to sell them, to make proselytes.
If a minister regards a great number of members as a sign of success he is going to water down the Gospel. He is not going to tell the visitors that if they do not take up their cross, deny themselves, and follow Jesus every day, they cannot be a disciple; a Christian. No, we want to be "seeker-friendly."
Why do we want to be seeker-friendly? Not because we are desiring the spiritual well-being of people but because we want to gain a large following and thus be successful. In fact, we are robbing the people and robbing God by not telling them the truth.
I am not maintaining that we should be hostile toward visitors. The Holy Spirit will give us grace and wisdom until the cry is heard "Men and brothers, what must we do to be saved?"
The Lord Jesus never attempted to sell His message. He said He spoke in parables so people could not understand Him and be saved. Only those whom the Father gave Him were privileged to understand the Good News. Most of us know nothing of such timing, such election.
The underlying motive behind the "eternal security" doctrine and the "no believer will hear anything negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ" teaching is our desire to be seeker-friendly. It is the typical American way of coddling people so they will give you what you want. It is no more profound, no more compassionate than this. It is not love for the people, it is self-interest on the part of the ministry.
Because of our desire to be successful we are not bearing a true witness of God and His Christ. We are watering down the Word of God until it is ineffectual. The result is we have a mob of people who are light, foolish, giddy.
In the day in which we are living the Holy Spirit is looking for those who will love not their lives to the point of death; who will say "Not my will but Yours be done" when the very soul is being wrenched out of them.
It is a sad state of affairs when we can read the Book of Jeremiah and notice the depth and power of his writing, and then observe that people who supposedly have entered a superior covenant are characterized by lightness, foolishness, overfamiliarity with God, the deeds of the sinful nature, and general spiritual immaturity and slothfulness.
Are you and I counted among those who are asking for the old paths that we may walk in them, so after we die we are not ashamed in the company of Jeremiah?
So when you see standing in the holy place "the abomination that causes desolation," spoken of through the prophet Daniellet the reader understand Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until nowand never to be equaled again. (Matthew 24:15-21)
I will tell you what I have concluded, after studying Daniel.
I believe the "abomination that causes desolation" is referring to the man (or woman) we term "Antichrist" placing something on the roof of a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.
He will confirm a covenant with many for one "seven." In the middle of the "seven" he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. (Daniel 9:27)
I have written previously that the abomination that causes desolation has to do with the Antichrist sitting on the Lid of Atonement in the Holy of Holies in the rebuilt Temple.
But as I have considered the NIV interpretation concerning something set up on a wing or pinnacle of the Temple, I began to think. The third temptation of Christ had to do with presumption, with man making himself God. The idea was that Christ should vaunt His power by taking it on Himself to move outside of Gods perfect will.
Remember, Satan wants to be like the Most High. But he does not want to obey the Most High.
We know Antichrist personifies the idea that man is his own god.
So it may be true that Antichrist will place a statue of himself on the very place where Satan brought Christ, on the roof of the Temple in Jerusalem. Whereas Christ will not obey His own will but the will of His Father, Antichrist will mock the idea of our not obeying our own will but only the will of Christ.
Hence the defiant, arrogant statue on the wing of the Temple.
Do what you will with this. And notice that it is a man making himself god that triggers the great distress, the Great Tribulation.
"Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." From reading the Bible and from thinking about what I know of events of the past, I think there have been several times when God has advised people to flee. Then there have been occasions when people have fled to another place when God had not spoken. The important thing to know is what God is saying at any given moment; because you might jump out of the frying pan into the fire.
It would be difficult for people to leave the comforts of Judea and attempt to survive in the mountains nearby. Yet there are times when such drastic measures must be taken. The Christians of Rome suffered greatly from having to live in the catacombs.
One thing is certain: If the Temple is built again on the Temple Mount, and if a statue of an arrogant man preparing to leap off can be seen on a gable of the Temple, then the Jews had better leave the cities and go up into the mountains.
"Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak."
"Remember Lots wife!"
Several years ago I preached that if we did not prepare ourselves in advance, when the Lord appeared we would not be able to go to Him.
A young man of the church had a dream. He told me that he had not believed what I had preached about not having the faith to go to the Lord when He appeared. In his dream he saw the Lord in the clouds, but he was not able to believe what he was seeing and could not go to Him.
I do not know what our surroundings will be when the Lord appears in the clouds. But I do know it will require faith if we are to be able to experience successfully the change from bodily mortality to bodily immortality. Think of the change that will have to take place in our system of metabolism!
We may think we have enough faith, but do we? Enoch was translated by faith.
Suppose you were downtown and suddenly you saw the Lord in the sky above you and He was beckoning to you to come to Him. You knew if you didnt respond right then you would never have another opportunity.
What you would do at that moment would depend on your preparation.
If you were accustomed to living in Jesus each moment of the day and night, always looking to Him for every decision, you would have no trouble just leaving the world behind and rising to meet Him in the air.
But let us say you have been living as an average churchgoer in America. You are heavily involved with your family, who are not with you at this point. :Your children are in school. The baby is in the nursery. You could not remember if you had locked the front door when you left, and there was a lot of jewelry in the house along with a great deal of cash. You were going to an extremely important job interview.
Would you be able to place in the Lords hands your family, your children, the baby, your valuables, your important job interview, and trust that He knows all about these matters and will take care of them; but you are to go to Him right now?
We use the term "putting everything on the altar." This means everything you hold dear is in Gods hands. You always pray for you loved ones, but you hold them lightly. They belong to God.
Remember Lots wife! Apparently she was an ordinary wife, mother, and housekeeper. Nothing unusual. "Marrying and giving in marriage. Buying and selling, until the flood came and took them all away."
How many American Christians, if the door to their home was broken at two oclock in the morning, and they were told they were to no longer to attend a fervent church or their children would be removed from them, would reply instantly that they were fervent Christians and would remain so no matter what happened?
How many pastors and board members would hold to their standards if they were instructed to receive homosexuals and support their relationships, and perform their marriage ceremonies, or their building would be confiscated and their tax status reversed? It possibly may come to this.
The point is, when the Lord says to not go down from the roof (people spent time on their roofs in that area) or to return from the field to pick up a possession, He is warning us that we are going to have to live so close to Him that we can drop everything and move to where He shows us to go, at a moments notice.
Are you and I ready to move with the Lord? We had better be listening carefully at all times, because we are in a day in America when terrorists may strike suddenly, and the Lord may want to deliver us from danger.
"How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath."
We see from the above that what God is going to do can be affected by prayer. Jesus is advising us to pray always that we will be prepared for trouble when it comes. God hears and answers prayer, and will insure that we will be able to survive when earthquakes, floods, drought, sickness, or bombs are about to put us in danger. God indeed shall take care of us and make provision for us so we will be protected in the day of calamity. But such protection will be ours only if we are dwelling in the secret place of the Most High, that is, if we are truly abiding in Christ and not just making a profession of assent to Christian theology.
The Lord will be with us throughout the coming days of judgment if we really are abiding in Him, looking to Him for every aspect of our life.
"For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until nowand never to be equaled again."
This is the Great Tribulation which we have heard so much about.
Notice that it is a man calling himself God that brings these calamities on the earth.
I think the term "Great Tribulation" has misled some believers. Actually, human beings at various times have suffered as much as it is possible for people to suffer.
Some pretty horrible things have happened to people, as you and I well know. Hundreds of thousands of people have been tortured to death. And then there are other forms of suffering, such as very painful diseases or the loss of a loved one.
I believe it is called the Great Tribulation because it will affect so many people, not because it is so much worse than human beings have ever experienced..
We Christians have no reason to fear the Great Tribulation if we will be careful to follow Jesus. Whatever happens to us will serve only to press us further into Christ. Whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, as Peter tells us. And deliverance from sin is desirable, even if it takes suffering to accomplish it.
The idea that God is going to "rapture" us to Heaven so we wont suffer is ridiculous on two counts. First, Christians have suffered on many occasions throughout the Christian Era. They are suffering today in some countries.
Second, we have to be raised from the dead, or changed into immortality, before we can be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. How can we be harmed by Antichrist and the Great Tribulation if we have been raised from the dead or changed into immortality?
The pre-tribulation "rapture" doctrine is not sound, and godly ministers need to think again about lulling their congregations with this myth, because the effect is to keep their people from preparing themselves to stand when trouble comes.
If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:22)
Obviously Gods elect are going to be on the earth during the Great Tribulation.
The question then becomes, Who are Gods elect?
The expression is employed several times in the Epistles to refer to Christians. They are the true Israel of God, whether Jewish or Gentile by physical birth.
The device used by the destructive Dispensational model to account for the inconsistencies found in it is to apply nonconforming passages to the Jews. It is the Jewish elect who will be on the earth during the Great Tribulation.
The first question then is, How about the Jewish Apostles. Are they part of the Jewish elect or are they now members of a Gentile body?
The second question is, How about people who are part Jewish, part Gentile?
The third question is, What about Pauls statement that there is one new man, comprising Jews and Gentiles? Paul was insistent that there is but one Seed of Abraham, and that Seed is Jesus Christ and all who are part of Christ, without distinction as to Jew or Gentile.
The answer is, Gods elect are Gods elect. We Gentiles have been grafted into the one true Olive Tree, which is Jesus Christ.
To then say that Jesus was referring to Jews alone is not based on the Scripture.
If the Lord Jesus is speaking only to Jews in the Gospel accounts, then it is only the Jews who must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. It is only the Jews who can abide in Him. It is only the Jews who are invited to be with Christ where He is.
In fact, if Dispensational theory were to be true (which it assuredly is not), we would be wise in cutting out of our Bible the entire Old Testament as well as the four Gospels. In fact, we should cut out the Book of Acts because those Jewish Apostles taught that we are to behave in a manner worthy of repentance.
Also, we should remove all of Romans, except Chapters Two through Five, and also discard the remainder of the New Testament.
Even in our new Bible, Romans, Chapters Two through Five, an astute reader could demonstrate the folly of Dispensational theory. For example: while Abraham was justified by faith when he believed the promise of God, he also was commanded to walk before God and be perfect. In addition, Abraham received his commission of fruitfulness and conquest on the basis of obeying God in the matter of Isaac.
The truth is, the model of Bible interpretation termed Dispensationalism is as deadly a device as could be imagined, in terms of sound Bible interpretation and in terms of its effect on the moral and spiritual stature of Gods people. All books that espouse the idea we are in a new dispensation separate and distinct from what has gone on before, should be thrown away. They are poison.
The plan of salvation is one plan. It began with Adam and Eve and will finish with the new earth and the new Jerusalem. The grace Gods elect have been given has been increased from time to time, and so has the challenge to godly behavior.
But the goal have never, never changed. It is that we behave righteously, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
Gods elect, all who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, whether Jewish or Gentile by race, who are physically alive at the time, will live through the Great Tribulation. The days of the Great Tribulation will be shortened for their sake, or else everyone on the earth would perish.
"I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth," declares the LORD. "I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth," declares the LORD. (Zephaniah 1:2,3)
The presence of the elect will prevent this from happening, if my understanding is correct.
At that time if anyone says to you, "Look, here is the Christ!" or, "There he is!" do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the electif that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. (Matthew 24:23-25)
I think we had better prepare ourselves to see great signs and miracles, and false Christs and false prophets, in the future.
As far as the elect being deceived, my answer is, Yes, the elect can be deceived.
The only way a member of the elect can escape being deceived is by patiently carrying his cross after Jesus each day. It is our crosses, our prisons, that prevent our being deceived. No amount of prayer or Bible reading, although they are absolutely necessary if we are to serve the Lord, will prevent our being deceived. Only our willingness to deny ourselves will shield us from deception.
It is when we cant stand our cross or imprisonment any longer, deciding that God doesnt want us to be "unhappy," that we open ourselves to deception. Our earth is under the Divine curse. We have tribulation while we are here. Once we decide we want to make a little bit of Paradise to ease the pains of earth, we are vulnerable to deception.
You sometimes can identify a saint by the lines of stress in his or her face, the stress of serving Christ through long periods of patient deferral of intense desires.
Unless I am mistaken, the greatest miracles of the Christian Era have been wrought among members of the Roman Catholic churches. I do not have faith in any of these outstanding miracles when they exalt Mary, the mother of the Lord. Mary and Joseph are not to be exalted, only their Son.
The miracle-worker who arises in the days of Antichrist is often termed the "False Prophet. I capitalize Antichrist and the False Prophet because I believe they will be actual people, although many will have their spirit.
It is the False Prophet who supports Antichrist.
It is my conviction that Antichrist represents self-will in the governmental realm and the False Prophet, who comes out of the earth, represents self-will in the religious realm.
Babylon the Great represents man-made institutional religion, as I see it. The False Prophet speaks of Christians who want the power of Christ but are not willing to deny themselves and take up their cross.
It is my opinion that the recent errors, such as the prosperity and faith message, imaging, and speaking the creative word, are early forms of the False Prophet. These movements seek to gain the power of Christ but they do not always emphasize that taking up our cross and following Christ are vastly more important than manipulating the metaphysical realm with our soulish faith.
We hear of believers seeking to gain power with God. Why do they want to gain power with God? We ought rather to be seeking the will of God. God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him.
We are part of the False Prophet when we are seeking power from Christ but are not pressing into Him, as the Apostle Paul did, so we can know Christ.
There is a lot goes on today in fundamental Christian circles that is suspect to say the least. I believe we are due for a reformation of Christian thinking.
Within the last thirty years various refreshings and doctrines have been introduced into Christian thinking. Do you remember "Angels on Assignment," the story of the Pentecostal pastor who was visited supposedly by the angels Michael and Gabriel? This exciting event swept through Christian circles. Many, including myself, were joyful to think of such a visitation.
Later I went to Iceland. While there, not being versed in the language of Iceland, I had a good deal to time of pray and think by myself. It dawned on me that the things spoken by these angels were not scriptural. They were emphasizing the typical "no one is going to hear anything negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ."
Then I thought, if Michael and Gabriel actually were to appear to someone in America, our entire country would be shaken as by a mighty wind. Gabriel who stands in the very Presence of God! Michael, the commander in chief of the warrior angels!
No, this was not a genuine visitation. The pastor mercifully has died since that time.
When I came back from Iceland I heard that the pastor had visited San Diego. Some of our church members were in the meeting. The pastor asked if there was anyone in the audience who did not believe in the "rapture" to raise his hand. Although our people who were there knew there is no such thing, none of them raised his hand. So great is the power of group pressure!
We Pentecostal people are deceived readily because we equate the Holy Spirit with how we feel. We do not realize most of our feelings in church come from our soul and from various spirits that are present.
You have to have considerable experience in Christ before you can distinguish among the feelings present in a church service.
It is easy to whip up excitement among the people of a congregation, if they have any life at all. Just raise your voice and keep saying Jesus! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!. Keep repeating these terms enthusiastically and the spirit of the meeting will be elevated. Then shout, "In Jesus name, everyone within the sound of my voice is healed!
You know what? Some will be healed. You have activated the spirit realm and all sorts of things will happen, some of them of lasting good, depending on the individual.
This is how the false teachings get started. We Pentecostals do not test the prophets and apostles. If there is vibrant music (loud and lively), and you keep using the name of Jesus, you could preach out of the telephone book and it would be a while before the people caught on that something was wrong.
"Ricardo Vegas" Everyone say "Ricardo Vegas." "Praise the Lord. Isnt Jesus wonderful? Say Amen."
The people will go out saying it was a great meeting without asking themselves what Ricardo Vegas has to do with anything.
This is why ministers can preach that Christians ought to use their faith to get rich, and Pentecostal people will believe it. Yet, the Apostle Paul tells us that those who are rich pierce themselves with many griefs. Do we want to be pierced with the deceitfulness of riches? Of course not. Either we havent read the Bible, or else we are not thinking clearly.
Some maintain that the elect cannot be deceived. We already have been deceived to a great extent, at least in America.
From what the Lord said, it sounds as though gifted individuals will appear, work miracles, and claim they are Christ. It doesnt seem possible, yet there it is. I havent seen this as yet, but I do know of Gabriel and Michael who have appeared and concerning whom I have considerable misgivings.
I remember on one occasion in Bible school praying that God would enable us to do the greater works of which Jesus spoke, but not at that time because of the error I was seeing. Can you imagine that! And I as green as grass at the time.
Are you still with me? I am just venting some of the thoughts I have had over the past fifty years.
When the false prophets and teachers come and work miracles in the name of Jesus, and then proclaim the pre-tribulation "rapture" and that no believer will hear anything negative at the Judgment Seat of Christ, do you suppose any believers will be deceived?
So if anyone tells you, "There he is, out in the desert," do not go out; or, "Here he is, in the inner rooms," do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:26,27)
And we are preaching a secret rapture! It is taught that this cant be the same event described in First Thessalonians, Chapter Four. Yet the one Greek term used for "coming," in First and Second Thessalonians, is parousia. As I pointed out at the beginning of this booklet, the twenty-fourth chapter tells of Jesus response to the question: "What will be the sign of Your parousia and of the end of the age?" So I dont believe those who would teach that these are two separate comings are on very sound ground, do you?
Lets face it! There will be no secret coming. "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." Amen!
My personal opinion is that the lightning referred to here will be the light coming from the saints who will be descending with the Lord, and coming also from the saints on the earth. This is just my opinion, but it fits the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah that informs us when gross darkness covers the people, the Glory of the Lord will arise on His people.
Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. (Matthew 24:28)
Sometimes the word is translated "vultures"; sometimes, "eagles." I prefer "eagles.
I believe the Lord was referring to the Book of Job, where it speaks of the eagles feasting on blood and being where the slain are.
In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, one of my favorite passages, we read that it is the body and blood of the Lord that are our resurrection lifein fact, they are the very Life by which we are to live. I do not think it is possible to overemphasize the importance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in our Christian experience.
When the Lord appears it will be as the slain Lamb. Then those young eagles who live by His body and blood will be caught up to be with Him. He is their Life, the life by which they live.
No person will ever be raised and caught up to meet the Lord on the basis of doctrinal accuracy. Only the body and blood of Christ in us will raise us to meet the Lord. This is an act of love, not of doctrine!
To live by the body and blood of the Lord is to forsake our own way of doing, little by little, as the Holy Spirit leads us. Every day a part of our old personality should die, and in its place should come the body and blood of the Lamb of God.
The Lord stands today at the door of the personality of the Christian people. He is asking for admittance. If we choose to admit Him, He dines with us. We dine on His body and blood. He dines on our obedience and worship.
All the church-going in the world, all the theological correctness in the world, will never, never, never raise us into eternal life at the coming of the Lord. It is the body and blood of Christ that compose the life that will transform our mortal body into immortality.
Here is the tremendous danger of denominational thinking. When we place the emphasis on gathering adherents to our beliefs we are apt to set aside the all-important emphasis on abiding in Christ and learning to live by His Life, His body and blood. We might just as well invite them to join the Moose Lodge or the Rotary Club for all the spiritual good we are doing them.
In our anxiety to please people and to appear "seeker-friendly" we are shortchanging them. We are leaving the impression that if they will say the right words and sing the right songs they will go to Heaven when they die.
The truth is, as we read in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, it is the body and blood of the Lamb that are our salvation, our eternal life, our resurrection. And that inner life can be gained only as we faithfully follow the Lord each day and obey the Holy Spirit implicitly.
I think the greatest hindrance to American Christians is our American love of pleasure. Every advertiser on the television is promising us pleasure. Everywhere we turn we are told that we have a right to be happy and do what we want; and if someone interferes with those rights we are to sue them.
The person who develops a pill that will guarantee we can eat all we wish and still remain slender will make so much money he could never spend the interest. The individual who invents a machine that we can sit on and watch television, plug it into the wall, and develop a strong, fit body, will be the richest man in the country.
The preacher who tells the people all they need to do is acknowledge Jesus Christ, and no further demands will be made on them, and now they are ready to be carried up to Heaven where they never will suffer again, will probably have a large congregation.
But Christianity is not that easy. Even the righteous are saved with difficulty, or so it is written.
Our love of pleasure! There is no way a true Christian disciple is going to live a life of pleasure. We have our moments of pleasure, and we always have a deeply settled joy and peace (if we really are serving the Lord), but the gate is small and the way is pressured that lead to eternal life. And few find it!
If we cannot stand being disappointed; if we cannot put up with having our fondest hopes deferred for decades; if we cannot accept humiliation; if we cannot tolerate being gossiped about; then we better forget about being a Christian.
We have been called to experience the fellowship of Christs sufferings.
It is a fact that after we have suffered a while we will be established and strengthened. God is not trying to kill us or make us miserable, rather He is transforming us into the image of His Son; He is moving us from union with Satan to union with God. The Kingdom of God and patience are closely associated.
But this has been true from the beginning. Which of the patriarchs and prophets did not suffer at the hands of God? Which did not have to exercise patience? We are to let patience have its perfect work in our personality.
Here is the problem in America. We say to someone, "To be a true Christian you have to be willing to be patient in unpleasant situations. The Christian discipleship is not a walk in the park. It is a rugged way of self-denial, and sometimes strange ashes are all that are left of our hopes and dreams."
Then they can go to another assembly that is more "seeker-friendly" and hear how "Jesus did it all for us," and all we have to do is slip up our hand and say "I accept Christ as my Savior." Now we have our pass out of Hell and a ticket that admits us to Heaven. What a wonderful gift! There is nothing more we are to do, we can continue with our normal life.
Which of these two assemblies is likely to gain the most members? Which one appeals to you?
In some countries of the world, if you are baptized into the Christian faith you are murdered by members of your family. Why should it be so terribly dangerous for someone in another country to become a Christians, and all we have to do in America is make a profession of faith and then continue with our regular life? Something is amiss, isnt it!
We may come to a fork in the road. One road is wide, bright, sunny, and there is a multitude of people traveling on it. The other path is narrow, dark, dismal, and all we see ahead are thorns and we can hear the roar of wild animals.
It is right here that we decide whether we are going to be one of those who are filled with light at the Lords glorious appearing; or whether we will stay with the ranks of the churchgoers who are hoping somehow their pastor is correct and the Bible does not mean everything it says.
If we could only see the end of these two roads we would discover the wide, sunny, well-traveled highway ends in the midst of demons, and malicious, selfish people who are endlessly frustrated because the pleasures they hope to find are just out of their reach.
The end of the narrow, thorny path is a scene so glorious it is indescribable at the present time. A great city that reaches into the sky. The laughter of little children as they play in the green meadows, surrounded by little animals. The Lord Jesus looking about Him with unspeakable joy at what His agony on the cross has purchased. Stately people whose countenances are so grand that it is difficult to bear the sight of them.
So the question is that of faith, isnt it? We can play and laugh now, but we shall mourn at the end. Or we can enter the crucifixion of the Lord now, and play and laugh for eternity. Everyone must make this decision, especially the elect.
Immediately after the distress of those days "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. (Matthew 24:29)
How many see the words "immediately after the distress of those days?" (I"m talking to the congregation, arent I!)
If the "distress of those days" mentioned here is the Great Tribulation, then it appears something is going to happen immediately after the Great Tribulation. What is going to take place immediately after the Great Tribulation? The answer is, the calling cards of the coming of Christ will be presented to the inhabitants of the earth. In other words, the parousia will take place immediately after the Great Tribulation.
How could it be any clearer? Do we mean the parousia will take place before the Great Tribulation? No.
Do we mean the parousia will take place during the Great Tribulation? No.
Then what are we saying? We are saying the parousia will take place immediately after the Great Tribulation. At least, that is how I read it. How about you?
Sometimes the argument is advanced that since the Lord said He is coming as a thief, that is unannounced, then He must be going to return prior to the great signs in the heavens. How could He catch us by surprise after these great signs in the sky?
The truth is, as soon as the Great Tribulation has been complete, the great signs in the heavens will appear. These colossal signs will be so overpowering, with the light streaming forth from all the saints, that people will not be able at that time to decide what they are going to do. The righteous will have been confirmed and established in their righteousness. The wicked will have been confirmed and established in their wickedness. The way of the Lord shall have been made straight. No, there will be no opportunity to change ones mind in that day. What is done is done!
In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (I Corinthians 15:52)
Those who have returned with the Lord will be raised imperishable.
Those alive on the earth at that time will be changed. This shall take place in a flash. Once the Lord appears there is no time to make a decision. We either are ready to be changed right at that moment, or we will be unbelieving and not able to accept the change from flesh-and-blood life to Holy-Spirit life.
Remember Lots wife!
Notice carefully the following statement:
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (I Corinthians 15:53)
Our mortal body is not going to be done away with. If we have returned with the Lord we will receive our body back from the grave. Then that body will be clothed with the body from Heaven.
If we are alive at the time of the Day of Christ, our body will be clothed with the imperishable body from Heaven.
Remember, that body from Heaven is being created now by your behavior. The imperishable body that will be given to you by the Lord Jesus will reflect in itself the decisions you have made while living on the earth. You are going to receive the good you have done and the bad you have done (unless you have confessed the bad and utterly renounced and turned away from it).
From my point of view, there is no message more in need of being borne to Gods people of today than the fact that right now we are determining what we will receive in the Day of Christ.
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 30,31)
What the sign of the Son of Man will be I do not know, unless it is some kind of glorified cross. But it shall appear in the sky.
The nations of the earth will mourn. Why? This is the Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God.
But the nations will mourn because they have become so accustomed to doing whatever they felt like that the idea of God returning to govern the earth is not at all acceptable. Think of it!
It is interesting that the coming of Christ is often associated with clouds. It makes one wonder if the clouds are not actually the saints of history.
Yet, He said He would return in the same manner He left. And it is written that a cloud received Him out of the sight of the disciples.
There shall be a loud trumpet call. This corresponds with the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians, doesnt it? There will be no "secret rapture." The coming of the Lord will be announced with colossal signs in the sky above us and with the blast of the trumpet of the Lord.
"He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other."
I may be mistaken but I think the elect who are gathered at this point are the deceased saints. They have been busily engaged in the work of the Lord at various places in the heavens, and now they are being summoned so they can gather to the Lord in the clouds above the earth, ready for their descent to regain their bodies from their place of interment.
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know it is near, right at the door. (Matthew 24:32,33)
The above passage tells us that people on the earth will witness the tremendous light and hear the trumpet blast that herald the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.
Think of it! The last time the earth saw Christ was as a thief hanging on a cross. Now He is returning in Glory as King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
The twigs becoming tender and the leaves coming out refer to the great light and the sound of the trumpet. Once we see and hear these things, then we know the resurrection of the saints who returned with the Lord, our putting on of immortality, and the catching up of all of us, is "near, right at the door."
"Well," one may say, "with all this commotion, how can we say that He is coming as a thief, as a surprise?"
It is because these events will take place so quickly that there will be no time for our to change our mind. The wicked will remain wicked, by the Word of the Lord. The righteous and holy will remain righteous and holy, by the Word of the Lord. It will be too late to change.
There is something we may need to understand about repentance. Repentance is a gift. In order for a person to repent, God must give the gift of repentance to him.
There are terrifying anecdotes concerning people who have sinned away their day of grace. Perhaps you have heard some of these accounts. People played around with the invitation of the Holy Spirit. By the time they got serious and went to the Lord, they found out that He was not there for them. They were ready for Him but He no longer was ready for them.
It is no small thing to spit in the face of God like that! God is not the softhearted old fool we may think He is.
This sort of thing, the screaming of people in agony because they have put off answering the Divine invitation for too long, will take place on a grand scale, once the signs appear in the heavens. People will try to repent but will find that the ability to repent no longer is within them. All they are able to do is curse God. Lets make sure that you and I do not find ourselves in such a situation!
I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:34,35)
The New International versions offers "race" as an alternative reading for "generation." The Jewish race will not pass away until the Day of Christ. This certainly is a reasonable interpretation.
I wonder, though, if the Lord is not referring to the generation of people who are alive when the great signs begin.
Remember, the Lord said, "when you see all these things, you know it is near, right at the door." "Near, right at the door." This might indicate there will be a period of time between the appearing of the heavenly signs and the actual descent of the Lord to the earth.
When the Lord gave me a kind of vision of His coming, what was impressed on me was the resurrection of the dead saints. They did not immediately go up into the air to meet the Lord. There was a period of time while they had fellowship, enjoying the fact that they once again were on the earth, and in imperishable bodies.
There were forty days between the time Jesus rose from the dead and His ascension to Heaven.
So perhaps the Lord is declaring from the moment the sign of the Son of Man appears in the sky until the Lord Jesus descends with His army to wage war against Antichrist and his forces, there will be a period of time not more than a generation in lengthwhich I believe is forty years.
Even if several years should elapse since the advent of the heavenly signs and the descent of the Lord and His saints, repentance still will not be possible. The die has been cast!
I tell you, we are so soft we cannot imagine this kind of harshness and finality. We say to our children: "If you dont go up to bed right now you will not get any toys for Christmas. The children know we are not able to carry through with this threat. We know we are not able to carry through with this threat. So the children learn, and we continue to believe, that bad things do not happen.
But bad things do happen! Remember Lots wife! Her sin was not a great one. She did only what a normal mother and housewife would do. She took one last lingering look at what had been home to her for a period of years. And she was destroyed instantly.
Is God really like this?
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24:36)
It seems to me that Christian teaching, generally speaking, leans too close to the idea that the Father and Jesus are the same Person. I can understand how one could come to this conclusion, given the total Oneness in which the Father and the Son life. And I realize it is an effort to be devout and to give Christ the highest honor possible. But we cant go against the Bible, even with the best of intentions.
Given that the Son does not know the day or hour of His coming, but the Father does, I think we must conclude that the Father and the Son are two different Persons.
It may be true that theologians have a way of explaining away what appears to be obvious, as they do in Hebrews 6:4-6, for example; or Galatians 5:19-21; or Second Corinthians 5:10. You know what? I am going to stick with the plain sense of the Scriptures. I do not trust an explanation that makes a verse say something other than what it does to the average readeran appeal to the mysteries of Greek verbs notwithstanding!
We know the Father gave the Book of Revelation to Christ, who then gave it to the Apostle John. This means there was a time when the Father had a vision of the future that the Lord did not have. In my opinion, this means the Father is a different Person from the Son and is greater than the Sonjust as Christ told us was the case.
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:37-41)
Let me add another passage to the above so we get a fuller picture.
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lots wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. (Luke 17:26-35)
There is an important truth here and I dont want you to miss it.
Lets think for a minute about what terribly wrong things people were doing that prevented them from being saved at the time of Noah, and at the time of the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah; and will prevent them from receiving Christ at His coming. I think you will surprised at the list.
We would suppose sexual perversion and violence would head the list, wouldnt we? But consider what their hindrances were:
They were eating and drinking.
They were marrying and giving in marriage.
They were working in the field.
They were grinding grain with a hand mill.
They were buying and selling.
They were planting and building.
They were sleeping in the same bed, probably man and wife.
Do you see anything about sexual perversion?
Do you see anything about violence.
What do you see? People going about the ordinary business of life.
What sense does this make?
The great danger to the American Christian, the danger that will prevent his going to be with the Lord if he or she is not careful and diligent, is the ordinary business of life in America.
Our danger is not that of drugs, or alcohol, or sexual perversion, or aborting our children, or violence. These all abound in America. But they are so obviously wrong that the Christian, if he has any spiritual life at all, is not threatened by them. He is not going to be found doing these things.
What is our problem? What are the activities that will keep us from bearing lasting fruit; from inheriting the Kingdom of God; from going to meet the Lord when He comes?
Eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, planting, building, working
Such things consume the time and strength of us Americans, and other people of the world as well.
Now lets think about the problem.
Today the Lord Jesus is knocking at the door of each Christian personality. He is asking for admittance. If we open the door, He will come in to us and dine with us.
He dines on our obedience and worship. We dine on His body and blood.
It is of supreme importance that we let Him in, and that we feed on His body and blood. They are the only true food and true drink. His inner Presence will guard us during the age of physical and moral horrors we are approaching if we are absolutely faithful in eating His body and drinking His blood on a regular basis.
How do we feed on His body and blood? I say feed, because it is a continuous process, like an animal grazes. It is not something we do one time, or once every month.
Every day of our life we make decisions. Most of them are quite minor, a few are major. We make decisions on our job. Sometimes we are called on to make a major decision, like where we should live. We should be asking the Lord Jesus to help us with every decision we make.
I myself ask the Lord about everything during the day. From the time I arise in the morning until I go to bed at night; and during the night if I get up; I keep asking the Lord to guide me.
For example: I dont want our dog to become fat. Putting on weight is not healthy for an adult dog. So every time I feed the dog I ask the Lord how much to feed her. I also ask the Lord about my own food.
I ask the Lord about everything I buy at the store. And, of course, I ask the Lord every time I preach, exactly what He wants me to preach about. I pray while I am preaching.
There are thousands of opportunities every day to invite the Lord Jesus into our life. As we live in this constant interaction with Him, He feeds us with His body and blood. These are our resurrection life. It is His body and blood that will raise us to Him when He appearsnot our doctrine. We can be doctrinally correct, but such correctness will not raise us in the Day of Christ. Only His body and blood will bring us to Him where He is.
The problem with eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, working in the field, grinding grain with a hand mill, were buying and selling, planting and building, and similar activities depending on our culture, is that our heart is in these responsibilities. We are consumed with the cares of life. Therefore we do not have ears to hear what the Lord is saying in the present hour.
Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. (Luke 21:34)
Do you want a description of numerous American believers? Dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life.
American believers, for the most part I believe, are accustomed to being heavily involved in the things of the world. They are drunken with entertainment, the love of money, sexual lust, and the cares of life. It is not that they are doing anything grossly sinful, it is more that they are not doing what is spiritually constructive.
If the trumpet of the Lord were to sound right now, I believe most American Christians would not be able to arise to the challenge. Why not? Because of the cares and anxieties of life.
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)
Here is a description of the American believer: "the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth."
Such are not able to bear lasting fruit. The Life of Christ within them withers and dies because of their occupation with that which has no life in itself.
How can we practice the Presence of Christ at all times when, due to our economic patterns, we have to work so hard, and sometimes under considerable stress? By bringing every decision to the Lord. Whether we work on a farm, or in a machine shop, or at home using a computer, we can keep on looking to the Lord for guidance and for His Presence. He can nourish us with His body and blood wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
But practicing the Presence of Jesus Christ is difficult in America because of the abundance of activities available to us. Think of the scientist who is on the verge of a major breakthrough in medicine; of the computer programmer who is racing to keep ahead of the competition in the development of program that will greatly enhance the power of the cell phone or the personal computer. Can you see how such employment can keep a believer from feeding on the body and blood of Christ?
The financial experts who work with stocks and bonds, where millions of dollars may be at stake. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to practice the Presence of Christ when the value of their holdings may vary from hour to hour?
We Americans picture activities such as these to be necessary. Perhaps they are and perhaps they arent.
All of them have the potential of making an individual wealthy. Also he believes what he is doing is important and significant. Relatively speaking, it is not. Compared with our readiness to meet the Lord in His Day, no scientific breakthrough; no amount of money; no new book, or musical performance, or athletic victory has any importance at all. What if we were to gain the whole world and lose our own soul?
Do you know how we lose our soul? We lose our soul when our we cease listening to the Lord and our conscience and begin to live in the demands of the body and the physical brain. Our soul then is driven by our body and our brain, and our spiritual nature no longer is guiding the decisions made by our soul.
It is not merely a case of going to Hell when we die. Hell is for the truly wicked of the earth, like some of the dictators of the last century.
No, it is the ordinary person who loses his soul as he kills his spiritual life with the desire to gain wealth, to be successful in the world.
He may fear Hell. However, what he ought to fear is being dead spiritually so He cannot partake of what Christ is requiring nowthat he open his heart to Christ and spend time with Him, dining on His body and blood.
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)
The American system of retirement has the potential of destroying the spiritual life of a believer who, if he had not stopped being a productive person, deciding to spend the remainder of his life in careless pleasure with no responsibilities, might have made a significant contribution to the Kingdom of God. Make no mistake! God will hold such an individual responsible for burying his talent; for not making the best possible use of the abilities God had given him.
The only comment about retirement in the Bible, that I know of, is the man who decided to build bigger barns, and then just enjoy himself. God rebuked him and required his soul that very night. This individual was lost to the purposes of God for no reason other than retiring in the American fashion.
But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you (lit. they are demanding your soul from you). Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" (Luke 12:20)
This farmer was not preparing to go out and break the moral laws of God? He had worked hard and just wanted to take it easy for the rest of his life.
Evidently God does not think much of the retirement mentality. What God means by "they are demanding your soul from you" I am not certain. But I think the idea is the man will have to answer that very night for his conduct during his lifetime. Therefore he was not wise in thinking that he had many days left in which he could prepare himself to meet the Lord.
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:42-44)
The argument is used that the heavenly spectacle mentioned in earlier verses cannot be applied to the coming set forth in the above passage, because everyone would have been warned. It would be like a thief turning on a floodlight and blowing a trumpet to announce his coming. So, the conclusion is drawn, this must refer to a special, secret coming that occurs before the main, spectacular coming.
The problem with this conclusion is it would mean the Lord had suddenly left the subject of His parousia and was speaking of a different coming, a secret coming. There is no indication that He has changed the subject. Also, the notion of a special, secret coming ("rapture") is in direct opposition to Christs statement that His appearing would not be a secret but an open manifestation of His Glory.
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:27)
It is as I stated previously. The appearing of the sign of the Son of Man in the sky will catch the whole world off guard. The events that follow will not include an opportunity for repentance.
We must always be ready. We must always post a guard. This is the reason there is a problem with eating, drinking, giving in marriage, buying, selling, building. It is not that these are sinful in themselves. Rather it is that we become so involved we do not keep watchand then suddenly it is too late.
I mentioned previously the problem with the current teaching. The believers are trusting that it does not matter whether they are watching. They are saved by grace, and on that basis they always are ready.
But this is not the case. The only way in which we keep ourselves prepared for His sudden, dramatic appearing is by continually inviting Him into our life so we are always feeding on His body and drinking His blood. In this case we are not walking in darkness such that the Day of Christ catches us by surprise.
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. (I Thessalonians 5:4-6)
The notion that we are saved by grace and holding our ticket to Heaven, and no further preparation is needed, is a destructive error and will lead us to destruction in the Day of Christ.
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose servant is wicked and says to himself, "My master is staying away a long time," and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:45-51)
You know, most of the warnings found in the four Gospel accounts have to do with the Lords servants, that is, with the believers. We are told here that if we are not faithful in the responsibilities given to us we are going to suffer in the Day of Christ.
In fact, we may suffer before the Day of Christ if the Lord suddenly demands that we give an account for the way we have responded with that which has been entrusted to us.
It is surprising to me that the reward the Lord holds out for faithful service has to do with being put in charge of the Lords possessions. It is clear a major purpose of the Church Age has been to identify, train, and evaluate leaders so the roles of responsibility in the Kingdom of God may be properly filled.
So I guess our traditional understanding that our reward for serving the Lord will not be, as we may have supposed, an eternity of lying in our mansion doing nothing of significance.
If we are tired and need to take a rest, we better do it before the Lord returns.