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HOW TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Christianity Oasis Ministry has provided you with this How to Enter the Kingdom of God book with How to Enter the Kingdom of God lesson. This How to Enter the Kingdom of God study and How to Enter the Kingdom of God information looks at the How to Enter the Kingdom of God message and asks How to enter the Kingdom of God, why knowing How to enter the Kingdom of God is important, what is the How to Enter the Kingdom of God message and how does the How to Enter the Kingdom of God answer affect you. The truth of How to enter the Kingdom of God is essential in the Christian walk. Understanding the How to Enter the Kingdom of God message is very important and learning How to enter the Kingdom of God can help you to overcome the worldly whirlwinds. Let us delve into this How to Enter the Kingdom of God lesson with How to Enter the Kingdom of God message in this How to Enter the Kingdom of God book, shall we?


 

CHRISTIANITY OASIS
PRESENTS
PURITY PUBLICATIONS

HOW TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD

By
Kenneth B. Alexander

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface
Introduction

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
Throw Down Your Crowns  
Fixed Focus on God
Rule in the Midst of Your Enemies
Always Return To Your First Love
Futility-The State of Our Fallen World
The Army of the Lord-Joel Chapter 2
The Truth About Armageddon
Old Testament References to Christ
Esther
Psalm 13
Revelation-Message to the Seven Churches
Slain By the Spirit
The Bible: Human Authors So Fallible Teaching?
The Book of Hosea
The Book of Malachi
The Future of Christianity
The Little Flock
The Antichrist
Your Sins Separate You From God
Know The Lord

 

 

PREFACE

 

The author thanks the following for help in compiling this work. Pastor John Robert Stevens, deceased; Pastors Gary and Marilyn Hargrave; The Living Word, a fellowship of Churches (thelivingword.org); Many true believers I have been associated with over the years; and The Libronix Bible Study System;

 

Author:  Kenneth B. Alexander, BSL, JD, Ministry

enoch1122@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

            These are a collection of articles written under the hand of the Lord to reveal the way one enters into the Kingdom of God. It’s purpose is to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God and to show how one can enter the highest level of the coming age of Christ’s rule on earth. The road to perfection, which is what God longs for, is a narrow road. Few there be that pass on it. Christ said: “Enter ye in at the strait [narrow] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there Because  strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

 

            Well you say I am a born again Christian and have accepted Jesus as my Savior. Isn’t that enough to get me to heaven? The answer is that what we call “basic salvation” is just the beginning to a real walk with God. Yes you that have saved will obtain a measure of eternal life. But beyond that are many things you must learn, which things involve a continuing salvation process that brings you into perfection; and not necessarily after you physically die.

 

            More than anything God is after a relationship with you like He had with the first humans in the Garden. There He spoke face to face with them in the cool of the night. The first humans were babies in their overall spiritual development and God had much to teach them. We who are saved are in much the same place. God has much to reveal to us and much more He would like us to become. He desires us to become Sons of God, like the first Son Jesus Christ. Together Christ and His brethren, us, form the Father’s family that he longs for.

 

            At the last supper Christ made it clear to His disciples that they had much to learn when He was gone He would send the “helper”, the Holy Spirit to teach them many things. He said: “When the Helper [ Gr. parakeets, one called alongside to help, comforter, advocate, intercessor] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the  Helper [paracletos] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).

 

            Christ was not speaking to babes here. He was speaking to disciples who had been with Him for 31/2 years; they had cast out demons, healed people and done other mighty works. But Christ said He had more to teach them, through the helper that was to come, the Holy Spirit. Christ’s ministry was within a 30 mile radius of His home yet he wanted the gospel to go to the end of the earth. He wanted His disciples to do greater works than He did (John 14:12). He wanted the disciples to reduplicate themselves and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).

                 

                              What is often overlooked about Christ’s ministry is that He came to bring the Kingdom of God to the earth. When asked by others how to pray His suggested prayer was short and to the point. After instructing the multitude to Honor His Father He said: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven….” (Matthew 6:10). Christ was the personification of the Kingdom of the earth. Most of His parables began with “the Kingdom of God is like” or “the Kingdom can be compared to” or “can be likened to”. Christ’s forgiveness of sin was simply a prerequisite to the Kingdom that was to come. Since there can be no unrighteousness in the Kingdom Christ had to forgive and remove sin and remove it in preparation for a new age.

                    

                     Christ also made it clear in His parables that not just anyone, even if they came in the name of the Lord, would automatically enter His Kingdom. In Matthew 7:21-23 he said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”. Those rejected actually did miracles in the name of the Lord but were rejected. There are many more parables and teachings along that line in the Gospels.

                    

                     This book is an attempt to present the Word of the Lord in what may seem to be a new and different way. The book teaches what God really wants from His people in these end and beginnings of time. At this time the realm of the spirit is merging with the realm of the physical forming what will be Christ’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Since the road to complete salvation is a narrow road it behests us to consider very carefully our individual walks with the Lord to ensure that we are really doing His will. Many Christians and others walk believing they have something from God when in fact they don’t have enough.

                    

                     The parable of the 10 virgins illustrates this beautifully. All 10 were virgins and were close enough to the bridegroom to know that He was coming. However, when the time came 5 of the virgins discovered they did not have enough to enter and were left out. We don’t want to delude ourselves into believing that just being saved or doing great works in the name of the Lord is enough.

 

            In this day Paul said that Satan masquerades as a religious spirit. Paul warned of false apostles who were deceiving people, He said: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The charismatic preacher you may be following may very well be one of these deceitful workers.  

 

            With great humility I present this work to you. It is by no means complete. Neither is it necessarily made to be read cover to cover. However every point and every article is confirmed by the Bible which is the guide to our feet. This has all been revealed by God Himself through other men of God. The writing may not be as eloquent as you would think.  Paul said of himself: “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Corinthians 10:8-10).

                 

                              God Himself said (through Isaiah) said he would speak through a stammering tongue. Moses himself stuttered. God said: “So the word of the Lord to them will be, Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there,” That they may go and  stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive… Indeed, He will speak to this people Through  stammering lips and a foreign tongue” (Isaiah 28:10-14). Therefore when reading this book pay more attention to the message than the way it’s presented. I can assure you, after much prayer and waiting on the Lord, that it is the word of the Lord for you today. Please apply it as such.

 

 
THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST

 

            Christianity, and indeed the whole world, awaits the second coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. This so called “second advent” is the most anticipated event in religious and human history. This is time when Jesus returns to the earth after having been crucified some 2000 years ago. When He returns, many believe, He will establish His eternal Kingdom on the earth and the earth and its peoples will enter into an eternal Paradise. The Biblical promise is that when He comes every eye will see Him and every tongue will confess Him as Lord. At that time, scripture says, knowledge of Him will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Churches, as we know them, will become unnecessary as the need for men to teach each other the knowledge of the Lord becomes unnecessary. What we know about this Kingdom is revealed to us through the Holy Bible and through spiritual knowledge He has given us through His word.

           

           

            The scriptures say, of His second coming, the following: “BEHOLD, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen” (Revelation 1:7). “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). “And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:11; Jeremiah 31:34).

 

           

            Most of Christianity is in a state of waiting for His return or waiting for some kind of rapture experience. They see His coming as event separate from themselves. However, the second coming of Christ, although there may at some time be a single event, does not happen apart from those believers who remain on the earth. Actually the believers remaining on the earth   initiate the return of Christ. As we will see, they remain to prepare a place for Him. This is the great responsibility of each and every Christian/believer.

 

                       

            When Christ comes, the scriptures say, He will return and bring with Him those who have died in Christ. Those who remain will, together with Christ and His Saints, rule and reign with Him on the earth. However Christ, and those who have died in the faith, does not return until we who remain prepare a place for them. Therefore in a very real sense we are not waiting for Christ’s return as much as we are creating it.

 

           

            Hebrews Chapter 11 provides a summary of the great men of God who have gone before us but died without receiving the promise they believed for. They are alive in the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) but they are waiting to be made perfect. Hebrews 11:13 says, speaking of all those who died in the faith: “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth”.

 

 

             So prophets and men of God died in faith, not having been made perfect, and not receiving the entire promise, and so remain in the spiritual realm until they return with Christ. These include the men of God mentioned in Hebrews 11 (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Samuel, David, Kings, the prophets) and must also include the Apostles and righteous men of the New Testament, as well as many more not mentioned but having served the Lord in their day.

 

           

            However, even though they are awaiting the return of Christ as we are, they are actually waiting for us to be made perfect. Only then can they return. Hebrews 11:39-40 states: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect”.

 

           

            Apart from us, those who died in faith will not receive their promise of perfection until we become perfect here on earth. Hebrews says that God has provided something better for us. God has provided something better for those who remain in that, unlike the men of God of old who died without receiving the promise, those who remain on earth are positioned to be able to see the promise be fulfilled before their eyes. Our ancestors saw the promise afar off, we will experience the fullness of it right here on earth. And without us obtaining that perfection, right here on earth, those who have gone before us will not be made perfect and will not receive the promise. Again, Hebrews says: “apart from us they would not be made perfect”.

 

           

            The Christian world is conditioned to believe in an afterlife in “Heaven”, where they are made perfect simply by dying. That concept is neither true nor supported in the scriptures. We have already seen that even the greatest men of God were not made perfect by dying.

 

           

            Death is no more than a separation between the spirit and physical world. It is likened to a veil in the scriptures. In God’s Temple, a veil separated the most holy place from the rest of the temple symbolizing the separation of the spirit world from the physical world (See Hebrews Chapter 9; Leviticus 16:2). Behind the veil was the Ark of the Covenant which housed the presence of God, the Ark of the Covenant, the show bread and the 10 commandments and only select priests were ever allowed behind this veil. When Christ died on the cross, the veil in the Temple of Jerusalem was rent (torn) in half that had existed as a barrier to full access to the presence of God to everyone (Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). The removal of this veil is the abolishment of our final enemy. “The last enemy that will be  abolished is death” Corinthians 15:26.

 

            Jesus explained the order of resurrection as follows: “So  the last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 19:30; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30). What does it mean that the first will be last and the last first?

           

 

            Jesus said: “And they  will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. “And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:30). The first are those who have gone before us who did the will of God in their generation but died without seeing the promise. The last are those who remain on earth, who also do the will of God in our generation, but, unlike them, they will see the promise fulfilled. Those who remain are therefore the last generation to do the will of God but are the first to SEE the promise. And, as Hebrews 11 says, those who remain will be made perfect first, before those who went before us. Those who went before us will be the last to see the promise. 

 

 

             Christ was the very first. Upon His death He was resurrected to the right hand of the Father. However, He is also waiting for the ones who remain to complete His work. Hebrews 10:12-13 says: “But when this priest [Christ] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool” (see also Hebrews 1:13; Luke 20:43; Acts 2:35). We can see then that Christ does not return to earth until His enemies, those enemies on the earth who oppose Him, are made a footstool for His feet.

 

 

            How do His enemies be made His footstool?  Since He will not return until this occurs it must be an important event. Does it have something to do with us who remain and are the first to be made perfect?  The answer is yes. The Sons of God become the army of the Lord, whose purpose becomes to subdue all of Christ’s enemies and make the earth a footstool for His feet, in effect creating the atmosphere for His returning. 

 

 

            We must realize that Christ is the firstfruits of many Sons of God to come to glory, who become like Him. Hebrews 2:10 says: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings”. These additional Sons complete His sufferings. They also become, among other things, the army of the Lord created to defeat Christ’s enemies.

 

 

            Joel 2:2-5 describes this army in allegorical terms: “So there is a great and mighty people; There has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many generations. A fire consumes before them And behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them But a desolate wilderness behind them, And nothing at all escapes them. Their  appearance is like the appearance of horses; And like war horses, so they run. With a noise as of chariots They leap on the tops of the mountains, Like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble, Like a mighty people arranged for battle”.

 

 

            However, unlike physical conquerors of the past (and present), this army is a spiritual army. Their enemies are spiritual enemies. Paul said: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the  schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against  flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12).

 

 

            And: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every  lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The many Sons of God who will be created here on earth are those who will defeat the enemies of Christ, and make the earth His footstool, suitable for His return.

 

 

            This army will ultimately be successful. “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, And no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau,” For the Lord has spoken... Then deliverers [saviors, plural] shall come to Mount Zion To judge the mountains of Esau, And the kingdom shall be the Lord’s”. (Obadiah 17-18, 21).

 

 

 

            Likewise, in the Book of Revelation 20:9-10 it is said: “And they [Satan’s spiritual army] came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of His [Christ’s] saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And  the devil that deceived them was thrown into the  lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be  tormented day and night forever and ever”. Satan, like God, is a spirit, as are his satanic cohorts. This final battle will be a spiritual contest. The fire of God, through His Word spoken by His saints, will destroy the evil one forever, making the way for Christ’s permanent return to the New Earth to set up his Kingdom.

 

 

 

            At that time, scripture says: “For a  child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders;” (Isaiah 9:6). Human governments will cease as we know them and Christ will rule and reign with a rod of iron “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will  rule [alternate translation shepherd] them with a rod of iron;” (Revelation 19:15). Making clear the symbolism, it is the sharp sword (the Word of God) that will strike down the nations making them nations of Christ. Hebrews 4:12 describes this sword of the Word of God: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do”.

 

 

 

            One main foe that will be defeated, before the earth becomes Christ’s footstool, is the spirit of the antichrist. Unlike current Christian thinking, the anti-Christ is probably not one sole figure who suddenly appears in the end-time, although many throughout history have been suspected of being “the” antichrist. However, as John clearly pointed out in his Epistle, the antichrist is a spirit which has been in the earth from the beginning. In 1 John 2:18 he says: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour”.  And: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the  antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:2-3).  And finally in 2 John 7:“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who  do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the  antichrist”.

 

 

 

            Note John defines the antichrist as a spirit, which may or nor take up residence in a man.  According to John, the spirit of the antichrist is anything (any spirit) that does not confess that Christ has come in the flesh and was resurrected as Lord. This narrows down considerably the list of the peoples and religions of the world, past and present, who John, by inference, identifies as having the spirit of antichrist. Basically, only Christianity has as part of its beliefs the death and resurrection of Christ as Lord and Son of God.

 

 

            As we are living in an age of professed religious tolerance, pronouncing other religions as false does not necessarily condemn the people practicing these religions, or practicing no religion at all. God looks on the heart of man not what he does. However, Christ warned of the many false prophets who would arise and deceive many (Matthew 24:11; 1 John 4:1). Those who in their hearts are deceived by false prophets, or spirits of antichrists, may be in spiritual danger according to the Word of God. 

 

 

            In 2 Corinthians 10:5-6 Paul describes the spirits we battle, including religious spirits:  “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete” .Again we are speaking about spirits, “spiritual wickedness in High places” which exert great influence over mankind and are diametrically opposed to Jesus Christ.

 

 

            They may or may not come in the form of a man. Certainly Judas, who betrayed Christ, must be considered an antichrist. John 13:27 says: “Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. After the morsel,  Satan then entered into him”. Other men have performed such acts of atrocity that would be able candidates for being possessed by the spirit of the antichrist such as Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. But remember the antichrist is not necessarily a man but may be a man possessed by this spirit.  

 

           

 

            Paul specifically warns of spirits of religion who have deceived or can be set to deceive.  As he identifies false apostles and prophets attempting to infiltrate the churches under his care he says: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.    And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan has been defined, among other things, as a religious spirit. His angelic name is Lucifer which means “light bearer”, “enlightened one” or” bright morning star”. Satan appearing as a religious spirit has certainly deceived many and continues to do so today, as we look at some of the major television evangelists prevalent today.

 

 

            Christ’s greatest adversaries during His time on earth were the Pharisees and other religious leaders who required the people to adhere to strict moral codes. He even went so far as to say of them: “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God…“Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:42-44). Paul also warned of those religions “having a form of godliness but  denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).

 

 

            Even the Book of Revelation warns of those of the appearance of the religious spirit who is religious in appearance but is actually evil. “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had  two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon” (Revelation 13:11). The beast had two little horns like an innocent lamb but spoke the words of the dragon, Satan. He was as we would say today a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. The appearance of the 2 sheep horns deceived some into believing the devil’s voice spoken.

 

 

            The Christian world today tends to relate to Jesus as a sweet and peaceful soul, a type of Santa Claus, who exists only to make us happy and give us what we want. In truth the second coming of Christ is anything but that. He came the first time as the suffering servant who willingly went to His death at the hands of His enemies. He will return in a different form; that of a conquering Savior ready to punish all disobedience.

 

 

            Revelation 19:11-16: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” The Second coming of the Lord is a fearful sight, especially to those who are perishing. Note that He prevails because of the sharp sword that proceeds from His mouth (Hebrews 4:12) and He is in fact named the “Word of God”. It is by the Word of God and the speaking of it that will precipitate the second coming of Jesus Christ. 

 

 

            We conclude then that the second coming of Jesus Christ is not an event which occurs apart from us who believe. Actually we, His saints on the earth, create His coming by speaking His word into the earth and create the atmosphere for His coming. When we defeat His enemies He will return and reign.

 

 

            Neither will Jesus Christ the person come alone. Scripture says He will come with His Holy Sons and saints and “they” will rule and reign together. They will actually rule and reign together with Christ as His many membered body. His many membered Body becomes His spiritual temple within which He sets up His permanent abode. It is a temple not made with hands, as in the past, but a living temple, with living stones, His spiritual tabernacle for eternity on earth.

 

 

            1 Peter 2:4-5 says: “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice [chosen or elect] and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. Christianity of today looks for a third Temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem before Christ returns. Those who believe that do not understand the spiritual nature of Christ’s return or the spiritual temple within which He will dwell. We, His Sons and chosen elect, are His Body, His temple. Paul said: “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  

 

 

            We are to become Christ’s very body with arms, legs and mouths. Paul described: “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:11-14).  

 

 

            Further: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of  the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the  knowledge of the Son of God, to a  mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). We are thus to become a fully matured Christ on the earth, His body and dwelling place, with all enemies defeated, before He is to return to join us. The Body of Christ, comprised of many individuals like Him actually precedes His personal return to become the head of His Body

           

 

            John confirms that we are to become like Christ. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is (1 John 3:2). In other words, before Christ appears the second time, we will already have become like Him. That is why we will recognize Him because we will be like Him. As Paul said: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

 

 

            There is more to say such as concerning the gifts of the spirit we are given to facilitate His coming in His body (1 Corinthians 12) and the love we must possess as He is love  (Corinthians 13). The entire Bible speaks of who Christ is and what He is to become, in and thru us, especially the New Testament, but also the Old Testament. Jesus said of the Old Testament, speaking to the religious leaders of the Jewish nation of His day: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;” (John 5:39). All scripture reveals Christ and teaches us to know Him. It is those who know Him who will receive the promise.

 

 

            Jesus answers the five foolish virgins, as He excludes them from His Kingdom: “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” (Matthew 25:12). Likewise in Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

 

 

            He warns: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Remember Christ is returning at a time and in a way you do not know. This article has attempted to explain how He will come, which differs with much of traditional Christian doctrine. But study the scriptures to understand the truth of what is being conveyed here. Many are called to participate in His return but few are chosen. The wise will know (Daniel 12:3). Let us be among them.

 

 

            And remember first and foremost what Jesus Himself taught us to pray: “Pray, then, in this way:

 

‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

‘Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).

 

            The Kingdom of Heaven does not come when you die and abandon the earth. The Kingdom comes ON the earth, where the will of God is then done here as it is in Heaven (the Spirit realm). The earth and Heaven are one; there is no more veil; there is no more separation or death.

 

 

 

 

THROW DOWN YOUR CROWNS

 

        

            The Apostle John, who wrote the Book of Revelation, was taken by vision into the very throne room of God Almighty. In Revelation Chapter 4 he relates His experience but in doing so coveys an important lesson for Christians today. Revelation Chapter 4 is full of rich symbolism and books could be written, and have been, attempting to interpret that symbolism but that is not the central theme of this article. We will here address some of the symbolism but only as it applies to the point of this article and the principle we can take away with us from it.

 

 

            John begins the chapter as follows: “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow [halo] around the throne, like an emerald in appearance (v. 1-3).  

 

 

            The important things to realize so far is that John was taken out of the physical realm and taken into the spirit realm, which is a very real place. John said earlier in his Gospel that: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24). So John was taken into the spirit, God’s realm.

 

            He heard the “sound of a trumpet’. Trumpet is symbolic of the word of God i.e. “blow a trumpet in Zion” (Joel 2:1) or speak the word as a warning or heralding of the coming of the Lord (Hosea 5:8. Joel 2:1 says: “Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. And amidst all this noise he saw one sitting on the throne, God Himself, in all his glory. Also John saw the door to heaven standing open. Scripture says that when Christ died the veil was rent that formerly separated the Holies of Holies (God’s throne, the Ark of the covenant) from the rest of the Jewish temple of God (Matthew 27:50-51) With the veil being “rent” everyone, not just priests, were given full access to God. 

 

            John goes on “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads (v.4). These elders were glorious creatures themselves. They had white robes which means that they had had their robes washed in the blood of the lamb (Revelations 7:14). They had golden crowns on their heads, symbolic of royalty and of the crown worn by the Son of God (Revelation 14:4).

 

            John further describes the scene. “Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal” (v. 5-6). He also describes 4 creatures that had faces of a lion, a calf, a man and a flying eagle” (vs.7-8). And the creatures had six wings and eyes all around symbolic of the creatures being able to see everything, behind and in front (i.e. nothing escapes the eyes of God, He sees everything). The six wings give the creatures great mobility to respond to do the will of God when commanded.  Verse 8 says: “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are  full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

 

            What happens next is the bottom line of this article. “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (v. 9-11).

 

            The twenty four elders were glorious in and of themselves, be they angelic beings or perfected Sons of God. They had their own crowns distinct and separate from God who sat in their midst of them. However it is what they did with their crowns that is important. Instead of retaining their own crowns, or their own glory, they threw down their crowns at the feet of the Lord, thereby relinquishing their own glory and giving it all to Him who sat on the throne.

 

            Our Lord did the same thing and likewise should we. It says of our Lord ” Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [utilized, asserted], but  emptied Himself [laid aside His privileges], taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). Even though Christ was God on the earth, He did not assert all the power and glory that was His but he humbled Himself and laid aside all that glory in order to die on a cross for us. Paul says that we too should have that attitude in ourselves. We take nothing for ourselves but give Him all the glory and honor. The twenty four elders, although they had their own crowns, chose instead to throw them at the Lord’s feet and give him the glory, not retain it for themselves.

 

            And because Christ did the same thing as the twenty four elders “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 9-11).  

 

            In this day God is in the process of bringing many Sons to glory, Sons like unto Christ the head of the Body. Hebrews 2:10 says: “ For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the  author of their salvation through sufferings”. We true believers are those many Sons that God intends to bring to glory. But as we come forth in Christ, in our own glory, in the likeness of Christ, we must retain the same attitude as was in Christ. We take no glory ourselves but give it all to the head, to the Lord, the original author of our salvation in the first place.

 

  

   

FIXED FOCUS ON GOD

 

            “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,

Because he trusts in You".

“Trust in the Lord forever,

For in God the Lord [YAH], we have an everlasting Rock (Isaiah 26:3).

 

 

            In the Thesaurus: English (United States) the following words are listed to describe steadfast: Unwavering, unfaltering, persistent, committed, dedicated, unswerving, firm, loyal, dependable, stalwart, faithful, reliable, trustworthy, devoted and constant.

           

 

            Such an intense focus on God is also described by David:

“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed” (Psalm 57:7).  This fixed focus made him a man after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14). All David wanted to see was “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13

 

 

            In the third chapter of Acts, Peter and John were going into the temple and they saw a lame man begging alms of those who entered the temple. And Peter, along with John, fixed their gaze upon him and said, “Look at us!” Why does it say that—“fixed his gaze”? Fixed is an intense word. He fixed his gaze and he said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But they healed him. “… In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” The man walked. (Acts 3:4–8).

 

 

            The heart, Lab in Hebrew, occurs over 800 times in the Bible and is most commonly defined as “[the] totality of man’s inner and immaterial nature”.  A fixed focus denotes the heart, mind and spirit entirely focused, to the exclusion of all other things.

 

 

            Paul described a fixed focus on God:

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is,  seated at the right hand of God [quoting Psalm 110:1].

Set your mind [be intent on] the things above, not on the things that are on earth”

For you have died [to the old life] and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

 

 

            And “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (1 Corinthians 4:18). Temporal means, among other things, “worldly, earthly, mundane and mortal (Thesaurus, above). We are looking for the passing away of the temporal and looking for the Kingdom of God when:

“…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

 

 

            “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:11-13). Peter was looking intensely for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

 

 

            Other scriptures describe the result of this fixed focus: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature [or new creation]; the old things passed away; behold new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:15-16).

 

 

            The old is expressed in Job. “In a moment shall they die, and the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away: and the mighty shall be taken away without hand” (Job 34:20).  The new is expressed in Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (Colossians 5:17-18).

 

 

            Fixing your focus on Christ, as the above scriptures indicate, is not an easy thing. This age is ripe with distractions. Just living an ordinary life seems to take all your focus. We are bombarded with voices of television, technology, useless information, and the like-who can keep a focus on God in the midst of all this?  

 

 

            First of all, it is your spirit that must make contact with God. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

 

 

            Many are not even aware they have a spirit. But man was constructed as a triune being; Spirit, soul and body. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your  “spirit and soul and body” be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

 

 

            Since God is a spirit, we can only relate to Him through that medium. We cannot relate to Him through our intellect or emotions. These are part of a nature passing away. One can study the Bible for a lifetime but unless God speaks to him from it, he has nothing but intellectual understanding (called the dead word as opposed to living word). It is thus through our will and our spirit that we can relate to Him. That’s where a fixed focus comes in.

Paul, the great apostle, acknowledged that in his flesh nature (soul, body, or corrupted spirit) cannot know nor do the will of God.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (Romans 7:18-19). For the mighty Apostle Paul to admit this about himself, it must be the same for us. Without God the Spirit we can do no good.

 

 

            Will power alone will not accomplish this alone. It is not a discipline as such. It is not good works for Jesus. It is not going to church every Sunday or seven days a week. It is not reading the Bible or a faithful devotion every day. These are all dead works unless directed by God while your spirit is fixed on Him. This fixed focus is essential, the difference between life and death.

 

 

             “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7: 13-14).

 

 

            “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on  that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23, psalm 6:8). The only way to enter is to know God and to be known by Him. This can only be accomplished by a focus of our spirits.

 

 

            Today there are many great men who exalt themselves or their ministry; who prophesy in Christ’s name, bring sermons, cast out demons, heal people, give large gifts of money, build giant churches and do miracles even in Christ’s very name. Yet if in all those good works the workers are not striving to know God, the works are worthless and rejected by God, and those who did them will be banished.

 

 

            In a great percentage of mankind, people are not aware of their spirit because it is buried beneath our souls and bodies. Those of the world primarily relate to life through their human perceptions, senses and emotions. Life to most is an up and down experience depending on how the wind blows or the circumstances play out. Since those everyday mundane things can take up most of their attention, their soul and body become preeminent-there is just no time for God and no way to reach Him anyway.

 

 

            The goal of most Christians should be to be led by God (Romans 8:14). But that can’t happen without a touch in the spirit. Otherwise you are led by your old nature, which is passing away. We want the will of God manifest in our lives, but without allowing the Spirit to gain preeminence over our soul and body we will never do the Will of God.

 

 

            Everyone has a preeminent focus, whether it is a hobby, a place, television, sports, apparel, a career, a boyfriend/girl friend, a house, possessions, works for God. But to a Christian God is to be our sole focus. All of these other things might be good things and if God directs you into them, for whatever reason, then they are important. But as children of God we must continually be sorting between the acceptable, good and perfect will of God. God will give us all things we need if we only walk with Him with a fixed focus.

 

 

            In the end all will have this fixed focus. “For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord   As the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14).

 

 

            “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

 

 

            When we have a fixed focus on God, to the exclusion of all other focuses (or all other focuses are in subjection to God) we will know Him and inherit His Kingdom.

 

 

 

 

RULE IN THE MIDST OF YOUR ENEMIES
 

 

            As true Christians we are, or should be, striving to bring the Kingdom of God to the earth. As Christ said in Matthew 6:10, we should be praying at all times for the Kingdom of God to be a reality in the earth as it is in heaven, the spirit realm where God lives. He said: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. We Christians should live in this prayer every moment of our lives. To that end, this article will discuss one aspect of this quest that results in the defeat of our and Christ’s enemies that oppose the manifestation of His Kingdom on earth.

 

            In Psalm 110:1-2 the psalmist David said: “The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” He also said: “you shall rule them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.” (Psalm 2:9). These verses are, of course, allegorical to us as we war in the Spirit realm, not in the physical realm as David did in ancient Israel. As Paul said: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but  against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the  spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places”. (Ephesians 6:10).

 

            So who are these enemies and how do we defeat them. We defeat them with the Word of God. Paul said: “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm….And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:6:10, 17).  

        

                     The Word of God is powerful and able to subdue the enemy." For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13).  So ultimately we defeat the enemy by speaking and living in the Word of God because it can defeat any enemy. John, the beloved Apostle, said: “You are from God, little children, and  have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

        

                     Sometimes in our daily battles, as we walk with Christ, we encounter difficulties and circumstances and many times we blame ourselves for how we act or react when in fact it is not us doing it but it is really an enemy. Jesus recognized this and expressed it in many parables as recorded in the gospels. In one such parable, the parable of the wheat and the tares, He said:

        

                     “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares [a weed resembling wheat] among the wheat, and went away. “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. “The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How [from where] then does it have tares?’ “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ “But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.  ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but  gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30).

        

                     Many, who do not know the Lord, say “how can God allow such evil to exist in the world if He is a loving and caring God?” We must realize that, as far as we on earth are concerned, God only sows good seed. It is His (our) enemy that sows evil in the world. Why doesn’t God just destroy the evil? The answer is in the parable, above.

                    

                     As a wise farmer, God realizes that if he were to set about to destroy the evil he might also destroy the good in the process. The reason for this goes back to the original sin in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve sinned and were banished to a world of futility. Because of their sin they inherited a nature that was at once both good and evil (remember they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). The two natures became hopelessly intermingled. There was no way to separate the two. As God has said: “The [human] heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; [wicked] Who can understand [know it] it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  This wickedness is the result of the fall. Only through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross are we delivered from this seemingly hopeless state of being.

                    

                     But separating the natures is a process. Christ’s gift of complete salvation is a continually unfolding event. Although it was accomplished all at once on the cross, it is unfolding in our lives day by day. The evil is defeated incrementally as we walk with Christ and appropriate His provision. How do we defeat this evil that seems to exist in our lives?

        

                     The Apostle Paul recognized the sin (evil) that was in His nature and recognized that only Christ could banish it. As he states in the Book of Romans:" For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate…. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle [law] that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good” (Romans 7:15, 18-21). If God were to have set about to instantly destroy the evil present in Paul he would have had to destroy Paul in the process.

        

                     Paul correctly concluded: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25).

 

            How then do we vanquish the evil present in all of us. It is through the gift of Jesus Christ but there are keys to fully appropriate His provision. Christ said: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).  We must first, before anything else, seek God and His righteousness. He promises us that if seek we will receive or find (Luke 11:9-13). 

        

                     Christ’s many “parables of the Kingdom” illustrate this principle. In response to his disciple’s request of Him on how to pray Jesus said: “So I say to you, ask [keep asking], and it will be given to you; seek, [keep seeking] and you will find; knock, [keep knocking] and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened”.

                    

                     The parable from which this instruction is drawn is Christ’s response to the disciples question ‘Lord teach us to pray’ (Luke 11:1). Christ’s response includes the very important principle of perseverance. He says: “  Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence [some translations use shamelessness] he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:5-8).

        

                     Does it sometimes seem as if the heavens are closed to your prayer? We pray and pray and do not seem to receive. Christ’s answer is always “keep praying, keep seeking, keep on knocking”; because of your audacious persistence you will eventually receive what you are seeking. The word “shamelessness” is used as a synonym for perseverance since we sometimes must become shameless in our seeking. We are not concerned about how we look or what others think. As foolish as we may look we keep seeking. We will receive in the end.

        

                     Christ said: “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (and keep on asking) Him?” (Luke 11:11-13).

        

                     Jesus said to follow Him no matter the cost. “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35; Matthew 16:24; John 12:26). Many will say “but Lord I cannot follow you because my father just died and I must bury him” or they will have some other plausible reason not to leave all. To these, Jesus’ response was swift and brutal: “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:21-22).

        

                     If we want to receive from Him, and rule in the midst of our many enemies, there is NO plausible excuse. The Kingdom of God is not comprised of the politically correct or those who recognize human obligations before Him. It is comprised of seekers who receive because of their utter shamelessness and their hunger for Him and His righteousness. This is the key to the defeat of every enemy of the Kingdom, of which there are many. Sometimes the enemy comes from outside ourselves but more often we are our own worst enemies. Despite what we may consider our shortcomings, our human condition of sickness or sadness or grief, our instructions are so simple a “fool could not err therein”. Seek Him and thereby, through Him, you will make even your worst enemies a footstool for His and your feet. You will ultimately prevail.   

 

 

 

 ALWAYS RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE

                    

        

                     In the Bible Book of Revelation John wrote to the church at Ephesus as follows: “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance [steadfastness], and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have  perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.  ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:2-5).

        

                     At first glance the church at Ephesus had everything going for it. They toiled for the Lord with great perseverance and steadfastness. The churches of Christ were, at that time, under great persecution by the Roman Empire and by orthodox Jewish sects. It took great strength and perseverance just to exist as a body of believers, let alone engage in the monumental task of spreading the word of God. God recognized and commended them for that quality.

        

                     Further, the church had apparently been infiltrated by false prophets and some who called themselves Apostles. At that time the church was under assault by various groups and men who advocated doctrines other than the true gospel of Christ. Among them were the Gnostics who were a false sect who taught a doctrine of “secret knowledge” as a means to salvation. They denied that Jesus was the Christ and battled Paul throughout his ministry. Also present were the aesthetic Jews who wanted to mix Christianity with elements of the Jewish Law, and legalism which pervaded Israel during the time of Christ. Other groups preached mystical doctrines that conditioned righteousness on what men ate drank or how they conducted themselves in various rituals such as washings, fastings, and other natural observances such as new moon festivals etc. Others taught angel worship (See the Books of Colossians and Galatians, wherein Paul opposed these types of intruding religions). The Ephesian church had the perception to weed out these evil influences from their midst and adhere to the true gospel taught them by John.

 

            Further they had endured, even while being under the greatest persecution the early church had faced during that time. One of Satan’s greatest tactics of spiritual warfare was and is to “wear down” those pursuing Christ, as noted by Daniel in 7:25: “He [Satan] will speak words against the Most High and wear down the saints [holy ones] of the Highest One” Yet God commends the Ephesian church for enduring and not becoming weary; they refused to be worn down by the continual assault of the enemy.

 

            Therefore it appeared the Ephesian church had done everything right. What could God possibly have against such a faithful, victorious church? I am sure the church thought they were doing very well themselves. However, as one reads on in the scripture, God had something against them that was so important that it could lead to their very destruction if left uncorrected. They had left their first love. They were so focused on doing works, enduring, weeding out evil and being steadfast that they had forgotten why they were doing it all in the first place.

        

                     First and foremost God requires that we love Him first, before all other things. An Israelite lawyer, one who knew and practiced the Law of Moses, asked Christ the following question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He [Jesus] said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost [first] commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38).

        

                     Certainly this world, in all its various pursuits, has completely lost touch with God in most cases. The human intellect and man’s soulish pursuits of pleasure have erased God from any consideration in the hearts of men. But here God is not speaking to humanity in general—He is speaking to a faithful, steadfast, perceptive Christian church that despite all their good works will lose out with God unless He becomes their only priority.

        

                     The Kingdom of God is all about having a personal relationship with God. It is about love—loving Him first before anything else. He is a jealous God. When one of His chosen focuses on something other than Him He becomes enraged and reacts violently. This is all too evident in the way He treated the nation of Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament. When Israel would begin to focus on other things, like the gods of the surrounding nations, God would judge them severely. He would react as would any jealous lover when he/she is betrayed. Jealous rages account for a majority of murders in society. God judged His chosen nation of Israel many times for their apostasy. 

        

                     Over and over in the scriptures God likens Israel, His chosen nation, to being an unfaithful bride or to whoredom (see the Book of Hosea for example). That is not to say that He likened the Ephesian church to whoredom but the principle is the same. Anything that rivals God for His affections is something that displeases Him no matter how good the intentions. No one can argue that the Ephesian church had good intentions in doing everything they knew to please God. Yet in all their doing, they somehow lost their bearings and forgot for whom they were doing all these good things.

        

                     Many Christian churches of today are involved in many kinds of good works intended to please God. Missionary movements spread good will throughout the earth. Churches engage in political activist movements intended to influence legislation to reflect what they think God wants.  Many churches are so involved in doing what they think is the will of God that they forget that all He wants is for them to love Him. The works come, if at all, out of that love relationship. Without manifestation of the pure, unadulterated spiritual love of God, works designed to please Him are worthless—they are called “dead works” (Hebrews 6:1, 9:14).

        

                     Revelation speaks of the seven lampstands surrounding the throne of God which some say are representative of the seven churches spoken to by John (Revelation chapters 2-3), including the Ephesian church (Revelation 1:12-13). The Ephesians were doing so well that, according to the scripture, they already had a lampstand in place surrounding the throne of Christ. However, despite all the good works being done by the Ephesian church, God threatened to remove their lampstand from among the seven unless they repented and returned to love Him first. As harsh as this may seem to the human mind, it is sadly symbolic of the nature of God who wants to be put first in everything. He seems to say that if all we do is love Him, with all our hearts, that that one act is in and of itself sufficient to please Him. Only out of that love comes our love for our neighbor and all of the wonderful works He intends to accomplish on the earth, the foremost work being the establishing of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:10).

 

                     We don’t take this word with any condemnation that we have somehow failed Him by not loving Him first. We know that loving Him with all our hearts is only made possible by His gift of grace. We simply accept the gift. We love you first, Lord. We love you first because you first loved us (1 John 4:19). This is impossible for us but with God all things are possible (Mark 9:23, 10:27; Matthew 19:26).

 

 

 

 

THE POWER OF OUR RETURN TO THE LORD

 

            The subject of this article is the powerful spiritual reality that occurs when there is a return by humanity to the Lord God our Creator. The reason the word “return” is used is that in Biblical history it denotes a time when a people, who had become apostate, returned anew to the Lord. That event, the “return”, not only placed the people back to the place where they had been  before the apostasy but the return itself generated a spiritual power that had not been known before. Likewise, in our day, a return to our creator could put the entire world on a course unequaled at any previous time in world history. No one can argue that world events have become beyond human control and that there needs to be drastic changes in all realms of human endeavor. Neglecting this change or “return” could hasten a destruction of life as we have known it. Returning to the Lord is the one act that can generate this change for the better. 

 

            By necessity, this article will follow the course of the ancient nation of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. Israel’s history was one of continual apostasy and return, eventually resulting in their destruction as a nation. Many other kingdoms and empires rose and fell throughout history, nations and empires that far exceeded any we see today including the Sumerians, Egypt, Greece, Babylon, Persia and the Roman Empire. These civilizations collapsed on their own, never having a real God, other than the gods of nature they followed. Israel, on the other hand, was the first monotheistic nation and thus had to deal with the One True God who they ultimately were unable to please on a consistent basis. But when they did please God they, being one of the smallest nations of the world, achieved success beyond that of their larger neighbor nations.

           

            The Biblical Book of the prophet Hosea illustrates this principle of return. He wrote vividly about the conditions which existed in the Northern tribes of Israel in about 800 B.C.  He likens conditions in his homeland to that of a bride forsaking her husband and depicted Israel as an unfaithful lover, much like that of a prostitute. As the relationship with their God diminished so did the conditions in the country.

        

                     He writes: “Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness [truth] or kindness [loyalty] Or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed". Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, And also the fish of the sea disappear” (Hosea 4:1-3).  

 

                     This description could just as easily apply to conditions in our country today. Politics practice mass deception in order to garner votes. Crime is rampant, not only within the crimes of violence but the crimes of greed on Wall St. and by the rich. Animals on land, in the air and in the seas are becoming extinct at a level not previously known, as environmental conditions deteriorate. The lands (people) mourn as they see life pulled from under them. There is no joy only bloodshed, both literally and spiritually. Where is the faithfulness and truth that founded this nation?

                             

                              Hosea goes on: “Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the [heart of] understanding. My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from [under] their God” (Hosea 4:11-12). If there has even been a nation in which idols have replaced God it is the United States. What every man calls his toys are his idols. The car a man drives defines his character not his heart. Where and how he lives becomes his god as he strives to outdo his neighbor. Technology and communication has flooded the world with useless information and man revels in his knowledge of masses of irrelevant facts spread by those who do not know truth. Religion itself leads the masses astray by their adherence to legalistic moral codes they try to force on one another and attempt to incorporate into legislation, legislating morality on a scale as effective as the Catholic Inquisitions of days gone by. Sexual license to do as you please in that area has become the accepted norm of society. Faithfulness is rare and real commitment is unknown.

                             

                              People today hide their eyes from these realities as civilization descends down the slippery slope to destruction. On the other hand, people who are aware of these conditions become discouraged when they realize there are no human solutions to the problems. Hope flourishes for a moment and fails just as quickly in the face of the reality that the fervent hope was not realized. What real solutions exist for such massive problems as the current national indebtedness, the rise of terrorist nations set on destruction of all who oppose them, the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the hands of the irresponsible and the raging of plagues, famine, natural disasters and unchecked nationalism leading to the ethnic cleansing of entire races of humans.

 

                              It becomes readily apparent that there can never be any real solutions to these ills by human action. The same humans who can send man into space, who can accomplish medical miracles, develop drugs for every ill and other acts of so called modernization cannot solve basic problems of providing a successful human social existence. But despite the magnitude of man’s problems there does remain a solution that is capable of turning the tide faster than the proverbial bullet. A returning to the Lord, the Creator, has more power inherent in it than the power of the big bang that created the entire physical universe.

           

            Hosea’s answer for ancient Israel is the same answer available today—the power of returning to the Lord. He says:
 

“Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. “He will revive us after two days; He will  raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him".

“So let us  know, let us press on to know the Lord.

    His going forth is as certain as the dawn;

   And He will come to us like the  rain,

   Like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:1-3).  

                    

 

                     It would appear that if anything America has lost its vision, the vision it had at the time of the founding Fathers. At the time, when we declared independence and fought and won an impossible war against the greatest power of the then known world, there was a vision of a form of government never seen in the world. Men of great diversity and difference of opinion came together and managed to agree on how this new nation would conduct its affairs. All differences and divides were put aside for the greater vision. That same vision carried us through other wars, a civil war, and two great world wars and brought us to the place it seemed anything was possible.

 

                     Although not necessarily formed as a Christian nation, we were founded on spiritual principles as real as its secular counterparts. As wise man once said “without a vision the people perish” (Proverbs of Solomon 29:18). And for good measure “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. “If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished! (Mark 3:24-26). America today has lost its bearings, its vision, and its internal division has divided the country seemingly irreparably.

 

              

               Today a new vision is set before us, for all those who choose to accept it. Whether we accept it or not it is coming and to those who see it will experience a complete newness of life on a scale not heretofore known. To those who do not, it could represent unprecedented destruction. The vision has been set to writing and is there for all to see.

 

            “Then I saw  a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

And I saw  the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (Revelation 21:1-5).  

 

           

            Can you imagine a new world where there are no tears, no grief, no mourning, no crying, no pain and no death? Most of us cannot because this world of strife and death is so familiar to us. We think, as Solomon wrote,

 

                       

            “Vanity of vanities,” [literally futility] says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! [futilities of futilities] All is futility.”

 What advantage does man have in all his work

Which he does under the sun?

A generation goes and a generation comes,

But the earth remains forever….

That which has been is that which will be,

And that which has been done is that which will be done.  So there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”?

 Already it has existed for ages Which were before us.

There is no remembrance of earlier things;

And also of the later things which will occur,

There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still”

(Ecclesiastes 1:1-11).

 

           

 

            However there is the promise of the better world which is more than a promise—it is the coming reality for those who will receive it.

 

 

            Our current ills began back near the beginning of time when God expelled man from Paradise. However that expulsion was not meant to be permanent.

 

                    

                     The great Apostle Paul explained as follows: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly [of its own will], but because of Him [God] who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:20-22). In other words creation, earth, plants, animals, the cosmos, was subjected to a state of futility as expressed by Solomon above. However, God placed creation in that state with the hope (let’s call it certainty) that at some point it would be released from this divinely imposed state and returned to His original purpose, perfection.

                    

                     When God made creation He called everything good, including man (Genesis chapter 1). He was pleased with His work. But within this perfect creation God added one element that He desired above all else. That is He wanted man to chose Him, by His own will, over all else. God made man able to choose to remain in the perfected state or able to choose something else. Man, being man, chose another path to his ultimate detriment. It is in the consequence of that choice that we live today.

                    

                     However, that choice was not permanent. The freedom to choose did not go away with the subjecting of creation to futility. We still have it today. It is the one quality that separates man from all of creation and is the greatest gift God gave man when he learns to choose correctly.

                    

                     Yes man can choose freely, whatever he wants. Unfortunately choices involve consequences. Man chose incorrectly in the Garden of den and all of creation suffered from that wrong choice. Today, people can choose whatever they want, can live how they want, can believe or not, can curse or bless, but each choice carries a consequence. The choice with the greater eternal benefit is the subject of this article. Man can choose to return to His creator and, despite all the bad blood that has gone on before, the Creator is there to respond to that choice with the better consequences.  

                    

                     It has always been a choice to return, to turn or not to turn. John the Baptist, who came before Christ to announce his coming, preached that man should “repent” for the Kingdom of God (Christ) was at hand. The Hebrew verb for repent is “sub” which means to “return, to turn, to go/come back”. The Greek verb “metanoeo”, which is the word used in the New Testament as it was written in Greek, means, among other things “a radical, moral turn of the whole person to God” and  means more than just changing one’s mind. It means a literal “turning” or “turning away” and actions that correspond to a leaving of the old and embracing the new (for a complete description see Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary, William D. Mounce, Zondervan Press, 2006; page 580-581).   

                       

            Since John the Baptist knew that Christ was coming with a new law and a new way of living in the coming Kingdom of God, he told the people to repent, that is be prepared to turn from the old and embrace the new. “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching [proclaiming, heralding] in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand [has come near].”… “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;  (Matthew 3:2,8).

                    

                     Repentance means more than just feeling sorry for yourself and your sin. It is a positive action in response to a provision made available by God to man who was given the power to choose. Man has the ability to choose God or to reject Him. One would do well to recall the words of Moses as he led the nation Israel from the wilderness to the Promised Land. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today,” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).  

                    

                     We, who find ourselves in the midst of the curse, have the power to choose the blessing. How do we do this? For one we cease thinking of god as a myth or a distant second cousin and realize He is right here among us willing to reverse the course of humanity and out lives. He is ready to forgive and forget all. He is ready to mete out the blessing which is our heritage. He stands ready to make “all things new”.

                    

                     Don’t think for a minute that He is unaware of your personal situation. He knows your fears and your shattered dreams. He is aware of the hardships of losing your house, your job, your frustration over government and your feeling of being absolutely alone with nowhere to turn. He is aware of the terrors generated by unhindered evil rendered against those who do not believe as they do, the terrorists. His eyes peer deeper into your heart than you could ever do. As Jesus said: “not one sparrow falls from the sky that He is not aware of”. His understanding is inscrutable; His wisdom without measure. He knows all things. Yet he leaves the door open for us, His people, to choose Him. To return to Him. The power of returning to God exceeds all other power. It is the power to transform and defeat all His enemies. It is a power we can execute if we just ask Him. Our prayer should be “God I return to you, I can’t do this on my own, help me”. And He will, beyond your own expectations. 

 



 

 

THE ARMY OF THE LORD--JOEL CH. 2


 

            The theme of the Book of Joel is the coming of the great and mighty "Day of the Lord" (the term is used 6 times in the short book). Joel was a prophet of God in Judah in about 900 B.C.  Little is known about his life. He may have been a farmer (like Amos) since his allusions involve land and crops. However, he prophesied some of the most prophecies relevant to this day found in the scriptures. He talks about the judgments, the army of the Lord and the mercies of God. 

 

            Joel 2 is traditionally interpreted as the story of a locust swarm that devastated Israel (Joel 2:1-11). However, upon a closer reading, and a little revelation from God, the locust storm referred to has a more spiritual meaning and application. Joel may have seen a locust swarm devour Israel's crops, and although he may be describing locusts, he uses them allegorically to convey something else, something more important than a locust swarm. 

 

            In Joel 2, the prophet is actually describing the army of the Lord moving in judgment in the end-time. He sees the army executing God's judgments in the Day of the Lord. He outlines an escape from the judgments by the people and he ends with the mercy that God will show to his remnant.

 

            He begins his description of the Army of the Lord in verse Chapter 2, verses 2-3:
 

So there is a great and mighty people;
there has never been anything like it
Nor will there be after it...

A fire consumes before them
behind them a flame burns
The land is like a Garden of Eden before them
But a desolate wilderness behind them,
and nothing at all escapes them (v.3).

 

            Joel speaks of a "great and mighty people" who go through the land executing  judgments. The promise is of a Garden of Eden is before them (The Kingdom of God) but a desolate wilderness of destruction (judgment) is behind them. They are like "a people arraigned for battle" (v.5). All faces turn pale, (that is the unrepentant whom God is destroying) . The army runs like mighty men, climbs the wall like soldiers, they each march in their own line, everyone in his own path (organized) and they don't deviate from their goal (v. 6-7).

 

 

            The Lord utters his voice before his army and strong is He who carries out his Word (of judgment). Joel 2:11. "Yet even now" [in the midst of the destruction] God says to the people:

"Return to me with all your heart...and rend your heart not your garments [rending garments was traditional for repentance in Israel]..."who knows whether the Lord will not turn and relent" (v.12-14). Even in the midst of terrible judgment, God still holds His hand out for people to repent.

 

            In verses 15-27, God enumerates (through His prophet Joel) the many blessings He has for the people who turn to Him. Finally, in ending Joel 2, he prophecies as to what He is going to do in the end-time This day we are living in):

 
"...I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
and your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams
your young men will see visions....I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
blood, fire and columns of smoke...
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord.
And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Will be delivered; for on Mt. Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who escape"
(v. 28-32).

 

            So Joel 2 can be summarized this way. The wickedness of the people had become so great that God, once again, had to send judgment upon the earth, through His end-time army, of which all real believers are a part. They have a vision of paradise before and destruction is behind them. They are led only by the voice of God. They are organized; nobody doing their own thing. And yet during all of this God still promises blessings on all who turn to him. And he will pour out His Spirit "on all flesh", in this day. And "whoever" calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

 

 

FUTILITY: THE STATE OF A OUR FALLEN WORLD  

 

 

            After the sin of Adam and Eve God subjected creation into a state of futility (vanity). Genesis describes this transformation of a world He once called “good”:

 

 

            “Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil [sorrow] you will eat of it all the days of your life.

“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;

And you will eat the plants of the field;

By the sweat of your face you will eat bread,

Till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken;

For you are dust, And to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

 

 

            Thus death and futility (the curse) were introduced into a world that formerly knew neither. Although Adam lived another 900 years after banishment, he eventually died. He lived the life we know now of sorrow and labor in the midst of the obstacles (thorns and thistles) that are with us continually.

 

 

            Futility (or vanity in the KJV of the Bible) is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as a condition of: “having no useful result, barren, fruitless, useless”. Webster’s adds: trifling, unimportant and a “head stuffed with silly and unimportant ideas”.

 

 

            When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, they entered a realm of separation from God. Whereas God was always visibly present in the Garden, under futility man had to seek the invisible God with prayers, altars and animal sacrifices. As soon as the pair ate the forbidden fruit, they realized they were naked and hid themselves from God. That same condition exists today as God is hidden from us by our sins.

 

 

Futility means that mankind lives in a world of sin, ruled by the devil.

“Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you,

nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.

It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.

Because of your sins, he has turned away

and will not listen anymore.

Your hands are the hands of murderers,

and your fingers are filthy with sin.

Your lips are full of lies,

and your mouth spews corruption” (Isaiah 59:1-3).

 

 

Isaiah goes on with a look at futility that He sees:

No one cares about being fair and honest.

The people’s lawsuits are based on lies.

They conceive evil deeds

and then give birth to sin...

Their feet run to do evil,

and they rush to commit murder.

They think only about sinning.

Misery and destruction always follow them.

They don’t know where to find peace

or what it means to be just and good...

We look for light but find only darkness.

We look for bright skies but walk in gloom.

We grope like the blind along a wall,

feeling our way like people without eyes.

Even at brightest noontime,

we stumble as though it were dark.

Among the living,

we are like the dead...

For our sins are piled up before God

Yes, truth is gone,

and anyone who renounces evil is attacked.

The Lord looked and was displeased

to find there was no justice” (Isaiah 59:4-16, NLT).

 

 

            Our sins separate us from God. God looks and sees only injustice and violence in the futile world. He stands ready to deliver but our sins have rendered us inattentive to Him—no eyes to see or ears to hear.

 

 

“Though the wicked is shown favor,

He does not  learn righteousness;

He  deals unjustly in the land of uprightness,

And does not perceive the majesty of the Lord.

O Lord, Your HAND IS LIFTED UP yet they do not see it” Isaiah 26:10-11).

 

 

            Probably the fullest definition of futility was written by Solomon, King of Israel, considered to be the wisest man of his time. He said:


“Vanity
[futility] of vanities…,

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity [futility] (Ecclesiastes1:2).

 

 

            He goes on to discuss the areas of life he himself experienced that bore this out:

The Futility of Pleasure and Possession (Ecc 2:1-11; The Futility of Life (Ecc 6:1-12); The Folly of Riches (5:10-20); The Futility of Labor (2:18-260; The Futility of Wisdom (1:12-18); The Evils of Oppression  (4:1-16) and so on. This is a man who had unlimited resources to examine life and found only futility i.e. “there is nothing new under the Sun” (1:9).  We are all caught in this web of futility with seemingly no way out.

 

 

            However, the Apostle Paul proposed the only remedy to a world consumed by futility. said this about futility:
 

“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope” (Romans 8:19-20). In hope of what?

…that  the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:20-21).

 

 

            “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having  the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves  groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly [with expectation] for our adoption as sons” (Romans 8:22-23).

 

 

            Thus the cure for futility is the manifestation of the Sons of God who will release creation from its cursed state. God had this in mind when He subjected creation in the first place. In His loving mercy, He foresaw the Coming of Christ and the Sons to set right creation to its true, original condition—the Kingdom of God.

 

 

            The whole creation has this travail of childbirth—the plants and trees, the animals, the weather, the elemental spirits and it is deep within the spirit of man. Life is travail, a groaning too deep for words for the coming of the Sons and their deliverance. The words “release creation” denote the spirits of the evil one Satan, the god of this world. They must be defeated.  

 

 

            “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

 

 

            These spiritual forces, also called powers and principalities, are currently controlling every aspect of our lives and the lives of society in general. They promote futility and play upon it, destroying even the hope to those to who are subjected. Only in Christ we see the defeat of death and futility, once and for all accomplished on the cross. As soon as Christ was resurrected the defeat of Satan and futility was a done deal. Our job, 2000 years later, is to manifest His victory on this earth. “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven [the Spiritual realm of God]” (Matthew 6:10).

 

 

            However, we must realize the obstacle(s) we are up against in completing this task. At birth we inherited the fallen futile flesh nature or “the Adamic nature” (nature of fallen Adam). The Apostle Paul was well aware of his own flesh being an ever present reality:

 

 

            “For I know that NOTHING GOOD DWELLS IN ME, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good… Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of  death?”  (Romans 7:18-21).
 

           If Paul, perhaps the greatest Apostle realized that nothing good dwelled within him so also should we realize that all our human activities are done in futility, accomplishing nothing.

 

 

            However Paul found the answer to this seemingly unanswerable condition:
 

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Rom 7:26).

 

 

            He goes on:

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are  according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

For the mind set on the flesh is death [sin is death], but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,

and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:2-8).

 

 

            Many try to know God through their intellect but Paul says that our very minds and brains are   “enmity” against God. Our intellect does not subject itself to Him and is NOT EVEN ABLE TO DO SO. There is nothing we can do for God in our natures of futility that pleases Him. We can’t do enough good works, even in His name; we can’t give enough money, we can’t go to church enough and we are even unable to love with His love. He looks on our fallen natures as:

“… [being] like an unclean thing,

And all our righteousnesses are like FILTHY RAGS;"

We all fade as a leaf,

And our iniquities, like the wind,

Have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6 KJV).  

 

 

            And: “And there is no one who calls on Your name,

Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;

For You have hidden Your face from us,

And have consumed [caused us to melt] us because of our iniquities” (Isaiah 64:7).

 

 

            Christ uncovered the previously held secret, known only to Abraham: Righteousness comes not by works of the flesh but by faith. Formerly, the Mosaic Law held man in bondage as it was proven again and again that man in his fallen nature, could not fulfill God’s requirements to be righteous. The need of a Messiah became apparent. Christ fulfilled the law for us so that we could go where He is, seated at the right hand of the Father, in God’s Spirit realm.

 

 

            Whereas since the Old Covenant (The Old Testament) was ineffective in bringing righteousness, Christ initiated the New Covenant, in His blood, that made righteousness available to all who believed. Instead of requiring adherence to a code of laws, He required only faith in Him and his resurrection. This New Covenant was first prophesied by Jeremiah hundreds of years before Christ’s appearing:

 

 

            “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,

not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:30-34, quoted in Hebrews 10:15-17).

 

 

            This New Covenant applies to all, not just the Jewish people. All those of faith become God’s chosen people, not just one nation as in the Old Testament. Paul said: “… there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). And: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the  Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29). Thus today all believers become “spiritual Israel”, God’s chosen nation. Physical Israel no longer enjoys this place exclusively.

 

 

            Christ rent the veil which formerly blocked the way into the Holiest of Holies in the temple. He did away with all enmity between God and man. Their sins were forgiven and forgotten. And all of this by the immeasurable gift of the Grace of God which is free and unmerited—not by works so we cannot boast in the flesh that we did it.

 

 

            God through this grace will impart His nature to us. He will write His laws on our hearts so that they become our nature and, like Christ, it becomes impossible to sin. No more preachers and teachers—all will know Him. His presence will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. We will see Him like He is because we will be like him (1 John 3:2).

 

 

            God had all of this in mind when he subjected mankind to the awfulness of a futile existence. He made only one way of escape: the person of Jesus Christ who abolished the separation from God. We need to recognize the existence of futility throughout creation so we can appreciate Christ and His gift of grace. That is our only “hope”. Everything else is death, decay and unlimited sin.

 

 

            As Paul said:
 

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth [for the things of the earth are temporal but the things above are eternal].

For you have died [to your futile nature] and your life is hidden with Christ in God".

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). 

 

 
 

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT ARMAGEDDON

 

 

            The word Armageddon is not used in the Bible. In Revelation 16:13-16, quoted below, the word “Har Magedon” is used and has been translated “Armageddon” in some manuscripts.  As to the time of it’s (whatever IT is) coming we do not know.
 

“And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs;

for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.

“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”

And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon”.

 

 

            This reference is from the New American Standard Bible. There is a footnote to Har-Megiddo which notes that the word Armageddon was used in two other ancient translations. The New International Version uses Armageddon. The King James Version uses Armageddon.

 


           Megiddo (meh-GID-oh) is an important town in northern Israel where many battles were fought. The Book of Revelation tells of a great battle between good and evil at “Armageddon,” which means “the hill of Megiddo.” (Joshua 12:8–21; 2 Kings 23:29–30; Revelation 16:16). In the New Testament it is named as the scene of the final battle between the kings of the Earth at the end of the world. It has been applied to any catastrophically destructive battle; the First World War was referred to as an Armageddon". The word Armageddon is derived from Mount, (Har in Hebrew) and Megiddo, the site of the Battle of Megiddo and other battles.

 

 

            This location is said to have had its origin in the great victory of Baruk over King Hasar and his military leader Ciscero (Judges 4:15). Surrounding Megiddo is the Plain of Esdraelon upon which the great battle was fought, near Mount Megiddo which is referred to in Revelation.

 

 

            Megiddo was at the point of a major trade route south. In order to reach the cities of the south, one had to come through Megiddo. Therefore, many battles were fought there over access to the road. It was strategic in that an enemy could cripple a rival nation of its source of supply and defeat them. The bottom line is that the English Armageddon means Mount (Har in Hebrew) Megiddo and represents symbolically the location of the biggest battle yet to come. It is actually a symbolic as the place where Christ and the Saints finally defeat Satan. However the idea that this final battle will be fought in a physical location is not supported by the scriptures.

 

 

            The final battle that will be fought there is not an actual physical battle as some believe. Just as The Book Revelation contains mostly allegorical and symbolic references to the things John saw, so is this an allegory that refers to a symbolic battle. In Revelation 1:10 John, the author of Revelation says: “I was  IN THE SPIRIT on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice  like the sound of a trumpet”. From there to the end of the chapter, John continued “in the spirit”. He was seeing spiritual realities and conveying them as best he could into language readers could understand. God had commanded him to write the book (Rev 1:11).

           

 

            In the Old Testament, the battles were fought, in Megiddo and other places, in the physical realm against flesh and blood. All of that changed in the New Testament. Paul writes: “FOR OUR STRUGGLE IS NOT AGAINST  FLESH AND BLOOD, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

           

 

            Our struggle is in the realm of the Spirit where God lives, against Satan and the evil rulers of that realm. While there may be a physical battle of some kind on the earth, the main battle is in the Spirit. The Book of Revelation is not necessarily written chronologically. It refers backward and forward, as John was seeing the visions of things in the spirit. He does not say anything about the time span involved. For instance much of Revelation refers to past nations and events (see Daniel 7-12 which speaks of past and present events, many of them past at the time of John). Time itself means little to God. It is actually a by-product of grace that as the wise Shepherd God has allowed us time to enter into what He has planned.

 

 

            Peter says:
 

“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9). And in the Psalms 90 Moses said: “For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4).

 

 

            The truth is that we are already, and have been, in this battle for 2000 years or probably more. Christ defeated Satan on the cross and entered into the spiritual realm at the right hand of the Father. He went through the battle and won it for us. It is for us to manifest His victory so that “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The spirit realm and the physical merge together; the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven. The new temple is a spiritual temple, not a rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. .

 

 

            As to the time, Jesus said the following in response to the disciple’s questions: “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus answered:  

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Matthew 24:35-36).

 

 

            Jesus ends the parable of the 10 virgins with the following admonition: [speaking to the unwise virgins] “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ (Matthew 25:12-13). “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.  “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matthew 24:42-44).

 

 

            So much for the time of His coming. Speculating about the time of this or that is just that: speculation. Nobody but the Father knows the day and hour. You can actually miss God by such speculation because He is coming at an hour when you don’t expect Him. The same is true of Armageddon. The real Armageddon is really being fought inside ourselves right now, but that must be reserved for another article.

 

 

            Many religious movements have made fools of themselves by preparing for an end of the world at a specific time. He never came when they thought He would. Lately we have the 2012 Mayan calendar coming prediction. If no one knows the day or hour then the Mayans and their calendar couldn’t have known it either.

 

 

            The topic here is “is it coming soon?” The answer is Yes from the Lord’s standpoint. Revelation says: “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7). “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:12-13). And: “So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the  coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:25-27).

 

 

            We can surmise that He is coming suddenly and quickly. Better we take the Lord’s advice and be ready all the time. Then we won’t miss Him when He is victorious in the great battle.   

 

 

 

 

 

BRIEF OVERVIEW OF OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCES TO CHRIST

 

            The Old Testament is so replete with references to Christ that they are far too numerous to mention in one short article. We will highlight some of the more obvious references mixed with some references that are not so readily identified. As a matter of fact the entire Old Testament is speaking to and of Christ.

           

            Jesus said in response to the Jews who wanted to kill Him: [you] “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John  5:39). The Pharisees were the religious scholars of the day. They searched the scriptures constantly, even to the extent of memorizing entire books. They were looking for nuances in the law that could give that they could use to advance their religious positions in the guise of religiosity-giving life. Paul indirectly rebuked them stating: “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (II Corinthians 3:5-6).  

 

            Paul said: “All Scripture is inspired by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16). Therein lies the key to the understanding the scriptures. In order to receive the life in them, and see Christ in them, the scriptures must be read with Divine revelation. If they are read intellectually they remain as other human words imparting ideas but not life. Christ said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63).

 

 

            The most obvious reference to Christ is in Isaiah Chapter 53, portraying the suffering servant. Keep in mind that this scripture was written centuries before the physical appearing of Christ, yet it is the most complete description of Jesus, His sufferings and His heart that we have in either Testament.

 

            Isaiah describes Him thus: “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded  for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid  on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:2-6).  And (vs. 8): “he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

 

            In Isaiah Chapter 9 His coming to earth and His Kingdom are predicted. “ For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. (v. 6). Christ is predicted to come from the line of David who was from the tribe of Judah. He is prophesied to rule the governments of all nations and will bring peace to a shattered world. He will come as the ambassador of the Father, which He fulfilled in hid earthly ministry.   

 

            From here we go to the not so obvious references. The Torah, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) primarily deal with God’s chosen people, Christ’s lineage and His sacrifice. Genesis tells the story of Adam and Eve and their sin which put mankind into a state of futility that necessitated Christ’s ultimate coming to take that sin generated futility upon Himself (Genesis, Ch. 2-3). God also gave to Abraham His covenants (agreements) that are still applicable today, and for eternity. Genesis 12:2-3 states: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shall be a blessing:  And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curse thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

 

            Abraham’s promise would be fulfilled through Christ. God promised Abraham that one day his offspring would inhabit all of what was then Canaan (Gen 13:14-18) and eventually all nations. Today we, as his spiritual offspring, will inhabit the Kingdom of God, through this promise made to Abraham, through Jesus Christ. In Ch. 17, God promises through Abraham abundant fruitfulness for His offspring, the child of promise Isaac, and institutes circumcision as a sign of God. Through Christ we have fulfillment of these promises. In Christ we have the promise of abundant fruitfulness and a circumcision made without hands--a circumcision of the heart producing righteousness.

 

            God promises fruitfulness of His Son and Sons. “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished  after the similitude of a palace:  That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets:  That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.  Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord (Psalm 144:12-16, speaking of the people of God, both ancient Israel and today spiritual Israel).

 

            The child of promise Isaac: “And I will bless her [Sarah], and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. (Gen 17:16). This is a type of the mother of Christ who also gave birth to a child of promise who would rule all nations. In Revelation, the Woman clothed with the sun gave birth to the Son who was caught up to the throne of God the Father (Revelation Chapter 12). This same woman was also to bring many more Sons to birth like Christ (see Hebrews 2:10).

 

            Finally, Christ brought forth the New Covenant of Faith that would bring a permanent righteousness in all peoples and nations. But it was first promised to Abraham, whose faith was reckoned to him as righteousness, two centuries before Christ’s appearing on earth. As to circumcision, in Abraham’s day it was a physical sign; through our Savior it became a circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:28-29), circumcised into His death that we may have His life. 

 

            Exodus is rich in parallels between the deliverance from Egypt and Christ’s ministry of deliverance from death. Let us look at some of them;

·                     The saving of Moses from the decree of death made by Pharaoh is a type of Christ who was also saved from the decree of death by Herod (Exodus Ch. 2; Matthew 2:16).

·                     Moses was the deliverer of Israel from the oppression of Egypt, through a series of judgments, just as Christ was to deliver all who believed from the Kingdom of darkness into His Kingdom of Light (Exodus Ch. 3-11).

·                     The Passover, the day Israel was delivered, became a perpetual ordinance observed by Jews and Christians alike (Exodus Ch. 12).  “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). Christ is our Passover Lamb (I Corinthians 5:7).

·                     The miracle of the parting of the Red Sea, the rebellion of Israel, the miraculous works by Moses in the wilderness, the manna and clothes not wearing out are all manifestations of Christ’s Kingdom where His children will not wear the works of their hands. The plagues resulting from disobedience were all types of the manifestations of the flesh nature of man, who is never satisfied, and who is locked into his self-interests. 

           

            The Books of the Law (Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) all deal with the sacrifices of the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood made of behalf of the people for sin and other conditions. The Priests were the mediators between God and man, as Christ is our mediator to the Father. In Leviticus Chapters 1-7 the sacrifices for the people are described:

·                     The law of burnt offerings (Ch. 1)

·                     Grain offerings (Ch. 2)

·                     Peace offerings (Ch. 3)

·                     Sin offerings (Ch. 4)

·                     Guilt offerings (Ch. 5)

·                     Instructions to the Priests administering the various offerings (Chs. 6-7).

All of these were types and shadows of Christ’s eternal sacrifice for mankind. We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.  For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, (Hebrews 8:1-6).

 

            The sacrifices refer to the presentation to the Lord of a lamb without blemish (Christ was our lamb without blemish or sin). The sacrifice was burned with fire, as our flesh is burned so that we become pure offerings (Lev Ch. 1). The blood of the sacrifice was often put on the ear, big thumb and big toe of the person sacrificing, representing the hearing of the Word, the authority of God and our walk with God respectively (Leviticus 14 for example). On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the priest would transfer the sin of the people onto the scapegoat (Azaziel goat in Hebrew) and send it outside the camp to dispose of the sin, a type of Christ who bore the sins of the world and removed them by His death on the cross (Leviticus 16).

 

            Whereas the Old Testament sacrifices are a type and shadow of the better New Covenant instituted by Christ, the Old Testament sacrifices needed to be offered continually, whereas Christ’s one sacrifice was sufficient for eternity. Instead of the laws written on tablets, Christ said: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put  my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.  For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 8:10; Jeremiah 31:33).

 

            The Books of the Prophets continually enunciate principles of the consequences of sin, the blessings of obedience to God, and their own sacrificial lives in following God and speaking His word, battles similar to those we experience today with the Satanic powers and principalities. David, as a type of Christ, was a man after God’s own heart. Other parts of David’s life are also references to Christ, too many to explore here. The poetic book of Isaiah contains little else that prophetic references to Christ and His Kingdom, especially from chapter 40 on.

 

            When the Old Testament is read with this prospective in mind, it becomes far more meaningful than a bunch of outdated scriptures referring to an ancient people. However, The Old Testament is the foundation upon which the great temple of God is being built today—the spiritual Kingdom of His Son, if you can receive it. Many, many of Old Testament scriptures and prophecies pertain directly to us in this end-time, which is the time fulfillment of everything God ever spoke. They also pertain to us directly as individuals (see Isaiah 40-44). We are those servants spoken of; we are the Spiritual offspring of the nation of Israel; we are the spiritual Sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; in us is the fulfillment of Christ in bringing many Sons to glory with Himself (Hebrews 2:10). God be praised for His bountiful Word.      

 

 

*scriptures from King James Authorized Version

 



 

THE BOOK OF ESTHER

ESTHER SAVES THE JEWS FROM DESTRUCTION

 

          The events described in Esther took place in the days of the Persian King Ahasuerus, who reigned from Persian provinces in India and Ethiopia, over 127 provinces in all. King Ahasuerus is better known as King Xerxes (the Greek form of his name). He was the third King to rule Persia after Cyrus and Darius. In those days he sat on his royal throne which was at the citadel in Susa, known as the city of lilies. The city was known for its expansive gardens and other architecture constructed by the Persians during their world domination.  

                       

          In the third year of his reign Xerxes he gave a banquet for all his princes and attendants, the army officers of Persia and Media, the nobles and the princes of his provinces. Persia had developed magnificent architectural achievements and Xerxes wanted to show off the magnificent gardens and structures in Susa. He displayed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty for 180 days. In the castle there were hangings of fine white and violet linen held by cords of fine purple linen on silver rings and marble columns, and couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels of various kinds, and the royal wine was plentiful according to the king’s bounty (Es 1:1-8). Queen Vasthi also held her own celebration during this time.

 

            The King ordered Queen Vasthi to come to his celebration but she refused. This angered the King and the result was he set about to find a Queen to replace her. The King ordered all the suitable virgins in the province to be brought before him so he could choose a queen from among them. There was a colony of Jews who lived near Susa. Their leader was a Benjamite, from the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai. Mordecai suggested that Esther, a young virgin, who he considered to be his daughter (her Father and Mother had died) to join in the competition for Queen (Es 1:10-22, 2:1-7). 

 

             It came about when the command and decree of the king was heard many young ladies gathered to the citadel of Susa. Esther was taken to the king’s palace in the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women. Esther pleased the King and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and food, gave her seven choice maids from the king’s palace and transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem. Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known since it was not clear how the people would regard her position, her being a Jew.  She was taken to the primary harem and prepared for a meeting with the King. When months had passed she met the King and he was pleased with her. The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti (Es. 2:17).  

 

            Mordecai, though a Jew, was respected by the King and had access to the King’s courts. While in that position he was able to observe Esther to see that no harm come to her. While Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s officials from those who guarded the door, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). But the plot became known to Mordecai and he told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name. Now when the plot was investigated and found to be so, both men were both hanged on a gallows (Es. 2:21-23). So Mordecai saved the King’s life.

 

            After these events King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha an Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him (Es 3:1). Haman was an Agagite and in his heritage there was a hatred of the Jews. This hatred goes back to the days of Samuel. Agag was a King of the Amalekites whom Saul defeated in battle. King Agag was captured alive, contrary to the orders of Samuel to leave no one alive and take no spoil from the battle. When Samuel found out Saul had allowed Agag to live, he hacked Agag to pieces in front of the people (1Sa 15:8-33). It can be assumed that this resentment carried down through the ages and engendered the hate in Haman for Jews.

 

             All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage (Es 3:2). This caused consternation among the Persian peoples including Haman and Haman plotted to do harm to the Jews. Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom;  their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain. “If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.” Then the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to seize their possessions as plunder (Es 3:8-10, 13).

 

            When Mordecai and the Jews found out about this plan, they were much distressed and went about in sackcloth and ashes. When Esther found out, she fully investigated the matter and learned all that had happened. She realized she was the only one who could remedy the situation, although it would put her in great personal jeopardy. At this time Queen Esther resided in the harem and did not see the King unless she was called for. She was not allowed to see him at her own initiative. If she desired to see the King without being called she faced death. “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live” (Es 4:11). “Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Es 4:13-14).

 

            Then Esther replied to Mordecai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Es 4:15-16). So Esther appeared before the King and the King extended his scepter indicating Esther had found his favor.  “Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request?  Esther said, “If it pleases the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him.” So the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared”. As they drank their wine at the banquet, the King said to Esther, “What is your petition, for it shall be granted to you". And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.” So Esther replied, “My petition and my request is: if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and do what I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king says” (Es 5:3-8).

 

            Haman left the banquet and went home and bragged about his new position and all the riches that would come his way because of this. He even bragged that he had been invited to the banquet by the Queen herself. Then he said: “Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, “Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; then go joyfully with the king to the banquet.” And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made” (Es 5:13-14).

           

            The King was troubled that night and he had books of records brought to him and discovered that Mordecai had not been honored for revealing and thwarting the plot on the King’s life. The King decided to honor Mordecai. So the King called Haman to him and instructed him  “let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and  the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.’ ” (Es 6:4-9). So the King ordered Haman to do all these things for Mordecai, which he did. With his head held low, Haman recounted to Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and Zeresh his wife said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him.” (Es 6:10-14). Haman returned to the banquet.

 

            The king and Haman came to drink wine with Esther the queen. The King again inquired of Esther what her petition and request was. Then Queen Esther replied, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we [ the Jews] have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have remained silent, for the trouble would not be commensurate with the annoyance to the king.” Then King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?” Esther said, “A foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman!” Then Haman became terrified before the king and queen” (Es 7:3-6).  

 

                The king arose in his anger from drinking wine and went into the palace garden; but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm had been determined against him by the king. Now when the king returned from the palace garden into the place where they were drinking wine, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. Then the King said, “Will he even assault the queen with me in the house?” As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs who were before the king said, “Behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!” And the king said, “Hang him on it.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai,  and the king’s anger subsided” (Es 7:7-10).

 

            After the hanging of Haman, the King promoted Mordecai. The king took off his signet ring which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman (Es 8:2). The signet ring represented the authority of the King wherever it was used.

 

            Then Esther appeared before the King again with a request. She implored him to avert the evil scheme of Haman the Agagite and his plot which he had devised against the Jews to destroy them. The King told Esther that he could not revoke the previous order he made at the behest of Haman because any order sealed with the signet ring could not be abrogated. However he said the following: “Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring”. In it the Jews were given the right to defend themselves if and whenever they were attacked. The letter was sent to all 127 provinces and it: granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil”, (Es 8:8-17).

 

            So the Jews went through all the provinces and confronted all those who meant them harm. Most of the provinces did not fight them because the King had shown favor to Mordecai and to the Jews and great dread fell on them toward the Jews. However the Jews conquered all the men who meant them harm in the provinces but took no spoil. They also captured Haman’s 10 sons and hung them on gallows. The rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces  assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75,000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.  

 

            Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies. He said it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor (Es 9:20-23).

 

            Haman in his scheme to destroy the Jews had cast “pur” against them. “Pur” involved the casting of lots and consultation with astrologers to determine the best time to annihilate the Jews. But the Jews turned the “pur” into a perpetual celebration which they called Pur-im (Purim). It is to this day a day of rejoicing for the Jews (9:20-32). Queen Esther established the customs of the feasts and notified Jews everywhere. Mordecai the Jew was made second only to King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews and in favor with his many kinsmen. He was one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation (Es 10:1-3). But it was Esther who risked her life twice by appearing uninvited before the King who had the power to kill her for this illegal action. Once again God had intervened on behalf of His people.  

 

 

 

 

THE SUFFERING SERVANT AS THE WORSHIPPER

Psalm 13

 

 

            Psalm 13 is a Psalm of deep need and faith and is symbolic of Christ on the cross. It is a short Psalm and is duplicated here for reference: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.  How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?  How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?  Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.  But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.  I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

 

 

            While suffering on the cross Christ cried out:  "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). When God transferred all the sin of the world upon Him, He had to turn His face from Jesus. Jesus didn't know why. That not knowing was part of His suffering; His Father turned from Him at the hour of His greatest need.

Many prophets and men of God have asked the Question "How long"? Most all (if not all) of those references concern Christ in one way or another. Christ said: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John  5:39). The Old Testament scriptures, first and foremost, were about Christ, providing details of His life and ministry we don't have in the New Testament.

 

 

            Christ walked a lonely ministry. No one could have understood Him. He continually refers to the multitudes He was speaking to as those who didn't have "eyes to see nor ears to hear". His own people, the Israelites, rejected Him. As He says: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matthew 23:37).

 

 

            So most of the references to "How long” are references to mourning, a deep call to the Lord for fulfillment. Even God Himself had this call: "And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them?" (Numbers 14:11).

 

 

            Jesus was constantly incensed at the disciples for their unbelief: "And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me" (Matthew 17:14-17).

 

 

            The cry comes even from the dead: " And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:9-10).

Who can argue that the following reflects the Lord's thinking: "O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? [deception]" (Psalm 4:2). This cry must have persisted during the last 2000 years of apostasy.

The Psalms have no less than ten references which cry "How long?" (Psalm 94:3; Psalm 74:9; Psalm 82:2; 6:3; 35:17; 89:46; 62:3; 79:5 to name a few).

Job, in his unjust sufferings, as Christ suffered unjustly, cried "How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle? I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself? And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be" (Job 7:19-21). Jeremiah (12:4), Hosea (8:5), Habakkuk (2:6), Zechariah (1:12) and Joshua (18:3) all had similar cries. Proverbs 1:22 says: “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

 

 

            Thus Psalm 13:1-4 predicts accurately the cries of Christ, what He must have felt and what He carried with Him during His life on earth. Yes the Psalm comes from David's own experiences in his life, but as we've seen above, his words had a more far reaching meaning, as did the cries reflected in the words of other men of God. They reflected Christ in that they came forth from a suffering heart, a reflection of Christ who suffered more than them all.

David ends the Psalm with a declaration of faith in God, in His salvation and in worship of Him (vs. 5-6). This is also a common response in men of God.

 

 

           Jeremiah laments: "I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail..."(Lam 3:1-5 quoted, see 1-20).

 

 

            But after describing his unjust sufferings he concludes:  "My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him" (Lam 3:20-24). See also Psalm 52:8; Psalm 9:14; Psalm 116:7.

 

 

 

            We can take this with us in our walks with God. Men who suffered probably more than we, always had as their final response gratitude and worship of the Lord (Psalm 13:6). That is the correct response of a man of God. He worships in the midst of inhuman suffering.

 

 

            Another reference to the sufferings of Christ, as spoken by David, is in Psalm 22: 

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel.  Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded...For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture [clothing]".

 

 

            But he concludes: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD'S: (Psalm 22:1-5, 24-28).

 

 

So shall be our response to the sufferings He feels justified to impose on us to His Glory.

 

*All scripture references are from the King James Authorized Bible Version.

 

 

INTRODUCTION TO THE REVELATION TO JOHN’S 7 CHURCHES OF ASIA MINOR

(REVELATION CHAPTERS 2-3)

 

            This chapter is a brief introduction to Revelation chapters 2-3 where John the writer of Revelation was communicating to the seven churches under his charge. Books could be written of the Christian wisdom contained in each of the messages to each individual book. Here we present a brief summary of what John communicated to each church with the incentive for further study by the reader. Many believe these churches have tremendous symbolic value in analyzing principles applicable to the various stages one encounters in a true walk with God. Scripture says Christ was holding seven stars in His right hand and walking among the seven golden lampstands. The “stars” were the angels or messengers of the churches and the “lampstands” were the seven churches (1:20).

 

 

            The Book of Revelation is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him [ John]… and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,”  (Revelation 1:1). Thus the entire Book is a revelation of Jesus Christ;  Jesus Christ Himself is revealed in the Book. Although many look to revelation for its eschatology value in predicting future events and judgments the Book is actually telling the story of Christ’s Second Coming the attendant birth pangs experienced by the world before and during His coming. The  revelation is conveyed to John through His (Christ’s) angel. Since Christ’s coming to the earth, and His death and resurrection is the only event in human history with any significance Jesus Christ is not only revealed in the Book of Revelation but also in every scripture and event recorded in the Hebrew and Christian Bible, Old and New Testaments. Jesus Himself said to the Pharisees: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;” (John 5:39).

 

Most scholars believe the Book was written about 95 C.E. (A.D.).  The book was written to the churches in Asia then being pastured (shepherded, overseen) by John. The churches were experiencing a time of persecution, falling away and being led astray by false prophets. The churches had suffered times of major persecution were during the Roman leadership of Nero and Domitian, during the years prior to 95 C.E. They continued to suffer persecution by succeeding Roman generations and from the Jews as well. The Book of Revelation was designed to encourage the saints during that time by pointing out that the victory over Satan had already been won by Christ, and that the same victory was about to be enforced on the earth by the saints. John described his words as the "sure Word of God". He described to them and the Churches that they would of certainty inherit the Kingdom of God. Their sorrow, sighing, sickness and futility would give way, and even death itself and all evil would be conquered and vanquished.

 

 

There can be little doubt that the Apostles and churches of that day saw the coming of the Lord as an imminent event, to occur in their lifetimes, as we do also in this day. That the coming of the Lord would be accompanied by great tribulation was not new news to the early churches as they were already experiencing some of the most severe persecution ever meted out to a people in history. 

 

 

At the time of the writing of the Book John had been banished to a small island in the Aegean Sea somewhere off the coast of modern Turkey called Patmos (Revelation 1:9). It probably served as a Roman penal colony. John was imprisoned there for speaking the word of Christ.

 

 

The second and third chapters of Revelation contain specific instructions to those churches. These chapters are often overlooked by exposés of the Book of Revelation. Theologians instead focus on the disasters predicted later in the book and on the end of the world. However the instructions in Chapters 2-3 are very applicable to the Christian church today. God points out where each church is doing well, but tells them where they were falling short. Each one of these passages contains vital principles pertinent to enduring in the face of severe satanic assault and possessing the Kingdom of God which was the ultimate goal. These principles, and the words of John in the Book of Revelation, have great significance to Christians today as we strive to possess the same goal in our individual and collective walk(s) with God today.

 

           

            To the EPHESIANS, He said that He recognized their perseverance, toil and discernment. But He had against them that had left their first love (God) and began to focus on other things. John instructed them to remember from where they had fallen and to turn and do their first deeds. (Rev. 2:1-7). This first love relationship with God is actually the foremost commandment.    Matthew 22:34-40 records: When the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (See also Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 10:25-27).

           

In the beginning of our salvation experience, when we were first introduced to God, we tended to love Him first, but later as our ministries and responsibilities increased, we may have began to put our works first to the exclusion of our love relationship with God. Or we may have fallen victim to the spirit of this age, when iniquity abounds, and “the love of many will wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).  In that first love relationship comes the proclamation “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all the things we eagerly seek will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). We love the Lord first then the works and the blessings are derived from that.

 

 

            To SMYRNA, God warns of the persecution that is to come and that they should not fear (Rev. 2:8-10). He recognizes their tribulation, poverty and their battle against the synagogue of Satan and warns them to endure to the end and receive the crown of life. The synagogue of Satan then were the legalistic Jews who denied Christ as the Messiah and continually advocated that the Christian church return to Jewish legalism, instead of holding to the freedom of Christ’s gift of grace. Today the synagogues of Satan may be the large, denominational, universal churches who, in the name of Christ, are actually preaching hypocrisy, legalism and blasphemy. Paul says: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The word Lucifer actually means the “light bearer” and religion is the perfect place for the “enlightened one” to practice his wiles. easy.

 

 

To PERGAMUM (Rev. 2:12-17) God said He knew where they dwelled, where Satan’s throne was, and that did not deny their faith. In other words they lived spiritually in a place of great battle and persecution, on the “front lines” so to speak. However, God still had against them that some held to the teaching of Balaam. Balaam was a diviner and practitioner of witchcraft in Old Testament times who had some knowledge of God. He entered into league with the King of Moab to curse Israel coming up from the wilderness. God blocked his blasphemy and Balaam actually ended up speaking a blessing on Israel. The “error of Balaam” spoken of By Jude (v.11) was that, through his limited knowledge of God, Balaam was sure God would curse Israel because of their sin. He was killed in the ensuing battle Israel won over Moab.

 

 

We too must be aware of the false prophets who come in the name of the Lord, yet seek to destroy us. They, like Balaam, make pacts with pagan nations (or demonic spirits today) for their own monetary gain, never for the glory of the Lord. Such divisive men or groups can be very convincing and may even do miracles. However, on that day, Jesus will say, despite their great works, that He never knew them as He casts them into everlasting hell (Matthew 7:21-23).

 

 

To THYATIRA, God said He said He knew their deeds of faith, love, service and perseverance, and that their deeds “of late” were more than their deeds “at first”. But He had against that they still tolerated the spirit of Jezebel who led Israel astray with deeds of sorcery and sexual immorality (Rev. 2:18-29).  Jezebel was the Queen of Israel alongside King Ahab in about 871 B.C. She instituted the worship of Baal [a pagan god] in Israel, set up idols for him and became close to hundreds of Baal priests. She had many of the prophets of God slain in the name of Baal. Elijah, the prophet, finally had to defeat the Baal priests and slew over 400 of them. Jezebel was eventually slain at the instance of Jehu and was thrown from an upper window and eaten by dogs (2 Kings Chapters 16-19). Tolerating the spirit of Jezebel by any Christian church or person greatly perverts the atmosphere of the church and is at the root of the sexual perversion we have seen in modern churches lately.

 

 

To SARDIS (Rev 3:1-6) God warns them: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Wake up and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.  Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch (NASB “wake up”) I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Jesus warns in the Gospels that He will come as a “thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2), when everyone is asleep, except those who are watching for Him. As Jesus said:  “But of that day [the coming of the Lord] or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Mark 13:32. Therefore we must be on the alert (see Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the 10 Virgins).

 

Speaking to the church at PHILADELPHIA (brotherly love in Greek, the Faithful) God praises them for their keeping His Word and not denying Him. Rev 3:7-13), He prophesies that those of the synagogue of Satan will bow down at their feet. He tells them to hold fast what they have in the midst of the testing that will come on the whole world until His coming and the coming of the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God. They must have been doing something right.  

 

 

Finally to the church at LAODICEA (Revelation 3:14-22), God gives possibly His most poignant instruction: Be hot or cold, not lukewarm, in your faith; the lukewarm "I will spit out of my mouth.  His entire warning is very important to us as Christians in this end-time:  “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.  

 

In this time, where the love of many is waxing cold, where people are crying peace and safety, where many are or feel rich and have need of nothing, when Satan is working to wear down even the Saints of the Most High. Evil abounds everywhere, many become lukewarm in their faith. God’s seeming delay in coming often contributes to that. Those who become lukewarm are not the unbelievers; God is speaking to those who at one time had a revelation of the Lord, and were once red-hot in their faith towards Him. When these become lukewarm, they may just as well go all the way and become servants of Satan because God seems to hate both with the same intensity. Also, if a man goes one way or the other, God can more easily deal with him than the lukewarm one who chooses what pleases him at the moment and listens only when he wants too. The lukewarm straddle the fence, hedging their bets, ready to go one way or the other and are tossed by the winds of circumstances. Being spit out from the mouth of God seems an experience we all want to avoid. We avoid this by guarding our intensity for the Lord and our fixed focus on Him and His promises which Revelation promises will be fulfilled.

 

So we can learn many lessons from God’s viewpoint of what is and what isn’t right in our walks with Him. He, as the Faithful and True, always gives us the opportunity to repent, to turn away from the thing that displeases Him. Despite what we have done, Heaven rejoices over those who repent and turn away. And as to the things we are doing right, we should receive our praise, arming us even further in our gathering of armor with which we will manifest Christ’s victory on earth.

 

 

 

 

SLAIN BY THE SPIRIT -  OR LIVING IN IT

 

Christians today use the term “slain by the spirit” to describe an encounter they may have experienced with God. This term is, however, meaningless in context of a true Christian’s walk with God. The real issue is not whether you have been “slain” (does not imply literal death) in an experience with the spirit of God but whether you can permanently abide in the experience of His spirit. Abiding with God is an experience but it is a permanent eternal experience that we can have every minute of every day.

 

Romans Chapter 8 is basic teaching for those who desire to walk with God in His Spirit. That chapter will be explored below. However we must first realize that the only way we can know or experience God is through His spirit. "God is a spirit and those who worship must worship in SPIRIT and in truth” (John 4:24). It makes sense that if God is a Spirit, the only way to truly relate to Him is through the realm where He lives-the realm of the Spirit. All humans have a spirit as well as a soul and body but it is through the dominance of our spirits in Christ, over the soul and body, that we truly experience all of God.

 

Before we get explore this further consider some instances in the Bible where men of God had overwhelming experiences with God and the results. At the time of the completion of Solomon’s temple, the spirit of the Lord so filled His temple that the ministers could not even stand to minister. 2 Chronicles 5:14 says: “…the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God”.

                    

                     Daniel the prophet asked the Lord what was to become of Israel as it was captive in the land of Persia in the time following their captivity by Babylon. Daniel sought God to receive an answer as to how long it would be until Israel again possessed their promised land where they had dwelled since the time of Joshua. To that end Daniel fasted until he received an answer to his question. He records his experience as follows:

                    

                     “On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I  lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult [or roaring]. Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves.  So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I  fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground (Daniel 10:4-9).

 

                                 Thus Daniel records the experience of seeing God or His angel as being so overwhelming that he became filled with dread, lost his strength and fell on his face into a deep sleep. An angel had to lift him to his feet in order to tell him the answer to his question.

        

                     Similar experiences are recorded in the scriptures. For instance, in Revelation John fell at the feet of a heavenly being that wasn’t even God but one of his slain brothers who were in heaven (the spirit realm). John said: “Then he [the heavenly being] said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ ” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” Then  I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  (Revelation 19:9-10).

 

                     Isaiah saw the Lord and became “undone”. He said: “In the year of King Uzziah’s death  I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple… Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! [another translation “undone”] Because I am man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:1, 5).

                    

                     The term “slain in the spirit” is found nowhere in the Bible or in any noteworthy commentaries or other supporting literature. It was probably coined by the Pentecostal and/or Charismatic movements to describe an experience with God. There have, however, been instances where men were actually slain (killed) by an encounter with God. For example in Leviticus 10:1-2 scripture says: “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before them” (see also Numbers 26:61; Numbers 3:4). 

           

            In Acts 5:1-6,  Luke records as incident that occurred in the early church: “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. When his wife Sapphira was confronted by Peter about the same incident she also fell dead on the spot (Acts 5:8-10).

 

                     Korah and his family met a similar fate as they rebelled against Moses while Israel was in the wilderness. As Moses and the sons of Korah confronted each other the following occurred: “As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us up!” Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense” (Numbers 16:31-35).

           

                     Thus there are instances recorded in the Bible where men have been “slain by the spirit” of God, some positive some negative. Certainly Paul’s experience with God on the road to Damascus was a life changing experience (Acts 9:3-6).  Individual experiences with God can have a lasting, sometimes devastating, effect. The phrase “slain by the spirit” could be used to describe this and other experiences by men with God. However those types of experiences are for the most part isolated events and not the sustained walk God would require of us as citizens of the Kingdom. The goal is to “stand” in the presence of the Lord continually, not be so slain that we cannot function.

           

            The scriptures say that no man, that is flesh, can see God and live. The only way to see Him is through the Spirit (John 4:24 above). There yet remains the promise of seeing God and living. Jacob saw Him. “Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” “Why do you ask my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. So Jacob named the place Peniel,  explaining, “Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived.” (Genesis 32:29). Moses saw God but only His back (Exodus 33:23). Christ said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” Matthew 5:8).

 

            The Christian world today tends to unduly exalt experiences with the spirit of God and to use those types of experiences as evidence of their spirituality. Such experiences have become identifying marks of the movement wherein they occurred. The Quakers were so named because they quaked when the spirit came upon them. The Pentecostals were called “holy rollers” because they rolled on the floor when moved by the “spirit’. The Pentecostals, they say, also fell backward from the power of God. Christian history is filled with so called “outpourings of the spirit” where believers experienced miracles and healings and other wondrous experiences. However these experiences were always temporary and died out almost as soon as they started.

           

            There has never been a sustained movement of God which advocated a total walk in God’s spirit on a 24/7 basis since Paul and the early church. The so called Charismatic (or the new age) movements are perhaps the most sophisticated mail-line Christian movements in existence today. However, if one attends or studies these movements, one will discover that these movements morphed turn into performances or shows fashioned to cater to certain segments of the population, making their form of religion palatable to the public. For instance the Christian rock music craze makes religion palatable to the young people who are tired of the staunch religious morality teaching of most fundamental churches. Few churches actually teach and practice the principles of a true walk with God in the spirit.  

 

                             

                              There is yet something more that God has for His people. And it is not a church or a movement, although a true move of God may be temporarily housed in a church as a means to an end. The church age can be likened to Noah’s ark. The ark carried Noah’s family through the storms but when the storms receded, Noah and his family left the ark and populated the earth. The ark is a type of church that has carried us to the ultimate goal-the Kingdom of God. Once the ark (church) was no longer needed it became obsolete. Hebrews is clear that in the Kingdom Age there will be no need for churches: “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ For  all will know Me, From the least to the greatest (Hebrews 8:11).

           

            The Kingdom of God is not just an experience-it is a dwelling place. Although most believers miss it, Christ’s entire teaching concerned the coming Kingdom of God. His Kingdom is not of this world as Christ told Pilate prior to His crucifixion. “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36).

           

            However, although His Kingdom is not of this present age, it is to come on the earth. Christ’s only instructions on how to pray included the prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven;” (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). The Kingdom is thus a conjunction of the two realms, being the joining of the spirit realm with that of the earthly. Christ second coming is to the earth where he will set up His Kingdom and rule. He will bring with Him the dead in Christ with Him “to the earth”.

 

                     Christianity still clings to the fallacy of dying and going to heaven where everything becomes perfect. Nowhere in the scriptures is this concept confirmed. Actually it is clearly rebuffed. In Hebrews 11 the writer goes through a litany of the men of God who walked in faith but died without having received the promise including Moses, Abraham and other prophets. Hebrews is clear that by dying they did not receive the entire promise. Actually it is left to us, here on earth, to obtain perfection for them. Hebrews 11:39-40 says: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect”.

 

            Scripture says that Christ will not return until all His enemies have been made a footstool for His feet here on earth. As stated: “ …but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,  waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. (Hebrews 10:12-13; see also Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13; Luke 20:43).

           

            Therefore Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, in “heaven” (the spirit realm) waiting for us here to defeat his enemies. The enemies we must defeat are described in Ephesians 6:12:  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places”.

           

            Actually religion, and churches that survive by isolated experiences, are some of the worst enemies to the coming Kingdom of God. Paul said, while speaking of the false teachers infiltrating the true Christian church: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. “Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The false apostles of whom Paul speaks were those who advocated a religion that governed such things as what you should eat, how you should act, what laws you should obey etc. all abrogating the freedom in Christ Paul was preaching.

 

           

            Religion, as opposed to a spiritual walk with God, is not from God but many times is from the devil. Satan’s true angelic name is Lucifer which means “light bearer” or “enlightened one”. Satan was the brightest angel in “heaven” before his fall. He is also described as the “bright star of the morning” or “bright morning star” (Isaiah chapter 14). As Paul said, he turned his light into darkness which manifested in various areas of evil including the deception of God as a religion, dictating morality and codes of conduct or exalting “secret knowledge” over knowledge of God, such as the Gnostics.  

           

            In any event our goal should not be seeking an isolated experience with God but an abiding experience which becomes our dwelling place. Elijah the prophet had apparently reached a similar abiding. He was referred to as he who “stood in the presence of the lord” (1 Kings 17:1). Notice he stood; he was not slain and was not off his feet. We too must learn to “stand” in the presence of the Lord.

 

            In Romans 8 Paul tells us how to do this.  In order to see and experience God we must live where He lives, that is, in the spirit realm. Humans we are composed of spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We have, as part of our being, a spirit that is capable of communicating with and walking with God, who is Himself a spirit. The soul and body, collectively referred to as “the flesh” by Paul, will not allow us to walk with God or experience or see Him. Our soul and body can communicate with God but only in subjection to our spirit.

           

            Paul said:  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death...so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you…If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness… But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” Romans 8:2-14).

 

           

            Breaking down these passages we find that only through the spirit can we walk with and be led by God. The true Sons of God are those who know Him through the Spirit and are led by Him through the Spirit. If we have this spirit from God within us, it can even give life to our mortal bodies, which abrogates the idea that we have to die first to receive this.

           

           

            Some exalt the intellect and the emotions in their daily walk. Man understands the intellect to be supreme as he struggles with His mind to understand his existence. Man, through his intellect, can see to the furthest reaches of the universe, but cannot find God. He doesn’t realize that God exists in a place, called the spirit realm, beyond human understanding. That realm is more real than the one we purportedly live in now-it lies beyond our human sight-we have eyes but we don’t see, ears but we don’t hear.

 

                       

            Neither is God found through our emotions. The reason for this article was originally intended to understand the experience of being “slain by the Lord”. Most of these experiences are of the emotional variety. The idea is not to be slain by him but to “live” in his Spirit daily and permanently.

 

           

            We cannot be those who just carry Christ around with us as we go about our everyday lives. Our everyday lives become Him. We are, as Paul said, citizens of the Kingdom of God (Philippians 3:20). That is our true address. And as citizens we become ambassadors of that realm to the world (2 Corinthians 5:20). This ambassadorship goes far beyond just convincing people to accept Christ and be saved or passing out literature. We become those who transform the lives of those around us, by the power of Christ, which is far greater than any earthly power. As citizens of the Kingdom we transform the earth and bring His enemies down so that they become His footstool. The sweet bye and bye becomes the here and now.

 

        

                     Creation is under divinely imposed futility and has been since the Garden of Eden. Paul said: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:20-23).

 

                    

                     We are not just Christians who have been saved and know we will go to heaven when we die. We are not waiting passively for some kind of rapture. We are liberators of ourselves and of the entire creation, if what Paul is saying is true. We are aggressively pursuing our complete adoption as Sons and the redemption of our bodies here and now. We are preparing the place for Christ’s return. The coming Kingdom must occupy our entire being.

 

           

            John saw what we are to experience in a vision. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son” Revelation 21:1-7).

 

            We are the new heaven and earth coming down from heaven. This is because we walk in the kingdom age of the spirit and bring it down to earth where it replaces everything else in our lives and in creation itself. 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BIBLE: HUMAN AUTHORS SO FALLIBLE TEACHING?

 

The fallibility of the Bible, because it was written by fallible human beings, is a common criticism professed by many scholars and unbelievers today. Because they cannot understand it, they discount its accuracy and emphasize its seeming contradictions on the grounds that it can’t be accurate because it was written by mere men. This theory is fallible for several reasons.

 

The only way one can understand the Bible is through spiritual revelation. That's because it is deliberately veiled so it cannot be comprehended by the human mind. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 states: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God". The god of this world referred to is Satan, who is the generator of all the evil forces here on earth. Interpreting the Bible by the unenlightened mind is impossible.

 

Romans 8:6-7 states: "For the mind set on the [human] flesh is death but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile (or enmity) toward God, for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so".

 

The natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit. "A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (Romans 2:14).”God is a spirit and they who worship [understand] Him must do so in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:23).

 

In other words, the Bible is for everyone but is understandable only by spiritual revelation from God. Christ's gift of life was intended for all. But it is not for those who are perishing because they try to understand God’s truth with their human minds. Human writings convey ideas and emotions. God's word conveys life. It is written by men yes, but that is the way God intended it. He chose to move through human vessels. The Bible was written by men who were inspired by God to speak his Word in the earth.

 

“And even if our gospel is  veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,  in whose case  the god of this world [age] has  blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the  glory of Christ, who is the  image of God. “But we have this treasure in  earthen [human] vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of  the power will be of God and not from ourselves;”

                 

                              “From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established  strength Because of Your adversaries, to make  the enemy and the revengeful cease (Psalm 8:2).

           

     For the word of the cross is  foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of  this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of  the world? For since in the wisdom of God  the world through its wisdom did not come to know God,  God was well-pleased through the  foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).

 

Therefore it is God’s purpose to reveal Himself through man. God is pleased to do this because it is then His who receives the glory. Since everything God does is impossible for men, he chooses to use them so the observers will see God through the fallibility of the earthen vessel. To those who do not see, including the great men, the great minds and theologians are the fallible fools because the real things of God are hidden from them.

 

The bible is rife with examples of humans not "having eyes to see or ears to hear". The disciples asked Jesus why He spoke to the multitudes in parables. He answered them:
"To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been granted" (Matthew 13:10-11). Jesus said: "...no one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). All the intelligence and wisdom of the earth will not lead you to God. In fact God laughs at the wise of this age. The disciples were ignorant and unlearned men; fishermen, laborers and hated tax collectors. Jesus himself was a mere carpenter. Certainly fallible men were those chosen by God to speak His Word.

 

It is amazing that through the ages, the many translations and re-translations of the Bible have still come out to be the Word of God even for this day. When you compare the Dead Sea Scrolls scriptures, written 2000 years ago, with today's Bible, you find them nearly alike. The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, written before the Dead Sea Scrolls in about 300 B.C. It is substantially similar to the versions we use today and was the version quoted by the early Apostles in their writings.   

 

            God was able, through the ages, to use unskilled and uneducated men, to preserve accurately what He wanted to say, even to this present age. The real key to understanding the Bible is to be open to the truth that the Bible IS the Word of God. Yes, it's a miracle. But what about God isn't? Thank God we today can read the Bible, recognizing it for what it is; the unadulterated Word of God. Admitting any less and we would be severely limiting an unlimited God.

 

If we do not believe this, and try to interpret God’s by our futile minds, without supernatural revelation from God, we become lost in complexities, questionings, lack of faith and belief, leading to the human interpretation of a Spiritual Book. Any mind can find fault. It is the spiritual who understand. That is the greater miracle.

 

 

THE BOOK OF HOSEA


Prophet of Love, Judgment and Harlotry

 

 

            The Book of Hosea the prophet contains the dealings of God on Hosea, which were allegorically a picture of God’s of love for and judgment upon His people Israel. Essentially God put Hosea through hard circumstances to show Israel of His (God’s) longing for a faithful marriage relationship between Him and them. The book contains at least three layers of symbolism, applicable to three periods of the nation of Israel. God is speaking to natural Israel of Hosea’s time; He is speaking of the coming of the Messiah; and He is speaking of the end-time establishment of the spiritual Kingdom of God. The book alternates between God’s anger at the unfaithfulness of His people and promises of restoration.

 

            Hosea lived and prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century B.C., although he refers to Judah frequently. He was the only writing prophet to have come from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. These were the final days of that Kingdom; they were conquered by Assyria in 733 B.C. During Hosea’s time, there was a 25 year period in which six different Kings reigned. Many of them were killed in office, some by their successors. It was a sorrowful time for Israel and Samaria, its capitol.

 

            Hosea was put into circumstances designed to represent how God felt about the unfaithfulness of His chosen bride and wife Israel. God made Hosea an example to Israel. Through his dealings with Hosea, God showed them both his heart of love for them and His grief for their apostasy. He continues to promise them restoration, despite their unfaithfulness.

 

            God told Hosea to take a wife of harlotry (a whore) and to have children by her. In Hebrew harlotry is “zanuwn” which means whoredom, fortification, idolatry, unfaithfulness, adultery and to commit illicit sexual intercourse. This was meant to describe to Israel their whoredom towards God by forsaking Him for other gods. So in obedience Hosea took a prostitute wife named Gomer. She bore him a son called by God Jezreel (God scatters), representing God’s intention judge the house (sons of) Jehu and to thereafter scatter Israel (Hosea 1:1-4). She bore two other children that the majority of scholars agree were not Hosea’s children, but children of harlotry. The daughter was named Loruhamah, which means “she has not received compassion” (Hosea 1:6-7). No sooner had she weaned her daughter she had a son (again probably from harlotry) and he was named Lomammi.  By his birth God was speaking to Israel “you are not My people and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9).

 

            Then, as occurs many times in the book, despite their harlotry, God offers Israel and Judah restoration: “Yet the number of the sons of Israel Will be like the  sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And  in the place Where it is said to them, “You are  not My people,” It will be said to them, “You are the  sons of the living God.”  And the  sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be  gathered together, And they will appoint for themselves  one leader, And they will go up from the land, For great will be the day of [The Valley of]  Jezreel (Hosea 1:10-11).

 

            The Book goes on from then, alternating between God’s grief and anger to promises of future blessing. For example in Hosea 2:2-4:
 

“Contend with your mother, contend, For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband; And let her put away her harlotry from her face And her adultery from between her breasts,

Or I will strip her naked and expose her as on the day when she was born.

I will also make her like a wilderness, Make her like desert land

And slay her with thirst.

“Also, I will have no compassion on her children,

Because they are children of harlotry".

 

 

            Then (vs. 18, 19-20) God says: “In that day I will also make a covenant for them … “I will betroth you to Me forever;  Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In  lovingkindness  and in compassion,  And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord”.

 

            In Chapter 3, God tells Hosea to buy back his wife Gomer, which he does. Then Hosea said to her,
 

“You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.”  

 

 

            He explains why: “For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols [teraphim].  Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days (Hosea 3:4-5).

 

            In other words God is comparing Gomer’s state, as described by Hosea, to Israel’s future when they no longer serve other gods and return to the Lord.

 

            In Chapter 4, God returns to His tirade against Israel. He accuses them of swearing, deception, murder, stealing adultery. He said they employ violence and bloodshed so that the land mourns (4:2-3). He calls them stubborn and accuses them of playing the harlot and drinking to excess. The entire chapter is of the same vein. Chapter 5 is similar.

 

“For I will be like a lion to Ephraim

And like a young lion to the house of Judah.

 I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away,

I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver.

I will go away and return to My place

Until they  acknowledge their guilt and seek My face;

In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me” (5:14-15).

 

 

But in verse 6:1-3 god returns to His promises of hope:

“Come; let us return to the Lord.

 For  He has torn us, but  He will heal us;

 He has wounded us, but He will  bandage us.

 “He will revive us after two days;

 He will raise us up on the third day,

That we may live before Him.

“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.

His  going forth is as certain as the dawn;

And He will come to us like the rain,

 

 

            Here, God compares the Old Covenant that was and the New Covenant that was to come.
 
 

 “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But  like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.” (v. 6:6).

 

 

            In the remaining chapters, God continues to describe Israel as the harlot. But in chapter He again promises restoration and forgiveness:
 

I will heal their apostasy,

I will  love them freely,

For My anger has turned away from them.

I will be like the dew to Israel;

He will blossom like the  lily,

And he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon (vs. 14:4-5).

           

 

            As we said, Hosea contains abundant symbolism, both of the first advent of Christ and of His second coming. Jesus came to a land much the same as that described in Hosea. Sin was rampant, especially in the priesthood. Of the Pharisees, Sadducees and the studiers of the law He said they were the blind leading the blind. He said they were of their Father the Devil and hypocrites, white washed sepultures. He grieved over Israel then as He did in Hosea’s time saying:
 

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together,  the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. ‘Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39).

 

            Hosea’s recitation of the state of mind of God (it was Christ speaking) was essentially the same as expressed by Christ – anger, frustration and disappointment. Yet He came to fulfill what He said He would and to offer to Israel the same promises as He did in Hosea – to restore their fortunes, make them fruitful and to describe the Kingdom He had reserved for them. But as Israel had done countless times before, they went back to their harlotry and idolatry. This time, as Jesus predicted, they were completely destroyed as a nation by the Romans in 70 A.D.

           

So the book of Hosea is saying essentially the same thing as Christ said. Those promises were never fulfilled with natural Israel, nor will they ever be. They were judged harshly, only this time for good. But the promises remain to be fulfilled in this generation under the New Covenant of Christ through Spiritual Israel.

 

            Satan today has deceived the whole world. People are steeped in various kinds of sin – adultery, false prophets of religion, and idols of commercialism without love or compassion just like the days of Israel in the Old Testament. Today God still holds out His hand for repentance and restoration, but few see. “Oh Lord your hand is lifted up but they do not see” (Isaiah 26:11). And today the promise is for everyone, not just Israel:


 “For  he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the  Spirit, not by the letter;  and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29)
.

 

            Christ came to save the entire world, to anyone who would hear Him, so that “For God so loved the world, that He  gave His  only begotten [literally means: unique, only one of His kind] Son, that whoever  believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-16). God is this time holding out the Kingdom of God for all takers.

 

            Most all the Old Testament prophets preached much the same message as Hosea. Yet nothing has changed from that day until now. The promise is still there for us, but who has eyes to see it? Israel is still small; God’s elect are but a few. And judgment, this time eternal, faces those who do not believe.

 

            It is amazing that God would require a man of His own choosing to experience God’s own pain because of Israel’s apostasy. Hosea was required to fall in love with and marry an unfaithful whore, and suffer the grief of her lack of faithfulness. Children were born to this wife which was probably not his. Hosea’s life must have been a sea of grief and heartsickness. Yet God gets His point across to us, where He probably didn’t to ancient Israel. God has feelings, deep feelings, and deep longings. He hurts while His own people go astray. He desires a marriage relationship with His people. When your lover is unfaithful, we all know the resulting heartbreak and pain. God is no different. We exist in His image, emotionally as well as physically.

 

            We long today to please the Lord and heal His own hurts, which are no different from ours. He proved that by sending His Son to experience the human condition and to show He had the same nature as we. God is love. When our love towards Him fails, then His entire plan for creation fails. That is why the greatest commandment is for us to love Him with all of our hearts and minds. Only then is His purpose fulfilled. We must long to be those people who give God what He has always wanted.  

 

 

 

 

THE BOOK OF MALACHI 

 

            Malachi, the self proclaimed "Messenger of the Lord", wrote his book in or around 430 B.C. The context in which he wrote was: Israel had been taken captive by Babylon for 70 years. When Persia conquered Babylon, the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and, through the efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah, rebuilt the destroyed city and the temple of the Lord. Nehemiah introduced many reforms in the country including programs to help to the poor, to shun Israeli marriages with surrounding pagan nations, to keep the Sabbath and reinstated the tithe to God. In 433 B.C. he returned to Persia to resume his former duties to the King of Persia. After he left, the Kingdom fell back into sin, similar to what they had done before the Babylonian captivity. It was during this period that Malachi prophesied.

 

 

            Chapter 1 contains a number of questions posed by God on behalf of the people. The Lord also poses sarcastic questions on behalf of the people usually beginning with "But you say". In verse 2, God says:

"I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How hast Thou loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation, and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness." In other words, God says that He CHOSE to love Jacob (Israel) over Esau He said He "hated" Esau, Jacob's twin brother, who sacrificed his birthright for a bowl of stew. But God had made a covenant (contract) with Israel to love them, a covenant He intended to keep.

He cursed the people for a variety of sins including offering blemished (lame and sick) animal sacrifices to Him on the altar. He also called up short swindlers for selling the best of their flock while giving God the blemished sacrifices.

 

 

            In Chapter 2, he curses the priesthood and blames them for accepting blemished sacrifices, while praising the original Levitical priesthood, under Levi, son of Israel (Jacob). He says in Mal 2:7-9:

 

"For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi...So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways, but are showing partiality in the instruction" (using the office to advance their own goals).

 

 

            In a poignant section God likens Israel to an unfaithful spouse: "[The] LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. So take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously." (Mal 2:14-16).

 

 

            The Lord, after condemning Israel for two chapters of the book, admonishes them in Chapter 3. First, He tells them of the purifying process they are going to undergo when the Lord was to be fully revealed.
 

"Behold, I am going to send My messenger [perhaps John the Baptist] and He will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant [the New Covenant], in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? ("Mal 3:1-2).

 

 

            In other words, no one "can see God and live" (Exodus 33:20). Therefore, the sons of Israel must be purified so that they can see God (Jesus) when He appears. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt 5:8).

 

 

 

"For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap." And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. "Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD, as in the days of old and as in former years" (Mal 3:2-4).

After the purifying process, "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me... For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed" (Mal 3:5-6).

 

 

            He then explains the value of the tithe and how tithing will result in a blessing to Israel "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed Thee?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!" Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes. And all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land," says the LORD of hosts." (Mal 3:8-12).

 

            Finally, He predicts: "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it [this scripture is similar to the passage in Matthew where the Lord said that: where here two or three are gathered, there I am in their midst], and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name." And they will be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, "on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him. So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (Mal 3:16-18).

 

 

            In the end it will be apparent who serves the Lord and who does not. This is confirmed in later scriptures. (See the parable of the wheat and tares [Matthew 13:24-30) and Jesus' words on the Day of Judgment, where he put the righteous on the right and the wicked on the left [Matthew 7:21-24]. There will also be judgment on those call evil good (Malachi 2:17). See also Isaiah 5:20: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!.

 

 

            Finally, in Chapter 4, God gives His final admonitions and promises. "For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze so that it will leave them neither root nor branch." But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. And you will tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the LORD of hosts. (Mal 4:1-3).

 

 

            A significant verse appears in Malachi 4:5-6: "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse." It is generally agreed upon by scholars that this is indicative of the ministry of John the Baptist, who was Elijah reincarnated. Christ speaks here of restoring of the family relationship, not divided between the generations. It mystically refers to the relationship of the Heavenly Father with His family, the Sons of God. The oneness of that family will no longer be divided by the generational gaps.

 

 

            Malachi is the final Book of the Old Testament and it speaks again of Israel's apostasy that had plagued them from the time of Joshua. It was written four hundred years before Christ's coming and in the time following Malachi (already ruled by Persia), Israel was enslaved by no fewer than three nations; the Persians; the Hellenistic period wherein they were conquered by the Macedonians under Alexander; the kingdom of the successors of Alexander during the Hasmoneon period of the Seleucidites reign; and the Roman Empire, in power during Christ's ministry. It was during Christ's ministry that the promises were finally fulfilled in Christ and in His blood. 2000 years later, although the victory was won on the cross, we have yet to manifest what Christ won for us.

 

 

            The Book of Malachi is just as applicable today as it was in 400 B.C. Today mankind suffers from the same maladies attributed to Israel of old: mislead by False priests (the religious leaders of today; whoring after other Gods (commercial self interests); calling those who are good evil and vice versa; deteriorating family values that have to be restored; lack of blessing from God; and generally practicing predominately evil acts against God. The only answer is accepting grace from God and invoking His promises to change our Adamic natures into pure natures that will see God and become like Him.

 

 

            His symbolic use of the smelting of the silver is indicative of how God refines us today. The dross (impurities) in the silver raise to the top of the melted silver and are ladled off, the pure silver remaining. When God is done refining us only the pure will remain. Of equal importance is his reference to the restoring the hearts of the Fathers to the children, wiping out generational separations which have plagued man from the beginning. Only the family relationship will remain, the Father’s family. Malachi’s words are as applicable today as when they were originally spoken. His Call to return to the Lord for healing resonates throughout history. When all is said and done God is a compassionate Father who loves and rewards His children. 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIANITY:

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

 

Everyone seems to want to look to the future of Christianity as a continuation of Christianity as it exists today. Some hope the current church can somehow come together and agree on one doctrine bringing unity to an otherwise fractured church. Others see Christianity’s future as a political vehicle to impose their concept of righteousness on the government and the people. The current Pope is preaching tolerance of other religions even though most of them don’t even believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Putting it bluntly, the future of Christianity as it exists today seems more intent on watering down what Christ preached so it becomes lukewarm, putrid and ineffectual.

 

            Actually the term Christian, and the resulting Christianity, was the name given by the Greeks or Romans, probably in reproach, to the followers of Jesus. It was first used at Antioch (Acts 11:26). It was used by King Agrippa in Acts 26:28 as he was speaking to Paul. The names by which the disciples were known among themselves were “brethren,” “the faithful,” “elect,” “saints,” “believers.” But as distinguishing them from the multitude without, the name “Christian” came into use, and was universally accepted. This name occurs but three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16) (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).

 

The future is not about a continuation of the “Christian” denominations, each one with a different doctrine, seemingly worshiping different concepts of God. It is not about the spread of missionaries who go to other countries and try to convince people that they should adopt the religion of Christianity or that particular church’s version thereof. Neither is it about spreading the word even further by use of the broadcast media or the internet. The truth is that Christianity has become just another religion and has strayed far from its original purpose as set down by Paul and the Gospels in the New Testament.

 

            The real future of believers in Christ still has as its primary purpose the bringing forth of the Kingdom of God in the earth. Jesus said to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36). Therefore it would seem that Christianity as a religion in this current world has no future.

 

 

Matthew 6:10 states, as part of the one prayer we are supposed to be praying, the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. What could be clearer? If you are really a believer, it must be clear that all systems of Christian religion and ideology must cease in favor of a coming Kingdom of God wherein Christ rules the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15). Co-existence with other religions is impossible, especially with those religions that call themselves Christian, but are steeped in the love of money, passivity, self exaltation, exaltation of man, and the preaching of the many different false doctrines of religious legalism. Christians tend to be critical of legalistic religions today, such as Islam and Orthodox Judaism, but the truth is that Christianity itself has become at least as legalistic as those religions.   

 

Jesus himself said: “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23). Most of this verse applies to those who do their own thing in the name of Jesus. They aren’t doing the will of the Father. They don’t know the Lord. They are doing great works, building big buildings, following doctrines, even performing miracles in the name of the Lord. These will not inherit the Kingdom of God but will be cast away. Theirs is not the future of the Kingdom or true Christianity.

 

Most world religions (Buddhism, Muslim, Verdic and other eastern religions, etc) don’t believe the basis tenant of true Biblical followers of Christ. They don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God and was resurrected from the dead.

 

According to John the Beloved Apostle: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Very few, if any, world religions confess this fact. Most, if they acknowledge Him at all, say He was a great and wise man, but never the Son of God.

 

All of Christianity is waiting for the appearance of the evil antichrist in the end-time. However John stated, 2000 years ago, that the anti-Christ was already in the world. They were then, and are more so now, the teachers of false doctrine in order to foil Christ’s plan. And don’t think they will be so easy to spot. Consider this: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

 

Satan’s name, Lucifer, means “light bearer”. If he was known as “light bearer” while he was still in heaven, great must have been his light. It is he who deceives the whole world by manifesting his false light into religion. “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him (Revelation 12:9). He is the god of this world. He is clever enough to deceive the whole world, and if he is able to come as a minister of righteousness, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and he thus deceives many more.

 

                     Revelation speaks of the religious beast: “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon” (Revelation 13:11). This beast had two horns like an innocent little lamb, made to deceptively look like the true Lamb of God. Yet despite his benign appearance as a harmless lamb, the beast spoke like a dragon. The dragon is Satan (Revelation 20:2). The harmless looking lamb, much like the church today, speaks words of comfort and safety and about Jesus, but many times they are words of deception coming from Satan himself. Satan knows God’s word better than we do and he can use it against Christ in many deceiving ways.

     

What is the future for real believers, the brethren, the elect, the saints of God? Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God which He says is not of this world. He was continually speaking of the age to come.  Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: (2 Thessalonians 1:5).

 

Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein… we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God  (Luke 18:16). ... we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God". (Acts 14:22).

 

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24).

 

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again , he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3).

 

Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Luke 13:18-21).

 

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. (Revelation 12:10).

 

Christ never called His followers Christians. He called them disciples and brethren and God’s elect, His chosen ones.

 

In Matthew alone there are no less than 15 parables that Jesus compared to the Kingdom of God. Some of these are: the wise and foolish virgins, the sower of the seed, the mustard seed, the tares and the wheat, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price, the dragnet of fish good and bad, the rich young ruler, the laborers in the vineyard, the two sons, parable of the landowner, parable of the wedding feast and parable of the talents all speak of the Kingdom. The rest of the Gospels have the same or similar parables and examples. Most all the parables begin with Jesus saying: “the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) is like this, may be likened to, comparable to and is like”. Jesus came to proclaim a new age, not to create a religion called Christianity.

 

Some think that Jesus brought forth His teaching as a nice philosophy to teach humanity to live a better life. However, for the most part, Jesus is not speaking of this life. The truth is that in nearly everything He said and did was pointing to the coming Kingdom of God.  He was speaking of the Kingdom age which is a different age than we live in today. He was teaching how to prepare for the coming age, teaching that our lives here on earth were only prefatory for the glory to come.

 

It should be obvious that no human could ever match up to Christ’s vision of life in the new age. And he wasn’t speaking of the “die and go to Heaven” type of Kingdom. He was speaking of the Kingdom which is to come here, on earth, as it already is in heaven. One must only read the Sermon on the Mount to realize that all of the things Jesus brought forth had to be done in the Kingdom – who could carry them out here on earth? Who can really be meek and humble without faking it; who can really be forgiving as Christ was; are there any out there who are really pure in heart?; or who can in every situation look on another without there being a thought of lust? Only Jesus, who was perfect in all His ways, who was the Kingdom of God, could do these things. The Law of God was written on His heart. It was unnatural and impossible for Him to sin. It is only in His Kingdom that his vision will be realized and sin and evil will be banished forever.

 

Some say there is no hell or eternal damnation. However hell is simply the place where evil and sin are banished and dumped, such as nuclear waste on a dumpsite, which cannot be destroyed only separated. The Kingdom of God is a place of absolute purity within which no evil can or will exist. The evil generated in this earth in its pre-Kingdom state must go somewhere-it cannot be uncreated or destroyed. In a way, hell is not punishment but a necessity in order to separate the evil from the righteous.

 

Therefore the future of the true believers in Christ is undeniably the Kingdom of God. Hear Isaiah describe a small part of the Kingdom he foresaw nearly 3000 years ago: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (11:6-9).

 

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

 

That is the future of the real believers. We know it is because God spoke it, and He is unable to lie. We should not put this fulfillment off in the future. It could be 1000 years away or it could be today. We believers should believe the latter. God says that if the time were not cut short, no flesh would be saved alive (Matthew 24:22). That is what would happen if we let things go status quo, continue to build our own kingdoms, cling to the false security of religion and are not violently in spirit praying to God “Thy Kingdom come” (the Lord’s Prayer).

 

 

 

 

 

THE LITTLE FLOCK

 

           

            Many who reside on the earth do not realize that there are two distinct groups of believers in Christ which will appear in this age of the beginning of the manifestation of the Kingdom of God on the earth. It is to one of these groups, the little flock that this article is addressed. Jesus said:  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32). Just who is this “little flock” and how do they differ from the millions of believers in Christ who have been saved and serve the Lord?

 

 

            That there are two distinct groups on believers or Christians in the earth is clear from a study of the scriptures. In 2 Thessalonians 1:10 Paul states: “When he [Christ] shall come to be glorified [or revealed] in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe…in that day. Paul is saying that in one group Christ will be glorified and revealed and another group will admire, or marvel at the revelation of Christ revealed in the first group. The first group is the “little flock” referenced above.

 

 

            It is, or should be, the aim of every Christian to have the Christ nature fully formed within them. Hebrews 2:10 says: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings”. Therefore it is Christ’s purpose to bring many Son of God, to be like Him, to be those in whom His nature and glory is revealed to the world. Ephesians 4:11-13 states: “And He  gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a  mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” This says, in essence, that the true church (the Body of Christ) exists to bring the believer to the “fullness of Christ”, that is to become like Him.

 

 

            1 John 3:2 says: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see him just as He is’. It Is God’s purpose that we as believers become “like Christ” and have His very nature fully formed in us.

 

 

            The New Covenant instituted by Christ bears this out. Hebrews 10:16 says:“This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,” (see also Jeremiah 31:33-34). These are those who will no longer strive to be righteous according to the Law of God but who will have their natures changed so that the Laws of God are actually written on their hearts, making them incapable of sin. Christ came to the earth as the perfect Son who had His Father’s laws written on His heart.

 

 

            Christ said: “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me”. (John 12:44-45). There will be those who will have their natures changed so that, like Christ, when men see them they will be seeing Christ and the Father. One of Christ’s disciples asked Jesus to show him the Father. Christ replied: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you  know Him, and have  seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:7-9). Likewise there will be those in whom the nature of Christ will be fully formed so that to see them will be to see the Father. Those who are so transformed are the little flock.

 

 

            In Revelation those two groups are again distinguished.  “And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: …After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:4, 9-10). The 144,000 could be counted. The great multitude standing before the throne could not. The 144,000 (a symbolic number) were those who participated in the first resurrection of Christ. The rest stood about, admiring them and worshiping them, clothed in white robes as they had been cleansed from all their sins. But they were not part of the 144,000.

 

 

            The 144,000 were those that participate in the first resurrection. “Then I saw thrones, and  they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years”

 

 

            Many of this little flock will participate in this first resurrection without dying a physical death. Jesus said: “But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:27).  It is this first resurrection that Christians should seek to be a part of. It occurs here on earth, not in the sweet bye and bye when we die and “go to heaven”. Christ will return to the earth in His fully resurrected body to meet those who have also been resurrected here on earth, bringing with Him those who died in the faith and in whom the promises were not fulfilled in their lifetimes. They, those who died, will not be made perfect without us who remain to greet them. Hebrews 11:39-40 says: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect”.

 

 

            There is no such thing as going to heaven and automatically becoming perfect. The great men of God, enumerated in Hebrews 11, died and were not made perfect and will not be made perfect we are made perfect. Although they were the first to die in faith, we who are last will experience the fulfillment first, because without us becoming perfect none of the dead will be made perfect. Remember the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus said: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven”. The Kingdom of God does not come only in “heaven”. (Matthew 6:10) It’s already a spiritual Kingdom in the spirit realm. That Kingdom must also come on the earth where the two realms will converge, the physical realm and the spirit realm. This meeting of the two realms will be the Kingdom of God. 

 

            The reason God calls these who obtain perfection in this matter the “little flock” is that most will not believe this and reach into it. Only a few will see it. The entire focus of the Christian church today is on salvation and “bringing people to the altar’. The true Christian church, the very Body of Christ, goes beyond this mere salvation and reaches into perfection. As Christ said: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. (Matthew 5:48). That is the promise to the little flock.  

 

 

 

THE ANTICHRIST

 

            Everyone these days speculates about a figure who will appear in the end-times and lead the world astray by his deceptions. They look to the Books of Revelation and Daniel to try to identify this one man. They even consult prophets such as Nostradamus, the Hopi Indians and the Mayan civilization as they attempt to identify this person. All end-time scenarios include this nefarious figure. He is already accused of uniting all the nations of the world into one government in order to defeat Christ and His purposes for mankind.   All the world, they say, will be spellbound by his Satanic oratory until he reveals his true purpose to destroy humanity. his identity. There is only one problem to the existence of this who will set off the war of Armageddon,  where the forces of evil and good will square off on the plains of Har Hegiddo in Israel. That one problem is that this antichrist is not  mentioned in Revelation or in Daniel or anywhere in the Bible except in two of the epistles of John, almost in passing. However, where antichrist is mentioned, the effect of the antichrist is more powerful than the man everyone is waiting for.

 

 

            1 John 2:18-22 mentions the term thrice: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out,  so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an  anointing from  the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but  because you do know it, and because no lie is  of the truth. Who is the liar but  the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son”.

 

            John penned his epistles sometime in the late 1st Century C.E. (A.D.)  If you believe the Apostle, nearly 2000 years ago there were many antichrists already in the world. They didn’t just appear; it looks as though they were at one time part of the church of the believers. They “went out” apparently because they no longer believed in Jesus Christ.

 

 

            John’s definition of the antichrist should strike terror into the hearts of mankind even more than the imaginary one everyone is anticipating. John defines the antichrist as the one who denies “the father and the Son”. The definition is undeniably clear. The antichrist denies the existence of Jesus as the Son of God and denies the Father who begot Him..

 

            In 1 John 4:2-3 John states further: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that  confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that  does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the  antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and  now it is already in the world”.

            According to John 4:2-3, anyone who does not confess Jesus as Lord is walking in the spirit of the antichrist. Even factiously believing that half the world’s population does not believe in Jesus as the Son of God, that means there are in excess of 3 billion antichrists in the earth. Nearly all world religions do not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God including Islam (who believes He was a great man and a prophet only but not the Son of God); Buddhism does not believe in a separate God per se-Buddha is the god.  Hinduism and Sanskrit, including the Vedic sect, believe in a pantheon of gods that do not include Jesus Christ. A recent addition Krishna worships a man.  Most other religions, and nearly all of the religions of the past worshiped many gods, usually those of nature. The Jewish religion believes in a Messiah but did not believe it was Christ, whom they had crucified. If you believe John everyone who does not believe that Christ appeared and was crucified for our sins falls into the category of antichrist. Satan was and is currently the god of this world 2 Corinthians 4:4). 

 

 

            Satan has deceived men into believing anything except that Jesus is Lord. Once Satan recognizes Jesus as Lord, he is then manifested as a defeated foe.  He deceives the whole world to the point there would be no flesh saved alive unless the time for his destruction is cut short by God (Matthew 24:22).

 

 

            The deception and the lie is rampant. Satan’s greatest deception is that he often comes as an angel of light, a minister of righteousness. His angelic name is Lucifer, meaning “light bearer” or “light giver”. He was also known as “the bright morning star” Paul said this of false religions and false apostles originating from Satan: “For such men are  false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even  Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deed (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).

 

 

            Religion in the form practiced by the Pharisees, Sadducees and Jewish scribes were among Christ’s greatest enemies. He even accused than of being of their Father the devil (John 8:44). They practiced a form of legalism that left out the important parts of the law including love and mercy. Jesus said: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 7 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness: (Matthew 23:22-28). So these religious, pious men were actually white washed tombs in Christ’s eyes and the blind leading the blind. They were, in all sense of the word, antichrist!

 

 

            We can all see the rampant commercialism going on in churches today. What we don’t see is the hidden deception which ties believers to doctrines of dead works, false bible interpretations and no real revelation from God, although they claim they do have. We see their self exaltation in their, mega churches, pagan idols and statutes, rituals, robes of royalty, holy water and pomp and circumstance to the point that such manmade magnificence deceives believers into thinking these false churches have something from god, when they do not. How many people attend such churches knowing that the churches are steeped in deception, covering it over by a great show of false righteousness.

 

 

            Most of those people (it’s not their fault) would die for their church doctrine.  However much of church doctrine is nothing to do with true righteousness which comes by grace through Christ’s gift. It is more often a rulebook of do’s and do-not’s that and has nothing to do with knowing Jesus Christ. Through the seared human conscience they create moral codes and sets of dead works that have the effect of making people believe they have something from God when they do not. They become comfortable and secure in their false doctrines. The comment made by Carl Marx, communist or not, applies to most religions today. He said that “religion is the opiate of the people”. This is still true today.  Doctrines like the rapture, salvation only to Catholics, great works to please God etc. are all designed to make the believer think he securely has something from God that he does not really have. 

The final reference to the antichrist occurs in 2 John 7: “For many deceivers have  gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

 

 

            Remember: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “ Many will say to Me on  that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;  depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23 quoting Psalm 6:8). Many are secure in the fact that they are doing great works for Jesus but if they are not His works those are in danger of being rejected by him.  

 

 

            A final word about the “end-time” and the beasts, false prophets and the like who, according to the theorists, will appear, along with the antichrist, in the very last days. We have already learned that the antichrist spirit has been with us from the beginning. Most of these “so called” end-time events have already occurred or are continuing to occur. The beast with the horns and heads represent nations and Kings. The false prophets are the antichrists we have already mentioned who go about preaching doctrine that does not include Christ as the Son of God. As for the “tribulation” period which many say is 7 years long and will produce this single “antichrist” figure, one need only look around to see that the tribulation of man has been around since the beginning of creation. We as a race have already been and are in the worst tribulations man has ever seen.  Most of the bowls have already been poured out, the trumpets sounded, the woes released and the plagues appeared. Human history has been a constant state of conflicts, wars, blood and the results of the exercise of the satanic nature of man he inherited from Adam and Eve at the time of the fall. 

 

            God subjected creation to futility in Genesis 2, which means, among other things, emptiness, fruitlessness, worthlessness and devoid of truth (Unger’s Bible Dictionary page 1324). The only thing that is important is the bringing forth the Kingdom of God on earth thereby releasing creation from its divinely imposed futile state. As Romans 8:19-21 says;

 

“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for  the revealing of the  sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope  that  the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation  groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

 

 

            Let’s cease the vain and worthless ideas and theories being put forth in this age of deception. They may sound intriguing, curious and may satisfy our fancy for the secret knowledge but they are the product of a futile world. The proponents of these wild speculations about an antichrist figure who will suddenly arise in the end-time are really interested in instilling fear into congregations and filling church seats, increasing contributions and/or selling books, literature and CDs. Let us not profess what we really do not know. The revelation of these end-time events remain with God and if no one but Him knows the day and the hour, perhaps we should admit we don’t know as much as we think we do. Let’s put our focus where it should be. Not the negative things of beasts and antichrists but on Jesus and the coming forth of His Glorious Kingdom. This not the end; it’s the beginning.

             

 

 

YOUR SINS SEPARATE YOU FROM GOD

 

            Have you ever wondered why your prayers are not being answered to your satisfaction? Have you ever felt a separation from God when there seems to be no apparent reason for this? Have the heavens ever felt like an iron barrier with nothing getting through? You would not be the first believer to feel these things. We desire closeness with God but cannot attain it. Thousands of years ago the prophet Jeremiah felt much the same thing.

 

 

            In Lamentations 3:6-9 he complains: “In dark places He has made me dwell, Like those who have long been dead. He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy. Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked”.

 

 

            The prophet Isaiah provides the answer: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does  not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).

 

 

            The sin he is speaking about is not just the acts we do that we believe are against God. They have little to do with external acts at all. The sin Isaiah is identifying, although it may manifest as an external act, is a nature of sin we inherited from the original sin of Adam and Eve. The origin of sin in the Garden was disobedience to God and unbelief in His word. In Genesis 2:16-17 God told Adam: “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

 

 

            However the devil, in the form of a serpent, deceived Eve as he lied to her. He told her: “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5).

 

 

            Eve acknowledged she knew she was not even to touch the evil tree or she would die. Satan, the serpent directly opposed the word of God and said she surely would not die. To top that off he told her she her eyes would be opened and she would be like God if she ate of the tree. Eve willingly disobeyed as did Adam and thus original sin was born. Adam lived on another 900 years but he died, just as every human has died since that time (except Enoch and Elijah).

 

 

            God cursed the earth from that time forward, or subjected it to futility as Paul said (Romans 8:20). At that time God separated Himself from humanity and humanity from Him. We are under that same curse of futility today. Only after Adam gave birth to Seth did man began to call upon the Lord (Genesis 4:26).

 

 

            From the time of Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden all mankind has inherited from them their sinful nature. Mankind has continued to do and think wickedly since then. Mankind became so wicked in the days after the fall that God had to destroy them with a flood. Even then the wicked nature lived on in Noah’s sons until the present day.

 

 

            So when God speaks of sin He is speaking of the sinful nature of mankind. Sinful acts spring from a sinful nature. The Lord made that clear in the Sermon on the Mount. He said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Our sin nature which even permeates our minds causes us to sin against God just by having the fallen nature.

 

 

            Isaiah goes on in Chapter 59 explaining the results of our sinful nature. He said: “Therefore justice is far from us, And righteousness does not overtake us; We hope for light, but behold, darkness, For brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope along the wall like blind men, We grope like those who have no eyes; We stumble at midday as in the twilight, Among those who are vigorous we are like dead men… We hope for justice, but there is none, For salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before You, And our sins testify against us; For our transgressions are with us, And we know our iniquities:” (Isaiah 59:9-12). Does that sound like mankind?

 

 

            The great Apostle Paul was conscious of his sinful nature that was with him at all times. He complains in Romans 7: “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing  what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate….So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my  flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in  the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (verses 15-24).

 

 

            Paul was being honest that he had a nature of sin within him. And it was separating him from God in that he was constantly at war within himself with that nature he inherited from man’s fall from grace. He calls himself “wretched” I his fallen nature and cries out “who can save me from this body of death”. Remember death was the punishment for the sin of Adam and Eve and had continued to plague Paul centuries later, as it does today. In Romans 6:23 he reiterates that “For the wages of sin is death”. The price paid my mankind for this nature of sin is eventual death and separation from God. However Paul knew that it was the sin within him which was responsible for his body of death and that it wasn’t him doing what he didn’t want to do but the sin.

 

 

            Paul cried out for a savior to deliver him. He goes on “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25).

 

 

            Jesus Christ came to deliver each one of us from our body of death. The sin of the world was laid upon Him. Christ brought with Him a New Covenant, displacing the Old Covenant, where the Law of sin no longer applied. He came with the power not only to forgive sin but to completely take it away. Jesus intends to make us perfect by taking away our sin forever. Hebrews 8:8-14 states the conditions of this New Covenant:

“Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect  a new covenant With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathersFor they did not continue in My covenant, And I did not care for them, says the Lord.

 

 

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel

After those days, says the Lord:

I will put My laws into their minds,

And I will write them on their hearts.

And I will be their God,

And they shall be My people.

“And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen,

And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

For all will know Me,

From the least to the greatest of them.

“For I will be merciful to their iniquities,

  And I will remember their sins no more.”

 

 

            Therefore God not only promises to forgive our sin he promises to remove it far from us so that we don’t have to walk like Paul continually fighting the old nature. He has the power to make us forever clean from sin. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”  It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the  righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:7-8).  

 

 

            In Zechariah this principle is made abundantly clear. “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and  Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan [the adversary or accuser], “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!...Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. And he spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by” (Zechariah 3:1-5). Joshua stood before the Lord with filthy garments on him. These garments weren’t his; the accuser had put them on him. The Lord God removed the filthy garments and properly clothed the high priest, just as Christ removes our filthiness from the sin we inherited and clothes with fine garments of righteousness. The accuser is rebuked, thrown into the pit (Revelation 20:1-3).

 

 

            Therefore we are to be completely righteous, just as the Father. The Lord’s promise is that we “be perfect, just as the heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And that perfection does not come automatically when we die. Paul said: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet [the Word of God] will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The Lord Himself said “But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).

 

 

            When the sin we inherited so long ago is removed by Christ’s one sacrifice we will be clean and righteous and we will see God. The separation will be gone. The Lord himself said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for  they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). When Christ makes us pure, clean and righteous in heart, our former sins will not hide Him from us but we shall see Him as he is because we will be like Him. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (John 3:2).

 

 

 

            KNOW THE LORD, KNOW HIS VOICE, BE PERFECT!

 

            In order for the mature Christian to fully do God’s will he/she must KNOW the Lord, His will, His ways and His voice. How do we come to fully know the Lord? How do we learn to hear His voice? This article will discuss and define those essential issues and teach us to, like Hosea said: 

 

“Come, let us return to the Lord… “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.

His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

 

 

            What does it mean to know the really know the Lord? There is a scriptural distinction between just seeing His acts and knowing Him personally. In Psalm 103:7 the psalmist said: “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel”. The Sons of Israel saw the acts and miracles that God performed through Moses. They saw them and recognized that those acts were from God. They followed the cloud and the pillar of fire while in the wilderness. They acknowledged that it was God who had delivered them from slavery to the Egyptians. However Moses, their leader, knew something far deeper-he knew God’s ways; he knew how to do the things God wanted done. He had a personal relationship with God wherein God spoke to him face to face. Thus, Moses’ relationship with God was distinctly different from the relationship God had with the rest of His people.

                       

 

            Only Moses went up to Mt. Sinai, the mount of God, while Israel was in the wilderness. The rest of the sons of Israel were forbidden to ascend the Mount (Exodus 19:12). The Sons of Israel camped at the foot of the mountain and they saw the cloud of glory and the results of God’s appearing there to Moses, but only Moses ascended into the cloud of glory resting there.  

 

 

         Exodus 24:16-18 describes the scene: “The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a  consuming fire on the mountain top. Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights”.

 

            This principal appears elsewhere in the scriptures. When Elijah was translated to heaven many prophets knew he was going to be taken but only one actually saw the event. As described in 2 Kings 2:1-14: “And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; be still.” Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be still.” Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over.

 

            This portion of scripture paints a vivid picture of those who know the Lord and those who just know His acts. Let’s examine the above scripture in detail as it contains several clues on really knowing the Lord. At the time of 2 Kings chapter 2 there were many prophets of God in the land. No less than 50 of them were perceptive enough to know that Elijah was going to be taken to heaven by God (see above). Now to really know the Lord one must be more than just perceptive. He/she must be persistent. Elijah did everything he could to discourage the prophets, including his servant Elisha, from following him to the place where he was to be taken. First Elijah left Gigal and told Elisha to remain there. Elisha refused and followed Elijah against his orders (remember Elisha was Elijah’s servant). 

 

            So Elisha followed Elijah to Bethel and the perceptive prophets at Bethel told Elisha what he already knew i.e. that Elijah was going to be taken by God. Again Elijah commanded his servant Elisha to remain at Bethel but again Elisha disobeyed his master and followed Elijah to Jericho. At the Jericho the same thing happened. The prophets at Jericho told Elisha what he already knew, that Elijah was going to be taken. Elisha told the prophets again to “be still” (shut up) because Elisha refused to be distracted with the information he already knew. He wanted something more and refused to be deterred.

 

            Elijah, in one last ditch attempt to deter Elisha and the other prophets, Elijah said he was going to the Jordon River and commanded Elisha to remain at Jericho. However Elisha and 50 prophets followed Elijah to the area of the Jordon River. 50 of them stood at a distance but 2 of them actually went with Elijah and Elisha to the banks of the river. Elijah then took his mantle and parted the Jordon river but only he and Elisha crossed the river-everyone else remained behind for whatever reason. 

 

            On the other side of the Jordon Elijah calmly folded his mantle and, realizing that he had been unable to shake Elisha off his trail, and realizing that Elisha was probably going to see him be taken to heaven, he asked Elisha what he wanted before he was taken. Remember Elijah had managed to elude prophets of God, seers, men of God, at Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho and the vicinity of the Jordon River. He had even eluded the last 2 prophets who went with him to the actual bank of the river. But only Elisha had followed him across the Jordon to the place where Elijah was to be taken by God.

 

            Being found at the very spot where his master was to be taken up, Elisha told Elijah he wanted a double-portion of the spirit that was on Elijah. Remember Elijah was the prophet who defeated the 600 prophets of the God Baal in Israel, caused a drought, caused it to rain, anointed kings and was known as the prophet who “stood in the presence of the Lord” (1 kings 18:15). How audacious was it for Elisha to ask for a DOUBLE-PORTION of that?  Yet that is what he asked for. Elijah finally gave in told Elisha that if he actually saw Elijah being taken he could have his double portion. Elisha passed the final test, saw the chariots of God take Elijah to heaven, recovered Elijah’s mantle and began to move in the double portion he had been given. His first act was to part the Jordon river, as Elijah had done, and went on to do exploits that actually exceeded those done by Elijah as recorded throughout the Book of 2 Kings.

 

            There is then a distinction between those who are Christians, and even prophets, and those who really KNOW the Lord, like Moses, Elijah and Elisha (there were many more recorded in the scriptures). There is a destiny available for some who actually press on to KNOW Him. The Apostle Paul was one of those. In Philippians 3:10 Paul has laid out the burden of his own heart: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death”. He goes on; “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect [mature], have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;” (Philippians 3:12-15).

 

            The ultimate goal of God he wants for us is that He wants us to be made perfect like His son was perfect. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance [steadfastness] And let  endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. (James 1:2-4).

 

            To simply be saved is one thing, to be perfect is another. When Christ told the multitudes that they were to be perfect He did not qualify His statement to mean that after you die and go to heaven you will be perfect. He was speaking to those who were alive and stood before Him on that day. It is God’s will, to all that can hear it, that we be perfect here and now, in this earth. Christ told us to pray that : “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Paul said: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3). He was speaking to those who were physically alive that their life in this earth was hidden in Christ above. He said: “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Col. 3:4). Perfection not in the sweet bye and bye but in the here and now, if you can receive it.

 

 

            Only by intimately knowing the Lord will we fulfill God’s purpose and be made perfect in this age. Many died before they saw this vision that they had fulfilled. Let’s not be among them. Let us live and see it fulfilled in our lifetimes, once and for all, and finally. The myth that if you die and go to heaven you automatically become perfect is not supported by the scriptures. Hebrews chapter 11 makes this clear. Hebrews 11, called the roll call of faith, describes many men of God, who knew the Lord, who died but never received the promise. “And all these, having  gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect”. (Hebrews 11:39-40). The perfection of those who have gone before us is dependent on us becoming perfect. We are those who will be allowed to see, in this lifetime, the fulfillment of the promise seen but not obtained by those who have gone before us.

 

            This is not accomplished by simply being saved. As we saw in the preceding paragraphs there were many prophets and men of God who knew things or saw certain acts of God but only the really chosen, men like Moses and Elisha, obtained the promise and KNEW the Lord and were persistent enough not to be denied the fulfillment of that promise while they were here. Let us, as Paul said, have this attitude in ourselves. Let us not be denied the total and complete fulfillment God intends, if not for us, then for Christ and all who have gone on before. Let us press on to KNOW Him and the power of His resurrection. Let us become perfect as He is perfect.

 

 

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