“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20)
The natural speaks of the invisible; the physical realm reflects spiritual reality. Wars and pandemics reflect spiritual conflict and sickness.
Can you discern?
I was warned years ago about a coming pandemic from my nurse epidemiologist wife. There is a pandemic. The Wuhan virus is real. It spreads rapidly. It is not as lethal as the “experts” say unless you are old or sickly. For the healthy, it is no worse than any other flu virus. So, why has the response been so dramatic from authorities and their talking heads in the media? Christian, please know that I am speaking of what the Bible defines as the world system. You should always be suspicious of what the world system parrots. It usually parrots Satan. There is something very deceptive and deceitful about the response. The demonically empowered world system is using fear to control and deceive. Whenever anyone uses fear to motivate, you should suspect their agenda. Some fear is godly and based upon wisdom, but that sort of fear will generally be generated by your natural wisdom and, for the believer in Jesus, from the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. It won’t be screaming at you from an outside source. The devil uses fear to motivate. God expects faith from His own.
The Wuhan flu reflects a spiritual sickness that covers the whole earth. This sickness is deadly, and I mean eternally, if it is not corrected, but it strikes the spiritually sick and weak first. The main characteristic of this spiritual sickness is deception and deceit. The purpose is the same as it always has been: to kill, to destroy, and to turn people away from God.
The powers that be in this earthly realm are but tools in Satan’s hand. Satan uses their lust for power and greed to turn them to his purpose. The response of the world’s leaders in this pandemic has been to deceive people and use fear to control and manipulate. Their concern is not for the safety of their subjects but for power.
It is disappointing to me to observe how many so-called Christians have responded to this crisis. Through times of trial and tribulation we are called to trust in the Lord. But so many professed Christians, especially here in the west are quick to trust in government and to obey their rulers without question. Is the western church dying? God calls His people to gather regularly for worship, but when our leaders forbid it and threaten us we obey them without question. When we read in scripture of the martyrs and martyrs today in distant places we should ask ourselves if we are willing to suffer death for our Savior. In America churches are going to the government for a hand out (PPP) with faith that government will protect them. They don’t have faith that God will provide. They think that God is working through the same government that condones the slaughter of the innocents. They trust in the government just as Israel and Judah trusted that Egypt would save them from Assyria and Babylon. “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Rev 12:11)
There is a horrible spirit of deception at work in these last days. And there is a contagious spiritual sickness of unbelief.
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2Th 2:1-12)
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Mat 6:10)
The idea of God’s kingdom on earth is a classical Christian belief. Christians affirm this belief in the Apostles Creed: “He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”. In modern western Christian thinking the concept of salvation is usually confined to the spiritual realm. We usually think of salvation in terms of a personal relationship with Christ by faith. We rarely discuss the idea of a progressive fulfillment of the concept to the physical earthly realm. We tend to think of heaven as the goal. But Jesus preached the “gospel of the Kingdom of God”. Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels are full of references to the “gospel of the Kingdom”. Yes, its good news that Jesus died for my sins so that I can be a part of His Kingdom, but the gospel is bigger than that! Yes, Jesus died for us, but why did he do that? He did it in order that He might have a people for Himself “….who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”(Tit 2:14)
Compare the modern man-centered gospel vs the gospel in the Bible:
Me centered vs He centered
Jesus loves me, saved me, blesses me, vs Jesus will come again, rule and reign, cause every knee to bow, make all things new.
Me going to heaven vs Heaven coming here to earth, to us.
Come to Jesus and get life vs Jesus called you, so give your life.
Jesus is mine vs I am His.
Self centered vs other centered.
But, biblically speaking, salvation is the restoration of the entire creation. That restoration starts with the individual spirit, but it will progress to the entire physical creation. Biblical salvation ends with the physical realm; the restoration of Eden.
Restoration is not accomplished in a single moment. Quoting George Ladd, “The Kingdom of God belongs to the age to come. Yet the age to come has overlapped with this present age. We may taste its powers [Lazarus] and thereby be delivered from this age and no longer live in conformity to it.” The focus of the modern western Church has changed. The common message is usually about how to escape hell and get to heaven. It shows up in how we evangelize. We ask questions such as, “Are you going to heaven?” or we invite people to come to Jesus and get healing, peace, prosperity or some other personal benefit. You don’t very often hear an evangelist say, “Come to Jesus and die to yourself.” Most Christians are not expecting His imminent return and the establishment of an earthly Kingdom. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1Co 15:24-25)
The hope of the early church was expressed in Titus 2:11-13. Jesus will rule on earth with His church. (Rev. 20:4-5; Zech 14:16) God created the earth for a dwelling place with man. His plans are not frustrated; He is not a loser; He doesn’t have a plan B.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,….” (Tit 2:11-13)
My first thought was, “Of course!” Much of what she says goes without saying. It’s only common sense that people in pastoral and preaching ministries need to be compassionate and carrying toward hurting people in their churches. That’s what Jesus is doing and if they properly represent Him they should do likewise. I think the vast majority of preachers are doing a good job at this. It is surprising to me that women are singled out, as if to imply that their pain is greater than men. I’m not sure that Jesus makes that distinction. But, apparently Kendra Dahl, and by extension The Gospel Coalition, think that preachers need to be more careful to not hurt women who have been hurt by abortion. She identifies post abortive women as “victims” because they are hurt by the words that people say about this sin. She emphasizes women who have been victims of sexual abuse and lumps them in with all women who are wounded by what they have done and what people say about this grisly practice. I’ve heard statistics that abortions resulting from rape may only account for 3% of all abortions. Even if we are to be generous and estimate that 10% are true victims of abuse, that still leaves 90% of abortions being done for simple convenience. Some people attribute abortion to ignorance, but, forgive me, I think that’s a cop out. It’s hard to believe in this sophisticated age that women don’t understand that they are eliminating what will be a child. That’s why they are going to the abortionist. If they thought they had a tumor, they would go to a surgeon. So we might estimate that 90% of post abortive women are not really victims, except that they are victims by choice. When a woman decides to kill her child, I don’t think Jesus sees her as an innocent victim. The child that she decides to kill is the innocent victim.
Dahl cites an abhorrent statistic that 25% of all women will have had an abortion by age 45. Millions of children are being killed for convenience. I have seen estimates from Barna research that the rate of abortion, and other sins, is relatively the same in and out of the church. So, it’s safe to say that one in four women sitting in the pew have had an abortion or properly speaking have committed infanticide and 3.6 of them have done for convenience. Dahl and the Gospel Coalition want to remind preachers not to hurt their feelings. She writes, “Consider the shame that post-abortive women can feel as abortion is lamented from the pulpit.”
Dahl is correct in stating that, “Everyone in the congregation needs to hear a call to repentance and receive the assurance of forgiveness in Christ.” Yes, we all need to hear the call, but she neglects to remind us that we must answer the call in order to be healed. True healing and forgiveness only comes when we confess our sin to God and turn away from doing it again. In my experience in pastoral ministry I find that when people refuse to admit and confess their sin, they never get healed from it. Unfortunately, I have encountered too many post abortive women who make excuses for their sin instead of confessing it. Thinking of one’s self as an innocent victim is not conducive to confession. Consider what she writes, “We limp into the pew having been assaulted by headlines and social-media commentary—words and pictures that trigger memories, shame, fear, and disgust. Despite the healing power of the gospel, the effects of our traumatic experiences linger. Our consciences accuse us day and night, and we are spiritually weary. We doubt our belovedness; we wonder if we really belong to Jesus; we wonder if the gospel is sufficient to heal our bleeding wounds.”
There is quite a tone of doubt in her comment. Doubt in the power of the gospel, doubting God’s love, doubting her salvation, etc. The first step to complete healing is to believe the gospel and trust Christ completely! The power to heal and forgive is not in the message alone. It is in Jesus Himself. Never doubt Him.
Note that she feels assaulted by headlines and social media comments, not preachers. Why isn’t the story aimed at journalists and media commentators? I don’t know of any preachers assaulting wounded women, but TGC thinks that preachers need to hear this. Could this be subtle pressure to avoid the topic altogether? In fact, that is exactly what the vast majority of America’s preachers are doing for fear of offending 25% of the women in the congregation. I admit that some social media commentators are mean spirited and I would never encourage that. But, the reason that the outcry against this holocaust is coming from social media is because it is not coming from the pulpits. Some of us feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak up. As it was with the Nazi Holocaust and American slavery, the pulpits are virtually silent. They’re too busy building mega churches. When we do speak up we are accused of lacking compassion. Some anti abortion ministries show graphic images and are attacked by rabid baby killers and Christians alike. There is a group known as Created Equal that travels college campuses with a jumbotron showing graphic images. They cite tremendous progress in changing minds and hearts. William Wilberforce is credited with ending slavery in Britain by showing graphic images. Abortion is a grizzly evil. It may never be eliminated unless people are awakened to the horror.
The church is failing to be a biblical witness to this evil. I have held a baby who was born because I did reach out with the compassion of Jesus to convince the mother to keep her child. I support our local crisis center that offers post-abortion counseling. My concern here has to do with the influence of TGC on America’s pulpits. Preachers lacking compassion is a miniscule problem from what I have observed. On the other hand, 99% of preachers in this land never address the subject. That is a glaring problem that TGC should address.
To never discuss this great national sin fails to provide truth or compassion. I’ve walked with Jesus for 37 years. My sin was heinous and I am grateful for God’s mercy and compassion. I’ve been in pastoral ministry. I’ve visited many Bible believing churches. I am a faithful member of a strong Bible preaching evangelical church. But, in all these years, I rarely hear a message about this holocaust. I don’t believe that mean preaching is a serious problem. It’s a straw man. Ignoring the problem is a serious problem. I think I know why it happens.
God calls His church to be the witness of the gospel of His Kingdom. Jesus commands us to have compassion on all people, including the lost and all sinners. He calls us to be ministers of His grace to all who are in bondage to sin. We must recognize the dignity of all people, including those trapped in sin. As such, the church must be welcoming to all, regardless of their present state. We must love the sinner and hate the sin.
The church must be cautious of abandoning the truth of God’s inerrant Word in a quest to be culturally relevant. We must hold to the whole counsel of God that His law is an integral part of His grace that leads us to repentance and salvation in Christ. In our present post-Christian culture there is an organized effort to normalize certain perverted sexual behaviors not only in society in general, but now in the church. According to God’s Word, all sex outside of a heterosexual marriage is a perversion of God’s law and His plan for humankind. The recent Revoice conference is only the most recent example of this effort to corrupt God’s church. These deceivers are attempting to popularize a teaching that same sex attraction is not a sin by itself and that the celibate homosexual can be a functioning minister in the body. This teaching clearly contradicts God’s Word. We know that God looks upon the heart and that all sinful proclivities are sin regardless of whether the person acts upon those sinful desires. Romans 1:26-27 make it abundantly clear that same sex attraction is a sinful desire which results from idolatry.
Those who are promoting this doctrine, in the name of “love and acceptance” are rejecting the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the life of all believers. There are now “ministers” representing themselves as homosexuals and lesbians. They proudly proclaim this as their identity. Such people speak for organizations like The Gospel Coalition and others are ordained as ministers in so-called Christian churches. The Bible is clear about God’s desire for us: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;” (1Th 4:3-5) These people are denying the power of God to change people.2 Timothy admonishes us to avoid such: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2Ti 3:1-5)
Should the church allow ministers to harbor covetousness as long as they don’t steal? Do we tolerate our brothers and sisters to harbor hatred and unforgiveness as long as they don’t murder? I was an alcoholic before I came to Christ. Popular secular philosophy would proclaim that I will always be an alcoholic, but that is not the gospel. I was delivered miraculously by God’s grace. I am no longer an alcoholic.I am redeemed! I am free! I am sanctified! This is God’s plan for all of His saints. There will be no drunkards, murderers, coveters, or sexual perverts or any other sort of sinner in the Kingdom of God. If we were to permit the sectarian division of the church by our sins it would be a shame. Are we going to allow alcoholics to remain in their sin and to proudly proclaim their sinful desire as long as they don’t drink?
We must welcome those who are in bondage to perverted desires, but we must not allow them to proudly proclaim the sin that is in their heart and continue to harbor that sin as if it is normal. They must seek counseling and deliverance privately as directed by the Holy Spirit and their shepherds. The love of Christ does not leave people in their sin.
“And when He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in Heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stood before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer. And many incenses were given to him, so that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints on the golden altar before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God from the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar, and cast it into the earth. And voices and thunderings and lightnings and an earthquake occurred.” (Rev 8:1-5)
There is silence in heaven, in dreadful anticipation, trembling suspense in view of judgment about to be poured out. The prayers of the saints are offered as a sacrifice on the altar. The altar pictured here is the altar of sacrifice situated before entry to the inner sanctuary. In response, the angel casts fire from heaven.
The context in revelation 8 is fires of judgment. The earth will undergo a baptism of fire. “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” [2Peter 3:7] The fires of judgment fall on those who reject God’s offer of mercy and refuse to repent. God’s merciful wrath is meant to drive men to their knees before it is too late. Fire has a purifying effect. It burns up anything impure. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.” (Malachi 3:2 MKJV)
There is also fire of purification and empowerment that comes upon those who do believe and repent. It is like the coal put to Isaiah’s lips. (Isa. 6:6) It is fire from the same altar. “And this word, ‘Yet once more,’ signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, so that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for also, ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’“ (Hebrews 12:27-29 MKJV) “each one’s work shall be revealed. For the Day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try each one’s work as to what kind it is.” (1 Corinthians 3:13 MKJV) This reminds us of the tongues of fire that fell on the disciples at Pentecost when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and power. Pentecost symbolizes more power, more grace. The empowering fire of His Spirit doesn’t come without the purifying fire. It’s the same fire! It has different results on different people. For people of faith who repent, the fire of God purifies and empowers. It brings life rather than death. For unbelievers who are stiff necked and refuse to repent, the fire of God consumes their destructible flesh. In the resurrection (yes, they get resurrected bodies too, see Rev. 20:5, 15), they burn forever because they are unable to be purified, having refused to conform their hearts and will to God’s love.
The fire is a response to the prayers of the saints. We pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” Do we really want to see revival? Do we really want souls redeemed? Do we really want to see God glorified? Then, we must have fire from heaven! If we want fire to fall from heaven, then all saints must pray. Our incense must reach the altar. Why do we worship? Why do we intercede? It is necessary to accomplish the commission and vision God has given us. It results in God being made manifest or glorified.
“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire. And those who had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are Your ways, O King of saints. Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You only are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your righteousnesses were made known. And after these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony was opened in Heaven.” (Revelation 15:2-5 MKJV)
This is true worship. Worship opens the way into the holy of holies, the place where we meet God. Worship begins with praise, thanks and adoration. To be passionate for God, one must be able to express emotion. We should worship because it comes from the heart. It must be more than just an act of the will. Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Mt. 15:8) David was passionate. He danced before God. His wife, Michal mocked him and was judged for it; she remained barren as a sign of her spiritual barrenness. The symbolism is obvious; there will be no fruit without passion. The Holy Spirit is restoring intimacy to our worship; there is a God orchestrated shift to songs like the Psalms directed to God as opposed to songs about Him as though He were not in our midst. Real passion for God should create new songs. New expressions of love and adoration are fresh bread to our spirits. We glorify God by enjoying Him. We should seek Him hedonistically like a thirsty deer seeks a stream, for the joy of knowing Him. Selfish interest for this kind of pleasure is a gift from God.
It’s not North Korean or Iranian nukes. It’s not Islamic terrorism or Central American gangs. It’s not having your job shipped overseas. It’s not Obamacare or losing your health insurance. It isn’t Donald Trump. It is the judgment of God on our nation.
You rarely hear about it on the “news”, but occasionally you might catch a nature show talking about Yellowstone or the San Andreas Fault in California. Yellowstone is a giant active volcano crater. The last eruption was the largest cataclysmic event in North America. You might be familiar with the red clay soil that paints a wide swath from Wyoming all the way to Texas and the Gulf coast. It came from Yellowstone and is discernible in satellite images. And scientists warn that it could blow at any moment, just like the San Andreas Fault. A magnitude 9.0 quake on that fault would kill millions in a matter of hours. If Yellowstone erupted in a similar way that it last did, Denver would be covered in ash in a matter of hours. There is no possible way that the population could escape in time. The same fate would fall upon Omaha, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Dallas in a few days. Bozeman and Casper would be obliterated almost instantly. This volcano dwarfs Mt. St. Helens. It would make a nuclear bomb look like a fire cracker in comparison.
I think the wrath of God is sometimes like a volcano. It may take many years because God is patient and forbearing with our sins. But, He is a God of justice and He has judged nations before. His judgment, when it comes, is swift and sure. Are we deserving of His judgment? Of course we are. And it might come at any moment. We are guilty, as a nation, of murdering more than 30 million innocent children. Our people, including our elected leaders and judges, even Christians have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of those defending the defenseless. Their blood cries out for justice. And infanticide isn’t our only sin. Pornography, fornication, adultery, prostitution and murder are rampant. 2 Timothy chapter 3 perfectly describes where we are as a nation, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” (2Ti 3:2-4) Our nation has exalted perversion. We could be judged at any moment.
Perhaps, what stays God’s wrath is that there are worshipping Christians in our land. Our churches are everywhere and they are full. It’s perplexing that there are so many Christians in our land and yet evil is pervasive. Has the salt lost its savor? Are our churches filled with phonies or are we blind? Great revivals are always characterized by social change for the better and an increased commitment to godly obedience by the populace. But we don’t see that in America today. For all of our evangelizing and conversions, we see no change in the culture. The culture continues to descend into the sewer. The church, Christians, need to change what they are doing, because what they are doing now isn’t working.
In contrast, the Great Reformation of the 18thcentury that birthed this nation was marked by widespread repentance among the people. It was sparked by a sermon delivered by Jonathan Edwards entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards called people to repentance. He identified sin for what it is, an affront to a holy God. He described sinners as hanging by a spider’s thread over the fiery pit of hell. The hearers shrieked out in fear. I doubt that such preaching would elicit a similar response today. People today would mock those repentant sinners as superstitious. We don’t fear God anymore. We‘re too sophisticated. It’s rare in American churches to hear about sin, judgment and hell today. The message that people have offended God and must repent has been replaced with “Jesus loves you.” Of course He does! That is why He went to the cross. But, that does not negate the need for people to understand their sinfulness. It is conviction of sin that leads people to receive the grace of God and repent.
John chapter 21 is an account of Jesus meeting His disciples by the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. Peter and the other disciples had decided to go fishing, which was his original profession. They fished all night and caught nothing. In the morning, Jesus appears on the shore and exhorts them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they do, they haul in a load of fish that they can barely handle and they recognize that it is Jesus on the shore. One explanation of the meaning of this is that Jesus, when He had first called them, told them that they would now be fishers of men. They had abandoned the calling of God and gone back to their old life and it was fruitless. We must heed God’s calling.
I think this passage has another message for us today. We are trying to be fishers of men and we are not catching very much. Jesus is saying, “Put your nets on the other side. Change what you are doing. Do it my way. Hear my voice.” We must be guided by the voice of the Holy Spirit if we expect to be fruitful.
As I was studying the scriptures on this subject I was reminded of the parable of the sower. Jesus talked about how the seed that fell on stony ground blew away and bore no fruit. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me that America has been paved over. Our soil is concrete! He said we need a jackhammer to break it up! There must be preaching about sin and hell and soon coming judgment.
I sought the scriptures for Jesus’ evangelistic approach. There are numerous examples in the gospels of Jesus doing power evangelism. People listen when someone gets healed or raised from the dead. Most of us don’t believe we can do that, but Jesus said that we could do greater things. He said that He only did what the Father was doing. You see, Colossians tells us that Jesus laid aside the prerogatives of deity and humbled Himself as a man. He only did miracles by obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit within Him that told Him what the Father was doing. We have that same Holy Spirit in us. He speaks, we must listen.
I also found an account of Jesus’ evangelism that did not involve miracles. It is told beginning in Mark 1:14 thru 1:17. Read the red, the words of Jesus. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” Now as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” (Mar 1:14-17) There it is. Let’s break it down and put it in modern vernacular:
The good news that God is in control, He is here and He rules.
Stop what you are doing (sinning).
Believe the good news of what God has done to forgive you and re-establish His rule here and now on earth
Follow Jesus. He will tell what you should do. He will do great things through you.
Do it in this order, don’t use old English or Christianese:
Time is up! The hearer must understand that it is urgent. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus didn’t say, “Think about it and we’ll talk tomorrow.” You can fall into judgment at any moment. Yellowstone is ready to blow. Your heart could stop this instant. You might get hit by a car. Remind them of that horror movie where people can’t escape death when their number is up. Moderns relate to movies.
God is in control, not Trump, not Putin, not ISIS, not the banks, not your boss. He is working all things together to put everything under Jesus’ dominion. (Eph 1:9)
Stop sinning. Tell them, “You are going the wrong way!” Just as in Trains, Planes and Automobiles, “don’t mock because there are two semis headed right for you.” The hearer must be told that their sin will soon lead to tragedy. We must call sin for what it is. We must preach sin and hell. Stop soft pedaling with your neighbor. If he blows you off, shake the dust off your feet.
Tell them the good news that Jesus paid the price for their sin and they need not suffer judgment. Not only that, but Jesus is going to restore Eden, there will be peace on earth when He sits on His earthly throne.
Tell them that they must listen to Jesus and do what He tells them to do. He wants them to have a part in building His new Kingdom.
Did you ever read or watch the “Left Behind” story? As a young Christian, I was raised on “dispensationalism”, a term which comes from the Bible referring to God’s timing and how He works differently at different times. We had it all figured out, just like the Jews of Jesus’ day. (But wait, they missed it! Are we?) According to what is known in theological circles as “literal Israel dispensationalism”, evil will increase until the end of the age when a seven year “great tribulation” will occur where a man possessed by Satan and known as the anti-Christ will come to power. This view is based upon scripture passages in 1Thessalonians, Jesus’ Olivet discourse in Matthew 24 and upon Old Testament prophesies in Jeremiah and Daniel. I Thessalonians chapter 4 relates how believers in Jesus will meet the Lord in the air as He descends from heaven at the end of the age. This event is referred to as the rapture. Some dispensationalists believe that the Church will be raptured before the start of the Great Tribulation spoken of by Jeremiah and Jesus. According to this view, before this time, Christians will be secretly raptured up to heaven and escape this time of tribulation which they believe to be appointed for the Jews as fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week or Jacob’s trouble from Jeremiah.
The “Left Behind” series is based upon this scenario. According to the “literal Israel dispensation” view, the Jews in Israel will reestablish temple worship and sacrifices in a rebuilt temple in accordance with a pact with the anti-Christ who will break that pact after three and one-half years. In the “Left Behind” scenario, many people, including many Jews, will turn to Christ during this great tribulation and suffer great persecution including martyrdom. Strangely, those who advocate this view teach that the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, in-dwelling believers, is what presently prevents the anti-Christ of Revelation from coming to power and that the Holy Spirit’s ministry through believers will leave this world at the rapture. But, the Bible teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who leads people to Christ. The obvious question arises: how will Jews be drawn to Christ during the tribulation if the Holy Spirit is absent?
Theologians who subscribe to this view interpret the Book of Revelation as a chronological account of the great tribulation. They see the Church age or age of grace since Calvary as the times of Gentiles. They believe that the Old Testament is the account of God’s dealings with the Jews, but believe that this dispensation is yet unfinished, and that a seven year tribulation remains for the Jews. This dispensational view is a relatively new doctrine. Its earliest roots can be traced to post reformation Catholic theologians who developed this theology in order to oppose the teaching of the reformers, including Luther, Calvin and Knox, who associated the institution of the papacy with the anti-Christ of scripture. Dispensational doctrine did not gain acceptance among Protestants until after 1830 as a result of a prophecy by a woman named Margaret McDonald who spoke of a secret coming of Christ for His church before the tribulation. The doctrine was spread by Charles Darby of the Plymouth Brethren.
Interestingly, the oldest or classical interpretation of Christ’s second coming teaches that the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the catching up of all believers to meet Him in the air will be immediately followed by His return to earth to rule for a millenium. (see W. Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1111)
Jesus promised that we would have tribulation in this life (John 16:33). In that sense, this entire age can be considered a time of tribulation. Tribulation, trials and persecution have always been the experience of God’s people. History proves that early Christians experienced persecution and martyrdom in the 2nd and 3rd c. AD. Today, Christians are dying for their faith in Indonesia, Sudan, N. Korea, Vietnam, and China. Jesus’ prayer was not that we would be taken out of world but that we would be kept from evil (Jn 17:15)
We need to be careful not to be deceived about some secret coming of Christ. We should not be fixed on a preconceived idea of the future and Christ’s return; no one knows the day when He will return, but we should be prepared at all times. We should not be deceived to think that we will never go through persecution or tribulation, great or small. We need to prepare our hearts that we might be faithful regardless of what cup God gives us to drink We can take great faith that Christ can miraculously deliver us or empower us to go through any persecution or tribulation. We’ll know it’s Him because we know Him and His word [we’ll meet Him in the air] not because he fulfills a predetermined set of circumstances.
Jesus spoke of the “Great Tribulation” in the Olivet discourse and He referenced Daniel the prophet. Many have correctly interpreted this tribulation to be a fulfillment of another prophecy by Jeremiah of a time known as “Jacob’s trouble” in which the people of Jacob (Jews?) would experience great tribulation. In Daniel chapter 9 we have the record of an interpretation of a vision that Daniel received. He is told that the vision applies to “his people.” Obviously, that would be the Jews. But, if this time of great tribulation that Jesus was speaking of is for Jews, when did it or will it occur? That is the key question. Is the Great Tribulation for the future, or is it fulfilled or is it continually unfolding even now?
Jesus spoke of His return in the Olivet discourse recorded in Mt. 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Jesus begins by issuing a warning: “don’t be deceived.” His disciples, along with most everyone of the time, were. They had assumed that the destruction of the temple that Jesus had just prophesied would occur in conjunction with the end of the age and the commencement of His earthly rule. They could not have been more deceived! The temple would be destroyed along with Jerusalem in 70 AD. Was the destruction Jesus spoke of the only time that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed? We don’t know, but the prophesies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel may speak of an end time destruction of a new temple that we have yet to see. We still await the end of the age and Christ’s return. Jesus gave a specific sign that the destruction of Jerusalem was about to take place. He called it the “abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel” (Mt. 24:14). In Luke 21:20, Jesus clearly predicted the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.” He was referring to a prophecy in Daniel 9 that is interpreted differently by dispensationalists, amilennialists and preterists. “Seventy weeks are decreed as to your people and as to your holy city, to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going out of the command to restore and to build Jerusalem, to Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks. The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in times of affliction. And after sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself. And the people of the ruler who shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. And the end of it shall be with the flood, and ruins are determined, until the end shall be war. And he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week. And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease, and on a corner of the altar desolating abominations, even until the end. And that which was decreed shall be poured on the desolator.” (Dan 9:24-27)
We must understand that one of the major rules of biblical interpretation is that the New Testament interprets the Old. So if the New Testament explains what Jesus meant when He used the term “abomination of desolation,” then that has to be the meaning of the term in Daniel. But Jesus only used that term in Matthew’s account. Matthew 24:6 and 14 record that Jesus was discussing signs of the end of the age. We know that the end of the age did not happen in 70 AD. Jesus makes it clear that the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel would occur at the end of the age shortly before His return. “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand). Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains. Let him on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house; nor let him in the field turn back to take his clothes. And woe to those who are with child, and to those who give suck in those days! But pray that your flight is not in the winter, nor on the sabbath day; for then shall be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days should be shortened, no flesh would be saved. But for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ! Or, There! Do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders; so much so that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they shall say to you, Behold, He is in the desert! Do not go out. Behold, He is in the secret rooms! Do not believe it. For as the lightning comes out of the east and shines even to the west, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered. And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the heavens. And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory.” (Mat 24:15-30)
In Luke 21:20 Jesus makes it clear that armies would surround Jerusalem and it would be destroyed. Jesus was answering questions about the destruction of Jerusalem. So Luke sees in Jesus’ message an accurate prediction of the destruction in 70 AD and perhaps also at the end of the age.
Be assured that if the Jews rebuild the temple prior to the return of Christ, it won’t be God’s temple. Believers in Christ are God’s temple today and forever. A rebuilt temple and animal sacrifices will be an abomination to God. Christ said, “it is finished.” The book of Hebrews makes it clear that “there no longer remains any sacrifice for sin.” (He 10:18) But, perhaps such an act of disobedience might be exactly why God permits the anti-christ to persecute the Jews. “And an army was given to him (anti-christ) against the daily sacrifice because of transgression, and it cast the truth to the ground. And it worked and succeeded.” (Dan 8:12) This might be the loving discipline of God, using evil as a tool to draw His people back to Himself.
All Christian theologians/historians agree that the first 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy were fulfilled up to the time of Christ. Dispensationalists put a 2000-year gap between the 69th and the 70th week. Jerusalem was restored. The streets were rebuilt in troubled times, the resistance mentioned by Ezra and Nehemiah. The Most Holy was anointed. Some translations are written as “Most Holy Place” in Daniel 9:24 and the Hebrew supports that. So the reference may be to the Holy of Holies and not a person.
Daniel 9:24 refers to a period of 490 years. Six things would be accomplished: “to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy (place).” Jesus sacrifice provides the means for these six promises to be accomplished, but, as George Ladd has said, “We live in the here and not yet.” The Kingdom of God is not yet fulfilled on the earth as it is in heaven. Sin and iniquity still happen. Everlasting righteousness will only come when Jesus returns.
Jesus first coming exactly fulfilled Daniel 9:25. From the decree to rebuild Jerusalem recorded in Nehemiah chapter 2 to 33 AD was 483 years. Daniel 9:26 records that Messiah would be cut off after 69 weeks. That means He had to be killed in the 70th week if one believes that the prophesy refers to one continuous period, or that He was crucified after the 69 weeks but not during the 70th week which is yet to occur if one accepts the dispensationalist view. Daniel says, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” Dispensationalists say that “he” refers to the anti-Christ and is a reference to the “prince to come.”
The classical, most prevalent, teaching of the church has been that believers will endure a time of tribulation when the anti-Christ persecutes the church. At the end of this time, Christ will return to rule on earth. As He returns, the dead in Christ will be raised first and then those of us who remain will be transformed and we shall all meet Him in the air. We shall immediately descend to earth with Him to conquer His enemies and rule for a thousand years.
Dispensationalists see the tribulation as a fulfillment of Dan 9:24-27 with a 2,000 year gap between the 69th and 70th week. Romans chapter 11 discusses God’s plan to graft the natural branches back into the vine of Christ. God is not done with the Jews. The promises of His covenant with Abraham and with Moses include dwelling in an eternal kingdom in the land of Israel. The prophesy of Daniel 9 remains to be finished.
The notion of a pre-tribulation rapture is easily refuted by scripture. 1Thessalonians 4:15 makes it clear that the dead in Christ will be raised or caught up before those who remain alive at Christ’s return. Rev 20:4-5 refers to the “first resurrection” [rapture] as including those who had been martyred during the “great tribulation”. “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:4-6)How could this be, if the rapture precedes the “great tribulation.” 1Thessalonians 4:17, referring to the resurrection of the dead who are in Christ, refutes a secret rapture in referring to “a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God.” A trumpet call is not a secret thing. In biblical culture, the trumpet call was sounded to proclaim a public feast, to sound the alarm for battle or to announce the coming of the King, all of which are done publicly and openly, not secretly. In fact, Jesus warned us not to believe any reports that He had come in secret. “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.” (Mark 13:21) The Bible says, “every eye will see Him.” (Revelation 1:7)
One of the dangers of this pre-tribulation view is that we indulge ourselves in escapism. This theology is really only popular in America, where escaping from problems is a way of life. How will people who have been indoctrinated into this theology respond if they are faced with persecution? Will they lose faith? There is also a danger of losing our focus on the great commission and preparing the earth to receive her King. If our focus is on how we are going to escape tribulation, we may ignore the call to evangelism, especially if it becomes costly.
If the pre-tribulation rapture doesn’t pan out it could set people up for disappointment. Many might fall away in disillusionment. The Bible warns of such an occurrence at the end of the age, before Christ’s return: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” (2Thess. 2:2-3). The scripture is referring to the day of Christ’s return and Paul is writing to tell them that they haven’t missed it.
Jesus promised that in this life we would endure tribulation. This age is the tribulation! The scripture is certain that the day of Christ’s coming will not occur until we see the “man of sin”. Paul clearly said that the anti-Christ would come before the resurrection and Christ’s return. Christians in this country are being massively deceived! They are being led to believe that they will be secretly raptured away before tribulation. What happens when they are disappointed? Then we shall see the massive falling away that the Bible warns of! We shouldn’t attempt to put God in a box of our own making. We could end up disappointed like the Jews of Jesus’ day.
I believe that this pre-tribulation rapture theory is the biggest mass deception foisted upon believers in all of history! The Bible never teaches any “secret” coming of Jesus for His people who happen to be Gentiles while the other part of His bride must endure tribulation. Jesus is not a polygamist. There will be no wedding feast until the whole Bride is in attendance. Jesus warned us not to believe anyone who proclaimed His coming in secret. Just the reverse, the scripture is very clear that at His second coming, “every eye shall see Him”. We shall all face Him in judgement.