THE END TIMES

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH ABOUT THE RAPTURE?

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Christians who disagree about the rapture often get caught up in semantics. Those who oppose the rapture often make the claim that the word “rapture” isn’t in the Bible. Those who embrace the rapture claim that the wordis taken from Latin, meaning caught up.

The problem with both of these arguments is that neither side actually addresses the teaching of scripture. The issue isn’t whether or not there is going to be a rapture (catching away) of the saints. The issue is the context into which we place this event, and our interpretation of what it really is.

For example, in dispensational premillennialism, the rapture is a secret escape (from tribulation) into Heaven for Christians and occurs separately from the second coming of Christ.

However, the Bible does not teach any such secret escape into Heaven for believers. The very things some Christians believe they are going to escape are the very things Christians have suffered throughout history. In fact, there are Christians living in the world today who are suffering the very things that some Christians think they are going to avoid via the rapture.

In all honesty, the rapture theology that some Christians have embraced couldn’t be preached or taught as the truth in some parts of the world, because the current suffering of the people would disprove it as false.

Furthermore, Paul says “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” This is a reference to believers whose souls are now in Heaven. Many of them have been in the presence of the Lord in Heaven for hundreds of years, and many have been there a thousand years or more. There is absolutely nothing in this world they would need to escape via a rapture.

Therefore, if the rapture is about “escaping tribulation” then it is only applicable to those who will be living on earth at the coming of the Lord. In no way does it apply to the saints who will rise from the dead – there is no tribulation they need to escape!

This is problematic from a doctronial standpoint because the very things that Christians think they are going to escape via their version of the rapture are the very things that many of the “dead in Christ” have already endured in their lifetime and suffered in their deaths.

The event described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 (referenced above) is not a secret escape from the troubles of this world. Instead, it is the promised resurrection of the saints which occurs at the coming of Christ.

Paul is teaching that at the coming of the Lord, those who have died in Christ and are with the Lord now in Heaven, will come with him, and their dead bodies will be raised to life (even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him ~ v 14).  The promised resurrection of the saints occurs at the second coming of Christ, and that is why we who are “alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord”  will also experience the resurrection of our bodies.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:15

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:51-53

No where in any of his letters does Paul ever advocate a “secret escape” from the troubles of this world, nor does any other New Testament writer. In fact, Paul testified of his much suffering for the name of Christ, and boasted in God’s grace which enabled him to endure such persecution and suffering.

Consider Paul’s list of the things he suffered:

… in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was  I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:23-33

The truth is, Paul never taught those who were under his ministry to look for an escape from troubles and tribulation in this world, but rather to endure such from Christ’s sake.

Ironically, in 1 Thessalonians 3, only one chapter before chapter 4 which is interpreted as “escape tribulation” in dispensational premillennialism, Paul says the following:

Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 

Those who advocate a secret escape interpretation from Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4, will sometimes argue that at the rapture Jesus is coming for his saints, and at his second coming he is coming with his saints. Yet Paul’s desire for the Thessalonians is that their hearts would be blameless in holiness before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

Since we know that Paul desired the Thessalonians to be prepared for the coming of Jesus with all his saints, we can be certain that Paul is not teaching them about a secret escape  in the very next chapter which supposedly would occur some 7 years prior to the event he wanted them prepared for.

No where does the New Testament teach that there will be a secret rapture prior the the second coming of Christ. Nowhere! 

According to Paul, the second coming of Christ and our gathering to him will resemble that which occurred in ancient times when a King who had journeyed to a far away land returned. The citizens under his ruler-ship would go outside the city or country to meet him and escort him back into the country. This is what Paul is alluding to in 1 Thessalonians 4, and it is just one piece of the prophetic puzzle regarding how events will unfold at the coming of the Lord.

In 1 Thessalonians 3 (cited above) Paul encourages the believers in Thessalonica to endure tribulation and persevere in faith, while offering prayers for them. He then says, “to the end he (God) may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. ~ v. 13

This is consistent with Peter’s description of how believers should live holy and godly lives in anticipation of the second coming of Christ. Please note that there is no secret escape for believers prior to the coming of Christ in Peter’s message.

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. ~ 2 Peter 3:1-14

According to Peter, we are not to be looking for an escape route, rather we are looking for the new heavens and new earth when Christ returns. When the day of the Lord comes, the judgment of the ungodly will commence, and the new heavens and new earth will be ushered in. For this reason we are to live holy and godly lives looking for the coming of that day!

This agrees with the words of John:

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he isAnd every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. ~ 1 John 2:28-3:3

John encourages holiness in expectation of the coming of Christ, just as Peter does. Peter also says the following in same context of the coming of the day of the Lord.

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. ~ v. 15-17

Peter mentions Paul’s letters as“speaking in them of these things” – a reference to the very things which Peter had just written regardingthe coming of the Day of the Lord. 

It is unfortunate that there are Christian interpretations which have turned the glorious resurrection of the saints into a secret escape from the wickedness of this world rather than victory over it at the coming of Christ.  When Christ comes, we who have believed and trusted in Jesus will experience the resurrection of our mortal bodies. There will be no need to escape the things over which we triumph in Christ, through the resurrection of our bodies!

The testimony of the scripture is that the glorious (rapturous) and triumphant resurrection of the saints will happen when the Lord comes to judge the ungodly.  The world will be judged, and Christ will be glorified in us. Consider Paul’s description of this:

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:7-2:2

Paul’s view of the coming of Christ and the resurrection of the saints is in agreement with Peter’s account of the day of the Lord. It is not in agreement with those who teach that Paul believed in a “secret escape” from tribulation.

Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4 have nothing to do with “escape tribulation.” Paul is describing the resurrection of the saints which the Bible places at the time of the second coming of Christ, at which time the ungodly will be judged and the new heavens and new earth with be ushered in.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THE CHURCH AGE?

Is the concept of “the church age” taught within the Bible? It may surprise you that there is not a single text in scripture which mentions a church age which will come to an end during the time of the second coming of Christ.

Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord… ~ Ephesians 3:4-11

God’s eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus is that Jews and Gentiles be united into one family through Jesus Christ. Paul refers to this union as the church. There in no such thing in scripture as a “Gentile church”. There were congregations to which Paul’s ministry served that consisted of mostly Gentiles because they were in areas heavily populated with Gentiles, but never is the church identified as a Gentile entity in the New Testament. The church is always those from among the Jews and Gentiles who are united into one family in Christ Jesus.

The concept of the “church age” is predicated on the idea that the New Testament church is a Gentile entity. This is a faulty premise for the church is not a Gentile entity. The church began with Jewish followers of Jesus who took the gospel message, first to the Jews, then to the whole world.

According to the apostle Paul, God will be glorified in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.~ Ephesians 3:20-21

If you are waiting for the church age to expire so God can get back to separating the Jews from the Gentiles, it’s not going to happen. God is going to be glorified in the Church (the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ) throughout all ages.

Many “prophecy experts” claim that God has a separate plan for Israel than for the church even though the church is a Jewish concept and was established on the message of the Jewish apostles who were sent by Jesus to proclaim the gospel. It is Gentiles who are grafted into the Jewish message that Jesus is the Messiah, and not the other way around. Jews are not grafted into a Gentile entity when they believe the gospel. Rather Gentiles are grafted into the family of Abraham through faith in Jesus.

The New Testament does not teach that God will revert back to national Israel with an Old Testament stylistic system of worship after he brings an end to the “Gentile church age.” This concept is foreign to the gospel revealed in the New Testament.

Those who teach  a return to the law for the Jew after the so-called church age, claim that God has unfulfilled promises to Israel which does not include the church. No such doctrine withstands the cross examination of the New Testament.

The church consisting of Jews and Gentiles is the plan that was hidden in God during Old Testament times when Israel was under the Mosaic covenant.

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel…~ Ephesians 2:11-3:6

The dispensation of the grace of God is not the dispensation of the Gentile church age as some may think. It is the dispensation of grace in which Gentiles are made fellow heirs with the Jews to whom the promises of redemption were given. 

Israel’s prophets had prophesied of Israel’s redemption in terms they could understand, yet the full revelation of those prophesies was hidden in a mystery, and were not fully revealed until after the Holy Spirit was given on he Day of Pentecost. Paul describes the hidden plan of God (Jews and Gentiles united as one family in Christ) as the mystery of Christ, and says it was not made known in other ages as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (a reference to the apostles and ministers of Christ to whom the message of the gospel was entrusted after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus).

Christian Zionists claim that they believe in the literal interpretation of the promises made to Israel even through the apostle Peter, a man who walked with Jesus and was personally trained by Jesus, said, “the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” ~ 1 Peter 1:10-11

If the very prophets who spoke for God could not fully understand intellectually the full meaning of their messages from God, why do Christian Zionists think anyone ought to be able to read the prophecies given by the prophets to Israel and plainly understand them?

After his resurrection, Jesus had to open the understanding of his disciples so they could understand the prophetic scriptures which testified of him, even though they had walked with Jesus and been trained by him for 3 – 3.5 years ~ See Luke 24

God’s plan concerning Israel’s redemption was hidden in a mystery. Being hidden implies that it can not understood by human intellect, but requires the revelation of the Spirit of God.

Who then has the authoritative interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies given to Israel? It is the apostles who gave us the New Testament scriptures. Let’s consider 3 examples from the New Testament which interpret the prophecies given to Israel. There are more examples in the New Testament, but these will suffice for now.

First, in the gospel of Luke, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied by the Holy Spirit the following words about Jesus:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an Horn of Salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began… ~ Luke 1:68-70

Notice that Zacharias says, “God has visited and redeemed Israel,” and claims this was testified by God’s holy prophets since the beginning of the world.

The redemption of Israel is not something in waiting. According to the prophecy given by Zacharias, Israel’s redemption has already come through Jesus Christ. Zacharias also prophesied to John the Baptist (only 8 days old) saying, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby The Day spring from on high hath visited us.” ~ Luke 1:76-78 .

Remember these words were spoken in an entirely Jewish context in view of God’s promised redemption for Israel.

Now consider another example from the book of Acts. The apostle Peter preaching to his Jewish brethren said the following:

But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. ~ Acts 3:18-19

Notice that Peter tells his Jewish brethren to repent and be converted. Is this the message of modern day Zionism? No it isn’t. The Zionist narrative claims that God has a separate plan for Israel than for the church, yet Peter tells his Jewish kinsmen to to repent and be converted. Peter continues:

And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. ~ Acts 3:20-23

Notice the similarities between Peter’s words (which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his prophets since the world began) and the words of Zacharias’s prophecy (As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began…)

Both Zacharias before the birth of Jesus, and Peter after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, declare that the God’s words through the prophets to Israel are fulfilled in the the person of Jesus Christ in relation to his first coming.

Peter tells his fellow Jews that Moses prophesied to Israel that God would raise up a prophet like himself who would be the leader of Israel. John the Baptist was asked by the religious establishment in Israel if he was “that prophet.” He denied that he was and declared that Jesus is.

The message of the New Testament to the people of Israel is that Jesus is the prophet that Moses said would come and all who will not listen to that prophet would be cut off from God’s people. In Acts 7 Stephen declared the following as he testified of Jesus before the Sanhedrin: Moses, …said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us… ~ Acts 7:37-38

Note that Stephen refers to Israel in the wilderness as “the church in the wilderness.” The church is not a New Testament concept. 

Now lets continue with Peter’s words to the Jews in Acts 3.

Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. ~ Acts 3:18-26

Now the words of Paul from Acts 13:

Of this man’s seed (King David’s seed) hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead: And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. ~ Acts 13:23-39

Even though Paul says to the Jews that they would be justified through Jesus by faith and that they could not be justified by the law of Moses, Christian Zionists and their prophecy experts preach a futuristic plan of God that brings them back under the law with a fabricated temple service and animal sacrifices that God clearly says in scripture he takes no pleasure in.

Now notice the next two verses which are critical to the point that is being made in this teaching.

Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. ~ v. 40-41

The apostle Paul does not preach another alternative to the his Jewish brethren after the flesh. He gives them a stern warning from the prophets. While the prophecy experts within Christian Zionism claim that God has another plan for modern day Israel because he has unfulfilled promises to them spoken through the prophets, the apostle Paul says otherwise, claiming that God has fulfilled his promise to Israel by the resurrection of Jesus.

Paul cites the warning of destruction which was given by prophets to Israel which should come on all within Israel who refused to believe the gospel. Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, and their redemption has already come through Jesus, now they are required to believe the gospel. No rebuilt temple with animal sacrifice will led them to God. They must believe the gospel and be grafted back into their tree of which the root is Jesus, who is also the foundation of the church (Jews and gentiles in one family) with no end.

THE MARK OF THE BEAST

Difficult times often bring out the worst in people as well as the best in others. Unfortunately, difficult times also brings out deeply rooted fears that even good people have been convinced to believe. One of those is a fear of the infamous Mark of the Beast.

Recently, at a Texas protest over issues regarding the coronavirus, there was a banner that said, “TEXAS WILL NOT TAKE THE MARK OF THE BEAST”. Among other things written on the banner was the words, “vaccine, chip, ID 2020”.

This banner has made headlines and has become a source of mockery as some have allowed the events surrounding the coronavirus to bring out their worst fears. Such fears are the by-product of conspiracy theories and end time scenarios which are not aligned with the sound teachings of scripture.

The fears that people have regarding the “end times” often runs parallel with their political views, as the banner mentioned above proves, saying, “Texas will not take the Mark of the Beast.” Yet Texas is a State with nearly 30 million people and not all Christian. If there is a Mark of the Beast soon to be implemented (I say this to get a point across), these protesters seem to think they can impose their the decision regarding the Mark of the Beast on their fellow Texans. Where do they get such notions?

In Scripture, the Mark of the Beast is not something on a ballot box that people vote on, such as being implemented in Arkansas, but not in Texas. Again, Where do people get such ideas?!

One commenter on a you tube video made the following statement:

Amen! Glad people are waking up!!! This IS the beginning of the mark of the beast system AND glad Texas is awake. Wish WA State would wake the heck up too! Next will be a one world government and then one currency. This is ALL tied together.

Notice that this commentator’s view of the Mark of the Beast has nothing to do with sin and righteousness, Christians and non Christians. Instead, it is entirely political.  

The truth is, such public displays as that in the Texas protest weaken our witness for Christ. This is why I believe the greatest need within American Christianity is sound, wholesome doctrine. I can’t stress that enough. Consider the following from Jesus’s sermon on the Mount:

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. ~ Matthew 5:13

Jesus did not say this in view of taking a stand on political issues, or enforcing our morality on society through political stances. Instead, he says it in view of what is often referred to as the B-Attitudes. When the world sees people with the traits of those Jesus describes as poor in spirit, pure in heart, meek, peacemakers, etc., there is saltiness in our witness of Christ. The world can then “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Christ is exalted in the eyes of the world not by a political church, but a humble church.

Without getting into a discussion as to the timeline of the book of the Revelation, and whether or not the Mark of the Beast is past or future,  literal or figurative, lets just look at the text as it is written and see if it matches the fears people generally have.

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. ~ Revelation 13:16-18

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. ~ Revelation 14:9-12

Notice that the Mark of the Beast is not  a vaccine to combat a virus to help people. The mark is specifically associated with those who worship the beast rather than God. Now consider the following from Revelation 15:

And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that 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 marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest. ~ Revelation 15:1-4

The Mark of the Beast specifically applies to that which demands worship in opposition to the Living God. Now notice the following from Revelation 16:

And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. ~ Revelation 16:1-9

Notice that judgment was poured out on (1) men who had received the mark of the beast (2) the sea (3) the rivers and fountains of water (4) the sun. The men in this section were those who had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. They are the ones which are referred to at the end: “and they repented not to give him glory.”

According to the text, the Mark of the Beast is not something that people deceptively receive against their will.  It is a mark that has to do with unrepentance towards God, opposition to God and worship of the beast, which opposes God. There also seems to be the inference that forgiveness is offered, but the people who have the mark are so given over to the beast they refuse to repent – “and they repented not to give him glory.”

The deeply rooted fear that the Mark of the Beast is something that even good people are going to be hoodwinked into accepting, and thus eternally doomed with no recourse, simply has no Biblical basis. That anyone would actually think that Christians who love Jesus with all their heart will be tricked by the government into taking a vaccination for a virus, and consequently condemned to hell is nothing less than superstition. 

Such fears are not built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” ~ Romans 10:11

Many of the ideas that people have concerning the Mark of the Beast are founded solely on conspiracy theories and superstitions. Its unfortunate that people live in such fear as they interpret a literal mark from a symbolic beast, while believing the mark is something other than what is literally is in the text.

The truth is, no one, and I mean no one, truly knows how events regarding the coming of the Lord will all shake out. No one figured God out with the first coming of Christ, and no one will with his second coming either. It is in vain that men calculate and conspire and develop plans of how Bible prophecy will unfold before the return of Christ.

The truth is, they simply do not know, because God does not connect all the dots for us. He simply gives us signs and warnings and expects us to trust him.

The apostle Peter tells us that the things which pertain to the coming of the Day of the Lord are hard to understand. It should be noted, that some think Peter is referring to Paul’s writings when he makes this statement, but Peter is actually referring to eschatology which Paul had also addressed in his letter to Peter’s audience.

It is my firm conviction that the apostle Peter gives us the outline we need for how we are to live in expectation of the coming of the Lord.

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior.: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these thingsin which are some things hard to be understoodwhich they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. ~ 2 Peter 3: 1-18

May I encourage you today to lay aside all the end time scenarios, plots, and conspiracies that you have been taught and embrace the words of the apostle Peter, and actually breath a sigh of relief. Jesus is coming, so live for him and stop worrying whether a vaccine might have a chip that would send you to hell.

The ungodly will be ungodly and even mock the promise of the coming of judgment, but God is merciful not willing that any should perish and patiently gives them time to repent. However, the Day of the Lord will come, and when it comes it will come suddenly, unexpectedly, as a thief. So knowing this, live holy and godly lives looking for the New Heavens and New earth wherein righteousness reigns.

MY TWITTER DIALOGUE WITH A PREACHER WITH BAD END TIME DOCTRINE.

Recently, I found myself in a dialogue with a minister who expressed the view that the United States should deport immigrants to stop the “anti-Christ system” from being implemented. He seemed more concerned about his end time theology than the real lives of people. In my original tweet, I said the following:

Pro-life or pro-birth? If we are truly “pro-life”, why aren’t we concerned for the life of those who were not aborted, like the 19 yr old DACA immigrant who has grown up and lived in the USA since 1 year old. Imagine the terror he/she feels at the thought of being deported.

Many people make an issue of abortion, while not showing the same concern for those who were not aborted. If we are truly going to be pro-life, let’s care about the actual lives of those who were not aborted. To be clear, I am completely opposed to abortion, so don’t miss my point.

Here is the dialogue that ensued:

WOF Preacher: Because nations mean something.  God instituted Nations.  One global nation is Anti-christ.  Acts 17 Rev 5.  What wrong with making their country great?

My Response : So deporting someone who has grown up in this country, & loves this country makes America great? Acts 17 & Rev 5 does not support your position. Maybe you should consider the compassion of Jesus rather than fearing the Anti-Christ.

WOF Preacher: You’re the one going against the word of God.  He is the one who set nations in order.  You disagree with God, not me.

My Response: No, I am not going against the word of God. I can expound on the the Word of the Lord. You are twisting verses to fit your political views. Go learn what God commanded Israel with regards to how they were to treat foreigners who were not native born.

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. ~ Leviticus 19:34

Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. ~ Deuteronomy 10:19


WOF Preacher: You don’t have a clue.  Out of the mouth of 2-3 witnesses.  The word Nation means something.. You’re the one taking a verse out of context.

My Response: There is not a single witness in all of scripture which teaches us to be hard hearted against young people who are immigrants who grew up in this country.

Acts 17 is not a “proof-text” for terrorizing young people by deporting them. It has absolutely “nothing” to do with supporting immigrants. You have read your our political ideas into the text.

WOF Preacher: It’s a proof text that God doesn’t want nations to allow themselves to be taken over. And it’s against the anti-christ spirit of globalism. Maybe you just don’t know enough.

Strangers go back to live in their own country. Like visitors.

My Response: You really think Paul was preaching against globalism when he was preaching to the pagan men of Athens? Unreal!

You are so fixated on the anti-Christ through globalism, yet the Bible reveals that the spirit of anti-Christ denies the Father and the Son. You have repeatedly side stepped Paul’s preaching the gospel of Christ in Acts 17 in favor of your “global anti-Christ” ideology.

WOF Preacher: U just don’t believe the way God believes about nations.  That’s all. And you conflate..

My Response: How is that you don’t understand that Jesus had ancestors who were immigrants who were shown kindness? Ruth the Moabite is one example.

WOF Preacher: How many Ruth’s were there? Who said don’t show them kindness?  But they belong to their nation.  What’s wrong with their nation?  Why can’t they go back and change their nation? History must be your weakness.

My Response: History supports my position, because immigrants help make this country great.  If a 20 year old came here when he was 6 months old, and this country is all he knows, this is home to him. I marvel at your hardness and attitude.

WOF Preacher: Hardness. About that goose? How many Ruths were with Naomi?  And Now we know you are deficient in history. But Acts 17 is staring you in the face. and you are on the side of the anti-christ by posturing for globalism. Sorry.

MY Response: If a 20 year old DACA immigrant who had grown up in your church, came to you in tears seeking your prayers and support that God would make a way for her to stay, even though the President wanted to deport her, your response would be…????

WOF Preacher: You would encourage people to break the law?  Have you never read Romans 13?

My Response: At one time slavery was the law, but that did not make it right in God’s eyes and abortion is currently legal. Are you going to take the same “its law” position with abortion? And yes, I teach Romans 13

You, a Pastor, saying this is a “proof text” to support a view of “nationalism” and calling it the Word of God. Wow! In Acts 17 Paul is not talking about the antiChrist spirit of globalism, or national boundaries. Paul is preaching God as creator of all men in view of the gospel.

WOF Preacher: Who said he was?

My Response: The text in context.

WOF Preacher: Who said anything about treating them badly.  But their country is their own country.  And they should go back home.

My Response: How is allowing young people (DACA Immigrants, who grew up in the United States) to live (here) in their home land, a take over against our nation? God did not teach Israel to think that way under the Law, and Israel was the only Theocracy in history.

WOF Preacher: It ain’t their homeland. You already said they were strangers.

My Response: If they have lived here all their life, and is all they know, this is their home. How would you like to be deported to a country you know nothing about and told “start over”! Your position as one who should stand for Christ, is appalling.

WOF Preacher: U r a professional conflator. Unreasonable

My Response: No, I am a Christian who loves Jesus and honors God’s Word, but you insult me for telling you the truth. Paul is not preaching “nationalism”. He’s on a missionary journey preaching the gospel to pagans. That is contextually what’s happening.

WOF Preacher: if you feel insulted that’s your problem. you keep denying that God set Nations in order with boundaries. Why? And Revelation 5. nations. even in the millennium there are NATIONS.  Why do you not want nations.

My Response: This is unbelievable. You have literally taken a text which speaks of the redeemed of the Lord from every nation before the Throne of God in Heaven and use it as a “proof text” for your deportation political position.  That is repulsive!

My Response: With regards to your insults, it speaks to the weakness of your position that you have to revert to insults.

Your description on your twitter page says, :Preaching the Liberating Word of Faith Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!”  You may want to take that down because you pervert Paul’s gospel message in Acts for your “political” advantage.

You are so fixated on the Anti-Christ through globalism, yet the Bible reveals that the spirit of anti-Christ denies the Father and the Son. You have repeatedly side stepped Paul’s preaching the gospel of Christ in Acts 17 in favor of your “global anti-Christ” ideology.

Conclusion:

This conversation was very troubling to me but speaks volumes to the effects that “nationalism” can have on one’s interpretation of scripture. This minister, like many others, associates the anti-Christ with “globalism”, rather than sin and unrighteousness in the hearts of those who oppose Christ. It truly is amazing how much “end time conspiracy theories” are based on American economics and politics.

The greatest safeguard against misinterpretation of scripture and espousing conspiracy theories about the end times, is to have sound doctrine in all areas of scripture.

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. ~ 2 Timothy 2:19-26

WILL THERE BE ANIMAL SACRIFICES IN THE MILLENNIUM?

There are some who teach that when Christ returns there will also be a return to the offering of animal sacrifices for a thousand years. This assumption is based predominantly on Ezekiel’s temple vision (Ezekiel 40 – 48). Advocates of this theological view interpret Ezekiel’s temple vision as a literal future temple from which Christ will reign.

However, there is absolutely nothing in the New Testament to support such claims. In fact, such ideology undermines the finished work of Jesus Christ because the sacrifices that Ezekiel references include the sin and trespass offerings and are said to be for atonement. ~ Ezekiel 45:17 see also 42:13 and 45:23

Listed below are some objections to this theological view. 

1. A return to animal sacrifices would be apostate.

A return to animal sacrifices after coming to the knowledge of Christ was considered apostate at the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews, and is referred to by the author of Hebrews as dead works, from which we are cleansed by the blood of Christ. ~ Hebrews 9:1-14

Why would God reinstate the very things from which the writer of Hebrews says the blood of Christ has cleansed us?

2. The sacrifices of animals were carnal ordinances administered by a priesthood which has been annulled. ~ Hebrews 7:16-19; 9:10

The author of Hebrews expounds on the ministry of Jesus as High Priest in contrast to the priests who served under the law. He tells us that if Jesus were on earth he would not be a priest because those priests (who serve in the earthly temple) offer gifts and sacrifices according to the Law.

Christ’s ministry as high priest is through his blood in the Heavenly tabernacle (in the presence of God in the Heavens) and not in an earthly tabernacle or temple with the blood of animal sacrifices.

Jesus has been appointed priest forever and is mediator of an everlasting covenant which was established by his blood.

3. The sacrifice of animals could not open the way into the true holiest of all. 

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing... ~ Hebrews 9:6-8

4. Animal sacrifices were imposed on the people until the time of reformation (until Christ came and secured our permanent redemption).

Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. ~ Hebrews 9:9-10

For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. ~Hebrews 7:19

5. Animals sacrifices served only as a shadow of good things which were yet to come and could not take away sins. ~ Hebrews 9:6-9; 10:1-4

The sacrifices under the Law were repeated over and over again and were a continual reminder that sin had not been permanently dealt with.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. ~ Hebrews 10:1-4

Notice that the author of Hebrews tells us that the sacrifices of animals “would not have ceased to be offered” if they could have taken away sins. However, it is not possible for the blood of animals to take away sin. 

6. Everything that Ezekiel saw was visionary in view of the pattern given to Moses.  

A careful examination of Ezekiel’s temple vision reveals that his vision was predicated on the instructions given to Moses for building the tabernacle and in accordance with the instructions given in the Law regarding the service therein.

When God gave to Moses the pattern for the tabernacle, God instructed Moses to make all things according to the pattern given to him: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. ~ Hebrews 8:5

The tabernacle made by Moses, was only a type and a shadow of the true tabernacle in Heaven, and the service carried out in it was to be done according to the Law.

According to the book of Hebrews, Jesus is the high Priest of the true tabernacle in Heaven, and the author of Hebrews refers to this as the better and more perfect tabernacle not made with human hands.

It is in this tabernacle in the Heavens that Christ is enthroned as King, and mediates as High Priest of a better covenant.

The author of Hebrews tells us: For there is verily an annulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. ~ Hebrews 7: 18-19

The commandment referenced here, which has been annulled, is the command regarding the priesthood by which animal sacrifices were offered. This includes all the details regarding the priests and the animal sacrifices in Ezekiel’s vision, for those priests were to be ordained “according to the Law.”

7. The priesthood of Jesus will never include animal sacrifices.

The author of Hebrews tells us that if Jesus were on earth he would not be a priest because those priests offer gifts and sacrifices according to the Law.

Jesus was made priest by the call of God and not by the Law. Animal sacrifices were offered by those priests who were ordained by the Law, but Christ has obtained a more excellent ministry by which he is the mediator of a better testament.

Christ’s ministry as high priest is through his blood and not the blood of animal sacrifices.

8. Jesus is not the priest of God in Ezekiel’s temple vision. The sons of Zadok are.

Interpreting Ezekiel’s temple vision as a millennial temple is contrary to the teachings of the New Testament which reveals that Jesus has an eternal priesthood. The sons of Zadok, were of the tribe of Levi just as the sons of Aaron were, and in Ezekiel’s temple vision they are consecrated in the same manner in which Aaron and his sons were consecrated in Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8. They also wear the same priestly garments instructed for the priests in the law of Moses. The sons of Zadok are required to follow the same regulations which were given to the sons of Aaron.

Again, it is important to emphasize that the writer of Hebrews tells us that this priesthood has been annulled!

Furthermore, the New Testament teaches that believers in Christ Jesus are the holy priesthood ~ 1 Peter 2:5, and are called a royal priesthood ~ 1 Peter 2:9.

Revelation 1:6, and 5:9 in the KJV says “kings and priests” but a more accurate rendering is a “kingdom of priests.” Those who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus are the kingdom of priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God well pleasing through Jesus Christ. ~1 Peter 2:5-9

Also consider that those who reign with Christ for a thousand years, and are part of the first resurrection are “priests of God.”

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. ~ Revelations 20:4-6

Are these priests who were redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and overcame the beast by their faithfulness to Jesus coming back to offer animal sacrifices?  A thousand times, no!

9. God never desired animal sacrifices. ~ Isaiah 1:11-14; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Psalm 40:7-9; Micah 6:7-8; Psalm 51:18-19; Hebrews 4:10-9

Animal sacrifices gave God no pleasure because those sacrifices had no power to take away sins. On the contrary, they were a continual reminder of sin: But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. ~ Hebrews 10:3-4

The theology of a return to animal sacrifices would constitute a return to that which never truly pleased God and which God never truly desired. God’s desire is found in Jesus for Jesus fulfilled all the will of God by his perfect submission and obedience to God.

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. ~ Hebrews 10:5-10

Jesus came as it was written of him in the volume of the book. The volume of the book is a reference to the testimony of Jesus within the scriptures. Ezekiel is a part of this witness. The temple which Ezekiel saw was given to provoke the generation of the Exiles to whom Ezekiel was a prophet and priest. It wasn’t something which was predicted some 2500 – 3000 years or more, into the future. The details in Ezekiel’s temple vision serve only as a type and shadow with regards to Christ. 

The theology of animal sacrifices in the millennium does not testify of Jesus. According to the actual details given in Ezekiel’s temple vision, there would be a building again of those things Christ destroyed if the priesthood according to the law with animal sacrifices were reinstated.

10. A temple that would have been but never was. 

Ezekiel was a priest by blood lineage and also a prophet. This temple vision was given to Ezekiel to make the people of Israel ashamed of their sins. ~ Ezekiel 43:10, 11

If Ezekiel’s temple would have been built it would have been a testament that Israel could overcome sin apart from the mediation of Jesus Christ, for it was the temple God would have given them to serve him forever! Israel would haveserved God, but in their own strength, because in this temple, they would have continued to be separated from the holy presence of God, of which the Jesus’s blood has now given us access.

And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places. In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever. Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquitiesand let them measure the patternAnd if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them. This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house. ~ Ezekiel 43:7-12

The temple in Ezekiel’s vision is a temple that would have been but never was because of the sins of Israel and their priests. Had Israel met the conditions which God set forth, the temple described in Ezekiel’s vision would have been forever, and not for a thousand years. ~ Ezekiel 43:7-10

11. God’s presence would be separated from his people. 

In Ezekiel’s temple, the Holy presence of God would have continued to be separated from the people, and particularly from the Levites because of their past sins. According to the New Testament, Jesus has removed the separation between God and his people and we now have unhindered access to God through the blood of Jesus. ~ Hebrews 10:19-22; Ephesians 2:13, 18

12. Why?

Depending on who you listen to, there are different conclusions reached as to“why” animal sacrifices would be offered in the millennium. Some proponents claim they will only be offered as a memorial, even though Ezekiel makes no such claim. In the temple vision given to Ezekiel, the sacrifices are offered for the same purpose for which they were given in the book of Leviticus: for sanctification, reconciliation, purity, and atonement for sins.

If we interpret Ezekiel’s temple vision as a literal temple for the service and worship of the Living God in the millennial, we have a millennium without the cross of Christ, without the blood of Christ, without the intercessory ministry of Jesus our Great High Priest, and without the message of the gospel.

Remember, Jesus is not the priest of God in Ezekiel’s temple vision. The sons of Zadok are. That one statement alone should end all debate on this topic!

One notable teacher on the topic makes the claim that sacrifices will be offered in the millennium to protect God’s glory in the temple. Yet, the New Testament teaches us that God’s glory is fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is brightness of God’s glory and the express image of his person. Paul tells us in Colossians that all the fullness of the Godhead is present in Jesus.

Some claim that the sacrifices will be reinstituted as object lessons to teach the people living in the millennium what Christ has done in his death.  This rationale fails miserably when we consider that for 2000 years the gospel of Christ has been sufficient for leading men to salvation. How is it that suddenly when Christ is physically present in all of his glory, we will need animal sacrifices?

One has to wonder if those who teach that Ezekiel’s temple vision is a yet future and a literal temple, actually read the details given in Ezekiel’s temple vision.

13. Physical circumcision would be a necessity for relationship with God. 

Ezekiel’s temple is one in which physical circumcision is required to approach God ~ Ezekiel 44:9.

This is problematic, because Paul tells us: in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love ~ Galatians 5:6.

Paul also says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. ~ Galatians 3:28

The Law of Moses, which was physical Israel’s covenant, made a distinction regarding Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female.

Under ancient Israel’s covenant with God, the sign of the covenant was in the male’s flesh, and not in the woman’s. Women did not have the same status as men under the Law of Moses, and neither did the slaves as the free.

If Ezekiel’s temple vision is a future millennial temple, we will have a millennial in which women do not have the same covenant status as men.

According to the apostle Paul, the old covenant which employed the temple service, the Levitical priesthood, and animal sacrifices, has no relevance now that Christ has come. All distinction regarding covenant status has been annulled. In Christ all the children of God are ONE!

14. The middle wall of partition would be erected.

In Ezekiel’s Temple Vision, the middle wall of partition which separated Jews and Gentiles (the circumcision and the uncircumcision), is still standing.  Yet Paul tells us that Jesus removed this middle wall of partition. If Ezekiel’s temple vision is a literal temple pertaining to the future, we now have a millennium in which Jews and Gentiles are no longer one in Christ, and the middle wall of partition which Christ remove by his death has been erected.

If this is so, then the finished work of Christ will be invalidated in the millennium. Paul says in Galatians, “if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” A millennium with animal sacrifices would be a transgression against the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

15. Christ and his finished work would be undermined.

If Ezekiel’s temple were truly a literal millennial temple as some claim, we now have a millennium in which (1) the finished work of Christ and the necessity of being born again is undermined. (2) The Levites bare the shame of their sin for a 1000 years, (3) God’s presence is unapproachable by anyone except the sons of Zadok. (4) Being accepted by the Lord will be dependent on the burnt offerings offered by the priests.(5) Being reconciled to God depends on animal sacrifices – thus the altar on which animal sacrifices would be offered becomes the source of reconciliation rather than the cross on which Christ died for our sins. (6) The Prince of Israel would have to offer sin offerings for his own sins.

In God’s kingdom, Jesus is the only prince. Does Jesus have to offer sin offerings for his own sins? Certainly not! The New Testament tells us that Jesus has no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15) and that is why he was able to offer himself without any blemish to God as the sacrifice for our sins. ~ 1 Peter 1:18-20; Hebrews 9:14

16. A rebuilt temple like the one Ezekiel saw would establish Old Covenant worship. 

The first testament, the Law, was dedicated by the blood of sacrificial animals, and the worship described in Ezekiel’s temple vision is based on the ceremonial rites of that testament.

In the New Testament, true worship is worship in spirit and in truth  ~ John 4:23-24.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “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.
The true worship mentioned by Jesus,which ischaracteristic of the New Covenant, cannot be found in Ezekiel’s Temple vision. All worship in Ezekiel’s temple vision is associated with the ceremonial regulations prescribed in the Law of Moses. 
New Testament worship, in spirit and in truth, is the kind of worship which God seeks from his people. This worship is made possible only by the New Covenant established in the blood of Jesus, for through the blood of Jesus we have been purified for our sins, and have been given unhindered access to the Living God.

For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. ~ Philippians 3:3

17. God’s resting place is not in man made temples.

In scripture, the temple which Solomon built was destroyed at the time of the Babylonian captivity, and Herod’s temple, which was the one standing in the time of Jesus’s earthly ministry, was destroyed in 70 A.D.

Both of these were destroyed because of God’s judgment against the apostasy of the nation. Even though this is revealed in the scriptures, some who claim that Ezekiel’s temple is a future millennial temple, also claim that it will be first inhabited by the anti-Christ, meaning it will be completely apostate before being indwelt by the presence of God. There is no precedent in the Word of God to support such theology.

Nowhere in scripture will you find a “rebuilt – man made – temple” of which the Lord Jesus Christ will return to fill with His Glory.

Jesus is the cornerstone which God has laid in Zion. He is the foundation stone of the true house of God which is built not by man, but by the Spirit of the Living God. The true house of God is built with living stones (1 Peter 2:5). These living stones are Jews and Gentiles who obey Jesus Christ and abide in Him.

For through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. ~ Ephesians 2:18-22

The true temple of God of which Jesus is the foundation, and his followers are the building, is out in the open – loud and clear – in the New Testament: John 2:19-20; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:16 -17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:12-22; 1 Peter 2:5.

Jesus is the cornerstone, the foundation stone, of the true temple of God which is the body of Christ, and the New Testament is embedded with this truth. 

All man-made structures (the tabernacle and the temples) in scripture, whether literally or in vision form, were only types and shadows of the true which is in Christ.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that while the first “man made” tabernacle was standing, the Holy Spirit was testifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest.  Jesus has entered and consecrated the true holiest of all in the Heavens and we are invited to come boldly into the presence of God by his blood.

The permanent resting place for God’s presence among his people is not found in a man made structure, but in a circumcised heart. Stephen testified of this truth in the book of Acts: Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. ~ Acts 7:48-51
 
The scriptures tells us that after the new heavens and new earth come, new Jerusalem will descend from above and in the New Heavens and New Earth there shall be no temple: a reference to man made structures.  
 
There is no harmony with the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ and the ideology of another man-made temple with animal sacrifices.
 
Jesus is the foundation stone of the true temple which God is building with living stones (believers in Jesus Christ) and it is this temple that God himself inhabits by his Spirit.

18. Jesus is the final sacrifice for sins. 

As stated at the outset, the sacrifices that Ezekiel references include the sin and trespass offerings and are said to be for atonement. ~ Ezekiel 45:17 see also 42:13 and 45:23.

According to the New Testament, the sacrifice of Jesus is the final offering for sins, and there will never, ever, be another.

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, THERE IS NO MORE OFFERING FOR SIN.  ~ Hebrews 10:16-18

19 THE NEW COVENANT AND THE WITNESS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

The author of Hebrews tells us that the Holy Ghost is a witness to us regarding the New Covenant, established by the blood of Jesus.

In chapter 8, tells us that Jesus is the mediator of a better testament, established on better promises (v.6). The better testament, or covenant, is the New Covenant God promised to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

The reason the new covenant was promised is clearly stated: For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… ~ Hebrews 8:7-8.

The fault that God found with them was that they “continued not” in his covenant, and this was the result of sin. Israel’s covenant with God had no power to end the dominance of sin over his people, therefore,God promised to make a new covenant.

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 peopleAnd they shall not teach every man his neighbour, 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 8:10-12

Though Israel was given the Law, the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the atonement sacrifices, God was not pleased because there was no true cleansing from sins,

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. ~ Hebrews 10:1-4

The sacrifices on which the Old Covenant was established, and which were offered for sins, were a continual reminder that sin had not been permanently dealt with, and thus, there was no true reconciliation between God and his people.

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing… ~ Hebrews 9:1-8

In contrast to the ineffectiveness of the first covenant, the author of Hebrews expounds on the new. He tells us, the Holy Spirit is a witness to us of the New Covenant, established in the blood of Jesus.

Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. ~ Hebrews 10:9-18

Contextually, the putting away of sins and the once for all references in the book of Hebrews, have to do with the permanency of the finished work of Christ in contrast to the imperfect atonement sacrifices under the Law. Because of Jesus, the New Covenant is superior to the Old.

Though the first covenant was ineffective in taking away sins, God gave it to Israel to prepare the people for something much greater. It would serve as a foreshadowing of Christ, who was yet to come.   

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. ~ Hebrews 9:11-12

At best, the old covenant could only serve as a foreshadowing of the new. The first covenant, established with the blood of animal sacrifices, was insufficient for the cleansing of sins. Therefore, it had no power to reconcile man to God.

Through his blood, Jesus has reconciled us to God. As our Great High Priest, he has given us unhindered access into the presence of the Living God, because his blood cleanses us from all sin.

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. ~ Hebrews 10:19-22

This is the covenant, to which the Holy Spirit bears witness to our hearts!

JESUS AND THE THIRD TEMPLE

The anticipation of the building of  a third temple in Jerusalem ismounting as many evangelical Christians look to the Middle East, persuaded that such a temple will eventually become the center of a futuristic reign of Christ.

Those who embrace this view may be surprised to learn that God has never requested, or desired a permanent house made with human hands.

In Acts 17, the apostle Paul preaching at Mars Hill, to the men of Athens, said the following:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things… ~ Acts 17:24-25

In scripture, the first temple (aka Solomon’s temple) was build as a result of a desire in David’s heart to build God a house.

Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains. Then Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee. ~ 1 Chronicles 17:1-2

Later, God spoke to Nathan the prophet in response to David’s desire to build God a house. 

And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in: For I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. Wheresoever I have walked with all Israel, spake I a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people, saying, Why have ye not built me an house of cedars? Now therefore thus shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, even from following the sheep, that thou shouldest be ruler over my people Israel: And I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast walked, and have cut off all thine enemies from before thee, and have made thee a name like the name of the great men that are in the earth. Also I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the beginning, And since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. Moreover I will subdue all thine enemies. Furthermore I tell thee that the Lord will build thee an house. And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David. ~ 1 Chronicles 17:3-15

Though Solomon, David’s son, built the first temple, the words of God in the 1 Chronicles 17 were prophetic of another of David’s descendants. The one referred to by God would have an everlasting Kingdom, and it is he who will build a house for God. This is a reference to none other than the Messiah, Jesus. 

Solomon’s kingdom was not a lasting kingdom, and the temple built by Solomon was eventually destroyed because of God’s judgment against the apostasy of the nation. The second temple, renovated by Herod, which was the standing temple during the time of the earthly ministry of Jesus, was also destroyed because of God’s judgment against Israel in 70 A.D.

If Jesus is the one who is going to build the house God desires, what sort of house will he build? How will it coincide with his reign as King, and when will Jesus reign as King?

THE ENTHRONEMENT OF CHRIST

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in the gospel of Luke, he said concerning Jesus, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.” ~ Luke 1:32

Though some interpret the reign of Christ from the throne of David as a future millennial throne previously occupied by the anti-Christ, the Bible teaches that Jesus is enthroned now at the right hand of God.

According to the authors of the New Testament, the exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God is the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would raise up his Son, the Messiah, to reign upon the throne of David.

In Acts 2, Peter interprets the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God as the fulfillment of the scriptures that the Messiah would reign from the throne of David.

Notice carefully how Peter articulates this:

Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. ~ Acts 2:30-36

In the texts above, Peter is quoting David from Psalm 110 when he says, “the Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.”

FIRST, notice the words “the Lord said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand…”

Peter quotes this in reference to David, as a prophet, knowing that God would raise up the Messiah to sit on his throne. So as a prophet, foreseeing the enthronement of the Messiah, David said, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit on my right hand.” As a prophet, David foresaw by the Spirit of God that the promise of the Messiah reigning on his throne would not be an earthly enthronement, but a heavenly enthronement, at the right hand of God.

In the gospels, Jesus said: “David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet”‘ (Mark 12:36, See also Matthew 22:41-45).

SECONDLY, notice the next part of the text that Peter quotes from David: “till I make your enemies your footstool.”

These very same words are employed by the author of Hebrews in describing the enthronement of Jesus at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:13; 10:13) and in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 the apostle Paul applies them to the exalted Jesus as well.

Also Psalm 110 is the Psalm which testifies that the Messiah would be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (v.4). The author of Hebrews expounds on this and tells us that Jesus, the exalted King at the right hand of God, is also our great high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

The historical Melchizedek (Genesis 14) prefigured Christ as a King and Priest, and not a priest only. Under the Law of Moses one could not be a King and a priest.  The priests came only from the tribe of Levi and the Kings were descendants of David from the tribe of Judah.

The writer of Hebrews explains how Jesus, being from the tribe of Judah (the tribe of King David), is qualified to be a priest. He is qualified because His priestly ministry is not earthy (Hebrews 8:4), but heavenly, at the right hand of God where he is now enthroned. ~ See Hebrews 8:1-3

THIRDLY, Notice that David specifically identifies the Messiah as his Lord: “The Lord said to my Lord…”

In Acts 2 Peter says, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both LORD and Christ” (v.36).

Peter doesn’t tell the people of Israel that Jesus will be Lord when he one day returns. Peter declares that Jesus is Lord and Messiah now, at the right hand of God. The gospel which was preached to house of Israel by the apostles, was not a gospel of a futuristic enthronement of the Messiah, but rather, the declaration of His exaltation now!

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~ Philippians 2:9-11

When he had by himself purged our sins, (He) sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High…  ~ See Hebrews 1:3

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God is forever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Hebrews 1:8 

I (Paul) Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. ~ Ephesians 1:17-23

Notice that Paul says in Ephesians 1 (above), Christ is already enthroned in Heaven above everything in this world and in the world to come, having all things under His feet.

Jesus enthroned at the right hand of God is not a temporary enthronement as he awaits a lesser throne in Jerusalem, Israel. Rather, Jesus entered into his glory after his resurrection (Luke 24:26; John 17:5, 24; Acts 2:33; 3:13) and was enthroned at the right hand of God, where the New Jerusalem is – the true Holy City of God (Hebrews 12:22-24). From there, Christ will reign forever!

When Christ returns he is not taking a lesser throne, for he has been made Higher than the Heavens, in his exaltation (Hebrews 7:26). Jesus reigns forever, being highly exalted at the right hand of God, and in that Majestic power, authority, and glory; He will come again!

THE TEMPLE OF GOD

If Jesus has already entered into his glory, and exalted as King at the right hand of God, what sort of the temple will he build?

First, allow me to point out that the pervasive ideology which states that Jesus will return to occupy a stone and mortar temple, also states it will be built by unbelieving Jews before his return. Many believe that the anti Christ will at some point occupy this temple.

Yet the Word of God unequivocally states that Jesus, and not the Jews, will build God’s temple. Notice again, God’s words to David through the prophet Nathan:

I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore. ~ 1 Chronicles 17:11-14

According to the Bible, Jesus is the cornerstone, which God has laid in Zion. He is the foundation stone of the true house of God which is built not by man, but by the Spirit of the Living God. The true house of God is built with living stones. (1 Peter 2:5). These living stones are Jews and Gentiles who obey Jesus Christ and abide in Him.

Nowhere in scripture will you find a “rebuilt – man made – temple” of which the Lord Jesus Christ will return to fill with His Glory. The temple which is filled with his glory is the temple which he is building with those who trust in him.

For through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. ~ Ephesians 2:18-22

The true temple of God of which Jesus is the foundation, and his followers are the building, is out in the open, loud and clear, revealed in the New Testament. ~ SeeJohn 2:19-20; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:16 -17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:12-22; 1 Peter 2:5

All man-made structures in scripture, were only types and shadows of the true temple which is in Christ.

The writer of Hebrews tells us emphatically that we who hold to faith in Jesus are Christ’s house!

For this man (Jesus) was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. ~ Hebrews 3:3-6

Stephen testified of this truth in the book of Acts: Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. ~ Acts 7:48-51

Stephen’s declaration comes from the words of God through Isaiah the prophet: Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. ~ Isaiah 66:1-2

Notice, that in contrast to the words of God, “where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” God says, but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

Those to whom God will look are those who have a humble or circumcised heart in the sight of God.  The true temple of God is not built with human hands, but with circumcised hearts, and it is this temple that God himself inhabits by his Spirit.

Under the Law, Jerusalem in Israel was the place of worship, but in John 4:21, Jesus made it clear that the time was then near when those who worship God would no longer worship in a physical temple within Israel, but true worshipers will worship God in the Spirit and in truth.

In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul says, “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

While some continue to anticipate a Jewish Temple to be rebuilt (a temple that would only cause unsaved Jews to continue in their rejection of the Messiah should it ever be built) the true Temple of God consisting of Jews and Gentiles is being built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and this is the holy habitation of God through the Spirit.

RETHINKING THE MILLENNIUM

The following is not that of a dogmatic position. It is an invitation to rethink the millennium.

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. ~ Revelation 20:4-6

Consider that (1) John saw thrones. (2) John saw the souls of martyrs reigning with Christ. (3) John says “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (4) John does not say “they reigned with Christ on earth a thousand years.”

In Revelation 5, we do read the following:

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. ~ Revelation 5:9-10

The question that we need to ask is who is “we” a reference to in the text above which says, “we shall reign on the earth.”

In Revelation 20, those who reign with Christ are said to be the souls of martyrs, and there is no mention of the being on earth. In Revelation 5 there is no specific reference to martyrs and no time span a thousand years mentioned.

No consider the preceding verses in Revelation 5

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. ~ Revelation 5:6-8

Contextually, those who will reign with Christ on earth are either, the 24 elders, or the saints whose prayers are mentioned. It seems that the most reliable interpretation would be the saints.

Consider the words of Jesus from the sermon on the mount: Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. ~ Matthew 5:5

Is Revelation 5:10 and Revelation 20:4-6 referring to the same thing? 

Revelation 20 is often interpreted as evidence for a future Messianic Kingdom which is believed to precede the coming new heavens new earth. It is commonly referred to as the millennial reign of Christ, or the millennium. Those who hold to this eschatological view believe that Revelation 20:4-6 refers to a dispensation in time on earth which will last for a literal thousand years, based on the rotation of the earth around the sun.

However there is are some important details that we need to consider.

First, this is the only scriptural reference to a thousand year reign in the entire Bible. Other texts which are are often cited as millennial texts do not mention a thousand years, but have had the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 projected onto them by men who hold to this particular eschatology.

Secondly, the emphasis of Revelation 20:4-6 is not that of Christ reigning. Instead, the emphasis is placed on martyrs reigning with Christ, and they reign with Christ as priests. Christ is already reigning throughout the book of the Revelation.

Within eschatological views such as dispensational premillennialism, the central focus of the millennium is not that of martyrs reigning with Christ, and in many instances, the focus isn’t Jesus reigning either. The central focus is often the secular nation of Israel. However, there is no mention of the nation of Israel in Revelation 20:4-6. The focal point is vindication of martyrs who reign with Christ.

In Revelation 6 we have a clue as to who the martyrs reigning with Christ might be.

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? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. ~ Revelation 6:9-11

In chapter 20, those who are specifically mentioned as reigning with Christ are the souls of martyrs who were reigned as from thrones.

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. ~ v. 4

Notice that those reigning with Christ are specifically martyrs, who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God.  Is it possible that the martyrs reigning with Christ reigned in Heaven, or must they be on earth to reign with him?

Consider the promise of Jesus to the overcomers:

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. ~ Revelation 3:21

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus promised thrones to his disciples when he would sit on the throne of his glory.

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. ~ Matthew 19:28

Notice that Jesus refers to his being seated in the throne of his glory, is at the time of the regeneration, i.e., the time when men are born again by the Spirit of God. (see Titus 3:5)

According to the New Testament, Jesus is enthroned at the right hand of God. Is it possible that this scripture is fulfilled in the Heaven? The promise of Jesus to overcomers (Revelation 3:21) and the enthroned martyrs reigning with Christ (Revelation 20:4-6), and the disciples (apostles) enthroned and judging the 12 tribes of Israel speaks volumes regarding our union with Christ.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul taught that believers are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ if we suffer with him.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ~ Romans 8:16-17

We can see hints of ruling, or reigning with Christ in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Even when we were dead in sins, (God) hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:6-7

Notice that Paul speaks of being “seated with Christ in heavenly places.” This is worth remembering when we consider the “reigning martyrs” who reign with Christ. Remember, the text does not say “they reigned on earth,” but simply, “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

Some Bible translations say, “they came to life” and others say, “they came back to life” and some say, “they lived again.”

Revelation 20:5-6 interprets their living, or coming to life, as the first resurrection.

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Was this resurrection physical? Is it still in our future? Could it be a reference to Heaven?

The scriptures reveal that there was resurrection of many saints which occurred after the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. ~ Matthew 27:50- 53

Is it possible that this phenomenon mentioned in Matthew was a kind of first-fruits of the coming resurrection of the saints? Is it possible that these saints received their resurrected bodies and are now in Heaven in resurrected bodies? The scriptures are not clear about this, but do speak of resurrection in broader terms than we sometimes think.

In the Bible, resurrection is described as follows:

1. Living in the presence of God after death
2. The new birth
3. The resurrection of the body.

First, in the gospel of Matthew Jesus refers to life after death in the presence of God as “in the resurrection.”

The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine. ~ Matthew 22:23-33

Notice that Jesus speaks of the resurrection in view of living in the presence of God in the after life. This is clearly understood by simply reading the text, as there is no reference here of bodily resurrection which certainly is taught elsewhere in the New Testament.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were physically dead and not yet bodily resurrected at the time of this statement. However, Jesus claims that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, saying, God declared himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who though physically deceased, yet lived!

This truth is supported by Jesus’s reference of Abraham’s bosom in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16). Abraham was alive in the presence of God, though no longer living in this world, for the Lazarus was taken to Abraham’s bosom after he physically died.

Secondly, Paul believed that believers had been raised to new life with they trusted in Jesus. Having already referenced Ephesians 2:6-7, consider the following from the book of Colossians:

In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened (made alive) together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses… ~ Colossians 2:9-13

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. ~ Colossians 3:1-4

Paul taught that believers are already partakers of the resurrection life in Christ, even though they had not yet received the resurrection of their bodies. Paul also believed that those who suffered for Christ would also reign with him

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us… ~ 2 Timothy 2:12

Finally,  John (in Revelation 20) specifically mentions that he saw “the souls” of those who reigned with Christ, and are said to be priests of God in verse 6. According to the balance of the New Testament, we do not become priests of God after our bodily resurrection, but when we are given new life in Christ.

John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. ~ Revelation 1:4-6

Kings and priests, could more accurately be translated, “a kingdom of priests.”

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter 2:5

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light… ~ 1 Peter 2:9

Finally, we know from other texts such as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 that there will be a physical resurrection of all the saints at the coming of the Lord.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live…Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. ~ John 5:24-25; 28-29

We must determine according to the context which resurrection is being refereed to by the Biblical writer (i.e., the new birth, being in the presence of God after physical death, or the resurrection of the body at the coming of the Lord). 

John saw the souls and not the bodies of those who had given their lives for Jesus.

Just something to consider in your own studies.

THE LAST DAYS

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. ~ 2 Timothy 3:1

Notice that the time statement in this text is future from Paul’s perspective. 2 Timothy was written by Paul late in his life somewhere likely between 63-67 A.D. Paul does not place himself or Timothy in the last days of which he speaks but refers to the last days as yet to come.

In 2 Peter, the apostle Peter also speaks of the last days as being yet future:

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts… ~ 2 Peter 3:1-3

Like Paul, Peter speaks of the last days as yet future from his perspective. It is believed that 2 Peter was written somewhere in the AD 60’s.

Peter goes on to remind his readers “that a day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. Peter then says “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness…”

When Full Preterists claim that the time statements in the Bible prove that the coming of the Lord occurred in AD 70 they are placing God on their timetable and actually counting any possibility beyond AD 70 as “slackness”, but God is not slack concerning his promise as men count slackness.

Peter tells us that God is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

In the New Testament the phrase “last days” is found 5 times. Two of those references have already been mentioned.

The first reference is found in Acts 2 where Peter cites the prophet Joel, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…” ~ Acts 2:17

Another reference is found in the book of Hebrews

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds… ~ Hebrews 1:1-2

Notice the contrast made by the writer of Hebrews. God spoke by the prophets in “time past”  but has spoken by his Son “in these last days”.

Joel, whom Peter cites in Acts 2 was one of the prophets by whom God spoke in time past. This reference of  time past was not a brief period of time, it was a long dispensation of many centuries of God speaking by the prophets. In like manner the description, “these last days”, also refers to a long period of time, namely the dispensation of the rule of Christ in the Heavens until his second coming.

The last days referred to by Peter in Acts 2, and the writer of Hebrews is a dispensation over a long period of time and not a generation only. When reading scripture we must consider the context when interpreting phrases like these.

Just because they mean one thing in one text doesn’t mean they are referring to the same in another.

In Paul’s reference in 2 Timothy and Peter’s reference in the 2 Peter, the last days is not a reference to a long period of time as it is in Acts 2 and Hebrews 1. We can see that from the context that each of these belong to.

In Acts 2, and Hebrews 1, the last days refers to a long period of time, In 2 Timothy and 2 Peter it refers to a time within a longer time – the last days within the last days.

JESUS IS COMING AGAIN

Jesus is coming again.  

The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was NOT the return of Christ (his second coming) which is witnessed to throughout the New Testament.  

In 70 A.D., Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, enforced the promised judgment against the temple in Jerusalem and nation of Israel for their apostasy. In one sense of the word, it is correct to say that Jesus came in judgment. However, this was not his second coming or glorious appearing promised in the New Testament.  

When Jesus returns, there will be the bodily resurrection of those who look to him for salvation.  

With that said, too many Christian ministers completely ignore the events that unfolded at the end of the Jewish temple era. Yet it is a big theme in the New Testament. The destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied by Jesus and the apostles warned their fellow Jews of the impending judgment which was quickly approaching.  

Some of the texts that are interpreted as unfulfilled prophecy actually apply to the (then) coming destruction of Jerusalem which happened in the first century. Yet this does not mean that all warnings of judgment in the New Testament apply to that time period, and that is where some make a terrible mistake in interpreting scripture.  

Those who make the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple the center of their Biblical hermeneutic often go into error regarding other very important biblical doctrines.Those who go into such error claim that Christ has already come and everything is fulfilled.  

On the contrary, Jesus hasn’t come yet. The resurrection of the just and unjust hasn’t happened yet. The final judgment of the entire world hasn’t happened yet.  

Here is one thing that can help you understand scripture better, and better interpret prophecy.  Know that what God has done with Israel serves as a microcosm of his dealings with the nations. In Romans 3, Paul says, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” v. 19  

The law was given to Israel, yet it was given so that “all the world” may become guilty. Many have a view Israel as a witness of God’s favor. Yet in the New Testament, it is Israel’s judgment from God that serves as a witness to the nations.  

Every soul of man will answer to God and this is witnessed of in God’s dealing with the people of Israel. The salvation of the Jews wasn’t national. It was individual. Only those who repented and believed that Jesus is the Messiah would be saved from God’s judgment which was hanging over the nation.  

In much the same way, Jesus is going to judge the nations. Only those who repent and believe in Christ will be saved in the day of his wrath.

SHOULD CHURCHES COMPLY WITH GOVERNING AUTHORITIES DURING THE COVID 19 PANDEMIC?

In Acts 28, the apostle Paul was under house arrest, apparently for 2 years. Paul did not jail break his house arrest. Instead, he preached the gospel to all who came to him. This is the same Paul who instructed the Romans, and Titus to be in submission to governing authorities. Paul taught that those who do good need not be afraid as government is an ordination of God.

It’s truly disappointing that some Pastors have chosen to defy governing authorities who are simply doing their best to slow the spread of a virus and save lives. This is why I believe the greatest need in American Christianity is sound doctrine. Those who think that the closing of churches for a brief time to help prevent the spread of this virus is somehow equal to the persecution the apostles endured in Acts is troubling.

Local authorities in the United States are not suppressing the gospel. They are not forbidding us to speak in the name of Jesus. In fact, Churches are encouraged to use every means possible to continue their ministries and stay in touch with their congregations. There are so many available outlets to continue ministry during this pandemic (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tic Tok, Twitter, Blogs, Vlogs, etc ), and Pastors may freely visit his parishioners if they so choose. I can only imagine how Paul would have put the resources we have available to good use while under house arrest.

A temporary suspension of in person church services ought not be compared to the real persecution the apostles and early Christians endured. We as Christians are simply being asked to do our part, as team players to help our communities fight the spread of Covid 19.

Unlike the Christians who have truly suffered persecution, Christians in the United States have a vast amount of government assistance made available to them: stimulus checks, federal sponsored unemployment, and PPP loans that are forgivable. Besides these, many creditors are offering help to relieve financial burdens until we get past this time.

Yet in this environment, some have decided they want to turn the cautionary measures that local authorities are implementing during the pandemic it into a constitutional fight, by defying the guidelines of their local governments. Ironically, the very scriptures they claim to adhere to reveals that those who “despise government” are actually walking after the flesh. ~ 2 Peter 2:10

Such behavior does more to bring a reproach on the gospel in the eyes of the world than to glorify the Name of Christ. As Christians we are not called to be rebellious to governing authorities when such authorities are doing their best to serve the public. We are called to set the example of godliness and purity by submitting in meekness as we display good works which put to silence our critics.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. ~ Romans 13:1-5

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. ~ Titus 3:1-2

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation (your conduct) honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish menAs free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. ~ 1 Peter 2:11-16

 

 

RETHINKING THE MILLENIUM

The following is not that of a dogmatic position. It is an invitation to rethink the millennium.

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. ~ Revelation 20:4-6

Consider that (1) John saw thrones. (2) John saw the souls of martyrs reigning with Christ. (3) John says “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (4) John does not say “they reigned with Christ on earth a thousand years.”

In Revelation 5, we do read the following:

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. ~ Revelation 5:9-10

The question that we need to ask is who is “we” a reference to in the text above which says, “we shall reign on the earth.”

In Revelation 20, those who reign with Christ are said to be the souls of martyrs, and there is no mention of the being on earth. In Revelation 5 there is no specific reference to martyrs and no time span a thousand years mentioned.

No consider the preceding verses in Revelation 5

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. ~ Revelation 5:6-8

Contextually, those who will reign with Christ on earth are either, the 24 elders, or the saints whose prayers are mentioned. It seems that the most reliable interpretation would be the saints.

Consider the words of Jesus from the sermon on the mount: Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. ~ Matthew 5:5

Is Revelation 5:10 and Revelation 20:4-6 referring to the same thing? 

Revelation 20 is often interpreted as evidence for a future Messianic Kingdom which is believed to precede the coming new heavens new earth. It is commonly referred to as the millennial reign of Christ, or the millennium. Those who hold to this eschatological view believe that Revelation 20:4-6 refers to a dispensation in time on earth which will last for a literal thousand years, based on the rotation of the earth around the sun.

However there is are some important details that we need to consider.

First, this is the only scriptural reference to a thousand year reign in the entire Bible. Other texts which are are often cited as millennial texts do not mention a thousand years, but have had the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 projected onto them by men who hold to this particular eschatology.

Secondly, the emphasis of Revelation 20:4-6 is not that of Christ reigning. Instead, the emphasis is placed on martyrs reigning with Christ, and they reign with Christ as priests. Christ is already reigning throughout the book of the Revelation.

Within eschatological views such as dispensational premillennialism, the central focus of the millennium is not that of martyrs reigning with Christ, and in many instances, the focus isn’t Jesus reigning either. The central focus is often the secular nation of Israel. However, there is no mention of the nation of Israel in Revelation 20:4-6. The focal point is vindication of martyrs who reign with Christ.

In Revelation 6 we have a clue as to who the martyrs reigning with Christ might be.

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? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. ~ Revelation 6:9-11

In chapter 20, those who are specifically mentioned as reigning with Christ are the souls of martyrs who were reigned as from thrones.

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. ~ v. 4

Notice that those reigning with Christ are specifically martyrs, who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God.  Is it possible that the martyrs reigning with Christ reigned in Heaven, or must they be on earth to reign with him?

Consider the promise of Jesus to the overcomers:

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. ~ Revelation 3:21

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus promised thrones to his disciples when he would sit on the throne of his glory.

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. ~ Matthew 19:28

Notice that Jesus refers to his being seated in the throne of his glory, is at the time of the regeneration, i.e., the time when men are born again by the Spirit of God. (see Titus 3:5)

According to the New Testament, Jesus is enthroned at the right hand of God. Is it possible that this scripture is fulfilled in the Heaven? The promise of Jesus to overcomers (Revelation 3:21) and the enthroned martyrs reigning with Christ (Revelation 20:4-6), and the disciples (apostles) enthroned and judging the 12 tribes of Israel speaks volumes regarding our union with Christ.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul taught that believers are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ if we suffer with him.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ~ Romans 8:16-17

We can see hints of ruling, or reigning with Christ in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Even when we were dead in sins, (God) hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:6-7

Notice that Paul speaks of being “seated with Christ in heavenly places.” This is worth remembering when we consider the “reigning martyrs” who reign with Christ. Remember, the text does not say “they reigned on earth,” but simply, “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

Some Bible translations say, “they came to life” and others say, “they came back to life” and some say, “they lived again.”

Revelation 20:5-6 interprets their living, or coming to life, as the first resurrection.

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Was this resurrection physical? Is it still in our future? Could it be a reference to Heaven?

The scriptures reveal that there was resurrection of many saints which occurred after the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. ~ Matthew 27:50- 53

Is it possible that this phenomenon mentioned in Matthew was a kind of first-fruits of the coming resurrection of the saints? Is it possible that these saints received their resurrected bodies and are now in Heaven in resurrected bodies? The scriptures are not clear about this, but do speak of resurrection in broader terms than we sometimes think.

In the Bible, resurrection is described as follows:

1. Living in the presence of God after death
2. The new birth
3. The resurrection of the body.

First, in the gospel of Matthew Jesus refers to life after death in the presence of God as “in the resurrection.”

The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine. ~ Matthew 22:23-33

Notice that Jesus speaks of the resurrection in view of living in the presence of God in the after life. This is clearly understood by simply reading the text, as there is no reference here of bodily resurrection which certainly is taught elsewhere in the New Testament.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were physically dead and not yet bodily resurrected at the time of this statement. However, Jesus claims that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, saying, God declared himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who though physically deceased, yet lived!

This truth is supported by Jesus’s reference of Abraham’s bosom in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16). Abraham was alive in the presence of God, though no longer living in this world, for the Lazarus was taken to Abraham’s bosom after he physically died.

Secondly, Paul believed that believers had been raised to new life with they trusted in Jesus. Having already referenced Ephesians 2:6-7, consider the following from the book of Colossians:

In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened (made alive) together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses… ~ Colossians 2:9-13

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. ~ Colossians 3:1-4

Paul taught that believers are already partakers of the resurrection life in Christ, even though they had not yet received the resurrection of their bodies. Paul also believed that those who suffered for Christ would also reign with him

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us… ~ 2 Timothy 2:12

Finally,  John (in Revelation 20) specifically mentions that he saw “the souls” of those who reigned with Christ, and are said to be priests of God in verse 6. According to the balance of the New Testament, we do not become priests of God after our bodily resurrection, but when we are given new life in Christ.

John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. ~ Revelation 1:4-6

Kings and priests, could more accurately be translated, “a kingdom of priests.”

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter 2:5

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light… ~ 1 Peter 2:9

Finally, we know from other texts such as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 that there will be a physical resurrection of all the saints at the coming of the Lord.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live…Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. ~ John 5:24-25; 28-29

We must determine according to the context which resurrection is being refereed to by the Biblical writer (i.e., the new birth, being in the presence of God after physical death, or the resurrection of the body at the coming of the Lord). 

John saw the souls and not the bodies of those who had given their lives for Jesus.

Just something to consider in your own studies.

 

INTEGRITY IN THE SIGHT OF MEN

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.  ~ 2 Corinthians 8:16-21 (ESV)

In 2 Corinthians (chapters 8 and 9) the apostle Paul was collecting donations for Christians who were in need. Paul was not raising personal financial support for his own ministry. In fact, Paul was so careful with regards to any donations that he refused to burden the Corinthians with his own needs. Paul chose to pay his own way so that the gospel would not be hindered. Consider the following from 1 Corinthians, chapter 9:

If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?  If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:11-18 (ESV)

Though Paul had the right to receive support, he chose not to use that right so that the gospel would not be hindered. Paul had the same integrity with regards to the donations which were being collected for the poor Christians in 2 Corinthians 8. Paul desired to be honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.

Paul appointed honorable men over this task (Titus and another brother of reputation) so that no accusation could be levied. Paul understood that the effectiveness of the gospel through his ministry was only as good as his name – A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. ~ Proverbs 22:1

It is to be regretted that some ministers have forfeited the value of a good by their unscrupulous ways, and in doing so, they bring not only shame on themselves, but a reproach on the name of Christ. As Christians, we have a responsibility to adorn the name of Christ and his doctrine in the sight of men.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 (ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MARK OF THE BEAST

Difficult times often bring out the worst in people as well as the best in others. Unfortunately, difficult times also brings out deeply rooted fears that even good people have been convinced to believe. One of those is a fear of the infamous Mark of the Beast.

Recently, at a Texas protest over issues regarding the coronavirus, there was a banner that said, “TEXAS WILL NOT TAKE THE MARK OF THE BEAST”. Among other things written on the banner was the words, “vaccine, chip, ID 2020”.

This banner has made headlines and has become a source of mockery as some have allowed the events surrounding the coronavirus to bring out their worst fears. Such fears are the by-product of conspiracy theories and end time scenarios which are not aligned with the sound teachings of scripture.

The fears that people have regarding the “end times” often runs parallel with their political views, as the banner mentioned above proves, saying, “Texas will not take the Mark of the Beast.” Yet Texas is a State with nearly 30 million people and not all Christian. If there is a Mark of the Beast soon to be implemented (I say this to get a point across), these protesters seem to think they can impose their the decision regarding the Mark of the Beast on their fellow Texans. Where do they get such notions?

In Scripture, the Mark of the Beast is not something on a ballot box that people vote on, such as being implemented in Arkansas, but not in Texas. Again, Where do people get such ideas?!

One commenter on a you tube video made the following statement:

Amen! Glad people are waking up!!! This IS the beginning of the mark of the beast system AND glad Texas is awake. Wish WA State would wake the heck up too! Next will be a one world government and then one currency. This is ALL tied together.

Notice that this commentator’s view of the Mark of the Beast has nothing to do with sin and righteousness, Christians and non Christians. Instead, it is entirely political.  

The truth is, such public displays as that in the Texas protest weaken our witness for Christ. This is why I believe the greatest need within American Christianity is sound, wholesome doctrine. I can’t stress that enough. Consider the following from Jesus’s sermon on the Mount:

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. ~ Matthew 5:13

Jesus did not say this in view of taking a stand on political issues, or enforcing our morality on society through political stances. Instead, he says it in view of what is often referred to as the B-Attitudes. When the world sees people with the traits of those Jesus describes as poor in spirit, pure in heart, meek, peacemakers, etc., there is saltiness in our witness of Christ. Christ is exalted in the eyes of the world not by a political church, but a humble church.

Without getting into a discussion as to the timeline of the book of the Revelation, and whether or not the Mark of the Beast is past or future,  literal or figurative, lets just look at the text as it is written and see if it matches the fears people have.

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. ~ Revelation 13:16-18

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. ~ Revelation 14:9-12

Notice that the Mark of the Beast is not  a vaccine to combat a virus to help people. The mark is specifically associated with those who worship the beast rather than God. Now consider the following from Revelation 15:

And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that 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 marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest. ~ Revelation 15:1-4

The Mark of the Beast specifically applies to that which demands worship in opposition to the Living God. Now notice the following from Revelation 16:

And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. ~ Revelation 16:1-9

Notice that judgment was poured out on (1) men who had received the mark of the beast (2) the sea (3) the rivers and fountains of water (4) the sun. The men in this section were those who had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. They are the ones which are referred to at the end: “and they repented not to give him glory.”

According to the text, the Mark of the Beast is not something that people deceptively receive against their will.  It is a mark that has to do with unrepentance towards God, opposition to God and worship of the beast, which opposes God. There also seems to be the inference that forgiveness is offered, but the people who have the mark are so given over to the beast they refuse to repent – “and they repented not to give him glory.”

The deeply rooted fear that the Mark of the Beast is something that even good people are going to be hoodwinked into accepting, and thus eternally doomed with no recourse, simply has no Biblical basis.
That anyone would actually think that Christians who love Jesus with all their heart will be tricked by the government into taking a vaccination for a virus, and consequently condemned to hell is nothing less than superstition. 

Such fears are not built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” ~ Romans 10:11

Many of the ideas that people have concerning the Mark of the Beast are founded solely on conspiracy theories and superstitions. Its unfortunate that people live in such fear as they interpret a literal mark from a symbolic beast, while believing the mark is something other than what is literally is in the text.

The truth is, no one, and I mean no one, truly knows how events regarding the coming of the Lord will all shake out. No one figured God out with the first coming of Christ, and no one will with his second coming either. It is in vain that men calculate and conspire and develop plans of how Bible prophecy will unfold before the return of Christ.

The truth is, they simply do not know, because God does not connect all the dots for us. He simply gives us signs and warnings and expects us to trust him.

The apostle Peter tells us that the things which pertain to the coming of the Day of the Lord are hard to understand. It should be noted, that some think Peter is referring to Paul’s writings when he makes this statement, but Peter is actually referring to eschatology which Paul had also addressed in his letter to Peter’s audience.

It is my firm conviction that the apostle Peter gives us the outline we need for how we are to live in expectation of the coming of the Lord.

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior.: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. ~ 2 Peter 3: 1-18

May I encourage you today to lay aside all the end time scenarios, plots, and conspiracies that you have been taught and embrace the words of the apostle Peter, and actually breath a sigh of relief. Jesus is coming, so live for him and stop worrying whether a vaccine might have a chip that would send you to hell.

The ungodly will be ungodly and even mock the promise of the coming of judgment, but God is merciful not willing that any should perish and patiently gives them time to repent. However, the Day of the Lord will come, and when it comes it will come suddenly, unexpectedly, as a thief. So knowing this, live holy and godly lives looking for the New Heavens and New earth wherein righteousness reigns.
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What does the Bible teach about the rapture?
https://rootedandgroundedinchrist.com/2019/02/24/what-does-the-bible-teach-about-the-rapture/

FULFILLING THE LAW BY THE POWER OF CHRIST

In John 8, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in adultery. According to the letter of the law, they had grounds to stone her. However, Jesus did not join them in condemning her. They had brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus because they wanted to trap him and prove they were right with regards to the law.

Jesus’s response to them was, “he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Jesus had compassion because he did not come to enforce the law. He came to fulfill it.

When Jesus declared what we often refer to as the B-Attitudes (blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are the peace makers, blessed are the poor in heart, etc.,) He was teaching the people that which fulfills the law and the prophets. For this reason, Matthew tells us, “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” ~ Matthew 7: 28-29

In John 8, Jesus demonstrated what fulfilling the law actually looks like by showing compassion on the woman caught in adultery for “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

In Matthew 22, a Jewish lawyer temped Jesus by asking him which is the great commandment in the law?” To which Jesus responded, 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 neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:37-40

According to Jesus, all the law and prophets hang on the commandments of love. The apostle Paul taught the very same thing, declaring that love is the fulfillment of the law.

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the lawFor this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ~ Romans 13:8-10

Paul taught that we are not under the law, but were instead, empowered to fulfill the law by the Spirit of Christ.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. ~ Romans 8:1-4

Paul was not against the law, but understood its purpose. 

Now the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart (a pure heart is one of the B-Attitudes referred t by Jesus), and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeignedFrom which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. ~ 1 Timothy 1:5-11

Those who trust in Christ, are not under the law because the end of the law (i.e., the purpose of the law) is fulfilled in them as they follow the Spirit of Christ.

HOW TO BE SAVED

You can be saved no matter who you are or how bad you have been. It doesn’t matter if you have been a liar, an adulterer, a murderer, or any other, you can be saved.

The apostle Paul said the following to Corinthians:

“… do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

That’s the bad news, which precedes the good news. We cannot inherit the Kingdom of God in our sinful condition. Thankfully, Paul’s comment to the Corinthians did not end there, because the Corinthians had believed the gospel and had been saved from their sins. Paul goes on to say to them:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:11

When we are saved, God changes us by washing away our sins by the blood of Jesus. He sanctifies us, meaning he sets us apart as his people. And he justifies us, we are no longer condemned for our past sins.

According to the Bible, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, God sent his only begotten son Jesus, to die on the cross to save us from our sins. The Bible tells us that God demonstrated his love towards us by sending his Son to died for our sins.

Jesus is the gift of God for all humanity. Jesus laid down his perfect and holy life as a sacrifice to make atonement for all our sins. Jesus did this because he too loved us.

If you will simply believe in Jesus who died and rose again, and turn to God for forgiveness, he will save you.  You do not have to become religious. You do not have to fear about mistakes you may make in the future. Simply turn to God with a sincere heart and ask him to forgive your sins, and trust the saving of your soul into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Be sincere and honest with God and he will give you the gift of His Holy Spirit to help you live your life for him through the power of Jesus Christ.

I would love to hear from you if this has helped you. Blessings.

 

CHRISTIANITY AND CORONAVIRUS

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation (your conduct) honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. ~ 1 Peter 2:11-16

The news of how some Christians are behaving during the coronavirus pandemic by defying governmental guidelines is disturbing. 

We all know what social distancing is by now, and we should all know why it is important to do our part as this virus could be in a person’s system before any symptoms appear. Yet some Christian ministers are acting as if they and their congregations are immune because they are in a church service, thus obeying God rather than man.

Defying the instructions of those in authority, who are actually trying to save lives, is not obedience to God. Rather it is disobedience to the clear instructions given to us by the apostle Peter. Peter’s instructions in the text above is the Word of God! Peter instructs us regarding how we should serve God and be examples of godliness with regards to submitting to governing authorities.

Yet the war cry of those who have chosen to be defiant is that of “religious freedom”, even though this has nothing to do with religious freedom. No one is taking away the freedom to worship and serve God. Serving God is much larger than meeting for a service to sing songs and a listen to a preacher deliver a sermon.

Real service to God is reflected in how we live in every arena of life, and when God’s people are equipped with wholesome and sound doctrine, they will response in times like these in a manner which honors God. If there were ever a time to show the world the love of Christ, that time is now. There are many ways in which christians can reflect the love of Christ to the world. Being defiant and putting people at risk is not one of them.

I recently watched a video of a European minister accusing his fellow ministers of being “sissies” and “pansies” who have been “neutered” because they had decided to use caution by cancelling in person worship services. There was absolutely nothing godly in making such nasty accusations.

This same minister also“predicted” America will be minimally affected by the coronavirus. His prediction has already been proven false, as the coronavirus has taken more precious lives in the United States than were lost by the terrorist attacks of 911.

At a time when people need hope and real leadership, why are some in ministry saying such things? Why are so many like this minister defying directives from local governments which are simply given to keep people safe? I think the answer to that is obvious. Promotion of oneself, rather than Christ, leads to bad judgment void of sound doctrine.

The minister mentioned above went on to say, “God is a very simple being to figure out.”  He said this in context to promoting his reckless view of faith, but true faith in God is not reckless. It is balanced with wholesome doctrine, as given by the apostle Peter at the beginning of this post.

Consider his comment in view of the apostle Paul’s view of God.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. ~ Romans 11:33-36

Paul stood in Awe of the complexity of God whose ways are past finding out!

Through the prophet Isaiah, God says, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  ~ Isaiah 55:8-9

Consider also the words of the Preacher, (most likely King Solomon) I saw every work of God, and that a man is unable to comprehend the work that is done under the sun. Despite his efforts to search it out, he cannot find its meaning; even if the wise man claims to know, he is unable to comprehend.”~ Ecclesiastes 8:17

The truth is, the European minister cited above is simply promoting himself and not God.

Another minister, who is the pastor of a megachurch in Florida and who goes by the title “apostle” encouraged his parishioners to attend (in person) church services rather than to heed the warnings from officials regarding large gatherings. He is cited as having said, “Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not.”

Rather than teaching his congregation to be considerate of their fellow man and to think of others by cooperating during a crisis, this so-called “apostle” attacked some of his own congregation, accusing them of fear for taking precaution and staying away.

He went on to say, If we die, we die for Christ. If we live, we live for Christ, so what do you lose?” This is not the view of a true shepherd. It is the view of a cult leader.

I could go on as there are many examples of ministers who have chosen to display reckless doctrine which is putting others at risk, but the good news is there are many who have chosen to use wisdom, and that is what times like these call for. We need wisdom and good judgment, coupled with mercy in the fear of God.

We are to fear God and reverence him because we do not always know what God is doing. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and if we are going to honor him we must walk humbly before him and compassionately towards others.

People are dying, and many are in dire straits as uncertainties abound. As Christians, we must to be considerate and compassionate, while being people of wisdom and grace, and God will be glorified through us if we do so.

DID PETER SAY PAUL’S LETTERS ARE HARD TO UNDERSTAND?

One Hebrew Roots teachers made the following comment:

I readily stipulate that Paul says many things in his Epistles that in one letter seems to say one thing, and in another letter seems to say nearly the opposite. Since Paul was an excellent speaker, well educated and quite articulate by all accounts, Peter can only be referring to the same issue that many laymen, Pastors, Bible Scholars and Bible Teachers encounter with Paul: he seems to be contradictory on some subjects.

Contrary to the comment above, the apostle Peter never said or implied that Paul was contradictory on some subjects. Peter’s comment regarding Paul’s letters comes on the heels of Peter’s words regarding the Day of the Lord (the coming of the Lord, and the judgment of the ungodly, and the new heavens and new earth).

Peter had begun this section by saying:

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? ~ 2 Peter 3:1-4a

In the verses that follow, Peter addresses the topic of the coming Day of the Lord and how the Lord is patient giving men the opportunity to repent. Peter refers to this as the “long suffering”of the Lord. It is with this topic in mind that Peter says the following concerning Paul’s letters:

Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you…

According to Peter, Paul was a beloved brother, who had also written to Peter’s audience concerning the longsuffering of the Lord in view of the Day of the Lord. Peter claims that Paul had written to them “according to the wisdom given unto him.”  That is an endorsement of Paul by Peter, who never says or implies that Paul contradicted himself.

Peter continues:

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. ~ v. 16

Is Peter saying, “some of the things Paul speaks about in his letters are hard to understand?”  Absolutely not. Peter mentions Paul’s letters as “speaking in them of these things.A reference to the very things which Peter had just written regarding the longsuffering of the Lord who gives men time to repent before the coming of the Day of the Lord.

Peter’s statement, “in which are some things hard to be understood”, is not a generalization about Paul’s letters. Instead it is a reference to the longsuffering of the Lord in view of the Day of the Lord, which Paul also addresses in some of his letters.It is this, of which Peter says, “those who are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist and misinterpret) as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.

Peter’s comments regarding Paul’s letters is not an indictment against Paul as one who contradicted himself. It is an endorsement from Peter, who thought of Paul as a “beloved brother.” Peter places Paul in the elite company of those who have written other scriptures

CHRISTIANS ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW OF MOSES

At the beginning of Acts 15 there were certain men which came down from Judaea to Antioch and taught the Gentile brethren that if they were not circumcised after the manner of Moses they could not be saved. This did not set well with Paul and Barnabas who vehemently disagreed with them. Therefore the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas along with some local believers to Jerusalem to discuss this issue with the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.

When they arrived in Jerusalem Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported everything God had done through them among the Gentiles. However, some from a certain sect of the Pharisees protested in opposition to the testimony of Paul and Barnabas; claiming that it was indeed needful to circumcise the Gentiles and command them to keep the Law of Moses. Therefore the apostles and elders decided to meet together to resolve this issue.

During the meeting, Peter stood up and testified saying the following:

Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. ~ Acts 15:7-11

Notice that Peter doesn’t say, “they shall be saved even as we.” Instead Peter says, “we shall be saved even as they.” Peter also says that God “put no difference between us and them.” This is a very significant statement in view of the first century Jewish mindset, that covenant relationship with God was only through being a member of the Jewish community. If a Gentile wanted to know the one true God, he had to be a proselyte (a convert through circumcision and taking on the yoke of the Law).

However, God had done something so unexpectedly different and entirely new when he sent Peter to Cornelius’s house. He had called out a people from among the Gentiles for his Name and he had done it apart from the Law.

In Acts 15: 7-11 (cited above) Peter recounts his visit to Cornelius’ house (Acts 10). Peter along with the other Jews who accompanied him saw firsthand the salvation of Gentiles as Cornelius and his house were instantly filled with the Holy Spirit in similar fashion as the Jewish followers of Jesus had experienced in Acts 2.

When Peter returned to Jerusalem he was confronted and questioned by the Jews for lodging at the home of Gentiles and eating with them.

And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them(Acts 11:2-3)

Peter then rehearsed to the Jews his experience from the beginning (Acts 11:4- 17). Notice the following from Peter’s explanation to Jews in verses 15-17:

And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? ~ Acts 11:15-17

Then in verse 18, the scripture says:

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

The evidence which convinced Peter and the Jewish believers at Jerusalem that the Gentiles had been accepted as the people of God, was the Holy Spirit. God had given to the Gentiles the same gift he had been given to the Jews at Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit had now become the new identity of the people of God replacing the old identity of physical circumcision.

After Peter gave his testimony, Barnabas and Paul testified of the miracles and wonders God had done among the Gentiles by their ministry. After Barnabas and Paul testified, James stood up and said the following:

Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world. ~ Acts 15:14-18

The apostle James makes appeal to a prophecy given by Amos concerning the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David, as the scriptural evidence that God would have a people apart from the Law of Moses.

The tabernacle of David can either be a reference to the tent that David pitched for the ark of the covenant after the ark was recovered, or a reference to the Kingdom under David’s descendant who is to reign forever: the Messiah.  The latter seems to be the most likely as this theme appears multiple times throughout the book of Acts.

In Acts 15:16 -17, the apostle James makes reference to this prophecy specifically and applies it to the Gentiles becoming the people of God apart from the Law.

James goes on to say: Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.

It was therefore determined, based on the testimony of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas; along with James’ interpretation of the scriptures, that the Gentiles were not obligated to come under the yoke of the Law of Moses.

Furthermore, it might be worth mentioning that it was the apostle James, and not Paul, who made the final decision to inform the Gentiles that they were under no obligation to be circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses. James says; “Wherefore my sentence is…” (Acts 15:19).

Afterwards we read the following:

Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than the necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. (Acts 15:24-29)

The council at Jerusalem (the apostles, the elders, and the church) came to the conclusion that if they required the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses after God had established his name among the Gentiles, they would most certainly be in opposition to the work of God.

The testimony of God had already been established by the gift of the Holy Ghost being given to the Gentiles, and the Jerusalem council decided to agree with God. Therefore they said, “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us.” They were persuaded by the Holy Ghost and agreed!

Once this letter was delivered and read to the Gentile believers at Antioch, the Bible says: “they rejoiced” (Acts 15:30-31). These were the same Gentiles who were the first to be called Christians.

…And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. ~ Acts 11:26