When the Son of Man Comes Again

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.                                                        Mark 13:24-27

 

When Will Jesus Come Again?

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.      Luke 21:25-28

The prophets and the Psalms foretold the first coming of Jesus, Immanuel, and He came. His purpose and mission in coming the first time was to redeem unto Himself a people who were in need of redemption, a people He loves, despite the evil of their hearts, and hatred for Him. His mission was to go to Jerusalem and die on a cross.

That mission was a complete success. He died on the cross taking all the sins of the world; because He loves the world; and He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), and took the wrath of God for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6), He died and was buried, then He arose and came out of the grave; and when we call on His name, turning from sin, we receive His Righteousness.

Since those Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled to the letter we can rest assured that the Old Testament prophecies concerning His second coming will be fulfilled as well. Since Jesus spoke the words above, and He is the Truth, the Way and the Life it should be doubly sure that He is coming again. But when?

We cannot know the day or the hour; but we can see from the word of Jesus that it will be during the ending of the worst times the earth has or ever will see.

The time Jesus speaks of is following a time of great tribulation on earth, that Jeremiah the prophet calls, “The time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), and the whole world turns against Israel, and tries to destroy them, and many people all around the world will be killed by plagues, fear, and earthquakes, violent storms and so much more.

My point today is, Jesus is coming again. He is coming again in power and great glory. You may not believe it, but do not be in doubt but believing that every word God has spoken in His word will come to pass just as He has said. Believe Him, so it will not be too late.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

To show that the suffering we endure for our faith is evidence of righteousness, and that contrary to what some believe judgment awaits all who reject God and His Gospel.
INTRODUCTION:
When your hope has been dashed, and smashed to pieces what do you do? Most times we give up, or not, and push forward. We say, “What is the use? Jesus is coming soon I can quit my job; I can quit trying to lead people to Jesus. He is going to come and all this just won’t matter anymore.” God forbid that we feel this waay, and worse practice these thoughts and feelings.
The Church at Thessalonica was praised by Paul for their faith and love. The last verse of 1 Corinthians 13 mentions faith, and love. Why did Paul not recognize and admire their hope? They had lost hope. At least some of them had quit their jobs thinking, maybe saying, “What is the use?” Some false teachers were telling them they were already in the “Tribulation period”. Their faith and love; they had plenty; but hope had been lost in the persecution they were experiencing, and because of the false teachers and their teaching. When your hope is taken away there is just not much left worth living for. Paul is writing to reestablish hope in them.
Sometimes hope is dashed when we look and see evil prospering. God will have His day on the evil wicked of the world. They will not be able to stand the judgment of the wrath to come.
We who are in Christ Jesus, need not lose hope. The very evidence of our endurance in the midst of persecution is evidence of God’s righteous judgment. He gives endurance to those who are His – He strengthens us to persevere to the end (Matthew 24:13).

“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 (KJV)

This is the same introduction as the first letter, therefor, not too much need to comment, except to say Paul was very high on the grace of God. He depended on it. His life, and ours must depend on it for eternity.

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure…” vv. 3-4

Paul has noticed something missing at Thessalonica – hope. They were quitting, just giving up. The persecution they were experiencing even affected their work – their way of making a living. Those who owned businesses were being shunned because of their faith [We would call it a “Boycott”].
They needed hope. Hoe is the life-blood of progress. People who have hope can accomplish just about anything. The only hope for mankind – all of humanity – is faith in Jesus through whom God gave the gift of salvation – eternal life. If we understand hope; hope is the motivation of faith and love.
People who are without hope – especially a Church that is without hope is dead or dying. We preach and teach that Jesus is coming soon, but where is our hope? If we had hope, would we not be telling everyone to get ready? At least as many as we possibly can? Understand, our hope – “The Blessed hope” – is not wishful thinking which has no substance. Faith is the substance of our hope (Hebrews 11:1). God said it, I believe it, so that settles it. One I like better than that one “God said it; that settles it whether you and I believe it or not.” Our hope as Christians is backed up with what God has said; His promises and prophecies will not fail.

“Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer…” v. 5

God uses persecution to build us and make us stronger in faith, and to root out those without faith. Those who endure persecutions because of their faith show the “righteous judgment of God”, and those who do not persevere show it as well. God truly knows those who are His.
Many complain about trials and persecutions in their lives, but does an athlete complain about running till his/her legs ache, lifting weights until his/her arms hurt? If a mountain climber does not hurt he probably has not climbed a mountain for a while. We can think, “Well these people voluntarily do that.” A-men. Do not we the people of Faith volunteer as well? If we are to be strong in faith let us face the weights, the running, and the mountains for the glory of our God, and His righteousness.

“…Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you…” v. 6

Those who fall away are many times the very ones who will cause the faithful trouble. There are some who seem to remain faithful to the Church, but never endure any persecution, because they live outside the Church like everyone else. They are trouble to the Church, whether they actually lift a finger against her or not. It is a righteous act for God to cause them trouble.

“…And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels…” v. 7

While the rest of the world will be suffering from God’s judgment the Church will be at rest. During that period of seven years we will be in the presence of our Lord and Savior enjoying His glory. Where will you be when He comes?

“…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…” vv. 8-9

In Hebrews 10:31 the word of God tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” Hebrews 12:29 says, “For our God is a consuming fire.”
Just as surely as Jesus is coming for His Church, He is coming also to take vengeance on the unbelieving – those who obey not the gospel. Many cannot see a loving God doing this. This loving God made a way possible for unholy men and women to become holy, and the unbelieving spit in His face, stomped His blood under their feet, and still proclaim with much hate toward Him, “I don’t need that. God is love. He won’t cast me into Hell.” If this holy, loving God will not cast unbelievers into Hell, then His Word is not trustworthy, there is not salvation, and there awaits nothing but damnation for us all.
Notice the forms of judgment mentioned: Flaming fire, Vengeance, Punishment, Everlasting destruction, Separation from the presence, glory, and power of the Lord.

“…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.” v. 10

What glory that will be when He is glorified in us. What is that glory? That others believe Him through our faith and testimony.

“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.” vv. 11-12

Hope can often be restored by letting people know you are praying for them, and how you are praying.

How was Paul praying? 1.) That God would count you worthy of this calling; 2.) Fulfill the good pleasure of His goodness; 3.) The work of faith with power; 4.) That Jesus name be glorified in you; 5.) You in Him; 6.) According to His grace; 7.) Fulfilled through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and His coming in the clouds.

It is solely by His grace. There is no other way of salvation.

We can rest in God’s grace that He will deliver us from the wrath to come, when we are in Christ. We have that hope, that promise in Christ Jesus.

If our lost loved ones, friends, and neighbors die in unbelief there will be no rest for them. After Jesus comes, any hope of salvation is gone.

When It Comes

“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. 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. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” Revelation 14:6-13 (KJV)

There could be as many as seven angels mentioned from verse six through verse twenty. There are certainly six. Why six? Remember six is the number of man. Angels throughout Scripture and time have been servants and messengers to man as well as his protectors. For example see Genesis 18 and 2 Kings 6:8-23. If verse thirteen’s “Voice” is from an angel that would be the seventh, however, we cannot reasonably conclude the “Voice” to be angelic, but rather, possibly, the voice of the Spirit of God.

God is merciful. This is His closing act of mercy, lest there be some who will hear. The “Everlasting Gospel” is: 1) Fear God; 2) Give glory to Him; 3) The hour of judgment is come; 4) Worship your Creator.

This isn’t really an opportunity for those of earth to repent as it is assurance to those of God that He will have His way.

Babylon is practically a synonym for wickedness and all sorts of evil. Babylon, in our text can refer to three or four different earth agencies: 1) An actual city; 2) Political power and intrigue; 3) Economic power and banking; and/or 4) Religious power – one world religion.

We know from the study of history that the actual city of Babylon has already fallen, although, there were reports when Saddam Hussein was ruling Iraq, that he was rebuilding it. The other three we can be seen though, and greatly increasing; in the economic system of this present world. The Babylon of mankind’s politics will crumble to nothingness, the economy of the world banking conglomerates will crash, and the world’s religion will only add fuel to Hell’s fires. Just as surely as John sees it proclaimed, everything that man builds to exalt himself over God will crumble. It is as good as done. It is written – So it shall be. “Forever, O LORD, Thy Word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).

This third angel spells out clearly the doom that the worshipers of the beast will face. Their doom is not of short duration. It is for ever and ever, everlasting.

The Bible mentions nothing of the soul’s annihilation, but it does of eternal souls. If the soul of man could be annihilated why does hell’s fires burn forever? Why doesn’t God put them out after the souls are all burned up?

We as Christians need to believe what God says in His Word about hell, just as surely as we believe about salvation and eternity in Heaven. Some say that in the Scriptures Jesus mentions hell more than He does Heaven. Hell is a place to miss, not to flee into. Every lost soul is living in condemnation on the road to hell, and some of them would repent and believe if only someone told them of Jesus.

When it comes right down to it, today, all those who reject Christ are worshipers of the beast. We can do nothing for those who reject Jesus, but we must tell them and let Jesus and the Holy Spirit do the saving.

The “Patience of the saints” is that they who trust Christ during this darkest hour will be delivered. Just as surely as the worshipers of the beast suffer forever and ever, they who “Follow the Lamb” (v. 4) shall enjoy eternal bliss. They are the ones who “Keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”. The keeping of the commandments does not save, but they are saved to keep the commandments [to obey them] (Ephesians. 2:10).

Verse thirteen provides the second “Beatitude” of the Revelation. “Blessed” meaning happy. This encouraging word is to those who are in tribulation and their lives are in danger. To serve the Lord in the darkest hour of human history will cost the lives of many, but God would have us know that all they who go through the great tribulation, keeping the commandments by faith in Jesus, if they should “die in the Lord”, they are “Blessed”.
What benefits are there for them who “die in the Lord”?

  1. God’s promise of happiness;
  2. They rest from their trials and labor;
  3. Their works stand as a testimony of their faith.

These are true for all those who follow Jesus Christ in any day or age.  Trust Jesus today.

Sealed Servants of God

For some, there will be a problem in this chapter. We see two distinct groups of saints. A number of one hundred and forty-four thousand is given for the first group and, “…A great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues…” (v. 9) of the other group. Of the latter group, it is said that they, “…stood before the throne, and before the Lamb…”. These seem to be martyrs who died for their faith during the early part of the tribulation.

One thing we can be assured of is that, no matter what happens on earth, God always has a remnant of people who are faithful to His cause.

It almost seems that chapter seven gives us a break from the words of judgment, and shows us His grace and the destination for all who have faith in Christ Jesus. Chapters fourteen and twenty-one, seem to have like purpose. There are going to be some who read this now, “There were no divisions by chapters and verses in the original writings.” That I would agree with but does it not seem very directed that every seven chapters (and some in between) provides a “rest spot”?

“And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.”  Revelation 7:1-3 (KJV)

“In contrast to chapter 6 which seems to give the chronological sequence of major events of the great tribulation, chapter 7 does not advance the narrative, but directs attention to two major groups of saints in the tribulation” JOHN F. WALVOORD.

Some have tried to use verse 1 as proof of the Bible’s lack of scientific accuracy, implying that “Four corners” would mean the earth is square. It is only speaking of the four points of the compass – North, East, West, and South. There you have the “Four corners” of a somewhat round earth. The winds of the earth are mysterious. Who controls the wind? Is it merely cool and hot, or is there a divine hand in it? All of creation is in God’s hand. Wind can aid the sailor at sea, and it can help a car get better gas mileage or worse, depending on the direction you are traveling. I am not sure what the significance of the angels “holding the four winds of the earth” is. Unless it might be to give a reprieve from judgment for a few moments. A time to stop, think, contemplate, all that is happening, and is about to happen. It is for sure to give time to seal the 144,000 messengers of God and postpone judgment until they are sealed.

These verses give us clear evidence that the control of the wind is in the hand of God. SEE Matthew 24:31. It could almost seem that satanic forces are trying to use the wind to hinder the placing of the seal of protection upon the people of God.

This break, actually a parenthesis, in the judgments give us reason to contemplate the purposes of God. The purpose of the judgments is for sin to have its way and run its course to its end while God redeems a chosen people from sins bondage. Oliver B. Greene says this of chapter 7…

“Chapter 7 of Revelation is parenthetical. In this chapter we look away from the breaking of the seven seals, in order that the Spirit might enlighten us concerning the sealing of a chosen group of evangelists to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the teeming millions who never heard the Gospel of the Grace of God. After the Rapture, these 144,000 will do what the Church should have done during the Dispensation of Grace. God has never been without a witness on the earth, and He never will be” From “The Revelation” commentary by Oliver B. Greene pp. 223 & 224.

These 144,000 messengers are to be sealed with the seal, “in their foreheads”. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is sealed by the Holy Spirit “Until the day of redemption” (Ephesians1:13-14; 4:30). These messengers are untouchable until God’s work for them is finished.

We as the servant and child of God need to remember this:  The man and/or woman of God, in the will of God, is invincible until the work of God in us and through us is finished.

When Allowances for Evil are Made

And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce My servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 2:18-29

In these verses, we will see that Jesus, as the holy and righteous Judge, will not tolerate wickedness, corruption in His Church, but that He exposes and judges it, and sets apart those within the body who are not partakers of the vileness.

Jesus introduces Himself to the church of Thyatira as the Judge. He is one who exposes unrighteousness in the forms of heresy, idolatry, and all abominable acts.

This church was a corrupt church. Toleration of “Jezebel” is their chief sin. Refusing to confront and judge her themselves, Jesus would come and do so Himself.

False teachings still corrupt the church today. There is very little teaching of holiness or righteousness, but much about self-awareness and self-acceptance. There are also teachings of “Antinomianism” disguised as freedom in Christ, the priesthood of the believer, and the liberty of the Spirit. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” from the bondage of sin. We are not at liberty to sin, but at liberty to serve and follow Jesus Christ.

There may have been some who tolerated “Jezebel” in order to practice “Church Growth”. There is a “Jezebel spirit” in that area especially. BEWARE!!!

Verse 18 begins the longest letter, and it is addressed to the church of Thyatira.

This letter opens with a word of warning to the unrepentant church member. The way in which Jesus identifies Himself is the warning. “His eyes like unto a flame of fire and His feet are like fine brass” (1:14-15). His eyes are eyes which pierces through the hardest of hearts and determines the motive and sees the sin of every heart. The feet like fine brass. His feet are pure and He is worthy to judge all who fail to give Him place – His rightful place.

Thyatira was a small city approximately 40 miles East of Pergamum. It was known as a city which manufactured purple dye. It is mentioned in the book of Acts 16:14-15. Lydia, a purple merchant, was from Thyatira and very well could have been used by God to start this church.

The people of the church for reasons yet to be mentioned have to be reminded of the deity of Jesus Christ, therefore, in this letter alone does He identify Himself as the Son of God. What tragedy when the Church loses sight of His divinity.

This is a church that is the opposite of the church of Ephesus. It appears their love for Jesus was stronger, their works were not mere religion, but done out of true love for Jesus (v. 19).

The church of Ephesus had the works but not the love, but they hated false teaching and dealt with it. The church of Thyatira had the love but tolerated false teaching and evil. Both of these are in the extreme on opposite ends. There needs to be both a love for Jesus and hatred for false teaching and evil and confronting it. This church sounds much like many churches of the 21st century. “You can love the Lord, and other gods and things; we will love you, no matter what; and there will never be any judgment against you. Let’s love and tolerate one another.”

Sin and false teaching must be dealt with.

The condemnation against Thyatira is because of tolerance of evil, deceptive teaching led by a strong, domineering woman who is “Jezebel” in character. “Jezebel” is probably a symbolic character reminding the people of the domineering, deceptive practices of the queen of Israel in 1 Kings 16 and following, who led Israel into Baal worship while pretending to hold on to the worship of YaHWeH (vv. 20 – 23).

This woman may have had a large following because of her strong leadership abilities and her loose morals. She probably was seen by some as a peacemaker, a worker for unity, especially between Christians and the government, and employers who did not want Christians who stood up for their Savior. She was corrupting the Church. This was probably the beginning of Maryolotry. Putting the virgin Mary on equal, if not a greater scale with Jesus.

Jesus gave her time to repent, but she refused. All who yielded to her teachings and practices would be cast into judgment with her. The bed that had been a bed of pleasure and peace would become a bed of pestilence. “Kill her children with death” is showing pestilence – disease, plague, drought – it would end in death.

By this judgment, all the churches will know that Jesus knows the heart, mind, and motives of His people – and of the wicked as well. When these have sown seeds of corruption what is the harvest, except corruption – destruction.

“Jezebel” would be an unredeemed person who crept in by stealth and deceit. Her only purpose is to lead astray, corrupt, and destroy. God’s purpose would be to strengthen the believers.

To those who are pure – have kept themselves from this doctrine of “Jezebel” Jesus’s promise is to put no other burden upon them (vv. 24 – 25).

This is the third letter in which Jesus has mentioned the enemy (Satan). To Smyrna, He calls the false Jews, “The synagogue of Satan”. To Pergamos, He calls it the place “Where Satan’s seat is”, “Where Satan dwelleth”, and then of Thyatira, “Those who have not known the depths of Satan” – probably referring to indulgence to sinful idol worshipping practices which “Jezebel” practiced along with her followers. “Give in to the world. Be silent about your faith. Do not lose your job because of Jesus, just go along with the crowd”. God forbid that we give up and give in to “The depths of Satan”.

Jesus says to those who are faithful, “Hold on to that which you have.” Keep the faith. Be patient, “Until I come”. This is a promise of deliverance to the faithful.

In verses 26 – 28 Jesus mentions the overcomer. The overcomer operates by faith and keeps His works unto the end. He has no other life. He knows no other position, than the one he has in Jesus Christ.

Notice the mention of the Millenial reign of Jesus. Yes, I believe the millennial reign of Christ to be literal. There are hundreds of Old Testament passages having to do with the Kingdom of Christ on earth where the lamb will lie down with the lion and wolf, and children play over the dens of serpents. The “Overcomers” will be given a position of authority in that day. Remember! We are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) and “All things under His feet” (Ephesians 1:22). This rule will be one of shepherding people who are on earth at that time. When do you see the “Morning star”? At the beginning of a new day. A new day begins in Jesus Christ. He is the Morning Star. The “Overcomer” is one who is a possession of Jesus, and Jesus is their possession.

Verse 29 gives us the call to hear. It is the first of the seven letters that have the invitation to hear on the very end of the letter.

It is at the end of the following three letters as well. Perhaps to let all know, who are reading and hearing these words, and find themselves in a similar predicament. Jesus will be the judge of all sin and sinners who do not repent of their sin. Woe be to the one who does not hear and heed the message to the church of Thyatira.

In conclusion, wickedness abounds in this world. This is not the time for the church to be tolerating evil practices and/or false teachings. When we give allegiance to the world and “Christ” we give no allegiance to Christ.

The world around us is looking for hope and deliverance from all the things which plague our world. The Church has the answer. If we follow the world, who does the world have to follow? We are the light that shines in the darkness. Evil corrupts, but the light will overcome.

Be a source of hope to a dark world by building on the foundation principles of the Word of God and His righteousness in Jesus Christ. Let the world know there is right in the Light.
Jesus, to this very day, is the Judge of all evil and corruption and He still will not tolerate evil, especially within His Body, which is the Church.

Fear None of Those Things…

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the First and the Last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” Revelation 2:8-11 (KJV)

Facing sorrows through trials of our faith we find assurance, in this letter to the church in Smyrna, of the eternalness of Jesus, and His promise of eternal riches to those who are overcomers. The “Crown of Life” is promised to those who are “Faithful unto death”.

The church at Smyrna was a suffering church. They had nothing of the world’s goods or praise. They did have the praise of Jesus. That means more than anything.

Polycarp was the bishop of the church and he was put to death for his faith. In John Walvoord’s THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST he writes, speaking of Polycarp, “When asked by his heathen judges to recant his Christian faith, he replied, ‘Four score and six years have I served the Lord, and He never wronged me: How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?”. Polycarp seems to characterize the whole church at Smyrna.

The city of Smyrna is still in existence today, known as Izmir, unlike Ephesus which is in ruins. When Christians are willing to stand no matter what, it has redeeming qualities for all of society. There is also a Christian church in the city. How? By overcoming.

The church of Smyrna needed to hear from the One who is the “First and the Last, which was dead, and is alive”. Smyrna is located approximately 35 – 50 miles north of Ephesus. Like Ephesus, it too is a port city. The two cities probably struggled over which was the chief city of the region.

The word ‘Smyrna’ means “Myrrh”. Myrrh was used for embalming the dead. It was also used in Tabernacle worship, and as a perfume. The significance of this is the way in which Jesus identifies Himself to the church at Smyrna. “I Am the eternal One, which became dead, and I Am alive forevermore”.  Myrrh was used in the burial of Christ.

These are certainly encouraging words. Our Savior who was humiliated and put to open shame upon the cross, and put to death is encouraging the church to stay on course because they too will live eternally. They too may die; you may someday get to die for your faith in Jesus, but that is not the end. You have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

His “I know” of verse 9 is somewhat different from His “I know” for the church of Ephesus.

The church is suffering fiery persecution. “Poor” means they were poor in this world’s material things. This partially due to them, as followers of Jesus, having no rights to worship. Their lands and houses could be taken freely because they had no legal protection, no constitutional protections as we have.

Their persecution came by means of the unregenerate people of Smyrna. Both the Gentiles and Jews persecuted the Christians.

“…Jews, and are not” implies a racial identity without a Christ-like identity. In Pauls letter to the Romans he wrote, “…He is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:29). If these “Jews” had been anywhere near obedience to their faith they would have remembered God’s law which says, “…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). Therefore, Jesus says that they “…Are the synagogue of Satan” – lost, no relationship with God, condemned, and needing salvation.

They [the persecuted Christians] are known by those who persecute them as being “Poor”. They are known by Jesus as being “Rich”. How are you known by people? More importantly, how are you known by Jesus? It is much better to be poor to the world and rich with Christ, than to be rich to the world and poor with Jesus.

Jesus is so very gracious. He speaks quite often in the gospels, “Fear not”, or “Be not afraid”. Here in verse 10, He speaks the words again. “Fear none of those things…”.

“If they come and take away your houses or land, do not be afraid. If they come to take you away for torture, pain, and death, do not fear. If they come to take your family, do not be afraid. If they come to ridicule you, do not fear. If they bring false charges against you, do not fear. If they come to take your life, do not be afraid. It is not over. Your life is still in My hands”, Jesus says.

Tribulation and suffering should not be strange for the follower of Jesus. He told us, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. (John 16:33).
Trials and testings come into every believer’s life. Sometimes we suffer because of our faith in Jesus. Sometimes it is because of sin left unconfessed and an unrepentant heart or paying the consequences of sin forgiven. Sometimes it is to keep us from something for our own benefit and His glory.

“Tribulation ten days” is probably a reference to a short period of time. All the troubles we encounter as Christians are of only short duration compared to eternity. Many Christians suffer bad health for years, not because of sin, but for their good, and the glory of Jesus. It is only a short time compared to the glory and splendor of God’s eternal home.

The “Ten days” have also been compared to a period of time from Nero in 64-68 AD., through Diocletian of 303-313 AD. Nero 64-68 AD., Domitian95-96 AD., Trajan 104-117 AD., Marcus Aurelius 161-180 AD. (According to some this is when Polycarp was martyred), Severus 200-211 AD., Maximinius 235-237 AD., Decius 250-253 AD., Valerian 257-260 AD., Aurelian 270-275 AD., and Diocletian 303-313 AD. This would have represented the ten days as being periods of persecution under these leaders.

How faithful would you be to public worship and faith in Jesus Christ if our government suddenly declared worshiping God in Jesus to be illegal? Would you be in Bible study and worship next Sunday? The worship of the church of Smyrna was illegal, yet they worshiped and lived their faith. They suffered. Jesus words were, “Be faithful unto death”. “Don’t be afraid, be faithful”. Even if it means your life, be faithful. Jesus was. He gave His life as not only an act of love for you and me, but also an act of faithfulness to the Father. The reward? He will give a “Crown of life”; “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12). This crown is often equated with being the “Martyrs crown”, but probably received by all who are faithful in life without fear for their lives.

Finally, Jesus says to the church of Smyrna, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (v. 11). Those who are followers of Jesus Christ will hear His voice.
The Spirit gives understanding. He is our ears to the words of the Lord Jesus. The message is now to the individual – “Hear”.

“The second death” is total and eternal separation from God. The word ‘death’, in essence, means separation. Physical death is the separation of the body from life. Spiritual death is the condition all people are born into, separated from God. The “Second death” being different, is only so in that it is eternal separation from God. There is an eternal place where the eternal wrath of God is suffered.

All who overcome are “Born of God”. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4). All who are “Born of God” [born again] overcome. The “second death” has no hurt to the born again (Revelation 20:6). The second death is reserved for those not found in the book of life (20:14), ‘the fearful and unbelieving…the abominable, …shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (21:8).

The only way to miss the “Second death” is to be born twice. The second time through faith in Jesus Christ. Someone once said, “If you were born once, you will die twice. If you were born twice, you will die once.”

Troubles inevitably will come, at least while we live on earth. Some people will ridicule our faith and faithful practices. Sickness comes occasionally or regularly for some. Nevertheless, we are called on to be faithful.

If we keep in mind the humiliation of Jesus and His suffering, even though He was sinless, and the glory that is His after His resurrection, we can overcome every trouble and trial of suffering that comes our way. No material possession can keep us from the “Second death” only Jesus can. After all, He is THE RESURRECTED ONE, and has all authority to say “Fear none of those things”.

Continuing the Work of the Resisted Cross

The world today needs the cross of Jesus Christ just as the days of the past.  ‘Today is the day of salvation” not tomorrow.  Today.  We as Christians have the most urgent message for people; men, women, children, and their families to get our of their condemnation of sin through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

Today is not the day to cease.  Today is the day of salvation…

“And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:21-22 (KJV)

Christian as we look at the above verses we see the early Christian and their leaders never ceased preaching.  They just moved on.  They moved on to other places, and sometimes they may have stayed where they were.

We read of Paul (who had been Saul who hated the gospel of Christ) being stoned, and they supposed to death, and drug out of the city (14:19-20).  Then, Paul got up and went to another city.  Why did he go to another city?  To preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  O for the passion of Paul for Jesus and His love.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s love for us on display at the cross where Jesus bled and died for our sins.  He was buried in a tomb, and three days later arose from that grave alive.

Nothing real good comes without a price.  We are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).  It cost me nothing.  It cost you nothing.  God paid the price for you; because we do not have the price to pay.  The price for sin is death, and if we were to pay our own sin debt through death, then there would be no eternity except Hell’s fire.

As a Christian today we are called to live the gospel, spread the gospel, share the gospel, preach the gospel.  Where?  Wherever we may be.  What ever we may be doing.

Notice Luke’s words in the verses… “exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”  No one; not even Jesus ever said that the Christian life would be easy, but we are told “Through much tribulation…”  “In the world you will have tribulation”; and “Yea all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (John 16:33;  2 Timothy 3:12).

Just as with the early Church, so too in the Church today, where there is trial, persecution, or tribulation because of the cross of Jesus Christ God will be blessing and increasing the kingdom

On this Valentine’s Day start it off right by loving the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength; because that is how He loves you.

What We Do In Troubled Times

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.  See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  Quench not the Spirit.  Despise not prophesyings.  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.  Abstain from all appearance of evil.
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
1 Thessalonians 5:14-24 (KJV)

Since the time of the resurrection of Jesus and until today Christians have not been without troubles.  Just like the rest of the world we have sickness, disease, financial setbacks, and ruin.  “In the world you will have tribulation” Jesus said.  He also said, “…Be of good cheer; for I have overcome the world.”  I am so thankful for those words.

Many times I have asked myself the question, “What am I supposed to do in such a time as this?”.  The answer is given in the above verses.  In short we are to keep on doing what we are supposed to do; live by faith; trusting the outcome to our beloved Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

-T.A.

Are We Seeing Things???

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; ‘When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.’  Verily I say unto you, ‘This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.  Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.”  Matthew 24:29-35 (KJV)

Jesus says in the above quotation, along with other things;  “…When ye shall see all these things…”  Thus I pose the question, “Are we seeing things?”  Christian our hope is not in this world.  It is in knowing Jesus Christ and being known by Him.  Trust not in politics or politicians; nor in government.

Jesus is coming soon.

-T.A.

You Can Believe All That He Teaches

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, 25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: 29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. 30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. 31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. 34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”  Mark 13:24-37 (KJV)

BELIEVE EVERYTHING HE TEACHES

The Word of God clearly tells us that there will be a time when all chaos will break lose in the heavens; the sun, nor moon will give their light; the stars will “fall”; the heavenly bodies will all be “shaken”.  The Bible tells us, “…By Him all things consist”  that is “are held together” (Col. 1:17).  At the time shortly before Jesus returns to reign on earth, and after the Antichrist has wreaked havoc on the earth is when these things will take place.  God’s hand removed possibly to show who was really in control of things.  This will be a very chaotic, frightening, and deadly time for residents of planet earth.  People of earth have always wanted a world without God, and at this time they get what they want.  LOOK OUT.

When these things come about then, know that Christ will come with “Power and great glory”, and set up His kingdom on earth.  Jesus will send out the angels to gather the “elect” which is most likely all those who were saved during the seven years of tribulation, the 144,000 Jewish witnesses, etc., and call them to serve in His kingdom.  These will come from all over the earth.  There will be a resurrection of the dead who died for their testimony for Christ, and their bodies and spirits will be united once again.

Look at the signs.  The parable of the “Fig tree” is that you can know when it is time for the figs.  We can know when the time of Jesus’s second coming is near.  We cannot set dates or a time, we do not know, but the signs give us a clue that it is near.

This generation of people will not pass away until all these things are done.  What generation?  The generation who witnesses these events taking place.  How long is a generation?  It varies, depending on who you ask.  It can be 40 years, or 70 years, even 100 years.  That is three thoughts.  It is most important for us to not be carried away by the years, but to think of the event and the signs which we all can see.

In verse 31 we have the assurance of the immutability, and eternalness of God’s Word.  All of heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will stand forever.  That is how we can know that these events which we are looking at will truly come to pass.  God is Truth.  His Word is Truth.  His Son Jesus is Truth in flesh.  We can put our trust in Him.

No one knows the day or the hour.  Not even Jesus as He walked among us in the flesh knew when He would come again.  Now, however, back on His throne, and in His glory He knows the exact day and hour.  As He was here on earth He was God incarnate, but limited His omniscience according to the Father’s discretion.  Now He has been given all things.

It has been given to God’s people, for our day and time, to be diligent, awake and alert to the goings on around us.  Jesus has ascended into the heavens, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and we are waiting His return, but that has responsibilities we are to practice, and live.  Take heed to God’s Word, His guidance, direction.  Watch and pray, for we do not know when He will come again.  The Master of the House is returning.  WATCH.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Do Not Fear; Be Watchful

“And Jesus answering them began to say, ‘Take heed lest any man deceive you: 6 For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 7 And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. 8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.  9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them. 10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations. 11 But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. 12 Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. 13 And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”  Mark 13:5-13 (KJV)

DO NOT FEAR; BE WATCHFUL.

“There will come in the days of the future”, Jesus said, “times of trouble, and many will say ‘I am Christ”.  That will be a day for one to be watchful.  This appears to be a time following the destruction of the temple [which happened in A.D. 70], but the time Jesus is speaking of here seems to apply to another era of time.

Jesus warns the disciples and us of an approaching time when there will be many “anti-christs” who come for no other reason, but to lie and deceive, and to lead followers after them.  Whether it be in the time of the disciples or in our own time; be it 70 A.D. or 2010 the Word is the same, “BEWARE”, “TAKE HEED”.  These false christs are out for their own well being and not for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid even though there will be earthquakes, famine, war, etc.  These are only “birthpangs” showing that the second coming of Jesus is near.  They would begin with less intensity, but as the time of the end draws near they will become more and more intense.

In looking at these things we need to be mindful that there is great reason to believe that Jesus is speaking of His second coming in the “Olivet Discourse” both here and in the gospel of Matthew.  There are some things, that,  we who are looking for the appearance of Jesus in the “clouds”, must learn from these passages of Scripture.  First of all, none of these signs Jesus speaks of has to do with the “rapture of the Church”, all the prophecy of Jesus coming for His Bride [Church] has been fulfilled.  Secondly, We too must be on guard, keeping up the watch, being alert, taking heed.  There are false teachers, false professors of Christ, and some who say they are the Christ.  Anyone who professes to be Christ is a liar.  Everyone will know when Jesus comes again, with the exception of the “Snatching away” of believers of Christ Jesus.  A third thing to learn is, we must always be sure we are ready, and that our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors are ready to “…Meet thy God”.  We can know we are ready by drawing nearer to Jesus through everyday association with Him in prayer, His Word, and in so doing obedience to His Word.

During the time of what Jeremiah calls, “…The time of Jacob’s trouble…” (Jeremiah 30:7), there will be a persecution of the people of God unlike anything the world, or God’s people have ever known.  Those who believe in Jesus at that time will be put to death by the most horrid means imaginable, and in the last three and one half years of “Jacob’s trouble” the Hebrews will be in great distress, yet protected by God.  “But he who endures to the end shall be saved…” is not speaking of a salvation of works, but of those who already have salvation, and by the grace that saved them showing the power of their faith in God.  God gives grace which keeps us to the end.

We must be strong in our Lord.  No matter what the world may throw at us we must “…keep looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”  Even those of us who are looking for the “Rapture” must “…be ready to always give an answer for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15).  There is none of us who are immune to persecution. “Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).  Live for Jesus Christ; He is coming soon.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Just A Thought 03/23/09

In these times of economic hard times, or in any period of despair, it does us good to consider this…

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 (KJV)

And, we do not know what tomorrow may bring, but “We do know Who holds tomorrow”.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Panorama Of The Fire

 “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 (KJV).

A true “Panorama” is an ability to see clearly in every direction. The MIRRIAM/WEBSTER Dictionary – “2. a complete view in every direction”. This would fit with what we have by faith in Jesus our Savior. The One who takes us through the fiery trials of life.

Many of the people to whom Peter is writing have never seen Jesus; and that includes you and I. People were trusting the words of the apostles, and things were many times verified by the Holy Spirit with signs from God. Jesus spoke to Thomas, called the Doubter, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” John 20:29 (KJV). That same promise is spoken here by Peter. It applies to all people who hear the message of God’s Word/Gospel and believe what He has said.

When you realize what Jesus has done, is doing and will do for us; how can we not love Him. He left the glories of Heaven, laid aside His own glory, became subject to humanity, went willingly to lay down His life on the cross: He endured the ridicule, the beatings, scourgings, the cruel judgments, and died for us. His love motivates love for Him in the hearts of those who can see. Though we cannot see Him we still hear His Word, believe it and trust Him to do His work in us. That faith brings with it that thing that is “Unspeakable” or “Inexpressible”.

There is “Joy unspeakable”, inexpressible, beyond our imaginations, and “full of glory”. It must be His glory, because you and I have none to glow. He is full of glory. His glory was viewed even before His death and resurrection by Peter, James and John on what has been called the “Mount of Transfiguration” (Matthew 17:1-12). It is great to share in His joy and glory. That is what makes it joyous and glorious.

With the “Joy unspeakable” there is one of the most wondrous things about our salvation. That wondrous thing is that we will be there to see it take place, ie., our completed salvation. Let me assure you, that because, of the promises given us by Jesus and the words of the apostles we are just as assured of Heaven as if we were already there. However, it will not be complete until we are standing face to face, in the very presence of Jesus Christ Himself. There are some who believe that we cannot know that we are saved, and will have to wait until that day. I certainly find no assurance in that. Here is what John the apostle said, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:13 (KJV). Now, that sounds like assurance. Kept by the eternal power of God He sees His work through to completion. To suggest that God fails in what He begins is next door to blasphemy. Here is some more assurance, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6 (KJV). The “End of your faith” is when our sanctification is done here and we stand face to face with our Savior Jesus Christ. The salvation of our souls is guaranteed by faith in Jesus when we call on Him. The Holy Spirit is the seal of our redemption until we get there, and it is finished when we see Jesus.

Someone put it this way: “We have been saved from the PENALTY of sin; We are being saved from the POWER of sin; and we will be saved from the very PRESENCE OF SIN.”

Salvation is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives; “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:12-14 (KJV). When we are trusting in Jesus we can also trust that He sees the panoramic view of things, and is working all things for our good and His glory. Even in the fires of trials and tribulations.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Discernment Of The Times

 “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Matthew 24:32-34 (KJV)

Jesus has given a previous lesson on the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:11-14, 20-24). Jesus being hungry saw a fig tree with leaves, and when He arrives at the tree to eat some figs finds that it is a hypocrite tree. It is a fig tree, it advertises that it has figs by its having leaves, but there are no figs on the tree. Mark says that it was not the season for figs, yet the leaves indicated that there were figs on the tree. In some places of the Old Testament Israel is likened to the fig tree (Hosea 9:10), and is almost always named in association with them in their blessings or cursings (1 Kings 4:25; Jeremiah 8:13; Joel 1:7, 12; 2:22; Micah 4:4; Habakkuk 3:17; Haggai 2:19; Zechariah 3:10).

When Jesus cursed the fig tree, because it bore no fruit, it was a representative curse upon the nation of religious Israel. They were pretending to have spiritual life, but they were dead; because they had refused to recognize their Messiah, trust Him and believe. By Jesus cursing the fig tree He declared that the old ceremonial, legalistic, religious practices of Judaism were fruitless and cursed and dead. How can I say this? Mark’s Gospel places this cursing of the fig tree between Jesus entering the temple on a late evening (Mark 11:11). Jesus then left and went to Bethany, and the text says, “And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.” (Mark 11:12-14). Then following the curse of the fig tree we find Jesus in the temple overturning money changers tables, because they had defiled the temple, and made the “house of prayer” a den of thieves (Mark 11:15-19). Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the chief priests and elders asked Him where He received the authority to say and do the things He did? He refused to answer, because they refused to answer His concerning the prophet John the Baptist.

The Bible is the Holy Spirit inspired, inerrant, infallible decree of God to mankind; of God, His righteousness, justice, peace, sovereignty, power, and love for mankind; it also tells us of our own wickedness, or our need for repentance, and faith. I say this to emphasize that each verse of Scripture is placed in an order; which God has prescribed; to make the point that He wants to make. It would, therefore, seem to me that the placement of verses 12 – 14 of Mark 11 where they are would be declaring that the religiosity, hypocrisy, and godlessness of the of the Aaronic priesthood is cursed; at the least their godless legalism, and hypocritical acts; they will forever remain fruitless.

If you notice in the above verses of Matthew 24 Jesus only refers to the leaves, and no fruit. It could be that Jesus is referring to the realization of a renewed State of Israel. If this is so then, we have seen this take place in a generation of time. May 14, 1948, and in those sixty years there have been many things take place which should cause us to sit up and take notice. The increase of those things which Jesus tells us of in verses 4-8 of chapter 24. We must remember that these signs are signs of the Second Coming of Jesus in His glory, and not for the rapture of the Church.

Even if the signs or their increase of intensity is what Jesus is referring to it is evident that the time is short. Truly Summer is near, and Jesus is at the door. The generation of which Jesus refers would probably be the generation which sees these signs fulfilled. If the fig tree in this case is Israel, then it would refer to the generation of those living during the time Israel is back as a Nation.

24:34 this generation. This cannot refer to the genreation living at that time of Christ, for ‘all these things’–the abomination of desolation (v. 15), the persecutions and judgments (vv. 17-22), the false prophets (vv. 23-26), the signs in the heavens (vv. 27-29), Christ’s final return (v. 30), and the gathering of the elect (v. 31)–did not ‘take place’ in their lifetime. It seems best to interpret Christ’s words as a reference to the generation alive at the time when those final hard labor pains begin … This would fit with the lesson of the fig tree, which stresses the short span of time in which these things will occur…” From The MACARTHUR Study Bible, p. 1440 (NKJV).

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35 (KJV)

Jesus saying, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” gives us direction toward verse 35. Verse 35 assures us of the power of the Word of God. It is powerful. It is unchanging. It is inerrant. It is infallible. It is eternal. Can’t all these things be said of God Himself? Yes! His Word is His character. His Word is His voice in a dark world. His Word is His message of Himself to mankind. His Word is His Law, His History, His poetry, songs, and laments. His Word is also His message of faith, repentance, and future events.

Let’s look at what God in His Word says of what He says:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” Psalms 19:7-11 (KJV);

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2 (KJV);

“And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” Deuteronomy 8:3 (KJV);

“Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that He may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 9:5 (KJV);

“But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” Deuteronomy 30:14 (KJV);

” And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” 1 Samuel 3:1 (KJV);

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.” 2 Samuel 22:31 (KJV);

“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Psalms 33:6 (KJV);

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Isaiah 40:8 (KJV);

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (KJV);

“Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.” Jeremiah 1:12 (KJV);

“The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:28-29 (KJV);

” For I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord GOD.  Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off.  Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel 12:25-28 (KJV);

“In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” Daniel 9:2 (KJV);

” Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” Hosea 4:1 (KJV);

“And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.” Amos 8:12 (KJV);

“Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6 (KJV).

 

We should be comforted, encouraged, and exhilarated to know that God gives so much power and authority to His Word, and has given it to us to know Him, grow to love Him, and live for His glory. It is also wonderful to know that everything which God has spoken will be fulfilled, and that there is no ending to His word and/or His promises.

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 24:36-44 (KJV)

There are some who try and date the Second Coming of our Lord. It has always been ended with embarassment, and loss of credibility. Why is it that we cannot believe what Jesus has taught us; “No man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only, knows the day and hour”. He gives us a clue as to the conditions of the times, but still without a date.

Some have looked at this verse and indicated that since Jesus didn’t know the day or hour this was surely evidence that He was not divine. Jesus was divine, but limited His knowledge as a man, to only what the Father would have Him know. It would seem to me, that now that He is seated on the Father’s right hand, and all things have been “Placed under His feet”, that Jesus would definitely know the day and hour of His coming.

Jesus gives us some signs to look for before that great and notable day of the Lord comes. There is the sign of Noah. Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD, and God called him to build a huge boat, with its inhabitants being the animals of the earth, and eight human beings – Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives. The days of Noah were evil. Everyone was going about life without much thought and little to no thought of God. They were wealthy, comfortable, and there seems to have been no war; all is well! At least on the surface. Then Noah comes along, hears the Word of the LORD, obeys, and begins building this large floating boat, and ark for deliverance. Not only is Noah preaching to the people around him, but the building of the ark itself is a message to the people. Let’s hear what the writer of Hebrews says of this;

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Hebrews 11:7 (KJV)

The culture of Noah’s day was probably very similar to our own. Jesus describes it as, “…before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…”. To see this and read it just seems like the casual, everyday thing. People were going about their daily task, play, work, as though everything were fine. Jesus is most likely getting us to see that cultural laws had become common place. Cultural law basically being if it is alright for the culture your in then it is right. We could look at this way – if exchanging marriage partners is culturally okay, then it is okay to practice for all; if homosexuality and same sex marriage is acceptable then, it should be acceptable for all; if giving the unborn babies up on the altar of abortion is the going and approved thing, then by all means don’t over burden yourself; if prostitution is just another way of making a living, and can be unionized, then don’t criticize those who must earn their keep by slaving themselves out for pleasure oriented people; you see the phrase of the cultural elite is “You got to go along, to get along”.

As long as you don’t “rock the boat” or “make waves” you are an okay sort of person. However, if you speak out about these culturally acceptable vices, and call them “evil”; the culturally elite will turn that around on you and call you the “evil”. Remember Isaiah the prophets words, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20 (KJV). There has been a changing of words and semantics plays a large part in our understanding. It used to be that the word “Gay” meant “Happy, merry, cheerful”. Now the word “Gay” is used culturally to define a deviant lifestyle which is growing more and more acceptable by our world, and culture.

That is probably the like of Noah’s day. The cultural thing is to be accepting of all fads, frauds, and failures; with one exception, and that exception being those who will have the courage and boldness to say what is right and wrong. That day when Jesus comes back to earth to set up His kingdom will be a dramatic day. Most of those who hold power positions will be put down. Every nation who exalts itself against the God of heaven will fall. Every individual who exalts themselves against the Lord Jesus will crumble and bow in His presence. There will be no humility here from these; they will be pleading for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them.

On that day it seems there will be a separation which takes place in that moment; at least in that very day. Two working side by side – one will be left to live on in the kingdom of Jesus because of their faith in Him, and the other will perish. Matthew’s gospel mentions two men in the field, and two women at the mill, and would probably cover every situation of the workers in that time to come. It leaves us to understand that no gender, or workplace, is without the separation. One believes and is left to live on in the Kingdom or our Lord, while the unbelieving perish, and await the final judgment.

Jesus gives us these words to cause us to be “watchful” and vigilant concerning the matter of His Second Coming. Though this Sermon on Mount Olive is probably a message solely for the Jewish people it should have a profound impact on the Body of Christ – the Church. Though there are many preachers who use these words of two being together and one taken as refering to the rapture of the Church, the rapture of the Church does not seem to be mentioned in the sermon; at least in this part of it. We are uncertain of when the LORD may return, but we can know that since these signs are having to do with the Second Coming of Christ and not the Rapture, then the Rapture of the Church is closer. Therefore, we are to be ever vigilant, and diligent to do the works that will glorify our Lord.

“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24:45-51 (KJV)

Here are words of direction, and correction, and comfort. One of the things that Scriptures tell us will happen before the Lord comes is people who doubt – “scoffers” -that Jesus is returning, “Where is the promise of His coming?” they say. There are even some who have heard the one’s who have given up on the Lord’s return and who want to spiritualize His coming, who say, “Jesus already returned and set up His kingdom”, or they say, “The second coming of Jesus is when you were born again”, and there might be a few poor souls who say, “The second coming of Jesus is when you physically die”. These, at least to me, just seem to be a different way of scoffing at the coming again of our Lord and Savior. If the Scriptures which foretold the first coming of Jesus were fulfilled literally, then how can we not believe that those same Old Testament prophecies, which also tell us of the second coming, will not also be fulfilled literally.

It is the heart that has grown cold to the words of the second coming of Christ when the life gets hard, the heart grows cold. When a professing child of God begins to give up on the promises of God they will also begin to grow cold toward others, and in their thinking believe that the way you live doesn’t really matter. If the Lord is not returning “What use is there of this life”, and if the promise of the Lord’s return were not genuine, and His return were a lie, then truly, would life be worth living? I would have to answer YES! to that question.

The faithful Christian would lose nothing in remaining faithful to the Lord, His Word and His promises. Several years ago I would not have agreed with what I just said, but the life of a Christian is worth living. However, Jesus did come the first time; He did live a sinless life, and performed many miracles, and pleased the Father in heaven. He went to the cross and voluntarily laid down His life for all men, taking the judgment for our sins, died, and was buried, and three days later was raised to life to eternally rule and reign; and give eternal life to all who will believe in Him.

Only the unbelieving could turn away from the truth of the return of our Lord, and the setting up of His kingdom on earth. The things of this world will come to an end, and His Kingdom will be forever.

-Tim A. Blankenship

A People Being Prepared

“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:9-14 (KJV)

The birth pangs coming on the world are small in comparison to what is going to come. There will be an unprecedented increase in storms, earthquakes, other weather related catastrophes; unlike anything the world has ever seen. This all for the purpose of God’s redemption of His people, His nation called Israel. It is my belief that we are seeing these birth pangs this very day.

The nation of Israel is being attacked daily by cowardly terrorist who believe their only sure way to eternal blessing is by the taking of the infidel – Jews, Christians and pagans – if they cannot convert them to Islam. Jesus said, “see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” 24:6. The world over is seeing these things take place, and we should see them as God’s invitation to repent of our sins and trust His Son as our personal Lord and Savior.

We must realize that these words are being spoken to the Jewish people; particularly to the disciples at this time to make them aware that He has not come to set up His earthly kingdom just yet. That the people of Israel have a time coming for cleansing and repentance. Let me give you three things for now that let me know that this is a message for the Jew: 1) When we look at the text of Matthew we see the genealogy of a King – the King of the Jews; 2) the mention of the “Abomination of desolation” in verse 15; and 3) “Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” verse 16. These are clearly references to Jewish people.

There will be a point before the judgment proceeds with the nation of Israel where the Church will be taken out of this world. For some reason some want to call it a “Secret Rapture” or some other word such as that. There will be nothing secret about millions of people missing. That is why Jesus has cautioned us, warned us many times “I am coming again”, “No one knows the day or the hour”, “In such an hour as ye think not; the Son of Man cometh”. His coming for His bride is imminent, ie. sudden, and without further notice. What is secret about that? What worldly thief announces his coming? None. If any home owner knew a thief was coming they would be ready and prepared. We know Jesus is coming again for His bride; we need to be ready for His appearing, and for His call, “Come up here”.

On that day when millions disappear then, there is going to come a time of persecution on the nation of Israel. There will be a time of peace for about 3.5 years. Then that peace will be broken by the false peace maker, and that is when they will need to flee to the mountains.

THERE IS COMING A PERIOD OF TIME, AROUND THE WORLD, WHEN THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN JESUS, WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION (vv. 9-10). It seems that this will be a period of time after which a world ruler has come on the scene, and will establish peace with Israel, and between Israel and other nations. Anyone who refuses to accept this new world ruler, and has chosen to believe the Word of God, the exclusivity of faith in Jesus Christ alone, and refuses the work and ministry of this world ruler will be the one’s who suffer.

We know according to the Revelation that there will be 144,000 Jewish men (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5) who will become believers in Jesus Christ, carry the message of Christ to the world, and will be hated and despised. These will probably be called and set apart very near the beginning of the rule of the world leader.

Right now in our day when we speak of persecution we think of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, parts of Africa, and other parts of the world. This day that is coming will mean that believer around the world are going to be hated, despised. There will also be many who once professed faith in Jesus Christ who will turn away from the faith, and turn on their family and friends, exposing their faith to the authorities who will have them killed. Those “departing from the faith” will really, only be showing that they never really knew Jesus; nor has He known them – in His own words, “I never knew you”. John the apostle said, “They went out from us because they were not of us” (1 John 2:19).

The Christians in the USA can yell and protest when we feel we are being treated wrongly. For years now there has been a powerful influence from Christian groups who espouse moral beliefs and convictions, and relied upon politics and political machines and machinery to accomplish their purposes. I sometimes refer to this as “the woman riding the beast” (Revelation 17:1-5), which refers to a religious influence with seeming control over a political government. Our trust must be in Christ alone. No political machine; whether it be Republican, Democrat, Independent, Constitutional is the answer to the ills of the USA government; or of the governments of the world. What that will get us is a One World Ruler, the Bible has called Antichrist. This leader hates Christ, and His followers, and he will be filled with the devil, seeking to destroy the very work of God; and seek to take the place of God. He will seek to destroy the 144,000 as well as all who convert and believe in Christ. As a matter of fact it appears that all 144,000 will be martyrs for the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Revelation 14:1-5).

Those who depart from their professed faith will turn on their mothers and fathers who have believed, and report them to authorities of the world ruler. The “Offended” ones of whom Jesus speaks are those who because of the persecution, and maybe the popularity of the world ruler, and his chrisma will turn from their “faith”, and follow the lie. They are more intrigued by antichrist and his seeming power, than they are Christ and His real power. This can take us back to the parable of the sower which Jesus teaches in Matthew 13. There are two types of soil presented which does seem to receive the seed, but then one is burned up from heat or persecution from the sun, so bears no fruit. The second soil which receives the seed is thorny, brushy, weedy, thus is choked out because it gets no light from the sun, showing a heart that is caught up in the worldliness of wealth, power, prestige, politics, popularity, and even technology. This bears no fruit for the glory of Jesus either, thus does not know Him.

DURING THE TIME THAT IS COMING, THERE WILL BE FALSE PROPHETS OF UNPRECEDENTED PROPORTIONS (v. 11). These false prophets will tell the world to believe the world ruler. Trust him. He knows the way through our wars, tribulation and trials. Just trust him. Jesus has warned us just a few verses previous to “Take heed that no one deceive you”, and that “All these are the beginning of sorrows”.

That time will be a time of great deception. Paul the apostle writing to the Church of Thessolonica writes, “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (KJV). There will not be one word of truth spoken about, truth of, or truth spoken by this individual and/or his government, yet he will be given the power and ability to deceive multitudes of people and nations with their leaders.

There are multitudes of people of our day who will flock to an individual leader because he/she may have a very influential personality, charismatic, powerful speaker, or good looks, and yet speaks whatever people want to hear. Because of the image he presents many will be moved to him, despite the contradictory words he speaks in different cultures and societies. That can be clearly seen in the USA’s political arena right now for the elections of 2008, concerning one very popular, young, and fast moving candidate for President of the United States. He has came into the political scene with a vigilance unlike any I have ever seen. I am just saying that this candidate is a good example of what is coming.

The false prophets will point to this coming one wold leader as the epitome of goodness, righteousness, and the answer to all the world’s problems. They will endeavor to make him appear as though he were Jesus Christ Himself, or a likeness of Him. Anti-christ does not just mean “against Christ” it can mean, “In place of Christ” or “Instead of Christ”. Because God has sent a “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie”, then these will be able to easily convince the deluded.

Why would God allow or send a “strong delusion”? The answer is given – “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The people having seen the power and heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, rejected Christ, and chose their own way, their own destiny; therefore God sends them the “strong delusion” and they cannot then believe. They will continue in their state of condemnation. By their own choice.

THOUGH LAWLESSNESS SHALL ABOUND THE FAITHFUL WILL ENDURE TO THE END (vv. 12-13). The Spirit of God has always been at work in the world, but not as He has been working since the departure of Jesus in the clouds (Acts 1:9-11). Jesus had promised that He would send the Comforter (John 14:16; 16:5-16) when He returned to the Father. We read in the Old Testament of the Holy Spirit coming on certain individuals, however, the Spirit of God doesn’t seem to abide with them, or continue with them, it is for occasional needs that arise. The Spirit came on Saul who had just been chosen as the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 10:9-12), and it is seen in Samson one of the judges of Israel (Judges 14:5-6), and there are other Biblical examples of the appearances of the Spirit of God upon His chosen people. The Spirit of God came on these individuals as the need arose, and to put away evil from Israel.

There has been evil in this world since the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden. The Spirit of God has kept that evil in check, though not violating the will of man. We can see the power of God throughout the Old Testament in the flood, in the call of Abraham and Sarah, the bondage of Joseph to Egypt, and eventually the bondage of Israel in Egypt as slaves. We definitely see God’s delivering power as the Pharoah is confronted to let God’s people go, and by his will he refuses, thus opening a floodgate of judgment upon Egypt; until finally after the death of his son Pharoah breaks, lets the children of Israel go, only to then change his mind, sending his army after them to kill them or bring them back; and the army of Egypt perishes in the Red Sea.

There has been lawlessness, evil, and sin since the fall, and it has always been kept to a minimum by the work of the Spirit of God. That may be hard for some to see and understand, however, when we realize that human beings are totally depraved – not meaning that we are as sinful as we could be, but that if we were left to ourselves, without God, we grow increasingly worse in wickedness – we might get better understanding of the hindering of evil by the work of the Spirit of God. It is almost horrifying to think what the world would be like without God’s intervention in human affairs. Those who want that will one day see what the world will be like without God. Atheists cry for a world without God, evidently thinking the world would be a better place, without Him. Thinking mankind is getting better, progressing in knowledge [science], technology, and medicine the non-theist mind believes that mankind can solve his own ills and problems and have peace on earth. But first, in the thinking of the non-theist, there must be no God.

During the time for which Jesus is speaking of there will be such lawlessness as has never been seen before. We think that things are bad now with men killing their wives, wives killing their husbands, mothers and fathers killing their children, children killing their parents, parents and step-parents raping, molesting and killing their children; yet, with all of this the Spirit of God reigns, rules and overrules for now. We are only seeing the introduction of what is to come, a prelude, a very small sample of the horror which will come on the world. Maybe using some exaggeration; that day will make this day look like the millennial reign of Christ in comparison.

As Christians before this day comes we must be ever vigilant in proclaiming the gospel message of Jesus Christ. We don’t want any of our loved ones; family, friends, or close relatives, or even those who may have made us their enemies to go through the event that is going to try those who “dwell on the earth” and be the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). We are to love the appearing of the Lord (2 Timothy 4:8). It seems that the appearing of the Lord is getting to be the farthest thing from many professing Christian’s hearts and minds. We want to see Jesus, and to see Him face to face.

There will be a multitude who will believe in Jesus Christ after the disappearance of the Church. It will probably be the largest number of people believing in such a short period of time, that has ever happened in the history of salvation. This time will not be peaceful for those who believe. Their live’s will be in constant jeopardy; any property they own will probably be lost – taken by the hater of Christ; and any business(es) owned by believers will be confiscated and given to the estate of the Christ hater. In order to live many will flee to remote areas, to the mountains and the hills, and will be trusting their lives to the hands of God. They will be unable to buy or sell, therefore groceries, and goods will be hard to come by (Revelation 13:16-17). However, no matter what comes their way, they will endure to the end. They will endure to the end of their lives. They will endure to the end of the tribulation. They will endure till Christ comes again.

Let me pose this thought or question for the Christians who are citizens of the USA and other free nations, of 2008: If I will not stand for Christ today when I have freedom, why should I believe I would stand and speak for Him when those freedoms are gone? If I am ashamed to speak for Him today, I will certainly be ashamed of Him when I have no freedom. In fact Jesus said, “If you are ashamed of Me I will be ashamed of you before My Father in heaven.” (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26)

The apostle Paul writes, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (KJV).

Surely the Christian of 2008 can see that we are in perilous times for sure. We too must endure though the times be evil. Jesus is coming soon, and we need to be ready.

THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM WILL BE PROCLAIMED TO THE WHOLE WORLD (v.14). There are many who believe and teach that Jesus cannot come again until the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and received all over the world. There are only a few places on the earth where the gospel has not been preached. During the time of suffering, the time of tribulation, the gospel message may contain the message of the coming of Christ’s rule and reign upon the earth. It would be a means of preparing the believers for that day.

The “gospel of the kingdom” does need to be spoken today (2008), but it is not heard much from the pulpits of our churches. May God have mercy toward those pastors/preachers who neglect to tell of the glorious kingdom of Christ on earth.

Pastors and preachers are saying, “I want to preach practical messages that people can use for their everyday life. I don’t see any practicality to preaching of ‘pie in the sky by and by'”. How could anything be any more practical than getting people ready for Christ’s coming? Preacher, one day they are going to look you in the eye and say, “Why didn’t you tell us? Why didn’t you tell us that Jesus was coming again? Why didn’t you tell us we needed to be ready?”, then what will your answer be? “Well, it wasn’t practical to preach”. The truth is friend, YOU DON’T BELIEVE IT. What are you doing behind that sacred desk where you are supposed to be proclaiming the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27-28).

The message of the kingdom of Christ as continued to be proclaimed since Jesus gave the commission to go into the world. Where one has failed or fallen, God raises another to continue. God has always had a remnant of people. The message will continue right up until the end of the time of trouble that is coming on the earth, and possibly right through the Millennial reign of Christ on earth.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Beginning of Sorrows

In looking at the Olivet Discourse we see that the disciples are still without understanding concerning the death, burial and resurrection; and they are still looking for Him to set up an earthly kingdom at that present time. The thought of the temple being destroyed was beyond their thinking and curious minds. The temple; to the people of Israel represented a security, and the presence of God.

As I study this portion of Scripture a question comes to my mind. What of the ark of the covenant? Historians have told us that the ark of the covenant was hidden by Jeremiah in Egypt, or other such stories. In Jerusalem, in the time of Jesus, however, there is a temple, and there is a Holy of Holies within the temple. There is a “veil” which was torn during the crucifixion of Jesus (27:51). The ark of the covenant always represented the presence, power and glory of God. During the time of Jesus was the ark of the covenant behind the veil that was torn from the top to the bottom? Does it matter?

For the temple to be destroyed would be catastrophic for the Jewish people. In the hearts of most of the leaders of Israel, the presence, power, and glory of God seemed to be of little significance; after all, they had their temple, their sacrifices, feast days, Sabbaths, and special days.

“And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Matthew 24:1-8 (KJV)

In verse one as we saw in the last study/message Jesus departs from the temple. Again, this is Matthew’s last mention of Jesus in the temple, and now he has Him departing from it. Even if the ark of the covenant is present behind the veil, the real glory of God has left. The ark of the covenant was only a shadow of the Lord Christ. Made of wood, representing man. Covered in gold representing the purity and deity of God; and within was the law of God – the Ten Commandments – given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, Aaron’s rod that blossomed (Numbers 17:10), and a sample of the manna (Exodus 16:33). Many probably do not, nor will they want to see it; but this event of Jesus departing the temple is a very sad event; but one which speaks loudly of a coming judgment upon those who rejected Him.

Without God in the temple it was being left desolate (23:28), just as Jesus had said. Being left desolate the temple, then, would become subject to defilement, desecration, and destruction. Always evidence of God’s displeasure and departure.

In A.D. 70 the destruction of the temple was fulfilled. There was not one stone left upon another. These gleaming white marble stones were cut with precision, where each one fit perfectly as the building was being erected. The largest stone which was cut out measured 40 feet in length, by 12 feet wide, by 12 feet high, and weighed up to 100 tons. The East side of the temple was plated with gold, and as the morning sun rose it could be seen from many miles away. The temple had been forty years in the building and it was not completed at the time it was destroyed.

To see these massive stones, and hear the words of Jesus, it would be hard to imagine that that temple could be destroyed, and not one stone be left upon another. However when the temple fell, almost forty years later, it was just as Jesus said. Not one stone was left upon another.

A Study Bible note says,

24:2. not one stone shall be left here. These words were literally fulfilled in A.D. 70. Titus, the Roman general, built lare wooden scaffords around the walls of the temple buildings, piled them high with wood and other flammable items, and set them ablaze. The heat from the fires was so intense that the stones crumbled. The rubble was then sifted to retrieve the melted gold, and the remaining ruins were ‘thrown down’ into the Kidron Valley. See notes on 22:7; Luke 19:43.” THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE, NKJV, p. 1438.

It goes to show, when God says something is going to happen; it will happen; and just as He has said.

We are all somewhat curious about the future. We have that curiosity and the only way we know the future, or at least a part of it is by God’s revelation. The disciples were curious, and so asked Jesus, “When will these things be?”, and this was after they were the one’s showing Jesus the temple (v. 2); probably because they were in awe of its beauty and size. I am somewhat amazed by the architecture of the old European variety. There is an old church building in France which was started in its construction in 1100 A.D., and was completed around 1500. It is a massive piece of art, and craftsmanship. It still stands today, but for how much longer only God really knows. It is much greater to be in awe of the One who has shaped and formed and built all things from nothing.

The disciples asked Jesus three questions. Question 1: “When shall these things be?”; Question 2: “What shall be the sign of thy coming?”; and Question 3: “…of the end of the world?” When the disciples, awed by the glory of the building, saw that Jesus was not; they asked Him, “When shall these things be?” With psychics giving people false hope for the future just to gain a few dollars, people still reading their horoscopes, and some flocking to seminars where they can learn how to build their own future by building on themselves; we need a clear word from God on the matter of what the future holds. As has been said, “I don’t know what the future holds; but I know who holds the future.” We can trust and know; when we know Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior; that anything that is in our future is in the hands of the Almighty God, our Creator.

The only reason people go to psychics, palm readers, fortune tellers, necromancers (People who claim to communicate with the dead), and witches is to keep control of their lives themselves. I am forever grateful that the power of the control of my future is not in my hands, but the hands of my heavenly Father. Now, don’t misunderstand me. That does not mean that I can sit down and do nothing. As a responsible man, and Christian man; I still must be vigilant to tend to my regular business affairs, spiritual life, and see that my family grows in the Lord as well. I must be a responsible steward of all that God has blessed me with, and God help me, and forgive me where I haven’t been. God will reveal as much of the future that I need to know, as He wants me to know. He most likely will not tell me when I will die; when my wife, or my children will die; or the death of anyone else for that matter. He can, and He has before with others, but there is nothing that tells us He must do so.

The disciples equate the destruction of the temple with the end of the world [age]. A question we might ask is “Why would God destroy the Temple?” It was the center of worship for the Jews. To the Jew, it was the place where God dwelt. The place where they could meet God, and for some they thought to contain Him only in the temple for themselves, leaving them free to live as they pleased.

Why would God destroy the temple? To save Israel. God will destroy buildings, houses, lands, livestock, even lives to save a soul. Jesus did not tell His disciples when the temple would be destroyed. The destruction spoken of here would take place some years in the near future; it was; and there will be another one built, sometime yet in our future. Instead of telling the disciples “When” these things would come to pass, Jesus mentioned to them some signs of things which would happen before the return of the Lord.

Then in verse four Jesus begins answering the questions when He says, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” With the world experiencing the many forms of catastrophe which we all have seen it is no wonder there are those proposing things which are really “Get rich quick” schemes and scams. Even worse though are the spiritual charlatans who propose the many ways to God; than any way is good as long as you believe. Some give you a promise: “When you send in your offerings to me, then, God will multiply for you, your offering a hundred fold”. None of these false prophets warn of sin, death, and judgment; and certainly none of them call for repentance, and faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. There are many in the world out to deceive and to get what they want from anyone who will follow them.

Jesus’s words are, “Take heed that no man deceive you”. In this world there is only one hope and His name is Jesus Christ Son of the Living God; who died on the cross for the sins of the world, was buried carrying our sins away, and rose again as evidence that He is the God incarnate who created all that there is.

There are even some of them who say they are christs, and there are some who will tell you they have the christ spirit or something like that, but what they teach and say is contrary to the true Christ – there is only one – and His name is Jesus, Son of the Living God. The teaching of these male and female charismatic speakers are indeed fascinating, even captivating, but lies meant to lead you away from the truth. Even Oprah has her own gospel now, and it may include Jesus but not the Bible Jesus who died, was buried, and rose again. For if she really believed in Him she would not be promoting other ways to God. The kind of message she and others are proclaiming are leading many souls away from the truth of Jesus Christ right into the arms of Lucifer. Jesus said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.”

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:” Matthew 24:6-7 (KJV)

If we take a look around the world of 2008 we find wars going on in many nations. Oun own nation the USA is at war with two nations – Iraq and Afghanistan – and working toward another with Iran, due to Iran’s arrogance, and their hatred for Israel and the United States, and their threat that nuclear power would bring to the world. The president of Iran has vowed to destroy Israel. We need not fear that happening; it won’t; because God has promised otherwise, and we have seen His Almighty hand of deliverance before.

Jesus tells us in the verse above, “See that ye be not troubled…”. There is a war going on in our own nation. It is not a war with guns, bullets, and bombs; but a war of thoughts and ideas; a war of right versus wrong – what is right and what is wrong – even getting where wrong is considered right, and right is considered as wrong. Let me give you a for instance; in the minds of some citizens of the USA same sex marriage is a good thing for those who want to practice that perversion of a sexual relationship, and if you are silent and will support it by your silence saying on occasion, “I see nothing wrong with it”, then you are good. On the other hand if you oppose this perversion of a sexual relationship, and warn people that it is against the norm, or against God and right, then you are bad. According to a number of these same sex marriage advocates to be against their marriage or union and speak against it is “Hate speech”. That is only one instance of wrong being right, and right being wrong. There are others. You could call it a “Culture war”, but I think it better called a “Spiritual war”.

-Tim A. Blankenship

 

ON EAGLE’S WINGS

ON EAGLE’S WINGS

Revelation 12:1-17

Jesus is the embodiment of God’s glory, born by Israel through Mary; the virgin at the time of His conception and birth; for the deliverance of sin, and to bring Israel through great tribulation to fulfill the promises of God, made to Abraham, David, Jesus, and all who believe, with much tribulation.

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 12:1-2 (KJV).

John sees a “Great wonder in heaven”. This is the first of seven personages; “1) The woman, representing Israel, 2) the dragon, representing Satan, 3) the man-child, referring to Christ, 4) Michael, representing the angels, 5) Israel, the remnant of the seed of the woman, 6) the beast out of the sea, the world dictator, and 7) the beast out of the earth, the false prophet and religious leader of the world”. JOHN WALVOORD.
Beginning with chapter 12 through chapter 14 we have a parenthetical section which fills in some gaps during the trumpet and vial judgments.
The first of the seven characters is a “Great wonder”. Who is this woman? Is she the Church? Israel? Mary? When looking at her from scriptural understanding she is Israel (Romans 9:5). The nation, historically, gave birth to Jesus by Mary.
This woman being “Clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” can be identified with Genesis 37:9. The “sun” is Jaco, the “moon” Jacob’s wife, and the “eleven stars” Jacob’s eleven sons and Joseph making the twelfth.
Verse 2 seems to imply Israel’s trials and tribulations rather than Mary’s

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. vv. 3-4 (KJV).

The second character in this scene is the “Red dragon”. He is evidently seen as God sees him. Blood thirsty and wicked. His “seven heads and ten horns, and crowns…” seem to identify him with earthly kingdoms – especially Rome. He is clearly representing the revived Roman empire and satanic power.
Jonathan Edwards commenting on Hebrews 1:6-8 wrote, writing of Jesus’s birth, “At that time when the Son of God appeared a poor little infant in a stable and manger then God said, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’ and then the angels had a great trial of their obedience greater than ever they had before.” John Gerstner commenting on Edwards writes, “…According to Edwards the fall of the angels occurred when announcement was made that they were to be ministering servants to men’s salvation”. From THE RATIONAL BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF JONATHAN EDWARDS vol. 1, pg. 256.
So we might assume that before the foundation of the world, before time, before history ever began, when Lucifer found out he was going to be a “Ministering servant” to mankind, he rebelled and took one third of the angels with him. Some were confined to chains and some are loose.
Satan, the devil, hated that he was going to have to worship a baby human being, so instead of yielding allegiance to his Creator he determined to do things his way. He set out to destroy this baby. He tried to tempt Him away from His destiny. Then, he tried to defeat Him in death. Lucifer, the devil has certainly tried to “Devour her child”. The child is the Messiah, the Savior of Israel. He is Jesus my Savior and Lord.

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. vv. 5-6 (KJV).

Verse 5 certainly makes clear who the man-child is. He is “To rule all nations” (Psalm 2:8). He will rule them with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 19:15).
If we look at this verse simply as read it would seem, that the child is born and is immediately “Caught up unto God and to His throne”, however, we must understand the way biblical prophecy works. In many Old Testament prophecies there are gaps. Take for instance Luke 4:18-19 which is a quotation from Isaiah 61:1-2. Note, however, that Jesus only quoted through “…the acceptable year of the LORD”. The fulfillment of the rest is yet to come. The same is true of verse 5 of Revelation 12. “She brought forth a man-child who was to rule…”, but in the gap He was crucified, for the sins of men, was buried, rose again, then forty days later “was caught up unto God…”. The day is yet to come for Him to rule on earth.
The gap between “Pentecost’ and the ‘rapture of the Church” is the Church age. The gap between the “Rapture” and the “Abomination of desolation” is a period of false peace. The time between the “abomination” and the rule of Christ on earth is the “Great tribulation”, or “The time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). “The time of Jacob’s trouble” is the final 3.5 years of “the tribulation” and that is when Israel will be divinely protected by God, according to verse 6. Evidently for the whole 1260 days of sorrow. This will work in them to bring out a remnant who trust Jesus as Messiah.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. vv. 7-9 (KJV).

When we read the book of Job in the Old Testament it appears that Satan has access to appear before God (Job1:6).
It seems that in the middle of the 7 years that Satan is cast out of Heaven, no longer having access to God. Because of this he is allowed to wreak havoc on the earth – “cast out into the earth”. The last 3.5 years are catastrophic. While God is controlling the elements during the opening of the seals, the sounding of the trumpets, and the pouring out of the vials of wrath; Satan (the serpent) is deceiving minds and destroying mankind as never before.
“There was war in heaven”, John says. Michael [the fourth personality in this parenthetical scene], is representative of the great angelic host. These angels, ever faithful to God stand firm to get the devil from before the throne of God.
In Scripture there are four references to the curtailing of Satan’s activities:
1. Somewhere around the dawn of creation satan was cast out of his exalted position as an angel of God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-15);
2. Mid-way through the Great Tribulation satan will be cast ouot from any access to God as accuser of believers (Revelation 12:10);
3. At the beginning of the millennium he will be shut up in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3);
4. At the end of the millennium he will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
We will see, that since satan will be cast out from even appearing before God that he will indulge in an all out attack on the seed of the woman – anti-semitic attacks against all of Israel. He has always hated God’s people, whether it be Israel or the Church. Being no more able to accuse he attacks in all his limited wrath. God protects Israel.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. vv. 10-12 (KJV).

The “Loud voice” is one of rejoicing. It is not said whose voice it is.
It could be God’s. It could be the twenty four elders. It could be the angels. It might be all the voices of heaven blended together as one.
It will be a glorious day in heaven when satan will be cast out from being “The accuser of the brethren”.
HOW IS THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE WON?
1. By the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross;
2. By the testimony of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God;
3. By loving Jesus with our lives [“loved not their lives unto the death”] (Mark 8:34-35; 10:31).
At this time there will be rejoicing in heaven, but great “woe” to those “Inhabiters of the earth”. Those refusing God’s grace through Jesus Christ will suffer both the wrath of satan and the wrath of God. Satan will go all out. He will even try to destroy those who are his to lead them into eternal torment with himself. He knows his time is short.

And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. 14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. vv. 13-16 (KJV).

The woman representing Israel (the remnant seed of the woman, and the fifth personality in this scene) is persecuted by satan. This is because of great hatred for the Hebrew people.
As mentioned in verse 6, though a little clearer hear, she is protected by God. The Scriptures have references as to “bearing on eagle’s wings” (Exodus 19:4). This implies swiftness. The place God has prepared for them is an earthly place not known to us. Some believe it to be a place called “Petra”, but no one can be certain. God supplies them their daily needs just as when He led them out of Egypt. There is striking similaritiies in both deliverances.
Verse 15 mentions a “water of flood”. It is not certain whether this is a literal flood of water. It would probably be just all out persecution. The flood does represent wrath in the same sense that the “serpent” represents satan. In that “the earth helped the woman” we can see this as , though satan intended it for Israel, instead it affected the “earth” or the “Inhabiters of the earth”.

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. v. 17 (KJV).

It is clear by this verse that satan’s attacks are against the godly remnant. He hates and is greatly enraged against any one “which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ”.
It is not said, but it seems that just as in the Egyptian deliverance, so too, in this one there will be some who will not believe despite God’s providential care; they have an “evil heart of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:12), and refuse to have Jesus as Messiah.
The persecution, up to this point has been “anti-semitic” against all Hebrews. Now it is solely against those who “Have the testimony of Jesus Christ”.

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12). He made deliverance for us ON EAGLE’S WINGS of the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Make haste to come to Him.