Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). As we near the end of the age and the soon return of Christ for His Church, it is clear that Satan is ramping up his battle for the souls of unbelievers. This is especially true in the area of moral purity. No one is exempt from the battle. Satan’s number one goal is to so suppress God’s truth that wrong becomes right and right becomes wrong. This is clearly happening today. Although the evidence from conscience, creation, and God’s Word is clear, men continue to choose to resist and oppose God’s truth by holding fast to their sin. The words of Jesus ring true: “Men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). When God’s truth is rejected, the darkness of spiritual falsehood replaces it. Therefore, Paul admonishes us to fight this war, not “according to the flesh,” but with the “divinely powerful weapons of our warfare.” What are these divinely powerful weapons? It is actually a singular weapon—the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). We fight the battle with truth—God’s Word. We cannot successfully oppose satanic assaults on the gospel nor can we defeat satanic falsehoods without this “divinely powerful” weapon. We are not called upon to bind Satan or demons (see Jude 9), nor are we called upon to debate truth and error, but to attack error with truth. When it comes down to it, this battle for God’s truth is really a battle for the human soul—perhaps your soul.
This is not an easy battle. Our enemy is clever, crafty, cunning, and a master deceiver. He is able to promulgate his evil schemes through his evil world system over which he rules (see Eph. 6:11). These “schemes,” according to John MacArthur are, “all-inclusive, encompassing every sin, immoral practice, false theology, false religion, and worldly enticement.” He is a master at using trickery and deception, therefore believers must respond with truth and righteousness. When we consider these “fortresses, … speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God,” we must understand this includes the most depraved abominations, including such things as extreme sexual immorality (adultery, fornications, homosexuality and the like), occultism, Satan worship, thoughts, ideas, reasonings, philosophies, and false religions. These are the “fortresses” with which men wall themselves in against God and the truth of the Gospel. Only the truth of God’s Word can destroy these fortresses! This is why we must preach Jesus! This is why we must continually proclaim the truth—unpopular truth at that—to a world that is hell-bent on suppressing the truth. One recent example of a satanic fortress “raised up against the knowledge of God” is the so called Hate Crime legislation that recently became law. Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, the primary purpose of this legislation is to silence Christians who would dare to tell the truth about certain sins. If you don’t believe me, simply look to our neighbor to the north—Canada—where similar laws have been enacted and are being used to threaten and intimidate Christians—conservative Bible believing Christians in particular. Satan will stop at nothing to silence the truth so that darkness can prevail and souls can be enslaved and damned for all eternity. However, I will not be silenced!
Hear me and hear me well—there is a battle raging for the soul—your soul—and only the truth of God’s Word and the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ can free a soul from the grips of satanic darkness and eternal damnation. “We are taking every thought captive,” Paul says. This accentuates the total destruction of the fortresses of satanic deception and the rescuing of those enslaved to Satan. And one doesn’t have to be a Satan worshipper to be enslaved to Satan. One can be sitting in the pews of the local church and be enslaved to satanic darkness. Who is winning the battle for your soul—God or Satan? Remember, Satan doesn’t care what it takes or how long it takes. His goal is always the same—to win the battle for your soul. There is only one way to ensure victory over this enemy—faith in the crucified, risen, ascended, and soon returning King of kings and Lord of lords—the Lord Jesus Christ! It may not be easy. You may still struggle and fail at times. But the rewards of faith in the Son of God are well worth the struggle. “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:6-8). Believe God and you will be victorious!
“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame…But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation” (Hebrews 6:4-6, 9). As a Southern Baptist Chaplain, I must admit, the title I have chosen for this article is a little misleading. After all, Southern Baptist are not historically known for bestowing false hope. We are better known as “People of The Book,” and as a missions minded group committed to reaching the whole world for Jesus Christ with a sure hope—Jesus Christ! By Bestowing False Hope, I am referring to a time-honored Southern Baptist tradition that I have come to detest—the altar call. As I have studied the Gospel message in the New Testament and the issue of altar calls—or walking the aisle to receive Christ—I have concluded it is a Southern Baptist distinctive not worth keeping. I know many of my SBC brethren will disagree with me on this and that’s okay. But when we consider the ever increasing numbers of people who previously walked a church aisle but are now fallen away, or backslidden as we like to call it, one can only conclude these folks were given a false hope based on their response of walking the aisle at the end of a church service and “praying to receive Christ.”
One would be pained to find any biblical evidence that the traditional altar call—or invitation—was a part of the worship of the early church. There is not one single verse of Scripture that shows the church issuing an altar call for hearers to come forward to receive Christ. In fact, I am convinced the altar call confuses the physical act of walking the church aisle with the spiritual act of conversion. Walking a church aisle is not required for salvation. Repentance and faith are (Mark 1:15). To suggest one must respond via an altar call confuses and deceives people about their spiritual state. I know several people who responded to the preaching of the Gospel by walking forward at the end of the service but whose lives now give ample evidence that conversion did not take place. Oh, they may have prayed to receive Christ. Many even followed through in “Believer’s Baptism.” But the sad reality is there is no evidence of a changed life—the one key indicator the New Testament teaches one can expect to see if conversion has indeed taken place—“things that accompany salvation.” This “Southern Baptist Distinctive” is often how people are deceived into thinking they are Christians when in fact they are not. Any message that fails to demand repentance and belief is no Gospel message at all! Coming forward at the end of a church service to “accept Jesus” and then being encouraged on that basis to feel assured of salvation without repentance and faith accompanied by evidence of a changed life is tantamount to bestowing false hope. It results in people who are “enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,” but who do not possess this heavenly gift or the Holy Spirit. They may have an intellectual perception but understanding the gospel is not the equivalent of regeneration and conversion. It is amazing that some can see and hear the amazing truth of the Gospel, respond positively and yet remain eternally lost. It saddens me as a Southern Baptist to know that my own convention has been guilty of bestowing false hope. Therefore, may all of us who claim Christ be careful how we invite others so that both our message and the required response are clear, biblically sound and straight-laced!
Now, for those of us who were saved as a result of walking forward at the end of a church service, do not fear! It is not the walking forward and praying to receive Christ that saves. It is repentance and faith—not a onetime decision but an ongoing condition. This ongoing condition is faith in action. It is the ongoing evidence that I possess new life in Christ. It is demonstrated fully in a changed life—no longer do I embrace my sin but I now embrace Christ. It is a faith that forsakes sin and continues with Christ, no matter how hard! I still sin. And sometimes I may sin grievously. But the key indicator is that I do not continue in sin. Paul wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). By “work out your own salvation,” Paul means we are to constantly evaluate our lives to see if God is indeed working in us, “to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The absence of such working should cause one to seriously consider the very real possibility they may not be truly born again—no matter what church they are a member of, how many church aisles they walked down, or how many times they may have been baptized.
“I will turn you about and put hooks in your jaws, and will bring you out, and all your army…Persia, Ethiopia and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops—many peoples with you…You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you…” (Ezekiel 38:4-6; 39:4). Is the Bible really the Word of God? As far as I am concerned, that is the question. For me, the answer is a resounding yes! There are several reasons I could give as to why we know the Bible is God’s Word, not the least of which is faith. However, the most compelling reason is the accuracy of fulfilled biblical prophecy. Unlike Nostradamus, Joseph Smith, Edgar Cayce, and other self-proclaimed prophets who seem to be able to get away with being wrong ninety-nine percent of the time, the Hebrew prophets had to meet a very stringent requirement—100 percent accuracy, 100 percent of the time—no exceptions. And when I say 100 percent accuracy, I mean accuracy down to the very smallest of details. One such small detail is found in Ezekiel’s prophecy of an alignment of nations that will come against Israel in the last days. In Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, the prophet predicts an Iranian led Russian equipped invasion force that includes several Middle Eastern and North African countries. Russia’s military and economic alliances with these nations have been in the news for the past few years. The lone holdout has been “Gomer and Beth-togarmah,” known today as Turkey. For the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39 to take place, Turkey must be aligned with Iran and Russia. Otherwise, the prophet Ezekiel misspoke and the Bible is not true.
Historically, Israel and Turkey have enjoyed close ties. However, current events indicate a shift is taking place. I believe it began when the European Union rebuffed Turkey’s desire to join the EU. Furthermore, it appears Turkey is developing closer ties with Syria. Last week, Turkey signed a civil and defense cooperation deal with Syria. Even more striking, Turkey appears to be taking a leading role in condemning Israel and recently cancelled a joint military exercise with Israel, choosing instead to hold joint exercises with the peace loving Syrians and Iranians. Israel’s loss of such a vital Middle East ally leaves it more isolated than ever. Of course, for students of Bible prophecy, such isolation is no surprise. The prophet Zechariah predicted a day when all the nations of the world would gather against Jerusalem (Zech. 12:3). We are witnessing Bible prophecy being fulfilled right before our eyes. 2600 years ago, the prophet Ezekiel looked down through the corridors of time and saw something that, until now, seemed like an utter impossibility. He saw nations not yet in existence and alliances not yet formed. He foretold the rise of a Russian military alliance with Iran, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern and North African countries. This alliance of nations would have but one purpose—to annihilate Israel in the last days. This alliance “will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel… [They] will go up…like a storm; [they] will be like a cloud covering the land” (Ez. 38:8-9). For Israel, all hope will appear to be lost. Notice I said, appear. Just when it appears Israel is about to be overrun, defeated, and utterly destroy, God says, “It will come about in that day, that My fury will mount up in My anger. In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel” (Ez. 38:18-19). Ezekiel goes on to say that God will supernaturally intervene on Israel’s behalf, utterly destroying this alliance of nations. Israel will become a super-power, Islam will come to an end, and God will reveal Himself to the world. Obviously, Turkey is making an unwise move. But their unwise move shows Ezekiel bats one thousand when it comes to Bible prophecy—100 percent accuracy, 100 percent of the time. Their move will also ensure that the Lord God of Israel will make Himself known “in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord” (Ez. 38:23). This is the Word of the Lord!
Ezekiel’s amazing prophecy seemingly coming to pass right before our eyes gives us yet another reason to believe the Bible is God’s Word and Jesus is coming soon for His Church. Surely the Rapture is nearer than it’s ever been. What if the end is closer than you think? Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air? If not, your time is quickly running out. “So you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matt. 24:33). “Behold, the judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9).
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”(1 John 5:4-5). I believe the Bible is crystal clear that those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ—truly born again—will overcome the world. By world, I mean that organized system headed by Satan. It is an invisible spiritual system of evil which manifests as “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:15). One thing most people fail to realize about this satanic world system is that it is only temporary. In other words, it is passing away along with the passing pleasures of sin. All true believers—those who have been born again by grace through faith in Christ alone—will overcome the world. This is the witness of the New Testament and one way—perhaps the primary way—one can know for sure whether or not they have been born again and are on their way to eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
John wrote, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world” (1 Jn. 5:4). The word, overcomes, is the Greek word nikao, from which we get the English word, Nike. In the New Testament, it is used of God, Christ, and His followers. It is used to describe true saving faith and means to conquer, prevail, and get the victory. More often than not, it always appears in the present tense and active voice, meaning it is happening right now and it is continuous. Therefore, true saving faith is a continuous abiding faith that endures, and those who possess it overcome the world. For Christians, it means we hold fast our faith even unto death. It also means we renounce and forsake sin, no matter how difficult such may be. I can remember counseling and praying with a young man, years ago, who was struggling with a particular sin. This young man had supposedly become a Christian a year earlier. I can remember him asking, “Why does this have to be so hard?” The reason following Christ is oftentimes “so hard” is because life simply is not easy, nor is it fair. Paul wrote, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:12). Clearly, overcoming the world is war! This is why Peter wrote, “Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). I was saddened to learn, nearly twenty years later, that this young man has fully embraced that sin which he previously fought to renounce and forsake. It appears Satan is winning—perhaps has won—the war against my friend’s soul. But I continue to pray for him and others of like persuasion that God would open their blind eyes that they might “see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ [so as to be saved]” (2 Cor. 4:4). After all, the Bible warns us, “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). It is crucial that we overcome the world. It is crucial because any moment now Jesus will return for His Church. If you are left behind, the chances of you coming to saving faith in Christ are slim and none. Therefore, you must overcome the world!
How does one overcome the world? How do we gain victory over a world that continually makes it so difficult? Notice what John says: “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” First of all, we must understand who Jesus Christ is and who we are in Him. In other words, we must understand our position in Christ. The Bible says that everyone born of God overcomes the world and is therefore (and will be) victorious over sin. It may be a struggle. There may be times of failure. But in the end, we will always be victorious. And this victory comes by way of our faith. Faith is the vehicle by which we overcome the world. Faith is standing on the truth and promises of God’s Word and learning to think like God thinks. In other words, I must believe God, no matter what. “And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). We must refuse to allow our struggles and particular inclinations to certain sins to defeat us. If God’s Word says some decision or lifestyle is a sin, we must believe God. I came to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord when I was eleven years old. I didn’t understand it all then (and barely do now). But as a young adult, I made a decision that I was going to believe and obey God no matter what. I think this is the attitude one must adopt in order to overcome the world. But it’s not the attitude that ensures victory. It is faith—believing God. It is a faith that looks forward to that which is not yet. In other words, this life is not all there is. Like Paul, we must “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). The key to overcoming the world is believing God. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 Jn. 5:4).
“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast” (Revelation 17:12-13). I cannot recall the number of articles I have read concerning the identification of the coming world ruler who will fulfill the role of Antichrist. I’ve browsed several websites claiming any number of world leaders, U.S. Presidents especially, are this long awaited world ruler. Every time there is talk of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, people began to wonder if this is the treaty the Antichrist will make. No doubt, we are witnessing important signs of various end-time trends. But it seems many are trying to put the cart ahead of the horse. I have two responses for those who spend their time trying to identify this character. First of all, as Christians, we are not looking for the Antichrist, we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). Secondly, the Bible is clear that this last days world ruler will come on the scene only after certain events take place, not the least of which is the rise of a ten nation confederacy out of which the he will rise to power.
Who are these “ten kings” the Bible speaks of? The prophet Daniel refers to them as “toes of the feet” in Daniel 2:42, and “ten horns” in Daniel 7:7. Additionally, Daniel wrote, “While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them…” (Dan. 7:8). This “little one” is the beast of Revelation 17:13, also known as the Antichrist. Therefore, we can safely conclude this individual will not come on the scene until sometime after this ten nation confederacy arises in the last days. In fact, John tells us this ten nation confederacy exists for one reason: “they give their power and authority to the beast” (Rev. 17:13). Although I believe the Bible is clear the Antichrist will not be revealed until sometime after the Rapture of the Church, I believe it is very possible; indeed highly likely, this ten nation confederacy may begin to emerge prior to the Rapture. Not only would this be an amazing testimony to the accuracy of biblical prophecy (as if we needed more proof) but it would indicate just how amazingly close we really are to the return of Christ. One often overlooked point Daniel makes is in verse 44 of the second chapter: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed.” I believe this group of ten nations will arise during a time of global economic uncertainty. It has been intriguing to watch world leaders over the past several months as the world experienced global economic meltdown. The G-7 quickly morphed into the G-20. Perhaps this is because, given the worldwide implications of the economic troubles, 20 nations is considered better than seven. But if you think about it, 20 may be too big. Perhaps they will soon decide ten would be a more reasonable number. Any number of scenarios is possible and there will definitely be many twists and turns before we finally get there. But get there we will.
This is where we are today. The Antichrist will not come on the scene until the Church is removed and the world is staged to receive him. This stage setting has been rapidly occurring in recent years. I don’t think people really realize how quickly all this could come together. All it takes is one major crisis or the right mix of crisis, such as another major economic downturn, a nuclear exchange somewhere in the world, or the sudden and unexplained disappearance of millions of people worldwide. God is able to bring to pass whatever necessary to give rise to this ten nation confederacy and the eventual rise of Antichrist. When this ten nation confederacy arises, it will be for one purpose and one purpose only: “they give their power and authority to the beast” (Rev. 17:13). How close are we? Mind bogglingly close! Jesus Christ will return for His Church at any moment. Therefore, it is imperative that we are ready. Are you ready? If Jesus shouted from heaven this very moment, would you hear Him? Would you disappear from the face of the earth along with millions of others? It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in the Rapture. What matters is do you believe in Jesus? Have you received Him as your Lord and Savior? Does your life give evidence you belong to Him? These are questions only you can answer. My prayer is that your answers are yes! “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout…Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
“Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail” (Jeremiah 7:8). Deception has been a problem for humankind since the serpent deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-7). However, the Bible indicates that as the return of Christ draws near, deception will increase significantly. In Matthew 24, Jesus, when answering the disciples’ question about His Second Coming and the end of the age, warned them repeatedly about deception: “See to it that no one misleads you” (24:4; see also verses 11, 24). Paul warned against this last days deception as well: “Let no one in any way deceive you” (2 Thess. 2:3). In Revelation 13, we are warned about the great deception that is coming, literally in the flesh, known as the Antichrist: “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform” (Rev. 13:14). Paul calls this great deception that is coming, “lying signs and false wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). Deception is ever present but the days are coming and have come when many will be deceived by these “lying signs and false wonders.”
Visions of “Mary” are nothing new. They have been appearing around the world for hundreds of years. However, in recent years, there appears to be a significant increase in these appearances. I believe these so called apparitions, claiming to be messages from heaven, are nothing more than a last days deception. It only takes a casual familiarity with Scripture to see that these appearances simply are not biblical. Take for example the apparition that began appearing in Conyers, Georgia on October 13, 1990. An apparition claiming to be the “Blessed Virgin Mary” began appearing to Nancy Fowler to give messages to the United States. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is Hebrews 1:1-2, “Although God spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” Clearly, God is not speaking through Mary or anyone else today. On May 9, 1991, this apparition appeared and said, “Please photograph this statue [a statue of Mary] and distribute it freely to my children.” This is nothing new as nearly every “Mary” apparition through the years has requested a statue or shrine. But this brings several warnings from Scripture to mind. Here is one example: “So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female” (Deut. 4:15-16). These kinds of visions continue to increase around the world. The visions are often accompanied by prophecies about the last days, urging all men and women to, “love the mother of God and submit themselves to her.” But the Scriptures tell us that we are to love God and submit ourselves to Him: “Submit therefore to God” (James 4:7). One witness to an apparition reported, “I do not know exactly what she wants me to do, but this much I do know, that she will complete the good work she started in me!” This is pure blasphemy. Paul wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He [Christ] who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). This kind of deception is what we can expect from a movement that fails to submit to Christ alone through the Scriptures alone. Jeremiah wrote, “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail” (Jer. 7:8).
It grieves my heart to no end when I think about the countless multitude of people following after these “lying signs and false wonders.” Mary was not venerated in Scripture. She is not the “Queen of Heaven.” The only time that title is used is in Jeremiah chapters 7 and 44, both times referring to an Assyrian and Babylonian goddess, the worship of which Scripture seems to indicate will occur in the last days. This is not Christianity. Christianity, by definition, is a faith centered on Jesus Christ alone. Paul warns us to be careful so that we can avoid being deceived. He wrote, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Furthermore, writing about these deceitful workers, he wrote, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Do not be deceived! These apparitions often said to be messages from heaven are nothing more than messages from the pit hell, designed to deceive and lead astray. Furthermore, they are another sign that we are indeed living in the last days just prior to the return of Christ for His Church. “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42).
“So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33). Every so often I receive a mass of emails in response to a particular Thoughts to Ponder. My recent one, There’s a Change Coming, is one such example. Many responded telling me how encouraging they found the article to be. Speaking of Christ’s return for His Church, some even asked, “Do you really think it’s that close?” Short answer—yes! Just a casual familiarity with Bible prophecy reveals we are mind-bogglingly close to this amazing, life-changing, earth shattering event. But of course, there are always mockers. Those who say, “Look, every generation of Christians believed Christ would return in their lifetime.” This is true. But the difference between those generations and this present generation is this—our generation has more reason to believe Christ will return in our generation than any previous generation ever imagined. And it all boils down to predictive prophecy—the Bible’s track record of 100 percent accuracy, 100 percent of the time!
The Bible predicts a number of events that will be in play just prior to Christ’s return for His Church. If we were witnessing just one or two of these events, we might have reason to believe Christ’s return was still far off. However, the fact that we are now, for the first time in history, witnessing all these events in play—setting the stage for Daniel’s prophesied Seventieth Week (Dan. 9:27)—gives us greater assurance that the Rapture of the Church is indeed close at hand. There is now a nation called Israel. No end-times prophecy could be fulfilled without an Israel. On May 14, 1948, against all odds, this tiny nation no bigger than the State of New Jersey, became a nation again. It occurred in less than 24 hours, sovereignly fulfilling numerous prophecies, particularly Isaiah 66:7-9. In verse 8 of that passage, Isaiah asks, “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?” History has confirmed for us that yes, such a thing can and has happened. Israel’s return to the land is no accident of history but the sovereign fulfillment of God’s promise. The Bible also predicts Israel’s enemies, the Palestinians in particular (they are no peace partner), would try to steal Israel’s covenant land as their own (Ezek. 35; Psalm 83). The prophets also predicted, in the last days just prior to the Lord’s return, the whole world would come against Israel over the issue of Jerusalem. Zechariah writes, “It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it” (12:3). We are witnessing this unfolding right before our eyes! Even the United States, Israel’s historic supporter, has now sided with the rest of the world in demanding that Israel cease settlement activity in its covenant land and divide Jerusalem. When you mess with Israel, especially Jerusalem, you mess with the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8). That basically means that we as nation are now actively poking God in the eye. This is not a good position to be in as it invites catastrophic judgment. But it does show how close we really are to hearing Jesus shout from heaven! One more prophecy I would draw your attention too is that which Daniel mentions in chapters 2 and 7 of his prophecy. In both chapters, Daniel prophesied a revived form of the Roman Empire in the last days. We see the stage being set for this in the modern European and Mediterranean Unions. As of today, they are one vote away from a major step forward, and that vote will come soon. And just as Daniel prophesied, they are “partly strong and partly weak” (2:42). Out of this union, Daniel tells us ten kings (or nations) will arise. And from these ten kings, an eleventh king will arise who will, “make a firm covenant with the many for one week…” (Dan. 9:27). This is where we are today—the world is longing for someone—anyone—who can solve the Middle East problem. The only thing standing in his way right now, according to Scripture, is the true church. Once Christ removes His Church, this “man of lawlessness will be revealed” (2 Thess. 2:3).
I’ve only touched the surface. Space will not permit me to talk in detail about other prophecies in play this very moment—the march to globalism and the rise of global governance, economic upheaval, and the rise of an Iranian led, Russian equipped coalition that will attack Israel in the last days, apostasy, natural disasters, deception, calling evil good and good evil, and many, many more. The point is this: it is all coming to pass, exactly as the Bible predicts. Therefore, we can conclude God’s Word is true, its message of salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) is true, and Christ’s coming for His Church is very near (1 Thess. 4:13-18). So, my question to you is simply this: Are you ready? If Jesus came for His Church today, would you be caught up with all the saints of all the ages or would you be left behind? “I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place…For this reason, you also must be ready”
“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). A friend of mine mused recently, “There’s a change coming.” I could not agree more. However, I suspect the change he has in mind and the change I have in mind are not one and the same. As I study the Bible and Bible prophecy, I am amazed at just how relevant and true the Bible really is. I wonder just how in the world anyone of any intelligence could fail to put two and two together and see that the Bible really is true and its prophecies are rapidly staging for final fulfillment. Sadly, many continue their mockery of Scripture—they are content to embrace the passing pleasures of sin and the promise of eternal separation from God. But despite the mockery, the Bible is clear—we are in fact living in the last days of world history—there’s a change coming! It is a change that will affect both believers and unbelievers. This change, known as the Rapture of the Church, will occur at any moment. It will involve the snatching away from this world all true believers in Christ while leaving unbelievers behind for the cataclysmic judgments of God’s wrath.
In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul describes the Rapture of the Church as a mystery. In Scripture, this term always refers to truth hidden in the past but now revealed in the New Testament. In other words, a mystery in the Bible is not some Hardy Boys style story where we are trying to uncover some mystery. It means truth that is hidden until God chooses to reveal it. Such is the case with the Rapture of the Church. You will not find any mention of the Rapture in the Old Testament. Perhaps this is because the Old Testament prophecies primarily deal with God’s plan for Israel. Its first mention is in John 14:1-3, where Jesus promises to return for His Church after an undetermined period of time. The event itself is specifically explained and detailed in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Paul focuses in on the mystery of the resurrection—“we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” This change will happen “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” Many confuse this trumpet as the last of the seven trumpet judgments of Revelation 11:15. However, unlike the Revelation trumpets, this is not a trumpet judgment. This is the last trumpet of the church-age, when all true Christians will be removed from the earth. It will happen quickly—“in the twinkling of an eye”—a phrase Paul uses to capture just how rapidly this event will take place. It is the time it takes for light to travel through the front of the eye, be reflected off the retina, and then exit the eye. This equates to an infinitesimally small fraction of a second—10 to the negative 43 to be exact—as far as the division of time can be measured. So, this change that is coming will happen very quickly. In less than the time it takes to blink, all true believers will be taken off this earth to heaven—changed from mortal to immortal, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). I don’t know about you, but I am praying for and looking forward to this change with great anticipation! I believe it will happen very soon.
But what about the rest of the world—those who are left behind? There’s a change coming for them too, as the Rapture changes everything for the unbeliever as well. “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe the lie, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:8-12). With Christians out of the way, Satan will be able to move in with his program of complete deception. And for those who rejected the truth, judgment will follow. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can escape all these things by simply forsaking your sin and embracing the free gift of eternal life Christ offers. “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14).
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God…And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation”(Romans 5:1-11). A major theme of the book of Romans is righteousness from God. It appears more than 30 times in one form or another and describes the state or condition of perfectly conforming to God’s perfect law and holiness—a standard man falls woefully short of according to Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But the true Gospel of Jesus Christ reveals that on the basis of faith—and faith alone—God will give His righteousness to ungodly sinners. Furthermore, Paul argues in Romans 5:1-11 that not only does God justify sinners on the basis of faith alone, but they are eternally bound to Christ, kept by His power and not by any human effort. Churches and groups that add to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—and there are a lot of them—are nothing more than false religious systems dispensing false hope, which is really no hope at all. According to Dr. J.C. Ryle, one of these so called churches, that boast more than a billion followers, is nothing more than “a huge organized idolatry.” Speaking of this same false religious system, Dr. John MacArthur describes it as, “a pseudo-Christianity…the best front for the kingdom of Satan.” I could not agree more!
With so much deception in the world today, one might rightfully wonder how to determine a false religious system from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). The Corinthian believers faced the same danger many face today—falling prey to satanic lies, thus abandoning simple devotion to Jesus Christ in favor of the sophisticated errors of false teachers and religious systems. A church that departs from the simplicity of the Gospel is no church at all but a false religious system that enslaves its followers, leading them straight down the “broad road that leads to destruction” (Matt. 7:13). Dr. Loraine Boettner, speaking of this same so called church that boasts more than a billion followers says, “The [miserable] evidence of [this church’s] steadily increasing departure from the simplicity of the Gospel, a departure so radical and far-reaching at the present time (1965) that it has produced a drastically anti-evangelical church. It is clear beyond possibility of doubt that [this religion] as now practiced is the outgrowth of centuries of error. Human inventions have been substituted for Bible truth and practice, [so that now, a false gospel is preached].” It is no wonder Paul wrote, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6-7). In other words, a false hope is no hope at all!
So the question is this: Are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation or are you trusting in your church membership, your participation in your church, your confirmation, your baptism, communion, anything other than grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? Any church or religious system that goes beyond the simplicity of the Gospel message—grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—is so far from what Scripture teaches that it is garbage, or to use the Greek word Paul uses in Philippians 3:7, it is “dung”. So my appeal to you is simple. If you are in a church that teaches you must do something in addition to believing, don’t just walk, but run as quickly as you can away from that church. It is a false religious system that will leave you eternally lost. Only by believing the true Gospel can one be saved and have the assurance of eternal life with Christ. Only faith alone in Christ Jesus yields true hope. Anything else is a false hope that will never satisfy. Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). This is not a simple acknowledgment that He is God but a deep personal conviction, without reservation, that Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” is that which results in justification by faith (Rom. 5:1)—a one-time legal declaration by God with continuing results. In other words, God declares the sinner no longer guilty but now righteous in His sight. This is the essence of reconciliation (Rom. 5:11) between God and sinners. So again, are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation? If the answer is no, then you are still lost and facing an eternity separated from Christ and the joys of heaven—no matter what church you attend. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us”(Hebrews 6:19-20). Life is full of difficulty and suffering. This is true for believers and unbelievers alike. No one is exempt. Everyone, both young and old, has been or will be affected by the fallen world in which we live. Abuse, sickness, emotional and spiritual distress, loss, depression, death—all this and more are the things humanity must deal with as they pass through this thing called life. It can all be summed up in one word—suffering—and none of us, if we are honest, really cares too much for it. But as believers, we need not worry or become overwhelmed. We can always say, “Even so, it is well with my soul.” The writer of Hebrews describes this “even so” as hope. “This hope,” he writes, “we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us.” This hope is a living hope, embodied in Christ Himself. He is right now, this very moment, in the Father’s presence in the heavenly Holy of Holies on our behalf. This hope is a hope for the fulfillment of God’s salvation promises—eternal life with Christ—and is the “anchor of the soul” that keeps you and me secure during times of difficulty and suffering. I am a living testimony to this awesome truth!
I have always been drawn to Scriptures about suffering. It has always intrigued me how God takes something so seemingly painful and awful and uses it for the good of His people and His own glory (see Rom. 8:18-39). Perhaps this is because simple logic would lead one to conclude suffering could never possibly have a good outcome. But for the Christian, this simply is not so. We are told suffering results in the “testing of your faith [which] produces endurance” (James 1:3). Not only that, the Bible says this “endurance” results in our being made “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). Wait a minute! How can suffering, which almost always results in pain and loss, oftentimes tremendous pain and loss at that, result in our being made “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”? It simply does not make any sense! The key is our understanding what is meant by the words “perfect and complete.” He doesn’t mean sinless perfection here, but spiritual maturity. The testing of our faith drives us to a deeper relationship with and greater trust in God and His Word. In other words, we grow in our relationship with God thus growing in our faith. It is no wonder Paul writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col. 1:24). He was motivated to endure suffering because it not only resulted in a deeper communion with Christ and spiritual growth, it also benefited other believers (see 2 Cor. 1:3-11). Suffering also calls us to an eternal hope. It helps us get our eyes off this world and onto eternal matters instead. This is what the writer of Hebrews meant when he referred to “hope…as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.” You and I as believers can endure whatever suffering life may bring our way because of our heavenly hope.
I seldom share this but most folks have no idea my wife and I have suffered tremendous pain and loss. Our children are with the Lord. But we can both testify to the truth of God’s Word—we have grown closer to God and one other. He has and continues to strengthen our faith. He has caused us to long, not for this world, but for our eternal home with Christ (and our children). We truly have a heavenly hope that serves “as an anchor of the soul.” Like the patriarchs of old, we know that we will, if the Lord tarries, one day “die in faith, without receiving the promises” (Heb. 11:13). But we have “seen them [and therefore] desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:13-16). We firmly believe that God’s approval comes through our faith and that God has “provided something better for us” (Heb. 11:39-40). Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you experiencing suffering? Do not be discouraged. You have something the rest of the world doesn’t have or understand—a heavenly hope that serves “as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.” Therefore, “continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I was made a minister” (Col. 1:23). And remember, you can always say, “Even so, it is well with my soul.” No amount of suffering can ever take that away from you!
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