Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On Declaring the Return/Sounding the Alarm!

Christianity in America has for so long enjoyed a dominant/favored status among the population and culture, and a favored relationship with the U.S. government. Because Christianity has been so widespread, and for years, almost considered one with American culture, the large majorities of those in American churches attended church, took part in church programs and classes, and were satisfied with their Christianity. If someone went out to the streets to witness to others in the streets, and proclaiming God’s word, or traded their well-paying job to go serve others and be involved in a non-profit ministry, you were seen as a radical flame or a good, but unusual believer on the extremities of the faith. Persecution came to be seen as something that occurred in other parts of the world, but not America. Pretty soon, we came to understand that to be born in America, was to be born Christian.

But the question is, is that Biblical? Is that the Biblical picture we see of Christianity? The apostle Peter tells us that for “everyone who wants to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. Peter, inspired by the Spirit of Christ Jesus Himself, tells us that we will be persecuted if we seek to follow Christ.

This should not surprise us. Why? Because the Bible tells us that man in his natural, sinful state, is an enemy to God and his ways, that he is hostile to God (Rom 5:10, 8:7). So of course he is going to be hostile to those who have the Spirit of God in them (Rom 8:14). The Bible also tells us that Satan is the spirit that is at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), and that he is in control of the world system in which we live (1 John 5:19). So by the very fact that we have the Spirit of the living God in us, enrages him. But he can do nothing to us except tempt us, and take what areas of our life we allow him to have through our indifference or sin. For Jesus, the Son of the living God, gave his followers authority over the evil one and every unclean (i.e. unholy, demon) spirit (Matt. 10:1).

The Bible does not give a rosy picture of life for the believer, especially for the generation living before Christ returns. Paul, writing to Timothy, says, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.” 2 Tim.3:1-5

If you have been paying attention, this describes to a ‘T’ the times that we are living in. Why would the Lord have Paul include this, unless He wanted His followers to know it? Just as the Jews were set apart from the nations of the world, so His people in the church age are set apart by the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), but the characteristics listed in Gal. 5:19-21 and in 2 Tim. 3:1-5 are the marks of those who do not know Christ as their God and Savior.

The LORD also tells His people of events that he has declared from long ago, that will mark the last times. And often the prophets of God were persecuted when they declared God’s word. They were seen as ‘troublers’ or ‘gloom and doom’ prophets, but they had to be obedient to God’s word. The prophet Amos had this to say: Amos 5:18 18 Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light;

The prophet Joel records: Joel 2:1-2 For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near, 2 A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, So there is a great and mighty people; There has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many generations.

Jesus tells his followers of events to take place in the world before His return and the close of the age. All these events are happening around us. The Jews were brought back to Israel in fulfillment of the prophecies given in Ezekiel 36 and 37, God has moved Egyptian against Egyptian according to His word in Isaiah 19, the nations are gathering against Israel for war as described in Psalm 83, Magog, Persia and the other Muslim nations are aligning politically and arming themselves for the Battle of Magog in Ezekiel 38. Politically, the governments are moving themselves together, creating unions to bring about the final, one-world union prophesied in Daniel 7:7, 19ff.

The LORD promised the Jews through Moses, before first entering the Promised Land, that He was going to exile them among the nations for their disobedience to His covenant in the Torah (Deut. 30:1). This happened, and they were scattered to the ends of the earth for almost two thousand years. The apostle Peter tells us in 2 Ptr. 3:8 that “a thousand years a like a day to the Lord.” The LORD spoke in Hosea: Hosea 6:2 2 "He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.

The prophet Amos said it well: Amos 3:8 8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy? When we see and discern these things, who can but preach? What is the goal of the Christian faith, if not the realization of Biblical Judaism, the reigning on earth of God’s Messiah (Zech 14:9; Dan. 7:14, 27).

In preaching and proclaiming that all these events are taking place is not a gloom and doom mindset. These are events that the LORD told us must take place before His coming. We believe that God is good, and that everything that He does is good. So many of us grew up in the era (and in fact, live in a continuation of it) where we are told, “God has a wonderful plan for your life!” Ultimately, if you’re elect, God’ does have a wonderful plan for your life, to live and reign with the Messiah, but in the meantime, that plan means persecution on this side, and possibly death. What did the apostle Paul say about this? “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:10-11).

“Rejoice in the LORD always, I will say it again, rejoice!” Phil. 3:1

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those that love him, who are called according to His purpose.” Rom. 8:28

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

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