THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE THESSALONIANS

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BACKGROUND

Thessalonica, modern Thessaloniki, was the largest and most important city in the Roman province of Macedonia, the second most important city in the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople and a thriving seaport.

The Jewish presence in Thessalonica was significant and influential (cf. Acts 17:1, 5–9). As they jealously watched Paul’s success at winning Gentiles to Christ, the Jews’ smoldering resentment burst into flame. The threat to Thessalonica’s status as a free city was significant; if they failed to maintain order, the Romans would intervene.

Paul was deeply concerned about them. To Paul’s immense relief and joy, Timothy brought an encouraging report about the situation in Thessalonica when he met Paul at Corinth. (Acts 18:5) But though Timothy’s report was on the whole encouraging, there were some issues at Thessalonica that concerned Paul. Because the persecution that drove the missionaries out of Thessalonica had not abated, the church needed encouragement to stand firm (1:2–10; 2:13–16). He was also concerned that the new converts not slip back into the pagan immorality so prevalent in their culture (4:1–8).

The apostle Paul also was concerned about the Thessalonians’ reputation with those outside the church; therefore, he encouraged them to continue to love each other fervently and to work diligently (4:9–12). The first letter also corrects a wrong understanding about the end times (4:13–5:11), and instructs the Thessalonian congregation in the basics of Christian living (5:12–22).

Paul had instructed the Thessalonians about the end times while he was with them (2 Thess. 2:5) as well as in his first letter to them. Yet they were still confused, fearing they had missed the Rapture and were in the Day of the Lord. Though the severity of the persecution they were undergoing contributed to that mistaken belief, the main reason for their confusion came from some false teachers who taught that the Day of the Lord had arrived.

In his second inspired letter, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to stand firm and remain faithful to the Lord despite their suffering and reassure them that the Day of the Lord had not arrived.

THE THESSALONIANS ANTICIPATED THE RETURN OF CHRIST

just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thes. 2:11-12)

Paul stated the singular end of their and our call—entrance into His own kingdom and glory. Though they, as all believers, had not yet seen either the millennial kingdom or the eternal kingdom, they were already citizens of the redeemed kingdom over which God now rules (Luke 17:21; Col. 1:13; cf. Rom. 14:17). Thus, they had a present share in the glory of God as well as a promise of the future glory in the kingdom yet to come. All true believers look forward to sharing in the full glory of the heavenly kingdom when God raises them to be like Christ and with Him for eternity (Ps. 73:24; Prov. 3:35; Rom. 9:23; 1 Cor. 15:43; Phil. 3:20–21; Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Peter 5:10; cf. Matt. 5:12; John 14:2; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; Heb. 4:9; 11:16; 1 Peter 1:3–4; Rev. 7:16–17).

“They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thes. 1:9b-10)

The church in Thessalonica waited for His Son from heaven … that is Jesus. Those who love Christ long for and anticipate His return. The apostles displayed such a desire when they saw Jesus’ ascension:

“He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9–11)

Paul unquestionably affirmed that the One who once ascended to heaven is also the One who believers wait for, the One whom He [God] raised from the dead, that is Jesus. The reference to the Resurrection establishes the ground for the return of Jesus Christ. God raised Him from the dead because He was pleased with His sacrifice for sin and because He wanted to exalt Him to the heavenly throne from which He will return to exercise His sovereign right to rule as King of Kings (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10–12; 5:30–32; 13:33–35; 17:31; cf. Rom. 1:3–4; 2 Cor. 13:4; Eph. 1:19–23). The word for wait is used only here in the New Testament and refers to expectant waiting—sustained, patient, trusting waiting.

Waiting is a recurring theme in the Thessalonian letters (1 Thess. 2:17, 19; 3:13; 4:15–17; 5:8, 23; 2 Thess. 3:6–12).

The true believer eagerly looks forward to Christ’s return because he knows it brings to fulfillment and satisfaction God’s eternal purpose, which is, as Paul stated it, to rescue us from the wrath to come. Rescues denotes the deliverance the Lord provides. He is the Rescuer, Deliverer, and Savior of those otherwise headed for divine judgment and eternal punishment. In the ancient world, the idea of divine wrath was accepted, but there was no genuine hope of rescue from it. By contrast, in the postmodern world the idea of divine wrath is rejected, so the Rescuer is not needed or heeded.

Orgē (wrath) describes God’s settled opposition to and displeasure with sin. In this context the wrath is God’s eternal judgment against sin. Some believe the wrath to come only refers to the Great Tribulation, and see this rescue as the promise of the pretribulation Rapture, expounded upon later in this epistle. But the immediate context of Paul’s discussion in 1 Thessalonians goes further and mainly refers to election and salvation rather than eschatology.

“and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” (1 Thes. 3:13)

The final objective of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was that they might look to their glorification, which produces a purifying hope. The only way the Thessalonians would actually live in such hope was for God to establish their hearts without blame in holiness before (literally, “in the presence of”) Him. Paul wanted them to be pure at heart, so as to desire the coming (parousia, “presence”) of the Lord Jesus.

The apostle knew that the promise of Christ’s return to Rapture and reward the church is the essence of believers’ purifying hope. He explains the event in 4:13–18 as the hope that produces comfort and serves as motivation to holy living.

THE BLESSED HOPE – THE RAPTURE

Of all the end-time events, the Rapture of the church seems to generate the most interest and discussion. The young church at Thessalonica also had questions about that event, so Paul addressed their concerns in this passage. But unlike most modern-day treatises on the subject, Paul’s concern was not just doctrinal, but pastoral. His intent was not to give a detailed description of the Rapture, but to comfort the Thessalonians. The intent of the other two passages in the New Testament that discuss the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–58) is also to provide comfort and encouragement for believers, not to fuel their prophetic speculations.

When Paul penned this epistle, the Thessalonians had been in Christ only for a few months. The apostle had taught them about end-time events, such as Christ’s return to gather believers to Himself (e.g., 1:9–10; 2:19; 3:13). They also knew about the Day of the Lord (5:1–3), a time of coming judgment on the ungodly.

But some issues about the details of their gathering to Christ troubled them. First, they seem to have been afraid that they had missed the Rapture, since the persecution they were suffering (3:3–4) caused some to fear they were in the Day of the Lord, which they obviously had not expected to experience (2 Thess. 2:1–2). Furthering that misconception were some false teachers, about whom Paul warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, “[Do] not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” But the persecution they were experiencing was not that associated with the Tribulation or the Day of the Lord.

The Thessalonians’ fears that they were in the Day of the Lord and thus had missed the Rapture imply that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation. If the Thessalonians knew that the Rapture came at the end of the Tribulation, persecution would not have caused them to fear they had missed it.

But of gravest concern to the Thessalonians were those of their number who had died. Would they receive their resurrection bodies at the Rapture, or would they have to wait until after the Tribulation? Would they miss the Rapture altogether? Would they therefore be second-class citizens in heaven? Were their deaths chastisement for their sins (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30)?

Paul wrote this section of his epistle to alleviate the Thessalonians’ grief and confusion. He was concerned that they not … be uninformed … about those who are asleep and thus grieve as do the rest who have no hope. Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.

The Thessalonians’ ignorance about the Rapture caused them to grieve. It was to give them hope and to comfort them that Paul discussed that momentous event, giving a fourfold description of it: its pillars, participants, plan, and profit.

THE PILLARS OF THE RAPTURE

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,” (1 Thes. 4:14–15a)

The marvellous truth that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to gather believers to Himself is based on three unshakeable pillars: the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the revelation of Christ.

THE DEATH OF CHRIST

For if we believe that Jesus died (4:14a)

Paul’s simple statement summarizes all the richness of Christ’s atoning work, which provides the necessary foundation for the gathering of the church. His death satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness, holiness, and justice by paying in full the penalty for believers’ sins. Christians have been made acceptable to God and thus fit to be gathered into His presence.

When believers die, their spirit goes immediately into conscious fellowship with the Lord, while their bodies temporarily sleep in the grave, awaiting the Rapture.

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (4:14b)

The resurrection of Christ indicates that the Father accepted His sacrifice, enabling Him to “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Christ’s resurrection proves that He conquered sin and death, and became the source of resurrection life for every Christian. God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them.

The phrase even so links believers’ resurrections inextricably to the resurrection of Christ. In John 14:19 Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” In the most detailed passage on the resurrection in Scripture, Paul wrote that “Christ [is] the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). Earlier in that same epistle, he stated plainly, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Cor. 6:14).

To further assuage their fears, Paul reassured believers that God will bring with Him [Jesus] those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Their fellow believers who died will not miss out on the Rapture but will return with Christ in glory. God will bring the spirits of dead believers will come from heaven with Christ to meet their resurrected bodies.

By demonstrating God’s acceptance of His atoning sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ buttresses the first pillar on which the Rapture is based, the death of Christ.

THE REVELATION OF CHRIST

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, (4:15a)

Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was not his own speculation but direct revelation from God. The phrase this we say to you by the word of the Lord has the authoritative tone of an inspired writer revealing what God has disclosed to him. Some argue that the word of the Lord was something Jesus said while He was here on earth. But there are no close parallels to the present passage in any of the Gospels. Nor is there any specific teaching in the Gospels to which Paul could be alluding.

Although the Lord talked in the Gospels about a trumpet and the gathering of the elect, the differences between those passages and the present one outweigh the similarities, as Robert L. Thomas notes: Similarities between this passage in 1 Thessalonians and the gospel accounts include a trumpet (Matt. 24:31), a resurrection (John 11:25, 26), and a gathering of the elect (Matt. 24:31)…. Yet dissimilarities between it and the canonical sayings of Christ far outweigh the resemblances…. Some of the differences between Matthew 24:30, 31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 are as follows: (1) In Matthew the Son of Man is coming on the clouds, … in 1 Thessalonians ascending believers are in them. (2) In the former the angels gather, in the latter the Son does so personally. (3) In the former nothing is said about resurrection, while in the latter this is the main theme. (4) Matthew records nothing about the order of ascent, which is the principal lesson in Thessalonians. (“1, 2 Thessalonians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 276–77)

Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul referred to the Rapture as a mystery; that is, a truth formerly hidden but now revealed. That indicates that Jesus did not disclose the details of the Rapture during His earthly ministry. (He referred to the Rapture in John 14:1–3 in a general, nonspecific sense.) Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was new revelation, possibly given by God through a prophet (such as Agabus; Acts 21:11) but more likely directly to Paul himself.

The Rapture, then, does not rest on the shaky foundation of whimsical theological speculation, but on the sure foundation of the death, resurrection, and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE PATRICIPANTS

we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (4:15b)

Two groups of people will participate in the Rapture: those who are alive at the coming of the Lord and those who have fallen asleep. That Paul used the plural pronoun we indicates that he believed the Rapture could happen in his lifetime. He had a proper anticipation of and expectation for the Lord’s return, though unlike many throughout church history, the apostle did not predict a specific time for it. He accepted Christ’s words in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

Several other passages express Paul’s fervent hope and expectation that he himself might be among those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. In Romans 13:11 he wrote, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” The salvation of which he wrote was the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) that takes place when Christ returns. “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 Cor. 15:51–52). As he concluded that letter Paul wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). Maranatha comes from two Aramaic words that mean “Oh Lord, come!” and expresses Paul’s strong hope that the Lord would return soon.

THE STEPS OF THE RAPTURE

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (4:16–17)

Having reassured the Thessalonians that their departed loved ones will not miss out on the Rapture, Paul gave a step-by-step description of that event.

First, the Lord Himself will return for His church. He will not send angels for it, in contrast to the gathering of the elect (tribulation saints) that takes place at the Second Coming (Mark 13:26–27).

Second, Jesus will descend from heaven, where He has been since His ascension (Acts 1:9–11), “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

Third, when Jesus comes down from heaven, He will do so with a shout. Keleusma (command) has a military ring to it, as if the Commander is calling His troops to fall in. The dead saints in their resurrected bodies will join the raptured living believers in the ranks. The Lord’s shout of command will be similar to His raising of Lazarus, when “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” (John 11:43). This is the hour “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). The righteous dead of the church age will be the first to rise—a truth that must have greatly comforted the anxious Thessalonians.

Fourth, the voice of the archangel will sound. There is no definite article in the Greek text, which literally reads, “an archangel.” In Jude 9, the only other passage in Scripture that mentions an archangel, the archangel is Michael. He adds his voice to the Lord’s shout of command.

Fifth, to the Lord’s command and the archangel’s voice will be added the sounding of the trumpet of God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). Trumpets were used in Scripture for many reasons. The trumpet at the Rapture has no connection to the trumpets of judgment in Revelation 8–11. It seems to have a twofold purpose: to assemble God’s people (cf. Ex. 19:16–19) and to signal His deliverance of them (cf. Zech. 1:16; 9:14–16).

Sixth, the dead in Christ will rise first. As noted above, the dead saints will in no way be inferior to those alive at the Rapture. In fact, they will rise first, their glorified bodies joining with their glorified spirits to make them into the image of Christ.

Finally, those believers who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Harpazō (caught up) refers to a strong, irresistible, even violent act. In Matthew 11:12 it describes the taking of the kingdom of heaven by force. In Acts 8:39 it speaks of Philip’s being snatched away from the Ethiopian eunuch; and in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 it describes Paul’s being caught up into the third heaven.

It is when living believers are caught up that they are transformed and receive their glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” believers “will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52), rescued from the grasp of Satan, the fallen flesh, the evil world system, and the coming wrath of God.

A CASE FOR A PRETRIBULATION RAPTURE – TIMING OF THE RAPTURE

The time of the Rapture cannot be discerned from this passage alone. But when it is read with other Rapture texts (John 14:3; Rev. 3:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51–52; Phil. 3:2–21), and compared to judgment texts (Matt. 13:34–50; 24:29–44; Rev. 19:11–21), it is clear that there is no mention of judgment at all in the Rapture passages, whereas the others are major on judgment. It is therefore necessary to conclude that the Rapture occurs at a time other than the judgment.

It is best, then, to separate the two events. That initiates the case for the Rapture to occur imminently, before the elements of judgment described in Scripture as leading up to the Second Coming in judgment.

Again, no solitary text of Scripture makes the entire case for the pretribulation Rapture. However, when one considers all the New Testament evidence, a very compelling case for the pretribulational position emerges, which answers more questions and solves more problems than any other Rapture position. The following arguments present a strong case in favor of the pretribulation Rapture.

First, the earthly kingdom of Christ promised in Revelation 6–18 does not mention the church as being on earth. Because Revelation 1–3 uses the Greek word for church nineteen times, one would reasonably assume that if the church were on earth rather than in heaven in chapters 6–18, they would use “church” with similar frequency, but such is not the case. Therefore, one can assume that the church is not present on the earth during the period of tribulation described in Revelation 6–18 and that therefore the Lord has removed it from the earth and relocated it to heaven by means of the Rapture.

Second, Revelation 19 does not mention a Rapture even though that is where a posttribulational Rapture (if true) would logically occur. Thus, one can conclude that the Rapture will have already occurred.

Third, a posttribulational Rapture renders the Rapture concept itself inconsequential. If God preserves the church during the Tribulation, as posttribulationists assert, then why have a Rapture at all? It makes no sense to Rapture believers from earth to heaven for no apparent purpose other than to return them immediately with Christ to earth. Further, a posttribulational Rapture makes the unique separation of the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers) at the return of Christ in judgment redundant because a posttribulational Rapture would have already accomplished that.

Fourth, if God raptures and glorifies all believers just prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom (as a posttribulational Rapture demands), no one would be left to populate and propagate the earthly kingdom of Christ promised to Israel. It is not within the Lord’s plan and purpose to use glorified individuals to propagate the earth during the Millennium. Therefore, the Rapture needs to occur earlier so that after God has raptured all believers, He can save more souls —including Israel’s remnant—during the seven-year Tribulation. Those people can then enter the millennial kingdom in earthly form. The most reasonable possibility for this scenario is the pretribulational Rapture.

Fifth, the New Testament does not warn of an impending tribulation, such as is experienced during Daniel’s seventieth week, for church-age believers. It does warn of error and false prophets (Acts 20:29–30; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1–3), against ungodly living (Eph. 4:25–5:7; 1 Thess. 4:3–8; Heb. 12:1), and of present tribulation (1 Thess. 2:14–16; 2 Thess. 1:4; all of 2 Peter). Thus it is incongruous that the New Testament would be silent concerning such a traumatic change as Daniel’s seventieth week if posttribulationism were true.

Sixth, Paul’s instructions here to the Thessalonians demand a pretribulational Rapture because, if Paul were teaching them posttribulationism, one would expect them to rejoice that loved ones were home with the Lord and spared the horrors of the Tribulation. But, in actuality, the Thessalonians grieved. In addition, with a posttribulational teaching one would expect them to sorrow over their own impending trial and inquire about their future doom; however, they expressed no such dread or questioning. Further, one might expect Paul to instruct and exhort them concerning such a supreme test as the Tribulation, but Paul wrote only about the hope of the Rapture.

Seventh, the sequence of events at Christ’s coming following the Tribulation demands a pretribulational Rapture. A comparing and contrasting of Rapture passages with Second Coming passages yields strong indicators that the Rapture could not be posttribulational. For example: (a) at the Rapture, Christ gathers His own (vv. 16–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, angels gather the elect (Matt. 24:31); (b) at the Rapture, resurrection is prominent (vv. 15–16 of the present passage), but regarding the Second Coming, Scripture does not mention the resurrection; (c) at the Rapture, Christ comes to reward believers (v. 17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, Christ comes to judge the earth (Matt. 25:31–46); (d) at the Rapture, the Lord snatches away true believers from the earth (vv. 15–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, He takes away unbelievers (Matt. 24:37–41); (e) at the Rapture, unbelievers remain on the earth, whereas at the Second Coming, believers remain on the earth; (f) concerning the Rapture, Scripture does not mention the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, but at His second coming, Christ sets up His kingdom; and (g) at the Rapture, believers will receive glorified bodies, whereas at the Second Coming, no one will receive glorified bodies.

Eighth, certain of Jesus’ teachings demand a pretribulational Rapture. For instance, the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24–30) portrays the reapers (angels) removing the tares (unbelievers) from among the wheat (believers) in order to judge the tares, which demonstrates that at the Second Coming, the Lord has unbelievers removed from among believers. However, at the Rapture, He takes believers from among unbelievers. This is also true in the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47–50) and in the discussion of the days of Noah and the description of the nations’ judgment, both in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25).

Ninth, Revelation 3:10 teaches that the Lord will remove the church prior to the Tribulation. In the Greek, the phrase “I also will keep you from” can mean nothing other than “I will prevent you from entering into.” Jesus Christ will honor the church by preventing it from entering the hour of testing, namely Daniel’s seventieth week, which is about to come upon the entire world. Only a pretribulational Rapture can explain how this will happen.

Thus, the Rapture (being caught up) must be pretribulational, before the wrath of God described in the Tribulation (Rev. 6–19). At the Rapture, living believers will be caught up together with the believers raised from the dead as the church triumphant joins the church militant to become the church glorified.

The final step in the plan of the Rapture is the blessed, comforting truth that after Christ returns to gather us (believers) to Himself, we shall always be with the Lord.

THE PROFIT OF THE RAPTURE

Therefore comfort one another with these words. (4:18)

The benefit of understanding the Rapture is not to fill the gaps in one’s eschatological scheme. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, Paul’s goal in teaching the Thessalonians about the Rapture was to comfort them. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) grants to all believers the encouraging comfort of knowing that Christ will one day return for them. At that monumental event, the dead in Christ will be raised, join with the living saints in experiencing a complete transformation of body and soul, and be with God forever. Therefore, there was no need for the Thessalonians to grieve or sorrow over their fellow believers who had died. No wonder Paul calls the return of Christ “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

THE ANTICHRIST REVEALED AFTER THE RAPTURE

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” (2 Thes. 2:1–2)

This final Antichrist, as Scripture depicts him, has yet to appear on the world’s stage. And since he must appear before the Day of the Lord begins, the Thessalonians’ fears that they were already in that terrible time of judgment were groundless. Based on that truth, Paul made an urgent request of them to properly comprehend the events surrounding the Second Coming.

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thes. 2:3–5)

Out of all the precursors of the Day of the Lord (e.g., Joel 2:31; 3:14; Mal. 4:5), Paul singled out the apostasy. He was not, of course, setting a posttribulational date for the Rapture. His point was merely that the apostasy will precede the Day of the Lord and since it has not yet taken place at the time he wrote to them, the Day of the Lord could not have arrived.

The basic meaning of apostasia (apostasy) is “revolt,” or “rebellion.” The word marks a deliberate defection from a formerly held religious position. Paul was not referring here to apostasy (defection from the gospel truth) in the general sense. There have always been apostate churches, like that at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14–22), as well as apostate individuals (Heb. 10:25–31; 2 Peter 2:20–22). Such generalized apostasy, because it is always present, cannot signify a particular time period.

Apostasy will reach its peak in the end times: “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…. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:1–5, 13; cf. 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Peter 3:3–4; Jude 17–18)

Nor does Paul have in mind the apostasy during the Tribulation, of which Jesus warned in Matt.  24:11–12, 24. The apostasy will be a blasphemous act of unprecedented magnitude. The apostle identified the apostasy by naming the key character connected with it: the man of lawlessness. Understanding who that key person is, is a prerequisite to identifying the apostasy event. Anomia (lawlessness) literally means “without law” (cf. 1 John 3:4). Even in the end times, when “lawlessness is increased” (Matt. 24:12), this Satan-energized leader will stand out as the one whose depraved, wicked, lawless leadership sweeps over the whole world—with influence never before seen.

The aorist tense of the verb translated revealed points to a definite time when this man will appear. It implies that he was previously present and known, but his act of apostasy will unveil his true evil identity.

The title man of lawlessness has been identified with many different individuals, including Antiochus Epiphanes, Caligula, Nero, and in the last century, Hitler, Stalin, and others. But the close association of the man of lawlessness with the Day of the Lord rules out historical persons; otherwise, the Day of the Lord might have come centuries ago. The man of lawlessness cannot be Satan, for he is distinguished from the devil in verse 9. Nor can this be a reference to a principle of evil, for the text specifically identifies him as a man. He can be none other than the final Antichrist.

The Antichrist will exalt himself by taking his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. The temple, the symbol of God’s presence, is the most fitting place for Satan to orchestrate the ultimate act of blasphemy—a wicked man displaying himself as being God. This apostasy, to which Paul refers here and which Jesus called the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15), referring to Daniel’s prophecy, will take place at the midpoint of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27). Then, there is coming a satanic false religion that will dominate the world like no other in history (cf. Rev. 17).

“And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed 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, (2 Thes. 2:6–10a)

As the phrase and you know indicates, the Thessalonians understood what force currently restrains the Antichrist because Paul had told them when he was with them. Therefore, he did not repeat it here—a fact that has led to endless speculation as to what it is. The Greek verb translated restrains (katechō; “to hold back,” “to hold down,” “to suppress”) appears in this text as a neuter participle, prompting commentators to suggest numerous options as to the identity of that restraining force. But basically none of those opinions is satisfactory. The most significant problem with all of them is that they are human forces.

The most logical of those choices, the church, has never been able to restrain even human evil. It may do so to some extent in the lives of its members, but the outside world continues to grow worse and worse—a situation that will especially characterize the end times (2 Tim. 3:13). If no human or angelic power restrains, that leaves only the power of God to hold back the purpose of Satan for his Antichrist.

Though the Antichrist may be restrained, evil will not be; in fact, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Mustērion (mystery) describes something “which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Rom. 16:25) and is incapable of being known unless revealed by God. The true character of lawlessness is already at work (cf. 1 John 3:4); and “even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18; cf. 4:3). Evil, lies, hypocrisy, immorality, and false religion permeate the world and grow increasingly worse, so that every generation is more wicked than those before (2 Tim. 3:13), but sin’s ultimate manifestation is yet to come. When the restraint is removed and the Antichrist appears, the true character of evil will be manifested. It should be noted that not only will the man of lawlessness be revealed, but God will also release demons from being bound in hell to inundate the earth (Rev. 9:1–19).

The change in gender from the neuter participle translated “what restrains” in verse 6 to the masculine participle rendered he who … restrains is significant. The sovereign, divine force that currently restrains the Antichrist is exerted by a person—the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13 where Jesus used a masculine pronoun with the neuter noun translated “Spirit”). Only He has the supernatural power to hold Satan in check.

He will continue His restraining work until the midpoint of the Tribulation. The removal of the Holy Spirit’s restraint therefore cannot be identified with the Rapture of the church, since that event takes place three and a half years earlier, before the Tribulation. Remember that the Holy Spirit needs to be present during the first half when the Gospel is preached by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the two witnesses and the flying angel.

The phrase taken out of the way must therefore not be interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the world. That is impossible, since He is omnipresent. Nor could anyone be saved during the Tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:14) apart from His regenerating work (John 3:3–8; Titus 3:5). The phrase refers not to the removal of the Holy Spirit from the world, but rather to the cessation of His restraining work.

The Antichrist’s power and signs and false wonders will not only be deceptive tricks, like falsifying his own death and resurrection (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14; 17:8, 11), but also actual manifestations of Satan’s supernatural power. They will cause people to believe the lie that he is a divine being and worship him. John saw that the Antichrist’s deluded followers “worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’” (Rev. 13:4; cf. vv. 12–15). Antichrist will mislead the world with all the deception … wickedness has at its disposal.

The Antichrist’s malevolent, deceptive, deadly influence will extend to all those who perish. Only God’s elect will not be taken in (Matt. 24:24). The unregenerate, being children of the arch-liar Satan (John 8:44), will inevitably fall for the lies of his emissary (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–4). Through him, Satan will deceive the whole world (Rev. 12:9); all those who “[receive] the mark of the beast and those who [worship] his image” (Rev. 19:20; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4).

“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 what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2 Thes. 2:10b–12)

The phrase the love of the truth appears only here in the New Testament, and adds a compelling thought to Paul’s argument. The unregenerate are eternally lost, not because they did not hear or understand the truth, but because they did not love it. The truth includes both “the word of truth, the gospel” (Col. 1:5), and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; Eph. 4:21).

The terrifying reality is that God will seal the fate of those who hate the gospel by sending upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. He will sentence unbelievers to accept evil as if it were good and lies as if they were the truth. Those who continually choose falsehood will be inextricably caught by it.

God will use Satan as an instrument of His judgment, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. Satan will, through Antichrist and the false prophet, delude the world into believing the lie that Antichrist is God. Unbelievers will be confirmed in that belief because they will choose not to love the truth, but rather to take pleasure in wickedness.

THE COMING OF THE DAY OF THE LORD

“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” (1 Thes. 5:1–3)

After the world experienced the terror of two world wars, the horror of the Holocaust, the brutality of the Korean conflict, the hopeless futility of the war in Vietnam, as well as innumerable revolutions, riots, assassinations, and acts of terrorism, a crucial question is, Where (if anywhere) is history going?

The Bible reveals history to be the outworking of the purposeful plan of the sovereign, creator God. Job confessed, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (Isa. 46:10), and “I act and who can reverse it?” (Isa. 43:13). Jesus Christ is the central figure in history; the Old Testament points to His coming, and the New Testament describes and expounds His life, death, resurrection, and second coming.

As history continues to unfold the eternally planned purposes of God, one event looms large on the horizon: the Day of the Lord. That event will mark the end of man’s day, as God acts in judgment to take back direct control of the earth from the usurpers (both human and demonic) who presently rule it. It will be an unprecedented time of cataclysmic judgment on all unrepentant sinners.

Most preachers strive to be positive, affirming, and comforting, and hence rarely preach on God’s wrath, vengeance, and judgment. But to ignore such truth is to “shrink from declaring … the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). It is to forsake the preacher’s responsibility to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Scripture repeatedly warns of God’s judgment and the eternal punishment of unbelievers. Judgment was a major emphasis of both the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. But the one who spoke most often about judgment was the Lord Jesus Christ. All true preachers must follow His example, as did Paul (cf. 1:10; 2:16; 4:6; 5:9; 2 Thess. 1:5–9).

Paul had preached the sobering truth about the Day of the Lord to the Thessalonians during his relatively brief stay in their city (2 Thess. 2:5). After he left, questions arose in their minds about both the Rapture and the Day of the Lord. Timothy likely conveyed those concerns to Paul when he returned from his trip to Thessalonica (3:2, 6). Having answered their questions about the Rapture in the previous passage (4:13–18), Paul now dealt with the Thessalonians’ concerns about the Day of the Lord. From the blessed event of the catching away of the church, Paul turned to the horrible event that follows it —the destruction of the wicked rejecters of the Lord Jesus Christ. As it was in dealing with the Rapture, Paul’s purpose in writing this section on the Day of the Lord was not primarily theological and eschatological but pastoral and practical.

The phrase the times (chronos) and the epochs (kairos) refers in a general sense to the end times (cf. Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7). Though the two words may be used here in an overlapping sense, there is a subtle difference in meaning between them. Chronos refers to chronological time, to clock time or calendar time. Kairos, on the other hand, views time in terms of events, eras, or seasons, such as the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). Taken together, the two terms suggest that the Thessalonians were curious about the timing of the end-time events. That both nouns are plural indicates that many different time periods (cf. Dan. 7:25; 9:24–27; 12:7, 11, 12; Rev. 11:2–3; 13:5) and events (e.g., the Rapture, the rise of Antichrist, the salvation of Israel, the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments, the Second Coming, the battle of Armageddon, the sheep and goat judgment, the binding of Satan, the millennial kingdom, the loosing of Satan and subsequent worldwide rebellion at the end of the Millennium, the Great White Throne judgment, and the new heavens and the new earth) make up the end times.

As Paul replied to the Thessalonians’ questions about the Day of the Lord, Paul discussed three aspects of that momentous event: its coming, character, and completeness.

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” (5:2–3a)

What the Thessalonians already knew full well was that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night—suddenly, unexpectedly, unwelcomed, and harmfully. It will be a terrifying shock to those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Akribōs (full well) describes careful, accurate, painstaking research (cf. Matt. 2:8; Luke 1:3; Acts 18:25). The Thessalonians knew for certain that the Day of the Lord will arrive unexpectedly. Obviously, then, the time of its arrival will not be revealed; no sane thief announces in advance what time of the night he plans to rob someone.

In the Olivet Discourse—Jesus’ own sermon on His second coming—He also used the imagery of a thief in the night to refer to the unexpectedness of His return:

“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matt. 24:43; cf. Rev. 16:15). Like the Day of the Lord, the exact time of the Second Coming will not be revealed, though there will be signs that Christ’s return is imminent (Matt. 24:4–33). Jesus put every generation on notice that they must live in expectation of His return and the events of the Day of the Lord that lead up to it.

The metaphor of a thief coming is never used to refer to the Rapture of the church. It describes the coming of the Lord in judgment at the end of the seven year Tribulation period, and the judgment at the end of the thousand-year kingdom of Christ on earth (2 Peter 3:10). A thief coming is not a hopeful, joyful event of deliverance, but an unexpected calamity.

The important biblical term the day of the Lord describes God’s cataclysmic future judgment on the wicked. It is mentioned explicitly nineteen times in the Old Testament (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18 [2 times], 20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:7, 14 [2 times]; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5) and four times in the New Testament (cf. Acts 2:20; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10), and is alluded to in other passages (cf. Rev. 6:17; 16:14). It will be the time when God pours out His fury on the wicked; in fact, Scripture three times calls the Day of the Lord the “day of vengeance” (Isa. 34:8; 61:2; 63:4).

The Day of the Lord must be distinguished from the “day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10; 2:16), the “day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6), the “day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5), and the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8); all of those terms refer to the time when believers will receive their rewards from the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:11–14; 4:1–5; 2 Cor. 5:9–10). The Day of the Lord must also be distinguished from the “day of God” (2 Peter 3:12), which refers to the eternal state.

The Old Testament passages dealing with the Day of the Lord often convey a sense of imminence, nearness, and expectation: “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!” (Isa. 13:6); “For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near” (Ezek. 30:3); “For the day of the Lord is near” (Joel 1:15); “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near” (Joel 2:1);

“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14); “For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations” (Obad. 15); “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near” (Zeph. 1:7); “Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly” (Zeph. 1:14).

The Old Testament prophets envisioned historical days of the Lord that would preview the final, eschatological Day of the Lord. God often used providentially controlled circumstances, such as using one nation to destroy another, or natural disasters, as instruments of His judgment. But those historical days of the Lord were merely a prelude to the final eschatological Day of the Lord, which will be far greater in extent and more terrible in its destruction. The Old Testament Day of the Lord passages often have both a near and a far fulfillment, as does much Old Testament prophecy.

The Day of the Lord will not come until “the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:3–4). The rise of Antichrist and his desecration of the temple (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matt. 24:15) will precede the coming of the Day of the Lord.

Unbelievably, incomprehensibly, despite these obvious, unmistakable signs, most people will still be caught by surprise when the Day of the Lord comes.

The terrible outpouring of God’s wrath in judgment will happen while they are saying, “Peace and safety!” The only explanation for such a ludicrous, absurd response is that people will be deceived by false prophets. God declared of the false prophets who plagued Israel: “It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, …. And you will know that I am the Lord. Thus I will spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone, along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’” declares the Lord God. (Ezek. 13:10–16)

Unbelievers’ susceptibility to the false prophets’ deception is a sign of God’s judgment on them. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10–12 Paul wrote that those deceived by the Antichrist will “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 what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” As a result, the sudden, unexpected coming of the Day of the Lord will sweep them away in judgment.

THE CHARACTER OF THE DAY OF THE LORD

then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, (5:3b)

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Paul reminded the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord (v. 2) “will not come unless the apostasy comes first.” That apostasy will include a worldwide system of false religion.

Olethros (destruction) does not refer to annihilation, but separation from God (cf. 2 Thess. 1:9). It does not mean the destruction of being, but of well-being (cf. 1 Tim. 6:9); not the end of existence, but the destruction of the purpose for existence. God will accomplish the destruction of unbelievers by casting them into the eternal torment of hell (2 Thess. 1:9).

Acts 2:19–20 describes the Day of the Lord as a time of “wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.”

By using the term them (a reference to unbelievers), Paul reassured the Thessalonians that they will not face destruction. As he states plainly in verse 4, the Thessalonians will not experience the Day of the Lord; they will be raptured before it begins. As noted earlier, the Day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly on unbelievers. They will fail to heed the many precursors that should have warned them of its imminent arrival, just as labor pains coming upon a woman with child warn her that the birth of her child is imminent.

and they will not escape. (5:3c)

The tragic result of unbelievers’ unpreparedness for the Day of the Lord is that they will not escape divine judgment. The use of the double negative ou mē stresses the comprehensiveness of the Day of the Lord, which will bring destruction on every unbeliever alive when it comes. In the sobering, pensive words of the writer of Hebrews, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

Believers should be comforted by the reality that they will be raptured before the coming of the Day of the Lord and not experience its horrors.

THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF BELIEVERS’ NATURE

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; (5:4–5)

The phrase but you introduces a contrast with verse 3, where Paul used the pronouns “they” and “them” to refer to unbelievers who will not escape the Day of the Lord. The familial term brethren further emphasizes Paul’s point. As God’s children, the Thessalonians would not experience the Day of the Lord, because unlike unbelievers, believers are not in darkness; they possess an entirely different nature. They do not belong to the night; they are not part of Satan’s evil kingdom.

Because their nature is distinct from unbelievers, believers need not fear that the day would  overtake them like a thief. The Day of the Lord is a “day of darkness” (Joel 2:2; Zeph. 1:15); “the day of the Lord … will be darkness and not light…. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light?” (Amos 5:18, 20). It is for the night people; thus day people need not fear the Day of the Lord; they will not be part of it.

Far from being in the darkness, believers are all sons of light and sons of day (cf. Luke 16:8; John 12:36; Eph. 5:8).

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (5:9–11)

The most sobering truth in Scripture is that God will judge the wicked and sentence them to eternal hell (Matt. 3:12; 13:40–42, 50; 18:8; 25:41, 46; John 3:36; 5:29; Acts 24:25; Rom. 2:5, 8; 9:22; 2 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 6:2; 10:26–27; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; Rev. 14:9–11; 20:11–15; 21:8). On the other hand, the blessed truth for believers is that God has not destined us for wrath (cf. 1:10; John 3:18, 36; 5:24; Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1, 33–34).

Believers will not experience the wrath God will pour out on unbelievers on the Day of the Lord, and for eternity in hell. The word destined expresses the inexorable outworking of God’s sovereign plan for believers’ salvation. In Matthew 25:34 Jesus promised that believers will “inherit the kingdom prepared for [them] from the foundation of the world.”

Orgē (wrath) does not refer to a momentary outburst of rage, but to “an abiding and settled habit of mind” (Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 131). It is a general reference to the final judgment, when God’s wrath will be poured out on the wicked (Matt. 3:7; John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; Rev. 14:9–11). But God’s wrath here must also include the Day of the Lord, since that was the Thessalonians’ primary concern. Paul assured them that they would face neither temporal wrath on the Day of the Lord (cf. Rev. 6:17), nor eternal wrath in hell.

The marvelous reality is that all believers will live together with Him, as Jesus Himself promised:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1–3; cf. 1 Thess. 4:17) They will live forever in God’s glorious presence, where “there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).

Paul concluded his discussion of the Day of the Lord by exhorting the Thessalonians to encourage one another and build up one another. Based on the truth he had given them, they were to reassure the anxious and fearful that they would not experience the Day of the Lord. His concluding phrase, just as you also are doing, affirms that they were already committed to encouragement.

“we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” (2 Thes. 1:4–5)

Paul expressed that pride because he was greatly encouraged by the Thessalonians’ spiritual growth and the absence of significant problems in the congregation, irrespective of all the persecutions and afflictions which they endured. Instead of being consumed with personal happiness, fulfillment, comfort, success, or prosperity, they were living out Jesus’ command to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).

Their suffering was not, of course, the basis of the Thessalonians’ salvation but the evidence of it. Through His purging, chastening, purifying work in their lives, God prepared them to be worthy of the kingdom, for “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; cf. 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Peter 5:10).

“it is only just for God … to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well … when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thes 1:6a, 7a–b, 10)

Not only will Christ return to bring retribution to unbelievers but also to give relief to believers. Just as God’s justice demands that He bring retribution on unbelievers, so also it is only just for Him to give relief to the redeemed. The due penalty for sin has been paid by the Lamb of God; divine justice has been satisfied by His death for sinners; believers’ eternal rest is secure.

When He comes, two things will happen that will bring relief to believers. First, Christ will be glorified in His saints on that day. There is coming a day in which God will be glorified through believers in a manner never before seen.

This is the glorious manifestation of believers that Paul wrote about in Romans 8:18–19: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” This glorification will be the final and full redemption of all believers alive when Jesus Christ comes in glory. That requires some explanation. Some believers will already be in the glorified condition, having been raptured before the Tribulation. They will have been in heaven since then in the place prepared for them (John 14:1–3) in resurrection glory enjoying their rewards and fellowship with their Lord. They will return with Christ (Rev. 19:14) to the earth for the Millennium, to join the saints still alive on earth who will receive the earthly kingdom and reign of the Savior. Apparently at the time of Christ’s return, Tribulation saints and Old Testament saints, whose spirits have been with the Lord, will be raised and fully glorified to join those descending from heaven.

This is the resurrection spoken of by Daniel: “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Dan. 12:1–3)

All the living believers who enter the kingdom will see the glorified saints.

Second, believers will be marveled at among all who have believed. Since only believers enter the kingdom, as the judgment of the sheep and goats makes clear (cf. Matt. 25:31–46; Rev. 20:6), the redeemed will wonder at the glory of Christ that is fully revealed in the resurrected saints.

Lest the Thessalonians fear that they might miss out on the relief Christ will bring when He returns, Paul reminded them that they would be among the glorified saints because our testimony to you was believed.

(Main Source: New Testament Commentary 1& 2 Thessalonians – John MacArthur)

DOWNLOADABLE FILE : THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE THESSALONIANS

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LET US REASON WITH ONE ANOTHER!

divided

Some differences will always remain in the church. Indeed, it will not go away. It is something that every Christian will have to live with. Consequently, we should deal with it in a matter that is consistently Christian.

WE SHOULD NOT USE UNCHARITABLE LABELS TO THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH US

No matter what our particular position may be with respect to an issue, we should not resort to placing uncharitable labels upon people who disagree with us. It does no good to try and categorize those who hold different views than us as immature or to be less worthy Christians. This does not do anybody any good.

Unfortunately, there are in fact some unloving assessments from people who are being emotionally unstable, or unwittingly spreading a satanic counterfeit. These are those that are not filled with the Spirit and are consciously attempting to stop God’s work in this age. This type of behavior is unchristian, unbiblical, and counterproductive.

There are immature, arrogant, and divisive people on all sides of an issue. In addition, there are also godly, spiritually mature, and biblical literate people, on all sides of the same issue. We should seek for Christian unity in our diversity of views, while simultaneously standing on truth. Paul wrote about the correct attitude all believers should hold: Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace (Ephesians 4:3 NLT).

WE NEED TO MAKE USE OF ALL SCRIPTURE

We must be careful how we develop our own understanding with respect to an issue. It is possible to find one verse, and then use it as a basis for an entire system of belief. We often make this mistake.

One must seek to find out what the totality of Scripture has to say on a subject, not merely one verse that will be the basis to support our interpretation.

BAD ARGUMENTS FROM THE OTHER SIDE DOES NOT PROVE YOUR CASE

In addition, the fact that some may have used bad arguments to prove their case does not necessarily mean what they believe is wrong and we are right. All it means is that someone offered an unconvincing argument! This is important to understand. We often find in the writings of both parties the idea that they have proved their case, because they have pointed out illogical arguments from those who have a different position. Pointing out bad arguments from those who disagree with us, only means that the other person has bad arguments. It does not settle the matter.

Any examination of two different perspectives should be based on the very best arguments each side has to offer, not on the poorest arguments that were offered (in our opinion).

LETS REALIZE THAT THE EXPERIENCE OF EACH BELIEVER IS UNIQUE

The experience of each believer is unique. Therefore, no one should attempt to make everyone conform to their own particular experience ór relationship with the Lord.

Many times, even with good motives, we attempt to encourage all believers to be like us and to have the same experiences as we do. In doing so, we can make other believers feel uneasy because they have not had the same experience.

Some Christians have convictions based upon their understanding of Scripture. It is wrong for one group to feel superior to the other. The Apostle Paul warned believers about comparing ourselves with one another (2 Corinthians 10:12).

The only thing that believers really ought to make foundational to the Christian faith is the Person of Jesus Christ.

WE SHOULD NOT THINK THAT WE HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS

It is possible that our belief system is too comfortable—we think that we have all the answers. We think we know God well enough to the point that we fully know how He operates. This is a very dangerous position to hold. We need to give God the ability to work any way in which He wishes, we cannot limit Him to the way that we think He will work.

Jesus, in comparing the work of the Holy Spirit with the wind, said the wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

The Holy Spirit works in the ways in which He desires. He certainly does not always operate according to our understanding.

WE CAN LEARN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE A DIFFERENT VIEWPOINT

All of us can learn from those believers who hold differing viewpoints than us. Consequently, we should not shut ourselves up to only those who agree with us all the time. If anyone disassociates themselves from other Bible-believing Christians on the basis of their view on one or two subjects, it does not show their orthodoxy, it only shows their immaturity. Often, these issues are not ones that should divide believers, or keep them from associating with one another.

Indeed, they may be right, and we may be the ones who are wrong! There are always things that we can learn and during debates we can learn from each other.

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THE RAPTURE SERIES 13: THE BELIEVERS’ LAST BATTLE (PART 2 OF 4)

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3) THE BATTLE BETWEEN BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT

We all know of the end-time events which are taking place today such as wars and rumors of wars, pestilence, earthquakes, famine, even signs in the sun, moon and stars, causing great commotion and perplexity on the earth. All we need to do is read the newspaper, listen to the radio or watch the news on TV.

We are continuously overwhelmed by the many catastrophes that are taking place today, whether they are natural, such as tornadoes, floods, and droughts, the covid-19 Coronavirus or caused by the negligence of men such as traffic fatalities, airplane crashes, or fires.

We may consider them as commonplace throughout the ages. Such are not directly related to the personal battles we are involved in daily. Let me make it clear, we are not speaking about everybody else, just you and me.

Flesh Must Be Defeated

The apostle Paul confessed in Romans 7:15, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” This clearly reveals the battle between body, soul and spirit. In verse 18 he said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” This statement exposes the truth about Paul, who did not think much about himself, but nevertheless was confronted with his own sinful nature.

He was fully conscious of the fact that the regenerated person within him was what really mattered. Paul continued, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me”(verses 19-20). He realized that the flesh can never fully submit to the Spirit, and as a result, he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (verse 24).

This verse makes it perfectly clear that we cannot serve God with our flesh. In other words, no matter how hard we try to please God, we will ultimately fail. Naturally the question should arise, “How can we serve God if it is impossible for us to please Him in our physical being?” We please God by serving Him in Spirit and in truth!

Worship In Spirit and Truth

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, He told her, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). This was in response to the woman’s attempt to lead Jesus into an ecumenical discussion. But the Lord responded to her with the truth of the prophetic Word, and as a result, she had to confess, “… I perceive that thou art a prophet” (verse 19).

In an attempt to justify her comments, she said, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (verse 20). Jesus made it very clear that worship of God the Father outside of the truth was impossible.

He made it obvious that the Gentiles were in total darkness when He said, “Ye worship ye know not what…” (verse 22) and then emphasized that true worship can only come forth from the truth, … we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (verse 22).

The Two-Edged Sword

Furthermore, Hebrews 4:12 reveals the way to liberty in Christ through the Word, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Do you want to serve God? Then the Word of God, the most powerful and sharpest of all two-edged swords, must divide your soul and spirit.

We cannot worship God in the soul; the Word of God forbids it. Not only does the two-edged sword clearly divide the soul from the spirit but it is also the “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Only the Word of God will disclose to us what our thinking process is and will even expose the true intention of our hearts.

For that reason, it is urgent that we unconditionally agree with the Word of God. The moment we deviate from the written Word, we fall among the “robbers.” The end result is that no fruit will be created for the glory of the Lord Jesus.

Soulish Believers

The statement in Hebrews 4:12 also reveals the tragedy of the end-times that millions of believers serve the Lord in their souls, not in their spirits.

A person who bases his faith on the soul always depends on tangible circumstances. He is unsure and unstable in all of his ways and continuously needs supernatural guidance, which of course, is supplied by the powers of darkness. In addition, it nullifies the fundamental principle of the gospel of grace; we are to walk by faith, not by sight!

An even greater tragedy is the fact that many consider themselves Christians because they have had emotional experiences in their souls. In reality, their spirits are still dead in sins and trespasses. What a disaster it will be for those when Jesus comes and all who are not born again of the Spirit of God are left behind, despite the fact that they thought they had become new creatures in Christ.

Seven Signs

Certain visible signs take place in the believer’s life which confirm and make obvious whether a person has in fact been born again of the Spirit of God. In his book, Seven Signs of a Born Again Person, Dr. Wim Malgo points out the following:

• A born again person knows that he is born again.
• The new life becomes visible.
• He has a spirit of prayer.
• He has a hunger for the Word of God.
• He will suffer much adversity.
• He has victory over temptations and sin.
• The truly born again person waits with joy and expectancy for the return of Christ.

If any of these signs are not a reality in your own life, then you must ask yourself a very serious question, “Am I really born again?”

The Lust Of The Flesh

The believer’s last battle consists of the continuous conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. To the Galatians, the apostle Paul wrote, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). In other words, we must have continuous victory over the works of the flesh through the Spirit. We are guaranteed of this in verse 16, “… Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”

Fruit Of The Spirit

Contrasting the works of the flesh, we read about the fruit of the Spirit in the next verses, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law ” (verses 22-23).

Isn’t it significant that in the list of the fruits of the Spirit, there is no indication of the presence of pride, self-love, self-esteem, and other fallacious ideas that are being promoted in today’s false gospel movements?

Remember that only by the fruit of the Spirit will the Lord recognize us. It doesn’t matter how good we are, or what we have accomplished in our lives, or how much we have given to our churches, missions, or other benevolent organizations. Those things are good, but they will not count all that much when we stand before the Lord. He said, “… by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).

To successfully win the victory over our last battle, we must continue to keep the victory over our flesh at all times. When we walk in the Spirit, we are standing on the Word of God doing His will. As a result, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Let us conform ourselves to 1st Thessalonians 5:23, “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.”

4) THE BATTLE AGAINST DECEPTION

We know from the Bible that sin entered into the world due to pride. Satan, the originator of sin, successfully deceived one-third of the angelic host, the animal world, and man, God’s crown created in His image.

The devil is the god of this world and rules supreme. He has a legitimate right to all the unsaved people on the earth.

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Isaiah 64:6 confirms this indisputable fact with the words, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

To further prove this point and show that there are no exceptions to the rule, we read Romans 3:10, “… There is none righteous, no, not one.” Verse 12 confirms, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

One Escape

Praise God that He has made a way of escape. Only one Man has ever lived who was without sin; Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man who voluntarily sacrificed Himself on Calvary’s cross. He poured out His blood for the sin of all men so that anyone who comes to Him will receive forgiveness.

The only way of escape is through Him who said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). There is no middle ground, for there is no other name given under Heaven by which man can be saved, and that name is Jesus.

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (21)

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CHAPTER V (CONTINUE)

The Middle Galilean Period (Continue)

18. The Fourth Sign – Feeding of the Five Thousand
References: Matt. 14:13-23; Mk. 6:30-46; Lk. 9:10-17; John 6:1-15

19. The Fifth Sign – Jesus Walking on the Water
References: Matt. 14:24-36; Mk. 6:47-56; John 6:16-21

These two sections will be considered together.

We will first briefly review the historical aspects of the story and then deal with the significance of the miracles as signs. When the Apostles returned from their preaching tour they came and told Jesus all that they had done and taught. There had been so much activity they hardly had time to eat, so Jesus took them to a secret place to rest. But the crowds saw them leave in a boat and ran on foot around the shore and got to the destination before Jesus and the disciples arrived. When Jesus saw the multitudes He had compassion on them, and instead of taking the needed rest, He taught them all day, and toward evening the disciples asked Him to dismiss the meeting and send the people to find food and lodging.

John tells us that Jesus asked Philip, “How can we buy bread for all of these people to eat?” He did this to test Philip to see what he would answer. Would he say, “We don’t need to buy bread, Lord; you are able to feed them miraculously?” Instead, Philip quickly figured that two hundred pennyworths of bread would hardly be enough to give each person just a bite. Then Peter volunteered the information that there was a lad in the crowd who had brought his lunch, five little barley rolls and a couple of fish, but what was that among such a multitude.

Christian workers have to learn that little is much when placed in the Lord’s hand. Jesus knew from the beginning what He was going to do, so he had the disciples make the people sit in companies on the grass, and blessing the lad’s lunch. He took it and broke the rolls and fish and gave to the disciples to distribute until they were all filled. Actually, we do not know how many people were there, for Matthew tells us there were five thousand men, besides women and children. There was such an abundance of food that twelve baskets of scraps were picked up after the meal. John tells us that the people were about to take Jesus by force and make Him king, and Jesus knowing this withdrew into the mountain by Himself. The reason they wanted to make Him king was the prospect of having a ruler who would give them free meals (John 6:26).

Immediately after the meal Jesus made the disciples get in the boat and go to the other side of the lake before Him, while He dismissed the multitude. He then went up in the mountain to pray. In the meantime, night had closed in on the disciples and a storm had developed making it very difficult to man the boat. They had rowed about twenty-five or thirty furlongs towards Capernaum (about four or five miles), when in the fourth watch (between three and six A.M.) Jesus came walking on the water, and Mark says that He would have passed them by, but they, when they saw Him, supposed it was a ghost and they all cried out in fright, for they all saw Him. Whereupon Jesus spoke to them, “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid.”

Matthew gives us the additional details concerning Peter who said, “Lord if it is thou, bid me come to thee upon the waters.” And He said, “Come.” Peter stepped out of the boat walking toward Jesus, but when he took his eyes off Jesus and saw the storm he began to sink and cried out for help. Jesus took his hand, rebuking him for his lack of faith, and together they boarded the boat. Immediately the wind ceased and the boat was almost immediately at the place they were headed for. Mark tells us that the disciples were dumbfounded, for they did not understand the incident of the loaves; their hearts were hardened. In spite of the miracle of the loaves, they still did not see who He was. When they disembarked, the people recognized Him and began bringing their sick to be healed.

Let us notice now the similarity between these two signs, and then what they might signify. In both the glory of Christ as Creator is displayed. Only the Creator could transform five small loaves and two fish into enough food to feed over five thousand people with twelve baskets of leftovers. And only the Creator could have such powers over the forces of nature as to defy the law of gravity by walking on the water, to still the raging storm, and instantly cause the boat with its occupants to be at its destination. He is not only the Creator of Israel (Isa. 43:15), He is the faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4:19), and as such He can and will supply both the physical and spiritual needs of His people. Both of these signs are prefaced by the statement: “Jesus went up into a mountain” (vs. 3 and 15). Mark informs us that He went up into a mountain to pray and that He saw the disciples toiling in rowing because of the storm on the lake.

This may be a considered as foreshadowing of that future time of Jacob’s Trouble, but Jesus as the ascended great High Priest sees them in their trouble and speedily comes to deliver them and bring them quickly to their land of millennial rest.

20. Discourse on the Bread of Life Reference: John 6:22-71

The multitude that had been fed which wanted to make Jesus King had seen the disciples leave in the only boat on the shore and they had seen Jesus retire into the mountain for the night, and the next day they began looking for Him. They knew He could not have left by boat, but not finding Him they decided to go back to Capernaum, His headquarters, to look for Him there. Upon finding Him they asked when and how He had come to Capernaum. Jesus did not answer their inquisitiveness but got down to the more important question of why they were looking for Him. He told them they wanted to make Him King simply because they got a free meal and were filled, and that they should not work for perishable food, but for that which endures unto life everlasting. This answer brought forth another question, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

The word believe appears about one hundred times in John and is especially important in this context, since Jesus made some other statements which caused many of the Jews to stumble, and still causes people to stumble today. He stated: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” The Jews murmured first because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven,” and secondly because He said they must eat His flesh to have eternal life. What did He mean by this latter statement? We can be sure that Jesus was not stating several different ways to have eternal life.

He had made it plain that there was only one way and that He was that way to God. He stated in vs. 29 that the work of God was to believe on Him, and in three of the following verses He stated without any qualification: “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” He then spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood to have everlasting life. Unless this is a second and different way from believing on Him, eating His flesh must be equivalent to believing on Him. We have seen that receiving Christ is equivalent to believing on Him (1:12), and eating is another figure of receiving and assimilating Christ into one’s own being, just as food is in a physical sense. It is plain that Jesus was not advocating cannibalism, for He said, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” It seems clear from vs. 51 that He was referring to His coming death when He spoke of giving His flesh for the life of the world. And then He says, “If this saying about my death offends you, what about my resurrection: What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?”

The statement, “the work of God is to believe,” sounds almost contradictory, for in other Scriptures work is just the opposite of believing (cf. Rom. 3:27; 4:5; 11:6; Eph. 2:8,9). The Jews were works oriented; they believed man must work his way to eternal life through religious observances and law keeping. It would seem that Jesus used their word “work” to show that it was not work but simply believing. Believing is not an activity of working, but a passive acceptance of what God has done for man. It should be pointed out that the word “work” is not always bad when used in a spiritual sense. While no man can work or do works of righteousness to accomplish his salvation, his salvation has recreated him for the very purpose of producing good works (Eph. 2:10). Faith is an active principle, and Paul speaks of the work of faith (1 Thes. 1:3; 2 Thes. 1:11), which is just the opposite of the works of the flesh and the works of the law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16; 5:19).

It is self-evident that after Jesus had given the Jews the Sign of Creating Bread for them that He should interpret this sign by giving the discourse on Himself as the Bread of Life. It turned out to be a hard saying for the Jews, many of whom turned away and no longer followed Him. Why did some reject and others, such as the Apostles receive Him? Jesus explained it: “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life,” (vs. 65, 40). Peter makes his great confession of Christ, (vs. 68, 69), but Christ confesses that one of the Twelve He has chosen is a devil.

21. Eating With Unwashed Hands References: Matt. 15:1-20; Mk. 7:1-23

This section deals with the complaint of the Pharisees that Jesus’ disciples did not observe the traditions of the elders, of Jesus’ rebuttal showing that the traditions of the elders made void the commandments of God, and of a parable concerning that which defiles a man.

Mark goes into a little more detail of explaining some of the traditional teachings of the elders. The fact that the disciples did not wash before eating does not mean that they were unhygienic. The washing referred to was a ceremony of baptism. The last clause of vs. 4 should actually read: “And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the baptizing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and couches upon which they reclined at meals.” The Law of Moses did contain a number of baptism rites, such as the sprinkling of blood and of the water of cleansing, but these traditional baptisms were inventions of the elders of Israel.

Next, Jesus showed how these traditions made the law of God meaningless. God had commanded that a man should honor his father and mother, but tradition of the elders taught that by making a gift to the temple a son could free himself of any responsibility toward his parents.

Then Jesus explained that it was not physical things which entered man’s body that defiled him, but the things that came forth out of his heart: evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. This is a Biblical definition of human depravity. Man has a corrupt, sinful nature. Cleansing the outside of man with various baptisms and washings cannot change the inward condition.

Christendom has developed many traditional teachings over the centuries, the same as Judaism, many of which make void the Gospel just as did the traditions of the elders. The traditions of the Roman Catholic Church which are held on a par with the written Word of God, make void that Word by teaching baptismal regeneration, the intercession of Mary, the re-sacrifice of Christ, and a host of other anti-scriptural doctrines. We must always ask: “What saith the Scriptures?”

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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A GREAT RESOURCE

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If you are a watchman and interested in Bible prophecy, you probably know Don Stewart, or have at least heard of him. Don Stewart is an internationally recognized Christian apologist and speaker. He graduated cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary and the International Seminar in Theology and Law in Strasbourg, France, as well as from Biola University. Don is also a best-selling and award-winning author/co-author of over seventy books. His various writings have been translated into over thirty different languages and have sold over a million copies. Don has traveled around the world proclaiming and staunchly defending the Christian faith.

Don is now a full-time missionary with GoinChrist Ministries.  His website educatingourworld.com provides free resources for those wanting to know what Christians believe, as well as why we believe what we believe. The material covers not only prophecy, but a large variety of other important topics as well.

Currently there are 59 books on the site in PDF form, totaling about 13,000 pages of material while answering over 1,900 questions.

http://www.educatingourworld.com/index.php

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ON PROPHECY – REVELATION 22:18-19

The title page of the last book of the Bible - The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18–19)

It is of great significance that the Bible closes with an affirmation of its truthfulness. Because the words of Scripture are “faithful and true” (22:6), they must not be sealed up, but proclaimed (22:10). Sinners are to be called to respond to the warnings in the Word of the living God or suffer the consequences. All the prophecies of Revelation regarding the doom of sinners will come true. That terrifying certainty should drive people to Jesus Christ to escape the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).

The speaker who testifies to the authority and finality of the words of the prophecy of this book is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. v. 20).

His solemn warning against tampering with Scripture applies first of all to the prophecy of the book of Revelation (cf. 1:3). Its stern rebukes of Jezebel and her followers (2:20–23), those who had embraced the “deep things of Satan” (2:24), and those of the “synagogue of Satan” (3:9) would have prompted them to assault it. Down through the centuries there have been others who have both attacked Revelation and seriously misinterpreted it. But in light of the repeated warnings against altering God’s Word, Christ’s warning must be broadened to include all of Scripture.

In Deuteronomy 4:2 Moses cautioned, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” In Deuteronomy 12:32 he added, “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” Proverbs 30:5–6 warns, “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”

Thus, the prohibition against altering the Apocalypse by implication extends to all of Scripture. Because Revelation describes the entire sweep of history from the close of the apostolic age to the eternal state, any alteration of it would be an alteration of Scripture, as Robert L. Thomas notes:

“The predictive portions project from John’s lifetime all the way into the eternal state. Any type of prophetic utterance would intrude into the domain of this coverage and constitute either an addition to or subtraction from Revelation’s content. So, the final book of the Bible is also the concluding product of NT prophecy. It also marks the close of the NT canon since the prophetic gift was the divinely chosen means for communicating the inspired books of the canon.”

The canon of Scripture was closed at the end of the first century when Revelation was finished. Thus, any false prophet, fraud, or charlatan who adds alleged new revelations to it (as the Montanists did in the early church and Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, and other false prophets have done in recent times) will face divine vengeance. God will add to such people the plagues which are written in the book of Revelation. God’s judgment will be equally severe on anyone who takes away from the words of Scripture (as the heretic Marcion did in the early church and liberal higher critics have done in modern times)—God will take away their part from the tree of life and from the holy city. Both warnings contain a play on words. Those who add to Scripture will have plagues added to them; those who take away from Scripture will have the blessings of heaven taken away from them.

No true believer would ever deliberately tamper with Scripture. Those who know and love God will treat His Word with the utmost respect. They will say with the psalmist, “O how I love Your law!” (Ps. 119:97; cf. Pss. 119:113, 163, 167; John 14:23); and, “I delight in Your law” (Ps. 119:70; cf. Pss. 1:2; 119:77, 92, 174). That does not, of course, mean that believers will never make errors in judgment or mistakenly interpret Scripture incorrectly or inadequately.

The Lord’s warning here is addressed to those who engage in deliberate falsification or misinterpretation of Scripture, those whom Paul denounces aspeddlers of the Word of God (2 Cor. 2:17).

At the conclusion of his commentary on Revelation, J. A. Seiss expressed the humble reverence for Scripture that marks true believers:

“O, my friends, it is a fearful thing to suppress or stultify the word of God, and above all “the words of the prophecy of this Book.” To put forth for truth what is not the truth,—denounce as error, condemn, repudiate, or emasculate what God himself hath set his seal to as his mind and purpose, is one of those high crimes, not only against God, but against the souls of men, which cannot go unpunished.”

With an honest and ever-prayerful heart, and with these solemn and awful warnings ever before our eyes, we should endeavour to ascertain what our gracious Lord and Master has been so particular to make known and defend it.

Revelation and the rest of Scripture are true, and the redeemed will believe the Bible, guard the Bible, love the Bible, and obey the Bible. That Scripture speaks truly when it describes the joys of heaven and the terrors of hell should motivate sinners to heed God’s gracious call to salvation.

(Source: John MacArthur, Revelation 1-22, MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

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ON PROPHECY – 2 PETER 1:19-21

on prophecy

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:19–21)

As accurate as they were in declaring the truth, God did not merely depend on the oral, eyewitness accounts of the apostles. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit He superintended the recording of those experiences and thoughts in the inspired revelation of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). Peter’s reply to those who would question the validity of his experiences is that believers have even a better source—the prophetic word made more sure—the Word of God. Some commentators contend the phrase indicates that the apostles’ experiences validated the Scripture, that glimpsing Jesus’ kingdom glory on the Mount of Transfiguration somehow confirmed the prophets’ predictions concerning His second coming. That is a possible interpretation, but the phrase’s literal rendering, “we have more sure the prophetic word,” recommends another interpretation.

That is, as reliable and helpful as Peter’s experience was, the prophetic word of Scripture is more sure. Throughout redemptive history, God Himself has repeatedly emphasized that His inspired Word is inerrant, infallible, and the all-sufficient source of truth, which does not require human confirmation (Pss. 19:7; 119:160; John 17:17; 1 Cor. 2:10–14; 1 Thess. 2:13; cf. Prov. 6:23; Dan. 10:21, NKJV).

We in verse 19 generically refers to all believers. As a group they possess the Word, the source of God’s truth that is far more reliable than their collective experience, even as apostles. Second Corinthians 12:1 is a helpful example of the limitations of human experience as a source of truth:

Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.” The apostle Paul desired to defend his apostleship, but he appears to admit that personal visions and experiences—even of heaven—are not helpful, not substantial as means of defending God’s truth. That is because they are unverifiable, unrepeatable, and incomprehensible (vv. 2–4). Paul actually preferred to defend his apostleship with his suffering rather than with his supernatural visions (vv. 5–10). When the New Testament writers wrote about Christ and His promised return, they confirmed the truth of Old Testament Scripture (cf. Matt. 4: 12–16; 12:19–20; 21:1–5; Luke 4:16–21; Rom. 15:3; Heb. 5:5–6; 1 Peter 2:6–7, 22; Rev. 19:10).

Thus, it was not the apostles’ experience but the inspired and inscripturated record of Christ’s life and words, penned by the Spirit directed authors and contained in the New Testament, which validated the Old. That validation fit the Jews’ beliefs regarding the supremacy of written revelation, as Michael Green explains:

The Jews always preferred prophecy to the voice from heaven. Indeed they regarded the latter, the bath qōl, “daughter of the voice”, as an inferior substitute for revelation, since the days of prophecy had ceased. And as for the apostles, it is hard to overemphasize their regard for the Old Testament. One of their most powerful arguments for the truth of Christianity was the argument from prophecy (see the speeches in Acts, Rom. XV, I Peter II, or the whole of Heb. or Rev). In the word of God written, they sought absolute assurance, like their Master, for whom “it is written” sufficed to clinch an argument…. [Peter] is saying “If you don’t believe me, go to the Scriptures”.

“The question”, says Calvin, “is not whether the prophets are more trustworthy than the gospel.” It is simply that “since the Jews were in no doubt that everything that the prophets taught came from God, it is no wonder that Peter says that their word is ‘more sure’’”.

The expression the prophetic word in Peter’s day embraced the entire Old Testament. The expression extends beyond the passages of predictive prophecy to include all the inspired Word, which in general anticipated the coming of Messiah, as Paul made clear when he wrote:

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 16:25–27)

Jesus Himself affirmed that reality, saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39; cf. Luke 24:27, 44–45). While the Lord was primarily speaking of Old Testament Scripture, the words are not limited to that. Scripture is Scripture, and what is true of the Old Testament is also true of New Testament Scripture (cf. 2 Peter 3:15–16, in which Peter calls the writings of Paul Scripture).

Peter asserts that his readers would do well to pay attention to the prophetic word. If they were going to be exposed to the subtle errors of the false teachers, it was imperative that they know and carefully heed Scripture so that they could reject false teachings (Ps. 17:4; Acts 18:28; Eph. 6:11, 17; cf. Matt. 4:4; 22:29; 1 Cor. 10:11; Rev. 22:19).

To make his point even more direct, Peter offered a simple metaphor, comparing God’s Word to a lamp shining in a dark place. That figure of speech recalls the psalmist’s familiar words, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105; cf. v. 130; 43:3; Prov 6:23). Dark (auchmēros) is the meaning that came from the original idea of this word, “dry,” or “parched,” then “dirty,” or “murky.” The phrase dark place encompasses the murky blackness of the fallen world that prevents people from seeing the truth until the lamp of divine revelation shines forth. Thus Peter likens Scripture to a lantern that provides light to a dark and sinful world. The calendar of redemptive history moves toward a day God has designated for the glorious event when Jesus Christ returns in full, blazing splendor and majesty (Matt. 24:30; 25:31; Titus 2:13; Rev. 1:7; cf. Col. 3:4). When that day dawns, Christ will terminate the temporary earthly night of sin and spiritual darkness, returning in glory to establish His kingdom. The apostle John describes this in Revelation 19:11–16:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

The bittersweet event marks the climax of God’s salvation purpose and His judgment on the wicked (cf. Isa. 2:12; 13:6; Zeph. 1:14; 1 Cor. 1:8; 3:13; 4:5; Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:7; 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Peter 2:12).

Morning star (phōsphoros), which literally means “light bringer,” was the name for the planet Venus, which precedes the morning sun in the sky, and is used here for Christ, whose coming inaugurates the promised millennial kingdom and the establishment of His kingdom.

Scripture in several places refers to Christ as a star (Num. 24:17; Rev. 2:28; 22:16; cf. Matt. 2:2). Peter adds the fact that the star arises in believers’ hearts. Christ will return in a blaze of physically visible, all-encompassing light that will affect everyone for blessing or cursing and change the millennial earth (3:10–13), eventually destroying the universe and replacing it with the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 20:11; 21:1). The reference to the hearts indicates His return will also transform believers into perfect reflections of the truth and righteousness of Christ and make them into the image of His glory (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:20–21; 1 John 3:1–2). At His second coming, Christ will replace the perfect temporal revelation of Scripture with the perfect eternal revelation of His person. He will fulfill the written Word and write it forever on the hearts of the glorified saints.

From considering the end of Scripture, when it completely rules the perfected heart, Peter went back to the start of Scripture—its divine inspiration. As Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16); therefore, no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. The phrase is a matter of translates ginetai, which more precisely means “comes into being,” “originates,” or “arises.” No portion of the holy writings, Old Testament or New, came into existence in the manner all false prophecies did (cf. Jer. 14:14; 23:32; Ezek. 13:2). For example, the prophet Jeremiah explained how God viewed the false prophets of his time:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a  vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You will have peace”’; and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’ But who has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? Behold, the storm of the Lord has gone forth in wrath, even a whirling tempest; it will swirl down on the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; in the last days you will clearly understand it. I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds. “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord. “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’” (Jer. 23:16–25; cf. Ezek. 13:3)

False prophets and teachers spoke of their own things, from their own ideas, but no true message from God ever arose from a human interpretation.

Interpretation (epiluseōs) is an unfortunate translation because in English it indicates how one understands Scripture, whereas the Greek noun is a genitive, indicating source. Thus, Peter is not referring to the explanation of the Scripture, but to its origin. The next statement in verse 21, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but (alla, “just the opposite,” “quite the contrary”) men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God, further supports the point of source. What human beings might think or want has absolutely nothing to do with divine prophecy.

Moved (pheromenoi) is a present passive participle that means “continually carried,” or “borne along.” Luke twice used this verb (Acts 27:15, 17) to describe how the wind blows a sailing ship across the waters. For Peter, it was as if the writers of Scripture raised their spiritual sails and allowed the Spirit to fill them with His powerful breath of revelation as they penned its divine words (cf. Luke 1:70).

When Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me saying” (Jer. 1:4), he spoke for all the Old Testament writers and, by extension, all the New Testament writers who followed them. The only one who knows the mind of God is the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:10–13; cf. John 15:26; Rom. 8:27; 11:34; cf. John 3:8), so only He could have inspired the Scripture.

If believers are going to stand against the errors of false teachers, they must seek to know, accept, and obey the totality of Scripture, even as the apostle Paul did in testifying before the Roman governor Felix, “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they [the Jews] call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14, emphasis added).

(Source: John MacArthur, 2 Peter, MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

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BILL GATES – THE MYSTERY MAN

bill gates

WHO IS BILL GATES? **

William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955 in Seattle, Washington) is an American business magnate, software developer, investor, and philanthropist. Until recently, he was best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. During the late 1990s, Gates had been criticized for his business tactics, which have been considered anti-competitive. From 1995 to 2017, he held the Forbes title of the richest person in the world all but four of those years. As of November 2019, Gates had an estimated net worth of US$107.1 billion.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gates stated in regard to his faith: “The moral systems of religion, I think, are super important. We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief.”

WHAT DOES THE BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION DO? **

In June 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning to a part-time role at Microsoft and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the private charitable foundation that he and his wife, Melinda Gates, established in 2000. He donated large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is reported to be the world’s largest private charity organization.

Gates has credited the generosity and extensive philanthropy of David Rockefeller as a major influence. Gates and his father met with Rockefeller several times, and their charity work is partly modeled on the Rockefeller family’s philanthropic focus, whereby they are interested in “tackling the global problems that are ignored by governments and other organizations.”

The foundation is organized into four program areas: Global Development Division, Global Health Division, United States Division, and Global Policy & Advocacy Division. Their longer-term goal is UNIVERSAL access to voluntary family planning.

** Information obtained from Wikipedia

GATES, THE GLOBALIST

Gates’ admiration of David Rockefeller speaks for itself. The Rockefeller Institute has a long history advocating the planned death of the undesirable and the health care for those who are considered more worthy.

He believes the population of the world is much more than the earth can bear, and the government should implement procedures to REDUCE the population. Simultaneously, Gates produces vaccines, and he has personally put forward billions of dollars to spread vaccines across the world. Gates says that DEPOPULATION can be done via “vaccine programs.”

In 2010 on the TED show in California, Gates said, “If we are doing a real good job vaccinating children, we can reduce the world population by 10% to 15%.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaF-fq2Zn7I

Paul Koenig reported on Europe Reloaded that for over twenty years the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) have been vaccinating foremost children by the millions in remote areas of poor countries, mostly Africa and Asia. Most of their vaccination programs had disastrous results, causing the very illness (polio, for example in India) and sterilizing young women (Kenya, with modified tetanus vaccines). Many of the children died. Many of the programs were carried out with the backing of the WHO and – yes – the UN Agency responsible for the Protection of Children, UNICEF.

Robert F Kennedy Jr, an avid Defender of Children’s Rights and an advocate for safe vaccines have even launched a petition sent to the White House, calling for investigations into the dangerous ways in which vaccines are forced on children.

In September 2017, Bill and Melinda Gates expressed their concern that the world is on a course to fall well short of high-profile 2030 targets around “global health and poverty” that United Nations members adopted in 2015.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are also joining hands with the globalists with regards to the hoax of climate change. The recently said that fighting climate change and promoting gender equality will be prominent issues in their philanthropy going forward. Apparently, the foundation plans to work on technologies for lowering carbon emissions. “Tackling climate change is going to demand historic levels of GLOBAL COOPERATION, unprecedented amounts of innovation in nearly every sector of the economy, widespread deployment of today’s clean-energy solutions like solar and wind, and a concerted effort to work with the people who are most vulnerable to a warmer world,” wrote Bill Gates.

In the meantime, a Times investigation revealed that Gates had a much closer relationship with Jeffrey Epstein than previously known. According to the National Catholic Register, in November 2019, Pope Francis received Melinda Gates in an unpublicized private audience. Vatican communications officials and the Gates Foundation however declined to confirm or deny whether such a meeting took place.

COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS, WHO, FAUCI AND BIRX

Gates is a frontman on the Covid-19 bandwagon. The World Economic Forum reported that he is now funding the construction of factories for seven coronavirus vaccine candidates. He is also the man who insisted that a complete shutdown is the only way to stop the spread of (man-made) coronavirus. In the meantime, for the man on the street, work isn’t an option. It’s food. It’s survival. And getting a handout from the government, while necessary in times of crises, doesn’t make up for a bankrupted business.

And of course, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also a member of the World Health Organization (WHO). As the Washington Post rightfully claim in an article dated April 2, 2020, Gates practically controls policy at WHO. (No wonder Gates strongly criticized Trump’s decision to defund WHO “as dangerous as it sounds.”) In the article, he stressed that the impacts of the new coronavirus could linger another 18 months or so, UNTIL A VACCINE was developed.

Anthony Stephen Fauci is an American physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984. Since January 2020, he has been one of the lead members of the Trump Administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force addressing the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

According to an article by National File.com, April 13, 2020, President Donald Trump is fighting to find a medical solution for the Coronavirus in the short term, expressing hope that the anti-malaria drug Chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine can help patients suffering from the Chinese virus.

The truth is that President Donald Trump is locked in an intense power struggle with Bill Gates, who is pushing his vaccines, which may not be available to the public within the next 18 months.

Gates has a lot of pull in the medical world, he has a multi-million dollar relationship with Fauci, and Fauci originally took the Gates line supporting vaccines and casting doubt on Chloroquine. Fauci then changed his tune and launched a public relations campaign huddling closer to Trump, though he still makes his hostility toward the Trump-touted drugs clear, even if doing so between the lines. But actually, Fauci is still pushing the talking point that things will never go back to normal in our society until we have the ability to mass-vaccinate people, echoing Bill Gates’ assertion that mass gatherings in our culture “may not come back at all” before mass-vaccinations.

Furthermore, Coronavirus response team member Dr. Deborah Birx, appointed by former president Obama to serve as United States Global AIDS Coordinator, also sits on the board of a group that has received billions from Gates’ foundation, and Birx reportedly used a disputed Bill Gates-funded model for the White Houses’ Coronavirus effort.

CONCLUSION

Bill Gates can be one of the richest and most powerful men on earth, yet, in reality he is only a poor slave to Satan. This man is one of the forerunners in setting the table for the One World Government. However, what we need to remember is that we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Still, God does not expect us to be blind to all of the evil going on. As a matter of fact, we should “watch” and not believe the lies, but search for truth. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

Men like Bill Gates are merely role players and these things need to happen in order for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)

Above all, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may [a]be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)

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THE RAPTURE SERIES 12: THE BELIEVERS’ LAST BATTLE (PART 1 OF 4)

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“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12).

“…It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

These two verses summarize the last battle for the believer. You may be wondering why a battle would be necessary if the Lord has already won. I believe that the answer to that question is because light and darkness are mutually exclusive. Keep in mind that light is always stronger than darkness. It makes no difference how dark the darkness may be because when light appears darkness is instanteously defeated and all that the darkness attempted to hide is exposed. Only in the absence of light is darkness powerful. Since the Lord said, “Ye are the light of the world,” complete darkness cannot set in. Works of darkness are continuously exposed by our presence.

It is significant to remember that the light that exposes darkness is not accomplished by “flesh and blood.” Don’t ever be deceived by well-meaning Christians who play politics to expose the darkness that exists in our land and heal our society as a result. It will never happen. It is not promised in the Bible and those attempts are actually the work of the great enemy.

Some of you may be shocked to read such a statement but based on what the Bible teaches, I am convinced that it is true. The Lord Jesus told us that His kingdom was not of this world (yet!); otherwise, His disciples would fight. The Lord Jesus Himself was born and lived His entire life under foreign occupation but He never lifted a finger against the political and military authority of Rome. As a matter of fact, He even endorsed the payment of taxes to the foreign government with His statement, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars.”

When we follow the life of Paul and the lives of the other apostles we also see that they were not politically active in any way, but were consumed with the desire to preach the Gospel and follow Jesus even unto death.

Your motives may be noble in fighting against the various ills of our society. But if you do, please remember that the Bible holds no promises that you will succeed. How then do we fight against the powers of darkness? Simply by being and acting like Christians, letting the fruit of the Spirit show through our lives. That light is much stronger than any political power in the world. We need to stand up for what is right, but making it our full-time mission to fightagainst such practices as abortion, homosexuality, atheism and drug abuse will not produce fruit for His glory but will entangle us in the affairs of the world. As a result, our strength will be wasted upon the things of this world.

For the work of darkness—including the deception of the world— to reach fruition, the light must be removed from planet Earth. Until that happens, we are light-bearers although we remain in our sinful flesh and blood.

The fact that the apostle cautioned us to “cast off the works of darkness” clearly indicates that by nature, Christians are in danger of participating in the work of darkness.
It also reveals that when we are born again of the Spirit of God, we are not automatically separated from darkness while we are in our flesh.

Paul also spoke of the sin which so easily besets us. In other words, Christians are capable of committing the same sins as the children of the world.

We are redeemed from the power and guilt of sin; however, we are not redeemed from the presence of sin. Subsequently, our last battle is based on our continuous stand in direct opposition to temptation and sin.

Our stand in faith will determine our position regarding the rewards that will be given to those who have faithfully held on to their Lord. We are strongly warned and reminded of this in 2nd John 1:8, “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”

We can outline this chapter in five points:
1) When light became darkness
2) The battle between light and darkness
3) The battle between spirit, soul and body
4) The battle against deception
5) The battle of silence

1) WHEN LIGHT BECAME DARKNESS

Isaiah supplies us with a view of prophecy that looked back in time. He showed us the history of darkness in chapter 14:12-14, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” These verses describe the birth of darkness.

Lucifer, the “son of the morning,” was indeed an excellent personality in the presence of God. Only the King James translation adds the word ‘Lucifer ” so as not to confuse him with the only bright and morning star. The Hebrew-English translation reads, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O shining one, son of dawn!…” Luther translates this verse, “How has thou fallen from heaven, thou beautiful star of the morning…” This is a vivid description of the birth of sin. Of course it is incomprehensible to us because our limited human intellect cannot grasp the terrible catastrophe that took place at that time.

This “morning star,” so full of light, so boundlessly beautiful and glorious, conceived in his heart the desire to be equal with the Most High. His self-exaltation and pride are clearly expressed in the five-fold “I will” of the fallen star cited in the Isaiah passage. Deception was born in his heart and caused his downfall. As a result, light became darkness.

2) THE BATTLE BETWEEN LIGHT AND DARKNESS

As we previously mentioned, light is stronger than darkness. As a child of God, you have received the Light of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. The powers of darkness are nullified when you stay in the territory of the light. Then, you can exclaim with the Lord, “The evil cometh and findeth nothing on me.”

To illustrate how light is stronger than darkness, do the following: go into the basement of your house or some other dark place at night when there is no light. When you find yourself in such a place, you literally cannot see your hand in front of your eyes. Everything is pitch black and you do not know what is waiting for you in the darkness.
If you don’t move carefully, you may hurt yourself, falling over an object or bumping into a dangerous instrument. For all practical purposes, you are completely paralyzed by the darkness. Any move you make can be dangerous, even fatal.

But then at the very second you turn on the flashlight, darkness is defeated and you can clearly recognize the objects which could have done you harm in the darkness.

The Counterfeit Light

The same can be said about the unsaved who remain in darkness, not knowing where they are going. They live on a day-to-day basis, approaching eternal darkness where no salvation is possible.

Anyone with a little common sense knows that you don’t walk around in a dark place where you cannot see. We may wonder why people walk in darkness.

The answer is simple, yet sad; they are following in the footsteps of a counterfeit light. Second Corinthians 11:14 warns, “… no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

How can a person see the light? Jesus answers that question in John 3:3 when He speaks to Nicodemus the Pharisee, “… Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Therefore, the moment a person is born again of the Spirit of God, not only does he see his surroundings, but he sees eternity, “the kingdom of God.” By faith he sees those wonderful things which are hidden from the eyes of the children of the world.

The believer does not aimlessly wander in this world, but has the light and walks with determination toward eternity.

This can be compared to a ship on the sea, looking for the beacon of the lighthouse. Picture the Lord, the Light of the world who beckons all who are lost in the darkness of sin to come to Him. The lighthouse operator rejoices when on the horizon he sees a little flicker of light from a ship in the far distance being tossed to and fro by the waves. The moment this contact is established, the lighthouse is able to safely guide the ship back to the harbor. The captain of the ship understands the signs aimed at him from the lighthouse, he follows the instructions and ultimately reaches safety. Our lives can be compared to this illustration. We are in the ocean of darkness with no hope, lost for all eternity. Suddenly, in the far distance we see the blinking Light from our heavenly Lighthouse. The moment we cry out for help, Jesus gives us His Light. From that point on, we can communicate with Him directly because our light is now turned toward our heavenly Lighthouse, the Lord Jesus.

Dear reader, if you have not yet received the Lord Jesus, do not delay any longer because it may be your last chance to be saved for all eternity. The alternative is eternal darkness, separation from God, being lost forever.

The wonderful truth is that the Christian walks toward eternity with full assurance that the way has been prepared, the price has been paid, and the guarantee, “I will never leave you nor forsake you, ” is always valid.

The Sure Word Of Prophecy

A born again Christian does not walk in darkness but uses the sure word of prophecy as his guideline. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts ” (2nd Peter 1:19).

The great apostle Peter penned these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at a time when he was aware that his life was soon to come to an end. He testified in verse 14, “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.” It is significant that this apostle emphasized the fact that he had diligently proclaimed the imminency of the Rapture, “… the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (verse 16). As a result, Peter boldly proclaimed the prophetic Word, the coming of Jesus.

Many Christians fail to realize that the Word of prophecy climaxes in the return of Jesus and is part of the liberating Gospel we are to preach to all people everywhere.

You can sense the urgency with which Peter entrusted the prophetic Word to the Church. Not only do we have a “more sure word of prophecy, ” but we are also cautioned to “take heed” of it. We are to watch out, to be alert, and to be fully conscious of the events that are taking place in our time which point to the coming of the Lord.

It struck me when I realized that Peter wrote, “… as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.” Surely it doesn’t take much energy to recognize a light in a dark place, because the light, no matter how faint, is easily detected. The light itself does not need to exclaim, “Here, look, this is light!” Light is so powerful that it actually cancels out darkness.

Light Exposes Darkness

This light that the apostle speaks of is the light that gives us perfect and secure guidance amidst the commotion and darkness in this world. When we read the news, listen to the radio or watch television, we are plagued with so many negative things; terrible catastrophes, wars and rumors of wars, misery and tragedy. We are being offered all types of remedies – of which none usually work – except for the Light of the world! But in the midst of the surrounding darkness in our society, we have the sure word of prophecy – the Light that guides us through the darkness.

We must remember that darkness is not going to be obliterated and will be even more powerful as the endtime progresses until there is so much darkness that even children of God are in danger of losing sight of the light.

It is quite obvious that Peter was not only speaking about the coming of the Lord, but was particularly interested in showing us that the day must also dawn in our hearts. How are our hearts enlightened?

When “the day star” has taken full possession of our earthly tabernacle and we have totally surrendered to His will and do His bidding!

The Prophetic Light

The light of the prophetic Word is not to be compared to any other light such as daylight. There is no difference between the saved and the lost, the good and the evil, because our daylight is an all-penetrating force that gives light to all men. The light we are speaking of is the Light in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

John spoke about this when he began his Gospel account and said, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4-5).

This Light shines in the darkness, but as we have just read, the general population does not recognize it. Why is that the case? Isn’t this Light available everywhere? The answer is yes, even more than our daylight, which is only poured out on half of the globe at one time.

In verse 9 John makes this very clear that the Light is there for all men, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Every single human being will be confronted with the Light of the world, for it “lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” But the great tragedy is that “… the darkness comprehended it not ” (John 1:5).

The Coming Light

Isaiah saw the coming of this Light approximately 750 years before the birth of Christ. He wrote, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isaiah 9:2).
The New Testament speaks of the fulfillment of this prophecy, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:14-16).

It is important at this point to emphasize the Gentiles’ integration and participation in the promised Light. Paul reports the following to us in Romans 15:9-13, “…that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

You Need Light

Is it dark in your life? Are you bothered by your surroundings? Is your day-to-day life dictated by circumstances which apparently are beyond your control? Then you are not permitting the Word of prophecy to be the light of your life. In other words, you are not really waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus.

The apostle Paul recognized the danger of not waiting for Jesus and wrote to the Corinthians, “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1st Corinthians 1:7).

This gift of waiting for His return is something so precious I have no adequate words to describe it. When we wait for Him, everything else that oppresses and burdens us seems to fade away. Therefore, today, begin to seek the better way, the prophetic Word, the Word Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, so that He can fill your life with the unspeakable and joyful desire of waiting for Him.

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (20)

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CHAPTER V (CONTINUE)

The Middle Galilean Period (Continue)

14. Two Blind Men and a Dumb Demoniac Healed Reference: Matt. 9:27-34

We find a great deal of variety in the healing ministry of Jesus. He did not have some fixed way of dealing with everybody. People are different, their problems and needs are different. They need to be dealt with in a personal way. In this case the two blind men followed Him crying out for mercy. Jesus apparently gave them no heed, so they followed Him into the house. Then Jesus asked: “Do you believe I am able to do this?” and they said, “Yes, Lord.” So, He touched their eyes and they received sight according to their faith. As He had done with others, He strictly charged them to tell no man, but they went forth and spread abroad His fame. It would seem in some of these cases, at least, Jesus wanted to show the impossibility of silencing a testimony of one upon whom God had done a real work.

Then upon the healing of a dumb demoniac the people said, “It was never so seen in Israel,” but the Pharisees said, “By the prince of demons he casts out demons.”

15. Second Rejection at Nazareth References: Matt. 13:54-58; Mk. 6:1-6

Some commentators believe this is a record of His first and only visit to Nazareth, which is recorded in Luke 4:16-30, and which was commented upon under the Early Galilean Period.

16. The Mission of the Twelve References: Matt. 9:35-11:1; Mk. 6:7-13; Lk. 9:1-6

Since we have already dealt with the appointment of the Twelve Apostles we will confine our remarks to their commission. This is one of the great commissions of the N.T. Here we learn that Jesus gave His apostles authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sicknesses and diseases. The disciples had been in training up to this point. Now they are to be sent out to preach and to heal diseases. Disciples are learners; apostles are officially sent ones.

This commission consists of several commands. The first is: “Don’t go to the Gentiles;” second, “Don’t go into any city of the Samaritans;” third, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” fourth, “Preach that the kingdom of heaven is near at hand;” fifth, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons, and do all of this as freely as the ability has been given you;” sixth, “Don’t take any money with you; don’t pack a bag for your journey; don’t take a change of clothing or of shoes; don’t take a staff; for the worker is worthy of having these needs supplied.”

This commission is a very good example of the dispensational character of the Bible and of God’s dealings with His people. Many of these commands were changed by Jesus just a few months later. In the next commission Jesus gave to these same apostles after His death and resurrection, He rescinded the restriction on the Gentiles and Samaritans, and told them to witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and then to the uttermost part of the earth. This command is a complete reversal of the previous command. On the night before His death He asked these same apostles: “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing. Then he said unto them, BUT NOW, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip (bag), and he that hath no sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one” (Lk. 22:35,36). Again there is a complete reversal of commands. For the apostles to obey the commands of Jesus in Matt. 10 after receiving the new commands in Lk. 22 would constitute disobedience.

But why would Jesus give one set of commands only to reverse them in a few months? The answer lies in God’s covenant relationship with Israel. God had covenanted with Israel to establish His Kingdom with them, and after that to bless all of the other nations through Israel. Therefore, while Christ was on earth, when the Kingdom was near but not yet established, His message had to be addressed to Israel alone; just as He told the Syrophenician woman: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is not right to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs” (Matt. 15:24-26). Israel had to be filled with her promised blessing before any blessing could go to the Gentiles. But after His death and resurrection when the Kingdom was being offered to Israel and when there was the possibility of the Kingdom being established (contingent upon Israel’s repentance and acknowledgement of Jesus as Messiah and King), Christ changed His commands and told them to go to Jerusalem and Judea first, then to Samaria, and finally to the uttermost parts of the earth. But before they had progressed far enough to go to the Gentile nations the rulers of the Jews rejected the ministry of the Apostles, blasphemed the Holy Spirit, and killed some of the witnesses. Thereupon God interposed a moratorium on the Kingdom offer; raised up a new apostle with a new dispensation and a new commission, and the Twelve who had been commissioned to finally go to the Gentiles, turned the Gentiles over to the Apostle Paul (Gal. 2:9).

It is strange that many Christians suppose that God cannot or has no right to change His commands. Some are still trying to carry out commands given by Moses to Israel; others are trying to carry out the commands of Jesus in Matt. 10; and it seems that the great majority of Protestants as well as Catholics are trying to carry out the Kingdom commission of Matt. 28 and Acts 1. If it was disobedience to work under the Matt. 10 commission after the Matt. 28 commission was given, is it not also disobedience to try to fulfill the Matt. 28 commission after a new commission was given to and through Paul?
After telling the Apostles how to behave in their ministry and how they will suffer as sheep amongst wolves, He tells them that they who endure to the end shall be saved (Matt. 10:22). This is a favorite proof-text for Arminians. Modern preachers who use this verse not only remove it from the context of the Kingdom dispensation, but they also fail to understand what the end means. It is usually construed to mean “to the end of one’s life,” whereas the end of which Christ so often speaks is the end of the age. If the Kingdom was near, the end of the present age was even nearer. (Cf. Matt. 13:40; 24:3,6,13,14 where world means age.) Those who endure through the time of Jacob’s trouble, the Great Tribulation, will be saved.

Matt. 10:23, “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come,” has puzzled Bible scholars. Those who deny the literal second coming of Christ to establish His Kingdom argue that this verse shows that Jesus intended His coming to be understood in a figurative sense, for surely the Apostles went to these cities and 1900 years have transpired and yet Jesus has not come. It might be well to quote three other similar passages and point out a fact which is common to all and which explains the meaning from a grammatical standpoint.

Matt. 16:28, “There be some standing here, which shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”

Matt. 23:39, “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord .”

Matt. 24:34, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

It will be noted that in all four of these passages the word “till” occurs. In the Greek text there is an untranslatable particle, “an,” used with the subjunctive mood. On the meaning of this particle, Thayers Greek-English Lexicon states: “an, a particle indicating that something can or could occur on certain conditions, or by the combination of certain fortuitous causes.” In other words, these statements are conditional. We might read our present text: “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man may have come depending upon the fulfillment of certain conditions. If the conditions are fulfilled, the Son of man will come before you have gone over all the cities of Israel.” What then is the condition upon which His coming depended? There can be no doubt but that it depended upon Israel’s repentance and acceptance of the offered Kingdom. Acts 3:19,20 makes this abundantly plain. Even though Israel had rejected Christ in incarnation, now they were given the opportunity to accept Him in resurrection and had they done so Peter says that God would have sent Him back to bring in the times of restitution spoken of by the prophets. We know now that Israel did not repent and therefore the condition stated in these four references was not satisfied, and therefore Christ did not come.

In exhorting His disciples to faithfulness in the face of violent opposition the Lord made a remarkable statement, recorded more fully in Matt. 10:28 than in Lk. 12:5. “Fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (gehenna).” This statement is a sufficient answer to those who claim that physical death results in the death of the soul. The body may be killed without killing the soul. It must therefore exist apart from the body. Only God has the ability, not only to kill, but to destroy both the body and soul in gehenna. Destroy never means annihilate in Scripture. The word used here is apollumi, and is the same word as translated lost sheep of the house of Israel, (Matt. 10:6; 15:24); go after that which is lost, till he finds it (Lk. 15:4); the prodigal son was lost and is found (Lk. 15:32). The word means loss, not of being, but of well-being.

Gabriel’s message of peace on earth is reversed by the Lord in the hostile environment in which He found Himself. He had not come to send peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34). Many Christians are at a loss to explain how Jesus could say He had come to send a sword and not peace, and many critics of the Bible, ignorant of this statement and the reason for it, try to impugn the claims of Christ by pointing to the fact that Christianity has failed to bring about peace in the world. The fact is that not only here did Jesus make such a statement, but in the Olivet Discourse He plainly stated that there would be wars and rumors of wars down to the very end of the age; that is, to the time of His second coming.
To be worthy of Christ the disciples must place Christ before their nearest of kin (vs. 37), before their own interests and safety (vs. 38), before life itself (vs. 39). He closely identified Himself with His own (vs. 40) and promised reward even for giving a cup of cold water to one of these little ones.

Matthew ends the section by stating that Jesus departed from there to teach and preach after thus commanding His twelve apostles, but Mark and Luke state that the Apostles went out and preached the gospel everywhere (in Israel and only to Israelites as Christ had commanded), casting out demons and healing the sick.

17. Death of John the Baptist References:Matt. 14:1-12; Mk. 6:14-29; Lk. 9:7-9

This Herod was one of the sons of Herod the Great who had ordered the slaughter of the innocents. His official title was Tetrach, “ruler of a fourth part.” On the death of King Herod his dominions were divided into four parts: Archelaus obtained two parts, Philip one part, and Antipas (the Herod of this story) one part. Herod’s wife was a daughter of Aretas, King of Arabia, whom he dishonored by taking Herodias, the wife of Philip, to be his wife. Salome was the daughter of Herodias. John had condemned Herod for his immorality and Herod had put him in prison.

John had been arrested perhaps eight months before his martyrdom. Possibly he was imprisoned at the fortress of Machaerus on the east side of the Dead Sea although some think it was at Herod’s palace in Samaria. There Herod had built not only a fortress with dungeons, but an ornate palace. The feast which he gave on this occasion must have been at this palace. The word “here” in Matt. 14:8 at least suggests this, for Salome said, Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist. John must have been nearby for the execution to take place and the head to be brought before the feast was over. It would have required considerable time to go from Jerusalem to Samaria and back. Herodias and Salome knew of Herod’s reluctance to put John to death, and they wanted the deed done before Herod had time to change his mind.

When Herod had heard of the mighty works of Jesus, he was sure that John had risen from the dead. It is strange that he was superstitious enough to believe John had risen from the dead but refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead later on. Mark tells us that Herodias was so incensed by John’s condemnation of her marriage to Herod that she tried to have him killed, but Herod feared John, knowing he was a holy and righteous man, and kept him safe. Herod had apparently had several conversations with John, for we read that he was much perplexed when he listened to him and yet he heard him gladly. He apparently put John in prison only because of the insistence of Herodias, and now when he made the rash promise to Salome, she and her mother were quick to see the opportunity to have done what Herod had refused to do. Herod was outfoxed and although he was very sorry, to save face before his guests he caused John to lose his head. Herod had two fears: one, a superstitious fear that John might be able to put a curse on him; and the other, a fear of the people, because they considered him to be a prophet. He apparently had no fear of God. God is going to have two great witnesses in Jerusalem during the Tribulation and the rulers will do the same thing to them that Herod did to John (Rev. 11:3-10).

John’s disciples buried John’s body and went and told Jesus what had happened. Jesus was near the Sea of Galilee when the news reached Him, and He withdrew from there in a boat to the other side of the sea, which place Luke identifies as Bethsaida.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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