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What is one of the crazy things Christians believe?

That their church is a storehouse—you know, like for grain.

Here’s my story and then some common sense Bible refutation of this unbiblical belief.

For very many years of my early walk with Jesus, I was taught that Christians should bring their tithes into the storehouse. God was upset when the people of God didn’t do this. They were robbing Him by not tithing. This well-known teaching originated from this passage in Malachi.

“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:8–12). 1

This is a golden passage for churches and their pastors. Why?

Think about it.

First of all, the Lord accuses His people of robbing Him because they’re not tithing. Robbing God is a pretty serious charge, don’t you think? But the pastor doesn’t need to say much or shake an accusing finger after reading this text in order to make people feel guilty about not putting their ten percent into the offering plate. He’s just reading what is right there in plain sight. Mr./Mrs./Ms. Christian, you are robbing God by not tithing. Therefore, since not tithing is robbing God (but not his church), he’s free from any appearance that he or his organization is greedy for some more money.

The solution to this terrible robbery of God that you’re doing? Bring the full tithe into the storehouse.

There. Just do that and guilt disappears. Boom. You’re obedient. God is happy.

But that’s not all. This is a win-win proposition.

You give your ten percent and the windows of heaven will open and the Lord will pour out a huge blessing on you. He will rebuke the devourer for you. The vines in your field shall not fail to bear. All nations will call you blessed because you’ll be a land of delight.

Much is needed in a discussion about tithing, and posts exist on this site and many others that deal with it. Primary among the arguments against it are that Christians are not obligated to be obedient to Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws. However, having addressed that issue before, I will not address it here. There is just one question I want to ask:

Seriously, Christians, how in the world did we reach the conclusion that the church is a storehouse? It’s a crazy thing to believe.

We know what a church is, right? How many times have we been told for many, many years that the church is not a building, it’s people? And the purpose of Christians gathering is for the strengthening and encouraging of the saints, through teaching, care, and the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit. To take Communion together. To baptize believers. To worship and glorify God—not for storing things. Feel free to do a search in your concordance. There are over one hundred verses where the word “church” appears. When one tries substitute the word “building” for the word “church,” it’s humorous at times. Here’s just one example: “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).

Paul persecuted a building?

Maybe it was a storehouse. Maybe Paul persecuted a storehouse.

Sorry.

So, shouldn’t it be obvious that people are not a place for storing things? Somehow—and this is on me for swallowing this goofy idea hook, line, and sinker—that the word “storehouse” was synonymous with the word “church.”

But let’s give our teachers the benefit of the doubt. Although they knew and even taught that the church isn’t a building but a people, they, in their ignorance, just kinda fuzzily morphed the idea of church=people into church=building—like I did.

Funny how that happens when money is involved.

I’m not sure how that came to be, but it did. Weird, isn’t it, how I just accepted the teaching that the church apparently was a people in some cases but a building/storehouse in others.? And I didn’t bother to ask, “What’s stored in the building/church/storehouse? Chairs? Tables? Styrofoam cups?”

No, of course not. Agricultural products.

In next week’s post, we’ll look at what the Lord really meant when He said He wanted tithes brought into the storehouse.

 

1All Scirpture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society).

 

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Last week, the question was asked, “Does everybody need a king, even one that some might consider oppressive?

The answer I offered: Yes, and no.

The idea for this line of questioning originated from the last line in the Book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).1

The lack of a reigning monarch in the Book of Judges resulted in sinful chaos.

Why did Israel need a king?

They needed a king because they were so sinfully messed up that they kept worshiping false gods and fighting against and killing each other. They needed a righteous king to tell them what to do, because what they were doing wasn’t working.

At all.

This is the behavior of God’s people we’re talking about here, the only people that He had chosen to represent Himself to the world.

This sinful chaos was not a good thing, but I suppose you already knew that.

Do people today need a king? Well, my Pakistani pastor friend asserted that the people in his country did—they needed a dictator to keep all the warring tribes in check (See previous post). All throughout history, this has been necessary according to the lights of those who hold secular power, and sometimes brutal oppression has been needed to accomplish that. Unfortunately, the use of oppression to attain “unity” and “peace” is not a good thing.

But I suppose you already knew that.

So, back to our original question: “Does everybody need a king, even one that some might consider oppressive?”

No, not a brutal, oppressive king (or queen) and not even a “good one,” because who knows how his or her son or daughter will reign. Then there’s the question of insuring a successor, which, if you’re familiar with the history of Great Britain, Rome, or Israel (those countries with which I’m most familiar), proves to be a bit problematic, to use an understatement.

However, everyone does need a spiritual king, even one that some might consider oppressive. People need a spiritual king because, to put it frankly, everyone is as sinfully messed up as the aforementioned people of Israel were. And to put it frankly again, we need to be told what to do.

Morally? Absolutely and unquestionably. We, in our sinfully-messed-up-ness, think all kinds of odd things will work for our good. Committing adultery with another’s spouse. Using drugs or alcohol to escape reality. Stealing from someone to get what one needs. Lying to keep out of trouble. Making the accumulation of goods and wealth our ultimate life goal.

Not loving God with all of one’s heart.

In everyday matters? Well, if you mean loving your neighbor as yourself, loving your wife as Jesus loved the Church and died for her, and submitting to your husband, yes. If you mean what job should you take or house should you buy, yes, guidance is from God is needed and wise (since He knows the future), but the sense we receive from Him after asking is often, “You have sought Me. I have heard you. Go in peace with your present decision.”

I know this insistence for being ruled may rankle those who cry out, “No! Freedom!” We don’t want to love our neighbors like ourselves. We don’t want to die daily for our wives. We don’t want to, heaven forbid, submit to our husbands. We don’t want to, heaven forbid, abstain from sex, well, in most every way possible. Because: Freedom!

But that kind of freedom is not freedom at all—it is bondage. You just don’t know it yet.

And, paradoxically, being in “bondage” to God, if that’s what you want to call it, is freedom indeed.

However, the Lord God gave us these truths—commands to be more accurate—for our good, not because He enjoys ordering people around like a cruel dictator.

Go, seek your King, Jesus. He will forgive you. Only good—love-filled good—awaits you.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

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Everybody needs a king.

Why would I say such a thing? Kings have been largely disasters throughout human history. In fact, their pervasive and often evil existence is one of the reasons representative democracy sprang into flower. You might have a good king once in a while, but then the sons and daughters who follow may be wicked and vile. The same can surely be said of most dictators, rulers and despots. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Once, in a country in Southeast Asia, I was talking to a pastor from Pakistan. He told me that his people required a dictator, not a democratically elected president. He said that democracy would not work in his country. That surprised me. But it also helped me understand something I had read at the end of the Book of Judges recently. Just one, simple sentence:

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). 1

This is interesting, because the Lord didn’t want Israel to have a king. He saw it as a rejection of Him. However, when one reads Judges—my goodness—what a circus of iniquity that was.

After Joshua died, things became unhinged. But by the second chapter, Israel was worshiping Baals and false gods. The Lord gave them some victories over the Canaanites (via Deborah, Barak, and Jael) and the Midianites (Gideon), but after Gideon died, Israel returned to Baal worship, and there was infighting among the tribes. I won’t go into the details here. It was a hot mess.

Then Samson showed up. He fell in love with a Philistine, and even though his parents object, they agreed to the marriage. But Samson was, well, Samson. He stirred up trouble by offering a riddle which resulted in violence. He whipped up on the Philistines but then had sex with a prostitute. Then he fell in love with Delilah, who betrayed him. He eventually had victory over the Philistines at the cost of his life.

Then Micah made his own religion with its own little cute idol and an agreeable Levite priest. The tribe of Dan then stole the silver idol and the priest.

Then a Levite priest “acquired” a concubine and they ended up in in the town square of the city Gibeah. An old man took them in. Some men of the city showed up at the old man’s house, beat on the door, and demanded that he release the visitor so they could have sex with him. (Sound like another infamous city in the Book of Genesis?) The old man offered his daughter and the visitor’s concubine instead. The men of Gibeah took the concubine, raped and sexually abused her so terribly that she died. Then the Levite cut up his concubine and sent her parts throughout Israel, and the people said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak” (Judges 19:30).

Israel gathered together and killed 25,000 Benjamite men and vowed that none of their daughters would ever be allowed to marry a Benjamite. This created a problem because the tribe of Benjamin would disappear. So, they killed all the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead because they did not come to their gathering. They gave the virgin women to the Benjamites. Then they abducted 200 women from Shiloh and gave them to the Benjamites.

Had enough? I certainly have. Wow.

This is where the Book of Judges ends with the aforementioned statement that Israel had no king and each man did what was right in his own eyes.

So. Do God’s people need a king? The pastor in Pakistan said Pakistanis did—well, he called it a dictator. He said that because only a dictator would have the power to control all of the warring tribes, which might require oppressive domination. You may have seen this play out in the Middle East recently. Take out a brutal dictator—sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it—but then the country becomes a lawless anarchic catastrophe.

But does everybody, including Christians, need a king, even one that some might call oppressive?

Yes.

And no.

I’ll explain next week.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

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The last place we will look at concerning the crazy belief that the Bible tells Christians to be healthy because their bodies are God’s temple is in 1 Corinthians. It is difficult to exegete, because one must deal with the entire context of the third chapter of that letter to understand it.

A little background.

Paul is very upset with the believers in Corinth because they have favored one leader/speaker above another. They have preferred those with great speaking ability, but Paul counters by telling them that he “did not come with plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4–5). 1

Because they have valued one leader/speaker over another, he tells them they are “infants in Christ” and “of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:1).

Then he explains why this is true:

“For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:4–9).

Paul and Apollos are servants.

They are not “anything.”

He and Apollos “are one”—co-equals.

Each will receive wages according to his labor.

In the next section, verses 10-15, Paul tells them what this means. Everyone will be rewarded or not rewarded on what Paul calls “the Day” for the work they have done. Each Christian is accountable to the Lord alone, who will judge their works as either wood, hay, and straw, or gold, silver, and precious stones. Paul is accountable. So are Apollos and Peter. So are the Corinthians. So are we.

Are you still with me? Hang in there, because Paul talks about God’s temple next:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).

This is why this passage is difficult to understand. It’s hard for us to grasp that favoring one speaker/leader over another may result in the destruction of God’s temple or of the individual Christian him/herself.

Paul continues on and into the fourth chapter, which we will not deal with here, but here are a few pertinent verses from that chapter that sum up what Paul taught was the remedy for the Corinthians’ behavior and the possible destruction of God’s temple:

“So let no one boast in men” (1 Corinthians 3:21).

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1).

“And, finally, I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Clearly, what Paul is addressing here has nothing whatsoever do to with the care of one’s physical body. That Christians have dismissed this teaching as somehow about health—well, we may as well have tossed it into the waste bin.

Our ignorance about what it means to be God’s temple is tragic. Christians have little, if any, comprehension that when they place one leader/speaker above another they are in danger of destroying God’s temple and even themselves. Amazingly, favoring one leader/speaker above another is our default understanding of the way church is done. Instead of taking heed to this warning of destruction, we just think that one should exercise, diet, and not smoke or drink too much alcohol.

Please pray for the Church.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

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Does the Bible tell Christians that their physical bodies are actually God’s temple?

It’s an amazing thing, but, yes, it does. By His Spirit, God lives in the bodies of believers in Jesus. To be truthful, most Christians really are not sure what that means—at least I don’t. But we believe it by faith.

However, I think if you’ll ask most Christians what the practical implications of this truth are, they’ll tell you that because we’re the temple of the Holy Spirit, that we should take care of our bodies. I’ve heard very many Christians say this including, yes, pastors and leaders. Exercise Eat right. Don’t do drugs or drink too much alcohol. Don’t smoke. However, all these ideas are already part of the cultures of most of the people of the world, because they’re all unhealthy. We don’t need the Bible to tell us this.

This is a good thing. Because none of these admonitions are in the Bible.

Maintaining a healthy body makes good sense, but it has nothing to do with the biblical understanding about being a temple of God. In fact, the Bible has very little to say about the care of one’s body. Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake (1 Timothy 5:23) and that exercise profits a little (1 Timothy 4:8). That’s pretty much it, as far as I know.

I once thought these same erroneous things about exercise and smoking like the other Christians I knew. However, because I finally took time to read the Bible passages about this—I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me many years to study it—I discovered that there is much more going on in the New Testament than living a healthy life.

In this post, we will look at the two places this truth appears in the letters. I’ll address the third passage next week, because it’s more difficult and requires more explanation,

The first is relatively straightforward and speaks to our identity as Christians:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19–22). 1 Contextually, we can see that Paul is addressing a group of people, not just one person in the church at Ephesus. However, it’s also true that each individual believer is part of this group of Christians.

It’s a wonderful passage, of course, about how Gentiles who become Christians are now members of God’s household and His temple, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with smoking or any other bodily care.

The second reference is in 1 Corinthians 6:15–20.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

In this passage, Paul says that “your bodies” are the members of Christ, but also goes on to address individuals: “he who is joined to a prostitute” and “he who is joined to the Lord.”

This is a strong admonition to avoid sexual immorality and the use of prostitutes for sexual pleasure. However, again, it has nothing to do with smoking, dieting, or exercise. And the reason Paul gives are not because such actions result in a venereal disease. It’s a spiritual reason: Don’t become one flesh with a prostitute. Don’t be sexually immoral. Glorify God in your body.

Fellow Christians, we need to read our Bibles so we will not remain in ignorance and spout off admonitions that have absolutely nothing to do with Scripture. In this case, the world will accept our misunderstanding of what it means to be God’s temple. However, this misunderstanding has had tragic consequences, as we’ll see next week.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

 

 

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Today’s post will deal with what Revelation 13 calls the the first and second beasts, one of which is also called “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and “the antichrist” (1 John 4:3), who must appear before Jesus returns.

A little background.

By the time the first and second beasts come onto the scene—and if it’s correct to read Revelation chronologically up to this point—the seven angels have already blown their trumpets, and some excruciatingly horrible things have transpired on the earth. Strange, perplexing events have occurred. Very many people have suffered and died. However, the wrath of God has not yet been poured out upon the earth. It may be difficult to think what has happened before the two beasts are revealed is not God’s wrath, but what is called the “bowls of God’s wrath,” which begins in chapter sixteen, has not yet happened.

In my opinion, these bewildering and terrible events will pave the way for people to accept and even worship these evil beings that are to come. Mankind will be crying out for deliverance. They will “long to die” (Revelation 9:6). However, as difficult as it may be to believe, after all the misery and death, people will not repent: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:20–21). 1

After all these dreadful things, there is an interlude in chapters ten through twelve. In chapter ten, an angel with a little scroll appears. Chapter eleven relates the appearance and subsequent deaths of the “two witnesses.” Chapter twelve describes the woman, the child, and the dragon.

Then, in chapter 13, the two beasts are revealed.

I’d like to address some characteristics of these beasts. The first beast is healed of a mortal wound, which causes the world to marvel (verse 3). He makes war on the saints and conquers them (verse 7). Then the second beast creates an image of the first beast, gives it life, and commands people to worship that image or be killed: “And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain” (Revelation 13:15). It may seem odd to us that anyone would want to worship such an image, but keep in mind that this second beast is a miracle worker, much like the beast that preceded it. He performs “momentous signs” and even makes “fire come down from heaven in front of people” (verse 13). Keep in mind that many shocking, supernatural events already transpired before these two beasts arrived and many have suffered and died. In addition, how long will it take before the reality of getting slaughtered causes people to submit and worship this image, especially after all the wondrous things they have done? Had these two beings, after all, caused them? Christians and non-Christians alike must choose to worship or not at the price of their lives.

Now, about this living image. What I write below about it is speculation.

Most of us are familiar with holograms. The technology to create them is relatively new as of 2016, and making such images is still relatively primitive compared to what we may have seen in movies. Creating them demands a massive amount of data. They naturally require the interaction of people and the energy technicians supply. But the anti-Christ will create an image with life and will require no human interaction or power source. It will not just be a projection. How will people explain this? Perhaps they will believe that the anti-Christ is an alien, who has the power to create life. It seems that humankind almost yearns for such beings to exist. In fact, some scientists now wonder if aliens are responsible for life on earth.  We have come to such a state of unbelief that the source of life here is either from an asteroid or an alien, because after all, life does not spontaneously emerge from nothing. If this second beast were to claim he was an extra-terrestrial, it would not be a gigantic stretch for humanity to believe it. In addition, UFOs have been appearing for a long time, and many of them and the actions they display—making right-angle turns at tremendous speeds, for example—have convinced or at least caused people to wonder—if, somehow, aliens are “out there.” Regardless, an individual who possesses such power—remember he is lawless and will thus fit well and confirm the immoral cultural standards we see so quickly emerging—and who creates a living image of the first beast who has blasphemed God (verses 5 and 6) and is able to create life and then threatens to take it away from people—it is believable that mankind will bow down to such a one as this and the living image it creates.

 

 

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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In the last three posts, we’ve been looking at an event that Scripture tells us must occur before Jesus returns: the coming of someone called the man of lawlessness or the man of sin. We’ve considered the truth that in the Bible lawlessness usually means moral laxity and sin, both of which are increasing in the world. We’ve also looked at passages in Revelation that indicate this man of lawlessness, called the second beast in Revelation, will make war with Christians, defeat them, and enforce economic control over the world. He will force people to worship an image he makes. We put forth the prediction that in order for an individual to be invested with such economic and political power, turning-the-world-on-its-head events must occur in order to precipitate that investment. People and nations do not easily give up their sovereignty. When the two beasts show up in Revelation 13, if the Book of Revelation has proceeded chronologically, some terrible things have already happened on the earth, catastrophic events: earthquakes and plagues to name only two. The world will be yearning for a deliver.

Then will come a man on the scene who will perform impressive signs and wonders.

Paul wrote about him in his second letter to the Thessalonian Christians:

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders…” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). 1

This is how Revelation 13 speaks of him:

“It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:13–14).

One of the common criticisms of God is that He doesn’t act when we need Him to or in ways that help or please us. The question asked is often, “Where was God during the Holocaust?” We could add many other human disasters, both personal and national, to the list that question God’s goodness or power. If He is good, He wouldn’t have allowed it. If He is powerful, He could have stopped it. He is either evil, powerless, or both. Atheists proclaim that when they stand face-to-face with God and are asked why they didn’t believe in Him, they will answer, “You didn’t give me any evidence of your existence.” This is the response of a fool, as Psalm 14:1 says. All creation speaks of His existence, as Paul wrote: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19–20).

After some world-shaking calamities, the world will be looking for and in need of a savior, someone to provide answers to the terrible reality they will be facing. Will there be lack of safety? Lack of food? This man of sin will speak great swelling words and will back them up with astounding supernatural acts. He will portray himself as the one who has the ability to make all things well. None of this, “Where is God when you need him?” stuff. He will be present. Active. And supernaturally powerful in obvious ways.

He will make it all “good.” Peace, peace. Finally, peace.

This passage from Deuteronomy has made me think for very many years now:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).

The Lord told Israel that He would allow a prophet to do signs and wonders to test His people.

Christians should take notice. When Paul wrote about the coming of the lawless one and his false signs and wonders in the passage from Second Thessalonians quoted earlier, he also said this:

“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11–12).

Please pause for a moment and consider. God Himself will send a strong delusion so they will believe in the man of lawlessness. Will you be wondering why people think the crazy way they do? Perhaps you wonder this even today. Paul wrote in Romans, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (Romans 1:28). This is the hard truth: God Himself is deluding them.

This will never be you? Fellow Christian, be not high-minded, but fear. You and I are not immune. If we are still here in those ending days, we will be subject to some difficult times. We will be tempted to call out to anyone for rescue, especially one who can do amazing miracles.

Establish your strong Christian life now. You have no reason to wait.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

 

 

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In his second letter to Christians in a city called Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul wrote about a man of lawlessness who must appear before Jesus returns.

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4).1

This evil individual appears in Scripture again, in the Book of Revelation. There he is called “the second beast.”

“Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:11–14).

Not only does this “second beast” perform great signs, it also “…causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666” (Revelation 13:16–18). (Side note: Other than this time in Revelation, the number 666 appears in Scripture only three times. Once it refers to how many sons a man named Azgad had, in Ezra 2:13. The other two times are both in reference to how many talents of gold came to Solomon in one year (2 Kings 10:14; 2 Chronicles 9:13). This makes me wonder if the Holy Spirit was making a connection to the richest ruler on earth at the time who was a worshiper of foreign gods but also considered the wisest man in the world. That’s an interesting combination.)

The taking of the mark that allows people to buy and sell is more than economics, although it clearly is that. Worship is involved. This second beast “…was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain” (Revelation 13:15).

This is a troubling passage. Christians may not only starve to death but also be killed because they will not worship the image of the first beast. (This worship of an animated image is interesting; however, we will not speculate about that here.)

Some maintain that Christians will not be present at this time because they will have been raptured away. However, we are told in the verses that precede the forcing of everyone to take a mark that the first beast “…was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:7-8).

In response to this terrible time when the saints are conquered, John wrote, “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:10). Whether you think you will be present for this time or not, Christians will be suffering. Christians today should be concerned about that. We should be praying for God’s mercy in these days to come.

In order for this level of authority to defeat Christians and dominate the world and its economic system to be in place, something very perilous and threatening will have to precede it. Unless people are drowning, they do not call out for rescue. And nations would not easily release their sovereignty, nor allow a single power to control the world’s economy unless there will be extremely drastic reasons. So, this is my prediction. What we are experiencing now and will experience in the years to come are just “the beginning of sorrows,” as Jesus called them (Matthew 24:8). Some thing or some very terrible things must transpire in order to these events to happen.

When you pray for the Father’s kingdom to come, please also pray for mercy—and for the endurance and faith of the saints.

 

1All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

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After last week’s post about the coming of the man of lawlessness, a good friend questioned whether the moral lawlessness we are witnessing now is worse than in previous generations or that it just seems so because of the availability of the media. My friend has a good point. Broadcast news is available almost everywhere on the planet twenty-four hours a day. This has never been the case in the history of the world. Therefore, it’s difficult to determine if our knowledge of pervasive evil has increased just because we know more about it via the media or if it is just the way it has always been. The interest in this issue among followers of Jesus Christ is understandable. Every generation of Christians, I suppose, has thought theirs is the last—the New Testament writers did. Paul, Peter, and John wrote in their letters instructions to their readers about this time to come.

However, it seems indisputable that moral lawlessness has increased from previous generations; certainly it has numerically. Fifty million babies have died since 1973 in the United Sates alone, almost a billion and a half worldwide since 1980. Around one hundred twenty-five thousand helpless children are aborted daily around the globe. I don’t think it’s a stretch to contend that this level of murder has never happened in the history of the world. The killing of children for personal convenience is the ultimate example of moral lawlessness and the apex of selfishness. This “lovers of self” attribute is mentioned by Paul in the very well-known portion about the last days from Second Timothy: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1–5). 1

One could counter by saying that people have always been lovers of themselves. It is hard to dispute that; however, again, killing one’s own child trumps all other selfish acts. It is what pagans once did—although the babies may not have been taken from wombs—so their gods would grant them favor. This is one of the reasons the Lord could not abide the ongoing survival of the nation of Judah and through Jeremiah prophesied their destruction (Jeremiah 19:5-6). In his song, Spirit of the Age, Michael Card calls the killing of “innocent and helpless little babies” as offerings to the spirit of the age—Satan.

However, the murder of millions of children is not the only manifestation of our current state of moral lawlessness. The definitions of good and evil have shifted. Behaviors that were once moral anathemas are accepted, even encouraged. The state sponsorship of homosexuality in the West, in what seems to be the blink of an eye, is stunning.

People in the West are much more interested in the occult than they once were. Television shows and movies abound with it.

Adherence to naturalism—that only natural laws and forces operate in the world—has greatly increased.

The notion of absolute truth is opposed, and doubt about the integrity of Scripture has spread widely.

Universalism—the belief that there are many roads to God—has increased in the Western world.

The accumulation of this lawlessness and the convergence of events since the re-establishment of Israel and Jerusalem causes me wonder if the last days are truly here. I freely admit that I could be wrong. However, I would rather be wrong about this than not ready. Jesus warned about this lack of readiness in His parable about the unprepared and foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13.

And here: “But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:39–40).

And here: “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” (Revelation 16:15).

And here: “Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:28–31).

The man of lawlessness is coming. Before he comes, the world is being moved toward an acceptance of lawlessness; therefore, his rise to power as a lawless, immoral man will not seem unusual in the least.

Please be ready. The appearance of the man of lawlessness will precede the return of Jesus. Please endeavor to know Him.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

 

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My original intention for this week’s post was to bring up another crazy thing Christians think, but another pressing matter is at hand. That critical matter has to do with the biblical truth about what must occur before Jesus returns: the appearance of what Paul called “the man of lawlessness” or “the son of destruction.”

What I write is my opinion, but I trust is biblically based. I do not claim to have revelation or knowledge from God about the specifics of the events that precede Jesus’ return. So, please feel free to reject what I say. Nothing I write here is a cause for believers to suffer division. However, one truth is not arguable. The lawless one must appear before Jesus returns. There is much to discuss here, but for this article, we’ll deal with only one topic: the nature of the lawlessness to come.

The passage we’ll be looking at is from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. He’s making sure the believers there understand that Jesus had not returned yet. So, he tells them about the events that will occur before an event called the Parousia. He writes,

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–12). 1

I once thought that the lawlessness that would accompany this son of destruction was something akin to anarchy. However, when the New Testament speaks of lawlessness, it most often refers to moral lawlessness. Here is but one example among many:

“I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:19).

Current evidence of deleterious impurity, certainly in my home country, the United States, offers verification of what may be the preparation for such a lawless man. Europe and even Israel reveal this, as well. I cannot speak with any accuracy concerning other nations. However, if I’m right, I would expect equal, if not exceeding, moral degradation to be occurring in other places, too.

I also considered the reality that governments of all kinds would restrain anarchy with physical force. It’s just the way the world works. In “noble” governments, that endeavor would—and is—in force to maintain safety for the civilian population. For those governments more given to dictatorial rule, those in power would want to remain in power, regardless of the cost to safety.

However, I have now come to view that both positions may be legitimate. This statement from Jesus, concerning the last days, led to my earlier belief that lawlessness had to do with the danger and treachery of criminal and barbarous behavior:

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:9–14).

This made and still makes sense to me, at least as I view what has happened in my country in the last few decades. When I was a young man, people hitchhiked. I rarely see this anymore. Why? Hitchhikers are afraid of being picked up by a murderous person. Conversely, drivers are afraid of picking up a murderous person. When I was twenty-two years old, a friend of a friend let me sleep on the couch in his living room for a few days because I had nowhere else to stay. I assume this is relatively rare these days. We lock our doors more than we used to. We don’t leave things out in the yard like we used to. We don’t leave garage doors open like we used to. When I was a child, neither my neighborhood friends nor their parents were concerned about kids playing outside without adult supervision. We’ve all now seen tragic news reports and documentaries about child abductions, molestations, and rape, even of babies. We’re not sure if we should trust old men or even males in general. Sometimes blacks don’t trust whites. Sometimes whites don’t trust blacks. Sometimes Hispanics don’t trust whites or blacks and vice versa. Sometimes we don’t trust people from the Middle East. We’re worried someone, out of nowhere, will shoot us, stab us, or bomb us. We’re not sure we should trust even our own relatives. Because lawlessness has increased, we don’t trust almost anyone anymore, and our love for others grows cold.

Jesus prophesied this would happen before the end of all things, before He returns.

That which restrains is being taken out of the way in preparation for the appearance of the man of lawlessness.

More on this next time.

 

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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