P1030932

Do Christians possess spiritual power?

The answer is yes.

And no.

When the answer is “yes,” we should be very, very careful about what we mean.

I would like to do a quick overview of Luke 9 to explain.

In verses 1-9 of this chapter, Jesus “…called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them. And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere (Luke 9:1–6). 1

The next three verses have to do with Herod’s confusion about Jesus, so we’re going to skip them, not because you shouldn’t read them but because they don’t pertain to the point at hand.

So, in verses 10-12, the disciples return from their successful ministry, and Jesus “withdrew privately” with them to Bethsaida; but the crowds found out and followed Him. The twelve told Jesus to send the crowd away so they could find lodging and food.

Here’s what Jesus said in response: “You give them something to eat” (Luke 9:13).

I find this interesting. The disciples had had great success in their ministries. They proclaimed the gospel. People were healed everywhere.

Now, they are faced with a large number of hungry people, and Jesus told them to feed them.

Well, they had power, right?

Here’s what I wonder. I wonder if Jesus was trying to bring His disciples back to earth, to show them that He alone was Lord; that He alone possessed spiritual power, in spite of the recent success in their ministry.

The disciples responded by saying that, um, they had limited resources—only five loaves and two fish—so they really couldn’t do what Jesus told them to do.

Yes. Limited resources.

Jesus, the Creator of all things, fed 5,000 men, with those five loaves and two fish (verses 13-14). He had—and has—that kind of creative power.

Men with paltry supplies that were used by the God who can do anything.

Men who went out on a ministry campaign with paltry created-from-dust bodies empowered by a God for whom nothing is impossible.

Do Christians possess spiritual power?

Yes.

And no.

We’ll look further at Luke 9 next week.

 

 

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

 

 

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I Skyped this morning with a Chinese believer whom we helped disciple when we lived in China. She was a dear sister to us. She translated for us. She was much loved, much trusted. Then, unexpectedly, because of a man from the United States, she left our little group and became an adherent of a legalistic offshoot of Christianity. The legalism to which she now attached herself broke apart the small group of believers there.

She told me this morning that, a few years ago, she left this erroneous offshoot.

Brought to tears, I asked her why.

Her answer: “When they make those laws their most important issue, loves fades.”

My response: “Yes. Legalism kills love.”

I have endeavored, for much of my Christian life, to avoid legalism—the teaching of certain laws, principles, or rules that a Christian must follow in order to be, well, a Christian; to avoid “Jesus plus.” What does “Jesus plus” mean? It means we say that we believe Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for one’s salvation, but…you also must add this or that or the other thing.

Jesus plus. Jesus’ sacrifice, then, is no longer sufficient. This is, to use a harsh word, heresy.

I haven’t always succeeded in this anti-legalistic endeavor. I do believe that many truths should be adhered to in order to be a whole-hearted believer in Jesus Christ. However, do I believe that one’s salvation depends on them?

No.

So, please hear my heart in this article.

Please hear the heart of a man who has fallen more and more deeply in love with his Lord and God, by His grace, in the over forty years he has walked with Him. I make no claim to achievement. I have missed the mark many, many times.

Please hear the heart of a man who does not want to displease God—not because I fear He will inflict His wrath on me, but because I love Him.

Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I want to love Him as I should, and I ask for His help to do so.

Please hear the heart of a man who has, by His grace, come to know his Creator more deeply. His King. The God who, in His overwhelming power, deigns to love him; deigns to love everyone.

So, to the issue at hand.

It pains me when Christians say, “OMG.”

It pains me because those who claim to be followers of, lovers of, the Father, of Jesus Christ, throw His name around as if it were nothing, as if it were something akin to “Wowsie.”

God’s name is holy. However, I know that even as I write that, the word “holy” has very little impact because the word has been compromised to the point of meaninglessness. We attach the word “holy” to every word imaginable. I’m sure you need no examples. However, Jesus told us to pray in the knowledge that the Father’s name is holy. The Lord God is perfectly pure, with no spot of evil, darkness, or sin whatsoever. He is pure beyond our comprehension. He has never been, nor ever will be, compromised by sin.

We cannot say this about ourselves.

The perfectly pure, perfectly powerful, perfectly loving God should be honored. Revered. Yes, feared. His name should not be tossed around like a rag, like a dog’s toy.

Please, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, make this an issue of prayer. Ask the Lord to help you honor Him, not disrespect Him.

He loves you.

He died for you. He absorbed the life-destroying sin that you deserved and then conquered it, giving you life with Him, adoption by Him, eternal life with Him.

Please.

 

 

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In the last post, Is Christianity a Religion of Hate?, we considered God’s Old Testament moral law that dealt with a multitiude of sins, some of which were punishable by death. Homosexuality was one of them, but adultery, bestiality, incest, murder, sacrificing to other gods, and kidnapping, to name of few, were also listed. We discussed in that article how the Christian Church does not now possess the governmental power to enforce punishment of any kind (thankfully), but there is more to the story. And the more is this: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). 1

This grace and forgiveness was dramatically exhibited when Jesus intervened for a woman who was about to be stoned for having been caught in the act of adultery.

The Pharisees asked, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:4–5).

Jesus replied, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

Why did Jesus say this? Because every man who stood there was a sinner. Every one of those men deserved the punishment of death.

These religious men, soundly convicted of their sins, walked away without throwing a stone. Jesus then said, “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’” (John 8:9–11).

That was forgiveness from God Himself. Grace shown to a sinner caught in the very act.

So, let’s consider this question from the last post: “Well, then,” a questioner may ask, “If such punishment is no longer meted out by the Church (obviously, civil governments still convict and punish people for some of the above sins), why did God command Jews to kill homosexuals, the incestuous, and other sinners in the first place?”

God’s heart behind His commands is to inform us how terrible and unholy sin is, and how destructive it is to our souls and lives. Thus, it should be avoided at all costs. Jesus came to give us life; life in the fullest, eternal sense. He brings that true life to us, although we will continue to fight against sin all the days of our lives, until we enter His heavenly kingdom, where sin, death, pain, and suffering will be no more.

Therefore, since homosexual individuals are sinners just like Christians, they should be treated kindly by the followers of Jesus. The accusation that Christians are homophobic because they hold that homosexuality is a biblical sin is silly. It is an ad hominem ruse. Christians also hold that adultery is a sin. Are we therefore adultererphobic? We also believe that bestiality is a sin. Are we bestialphobic? No, we are not “afraid” of such sinners. In fact, we are to love them. Do they need to repent of their sins and lay them sins at Jesus’ feet? Of course. All sinners do.

All sinners, that is, who are hearing the call to turn away from darkness and to light; from death to life. No true, full life exists where sin is. Sin, although it does offer its share of temporary happiness and companionship, in the end will bring only misery, heartache, and devastation. This is the sad, destructive fate from which Jesus wants to save us.

 

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

 

 

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Is Christianity a religion of hate? What should Christians do when people ask, “How can you believe in a religion that commands you to kill homosexuals; that commands you to kill your son if he disrespects you? That’s insane!”

This is where I suggest a Christian should start to answer these questions:

First, you could talk about how the laws for the Jews in the Old Testament had three uses:

The Jews were to obey ceremonial laws, laws that centered around temple worship and special days. Most of these disappeared when the temple was destroyed, although Jews still participate in special days, such as Passover. Christians are not obligated to do so. Christians do not have to travel to Jerusalem once a year, for example, nor must they cleanse their homes of leavened bread at the time of Passover.

Second are the civil laws, which pertain to Israel being a theocracy, of which God was the ruler. Israel was the only such nation whose God was king in human history, and those days have passed.

Third are the moral laws. These are still in force, although it’s not quite that simple. Christians still believe they should keep the Bible’s moral laws; however, Scripture—and reality—informs us that we are unable to do so. Therefore, Jesus was punished for our sinful inability to keep the Lord’s moral commands. Christians believe that their sins are forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus—God in the flesh—on the cross. Their shame, their guilt—their punishment—all wiped away. They become people who now want to obey, not because of law, but because of love. Still, we still fail at this and should be humbly willing to admit it, repent, and ask for forgiveness.

However, the questioner may reply, “Well, is killing homosexuals or disrespectful sons part of the moral law?”

Partly. However, the execution of individuals is a function of civil law. Christians do not possess the governmental authority to go around killing people. We should be honest here and admit that there was a time when Christianity did. I don’t know where you would go with this, but I would talk about the deleterious effects of power and money in the Church and how the accumulation of them is in such contrast to Jesus and His teaching.

However, both commands about homosexuality and parental disrespect remain as moral laws. Paul wrote, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘ Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land’” (Ephesians 6:1–3)1

Concerning homosexuality, he wrote, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).

The questioner may then ask, “Well, since they’re still moral laws, if you did have the power, would you kill them?”

Absolutely not. Nor would we kill the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy people, drunks, revilers, or swindlers.

Here is the beautiful truth about Christianity: The love of God conquers all. His love conquers sin—all sins, including homosexuality, adultery, murder, theft, child molestation—all of them.

Love conquers hate. Love conquers judgmentalism.

And love conquers death.

That’s right. God’s love, exhibited through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, overwhelms the greatest bane of mankind. Christians will live forever—because of God’s great love and mercy.

Christians are to exhibit this love to each other and to the world.

“Well, then, the questioner may ask, “Then why did God command Jews to kill homosexuals and disrespectful sons in the first place?”

We will discuss this question in the next post.

 

 

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

 

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This is the last installment in this series on what we are praying for when we pray “Your kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer. This post will address what will happen after Jesus returns, and what lies ahead for those who are His followers. These scriptures speak for themselves. The fact that most of us haven’t heard about them, talked about them, or even thought about them should be a matter of repentance and prayer.

Let’s start with a very obvious passage. Well, from my point of view, these will all be obvious.

After Paul had instructed the Corinthians that he had laid a foundation—Jesus Christ—he told the believers that they should be careful how they built upon that foundation.

“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12–15).1

Paul makes it very clear that some will receive rewards in the “Day”—and some will not.

Is this important to us? We’re talking about eternity here.

And this:

“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).

And this:

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10).

Please note that Paul “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” Yes, if you claim to be a Christian, that means you and Jesus will have a face-to-face.

Is what you’re doing in your Christian life here on earth preparing you for this?

Because it will happen.

It is very clear that this topic was important to Paul.

But is it important to us?

However, more will be going on after Jesus returns than having your works evaluated. Paul makes these startling statements:

“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:1–3).

Jesus talked about this, as well. Read the startling promises He made in the Book of Revelation:

“The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father” (Revelation 2:26–27).

And this:

“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:21–22).

Finally, here is something that John wrote that should add to our concern about that Day:

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

I contend that there is a profound ignorance in the Church about the day of rewards, judgment, and future rulership. I earnestly ask you to read, think about, and study these Scriptures and consider the real-life implications for you and your eternal life. Because Jesus is returning. He promised He would. And once He does, there will be no chance to turn back and make amends. What we’ve done—or not done—has all been written down.

Please, if you have not considered the truth of this reality, repent and pray for His help and mercy. He is a merciful God. He will help you.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you.

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

 

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We’ve been looking at what is seemingly an innocuous part of the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come. All too often, we simply pray this without giving the implications of our prayer a second thought.

One thing a Christian is praying for is a time of deception.

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:23–24).1

We are also praying for a rebellion or falling away that will accompany the coming of the lawless one:

“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 2:3–5).

This coming of this lawless one will happen because something—“what is restraining him” and/or someone—“he who now restrains”—will be taken out of the way. So, we are praying that this removal will happen.

“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” (2 Thessalonians 2:6–7).

Christians are who are asking for the God’s kingdom to arrive are also praying that people will be required to take a number or mark so they will be able to buy and sell, which will be required by a “beast.”

“Also it 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” (Revelation 13:16–17).

In addition, Christians are actually praying for Jesus to judge them.

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10).

And, yes, we are praying for a time of fear, distress, foreboding, and perplexity.

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25–27).

Christians are praying for a great many dreadful things to happen when they pray for the Father’s kingdom to come. I encourage the reader to study the Book of Revelation. However, as difficult and frightful as these things to come are, it is all, ultimately, good. It is good because God planned the establishment of His kingdom. It is good because God is good, and therefore God’s kingdom must also be good.

Next week, we will look at—finally!—the good things Christians are praying for when they pray for the Father’s kingdom to come.

1The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

 

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Last week, we looked at Jesus’ warning about the days that would precede His return. The concerns about wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes may dominate our thinking, but the first thing He said about what will happen during that time to come was, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray” (Matthew 24:4–5).1

And, we also considered this question Jesus asked: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:4-5 and His question in Luke 18:8 should trouble us.

This is why.

The Book of Revelation tells us about a man, which it calls a beast—more accurately, a second beast—which will have stunning power. He will possess not only spiritual power, but political and economic power:

“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. 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. Also it 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” (Revelation 13:13–17).

This beast will perform great signs.

It will tell people to make an image of the first beast.

It will give breath to this image as well as the ability to speak. It will appear to have life, the kind of life that we are familiar with.

He will cause people to worship this now life-like image.

He will cause everyone to take a mark. If people don’t take this mark, they cannot buy or sell. This would effectively cause “mark deniers” to possibly become homeless, suffer great privation, and be in danger of starvation.

So, we come back to Jesus’ warning. Do not be led astray by those coming who claim to be “the Christ,” the Messiah. The Deliverer. The Savior.

The one who saves people.

The one who rescues people.

And we return to His question: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Christian, what will you do when you are faced with either giving in to taking the mark, or very possibly starving to death? Not being able to buy gasoline? Not be able to buy…anything? Will you yearn desperately for a “deliverer”? Yes, you will.

However, which deliverer will it be? The one who will give you instant help because you take the mark, or One who will not immediately help you—but will give you eternal life after a time of trouble and suffering?

If you are alive during this time, will you have faith?

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1030195Last week we looked at the problematic aspect of praying to the Father, as the Lord directed us to do in the Lord’s Prayer, that “Your kingdom come.” Praying this way means that one of the things that must happen is that the “rebellion,” or the “falling away,” or the “apostasy” must occur (2 Thessalonians 2:3). As I wrote at the end of the last post, this is not good news. Here’s why.

Jesus taught that false prophets would arise before the day of His coming. This is a long passage, but in order to talk about it, we must read it:

“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 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 24:3–14).1

I’d like to draw your attention to Jesus’ first response to the questions His disciples asked at the beginning: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

What was Jesus’ first response? Was it about earthquakes and wars? No. It was, “See that no one leads you astray.”

Not being led astray as Christians in these last days should be our primary concern. Terrible times may be in store for those who are reading this. I know many Christians believe the Church will not be here for what is called the Tribulation, but it is not my purpose to argue that here. My purpose is to center in on what Jesus’ primary concern about the days that preceded His return was: Do not be led astray.

After His warning about being led astray, Jesus said, “For many will come in my name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.”

If you’re a Christian reading this, you may say, “How could anyone possibly believe that someone else showing up on the earth is the Christ, the Messiah?”

Be careful.

There are several reasons to be careful, which we’ll continue to consider but the primary reason for concern is that Jesus said it was going to happen: “…they will lead many astray.” Not they might—they will.

And here’s another. Jesus asked this question in Luke: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:7–8).

A Christian may respond, “I will never stop believing in Jesus!”

Well, then, why would Jesus ask such a question?

More next week.

 

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

P1010083

I’m writing this post in light of the recent Easter bomb attack in Pakistan, which killed around seventy Christians and injured hundreds.

However, this article is not specifically about that tragedy.

It is about the Last Days.

And the Lord’s Prayer.

What do these three things have in common?

A little background.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus told us to pray, “Your kingdom come.” So, when Christians pray this part of the prayer, what are they praying for?

When Jesus began His ministry, the first recorded proclamation to come from His lips after His temptation in the wilderness was that the kingdom of heaven had arrived: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17).1

In Luke 17:21, Jesus said that the kingdom of God was “in the midst” of those who were listening to His teaching. He was referring to Himself.

If the kingdom of heaven arrived with Jesus, why did He tell us to pray that it should come?

The answer is that, yes, it arrived with Jesus, but it is also yet to come. It will not fully arrive in reality until some unknown future time. “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15). This announcent was made after many terrible things had happened on the earth.

I do not understand the chronology of the events in the Book of Revelation. However, some definite statements occur in other letters that may help clear things up for us concerning the return of Jesus and the coming of His kingdom.

For instance, Paul wrote that the day of the Lord’s return will not happen until after the man of lawlessness is revealed.

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 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 2:1–4).

Then Paul wrote about this lawless man, the son of destruction: “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” (2 Thessalonians 2:6–8).

There is something or someone who is restraining the appearance of the lawless one, also called the anti-Christ. What or who that restrainer is, is not known, in spite of our speculations.

We also see here that the “rebellion” or “falling away” of the Church must occur before the Lord returns.

This is not good news.

We will continue this subject in the next article, next week.

 

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

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