Scripture tells us that the names of believers in Jesus were written down in what is called the book of life. This was done before the foundation of the world. (The “it” in the passage below is the anti-Christ who is to appear in the last days.)

“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 13:7b–8).1

This is a stunning, incomprehensible truth. How is it possible that my name and countless others were written down in a book millennia ago?

Great question. I have no idea whatsoever. However, I know that the Christian God exists apart from time, as difficult as that is for us to understand. I searched the Bible for information about this book, and to my surprise, I found several references. The first time we learn of it is from David, who was pleading before the Lord about his enemies who were trying to kill him.

“For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous” (Psalm 69:26–28).

“The book of the living” shows up again hundreds of years later in Daniel’s vision about the last days.

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:1–2).

The next we see it is hundreds of years later when Jesus walked the earth. He warned His disciples, whom He had sent out to minister, when they came back rejoicing that the demons were subject to them:

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:19–20).

However, the verses that should give everyone the most cause for concern is in the last book of the Bible, almost at its very end.

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12–15).

This is terrifying. At least it should be. Most of the world couldn’t care less.

Finally, I find the most comfort about it here, but it contains an added word of caution:

“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5).

Father, please cause us to conquer. Please help us to walk the narrow path and know You and love You fully, truly, and deeply.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Edge images.

God speaks through people the world deems insignificant. The Bible abounds with such examples. We’re going to look at one in this article. We will learn that we should not ignore people who speak prophetic words though they are unimportant by the world’s standards. The passage I would like to examine concerns an unknown man and the wonderful prophetic words he spoke to the parents of Jesus when they came to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. This is the only place in the New Testament where this man Simeon appears. He was not a renowned prophet.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel’” (Luke 2:25–32).1  

One part of this word from the Lord would have stuck out like a sore thumb, I should think:

The child was to be “A light for revelation to the Gentiles.”

If the Jewish religious leaders had heard that, they would probably have tried to kill Simeon. They believed, as all Jews did, that the Messiah would be a Jew, and He was to come for God’s chosen people alone. When later in the same book, Jesus, whom the leaders considered to be an irritating, undistinguished son of a carpenter from the disreputable city of Nazareth, said that God’s prophets Elijah and Elisha had been sent to people who weren’t Jews, they wanted to kill Him (Luke 4:25–29). 

God has not changed His strategy. He still uses people of insignificance to speak His words. Christians should listen when an unknown person speaks a word from God that makes us uncomfortable or even angry. A word of caution: We should be discerning and check such utterances against Scripture. If Scripture isn’t relevant to what was spoken, we should put the information on the back burner. (A biblical example would be the prophet Agabus prophesying about a coming famine in Acts 11:28.) We should pray and ask the Lord if it’s true. I have found that it may take some time for some prophetic utterances to be proved true. Some have taken years. This is also true of Simeon’s prophecy. It would take thirty years for his prophecy to come to fruition.

Christians, though unknown and insignificant, should not be afraid to speak the truth of what God is saying. However, let us be certain it is Him speaking, not just ourselves.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy tenor.

I would like to introduce the post this week with the words of Micah the prophet about the results of the evil acts of people in his day.

“Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house” (Micah 7:5–6).1

Evil deeds had led to the dissolution of the family and the society.

Jesus refers to this passage when he says that He has come to bring, not peace, but division. “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51–53).

The context of Jesus’ prophecy about the divisions of families is what will happen before He returns. He tells two parables to warn us that servants should always be prepared for that event (Luke 12:35-47).

I have thought that His prophecy about the familial and societal divisions He will bring had to do with some members of a family who are Christians and others who are not. Certainly, there is truth here. It is clear that nations whose citizens are overwhelmingly of religions other than Christianity have divided families, even to the point where some believers are killed by their own relatives because of their faith in Jesus. However, I think we should delve deeper into Jesus’ teaching here. Again, the context of His prophecy concerns the last days. So, I would like to offer this additional aspect: The withdrawal of the Lord’s hand of restraint which must occur before the Lord returns is causing sin to rise. One of the results is family disintegration.  

“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).

This nation is turning its back on the Lord, the One who created both it and its citizens. Lawlessness is increasing. This must occur before Jesus returns to pave the way for the man of lawlessness to appear. Moral darkness will increase. We are ignoring God’s moral laws, and it has gotten worse. These sins have brought the dissolution of the family and thus society. Millions of people do not marry but just live together. Twenty five percent of families with children have no father in the home.3  Families are divided as Jesus said they would be. Children murdering their parents is the fastest growing homicide in the United States.2 However, parents killing their children is more common than one may think. “It’s probable that a mother kills a child somewhere in the US once every three days.”4 We should add here that mothers have arranged for the murder of millions of their children since that sin was made legal in 1973.

However, there is hope for us. There is always hope in Jesus. He forgives. He is merciful. It is never too late to turn to Him.

Please intercede for this nation. Please ask the Lord to cause us to repent in massive numbers. We are in serious danger, not only from the disintegration of families and our society, but from the judgment of God.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

2https://www.fatherhood.org/father-absence-statistic

3https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/children-killing-their-parents-is-fastest-growing-homicide-in-us.725179

4https://www.cnn.com/2017/07/07/health/filicide-parents-killing-kids-stats-trnd/index.html

Gif courtesy R.gif.

Some Christians think that God no longer speaks to people about things to come. They say that the gift of prophecy ended. They maintain that gift is no longer given. Here is a list of the gifts of the Spirit. Let’s see if these folks are correct in their thinking.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:4–10).1

It is sad to me that entire passages of Scripture, like the one above, are just ripped out of the Bible because, according to many, they are of no use. They say that these gifts are no longer operative because Paul doesn’t mention them in some of his letters. Because he didn’t heal Epaphroditus, Timothy, or Trophimus. Because when the Bible came, we didn’t need them anymore.

However, in spite of these weak assumptions, the evidence for the gifts of the Spirit in Scripture is overwhelming. Regardless, here is another passage they say we can just ignore:

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:4–8).

They claim that prophecy has clearly ended, but the gifts of serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership, and mercy continue. Does that make sense? They should not disregard this verse:

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21).

Here’s another they maintain we should reject for today:

“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17–18).

Guess it isn’t the last days anymore.

They also offer “the gifts continued for a while” argument for the following New Testament prophets.

“Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius)” (Acts 11:27–28).

“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Acts 13:1).

“On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied” (Acts 21:8–9).

Finally, here is an Old Testament verse we ignore at our peril:

“For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

I am not a prophet. I will never include myself with the great prophets of Scripture. However, the Lord has given me, a few times, the gift of prophecy to speak to others. It was clear it was from Him. The doubters can doubt all they want, but when God speaks to a person, it is very obvious. The most important prophecy He has given me, however, is one that was not for one person. It is for the Church and the United States. Judgment is coming. It is at the door. So, fellow Christians, please stop teaching that some of the gifts of the Spirit are no longer being given. We have always needed them, and we really need them now.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Edge images.

Laurie and I were watching a trial recently in which a man named Matt Moore was accused of strangling his wife and then staging a scene to make it look like she had hung herself. She was found three months after her disappearance, hanging from a tree branch with a USB cord around her neck. Without going into details, we were convinced Mr. Moore was guilty. He lied many times to the police. His behavior was suspicious. The prosecution’s problem was that there was no way to connect Moore to his wife’s death. No weapon. No DNA or blood. No witness to the crime. That must have been the reason the jury ruled Mr. Moore innocent.

Well, perhaps we just made a wrong call. It’s happened before.

Regardless of our opinion, Mr. Moore is, as they say, free as a bird. The murderer is still out there. We don’t believe justice was done in this case. But it will be done someday, however. We will just have to wait for it. Ultimate, eternal justice will be meted out to murderers and sinners of all kinds. They will not be able to tell lies when that final judgment arrives. No one will have a secret.

“For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).1

Unbelievers on that day will discover that the Lord God Almighty knows the truth of all things. They will be found guilty, and they will know they are guilty. This will transpire in the presence of God who will reveal all things.

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:11–12).

This will be what happens to all sinners who are outside the life of Jesus.

“This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14b–15).

It won’t be pretty. It wouldn’t have been pretty for me, either, but Jesus saved me. Christians, although sinners, have been washed in the blood of Jesus and have no fear of eternal judgment. I hope Matt Moore will come to know Him and escape this terrible fate. I will pray to that end.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24–25).

This final, eternal judgment should give hope to those who have experienced injustice in their lives or the lives of friends or loved ones. And, although many tears may have been shed over inequities in life, whether in courtrooms or elsewhere, the Lord will offer comfort unlike any we are able to obtain in our lives on this earth.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

While we await that day, Christians are to do these things:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

There is no grief like that which loved ones experience over the death of loved one. It’s a wound that will no longer dominate their thoughts over time, but they will always bear a scar.

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).

Comfort one another. Amen. Lord, help us comfort victims of injustice. And please comfort us when we are in need.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy tenor.

The realities of heaven are hard for us to comprehend. Perhaps that’s the reason that for decades we’ve been fed fantasies of Christians floating on clouds while playing little harps and Peter manning a gate to let people in or deny them entrance.

No surprise, I guess.

It doesn’t take long after we crack open the Book of Revelation to discover what Christians will truly encounter after they’ve died. I won’t place the verses here because they’re too long for this article, but what John witnesses is at once familiar and strange. He sees jewels that he recognizes, but they are describing how God appears, sitting on a throne. He hears and sees lightning, thunder, and fiery torches, but also a sea of glass, like crystal. Creatures are there, and although they are animals with which John is familiar, they are quite unlike those earthly creatures. All that John sees is glorious, stunning, and filled with worship.

So, that’s part of what you and I, if we are Christians, will behold someday. However, what I would like to focus on in this article is something that is as foreign to us as what John saw in his vision. It has to do with one of the activities of Christians in the heavenly kingdom.

“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).1

To me, this approaches incomprehension. Christians are going to judge the world and angels? It is mystifying, but there is some biblical evidence to help support what Paul wrote, from Jesus Himself:

“The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:41–42).

Laurie and I were talking about this topic recently. She humorously expressed her concern that she wouldn’t be able to do that job because she knows how unrighteous so many of her thoughts are about people. I hope we can all say amen to this struggle that Christians have. As a pastor once said, “No one wants a digital readout on their forehead revealing what they’re thinking.” Yes, we are redeemed, saved, and new creations in Jesus. But we still have that nasty, old nature in us, hanging around and willing to do the bidding of sin and the devil. Paul addresses this conundrum.

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18–19).

This challenge won’t end until the day we die. But the following passage helps us understand why all that will change someday.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20–21).

We will have bodies like Jesus in God’s heavenly kingdom. Our sinful flesh, which is of the earth and temporary, will be gone. There will be no sin in God’s heavenly kingdom whatsoever.

“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” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).

Yes, Christian, you will be part of the judgment of people and angels. But do not be concerned. Only righteousness will be present in that heavenly judgment.

Thank You, Lord God Almighty, for Your righteousness freely given to sinners like me. Thank You, although I feel monumentally unequipped for the task, that I will have the opportunity to participate in judgment of men and angels. I am overwhelmed at the thought of it.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.

These days, I’m not as in touch with the news like I have been in the past. I no longer trust the media, no matter the stripe. However, sometimes I can’t resist. When I do, I’m tempted to despair. I hadn’t anticipated the days in which we now live. I didn’t think I would ever be living in a nation where evil is called good, and good, evil. Those who promote these sinful lies are an abomination to the Lord.

“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15).1

It’s not just the politics over which I am tempted to despair. It is the incomprehensible moral decline and the swiftness of that decay. We have now accepted as normal sexual sins, both natural and unnatural, and even promote them. This nation is on a fast track to destruction, and there will be terrible results. It is very uncomfortable and even frightening that wreaking devastation is one of the ways that God announces to people that He is the Lord. The Old Testament is full of examples. Here is one declaration in which the Lord tells the inhabitants of Mount Seir in Edom what will befall them.

“I will lay your cities waste, and you shall become a desolation, and you shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 35:4).

Cities laid waste. Do we see that happening?

However, I must not, I will not despair. Marilla Cuthbert in Anne of Green Gables spoke the truth when she said. “To despair is to turn your back on God.” Christians know why this is true. To despair over circumstances of any kind indicates a falling away from God and a lack of faith and trust in Him. And to be unpleasantly honest, what the Lord is doing in inflicting such ruin is actually a blessing. Somehow, according to Paul, tribulations help us enter the kingdom of God.

“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21–22).

The reason this is true, perhaps, is because hardships cause Christians to realize that the Lord is sovereign ruler over all things and thus help us understand that we are part of an eternal kingdom where God alone reigns.

They are also a blessing because they will help remove idolatry from our hearts concerning our trust in the United States. When we trust in men and governments, we are leaning, not upon God, but entities that can offer nothing of eternal value.

“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales;” (Isaiah 40:15a).

Although our government may contain honorable men and women, this is what the Lord says about Himself and them.

“It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble” (Isaiah 40:22–24).

So, I will resist the temptation to despair and place my trust and hope where it rightly belongs.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24–25).

Lord, please help us trust in You alone and not in governments. Help us not to despair, whatever the cause.

1All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Edge images.

If you’ve been a Christian for even a little while, you have probably heard a message telling you not to be afraid. This is a biblical admonition. Jesus said it several times. The examples are too numerous to list here, but here is an example:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).1

He follows it up with this:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29–31).

Jesus is saying, to sum up, “God values you. Don’t fear anyone or anything except Him.” He loves us and wants us to know that He is the ultimate answer to all our fears, including eternal ones. Part of that ultimate answer is that we need to read and understand the book He gave us to guide us into all truth. We must be careful that we don’t misuse those precious truths.

I have heard for decades and am still hearing it preached that God has not given us a spirit of fear and therefore we should not be afraid. Well, to be frank, that is a misuse of that verse from Second Timothy. Here it is in context:

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God…” (2 Timothy 1:5–8)

The Greek noun for fear used in the New Testament is always phobos. Other words such as verbs and adjectives are a derivation of that word. It’s the word, of course, from which we get the English word phobia.

However, the word for fear in 2 Timothy 1:6 is not phobos. It is deilia. It is the only place that word is used in the New Testament. Here is the definition of deilia according to Louw and Nida’s Greek Lexicon: “A state of fear because of a lack of courage or moral strength.”2

Paul is encouraging Timothy to have courage to speak the truth of the gospel in spite of opposition and perhaps persecution or even martyrdom. A tough ask, to be sure, especially if you’re shy. One of the better interpretations of this passage is from Knute Larson’s commentary.

“Paul countered our natural tendencies and excuses by directing us to consider this great gift which we all possess—the Spirit of God. Our natural abilities can only supplement what God calls us to do. The important consideration in all of life’s challenges and duties is to remember that God’s Spirit resides within us. He is the giver of power, love, and self-discipline. Power is simply enablement to do what God requires. We are never asked to do anything beyond what God gives strength and ability to accomplish. Love is expressed first to God, then to others. It is the distinguishing quality of Christians, this unnatural love, and it comes only as we allow the life of God’s Spirit to live through us.” 3

It’s wonderful to tell believers they should not be afraid. But it is an error to use the passage in Second Timothy to do that.

Fellow believers, we should keep in mind two things as we think about this. The first is, we must always consider the context of the verses. The second is related to it. When a speaker says something about the Lord or about Christians without quoting Scripture, we should ask, “Where does it say that in the Bible?”

The Church wittingly and unwittingly has quoted biblical verses out of context for a very long time. I would encourage believers to be biblically literate so they can live their lives with Jesus in true truth, not half-truths. With all the religious weirdness out there, it may make an eternal difference.

1All scriptural quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

2Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 316). United Bible Societies.

3Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 266–267). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Gif courtesy Edge images.

No one likes getting sick. I don’t get ill often but enough to cause me to be sympathetic with those who do. I would think this sympathy is universal. Like you, I do not rejoice in the illnesses of others. Thus, you and I will find what follows a sad and concerning statistic. Every day, one million people in the world contract a sexual infection, and over one billion people currently have one or more. There are almost eight billion people on the earth, so that is over twelve percent of the world’s population. This is not good news. This tells us something about suffering caused by sin and about the sexual degradation of the peoples of the earth.

The Lord must respond to the increase of catastrophic sinfulness of those whom He has created. This passage is frighteningly stark:

“And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 6–7).1

This is equally as stark:

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

In spite of the statistics concerning sexually transmitted diseases, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that for decades, Hollywood has encouraged sexual activity while never dealing with its consequences. If it’s not graphic, it’s implied, over and over again. Sinful? You’re kidding, right? You’re a prude if you’re a virgin, and something is wrong with you. Syphilis? Chlamydia? Who cares?

Having said that, I can’t help but wonder what the Lord God Almighty is up to at the present time. Recently, we have heard about the discovery of the viral disease Monkeypox. This is one of its ugly symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control:

“A rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.” 2

It is one ugly virus. I find it interesting that this virus has appeared now that AIDS is in decline, although around 680,000 people died of that viral infection last year.

I can’t state with any authority that these sexually related viruses are part of God’s wrath being poured out to punish the sexual sins of mankind. However, they may be not-so-subtle warnings to unbelievers that what they are involved in is so odious that the sicknesses they suffer are only a hint of how detestable they are in God’s sight. Regardless, since the Lord is sovereign over all things, He is allowing them to inflict people or even causing them.

Now, let me immediately make it known that you, I, and everyone reading this article are fallen creatures. We may not be partaking of the sins about which Jude and John wrote, but we are sinners, as much deserving of the wrath of God as anyone else. The difference, of course, is that we have been and will be saved from that wrath because we have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:9–10).

Monkeypox. Who cares? God cares. If you are in need of deliverance from the result of these sins, cleansing and forgiveness are just a prayer away. Beseech the one who loves you, Jesus, to save you and set you free.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (2011). Zondervan.

2https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/symptoms.html

Gif courtesy giphy.gif.

Many years ago, the Lord gave me a melody for these verses from Isaiah:

“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee. Neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours and lay thy foundations with sapphires” (Isaiah 54:10–11).1

Laurie brought this up to me recently as we were heading out the door to take her to work. I told her that I sang it to her over the phone when she was working at a potato chip factory almost fifty years ago. At the time my thinking was it was the Lord’s promise of comfort when we are in trouble and a promise that He will do something good with precious stones. I had no idea what that meant. But, generally speaking, what I thought about theses verses at the time was true enough.

However, after she mentioned it that morning, I thought about the interesting juxtaposition of the disastrous departure of mountains and hills and God’s kindness in that passage. We live about two hundred miles from the Bitterroots which are part of the Rocky Mountain chain on the western side. We live near the foothills of those mountains. So, I thought about the catastrophe that would affect everyone in close proximity to those hills and mountains if they were to be removed. It is difficult imagine, but it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that such an event would result in the loss of many lives as well as the disruption and discomfort of all those nearby. In fact, in verse nine that proceeded the mountain-removing verses, the Lord brings up the flood during Noah’s time when all living persons, save those on the ark, died. He’s talking some serious business here.

It’s very possible He’s linking the departure of mountains to the end of days. The place in the New Testament where mountains depart is here:

“The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found” (Revelation 16:19–20).2

He told His people that when that happens His kindness would not depart. We are left to contemplate having destruction on one hand and God’s kindness on the other. Although the Lord is kind, the word interpreted as kindness here is not what it means to English speakers today. It is not being polite or behaving like a gentleman or gentlewoman. The word translated as kindness is the Hebrew word “hesed.” The galaxy of words surrounding “hesed” includes mercy and loving kindness, but at the center of its meaning is loyalty and joint obligation. This leads us nicely into the Lord’s next promise that the covenant of His peace will also not be removed. The Lord promised His people through Moses that as long as they obeyed Him, they would be blessed. If they didn’t, they would be cursed. Thankfully, we no longer live under that old covenant. God’s people could not keep their part of the covenant and never have, so a Savior was required to bring a new covenant based upon forgiveness and grace, not law keeping. It is an everlasting covenant and will be in force when mountains depart.

Now we come to the Lord’s last promise in this passage. To comfort those who are afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, He will lay our stones with fair colors and our foundations with sapphires. The best I can come up for an explanation of the meaning for that shoots us directly back to the Book of Revelation.

“The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst” (Revelation 21:19–20).

The Lord was making a promise to His people way back in the time of Isaiah that the mountains and hills are going to be removed. However, He will in the end keep His covenant and bless His people with peace those who live in a city with walls that are beautiful beyond imagining.

In response to this joyous truth, I join my voice with this company:

“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:13-14).

1The Holy Bible: King James Version (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., (2009). Logos Research Systems, Inc.

2All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version except where otherwise noted (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Giphy.

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