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Yesterday, at our out-of-the-building church gathering—it was at a local grocery store in the deli-eating area—a man sitting nearby approached us. At the time, we were talking about the temple and the development of the rabbinical system. Laurie’s been studying about this lately. I wondered if that system arose in Judaism because there were no prophets. There hadn’t been for four hundred years until John the Baptist came on the scene. In a related way, I also wondered if rabbis arose because, in the absence of prophets, spiritual leadership no longer existed. That causes problems. “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). 1 The man came up somewhere in the middle of this, saying he’d overheard us talking about prophets and stuff. As a footnote, let me add that people interacting with us in our public Bible studies is relatively rare. I’d say once a year. All the responses thus far have been positive.

This one was too, but it was extraordinary in character.

The man who began to talk to us looked like, well, a wizened cowboy without the boots and the buckle. His jeans were well-used, as was his flannel shirt. Perhaps a construction worker. He was missing a tooth. He talked about meeting people in the laundromat. He wasn’t a young fellow. Looked like he was in his fifties.

We talked for some time, but the gist of our conversation was this: Difficult times are coming, times of sorrow, but we are safe; safe in the Lord. He mentioned the account of the three Hebrews thrown into the furnace. Someone had mentioned to him years ago that these three men were safer in the furnace than they were anywhere else in the country. I had never heard this before, but it was a wonderful point well-taken. He said that what we are now experiencing is like a toilet paper roll unrolling. You don’t notice much change at first, but soon you’re at the end of the roll. Homespun (pardon the pun) metaphor, but effective.

We told him that we agreed. I told him that I hadn’t met many people who talked this way.

Several times in our conversation, he was so moved that he teared up. You know how guys tear up. They fight it, but their eyes get wet. Happens to me fairly often when I talk about the things of God. I don’t know why this man was so moved. The Holy Spirit?

I told him that part of my sorrow in this time-before-His-coming has been the slow declination of the United States. We are a post-Christian nation I said. Perhaps we have been for longer than we realize. Culture and tradition, Christian or not, only has so much strength. When they fail, all the hidden ickiness comes out into view.

We all agreed again, that despite the sorrow, we were safe in the Lord. It was good. The man maintained that we won’t even remember countries when we’re in heaven. I’d never thought about that, and it makes sense. All things will be made new. “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’” (Revelation 21:5).

We parted in friendship and gratitude for the fellowship.

All that we discussed is still true, here today, as I type this article.

The United States someday will no longer exist. Neither will England. Russia. Any other nation.

I love the country in which I live. I am thankful and appreciative that the Lord has provided for us here, in this place. I am thankful that Christians have been free to worship the Lord God freely.

Thus far.

We are noticing that that may be changing.

But we have fallen, fallen in terrible ways, and the falling has been slow but is now speeding up. In our history, we committed the terrible sins of slavery and mistreatment of Native Americans. We are still seeing the fruit of those sins today. Subsequently, we legalized the killing of unborn children. Then we legalized same-sex marriage, which to me is simply a symptom of the sinfulness of a culture. Gays and others should certainly have all the rights of other citizens. It’s just that it was never an issue before. Remember, we are a post-Christian culture.

One must wonder what will befall us next, how far we are from unrolling down to the nub. The consequences of this fallenness are huge, not just for Americans, but the world. We are the bastion of freedom in the world—a strong economic and military bastion. When we fall—and we will—it isn’t difficult to conceive that the whole world will be in a more dangerous and drastic condition.

However, we are safe, and will be safe in Him, as the visitor said. Woe to those who do not know that safety. They will have no refuge. They will have no peace. But Jesus will still be available. May those who do not know Him find Him today and in that day as well.

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

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giphya

Santa Fe High School. Another horrific shooting at another school in the United States. Why do people do such things? Speculation immediately begins about the shooter’s motive, and, as is usually the case, the picture is murky. So, with no callous intention or lack of compassion for suffering, I would like to offer my opinion about these terrible murders. It has to do with the age in which we live. It is an age that continues to slip into wickedness, which I think is a foretaste of the lawless one who is to come.

Now, I may be accused of being a Bible-thumping, apocalyptic (read “deranged”) Christian, but I don’t need an apokálypsis, which means revelation (Think that word has been compromised a bit?), to think this way. I just need Paul, who wrote that before Jesus returned, the lawless one must appear and the one who restrains will be taken out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). So, do I believe Jesus will return? Yes. So, I also know at least these two things must occur.

But what does this mean, the lawless one? I once thought that the man of lawlessness would be a man of chaos. However, I think this no longer. Governments will always respond to chaos with restrictive power, to protect their own power. However, the word “lawless” in Scripture also means “sin” or “wickedness.” It is difficult to deny that sin is on the rise and has now been institutionalized in our governments. Thus, I think that the onslaught of wickedness we are experiencing is in preparation for this evil individual. Our moral condition will not improve (barring a continent-wide revival), although, certainly, we should try to restrain the decay with the power of the state as long as possible. However, the government of the U.S. has already surrendered to lawlessness by making abortion and homosexual marriage legal (Think Canaanite religions, which required the sacrifice of babies, and Sodom and Gomorrah). Thus, I think that lawlessness will continue to cause moral chaos in the world—like the murdering of children in schools. I don’t believe anything of this earth will curtail it. God is slowly withdrawing His restraining hand and has been for some time. “Only he who now restrains it (lawlessness) will do so until he is out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7b).1 The “he” in this sentence is very probably the Holy Spirit, since He is the One who convicts people of their sins (John 16:8).

Thus, to return to apocalyptic thinking, this verse comes to mind when insane, murderous incidents occur:

“When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword” (Revelation 6:3–4).

Is peace being taken from the earth so that people should kill each other?

In the 20th century, over 25 million people were massacred all over the world—massacres, not wars. Concerning war, almost 2.5 billion died in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the War in Vietnam. Over 26 million people died in China’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. Thus, almost 3 billion people died in these violent catastrophes. I add with sadness that almost as many babies were murdered in that century, as well, somewhere between one and two billion.

Is it outlandish to maintain, then, that he who restrains sin is being taken out of the way?

The man of iniquity is coming. He will be a man without law, a son of destruction, coming with wicked deception, blasphemy, and working false signs and wonders. He will hate the saints and try to destroy them.

This man is coming. Restraint is being removed. It must. It must because Jesus will return, and these things will happen before His coming. Scripture plainly tells us this.

What should Christians do? Pray. Pray for your nation, for your community. Pray for revival. Pray to remain strong in Him. Don’t be sucked into the sinfulness so pervasive in the culture. When the Book of Revelation tells us that the beast will conquer the saints, it says, “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:10b). We will need this. When the Book of Revelation tells us that the saints will be pressured to take the mark of the beast, it says, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).

Three things: Endurance. Faith. Obedience.

 

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

Gif courtesy giphy.com

giphy2Have you ever wondered if the United States is anywhere in Bible prophecy?

It is. Right here:

Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed (Revelation 15:3–4). 1

And here:

Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast. For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living (Revelation 18:2–3).

If you missed it, scan the verses for these words: “All nations.”

Looks like that includes your nation and mine.

Yes. All nations will worship the Lord God Almighty some day.

And all nations have “drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

Both of those things.

Should that surprise us?

I don’t know—nobody does—what Babylon is, but in my opinion, it isn’t the modern city of Babylon. The city in these verses has immense power. I’m more inclined to think that it represents the city of man in contrast to the city of God.

So, what does this mean to us, residing in this current time?

First, we should all know that each of our nations, are nothing.

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness (Isaiah 40:15 and 17).

However, let’s be frank, most of us love or appreciate our countries. I want a safe nation, one free of corruption, that does and honors good things. But my nation murders babies. My nation has redefined marriage.

My nation has turned away from God.

And my country is drunk with Babylon’s sexual immorality, just as yours has. My country needs Jesus, like yours does.

And that’s what I pray for, and I know that you are likely praying for that, as well.

One of the great sadnesses of my life is that this country, which I grew up loving, despite the cruelties she has inflicted, which she has striven to correct, is degenerating, like Rome, from within. Perhaps we will change our ways. Perhaps one day we will look back and say, “What on earth were we thinking when we thought it was good to kill babies?” Perhaps we will say, “Why did we ever think your sex could change because you thought it had?”

However, I don’t think this will happen.

I also wonder—I have no word from the Lord on this—if the United States is undergoing judgment. Many people within this beautiful nation, with all its prosperity, are killing themselves with drugs, for example; the highest rate in the world. This penchant for unhappiness, a desire to escape the realities of this world, is stunning isn’t it, for a country whose Declaration of Independence states that people are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? We don’t seem to be very happy. We don’t seem to value life in certain cases. We are killing each other with guns—not the highest rate of homicides in the world thankfully, but too many for a country that is supposed to be a Christian nation—which we are no longer.

Is this degeneration the American church’s fault? No, I don’t believe that. I have been and am deeply concerned about the unbiblical way the church conducts herself, but I have serious doubts if she had conducted herself as the early church did, that there would be much difference. The culture is too strong for us. It’s too easy to accede to its demands. It overwhelms too many of us in our individual lives, and it overwhelms us in the way we do church.

It’s too easy, too enticing, to be part of Babylon.

No surprise here, though, right? Remember the verses quoted earlier. All nations drink Babylon’s wine. And all nations are nothing, dust on the scales, a drop in the bucket.

Is the United States—is your country—in Scripture? Yes. And it’s exactly the way God foresaw it.

Lord God, be merciful. Please give us patience and perseverance, love, faith, and hope. We look forward to Your government. Your kingdom. We do not have the capacity to rule ourselves.

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

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images.duckduckgo.com

Someday, many people will bow down to and worship an image. This will not be just any image, like an idol made of stone or wood. This will not be a hologram, a 3D projection.

It will breathe.

It will speak.

But first, let’s talk about beasts. Yes, beasts.

The first beast that arrives in the Book of Revelation is a nasty, blasphemous, violent being. The Church will suffer under its power (Revelation 13:5-10). If that weren’t bad enough, however, John soon sees another one: “Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11).1 I don’t know what a dragon speaks like, but it looks like one day people will know. This second beast will be a being that is difficult for us to imagine. It will have great power, both secular and spiritual:

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. 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. 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 13:12–18).

This second beast will perform miracles. Perhaps that is why, when the image is given “breath” (pneúma), it seems reasonable. This image will be animated without electricity, projected lighting, or any other earthly power, which holograms and robots require today. People will worship it. But what does “worship” mean? Will people raise their voices and sing hymns about it? Well, worship is much more than singing, like Christians do in church. Here is BDAG’s definition of “worship” (proskunéō):

προσεκύνησα (Trag., Hdt.+. Freq. used to designate the custom of prostrating oneself before persons and kissing their feet or the hem of their garment, the ground, etc.; the Persians did this in the presence of their deified king, and the Greeks before a divinity or someth. holy.) to express in attitude or gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure, (fall down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully…2

So, no singing or raising of hands will be necessary. People will acknowledge that they are dependent upon this image and the beasts for their very lives instead of the Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth.

If they do not worship it, they will die.

This is the devil’s great triumvirate. This is the unholy trinity. Three blasphemous beings. (Only two of these, it seems, will have existence, because only the beast and the false prophet, also known as the antichrist and the lawless one, will be thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 19:20.)

However, those who worship this unholy trinity will face a terrible end themselves. They will die without God.

I wonder if the second beast, who will perform miracles, or perhaps all three, will say something like this:

“Look upon me. Bow to me. I am the one for whom you have been waiting. You have seen the miracles I have performed. You have seen that I control nature itself by the miracles I have done. How have I been able to do these things? I am god but not-god. I have purged from me all genetic imperfections. I am the height of all perfection. I know no race but am every race, the offspring of every people, of all people, of even ancient alien spawn races, of whom you know not but will know. I am born, not of woman, but of man-woman. I am star and starfish and lion and lamb and all living things. I bring my peace to the world. Indeed, I am peace. But I have all power and shall give my power to the world. Indeed, I am power. I know no laws. I need no laws. I am free from laws but the fulfillment of every law. I am freedom. If you do not give all to me, you will have no freedom. I have water and will give water to the whole world. No more will anyone thirst. Truly, I am water. I have food and will give food to all the world. No more will you hunger. Truly, I am bread. I am light and life, as you can see in this living image. You will joyfully give all to me, and you will know of me. I am wealth and will take your wealth to make you rich beyond measure. You must submit to me, or you will have no life.”

 

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

2Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 882). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

 

2009-02-23_1049_BangaloreGarbageHeaps

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. Read the rest of this entry »

2009-02-23_1049_BangaloreGarbageHeaps

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

2009-02-23_1049_BangaloreGarbageHeaps

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
Read the rest of this entry »

2009-02-23_1049_BangaloreGarbageHeaps

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

2009-02-23_1049_BangaloreGarbageHeaps

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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We have come to the last two verses of Jesus’ letter to the church at Laodicea: “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).1

Read the rest of this entry »

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