Prophecy Update Newsletter
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
Heaven Will Surely be Worth it All - Joseph Chambers - www.pawcreek.org
4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
Have you considered how wonderful Heaven is going to be. With my Juanita on the Heavenly side my whole being is longing for the future. I had no idea my heart would have experienced this pain. It is sheer joy to think about strolling over Heaven with my sweetheart. I know our relationship will be different, but it will also be better and more fulfilling. The few heart emotions we know in this life are temporary, but over there it will be eternal. We must get our heart set on the eternal joys the Heavenly Father has planned for us.
To see the Lord Jesus Christ in His post-resurrection glory will be breathtaking. Our bodies will be glorious bodies even as Jesus Christ, the first fruits of our future, is going to be heavenly. There will be no more tears, death, sickness, and no more battles with the evil world. Nothing this world offers can be compared with the future of the saints of God.
The famous garden that the great Creator created in which He placed Adam and Eve disappeared in Southern Iraq, which was originally called Sumer, approximately four thousand years ago. It is presumed that it was present and protected by the Cherubim of God until the great flood. Men were not allowed in this garden after the fall lest they would eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden and then live eternally in their depraved state. "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Genesis 3:22-24.
If there is a theme in this last chapter of Revelation and last chapter of the Bible, it must be the return of this incredible garden near the city of New Jerusalem that is certainly at the center of God's presence in the new heaven and the new earth. I have found that almost no attention has been given to this incredible truth. The original Garden of Eden had to have been the most magnificent garden ever created. Creating gardens has been a pastime and a joy of the rich and famous for millenniums. It seems to me that this lost centerpiece of human life has left a vacuum in the human family that has never found true satisfaction. This garden was so pristine and perfect that it invited the joy of fellowship between God and His choice creation. Because of its excellent beauty and the deep sense of the divine delight of the Creator, Satan chose it as his location of attack against God and man.
Even as Eve listened to Satan's lie, the River of Life was splashing in the background. When she looked upon the tree of good and evil, she well may have held in her hands the fruit of the Tree of Life. Her deception and then Adam's deception occurred within the reach of a life so perfect and full that the heart of a pure soul has never understood such foolishness. How could it have happened? The only possible answer is that our Creator gave this man He created absolute right of choice. He wanted love that had the right to choose to love because all other love is not really love. That day in the breathtaking garden, sorrow began that still rushes like a tsunami upon the whole of the human family and the created world. This great closing text reveals the final end of human misery and a total new beginning.
The Creator is going to move in with His redeemed family, the total curse will have been eliminated and we will actually see the Father face-to-face. While New Jerusalem will be the most magnificent creation of all eternity, the earth will have been recreated into the paradise of perfect bliss. It will be a worldwide garden and nothing of disease, weeds, undergrowth, or destroying insects will be present to mar the beauty. If you can imagine the city of New Jerusalem set within and upon this garden-like world and the beauty of both united to welcome all of His and the Lamb's family, you are beginning to get the vision. We will be so identified with Him that His family appearance will be written upon each continent.
His entire cosmos will be filled with creative beauty. The only exception will be the Lake of Fire that will contain the wicked. The second death, the most dreadful indictment ever assigned, will have been finished and assigned to its victims and that multitude of the wicked will be cast into this eternal lake of brimstone. It will be in the vicinity of Babylon and large enough to contain every lost soul of all eternity. It will be possible for man to visit this site and forever remember the sacrifice of the Lamb that spared their souls that same fate.
Isaiah spoke of this dreadful place that would be visible forever. "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." Isaiah 66:22-24. Babylon has been the devil's capital since the day of Nimrod. He moved it to Rome nearly two thousand years ago, but only to deceive. The Antichrist will return this capital back to Babylon. Isaiah also spoke of this future judgment against Satan and clearly tied this location to Babylon. He saw, "That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased...Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee ... How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit." Isaiah14:4, 9-12, 15.
Hell will rise up out of the heart of the earth to be joined with the Lake of Fire and God will set a boundary around the ancient center of Satanism. It will become the final abode of Lucifer, the Antichrist, and the false prophet, along with his fallen angels and every wicked soul that rejected God's offering of grace. Babylon will finally become the desolation promised by the prophets of old. God the Creator will reward the wicked at the very center from which wickedness has charmed the earth.
1 Corinthians 3
7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
Anyone that doubts the Book of Revelation must deny some of the plainest speech in the Bible. After John has finished viewing the city of New Jerusalem in the midst of the new heaven and new earth, his host that had taken him on the tour, spoke great words of warning. This angel that later identified himself as a fellow servant of Jesus Christ said to John, "And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done." Revelation 22:6. The messenger continued his attention to John by prophesying of Christ and for Christ. "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book." Revelation 22:7.
Before we review the verses individually, we must understand the warning in this book that speaks so loudly. The church world is full of religious people and leaders that either deny or ignore this "Masterpiece of Truth." The messenger to John, pronounced by the voice of Holy Ghost prophecy, that it is spiritual death to change or reject these words. "And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:19. Jesus also said that the "Scripture cannot be broken." John 10:35. It is time for the church and the church world to embrace this wonderful revelation within the Book of Revelation.
"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever." Revelation 22:1-5
These verses continue the subject of chapter twenty-one. This magnificent city of New Jerusalem is more than an ordinary city; it is the temple of God and Christ. This temple is united with the city of New Jerusalem, the home of Christ's bride. God the Father is moving the heavenly temple within the New Jerusalem and uniting it all with His new creation. Our view of this eternal and glorious creation is certainly limited to human words and descriptions that remind us of the Biblical warning, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13:12. This is the grandest view ever revealed and from it we can catch a limited vision of our future. Living for anything but our lord Jesus Christ and His eternal plans is folly.
John is now allowed to view one of the most breathtaking aspects of this city and the new world. The River of Life and The Tree of Life, is second only to the Father and the Lamb as the heartthrob of this city. It is our substance of eternal life. While Adam and Eve were created to be eternal, the River of Life and the Tree of Life were the source of that eternal life. So, it is in this eternal picture again as it was in the beginning. We will live forever and the provision of that life is flowing directly out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Our eternal life is not resident in His created family but in Himself and the Lamb of God. While this river is a literal river and this tree is a literal tree, the substance of both the river and tree is divine life, His divine life provided for His family.
This river will flow throughout this great and marvelous city and throughout the new earth. The original river in Eden divided into four streams and flowed far and wide to provide life for all of Adam and Eve's family. This river flowing from the throne of God shall certainly do no less but will be the joy of the whole universe. On either bank of this river will be the Tree of Life. The Bible is not speaking of one tree, but of one variety of multiple trees bearing multiple fruits. This tree will bare twelve manners of fruit and the fruit will be yielded and renewed monthly. Everywhere the river flows, the tree will line its banks and satisfy every eternal soul with life everlasting. The leaves of the tree will be filled with renewable nutrients that provide perfect substance for our glorified bodies.
The curse of sin is finished and the glorified saints will have perfect fellowship with their God and Father. It will be the joy of the earth to serve the Great Creator and His Son and to worship Him forever. The care of our mansions and the breathtaking gardens that fill the landscape will fill every saint with unfailing pleasure. Fellowship with other saints, viewing a dazzling world of exquisite beauty, and worshipping with the angels and great prophets will never allow for one moment of boredom.
There will never be a sunset. Artificial light will not be needed because this new world will be flooded with the light of the Lord God Himself. It will be a world bathed in the glory of the Eternity and filled with His presence forever and ever.
"AND HE SAID UNTO ME, THESE SAYINGS ARE FAITHFUL AND TRUE: AND THE LORD GOD OF THE HOLY PROPHETS SENT HIS ANGEL TO SHEW UNTO HIS SERVANTS THE THINGS WHICH MUST SHORTLY BE DONE. BEHOLD I COME QUICKLY: BLESSED IS HE THAT KEEPETH THE SAYINGS OF THE PROPHECY OF THIS BOOK. AND I JOHN SAW THESE THINGS, AND HEARD THEM. AND WHEN I HAD HEARD AND SEEN, I FELL DOWN TO WORSHIP BEFORE THE FEET OF THE ANGEL WHICH SHEWED ME THESE THINGS. THEN SAITH HE UNTO ME, SEE THOU DO IT NOT: FOR I AM THY FELLOWSERVANT, AND OF THY BRETHEN THE PROPHETS, AND OF THEM WICH KEEP THE SAYINGS OF THIS BOOK: WORSHIP GOD." Revelation 22:6-9.
The fact that this angel of God, charged with delivering this message of Jesus Christ, would interrupt this great revelation to emphasize the truthfulness of this great masterpiece is thrilling. This messenger is not speaking for himself but by direct inspiration. These words are the words of God. Everything in this book is perfect, "faithful, and true" and cannot be denied or changed. The angel plainly says, "The Lord God of the holy prophets sent (me) his angel to show unto His servants the things which must surely come to pass." This book is either literal or all of Christianity is in trouble.
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
The great statement that I have already quoted in the beginning of this chapter is a post-stated warning that carries the student or reader back to chapter four where the saints were caught up to the throne before the Great Tribulation. This is given to readers and students of this book so we do not wait to suffer through the great Antichrist period. Let's read that warning again. "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book." Revelation 22:7. The Lord did this very same thing in Matthew chapter twenty-four when He painted the picture of the dark Tribulation but ended with a route of escape. No believer has to endure the coming hell on earth. The Lord said the exact same thing to the church of Philadelphia, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Revelation 3:10. When John could get his breath from what he had seen and heard, he fell down in front of this angel or messenger to worship. This walking tour of the city, plus the words of proof for all he had seen, left him in a rapturous mood. But the angel was more than an angel. He was a servant of the Lord, a fellow servant, a glorified saint, actually an elder participant in the grand events of God's kingdom. This certainly suggests that the saints of God in Heaven are not there to picnic, but to worship and participate. This servant of God was quick to confirm that he was one "of them which keeps the saying of this Book." He adds, "Worship God."
"AND HE SAITH UNTO ME, SEAL NOT THE SAYINGS OF THE PROPHECY OF THIS BOOK: FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND. HE THAT IS UNJUST, LET HIM BE UNJUST STILL: AND HE WHICH IS FILTHY, LET HIM BE FILTHY STILL: AND HE THAT IS RIGHTEOUS, LET HIM BE RIGHTEOUS STILL: AND HE THAT IS HOLY, LET HIM BE HOLY STILL. AND, BEHOLD, I COME QUICKLY; AND MY REWARD IS WITH ME, TO GIVE EVERY MAN ACCORDING AS HIS WORK SHALL BE" Revelation 22:10-12.
Now we get a warning on top of a warning. This Elder of the Lord (Let's call him that for the rest of this discussion.) plainly tells John that this book is an ironclad truth that cannot be put aside. The Book of Revelation has been on the shelf all the way back to the beginning of the dark ages. Too few of God's saints have dared to dig into this Masterpiece. The hour has come that no believer can dare wait to keep these great truths. The Elder says something that is hair-raising. "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand." If it were at hand then, what would that Elder say today? This book is a "Revelation, an unveiling," not a "concealing or a hidden thing."
The Elder then declares a warning that leaves no one innocent. "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still." Righteousness is not just a legalistic standing or a positional standing, but a literal transformation. We will be what we are now in our heart and present lifestyle when we stand before the Great Judge unless, if needed, you allow grace to transform you.
The declaration that follows the warning is exciting. The Lord to whom we relate is perfect in His sovereign being and every fact of eternity is totally open before Him. When He comes, every saint of God will be rewarded. The reward is based on one thing alone - obedience to Him in our works. We will be rewarded and every reward will be individually determined. We will get what our surrender and devotion to Him merits. The new heaven, the new earth, the New Jerusalem, and the Garden of Eden will not be a place of identical saints and rewards, but every person will be special. Every mansion will be different and every garden will be unique.
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." Revelation 22:13-16
These closing truths of this great book are really breathtaking. Easy Christianity is the product of apostasy. That certainly never existed in the Bible. The Elder is clearly caught up in the language and the message of our God and His Son. Right in the middle of these closing words, the Spirit takes this elder's lips and he proclaims the voice of the Sovereign One, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." Then, as God continued to speak, He said, "Blessed are they that do his commandments." The promises are more than worthy of our total commitments. Every saint will enjoy the Tree of Life and have the right to either live in the city of His Bride or visit and enjoy the city.
As I said in the opening of this chapter, the Lake of Fire will be on earth for eternity and will be visible to be visited. The warning, "For without are dogs," makes it clear that the judgment will forever be in the conscience of every saint. To forget the consequence of sin and its judgment would be unthinkable. The sacrifice of the Son of God will be an eternal matter and we will never forget to worship our Savior. The glorified saints will possess in themselves the redemption of the Cross and the glory of our new bodies will forever testify to the triumph of Calvary. This is why the Lord Jesus Christ is called the "Lamb" right down to the very last chapter.
Jesus Christ gave this book to John through an array of angels and elders and for the church. It belongs to every church and every saint. It is our last "Will and Testament" and was always meant to bless and embolden the followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord said, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." What a love letter this is straight from the Lord Himself. If you live in and obey this book, the world will appear exactly as it is, a fading kingdom soon to be judged and renewed in righteousness just for the Bride of Christ and the saints of God.
1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
The harvest of the precious fruits of the earth is never far from the heart of God. Right in the heart of Revelation, from chapter one to this transcending close of chapter twenty-two, "there is a rainbow above the throne." It never gets so dark that something special does not appear to show the mercy extended to lost souls. This next statement is remarkable. "The Holy Spirit says, Come." The heart of the Holy Ghost office is the wooing of the unsaved. "Let him that heareth" shows the obligation of every recipient of grace. No one can know of salvation without the obligation of telling it to others. "Let him that is athirst come" is a call that never ends until the last soul is saved or judged. "Whosoever will" is the invitation of Holy Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. No one has the right to tell even one soul that there is no hope. "Whosoever will" is the theme of the Bible.
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19.
The Word of God is forever settled in Heaven. Before one word was ever given to any man to write, the Bible was complete. The Word of God is a heavenly book that has been given to the earthly church. The command has always been not to change or eliminate what the Spirit has given. He first warns us not to add to His revelations. We are warned that to add will be to receive the plagues written in this book. He then warns not to "take away" from the book. This warning comes with stated results. If we "take away" His words, He will take away our name from His Book of Life. These are awesome warnings.
"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." Revelation 22:20-21.
The parting words of our Lord as He closes His dialogue with John were beautiful. The Elder speaks, "He which testifieth these things saith," and then the Elder gives the final words of the Lord, "Surely I come quickly." The Elder added, "Amen." I think John then added by inspiration, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Maybe it was John that spoke the "Amen," also. Either way this is a wonderful close to a heavenly vision. John then says to all the church that read these supernatural words, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
This chapter is a highlight of this great Masterpiece. To see the Garden of Eden reappear for the first time since Genesis chapter three is beautiful. Of course, it could not appear until redemption was complete. The entrance of sin had broken the great fellowship that men had with God. The Father's love demanded that a shadow of fellowship be restored, but the fellowship was always conducted with blood as its doorway. From the garden when coats were made by God the Father to this final revelation where a Lamb slain walks in every sentence, blood alone has been the Father's carefully laid plan. Now redemption is finished and God and His family are going to live together forever.
Grace and the Rapture - By Don McGee -
Unfortunately, most in the world of Christendom cringe at the word rapture when it is used in context of the coming of Jesus for His church One reason for this could well be that those Christians cannot connect the grace of God with the assurance we have when Jesus returns for His church. It follows that a biblically sound understanding of the rapture naturally leads to a greater appreciation for God's grace and our liberty in Christ, and it removes any fear a Christian might have regarding the day it will happen.
Well over half of my life ago a young preacher said to me that he would not know for sure that he was saved until he stood before Jesus on judgment day at the great white throne judgment as seen in Revelation 20. The context of our conversation, and of his statement, was not judgment but the coming of Jesus for His church. He associated the taking of the church with a final judgment by which he would then know if he was saved or not. In reality he feared that at Jesus' coming he just might be found deficient in his keeping of all New Testament "rules".
In order to clear up any confusion about these matters it must be understood that Christians cannot purposefully be lax in their heeding of Jesus' commandments, nor do they have license to live a carnal life. Further, there is no such thing as cheap grace, a false theology popular among some "seeker" churches where Jesus is Savior, but is not Lord. Those things are part of a hellish counterfeit belief system.
At the same time we need to understand that God did not give us a New Testament system of law keeping where hell is the penalty for imperfection in place of the Old Testament system of law keeping where hell was the penalty for sin. The fact of the matter about the human race is that every last one of us is guilty of breaking God's law. But that which we know as the gospel is the good news that what God demanded in payment for our sin, death (Ezekiel 18:20), was freely paid by Jesus on our behalf. And if we believe and act upon what God said about Jesus' death on our behalf (faith) we have His forgiveness.
But if a person believes salvation is based upon being 100% accurate 100% of the time regarding everything found in scripture then it is not only easy to be a legalist, but being a legalist is the only thing that person can be. Further, since not even a legalist can be absolutely sure they are 100% correct in all things biblical, then that person never knows whether they are saved or not saved. That kind of thing is not a life of peace based upon God's grace, but is a life of hell on earth based upon law keeping.
Further, if a preacher believes that kind of thing then a very serious question must be asked: When he closes his sermon and offers the Lord's invitation, does he encourage the unsaved to respond to it only to tell them they might make it? Though this is not actually spoken by legalists it is often implied in their teaching. Such people are fearful because they have no assurance. There is no wonder that the rapture of the church is feared as a time of possible condemnation instead of being loved as the Blessed Hope.
Christians will indeed be judged, but there is a vast difference between the judgment of the unsaved and the judgment of Christians. The judgment of Christians is found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. The word for judgment there is "bema" and speaks of a judgment seat from which Jesus gives rewards. This is not a judgment of condemnation. Said another way some people, after becoming Christians, will have done works in this life that will withstand the test of fire like gold, while lazy and apathetic Christians will have done works in this life that will not withstand the test of fire like hay. No rewards there. This is not difficult to understand at all.
But the unsaved will be judged at the "thronon" which is a judgment of condemnation (Revelation 20:11). There are no saved people before that bar of justice for all present are judged according to their deeds which are listed in the books present, and no one can earn salvation through good deeds or rule keeping.
Because legalists have confused these two kinds of judgment they are fearful. It is illogical for a person to look forward to something, and especially to give thanks for it, if it is thought to be something ominous. But Paul tells us that those who love His appearing are to be given a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4-8). So, was he incorrect in his attitude about the rapture? Did he misunderstand the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in this matter? Not hardly.
For the Christian who is confident in his salvation (1 John 5:13) there is no fear about the rapture. Not because he has been absolutely correct in his understanding of all things scriptural, but because of God's grace that covers those things he did not understand correctly. If the grace of God is sufficient to cover our blatant sin, is it not also sufficient to cover our inability to flawlessly understand all scripture? Thankfully, yes!
Consider what Paul said in Philippians 4:6 where he told the church at Philippi, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your heats and minds in Christ Jesus". There are at least two things that these verses bring to mind.
First, if the rapture of the church is something that is either literally denied or is at best feared, where then is the reason for giving thanks for it? The removal of the church from this planet is described in 1 Corinthians 15:50ff and in 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff and in neither of those texts can a Christian find any reason to deny their plain sense meaning, nor to be fearfully anxious about it happening. In fact, just the opposite is true.
At the rapture we will forever be with the Lord, we will have new bodies that are incorruptible, we will see those we have loved in this life and who have been with the Lord for years, we will see those we love but have never met, we will never be separated from them again, we will no longer live in bodies afflicted with the ever present disease and trauma of this life, we will have no need whatsoever for anything...and the list of good things could go on without end. But to be a legalist who has never come to understand grace and who believes their righteousness is based upon their being right about everything, the joy of this Blessed Hope is dashed to pieces on the rocky shoreline of a salvation that is based upon a person perfectly understanding and doing all things scriptural. Who wants that kind of thing? And who would ever actually give thanks for it?
In the Philippians 4 text we are told in verse five, "The Lord is near." The word for "near" can be translated "in close proximity". A legalist might not be comfortable with such a thought because he, in a fashion, sees the Lord with clipboard in hand taking notes and listing all his failures in the books that will be at the Great White Throne judgment. Really? Unfortunately for some Christians, yes. As someone once said, you don't have to worry about Santa Claus making a list and checking it twice to see who has been naughty or nice, what you have to worry about is Jesus making a list and checking it twice to see who has understood and done all things in just the right way.
Second, legalists often do not really have the peace of God. In their striving for peace with God they seldom ever know the peace of God.
Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The context is salvation through the propitiatory death of Jesus on our behalf. The enmity between a sinner and God is removed when that sinner becomes a Christian thus resulting in the cessation of hostilities between the holy and righteous God and one who was a rebellious reprobate. That is peace with God, and every Christian should know what that feels like. The war is over, Jesus has redeemed, or bought back the sinner's soul with His own blood and there is peace between God and that sinner.
But the peace of God is different from peace with God. Go back to Philippians 4:7 and look again at those words, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." The peace of God goes to a deeper level in the human soul because it goes beyond anything the human mind can understand. Said another way, the peace of God is incomprehensible and especially so to the natural man. That is why unbelievers just can't get a handle on it and why they don't understand the reason Christians act and react they way they do.
Someone once explained the peace of God by saying it protects the mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of Christians, and that it is absolutely necessary for successfully dealing with life and everything it throws at us. Any number of Christians are spiritual wrecks in that their souls are never at peace because each dawn brings another list of rules, and they are not even sure they kept the previous day's rules. They want their last conscious thought to be, "Lord, forgive me..." before they go to sleep so that their perceived last-minute sins would be forgiven in case they die before sunup. Some of these people compensate for their lack of assurance by being divisive and condemnatory toward those Christians who don't see everything their way. They think that their self-righteous contentiousness is pleasing to God and earns them points on His check list.
Consider marriage. It indeed has a legal aspect, but even a legalist understands a good marriage is not a relationship of formality and personal perfection based upon an official document on file at the court house. They know it is all about the love a husband and wife have for one another. But when it comes to their faith it is a different matter. The reason they have difficulty understanding that they can have the peace of God which comes with assurance of salvation, and that they can look with grand expectation to the rapture is that they do not believe anyone can have that kind of relationship with God. They spend their lives trying keep God happy with them by perfectly interpreting scripture and perfectly keeping all the rules. When a husband and wife have a relationship based upon perfection and rule keeping they are said to have a dysfunctional marriage.
Consider just two verses in their context: "He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life." (2 Corinthians 3:6) "There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love." (1 John 4:18) These verses, and others, should at least motivate the legalist to study anew, without a preconceived bias, the whole idea of what makes the gospel good news. Such a study might go far in breaking the bonds of legalism and its obligatory fear of the rapture.
Christians often focus on God's love, and there is no way to overemphasize it. But we would do well to spend time thinking about God's grace, also. You see, God would have been perfectly righteous by loving us, but withholding His grace. He could have told us that He loved us and that He would give us one more chance to keep His commandments. Does anyone think they could have lived a sinless life with a second opportunity?
Biblical Christianity is the only religion that offers hope based upon grace and mercy. It removes anxiety of facing God at the rapture, and replaces it with confidence based upon the fact that Jesus has done for us that which we could never do for ourselves. And it was all His idea to begin with. DLM
The 'Christmas Religion' - Jack Kinsella -
Every year about this time, the debate begins anew about Christmas. Does offering someone a greeting like "Merry Christmas" offend those who aren't Christians?
Should we remember to keep the 'Christ' in Christmas? Is Jesus the reason for the season? Is observing Christmas an inappropriate endorsement of religion?
It is difficult to figure out, if celebrating Christmas as a 'religious holiday', exactly WHICH religion is being endorsed. Christianity is the only faith on earth that is NOT a religion.
Jesus Christ was the most anti-religious 'religious' leader who ever lived. Jesus came to dismantle religion and replace it His doctrine of faith and trust.
Jesus called the religious leaders of His day "a generation of vipers" and likened them to "whited sepulchers [tombs], beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, 'filled with dead men's bones.'
Religion is the antithesis of Christianity. Religion is man's way of making himself acceptable to God. Christianity is God's way of making man acceptable to Him.
Religion has rules and regulations that bind its adherents, with the promise of eternal punishment if those rules and regulations are violated.
Jesus taught the opposite; He said the truth would make us free and that salvation comes by faith alone that His sacrificial death and His subsequent Resurrection would save us, and not our good deeds.
Salvation doesn't come by doing good works or attending church, or by being baptized or by believing in God. James 2:19 says; "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."
Believing in God is NOT enough -- as James points out, Satan believes in God. The Book of Job tells us that Satan regularly comes to present himself before the Lord, but that won't keep Satan from his appointment with the Lake of Fire.
Good works won't save a person. Isaiah 64:4 notes that, "we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
Note that it isn't just our sins that are as 'filthy rags' before the Lord. Even our 'righteousness' is filthy in God's eyes. "God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1st John 1:5)
So to a pure a Holy and perfect God, ANY sin/darkness would naturally be alien and repugnant to Him, so -- humanly speaking -- it IS impossible for us to be saved. THAT is why God demonstrated His love for us by coming down in human form as the Lord Jesus Christ.
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments for a single reason . . . to PROVE two things. The first is that we are ALL sinners -- no human being who ever lived (with the exception of Jesus) ever kept all ten of them.
The second reason is to prove we ALL need a Savior. Since it is a human impossibility to keep the Commandments, it is humanly impossible, according to Scripture, for any person to be saved by his works.
James 2:10 reminds us that whoever "whoever shall keep the whole law and stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." A person who tries to live by the Ten Commandments will die by the Ten Commandments and will stand before the judge clothed in his own righteousness, or what the Lord refers to as 'filthy rags'.
The celebration of Christmas has been declared, by the politically correct but overwhelmingly stupid, a religious holiday.
Note well who it is that objects the most to its celebration. Religionists.
Secular humanism is a religion. It meets all of the benchmark tests -- it is man's way of making himself acceptable to his god, which, of course, is himself. It has rules and regulations -- you can't believe in humanism and believe in God, it has its own doctrine (evolution) and it requires a tremendous amount of faith.
To be a humanist, you have to deny logic and accept a constantly-changing and unprovable 'theory' that says that everything we know about physics is true -- unless you add the unprovable element of billions of years.
To a humanist, a frog turning into a handsome prince is a fairy tale. Unless you add a couple of billion years. Then it's scientific evolution.
To a Muslim or a Jew, Christmas is offensive. To the Jew, it remains a standing indictment against his religion. The only way around that indictment is to deny that Jesus was the Messiah.
To the Muslim, Christmas is offensive because it is an acknowledgment that the Koran is wrong -- it specifically denies the Deity of Christ and repeatedly tells its adherents that "God has no Son."
Christmas finds great acceptance among Christian religionists, like the Catholic Church or mainstream Protestant denominations.
But it doesn't do that well among non-denominational Christians, who point out that the early Church didn't celebrate the birth of Christ and that Christmas is really a repackaging of the Babylonian religion of Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz.
Non-denominational Christianity teaches that its ok to celebrate Christmas if one wants to, and equally ok to not celebrate Christmas, if one wants to.
Religionists take one of two positions on Christmas. They oppose its celebration, because they find it offensive. Or, they oppose efforts to stifle its celebration, which they claim is offensive to them.
Paul writes; "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks." (Romans 14: 5-6)
The Apostle reminds us, "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way." (Romans 14:13)
The religionists on each side of the Christmas controversy strain at one another, red-faced and angry, over whether or not it is a good religious observance or a bad religious observance, and in the end, everybody ends up taking offense -- over the Birth of the Prince of Peace!
The Bible -- the source of all that is known of God -- offers the final word on the topic, but the Bible is the last place a religionist would think to look for answers about religion.
"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." (Romans 14:19)
I pray for each of you, that you have a wonderful, merry and peace-filled Christmas.
Child of Man, Son of God - Nathele Graham -
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6. This verse is a prophecy regarding the birth of Jesus Christ. In all of history there has never been a more important birth nor a more miraculous one. Jesus Christ was born of a human mother but was conceived by God. This fact is impossible for us to wrap our human understanding around and the love that prompted God to become human is also impossible for us mere mortals to fully understand. The child born in Bethlehem was human but the Son that was given that day was God. Jesus had two natures: He was fully human but also fully God.
When Adam sinned all of creation fell. His sin made it impossible for us to commune or have fellowship with God. The only way to temporarily cover the breach was through a blood sacrifice. God never requires a human sacrifice, which is just one reason we can be sure that Jesus was much more than just a man. For many years animals were sacrificed but their blood could never be pure enough to take sin away. "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins." Hebrews 10:4. From the very beginning God knew Adam would sin and that He would need to step into His creation and shed His pure blood, untainted by sin, and become our once for all sacrifice. "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Hebrews 9:11-14. The only way for our sin to be taken away was for God to become human and shed His own blood for our redemption.
Our Redeemer had to be God in order for His blood to not be tainted by sin, but He also had to be human in order to be our Kinsman. How could this be? "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14. A human woman who was a virgin would give birth to Immanuel, which means "God with us". When the time was right, God sent the angel Gabriel to a young woman named Mary. She had found favor with God and Gabriel told her that she would conceive and have a son. Mary couldn't understand how she could become pregnant even though she wasn't married and therefore was a virgin, so she asked. "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" Luke 1:34. Mary is such a good example of how we should trust God even when our human understanding cannot grasp His ways. Mary didn't hesitate but simply asked how. With God all things are possible, and the answer was simple. "And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Luke1:35. Mary didn't argue or doubt. She knew that Gabriel was an angel from God and when her question was answered she submitted. "And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her." Luke 1:38. Can you imagine how many great things we could accomplish for the Lord if we would just submit. Because Mary was willing, prophecy was fulfilled. Because she was willing, Jesus would be born of a virgin and be fully human.
Jesus was also fully God. The Apostle John describes Jesus as the Word of God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men." John 1:1-4. Jesus' life didn't begin in Bethlehem, but He was in the beginning. He created all things and spoke them into existence. You can read the account in the book of Genesis. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." John 1:14. He was God and had all the wonders of Heaven around Him, yet He chose to take on human form in order to shed His blood for our redemption. He is our example and we need to learn to be more like Him. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:5-8. Most of us have trouble with humility. It's hard to say "I'm sorry" or to ask for help to accomplish a task. These verses describe the greatest act of love and humility when Jesus chose to become human so He could die on the cross to purchase our salvation. This is perfect love.
Why did God become man? He had to in order to be our Kinsman Redeemer. This law of redemption is found in Leviticus and all of the book of Ruth is about the kinsman redeemer. "If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold." Leviticus 25:25. Adam sold Paradise and humanity to Satan. When he chose to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit a barrier came between God and humans called sin. All of creation fell and we have lived with sin, death, and separation from God ever since. That's where the kinsman redeemer comes in. When Jesus became human it was to redeem what Adam forfeited. "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." Hebrews 2:16-18. Jesus chose to be our Kinsman Redeemer. Only a human could be a kinsman of fellow humans and only the pure blood of God can redeem us. If a human child hadn't been born on that night so long ago and if God hadn't given His only begotten Son there would have been no Kinsman Redeemer to redeem what Adam forfeited.
Much of the world will soon take time to celebrate the birth of the King of kings. Too often that all important event gets lost in the festivities of the day...friends and family visit, gifts are exchanged, and too much food is consumed. Take time during this busy time to remember Jesus. Think about the birth of the King, but also take time to ponder upon the deeper meaning of His birth. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. God gave us a gift, but like any gift it has to be accepted. If you have never repented of (changed your mind about) your sin then now is the time to do it. Repent and ask Jesus for forgiveness. Faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the only way to live eternally with Him. Accept His gift today.
Mary gave birth to a child but God gave the most precious and valuable gift ever given...His Son. Share that gift with others.
God bless you all,
Ron Graham's previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is "theopneustos" God breathed.
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Daily Jot: A win for life and liberty - Bill Wilson -
Both houses of Congress have passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and it will be signed into law by President Donald Trump. This is a tax reform effort that adjusts a little bit how we pay taxes. It appears that more work needs to be done regarding the tax structure, but it's a great start. It is historic because it ends the individual mandate on socialist healthcare. You will not longer be forced to pay for not having health insurance, and you will no longer be forced to pay for health insurance with government-inflated premiums. The wicked witch of socialist healthcare is dead without the individual mandate. If the tax legislation did nothing else, this is a major victory for life and freedom.
On October 1, 2013, I wrote: "In my opinion, the Affordable Care Act is against my Christian faith and belief. I am therefore a conscientious objector. The government is trying to say that people who buy abortion coverage are paying for it through private exchanges. But they are government-mandated private exchanges that would not exist without the government mandate. And tax money subsidizes these exchanges. Democrats support such tax funded abortions because they want the system to give equal access to abortions. In a joint statement, for example, communists Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct) and Louis Slaughter (D-NY) said, "This decision honors the spirit of the Affordable Care Act, which is significantly improving health care for women."
"Since when is legally snuffing out a human life improving health care? It is immoral and against Christian doctrine. I hate cherry picking verses in the Bible to make a point, but here are some references: Jeremiah 2:34 where the Lord is finding Israel guilty and shameless in breaking His laws, "Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these." Deuteronomy 30:19, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live."
At that time, I said it was our Christian duty to not participate in socialized healthcare. My premise was that if we refused to participate, it would implode. Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the tax on those who refused to participate in socialist healthcare cost nearly $33 BILLION a year. In short, those who refused to participate in socialist healthcare imploded the system at a tremendous cost to the government. Only the government could lose money on a tax. Whether it was forcing Christians to fund abortions or just the principle that the government should not be so intrusive in our lives, those who boycotted socialist healthcare have done a great thing for America. Praise the Lord!
Daily Devotion: Christ the Lord - By Greg Laurie -
Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." -Luke 2:10-11
The angel began that wonderful announcement to the shepherds with, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. . . ." Maybe you are suffering today. You might find yourself wondering, Where is the joy? But what is the joy about? Is it about an opportunity to go shopping? Is the message of Christmas "Let it snow?" No, it is, "Let us worship."
The angels' visit to the shepherds became the first Christmas celebration. It's as though Heaven and earth were celebrating it together, as though a portal to glory had been opened up. These shepherds saw the supernatural world, the heavenly world. On that first Christmas, there was a big celebration in Heaven and on earth over the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have a Savior: "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). That is the most important thing. We have a Savior who came to save us from the power and penalty of sin. Whatever you are going through in life, remember this: you have a Savior. He has put your sins as far away from you as the east is from the west.
Christ means "anointed one." Another word for that is Messiah. Jesus was the fulfillment of God's promise to send His Son as the Messiah. This is a simple reminder that God keeps His promises. God said that He would send a Messiah, and the Messiah came.
Lord means that we have a sovereign God who is in control of our lives.
So set aside the things you have become preoccupied with and remember that you have a Savior. You have a Lord. You have a Christ. And you have His promises.
FROM THE HEART
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