Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why is the Church in Decline?

"Shattered glass will be crushed, melted and remade into one."

It seems today that Christianity is on the way out.  Churches are losing their members.  Fewer people consider themselves Christian in the developed world.  And fewer who do are engaged in church life.  People feel disillusioned about Christianity.  Its not uncommon to see people blame Christianity for society's ills, and Christians are deemed to be too judgmental.  The response from Christians to all the anti-Christian sentiments popping up has either been weak or nonexistent.  Those outside the church are increasingly hostile to it, and those inside the church are passive.  The claims of Christianity are less believed, and the claims against Christianity are more believed.  Welcome to the post-Christian world.

Or is it?

I do not actually believe that Christianity is over.  Its a time of testing and falling away for Christianity; there's no doubt about that.  But it will ultimately result in the resurrection of a new Christian Church, younger and stronger.  In short, I believe its a good thing that Christians must fight to defend their faith, both for themselves and in the culture.  Let me explain what I mean.

I'll start with the why.  People are not attached to their churches.  I mean those who still go to church.  Its a habit, its a tradition, but its not a passion.  In fact, for most its really just a chore.  Even people who go to church do not always want to go to church.  They feel obligated; they feel like they're not doing what they should as a Christian if they don't.  This does not bode well for the Christian Church, and I'll tell you why.  There's no point in having zombie Christians - half dead, half alive - and that's what most churches are.  There's no creative thinking.  There's no "what can we do?", or "let's try this," or "why do we still do this?".  Instead there is a general following of the norm, continuing with the established traditions, or even worse, a following of some shallow trend.  What I mean to say is that there's no life; there's no mental activity that wants the church to be active and involved in the community.  Or there's no mental activity that wants the church to satisfy deep spiritual desires.

Now don't get me wrong.  I am a conservative in a sense.  I am a hardcore Bible-believer.  The idea of making church more appealing by compromising biblical truth, particularly with the homosexual issue, is disastrous.  It is one of the causes of church decline.  But let's be real: even though these churches are losing their members now, they have already lost the spiritual mark of Christianity long ago.  Again, it doesn't bother me that they lose their members; I would rather the church die than for a zombie church to continue in the name of Jesus while teaching lies.

Getting back to the point, I'll mention a few examples.  We live in a digital age.  Of course the church should not be about getting people's money (and that's another thing that needs to change), but instead of passing an offering plate, why do churches not have an option for giving online by credit card?  If I don't keep much cash, and I no longer use checks (both are true), then it would be impossible for me to give in most churches.  This is such an obvious thing.  Any church whose members are alive in Christ would certainly want to modernize the church's operations.  And it makes perfect sense to do away with the offering plate, since Christianity was never supposed to be about collecting tithes (an OT theme) anyway.  The point is, most churches are a reflection of tradition ("we've always done it this way") rather than a refection of Christ and the gospel.  So either a person loves Christ and feels disgusted by how halfway and Christianese churches have become, or a person is contently sitting in the pews and has never really known Christ or what He is about.

Or what about Sunday school?  Sunday school has died at least 10 or 20 years ago.  It may have been a great idea when churches first started doing it.  But today it is just a waste of time and energy, and the only reason churches do it is - again - tradition.  If a certain program or activity is not bearing good fruit, why do it?  Why continue something just for the sake of continuing it?  Spiritually speaking, Sunday school is dead.  If its meant for the kids, its only one day a week, and it only excuses parents from teaching their children biblical principles the other 6 days.  If its meant for adults...  well, its clearly not meant for adults, because the only adults who attend are the ones who bring their children to Sunday school.  So its already dead in a spiritual sense, it just keeps on living as an outward show of respect for the conventional church.  It is a hollow shell; why not ditch it and come up with new activities that are more relevant, exciting and will produce good fruit?

These are some of the causes coming from the churches themselves.  And that's most of the reason our culture (in the developed/western world) has become increasingly non-Christian.  The rest is just like a domino effect.  Once people no longer feel attached to their churches.  Once people are no longer convinced of the Bible's veracity, because their faith was never strengthened by apologetics in the first place, then the rest is automatic.  Its easy to rebel against the past.  Its natural to want to tear down the monoliths of our parents.  If one starts at the church doors, without ever having known the true beauty of Christianity, there's only one way to run: away.  So the culture is running away from Christianity and rebelling against it.

But that's not the end of it.  Christianity has a way of repeatedly dying and coming back to life (much like the resurrection of Jesus).  There will always be people who hunger and thirst for truth and God.  They will ultimately make their own churches; not based on the model of tradition, but based on a model that works.  They will do church in a way that fulfills their spiritual desires, that journeys deep, that engages the culture boldly, that invests in the community.  It will not look like any church you've ever known, and it will be beautiful.  New wine does not belong in old wineskins.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jesus' Death on the Cross

Imagine yourself there.  You're a follower of Christ Jesus, and you're at the cross where He is being crucified.  This is not a time for Sunday-school answers.  I'm not looking for the proper doctrines in this exercise.  Just imagine you were one of the disciples, and you're there at the cross.  Its the end.  Its all over.  Evil rules the day.  Our Lord, our King, our meaning in life, is dying.  The servants of Satan are taunting.  This is the hour in which the good guys lose.  A dark day; literally, the day turned to night.

In the middle of such a situation there is only one way to feel: despair.  To be hopelessly sad.  And if we weren't sad, it would seem as though we weren't really disciples of Jesus.  It would seem as though we were rooting for the other team - Satan's team.  That would be completely true with one condition: that we do not know what happens next.  That we are completely ignorant of God's design and purpose in all of this.  That we have no idea of the resurrection.  It would be the end, if not for the resurrection.  Satan would win, if not for the resurrection.  But if we had the foreknowledge of Christ's resurrection, being there at the cross watching Him die might be quite different.

Now imagine yourself at that cross again.  But this time you know what happens next.  God has informed you of His plan.  You know that Jesus will rise again in three days.  You know that this must happen to fulfill God's ultimate plan.  How surreal it is.  You cannot be happy, because our precious Lord is being insulted, beaten and killed.  Everything sacred is being profaned.  Everything your senses are reporting to you is sad and depressing.  But you know in your mind that its not over.  You can take solace in the knowledge that Jesus will rise again and defeat Satan.  You can be happy knowing that God will win in the end.  Should you be happy or sad?  Should the happiness merely be delayed?

This is more than just an exercise.  We as Christians are living this reality today.  Our Lord is being crucified right in front of us.  Literally, no; but figuratively, yes.  You see, the church of Christ is the body of Christ.  The church is Christ on earth.  And the way things are today, at least in much of the developed world (I'm in the US), the church is dying.  Maybe the church is dying from poor health.  Maybe the church is being killed by the forces of darkness.  Either way, it is incredibly sad for any Christian to see how Christianity is being profaned, mocked and killed in public places.  It is sad to see that what once was no longer is.  Where there once was reverence for God, there is now open opposition to Him and His word.

It is sad to witness what we are witnessing.  But let us go back to the cross and remember what happens next.  We know that God wins in the end.  While it seems as though Satan is winning today (surely he is), we know that the body of Christ will come back from the dead.  The church of Christ will rise again, and it will be far more powerful when it does.  This is the reenactment of Jesus' death and resurrection, which the Christian Church has performed again and again throughout its history.  Patiently wait for that day to come, and remain faithful to our Lord until it does.  The resurrection is coming.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Anger, Compassion, Love, Frustration and Weeping: Relating to Jesus.

There is a lot said in the four gospels, and its not all the same type of stuff.  Maybe what stands out the most are the parables and the teachings of Jesus.  Second to that, we probably remember the stories of Jesus.  We often have the tendency to treat every passage of gospel as something to learn.  That's not a bad thing, certainly.  But I wonder, what should we learn from the shortest verse in the New Testament: Jesus wept?  The theological significance of this story is?  The doctrinal teaching we can take away from this is?  Other than the fact that there's nothing unmanly about crying, since Jesus is the Man of all men, there's nothing really taught within these two words.  But the words take us beyond the teaching of Jesus to the actual Person of Jesus.  Jesus was and is a Person.  He has feelings.  He has a human nature.  And the kind of things we experience, He experienced too.

Jesus' close friend, Lazarus, had just died.  Jesus loved Lazarus.  Of course Jesus knew what He was about to do.  He knew that this was not Lazarus' end.  So why did Jesus cry?  If Jesus knew that Lazarus was about to be alive in a few minutes, what's the reason for crying?  Remember the last time you were at a tragic funeral.  For me, it was the funeral of my cousin.  She was killed in a car accident, and it had a major impact on the whole family.  I'm not Jesus, and I couldn't raise my cousin from the dead, but even if I could, I think I still would have wept at the funeral.  Its hard - maybe impossible - to not feel grief when everyone around you, who you know and love, is consumed with grief.  Its hard not to share in their sadness.  Its hard not to be sad, firstly, for the death itself; but then its hard not to be sad because of everyone else's sense of grief.  Its impossible to say for sure if this is the reason Jesus wept.  But one thing we can say for sure, Jesus felt sadness.  Jesus was not immune to the atmosphere of grief.  Jesus was not too cold to sympathize with all his friends who had lost their dear Lazarus, even when He knew that Lazarus wasn't really lost.

Let's look at another example.  In Matthew 15:16 and Mark 7:18 we have this rhetorical question from Jesus: "Are you so dull?"  He is responding to their lack of understanding.  Now let's take it for what it is.  Its not meant to be some profound teaching.  Its not meant to be a critique on the disciples.  If we analyze it too much, we'll come to the wrong conclusion.  Jesus was simply expressing His frustration.  Its like He was saying, "what, are you guys a bunch of idiots?"  Of course we see Jesus with a halo over his head, and we think Jesus could never be affected like that.  But the fact is, Jesus was/is human.  Just as Jesus felt sadness when He wept, He also felt the frustration of having to continuously explain everything to a bunch of knuckleheads.  Who can blame Him?  If you're a decently intelligent person, you've experienced that feeling quite a bit.  And of course Jesus is way more than just a decently intelligent person.  Here we have the wisest and smartest man to ever walk the earth talking with a group of (let's be honest) not so intelligent fishermen.  His level and their level were vastly different.  Naturally, He was frustrated with them.  We see the same kind of thing in Matthew 17:17, where Jesus says, "O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?"  Then He heals the demon-possessed boy.

So what's my point?  Its really about relating to Jesus and loving Jesus.  Yeah, a lot of people "love" Jesus.  They say they do.  That's because they're taught that they're supposed to love Jesus.  Its a doctrinal statement.  Right after declaring that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, third Person of the Trinity, they say they love Jesus.  Its the correct Sunday-school answer.  But are they really expressing their true feelings?  For instance, do they love it when Jesus outwits the Pharisees and teachers of the law?  Do they really cheer Him on like "yay, one for the home team"?  Are they in awe of His wisdom?  Or how about His wisdom being used to save the life of an adulteress (literally, He saved her life)?  Do the stories, the teachings, the wisdom, the wit, the character, and the human expressions of Jesus have an affect on them, so that they really do love Him, or are they just making another doctrinal statement?  I think its important that we relate to Jesus.  I know for myself that my whole faith in Christ is founded upon who He is, and how I've been able to relate to Him and learn from Him.  The words in the Bible, particularly those in red, are just magical to me.  I don't care whether I'm supposed to say that or not, or whether its the right kind of churchy thing to say.  I say it because it really is.  It is my experience from reading the Bible and learning about Jesus.  I would say to anyone who is just beginning, you do not have to love Jesus, but you do have to get to know Jesus.  First, actually learn who Jesus is.  Read all about Him.  Then, once you know Him, you will naturally love Him.  You will not love Him because you have to.  You will love Him simply because He is so lovely.

I realize that this blog post has not done the title justice.  I said, "Anger, Compassion, Love, Frustration and Weeping," and I certainly did not cover all of those emotions in the couple examples I gave.  But the rest are there, believe me.  Its a great opportunity to go through the gospels and pay attention to all the different times when Jesus is expressing His feelings.  Its a great way to relate to Jesus.  Its a great way to get to know Jesus.  And its a great way to learn to love Jesus.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

On The Road to Emmaus: Recognizing the Lord

Could it be possible that Jesus is really with us, but we fail to see it?  It wouldn't be the first time.  Luke's gospel provides us with a wonderful story, which illustrates for us a profound truth.  This from the NIV:

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, What are you discussing together as you walk along?"
They stood still, their faces downcast.  One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
"What things?"  he asked.
"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied.  "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.  The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.  And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.  In addition, some of our women amazed us.  They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body.  They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.  Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."
He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.  But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over."  So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"  Luke 24:13-32

Jesus was hidden from these two disciples, and only revealed to them well after their encounter with Him.  He was revealed to them in two ways: initially when He taught them the Scriptures, and finally when He broke the bread and gave it to them.  They did not at first recognize Him, nor even after He taught them the Scriptures, but their hearts were burning inside them.  In other words, they intuitively knew something was different about this guy.  There was something profound about all He said, but they didn't know what it was. They could not quite put a finger on it.

What about us today?  Do we think Jesus is not with us, but in fact He is with us in disguise?  Or do we falsely believe that He is with us?  We do not know what He looks like, and we know that He is no longer on earth in bodily form.  But He tells us in the Great Commission that He will always be with us; its a promise given to disciples of Christ.  So if we are truly disciples of Jesus, He is with us.  But how is He with us, if not in bodily form?  A simple answer would be the Holy Spirit; that is to say, He is with us in spirit, that His Spirit is in us.  While that is true if we are truly His, I believe there's a lot more to be said about Jesus being with us and around us.

In Matthew 25 Jesus gives us the parable of the sheep and the goats.  The sheep and the goats represent the righteous and the wicked on judgement day.  And when He says to them "you did this for Me" or "you did not do this for Me", they reply, "when did we (not) do x, y and z?"  He says that whatever they did do, or did not do, for the least of His brothers, they did or did not do for Him.  So in effect, He was in disguise as a poor man, a hungry man, homeless, prisoner, etc.  There we have a clear example of Jesus being with us and among us, and our opportunity to do for Him some service or kindness; and often we fail to recognize Him or the opportunity.

How else might Jesus be with us and we fail to see it?  I think there's a clue in the story itself.  The disciples remark that their hearts were burning inside them when He was explaining the Scripture.  Have you ever had that moment when something profound is being revealed to you?  Or when you discover the truth of something that seems too good to be true, but you know that it is true?  I've had that feeling.  To say that my "heart was burning" inside me, would certainly be accurate.  This is the affect that God's word has on a believer, when one comes to understand His word.  The final piece to this puzzle is so obvious, its at the beginning of John's gospel.  He plainly states that the Word was in the beginning, with God and was God Himself.  He then clarifies who the Word is, when he later says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  The Word among us...  Tell me, was the Word among the two disciples heading to Emmaus?  And to speak of the flesh, which at that time was disguised, would be to miss the point.  Jesus does not have to be the pretty bearded man with long hair.  In fact, we don't know what Jesus actually looked like.  If we portray Him in a painting, it is sure to be wrong.  But what we do know, is what Jesus said.  In other words, we can see and hear the words of Jesus, just like these two disciples.  They were shown an image of Jesus that was not accurate - and so too are we - but their hearts burned inside them when He taught them the Scriptures.  I pray the same may be said of us.

Finally, Jesus is revealed to them when He breaks the bread and gives it to them.  Jesus calls Himself the "bread of life" and the "bread of God" in the sixth chapter of John.  The bread that He breaks and gives to them in our story, I believe, is symbolic of this.  It is no coincidence that they finally see Him only after receiving the bread.  This bread is symbolic of many things; firstly, Jesus Himself.  It is also symbolic of God's word, and the Holy Spirit, along with the ability to understand God's word.  Understanding is the inner eye; just as Jesus speaks of the teachers of the law, how they read the Scriptures but want to kill the Messiah the Scriptures foretell.  He speaks to them in parables so that "though seeing, they do not see".  And if the bread symbolizes eternal life, then we will see Jesus in person, and finally know the appearance of Jesus, after we have obtained our immortal bodies/eternal life.

Being fooled by impostors

Conversely, we can take this story as a warning.  If its possible to be walking with Jesus without recognizing Him, it may be possible to be walking with an impostor, thinking we really are walking with Jesus.  Jesus warns us in Matthew 24 to beware of false christs, and says that many will come.  We can easily refer this to people who claim to be some kind of messiah or savior.  I know of one who has made his claim in the last decade or so, who lives somewhere in Russia and has some thousands of followers.  That's all the detail necessary, lest we give a false christ more fame.  But the more common false christ, I believe, are those religious traditions and doctrines that are falsely called Christian.  Jesus gives us a warning in Luke 13, when He talks about entering through the narrow door.  He says that many will be left outside the kingdom, begging Him to enter, but He will say, "I do not know you."  They reply, "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets."  Again He says that He does not know them.  Think about it.  Are we to suppose that these many were all followers of some cult leader who claimed to be Christ?  Its far more likely that these were regular mainline church attenders.  We're talking about the many, not the fringes of society.  There are plenty of churches, plenty of church doctrines and traditions, and plenty of church preachers, who are false christs, and who falsely claim to be Christian.  Again, we are not recognizing Jesus, if we are fooled by the counterfeit christs.  The only way to recognize a counterfeit is to know the real.

My challenge for you is to seek to know Jesus.  Not to go seeking Him through any human agency.  Not to suppose that your worship leader, pastor or youth leader are necessarily revealing Jesus to you.  But to go directly to the source.  To look at what Jesus actually said.  To discern Jesus by the words and the wisdom written/spoken.  To want to feel your heart burning inside you, which will only happen when you're hearing directly from Jesus Himself.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Catechism of Revelation 2 and 3 (The Seven Churches)

Q: What are the seven churches in Revelation?
A: In the literal sense they are seven churches, which were located in seven cities in Asia Minor in the first century.  The real meaning of the seven churches, however, is in the typological sense.  They represent churches throughout the church age (from the time of Jesus' first coming to His second), given to us in chronological order.  Together they represent the entire Church of Christ.
Q: How do we know that the true meaning is typological?
A: A number of details in Revelation 2 and 3 do not make sense within the literal meaning.  A literal ten day persecution would be pretty insignificant, especially if some are to be thrown in prison for ten days.  Jezebel cannot be literal, since she was long dead at the time it was written.  Jesus would not have warned the church in Sardis of His return in vain, given that the literal church in Sardis no longer exists and Jesus has not returned.  A literal open door is meaningless.  Jesus would not have falsely promised the church in Philadelphia that the Jews would worship before their feet, since the literal church in Philadelphia no longer exists and the Jews never worshiped before them.
A2: Jesus repeatedly tells us, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."  This phrase means that there is a deeper meaning to the text, which only "he who has an ear" can hear.
Q: What is the church in Ephesus?
A: The church in Ephesus is the first century church.
Q: What does it mean that they have lost their first love?
A: They began from a great height.  The apostles were performing miracles, there was much excitement, and their love for Jesus was hot.  As the century wore on, the miracles were fewer, the excitement was less, and consequently their love grew cold.
Q: What does Jesus commend them for?
A: They hate everything that is evil and false.  They test those who claim to be apostles but are not, and found them to be false.  Only at the time, when there were apostles, was there widespread claims of apostleship, and many of them false.
Q: What is the church in Smyrna?
A: The church in Smyrna is the persecuted church in the first few centuries.
Q: What is the synagogue of Satan?
A: It is those who insulted and falsely accused early Christians.  They were Jews outwardly but not inwardly; and for that reason were not Jews though they claimed to be Jews (Romans 2:28-29).
Q: What is the ten days of persecution?
A: The ten days of persecution represent ten major persecutions in early church history.  Church tradition holds that there were ten major persecutions, with each being named by the ruling emperor of the time.  The first was Nero, and the last was Diocletian.
Q: What is the church in Pergamum?
A: The church in Pergamum is the mixed church that came after the Edict of Milan.
Q: Why is it called the mixed church?
A: They mixed Christian religion with pagan religion, and allowed a number false teachings to find a place in the church.
Q: What are the days of Antipas?
A: Even after the Edict of Milan there was persecution against Christians, especially in Persia.  Jesus commends them for their faithful witness, at a time of transition from persecution to peace.
Q: Where is Satan's throne, where they live?
A: Rome.  After the Edict of Milan the Roman Empire increasingly became a safe place for the church, so Rome became the home, in a manner of speaking, of the church.
Q: What is the church in Thyatira?
A: The church in Thyatira is the Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox churches.
Q: When did this church begin?
A: Over a period of time around the seventh and eighth centuries, alongside the emergence of the papacy.
Q: Who or what is Jezebel?
A: Jezebel is the Vatican.  It claims to be a prophetess by claiming to speak on Jesus' behalf.  It leads many Christians into the sins of idolatry and sexual immorality by its false teachings.
Q: Who are Jezebel's offspring?
A: Those who call the Vatican "Mother Church".  The true Church of Christ cannot be called mother, because the Bible only speaks of it as a virgin pledged to Christ, and because the Church is not the mother of the saints, rather the Church is the saints.
Q: Is there a mother of the saints?
A: Yes.  To find out who or what that is, a person ought to read Revelation 12.
Q: What does Jesus commend the church in Thyatira for?
A: Their faithfulness, hard work and perseverance.  For many long years Catholics and Orthodox have built cathedrals, set up hospitals and schools, defended the faith with apologetics, established monasteries and many other things.
Q: What is the church in Sardis?
A: The church in Sardis is the Reformers and Protestants.
Q: Why does He say that they have a reputation for being alive, but are dead?
A: Reformed and Protestant history gives them this reputation, but a closer look and the reality is much different.
Q: Why does He tell them to wake up and strengthen what remains?
A: The awakening part deals with their spiritual sleep.  The Great Awakening may be a hint to this command.  But it was an awakening that didn't last; this is why the word 'revival' is popular amongst Protestants.  He tells them to strengthen what remains because they have allowed their churches to become weakened and compromising, and because their deeds are lacking.  The lack of good deeds is likely a result of Sola Gratia and Sola Fide doctrines.
Q: What does Jesus commend them for?
A: Jesus acknowledges that there are some in Sardis who are righteous.
Q: What is the time frame for the church in Sardis?
A: From the beginning of the Protestant Reformation to the present day.
Q: What is the church in Philadelphia?
A: The church in Philadelphia is emerging.  Its hard to identify because it has no name or designation like past churches.  It is still too early to know what it will ultimately be know as, other than Philadelphia.
Q: What is the open door that no one can shut?
A: The open door that no one can shut is the internet.
Q: How does the internet serve the church in Philadelphia as an open door?
A: The church in Philadelphia does not have the strength to grow or accomplish God's purpose by conventional means.  The internet makes communication easy, and communication is the primary mission of a Christian.  The internet is a door through which we meet other people, listen and speak, and communicate pertinent messages.  A portal, you might say, between one keyboard and the rest of the world.
Q: Why does Jesus give them this gift?
A: Because they have kept His word and not denied His name.  No one can make better use of the internet than the person who has kept the word of God.
Q: What is the synagogue of Satan?
A: Those who claim to be children of the promise, in a figurative sense, "Jews".  They are the Muslims; the Islamic world.
Q: When will Jesus make them worship before the feet of the church in Philadelphia?
A: In relative terms, soon.
Q: What is the church in Laodicea?
A: A church that has not yet come.
Q: What is the time frame for this church?
A: About a century prior to Jesus' return, up until His return.
Q: Why do they say they are rich?
A: Because the world at that time will have enjoyed a number of years of peace and prosperity, and they will have grown very wealthy in a physical sense.
Q: Why does Jesus call them wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked?
A: Because their spiritual condition is impoverished.  As it often happens, the physical wealth will have corrupted them.  They will no longer trust in God or seek Him.  And they will become distanced from Him, which ultimately results in the great apostasy that Paul speaks of (2Thessalonians 2:1-12), which happens right before the return of Christ and the end of the age.
Q: Why does Jesus say that He is about to spit them out of His mouth?
A: Jesus is alluding to the great apostasy and the coming of the lawless one (antichrist).  The tribulation period, in which Christians are threatened with death unless they deny Christ, will cause the vast majority of those in the church of Laodicea, who are lukewarm, to deny Christ.  So they will have been cast out (spit out) of the kingdom of God.
Q: Is there any significance to the time frame of these churches?
A: There does seem to be a symmetrical order to the chronology of these churches.  The first (Ephesus) and the last (Laodicea) are only about a century in duration.  The one in the middle (Thyatira) has the longest duration, which is a millennium or more.  Smyrna and Philadelphia, which are symmetrically opposite, both seem to be about two or three centuries.  And Pergamum and Sardis, which are symmetrically opposite, both are about four centuries.  Perhaps there is a reason for the apparent symmetry of the time frame.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Holy Spirit

God accomplishes His purposes in and through us by His Spirit.  Its important for us to understand a few things concerning the Holy Spirit.

1) A believer is saved if he is born of the Spirit.  This is what it means to be born again.  This makes -all- the difference in a person or a church.  Unless a person has the Holy Spirit inside him, he is not born again and not saved.  This is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

2) A person does not receive the Holy Spirit except by the will of God.  There is no singular determining factor except the will of God.  There is no clear time at which the Holy Spirit indwells a person, except for a few times recorded in the book of Acts.  The coming and going of the Holy Spirit is like the wind; its hard to know when and where.

3) Baptism is not required to receive the Holy Spirit.  There is at least one example in the Bible of a person we -know- received the Holy Spirit before being baptized (that being Cornelius and his household, Acts 10).

4) Speaking in tongues is not required to prove the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In the book of Acts the Holy Spirit manifested different tongues/languages in some people for His own purposes.  God has a plan for all of human history, and the examples of tongues in Acts are one piece of that plan.  To show His power and to announce His presence, the Holy Spirit manifested tongues.  But nowhere in the Bible, which the Holy Spirit authored, did He tell us that this would happen every time.

5) The one clear indication that a person has the Holy Spirit inside him is the fruit of the Spirit.  Jesus taught us that a good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A tree is recognized by its fruit.  So we can recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit by seeing the fruit of the Spirit.

6) The Holy Spirit is essential.  While there may be a lot that we don't understand about the Holy Spirit, as they say, "God works in mysterious ways," there are some things that He has revealed to us.  What we do know about the Spirit, its important for us to talk about and understand.  It is also very important for us to understand the false doctrines about the Holy Spirit, so that we can counter them.  False doctrines about the Holy Spirit are very pernicious and destructive; we must teach/preach the truth concerning the Holy Spirit, from the Bible, as much as He has revealed Himself to us.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Christian Republic Pt3

In my previous note I talked about how the US could become a Christian republic.  Now I'm going to talk about what I believe will actually happen.

I have said a number of times already, the condition in the US is pretty dire.  Worse than anything else, there is an overall immorality in the US.  And if divine judgement were to come to America, God would be just in doing so.  Will judgement come to America?  I believe so.  God rebukes and disciplines those He loves, because correction is better than blessing.  America has already been blessed with great abundance and power, but that blessing will be the world's curse if America continues down the path of evil.  I believe, in the context of a number of other things, something major will happen in the US within the next three years.  A nuclear attack against the US, targeting major cities like DC, NYC and LA.  Now let me describe that context, so that it may make some sense.

I have written already about the connection between the white horseman and the USA; you can read it here:  In short, the US is the white horse and rider of Revelation 6:1-2.  The question is, has the US conquered what it will conquer and is now on the decline, or has it only just begun?  There's more prophecy to know and understand to fit this all together.  Just like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of prophecy must be put together in a way that makes sense.  They all relate to the same timeline.

The blessing of the church in Philadelphia
Jesus tells John to write to seven churches in Asia Minor.  In truth, to the angels of each church.  This is in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.  The key to understanding these letters is understanding what the churches represent.  They are, literally speaking, seven cities and churches in Asia Minor in the first and second centuries.  But these churches prefigure churches throughout the church age.  Each one is prominent in succession.  Ephesus in the first century.  Smyrna in the second and third centuries.  Pergamum in the fourth to seventh centuries.  Thyatira as the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches throughout the middle ages until today.  Sardis as the Protestant churches from the Protestant Reformation until today.  Philadelphia as a church that is just now emerging in the world.  And Laodicea has yet to come.  In His letter to the angel of Philadelphia there is a promise of blessing.  He says that the synagogue of Satan, which there represents Islam, will come and worship at their feet, and acknowledge that He has loved them.  This can be interpreted as a physical blessing, since they acknowledge it; it must be something seen by those who oppose Christians.  Today Muslims persecute Christians throughout the world more than any other religion or entity.  But God will turn this around sometime soon.  How?  There's another prophecy to answer that.

The war of Gog
 In the 38th and 39th chapters of Ezekiel he describes an incredible war in which God pours out His wrath on the enemies of Israel.  Gog, which must represent something else since Gog is the name of an early patriarch, brings out its entire military force to invade the land of Israel, along with a number of other nations with it.  And when they have surrounded Israel with a military force immensely large, God pours out His wrath on them in spectacular fashion.  Why does He do this?  His purpose is stated in the last verse of 38: "So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations.  Then they will know that I am the LORD."  God will demonstrate His existence, and the fact that He is the God of Israel - the God of the Bible - by pouring out His wrath in a supernatural way.  You can see what it is by reading the whole passage.  Even fire comes down from heaven, and this is not to be interpreted as a nuclear attack or anything man-made. Whatever the fire is, it is something supernatural, so as to prove that it is God who defends Israel.  So He reveals Himself to the nations, and He greatly humbles the Muslim nations, both by proving their error, and by defeating many Muslim nations in one stroke.  Gog is actually the nation of Turkey; it was there in Asia Minor that Gog settled.  Meshech and Tubal also settled in the land that is now Turkey, so its clear that Gog signifies Turkey, and its no coincidence that Turkey has begun to be more hostile towards Israel.  As for the other nations that attack Israel along with Gog, they are simply the Muslim nations surrounding Israel: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Iraq.  This is precisely how God will humble the Muslim nations, and make them acknowledge that God has loved the Christians.  In other words, the tables will be turned completely, and the Christians who are now persecuted in Muslim nations will be handed the authority of all these nations.  They will go from prisons to palaces.  So the question is, when will this happen?  To answer that we must go to another prophecy.
The seventy sevens prophecy
 In the 9th chapter of Daniel there's a prophecy called the seventy weeks, or seventy sevens, prophecy.  It predicts, some say the first coming of Jesus, others say the second coming of Jesus.  I believe it most specifically predicts the second coming of Jesus for two reasons.  One, because there was never an edict to exactly rebuild and restore Jerusalem before Jesus' first coming.  There were edicts like it, like one to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and another to rebuild the temple, but there was never an edict to rebuild Jerusalem itself.  And the timing is not exact to the year either, no matter which edict you base it on.  The other reason is that the antichrist is clearly referred to in the prophecy, in verses 26 and 27.  The interesting thing about these seventy weeks, which most people agree represent Sabbath Years (seven year periods), is how they are divided up.  Daniel divides them up into 7 sevens, 62 sevens, and one final seven, which is the period of the tribulation.  Its a wonder why he has to divide it up into 7 sevens and 62 sevens.  He hints at the reason for the final seven in verse 27, that is, its the tribulation period that is spoken of in Revelation.  But he gives absolutely no reason, or even a hint, for the division of 7 sevens and 62 sevens.  I have a theory for what it is.

Let me start with the edict itself.  In the spring of 1969, only two years after the Six Days War in which Israel captured Jerusalem for the first time in modern history, the Israeli Knesset passed a resolution that formed the Jewish Quarter Development Company.  Its mission was to rebuild and restore the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem.  Here is its website:  I believe this was the exact edict that Daniel prophesies.  And the reason for the division of 7 sevens and 62 sevens?  It must signify something important.  If we start with the edict of 1969, and we add 49 years to that (7 sevens), it brings us to the year 2018.  It also happens to be the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel as a sovereign nation.  An interesting coincidence.  And why not, if this signifies something major, the war of Gog?  The events of Ezekiel chapters 36 through the end of the book are in chronological order.  Chapters 36 and 37 foretell of the return of the Jews to the land of Israel (that has happened, and continues to happen, in the exact way that Ezekiel describes).  Chapters 38 and 39 foretell the war of Gog.  And the rest of the book describes a temple that has never been built (the third temple).  Its interesting, because if its in chronological order, which it certainly seems to be, then the next thing to happen is the war of Gog.  And since the return of Jews to the land of Israel, and the prosperity of the land of Israel, has, for the most part, been fulfilled, it would seem that the war of Gog is just around the corner.  Indeed it is.  If God gave Israel 70 years of exile, why would He not choose 70 years from the founding of Israel to the great turning point - the war of Gog?  You see, all of these things come together to strongly suggest that 2018 is the precise year in which Turkey (Gog) will lead middle-eastern nations on a massive invasion of Israel (we all know they hate Israel).  And when this happens, all of the people on the earth will see the most extraordinary thing in all their life.  God will reveal Himself to the nations.  God will pour out His wrath on the enemies of Israel in a way unimaginable.  Woe to the enemies of Israel; as the scripture says, do not touch the apple of His eye.  Let us consider now what the world will be like following this massive turning point in world history.

A new world order
There will literally be a new world order.  Its no surprise, Israel will be at the head of this order.  God will reveal Himself to Israel as well, and they will - those who haven't yet - come to know that Jesus is Messiah and their King.  By this Jews and Christians will join together and have exactly the same faith/religion.  So God will be above Israel and dictate what Israel does by His Holy Spirit.  Israel will rule over all the nations of the world, but not directly.  You see, Israel will have authority over the United States, and the United States will conquer all of the world and have authority over the nations.  Even now Israel has considerable influence over the United States.  Look on the dollar bill, on the obverse of the Great Seal, and above the eagles head you will find the Star of David; it is a symbol of what I'm talking about (read Isaiah 55:5).  The United States is the conquering horseman of Revelation 6:2, and it will go out and conquer.  But itself will be conquered by Israel, and has much already been conquered by Israel.  Not by violence, but by Providence.  So Israel will rule over the nations through the United States, and God will rule over Israel, and the rule of Israel will bring peace to the world, and a general benevolence.  Notice how the next horseman in the series, the red horseman, takes peace from the earth?  This implies that there was peace on the earth to begin with.  When that happens, there will be much warfare.  But until then, while this new world order is intact, the world will enjoy peace.  Notice also that "NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM" (New World Order) is written on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States (the first seal of Revelation).

And what will Israel and the United States do when they have power over all the earth?  I will tell you.  They will hand over authority to the Christians.  No pretending not to play favorites.  No pretending not to be biased.  Those who suffered persecution in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, they will be brought out of the prisons and put into the palaces (maybe not literally a palace, but anyway).  The Christians will be handed authority in every nation.  There will be a temple built in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem will be the capital of all Christendom.  Israel will be at the head of all Christians on earth, and Jesus will rule over Israel.  America will be the strong-arm of Israel, and America will enforce the rule of Christians in every nation.  So the prophecy in Revelation 3:9 will come true.  Indeed, those who have opposed Christianity will acknowledge that He has loved us.  But to Christians, beware of wealth, because it corrupts people.  Beware of success in this world, because it can water down a person's faith.  Notice how the following church, the church in Laodicea, is lukewarm, and they say they don't need God because they are rich.  Ultimately this is what the blessing God bestows on Philadelphia will lead to, but may we postpone it as long as possible.  May we enjoy peace and prosperity, and not let it distract us from devotion to God.  May we serve God only, and not give in to the deceitfulness of wealth.

Now let me return to where I started.  As you can see, there is a ton of blessing that is about to come.  But did I start this note speaking of blessing?  I started it by speaking of judgement that will come on America.  Horrible judgement.  The kind that will make 9/11 look like a paper cut.  9/11 killed thousands, but I fear the next attack on America will kill millions.  The War of Gog will happen in 2018, and that is when everything will change.  But until then, there is a period of tribulation we must endure.  There is a period of increasing wickedness that we are experiencing now.  There is a time of judgement that will come on America.  In some sense, the night is darkest right before the dawn.  Things will get better, but be ready for some very hard times ahead. 


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.