Get Your Skates On


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So the service of the house of the Lord was set in order. 36 Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced that God had prepared the people, since the events took place so suddenly.

2 Chronicles 29:29

 

It never ceases to amaze me the level of hostility directed at those who believe in the taking up of the Church before the Tribulation period.  It’s been called ‘The Rapture’ and that is how it is known by those whose faith is in the knowledge that God will cause a means of escape for His people.  In fact, God has been giving His people a means of escape for ever.  He provided animal skins for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. This is believed to be the first animal sacrifice for their sins.  He provides a way of escape from temptation.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

He provided a way of escape for the Israelites when He first of all gave the instruction to place the blood on the lintels and doorposts of their houses so the Angel of Death would not visit them.  He also later provided a way of escape from Egypt through the Red Sea.

He will likewise provide a way for His people to escape in the end times.

36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Luke 21:36 NKJV

There are multitudes of pages on the internet describing the reason for the belief that Dispensational Theology is scriptural and was accepted and preached by the early believers, Paul included.  There are just as many pages which would like to discredit that belief.  Honestly? If you have a different eschatalogical belief, by all means make your case, but what is the point of attacking others who have different beliefs.  In my opinion this is just more proof to me that the great falling away has begun.  Men, who previously simply had their own opinions, now seek to not just discredit but besmirch anyone who thinks differently to them.  And Dispensational Theology along with Pre-Tribulation Rapture has been historically vindicated, it is not some sudden onset Darby-esque revelation given by a child ‘prophet’.  That is a straw man argument which I am not going to go into here, but suffice to say anyone with any intellectual integrity will go to the source of these rumours and deal with what they find there. But this is not the main point of this post.

There are many who believe the rapture is soon and they are getting all excited about it.  There are many who, every year right about now, start setting dates.  They do not do any good for the rest of us by making these ridiculous appointments.  We DO NOT know the day or the hour.  What about this is hard to accept?

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,[e] but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour[f] your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Matthew 24 NKJV

Yet the date setting continues and probably will even after the Rapture has occurred.  The whole point of an imminent return of Christ, or rather, an imminent catching up, which is what the actual term means, is that we will not know the exact date, and we need to ready ourselves.  If you read the scripture at the top of the page, which comes from 2 Chronicles, you will note that God prepared the people because the ‘events took place suddenly’.  The Rapture is one of those events that God will cause to happen suddenly.  In fact, it will be so sudden, it is described as happening in the twinkling of an eye.  Not a blink, not a wink, a twinkling.

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed

1 Corinthians 15  NKJV

The issue here is immanency. If we don’t know the day or the hour we are expected to be prepared.  When Hezekiah renovated the Temple which lay in disuse and disarray with all kinds of rubbish and blasphemous desecration within it, he also called the priests and Levites to be ready to begin to make sacrifice for the whole of Israel.

Hezekiah’s words to the priests were “My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him and that you should minister to Him and burn incense. (2 Chron.29:11).

The first thing King Hezekiah did was to restore the Temple.  Specifically, in the first year of his reign, in the first month he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them.  The temple had lain desecrated and unused, an unthinkable thing in the days of Temple worship.  God himself dwelt in the Temple, and therefore everything that was done there was done in relation to God himself.  As they carried out the laws and ordinances that God had given for life in the Temple, their obedience showed not only God but all other nations that God lived, that His people were kept and protected by Him and that His presence was venerated and worshiped by His people, the ones He had chosen.  It was not just a mark of respect, it was a sign of love for God.  To not just turn away from God but to have the whole nation despise the Temple in such a way was to prove that even the sacred, even the elect were no longer pure.  It is like saying salt is no longer salty or light is now darkness.  Therefore, Hezekiah, like Nehemiah after him, saw to it that the Temple was restored first and foremost, and like Nehemiah, he dealt with the gates and doors first. But his actions were obviously not expected because everbody, as well as everything, lay in disarray and in a state of unpreparedness.

They had to move their annual events around a bit to make way for the cleansing of the Temple and preparing the priests.  Later in this chapter it says that “the Levites were more diligent in sanctifying themselves than the priests” (v 34). The priests who were supposed to function in the temple were not ready, therefore their brethren, the Levites, were called upon to help them in their work.  This is an interesting verse.  It is the preparedness of the workers in the Temple which determined how fast the work was done. The tribe of Levi was the tribe from which the Priests of the Temple were chosen, but not all Levites were priests, they were all given a tithe, but they did not all do the special work of the priests in the Temple with regard to sacrifices etc.  See here for further reading regarding the differences. 

Like the Levites, believers are called to prepare themselves to go before the presence of the Lord. In the earthly Temple, if a Priest was not found to be sanctified when he entered the Holy of Holies, he would die.  It was the reason they used to tie a rope around his ankle so that if he did perchance drop dead, they could drag his body out of the Holy of Holies without having to go in and risk death themselves. We Christians tend to think of God and the Rapture and Heaven itself as being a kind of rest camp.  But we forget that God is holy and cannot look upon sin.  That is why He sent Jesus to take the punishment of our sin.  We may not be sent to Hell, but we will be judged for our works. Ostensibly, Ananias and Sapphira were believers yet they were judged for lying to the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 5.  We will still need to consider whether we are ‘worthy to escape’ meaning not that we will need to be perfect but that we will be sanctified.  We are called to ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling’. The book of Revelation contains warnings from Jesus to the churches to ensure that they will ‘endure to the end’ and that in some cases their names will still be in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  This is a serious warning.  We need to be examining our lives with a view to the catching up of the body of Christ.

 

 

 

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The Dumbing Down of Christianity

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We are supposed to be lights in the darkness.

But the light of most of the evangelical church today is shrouded by deception, false teaching and an almost joyful embrace with the world.

You might say that this has always been the case.

Paul had to talk to Peter about sucking up to the Judaizers.  Paul also warned us about false teachers, false Christs, false brethren and so on.  Jesus, when asked by his disciples about the signs of the end times, told them to see to it that they were not deceived.  But deception comes on quiet feet.  It moves imperceptibly.  One minute you are in a loving caring environment with free preaching of the gospel and a joy in the new life you have been given through Christ’s death and resurrection.  Next you are being told who to marry, what job to do and where to live.  We have seen it happen.

The one and only provision against a false gospel is to know the true gospel.

The one and only provision against the invasion of the world into your church is to ensure that you are walking in the Spirit on a daily basis.  We need to pray, we need to fight and we need to stay alert.  It has ever been the case.

But what happens when pastors, elders and congregation members are willing to have all kinds of false teaching walk into their church and are not willing to question or to speak against what is in many cases a blatant heresy?  It means that people have become lazy.  They have become unwilling to guard their hearts, and the lives and families of their friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.  We need to ensure that the checks and balances of our lives are being checked and balanced.

The problem is that too many congregations and individuals are not checking because they feel safe.  They feel comfortable.  They feel that it is somebody else’s job to do the checking and they don’t want to stick their necks out.  Nor do they want to have to do their own research and reading.  They don’t want to have to think that it’s all down to them. But if we are going to maintain our integrity as Christians, we need to recognise that maturation as believers involves looking out for the souls of others.  We need to be our brother’s keeper.  We don’t take responsibility for their lives of course, only God does that.  But we do keep watch, we do speak out when we see somebody about to fall, and we walk in love.

The apostle John talked of a love for the brethren.  He said that if we don’t have that love, then the love of God is not in us.  It is a staggering thought.  The thing is that our love for our brethren is only there because God’s love dwells in us.  It is in fact the love of God itself which loves any of us, our own human affection is not capable of loving as God loves.  In fact, left to our own devices, most of us would not fellowship with each other at all. We are not brought together by mutual interests as every other group in the world is.  We are brought together by the love of God and the salvation of Jesus Christ.  We are new creations.  We are something completely different to every other human being on the earth. Therefore, this life which is born in us compels us to do things we would not naturally do.  Not only that, but our hearts are changed.  Our hearts now love whereas before they did not love others they only loved ourselves and those we deemed worthy of that love.

So why do so many Christians think nothing of joining themselves together with the world?  We cannot join with unbelievers.  We who love cannot be joined to those who do not love.  We are of a different nature. We cannot join light with darkness, there is no grey area, there is only light and lack of light.  There is not a place where both co-exist. We may think that twilight can count as light. But we are wrong.  Twilight is the recession of light, it proves the moving away from the light, not the source of light. And if we have the light within us, then there can be no twilight.  Everywhere we go there is light.  But if we choose to join with the world and shade the light with our own flesh, there is nowhere else to go.  The trouble with this is that we don’t often even know we are doing it.

It happens imperceptibly.

You ignore the still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking so quietly about something which you know is wrong.  You hush the voice of your conscience, you go about doing what you know you shouldn’t do.  Then you do it again.  Then you keep doing it. Finally the voice is silenced, but it doesn’t go away.  If you keep doing that enough and keep doing it every time the Holy Spirit speaks, you will grieve the Holy Spirit and He will eventually stop speaking at all.  Before you are aware of it, He will retreat to some place where you are not, and finding God will be that much harder next time. Not impossible, but not without difficulty.  If you are not quick to remedy the breach, the breach will grow wider.  Eventually your whole life becomes so backslidden that you no longer have a desire to even pray.  You push it away and don’t think that it is even important.

Soon you will get to a place where you can comfortably call yourself ‘Christian’ because you still go to church, even if  it is only now and again, but you are actually living in the world and you have become ‘of’ the world.  Soon, all that will be left is an empty shell and even that will only have a passing resemblance to anything religious.  You will have a ‘form’ of godliness without any of its power.  And what is the power of godliness?  Is it holiness?  Is it faith?

I will let Charles Spurgeon answer this question.

Let us now remember what they did not have. They had “the form” of godliness. But they were denied “the power.” What is that power? God Himself is the power of godliness; the Holy Spirit is the life and force of it. Godliness is the power which brings a man to God and binds him to Him; godliness is that which creates repentance towards God and faith in Him; godliness is the result of a great change of heart in reference to God and His character. Godliness looks towards God and mourns its distance from Him. Godliness hastens to draw near and rests not till it is at home with God. Godliness makes a man like God; godliness leads a man to love God and to serve God. It brings the fear of God before his eyes and the love of God into his heart. Godliness leads to consecration, to sanctification, to concentration.
The godly man seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and expects other things to be added to him. Godliness makes a man commune with God, and gives him a partnership with God in His glorious designs. And so it prepares him to dwell with God forever. Many who have the form of godli-ness are strangers to this power, and so are in religion, worldly, in prayer mechanical, in public one thing and in private another. True godliness lies in spiritual power and they who are without this are dead while they live.
What is the general history of those who have not this power? Well, dear friends, their course usually runs thus—they do not begin with denying the power but they begin by trying to do without it. They would like to become members of the church and as they fear that they are not fit for it, they look about for something which looks like conversion and the new birth. They try to persuade themselves that they have been changed—they accept emotion as regeneration and a belief of doctrine for belief in Christ. It is rather hard at first to reckon brass as gold, but it grows easier as it is persisted in. Patching up a conversion, and manufacturing regeneration, they venture forward. At the first they are a good deal suspicious of themselves, but they industriously kill every question by treating it as a needless doubt. Thus, by degrees, they believe a lie. The next step is easy—they deceive themselves and come to believe that they are surely saved. All is now right for eternity, so they fancy. And they fold their arms in calm security. Meeting with godly people, they put on a bold front and speak up as bravely as if they were the true soldiers of King Jesus. Good people are charmed to meet with fresh brethren, and at once take them into their confidence; thus they deceive others and help to strengthen themselves in their false hope.
Spurgeon talks about those who have had a false conversion, and it is these ones who contribute to the darkness in the congregation.  But I am talking about those who fall away from the faith through lack of attention to their relationship with God and also, it pains me to say, the lack of due diligence by those around them.  If you see a brother or sister falling away, say something.  Don’t just assume that its none of your business.  Is it your business if somebody else’s child is in the middle of the road and about to be run over by a car?  No sane human being would allow the child to be run over if there is life in their body and strength in their limbs.  We would rush over to save them.  In the same way, we rush to save those who are about to fall and hope to appeal to their consciences.
No, in the church today, there is a lack of those who are willing to make those choices.  They don’t want to be seen as busybodies.  They don’t want to rock the boat.  It is an even worse case if pastors and elders fail to reach out, yet so many of them do.  If you go to them, they are even more hostile.  Nobody is allowed to even entreat a leader who has aligned themselves with the world or with false teaching.  You become a threat, an annoyance and a scoundrel who should mind their own business.  You make them feel uncomfortable therefore you are wrong.  There is no real desire to listen,  nor is there a desire to really consider what is being said.
Each one of us is accountable to God for our choices.  We are not responsible for somebody else’s fall from Grace.  But consider this.  Eternity is a very very long time.  And there is no end to it.  If walking with the Lord and continuing on in the faith means that you end up walking with the Lord and living with Him in Eternity and seeing your eternal reward, whatsoever that might be, then wouldn’t you rather tolerate discomfort and even a little pain now if it means your reward is greater?
There is too little preaching about heaven and hell today.  There is too little understanding of what it means to be with Jesus for all eternity.  If we took these things seriously we would not be making friends with the world, we would be looking to save them.
I leave you with the transcript of the words found on an old cassette tape in a Chinese house church in 1995 where the group were praying and bringing messages in tongues and translations.  When the tape was played back a song was being sung where there was no singing and certainly no musical instruments.  But the message was clear.  If you wish to hear the tape for yourselves you can hear it here.  It was called the Shandong miracle, and here is the translation of the message.   Jesus is returning soon.  Let us be prepared!
1. The famine is becoming more and more critical. There are more and more earthquakes. The situation is becoming more and more sinister. People are fighting against each other, nation against nation. Disasters are more and more severe.
2. The whole environment is deteriorating. Disasters are more and more severe. People’s hearts are wicked, and they do not worship the true God. Disasters are more and more severe.
3. Floods and droughts are more and more frequent. There is more and more homosexuality and incurable diseases. Disasters are more and more severe.
4. The climates are becoming more and more abnormal. The earth is more and more restless. The skies have been broken. The atmosphere is distorted. Disasters are more and more severe. Chorus: The end is near. The revelation of love has been manifested. Rise up, rise up, rescue souls. The end is near. Rise up, rise up, rescue souls.