Who Do You Say I Am?

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Who Is Jesus?

Who is he, according to the Scriptures?  Below are some key passages that speak about him, ultimately revealing his true identity.  Many more could be quoted! 

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:18-25).

“The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God…. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:16-18,35-36). 

Jesus answered her [the Samaritan woman], “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” … The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” … And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:10,13-14,25-26,41-42). 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” … After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God ” (John 6:47-51,66-69). 

‘The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple’ (John 8:52-59). 

“Then Moses said to God [at the burning bush], “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘ I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:13-15).

’When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed”’ (John 17:1-5).

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,  being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11). 

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:15-20). 

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. … And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:8-10,13-15). 

‘Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. … But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. … And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end”’ (Hebrews 1:1-4,8,10-12). 

‘For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain’ (2 Peter 1:16-18). 

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:1-4). 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).  

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. … And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:11-13,20). 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” … When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:8,17-18). 

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” … “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. … He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:12-13,16-17,20). 

Now, who do you say he is?

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© 2021 by C. A. Harris, MA Theological Studies

The Case for a Post-tribulation Rapture

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The Second Coming of Christ is the culmination of salvation history and will mark the beginning of the completion of the plan of God and the end of this present age. That Jesus Christ will come again is certain. “This same Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven“ (Acts 1:10-11).  According to this passage, His second coming will be personal (“This Jesus”), physical (the same way he departed), and visible (the disciples watched as Jesus ascended).  See also the following scriptures:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31). 

“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18). 

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). 

At his first coming, Jesus conquered death and won the “decisive battle“ over Satan. At his second coming Jesus will destroy “those who destroy the earth“ (Revelation 11:18) and force the enemy to lay down his arms (20:1-3).  Thus Christ will begin his kingly reign (11:17;  20:6).

The scripture does not teach that everyone on Earth will be destroyed at the battle of Armageddon. Those who are left alive at this point are not Christians, and they will enter the millennial kingdom of Christ to be ruled by and judged by him and his elect.  Particularly relevant to this transition between the tribulation, Armageddon, the Second Coming of Christ and his millennial kingdom can be found in Zechariah chapters 12-14.  

“For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. And the Lord will be king over all the earth. … On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. … Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. … And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘Holy to the Lord.’  And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar” (Zechariah 14:2-5,9,16-17,20).

It has become clear to me that God intends for his people to go through the tribulation, but he will protect Christians through the very midst of this great time of trouble, just as he protected the children of Israel during the plagues of Egypt and Noah during the great flood.  Believers will receive the “seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 7:3) to protect them from God’s wrath upon the earth. Indeed, believers are not “destined for wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).  While we will not experience the wrath of God, we have never been promised protection from persecution or the wrath of man which is a major factor during the tribulation. In Revelation 13  the beast (antichrist) is given power and authority and the throne of the dragon (Satan) for 42 months, so that everyone who would not worship the beast will be slain.  He will even be allowed to martyr the saints.  “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (v. 7-10).  

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, the Apostle Paul clarifies the timing of the rapture and Christ’s return:

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”  

From this passage we see that “the coming of Jesus and our being gathered together to him” will not come until after “the man of lawlessness” (antichrist) is revealed; and from Revelation 13 we see that the antichrist will be given authority for 3-1/2 years to demand worship of himself and to persecute and kill the saints after he is revealed.  Therefore, a post-tribulation gathering of the saints appears to be in view. 

Additionally, before the antichrist can be revealed, a restraining power must be removed.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 it says, “And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed….”  Some would suggest that the restraining power is the Church. However, the power is referred to as “he” and is masculine in the Greek.  A reference to the Church would need to be feminine. 

So, who is this “he”?  In verse six, Paul says, “you know what is restraining him now.”  The Thessalonians knew who this restrainer was.  A look in the prophetic book of Daniel gives us a clue:  “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1).  The great prince, Michael, is an archangel charged with protecting Israel.  If he is the restrainer, this would resolve the perceived need for the Church to be removed before the tribulation.

Revelation 10:7 says, “… in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”  Could this be the “last trumpet” referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (quoted above)?  And the “mystery of God” that would “be fulfilled”—could that be the Church?  If so, these would be a definite indication of the Church’s presence throughout the tribulation. In Ephesians 3:8-12 Paul writes:

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” 

Why is the pre-tribulation rapture so foundational to the evangelical community? Perhaps the Left Behind and Rapture movies and novels have done believers a great disservice by altering Christendom’s expectations of the future.  Accepting Jesus and escaping the tribulation has almost become a gospel cry unto itself. All around the world Christians are being persecuted and martyred for their faith in Christ.  For them, their tribulation is now.  Only God knows if and when we may be called upon to suffer because of our Savior, but trials and suffering are the biblical expectation for believers.  “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).  Jesus was so concerned for his followers that he alerted them in advance:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. … I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 15:18-20,16:1-3).

In 1 Peter 1:3-7, the Apostle Peter gives us the big picture for the purpose of suffering: 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 

The Apostle Paul gives us the greater view, as well, in 2 Corinthians 4:6-10,16-18:

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies…. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

To believers today Jesus Christ still says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness… For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  Should we be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus will provide us with abundant grace to endure to the end.  That is his promise. Maranatha! 

©️1994, 2021 by C. A. Harris, MA Theological Studies

This Means War

Spiritual warfare is a popular topic in Christian circles. Most of those who have written on the subject have contributed valuable information, but have stopped just short of teaching believers how to engage the enemy personally and set him to flight. I think Christians are afraid of a “hocus pocus” method, as they should be. However, I can’t help imagining Satan secretly smiling in the background as authors pass over the most important step in our battle against him.

Before I started writing this article, I asked the Lord for His guidance to bring Him honor and glory.  Then I spoke out loud to the evil ones, telling them to be gone in Jesus’ Name and quoted the Scripture, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).  This is an example of how to use our “sword of the Spirit,” the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Lest we think this is some unnecessary exercise in Bible gymnastics, quoting Scripture in this manner was done by Jesus Himself. The Lord has left us a specific example of how He personally dealt with Satan in Matthew 4, as will be explained in more detail later.

In James 4:7-8 it says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” We best not attempt the second step without the first. Our enemy would only mock us! The Apostle Paul wrote: “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Our relationship with God is of primary importance in our daily walk with Him. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). When our relationship is right with the Lord, we can resist the devil and he must flee!

For brevity’s sake, I will list below some of the thoughts that have gone into my understanding of the spiritual battle.

♦– Satan and his fallen angels are created spirit beings with distinct personalities and proclivities, motivated by malignant evil. As creations, their power and authority are limited to that designated to them by their Creator God. We must not underestimate nor overstate their intent, power, or ferocity. As a wise commander studies his enemy and his battle plan, so it would be wise to know our spiritual enemy: “we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11). This is a real battle with real casualties. Each of us is the target!

♦– Satan hates to be revealed. He operates best “in the dark.” We must not allow him that freedom. He will attempt anything in his power to keep humans from discovering his ways. Some of Satan’s “devices” or tactics are:  deception (2 John 1:7; Matthew 24:4, 11), lies (Satan is the father of lies, John 8:44), temptation (Matthew 6:13; 2 Corinthians 10:13), false visions and lying divinations (Ezekiel 13:7), Scripture (twisted or out of context, Matthew 4), false prophets (Matthew 24:11), false religions, false religious experiences, angels of “light”, dreams, physical attacks, possession, sickness, fears, unbelievably severe temptations, despair, and more.

♦– It is assumed by the Apostle John that learning to deal effectively with Satan is a normal stage in our Christian growth: “I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one … I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:13-14). Most of us have never become “young men.” Satan has worked hard at keeping us from knowing and utilizing our scriptural authority over him, and this regrettably has stunted the growth of many believers.  Also, we cannot become spiritual “fathers” until we have been “young men.” The “fathers … know Him who has been from the beginning.” A deepening and true knowledge of our Lord appears to be intimately linked with having learned to overcome the evil one. For in that learning, we cannot help but utterly despair of our own strength, only to fall into the strong arms of our Father. What grace!

♦– Although the devil is a purposeful individual, he is one under authority. Almighty God does use him to accomplish His will. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is Paul’s account of his visions of heavenly Paradise. Then he explains, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” God allowed a demon under Satan’s command to harass Paul on a permanent basis in order to keep him humble! When our Lord allows troubling conditions in our lives, we may never know the true reason behind it! But, as He promised Paul, it is also true for us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

♦– The story of Job further illustrates the sovereignty of God over the kingdom of darkness. Satan is given permission to test the Lord’s godly servant, Job, who is very wealthy and has a large and beautiful family (Job 1). Satan desperately wants to undermine Job’s character and cause him to curse God. One way he attempts this is by barraging him with a series of very personal disasters, including the death of all his children. Then Satan is granted permission to strike Job physically. This he does by covering his body with painful boils. Each time God limits how far this angelic destroyer is able to go, so that Job will not be tempted beyond what he is able to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). On top of all that, his wife urges him to curse God and die! Often times our accusations and trials can come to us through those closest to us—those we love the most. This also bears the mark of one of Satan’s schemes.

♦– I believe one reason Satan hates us so much is because we are created in the image of God, the One whom he aspired to be equal to. I am not aware of any biblical evidence that angels were created in God’s image. Though we are not, nor ever will be God, it seems plausible that our enemy is extremely jealous of our creative status and God’s eternal purpose for us.

♦– Satan and his demonic followers have been in existence since the beginning of man’s creation. They have had millenniums to observe us and our human weaknesses, both in general and individually. They may also observe family lines over generations and produce believable impersonations and factual information through mediums.

♦– Scripture says of angels, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14) It follows that if demonic watchdogs observe angels protecting a certain person, that this definitely gets their attention. I believe they would go to work doing everything they could to keep that person blind (before salvation), and to thwart their fitness or worthiness as a vessel for God’s use afterwards. It is possible that one or more demons are “assigned” to us, possibly from birth, to observe us intimately and learn how best to fashion their assault against us. If not assigned, then they definitely do observe us specifically and individually, and will use the things they observe against us later on. I have personally experienced this, and it is really very sobering!

♦– As Christians, we are new creations in Christ. When we are tempted in ways that we fell prey to in the past, I believe it is because of the very point above. The tempters know our weaknesses and what made us fall into sin before—what has, in essence, laid a familiar track to our front door. This is likely to be the track they will come down again at those “opportune moments” in our lives. Of course, they are not beneath laying the groundwork for newer, more subtle forms of temptation.

♦– Satan and his beguilers will stoop to anything to twist, malign, confuse, sidetrack, and corrupt God’s highest creation. And if the enemy’s more obvious plans of attack seem less persuasive, they will engage their covert powers of subtle seduction, beauty, and light, to entice and enlighten people “above” God’s reach forever. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Self-actualization and transcendental experiences are but a few examples of this device.

♦– We have no scriptural evidence that the angelic order can read the minds of men and women. I believe this attribute remains with God alone. Consider these wonderful words of the Psalmist:

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. . . . 
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24).

♦ Since demonic personalities cannot read our minds, in order to engage them, we should do it audibly. I have found this to be true in my own experience, time and time again. Be aware, however, that they are able to implant thoughts into our minds, which is one general avenue of temptation.

♦– Since we are new creations in Christ, demonic onslaught would take place from outside us. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). This chapter continues by instructing us regarding the weapons of spiritual warfare:

♦ “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:13-18).

♦– Jesus was sinless—perfect! Yet, He could be tempted just like us. Temptation can reach us through three avenues: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Lord has left us a specific example of how He personally dealt with Satan in Matthew 4:1-11:

The Temptation of Jesus

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, 

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’” 

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

♦ Here are some specific points worth noting about this passage:

1.  Satan waited for an opportune moment: one of physical weakness.
2.  The Father allowed Satan to tempt Christ (Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil) at a crucial moment in His life, just before His public ministry started. It is possible He might similarly “prepare” us for, and during, times of crucial ministry.
3.  Satan used three temptations aimed specifically at what he perceived Jesus’ greatest points of weakness would be.
4.  Satan used Scripture, twisted though he made it. This is probably his most subtle and malicious form of attack, judging by Whom he used it against (Jesus). Perhaps we should be most wary when we find ourselves rationalizing with Scripture.
5.  Jesus responded audibly: “But He answered and said . . . .”
6.  Jesus used the Word of God as His sword to fight against the devil: “It is written . . . .” He then quoted the most appropriate verse for the specific temptation. Herein lies one benefit (from the human standpoint) for all the years of study Jesus had done as a boy. If we hide God’s Word in our hearts, it will be there when we need it most! It would be especially wise to memorize key verses for the areas in our lives where we are the weakest and most vulnerable to attack. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
7.  Jesus finally said: “Be gone, Satan! For it is written . . . .” Then His arch-enemy left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him.

If we will follow the example of Jesus Christ, we will experience the same results. Satan left Him, and Satan and his demons will leave us, as well.

♦– In our daily prayers to God, we can be proactive in asking for help in our fight against the powers of darkness. In “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus taught us to pray, among other things, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). If the Lord Himself says we can ask, we should ask!

♦– Of course, there is no substitute for, or shame in fleeing! We could quote the Word of God all day, but if we don’t put some feet to our intentions, what good does it really do us? If we play games with Satan, we lose. If we trust in the strength of our Lord and use “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” we win (Ephesians 6:17). That is a promise from the One who never lies!

It is a powerful thing to experience the lifting of demonic oppression and to literally feel temptation set to flight. After Jesus sent out His 72 disciples to share the Gospel, they “returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’” (Luke 10:17-20).

The question is, why have we not learned to effectively use our Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? The primary reason is probably found in the second major point. Satan hates to be revealed! He likes operating in the dark, and does not like Christians to understand him, his strategies, and how he operates in the Kingdom of Darkness. Another reason, I believe, is we tend not to invest our energy in studying the Scriptures regularly and memorizing those which can help us most in combating the sin and weaknesses in our lives. Our enemy is doing everything he can to keep us in the dark about the power of the Word of God in the clean hands of forgiven people. Beyond this, perhaps we are not as aware of the reality of the two Kingdoms that exist and in which we live on a daily basis. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness are very real, and the warfare that goes on between them over the eternal souls of people is constantly ongoing and of utmost importance to every person’s eternal future.

The Word of God tells us how to protect ourselves and how to fight this battle. Perhaps quoting the Scripture out loud is new or awkward to some. When I first learned to do this, it was like the dawning of a new day in my walk with the Lord. Undergoing enemy attack can make us more like Christ (He went through it, too), mature us as believers (recall the young men and fathers analogy), develop our character, lead to perseverance, and so much more. The depths from which God is able to redeem Satan’s assaults against us and transform them into that which brings Him glory is absolutely astounding! Jesus answered the Apostle Paul’s pleas for relief from demonic attacks in this way: “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
___________________________
©1989, 2012, 2014, 2019 by Cindy A. Harris, M.A. Theological Studies

Translations used:  New International Version and English Standard Version.

True Christianity

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ is God.  In fact, you cannot truly be a Christian unless you DO believe in the Deity of Christ.  However, you can believe Jesus is God, come in the flesh, and NOT be a Christian!  There is something else at work here.

There’s a real interesting verse found in James 2:19 which says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”  This should make humans shudder, as well.  The whole demonic realm knows first hand who Jesus Christ really is — He is God, the Son!  They have lived and interacted with Him in the spiritual realm for many thousands of years.  So, what’s the difference between the knowledge the demons have of the Son of God, and the knowledge we need to become true believers in Christ?

After the baptism of Jesus and His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus began His ministry with these words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).  And, in preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming, John the Baptist preached repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  People were convicted of the sin in their lives and their need to repent, in order to be forgiven by God and receive eternal life.  The demons have never repented or followed God.

The Son of God Himself, who was Jesus Christ the Messiah, came to Earth and lived His life with us.  Fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ lived out His life before the people He created, in order to show them the way of salvation and eternal life!  Jesus suffered incomprehensibly when He took all of our sins upon Himself and died on the cross, redeeming us from death.  He paid the price for our sin so we would not have to.  Our God the Father “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

Eternal life begins the moment we are forgiven!  We enter into a personal relationship with the Triune God and have fellowship with one another, just as a husband would with his wife, and close friends would have with each other.  In John 17:3 Jesus says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  It is the Lord’s desire that our fellowship and enjoyment of one another grow closer and deeper throughout eternity.  “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).  How incredible this will be!

Copyright © 2012 by C. A. Harris, M.A. Theological Studies. All rights reserved.

Eschatology and Global Events

Earth from Space

 

xx

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. …
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

       ~ Psalm 46:1-3, 6, 7

xxx

It is good to begin a discussion of eschatology with some words of hope: no matter what we may face on this earth, if we belong to God, He is always with us. We know that even if our life should end, we have an indescribable eternity awaiting us, where we will be in the presence of God forever!

Background

Eschatology means the study of last things. In relation to the Bible, we generally think of the following future events, to name just a few: end times, end of the world, tribulation, Armageddon, second coming of Christ. Most mainline Christian churches believe that Jesus Christ is coming again to gather His people, judge the world, establish His kingdom, and usher in eternity.

There is not full agreement, however, on how we should interpret many of these things. Concerning the book of Revelation, for example, interpretation generally falls into four groups:

Preterists: understand the book exclusively in terms of its first-century setting, claiming that most of its events have already taken place.

Historicists: take it as describing the long chain of events from Patmos [the island to which the author, John, was exiled] to the end of history.

Futurists: place the book primarily in the end times.

Idealists: view it as symbolic pictures of such timeless truths as the victory of good over evil.

The title “Revelation” comes from the Greek word apocalypse, which means “unveiling” or “disclosure.” Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” By its own admission, this book is a prophecy of things to come. Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 could not have been the focus of the book of Revelation, because it was written about AD 95 while John was in exile.

I believe the Historicist and Futurist positions combined is the best way to understand the pages of Revelation. The reference “last days” can legitimately apply to the whole period between the resurrection of Christ and His second coming (see Acts 2:16-17; 2 Timothy 3:1). This is also called the “Church age” and the “Messianic era.” The “last days” can also apply to those final days shortly before the return of Christ; we must discern which is in view by the context of the surrounding passage. In 2 Peter 3:3-4 we read, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come . . . . They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised?’” Then Peter explains:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (2 Peter 3:8-13)

This lengthy passage was quoted for two reasons. First, it uses “the last days,” “the day of the Lord,” “the day of God,” and the “coming” of Christ, all in the same context. Second, God’s judgment is described in common sense, regular speech—not in symbolic references as are found in the apocalyptic literary style. 2 Peter is a letter that was circulated for the purpose of teaching and encouraging the Church. It is written in common narrative speech.

The writers of the Holy Bible used various literary styles to communicate their messages. This fact must be taken into account for valid interpretation to take place. The apocalyptic literary style is found in Revelation, Daniel (chapters 7-12), parts of Zechariah, and in other books of the Bible. Apocalyptic (revelatory) material “may be defined as symbolic, visionary, prophetic literature, usually composed during oppressive conditions and being chiefly eschatological in theological content.” It is “primarily a literature of encouragement to the people of God,” to give them strength to endure their circumstances and hope beyond the grave. This literary style was used many times in the accounts of visions of the future that God gave His prophets. Though there is much symbolism involved, some of the unusual descriptions could be the result of the tremendous differences between ancient and modern culture and technology. For example, how would a man from AD 95 describe a vision of 20th century warfare? The vision may have been as realistic as you or I would see it today, but look completely foreign to the ancient observer.

Frequently, the key to the interpretation of a passage is found somewhere within the context. For example, in Revelation 1:19-20, Jesus Christ explains to John the meaning of the introductory prophecies:

Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Also, it is wise to bear in mind that prophecy has an interesting characteristic: the closer we get to its fulfillment, the more it begins to make sense. Sometimes it is only in retrospect that we can confidently confirm that a prophecy came true. Psalm 22 is a “Messianic Psalm,” and is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament. We read here about the insults hurled at Christ, the piercing of His hands and feet, the casting of lots for His clothing, and much more. There are so many details of the crucifixion contained in its verses, that we can only marvel!

There is a general “rule of thumb” we were taught in seminary: “If the common sense makes sense, seek no other sense.” In other words, we need to avoid the extreme of symbolizing every prophecy we encounter. One other important point to consider: God does not offer His people warnings and encouragement based on myth or falsehood. Whichever way we decide to interpret these end time prophecies, we must remember that they represent the truth!

The Signs of the End of the Age

 Turning to the consideration of prophecies connected with the second coming of Christ and the “end of the age,” we look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 24. His disciples had just come to Him and asked, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) Christ’s answer reveals a series of events that will precede His coming back to earth again. The main points are found in verses 4-35. It is apparent that Jesus is describing a chronological progression of events, some of which may be coinciding and/or overlapping.  Please note the chronological transitions are rendered in blue:

4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.8All these are the beginning of birth pains. 
9
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 
15“So 
when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand– 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. 22If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. 25See, I have told you ahead of time. 
26“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
29
Immediately after the distress of those days
” ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
30
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

So ends the progression of events to the end of this age. Jesus offers some final words to help those living in the final days:

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:32-25)

Prophecies concerning many of the same events that Jesus revealed to His disciples that day are also found in Scripture in other places. The focus may be narrower or broader, and the descriptions may be more or less detailed, but Jesus gives us the general framework in which to understand these things.

Revelation is written in the apocalyptic literary style, as already discussed. This book also uses a literary device by which the author switches between heavenly scenes and earthly scenes as the prophecy unfolds. Understanding this phenomenon will help in the interpretation of the Revelation.

The Wars of Revelation

In Matthew 24, Jesus indicates there will be “wars and rumors of wars” leading up to His second coming. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these things are the beginning of birth pains” (vs. 6-8).

There appear to be several references to wars leading to mass destruction in the book of Revelation. With the opening of the second seal (Revelation 6:4), a fiery red horse is released and “its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.” This becomes the general atmosphere of unrest which exists and grows worse until the final battle of Armageddon and Christ returns to the earth.

Revelation 6:7-8 records what will happen when the fourth seal is opened. A pale horse emerges and its rider’s name is Death. “They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” This does not specifically indicate that one-fourth of the earth’s population is killed; rather, it could mean that one fourth of the earth’s area, geographically speaking, will be affected by Death. That would be the size of one-half of a hemisphere! One can only make educated guesses about the cause of such wide spread devastation—perhaps biological or chemical warfare. Whatever the cause, a large number of the earth’s people will perish at this time.

Death comes to many more people during this time. Some are martyred for their faith and more die from ecological disasters that come upon the earth. The planet is now reaping the consequences of many of years of abuse by humankind; and the people of the earth are reaping the consequences of thousands of years of sin, hatred and strife against one another and against God.

The next specific reference to war is found in Revelation 9:13-21—and tremendous loss of life is involved. The sixth trumpet sounds and “the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates” are released to kill one-third of mankind. These could be demonic fallen angels who are now allowed to influence one or more countries to go into battle. The Euphrates is the longest river in western Asia, about 1700 miles long, and is the historic boundary between Israel and her enemies. This passage does not indicate who the aggressors are or what their target is, but we are given the specific number of troops in the army: two-hundred million! The author, John, made a point of saying, “I heard their number.” At the present time in earth’s history, there are probably only one or two countries that can muster such a huge army—one being China, and the other possibly India. It is also possible that the army is multi-national, such as through the United Nations.

Perhaps some clues can be found in the verses describing the army and its weaponry. Verses 17-19 read:

The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.

Could the “breastplate” be a banner or flag of sorts? Could the “horses” be a first-century prophet’s description of a twentieth-century armored tank with its guns pointing both forward and to the rear? Could the “three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur” refer to the type of weapons being used (e.g., biological, chemical, or nuclear)? What type of weaponry could cause such massive destruction of life?

The earth’s population today is almost six billion people. One-third would be two billion—an almost unfathomable loss of life! Undoubtedly, the population of the earth will have been significantly reduced by the time this war begins, so it is possible that only one-half or less of today’s population still remains by the end of this war. It is sobering when we consider that a major focus of the world’s tension and conflict today exists in the very region where this battle will be waged. And there is still more to come!

Like a woman in labor, her pains get closer and closer together and more intense as the time of birth draws near. This analogy is used to describe the upheavals the earth and its people will go through before the final battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. Many more people die during this time of great tribulation when God’s judgment is poured out upon the earth.

In Revelation 16:12-16, with the “sixth bowl of God’s wrath,” the great river Euphrates is “dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East.” Then three evil spirits coming from the dragon (Satan), the beast (Antichrist), and the false prophet emerge: “They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.” Then Christ says, “Behold, I come like a thief!” and admonishes His people to stay alert and be ready. Next the Scripture says the demonic spirits “gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” This is believed to stand for “Har Mageddon,” meaning “the mountain of Megiddo.” There is a large valley in this region which could easily be the staging ground for a military buildup.

There is a break in the narrative here, while God deals with the judgment of Babylon the Great (most likely Rome). The second coming of Christ and battle of Armageddon continue in Revelation 19:11-21. John writes, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. … The armies of heaven were following him …” This is the glorious return of Christ! John continues, “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet … The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” The rest of the armies of the earth who were gathered at Armageddon were killed by Christ Himself. And so begins the earthly reign of Jesus Christ.

We will remember that in Matthew 24:3 the disciples had asked Jesus what would be the “sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The book of Revelation has now brought us to this point—the second coming of Christ and the destruction of His enemies. Matthew 24:30-31 speaks of this time, as well:

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

There are other passages that speak of this pivotal point in God’s salvation history. See, for example:  1 Corinthians 15:50-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 2:1-12 (Antichrist); 2 Peter 3:1-13.

Revelation 20 reveals that there is still one more battle yet to come. After Christ’s second coming, the Scripture indicates that He will reign on the earth with those who have believed in Him for salvation. They (we!) will rule the nations with justice, and there appears to be some form of judgment taking place at this time. This reign will be for one thousand years—called the Millennium—during which time the dragon (Satan) is bound and thrown into the Abyss. At the end of the thousand years, Satan is released and the final showdown takes place:

Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10)

At this time, the Great White Throne Judgment takes place—the final judgment of humankind. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). After this time, there will be no more war!

Eternity in View

Now that sin and death have been forever conquered, we are given a glimpse into the future prepared for those who have placed their trust in God and in Jesus Christ our Savior. Revelation chapters 21 – 22 describe this beautiful eternity with its new heaven and new earth; the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God; the glorious temple and the river of life. God’s ultimate purpose for human beings, the greatest mystery of all, comes clearly into focus:

Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)

Amen!

It has been several years since this article was originally written, and the prophecies in the book of Revelation have more clarity now than at any other time in history!  Have we prepared ourselves for Christ’s return?

© 1999, 2003, 2019 by Cindy A. Harris, MA Theological Studies.  All rights reserved.

What is of Eternal Value?

This is a discussion about eternity from my Facebook page.
Question: What is of eternal value? What are the things from this life that will last for all eternity?
81Like · 
  • Teri Karas likes this.
  • Teri Karas Excellent questions that keep causing me to think through over & over again — Question 1 — The Bible & people — Question 2 — C.S. Lewis writes ‘I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other. Mere Christianity pg. 72 (Morality & Psychoanalysis) As I have been thinking through your second question it seems what C.S. Lewis wrote ‘about the central part of us that make choices for God or not will last for all eternity.’ I must admit I fail every day in the central part of choices, only as I repent God in his mercy & grace forgives me and I can try again with His help to keep moving forward in making right choices in the central part of me. I think this is what will last for all eternity —
  • Rita Maldonado IT’S LOVE OF GOD AND ALL HUMAN BEINGS!
  • Teri Karas Cindy, I am just wondering what are your thought’s on the questions you asked?
  • Cindy Harris Hi Teri! How are you this fine day? Thanks for writing in response to my questions. I love C.S. Lewis, too, and the section that you quoted is really thought-provoking. I think of the “central part” as our character, which can improve or worsen, depending on our choices. On this character, I believe rests our rewards: either gold, silver, and precious stones; or wood, hay, and stubble (1 Cor. 3:11-15). I agree with you, this lasts forever.

    When I did a rethink on things eternal and eternity, there were so many it’s hard to list them. Things of eternal value are those things which will last forever. I thought of the things from this life, and from our life to come (kind-of got carried away). I think of the Lord God Himself: Father, Son and Spirit; the Word of God, our Salvation, our Relationship with Jesus (John 17:3) that will grow deeper for all eternity!! Heaven, New Jerusalem, the place Jesus is preparing for us–“In my Father’s house are many rooms…” (John 14); Our resurrected Body, all our family and friends who know the Lord, all we have lead to salvation in Jesus Christ! Our Eternal rewards, our Eternal service to Him, our Eternal Worship of Him! our Eternal experience of the Glory that Christ had with His Father (John 17)! the Universe! Eternal Love, Joy, Peace, Happiness, Ecstacy! Eternal Fellowship with Jesus and everyone else who now resides in Heaven, including the Prophets of Old!

    Okay, Teri, now it’s your turn to come up with some more! 🙂:-) God bless you abundantly!! 🙂
    :-)
  • Teri Karas Way to go, Cindy! You have outdone me — I love your written response and such good news for all who are Christ followers — May we continue to pursue holy living even when we fall short so often —
  • Cindy Harris Thanks for your encouraging words, Teri! This turned out to be a wonderful blessing to me. As we walk each day with the Lord, I pray we will keep our eyes on Eternity and those things of eternal value!
  • Teri Karas Likewise, a blessing for me too! Questions about ‘eternal value’ & ‘eternity’ truly are important for our short time here on earth in comparison to eternity. We all are just a breath away from eternity and our/my choices do matter in the end. I pray that God help me to make right choices that have eternal value. I truly need His help . . . As far as naming a few more things about eternity or of eternal value one thing for sure is that we’ll have eternal perfect relationships with each other and eternal perfect safeness. (Rev.21:21-27 v.25* is key) Thanks, Cindy for your encouragement & God’s richest blessings be upon you!
  • Cindy Harris Thanks Teri, my eternal Sister & Friend! 🙂:-)

Current Religious Thinking Is Undergoing Changes

As Evangelical Christians, we hold one of our greatest mandates as sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We recall His words to us before He ascended into Heaven:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight (Acts 1:8-9).

This mandate that we know as “The Great Commission” is becoming an increasing concern of religious communities and the governments of the world. There is a movement toward “religious tolerance,” the acceptance of everyone’s faith, no matter which one, as valid before God. The conviction is gaining ground that we do not respect people when we call their religious beliefs into question. A Christian can unwittingly do this by simply sharing with someone that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation and eternal life! To cast doubt on the validity of a person’s faith is considered an assault on their religious freedom. An increasing number of religious leaders, including Christians, desiring to be more culturally sensitive, are finding their perspectives undergoing change: that any religious faith is just as acceptable to God as any other. This is becoming the “politically correct” religious doctrine of our globally informed times.

The same reasoning is being applied to the concept of truth. Often we’ve heard people say, “That’s your truth,” or “That’s truth to you,” when we speak about the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Also, the Apostle Paul expresses his commitment to the truth: “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2-4). 

There is a warning here for Christians who give testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ to others. The belief that there is only one way to forgiveness and eternal salvation–only one way to God–is becoming more and more divisive. Accusations are growing louder that the “intolerant and exclusionary” Christian religion can “incite hatred” toward anyone who does not believe the same way. The consequences of “one way” thinking are seen as dire: hatred leads to discrimination, unrest, and even war! Given the urgency of this mindset, would it be surprising if it becomes a criminal act to share one’s faith “with intent to change” another’s religious affiliation?

Watch, listen, pray! Jesus warns us: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). He also said: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). The pressures to dilute the Gospel of Christ are intensifying! Christians must hold firmly to the distinction that it is not faith that saves us, but the Object of our faith, Jesus Christ himself! The difference between the two is an eternity!

Here is a parting encouragement from the apostle Peter:

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:15-18).

For more on Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation, please see the article, “Our Hope for Eternity,” especially the section, “Jesus Christ, Our Only Hope.” Also see the “Two Kingdoms Chart” for more Scriptures on the Gospel and uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

~ * ~ * ~

© 2004, 2012, 2022 by C. A. Harris, MA Theological Studies

What If You Died Tonight?

Man studying at desk

This seems like a rather abrupt question, doesn’t it? The words of Christ as recorded in the Gospels are often “abrupt” and to the point. He has come from Heaven to Earth to offer His much loved human beings the free gift of salvation. In so doing, we humans must be confronted with the true seriousness of Eternity, and Jesus is so good at doing this!

Therefore, if you died tonight, would you be ready to enter Heaven and the presence of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ? You may have prepared well for your life on this Earth and for your retirement days, but are you prepared for Eternity? Jesus told this “Parable of the Rich Fool” to the crowd that was following Him one day:

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)

Jesus also asks the same challenging question another way: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

There is another related story that Jesus tells to a different crowd.  Bible scholars believe this to be a true story because a name is used, that of Lazarus.  Parables are not known to use names.  Jesus unfolds the story:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Notice how the rich man slowly learned how hopeless his situation was.  After he found himself in torment in Hades, he realized his old acquaintance Lazarus could be seen far off sitting next to Father Abraham.  When the rich man called out for help, he was told help would be impossible because of a great chasm fixed between them that no one could pass.  Then he thought of his five brothers at home, and not wanting them to come to this same place of torment, asked that Lazarus be sent back to warn them, insisting that if someone went back from the dead, his brothers would repent.  But Abraham replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  How ironic!  The very thing the rich man had asked of Father Abraham, Jesus stood before them doing that very thing!  

Let us all prepare ourselves for that inevitable but glorious day when those who are saved shall see Christ! “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)

Copyright © 2012, 2021, by C. A. Harris, MA Theological Studies

 

Parable of the Lost Son

How a Father Loves His Son

Jesus was telling parables to those following Him one day about how much God, His Father, loves even one sinner when he repents.  Here is the “Parable of the Lost Son” in Jesus’ own words.

The Prodigal Son“A man had two sons.  The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’  So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.  About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.  The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him.  But no one gave him anything.

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!  I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.  Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father.  And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick!  Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him.  Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.  And kill the calf we have been fattening.  We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life.  He was lost, but now he is found.’  So the party began” (Luke 15:11-24, NLT).*

“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God” (Luke 15:7).


How God Loves Us

Has there ever been a time in your life when you disobeyed your parents, rebelled against authority at school or in town, or stole something you really wanted but could not afford?  It could have been something big, like taking your friend’s motorcycle, or something small, like telling a lie to get out of work.  Whatever it was, however, you knew in your heart it was wrong.  This is sin.

Do you ever wonder what God thinks about how you act?  In Romans 3:10-12 He says,

No one is righteous—
not even one.
No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.

The Bible teaches, “that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life” (Romans 2:16).  Just like with our parents and in our towns, there are consequences to pay when we do wrong.  One difference, though—God is all-knowing!  He is aware of everything we do, and even what we think!  We will be judged, not only for what is seen by others, but for what is not seen, as well.

When will this judgment take place?  It says in Hebrews 9:27-28, “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people.”  If it were not for the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and His miraculous resurrection from the grave, our sins could never be forgiven!  “For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).  The Scripture says in John 3:16, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  What an incredible gift God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ have given to us!

Who is Jesus Christ, that His death should mean so much?  In John 1:1-4, 10-14, 18 the Scripture teaches us:

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
. . .
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
. . .
No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

There is no other figure in human history or other religions like Jesus Christ.  He is God and was born into this world to bring salvation to the very people He created.  He loved us so much, that He was willing to die one of the cruelest deaths ever invented—a death on a cross.  The penalty for sin is death, and only God was “big enough” to bear the tremendous weight of sin and guilt for the whole world, for all time.  Then God died!  After three days He rose from the grave, breaking the penalty of sin and death forever!  His family and friends were astounded to see Him again, alive after He was dead.  Now they understood what He had been trying to tell them and what His mission was in coming into the world.  Jesus Christ and God, the Father, want us to live with them in perfect fellowship and glorious oneness, and in indescribable joy for all eternity!

Have you ever thought about eternity—about how long it is?  What would eternal punishment be like—paying the consequences of your own sins forever in Hell?  Consider your eternal destiny very carefully.  Are you feeling weighed down by the burden of trying to live your life without peace, fearing when death might come to you?  Does your heart cry out for freedom from guilt and sin?  Do you want to have all your sins forgiven by God the Savior, Jesus Christ, and live in Heaven forever with Him?  If your honest answer is “Yes!” then hear the words of Jesus Christ, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Remember Jesus’ parable—how the prodigal son returned home and cried out to his father for forgiveness?  Likewise, we need to respond to this great love of God, our Father, by recognizing our own sinfulness and need for the Savior, and call out to Him, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Daniel 9:9 says, “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.”

Joyfully, the prodigal son’s father did far more than forgive him.  He also restored their relationship and the son’s standing in the household!  This is the same joy our heavenly Father experiences when we repent and come to Jesus Christ for salvation!  And like the prodigal’s father, God showers the new Christian with blessings from above.  Our eternal life begins the moment we accept Christ, and the great joy of knowing the Father and His Son continue into eternity!  “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).  What great love God, the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ have for us!

_______________________________

Copyright © 2012 by C. A. Harris, M.A. Theological Studies.

All Scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation (NLT).
*Holy Bible.  New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.