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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Worship and the Coming Anti-Christ

I generally subscribe to idea that we are in the last days. As I have stated in a previous post on the topic, we may still be a few decades from the consummation of the related events and the Tribulation itself, but being awake to this age, I wouldn't be surprised if the end is much closer.

In light of the appearance of the Anti-Christ and the general works of Satan, we need to be reminded that Satan is not in the carnal sin business, he is in the spiritual sin business. As Charles Welch taught over a half a century ago (already seeing the seeds of the end in his time):

"Deception everywhere. You would not be deceived by outrageous witnesses. You're more likely to be deceived by a gentleman. And we remind ourselves that the apostle Paul told us that the ones that are the ministers of the evil one ('he himself is transformed into an Angel of Light'), [they] are the 'ministers of righteousness.' He doesn't make men commit sin, he makes men feel independent of the Son of God. He interferes with the worship element, not with the business element. 'Out of the heart of man' proceed all these other things, not an outside tempter. His business is in the religious world, and what a mess he's made of it... take heed that no man deceive you..."

-Charles Welch (message on the Second Coming in Matthew 24)

"Another interesting thing and a very important thing: [Scripture] doesn't say that this 'man of sin,' this 'son of perdition,' is trying to organize murder and adultery and theft all over the earth. It doesn't say that. He's right up to his neck in the question of worship. Nothing to do with wickedness (as we understand it). What is the first of the Ten Commandments? Is it about thieving? Is it about lying? No. It's about the worship of God and avoiding any possibility of compromise with the worship of idols. That comes first. And if that's broken, it doesn't matter much about the others." 
-Charles Welch (message on the Second Coming in 2 Thess)

We reference the scriptures.

The Anti-Christ will be involved with religion and worship.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
-2 Thess 2:3-4
The Anti-Christ will have signs and wonders and other outwardly religious actions.
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
-Matt 24:24
 The deception will cause religious awe and false worship.
And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
-Rev 13:14-15

A final warning from the former head of Scotland Yard:
“[Satan’s] temptations are aimed, not against morals, but against faith. He is the ‘god of this world’, and influences and controls, not its vices and crimes, but its religion - hence the neglect and rejection of [true] Christianity.”
- Sir Robert Anderson (The Silence of God)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Another Look at Gehenna ("Hell")

Just another quick thought on Gehenna noted in my last post.
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire [Gehenna that fire].
-Matthew 18:9b

Here the Greek for “hell fire” is γεενναν του πυρος = géenna ho pŷr = "Gehenna that fire"

While Hades is “the grave, the place of the dead” [Stong’s #86]; Gehenna is “Valley of Hinnom” [Strong’s #1067]. The Valley of Hinnom is a very real place in Israel and a very prophetic place.

The Valley of Hinnom is where great wickedness and idolatry (including child sacrifices) took place. It was turned into a trash dump which continually burned. This was the "lake of fire" where "the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched."

It is not a metaphor for God's afterlife torture chamber, it is a real place. We see it in Isaiah 66 after the events of the Revelation. This is how the Book of Isaiah ends:

“For as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord,
“So shall your descendants and your name remain.
And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.
“And they shall go forth and look
Upon the CORPSES of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
-Isaiah 66:22-24

Corpses = פֶּגֶר

Strong's: corpses, carcasses, dead bodies

All that is future and involves the land (Israel).

You cannot get torture of bodliess "souls" out of that.

And remember, no matter how you want to spin it, the traditional doctrine of "hell" must have God doing the torturing... by fire... without hope... without end.

That is not only unbiblical, it is slander against the Lord.

What Happens to the Lost?

What happens to those who reject Christ (the Light and the Life)? Let's look at two verses all Christians know and love.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
-John 3:16

Perish = apóllymi (Greek)

Strong's: to destroy fully (reflexively to perish, or lose), literally or figuratively: - destroy, die, lose, mar, perish.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-Romans 6:23

Death = thánatos (Greek)

The word is used 119 in the Greek NT and overwhelmingly means "death" in the physical sense.

Where it used figuratively, it still points to cessation of life.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life..."
-John 5:24
 
Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.
-John 8:51

If you start with the conclusion that "death" means separation from God and fiery torture, then you will read these passages differently. But that is reading what is not there. Before faith, I was dead (Greek: nekrós) in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1). I was under the condemnation of God. But that condemnation was the condemnation of Genesis ("you shall surely die"). I was not being tortured.

Only believers will never see a full cessation of life for we have a new and everlasting life awaiting in resurrection. We die, yet we don't die. We see the Lord use "die" both ways and putting them together we have understanding.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”-John 11:25-26

How can we both "die" and "never die?" The only way is to be in Christ by faith. Our bodies die (soul ceases functioning, spirit returns to God), but who we are is "hid in God" and therefore does not die (perish). In one sense, we are already dead, yet in another we shall never die. And we shall experience that new life in full when the Lord is manifested and we are resurrected.

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
-Col 3:3-4
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality [in resurrection], then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
-1 Cor 15:54

The Lord told us that man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. Paul tells us Christ died for our sins. This is the central message of the sacrifices and the cross. We sing about it in hymns and in contemporary music. The Lord paid the price by dying for us, for that is the penalty for sin. The Lord Jesus wasn't tortured by fire by the Father. The first Adam died and we died in him. The Second Adam died, but rose again that we might rise again. All else is mythology. "He gave his life, what more could he give?" His death, burial, and resurrection are sufficient. It pays the full penalty for it paid the full price: death.

We've covered this many times before. God alone is immortal. God does not threaten people with torture. The dead in Christ are said to be as "asleep." Remove the traditions of men and what you have is resurrection hope, which exalts Christ's resurrection to its fullest! He conquered death and the grave!

Our resurrection is not an asterisk or an addendum, it is EVERYTHING!

The original lie of Satan is "you shall not surely die" (Gen 3:4). This contradicts God's warning to Adam that if he disobeyed God, he would surely die (Gen 2:17, "dying you will die"). No threat of torture, etc. If "Gehenna" was a spiritual place of torture by fire, neither Adam nor God knows anything of it.

More on Gehenna next time.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Law, The Conscience, Sin and Salvation

One of the most prevalent (and dangerous) errors in Christendom is that people were saved under the Old Covenant by keeping the law, but now people are saved by the New Covenant. We've covered these errors before.

In short, no one was ever saved by keeping the law (no one has kept it or could). Abraham was declared righteous while uncircumcised, centuries before the Law was given. When the Law and Old Covenant were given, they were given to Israel alone. The New Covenant is not salvation in this age, it is a future covenant (again) for Israel alone. (Ex 19:5-6; Eph 2:11-13; Heb 8; etc.)

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. -Heb 8:7-10 

I wanted to pull out one aspect from how many people use the law in this age. When we speak of certain sins, people want to run to the Law. However, some things are inherently wrong.

There was no law given Cain for him to know murder was wrong. When we fall into the flesh as children, we know stealing, greed, lust, disobedience and a multitude of other actions or thoughts are wrong. We don't expect rewards for stealing (etc.), we expect discipline and disapproval.

The conscience is not perfect, and scripture does expose our sins, but the conscience, before it is seared, surely witnesses to our depravity.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, not having the law, are a law unto themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, while their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them...
-Rom 2:14-15

Bestiality is wrong. We don't need to go to the law to discover this. Now, the law does call certain things "abominations" or "perversions" or "profane." We need to take note, but the conscience witnesses to this.

Acting unjustly, slaughtering children, sexual perversions; we know inherently they are wrong. When the conscience becomes seared to these sins, men will fight desperately in two ways:

  1. Demand society sanction these vices
  2. Seek to silence anyone who disapproves

The seared conscience (1 Tim 4:2) must never be allowed to accuse again. If one enjoy's his sin (or doesn't want a selfish act labeled sin - to continue to live in darkness), just knowing someone disapproves might prick his conscience, so he demonizes and attacks and seeks to silence that voice.

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.
-Titus 1:15

The conditions of the Law warned Israel that these would pollute the land and eventually lead to her removal. But we must be careful with the Law and the Old Covenant. It is not a condition for today or for any other nation. It has faded away and will be replaced one day future for a redeemed Israel in the promised land.

The Lord Jesus Christ helped us understand the limitation of the Law on behavior. If we don't murder simply because the Law says "you shall not murder," we have not done well. The very desire to kill is sin.

Sometimes Law makes us want to sin. You may walk the same path through the park and never think about walking on the grass. Then one day the park puts up a "DO NOT WALK ON THE GRASS" sign and part of you wants to!

The greatest motivator to do what is right and good and just is love.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments"
-John 14:15

I love God and others, therefore I do nothing to harm them. That is why the Lord says the Law is summed up in two commands:

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
-Matt 22:36-40

This is why sin drives us from God. It stirs hate in us.

A day is coming wherein men will hate God so much, they would rather writhe in pain than repent of their deeds.

Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
-Rev 16:10-11
“He who believes in [the Son] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
-John 3:18-20

This is not a matter of "sinlessness." The true believer may sin, but he hates his sin.