Author Archives: Joshua Stewart

Q&A: Cross Necklace

QMany Christians wear the cross on a necklace or a ring as a symbol. Is it right for a Christian to do this?

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AWhenever questions like this arise that deal with clothing or outward appearance we need to be extremely careful with our answers. Do we have a direct command? Or do we have general principles that apply? I know of no scripture that would directly prohibit a believer from wearing a cross necklace. However, there are principles in the Word of God that pertain to the practice of wearing crosses.

First, the cross has been made into something that is attractive to the world and to the flesh, whereas in scripture the cross is a symbol of shame and reproach.

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14)

Crucifixion was a shameful method of execution, reserved for the worst criminals; the outcasts of society. The cross as a symbol did not come into use for over a hundred years after the death of Christ, and even then it did not become popular until the fourth century when Constantine Christianized the Roman Empire. Christians in the days of Roman persecution understood what the cross meant. Many of them had seen actual crucifixions, including those of Christian martyrs. But when the church rose in worldly prominence, it lost a sense of what the cross means as far as separation from the world. Before long, the cross began to be represented as a golden, glimmering thing worn as a body ornament, or at the front of a cathedral. It has been made into something that draws admiration from the world, and even unbelievers.

Second, many Christians, especially in the Orthodox or Roman churches, use the cross as a good luck charm, or as an object which adds efficacy to their prayers. This is a practice that borders on idolatry.

Third, there is nothing in scripture that would remotely suggest Christians should wear the cross as a body ornament. Some would appeal to the Lord’s words in Matt. 10:38, 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23. However, these passages clearly refer to the disciple’s willingness to suffer and be rejected. Furthermore, it says “his cross” referring to the believer, rather than “my cross” referring to the cross of Christ.

In spite of these points, the cross has become a widely-accepted symbol of Christianity. There are many believers who wear the cross to publicly identify themselves as Christians, and do so in devotion to Christ. This is a commendable motive! It is likely that many of them are ignorant of what the scriptures say about the cross as a symbol. We know that even when we do things that are unintelligent, if our motive is right, at least our desire is pleasing to God.

“So that do not judge anything before the time, until the Lord shall come, who shall also both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and shall make manifest the counsels of hearts; and then shall each have his praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5)

My conclusion is that is it not intelligent for the believer to wear a golden cross, given the weight of scripture regarding the meaning of the cross. However, I would not condemn those who do so, especially where the motive is good.

Q&A: Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus

QExplain the difference between the names Jesus Christ and Christ Jesus.

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ABoth names refer to the same Person: the Son of God. However the order of the names is different. Jesus was the name the Son was given in manhood (Matt. 1). Christ is the title given to the promised Messiah, who would be Prophet, Priest, and King. The name Christ therefore brings out the Son in His official glories. The Son has not yet been glorified here on the earth, but He has in heaven. Those of faith recognize Him as Christ, exalted at God’s right hand.

When the order is Jesus Christ, the emphasis is often on our Lord’s humanity.

“… Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3)

When the order is Christ Jesus, it often brings before us His position as a heavenly and exalted man. This order is found almost exclusively in Paul’s epistles. When expounding the believer’s position before God, Paul is careful to say “in Christ” or “in Christ Jesus” because our position is a heavenly one.

“… and has raised us up together, and has made us sit down together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6)

The two are brought together in Eph. 1:1. Paul refers to himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ” and to the saints as “saints and faithful in Christ Jesus”. When it is Paul’s service, it is connected with Christ in manhood. When it is the believer’s position, it is connected with Christ in glory!

Q&A: Jesus Glorified, the Spirit Sent

QWhy was it necessary for Jesus to be glorified before the Holy Spirit could be sent?

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AThere are several passages that show clearly that the sending of the Holy Spirit was consequent on the glorification of Jesus at God’s right hand:

“… the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:39)

“This Jesus has God raised up, whereof all we are witnesses. Having therefore been exalted by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which ye behold and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)

It is clear that the Holy Spirit could not have been sent before Jesus was glorified, but this does answer the question of why. Acts 2:32-33 gives us an indication that the sending of the Holy Spirit, called “the promise of the Spirit”, is connected with Christ’s exaltation. It would seem that the gift of the Spirit was in response to the Father’s satisfaction with the work of the cross (John 13:31-22). In other words, the Father was so delighted with the finished work of His Beloved Son, that He gave to Christ the promise of the Spirit, which He then sent down to the earth.

Another point also might help us with this question. That is, the unity that was formed when the Holy Spirit was sent down on the Day of Pentecost was the union of believers one to another as members of the body of Christ, and the union of the members to their Head in heaven (Christ Himself). See 1 Cor. 12:12-13, Col. 1:18; 2:19. It was fitting then that before the body was formed on earth, the Head would be glorified in heaven!

To Reveal His Son in Me

A few weeks ago I picked up a piece of scrap wood and started to carve a toy for my son. I recall an older boy carving me a toy knife when I was about my son’s age, and it was a treasured possession for an eight-year-old boy! As the knife began taking shape, I showed the work-in-progress to my son, who took an interest in what I was doing.

“How do you do it?” he asked. “I remove parts of the wood that I don’t want to remain” I replied. “How do you know what parts to remove and what to leave?” he further asked. I tried to explain that I have an image in my mind of the finished product, and I was simply whittling away the extra – the unwanted – material.

It reminded me of God’s work with us. God is working in our lives to remove those things that are unwanted, the character flaws, the “weights”, the unjudged sin in our lives. He has an image in mind that He is seeking to reveal in each of His children.

“God, who set me apart even from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me…” (Galatians 1:15-16)

God had a purpose for Paul, and singled him out from his “mother’s womb”. God has a plan for each one of us, and that plan existed before we ever had a thought toward God. Paul was called in time by the grace of God. God’s purpose in saving Paul, in a general sense, is the same as what God desires for all believers; to reveal His Son in each one of us. God is seeking to reproduce the life of the Son of God in the each one of our lives (3 Cor. 3:18; 4:6; Col. 1:27).

This work of God in our lives is what we sometimes call spiritual growth. It is something that God takes a keen interest in. You may have already noticed that this subject comes up frequently in scripture.

Recently, our family finished the book of Hebrews, and at the end we came across these beautiful verses:

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

What a MAGNIFICENT prayer! It touches so many subjects, wrapping them up in one sentence: the Person of Christ, the work of Christ, the shepherding care of Christ, the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the glory of Christ. In the middle, God’s work in our lives to transform us, and make us full grown, to do His will and be pleasing to Him!

When we see Christ that work will finally be complete; “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2)! Notwithstanding, the work of transformation has already begun. Day by day, lesson by lesson, trial by trial, experience by experience, God is working to conform us to the image of His Son. If we could only see how this (sometimes painful) process of spiritual growth will end, what a difference it would make in our outlook.

We shall behold Him, whom not seen we love,
We shall be with Him, whom we long to see;
We shall be like Him, fit for realms above,
With Him, and like Him, for eternity!
Is now to sit at Jesus’ feet our choice?
How will fruition then our souls rejoice!
 

Disorders in the Body of Christ

The body of Christ is no mere concept. It is a spiritual reality. The body of Christ was formed on the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God was sent down to the earth, and indwelt the believers there present, linking them to Christ in heaven. Believers on earth who have the Spirit indwelling them are members of the body (Rom. 12:5). Christ in heaven in the head of the body (Col. 1:18). Christ’s mind is to be displayed by His body on earth. The Holy Spirit is the one who directs the members of the body; similar to how the nervous system in the human body works.

The Human Body. Paul gives a powerful treatise on the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. He draws numerous parallels between the physical human body and the mystical body of Christ.

 “For even as the [human] body is one and has many members, but all the members of the [human] body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ [mystical].” (1 Cor. 12:12)

I’ve given some thought to the parallels between the physical human body and the mystical body of Christ. Has the church lived up to it’s responsibility as the body? Well let’s see; God’s intention is “that there might be no division in the body, but that the members might have the same concern one for another” (1 Cor. 12:25). Has the body of Christ remained undivided in practice? No. There are well over 10,000 denominations or groups in Christendom. 

This got me to thinking, if we had the same problems in our physical bodies that we do in the body of Christ, what might those “diseases” be? I looked at the leading fatal diseases in the world today, and found a remarkable similarity to the problems in the Church.

Before I go on, let’s be clear about one thing: the body of Christ is viewed in scripture as perfect and complete. In practice, the Church is disease-ridden, but through the eternal viewpoint of God, it is perfect through the work of Christ.

There are many things that can be learned from the diseases that plague humans today. May we apply this lessons from the natural world into our spiritual relationships in the body of Christ!

Heart and Pulmonary Disease: Lack of Love

The number one killer in the world today is heart disease. I think it is not a stretch to translate this to the greatest problem in the Church: a lack of love. After addressing the body of Christ in ch. 12, Paul went on to speak of the need for love in the body of Christ. “If… I have not love, I am nothing.” The root of so many divisions and troubles in the assembly is a lack of love for one another.

Cancer: Worldly Ideas & Principles

The second greatest killer is cancer. In the New Testament we read of doctrines and principles that can come into the assembly and spread like cancer, or gangrene. “And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus” (2 Tim. 2:17). In Galatia the Judaizing teachers were bringing in evil doctrine in the form of legalism, and Paul warned that would grow and spread (Gal. 5:9)… before long, many in that region would be consumed with it. In Corinth and in Colosse there was a danger to bring natural wisdom in to the assembly; “the words which man’s wisdom teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13); “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). The solution to cancer is to remove the evil doctrine, and then stick to the Word of God. As Paul exhorted, we must “learn… the lesson of not letting your thoughts go above what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), but rather “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Infection: Sin & Defilement

Another serious condition to the human body is infection. Infection occurs when bacteria or other pathogens from outside the body invade the body and begin to multiply. Infections must be treated quickly, because they can spread and quickly cause lasting damage. This reminds me of moral evil, which spreads similar to doctrinal evil, if it goes on unjudged. The solution to moral evil, when it has invaded the assembly, it to “purge out therefore the old leaven” (1 Cor. 5:7).

Paralysis: Quenching the Spirit

The next two disorders are not necessarily fatal, but they do seriously hamper the normal functioning of the body. Paralysis occurs when the nerves that lead from the brain to the members are damaged or disconnected. The nerves carry electrical signals from the brain to the muscles and sensors of the body, much the way the Spirit of God guides the members of Christ’s body according to the wishes of our heavenly Head. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:11). If we do not act upon the prompting of the Spirit, we are like paralyzed limbs. The Head has certain thoughts and desires, but the members just won’t move! Failing to act upon the Spirit’s leading is called “quenching the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). This is the error of “not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).

Dyskinesia: Grieving the Spirit

The opposite disorder from paralysis is dyskinesia. Dyskinesia is the disease of uncontrolled muscle movement. You can put it this way; paralysis is not moving when you should, dyskinesia is moving when you shouldn’t! Dyskinesia corresponds to grieving the Spirit; acting independently of the leading of the Spirit according to the directions of the Head. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30). Habitually grieving the Spirit of God can lead to chronic spiritual numbness… where we become desensitized to the leading of the Spirit. The Corinthians had a problem with this, and Paul wrote to correct it (1 Cor. 14:26). When we are following the leading of the Spirit, all things will “be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). 

Autoimmune Disorders: Division and Infighting

The next disorder is a serious one: autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is an unnatural phenomena where a person’s immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. This reminds me of division and strife in the body of Christ. We need to remember that we are ONE in Christ. If we attack each other, we are only hurting ourselves. “Wherefore, having put off falsehood, speak truth every one with his neighbour, because we are members one of another.” (Eph. 4:25). Remember that if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it (1 Cor. 12:25). It is one of Satan’s strategies to divide the saints of God, and stir up strife between us (2 Cor. 2:11).  

Atrophy: Chronic Weakness from Lack of Exercise

Atrophy is a condition of the body where muscles become weak and shrunken through lack of nourishment or exercise. Each member of the body of Christ has a gift from the Lord. We are responsible to used that gift. If we don’t use it, it will go to waste, just like the muscles in our body. Paul told Timothy “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” (1 Tim. 4:14) and “stir up the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6). We need to remember to use our gift! Put it to good use.

Conclusion

These illustrations from the disorders our physical bodies face are simple reminders of the far deeper challenges that we face in the body of Christ. May God give us the discernment to see these disorders developing in the early stages, that the people of God might be preserved from great heartache and sorrow, and much dishonor brought to the name of Christ. Let us also remember that all nourishment in the body of Christ flows down to the members from Christ the head; “from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).

Q&A: Resurrection of Old Testament Saints

QWhen are the Old Testament saints raised? At the rapture or the appearing of Christ?

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AThis question is hotly debated among Christians. However, a review of several scriptures will settle this issue, and show that Old Testament saints will be raised at the rapture along with the Church.

First, Hebrews 11:40 says, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” This hints that the Old Testament saints will be “made perfect” (glorified, including raised bodies) at the same time as Christians who have died. By comparing with 1 Thessalonians 4, we know this will take place at the rapture.1

Second, 1 Corinthians 15:23 says, “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” In 1 Thessalonians 4 it is “the dead in Christ”, which would be Christians strictly. But in 1 Corinthians 15, it is “they that are Christ’s”, which is broader, including all those of faith who have died. Of course, we must couple this with 1 Thessalonians 4 to see that the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 takes place at the rapture.2

In this case Old Testament Saints would be part of the “twenty-four elders” in Revelation 4-22, who witness the judgments of the earth from heaven, seated around the throne of God.

A common passage some would use to show that Old Testament saints are raised at the appearing would be Daniel 12:2; “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame, to everlasting contempt.” However, I believe this is rather a reference to the national resurrection of Israel, similar to Ezekiel 37, the ‘valley of dry bones’. It is not talking about the bodily resurrection of Old Testament saints.

Q&A: Our Position Toward the Jews

QWhat should our position toward the Jews be in lieu of Matt. 27:25; “His blood be on us and on our children”?

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AThis question is hard to answer without going into dispensational truth and prophecy. First we must see the difference between the Nation of Israel and individuals who are of Jewish ethnicity. Israel as a nation stands guilty of the blood of Christ (Zech. 12; Matt. 27:25), but as individuals the Jews are in the same position as the Gentiles. Concerning the Jews today, Paul clearly states that “there is no difference” (Rom. 3:22; 10:12). Jews are in need of a Savior just like the Gentiles. Paul could say, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved” (Rom. 10:1).

The Present and Future Condition of the Nation

As a nation, God has purposed to bring the Jews into a position of blessing in the future kingdom and reign of Christ. However, there are two great issues that need to be settled before that can occur. The first issue is idolatry, and the second is their blood-guiltiness in connection with crucifying Christ. Because of idolatry, the Jews were taken out of their land by the Babylonians, although a remnant was later allowed to return. Because they crucified the Messiah, the Jews were taken out of their land by the Romans in 70 A.D. These two issues must be dealt with before the Jews can be established in Palestine with God’s blessing. There is a modern nation of Israel living in Palestine today, but without God’s blessing, according to Dan. 9:26 “…unto the end, war… the desolations determined.”

Today Israel is outwardly in the state of “Lo-ammi” (Hos. 1:9), which means “not my people”. But God has a purpose to bless and restore them; “it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, it shall be said unto them, Sons of the living God” (Hos. 1:10). The future blessing of Israel is unshakably secured by the faithfulness of God:

Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, [then] the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD. (Jer. 31:35-37)

Persecution of Jews by Christians

Down through the centuries “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25) has been used by Christians and anti-semitic groups to justify the genocide of the Jews. The Crusaders used it to justify the massacre of thousands. The Nazi’s used it to stir up German anger against the Jews. In their propaganda, they called the Jews “Christ-killers”.1 This is nothing more than man seeking religious justification for his murderous agenda. Sadly, many Christians have been affected by anti-semitic propaganda down through the years. Even Martin Luther grew weary with the Jews’ rejection of the gospel, and wrote a 65,000-word book titled ‘On the Jews and Their Lies’ in 1543:

"What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? … I shall give you my sincere advice: First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians… Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. … Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, [etc.] be taken from them. Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. … Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. … Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. … Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow [i.e. forced labor]. … Burn down their synagogues, … force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish."
-- Martin Luther, 1543

Importance of Sound Dispensational and Church Doctrine

Having a sound understanding of dispensational truth, Church truth, and prophetic truth will preserve us from getting caught up in wrong thoughts about the earthly people of God. God is not finished with Israel, and we should look upon them with love, not hatred. Luther and others did not understand the scheme of God’s ways with men on the earth. He did not understand that God will one day restore and bless the nation of Israel.

Understanding dispensational truth goes hand-in-hand with understanding Church truth. Luther also did not properly understand the nature and role of the Church in the world. He did progress a good deal from the Roman Catholic position by positing the doctrine of the two governments (or two kingdoms), but only went so far as to say that the Church should keep its hands off the secular governments and the secular governments should not interfere with the Church. But he never really embraced the true character of the Church; i.e. her heavenly calling, and place altogether outside the arena of God’s governmental dealings with the earth. The Church should never take it on herself to execute the judgment of God on the world (1 Cor. 6). She should never view herself as a sword or scourge used by God for the punishment of evil (Matt. 13:30).

We are to be intelligent about our own position as a heavenly people, and about Israel as an earthly people. We can see the troubles that the Jews have fallen into down through the centuries are part of the government of God. But while we acknowledge that God’s government exists, we know that the Church has no business executing His judgment. We will be involved in government in the Millennium, but not today.

Christian Zionism without Moderation

Should Christians be involved with giving financial and military support to the nation of Israel today? To be clear, we are not talking about showing love and kindness to individual Jews, nor are we talking about preaching the gospel to them. We are talking about large movements within Christianity to influence the governments of the West (especially the United States) to support and offer protection to the nation of Israel from their enemies.

Isaiah 18 bears on this point. Isaiah 18 warns of a far off country “beyond the rivers of Cush” or outside the regions between the Nile and Euphrates that “shadows with wings” (extends protection to) the nation of Israel. God has a controversy with Israel, and this outside entity is reaching in to interfere with the government of God. This action on the part of the West to protect the nation of Israel will culminate in a covenant of protection (Dan. 9:27) for seven years. But it will not be enough to shield them from what is coming. The remainder of Isa. 18 shows that God will look upon this with displeasure, and all of man’s efforts to protect and nourish the land of Israel will fail due to a crushing wave of judgment. Should Christians be involved in activity that God condemns? No. We need to be careful that we do not attempt to interfere with the government of God.

Summary and Conclusion

My conviction is that our position toward the Jews in lieu of Matt. 27:25 ought to be:
  1. motivated by love, to present the gospel to the Jews as individuals, and
  2. to recognize that the nation today is under the government of God, but will one day be restored.

Q&A: Father, Forgive them

QSince Israel is guilty of crucifying their Messiah, what practical effect did the Lord’s statement in Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” have upon the Jews?

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AIn general, I believe the Lord’s prayer on the cross “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” reveals the Lord’s heart with respect to sinful man. It was not His desire to impute sin to man, but to forgive him. In this way He reflected the mind and heart of God; “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19).

In relation to the Jews, “Father, forgive them” is closely connected with the provisional offer held out to Israel in the first seven chapters of the book of Acts.

The sending of the Messiah, God’s Son, was the final test God had for the nation of Israel. We see this in the parable of the husbandmen in Matthew 21, and Mark 12. “Having yet therefore one beloved son, he sent also him to them the last, saying, They will have respect for my son. But those husbandmen said to one another, This is the heir: come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours.” The nation of Israel is guilty of the death of Christ, inasmuch as they crucified Him saying “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). Note that this guilt is in a national sense, not individually.

In grace, after being lifted up on the cross, Jesus “made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12) when He cried “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. This provided the basis for God to give an extension of grace to Israel after the cross, which we read of in Acts 1-7. For example, Peter preached, “And now, brethren, I know that ye did it in ignorance, as also your rulers; but God has thus fulfilled what he had announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer. Repent therefore and be converted, for the blotting out of your sins, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and he may send Jesus Christ, who was foreordained for you, whom heaven indeed must receive till the times of the restoring of all things, of which God has spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets since time began” (Act 3:17-21). God had opened an offer of forgiveness to Israel, provisional on their receiving the witness of the Spirit. We can read in Hebrews 2:4, for example, that God was bearing them witness “both by signs and wonders, and various acts of power, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his will”. If Israel would receive this witness, and repent of their sin, God would bring in the times of refreshing; the Millennial reign of Christ. This witness was believed by many (the elect), but it was rejected by the nation at large. Stephen was raised up to bear witness to Israel’s rejection, both of Christ, but also of the Spirit; “O stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers, ye also” (Acts 7:51). This is why Saul of Tarsus was not raised up to unfold the truth of the Church until the provisional offer  to Israel was rejected, and Stephen was stoned.

We see this in the parable of the fig tree, earlier in this very same gospel of Luke (ch.13). The man came seeking fruit from his fig tree three years, but found nothing on the tree. It pictures Christ’s three years of public ministry to Israel (the fig tree) culminating in the cross. The conclusion? Israel is an utter failure; the tree should be cut down.“But he answering says to him, Sir, let it alone for this year also, until I shall dig about it and put dung, and if it shall bear fruit—but if not, after that thou shalt cut it down.” In grace, one more year was given to the fig tree, with additional cultivation and fertilization, for one final witness. This corresponds to the early chapters of Acts, where forgiveness was held out to the guilty nation of Israel, if they would receive the witness of the Spirit sent down at Pentecost.

To summarize, the Lord’s prayer of forgiveness on the cross did not absolve Israel of their blood-guiltiness, but it did become the basis for God to offer a provisional pardon to the nation.

Judgment Committed to the Son

“For neither does the Father judge any one, but has given all judgment to the Son; that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who honours not the Son, honours not the Father who has sent him.” John 5:22-23

God the Father will not be the judge of men. He has relinquished that right, and now the Son of God alone holds the issue of judgment in His hand. But why? These verses explain why exclusive judgment is given to the Son.

He says of the Jews that “they honour the Father”. In what way did they honor the Father? From the context of these verses we know that the Jews honored the Father – in a certain sense – because they did not deny that the Father was God.

But when Jesus, the Son of Man came, the Jews did not give Him that same honor (v.22). The Son, coming incarnate, “came unto His own and His own received him not”. As a man He was vulnerable to be – and was – personally dishonored, rejected, and despised of men. In a certain sense, the Father was exempt from their injuries because He did not become a man.

But the Father will see to it that His Son is honored as God… by all men. Consequently, all judgment is committed unto the Son, in order that all – even those who have rejected the Son – should be forced to honor him, even as they honor the Father. One day, those who have denied Him will come face to face with the Man Christ Jesus as their judge… and they will know that He is God, and thus honor Him.

… [The Father] has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is Son of man. John 5:27

As the Son of Man (the Lord’s title in relation to all of mankind) Christ is given authority to judge. Had He remained only Son of God (the Lord’s title in relation to the Godhead), who would have dared to despise or insult Him? The light of His glory would have consumed instantly every enemy that opposed Him.

Remember, it was His grace in becoming man (Phil. 2:6, 7) to save us which made Him vulnerable to rejection. For this reason, the Father has seen that the Son alone will be the judge of men.

Global Righteousness & Peace

There is only one Person who can bring about worldwide righteousness, peace, and happiness. That Person was rejected 2000 years ago, given a criminal’s torturous execution, and His name has been used as a curse-word ever since. When He finally returns and sets this world right, it will be a shock to many… “so shall he astonish many nations; kings shall shut their mouths at him.” They will be shocked because“his visage was so marred [for the last 2000 years] more than any man, and his form more than the children of men” (Isa. 52:14-15). Why should we look to the politicians of this world to bring in righteousness, when this world has “denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of Life” (Acts 3:14-15)? We know how it will end, when the “kings of the earth set themselves, and the princes plot together, against Jehovah and against his anointed” (Psa. 2:2), when “the kings of the earth and their armies are gathered together to make war against Him that sat upon the horse, and against His army” (Rev. 19:19). All this makes one give up any hope in a corrupted human race. It makes one listen to Isaiah’s warning “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for what account is to be made of him?” (Isa. 2:22) It will then attach my hopes to a foundation that can never be shaken (Heb. 12:27), to Christ who is the Nail fastened in a sure place (Isa. 22:25), and to His Word, “which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

Being PESSIMISTIC about man’s prospects, and yet OPTIMISTIC about God’s purpose, I can rejoice that one day “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Heb. 2:14).

This is what comes to mind when reading the great Millennial Psalm written by David for his own son Solomon, but which is prophetic of great David’s Greater Son, the Messiah of Israel, the Saviour of sinners, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. It is a prophetic description of what the Millennium will be like under Christ’s administration. I enjoyed reading it this morning and thought I’d pass it on to you.

Psalm 72

For Solomon.

O God, give the king thy judgments, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. He will judge thy people with righteousness, and thine afflicted with judgment. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the hills, by righteousness. He will do justice to the afflicted of the people; he will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear thee as long as sun and moon endure, from generation to generation.

He shall come down like rain on the mown grass, as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace till the moon be no more. And he shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. The dwellers in the desert shall bow before him, and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall render presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer tribute: Yea, all kings shall bow down before him; all nations shall serve him. For he will deliver the needy who crieth, and the afflicted, who hath no helper; He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and will save the souls of the needy: He will redeem their souls from oppression and violence, and precious shall their blood be in his sight. And he shall live; and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba; and prayer shall be made for him continually: all the day shall he be blessed.

There shall be abundance of corn in the earth, upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon; and they of the city shall bloom like the herb of the earth. His name shall endure for ever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall bless themselves in him; all nations shall call him blessed.

Blessed be Jehovah Elohim, the God of Israel, who alone doeth wondrous things! And blessed be his glorious name for ever! and let the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen, and Amen.

The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

Q&A: Baptism of the Holy Ghost

QWhich do you think is more accurate? The Baptism of the Spirit of God was a corporate act on the day of Pentecost that…

  1. was later extended to take in the Gentiles (Acts 10), or
  2. would never be repeated. Gentiles were added to the Church later as any other Christians down through the centuries.
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AFrom 1 Corinthians 12:13, we can say for sure that the baptism of the Spirit is connected with the formation of the Body of Christ. We also know from Acts 1:4-5 that the baptism with the Holy Ghost would occur in Jerusalem specifically (not Samaria or Caesarea). This points to the Baptism of the Spirit as a one-time event that took place on the Day of Pentecost.
 
As to what followed in Acts 10, I do not know of a scriptural basis to say the Gentiles were received into the body of Christ any differently than a person today (through believing the gospel), except for the fact that God was making a public introduction of the Gentiles. It was a special event in that sense, but it was not a repetition of the baptism of the Spirit.
“If the baptism of the Holy Ghost has taken place at Pentecost, does Scripture carry the thought that it is ever to be repeated? I believe distinctly not. The Holy Ghost has come, He is here. The baptism of the Spirit has been received, and there is, consequently, no fresh baptism to be looked for.” – W.T.P. Wolston

Prophetic Events Lectures Posted

Update:

I have added the video from the presentation given 6/19/2016 on the Millennium and Eternal State. Feel free to email me with questions.

Original Post:

I’ve added a page with the videos from the recent meetings on prophetic events. We will add more videos as we finish the series with the Millennial Reign of Christ, and the Eternal State.

Q&A: Holy Men of God

Q2 Peter 1:21 says that “holy men of God” were moved to write the scriptures. What about a case like Balaam where he uttered the words of God yet he was far from holy?

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AThis is a great question, and it touches on the subject of inspiration. The verse in 2 Peter states that God used instruments that were holy (saints) in the process of inspiration. It is important to see that the actual men who spoke or wrote the inspired words were holy men. While it is true that Balaam was far from holy, the one who penned the words (Moses) certainly was a holy man.
“Prophecy was not ever uttered by the will of man, but holy men of God spake under the power of the Holy Spirit” 2 Peter 1:21
Also, I believe the force of 2 Peter 1:21 is that the power behind inspiration is the Holy Ghost, not the flesh. So, keeping this in mind, read the verse again. Although they were holy men, it still wasn’t by human power that they wrote the scriptures. It was Divine power. Therefore the source of inspiration is the primary emphasis, and the Spirit’s choice of a vessel is in keeping with the character of the Source; i.e. holy men used by the Holy Spirit.

Q&A: Taking Away from God’s Word

QWhat is the meaning of “taking away the words of the prophecy of this book” in Rev. 22:19? Is it possible for a believer to commit this sin and lose their salvation?
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AI believe that this is referring to one who is selective about which parts of the Bible are the Word of God because he or she doesn’t want to accept all of it. Could it be as literal as someone “printing a bible with missing verses, etc.?” Yes, it could include that. But I think it there are more subtle ways of subtracting from the Word of God. Here is the text:

“And if any one take from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:18-19)

Note that the term “book of life” should really be translated “tree of life”. The tree of life is a picture of Christ Himself (raised from the dead as the head of the New Creation) and the holy city is a picture of the Church. The one who discounts portions of God’s Word will not have a part in Christ or His Church.

Also, where is says “and from the things that are written in this book” the words “and from” have been added (not to pun) by the translators. So if you read it without them you get more clearly the meaning: if any man takes away… etc., then God will take away his part in Christ and the Church, which are written in this book. So, the “things written in this book” ARE Christ and His Church.

The question then is, if the penalty is eternal separation from Christ and the Church, can this happen to a real believer? I would call on the many other scriptures which say we can never lose our salvation, e.g. John 10:28: “I give them life eternal; and they shall never perish, and no one shall seize them out of my hand.” Therefore, Rev. 22:19 must refer to a person who was never a real believer, but one who only had had a part in Christ and His Church by profession, not in reality.

One more thing… what are “the words of the book of this prophecy”? Is it just Revelation, or the whole Bible? I’m not sure. Me feeling is that “this book” is specifically Revelation, but that in principle it includes the whole Bible. One thing that I believe supports this possible meaning is that the Book of Revelation is written to the Church, to address the ruin of the Church, and to have a moral effect upon her conscience. If someone tampers with any book of the Bible it will likely be with the one that hurts their conscience the most! A good reason why the principle of Rev. 22:19 might encompass the whole Word of God is that Revelation ties together many other books of the Bible, including Old and New Testaments. If you tamper with this book, you tamper with them all.

Q&A: A Second Chance after the Rapture?

QIf someone rejects the gospel now, will they have a second chance after the rapture? How do we know?
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AFor those who reject the gospel of the grace of God, there will be no second chance. However, for those who do not have the opportunity to hear the clear gospel of the present dispensation, they will have an opportunity to receive the Gospel of the Kingdom, which we are told in Mark 16:15 will be preached “to every creature” in “all the world.” Let us examine the scriptures more closely to see how we get these conclusions from the Word of God.

“And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12

The setting of this portion is in the days of the Antichrist, also known as “that Wicked One.” When will he be revealed? At the mid-point of the tribulation. The Tribulation comes right after the time we live in. This is how we know that the “rejecters” mentioned in these verses are speaking of those who are living in the present dispensation. What did they do?

  1. They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” This is clearly speaking of the truth of the Word of God presented to a person. When someone is born again, they have a new life that loves the truth. These ones refuse it.
  2. They “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Not only do they refuse it but they “believe it not”. In order to discount something as true, you have to hear it. Paul tells us that justification is by faith alone. These are those when believe not. Furthermore, they have “pleasure in unrighteousness.” This gives us the positive reason why they reject the gospel… they love their unrighteous lifestyle, and don’t want it to change.

What will be the end of these ones? “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned.” Even after the rapture, these rejecters will not repent. Even though all the evidence will be loudly attesting that they made a big mistake, they will still refuse to believe. Instead they will be deceived by the lies of the Antichrist. The “strong delusion” itself comes from God. God will judicially blind them to the obvious truth, and harden their hearts as He hardened Pharaoh’s heart so many years ago. The book of Revelation refers to a certain class of people living in the seven-year tribulation as “them that dwell upon the earth.” If you look at the references, it is not just random people living on the earth, it is those that are opposed to God and His purpose. They are those who have rejected heaven, and chosen earth. This gives us a hint as to the deception that we read about in 2 Thessalonians 2.

“And it deceives those that dwell upon the earth by reason of the signs which it was given to it to work before the beast, saying to those that dwell upon the earth to make an image to the beast, which has the wound of the sword, and lived.” Revelation 13:14

Therefore, we can see that earth dwellers will be swept up into the delusion of Antichrist, and will not have a second chance. Also, it says ALL. There won’t be any that change their minds after the rapture and repent. The Word of God doesn’t hold out any hope for future repentance for those who reject the gospel now. The door of mercy is open now, but one day it will be closed. The privilege of hearing the Gospel preached does not gain you anything if found outside the door of mercy when it closes.

“When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”

“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation.” Hebrews 2:3

Q&A: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

QPlease explain the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Matt. 12:30-31) as it relates to sins not being forgiven? How does this co-exist with the thought of the blood of Christ forever dealing with all sin?
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AThis is an excellent question, and I would like to broaden my response to include the common concern about this issue with regard to eternal security. The text is Matthew 12:30-31

“For this reason I say unto you, Every sin and injurious speaking shall be forgiven to men, but speaking injuriously of the Spirit shall not be forgiven to men. And whosoever shall have spoken a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age nor in the coming one.” (Matthew 12:30-31)
Who can commit blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? Strictly speaking, these verse apply to those to whom the Lord was speaking; the class of apostate Jewish leaders who had witnessed first-hand the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Lord is speaking to a class of persons, later called "this generation" (see note). However, He does say "whosoever" bringing forward the consequences for individuals who find themselves in that class. Hebrews makes it clear that the testimony of the Holy Spirit continued after the Lord was on earth; "so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will…" (Heb. 2:3-4). It is not even possible, technically speaking, to blaspheme the Holy Ghost today, as the Lord and His apostles are no longer here.
 
What about today? However, there is a solemn passage in Hebrews which applies this same principle to Christianity. "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God ...and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace" (Heb. 10:28, 29). In this sense, it is possible for a person today to commit despite to the Spirit of grace. Who can do that? Only an apostate. An apostate is one who once had a profession of Christianity and partook of its blessings, but then fell away from "the faith", never truly having possessed "saving faith". Merely rejecting the gospel does not constitute blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. There were those who "were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come" and yet remained unconverted. If they were to reject that testimony of the Spirit, "it is impossible… to renew them again unto repentance." Incorrect use has been made of this verse to teach that the believer's security is conditional, and that it is possible, once saved, to be lost again. This is false, for it denies many other scriptures, such as John 10:27-29. Only an unbeliever could really say with open-eyed, deliberate hatred toward God, that the Holy Spirit is demonic.
 
Governmental Forgiveness vs. Eternal Forgiveness. We must bear in mind that there are several aspects of forgiveness. Eternal forgiveness is not spoken of prior to the cross. It is most often governmental forgiveness that is taken up. Governmental forgiveness is divine exemption from the governmental consequences of our sins in this life. A person may remain under the government of God until death, perhaps due to an unforgiving spirit, but then go to heaven (Matthew 6:14-15). Here the Lord is speaking to the leaders of apostate Israel. Israel will never again be forgiven this blasphemy and restored to Jehovah en masse. To be clear, they will be nationally restored (Rom. 11:26), but it will be through a remnant. You can see that it is governmental forgiveness because the Lord jumps forward to the millennium; "neither in that age which is to come". Certainly, those who he was speaking to have long since died. But that same moral class will be present at the close of this epoch, and they will not be allowed to enjoy the blessings of the Spirit in the Millennium. They had "tasted" of the Spirit's grace, and rejected it. And while a remnant will be brought into the full enjoyment of the Spirit in the Kingdom, the apostate ruling class will be cut off in the Great Tribulation judgment. However, in that the individuals within the class of "blasphemers" are apostates, the consequences are eternal; for "it shall not be forgiven him".
 
Sin against the Holy Ghost. What about believers? What word does this subject have for our conscience? The Holy Ghost is on earth indwelling the House of God. We are exhorted to walk uprightly in light of this fact "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30).

One particular evil that has pervaded the Church is clericalism. The clerical principle is a special kind of sin against the Holy Spirit, because it denies the Spirit's place in the Church, and replaces Him with a false system. The clerical principle states that all true ministry flows from the clergy, and any lay preaching is from the Devil. You can see how this evil is of the same character as what the Jewish leaders were guilty of in Matthew 12:30-31. As Israel spoke injuriously against the Spirit in their dispensation, so Christendom has denied the Spirit in our dispensation. The Church has effectively denied the presence and power of the Holy Spirit on earth. Collectively, the Jewish system came into judgment in 70 A.D., and one day the clerical system of Christendom will come into judgment as well, at the middle of Daniel's seventieth week. While we wouldn’t call the clerical principle "blasphemy" against the Holy Spirit, we can see that it is "sin" against the Spirit, and certainly the dispensational counterpart to what Israel was guilty of.1

 
If a believer committed this sin, could they lose their salvation? No. None of the elect will ever commit this sin. We know based on the doctrine of election that every person is either a "vessel of wrath" or a "vessel of mercy". If you are a vessel of mercy, you were chosen in an eternity past and He gave you the faith to believe when the time came. You were elected. A vessel of wrath is a person that was not elected, but when given the opportunity, hardened their heart (like Pharaoh, read Romans 9:14-24) and thus fitted themselves for judgment, despite God's long-suffering. Later, God hardened Pharaoh's heart, hence the phrase "it is impossible." Since none of the redeemed can or will ever commit this sin, there is no contradiction with 1 John 1:7.
 
A couple helpful realizations that help with this type of question:
  • There are two aspects to the atonement of Christ. Propitiation is the aspect in which Christ died to perfectly satisfy God. In this aspect He died for the whole WORLD. Substitution is the aspect in which Christ died for ME. In this aspect He only paid for the individual sins of those who would be SAVED.
  • Whenever we come to two verses that seem to contradict each other, we need to accept both as true, even if we can't comprehend how they can both coexist. For example; "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men" is 100% true and "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" is 100% true. What I have started to do is simply accept the Word of God, and then ask him to make it clear to me if it pleases Him. And He usually does.

Q&A: Casting Pearls before Swine

QWhat is the meaning of Matt. 7:6… Not throwing our pearls to swine? What are pearls? Who are the swine? What is an example of this forbidden behavior? Does this conflict with the exhortations to preach the gospel to the lost?
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ACasting our pearls before swine refers to bringing unholy individuals into the most sacred things of Christianity under the banner of grace. For example, bringing unbelievers into our service or worship (Phil. 3). Unsaved persons cannot worship, and God doesn’t want their service. Christendom is a vast system which unites believers and unbelievers in one common forum. But there must be a separation between believers and the world. If a person is still in their sins, they are standing on the wrong side of the cross. They are still crying “away with him, crucify him”. We cannot try to enjoy Christ with someone that is hateful or even indifferent toward our Savior. What they need is the gospel.

Give not that which is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before the swine, lest they trample them with their feet, and turning round rend you. (Matthew 7:6)
Your pearls” might speak of what is most precious to Christians… worship, service, comfort, etc.1 “Dogs” are those who are unsaved (Phil. 3:2). “Swine” are morally degraded, usually false professors (2 Pet. 2:22). The “trampling of pearls” refers to the dishonor that is done to the Name of Christ when we share the precious things of Christ with unbelievers. “Turning round and rending” refers to the confusion and corruption that has invaded the kingdom of heaven because we have not maintained the distinction between holy and unholy. Here are a few examples of things to think about, although we do not want to make a law out of them:
  1. Joining together with false cults (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses) in outreach or prayer. Unity at the expense of holiness is nothing more than an unholy alliance.
  2. Comforting an unsaved co-worker that “all things work together for good”… that’s only true for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
  3. Speaking about God’s sovereignty to the lost. We need to stick to man’s responsibility. God’s sovereignty is a family secret!

An example of one who failed in this is Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:13), who displayed his precious things to the embassage from Babylon. The result of Hezekiah’s carelessness was that everything he showed the Babylonians was taken away.

What about the gospel? The exhortation about not casting our pearls does not prevent us from spreading the gospel to the lost. We were all at one time unholy like the “dogs” and “swine”, and would still be enemies of Christ if it weren’t for the grace of God (1 Cor. 6:11). Yet someone loved us enough to share the gospel with us. The gospel is different. The pearls are intended for the saints, but the gospel is for the lost. Hence we have commands to preach the gospel to the lost.

Q&A: Suffering Persecution

QIf we are not suffering in our Christian lives, are we living as we should according to Christ (2 Tim. 3:12)?

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AThis verse is very specific. I would take it exactly how it appears. The statement is intended to warn the believer that if he or she lives godly in Christ Jesus, you are guaranteed to suffer persecution. Here is the text:
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
The question assumes the use of this verse backwards to say that if you are not suffering persecution, you aren’t living godly. I agree with the principle, and I think it is true. However, I would caution using reverse logic with scripture. This probably isn’t one, but there are other cases where this could get us into trouble. It is a good practice to always use scripture “with the grain”; i.e. in the same direction as the context in which we find it.
 
What is persecution? Persecution is “ill-treatment because of a belief or background”. It could be social, political, physical, or even religious. However, the verse is not specific on the frequency of persecution, or on what type. While the godly in Christ Jesus will definitely suffer persecution, in lands like the United States it may not be physical or political persecution. But this world’s system is against the Lord, and if we want to live godly, we will experience some kind of suffering due to opposition.
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” John 15:18-20

In general, we don’t want to use persecution as the measure of our faithfulness to Christ. We want Him to be our object, and we want to focus on serving Him. We should never forget what the world is, and that we are crucified to it. We should expect to suffer, because if we live godly in Christ Jesus, God tells us that persecution is unavoidable.

God’s Eternal Purpose

“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” Ephesians 1:10

Whom does God’s Purpose center around? Christ.

What is God’s Purpose? This verse has often been named the “key” to the whole Bible. In vv.8-9 Paul prefaces this section by saying that God has given us “all wisdom and intelligence, having made known to us the mystery of His will”; in other words, this secret of His will is the key to all spiritual intelligence. What follows in v.10 is “the mystery of His will”; i.e. the reason – previously unknown but now revealed – for everything God has done and will do. From the creation of the universe, the rise and fall of empires, down to the trials of life, God’s great purpose behind it all is to glorify His Son and to make Him the head over all things, a place that He will share with the Church! Many times we get the idea that the blessing of man is God’s central purpose. It certainly is one of His purposes, but not the chief one. The Church will be infinitely blessed, but in association with the Lord Jesus Christ. When our eyes are opened to see His chief purpose – to glorify Christ – then our focus is directed away from man, away from ourselves, to the Lord Jesus Christ. In this manner we come to have God’s viewpoint.

When will it be accomplished? This verse also tells us when this purpose will be accomplished. It will be accomplished in the “dispensation (administration, or economy) of the fullness of times”. We then must ask, what is an administration? Similar to how the administration of a United States President differs depending on what is happening on the world stage, so God’s dispensations have been successively revealed down through the centuries to the present day. For example, God dealt with Israel under the Law in a very different way from His dealings with the Church under grace. In each of the successive dispensations, man has proven his total and complete depravity. Ultimately, Christ will come personally back to this world to set everything right, and usher in His own dispensation. This will be the final dispensation, that of “the fullness of times.” This dispensation is called in Rev. 20, the “thousand years” or in Latin, “Millennium”.

Where will it be accomplished? In two spheres: (1) in heaven, and (2) on earth. The center of the heavenly sphere will be the Church, reigning with Christ, sharing in all things that He will possess. The center of the earthly sphere will be the purged and restored Nation of Israel, under the leadership of the Messiah, at the head of all other nations. Christ is the exalted pinnacle of both spheres of glory, as (1) Head to the Church and (2) the King of Israel, and King of Nations.

How will it be accomplished? God will accomplish His purpose by “gathering together in one all things”. This means that God will concentrate under Christ the rule of all things. God is ordering all things “after the counsel of His own will.” One by one, the pieces will fall into place, and this magnificent scheme will be accomplished for men and angels to behold! The steps God will take to accomplish this purpose are given to us in scripture as prophetic events.

Why has God chosen to do this? The answer lies in v.9, “according to the good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself;” i.e. this great plan has originated from the very heart of God.

Please contact me with and questions or suggestions!

Q&A: Sinners or Wicked Persons?

QAre the sinners in Mark 2:15-17 different from “wicked people” put away from the fellowship of the assembly?
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AThe short answer to this question is “yes”. There is a difference between the “publicans and sinners” in Mark 2 and the “wicked person” in 1 Corinthians 5. Let’s examine each passage.

Difference Between Mark 2 and 1 Corinthians 5

“And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his [Levi’s] house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Mark 2:15-17

“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

It is clear from Mark 2 that these ones the Lord was eating with were “sinners” in need of repentance. That is, they were unsaved persons being sought by the Savior. The scribes and Pharisees were accusing the Lord of being guilty by association with these persons. The Lord has instructed us to be fishers of men, and so it is right and proper for us to draw alongside sinners and present the gospel to them. However, we do need to beware of defilement, which we will speak more about later. In 1 Corinthians 5, the individuals to be put out were those whose lives had become characterized by unrepented sin. The important difference to notice here is that it says “if any man be called a brother be a …” It is a very marked distinction from looking at what comes previously in verses 9-10. Paul had instructed them not to keep company “altogether with the fornicators of this world” it would not have been feasible for them to continue life on earth, “for then must ye needs go out of the world.” Therefore, we can see that Paul is emphasizing their being at least professing Christians who are fornicators, etc. that must be put away.

However, we must remember that the “publicans and sinners” that Jesus ate with were seeking His company. They were those who had the stigma of sin on them because of their background. We never read of the Lord Jesus having unrestricted fellowship with a person going on in sin. Neither should we. We are permitted to keep company with unbelievers only when necessary, and we are to show love to the world, but we are not to be friends with the world. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Excuses for the Assembly to not Judge Evil

Paul goes on to say, “do not ye judge them that are within?” and “therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” God puts the responsibility to put away wicked persons squarely at the feet of the local assembly. The Corinthians were actually responsible to make the judgment themselves but had been slow to do it, so Paul had “judged already.” They were “not to company” with the wicked person. Paul says, “no, not to eat.” That is, don’t socialize with them, not even for a meal. Some people take a legal approach to this and will do any and everything with the excommunicated person except eat with them. But the intention is clear. Once a person has been put away, contact should be limited.

There is no excuse for the assembly to not judge sin, although we are often guilty of it. Some people try to use the passage in Mark 2 to say that because the Lord was associating with wicked persons, we can too. Jesus ate with them for the purpose of bringing them to repentance. The Lord’s eating with publicans and sinners in no way absolves the assembly’s responsibility to judge evil.

But what about Judas? Another argument some might raise is that the Lord broke bread (instituted His supper) with Judas, an unbeliever and a betrayer. If Jesus broke bread with Judas, why is it such a problem for the assembly to associate with wicked persons? If we read carefully, it says in John 13 that Satan entered into Judas after supper when he had received the sop. It was after the Passover supper that Judas slipped out into the night. Therefore, we can see that Judas was absent when the Lord, “supper being ended“, took break, etc.

If the Lord did it, why can’t I?

Is the fact of what Jesus did in Mark 2 licence for us to be unconcerned about evil associations, especially when we are giving the gospel? No. It flies in the face of many New Testament exhortations. There is a difference between Jesus and the Christian. The Lord Jesus was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). He did not have a sin nature. He could not be “tempted by evil things” (James 1:13). Not only was His Divine nature sinless, but His humanity was sinless as well, demonstrated in the forty days of temptation in the wilderness. But we Christians do a sinful nature (Rom. 7). We need to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18). We need to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14).