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DECEMBER  2016

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Last Days

 

2 Timothy 3:1-5 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: (2) For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3) unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, (4) traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, (5) having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

 

What are the Last Days Biblically?

 

The term “last days” is not always used in the same way in every passage of scripture.  For example in Hebrews 1:3, the last days seem to refer to the time when the Lord was here on this earth speaking to the Hebrew world.  Before that God had spoken though conscience and creation and prophets.  But now in these last days,  He speaks to us through His Son.   Last days in our passage above may refer to the end of the church age just before the events of Matthew 24 which occur durng the tribulation period. Or it may refer to that seven year period called the tribulation.  These conditions will exist in both periods. 

 

 What does the Future hold?

 

I believe that the Lord will come again.  Sometimes we hear about the rapture of the church and of the Lord's coming to set up his kingdom as though there were two second comings.  But there is only one second coming.  That coming involves a number of events.  I believe the second coming involves the Lord's coming to take away the church from the “wrath that is to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10) as well as the Lord's coming to establish his righteous reign of one thousand years (Revelation 20:1-7).  It also involves the tribulation period that precedes the one thousand year reign.

 

Prominent People of the Future

 

Obviously the Lord is the theme of the future prophetic plan.  But we have a person known as the Antichrist or perhaps as the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:3) that is prominent in prophecies of the Lord's second coming.  This Antichrist presents himself as a man of peace but he uses religion to take economic control of the world.  He then wants to be worshiped as God so He establishes a one world religion that opposes the true worship of the Lord.  He has a second lieutenant who is a Jew that convinces the Jews to bow to his demands.  He controls the world, politically, economically, and religiously.  He is the one who requires people to be marked with a number identified as 666 in order to buy or sell in the market place. This number marks people as worshipers of the Antichrist.  It is likely his second lieutenant that sets up this system and requires people to be loyal to his boss. 

 

Question?

Could the Antichrist and his second lieutenant be alive today?  Absolutely.  Would we recognize him today?  No.  We need to be careful with prophesy because many people have tried to make current events fit the prophetic events and when it becomes obvious that the current events did not fit, it makes the Bible seem suspect.  The Bible is not suspect; its prophecies will be fulfilled to the letter.  The prophecies connected with the Lord's first coming were accurate and the prophecies connected with His second coming will also be accurate.  While we do see things like those that are predicted happening today, setting dates for the Lord's return is not scriptural.  Trying to identify the man of sin with Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin has proven to be wrong since the rapture has not occurred yet which is one of the first events of the Lord's second coming.  The spirit of antichrist is in the world today but the Antichrist will not be obvious until after Israel signs a peace treaty with someone connected with the old Roman Empire in order to secure peace. That will usher in the seven years of tribulation.   Others thought President Obama was the man of sin. They used prophecy to instill fear rather than respect in the minds of people over the last eight years.  And now, I am being asked how President-elect Trump fits into the prophetic plan.  I want to assure you that if he is the Antichrist, it will not be obvious as long as true believers of the present age are still on this earth.  President-elect Trump's election was allowed by the Lord and Christians are commanded to pray for Him and to respect Him as long as He holds the position of President.  Perhaps he like Nebuchadnezzar of old will have a miraculous conversion to the Lord and will actually be a man who protects believers and the worship of the Lord.   We should not let our understanding of what the future holds to cloud our understanding of our current responsibilities to those in authority. 

 

So What is the Lesson Here?

Instead of assuming that current events are part of God's prophetic plan, we need to let the Lord work things out in His way and in His time.  The signs of the Lord's return are signs of His coming to set up His Kingdom and will most likely be the events occurring during the tribulation period.  We need to continue preaching the Gospel of God's grace and if we are among those who have put our faith in the Lord Jesus, we should act like it.  Instead of trying to get others to act right, we need to make sure we act right.  And we should remember that the Lord has told us, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Matthew 24:44.

 

 

Meditation for the week of December 11, 2016

Merry Christmas?

 

Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

 

So for whom was the first Christmas Merry?

It wasn't really merry for Mary and Joseph.  They had to travel to Bethlehem to be part of a census.  Apparently they couldn't send the forms by mail and had to show up in person.  Can you just imagine Mary traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem (about 80 miles).  Tradition says she was on a donkey while Joseph walked.  It that was true, the journey took at least four days and maybe a week.   In addition, Mary was with child before she was married.  I feel confident that by the time the Lord was born that they were married, but still there may have been relatives that believed she was a “loose woman.”  None of these things would make for a Merry Christmas.

 

Peace

When the angels appeared to the shepherds, their message was one of peace.  They were announcing the hope of Israel.  Israel was under Roman rule and now they were being told that finally God was fulfilling His promise to send them the Messiah.  He was to be their King.  He was to offer the Jews peace.  So what happened to the peace that was being offered?  The Jews rejected their Messiah and the peace that He offered.  In the final week of His life, He made what we call His triumphal entry into Jerusalem where a crowd wanted to crown Him King.  But by the end of that week, a multitude (probably many of the same people) wanted Him crucified.  As He made his triumphal entry, He wept over Jerusalem.   He knew that a cross awaited Him instead of a crown.  He said,  "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation" (Luke 19:41-44).  This day was the the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 9 that indicated that after 69 weeks of years the Messiah would be cut off.  The Jews rejected the Lord who wanted to give them peace and accepted a man by the name of Barabbas who was willing to fight the Romans.  They accepted a man that they thought could save them and rejected the man who could have saved them.  As a result, Titus, the Roman general fulfilled the Lord's prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

 

Today, when contestants in beauty pageants are asked what they want, the correct answer is world peace.  Every President we have and most leaders of the free world would say that they want the same thing.  But we never get it.  And we won't get it until the Lord comes to set up a righteous kingdom.  Our training from the time we are young has to do with competition and not with cooperation.  We compete for grades, we compete for the best jobs with the biggest companies, we compete on the football fields, we compete politically.  Someone has to win and someone has to lose.  Instead of cooperation there is striving to be top dog.  Yet, the Lord told us that to be great we had to be servants.  He proved that by dying for us when instead He could have called twelve legions of angels to fight for Him if He had wanted to fight instead of die. 

 

The Good News and the Bad News

I have good news.  Even if the world wants to continue fighting and warring, even if big business wants to continue using employees like pawns instead of like people, even if neighbors and families cannot get along, we can have personal peace with God.  And that is the most important peace to have.  By nature, we are enemies of God (Romans 5:10).  But when we trust in the Lord we are reconciled to God and the war is over.  It is a war that started with Cain and Abel and that will culminate in the battle of Armageddon during the Tribulation period. 

 

But the bad news is that things are going to get worse on this earth before they get better.  Men say that they want peace but the money and profit seems to be in war.  The people who are respected are the winners.  They are the rich, they are the political kingpins, they are the ones who desire to control the money and the people and they often do it through religion.  But even though Christ was rejected 2000 years ago by His own people,  that does not mean that He has to be rejected by you or by me.  The apostle Paul says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).  I have that peace and I hope you do as well.

 

My message isn't really a merry one unless you understand what the Lord said in John 16:33:  “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." The world is not going to give us peace.  Nor does our future in this world look very merry.  But the Lord can change all that for each one of us.  Peace!

 

Meditation for the week of December 18, 2016

No hope!

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

 

A Depressing Situation

One thing a person doesn't want to hear when they go to the doctor is the statement that “you have no hope.”  That is a dismal but honest assessment that some disease is progressing and is incurable.   That person has no future to encourage them.  They have no earthly hope..

 

Encouraging Words

I remember taking a car to a mechanic who spent some time going over it and finally turned to me and said, “We can save her.”  Those were words that I wanted to hear and they gave me hope with regard to that old car.  The nation of Israel heard similar words when the angels announced the birth of the Lord to the shepherds.  Gentiles also were given hope that they had not had.  They were “strangers” to the covenants of promise in the Old Testament now were being brought near because of the death of Christ according to Paul in Ephesians 2.  No longer were they “outsiders” but they could have the same spiritual promises as a Jew.  I am glad for that because I am a Gentile.  We need to remember that the Lord was a Jew but His Father loved the WHOLE WORLD.  When the Lord came, He provided HOPE for the whole world.

 

The Long Delay

The primitive church looked for the Lord to return during their lifetimes.  They were discouraged as they saw people dying and wondered how the dead “in Christ” would be able to participate in the promise of the Lord's return as given in John 14.  Paul said that they should not worry. The unbeliever has NO HOPE but those who believe will actually be caught up to meet the Lord before the living are caught up.  There will be those who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord, but the generation that had “fallen asleep” in Christ still had hope as well.  They would be raised to be with the Lord forever. 

 

There has been a long delay since the promise of the Lord's second coming was made.  Many have lost the HOPE that the Lord could return at any time and make things right again.  The world is constantly at war.  Economies are struggling.  The potential for nuclear war gets worse every day.  Terrorism is a constant threat.  People are killing one another in our cities.  The world has “haves” and “have nots”.  Politics is now a contact sport figuratively speaking.  How can we say there is hope when the future looks so dismal?  How can we have hope when it has been so long since the Lord promised to come and make things right?

 

The Promise is Still True and it is still Certain

I have a hard time understanding how people who feel that this life is all there is have the mental strength to get up in the morning.  I realize that it is possible to acquire things, and power, and friends.  But at the end of life we still die.  And then what?  How can 70 or 80 years of happiness in this life be really meaningful if that is all there is?  I believe God when He says that after death there is something more.  It is called eternal life for a believer.  While we don't know a lot about heaven, it is a place where the believer goes and enjoys the presence of God forever.  There are no tears, sorrow, death, darkness, nor anything that defiles.  Lies are over.  Competition for the most and the best will be a thing of the past.  Service and praise to the Lord and peace will be the norm.  What a day that will be! 

 

The unsaved do not have that hope.  They look forward to separation from God and the blackness of darkness forever. While I don't understand how the eternal destiny of the unbeliever is also described as a Lake of Fire and a place where the worm doesn't die and the fire is not put out, I am sure that the Lord can give the unbeliever both eternal conditions. I certainly wouldn't want to be living without hope. Many people say that when they die they that will be it.  That still seems to be discouraging and dismal to me but think of their surprise when they find out that God meant what He said.  Imagine dying to wake up with a mind and a body prepared for an eternity of torment.

 

Please

Many who read this will resent my warning and will say that I am just using scare tactics.  Frankly if scaring people is what it takes, then let me do it. I wouldn't do it if there weren't an alternative--if there wasn't something that those without hope can have that will give them a bright future.

 

Let me say that the world is scary enough right now that it should cause people to start asking where they stand with God.  No matter what happens in this life, the believer has an eternity of bliss to look forward to.  The believer has HOPE.  The unbeliever, not so much.  Please, please, if you are an unbeliever, consider the consequences of being wrong and come to the Lord by faith in order to have real hope for eternity.

 

Meditation for the week of December 25, 2016