Monday, March 30, 2020

Verse of the Week: 1 Peter 5:8

Verse of the Week: 1 Peter 5:8

(The majority of the footnotes are taken from the Ryrie Study Bible, to clarify additional verses quoted in this writing.)

                In the first part of 1 Peter 5, Peter has addressed the leadership of the church and given them their duties and rewards for faithful exercise of those duties. The false teachers are moving into the church, suffering and trial was manifesting itself in the church, and believers were learning what it truly meant to live in a pagan and corrupt world and maintain their Christian beliefs. Persecution had not fully developed into martyrdom at this time, but that would soon come. The Christian church was faced with slander, bigotry, misunderstanding, and small outbursts of physical persecution. Leaders must prepare their people for these circumstances when they come into the life of those the Lord has put in their charge.

After delivering his message to the leaders, Peter turns to address those who have placed themselves under the leadership. These are your everyday, pew-sitting, constantly in the world believers. They are the “rank and file” who go out each day and try to make a living. They are common believers that the world may never know but their Heavenly Father knows them each by name:

                1 O LORD, Thou hast searched[1] me and known me.
                2 Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up,
                                Thou dost understand my thoughts from afar.
                3 Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down,
                                And art intimately acquainted with all my ways.
                Psalm 13:1-3

And our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ know us by our names:

                14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me,
    15 “even as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for      the sheep.
    John 10:14-15

                Peter understands that rough times are coming for the believers. His writings are warnings to us about what we should be looking for and what this life has in store for us. Christians are never promised a beautiful path in this life lined with roses along a golden path that is marked out clearly for us to follow. But instead of us facing this life in our wisdom and knowledge God has given us His word to be a guide. Peter writes on of the most repeated verses in Scripture. “Though believers should place their confidence in God, they should not be careless. Christians in conflict are to be on the alert, made strong and steadfast by Christ Himself.”[2]

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

                Be- A state of being. How we are to conduct ourselves. This is something that we make a choice to do. This is not something that is inherently in us. We all breath without thinking about it. Peter writes that we are to choose to live in this state.

                Of sober spirit- Peter clarifies what state of being we should maintain. We are to be mentally alert and thinking clearheadedly. Our minds, if we keep them on Him, should be calm and in control.  “Sober” is translated from the Greek word that means calm and collected, to have good sense, good judgement, wisdom, and level-headed in times of stress.

In other places in the Bible we are warned against being drunk. In fact Peter writes on the value of soberness earlier in the book:

For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 1 Peter 4:3

Just as we are not to allow our physical bodies to come under the intoxicating effects of alcohol we are not to become intoxicated with false teachers and false doctrine. When we read and listen to the Word of God being taught, we are to evaluate it with a clear head and not a head that is listening for a teacher that tells us what we want to hear. If we are not clear-minded and listening with a discerning ear we will not be able to detect when Satan is coming against us and we will fall into his snares. We are to “watch with diligence, care, and industry, keeping a good lookout, minding and observing everything that presents, and remembering the power and cunning of the enemy;”[3]

Be- Once again, be in a state of readiness.

On the alert- Be vigilant, be aware. Imitate the watchmen that is carefully scanning the horizon for the enemy in the field. We must keep our eyes open at all times for you never know when the devil will pounce upon you or come upon you in a manner that you would never expect.

Your adversary- This description of Satan gives us a look at one of the characteristics of his personality. In his role as adversary Satan is consistently opposing God’s Person, His plan, and His will for his creations on the earth.

Satan at one time was a holy angel who was apparently very powerful. He fell from heaven because of pride being found within him. He now desires to usurp God's power making him God's enemy who opposes Him, His purposes, and His people.

In Ezekiel we are given a description of Satan as he is described as one of the cherubim and the highest of the created angels.

      12 “Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre,[4] and say to him,            ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,
                                “You had the seal of perfection,[5]
                                Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty
                 13 “You were in Eden, the garden of God;
                                Every precious stone was your covering:[6]
                                The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond;
                                The beryl, the onyx, and the jasper;
                                The lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald;
                                And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets,[7]
                                Was in you.
                                On the day that you were created
                                They were prepared
                 14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers,[8]
                                And I placed you there.
                                You were on the holy mountain of God;
                                You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. Ezekiel 28:12-14

Instead of remaining in this most exalted position Satan became proud. His beauty and position began to take control of his thinking. Why should he be in second place? Didn’t he have every right to be the number one in the creation? He decided he wanted God's place and to sit on His throne as the highest being.

    15 “You were blameless in your ways
                From the day that you were created,
                Until unrighteousness was found in you. Ezekiel 28:15

                13 “But you said in your heart,
                                ‘I will ascend to heaven,
                                I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
                                And I will sit on the mount of assembly
                                In the recesses of the north.
                14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
                                I will make myself like the Most High.’ Isaiah 14:13-14     

Because of his pride and sinful desire to take the sovereignty, which is only rightfully God's, he was cast from heaven. Satan is nothing if not tenacious. Despite what history has shown he believes he will conquer at the end. Even at the last moment of earthly, human history, after one thousand years in a bottomless pit, Satan still believes he can conquer:

                7 And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his                                      prison,
    8 and will come out to deceive the nations which as in the four corners of the earth,      Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the      sand of the seashore.
    9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the      saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
    10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and             brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be forever tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:7-10

The devil- Satan is a person, not just an idea or an evil influence. Throughout the Old Testament we see him conversing with the Lord and in the New Testament with Jesus Christ.

Prowls about- Think about how a cat attacks. Generally, a cat does not come at an opponent with a full-frontal assault. The cat thinks, plans, he checks his surroundings with his eyes while his ears and nose and in full combat mode. Slowly the cat approaches his prey and in a blazing fit of energy pounces upon them.

The same is true of Satan. He observes us (through his demonic servants) and looks for our weaknesses. He does not charge in with a full-frontal assault on believers. By such observation he knows our feelings and our circumstances. Probably he knows more about us than we do. Once he finds our weaknesses, he will exploit it (or them) to its fullest potential to harm us and hinder our relationship with our Savior.  

On a side note, Satan is a finite being. He is NOT omnipresent (nor can her read minds or possess believers). He can only be at one place at one time. However, the unceasing energy he puts forth towards believers and the 24 hrs. a day 365 days a year work of his associates make it seem like he is everywhere at all times. Though Satan may know much about us God knows more than he does and can do more for us than we can possibly imagine.

Like- The roar is a deception. This is his lies told in our ears that might scare us, but who has been defeated at the cross:

When He had disarmed[9] the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over then through Him. Colossians 2:15

A roaring lion- Yet, despite being disarmed, Satan still has the sound of his roar, possibly an allusion to the lies he tells all of us, believers and unbelievers, are still potent. Satan still has power, but it is a false power. He utilizes this power by convincing unbelievers not to choose Christ or robbing believers of their joy Satan.  

Seeking someone- Satan has been doing this for some time now:

6 Now there came a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
7 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” Job 1:6-7

                Seeking indicates a persistence in what he is doing. He will never be satisfied with taking down the one Christian. His goal is all believers to have a broken relationship with their Savior.

To devour- To swallow, to gulp down, to overcome. Satan is not looking to nibble on us. Satan is not looking to lick us.

This is a very strong Greek word indicating that this is one of the devil’s chief aims. This devouring indicates that Satan is able take away, for a time, our effectiveness as Christians. He cannot steal our salvation, nothing can separate us from Christ, but he can rob us of our first love, our witness, our desire to walk with the Lord and instead turn it into walking in our own way (which is his way).

The Christians at the time of Peter’s writing needed these words. The false teachers and false doctrine were moving in fast. The Word of God was not available to them as it is for us today. Two thousand years of study, learning, and debate was not available for them to access. But just as they had an enemy which seeked to devour them, so do we today. Satan is an enemy whose ultimate purpose is destruction and death. He is an enemy to all that is good, Godly, and true.

We will give the last word to Spurgeon:

“He can never be content till he sees the believer utterly devoured. He would rend him in pieces, and break his bones and utterly destroy him if he could. Do not, therefore, indulge the thought that the main purpose of Satan is to make you miserable. He is pleased with that, but that is not his ultimate end. Sometimes he may even make you happy, for he hath dainty poisons sweet to the taste which he administers to God’s people. If he feels that our destruction can be more readily achieved by sweets than by bitters, he certainly would prefer that which would best effect his end.”

[1] Searched- Used of the careful scrutiny involved in mining operations (Job 28:3) and in exploring a country (Judges 18:2)
[2] The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Epistles & Prophecy, Roger M. Raymer, p 94
[4] This section (vv. 11-19) with its superhuman references, apparently describes someone other than the human ruler of Tyre; namely, Satan. If so, Satan’s unique privileges before his fall are described in verses 12-15 and the judgment on him in verses 16-19.
[5] Satan was the consummation of perfection in his original wisdom and beauty.
[6] Dress or robe.
[7] Settings and sockets. The sockets or grooves used as the settings for the precious stones.
[8] Satan had occupied a special place of prominence in guarding the throne of God (cf. Exodus 25:20).
[9]Disarmed. Literally stripped (as was done to enemies).

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Verse of the Week: Matthew 24:34

These are the words of Jesus concerning His Second Coming given to his apostles. This has commonly been called the Olivet Discourse as His teachings were conducted on the Mount of Olives. However this part of the Olivet Discourse has caused much discussion and we will take a look at the passage in greater detail. First, a little background.

Figure 1Mount of Olives,

The Mount of Olives is located east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. The apostles have come to Jesus with three questions:

And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3

Jesus teaches them in vv. 4-28 about the signs of the end of age answering their last question first. This teaching is broken down into two parts, vv. 4-14 concern the first half of the tribulation, vv. 15-28 concern the second half of the tribulation or what is known as the Great Tribulation. Each half will have a duration of 3 ½ years for a total of 7 years (Daniel 9:24-27).

Now Jesus turns to the second question, “…what will be the sign of Your coming…”. Matthew 24:29-31 furnishes the answer for the apostles of what will surround the coming of the Lord. Each verse gives us the Old Testament passage that for any Jew would confirm what they were seeing had been predicted long ago. In v.31 Jesus will send forth His angels to gather His brethren from the entire world and to prepare them to enter His Kingdom reign. There is more to these verses, much more, that we will hopefully examine in the future.

The first question is not answered in Matthew’s recording.

Then we come to a very puzzling verse that has perplexed interpreters for centuries:

We will take each part of this verse, examine it, and attempt to draw a conclusion as to who Jesus was speaking of.

However, we must remember the audience the Messiah is talking to. He is speaking to Jews, the passage here is Jewish, the future recipients are Jews. There is in no place or mention of the church or gentiles. Christ is given directions, instructions, admonitions for the Jewish people when they see such events happening to act on His words because His appearance is near. While the church can learn principles and be admonished to action by the words of Christ, these words are not for us. They are for the Jewish people. Louis A Barbieri, Jr. writes concerning this passage:

“They have nothing to do with the church, which Jesus said He would build (16:18). The church is not present in any sense in chapters 24 and 25. The disciples’ questions related to Jerusalem, Israel and the Lord’s second coming in glory to establish His kingdom.”[1]

Since the church is not in mind in this passage, we can forgo any thoughts concerning the rapture, the Bema Seat Judgment, or the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Our minds are to be exclusively on Jewish thoughts and interpreting this passage in light of Old Testament passages concerning the Jewish people and their role in the end times.

Let’s begin our breakdown of this passage:

“Truly- “PAY ATTENTION”, “this is of extreme importance”, “I am not talking to you to hear Myself speak, this is an extremely important lesson that you need to hear.”

I find it interesting that we only have one Truly in this passage. Typically, we see it repeated twice which demonstrates the mega importance of the teaching from Jesus. Possibly Jesus had given them so much information beforehand, 28 verses, that He was concerned with overloading them. This information was important but maybe more important was listening and working out what He was saying.

I say to you, - Direct teaching from Jesus Christ. I think we often overlook the fact when we read this the teaching is coming from the mouth of God. Many today lament that “if only God would talk to them, tell them what to do”. We have had God talk to us. Through the Bible, both Old and New Testament,we have His recorded words and the words of His Son, who is also God in the flesh. When we rationalize it out God has been speaking to us since the beginning of Creation as He walked and had communion with Adam.

this generation- Wow. These two words have caused an immense amount of problems for interpreters. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what this means. I will list several of the more popular opinions concerning this phrase but this is not an exhaustive list. This appears to capture the more “popular” opinions of writers.[2] Numbers 1-6 have problems, though they may contain a kernel of truth. Number 7 seems to contain what Jesus is truly teaching in this passage.

1.       The Jewish race. While this has been a very popular viewpoint this is lacking in support. While the Greek word genea can be employed to mean “race”, this would be the only place in the New Testament utilizing such an interpretation. Also, an examination of secular Greek writers does not uncover a use of this Greek word in any of their writings to indicate “race”. To top it off it is only used once in the Septuagint.
2.       Creation. In all my research on this passage and the Olivet Discourse as a whole I have never seen any support of this position.
3.       The human race. This is only slightly true. It is people who will experience this, but the passage is not written for the entire human race. It is written for the Jewish people.
4.       The destruction of Jerusalem. Impossible. When we look at this we see at least one promise that was made by Jesus that had not come to pass, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.” Matthew 24:14. Did this happen before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70? The simple answer is NO. The gospel has barely penetrated into what is now known as Britain, Germany, and Russia. The gospel had not made its way to the Americas in any form. Also the gospel that was being preached by the apostle’s and their converts was what we still preach today, “The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The “gospel of the kingdom” includes this but also adds “And He is coming back soon to set up His Kingdom as promised by the prophets.” The Antichrist will hate this going on a rampage killing all who preach this as they vocally confirm their resistance to him and the empire he has built.
When will Matthew 24:14 be fulfilled:

“And I [John the apostle] saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people: Revelation 14:6[3]

5.       The church. No chance as the church has been raptured out before this event. We will not be around to experience any of the tribulation. More on this in future articles.
This position stems from a lack of interpretation principles and is produced only when lax principles of interpretation are employed.
6.       The apostles directly. But it is only a promise that they will see it commence but may or may not live to the end. No support can be found for this assertion.

Now that we have looked at erroneous interpretations what do we have left.

7.       The people then living. Not the apostles that Jesus taught, but to the Jewish people who have survived during the Tribulation period and will soon be witnesses to the Second Coming of Christ. This is the generation who witnesses all these events and apparently will witness the Second Coming of Christ. This will be the generation of the Jewish people that will fulfill Zechariah:

“And I will [God’s sovereignty, even here He is in control] pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look [spiritually and physically] on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him,[4] as one mourns for an only son, and they [the Jewish survivors of the Tribulation} will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born. Zechariah 12:10           
             As Ryrie states, “At the second coming of Christ, Israel will recognize Jesus as her Messiah, acknowledging with deep contrition that He is the One whom their forefathers pierced.[5]

will not pass away- Why will they not pass away? These are believing Jews who have become Saints during the Tribulation because of their heartfelt sorrow for sin centered around two reasons:

1.       Their wholehearted rejection of Jesus Christ during their lives. To think it took this to bring them to a living faith in their Messiah when he had offered His love and acceptance for their entire lives.
2.       They realize that the only reason they are able to be accepted by Him is because of the sacrifice He made, “…even those who pierced Him;…” Revelation 1:7. They now understand the price that He paid. They are not listening to stories or looking at man’s vain attempts to display (movies, plays, art) the torments He went through. They are seeing Jesus and seeing the price that their disobedience (and ours) required.

Now that their Messiah has arrived, they have seen Him in the flesh protecting them from their enemies. It is difficult to believe that at this stage He would allow any harm to come to His brethren. These Jewish brethren will enter the Millennial Kingdom and will inherit the Abrahamic Covenant in their fleshly bodies while Old Testament Jewish saints (and Jewish saints who have died in the Tribulation) will inherit the Abrahamic Covenant in their glorified bodies.

until all these things- Everything that is described in vv. 4-28.

take place. -  Until all the things described by Jesus in vv. 4-28 occur there will not be a Second Coming.

This is another reason that this is not a Rapture passage. The Rapture is a sign less event. There is nothing, NOTHING, that needs to occur for our Savior to return in the clouds and take us unto Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Rapture can occur at any moment, at any time.
The Second Coming has a multitude of signs. Revelation 4-19 details many of the events that must occur before the Second Coming of Christ.    
The chart I have included only gives a small amount of the passages comparing the Rapture and the Second Coming.

            I sincerely hope this has cleared up possible misconceptions and misinterpretations on this passage. These verses are magnificent teaching for Jews living during the most anti-Semitic period in human history. Jesus Christ has given to His people a timeline that they can refer to, in an attempt to understand what his happening to them at the hands of the antichrist and his minions. And though it appears very dark and hopeless for the Jewish people [compare the Minor Prophets who use this same formula in their writings] suddenly their Savior appears and delivers them:

They [the apostles] were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men [angels] dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11 | NIV

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. Matthew 24:44 | NIV

“Look, He is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see Him,
even those who pierced Him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.”
So shall it be! Amen. Revelation 1:7 | NIV

[1] The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, p 76
[2] The Second ComingBible, William E. Biederwolf, p 347
[3] God’s last call of grace to the world before the return of Christ in judgment. Ryrie Study Bible, p 1912
[4] This is the mourning for sin that will be prompted by the Spirit.
[5] Ryrie Study Bible, p 1427

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Battle of Gog & Magog and the Battle of Armageddon- The Outcomes

A question that is often asked in prophetic Bible study concerns two end times battles, the Battle of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 & 39 and the Battle (actually campaigns which will be the subject of a future article) of Armageddon in Revelation 16 & 19 (and numerous sources throughout the Old Testament). Are these the same two battles or are they two different battles. Looking at them superficially one would come to the conclusion that they are the same battle told from two different viewpoints similar to the creation story in Genesis 1 & 2. However a deeper look at the text and the description of each battle points to two different battles at two different time periods. When we look deeper into the Word of God instead of a quick reading we discover there is more to understand.
                We previously looked at the combatants listed in the Scripture and noticed a considerable difference between the two armies attacking Jerusalem. Now we will look at the results of the battle. How the outcomes are the same or different and what does that show us concerning these two battles?
Please remember, this article is written from a Premillennial, Pre-tribulation Rapture, and literal-grammatical interpretation viewpoint. Anyone of an Amillennial, Preterist, Post-millennial, Pre-wrath Rapture, mid or post tribulation Rapture viewpoint will disagree with most of what I have written.

                Are there differences between the outcomes of the two battles?

                Ezekiel 38-39 – Fire and earthquakes will fall on the armies who attempt to invade Isarael while their weapons are knocked out of their hands. The bones of the army are buried after 7 months at a specific location by trained professionals (perhaps because their bones are radioactive).

22 With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone. Ezekiel 38:22

14 “They will set apart men who will constantly pass through the land, burying those who were passing through, even those left on the surface of the ground, in order to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make a search.
15 As those who pass through the land pass through and anyone sees a man’s bone, then he will set up a marker by it until the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamon-gog. Ezekiel 39:14-15

6 “And I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the LORD. Ezekiel 39:6

Look at the purpose in this verse, “they will that I am the LORD.” Everything God does is pointing to Him as the reason and giving unbelievers a chance to repent and come to Him. God uses this instance to bring His name among His people, the Jews. God is giving them a chance to restore that relationship and be right with Him before the terrors of the Tribulation. Verse 7 increases the scope of those who will know the LORD is responsible to include the Gentiles, “…And the nations will know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.”

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Armageddon – The flesh of the armies that come against Israel are dissolved and slain from the sword of the mouth of Jesus. There is no mention of any burial of the bones.

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God,
18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.” Revelation 19:17-18

12 Now this will be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth. Zechariah 14:12

                We can see that things do not go quite as the Antichrist and his minions expect:

19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. Revelation 19:19-21

Another difference related to the outcomes is the protest against God’s invasion:

13 Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?’”’ Ezekiel 38:13

The “Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible” comments:

Sheba and Dedan were countries on the Arabian Peninsula. Tarshish usually means Spain or the western extremities of the Mediterranean world, possibly including, as some think, western France and even England. These countries object to Gog’s invasion.[1]

But at Armageddon we read of no protest. The armies are gathered together and come against Israel in a wave of unbridled passion:

1 Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you.
2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Zechariah 14:1-2

The armies of the Antichrist decimate the city, raping the women and taking half the people captive. This attack against Jerusalem will be severe, but the city itself will not be overthrown. However, the end result will find the Jewish people in such dire straits that only the Messiah will be able to deliver them. Once again we see man in his own power can do mighty things but in the end we all need the Messiah, Jesus.
Just when it seems that all hope will be gone for Jerusalem and the people of Israel, then the LORD will fight for His people. “God is said to go forth when he manifests his power by delivering his people and punishing their enemies.” (Pulpit Commentary)

3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. Zechariah 14:3

On a side note, in both verses 1 and 3 LORD is capitalized. When we see this word capitalized it is a reference to the covenant keeping Lord. This is a reminder for the reader, in particular the Jewish reader, of the Abrahamic Covenant and the great promises God made to Israel through Abraham. Never lose sight of this when reading the Old Testament. Remember what this would say to the original audience, the Jewish people, when they studied God’s Word.
However, despite all of these differences, we should point out one similarity, and that is the outcome. In both cases, God will win and will gain victory on behalf of His people, Israel. After the great victory at Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 39:1-7), one would think that the unregenerate world would get the message. But only a few years later, on an even larger scale, the world will again gather its forces against Israel and against the Lord at Armageddon. The old adage will be proven again: the one thing people learn from history, is that they don't learn from history.

[1] “The Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible,” pg. 877

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Bema Seat of Christ

The Bema Seat
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Romans 14:10
            When we examine the Christian experience we discover many things that all believers hold in common. We are saved by the same Savior, we are indwelt by the same Spirit, we are all sinners separated by God, the bodily resurrection of our Savior, and the utter necessity of the 66 books of the Bible. There is another commonality that is seldom taught, preached, or even mentioned from the pulpit or in Sunday School.
            The Bema Seat, the Judgment Seat of Christ is a part of our Christian experience that does not get much attention but it is vitally important as it is an event all believers in Christ will experience.. As Paul mentioned in both the above Scriptures this is an experience that every Christian will be a part of, the “we must all appear” and “we will stand.” Paul includes himself in the passage.  
            “We must all appear” means to make apparent, manifest, known; to show openly, etc. In this passage it shows that after the Rapture we must be as an open book before Christ. All believers actions will be made open and clear before Him. We will not be able to hide anything we have done from Him.
“We will stand” To continue with appear affirms our character will be seen, the good and the bad that we have done in this life. All believers will be brought, from their graves, and none will be able to hide from Him. The secret things of the heart that we may have deluded ourselves into thinking that only we knew will be made manifest before Him to be judged.

What the Bema is not
            The bema seat will not be a determination of our salvation status. Salvation was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for all believers:
and He Himself is the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2
Notice that it is Christ that made satisfaction for our sins. Works is not mentioned in 1 John 2:2 though it is predominate in the 2 Corinthians passage, “deeds in the body”.
Our most famous passage concerning salvation as being entirely faith driven:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
All of our sins are forgiven, and will never be brought up again. So if this not a judgment for salvation what type of judgment could it be.  Let’s look at different sections of these two passages to give light to what type of judgment all believers in Christ will participate in.

What the Bema Is
Both passages call this the “judgment seat of Christ.” Judgment comes from the Greek word bema Instead of a place of passing sentence the bema was a reward seat. Sale-Harrison writes:
In Grecian games in Athens, the old arena contained a raised platform on which the president or umpire of the arena sat. From here he rewarded the contestants; and here he rewarded all winners. It was called the “bema” or “reward seat.” It was never used of a judicial bench.[1]
Our best example today is to think of the Olympic Games. When the competition is over the best three step up on a platform to be honored with medals. Their judging was based on how they ran the race (“in the body”) and are given the rewards appropriate for how they ran them. The bema is a place of rewards not judgment for sin.
“May be recompensed” is from a Greek word that means to take care of, to provide for, to acquire, to obtain, to receive.

What is Being Judged
“According to what he has done” is a description of what we have done in this body. What we do in this life matters to God. He has given us great resources that we are to be a steward of. Some object because they do not have great wealth or great talent. While this may be true we have all been given a gift to be exercised and if we ignore that gift we can all pray. Every believer can act as an intercessor for the church, for missionaries, for unbelievers, for our government, for anything that God has laid on their hearts. This does not require great wealth or talent. Anyone can talk to God.
“Whether good or bad” indicates that it is not just the actions that are being judged here. We must understand that motive is being judged also. How many will proclaim how they gave into the collection plate every week, but when Christ examines their heart He will discover they did it grudgingly, to be seen by others, or out of a legalistic heart:
7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
            Giving, just one aspect of our Christian lives, is from a heart that wants to give. A heart that loves to give. This is the heart that will receive reward at the Bema Seat.

What are the Results of the Bema Seat
            All of the works we have done will be divided up into one of two categories. Good works, those that bring honor and glory to God, and bad works, which we have done in our own selfish desires.
12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

            Loss of Reward
            “He will suffer loss”- These are the things that we have done that glorify the flesh in contrast to glorifying God. These are things that we have done that are accomplished in our own strength instead of through God. These works are worthless for when the fire hits them “wood, hay, straw” they are burned up and are gone. They have no eternal value to man nor more importantly, to God.

            A Reward Bestowed
            “He will receive a reward”- These are the works we have done to the Lord’s glory. We have done these works to magnify His name and to make Him known throughout the world. When the fire comes down to test these works they will remain. They will be identified as “gold, silver, precious stones”. While we do not know exactly what the shape of the rewards will be the New Testament mentions five areas where specific rewards are promised as crowns:
1.      A crown for mastery over the old man, to make sure that the old self is the slave and the Holy Spirit is the master. My honest opinion is that this will probably be the least given out crown. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
2.      A crown for those whose life is characterized by soul winning. Every believer is commanded to preach the gospel but there are those whose every word drips with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and the desire to share it with all. 1 Thessalonians 2:19
3.      A crown of life for those who endure trials and resist temptations. The passage goes on to explain that they resist and endure because of the love of God. Charles Spurgeon summarized this passage as: “They cannot fall into sin because it would grieve him who loves them so well, and whom they love with all their hearts.” James 1:12
4.      A crown for those who loves His appearing. Many are not looking for Jesus to appear. They are comfortable in their large homes, big-screen TV’s, food and entertainment galore. They are believers, they will be raptured, but they will miss out on this great reward since they were looking at what was before them and not looking for their Savior from heaven. 2 Timothy 4:8
5.      A crown for those willing to feed the flock. To be allowed to preach and teach the people of God should be an honor that deserves no reward. To stand before believers of every segment of society should be a reward in itself. But our Savior promises a reward for those “willing” to feed the flock. From the construction in the passage it appears there are those for whom the pulpit is only a profession in which one moves up. They will have their reward here on earth. Then there is the one who comes into the pulpit humble and fearful understanding what great responsibility they have taken upon themselves to teach the Word of God. They will have a great reward in heaven. 1 Peter 5:4

            Dr. Tony Evans wrote an article for the “Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible” entitled “Rewards for Christians.” His concluding paragraph should make us all ready to go and do great things for God for His glory:
“Are you ready to stand before the bema seat of Christ? Out of your love for Christ and appreciation for the gift of salvation, serve God faithfully now, and you will be rewarded later. The hope of winning crowns from Jesus Christ and reigning with Him should convince a Christian that running a faithful race is worth the effort. Being awarded any one of these crowns or opportunities to rule will be an honor beyond anything we can imagine. Let’s go for it!”[2]

[1] L. Sale-Harrison, Judgment Seat of Christ, p. 8.
[2] Dr. Tony Evans, “Rewards for Christians,” Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible,” p. 1234.

Verse of the Week: 1 Peter 5:8

Verse of the Week: 1 Peter 5:8 (The majority of the footnotes are taken from the Ryrie Study Bible, to clarify additional verses quote...