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

Conclusion
            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.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Fast Facts on the Early Church Father, Polycarp of Smyrna





Fast Facts on the Early Church Father, Polycarp of Smyrna
by grace ye are saved, not of works,' but by the will of God through Jesus Christ . . . If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, 'we shall also reign together with Him,' provided only we believe . . .[1] (What Polycarp lived his life and his theology by)


For 86 years I have served Jesus Christ and he has never abandoned me. How could I curse my blessed king and savior?[2] (In response to being asked to curse Christ and live. There is discussion if this means he was 86 years old or that it was 86 years ago that he became a Christian which would mean he was older than 86. Either way he was an older believer)


Hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian.[3] (In response to being asked to acknowledge the spirit of the emperor. A recognition of pagan gods and religion)

FAST FACTS ON POLYCARP OF SMYRNA:[4]


Bishop of Smyrna, correspondent of Ignatius
Smyrna was a seaport city about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It has been described as the most beautiful of the seven cities. Today it is called Izmir, Turkey. Scripture does not give us any information concerning the founding of this church, nor is it mentioned in the book of Acts.[5] It is believed that this church was founded during Paul’s journey in Ephesus (Acts 19:10).
Polycarp led the church in Smyrna with wisdom and authority, having been appointed to leadership by men who were witnesses to the Lord. Frequently called on to settle disputes or correct false teaching since his teaching had been formulated directly from the mouth of an apostle. Other leaders of the early church valued his insight as well as they might considering his experience. At one point Polycarp visited Rome. During the visit the sitting bishop deferred to him as when to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This demonstrated with what respect Polycarp was held.
Ignatius, bishop of Antioch and eventual martyr (108 AD, possibly 140 AD, scarce documents make the determination difficult) was imprisoned and transported to Rome in about the year A.D. 108, wrote letters to several of the ancient Churches. He also wrote a personal letter to his friend and fellow bishop, Polycarp of Smyrna.  Unfortunately the original letters and contemporary copies have been lost to antiquity. For the full content of the letter visit http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0110.htm.
             Ignatius wrote to Polycarp imparting wisdom to him in several categories. These included: How a bishop should behave, the duties of married Christian couples, care of widows, and the Christian communities in general.


Denounced Marcion as “Son of Satan”
              Polycarp’s strictly adhered to the teachings of the apostles. This would become greatly demonstrated during his visit to Rome, most likely in 154 or 155. The heretic Marcion[6] had led many astray by his efforts to separate the church from its Jewish roots. Polycarp’s persuasive and doctrinally founded teaching turned a large number of the Marcionites (and also from Gnosticism) from their errors. When Marcion saw him he went up to Polycarp, looked him right in the eye, and said, “Do you know who I am?” Marcion was known for intimidating his opponents, however in this case he met someone who would not back down. He looked him right back in the eye and quickly retorted, “Yes, I know you very well, you firstborn son of the devil.”

Told that John fled baths where he saw Cerinthus
                Is this story reliable? Where would Polycarp receive such information concerning the apostle John? According to early church fathers Irenaeus and Tertullian Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John. We discover in the writings of the early-third-century theologian Tertullian that, according to “original records,” it was the apostle John himself who ordained Polycarp to that office.[7] The teachings and beliefs of Polycarp would have been founded by the apostle John. During the 86 years that Polycarp walked this earth he proclaimed and exhorted that knowledge handed down to him from John the Apostle who spoke what he learned from Jesus Christ. Polycarp would then pass it on to his own disciples. His teaching and his walk in this life was exemplified and demonstrated by those teachings. He would stand firm in his beliefs, as did many of his disciples, though it would lead to his martyrdom.

Rounded up as a leader of “the atheists” (non-believer in the Roman gods)
          Persecution had broken out against Christians in Smyrna. Believers were burned, gored, fed to animals and had their heads removed from their bodies. Persecution was not a constant for the first three centuries of the church but it was a reality that needed to be recognized.
          On a Friday afternoon Polycarp was resting upstairs in a country home. They Romans came in like a posse, fully armed as if they were arresting a dangerous criminal much like when they came and arrested Christ. Friends wanted to sneak him out, but he refused, saying, "God's will be done." (At this point in church history martyrdom had not taken on the belief of an automatic ticket to heaven. Martyrdom was not to be seeked out but if it happened be faithful to the end).
          The story is told that Polycarp welcomed his captors. He spoke with them as if they were long lost, though wayward, friends. Polycarp ordered that food and drink be served while he made his one request: one hour to pray before they took him away. If this story is more than legend did the officers overhear his prayers, did they begin to have second thoughts? What a wonderful witness to those who had come to take him away. Never had they heard or experienced anyone asking for prayer as a request or invite them in for a meal.

Supposedly flames refused him; when speared, his blood extinguished the flames
Polycarp was burned at the stake and pierced with a spear for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. On his farewell, he said: "I bless you, Father, for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ."
The date of Polycarp's death is in dispute. Eusebius dates it to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, c. 166–167. However, a post-Eusebian addition to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the authenticity of which has not been established, dates his death to Saturday, February 23, in the proconsulship of Lucius Statius Quadratus, c. 155 or 156. These earlier dates better fit the tradition of his association with Ignatius and John the Evangelist.[8]
There are various traditions associated with his death. These should be taken as traditions as the information on Polycarp is very scarce:
  • The guards realized they had no nails or rope to affix him to the post. In response Polycarp assured them that no restraint was necessary—that Jesus would empower him to bear the flames.
  • One account says that the flames would not touch his body. Instead they arched over his head.
  • Another story tells that when the guards realized that Polycarp could not be burned, they stabbed him with a spear—and the blood that ran down extinguished the flames.
           While these stories are just that, stories, we must realize the great faith and great perseverance of this man.  Polycarp is our first mentioned martyr post-New Testament. He demonstrates for us 2,000 years later what it means to stand for Christ and pay the ultimate price. He demonstrated what it means for the Christ and the Scriptures is the only true object we can rely upon in this life. He was offered his life for a simple pinch of incense and to speak a few words. He refused and paid with his life. But the eternity he inherited far outweighed anything this world has to offer.




[1] https://www.azquotes.com/quote/602899
[2] https://www.azquotes.com/quote/1333913
[3] https://www.azquotes.com/quote/773058
[4] http://disseminary.org/hoopoe/pubs/cards/Polycarp1.jpg
[5] https://bible.org/seriespage/3-smyrna-suffering-church
[6] One of Marcion’s big lies that he was teaching is that the God of the Old Testament the creator God of the Old Testament was not a true God or He was a lesser God.
[7] In chapter 32 of his Prescription Against Heretics
[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycarp. Though I do not recommend Wikipedia for research this is a very good summation of Polycarp’s death.



Thursday, January 2, 2020

Battle of Gog & Magog and the Battle of Armageddon- One or Two Battles


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.

                In the months to come I will be looking at various questions concerning  the differences in the battles. I am sure there are additional questions that could be asked so I would appreciate any input from readers in the comment section. Also, 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. Let’s start with the first question.

                Who is involved in the battles?

                We read in Scripture of two different lineups involved in the battles.  The nations of Ezekiel 38:1-6 are:


The Ancient Nations                                              The Modern Nations


The land of Magog                                                 Russia
Meshech and Tubal                                                Somewhere in Russia
Persia                                                                        Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan
Ethiopia                                                                    Ethiopia and Sudan
Libya                                                                          Libya
Ashkenaz                                                                  Austria and Germany
Gomer                                                                       Eastern Europe
Togarmah                                                                 Southeastern Europe-Turkey
"Many peoples with thee"                                    Various other nations allied to Russia [I]


               Please be cautious when you read prophetic scholars and their interpretations as they attempt to determine the modern day equivalent to these ancient nations. You will read differences but many premillennial scholars (not all) generally align their writings with this table.


                In this battle we have named nations that are participating in the battle. As can plainly be seen the battle is mainly contained within a Middle Eastern, North African setting with a powerful nation coming from the north.

                However in the Battle of Armageddon we see that while these nation are included in the roster of nations the battle will involve all the nations of the world:

13 “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

14 “For they are the spirit of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

“And he gathered them together into a placed called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon

                                Revelation 16:13, 14, 16 KJV

               

                The Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible comments on this passage:

 

“Satanic trinity (Satan, Beast, and False Prophet) will send these spirits (probably the chief fallen angels in Satan’s hierarchy) “out of the mouth” of Satan himself to deceive the kings of the world into gathering their armies to prepare for what is known as the Battle of Armageddon. They will gather in the valley of Megiddo, which Napoleon proclaimed to be the most ideal battlefield in the world.” [ii]

               

                The Battle of Armageddon is not a limited circle of Middle Eastern and North African nations. The passage does not mention Gog and Magog or specific countries or limit the area to the Middle East.  The Battle of Armageddon will involve all the nations of the world. In this ultimate anti-Semitic act the armies of the world[iii] will unite under the Anti-Christ and move towards the destruction of the Jewish people. The “war” that the Anti-Christ has been waging for the past three and a half years (Daniel 9:27; Zechariah 13:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:4) will now come to a conclusion which will culminate in the destruction of 2/3 of the Jewish population.

In the months ahead we will look at additional questions surrounding these two battles and why they are not the same. Future questions will include:

Where are the battles being fought?

                What are the results of the battles?

                 How are these battles fought?

                And others. Please share this article and future articles on social media as you feel led. Any comments will be greatly appreciated. Please come back and check and I will be contributing more articles in the coming months of prophetic significance. Each article will close with the blessed prayer of the Apostle John:

“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

Revelation 22:21 KJV



[i] https://www.thepropheticyears.com/wordpress/the-gogmagog-war-of-ezekiel-and-armageddon-are-different-wars.html
[ii] Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, p. 1391
[iii] The question of “is America in Bible prophecy” is answered here in a very general response. If America exists as a nation at this time and has some form of army in existence they will take part in this battle. No army of the world will be exempt from this battle.

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...