Monday, July 21, 2014

“Let no man deceive you…”

Bible Prophecy, Circa 1600

Excerpted and adapted from Matthew Poole’s Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:3-7*

Read Part 1

When this commentary was written The Reformation was in its earlier years. There was much speculation about the popes being the antichrist (or, at least, antichrists). Poole himself indulges in some of the ideas swirling around about how these Scriptures might be fulfilled. These speculations are not included in the portions excerpted below since they are situation specific to his historical age. 

One thing is noticeably different in our era. We now have Jews restored to their native land of Israel. It is clear that this possibility was nearly inconceivable to the early Reformers. Therefore, things that we might take more literally in interpreting prophecy Scriptures in our day, were formerly viewed as allegorical or as a mystery. 

Interestingly, Poole believed that the man of sin arises in the context of the environment of a corporate apostasy of the entire church world. His comments, therefore, are very relevant to our postmodern prophecy era when there are many attempts being made to deceive the saints about the Second Coming of Christ, and by the same means  and methods as specifically warned about by the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. 

VERSE 3: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”

“Let no man deceive you.” Here the Apostle Paul urges again his charge against this error, though in other words, and begins his arguments to refute it. He had adjured the Thessalonians not to be shaken (vs. 2), and here he cautions them against being deceived, for the one makes way for the other. So also not to be troubled (vs. 2), for troubled minds are apt to be made a prey to seducers.

And the caution in the text proves that their shaking and trouble did arise from some deceivers that were among them, rather than any misunderstanding of their own of what he wrote in the former Epistle [1 Thessalonians] about Christ’s coming.

To be shaken in mind is bad, but to be deceived is worse, for it is a going out of the path, as the word signifies. And therefore Paul’s caution against it is universal, both as to persons and ways. Let no man deceive you, though he pretend to revelations, or be of the greatest reputation in the church.

“By any means.” Either of craft [this includes the idea of witchcraft, ed.], flattery, pretending love, or plausible arguments, or misrepresenting the Apostle’s words, or forging of letters, or misinterpreting Paul’s Epistle or any other part of Scripture, or feigned miracles, etc.

Then Paul enters into arguments to confute it, which are:
  1. The general apostasy.
  2. The revelation of the man of sin.
“For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first….” or an apostasy, a recession, a departing, or a standing off, as the word imports…

[Apostasy] is either civil or spiritual.… But the Apostle writing to the church speaks not of civil government, and the affairs of state, and speaks of such an apostasy which would give rise to the man of sin, and the revelation of him. And this man of sin rises up in the church, not in the civil state; and the consequence of this apostasy is giving men up to strong delusions to believe a lie, and then follows their damnation. And the cause of it is said to be, not receiving the truth in the love of it, so that it is not a civil, but a spiritual apostasy….

And it is not of a particular person, or a particular church, but a general apostasy of the church (though not of every individual). That [apostate] church is afterwards called the temple of God, where the man of sin sits, and is exalted above all that is called God, which cannot be any particular church. And would not the Apostle have specified a particular church?

Neither is it some lesser apostasy which may befall the best church, but such as would be eminent, that greater apostasy.... [T]he Apostle says not apostate, but apostasy, else a man of sin could not rise out of it, and exalt himself above all that is called God, and worshipped. It is an apostasy from sound doctrine, instituted worship, church government, and true holiness of life…. Neither is the apostasy all at once, but gradual: for out of it arises a man of sin, who grows up to this manhood by degrees, and sin and wickedness are not completed at first, as well as holiness….

“And that man of sin be revealed.” The next argument is from the revelation of the man of sin. This is also to precede Christ’s last coming. It is a Hebraism. A warlike man is styled a man of war; a bloody man, a man of bloods; a deceitful man, a man of deceit, etc. So a man eminent in sin is here called a man of sin. Not only personally so, but who promotes sin, propagates it, countenances it, commands it.
  • In sins of omission, forbidding what God requires.
  • In sins of commission, requiring or allowing what God has forbidden.

In sins of the first table [first 5 Ten Commandments, ed.], corrupting God’s worship by superstition and idolatry, taking God’s name in vain by heartless devotion, dissembling piety, dispensing with perjury and false oaths, taking away the Second Commandment and the morality of the Fourth Commandment, and making men’s faith and obedience to rest upon a human authority, etc.

In sins of the second table [second 5 Ten Commandments, ed.], to dispense with duties belonging to superiors and inferiors; with murder, adultery, fornication, incest, robbery, lying, equivocation, etc. And besides all these, promoting a false religion, and destroying the true, by fines, imprisonments, banishments, tortures, poisons, massacre, fire and faggot….

But as this apostasy brings forth this man of sin, so as he rises he helps it forward, so that he both causes it, and is caused by it. As corruption in doctrine, worship, discipline and manners brought him forth, so he was active in corrupting them more and more.

“The son of perdition.” (Another Hebraism....) He is so either
  • actively, as he brings others to destruction, and so may be called Apollyon (Rev. 9:11), or rather
  • passively, as devoted to perdition (as Rev. 19:20), the beast and false prophet are both cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and the beast that was, and is not, it said to go into perdition (Rev. 17:11).

The destroyer of others both in soul and body will be destroyed himself. First, morally, by the Word and Spirit (2 Thess. 2:8), and then judicially, by God’s revenging justice in this world, and that to come. The Apostle, at the very first mentioning him, declares his destiny. At his first rising and revealing, mentions his fall and ruin.

VERSE 4: “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”

“Who opposeth,” [Poole here describes the Greek ἀντίκειμαι (antikeimai)]. A further description of this man of sin, by his opposition and exaltation. The oppose, or rather, opposing, expressed in the participle of the present tense, denoting a continued act, or that which he bends himself strongly to.

But against what?... [W]e may well conceive, it is Christ Himself whom he opposes, and his name given him by the Apostle John doth evidence, when he is called antichrist, or the antichrist, one that is against Christ. Not that he openly and professedly opposes Him, but as Judas kissed his Master, and betrayed Him…. It is iniquity in a mystery. He serves Christ, but it is to serve himself upon Him. He acknowledges Him in all His offices, and yet doth virtually deny and oppose Him in all.

Called antichrist, as opposite the unction of Christ. Christ signifies anointed, and so he opposes Him in the offices to which He is anointed, while he owns His natures. He professes himself a “servant of the servants of God,” and yet persecutes, curses, proscribes, and kills them, opposing Christ in his members. He makes war with the saints (Rev. 13:7). He hath two horns like a lamb and speaks as a dragon (Rev. 13:11), and speaks lies in hypocrisy (1 Tim. 4:2).

“Exalteth.” And then he is described by his exaltation [Poole describes the Greek word]. He exalteth himself: it is not from God. He exalteth himself, or lifts himself above all that is called God, though not really and essentially God. The Apostle knew that in the Old Testament magistrates were called gods (Ps. 82:1,6), and 1 Cor. 8:5: “There be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth.” Magistrates and rules are of several degrees, some inferior, some superior, some above them all—and that not only in spirituals, by excommunications, but in civils, by deposing kings, disposing kingdoms, yea, making emperors to wait at his gate, hold his stirrup, prostrate themselves to kiss his toe, and then to tread upon their neck…. So that by these two words in the text (opposeth and exalteth), the Apostle describes him both in his enmity and pride, opposition and exaltation.

  • First, he assumes to himself a higher power than those that are only called gods. Theirs is human, his is Divine; theirs on the bodies or estates of men, his over the conscience; theirs only to the living, his to men’s souls after death.
  • Next he makes himself like God, and is as God, as the king of old Babylon said, “I will be like the Most High” (Is. 14:14). As God’s residence of old was in the temple of Jerusalem, so he, as God, sits in the temple of God. Not that temple that was built by Solomon, and afterwards rebuilt, and to be built again… for it is now destroyed, and if it be built again by this man of sin,… would the Apostle call it “the temple of God”? (2 Cor. 6:16, Rev. 3:12, etc.). But it is a spiritual temple, as the church is called (1 Cor. 3:16-17)….. He sitteth in the temple, the church of God, not that it can be the true church where he thus sits and acts, but rather the synagogue of Satan….
  • [Then] “Showing himself that he is God.” Not saying it with his mouth… but making such a show before men…. He shows himself as a God before men, and claims a power to be judged of no men, and to be a judge of all men. 

VERSE 5: “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”

The Apostle Paul tacitly upbraids them for their forgetfulness. To forget the things that have been taught us is a great evil. Solomon often cautions against it (Prov. 3:1; 4:5) and it is often reproved (Heb.12:5; James 1:24) and the contrary required (Mal. 4:4; John 16:4; Jude 17; Rev. 3:3).

David hid the Word in his heart (Ps. 119:19). The Apostles did take care to tell the churches of the apostasy that could come, and of false prophets and teachers that would arise, as Paul the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20: 29-30) and Peter (2 Pet. 2:1) and of the coming of antichrist (1 John 2:18). And more fully, although obscurely, in the book of Revelation.

And the Apostle here in this verse minds these Thessalonians that he told them of the coming of the man of sin before the coming of Christ, so that they should not have been shaken in their minds about Christ’s coming in that present age. And they told the churches of these things, that they might not be surprised by them, or offended at them, when they came.

VERSE 6: “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.”

“And now ye know what withholdeth.” The Apostle it seems had told them, as of His coming, so of what at present withheld the revealing of him….
  1. It was something that the Apostle thought not safe openly to declare in writing; else he would not have written of it so obscurely.
  2. It was both a thing, and a person; a thing in this verse that which withholdeth; and a person, as in the next verse (verse 7) he who letteth. [There is an exposition of the Greek κατέχω (katechō) at this point, ed.]
  3. It was also such a thing and such a person as were to be removed out of the way, not totally, but as they were hindrances of this revelation….
“That he might be revealed in his time.” As God appoints seasons for all His works, so for the revealing of him, as also for his ruin.

VERSE 7: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” The way was prepared by degrees for the man of sin. Before he came actually to be revealed, or constituted in his complete existence, and this was by the working of the mystery of iniquity.

A mystery is something in general which is abstruse, intricate, and not easily discerned. And there are mysteries in doctrine, and in practice; mysteries of godliness and mysteries of iniquity, mysteries of the kingdom of God, and of the devil’s kingdom. So there are the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10) and the depths of Satan (Rev. 2:24).

The mystery ushering in the man of sin is a mystery of iniquity. It is not open sin and wickedness, but dissembled piety, specious errors, wickedness under a form of godliness cunningly managed that is here meant…. And it is a mystery that works. It doth and exert and put forth itself, but secretly, as a mole which works underground. And its working is not against the being, providence, and attributes of God, or natural religion; but is to undermine Christianity in the peculiar doctrines, worship, and practice of it.
  • In doctrines are brought in privily damnable heresies (2 Pet 2:1.
  • In worship, inventions and commandments of men, under pretense of greater reverence, devotion, and humility (Col 2:22-23).
  • In practice, dispensations to moral impieties under color of service to the church.
And this mystery, says our Apostle, already works;
  • in the false doctrines of the false teachers of his time,
  • in the traditions and inventions of men obtruding themselves into the worship of God in his time,
  • in the affectation of pre-eminence in the church in his time,
  • and making merchandise of the Gospel in his time,
  • and gain godliness;
  • and in mingling philosophical notions with the simplicity of the Gospel,
  • and gratifying the flesh under a form of godliness and pretense of Gospel liberty.

And it was not among the heathen, or the Jews, but among the professors of Christianity, that this mystery was then working…. And when the man of sin was fully revealed all these corruptions did center in him, as sinks in the common sewer; the lesser antichrists in the great antichrist.

“Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” The idolatries and persecutions of the heathen emperors must be taken out of the way, to make way for those that arise under a Christian, or rather antichristian, state, the dragon giving his seat, spirit, and power to the beast. And the power that was in the Roman emperor, whether heathen or Christian, must be taken out of the way to make room for the exaltation of this man of sin. For notwithstanding all corruptions in doctrine, worship, or practice which might be introduced before, yet he is not fully revealed till he hath his jurisdiction and secular power also in his hand. And then this mystery of iniquity is arrived to its height, which John saw written in the forehead of the great whore (Rev. 17:5), Mystery, Babylon the great, etc….

To Be Continued….

*From A Commentary on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole, Volume III: Matthew-Revelation (Hendrickson Publishers), p. 758-759. These excerpts have been amended, abridged, and reformatted for blog usage, along with some updated punctuation, spelling and word usage. 
Note to reader: This excerpt from Matthew Poole’s Commentary, circa 1600, is an example of what evangelical prophecy leaders and organizations used to teach 20-40 years ago. Not so long ago, before the postmodern prophecy paradigm era, this sort of article was commonplace. Writings such as this served as an encouragement to the reader to 1) expect the Lord's imminent return and 2) be ready to meet the Lord "here, there or in the air." Believers exhorted one another that He could return at any time because all events on earth were coinciding to fulfill Bible prophecy, and that before the end the Gospel of salvation should be shared far and wide, especially to family and friends. As yet another sign of the times we note that publishing such an article today, especially with this eschatology, is likely to be met with scoffings (2 Pet. 3:2), even open disbelief (2 Pet. 3:4). For some of you, this may be the first time you have ever encountered this (now) old-fashioned Bible prophecy teaching. Read and consider: what if it is true?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bible Prophecy, Circa 1600

“The Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”

Excerpted and adapted from
Matthew Poole’s Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:1,2*

VERSE 1: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him,” 

The Apostle Paul now comes to refute the opinion that some had received as if the day of Christ was near at hand. Having said, 1 Thess. 4:17, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air,” etc., then some might think His coming would be in the Apostle’s time….

And because this mistake might be of dangerous consequence, therefore Paul is very vehement and particular in refuting it. For hereupon they might be brought to question the truth of the whole Gospel when this should not come to pass. They might be unprepared for the sufferings that were to come upon the church; their patience might fail in expecting this day, and their minds be doubting about the coming of Christ at all.

This opinion would also much narrow their thoughts about Christ’s kingdom, and the enlarging of the Gospel among other Gentiles. And the profane might abuse it to sensuality, as 1 Cor. 15:32, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.”

The coming of Christ was what they desired and rejoiced in, as that which would truly bring rest to them, and tribulation to their adversaries. And by this Paul doth therefore beseech or adjure them. And therefore we must understand this of Christ’s last coming, as the word παρουσία (parousia) in the text, is still applied to this coming (1Th 2:19; 1Th 3:13), and not of His coming to destroy the Jewish church and state, for that coming was at hand.

The phrase “by our gathering together unto Him”—at His last coming, when the whole body of Christ shall be gathered to Him, to meet Him in the air: 1 Thess. 4:17, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” And then the sense is As ye hope ever to see such a blessed meeting, and to be of that number, so take heed of this opinion…. And so the Apostle Paul adjures them not to be soon shaken in mind, but to stand fast in the truth about the doctrine of Christ’s coming, which they had been taught. And therefore it was the greater evil to be soon shaken; as the apostle upbraids the Galatians (1:6)….

VERSE 2: “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” 

“Shaken in mind” σαλεύω (from saleuō) is an allusion to the waves of the sea that are tossed with the winds, as false doctrines tend to unsettle the mind (Eph. 4:14, Heb 13:9). To be established in the truth is often commanded (1 Cor. 16:13, Phil. 4:1, Col. 1:23, etc.). And by mind here is either meant
  • The faculty itself. The Apostle Paul beseeches them to keep company with their understanding, not to be removed from their mind. False doctrine is said to betwitch men (Gal. 3:1) and to make men foolish (see verse 3). As madness is called dementia, as that which does unmind men, and corrupt the mind, and pervert the judgment (2 Tim. 3:8,9), as Jannes and Jambres deceived the people by their enchantments, as the Apostle there mentions.
  • The judgment of the mind. Paul beseeches them to hold fast the right judgment they had entertained about Christ’s coming, and not to hesitate and waver about it, so the word mind is taken in 1 Cor. 2:16.
“Or be troubled” θροέω (throeō), alludes to soldiers affrighted with a sudden alarm. We find the word [and similar allusion] in Matthew 24:6: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled—see also Mark 13:7. And the opinion of Christ’s coming to be at hand might occasion this trouble in them, either lest they might be surprised by it, and unprepared for it, or by judging themselves mistaken in their former apprehensions about it. And those false teachers that broach this opinion, did also perhaps so represent this coming in such terror as to cause this trouble, as false teachers in general are said to cause trouble, Gal. 1:7: “there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is in itself rather the saints’ hope and joy, than ground of trouble, as 1 Thess 1:10 (“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come”) and 4:18 (“Wherefore comfort one another with these words”), etc. And so it may be some did pretend this opinion was of the Spirit, or some letter from the Apostle Paul—either his former Epistle (1 Thessalonians) to them, or some letter that was forged, or some word he had spoken or preached….

“Neither by spirit”—some extraordinary revelation of the Spirit, which the false teachers pretended to (1 Cor. 14:6, Gal. 3:2,5). Some would pretend the Spirit that called Jesus accursed (1 Cor. 12:3) and therefore the Apostle bids them to “Try the spirits” (1 John 4:1)…. The man of sin pretends to this Spirit though it is in truth the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:3)….  It was foretold that in the last times there would arise “seducing spirits” (1 Tim. 4:1), just as there was in the times of the Old Testament false prophets that pretended to the Spirit (1 Kings 22:24, Micah 2:11). And the very heathen would pretend to divine oracles, inspirations, and revelations, especially their kings and lawgivers….; and still there are enthusiasts who make these pretences.

“Nor by word”— διά (dia) λόγος (logos) whereby some understand calculation by astrological rules, that the day of Christ was at hand. Others… from some natural causes reasoned that the dissolution of the world was night at hand. Some may have put words in the Apostle’s own mouth, which was pretended he had spoken or preached somewhere, though not written. Just as the church of Rome pretends to traditions, besides the written Word, upon which they ground many of their superstitions and idolatries, not warranted by Scripture. And as the Jews had a second Mishnah, and their Cabbala, collected in part from the sayings of Moses, or some other of their prophets, which they did not write. [These early examples are strikingly similar the postmodern prophecy paradigm teachings currently in vogue, ed.]

“Nor by letter”—some letter that was sent to them by some other hand, or else by some forged letter as if it were from the Apostle himself, or his former Epistle misunderstood.  [In other words, Letter may refer to the early extrabiblical pseudoepigraphical and apocryphal writings that had already begun to circulate at the time of the apostles, ed.]

“As that the day of Christ is at hand”—Objection: But is it not said that the day of the Lord, or the coming of the Lord, is at hand (1 Cor. 10:11; Phil. 4:5; James 5:7,8; 1 Peter 4:2)? Answer: The word used in those places differs from this in the text; for it signifies either that which is actually present, or very near it as Rom. 8:38; Gal. 1:4…. And in that sense Christ said, “Behold, I come quickly,” Rev. 22:7. But the error the apostle warns them of is, as if the coming of Christ would be in the age in which they lived. The apostles all said that the coming of the Lord was at hand, but their right meaning was perverted to a false sense, as seducers usually do.

To Be Continued….

*From A Commentary on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole, Volume III: Matthew-Revelation (Hendrickson Publishers), p. 758-759. These excerpts have been amended, abridged, and reformatted for blog usage, along with some updated punctuation, spelling and word usage. 

Note to reader: This excerpt from Matthew Poole’s Commentary, circa 1600, is an example of what evangelical prophecy leaders and organizations used to teach 20-40 years ago. Not so long ago, before the postmodern prophecy paradigm era, this sort of article was commonplace. Writings such as this served as an encouragement to the reader to 1) expect the Lord's imminent return and 2) be ready to meet the Lord "here, there or in the air." Believers exhorted one another that He could return at any time because all events on earth were coinciding to fulfill Bible prophecy, and that before the end the Gospel of salvation should be shared far and wide, especially to family and friends. As yet another sign of the times we note that publishing such an article today, especially with this eschatology, is likely to be met with scoffings (2 Pet. 3:2), even open disbelief (2 Pet. 3:4). For some of you, this may be the first time you have ever encountered this (now) old-fashioned Bible prophecy teaching. Read and consider: what if it is true?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Bible Prophecy, Circa 1911

Another Old Biblical Prophecy

 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.... In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.
(Daniel 5:26-28, 30-31)

Rembrandt's Belshazzar's Feast (1635)
During the drunken feast, Belshazzar uses the holy golden and silver vessels, from Solomon's Temple, to praise "the gods of gold and silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone". Soon afterwards, disembodied fingers appear and write on the wall of the royal palace the words:

מנא, מנא, תקל, ופרסין
Mene, Mene, Teqel, Upharsin
The advisers attempt to interpret the meaning. However, their natural denotations of weights and measures were superficially meaningless: "two minas, a shekel and two parts". Therefore, the King sends for Daniel, an exiled Israelite taken from Jerusalem, who had served in high office under Nebuchadnezzar. Rejecting offers of reward, Daniel warns the king of the folly of his arrogant blasphemy before reading the text. The meaning that Daniel decrypts from these words is based on passive verbs corresponding to the measure names, "numbered, weighed, divided." (Source)

H.A. Ironside's 1911 commentary on Daniel 5:

God's Word had been fulfilled, and that night Babylon fell, never to rise again. In that destruction... we may see prefigured the overthrow of all Gentile power and dominion in the time of the end. It particularly pictures the end of that evil system designated in the book of Revelation as "Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth" (17:5). This is the world-religious system that will be destroyed just prior to the return of the Lord from Heaven.

There are those who teach that some time in the future literal Babylon is going to be restored, to be destroyed again; but a careful reading of Jeremiah 50-51 will make it clear that her destruction is to be perpetual. The city is never to be revived for the Most High has visited His judgment on it. But mystical Babylon will reach its climax after the church as been caught away to be with the Lord; the papacy and all her daughters will form one great apostate organization--the refuge of all the various portions of Bible-rejecting Christendom. The Babylon of history was a picture of this mystical Babylon.

Ancient Babylon... was the city of idolatry and the expression of the pride of man's heart, combining religion with self-seeking. Idolatry, properly speaking, began there. That was the place where the great tower was made, where men said, "Let us make us a name" (Genesis 11:4). They were not building a tower to escape another possible flood. They wished to create a center around which to rally, that they might make a great name for themselves on the earth. God had told them to scatter abroad, but they were determined not to obey Him. Willfully, they turned from Him to the worship of demons.That was the beginning of heathenism; there they commenced to worship and serve the creature more than the Creator. Every idolatrous system in the world is simply an offshoot of that first parent stem.

And so we find in the mystic Babylon of the last days, the union of all human churches, only to be superseded by the worship of the antichrist. After the body of Christ has been caught away to Heaven the professing world church will enjoy glory for a brief season during which the ten-kingdomed empire will be formed. Then the kings and nations of the earth will sicken of the contemptible sham and become utterly atheist. They will burn the harlot's flesh with fire, destroying forever the great world-church who says in her heart, "I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow" (Revelation 18:7).

Some may be asking, "Do you not think that Babylon the great is already in existence? Yes: Babylon's description in Revelation 17 coincides too exactly with history's record of the papal church to warrant any denial of her identity. What other church has sat upon the seven hills of that great city which ruleth over the kings of the earth? What other church has been for long centuries "drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus?" What other church possessed the power and wealth ascribed to her? And where else will we find a religious organization so delighting in names of blasphemy as she?

But the Roman communion does not alone constitute great Babylon. The harlot has daughters who, like herself, profess to be pledged to the heavenly Bridegroom while committing fornication with the world that rejected Him. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" (James 4:4) Spiritual fornication is, at large, the union of the church and the state. In a more personal sense spiritual fornication is the union of the individual Christian with the world. It is an unholy alliance, opposed to the whole teaching of the New Testament. So if Rome be emphatically the great harlot, the state churches are her offspring; and "As is the mother, so is her daughter" (Ezekiel 16:44).

Soon the daughters will be wending their way homeward, back to the arms of their evil mother. We hear much in our times of "the reunion of Christendom" and we need not think of it as the dream of impractical religious enthusiasts. Christendom undoubtedly will be reunited. Everything points to such an issue, and no serious student of the prophetic scriptures can question it for a moment. But when the union comes to pass, it will be a Christless reunion for it will not take place until the body of Christ has been translated. All who are left will have thrown off allegiance to the Word and Spirit of God and to the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostasy must take place first. Then the man of sin will be revealed.

Christendom's sin is the rejection of the Holy Spirit. With that necessarily comes the rejection of the Scriptures given by the Spirit's moving on the hearts and minds of "holy men of God." Couples with the denial of the truth of God's Word, the world church will desire recognition as a power in the world, lording its authority over men's consciences. So when the true church is caught away, all the professing systems will doubtless come together in one and proudly explain, "Is not this great Babylon that we have built?" Its members will rejoice in a united Christendom--united in rejecting Christ, despising the Holy Spirit, and dishonoring the Word of God! The system will be established on a carnal and Satanic basis. It will last only for a brief season before being overthrown with indignation by the nations; they will resent any religious obligations when the Spirit of life has departed.

This is where we see everything drifting....

Source: H.A. Ironside, Daniel, 1911. Excerpted from Loizeaux Brothers, Revised Edition, 1996, pp. 70-72.

Note to reader: This excerpt from H.A. Ironside is an example of what evangelical prophecy leaders and organizations used to teach 20-40 years ago. Not so long ago, before the postmodern prophecy paradigm era, this sort of article was commonplace. Writings such as this served as an encouragement to the reader to 1) expect the Lord's imminent return and 2) be ready to meet the Lord "here, there or in the air." Believers exhorted one another that He could return at any time because all events on earth were coinciding to fulfill Bible prophecy, and that before the end the Gospel of salvation should be shared far and wide, especially to family and friends. As yet another sign of the times we note that publishing such an article today, especially with this eschatology, is likely to be met with scoffings (2 Pet. 3:2), even open disbelief (2 Pet. 3:4). For some of you, this may be the first time you have ever encountered this (now) old-fashioned Bible prophecy teaching. Read and consider: what if it is true? See also: A Recurrence of the Times of Noah and Lot

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A Recurrence of the Times of Noah and Lot

Old Biblical Prophecy

Note to reader: The article below is an example of what evangelical prophecy leaders and organizations used to teach 20-40 years ago. Not so long ago, before the postmodern prophecy paradigm era, this sort of article was commonplace. Writings such as this served as an encouragement to the reader to 1) expect the Lord's imminent return and 2) be ready to meet the Lord "here, there or in the air." Believers exhorted one another that He could return at any time because all events on earth were coinciding to fulfill Bible prophecy, and that before the end the Gospel of salvation should be shared far and wide, especially to family and friends. As yet another sign of the times we note that publishing such an article today, especially with this eschatology, is likely to be met with scoffings (2 Pet. 3:2), even open disbelief (2 Pet. 3:4). For some of you, this may be the first time you have ever encountered this (now) old-fashioned Bible prophecy teaching. Read and consider: what if it is true?

And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 

Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 

Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. 

Remember Lot's wife. 

Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
(Luke 17:26-37)

By Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (July 2014)

The Bible draws a comparison between the utter sinfulness that prevailed during the ancient times of Noah and Lot, and a similar situation which will be evident just prior to the second coming of Christ. History repeats itself in various ways – also with regard to the divine wrath which is poured out upon people who blaspheme God by continuously despising and rejecting the spiritual and moral principles of His kingdom. The following aspects of the comparison between ancient and modern times are pointed out in the Bible:

  • Apostatizing. In the times of Noah and Lot spiritual decline was widespread as virtually all people had forgotten God and gave free reign to the dictates of their depraved nature. They were wicked in every intent of their thoughts and not inclined to pursue God’s righteousness (Gen. 6:5). The same situation is characteristic of our time: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). Under the influence of the devil, extreme evil will prevail in the lives of people, and they will be “led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Pet. 3:17).
  • Moral depravity. In the times of Noah and Lot the most licentious lifestyles were socially acceptable, among which was also sodomy. The men of Sodom took no interest in the daughters of Lot but were violently intent on sodomizing the angels (Gen. 19:1-10). Sexual perversion, particularly with reference to homosexual relations and practices, will again become the socially acceptable norm rather than the exception (Rom. 1:26-27). The family structure of society inevitably starts crumbling when government and church leaders also condone and openly accept these practices as the natural consequence of the freedom of choice which is seen to be part of basic human rights.
  • An apostate culture becomes dominant. In the times of Noah and Lot, the extensive apostatizing and moral decline in society gave rise to an utterly sinful culture which was completely averse to God and His holiness. These wicked people persecuted those who promoted God’s standard of honorable conduct. When Lot tried to oppose them they shouted at him and said: “Stand back! .. Now we will deal worse with you... and [they] came near to break down the door” (Gen. 19:9). Lot had to lock his door and hide himself in the house. In the end-time, an extremely sinful culture will again become dominant and people will generally be “without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, treacherous, rash...” (2 Tim. 3:3-4). These distorted inclinations will move the nations to conclude a covenant with the Antichrist who is described in the Bible as “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3; Rev. 13:3). During his reign, sin and unrighteousness will proliferate. The small minority of true believers will be heavily persecuted and forced to hide from the perpetrators of evil behind locked doors, while also trying to evade hostile governments that will hunt them down.
  • Anarchy and violence. In the times of Noah and Lot anarchy prevailed as people in these lawless and promiscuous societies did just as they pleased. Violence was the most common means used to resolve conflicts: “...the earth is filled with violence through them” (Gen. 6:13). That means that there was no central government with the capacity to maintain law and order, and for that reason people took the law into their own hands. Gangsterism, robbery and terrorism were the inevitable consequences of this state of affairs. In the end-time, communities will also become disorganized and lapse into a state in which nobody would be safe – not even children on their way to school, or within the school premises itself. Terrorism, military coups, wars and rumors of wars will dominate the news scene (Matt. 24:6-7). Violent behavior will occur in conjunction with other forms of immorality and apostasy, and even when God starts punishing and judging these wicked people during the tribulation period they will not stop sinning and rebelling against Him: “But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues... did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20-21).
  • Materialism and vanity. In the times of Noah and Lot people were excessively materialistic and only lived for the things of this world – particularly with regard to making big investments, amassing wealth, attending parties, reveling in eating and drinking and enjoying all the pleasures of life. They did not come to their senses before it was too late: “Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:28-30). In the end-time, many people will also indulge in drinking and licentious pleasure-seeking in an effort to forget the sorrows of life. To them, the sudden coming of the heavenly Bridegroom for His bride will be like a snare which will take them captive for the judgements of God during the subsequent tribulation period: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:34-35). The wealth of rich people, who practice corruption and exploit others to achieve their goals, will be of no avail when the judgements of God are poured out upon the earth: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! ... You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter” (James 5:1-5).
  • Scoffing at believers and at the Word of God. In the times of Noah and Lot people scoffed at the believers and chose to ignore the prophetic warnings of forthcoming judgements. They regarded them as far-fetched speculation and continued with their reckless lives of fleshly pleasures and covetousness. Only Noah and his family (eight persons) were not guilty of this attitude and were worthy to escape God’s judgement of the Flood. A similar situation of the despising of biblical prophecies will repeat itself in the end-time: “...knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Those on the narrow way are a small minority.
  • Despising the time of grace. In the times of Noah and Lot God gave the degenerate sinners reasonable time to repent of their evil ways. They refused to repent and thereby sealed their own fate. They had only themselves to blame for their downfall and punishment. In the end-time, the great majority of people will not repent from their evil ways but rather embrace the false hope of manmade peace initiatives until it will be too late to escape divine judgements: “For when they say, Peace and safety! then sudden destruction comes upon them.... And they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3).
  • The escape of believers. In the times of Noah and Lot God offered a way of escape to the believers at the critical moment before He turned on the wicked with wrathful punishment (Gen. 6:13-14; 19:15-17). The order of events was: First the prophetic warnings about the impending judgements, then the safeguarding of the believers who took heed of the appeal to repent, and ultimately the outpouring of wrath upon the wicked. Now, in the end-time, the world has repeatedly been warned against the impending judgements of God during the coming great tribulation. Since believers are not destined for these judgements we should prepare to escape them by expecting God’s Son from heaven, “even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10; cf. 5:9).
  • The tragedy of religious formalism. In the times of Noah and Lot there was no security for nominal believers whose hearts were still devoted to the things of this world. Lot’s wife was a type of those believers who only have an outward form of godliness, but are still spiritually dead. This false pretense cost her the loss of her life at the last moment (Gen. 19:26). At the time of Christ’s second coming a similar situation will prevail. For that reason we are warned in the parable on the ten virgins that those among them whose hearts are not filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit will be left behind when the Bridegroom comes (Matt. 25:1-13). Self-justifying, lukewarm Christians who are deceived and erroneously regard themselves as “very good” are abominable to the Lord (Rev. 3:15-17; 2 Cor. 11:2-4).
  • Sudden disaster. In the times of Noah and Lot an awful disaster struck this world soon after the evacuation of the believers. Death and destruction occurred as never before in history (Gen. 7:4; 19:24-25). After the rapture, God’s judgements will again be poured out upon the wicked: “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, fierce, with wrath and raging anger, to make the land and the whole earth a desolation, and to destroy out of it its sinners” (Isa. 13:9; AB). The Lord Jesus warned that shortly before His second coming there will be a great tribulation as never before on earth, and if those days had not been shortened nobody would survive that terrible time (Matt. 24:21-22; 29-30).
  • The blessing offered through withholders. In the times of Noah and Lot the wicked did not realize how many privileges and blessings they enjoyed due to the presence of a few believers in their midst. God was prepared to pardon a whole city if there were only ten believers in it (Gen. 18:23-32). When this small group of believers were suddenly removed to a place of safety, the wicked were rapidly enfolded by the darkness of divine judgements. In the end-time, true believers also act as the withholders of evil, but the world will only appreciate the value of their role when they are gone. The church dispensation will continue until “he who now restrains [the true church indwelt by the Holy Spirit] is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one [the Antichrist] will be revealed.... The coming lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,... that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:7-12).
  • Prophetic blindness. In the times of Noah people scoffed at the builders of the ark, and in their ignorance were unaware of their peril “until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:39).
Significance of the rapture
God’s end-time judgement upon sinners is a fact which cannot be denied. The physical deliverance of believers before the beginning of judgements is an equally important biblical fact which should always be kept in mind: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). Paul further explains this wonderful promise: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18). What a wonderful future to look forward to!

We should react to the promise of the rapture in a number of ways if we wish to enjoy its full blessing. People who deny this promise are out of touch with the prophetic word, they forfeit many of its blessings, and are in danger of remaining behind and mistaking the Antichrist for the true Christ. We should watch out for spiritual deception and always be ready to stand before the Son of Man: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matt. 25:13). “Therefore also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matt. 24:44).

The following are the blessings that are in store for believers who heed the command to be ready for the rapture:

Good news in the prophecies
The pretribulation rapture is the good news element in a dark scenario of end-time prophecies. Without this promise Christians would be left only with the bad news about the coming of the Antichrist and the tribulation period which they will have to face before Jesus comes. Their chances of surviving all the apocalyptic disasters of the great tribulation, as well as the battle of Armageddon, will be slim indeed. A situation like that can be equated to the Flood without the ark, or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah without any provision for the escape of the believers from the scene of God’s wrath. Such a situation would be highly demoralizing and contradict a clear biblical principle that true believers are never the objects of God’s wrath: “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation…” (1 Thess. 5:9). The righteous will not be destroyed with the wicked (cf. Gen. 18:23).

People who are cynical about the promise of the rapture and do not heed the exhortation to be prepared to escape the coming tribulation period reveal a very irresponsible attitude. What would have been the consequence for Noah and his family (and for the future survival of the entire human race!) if Noah had argued as follows: “God is a God of love and I do not really believe that He will send a flood to judge all people; therefore, I am not going to build an ark to escape this so-called judgement.” Or what would have happened to Lot and his family had he taken the following stand: “I think the prophesied judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah should be interpreted symbolically. I do not have to escape for my life. Even if the disaster does occur I believe that God will protect us from His wrath here in this place.” Similar arguments are often heard today.

The coming judgements during the tribulation period are irrefutable biblical facts. Jesus said there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world (Matt. 24:21), and that we should be ready to escape it. The rapture is part of the good news of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. He came to this sin-indulging world to pay the price for the salvation of sinners. He then returned to heaven to prepare a place for us, and will come back to take us away to our heavenly abode. If we are truly born again we will be worthy to escape the horrors of the coming tribulation on earth by way of the rapture. We do not have to despair at the knowledge of what is coming upon the world since there is a wonderful element of good news in the prophetic word.

A correct future expectation
If we believe in the pre-tribulation rapture we have the assurance of a truly biblical future expectation. This belief does not in any way contradict other biblical truths. This end-time perspective honors the Lord Jesus and recognizes Him as the key to all prophecy in Scripture, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). Christians should remain focused on Him and wait for His sudden appearance – not for the Antichrist’s. Those who deny Him will remain behind after the rapture. Having rejected the way of escape and salvation offered by the true Christ, they will have to endure the Antichrist’s dictatorship and the terrible judgements to follow. What they experience on earth will be a direct result of the seals broken by the Lamb in heaven. Never deny Jesus Christ His central position in biblical prophecies. To expect His imminent return, and to arrange your life accordingly, is a command which is intended to be a strong, positive motivation to all Christians of all ages.
A motivation for steadfastness
The coming of the heavenly Bridegroom will occur during a time of religious compromise and worldliness. There will be a great falling away from the truth of God’s Word. A relatively small group of evangelical Christians will shine like lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). As in the times of Noah and Lot, the earth will be filled with violence, materialism, and sexual perversion. Unfortunately, the spirit of unrighteousness and immorality will also take its toll among Christians. They will relax their vigilance and make downward adjustments to their spiritual standards: “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). Some Christians will become backslidden or discouraged in the work of the Lord.

Inactive Christians often compromise their dedication to the Lord and their responsibility to serve Him faithfully. Their spiritual decline may manifest itself in various ways. The most common way of backsliding is to abandon the need for sanctification and to become pleasure-seekers who attend worldly parties where people eat and drink to excess. They also become critical of evangelical Christians who do not approve of their depraved ways. The Lord Jesus warned against such sinful behavior and countered it by using the prospect of His sudden, unexpected return as a positive motivation to remain steadfast to the end: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.… But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites” (Matt. 24:45-51).

Correctly determining and prioritizing works
To expect the coming of the Lord Jesus before the tribulation period, guides your actions in the right direction. You prepare for His coming and not for the coming of the Antichrist. The concept of the rapture explicitly confronts you with your responsibility to give account of yourself before the judgement seat of Christ immediately after being caught up to heavenly places (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12). The following crowns will be awarded to the faithful:

  • The incorruptible crown for holiness (1 Cor. 9:24-27). A life of this nature is characterized by the power of the Holy Spirit which enables a believer to abide in Christ, resist the temptations of sin and spiritual deception, and to keep on serving the Lord despite severe adversity and opposition. All the other crowns are dependent upon the believer’s sanctification.
  • The crown of rejoicing for soul-winners (1 Thess. 2:19). When the saving grace of the Lord Jesus is proclaimed, people are invited to accept it by faith, thereby obtaining the promise of eternal life. We were commissioned to be Christ’s witnesses everywhere on earth (Acts 1:8) but not all believers are engaged in fulfilling their calling.
  • The crown of life for Christian martyrs (Rev. 2:10). All those who have suffered or even died for their faith, will be rewarded. This category also includes believers who were severely tested but carried their cross with perseverance (Jas. 1:12).
  • The crown of glory for faithful shepherds (1 Pet. 5:2-4). Peter makes it clear that the faithful shepherds are those who did not fulfill their ministry by constraint, or for dishonest gain, or for status considerations. False teachers who proclaim lies will not share in the rapture to appear before the judgement seat of Christ, since they do not belong to Him and are destined for perdition (2 Pet. 2:1; 2 Tim. 4:3-4).
  • The crown of righteousness for those who loved the appearing of the Lord (2 Tim. 4:8). To love His coming calls for dissociation from the depraved world and its (mostly) corrupt leaders while pursuing the kingdom of Christ. Believers are citizens of this heavenly kingdom over which Christ will reign as King on earth after His second coming (Phil. 3:20-21).
The fact that our works will be judged after the rapture, and that only those with eternal value will be rewarded, is of great significance in helping us to devote ourselves to objectives that are higher than the material things of this perishable world. After conversion, our lives should yield the fruit of the Spirit and we should not waste time and resources on earthly things, pleasure or futile works. After the foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus has been laid in our lives we should take care to walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh: “…let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.… Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire” (1 Cor. 3:10-13).

Will you be found a worthy servant or will you stand before the judgement seat of Christ on that day empty-handed, saved as by fire? (1 Cor. 3:15). If you lose sight of the possibility of the Lord’s imminent return you may lapse into complacency, spiritual inactivity, and even into sin: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.… You therefore, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and for ever” (2 Pet. 3:10, 17-18).

The faithful and wise servant keeps himself busy with the work of the Lord, always realizing that the time to work for his Master is running out. The Lord Jesus Himself said: “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). The night of God’s judgements during the great tribulation is fast approaching. Spiritually speaking, the tribulation will be one of the darkest periods in the entire history of humanity – and that should motivate us to work with greater dedication and commitment to the Lord while we are still in the day of grace.

Motivation for holiness
One of the strongest motivations that the promise of the rapture instils into a Christian is that of holiness. As members of the bridal church we should commit ourselves to the challenge of being presented to the heavenly Bridegroom as chaste virgins. That implies the responsibility to be vigilant by not allowing the wicked one to pervert or corrupt our minds and lives (2 Cor. 11:2-3). Jesus Christ gave Himself to sanctify and cleanse the church that He might present it to Himself holy and without spot or blemish (Eph. 5:25-27). We have a distinct responsibility to use the means of grace at our disposal to walk in the ways of the Lord and to become holy in all our conduct (1 Pet. 1:15). “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord” (2 Cor. 7:1).

If we abide in Christ, we will have confidence when He appears and not be ashamed before Him (1 John 2:28). However, should we lose sight of His imminent coming and fail to live accordingly we may lapse into complacency, spiritual passiveness, and even into sin (Matt. 24:48-51).

Hope during trials and afflictions
Under the dark shadow of trials and afflictions, when our prospects on earth look bleak, the belief in Christ’s coming for us at the rapture is a light at the end of the tunnel. Through many sorrows and suffering, millions of Christians have clung desperately to the promise of the resurrection and our union with the Lord at the rapture. It gave them strength to endure, counting earthly things and even their own lives as of no account so that they might win eternity with Christ. So, take courage, lift up your head, and expect the coming of the Lord, knowing your future is safe and sure in His hands.

A sense of destiny
Like Abraham we should see ourselves as strangers and sojourners in a world that “lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:18). Since our future is not here, we need a vision of the city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). In our pilgrimage through this world, we need a strong sense of destiny. When the Lord comes for us at the rapture, He will take us to our eternal home in the new Jerusalem (1 Cor. 2:9; John 14:2; Rev. 21:2).

We should not identify ourselves with this world and become one with its materialism, pleasure-seeking and moral and spiritual depravity. We should proclaim the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. The unbelievers around us are in spiritual darkness, but through our testimony we should show them the way to the Savior, who is the light of the world.

While serving the Lord as faithful witnesses, we should always keep our eye on Him as “the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16) that shines above the dark horizon of a troubled and hostile world. The morning star tells us the night is far spent and the day is at hand. Before Jesus appears as the Sun of Righteousness, when every eye shall see Him, Christians will have an awesome meeting with Him, the Bright and Morning Star, in the air!

The original article is posted HERE. For a related article, see also "In the Days of Noah." 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Evolution & the New Age Movement

How Eastern Mysticism Promulgated Evolution 

Over the past several decades America has undergone a profound transformation from a culture that was primarily Christian to one that is now largely pagan. One of the primary reasons for this change has been the widening influence of Eastern mysticism. A central tenet of all Eastern religions is the belief that man is evolving.

The Beatles with their guru

During the 1960s, changes in society first began to manifest after the Beatles traveled to India and brought back their own personal Hindu spiritual guide, the guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In imitation of these popular rock stars, young people began to study the tenets of Hinduism and to experiment with its practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM). The Maharishi proved to be a savvy marketer. He repackaged TM to sell to Western culture as a way to ease stress and gain spiritual enlightenment. TM even promised world peace. Eastern mysticism regards man in an evolutionary process of self-purification that can be attained through spiritual rituals and disciplines, meditations, and an ascetic lifestyle. A core tenet of Hinduism is its belief in reincarnation. “Karma” is an evolutionary cycle where one’s good works in this life will be progressively rewarded in future incarnations here on earth until a state of perfection or godhood is achieved (“Nirvana”). Buddhism similarly teaches that man is on a journey to his own enlightenment or divinity.

Eastern mystics believe that each person determines his own truth and finds his own inner peace. Thus there are no moral absolutes. In Eastern religions Jesus isn’t THE way, THE truth, THE life; He is merely an “ascended spiritual master” who showed humanity a path to a higher spirituality. Jesus is not considered to be the resurrected Son of God who died for our sins on the cross. Rather, Jesus is put on a par with the many other idol deities who are worshipped. In Eastern mysticism, the path, or way (“Tao”), is to find one’s “god within.” 

Marilyn Ferguson, circa 1980

By the mid 1970s, a convergence of Eastern religions began to manifest. This new form of syncretism called itself the “New Age Movement.” This movement was “outed” in a bestselling book by Marilyn Ferguson titled The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (J.P. Tarcher, 1980). Her book was a textbook for how to create a “paradigm shift” in Western culture, moving it from its historical roots in Christianity into an Eastern mystical mindset. Interestingly, the book cover prominently displayed a “666” logo, representing the author’s belief that they were awaiting a New Age “Christ” Messiah figure (“Maitreya”) who would unite humanity for peace on earth. Ferguson asserted that the New Age had many prominent advocates in the media, medicine, education, Hollywood and science. These “change agent” leaders were also working within the government to effect a restructuring of social institutions. 
Note the 666 logo on Ferguson's book cover.

In a landmark book, The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow (Huntington House, 1983), Christian author Constance Cumbey warned evangelicals about an insidious agenda behind Ferguson’s touted New Age Movement. Cumbey’s historical research had uncovered its dark roots. In 1875, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in Germany. Blavatsky was an occultist who traveled to Tibet to study the Tibetan Book of the Dead. From this she developed a doctrine of the superiority of the Aryan race. The Theosophical Society engaged in a mass distribution of tracts and literature to promote these teachings. This widespread dissemination contributed to the rise of anti-Semitism across Europe a century ago. Theosophy also embraced the tenets of Social Darwinism, the idea that “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” could be applied to social institutions.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

Theosophy sought to unite all world religions under the banner of the “Universal Brotherhood of Humanity.” Some of the Theosophist writings originated from the channeled transmissions of a spirit calling itself “Djwal Khul.” Alice Bailey compiled his verbatim instructions and the Lucifer Publishing Company (now Lucis Trust) published her many books. Bailey laid out a precise plan for the evolution of mankind to a “New Age” and “New World Order” on earth. Theosophy could best achieve its sinister goals by remaining underground and infiltrating the world’s major religions and government (hence the word “conspiracy” in Ferguson’s book title). By the time Theosophy re-surfaced in the late 1970s as the New Age Movement, it had incorporated a wider hodge-podge of Eastern religious ideas into its tenets. Yet there was one common core belief—that humanity is evolving. 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The father of the New Age” is the title given to a French Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). In addition to being a priest, Teilhard was also a paleontologist. He attempted to integrate evolution with Christianity. This effort proved to be too controversial for his Catholic Church superiors and he was subjected to punitive measures. Teilhard taught that just as human beings had evolved from apes, mankind would evolve to a higher level of collective “consciousness” and emerge as a new species he called homo noeticus. A prominent New Age leader, Barbara Marx Hubbard, would later call this homo universalis. Interestingly, Teilhard was reportedly involved with the Piltdown hoax, a major “missing link” forgery.

The New Age Movement, like Eastern mysticism, does not believe in absolute truth. Experience trumps truth. The subjective experience of each person is elevated over reason, rational thinking, and the scientific method. Thus, there is no reality. “Reality is what you make it to be.” The New Age teaches that truth itself is evolving as mankind evolves. Man’s expanding “consciousness,” especially through paranormal encounters, is believed to facilitate evolution. His spiritual progress towards perfection is enhanced as he works together collectively, in unity and harmony, for the common good of the planet.

As the New Age Movement began to influence society, various methodologies borrowed from Eastern mysticism were introduced into medicine, education, social sciences, business, and religion. These mystical practices were re-packaged to appear scientific, and rapidly gained widespread credibility through entertainment media and the mainstream press. The New Age Movement also launched a new genre of self-help books that promoted Eastern mysticism, watered-down for Western tastes. These popular books served as a platform for introducing the concept that man is on a progressive spiritual journey in which he can attain supernatural power to achieve seemingly impossible things. The easiest avenue for disseminating New Age thought proved to be alternative or holistic health. Self-healing through mind-over-matter techniques was marketed to the public as a new way of curing disease and improving longevity. Yoga is current example of a meditative ritual that originated in Eastern religions but is now being widely advertised as a healthful exercise program in the West. Yet Yoga is, in reality, an alternative path to salvation based on progressively evolving to higher spiritual levels. 
A sculpture of a Hindu yogi in the Birla Mandir, Delhi

New Age mystics believe there is a “co-creative” power inherent in the human imagination that can generate new realities. Many self-help books and business seminars promise that envisioning healing or wealth can result in positive outcomes. Thus “visioning” is now widely practiced throughout the culture, especially in the business world. New Age leaders also suggest envisioning “alternative future scenarios” for the planet. They believe this will result in peace, harmony and unity—even restore earth to a pristine environmental paradise. They teach that mankind, by collectively “vision-casting” a positive future, can forestall, intercept or alter his destiny. In this way man can bypass the “negative” biblical scenarios of Armageddon and Judgment Day. 
Sci-Fi Jedi using a mystical power called the Force

Another key tenet of New Age mysticism is the “force” or “energy” that is said to pervade everything in the cosmos. This is not unlike “The Force” of the popular Star Wars movie. They believe this cosmic energy is interconnected with man’s consciousness. A transformation in man’s consciousness will alter the very fabric of the universe. Eastern mysticism teaches that “God is everything“ (pantheism) and that God is in everything” (panentheism). Upon this faulty foundation some have attempted to integrate quantum physics with both metaphysics and religious doctrine. This synthesis has been referred to as “Quantum Spirituality.”

In her 1980 book, Marilyn Ferguson ominously suggested that “[e]volution may be speeded up by certain genetic mechanisms” (p. 160). Improving mankind’s condition by facilitating his own evolution, whether through spiritual and/or technological means, is an over-arching goal of the New Age. Scientists began to work on artificial intelligence and transhumanism to overcome man’s limitations and enhance his psychological, intellectual and physical capacity. Some believe that the original New Age vision of a “new man” (Teilhard’s homo noeticus) could be tangibly realized through advances in technology. Ray Kurzweil’s utopian concept of “Singularity” envisions a time when the exponential growth of artificial intelligence will change man’s basic nature and condition. The dark side of these technological advancements is the racist idea that “enhanced” people will be superior to others, and further along the evolutionary scale. 
Ray Kurzweil

The New Age Movement adopted the term “paradigm shift” to describe their agenda of switching culture from its former belief system over to a new worldview. They knew that the emergence of an Eastern mystical worldview would fundamentally alter the very fabric of Western civilization. If man could but realize that he is in charge of his own evolutionary destiny, he would be able to create a new future for himself. Mankind would no longer need to worship God as Creator. Man, the creature, is destined to become a “co-creator” with God. Thus this New Age “paradigm shift” can be viewed as a literal fulfillment of the warning of Romans 1:25:  

“Who changed the truth of God into a lie,
and worshipped and served the creature
more than the Creator,
Who is blessed for ever. Amen.”

Note: This summary report was authored by Sarah H. Leslie (B.S., M.S.) has been researching and publishing about the New Age Movement for over three decades. Prior to her conversion in the 1970s she was involved in the New Age Movement. To further research any of the names and terms in this article in prior Herescope posts, simply google the "term" or "name" with the word "Herescope." Since 2005 Herescope has published hundreds of articles detailing how these New Age evolutionary concepts have entered the evangelical church world. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

This is Discipleship

Part 2

Read Part 1: This is not Discipleship

Many techniques, programs and systems in the modern church are mistaken as discipleship. While those techniques may contain elements of discipleship, they are not the authentic thing. (See Part 1: “This is not Discipleship.”) This obviously begs the question: what is discipleship and what did Jesus mean when He gave us the Great Commission?

In spite of the King James’ use of the word “teach” for mathēteúō, all other translations, commentaries, and dictionaries are agreed that the word means more than simply teaching intellectual facts:

mathēteúō. Intransitively this word means “to be or become a pupil.” One reading of Mt. 27:57 has it with reference to Joseph of Arimathea; he is said to be a disciple of Jesus. In a distinctive transitive use (Mt. 13:52; 28:19; Acts 14:21) the NT also uses the term for “to make disciples.” Behind this sense possibly stands the NT belief that a call is the basis of discipleship of Jesus.[1]

μαθητεύωb: to cause someone to become a disciple or follower of—‘to make disciples, to cause people to become followers.’ πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ‘go then, to all peoples and make them (my) disciples’ Mt 28:19.[2]

Learners and Followers 
Implicit in the word mathēteúō are the concepts of learners and followers.

The word “disciple” means above all “learner” or “pupil.” The emphasis in the commission thus falls not on the initial proclamation of the gospel but more on the arduous task of nurturing into the experience of discipleship, an emphasis that is strengthened and explained by the instruction “teaching them to keep all that I have commanded” in v 20a.[3]

These three words—learners, pupils and teaching—sound synonymous, but they are not. Pupils do not necessarily learn, and teaching someone does not mean that that person has actually learned anything. Paul speaks of those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7). Such are neither disciples, learners, nor followers.

Besides the Twelve, Jesus also had other disciples during His earthly ministry (Matt 27:57; John 6:66; 7:3; Acts 1:15). Before Jesus, John had disciples. Disciples were simply people who followed a teacher and learned from the teacher. One can speak of the disciples of other rabbis or even of Greek philosophers. In all of these cases the purpose was for the disciple to learn both theory (theology) and practice (character and behavior) from the teacher. Disciples would later gather other disciples around them and so perpetuate the teaching. It is really quite simple and yet, as we have shown, very few practice true discipleship today. So let’s look at what true discipleship really should be.

A Relationship 
The first thing that strikes me about Jesus’ disciples is that they had a personal relationship with their Master. Based on this personal relationship, the Master knew each of His disciples personally. As a result, He deals with and teaches each of the disciples based on their unique needs, personality and characteristics. Jesus related to Peter, John and Thomas in very different ways reflecting their unique relationship to Him. Although the Bible does not use the term disciple(s) after the book of Acts, it is clear that Paul had the same kind of relationship with Timothy, Silas, Titus and a number of others. Once again, the relationship was very personal. Both Paul and Jesus lived with their followers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The idea of a disciple who does not have a relationship with the teacher, and who is a stranger to the teacher, is a contradiction in terms.

The same therefore holds true today. We cannot make disciples of those with whom we are not in a personal relationship. This automatically limits the number of people one teacher/leader can shepherd. It also excludes the idea of professional councilors or absentee pastors, or disciples that shy away from personal relationships, as well as those who attend church for an hour a week. How can a pastor of a church of a thousand know, and have a relationship with, each of the members? Several years ago I went to see the pastor of a neighboring church about folk who had left our church for his. He did not even know about their existence until he looked them up on his computer, only to discover they had been attending his church for three months!

The reason for this personal relationship is that part of discipling is teaching each one according to their individual needs, background and potential. A one-size-fits-all discipling package simply does not exist, and therefore discredits all off-the-rack discipleship manuals and programs as bogus.

Many multiplication systems have been based on discipleship. The theory is that each believer should have 12 disciples, and each disciple should have 12, etc. This is purely a multi-level marketing/pyramid scheme. Discipleship can never be forced and controlled by statistics because it is relational. And because discipleship is a relational and dynamic process, it can never be forced to comply with a statistical model. At times Paul had only one “disciple” travelling with him and at other times there were several. Neither Jesus nor Paul taught a numerical model, and it is evident that none of the Apostles attempted to recreate Jesus’ “model” of twelve disciples.

Submission to the Teacher
A vital aspect of the relationship between teacher and disciple is the willingness of the disciple to submit to the teacher. This is one of the main reasons very little discipling happens in the Free World these days. Modern Christians are just not willing to submit to leaders. Modern believers consider themselves above correction and on a par with everyone else. Generally, “submission” only occurs as long as things go well and the relationship is affirming. The moment admonition, rebuke or discipline is needed the believer tends to leave the relationship, and the church, and withdraws from the relationship.

But without this submission there is no basis for a learner/teacher, follower/leader relationship. The whole purpose of discipleship is for the teacher to train the disciple. This includes not just the transmission of ideas and knowledge but actually having a hand in the shaping of the character and behavior of the learner. Paul’s epistles are replete with instructions to rebuke, warn, correct, command, charge and admonish (2Tim 4:2; 1Thes 2:11; Col 1:28; Titus 1:13; Titus 2:15; etc.).

It goes without saying that the teacher may never overstep the bounds between legitimate and godly discipleship and heavy shepherding or abuse.

The first ingredient in the discipleship process then are disciples who want to learn and who want to follow.

Teachers With Dirty Hands
Just as you need those who are willing to learn, you need those who are willing to teach. But teaching is not just from the relative safety of the pulpit. True teachers are willing to get their hands soiled with the dirty diapers of babes in Christ. While there are many who want to preach, there are not many who want the hassle of discipling people.

Discipling is hard work. It means getting involved with people at a personal level, listening to their ideas, risking their anger when correcting them, repeating the same things over and over until the penny eventually drops. (Just think of how many times Jesus said the same things to His disciples and they still did not understand.) Discipling means feeling the pain of failure when those to whom you have become close end up falling, sometimes in the most terrible ways—think of Peter denying the Lord! Discipling means flying blind without the help of a carefully prepared script or manual. Preaching is relatively easy since the preacher is on his own turf, controls the situation and is not interrupted. Discipling provides none of those safeguards. The teacher has to think on his feet and respond to the questions, arguments and reactions of the disciple over whom he has no direct control. There is just no way of knowing ahead of time what the disciple is going to come up with, say or do, next. It is this lack of a controlled environment that scares many leaders and prevents them from descending from the pulpit and engaging on a personal level with learners. Discipling does not have regular hours because people live life 24 hours a day. The pastor who wants to work to a carefully prepared schedule does not qualify, nor will he survive in the rough and tumble unpredictable world of real discipling.

And it is this unwillingness to accept the discomfort and pain of being a spiritual parent to spiritual (often wayward) children that has resulted in so few true teachers being available to disciple true believers. Thus without learners who are willing to learn, and without teachers who are willing to teach, no discipleship can take place.

The Cross 
In addition to willing and capable teachers, and disciples that are eager to learn, there is a third vital ingredient without which no discipleship can take place and that is the cross. Jesus Himself made this an entry requirement for disciples: “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27). In all three the Synoptics Jesus said: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

This is not an optional extra for some disciples, it is essential for all disciples. Without the willingness of the follower to deny his own ideas, personality, desires, yea even his very self, he just cannot be a disciple. This is not because the Lord set an arbitrary standard, but because the essence of discipleship means the laying aside of self and being transformed into the likeness and image of Christ. This is not behavior modelling (see part 1), it is death (to self) and resurrection (in His image) on a daily basis.

No wonder Jesus had very few disciples. We expect it to be different for us, but it cannot be. In most cases where numbers of people are flocking to follow leaders the vital ingredient of the cross is missing. Hence the many things that are used as cheap substitutes for the cross.

Teaching How and What 
Most teaching in modern churches is about the “what” of the faith, but discipleship is as much about the “how” as the “what.” This is just where the problem often lies. Seminaries teach the “what” and those who come out of those seminaries only understand the “what.” The “how” is learned at the feet of a true teacher and in the school of hard knocks. Obviously we do need to understand the “what” but without the “how” the “what” is of no value.

In the Great Commission, Jesus gives explicit instructions as to what needs to be taught in the process of making disciples: “…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20).

Note that the command is to teach “to observe….” This is in contrast with “teaching to know….” The word “observe” literally means to do. The true disciple does what he was taught, thus head knowledge has to be translated into lifestyle and theory has to become practice. Very few Christians seem to know how to behave as Christians because they were never taught, neither in word nor by example. But that is what discipleship is really about. It is about becoming like Jesus (Romans 8:29) and becoming like Him is not about knowledge but it is about essence—who we are as evidenced through our lifestyle, values and actions.

Paul says: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;” (1 Thessalonians 2:10) and to Timothy: “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God…” (1Tim 3:15). Behavior and conduct are simply not taught any longer, yet that is the very essence of Christianity. The world is constantly telling believers how they ought to act, but the church does not. It is no wonder then, that believers act more like the world than like Christ.

The art of casting an artificial fly on the end of a fly rod is not rocket science, yet one can read a dozen books about it without ever being able to master the simple skill. It is only when an experienced teacher demonstrates how to do it, and then allows you to practice while correcting your mistakes, that you will ever learn how to present an artificial fly to a fish. Christianity is the same. It was never intended to be learned only from reading, preaching or talking. Jesus showed His disciples how to live and to die, and then expected them to put into practice what He had taught through His example and by His words.

As a result, Luke writes his Gospel concerning “…all that Jesus began both to do and teach.” (Acts 1:1)

Word Based 
Unless the personal involvement, setting an example, or active teaching is based on the Scriptures, it is simply some humanistic effort, management technique or philosophy. Paul says: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The purpose of the doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction is to equip people for “every good work.” It is not merely for the sake of knowledge and, at the same time, is not good works based on some human philosophy. True discipleship is based on Scriptural principles that result in Godly living.

Discipleship at Home 
Discipleship begins in the home. Parents are to disciple their children, teaching them by word and deed to be followers of Jesus Christ. But instead they choose to hire substitutes in the form of school teachers, Sunday school teachers, psychologists and an array of other hirelings. Meanwhile the parents are absent as they pursue their own selfish desires. These same absentee parents then turn around and blame everyone else when (not if) the child ends being more like the devil than Jesus.

Yet these same failed parents often want to be leaders in the church. Paul is emphatic that an elder must have proven his discipling skills at home (1Timothy 3:5). It is in the home that parents learn and develop discipling skills which are later used in the church. And it is in the home that children learn to be good followers and learners. It is not coincidental that the New Testament uses babes, children, and the process of growing to maturity as an analogy of the life of a Christian. There are therefore very real parallels between raising children and discipling believers. Both require the same skills, prayer, patience, observing, teaching, wisdom, correcting, encouraging, rebuking etc. Failure at home almost guarantees failure in the church.

Jesus and the Twelve
After three years with Jesus, His disciples had heard His teaching on every important subject. The fact that they did not understand much is irrelevant because, in time, the Holy Spirit would remind them of what they had learned (John 14:26). Not only had they heard His words but they had seen His life. They saw His relationship with His Father, how He reacted, how He handled different situations and people, how He dealt with weariness, frustration, temptation, anger and every other human experience.

When Jesus called them, they were a motley bunch of losers, but at the end of that time He was able to send them out as His Apostles (sent ones) to lay the foundation of the church. That was successful discipling. They knew what to do, how to act and how to react. Yes, they were still fallible men, but they had been discipled by Jesus and even their enemies could not deny that: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13).

Paul and Timothy
Paul had several disciples but the best of those was undoubtedly Timothy to whom Paul wrote, “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions….” (2 Timothy 3:10-11). Notice again the juxtaposition of “doctrine” and “manner of life.” Paul taught Timothy not only doctrine, but how to live. He taught him to live a life with a godly purpose, how to have faith in trials, how to endure pain, suffering and persecution, and how to fulfill his ministry.

Near the very end of Paul’s life he wrote to Timothy “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2). Thus the pattern is perpetuated from one generation to the next.

We are not Jesus
But there is a vital difference between Jesus and us—Jesus made disciples of Himself but we do not make disciples of ourselves. Cult and other false leaders make people followers of themselves but true discipleship makes people followers of Jesus. Thirty times the book of Acts refers to “the disciples.” But never does it speak of disciples of Peter, John or Paul. “Disciples” was always understood to mean disciples of Jesus. A true teacher will always point men to Jesus and call men to follow Him—never to follow the teacher, his church, or some other human organization.

We are not called to clone or make copies of ourselves. We are to help people become like Jesus and to follow Him, and to ultimately learn from Him. The more those we teach resemble Him, the more successful they will be at making disciples.

Discipleship is not a technique or system. It is a lifestyle and is the essence of our faith. In its absence believers and churches become more worldly and less Christ-like. In spite of the proliferation of theological books and knowledge, we have abandoned our roots and failed to obey the command to make disciples. For this reason, more than any other, the church in the West has simply become an organization and has lost its life and light.

 “… when the Son of Man comes,
will He really find faith on the earth?”

(Luke 18:8)

1. Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans. 
2. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains. New York: United Bible Societies. 
3. Hagner, Donald A. Word Biblical Commentary. Matthew 14-28. Thomas Nelson.1995. p887.