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Does Religiosity Equal Christianity

Does Religiosity Equal Christianity

Do you know that one major reason why people are hesitant to become Christians is the notion that they have to be religious? This has negative connotations for most people. But does one need to be religious to be a Christian? Does religiosity equal Christianity?

First of all, we need to understand that Christianity is NOT a religion in the same way Islam or Hinduism is. Rather, it is a relationship with the living God.

In this short post, we will look at two important points that need to be made in dealing with this issue.

Religiosity vs. Christianity

One of the things that differentiate religion from Christianity is that the former consists of rules and rituals – things that people must do and other things they must not do. However, Christianity, though it has rules to follow, is basically a relationship between man (humanity) and the Creator.

When one becomes a Christian, he or she enters into a personal relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus.

Christ Himself said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

To become a Christian is a personal matter; it is a personal decision made by the sinner when he acknowledges his need for God. This is then followed by a desire to know God’s laws and precepts and to obey them (Psalm 119:33).

Christianity is not merely a set of laws and rules. It is a relationship between the living God and those who believe in Him. Thus, at its heart, Christianity is relational.

What is True Religion?

The Bible Condemns Empty Religiosity

The Bible strongly condemns religion that is without any genuine substance. We read so many instances where Jesus condemned the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 23:2, 3, 27, 28).

If religiosity equals true Christianity, Jesus would not have strong words for the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were strictly living according to the Mosaic Law. By doing so, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy.

Does this mean religion is not important? Some argue that without religion, it would be impossible to practice what God in His written Word has instructed us to do. This is where we need to distinguish between empty and genuine religion.

Scripture informs us what true religion should be and that is living out what you believe. James wrote, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is not religiosity; a Christian is not someone religious. A Christian is one who has a pers0nal relationship with the living God through Christ.

Conclusion

Religion is not attractive to most people because it conjures up the idea of several rules and rituals that one must strictly adhere to. Often times, people follow these rules without any sense of personal satisfaction or fulfillment.

In that sense of the word, Christianity is not a religion.

Don’t be religious; be a Christian, a Christ-follower who has a loving relationship with the Creator.


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What is the Battle of Gog and Magog?

What is the Battle of Gog and Magog?

Since winning the Six-Day War in June 1967, the nation of Israel has grown into a world military power and has proven its ability to defend itself. But according to the Bible, the greatest threat to modern Israel’s continued existence has yet to happen.

This is when Israel will be attacked by a coalition of nations from every direction. The prophet Ezekiel describes this invasion, known as the Battle of Gog and Magog, in Ezekiel 38-39. This coalition of invading nations will be motivated by a seething desire to eradicate Israel, enrich themselves, and entangle Israel’s allies in the war.

Participants of the Ezekiel 38-39 War

The prophecy of the Battle of Gog and Magog begins with a list of ten proper names in Ezekiel 38:1-7.

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, 3
and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.’”

4 “I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. 5
Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops–many people are with you.”

7 “Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them.”

Note: Italics added for emphasis

Gog

While the other nine proper names in Ezekiel 38:1-7 are specific geographical locations, the name Gog, which occurs eleven times in Ezekiel 38-39, is clearly an individual who heads the coalition of invaders.  He is also directly addressed by God several times (Ezekiel 38:14; 39:1) and is called a prince (Ezekiel 38:2; 39:1).

Ezekiel may have used ancient names familiar to the people of his day and these names have changed many times throughout history, but the geographical territory remains the same. Regardless of what names they may carry at the time of this invasion, a literal interpretation holds that these specific geographical areas will be involved.

Let’s take a look at each of these ancient locations and examine them and then we will identify the modern counterpart.

Magog

The Jewish historian Josephus said the land of Magog was inhabited by ancient Scythians. The Scythians were northern nomadic tribes who inhabited the territory from Central Asia across the southern steppes of modern Russia.

Magog today probably represents nations from the former Soviet Union: Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Afghanistan could also be part of this territory.

Rosh

Bible scholars have often identified Rosh with Russia. But this conclusion has not been unanimous.

The word rosh in Hebrew simply means “head, top, summit, or chief.” It is a very common word used in all Semitic languages. Although most Bible translations translate rosh as a common noun – “chief,” the Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible, and New American Standard Bible all translate Rosh as a proper name indicating a geographical location.

Several arguments support taking Rosh as a proper name but the most impressive evidence is simply that this translation in this context is the most natural. G. A. Cooke translates Ezekiel 38:2, “the chief of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.” He calls this “the most natural way” of rendering the Hebrews.

After establishing that Rosh should be translated as a proper name for a geographical area, the question now is where is Rosh? The great Hebrew scholar Wilhelm Gesenius noted that Rosh is “undoubtedly the Russians.”

Ezekiel 38-39 emphasizes repeatedly that at least part of this invading force will come from the “remote parts of the north” (Ezekiel 38:6, 15; 39:2). The Bible usually provides directions about Israel, which, on God’s compass, is the center of the earth (Ezekiel 38:12).

If you draw a line directly north from Israel, the land that is most remote or distant to the north is Russia.

Meshech and Tubal

Meshech and Tubal are normally mentioned together in Scripture. Aside from Ezekiel 38:2, Meshech and Tubal are mentioned two other times in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:13; 32:26).

In Ezekiel 27:13, they are mentioned as trading partners with ancient Tyre. It is highly unlikely that ancient Tyre (modern Lebanon) was trading with Moscow and the Siberian city of Tobolsk. The preferred identification is that Meshech and Tubal are the ancient Moschoi and Tibarenoi in Greek writings or Tabal and Musku in Assyrian inscriptions.

These ancient locations are in present-day Turkey.

What is the Battle of Gog and Magog
Photo Credits: Pinterest/Revelation Bible

Persia

 The words Persia, Persian, and Persians are found thirty-five times in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 38:5, Persia is best understood as modern-day Iran. The land of Persia became the modern nation of Iran in March 1935, and then the name was changed to the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.

Libya (Put)

Some ancient sources indicate that Put or Phut was a North African nation. The New Living Translation documents this identification in footnotes for several passages, including Isaiah 66:19; Jeremiah 46:9; and Ezekiel 27:10; 38:5.

From the Babylonian Chronicles, tablets that recorded ancient Babylonian history, it appears that Put was the “distant” land to the west of Egypt, which would be modern-day Libya and could possibly include nations further west such as modern-day Algeria and Tunisia.

The Septuagint renders the word Put as Libues.

Ethiopia (Cush)

Modern versions often translate the Hebrew word Cush in Ezekiel 38:5 as “Ethiopia.” Ancient Cush was called Kusu by the Assyrians and Babylonians, Kos or Kas by the Egyptians, and Nubia by the Greeks.

Secular history locates Cush directly south of ancient Egypt, extending south past the modern city of Khartoum, which is the capital of modern Sudan. Thus, modern Sudan inhabits the ancient land of Cush.

Gomer

Gomer has often been identified by Bible teachers as Germany, or more particularly East Germany before the fall of Communism. This identification is superficial and not the literal meaning of the word in its cultural and historic context.

Gomer is probably a reference to the ancient Cimmerians or Kimmerioi. Ancient history identifies biblical Gomer with the Akkadian Gi-mir-ra-a and the Armenian Gamir. Beginning in the eighth century BC, the Cimmerians occupied territory is what is now modern Turkey.

Josephus noted that the Gomerites were identified with the Galatians who inhabited what today is central Turkey.

Beth-Togarmah

The Hebrew word beth means “house,” so Beth-Togarmah means the “house of Togarmah.” Ezekiel 27:14 mentions Togarmah as a nation that traded horses and mules with ancient Tyre.

Ezekiel 38:6 states that the armies of Beth-Togarmah will join in, too, from the distant north. Ancient Togarmah was also known as Til-garamu (Assyrian) or Tegarma (Hittite), and its territory is in modern Turkey, north of Israel.

Based on these identifications, Ezekiel 38-39 predicts an invasion of the land of Israel in the last days by a vast confederation of nations from north of the Black and Caspian Seas, extending to modern Iran in the east, as far as modern Libya to the west, and Sudan in the south.

Therefore, Russia will have at least five key allies: Turkey, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and the Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union.

Timing of the Battle

The battle of Gog and Magog will occur in the future, in the end times, but when in the future? While there is a general agreement about many of the details in Ezekiel 38-39, the timing of battle is the most debated issue. Scholars have located the battle at almost every major point in the end times from the Rapture all the way to the end of the Millennium.

Some believe the battle will take place before the Rapture; others believe it will occur between the Rapture and the Tribulation; others believe it will take place in conjunction with the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Great Tribulation. Some believe it occurs at the end of the Millennium since Revelation 20:8 refers to Gog and Magog. Others maintain that it will unfold in phases throughout the Tribulation.

Thankfully, we are not left to our own speculation in timing the events of Ezekiel 38-39. The passage gives us clues that suggest when this battle will take place. One of which is when Israel is at peace (Ezekiel 38:11).

Daniel 9:27 tells us that there’s coming a time when Israel will sign a peace treaty with the Antichrist, which will guarantee protection for the Jewish people and Israel will be able to relax. This is the first half of the Tribulation or what’s called Daniel’s seventieth week.

This peacetime moment in Israel’s history fits the prophetic scenario perfectly. With these guarantees of secure borders and international peace, Israel will turn her energies toward increasing wealth rather than defense. But the peace treaty will be shattered less than four years later.


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The Purpose of the Ezekiel 38-39 War

What is the purpose of this invasion? The passage gives both the human and the divine purposes for the invasion.

The invaders will have four main goals: the land, money, total destruction of Israel, and power. First, the invading forces will desire to acquire more territory (Ezekiel 38:8). Any military invasion of this magnitude and scope always includes land.

Then there’s money. The invaders will come to plunder Israel and amass wealth (Ezekiel 38:12). One might wonder, “What wealth does Israel have?” No one knows for sure what this will entail, but discoveries of vast gas reserves off the coast of Israel could be part of the equation as oil becomes more scarce in the future, triggering energy wars. Make no mistake – greed will be a key motive behind the Gog invasion.

The third is racism. The invading horde will come to destroy the people of Israel and wipe them off the face of the earth (Ezekiel 38:10, 16). This is in keeping with the hatred we see for the Jewish people in Israel’s neighbors today.

Fourth is power. These nations will use this attack to challenge the Antichrist, who will be Israel’s ally as a result of the peace treaty (Daniel 9:27). Their attack on Israel will also be an attack against the Western confederacy, attempting to draw it into an open confrontation.

Finally, while the invaders will have their evil intent, God will also have His own motivation. He says that through this attack He will be sanctified in the eyes of the nations: “You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes” (Ezekiel 38:16).

Result of the War

When the forces invade Israel, there will be no stopping them. They will be bent on war and destruction. The timing will seem perfect, and the invaders will not back down. It will look like the biggest mismatch in history. The Arab invasion of Israel in 1967 and 1973 will pale in comparison. The Jewish people will be unable to overcome their enemies by their own strength and ingenuity. Gog and his army will cover Israel like a cloud. It will look like Israel is finished.

However, God will come to the rescue of His people and will quickly annihilate the invaders by supernatural means (Ezekiel 38:18-22).

Ezekiel 38-39 describes what we might call “One-Day-War” or even the “One-Hour-War” or “When Gog Meets God.” God will mount up in His fury to destroy these godless invaders.

This coalition of nations will brashly swoop down on Israel to take her land, but the only piece of land they will claim in Israel will be their burial plots (Ezekiel 39:12). They will set out to bury Israel, but God will bury them.

The Prophetic Significance

Is the world stage being set for the fulfillment of this incredible prophecy? Many major developments point toward the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, but three key elements stand out.

First, the Jewish people are back in their land, fulfilling the major pre-condition for this invasion. Second, the nations predicted in Ezekiel 38 all have the will and desire to wipe out the Jewish people and these nations are forming alliances with one another.

Third, according to Ezekiel 39:2, 4, Israel will possess the “mountains of Israel” when this invasion occurs. God tells the future invaders: “I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel.”

“You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.”

The famous Six-Day-War in Israel in 1967 helped set the stage to fulfill this prophecy. Before the Six-Day-war the mountains of Israel were in the hands of the Jordanian Arabs, except for a small strip of West Jerusalem.

Only since that war have the mountains of Israel been in Israel. Thus many pieces of the prophetic puzzle are already in place for the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Conclusion

Events in the Middle East today strikingly foreshadow this coming invasion. The continued unrest and smoldering hatred for Israel are necessary ingredients for what the Bible predicts.

Nations are rising and falling. The world is focused on the Middle East. Israel is in the crosshairs. No one knows when the Lord will come or how much time remains before the Battle of Gog and Magog plunges the Middle East into war.

There will undoubtedly be many twists and turns, some expected and others we could never imagine in today’s climate. But God’s Word is clear – when the world stage is set, this invasion will occur right on time in the unfolding of God’s end-times script.


Note: This article is taken from Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days.

Should Christians Do Yoga Exercise?

Should Christians Do Yoga Exercise?

The growing popularity of yoga in western culture has raised concerns and stirred some debates as to whether Christians should be practicing it. Is yoga demonic? Is it okay for Christians to stretch their bodies while meditating on God’s Word? What does the Bible say about yoga?

The Origin of Yoga

Yoga originated in ancient India thousands of years ago. The word “yoga” means “to unify, yoke, or join together.” It comes from the ancient Sanskrit root word “yug” which means “to unify.”

While many people in modern times think of yoga as just a physical practice to help them become physically healthier, yoga is deeply spiritual. The goal is to attain wisdom, ultimate knowledge, and freedom by losing one’s sense of self and uniting your soul with the universal consciousness.

Transcendental Meditation

Yoga practice is a form of Transcendental Meditation (TM) popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late 1960s. It came about as a result of his diagnosis of the human predicament that we who were actually part (or extension) of the infinite Brahman were unaware of the fact due to our ignorance and preoccupation with ordinary things.

To find our union with the Infinite, we needed to transcend the ordinary by the practice of the appropriate meditation. This was the classical pantheistic teaching of the early guru Sankara (A.D. 788-820).

However, Yogi suggested a very practical and down-to-earth way of meditation that needed any sophistication and practically no knowledge of Hinduism or speculative philosophy. In his prayer hall (asham) in northern India, he would assign a monosyllabic word to each of the devotees in the language with which they were comfortable.

Yoga is Transcendental Meditation

Each devotee would have to repeat the assigned word audibly as a chant during all of one’s waking moments. One could change over to a silent mode as long as the preoccupation was with that one word. After a few days, when the conscious mind was preoccupied with the word, the devotee was advised to expel the thought of that word so that the mind would become theoretically blank.

In that moment of blackness, one could suddenly have inward enlightenment that one was an extension of Brahman. It was at this point that one would have transcended the transient to find the inward liberation that is the longing of the human heart.

A moment’s reflection would show that the meditation recommended by Maharishi Yogi involves an emptying of the mind. He argued that the clutter in our human minds came in the way of true knowledge of the Infinite.

The Teaching Behind Yoga

The term yoga is comprehensively and somewhat interchangeably to describe certain physical and mental techniques and exercises that facilitate the realization of the union of the finite with the infinite. Note that union is not achieved – it need not be because it is a reality rather than achieving a union that is not there, to begin with.

To bring about this self-realization, a series of physical and meditation techniques are proposed. These are by no means uniform or similar and in fact can be quite diverse, depending on the particular school of yoga.

The techniques are inaugurated in the form of physical exercises, although in some cases they may involve worship of the sun or the lotus form, the flower being the abode of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. These worship forms depend on the theological preferences of the Hindu school advocating yoga.

Yoga Advances Into the Western Culture

As previously stated, yoga is a practice in the East but somehow found its way to the West. In order not to offend Western sensibilities, yoga these days is purveyed without any theological overtones but only as a series of physical exercises, and in most cases, these exercises can have beneficial physical effects.

Yoga teachers often encourage their students to meditate – without necessarily telling them what to meditate on or how to do it. They may even tell Christian students to meditate on Jesus Christ! The idea, of course, is that one thinks about and reflects on the subject of meditation which is in itself is of no great concern.

However, as one advances in the yoga course, one is often called on to be increasingly involved in a meditation that entails vacating the mind.

Should Christians Do Yoga Exercise

Why Christians Should Not Do Yoga

Christians who think that yoga practice is nothing more than physical exercises should think twice about doing it as it has a spiritual aspect to it. It’s worth repeating that yoga involves totally emptying the mind during meditation.

This is dangerous because a demonic dimension may arise out of content-less meditation.

In a teaching recorded by Matthew, Jesus seems to be alluding to a situation in which the evil spirit has gone out of a person only to return and find “the house empty, swept, and put in order” (Matthew 12:43-45). This could be the state of a person whose mind is inactive in the passive sense after having been vacated of all other entities.

In earlier times, the idle mind is said to be the “devil’s workshop” because yoga and other forms of transcendental meditation are not anchored on objective truth. There is room not only for error but also for the occult. The devil delights to oppress (and even possess) the empty mind of the unbeliever where there is no seeking after the God of truth.

We will also do well to remember that meditation in this sense is “looking inward” to self rather than “looking outward” to God. It’s because the metaphysical teaching behind this meditation is that we are extensions of the Infinite Reality of Brahman. We are encouraged to look inward to realize this “truth” that we are part of the Infinite.

Let’s not forget that the sin of the “morning star” was that he would “make himself like the Most High (Isaiah 14:12-14). This attempt at self-realization as part of the Infinite is the subtlest form of idolatry and thus an inevitable port of entry or the work of the devil.

In contrast, the Triune God of the Christian faith is capable of eternal communication. He is a God who creates by speaking, so much so that the universe can be believed to be real and objective, just as a spoken word is.

This God has created us capable of thinking and speaking. To belittle the faculty of thinking is to despise our created being. However, the response to wrong meditation is not “no” meditation, but the right meditation.

The Bible enjoins us to meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 1:2) and to “think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).

Conclusion

Christians in the West tend to play straight into the jaws of the New Age and other Eastern religious philosophies and practices. This is because these religions and practices seem to offer a quick-fix relief to the stress-filled lifestyles of the twenty-first century. Yoga stretching exercises are also very useful to help people stay healthy.

So, should Christians practice yoga? The simple answer is “no.” A Christian cannot do yoga exercises without getting caught up in the spiritual and religious aspects of it. Yoga is more than just physical exercise. Keep in mind that the point of yoga practice is to unite oneself with the Infinite.

The Bible exhorts us to meditate not on nothing by vacating our minds. Rather, we are to meditate on the Word of God, his Law, precepts, and goodness (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 97).


Reference: Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith
General Editors: Ravi Zacharias & Norman Geisler

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Recommended Resource: Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure by Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray

Encounter Jesus Like Never Before through Eastern Eyes

Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure by Ravi Zacharias and Abdu MurrayThroughout these pages, Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray invite readers to rediscover the cultural insights we often miss when we ignore the Eastern context of the Bible.

They offer a refreshing picture of Jesus, one that appeals to Eastern readers and can penetrate the hearts and imaginations of postmodern Westerners.

In Seeing Jesus from the East, Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray show us why a broader view of Jesus is needed – one that recognizes the uniquely Eastern ways of thinking and communicating found in the pages of the Bible.

Zacharias and Murray capture a revitalized gospel message, presenting it through this Eastern lens and revealing its power afresh to Western hearts and minds.

Incorporating story, vivid imagery, and the concepts of honor and shame, sacrifice, and rewards, Seeing Jesus from the East calls believers and skeptics, both Eastern and Western, to a fresh encounter with the living and boundless Jesus.

Why I Believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture

Why I Believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture

The timing of the rapture is one of the most debated issues in eschatology. Most Christians agree that the rapture will occur, but the same is not true when it comes to when it will occur.

Will the rapture take place before the Tribulation (Pre-trib), in the middle (Mid-trib), or at the end of the Tribulation (Post-trib)? Whatever view one holds, one must acknowledge its drawbacks, for every view of the timing of the rapture has strengths and weaknesses.

However, it is in my opinion that a pre-tribulation rapture view has the best scriptural support and the fewest drawbacks.

7 Reasons for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture

So, what is the Scriptural evidence for the pre-trib position? Is it the most popular simply because it’s more appealing than the other views? After all, being caught up to heaven before the terror of the Tribulation doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

In this article, I will present the seven most compelling biblical arguments for the pre-trib position. These seven points are arranged into a handy acronym that spells out the word PRE-TRIB.

Defending Pre-Trib Rapture

Place of the Church in Revelation

If the church will experience any or all of the Tribulation, then one would expect that Revelation chapters 4 to 18, the most detailed description of the Tribulation, would include an account of the church’s role during that time period. But remarkably, Revelation 4-18 is silent about the church on earth.

The Greek word for church is ekklesia and this word occurs 20 times in the book of Revelation. Revelation 1-3 specifically mentions the church 19 times. The glorified Lord addresses 7 letters to 7 specific churches in Asia Minor. In them, the Lord instructs and admonishes each church.

But suddenly, beginning in Revelation 4, the word ekklesia disappears. From chapters 4 to 18 (that’s fifteen chapters of the book of Revelation), not once does the word church appear.

In Revelation 4:1 the apostle John is lifted up to heaven and transported into the future, where he sees visions of the end of days. He is carried forward in a kind of divine time machine.

In the subsequent chapters, from Revelation 4 through Revelation 18, John watches and describes the events of the Tribulation as they unfold on earth. But the church is absent from any of these events.

The church doesn’t appear again until chapter 19, where she is pictured as a bride returning to earth with her glorious bridegroom. This returning from heaven to earth with Christ indicates that the Bride has already been in heaven for some time since she has “prepared herself” (Revelation 19:7). Revelation 22:16 refers to the church again for the final time, specifically using the word ekklesia.

The absence of the church from Revelation 4-18 is convincing evidence that the church will not be present on earth during the Tribulation and the outpouring of God’s wrath.

Objections to this Argument

Post-tribbers argue that the word saints (holy ones) occurs several times in Revelation 4-18, which describes the church as present on earth during the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7, 10; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24). But pre-tribbers counter that these “saints” are not church-age believers but “Tribulation saints.”

Let us not forget that there are 3 distinct groups of believers: Old Testament saints, church-age saints, and Tribulation saints.

The fact that Revelation chapters 4 to 18 mention saints indicate that there will be believers on earth during the Tribulation, but it doesn’t prove that they are church-age believers. Again, the key to determining this is the context of the passage.

Another argument from post-tribbers is this: “What evidence is there in Revelation that the church is in heaven during the Tribulation?”

Pre-tribbers believe the “twenty-four elders” represent the church throughout Revelation 4-19 (Revelation 4:4, 10; 5:5-6, 8, 11, 14; 7:11, 13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4). The elders appear twelve times in these chapters and in each instance, they are in heaven worshiping Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb. From their first mention in Revelation 4:4, the 24 elders are pictured in heaven, judged, rewarded, and enthroned.

Revelation 4-19 consistently pictures the church in heaven, representing it by the 24 elders enthroned and crowned, dressed in white, and worshiping the Lamb.

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Rapture versus Return

The New Testament describes two facets of Christ’s second coming: (1) He will come FOR His church to escort her to His Father’s house (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), and (2) He will come WITH His saints when He descends from heaven to judge His enemies and establish His glorious 1 thousand-year Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13).

How can these facets both be true of Christ’s second coming? These seemingly contradictory events are best resolved by the pre-trib rapture view.

The first facet is the RAPTURE of the church, wherein the Lord takes believers from earth to His Father’s house (John 14:3). The second facet is commonly called the SECOND COMING of Christ wherein believers return with Christ from heaven to the earth (Matthew 24:30).

Both describe the Lord’s coming, but their difference indicates that they are two unique stages occurring at two separate times. Between these two stages, the Tribulation happens. The first stage – the Rapture – is imminent and signless and could occur at any moment (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

The Second Coming, on the other hand, will be preceded by all kinds of signs (Matthew 24:1-29). The same event cannot be both signless and yet preceded by numerous signs. This is patently contradictory.

It is difficult for other views to make sense of the passages that describe these two stages differently. But by calling them two stages of the same event, the pre-trib view successfully harmonizes these two descriptions of Christ’s coming.

Exemption from Divine Wrath

It’s common to hear people say that pre-tribbers are just escapists. We just want a view that removes us from all the world’s troubles. Post-tribbers argue that it’s arrogant for believers today to think that of all the generation of believers who have lived, we are somehow so special that we will be exempt from the coming Tribulation if the Rapture occurs in our lifetime.

Pre-tribbers are not saying that Christians are spared from the troubles and trials of this life. Jesus Himself said that in this world His followers will face trials and tribulations (John 16:33). Believers in every generation have faced their share of trouble (James 1:2-4; Acts 14:22). True believers will face the common trials of life (sickness, marital and family problems, physical and emotional stress, discouragement and depression, persecution for their faith, loss of their jobs, and die).

Why? It’s because we live in a fallen world!

But the troubles of this life that we all face are vastly different from the wrath of God poured out on a sinful planet during the future Tribulation. All Christians will face tribulation in a general sense today. But the wrath during the 7-year Tribulation is wrath in a specific sense.

Today, people endure the wrath and persecution from men and the wrath and persecution from Satan. While the wrath of man and Satan will still be around during the Tribulation, the Tribulation will be more defined by the wrath of God than anything else.

Why I believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture

It doesn’t make sense, though, for God’s people to endure God’s wrath. Part of what salvation in Christ means is that God saves us from the wrath we deserve (Ephesians 2:2-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).

It has always been God’s pattern not to judge the righteous with the wicked. Lot and his family were rescued from Sodom when God poured out His wrath on the cities of the plain (Genesis 18 – 19). Enoch was raptured to heaven before the flood (Genesis 5:23-24).

The Bible promises that church-age believers will be exempt from the coming wrath of God during the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 5:9; Revelation 3:10).

The wrath of God commences with the first seal (Revelation 6:1) and continues until the Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-21). The whole Tribulation is period is the outpouring of God’s wrath; this requires that Christ’s bride be exempt from this entire time of trouble, not just some part of it.

Why would God leave the bride of Christ (church) to endure His wrath?

Time Gap Between the Rapture and the Second Coming

Sure, there are obvious similarities between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus. In both cases, Jesus descends from heaven. But there are also some differences.

Post-tribbers insist that the rapture and the second coming are just one event. However, there are biblical prophecies indicating that these events cannot be simultaneous, that there must be an interval of time between them.

There are four end time events that will take place in between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ.

1. The Judgment Seat of Christ

The New Testament clearly states that all church-age believers must appear before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven. Interestingly, in the detailed accounts of the second coming of Christ, the judgment seat of Christ is never mentioned (Revelation 19:11-21).

Assuming this judgment would require some passage of time, the pre-trib gap of 7 years between the Rapture and the Second Coming would accommodate such a requirement.

2. The Preparation of Christ’s Bride

In Luke 12:36, the Word says that when Christ returns, He will be returning from a wedding. At the rapture, Jesus is married to His bride, the church. After the wedding, He will return to earth with His bride.

Revelation 19:7-10 pictures the church as a bride who has been made ready for marriage to her groom.

3. Life in the Millennial Kingdom

A third event that requires some gap of time between the Rapture and the Second Coming is the presence of believers in mortal, physical bodies during the 1-thousand-year reign of Christ on earth.

Isaiah 65:20-25 (which talks about the Millennial Kingdom) seems to suggest that, during the Millennium, people will carry on ordinary occupations (farming, planting vineyards, and building houses) and they will bear children, populating the messianic kingdom.

Revelation 20:1-6 says that, when Christ returns to earth, He will establish His kingdom that will last for 1 thousand years. Old Testament saints, church-age believers, and believers who died during the Tribulation will all enter the millennial kingdom in their glorified bodies, having been resurrected at various points before the Millennium.


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Meanwhile, those believers who come to faith in Christ during the Tribulation and survive until the Second Advent will enter the millennial kingdom of Christ in their natural, human bodies.

Here’s the problem for the post-trib view. If all saints were caught up in a post-Tribulation rapture prior to the Millennium, there would be no people in natural bodies to repopulate the Kingdom. In a post-trib rapture, all believers would already have a glorified body.

4. Separation of the Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25:31-46 depicts God’s judgment of Gentiles. This judgment will occur after the Second Coming and at the beginning of the Millennium. The people gathered at this judgment will be survivors of the Great Tribulation. Jesus will divide the Gentiles into 2 groups, believers and unbelievers (the sheep and the goats).

This dividing up indicates that both believers and unbelievers will be alive on the earth at Jesus’ second coming. Why is this noteworthy?

If the Rapture and the Second Coming are the same event and will occur together, as post-tribbers claim, and all living believers are caught up to meet Jesus and escort Him back to earth, then there won’t be any sheep left on earth when Jesus arrives. All that would be left are goats.

In a pre-trib rapture, many people would come to know the Lord during the Tribulation and before the Second Coming, and these Tribulation saints would account for the “sheep” in Matthew 25:31-46. Once again, a time gap between the Rapture and Second Coming is the best way to account for this passage.

Removal of the Restrainer

2 Thessalonians 2:1, 3-8 describe the revelation of the “man of sin” or the “man of lawlessness.” This is the Antichrist whose identity remains hidden according to Paul and that the lawlessness continues in secret until he is revealed. And then Paul continues to say that something or someone is holding him back from being revealed – the restrainer.

Who is the restrainer? Who is holding back the Antichrist from being revealed?

Down through the centuries many candidates have been suggested: The Roman Empire, the Jewish State, The Apostle Paul, The Preaching of the Gospel, Satan, Human Government, An Unknown Heavenly Being, Michael the Archangel, the Holy Spirit, and the Church.

The great Bible teacher and expositor Donald Grey Barnhouse summarized this view.

“Well, what is keeping the Antichrist from putting in his appearance on the world stage? You are! You and every other member of the body of Christ on earth. The presence of the church of Jesus Christ is the restraining force that refuses to allow the man of lawlessness to be revealed.

True, it is the Holy Spirit who is the real restrainer. But as both 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 teach, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer. The believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. Put all believers together then, with the Holy Spirit indwelling each of us, and you have a formidable restraining force.”

When the rapture occurs, the Spirit-indwelt church and its restraining influence will be removed. That will release the world to sin as it never has before.

Imminency

The doctrine of imminency is the view that Christ could return at any moment. The strongest evidence in the Bible of a pre-trib rapture is the prophesied element of surprise.

The Lord Jesus taught that “no man knows the time of His return.” The most important characteristic of Christ’s return is that it could happen without warning, suddenly catching us off guard if we’re not faithfully serving our Master (Matthew 24:44; Luke 12:40; Mark 13:32-37).

The Lord told us to watch because He might come back at any time, suddenly. So there’s no way that the rapture could happen after the Tribulation. Anything other than a pre-trib rapture totally removes this biblical element of surprise.

The imminency of the rapture should fill us with hope, anticipation, and motivation to godly living. If we believe that our Lord could come back at any moment; that He may come back today, we will be motivated to live in anticipation of that return.

Maranatha – Lord, come! (1 Corinthians 16:22 and Revelation 22:20)

Blessed Hope

The rapture is intended to comfort and bless the Lord’s people. The New Testament consistently presents it as a sure hope that God’s people are to anxiously anticipate (John 14:1-3 & Titus 2:13).

After describing the rapture, Paul concludes with this gentle reminder: “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

If God’s people would have to endure 3 ½ years, 5 ½ years, or all of the 7 years of the Tribulation before He comes, how much of a comfort would the rapture be? That would be the “blasted hope” not the “blessed hope.” Could you honestly get excited about the Rapture if you knew that you had to endure a time on earth when all the 19 judgments of Revelation 6 to 16 were being poured out?

The reality is, Paul uses the Rapture to encourage the Thessalonians to have hope. It’s the same thing with us today. The hope of the rapture is an uplifting encouragement for troubled hearts. It’s a blessing and consolation for the Lord’s people.

We are looking for the return of Christ, our blessed hope; we are not looking for the Antichrist!

Conclusion

If the rapture occurs in your lifetime, your future will be very different depending on which view is correct. Will you be here to see the Antichrist? Will you be forced to choose whether to take his mark? Will you witness the carnage of God’s wrath poured out on the whole world?

Or will you be in heaven during this time, experiencing a glorious fellowship and intimacy with the Lamb and His sheep? Will you and I be here for none, half, or all of the Tribulation?

We have looked at numerous passages that describe a lot of the details about the end times and a pre-tribulation rapture makes the best sense of these details. While there are other strong arguments in favor of the pre-trib view, I believe these seven are the strongest.


Reference: The End, A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Dr. Mark Hitchcock

How is the Father Greater than Jesus?

How is the Father Greater than Jesus?

One of the most commonly quoted Bible verses to dispute the deity of Jesus Christ is John 14:28 wherein Jesus told His disciples that “The Father is greater than I.” Jesus repeatedly said that He is doing the Father’s will, thereby implying that He is somehow subservient to the Father.

Doesn’t the Bible teach that the Son has been God for all eternity? And that God the Son became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ? If the Father and the Son are both God and equally divine, how is the Father greater than Jesus? What exactly did Jesus mean with this statement?

Making Sense of Jesus’ Statement

The fact that Jesus said, “The Father is greater than I,” has led some to conclude that He was somehow lesser in nature than God. Thus, Jesus is not the true God. However, the New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ lived in submission to the Father while He was here on the earth.

“The Father is Greater than I” Meaning

Christ humbled Himself by taking on the form of a human being. But doing so did not diminish His divine nature. In other words, Jesus did not stop being God at His reincarnation. He just added humanity to His deity. Jesus took an inferior position as a human being but He was not inferior in nature.

The Father Sent the Son

1 John 4:9 tells us that “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” And in 1 John 4:14 it says, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.”

The Bible consistently teaches that the Father sent the Son; it never teaches that the Son sent Himself.

The Son Submits to the Father

Even before He took on human form, the Son was in submission to the Father. Yet He was not the Father’s servant. God the Son, Jesus Christ only became a servant to the Father when He came to earth. This important truth is emphasized by Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

“But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

God the Son, Jesus, humbled Himself and came to this earth in the role of a servant Though He was God Almighty, He willingly took the form of a servant.

God the Father Remains to be Jesus’ Father

After His resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus still referred to God the Father as His God. We read this in John 20:17.

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”

In the book of Revelation we also read Jesus saying this about the Father:

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12).

Jesus’ submission to the Father does not mean He is inferior. He may be inferior in position but certainly not inferior in nature.

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The Father is the Head of Christ

Christ is the head of the church but the Father is the head of Christ. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and explained it this way.

“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).

Yet this headship has to do only with their relative position; it has nothing to do with their nature. In nature, the Father and the Son are equal. In the same way, no one would argue that men are superior to women in nature. This was made clear by Paul in Galatians 3:27-28.

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Therefore, the passages referring to the Son submitting to the Father do not reflect His inferior character, only the inferior position. Although the Father and the Son have distinct roles within the Godhead, they are the same essence, the same nature.

The Exaltation of the Son

Continuing his thought to the Philippians, Paul wrote:

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

God the Son humbled Himself when He came to this earth. But upon His return to His former position, He has been exalted by God the Father. In this passage, it says that one day every knee will bow to Jesus and every tongue will confess that He is indeed Lord, all to the glory of the Father.

Conclusion

Jesus is God; He is co-equal, co-powerful, and co-eternal with the Father. Therefore, Jesus’ statement in John 14:28 that the Father is greater than Him has nothing to do with his nature compared with God the Father. It does not contradict the idea that He is God.

One of the best illustrations I’ve heard is that of Nabeel Qureshi’s explanation of the Trinity. The president of the United States is greater than every ordinary American citizen but that does not make him more “human” than the rest of them. The president is greater in role but not in nature (or essence).


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5 Hindrances to Answered Prayers

5 Hindrances to Answered Prayers

People often ask, “Does God answer all of our prayers?” Many times Christians complain that God did not answer their prayer. They prayed for a particular thing but did not receive what they had asked for. Does this mean that God does not always answer our prayers? What should we conclude when our prayers go unanswered?

God Always Answers Our Prayers

While there are complaints about certain prayers that are left unanswered, such is not the case. The Bible promises that God hears the prayers of those who believe in Him and answers all of them. His answer consists of one of three things; yes, no, or wait.

When God Says YES

Many times God will say “yes” and gives us what we asked for. Let’s take King Hezekiah’s example in 2 Kings 20:1-6. Hezekiah was very ill and at the point of death when God sent Isaiah to inform him of his impending death. He was told to put his house in order because he was going to die and not recover.

Immediately, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord while weeping bitterly. But before Isaiah could leave the King’s palace, God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and sent the prophet to tell him that He has added 15 years to his life.

Hindrances to an Answered Prayer

When God Says NO

However, there are times when God will say “no” and will not grant our prayer request. In other words, not everything we ask for in prayer will be given. Nevertheless, we need to remember that when God says no to our prayers, He does it for our good. After all, God always has our best interest at heart.

The apostle Paul asked the Lord three times to remove a particular problem that he had – a thorn in the flesh. And each time God answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). In this case, Paul’s prayer was indeed answered but the answer was “No.”

With the answer of no, God promised Paul that His grace would be sufficient to help him cope with his problem.

When God Says WAIT

There is also the possibility that God will not give us an immediate yes or no answer and tells us to “wait.” However, a delayed answer is not necessarily a “No” answer. We find this in the example of Hannah, Samuel’s mother.

For many years, Hannah prayed to the Lord for a child but did not receive what she asked for (1 Samuel 1:1-8). Finally, in the bitterness of her soul, she wept and prayed in anguish for the Lord to give her a son (1 Samuel 1:9-11). Her prayer was immediately answered and she conceived a son (1 Samuel 1:19-20).

God did not grant Hannah’s request the first time she asked. She waited for years before her son was born. What can we learn from Hannah? God will answer our prayers in His timing, not ours.

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Hindrances to Answered Prayers

Why do so many prayers seem to go unanswered? In other words, why does God say no to our requests? The Bible gives us several reasons as to why this is so.

1. Sin

Psalm 66:18 indicates that sin can hinder our prayers from being answered in the affirmative. We read something similar in Isaiah 59:1-2. This truth is illustrated in John 9:31-32. The blind man healed by Jesus said instructively said that God hears those who worship Him and do His will. However, He will not listen to those who are in sin.

Does this mean we have to be completely free from sin before approaching God in prayer? Of course not! Otherwise, none of us would have our prayers answered. Each of us has certain sinful areas that we must deal with. But we can have the confidence to approach God through Christ, not our own merit.

2. Lack of Faith or Unbelief

A lack of faith can keep our prayers from being answered.

James, the Lord’s brother, wrote about the importance of exercising faith. He said, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8).

When we pray, we need to do it in faith. We need to believe and do not doubt that the Lord will answer our requests. God has promised to do so and He always keeps His promises.

"Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

3. Unforgiveness

Unable to forgive those who might have wronged us can hinder our prayers. Jesus stressed the importance of forgiving others in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

Harboring unforgiveness in our heart can affect our daily relationship with God, which in turn will affect our prayer life. The verse above clearly states that we need to forgive others for what they have done to us so that our heavenly Father may also forgive our sins.

Furthermore, Paul wrote that we need to forgive others just as God in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). As much as we are able, we need to forgive those who have wronged us.

4. Disobedience

God will answer our prayers if we remain in an obedient relationship with Him. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).

To remain in Christ and stay joined to Him is to keep His commandments. John wrote of this in 1 John 3:21-22.

“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”

This just goes to say that disobeying God’s commands can keep our prayers from being answered. We must keep in mind that obedience to the Lord is the key.

5. Not in Accordance with God’s Will

Often times, we get a “no” in answer to our prayers because they are not in accordance with the will of God. John emphasized the necessity of praying according to God’s will rather than our own in 1 John 5:14.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

We should not insist that our desires must always be met because most of the time our desires are wrongly motivated. Our desires must match up with God’s desires.

Closing Words

God does hear and answer all our prayers. But that does not necessarily mean He always says “yes.” There will be times when God answers us with a “no” and when that happens, we consider it an unanswered prayer.

The Bible mentions at least 5 hindrances to answered prayers; sin, unforgiveness, lack of faith, disobedience, and asking something that does not line up with God’s will or desire.

Several other reasons why God does not answer our prayers include marital problems (1 Peter 3:7), asking with the wrong motives (James 4:3), and spiritual warfare (Daniel 10:12-14; Ephesians 6:12).

Had there been times when you asked God for something and He said no? What do you think was the reason behind it?

Please feel free to share your testimony in the comment section below.


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Riches and Honor are Meaningless

Riches and Honor are Meaningless

If I were to ask a thousand (or even a million) poor people to choose between becoming rich or remaining poor, there is no doubt that every single one of them will choose to get out of poverty. After all, who does not want to have a comfortable life and be able to give their family a promising future? Isn’t that the very reason why people are working so hard?

Some people even resort to wicked schemes and tactics just to get ahead of the game. We see a lot of politicians today who use their power and authority for their own personal gain. Others take advantage of the less fortunate to enrich themselves.

Dissatisfaction in Wealth

It’s human nature to want all the riches, fame, and power the world has to offer. And the more money one accumulates the more eager he is to gain much more. This truth is expressed by King Solomon when he said, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV).

“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV).

King Solomon is not only known to be the wisest man who has ever lived (1 Kings 4:30); he was also one of the richest. King Solomon ruled the nation of Israel from 970 BC to 931 BC and is said to have had a peak net worth of $2 trillion. As a result, he became famous and well-respected during his lifetime.

Yet, in most of his writings, he often talked about how earthly riches and honor are meaningless.

The Futility of Riches and Honor

Sadly, some people treat money as though it were a god. They love it, make sacrifices for it, and think that it can do anything. Their minds are filled with thoughts about money; their lives are controlled by getting it and guarding it.

But the person who loves money can never be satisfied no matter how much is in his bank account. Now, why is that? Why is it that most people who have all the riches in the world are still miserable? We hear of wealthy people falling into a state of depression, getting hooked on drugs, and end up taking their own lives.

Why do some people feel dissatisfied with their life despite having all riches in the world? This is because the human heart was made to be satisfied only by God (Psalm 107:9; John 6:35).


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Isn’t it interesting that people only realize the vanity of wealth and materialism when they see a very wealthy man dies and is unable to bring any of his possessions with him to his grave? This stresses once again what King Solomon said:

“As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came, and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a severe evil – just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16)?

The apostle Paul echoed the same thing in his letter to Timothy to encourage him that true riches are not found in the abundance of our possessions. Rather, true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us into this world when we came and we can’t take anything with us when we depart (1 Timothy 6:6-7).

Warning Against the Love of Money

You might have heard some people say that money is the root of all evil. That’s not quite true. The Bible says it’s “the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). It’s about wanting more material things to be happy and feel successful.

But riches are a trap that may lead to bondage instead of freedom. Instead of giving satisfaction, riches create additional lusts and desires which must be satisfied. In the end, riches appear to produce hurt and wounds instead of help and health.

The Futility of Riches and Honor

By the way, keep in mind that Solomon was neither advocating poverty nor riches because apparently, both have their problems. (See Proverbs 30:7-9.) He was warning against the love of money and the delusions that wealth can bring.

In the closing verse of Ecclesiastes chapter 5, Solomon affirmed again the importance of accepting our heritage in life and enjoying the blessings that God bestows on us. What is “good” is to labor faithfully, enjoy life, and accept everything as the gracious gift of God (Ecclesiastes 5:18).

The Ability to Enjoy Life is God’s Blessing

Another important thought that Solomon said is this: “The ability to enjoy the wealth and blessings given by God is a gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). But he was quick to point out the basic principle that nobody can truly enjoy the gifts of God apart from the giver Himself – God.

To enjoy the gifts without the Giver is idolatry and this can never satisfy the human heart. Enjoyment without God is merely entertainment, and it doesn’t satisfy. But enjoyment with God is enrichment, and it brings true joy and satisfaction.

Solomon went on to expand on this thought in the next chapter (Ecclesiastes 6:1-9) and pointed out the unhappiness of people who possess wealth but are not able to enjoy it.

Final Thoughts

In saying that earthly riches and honor are meaningless, Solomon is not telling us that we should not dream big or have a burning desire to accomplish great things in life, or aspire to be successful. But we must make sure our ambition is motivated by the glory of God and not the praise or accolade from people. We must want to improve our economic status or achieve something great so that we can serve God and others and not for the sole purpose of promoting ourselves.

If we think our earthly wealth and achievements will automatically bring self-satisfaction, we are dead wrong! True satisfaction comes only when we use whatever God has blessed us with to do His will from the heart (Ephesians 6:6).

At the end of the day, everything on earth, including our life, is temporary. This is why John warned us about not loving the world (1 John 2:15-17):

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”


Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide by Randy Alcorn Recommended Resource: Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide by Randy Alcorn

God cares a great deal more about our money than most of us imagine. The sheer enormity of Scripture’s teaching on this subject screams for our attention. In fact, Jesus says more about how we are to view and handle money and possessions than about any other topic―including both heaven and hell.

In Managing God’s Money, Randy Alcorn breaks down exactly what the Bible has to say about how we are to handle our money and possessions in a simple, easy-to-follow format.

Filled with Scripture references, Managing God’s Money is the perfect reference tool for anyone who is interested in gaining a solid biblical understanding of money, possessions, and eternity.

Give to God All Glory

Give to God All Glory

That God alone deserves all glory is something God’s children know and believe by heart. That is because the Scriptures clearly say so. Thus, each one of us must give to God all glory.

Bible Verse: Psalm 115:1 (NKJV)

“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us. But to Your name give glory. Because of Your mercy and because of Your truth.”

All Glory Belongs to God

In Psalm 115:1, the psalmist reminds us that we are to give God the glory. What does he mean? The word glory takes on a variety of meanings, such as honor, praise, admiration, or credit.

So, to give God the glory is to praise, honor, admire or give Him the credit. We do this because God is God. The God of the Bible – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Lord Almighty.

We are to give God glory not only for the blessings He has given us and continues to give us but more so because He is the One true living God who created the heavens and the earth, not just some lifeless idol (Psalm 115:2-8). God created the earth for us to enjoy (Psalm 115:16).

The Glory of God’s Presence

At other times, the word glory also refers to the presence of the Lord, as when Moses and Aaron said to the Israelites that “in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord” (Exodus 16:7).

Of course, the Israelites would not see God’s glory as in His enthroned radiance, for no man can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). What they would see is God in His great loving provision for His people. God showed them His glory through His great mercy and goodness.

In Psalm 19:1, David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God,” and begged to see God’s glory. As David looked to the heavens, he saw the vivid display of God’s glory through the firmament – the blue sky and the night sky.

Give to God All Glory

When King Solomon dedicated the temple, God’s glory came in the form of a cloud and filled the house (2 Chronicles 5:13-14). This was the cloud of glory often seen in the Old and the New Testaments, which is sometimes called the cloud of Shekinah glory – the radiant outshining of God’s character and presence.

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, the glory of the Lord shone around them (Luke 2:9). When God sent the angel of the Lord to preach the Gospel to the shepherds, He showed them His glory in the form of a radiant light that interrupted the quiet dark night.

The Lord’s Prayer ends with “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:13). This tells us that the right kind of prayer praises God and credits to Him all the power and glory.

The Glory of God in Christians

Ever since the Holy Spirit fell upon those first believers in the Upper Room, God’s glory has been manifested through Christians. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

However, our capacity to reflect God’s glory is based upon the degree of our submission to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We are to serve the Lord with gladness and let people see His mercy and His love by the way we live, work, and worship – not for our glory but for His.

As Jesus said in John 15:8, “By this, My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” Furthermore, Peter said believers who never saw Jesus rejoice with “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

The Glory of God to Come

We know that Jesus sits at the right hand of God and will soon come back “in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). What a joy to know that one day we will walk in the Lord’s presence and see the glory for ourselves.

“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27).

Once the New Jerusalem is built there will be no need for the sun to illuminate those who live there, because the Son Himself, in His great glory, will be the light.

What glory that will be!


Important Note: The main bulk of this devotional article was taken from the NKJV Prophecy Study Bible, (General Editor: John Hagee) under the section “Diamonds for Daily Living.”

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Get a copy of Michael Heilman’s devotional book “Life According to the Truth.”

Publisher’s Description

Life According to the Truth by Michael HeilmanDo you know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Did you know that God wants to prepare you during this life to live in heaven with Him? Does your purpose for life evade you?

In Life According to the Truth, disciple of Jesus Christ, Michael Heilman, honestly writes to the issues facing the church and how to live the victorious Christian life.

Michael expounds on biblical principles God has applied to his life and led to God’s blessing in many areas of his life.

With illustrations, humor, and most importantly Scripture, he explains to any born again believer who is spiritually wandering through life, how to be spiritually blessed by God as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In this devotional Bible study you will be enlightened in regards to:

  • Why God must be the key focus of your life.
  • How to love God
  • How to love others.
  • How to discern God’s will for your life
  • How to be confident with your identity in Jesus Christ

Life is difficult, but God can enable you to have abundant joy. If you are a born-again believer that needs encouragement, this book is for you.

 

Psalm 23: The Shepherd’s Song

Psalm 23: The Shepherd’s Song

Many Christians are familiar with Psalm 23, also known as the “Shepherd’s Song.” It is often used by preachers and ministers to encourage and comfort people who are going through difficult and trying times.

We live in a society where most people are engulfed with fear and anxiety for what the future holds for them. But how should we as Christians respond to the anxiety in our lives?

David showed us by example how exactly we are supposed to respond in a constructive, God-honoring way.

God is the Shepherd

We know from reading David’s life story that he spent his younger years leading sheep to greener pastures and keeping them safe from danger. For David, using the shepherd, as an illustration, was perfectly natural.

“The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1) was David’s way of saying, “the Lord provides for me and protects me from harm.” In writing “The LORD is,” David was referring to the God who was, the God who is, and the God who will always be.

As we face life’s difficulties, we need to know that “God is.” When cancer comes, He is Jehovah Rapha, the healer. When worry consumes us, He is Jehovah Shalom, the peacemaker. When Satan attacks us with false accusations, He is Jehovah Nissi, the spiritual warrior.

The Shepherd Walks with the Sheep

Unlike the Philistine gods of wood, stone, or brass, David describes God as a personal savior in calling him “my shepherd.” And unlike cold, lifeless objects, the Shepherd walks the field with His sheep, taking care of their needs.

Whatever the circumstances, David had learned to want for nothing (Psalm 23:1). When the lion roared against David, God protected him. When the bear came to devour David, god shielded him (1 Samuel 17:34-36). When Goliath laughed at young David and his stones, God gave him power (1 Samuel 17:48-51).

Our Lord calls believers “My sheep” because He died for them (John 10:11), and because the Father gave them to Him (John 17:10, 12). The emphasis is that Jesus is adequate for every need the sheep may have as they are in the pasture.

Whatever trials we face, God helps us find rest and refreshment, leading us to “green pastures” and “still waters” (Psalm 23:2). When we go astray, God pulls us back into the flock, giving us another chance at a relationship with Him (Psalm 23:3). There is nothing we can do that is too bad for God to forgive (see 1 John 1:9).

Psalm 23 The Shepherd's Song

The Shepherd Protects

David had no fear as he walked “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4) for he knew that God would be with him and protects him.

“Anoint my head with oil” (Psalm 23:5) could refer to the anointing of David, but it probably refers to the oil shepherds used to put on the cuts that sheep would get from the rock and brambles in the fields. The oil kept out parasites and infection.

When we find ourselves cut and bruised, we can let Jesus pour His anointing oil on us to protect us.

If you are going through some difficult circumstances with your finances, at work or you’re dealing with the untimely death of a family member, you should know that God has not abandoned you. Our Lord, the Good Shepherd may have allowed this to accomplish His greater purpose in your life.

The Shepherd is Eternal

David was confident that God’s goodness and mercy would “follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6). Jesus also used the shepherd analogy when He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Despite his sins and failures, David had been followed by the Lord’s goodness and mercy, which is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 8:28.

We need to ask ourselves, “Do I know the Good Shepherd and am I known by Him” (see John 10:14-15)? We can have the confidence that David had, knowing that we will spend eternity in heaven living in the green pastures with the Good Shepherd taking care of our every need.

Closing Thoughts

God is a faithful Shepherd who provides all our needs, guides us into a righteous life for His own sake, protects us not by shielding us from trials and difficulties, and allows in our lives only what is beneficial to us according to His purpose.

We just need to trust Him completely and when we do, we can sing the shepherd’s song joyfully as we wait for that day when we shall meet our Shepherd face to face and be with Him for all eternity.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: The Lord Is My Shepherd: Resting in the Peace and Power of Psalm 23 by Robert J. Morgan

Rob Morgan, the bestselling author of Then My Soul Sings, explores the rich meaning behind the world’s best-known and most-loved poem—Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters…

The Lord Is My Shepherd: Resting in the Peace and Power of Psalm 23 by Rob Morgan These are the opening lines to one of the most memorized, inspirational, and comforting passages in the Bible—and one of the greatest poems of all time. In six verses, it provides a microcosm of God’s grace.

When anxiety robs us of sleep, our most powerful “tranquilizer” is Psalm 23. It’s a soul-soother. It appears in the middle of a trilogy of psalms dealing with our past, our present, and our future needs.

In “The Lord is My Shepherd,” Morgan teaches Psalm 23 verse-by-verse, explaining its extraordinary power to change lives and ease our troubles. He shares its fascinating context and colorful background, as well as his own charming, real-life stories of herding sheep.

You’ll find encouragement to enjoy the “green pastures” of life while becoming strengthened by the “dark valleys.” Furthermore, Morgan maintains that some of the Bible’s richest truths are summarized in these six simple verses of Psalm 23.

In knowing the Good Shepherd, we have total resources for all our internal, external, and eternal needs.

Through this clear explanation of the biblical text and great stories that illustrate the love and care of the shepherd, The Lord is My Shepherd will help you rediscover the joy, inspiration, and peace in the green pastures of this beloved psalm.

What is the Day of Deception?

What is the Day of Deception?

The Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 begins with Jesus’ disciples asking Him three questions. The first was, “When will these things be?” The second, “What will be the sign of Your coming?” The third, “What will be the sign of the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3)?

In response, Jesus said, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many’” (Matthew 24:4-5). Jesus then goes on to confirm that deception would be the foremost problem in the terminal generation saying, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

The apostle Paul also wrote, “Let no one deceive you by any means, for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition [the Antichrist]” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

But what is the day of deception that Jesus and Paul were talking about? How does it impact the church?

What is the Day of Deception

Three Parts of Deception

The above-mentioned verses confirm that deception will be the major problem of the last days. And one of the major sources of deception is self-deception. The Bible says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

There are three elements of deception. The first is the fundamental distrust of God and His leadership, authority, and Word. But God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) and He Himself is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

The second element of deception is rebellion. Just like Jonah, you know what to do; you simply won’t do it. The Bible says, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

The third element of deception is the rejection of God’s love. All cults are loveless. They are harsh, dominating, mean-spirited, and critical of everyone except their own. But the Bible says, “Love does no harm to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10), and “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). A church without the love of God is nothing more than a loveless cult.

Deception Appeals to the Flesh

Deception offers that which is desirable in the beginning but destroys in the end. Satan came to Adam and Eve in the Garden and asked, “Do you want to be like God?” It was desirable in the beginning. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit they were driven from the Garden into a world God had just cursed.

When David saw Bathsheba bathing naked on her rooftop, he desired her. A sexual relationship with her was appealing in the beginning, but when he impregnated Bathsheba and conspired to have her husband Uriah killed, God’s judgment came upon him (2 Samuel 12:10).

Why Does God Permit Deception?

Every New Testament church has deception working in it. And Jesus prayed, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

God allows deception to drive us to the Word that we may be “approved for God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). When heresies, false doctrine, or cults preach another gospel, those who are approved stand boldly and expose the deception.

 

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Nine Types of Deception

There are nine types of deception in the world.

1. Religious Deception.

Paul teaches, “Therefore let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths” (Colossians 2:16).

Fasting without godliness is an illustration of religious deception. Forbidding people to marry is religious deception. Declaring people holy for keeping man made rules of righteousness is deception (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

2. Doctrinal Deception.

Doctrinal deception occurs when people leave the simple meaning of the Word of God. An illustration of this is those who say, “We do not need water baptism because the thief on the cross wasn’t baptized.”

We say to them, “Get yourself crucified and we’ll excuse you from water baptism. In the meantime, get in the tank!”

3. Ethical Deception.

This is when Christians profess the lordship of Jesus Christ but cheat and lie in their business dealings.

4. Moral Deception.

Secular humanism is the cornerstone of moral deception. It says, “If it feels good, do it!” But Scripture says, “It is written, ‘Man shall not leave by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

You don’t break God’s law; God’s law breaks you!

5. Intellectual Deception.

Intellectual deception is when an individual believes that his opinions, formed by his intellect, are equal or superior to the teachings of the Word of God.

6. Fanatical Deception.

Jesus taught, “The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (John 16:2). The crusades and leaders of the Spanish Inquisition are historical illustrations of fanatical deception.

7. Mystical Deception.

Experiencing dreams, visions, voices, angels, or “a bright light” does not mean you have had a visitation from an angel or Jesus Christ.

Paul says that “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Anything that inspires you to do anything contrary to the Word of God is demonic.

8. Sexual Deception.

Sexual deception is the belief or philosophy that rejects the God-ordained monogamous sexual relationship between a man and his wife as the only acceptable sexual relationship.

9. Spiritual Deception.

When Christians become bored with the discipline of the Word of God and begin practices that are contrary to New Testament orthodoxy, this represents the genesis of spiritual deception.

Closing Words

We get traumatized when thieves steal our money or identity but far more traumatic is when con artists who pose as Christians deceive the unsuspecting because the stakes are so much higher than someone’s life savings. What’s at risk is the eternal destiny of the soul.

To avoid deception of any kind, we need to develop biblical discernment and be vigilant at all times.


Note: This excerpt is taken from the NKJV Prophecy Study Bible’s “Top 20 Questions” edited by John Hagee.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy: Over 150 Topics from the World’s Foremost Prophecy Experts 

Edited by Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson

Popular Encyclopedia of Bible ProphecyMore than one-fourth of the Bible was prophetic in nature at the time it was written, and Christ’s second coming is mentioned more than 300 times in Scripture. Clearly, God wants you to anticipate the last days—but Bible prophecy can seem vague and mysterious.

Find the clarity and answers you need in this comprehensive resource filled with thousands of facts about Christ’s return and the end times. Prophecy teachers Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson combine knowledge from an outstanding team of more than 40 experts to bring you…

  • detailed definitions of prophecy-related terms
  • helpful timetables of last-days’ events, including the rapture and the glorious appearing
  • thorough summaries of all the major prophetic viewpoints
  • vital understanding of the key players, such as the Antichrist and the False Prophet

Gain wisdom and insight as you repeatedly reach for this A-to-Z encyclopedia to find biblical answers to your toughest prophecy questions.