Category: Doctrines

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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Was Jesus the Predicted Messiah?

Was Jesus the Predicted Messiah?

Although the Bible gives so many predictions about the coming Messiah that were fulfilled by our Lord Jesus, the Jews did not accept Him. As a matter of fact, they are still awaiting the coming of the Messiah.

More than One Messiah?

When Diocletian was abdicated as emperor of Rome, a war of succession between Maxentius and Constantine became inevitable. Maxentius held possession of Rome, but Constantine invaded from Gaul in 312 AD.

In preparation for battle on the Tiber River, Maxentius consulted the Sibylline books for prophetic insight. The relevant oracle declared, “On that day the enemy of Rome will perish.”

Maxentius went into battle confident that Constantine’s doom was at hand. However, he perished in battle, thus identifying who “the enemy of Rome” was. The prophecy was going to be fulfilled one way or the other; its intentional vagueness guaranteed that.

Aren’t the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah equally general so that any number of Jewish males could claim to fulfill them after rising to prominence as a spiritual leader?

While that is true about many of the messianic prophecies taken in isolation, there are more than three hundred separate predictions about the messiah in the pages of the Old Testament. Taken together, they form an imposing barrier to accidental fulfillment or fulfillment-after-the-fact.

300 Prophecies, Only One Messiah

Think of each of the three hundred messianic prophecies as a filter that strains out everyone who does not meet its requirements and you will realize how unlikely it is that anyone but the actual Messiah would pass through all three hundred filters.

If you try to calculate the odds of someone accidentally satisfying three hundred separate personal descriptions, you end up with something like one out of a number with 125 zeros after it – an incomprehensibly unlikely eventuality.


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The Messiah would descend from Eve (Genesis 3:16), Judah (Isaiah 46:10), and David (2 Samuel 7:14). He would be virgin-born (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9).

He would die with sinners but be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9, 12). None of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20) during a violent death in which His hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16) so that He cried out to God (Psalm 22:1).

While He died, onlookers would divide His clothes (Psalm 22:18). He came to save Gentiles as well as Jews (Isaiah 49:6). He rose from the dead (Psalm 16:10).

Jesus the Messiah

Was Jesus the predicted Messiah? Yes! But the prophecies say more about Him than that. He shared the divine nature as God’s Son (Psalm 2:7) and human nature as the Son of Man (Genesis 3:16).

As God’s Suffering Servant, He fulfilled Israel’s destiny by keeping the righteous standards of the Law of Moses (Isaiah 49:1-3). He established God’s new covenant with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 26:28).

He is the destiny and focal point of history (Colossians 1:16). We wait for His return to establish justice and righteousness in the millennial kingdom (Malachi 4:1-3; Revelation 19:11–20:4).


Note: Excerpt taken from the NKJV Prophecy Study Bible under the section Evidences.

 

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.

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

We learn from Scripture that water baptism is an important act of obedience on the part of every believer in Jesus in response to the Lord’s command. However, let me emphasize that baptism does not save as some Christians teach. One does not need to be baptized to be saved. We are saved by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In other words, water baptism is not a requirement for salvation and anyone who teaches otherwise is gravely mistaken. We submit for water baptism for several reasons that include us publicly declaring our faith in the Lord Jesus and to identify with His death, burial, and resurrection.

But why did the Lord Jesus have to undergo water baptism before beginning His earthly ministry? What is the significance of this act on His part?

The Baptism of Jesus

The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist was one of the highlights of the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Although gospel authors Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ baptism, Matthew gives us a more detailed description by first introducing John the Baptist as the one prophesied by Isaiah as the forerunner of the Messiah.

Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The Baptism of Jesus Matthew 3:16-17 (NKJV)

Here is the story of Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him, and after getting a little resistance from the “baptizer,” Jesus is baptized. Immediately after getting up out of the water, we then have the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven on Jesus and a voice from heaven confirming the person and work of Jesus.

The Necessity of Jesus’ Baptism

John’s response to Jesus’ coming to him for baptism seems to indicate that John did not only know something about Jesus, but he also knew that baptism did not apply to Him (Matthew 3:14).

John had been preaching baptism unto repentance (Matthew 3:11). As the people listened and were convicted of their sins, they repented and were baptized as a witness to and sign of their inner purification.

But when Jesus came to John, he tried to stop him from being baptized because, at that moment, John was looking into the face of the Messiah – the “Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and “the man whose sandals he is unworthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11).

In response, Jesus said, “it was fitting for them in order to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Notice that the Lord used the word “us” – “it is fitting for us.” It was something that both the Sinless one (Jesus) and the sinner (John) had to do to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was not acting alone; He was acting with John to fulfill God’s plan.

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Jesus’ Baptism Confirmed John’s Ministry

John grew up to be a very special man. But who would have thought that God would use a “wilderness man” to Christ’s forerunner? He was very different from the other people who lived in his time. John was a Nazarite from birth who was filled by the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).

He chose to live in the desert, wore camel’s hair, and ate locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:3-4). He was very different. After all, who else was preaching in the wilderness? Most people preached in the temple where all the people were. But John was preaching out in the desert.

Perhaps, one could say that John’s mission was to introduce Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. John the Baptist was specially chosen by God. In describing John’s appearance, Matthew links him with Elijah (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3). Why Elijah? Why not Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or the other prophets? It’s because Malachi prophesied that like John, Elijah was a kind of “wilderness man,” a man who lived on the run (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

John the Baptist

When John the Baptist was first introduced in Matthew’s gospel, his message was an announcement that the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:2). He was warning the Jewish leaders including the most zealous religious group, the Pharisees, that the King was soon to appear and will bring judgment.

Although John was careful to distinguish his ministry from that of the coming Messiah (Matthew 3:3, 11-12), his preaching was not only the warning of impending judgment; more importantly, it was a call to action. His message was intended to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, and for the message of salvation, that would be proclaimed after the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

Through John’s ministry, Jesus was introduced by God as the promised and long-awaited Messiah. By asking John to baptize Him, Jesus showed approval of his baptism, confirmed his ministry, and bore witness to it that it was indeed from heaven approved by God.

John played a vital role in the commencement of Jesus’ earthly ministry as he called upon men to prepare for His coming.

Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant

John initially refused to baptize Jesus but Jesus knew that it was His Father’s will for Him to undergo water baptism. Jesus was baptized not because he was a repentant sinner; His baptism identified Himself with tax collectors and sinners, the very people He came to save.

The word “righteousness” as used in the gospel of Matthew draws its meaning from the Old Testament. A full study of righteousness will lead to a meaning for the word as that which “conforms to the standard” which would mean doing the will of God.

To say that Jesus had to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness does not mean Jesus had been unrighteous. It simply means that He is committing Himself to do God’s will for Him, which is to conform to the standard which is the will of God.

The Suffering Servant Isaiah 53

God’s will for Christ was laid out centuries before He came in the book of Isaiah 53. The prophet Isaiah announced that the Suffering Servant was to be “numbered with the transgressors, would bear the sin of many, and make intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

Through His baptism, Jesus began to be identified with sinners. Isaiah further described the Messiah as “God’s righteous Servant who shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). The Father’s statement in Matthew 3:17 saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” also relates Jesus Christ to the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:10).

Well, it’s not that the Father took delight in His Son’s pain but the suffering and death of the Messiah were in fulfillment of God’s plan to make salvation available to everyone who believes (John 3:16). Jesus began to fulfill His work as the Suffering Servant at His baptism where He would identify with sinners, take their sins upon Himself, and justify them through His suffering and death.

Jesus’ water baptism was a picture of His future baptism on the cross. He was rejected and made to suffer and die but He is also seen to come forth in victory.

Conclusion

The baptism of Jesus Christ is not to be identified as one of repentance or as one similar to Christian baptism. Jesus’ baptism was unique, an initiatory right, setting Him apart to His role as a Prophet, Priest, and King, and anticipating His suffering and death on the cross.

No other, before or after, can share this baptism.


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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

The Rapture and Everyday Life

The Rapture and Everyday Life

The Rapture is said to be the greatest end-time event that Christians all around the world are eagerly waiting to take place. This is when the Lord Jesus will come in the clouds to receive every church age believer, dead or alive, and take them to heaven as He promised in John 14:1-3.

Theologians also refer to the Rapture as the blessed hope of the believers (Titus 2:13). But do you know that the Rapture can have a meaning for our everyday life? Every key New Testament passage on the Rapture contains a practical application that is closely associated with it.

The message is crystal clear – anticipating the Rapture should change the way we live. According to the Bible, understanding the Rapture should have at least six life-changing influences on our hearts.

The Rapture and the Church

Converting Influence on Seeking Hearts

With life’s brevity in mind, the most important question for every individual to face is whether he or she has a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior. Salvation through Jesus is a message that contains both bad news and good news.

The bad news is that the Bible declares that all people, including you and me, are sinful, and therefore separated from the holy God of the universe (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23).

God is holy and cannot simply overlook sin. A just payment for the debt must be made. But we are spiritually bankrupt and have no resources within ourselves to pay the huge debt we owe.

The Good News, or Gospel, is that Jesus Christ has come and satisfied our sin debt. He bore our judgment and paid the price for our sins. He died on the cross for our sins and was raised to life on the third day to complete the work of salvation. See Colossians 2:14 and 1 Peter 3:18.

The salvation that Christ accomplished is offered to all of us through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation from sin is a free gift that God offers to sinful people who deserve judgment.

If you have not received that gift yet, I invite you to do it right now. Place your faith and trust in Christ and in Him alone, for your eternal salvation. The Rapture could happen anytime and those who fail to trust Christ will be left behind to endure the Tribulation.

Accept Christ personally by calling upon Him to save you from your sins (Romans 10:9-10, 13). Make sure you are Rapture ready!

Caring Influence on Soul-Winning Hearts

No believer can study Bible prophecy without being gripped by the awesome power of God and the wrath of God. Just a simple reading of Revelation 6 –18 reminds us of what is in store for this earth after the Rapture.

Scripture also describes the eternal horrors that await those who die without trusting Christ. The Bible brings us face-to-face with what is at stake for those who don’t know Christ as their Savior.

2 Corinthians 5:20 reminds us of our calling during this present age: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Those who have already responded to the message of God’s grace and forgiveness through Christ know the world’s future, and we are Christ’s ambassadors, representing Him and His heart to a perishing world. We should care deeply about those who are still lost, willingly give of our material resources to help spread the gospel message, and regularly ask the Lord for opportunities ad boldness to share the Good news of Christ.

A clear understanding of the Rapture should exert a strong influence on every believer to care about the lost before time runs out.

Cleansing Influence on Sinning Hearts

A proper understanding of the Rapture should produce a life of holiness and purity. Focusing the mind and heart on Christ’s coming can powerfully motivate our efforts toward living a pure life.

Note the certainty: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). Here is a perfect prescription for living a life of holiness – focusing on the Rapture.

How can we be riveted by the Rapture and live an impure life at the same time? 1 John 3:3 says it can’t happen. Fixing our hope on Christ and His coming is a purifying hope.

We are to live as if Christ could come at any time, and if this becomes real to us it will transform our lives. The Bible declares that we are to always be looking for Christ’s coming (Titus 2:12-13).

Prophecy and purity are mentioned in Romans 13:11-14 and 2 Peter 3:10-14 presents the practical, cleansing effect of prophecy.

So, when anyone says that studying Bible prophecy is impractical or irrelevant to everyday life, they reveal that they don’t understand what the Bible says about the personal impact of prophecy.


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Calming Influence on Stirring Hearts

Another practical effect of the Rapture is that it calms us down when our hearts are troubled and stirred up. In John 14:1-3, Jesus tells His disciples (and every believer today) to “not let our hearts be troubled.”

The word troubled means “to be stirred up, disturbed, unsettled, or thrown into confusion.” There are many things in our world today to disturb and unsettle us: moral decay, crime, economic uncertainty, terrorism, fear of pandemics, social unrest, and others.

Added to these problems are the personal trials and difficulties we all face in our daily lives. Trouble is the common denominator of all humankind (Job 5:7). Often these troubles and difficulties can leave us distraught, distracted, and disturbed.

However, Jesus emphasizes three things in John 14:1-3 that can calm our troubled hearts: a person, a place, and a promise. The person is our Lord, the place is the heavenly city (new Jerusalem), and the promise is that He will come again to take us to be with Him forever.

One of the great comforts in times like This is to remember that our Lord will someday return to take us to be with Himself.

Comforting Influence on Sorrowing Hearts

Every person has faced or will face the grief of losing a close friend or loved one in death. When death strikes, pious platitudes do little to bring lasting comfort to friends and family. The only real, lasting comfort is the hope that we will see that person again in heaven.

God’s Word tells us with certainty that we are not to sorrow as people who have no hope because we will be reunited with our saved loved ones and friends at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Rapture and Resurrection should transform the way we view death. Death has lost its sting. God has promised that death will ultimately be abolished and that life will reign.

Grief is still appropriate when our friends or loved ones die. Didn’t Jesus weep at the death of His good friend Lazarus (John 11:35)? Stephen’s friends also wept loudly over his battered body (Acts 8:2).

We miss our loved ones when they die. However, the Bible declares that our weeping is not the weeping of despair. There is deep solace, hope, and comfort for our sorrowing hearts in the truth of God’s Word about the future for His children.

Controlling Influence on Serving Hearts

So many today are unstable and unsettled in Christian work. They are constantly vacillating. Knowing about Christ’s coming and future events should cure the problem of instability and inconsistency in Christian labor.

After presenting the truth of the Rapture and the Resurrection, Paul concludes with a strong admonition: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Paul is saying since you know that Christ will someday come to receive you to Himself, let nothing move you, and be strong and steady in your Christian service. Realizing that Christ could return at any time is to make us energetic and excited about serving the Lord.

If the Rapture is a reality to us, it will motivate us to work faithfully for the Lord. The Lord intends for our knowledge of Bible prophecy to translate into devotes service for those around us as we await His return.

The principle in the Bible is clear: waiters are workers. When Christ comes we are to be “dressed for service and keep our lamps burning” (Luke 12:35 NASB).

Final Thoughts

Warren Wiersbe tells a story of when he was a young man preaching on the last days with all the events of prophecy clearly laid out and perfectly planned. At the end of the service, an older gentleman came up to him and whispered in his ear, “I used to have the Lord’s return planned out to the last detail, but years ago I moved from the planning committee to the welcoming committee.”

Certainly, we want to study Bible prophecy and know about God’s plan for the future. But we must be careful not to get too caught up in the planning and forget the welcoming.

Are you on the welcoming committee for the Lord’s coming? Are you living each day to please the Master?

May God help our knowledge of the Rapture to transform our lives as we eagerly await the coming of our Lord and Savior.


Note: This article is an excerpt from Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book “The End, A complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days.”

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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What is the Day of the Lord?

What is the Day of the Lord?

When talking about the last days and end times, one eschatological term that cannot be ignored is the “Day of the Lord,” which is mentioned at least 19 times in the Old Testament and 4 times in the New Testament. What is the “Day of the Lord?”

In order to have a clear and concise understanding of the expression the “Day of the Lord,” we must first define what is meant by “day.”

The Word “Day” in the Bible

The word day is used in the Bible in three main ways and all three uses are illustrated in the first two chapters of Genesis.

First, sometimes it is used to refer to daylight; for instance, the hours between dawn and sunset (Genesis 1:5). Second, it is also used to refer to a twenty-four-hour day (Genesis 1:5). The Jewish day began at sunset and continued to the next day at sunset. Third, the word day is used in the Bible as a period of time (Genesis 2:4) just as we use it in English.

Understanding the Day of the Lord

We speak of the day of our youth. Are we saying that we were young only one day? No. Rather, we are referring to the extended period of time in which we were young. The Day of the Lord falls into this final category. It is an extended period of time, not just a twelve-hour or twenty-four-hour period.

The Day of the Lord in the New Testament

In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4, the Day of the Lord refers to an extended period of time but is given characteristics like a twenty-four-hour day. It is a day that begins at midnight or in the darkness, advancing to dawn and then to daylight.

It will close again with another period of darkness after daylight has passed. Apparently, that is the symbolism involved in the Day of the Lord.

Besides, 1 Peter 3:10-13 indicates that the Day of the Lord will include the destruction of the present heavens and earth and the creation of the new heavens and new earth.

The Day of the Lord in the Old Testament

A few sample passages in the Old Testament give a general overview of the Day of the Lord.

Isaiah 13:9-11 describes a dramatic judgment manifest in the physical world, which will interfere with the light of the sun, moon, and stars. God will put down the proud and deal with sinners in judgment.

Zephaniah 1:14-16 continues in the same strain. According to the Old Testament, the “Day of the Lord” is a time of God’s judgment and a time of God’s dealing with the world in its sin.

However, the Bible also portrays the Day of the Lord as a time of deliverance and blessing for Israel. The Day of the Lord includes the Millennium – the whole kingdom reign of Christ on earth – in which Christ personally directs the government of the world.

Zephaniah 3:14-17 pictures Israel’s blessings on that day, obviously following the time of judgment. This passage prophesies the praising and rejoicing of Israel during the Millennium on earth. Joel 3:14-18 shed additional light on the blessing phase of the Day of the Lord.

A Time of Judgment and Blessing

Putting all the above-mentioned passages, the Day of the Lord is any time God intervenes directly and dramatically in history to either judge or to bless. God has intervened in this way in the past, and He will do so again in the future.

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There have been specific, past “days of the Lord” when God intervened dramatically to judge. For instance, the destruction of Egypt was called the “Day of the Lord” (Ezekiel 30:1-4). The locust plague in Joel 1 was a day of the Lord when God intervened directly to judge Israel (Joel 1:15).

Yet it is important to remember that all these past, historical days of the Lord prefigure the final, future day of the Lord.

The Future Day of the Lord

As revealed in Scripture, the future day of the Lord is a period of time that will begin with the 7-year Tribulation (the judgment phase) and will continue throughout the entire one-thousand-year reign of Christ, and the creation of the new heavens and the new earth (the blessing phase).

The future Day of the Lord will stretch from the Rapture to the creation of the new heavens and new earth. It will commence with a time of wrath and judgment upon a wicked and Christ-rejecting world and will culminate in a time of peace and prosperity; Christ will be in the midst of the earth, will rule over the earth, and will bless the nation of Israel

Much like a 24-hour day, the Day of the Lord will begin with the dark night of the Tribulation, continuing with the dawn bursting forth when Christ returns, and then the world will bask in the full sun of daylight during the Kingdom of Christ.

Living in the Day of Grace

Our present time, this current church age is often referred to as the day of grace. This is not to say that God never displayed grace in the previous dispensations. Many of God’s dealings with mankind from the Garden of Eden to the present day have manifested His grace.

People have always been saved by God’s grace through faith. The salvation of every person, no matter when he or she lived, is a work of God’s sovereign grace. But God, during this present age, has uniquely displayed His grace, highlighting it as the basis for salvation and our Christian life.

Another feature of this day of grace is that for the most part, God is not dealing openly and directly with human sin. He may impose a swift judgment in some cases, but evil people often flourish, enjoy health and wealth, and succeed in their endeavors, even though they are not Christians and do not honor the Lord.

God has given us grace in Christ Jesus

A person today may even arrogantly blaspheme God, angrily declare to be an atheist, or openly denounce God and teach destructive ideas. Yet, God seems to do nothing about it. The Lord is not attempting to straighten that out in this day of grace.

The overriding purpose of God in this age is to proclaim His grace so that people may be saved by trusting in Christ and receiving God’s gift of grace. However, after this day of grace has run its course and the church has been “caught up” to be with Christ (an event known as the rapture), the Day of the Lord will begin when God will punish human sin directly in wrath and judgment.

Conclusion

Scripture clearly portrays the Day of the Lord as a day of divine judgment upon the world followed by a time of unparalleled blessing.

In the Day of the Lord, Christ will rule with a rod of iron over the entire earth (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27). He will administer absolute justice (Isaiah 11:1-9). On that day Israel will also be regathered (Isaiah 11:10-12) and brought into the perfect peace of the millennial kingdom (Zephaniah 3:14-20) and on to the creation of the new heaven and new earth.


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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.

How Christians Can Defeat Satan

How Christians Can Defeat Satan

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan through His suffering, death, and resurrection. Clearly, the victory is His. Those of us who have believed in Christ are also victorious. We win because He has won.

While the ultimate victory has been won, we still have to fight spiritual battles as long as we are still upon the earth. Thus, we must desire to achieve victories over the devil. But how can we have victory over the enemy? How can Christians Defeat Satan?

How to Have Victory Over the Devil

The Bible gives us several ways in which we can defeat our enemy, Satan.

1. Know and Understand the Enemy.

To defeat Satan, first, we need to know who he is. This means having a biblical understanding of who he is, what he can do, his limitations, and the various ways in which he works while he is still active. This only comes from a study of Scripture.

If we are going to win our spiritual battles against the devil, we cannot afford to be ignorant of his schemes and tactics, otherwise, Satan will take advantage of us (2 Corinthians 2:11).

How Christians Defeat the Enemy

The Word of God tells us several ways by which the enemy works. Believers must, therefore, be able to spiritually discern what comes from the Lord and what comes from the devil. We do this by testing every spirit (1 John 4:1-3). This means that we do not blindly believe everyone who claims to speak in the name of the Lord.

Unfortunately, there will always be false prophets and counterfeit believers in the world (Matthew 7:15, 24:11; 2 Peter 2:1-2).

2. Always be on Guard.

Christians must actively be on guard against Satan and his attacks. The Word warns us to be watchful and ready at all times because our enemy is actively seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). And when Satan does attack us, we must resist (1 Peter 5:9).

To “resist” means to “withstand” or “stand our ground.” By doing so, we can overcome Satan. Indeed, we should never give in to Satan’s temptations.

3. Know Your Weaknesses.

It is also extremely important that we know our weaknesses. Each of us has an area in our life in which we are vulnerable and we should not pretend we do not. Satan knows these areas and so, we should be especially alert from attacks in the areas where we are the weakest.

The Bible commands us not to give any opportunity for the devil to work. Paul wrote: “And do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27 NIV).

It is important to know the areas in which we are personally weak, admit these weaknesses, and protect ourselves in these particular areas the best way in which we can.

4. Avoid the Situation.

Knowing our weaknesses, we do not want to put ourselves in a position where we can easily fail. As much as possible, we should avoid any situation that can cause us to sin. For one thing, we must always remember that we do not have to sin. Sin is a choice that we make. However, we can flee from sin by staying away from the source of the temptation.

Paul exhorts all believers to stay away from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). By separating ourselves from a particular sin or any situation that may lead us to sin, a temporary victory can be won.

Yes, all victories are only temporary because temptation will always come as long as we are in these sinful bodies.

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5. Realize that You cannot Do it on Your Own.

Ultimately, we do not and we cannot fight the battle in our own strength. We learn a valuable lesson from Michael the archangel in his dealing with Satan. Jude 9 says, “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”

From Michael’s example, we learn that we should not personally defy Satan. Knowing his power, we should neither underestimate nor overestimate him. We must realize that we can only resist and ultimately defeat the devil not on our own strength but by the Spirit of the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).

6. Put On the Full Armor of God.

The Bible speaks of the spiritual weapons of warfare that we possess and we need to use them (Ephesians 6:13-17): the belt of truth, which is the truth of the Word of God, the breastplate of righteousness which enables us to always do the right thing, shoes to spread the good news, the shield of faith to thwart the devil’s attacks, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

These weapons are there for us to win the battle. Victories are achievable when these weapons are employed.

7. Maintain Communication with God.

We are also told to constantly connect with God. Paul said this in his letter to the Ephesians about the necessity of prayer:

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

Talking to God regularly and constantly is something believers need to do to advance spiritually.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are commanded to pray unceasingly. It is a must for believers to maintain communication with God as this will help stop the progress of the devil.

8. Realize that You are Part of God’s Family.

The Bible speaks of two families of humanity. There are those who are the children of God (John 1:12), and those who are the children of the devil (John 8:44). Each human being belongs to one of these two families. There is no third group.

Those who are in the family of God have their lives molded after Him. Those who belong to the devil act like their spiritual father. Believers ought to realize which family they are a part of and they should act accordingly.

How Believers can have Victory over the Devil

Believers belong to God’s family. This means that we are to act differently than unbelievers in many situations. We should never compromise our beliefs or behavior.

As God’s children, we are under His care. Satan cannot defeat us because God is always watching out for us. What a comforting truth.

9. Rest in God’s Promises

Finally, we need to rest in the promises of God. Satan has been overcome and the victory is ours (1 Corinthians 15:57). There are no insurmountable problems for believers that the Lord cannot solve.

Conclusion

While we are living in this world-system and battling the attacks of the devil, it is possible to achieve temporary victory over him. But these victories can come only through faith in Jesus Christ.

While victory is always possible, occasional defeat will occur if we fail to do our part. These defeats can hinder our testimony as well as our spiritual growth. Therefore, we need to take these nine necessary steps to defeat Satan and be victorious.


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