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March 26, 2000 Coy Wylie
1 John – Living in the Light
How to Test the Spirits
1 John 4:1-6
1. “Discrimination” is a bad word in our cultural vocabulary. Our courts are filled with lawsuits based on discrimination. In a multi-cultural society we are taught to be tolerant of one another. To an extent this is appropriate. Our Constitution states that all men are created equally. Acts 10:34 says, “God is no respecter of persons” (KJV); He does not show partiality. Therefore we are not to discriminate racially, economically, socially or culturally.
2. In this passage, John teaches we must discriminate doctrinally. We must “test the spirits.” We must learn to discern between “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” These 6 verses are a parenthesis on his discourse about love. Love evidences our fellowship with God but love can never be divorced from truth.
An elementary school class toured a medical facility. A child asked why the doctors and nurses were constantly washing their hands. The nurse replied, “We wash our hands for two reasons: we love health and we hate germs.” The Christian who abides in Christ and walks in the Spirit loves truth and hates error. He discriminates.
3. As Christians, we are called “believers.” However, every believer is also called to be an unbeliever when it comes to error. The Bible not only encourages us to believe but also to not believe. Just as we can inhale and exhale at the same time, we cannot believe truth and accept error. You cannot love until you reject hatred. You cannot pursue righteousness until you abandon evil. John Stott has written, “Unbelief can be as much a mark of spiritual maturity as belief.” (p.157).
4. With this background in mind, let’s examine the command to test the spirits and three criteria by which we test the spirits.
I. The Command to Test the Spirits (v.1).
A. Why We Are to Test the Spirits.
1. John is speaking to believers. He calls them “beloved.” He says we are not to “believe every spirit” but “test” them as to “whether they are of God.” Why? Because there are “many false prophets” who have “gone out into the world.”
2. Historically, the background of this passage is in the era in which the NT was being completed. There was no NT cannon. The apostles were still in the process of writing the inspired books and epistles that make up our understanding of the Christian faith.
3. God delivered His word to the congregations of believers in part by the verbal word of divinely gifted and inspired prophets. We read about the powerful and prevalent gifts in 1 Cor.12 and 14.
4. John warns his readers not to “believe every spirit” but to “test the spirits whether they are of God” because not everyone who claimed to be a prophet was divinely inspired.
5. There was and is the great necessity of critical assessment of spiritual teaching. There are still many false teachers in the world.
B. What it Means to Test the Spirits.
1. Every believer has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In 3:24, we learned last week that God “have given us… the Spirit.” In chapter 2, John calls the presence of the Spirit “the anointing which you have received from Him…”
2. God has given us His indwelling Spirit but John now points out that there are other “spirits” loose in the world. If we have the Spirit, we ought to “test the Spirits.”
3. Christians often test teaching by how it sounds, the words used, the inflection of the voice, the stories told, if it moves them or makes them feel good. None of these are appropriate tests. “Test” in v.4 means “to approve or examine.” The term was used of gold put in the fire to test its purity.
4. There are two categories of spirits operating in the world. When someone proposes to speak for God, you should “test the spirits” or you might “amen” the wrong spirit! I’ve been in some churches where they would “amen” almost anything.
5. Behind every prophet is a spirit. The great question is does the Spirit of God or an evil spirit lead this teacher. Before we trust any teacher, we must “test the spirits.”
6. Paul wrote in 1 Thess.5:20-22, “Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.”
7. Jesus warned in Mt.7:15-16, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…”
8. Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
9. Peter also offered this warning in 2 Pet.2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”
10. Today there is still a great need for biblical discernment and discrimination. Many believers remain biblically illiterate and spiritually gullible. They naively accept any teaching as truth.
11. In Eph.4:14, Paul says that a sure sign of spiritual immaturity is “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”
C. Failing to Test the Spirits is Dangerous.
Every good parent teaches his children to discriminate, to discern. We teach them to never take candy from strangers or accept a ride from strangers. Why? We know that there are evil people in the world who will take advantage of the naiveté of our kids. Too many of God’s kids have never learned to discern. They don’t discriminate. They are led astray by spiritual candy with a pseudo spiritual wrapper that is nothing more than sugarcoated error. It tastes good and makes them feel good for the moment but leaves them with nothing but empty calories. There is no spiritual nutrition because there is no truth.
1. If you follow the wrong spirit, you will pay a price. The famous circus entrepreneur, P.T. Barnum is quoted as saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Satan has many slick sideshows that sidetrack God’s children and rob them of their spiritual riches.
2. There are “many” false teachers in the world today. The spiritual candy store is full. Satan has all flavors of teachers and preachers ready to fill your spiritual appetite with a sugarcoated experience that will leave you with a bellyache. Test the spirits!
3. Remember when Moses first appeared before Pharaoh? He had a rod that turned into a snake. Satan was not to be outdone so the magicians’ rods turned to snakes too. He knows how to put on a good show, to entice and lure us away from the truth.
4. The reformers insisted that even the most humble of believers has “the right of private judgment.” John is writing to the “beloved,” all Christians. You don’t have to have a seminary degree to test the spirits. You don’t have to attend a spirit-testing seminar. Why? Because the Holy Spirit already resides within you.
5. In this church we wear the name Baptist but our allegiance is to the Bible. Just because it is a Baptist teaching does not necessarily mean it is a biblical teaching. We “test the spirits” and the chief measuring stick is the Scripture!
II. The Criteria for Testing the Spirits (vv.5-6).
A. How Do They View the Son of God? (vv.2-3).
1. The first test is the acknowledgement of the historical incarnation of Jesus, that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” Believers are to test for truth based on a teacher’s attitude concerning the person and work of Jesus. The first question is always “What do they believe about Jesus?” because if you are wrong about Jesus you are wrong about God.
2. In John’s day there was a teacher known as Cerinthus who taught that Jesus became the Messiah at His baptism. The Spirit came upon and at His death on the cross, the Spirit left Him and He died and remained dead, thus denying the resurrection. Cerinthus taught his disciples that Jesus did not come as God but became the Son of God for season. This was a terrible false teaching.
3. Jesus did not become the Son of God. He has always existed as the Son. He was incarnated, came “in the flesh” to be our Savior. Jesus was fully God and fully man. The baby in the manger humanly did not know anything but divinely knew everything. The baby in the manger could humanly be only one place at a time but divinely was omnipresent, equally present everywhere. The baby in the manger was humanly terribly weak and hopelessly dependent but divinely was all-powerful. The baby in the manger was humanly unable to speak but divinely had spoken the worlds into existence.
4. Many religions seek to honor Jesus as a great man or a great teacher but do not recognize Him for who He is. Some of them knock on your door with attractive publications and reverent, religious words but they don’t believe that Jesus is the “express image of His person” (Heb.1:3). They will say He is God’s Son but just for a time, not for eternity. They will agree that He is a great prophet, but they want to put him on the level of Mohammed or Confucius.
5. A teacher must not only acknowledge the incarnation as a historical fact but they must also “confess” Him. They must commit their lives to Him.
6. Satan and his demons acknowledge the historical incarnation but do not “confess” Him as Lord. Evil spirits readily recognized Jesus during His earthly ministry. In Mk.1:24 we read the words of one spirit encountered by Jesus, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are; the Holy One of God!” In Mk.5:7 another said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” James 2:19 remarks, “Even the demons believe; and tremble!”
7. Christian Scientists claim that Jesus was a man who received the Spirit of the Christ. Mormons say Jesus was a man who became god to show us how to become gods. Liberal theologians deny the virgin birth of Jesus and thus deny His incarnation and His deity. All these people fail to “confess” Him as God.
8. There are many people in church every Sunday who believe Jesus is the incarnate Christ but have never truly confessed Him.
9. The one who is led by the Holy Spirit will always “confess” Jesus. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would testify of Him and glorify Him. He said in Jn.16:13-14, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
10. Paul states in 1 Cor.12:3, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
11. John says in v.3, to proclaim anything else about Jesus smacks of “the spirit of the Antichrist.” John has already mentioned the Antichrist in chapter 2. We know there is coming a world leader known as “the Antichrist,” however; “the spirit of the Antichrist” is “now already in the world.”
12. Be careful who you listen to that you do not take false medication.
B. What is Their Relation to the Spirit of God? (v.4).
1. In saying that believers “have overcome them” John is telling us that the false teachers have not succeeded in deceiving us.
2. False teachers are intimidating. They ask, “How can you believe that?” Raise the issue of creation in your biology classroom and watch them go into a frenzy. However, truth is absolute. It is immutable. It never changes.
If I play a B-flat on the piano you will hear a B-flat. A B-flat was a B-flat a thousand years ago and will still be a B-flat in the next millennium. It is absolute. Truth is absolute. Jesus is absolute. Heb.13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
3. Why have we “overcome” them? Not because we are smart, sharp or extremely intelligent, but because of the Spirit is within us. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Although, Satan is great, the Holy Spirit is greater!
We all have insulation in our houses. Insulation keeps the warm air in and the cold air out or visa versa. The Holy Spirit is the God-given insulation in the believer’s life who helps us keep out error. Have you ever heard a sermon or listened to religious discussion and thought, “Something doesn’t sound right?” That is the Holy Spirit filtering out the error and leading you in truth.
C. Are They in Harmony with the Word of God? (vv.5-6).
1. Notice three pronouns in vv.4-6. In v.4 John speaks of “you” or Christians. In v.5 he speaks of “they,” false teachers. In v.6, he speaks of “we” or the God-ordained apostles.
2. Now in v.5 we see that that “they” are heard by the world. The world recognizes its own people and listens to their message. One of the easiest ways to recognize a false teacher is by whether the world is comfortable with him.
3. When you are on the job speak about the truth of Jesus, someone will invariably say, “I don’t want to hear that!” Why? Truth divides. People want to feel good about themselves. Truth always makes them take a hard look at themselves.
4. When I prepare a sermon, I don’t ever ask, “Will they enjoy this message?” My goal is not your entertainment but your edification. Truth always will help you.
In order to survive under the water, you need special equipment. Scuba gear enables a diver to live and function in a hostile environment. In the same way, the Spirit of God and the Word of God enable us to function in the world.
5. When John says, “He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us,” it sounds somewhat arrogant. In effect, he is saying, “You can tell our message is God’s message because God’s people receive it.”
6. I could never say that. It would be prideful and presumptuous for me to say, “Whoever knows God agrees with me and only those who don’t know God disagree with me.” I’ve known a few preachers who’ve come close to that level of arrogance though.
7. John is an apostle; I am a pastor. John personally walked with Jesus. By inspiration, he wrote words of Scripture. To agree with the apostles is to agree with Scripture. Eph.2:20 says the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”
8. Turn the page to 2 Jn.10-11. Churches met in houses in those days. John was saying don’t let him in the church. In this church we discriminate doctrinally.
9. Someone might say, “Truth, truth, truth! Pastor you major on truth, but what about emotion? What about feelings? I want to feel the presence of God.” Amen! I want to feel Him too. He gave me my emotions. I want both spirit and truth. However, I want to be certain what I am feeling. I don’t want to get off into subjective feelings until I am dead on in objective truth!
We can navigate a course by the use of a compass. A compass points to the north because of the magnetic field. Christians can navigate life by responding to the “true north” of the Word of God. We have the Word of God before us and the Spirit of God within us. Let us “test the spirits” and the teaching of anyone who claims to speak for God.
Copyright © 1998 – 2003 Coy M. Wylie.
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“But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues;”
Our Lord warned his disciples to prepare for persecution. They were to avoid all things which gave advantage to their enemies, all meddling with worldly or political concerns, all appearance of evil or selfishness, and all underhand measures. Christ foretold troubles, not only that the troubles might not be a surprise, but that they might confirm their faith. He tells them what they should suffer, and from whom. Thus Christ has dealt fairly and faithfully with us, in telling us the worst we can meet with in his service; and he would have us deal so with ourselves, in sitting down and counting the cost. Persecutors are worse than beasts, in that they prey upon those of their own kind. The strongest bonds of love and duty, have often been broken through from enmity against Christ. Sufferings from friends and relations are very grievous; nothing cuts more. It appears plainly, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution; and we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations. With these predictions of trouble, are counsels and comforts for a time of trial. The disciples of Christ are hated and persecuted as serpents, and their ruin is sought, and they need the serpent’s wisdom. Be ye harmless as doves. Not only, do nobody any hurt, but bear nobody any ill-will. Prudent care there must be, but not an anxious, perplexing thought; let this care be cast upon God. The disciples of Christ must think more how to do well, than how to speak well. In case of great peril, the disciples of Christ may go out of the way of danger, though they must not go out of the way of duty. No sinful, unlawful means may be used to escape; for then it is not a door of God’s opening. The fear of man brings a snare, a perplexing snare, that disturbs our peace; an entangling snare, by which we are drawn into sin; and, therefore, it must be striven and prayed against. Tribulation, distress, and persecution cannot take away God’s love to them, or theirs to him. Fear Him, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. They must deliver their message publicly, for all are deeply concerned in the doctrine of the gospel. The whole counsel of God must be made known, Ac 20:27. Christ shows them why they should be of good cheer. Their sufferings witnessed against those who oppose his gospel. When God calls us to speak for him, we may depend on him to teach us what to say. A believing prospect of the end of our troubles, will be of great use to support us under them. They may be borne to the end, because the sufferers shall be borne up under them. The strength shall be according to the day. And it is great encouragement to those who are doing Christ’s work, that it is a work which shall certainly be done. See how the care of Providence extends to all creatures, even to the sparrows. This should silence all the fears of God’s people; Ye are of more value than many sparrows. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. This denotes the account God takes and keeps of his people. It is our duty, not only to believe in Christ, but to profess that faith, in suffering for him, when we are called to it, as well as in serving him. That denial of Christ only is here meant which is persisted in, and that confession only can have the blessed recompence here promised, which is the real and constant language of faith and love. Religion is worth every thing; all who believe the truth of it, will come up to the price, and make every thing else yield to it. Christ will lead us through sufferings, to glory with him. Those are best prepared for the life to come, that sit most loose to this present life. Though the kindness done to Christ’s disciples be ever so small, yet if there be occasion for it, and ability to do no more, it shall be accepted. Christ does not say that they deserve a reward; for we cannot merit any thing from the hand of God; but they shall receive a reward from the free gift of God. Let us boldly confess Christ, and show love to him in all things.
The Dead End of Sexual Sin
Unbelievers don’t “struggle” with same-sex attraction. I didn’t. My love for women came with nary a struggle at all.
I had not always been a lesbian, but in my late twenties, I met my first lesbian-lover. I was hooked and believed that I had found my real self. Sex with women was part of my life and identity, but it was not the only part — and not always the biggest part.
I simply preferred everything about women: their company, their conversation, their companionship, and the contours of their/our body. I favored the nesting, the setting up of house and home, and the building of lesbian community.
As an unbelieving professor of English, an advocate of postmodernism and poststructuralism, and an opponent of all totalizing meta-narratives (like Christianity, I would have added back in the day), I found peace and purpose in my life as a lesbian and the queer community I helped to create.
Conversion and Confusion
It was only after I met my risen Lord that I ever felt shame in my sin, with my sexual attractions, and with my sexual history.
Conversion brought with it a train wreck of contradictory feelings, ranging from liberty to shame. Conversion also left me confused. While it was clear that God forbade sex outside of biblical marriage, it was not clear to me what I should do with the complex matrix of desires and attractions, sensibilities and senses of self that churned within and still defined me.
What is the sin of sexual transgression? The sex? The identity? How deep was repentance to go?
Meeting John Owen
In these newfound struggles, a friend recommended that I read an old, seventeenth-century theologian named John Owen, in a trio of his books (now brought together under the title Overcoming Sin and Temptation).
At first, I was offended to realize that what I called “who I am,” John Owen called “indwelling sin.” But I hung in there with him. Owen taught me that sin in the life of a believer manifests itself in three ways: distortion by original sin, distraction of actual day-to-day sin, and discouragement by the daily residence of indwelling sin.
Eventually, the concept of indwelling sin provided a window to see how God intended to replace my shame with hope. Indeed, John Owen’s understanding of indwelling sin is the missing link in our current cultural confusion about what sexual sin is — and what to do about it.
As believers, we lament with the apostle Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:19–20). But after we lament, what should we do? How should we think about sin that has become a daily part of our identity?
Owen explained with four responses.
Daniel’s 70 Weeks
(first published May 26, 2014) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,email@example.com)
Daniel’s “70 week” prophecy is one of the most amazing and important prophecies in Scripture. A Book that foretells the future in detail with perfect accuracy is obviously a Divine Book!
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall beseven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Daniel 9:24-27).
The occasion of this prophecy was Daniel’s prayer that God would have mercy on Israel. The vision is God’s answer. In this vision God reveals to Daniel the time schedule and major events which will lead to the establishment of Israel’s Messianic kingdom.
The purpose of the 70 weeks (Dan. 9:24)
The prophecy pertains to Israel and to the holy city Jerusalem.
1. The prophecy describes the finishing of the transgression and the making of reconciliation. During the 70 Weeks, Israel’s rebellion will be finished, and she will be cleansed from her sin. Israel’s rebellion was the reason for the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BC and by Rome in AD 70, and she has never repented nationally. This will happen at the end of the 70 Weeks, and she will be cleansed by the atonement of Christ.
3 The prophecy describes the sealing up the vision and prophecy. It will be the fulfillment of all of the Messianic prophecies.
4. The prophecy will result in the anointing of the most Holy. The temple will be desecrated by the Antichrist, but upon Christ’s return a new temple will be built and anointed by Christ’s own presence.
The length of time of the 70 Weeks
The Hebrew term for weeks (shebuah) means “sevens.” The context must determine whether it is a week of days or of years.
1. The weeks which have already been fulfilled show that these are weeks of years rather than of days. We know that by any reckoning, it was almost 500 years from the rebuilding of Jerusalem until the coming of Christ. This fits the testimony of Daniel 9:25, which places 69 weeks of years (483 years) between the two events. It is only reasonable to believe that the 70th week shall also be a week of years.
2. The concept of weeks of years was familiar to Jewish thinking (Lev. 25:3-9). There was a weekly sabbath and a yearly sabbath.
3. At the time of the vision, Daniel had been thinking in terms of weeks of years (Dan. 9:2). He was considering the 70 year captivity, which was 10 weeks of years (2 Ch. 36:21).
The events of the 70 Weeks
1. During the first 7 weeks (49 years) Jerusalem was rebuilt in troublous times.
a. The commandment to rebuild Jerusalem was given in 445 BC. The walls were completed the next year, and work of rebuilding the city apparently continued on for another 48 years.
b. This was accomplished “in troublous times,” as we see in Nehemiah. The rebuilding was accomplished in the face of great opposition.
2. The next 62 weeks (434 years) extends from the rebuilding of Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah.
a. When did the 69 weeks (the 7 weeks and the 62 weeks) end?
It ended when Messiah came as prince (Dan. 9:25). This was when Christ entered Jerusalem on the donkey a few days before the crucifixion and was acclaimed as “the King that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Zech. 9:9; Lk. 19:37-38).
b. When did the 69 Weeks begin?
It began with the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem (Dan. 9:25). This was the commandment by Artaxerxes for Nehemiah to rebuild the walls and the city (Neh. 2:1-8). In 536 BC, Cyrus commanded Zerubbabel to build the temple (Ezra 1:1-3), but that isn’t the commandment described in Daniel 9:25.
c. There are some difficulties in determining the exact dates for the beginning and ending of the 69 Weeks.
First, Jews and Babylonians and Persians used different calendars with different months. The Julian or Roman calendar that we use today is different. This is why it is difficult to know exactly what years by our calendar Christ was born and died. Second, the Jewish and Persian calendars were 360-day years instead of the 365-day years on our Roman calendar. This means that the 483 years (69×7) of Daniel 9 was 173,880 days or 476 of our years.
By some reckoning, Artaxerxes’ commandment to Nehemiah was in 445 BC and by other reckonings, it was 444 BC. Sir Isaac Newton set that date at 457 BC, and this date was placed in the margin of the King James Bible beginning in 1701.
Sir Robert Anderson, a lawyer and an investigator with Scotland Yard and a brilliant Bible student, concluded that the commandment was given March 14, 445 BC and Christ entered Jerusalem on the donkey April 6, 32 AD. He documented this position in his 1895 book The Coming Prince.
John Phillips summarizes this position as follows: “We know from Nehemiah 2:1-8 that the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem was given in March (Nisan) of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, who ascended to the throne of Persia in 464 or 465 BC. Thus the beginning of the prophetic period would be 445 BC. Some commentators actually fix the date at March 14, 445 BC., and claim the support of astronomy for so doing. After sixty-nine of these ‘weeks,’ the Messiah would be ‘cut off’ (69 x 7 = 483 years) bringing us to AD 39. Since the Biblical year is 360 days and not 365 days, the difference (5 x 483 – 2,415 days – 6.6 years) must be deducted, bringing us to AD 32. The Lord’s ministry began in the ‘the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’ (Luke 3:1). This Caesar began to reign on August 19, A.D. 14, so that the Lord commenced His public ministry early in A.D. 29. The first Passover of the Lord’s ministry was in the month of Nisan of that year. Three Passovers later, in AD 32, He was crucified. Sir Robert Anderson contends that this prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled to the very day.”
The important thing to understand is that the Jews of Christ’s day knew how to figure these dates, and they had no excuse for not knowing exactly when Messiah the prince would come or what would happen when He came.
3. After the 69 weeks, the following events will happen (Dan. 9:26).
a. Messiah is cut off, but not for himself. This refers to Christ’s crucifixion and His substitutionary atonement. He did not die for Himself, because death is the wages of sin, and Christ had no sin. He died for man’s sins (Isa. 53:5).
b. The city and the sanctuary are destroyed. This occurred in AD 70 at the hands of the Roman armies under the generalship of Titus.
c. There are wars and desolations until the end. The Hebrew word translated “desolation” is also translated “destruction (Hos. 2:12).
(1) This is a perfect description of the last 2,000 years of Israel’s history since Christ was “cut off.”
(2) Even today, though Israel is back in the land, she has no peace and war and desolations continue, and she will have no peace until she repents and receives her Messiah, Jesus.
(3) It also describes what will happen to Israel just before the return of Christ as recorded in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6-18.
4. Between the 69th and 70th week is the interlude of the church age.
a. It is called a “mystery” because it was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets (Eph. 3:3-6). The church age is like a valley that the Old Testament prophets did not see between the peaks of the first and second coming of Christ.
b. During this time, Christ is calling out a people for His name from among the nations (Ac. 15:14-18).
c. Paul describes the church age as the time of Israel’s blindness in Romans 11:25-27.
The 70th week (the final seven years) (Dan. 9:27)
The final week, or seven years, of Daniel’s prophecy remains to be fulfilled.
It is this period that Jesus describes in Matthew 24:3-31.
1. The final week is divided into two parts (Dan. 9:27).
a. At the beginning of the seven years, the Antichrist will make a false peace covenant with Israel.
(1) The Antichrist is a prince of the revived Roman Empire. He is identified as the prince of the people who destroyed Jerusalem after Messiah’s death. This was Rome.
(2) Revelation depicts the Antichrist coming on the scene on a white horse, signifying peace, and carrying an empty bow (Rev. 6:2). The horse and empty bow signifies that the Antichrist will have the capability to make war but initially he will come as a man of peace. Five times in Daniel the Antichrist is called a liar and a flatterer (Dan. 11:21, 23, 27, 32, 34). Daniel says by peace he will destroy many (Dan. 8:25).
(3) This is probably when the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt. When he comes on the scene, the Antichrist will be the greatest diplomat the world has ever seen, and he will doubtless solve the “Israel-Palestinian problem.”
(4) It is probable that either the Antichrist or his prophet or both will be accepted by the Jews as their Messiah and by apostate Christians as theirs and by the Muslims as the Mahdi. Both Sunnis and Shiites believe in an Islamic messiah, the Mahdi, who will appear at the end of the world to establish a global caliphate in Allah’s name and rule for a period of time (seven, nine, or nineteen years, according to varying interpretations), ridding the world of evil before the day of judgment. The coming of the Mahdi is believed to coincide with the second coming of Jesus, whom they call Isa, who will join hands with the Mahdi against a false messiah or antichrist.
b. Mid-way through the seven years the Antichrist will break this covenant and exalt himself as God.
(1) The abomination that makes desolate is the desecration of the Jewish temple by the Antichrist. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.
(2) This event marks the beginning of the 3.5 years of the Great Tribulation (Mat. 24:15).
(3) Revelation 6-19 describes the same period of time (the final “week” of Daniel’s vision), and Revelation also divides the time into two 3.5 year periods.
– During the first half of the Tribulation, the two witnesses of Revelation 11 will preach for 1,260 days, or three and a half years (Rev. 11:3).
– During the second half, the Antichrist will rule for 42 months, or 3.5 years (Rev. 13:5), and converted Israel shall flee into the wilderness for 1,260 days, or 3.5 years (Rev. 12:6).
David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org
Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc.’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service, an e-mail listing for Fundamental Baptists and other fundamentalist, Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. OUR GOAL IN THIS PARTICULAR ASPECT OF OUR MINISTRY IS NOT DEVOTIONAL BUT IS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO ASSIST PREACHERS IN THE PROTECTION OF THE CHURCHES IN THIS APOSTATE HOUR.
Way of Life Literature – http://www.wayoflife.org
copyright 2013 – Way of Life Literature
Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
by Cameron Buettel
We live in a therapeutic culture that seems determined to do away with sin. Adultery and every form of immorality has been re-classified as sex addictions. Addictions to drugs and alcohol are classified as diseases, not the results of deliberate actions. And guns are now perceived as a greater evil than the murderers pulling the trigger. Whatever the sin may be, there always seems to be a way to excuse, redefine, or minimize it.
That determination to separate who a person is and what he does has also infiltrated the church. The exhortation to “love the sinner and hate the sin” is a clever Christian cliché regularly used to deflect people’s responsibility and accountability for their sin. While it’s true that we should both love sinners and hate sin, the cliché distorts those truths by unbiblically severing the two.
That sort of dualism was prevalent among the Gnostic heretics of the first century AD. The error of the Gnostics was so seductive that the apostle John wrote his first epistle as a direct response to their false teaching. John MacArthur made the following observations regarding the situation facing the church in 1 John:
Gnosticism (from the Greek word gnōsis [“knowledge”]) was an amalgam of various pagan, Jewish, and quasi-Christian systems of thought. Influenced by Greek philosophy (especially that of Plato), Gnosticism taught that matter was inherently evil and spirit was good. That philosophical dualism led the false teachers whom John confronted to accept some form of Christ’s deity, but to deny His humanity. He could not, according to them, have taken on a physical body, since matter was evil.  John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1–3 John (Chicago: Moody Press, 2007) 8.
But it was the Gnostics’ personal application of their dualistic views that echoes today in the efforts to separate the sinner from his sin.
The Gnostics’ philosophical dualism also caused them to be indifferent to moral values and ethical behavior. To them, the body was merely the prison in which the spirit was incarcerated. Therefore, sin committed in the body had no connection to or effect on the spirit.  1–3 John, 8.
The cliché of loving the sinner and hating the sin follows the same dualistic reasoning as Gnostic heresies—that we ought to effectively divorce the sinner from the culpability and consequences of his sin.
Worse still, it confuses and corrupts the very concept of what it means to love a sinner. True love does not demand willful ignorance. You wouldn’t simply pretend that a cancer patient was suddenly free from his disease. Nor would you ignore his affliction in hopes that it would go away on its own.
The same holds true for sinners—the most loving thing you can do for them is not to blithely ignore their sin or excuse it away, but to confront it. In other words, you cannot possibly love a sinner if you don’t also hate his sin.
Not Dualism—Dual Responsibilities
I’ll grant that the way we confront sin can vary depending on the nature of the sin and the spiritual condition of the sinner. You might need to show more gentleness with an unbeliever blinded by his own depravity than with a fellow Christian who ought to know better. And even within the church, we need to be measured and considerate with how we confront one another, yet still bold and clear enough to preserve the purity of the Body of Christ.
In fact, church discipline is an essential part of protecting the church’s purity (Matthew 18:15–20). John MacArthur, while commenting on that passage, points out:
A Christian who is not deeply concerned about bringing a fellow Christian back from his sin needs spiritual help himself. Smug indifference, not to mention self-righteous contempt, has no part in the life of a spiritual Christian, nor do sentimentality or cowardice that hide behind false humility. The spiritual Christian neither condemns nor justifies a sinning brother. His concern is for the holiness and blessing of the offending brother, the purity and integrity of the church, and the honor and glory of God.  John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16–23 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985) 128.
In response to those who see the confrontation of sin as inherently unloving, John adds:
In the eyes of much of the world and even in the eyes of many immature believers, such action is considered unloving. But discipline given in the right way expresses the deepest kind of love, love that refuses to do nothing to rescue a brother from unrepentant sin and its consequences. Love that winks at sin or that is more concerned for superficial calm in the church than for its spiritual purity is not God’s kind of love. Love that tolerates sin is not love at all but worldly and selfish sentimentality.
To preach love apart from God’s holiness is to teach something other than God’s love. No awakening or revival of the church has ever occurred apart from strong preaching of God’s holiness and the corresponding call for believers to forsake sin and return to the Lord’s standards of purity and righteousness. No church that tolerates known sin in its membership will have spiritual growth or effective evangelism. In spite of that truth, however, such tolerance is standard in the church today-at all levels.  Matthew 16–23, 128.
Some people appeal to God’s unconditional love as if that trumps or invalidates His other attributes, most notably His wrath. But as John emphatically argues, such sentiment amounts to nothing less than a popular form of idolatry.
Belief in a God who is all love and no wrath, all grace and no justice, all forgiveness and no condemnation is idolatry (worship of a false god invented by men), and it inevitably leads to universalism-which, of course, is what many liberal churches have been preaching for generations. Salvation becomes meaningless, because sin that God overlooks does not need to be forgiven. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross becomes a travesty, because He gave His life for no redemptive purpose. Not only that, but it becomes apologetically impossible to explain the common question about why a loving God allows pain, suffering, disease, and tragedy. Removing God’s holy hatred of sin emasculates the gospel and hinders rather than helps evangelism.  Matthew 16–23, 130.
We should love sinners. We should hate sin. And we shouldn’t divide those two truths into separate categories. Our hatred of sin should manifest itself in a love that warns sinners—compassionately, but no less clearly—of the dire consequences their sin demands. Short of that, how could we ever claim to truly love them?
40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags
by Kevin DeYoung
For evangelicals who lament last Friday’s Supreme Court decision, it’s been a hard few days. We aren’t asking for emotional pity, nor do I suspect many people are eager to give us any. Our pain is not sacred. Making legal and theological decisions based on what makes people feel better is part of what got us into this mess in the first place. Nevertheless, it still hurts.
There are many reasons for our lamentation, from fear that religious liberties will be taken away to worries about social ostracism and cultural marginalization. But of all the things that grieve us, perhaps what’s been most difficult is seeing some of our friends, some of our family members, and some of the folks we’ve sat next to in church giving their hearty “Amen” to a practice we still think is a sin and a decision we think is bad for our country. It’s one thing for the whole nation to throw a party we can’t in good conscience attend. It’s quite another to look around for friendly faces to remind us we’re not alone and then find that they are out there jamming on the dance floor. We thought the rainbow was God’s sign (Gen. 9:8-17).
If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
Finish this article at “The Gospel Coalition”
Is the God of the Old Testament Cruel?
Updated January 7, 2016 (first published November 19, 2014) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
“The heart of God was revealed in the amazing words that Jesus spoke from the cross” Unbelievers have long used Israel’s destruction of pagan nations in Canaan as evidence that the God of the Old Testament is unjust and cruel.
“When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire” (Deuteronomy 7:1-5).
The following facts must be taken into consideration:
First, God waited 400 years before judging these nations, which reminds us that He is very longsuffering.
“And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Genesis 15:13-16).
Second, the nations in question were devoted to every sort of vile moral perversion, including homosexuality, rape, incest, bestiality, and the burning of their children.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. (Leviticus 18:1-3) … Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness. Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her. And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: AND THE LAND IS DEFILED: THEREFORE I DO VISIT THE INIQUITY THEREOF UPON IT, AND THE LAND ITSELF VOMITETH OUT HER INHABITANTS” (Leviticus 18:1-3, 19-25).
“When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:29-31).
These nations were destroyed for their gross moral wickedness.
“For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. (Deuteronomy 18:12).
“Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:24-25).
Consider the condition of Sodom and Gomorrah hundreds of years before God ordered the destruction of these nations. The men of Sodom surrounded Lot’s house and tried to force themselves on the visiting angels (Gen. 19:4-9).
These pagan nations were proud and bold in their sin (Isa. 3:9).
It is not morally wrong for a holy, lawgiving God to punish those who willfully, flagrantly, and unrepentantly break His laws.
Those who charge God with injustice and cruelty for punishing wicked nations are hypocritical, because they themselves believe in law and order and support the punishment of those who commit crimes such as rape, theft, child molestation, and murder, particularly when those crimes are committed against them and their loved ones.
Men are quick to call for justice when they are offended, but they criticize God for exercising justice against sinners.
Three, God’s judgments are warnings to others.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and other Canaanite cities are warnings to those who will listen, even to these end times. This is emphasized in Scripture:
“And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6).
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).
Even in judgment, God is merciful. What He loves above all is mercy and what He is above all is a Saviour, but men must repent and turn to Him. That is His requirement, and the Creator has every right to set the rules!
Four, the Lord was merciful to those like Rahab who repented of their idolatry and put their faith in Jehovah God (Joshua 2).
The whole tenor of Scripture teaches that God delights in mercy more than in punishment. He “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He “will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Five, God is omniscient.
He knows all things. He knows the beginning from the end. He knows what people will do and the choices they make even before they are born and while they are still infants. It seems cruel and unreasonable for God to have children killed with their parents, but God knew what these children would do when they grew up, as He knew in the days of Noah.
Six, it was necessary for those wicked pagan nations to be overthrown so that Israel could be established in that land as a light to the world.
Had they been left alone, Israel would have been corrupted morally and religiously within a very short time (Deut. 7:2-6). The destruction of those nations was actually an act of great compassion on God’s part. The pagan nations that were destroyed deserved what they got by persisting in their sin, and by exercising His righteous judgment on them God was providing blessing for the whole world. Through Israel, God gave the world His divine revelation in the Bible, and through Israel He brought the Saviour into the world to die for man’s sin. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Those who charge God with injustice and cruelty ignore the fact that God Himself paid the price demanded of His own holy law so that men can be saved. The heart of God was revealed in the amazing words that Jesus spoke from the cross in regard to the people who had so terribly, unjustly abused him: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The God revealed in the Bible is the most compassionate Person in the universe. In fact, He is the source of all true love and compassion, but He is also a thrice holy, lawgiving God, and He cannot be judged by man’s puny, inconsistent standards.
David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, email@example.com
Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc.’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service, an e-mail listing for Fundamental Baptists and other fundamentalist, Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. OUR GOAL IN THIS PARTICULAR ASPECT OF OUR MINISTRY IS NOT DEVOTIONAL BUT IS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO ASSIST PREACHERS IN THE PROTECTION OF THE CHURCHES IN THIS APOSTATE HOUR.
Matthew Henry – Commentary on 2 Peter 2
The apostle, having in the foregoing chapter exhorted them to proceed and advance in the Christian race, now comes to remove, as much as in him lay, what he could not but apprehend would hinder their complying with his exhortation. He therefore gives them fair warning of false teachers, by whom they might be in danger of being seduced. To prevent this,
- I. He describes these seducers as impious in themselves, and very pernicious to others (v. 1-3).
- II. He assures them of the punishment that shall be inflicted on them (v. 3-6).
- III. He tells us how contrary the method is which God takes with those who fear him (v. 7-9).
- IV. He fills up the rest of the chapter with a further description of those seducers of whom he would have them beware.
- I. In the end of the former chapter there is mention made of holy men of God, who lived in the times of the Old Testament, and were used as the amanuenses of the Holy Ghost, in writing the sacred oracles; but in the beginning of this he tells us they had, even at that time, false prophets in the church as well as true. In all ages of the church, and under all dispensations, when God sends true prophets, the devil sends some to seduce and deceive, false prophets in the Old Testament, and false Christs, false apostles, and seducing teachers, in the New. Concerning these observe,
- 1. Their business is to bring in destructive errors, even damnable heresies, as the business of teachers sent of God is to show the way of truth, even the true way to everlasting life. There are damnable heresies as well as damnable practices; and false teachers are industrious to spread pernicious errors.
- 2. Damnable heresies are commonly brought in privily, under the cloak and colour of truth.
- 3. Those who introduce destructive heresies deny the Lord that bought them. They reject and refuse to hear and learn of the great teacher sent from God, though he is the only Saviour and Redeemer of men, who paid a price sufficient to redeem as many worlds of sinners as there are sinners in the world.
- 4. Those who bring in errors destructive to others bring swift (and therefore sure) destruction upon themselves. Self-destroyers are soon destroyed; and those who are so hardened as to propagate errors destructive to others shall surely and suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
- II. He proceeds, in the second verse, to tell us the consequence with respect to others; and here we may learn,
- 1. Corrupt leaders seldom fail of many to follow them; though the way of error is a pernicious way, yet many are ready to walk therein. Men drink in iniquity like water, and are pleased to live in error. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the people love to have it so.
- 2. The spreading of error will bring up an evil report on the way of truth; that is, the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. The Christian religion is from the God of truth as the author, leads to true happiness in the enjoyment of the true God as the end, and works truth in the inward part as the means of acceptably serving God. And yet this way of truth is traduced and blasphemed by those who embrace and advance destructive errors. This the apostle has foretold as what should certainly come to pass. Let us not be offended at any thing of this in our day, but take care that we give no occasion to the enemy to blaspheme the holy name whereby we are called, or speak evil of that way whereby we hope to be saved.
- III. Observe, in the next place, the method seducers take to draw disciples after them: they use feigned words; they flatter, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple, inducing them to yield entirely to the opinions which these seducers endeavour to propagate, and sell and deliver themselves over to the instruction and government of these false teacher, who make a gain of those whom they make their proselytes, serving themselves and making some advantage of them; for all this is through covetousness, with a desire and design to get more wealth, or credit, or commendation, by increasing the number of their followers. The faithful ministers of Christ, who show men the way of truth, desire the profit and advantage of their followers, that they may be saved; but these seducing teachers desire and design only their own temporal advantage and worldly grandeur.
Men are apt to think that a reprieve is the forerunner of a pardon, and that if judgment be not speedily executed it is, or will be, certainly reversed. But the apostle tells us that how successful and prosperous soever false teachers may be, and that for a time, yet their judgment lingereth not. God has determined long ago how he will deal with them. Such unbelievers, who endeavour to turn others from the faith, are condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on them. The righteous Judge will speedily take vengeance; the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. To prove this assertion, here are several examples of the righteous judgment of God, in taking vengeance on sinners, proposed to our serious consideration.
- I. See how God dealt with the angels who sinned. Observe,
- 1. No excellency will exempt a sinner from punishment. If the angels, who excel us vastly in strength and knowledge, violate the law of God, the sentence which that law awards shall be executed upon them, and that without mercy or mitigation, for God did not spare them. Hence observe,
- 2. By how much the more excellent the offender, by so much the more severe the punishment. These angels, who had the advantage of men as to the dignity of their nature, are immediately punished. There is no sparing them for a few days, no favour at all shown them.
- 3. Sin debases and degrades the persons who commit it. The angels of heaven are cast down from the height of their excellency, and divested of all their glory and dignity, upon their disobedience. Whoever sins against God does a manifest hurt to himself.
- 4. Those who rebel against the God of heaven shall all be sent down to hell. There is no place nor state between the height of glory and the depth of misery in which they shall be allowed to rest. If creatures sin in heaven, they must suffer in hell.
- 5. Sin is the work of darkness, and darkness is the wages of sin. The darkness of misery and torment follows the darkness of sin. Those who will not walk according to the light and direction of God’s law shall be deprived of the light of God’s countenance and the comforts of his presence.
- 6. As sin binds men over to punishment, so misery and torment hold men under punishment. The darkness which is their misery keeps them so that they cannot get away from their torment.
- 7. The last degree of torment is not till the day of judgment. The sinning angels, though in hell already, are yet reserved to the judgment of the great day.
- II. See how God dealt with the old world, even in much the same way that he dealt with the angels. He spared not the old world. Here observe,
- 1. The number of offenders signifies no more to procure any favour than the quality. If the sin be universal, the punishment shall likewise extend to all. But,
- 2. If there be but a few righteous, they shall be preserved. God does not destroy the good with the bad. In wrath he remembers mercy.
- 3. Those who are preachers of righteousness in an age of universal corruption and degeneracy, holding forth the word of life in an unblamable and exemplary conversation, shall be preserved in a time of general destruction.
- 4. God can make use of those creatures as the instruments of his vengeance in punishing sinners which he at first made and appointed for their service and benefit. He destroyed the whole world by water; but observe,
- 5. What was the procuring cause of this: it was a world of ungodly men. Ungodliness puts men out of the divine protection, and exposes them to utter destruction.
- III. See how God dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah; though they were situated in a country like the garden of the Lord, yet, if in such a fruitful soil they abound in sin, God can soon turn a fruitful land into barrenness and a well-watered country into dust and ashes. Observe,
- 1. No political union or confederacy can keep off judgments from a sinful people. Sodom and the neighbouring cities were no more secured by their regular government than the angels by the dignity of their nature or the old world by their vast number.
- 2. God can make use of contrary creatures to punish incorrigible sinners. He destroys the old world by water, and Sodom by fire. He who keeps fire and water from hurting his people (Isa. 43:2) can make either to destroy his enemies; therefore they are never safe.
- 3. Most heinous sins bring most grievous judgments. Those who were abominable in their vices were remarkable for their plagues. Those who are sinners exceedingly before the Lord must expect the most dreadful vengeance.
- 4. The punishment of sinners in former ages is designed for the example of those who come after. “Follow them, not only in the time of living, but in their course and way of living.’ Men who live ungodly must see what they are to expect if they go on still in a course of impiety. Let us take warning by all the instances of God’s taking vengeance, which are recorded for our admonition, and to prevent our promising ourselves impunity, though we go on in a course of sin.
When God sends destruction on the ungodly, he commands deliverance for the righteous; and, if he rain fire and brimstone on the wicked, he will cover the head of the just, and they shall be hid in the day of his anger. This we have an instance of in his preserving Lot. Here observe,
- 1. The character given of Lot; he is called a just man; this he was as to the generally prevailing bent of his heart and through the main of his conversation. God does not account men just or unjust from one single act, but from their general course of life. And here is a just man in the midst of a most corrupt and profligate generation universally gone off from all good. He does not follow the multitude to do evil, but in a city of injustice he walks uprightly.
- 2. The impression the sins of others made upon this righteous man. Though the sinner takes pleasure in his wickedness, it is a grief and vexation to the soul of the righteous. In bad company we cannot escape either guilt or grief. Let the sins of others be a trouble to us, otherwise it will not be possible for us to keep ourselves pure.
- 3. Here is a particular mention of the duration and continuance of this good man’s grief and vexation: it was from day to day. Being accustomed to hear and see their wickedness did not reconcile him to it, nor abate of the horror that was occasioned by it. This is the righteous man whom God preserved from the desolating judgment that destroyed all round about him. From this instance we are taught to argue that God knows how to deliver his people and punish his enemies. It is here presupposed that the righteous must have their temptations and trials. The devil and his instruments will thrust sore at them, that they may fall; and, if we will get to heaven, it must be through many tribulations. It is therefore our duty to reckon upon and prepare for them. Observe here,
- (1.) The Lord knows those that are his. He has set apart him who is godly for himself; and, if there is but one in five cities, he knows him; and where there is a greater number he cannot be ignorant of nor overlook any one of them.
- (2.) The wisdom of God is never at a loss about ways and means to deliver his people. They are often utterly at a loss, and can see no way; he can deliver a great many.
- (3.) The deliverance of the godly is the work of God, that which he concerns himself in, both his wisdom to contrive the way and his power to work out the deliverance out of temptation, to prevent their falling into sin and their being ruined by their troubles. And surely, if he can deliver out of temptation, he could keep from falling into it if he did not see such trials to be necessary.
- (4.) God makes a very great difference in his dealings with the godly and the wicked. When he saves his people from destruction, he delivers over his enemies to deserved ruin. The unjust has no share in the salvation God works out for the righteous. The wicked are reserved to the day of judgment. Here we see,
- [1.] There is a day of judgment. God has appointed a day wherein he will judge the world.
- [2.] The preservation of impenitent sinners is only a reserving of them to the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
The apostle’s design being to warn us of, and arm us against, seducers, he now returns to discourse more particularly of them, and give us an account of their character and conduct, which abundantly justifies the righteous Judge of the world in reserving them in an especial manner for the most severe and heavy doom, as Cain is taken under special protection that he might be kept for uncommon vengeance. But why will God thus deal with these false teachers? This he shows in what follows.
- I. These walk after the flesh; they follow the devices and desires of their own hearts, they give up themselves to the conduct of their own fleshly mind, refusing to make their reason stoop to divine revelation, and to bring every thought to the obedience of Christ; they, in their lives, act directly contrary to God’s righteous precepts, and comply with the demands of corrupt nature. Evil opinions are often accompanied with evil practices; and those who are for propagating error are for improving in wickedness. They will not sit down contented in the measure of iniquity to which they have attained, nor is it enough for them to stand up, and maintain, and defend, what wickedness they have already committed, but they walk after the flesh, they go on in their sinful course, and increase unto more ungodliness and greater degrees of impurity and uncleanness too; they also pour contempt on those whom God has set in authority over them and requires them to honour. These therefore despise the ordinance of God, and we need not wonder at it, for they are bold and daring, obstinate and refractory, and will not only cherish contempt in their hearts, but with their tongues will utter slanderous and reproachful words of those who are set over them.
- II. This he aggravates, by setting forth the very different conduct of more excellent creatures, even the angels, of whom observe,
- 1. They are greater in power and might, and that even than those who are clothed with authority and power among the sons of men, and much more than those false teachers who are slanderous revilers of magistrates and governors; the good angels vastly exceed us in all natural and moral excellences, in strength, understanding, and holiness too.
- 2. Good angels are accusers of sinful creatures, either of their own kind, or ours, or both. Those who are allowed to behold the face of God, and stand before his throne, cannot but have a zeal for his honour, and accuse and blame those who dishonour him.
- 3. Angels bring their accusations of sinful creatures before the Lord; they do not publish their faults, and tell their crimes to their fellow-creatures, in a way of calumny and slander; but it is before the Lord, who is the Judge, and will be the avenger, of all impiety and injustice.
- 4. Good angels mingle no bitter revilings nor base reproaches with any of the accusations or charges they bring against the wickedest and worst of criminals. Let us, who pray that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven, imitate the angels in this particular; if we complain of wicked men, let it be to God, and that not with rage and reviling, but with compassion and composedness of mind, that may evidence that we belong to him who is meek and merciful.
- III. The apostle, having shown (v. 11) how unlike seducing teachers are to the most excellent creatures, proceeds (v. 12) to show how like they are to the most inferior: they are like the horse and mule, which have no understanding; they are as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed. Men, under the power of sin, are so far from observing divine revelation that they do not exercise reason, nor act according to the direction thereof. They walk by sight, and not by faith, and judge of things according to their senses; as these represent things pleasant and agreeable, so they must be approved and esteemed. Brute-creatures follow the instinct of their sensitive appetite, and sinful man follows the inclination of his carnal mind; these refuse to employ the understanding and reason God has given them, and so are ignorant of what they might and ought to know; and therefore observe,
- 1. Ignorance is the cause of evil-speaking; and,
- 2. Destruction will be the effect of it. These persons shall be utterly destroyed in their own corruption. Their vices not only expose them to the wrath of God in another world, but often bring them to misery and ruin in this life; and surely such impudent offenders, who glory in their shame, and to whom openness in sin is an improvement of the pleasure of sinning, most justly deserve all the plagues of this life and the pains of the next in the greatest extremity. Therefore whatever they meet with is the just reward of their unrighteousness. Such sinners as sport themselves in mischief deceive themselves and disgrace all they belong to, for by one sort of sins they prepare themselves for another; their extravagant feastings, their intemperance in eating and drinking, bring them to commit all manner of lewdness, so that their eyes are full of adultery, their wanton looks show their own impure lusts and are designed and directed to kindle the like in others; and this is what they cannot cease from-the heart is insatiate in lusting and the eye incessant in looking after what may gratify their unclean desires, and those who are themselves impudent and incessant in sin are very diligent and often successful in deceiving others and drawing others into the same excess of riot. But here observe who those are who are in the greatest danger of being led away into error and impiety, even the unstable. Those whose hearts are not established with grace are easily turned into the way of sin, or else such sensual wretches would not be able to prevail upon them, for these are not only riotous and lascivious, but covetous also, and these practices their hearts are exercised with; they pant after riches, and the desire of their souls is to the wealth of this world: it is a considerable part of their work to contrive to get wealth; in this their hearts are exercised, and then they execute their projects; and, if men abandon themselves to all sorts of lusts, we cannot wonder that the apostle should call them cursed children, for they are liable to the curse of God denounced against such ungodly and unrighteous men, and they bring a curse upon all who hearken and adhere to them.
- IV. The apostle (v. 15, 16) proves that they are cursed children, even such covetous persons as the Lord abhors, by showing,
- 1. They have forsaken the right way; and it cannot be but such self-seekers must be out of the right way, which is a self-denying way.
- 2. They have gone into a wrong way: they have erred and strayed from the way of life, and gone over into the path which leads to death, and takes hold of hell; and this he makes out by showing it to be the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor.
- (1.) That is a way of unrighteousness into which men are led by the wages of unrighteousness.
- (2.) Outward temporal good things are the wages sinners expect and promise themselves, though they are often disappointed.
- (3.) The inordinate love of the good things of this world turns men out of the way which leads to the unspeakably better things of another life; the love of riches and honour turned Balaam out of the way of his duty, although he knew that the way he took displeased the Lord.
- (4.) Those who from the same principle are guilty of the same practices with notorious sinners are, in the judgment of God, the followers of such vile offenders, and therefore must reckon upon being at last where they are: they shall have their portion with those in another world whom they imitated in this.
- (5.) Heinous and hardened sinners sometimes meet with rebukes for their iniquity. God stops them in their way, and opens the mouth of conscience, or by some startling providence startles and affrights them.
- (6.) Though some more uncommon and extraordinary rebuke may for a little while cool men’s courage, and hinder their violent progress in the way of sin, it will not make them forsake the way of iniquity and go over into the way of holiness. If rebuking a sinner for his iniquity could have made a man return to his duty, surely the rebuke of Balaam must have produced this effect; for here is a surprising miracle wrought: the dumb ass, in whose mouth no man can expect to meet with reproof, is enabled to speak, and that with a human voice, and to her owner and master (who is here called a prophet, for the Lord appeared and spoke sometimes to him, Num. 22:23, 24, but indeed he was among the prophets of the Lord as Judas among the apostles of Jesus Christ), and she exposes the madness of his conduct and opposes his going on in this evil way, and yet all in vain. Those who will not yield to usual methods of reproof will be but little influenced by miraculous appearances to turn them from their sinful courses. Balaam was indeed restrained from actually cursing the people, but he had so strong a desire after the honours and riches that were promised him that he went as far as he could, and did his utmost to get from under the restraint that was upon him.
- V. The apostle proceeds (v. 17) to a further description of seducing teachers, whom he sets forth,
- 1. As wells, or fountains, without water. Observe,
- (1.) Ministers should be as wells or fountains, where the people may find instruction, direction, and comfort; but
- (2.) False teachers have nothing of this to impart to those who consult them: the word of truth is the water of life, which refreshes the souls that receive it; but these deceivers are set upon spreading and promoting error, and therefore are set forth as empty, because there is no truth in them. In vain then are all our expectations of being fed and filled with knowledge and understanding by those who are themselves ignorant and empty.
- 2. As clouds carried with a tempest. When we see a cloud we expect a refreshing shower from it; but these are clouds which yield no rain, for they are driven with the wind, but not of the Spirit, but the stormy wind or tempest of their own ambition and covetousness. They espouse and spread those opinions that will procure most applause and advantage to themselves; and as clouds obstruct the light of the sun, and darken the air, so do these darken counsel by words without knowledge and wherein there is no truth; and, seeing these men are for promoting darkness in this world, it is very just that the mist of darkness should be their portion in the next. Utter darkness was prepared for the devil, the great deceiver, and his angels, those instruments that he uses to turn men from the truth, and therefore for them it is reserved, and that for ever; the fire of hell is everlasting, and the smoke of the bottomless pit rises up for ever and ever. And it is just with God to deal thus with them, because
- (1.) They allure those they deal with, and draw them into a net, or catch them as men do fish; and,
- (2.) It is with great swelling words of vanity, lofty expressions, which have a great sound, but little sense.
- (3.) They work upon the corrupt affections and carnal fleshly lusts of men, proposing what is grateful to them. And,
- (4.) They seduce persons who in reality avoided and kept at a distance from those who spread and those who embraced hurtful and destructive errors. Observe,
- [1.] By application and industry men attain a skilfulness and dexterity in promoting error. They are as artful and as successful as the fisher, who makes angling his daily employment. The business of these men is to draw disciples after them, and in their methods and management there are some things worth observing, how they suit their bait to those they desire to catch.
- [2.] Erroneous teachers have a peculiar advantage to win men over to them, because they have sensual pleasure to take them with; whereas the ministers of Christ put men upon self-denial, and the mortifying of those lusts that others gratify and please: wonder not therefore that truth prevails no more, or that errors spread so much.
- [3.] Persons who have for a while adhered to the truth, and kept clear of errors, may by the subtlety and industry of seducers be so far deceived as to fall into those errors they had for a while clean escaped. “Be therefore always upon your guard, maintain a godly jealousy of yourselves, search the scriptures, pray for the Spirit to instruct and establish you in the truth, walk humbly with God, and watch against every thing that may provoke him to give you up to a reprobate mind, that you may not be taken with the fair and specious pretences of these false teachers, who promise liberty to all who will hearken to them, not true Christian liberty for the service of God, but a licentiousness in sin, to follow the devices and desires of their own hearts.’ To prevent these men’s gaining proselytes, he tells us that, in the midst of all their talk of liberty, they themselves are the vilest slaves, for they are the servants of corruption; their own lusts have gotten a complete victory over them, and they are actually in bondage to them, making provision for the flesh, to satisfy its cravings, comply with its directions, and obey its commands. Their minds and hearts are so far corrupted and depraved that they have neither power nor will to refuse the task that is imposed on them. They are conquered and captivated by their spiritual enemies, and yield their members servants of unrighteousness: and what a shame it is to be overcome and commanded by those who are themselves the servants of corruption, and slaves to their own lusts! This consideration should prevent our being led away by these seducers; and to this he adds another (v. 20): it is not only a shame and disgrace to be seduced by those who are themselves the slaves of sin, and led captive by the devil at his pleasure, but it is a real detriment to those who have clean escaped from those who live in error, for hereby their latter end is made worse than their beginning. Here we see,
- First, It is an advantage to escape the pollutions of the world, to be kept from gross and scandalous sins, though men are not thoroughly converted and savingly changed; for hereby we are kept from grieving those who are truly serious and emboldening those who are openly profane; whereas, if we run with others to the same excess of riot and abandon ourselves to the sins of the age, we afflict and dishearten those who endeavour to walk as becomes the gospel, and strengthen the hands of those who are already engaged in open rebellion against the Most High, as well as alienate ourselves more from God, and harden our hearts against him.
- Secondly, Some men are, for a time, kept from the pollutions of the world, by the knowledge of Christ, who are not savingly renewed in the spirit of their mind. A religious education has restrained many whom the grace of God has not renewed: if we receive the light of the truth, and have a notional knowledge of Christ in our heads, it may be of some present service to us; but we must receive the love of the truth, and hide God’s word in our heart, or it will not sanctify and save us.
- Thirdly, Those who have, for a time, escaped the pollutions of the world, are at first ensnared and entangled by false teachers, who first perplex men with some plausible and specious objections against the truths of the gospel; and the more ignorant and unstable are hereby made to stagger, and brought to question the truth of doctrines they have received, because they cannot solve all the difficulties, nor answer all the objections, that are urged by these seducers.
- Fourthly, When men are once entangled, they are easily overcome; therefore should Christians keep close to the word of God, and watch against those who seek to perplex and bewilder them, and that because, if men who have once escaped are again entangled, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
- 1. As wells, or fountains, without water. Observe,
- VI. The apostle, in the last two verses of the chapter, sets himself to prove that a state of apostasy is worse than a state of ignorance; for it is a condemning of the way of righteousness, after they have had some knowledge of it, and expressed some liking to it; it carries in it a declaring that they have found some iniquity in the way of righteousness and some falsehood in the word of truth. Now to bring up such an evil report upon the good way of God, and such a false charge against the way of truth, must necessarily expose to the heaviest condemnation; the misery of such deserters of Christ and his gospel is more unavoidable and more intolerable than that of other offenders; for,
- 1. God is more highly provoked by those who by their conduct despise the gospel, as well as disobey the law, and who reproach and pour contempt upon God and his grace.
- 2. The devil more narrowly watches and more closely confines those whom he has recovered, after they had once gone off from him and professed to be the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 12:45); they are kept under a stronger guard, and no wonder it should be so when they have licked up their own vomit again, returning to the same errors and impieties that they had once cast off and seemed to detest and loathe, and wallowing in that filthiness from which they appeared once to be really cleansed. Well, if the scripture gives such an account of Christianity on the one hand, and of sin on the other, as we have here in these two verses, we certainly ought highly to approve of the former and persevere therein, because it is a way of righteousness, and a holy commandment, and to loathe and keep at the greatest distance from the latter because it is set forth as most offensive and abominable.
It’s all fun and games…’til someone actually defines Christianity.
I’m a Christian.
You’re a Christian.
Practically everybody in America is a Christian.
Naturally then, this makes practically every politician in America a Christian (Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton included, of course).
Just ask ’em.
When they respond by saying that they’re a Christian, that can only mean one thing: They’re a Christian. More often than not, they’ll claim to have been a Christian for a loooong time (sometimes from birth, even).
So if there’s one thing we know, it’s that we have oodles and oodles of professing Christians ’round here in ‘Merica. We have bucketloads and truckloads of supposed followers of Jesus Christ here in the good ol’ U S of A.
[insert “U! S! A!” chant here]
Which makes this whole “steaming pile of a wrecked culture” thing kinda mystifying then, right? I mean, if we have all o’ these “Christians” wandering the countryside and permeating the American culture, how is it that said culture is in the midst of a headlong qualitative free-fall into oblivion that only seems to be accelerating in severity and momentum by the minute?
The answer is as obvious as it is hated by most professing American Christians. The answer is that most professing Christians simply aren’t really Christians at all. For all of the sweet vague talk about Jesus, Christianity and the like that may pour from their lips, they are actually vigorously and personally opposed to the true confrontational and corrective Gospel of Jesus Christ. Where true Christianity brings light and life to every aspect of life, their version of Christianity is just another dead religion in a box. (See: Christianity in a Box: Containing the Contagion of Obedience to Christ.)
And that, friends, is “the truth that dare not be spoken”. Proclaiming that fairly obvious, glaring, yet also very hard and convicting truth is something that you just…don’t…do.
Not in “Christian” America.
‘Cause it’s not nice.
It’s not loving.
As the world and Satan defines things like “nice” and “loving”, anyway.
You just don’t ask American professing Christians what their claim to Christ actually means in any kind of detail. You dare not challenge them that way.
And you really don’t ask ’em to define their understanding of things – like the term “Christian” itself – directly and exclusively from [*gasp*] the Bible. I mean, how rude is that, right?
And disrespectful, too!
And ya really, really don’t ask ’em how they go about applying what the Bible says about everything in their daily lives because…well…when it comes right down to it, they just don’t care what the Word of God says in detail.
If they don’t care about what it says in the first place, they’re obviously not interested in applying what it says to anything that makes them uncomfortable or challenges their assumptions, traditions, and feelings. They’re not up for testing themselves to be sure that they’re in the faith, as the Word commands (see: 2 Corinthians 13:5), because the faith that they have simply isn’t biblical Christianity, however much they may like the sound and comfort of using that label.
They want the word or the tag of Christianity, but not as a term rooted and defined by the binding, sufficient, authoritative, and supremely loving details contained in the Word of God. No, they don’t want that Christianity. They want the one that is just a synonym for “nice”. Or “loving” Or…you get the picture.
They want the term “Christianity” as it is redefined by their own personal emotions, traditions, hopes, and desires, rather than a true biblical Christianity that is defined by the Nature of God as revealed in His Word. (See: The Rise of Mr. Potato Jesus)
So for them “Christian” means “nice”, with a purportedly deep and spiritual cherry on top.
They want to claim Christianity without seeking to know and submit to Christ as King in practice.
And if you dare point these truths out, you know what you are?
Finish article HERE
|Are There Blood Moons Rising? with Mark Hitchcock (part 1)|
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. In today’s program, Tom begins a two-part series with guest Mark Hitchcock. Here’s TBC Executive Director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. The subject for today and next week is what some are teaching about what the Scripture refers to as a blood moon. Now, it’s generated quite a bit of excitement as well as controversy, and, as most of our listeners know, the mission of this program and The Berean Call is to compare whatever is being taught in Christendom today with what is presented in God’s Word. And on board to discuss prophecy and in particularly the current teachings regarding blood moons is Mark Hitchcock. He is the pastor/teacher of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, OK, and the author of a number of books dealing with biblical prophecy. His perspective from his book Blood Moons Rising, which we, by the way, offer here at The Berean Call, will be central to our discussion.
Mark, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Mark: Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s great to be with you.
Tom: You know, Mark, most of your…well, I didn’t realize this…most of your two dozen-or-so books deal with biblical prophecy. Now, I have to ask you, what sparked your interest in Bible prophecy, and what value do you see in prophecy for believers-and even those who don’t know the Lord?
Mark: Well, I got interested in Bible prophecy a little bit when I was around 11-12-13 years old. That’s back when The Late Great Planet Earth came out. I’m sure many of the listeners will remember that. In May of 1970 – is when the Late Great Planet Earth. A lot of people [were] interested in that, and the youth group I was in – a lot of talk about it. At that time, it just kind of at that time…my interest was piqued, but when I really became interested in prophecy was in my early twenties. That’s when I really began to study the Bible seriously for myself, and really, it rose out of the issue that when I read the Bible, there were so many parts of the Bible I couldn’t understand, and I finally realized that if I would understand Bible prophecy, since 28 percent of the Bible was prophetic at the time it was written – that if I understood prophecy, I could understand the Bible.
So, really, my love for prophecy is my love for the Bible. And I just felt like – and I still feel that way today – if you don’t understand at least some of the basics of prophecy, there are just large portions of the Bible that remain an enigma. So that’s really a lot of my interest in it, and I do think as well that it’s very relevant today for believers. Obviously, it’s a cleansing hope that we have – a purifying hope – that we believe Jesus could come any time. It’ll change the way that we live. It helps us understand this world around us. We live in a world that’s chaotic and uncertain, and we know how the story ends when we understand the Bible. So it’s a great comfort and hope that we have.
And to me, the message for unbelievers is that Jesus could come back at any time. They need to be ready. And I think even a lot of unbelievers, a lot of secular people, have the idea that this world’s getting near closing time. And I think that Bible prophecy has a unique message, because people are innately interested in the future. They’re curious about it. And we can come in with Bible prophecy and what the Scriptures say, and we can use that to set the table, if you will, as a platform, then, to reach people with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tom: You know, Mark, you mentioned The Late Great Planet Earth. At that time – I was a Roman Catholic for almost 30 years – and it was at that time that I came to the Lord. And, just as you mentioned, you were 11 and 12 – well, I was in my thirties, and, Mark, I got really excited about prophecy and this thing called the Rapture because, as a Roman Catholic, forget that! You know, we were never given any kind of teaching about prophecy, although some of the so-called Saints promoted their ideas about the way things were going to happen. We had the “Secret of Fatima,” and all of those kinds of things, but nothing like biblical prophecy. And I really got excited about it, and, as I said, especially the Rapture! I mean that’s so foreign to Roman Catholicism, and especially, then, getting to know Dave Hunt and starting to work with him – you can imagine, that love for prophecy and love for God’s Word never…it just continued to grow and grow and grow.
Mark: No, that’s right. And it does. It’s such a framework for really understanding what the Bible says, and people are interested in it, and, again, we don’t just talk about things because people are interested in it, but on the other hand, if there is something that people are innately curious about that the Bible deals with and talks about a lot, and certainly we should talk about it at least some. And we don’t want to make Bible prophecy a hobby horse, or that’s all we talk about. I’m the pastor of a church, and so most of the time when I preach, it’s not on prophecy. I’ve written a lot of books on it, but I speak most of the time on things not prophecy related.
But God’s people need a well-balanced diet. Bible prophecy and eschatology and study of the end times, it’s certainly a part of that.
Tom: Now, Mark, before we get to blood moons, which we really want to get to because it’s an issue today, but I think back about prophecy and the value of prophecy – I mentioned working with Dave Hunt, and we have written about this and promoted prophecy as an incredible apologetic. Now, as you know, God declares Himself as the God of prophecy and that He alone knows the future, and that’s a criterion for being the only true God.
I was stunned going through (not recently, but over the years) going through Isaiah, and in chapters 41-48, over and over and over again, God claims that He alone knows the future, and He challenges the “gods” – that is, the demons, actually, behind the idols – to foretell what’s ahead. We also know, as you mentioned, 28 percent of the Bible foretells future events.
Now, as an apologetic, don’t you think that’s just a wonderful, incredible, tremendous proof that the Bible is indeed God’s Word? What other book can do that?
Mark: Not a thing! I mean, to me, it is the proof of the authenticity of the Bible, because, you know, people will say, “Well, the Bible changes people’s lives.” Well, other people can say, “Well, I have a book here, and it changed my life.” So that’s a subjective reference. To me, it IS Bible prophecy. That’s what God says, as you mentioned in Isaiah. He’s saying, “This is the…I’ll lay down the gauntlet here. Let someone else come and tell the future with 100 percent accuracy.
Dr. John Walvoord, who was one of my mentors at Dallas Seminary, he has a book Every Prophecy in the Bible, and he has about a thousand prophecies, and his research found that 500 have been fulfilled, and there are 500 yet to be fulfilled. Now, that’s quite a track record! A 100 percent accuracy 100 percent of the time. And only someone who is omniscient and omnipotent can tell the future. And so, to me, Bible prophecy, the fulfillment of prophecies, with great exactness – 100 percent of the time – is the ultimate apologetic for the truth of the Word of God.
Tom: Amen. Amen. Of course, on the other side of the coin, there is a down side regarding biblical prophecy, but I’m talking about its abuse. We’re going to talk a little bit about that. But I want you to give me some of your thoughts about the following – you know, just briefly or however long you want to take.
False prophecy and false prophets, Old Testament and New, and the Bible issuing really serious warnings about such things; the abuse of prophecy: what are your comments on that?
Mark: Well, prophecy is so valuable. Again, it’s this great apologetic for Scripture, and God claims He’s the only one that can do it, and prophecy – really, it’s a precious thing – that God would come and reveal to us the future – what’s going to take place. And when people come in and claim to be speaking for God and they’re not, and they abuse this prophetic gift – and, of course, they can’t really foretell the future, but they claim to be able to – then, as we’ve seen in modern times, first of all, it gives prophecy, it gives the Bible, a black eye; it gives God a black eye, because many people then think, “Oh, well, then, the Bible’s wrong!” or “Well, God is wrong!” Where actually, it’s not God who’s wrong; it’s this person, because they just went out on their own and God doesn’t speak through them at all.
So it’s very…it’s so dangerous because, again…and, of course, Satan comes in and takes what God uses, and what God has for good, and he comes in and he twists it and he counterfeits it, and he comes in to get people to where their confidence in the Bible is eroded, their confidence in God is eroded. And so Satan has used that throughout history: false prophets, false teachers, that come in to lead people astray from the truth. And we’ve seen that throughout church history.
But the Bible tells us that in the end times that’s going to proliferate even more. False prophets, false teachers. I think it’s interesting – the last book in the Bible before the book of Revelation is that tiny little book of Jude, which is about apostasy in the church. I’ve heard many people describe Jude as the foyer, or the entrance, to the book of Revelation. So it’s interesting, the placement of these books in the Scriptures as well as their inspiration – the words being inspired.
Tom: And you know, you mentioned that when you preach and teach you want to present the full counsel of God, but I think about Jude, you know, it seems that he…when he started, he said, “You know, I’d really kind of like to deal with the deeper things of God. However, I must tell you this: you must earnestly contend for the faith.” So, you’re right. It’s very important. The other thing that you mentioned about God kind of throwing down the gauntlet for the idols, the demo ns behind the idols, was to prove that they are God, too. Well, we go back to Genesis 3:1: “Yea, hath God said…” you know, and then basically, the serpent, Satan, in calling God a liar: “You will not surely die.” Well, here we have the same thing with all the proliferation of psychics and fortunetellers, channelers, mediums, astrologers, and so on – that seem to me that’s an attempt at “hey, look, God’s not the only one that can do this.”
Mark: That’s right, and there’s a lot of these things out there happening today, more and more. Because, again, I think as times become more uncertain, there’s more chaos, there’s more confusion in the world, people want even more so to know “What’s going to happen?” And, of course, the Good News is God has told us, at least a lot of what’s going to happen in the Bible. He hasn’t told us everything, but He’s told us what’s going to happen, and we can know our own destiny, and that’s the Good News. But people want more than that. They’ll reject…It’s always fascinating to me. It’s tragic. People will reject the truth of the living God, who’s given 500 prophecies that have come true – they reject that, and they’ll go after some flimsy prophecies and things out here that have no basis whatsoever. It really shows the hardness of the human heart apart from God – God’s Spirit.
Tom: Yeah. My concern is a zealousness. Some run ahead of God in applying what they think is prophecy being fulfilled. Now we know the prophecy related to the establishment of the nation of Israel – 1948. I mean, that’s clear cut. You have the scriptures to back that up. But, Mark, my concern is those who see prophecy being fulfilled in every current event, you know, even to the point – we’ll take something major, like the attack on New York City, 9/11 – doesn’t that create some problems and some issues?
Mark: Sure it does, and basically that’s historicism, where people are just saying all these prophecies are being fulfilled today, and they try to go back and find scriptures for these things. But we don’t live in the end times yet, I don’t believe. The Rapture’s not occurred yet. We’re not in the end times. We see the regathering of the nation of Israel; we see apostasy in the church – these are some broad prophecies we see fulfilled. But I think we live in a time today – I call it “stage setting.” We’re not seeing prophecies being fulfilled so much as we’re seeing the stage being set, the players moving into place for the future fulfillment of prophecy in the end times. So when we try to come in and say every earthquake is a sign of the times, every tsunami that happens, things not even mentioned in the Bible – that’s when we run into trouble. And, again, that’s when I think that if people continue to try to do that, and they continue to cry wolf like that, then we can almost get to where, you know, the people in the world no longer listen to what we have to say, although we do have a true message that we want to bring.
So I think that we have to be careful about that. You can go to either extreme with Bible prophecy. There is what I call skepticism – people don’t think that it matters at all. There’s sensationalism – where everything’s a fulfillment of prophecy. And the problem is if everything’s a fulfillment, then really nothing’s a fulfillment – or a sign. And there’s the view that I hold in between, which is what I call “stage setting.” Well, we do see the stage being set, and we’re aware of these things, but we want to be careful not to point to every event as some kind of fulfillment of a prophecy.
Tom: Right. I agree with you, Mark, to the extent that we certainly see things in development. You know, I’ve had the privilege – the great privilege – of working with Dave Hunt for about almost 4 decades – 3 ½ decades – and just from that standpoint of 30-35 years or so, just observing the trends coming into the church, you can see the development of the apostasy from the time (I think it was 25 years ago) when I helped Dave with The Seduction of Christianity – well, from that time until today, things are moving exponentially. But, as you said, specifics? No. But in general terms with regard to what the Bible says, we can see it growing and growing and growing. And there has to be a religion in place for the religion of the Antichrist. And we know ecumenism – lots of things that contribute to that, we should be aware of.
Mark: No, that’s right. There’s a lot of things happening in our world today, and I do think that we see events unfolding in our world today exactly the way we should expect to see them unfolding if the coming of our Lord is near.
But again, we don’t know how soon. We don’t know how much longer this stage setting can last. And that’s why I believe we’re called upon to always be ready.
Tom: Right. I absolutely agree. Now, let’s get to your book Blood Moons Rising. Mark, what motivated you to write that?
Mark: Well, I’ve studied prophecy for a lot of years, and I love to write books about things that are happening in our world today. Again, as we talked about the stage setting, and point to some of these things that call people to be ready. But I’ve also tried to answer things that are out there that I think maybe they’re taking it too far. For instance, I wrote a book on 2012, the Bible, the end of the world, the whole Mayan prophecy – the Mayan calendar prophecy – because a lot of people were kind of wondering about that, so I wrote a book to kind of critique or debunk that – whatever word you want to use.
And then some time later, I was reading about…or rather, listening to a pastor, a preacher on television, talk about blood moons, and these four blood moons that were going to fall on Jewish feast days, and relating all of this to some great event that was going to happen, and almost saying that the Lord was going to come back that year, but then kind of hedging his bets and backing off a bit. So I began to study that, and I came to the conclusion that really it was much ado about nothing. And I heard the different pastors and preachers talking about how there’s a book came out that’s selling a lot, and I thought, Someone needs to answer this, because a lot of people are going to be pulled into this unwittingly, and buy into this and thinks that what’s being said here is true, it’s factual, it’s biblical. So I wrote the book, basically, again, just to try to give an antidote or kind of an answer to some of this hysteria that’s going on out there about these things.
Tom: For some of our listeners who may be out of the loop on this, tell us about blood moon – the blood moon phenomena. Talk about it from, first of all, physics – the astronomical side, and then how that might relate to the blood moon as it’s presented in Scripture, or NOT related to the blood moon given in Scripture.
Mark: Well, what’s stated is that a blood moon is when the moon turns kind of an orange-ish or a reddish hue when there’s a lunar eclipse. And they happen a lot. Lunar eclipses happen fairly often. But what we have in 2014 and ’15 is four consecutive lunar eclipses on four Jewish feast days. And the first one was on April 15, 2014 – fell on Passover. Then on Feast of Tabernacles that Fall, October 8, 2014, there was another one of these. Then this last spring in 2015 on April 4, there was another one that fell on Passover, and then the final one is September 28, 2015, again on Feast of Tabernacles. So this is called…many call this a lunar tetrad. In other words, it’s these four blood moons falling consecutively on these Jewish feast days. And since the first century, there’s only been eight of these that have happened, and those who believe this is an important sign, they point to the Bible, like in Joel 2 it mentions the “moon turning to blood.” They point to Matthew 24, where the sun won’t give its light there; they point to Acts 2, which quotes Joel 2. Revelation 6, which talks again about the moon turning into blood, and they say these blood moons are mentioned here in scripture, and they’re falling on these Jewish feast days, and then they go back and show the last three of these, back in 1493 and ’94, one of those happened in conjunction with the Jews being put out of Spain: the edict of the expulsion of the Jews.
One happened in 1949 and 1950. Israel became a nation in 1948.
And then they point to another one of these tetrads happened in 1967 and ’68, which is when the six-day war happened in Israel. So they’re trying to point out how there’s this historical pattern that when these blood moon tetrads happened that that’s related to significant events in Israel, and then they relate it to these biblical passages in Scripture, and then they come up with this idea that this is significant of some great change that’s going to take place. They say something huge is going to change – going to change the world forever. Again, they don’t say specifically what it is, but many of them say it’s going to be some type of war in Israel. Many of them even kind of allude to the fact possibly it could be the Lord’s coming. And so they see this as a huge issue, 2015, this watershed, or this key year because of these blood moons.
Tom: Mark, I’ve listened to you in a…not exactly a debate, but a discussion with Mark Biltz, the author of Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs, and you pointed out, and I’d like you to add to that, or give us your perspective, the tetrad – these lunar eclipses. They are natural events. The verses that you gave with regard to Revelation and Matthew 24, and so on, those are supernatural events, aren’t they?
Mark: That’s right. That’s the way I take it. In Joel 2, Matthew 24, Revelation and Acts 2, Revelation 6 – the moon turning to blood there seems to be…and I think it’s clear in the context…this is something that God is doing. This isn’t a naturally occurring event. God is doing this.
The other thing that’s fascinating, it’s a supernatural event, and if you read Revelation 6, it’s not just the moon turning to blood there. Same thing in Acts 2, there’s a whole litany of other signs there as well that will take place when the moon turns to blood. It says in Revelation 6 that the sun became black as sackcloth, the moon became like blo od, the stars of the sky fell to the earth. It said, “As the fig tree casts its unripe figs, shaken by wind; the sky was split apart like a scroll when it’s rolled up; Every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” No one – I don’t hear anyone saying that that’s going to happen this year.
The other problem is the context of these passages are at the end of the Tribulation period…
Mark: …or the late – well, the one in Revelation 6, I would place at about the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation; the one in Joel and in Acts and in Matthew 24 I’d place near the end of the Tribulation. Well, the Rapture hasn’t happened yet, as far as I know. We’re not even in the Tribulation yet. So 2015 can’t be the middle or the end of the Tribulation. So there’s also this whole timing problem that’s difficult as well.
Tom: Yeah, and later…we’re going to do this in two parts, maybe in our next…well, not maybe, but hopefully, in our next session we’re going to deal with “signs” and pointing to signs and dates, and so on, and those equivocating on all that. So I want to talk about that, but let’s go back to…we’re recording this. It’s the end of April – April 4. It’s unique that these so-called blood moons are taking place during Passover week, but Mark, what of significance took place April 4 of Passover week?
Mark: Well, nothing that I know of… You know, it is interesting. It was the
day between Good Friday, of course, and Easter this year, it fell there, but nothing happened. So that’s been part of the problem – with these first three, nothing happened. But they’ll say, “Well, there’s the fourth one, you see, and this fourth one is going to be super moon. It’s going to be the only one of the four that’s actually visible in Israel, and so… Again, that’s kind of the way a lot of these things work is, you know, when something doesn’t happen and you keep kind of pointing ahead, but what will be interesting is after September 28 comes and goes, if nothing happens then, will they all recant then? Will they write a book and say, “I was wrong,” and not do that again.
That usually doesn’t follow in these things, and that’s part of the problem with this. There’s a lot of buildup.
But, you know, the other thing is if you look at our world today, if I were to make a prediction at the beginning of 2015 and say, “Something really dramatic’s going to happen in Israel this year, that probably would be right, because we live in a very dangerous, very chaotic, very uncertain world. Something – I mean, the fuse has been lit, and the lid could blow off over in the Middle East at any time. So, they do, in some ways – they make these statements, and in some ways, they do have these things on their side – at some point in time, something dramatic is going to happen over there. But it won’t be because of the Blood Moon prophecy. It’s just simply be because God, on His timetable, decided for it to happen.
Tom: See, Mark…we’ve got about two minutes left, but I want to just encourage you, because you’re presenting this stuff; you’re getting it out there to help…or to address the confusion that goes on in the body of Christ because they’re not checking things out. They’re not really doing their homework, which they should so that they’re not vulnerable to these kinds of ideas.
You know, back in 1999, Dave came out…Dave Hunt came out with a book called Y2K: A Reasoned Response to Mass Hysteria, because, as you remember back then, many in the church got on board with that. I mean, big names, especially those whose eschatology was either post-trib, they were kind of excited about it.
Mark: (chuckling) That’s right, yeah.
Tom: But you know what happened: the world…2000, the world celebrated! I mean there were fireworks all around – Paris, London, and everywhere, and the church was just getting off – not the whole church, but many leaders were hunkering down for something. So, this is important. It’s important to exhort, encourage, our b rothers and sisters in Christ to be Bereans, to search the Scriptures and do their homework when somebody comes along with an idea that’s somewhat unique or not really laid out clearly in the Scriptures.
Our guest has been Mark Hitchcock. We’ve been talking about prophecy and about blood moons in particular. So, Mark, I want to pick up on this next week, the Lord willing, so, thanks for being with me.
Mark: Yes, thank you so much. Looking forward to our next time together.