It’s the best sermon I’ve heard in years.
And the sermon is, Corona virus.
Are you a believer?
Or are you a doubter?
Are you a believer?
Or are you an excuse maker?
Are you a believer?
Or do you look for reasons to explain away God’s promises?
Are you a believer?
Or does your theology give you exception clauses to the following promises (and countless more)?
2 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
3 Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.
5 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
7 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.
I’ve been reading some of the writings of early Pentecostals and also observing what has been going on among the present day “Charismatics”.
There are some common features.
What started out with genuine revelation from scripture (the ongoing reality and validity of Spiritual gifts) started to be accompanied by teachings and experiences that were contrary to scripture – or had no reasonable biblical precedent.
Unfortunately, it seems like people have been more interested in focusing on the problems instead of addressing those things that clearly WERE biblical and had been lacking from the church.
Their approach was to take the easy way of rejecting everything instead of searching the scriptures for themselves and practicing REAL discernment as contrasted to applying broad-brush condemnation.
Often that broad-brush approach leads to the unwise condemnation of truth along with the distracting lies. Maybe we should recognise the likelihood that Satan will try to undermine a true move of God by introducing distracting elements that will draw attention away from what God wants to do within His church and by His church.
As examples I’ll mention the gift of the Holy Spirit, (given by the Father); the gifts of the Holy Spirit, distibuted by the Holy Spirit Himself; and the empowered ministry of preaching the gospel with confirming signs. ALL of those have strong biblical foundations and all are an essential part of an effective obedient church.
Jesus told a parable about a man who sowed good seed within a field, but while everyone was sleeping an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. When it was noticed that weeds had sprung up among the good crop, the man’s servants were told to leave the two growing together until the harvest to avoid destroying the good crop along with the bad.
He explained the parable by saying the good seed was sown by the Son of Man (Himself) and the weeds were sown by the devil.
I see this parable describes something in common with the situation I’ve observed above. What starts as something sown by God, is complicated by the devil’s attempt to sabotage the work of God by mixing bad among the good. We should therefore be cautious about tearing up the whole field and throwing it all away because we see something wrong.
Many years ago I heard a sermon based on the parable of the wheat and the weeds (tares) – in which the preacher said that “tares” resembled wheat in every way until the wheat fruited. While I don’t know how true that claim was, his point echoes what Jesus said was the way to distinguish between the true and the false: by their fruit you will known them.
While the devil might try to distract from and disrupt God’s work, we need to ensure we don’t give him the victory by us dismissing God’s good work along with those devil-inspired distracting elements.
Not long ago a friend of mine objected to some posts featuring ministry from individuals whose influences he claimed were “a mixture” of bad along with whatever good there might be. His conclusion was to avoid everything from those ministries.
However I can’t help but notice the state of the churches addressed by Jesus in the first chapters of Revelation. ALL but two were a mixture of good and bad – but Jesus didn’t condemn the whole church. He praised them for what they did right and rebuked them for their errors, encouraging their members to be overcomers.
The exceptions were Smyrna, of whom there was no condemnation and Laodicea for whom there was no praise. But even in the case of the rebuked Laodicea there was no outright rejection. He encouraged them to open the door to Him, and left open the possibility of its members being overcomers, despite the absence of good within the church when He addressed it.
In recent months I’ve observed and read about much maligned Charismatic ministries and their work. I’ve also seen some of the work of their critics, and despite seeing many questionable aspects of those Charismatic groups and people, I’ve seen more of God’s work (AS COMMISSIONED BY JESUS) being done – no matter how imperfectly – than I’ve seen among most of their critics who have relied too much on misrepresentation (lies), and false theology (cessationism) and a distinct lack of demonstrated love.
In one of my recent posts I mentioned the importance of discernment. True discernment needs far more than the kind of blanket condemnations made by many of the misnamed “discernment ministries”. True discernment needs to have a foundation of sound theology based on what scripture actually says and not according to church tradition, experience or even LACK of experience. True discernment will often challenge our own beliefs, our own theological stance, and our view of truth and falsehood, as we learn to make assessments according to the demonstrated fruit and not ingrained prejudice of tradition.
And what kind of fruit should we expect to see?
In a previous post I mentioned the fruit of the Spirit but to that I think we should add the fruit of obedience. By that I mean evidence of Jesus’ commands being obeyed, such as:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13) NIV
And fulfilling His commission regarding taking the gospel to the world.
And doing the works HE did and greater works – something He said would happen IF we believe in Him.
An additional fruit to expect would be the reflection of Jesus in the ministry or experience being assessed. Jesus said that seeing Him was seeing the Father. Jesus also said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” so those sent in Jesus’ name should be reflections of Jesus in the same way that He was the image of the Father. When we see His disciples, we should see Jesus in their deeds and attitudes.
If there’s anything being done “in His name” that doesn’t reflect Jesus’ character, it’s probably very wise to be suspicious of it. Those things are more than likely distractions sown to choke the growth of God’s seed: God’s work.
Look back at past “moves of God” and consider what gained the most attention and ask whether they were the kinds of thing Jesus Himself would do. Then consider what MAY have arisen out of those situations if there had been better discernment exercised, and the distractions had not been allowed to become the main feature.
And most importantly, don’t judge the present by past distractions. Judge according to today’s fruit.
I’ve come across a few references to “the rapture” over recent weeks, in blog articles, YouTube videos and even from an elder of the church I attend – it seems some people are looking to the current virus situation as an indication that “the rapture” will be soon.
I want to address these expectations (hopes?) by looking at what the Bible says about this event, and especially the timing of it, by looking at specific references and what they actually say, without (hopefully) projecting meaning onto them that is not genuinely there.
If I miss a “rapture” reference – please let me know.
What do the following say about “the rapture”, what do they indicate about it’s timing, particularly with regard to the “timeline” of Revelation?
Gospel of Matthew
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Gospel of Mark
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.
I recall that a few years ago I read a pre-tribulation believer expressing surprise that Jesus didn’t mention the rapture in His Matthew 24 discourse. I wonder how he could have overlooked the above references.
Letters to the Thessalonians
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thess 4: 13-18) NIV
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed. (2 Thess 2: 1-3) NIV
From these two references we learn the following:
Another Thessalonians reference.
you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. (1 Thess 5: 2)NKJV
While this doesn’t specifically refer to a catching up of the saints, it has been used by pre-tribulation believers to convey the secret and unexpected nature of their version of Jesus coming to catch up His saints. It was also used as the title of a popular Christian film from the 1970s portraying a post rapture world in which those left behind had to live through the tribulation.
From 1 Corinthians.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)NKJV
This also mentions a trumpet sound but specifies that it is the LAST trumpet. How many trumpets are there after the last one? That suggests that all other trumpets related to prophecy would come before this one.
Now, where does the rapture occur within the Revelation timeline? There are many claims made by supporters of a pre-tribulation rapture, but they are very questionable – such as suggesting it is represented here:
I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” (Rev 4:1)NKJV
While there is a kind of “catching up” of John, and there is a mention of a trumpet, it clearly isn’t the last trumpet mentioned in other references to the catching up of the saints.
While pre-tribulation proponents struggle to provide a convincing Revelation reference to support their belief, there ARE references in Revelation that fit with the “rapture” occurring later in the end time narrative as disclosed in other parts of scripture
The signs of a darkening sun, blood red moon and falling stars, mentioned in the gospel references, happen at the opening of the sixth seal in Revelation 6: 11-13.
I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.
The last trumpet sounded in Revelation and therefore in scripture as a whole, is the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11: 15.
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
Any trumpet before this can therefore not be a “last trumpet” as per the rapture reference in 1 Cor 15, so the rapture needs to be after Revelation 11 and the trumpet judgements.
Finally, the reference to the day of the Lord coming like a thief, used by pre-tribulation adherents, is actually included in Revelation 16.
Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.(Rev 16: 15) NIV
This comes after the pouring of the sixth bowl judgement.
So in the above I believe I have shown how none of the references to the catching up of the saints, (the rapture) support belief in that event being prior to the tribulation.
Why is this so important?
Apart from the need for truth, especially regarding prophecy, one of the Thessalonians’ references above speaks about a falling away from the faith, and Jesus warned:
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other. (Matt 24: 10) NIV
Could the shock and disappointment of realising they hadn’t been raptured before they faced the terrible events associated with the tribulation be enough for people to abandon the faith?
Yesterday morning I received a newsletter that included a link to the article below, about New Testament prophets.
Such perfect timing!
It even includes an observation regarding examples of NT prophecy through Agabus that I had been intending to address in an article of my own – but instead I’ll recommend the article below, which addresses the topic in far more detail and astute observation than anything I wrote could have done.
Considering the response I got after some previous resources I shared, let me state clearly that my recommendation of this article is not an outright endorsement of any ministry or individual associated with the article. It’s not an endorsement of any ministry or person the writer of the article may have associated with at some time. I’m also not necessarily in agreement with everything the writer says in the article.
I don’t have the time or desire to forensically check the writer’s background or associations to make sure there’s not the tiniest bit of “heresy” lurking somewhere in the background. That was the approach of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, who continually tried to find something incriminating in Jesus and His message, by which they could accuse and condemn Him.
Instead of emulating the Pharisees we ALL need to consider the way of the Bereans, who gave Paul the courtesy of searching the scriptures daily for themselves to make sure what he was teaching was legitimate.
As a final note I ask that you follow the link to the WHOLE article and don’t merely read the brief excerpts I’ve provided.
If your theology is off, your prophecies may be as well. If you don’t believe that believers can suffer, then how can you prophesy that someone is going to suffer? If you don’t believe in judgment, you cannot prophesy judgment. And for those who think that all New Testament prophecy rosy, the only two examples we have were warnings; one about a famine and the other that Paul was going to be persecuted in Jerusalem.
After Paul lays out his very clear teaching on prophecy, he makes it clear that if you disobey or reject his teaching you are not a prophet.
If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored. (1 Cor. 14:37-38)
Beware of those who claim there are good days ahead leading up to the return of the Lord: saying that there will be no time of tribulation, instead they say, the world will get better.
Consider their claims against the scriptural warnings about false prophets and their messages quoted below.
I post this because I’ve recently read two disturbing articles by the same man.
I’d read other articles by him that were encouraging and enlightening – but the two latest things on his site show how easy it can be to get things so badly wrong if you allow outside influences to shape understanding of scripture rather than let scripture speak for itself.
The first one promoted a view that a media conspiracy of exaggeration was behind the present Corona virus situation; that things weren’t as bad as they were being portrayed.*
The second presented a view launching from that assertion, claiming that the end times wouldn’t be as bad as commonly portrayed – that things would effectively get better not worse.
As far as I can see the writer came to these topics from a desire to combat fear – fear of the virus, fear of bad times ahead. But fear is not overcome through misrepresentation of reality and truth, or by denying the thing being feared.
Fear is overcome through faith in Jesus who regularly commanded his followers to “fear not”. He didn’t say this because there were no fearful circumstances, but because He was bigger than those circumstances. His provision is greater than any lack we might be afraid of, or any difficult situation we might face, and faith in Him is more than sufficient, equipping for us to overcome fear.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart,I have overcome the world” (John 16)
Jesus told His disciples the following regarding the time leading up to the end of the age and His return.
…you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matt 24 (NIV)
That’s only a small excerpt of what HE said would be ahead, including a warning of the rise of false prophets.
Jeremiah had previously addressed the issue of false prophets, giving description of them and the messages they presented.
This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
not from the mouth of the Lord.
They keep saying to those who despise me,
‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see or to hear his word?
Who has listened and heard his word? (Jer 23)NIV
“I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
“Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord. (Jer 23) NIV
The above excerpts from Jeremiah are referring to false prophets who gave assurances that good times were ahead, despite the sin of the people and approaching judgement from God.
The issue of end time prophecy being misrepresented is not so much assuring God’s people they are not going to be judged, but that they don’t need to face hardships from an increasingly hostile world (despite Jesus’ warnings), because the world will allegedly become more favourably inclined towards them.
Surely there can be no clearer sign of false prophecy than outright denials of the Lord’s own words.
By promoting false expectation of escape for the church from persecution and hostility, these false prophetic claims make end time believers unready for what (according to the Lord) will come upon them. What could be more fear inducing than finding yourself, unprepared, in a terrible situation that you were taught would not eventuate?
* I’m becoming more convinced that the conspiracy claims about the Corona virus are the latest attempt by Satan to bring contempt upon the church and to denigrate the gospel by attacking our credibility.
Instead of denying reality by claiming it’s all media exaggeration – the world needs Christians to preach THE TRUTH of hope and freedom from fear through Jesus.
While many are looking forward to great national and worldwide revival that will turn their nations to the Lord. I find the expectation of revival described in the article and video below has a much more sound biblical foundation, and has been my view for many years.
Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. (Luke 21:10-13) NKJV
Revival or Persecution? Unmasking What Revelation Tells Us About the End Times.
One of the most precious promises in the Bible is Acts 2:17, that “In the last days it shall be,’ says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). We understand this to be a promise of a world-wide revival in the end times. (Yeshua also said that the “harvest is the end of the world” (Matt. 13:39).
Some people do not believe in such a revival in the end times. They point to the prophecies about persecution and tribulation and the Antichrist in the end times, and conclude (reasonably enough) that there could be no widespread revival.
So which is it? Revival or persecution? Victory or tribulation? The answer of course is both. There is revival in the midst of persecution; victory in the midst of tribulation.