People of The Living God

Psalms 91

 

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May 2013



 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

THE ENDANGERED SPECIES

Randall Walton

        There are some strange things going on in the world at–large today.  The religion which calls itself Christian is on the wane, a fact which is due mainly to forces from within rather than from enemies without.  It is according to the words of Jesus Himself that “a man’s greatest foes are those of his own house.”

        Of all the several millions who profess Jesus the Christ as their Lord, there is a dwindling minority, an endangered species, who still cling to the inerrancy and infallibility of the word of God, and the absolute necessity of obedience to the words of the Lord.

        There are many contributing factors to this deviation from “conservative” Christianity; there is a great movement to popularize Jesus and “salvation,” to make the way of the Lord palatable to the masses and the many, to discard ideas of rigidity and formal standards, to rationalize intellectual philosophies regardless of their contradictions to the Bible, to regard the Bible as folklore, legend, fable and myth.

        These subversive forces are not new, but are growing both in size and in influence.  Some of this has its roots in the 19th century when “enlightened” man began to theorize about many questions which had baffled him for centuries.       

        Darwin and Freud, among others, are responsible for spearheading drives which undermine and question both the validity and authenticity of the Scriptures.  Their “doctrines” were meant to supplant the Bible as man’s means of knowledge, and set up a false set of values which are based upon man’s supposed evolutionary flight from primitivism to super–humanity.

        Many branches have sprung from the tree of godlessness which was planted by these pioneers of atheistic dogma.  Such tripe as humanism, amorality, hedonism, and forms of occult practices are offshoots of trends which started a hundred or more years ago.

        Evolution is a direct thrust against both God and His word.  (Although a Catholic priest told me that God created man through evolution!)  And it is so absurd a theory as to be a joke if it weren’t so tragic and so anti–Biblical.

        For example, there has never been found an authentic fossil of any kind of a link between humankind and apes.  There have been plenty of hoaxes, but no genuine specimens, simply because they do not exist.

        In their haste to defy God’s word, scientists(?) have neglected to publicize several basic unspannable differences between humans and monkeys, differences that would require innumerable jumps or leaps to accomplish the evolutionary dream.

        The anatomical disparities are so difficult that only divine intervention through miraculous creativity could bring about the changes.  Apes do not possess the spinal column needed to support the body in a truly erect position.  Their natural locomotion is through the use of all four limbs, totally unlike Homo sapiens.  In addition, man’s opposable thumb is most unique among all of creations’ family.

        There are so many vital differences between man and the ape that it seems like a deep mystery that anyone could believe that the two are just a step apart.  Bones, structure, teeth, feet, legs, brain, etc. are so profoundly different that the two are beyond comparing.  The few similarities are shared by other creatures as well, but that doesn’t mean man is a first cousin to every beast which has a head and a body with a few appendages.

        The search for a connection between humankind and the primates is not a search for truth (a mark of true scientific research), but is an attempt to disprove and discredit the Word of God, and to turn man’s allegiance from God to fate and mere happenstance.

        God represents righteousness, holiness, justice and judgment, and if there is anything man does not want, it is justice and judgment, so he strikes out against the Judge in an effort to block out the judgment and, if possible, to quieten the voices of those who warn of judgment to come.

        In the preface to the Humanist Manifesto II are found the following words: “As in 1933, humanists still believe that traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer–hearing God, assumed to love and care for persons, to hear and understand their prayers and to be able to do something about them, is an unproven and outmoded faith.  Salvationism based on mere affirmation, still appears as harmful, diverting people with false hopes of heaven hereafter.  Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.”

        Also included in this diabolical diatribe is this statement: “Science affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces.”  Of course, this is what is being taught in every public elementary and secondary school in the country as well as all the universities and colleges throughout the nation.

        The humanist religion, atheistic and immoral though it be, is being crammed down the throats of our youth, while God and the Bible are castigated, denounced and forbidden to be mentioned.  The ranks of those who hold to the sacredness of the Bible and of the divine creation of all things is diminishing.  It is but a matter of time until persecution against fundamentalists begins.  Already, they are being excoriated and abused.

        Of course, the events of the past two decades among the television religionists have not enhanced the reputation of those who profess to be “holy,” but it is the tendency of some to classify all Christians in the same category.

        The net result of all this is that the humanists claim the victory, and like the heathen of ancient times, they declare, “Where is thy God?”

        It is time for those who have a concern for their children and their salvation to make a survey of the conditions which exist in the world today and take counter–measures to offset the avalanche of filth and ungodly teachings which their children are being subjected to.  The time to act is before the kids become so engrossed in falsehood that it is impossible to extricate them.

        “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

        The answer?  Very little!

 

 

GOD HAS PROVIDED THE WAY

A. Wayne Wilhelm

        An unprecedented interest in religion today does not necessarily mean that traditional churches are overflowing on Sunday at eleven.  The so–called electronic church has developed a sizable following for its religious programs.  Unfortunately, this trend depends for its effectiveness on salesmanship tactics, combining the hard sell approach with showmanship.

        By a cunning application of modern psychology to old–fashioned vaudeville, the programs are staged with all the trappings of music, lights and costumes.  Of course, to make the program bona fide, reference to the Bible plays a necessary, albeit frequently minor, role.

        The usual emphasis is on the “star performer” whose charisma is amplified by alluring gimmicks, close–up shots of “bleeding heart” poses, and sentimental, emoting expressions turned on and off like a faucet.  It becomes a dazzling, spellbinding hodge–podge.

        A production which may be a sincere effort to glorify God defeats its purpose when a man is so obviously glorified instead.  As a result, the Word of God is of little effect.  For one thing, many spectacular performances seem like determined efforts to make Christianity acceptable to the world.

        Are they attempting to show that they can entertain and successfully compete, even if it means using worldly ideas to achieve their goals?  Methods with humanistic overtones make people feel good and offer peace of mind to soothe guilty consciences but put aside, to a future time, the convicting truths of the Bible.

        This is why these programs have become, as one writer calls them, “best sellers” calculated to win a large following.  And they do!  Many of these programs major on parts of the Bible that people want to hear, so that Bible truths and God’s admonitions for changing lives doesn’t have its full effect.  What people want instead is the comforting, positive living approach, even if spiritual growth is minimized.  This may help to explain the popularity of the electronic church.

        Bible teaching that is true to God’s Word, however, permits no deletion of things disagreeable to make its truth palatable.  This is why T.V. ratings are not convincing.  They but confirm a statement which describes a lukewarm church as having “the form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (II Tim. 3:5).  Competing for large numbers is, in the final analysis, meaningless – and an insult to God.

        The Bible teaches that God does not want His people to seek strength in mere numbers.  The story about King David in I Chronicles 21 concerns the mistake he made in counting his men to see if he had enough to face his enemies.  God had strictly forbidden His people to depend on that kind of security.  He wanted them to trust in Him alone.  God therefore punished David for what he had done.

        Yet, even traditional churches make the same mistake as the electronic church, putting quantity before quality.  This leads them to place spiritually unqualified “big names” in positions of leadership.  Big names may induce other big names to join up for that association alone.

        This points to the dubious success, in a spiritual sense, of the church seeking large numbers and VIPs to impress worldly people.  While the church should invite people into its midst, it must do so in order to teach, discipline and change them.  Otherwise such efforts will be swallowed up by the very world the church is supposed to influence.

        We ought to be ashamed of what is going on within Christianity today – aping the methods of showmen, competing for an audience, and counting numbers.  This is beneath our dignity as Christians and an affront to a Holy God who has provided His way to attain spiritual goals.

        He offers His way – without the support of razzle–dazzle and fanfare – to everyone He has created.  We may become members of His Church by confession of sin, repentance and the prayerful seeking of His mercy as, one by one, we accept His Son as Savior and make Him Lord of our lives.

 

 

FAITH ALIVE

Curtis Dickinson

        Jesus does not demand a high IQ, great skill, physical strength, financial success or a charming personality.  What He demands is FAITH.

        When the apostles said to Jesus, “Increase our faith,” He answered, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree Be rooted up and be planted in the sea and it would obey you” (Luke 17:5,6).  It was not that they had some faith but needed a great deal more to do great things.  They needed to exercise the faith they had.  Even mustard–seed faith is sufficient.

        It is not the amount of faith, but the object and direction of faith that counts.  Shirley MacLaine may challenge people to faith in the “inner–self,” but it will produce only frustration and disappointment.  One may develop the greatest faith, but if it is not rooted in that which God reveals, it will get him nowhere.

        The disciples learned the meaning of faith and began to practice it in earnest only after the resurrection.  Jesus had promised to rise again after death.  This was such a far–out promise that they could not grasp it; thus, when Jesus was crucified, they were miserable and defeated.  Had they understood what He had promised and coupled their understanding with faith – faith that it was true – they would have been waiting for the resurrection with great expectation and excitement and probably surrounding the tomb so as not to miss it.  Finally, when they realized that He did arise, that He is actually alive, they knew the meaning of faith.  What Jesus said, be it ever so impossible and unnatural, must be true.

        This is faith: to trust that God always keeps His promise and that He is always right.

        The classic example of faith is that of Abraham.  God promised that He would bless all the nations through Isaac, yet He commanded Abraham to take his son to the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice.  The very idea of a human sacrifice was contrary to Abraham’s moral and ethical standards.  It violated God’s own law, defeated His purpose in Isaac’s birth and would contradict the promise.

        Abraham was not to rationalize the problem.  He had been given a promise and now a command.  His faith was in God, that He is always right and that He would carry out the promise in spite of the seeming contradiction.  In fact, Abraham believed that if he obeyed God to present Isaac as a sacrifice, God would raise him from the dead in order to fulfill the promise (Gen. 22:5).

        The story ends with God halting Abraham at the moment the knife was to descend, so that “in a figure” Isaac was resurrected and given back to Abraham.  The original promise was fulfilled, and through Isaac’s seed Christ came to fulfill the promise (Heb. 11:19).

        Abraham believed God.  He had faith that God was right and that to obey His command was the right way to go.

        We see this kind of faith practiced by the apostles as they faced hostile authorities who demanded that obedience and allegiance be given to civil government rather than to God.  They were imprisoned, beaten, threatened, and commanded to preach no more in the name of Jesus.  But they had their orders from Jesus.  There was no debate or hesitation.  “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  This is the direction of faith.  God is always right, even if the visible powers (the supreme court, city council, legislature, sheriff) declare otherwise.  It is not a question of quality of faith but of a determination to practice and live by it.

        Faith is to believe Christ is alive and is working all things together for good in the midst of our suffering and apparent defeat.

        Faith is to accept the commandments of Christ and to keep them.  Is it really best to forgive limitlessly?  Is it wise to turn the other cheek?  For lack of faith men have taught that we are not expected to actually live up to the commandments; single people cannot be expected to remain chaste; it is natural to lust after a sexy woman; it’s okay to take advantage of a situation for a profit; one must compromise in order to get ahead; he must obey the law even if it contradicts God’s commands, such as in educating children with lies rather than with godly instructions.

        It is just this kind of thinking that prompted James to write, “Faith without works is dead in itself” (James 2:17).  The works he was talking about were the works of obedience to God’s commands.  He used Abraham as an example.  “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?” (James 2:21)  Had he refused to do so it would have shown that he did not have faith in God’s promises and commands.

        Modern “churchanity” implies that the sign of true faith is material and physical blessings.  No longer are we content to pray, “and give us this day our daily bread.”  We want steak and pie a–la–mode, then when it is not forthcoming, we whine and pout like spoiled children and petition Caesar (government) to hand it over.  Faith is to believe that we have God’s presence and blessing without anything else.  Job expressed it perfectly: “Even if He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

        When all roads to our desires seem to be blocked and we begin to think that it is our faith that is weak, we need to look again at our goals.  Has God commanded us to remove the sycamore tree that it may be planted in the sea?  No such command has been given; therefore, we should not expect Him to assist us in the operation.  When we charter our own course apart from the purpose He has set, we have not reason to think He will help us to reach it.  Failure in health, in business, in career or even in the simplest daily effort sometimes causes one to think God is not there, and faith begins to weaken.  But sickness or loss may be the very best means by which one is perfected in holiness and made into the image of God.  Paul wrote that Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness.  “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:9,10).

        It is easy enough for a person to “rely” on his faith while all things are falling into place in his plans – the family is healthy, the job is secure, there’s money in the bank and friends are supportive.  God seems to be smiling and praise is easy.  But let it all be taken away, then where’s the faith?

        Faith is to rejoice in God when God is all that you have.

        Many have confused the meaning of faith with loyalty to the group.  One who is always present at worship and who can be depended on for help with church activities is dubbed “faithful,” and from this it is said that he has “faith.”  Such loyalty and activity have little to do with his trust in God when he is faced with physical and financial calamity, or when he must choose between man’s approval or obedience to God.

        It was not when John wrote about love that his faith was exemplified.  The whole world approves when you say, “God loves you.”  But John’s faith was put to the test when he chose to obey God rather than Caesar.  Note the source of that faith: the risen Christ.  “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead.  And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever more, and I have the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17,18).  All the sin, evil, hatred and harm that man could devise was heaped upon Jesus.  All forsook Him, the world was against Him and, humanly speaking, He suffered terrible defeat.  Yet He is the One who said, “Have faith.”  “Be not anxious.”  “Fear not.”  How could He say all that in the face of such awful circumstances?  Because He knew His goal would be reached.  He came to suffer and die and rise again!  God’s plan was carried out to the letter.

        If our goal is merely the satisfaction of human and temporal desires, there is no assurance we will reach it, and life is fraught with uncertainty.  But if our goal is to serve God and, ultimately, be conformed to His image, then we are assured by His grace that the goal will be reached.  And that it is the one goal of which there is none better.

        To believe this and trust our lives to God in this belief is faith.  Even if it is only as a grain of mustard seed, it is sufficient to give peace and joy in spite of all else.

 

 

THE DIVINE CALLING

Harold Scullin

        “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Heb.2:3).

        1.  “How shall we escape? – Escape what?  “The wages of sin – death” (Rom. 6:23).  “Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death” (Rev. 20:14).

        2.  “If we neglect” – If we fail to give sufficient attention to the salvation, the deliverance of our soul from sin.

3.  “So great salvation” – the means of escape.  These three words, “so great salvation,” imply a vastness that is so great that it is unmeasurable.  The prefix UN relates to a measuring that is opposite to the meaning of measure.  We would take this to mean that it is impossible to measure the values, the work accomplished, or the eternal results of so great salvation.

        To understand the significance and obtain a satisfactory meaning of the phrase “so great salvation,” we must go back before the foundation of the earth, back even before time began, “in the beginning.”

        “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).  In Ephesians 3:4–11, Paul refers to the “eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ.”  In verse 6, Paul writes of the Gentiles, who “should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ.”  In Ephesians 3:15, we read of the “whole family in heaven and earth.”  From these Scriptures, we understand the heavenly Father desired a family of beings with whom He would share His Divine nature.  Jesus Himself stated, “I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 13:5).

        To Timothy, Paul wrote, “who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Tim. 1:9).  To the Romans, Paul stated, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that He might be the first born among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).  To be conformed to His image has to do with union by association including a partaking of His very substance.  Peter wrote, “whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Peter 1:4).

        Consider and meditate on the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).  We have been “delivered from the powers of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13).  We can now be conformed to the image of Christ and “be partakers of His divine nature.”  This is only a part of what is in store for us in the fullness of “so great salvation.”

        When Jesus came to this earth He testified: “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).  Jesus was submitting His will to the will of His Father.  Only the Holy Spirit can touch that which is flesh and give an insight of the sacredness of this union of the will of Jesus and His Father.  With the understanding the Holy Spirit gives concerning the love and confidence that the Father and Jesus had in each other, the Holy Spirit creates within the heart of the individual an intense hunger and desire to surrender his will to the will of Jesus and the Father.

        The Father possesses infinite wisdom and knowledge.  “He knew the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10).  By His foreknowledge and Divine wisdom, He knew that sin would enter the universe.  He understood all of the complexities that would arise and how to plan to meet every eventuality so as to satisfy the demands of justice.  He also had knowledge that a very special kind of sacrifice would have to be made that would completely cleanse everything that sin would pollute and corrupt.  This sacrifice must be “a male and without blemish” (Lev. 1:10).  Without blemish includes being perfect, morally and spiritually clean, and without spot or wrinkle.  The sacrifice must also be tested, tried, and proven to be “perfect and mature.”  The Father also had understanding that His Son would be rejected, abused, spit upon, smitten with a cudgel (a stick), and be falsely accused and crucified as a criminal.  No doubt the greatest issue the Father had to consider was that His Son “must become sin” in order that righteousness and holiness might be restored in the universe.  The Father greatly loved His “only begotten Son” but the “heavenly sanctuary” must be cleansed and sanctified, the “daily sacrifice” (Zech. 13:1) must be reestablished, and atonement must be made.

Jesus Offered Himself

        In offering Himself, Jesus understood that it would be necessary for Him to divest Himself of all of His heavenly prerogatives: His heavenly position, His heavenly body, His intimate relationship with His Father.  The Scripture states that “He made Himself of no reputation;” that is, He emptied Himself of all that was divine and “took upon Him the form (substance) of a servant and was made in the likeness of man” (Phil. 2:6–8).  As a human being, He was limited in all of His expressions; He was “tempted in all points as we” (Heb. 4:15).  He became hungry; He had to sleep; He became weary.

        As we study the life and ministry of Jesus, we find His ministry was very forceful and extremely victorious.  Every expression of sin and temptation, all forms of sickness, disease and demon possession were all completely conquered and subdued, triumphed over.  Evil Spirits testified to His authority over them.  Matthew 8:29 and Mark 5:7–9: “hast thou come to judge us before the time?”

        So powerful was His word, so forceful was His ministry, that “He abolished death” (II Tim. 1:10).  Through His sacrifice and the shedding of His blood, “He made an end of sins” (Heb. 9:12,25,26; 10:12).  He provided complete reconciliation that Divine order could be restored in the Kingdom of God, and that redeemed man could again be restored to full and complete fellowship with His Creator (Col. 1:20,21; Heb. 2:17).

        The atoning work of Jesus was so majestic, so great and far reaching, that it is now possible that “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and height and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.”

        So vast, so great, so magnificent, and glorious was the finished work of Jesus that He promised His followers that He would “pray the Father and He shall give you another comforter…even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16–18).

        He also admonished His servants to tarry in Jerusalem until “ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

        On the Day of Pentecost “they were all with one accord…suddenly a sound from heaven…they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:1–4).  Peter preached a powerful sermon – people were pricked in their hearts and were asking what to do (Acts 2:37).  Peter told them “to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus.”  As a result, “3000 souls were added to the church” (Acts 2:38–41).  This large group of believers, “had all things common…they sold their possessions, their houses and lands, and brought the price of the things sold and laid them down at the apostles’ feet, neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own…they had all things common” (Acts 2:44–47 and 4:34–37).

        Peter and John went up to the temple to pray.  At the door, a lame man was begging.  Peter spoke to him saying, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I unto thee, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”  The man was healed!  As a result of this and Peter’s words, 5000 more souls were added to the church (Acts 3:1–26 and 4:1–4).  Over 8000 souls had been converted in just a short period of time.  “And the multitude of them which believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32).

        Supernatural works were manifested – “believers were the more added to the church – the sick were brought into the streets and laid on beds (probably not enough room in the building) and couches…so that at the least the shadow of Peter might fall on them” (Acts 5:14,15).  So great was this display of supernatural power, that the sick were brought from cities surrounding Jerusalem, “and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed everyone” (Acts 5:16).

        This was too much for the religious element.  “The high priest rose up, filled with indignation and had them put in the common prison.

But the angel of the Lord, by night opened the prison door, and brought them forth and said, go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:17–19).

        The apostles were beaten because of their testimony and the supernatural power of the Holy Ghost.  “They departed from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:40).

        You will recall that in Matthew 10:7,8, Jesus instructed His followers that “as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand; heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.”

        Jesus established the kingdom of God!

        In the first few chapters of the Book of Acts, we have a demonstration of the kingdom of God in action.

        However, before the first century had passed, division crept in, there was disorder in church government, and confusion in the interpretation of the Scriptures was evident, “an enemy sowed tares among the wheat.”  After nineteen centuries of time have passed, there is a conglomeration of religious teaching that has encircled the globe.  The spirit of confusion is in charge of the majority of institutions and denominations.

        The great heavenly Father has made provision in so great salvation, that the honest of heart can seek God and find Him in the privacy of his own home.  The Holy Spirit was given to “lead us into all truth.”  The Word of God promises a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit – a restoration of the Kingdom of God in all of its majesty, glory and power.  Pray for it, look for it.  Be prepared for it!

 

 

HOW HUNGRY ARE WE?

Kenneth Fountain

       For the vast majority of American Christians, being truly hungry is largely experienced only through observation of the homeless milling the streets of our cities, or through exposure to the needy in foreign lands by numerous forms of media.

       Occasionally, one may delay or miss a meal due to some pressing obligation, but even then, a quick on–the–go snack is usually available.  Although scripture shows that ancient prophets and kings, Jesus, His disciples, the early church, and renown men and women of faith down through history spent time fasting, most today choose not to fast for various reasons.  Therefore, while we should be very thankful that food is usually readily available, personal experience in hunger is generally brief, or non–existent.  This is a wonderful blessing from a physical standpoint, but sadly, too much of the time, a lack of hunger also applies to our relationship with the Master from a spiritual standpoint.  In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  It seems logical that if one does not have this spiritual hunger, he will not be filled!

        A dictionary definition of physical hunger is described as follows: discomfort, weakness, or pain caused by deprivation (a prolonged lack of food); a strong desire, yearning or craving; a greedy obsessive desire (American Heritage).  Signs of hunger include a feeling of emptiness, rumbling or growling, faintness, and irritability.  Strong’s Concordance defines hunger this way: to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire, to suffer want.  How prolonged and earnest is our spiritual hunger for more of the presence, glory, and power of God within our hearts and its reflection in our daily lives?

        In Isaiah 52:1,2 the prophet cried, “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city – (2) Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.”  This is applicable today!  Christians lack strength, righteous garments, and holiness.  Many are dusty, bound captive to worldliness and carnality.  And while wickedness abounds within and without, most are quite content with the status quo: complacent, lethargic, and apathetic.  The challenges in our own lives, as well as in those all around us, in the church and the unsaved world are too great to meet in our own abilities.  Christians need more of the power of the Spirit in their lives to overcome carnal appetites, to be honorable ambassadors who properly represent Christ as lights of the world, and to fulfill His plans and purposes individually and allow Him to bring forth the manifestation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19).  We are expected to bring forth spiritual fruit to perfection, but this requires the operation of the gifts of the Spirit (Eph. 4:11–15).  God’s people in today’s world need the complete 100% indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  There is so much more available to the believer than is currently witnessed in most circles.  The prophet Ezekiel spoke of living waters to swim in: boundless, fathomless glories of the spirit realm (47:3–5).

Spiritual Appetite

        David said, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:4).  Also, in Psalms 107:9, we read, “For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”  David also proclaimed, “He will fulfill the desire of them that fear (revere) Him” (Ps. 145:19).  There are more promises in the New Testament that should whet the appetite for more of the presence of God in the life.  In I Cor. 2:9, Paul refers to Isaiah 64:4 by saying, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”  Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32).  Also, in John 14:12, He said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.”  We read in Eph. 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”  (This applies to our present time because we are “seated in heavenly places.” Eph. 2:6).  In Phil. 4:19, Paul states, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Peter agreed with this by saying, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…(4) Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” (II Pet. 1:3,4).  Somehow it appears that Christians may feel greedy if they were to pursue these marvelous spiritual promises, but actually, God is glorified in and through His followers when they partake of His bountiful spiritual provisions.  In I Cor. 12:31, we are admonished, “But covet earnestly the best gifts.”  This is defined to mean we are to jealously desire with deep sincerity the miraculous deliverance of God.  We know that God is glorified in His people when they embody His qualities of character, and the example of the early church demonstrates that He is even more glorified when His servants function in complete (mature, perfect) faith and spiritual power.  We have been given the Spirit of God (abiding within the heart) “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (I Cor. 2:10–12).  In Matthew 10:1, 7 and 8, we have the account of when Jesus gave His twelve disciples power over evil spirits, sickness, disease, and death.  In Luke 10:1, 9 and 17, we find a similar record with seventy followers of Christ.  Just because we do not see this genuine authority exercised among believers today does not mean it should not be received.  Is this not included in Jude's admonition “that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (verse 3)?

        In the first chapter of Acts, we find that those believers were told to “wait for the promise of the Father” (v. 4) so that “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me…unto the uttermost part of the earth” (v. 8).  Their “wait” is defined as “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (v. 14).  Chapter two of Acts describes God’s response to their hunger, and the life–changing effects it had upon them as individuals and as a body in that they were then able to bring great glory to God in their examples and ministry (Acts 6:5–8).  They had an intense, sustained craving for everything God had for them, and He heard their cries and met their needs.  Paul spoke of numerous offices within the church (including apostles and prophets) working “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:11–13).  The fact that these purposes have yet to be attained shows that these offices are still needed.  Most believers relegate those events to that era alone, but there is no scriptural foundation for such a view, although it does neatly absolve one of pursuing God to such a degree.  The Word proclaims, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8).  If a person does not believe that God has more spiritual blessings available now, then there is no benefit in seeking them.  The believer becomes spiritually static and contents himself with a state of dragging through earthly existence until he dies so he may (at the last day judgment) receive the glories of heaven on the other side.  This attitude does away with the symptom of hunger Paul expressed in II Cor. 5:2, “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.”  Some may think that this is expecting too much, but actually, expecting too little is evidence of a lack of faith that prevents God from doing what He is willing and able to do with us.  Paul wrote to the Colossian church members about some of these very things!  “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; (10) That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; (11) Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; (12) Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet (qualified) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:9–12).  Perhaps the key to all these blessed attainments lies in the phrase “do not cease to pray” (verse 9).

Prayer

        Even after reading the spiritual promises found in the Word, we may find that we still lack a real appetite for the things of God.  However, if we confess our lack before Him, and ask for our desires to be set upon Him, He will help cultivate a greater hunger for more of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts.  “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure(Phil. 2:13).  Paul also said that “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities (feebleness)…with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26, 27).

       Jesus said, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22; Mk. 11:24; Jn. 14:13,14). “Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (8) Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples” (Jn. 15:7,8).  These verses are often applied to physical, material interests, but they have greater application to spiritual interests.  Ancient Israel was told in Deut. 4:29 that from wherever they were, when they would seek God with their all, He would be found.  In Phil. 4:6, we read, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (The word supplication means to seek by humble, earnest request for specific needs.)  We find that the early believers “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14), and immediately after Paul’s list of spiritual armor, he concluded with these words: “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph. 6:18).  When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He gave the sample prayer now commonly known as “The Lord's Prayer” and followed it with a parable to teach the importance of persistence when we petition God (Lk. 11:1–13).  In verse eight, He used a word translated importunity which has to do with being offensively bold (impudent), expressing troublesome urgency, persistent request or demand.  (This brings to mind the account of when Jacob wrestled with the angel, demanding a blessing.  See Gen. 32:24–30.)  Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock with the promise of God’s positive response!  Verse thirteen concludes with, “how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?”  While it is true that a born–again Christian receives the Holy Spirit within his heart at the time of conversion, the challenges facing us today warrant the necessity of our being immersed (baptized and filled: completely given over) in the Holy Spirit as we read about throughout the ministry of the early church and the apostles.

       When Paul spoke of the manifestation of the sons of God in Romans 8:19, he said there was earnest expectation for this demonstration.  This is an intense anticipation for God’s glory to be exercised by and through His believers.  David expressed a deep hunger for God’s help in his prayer in Psalms 55.  Some key words from verses 1–4, 16 and 17 include these: mourn, heart is sore pained, and cry aloud.  Someone who is really hungry almost salivates just thinking about food, and God’s people in this hour need this type of earnest desire for His spiritual blessings.  The Jew named Apollos was described as being “fervent in the Spirit, (and) he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord” (Acts 18:24,25).  Paul said we are all to be “fervent in the Spirit, serving the Lord…continuing instant in prayer” (Rom. 12:10–12).  This word, fervent, means having or showing great emotion or zeal: ardent; glowing extremely hot (Amer. Her. Dict.).  God expects His people to be hot toward Him (Rev. 3:15,16).

Praise

        Another key to receiving from God involves communing with Him through praise.  We honor God with heart–felt worship in praise and expressed adoration of Him.  Praise is an acknowledgment of His glory, majesty, faithfulness, mercy, love, and blessings (see Ps. 100).  It is a means of coming into His presence because when we set ourselves to worship Him, our focus is upon Him in faith regardless of our apparent earthly state or condition of being.  He is always worthy of praise (Ps. 18:3); He inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3); He is blessed by our loving appreciation of His goodness; and He responds by blessing us with His wonderful presence, peace, and joy.  As Isaiah said, “O LORD, Thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for Thou hast done wonderful things; Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Isa. 25:1).  Through praise we remove ourselves from the physical awareness of mundane earthly existence and soar through our spirits into the heavenly realms where we are invited to enjoy the blessings of God.  “Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for His mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD” (Jer. 33:11).  “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).  The word praise is used 248 times in Scripture (170 are in Psalms) and the conjugates of praise add another 65 times.  Praise is extremely important in our relationship with God!  Jesus’ sample prayer opens with praise.  Traditionally, church services open with praise (and prayer) to help those assembled to lay aside the issues of the week, and to meet with the King of glory.

        Although the combination of hunger, prayer, and praise will not obligate God as if He would owe us, He does respond to the attributes of sincerity, humility, and faith expressed through these measures.  In Psalms 10:17, David assures us,“ LORD, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, Thou wilt cause Thine ear to hear.”  When Peter and John were released from being imprisoned for their bold testimony before the Jews, the church united in prayer and praise (Acts 4:24).  God had delivered these men, and “the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

        Jesus died for, and is returning for, a glorious bride “without spot or wrinkle” who has put all enemies under His feet (Ps. 8:2–6; I Cor. 15:24,25; Heb. 2:6–8, 10:12,13).  This can only be accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit working through surrendered vessels of the Lord: God's servants.  “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev 4:11).  “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).  The people of God are His pleasure, and can bring honor and glory and blessing to His name through their lives when completely yielded to His will and directed by His Holy Spirit.

 

 

THE FALSE HOPE

Randall Walton

        False – the very word causes alarm to most of us.  We feel betrayed by the less–than–genuine, the counterfeit, the make believe, the pretended.

        And yet we live in a day of colossal falsity.  Jesus evaluated our day as a time when false prophets, false apostles, false teachers, false miracle workers, and false doctrines would flourish in an unprecedented manner, and so it is!

        The secular world, as well as the religious environment, is flooded by the spurious.  Merchants advertise their wares with claims of instant happiness, joy, contentment, fulfillment, and bliss.  Millions of dollars are spent in an effort to persuade people to spend billions of dollars for products which can never produce more than temporary pseudo–satisfaction.  The end of the rainbow remains as elusive as ever.

        As bad as this is, it pales in comparison with the deception which dominates the religious scene.  Merchants of spiritual death are raking in the billions by offering false life which they are selling for “free.”  Free grace, and free salvation, can now be obtained by sending your love gifts to the popular TV and radio evangelists!  And if this isn’t enough, they’ll tell you how to get a free trip away from this planet earth just ahead of calamity, catastrophe, and chaos, better known as the great tribulation.

        The Great False Hope, usually dubbed The Rapture or the Blessed Hope, is one of the most diabolical doctrines to have befallen mankind in the history of the church.  Of course, it is true that if people would remain in a state of readiness at all times, it would be of little consequence whether they believed in a “pre–trib,” “mid–trib,” or “post–trib” translation of the saints.

        But the very nature of the pre–trib idea is such that it lulls people asleep.  It does away with any incentive to persevere, to prepare, to plan, to push.  It has done more to promote apostasy and apathy in the ranks of Christendom than perhaps any other teaching extant in religious circles today.  This is no doubt the reason why satan has promulgated this teaching so strongly.

        It is also very significant that this error is not confined to any denomination, for it is being heralded far and near by the Pentecostals, the fundamentalists, and the evangelicals, and has even penetrated the Catholics via the charismatic movement.  In speaking of the terrors of the last days, Jesus stated that they would come upon the whole world as a snare – a surprise – and while the majority of the world is gazing skyward for a secret catching away, a terrible trap is being laid for their feet!

        Does it never occur to those who loudly proclaim that falsehood that the Bible plainly teaches that the great tribulation precedes, not follows, the coming of the Lord (Matt. 24:29–31)?  Why do they seem so unwilling to analyze phrase by phrase Paul’s message in I Thess. 4:16,17 concerning Christ’s return?  Such an approach as this to the Scriptures should dispel forever any idea of a secret translation of the church before Jesus comes again.

        There is truly not one verse of Scripture which confirms nor substantiates the idea of a vast, heavenward, secret escape prior to the tribulation.

        We note with much interest the testimony of Corrie ten Boom, a saint who suffered great persecution at the hands of the Nazi torturers during World War II.  She said, “We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across this world has already entered into the tribulation.  There is no way to escape it.  We are next.”

        She continues her exposé with these words: “Last year alone more than two hundred thousand Christians were martyred in Africa.  Now things like that never get into the newspapers because they cause bad political relations.  But I know.  I have been there.  We need to think about that when we sit down in our nice houses with our nice clothes and eat our steak dinners.  Many, many members of the Body of Christ are being tortured to death at this very moment, yet we continue right on as though we are all going to escape the tribulation.”

        Much of the apathy of the American people is directly due to the escape theory of the rapture doctrine, which itself is based upon false interpretation of the word of God.  For example, the Scriptures do not state that the tribulation will last for 3½ years nor for 7 years!  There is no indication as to the duration of the terrors of this last day.  As Sister ten Boom stated, tribulation has already arrived in many countries.  Millions of saints gave their lives for Jesus in China and in the Soviet Union.

        Any worldwide view should indicate to us that the Great Tribulation is already under way, even though it has not yet struck our own nation.  But let us be confident of this one thing, when it comes to this nation, we can expect it to be far worse than it has already been in other countries, for we are the ones who boldly proclaim “In God We Trust” yet stoutly deny Him by rejecting His words and His blessed Son, Jesus.

        Not that we haven’t been a religious, church–going people.  We have been and still are.  But all of our religiosity fails to cover the superficiality of our profession.  Church affiliation to most people has about as much significance as membership in a club or a lodge.  So long as one pays his dues and attends the required number of meetings, he is in good standing.  His mode of life between meetings is of little real consequence to the other members of the hierarchy.  When asked, he should be able to state a few basics about his beliefs or the by–laws of the organization, but he is not required to know God personally nor to produce a life as proof of his profession!

        Yes, the tribulation is coming and we are unprepared for persecution, hardship, trouble, starvation, privation, poverty, torture, regimentation, and depression.  The majority of Americans are not prepared to face the rigors of the reign of the Beast as he breaks forth to conquer all mankind.

        We urge you to search the Scriptures diligently to know God’s plan for His people for these last days.  Beware of those who claim great spiritual manifestations such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, Holy Ghost anointing, divine healing, or who teach and preach the devil’s lie concerning a secret rapture of the church.  They will use their supposed Holy Ghost experiences as “proof” that what they teach is true.  Remember that we are living in the time of the greatest deception that mankind has ever witnessed (Matt. 24:24) when all that is false and counterfeit will be unleashed upon mankind for the purpose of his ultimate destruction.

Translation, Yes: Secret, No!

        The element of secrecy in regard to the Second Coming is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures.  Surprise is certain, but not secrecy.

        In the most popular portion of supposed “proof” for the secret rapture, the very opposite of secrecy is put forth: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (I Thess. 4:16).  How can one assume that such an announcement is heard only by the saints of the Lord?  From other Scriptures, we can determine that this event takes place at a time when mankind is not expecting it, but they all are aware of it taking place.

        Because Paul here does not mention the wicked dead being raised at the same time, the assumption has been made that they are resurrected at a later time, but we need to recognize the fact that in this instance Paul does not refer to the wicked at all.  His message is one of comfort to the saints concerning the future of their loved ones (verses 13–15).

        But when Jesus spoke of resurrection of the dead, He included both the just and the unjust coming forth at the same time, and both receiving their final rewards at the same time (John 5:28,29).  Paul merely states that the “dead in Christ rise first,” that is, they come forth prior to the living saints being caught up together with them.  If we try to insert a period of time between the resurrection of the saints (they rise first) and the resurrection of the wicked, we do a great injustice to the words of Jesus.  He very plainly stated that His coming will be known universally by all who are alive and, also, who have ever lived on the earth (Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:26,27; John 5:28,29).

As A Thief In The Night

        There are several allusions to the return of Jesus which are interpreted as indicating a secret, unforewarned snatching away of the elect before the time of trouble falls upon those who remain here.  One of those is that “the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night” (I Thess. 5:2).

        The argument goes something like this: just before the tribulation begins, Jesus is going to swoop down and, as a thief, steal away His jewels while the rest of the world sleeps on.  Sounds good, but it’s not a true perception, for all the words of Jesus and the apostles deny that He will come secretly.

        The element of surprise is that which is set forth here.  He will come “in such an hour as ye think not” (Matt. 24:44); “when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh,” Paul warned about the coming of the day of the Lord (I Thess. 4:3).

        Another supposed proof for the secret rapture is found in Paul’s message in II Thessalonians 2:7 where Paul speaks concerning the return of Jesus and the gathering together of the people of God.  He says, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”  These words “until he be taken out of the way” supposedly refers to the church being caught away just before the anti–Christ is released in fury upon the earth.

        But there are several errors apparent in this interpolation of Paul’s message.

        1.  The words letteth and let are better translated restrain or holding back.  It is a well–known fact that the church is not now, nor has it ever, restrained or held back corruption, apostasy, anti–Christs, nor the forces of evil.  By and large the church has been a colossal failure.  It has not only joined the world, it has abetted the world and its conquests over the poor and destitute of the earth.

        2.  The church is never referred to as “he.”  It is always called “she,” the bride of Christ, the body, the wife, but never he.  It is highly inconsistent with Scripture that, suddenly, in one verse the bride should be called by a masculine pronoun!

        It should be evident to all of us that the “he” who is holding back the terrors of trouble on a worldwide scale is the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  His work in the earth at present is universal, but there will come the day when the work of harvest will be over and He will no longer restrain the powers of evil which will then sweep over the nations.  God’s people will still be here and “he,” the Holy Ghost, will overshadow the people of God to preserve and nourish them during that time.

“As It Was In The Days Of Noah”

        Noah’s epic cruise is often cited as an analogy of the secret rapture theory.  As Noah and his family were “lifted up from the earth,” so also is the church to be lifted up into heaven!  That sounds good, too, but there really isn’t anything to substantiate this as being correct.

        In fact, the opposite is factual; for Noah, his family, and the ark were still an integral part of this planet.  True, they were spared while all other humans perished, but they were not secretly “caught up” nor taken to heaven.

        They were protected and preserved, just as the Lord will protect and preserve His family in this latter day holocaust, not by boat or ship, but by His own means (Zeph. 2:1–3; Isaiah 26:20,21; Isaiah 4:5,6; Luke 21:34–36; Rev. 3:10; Rev. 12:6,14).

        Also, Noah’s experience refutes the idea of secrecy.  It was a surprise to the unbelievers when the raindrops began falling, but it was no secret.  The rain literally came down upon them, and they visually witnessed the rising waters giving buoyancy to “Noah’s folly” as it floated away beyond their reach and accessibility (God had shut the door).  No doubt, many of them began to call upon the God they had so brazenly defied during the more than a century of Noah’s warnings and construction.

        And Jesus said there will be a repeat of the conditions and circumstances which prevailed in those wicked days, many of which we already see running rampant in our society today.

The Enoch Doctrine

        Enoch was a man who had an unusual testimony: he pleased God (Heb. 11:5)!  And it is written of him that he was translated, or as Genesis 5:24 relates it: “he was not; for God took him.”

        The boosters of the rapture doctrine use Enoch’s translation as an example of the pre–tribulation translation of the church!  But the parallel of the church and Enoch stops before it gets started: Enoch had attained a place in God which the church knows nothing of: he was a man of faith who walked in obedience to God.  The fact that he pleased God is evidence that he walked in conformity to God’s laws, commandments, and orders.

        Jesus had the same testimony, for the Father Himself declared: “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus was wholeheartedly dedicated to the will of His father, which is another way of saying He obeyed the Father’s law, His will, His commands.

        Compare this with the “church” today.  Obedience is a forbidden word in the average congregation.  Mention the word in many religious circles and you become estranged from the rest of the crowd.  The very thought of conforming to anything that would please the Most High is repugnant to most people.

        Division, discrimination, greed, worldliness, corruption, deceit, etc. are a part of the present church system.  There is little chance of a translation or “catching away” of such a disparate body which claims to be “the church” at the present time.

Tribulation A Necessity

        “Tribulation worketh patience,” Paul stated (Rom. 5:3), and it is also a means of entering into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).  Tribulation will come as a separator to separate the chaff from the wheat, the wicked from the righteous, the world from the saint.

        The church must be brought into a condition of unity, oneness, harmony, cleanness, purity, holiness.  The bride must be brought into a state of worthiness before she will be accepted by the Bridegroom.

        Paul confirmed that when Jesus returns the church will be glorious, “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:26,27).  No, the church does not measure up to that standard now.  There must be a thorough cleansing, and this is one of the purposes for tribulation.  When mankind is prosperous he lives in independence from God.  Rebellion flourishes when he feels self–sufficient and content.  But God in His mercy and love will demonstrate to the church that she cannot live apart from Him.

God Has A Plan

        God will stand by His people during these harsh times.  He has a definite plan for preserving His bride while tribulation rages upon the earth.

        Study the Word!  Seek the Lord!  Practice the sayings and commands of Jesus; put all your faith and trust in Him; be so devoted to God that you are willing to become a martyr if it becomes necessary.  And forget about the false hope of a quick, secret escape before all these things come to pass.