Revelation – Chapter 20

There is plenty to discuss in this short chapter but as usual, we will take the approach of Dr. jStarkidentifying or defining the significant and major points made by the Apostle John. Revelation 20, 21, and 22 could easily fall in sub captions of 1) the fall of the dragon (Satan), 2) The new Heaven, and 3) The New Earth; a closing well deserving our attention.

A Revelation 20 outline subhead form looks like this:

  1. Millennial or statement per the thousand years,
  2. Satan’s final judgment,
  3. The Great White Throne judgment of those resurrected to face their eternal decision on earth while alive.

We could add the Battle of Gog and Magog along with the Lake of Fire but these will fall into our discussion of the above outline of a, b, & c.  In chapter 19 many theologians and commentators would identify as Armageddon and chapter 20 as the Battle of Gog/Magog. Either way, keep in mind that both battles follow the 7-year Tribulation. Yes, there will be wars and rumors of wars [Matthew 24:6] but these lead us up to and into the Great Tribulation. Satan is alive and well and can cause such destruction that Jesus has to return to the earth less there are no humans left alive [Matthew 24:22].

Hosea the prophet clearly tells us that the latter days are a specific time when the Tribes of Israel will return to the State of Israel. They are dispersed throughout the world; the four corners of the earth. [Isaiah 11:12]. However, Israel today is mostly those descended from the Tribe of Judah. They are the New Testament Jews who crucified Jesus. “Jews” descended from those who were exiled for 70 years in Babylon. Only a very small remnant returned. There has yet to be a massive return of Israelites from the other 11 tribes. We mistakenly try to identify the Jew as all-inclusive of Israelites. In the first five books of the Bible [written by Moses] he never Identifies Israelis as Jews. The word Jew is the Anglo-Saxon/Greek version of Judah or from the country or territory of Judah; the predominant people in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus Christ on earth. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jew_(word)]

The sequence so far is: Church Rapture – 3 ½ Tribulation plus 3 ½ years of Great Tribulation – The return of Jesus to the Mount of Olives – the earth shudders, shakes and divides along natural fault lines (including the one geologists say goes right through the center of the Mount of Olives – Armageddon – the beast and false prophet captured, judged, and thrown into the Lake of Fire – birds of the wild feast on the dead the dead 200 million man combined army in Har Megiddo 55 miles north of Jerusalem who try to attack Jerusalem – THEN CHAPTER 20: the beginning of the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ on the Throne of David in Jerusalem.

This is the point at which one can get distracted by or caught up in the theological positions of a-millennialism [no millennium], postmillennialism [all after the fact including Christ’s return; the power of the church binds Satan not the angel from heaven], and premillennialism [the position of this website since it makes most sense without drawing at straws or spiritualizing factual scripture throughout the Bible]. We are deliberately side-stepping the minor disagreements between the classical and the dispensational premillennialists; both for the sake of the reader of this blog and its authorJ.

A lengthy but good discussion on Revelation 20 can be found at: http://www.centralbaptist1873.org/downloads/revelation/Outline%20for%20Revelation%2020.pdf.  Not yet studied by us, website blog appears to be solid.

We won’t get into the theories of what the key or chain may represent in verse one. The bottom line: this angel has the power to grab, hold, restrain, and bind Satan in such a manner as his personal powers are useless to either escape or to any longer influence the peoples and nations of this world. Powerless until the thousand year millennium is over. One might ask as we addressed in the previous blog, “why must Satan be released even if it is but for a short time after the millennial reign of Jesus and God?”

Good question. The answer is hidden in plain sight. If Satan is able to assemble a huge army after the thousand years of “iron scepter” (Revelation 2:27; Psalms 2:9; Revelation 12:5) rule of Jesus, it is obvious there are still those who do not Love or Accept Jesus as his or her Savior or King. Satan’s last stand (phrase borrowed from Custer’s Last Stand) will be judged. Satan first, then the books (plural) are opened and each person is judged according to his or her deeds; i.e. different levels of eternity in Hell (?).

Taking a slight step backward, be mindful that Jerusalem is the bride of God (O.T.) just as the church is the bride of Jesus Christ (N.T.). Let me borrow a quote from:  http://tedmontgomery.com/bblovrvw/emails/thewoman.html

The Church did not “replace” Israel; rather, it was grafted into Israel. At a future time, Israel (Zion) will receive all of the blessings promised to her millennia ago by God (Isaiah 45:17, 51:2,3,16; Jeremiah 50:4,5; Ezekiel 36:1–37:28). Also, the “woman” does not represent only Jews, who are descendants of Judah, since they are only one of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Read Revelation 11 once again or revisit the blogs in this website of Revelation 11, 12, 13, and 14)

Verse 4 of C20 is significant:revelation-20

(paraphrased) The souls (not bodies) of those beheaded, who had not worshiped the beast, his image, or taken the mark of the beast. These must be the Christians martyred DURING the tribulation and probably the voices of those “souls” heard under the Throne (Revelation 6:9) asking for justice (Revelation 6:10).

This, as hinted to in Revelation 6:11 and as previously discussed in this series of Revelation blogs, could be one of the two 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7:4 and again Revelation 14:1-5. It matters little as to if separate or different groups of 144,000 per Revelation 20:4. Those who die, for their witness of Jesus Christ during the Tribulation, will “Live and reign with Messiah (Christ) a thousand years.” (Also read Isaiah 51:11)

However, verse 6 should not be overlooked per a resurrection. This can get to be sticky theological detail here but here is the quick kick of it all. Being that if there is a pretribulation rapture, those who are the bride or church of Jesus Christ are already gone; i.e. Rapture. Those who die for their witness during the Tribulation are resurrected in verse 4.

Easy answer to the obvious question… who is left on earth before this resurrection? Answer: those who rejected God (O.T.) or reject Jesus (N.T.). This is how we get the first and the second resurrection. The dead in God/Christ are resurrected for the Millennial Reign. Recall from previous blogs in this study that millions have died by now via Satan’s effort to destroy mankind. Millions have also died at Armageddon; Tribulation ended. We calculate that between 1/3 and ½ of the world’s population have died within a short period of time. Then Gog and Magog deaths. No problem with overcrowding on earth.

The second resurrection is those who died without God or Christ. This is the Great White Throne judgment and capacity is no problem since “the heavens [sky] and earth flee the presents of God.” We see this verse in Revelation 20:11. But first let’s not skip some important discussion beginning in verse 7; i.e. Satan’s final judgment.

If unbelievers are wrong and chapter 20 is right, they have a serious and eternal problem of resurrection, judgment, and Hell. If I am wrong as a believer, then I will simply die like the rest of the world’s population; past and present. You decide but there are only two options. Reject Christ and possibly be wrong and the judgment correct, or accept Christ and be safe regardless of end time. Being a believer is not a safety net; it is a life style!

As already mentioned, Satan is bound a thousand years. When released, he raises an army the sized or “like the sand on the seashore; [then] march the breadth of the earth, surround Jerusalem [V9c], but never get to fight. They are devoured by fire from heaven… only to be raised in judgment in the second resurrection shortly thereafter. They see a second death; one of eternal punishment. I have been asked many times; what might Hell be likened to? My best guess is like the fire or burning of a deep-rooted hate, or lust for something one cannot get or get over. This feeling will be stamped into one’s mind to the power of ten, never to leave or be replaced by another thought while camping out at the lake of fire.

In verse 10 we are reminded that the beast (anti-Christ) and his false prophet are already in the Lake of Sulfur waiting for their cherished and loving Satan (pun intended) with very warm and open arms of welcome. Thanks for joining us you devil!!!!!! The beast and false prophet have already been there a 1,000 years. That is plenty of time to develop a very warm welcome for their master deceiver… Satan.

Finally, chapter 20 closes on the subject of the Great White Throne Judgment. We previously discussed some of this but allow us to point to or remind the reader-student the exposé of a few additional facts.

  1. The earth and sky flee from the presents of “him who is seated on the throne.”
  2. The dead resurrected, small and great, stand before the Great White Throne.
  3. The BOOKS are opened; books that have recorded his and her life and deeds while on earth. This opens up the possibilities of greater or lesser punishments but does not eliminate the fact of a judgment.
  4. Another book (singular) is opened and those whose names are written in the [Lamb’s] Book of Life are given life with God (trinity). These are possibly those who are still alive on earth but repent of their sin before the judgment day of reckoning. (emphasis mine)
  5. V13c: (NIV) “…and each person was judged according to what s/he had done (while on earth). (emphasis mine – see #3)
  6. “If anyone’s name is not found written in the Book of Life, s/he is thrown (accordingly) into their Lake of fire for eternity.” (emphasis mine)

How Many?

If you were to ask the average Christian (whatever that means) how many people they have led to Jesus Christ, the number would be alarmingly small.  The majority ofRev Paul HoffmasterChristians know they have a spiritual obligation to share the Gospel, but how to do it is an entirely different question.

I remember early in my ministry I promoted “soul winning” programs that would help the bashful saint present the GOOD NEWS.  I tried everything from James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion to producing our church’s own tracts (pamphlets).  Bumper stickers plastered the cars with spiritual gems with the hope that the simple message would draw the unsaved to the nearest salvation station.  In one city where I pastored, I had the youth of our church meet every Thursday to hit the streets to present our salvation tracts.  For over two months, they distributed the pamphlets to over 1,000 homes with the hope that the recipients would respond to the written invitations.  Instead of jubilation at the responses, discouragement laced their minds.  There were a number who made the decision, and for that we were thankful, but the toll it took on our youth weighed heavily on the leadership of our church.  It was not only in our body of Believers, but many other evangelistic churches also experienced the same disappointments.

Within the next few years, the “soul winning movement” moved from the streets into the houses of worship.  Altar invitations became the way of bringing the lost to Jesus.  People were released from “one on one” evangelism.  Their calling was to bring people to the church.  It was there that the pastor would take over the “soul winning” duties.  What happened was the salvation message took center stage, and soon the saved begin to starve for meat that would help them grow and become effective Christians.  People failed to realize that pastors don’t reproduce sheep, the sheep do!

  • Today, it seems the evangelical church is slowly coming out of its citadels of worship to once again bring the Gospel message to the lost.  I am thankful for those who understand their Biblical calling and are willing to share the wonderful message of God’s love.  We must be careful though, not to adopt man made techniques to present the Gospel.  The Church tried that before and it did not work.

Much of the discouragement that faces Believers today is based on not knowing what is expected of them.  Instead of attending seminars and course instruction on “soul winning,” Christians need to simply share their story.  Every day there will be opportunities to present the Truth that has been instilled in us.  When we see people going through similar life-altering experiences, we must be ready to present our story.  Simply share how the Lord helped you through your crisis or situation.  People will not challenge your presentation, because you are the living proof of that victory.  Share how you came to know Jesus Christ.  Maybe that individual will not respond to your sharing, but you planted the seed.  That planting will pave the way for another Believer to water that seed with his story and, through the Holy Spirit, that person may experience the miracle of rebirth. (I Corinthians 3:6-9)

How many people have you led to Jesus Christ?  Maybe we don’t have a definitive number, but if the Lord would reveal to us how many came into the Kingdom by way of our seed planting or watering, we would be amazed!  Maybe your joy was the sunshine that helped the seed to grow.

Share your story!  Be a Planter!  Be a Waterer!  Let your SON shine!  It is a team effort!  God gives the increase.

 

Revelation 19

There is significant and justifiable debate over part of this chapter. That is the part that has to do with the Battle of Gog and Magog? Since there is a 200,000,000 man army miniJimgathered in Har Megeddo just prior to the 2nd Advent of Christ; i.e. the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of HIS Millennial Reign, there is a battle. However, Satan is afterwards chained [Revelation 20], and uninfluential to those who live during the Millennial Reign.  Then he is released for a “short period of time” [Revelation 20] once again to draw the nations against the King of Kings whose throne is in Jerusalem. This too is a major battle fought for the same reason; to remove the King of kings from ruling what Satan wishes to claim as his domain… the earth.

am123 in a blog, a Steve Quayle… http://beforeitsnews.com/prophecy/2015/04/steve-quayle-the-battle-of-gog-and-magog-has-begun-2468618.html] …he writes: The Gog and Magog prophecies in the Bible are not something that plays out in the dispensation [period] we now find ourselves in. It plays out after the Millennial Reign. (emphasis mine)

http://www.discoverrevelation.com/5.html points out that this war is upon the return to earth of Jesus and his heavenly host after the Great Tribulation but before the Millennial Kingdom. (emphasis mine)

Which blogger is correct? Both pre and post Millennial Reign battles are Satan against Christ with *Satan using mankind to do and die for his dirty work. Actually, the bible gives little evidence as to the timing of the Battle of Gog and Magog or the Battle of Armageddon. Since enemies of God and armies of all nations gather in Har Megiddo to wage war against Jerusalem and the self-proclaiming King of kings, this is the Battle of Armageddon.  Goh and Magog are only mentioned in conjunction with Satan’s release after his 1,000 years in the pit of abyss.

heavenorhellTo cut to the quick before discussing chapter 19 of Revelation in this website, the real question is not the timing or duration of these wars against Christ, but our eternity options. There are only two; Heaven or Hell. There is no third option! I write, you decide per your own eternal destiny. Personally I would rather be wrong about this eternity thing and live a life on the side of Christ with Him as the Savior then take the chance by denying Him as Lord and Savior while still alive.

*It is amazing that Christ and Satan are so different in that Satan wants mankind to die for his dirty work and Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin. Both offer an eternity though. Which one is your destiny? Remember that staying neutral is not one of the options per eternity. The short of it, staying neutral means NOT ACCEPTING eternity with Jesus and Heaven. This means the other destiny is one’s choice by default.

Author’s note: I do suggest one re-read the blog in this website on chapter 18. These two chapters flow together. Both C18 and C19 begin with the same words… “and after this…”; they are sequential. Chapter 14 through to the end of chapter 22 and the end of Revelation, other than chapters 18 and 19 are given events in John’s visions due to the word, Then…” [ESV]. We might conclude from this that these events in their playing out follow the same pattern or happen concurrently.

For a good spoken message from David Guzik on chapter 19 go to: http://blb.sc/002lBA. What you will read from this blog is a much shorter summary of C19 as is the usual practice in ahabiblemoments.wordpress.com. This website may or may not represent every opinion of David Guzik. However, you read this blog, listen to him, than decide for yourself.

First and foremost is the excitement in heaven per the return of Jesus Christ to his created earth. Four different times we find Hallelujah (Alleluia; borrowed from the Hebrew in some translations); 19:1, 19:3, 19:4b, and 19:6b. Such proclamation and rejoicing is unparalleled in scripture. One might argue the same is true of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, but this resounding support from within heaven per the end of the time with Satan “roaming to and fro” on earth and at the controls is beyond compelling [1 Peter 5:8]. It is worth repeating four times in the first 6 verses of Revelation 19. The redeemed join in this chorus of voices at this time. Such wording is exclusive to this chapter.

Recall from chapter 18 that God has already judged the harlot; John’s reminder is in C19:2. It is probable that C19:2c, “he has avenged on her the blood of his servants” is in reference to the plea of voices crying out from under the Throne of God back in Revelation 6:10.

This is an extra thought per avenging the blood of God’s servants.  I have occasionally  been asked about God’s policy or thoughts on capital punishment. God is only a loving God, so says the Pope, right and many pulpit dwellers? Read Genesis 9:6, than decide for yourself.

Some ask if born again believers are in heaven or in a holding tank of sorts prior to and during the Tribulation. Before the Tribulation we have the rapture of the church. In Verse 1 per many translations it reads “a great multitude.” In the Young’s Literal Translation, an almost word-for-word translation of the Greek, it reads “multitude.” In the King James Version it reads “people.” Some translations say “voices.” We leave this to your own discernment. It matters not since the sound comes from heaven from a large number of (different) voices indicating there is a probable mix of voices: angels, redeemed, other angelic hosts, the 24 elders, four beast guarding the Throne of God, martyred saints, etc. This is the point in created time that all creation has awaited.

We deduce this all-inclusiveness of unison shouting “Praise the Lord” and upon reading the Greek word used here for “heaven;” ouranos, it is inclusive of what we see in the starry skies, the universe itself, all other universes, and from the streets of Heaven itself.

19:3 says the “The smoke from her (the harlot) goes up forever and ever.” Some misunderstand the meaning of this passage. When sin is done, it is cast into the eternal hell never to be again. This verse is analogous. Sin is gone forever never to be dealt with again. Hell is eternal as is the punishment of the great harlot who represents unpardonable sin.

In Revelation 19 5 we read at the end of the verse, “Praise God all ye his servants…. ‘both small and great.’ The late Reverend Charles Stark once stated that there is room in this verse to understand the small could include childhood deaths, aborted babies, and those who never reached the age of personal responsibility. One of the points in his reasoning is the word “great”; i.e. megas. Thayer includes in his dictionary, and as Strong leaves open to the same conclusion, that megas includes a very broad interpretation of its meaning and inclusiveness. Thayer flat out states it includes the variation in ages from the smallest (mikroteros) unborn to those who reach a ripe old age.

Charles Spurgeon once stated, “We must NOT worship God in a half-hearted way. Mechanical worship is easy, but worthless.” We at this website believe far too many express a greater joy at a dull ball game than s/he does in church during the time of worship or Bible study. Bill Gaither wrote a praise song that has a phrase in it: “Let’s just lift our HANDS toward heaven.” Far too many churches and praise teams change the word “hands” to “hearts”. Why the fear of praising God by lifting one’s hand(s) demonstrating thankfulness and praise????? 19:7 is very specific. It reads,Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory…” Exult??? Hmmmm? This overt expression, however, does not replace true bible study and worship. God is Spirit and we must worship Him in Spirit, says Jesus in John 4:24.

Verse 6-9 is the wedding feast. This has so many articles written on it we need not stay here long. In Old Testament practices and for a time in the New Testament, at the wedding time, the groom would first come to his future wife’s home, than they together would go to his home. Think of it this way. Jesus, the bride-groom comes to our current home (earth first) then after a stay, in this case, of a thousand years, he takes his bride, the church, and believers to his house; the New Heaven and the New Earth. This becomes our home for eternity.

The White Horse!

Beginning in verse 11 through the end of this chapter we have the truth of what it means when the Bible tells us that God is a JUST God. Loving, yes, but also judicious. A BIG difference between the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, the first rider being on a white horse and wearing a crown “given to him”, followed by the red, black, and green horses, is that the rider in verse 19:11 is wearing multiple crowns (diadems in some translations) that are his; not loaned or given to him.

Verse 13 says “…his name is the Word of God.” Where have we seen this before? How about John 1:1; “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was (is) God.” Note that the riders who accompany him on white horses do not have any (mentioned) weapons. There is only one weapon needed at this time and it is the very word of God via the tongue of the lead horseman, Jesus, “with which he will strike down the nations” (NIV). God already declared “It is Done” in Revelation 16:17 and again in 21:6.

The condition of rule most often ignored or glossed over in many messages and found in 19:15b reads, “He will rule them (the nations) with an IRON SCEPTOR. What does this sound like he, King Jesus Christ, is doing during his rule? There is right and wrong… no gray or white lies, false worship, deception accepted. The earth is not yet perfect and neither will be man. We will be judged per the intent of our hearts during the His reign on earth.

This time during the Millennial Reign [Revelation 19:19] the sheep and goats, as mentioned in the book of Matthew 25, will be separated by their hearts’ intent and true desire. It is also why Satan will be able to raise a mighty army after his 1,000 years of being chained then *released for a season. There will be those who are probably born during the Millennial Reign that will want to rebel against this “iron scepter” rule of Jesus while on earth. This is Matthew 25:32; the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the Millennial Reign. If there is not going to be any deviation from worshiping the King of kings for a thousand years, why is there even a need for any scepter of rule, yet alone one made of “iron”? Man’s heart will still have “CHOICE.” Satan is chained, but mankind is still not a robot. This means a Godly rule of absolute consistency.

*Another often asked question is why is Satan released by God from his solitude confinement in the bottomless pit? There are two probable reasons. One is so that his eternal and final judgment can be handed down and the other is to expose those whose hearts have not really and only mechanically worshiped the true Messiah Jesus during the Millennial Reign. By the way, the word Christ is not a name. It means Messiah; i.e. Jesus the Messiah (Christ).

In conclusion of this week’s blog, here is a short sequence and conclusion of our discussion per chapter 19 with the events and reasons for such halleluiah shouts in the heavens above (all creation). The harlot is dealt with; Babylon is utterly destroyed; the evil one is no longer hiding or in disguise; those still alive question their evil leadership; the voices from under the Throne of the slain saints is heard and avenged; the rider on the white horse wearing multiple crowns leads a massive army to earth; the armies of the (evil) are destroyed; the angel announces that “our Lord God Almighty [now] reigns; the *beast and *false prophet (v20) are captured, judged and thrown into the eternal lake of fire.

*This does not include Satan himself. His judgment is a 1,000 years away.

Too often we hear from pulpits and the religious and politically correct that God is Love; i.e. that alone defines him. This is as false as the false prophet of Revelation. God according to this chapter in Revelation is General, Judge, Love and absolutely just. His love does NOT NEGATE His judgment of wrong and denial of Him; i.e. those who have never accepted the God of the heavens or his son Jesus as Lord of his or her life seeking forgiveness.

Blogger Note: I was born an American citizen. This required nothing on my behalf to find membership once born into this country. There are many things I can do that may seem or are wrong according to our laws and customs of this country. Yet, I remain a citizen. However, I can renounce my citizenship and turn my back on the American way. I say this only to help those who think once saved there is nothing that can renounce our citizenship in heaven. God won’t but we can. There is the unpardonable sin. Turning our back on and devaluing the Holy Spirit, openly rejecting or in a sense, petitioning to “get out” or renounce (blaspheme) means one’s citizenship is no longer recognized. (Matthew 12:31-32)

In this light, read a couple of the following passages using the above comparison to better understand what the Bible tells us about security in Christ.

Deuteronomy 31:8 (but we must follow)
Hebrews 13:5 (a conditional promise)
John 3:16 (whosoever believes, but if one ceases to believe, then…)
John 1:12 (but… only to those who have and continue to receive Him)
John 14:6 (none come to God but through Jesus. If we decide at any time to reject Jesus, then Jesus doesn’t leave us, we leave Him…)
Romans 10:9 (If we confess with our mouths… but what happens if we cease?

Church Immigration

In our political quagmire, rhetoric has evolved that has added to the division of our Country.  Immigration has been front and center to a continuing volcanic eruption of opinions.  The vacillating of viewpoints has driven our divide into a chasm that widens everyday.  On one side, there are the open arms of acceptance to anyone who wants to be part of this great land.  On the other side are those with folded arms of immigration restraint.  One group conveys an open door way, while the other group offers a door that can only be opened by meeting certain criteria.

Parallel to the political landscape is the Church and its immigration policy.  There are Rev Paul Hoffmasterbasically two viewpoints to the accepting of individuals who are seeking Christian citizenship.  One is an open door policy that offers acceptance to anyone occupying a pew.  The other offers citizenship by the person’s acceptance of Jesus Christ.  The oversimplification of these two approaches has led to a corrupted and ineffective Church.

Our Country is concerned about people entering it who seek to destroy our liberties.  The Church needs to be equally aware of people who are entering the Christian community with the intent to destroy the standards of Biblical integrity.  The attack on Biblical inerrancy is not so much an external challenge as it is an internal threat.  There are those within the Church who have assumed leadership roles with the intent to misdirect the “very elect” on issues that challenge the basic core of Biblical truths.  The open door policy of the Church has been a gateway for “Biblical Terrorist” to enter the confines of the elected.  As we read the Scriptures, we find continual warnings about the internal assaults against the Church, yet we turn a blind eye to its reality.  Until the Church understands what it is facing, perilous times will continue to rock its foundation.

When you look at what has been happening in the Church today, we will readily conclude that something is out of kilter.  Have those who have truly been Born Again suddenly decided to question the authority of God’s Word?  Would they challenge the Bible’s stand on homosexuality?  Would they redefine what constitutes marriage?  Would they condone same sex marriages?  The true Believer would never entertain anything that would question God’s Word.  Who then would pursue such a humanistic approach?

The Bible makes it clear that no one can come to Christ except God draws him.  It is also emphatically clear that no one comes to God except through Jesus Christ.  The drawing is implemented by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is “soul winners” try to do it on their own.  Programs are initiated on how to lead someone to Christ.  The intent is good, but sometimes they supersede the working of the Holy Spirit.  The initial response could be favorable, but in many cases the result of their salvation bares no evidence.  This is also where sheep in wolves clothing can enter the commune of Believers.

Difficult days lie ahead for both the Church and the Country.  As there is a path for those who want to pursue citizenship in the United States, shouldn’t there also be a directive for those interested in being part of the Kingdom of God?  The Church needs to take seriously its role in preparing people for their life changing experience, so when the Holy Spirit presents the Son, they will be prepared to receive Jesus not only as Savior, but also as Lord.

 I am asking that we examine the Scripture and see the warnings that have been issued to the Church.  The sheep in wolves clothing is not something new, but has been revealed throughout the Word.  The Church is facing steady decline of its constituency.  Pew Research just released statistics showing that between 2007 and 2014 there was a drop of almost 8% by those who had identified themselves as Christians.  There is an assault against the Church as well as our Country.  It is time to wake up and realize what is happening.  It is time to draw a definitive line and say enough is enough.  When our Constitution and the Bible are not defended, evil will triumph.  May God help us!

The Coming Change On How We Train Leadership

Murphy JamesThere seems to be a great need in the Body of Christ in the way we train our leaders but most especially our ministers. What do I mean by this? It has been my experience that our top leaders, those who train and lead our ministers have been taught to chase the wrong things. As a result of their training they are passing on those flawed leadership priorities. We have so far deviated from the Biblical pattern of raising up our leaders that we no longer seek to duplicate the methods Jesus used and instructed His disciples to follow.

ifollowjesusI do not wish to disparage or blame anyone for this tragedy only to look for and diligently pray that we return to the biblical examples left us by our Lord and savior. It has been said that 1800 ministers a month in the United States are leaving the ministry. In our own denomination the average age of our pastors has increased dramatically and churches that need qualified ministers are taking longer and longer to fill. I talked with a pastor just the other day who said he does not know any pastors who enjoy what they are doing but rather are going through the motions in obedience to their calling. This scenario is not new to me, for over ten years ago a beloved minister was sitting in on one of our elder’s meetings and when it was over and the elders left, he began to weep. He said very sadly, “Bob you are the only pastor I know that still loves what he is doing. The rest of us are just being obedient.” Obviously, he was speaking from deep wounds and did not speak for everyone. Yet there are far too many Godly men and women who fit Ezekiel’s sad vision.

Ezek 37:1-3 NKJV

37 The hand of the Lord  came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord , and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.

2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.

3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

In many ways this vision of Ezekiel is a perfect picture of much of the ministry today. Broken, scattered, divided, and dry. Where is this frustration coming from? How many men and women of God must be sacrificed on a broken system before we seek to find out what is wrong? I write a great deal on the broken men in leadership but what about the precious wives who are often times the ones who suffer the most? I remember my precious wife once had the wisdom to say to me, “Honey, I will always love you and always be your wife, but I will not stay here to watch this church destroy you. I will be at my Mother’s. and when the Lord releases you from here I will be ready to go with you.” Her wisdom was great enough for me to change what I had been falsely taught and put my family first. I changed very quickly and was able to save my marriage and my sanity. I learned that the first church I must pastor is my own family. It is here that we learn the real skills that matter in Godly leadership.

How did we get where we are, and why I am I writing like this? Yet more importantly is “how do we change?” The dear Holy Spirit is taking many of us down into this valley of dry bones and requiring us to walk up and down in it until we see just how dry, how divided, broken, and lifeless it truly is. May He keep us there until we are ready to totally give up on the present system and allow Him to put His words of life into our spirit and empower us to Prophesy until our ministers are filled with life and power once again.

Ezekiel walked this valley so thoroughly that he knew no human plan, program, or strategy could bring life into this valley. Indeed, it is our confidence in programs and plans that has largely created this valley of despair.  There is a place for programs, but they must never be the priority. For many decades now, we have run to conferences and seminars to learn about an effective program that we can take back to our churches to see them grow. Yet how many conferences have we attended that focused on the top priority of Christ likeness?

The error it seems is that our leadership think that Christ likeness is something we are responsible to gain on our own time, and it is their responsibility to teach us methods and programs. In reality, we must see the passion of our leaders to be like Christ, and the relationship building they are doing to pass that passion on as their chief priority.

I have and still do love my leaders. Yet in all of my interactions with them, I cannot remember a time when I was inspired to be more like the Christ life reflected in them, save one. This is a great departure from the admonition we receive in scripture.

1 Cor 4:16 KJV

16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

1 Cor 11:1 KJV

11 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Phil 3:17 KJV

17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

It is very difficult to write on the need for change without becoming negative. We must not allow ourselves to walk in criticism or use negative methods to bring about the change that is needed. We must always remember it is Christ who is building His Church and the gates of hell will never prevail against it, but we must also know when Christ is speaking to us about change.

I will try to state how I see that our present system works. As I have watched over the past thirty years of ministry, I have seen some amazing things happen. What do I mean by this? In my area the leading cutting edge ministry, when I first came to this region, was the ministry of a church called Resurrection Life. It seemed they could do nothing wrong, and that everywhere they started a church it grew to a thousand or more. Right now, that ministry is waning and another ministry is gaining prominence and every church it starts seems to grow in the thousands. Yet when we look more closely at these ministries we are seeing that it is almost if not all transfer growth. One of our good churches lost 600 members to the Harvest Ministries.

Here is what I see happening. These ministries have come up with a program and method that is superior to other ministries in caring for the flock. So much so, that they draw great numbers of transfer growth. Many of our own sheep have flocked to them. Yes, indeed they do have a great system of caring for the members of other churches. They are superior in their abilities to meet the needs. Yet I have not seen the kind of Christ-like change in the members they have gathered. Do not mis-understand me in what I am saying. I am very grateful for these ministries and what they are accomplishing. Still it is not the pattern that is impacting the unsaved with believers who are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

food_factoryPerhaps, I can better state it like this. There once was a factory that produced the most delicious food. When asked how much of that food they were able to bring to the market and sell they said, “Oh, we cannot sell any, we need all that we have to feed and care for those here in the factory.” Then another factory came along with better methods of producing a tastier product, and they grew much larger than the other one and they were asked, “How much of this excellent food are you able to make available for others to buy?” They too responded, “Oh, we do not have any leftover, we need all that we make to feed our workers.” This is what I have seen as the pattern for much of what we see here in America. Can you see what I mean? Oh I know that some of what we have is getting out saving the lost and reaching the world but, dear one, it is very little. It seems we need all of our strength and energy just to care for those we have. We must not disparage what we presently have, but we must recognize the truth of what we are calling church growth is not really the church growth the Lord is after.

Yes, and I can say that at one time the ministry that I led developed a better system, and many flocked to what we had. I, too, counted that as a kind of success and found identity in the “church growth” that was happening under my ministry. Yet I am here to say there is a better way. Earlier this year I heard the Lord say I am going to take Oak Crest back down to its very foundations, so that what is built again is built upon me. My character changing presence will be the priority, and programs and methods will be in their proper time and order. Indeed, I was called into the Holy of Holies to experience what the Lord wants to do.

Guest Blogger

Robert D. Roberts

 

Seek and Set

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to stay focused on God?  Think for a moment Rev Paul Hoffmasterhow many times the things of the world take center stage in our lives.  Take a situation with which you have been struggling.  Just when you think the challenge is under control, it reappears with its ingredients of doubt, anxiety, worry, and the “what ifs.”  Mixing these thoughts into our consciousness will tend to affect our spiritual life.  We know that we are to cast, throw down, and place all our cares on Him who cares so much for us. (I Peter 5:7)  But for some reason, we feel we need to use our human resources to combat life’s challenges.  It is true we have the human capacity to respond to all the aspects of life, but when the situations control our time and energy, we must reach beyond our own abilities and let God handle them.  Timing is so important.  If we hold on to the problem too long, it will make it harder and harder to disconnect from the situation.  Satan loves to have Believers second guess their actions.  The more the problem dominates our thoughts, the greater the challenge to our spiritual stability.  Thoughts like, “You should have…”, “Why didn’t you?”, “If only…”, will enter our thought compartment.  We must understand the limits to our human resources.  The sooner we do, the quicker we will learn to cast all our cares on Him!

One of the most neglected verses in the Bible is Colossians 3:1, 2.  Here Paul stresses two words that should be in every Christian’s vocabulary: Seek and Set.  We are to SEEK the things that are above, and to set our affection on Heavenly things.  To seek is to desire and enquire.  The things of the world are temporal, while the things of Heaven are eternal.  The foundation of our faith rests in the things “above,” not on the things “below.”  Would it not seem that our interests and desires should be about God and His Kingdom?  Jesus said to seek and we will find. (Matthew 7:7)  As we seek the things of God, we will find His Truths and will exhibit them in our daily lives.  We are also called to SET our affections on the eternal.  Set is to put in a specified place.  Affection is to exercise the mind, to interest oneself, to regard, and to think.  We are to set our interests on Heavenly principles.  Our interest should be in achieving the directives of our Heavenly Father.

When we seek and set our ways in the Heavenlies, we will learn quickly what His ways are.  How much of our day is spent dwelling on the negatives of life?  How much of our time is spent in self-centeredness?  How much of our prayer time is around our needs and wants?  How much of our life is around problems?  How much of our life dwells on things that are not really that important?  Let us learn to reverse our thought patterns and center on what is really important.

The Fruit of the Spirit is an example of seeking the things that originate from above.  The Holy Spirit reveals to us what He hears in the Heavenlies. (John 16:13)  The nine fruits mentioned in Galatians 5:22, 23 originate from God.  When we seek after the things of the Kingdom, we are putting our problems on notice that they will be short lived.  When we set our minds on the Heavenly, the earthly matters will be opportunities to bring glory to God.