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Weekly Word

Monday
Oct082018

Your Personal End Times- The Millennium Part I

We will have the audio posted some time tomorrow.

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 7, 2018.

Last week we established from Revelation 20 that Christ will rule with the resurrected saints over the earth for 1,000 years.  However, that passage gave us practically no description of what the millennium would look like.  This is most likely because the rest of the Bible is full of descriptions of what the millennium will entail.  Today we are going to go back into the Old Testament and fill in some of the picture of what we will experience as resurrected saints during this 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ upon this earth.

Of course, the real question is this.  Where do you start?  It is like swimming in the ocean.  There is no way we can do justice to the multitude of passages that speak of the coming kingdom of God.  So let me briefly summarize a few passages in this light.  We could go back to Genesis 3 and see God’s promise to Eve that one of her seed would crush the serpent’s head.  The idea is that the one who deceived them and tricked them out of paradise would eventually get his from a particular human.  We could also look at Genesis 11 and 15, where God makes a covenant with Abraham.  Basically God tells Abraham that all the nations of the earth will be blessed by what God does through Abraham’s offspring.  There is also 2 Samuel 7 where God makes a covenant with David, promising that one of his offspring would sit on the throne of David forever.  There is also Psalm 2 where God states that He has anointed a king who is to rule over the whole earth.  Also, it is stated that the world will rebel against this choice and challenges people to put their trust in God’s king.  Thus we see that God has a vested interest in helping mankind against Satan, our spiritual enemy.  He has promised to bless the whole world by anointing a particular individual to be a righteous king over all the earth and crush the serpents head.  This will be a king and a kingdom that lasts forever.

However, today we are going to start in the book of Isaiah, while keeping in mind this backdrop of promises that God has made to mankind.  Here we will see that the Millennial rule of Christ is the promised hope that has been given to the saints of every century and will be established at His Second Coming.

The reign of the Messiah- Jesus

Let’s start in Isaiah 2:1-4.  Though the Old Testament does not explicitly state the name of the Messiah, we now know that it is Jesus.  Of course Jesus is an anglicized transliteration of a Latin/Greek transliteration of a name that is either Hebrew or Aramaic in form.  It would be something like Yeshua or Yoshua, but let’s not get sidetracked.  All these prophecies are pointing towards Him.  He is the one whom God has anointed King of all kings, Lord of all lords. 

In our passage Isaiah describes this coming kingdom and states that it will be a global kingdom.  The language is very clear with phrases like: “established on top of the mountains,” “exalted above the hills,” and “all nations shall flow to it.”  Mountains and hills were often used as symbolic descriptions of kingdoms and empires.  Powerful kingdoms were like mountains towering over the surrounding area, dominating it on every level.  Later in Daniel 2, God gives Nebuchadnezzar a dream in which all the kingdoms of the world are crushed and smashed to pieces by a kingdom that is sent from God.  This kingdom is described as a stone that is cut by God (without human hands) and grows to become a mountain that fills the whole earth.

Now, we are going to see throughout this study that a person can give everything in these passages a spiritual meaning and say that it is already fulfilled or still being fulfilled.  Thus a person can say that Isaiah 2 and Daniel 2 are just talking about a spiritual kingdom, which is the Church today.  Clearly the Church has spread to fill the whole earth, hasn’t it?  I would say that there is a clear spiritual fulfillment of these passages, but that does not mean they will not be physically true as well.  The same God who made humans composite beings of spirit and body, also works among us both spiritually and physically.  When Jesus says in Luke 13:28, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out,” he clearly envisions a day when this will happen.  The plain sense of the passage is that Abraham and the others will be just as physical as those listening to Jesus (that is, a resurrection will have occurred).  Also in Acts 1:6, the disciples ask Jesus if he will restore the kingdom to Israel at this time.  Jesus does not tell them that the kingdom is only spiritual and will never be physical again.  Rather, he tells them it is not for them “to know times and seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”  Thus, there is going to be a day when Israel and Jerusalem will be the hub of the world and all the nations will flow to this place on earth where Jesus will be physically reigning.

Verse 4 makes it clear that it will involve a judgment of the nations.  Of course, we saw this in Revelation 19 and chapter 20.  However, Jesus does not just judge the nations.  He also judges between them.  Think of all the disputes that have built up through the years between many different ethnic groups.  Those who miraculously survive the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ will come before Christ.  There he will separate the sheep from the goats.  Those who are allowed to come into the millennial kingdom will also have long standing disputes with other settled by Jesus.  In fact, it is said that he will rebuke many nations.  Often our bloody feuds with others are nothing but pride masquerading as piety.  Jesus will put an end to these disputes.

He will be so effective that we are told that there will be no more war.  The nations of the world will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”  It is clear that the United Nations will not stop war in its present condition.  It also beggars belief that it could be reformed in any way that would get rid of war.  However, God promises that Messiah will be able to cause war to cease, and not just for a few years.  The only hope for a world that rejects the One Anointed by God is to put a “superman” in power who will represent the greatest wisdom of man.    Whether this is some kind of artificial intelligence or a combined link with “ascended masters,” we cannot know.  Yet, that really is the only path forward for a world in rebellion that refuses to repent.  This man who will supposedly have all the answers will pretend to want peace, but in the end the God of heaven describes him as a beast.  Mankind cannot force peace upon the world.  Only the Spirit of God can bring it.  I find it interesting that the United Nations has a sculpture given to it by Russia in which a naked man is hammering a sword into a plowshare.  It seems to give tribute to the Bible, but in truth it represents a humanistic rebellion.  Yes, mankind has no problem with the goal of no war.  However, they will attempt to accomplish it through humanist means, not divine.  Thus the naked man represents the Greek ideal of mankind doing in the flesh the wisdom of its mind.

It is also easy to get stuck on the terminology used.  Yes, we do not typically use swords anymore (or not nearly as much).  However, the point is clear.  During the millennium mankind will recycle all the weapons of war (tanks, missiles, guns, etc.) and use them to make farming equipment.

The wisdom of Jesus the Messiah

Next let’s go to Isaiah 11:1-2, 6-9.  Here we see the wisdom of the Messiah on display.  In verses 1-2 the image of a menorah (the seven-branched candlestick in the temple) is brought to mind.  The seven lights were a picture of God’s complete wisdom giving complete light to the world.  Each of these seven lights is given a name which makes even clearer that the source of the light (knowledge/truth) is the Spirit of God Himself.  No matter how wise mankind becomes or how great an artificial intelligence we create, when we cast off God’s word and forge a path of our own, we have become fools and our path is folly.  Jesus was and will be successful because He operates from a wisdom that has its source in God.  Notice that verses 3-4 highlight his judgment.  He will not judge by the sight of his eyes or the hearing of his ears.  No one will be able to manipulate him, and he does not have an ulterior motive.  Rather, He judges with righteousness and equity, which is bad news for the wicked and great news for the righteous.

In verses 6-9 we are told that the animal kingdom will no longer be deadly either.  Just as humans were not created to kill one another, so animals were not originally made to destroy one another.  When sin entered the world, it brought a curse and drastic changes to the world itself.  Scripture tells us that the whole of creation groans in expectation for the manifestation of the Sons of God.  The wisdom of Christ will turn back the effects of sin and the curse.  Isaiah gives a list of things that we would not leave alone together in this world because one of them would kill the other: a wolf with a lamb, a leopard with a young goat, a calf with a young lion, a child near a cobra’s hole, or sticking its hand in a viper’s den.  All of these things would strike fear into the owner or parent’s heart.  Yet, they will lie down in peace together.  Their nature will have been changed.  How Jesus will accomplish this is not described, but it seems that, if these things were a judgment of God upon wicked mankind, such judgments are simply being lifted by God Himself.  We are also told that the lion will eat hay like an ox.  Whether such is possible in today’s conditions is irrelevant.  The whole point is that the nature of things is going to change.  The statement may be just as much about the hay itself as it is about the lion.

Now let’s go to Isaiah 35:1-7.  Here we see descriptions of the desert places blooming with life.  Again, we could spiritualize this whole passage to be a blooming of a spiritual desert.  When Jesus came to Israel, it was spiritually a desert, but he caused it to bloom with spiritual life.  The gospel has the ability to bring life into the most spiritually dead of lives.  Again, this would be true, but there is also a natural aspect to this as well.  Through his knowledge and divine power we will see the curse upon Adam turned back.  There will be an increase in the fertility of the earth and an increase in places where water will “burst forth in the wilderness.”  Amos 9:13 says it this way, “’Behold the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Many skeptics have scoffed over the years at the idea of Israel being a “land flowing with milk and honey.”  However, it looks like it does because the land is under a curse, much like the whole earth is under a curse.  In that day, the curse on the land and on the earth will be lifted and we will know fruitfulness as we have never known.

Verses 3 through 6 speak to the condition of mankind that has struggled under the heavy load of disease and poverty.  These things will become a memory as Messiah heals.  Some think that this only points to the miracles that Jesus did when he walked on the earth in the past.  However, the miracles he did then were so that we could recognize that he really is the Messiah.  When he comes again, he will have just as much healing power as he did before. 

Just think that the saints of every age will be resurrected so that they can participate in this exciting period of humanity’s existence.  I will close our time today by giving a reminder.  This is just a small part of the plan and hope that God has put before us.  We will take some more time next week to keep looking at this amazing period called the millennial reign of Christ.  However, even then what can we say about the New Heavens and the New Earth that lay beyond it?  Christians are to be those who live today in the light of this coming kingdom because its king is already living in our hearts.  Is Christ living within you by the Holy Spirit of God?  Turn from any wickedness, turn towards Christ, and put your trust in Him.  Then you will be blessed by God with all these things.

Tuesday
Oct022018

Your Personal End Times: After the Resurrection

Revelation 20:1-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 30, 2018.

Last week we established that at Christ’s Second Coming believers will either be resurrected, or they will simply return with Him having been resurrected earlier (pre-trib, mid-trib, or pre-wrath).  For many reasons I lean towards the view that sees the resurrection happening prior to the tribulation.  However, it has been humorously pointed out by others that perhaps the best view is those who are “pan-trib,” that is who believe that it will all pan out in the end.  Our salvation has nothing to do with our ability to completely understand the timing of these events, and therefore, we should be very careful to avoid being overly dogmatic about our opinions in this matter.

Today we will pick up after the point that Christ has had the Beast and the False Prophet thrown into the Lake of Fire.  Also the kings of the earth and their armies have been destroyed by Christ and His armies.  Remember, they had been gathered together to try and thwart the coming of Christ.  We will continue to follow the Apostle John’s narrative in chapter 20 of the book of The Revelation.

However, before we do, let me say a word concerning how we interpret Revelation.  Even though Revelation has symbolism in it, I still believe it is intended to have a literal meaning.  What I mean by this is that we should take its words at face value.  If they point to symbolism then we take it symbolically, and if they don’t then we don’t.   Of course it is easy to want to take everything as symbolism.  I think Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries says it best.  He was a regular on the Christian Research Institute’s “Bible Answer Man” program while Dr. Walter Martin ran it.  He says, “My policy is that when the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense, lest you end up in nonsense.”  If we make everything a symbol (even allegory) and nothing is taken at face value, then there is no end to the imaginary interpretations that we can come up with and torture the text to agree with them.  Thus we look for clues and direction from the text whether something is symbolic or literal.

Satan is bound in the bottomless pit

As chapter 20 opens we find the familiar Satan being chained in the bottomless pit.  Some try to interpret this as something that happened in the past and that the events of chapter 20 only describe the Church Age.  However, it stretches the imagination to believe that the Second Coming of Jesus and the jailing of Satan is only a symbol for something that happened in the first century.  It has been stated that if Satan has been in prison over the last 2,000 years then “His chain is too long.”  Yet, this view does not make sense in light of Scripture.  Believers are cautioned against an unchained enemy.  1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Thus Revelation 20 gives us the assurance that once Jesus physically returns to earth, Satan will be imprisoned in what John calls the Bottomless Pit.  This is most likely synonymous with Tartarus of Peter’s letter (2 Peter 2:4-6).  Though we have not studied through Revelation in this series, Revelation 9 and 11 both state that the Beast rises up out of the Bottomless Pit.  Now whether that means the Beast is a manifesting, fallen angel, or that a spirit that comes out of the Bottomless Pit will inhabit a willing human, it seems to be the place in which God imprisons spirit beings.  It is also interesting to note the irony that Satan tried to hold Christ prisoner in the grave.  Now the tables are turned.

In Revelation 12:9 and here in verse 2 several things are tied together.  The serpent of old is a reference to the Garden of Eden.  It wasn’t just a snake that tricked Eve.  It really was an inter-dimensional being from among the Sons of God who was speaking to her that day.  Satan is also called the dragon, which connects with serpent and dragon passages of the prophetic books in the Old Testament.  The serpent-dragon-sea creature is an image of evil that goes back to the beginning of mankind and points to this being, Satan or the devil.

We are told that the purpose of this imprisonment is so that he will no lo longer be able to deceive the nations while Christ is physically ruling over the nations of the earth.  Scripture does indict mankind for its rebellion and sin.  However, it also points out that man’s sin has been made worse through the spiritual interference of Satan and his angels.  We really are being played and spurred on by supernatural forces.  This is seen in the Garden of Eden where Satan himself tempts Eve to rebel against God.  In Genesis 6 we again see the spiritual interference as the Sons of God (a class of spirit beings) come down to mankind and lead them in wickedness.  After the flood we are once again confronted with spiritual interference as God judges the Tower of Babel project and rejects the nations.  Deuteronomy 32:8 and Psalm 82, make it clear that the spiritual powers who were supposed to help mankind, forsook their proper duty and encouraged mankind in wickedness.  The New Testament often refers to the powers of the air and the prince of this world as spiritual forces.  What a groan of relief will come from the collective mouth of mankind as Satan and his spiritual forces are removed from the earth.  It is hard to conceive of what that will be like since it is all we have ever known.

Next we are told that he is bound for 1,000 years and then he will be released for a little while.  We will come back to that later.  Now in the Old Testament many passages speak of the Messiah’s reign over all the earth and how it will be a time of peace.  Passages like Zechariah 14, Isaiah 11, and Isaiah 65 are just a few.  However, none of them give a length for it.  In fact, we could say that even in Revelation it doesn’t end after 1,000 years.  Rather, it goes into a new stage.  It is here that it is twice stated that there will be a period of 1,000 years in which Satan is bound and Christ rules.  This is where we get the term “Millennium” for the time of Christ’s earthly rule.  It means one thousand years.  Some try to make this a symbolic number by saying that it only means a long period of time.  But 1,000 years makes complete sense and there is nothing in the text that requires us to make it symbolic.  Most nations or empires last hundreds of years.  Thus the Messiah’s rule lasting a thousand is most likely literal and points to his wisdom and power.  It is even more insulting to the intelligence of the average person to say that we are in this period right now.  We are not in the Millennium and the earthly rule of Christ has not yet begun, regardless of those who say it is symbolically occurring right now.

Jesus reigns with his saints in the millennium

Starting in verse 4 we turn away from Satan and towards the governance.  It is interesting that we are not given much description of life during the 1,000 years.  We are only told about its setting up and its ending.  However, the Old Testament passages that point to Messiah’s reign do give us a flavor of what it will be like.

We are told that thrones are set up and “they sat upon them.”  The “they” does not have a clear antecedent, but I believe it points back to Christ and His holy ones, or saints.  We are told that we will be in charge of judging angels in 1 Corinthians 6:3.  Thus the beginning of this period will no doubt include the judgment of those angels who have worked with Satan to abuse mankind, and also would include the judgments of Matthew 25 where the nations are judged and separated into the sheep and the goats.

Verse 4 also directly references that the souls of those beheaded during the Beast’s horrible, but short, reign will live and reign with Christ.  Some people think that this must be when the resurrection happens.  However, it doesn’t actually say it happens at that time.  And, even if it does, it doesn’t preclude an earlier resurrection.  I think the point is the same as that in 1 Thessalonians 4.  It is easy to fear that those who are killed or die before Christ’s coming will somehow miss out.  Here our minds are set at ease that even those who were dying in those last years will be able to reign in the millennium.

In verse 5 we are told that this is the First Resurrection.  Now this must mean something more than just first in sequence because Jesus was the first to be resurrected and this happened many years before the events of Revelation 20 (John clearly knew this).  In Matthew 27:52-53 we are also told that some of the Old Testament saints were resurrected at the same time as Jesus and even went into the city and “appeared to many.”  In Revelation 11, we also have the resurrection of the two witnesses who even ascend into heaven.  We have also talked about the clear possibility that there is a wholesale gathering together of believers in immortal form in heaven.  Thus in relation to Revelation 20, this is the first resurrection (Note: that the second resurrection is in verses 12-13 and involves the wicked dead being brought before God for judgment).  However, in relation to the previous resurrection it is of the same kind.  Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).  The First Resurrection is the Resurrection of the righteous and there is an order and timing to it that involves at least two events (the firstfruits and the gathering) and perhaps more.  The First Resurrection is a class of resurrection in which those who belong to Christ are raised up in the order that God has decreed.

Some seem to get the idea that only saints who are killed in the tribulation get to participate in the millennium, but this is not what John is trying to say.  Rather, he is emphasizing that they will not miss out.  They too will be resurrected and participate in this millennial kingdom.  As it says, the saints will be priests who reign with Christ throughout this 1,000 years.

The final rebellion occurs

Verse 7 begins another transition in the text.  We now jump to the end of the 1,000 years and Satan is released from his prison in the Bottomless Pit.  Of course, as if on cue, he immediately begins to deceive the nations.  I would assume some time elapses here.  However, it seems that he is able to gather an army that surrounds the capital city of Jesus and the saints.  This is presumably Jerusalem, though it is not named in the passage.  There is not much fan fare.  Rather, John describes a fire coming down from God out of heaven to destroy the army (verse 9)  Because verse 11 has the earth and the heavens fleeing away from the presence of God and the emergence of a New Heaven and a New earth, some connect this fire from God with 2 Peter 3.  This seems to be a cosmic melt down in which the elements completely dissolve.  This creation is doomed to be consumed by a fiery conflagration.  Of course such a fire is not a problem for those who are immortal. 

Lastly in verse 10 we are told that the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire where he is to be tormented night and day forever.  Finally the arch-deceiver will come to an end as God separates him from all of creation and especially the creation which is to follow this event.

As we bring our time today to a close, it is good to ask ourselves why God would allow Satan another shot.  Why not throw him in the Lake of Fire to begin with?  There seems to be a point that God is making with the millennium and the final rebellion.  Even when God steps in forcefully, removes evil, and enforces good, many people will still choose evil.  Man is not basically good, and neither is his evil only from his environment.  No we are capable of choosing evil even when we have enjoyed the good life and perfect peace.  So check your heart today.  Where are you spiritually?  Don’t let the devil and his lies deceive you into thinking that God is something to be cast aside or attacked.  In the end God’s plan will happen.  The only question is where you will fit in that equation.  Choose life!

After the Resurrection Audio

Tuesday
Sep252018

Your Personal End Times: The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Various.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 23, 2018.

We have established earlier that the Bible tells us there is one of two places a person will end up, depending upon our faith in Jesus.  Believers continue in a conscious state as spirits and are in the presence of Jesus at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  However, those who are not in relationship with Jesus continue in a conscious state as spirits, but are in torments in the grave (Hebrew- She’ol, Greek- Hades).  They are held in this spiritual holding place until The Judgment Day.  Thus people are living their lives and going into these two different experiences every day.  Yet, we are told that this will not continue forever.  What happens next?

The Scriptures refer to two very distinct yet related events that will happen next.  The first is that Jesus is going to come back to earth physically, visibly, and from the clouds of the sky (see Acts 1:9-11).  The second is that Jesus will resurrect righteous believers in what is called the Resurrection of Life.  Later we will talk about different views on the timing of these two events.  This resurrection is contrasted with a later Resurrection of Condemnation for the wicked spirits in Hades [note: John 5:29 and Revelation 20].  Most of the views, at least those that take the Bible seriously, agree that the next event on the docket for those spirits in Heaven is the resurrection of the righteous.  In this event believers, both those who have died and those who are still alive on earth, will be instantly transformed into a glorified, physical being.  Those who are spirits will “clothed” with a new body, and those who are still in mortal bodies will have their bodies changed into immortal bodies.

Coming in the air to take believers to heaven
versus Coming to the earth to become its King

Though the Bible continually points to a Second Coming of Jesus, in which the world is judged, and the righteous are resurrected and inherit the government of the earth, we run into passages that give two different pictures.  One picture focuses on Jesus coming in the air to take believers to heaven, whereas the other picture focuses on Jesus coming to the earth to judge the wicked and take governmental control.

This is similar to the way that the Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Messiah had two distinct pictures of a Messiah, one who would come as a suffering servant to deal with our sins, and one who would come as a conquering king to take up dominion.  The believers of the centuries leading up to the First Coming of Jesus had many different views on how to interpret these passages and make sense of them.  Of course, now we know that Jesus came the first time to deal with sin as mankind’s greatest enemy, and He will come the second time to deal with Satan and the wicked rulers of this earth.  These two events are separated by a long period of grace, in which God give the nations opportunity to join His side through Jesus.  So, we should approach these issues with some humble caution, recognizing that there is most likely some information that we have not been told.  Let’s look at some of these passages.

In John 14:1-6, Jesus explains that He will be going away to prepare a place for His disciples; verse six makes it clear that this will be in heaven where the Father is.  Yet, Jesus also tells them that He is going to come back in order to take them to this place.  It would be easy to dismiss this as symbolic because we do not see an event in which Jesus literally came back and took his disciples to heaven.  Some feel that they are forced to interpret this as symbolic.  Thus the Lord symbolically comes back to receive each believer to Himself at their physical death.  It is definitely true that each believer is received into heaven with Christ at their death.  Yet, Jesus often spoke to his immediate disciples, who were later called apostles, as representatives of those believers who would later believe.  Also, there are too many other places where Jesus taught His disciples that He was literally coming back, and of course there is the testimony of the angels at His ascension mentioned earlier (Acts 1:9-11).

Some believers don’t see this as symbolic.  Rather, they believe that Jesus was wrong.  He and His disciples thought He was going to come back literally and yet, it didn’t happen.  They have to go through great intellectual gymnastics in order to say on one hand that Jesus was wrong, and yet on the other hand worthy of our devotion.  Most believers have chosen to believe that Jesus was correct that He would come back, but He also made it clear that no one knew when that would be (i.e. how long it would be.  See Matthew 24:36-37.  It was important for those first believers and the believers of every generation that followed to live lives that were expectant of Christ’s return.  This is not a lie.  It is a very clear statement that we do not know when He will return and thus we should always be ready.

Let me summarize this passage by pointing out that it is focused on Jesus coming back for believers to take them to heaven.  Let’s look at another passage.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 we again see language regarding Jesus coming back.  Yet, the focus is upon believers being caught up into the air to be with Jesus.  This passage lacks any sense of coming to earth.  We can allow for that by looking at the context.  The main concern is to assuage the fears of those believers who thought Christians who had passed away were going to miss out on Christ’s coming kingdom.  However, we will keep running into passages that focus on one aspect versus the other.  Let’s look at a passage that is clearly about Christ’s physical return to earth to become its king.

In Revelation 19:11-21 we see Jesus returning from the sky and then capturing the Beast (the earth’s political leader) and his False Prophet (his religious leader).  Next we see that the kings of the earth and their armies, who apparently are trying to oppose His return, will be destroyed and wiped out.  It is important to note that verse 8 of this chapter defines the white linen clothing as symbolic of the righteous acts of the saints.  Also, Jude 1:14 reminds us that the Lord will return with His saints.  This is important in regard to verse 14.  The armies of Christ are described as being clothed in fine linen.  Our first thought would be to see the armies as angelic in nature.  However, from the previous two points I made, we must also include glorified believers in this mix.  In fact, Jesus said that humans in their glorified bodies would be “like the angels in heaven.”  Mark 12:25.  So we have Jesus returning in a powerful way with an immortal army at His back taking over.  His saints are with Him already and ready to rule with Him.  The Beast and his False Prophet are thrown into the Lake of Fire.  The next chapter describes Satan being locked up in the Bottomless Pit while the earth goes on to enjoy 1,000 years (a Millennium) of peace under the rule of Christ.  There is no sense in this passage of believers being caught up to meet Christ in the air and go to heaven.

We could go on and on through all the passages of the Bible that refer to the Second Coming of Christ, and the Resurrection of the Righteous, and we will find this continual tension between meeting Him in the air to go to heaven, and coming with Him to the earth to rule.  Many theologians and lay people have struggled with these passages trying to make sense of these events.  In fact, it has become popular within some Christian circles to toss the prophecies aside as irrelevant to our life because they are so hard to harmonize.  However, this is the position of skeptical unbelievers.  When we realize that believers had similar trouble understanding all the prophecies of the first coming, we can see that God does not give us prophecies so that we will have perfect clarity.  He has clearly left a lot of information out on purpose.  Yes we lack an ability to perfectly know how all these things tie together, but we have enough to encourage our faith in Christ no matter what comes against us and no matter how long it takes for Christ to come back.

Here is a list of some important differences that we commonly see in these passages.

  • Meeting in the air to go to heaven, versus Coming to earth with Jesus to rule.
  • Believers are delivered, versus the Wicked are judged.
  • Jesus comes for the Church, versus Jesus comes with the Church.
  • His coming is an imminent event that could happen at any time, versus His coming will come after some very specific events that must happen first.

The timing of the resurrection of believers has some difficulties that have led to various views.  Let’s summarize those different views.

Views on the timing of the resurrection of the righteous

Before we get into these, I would say that it is more important that we believe in the resurrection of believers and the physical return of Christ to earth than it is that we have the timing all figured out.  The timing of prophecy is important, but it is not necessary for our salvation.  Salvation is about a relationship with Christ and His people.  That said, let’s take a look at the main views regarding the timing of the Resurrection and the Second Coming of Christ.

The Pre-Tribulation View.  Some people believe that the resurrection of believers happens some time before the 7 year period of difficulty that happens at the end of the age.  God removes believers from the earth through resurrection and ascension into heaven as immortal beings with glorified, or heavenly, bodies.  Typically the term “rapture” is applied to this view.  However, we really are talking about the resurrection of the righteous.  Now it is important to note that just because two people agree about the timing of the resurrection of the righteous, it is not guaranteed that they will agree on all other aspects of biblical prophecy.  Thus there are many variations of the “pre-trib” view.

The Mid-Tribulation View.  Other people believe that the resurrection does not happen until the middle of the tribulation.  This would be right before the world enters the final 3.5 year period called “The Great Tribulation.”  Several passages state that believers will be delivered from the wrath of God.  Here are a couple of them.  1 Thessalonians 1:14, “[we] wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  Also, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Lastly, Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”  It is clear that the beast’s rise to power starts out peaceful and seductive.  However, at some point, he turns his colors and become extremely despotic.  It is in this 2nd half of the tribulation that we see God’s wrath being poured out.  Thus the mid-trib view focuses on believers being removed right before God’s wrath is poured out.

The Pre-Wrath View. Some people have made a further distinction that the resurrection occurs much closer to the end of the tribulation.  They don’t see the wrath of God beginning until the 7 bowl judgments are poured out.  Views vary, but involve a time period that is well past the middle of the tribulation.  All of these three views involve a period of time in which believers have glorified bodies and stay in heaven with Christ for a period of time.  The next view does not accept that there is a time interval.

The Post-tribulation View.  Some people believe that the resurrection happens at the same time that Christ is coming back.  Thus believers are caught up to Christ in the air, but instead of going to heaven, they come back down to earth with Christ to help set up a millennial kingdom.

If you take time to work through the passages of the Bible in light of each view, you will find that they all have their strengths and weaknesses along with the many variations under each view.  However, regardless of what view you hold, your experience will still be the same.  After being with Christ in spirit form, the day will come when your spirit is united with a glorified body.  Either the resurrection will occur at an amount of time before the Second Coming or at the same time as it.  Yes, these views do make a difference in whether one will go through the Great Tribulation or not.  However, Christians have always faced tribulation in this world.  Too many times people who hole to one view will ridicule those who hold another.  People will chide the pre-tribulation view for trying to avoid persecution.  This is an utterly ridiculous slam.  However, it is easy to ridicule the post-tribulation view by stating that it is ludicrous for us to fly up into the sky only to come back down again.  These slights do no good for convincing people and have nothing to do with what the Bible actually says.  Many sincere and smart theologians have disagreed through the years.  Regardless of which of these views you gravitate towards, the real questions are these.  Are you ready for your physical death?  Have you made your peace with God and put your faith in His Son Jesus?  If you haven’t then do so today before it becomes too late.

Personal End Times Second Coming Audio

Tuesday
Sep182018

Your Personal End Times: What is after death? III

Various passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 16, 2018.

Over the last several weeks we have established that all people will face their physical death and that what they experience next will be one of two possible situations.  Keep in mind that we are not dealing with the special case of those who are alive at the resurrection.  Those who belong to Christ when they die will immediately go to be with Christ in heaven at the right hand of the Father.  Those who do not belong to Christ go to torments in Hades, or The Grave.  There are other beliefs that are floating around out there, which I believe to be in error.

Soul Sleep

There are many passages throughout the Bible that use sleep terminology for physical death.  Even the resurrection is spoken of in Daniel 12 as waking up out of the dust of the earth.  There are some who teach that these verses prove that the soul or spirit is not conscious during death.  A person would simply die and then the next thing they would experience is the Resurrection day.  There are also some verses that seem to imply that the dead are not aware.  However, these verses are saying that they are not aware of earthly things, not that they are unaware of the spiritual place in which they find themselves.  The imagery of sleeping is not used to teach that such is happening.  It is a euphemism that is typical when speaking of the dead.  Other passages make it abundantly clear that they are conscious and aware of the spiritual things around them.

Next we will deal with the most abundant belief about the afterlife that has no biblical basis.

Is purgatory a biblical teaching?

First let’s explain just what purgatory is.  Purgatory comes into play when a believer dies.  It teaches that sin after salvation can be absolved or forgiven, but the guilt cannot.  Thus all believers who die are saved, but many are not pure.  The pure go immediately into the presence of God and Christ, as we have already said.  However, Christians who are not pure go into a temporary place of fiery pain until they have been “purged” of all their guilt.  Then they will be allowed to go into the presence of God.  Purgatory is not the same as the place of torments in Hades, but sounds an awful lot like it.

It is also taught that certain prayers, righteous works, and even monetary gifts that are given in this life can lower the amount of time that we will have to spend in purgatory, perhaps even lower it to zero.  These are called indulgences.  In fact, a person can obtain indulgences on behalf of family members and other believers who have passed away and may still be in purgatory.

This teaching was one of many that Martin Luther opposed in the 16th century when he nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenburg Castle church door.  He quoted a popular jingle of the day, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul out of purgatory springs.”  Of course, such teachings led to all manner of corruption in the name of bringing money into the treasury of the Roman Catholic Church, and in the name of rich people being able to indulge themselves in sin due to the fact they could purchase indulgences against any guilt.

It is important to note that this was a doctrine that was particular to Rome and the western Churches.  When the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Churches separated in AD 1054, 400 years followed of trying to reconcile their differences, which was never accomplished.  The teaching of purgatory was one of these doctrines that the Eastern Church never adopted.  Martin Luther and the other Protestant Reformers also came to reject this teaching.

Rome puts forth several defenses of this teaching, which were found lacking by all the afore mentioned parties.  Let’s look at a couple of the passages put forward.  The first is 1 Corinthians 3:12-14.  It is said that the testing fire in this passage is purgatory.  This is an untenable interpretation for several reasons.  Paul is talking about the work that is done to build the Church of Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on anything other than Jesus Christ, it is compared to using wood, hay, and stubble for building materials.  The passage does emphasize that this judgment does not affect salvation, but notice just what is subjected to the fire.  The person is not subjected to the fire, but rather the works that we have done for Christ are tested.  That which is according to Christ is rewarded as precious gold and silver, but that which is founded upon our own thinking, or the thinking of others besides Christ, will not survive and will not become reward to us.  However, some will protest that verse 15 uses the phrase, “he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”  Both the English translation and the Greek language use the word “as,” which is used to introduce a simile or comparison, not a literal teaching.  This judging fire isn’t literal.  It is symbolic of Christ’s judgment of our works and the rewards or lack thereof that will be given to us.  It, in no way, teaches that the soul spends an amount of time in purgatory so that guilt can be purged.

Another passage used is 1 Peter 3:18-22.  Here Peter makes a comparison between Jesus and Noah’s ark.  In Noah’s days, God was patient with the wicked giving them opportunity to respond to the preaching and life-testimony of Noah.  Only those in the ark were saved from the waters of judgment.  Similarly, we are in a time in which God is being patient with the world and allowing people opportunity to enter Christ through faith and water baptism.  In this case Christ becomes a spiritual ark.  Yet, note verse 19.  Here it says that by the Spirit Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison (clearly intended to be Hades).  The wicked are in prison in the sense that they are being punished and awaiting judgment.  The righteous are in prison in the sense that they can’t get out without God’s help.  Note our previous sermons on what the righteous experience in Hades. 

Pro-purgatory interpreters see the term “preached” as an offer of salvation.  Thus they see people in a prison who are given an opportunity to get out.  This is not quite what purgatory teaches, but even then that is not what is meant.  The word “preached” does not mean “to offer salvation.”  It simply means to proclaim.  When we proclaim the Gospel to people on this earth, it includes an offer of salvation.  However, if Jesus proclaims anything to those in Hades, it is his victory over death.  This would be bad news to the wicked in Hades, and good news to the righteous.  The righteous will now be allowed to go with Christ into heaven, but the wicked remain.  It is one thing to use human logic and reasoning to make sense of what is clearly taught.  It is quite another to use human logic and reasoning to promote something that is not clearly taught.  This passage in no way pictures the righteous paying for their guilt and getting out when they have paid it off.

Lastly, there is a passage in the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees that describes Judas Maccabees having a sacrifice offered on behalf of some Israelites who had died because they found out after their deaths that they had objects dedicated to false idols on their persons.  Judas hopes that the offering will offset their sins and buy them grace from God.  Now 2 Maccabees is not Scripture, nor does it explicitly or implicitly say that it is a word from the Lord.  Just because someone in Israel believed something and the priests of his day went along with it, does not mean that God would honor it.  Nor that these souls were actually in a place of purging.  If anything, it is a religious “Hail Mary” that would help everyone feel like they did the best they could in light of a horrible revelation.  Even more powerful than what I have just stated, is the fact that Jesus rejected most of the teachings and beliefs of the Israelites of his day.  Whether Sadducee or Pharisee, Samaritan or Jew, Jesus spent most of his career correcting their false ideas.  Thus, even if 2 Maccabees taught a doctrine of purgatory (which it clearly does not) that would not mean we would automatically adopt it without a word from Christ or His Apostles.

Faulty interpretation is not the only problem with the doctrine of purgatory.  The adoption of it creates difficulties in other doctrinal areas that are clearly taught in the Bible. This doctrine rejects the final and full sufficiency of Christ’s once-for-all atonement.  In fact 1 Peter 3:18, a passage cited above, starts out with the words, “Christ also suffered once for sins,” that is our sins.  Isaiah 53:5 states that the Messiah was wounded for our transgressions.  He was bruised for our iniquities.  The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  It is clear that the death of Christ was a suffering and painful experience that made for us peace and healing.  Thus the belief in purgatory diminishes the work of Christ on the cross to merely making it possible for us to pay for our sins, which is heresy.

The doctrine of purgatory also creates an unbiblical idea of penalty and guilt.  This doctrine divides the forgiveness of God into two categories, absolution and expiation (removing guilt).  Although both concepts are biblical, they are simply two ways of looking at a singular process of forgiveness.

Another problem with the doctrine of purgatory is this.  It distorts the biblical teaching of grace by infusing human merit into it.  It ends up creating a system of self-atonement works, both in this life and in purgatory.  Either we have received all of God’s grace as a gift, or it is not grace, but a payment.  You can’t have both and remain orthodox.

Lastly, it confuses the judgment of God by creating the concept of a remedial punishment.  Christ takes our punishment and judgment upon Himself that we might become the children of God, not that we might remediate our own punishment.

These last four points are not original to me.  So I am crediting Michael F. Ross of Christian Research Institute for them.  An article of his on the subject can be found at: http://www.equip.org/article/is-purgatory-a-biblical-concept/ (as of 9/18/2018).

What about conditional immortality or annihilationism?

Quickly I will point out another issue that is brought up by people regarding our experience after death.  Annihilationism is the belief that those who do not belong to Christ are annihilated, i.e. go out of existence spiritually, either at their physical death or at a spiritual death in the Lake of Fire.  A related, but somewhat different view called conditional immortality ends up at the same place as annihilationism.  It says that humans do not inherently have immortality.  A person goes out of existence unless God intervenes and gives them immortality.  Thus they see all the righteous being immortal, but all the wicked as being annihilated.

The problem with these views is Scripture itself, especially the teaching of Christ.  In Mark 9:43-44, Jesus says,

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands to go to hell (Gehenna), into the fire that shall never be quenched—where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”

 He repeats this formula two more times, but changing it to your foot causing you to sin, and then your eye.  Here we can see that Jesus emphasizes that Gehenna is a fire that shall never be quenched.  Why would we fear going into  the fire that is never quenched if we are just going to be annihilated?  He is clearly not talking about Hades here (Revelation 20:14 states that Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire), but rather the Lake of Fire (also called the Second Death).  Jesus also quotes from Isaiah 66:24.  The imagery there is that the wicked will be thrown into a fiery place where the fire is never quenched and their worm never dies.  What is meant by this phrase “their worm never dies?”  Some see it as a reference of their body and soul.  Others believe that it refers to their death.  Just as the flames are never quenched (i.e. never run out of fuel) so the worms never die because they never run out of flesh to eat.  This metaphor could be taken both ways.  Either the person is never completely destroyed by this destructive death, or the destruction they face is simply far worse than what is in this life.  Yet, note that nothing is said to “declare” that the soul goes out of existence.  Alongside of this in Revelation 21, Why would God resurrect sinners bodily just so that He can make them instantaneously go out of existence when they are thrown into the Lake of Fire?  Couldn’t that have been done in their spirit state?  Another point, Daniel 12 states that some will awaken from the dust of the earth to everlasting shame and contempt.  How can they have everlasting shame and contempt when they no longer exist?  The Church has always held that even the souls of the wicked will be conscious and await judgment.  To teach otherwise is to fight against the clear teaching of Scripture.

Let me close this by recognizing that the most important thing in all of this talk is the assurance that we can prepare ourselves now to avoid a bad situation after death.  If you haven’t made your peace with God, I challenge you to hear His offer of salvation and turn to Him in repentance and with faith in Jesus.  Flee to Jesus today.

Purgatory audio