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Entries in Jesus (127)

Monday
Nov262018

Faith in the Lord Jesus for Life

Romans 1:16-19; Habakkuk 2:4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 25, 2018.

Over 500 years ago a young, Roman-Catholic worried about how he could be truly right with God.  When lightning struck dangerously close to him, it scared him badly.  He then became a monk and spent his time in prayer and fasting, attempting to settle things with God.  Lacking peace throughout this whole time, the young man then heard the Lord speak to him one day.  “The just shall live by faith.”  As he contemplated Romans 1:17, young Martin Luther began to understand the truly wonderful truth of the Gospel for the first time.  He wrote later, “I felt born again like a new man.  I entered through the open doors into the very paradise of God.”  Until that day Luther lacked peace and rest in his spirit, but afterwards he had sweet relief.

Today we are going to transition from talking about how faith is necessary for salvation to the point that faith is necessary for living our lives on this earth.  Technically our lives on this earth are a part of our salvation, but it is a whole new phase of the work of God in our lives.  Let’s look at this passage in Romans.

The righteousness that we need is from God

In this passage, Paul clearly has salvation in mind, but for him salvation is not just a thing that happened at a point in the past.  It is also something that is lived out each and every day.  So before we get into how he uses the truth, the just shall live by faith, we will take some time to look at where this truth was first revealed in Scripture.

In the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, the prophet is questioning God about some difficult things that he sees.  It seems to him that God is not doing anything about it.  Anyone who begins to follow Jesus will quickly discover that we often have questions and do not understand the wisdom behind how God runs things.  God does not always protect the righteous from the deeds of wicked people.  As Habakkuk wrestled with that question, God tells him in Hab. 2:4, “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright within him, but the just shall live by faith.”  So we have two parallel statements that contrast each other.  The subject of the first is the proud.  The statement is that they are not upright within themselves.  Since this is a contrast we might expect the second statement to have “the humble” as its subject, but instead we have “the just,” another way of saying the righteous.  God could have said for Habakkuk to look at the humble and how their spirit is upright within them, but He doesn’t.  Think about the many other verses in the Old Testament that speak about the inner life of mankind (both proud and humble).  Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  The proud, whether religious or not, think that they are right or just.  They exercise all manner of faith in their own righteousness.   However, God sees through them.  On the other hand the just, i.e. those who are truly righteous from God’s perspective, will live by faith in God rather than themselves.  They are not even perfectly upright inside themselves and they know this.  The righteous are those who reject the arrogant tendency to trust our own mind and heart over the top of the revelation of God.

Thus the righteous see their failings and look to God in faith for their salvation.  They are declared righteous by God because of their faith in Him.  Of course now we are directed particularly to Jesus.  The Father has sent His Son and all who put their trust in Him are declared righteous.  In case you are not completely convinced, think about the first 3 chapters of the book of Romans.  In chapter one he shows how the gentile nations were lost and depraved in their thinking and living.  However, he then goes on to show how even the “righteous” Israelites had fallen short of God’s glory.  Romans 3:22b-23 compares the Gentiles with the Jews and states, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  There is not a single righteous person throughout this whole earth who is righteous in and of themselves.  If they are righteous it is because of their faith in God.  In Romans 1:17 Paul speaks of the “righteousness of God.”  Jesus is the righteousness of God and He offers this righteousness freely to those who will lay aside their own false righteousness.  He alone is truly right within Himself.

Thus Paul answers the question, “Who are the just?”  His answer is this.  It is those who have received the righteousness of God instead of clinging to their own.  Martin Luther and other early reformers actually called this “alien righteousness.”  This was to emphasize that the righteousness a true believer has is not their own.  It belongs to another, Jesus.  None of us has it in ourselves.  We must receive it from God Himself and God only gives it to those who lay down their righteousness and embrace Jesus in faith.

Paul states that it is in the Gospel that we are told these things.  In other words these things are what God has revealed in His Word.  We must not skip over this point lightly.  The Law of Moses does reveal a kind of righteousness, but it is a righteousness that none of us have (nor did any in the days of Moses).  Think on it.  Anywhere you have a set of laws, you will find no one who perfectly keeps them all, especially if you take in account what Jesus said about our inner thought life in Matthew 5:18.  What we actually find there are many people who are proud in their ability to look like they are in compliance.  That is why we always find law makers who don’t pay their taxes, etc.  The prophets pointed to the need for a man to be made righteous by God because they saw our inability to perform the law of God.  The Gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ reveals to us this righteousness that none of us has in ourselves, but can obtain from God Himself by putting our confidence in Jesus and following Him.

The world today challenges believers to separate themselves from God’s Word, whether completely or only partially.  However, if we run from the Bible to any degree, we are only destroying ourselves.  Don’t run from the Bible because it is the only hope that we and this world have.  It points us away from ourselves and towards Jesus, who is the righteousness of God.

This enables us to live by faith

It is our own righteousness that tends to trip us up in this life.  When we jettison it and look to Christ we are suddenly enabled to actually please God and do the righteous things as He desires.  Verse 17 uses an interesting phrase to describe this faith.  In the NKJV it reads, “by faith from first to last.”  Literally the passage says, “out of faith into faith.”  I am not quibbling with the translation.  Notice though how it describes a person moving from a position of faith into another position of faith.  This is what it means to walk with God.  We walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, God has given us some knowledge, but we still have huge gaps and struggles with where things are headed.  Like Habakkuk we don’t understand why we are seeing what we are seeing.  If we are going to follow God it will only be by taking one step of faith after another.  No matter how confident a saint may appear, or how long they have walked with Jesus, they never get to a place where they no longer have to walk by faith.  They too must trust God all along the way, often at the expense of what they see, feel, or think.  Our flesh does not like walking by faith and will always find things to complain about.  Faith is not a one-time step into salvation, but a continual step after step from that very first step of faith in Jesus Christ to that last step of faith as we leave this world.  For the righteous it is always a walk of faith in the Lord Jesus.

Faith in Jesus is the only solid ground that can hold up a righteous life.  Habakkuk knew these things to some degree, but we still see him struggling with them.  He struggles with why God has let so many wicked people in Israel rise to leadership.  When God tells him that the Babylonians will come and conquer Israel, then Habakkuk questions how God could use those who were more wicked than Israel to judge them.  You see if we fixate on the things of this world and how they are going, we will be robbed of our faith.  You too will have to struggle with your fears and thoughts in order to keep your faith in Jesus.   There is nothing in this world that will keep you strong, except putting your trust in Jesus completely.  Jesus Himself is the solid ground upon which we stand.  We feel like it is less solid, but it is the only thing that will hold when God begins to shake things up.  Your righteous works won’t hold.  The greatness and goodness of the United States of America won’t hold.  The promise and hope of a representative republic won’t hold.  Your favorite philosopher or biblical teacher won’t hold.  Only Jesus will hold because He alone is the righteousness of God.  When you have Him, you have a solid foundation for taking that next step and then the next and then the next.  He will hold us up until we reach our place in heaven beside Him.

Let me close by recognizing verses 18 and 19.  Paul transitions here to the wrath of God.  The proud will go on in their self righteousness and experience the wrath of God, but those who live by faith in Jesus will not be exposed to this wrath.  Oh, we do have a healthy fear of God.  However, we understand His offer of grace, and His offer of righteousness.  Thus we walk in confidence in Him.

What is faith?  Faith is a complete confidence in Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  Without Jesus I can’t be a good father, husband, pastor, or insert any part of your life here, but with Him I can become the righteousness of God.  When we humble ourselves to this very low place, we find salvation and God enables us to rise up and walk with Him day by day.   Yes, we have questions and we have days when our faith meter may not be so strong.  However, in those moments may we all understand that God is only teaching us to trust in Him rather than those things that are making us waver.  Let’s walk with Jesus and not worry about what the world may say.  Amen.

Faith for Life audio

Saturday
Nov242018

Faith in the Lord Jesus for Salvation

Ephesians 2:1-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 18, 2018.

Today we are going to begin a new series that focuses on our need for faith in this life.  Faith is an interesting thing because it is not essentially a religious thing.  I know that statement sounds sacrilegious.  To have faith is to put your trust in something or someone.  Thus everybody lives in some way by faith, but the question is this.  What do you trust in?  What do you have faith in?  We sometimes call this the object of our faith.  Even an atheist put their faith in the material things of this world and the ability of science to understand everything eventually.  However, God’s Word calls all people everywhere to put their faith in the Lord Jesus that they may be saved from this wicked and adulterous generation.

Once we were spiritually dead

In Ephesians Paul is writing to people who were not always followers of the One True God.  There are many metaphors used for people in this condition: to be blind, to be a slave, to be sick, to be lost, and here to be dead.  It is clear that we are dealing with a spiritual death in which that most vital part of us, our spirit, is separated and unable to connect with the most vital being of the universe, God.  Even though we are physically alive, even somewhat morally and ethically alive, we are not animated by God and His Word.  Rather, we are animated by the things of this world that are not of God.

Now, as an analogy, we should not put more weight upon this statement then it can biblically bear.  How can a person who is dead to God and His Word, quit being dead and start being alive?  How can a dead man believe?  The analogy does not tell us everything about the thing it analogizes.  It only gives us a glimpse.  Somehow the truth of God’s Word can put a dead man in a position to come to live again if they believe.  Similarly a blind man can see, a slave can be set free, a sick person healed, and a lost person found because of the grace of God.

Verse 1 describes this spiritual death as being “in trespasses and sins.”  The life of a person who is spiritually dead becomes filled with things that can be described by these words.  “Trespasses” refers to the many ways in which our actions and life cross the line of what is acceptable to God. The word “sins” refers to the fact that our actions, thoughts, and desires are in error, or miss the mark in regard to the things that God would have us do.  A life that crosses the boundaries of God’s will and falls short of the good that God has for us to do begins at a very young age within ourselves.  Even when kids are taught right and wrong, they naturally gravitate towards all manner of selfish desires and actions.  By the time a child becomes an adult their life is increasingly filled with these things.  This is the natural effect in those who are spiritually dead.  In this sense we are our own worst enemy.

Verse 2 says that we were walking according to, or following, the course of this world.  The course of this world could be translated as the system of this world and gives the picture of a herd mentality of the spiritually dead society.  When a child is born they drop into a system that pulls them along by the sheer force of its magnitude and the reality that the child knows nothing else.  It is as if you are plunged into a river that is following a course.  This becomes the second part of our problem.  Yes, we are our own worst enemy, but we are also caught up in a world that is leading us away from God.  This world has a great pull on our hearts and minds, pulling us away from Jesus and towards something else.

Verse 2 also says that we and the world we are in were being led by the prince of the power of the air.  The phrase that is used here refers to malevolent, spiritual powers.  Jesus referred to them as “the devil and his angels,” as well as “demons.”  These spiritual powers operate as a single force because they have a ruler over them whom Scriptures generally name as the devil or Satan.  1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”  Also 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4 says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  The “god of this world” is referring to the one who is acting like a god over the lives of mankind.  He is not truly a god.  The dark sinister forces that he oversees are the enemies of all humanity.  Thus we have the final list of all our enemies: self, the world, and the devil (and his evil spirits).  Many people don’t understand that there is a malevolent, spiritual force behind all the junk that is going on in the world.  This does not absolve mankind, but it does impact how we respond to the problem.

Verse 4 starts with the phrase “but God.”  In this condition of lostness and deadness, God still loves us.  Despite the error that we embrace in our lives His great love richly offers mercy to us.  This does not mean we are okay.  Yes, God loves us and is rich in mercy; however, He will not overlook our sin as if it is okay.  Paul speaks to the Ephesians in a way that it is a done deal, but he knows that they have done what they need to do in order to receive that mercy.  While they were in a spiritually dead state, God sent His grace to them and they responded in faith, which made them spiritually alive!

When the Word of God is spoken into people’s lives today, it brings with it the hope and power to make them spiritually alive.  The Word of God is by definition the Word of Life, and where the Word of Life is there can be life, even life so powerful that it brings the dead back to life.

In all of this we should be careful not to confuse God’s love and mercy with a lack of judgment.  If God is truly good then He must deal with the trespasses and sin that is going on in this world.  In His goodness God has set a date in which all will be judged.  Until then His rich mercy pleads with all people, through the words of the Bible and those who share it who have been made spiritually alive, to believe in Jesus and put their faith in Christ.

Now we are spiritually alive

Let’s begin to focus on the spiritually alive part.  A person who is spiritually alive is no longer animated by their flesh, or the world around them, or any evil spiritual forces.  They are connected to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is His Word and His Holy Spirit that motivates and leads us.  Of course this involves remaining vigilant against those three enemies and exercising self discipline by the help of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 5 states that our spiritual resurrection is connected to the physical resurrection of Christ.  Jesus was always spiritually alive.  There was never a point that he was spiritually dead.  He did not figure the way out of sin and show us the way.  Rather, He is the source of Life and He is the way to the Father.  This spiritual life that we enjoy today could not exist without Him and His resurrection.  Our connection to Him will eventually lead to our physical resurrection, but for now it has created a spiritual life in us that could not exist without Him.  As we put our trust and faith in Jesus, His life lives in us.  He is the object of our faith, not just an example of it.  We do not just believe things about Jesus, but we are even more trusting His Words, commands, and the way that He shows us to live.  If we reject these things then we reject the life that He wants to give to us.  To separate from Christ is to separate from life itself.

In verse 6 Paul reminds us that we are not only made alive, but that we also are enabled to sit with Christ in the heavenly places.  Right now Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  When we die we will go to be with Christ there, but while we are alive we are already spiritually seated with Him.  His Spirit within us is the guarantee of our right to sit with Christ.  It is the place that has been reserved for those who put their faith in Christ.  It is our destiny to reign with Christ in eternity, but that identity belongs to us already.  We have already been raised up from a dead position of lying under the power of the wicked one, and we are enabled to walk in this first stage of being seated with Christ.

Verse 7 tells us that we are the recipients of God’s kindness in Jesus.  The first coming of Christ was a kindness of God.  He did not owe us salvation.  However, in His kindness, He makes a way.  We can receive this kindness and walk in it today.  That said, the full measure of God’s kindness will not be seen until this age comes to an end and the return of Christ occurs.  Today the world will mock the idea that we are kings and priests of God, that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies, and that we are spiritually alive.  At times we may even have our own doubts.  However, in the ages to come (verse 7) the full kindness of God will be made evident.  There will be no question as God demonstrates it before the whole universe.

Now verses 8 and 9 are the classic salvation verses for all evangelicals.  We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  The two-point qualification is important.  We need the grace of God.  Without it no amount of faith could save us.  It is only the grace of God that accepts anything, even our faith in Jesus.  This gift from God is freely given.  Yet, we must employ faith or trust in Jesus to accept this gift.  Grace has been given, but it is within Jesus.  There is no other means of grace and there is no other way to take hold of Christ but through faith in Him.  Even this faith isn’t from us.  If it wasn’t for the revelation of God in the Bible opening our eyes to the reality around us, and the help of the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t have a clue regarding how we can be saved.  When we trust Jesus for salvation, it becomes the channel by which God’s grace of salvation comes into our life, making us alive.

As we close, let’s look at verse 10.  Here we see that we have been saved for the purpose of doing those good works that God has for us.    No amount of good works can save a person.  Instead we were saved in order to do good works, even more than that, to become the righteousness of God.  Thus we are God’s workmanship.  We are the good work that He has done in this day and in this generation.  May God encourage us in our faith in Christ, and may that faith lead to many good works out of thanks for the salvation of God and out of joy for the life of God that we now have!

Faith for Salvation audio

Tuesday
Oct302018

Your Personal End Times: The Great White Throne

Revelation 20:11-15.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 28, 2018.

Two weeks ago we were looking at that amazing time called the Millennial Kingdom, which lies in our future.  What a wonderful time that will be as we experience life on this earth without war and unchecked unrighteousness.  For the believer who has been resurrected, it will be even more amazing because we will not have a body that is bent towards its own lusts.  Yet, the Bible tells us that the 1,000 years of peace will come to an end when Satan is released from prison and he is able to deceive a vast number of mortal humans to go to war against Christ and His glorified saints.  This Final rebellion is quickly defeated as Revelation 20:9 says, “fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”  We were then told that the devil would finally be thrown into the Lake of Fire where he will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  Some may wonder why God would put the devil in prison and then release him again.  Though the Bible does not give an explicit reason, it should not escape our insight that the devil and mortal man is given another chance to refrain from rebelling against God.  This seems to be the final argument in the case of God as for why all these are deserving of the Lake of Fire.  Regardless, it is a reality we must all deal with.  Even when given 1,000 years of peace and prosperity, multitudes would choose rebellion and the tyranny of sin over again when given the chance.

Our passage today follows on the heels of the fire falling from the sky and destroying the rebellion.  It focuses on a great day of judgment in which all the wicked dead throughout history will be brought up out of Hades and placed before the Lord.  You will remember that we previous spoke about a person who dies and is not in right relationship with God.  Such a person will find themselves in torments in Hades, the spiritual holding place we call the grave.  Most of what we have talked about has dealt with what the righteous will experience after death, but now we return to the wicked dead.  Though it was clear what their judgment would be when they died, technically they have not been sentenced yet.  One day their experience in Hades will be interrupted by this fire from heaven and they will be resurrected in order to stand before Christ for their sentencing.

The final judgment of creation will occur

Up to this point we have seen that the believers from every generation will have been resurrected and they will have glorified bodies (indestructible, imperishable, etc.).  They have already been judged.  In verses 11-15 we are dealing with the unrighteous dead.

Verse 11 begins with the earth and the heavens flee from the presence of the One who sits on the throne, but no place is found for them.  The idea is that they can’t hide and disappear from the scene as all the unrighteous dead are brought before Christ.  It is very likely that this passage and the fire that falls from heaven in verse 9 are tied to the prophecy that Peter makes in 2 Peter 3:10.  There Peter says, “But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  This doesn’t fit with what we have seen regarding the 2nd Coming of Christ.  Though we typically think of the Day of the Lord as referring to the Second Coming, it actually refers to the whole period from the pouring out of God’s wrath, to Christ’s 2nd Coming, including the Millennial Kingdom and the Great White Throne Judgment.  So basically the whole universe melts into plasma before the full glory of Christ.

Thus as this creation is removed, we see the source of its melting.  A Great White Throne towers above all the other thrones that have ever been mentioned in Scripture, even Christ’s millennial throne.  This is the heavenly throne of God.  It is white because of the purity of the One who sits upon it.  Simultaneously the Second Resurrection occurs.  Though the phrase is not explicitly stated here, it is a logical necessity from the details of verse 5.  There we are told that the Resurrections that have occurred before this are a part of a class called the First Resurrection.  It then pronounces a blessing on those who participate in the First Resurrection and a danger upon those who do not.  Elsewhere in the Bible the resurrection is always described in two phases or at least two kinds.  Daniel describes two different resurrections it in chapter 12 of his book when he writes, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  Jesus described two resurrections and in John 5:29 the second one is specifically called “the resurrection of the condemnation.”  Paul describes it in Acts 24:15 as “the resurrection of the unjust.”  Thus the Second Resurrection is a time when all the wicked dead are raised up in order to receive condemnation and shame.

The picture is advanced as we see Hades completely emptied as all in it are brought before Christ.  It also mentions the sea being emptied of any in it and brought before Christ.  This is to emphasize that even those who could not be buried would be brought before Christ.  No one will escape this judgment, but the righteous who have already been judged as worthy of life.

We are also told that both the small and the great are brought before Christ.  No one will be too insignificant to escape this judgment, and no one will be too powerful to resist it.

Next we are told that books are opened and the Book of Life is opened.  The “books” plural are a record of the works and actions of each person.  The Book of Life is a ledger of all the “imagers” of God who have been created.  If they did not put their faith in god and His Christ then their name was blotted out of the book (see Psalm 69:28 and Acts 3:19).  When we put our faith in Christ, our name remains in the Book of Life and the record of our sinful works is blotted out.  Whether these are actual books in the heavens or merely symbols of God’s ability to record everything, it is clear that this is not a trial.  Though evidence is present, there is no rebuttal or counter evidence.  This is a sentencing phase where all will stand silent as the decision of Christ regarding them is made clear and carried out. 

Some have asked this question.  What about the righteous mortals of the Millennium?  It stands to reason that not everyone will join the Final Rebellion.  The glorified saints, of course, are able to withstand the fire that destroys all things.  Though it is not stated, it would seem very probable that any righteous mortals will be instantly transformed and caught up to the side of Christ along with the other glorified saints.  This will complete the First Resurrection.  The resurrected righteous from every generation will stand as witnesses to this judgment alongside Christ.

Those whose names are not in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire.  This is described in verses 14 and 15.  Up until this point, we have seen that the Beast and the False Prophet are the first to go into the Lake of Fire (at the 2nd Coming) and then the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire at the end of the Millennium.  It would seem appropriate that, as the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire, so his angels would be thrown in as well.  Jesus himself said that hell was created for “the devil and his angels.”  (Matthew 25:41).  The wicked humans are now joining the fate of the wicked supernatural beings.  The Lake of Fire is a place of separation from God and all His goodness. 

Thus they will never again be able to interact with God’s creation, specifically the New Heavens and the New Earth that are to be created and appear in Revelation chapter 21.  Nothing that is wicked or potentially could become wicked will be allowed to go into the New Creation.  Adam and eve were in paradise, but they were also ignorant to evil and wickedness.  Thus they could easily be deceived.  The glorified Sons of God who enter into the New Creation will not be ignorant.  We will be completely convinced of the goodness of God.

Let me leave you with the challenge to make sure that you are right with God.  Unless you surrender your life and put your faith in Jesus, you cannot escape the torments of Hades, the Great White Throne Judgment, and the Lake of Fire.  Why choose death?  Choose the life that God puts before you today.  Some reject this offer and present all manner of arguments why God should not be worshipped, but this is folly.  You will not judge God, He will judge you; and you are not truly righteous, but He truly is.

Are you angry at the idea of judgment and resentful towards God and His supposed goodness?  You should read David Guzik’s commentary on Revelation 20:12-13.  Here is part of what he has to say. 

“i. Because this is a sentencing and not a trial, those who stand before the throne have nothing to say. Many think they will “tell God a thing or two” at the final judgment, as reflected in this letter to Dear Abby (a newspaper advice column) written some years ago:

 Dear Abby: I am troubled with something a reader wrote: “What right do we mortals have to demand an explanation from God?” Abby, that writer has never known the gut-wrenching pain of losing a child...

God didn’t answer my prayers, and I resent being told that I have no right to question God. If there is a God, and if I ever get to meet him face to face, you can bet your life I will have plenty of whys for him to answer.

I want to know why my little girl died and why that drunk was allowed to go on living. I love her more than my life, and I miss her so. I am mad that I am having to live in a world where she no longer lives, and I want to know why. Why shouldn’t I have the right to ask God?

Aren’t we supposedly created in his image? If so, surely he has a heart and soul capable of hurting just as I hurt. Why would he not expect to be questioned if he has anything to do with miracles?

I don’t fear the Lord. And I don’t fear hell, either. I know what hell is like. I’ve already been there since the day my precious daughter was killed.

Please sign me... A Bereaved Mother

ii. Of course, there will be no criticism of God on that day. This desperate woman will see not only the righteousness and goodness of God, but she will also see her own sin and rejection of Him more clearly than ever. One could only pray and hope she came to understand how the Father Himself knew the pain she experienced, and sent His Son to give her hope and redemption.”

Great White Throne audio

Monday
Oct082018

Your Personal End Times- The Millennium Part I

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.

Millennium part 1 audio