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Weekly Word

Entries in Revelation (9)

Tuesday
Apr242018

When the Truth is Made Known

Matthew 10:24-26.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 22, 2018.

Is it possible to have joy when difficult things are happening to you?  According to Jesus in his “beatitudes” of the Sermon on the Mount, we are blessed when people revile us, persecute us, and say all manner of evil things against us falsely for Christ’s sake.  Then he goes further and tells us to rejoice and be glad for great is our reward in heaven (Matthew 5:10-11).  These are not the words of a man who was protected by privilege and position in this world.  He had grown up labeled as an illegitimate child, and then rejected and mistreated by entrenched religious leaders.  Ultimately he was headed to a cross and yet he tells us we are blessed in such cases and should rejoice and be glad.  How is such an incredible response possible?

It may be easy to dismiss this by saying that it was easy for Jesus because He was God.  But such arguments are themselves a cop-out.  How are we to know that it wasn’t actually harder for Him because He was God?  We can’t because we can only know for sure what it is like to be human.  Jesus was fully human and yet fully God.  So we should dispense with such intellectual dishonesty and recognize that Jesus expects this to be our experience in times of persecution or suffering.  How could he expect this of us?

As we look at the words of Jesus in our passage today, we will find that it is the knowledge that there will be a day when all that is hidden will be brought to light.  This is a scary thing for those who have ulterior motives.  But, for the believer, the day of revelation will be a joyous moment in which all that has been slandered against us will be cast down by Christ Himself.  Let’s look at the passage.

In this world Christians will be persecuted.

Jesus never promised us a rose garden in this life and this passage is one of many that prove it.  The apostle tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” They had been warned by Jesus.  A pernicious mentality has developed among some Christians today.  It is the idea that if we were more like Jesus in faith and power, that we could fix the ills of the world and save everybody.  As wonderful as that idea is, it is not a biblical one, nor is it particularly Christian.  It is not a Christian idea because it purports to put us and the power of our faith above the Lord who bought us with His blood.  Here Jesus makes it clear that those who follow Him are going to encounter persecution in this world.

This will happen precisely because we are not greater than Him.   Jesus uses three different relationships to help us see why we will be persecuted as well.  There is the relationship of the teacher to the student, the lord to a servant, and the master of a house to the members of that household.  The student learns from the teacher in order to be like his master.  If a servant’s master is hated by the world, then so too will the servant.  Ultimately, Jesus is pointing out that if we are in relationship with him then we will experience whatever it is that he receives.  Whatever lot comes to Jesus also comes to us.  The only way to avoid it is to reject Him, or at least to minimize his lordship in your life.

In the end it was the lot of Jesus to be persecuted in this world.  Thus those who follow Him will also encounter persecution.  Sure, it will vary depending on the place and time that you live.  Jesus points out that just as they accused Him of being in league with the prince of demons, so they will accuse His disciples of being evil.    They also called him a heretic that was causing dissension.  He was labeled an insurrectionist and revolutionary.  All of these were false accusations.  

Herein lies the problem.  The above mentioned relationships between us and Jesus, and the Scriptures themselves, teach that the Spirit of God is laboring to make us more like Jesus.  Romans 8:29 says, “For those He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  So how can it be that Christianity can convert the whole world and create a Utopia by having the power and faith that Jesus had?  Such power and faith led to Jesus being persecuted and killed.  How can it lead us to anything new?  Yes, if Jesus so determines, it could be so.  But here he promises the opposite.  Perhaps the only way it can be is if I am not operating in the same faith and power that He did.

Regardless, notice how verse 25 is worded, “It is enough...”. Jesus puts it in a statement form.  But we should ask it as a question.  Is it enough for me to simply be like Jesus?  Clearly it is enough from God’s perspective because Jesus states it so.  But is it enough for me?  Charles Spurgeon, an English Baptist preacher, said, “God was slandered in paradise, and Christ on Calvary.  How can we expect to escape?”

It is each thing that Jesus was not that draw our hearts away from Him and towards the world; away from the relationships of Teacher-student, Lord-servant, Master of the house-household member.  We are drawn either completely away from Christ, or we are deluded with the fanciful notion that we can have Christ and the world as our teachers.  Friend, recognize today that Jesus really is enough for you.  However, your flesh will not think so, and the world around you will not tell you so.  When the Christian Corrie Ten Boom came out of the German concentration camp of WWII, she had a message for the world.  “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”  He is enough.

In some ways modern society has become “more righteous” than God Himself.  It makes accusations of conspiracy, and rejects biblical ethics and morality.  Don’t listen to those voices that seduce you with becoming greater than Jesus, whether from within Christian circles or from the world.  When Jesus is enough for us, then we will know the peace and rest that God has for our souls and the joy of His Holy Spirit in times of difficulty.

There is a day in which all will be revealed.

In verse 26 Jesus reminds us of a principle that is as sure as any law of physics.  The hidden things will come to light.  This is both a warning and an encouragement.  It is a warning for those who would conceal evil, and an encouragement to those who are falsely accused of such.  All things that are done leave evidence behind.  Even when a person is framed by planted evidence, there will always be some evidence that it was planted, whether we are able to recapture it or not (God can recapture it).  Truth has a way of coming out in the end, precisely because it is real.  So it will be in eternity as all that has truly happened comes to the surface and God gives His judgments based upon reality, truth.

Jesus was not like the secret societies of our days.  He did not teach one thing in public and another to his top 3 disciples.  Sure they received more than the crowds, but Jesus was not publicly worshipping Yahweh, while privately promoting Beelzebub.  The false slander of the religious authorities came from an attempt to hold to two irreconcilable positions: Jesus was doing incontrovertible miracles, and yet He cannot be the Messiah.  Jesus was silent at His trial precisely because He had said and done everything out in the open.  If they were still going to pretend He was evil, what could he say to overturn their minds?  Christians reject those who use secret society techniques, who promote one thing to the masses and another to the inner elite.  This is the way of Satan, not Jesus.  The longer you are with Christ the more you recognize that His teachings do not become different as you draw closer to Him.  Rather, it is you who becomes different, and the teachings of Christ become deeper than we ever imagined.  This is what Corrie Ten Boom found in the depths of an earthly hell:  Jesus was still with her and His love had not abandoned her, even though she was in a place destitute of love and faithfulness.  So as the disciples of Jesus, we have nothing to hide, even though the world accuses us of hypocrisy, conspiracy, and idiocy (granted such do exist under the tent of Christianity).

Jesus tells his disciples not to fear those who make such unfounded accusations because the truth will come to light in some way.  It might not come soon enough to keep me from being nailed to a tree, but it will come nonetheless.  

There is a strength that can be derived from trusting the vindication of God Himself in your life.  Think of it.  God is your defense attorney and therefore you can’t lose.  But when I am my own defense attorney and I am constantly fearful at what others think about me, then I will become trapped by my own double-mindedness.  Draw strength from God’s promised rectification and wait for His timing.  

In fact, worry and fear of what others think or say sidetracks us from the mission of Christ.  Instead we pick up a futile mission of our own.  We will never please all of the people all of the time, in fact not even a majority.  Think of it.  If I am working at “reforming my public image,” it puts me at odds with the Holy Spirit’s work of making me to look like Jesus.  How proud we must be to remake our image so as to avoid what Jesus marched purposefully towards.  The only choices that God gives to us is to embrace the image of Jesus and the persecution that goes along with it, or choose an image that the world will accept and avoid it.  It is not our job to reform our image, but rather, in every way to yield to the Spirit’s call to become more and more like Jesus.

Sometimes God does bring the truth to light in the present.  We will taste some vindication in this life in various ways.  However, our hope goes beyond this.  Few are ever completely vindicated in this life.  Even Jesus has billions who reject His words.  But a day of vindication is coming.  God’s defense of Jesus and those who are following Him never rests.  He will have the final word.

This final vindication will be brought to light when the Lord Jesus comes to reign upon the earth.  As it was in the days of Jesus, so it is today.  Often those who paint the devil on others are most manipulated by the devil themselves.  Jesus and His apostles warned us against judging too quickly, and at the wrong time.  Thus some things, like the hidden motivations of a person’s heart, have to be left up to God.

Humility is a part of following Jesus, and it teaches us to trust in the judgments of God that will be revealed at Christ’s Second Coming.  Romans 8:18-21 says, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the Sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willfully, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”  So just who are the children of God and what is their revealing?  He is speaking of Christians and the day of resurrection when we will stand beside Christ in glorified bodies.  It will be clear on that day just who chose wickedness and who chose truth.  It won’t matter what any person thinks, or even if billions of followers shout your praises.  What matters is the judgment of God Himself.  Thus in 1 Corinthians 4:5 we are told, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts.  Then each one’s praise will come from God.”  Instead of fearing what people think, we can rejoice in knowing already what God thinks.  In fact the life of a believer, is constantly having fellowship with God by His Spirit.  Instead of worrying about what others think, we only worry about what God thinks.  Thus the adage is true, “You don’t want the wrong people to like you.”

Let’s put our trust in the Lord and grow in living out His righteousness.  This is enough for us, regardless of what the world around us might falsely say about us.  We are in good company, for such they did to the prophets of old and especially our Lord Jesus.  If we suffer with Him then we shall be glorified with Him!

Truth Made Known Audio

Tuesday
Jul052016

The Coming Day of the Lord 2

Isaiah 24:7-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 3, 2016.

Tomorrow we will be celebrating The Declaration of Independence by the United States of America.  In that document we appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”  Rectitude means the straightness or righteousness of our intentions.  Today, it does not seem that many in our government are concerned about the Supreme Judge of the world.  Our passage today reminds us why it was so important to do so back then and why we should be doing it now.  God is not just potentially the judge of the world, but He has appointed a day in which all the nations of the earth will be brought into judgment before Him, at the end of this age.  Whether in the Church or in our government, we need leaders who have such a fear of God that they feel compelled to make their case before the God of heaven.  We need leaders who will make their case in conformity with the Word of God (straight intentions) rather than in defiance of it.  My cry this morning is for Christians to not fail in their duty to conform their intentions to the straightness of God’s Word.  We must be about our Father’s business because the devastating day of Judgment that we will continue to read about today.

The Joys of the Harvest Will End

In verses 1-6 the prophet lets us in on the vision he has had of God judging the whole earth.  There he referred to the “withering” of the earth.  In verse 7 we see that this withering is a reference to drought conditions that bring an end to the joyful harvests.  The drought will also have an impact on their celebratory drinking of wine.  Of course a global drought would affect all crops, wine was the staple of their celebrations and where their hearts truly lay.  Thus the judgment upon the crops is more of a judgment upon their joyful celebrations.  God will bring them to an end.  He will do so because all of their jubilations are done without regard for Him and His ways.  They only give thought to earthly matters and ignore His warning of judgment.  Thus Isaiah mentions that the new wine fails.  There is not enough grapes that survive the drought in order to make new wine, and in fact the vines themselves are failing as well.  Thus the future of their wine is in jeopardy also.  The “merry-hearted” that are mentioned are the partiers and revelers.  They will groan because the drink is diminished, but also because there is nothing to take joy in; everything is being destroyed on the earth.  All of their labor is coming to nothing and being destroyed.

Thus verse 8 speaks to the festivals of the merry-hearted.  All mirth, noise of jubilations, and anything of the sort will come to an end and cease.  Man was not created to fixate his life on amassing material commodities, while ignoring their Maker.  Rather we were created to enjoy the material things before God while giving Him praise.  Our rejoicing should be in Him more than it is in the material gifts that He provides.

In verse 9 we see that what wine is consumed will be done in bitterness rather than in joy.  Like Naomi complaining that God had dealt bitterly with her, so they will lack anything over which to be joyful.  They may still have stores of wine to drink, but they will bring them no joy.

The City of Confusion is Destroyed

In verse 10 we have this phrase, “the city of confusion.”  It could be a description of any of the capitol cities that God had warned in Isaiah 13-23.  It could be a generic label for all the Cities of Man that are raised up and ignore God.  These will all be brought to destruction.  They have been a place of confusion in that they have rejected the ordinances of God and His proper order.  They have led and taught men to do the same within their streets.  So God will bring them into Judgment and cause them to be confusion.  The word that is translated confusion is the same word that is translated “formless” in Genesis 1:2.  It is as if God will “uncreate” them so to speak.  They will be so destroyed that nothing can live their without a new act of creation by God.  I say this because both Isaiah and the book of Revelation point to a new heavens and a new earth.  It is also possible that Isaiah is also hinting at what Revelation calls “Mystery Babylon.”  There it is the great city that rules over all the kings of the earth.  Thus it is the head city of confusion.  The destruction of Mystery Babylon is part of the emphasis of God’s judgment.

Thus Isaiah sees that the city will be broken and all the doors shut up.  Instead of open doors and partiers in the streets, the city is broken and no one is out and about.  The devastation that the Lord will bring leaves the city unable to function.  The rubble of the destruction both blocks the doors and is probably used as a barricade for protection by the few inhabitants that are left.

Verse 11 points to the cry for wine in the streets.  Sadly the cry is not in repentance towards God and asking for mercy.  The inhabitants of the earth are so fixated on material things that, even when God takes the material away, repentance cannot be found.  This is in contrast to the righteous.  They cry out for God even in the midst of plenty because they know it can all be gone tomorrow.  But the wicked ignore or spite God in plenty or in lack.  We must not let our eyes be blinded and our hearts be hardened by the spirit of this world.  Let the Spirit of god soften it today that we might raise up a righteous cry before God, rather than one of greed and selfishness.  Let us raise up a cry of repentance and desire for Him.

Verse 12 then reminds us that the vision has not happened yet, “When it shall be thus…”  When it does happen there will be little of any good left over.  The imagery of the earth being reaped is thus connected to judgment.  Interestingly in the book of Revelation we are shown two different reapings of the earth.  One harvest is that of the righteous who are pictured as grain gathered into the barn.  Though the grain may be treaded down, it will only break off the hard chaff and what is good will be left behind and spared by God.  The other harvest is that of the wicked.  They are pictured as clusters of grapes that are tossed into the pit and treaded underfoot in judgment.  The grapes will not survive.  Thus their lust for wine becomes a kind of prophecy pointing towards the poetic justice of their end.  They lust for wine so much that God has appointed a day when they will be caught up in the “wine making” process.

A Song of Praise to God is Raised up

In verse 14 there is a shift in the vision.  The “they” that will lift up their voice and sing for the majesty of the Lord does not fit with the city of confusion and the people of the earth who long for wine.  So why are they praising?  Though it is not made explicit, the context demands that they praise Him for bringing Judgment.  Clearly the singers are from all over the earth due to the phrases used of them.  “From the sea” is often connected with the West and refers to the Mediterranean Sea.  “In the dawning light” is connected with the East where the sun rises.  The “coastlands” was a reference to the faraway places that had to be sailed to.  Lastly we have “the ends of the earth.”  All of these phrases emphasize that the singers are not from any one place.  In the midst of those who are to be judged are a group of people that have not cried for wine.  Rather they have praised the God of heaven.

In the vision it is as if the song of praise is replacing the sons of mirth that the earth dwellers have been singing.  As the songs of ignorance are silenced the song of praise is raised up.  This becomes the first sign in the vision that, though the earth be destroyed; it is so that all things may be set back in order.  Just as the sons of God sang at the first creation so the new sons of God will sing at the New Creation.  Thus history comes back full circle upon itself.

Yet, the day of joy that Isaiah glimpses in the future is overshadowed by the judgment that must first happen.  Isaiah is so overwhelmed with the heaviness of the judgment that he cries out that he is ruined.  Thus he sees that for now the treacherous will continue in their treachery.  They will only grow worse until the final judgment.  This is reminiscent of Revelation 22:11,12, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.  And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.”  The wickedness of this world will have its payday from the Lord.  It will grow worse and worse until the day in which the Lord tramples out the vintage of the grapes of wrath.  Until then, it is our job as followers of Jesus Christ to be His last offer of peace to those who are blinded to the plight of this world.  May God help us to boldly lift up a song of praise to him before all who are around us, so that they might see Him and be saved!

 

Coming Day II Audio

Tuesday
Oct272015

Jesus Reveals The Future- Part IV

Luke 21:20-24.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 25, 2015.

We continue this section where Jesus reveals to his disciples what the future held for them and the world.  The disciples wanted to know the timing and the sign that would point to the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the age, and the coming back of Jesus.  The answer Jesus gives them starts by pointing out what things would be like before the end of the age and the coming back of Jesus.  In Luke they are called “the things that must come to pass first.”  In Matthew and Mark they are called “the beginning of sorrows.”  So here is the list of sorrows that would be happening throughout the time leading up to the 2nd coming of Jesus.

The Things That Must Come To Pass First

  1. False Christs will come.
  2. Wars and Turmoil will come.
  3. Great Earthquakes will come.
  4. Famines and Pestilences will come.
  5. Fearful Sights and Great Heavenly Signs will come.
  6. Persecution and Martyrdom of Christians will come.

It is at this point that Jesus has finished this list and now turns to give revelation regarding the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Will Be Desolated

When we read verses 20-24 the message is clear, Jerusalem will be completely destroyed.  The word that is translated “desolation” literally means to be made into a wilderness, without inhabitant and barren.  If you have looked into the history of Jerusalem then you will know that there were long periods of time that Jerusalem was a wasteland.  In fact many explorers through the centuries have commented in awe that the devastated place they were looking at was a “land flowing with milk and honey” at one time.

Jesus gives them a sign by which they can know the desolation is near and they should leave.  That sign is when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies.  I will point out that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record this desolation but do not point out the armies as the sign.  Instead they point to something called the Abomination of Desolation standing in the Holy Place.  We will come back to this later.  However, it is important to note that it is clear there is far more discussion than is recorded here.  The different Gospels are focusing on many of the same parts and yet also on some that are different.  In each case the person who sees either of these things are told to flee or they will be caught up in the destruction.  Much like Lot and his wife we should not want to watch the judgments of God being poured out and neither does God want His people to be caught up in the judgment.  Around the year AD 66 the Roman legions began to encircle Jerusalem and eventually destroyed in AD 70.  It is common knowledge that Christians of that day understood what God was doing and had either been forced from the area because of persecution, or left as they saw the destruction coming.  One historian from the 4th century AD refers to a city called Pella on the eastern side of the Jordan River as a popular place they fled to.

Verse 22 calls this the days of vengeance so that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  Thus the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersal of the people to the nations were prophesied in the Old Testament.  Moses reveals it in Deuteronomy 29:23, the prophet Micah does so in Micah 3, Jeremiah 26:9 and also Zechariah 14.  One thing we see here is the grace and mercy of God.  Though He has already warned of judgment for 1500 years, He first sends His Son, Jesus, to offer him up as a sacrifice for sins and then gives the nation 40 years to repent and be saved.  It is due to the hardness of their own hearts that the people perish under the judgment of God.  In one place it is referred to as “wrath upon this people.”  So AD 70 clearly was a watershed moment as the wrath of God is poured out upon the unbelieving portion of Israel, destroying its capitol, and scattering the people to the nations.  Yet, there is a problem.  If all things that are written are to be fulfilled we need to deal with Zechariah 14.  When you read this chapter about the destruction of Jerusalem it is striking how different it is from what happened in AD 70.  Two major things stick out.  In Zech. 14 the Messiah comes after half the city is destroyed and fights for them.  His feet touch the Mt. of Olives and split it in half.  He strikes the armies of the people with a plague where their flesh dissolves while they are standing.  Now some people try to make this figurative language and explain that anyone who stands against Jesus will see their whole life fall apart (i.e. dissolve) as they go to the grave in destruction.  Yet, this doesn’t pass the smell test.  Even when prophecies have figurative or symbolic meanings, they is still a literal fulfillment of the prophecy.  Is Jesus talking about more than one desolation?  We will come back to this.

In verse 24, Jesus clearly reveals the people being deported out of the land into the nations of the world.  They will cease to be a nation.  They would lose their homeland and be dispersed to the winds.  This is basically what has happened from the end of the first century until 1948.  Yes, some Jews have lived in that area off and on throughout the centuries, but, as a people, they have generally not had a homeland to call their own.

This brings us to the phrase that Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled.  The word until should jump out to you.  This condition of Israel being homeless and scattered would be the case until the times of the Gentiles reached their completion.  Of course we are not told how much time that would be.  The word trample has the sense of doing what you want.  Think about how the temple was a series of restrictions.  There was a wide area that anyone could be in.  But at some point a boundary showed where no Gentiles could pass.  Then there was a boundary where no female Israelite could pass, then an area where only the priests could go, until you reached the Holies of Holies where only one man could go only once a year. Though we may think of this as bad and exclusionary, It would be a misunderstanding to do so. The Gentiles would be trampling all such holy distinctions without thought for the God of Israel.  Thus trample is a sense of control and domination.  Also, note that the word is “times.”  This denotes a history of dominations by more than one nation over the years.  Of course, this has been the history of the area.  It was initially under the control of the Romans (including the Byzantine era), then the Muslims, then times of Europeans in control.  In 1948 the people of Israel were able to reestablish as a nation.  So does this mean the times of the Gentiles are over?  Some have pointed out that Jerusalem wasn’t under Jewish control until 1967 after the Six Day War.  However, upon taking the city, the defense minister, Moshe Dayan, relinquished control of the temple mount to the Jordanian forces.  Thus there is still a part of Jerusalem being trampled by Gentiles.  So the last 2,000 years has been a time where God has given control of the temple mount to Gentiles.

This leads me to my last point.  I believe that when you look at these predictions in Luke, Matthew and Mark, there is more than one destruction talked about.  Thus another destruction is still yet future.  Let me lay out a couple of reasons why I say this.  Israel does have political control of Jerusalem, yet they are still hard of heart and blind towards Jesus.  Yes, some Jews are becoming Christians.  But the majority are still in unbelief.

One reason I believe another destruction is being talked about is because AD 70 did not have an abomination that causes desolation.  Again this is the term found in Matthew 24.  In Matthew it says this, “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand)…”  Here Jesus tells us that Daniel spoke about this abomination of desolation and Matthew makes sure that the reader doesn’t miss what he just said.  Now there are three places in Daniel where he refers to this.  Daniel 9:27 says that after the messiah is executed then the city will be destroyed.  After that one will enforce a covenant that he breaks later and on the wing of abominations will be one who makes desolate.  The main point is that Daniel says this abomination will happen after messiah is executed and after the city has been destroyed.  In Daniel 11:31 another abomination is mentioned.  This chapter follows the history of the battles between the Ptolemy’s of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria so closely that some scholars reject that it was written by Daniel.  They say it had to be written after the fact.  Thus the abomination of desolation in this chapter fits perfectly with a Syrian King named Antiochus Epiphanes.  In fact in the book of 1 Maccabees it refers to the abomination of desolation as two things.  An idol of Zeus was erected in the Holy place and the altar had pigs sacrificed to false gods on it.  Thus it appears that this abomination of desolation is not the same as chapter 9.  The last place is in Daniel 12 and is mentioning the timing of the event.  It states that from the stopping of the sacrifices until the setting up of the abomination of desolation will be 1,290 days.  This does not fit with what happened during the days of Antiochus Epiphanes.  So Jesus is pointing us back to Daniel 9, and yet Daniel 11 becomes an event that helps us to know what the whole thing would look like.  It is an event of pagan worship that occurs in the temple compound.  This simply did not happen in AD 70.

On top of this the AD 70 destruction does not fit Zechariah 14 as I mentioned earlier.  In fact it ends with the nations of the world coming to Jerusalem to worship the King and being punished if they don’t.  Yes, you can spiritualize all of these things and even be somewhat correct.  But prophecy of this sort is always literally fulfilled also.  When you study Zechariah 12 and Romans 11 you come to the distinct realization that there is going to be a time when the hard hearts of Israel will be softened and the blind eyes will be opened.  Israel will look upon the one whom they have pierced and mourn for him.  A spirit of repentance will be poured out upon them.  This will be an amazing time for them, but at the same time the wrath of God will be poured out on the nations of this world.

Let me end this passage by reminding us that the God of heaven has an issue with the nations of the world.  He is going to bring us into the valley of Judgment.  Are you ready for such a judgment?  The only way you can be ready is to put your faith in Jesus and follow Him.  Anything else is simply a path that leads to destruction.  Believe in him today.

Tuesday
Oct202015

Jesus Reveals the Future III

Luke 21:12-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 18, 2015.

This weekend I attended a conference put on by the Voice of the Martyrs.  It may seem intentional that we are going to talk about persecution and martyrdom today.  But in actuality it wasn’t.  We heard from speakers who had suffered persecution in many different places throughout the world.  However, they each encouraged us that God was using this persecution and turmoil to open doors to the gospel.  Muslims and communists are coming to Jesus among many other people.

One person from Syria said that there were places that would have been impossible to go into and preach the gospel before the civil war that is embroiling that nation started.  But now they are able to preach and see people turn to Christ in the midst of all the pain and suffering.  He then said that the Syrian Christians have quit praying for God to stop the war and have begun praying that God would glorify Himself through them in the midst of whatever they have to go through.  Is it possible that we pray for God to remove thing that we could glorify Him in the midst of them?  It is, very much so.

As we hear the Word today, may God strengthen our hearts for the battle that has already begun in our own land.  Is it dark and bleak?  Of course, but this is when the tactics of the enemy are the weakest and people are the most desperate.  A young man from Iran whose father was martyred for preaching Jesus to muslims, said that the greatest “evangelists” of Iran have been the Ayatollahs and presidents who have persecuted Christians.  Their totalitarian and brutal reign has turned people off of Islam and on to Jesus.

Last week we read how Jesus prophesied a time of sorrows that would lead up to the end of the age.  It would be filled with deception and fear in the form of: False Christs, Wars and Turmoil, Great Earthquakes, Famines and Pestilence, Fearful Sights, and Great Heavenly Signs.  Thus the disciples of Jesus would have to learn how to navigate terrifying times without being terrified and deception without being deceived.  Believers would have to face these sorrows.  However, our Hope is for something beyond national pride, social cohesion, and physical safety.  We overcome the sorrows of this world in order to receive the prize of the inheritance Jesus has held in reserve for us.  Today verse 12 shows us another aspect of this time of sorrows.

Persecution and Martyrdom will come

Even before all the other things previously listed, Jesus says that persecution would begin.  Of course we know that the Church was birthed in the midst of persecution.  Jesus himself was persecuted and martyred because He spoke the Truth.  When his disciples began to call the nation to repentance for this, they immediately suffered persecution.  Persecution has been a hallmark of those who belong to Christ; even to the point of being persecuted by people claiming to be Christians.  2 Timothy 3:12 says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”  It doesn’t say at what level and in what style, but persecuted nonetheless.  In some places it is a brutal, harsh form that forces submission.  In other places it is a soft, inviting form that seduces one into submission.  Either way, to follow Jesus is to be hated by this world.

Jesus tells us that they will “lay their hands one you.”  This is a Hebrew phrase that means to take somebody physically captive, whether for jail, or a momentary beating.  It can be proper authorities or it may be a mob.  The intent is to pursue and take hold of someone in order to stop what they are doing.  This is the definition of persecution.  This world employs a variety of techniques in which it pursues Christians with the intent to squelch what they do.  Some would be brought before religious judges (synagogues) and other put into prisons by the civil magistrates.  They would even stand before kings and rulers for the sake of Jesus.  These descriptions make it clear that Jesus is talking about more than just what would happen in Israel.  It is a description of the kinds of persecution they would encounter throughout the world.  Notice that Jesus highlights that all of this will be happening because of our connection to Him.  In John 15:18-19 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  We are not to take such persecutions personal.  It is not really about you.  It is about the Lord that you are serving.  Thus we need to see our sufferings in this respect as a badge of honor because we suffer for Jesus.

Jesus has shown us what the world would do and why it would do it.  But in verse 13 he turns and tells us what God’s purpose is in allowing it to happen.  It will be an occasion for testimony.  The term translated occasion was often used of disembarking a ship when one has reached the destination.  Thus it came to be also used of the end or purpose to which one was heading.  Jesus is basically saying that though the ship be a ship of suffering and persecution, it is not headed to destruction.  Rather it is bringing us to a place where God will give us a platform one which we can testify about Jesus and the salvation that he is offering.  Thus Jesus then commands us not to meditate on what we will say at that time.  This does not mean we don’t read the Scriptures and meditate on God’s grace and the future judgment.  Rather, it teaches us to rely more upon the Holy Spirit than on our own wisdom and ability.  Jesus promises to fill the mouth of those who are persecuted for his sake with wisdom and words that the world can’t stand against.  It will be you testifying, but in another way it won’t.  The Holy Spirit will anoint you with the power of God.  He will testify through you, not as a robot, but as a willing servant.  Yes, the world will take its stand against you and resist you.  But they will not stand in the end.  No matter what they say and do (even to the point of killing believers), God will not support them.  Short of repentance, they will fall and be taken away in judgment.

It is bad enough to have enemies, but it gets worse.  Jesus tells us that we will be betrayed even by loved ones.  This is a general prophecy and thus we must see that it is not an automatic fact that our family will betray us.  However, in times of deception it will be a common pattern.  Those who are of the natural family are not always faithful to the end.  Thus the Church of Jesus becomes critical.  We are a spiritual family that is to stand together even in the midst of great persecution.  Yet, even this spiritual family has people in it who will betray us, like Judas.  Such are the sufferings of this time of sorrow that we are in.

Jesus then says that some will be put to death.  What we see here is that all will endure persecution, but not all at the same level.  Some will escape capture while others are put in prison.  Some will be released from prison while others are killed.  It is not ours to know exactly what God’s path is for us.  But, it is ours to be faithful to Christ and our fellow Christians in the midst of such difficult times.  We are not called to instigate persecution and martyrdom.  It is not our goal.  Our goal is to testify to a lost world of its sin and God’s love in Jesus.  Persecution and martyrdom are a byproduct of the clash of two kingdoms.  This is why Jesus tells us that we will be hated by all nations (this includes the USA).  This world is seduced by the wisdom of Satan and thus hates those who embrace the wisdom of Jesus.

Jesus then says that not a hair of your head will be lost.  How can he say this when he just said that some would be put to death?  There is a Hebrew phrase that we find in Scripture that has the sense of complete safety.  In 1 Samuel 14:45, when Jonathan was in danger of being killed by his father, King Saul, the people state, “not a hair of his head will fall to the ground.”  Of course we are losing hair all the time.  But the implication is that they will protect Jonathan even to the point of not even losing a hair.  We see it again in Acts 27:34.  Paul is on a ship that is about to be destroyed on the rocks during a great storm.  The soldiers are going to kill all the prisoners so as to lose none of them.  Paul then tells the soldiers not to kill the guys because, “not a hair will fall from you.”  Everyone would survive and make it to the mainland.  The soldiers would not be held responsible for losing anyone.  Notice that Jesus has changed the phrase from hair falling to the ground to hair being lost.  Thus even if the “hair does fall to the ground,” what would it mean that it isn’t lost?  I believe that the implication here is that the same God who has numbered the hairs on their head, will also take note of everything they have lost in his name.  Their sacrifice will not be lost because God will take note of it and holds for them a reward that none can steal.  Persecution is not a loss for the believer, but rather a gain.

Jesus ends with the command for believers to take possession of their soul through enduring faith.  Fear and doubts constantly assail the person going through persecution.  Like a ship on the sea, we are tossed this way and that.  Only a strong faith in Jesus will help us to weather such things without losing our souls.  Perseverance or endurance, by definition, cannot only last for a while.  It must be to the end of the trial and to the end of our life.  May we not lose our souls in this day, but rather remain under the difficulties of this time while serving our Lord.  Let us fight the good fight of faith and live a witness and testimony before the world regardless of what our flesh may fear.  This is what our Lord calls us to be.

Jesus Reveals Future III audio