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Weekly Word

Entries in Tribulation (5)

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
Jul192016

The Coming Day of the Lord 4

Isaiah 24:21-23.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on July 17, 2016.

As we finish this look at the Day that God has appointed in which all the nations of the world will be judged, we will see that this leads to a time of blessing for those who are left.  It is typical for unbelievers to scorn the Bible’s warning of judgment.  Yet, at the same time they will complain that if there really was an all-powerful and good God why hasn’t He dealt with all the bad stuff in the world.  When you put these two complaints together you recognize that there is no way God can “win” with such a person.  On one hand we want Him to deal with sin and evil (i.e. bring justice) and yet on the other hand we don’t want Him to judge.  God must deal with evil because He is the creator and He is good.  However, the answer that God gives in the Bible is this.  If He brought judgment to all that was evil we would all be guilty.  He does not want us to receive judgment.  So He has provided a way for us to have grace.  Jesus took God’s judgment of our sin upon Himself so that we could be pardoned.  God has given two millennia of goodness and mercy, pleading with the nations to turn from judgment and into the grace of Jesus.  Thus His judgment is not a barbaric thing, but rather, something that has been a long time coming.

In the death of Jesus we see the love and character of God.  In the resurrection of Jesus we see the reality and power of God.  In the Church we see the faithfulness of God to send ambassadors of this Truth throughout every generation.  God will not be found wanting in any kind of trial that men may wish to convene.  Lay down your complaints and find the truth of God’s love for you in His Word.

The Lord Will Reign On Mt. Zion

Starting in verse 21 we see the completion of God’s judgment upon the rebels and the subsequent rule that He will have upon Mt. Zion.  Now Mt. Zion is a reference to a physical place on earth in the city of Jerusalem.  It is the old city of David that also contains the area of the temple.  Mt. Zion was the physical place of God’s rule over Israel.  However, in the prophets we find that Mt. Zion often comes to represent the spiritual throne of God in the heavens.  Thus the earthly object is a symbol that points to a greater heavenly reality.  Thus believers in Hebrews 12:22 are told, “But you have come to Mt. Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”  We also see this in the book of Revelation.  There it is revealed that there will be a day when these heavenly realities (the throne of God, New Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, etc.) will come down to earth and no longer be merely a spiritual concept.

Before this happens though, the Lord’s wrath will punish the rebels.  They have refused His attempts to draw them into grace and now the day of punishment is here.  If He does not judge, He appears to approve of the damage they have done among themselves and to the faithful believers.  Thus verse 21 points out two classes of those being punished.  The first is the “Host of Exalted Ones.”  This phrase is a reference to the spiritual beings (typically called fallen angels) that had been in charge of the nations after the Tower of Babel, and yet had rebelled.  They led the nations into worshipping them as gods and throwing off the Truth of God.  The judgment of these spiritual beings is further revealed in the book of Revelation.  They will be forced out of the heavens and onto the earth where they will be punished by either being put in the Lake of Fire or into the Bottomless Pit.  The second class that is mentioned is the kings of the earth.  The leaders of mankind have been following the lead of these wicked, spiritual beings.  They will be judged as well, along with their armies as we see in Revelation 19. 

We are then told that they will be imprisoned.  Since we are dealing with  natural and supernatural beings the imprisonment brings up several questions that are answered by Revelation 19/20.  In the Old Testament the pit is often a reference to the grave, or the place where the spirits of men go to await judgment.  It is the place of the dead.  Thus the kings of the earth and their armies are going to die and go into the grave.  Yet, we see Satan, the ultimate fallen angel, imprisoned in the Bottomless Pit.  Since angels cannot physically die and thus go into the grave, God has designed a place called the Bottomless Pit where they can be restrained from interacting with the material world.  Read Revelation 19:17-20:3 for more information.

Isaiah then says after many days they will be punished.  Of course Revelation reveals that there will be a 1,000 years of peace on earth under the reign of Christ and His saints.  At the end of this however, Satan will be released from the pit and cause another great rebellion.  When this rebellion is destroyed by God, the heavens and the earth are melted down and all spirits are brought before the Great, White Throne.  There all receive their judgment.  The wicked are put in the Lake of Fire, which is referred to as the second death.  Think of it this way.  At the first death our spirits are separated from our bodies and thus can no longer interact with the physical world.  We can still interact with the spiritual world, however.  At the second death the spirit is separated from all of creation physical and spiritual.  There will be no coming back.  God creates a new heavens and a new earth that they will never be able to see or influence again.

In verse 23, Isaiah switches from the devastation and punishment to look at the result.  The Lord will dwell with His people.  The sun and the moon will be ashamed in His presence.  This is a personification that is intended to show how gloriously Jesus will be at His second coming.  It can also include a slam against those fallen angels (false gods) who had been associated with the sun and the moon (Apollo, Helios, etc.).  No matter how great they tried to magnify themselves, they will be ashamed when the true God of the earth arrives.  The key here is that the long awaited Anointed King that God was to send would arrive and in fact would actually be the Lord Himself.  This same theme is mentioned in Revelation: God will dwell with His people.

Notice the descriptions.  First He will reign.  He is not just a king, but the King of kings.  Yes, currently Jesus reigns over believers of the earth spiritually.  But in the millennium his reign will become a physical reality over the whole earth.  This kingship will lead us into the new heavens and the new earth, or Creation 2.0, if you will.

Then He will reign upon Mt. Zion within Jerusalem.  The millennium involves a spiritual reality taking its place upon the physical earth.  Thus Jesus will reign from Jerusalem over the earth.  However, in the new heavens and new earth, we see a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven that will cause the earthly “old” Jerusalem pale in comparison.  Thus the physical places in the middle east today are only a shadow of the greater physical and spiritual realities that will be in the New Creation.

He will be before His elders.  The people of Israel would have seen this as the rulers of national Israel.  However, in Revelation we see that it is something more than this.  There are 24 elders that surround the throne of God.  Most scholars point out that the word “elders” is only used of humans.  Since their origin is not explained we are left with conjecture.  The number (2X12) has led most to believe that they are representatives of National Israel and the Church (12 from each).  In fact Jesus promised His disciples that they would sit on thrones with Him.  Thus the elders represent the righteous of all the nations who have finally been united into one body before the Lord.

Lastly, we are told that he will reign in glory.  This has two facets to it.  Jesus will no longer be cloaked in mere human flesh.  Rather, as the disciples saw on the Mt. of Transfiguration, and as John saw at the beginning of Revelation, Jesus will shine in a brilliance that is majestic and glorious.  Thus He reigns in a glory that emanates from Him.  Yet, we will also glorify Him.  Our natural response will be to bring honor and glory to Him in all that we do, which will no longer be tainted by our sin nature.  Yes we will worship Him in song and praise.  But we will also worship Him in the projects that we perform and do.

Let me close by recognizing that heavy things lie ahead for this world.  When and exactly how it will all play out, you cannot completely know.  However, you can know that you are ready for it.  Put your trust in Jesus today.  Cling to His words to you in the Bible with all your heart, and shine the light of the Gospel of Jesus to everyone that you meet.  Maranatha!

Day of Lord 4 Audio

Tuesday
Jul122016

The Coming Day of the Lord 3

Isaiah 24:17-21.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 10, 2016.

Today we continue in Isaiah 24 looking at the revelation that there will be a day of judgment for all the nations of the earth.  The chapters that follow will be a series of praises and songs to God for His promise of judgment.

As we look at the judgments of God that are described in this chapter, it is important to recognize that God is sovereign over the affairs of mankind and we are headed to a point in time in which we will be held accountable to Him.  No matter how much modern, secular society kicks against this reality, these things are going to come to pass.  The real question is this, “Are you prepared for them?”  Whether we live to see these things or not, believers will live their life in a way that is connected to the reality of the coming Judgment, rather than living in a way that is connected to delusion and fantasy.  Let’s look at our verses today.

The Day of Judgment is Unavoidable

Starting in verse 17 the prophet drives home the point that these things cannot be escaped.  Those who try to escape will caught up in it, one way or another.  There is an idea that has become more and more popular, whether in secular movies or in Christian teaching.  The idea is that if Christians do a good enough job the apocalypse, day of judgment, can be avoided.  They see these passages more as a warning of something that we can avoid if we listen.  The problem is that an honest reading of the Scriptures makes it impossible to hold such a view.  Yes, believers must strive to do a good job by the power of the Holy Spirit.  But judgment day will come because Scripture reveals that most of mankind will refuse to repent, even in the face of judgment.

Isaiah addresses the “inhabitants of the earth.”  We dealt with this in part one of this series.  This phrase is addressing those whose sole frame of reference is the earth.  They live without fear or concern towards God and heavenly matters.  They even persecute the people of God and unwittingly cooperate with the spiritual powers of wickedness.  They are in contrast to those whose minds are fixed on the things of God.  Though they technically inhabit the earth, they are heavenly minded and stand to inherit the New Heavens and the New Earth.  Isaiah points out 3 things that these “earth dwellers” are facing: Fear, The Pit, and The Snare.

The fear refers to some calamity that will give them cause for fright.  It is the thing that causes them to want to run.  Thus as the judgments of God begin to come upon mankind fear will take hold of their hearts.  However, when they run from their fear, they will do so only to fall into a pit.  Likewise, those who are able to climb out of the pit will only find themselves caught in a snare.  In the last days there will be no escape.  It is interesting that even our life today resembles a series of traps and snares that God uses to try and pin down our flesh.  The believer is someone who has been trapped by their own sins and yet has turned to God for grace.  The earth dweller will not turn to God.  Instead they devise their own answers.  This world is running scared away from the idea that it might be held accountable to a Creator.  Yet, this fear is only going to cause us to fall into worse things until eventually the judgments of God are finalized.  Thus Jesus referred to the end times as a snare in Luke 21:35f.  Only those who fear God enough to repent and serve Him will avoid this snare.  This imagery can also be helped by remembering Adam and Eve.  Their sin put them in a condition of fearing the judgment of God.  Thus they ran from God and tried to cover themselves with fig leaves.   This is a picture of mankind.  We run from the reality of God into a self-delusion that we can cover our sins by the things of this world.  Yet, God has stated that the things of this world are destined to wither and cannot cover mankind.  Only repentance and turning towards the very thing we fear can save us.  Run towards God and there you will find grace.

At the end of verse 18 we see that the judgments of God will come from above and below.  The phrase, “windows from on high” is an allusion back to the story of the flood in Genesis 7:11.  There the “windows of heaven” were opened and the rains of judgment fell upon the earth.  At the same time the “springs of the great deep burst open,” while water from beneath rose up in judgment.  Isaiah points back to this template of God’s judgment from above and beneath.  The judgment of the nations that is still ahead of us will not involve rain and floods.  In the book of Revelation we are given further understanding.  On the natural plane we see objects from space striking the earth and causing global catastrophe.  We also see the earth itself splitting and reeling from a global earthquake that is unthinkable.  This represents the judgment of God from above and from below.  Yet, Revelation also reveals a spiritual plane of God’s judgment.  We see Satan and his angels being forced out of the heavens onto the earth.  This is good news for the heavens, but bad news for the earth.  Satan will be angry and we should not deceive ourselves with thoughts that he has any good feelings for mankind.  Similarly we are also told of the bottomless pit that will be opened up.  This pit is a prison house for angels that broke God’s commands in the past.  It is pictured as beneath the earth.  When it is opened spiritual forces are released upon the earth and bring great torment upon the people.  Again we have spiritual judgments from above and from beneath.  The judgment of rebellious mankind is unavoidable.  God is hemming him in on every side and there will be no escape.

This fate of the earth dwellers is paralleled with the fate of the earth.  It too has 3 things that are facing it:  to be broken, split, and shaken.  The brokenness of the earth is a reference to the devastation and ruin that will come upon the structures of man and even the topology of the earth itself.  Everything will lie broken.  The earth will also be split by the greatest earthquake the earth has ever seen.  Revelation tells us that the mountains will be flattened and the islands will “flee away.”  Clearly all of these words are tied together.  The third word is “shaken.”  The world will undergo a powerful shaking in the natural.  Yet, there is a spiritual side to this as well.  In Hebrews 12:26 the writer reminds us of a prophecy in Haggai.  “‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.”  The fate of the earth is to be broken, split and shaken.  But God gives to those who will turn from their rebellion towards Him, that which is unshakeable and unbreakable.  We are those who will not be destroyed by judgment, but shall come through to the other side.  Let us not smugly rejoice in our good fortunes, but rather plead with a world that keeps running from God.  Turn from your way and turn back to God.  This is the only way that the unavoidable judgment can be avoided- Jesus.

Isaiah then gives two metaphors to discourage putting your hope in anything of this earth.  The first is the picture of a drunk who stumbles to and fro.  He can’t even walk much less protect someone.  It is also possible that the wobbling of the earth from the natural disasters that are happening will resemble a drunk man from a heavenly perspective.  You won’t be able to build a bunker deep enough or get on a mountain high enough.  The earth will not be able to protect anyone from the wrath of God.  The second image is that of a hut in the middle of a strong storm.  Jesus once told a story about building upon the rock rather than the sand.  In that story the emphasis was foundation.  But the image of Isaiah points to the building materials themselves.  Thus the story of the 3 pigs is more appropriate.  When the hurricane-force winds of the judgment of God come upon the nations, the earth will be like a hut made out of sticks and straw.  It will be blown down and destroyed.  It will offer no protection.  No technology will be able to save man from the things God has decreed.

All of this time we have been talking about what God will do.  However the phrase “its transgression will be heavy upon it,” points to the sins of mankind.  We should recognize that whenever God judges us part of the judgment is directly caused by Him, but part is indirectly.  What I mean is that our sins actually have consequences that can affect the earth.  Of course God is the one who made creation the way it is.  Thus He has “hard-wired” the effects of sin into it.  This is why I used the word “indirectly.”  He has warned us.  But we keep running down the paths of sins bringing the ultimate judgment down upon our own heads.

We will stop there for today.  If you are not a believer in Jesus, I would challenge you to listen to these words.  The Creator has appointed a day in which all of mankind that has rejected His words and commands will be brought into judgment.  You will not survive that day.  Yet, when he died on the cross, Jesus was paying the price for your sins.  If you put your trust in Him, God can set you free from judgment and protect you from it.  All of this is possible because of Jesus.  Don’t run from God.  Rather, flee into the arms of the only One who can protect you from what is coming upon the earth and those who inhabit it.

Coming Lord 3 audio