The two Beasts of Rev13 have united!

17 Mar

HISTORIC! Pope Francis Invited to Address US Congress!

“Pope Francis could become the first pontiff ever to address Congress after being offered a historic invitation by US House leaders on Thursday. House Speaker John Boehner sent a formal, open invitation to the pontiff, who on Thursday marked the first anniversary of his election to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.” (source)

The two beasts of Revelation 13 have united! Keep watching friends! – “When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near.” (E.G.White, Testimonies, Vol.5, p451)

Pope and WCC on new opportunities for Christian unity

13 Mar

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, have discussed “new opportunities for Christian unity today”, focused on working together for peace, justice and environmental protection. At a meeting in the Vatican on Friday, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the path of “full and visible communion” among Christians of different denominations. They also talked about peace in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula, about economic justice and about an upcoming summit of religious leaders to press for urgent action on climate change.

The Geneva based World Council of Churches is a fellowship of 345 member churches from over 110 different countries. In his words to the general secretary Pope Francis thanked the organisation for its work over the past half century in “overcoming mutual misunderstanding” and promoting “sincere ecumenical cooperation”. If Christians ignore the call to unity which comes from the Lord, he said, “they risk ignoring the Lord himself.” Though the road to unity is still an uphill struggle, he said, the Spirit encourages us to move forward in trust.

Just after the audience, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Rev Fykse Tveit to find out more about their conversation and about their shared vision for the future of the ecumenical movement…..

Listen: RealAudioMP3

“It was a very good conversation….I responded to what we understand is his vision of how the Church shall serve the needs of the world, sharing the Gospel, being together in doing this, but also how we shall address the issues of justice and peace in the world together…..I shared our vision as WCC and also my personal understanding and commitment to what it means to work for justice and peace as a Christian…..we recognize that we have, in many ways, the same perspectives but also the same spirit….

There is no doubt about his commitment to unity….what he said and what I said is that there are new opportunities for Christian unity today, particularly how we serve the world together and we should focus on how we can do that…..he was interested in particular issues I raised with him about the Middle East, about peace in Korea, our work for economic justice and for the environment….

[on Korean reconciliation]We are working on another meeting between participants from North and South Korea, to happen in Geneva before the summer…..I’m going to visit South Korea in April to discuss this…..it’s very important for us to see how the Churches can bring another vision on how things can change….the expectations from the Korean Churches are quite significant….

[on 10th Assembly in Busan] I think we realized we cannot divide the ecumenical movement into those who are evangelicals, those who are ecumenical, those who work for unity, those who work for mission, those who work for justice….it belongs together in a very strong way…and this was what we confirmed in the conversation today with his Holiness….

[on climate change] I referred to the call of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the World Economic Forum in January this year when he called governments, the business sector and the civil sector – including religious leaders – to bring something new, to really make changes in how we give priority to the environment…..we believe it’s time to call other religious leaders to a summit, the day before the summit that Ban Ki-moon has called for heads of state in September in New York, and the Pope was apparently supporting this idea very strongly…”

Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/03/07/pope_and_wcc_on_new_opportunities_for_christian_unity/en1-779487
of the Vatican Radio website

The Deadly Wound is Almost Healed! Pope Francis, the man who won over the World! (March 2014)

12 Mar

“Never has a leader of the Roman Catholic Church become as popular in as short a time as Pope Francis did … Admirers from Manila to Mexico fondly remember his first appearance on the balcony in the Vatican when he began with the simple greeting, Good evening … We have never seen a pope become so popular in just a couple of minutes, said Odon Vallet, a French historian and an expert on religion.”

Revelation 13 tells us that the sea beast (the Papacy) who controlled the world for centuries would receive a ‘mortal wound’. History confirms this wound when in 1798 General Berthier of France marched his army into Rome, took the pope captive and locked him in prison, where he died. Then … “Half of Europe thought… that with the Pope the Papacy was dead.” (Lectures on the History of Religion, 1910). But Revelation 13 also tells us that this mortal wound would be healed and the whole world would ‘wonder after the beast’.

In 1929, Mussolini granted the Vatican it’s own state power again, and ever since, that ‘mortal wound’ has been healing. 85 years later and the whole world is beginning to wonder after the Papal beast. Even many of the Protestant churches are returning to their ‘mother’.

Do you believe this rhetoric of ‘Religious Tolerance’ will stand when the ‘kings of the world give their power unto the beast’? Not a chance friends. Once the Vatican receives world power again, like they did in the dark ages, persecution will rise again for God’s true Bible believing Christians. But please stand firm no matter what. An eternal bliss with Jesus awaits!

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The Rise and Spread of Futurism – Jesuit Futurism

12 Mar
 
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The Catholic Counter Reformation – Futurism
The Jesuits were commissioned by the Pope to develop a new interpretation of Scripture that would counteract the Protestant application of the Bible’s prophecies regarding the Antichrist to the Roman Catholic Church. All the reformers’ studies pointed the finger directly at the Roman Catholic Church as the Antichrist power described in Daniel as the “little horn.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Francisco Ribera (1537-1591), a brilliant Jesuit priest and doctor of theology from Spain, answered Papacy’s call. Like Martin Luther, Francisco Ribera also read by candlelight the prophecies about the Antichrist, the little horn, the man of sin, and the beast of Revelation.

He then developed the doctrine of futurism. His explanation was that the prophecies apply only to a single sinister man who will arise up at the end of time. Rome quickly adopted this viewpoint as the Church’s official position on the Antichrist.

In 1590 Ribera published a commentary on the Revelation as a counter interpretation to the prevailing view among Protestants which identified the Papacy with the Antichrist.  Ribera applied all of Revelation to the end time rather than to the history of the church. Antichrist, he taught, would be a single evil person who would be received by the Jews and who would rebuild Jerusalem.i
 
Ribera denied the Protestant Scriptural Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2) as seated in the church of God-asserted by Augustine, Jerome, Luther, and many reformers. He set on an infidel Antichrist, outside the church of God.
ii
 
The result of [Ribera’s] work was a twisting and maligning of prophetic truth.
iii

Following close behind Francisco Ribera was another brilliant Jesuit scholar, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine of Rome (1542-1621). Between 1581-1593, Cardinal Bellarmine agreed with Ribera in his work Polemic Lectures Concerning the Disputed points of the Christian Belief Against the Heretics of this Time.

The futurist teachings of Ribera were further popularized by an Italian cardinal and the most renowned Jesuit controversialists. His writings claimed that Paul, Daniel, and John had nothing whatsoever to say about the Papal power. The futurists’ school won general acceptance among Catholics. They were taught that antichrist was a single individual who would not rule until the very end of time.iv

Through the work of these two clever Jesuit scholars, Jesuit futurism was born.

Read about the spread of futurism throughout the past centuries

 


The Secret Rapture

8 Mar
Why Would Jesus Promise?
There is a theological question that has disturbed millions of Christians and has lent untold doctrinal confusion to the modem religious world. That question revolves around the manner of Christ’s coming back to this earth at the end of the world. Multitudes have been led to believe that Christ will return secretly. What about the so-called secret rapture? A large number of Christians have been exposed to this “dispensationalist” or “futurist” interpretation of prophecy and have been hopelessly confused.

According to this view, the coming of Jesus will be in two separate events. First, He will come secretly to take the church to heaven, and then, seven years later, He will come in an open demonstration of power and glory. In between those two events, the Antichrist is supposed to come into power and the great tribulation period takes place.

But the truth is that the Bible nowhere speaks of these two separate comings of Jesus. There is no second stage of His coming that occurs seven years after the so-called “rapture.” By the way, that word “rapture” is also an invention of theologians. It can’t be found in the Bible in even a single instance. It is a word coined for the second advent of Jesus.

Now here is what we find in the Scriptures: Christ’s coming, the resurrection, and catching up of the saints to meet Jesus in the air, all take place at the same time, at the end of the world. This is why Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Now why would Jesus promise to be with the church until the end of the world if He intended to come seven years before the end to take them out of the world? The promise would have no meaning.

Will It Be Secret?
The secret rapture doctrine contradicts the words of Christ in Matthew chapter 13 when He said that the wheat and tares would grow together until the “end of the world” and then would be separated. According to the two-stage teaching of His coming, both groups would not grow together until the end of the world. The righteous would be separated from the wicked seven years before the end. And what about the promise of the resurrection? Christ said, concerning the righteous, “And I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). No one denies that this means the last day of the world. Yet Paul declares that the saints are caught up to meet the Lord at the same time the dead in Christ are raised. He says, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).

Please keep in mind that Jesus called this resurrection the “last day.” But how could it be the “last day” if this gathering of the saints takes place seven years before the end of the world? And how could the “last trump” sound if it really wasn’t the very last moment of time?

Can you imagine the graves opening and the righteous rising and no one knowing that it had occurred? And consider this additional testimony of the Word of God:

Revelation 6:16,17 When the wicked see Christ come, they cry out to the rocks and mountains, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”

Matthew 24:27 “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

1 Corinthians 15:52 “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised.”

Psalm 50:3 “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence.”

Revelation 1:7 “Every eye shall see him. ”

Matthew 24:30 “Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Matthew 24:31 “He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (This is clearly the time when Christ comes to gather His saints.)

To say that the second coming of Christ to gather His saints will be secret, in view of these clear texts of Scripture, and in the absence of any text that even hints at His coming being secret, is to deny the Bible as the Word of God. In an attempt to uphold their contrived theory, the rapturists quote Matthew 24:40, 41 out of context. Notice this entire passage:
“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating

and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matthew 24:37-41).

Jesus is clearly drawing a parallel between the second coming and the days of Noah. Those who entered the ark in Noah’s day were saved, and those who refused to enter the ark were left outside. But what were they left for? For another chance? No, obviously they were left to be destroyed by the Flood. So, says Jesus, will it be when He comes at the end of the world. One will be taken to heaven with Jesus, and the other will be left for destruction. Verse 51 makes clear what will happen to those who are left: “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Read Luke 17:26-37 for Luke’s parallel account of these same words of Jesus. In verse 36, this statement is made: “Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” Now notice verse 37 and the question the disciples asked: “And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord?” They wanted to know where those who didn’t go to heaven were going to be left. Notice Jesus’ clear answer: “And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.”

Take note how Jesus taught that the bodies of the wicked are going to be left on the ground for the eagles to consume. Scripture is too plain to be misunderstood. Only as we accept all that the Bible says can we be safe from such deceptive teachings that are confusing millions of sincere Christians today concerning this most glorious event of all ages, the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Now, I realize that the rapturists hang onto the texts that liken the Lord’s coming to “a thief in the night.” They assume that this must be a quiet, secret coming. But does it really mean that? Let’s show that it definitely does not. Here is one of those texts in 2 Peter 3: 10: “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” Obviously the “thief’ part has nothing to do with secrecy because the heavens will pass away with a great noise! And if coming “as a thief’ is the secret rapture which takes place seven years before the end of the world, how can the heavens and earth “pass away,” as Peter describes it? The heavens and earth could not pass away seven years before the world ends – that is the end!

The fact is that Jesus Himself explained clearly just how a thief’s coming could be related to His coming: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matthew 24:42, 43). There it is, so plain and simple! The thief would come unexpectedly when the owners were not looking for a thief. In the same way, His coming would take people by surprise. They would not be watching or looking for it.

Will Christ Return in Two Phases?
The dispensationalists teach that the two separate stages of Christ’s coming are indicated “in the Greek.” They argue that there will first be the rapture (parousia), a secret coming; then seven years later will be the revelation (apokalupsis), His coming in power and glory. But, actually, instead of teaching two separate events, the Greek terms are used interchangeably in the Bible. They give no indication of a seven-year interval.

For example, Paul uses the word “parousia” in the famous rapture chapter of 1 Thessalonians 4 in speaking of the coming of our Lord and our gathering together unto Him. He then goes right on to show that this “parousia” will destroy the man of sin. Speaking of the Antichrist, Paul says, “whom the Lord shall … destroy with the brightness of his coming [parousia]” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). These texts clearly describe the coming (parousia) of Christ as taking place after the reign of the man of sin, not as an escape rapture before the reign of the Antichrist begins.

The other Greek word “apokalupsis” (revelation) is used in a way that indicates it is not a separate coming from the time the believers are gathered up. Peter said to “be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation [apokalupsis] of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Why would Christians be exhorted to keep hoping to the very end of the world for the grace brought through the revelation of Christ if their real hope was a secret rapture seven years before the revelation?

Now look at some verses that prove beyond a doubt that the two words “parousia” and “apokalupsis” refer to the same event. In Matthew 24:37 we read, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming [parousia] of the Son of man be.” Luke’s account of the same passage says “As it was in the days of Noe … Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed [apokalupsis]” (Luke 17:26, 30). This shows that the coming (parousia) of Christ and the revelation (apokalupsis) of Christ are the same event. There is absolutely no basis for placing seven years in between.

Many dispensationalist teachers actually claim that the rapture is not really the “coming” of Jesus at all. They say His coming is when Christ returns in power seven years after the rapture. But what a contradictory, confusing explanation that is! The fact is that there are many Scriptures that admonish Christians to wait and watch for the coming of the Lord. For example, James 5:7 says, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.” But why should Christians need to be patient unto the coming of the Lord if there is to be a secret rapture to take them to heaven seven years before His coming?

Strange as it may seem, this whole counterfeit secret rapture is built upon a constant repetition of words and ideas that are not found in the Bible at all. But they have been repeated so often that millions have assumed that they must be soundly biblical. Let’s take a look at some of the texts that have been used to support the doctrine of a two-phase coming of Christ. And please notice that none of the verses actually say what some try to read into them. In fact, it is only after a person has already assumed that Christ will return in two separate comings that these verses could even suggest the idea.

Revelation 3:10 is often quoted to try to prove that the righteous will be taken out of the world before the tribulation. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” It is immediately obvious that this text does not speak of the righteous leaving this world at all. Jesus completely clarified the meaning by something He said in John 17:6, 15 which sounds very similar. “They have kept thy word. O I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” Don’t miss the significance of the term “kept the word” in both these texts. Both statements are talking about the same group of people – the faithful ones.

Now if those who “kept the word” can be “kept from the evil” of the world without being taken out of the world, why should we suppose that a special coming and secret rapture is required for those who “kept the word” to be “kept from the hour of temptation”? Whatever else may be taught in Revelation 3: 10, it is evident that no extra coming of Christ is indicated.

True biblical doctrine must be based upon clear statements of what the entire Bible teaches on a subject and not upon verses that offer only veiled inferences. Luke 21:36 is an example of that very thing. Jesus said to His disciples, “Pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass.” How? By a secret rapture to take them to heaven seven years before the end of the world? Definitely not, for in the prayer of Jesus we read, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” When He told them to “pray … to escape,” He must have meant the same as when He prayed, “I pray not … take them out of the world but … keep them.” This rules out a secret rapture entirely. The text that is used to prove the rapture is seen actually to forbid the saints being taken out of this world during the time of trouble.

The Seven-Year Tribulation
Since so much rapturist theology revolves around the seven-year period, one would assume that the Bible must speak frequently of such a time period. But not so. There is not one single scriptural reference that ties the seven years to the end of the world or the coming of Christ. Most rapturist literature mentions the seven-year tribulation period without offering any Bible proof or explanation. Millions have assumed that it must be so well documented that no proof is needed. In fact, the opposite is true. There just isn’t any evidence to give.

Most Bible students are amazed to learn that the rapturists try to justify their seven years by lifting a prophecy of Daniel completely out of its context. In Daniel 9:24-27 God made a daring prophecy concerning the probation of the nation of Israel. He said to Daniel, “Seventy weeks [‘weeks of years’ RSV] are determined upon thy people … to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins” (v. 24). Please notice that God was going to allow Daniel’s people seventy weeks to see what they would do with the Messiah when He appeared. The seventy weeks are prophetic time, and each day represents a literal year (Ezekiel 4:6). So the seventy weeks would be a literal period of 490 years, after which the Israelites would no longer be God’s people. They would be rejected as a nation because of their rejection of the Messiah.

Don’t miss the point in Daniel 9:25 that the prophecy of the seventy weeks was to begin with the decree to restore and build Jerusalem. That well-known date is 457 B.C., when Artaxerxes sent out the decree (Ezra 7:13). From that date, 457 B.C., the Jews would have exactly 490 years to finish filling up their cup of iniquity by rejecting the Messiah. That 490-year probation ended in A.D. 34, and the Jews ceased to be God’s chosen people. Daniel 9:25 says that the Messiah would be anointed after sixty-nine of those prophetic weeks had passed by. That would be 483 years from the decree date of 457 B.C. It takes no mathematician to figure the end of that prediction. It brings us to the year A.D. 27, the very year that Jesus was baptized by John and the Holy Spirit anointed Him for His ministry. Since “Messiah” means” Anointed One,” this had to be the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy that the Messiah would appear in A.D 27.

Now mark this fact: seventy weeks were assigned to the Jewish probation, but Christ appeared as the Messiah after sixty-nine weeks. That leaves the seventieth week for Christ to minister before the Jews’ probation ended. What was to happen in the seventieth week? Daniel 9:27 tells us, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.”

The midst of the week would be three and a half prophetic days (literal years) from His baptism. And according to the Bible, the ministry of Jesus lasted for three and a half years. In the spring of A.D. 31 He was crucified. The veil of the temple was rent (Matthew 27:51), signifying the end of sacrifices. By His death He caused them to cease. Another three and a half years would lead up to the end of the seventy weeks and the end of Jewish probation. During that three and a half years the disciples labored largely for the Jews. But in A.D. 34 the seventy weeks ended; Stephen was stoned and the gospel began to go to the Gentiles (Acts 8:4). The Jews had rejected the gospel message and were no longer God’s people – just as Daniel had predicted. Henceforth they could be saved only as individuals, in exactly the same way as the Gentiles. As a nation, they had been rejected as the chosen people. Here is the way the Bible describes that rejection:
Matthew21:43 “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you.”

Matthew 21:19 “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.” (The fig tree was a symbol of the Jewish nation.)

Matthew 23:38 “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:29 “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Romans 10:12 “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.”

Romans 9:6-8 “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are … the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (The New Testament teaches the acceptance of spiritual Israel, and the rejection of physical Israel and the children of the flesh.)

Romans 2:28, 29 “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter.”

Acts 13:46 “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”

The rapturists get their seven years’ tribulation by lifting that seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy completely out of its context and shoving it far into the future. They claim it will be fulfilled after Christ comes to snatch away the righteous secretly. Incredible? Absolutely! But they must grasp desperately for some text to support their seven years. They agree that the sixty-nine weeks of Daniel 9:25 refer to the period before Christ’s first advent, but then they insert a 2,000-year gap before the seventieth week is fulfilled. They allot 69 weeks plus 2,000 years plus one week, or a total of 2,490 years. By this devious manipulation of God’s Word, the rapturists believe they have extended the Jewish probation; and based upon this, they teach that all the fleshly Jews will be saved in a great second chance after the “secret rapture” takes place.

The tragedy of the rapture theory is that it takes these beautiful verses of Daniel 9:24-27 that predict the coming of Jesus, His baptism and crucifixion, and apply them to Antichrist. They do this by stating that it is Antichrist that causes the sacrifice and oblation to cease after three and one-half years. But Daniel states that it is Jesus who caused the sacrificial system of the Jews to cease when He died on the cross. A misinterpretation that confuses something Christ has done, and applies it to the devil instead, is certainly a tragic occurrence. And yet this is the only way one can arrive at a seven-year tribulation period. How sad!

When Does the Antichrist Appear?
Now we are brought to focus on the most glaring inconsistency of the rapture theory, and that is that the Antichrist will not appear until after the saints are caught away – seven years before the end of the world. Paul settles the entire matter for us in the first few verses of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [of our gathering together unto Him] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin [Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (vs. 1-4).

The words of Paul are so plain that it is difficult to comment on them. How can they be plainer? Christ’s coming will not take place “except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed.” Show these words to any child who has learned to read; show them to anyone not prejudiced by “private” interpretations, and he will say, “These verses say that the man of sin (Antichrist) is going to be revealed before Jesus comes.”

Paul is not referring to some superman suddenly to appear 2,000 years after his epistles. He wrote, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (v. 7). While Paul lived, he combated the emerging spirit of the Antichrist. By the sixth century A.D., Antichrist had matured. The crowning act in the great drama of deception, however, occurs just before the return of Christ: “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”‘ Verse 8. This clearly states that Antichrist will be destroyed when Christ comes. He does not arrive after the Second Advent.

And here’s the crowning clarification in this whole thing. Revelation 20:4 assures us that some of those who are raised in the first resurrection will be those who refused to worship the beast and receive his mark! How completely this demolishes the futuristic school of prophetic interpretation is evident, for they claim that the emergence of the Antichrist and the imposition of his mark are to be looked for after the first resurrection and what they call the secret rapture. Recently a radio preacher expressed this belief: “I don’t expect to be here when the beast is enforcing his mark upon the people. I expect to go up in the rapture and be in heaven during the great tribulation time.” But these verses declare that some of those who come up in the “first resurrection,” when Christ comes the second time, have already refused to worship the Antichrist or receive his mark! Thus, the Antichrist must have already been on the stage of action carrying on his oppressive work before the “first resurrection” and well before the second coming of Jesus.

Without attempting to establish the identity of Antichrist at this point, let us notice how this teaching – that the Antichrist will come in the future – originated. At the time of the Reformation, most of the reformers understood the prophecy of the Antichrist to refer to the great apostate system of Romanism that developed during the Middle Ages. Of course, Rome did not appreciate this interpretation. Please notice Rome’s course of action to nullify this interpretation:
“So great a hold did the conviction that the Papacy was the Antichrist gain upon the minds of men, that Rome at last saw she must bestir herself, and try, by putting forth other systems of interpretation, to
counteract the identification of the Papacy with the Antichrist.

“Accordingly, toward the close of the century of the Reformation, two of the most learned doctors set themselves to the task, each endeavoring by different means to accomplish the same end, namely, that of diverting men’s minds from perceiving the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Antichrist in the papal system. The Jesuit Alcazar devoted himself to bring into prominence the preterist method of interpretation, … and thus endeavored to show that the prophecies of Antichrist were fulfilled before the popes ever ruled in Rome, and therefore could not apply to the Papacy.

“On the other hand, the Jesuit Ribera tried to set aside the application of these prophecies to the papal power by bringing out the futurist system, which asserts that these prophecies
refer properly, not to the career of the Papacy, but to some future supernatural individual, who is yet to appear, and continue in power for three and a half years. Thus, as Alford says, the Jesuit Ribera, about A.D. 1580, may be regarded as the founder of the futurist system of modern times.

“It is a matter for deep regret that those who advocate the futurist system at the present day, Protestants as they are for the most part, are really playing into the hands of Rome, and helping to screen the Papacy from detection as the Antichrist.”1

Thus, the whole theory of the secret rapture with its future Antichrist had its origin with the Jesuits in an attempt to take the blame off the Papacy.

The origin of the two-phase coming of Christ has an equally unsavory history. It was not until around the year 1830 that this view began to be taught. In the Scottish church pastored by Edward Irving, a Miss Margaret McDonald gave what was believed at the time to be an inspired utterance. She spoke of the visible, open, and glorious second coming of Christ. But as the utterance continued, she spoke of another coming of Christ – a secret and special coming in which those who were truly ready would be raptured.

However, it was John Nelson Darby – Brethren preacher and diligent writer of the time in England – who was largely responsible for introducing this new teaching on a large scale. The teaching spread to the United States in the 1850s and 1860s, where it was to receive its biggest boost when Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, a strong believer in Darby’s teachings, incorporated it into the notes of his Scofield Reference Bible, which was published in 1909. Since that time, this view has been widely accepted – often by people who are completely unaware that this was not the belief held by Christians over the centuries. Many fine Christians hold his view today who have never questioned its authority.

Oswald Smith, noted minister and author of Toronto, says in his booklet Tribulation or Rapture – Which? that he once held the two-stage teaching, but that when he began to search the Scriptures for himself, he discovered that there is not a single verse in the Bible to uphold this view. He confessed: “I had been taught that the Greek word ‘parousia’ always referred to the Rapture and that other words were used for the coming of Christ in glory … but I found that this is not true. … We might go through all the writers of the New Testament, and we would fail to discover any indication of the so-called ‘two stages’ of our Lord’s coming … That theory had to be invented by man. Search and see. There is no verse in the Bible that even mentions it.”

The Second Chance
Finally, the secret rapturists claim that during the tribulation those not raptured will be given another chance to be saved. Let it be categorically stated that nowhere does Scripture speak of a second chance, nor does the Bible anywhere speak of people being saved after Jesus comes. This is just another manmade doctrine that is indeed pleasing to the carnal heart of man. Actually, the Bible teaches the opposite. Notice these clear texts of Scripture:

2 Corinthians 6:2 “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Revelation 22:11, 12 “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me.” (Evidently probation closes just prior to the Second Advent.)

Jeremiah 8:20 “The harvest (day of second coming) is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”

When Jesus comes the second time, He carries “in his hand a sharp sickle” (Revelation 14:14). This is the reaping time after sixty centuries of the sowing of the seeds of sin. This is the harvest time, and “the harvest is the end of the world” (Matthew 13:39). “And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped” (Revelation 14:16). Truly did Jeremiah say, “The harvest is past … and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20). There can be no saving after the reaping of earth’s harvest at the coming of Christ.

When Jesus and His holy angels appear, then “before him shall be gathered all nations” (Matthew 25:32). There will only be two classes in that great company. The destiny of each has been set by what he did before the coming of Christ.

Let us stand firm on the Word of God alone and reject these man made, man pleasing ideas that form the bulk of the whole secret rapture theory. As we have noticed, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ will come the second time in glorious majesty to take His redeemed home with Him. It will be a personal, visible, and earthshaking event that everyone alive will know about. The righteous will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4: 17), whereas the wicked will be slain by the brightness of that coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Let us carefully study our Bibles that we will not be deceived concerning this most important and wonderful hope, the second coming of Jesus.

ENDNOTES

1 Reverend Joseph Tanner, Daniel and the Revelation, pp. 16,17. (See also L. E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Vol 2, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950, pp. 484-510.)

2 Dave MacPherson, The Incredible Cover-Up, Logos International, 1975, Omega Publications, Medford, OR.

The Two Witnesses

5 Mar
By Doug Batchelor
An Amazing Fact
The brightest man-made light on earth emanates from the top of the Luxor hotel, a giant pyramid structure, in Las Vegas, Nevada. A total of 45 xenon lights, each one as big as a washing machine and with the brightest bulb available, shoots a powerful blast of radiant light straight up into the sky. The light beaming from the top of this artificial mountain is so bright, astronauts can see it as they fly overhead. Airline pilots are cautioned to avoid the area, as the beam of light can blind them temporarily if they fly through it. Sadly, this brightest man-made light on earth is totally wasted—it’s not illuminating anything as it blazes into empty space.

 

Did you know there is a story in the Bible that tells of a mountaintop blazing with heavenly light? Even though it is seldom addressed, this event, called the Mount of Transfiguration, or sometimes the Glorious Mount, is one of the most pivotal moments in the New Testament. This monumental experience found in the Gospels of Matthew 16, Mark 9, and Luke 9 is full of profound meaning for Christians, and it helps illuminate many other amazing Bible truths.
ASCENDING TO THE LIGHT
After a long day of teaching and ministering to the multitudes, Christ and His disciples separate from the clamoring crowds. Jesus then says something very unusual: “There are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1 NKJV). It probably seemed to His disciples that Jesus was predicting something really big. But what?
Then, six days after Jesus makes this cryptic announcement, they reach the foot of a “high mountain.” There He handpicks His own trusted “trinity” of apostles—Peter, James, and John—and with them in tow, He leaves the others in the valley and begins the long assent up the steep hill. As the sun is setting, they finally stumble wearily onto the summit. Jesus immediately kneels and begins to pray, and at first the disciples attempt to join him; yet exhausted, they soon drift into a deep sleep.
Then something extraordinary happens! Combining the testimony of Luke and Mark, we’re told, “As He prayed, He was transformed before them. The appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. Exceeding white, like snow such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.” (See the full account in Luke 9:29-31 and Mark 9:2-9 NKJV.)

THE REASON FOR THE REVELATION
Suddenly awakened by the cosmic event, the disciples see Christ shining with a heavenly light radiating from within. He is not just the humble son of Joseph and Mary, but with unveiled glory, He now appears as the majestic Creator of the universe.

In the classic book, The Desire of Ages, the author helps us better understand Jesus’ primary reason for this heavenly visitation. In His prayer, “He pleads that they may witness a manifestation of His divinity that will comfort them in the hour of His supreme agony, with the knowledge that He is … the Son of God and that His shameful death is a part of the plan of redemption.”

The loving Father grants them this brief glimpse of His Son’s glory, because He knows the disciples were soon to see their Master completely humiliated. Their teacher was about to be naked, beaten, and bleeding—appearing very helpless and very mortal. So in the same way a little tree stores sap during the warm, bright spring to sustain it during the cold, dark winter, Jesus knows His disciple’s faith needed a bright boost on the mountain to see them through the approaching dark day on Calvary.

The disciples also needed the reassurance of this event because they continued to confuse the purpose of the Messiah’s mission with the popular Jewish fables of earthly glory. Jesus knew it was going to be devastating for them to see their hopes for earthly glory punctured by Roman nails, so the Father granted this vision to remind them Christ’s kingdom was heavenly, not earthly.

WHY MOSES AND ELIJAH?
Along with the glorious light of heaven, the brightest ever seen on earth, two of the greatest celebrities of Scripture appeared at the side of Christ. “And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus” (Mark 9:4 NKJV).

Someone might ask, why these two individuals? God had also taken Enoch to heaven, why didn’t he come along for this special visit? Very simply, the two prominent individuals who did come were living symbols of the Word of God. Moses represents the law, and Elijah represents the prophets. Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to [fulfill].” Moses is the great lawgiver, and Elijah is the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.

Throughout the Bible, the Word of God is often portrayed with a dual image. The Ten Commandments were written on two tables of stone. The Word of God is also portrayed as a sword with two edges. Two lamps and two olive trees portray the two sacred divisions of the Bible. But the ultimate testimony of God’s Word is Jesus: “In the volume of the book it is written of me” (Hebrews 10:7). The volume of the Book, the Bible, all points to Jesus, who is the combination of two natures, the human and the divine. Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14).

In Luke 16:31, Jesus concludes His parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Here Jesus places a very high priority on God’s Word, and we shouldn’t miss it. No matter what miracles you witness, even someone rising from the dead, you should still place the plain Word of God on higher ground.

THE ULTIMATE ENDORSEMENT
Around election time, politicians begin to campaign and jostle for the support of voters. One common way for them to achieve this is by getting endorsements from as many popular and credible leaders as possible. The Glorious Mount experience is the ultimate endorsement.
Ever since the time of Abraham, every Jew had been looking for the coming Messiah. Several counterfeit Christs had appeared on the landscape of Hebrew history. Now as a symbol of supreme support, Jesus stands glorified flanked on the right and left by the two greatest heroes of ancient Israel. Moses and Elijah surround Jesus to give us a very vivid picture that the Word of God points to and endorses Jesus as the Messiah.
This endorsement from Moses and Elijah represents the endorsement of the law and the prophets, God’s Word, that Jesus is the “coming one” (Matthew 11:3). No other individuals could have offered greater validation for Jesus’ ministry than these two giants of Scripture.
The transfiguration is also a direct fulfillment of prophecy. Malachi foretold, “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” One reason the Word of God is so wonderful is because it is so precise. Both Moses and Elijah did appear in the New Testament prior to Jesus’ sacrifice to encourage and endorse Him.
TWO OR THREE WITNESSES
In Revelation 11:3-12, we find the great prophecy of God’s two witnesses. “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth” (Revelation 11:4). We know that a lamp is a symbol for the Word of God, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). When Zechariah sees two olive trees in vision, he asks the angel what they represent. “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). It also takes the olive oil of the Spirit to illuminate the lamp of God’s Word.

Revelation warns what will happen to those who would harm God’s two witnesses, the Holy Bible. “If anyone wants to hurt them fire proceeds out of their mouths and devours their enemies.” This happened in the experiences of both Elijah and Moses. Fire came down from heaven on the Egyptians as they pursued God’s children and it consumed the sons of Aaron. It also consumed the soldiers when they challenged Elijah. In addition, “These have the power to shut up heaven so no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over water to turn them to blood.” Did Elijah pray and the rain stop? Did Moses pray and the water turn to blood? So again we see why God likens the two witnesses, His Word, to the ministry of Moses and Elijah.

Then, as if the endorsement of Moses and Elijah was not enough, a cloud overshadows the mountaintop and the voice of the Almighty is heard saying, “This is My beloved Son, Hear Him.” The Bible says, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (1 Corinthians 13:1). On the Mount, two humans redeemed by Christ testify He is the Messiah, and of course, the third is the voice of God Himself! And what better confirmation of truth could God have offered—the lawgiver and the greatest prophet and His own audible testimony? In effect Moses says, “This is the One.” Elijah says, “This is the One.” Then God Almighty says, “This is the One.”

A DIVINE DISCUSSION
When I first read this passage, I wondered, “How did they know it was Moses and Elijah?” They had no journalistic photographs or archived video footage with which to compare these beings. Then I realized they probably overheard some of the conversation and heard Jesus address them by name.

Fortunately, the Gospel of Luke even gives us a little insight regarding what these great men discussed. It says, “Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30, 31 NKJV). Of course, “decease” refers to His sacrifice on Mount Calvary.

I cannot imagine any other two individuals who would be better qualified to encourage Jesus to go forward with His sacrifice. Both Moses and Elijah understood the sting of persecution, and rejection by their own people. Keep in mind, both Moses and Elijah had been in heaven for hundreds of years, not because of their good works, but because they were enjoying an advance payment on the sacrifice that Jesus was about to make. In other words, if Jesus did not go through with the plan to die for mankind, Moses and Elijah had no right to remain in heaven. They were obviously very motivated to encourage and inspire Jesus to go forward. Ultimately, their purpose was to be witnesses to Christ and to support Jesus in His coming trial and sacrifice.

THREE TABERNACLES
As the eyes of the disciples adjusted to the light and they collected their wits, I image the first thing they did was remove their shoes when they realized they were on holy ground. After a few terrified minutes of eavesdropping on this divine dialogue, Peter feels compelled to say something. “And Peter answered and said toJesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5).

It is interesting that Bible history records three earthly temples: one in the wilderness during the time of Moses; Solomon’s temple standing during the time of Elijah; and the third temple built after the Babylonian captivity. This third one is the one Jesus cleansed. There are also three aspects or stages of salvation: justification, symbolized by Moses; sanctification, the ministry of Elijah; and the God-filled man or glorification represented by Jesus.

MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE
Many of the high points in the Bible are also mountaintop experiences. The Lord often arranged profound events on mountaintops because they make natural monuments. Whenever God’s people looked upon these prominent peaks, they would remember the important events of their sacred history.

Consider, for example, that after 40 years in the wilderness, God delivered His covenant to Moses on a mountaintop. Mount Sinai had the fire of God with smoke and thunder shaking the summit. After 40 days in the wilderness, God also spoke to Elijah on Mount Sinai with fire, wind, and an earthquake (1 Kings 19:11, 12). After 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus rebuked the devil on a high mountain (Matthew 4:8-10). God also makes His promises on mountains. It was in the mountains of Ararat that God made His covenant with Noah. He made His covenant with Abraham on Mount Moriah. The whole nation of Jews confirmed its Promise Land covenant from Mount Gerizim (Joshua 8:33). Of course, Elijah was on Mount Carmel when fire and rain came down, a symbol of God’s reviving Spirit raining on the church. Moses first glimpsed the Promised Land from Mount Nebo, and it is from a high mountain John first sees the holy city (Revelation 21:10). Most important, God’s loving covenant of salvation was sealed on Mount Calvary.

Like Jesus, Moses stood on a mountain with stretched-out hands, supported on the right and the left by Aaron and Hur (Exodus 17:12). Of course, when Jesus died on Calvary, two thieves surrounded Him on the right and the left representing two kinds of sinners, the same way you have Moses and Elijah flanking Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. I think before we climb the Glorious Mount, we need to climb Mount Calvary. God wants to confirm a covenant with you and fill you with His Spirit, and it will happen when you humble yourself upon the mountain where Jesus was slain.

THE FINAL WORD
The Glorious Mount rings with divine authority. Mark 9:7 says, “And a cloud came and overshadowed them” (NKJV). This cloud is actually veiling the glory of the Father, who declares, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.” God the Father comes to sanction His Son who receives His total approval.
This is so important for us to understand. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, God the Father speaks personally at Christ’s baptism in the low Jordan valley, and identifies Jesus as His Son. He says, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” announcing that the Jewish nation no longer needs to look for anyone else as the Messiah (Matthew 3:17 NKJV). Anyone who came before Him was a fraud, and anyone else coming after is a counterfeit. Jesus is the one!
Then at the end of Jesus’ ministry, God the Father again identifies His divine Son on the mountain, commanding something very simple. “Hear Him.” That’s a complete sentence, easy to understand. But “hear” means more than just hearing the audible sounds. It really means “listening with undivided attention and doing.” Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church” (Revelation 2:17). God the Father, in person, is commanding you and me to listen to Jesus’ word and to do it.
There have been be a lot of counterfeits, frauds, imposters, and cult leaders trying to impersonate Christ. But God the Father says about Jesus in the Bible, “Hear Him.” He is the true Word! That’s something very powerful to contemplate.
SUDDENLY
As the last echoes of God’s thundering voice resonate from the mountain, the trembling disciples cower in fear. Mark 9:8 says, “Suddenly” it all ended. Just as quickly as the light flashed on, it went off. “When they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesusonly with themselves.” As the glory evaporates and their eyes become adjusted to the darkness, Moses and Elijah and the Father and the cloud are all gone; all they can see is Jesus. He promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

It’s easy to have our vision obscured by the kaleidoscope of images that we see in the Bible. And it’s easy to have our minds clouded with the collage of images we see in modern life. But after it all fades, and we’re at the base of the mountain again, what really matters? I think God is telling us to only hear Jesus, to only see Jesus. He was the only one left with them; everyone else might forsake you, but Jesus says, “I will be with you till the end” (Matthew 28:20). Always remember that Jesus is still there for you even after the glory disappears.

DON’T MENTION IT
Christ again says something else very unusual to the dazed disciples. You and I can barely imagine how these three apostles are feeling “as they came down the mountain” (Mark 9:9). That incredible event must have been life-changing, and they were probably in spiritual shock, even more than when Christ calmed the storm or walked on water. They might even have been glowing with the lingering residue of light still dissipating from their faces, like Moses was glowing after speaking with God. What doubts about Jesus could they possibly have now? They were probably ready to die for Jesus that very moment.
But then Jesus commands them not to tell anyone of the things they had seen. I imagine that might have been one of the most difficult mandates they ever received from their Lord. They have just witnessed a glimpse of heaven. They’ve seen Moses, and they’ve seen Elijah. Like ancient Israel, they’ve heard the commanding voice of God reverberating from a mountain, and now, they are told not to make any comments regarding this remarkable event. Don’t mention it. Keep in mind. He is asking three fishermen not to comment on the most exciting experience of their lives. I don’t know if I could have kept it quiet.
TIMING TO TELL
Fortunately, they were not asked to “never mention it.” More precisely, Jesus asked, “That they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of Man were risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).

Why would Jesus make this request knowing their hearts had been so profoundly touched through this event? I believe He wanted them to store this experience in reserve for when they would really need it. Peter, James, and John were chosen to be the leaders of the early church, and when all seemed lost, and when things got hard, they could say, “Don’t be discouraged. We want to tell you about something we saw that night with Jesus on the mountain.” But sadly, it appears just when they needed it the most, they didn’t remember this experience—when their Lord went to the cross, they forgot who He was.

Has God given you a mountaintop experience? Maybe He has answered prayers and worked miracles that right when they’re happening, you say, “Wow, praise the Lord!” But then when the glory fades, you end up in a valley with the devil crowding you. And the memory of what’s happened on the mountain has all but evaporated.

It’s just like when God had told the children of Israel not to make idols, and they heard the voice of God, and they felt the ground shake, and they saw fire consume a mountain. They glibly promised the Lord they would obey. Yet a few days later, they’re worshiping a golden calf.

The devil is a master at inducing mountaintop amnesia. If you give him just five minutes of your attention, he can make you forget a whole lifetime of miracles. If you entertain his suggestions, if you embrace his discouragement and his doubts, all those mountaintop memories can dissipate just when you need them the most.

LAST-DAY SIGNIFICANCE
The experience on the Glorious Mount is especially important for the end-times; that’s why after His resurrection, Jesus returned to teach on this. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets [here are Moses and Elijah again!], he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

Revelation 12:17 says, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The woman represents the church, and the dragon, the devil, wants to destroy her. The church in the last days has two outstanding characteristics: They “keep the commandments of God, and they have the testimony of Jesus.” What is the testimony of Jesus? Revelation 19:10 explains, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” So the members of the last-day church are identified as a people who will keep the law (the commandments) and have the prophets (the spirit of prophecy).

Isaiah 8:16 says, “Bind up the testimony, seal the Law among My disciples.” Moses, before he died, exhorted the children of Israel to keep the law. He repeats the Ten Commandments to them in Deuteronomy 5 and says, “These words that I have spoken unto you this day shall be in your heart. You shall bind them upon your hand. They shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” So the law and the words of the prophets are sealed by the Holy Spirit in the mind and hearts of God’s people. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

We must saturate ourselves with the law and the prophets, with the Word of God, for a special purpose in these last days. Mark 9 says, “His clothing became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (NKJV). Mark is really struggling here for words to describe the bright aura of light the disciples saw around this heavenly assembly. The garments of Christ were radiant white, just like new snow, and glowing like the sun. Of course, the robe that Jesus wore is a symbol of His purity. It is what He is wearing in heaven. Wonderfully, you and I are offered this same clothing purified by His blood, if we stay true to His Word. “These … washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love” (1 Peter 1:22 NKJV).

WHAT ELIJAH AND MOSES WON’T DO
Since we are talking about the end-times, it’s important to look at one crucial issue that’s causing much confusion. In Revelation 11, we read about two witnesses. “And I’ll give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” Please note this doesn’t say these two witnesses will only prophesy for 1,260 days, for witnesses for God witness all the time. This of course, refers to the Dark Ages from AD 538 to 1798, when the law and the prophets, the Bible, was obscured.

There are many good Christians out there who believe that in the last days, Moses and Elijah will literally come down to the earth again to preach, only to be killed and lay in the streets for three-and-a-half days. It’s a half-truth, because the two witnesses, the Word, is symbolized by Moses and Elijah. But these two men of God are in heaven with their glorified bodies, and the Bible doesn’t tell us that He wants two others to step down from heaven to be killed. Moses and Elijah will not be coming back to earth in this way.

A TYPE OF THE SECOND ADVENT
To make a full circle, let’s go back a brief moment to where we began. One of the most important lessons from the Mount of Transfiguration is that it represents a miniature picture of the second coming of Jesus.

Referring back to this experience, Peter identifies the event as a sample of Jesus’ coming. “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:16, 17).

Remember that Jesus said some of His disciples would not experience death before they saw the kingdom of God coming with power. Of course, we know that these disciples died long ago, but they were given an advance peek of what it will be like when Christ returns.

A number of exciting insights can be gleaned from this story. Consider the parallels:

There will be two categories of saints when Jesus returns: the resurrected and the living. Moses, who died and was resurrected (Jude 1:9), is a symbol of the large class of people who will awake from their dusty graves when the Lord calls them -“The dead in Christ shall rise.” Elijah represents the other class of people who will be alive when Jesus returns. Like Elijah, who was caught up into heaven by a fiery chariot, and Enoch who walked with God until he walked right into heaven, they will be translated with new, glorious bodies without ever tasting death.

During the transfiguration, Jesus, Moses, and Elijah are wearing white garments, the same kind that the redeemed will wear. Clouds of glory also accompany them; Jesus left in the clouds and said He would come back in the clouds. And even the voice of the Father in heaven was heard on the Glorious Mount, just as it will be when Christ returns on the right hand of the Father (Matthew 26:64).

SIX DAYS TO COME
There might even be some significance to the fact that this all happens six days after Jesus makes the promise. After Christ told the disciples they would see His kingdom come, He tarried six days before He took them up the mountain. I believe this yields some fascinating truths.

However, before we go on, both Matthew and Mark record this period as six days. But Luke mentions that the delay was eight days. Many antagonists like to point at this and say, “Contradiction!” But that’s just not so. Matthew and Mark, both Jews, recorded time differently than Luke, who was Greek. Luke includes the day Jesus spoke of the event to happen and the time it took for them to return home, and he also gives a rough estimation, “about eight days.” No, there is no fire or smoke here—these three accounts match up just fine.

But after six days, Jesus takes the disciples up. In 2 Peter 3, we’re told, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (NKJV). After the fall of Adam, God promises that Christ will come to defeat the devil—and when Christ came, He said He would come again. If we can approximate the date of creation to about 4004 BC, we know that for 2,000 years, God preached His message through the patriarchs, men like Adam, Methuselah, Enoch, and Noah. In 2004 BC, Abraham was born. For the next 2,000 years, God reached out with His gospel through the Jews, the Hebrews. And they faithfully waited for the Messiah to come through their descendants. Then roughly in 4 BC, Jesus Christ was born, and for the last 2,000 years, God has shared His good news through spiritual Israel, the church. If you add these three 2,000s together, you get 6,000. If we apply the theme Peter writes about, well, that should give you goose bumps! Psalm 90:4 reaffirms, “A thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it has passed.”

I’d also like to add that the Lord says the righteous will live and reign with the Lord for 1,000 years—a Sabbath of rest. After this time in heaven, God creates a new heaven and a new earth, upon which New Jerusalem will come down. I could certainly be wrong, and date setting is prohibited in the Bible, but I believe that the plan of salvation is encompassed in seven thousand years. I believe it is going to happen this way.

If we’re in overtime right now, we should not be surprised. We should be thankful, because the Bible says the Lord is longsuffering and not willing that any person should perish. God is going to do as much as He can, but with all that is happening in the news today, we ought to be trembling that we are living during the sunset of the sixth day. The millennial Sabbath is soon to begin!

A BIBLE THEME
The story of the transfiguration is not the only story in the Bible in which a six-day period is invoked. For instance, in Job 5:19, “He will deliver you in six troubles, yes in seven no evil will touch you.” In addition, Athaliah reigned for six years before Josiah was coroneted. When Josiah came forth from the temple, Athaliah was slain and he was crowned—the trumpets even blew, and afterward the Sabbath began.

Hebrew servants were released after six years of servitude. They also sowed the fields for six years and left the land desolate on the seventh. Likewise, the earth will be desolate for a thousand years, a time when the gospel will not be sown. Jesus says, “I am the Sower. The Gospel is the seed.” When He comes in Revelation, it is with a sickle to harvest.

But most interesting is when Moses stayed at the base of Mount Sinai. We all know that he stayed on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights, like the flood. But the time before that, Exodus 24 says, “For six days he stayed at the base of the mountain.” After that, God called him up to the top to receive the commandments. This is just like what happened on the Glorious Mount. After six days, Jesus went up the mountain, and Moses met Him there.

The Bible fits together perfectly! It’s like a puzzle. It’s significant that it says, “after six days.” That tells me that if this is a miniature picture of the second coming, we are very near the return of the Lord.

THE TRANQUILIZED CHURCH
It is prudent to keep in mind that the Glorious Mount happened very unexpectedly. The atmosphere surrounding the mountain was quiet and dark—the drowsy disciples were snoozing. Then, BANG! It happened. Christ will come as a thief in the night, when many of His followers are unprepared.

There is a sober warning for us in this experience. At the most pivotal moments of church history, Satan seems to sedate the saints. Just before this revelation of glory, the Scriptures declare the disciples “were heavy with sleep” (Luke 9:32). When Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane, the Bible tells us that He picked the same three disciples to pray with Him. And they again went to sleep. Likewise, in the parable of the 10 virgins, Jesus warns us just prior to the second coming that “they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5). It seems at the most critical moments in Jesus’ ministry, the saints are snoring. This is why Jesus warns, “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming; in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping” (Mark 13:35, 36 NKJV).

When they should have been kneeling with Him in the garden, remembering the glory they witnessed, they fell asleep. And because Peter, James, and John were asleep on the Mount of Transfiguration, they lost the full potential of their experience. They forgot the Glorious Mount, so they were not ready to follow Christ to Mount Calvary. I wonder if that haunted them for the rest of their lives: that missed opportunity because they slept when they should have prayed?

A MORE SURE WORD
So how do we stay awake? To the powerful weapon of prayer, we can add the witness of Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets. God’s Word can prepare you for anything. In 2 Peter 1:17, Peter refers back to the Glorious Mount. It is the only time that any of the three disciples write about it. But before Peter’s death, he writes passionately, “For [Jesus] received from God the Father honor and glory when there came such a voice to Him from the Excellent Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ And this voice which came from Heaven we heard when we were with Him on the holy mount” (vs. 17, 18 NKJV).

Yet even after Peter reflects on that defining moment in his life, he adds, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto to ye do well that ye take heed” (v. 19). Can you imagine saying that after seeing Christ in all His glory sandwiched between the two greatest Old Testament characters, with the voice of God the Father seared forever into your memory? Yet Peter confesses that however great that experience was, he had something more important, more dependable. God’s Word is a light that “grows brighter and brighter until the day dawn.”

Peter saw Christ glorified; he received a glimpse of heaven. But you and I have something worth more. We have the Bible. Christ tells us through Peter that your Bible is more trustworthy than a vision. If you want a mountaintop experience, you have it within your reach if you reach for your Bible. Nothing is more important than the testimony of Moses and Elijah, the double-edged sword, the Law and the Prophets, the commandments of God, the testimony of Jesus—it is the most precious thing God has committed to mortals. It is Jesus, the Word who became flesh.

GLOWING FOR GOD
As a child, I was always fascinated by those pale green illuminating plastic toys you could hold up to a light and watch glow even after the light was turned off. I remember one of those toys was a glow-in-the-dark plastic sword. After exposing it to the light, I could find my way through the dark house just by the glow from my sword.

The Lord has given us a special warning message in the Mount of Transfiguration. There are some very troubling days ahead, and now we must spend time on the mountain gathering light from God’s Word to see us through the dark valleys. The message from the mountain tells us that Jesus is the One, and that we too can wear the same robes He, Elijah, and Moses wore that day. He’s telling us to listen to the testimony of Jesus, and to the laws and the prophets—which point to the fulfillment through Christ. It’s a picture of Jesus’ imminent second coming, and a warning not to become spiritually sleepy. The mountaintop experience helps to remind us that even when the glory fades, Jesus is always still with us and Jesus is the only way to heaven.

Seven individuals appeared on the mountain that day: Three from heaven—Moses, Elijah and God the Father; Three from earth—Peter, James, and John. And then there was Jesus—the bridge, the ladder, between heaven and earth

Central Bank of Ireland Kicks off 1 Million Euro Campaign for Cashless Society (February 2014)

4 Mar

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Central Bank of Ireland Kicks off 1 Million Euro Campaign for Cashless Society (February 2014)

“The Central Bank is launching a major national campaign to persuade consumers and businesses to stop using cash and cheques in favour of online transactions … The campaign aims to win the hearts and minds of consumers and merchants and change the behaviours of both consumers and businesses.”

Visa Exploring Biometric Payment Systems

The drive for cashless societies is really moving forward all over the world now. The powers that be will tout different ‘positive’ reasons as to why we should get rid of cash. But the real reason is to do with the enforcement of the mark of the beast. Revelation 13 says that those who don’t take the mark will not be able to buy and sell, and getting rid of cash will make it easy for those in control to stop our ability of buying and selling by the simple press of a button.

The Trinity

3 Mar
An Amazing Fact
Science tells us that light is constituted of three primary rays, or groups of wavelengths. Clearly distinct from each other, none of them without the others could be light. Each ray has its own separate function. The first originates, the second illuminates, and the third consummates. The first ray, often called invisible light, is neither seen nor felt. The second is both seen and felt. The third is not seen but is felt as heat.

Like light, our “One God” is revealed in the three distinct persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (1 John 5:7 NKJV).

The Highest Subject
Few doctrinal subjects have generated more passionate debate among Christians than the theme of the trinity. Churches have split and wars have even been fought over the issues that surround the nature of the Godhead.

Perplexity over God’s nature is not new. Since creation, man has diligently sought to understand and explain Him. In the book of Job, Zophar uttered the cry of each human heart when he declared, “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?” (Job 11:7, 8).

John Wesley adds, “Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the triune God!”

The study of God is without rival—the highest subject any mortal can ever even attempt to approach or contemplate. Because God defines Himself as everlasting and the ultimate power, presence, and knowledge, this field of study is deeper, wider, and broader than any other.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Finite human minds will never be able to fully understand everything about the eternal God, anymore than we can jump to the stars with our feeble legs. Therefore, we need to approach this mystery shrouding His person with a large measure of barefoot reverence and deep humility. Like Moses, when he came into God’s presence, we must take off our shoes, “for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). By laying aside our preconceived ideas, opinions and sectarian training, we can go directly to God’s Word and learn what He has chosen to reveal about Himself. But remember, only God can fully understand God, so even after the most diligent research, we may still have some unanswered questions that will prove to be a fruitful field of study even throughout the eons of eternity.

One Big Problem
“But wait,” someone says. “If the Bible teaches that there is only one God, then how can God be composed of three persons?” Scripture unequivocally declares that there is only one God. For more than 3,000 years, Jews have repeated Deuteronomy 6:4. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” This sacred passage is called the shema (named after the Hebrew for its first word) and has been held in high esteem and memorized by devout Jews for centuries.

Isaiah records the testimony of God concerning Himself. “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. … Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any” (Isaiah 44:6, 8). Jesus also taught about “the only true God” (John 17:3) and Paul wrote, “There is one God” (1 Timothy 2:5).

While most believers agree with this core truth, a heated debate over its deeper implication has raged throughout church history. Does this mean that there is one person who has three different titles? Or are there three separate persons who mysteriously morph into one being? Is Jesus merely a good man, a creation to redeem us, and only the Father is God? Still others hold that the Father and Son are indeed God but the Holy Spirit is only the impersonal force that does their bidding. Each of these conflicting ideas has attracted its loyal followers. Let’s examine the basis for these views and compare them with the Bible.

Only Jesus?
In the 3rd century, Sabellius, a Libyan priest living in Rome, taught that God is a single person with different titles—known as modalism. Thus, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit represent different hats or titles that God wears, depending on how He wishes to communicate with man at the time. It’s akin to water, which can take on the form of a solid, liquid, or gas.

However, they are not three roles played by one person. The church recognized Sabellius’ ideas as contrary to Bible teaching, and he was quickly excommunicated. Yet he still has adherents today in what is commonly known as the “Oneness” or “Jesus Only” doctrine. The Jesus Only teaching claims that Jesus Christ is not only the Son, but also the Father and the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 9:6, in which the Messiah (or the promised Son) is called “The everlasting Father,” is used to provide biblical support for this belief.

The Oneness doctrine, however, overlooks the fact that the Son came to earth to reveal the true character of God the Father to a world groping in spiritual blindness. Jesus prayed to His Father in Gethsemane, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world” (John 17:5, 6). Jesus is the only one who could reveal the Father, because He is the express image of the Father (Luke 10:22; Hebrews 1:3).

Thus when the disciples asked Christ what the Father was like, He could say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus so mirrored the character of the Father that He perfectly reflected Him, hence the title “The Everlasting Father.” Another reason Jesus is called the Everlasting Father is because this world and everything in it was created through Christ. So in a very real sense, Jesus is our father (Hebrews 1:2; John 1:3).

Isaiah 9:6 is the only place in the Bible where Jesus is called the Father. Keep in mind that Jesus also calls Himself the Son of man, our brother, our shepherd, our friend, and our priest. To build a doctrine on one Scripture is as foolish as building a house on top of a single fence post. The Bible physically separates the Father and the Son repeatedly. While Christ was on earth, He referred to His Father in heaven. “My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). He always directed His prayers heavenward to the Father and stated that the Father had His own individual will; “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Then after He died and rose again, He ascended to “the right hand of God” (Romans 8:34). This indicates the Father has a separate presence.

In fact, Jesus said that He wasn’t the Father more than 80 times. While always remaining one in purpose and origin, Jesus and the Father are clearly separate and distinct persons. And on more than one occasion, the Father spoke to Jesus from heaven. “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17 NKJV). Either Jesus and the Father are two separate individual persons, or Jesus was an expert ventriloquist.

Is Jesus Fully God?
Another group questions whether Jesus actually possesses all the characteristics of the Eternal God. They stem from Arius, a 4th century Alexandrian priest, who had a different take on God. He taught that prior to making anything else, God created a son who was neither equal to, nor coeternal with, the Father. According to this idea, called Arianism, Jesus Christ is a supernatural creature, but He is neither fully human nor fully divine. Still others embrace a more immature version of this doctrine, holding that back in the dawn of time, God the Father had some form of cosmic intimate relations with the Holy Spirit and Jesus was the product. They reason, “How else can you call Him the Son?”

However, these concepts are totally contrary to the teaching of the New Testament in which Jesus is revealed as the Eternal Creator and not a created being (John 1:1–4). As we compare Scripture definitions for God with the Bible record of Jesus, we see the characteristics of Jehovah are also ascribed to Jesus. Note these powerful examples:

  • He is self-existent (John 1:1–4; 14:6); only God is self-existent (Psalm 90:2).
  • Jesus defines Himself as eternal. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
  • He is, and has, eternal life (1 John 5:11, 12, 20).
  • He is all-powerful (Revelation 1:8).
  • He created all things (John 1:3). “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16 NKJV).
  • The Father even calls Jesus God. “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8).
  • Jesus is able to forgive sin (Luke 5:20, 21); The Bible says only God can forgive sin (Isaiah 43:25).
  • Jesus accepted worship that according to the Ten Commandments is reserved only for the Almighty (Matthew 14:33). “And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘All hail.’ And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him” (Matthew 28:9). Upon seeing the risen Savior, the converted skeptic, Thomas, confessed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26–29).
  • Even the angels worship Jesus. “And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Hebrews 1:6).
  • The Scriptures also teach that only God knows the thoughts of a man’s heart (1 Kings 8:39). Yet Jesus consistently knew what people were thinking, “for he knew what was in man” (John 2:25). “Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you’” (John 1:48 NKJV).
  • Through the Spirit, Jesus is omnipresent. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NKJV). “For I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10 NKJV).
  • He has power to give life, and even resurrected Himself. “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

Therefore, by considering the primary definitions of God, and seeing that Jesus fits every one of those definitions, obviously, Jesus must be eternal God.

His Enemies Knew
Even Jesus’ enemies understood and recognized His claim of equality with the Father God. When He boldly proclaimed, “I and my Father are one,” Jewish leaders were outraged and sought to execute Him. They understood unequivocally that Jesus was claiming to be God Himself. “The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:30, 33).

The Jews even attempted to stone Christ when He assumed the self-existent title of Jehovah used at the burning bush. Jesus said to them, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:58 NKJV).

The Jews understood that Jesus claimed equality with God, when He said “‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.’ Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, … but said also that God was his Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:17, 18).

There are only three conclusions one can derive from reading these passages. First, Jesus was insane when He made these outrageous claims. Second, He was a liar. These are unacceptable options. The third possibility is that He uttered a sublime truth. For a Christian who accepts the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, the third option is the only tenable one. Otherwise, a liar or delusional man could not be righteous enough to be our Savior.

Medieval Error?
Probably the most widely held Christian view of God is known as the “trinity.” This popular belief teaches that the Godhead consists of three distinct persons who have existed together from eternity past and are named the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Each one possesses original, underived, and unborrowed life. They are all equally God and are one in nature, character, and purpose. They are not three “gods,” but one God in a combination of the three distinct persons.

Some have implicated trinitarianism as heresy because they claim the wayward medieval church was the culprit to firstintroduce it. In fact, to distance themselves from the Catholic version of the trinity, many Protestant leaders from the 19th century preferred the more biblical term “Godhead” when referring to the triune God.

However, just because an apostate church believes in the trinity, or any other doctrine for that matter, does not automatically make it unbiblical. The converse is also true. A position is not accurate just because some of the early church leaders advocated it. Even the Apostles misunderstood the nature of Jesus’ first coming. Doctrinal validity must be based on biblical authority and not upon whom advocates it or rejects it.

The Old Testament was written long before the existence of the Christian church, apostate or true, and it teaches there are three persons in the Godhead. In Isaiah, the Redeemer, which is Jesus Christ in the New Testament (Galatians 4:4, 5), declares the “Lord God and His Spirit” are responsible for sending Him on His mission of redemption (Isaiah 48:16, 17 NKJV).

Some think that because the word “trinity” (derived from the Latin word trinitas, meaning “threeness”) is not found in the Bible, the concept of a triune God cannot be right. However, even though the word “millennium,” meaning one thousand years, does not appear in Revelation 20, we use it to describe earth’s 1,000-year rest after Jesus’ return. A teaching is not any less true simply because an extra-biblical word is used to define what is clearly a biblical teaching. This goes for the trinity, second coming, investigative judgment, and a host of other concise terms for doctrines.

One God, Three Persons
The names of God reveal attributes of His nature. God has a long-established habit of using various names to describe a person’s character. Jacob earned his name that means “swindler” when he practiced deception to steal his father’s blessing away from his brother Esau (Genesis 27:35, 36). At his conversion, Jacob wrestled with the angel and insisted on the blessing of God. Then his name was changed to “Israel,” which means “a prince with God” (Genesis 32:26–28).

Likewise, the names for God found in Genesis and elsewhere tell us volumes about our Creator. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). The Hebrew word here for God is Elohim. It is a plural noun that is used more than 2,700 times in the Old Testament. This means that inspired authors preferred to use Elohim about 10 times more than the singular form “El” when they described God. Even in the Old Testament book of Daniel, we see a picture of the Father and the Son as two separate persons. “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him” (Daniel 7:13). The Son of man, Jesus, is seen coming before the Ancient of Days—who is, obviously, God the Father.

The New Testament writings are sprinkled with this concept of one God with three united, fully divine persons. The apostle Paul wrote that there were three divine persons: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4–6).

Paul frequently referred to the three separate persons of the Godhead. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

Revelation opens by introducing the three persons of the Godhead. “From the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 1:4–6 NKJV).

In addition, we clearly see three distinct persons at the baptism of Jesus. “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16,17).

If Jesus is the only person in the Godhead, where did the voice come from that declared, “This is my beloved Son”? Did He trisect Himself into a voice from heaven, the dove wafting down through the sky, and His body on the bank of the river? No. This was not simply a clever act of holy smoke and mirrors, but rather a regal reunion revealing the truth of the trinity. And on top of this, it is through the shared authority of these three persons that we are commissioned to baptize. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).

Unity or Quantity?
Most of the confusion regarding the number of beings composing the Godhead springs from a simple misunderstanding of the word “one.” Simply put, “one” in the Bible does not always mean numerical quantity. Depending on the Scripture, “one” can often mean unity.

We see this principle established very early in Scripture. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, emphasis added). “One flesh” here does not mean that a married couple melt into one human after their wedding, but rather they are to be united into one family. Jesus prayed that the apostles would be one, saying, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:22, 23).

We need to keep in mind that when Moses said, “The Lord is one,” Israel was surrounded with polytheistic nations that worshiped many gods that were constantly involved in petty bickering and rivalry (Deuteronomy 6:4), whereas the God who created is composed of three separate beings who are perfectly united in their mission of saving and sustaining their creatures. As the Spirit is executing the will of both the Father and Son, it is His will also.

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). Granted, it is a brain exercise to grasp that one God (“He”) is also, and equally, “They.” Like one rope with three united strands, the three persons of the Father, Son, and Spirit make up the one God.

God Manifested in Nature
Though there is nothing in this world that adequately illustrates God, Paul declares the “invisible things of him from the creation of the world” can help us understand “his eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20). The truth that God is a “tri-unity” of two invisible persons (Father and Spirit) and one visible person (Jesus) is evident even in creation.

The universe is composed of three structures: space, matter, and time. Of these three, only matter is visible. Space requires length, height, and width to constitute space. Each dimension is separate and distinct in itself, yet the three form space—if you remove height, you no longer have space. Time is also a tri-unity of past, present, and future. Two are invisible (past and future), and one visible (present). Each is separate and distinct, as well as essential for time to exist. Man is also a “tri-unity,” having physical, mental, and spiritual components. Again, two are invisible (mental and spiritual) and one visible (physical). Cells compose the fundamental structural unit of all living organisms. All organic life is made up from cells that consist of three primary parts: the outer wall, the cytoplasm, and the nucleus (like the shell, white, and yoke of an egg). If any one is removed, the cell dies.

In each of these examples, the removal of any one component results in the demise of the whole. In like manner, the Godhead contains three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each is God (Ephesians 4:6; Titus 2:13; Acts 5:3, 4), yet there is one God. The removal of one person destroys the unity of the whole.

Even the gospel story illustrates the interdependency of threes. The sanctuary had three places: the Courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. There are three stages of salvation: justification, sanctification, and glorification. In Isaiah 6:3, the angels around God’s throne cry “Holy, Holy, Holy” three times—once for the Father, once for the Son, and once for the Holy Spirit.

The Source of Misunderstanding
Almost all of the Scriptures used by those who reject the trinity to portray Jesus as a “lesser god” spring from a basic failure to understand the incarnation. Jesus, God the Son, laid aside or veiled the full dimension of His divinity when He came to earth. How else could He live as God among men?

“God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3).

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

We also clearly see that before and after His incarnation, Jesus beams again with undimmed divine glory. “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour” (Hebrews 2:9).

If God the Son had not veiled His glory when He came to earth, man could not have endured His brilliant presence, much less learned from His example.

Who Outranks Whom?
Let us now venture a little deeper onto sacred ground. As we consider the mysteries of the Godhead, we notice that there seems to be an order of authority concerning the three persons in the trinity. Keep in mind that while all three are the same in properties and attributes, and equal in power and glory, it appears that the Father is recognized as the ultimate authority. “And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:23). “But I would have you know, that … the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). The Son constantly receives His glory, power, throne, and prerogatives as Judge from the Father (John 3:35; John 5:22). Indeed, it was God the Father that “gave” the Son. In fact, while it might not be wrong, we are never told to pray to Jesus or the Spirit – but instead to the Father in the name of the Son. Yet just because the Father seems to have supreme authority, it does not in any way diminish from the divinity of Jesus and the Spirit. That would be like saying that a corporal is less of a soldier than a sergeant.

Among the three members of the Godhead, we do not see a clamoring for preeminence, vying for recognition, or reveling in power. Instead, the exact opposite is true. In fact, the Father, Son, and Spirit always seem to be trying to outgive and glorify each other. The Father wants to glorify the Son. The Son lives to glorify the Father, and the Spirit lives to glorify the Father and Son (John 17:1, 5; John 16:14; John 13:31, 32).

A Friend or Force?
It would be a mistake to leave this sublime subject without addressing an additional distortion to the teaching of the trinity. Another class of sincere Christians believes that while the Father and Son are truly distinct persons, they only see the Holy Spirit as a cosmic force or essence—an impersonal power conduit or vehicle to do the bidding of the Father and Son.

We can appreciate why the Holy Spirit seems to be the hardest member of the Godhead to visualize and define. Sometimes He is called the Holy Ghost, which leaves people with a “spooky” image. The Scriptures compareHim to everything from wind and fire, to a dove, water, and even a defense attorney!

But as we consider the various features of the Holy Spirit, we can quickly see He has all the credentials of a separate and distinct, intelligent, individual being.

The Holy Spirit leads and guides. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13 NKJV). It’s true that a map or GPS can lead you, but no one calls a map “he.” It would have been very easy for Jesus to simply say, “When it comes,” but Jesus called the Holy Spirit “He” more than 15 times. Why would God go to so much trouble to personify His own inherent power to the extent that it possessed emotions, thoughts, and speech independent of Himself?

The Holy Spirit also comforts. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). I have never seen a lonely child run to a vacuum cleaner for an embrace—only intelligent beings can offer comfort. Jesus promised before His ascension that He was sending another helper; paraclete is the Greek word that signifies a multi-sided personal ministry as counselor, consoler advocate, helper, comforter, ally, and supporter (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15). These are all traits that usually belong to a person or friend. If the Holy Spirit is merely God’s active force, then John 16:7, 8 is nonsense: “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has comes, He will convict the world.” It is obvious from this text that the Holy Spirit would be more personally present after Jesus ascended. If the Holy Spirit is mere energy, there is simply no explanation or logic to why He would not come unless Jesus left.

The Holy Spirit can even be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). Cars have many unique characteristics and idiosyncrasies. At times, they might even seem to have a “personality.” But motor vehicles cannot be grieved. Nor can they speak, as the Holy Spirit does. “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot’” (Acts 8:29). Computer programs exist that can reproduce speech, but they cannot create inspired thought. The Holy Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

We also read in Revelation 1:4, 5, a prayer for grace and peace from the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ. We must ask, would John have put the Spirit between the Father and the Son if he had not regarded the Spirit as a divine intelligence in the same sense as they are?

If the Holy Spirit is simply some divine force, then why is it even more offensive to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, and even more fatal, than speaking against the Son? “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31, 32 NKJV). By definition, blasphemy is “a contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing against God.” By this simple deduction, the Holy Spirit must be God! This is also why Peter said that to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God (Acts 5:3, 4).

The Holy Spirit can be a witness (Hebrews 10:15). In any court of the world, only living beings can be called witnesses. Finally, the Holy Spirit is said to have His own mind (Romans 8:27).

We can clearly see the Holy Spirit is not simply a force, but the third divine person of the Godhead. Though a spirit, He has all the characteristics of a person and individual. The Spirit is plainly portrayed as a being who speaks, teaches, guides, makes choices, witnesses, comforts, and can be grieved. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14 NKJV).

Love at Calvary
The truth of the triune God can also be found in the gospel itself. In essence, when we consider John, we read that God the Father so loved the world that He sent God the Son that we might be born of God the Spirit (John 3:8, 13, 16, 17).

But it is especially on Golgotha’s hill that the doctrine of the trinity explodes with meaning and becomes more than denominational jousting. Before earth’s creation, the triune God discussed the potential of man’s rebellion and fall. Through the lens of divine foreknowledge, He saw the terror that sin’s rape of the world would cause. And there, before man was formed, it was decided that Jesus would leave the throne of heaven and become humanity’s substitute. Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19, 20).

If Jesus was merely a created super-being, then His death for man’s redemption is no better than an angel dying for us. If Christ is not deity itself, then any angel or sinless created being could have served the purpose. This would have virtually sustained Satan’s charge that God is selfish by demonstrating that He is only willing to sacrifice His creation and not Himself.

A Tearing at the Trinity
Another point to consider is that sin causes separation from the Creator (Isaiah 59:2). The iniquities of the human race were placed upon the Son of God (Isaiah 53:6). When Jesus hung on the cross, suffering for our sins, every fiber of His being was torn as the eternal relationship with His Father and Spirit was ripped apart. In agony He cried out, “My God [for the Father], my God [for the Spirit], why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). If there had been only one person in the Godhead, there would not have been this excruciating pain of separation to wring the life out of the heart of Jesus.

The real risk in the redemption plan, besides the loss of man, was the breakup of the Godhead. Had Jesus sinned, He would have been working at cross-purposes with the Spirit and His Father. Omnipotent good would have been pitted against omnipotent evil. What would have happened to the rest of creation? Whom would the unfallen universe see as right? One sin could have sent the Godhead and the universe spinning into cosmic chaos; the proportions of this disaster are staggering. Yet the Godhead was still willing to take this fragmenting risk for the salvation of man. This reveals the depth of God’s amazing love.

Conclusion
Augustine, that great man of God, was once walking on the shore of an ocean while greatly perplexed about the doctrine of the trinity. As he meditated, he observed a little boy with a seashell running back and forth from the waters edge, filling his shell, and then pouring it into a crab hole in the sand. “What are you doing, my little man?” asked Augustine.

“Oh,” replied the boy, “I am trying to put all the ocean out there in this hole.” Augustine had learned his lesson.

As he passed on, Augustine said, “That is what I am trying to do; I see it now. Standing on the shores of time, I am trying to get into this little finite mind things which are infinite.” Likewise, let us be content to let God know some things that we cannot yet know.

It would be pompous and preposterous to pretend that we understand everything about God. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). If we could completely unpack Him like cracking some genetic code, He would cease to be God.

Nevertheless, there is much about God that is revealed for our blessing. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever” (Deuteronomy 29:29). What is revealed is that this teaching of the trinity must be important to God. The ministry of Jesus both begins and ends with an emphasis on the three persons in the Godhead. The Father, Son, and Spirit are present at Jesus’ baptism and when He ascends to heaven. Jesuscommanded His followers to baptize in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The testimony of Scripture indicates that the Godhead can neither be separated into three Gods nor merged into one person. This three-in-one not only created us, but they love us and devised an amazing plan to save a lost world from sin to restore us to His presence in paradise.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

The High Cost of the Cross

1 Mar
Introduction
After his disastrous defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon, so the story goes, met with some of his leading generals to analyze the battle’s flawed strategies. In the course of their discussions, the little general pointed at England on the colored map before them and said bitterly, “Except for that red spot I would be master of the world.” Satan could say the same thing today except he would point to a cross on a hill outside the walls of Old Jerusalem. Aren’t you thankful for that red spot of Calvary that rescued this world from the control of our great enemy?

That was the place, the time, and the con- test that settled the destiny of planet earth. Satan has been a defeated foe ever since. There it was that he met his Waterloo and suffered a decisive defeat from which he will never fully recover.

How few of us understand the real meaning of Christ’s suffering and death on that cross. We have only a dim comprehension of the conflict He passed through and the kind of agonizing death He experienced. Could our eyes be opened to grasp the true significance of His sacrifice, there would be no more miserable collaborating with Satan. Our weakness would be turned into courage and victory.

The Bible writers struggled to explain, in human language, the mysterious incarnation and atoning death of the Son of God. Often we weep under the power of their inspired testimony. We get glimpses that boggle our minds, but still, we are only scratching the surface of a subject which will continue unfolding for all eternity.

Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8. These sublime words describe the condescension of Jesus from the throne to the manger and then to the cross.

From the Highest to the Lowest!
There is not an illustration in all the vast reaches of time or space that could properly portray what Jesus did. Sometimes we try to fabricate imaginary circumstances to convey the idea of His sacrifice. A diseased pack of wild dogs is described, covered with many scabs and running sores. It is postulated that if one human being would only submit to become one of the dogs, the entire pack could be saved from imminent death. Could anyone be found who would voluntarily lay aside his human condition, and suffer the unspeakable indignity of turning into a dog? Dramatic as it may sound, that is a feeble illustration of the humiliation of the divine Son of God. We cannot grasp the glory and position from which He separated when He emptied Himself and came into the condemned, dying family of Adam.

This is why it is so difficult for Christians to grasp the atonement. Why do so many treat casually the events of the cross? Surely because they do not understand what their salvation cost the Son of God. It is only when we know the cost of something that we begin to appreciate it. We value most highly that which requires the greatest investment.

All of us have encountered people who display a mystifying indifference toward the sacrifice of Christ. At the end of one of my crusades I visited a businessman who had attended every night but who had made no commitment. We had developed a warm friendship during the four-week series, so I felt bold to ask him why he had made no decision for Christ. His vague answer indicated to me that he had no understanding of the seriousness of accepting the gift of salvation. He had never made any kind of response to the gospel and, under my gentle questioning, confessed that he had no assurance of being saved. Finally, I asked him point blank, “Do you mean, Sam, that if you died tonight you would have no hope of eternal life?” He answered, “No, I have never made any kind of profession of Christianity.”

Shocked by his obvious unconcern I gathered the courage to ask this question: “Sam, suppose that you could pick up $10,000 tomorrow morning from your banker in exchange for a paper containing the signatures of ten men in this city. Would you be willing to drive around the city tonight and get those signatures?” He answered, “Of course I would.”

Would you run any risk of losing one of those signatures on the paper?” I asked. “Absolutely not,” Sam replied, “I know a good thing when I see it.”

The truth was that Sam did not recognize a good thing when he saw it, and I felt constrained to tell him so in the kindest way that my outraged spirit could manage. I said, “Sam, you would not take the least chance of losing $10,000 between now and tomorrow morning; yet you have stated that you do risk losing eternal life if you die tonight. You place more value on the money than you do on eternal life. Your appraisals are wrong. You don’t have the faintest idea what it cost to provide for your salvation, or you wouldn’t value it so lightly.”

It was easy to see why my friend was so noncommittal toward the cross of Christ. Even though he had been around Christians all his life and had heard hundreds of sermons, he held the typical “martyr” view of the death of Jesus. It is simply not true that He died just like all the thousands of others who were crucified on crosses around the wall of Jerusalem. There can be no comparison. Christ did not die because of the nails, spear, or physical abuse. No amount of blows or pain could have produced the agonies of the cross. Others were enduring the same torture of the flesh, but none died from the same causes which took the life of the Son of God. His death was different. How was it different?

What kind of death did He suffer? The Bible says that “he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9. Think of that for a moment. He died my death, and yours, and every other person’s. How could that be? Will we not have to suffer our own death-experience at the end of our days? Yes, we will. And therein lies the mystery and the wonder of what He did for us. He did not take our place in passing through the first death. He experienced the second death for every soul who has ever been born.

Christ Died the Second Death
It is so important that we distinguish between the first and second deaths. Only then will we be able to understand why God the Father turned away from His Son on the cross. Angels were not permitted to minister to Him. Jesus had to be treated as though He were guilty of every terrible sin which has ever been committed. Under the weight of that condemnation and guilt, He sweat great drops of blood and fell fainting to the ground in the Garden. On Golgotha’s Hill, shut off from the approving presence of His Father, He cried in torment, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.

Do you begin to see what Sam overlooked? He did not sense the real suffering of the cross and, therefore, had no true understanding of the cost of salvation. We shall attempt to expose some of those “hidden costs” which Sam did not recognize and which many today do not properly appraise.

Paul wrote, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Romans 5:12. Several fundamental questions are raised by these words of Paul. If only one man sinned, why did all have to die? Do people have to pay the penalty for other men’s sins? When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he represented every person who would ever be born. As the head of the race he stood before God as though he were every man. You and I were there, represented by the genes and chromosomes which later produced the hereditary pattern of Adam’s children. As partakers of his body and mind, all his descendants had to be affected by what affected him. He is our father, and there are laws of heredity which reproduce the genetic pattern from age to age.

What happened to Adam which also affected his children? God placed him on probation in that original paradise. The test was simple and direct: obey and live, disobey and die. We remember so well the story of the tree in the midst of the Garden. God said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:17. His continued existence in the perfect atmosphere of Eden depended upon obedience. Adam’s happy future was conditional upon staying away from the forbidden tree, but he did not meet the condition.

No provision had been made to remove the penalty or to lighten it. The issue was clear-cut: obey and live, disobey and die. At the age of 930 the sentence was fully carried out, and Adam died and was buried.

All of Adam’s children were born after his nature had become depraved through sin. They could inherit only what their father had to give, so they were born with a sinful, fallen nature. Please note that they did not inherit the guilt of their father, but only his weakened, sin-loving nature. There is no such thing as original sin, in the sense that Adam’s descendants were accountable for his sin. It is true that they also were subject to death just like Adam, but their death was not the punishment for Adam’s sin. They died because they had received a mortal nature through the laws of heredity. Their death resulted from the degenerated constitution which Adam transmitted to his offspring. Only Adam’s death was the punishment for his sin.

From the moment sin became a fixed fact, every human being who would live became subject to the first death. In fact, if God had not intervened, it would have been an eternal death. Adam’s probation ended when he sinned. As far as that first offer of life was concerned, it was finished. He had forfeited all hope of life under the proposal God had made. Now only death awaited him-a hopeless, final death. And if God had done nothing more, that’s the way it would have ended-for Adam and all of his descendants.

A Second Probation Provided
But immediately after Adam sinned and before the sentence was fully executed, God introduced the plan of salvation through the seed of the woman and gave Adam a new trial (Genesis 3:15). This second probation was conditioned upon acceptance of a Saviour who would bear man’s penalty through His own substitutionary death. A new hope was set before Adam and all his posterity through this second arrangement, but it did not alter the consequences of failing the first probation.

That brings us to a very crucial question. How could God uphold His integrity by carrying out the penalty of the first failure, and still hold out the offer of a new life to everyone through another probation? God met that puzzling dilemma in such a simple way that we are amazed. He would let men live their limited life span and then die, regardless of whether they did good or evil. That first death would take care of the Adamic consequences of failing the first test. Then, let all men be raised from that first death, into which they fell through no fault of their own, and let them stand before God to answer for their own personal sins, for which they are responsible. Then their destiny would be determined on the basis of the second probation (between birth and the first death), and how they met the conditions of salvation through Christ.

If they are found guilty of personally failing the second test they will suffer the same penalty that Adam faced-death. In this case, however, there will be no further probation extended, and their death will be the second death-final, eternal extinction.

Now we can better understand the words of Paul, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22. The plan of salvation involves a resurrection of all men from the first death, so that they can be placed beyond the effects of Adam’s sin. This is necessary so that they can be judged on the basis of their personal actions and choices. Adam died because he ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, not because of anything he did after that. But if, after the judgment, Adam is found worthy of the second death, it will not be because he ate the fruit, but because of other sins committed after that experience which were not confessed and forgiven.

Some may charge God with being arbitrary and cruel to bring the wicked back to life again only to destroy them in the lake of fire. Why not just let them remain under the power of the first death? That would not meet the conditions required by the second probation. The first death is not the punishment for sin for any of Adam’s posterity. Justice requires that each individual be held accountable only for meeting the conditions of his own salvation. Without a resurrection no such judgment could be made, and no just retribution could be given. It is no wanton act on God’s part, but a fulfillment of the standards of divine justice.

The Second Adam Meets the Test
With that understanding of the first and second deaths we are prepared to examine the roles of the first and second Adams. Just as the entire human race was represented by Adam in the Garden of Eden, so every man would be represented by Jesus, the second Adam. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:18, 19.

As we have seen, whatever happened to the first Adam affected all those whom he represented. Now we are told by Paul that the experience of the second Adam will directly affect all men. Jesus, the Creator, was incorporated into humanity, and stood before God as though He were every man. This is why Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ.” Galatians 2:20. “We are buried with him by baptism.” Romans 6:4. “As Christ was raised up, … even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4. The life of man is deeply associated with the events of Christ’s life.

Because Jesus came to redeem the failure of the first Adam, He had to do it in the same flesh that mankind possessed when He was born. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren.” He- brews 2:17. Had He possessed any supernatural advantage over His brethren in conquering sin Jesus would have given support to Satan’s charge of injustice. God had been accused of requiring an obedience that was unreasonable and even impossible. Christ came to disprove the devil’s false accusation by meeting the requirements of God in the same human nature that any man may obtain through faith in the Father.

It was that perfect victory of Christ over sin and death which provides the basis of all salvation. All the descendants of Adam lay under the influence of his weakness and failure, making it impossible for any of them to obey the law. In that dying, condemned family of Adam they were doomed to perpetual struggle and defeat. But the victory of the second Adam opened a door of escape for the family of the first Adam.

Changing Families
The first Adam passed on the results of his sinful experience through physical birth-weakness, sin, and death. The second Adam passed on the results of His sinless experience through spiritual birth-partaking of the divine nature, victory, and eternal life. All the effects of the first Adam’s failure are completely counteracted by the second Adam. Please don’t miss the point that one can join the new family only through a spiritual birth. Through faith in Christ a new creation takes place, lifting man out of the hopeless, carnal state of the family of Adam. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

The change of families constitutes one of the least understood blessings of the Christian experience. It is not a theoretical or mystical transaction with no practical results. Just as the transformation of nature is dramatically real, so the privileges of the new family are also real. One of the hardest things for the newborn Christian to accept is the total change of position, authority, and ownership under the new family arrangement. They are now eligible for all the riches and advantages of the children of God.

Incredible promises are included in this new spiritual relationship. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Romans 8:16, 17. It is easy to understand why the human mind boggles at this concept. We tend to probe for hidden reservations and secret meanings in verses like these. A joint-heir is one who holds equal rights to all the family estate. We ask ourselves how it is possible to become sudden heirs of such unlimited wealth. From abject poverty we now hold title to the universe! The holdings of God include galaxies and island universes in space. By faith we try to grasp hold of the reality: Jesus and I share and share alike in all the spiritual riches of the Father. Whatever He gets, we also receive. Paul describes the boundless resources of the Spirit-filled life in these words: “That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Ephesians 3:19. Who can comprehend such language? The great, loving God who made us, and who gave up His only Son to die for us, now wants us to have everything His Son has, and also everything that He has!

Along with the staggering assets of a King, we also actually inherit the family name and the family resemblance. We even begin to look like our new Father and Elder Brother. “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Colossians 3:10. In the beginning Adam was made in the image of God, and was called a “son of God.” In Genesis we read, “In the likeness of God made he him. … And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years and begat a son in his own likeness.” Genesis 5:1-3.

Like father, like son. Adam looked like God, but the resemblance was lost through sin. So Adam’s son did not look like God; he looked like Adam. But under the new birth, man begins to lose his Adamic features and to look like the One who created him-Jesus. Is this resemblance real or imagined? Does God create only an illusion to make it seem that man is being restored to the divine image, or does He powerfully provide for the change to take place? There is a theological debate as to whether God’s righteousness is only accounted to man or whether it is truly imparted as well. Those who feel that man is only accounted righteous, do not believe that he can really overcome sin and live a holy life, even in Christ. But Paul’s words are clear, “By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19.

Along with the family likeness this new spiritual birth brings deliverance from the sec- ond death, which was inevitable under the Adamic nature. Christ did not change the first death penalty for Adam’s failure under the first probation, but He did abolish the second death for all those who received Him under the second probation. This was made possible only because He submitted to suffer the horrible penalty of the second death in place of man. He became sin for us, and voluntarily accepted the punishment which sin demands. On the cross, with no ray of hope from the Father, Jesus was enveloped in the darkness of a billion lost souls. He tasted death for every man. Hebrews 2:9.

Abraham’s Fiery Crucible
Was it easy for Jesus to have such an experience? Was it easy for the Father to withdraw from His beloved Son and treat Him as though He was guilty of the most atrocious blasphemy and crime? Only one man in the world has come near to understanding the intense suffering of the Father and the Son in that situation. That man, Abraham, gave up his only son also, and became the first human to share the agony of the cross.

Paul wrote that “the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham.” Galatians 3:8. Jesus also recognized that Abraham had special revelations on the atonement. He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.” John 8:56.

To understand how this Old Testament patriarch had such prophetic insight into the work of the Messiah, we must go back to his experience on Mount Moriah. Because he had initially failed to believe that God could give him a son from Sarah’s dead womb, Abraham was subjected to another test concerning life from the dead. God told him to slay his only son Isaac on an altar. The account of that lonely journey to Mount Moriah is one of the most moving stories in the sacred Word.

Abraham had no doubt about the validity of the order. He was a friend of God and had learned to recognize His voice. There was no way for Abraham to comprehend the reason for this bizarre command. The promise had been confirmed repeatedly that Isaac was the seed through whom the Messiah would come. Now he was asked to take the life of that child of his old age through whom the world would be blessed and redeemed. How could the Saviour come through Isaac if he was slain on the altar?

By the time father and son reached the base of the mountain Abraham’s faith had resolutely claimed God’s resurrection power. He said to the servants, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” Genesis 22:5. This time there was no weak faltering over the seeming impossibility of the promise. No resurrection from the dead had ever occurred, but Abraham believed that God would fulfill His promise concerning Isaac’s seed.

As Abraham lifted the knife over his submissive son, he was meeting the most severe test ever faced by a human being. It would have been terrible enough to take his son’s life, but with one stroke of the knife he was about to destroy the only hope of salvation for himself and every person who would be born. No one except Jesus would ever hold the destiny of a world in his hand as Abraham did in that moment. It was more than the test of fatherly affection. By killing Isaac, Abraham was depriving the world of a Saviour. The knife was at his own throat also. God’s unfailing word had assured him that no Messiah could be born without Isaac. Do you begin to see into the fiery crucible of Abraham’s test? No wonder Jesus spoke of Abraham being able to see His day.

Even though his hand was stayed and God provided another sacrifice, Abraham really did give up his son that day. He experienced all the pain, heartbreak, and horror that attends the death of an only child. Holding the power to save His son’s life, he would not exercise it. God intervened only after it was fully apparent that Abraham would not hesitate to offer up Isaac. Thank God for the faith of Abraham and for the equal faith and submission of his beloved son. No one can miss the impact of that very moving, human story. It brings the love and sacrifice of the atonement within the understanding of every child of Adam. Now we can grasp a little better how the Father and His only begotten Son suffered at the cross. The cost of our redemption becomes clearer.

How the Cross Provides Forgiveness
But now we must consider another aspect of this heavenly drama which will fur- ther illuminate God’s love and sacrifice. How does the death of one man, the second Adam, provide forgiveness for all who have sinned? The Bible says, “Without shedding of blood is no remission (of sins).” Hebrews 9:22. Remission, of course, means forgiveness. The question is, How does Christ’s death make it possible for Him to forgive sin? This brings us to the crux of all we have learned so far. It was necessary for Jesus to suffer the second death in order to acquire the power to forgive.

The germ of all forgiveness is rooted in an act of substitution. Whoever forgives another person must actually substitute himself for the one he forgives, and be willing to suffer the consequences of the wrong done. For example, if I forgive someone a debt, I must be prepared to suffer the loss of the amount. If I forgive a blow, I must be willing to suffer the pain of it, without requiring the one who gave it to be punished.

Justice requires that every offender be recompensed in proportion to what he did: an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. The one who gives a blow must also suffer an equal blow in return. Forgiveness, though, relieves the offender from receiving what he legally deserves. The forgiver accepts the consequence himself in order that the guilty one can go free without punishment. Thus there is clearly a substitution of the innocent for the guilty in every act of forgiveness.

As a further demonstration let us imagine that a murdered man could forgive his murderer from beyond the grave. He would, in effect, be consenting to his own death in order that the killer would not be punished. By accepting the results of the offense against him, he allows his own death to satisfy the penalty which could be legally laid upon the murderer.

This illustration brings us very close to the heart of the atonement. We are dealing here with the readjustment of a jarred relationship. That is what atonement really is. Two parties are always involved, the wronged and the wrongdoer. In this case it is God, the wronged, and man, the one who sins against Him. Justice demands an adequate expiation of the sin. Only two courses are possible: either justice will exact the prescribed penalty, or there must be forgiveness from the offended one. If forgiveness is extended, the forgiver will have to accept the consequences of the sin, and suffer it in place of the guilty. The penalty for sin is death. So in order to grant forgiveness to the sinner, Jesus must be willing to bear in His own body the same punishment that the broken law would demand of the sinner.

The punishment for sin is not the first death, but the second death. That is why the protracted agony of Jesus on the cross was totally unlike any other death. Thousands of criminals were crucified in the same physical way that Christ was nailed to the cross, but they suffered only the bodily pain of the first death. He experienced the awful condemnation and separation from God that the vilest of sinners will feel in the lake of fire. His sensitive nature was traumatized by sharing vicariously the guilt of foul rapes, murders, and atrocities. He became sin in order to allow the full wrath of the law to fall upon Him in exactly the same way it would fall upon the lost.

In no other way can we explain the mysterious anguish of spirit which surrounded our Saviour in His closing hours of life. From the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus bore the accumulated sins of mankind on His breaking heart. Not one ray of light was permitted to penetrate the blanket of total alienation from His Father in heaven. In order to take the place of guilty sinners and to provide forgiveness there could be no difference in their penalty and His penalty.

Let no one suggest that the Father did not suffer equally with His Son. The divine forbearance of God in allowing wicked men to torture His Son to death is the ultimate proof that He loves us with the same love that He loved Jesus. The choice He faced was very simple. He could spare the Son or He could spare us. There was no other choice. The law had been broken-the law which was holy and perfect. As a reflection of His character it could not be changed or destroyed. The penalty had to be paid. The Father loved those who had broken His law, but He also loved His Son.

Look again at the scene around that cross. God looked upon those wicked men as they spat upon Jesus and hit Him in the face with their fists. They were unworthy to touch the hem of His garment, but they were mauling Him to death. He held the power in His hand to smite those little men into oblivion. He could save His Son from cruel taunts and blows, but if He intervened not one human being would ever live again. Adam, Abraham Joseph, Daniel, and every other child of Adam would be lost for eternity. Their resurrection depended wholly upon the death and resurrection of His Beloved Son. In His omniscience God must have remembered every individual face and name, even of those who had not yet been born.

In that moment God thought about you and me. Even though He saw all our miserable failures He still wanted us to be with Him for eternity. He knew the great majority would not accept the offer of eternal life with Him, even though it would be provided at such a fearful cost. But He also knew that a few would love Him and gladly receive the substitutionary death of His Son in their behalf. So God turned away from His Son, and allowed Him to be crushed to death under the weight of sins He did not commit. Even the sun hid its face from the terrible scene, and the earth shuddered in protest. “It is finished,” Jesus cried, and yielded up His life. John 19:30.

Was the Price Too High?
The price of redemption had been paid. Was it too high? For multiplied millions it was an empty investment, a wasted sacrifice. They would lightly esteem the entire transaction and reject it out of hand. But what about you? Now that you see a little clearer what it cost, do you find yourself responding to the investment He made in your salvation?

So far we have focused upon the enormous scope of the atonement – how it provided for every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. This emphasis should not obscure the terribly personal aspect of what He did. The quality of that love which brought Jesus to His death on the cross was such that He would have made the same sacrifice for even one soul. I need to remind myself every day that God not only “so loved the world,” but He so loved me, that He gave His Son. The genius of the entire plan of salvation revolved around the application of His death to individuals.

Christ’s love for people is repeatedly dramatized in the Bible. We see it in His time-consuming, one-person interviews. Some of His most significant spiritual discourses were delivered to single individuals. We see it also in the dangerous voyage He made across the sea to deliver the Gadarene demoniac. It occupied fully two days of His precious time to cross that stormy water and return. Only one man was directly contacted during that unpleasant excursion, but that man, later, turned the whole countryside toward the Saviour.

We must watch Jesus relate to Nicodemus, the leper, the harlot, and the despised tax-assessor before we can understand the value of a single soul. He took time with people regardless of their position or possessions. The woman of Samaria was just another shameless community “character” when Christ took the opportunity to engage her in a conversation that turned her life upside down.

Undoubtedly Jesus looked at each person as a candidate for eternal life. How else can we explain His association with Simon, Zacchaeus, and Mary Magdalene? He saw in every soul the glorious potential of reflecting His own holy character for both time and eternity. He saw there the reason for His incarnation. Each soul was the one He had come to redeem. Those were the faces which came into His mind as He hung on the cross, strengthening Him to drain the cup of His suffering.

One of the most astounding statements in the Bible about the atonement is found in He- brews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

How could that terrible experience on the cross have any joy connected with it? We are assured that some joyful motive girded Him for the shame and humiliation of the crucifixion. What was “the joy that was set before him”? Here lies the secret of His self-abnegation. He did it in the strength of the anticipated joy of opening wide the gates of Paradise to welcome us into His never-ending kingdom. It was love for us, and the desire to be with us for eternity which led Him to endure the unendurable. Here is a positive assurance that He was thinking of you and me as He bore the wrenching cruelties of the cross.

Is one soul worth such an infinite price? In the light of eternity the answer is Yes. Consider the amazing fact that one redeemed soul will outlive all the combined years of earth’s total population. Eventually, in eternity, the life of that one person will outstrip by a million times all the life spans of all the inhabitants of this world put together. In this sense, one saved person represents more life, more accomplishment, and greater fulfillment than all the lost people combined. Jesus must have recognized that truth every time He looked into the face of a man, woman, or child. In even the most degraded human being He saw a life that could memorialize His love for longer than time had been computed.

With these glimpses into the real costs of Calvary, how could anyone lightly esteem His mission to planet earth? You can be that soul who will bear an everlasting witness to the love and grace of our Saviour. Never has so much been provided for so little. By a single step of faith we may exchange the deadly birthrights of the first Adam for the unsearchable riches of the second Adam. In a moment of surrender and acceptance we begin to share the life He deserved, because He was willing to bear the guilt, condemnation, and death we deserved. What an exchange! It will be the exhaustless theme of our study for all eternity. And as ages roll by, we will continue to get new, thrilling insights into the nature of His atoning love and sacrifice. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Hebrews 2:3. So great? So very great! There is no answer to the question because there is no escape. Accept that salvation now that costs so much to provide. Don’t neglect it another moment.

Does Pope’s Message Fulfill Prophecy?

1 Mar

By now, I expect many Christians have seen the surprising viral video of Pope Francis’ recent appeal for unity with Protestants, presented at a Kenneth Copeland conference of charismatic leaders this past January.

You can see the video here on YouTube, interspersed with my “blow-by-blow” comments. (Make sure to watch the response at the end.)

This is not the first time the Catholic Church has made overtures for their “separated Protestant brethren” to return to the fold. What makes this appeal different is the personal “heartfelt” directness of the message.

Popes have always embedded these messages into their pontifical letters or as fleeting references in some official speech. This particular message was so homey and personal, however, it took everyone by surprise. Not many months ago, I wrote, “The world now has the first pope with the ability to unite the Catholic and Protestant world—even the press is calling him ‘the people’s pope’!” I think this message of unity speaks to that notion.

There are many probable reasons for his candid appeal to Protestants. And I expect some are as much religious as political.

In recent years, the Catholic Church has been rocked by bad press—a financial scandal, mountains of litigation defending priests who have abused children, a mysterious murder in the Vatican, and then the unprecedented resignation of a healthy pope. Now put these things together with the fact that Islam and secularism/atheism are spreading across Europe—many Catholic churches are virtually empty on Sundays.

Yet at the same time, the Charismatic churches are growing in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. And, of course, the direction and funding for most of these churches come out of North America.

So is it any wonder the pope would reach out to charismatic leaders in America? The Catholic Church can certainly read the handwriting on the wall. They know if they are going to survive in this new millennium, they will need an alliance with other Christians.

But whatever the cause, do not think for a moment that these appeals for unity will mean that the Roman Church is ready to surrender what she considers her rightful authority. In the pope’s message, he says he believes he is like Joseph in the Old Testament, mistreated by and separated from his brothers. Remember, it is the brothers of Joseph, coming to him begging for bread, who bow down before him and move to where he was in Egypt.

Almost as important as the pope’s message is the preamble given by his friend and envoy, Anglican Bishop Anthony Palmer. You will hear him declare at least three times in his introductory remarks, “The protest is over,” speaking, of course, of the Protestant Reformation. He was even so bold as to tell an auditorium filled with charismatic leaders, “Maybe we are all Catholics now.”

We should also not miss the enthusiastic response to the pope’s message given by these charismatic leaders, including a return video message of blessing for the pope.

So is there anything prophetic about this message? Let’s not jump to conclusions—but I venture that it certainly matches the flow of the first beast of Revelation 13, Protestants in North America, making an image to the second beast, Roman Catholics in Europe.

In her book Christian Service, the writer E.G. White comments:

“When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with Spiritualism (the charismatic movement?) … then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near” (pp. 160, 161).

As Bible-believing Christians, we need not be alarmed. The Word of God has told us these things must take place.

For more information regarding this important subject, I would also urge you to watch our latest documentary, Revelation: The Bride, the Beast & Babylon.

And one more thing, take a look at this insightful statement in the best-selling book on the Reformation, The Great Controversy:

“Romanism is now regarded by Protestants with far greater favor than in former years. In those countries where Catholicism is not in the ascendancy, and the papists are taking a conciliatory course in order to gain influence, there is an increasing indifference concerning the doctrines that separate the reformed churches from the papal hierarchy; the opinion is gaining ground that, after all, we do not differ so widely upon vital points as has been supposed, and that a little concession on our part will bring us into a better understanding with Rome. The time was when Protestants placed a high value upon the liberty of conscience which had been so dearly purchased. They taught their children to abhor popery and held that to seek harmony with Rome would be disloyalty to God. But how widely different are the sentiments now expressed!” (p. 563).

Perhaps this is what it looks like when prophecy is being fulfilled.

Doug Batchelor

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