Saturday, May 5, 2012

Signs of the Coming of End of This Age?

If you're a reader of the Bible and a follower of Christ, it's difficult to watch the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, not to mention the nuclear catastrophe that has followed (as well as the Asian tsunami and Haiti's earthquake) and not think of what Jesus said in Matthew 24 when describing the state of affairs prior to His return, 

"4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.   6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.   7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.   8 All these are the beginning of sorrows."

So we see that earthquakes are not the only sign of the beginning of sorrows.  We also have wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilences (diseases that kill).  But what is this "beginning of sorrows"?  Most studiers of the Word would say that the time of "sorrows" refers to the tribulation period described in revelation which is a seven year span which leads up to Jesus' return and 1,000 year reign on the earth. 

Some say, and I agree, that we are in the birth pangs of this tribulation period even now, that the commencement of the seven years of tribulation could begin at any moment.

Many also believe, and I do as well, that the sign that the tribulation has begun will be the war against Israel described in Ezekiel 38.

Ezekiel's vision describes Gog and Magog (most believe this to be Russia) along with Persia (Iran) and other north african/middle eastern nations coming against Israel in war.  But when they do God defends Israel and 5 out 6 of the soldiers of the invading armies die.  Ezekiel also tells us that it will take 7 months to bury all their dead bodies, as well as 7 years to clean up the aftermath.

This 7 year cleanup period is what leads many, including me, to believe that this war begins the tribulation because of the specific seven year period it takes to clean up the mess.  Others believe this is the war to end all wars, known as Armageddon, when all the nations of the world come against Israel. But this can't be, because Ezekiel's vision includes only a handful of nations coming against Israel, while the battle at Megiddo (Armageddon) includes ALL nations.

So, when you see the Ezekiel 38 war begin to come about, know that we are entering the tribulation period where many of the prophecies from Daniel, Matthew 24, and Revelation will come to pass.  It will be a terrible time of sorrow on the earth, but the time will serve a great purpose which I will address momentarily.

But first I would like to make mention of the fact that some Christians say that at the beginning of the tribulation, the Church will be "raptured" out of here, not having to endure any of this time of sorrows.

Others say we will be here for half of the tribulation because the halfway point (three and a half years in) marks the time when the Anti-Christ becomes the world ruler and imposes an economic system when no one will be able to buy or sell without his mark.  (We have the technology and automation right now to do this.  All you need is your mark, or chip, or whatever it might be, on your right hand on your forehead.)

But I believe, as many do, that we Christians will be here for the entirety of the tribulation, for Revelation describes that at the halfway point the anti-Christ will make war against the Saints and will overcome many, while others of us will be protected in the wilderness for the final three and half years.  (Some believe the Saints described in Revelation are simply those lukewarm Believers who were "left behind", but not one molecule of me believes that explanation.  I fully believe that ALL of us will be here.)

The truth is that we Christians, as a people, have so severely failed to serve God correctly that only a tiny percentage of us would be found worthy of the rapture anyhow.  We have much purifying to do as a people, and to my earlier point about the purpose of tribulation, it is when tribulation is in the earth that people finally take stock and realize the need for change.

As it is written in the book of Isaiah,

"...when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isaiah 26:9).

Why do people learn righteousness during times of tribulation? Because through tribulation we are shown our own mortality, that we are not invincible, that we have to answer for our lives.  We come face-to-face with the idea of an afterlife, of facing God, of standing before Him and having our lives reviewed and judged.

No one wants to stand before God and be found wanting, or guilty.  But if everything in your life while you live in sin is all "hunky-dory" and you don't take the time to think about your mortality, you won't be concerned with facing Him, about the way you are living NOW, even though the notion you should be MOST concerned about is your eternity, where you will be, what you will do, after this life.

So during tribulation when you see life all around you change, the world in tumult, death very prevalent, the fear of the Lord comes upon you and you, hopefully, begin to determine to get things right with Him.
Let's face it, tribulation is punishment, and the point of punishment is to wake a person up, to make the person reconsider the wrong he has done and to make a change.

People are put in prison every day for wrong doing, and it is there they are given the time to consider their wrong doing. With their creature comforts and freedom removed they have no choice but to consider their behavior.  

Tribulation in the earth serves that same purpose.  For many, the care-free "I don't care about the future" life finally takes a back set to the sobering reality that life as we know it is finite, not permanent, that there is an end to what we know on this earth.

Some of you may not believe we are nearing the end of this age and coming closer to the Lord's return.  I hear a lot Christians say that people throughout history thought his return was imminent.
Well, nowhere in history have so many of the prophecies of the Bible come to meet at one moment in time when all of it seems possible.  The groups, like Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses who proclaimed Jesus would return in the 1800s to their own embarrassment did not recognize that Ezekiel 37 had to be fulfilled first, the chapter that predicts Israel's resurrection as a nation.  But since 1949 this has been the case.  And many other prophecies have come about such as Daniel's vision of an increase in knowledge and many people going "to and fro".

Even if the tribulation is not imminent (though I don't see how), still take this time when so much is going on in the world to take stock of your relationship with God.

Are you keeping His Word? Do you even know His Word?  Do you spend time talking with Him?  Do you know Him personally?  The answers to these question determine if you are living a life of true eternal purpose.  We were put on this earth, ultimately, to have relationship with God (first) and each other (second).  Are you paying any attention to the first matter?

I pray with all my heart that the events happening worldwide, where many people are coming to a quick collision with their own mortality, will lead each one of us to consider our own mortalities, to consider our REAL purpose here on earth, and to have the courage to seek God as to what that purpose is as well as for the help to complete it.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Is Your Church a Cult of Personality?

Why do you attend your Church?  

Is it because you feel like your Pastor is "the man"?  

Do you find it a big letdown when he is absent and others step up to speak?

Does your Pastor spend enough time pointing you to Christ, or is he instead trying to get attention for himself?

I ask these questions because when a Church becomes too much about the Pastor and not enough about the Lord Jesus Christ, it can quickly devolve into a "cult of personality."

I'm afraid there are a lot of these cults of personality around today.

Being part of a Church is not supposed be Pastor-centric, rather, the Church should be focused on her real Leader, Jesus Christ, and one of the main reasons we're missing this point is because we are honoring our Pastors and leadership above Christ and His Word.

Sure, we still give Christ lip-service, but our hearts are far from Him.

The reason for this is because many of us do not have a tangible relationship with our Savior, who we can't see, and therefore we build the relationship that was intended for God with the person we believe to be His surrogate, the Pastor, the one we can see.

But this is idolatry, in the same sense that Israel built the golden calf to worship in the desert, when we put the Pastor in place of Christ, we have made him into our own personal golden calf.

So, our cults of personality are replacing Christ with our Pastors because we are not hearing from Christ ourselves.  We are not following the Truth.  We are not acting as His sheep, for if we were, we would not hear another shepherd, even one who is said to come in His name.

Jesus is our true Shepherd.  A good Pastor knows this and should seek to send you to your true Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

But why is it that are we not hearing from God and have filled that void with overmuch honoring of our Pastors?

There's a one-word answer to this question:


Jesus said, "If you love me, you'll keep my commandments."

But we, as a Church body are currently in a constant state of disobedience, and being so, we can't hear from God.  We have, as the prodigal son, effectively left the estate of God to do our own thing and thereby we don't even hear His voice.

But, you say, how do we disobey?

Your false Sunday Sabbath, your Lent and Easter paganism, your Advent and Christmas paganism, your Halloween and Valentines paganism, and this paganism only serves to support and propogate many other sins such as the rampant divorce and remarriage in the Church, the adultery, lust, porn, homosexuality, the greed (prosperity gospel), the covetousness, the thefts, the pride and haughtiness, and so much more.

The pagan traditions of the Church have usurped the word of God and when this happens the people involved can't really know God.  They know a false god, true, but NOT the true and living God.  

And many of our Pastors who are running their cults of personality know these things, they know about these false days of worship, about our corporate sins, and they don't tell us.  They keep us in ignorance because they're afraid to lose congregants.

So we remain ignorant.  But it's not just our Pastors' faults.  We're in this situation primarily because we are too lazy to eat and partake of the Word of God ourselves and not knowing God's Word we can't really know Him and can't know that these traditions of man are actually against His Word.

Then, when someone comes by who is not your Pastor and tries to warn you, your heart can't receive it because what you're hearing, though in line with God's Word, contradicts your Pastor.  But because you're so caught up in your Pastor's teachings, rather than Christ's, you don't even know the Truth when it's sent your way.  You're deceived.  You're trapped in your Pastor's double bind.

We must, therefore, as a people, begin to to seek our own relationship with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ by partaking of His Word and seeking Him out in prayer.

This may sound crazy, but most of you would do so much better for your everlasting souls if you would only leave your current Church and pick up the habit of trying to get to know the Lord for yourself, one-on-one. How? By praying and reading your Bible (three chapters a day takes a year) everyday so you can know Him for yourself.

God is a very jealous God.  He doesn't want any man, spirit, animal, celestial body, etc. to be between you and Him.  The purpose of your spiritual leaders is simply to lead you to a closer walk to Him, but I tell you a serious truth, most of them are failing miserably at this.  They are putting themselves between you and God by not sharing with you the WHOLE TRUTH.

This is why so many of you don't truly know God right now.  You know your Pastor, you know what he says, but believe me when I say that for most of you your Pastor isn't telling you everything and in many ways can be hindering you from your walk with God.

Even if you have a perfect Pastor, who shares with you all his heart and all the counsel of God, he still isn't God Almighty with whom your relationship is really supposed to be cemented.

You must know God on a personal, one-on-one level.

It's time for many of you to drop out of your cults-of-personality and join in relationship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, the one true and living God.  Don't be afraid.  God will still get you in fellowship with others.  Trust Him and Him alone and He will lead you to another group/family of Believers.  I warn you in advance that where God leads you next may not be anything like what you're used to (that's because what you've been made used to is just PLAIN WRONG!), but this new place will be one of peace and joy.

Find a place to worship where the Pastor is constantly pointing you to Jesus Christ and your personal relationship with Him, a pastor who is not seeking glory for himself or to make more followers for himself, but is seeking to point everyone in the direction of Christ, not toward himself.

Don't be afraid to stand alone on God a while.  In actuality, this is the safest place to be.

Most Church-goers will ride you for not attending Church.  To the contrary, you should first be scolded for skipping prayer and BIble reading so that you can personally know God.  If you don't do at least that, it doesn't matter much if you go fill a pew each week. You're just an empty vessel at the point, and if you're Pastor is filling you with half-truths and lies, that's all you'll have inside.  Instead, get the truth of God's Word down in you so that you can be a fount of truth to all around you.

So take this opportunity to meet and know God.  He's so worth it.  Let Him show you who He REALLY is.  You will not be disappointed.  You shall be more than pleasantly surprised.  He's so much more than the this current apostate Church has made Him out to be.  Give Him that chance to show you.