Christ’s Patience

Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

Luke 9:54

Jesus and His disciples had entered a Samaritan village but they were apparently refused hospitality. James and John were incensed that they and Jesus should be treated this way so they asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy those people. They thought they knew Jesus but in fact they knew only their idea of Jesus. Jesus rebuked them quite strongly: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56).

We live in a world that has largely rejected Jesus Christ and governments that make decisions and pass laws that are contrary to God’s nature and will. Those who refuse to receive Jesus are becoming more hostile toward Him and His people with words and actions of hatred. The temptation for us is to think like James and John and want Jesus to bring down fire and judge the world now. It isn’t uncommon for an unbeliever to question God’s existence by asking why God doesn’t intervene. Of course God has and will intervene – but first He is saving all who want to be saved. John records, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). The next verse makes it clear that the world was already condemned (John 3:18).

Concerning the promise of the coming judgment in the Day of the Lord Peter writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The troubling times we are experiencing are the Lord’s provocation for people to seek Him. This is an opportunity for Christians to share the Gospel of Christ to more receptive hearts. Wickedness in the world should not provoke us to call down the fires of heavenly judgment but to show compassion. One of the symptoms that reveal that we have the same attitude as James and John is that we will cease sharing the Gospel and making disciples. Paul warned the Thessalonian Christians against this behaviour (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). For now we have an open door to make disciples of Jesus and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus gives us the assurance “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Take Comfort

“But of that day and hour no one knows … But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be”

Matthew 24:36, 37

Jesus wants His disciples to understand that there will be no warning of His Second Coming. People will be eating, getting married and all the things that people do when unaware of imminent judgment. When it comes it will be totally unexpected by the world’s population in spite of the warnings in God’s word. Those of us who have believed God’s warning and are prepared will not be here. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 that all believers will be caught up to be with Jesus in “the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). This will leave a confused and fearful world in which there are absolutely no believers.

For the second time in human history for a while there will be no believers on earth. The first time was after Adam sinned until he was restored by God. This removal of all believers is what Paul speaks of when he wrote, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Without the Holy Spirit’s presence in Christ’s church, corruption and wickedness will be unrestrained. Paul gives detailed descriptions of what that will be like in Romans 1:20-32 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Jesus gives the days of Noah as a partial description of those days. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:6, 11). Believers are salt and light and by the Holy Spirit act as restrainers on the sinfulness of mankind.

Though we don’t know the day of our departure we do know that it is imminent. That is, it is the next thing to happen on God’s prophetic calendar and it will be without warning. In Paul’s description of that event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 he says it should bring us comfort. We will only be comforted if we actually believe what Paul has written and our desire to be with Jesus is greater than our desire for this world. God told Abraham what He was about to do because Abraham took God at His word (Genesis 18:17). Those, and only those, who take God at His word will be comforted.

The Greatest Miracle

“For we have made lies our refuge and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves” Isaiah 28:15

Isaiah had been observing his own nation, Israel, and was writing concerning their situation in his day. As we consider this verse we can’t help but believe that he is observing and writing concerning our own nation as it is today. He is not describing every individual in Israel because we know that God always maintains a believing remnant. We would not apply these words to every individual in our nation either because there are those who are faithful to the Lord and His word. But nationally they suit all too well.

Jesus called Satan a liar (John 8:44) and Peter discerned that Satan had moved Ananias to lie (Acts 5:3). Paul recognised that people had “exchanged the truth of God for the lie” (Romans 1:25). He also wrote that because people choose to turn away from God, God will allow them to be deceived (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

Isaiah is saying what we know to be true. People believe the lie about Jesus Christ because it comforts them in their sin. Hence, lies become our refuge, our place of safety and comfort – but only in the short-term. It is easier for a sinner to believe the lie that God does not exist and that they will not have to give account for their lives than to deal with the truth. So they take “refuge” in the lie.

Secondly we hide from the truth by peddling things that are obviously lies. This is why people believe in evolution. It gives them, in their minds, a place to resist the truth and hide from it. Anyone who does some research desiring to know the truth will discover the great falsehood of the Theory of Evolution but it is a convenient hiding place for people who do not want to face the truth.

Psalm ten reveals the three presumptuous thoughts of the person who wants to conceal in their minds the truth by embracing a lie.

  1. I am okay, I am invincible (v 6)
  2. God is not interested or is dead (v 11)
  3. I will not be held accountable to anyone for my life (v 13)

These are all lies of Satan that people all too readily embrace because they love sin and do not want to face reality. Considering the long-term consequences it is staggering that anyone would choose to take refuge in lies and present falsehoods to their own mind and soul to escape thinking about the truth but such is that nature of sin.

Those who do want to face reality will face the Lord Jesus Christ and discover that He has borne their sin on the cross and is able, therefore, to forgive all their sin and, much more, cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). The greatest miracle of all is that God is able to bring any sinner to repentance, most of all me, but He does and still is. Hallelujah!

Up and Away

“The Lord Himself will descend with a shout … and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

The Bible does not give the timing of Jesus’ Second Coming. In fact Jesus tells us that He will come when the world least expects Him. However, believers are encouraged to look for His coming and be ready. As with His first coming He will come exactly at the right time.

On the biblical prophetic calendar the next event is when Jesus removes His church from the world. There is nothing in prophecy that must occur before that event so it could happen today or in a hundred years – only the Lord knows!

We are given a lot of information about what the world’s condition will be soon after the church is taken out. Jesus Himself gives us much information that has been recorded by Matthew (Chapters 24 & 25). There are many people and groups of people mentioned in the Bible who will live in that time. In consideration of the Bible’s description of the world’s condition at that time it seems quite plausible to believe that the church could be taken up soon. If that did happen then the people who feature in the tribulation period could already be alive today:

  • The 144,000 Israelites, 12,000 from each tribe (Revelation 7 & 14)
  • the two witnesses and those who kill and/or witness their death and resurrection (Revelation 11)
  • the multitudes of new believers who are martyred during the tribulation and those who kill them
  • The many unbelievers who will seek death (Revelation 6:15-16)
  • the false prophet (Revelation 17 and later)
  • the Beast, also called the Antichrist (1 John 2:18f; Revelation 13 and later)
  • The many who will protect Israelites in a world of anti-Semitism worse even than the holocaust (Matthew 25:35f)
  • The multitude of believing Jews and Gentiles who will enter the earthly kingdom at Christ’s Second Coming

There are other groups mentioned but this list is sufficient to awaken us to the times in which we live. People we live alongside may be included among those mentioned above.

Since there is the possibility that these events may take place soon, and the participants may be alive now, how should we conduct ourselves? The Apostle Paul gives an answer to that question in 2 Thessalonians 3:6f. It is evident from his letters that he expected that Jesus might return in his lifetime. His instruction to the believers of his time is equally valid for our time. At such a time we cannot be idle.

Because there may be little time that is not reason to sit back and wait, it is reason to be acting in full obedience to the Great Commission. Jesus’ command to make disciples is not rescinded and He makes no mention of a retirement plan this side of heaven (Matthew 28:19-20).

24/7 Grace

“Therefore we also pray always for you … that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:12

This verse sums up Paul’s greeting to the church at Thessalonica, a church that abounded in the grace of God in such a way that he used them as an example of God’s grace to other churches (v 2).

He commented that the evidence of God’s grace among them was cause for continual heartfelt thanksgiving and praise to God (v 3). The good thing for us is that he mentions what the two most important evidences of God’s grace in that church were.

Firstly, he writes that thankfulness to God is appropriate because their faith grows exceedingly. They were rapidly and correctly growing in faith.

Secondly, he writes that the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other. Paul was also thankful that their love for each other was not just tolerance or out of duty but a genuine care and concern for each other’s physical and spiritual welfare.

We may dismiss this by responding that they had a favourable environment but such is not the case. They were enduring persecutions and tribulations and they did it patiently because of their faith in God’s promises (v 4) concerning Christ’s coming again.

What was it that made them patient and faithful? It was because they believed that Jesus would ensure that righteous judgment would come to all at His coming. Notice the contrast between believers and unbelievers in verses 6 & 7 and 9 & 10.

God is gracious and this attribute, like all His attributes, are in full effectual working all the time, 24/7. We often only comment that God has been gracious to us when things, in our estimation, go favourably for us. However, God’s grace abounds to us 24/7. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that God’s grace abounds. When this happens it is our perception that is wrong. It is not a lack of God’ effectual grace that is wrong.

In correction, chastisement or instruction God’s grace abounds to us just as much as in meeting our physical and spiritual needs. It is a 24/7 grace.

Do we really believe that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose? If we do, we will be thankful for God’s 24/7 grace. It reveals itself in that your faith grows and we will have an abounding love toward each other.

Caution Advisable

“They are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” Revelation 16:14

People usually follow those who perform miracles whether real or illusionary. The reason is that they want the benefit of the miracle. They have no other interest in the person who performs such miracles. Sometime after feeding the five thousand Jesus said, “You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). Jesus knew their heart and saw that they wanted what He gave but they didn’t want Him. Neither did they see any purpose in the miracle apart from their need.

Though Jesus did many signs, wonders and miracles, and multitudes followed Him at first, when they realised that following Him would cost everything they deserted Him. They left Him because they wanted the miracle and not Jesus himself. The miracles drew followers because they sought their own pleasure not because they had any interest in spiritual truth or in Jesus.

Signs, wonders and miracles will attract a large following. What the followers may fail to realise is that Satan and demons are also able to perform miracles. They counterfeit Jesus and the prophets in order to deceive and bring people into bondage. The sorcerers of Egypt, leading up to Israel’s exodus, were able to deceive Pharaoh and the Egyptians by duplicating the miracles of Moses (Exodus 7:11-13, 22; 8:7). False prophets could perform signs (Deuteronomy 13) and God’s people needed to be able to discern the origin of the signs.

In the New Testament there are several references to the satanic or demonic origin of miracles. Jesus affirmed it in Matthew 7:22; 24:24 and Mark 13:22. Paul also affirmed that Satan could and would perform signs and wonders in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Apparently Judas who betrayed Jesus was able to perform miracles (Matthew 10:1-4) and the Pharisees believed that Satan could perform miracles (Matthew 12:24). In Revelation 13:13 we read that the demonic power behind the second beast is able to perform signs including bringing down fire from heaven.

The majority will follow the miracle worker seeking their own benefit. They will not give attention to the nature or purpose of the one performing the sign and will be deceived and brought into bondage. People who demand God perform signs or miracles are already in bondage. In the verse above (Revelation 16:14) we have one of the last expressions of this. Demons will perform signs with the result that people will follow them in a battle against God. The outcome is certain. Only the few who choose Jesus Christ and are discerning will not be deceived.

We must be able to discern the origin of miracles – or risk being deceived. Miracles do happen, but we should be careful in attributing origin; and we must be careful as to whether it is the miracle or Jesus Christ that we really want. In the tribulation those who attribute the signs of the demons to God will find themselves fighting against God. If we attribute miracles of satanic or demonic origin to God we will also find ourselves fighting Jesus Christ. Do not automatically attribute every miracle to God, be discerning!

When the World Rejoices

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” 2 Thessalonians 2:7

There is a day approaching when the world will find cause for unrestrained joy. It will be the day that the Lord removes all believers in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul describes that day in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the lord.”

Jesus mentioned this day years earlier and His words are recorded in John 14:3,”I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

What Jesus and Paul are saying is that there will be a day when there are absolutely no believers in the world. That will be a day of rejoicing for the world but the rejoicing will be short-lived. In the verse at the head of this article Paul tells us that what is restraining evil in the world will be removed. That will be the opportunity for wickedness and evil to blossom unrestrained.

We are not left solely to our imaginations. Paul gives a brief outline of the character of the world in that day. It may appear to have already come but it is not yet the total character and full expression of what it will be. The presence of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s church still restrains wickedness and evil. The preaching of God’s word is contrary to the way the world wants to go and it currently acts as a restraint. The world is finding less opposition than in the past but there is still considerable restraint on wickedness through believers. When those who love Jesus Christ, teach His word and faithfully witness to the risen Christ are removed, those whom the Lord has given over to believe a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12) will have their day. What will the character of the world look like when all godly influence is removed?

Paul gives us a brief description in 2 Timothy 3:1-4. People will love themselves. This means that they will have no concern for anyone but “number one.” They will have a love for money and they will boast in their achievements full of pride. They will give no credit to the grace of God but take all credit to themselves. Children will be disobedient and rebellious toward their parents. People will be unthankful, unholy, unloving unforgiving, slanderers and totally without self discipline. They will be brutal toward each other, hate that which is good, treacherous in relationships, trampling over others and laughing at those they consider weak. Their one great love is themselves and this will be expressed in an insatiable love for pleasure with little or no thought for others or their Creator.

You may say this is a current description of our world. In many ways it is but there is still a restraint. Imagine what it will be like when there is no restraint! The good news in this account of the future world is that Jesus Christ will intervene to fulfill His covenant with Israel and redeem multitudes, both Jew and Gentile, out of this corrupt world.

Regarding the Times

“He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

The apostle Paul wrote concerning the return of the Lord on several occasions and his second letter to the church in Thessalonica parallels this statement in Ecclesiastes. In view of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ to establish His earthly kingdom some of the Christians in Thessalonica had ceased to work (2 Thessalonians 3:11) and become idle in waiting for the great day of the Lord.

Being imminent does not mean it is immediate. We still live in the “last days” in which the Lord’s return is imminent but we have no biblical reason to assume that this means immediate.

The farmer knows the seasons and must do his work in faith accordingly. The first rains may be imminent but he will not know the exact time they will come or cease.

At the time of sowing he must sow even if there is a threat of wind that might blow the seed away and at the time of harvest he must harvest even if there is the threat of rain. If he procrastinates because of what might happen he will neither sow nor reap and he and his family will go hungry.

The analogy of a farmer sowing and reaping is used a number of times in the Bible. We live in a day when the wickedness of the world and the pervading spirit of antichrist suggest that the Lord’s return may be soon but that is no reason or excuse to cease sowing in faith. And if we sow in faith it must be with the expectancy of reaping. Both require activity on our part.

Some of the Christians in Thessalonica had given up working to await the return of the Lord. They refused to sow the Word of God and they had no expectation of reaping souls for the Kingdom of God. If we regard the times in which we live we may be inclined to follow their example but that would be contrary to the will of Jesus expressed in the Bible.

Yes, the return of the Lord may be today but equally it may not be for some years. He has not told us when. We know we are in the “last days” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 3:3-4; Hebrews 1:1-4; 1 John 2:18) but the Lord has not revealed the exact day when He will call out His church.

If we regard the conditions around us we will be like the farmer who always waits for perfect weather and will not sow or reap. Paul commanded Timothy to proclaim Jesus Christ regardless of circumstances; “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) and that command extends to all Christians. Paul affirms all the preceding in one verse, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9; cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:13).

A Dam Ready to Burst

“Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked …” (Genesis 18:25)

Resistance to anything that relates to God, the Bible and Jesus Christ is growing more rapidly day by day. At all levels of Government we have men and women who openly oppose anything that reflects the glory of God. Paul admonishes Christians to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Abraham prayed that God would not pour out His wrath on Sodom for the sake of just ten righteous people. Keeping in mind that there were probably at least ten people in Lot’s immediate family it is sad to discover that there was only one righteous person in all of Sodom. Even so, in mercy God removed Lot from Sodom before He poured out His wrath.

Sodom’s fate came as a result of two key contributing factors: The people loved an ungodly and sinful lifestyle and Lot was an extremely poor witness to the glory of God. These two factors seem prevalent in Australia in our time.

Many people in political power find no resistance to the ungodly minority groups because they are committed to a secular philosophy and reject any notion of a Creator to whom they will be held accountable. This is just like the people of Sodom in the day of their destruction.

Much of the church has turned away from the Bible as the final authority on all matters it addresses and have turned  to the “wisdom of men.” Therefore it has no clear “Thus says the Lord …” voice against the vocal wicked and ungodly men. Lot had lost his godly voice such that people laughed at him and did not take him seriously when he warned of imminent judgment.

Why had he lost his testimony? It was because he chose material comfort and wealth to the exclusion of faithfully revealing the glory of God. In the end it cost him everything; his wife, his children, his grand children, his home and all his material wealth.

It is possible today that many Christians are sacrificing their children and grand children to the god of wealth and comfort.

The outpouring of God’s wrath on our country is a dam ready to burst. All that restrains is the minority that are righteous before God in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. Paul writes to warn us: “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

Sodom laughed at God before God destroyed them all. Lot cared not to be a faithful witness, even to his own family, and they were destroyed.

Paul warns us that these are days for sober living (1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8) and Peter writes, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1Peter 4:7).

Ignorance No Excuse

“They are without excuse” (Romans 1:20)

When the apostle Paul wrote his letters he made it clear that there was no need for Christians to be ignorant or unaware of many facts such as his personal program (Romans 1:13); God’s plan for Israel (Romans 11:25); how Israel’s history has application today (1 Corinthians 10:1); concerning spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1); concerning his own sufferings (2 Corinthians 1:8); concerning the departed saints at the catching up of the remnant church (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Why is it that many Christians are ignorant of God’s Word and that biblical knowledge in the church appears to be on the wane?

God does not want us to be ignorant. Therefore He has brought into being the Bible for our knowledge, understanding and obedience (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and the Holy Spirit to make this possible (John 16:13).

One problem is that there are teachers and authors who are not first and foremost students of the Bible. Instead of discovering what God has said they start with their own opinions and try and find a phrase or verse that seems to support that view.

A secondary problem is that their students then pass that teaching on as authoritative with little or no scrutiny and comparison with the Bible (cf Acts 17:11). Thus we end up with many who believe a particular doctrine not because the Bible teaches it but because someone with a name said the Bible teaches it.

This practice is common within the Christian community and may be a key reason why many Christians are ignorant of what the Bible really teaches. Many think they know what the Bible teaches when in fact they only know what someone else has said the Bible teaches.

The purpose of the Bible is manifold but its existence must be because God does not want us to be ignorant of what is true. What will prevent our hearts from being troubled (John 14:1)? What will bring comfort to an unsettled heart (1 Thessalonians 4:18)? The only thing that can is the truth clearly stated and rightly understood.

The Bible is written for our knowledge, understanding and obedience and therefore it must surely be written according to the normal rules of literature. Read and study your Bible for yourself, believe what God says in it and you will not be deceived or mislead.