Healing the Spiritually Deaf

“The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night”

1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10

Thieves do not forewarn their intended victims because they know that if they do they can expect a reception that would prevent their objective. In the unlikely circumstance they did warn the intended victim and the warning went unheeded they might still be successful.

The Day of the Lord – Jesus’ Second Coming – is presented in the Bible as coming like a thief. That is, His coming will not be expected by mankind. It will be a surprise to most, but not all. Paul writes, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4). At this point I believe Paul is directly addressing believing Jews in the Tribulation period that culminates in Jesus Christ’s return but it certainly has application to believers today.

Unlike an earthly thief, the Lord has given clues in the Bible as to the timing of His coming (e.g. Matthew 24:32-35). No exact time is given or even suggested but conditions in the world at that time are described and, while some have always been observed the confluence and intensity of all descriptions can be observed now.

Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:15) and Peter (2 Peter 3:11f) believed Christ’s coming could have been in their lifetime so how much more us today? Peter goes on to say that this prospect should affect our daily lives as we “look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). This will affect how we live.

Jesus (Matthew 24:43), Paul and Peter all attest that Jesus’ Second Coming will be unexpected by the general population but a few will be prepared (cf. Matthew 25:1-13). The difference is that some hear the warning and believe it. The problem in the world is that we have not heeded the Father’s admonition in Matthew 17:5, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” This is also a problem for the church as Jesus tells us in each of His letters to the seven churches recorded in Revelation 2 & 3, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” We don’t hear God speaking because we are not listening. We are not listening because we do not believe God has spoken. Only Jesus can cause the spiritually deaf to hear (Mark 7:31-37). Come to Him!

To Be With Jesus

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”

1 Timothy 2:3-4

The Bible teaches that God is not willing that any should miss His gift of salvation (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). Hence we read in several places that Christ died for all (e.g. John 1:29; Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2). Since God created us in His image we have the ability to choose how we respond to God’s invitation and He will not override that choice or we would be no more than robots. Out of love for mankind God sent His Son to deliver us from sin and death by dying in our place. Now that the price is paid God invites all who want to, to come to Jesus and receive eternal life in Him as a free gift (John 1:12; Romans 6:23).

Sadly, most will go to anyone or anything except Jesus; but Paul writes that there is only one Mediator between God and man and that is Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). The reason He is the only Mediator is that He alone died for our sin and is therefore the only one qualified to forgive sin (Romans 5:8; c.f. John 14:6; Revelation 5:1-7). There are some who want a heaven without Jesus but that is impossible. Heaven is being with Jesus. Anything else is hell. If you don’t desire to be with Jesus then it may be that you have a false or futile hope of heaven. Jesus says that He is preparing a place for the saved and it is with Him (John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 5:8; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:10).

In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes that he was appointed to preach Christ primarily to Gentile unbelievers but also to unbelieving Israel (1 Timothy 2:7).  That mission has also been given to the church, a living body composed of all individuals who have received Christ as Lord and Saviour. The Gift of God, which is Jesus (John 3:16), is offered to all people because Christ died for all people. But God will not usurp a person’s own will. He invites, He provokes, He persuades but He does not force anyone. Only those who will of free will receive God’s Gift and appropriate Him will benefit. Many years ago I was conscripted into the army but there will be no conscripts in heaven. Everyone in heaven will be there because they believed God’s offer, wanted to be with Jesus, accepted His invitation and received His Gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. “And thus we shall always be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

See the Nail Prints

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”

John 20:29

This statement came from Jesus in response to Thomas’ refusal to believe until he had touched the nail prints in Jesus’ hands. For his part, Thomas has been the brunt of many less than thoughtful comments and acquired the less than honourable title of “doubting Thomas.” We should note that Jesus had shown the nail prints in His hands to the other disciples a week earlier (v 20). Jesus knew that all the disciples needed to see the nail prints in His hands in order to believe that He had risen bodily from the dead and was not just spirit. So He showed them.

Remember that even with the report that Jesus was no longer in the tomb all the disciples went home (v 10). They weren’t expecting Him to appear. Two disciples on the road to Emmaus, presumably homeward bound, on that first Sunday had heard the report that “certain women”  had seen angels at the empty tomb and were told that Jesus had risen (Luke 24:22-23). They also knew that “certain of those who were with us,” most likely Peter and John, also saw the angels and the empty tomb (Luke 24:24) yet they were on their way home. Fortunately for them Jesus met them and revealed Himself thus turning them back in time to see the nail prints that first Sunday evening. Perhaps Thomas is singled out unfairly.

It is interesting to note that the first meetings after Jesus’ resurrection were held behind closed doors and at night time for fear of persecution (John 20:19, 26). Many Christians around the world meet under similar circumstances today.

Returning to Jesus’ statement (John 20:29), He says that those who believe without seeing Him in the flesh are more blessed that those who had seen Him those two evenings. Why did He say that? The answer lies in the fact that if we haven’t seen Jesus in the flesh then we must have seen Him in some other way. Jesus gives us a reasonable explanation in Matthew’s Gospel. In response to Jesus’ question to the disciples as to who they believed He is, Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (16:17). Those more blessed than those who saw and touched the nail prints in Jesus’ hands are those to whom the Father has revealed Jesus through the eye of faith.

Hear Him

“They did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him”

Mark 9:32

Peter, James and John had been on the mountain with Jesus when Elijah and Moses appeared to them but it seems they missed the most important aspect of that meeting. The conversation with Moses and Elijah concerned Jesus’ coming death and resurrection (Luke 9:31). As important a component as that was, it was not the most critical.

Not for the first or last time in the Gospels Jesus’ disciples are exhorted to “Hear Him.” Also, at the end of each letter to the seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3 we read, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Good teachers are a blessing but Jesus is looking for, and the church needs, good hearers. This is the essence of being a disciple: one who is teachable and hears to the point of doing what Jesus says.

The reason the disciples were confused when Jesus spoke of His betrayal, death and resurrection (v 31) was that they did not take note of the Father when He said to them, “Hear Him.” That is, take on board the words of Jesus as factual and to be applied in the normal literal sense. Unfortunately they did what so many people do. Because the words of Jesus don’t fit our theology we either dismiss them as irrelevant or try to manipulate them to fit our own ideology. Jesus spoke plainly so they could understand what was to come.

When Jesus was betrayed, His disciples fled. Because he didn’t believe what Jesus had said, Peter, out of his confusion and ignorance, put on a brave front with a sword – but he was acting contrary to the will of God.

The Second Coming of Jesus is well documented in Jesus’ teaching, in the writings of the prophets, and in the New Testament. Although there is much recorded concerning His Second Coming, there is confusion among Christians. This confusion exists for the same reason it existed among the disciples when Jesus was betrayed and taken to be crucified. Many people will not take Jesus and other biblical writers at face value. If some part of the Bible doesn’t fit their theology they either dismiss that part, interpret it to fit their own ideology, or remain confused. One can only wonder how different the disciples’ actions might have been had they obeyed the Father’s command, “Hear Him.” How different our peace and joy would be if we took Jesus at His word.

The Book of Life

“Anyone not found in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire”

Revelation 20:15

This may seem an inconvenient truth to those not aspiring to have their names in the Book of Life. They may use any one of a variety of ways to quench their conscience and bring false hope to their hearts. Some remain indifferent and ignore their conscience. Others, who love sin, object by opposing anything godly. They will try and coerce others to agree with them in order to bolster their own confidence.

For those who believe the verse above, having their name in the Book of Life is of the highest priority, resting only when they are assured that their name is in that Book. There is but one way to accomplish this and that is God’s way.

John writes, “He who has the Son has life; and he who does not have the Son does not have life” (1 John 5:12). In his Gospel he writes, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:14). Having one’s name in the Book of Life is by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour – but how do we receive Him? The answer is in a number of places in the Bible. Paul writes, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, and not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). He also writes, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

What is the gift of God? The most memorised verse in the Bible tells us that the gift of God is not a “what” but a “who”. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus is the Gift of God which is why only those who have received Him by faith have eternal life (John 14:6), and therefore have their name in the Book of Life.

The reason Jesus is the only way is because He alone has dealt with our sin. He did that on the cross at Calvary and it is to Jesus we must come, humbly: confessing our sin of not believing and receiving Him. This will mean a total change in direction – from being indifferent or rejecting Him, to believing His word and receiving Him as Lord and Saviour. This is repentance. Our joy in life comes from confidence that our names are written in the Book of Life.

Deifying Mankind

“The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them all”

Psalm 89:11

If we base our knowledge on the theory of evolution we might unwittingly find ourselves right where the world now finds itself. We are led to believe that the world is in crisis by way of living creatures becoming extinct and a change in the climate that will lead to the destruction of all things living, including mankind.

Listening to David Attenborough one could easily be led into thinking that evolution is guided by the intelligence and will of the creature. While he doesn’t say so directly in as many words this subtle implication is clear. He marvels at the beauty, complexity and built-for-purpose intricacies of living things but attributes them to the living thing itself as though it had guided its evolution into the perfect creature it is without any input from outside its being.

If (as many believe) living creatures have evolved, i.e. intelligently and purposefully created themselves to perfection, then the highest order in the creation must also have created itself. The highest order in the creation by far is mankind. What we have in the theory of evolution is therefore the deification and worship of man. This began in the first days when Adam and believed Satan’s lie, “You will be like God” and “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:5, 3). Ultimately, the worship of man is worship of Satan because it is his lie.

Peter (2 Peter 3:1-13) and Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-9) warned of the perilous times ahead that will result from believing Satan’s lie. The circumstances they describe are now evident. Attempts by mankind to improve itself have proven and will prove futile. Knowledge may have increased but character has not changed. Education has not improved man’s character. It has opened up new ways to express sinfulness. Turning from God, who alone gives life, means a decline into physical and spiritual death (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27). Deifying mankind will not prevent climate change in the future (see e.g. Revelation 6:12-17). Human effort to save this world will prove futile. Only Jesus Christ’s return will save the world (Matthew 24:22). Yes, we should care for our environment as a delegated responsibility from God (Genesis 2:15) but not as an act of deified mankind in defiance of our Creator (Revelation 4:11).

Face to Face

Face to Face

“I hope to see you shortly and we shall speak face to face”

3 John 14 (see also 2 John 12)

Letters and emails are terribly impersonal and can often be misunderstood. The reader is inclined to read their own thoughts and circumstances into the letter received. It can also be difficult to convey a message clearly on the phone. John had a message for his readers that he did not want misunderstood so he wanted to speak to them face to face. There have been many times that I have gone out of my way to speak to someone face to face because I didn’t want to risk confusion that may arise from a letter.

As we read the Bible we observe that the Lord appeared to quite a few men face to face at times when He wanted to communicate important information. He appeared to Abraham on several occasions in the process of making and confirming the Covenant. Each time more information was given and/or affirmed. He also met with Jacob face to face before he was permitted to re-enter the Promised Land (Genesis 32:30).

Moses met the Lord face to face on several occasions beginning at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6). He was the only one who could communicate with the Lord after Israel’s rebellion and he spoke with the Lord face to face (Exodus 33:11). Before the conquest of the Promised Land Joshua met the Lord face to face (Joshua 5:14) and so did Gideon prior to battle (Judges 6:22).

The Lord promised He would speak with Israel face to face when they are restored to the Promised Land (Ezekiel 20:35). When Jesus returns and establishes His earthly kingdom He will fulfil this (Ezekiel 39:28-29). Others saw visions of the Lord that caused them to fall on their faces before Him (e.g. Daniel 10:5-6).

Job knew that one day he would see the Lord face to face (Job 19:25-26). The apostle Paul had that expectation as well (1 Corinthians 13:12) and John confirms that all believers will see Jesus face to face (Revelation 22:4). When we have an important message for someone we prefer to give it face to face. The Lord speaks to us through His word, affirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but to convey the Gospel to an unsaved person the Lord’s way is (generally) to send His messenger to speak face to face. This remains the most effective way. Jesus was the first such messenger; and if we are His, we are now His messengers.

Warning Every Person

“We speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts”

1 Thessalonians 2:4

When Paul wrote that God tests the hearts of His people he was not writing anything new. In Psalm 66 we find the same revelation. “You, O God have tested us” (v 10) with the result that they were refined as silver is refined. God not only allows but purposely creates or provokes circumstances by which what we think we believe is tested. The purpose is to expose what is really in our heart. The heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) so we are very glad that God reveals those areas where we are deceived or in error that He wishes to correct. He also reinforces areas where our hearts are right.

In this letter Paul wants us to allow the Holy Spirit to test our hearts. Tests will reveal where we are right and where we are not right. Allowing the Holy Spirit to test our hearts will reveal the extent to which the Holy Spirit has us. All true Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling but to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) means that the Holy Spirit has us. At its root this means a humble and teachable spirit toward God.

If we are trying to please men we will not share the Gospel with them. This may be because we fear what they may think of us, say about us or do to us. If we are trying to please God we will share the Gospel and let Him deal with their responses. This is the context of Paul’s letter, especially chapter two verses one to twelve. If we are seeking the praise of men we are not seeking the praise of God (v 6). The two are mutually exclusive.

From time to time I reflect on what this will mean when all the unsaved appear before the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15) with Christ on that throne and myself and all believers with Him. How many unsaved will look over to me questioning why I didn’t warn them?

The Lord declared Ezekiel a watchman for the house of Israel (Ezekiel 3:17-19). Ezekiel didn’t ask for it. It came with the Lord setting him apart as a prophet to Israel. The church has been set apart to warn all peoples of the world of the wrath to come and of God’s wonderful Gift of life in Jesus Christ that is able to deliver them from that wrath. In Colossians 1:28 Paul writes, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

Appealing to Pride

“We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God”

Daniel 6:5

Because Daniel was faithful in all his service and work (v 4) he was much liked by king Darius (v 3) and he was raised to authority over all other leaders and governors (vv 1 & 2). This aroused jealousy and greed in those under him and they formed a lobby group to plot his demise. They could find no just accusation against him to present to the king so they had to manufacture one and they knew that it would have to be in relation to his worship of his God.

Their scheme involved deceiving and manipulating the king by appealing to his pride. Satan has used this tactic frequently through history – because it worked and still works. Only a person who walks humbly with God (Micah 6:8) has any protection from this tactic.

Pride allowed the king to be deceived and manipulated into signing what was essentially Daniel’s death warrant. Satan’s goal has been and remains to utterly destroy Israel. If Israel is destroyed then Messiah will have no kingdom to return to and God will be proven unfaithful to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Protection of Daniel meant protection of Israel.

In recent years we have seen a lobby group seeking the demise of God’s faithful people. Like the governors of Daniel’s day they could find no legal reason to silence them so they sought to bring into being a law that would put God’s people at odds with the government. They deceived and manipulated political leaders and the people in order to have laws passed that they hoped would silence God’s people. Whether their appeal was to pride or greed in our politicians could be debated. Either way, the politicians wanted to be re-elected. Satan wants to destroy the faithful church as well as Israel.

Daniel was delivered from the lions’ mouths and the faithful church will be delivered from Satan’s power and from God’s wrath that is to come (Revelation 3:10). Those who plotted against Daniel were all destroyed (Daniel 6:24) as will all who plot against Christ’s church. To plot against Christ’s faithful church is to plot against the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Acts 9:1-5; Colossians 1:18) and, like king Darius, He will turn judgment back on those who plotted against Him.

It is God’s Battle

“You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!”

2 Chronicles 20:17

This occasion is one of several where God gave Israel victory without them having to draw a sword. Three armies had combined and were making ready to attack Judah, including Jerusalem. King Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and his prayer is a model for us all. He acknowledged God as Creator and sovereign (v 6), and appealed to the covenant He made with Abraham (v 7). He then submitted himself and the people to the Lord’s word and command (v 12). In response, God reminded him that it was not his battle but God’s (v 15).

The king was told to set himself and the people of Judah as spectators. Before they did this, because they believed the word of the Lord (v 19, 20) and they worshipped the Lord in prayer, praise and singing (v 22). Then they went out to witness God’s victory.

They observed a dispute arise among the three armies. This resulted in two of the armies destroying the third and then the two remaining armies disputing further and destroying each other (v 23). No one escaped (v 24).

This is by no means the only time that Israel’s enemies had disputes among themselves such that they fought among themselves without touching Israel. We can observe this happening in part today. Remember that Iran is not Arabic, it is Persian. Iran is currently attempting to re-establish the Persian Empire to pre-eminence as it was centuries ago. This means subjugating all Arab states, Egypt, Israel and parts of Europe and Africa – as a start! That it uses religion to validate war to promote its ideology is nothing new to history. It concerns the Arabic states that Iran is gaining a stronghold in Syria and boasting of having infiltrated others.

At present, the nations that have been threatening Israel’s existence are disputing and fighting among themselves and therefore ineffective against Israel. As in the days of King Jehoshaphat, the battle is God’s and He will confuse His enemies. The key difference so far is that Israel is yet to seek the Lord and pray, as Jehoshaphat had done, appealing to the Lord’s covenant with Abraham. When they do, they will again be spectators as God destroys His, and their, enemies (Revelation 19:15).