Jesus Is Coming Soon, Look at the Signs

Jesus Is Coming Soon, Look at the Signs

If you talk to religious people much, it will likely not be long until they say to you, “I believe the world is about to come to an end, look at all the signs.” Televangelists and pastors are making thousands of dollars selling their books which lead their followers to believe the end is near. It is ironic that this profiteering has been happening for over fifty years, yet the world still stands. There must be something wrong with this widespread belief that the end is near.

Signs?  For who?  For when?  These are good questions.

Signs? For who? For when? These are good questions.

It was just days before Jesus’ death when He walked through the temple and spoke of the time when not one stone of that beautiful building would be left upon another. He left the temple and went to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples continued this conversation and asked about signs which would precede the day when that happened. Read Mark’s record of their questions about these signs. “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:4). A few verses later, Jesus also said, “So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the door. Assuredly I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”

Look at how Luke records this same conversation. “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place” (Luke 21:7)? Jesus said, “So you also when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Luke 21:32).

Now contrast what Jesus said with what is said by so many today. Jesus said that these disciples who heard His words would see every sign. All of these things were to happen in that generation. Televangelists say these signs could not have been seen by these disciples for all of that generation are dead. It is our generation, not theirs, which is now seeing them! Whom should I believe? Jesus or modern evangelists?

Jesus gave about eight signs, and then He spoke of the final sign. When the gospel of the Kingdom had been preached to all the world the end would come (Matt. 24:14). That would be the final sign, and when that happened the end would come. The only question to be asked is when was the gospel preached in all the world. Let God show us the answer. Hear this message from heaven. “The gospel that you heard and which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23). Those signs had dealt with the end of the Jewish world, the generation of the first century. There are no signs given which will indicate His return to judge all mankind (Matt. 24:35-36; 1 Thess. 5:1-3).

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Preachers and Their Demise

Preachers and Their Demise

I recently read on a church leadership lectureship flyer that the church is losing approximately 600 preachers per year, while replacing only about 300 over that same time span. Although those numbers initially seemed staggering to me (especially when you factor in that in all likelihood, a sizeable percentage of those 300 preachers produced may not remain faithful to the scriptures in all things when the going gets tough), and while I do not know the source of their research, speaking from personal observation and experience, sadly, tragically, I can certainly believe it.

What will happen to that bright eyed preacher?

What will happen to that bright eyed preacher?

I have seen more than one fine, biblically sound, faithful young man go into the ministry, land a full-time preaching position with a congregation that had, apparently, in some way indicated they wanted someone who would only preach the truth of God’s word, just to find out a little later on that that wasn’t quite the case at all. In fact, it was borderline dishonest – if not outright false. This is because what their leadership REALLY wanted, was someone who would certainly pay enough lip service to the truth to still make them feel good, but who, in all reality, would be more concerned about and consumed with the numbers in the pews and the plates than they were with whether or not God’s word was being fully and truly proclaimed. The way such congregational leadership should have written their job description in order to make it more honest and less misleading, would have been something along the lines of: “Wanted: Preacher who is faithful to and will proclaim the whole, entire, Biblical truth in all things – JUST SO LONG AS that truth is neither offensive, uncomfortable, or inconvenient to/for anyone, and ESPECIALLY as it pertains to our immediate family and personal friends!”

Tragically, I have known of more than one fine, faithful, and Biblically sound preacher who has accepted employment, uprooted his family, and then relocated them all far from home in order to preach and teach God’s word for just such a congregation, investing himself fully in the work – only to be fired or feel forced to leave within a fairly short amount of time. This, because his only ‘crime’ was that he dared to preach exactly what the timeless word of almighty God says about such sins as alcoholic consumption, adulterous relationships, apostate worship practices, or some other clearly God-defined sin, which either the leadership there or someone else in their immediate family dearly loved indulging in and would do anything to continue justifying and practicing.

There have been other instances wherein faithful men, messengers, and proclaimers of God’s word have been severely reprimanded for simply doing exactly what the very sinless Jesus, as well as His very faithful apostles did, in their all-out efforts to seek to help save lot souls in the first century: Be ready and willing to boldly challenge, strongly correct, and fully identify – yes, and that absolutely and scripturally includes doing so by name, when necessary – those zealously religious people who are yet still Biblically wrong (Matt. 22:29-32, 23:1-33; Rom. 10:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:18-20; 3 Jn. 9+10; Rev. 2:6, 9, 14-16, 20-23, and 3:14-19)! Yes; the sinless Son of the living God; the God who is love incarnate; Jesus, the loving God in the flesh who came to earth to save us from our sins, in His warnings to His people, continually named the names while exposing the false and man-made teachings of the major and more well-known religious denominations of His day (Matt. 15:7-9; Mk. 7:5-13). Read through the gospels again and see for yourself. How many times does Jesus publically name, confront, correct, and/or expose the erroneous and false teachings of, while unashamedly and righteously naming the names of, either the Scribes, the Pharisees, or the Sadducees? To do so two millennia ago was not a sin according to God, nor is it a sin for God’s faithful messengers to do the same thing regarding the zealous but erroneous man-made religious denominations of our day. In fact, they are commanded by God Himself, to do nothing less (Rom. 16:17-18; Eph. 5:3-17).

And then, there is what is to me, one of the most tragic, toxic, and terrifying statement tandems I have ever heard. It is one which I have heard voiced in some form or fashion, on two separate occasions, by two different congregations’ leaderships, in two different discussions, regarding their faithful preacher’s departure. It is a statement tandem which spells nothing but spiritual disaster for any congregation cursed enough to have allowed such ‘leadership’ to be put in place to rule over them. These two statements, both taken from two different points within the same conversation in each case, when considered side by side with one another, rate right up there with the Jew’s statement in response to Pilate’s question regarding what to do with Jesus in Matthew 27:25 wherein it states “His blood be on us and our children.” What is this toxic statement mixture made by two different congregational leaderships regarding the departure of their faithful preacher (whether he was fired or simply felt forced to leave)? Some semblance of the following: “We have never heard or seen Him preach, teach, or do anything unscriptural,” followed shortly thereafter by some form of the statement, “We just want to go in a different direction.” Do you understand exactly what that means? Stop and think about it for a moment – because those who do not do so in depth now, might just be mournfully re-thinking it throughout all eternity!

Another statement one congregation’s leadership was reported as making in light of their looking for a new preacher (after the departure of the previous faithful one due to their dismal lack of willingness to repent and obey the truth he preached), was along the lines that they needed a man who “preached the truth and would fit in [there].” That was a simply impossible sentiment to fulfill! Because if he, like their previous truth-proclaiming preacher, actually did preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), then for that very reason he could not possibly “fit in” there – any more than the man who had just left! In such a situation, one of two things is bound to happen. Either some young man full of Biblical knowledge and a desire to preach and teach the truth could come along, try his best, discover the real truth, that they didn’t really want the whole truth, and then be forced to once again seek employment elsewhere; or else someone with a less than scriptural agenda could come along, tickle that congregation’s ears with just enough truth to keep them comfortable, while helping them to happily continue their journey in the wrong direction, away from God and heaven (2 Tim. 4:3-4; Isa. 30:8-15)

I believe so many of our young men who only want to preach, teach, and practice the word of God, start out with such a heart full of faith, hope, and love; love for the Lord, His truth, their brethren, and the lost. And then they take a position as the preacher for some congregation that has advertised themselves as wanting the whole truth taught – only to eventually discover the real truth, that nothing could be further from the truth, when it comes to certain sins and subjects; certain subjects such as marriage, divorce, and remarriage; adultery; immodesty; immorality; disfellowship; denominations; the essentiality of baptism both for and before salvation can occur; so-called ‘social drinking;’ plus a whole host of other God-addressed topics. These men then often feel discouraged, abandoned, lied to, heartbroken, and disillusioned. Several I know of have actually sought and obtained secular occupations in the aftermath of such disheartening, destructive, and debilitating spiritual experiences. As a result, our brotherhood has suffered – and continues to suffer – the loss of a number of good, solid, faithful, full-time preachers from her pulpits – some 300 or so per year according to the initial report referred to above.

Additionally, have you ever stopped to consider this question: Why is it that these good and faithful men of God and their families suddenly and somehow have to now up and move on, relocating once again because he simply sought to preach the truth the way God calls and commands him to? Why should the faithful preacher and his family have to pay the price for someone else’s continued impenitence, disobedience, and indulgence in soul-destroying sin – especially when the preacher was the one who loved them enough to try to correct them and get them back on the straight and narrow pathway to heaven? Should not being removed from the group be something that the impenitent sinner should be forced to do instead? It is if and when a congregation and their leadership actually loves the Lord and His church enough to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (1 Cor. 5:1-13).

Listen brethren; real, loving, godly, biblical truth, is always offensive to someone. Jesus seldom ever opened His mouth without offending someone or exposing somebody’s own particular pet sin. Go back and re-read the accounts of the sermons the apostle Paul preached during his three missionary journeys. Look at what happened to him as a result. God’s truth is always, both offensive, uncomfortable, and inconvenient to any and every one of those proud and self-absorbed sinners who is simply unwilling to accept, submit to, and obey it. That’s why it’s called a sword (Eph. 6:17; Hebs. 4:12) instead of a pillow – IT CUTS! It cuts all the way to the heart, soul, and spirit – when and if it’s properly preached that is (Acts 2:37, 7:54; Hebs. 4:12). And if it doesn’t, then it isn’t. Remember: Scripture plainly shows that any person or preacher who is primarily out to please men instead of God, is certainly no servant of God (Gal. 1:10, 4:16; Jn. 12:42-48).

If you and the congregation where you work and worship is blessed enough by God to have a Biblically-sound and Scripturally-faithful man in the pulpit – one who preaches and teaches the full, absolute, and unadulterated word of God no matter how offensive, uncomfortable, or inconvenient it may seem to some (because after all, the number of souls in heaven are more important to both him and you than the number of people in the pews and pennies in the plates) – then he is worth immeasurably more than his spiritual weight in pure gold! Love him, listen to him, work with him, defend him, protect him, and never let him go!

However, if you’re possibly part of some congregational leadership team that is in the process of seeking a new evangelist, but you only want one that will tickle ears, toss out pillows, and not take on the tougher topics in accordance with exactly what the truth of God’s word says about them, then do yourself and our brotherhood a colossal favor. If you only want a preacher who will preach the soft stuff so as to try not to offend anyone (because numbers in the pews and plates are somehow more important to you than numbers through the “pearly gates”); and/or if you have somehow allowed yourself to be deceived by Satan into believing that it’s more loving to let someone living in sin continue to set in the pews unchallenged and headed for hell rather than to tell them the truth so they can at least have a chance to repent and get right with God before it’s too late; then please, at least strive to be honest enough to admit it in your advertising for a new evangelist. After all, if you are possibly someone like that – God forbid, but if you are – then you’re going to have enough problems answering for that and the lost souls you’re responsible for helping to lead astray and destroy by your not wanting the whole counsel of God preached come Judgment Day (Hebs. 13:17), without having to answer for additionally being part of the problem which may have helped to lead to the departure of some of the 300 brotherhood preachers per year from the Lord’s pulpits.

And to my much-beloved, faithful to the Scriptures at all cost, whole counsel of God preaching brethren, may I remind you that your charge from God has not changed in the least. It is still found in 2 Tim. 4:1-5. And neither has His blessed admonition regarding you changed. See: Lk. 6:20-26; Jn. 15:18-16:3.

GOD BLESS… & PREACH THE WORD!

 

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Justice Doesn’t Reward Lies

Justice Doesn’t Reward Lies

While God is most certainly a God of love, we should also never forget that He is also a God of justice. Thus the apostle urged us to “consider both the goodness and the severity of God.” (Romans 11:22a)

While the New Testament focuses more heavily on the goodness of God, there are occasional and important reminders of His severity also. For instance, as one begins reading through the book of Acts, observing the beginning and early growth of the church, we are moved by the generosity of the saints, one for another, as those with many possessions sold what they had in order to take care of those with fewer (cf. Acts 2:44-45) The love of God was at work in the church. One Christian, a man named Joses, was so generous and so loving, that the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas – meaning “Son of Encouragement.” (Acts 4:36-37) However, following the uplifting account of Barnabas, we then read about Ananias and Saphira (cf. Acts 5:1-11)

All lying will eventually catch up to you.

All lying will eventually catch up to you.

This husband and wife had some land, and coveting the acclaim others, like Barnabas, had received, they sold the land and decided to give to the church. But they didn’t want to give it all. They wanted to give just enough to make it look like they were generous people. So they concocted a lie about the value of the property, gave a portion of the money to the church, having determined to keep the rest for themselves. And God struck them dead for it, on the spot. One moment they were lying to the apostles about money, the next moment they were dead (cf. Acts 5:5, 10)

Consider the goodness, and the severity, of God. Being struck dead is, most people would probably agree, a rather severe punishment for lying.

There are numerous valuable lessons that one can glean from the actions of God regarding Ananias and Saphira. Many commentators rightly pointed out that God, who was working signs and wonders through the apostles, wanted people to know that Christianity was not a casual social experience. The church was not meant to be a vehicle by which one promoted one’s self in the community. If you were going to be a Christian, you needed to be serious about it.

Others also point out, rightly, that the text makes it clear that Christians are also meant to take the Holy Spirit, who was even then working through the apostles, quite seriously. The Holy Spirit, who was giving men the Word of God, and confirming that Word through the work of the Apostles, was God, and was to be treated with all reverence. Lying to the Holy Spirit was not a small thing.

With that being said, the most immediate lesson is actually rather a simply one: don’t tell lies. The sin of Ananias and Saphira was that of lying. They had lied about money. And God most certainly did not approve of the behavior.

Quite a few people have convinced themselves that there are greater sins and lesser sins. Quite often, grouped into the category of “lesser sins,” is the concept of the white lie: an untruth that doesn’t actually hurt anyone. Lies about money, income, and the like, are also often justified as being mere expedients.

When we are tempted to believe such things, we should take a step back mentally, and remind ourselves that God has never taught such a thing. To the contrary, the Bible is quite clear in this regard. Among those things God abhors is a “lying tongue.” (cf. Proverbs 6:17) We are commanded to “put away lying.” (cf. Ephesians 4:25) And we are severely warned that unforgiven lies are a sin which brings eternal condemnation and a place in the lake of fire. (cf. Revelation 21:8)

If we were to doubt just how serious God was about this whole business of honesty and truth-telling, we have only to remind ourselves of how God treated Ananias and Saphira for their lies. And while God does not make a habit of striking people dead on the spot, He obviously wanted to get across a message, and did it in a rather pointed way.

So next time you are wondering whether it would be right or wrong to tell a particular lie, or the next time you try to justify telling a lie to yourself, stop, remember the warning of Ananias and Saphira, and remind yourself, “Yes, lying is always wrong.”

 

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