Posted in discernment, theology

Are you drifting toward only wanting your ears tickled?

By Elizabeth Prata

This essay first appeared on The End Time in November 2010.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…” (2 Timothy 4:3)

Do you notice that word “endure”? The verse does not say “they will not like sound doctrine…” It does not say “they will not enjoy sound doctrine…” It doesn’t even say “they will not accept sound doctrine.” It uses the word endure. When you endure something, you writhe. You wish you were not there in the midst of it. If anyone has ever undergone physical therapy, you know that you have to endure it but if you could you would shoot out of the gym so fast you’d be like a speeding bullet. If anyone has ever had to get a root canal, you know that you endure it. You do not seek it, you do not like it, and if you could, you go away from it.

That is the process by which lukewarm Christians, fake Christians, and unholy pastors feel about the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. To be sure, the true Gospel of the Risen Savior is full of warm fuzzies. He loves us. (John 13:1). He prospers us. (2 Corinthians 9:8). He sends angels to us. (Hebrews 1:14). But the True Gospel is also full of truth, the unpalatable truth that the iniquitous lawless cannot endure: we are sinners. (Psalm 51:5). Rejection of the remedy for your sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) means you will spend eternity in torment, apart from God. That there is nothing good in us. (Mark 10:18). That we are fallen, craven, and deserve judgment. No, they will not endure that. So they don’t.

Instead they seek teachers to tempt us with what the devil has always tempted us with, and tempted Jesus too: health, wealth, fame. (Luke 4:1-13). They may find it in some “preachers” and in some “churches”, but it is for a season. Hebrews 11:25). Most do not find prosperity in health, wealth and fame. The only ones becoming famous and rich are the false pastors who urge the hapless and desperate to send money.

In his series, “Toxic Television: Unmasking the Prosperity Gospel part 1” Bible teacher John MacArthur spends a few minutes below of his one-hour sermon (linked above) explaining why Joel Osteen is false, dangerous, and unholy. He also spends time explaining why the Trinity Broadcast Network is also false, dangerous and unholy. MacArthur says, Osteen “is a quasi-pantheist where Jesus is a footnote that satisfies his critics and deceives his followers.” As for Osteen’s book, MacArthur says ‘Your Best Life Now’, the title, is a dead giveaway. The only way you can have your best life now is if you’re going to hell.”

Toxic Television: Unmasking the Prosperity Gospel part 1

A watered down gospel removes the book-end to the parts that they seek love and only ‘love’. The missing book-end is judgment. They will not endure sound teaching of His holiness involving love but also including righteous judgment.

“I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness
And will not turn back,
That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
“They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’
Men will come to Him,
And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. (Isaiah 45:23-24)

A watered down gospel that removes the other book-end is less filling but it tastes great. The Bible shows us that the True Gospel tastes great, and also the watered down false Gospel tastes great. In the verses telling us of Ezekiel’s commission,

Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.” (Ez 3:1-3).

The true word absorbed by submissive believers is sweet. But it is also sometimes accompanied by a bitterness felt by even the most beloved of followers, even the most obedient of disciples. Sometimes the true word is hard to hear and bitter even for believers, because it reveals to us the true state of our sinfulness, our sorrow over our sin, and the fate of those who refuse His hand, those mockers and scorners whom we mourn over-

I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.” (Rev 10:10)

The only way to endure the knowledge of judgment that is coming is to rest on His truth and His promises. Those who do not rest in that truth, bitter as it sometimes is, do not endure it. Not only have they stopped asking the Spirit for wisdom, but they simply stop ingesting the sweet Words of the LORD and they flee away, being unstable in all they do.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)

But we do endure! Paul said to in 2 Tim 2:3, 10. Peter said to in 1 Peter 2:20. The writer in Hebrews 12:7 advised us to endure. Endure what? Hardship. Beatings. Wrongdoing. Life. Hardship. Persecution. And there are those today who cannot sit still in a chair or a pew and ‘endure’ the Word of the Living God who loves them. They seek tickling instead. They are gaining the world only to lose their lives forever.

Has solid preaching become an endurance test for you? Or are the hard but truthful words uplifting to you and filling in every way? If you have recently changed churches because the pastor is “a little too Bible thumping for my taste”, or have drifted away from regular worship lately because the sermons are too long, too convicting, or demand endurance on the part of your deceitful heart, then ask yourself if you are really just trying to accumulate a teacher in accordance with your own desires, and are wanting your ears tickled with a less filling but great tasting sermon. If so, you may be at risk.

Why at risk? Because we all live forever in eternity in one of two places. The day will come when the eternity you are beginning will either not have the word endure associated with it, which is heaven, or it will have the word endure associated with it, for an eternity!

You may try to avoid enduring a convicting sermon from a ticklish teacher today, but the end result will be that you will have to endure an eternity separated from Him in torment. O, faithful one, let it not be so!

 

Posted in theology

On Every High Hill…

By Elizabeth Prata

‘Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD’.

For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree. 24There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel. (1 Kings 14:23-24).

Reading through 1 Kings is just killing me. I mourn, cry the sins of Israel & Judah, and then take a look at myself and my own sins and idols and mourn some more. We’re no different than the folks in that book, but when such abominable sins stain from the bottom right up to the top, the kings and rulers, it’s a sure course toward judgment, individually and nationally. And it sure came. Reading the book, remember this really happened. God really judged King Jeroboam and the result surely came to pass.

you also have done more evil than all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods and molten images to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back— 10therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone. 11″Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat. And he who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat; for the LORD has spoken it.'” (1 Kings 14:9-11).

I think I exclaimed out loud when I read it. Woe! Any individual failure to follow the commands of God resulted in judgment. Any failure of the nation to follow the commands of God resulted in judgment. Any failure of the Kings God had raised up to follow the commands of God resulted in judgment.

One part of the above verse in the chapters I read this morning really got to me: “on every high hill”. They worshiped their false gods by building altars and pillars and poles on the high places, which they thought brought them closer to heaven.

Do we individually here in America, or as a nation, or think our rulers and judges and governors will escape judgment as they not only turn their backs on God but applaud themselves for doing so? Here in America we have abominations ON EVERY HIGH HILL. Planned Parenthood facilities (baby killing stations), false religions welcomed and spoken of highly, homosexuality flags waving from high places and more and worse.

My friend Pastor Phil wrote this morning:

“In my reading of Romans 1:18-32, I believe we as a nation are not aware of that God’s judgment is upon us. How? First, God has given us over to the “lusts of our hearts.” Second, God has given us over to “dishonorable passions,” specifically homosexuality. Third, God has given us over to a “debased minds.” Moreover, those who give their approval to those who practice these unrighteous actions are just as guilty. The only hope for our nation and those who do not honor the Lord is to repent of these sins and to turn to Jesus Christ for His forgiveness and new life.”

I pray for individuals to be saved by being given the spirit of repentance, and I pray for leaders. But I also pray for the Lord to soon come. It’s hard to see so much sin & evil every day ON EVERY HIGH HILL.

But I am also grateful and joyful. He has given me eternal life. He has given me knowledge of the Savior. He has given me the mind of Christ, a mind that was once as debased as all the others on the high hill. He has given me life, joy, purpose, and illuminating wisdom from scripture.

As Paul ruminated, we are torn. We decry the evil that’s in the world, it feels almost like it must have to Noah, but again, we remain on earth to do His work and His will, which is also good. I’m grateful the world did not end before I myself was saved. Others being saved today and tomorrow and the next will no doubt feel the same. So as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21-24,

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.

I don’t know for whose sake He is keeping me here, lol. The work I do for Jesus is certainly not as significant as Paul’s was, but if the Lord is pleased to keep me here on earth to do His will and work, then I am relieved I have the Spirit to pray to for help in withstanding the woes and griefs and traps of the sin and evil all around.

What a Savior. His ways are transparent but inscrutable. This we know though: The evil on every high hill will not stand in the end. The idols and poles and altars will melt away and righteousness will reign. Jesus is higher than every high hill and His power exceeds the evil that satan can do. Hallelujah.

high hill

Posted in prophecy, theology

What are the Seven Thunders of Revelation?

By Elizabeth Prata

*The answer to the question I posed in the title is, “I don’t know. No one knows.”

100_2097moon at sunset pixlr red sky
EPrata photo

The Seven Thunders seem to be a part of the series of judgments in the Book of Revelation. I say “seem to be” because the words were not allowed to be written down, so we cannot be sure that they specifically are judgments. However, coming in sequence after the Seal and Trumpet judgments, and before the Bowl judgments, it seems that the mysterious Thunders may be judgments as too.

Given that thunder is the voice of God in judgment, it seems to further the notion that these mysteriously sealed instructions may be judgments.

John MacArthur wrote of the Seven Thunders in his book Because the Time is Near:

The seven peals of thunder did not merely make a loud noise, but communicated information that John was about to write. In obedience to God’s commands, John had already written much of what he saw in his visions. Later in Revelation, John would once again be commanded to write what he saw in his visions. (14:13; 19:9; 21:5).
But before John could record the message of the seven peals of thunder, he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.”Whether the voice was that of the Father, or Jesus Christ, or an angel is not revealed. The command, however, clearly originated with God. The reason John was forbidden to record the message is not revealed. It may be that the judgments were simply too terrifying to be recorded. Any speculation as to the content of their message is pointless. If God wanted it to be known, He would not have forbidden John to write it. They are the only words in the book of Revelation that are sealed.

Let’s focus in on the “too terrifying” part of the reasoning here. In all the apocalyptic movies I’ve ever seen specifically related to the Tribulation, they are all uniformly sanitized. In other words, the horrific reality of the Tribulation as depicted in the Bible’s Book of Revelation has been visually watered down to be as non-reflective of the reality of a cellophane wrapped hamburger meat at Publix is compared to the blood, filth and messiness of a low-rent butchery. And even that is not reflective of the reality of what is coming.

The non-Christian apocalyptic movies movies I’ve seen, Threads, The War Game, and It’s A Disaster, were harrowing and soul-slaying. Their real depiction of nuclear or nerve gas apocalypse stayed with me for a long time. The War Game was commissioned by the BBC to specificaly illustrate the horrors of nuclear war and the BBC Board found the movie too realistic to be released. For thirty years itlanguished in a closet. Yet even that film doesn’t go the distance of what the reality of the Tribulation will be like in terms of nuclear horror and death. People just do not understand what it really means when Jesus promised it to be a time of distress exceeding even the time of the Flood. (Matthew 24:21). And remember, that was a time when everybody on earth horribly died. (Except 8 people).

So here is Oliver B. Greene in his Verse-By-Verse Study of Revelation, on the Seven Thunders’ terror:

Thunder is the voice of the Lord in judgment (I Samuel 7:10, Psalm 18:13). The seven thunders “uttered their voices.” (John assumes that the readers already have Some knowledge of these seven thunders.) In Revelation 4:2, 3 John saw a throne encircled by a rainbow, and here in chapter ten we see the same rainbow. In Revelation 4 John saw upon the throne One who was to look upon as a jasper and a sardine stone, and “out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices.” In chapter 10, we have the same thunder, sounding out a message of God’s fury and judgment.

The seven thunders are the judgment thunders from the throne of God. When the Lion of the Tribe of Judah roars, as on the eve of bounding forth upon His prey, the seven thunders utter their roaring voices as in full sympathy and agreement with what is about to proceed in righteous vengeance and holy fury from the throne of eternal majesty. Personality is attributed to these “seven thunders.” Everything is in sympathy with the Lamb of God. These mighty thunders utter messages that are intelligible . . . they speak words. John heard what they said – and when the time comes in reality, the seven thunders will speak literal words that earth’s dwellers will fully understand. It will be a message in tones of thunder. We use a public address system to amplify voices when we want to be heard – but God needs no amplification. He can speak like mighty thunder – and He WILL when the time comes!

At the beginning of these marvelous visions, John was commanded to write in a book what he saw and heard – past, present and future. But when the thunders spoke, John was given another command. He was about to write – but a voice from Heaven said: “Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not!” The seven thunders must have given a terrible message. Already set before us are blood, tears, famine, heartache and heartbreak; killing, misery, hail, fire, burning mountains, demon monstrosities, men begging to die and unable to do so. Surely what John was forbidden to write must have been beyond human imagination and understanding! There is no need to speculate on what the thunders said. Your guess is as good as mine; but you may rest assured that the message had to do with God’s last gigantic, unheard of, indescribable judgment, when God “lowers the boom” in utter destruction.

Will YOU be on earth when the seven thunders speak? You are the only one who can answer that question. If you are born again you will NOT be here – but if you are not born again, you may be here. Read John 1:11-12, 3:16-18, 3:36, 5:24; Romans 10:9-10, 10:13, 10:17; Ephesians 2:8-9; I John 1:9. Read these verses, hear what they say; receive them – and you will not be here when the seven thunders utter their message of destruction. You will be with Jesus.

Imagine a message that exceeds the terror and blood of all that had already previously been spoken. Or if that was not the case, imagine a message that was so tremendously powerful it needed to be sealed from our tender brains until the moment they would be spoken during the Tribulation.

Prophecy is supposed to motivate us to witness, and yet the reality of the judgments of souls in rebellion to God is omitted from the message of the Good News. How terrible that it’s omitted so often these days, when the days are coming that many will be living it!

May this essay motivate you to read Revelation, to pray for wisdom and understanding of the coming days, to receive the promised blessing for having read it,, and for its words to be a catalyst in your heart for the lost who are under that very “boom” Greene mentioned, soon to be lowered…

*This essay first appeared on The End Time in January 2016

Posted in bible reading plan, Uncategorized

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The Terrible Duty of Truth

Our Bible Reading Plan for today brings us to some difficult Psalms, Psalms 9-11.

I love these Psalms where David exhorts to God for justice, for the wicked to perish, for nations that rebel to be put down.

In today’s loving and tolerant climate, such imprecations are seen as unworthy of the Christian.

But they’re not.

The wicked (as we all were, to be sure) who reject the kingship of Messiah and refuse to repent, do polluted things against our most Holy God. These things are evil, they are wrong, they are a grief and a cause for mourning in the Christian that our God should have mud splattered on His holy name. We concentrate so long on the wicked person, praying for salvation, urging repentance, we forget the reason we do these things is to proclaim the name of Jesus among men and urge men everywhere to repent of the evil they do against Him.

I’m with John MacArthur when he said in his book Found: God’s Will:

“If the truth offends, then let it offend. People have been living their whole lives in offense to God; let them be offended for a while.” John Macarthur

In today’s Psalm, David said

The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. (Psalm 9:17)

O, terrible thought! It gives me no delight to proclaim the fact of hell and the individual’s sure condemnation of those who reject Jesus. It gives no consolation to know that nations will fall into the lake of fire to remain trapped in punishing fire for all eternity. Yet Spurgeon said it so well,

Many of God’s ministers have been accused of taking pleasure in preaching upon this terrible subject of “the wrath to come.” Indeed we would be strange beings if so doleful a subject could afford us any comfort. I should count myself to be infinitely less than a man, if it did not cause me more pain in speaking about the impending sentence of condemnation, than it can possibly cause my hearers in the listening to it.

God’s ministers, I can assure you, if they feel it to be often their solemn duty, feel it always to be a heavy burden to speak about the terrors of the law. To preach Christ is our delight; to uplift his Cross is the joy of our heart; our Master is our witness, we love to blow the silver trumpet, and we have blown it with all our might. But knowing the terror of the Lord, these solemn things lie upon our conscience, and while it is hard to preach about them, it would be harder still to bear the doom which must rest upon the silent minister…

Reminding the world of the wrath to come is part of the terrible duty of truth. We stand firm in it.

duty 2
Photo EPrata
Posted in prophecy

When a sweet smell is foul

Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it. What use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me. (Jeremiah 6:19-20).

The LORD had instituted incense offerings which can be seen in Exodus 30:7-8; Exodus 30:34; 2 Chronicles 13:11. According to Easton’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, from 1897, we read of incense that the sacrifices were

a fragrant composition prepared by the “art of the apothecary.” It consisted of four ingredients “beaten small” (Exodus 30:34-36). That which was not thus prepared was called “strange incense” (30:9). It was offered along with every meat-offering; and besides was daily offered on the golden altar in the holy place, and on the great day of atonement was burnt by the high priest in the holy of holies (Exodus 30:7 Exodus 30:8). It was the symbol of prayer (Psalms 141:1 Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3 Revelation 8:4). Source Easton’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

A Renaissance era pomander container. Source

In today’s verse from Jeremiah we read that the LORD had become angry with a sweet smelling offering that was devoid of obedience and love for His law. An empty sweet smelling fragrance would do nothing to satisfy Him or render the giver justified in any way. It’s ineffective. Instead, such an empty sacrifice incurs wrath.

The notion of ineffective perfumes reminded me of the 14th century bubonic plague remedy. People were told to carry pomanders, which were perfume balls containing herbs, flowers, and spices, either around their neck or in their hand, and to sniff it constantly so as to ward off the disease.

Pomanders are traditionally mixtures of fragrant substances which are often held within a container – although the term can also be applied to the container itself. The odours given off by the mixtures were once believed to offer protection against disease and they are particularly associated with times of plague, from the 1300s onwards. Their use is linked to centuries-old miasma theories which suggested that disease was transmitted through foul-smelling air. Keeping a sweet-smelling pomander close by was believed to offer protection.

Miasma theory posited that disease was carried by a cloud of poisonous vapor in the air, which was created by decay and could be identified by a bad smell. Following the logic that bad smelling air carried disease, it makes perfect sense that you could “cure” the air by making it smell good. Hence the perfume. And the long nose to stuff good smelling material into.

It seems silly to think that a perfume ball containing a few herbs and sweet-smelling spices would protect one from bubonic plague! But just as silly were the Jews who thought that they could disobey Him all day long and at the end offer the Lord God a sweet smelling offering and everything would be all right. Such empty fragrances do nothing to ward off the disease of sin. Nor would they protect one from wrath and judgment.

So what would satisfy His wrath and stay His judgment?

Thus says the LORD:
Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls
(Jeremiah 6:16)

The good way is traveling the road of His word. It pleases the LORD and it gives rest to the rebellious soul. We also would do well to inquire as to where the good paths are, and walk on them. The sweetest scent of all is obedience.

————————————

Note: Tomorrow- the link between incense and prayer

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday: He will open the door and He will close the door

This essay was first published on The End Time in December 2011.

Do you take the Lord’s power and grace for granted? Have you diminished His Holiness in your mind? Many people in this day and age have. How do I know? They think the Lord will somehow relent, and allow everyone into heaven after all. Or that His mercy is so great and so wide that they will be forgiven, even if they do not know Jesus. Jesus will not relent. His decision is final, and His decrees are sure. If you do not know Jesus on the day you die, you will be cast into hell. If you do not know Jesus on His day of wrath, if you die you will be cast into hell.

Even saying such a thing in this day and age seems like a revolutionary act. People chide us Christians who flatly declare the truth from the Word, that He will not relent. “Our God is a loving God,” they exclaim. “He would never do that!” Well, Remember rebellious Korah who was swallowed by the earth? Remember Uzzah who touched the ark? Remember Ananias and Sapphira, who blasphemed the Spirit by lying to the Apostle? Jesus will not relent, because He is the door.

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9).

He is the only One who opens the door.

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:8).

He is the One who shuts the door.

And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. (Genesis 7:16).

When the ark was filled He shut the door and the rest of the world was judged. And so it will be again, for the unaware.

But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ (Matthew 25:10-12)

He is the King of the Kingdom and it is He who says who enters and who doesn’t. He is the Door. Right now the door is open to all who would repent. It will be shut at the rapture. Not that anyone cannot be saved after the rapture, but with the door shut, you are in the cold, hard world and exposed to believing the lie.

and with all the deceit of unrighteousness in those who perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie,” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11)

Enter now while the door is open. Repent and believe the truth: that Jesus is resurrected Lord and He is the only way to enter the Kingdom. He speaks the truth, and when He says that judgment is coming, believe it. The time will come when the door will be shut. As it says in Isaiah 26:20- “Come, my people, enter you into your chambers, and shut your doors about you: hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation is past.”

While the door was open, they did not listen and believe in Noah’s day:

Sinners before the Flood, 1594 Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem
After the Flood, Circa 1588 Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem

This is what Judgment looks like:

The deluge, Léon Comerre  (1850–1916) 

This is what grace looks like:

Noah’s flood KAULBACH, Wilhelm von (1805-1874)

How so? you ask. How is this grace? The serpents are writhing, the people are dying! Well, don’t focus on the serpents and the people. It is one way we diminish His holiness and His mercy. Focus on Him and His protected righteous and the fact that His promises of salvation are sure. The angels ministering, the ark itself was a lengthy warning to the same people who are now crying for the door to be opened. “Come, my people, enter you into your chambers, and shut your doors about you: hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation is past.” He made a way for the righteous to be saved!

Please answer His call, and repent!

Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.'” (Luke 13:25)

Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9)

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

The global church is bloated with counterfeit Christians

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:22-23).

A few days ago I’d mentioned I had heard a song from 1964 by the Sego Brothers and Naomi called Sorry, I Never Knew You. In the song, a man was dreaming that he was standing before Jesus on Judgment Day and to his shock, he was placed on Jesus’ left. He heard Jesus say to him, “I never knew you.” It was the first Gospel song to sell 1 million copies.

Link to song

The verses in Matthew, to me, are some of the most haunting and devastating prophecies in the Bible. Prophecy is surer than a promise, it will happen. On that day many people who claim to be Christian but are not will try to prove it to Jesus by recounting their deeds in His name, but sadly, they were self-deceived and will be sent to the Lake of Fire for eternal torment instead.

The problem of professing Christians who do not actually possess Him is significant. The global church is bloated with counterfeit Christians, some of whom know they are false and gleefully upset whole families and sneakily pollute their church. (Titus 1:11, Jude 1:4). Others have only a dim clue they are false but never repent or even try to seek him, perhaps lazily believing their deeds will be enough to get them to heaven instead of repentance and faith. Others have no idea at all they are on the broad path to destruction.

External Christianity, professing Christianity possesses millions of people who feel like Christians, who have been induced into thinking they are Christians, who live with the hope of entering heaven and escaping hell, but will find at the end that they were wrong. There are millions of people who claim to believe in Jesus, who use His name who call Him “Lord,” who say they believe in Him, expecting heaven, only to receive hell. John MacArthur

Occasionally someone asks me about their faith as a Christian. They’re doubting. They ask questions or share concerns about the genuineness of their faith. Sadly, I hear others responding to doubters superficially, saying that the doubter should dismiss these doubts out of hand, because ‘it’s just satan messing with you.’

While that certainly could be the case, sometimes the person really isn’t saved. They’ve become genuinely worried when they perceive a major difference between their ‘walk’ with Jesus and others’ walk with Him. These queries should be taken seriously, very seriously. Not everyone who professes faith possesses the Spirit.

RC Sproul often speaks of the difference between a mere profession of faith, and the possession of it. The key is assurance. In this article titled “Faith and Fruit”, Sproul says,

One thing that is sometimes neglected in the discussion of spiritual growth is the fact that the assurance of our salvation contributes mightily to our maturity. If we have a proper understanding of assurance, it becomes an impetus for holy living. When we know that we belong to Jesus, our love for Him motivates us to obey His commands and thus we increasingly display the reality of salvation.

In the final analysis, any assurance we have of salvation is grounded in the person and work of Christ. By His life, death, resurrection, and intercession, He has demonstrated His full ability to save His people. We are justified because of His righteousness, and so the confidence we have in our salvation is not ultimately a confidence that we have in ourselves but a confidence that we have in the Savior.

Despite this fact, an important existential question remains. If true faith is the instrument by which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, how do we know that we have true faith? How do we know that we are not only professing faith but also possessing it?

There are several evidences of true faith. One of the most important is whether or not we have love for Christ at all in our hearts.

Dr Sproul continues with other pieces of evidence. It’s a good article, and short.

In the weeks after I was first saved, I was convinced that I could grow just as much by watching TV preachers and not have to go sit in a congregation. I’d never attended church in my 42 years of life (except for a wedding, baptism, or event as a visitor) and I definitely didn’t want to start. So I stayed at home for almost a year and watched Joel Osteen.

In 2004 he was at the height of his popularity. He was in the throes of buying the Compaq Center which would host the tens of thousands of people that flocked to his church. I liked Osteen for three reasons.

1. He made me feel good.
2. I was fascinated with his rhetorical ability. As a rhetorician and an academic I was interested in how he held an audience week after week, and how he continually crafted his 28-minute ‘story arc’ so perfectly
3. All those tens of thousands of people could not be wrong.

Someone gave me a Bible, thankfully, and once I began comparing what Osteen said with what the Bible said, it was game over. The Spirit exposed Osteen to me as a liar.

But back to the numbers. Many people think that because a church is large or that so many people attended the Crusade and “came forward” or so many youths were saved at camp etc. that these numbers are evidence of genuine conversion. Not so! Quite often, it’s the opposite. (Luke 6:26). I remember a few years ago when John MacArthur hosted the Strange Fire conference. This was a conference designed to scripturally expose practices that are misleading hundreds of millions of people.

Tim Challies live-blogged the conference. He shared the numbers. One objection to the conference was that it was making a big deal of only a small part of the movement, the so-called lunatic fringe. Not so, Challies said.

[Naysayers claim] This issue is only true of the extreme lunatic fringe side of the movement. MacArthur believes that this statement is patently untrue. There is error in this movement all the way through it. 90% of the movement believe in the prosperity gospel. 24 to 25 million of these people deny the Trinity. 100 million in the movement are Roman Catholic. This is not characteristic of the fringe. This is the movement and it grows at a rapid rate.

I want to turn back to Matthew 7:22-23, the verse where Jesus said ‘many will say to me, Lord, Lord…’. I looked up the word “many” in the Greek. In this verse, by Strong’s Greek Dictionary, it is the word polloi, main word polys.

polýs – many (high in number); multitudinous, plenteous, “much”; “great” in amount (extent).
4183 /polýs (“much in number”) emphasizes the quantity involved. 4183 (polýs) “signifies ‘many, numerous’; . . . with the article it is said of a multitude as being numerous” (Vine, Unger, White, NT, 113,114) – i.e. great in amount.

Do you see the issue??? ‘Many’ is an exceedingly great number! A great quantity. It’s not just the jungle tribesman who will be rejected, not just the militant atheist. It is possibly the woman sitting next to you in the pew! Maybe the youth who served on all the committees! Hopefully not the long-term deacon!

I’m not saying that we should go around looking askance at every person in the church, suspicious of their faith or standing before Jesus. I am saying that first, the issue is so much bigger than people think. Hundreds of millions of professing Christians on this earth at this very moment think they are going to heaven but they are not. How much do you have to hate them to let them keep thinking that? It’s one great, biblical reason that the Strange Fire conference was loving.

And second, if a person comes to you unsure of their faith, don’t dismiss their concerns. Really come alongside them and delve. Sit down, listen, and love them. If they wonder and they trusted you enough to come to you, then it’s a serious conversation that needs to be had.

Third, if you have known a sister or brother a long time and there does not seem to be any fruit whatsoever, and instead you see a long-term pattern of rebellion of one kind or another (they promote strife, they gossip and slander, they refuse to submit to their husband, etc) then if you have a good relationship with that person, and there seems to be a good moment to sit down over coffee, gently bring up the issue. The book of 1 John is helpful here.

Remember the word polys. ”Much in number, emphasizing the quantity involved. We love Jesus and have no issue with His right to reject whom He will reject and judge those whom He will judge. It will be a glorious moment of vindication where we can praise Him in His final victory over His enemies. However, while we are still here on earth, we love and care for our neighbors. What a devastating moment if the Lord says “I never knew you.” But what a glory to His Spirit if you have helped a person examine their faith, discipled a wobbler, prayed for a person of whose faith you were unsure, and on the Day they come out the other side and are placed on Jesus’ right! Oh what a day that will be.

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Further Reading

Do Not Hinder Them, book by Justin Peters

This article might help. There are all kinds of different Counterfeit Sanctifications.

Also, Dr MacArthur’s pamphlet, “Is it Real? 11 Tests of Genuine Salvation.”

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Predestination means people are elected as vessels of wrath, too. Part 2

The verse to consider today is from Romans 9:21-24

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

There are vessels of mercy, and there are vessels of wrath. Considering anything regarding God is weighty and should fill the saved and the non-saved with awe and humility. But to really consider His work of judgment should bring to mind the famous comment attributed to martyr John Bradford,”There but for the grace of God go I”.

Here is Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne preaching on the Romans verse. In my opinion, it’s brilliant. I’ll post M’Cheyne’s point 3 tomorrow, Lord willing. Part 1 is hereM’Cheyne’s full sermon is here.

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The Vessels of Wrath Fitted to Destruction

I come now to the second reason why any are left to perish–it is, that God may show his power. “What if God, willing to make his power known?” We are frequently told in the Bible of the power of God. He said to Abraham, “I am the Almighty God.” We are told in the ninety-third Psalm, that “the Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters; yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.” We are frequently told of his almighty power; and not only so, but we have brilliant examples of it.

The first upon record is creation. “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” “He spake and it was done – he commanded and all things stood fast.”

Another example of the same thing is, the constant providence of God. “In him we live, and move, and have our being.” He rides on the swift wings of the wind.

Another example of the power of God is, his restraining and bridling of the wicked. “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with the bit and bridle.” – Psalms 32:9. This is the way in which God holds the wicked.

Another way in which God makes his power known is, in the conversion of souls. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” This is said to be “the wisdom of God and the power of God.” I believe the converting of a soul is something greater than the making of the world.

Brethren, there is one exhibition of divine power that yet remains – it is, the destruction of the wicked. “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” I believe, dear friends, that the reason why God has raised up Pharaohs is to show his power in them. He said to Pharaoh, “For this cause have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee.” No, I say, in regard of those of you in this congregation who will die unsaved, that God has raised you up, to show his power in you. Thus, it is said in Isaiah 62, “I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.” And then in Revelation 18, “She shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.” And we are told by our Lord in Matthew 10:28, to fear God, “who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” You will notice in this passage that he says, “God is able to destroy”; and therefore, brethren, it is plain that there must be some great power exercised in his destroying the wicked; and I think it is to consist in this – God will destroy their well-being, but not their being. Here, then, is another exhibition of the power of God.

When lately in the north of Scotland, I stood on the sea-shore, and saw the rocks standing out of the sea. It was very remarkable to stand and see the mighty waves dashing upon the rocks. There were two things remarkable in it: first, the greatness of the rocks on which the waves dashed: second, the rocks remaining unmoved – no force of the waves could move them. Brethren, this scene is an emblem of what will be witnessed another day, when God shall pour out his wrath on the wicked. Ah, brethren! will it not be fearful to see God put out his power upon the wicked – to see him upholding them with one hand, and pouring out his wrath upon them with the other? Surely, brethren, the power of God’s wrath is very great. If any of you have seen a great furnace, you will have seen the power that the fire has; but fire is God’s creature. What must his power be who is the Creator?
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Further Reading

Predestination means people are elected as vessels of wrath, too. Part 1
Predestination means people are elected as vessels of wrath, too, part 3

Jesus’ Predestined Life

Is Predestination biblical?

Posted in prophecy

Predestination means people are elected as vessels of wrath, too. Part 1

A few days ago I’d posted an essay about predestination. This is the doctrine where the Bible teaches that God is completely sovereign over everything that happens, including individual salvations. He elects people to salvation, independently and apart from foreknowledge of any decision they make. It’s all His grace, and not our decision.

People dislike that doctrine and fight against it. One of the reasons people resist the plain truth of the doctrine is that people want to think that somewhere in their heart or mind, they chose God. However, we are dead in sins and trespasses and have no ability to choose God, or ‘make a decision’ about our salvation. It is granted to us. (Galatians 3:22). We have no part in it, except the resulting gratitude and service in His name.

The verse to consider today is from Romans 9:21-24

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

There are vessels of mercy, and there are vessels of wrath. Considering anything regarding God is weighty and should fill the saved and the non-saved with awe and humility. But to really consider His work of judgment should bring to mind the famous comment attributed to martyr John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God go I”.

Here is M’Cheyne preaching on the Romans verse. In my opinion, it’s brilliant. I post ed M’Cheyne’s point 2 here. I’ll post point 3 tomorrow and the next day, Lord willing. The full sermon is here.

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The Vessels of Wrath Fitted to Destruction

The following sermon preached on the afternoon of March 12, 1843, was the author’s last in St. Peter’s. “It was observed, both then and on other occasions,” says Andrew Bonar, “that he spoke with peculiar strength upon the sovereignty of God.” The following evening McCheyne’s illness commenced and on Saturday, March 25, he went to the Saviour whose glory he lived to proclaim.
“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory?” – Romans 9:22,23

In a former discourse, brethren, I attempted to show you that the reason why God will punish the wicked eternally is, because he loveth righteousness. It is said in the eleventh Psalm, “Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup, for the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” I then tried to show you, that God has created hell, and will maintain it for ever, not because He loves human pain – I believe it is not so, nor is it because He is subject to passion, as men speak of passion – but because the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.

And I showed you, as you will remember, what a certainty hell is to the wicked. If it had its origin in the love of human pain, then you might have hoped that it would have an end; or, if it proceeded from passionateness, then it might cool; but ah! when it proceeds from Jehovah’s love of righteousness, I see, brethren, in that a reason why “the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

There is a second question which no doubt has occurred to you: why are there any left unpardoned at all? Why was Adam left to fall? Could God not have held him up? Or, if it was necessary that Adam should fall, in order that Christ might die, why are not all saved? Surely there is efficacy in the blood of Christ to pardon all – why, then, are not all saved? There are many answers to that question which we will know in a higher state of being; but here is one; “What if God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory?” You will notice, brethren, that in these words the apostle Paul tries to give an answer to that question. He does not answer it directly, he employs a “what if”.

Let us enter into this subject a little more deeply. There are three reasons set down here why men are allowed to perish.

I. The first is, that God was willing to show His wrath. These words are terrible. We are told frequently in the Bible of the wrath of God. It is not like human wrath: it is calm, settled – it consists principally in a regard to what is right. This is the wrath of God. We are told a great deal about it in the Bible. It is revealed against all sin. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” – Romans 1:18 Observe the word “all” – it is against all sin. Then Colossians 3:6, “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.” We are told also, brethren, that this anger is constant. “God is angry with the wicked every day.” – Psalms 7:11. The bow of God’s justice is, as it were, already bent against the wicked, the arrow of God’s is already on the string against the wicked. And then we are told that His wrath is intolerable. In the Psalm which we were singing (Psalms 90:11), it is said, “Who knows the power of thy wrath?” And we are told in Revelation, “The great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?”

But we learn more by example than even by these declarations. We have many examples of God’s wrath and its consequences. The first example we have is, his casting the angels out of heaven. We are told by Jude, “That the angels which kept not their first estate, He hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” And we are told by Peter, “That God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” Now, brethren, in several respects this was one of the greatest examples of divine wrath we have, for it seems to have happened in one day. One day these angels were in heaven – the next in hell. One day they were angels of light – the next fiends of darkness. And then this made it fearful, when the Lord left them no room for repentance. One thing the universe might have learned from this was, that God will certainly punish sin.

Another example of God’s punishing sin was not in heaven, but one earth, when He sent the deluge upon it. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.” And so it came to pass: “The flood came, and carried them all away;” and it has left traces on our world still, to show that God will not fail to punish sin.

Another example of divine vengeance was, when God destroyed Sodom. “Now, the men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” The cry of its wickedness went up to heaven, and God sent down two angels, to see if it was according to the cry that came up; and they found it even so; and, when they had taken out just Lot, God rained fire and brimstone upon the devoted city; and he has left traces of it there to this hour.

There was yet another exhibition of divine wrath on earth – it was the death of God’s dear Son. If ever there was a time when God could have said that he would forego his wrath it was surely this. It was this for two reasons. First, because the object of that wrath was dear to God. There never was on in the universe so dear to God as his Son. And another reason was, Christ had no sin of his own. Just as his robe was seamless, so was his soul sinless. Nay, brethren, that one act of his – laying down his life, was so glorious, as an exhibition of God’s justice, that the universe never saw its “marrow”. “Yet it pleased God to bruise him.” These words do not give the least shadow of his suffering from God on account of our sin. Brethren, if any thing in the world can show that God will punish sin, it was the death of his dear and sinless Son.

There is one exhibition of his wrath yet to come. Verse 22 – “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” God is yet to destroy the souls that he has made–not the angels that fell, for he has done that already, when he cast them into hell, but the souls on which he has waited. There is to be a new exhibition of wrath that the world never saw the like of before. He is going to show what he will do to the despisers of his Son – to those who despise his gospel. it will be a new thing when “God will be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know him not, and that have not obeyed the gospel.” God waits to show his wrath. Ah, brethren! it will be fearful to feel it – it is fearful even to think of it. so I believe it will be with the wicked: they will be beacons, to show how God will punish sin.

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