Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Little Faith"

"And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." - Matt 24:12

We hear much in the news about tensions in the Middle East or between the U.S. and Russia. All over the news, the rhetoric between the political right and left is heating up. It seems that in every sphere of life, people are dividing into camps and separating from others at an unprecedented rate.

Even in the church, factions are springing up and hostilities are on the rise between believers who disagree on grey areas of biblical understanding -- where the Bible is not black and white. Social media has become rather unsociable.

Old earth creationists and new earth creationists bicker and villainize each other. Pre-wrath rapturists and post-tribbers ridicule pre-tribbers and insult their intelligence --- and vice-a-versa. King James-Only adherents belittle all those who read modern versions of the Bible. Hyper-Grace name-call believers who promote moral purity, labeling them as legalists and pietists. I could go on and on.

The arguing back and forth has sent many Christians into isolation where they can be alone with just the Bible, free of controversy. Alone with God’s Word to find encouragement, faith, hope, and spiritual salve for festering wounds inflicted by well-meaning brothers in Christ.

As the prophesied rise in persecution of those who name the name of Christ heats up, somehow denominations and institutions and their creeds fly out the window. When a man cries out to Jesus, while a terrorist saws off his head, whether he has all his doctrine in order pales under the circumstance. He, just by his new nature, as who he is, in childlike faith calls on the name above all names (but don’t argue whether that name is Jesus Christ or Yeshua Hamashiach) to receive him into His Kingdom with his last breath.

Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders for laying heavy burdens upon the people. Are we doing the same thing when we expect all Christians to be as advanced in Bible knowledge as we think we are? The Apostle Paul wrote:

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” - Rom 14:1

It’s time to re-examine our tone when contending for the faith. We cannot give up on instructing the younger believers or reasoning with those in opposition. But we must do so without judging the other person’s standing in Christ. Each follower of Jesus is on a different place along the narrow road -- some are stragglers.

In the Christian classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” a character named ‘Little Faith’ is introduced who loses much based on his poor decisions -- but he makes it to his journey’s end in spite of his lack of knowledge. We must make sure we are a help to such pilgrims, and not a hindrance.

“I will hear what God the LORD will speak,
For He will speak peace
To His people and to His saints;
But let them not turn back to folly.
Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
And righteousness shall look down from heaven.”
-- Ps 85:8-11

And a song for “Little Faith.”

Monday, February 9, 2015

Imminence Part 2 - by Anton Bosch

Paul and Imminence
Part 2
Jesus’ teaching on imminence is exceedingly clear: “…the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44; Luke 12:40). (See Part 1 of this series.) His statements on the topic should be sufficient to convince any of us. But what did Paul believe and teach on the subject?
Before we look at Paul’s teaching on the topic, bear in mind that those who deny the doctrine of imminency, try to reason it away by saying that we can die at any moment. They say that Paul was looking forward to death and not the Rapture. While it is true that Paul teaches us not to fear death, and that “absence from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8), he encourages believers to look for the Lord’s return rather than their own death.
To the Corinthians Paul writes: “… eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8). Was Paul mocking them by telling them to wait for something that was not going to happen in their lifetime? Was he using the Lord’s return as a false threat? Obviously not. The soon return of the Lord was very real to Paul, and to all believers of that time.
In teaching on marriage Paul says: “…the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none… For the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). In the light of the imminency of the Lord’s return, even legitimate pursuits should be set aside. Remember, Paul is not mistaken since the very principle of imminence means Jesus comes at any moment, and an “an unexpected time.” While Paul was addressing the believers of his day, he is also speaking to all believers of all time, and this truth does not change: The time is short, the Lord is at the door.
Paul also reminds the Corinthians: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Pay attention to the “we” in the above quote. He does not say “they,” meaning those in the distant future, but “we,” meaning himself and those alive at that time. Evidently Paul genuinely expected that some, or all, of those alive at that time would be raptured (even though some may die) before that great day.
To the church in Rome he says: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:11-12). Once again notice the words “we” and not “they.” By our “salvation” Paul is clearly meaning the final consummation of our salvation – the transformation of the body. This cannot mean death and can only mean the resurrection which is concurrent with the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). Once again, Paul is emphatic that the rapture is imminent and that he was expecting it in his lifetime. Furthermore his reference to the night being far spent and the day being at hand is a reference to the “Day of the Lord” which was soon to arrive.
He reminds the Philippians of the same truth: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21). Remember, death does not transform our body, the Rapture / Resurrection does, and again he writes of “our” and “we” and not “their” or “them.”
But also note that we are not urged to eagerly wait for death or for the Antichrist, but for the Lord Jesus Christ. Our focus is to be on Jesus. It just cannot be more simple or clear: “The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5). Just as with the statements of Jesus, it takes a lot of twisting of Scripture and mental gymnastics to make this verse mean anything but “The Lord is at hand”!
One of the clearest statements that shows that believers of the first century believed that the Lord could return literally at any moment lies in the fact that the Thessalonians had been deceived into believing that the Lord had come and that they had been left behind (2Thessalonians 2:1-2ff). If they had been taught that the Lord would not, and could not, come at any moment, they would not have been deceived. But they were deceived exactly because they believed what Paul had taught them: “…to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Paul therefore says to them: “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober… For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9). Notice how Paul uses the same reference that Jesus did to the thief coming at an unexpected time (Matthew 24:36-44; Luke 12:35-40). There is absolutely no warrant to link the “night” in this passage to the Tribulation. Only by reading a preconceived idea into the text can you come to that conclusion. The point is obvious: The thief comes at an unexpected time, and the middle of the night is the most unexpected time because people are sleeping. So the Thessalonians (and we) should not be spiritually asleep but sober since the Lord’s return is at the door.
While we do not fear death, we do not have our hope set on dying! We indeed long to be in His presence, but death is not our hope – the resurrection is. (Acts 23:6; 24:15; 26:6; 1Cor 15:19; 1Thes 2:19; 1Tim 1;1; 1 Pet 1:3; 13; 1 John 3:3;). It is against this background that Paul writes to Titus: “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
Let me say again, we have no Scripture to look for the Antichrist, the Tribulation or any other event or sign – we are to look for, and expect, our blessed hope – the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. He should be our focus. Paul and the Lord Jesus’ message is exactly the same: Be ready, He is coming soon – when we least expect Him!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Jesus Loves His Children

This week I saw a funny article about the traits of a middle child.** Being from a large family - the fifth of nine children - I could relate to a lot of what the writer pointed out. One of the marks of a middle child is the desperate need for attention and the child's efforts to get noticed - even if it was by acting up. I was the child that got left behind with Grandma while the rest of the family went on vacation. 

Most of my siblings, vying for our parents' attention, took a different approach. They became performers. They sought ways to please our parents and would put on a show - singing and dancing - to find approval. Their reward was expressions of love from the adults who would brag about them to outsiders.

I'm sure each of you who had siblings had similar disparities in your own families. Now as members of the family of God, we are no longer in a dysfunctional family. We are not in competition with each other for our Heavenly Father's favors. His love for us is unconditional -- once we have been adopted into His family by the blood of the Covenant. 

The middle child syndrome can be seen in the church by Christians who put God's love to the test by acting up. They continue in their sins while proclaiming that God's grace covers all their rebellious ways. Others become performers, thinking they must find work to do in ministry - must keep busy - in order for Christ to approve of them.

Neither attitude is the fruit of one who has been set free from the bondage of sin. 

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." - Rom 8:2

The two extremes: legalism and license, are childish notions. And we are commanded to "Put away childish things." Jesus Christ finished the work. The Holy Spirit has empowered us to overcome sin. God the Father accepts us based upon the righteousness of His Son if we are in Christ.

So relax; grow up. Enjoy your liberty. You are OK. 

"Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him."
-- Ps. 37:3-7a

"Thus says the LORD:
'Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths,
where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.'"
-- Jer. 6:16a


Monday, February 2, 2015

Imminence by Anton Bosch

Part 1
Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming–in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning– lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.” (Mark 13:35-36)

Imminence means “impending” or “about to occur.” We say when the storm clouds grow dark, that the rain is imminent. This word is often confused with two other words that sound similar but have entirely different meanings: immanence and eminence.[i] In Christianity, imminence is a fancy term that refers to the fact that the Lord can return soon, or at any time. As we will show in this article series, the idea of the soon return of the Lord was central to the thinking and living of all those in the New Testament, and it should still be the attitude of the true believer today. The imminence of the Lord’s return was not only part of the doctrine taught by Jesus and the apostles, as contained in the New Testament, but it was a real part of their lives. They genuinely expected the Lord’s return at any moment.

But the longer the Lord delays His coming, the more some of us tend to feel that He is not going to come soon. Peter predicted: “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Sadly, this kind of worldly thinking has infected Christians also. But just think about it: Statistically, the longer He delays, the closer we are to His return. So here we are, 2,000 years closer than Peter was. Paul confirms this when he says “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”  (Romans 13:11).

Does that mean that the apostles were mistaken and that the Lord’s return is only close to us, but it was not close for them? Not at all. For example, It has been 20 years since the last big earthquake here in Los Angeles [ii]. For 20 years we have heard “the next big one is imminent – it could happen at any moment – be prepared.” That was true 20 years ago, and it is even truer today. We do not know when the next big earthquake will happen, just that it will happen. But it is literally around the corner at any moment.

Because believers have not known when God has planned the Rapture of the church (Matthew 24:36), His return was imminent then and is still imminent now. Just like the next big earthquake, He could come for His saints even before I complete this paper.

Jesus’ Teaching on Imminence
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:36-44)

Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:35-40)

The plain meaning of Jesus’ message is clear – you don’t need some fancy seminary degree, nor do you need to learn Greek or Hebrew to understand what He says: He is coming at a time you do not expect, therefore be ready at all times. Any attempt to interpret these texts to mean anything except what they clearly say and mean is a deception.

The simple truth is that if something is unexpected, then there are no warning signs, nor a schedule, which predicts exactly when it will occur. Some have tried to set an exact date, which has caused much trouble for Christians over the centuries. But, by its very definition, “unexpected” requires surprise with no forewarning. Therefore, those who believe that Jesus cannot return for His church today because certain events need to be fulfilled first are in blatant contradiction to the clear words of Jesus. It is really quite simple.

In Luke 12:42-48 Jesus tells a parable that teaches that there will be Christian leaders who, because He delays His coming, will begin to abuse their fellow Christians and begin to live immorally. That is exactly what is happening today. Many Christian leaders have lost sight of His imminent return and have begun to live as though He is never coming back. In the process they also remove the idea of imminence from their theology. This seems to be done in order to salve their, and their disciples’, consciences. Jesus warned that when He returns He will judge such men.

The book of Revelation closes with the words of the Lord Jesus:“Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). His words are truth, and the lies of man cannot, and will not, change the facts: He is coming soon, without delay and without warning. Therefore we must be prepared. Are you ready?

To be continued…

Anton Bosch
9070 Sunland Blvd
Sun Valley, CA, 91352

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Stand in the Gap

We are our brothers' keeper -- despite what Cain said of Abel.

In these spiritually perilous times, when friends and loved ones are walking away from Jesus, it is our Christian duty to intercede for them. Stand in the gap for them to the LORD God.

If your pastor is straying from sound biblical hermeneutics, pray for him before you go to him with your concerns. Keep pastors and leaders in prayer - for they are targeted by the enemy the most, since the devil knows he can do the most damage by fouling up the message.

I'm reminded of Job - after bearing the false accusations of his 'friends' and his long discussion with God regarding his plight, he had to be the one to pray for them since he was in right standing with the LORD and they weren't. If he hadn't stood in the gap, they would have been toast.

How do believers go from having a sound faith to backsliding to apostasy? It happens gradually. Using the acronym G-N-A-S-H -- we can see the process:

G- Grounded in their faith
N- Neglectful of staying in Word
A- Apathy sets in
S- Self-righteousness about their life
H- Hostility toward God

Once apostasy takes root, I do not think they can be brought back. When they get to the point where they mock believers for their faith, they have finished their course. The Apostle John speaks of that:

"If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that." - 1John 5:16

Don't stop praying for those 'prodigal sons.' May your prayers be led by the Spirit of Christ so you will know for whom to pray and when to leave them in God's hands and to their own devices.

If you find yourself doubting and straying -- remember this prayer:

"LORD, I believe, help my unbelief." Mark 9:24

Keep the faith!!

"And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.'” - Job 42:7-8

"This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme." - 1Timothy 1:18-20

"I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God." - 3John 1:9-11