An Unshakable Kingdom

parliment-government

Is there anything around us today that we could describe as “unshakable?” Politicians, movies stars, and leaders continually prove that they are frail human beings just like everyone else.

Instability defines our world. Wars and continual threats of war add to the instability of our world. I cannot remember a time when there has been so much talk about the devastation that natural disasters could cause. For years, economists have warned that our national debt in America could lead to dire consequences.

However, because of the promises of Scripture we can rejoice and give thanks even though everything around us is falling apart. Here is what the author of Hebrews said, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus offer up to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28). Our hope is not in our broken down culture, but in an unshakeable kingdom that is not of this world but is coming to this world with the Second Coming of Christ.

So what is this kingdom and why does it make us so secure?

It’s the Kingdom of Jesus

Colossians 1:13-14 tells us that as saints, God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” This is the first aspect of the good news: as believers we already belong to Jesus’ kingdom with all our sins, past, present, and future, completely forgiven.

This gives us security regardless of what we encounter in this violent world. The worst persecution cannot change our standing in Jesus domain.  And, as Paul proclaims in Romans 8:31-39, absolutely nothing can separate us from Christ’s love. We are forever secure in Him.  Even death cannot alter our standing in Jesus’ marvelous kingdom where we share in all His blessings (Eph. 1:3) and inheritance (Rom. 8:17).

It’s Physical, Too

If we look at the context in Hebrews 12 of our “kingdom that cannot be shaken,” we see that the author is describing a future shaking that will result in just God’s kingdom remaining intact (vv. 26-27). The Old Testament reference to this coming tribulation upon the world is Haggai 2:6-9 where the prophet tells of a future time of great shaking upon the earth after which the treasures of the earth will flow into Israel resulting in a temple even more glorious than the one Solomon built. Haggai further prophesies that this will also be a time when the Lord brings peace to Israel.

So not only are we as believers forever secure in Jesus’ domain, but we rejoice in the hope that someday His kingdom will be real and tangible. And not only that, Jesus’ kingdom will be secure with no sign of scandal or intrigue. The coming King will establish it in righteousness. Isaiah 32:1 says, “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in peace.” Does this not sound so much different than what we see in our world today? Jesus will rule over the earth and as God, it will be impossible for Him to lie!

Revelation 19:11-20:6 describes Jesus’ glorious return in great power to set up a kingdom on the earth that will last for one thousand years. This is more than an abstract doctrine or a hope that only applies to the people of Israel. This represents our future as well as coheirs with Jesus (Rom. 8:17).

There with our immortal and imperishable bodies, we will reign with Jesus enjoying more blessings than we can even imagine.

It’s in this secure kingdom that we will see the purposes for all we endured in this life, both good and bad. We will understand why we suffered and why the Lord led us down paths that brought joy and affliction. There with our immortal and imperishable bodies, we will reign with Jesus enjoying more blessings than we can even imagine.

This Thanksgiving season, we can give thanks that in a world becoming more unstable by the day our hope rests in an unshakable kingdom. We are secure now, regardless of anything that can happen to us before Jesus comes for us. Later, we will be secure forever in a kingdom where we will someday live free from all death, sorrow, suffering, pain, and tears.

Such a two-world perspective does not mean that we live solely for the world to come, but that we recognize that our ultimate hope does not rest in the things of this world or even our dreams of a better life.

It’s when our hope becomes earthbound that troubles magnify our fears and suffering becomes all-consuming. When we live with an eternal focus, however, we live in the reality that a glorious day is coming when Jesus will take us home to be with Him and later establish his righteous and holy rule upon the earth.

 

How Long?

Sutherland texas 2

As I reflect on the Sutherland Springs shooting this past Sunday, the word “brutal” comes to my mind. In 2 Timothy 3:2 the Apostle Paul says that people will become “heartless, unappeasable . . . brutal . . . treacherous, reckless” during the last days. Is this not what we are seeing throughout our world to an ever increasing degree?

Do not all these traits sum up someone who would walk into a church and slaughter 26 innocent people including small children? Does this terrible act of violence not confirm Paul’s words of the “perilous times” we would see before Jesus’ return?

Although we do not understand the shooter’s ultimate motive, we know he had threatened his mother-in-law who attended the church. We also know that he was an atheist who mocked Christians stating that all “people who believed in God were stupid.” Did his antagonistic mindset toward believers contribute to the killing of so many of them? It seems likely to me. Why kill so many innocent people out of anger for just one person?

In his prophecy update on Sunday, Pastor J. D. Farag spoke of how Satan knows that his time is short and is stepping up his evil and murderous activity. I believe the shooter in Sutherland Springs was demon possessed and the killing stemmed from Satan’s rage against God people. The devil used his hatred to inflame not only the rage of this shooter but also to instill in him a total lack of pity for those he killed.

We see these types of attacks on Christians all throughout the world. A couple weeks ago, ISIS viciously attacked and killed 128 Christians in the Syrian town of Qaryatayn as they fled the city. Boko Haram and his men continue to brutally kill Christians by the hundreds in Nigeria. Do you remember the bombs that killed many Coptic Christians in Egypt during their Palm Sunday services earlier this year?

Brutal and Reckless

According to William Barclay, the word Paul used for brutal in 2 Timothy 3 “denotes a savagery which has neither sensitiveness nor sympathy.” It refers to a fierceness of character that displays a lack of human sympathy or feeling in its treatment of others. Does this not describe the shooter in Las Vegas as well? In both cases, these killers acted without the least bit of compassion toward their victims.

The word reckless in this passage describes someone falling headlong into something; it later came to define someone pursuing evil with great passion.  Barclay says this about it, “It describes the man who is swept on by passion and impulse to such an extent that he is totally unable to think sensibly.” This certainly fits with the demonic rage the Sutherland Springs shooter exhibited.

Jesus said that what we are seeing throughout our world today would happen in the last days just before His return.

In describing the end times Jesus said this, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another” (Matt. 24:9-for 10). Jesus said that what we are seeing throughout our world today would happen in the last days just before His return.

The Lord Sees

Long ago, the prophet Habakkuk complained about the “destruction and violence” he saw in Israel. Like today, he saw that the wicked often triumphed over the righteous so that “justice” was “perverted” (Hab. 1:3-4). The Lord’s response, in summary, was that He saw all the violence and perversion of justice. Because of evil rampant in Judah at the time, he would send the Babylonians to judge His people. They later came and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple taking many of the people captive back to Babylon.

Jesus is near to us in our pain; He never leaves or forsakes those of us who know Him.

The Lord sees the atrocities of our time. He also looks with compassion upon all our suffering; He deeply feels the sorrow of the survivors in Sutherland Springs. In Psalm 34:18 David said this, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Jesus is near to us in our pain; He never leaves or forsakes those of us who know Him.

Just as in the days of Habakkuk, the Lord will someday respond to the violence and great wickedness we see around us in the world. He sees the countless babies murdered in our abortion clinics. He sees the deadly rampages of sick evil men. He sees a culture that has lost its way and fallen into all sorts of deviant behavior. At just the right time, Jesus will totally destroy the kingdom of darkness responsible for all this rebellion against Him.

Is this not why the coming time of tribulation described in Scripture will result in so much devastation? Jesus will have His day. After exacting judgments on sinful humanity and the domain of Satan, He will return with unimaginable power and glory. His kingdom will someday fill the earth with righteousness and justice. He will reign for a thousand years and then forevermore.

We Have Hope of a Better Day

We have hope; this life is not all we have. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Paul had already suffered greatly when he wrote this. Later, Nero beheaded him. Even so, he regarded all this affliction (and martyrdom) as “not worth comparing with” all the wonders and joys that awaited him in eternity.

A much better day is coming. In eternity, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Jesus sees all our tears and someday will replace them with exceeding joy.

This picture is a far cry from our current experience, from the headlines of our day. Yet, this is our hope because we belong to Christ. The suffering and death of this current world is just a temporal fleeting reality. In God’s eternal day, we will see His purposes behind all that we suffered on earth. Jesus sees all our tears and someday will replace them with exceeding joy.

Yes, the brutality we witnessed in Sutherland Springs was horrific; I cannot even begin to imagine the horror of being in that church when the shooter arrived. Jesus, however, saw all that happened and not only is He comforting the victims in heaven, He will wipe out all such evil in His kingdom and then forevermore.

Revelation 6:10 gives voice to the martyred tribulation saints in heaven, “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” I wonder if the recently martyred saints in our world are saying something similar before God’s throne in heaven.

Those of us still in shock due to the violence we see in places such as Sutherland Springs ask, “How long before you come and take us home, O Lord? How long before you bring your justice to this wicked, violent, and rebellious world? How long before you establish your righteous rule over the nations of the earth?”

Jesus last words to His church were “Surely I am coming soon.” To which John added, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

Is this not our hope? Someday Jesus will correct all the wrongs of our current world; those who know Jesus will rest with Him forever experiencing sweet relief from the suffering and pain of this life.

How long until then?

Maranatha!!

 

A  Crisis of Hope

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Photo by Pol Sifter

“We appear to be suffering a great crisis of hope.” Those words, written by John Eldredge in his September 2017 newsletter, aptly sum up our nation today.

Despair has replaced hope in the lives of so many. Two-thirds of deaths caused by guns are suicides; many of these are older men who see no reason to continue living. The incidents of suicide overall are going through the roof. Addictions to drugs and alcohol are ever present problems in our nation that grow worse each passing day.

Even among Christians, we see an abandonment of hope. Many have tossed aside beliefs cherished for decades in favor of earthbound expectations that do little to relieve the apprehensions of life or the disillusionments of failed expectations. It’s no wonder that many believers experience many of the same problems as those in the world who possess no expectation beyond this life.

Those who look to the things of this world for satisfaction soon discover that life often thwarts their deepest desires. We do not have to look far to see their fury; it’s readily apparent everywhere on social media where angry venting often rules the day.

The Dangers of Anger

In an age of information overload, unless we hide in a cave all day we will all see things that irritate us or perhaps raise our blood pressure to unsafe levels. We read about injustice, listen as the media proclaims lies as truth, and watch as evil prevails where good should have triumphed. The apostle Paul recognized that at times we would feel such indignation when he wrote “be angry and do not sin.”

However, notice how Paul ends his instructions regarding anger in Ephesians 4:26-27, “. . . do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

The danger for all of us, regardless of what we believe, comes when we hold on to our anger and let it fester within us. Scripture says that when this happens, we give an opportunity for the devil to work his destruction in and through us.

In my book Shipwrecked Lives (planned for publication next year), I tell the tale of Absalom who allowed anger to destroy his life. He had good reason for his rage, but rather than deal with it in a healthy manner he allowed bitterness to take root and flourish inside him. In the end, 20,000 soldiers died as a result of his rebellion against his father, King David. Absalom, described as the most handsome man in all of Israel, died hanging from a tree as soldiers threw spears at him.

I realize that for all those reading this post, anger will not lead to death or murder as it did with Absalom. However, wrath can be destructive in our lives as well as the enemy of our souls skews our thinking, ruins relationships, and causes a host of health problems that stem from holding on to anger for lengthy periods of time.

The Path of Hope

There is a much better way than the path of anger, frustration, and despair. Hope!

Biblical hope is not positive thinking as some might think of it. You may be planning an outing this weekend with the hopes that you will see sunshine and clear skies. It may rain all day, or worse, despite your hopes for good weather. Our hope is so much more certain than this.

In his newsletter, John Eldredge describes biblical hope this way, “When I speak of hope I mean the confident expectation that goodness is coming. A rock-solid expectation, something we can build our lives on.”  Such hope never ever disappoints us; Christ’s unfailing promises guarantee it.

Amidst the frustrations of life, Jesus has set before us the wonderful path of hope. I love the words of Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” We know from the New Testament that the righteous are not the “do-gooders” around us but those who know Jesus as their Savior and walk by the light of the Gospel.

Regardless of the outcome of our lives here on earth, this hope will never let us down. If the Lord takes us home through death sooner than we would like, we will be in His presence and experience all the wonderful joys of heaven. If Jesus comes for us today or in the near future, we will instantly possess immortal bodies and be with the Lord forevermore.

No one, upon arriving in heaven, will wish that Jesus had delayed the rapture a little longer.

Disappointment and biblical hope are true antonyms; they never go together. No one, upon arriving in heaven, will wish that Jesus had delayed the rapture a little longer.

1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “. . . he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” The apostle, writing to believers suffering amidst great persecution, pointed them toward their heavenly “inheritance” that was secure and waiting for them. This is one of the wonderful purposes of the promises Jesus makes to us regarding eternity, they comfort us and bring light to our paths regardless of our circumstances.

I remember listening to an elected official speak on the radio as I was driving my car one day many years ago. I felt anger building inside me as he continued to speak (his words distressed me, to say the least). Finally, in frustration I switched to a Christian music station. The song playing at that moment was God is in Control by Twila Paris. As I relaxed and even felt a smile come across my face, I realized that this was no coincidence. The Lord knew I needed the relief that came from remembering His sovereignty.

God is wondrously in control of everything. That’s how we know our hope will never ever fail us or disappoint us. The glories of eternity, immortal bodies, and joy beyond what we can now imagine await us just on the other side. It’s a sure thing; as the Apostle Peter said, we cannot lose the “inheritance” Jesus is preparing for us.

When we feel indignation bubbling up inside us, it’s then we must remember where our ultimate hope lies. It does not rest in people or in a world careening toward the terrible years of the Great Tribulation. It does not rest in politicians who will fail us many more times than not. Our hope remains secure in Jesus who will satisfy us forever with the wonders of eternity.

Our hope remains secure in Jesus who will satisfy us forever with the wonders of eternity.

Doesn’t focusing on the biblical promises of eternity sound a whole lot better than holding tightly to our anger, which only wreaks havoc within us with bitter or vengeful thoughts?

Jesus offers us unfailing, “rock-solid,” ever-satisfying hope. He offers us the wonderful freedom of His love and a promise of eternity that will be joyful beyond what we can imagine. This glorious journey begins with Jesus’ appearing to take us home to His Father’s house in heaven (John 14:2-3).

Do not let anyone change the focus of your ultimate hope to temporal realities of this life that can never satisfy you. Why stay earthbound in your focus when Jesus is coming to complete your adoption into His family and redeem your bodies (Rom. 8:23)? As Jesus followers, we will live forever with Him in a place where sorrow, pain, death, and tears will no longer exist (Rev. 21:4).

 

What Do the Signs Tell Us?

air-plane-fighter-night-sky-moon

Last night while we were sleeping, Israeli jets attacked a chemical and biological weapons manufacturing plant in Syria that was operated by the Iranians. It was the largest such airstrike in Syria in the past ten years. The Iranians and Syrians are both furious and vowing revenge.

Israel is expecting an attack in response. During the past several days, the Israeli army has conducted its biggest military exercise in twenty years in the northern part of the country. The planning of the exercise was clearly staged to coincide with the airstrike so as to have the army already in place.

I just finished listening to a video by Amir Tsarfati where I got much of the above information. He is a former military officer in the Israeli army and maintains many key contacts. I will provide a link to his update at the end of this post.

What does it all mean?

The Signs of the End Are Increasing

It’s almost impossible to keep up with all that is happening right now. The news regarding Irma dominates the news as one might expect. The fires out west would perhaps be the lead story on the news if were it not for hurricanes Harvey and Irma. A place in Idaho, which is not far from Yellowstone Park, has experienced over a hundred small earthquakes in the past few days. In the past seven days, there have been 107 earthquakes in the world with an intensity of 4.0 or greater.

Threats and rumors of war are becoming common to the point where we scarcely notice them anymore.

Besides the raised probability of a war in the Middle East, we also hear the repeated North Korean threats of launching a nuclear attack against the United States. Threats and rumors of war are becoming common to the point where we scarcely notice them anymore.

In South Asia, the death toll from monsoons and resulting flooding has reached 1,400 with millions of acres of cropland destroyed. This will only increase the great famines in the world that go largely unreported.

These signs have been increasing in intensity for a long time, but Israel’s attack on Syria seems to up the stakes. We know from Ezekiel 38-39 that in the last days an alliance led by Russia, Iran, and Turkey will attack Israel. These nations are not only closely tied together at the present time, but all have a significant military presence in Syria, very close to the border of Israel.

Could an attack such as we saw last night be the spark that begins the war that the prophet Ezekiel describes? It’s altogether possible. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned both Russia and Iran in past couple weeks that he will not allow the continuing buildup of Iranian military forces in Syria. Last night’s airstrike on the chemical weapons plant shows that he is not bluffing, but dead serious about his intentions.

It’s a Time for Greater Watchfulness and Readiness

I believe all these things signify that we are living in the last days before the tribulation starts and the judgments of Revelation 6-16 occur. Based on my study of Scripture, I believe that Jesus will come for His church before this awful day starts (although some disagree with me).

As such, I believe Jesus’ return for us is getting very close. However, we must not set dates as He is much more patient that we are; He is giving an opportunity for as many as possible to believe in Him before it is too late. He may come today, this month, next year, or sometime after that. All I know is that the signs are increasing in both frequency and intensity.

Does He not also expect us to recognize the signs today of His return?

Jesus and the prophets gave us all these signs and indicators so we would know that His appearing is getting close. If nothing else, it’s certainly a call to greater watchfulness for His appearing. Remember how the Lord chided the Pharisees and Sadducees for not recognizing the signs of His first coming (Matt. 16:1-4)? Does He not also expect us to recognize the signs today of His return?

Personally, I hesitate to regard the fires and hurricanes as God’s judgment. The destruction and potential for destruction is terrible, but it’s nothing compared to what the world will see during the Great Tribulation when the Lord will clearly be judging mankind for its rejection of Jesus, the Savior who died on cross for them.

Also, another reason for my hesitancy is that a great number of dear believers were severely affected by Harvey and are already being impacted by Irma.

Perhaps it’s best to regard all these things, including the Israeli airstrike on Syria, as warning signs that the tribulation could begin very soon. I think they are also reminders to look up as Jesus instructed. In Luke 21:28 Jesus said this, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” What we are seeing today certainly qualifies as signs beginning “to take place.”

I believe the signs tells us that it cannot be a whole lot longer until Jesus comes just as He promised in John 14:1-3 to take us to be with Him. It’s time to watch and be ready.

Ann Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, also wrote a very good article yesterday calling our nation to prayer. It can be found at: https://hellochristian.com/9240-anne-graham-lotz-its-time-to-get-serious

As I listened to Amir’s update this morning, I could not help but agree with him that what we seeing throughout the world today points to Jesus’ soon return for His church. It’s also why I wrote this post versus the one I was planning to write today.

 

I Know Him

I know Whom2

During the past several weeks, I have been writing about the resurrection and what it means regarding our beliefs about Jesus, His authority, His teaching, and His views of Scripture. I believe this represents a missing link both in the church and in our nation today. So many want to claim Jesus as a good teacher, but yet fail to believe what He says about so many things. Many Christians worship Him while at the same time expressing disbelief in many of His teachings.

A couple weeks ago, an old hymn came to my mind called I know Whom I Have Believed by Daniel W. White. The song reminded me of another reason why I trust the words of Jesus; it’s because I know Him. I have absolute confidence in my risen Savior, the One I have walked with for so many years.

Jesus said this in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” For years, I thought this referred exclusively to some sort of inner calling; I sometimes wondered if I was missing out on things He was saying to me.

We hear His voice as we read Scripture and know it is him speaking to us.

Then I realized that this verse refers to His voice regardless of how it comes to us. It includes the conviction inside our hearts that His words are true. We hear His voice as we read Scripture and know it is him speaking to us. Yes, the resurrection confirms His divinity and authority, but there’s still that inner witness of the Holy Spirit testifying to the truthfulness of His words as we read them in the Bible.

He Keeps His Promises

The words to the chorus of I know Whom I Have Believed come from the King James translation of 2 Timothy 1:12 where Paul says, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” Other versions see this as the Lord keeping the Gospel message He had entrusted to Paul.

Regardless of the translation, the words point to the fact that the Lord keeps His promises. It’s curious that all the verses to the song start out with “I know not” signifying things we may not fully understand or know. We do know, however, the object of our faith and we are “persuaded” He is able to keep all the promises He has made to us. That’s the essence of our hope, is it not?

He’s Coming Again

I like the words to the last verse: “I know not when my Lord may come / At night or noonday fair / Nor if I walk the vale with Him / Or meet Him in the air.”

We may not know when He is coming, but we know for sure that Jesus is returning for us someday.  So much has occurred since this song was written in 1883 to make us believe the Lord may come for His church quite soon. But as the song says, whether we die beforehand or meet Him in the air, our hope is unshakable and unfailing. He’s coming again.

The Lord keeps His promises; He is returning to take us home just as He promised us in John 14:1-3.

Recent events have highlighted the uncertainties of this life. The devastation and flooding wrought by Hurricane Harvey shows how quickly the things around us can perish. The violence on the streets of many cities makes us wonder how much longer our nation can endure with such deep divisions. When I look at the scourge of abortion and the imposing of transgenderism upon our young children, I wonder how much longer the Lord will hold back His judgment upon our country.

Come what will around me, “I know whom I have believed.” That’s more than enough for me.

There are many things I do not know. Life is uncertain. But I do know the object of my faith and I know He will keep all the loving promises He has made to me and will not fail to take me home someday.  Come what will around me, “I know whom I have believed.” That’s more than enough for me.