Sunday, October 31, 2010

Satan knows Scripture

“‘If You are the Son of God,’ [the devil] said, ‘throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’” Matthew 4:6
Three of the Gospels mention how Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness; two of them (Matthew and Luke) give more detail as to what the specific temptations actually were. In both accounts, Satan begins two of the three temptations with the words, ‘If You are the Son of God’. This is not denial on Satan’s part – He knows that Jesus is the Son of God. Rather, these statements should be translated, ‘Since You are the Son of God’.
We see another interesting and alarming aspect in this particular temptation, where Satan tempts Jesus to reveal His Deity by throwing Himself off the temple. He quotes Scripture to Jesus. We think of Satan as being so anti-God, that he is ignorant of what is written in the Bible. But rather, the opposite is true: he knows the Bible better than most Christians! It is no surprise then, that many people in cults are Scripture-literate, but also misquote it. We need to watch out. Just because someone can quote the Bible, doesn’t mean they are saved. Also, we need to know for ourselves what the Bible says, and what the context of particular passages is, so that we don’t fall into the same trappings. This only comes by immersing yourself in the Word on a regular basis, preferably every day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jesus' baptism

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. But John tried to deter Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by You, and do You come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented.” Matthew 3:13-15
The obvious question that arisees when we read of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist is, why was Jesus baptised? John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Acts 19:4). Jesus had no sin to repent of. John recognised this, and tried to deter Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by You’. He knew that Jesus was the Messiah, bringing salvation from God as spoken by the prophets. Yet Jesus, in the role of a servant, submits Himself to John’s baptism.
He did this, saying rather cryptically, ‘It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ There are three reasons this refers to. Firstly, He validates John’s ministry as the forerunner of the Messiah (Isa. 40:3, Matt. 3:3). Baptism was a fairly common occurrence in Biblical times; it was a symbol of identifying oneself with what the baptiser stood for. Thus Jesus shows His approval of John’s ministry and his message, by submitting Himself to being baptised by him. Secondly, it represented an anointing on Himself as the Messiah. It was after Jesus’ baptism that His ministry properly began. Thirdly, Jesus sets an example for us to follow. Water baptism, for Christians, symbolises the death of the old man and the rising again in the new life of Christ. “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:4).

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Nazarene

“and He went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” Matthew 2:23
Many Bibles have helpful footnotes where Scriptures are quoted by other Scriptures, giving the reference where the prophecy can be found. For example, at Matt. 2:18, there is a footnote advising the reader that this is quoted from Isa. 40:3. However, at this verse, there is no footnote.
This is because “He will be called a Nazarene” is not a direct quotation from any of the Old Testament prophets. What is being referred to, however, is a play on words. In Isaiah 11:1, the coming Messiah is referred to as “the Branch”. The Hebrew word is netser. It is from this that the word ‘Nazarene’ is extracted in Matt. 2:23.
There is also another aspect to the word ‘Nazarene’ (note that this is not the same as a Nazirite, as in Num. 6). Nazareth was a backwater town, despised by the devout Jews (c.f. John 1:46). The words ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ were used not as a neutral descriptor, but as a derogatory term. This aspect of the treatment of Jesus by men was most certainly prophesied about in the Old Testament:
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not” (Isa. 53:3). See also Ps. 22:6-7, Ps. 69:7-8.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A new order

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
We read in both the Old and New Testaments how God will create not only a new earth, but a new heaven also (Isa. 65:17, Rev. 21:1). He will make all things new and glorious, and He will dwell among His people forever. Satan and all that is wicked is cast into the lake of fire and erased from our memory. Everything is restored to harmony.
So, in the light of all this, what are the tears for, that God wipes away? Isaiah tells us that “the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isa. 65:17). The hardships, persecution, pain, suffering, etc. that we go through in this present life, will all be forgotten. Nor will we be mourning for lost opportunities, or for unsaved friends and family. Rather, these are tears of joy, at finally seeing the new heavens and the earth created for us to dwell in God’s presence forever; tears of gratitude, for all that He has done for us.
There’s a lot that must take place between now and then – the rapture of the Church, the Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, and the Millennium. But God shows us that He already knows the end result. And I get the feeling, that He is looking forward to that as much as, if not more than we are.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Giving to God

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand.” 1 Chronicles 29:14
Many people grumble and complain when the word ‘offering’ is mentioned in a church service. In our heads, we know that giving, monetarily or otherwise, is part of our worship to God; we know that we receive a blessing for it (Mal. 3:10); we know that we should enjoy giving to Him (2 Cor. 9:6-7); yet still we complain sometimes.
What this attitude points to, is that we need a different perspective. Who provided the abilities you have, to do the job you have been appointed for, to earn the money you receive, from which you can give to God? “But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deut. 8:18). God created the world and all its resources. He created each of us with certain talents and abilities. Job recognised that without the Lord, he was nothing: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
So really, everything we have belongs to God anyway. Even our bodies are not our own, but belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:19-20). When we can give graciously to God, saying, ‘Lord, I’m only giving back to You what is Yours already’ – then we have the right attitude about giving, and God will bless us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

God judges our motives

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9
In both the Old and the New Testament, we read how God doesn’t judge our words, actions, and thoughts at face value, but instead for the motive behind them (see Prov. 16:2, Matt. 5:27-28, 6:1-2, 5, 16, 1 Cor. 3:10-13, 1 Cor. 4:5, Jas. 4:3, etc.). We may say and do all the right things, but if the motivation is not out of love for God then those things are worthless (1 Cor. 13:3).
Likewise, there are many passages of Scripture that talk of God searching our hearts. In fact, God is the only one who can know our hearts – the most inner part of us. Even we don’t know our own hearts (1 John 3:20, Jer. 17:9).
So how should we live, then – since our hearts are judged for their motives, but we don’t know our own hearts? This is where we need to be open to the Holy Spirit. If we have been born again, then the Spirit of God is dwelling in our hearts, purifying us. We need to be sensitive to His prompting. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I used to think this verse meant God will give you whatever you want, but that is inconsistent with the rest of Scripture – God is not Santa Claus. Rather, it can also mean, if we delight in the Lord, He will place His desires within our hearts. When we allow this to happen, we can be sure that our motives are godly and true, because they come from God Himself.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The great white throne

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Revelation 20:12
The great white throne judgement is the very last judgement to take place, at the end of the 1,000-year reign of Christ on the earth. After the seven year Tribulation period, Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom on the earth, Satan is bound for 1,000 years, and the world enjoys a time of complete righteousness. At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan is released for one last deception, of those who were born during this period. After this is the great white throne judgement.
This is not a judgement of believers. At this point we will be alive, in our resurrection bodies, eternally secure. Rather, it is a judgement of the unrighteous dead (‘given up’ by Death and Hades, Rev. 20:13. See also Rev. 20:5 – “the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended”).
Those whose names are not found in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire, which is called ‘the second death’. If a person is born once, they will die twice (physically and spiritually). But if a person is born twice (born physically, and born again spiritually), they will only die once.
If a person stands before the great white throne, their eternal destiny is already sealed (since if they were a believer, they would already have been resurrected: 1 Thess. 4:16, Rev. 20:4). They are judged according to what they have done, to determine the degree of punishment they will receive. Yes, believers will stand before the judgement (bema) seat of Christ. But this is not a judgement to determine whether we are righteous enough to go to heaven – His righteousness clothes us, and is completely sufficient. Rather, it is an awards ceremony.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Satan's release

“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison...” Revelation 20:7
This passage in Revelation puzzled me for a number of years, and also puzzled a number of other believers I know. After a thousand years of Jesus ruling the earth in perfect righteousness, with Satan bound, the earth returned to a pre-Fall state – why would God then allow Satan to be released?
At the second coming of Christ, at the end of the Tribulation, there will be some believers who have survived. They will enter the Millennium still in their physical bodies. At that time we will return to the earth with Jesus, in our resurrection bodies to rule and reign with Him; that is, to enforce His standards of righteousness on the people who will descend from the Tribulation survivors. Since there will be no more curse, sickness, etc. there will be many people born during this period. And here’s the clincher: they will be born into a world where there is no temptation or sin. They will be forced to obey God. They won’t know any different.
After the thousand years, Satan is released for one last task: to give those people the same choice that every person on planet Earth has had since Adam was created: the choice whether to obey God, or to sin. Millions of them will choose to sin – Satan amasses a great force to march against God (Rev. 20:8-9). But like all the others who rebelled against God, they too will be destroyed. After this Satan is thrown into the lake of fire for eternity (Rev. 20:10).
So we can see that even in Satan’s release, God has a purpose and He is in control.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The first resurrection

“Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." Revelation 20:6
The first resurrection is not an event. If it was, it would probably belong to the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kin. 17:22). But Jesus is spoken of as being “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), i.e. those who have died. His resurrection is different from all the previous resurrections – Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus, etc. They returned from death to life, but in their mortal bodies. Jesus rose from the dead in His immortal body, never to die again. This is the body that we look forward to receiving (1 John 3:2).
Rather, the first resurrection refers to a group of people: those who believed in Christ and surrendered their lives to Him while they were in their mortal bodies. This includes believers who have already died, and those who will be raptured alive into heaven. “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Those who have part in the first resurrection, are born twice. They do not need to fear the second death – as those who were born once (physically) and were not born again (spiritually).

Friday, October 22, 2010

True and just

“And I heard the altar respond: ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are Your judgements.’” Revelation 16:7
One of the reasons many people struggle with the book of Revelation is because it gives a detailed account of how God will pour out judgement on the world in the end times. We don’t like to talk about God’s judgement. We would prefer to think of Him as being always loving and ready to forgive. And while God does love and forgive us when we come to Him in repentance, at the end of the day, His judgement is necessary. God cannot allow sin to go unpunished, because then He would not be holy and just. He has done everything possible in providing a way for our sins to be forgiven. But if we refuse to accept that way, then we are the only ones to blame.
We can also be sure that when God’s patience comes to an end and He does bring judgement, He will be completely fair. He will give each person exactly what they deserve. And the angels declare this – they are not dismayed that God is bringing judgement, but approving of just how fair and right God is when He brings that judgement. Those who put believers in prison, will be imprisoned themselves; those who killed believers with the sword, will be killed with the sword themselves (Rev. 13:10).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Everyone will worship something

“All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:8
Today it seems to be almost fashionable to be an atheist or agnostic. But this will all change in the Tribulation, when the Antichrist comes to power, then survives an assassination attempt, and enters the Jewish temple in Jerusalem insisting to be worshipped as God. People won’t be able to deny the power of the supernatural, and Satan’s deception will be in full force. They will worship the Antichrist, and the one who empowers him, as the God they didn’t believe in before.
The Tribulation period brings to a head the separation between those who have submitted to God and those who have rejected Him. It will force everyone to take a side: either worshipping God or being deceived into worshipping the Antichrist. Finally the tares and the wheat are separated, and marked for salvation or for destruction.
God has known all along what it would take: Jesus, the Lamb, “was slain from the creation of the world”. Even as God was creating the world, He knew that sin would enter it and thus necessitate the death of His Son. And He also knew all of those who would come to believe in Him, writing their names in the book of life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


“As the ark of the covenant of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart.” 1 Chronicles 15:29
Michal was the daughter of King Saul, and was given by him to David in marriage after one of his many conquests over the Philistines (1 Sam. 18:27). While she was sympathetic to David when Saul was trying to kill him (1 Sam. 19:11-13), here she had distanced herself. Instead of joining in with the crowds in celebrating the bringing of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, she was watching from a window. Then, when she sees David dancing before the Lord with all his might, instead of rejoicing with him, she criticises him (2 Sam. 6:20). She thought he should have shown more decorum, being a public figure and all. David didn’t care; he just wanted to praise God. (Jesus faced a similar attitude from the Pharisees when the people started laying palm branches before Him as He entered Jerusalem, Luke 19:39-40.)
The crux of the issue was that Michal was more concerned with what people thought about David, than what God thought. As a result, she missed out on the blessing that she could have enjoyed (2 Sam. 6:23). We too should be careful not to despise or criticise people when they are praising God, no matter how ridiculous they might look.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sweet and sour

“So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’ 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.” Revelation 10:9-10
Here in Revelation we see John being encouraged to eat a scroll, much as Ezekiel was encouraged to, and with similar results (Ezek. 3:1-3). When he ate it, it was sweet to taste. But when it got to his stomach, it turned sour.
We talk about ‘devouring’ and ‘digesting’ a book, and the same is true of the Word of God (Jer. 15:16). Thus, the ‘eating’ of the scroll here is an object lesson of how we read it and its effect on us. Initially, the Word is sweet to us. It tells us of God’s promises for us, His plans and purposes, and the glorious future we will spend with Him. But when we spend a little longer reflecting on what is written in the Scriptures, it turns our stomach sour as we realise what it means for our unsaved friends and family. This is especially true of the book of Revelation: we see in great detail what the fate will be of those who refuse to come to salvation in Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 18, 2010

For this very hour

“And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.” Revelation 9:15
We alluded to this verse when discussing the fourth horseman, representing Death through the sword, famine and plague. Then (the fourth seal), a quarter of the earth’s population will be killed. Here, at the sixth trumpet, the destroying angels are released to kill a further third of mankind, leaving only half of the world’s population.
These angels were among those that fell with Satan, because they are bound. They have a set mission: to slay a third of mankind. And they also have a set time: a set hour, day, month and year. We are not told when this will be, much as we are not told the time of the Rapture. But we are told one thing: it is a set time, and God knows when.
Jesus told us, referring to the rapture of the church: “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). It’s probably safe to say that these angels that are bound at the River Euphrates, likewise do not know the hour when they will be required. Once these events start to happen, the timing of the rest of the Tribulation has been foretold: it will be exactly 7 years from Antichrist’s covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27), and exactly 3 1/2 years from the day he forsakes that covenant and stands in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, demanding to be worshipped as God, until the Second Coming of Christ. Satan knows all this; he knows that when these things happen that his time is short (Rev. 12:12). In all of this, we can take comfort that God knows when the appointed time is. He will bring these things to pass when the time is right – not too soon, and not too late.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The pale horse

“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:7-8
This is the fourth horseman, riding a ‘pale’ horse. In some translations the word is ‘dappled’; the Greek is chloros – the same word from which we get ‘chlorine’ or ‘chlorophyll’. It means a pale green, sickly horse, and the horse represents sickness and death. This is a result of the war, the food shortage, and additional plagues that will come upon the earth at this time. A quarter of the earth’s population will be killed during this period. This is a significant number of people. Later in the Tribulation we read of a third of the remaining population being killed by the destroying angels (Rev. 9:15), which would leave only half the world’s population remaining.
The mention here of the ‘wild beasts of the earth’ is also interesting. The word is therion, which can refer to a dangerous beast of any size – including those that are microscopic.
It’s also important to note that the rider, personifying Death, and Hades, do not always have power over people but must be given it. The lives of every person on earth is in God’s hands, until He decides to hand them over to Death.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The black horse

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!’” Revelation 6:5-6
The black horse here follows the red horse, representing war. The black horse is famine. The words we hear here indicate that following the war that encompasses the earth when the red horse is released, the world will once again undergo a period of mass economic inflation. A day’s wage for the average person will only be sufficient to buy a day’s worth of food.
This all points to a severe shortage of staple foods in the aftermath of world war, with crops either neglected as the nations fight against each other, or they will fail to grow as a consequence of a nuclear exchange, with the seasons and air clarity being affected. The scales in the hand of the horseman symbolise how food will be rationed out and measured by weight among the people who survive the war. But for the wealthy, there will still be the obsession over obtaining luxury food items (oil and wine). The disparity between rich and poor will continue to increase in those times.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The red horse

“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.” Revelation 6:3-4
Red has often been the colour associated with war. The armies of Assyria, Sparta, Rome, all wore red, along with the ‘redcoats’ and the Russian ‘Red Army’, and many others. Mars, the red planet, was so named after the Roman god of war. Red, for the blood that is spilt in war.
We read an interesting thing here: the horseman is given power “to take peace from the earth”. In political circles today, there is an emphasis on trying to end war and bring peace. Imagine what the world will be like when all the political leaders decide to stop negotiating and just fight. The rider is also given power “to make men slay each other”. Armies that might have formerly fought together side-by-side against a common enemy, will turn on each other.
The Antichrist comes with a bow, a covenant of peace for Israel. But the end result is only worldwide war. He will be the man of the hour – after the dust settles from this war, he will be the one standing and the obvious leader. He will unite the nations to come together under a one-world government, with himself at the head. But there is no mistaking it: the Tribulation will be a terrible time for those left on the earth.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The white horse

“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” Revelation 6:1-2
The first horseman appears with the opening of the first seal. He rides a white horse, but this is absolutely not Jesus Christ! Jesus also comes on a white horse, but in Revelation 19. (Here, He is the one opening the seals, not riding the horse.) Instead, this is a false Christ, commonly called the Antichrist, or, as John refers to him elsewhere in the book of Revelation, the beast. He looks like Jesus, but he is in bad company.
This horseman carries a bow. This is not a bow and arrow, but a bow like a rainbow, representing a covenant. He will make a covenant with Israel for 7 years but will break it halfway through (Dan. 9:27). He is given a crown. This is not the crown of royalty, but the victor’s crown. Again, this is an indication that he is not Jesus Christ.
Lastly, he rides out “as a conqueror bent on conquest”. The goal of the Antichrist, the beast, is world domination. He is inspired by Satan. He will rule over the world through lies and deception, claiming to be Christ while defying God.
Antichrist will not be revealed until the opening of the first seal. This happens after the rapture of the church (2 Thess. 2:7-8). We see the church in heaven in Rev. 4-5, represented by the twenty-four elders. Therefore it is pointless for us now to speculate who it might be, because he will not come to a position of power until after the church is raptured.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Prayer as incense

“May my prayer be set before You like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2
Frequently throughout the Bible our prayers are spoken of as being like incense (Luke 1:10, Rev. 5:8, Rev. 8:3-4). The incense used in the temple comprised four ingredients: gum resin, onycha, galbanum and frankincense (Ex. 30:34). It was offered every morning and evening, continually rising before the Lord as a sweet-smelling odour (Ex. 30:7-8). Similarly we are encouraged to pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17).
Gum resin is obtained from the myrrh tree; it is the sap that naturally oozes from the tree that is in view here. Onycha is possibly a root or part of a specific shellfish. Galbanum is a dark honey-like substance with an unpleasant odour by itself, but becoming sweet when mixed with the other spices. Frankincense is resin from another kind of tree, obtained by cutting into it.
These all relate to the kinds of prayers that we offer. There are prayers of thanks that we offer to God voluntarily; they are sweet to us as well as to Him. There are also prayers that we offer when we are being crushed and cut down by others, when we are in great pain. Individually these circumstances may not all be sweet-smelling to us, but when combined with all the others, the aroma is pleasing to God. He wants us to have a lifestyle of prayer.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why read Revelation?

“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Revelation 1:3
Many Christians don’t like the book of Revelation. Some are afraid of what it contains, others think it is too hard for us to understand; others stay away from it because they associate it with hyper-Pentecostalism. But if we can get past those issues, there is great blessing to be found in reading this book.
It’s been said that the Bible is like a textbook: all the answers are in the back. Revelation gives us a clear picture of how evil in the world comes to a climax and is dealt with forever by God. While some of the events it describes are horrific and hard to imagine, the detail with which the picture is presented can be greatly encouraging, as it shows us that God is in control. Knowing this gives us peace, and this is one of the blessings we have through read this book. It also shows us what the outcome of certain world events will be, so that we can be prepared for the deceptions that are coming. This will be particularly true for those who only become believers after the rapture of the church, and must go through the Tribulation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wonderfully made

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
Sometimes when coming across verses like this, I’ll just stop and think about my hands. The way the bones, muscles, and tendons all connect together to enable me to perform a huge variety of functions. The fingers bend, the thumb can touch all of them to pick things up. When picking up a pen, I don’t have to think about which muscles to extend or contract or which joints to bend – I just think about picking up the pen and all of those things work together to make it happen.
But our physical bodies are only a small part of the amazing creation that God has made called ‘us’. We can understand, at least to a limited extent, how our physical bodies work in terms of the biochemistry and so forth. But the psyche, the soul, is another thing entirely. The nature of personality, decision-making, morality and so on, how they work and how they are established in the first place, are much less understood than our physical bodies. God has created our soul with just as much care and design as He has our physical bodies.
And even beneath our soul, lies our eternal spirit, which, it is safe to say, is only understood by God Himself (see Jer. 17:9, 1 John 3:20). Indeed, how fearfully and wonderfully we are made.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

No fear in love

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
Here’s a question for all of us: are we afraid of God, or do we rest in assurance that He loves us? Many people know more about God’s judgement than His love. We think He is quick to judge and reluctant to show love to us; the reality is the complete reverse. God waits as long as He possibly can before He brings judgement. And He is always ready to forgive our sins, as soon as we repent and turn to Him. He showed us love by allowing His only Son to die on the cross in our place, before we even acknowledged Him (Rom. 5:8). Eight times in the Scriptures we read that God is “slow to anger, abounding in love” (Ex. 34:6, Num. 14:18, Neh. 9:17, Ps. 86:15, Ps. 103:8, Ps. 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jon. 4:2).
It is right to fear God, to respect Him and hold Him in awe. But if we are in Christ, we do not need to be afraid of God, that He will strike us down or punish us without hope of restoration. The more certain we are of God’s love for us, the less fear we will have in life – of God or of anything else. God’s love is complete and perfect, and when our lives are full of it there is no room for fear.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

God's purpose

“The Lord will fulfil His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of Your hands.” Psalm 138:8
Most of us, at some stage or other, wonder what God’s purpose for our lives is. Sometimes it might be obvious, by the opportunities that we have or the talents He has given us. But at other times God’s purpose may seem to be much more obscure. Also, God has many purposes for us that might arise at different times throughout our lives. For instance, He has purpose in the trials that come our way – to build our character and teach us to have faith and patience. He has purpose in all situations that we encounter, so that we might be conformed to the image of Christ. And of course His ultimate purpose is that we would be justified, sanctified, and glorified, and spend eternity with Him in heaven.
But regardless of which purposes of God are in view, we can be sure that He will fulfil them all - “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God doesn’t start something and leave it unfinished. He will not abandon us – He loves us too much for that.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Continuing to sin

“No-one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No-one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.” 1 John 3:6
The Bible is clear that the grace we receive from God upon surrendering our lives to Christ, is most definitely not a license for sin. As Paul said, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:1-2). John is even more emphatic here: saying that anyone who does continue in sin does not even know God.
Now it is important to understand what is meant by “continues to sin”. While we are in this mortal body, we will inevitably slip up from time to time. We lose our tempers and say and do hurtful things to other people; we give in to unforeseen temptation; we fail to do the good that we know we should (Jas. 4:17). This is not what is meant by “continues to sin”. Rather, it is a lifestyle of sin that we fail to give up upon coming to Christ. The Bible lists some of these: “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, not swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, disocrd, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like... those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The spirit of antichrist

“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” 1 John 2:18
Did you know that the word ‘antichrist’ does not appear even once in the book of Revelation? (The future leader commonly known as ‘the Antichrist’ is called ‘the beast’ there.) Yet John, who wrote that book as well as this epistle, uses the word ‘antichrist’ five times in this epistle, to refer to something a little different than we usually use the word.
We can easily understand what ‘antichrist’ means – ‘anti’, opposed to, Christ. Consider today how many people are actively, vocally denying Christ. Stephen Hawking makes the news yet again for saying that we don’t need God to create the universe. Even from within the church, people in leadership positions are denying the creation of the world, a literal man Adam (and therefore a literal Fall), the inspiration of the prophets (and indeed the whole word of God), the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and the list goes on. How these people can still call themselves ‘Christians’ when they deny all the foundational tenets of our faith, I don’t know. But John tells us why this is: a rise in this opposition to Christ will come, during the last days. We are seeing it today. This is how we know it is the last hour.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Waiting for Jesus' return

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
In the verses leading up to this, Peter has told us how scoffers will ask, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised?” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Indeed, people today are saying the same thing, calling Christians crazy for believing that Jesus will actually come back to this planet and change everything. They shake their fist in the face of the God who holds their very lives in His hand – and who made that same fist. Yes, Jesus will come to earth a second time. But the delay that we are presently experiencing is only due to God’s patience with those people He knows will become believers, but have not yet surrendered their lives to Him.
God doesn’t want to be a God of judgement and wrath. He would rather show love and mercy to all. He would rather that people repent than they perish. “‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ declares the Sovereign LORD. ‘Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?’” (Ezek. 18:23). “This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). God has not predestined some to be saved and others to be lost. If God had His way, everyone would believe in Him. But He respects man’s free will to choose Him or to reject Him. We can be sure that when Jesus does finally return, everyone will have made up their minds, one way or the other.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bible prophecy

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” 2 Peter 1:20
Most of us take the Bible for granted. We have easy access to it, multiple translations in our own language, a vast supply of dictionaries, concordances and other tools, all in book format, electronic format, or online. Intellectually we may know its origins, but how often do we stop to consider that the Bible is truly God-breathed, and not merely man’s thoughts?
Prophecy is the watermark of the Bible. Prophecy authenticates it as the word of God. How else could Daniel write about the four world empires – Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome – with such accuracy? How else could over 300 specific prophecies about Jesus Christ – where he would be born (Mic. 5:2), where he would grow up (Isa. 9:1-2), how He would be betrayed (and the amount of money, Zech. 11:12-13), how He would die (Ps. 22:16), and even the words He would utter from the cross (Ps. 22:1) – how could these be written about in such detail by men living hundreds of years before the event, and retain a 100% track record?
Therefore, we can have complete trust in what the Bible has to say. It is to be the foundation of what we believe. Peter also tells us that the word of prophecy (i.e. the Bible) is more certain than eyewitness experiences (2 Pet. 1:18-19) – this coming from a man who saw Jesus walking on water and even tried it himself, saw Him perform miracles, saw Him transfigured, and saw Him rise from the dead. We don’t need to see these kinds of things to believe – we just need to read the Bible for what it is: the word of God.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Suffering as a Christian

“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” 1 Peter 4:16
It may come as a surprise to know that the first century believers did not call themselves ‘Christians’. They called themselves “followers of The Way” (see Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 24:14, 24:22). The word ‘Christian’ was a derogatory term, first used of believers in Antioch (Acts 11:26). It means ‘little Christ’. The only other occurrence of the word is in Acts 26:28, where Herod trying Paul said, “Do you think you can persuade me to be a Christian?” – also used in a derogatory way.
Those early believers welcomed the put-down and, as we know, came to use the term of themselves in later centuries. But even today among non-believers, the word ‘Christian’ is still used in a derogatory sense.
We can take heart from Peter’s words here. ‘If you suffer as a Christian’ can mean if you suffer because you are a Christian, or if you suffer because people use the name ‘Christian’ of you in a derogatory sense. I am inclined to think the second is what he was referring to, because he goes on to say, ‘do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.’ To be identified with our Lord, even in a derogatory way, is an honour, and we should not shy away from it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The end is near

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” 1 Peter 4:7
We know that things on the world stage are quickly falling into place for the events that we read about in the books of Revelation, Daniel, Zechariah, etc. The unifying of the nations in Europe, Israel being back in the land and Jerusalem being a ‘burdensome stone’ (Zech. 12:3), the ecumenical movement paving the way to a one-world religion, the rise of China as a superpower, earthquakes and wars increasing (Matt. 24:6-8), etc.
If Peter could write in the first century, “the end of all things is near”, how much closer to the end are we reading these words today! And before all these things, comes the rapture of the church, which could happen at any time. Therefore, Peter’s words are ones we should definitely take note of.
We are exhorted many times in the Scriptures, concerning the rapture and the end times, to be alert and watching (Matt. 25:1-13, Mark 13:35-37, Luke 21:36, 1 Thess. 5:4-7). Don’t get caught in sidetracks – collecting money, possessions, creating a legacy for yourself. All these things will perish and have no eternal value. We are near the climax. It’s time to live for God.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...” 1 Peter 3:15
‘Witnessing’ is a word that strikes fear into the heart of many Christians. It conjures up images of door-knocking, street-preaching, handing out tracts, saying to everyone you meet, ‘Do you know where you are going when you die?’
I would argue that the above is not really witnessing, but evangelism. And here’s why: evangelism is something that not every believer is called to. Not all are evangelists, just as not all are prophets or pastors or teachers. For myself I am much more drawn to teaching the word to others and discipling them, than I am to evangelism.
But all believers are called to be witnesses.
Let’s think about what it means to be a witness. In a courtroom, a witness is summoned because they have seen or experienced something. They are asked questions about what happened, and they answer truthfully. So too, as we go about our daily lives, people will ask us questions: “Why don’t you swear or tell dirty jokes?” “How come you’re always so honest?” Even, “So what did you get up to at the weekend?” can be answered with, “Well, on Sunday I went to church.” These questions will come up, and we need to be ready to answer them – giving a reason for the hope that we have. There’s no need to be defensive about it – they asked you, remember.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Beautiful women

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
Physical beauty is not what a woman should be judged by. Unfortunately for most of us, we don’t live up to the standards desired by the world when it comes to beauty. How great it is, then, to realise that the outer beauty is not what God is looking for. Instead He is looking for inner beauty.
Proverbs 31:30 tells us, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” The same is true for men also, but it seems that women are generally more concerned than men with their physical appearance. Just think about how many commercials we see on TV for various cosmetics, to defy the ageing process for as long as possible. Yet the beauty that God looks for – a gentle and quiet spirit – will always stay beautiful to Him.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t take care of our appearance; but it shouldn’t be a time-consuming exercise and one that we fret over. A woman’s true beauty is in her character. A plain Jane who is godly and honest, will get further in life than a beautiful woman who does not exercise any common sense. We find again in the book of Proverbs, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion” (Prov. 11:22). Which kind of beauty are you striving for?