Offenses Must Come, Part 3

From The Cross in the End-Times

One of the important questions explored in this book, is whether or not this all-important journey of faith, which is a God-led tour into the discovery of the fundamental issues that are the basis for eternal happiness and peace, comes to an abrupt halt for Christians at the start of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period through the rapture of the church?  If the seven-year tribulation is a culmination of the theme of the story that God has been writing over the last six thousand years, through the Bible, through the nation of Israel, through the church age, and through the journeys of faith that Christians are currently experiencing, then the natural conclusion would lead a person to think that the church would be a major participant, rather than an absentee raptured bystander, in this final chapter of redemptive history.

The tribulation is the crisis-filled environment of events and circumstances capable of bringing the substandard qualifications of the deceiving, negative attack-ad specialist Lucifer out into the open.  God has perfectly timed this absolute and final exposure of truth versus error, of the demonstration of pure love versus self-centered ambition, of the characters and motivations of everyone, to be revealed for all to see at the close of human redemptive history.  The universe and our natural world were created for just such an explosive final ending.

Finally, if Jesus was the leader of a small band of warriors like David, when He stood up to read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, the townspeople would never have reacted with such outwardly violent opposition to His words (Luke 4:28-30).  The townspeople would have respected His worldly power and feared His military might, keeping their opinions to themselves.  Jesus is led by the people of Nazareth to the edge of a cliff to be thrown over to His death because Jesus has no worldly influence, honor, or respect to intimate anyone.

The townspeople in the synagogue in Nazareth ask: “…is not this the carpenter, the son of Joseph?”  The growing reputation of Jesus as a prophet came from areas outside of His hometown (Luke 4:14).  Jesus had no reputation as a “somebody” in a worldly sense to be feared and respected.  Jesus was an outcast and lowly among his native town.  He did not fit-in in a worldly sense.  Otherwise the people of Nazareth would never have thought they were free to be offended with Jesus to the point of throwing Him off a nearby cliff.

Jesus is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God sacrifice for our transgressions within a worldly-free package having no pedigree, wealth, social standing, or outward appeal.  Jesus did not resort to appealing to worldly power.  Jesus lived a spotless life amidst no worldly influence, material success, or cultural acclaim.  Yet Jesus purchased through the cross and the resurrection the power to give eternal life.  Jesus has the power to effectuate the second birth of John 3:3.  Eternal life through the Son of God comes through zero worldly stature or authority.  This means we can live godly lives “in Christ” pleasing to the Father, likewise with or without any worldly acclaim, influence, or stature.

But more importantly for the discussion in this chapter, the complete lack of appeal to worldly influence in the life and ministry of Jesus tells us that Jesus as King and Ruler is the diametric opposite of hypocrisy.  Jesus does not have to resort to worldly acclaim, influence, and appeal to impress the world.  Jesus is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God sacrifice despite being devoid of outward worldly appeal.

By contrast, the son of perdition of 2 Thessalonian 2:3 to be shortly revealed by the upcoming events and circumstances of the great tribulation…the negative attack-ad character-assassin specialist…is the vilest hypocrite.  He promises peace and safety according to a modified version of the promise of worldly power he made to Jesus of Nazareth in the temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13), without the lightest intention or capacity to offer anything other than destruction and ruin for all who choose to follow him.

In my opinion, the Christian church has to participate in the exposure of this vast contrast between the genuine King and Ruler of the realm, and the counterfeit impostor who would like to overthrow God and assume His position.  The only Person in all of existence smart enough to outmaneuver and trap Lucifer in his deceptive lies and hypocrisy is God Almighty.  But for our benefit, for a discovery of the knowledge of good and evil to reach its full extent, the Christian church will be engaged in the middle of the action as previewed in every narrative story of faith recorded in the Bible.

Offenses Must Come, Part 2

From The Cross in the End-Times

The entire course of human redemptive history might be partially characterized as God allowing the consequences of unqualified ambitious rebellion to demonstrate its ill effects through real-life situations and circumstances.  The platform of information that makes up God’s qualifications and positive agenda, which is deceptively by-passed in a beauty contest based solely upon outward appearances, and which is ignored altogether in a cleverly conducted attack-ad campaign, God has nonetheless managed to submit into the human experience through the four dimensions of space and time.  The credentials and qualifications of Lucifer to be able to criticize God, which should have been required upfront and carefully examined in the Garden of Eden, but which were gullibly accepted by mankind without question, are now being exposed and scrutinized in agonizing detail through the long course of human history.

Lucifer can say whatever he wants using words alone.  But the difference between the disaster that occurs when man sits atop the throne of his life as a spiritual rebel against God, contrasted with the glory of redeeming character transformation that rescues people from personal destruction through repentance and a journey of faith following Jesus Christ as Lord, is acted out every day through the medium of this current life on earth.  The real truth regarding the credentials and character of God are being discovered every day in the progress being made in Christian apologetics, in the field of intelligent design, in Christian service to the world, and in individual journeys of faith following Jesus Christ.

God could alternately choose to write across the sky this afternoon with large flaming letters for everyone on earth to read, that Jesus Christ the Son of God is the outward expression of the Triune nature of God, and to worship only Him.  But then the freedom to choose between belief and unbelief would also end this afternoon.  And a journey of faith voluntarily following Jesus Christ through this broken world, having real consequences and eternally valuable spiritual lessons, would also come to an end.

Mankind’s corporate enlistment by Lucifer into his rebellion against God does not excuse our individual rebellion.  Each of us has individually sinned against God in our own rebellious ways.  When we repent and ask God’s forgiveness, He forgives each of us individually.  God places His hand upon our shoulder, looks into our eyes, and says: “I forgive you.”  But even though God completely and thoroughly forgives us, we are still in the same vulnerable, uninformed position regarding the nuances of deception as were Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Even though the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, we still have the issues of Lucifer’s successful temptation in the Garden of Eden to resolve.  For the remainder of our Christian lives, we still have to wrestle against this self-centered fallen nature we inhabit (Romans 7:23-25).

This is why God created the vehicle called a journey of faith, and why He gave us the Holy Spirit to live within us to lead and guide us into all truth (John 16:13).  This is why God inspired the writing of the Bible, recording the adventures of the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments as patterns and examples of His correct interaction with His followers.  This is why the current environment of our broken world is the proving ground for truth and error to be a demonstration in action.  This is why God allows belief and unbelief to operate side-by-side in opposing tension in our world, not decisively exposing the ultimate pros and cons of truth versus error, for the time being.  Christians have to experience first-hand for ourselves the truth or falsity of this enormously destructive attack-ad by Lucifer, first proposed in the idyllic Garden of Eden so long ago, that our happiness somehow lies in being our own gods atop the thrones of our lives, apart from God.  For Christians to become spiritually wise, mature, and savvy regarding the knowledge of good and evil, these first-hand experiential lessons must be out-there and in-play within the context of real life situations and circumstances.

Offenses Must Come, Part 1

From The Cross in the End-Times

The question can reasonably be asked, why did God not openly expose Lucifer in the Garden of Eden?  Why did God not thoroughly and irreparably expose Lucifer during the ministry of Jesus Christ in the first century?  Why does God allow Lucifer to continue this hiding-game of deception even to this day?  Why will Lucifer be able to continue as a formidable deceiver and a liar, apparently part-way into the Great Tribulation, before he is finally exposed and revealed according to this 2 Thessalonians 2:3 verse?  Why does God allow what amounts to the equivalent of an open forum process, where unbelief, rebellion, and deception have a viable platform, to continue unabated to express their destructive world-views under the cover of high-minded, good-natured, and well-meaning debate?  Why does God allow people the total freedom to continue to make eternally decisive, self-destructive wrong choices?

Lucifer’s classically deceptive statement in the Garden of Eden reads: “Ye shall not surely die.  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).  Mankind, represented through Adam and Eve, sadly swallowed this massively deceptive temptation “hook, line, and sinker”, without requiring the slightest backup evidence or character references from Lucifer to qualify him to be able to make such cleverly disguised, yet boldly critical statements about God.

One answer to the question why God has not thoroughly exposed Lucifer is contained within the nature of Lucifer’s rebellion, and the subsequent fall of man.  Lucifer’s rebellion against God in heaven had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of God’s management of the affairs of the universe.  Lucifer wanted God’s seat of power…pure and simple.  Lucifer’s rebellion was a raw power-grab.  Lucifer offered himself as a credible leader in place of God based upon appearances rather than substance.  Like Absalom’s rebellion in the Old Testament against his father David’s reign as king, no attempt at high-minded debate regarding competence, credentials, or agenda was made.  Like Absalom, Lucifer depended upon good looks, appealing charm, and persuasive smooth-talk, leaving out any specifics as to how things could be done better under his rule.  Absalom rode upon the coattails of his father’s existing beneficial reign as Israel’s King, with Absalom’s supporters uncritically assuming that Absalom possessed the same high quality of character and leadership abilities as David, yet in a more popular and outwardly charming package.   Lucifer, like Absalom, offered himself as an improvement in place of the existing ruler God, rather than offering an improvement in the ideological agenda to replace the existing policies and leadership regime.

Lucifer’s rebellion was an attempted coup, a change of personnel, not a reformation of ideas.  Lucifer has no ideas of his own, no positive agenda, other than to steal and corrupt God’s existing program.  Lucifer by nature is a destroyer, not a builder, with the fatal character flaw of insatiable ambition.  God lovingly created mankind with a need for fellowship with God, and Lucifer cleverly hides within religion, inserting himself into the very seat and object of worship where God should rightfully reside.

This is the really dangerous and eternally threatening part of Lucifer’s rebellion contained within the subsequent fall of mankind.  A brilliantly executed negative attack-ad campaign by Lucifer against God, combined with deceptive good looks and charm, do not make a qualified god who can effectively and capably rule the universe.  But this approach almost enabled Absalom to topple his father David from the throne of Israel.  This approach did actually bring about the successful temptation in the Garden of Eden.  We see the negative consequences of sin as objective fact every day in our newspapers and on the nightly news.  This cleverly and cunningly devised challenge to God’s rulership and authority, even though it contained absolutely no substance and had no positive agenda of its own, nonetheless required an equally well thought-out and executed counter-response from God at the highest level.

The Father of Lies

From The Cross in the End-Times

The rebellion of Lucifer is like the modern-day politician whose strategy is to bring down his election opponent through negative attack-ads, rather than through the presentation of a straightforward policy agenda that can be honestly and openly debated on its merits.  Lucifer actually has nothing constructive to offer.  Lucifer has no positive agenda of his own.  Lucifer cannot compete against God head-to-head in the arena of righteousness, holiness, and competence.  If Lucifer is to get the power and position that he covets, to be ruler of the universe in place of God, he will have to resort to devious and underhanded methods.  Taking-on God straight-up is a losing proposition for Lucifer.  The temptation in the Garden of Eden is therefore a cleverly crafted deception and a lie about the character of God, not a commendable, honorable approach having substance that can be debated on common ground with the program of God.

What is so brilliantly deceptive, but so damnably evil, about the temptation in the Garden of Eden, is that the slander of God’s character by Lucifer carries with it the false presumption that Lucifer is thereby on an equal footing with God, without first having to establish Lucifer’s bona fide credentials for criticizing God.  Like the political candidate who skillfully uses negative attack-ads against his opponent, the mere presentation of a criticism, according to the higher moral fabric of the universe, automatically implies that the person making the criticism somehow has the qualifications and right standing to do so.

An elevated, good-natured, respectful to one’s opponent, fair-minded debate between opposing viewpoints belongs within the high moral plane of God’s world.  Political candidates who critically scrutinize their opponent’s viewpoints at this elevated level are rightly considered to be engaging in commendable, constructive, and honorable pursuits of truth that will achieve good government and thereby benefit society.  The negative, spurious, and unfounded attack-ad character assassination of one’s political opponent as a successful campaign strategy, is a product of the sinful fallen nature of man, and is not a part of God’s world at all.  But an unscrupulous person can move up or down at will between these two levels of conduct, claiming the legitimacy of the higher-minded zone while actually engaging in the worst form of untruthful character assassination.  This is the subtlety of deception that Lucifer introduced into the world through his rebellion against God.

By questioning God’s underlying motives regarding Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit, Lucifer is presuming to place himself in the undeserved and unjustified high position of criticizing God.  By questioning God’s character through this deceptive temptation, Lucifer is unilaterally elevating himself (through incredible pride, arrogance, and what the British would call “cheek”) up to an equal footing with God without even having to present his qualifications beforehand.  By deceptively playing the part of being a constructive critic within the higher zone of good-natured and fair-minded debate, Lucifer is granting himself the freedom to pass judgment upon the actions of God, which he is in no way qualified to do.

The willingness to ruthlessly attack a political opponent’s personal character with untrue and slanderous lies, while running for office, does not in any way establish a candidate’s own qualifications for becoming a good and effective public servant.  This is what is so damnably dishonest, dishonorable, and deceptive about Lucifer’s attitude and tactics.

We know from reading the New Testament that Lucifer hid behind the outwardly acceptable religious appearance of the first-century Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers, who eventually managed to instigate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  We know from history that Lucifer hid behind the Roman Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, threatening dissenters and potential reformers with excommunication and the terrors of the Inquisition, until Martin Luther successfully began the Protestant Reformation.  We know that Lucifer is currently hiding behind all forms of liberalism, religious relativism, and worldly compromise within Christendom today.  These modern forms of spiritual deception are just as difficult to uproot and overturn as these earlier challenges.

One Purpose for the Great Tribulation, Part 2

From The Cross in the End-Times

This book is not an attempt to rigorously examine the end-times biblical prophecies scripture by scripture, in an exhaustive, comprehensive manner.  There are numerous well-written books and commentaries that cover the standard viewpoints in the field of biblical eschatology, spanning across recent centuries back to the early church fathers.  But I believe that God does have something unique, timely, and applicable to say to us regarding our discipleship as we approach the beginning of the end-times.  The goal of this book is to examine some important issues in the current end-times debate from a different perspective, from the viewpoint of our journey of faith with God.  This hopefully will enable Christians to stretch their thinking about the challenges ahead and lead to a greater personal commitment in following Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:3 tells us that before the “day of the Lord” comes, the “man of sin”, the “son of perdition” will be revealed.  Because the precise circumstances that would expose the heretofore unrevealed nature of the son of perdition are not given in this scriptural passage, we cannot say exactly how this will occur in the future.  But we can make an educated guess that can be insightful to Christians today.

One of the many places where Lucifer, a spiritual being, deceptively hides his true character is within religion (2 Corinthians 11:14).  Lucifer infiltrates Judaism in the Old Testament, and Christianity in the church age, in skillfully camouflaged attire, because by nature he is a destroyer rather than a builder (John 10:10).  Because outward appearances can be so deceiving (Matthew 23:27-28; Luke 11:44), Lucifer can outwardly project the impression that he is a builder with a positive agenda, which provides a suitable cover for his real intentions of knocking down and destroying the plans of God.

Lucifer hides within religion, in addition to our secular world, because it is one of the best places to conceal his true identity, while at the same time subtly attacking and undermining the work of God.  After all, who would expect a religious leader in Jerusalem in the first century or a high official inside “the church” in any century of the church age, to be anything other than a godly person?  The cover of religion removes any suspicion.

One Purpose for the Great Tribulation, Part 1

“When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

From The Cross in the End-Times

Church fathers, biblical scholars, and Christian philosophers have been debating and arguing about end-times prophecies for nearly two thousand years, and still have not managed to reach a consensus.  People with high academic credentials have spent lifetimes studying the end-times prophecies in the original languages, and cannot agree with other scholars and theologians on the interpretation of end-times prophetic passages found in the five historical books, the psalms, the prophets, the gospels, the letters to the churches, and in the book of Revelation.  I have good Christian friends who are all over the map on the subject of the timing of the rapture in relation to the tribulation.

Many Christians have the plausible belief that the church will come under the supernatural protection of God all the way to the end of the tribulation, through a physical or spiritual hiding place, without a rapture even occurring.  One longtime Christian friend humorously calls himself a “pan-tribulationist”, meaning that it will all “pan-out” in good time through unfolding events, like panning for fine gold in a river bed.

I believe the rapture is separate from the second coming.  Paul speaks of what we call the rapture as a mystery, yet everyone in the early church clearly knew about the ascension of Jesus and the promise that He would return in like manner someday in the future.  The second coming was not a mystery to first-century Christians.  A rapture occurring sometime prior to the second coming, as revealed to Paul, would be a mystery.

In sharing his teachings openly with the other apostles (Gal. 2:2), Paul would have certainly included this revelation regarding the mystery of a lifting-up of the Christian church, those believers currently living and those already dead and buried, off the earth and into heaven.  Yet we do not see the slightest hint of any opposition to this teaching that Paul seems to have included within his outreach to the Gentile churches in Asia Minor (Acts 20:20), and that he would have communicated during any one of several occasions to Peter, James, John, and other leaders in the early church in Jerusalem.

It is also important to note here that the pretribulation rapture interpretation is not a paradigm in the sense of a universally accepted working hypothesis in science that must be replaced by a better hypothesis in order to be overturned.  No matter how popular the pretribulation rapture teaching may currently be, it is only one of four or five competing end-times prophetic interpretations to choose from.  People inclined to place the rapture part-way into the great tribulation, with the Christian church having a major role in the final decisive debate, do not have to construct an alternate complete scenario to support a rapture occurring sometime in the middle of the tribulation period.  The pretribulation rapture scenario is not the orthodox position that must be replaced by a fully formed and explicitly detailed alternative.  In my opinion, the best alternative is to admit we do not have the complete end-times picture as yet.

My working hypothesis is the recognition of the great difficulty everyone had figuring out the nature and mission of the messiah prior to the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth.  Yet in hindsight everything worked out perfectly according to the designs of God without any dependence upon prior human understanding.  Scripture says that end-times Christians will not walk in the night of ignorance (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11), but this does not require that we have a complete scenario worked out from beginning to end to successfully replace the fully constructed pretribulation rapture framework.  The pretribulation rapture teaching is not a paradigm but simply one interpretation among several others.

When is the Best Time to Shake-Up the World, Part 2?

When we look back through the Bible, we can see the enormous care that God took in keeping the ability of people to believe or not to believe, in balance. The fact that God the Father orchestrated the ministry, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God in the midst of a busy and populated first-century Roman occupied Israel in such a way as to leave in place the free-will ability of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, rulers, and a large segment of the populace to remain after-the-fact in unbelief, has to be one of the great spiritual engineering marvels of history.

The timing of the rapture is therefore critical. The nature and intent of its impact changes dramatically, depending on when it occurs in relation to the end-times tribulation events.  Place it too early, and it upsets the balance between belief and unbelief.  Place it too late, after multitudes have already received the mark of the beast and are beyond pardon, and the evangelical value it affords as a powerful sign to the world of the truth of the Christian gospel message is lost forever.

If the rapture is placed well beyond the midpoint of the tribulation, after tens of millions of Christians have been martyred for refusing the mark of the beast, as alluded to in Revelation 7:14, 12:11, and 15:2, then the rapture is not intended as a sign at all, but rather as a well-timed escape mechanism to remove the church from the earth sometime around Revelation 16:15. The rapture is like the main ingredient in the cooking of some precisely prepared gourmet meal.  The timing of its addition to the process must be perfectly coordinated to achieve the desired outcome.

The long-awaited rapture cannot be about something as relatively trivial as the removal of the Christian church simply to be out of harm’s way before the massively unsettling but defining tribulation period. Since when is the God of the Bible overly challenged by the threat of invading Midianites, or invading Philistines, or Pharaohs, or Egyptian chariot armies, or the parting of the Red Sea, or kings like Nebuchadnezzar, or a fiery furnace, or a den full of lions, or 450 prophets of Baal, or any of the other tribulations facing the people of God in the Bible?

The timing of the rapture, placed just prior to the start of the tribulation, has no clear basis in scripture one way or the other. The pretribulation rapture teaching is one plausible construction of events according to a particular school of thought.  The doctrine of imminence absolutely requires that the rapture occur before the tribulation, only if we define Christian hope as something outside of Hebrews chapter eleven, outside of John 21:18-19, outside of Acts 9:16, and apart from the Holy Spirit inspired character-stretch toward the excellence of a “better resurrection” of Hebrews 11:35.

If it is true that the unique nature of the rapture will clearly reveal itself as the rapture, and nothing else, then this important observation needs to be factored into our end-times calculus. If it does not make sound biblical logic, or even worldly-astute common sense (based on the accuracy of modern investigative journalism) that the rapture can occur at the beginning of the tribulation, because it would prematurely give away too much world-shattering information at the wrong time, then it becomes the nearly unavoidable conclusion that the un-raptured main Christian church will enter into at least some portion of the seven-year tribulation period.