Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Eschatology and Sanctification Part 4

While this will be the last post on this topic, much more could be said. But I hope that these posts will help to see the importance of eschatology and lead you to give  more time to study and meditate on this truth.

We should study eschatology so that we will be discerning when it comes to unbiblical ideas about the last things and so that we will have a proper perspective on the events that go on around us. Knowing what the Bible teaches concerning the end times is important so when you come across end time errors, you will be able to spot them. It was end time errors that lead Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Thessalonians 2 to teach the truth about the end times. Often false teachers and cults have wild and strange understandings of the last things. Think of Jehovah Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventists or the latest false teacher who predicts when Jesus shall return. Jesus warned us that many false christs would come in his name to lead people astray. Matthew 24:4. So we must be on our guard and one way we do that is to know from the scripture what the coming of Christ and the events around that time will look like. These truths will give us a proper perspective on current events. In Matthew 24, Jesus teaches us this world will get worse. He tells us what to expect in this age. Wars, famines, earthquakes, false prophets and lawlessness will increase. Paul warns of the increase in the wickedness of men and of times of difficulty in the last days in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. The Bible clearly teaches not to hope for a golden era of the church before the coming of our Lord. This world will increase in wickedness. Things will get worse. But the fact that God knows this, means He is in control of the future and He will use it to do what is best.  To be forewarned is to be forearmed. 

 The study of the end times will bring comfort. We are comforted in death, persecution and trials of various sorts. Paul told the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 about the coming of the Lord and our  being caught up to Him in the air for the purpose of comforting them when someone died. All Christians will  rise together and meet the Lord in the air. Then we will always be with the Lord. At Christian funerals, people often read from Revelation 21-22 concerning the new heaven and the new earth. For those in Christ, death is only a door to a glorious future with the Lord and His people. We are comforted in persecution. God will judge our enemies. We leave vengeance to Him and do good to them that hurt us. In Hebrews 11:35 it says that "some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life." We can endure persecution knowing that this is only for a short time and that we will rise again from the dead and receive our reward for having stood firm till the end. Revelation 3:10-12 and Matthew 5:12.  Connected to this is the comfort we will have in trials. We can persevere in trials by fixing our eyes of faith on the things to come. This the great heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 did. Paul says the same thing in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  We must pray that God may increase our faith so we see the unseen world and find strength and comfort in all our trials.

Finally, the study of Eschatology will lead to worship. We will worship God for His grace and mercy to us in Christ. How unworthy we are of the honours and glories of the world to come. How thankful we should be to be saved from eternal punishment in Hell. We will see more clearly the glorious salvation we have. What a Saviour we have. What a King we have as we see Him, by faith, destroy all His enemies and reign forever as King. We will worship God for His perfect justice, His patience and wisdom. We will praise Him for being faithful to His promises to Israel His people as He brings them as a nation into the New Covenant; providing them with new hearts in the land He promised to give them. Thousands of years do not change God's promises. Nothing can prevent them from coming to pass. We will see the importance of worship. One day, only God will be honoured and glorified. His glory will cover the earth. If it will be so in eternity, we should strive to bring glory to God alone here on earth. Eschatology is all about worship. Faith sees the things to come as certain as if they have already happened. See what the result of prophecy is in Revelation 19:1-10. Hallelujah! The multitudes in heaven worship God for what He will do. They and we can and will worship Him for His judgement on this wicked world, for His avenging His people, for His future reign on this earth, for the future blest communion God will have with His people. This is a good ending to this series. This is the greatest motivation for the study of eschatology.

In order to help you begin to study eschatology, I provide this link to an old free book on the subject.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Eschatology and Sanctification Part 3

I have been trying to show that a healthy eschatology is important for our sanctification. There seems to be two extremes when it come to the study of last things. There are those who spend most of their time studying what will happen in the end times. They give too much time to this study and neglect the rest of the truths of scripture. Then there are those who only have vague ideas of what will happen in the end. They know Jesus will return and they will be resurrected. They know there will be a heaven and hell. They don't really have a clear and deep understanding of what the Bible teaches about the end of this world. This is such a shame. There are really so many ways in which a deeper understanding of eschatology benefits our souls that it would take a book to explain them all. These posts are to encourage us all to study eschatology so it can benefit our souls.

 Eschatology leads to holy, purposeful living. It leads us to flee from sin and pursue righteousness. It will keep us from worldliness.  This is seen through-out the Bible. There are too many verses to list, but here are just a few.
1 John 2:28 "And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him at His coming."
1 John 3:2-3 "Beloved we are God's children now and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself as He is pure."
2 Peter 3:11-14 "Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish and at peace."
    Consider how the coming of the Lord Jesus will lead to holy living with this example. Suppose the parents of five children leave the house for a number of hours. They tell their children to behave and they will be back soon. Once the parents leave, chaos erupts in the house. Four children run around eating cookies and chips. They fight and leave a trail of destruction in the house. One child sits quietly and reads. The parents come home. What will happen? Discipline will be swiftly dealt out to four children, while one will be commended and praise. Read Matthew 24:45-51. Do you want a rebuke from our Lord when He comes? Do we want to be ashamed before His glorious face? Wouldn't we rather be commended by Him. So the coming of Jesus and other truths of eschatology will motivate us to holy living.
  Clearly seeing by faith the return of the Lord, the destruction of the world, the new heavens and the new earth and eternity will change how we use our time, resources, gifts and energy. We will live with eternity in our eyes. We will live with a razor sharp focus. We won't be distracted by the cheap toys of this world. We won't live for our own petty kingdom or the kingdoms of this age. Our time, resources and gifts will be used for God's kingdom which will never pass away. We have eternity ahead of us. This life is so short. What will Jesus say to us at the end of our life? There is much work to be done in God's kingdom. Sinners are dying in their sins and going to hell. Who will go and tell them the good news?  How many Christians are weak, immature, and undiscerning? They need to be taught the scriptures. They need to exhorted, rebuked, and encouraged. They need to be equipped to live lives that please God.  Who will be as Apollos, a man mighty in the scriptures, to explain the word of God to them? The time for working for God's kingdom is now. Soon there will come a day when the time for working will be over. Soon will come a day when the day of salvation is over. Soon the day for judgement will come. Soon we shall stand before Christ and our life work will be tested and what is done for Christ's will remain. Then we shall receive our rewards. A deeper understanding of the things to come will help us to live with intense focus as we seek to make God's name great.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Unfortunate Malady of the Veneration of Protestant Saints and its Cure

Last week I met someone famous. It was a famous preacher. We got to talk to him for a number of minutes. I shook his hand too. I haven't washed my hands since and I have kept a hair of his in a glass shrine. I am kidding about the last part. But the way we act around those who are well known in the church makes you wonder sometimes. It isn't only Catholics that worship saints and relics.  Some Protestants do so too, although to a lesser degree and in less obvious ways. We can see this in a number of ways. Some want their picture taken with a famous preacher, leader or musician. Some even ask for his autograph. We try to show our good side to them. We desire them to like us. We desire them to admire us. We crave their attention and affirmation. We boast of our achievements.  Maybe our favorite Christian leader's words are treated like they were the words of God. Whatever form it takes, we make our Christian leaders of the past and present into idols and we sin by pursuing the praise of men.  I know that these sins happen, because I have seen these sins in my own heart and seen these sins in others. These things should not be.
It is too bad people make celebrities out of preachers. We should treat our leaders with respect, but they are still sinful men. Think about your favorite preacher or pastor. He is a sinner who deserves the fires of hell, but through God's grace has been saved. Like all of us he is unworthy of any good thing, especially not salvation. Even more his gift that you enjoy so much, comes from God. That gift has been given by the Lord for the benefit of the church. Famous Christians are still sinners too. They struggle with sins just like us common people. Consider also that maybe that famous Christian is not so faithful to God as you imagine. Maybe in God's eyes there are countless mothers, plumbers, office workers and elders who please God more by their faithful and holy life than the famous Christian you adore. God looks at the heart and views people differently than we tend to do. 'But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."'(1 Samuel 16:7) We are called to give honour to those to whom it is due (1 Tim 5:17). But praise and worship belongs to God alone. See Acts 10:25-26  where Cornelius worshipped Peter who then said, "Stand up! I myself am also a man." So, worship God for the gifts he has given to others.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sinfully Selfish

Before I had children, I would not have thought of myself as selfish, at least not very selfish.
Five children later, I know I am selfish.
I know that I do not like getting out at night when I'm sleeping in a nice, warm bed.
I know that I do not like when the laundry mountain piles up and it never seems to end.
I know that I do not like when a new mess appears in minutes when I've just spent hours cleaning.
I could continue...
But, I don't think I realize how selfish I am. Even now.
When I read the Bible, when I read how God the Father sent his only Son to die for us--to take on Himself the wrath of God, I catch a glimpse of God's unselfishness--of his kindness, grace, and mercy.
It is then that I start to realize the extent of my selfishness--how deep it runs.
How sinful selfishness is. How sinful I am.
And it is then that I realize how much I need forgiveness--how much I need Christ's righteousness, because it is only through his saving work on the cross, through the Spirit dwelling in me that I can even start to fight my sinful selfishness.

"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." -Romans 7:21-25


Friday, March 6, 2015

Eschatology and Sanctification Part 2

In my last post I wrote that it is important for our sanctification to study what God has revealed concerning the end times. This post I would like to begin to show how this study will benefit us.

In the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien, the characters never know what the end will be. In the darkest days, they have no idea if they will triumph over their enemies. Will the Evil Sauron prevail? Are they doomed to fail in their quest to destroy the One Ring?  They have no confident answer to these questions. Their hope rests upon the thinnest of threads. All they can do is to bravely press on, and if all fails, they can at least make a courageous last stand.
 Imagine if this was the case with Christians in this world. We are a small and weak people. Our task is great. Our opponents are strong. The devil is powerful and cunning. We are no match for him. The church is assaulted by false teachers and teaching. The world tempts and seduces the church to embrace her lies and sins. The devil and world seem to be winning. We die and seem to be no more. If we look at what we can see with our eyes, we can grow weary and hopeless. It seems to be a lost cause. But as we study the end times as God has revealed them, we see by faith a different picture. God reveals to us the He will raise us from the dead in a new and glorious body. God will bring  defeat to the devil and all those who follow his ways. None will escape the Lord Jesus Christ, the great King of Kings. God will persevere His church, no matter what her enemies can and will throw at her. The truth will prevail. We may lose some battles, but the war is won. We fight a defeated foe. It may not seem like this is the case, but God's words reveals a different situation. Romans 16:20 says, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." The clearer our views of the end times, the greater our confidence, our hope and our courage.  In Psalm 73, the psalmist is gloomy because the wicked seem to have it good. He laments that it is of no use to be good and godly.  A godly life is vain. God doesn't seem to care about the good I do and the wicked that the ungodly do. But the psalmist's mood changes when he goes into the temple and remembers what will be the end of the wicked. In the end God will punish them and sweep them away forever. He and all the righteous will enjoy God  and live with Him forever. Here in this psalm we see an example of how a right and clear understanding of last events will bring clarity, hope, joy, peace and confidence.  This is what is seen in 1 Cor 15:57-58, which comes after Paul's explanation of the resurrection of believers. There Paul ends with this practical encouragement, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." This is a good benefit to those who diligently study eschatology.