Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wealthy Christian Leaders

(Written by Ron Graham)
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6:10.

It can get pretty discouraging, especially in these last days before Christ’s return, as we’re confronted with more and more high profile Christian leaders falling into sinful lifestyles. When I read about both men and women pastoring huge mega churches, or those who are out on evangelistic tours pulling down yearly salaries in the millions, all the while building up fleets of exotic cars, boats, and flying their own personal jets around the world, I’m actually grieved in my spirit. Why? Because almost without fail the next thing we know is they’ve been caught in some kind of scandal, and it is usually of a sexual nature.

It seems that the more money they receive the less attractive lifestyle they lead. Year after year the news reports come in exposing, even detailing, the less than moral lives many of these individuals have been living. Professing Christians – all of them leading huge flocks of parishioners to where? God knows. Without fail, as they are caught in the most compromising of positions, out come the tears and the cries of repentance begging for forgiveness. Have they actually repented and turned away from the sinfulness that got them into the bind they are in? Only God knows. But we as followers of Jesus Christ must make a decision to forgive them and continue to follow this person’s teachings, or to simply move on.

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21, 22. Here Peter refers to a brother sinning against a brother, but these folks are sinning against God and it is God whom they need to ask forgiveness of. Of course God will forgive them but God can see their hearts, He knows if they are truly sincere or not.

The love of money certainly is the root of all evil, of that fact I have no doubt. It seems that many of these folks started out in the most sincere ministries, but as their following grew they became wealthier and wealthier until their lifestyle had made such a change that finally their extremely flamboyant lives demanded they pursue more wealth. Oh sure, they can preach a sermon that draws huge crowds, we’ve all seen the results of their obvious charisma. And they seem to draw folks with some very deep pockets. They are very convincing with their showy, sometimes fiery, sermons, but are these folks actually portraying a Christ-like lifestyle or are they living a “behind the scenes” type of life that if truth be known would have us squirming in our seats?

Was Christ ever rolling in the dough? Did Jesus Christ ever come to a meeting in one of the most expensive modes of transportation of His day, or did he usually walk from the last place He held a meeting? The only time the Bible records Christ as using any mode of transportation other than walking is when He rode on the colt of an ass into Jerusalem and allowed Himself to be worshipped as Messiah.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Behold, I Make All Things New

(Written by Jack Kelley)
And He that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind had conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor 2:9).

The Greek word translated new in Rev 21:5 can also mean renewed or restored, and includes circumstances and conditions along with appearance. It’s the same word used in Rev 21:1 referring to a new heaven and a new earth. And Rev. 21:1 is a reference to Isaiah 65:17 where new heavens and a new earth are also mentioned, along with one of the better descriptions of life in Israel during the Millennium. The Hebrew word for new in Isaiah 65:17 comes from a root meaning to rebuild, renew, or repair.

Since Jesus described His 2nd Coming as the renewal of all things (Matt. 19:28), it’s reasonable to interpret Rev. 21 as describing Heaven and Earth being restored to the condition they were in before the fall; refreshed, renewed, repaired and rebuilt for Messiah’s Kingdom. It will be like God hit the reset button to put everything back the way it was at the beginning, giving the Creation a fresh start for the Millennium.

The context of Rev. 20 also supports this interpretation since Rev. 20:7-15 is actually a parenthetical explanation of the ultimate destinies of Satan and the unbelieving world. John was simply bringing his subject to its conclusion before returning to the beginning of the Millennium to describe the New Jerusalem. We know this because John skipped forward to the end of the Millennium in Rev. 20:7 and then returned to open both Rev. 21 (Isaiah 65:17) and Rev. 22 (Ezekiel 47:12) with millennial quotes from the Old Testament.

Israel And The Church In The Millennium

Have you noticed that there’s a lot more information about the nature of the coming Kingdom in the Old Testament than in the New? That’s because even though Christians talk more about the Millennium than Jews do, the fact is that the 1000 year Kingdom of the Messiah is intended for Israel not the Church, and for Earth not Heaven.

Major glimpses of life in the Millennium are found throughout Isaiah (2, 4, 35, 54, 55, 60, 61, 65, 66) Ezekiel (40-48) Joel (3) Amos (9) Micah (4) and Zechariah (14) with other smatterings through out the Old Testament. All we know from the New Testament is found in Rev. 20-22, and even there, portions referring to New Jerusalem describe only our physical surroundings, not our life style.

In the rest of the New Testament, we find only a couple of hints, such as Matthew 19:28and Acts 3:21, because the New Testament concerns Christian life in phase one of the Kingdom of Heaven (before the rapture), not phase two (after it). So we can read much more about life on Earth during the Millennium, than we can about life in New Jerusalem. Those passages are important because they describe the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel, a promise that includes peace (finally) prosperity, land of their own and long happy life with God in their midst, but they’re not written for us.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Hidden Doctrine of The Rapture

(Written by Jack Kelley)
Over time I've received several questions along the line of the following one. “Why do you think that such an important occurrence as the rapture is spoken of so few times and why is it so "hidden" in scripture?”

It's true the rapture is not mentioned very often, at least not directly. In fact, the Greek word from which we get the whole rapture idea appears only 13 times in the New Testament and and even then it comes to us in a roundabout way. The Greek word is harpazo and means to catch up or take by force. In most English translations of 1 Thes.4:17 it's rendered “caught up”. The root from which it comes is haireo which means “to take for oneself.” 1 Thes. 4:17 is the only place the word harpazo refers to the rapture of the Church.

On top of that rapture is an English word that comes from the Latin translation of harpazo which is why you can't find it in your Bible. You would have to read 1 Thes. 4:17 in Latin to see it there. (It appears as rapiemur.) Many people don't realize that for the thousand years preceding the Reformation, the Latin Vulgate was the primary translation of the original Greek texts. It was the standard text longer than any other translation before or since.

Although the concept of the rapture appears through out the Bible it wasn't until about 20 years after the cross that it was described in any detail. This is how Paul could say he was revealing a secret (Listen, I tell you a mystery) when he described it in 1 Cor. 15: 51-53. Together with 1 Thes. 4:15-17 it was the first clear teaching of the rapture in the history of mankind. Only with the benefit of Paul's disclosure can you look back through the Bible and see the many hints of the rapture. (See Rapture References)

There was a good strategic reason to keep all this secret before the cross. Paul spoke of it in 1 Cor 2:7-8. Explaining that his message of wisdom was not taken from the wisdom of the world, he said,

No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Remember, Jesus called Satan the prince of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11). Paul thought of him as the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4) and John said the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19), so Paul's reference to rulers of this age is not to the High Priest in Jerusalem or Caesar in Rome. He was saying that had Satan and his lackeys understood the extent of the blessings God had in mind for the Church, they would have done everything possible to prevent the crucifixion.

God's Secret Wisdom, Part 1
There are two facets to God's Secret wisdom where the Church is concerned. And as you'll see both require absolute secrecy. The first is the manner in which the Church was brought into the world.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)