Sunday, September 6, 2020

Guest Post: What God Wants of You

Belief in God as Creator and in His authority as well as in our responsibility to Him is almost universal among men. The fact that our daily lives do not measure up to God’s standards is also quite generally conceded, but the solution to this evident shortcoming is the subject of many theories and religious practices: “How can a man please God and be accepted of Him?” “What does God want of me?” These are questions that have arisen in the hearts of men since the beginning of time.

No matter who you are, there is something that God does want of you; but one obvious problem always presents itself in any attempt to please Him or offer some gift acceptable to Him, and that is the fact of man’s sin in relation to God’s absolute holiness. What intelligent man would deny the basic fact of sin? Positive evidence is displayed with inexorable regularity on the news pages of the whole world, told out in crimes of violence, greed, hatred, jealousy, rage, vice, lust, worldwide mistrust, and strife. Regardless of date, place, names of individuals, or other details that may vary, each story can be told in one short word: sin. And every person who is honest enough to admit it knows that this infectious virus has festered to some degree in his own heart and life.

The Bible makes it clear that sin has separated man from God and placed him under the penalty of God’s judgment: “As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans:3:10—emphasis added). God is holy and righteous, and, as the great Judge of all the earth, His verdict will be perfectly right for every man and within the scope of His law. This verdict has been announced for centuries from the pages of His Holy Word: “The wages of sin is death—the soul that sinneth, it must die.” Death is, of necessity, a complete separation from the Giver of Life.

To think that God can be bought with money, time, or work given to a church or to some good cause, or that His verdict can be swayed by “influence” of church or “saint” is to expect less of the Righteous Judge than you would demand of a man in a similar position upon earth. Surely God cannot be enticed to break His own law.

A prisoner stands before the court. The evidence has been heard and weighed. He is found guilty of a great crime, for which the law demands that the judge mete out a severe penalty. Can any amount of promises to reform through positive thinking, pledges to devote time and money to good causes, or proof of membership in a church and charitable societies ever alter the fact that the prisoner has committed a crime? Would these deeds nullify the penalty demanded by the law? Of course not! Nor can good works or church membership or the act of belonging to any other organization alter for one moment the fact that man is a sinner before God.

In a court of law there is no procedure for adding up the “good” the accused may have done to see if it will outweigh the crime for which he is being tried. The question before the court is simply, “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.” And it is the same in the eyes of God. No amount of good deeds can ever nullify the fact of sin; and the verdict of “guilty” has already been pronounced by God upon the whole race of man: “Now we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans:3:19—emphasis added).

When the verdict of “guilty” has been pronounced in a court of law, if true justice is to be done, friends of the prisoner, no matter who they may be, must have no power to change the verdict of the judge or sway him in his duty under the law. Do you, then, believe that any church body or official can sway the judgments of Almighty God?

What vanity, therefore, to trust in some church (no matter what type it may be) or in some “saint” that someone may have named as influential to mediate your cause with Almighty God! Can He be influenced to go back upon the righteous penalty He himself has pronounced upon sin? Can He be persuaded to compromise with the undeniable fact of our guilt before Him?

Certainly basic logic leads us to the inevitable conclusion that if any man is to be accepted of God it must be upon a righteous basis—not on the basis of penance, prayers, rituals, good deeds, gifts of time and money, or the influence of a church or a “saint.” None of these can alter the fact of our sin and guilt before a righteous, holy God and are therefore only bribes attempting to pervert judgment. These attempts may work at times among men—but never with God.

The teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament gospels very strongly emphasize this point. If there was one thing that Jesus constantly stressed during His life upon earth, it was the fact that God is neither deceived by nor pleased with an outward show of piety, even when it comes to religious attendance to ordinances that He himself gave to the Jews of old. In fact, God’s eyes pierce through all of these things to examine man’s very heart.

In the well-known Sermon on the Mount, Christ dealt not with externals but with those things that are the result of a right attitude of heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (emphasis added). That this is not the natural condition of man’s heart is quite evident, and the Bible reiterates this fact again and again in such verses as Jeremiah:17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart.” Thus the question of man’s sins (the fruit) must not only be settled in effecting reconciliation to God on a righteous basis, but sin itself (the root) must be put away and the “deceitful…and desperately wicked” heart made “pure” in the sight of God.

Did the religious rituals of the Jews bring about this pureness of heart? Here are the words of Christ spoken to a group of the religious leaders: “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?” (Matthew:12:34) “For out of the abundance of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew:15:19—emphasis added).

These words of Christ are an indictment of the heart of man as well as of the form, ritual, and hypocrisy of the religious world. Thus Christ proclaimed that because the heart of man is corrupt, his good works cannot be accepted by God. Even religious ordinances once given by God to the Jews as a type and example of truth that was to be revealed in Christ became perverted by their evil hearts, and the empty form that remained had become an abomination to God.

Jesus taught that the very essence of what God requires of man is this: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew:23:36-40Luke:10:25-28). God wants the true love and devotion of your heart!

But how can the heart of man, which contains the “root of sin,” as Christ describes it, produce the true love and devotion that God requires? And how can a condemned sinner be brought to the place of reconciliation and love before a Holy God? How can God be just and yet pardon the sinner? How can He dispense love and mercy to a sinful race without compromising righteousness and justice? The answer could only be devised by God’s infinite wisdom, and it is the most wonderful message ever heard by human ears.

God’s answer to this seeming dilemma is proclaimed by the gospel, His “good news” to man. The message is one of perfect love, not prostitution; of infinite mercy, but not compromise; of complete and absolute pardon, yet the strictest of justice. It is the marvelous story of infinite Love giving its all to win us back to Himself: the story of God himself, who came down to earth to inhabit a body of flesh and blood, was born of a virgin that as a man He might be our representative, and, as our representative, might take our place in judgment, paying the extreme penalty demanded against sin by His own holy Law. Nevertheless, many would fail to respond in repentance, submission, and love to the Christ of the cross, who stands with outstretched hands that still bear the nail prints, and pleads—“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew:11:28).

O the love that drew salvation’s plan!

O the grace that brought it down to man!

O the mighty gulf that God did span

At Calvary!

God wants you to bow before Him just as you are, a guilty lost sinner, accepting gratefully and sincerely the pardon and forgiveness He offers in the person of Christ. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son: that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John:3:16).

Surely, it is evident that what God wants of you is not some outward form of religious ritual but is instead an inner reality. He doesn’t want your penance but the complete submission of your will; not your gift of any material thing but the true love and devotion of your heart. Yes, our hearts are corrupt by nature, and it is only by the “new birth” through faith in Christ on the basis of His having paid the full penalty for our sins that God can forgive us, create within us a clean heart, and accept us in the person of His Son. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John:3:3).

Oh, the wonder of God’s salvation! Our submission to God is not, in the final analysis, the giving up of anything but rather the receiving of the infinite “everything” that He offers to us in Christ! God wants to bestow His love, His riches, His grace, His infinite blessings in an endless flood upon you forever and forever! Won’t you right now stop trying to pacify God with religious ritual or some gift of yours to Him, and just by faith accept Christ as your Savior, surrendering control of your will into His hand, and giving Him the true love and devotion of your heart so that He can fill you with Himself?

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ...That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians:2:4-9). “Mercy…God’s great love…making us alive…the exceeding riches of His grace…His kindness…[being] saved…through faith…as the gift of God…[throughout] the ages to come…”!

Only the God who has communicated to us through His Word, who is the Creator of the universe, has provided for His rebellious creatures a way for them to be reconciled to Himself, a way for them to live with Him forever. No other God or god or Supreme Deity or Force worshiped among men has offered himself or itself sacrificially for the salvation of his creatures. 

No other God claims to be love and then thoroughly demonstrates that consummate virtue by subjecting Himself to a humiliating death upon a cross as He pays the full penalty for the sins of mankind. 

The penalty had to be paid in order to satisfy Divine justice. It involved not only Christ’s physical death but the experience of the Son being separated from the Father. The dread of that event was foreseen by Jesus as He knelt before the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew:26:36-39). “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke:22:44).

In the 18th Century, the hymn writer Charles Wesley wrote these incredibly wonderful words: “Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” That act of love is beyond our ability to fathom, yet it is even more incomprehensible to understand why anyone would not want to receive it. In John chapter 15 verse 13, Jesus informs us of what that act means even for sinful humanity: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John:15:13). Who would not want to be His friend for all eternity?

By Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon

Monday, August 3, 2020

Guest Post: A Garden, Not a Factory

'A Garden, Not a Factory' 

From ‘Why Grace Changes Everything’ by Pastor Chuck Smith

Have you ever considered the vast difference between "works" and "fruit"? "Works" suggests a factory complete with pressures, deadlines, and the constant need to produce. But "fruit" pictures a peaceful, tranquil garden, a place where we are inclined to stay and drink in the beauty while we enjoy each other's company.

It's important to realize that God doesn't come to His factory looking for products. He comes to His garden to enjoy its fruit. The gospel of grace invites us to leave behind the smog and pressure of a factory-like life of works and instead bear the fruit that God desires to see in the garden of our lives.

The Natural Result of Relationship

Galatians 3:2,3 is a critical passage for those who desire to live in a way that pleases God. Paul writes, "This only would I learn of you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"

Notice the apostle is comparing two things: • the Spirit, which is related to faith; • works, which are related to the flesh. Whenever we get into the realm of works, we are dealing with the flesh. Whenever we are in the realm of the Spirit, we are dealing with faith. The Spirit and faith are related, as are works and the flesh.

Someone may say, "But Chuck, we must do works for the Lord." No, we mustn't. There is not one thing that I can do in my flesh that will please God. On the other hand, faith always produces fruit. If you are involved in works, then you are relying on the flesh. But if you are walking by faith with Jesus Christ, the Spirit is producing fruit in your life. Fruit isn't something you are generating because you think you have to; fruit is the natural result of relationship. Look at the luscious fruit hanging on a peach tree. The peaches aren't out there struggling and working day by day trying to get ripe; all they have to do is hang in there. Ripening is the natural product of relationship. As long as they are abiding, they are going to bring forth sweet fruit.

This is true of our own experience as well. If we are truly abiding in Christ - which is a position of faith - then fruit will come forth from the relationship. If there is no fruit in my life, then the relationship must be questioned and even challenged.

That is why Paul tells us, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (II Corinthians 13:5). Jesus told us that there is such a thing as a wolf in sheep's clothing. You can look like a Christian, act like a Christian, and talk like a Christian - but grandma, what big teeth you have! You may have all the outward appearances of a sheep but in reality be a wolf.

So how are we going to know who's who? Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20, emphasis added). We are called to examine our lives in order to determine what kind of fruit we're bearing. If the fruit is bad, then there is something wrong with our relationship, which means there is something wrong with our faith. A vital relationship of faith in Jesus Christ will bring forth fruit - without fail.

Our Big Mistake

One of our biggest problems is that we tend to be more interested in what we do than in what we are, while God is more interested in what we are than in what we do. He looks for fruit; we try to produce works.

Sadly, through the years we have all heard things like, "You ought to be doing these works for the Lord; you ought to be doing that work for God." We are always being exhorted and pressed into works for the kingdom. So we get out and start doing a work for God because the pastor or the committee has asked us to do it.

Maybe it is calling on visitors to the church when God hasn't called us to be a caller. I know some people who are petrified by visiting the homes of strangers. When they go to a door and knock, they're fervently praying, "Lord, please don't let them be home tonight." Visitation isn't natural for them. It is a forced effort, a work of the flesh, which they soon come to resent. They hate it and begin to drag their heels. So the committee chairman calls them up and says, "We missed you last Tuesday in our calling night. We want to make sure you are there next Tuesday night." They grudgingly respond, "Okay," and the downward spiral continues.

That's how you get pushed into molds for which God did not create you. You are forced into unnatural positions and you begin to chafe under your service to God. But God does not want you to give Him anything that you are going to gripe about. God can't stand "Christian griping." It's an insult to Him. Even I hate it when people gripe about what they have done for me. It makes me feel stupid and foolish. Who asked them to do it, anyhow? If there's something you just don't want to do, don't do it. Don't go out and do some magnanimous deed and then gripe and complain about it. You would be better off to do nothing.

Leave the calling to those who love to do it. There are people who are thrilled to talk to strangers. They get bored just sitting at home and they can't wait to strike up conversations with people they've never met. That is their nature. It's natural for them - and that is the key. When it is natural it is in the realm of fruit; when it's pressured it is in the realm of works. God always equips us to do whatever He has called us to do, and it will be natural for us to do it.

Many people feel like second-rate Christians because they can't do what others can. They run into a believer who says, "This past week, praise the Lord, I witnessed to five people and all five of them received Jesus." Oh man, thinks the person not blessed with the gift of evangelism, I am a horrible witness to the Lord. I didn't witness to anybody. I am such a failure. He is made to feel guilty because he wasn't out collaring people and asking them if they knew the four spiritual laws.

Why are some people so effective in evangelism? Because it is natural for them. God has endowed and equipped them for the work. Not everybody in the body is the mouth, however, and the mouth couldn't operate effectively unless there was a brain behind it and feet to carry it where it needed to go. We should not feel guilty because we do not have the same ministry or effectiveness as others. The body works as a unit, and God is the one who has assigned each of us our place in the body.

God wants you to do what He has naturally endowed you to do. The fruit of the Christian life blossoms from you naturally as you abide in Jesus Christ through your faith in Him. Jesus said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8). God wants you to be extremely fruitful for Him. That fruit can come forth only as you abide in Christ - and that is a position of faith.

No Such Thing as Fleshly Faith

Matthew's Gospel tells us that one day many people will come to Jesus, telling Him of all the works they did for Him, and the Master will reply, "I never knew you" (Matthew 7:23). The Lord doesn't recognize works of the flesh; He never has.

Remember when God said to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac... and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of" (Genesis 22:2)? The Lord's comment sounds a little odd - after all, Abraham did have another son, Ishmael, who was at least 14 years older than Isaac. What did God mean, "Take now thy son, thine only son"? The answer is, Ishmael was a work of the flesh. He was not the son of promise; he was not the son of faith. Ishmael was a product of the flesh. God refused to recognize Ishmael because he was the work of the flesh. God recognized only His work of the Spirit, Isaac, the child of faith. Therefore He said to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac."

God never recognizes or rewards the works of our flesh. On the other hand, He jealously desires that the fruit of the Spirit be increasingly characteristic of our lives. The fifteenth chapter of John explains how believers bear fruit. Jesus said, 'Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (John 15:4). Jesus placed the emphasis not upon what we do, but upon what we are. What comes forth from our lives is the result of our relationship with Him. We can't have a true, right relationship with the Lord without bringing forth fruit. If there is no fruit - for "by their fruits ye shall know them" - then we had better reexamine our relationship.

Renegade Fruit Inspectors

God did a marvelous work in your fife by His Holy Spirit. When you were still a sinner, God loved you. And when by faith you called out to Him, He justified you of every wrong thing you had ever done. God wiped your slate clean. He obliterated the past so thoroughly that He made it as though it never existed. That is what the term "justified" means.

The moment you received Jesus Christ by faith - before you paid one penny tithe, before you did one thing - God took all of the black marks against you and wiped them out. Because of your simple belief in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, God justified you of all your past. Because of your belief, God imputed to your account the righteousness of Jesus. Your relationship with Him began by believing.

This is all very basic, but somehow we often forget it. Sometimes believers criticize other believers or find fault. They say, "Do you know what they are doing? This is terrible. They call themselves Christians, yet they are doing this and that. They are not living up to the standard - why, they even go down to the beach. That is horrible!" Now, what are such believers doing? They have set themselves up as judges. They have become renegade fruit inspectors. They are judging the quality of another man's servant. Paul had something to say about that; he wrote, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth" (Romans 14:4).

It is much easier to please God than man. To please God, we only need to believe in Him and trust in Him. That is the gospel of grace. If you were serving me, I might judge your service. I might say, "You are a lousy servant. I don't know why I keep you around." If you were doing something that displeased me, I would be the one to tell you, "Look, I don't like the way you're drying the dishes; you are leaving too much water on them and you're putting them away still wet. I don't like to get a glass out of the cupboard that still has moisture in it. That is where germs are bred. Now dry them completely." On the other hand, I might say, "You are a wonderful servant. You do such great work! It is a pleasure to have you with me!" In either case, I would be the one to judge your service, not an outsider. The truth is, I am not your master and I can't direct how you are to serve. You must stand before your own master and I can't judge your service. I can't say, "What a lousy servant you are." I have no right to judge your service to God. God is the one you are serving, and before your master you either stand or fall. Paul goes on to say, "God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).

Don't worry that some people can't see how you're ever going to make it. I have found that God has been much easier to please than man. It is an exercise in futility to try to please everybody. Even if you manage it, someone is going to fault you because you are a people pleaser. It's just not possible to please everybody. What's beautiful is that we don't have to please everybody. All we have to do is please God. And what do we have to do to please Him? Just believe in Him and trust in Him. We don't please God by all of our works and feverish activities. We please God when we believe in Him and trust in Him. That is the gospel of grace.

It's My Pleasure!

Faith pleases the Lord and faith produces relationship. The relationship produces the fruit. I don't just sit and be pure and holy and righteous and smile and be sweet and show love all day long. I am caught up in activities, but activities which are not work. It is fantastic to be able to say, "You know, I am doing exactly what I want to do; in fact, I'm doing what I love to do!" It isn't a work, it isn't a favor, it is simply something I enjoy.

Years ago when I served in a denomination I would go to conventions and see some of my buddies. We would go out for dinner and I would start talking about a scripture that the Lord had opened up to my heart. "Oh, come on, Smith - shop talk," they'd say, and change the subject. I would reply, "What do you mean, 'shop talk'? This is my life! There is nothing I would rather talk about. There is nothing more exciting to discuss."

When you are doing what you love to do, it is not a work. You are not in a shop. You are not laboring in a factory. Your activity is the fruit of relationship. When the love of God fills your heart, all you want to do is talk about Him: His Word, His goodness, His love. You don't go around looking for brownie points just because you have been doing what you like to do. You don't look to be rewarded for what is natural to you (even though God will reward you for the fruit that comes forth from your life). You do it because you want to do it, because it is your nature to do it, because God has put it in your heart to do it. The fact is, you feel as if you would die if you didn't do it.

"For the love of Christ constraineth me," wrote Paul (II Corinthians 5:14). "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (I Corinthians 9:16). I am sure all of us have had experiences like Jeremiah, who was thrown into a dungeon for declaring the word of the Lord to Israel's kings. As he was sitting in the dark he said, in effect, "That's it; I am through. God, here is my resignation. Don't ever ask me to speak in Your name again. I am not going to do it. Don't lay Your word upon my heart anymore. Lord, I am through, I have resigned. Do You understand? It is over. I'm never going to speak again in the name of the Lord. You treat me like this and let me get thrown in a dungeon. You don't take care of me. But it's all right; I am through!" (see Jeremiah 20:9).

Jeremiah was stewing. He was angry. Yet he soon confessed, "But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (verse 9). He could do nothing but speak. He had to speak. He didn't have to force himself as if it were a work; in fact, he tried to force himself not to speak, but spoke anyway. Why? It was natural; it was the fruit of his relationship.

Griping Is Not a Fruit of the Spirit

God does not run factories; He grows gardens. He is not interested in your works; He desires to enjoy your fruit. He does not want you to depend upon your flesh; He calls you to rely upon His Spirit. As Paul reminds us, having begun in the Spirit, we cannot be made perfect in our flesh (see Galatians 3:3). We cannot add works to our faith and improve the relationship, even though many people endeavor to do exactly that.

So many times people begin by believing in the Lord, loving the Lord, serving the Lord, and having a glorious time. The joy of the Spirit is theirs. Then some brethren show up and begin to lay heavy trips on them. "Hey brother, if you are really a Christian, you need to be doing this. How come you guys are doing that? Man, you mean you guys call yourselves Christians? Why, you don't even do this." They start laying down all of these heavy requirements so that Christianity becomes a grind. It ceases to be natural and a delight and begins to be a chore, a job, a work.

When will we learn? We cannot improve on the righteousness given to us by God. Any works-based relationship soon becomes a grind in which we lose the joy of our relationship with the Lord. Suddenly it's a duty, an obligation, an onerous task. Before long, we begin griping. The joy of the Lord departs from our walk. We no longer enjoy freedom, but labor under a yoke of bondage. We think, I had better say my prayers tonight, or I will really be in trouble. Oh, but I am so tired. I don't want to get out of bed. I suppose I'll have to, but - oh, man, it's so cold! I am sure God says, "Oh, shut up and go to sleep! Don't bother Me in that kind of a mood. Who asked you to call, anyway?"

You might think that if anyone should have mastered this lesson, it would be ministers of the gospel. Yet there are men who would have us believe they minister the things of the Spirit by the works of the flesh. They will describe what great consecration it takes to have their kind of ministry - what tremendous personal sacrifices a person must make to have such power. They will tell of their commitment and their fasting and their consecration and will lay it all out as though their works have achieved for them some level of spirituality that moved God to entrust them with His power. God can't trust everybody with this power, they say, but they have earned it. Oftentimes they actually say things like, "I went into the other room, closed the door, and said, 'God, I am not going to come out of here until I have the power.' And I stayed in there and fasted and prayed until I got it." They speak as though their righteousness earned them God's favor. But it didn’t; it was only a work. And God will never honor or recognize a work of the flesh.

Paul said, "Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians 3:4,5). A true minister gives all the glory to the Lord. "Let your light so shine before men," Jesus said, "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

We're All Invited

The works of God are not wrought because of our righteousness. They are wrought by grace through faith. And that means that any of us can do them. You don't have to be some specially anointed kind of instrument. Let your life be as a garden where God can come to enjoy the fruit you are producing as you abide in Christ.

James says that Elijah was a man of passions just like us (see James 5:17). He became discouraged, he got upset, he got angry, he blew it. Yet he prayed and it didn't rain for three years. Elijah was not some superholy kind of prophet. He wasn't a mystic. He was a person exactly like us, with the same kind of feelings we have - the same kind of discouragements. Yet God listened to him because of his faith. That same potential is yours. All it takes is believing the Lord and trusting in Him. Since you've begun in the Spirit, you must continue in the Spirit. Having begun in faith, you must continue in faith. Don't degenerate into works; don't let your Christian experience become a bore. Don't become a factory worker, but let your life be as a garden where God can come to enjoy the fruit you are producing as you abide in Christ by faith.

A Garden, Not a Factory (Chapter 6) 

From the book ‘Why Grace Changes Everything’ 

by Pastor Chuck Smith

Read the whole book in a free PDF here:

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Guest Post: The More Sure Word

Although Peter was one of the eyewitnesses, he does not ask that we believe only his testimony. He says that we should examine evidence even stronger than eyewitness accounts. He says we have “the more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19).

For over a thousand years, holy, godly men wrote down
the inspirations that God sent to their hearts, telling of One whom God would send to be the Savior of the world. They listed His birthplace, the circumstances of His birth, and the events of His life. They even predicted how He would suffer and the way He would die. Finally, they wrote of His resurrection.

Examining the records of these holy men of God, we find over 300 stipulations concerning the Messiah and what He would accomplish in His birth, life, death, and resurrection. It is fair to ask about the possibility of one person fulfilling all of the requirements by just “being in the right place at the right time.” There is a way to compute the chance factor of this occurring.

The scientific “Law of Compound Probabilities” allows us to accurately calculate the chance of any prophesied event taking place. Each stipulation added to the prediction lessens the chance of the event’s occurrence, because the possibility of several details coinciding is more remote than the possibility of one event occurring alone. When 300 details are considered, the chance factor becomes astronomical. Let’s look at the Law of Compound Probability by starting with just eight of the biblical prophecies pertaining to the Messiah and calculating the possibility of one man fulfilling all eight of those requirements.

For instance, Micah 5:2 said Christ would be born in the city of Bethlehem. The chance of an individual being born in Bethlehem is easy to determine by taking the average population of Bethlehem since the time of the prophecy in about 725 B.C.—it turns out to be about 7,000—and comparing it with the average population of the earth—about 700 million. Divide the second by the first, and you find there is one chance in 100,000 of being born in Bethlehem.

Then Malachi 3:1 said there would be a forerunner who would go before Christ to prepare His way. How many men have had a forerunner prepare the hearts of the people to receive them? Though I can’t think of any, let’s say one in 1,000. 

Zechariah 9:9 said Christ would make His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. How many of the great rulers of history have made their triumphant entries on donkeys? I don’t know of any others, but let’s say one in 1,000 again, to keep it conservative. Most triumphant entries are made on something like a majestic stallion or in a great chariot—certainly not on donkeys. But Zechariah said, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” 

Zechariah also said He would be betrayed for thirty  pieces of silver by a friend (Zechariah 11:12). How many men in history have been betrayed by a friend for exactly thirty pieces of silver? Again, keeping our estimates low, let’s say one in 10,000.

Then Zechariah 11:13 added that the thirty pieces of silver would be used to buy a potter’s field. What are the chances of that coincidence? Let’s say one in 100,000, though I don’t know of any others in history. Isaiah 53:7 says that, although He was innocent, He would make no defense. How many innocent men refuse to answer in their own defense when brought before a court? An innocent man falsely accused wants everyone to know about his innocence—that’s a natural reaction. Still conservative, we’ll say only one man in 10,000 would be silent in the face of false charges. Finally, Psalm 22 said that both His hands and feet would be pierced. On the average, how many men could you find with both hands and feet pierced? We’ll say one in 10,000.

Multiplying these chance factors according to the Law of Compound Probability, we establish how many men we would have to look at before we found one who met all eight stipulations. The number of men would be 10 to the twenty-eighth power, or 10 followed by 28 zeroes. And ours were just conservative estimates! (We can subtract the total estimated population factor of 10 to the eleventh power, but  that still makes the chance factor one in 10 to the seventeenth power.)

If you had that many silver dollars, you could cover the entire state of Texas with a layer of silver dollars two feet thick—and Texas is a big state! If you marked one of these silver dollars and let someone roam through them blindfolded, his chance of coming up with that marked silver dollar would be the same as the chance of one person just happening to fulfill the eight requirements laid out in the prophecies we looked at. But there were over 300 stipulations contained in the prophecies! Let’s examine the chance of 16 requirements being fulfilled by one man.

Assuming the chance factors for another eight prophecies would be fairly equal to the factors of the prophecies we examined, there would be one in 10 to the forty-fifth power, or 10 followed by 45 zeroes. This is a number so vast that if you had this many silver dollars, you could make a ball of silver dollars with a diameter which would be 30 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Can you imagine marking one of these silver dollars and letting some fellow dive into the pile blindfolded? Can you imagine him grabbing the dollar you marked, just by chance? The coincidence of this is the same as the chance of Jesus fulfilling 16 of the prophetic requirements, just by accident. And again, remember, He fulfilled over 300!

Increase the number to 48 requirements. Now the chance factor increases to one in 10 followed by 157 zeroes, a number so huge our minds can’t really conceive it. There’s no way to make a ball this size of silver dollars. Even if there were enough silver dollars to make it, the universe is just too small. Let’s compare the number to one of the smallest things we know—an electron. If two and a half quintillion electrons were placed single file, the line of them would only be an inch long. That would be 2.5 x 10 to the fifteenth power. To count these electrons would take one person nineteen million years of counting day and night at the rate of 250 per minute. Imagine how many electrons there are in a one inch cube—two and a half quintillion times two and a half quintillion times two and a half quintillion. To count that many would take 6,859,000,000,000,000,000,000 years!

Ten to the one hundred and fifty-seventh power electrons make a solid ball the estimated size of our universe, which has a radius of approximately six billion light years. In fact, if you could go into mass production and somehow start manufacturing these balls at the rate of about five hundred per minute, you could go on making them for six billion years (the estimated amount of time that this universe has been in existence) and you could do that 100,000,000,000 times over. Now if you marked just one of the electrons you had used to make the balls and asked someone to find it, the chance that it would be found by random selection is the same chance that Jesus had of fulfilling forty-eight of the requirements set forth in prophecy just by accident. And Christ fulfilled over three hundred!

That is why Peter said: I was an eyewitness; I saw it all happen; I heard it all. But if you don’t believe me, look at something more sure than what I’ve seen and heard: evidence that is stronger than an eyewitness account. Look at the evidence of God’s sure word of prophecy fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

It’s Time for Your Verdict!
In the prophecies mentioned, I didn’t include Daniel 9:25, in which Daniel said: “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be [sixty-nine sevens]…” (or 483 years). Because Daniel was computing with the Babylonian calendar, we refer to a year with just 360 days, so it was 173,880 days from the time of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah, according to Daniel’s prophecy. Artaxerxes, the Persian king, was the one to command the restoration of Jerusalem in the year 445 B.C. on March 14. We know this because the Persian record has been preserved by God so we can be sure of the exact date.

Starting then, on March 14, 445 B.C. and marking the next 173,880 days off the calendar, we come to April 6, 32 A.D. This happened to be a Sunday, the day that Jesus made His triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem.

Luke 19:41 tells us that Jesus wept over Jerusalem that day as He beheld it. Now how many men made a triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem that day? Just one man, the one who fulfilled this and all of the other prophecies concerning the Messiah…Jesus Christ!

Now you must make your decision based on the evidence set out for you. Jesus asked, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42). Now you must answer that important question.

If your verdict is: “Yes, Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah,” then you should make Him the Lord of your life. There is something very interesting about your decision concerning Jesus Christ. Though you are the judge, what you conclude will not change HIS destiny at all. Your decision determines your destiny because you will eventually be judged by your decision concerning Jesus Christ. He is what He is, whether you believe it or not.

John said, “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11–12).

It’s time for your verdict. You have examined the evidence. What will you do with Jesus who is called the Christ?

Taken from the chapter "The More Sure Word" 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Not Like a Thief!

Jesus said that no one knows the day and hour of His return.

How do we reconcile Jesus’ words about His return with the fact that Daniel and John give the exact day of the Second Coming? Bible prophecy is like a puzzle. First, we will lay out all the pieces. Next, we will see what may or may not fit together. And, finally, as pieces begin to fit, the picture will emerge.

Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only... Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:36, 42-44).”

Most people think that since no one can know when the Lord will return that we are better off not even thinking about it. That is called a false equivalence, and it is the opposite of what Jesus taught. Just because we cannot know the day and hour of our Lord’s return does not mean that we should ignore eschatology, the study of the things of the last days. Look at Matthew 24! Jesus is giving us signs of the end-times for a reason. In fact, He says, “Watch therefore, for (because) you do not know what hour your Lord is coming (Matthew 24:42).” We are to watch. And we are to study the Bible. In the same chapter, Jesus points us to the prophet Daniel, who He encourages us to read regarding matters of “the end of the age.”

In Matthew 24:15, Jesus mentions “the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet.”

That is interesting to consider in light of what we read in Daniel about the ‘abomination of desolation,’ and specifically the seven-year tribulation. The consummation is the end of the seven-year period of God’s judgment of the world and when the Second Coming of Christ occurs.

“Then he [the Antichrist] shall confirm a covenant with the many [Israel] for one week [7 years]; But in the middle of the week [3 ½ years] he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate (Daniel 9:27)."

“And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.  Blessed is he who waits and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days (Daniel 12:11-12).”

Regarding the ‘abomination of desolation,’ here is what the Apostle Paul said,

“[the Antichrist] opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (2 Thessalonians 2:4).”

Validated by Jesus Himself, we do know from Daniel 9:24-27 that the tribulation period is the 70th week of Daniel, a week of seven years. And we do know from Daniel, as confirmed by Jesus, that 3 ½ years into that seven-year period the Antichrist commits the ‘abomination of desolation.’ Jesus points us to these passages in Daniel as if they were to be considered in the literal sense and would give us a fuller understanding of what He is speaking of in Matthew 24 & 25. With a little further investigation, one finds the passages are indeed straight forward and that the first 69 weeks of years were fulfilled literally, and to the day, during the final days of Christ’s earthly ministry. The fulfillment of this Messianic prophecy has been well documented and is verifiable by simply counting forward from the time the decree was given in Nehemiah to the days just before the death and resurrection of Jesus. I would encourage everyone to study the “70 weeks of Daniel” in detail, as it contains some of the most incredible prophecies in the Bible! In this article, we are focusing on the 70th week.

In agreement with Daniel, the Apostle John says of the Antichrist,

“And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven (Revelation 13:5-6).”

John speaks of periods of 1,260 days and periods of 42 months in the book of Revelation. On the Jewish calendar one year is 360 days, so 1,260 days, like 42 months, is 3 ½ years. The Second Coming of Christ is 3 ½ years after the ‘abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:24-27).’ According to Daniel, who Jesus Himself points us to, the exact day of the Second Coming will be known once the covenant is confirmed between Israel and the Antichrist, when the tribulation period starts. And, according to the prophet Daniel and the Apostle John, the exact day of the Second Coming will be known once the ‘abomination of desolation’ takes place. Daniel then mentions the 1,290th day and the 1,335th day after the ‘abomination of desolation’ as milestones, creating an additional 75 day period after Christ’s return, likely being the time of the establishment of His Kingdom on earth (Daniel 7:22) and the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46).

Why don’t we know when the Lord will return?
So why did Jesus say, “of that day and hour no one knows” even though He knew exactly what Daniel had written? There are two primary reasons why we do not presently know when the tribulation will begin, and therefore when the Second Coming of Christ will occur. One, we do not know the day that the seven-year agreement will be signed by the Antichrist and Israel, initiating the 70th week of Daniel. Two, according to the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2, God is restraining the Antichrist from being revealed. Shortly after he is no longer constrained by the Holy Spirit working through the church, then the Antichrist will burst onto the scene and make the seven-year covenant with the nation of Israel a reality. That covenant is what starts the seven-year countdown to the return of Jesus to rule and reign on earth.

“And now you know what is restraining, that he (the Antichrist) may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).”

Obviously, only God can be the “He who now restrains.” But, how can God be taken out of the way? According to the New Testament, the church is the “body of Christ” and each believer the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” God only indwells those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. His power and presence in His church is what is now restraining the Antichrist. Any other reading of these verses fashion what is inevitably a weaker argument, reluctantly given to support an alternative notion of the timing of the rapture. What, or who else could possibly be restraining satanic, demonic forces from overtaking the world? 

"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)."

Once the church is removed, God will then begin drawing those left behind to Himself. In that gap, the Antichrist (the “Beast” of Revelation) will be allowed by God to be revealed and to begin his rise to prominence.

There is a moment, that only God knows, when He will remove the faithful in Christ Jesus from the earth at was is known as “the rapture” of the church. Once the Holy Spirit operating in the church is removed, then the Antichrist will be revealed. Christians are not looking for the Antichrist to come into power, we are looking for the rapture of the church. Our minds are to be on things above, and our eyes looking to Jesus, which harmonizes with what He taught in Matthew 24. Jesus did not say, “no one knows the day and hour of the covenant.” He did not tell us to be watching for the deal between Antichrist and Israel. In Matthew 24, He said, “you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” He exhorts us to be watching and ready for His coming.

“The thief” and “the labor pains”
The Apostle Paul explained for us exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.” Paul said, “you, brothers and sisters [Christians], are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” If the master of the house is watching and ready for the thief, that house will not be overtaken! According to Paul, the tribulation period outlined in the Olivet Discourse will not come as a thief in the night to Christians, and there is only one possible way: we will not be here for the seven-year tribulation. The Master of the house will not allow His house to be broken into!

“… you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:5-7).’"

The Day of the Lord breaks in like a thief in the night on all unbelievers. Speaking of the time just before the tribulation begins, notice in the following passage, “sudden destruction comes upon them and they shall not escape… but you brethren.”

“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren [Christians], you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman (this is the beginning of the tribulation, the “beginning of labor pains” found in Matt. 24:8. See the NIV for the correct translation of the Greek word “ōdin”). And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness... For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5, 9).”

In that passage, clearly Paul is referring to the remarks of Jesus in Matthew 24. He mentions both “the thief” and “the labor pains” found in the Olivet Discourse. In 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Paul gives us a detail that Jesus chose not to expand on in Matthew 24, as His primary audience at that time was still first and foremost the Jewish nation of Israel. The Olivet Discourse took place before He had gone to the cross and before the church was born on the following Pentecost. The focus of Jesus in that discourse were the signs and events of the 70th week of Daniel, the abomination of desolation, and His Second Coming at which time He will inaugurate God’s Kingdom on earth. Approximately twenty years later, Paul exposited the passage for the church, clarifying that the Lord is referring to the entire tribulation period when He said, “that day and hour no one knows.”

Speaking of the “day and hour” and “the thief” of Matthew 24, the Apostle Paul said, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2).”

Since Paul used the phrase “the Day of the Lord” to explain what Jesus was speaking of in Matthew 24, he sheds light on the Lord’s fuller meaning and its implication for the church. That phrase is used often in the Old Testament to describe the entire seven-year period of God’s judgment. While it does include the Second Coming as its consummation, “the Day of the Lord” encompasses the whole 70th week of Daniel. So, when does “the day of the Lord so come as a thief in the night?” At the beginning of the seven-year tribulation, of course. When else could it come but when it first arrives! It is not a single day, but as was revealed to Daniel and John, and as is obvious throughout the Olivet Discourse, the Day of the Lord happens within a set time frame, seven years, as has been abundantly documented. So, how is it that Christians will not be overtaken as a thief if that day comes as a thief?

In 1 Thessalonians, what is Paul speaking of just before he exposited “the thief” and “the labor pains?” The rapture of the church!

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep (have already died in Christ). For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (“raptured” in the Latin Bible) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).”

What follows verse 18? 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. Paul’s explanation is so clear, there is little room for debate.

“The day of the Lord” comes as a thief upon them, and they shall not escape. “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” Paul even references the “labor pains” to set the time of “this Day” at the commencement of the tribulation period. The tribulation, “the day of the Lord,” follows the rapture of the church.

Correlating Matthew 24 with First Thessalonians 4:18-5:11 and Second Thessalonians 2, which are both parts of two letters consecutively sent to the same church in the Grecian town of Thessaloniki, Paul makes the pre-tribulation rapture of the church apparent to the Thessalonian believers. The rapture of the church takes place when the Lord gives the order and calls His church home!

The tribulation commences when the labor pains begin and the thief breaks in, catching the disobedient by surprise. The Antichrist will have been revealed. The covenant between Israel and the Antichrist will be signed in the following days and the 70th week of Daniel begins to unfold. Half-way through, the abomination of desolation will take place. As we have shown, these two events are markers during the 70th week of Daniel for the tribulation saints to calculate the exact, literal day of the return of Messiah.

Ready for the rapture by faith in Jesus Christ
We do not know at this time when the tribulation period will begin, or the day of the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth at Christ’s Second Coming, precisely because we do not know the day of the rapture of the church. But, like every writer of the New Testament, as Jesus commanded, we are watching and ready for the rapture of the church so that the Day of the Lord will not overtake us like a thief! We are ready because we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ through faith in Jesus. A new creation. Saved by grace, through faith. Born again. Seated in the heavenlies in Christ. Forgiven! God’s wrath is not upon us anymore.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him (Romans 5:8-9).”

“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight (Colossians 1:21-22).”

“and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).”

“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).”

“In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).”

The prophet Daniel and the Apostle John were given markers for the tribulation saints to calculate the day of the Second Coming, to the day. What day is Jesus speaking of when He says, “you do not know what hour your Lord is coming?” Paul has made that unequivocal: “the day of the Lord.” In the context of Matthew 24, the day and hour Jesus spoke of is the entire seven-year tribulation period, culminating in the Second Coming. Paul cleared it up for the church because there were some misunderstandings. When we recognize that we do not know the day and the hour of the tribulation or the Second Coming because we currently do not know the day and the hour of the rapture of the church, the Lord’s teaching becomes crystal clear. There is only one possible reason that we do not know the day and the hour of His Second Coming, just as we do not know the day and the hour that the covenant between Antichrist and Israel will be signed: the date of the rapture of the church is unknown. And since it is the event restraining the Antichrist from being revealed, and for several other reasons, it must take place before the tribulation period begins.

As further confirmation we can turn to every single writer of the books of the New Testament, who were all plainly looking for the Lord’s return at any moment. They considered the rapture imminent, free to occur at any time, not as constrained to a set day or time period already known to them. Neither could they have possibly believed the rapture would occur during the seven-year tribulation. If they believed that the rapture would happen during the tribulation period, they would not have written, every single one of them, encouraging the church to live in expectancy of and looking for the return of the Lord imminently!

The self-extinction of humanity cut-off by Jesus
Now, some say that the great tribulation is shortened. Speaking of the last 3 ½ years, commencing from the ‘abomination of desolation,’ Jesus said,

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:21-22).”

Jesus said, “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved.” Here He is not predicting that the length of days will be shortened, rather what His return will be cutting short: the self-extinction of humanity. What is happening on earth just before the Second Coming of Christ, during the final portion of the last 1,260 days? Scripture tells us plainly: the nations of the world have gathered in the valley of Megiddo in northern Israel and are about to go to war for world domination (Revelation 16:14-16). The self-extinction of humanity would follow, according to Jesus, but is “shortened,” in the Greek kolobóō, literally “cut off” by the Lord’s return at that time (refer to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and Strong's Number: g2856). The quotation from Matthew 24:22 would be more obvious to us in English if it read, “unless those days were cut off, no flesh would be saved.” When we read verse 22 as “shortened or cut off” by the Lord’s return instead of a subtraction of actual days, the passage no longer negates the words of the Lord through Daniel and John.

Remember, the Apostle John confirmed Daniel’s timing when he said in the book of Revelation, 13:5-6, that from the time “he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme… His tabernacle,” the Antichrist “was given authority to continue for forty-two months.” That forty-two months is the same 3 ½ years revealed to Daniel. Jesus Himself referred us to Daniel in Matthew 24. John received the Revelation of Jesus Christ at the end of the first century, decades after the Olivet Discourse was given, and he did not subtract any days from the previously stated timeframe. And, as independently verified by Peter and recorded in the Gospel of Mark, John was one of only four in the inner circle who heard the Olivet Discourse that day.

“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately… (Mark 13:3)”

Because we are given the exact day of His return in Daniel and Revelation, known to the tribulation saints once the rapture has occurred and the covenant between Antichrist and Israel is established, Jesus must be referring to the end of the seven-year period itself being the “cutting off” of humanity’s self-destruction. In other words, Jesus is speaking of God’s foreknowledge of the fact that if He did not return by the end of the 70th week of Daniel no person on the planet would survive. There is no other way to interpret this, otherwise Daniel’s words mean nothing. And, Jesus quotes Daniel in Matthew 24, pointing us to these very passages in Daniel that reference the final seven-year tribulation! The fact that Jesus quotes the passage from Daniel confirms that we should take Daniel’s “seventy weeks” of years literally and that the final seven years (the 70th week) of Daniel does indeed pertain to the last days before His return.

At the Lord’s appearance, 3 ½ years after the ‘abomination of desolation,’ the nations of the world are stopped from initiating what would become the global annihilation of humanity. Instead, they maliciously turn to fight Christ and His followers. Jesus destroys them with the breath of His mouth before they can fire one shot (Revelation 19:15, 19-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Isaiah 11:4). Jesus destroys those destroying armies because they were not only going to annihilate each other, but all of humanity. When the Lord returns at that time, according to Matthew 25:31-46, there will be a remnant of both Jewish and Gentile believers who will go into His Messianic Kingdom to follow. He will save those faithful ones by destroying the armies who would have ended all human life on earth, if allowed. God’s actions are always perfectly just, right and good.

I will keep you from the hour of trial
When we put these and other related passages together, like pieces of a complex puzzle, they synchronize the words of Jesus, Daniel, John, and Paul, and they confirm the fact of the pre-tribulation rapture.

The New Testament is clear: the rapture is imminent, it can happen at any time, and our hearts should be looking for it earnestly. It is the translation of the church into the glory of the Lord. And, if you are in Christ by faith, you are ready. That day will not overtake you as a thief because the church will be kept from that time of great tribulation, the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble.’  

The day of the Second Coming will be known to the believers alive during the 70th week of Daniel, after the rapture and the covenant is signed, because God gave it to Daniel and John for them to know. They, like the church before them, will be ready by faith in Christ, awaiting His glorious return to establish God’s Kingdom.

Here is a simple fact: the pre-tribulation timing of the rapture has vastly more support in the Scripture than any of the alternative times. The mid-tribulation, the pre-wrath, and the post-tribulation rapture theories produce scant scriptural evidence comparatively. Those positions harmonize far less often with the whole of Scripture on the subject and contradict related Scripture far too often to be correct. Once all of the puzzle pieces of God’s Word are put together and this intricate subject is seen in full, harmonizing with the whole Bible, it is absolutely impossible that the rapture of the church, our glorious and blessed hope, can happen at any other time but before the tribulation period.

“Watch, therefore and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36).”

“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 3:10).”

For more on the rapture, check out this author’s booklet titled, “The Timing & Significance of the Rapture.” The free PDF may be found here:

Brian Farrell is a follower of Jesus, saved by God's amazing grace through faith in Christ. Brian is a Bible teacher and the founder of Walking With Jesus Ministries. He lives with his wife Dana in Temecula, California.