Although the theme of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians is that of joy, it is also a call to humility, according to Philippians 2:1-8. We are to live out our lives without pride if life goes well for us and without complaint if we are faced with difficulties. Joy and humility are usually found together. Outstanding examples of that truth are found in the person of Jesus, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus.
Joy and humility are also found in the great missionary heroes, such as Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, David Livingston, missionary to Africa, George Mueller who operated an orphanage in England in the 19th century or the five missionaries who were martyred by the Auca Indian tribe in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956.
That kind of sacrifice is rare in America today and rare is the Christian who is bubbling over with joy, for sacrifice and joy are usually found together.
Earlier in our study of Philippians 2:17-24, we looked at the joy of the Apostle Paul and his son in the Faith, Pastor Timothy. In this article we want to look at Epaphroditus in verses 25-30.
Epaphroditus was born into a heathen Greek culture. He was named after the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. As a young man, he was saved and became a trusted, faithful deacon or servant in the church of Philippi.
He was a common man who had nothing personal to gain by his sacrifice. The Church of Philippi had entrusted Epaphroditus with a gift of money to take to the imprisoned Apostle Paul in Rome.
How did Paul recognize Epaphroditus?
Paul recognized him as a brother in Christ and a faithful fellow worker who worked alongside of Paul to spread the Gospel. He also recognized him as a fellow soldier. Paul did not look down on Epaphroditus. He elevated him as his beloved co-worker.
He also recognized Epaphroditus as an apostle or sent one in 2:25.
Although there were only twelve Apostles chosen, trained and sent out by Jesus to establish the Church, I believe Paul was the twelfth Apostle who replaced Judas after he betrayed Jesus and hung himself, although I don’t question it could have been Matthias who was chosen by the Apostles by casting lots. The point is, there were only twelve Apostles. Those Apostles are referred to in Revelation 21:14 where we find their names written in the foundations of the Holy City in eternity.
But in addition to the twelve Apostles (which I spell with a capital A) to distinguish them, the early church also sent out apostles, (which I spell with a lower case a). In both cases, apostles were simply sent ones. Epaphroditus was an apostle or sent one by the Philippian church.
In both cases, the Apostles of Christ and the apostles of the local churches left their homes, their livelihood and self-interests to devote their lives for Christ.
Why was it necessary to sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi?
Philippians 2:25-26 informs us that Epaphroditus was distressed. Why was he distressed? Because they learned he was sick and close to dying, and because of their love and concern for him, they were distressed. Their distress became Epaphroditus’ distress.
Paul who needed Epaphroditus’ help, did not say to him, “Snap out of it. So what if the Philippian Church feels badly over your sickness. Let them get over it and YOU get over it also!” No, Paul did not talk or even think like that. Paul knew that relationships were more important than programs.
God had mercy on Epaphroditus. He recovered from his illness. He also showed mercy to Paul; otherwise, Paul’s sorrow might have been much worse. Paul already bore the daily burdens of all the churches, II Corinthians 11:28 reminds us.
We all have problems and burdens.
The Philippian Church had their problems and burdens. Philippians 1:29 speaks of their sufferings.
Paul had his problems.
Epaphroditus had his problems.
But no one was concerned for their own problems.
The Philippian church was concerned for the Apostle Paul and their apostle, Epaphroditus.
Paul was concerned for the Philippian Church and for Epaphroditus.
Epaphroditus was concerned for Paul and the Philippian Church.
All of them were concerned for one another, rather than themselves. They were as Galatians 6:2 teaches, bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ, which is love for one another. Therefore Paul sent Epaphroditus home to his church and wrote to the Philippian Church, “Receive Epaphroditus, welcome him in the Lord and hold him in high regard, for he came close to death for the work of Christ, even risking his life.
For what are we spending or risking our lives? For the cause of Christ, or for self-fulfillment?
For whom are we primarily concerned? Ourselves or for others?
God help us to so bear the burdens of others that our own burdens seem as nothing.
The Budding of the Fig Tree
In the previous article concerning the budding of the fig tree, Jesus used the fig tree as an illustration that as the buds assure us that the leaves and fruit are not far behind; so the generation that sees and experiences the cataclysmic end of this sin-cursed age, as described in Luke 21:20-26 will also experience the ushering in of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom.
There, I made the statement that Christ’s true Church, composed of all His redeemed; will not be among this generation that experiences the indescribable terrors of the Tribulation as God’s wrath is poured out on this sin-cursed earth in its final hours. Why? Because seven years earlier, Christ’s true Church, composed of all those whose trust for salvation is in Christ Himself, will have been caught up supernaturally into Heaven in new glorified bodies, impervious to sin and sin’s curse.
In this article I want to give you reasons why I believe Christ’s redeemed, true Church will escape the Tribulation.
I. The Revelation in context
First, let me give you a reason you can discover for yourself simply by reading through The Revelation, John’s heavenly vision of the end times. Let’s trace the Church through the book of The Revelation.
In Rev. 1-3 Jesus speaks to the seven churches of Asia Minor, a type of the entire Church Age since it began at Pentecost. It’s quite evident that the seven churches trace church history on this earth from the time of the Apostles to the beginning of the Millennial reign of Christ. The dates I give you are rough estimates.
Ephesus – The Apostolic Church from 30-100 AD Revelation 2:1-7
Smyrna – The Persecuted Church from 100-312 AD Revelation2:8-11
Pergamos – The Idolatrous Church from 312 – 606 AD Revelation 2:12-17
Thyatira – The Church of the Dark Ages 606 – 1517 Revelation 2:18-29
Sardis – The Church of the Reformation 1517 – to 1750 Revelation 3:1-6
Philadelphia – The Faithful Church 1750 – Rapture Revelation 3:7-13
Laodicea – The Apostate Church 1950 – Tribulation Revelation 3:14-22
2. In Revelation 4:1-2 we see the Church being caught up into Heaven, which speaks of the Rapture of the Saints. The Tribulation follows on earth.
3. Revelation chapter 4-5 The Church in Heaven is identified by the Elders, clothed in white raiment with crowns on their heads. In Chapter 4 they give glory to Christ, their Creator. In chapter 5 they give glory to Christ their Redeemer.
4. Note, the Church is not mentioned in Rev. 6-18, which chapters are a description of the Tribulation. The reason for the absence of the Church on earth is because it has already been caught up into Heaven before the Tribulation began.
An exception is the false church, described as the harlot in Revelation 17. She is seen riding the Beast or controlling the Anti-christ until in his fury, he destroys the harlot church and proclaims himself as god, demanding all to worship him or face execution.
5. in Revelation 19, The Church, clothed in white raiment and crowns on their heads, follows Christ from Heaven to this earth to witnesses the destruction of all Christ’s enemies as He assumes His Millennial rule over the entire world.
II. The faithful Church will not face the wrath of God during The Tribulation.
I Thessalonians 5:1-11 makes that clear. Though the Church is chastened when needed by Christ, she never faces God’s wrath. See verse 9 in that fifth chapter.
Yes, we face tribulations in this world, as Jesus said we would in John 16:33, but that is a far cry from the horrors of The Great Tribulation under the Anti-christ. II Thessalonians 2 also makes it clear that the church escapes the Great Tribulation. To understand this chapter, go to the category PROPHECY and scroll to # 8, The big Picture. That will help explain II Thessalonians 2 in detail.
Titus 2:11-13 is also a great passage on the Rapture, describing it as a Blessed Hope. If the Great Tribulation is part of the picture for Christians, then the rapture of the church ceases to be a “Blessed Hope”.
So I do not believe true Christians need to look forward to The Great Tribulation. Rather, we escape it via the Rapture.
The Churches of Philadelphia and Laodicea
Finally, I want to share some thoughts with you concerning two of the seven Churches we mentioned at the beginning of this article; the Church of Philadelphia and the Church of Laodicea.
First the faithful Church of Philadelphia, characterized by brotherly love. This church, faithful to God’s Word and to fulfilling the Great Commission of evangelizing the world, probably got started early in the 18th century and will be caught up in the Rapture just before the Great Tribulation is unleashed on this earth.
Christ’s promise to the Philadelphian Church ONLY is found in Revelation 3:10. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (testing) which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” From this verse I find comfort that His faithful church will be raptured before the Tribulation is unleashed.
In contrast, the Church of Laodicea which I personally believe symbolizes the new church movement that got started about 1950 and will continue into the Tribulation. For more information abut this crucial event that took place in 1950 go to my category, LIBERALISM and Scroll to the article, The Kingdom of God in America.
Is the Laodicean Church a part of the true Church, the spiritual body of Christ? I believe it is. It tells us in Rev. 3 that Christ loves the Church, but He is grieved and even disgusted with it. It nauseates Him. Does the Laodicean Church get raptured? I wonder! Jesus only promises the Philadelphian Church deliverance from the hour of testing to come upon the world. Again, I believe He is referring to deliverance from the Tribulation. It would not surprise me if the Laodicean Christians goes through the Tribulation and faces martyrdom for their faith.
Regardless, both are true Churches, though one is carnal and the other is spiritual. In either case, these are people who seeing they are sinners, have put their trust in Christ and been given the gift of eternal life which no power can take from them. See Romans 8 on this. But just because they have eternal life is no guarantee that they will both escape the Tribulation. Look again at Revelation 3:10. Note why the Philadelphian Church escapes the Tribulation. Can the same be said of the Laodicean Church?
In which Church are you?
How can we distinguish a Philadelphian Church from a Laodicean Church?
The best way I know is to read Jesus’ message to each of the churches. To the Philadelphian Church, Christ message is found in Revelation 3:7-12. To the Laodicean Church His message is found in Revelation 3:14-21.
I think we could summarize the two churches this way. The Philadelphian Church hungers for God’s Word. Preaching the Word is the most important thing. The Laodicean Church has turned away from the preaching of God’s Word. They reject any preaching that makes them feel guilty. They label Biblical preaching that deals with sin as “legalistic”. Their entire church life centers in good emotional feelings of what they call worship as their preachers give them what they want to hear. Their lives are not much different from the lost all around them.
Christ tells the Laodicean Church that He stands at the door of their hearts, knocking to gain entrance. He wants fellowship with these carnal Christians. To those who open the door, He will come in and enjoy fellowship with them.
It is not our responsibility to judge churches anymore than we judge individual Christians. However, we need spiritual discernment to know where God wants us to worship and be fed. It tells us in Acts 17:10-11 that the Christians in Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they listened carefully to the preaching and then discerned whether the preaching they were hearing was in line with the Word of God.
What you eat and don’t eat to a large extent determines your physical health. The preaching you hear and digest at church to a large extent determines your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your children. May God give you His discernment and His peace as you determine where you are going to worship and be fed God’s Word.
Read again Christ’s messages to the Church of Philadelphia and to Laodicea in Revelation 3:7-21 and then determine whether yours is a Philadelphian Church or a Laodicean Church.
Along with the doctrines of salvation and Christian living, the Second Coming of Christ is a dominant theme of the New Testament. In fact, the Old Testament is filled with prophecies of this event. It is the culmination of our salvation when we are glorified sinless and present with Christ for eternity.
The end time events begin with Christ returning to catch His Church up into Heaven in an event that has come to be known as the rapture of the saints. Though the word rapture is not used in the Bible, Jesus described this rapturous event of being caught up into the presence of Christ in John 14:1-3.
The Apostle Paul, writing by inspiration of God, gives us the most information concerning this event in I Corinthians 15:51-58, I Thessalonians 4:13-18. In Romans 8:23 it is referred to as the redemption of our bodies. Romans13:11-14 reminds us that we have no time to waste as we await Christ’s return, Paul also wrote to Timothy and Titus about this great event. II Timothy 4:8 and Titus 2:11-14.
The writer of Hebrews also mentions it in Hebrews 9:28.
The Apostle John refers to it in I John 3:1-3. The last promise and the last prayer in the Bible, found in Revelation 22:20 concern the Rapture.
The Olivet Discourse, found in Luke 21, Matthew 24-25 and Mark 13, is Christ’s answer to His disciples’ question concerning the course of this present age and end time events. It does not mention the Rapture of the Saints, for the privilege of announcing and explaining that event to Christ’s Church was given to the Apostle Paul after Christ had ascended back to Heaven and after the Church was supernaturally established at Pentecost.
However, the Olivet Discourse traces the history of this age to its consummation when Christ returns to this earth to reign. First, Jesus describes this present age as one characterized by wars and rumors of wars, as nations and kingdoms rise up one against another, as well as an age of natural disasters. He also describes the world-wide religious deception and persecution of Christians. He speaks of the universe-altering signs that appear in the last days before His return to reign on this earth in His glorious Kingdom.
In Luke 21:29-32 He uses fig trees and other trees in general to illustrate a point we must remember. When fig trees, as well as other trees begin to put forth their leaves and blossoms, we know that summer is coming. So when we see Jerusalem surrounded by armies and the cataclysmic events that follow, described in verses 20-28; those living on this earth will know that the end of this age has come and Christ is ready to reign over this earth.
The question that divides Christians is Who is the you in verse 31 and this generation in verse 32 referring to? Certainly they are the same group of people.
Some believe they were the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking. That cannot be possible, for they did not live to see all the prophesied events of verse 8-28
Some believe they were the people who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 AD. Again, that cannot be possible for the same reason, even though they witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and their temple.
In recent years when Israel returned to their homeland and became a nation in 1948, many Bible teachers began teaching that this was the “budding of the fig tree” and that this generation would see the return of Christ and the fulfillment of prophecy. Although all of this is supremely significant prophetically; time has shown that the adult generation of 1948 were not the generation to see the return of Christ. Most of them have died.
So who is the generation who is spoken of in verses 31-32? They are those who will be living in the midst of the cataclysmic events described in Luke 21:20-28. Though the people living in 70 AD witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem, there is going to be a future generation who will see Jerusalem surrounded by armies as Armageddon draws near. The events of 70 AD were but a foretaste of what is to come in The Tribulation under the Anti-christ.
One thing for certain is that the Church, the redeemed Body of Christ, will not be on earth to witness all of this. We will have been raptured into Heaven seven years earlier. For more on the rapture of the saints and the seven years of Tribulation under the control of Anti-christ, go to my series on PROPHECY.
In the next post, Lord willing, I will give you Scriptural reasons why the true Church will not go through the Tribulation on earth. We will have been caught up to Heaven before that begins. Christians will never know nor see the Anti-christ.
Preaching God’s Word is important, but preaching itself doesn’t help us live by God’s holy standards. The Christian life must be modeled by the preacher, the Sunday School teacher, the Bible class leader, the parent; or the teaching is worthless. It’s less than worthless. It’s damning!
We’ve already read and discussed in Philippians some very high standards by which to live: live humbly, without complaining, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, have the mind of Christ, look out, not just for yourself, but for the good of others, no grumbling nor complaining.
All of us find it easier to follow examples, than to simply follow precepts from God’s Word.
Christ was the perfect, sinless example; but most of us, realizing He was sinless, look elsewhere for our example. After all, who can follow the example of the sinless Son of God?
That’s why we look elsewhere for our example: to our parents, an older brother or sister, our Sunday School teacher, our preacher or someone else.
We look to redeemed sinners who live in this sinful world and who possess sinful natures. just as we do; but who live victoriously to show us it can be done. One who cannot provide the example to others, has no business attempting to teach others; until he has gotten right with God and taken some time out from teaching or preaching to prove that his repentance is genuine.
In some cases the damage of our sin can be so extensive that God may have to remove us from the position of influence we once had to a position of lesser influence. God still loves us and will use us if we are broken and surrendered to Him.
Timothy was a young man from the Lystra/Derbe area of Galatia who had a Greek father and a Jewish mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois. The mother and grandmother had led him to Christ and were godly influences in his life.
When Paul first met Timothy, he was impressed with his genuine testimony and Christian character and took on the responsibility of mentoring him for the ministry. Timothy made himself available for Paul as a faithful, trustworthy servant. When Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the Gospel, he would have returned to the church of Philippi, but could not; so sent Timothy in his place.
WHY WAS TIMOTHY SO VALUABLE TO PAUL?
1. He was a kindred spirit to Paul. He thought as Paul thought. He evaluated situations as Paul. His heart beat as Paul’s for the same burdens and concerns. Though Paul had a good number of friends, he said in Philippians 2:20 that he had no one like Timothy. A preacher is rich if at the end of his life he has even one protégé who thinks as he thinks and has the same values as he has and has the same heart beat for the ministry as he has.
2. As Paul, Timothy had the same genuine concerns for the Church of Philippi.
3. As Paul, Timothy was single-minded to the interests of Christ. He did not, as many preachers, dabble in a number of other business interests and time and money consuming hobbies. He said in Corinth as he could have said in any city, “I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus and Him crucified.”
4. In II Tim. 2:20 Paul wrote that Timothy was a proven servant. He had passed tests throughout his life. See the need for such testing in I Timothy 3:6, 10.
5. As Paul, Timothy lived a sacrificial life. There is no evidence he ever married and had children or owned a home or any possessions. He seemed to have no agenda of his own, but was always available to Paul and was willing to make any sacrifice for him, even when Paul was imprisoned. In fact, from Hebrews 13:22-23 it appears that Timothy was also imprisoned for the Gospel.
Timothy was human and imperfect. He, no doubt, had the same struggles to stay pure that all of us have, especially in our youth. That’s why Paul warned him in his last Epistle written before he was executed in II Timothy 2:20-26 to stay strong in his fight against these temptations.
The theme of Philippians is JOY. Three men: Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus, described in Philippians 2:12-18, illustrate the essential relationship of joy to humble sacrificial service. They stand out among Christians; not as grumblers and complainers, but as lights in the midst of a vile, sinful, crooked, perverse generation.
Paul refers to himself in Philippians 2:16-18, to Timothy in 2:19-24 and to Epaphroditus in 2:25-30; three men with the passion and zeal to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, with humility and without complaint, regardless of their circumstances.
By “working out our salvation” we mean that we are by God’s grace and strength, to work out the gracious Gift of salvation God has given us, a Gift given to us totally by the grace of God apart from any works on our part.
If you need more help in this confusing area of faith and works, go to category SALVATION and read OVERCOMERS.
Now of these three men I just mentioned, look first at Paul. By inspiration of God, he was willing to offer himself as an example of sacrificial service without any self-consciousness. Every pastor, church elder or deacon ought to be able to say to others without pride or self-consciousness, “Be followers of me.”
Certainly parents ought to be able to say that to their children. How hypocritical and wicked it is for a father to command his children, “Do as I say; not as I do!”
POURED OUT AS A DRINK OFFERING
Several times in his Epistles, Paul challenges Christians to “Be followers of me as I am of Christ.” In Philippians 2:17 Paul correctly understood that the animal sacrifices for sin in Old Testament times were types of Christ who was the final, perfect sacrifice for sin. However, he talks about himself being offered upon the sacrifice and service of the Philippian Church.
What is he talking about? He referring to the Drink Offerings of wine poured on the animal sacrifices, as explained in Exodus 29:38-42
As those Old Testament saints brought wine as a drink offering and poured it on the burning sacrifices and it vaporized and the aroma rose up to God, so Paul who trusted in the sacrifice of Christ alone as the atonement for sin, in grateful response rejoiced to pour out his life as that drink offering for the edification and blessing of the churches.
That sacrifice of Paul’s life had been from the moment of his salvation on the Road to Damascus when he recognized Christ as His Lord and surrendered for full time service from that very first day. His death would simply be the culmination of that sacrifice.
That’s the sacrifice Paul pleads with all believers in Romans 12:1-2 to present their lives to Christ as their reasonable service in the light of the great sacrifice Christ made for us on Calvary’s cross.
Paul and the Philippian Church were both making that drink offering sacrifice together. Paul’s sacrifice was being poured out on top of the sacrifice the Philippian Church was making for Christ. They were making that sacrifice of suffering together, as Paul had written earlier in Philippians 1:27-30.
NOT IN SPITE OF, BUT BECAUSE
Their rejoicing was not in spite of their sacrifice, but it was because of their privilege of sacrificing their lives together for Christ. Their’s and our sacrifice for God is the very reason for our joy. Read the following passages and note that our sacrifices for Christ are the very reasons for our joy. Act 5:41. Acts 20:22-24, Colossians 1:24, I Thessalonians 3:7-10,
There are two levels of joy. Earthly joy comes from possessions and passing selfish experiences.
Heavenly joy comes from serving Christ and sacrificing our lives for Him. Hebrews 12:1-3
We looked at Paul’s sacrifice. In the next two articles, we will look at Timothy and then Epaphroditus.
As we continue our study of Christ’s Olivet Discourse in Luke 21, I want to begin by turning your attention to Hebrews 12:18-29. Please, take time to read that first and then you will have a background for what follows. Note in this Hebrew 12 passage two shakings of the earth. The first shaking, described in Hebrews 12:18-21, took place at Mt. Sinai as Moses was preparing to receive the Law of God from God Himself. Exodus 19 describes the scene. In that chapter all the Israelites were warned to stay away from Mt. Sinai. They were not to even come close to it. Instant death was the penalty for touching that mountain.
The second shaking of the earth described in Hebrews 12:22-25 is infinitely more severe. It involves not only the shaking of the earth, but also the Heavens. The purpose of this second shaking is given in Hebrews 12:26-29. It is to shake to utter destruction everything in our universe that has been defiled by sin and Satan; so that which cannot be shaken, Christ’s Kingdom, can be revealed. Now turning back to Luke 21:20-28, Jesus describes the final hours of The Great Tribulation, the worst time this earth has ever seen since its creation. This shaking is incomprehensible. Our minds can scarcely grasp it.
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE GREAT TRIBULATION
To keep events in perspective, let’s review what we’ve learned in this chapter. It all began with Jesus’ announcement of the coming destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. His Disciples asked when this would take place and what signs would indicate when it would happen. Jesus could easily have answered, “In about forty more years” (which would be 70 AD); but He didn’t give them that information.
Jesus did not answer by giving a date. Instead, He warned in verse 8 of the coming deception of those who would claim to be the Christ. He warned His Disciples and us to not fall under their spell and follow false Messiahs. That deception has been going on ever since He returned to Heaven, as people continue to follow false Messiahs.
WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS
Then in verse 9-10 Jesus warns us of wars and commotions as nations and kingdom rise up against one another. That has been going on for over 2000 years now. World history is a study of wars worldwide. Certainly in the over 75 years I have lived, I have only known wars and rumors of wars.
This sin-cursed, disintegrating planet headed for destruction has already experienced earthquakes, famines, pestilence, plagues and fearful sights over these past 2000 years, just as Jesus warned in verse 11. In spite of all man’s feeble and costly attempts to “Save the Planet”, he is powerless to do anything about its coming destruction. I am not advocating that we pollute it. I hate pollution. We ought to care about ecology, though we are foolish to be ecological extremists and make it our religion by worshipping planet earth. Saving our earth is a lost cause!
PERSECUTION AND MARTYRDOM FOR CHRIST
Then in verse 12, Jesus looks at His twelve Apostles and says directly to them, “But before any of these events begin to happen, you Apostles are going to be arrested by the Jewish leaders and taken before the synagogues and imprisoned for the Gospel. Later you and other believers are going to be brought before gentile kings and rulers and suffer for My name’s sake.”
That’s exactly what happened to the Apostles. They were all eventually martyred for Christ, as was the Apostle Paul who was converted later and became Christ’s Apostle to the Gentiles. Furthermore, that persecution has continued to be the experiences of millions upon millions of Christ’s followers these past 2000 years even to this present day.
Perhaps some of us today will be persecuted and face martyrdom for Christ. He encourages us here in verses13-15 to give no thought as to what we will say when we are arrested and brought before authorities. Christ promises that He will give us the wisdom to know exactly what to say, just as He did for Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Read his inspirational story in Acts 6:9 through 7:60
POST MILLENNIAL POSITION
Now you Post Millennialists are going to tell me that the invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD was the fulfillment of Luke 21:20-22 and therefore we are now in the Millennial Reign of Christ. (even though it’s been over 2000 years now.) I do not begrudge you your opinion nor believe that you are not a good Christian. But let me show you why I believe Christ’s Millennial Reign is yet future.
Yes, I agree with you that Jerusalem was invaded in 70 AD and that Jesus was referring to this event when He spoke of it in verse 20-22. But that was just a foreshadowing of events to come. Jesus does not stop there in His description of the events leading up to His coming Kingdom. Note what else He says in describing the events that preceded Christ’s coming Kingdom.
OTHER EVENTS PRECEDING THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST
In verse 24 Jesus prophesies that “Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” That’s been going on ever since 700 BC when Assyria conquered and dispersed Israel throughout the world. That continues today, 2700 years later, and will continue until Christ returns to reign. Not only was Jerusalem destroyed by Roman invaders in 70 AD, but verse 25-26 give us an inkling of the cataclysmic events yet to take place in the Heavens. Those same events are described in more detail in Revelation 16:17-21.
No one will deny that these events have not yet taken place. In Revelation 19:1 we learn that it is after these cataclysmic events that Christ returns in glory to reign on this earth, as described in Revelation 19 and 20. Note in chapter 20 that Satan is bound and powerless throughout the 1000 year reign of Christ. Afterwards he is released for a short season and stirs up one last desperate rebellion against Christ and is instantly cast into the Lake of Fire where the Anti-Christ and his false prophet had been cast one thousand years earlier.
Yes, I agree with Post Millennialists that the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD is prophesied in Luke 21:20-22, but that passage is also referring to Armageddon, a future invasion of Jerusalem as is also referred to here. Luke 21:20-33 is describing the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem and the world just before Christ returns to inaugurate His Millennial Kingdom.
THIS INFORMATION WAS NOT NEW TO THE APOSTLES
As devout Jews, they attended the Synagogues weekly and heard the reading of the Scriptures, including the Prophets. As they heard the following Scriptures, they had already learned of the cataclysmic events prophesied of the end times. Here are some of those Scriptures that would be profitable to read at this time. As you read them, remember that this is what Jesus was referring to as He described the events that will usher in Messiah’s glorious Kingdom.
Isaiah 13, 24
Joel 2, 3
SEALS, TRUMPETS AND BOWL JUDGMENTS
In the Book of Revelation, John the aged Apostle, banished to the Isle of Patmos, writes visions of the future.
Rev. 1-3 The glorified Christ and the Church Age
Rev. 4 The Church caught up into Heaven (The Rapture)
Rev. 5 The Church in Heaven before the Throne of Christ.
Rev. 6-18 The Tribulation unleashed on the world and the cataclysmic judgments prophesied by those Old Testament prophets fulfilled.
Rev. 19-20 Millennial Kingdom of Christ and final judgment of unbelievers.
Rev. 21-22 The eternal state of Christians in Heaven
DEAR CHRISTIAN FRIEND,
Though we may suffer for Christ in this life, you and I will never experience the pouring out of God’s wrath on this earth, for we shall escape all of this in The Rapture. More about this in the next article.
Throughout this year we will be emphasizing the social graces, things that will heighten your effectiveness for the Gospel’s sake. This morning we’re talking about “cocooning” ourselves. We go from our personal vehicle to our cell phone to our computer, and we can go throughout a day surrounded by people and yet not really involved with them. These “things” can keep us isolated from others (which is rude, thoughtless and uncaring). They can feed the feeling of self-importance and de-emphasize the worth of others (Philippians 2:3).
Introduction to a daily chapel message at Bob Jones University by President Stephen Jones
I am pleased that the emphasis on practical Christian living that I received from Dr. Bob Jones Sr. in chapel over fifty years ago is still being emphasized by the Founder’s great-grandson, Dr. Stephen Jones. who is the current president of Bob Jones University.
As God gave birds two wings with which to fly, so nearly all of God’s truth must have two wings with which to fly. To attempt to focus on only one wing and ignore that which appears to be in opposition, is to end up flying lopsided.
For example, when the Bible speaks of Christ’s Kingdom, it’s referring to a present spiritual Kingdom, as well as a future literal Millennial Kingdom.
When the Old Testament prophesies of the coming of Messiah, it is speaking of two comings. His First Coming was to come as a baby boy, grow to adulthood and eventually die on a cross as a blood sacrifice for our sins. His Second Coming is about His return to this earth one day to conquer His enemies and reign for a Millennium.
When the Bible speaks of God giving us His righteousness to make us fit for Heaven, He is not only speaking of His judicial act of imputing His righteousness to our account through Justification, but He is also speaking of practically imparting His righteousness to us through the life-long process of Sanctification which in Heaven will be complete when we are glorified and sinlessly perfect for eternity.
Perhaps the main problem dividing Christ’s Church is the failure to understand the relationship of faith to works.
Recently I posted on my Face Book page the following statement. “We are never more like our father, the devil, than when we insist on having our own way, even if it means hurting others. We are never more like our Heavenly Father than when we sacrifice our self interests for the good of others. If yours is a life of selfishness, don’t deceive yourself. Jesus said, “You are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do.” John 8:44
An increasingly heavy burden weighs down on my heart as I observe deceived people who claim to know Christ as Saviour, but whose lives show absolutely no hatred for sin and no love for Christ and His Word, the Bible. Though they testify to being Christians, their lives show little or no evidence of that reality. It grieves and frightens me that though they think they are saved and going to Heaven; one day they will wake up in Hell.
I realize I am no judge of hearts. Only God knows our hearts. But I can observe lives and I know what the Bible says about salvation.
TWO FALSE EXTREMES
1. Some teach that after trusting in Christ for salvation, we can lose it by falling into sin or by failing to produce a life of good works. That statement represents the Arminian theological camp and is contrary to the Bible.
2. Others teach that because salvation is all of God’s grace, if one is predestined and called to salvation, he will one day be in Heaven, regardless of how he lives. In other words, our works have no relationship whatsoever to our salvation. That also is a false position.
I am not saying that Calvinists and Arminians are not saved. I believe many are. If one is accused by a Calvinist of being an Arminian and if he is charged by an Arminian of being a Calvinists, I think perhaps he has the correct balance.
SOME BASIC TRUTHS REGARDING SALVATION
A. Salvation is received as a pure gift of God’s grace and is not earned nor secured by our works. Ephesians 2:8-9
B. Saving faith results in God regenerating our hearts, enabling us to walk with God and live a new life of good works, as taught in Titus 3:5-8 and Ephesians 4:1 and 2:10.
C. Faith without works is dead. That is, faith that does not result in a changed life is not saving faith. James taught that in James 2:14-26.
D. Those who trust Christ alone for salvation, are eternally secure in Him.
Follow along in Romans 8:29-39 as we describe the steps to that security.
1. It all begins with God’s foreknowledge and love of those who would come to Him for salvation. Before the world was ever created He knew and loved us and predestined us to be conformed to His image and to be with Him forever in Heaven. See Ephesians 1:3-14 for a strong statement concerning this marvelous truth.
2. Those whom He foreknew, He predestined or predetermined to be conformed to His image. Note, that if you are not becoming more and more like Jesus, that is a red flag that something is wrong. Don’t deceive yourself. To become a Christian is to increasingly become more and more like Jesus as we hunger to read and meditate on God’s Word and hear it proclaimed.
3. Those whom He foreknew and predestinated to be conformed to His image, He called to Himself. Christ calls us as we read and hear His Word preached. His Holy Spirit takes the Word and convicts us of our need of Christ and draws us to Him. In John 6:44 Jesus announced, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
You cannot come to Christ on your terms or on your timetable. You must “seek Him while He may be found.” Isa. 55:6 “Behold, NOW is the day of salvation.” II Corinthians 6:2 If He is speaking to you concerning your need of Him, trust Him now. Tomorrow, your heart may be cold to the Truth and you may never have another opportunity to be saved. Hearts only grow harder as they continue to reject Christ.
4. Those whom He called He justified. Justification is an act on God’s part by which He takes one who has responded to His call to salvation and transfers all his sins (past, present and future) to Jesus account and transfers Jesus’ righteousness to his account. That is an amazing truth, For more on this read and meditate on II Corinthians 5:21 and then go to my message on JUSTIFICATION on this SALVATION link and read it and reread it until you understand and rejoice in this marvelous foundational truth of God’s grace.
5. The final link in this chain of salvation is Glorified. To be glorified is to be just as pure and as perfect as Jesus Himself. That will not happen until we stand in His presence in Heaven. Only then will we be glorified and sinlessly perfect. What a day that will be!
In the meantime, there is another link in the chain between Justified and Glorified. That link is called Sanctification. Perhaps the reason it is not listed as a link in Romans 8:30 is because it is implied in being Glorified. Sanctification is the process by which God takes a justified believer and turns him into a glorified believer.
Sanctification is a life-long process. It begins the moment we put our trust in Christ to save us and it concludes as we draw our last breath on this earth and pass into the presence of Christ. Glorification is guaranteed to the one who has been justified.
How does God sanctify us or make us saintly? He uses three tools.
a) We are sanctified as we read and meditate on and learn to obey God’s Word. John 17:17
b) We are sanctified by the indwelling Holy Spirit as He enable us to grasp God’s Word in our minds and apply it in our hearts. II Thessalonians 2:13 and I Peter 1:2.
c) God also uses suffering to gain our attention and draw us to Himself to make us more like Himself. I Peter 5:10
HOW WILL WE KNOW WE ARE SAVED ON THE ROAD TO HEAVEN?
As we learned in Romans 8:29, we will become more and more like Jesus. What does that look like? How can we and others recognize we are becoming more like Jesus? As His Holy Spirit lives and reigns in our hearts, He will begin producing His fruit in our lives. That fruit is described in Galatians 5:22-25 as The Fruit of the Spirit. It is His supernatural love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance that begins to be manifested in our lives.
In contrast, the unbeliever is described in Galatians 5:19-21. Read both lists and determine which list best describes you. Remember that you can’t fake it. If you are not truly born again and indwelt by Christ’s Spirit, you cannot possibly bear His fruit. It will all be a sham and a counterfeit. The Christian life is a supernatural life, the very life of Christ being lived out in us by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
THE DANGER OF DECEPTION
Because these truths of salvation are so vital to us now and to our eternal destiny, Satan does all he can to deceive us and foil God’s plan. Christ warns of the danger of false professors of Christianity in His Parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30. He also warns of the dangers of self-deception in James 1:22-27 and the danger of falling from our own steadfastness in II Peter 3:17-18.
So let’s ask ourselves four questions that will help us determine whether our faith is genuine or spurious.
1. Is ours a living or dead faith?
2. Are we becoming more and more like Jesus?
3. Are we what the Bible describes as Overcomers?
4. Do we have Jesus’ love for others?
I. IS OURS A LIVING OR DEAD FAITH?
James asks that question in James 2:14-26.
As it is vain and empty for us to “bless” a needy person with our words when we have the ability to bless and help him with our time and substance and refuse to do it; so it is vain and empty for us to be testifying with our mouth that we are saved, while at the same time continuing to live in known sin with no thought nor desire for a clean life. Such a testimony is just empty, vain talk.
Such faith a merely academic, static, false and dead. In contrast, saving faith is dynamic and life-changing. II Corinthians 5:17 explains that when we put our trust in Christ for salvation, we are made a new creation, created unto good works. The old life is gradually being replaced by the supernatural new life, Christ’s very life being lived out in us, which brings us to our next question.
II. ARE WE BECOMING LIKE JESUS?
According to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:48 it is God’s purpose and plan for us to eventually become as perfect morally as He is. Of course, there is not a one of us who can achieve that perfection on our own. That’s why Jesus did it for us through His death and resurrection. That’s why when Christ’s life begins to be seen in us as believers, it is all to the praise of His glory, for He’s the One who makes it possible. Ephesians 1:6-14.
A true Christian is constantly growing and becoming more and more like Jesus, according to II Peter 3:18.
Look again at that great eternal security passage in Romans 8:28-39 and note that the whole purpose of all these things God is working out in our lives is for the sole purpose of us being “conformed to the image of His Son” Romans 8:29. If that is not happening, please do not disgrace God by talking about your “salvation.” I’m not saying that if you are not perfect, don’t claim to be a Christian. None of us are perfect, nor will we be perfect until we are in Heaven. However, all genuine Christians are in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus.
Saving faith is more than abstract theory. It MUST affect our lives. That’s what Peter tells us in II Peter 3:11-14
III. ARE WE OVERCOMERS?
Revelation 21:7-8 tells us that Overcomers go to Heaven and those who are not Overcomers, but continue on in their sins, go to Hell.
If you are comfortable with sin and enjoy it and feel no conviction of sin, you have evidently never been born again and you are still lost in your sins and Hell bound; regardless of the pious things you say about Jesus and the pious experiences you have in a worship service and regardless of your academic knowledge of the Bible. That’s what James teaches in James 2:19-20.
When a Christian sins, he is grief stricken and broken before God. He cries out for mercy and forgiveness as David did in Psalm 51 and God hears and forgives him.
Genuine Christians, who have been forgiven and are being delivered from the bondage of sin are described in I John 5:4-5 as Overcomers.
Why are we Overcomers? I John 4:4 and 5:4 teach that Christ Jesus who indwells every believer by His Holy Spirit is greater and more powerful than Satan who is the present god of this sinful cosmos, or world system,
So how do we overcome the world? Christ already has overcome the world. Go to the Gospel of John. John 16:33 and 17:4 and read of this reality and of Christ’s prayer for us as believers. As we surrender to His Lordship, we share in His victory over the world.
How do we overcome Satan, the god of this present world system? Read Revelation 12:9-11 We overcome this world:
1. By faith in the sacrifice of the shed blood of Jesus for us.
2. By the word of our testimony that we belong to Christ.
3. And by the total surrender of our lives to Him, even to death if need be.
How do we overcome evil men and difficult circumstances? Let God deal with them. See Romans 12:19-21
Christian friend, don’t turn back to the sin from which you have been delivered. If you turn back you will be overcome by it and your punishment will be more severe than for the one who has never known Christ. That’s the teaching of II Peter 2:18-22.
Note Christ’s promises to Overcomers in Revelation.
Rev. 2:7 They will eat of the Tree of Life in Heaven, which is a way of saying we will have eternal life.
Rev. 2:11 They will never experience the Second Death and Hell.
Rev. 2:17 As Israel was given Manna, supernatural food to eat in the wilderness, so Overcomers are given the spiritual Bread of Life to eat that the world cannot grasp or appreciate.
Overcomers will also be given a “white stone” In ancient times, the winning athletes were given a white stone as an invitation to a victory celebration. So Christ will invite all those who overcame by His blood sacrifice and we will join Him at the victory celebration in Heaven.
The new name engraved on the stone speaks of a personal relationship with Christ which all believers have experienced and will continue to experience throughout eternity.
Rev. 2:26 tells of the power and authority which we will share with Christ over the nations in His Millennial Kingdom. See more about this under the PROPHECY category.
Rev. 3:5 Our names will never be blotted out of the Book of Life.
Rev. 3:12 Christians will be pillars in the Heavenly temple of God.
Rev. 3:21 We will sit with Christ in His Throne.
One final and ultimate test of the genuiness of our faith in Christ.
IV. DO WE HAVE HIS LOVE FOR OTHERS? I John 4:7-12, 19-21
This is an evidence of genuine Christian that no one can fake.
Christ’s agape love, something every genuine Christian has, is not a selfish emotion. It is not lust or selfishness. It is totally others-centered.
Christ’s love is expressed in the genuine Christian by selflessness and kindness towards others, even to our enemies or those who do not deserve our love.
One with Christ’s love cares abut the feelings and needs of others. Hebrews 4:15 Whereas, a selfish person cares only about his own needs and feelings. A selfish Christian is a shame and disgrace to the name of Christ.
True love is utterly selfless. Christ, the perfect example of true love expressed it to us by dying on a cross and shedding His blood for our sins.
Have you received that gift from Him? Until you have, you will never have the power to live the Christian life.
A CHALLENGE TO YOU
I challenge you with Paul in II Corinthians 13:5 to examine yourself. Is there evidence that Christ lives in you and is controlling your life? If not, do not deceive yourself. You are not a Christian.
Yes, we are saved by God’s grace alone and through our faith in His sacrifice for us. We are kept saved by His grace and not by our works.
But the other side of the coin is that if we are saved, we have become His workmanship and He is presently at work in our lives enabling us to live a life of good works, and be overcomers and to share our love, His Love through us, to those who need it.
If none of this matters to you, you are still lost in your sins and bound for Hell. You desperately need to be born again today.