Pages

Saturday, November 5, 2016

500 Years Later. Is the Protestant Reformation Dead?

October 31, 2016 just passed, which means we have officially entered the 500th year since the Protestant Reformation began. 499 years ago, on October 31, 1517 to be exact, Augustinian monk Martin Luther hammered his famous “95 Theses on the Power of Indulgences” onto the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. At that time, when Luther’s hammer hit the nail, he was still a loyal member of the Roman Catholic Church; but his confidence in Romanism had been shaken, especially since Rome was peddling phony certificates called “indulgences” that supposedly granted payees pardon for all their sins. 

Indulgences are lies, thundered the German monk. God’s forgiveness is a gift. It’s not for sale!

In 1517 A.D., Luther’s bold action against papal indulgences rattled Europe. As this monk’s revolutionary message spread far and wide, Luther became God’s tool to ignite an unstoppable reformatory movement. The word, “Protestant,” stems from the word, “protest.” As a result of Luther’s protesting movement, millions eventually lost confidence in popes and priests, and abandoned the Roman Church. Protestant churches—such as Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Mennonite, Methodist—rose unstoppably in its wake. 

Fast-forward 500 years to today. How are Protestant churches reacting to this “anniversary” year? When my wife and I celebrate our anniversary annually—we’ve been married now for 16 wonderful years—we fondly remember our original vows and renew our commitment to each other. What is the Lutheran Church doing? Remembering its vows? Holding the torch ignited by its founder? Sadly, the opposite just occurred. Instead of exalting the banner of “truth above tradition” which Martin Luther upheld at the risk of his life, much of Lutheranism just recommitted itself to holding hands with Rome.

“Catholic and Lutheran Churches Pledge to Work for Shared Eucharist,” was the title of an October 31, 2016 article in the Catholic publication, Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse. The feature picture shows Pope Francis hugging Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, as they signed a joint statement pledging themselves “to remove the obstacles to full unity between their Churches.” Their meeting took place in Lund, Sweden, “to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation.”

“Does the Reformation Still Matter?” was the title of an October 30, 2016 parallel piece written by religion editor Jacob Lupfer published by the Religion News Service. Making his case that Protestantism itself should be allowed to die a natural death, Mr. Lupfer quoted Southern Baptist Mega-Church pastor Rick Warren who stated that the word “Protestant” itself is “an old term. It’s like saying, ‘I’m a Pilgrim.’ No one calls themselves a Pilgrim or a Puritan anymore.”

In other words, R.I.P. Protestantism is deceased. Mr. Lupfer’s musings end with this reflection: “Five centuries is a long time…In another 500 years, Protestantism will have either gone back to Rome or splintered into a billion churches.”

Some comments are in order. First, based on prophetic signs we see around us (see Daniel 12:4; Luke 17:28-30; 21:25-28), the Lord Jesus Christ will surely return to earth long before “another 500 years” passes (see also 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3; 2 Peter 3:1-14). Next—and this is especially relevant in light of the growing political influence of Pope Francis and his earnest ecumenical activities—the basic issues that ignited the Protestant Reformation aren’t dead at all. They live, and remain today.

Essentially, in the16th-century, the Protestant Reformation took its stand against the Roman Catholic Church over the authority of the Holy Bible verses man-made traditions—especially traditions that undermined the New Testament message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and over Church authority. The Protestant rallying cry became (using Latin words):

“Sola Scriptura,” by Scripture alone
“Sola Christo,” through Christ alone
“Sola Fide,” by faith alone
“Sola Gratia,” by grace alone

Yes, the Roman Catholic Church also taught (as it does today) the importance of faith, the value of Bible reading, and salvation through Christ and His grace; yet that small 4-letter Latin word “sola” (meaning “alone”) became the dividing line between reforming protestants and Catholicism.

In the 1500s, Protestants taught that a person can enter heaven by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ’s perfect merits alone, based on what is written in the Bible alone; whereas Rome added to the requirements of salvation numerous traditions, such as praying to Mary and dead saints, repeating the rosary, confessing sins to priests, performing works of penance, paying money to release one’s dead relatives from the flames of purgatory, and above all, belief in the supreme authority of the Pope as the successor of St. Peter and universal head of Christianity. Rome also added the notion that God’s forgiveness could be obtained by purchasing indulgences.

“Yes, these traditions aren’t mentioned in the Bible specifically,” popes and priests admitted, “but they come from the Holy Spirit working through God’s Church.” “Sorry,” countered Protestants, “we don’t buy it. We’ll stick with Scripture, not misguided myths.” In the 1500s, these issues divided Christendom.

Significantly, as the struggle intensified, Luther eventually turned to the prophecies. By candlelight he read Paul’s solemn prediction of a “falling away” (apostasy) in Christian history (2 Thessalonians 2:3); of a “man of sin” to arise in its wake (verse 4), of a “beast” waging fierce “war with the saints” (Revelation 13:1,7), and of a mysterious Babylonian harlot (a false church) having illicit geo-political relationships with “the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:1,5; 18:4). Little by little, God’s prophetic puzzle-pieces fit together. Horrified, Luther finally realized that he had discovered both Christ and antichrist. Compelled by the Spirit of God, Luther finally cast political correctness aside, went public, and declared, “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist.”[1]LeRoy Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Vol. II (Washington D.C.: Review and Herald, 1948), 121.

Catholicism is a cleverly crafted counterfeit Christianity, Luther soberly realized. This teaching became standard Protestant doctrine, and was shared by John Calvin (Presbyterian), John Wesley (Methodist), Charles Spurgeon (Baptist), Matthew Henry (Bible commentator), and countless others. Google this. These are facts. Protestant historian John Foxe, author of the Christian classic, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, echoed the same conviction when he wrote:

Disregarding the maxims and the spirit of the gospel, the papal church, arming herself with the power of the sword, vexed the church of God and wasted it for several centuries, a period most appropriately termed in history, the “dark ages.” The kings of the earth, gave their power to the “beast.”[2]John Foxe, Fox’s Book of Martyrs, edited by William Byron Forbush, D.D. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1926), Chapter IV, p. 43, emphasis added.

But haven’t times changed? you may be wondering. Indeed, they have. But essentially, Rome hasn’t. Notice carefully these 21st-century errors of Romanism:

1. In harmony with Catholic traditions, Pope Francis still strongly teaches the importance of praying to Mary and dead saints; whereas the Holy Bible says “there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, emphasis added). “One Mediator” means “one,” not two, three, or more. Francis is wrong. Christians should never pray to Mary, but to God the Father alone, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ (see John 14:6; 15:16)

2. The Roman Church still teaches that it alone is the true Church and Bride of Christ because its popes are thought to be successors of Peter, who was supposedly the first Pope, upon whom Jesus Christ supposedly built His church. This is Rome’s bedrock interpretation of Matthew 16:18, where Jesus told Peter, “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.” But Rome’s interpretation is faulty for these reasons: 1. The word “Pope” itself is nowhere found in the Bible. Such a man-exalting title was assigned to its chief leader years later in an unholy effort by the Roman Church to boost its own authority above other churches; 2. Jesus Christ didn’t say, “you are Peter, and on you I will build My Church,” but rather “on this rock I will build My Church.” Immediately prior to this statement, Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse 16). Jesus Himself is the “rock” upon which God’s church is built, not poor Peter, who was even used by the devil shortly after Christ’s statement (see verses 21-23). “The Lord is my rock,” wrote David in Psalm 18:2. The “rock” is “Christ,” said Paul (see 1 Corinthians 10:4). The notion that impetuous and faulty Peter became the foundation of God’s Church is part of Rome’s heresy.

3. The Roman Church still teaches the doctrine of “purgatory,” the significance of “relics,” bowing to statues, the validity of indulgences, plus many other manmade traditions which are mentioned nowhere in God’s Word.

Unwittingly, Protestants now seeking union with Rome are fulfilling God’s holy prophecy which states that in the closing moments of time, “All the world marveled and followed the beast” (Revelation 13:3).

The Bible is still the Bible, the beast is still the beast, and eternal salvation from our sinful violations of God’s Ten Commandments comes only through simple faith in Jesus Christ alone (see 1 John 3:4; Acts 4:12). Prophecy also predicts that right before our Savior returns (Revelation 14:14-16), God Almighty will initiate His closing phase of the Protestant Reformation through the global proclamation of three angel’s messages recorded in Revelation 14:6-12. Pick up a Bible. Read Revelation 14:6-12 for yourself. God’s three angels are now announcing that the “hour of His judgment has come” (verse 7), urge the true worship of the Creator (verse 7), and warn about “the beast” (the Roman Church) who has even changed God’s original “seventh-day” Sabbath (Saturday) into Sunday (see Genesis 2:1-3; Daniel 7:25; Revelation 14:7,12; Exodus 20:8-11; Matthew 12:8; 28:1,2; John 14:15).

Above all, God’s end-time reformatory message urges belief in “the everlasting gospel” (verse 6) of Jesus Christ who loves everyone, and paid the full price for our sins (see John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:3,4).

What of the future?

A well-known writer has said:

God’s Word has given warning of the impending danger; let this be unheeded, and the Protestant world will learn what the purposes of Rome really are, only when it is too late to escape the snare. She is silently growing into power. Her doctrines are exerting their influence in legislative halls, in the churches, and in the hearts of men. She is piling up her lofty and massive structures, in the secret recesses of which her former persecutions will be repeated. Stealthily and unsuspectedly she is strengthening her forces to further her own ends when the time shall come for her to strike. All that she desires is vantage-ground, and this is already being given her. We shall soon see and shall feel what the purpose of the Roman element is. Whoever shall believe and obey the Word of God will thereby incur reproach and persecution.[3]E.G. White, The Great Controversy (1911 edition), p. 581

Make no mistake about it: The basic issues that divided Luther from Rome still exist today. According to prophecy, the Vatican is still the beast. We’ve come 500 years since Luther first protested in Wittenberg. Yes, times have changed, but the Bible hasn’t. Neither has Rome. God’s Reformation yet lives, and will continue to the close of time.

“Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” urged Moses at the golden calf (see Exodus 32:26).

In an age of perilous ecumenical compromises, King Jesus Christ is asking the same question.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Is America Mentioned in Bible Prophecy?

In spite of America’s housing market meltdown, dismal unemployment rate, rapidly declining currency, and trilliondollar deficit, what happens in Washington DC still affects the globe. Recent setbacks aside, the United States of America yet remains the world’s sole superpower. In this light we inquire: Is America mentioned in Bible prophecy, or has God’s Word overlooked the most influential nation on earth?

Many prophecy writers emphatically state we’re not there. They may pinpoint Russia, China, Israel and Iraq as major end-time players, but not the United States. In this article, I want to give you something different to think about. I want to suggest the possibility that America is the exact power specified in this mysterious verse:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke
like a dragon (Revelation 13:11).

Allow me to build my case. First, what is a “beast” in prophecy? Answer: A great nation. The proof’s in Daniel 7 – a chapter that clearly parallels Revelation 13. Both Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 plainly refer to beasts, ten horns, a boastful mouth speaking great things, and war against God’s saints (compare Daniel 7:3-8,21 with Revelation 13:1- 7). Daniel 7 describes four great beasts: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a dragon-like creature. An angelic interpreter confirmed:

The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom on earth (Daniel 7:23).

So we can nail this down: According to Daniel 7 – a chapter that plainly parallels Revelation 13 – a “beast” in prophecy isn’t a computer or super-evil person, but a mighty kingdom or nation. That’s what the angel said. Historically, 98% of reputable Christian Bible commentaries have interpreted Daniel’s four beasts to represent the ancient nations of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. This is a fact.

Back to Revelation 13:11: “I saw another beast coming out of the earth.” Thus John saw a great nation rising into power. From where? “Out of the earth,” predicted the prophet. In Daniel 7, all four beasts “came up from the sea” (Daniel 7:3). What does “water” represent? Again, prophecy provides the answer: multitudes of people. We know this because in a parallel prophecy, another angel confirmed: “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues” (Revelation 17:15). True to the facts of history, ancient Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome all arose from the midst of a sea of peoples in Europe and the Middle East. Not so with the beast in Revelation 13:11 – it comes from the earth.

Thus Revelation 13:11 points to a great nation rising out of a sparsely inhabited area.

“I saw another beast coming out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb.” Each word is significant. The true Lamb of God is Jesus Christ. “Like a lamb,” indicates that this nation would have lamblike or Christian features. A lamb is a young animal, a baby sheep. Thus this nation would at one time be youthful and new. Significantly, its “two horns” have no crowns like the first beast described in Revelation 13:2. Crowns represent kingly power. Thus in Revelation 13:11 we see a new nation, with lamblike, or Christian features, rising out of a sparsely inhabited area, led by a crownless government without a king. Are the pieces coming together yet?

Here’s the shocker: Revelation 13 also reveals that mysterious “beast” with horns “like a lamb” would achieve superpower status near the end of time, make a fatal mistake, and lead out in the global enforcement of the mark of the beast. God’s Word reports:

And he [the lamblike beast] causes [he resorts to force] all [through his global influence], both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand or in their forehead, that no man might buy or sell [the world’s economy is involved] except the one who has the mark (Revelation 13:16,17).

These verses parallel the last part of Revelation 13:11 describing the final, tragic act of the lamblike beast – “he spoke like a dragon.” Let’s put all the pieces together:

1. Revelation 13:11 pinpoints the rising of a great beast.
2. In prophecy, a beast represents a great nation.
3. This nation comes out of the earth, or wilderness area.
4. This nation starts out young, like a baby lamb.
5. This nation is lamblike, with Christian characteristics.
6. This nation has horns with no crowns – it has no kings.
7. This nation achieves superpower status near the end of time.
8. This nation influences the world’s economy.
9. This nation finally speaks like a dragon.
10. This nation finally enforces the mark of the beast.

Be honest: How many nations on Planet Earth fit all ten of these clear, unquestionable, Heaven-inspired details? Only one.

The United States of America.

“God bless America, land that I love!” we sing every 4 th of July. It’s true. God has blessed America, in spite of its problems (and we obviously have many). Yet the prophecy of Revelation 13 plainly predicts that when earth’s closing crisis hits, major changes will envelope our beloved county, and the last movements won’t be pretty. Sadly, in the closing moments of time, this mighty nation that has stood tall for representative government, democracy and freedom, will finally sacrifice its mild, lamblike, Christian principles, “speak as a dragon,” descend to force, and enforce the mark of the beast.

Can’t you see it coming? If our eyes are open to see the signs of the times, we should be able to discern Revelation’s predicted from-freedom-to-force trend in full swing right now. Big government is taking over. Our rights are disappearing. The dragon is snarling.

The mark of the beast is coming.

May God help us to understand His “sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19), to prepare for what is soon to break upon planet Earth with blinding speed, and to get ready for the great Day of God. Above all, may we each have a strong relationship with the true Lamb, Jesus Christ, and reject the dragon’s voice.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Eight Signs of the End

Will there be an “end of the world,” or is such an idea simply the opinion of kooks who stand on street corners waving “The End is Near” signs? Believe it or not, according to the Bible, yes, there will be an end. Jesus Christ predicted, “And this gospel [Good News] of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, emphasis added).

Are there any legitimate and observable “signs” of this approaching finale? Once again, the answer is yes. While many supposed “signs” appear daily on the covers of America’s sensational tabloids, here are eight true biblical signs worth listing:

1. Great Earthquakes: Jesus Christ predicted, “And there will be great earthquakes in various places…. (Luke 21:11). Such quakes will result in tremendous loss of life, and are constitute one of the signs of the approaching Day of the Lord. Jesus continued, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).

2. Out-of-control Violence: Again, Jesus predicted, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be before the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37). What was it like in Noah’s day? Here’s the answer: “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). “And God said to Noah, the end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:13). Thus “violence” was rampant in Noah’s day, just like today.

3. Out-of-control Sex: Again, Jesus predicted, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot…Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:28, 30). What was it like in Lot’s day before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Here’s the answer: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). Thus “fornication” (sex outside of marriage), and “going after strange flesh” (homosexuality), were the primary sins of those ancient cities. It’s a no-brainer that through television, Playboy, prostitution, Internet pornography, etc., our world is experiencing an unprecedented deluge of sexual perversion.

4. Global Environmental Crisis: The Bible reveals that when God finally drops the curtain on human history, He will finally “destroy them that destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18). In other words, before the end, mankind will be destroying the very planet we live on. This implies a global environmental crisis resulting from the growth of mega-cities, deforestation, a disappearing ozone layer, and earth-damaging man-made pollutants.

5. Increasing Stress, Confusion, Heart Disease: Again, Jesus warned, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming upon the earth” (Luke 21:25, 26). People are stressed-out everywhere, confusion reigns, and the Number 1 cause of death is heart disease. The Master saw it coming, that’s why He predicted global “distress,” “perplexity” and “men’s hearts failing them for fear.” Fear also raises blood cholesterol.

6. Increasing Knowledge: The prophetic book of Daniel declares, “But you, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4). This passage reveals planet Earth will finally enter its “time of the end.” At the same time, “knowledge shall be increased.” In our modern era – more than any period in recorded history – knowledge has increased beyond previous generations.

7. False Teaching and Global Religious Confusion: Paul predicted, “the time will come” when the majority “shall turn their ears away from the truth and shall turn to fables” (2 Timothy 4:4). God’s final book – the Revelation – predicts the rise of a global, multi-layered, conglomerate religious system called “Babylon,” which literally means, “confusion.” Heaven’s end-time message proclaims, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 14:8). This mysterious, highly symbolic prophecy reveals that “all nations” will become drunk with “Babylon’s wine.” Such “wine” is the worldwide false teachings of deceptive religions that lead away from the simplicity of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.

8. The Global Preaching of the Gospel: “And this gospel [the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ] shall be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14). With the aid of radio, television, the Internet, and satellite networks, God’s message of salvation through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is now spreading across planet Earth. Thus, in the midst of Bad News, there’s Good News! We have a Savior who loves us, gave His life for us, rose from the dead for us, and will someday return to take us home (see John 14:1-3).

Let’s be ready.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Three False Gospels

In the book of Galatians, Paul warned his converts:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:7- 9).

These stirring words should convince any clear-thinking Christian that it is quite possible for Satan, his angels, and his agents to so “pervert the gospel of Christ” that those who think they believe the “Good News” are actually being deceived by the Devil. Ominously, this actually happened to Paul’s own converts in Galatia, and they were in danger of being “accursed.” We should watch out that this doesn’t happen to us.

Here are three popular perversions we should avoid:

1. The “I’m Good Enough To Be Saved” False Gospel. Sadly, millions of professed Christians have accepted this perversion of the “Good News.” They think that just because they aren’t as bad as other men, they’re automatically going to heaven. Jesus Christ warned about this delusion in His “parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). In his prayer, the proud Pharisee boasted, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give tithes of all that I possess” (verses 11,12). Such self-complacency won’t lead to Pearly Gates, but to the lake of fire. By contrast, the lowly tax collector “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!'” (verse 13). Jesus is clear that the tax collector was “justified” by God, not the Pharisee (see verse 14).

Paul clarified in his Galatian letter that the only way any sinner can be legally “justified,” which means to be declared “not guilty” before a holy God, is by “faith in Christ and not by the works of the law” (Galatians 2:16). In other words, being “good” won’t save us. Neither will performing good deeds. Neither will keeping the law. Not a chance. Only the true gospel of Jesus Christ can save us. We must have personal faith in Jesus Christ alone.

2. The “I Can Keep Living in Sin” False Gospel. This error is comparable to a ditch on the other side of the road, and it is very popular. Millions assume that because they are not saved by “the works of the law,” that this means that they can nominally accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, and then do as they please, even to the point of willfully practicing known sin. “Only Jesus is perfect,” they may claim (which is true), but then they mistakenly conclude that it is therefore okay for Christians to do wicked things. In the same book of Galatians, Paul also warned,

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21, emphasis added).

Did you catch that? Under the general heading of “the works of the flesh,” Paul listed “adultery,” “fornication,” “sorcery,” “hatred,” getting drunk, and spreading strife. “Well,” many who practice these sins will rationalize, “once again, no one is perfect, what can you expect?” My response is that Jesus Christ expects these evil sins to be sliced out of both the heart and life of every true Christian. If they are not, what does Paul say? Take note: ” those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” To believe otherwise is to believe a false gospel.

3. The “I Don’t Need to Keep the Law” False Gospel. This last deception is insidiously subtle. Because the New Testament is clear that sinners are not justified or saved “by the works of the law,” many have therefore mistakenly concluded that the Ten Commandments have passed away, and don’t need to be kept. But if you look closely at Paul’s works-of-the-flesh list quoted above, and then compare it with Exodus 20:3-17, you will see that Paul is actually listing specific violations of God’s Law. “Adultery” breaks the 7 th commandment, “idolatry” violates the 2 nd , and “murder” breaks the 6 th . Next Paul lists nine “fruits of the Spirit,” such as “love,” “joy,” and “peace,” and concludes by saying, “Against such there is no law.” What does that mean? It means that the law of God is not against these good fruits, but it is still against the evil ones! Thus God’s law still exists, and should be obeyed. We can be sure this is Paul’s intent because in another letter he quoted the 5 th commandment, stating, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” and then he commands Christian children to “obey” it! (See Ephesians 6:1-3)

So what is the true gospel after all? We don’t need to speculate, for the answer is in the Holy Bible. Paul wrote,

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and
in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to youunless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, emphasis added).

There it is, clear and simple, straight from Paul’s inspired pen. “Christ died for our sins … He was buried … He rose from the dead.” That is the gospel. But what is “sin” anyway? Again, we don’t need to guess, for John told us clearly when he wrote, “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). So how should we respond to the Good News that our loving Savior died on a cruel cross to pay the complete penalty for our sins of breaking the Ten Commandments? The biblical answer is that we must “repent” (see Acts 2:38) – which means turning away from the sins of breaking God’s law – and believe the gospel. Then Jesus Himself says to us, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), which is a direct quote from the 2 nd commandment (see Exodus 20:6). 

If we heed this inspired counsel, we will avoid the “I’m Good Enough to Be Saved” false gospel, the “I Can Keep Living In Sin” false gospel, the “I Don’t Need to Keep the Law” false gospel, and escape deception. Then we will be following “the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:5) in these last days.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Sabbath: Questions and Answers (Part 4)

In my 3-part series entitled, “Pope Francis, Two Beasts, and the Devil’s Deadly Mark,” I built my case from a careful study of Revelation 13, history, and current events, that Sunday, as a day of worship, will someday be legislated worldwide as a misguided solution to a global crisis. This Q & A article will look more closely at this controversial issue. First, here are some recent headlines showing that Sunday legislation is now being discussed in the news: 

“Using Sunday as a day of rest and renewal would be good for our personal health as well as the health of the planet” (The Guardian, Sept. 17, 2009).

“Let’s Make Sunday a day of rest, for God’s sake” (FoxNews.com, April 22, 2012).

“Keeping stores open on Sunday is not beneficial for society: Pope Francis” (NY Daily News, July 6, 2014).

“Arizona State Senator: Make Sunday Church Attendance Mandatory” ( CNN, Mar. 27, 2015).

“You need & deserve a secular sabbath” (New York Daily News, May 23, 2015)

What’s wrong with Sunday laws? Two things: 1) The fourth commandment states that “the seventh day (Saturday) is the Sabbath of the Lord” (Ex. 20:10), not Sunday; and 2) God never compels people to worship Him. Did Jesus ever force anyone to follow Him? No. “Whoever wills [chooses],” says the Lord, “let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17, KJV). “Whoever wills” and “freely” reveal freedom of choice, not compulsion. Here are some common arguments against the Sabbath, and counter-arguments, based on Scripture:

Argument 1: Sabbath-keeping is legalism.

Response: It’s true that the Sabbath (or Sunday, for that matter), may be kept legalistically out of a misguided effort to earn salvation, yet God’s desire is that our motivation for keeping His Law be based on love, not legalism. “If you love Me,” Jesus said, “keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The other nine commandments (such as “You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” etc.) should be kept out of love, too. When Christians avoid committing adultery, are they being legalistic? Hardly. The same principle applies to those who avoid idolatry, killing, lying, or Sabbath-breaking.

Argument 2: We aren’t justified by “the deeds of the law” (see Romans 3:28), but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Therefore, Sabbath-keeping is not required.

Response: It’s true that salvation doesn’t come by human works, but this doesn’t negate commandment-keeping for born again believers. In the very same letter in which Paul wrote that Christians are saved by grace, not works (see Eph. 2:8,9), he also urged Christian children to obey the fifth commandment, which states, “Honor your father and mother” (see Eph. 6:2). Thus saved-by-grace Christians should still keep God’s law by His power.

Argument 3: The Sabbath was only for Jews.

Response: The Sabbath originated at creation (see Gen. 2:1-3) before Jews existed. Isaiah wrote that Gentiles should keep the Sabbath too (see Isa. 56:6,7). Gentiles did keep it in the book of Acts (see Acts 13:42-44). God’s law is for everyone, not just Jews (see Romans 3:19). The words, “Jew,” and “Israel,” are not found anywhere in the Ten Commandments.

Argument 4: Paul said, “Let no one judge you in … sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come” (see Colossians 2:14-17).

Response: Note the context. Paul wrote, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us … nailing it to his cross” (verse 14, KJV). The “handwriting of ordinances” was not the Ten Commandments, which were not written by man’s hand, but with “the finger of God” (see Ex. 31:18). Israel’s ceremonial law was written by the hand of Moses (see Deut. 31:24), and was nailed to the cross. 

“Therefore,” penned Paul, “Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day … or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come” (verses 16,17, KJV). The “meat,” “drink,” and “sabbaths” here referred to were the annual Jewish feasts (Passover, Day of Atonement, etc.) with their “meat” and “drink offerings” (see Lev. 23:37,38). These feasts were also called “sabbaths” (see Lev. 23:24,32,37,38), and were “shadows” because their sacrifices pointed forward to Christ’s sacrifice. Hebrews 10:1 clarifies that it was the ceremonial law, with its annual feasts and bloody sacrifices, that was a “shadow,” not the Ten Commandments.

Argument 5: What about “one person esteems one day above another, another esteems every day alike” (Romans 14:5)?

Response: The context is “disputes over doubtful things” (verse 1, NKJV), not the Ten Commandments. The early Church was composed of Jewish believers and Gentile converts. Although Paul didn’t specify what “days” he was referring to, he was probably talking about Jewish fast days (see Luke 18:12), and certain pagan feast days when Gentiles were “eating of things offered to idols” (1 Cor. 8:4). Romans 14 has nothing to do with the seventh-day Sabbath.

Argument 6: “But Jesus Christ rose on Sunday!”

Response: Praise the Lord! But let’s not use Christ’s resurrection as an excuse for breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus died on the cross because we broke God’s law (compare 1 Cor. 15:3 with 1 John 3:4). Keeping Sunday as a holy day in honor of Christ’s resurrection has no Scriptural support.

Argument 7: But we are “not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14)!

Response: So true. But the next verse continues, “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” (Rom. 6:15, KJV). “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). To interpret “under grace” as a license to violate the Ten Commandments misinterprets Paul’s words. Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Mat. 1:21), not in them.

Conclusion: The New Testament reveals that sinners are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone from their sins of breaking God’s holy law (see Mat. 1:21; Eph. 2:8,9; 1 John 3:4). Forgiven Christians should show their love and loyalty to King Jesus by keeping the Ten Commandments by the power of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 7:7; 8:4; Rev. 12:17; 14:12). During earth’s final crisis, true Christians will stand up for God’s law, as He wrote it on stone (see Ex. 31:18; Rev. 14:9-12), no matter what the cost.

The word “Sabbath” means “rest.” The seventh-day Sabbath is a wonderful day during which God teaches us how to “rest” in Jesus Christ our Creator, who loves us, sacrificed His precious life for us, and who can give us victory over our sins when we continually trust in Him (see Gen. 2:1-3; Ez. 20:12; Mat. 11:28; John 1:10; Heb. 4:4,9,10; 1 Cor. 15:56,57).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pope Francis, Two Beasts, and the Devil’s Deadly Mark (Part 3)

“Truth is stranger than fiction” is a popular saying. Brace yourself. You are about to discover strange things, but they are factual. The Holy Bible predicts that during Earth’s darkest hour a sinister deception called “the mark of the beast” (see Revelation 19:20) will be legislated by earthly governments as a misguided solution to a global crisis. Finally, “no one may buy or sell except the one who has the mark” (Revelation 13:17). Those who settle into this delusion—after being earnestly warned by a loving Creator to reject the devil’s deadly mark—will reap the just “wrath of God” (see Revelation 14:9-11), and be doomed forever.

Sound serious? It is. Keep reading.

What is this mysterious mark? If you Google “mark of the beast,” you’ll find plenty of opinions on the Internet. But honestly, this topic is far too important to practice “theology by Google.” Instead, first and foremost we must examine what the Bible actually says. After all, the “mark” is a Bible topic. Here are the sober facts:

1. The “mark” is mentioned eight times in the book of Revelation (13:16,17; 14:9,11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).

2. Those who receive this “mark” are “deceived” (Revelation 19:20). Thus the “mark” must be highly deceptive.

3. The “mark” comes from “the beast.” Thus we must correctly interpret who the beast is.

4. The “mark” involves false worship, for the Bible says, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark …” (Revelation 14:9).

5. By contrast, the Bible urges God’s people to “ worship Him that made heaven and earth …” (Revelation 14:7).

6. Only those who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12) will avoid the mark (verse 11).

7. The “mark” is received in two places: the “forehead” (mind) or the “hand” (actions)—which are the exact two places God seeks to write the Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy 5:6-21; 6:8; Hebrews 8:10; 10:18).

Thus those who wholly trust Jesus as their Savior, worship the Creator, and have God’s law written within them, will avoid the deadly mark. This is what the Scripture says.

Back to the beast. As previously established in Part 1, for nearly 400 years—from the 1500s to the 1800s—millions of Protestant Christians like Martin Luther (Lutheran), John Calvin (Presbyterian), John Wesley (Methodist), Charles Spurgeon (Baptist), and Matthew Henry (world-famous Bible commentary author) interpreted “the beast” to be the religious-political system (not Catholic people) of the Roman Church, led by popes. Thus the “mark of the beast” comes from the Roman Catholic Church.

Does the Roman Church have a mark? Indeed she does. Put on your spiritual seat belts. According to official statements from Catholic sources, Rome considers Sunday—a day which the Bible never sanctifies as a special day of worship—to be a mark of her authority.

See for yourself:

Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change [from the Bible Sabbath to Sunday] was her act… And the act is a MARK of her ecclesiastical authority in religious things.” C.F. Thomas, chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons, in a letter dated November 11, 1895.

By contrast, the Ten Commandments, “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18), identify “the seventh day” of the week (Saturday) as God’s holy rest day, not Sunday, which is simply “the first day of the week.” The fourth commandment thunders:

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy … the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. … For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8–11, emphasis added).

If you study history carefully, you will discover that the Roman Church led the charge away from the biblical Sabbath and over to Sunday (“the day of the sun”), partly because of compromises with pagan sun worship, and partly due to hostility against Jews—which was then rationalized with the crowning argument that, after all, Jesus rose on Sunday.

But remember, the book of Revelation clearly states that those who “worship” the Creator (Revelation 14:7) and “keep the commandments of God” (Revelation 14:12) won’t get the mark. Now don’t miss this: the only one of the Ten Commandments about the Creator is Number Four, which commands us to keep “the seventh day,” which is our Creator’s original rest day (see Genesis 2:1-3).

Amazingly, the book of Revelation predicts that Rome’s “mark” will someday be globally enforced by law. Impossible! you may be thinking. No, it isn’t. In Pope Francis’s June 18, 2015 encyclical recommending solutions for the problem of global “climate change,” the Pope declared,

Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day which heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world” (“Praised Be,” Section 237, emphasis added).

Believe it or not, Sunday closing laws have already been pushed or enforced to various degrees in Germany, Hungary, Greece, Poland, Chile, Fiji, Argentina, Brazil, and in other countries. News articles favoring Sunday legislation have also been recently reported on Fox News, CBS, CNN, The Guardian, Associated Press, and Time magazine. As Planet Earth falls apart, and as millions of desperate eyes look to the Pope for guidance, you can expect such agitation to increase, until finally, Sunday will be legislated worldwide.

Prophecy predicts it. You’ve been warned. Now you know. So forget Google and popular opinions. Instead, read Revelation 14:6-12 as if your life depended on it. As you do, you will discover that the real issue is trusting Jesus, worshiping the Creator, and keeping God’s law. Jesus Himself is our Creator (see John 1:3,10). He Himself is “Lord of the Sabbath” (see Matthew 12:8). It was our Creator Himself who died on a cruel cross for our sins and waywardness in breaking His Holy Law (see 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 John 3:4)—including the Sabbath commandment.

The bottom line is: who will you follow during earth’s final crisis?

Will it be Jesus Christ, our loving Creator, or the beast?

That choice is up to you.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pope Francis, Two Beasts, and the Devil’s Deadly Mark (Part 2)

As most of us know, Pope Francis visited America September 22-27, 2015. Highlights included a September 24 speech before a joint-session of our U.S. Congress, a September 25 address at a large United Nations gathering in New York City, and a September 26 speech at The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. 

Is it possible that these events tie in with biblical prophecy?

Part 1 of this series explored Revelation chapter 13 which contains a mysterious, shocking prophecy about two beasts and a deadly mark. My last articled focused on the first beast which rose out of the sea (13:1), has “a mouth speaking great things” (verse 5), wages “war against the saints” (verse 7), and is granted “authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (verse 7). Finally, “all the world marveled and followed the beast” (verse 3).

Whether you agree with their controversial conclusions or not, it is a sober fact of history that for nearly 400 years—from the 1500’s to the 1800’s—millions of reputable Bible-believing Protestant Christians like Martin Luther (Lutheran), John Calvin (Presbyterian), John Wesley (Methodist), Charles Spurgeon (Baptist), and Matthew Henry (world-famous Bible Commentary author) interpreted the highly-symbolic first “beast” of Revelation 13:1-10 to be the religious-political system (not Catholic people) of the Roman Church, led by popes.

Controversial indeed! Yet again, these are facts of history.

What about the second beast—a lamb-like beast rising from “the earth”—described in Revelation 13:11? Does it have anything to do with the United States of America? Let’s explore this. God’s Word predicted:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke
like a dragon (Revelation 13:11).

Daniel chapter 7—which clearly parallels Revelation 13—plainly reveals that a symbolic “beast” in prophecy represents a great nation. Both Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 refer to beasts, ten horns, a boastful mouth speaking great things, and war against God’s saints (compare Daniel 7:3-8, 21 with Revelation 13:1-7). More specifically, Daniel 7 identifies a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a dragon-like creature, which are the exact same animals mentioned in Revelation 13:2. An angelic interpreter explained:

The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom on earth (Daniel 7:23).

So we can nail this down: a “beast” in prophecy represents a mighty kingdom or nation. Historically, 98% of reputable Christian Bible commentaries have interpreted Daniel’s four beasts to represent the ancient nations of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Back to Revelation 13:11: “I saw another beast coming out of the earth.” Thus John saw a great nation rising into power. From where? “Out of the earth,” predicted the prophet. In Daniel 7, all four beasts “came up from the sea” (Daniel 7:3). What does “the sea” or water represent? Prophecy provides the answer. A holy angel confirmed:

The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues
(Revelation 17:15).

True to both prophecy and history, ancient Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome all arose from the midst of a sea of peoples in Europe and the Middle East. Not so with the Revelation 13:11 creature, which comes from the earth. Thus Revelation 13:11 points to a mighty nation rising out of a sparsely inhabited wilderness area.

“I saw another beast coming out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb.” Each word is critical. The primary Lamb of God is Jesus Christ. “Like a lamb,” indicates that this out-of-the-earth nation would have lamb-like or Christian features. Significantly, its “two horns” have no crowns, whereas the first beast’s ten horns do have crowns (Revelation 13:1). Crowns represent kingly power. Thus Revelation 13:11 depicts a new nation, with gentle, lamblike, Christian features, rising out of a sparsely inhabited area, led by a government without a king. Are the pieces coming together yet? 

Only one nation today fits every prophetic detail.

The United States of America.

Here’s a shocker: The latter portion of Revelation 13’s prophecy teaches that the lamb-like beast (USA) will cooperate with, and even promote, the “worship” of the first beast (Papal Rome). God’s prophecy declares:

And he (the lamb-like beast) exercises all the authority of the first beast (the sea beast) in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed (Revelation 13:12, emphasis added).

Get it? In Revelation 13:12, the second beast honors the first beast, contributes to its worship, and both beasts work together near the close of time. Think soberly for a minute. For nearly 1,000 years, the Roman Church dominated Europe as a church/state combination. No one questions this. But America is different. It has “two horns [without crowns] like a lamb,” indicating a democratic-type government that promotes lamb-like, Christian freedoms. But finally, as a global crisis looms, both beasts work together toward a global “solution”—which eventually becomes “the mark” of the beast (see Revelation 13:16,17).

On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis’s monumental encyclical on “climate change” was released by the Vatican. On the very same day President Obama issued a press release from the White House stating:

I [President Obama] welcome His Holiness Pope Francis’s encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope’s decision to make the case — clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position — for action on global climate change … I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort … (The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, June 18, 2015, emphasis added).

In spite of their differences, Pope Francis and President Obama are cooperating with each other. President Obama is also promoting Pope’s Francis’s encyclical on “climate change,” even stating that “the United States must be a leader in this effort.”

Dear reader, according to Bible prophecy, a global crisis is coming, and an apparent global solution.

What solution?

Read the prophecy of Revelation 13. God has warned us in advance—because He loves us, wants to enlighten us, and to protect us—that the “solution” will be the final enforcement of the mark of the beast (read Revelation 13:16,17).