Sunday, March 29, 2015

An Introduction to the Book of Philippians

Likely written from Rome somewhere near 62 AD, Philippians is one of the four prison epistles penned by Paul. No one knows for certain as to which imprisonment this epistle belongs. It may have been written during the time of Paul's house arrest which is mentioned in Acts 28:16, 30. Regardless of the exact circumstances surrounding the writing of Philippians, it is an epistle which exudes Christian warmth. Upon reading the first few verses of this letter, the reader will immediately notice that the church in Philippi had Paul's deepest affection. Why? The answer may be found by surveying the Scriptures' comments concerning this body of believers.

First of all, they were partakers of God's amazing grace, the same grace that saved Paul the Pharisee and set him free to serve in newness of spirit. After receiving the commendation of their sending church in Antioch of northern Syria, Paul and Silas set out upon what is known as Paul's second missionary journey. They traveled west to Derbe and Lystra where they found the young man Timotheus who would eventually become as a son to Paul (Philippians 2:22). After confirming the churches of that region which had been founded during Paul's first missionary journey, he and his companions set out for the region of Phrygia and Galatia; however, as Acts 16:6 says, they "were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia." Perhaps somewhat confused, they changed their course and proceeded northward toward Mysia and Bithynia which lay along the southern border of the Black Sea, but God's Spirit "suffered them not (Acts 16:7)." Forbidden of the Holy Ghost to proceed any farther northward, they turned back and continued southwest, finally arriving in Troas which lay along the coast of the Aegean Sea. Unknown to them, the Spirit of God was forcing them westward in preparation for their departure into Macedonia. The text does not disclose how long Paul and his companions waited in Troas for divine direction; however, God's will was eventually revealed to Paul through a vision. "There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us (Acts 16:9)." The answer finally came! No one can make a parked vehicle change direction. Paul and his helpers were doing what they could to serve the Lord. They were not wrong for moving in a direction; they just had to allow God to take the helm and direct them to those who were prepared to hear. Upon arriving in Macedonia, the missionaries made their way to Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia. Their stay in this region would consist of both joy and pain. They would witness many people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, people such as Lydia and those of her household. In this city they would be beaten and imprisoned, yet through these events they would see the Philippian jailer and his entire house come to repentant faith in Christ. As the believer considers God's orchestration of the events which led to the gospel being preached in Philippi, he should be pressed in his spirit to give God thanks for his amazing grace. It is this unmerited favor which endeared the Philippian church to Paul's heart, and it is this unmerited favor which enables every repentant sinner to find peace through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Lastly, Paul loved this church because they were partakers of God's amazing charity. After Paul's departure from Philippi, the church stayed in contact with him, providing him with the monies and services necessary for the continuation of God's work (Philippians 5:15-16). On his third missionary journey, as he passed through Macedonia on his way to Corinth (Acts 19:21), their heart of charity surfaced again. The church urged him to accept a financial gift for the saints at Jerusalem even though the Philippian believers were, as II Corinthians 8:2 says, in "deep poverty;" however, this body of believers had first given "their own selves to the Lord (II Corinthians 8:5);" therefore, they were enabled to give liberally. This heart of charity continued on. When Paul was detained, the Philippian church sent him financial aid by the hand of Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:18). Their testimony of charity stands as a rebuke to the believer who will not submit to God's commands concerning giving.

Many believe that the main theme of Philippians is joy; however, the overall context reveals the main theme to be this - with one mind, stand fast in the faith of Christ. Joy is the natural result of such faithfulness. By obeying the command to stand fast in the faith, the Philippian believers would bring joy not only to their own lives but also to the life of Paul.

This theme of standing fast is seen throughout the book. It first appears in 1:6 where Paul expresses confidence in Christ's ability to sanctify His children. It makes a rather bold appearance in 1:27 where Paul gives them an indirect command to stand fast in one spirit. In 2:2, the theme appears in the form of likemindedness. In one way or another, this theme of being steadfast in Christ appears in 2:12, 2:19, 3:1-2, 3:14 and 3:16 while 4:1 directly commands the church to stand fast in the Lord.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Journey through the Book of Philippians

As a Christian who was fairly young in the faith, Philippians was one of the first books of the Bible which I had committed to memory. While on deployment in the Pacific, I would seize various blocks of downtime in order to memorize this encouraging letter. Its promises, rebukes and practical instruction served to correct my spirit and to guide me into the humility of Christ. On more than one occasion, the Holy Spirit has corrected my grumbling with verses such as this, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15)." When battling my pride, God has often brought to mind the humility of Christ and His concern for others as described in Philippians 2:4-8; and what Christian could not find comfort in a verse such as this, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13)"?

The study of Daniel was of great benefit to me.  In preaching through it expositionally, I learned much; but I'm excited to be back in the New Testament examining and applying the principles and commands which have been delivered to the Church.  I pray that you will submit your heart to the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit as we begin this journey together.

Loyalty to the text of Scripture is paramount; therefore, as the Lord leads us through this epistle, I will be giving diligent study to the Greek Textus Receptus behind the English translation. With that said, I highly respect the accuracy and integrity of the King James translation; therefore, apart from my own rendering of the Greek text, it is the only English translation which will be used in this study.  Thanks for joining me, and "may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen."  Philippians 4:23

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Future Kingdom of Christ: A Kingdom of Peace

"But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." (Daniel 12:13)

As the text comes to a close, Daniel is given a command and two promises. He is told, "Go thou thy way." No more details would be given. Daniel would have to continue doing what he had done for so many years - live by faith. He would simply have to believe what had be given, and he would have to trust that God is able to triumph in the end. Habakkuk 2:4 says, "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith." Every individual who has ever found a relationship with God has had to bow the knee to this very principle. Explanation is good, but at some point the man who chooses to live by faith will be forced to simply "go his way" while putting full confidence in the immutability and unfathomable wisdom of God's counsel. If Daniel could not escape this requirement, the Church Age believer will not escape it. "For we walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7)."

Daniel is next given two promises. He is told, "thou shalt rest" and "thou shalt stand." Daniel's immortal soul is safe in the arms of his Messiah, and in that glorious day when "the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19)," Daniel's soul shall be reunited with his resurrected body (Job 19:25-26). The full measure of his peace in Christ will be realized, and he will stand in the lot of his inheritance, encompassed by the joys of the Messiah's kingdom. Such is the expectation of all who choose faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.

As far as anyone knows, Daniel never again saw his homeland. He died as a eunuch in the land of his exile. Throughout his long life, he had seen kings rise and fall. He had seen God's words come to pass. He had seen God's hand of protection upon the righteous as well as His hand of judgment upon the wicked. He had been mistreated, tested, lied about, weighed down, made lonely; however, he had more peace than most Christians do today because he lived in the principles of Isaiah 26:3-4.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.

May each and every believer who chooses to study the book of Daniel find this same peace of mind as he allows the text to usher him into the presence of the Prince of Peace.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Future Kingdom of Christ: A Kingdom of Patience (Part II)

"And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days." (Daniel 12:11-12)

When the antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel in the middle of the seven year period (9:27), he will desecrate the temple of Jerusalem by proclaiming that he himself is God while sitting in the Holy of Holies (II Thessalonians 2:4). After this, his persecution of the Jews and the humiliation of Jerusalem will continue for three and one half years (Revelation 11:2). Revelation 11:2-3 defines this period as 1,260 days, whereas this passage defines it as 1,290 days. The reason for the difference is not clear; however, the extra thirty days may be allowing for the subsequent judgment of the nations at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ (Joel 3:12).

The Lord pronounces a special blessing upon the man who holds to faith in Christ, because at the end of these horrors, he will be delivered by the return of his Savior. 1,335 days encompasses the three and one half years of the antichrist's cruel reign as well as the time necessary to usher in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Not all of the events which comprise this time period are given; however, the reader may be assured of this promise - the man, woman or child who refuses the mark of the beast and puts his hope in the saving grace of God will be delivered.

The Lord says, "Blessed is he that waiteth." Patience is often difficult to learn, but it in the end, it triumphs. The one who is willing to place his hope in God while submitting to the ultimate plan of God will not be disappointed. Psalm 39:7 describes the blessed state of such a man when it declares, "For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth." The followers of the antichrist will reject patient faith in Christ, and they will turn to violence and to the powers of hell for aid, but the tribulation saints will place their confidence in the final victory of their Redeemer, and their patient faith will be richly rewarded (Revelation 13:10, 9-12).

God's kingdom has always involved patience. In many ways, saving faith and patience are inseparable (Revelation 14:12). When a person chooses faith in Christ, to some degree he is exercising patience in the ability of Christ to ultimately triumph. In principle, the believer must continually live in this mindset of patient waiting upon Christ. Struggle against patient hope in God's plan will result in turmoil for the believer. The kingdom will come; the believer will be fully sanctified; the struggles will someday end, and evil will be fully subjugated; however, the kingdom will not come apart from the avenue of patience.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Future Kingdom of Christ: A Kingdom of Patience

"And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand." 
(Daniel 12:8-10)

Daniel's curiosity and frustration are easily understood. The Christian of today has much more Scripture than Daniel enjoyed, yet he often finds himself with just as many, or more, questions. Undoubtedly, Daniel wanted to know the final end of his people. How many would perish? How exactly would they be delivered? When exactly would the Messiah come? So many questions! However, the Lord simply says, "Go thy way." When Daniel received these words, the days were far more distant than they are now. The time of these words is coming, but it is not yet. The words are certified by the highest authority possible; however, they are for a time which is yet future. So, here they wait, preserved, sealed and standing by for the time appointed of the Father.

In verse ten, God places people into one of two categories: the righteous and the wicked. The overwhelming trials of the last days will make perfectly clear who does and who does not belong to Christ. Given time, the believer will eventually manifest himself for what he is, because "...Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit...(Matthew 7:17a);" and in time, every false professor will manifest himself for what he is, because "...a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit (Matthew 7:17b)." The last days will leave no room for those who mouth the name of Christ while serving themselves. Because the severe pressure of those final days will so clearly differentiate between the lost and the saved, Revelation 22:14 calls these true believers "they that do his commandments."

Every Christian should remember that false professors will always be around. Just because a person attends church or has a ministry, it does not mean that person is saved. It is easy to become frustrated over the worldly behavior of professing Christians, but sometimes this behavior is due to the absence of salvation. A Christian is capable of great sin; however, as the text says, the "wicked shall do wickedly." A man cannot expect a child of the devil to think and act like a child of God (I John 3:10).

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Future Kingdom of Christ: A Kingdom of Promise

"Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river. And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished." (Daniel 12:5-7)

The river being referenced is the Tigris (Hiddekel). The two individuals on either side of its banks are angelic beings whose names the text does not disclose. The man clothed in linen is undoubtedly the same individual mentioned in chapter ten, the preincarnate Christ. His presence at the beginning and end of the angel's discourse gives a sense of authority and approval to all that has been revealed to Daniel.

When asked how long the antichrist will be allowed to trample God's sanctuary under foot, the Lord responds by swearing by the highest authority possible, the Ancient of Days. The time, times and an half is a period of three and one half years. Its starting point begins in the middle of the "week" mentioned in 9:27. After the Church has been removed and the antichrist has ascended the throne of dictatorship, Israel will make a foolish alliance with the powers of hell; however, after three and one half years, the antichrist will turn upon the Jews and begin a three and one half year period of intense persecution.

The Lord makes clear His reasons for allowing the antichrist to persecute Israel and to defile the future temple of Jerusalem. He intends to scatter the power of the holy people. The Hebrew verb for scatter is intensive and could well be translated shatter. Although Israel has undergone many hardships and endured many heartaches, it is still a nation which exercises considerable influence over many countries. In numerous nations around the world, pockets of Jewish people have made their presence known through commerce, business and religious practices. The nation of Israel itself holds a position of prominence in the Middle East. It is true that the Jews have been hounded, betrayed, harassed and rejected by many, but they are by no means shattered. They are still a proud people who have chosen to approach God through the traditions of men and the righteousness of the law while rejecting the finished work of Christ. On the whole, they have no heart to receive the truth of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. The horrors of the Great Tribulation will be used of God to bring them to a place of great humility. When the dragon pursues them with the floods of desolation and destruction (Revelation 12:15), the Jewish people will be brought to the very end of themselves. When God has disannulled their agreement with hell (Isaiah 28:15), they will find themselves without any earthly friends. They will be betrayed, hunted and murdered by the antichrist and his followers, yet it all has a purpose; God intends to use these things to bring them to the true fear of the LORD.

Occasionally, the Lord may find it necessary to use such tactics upon the Christian. Any believer can become proud and set in his ways. No Christian is immuned to being lifted up and taking the authority of Scripture lightly. When this happens, the Lord may find it necessary to "scatter" the power of His child in an effort to bring him back to a place of humility and dependence. The Lord is not cruelly standing by, just waiting to shatter His children; however, due to the pride of the human heart, such shattering of the believer's abilities, resources and dependencies is often the only means of getting his full attention. God's heart is ever bent on the restoration of men.

The Lord Jesus Christ makes it clear that all these things will be finished in just three and one half years. Satan does not decide how long God's sanctuary will be trodden under foot. God decides. Those three and one half years will be the worst in Israel's history; however, God has promised that those days shall indeed end, and Israel will be fully prepared to receive her King at the end of those days.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Future Kingdom of Christ: A Kingdom of Preeminence (Part III)

"But thou, 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)

The Lord is not commanding Daniel to hide his prophecy from mankind; He is commanding him to preserve it. The Scriptures have been "shut up" by God. They are forever preserved in the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. Man can ignore them, burn them, outlaw them and reject them; but in the end, he will be forced to acknowledge them, because they have been sealed as genuine by their supreme Author.

The Lord promised that as time passes, people would become increasingly distracted and that knowledge would be increased. This certainly seems to be the pattern. People's attention span is becoming shorter and shorter. There is an ever growing desire to be constantly entertained and drawn away from any inward reflection. Everywhere, people are running "to and fro." Along with this, man has gained worldly knowledge while growing colder to the things of God.

The believer is not above being affected by these negative influences. Many of God's people today are too busy to spend a considerable amount of time in the Bible; they are too distracted by their pleasures and entertainments. They want some awe-inspiring truth that will change their life and fill the spiritual gap, but they want it in five minutes; and they certainly do not want it to interfere with their gallivanting about. This mindset is dangerous. God is not in a hurry. Good things come hard, and a deeper understanding of spiritual things requires greater dependency upon the Spirit, greater time and greater sacrifice. Let the believer beware of mimicking those who "run to and fro" and those who increase their knowledge without increasing their faith.    

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Future Kingdom of Christ: A Kingdom of Preeminence (Part II)

"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:2-3)

Isaiah 26:19-21 says,

Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.

The earth was never intended to receive blood. When the first blood of man was shed by Cain, the Lord said to him, "...the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground (Genesis 4:10)." When the Lord returns, the earth will give up both the blood of the lost and saved.

Two separate resurrections are combined in this passage. Revelation 20:1-6 speaks of the first resurrection which seems to be describing that of Old Testament and Tribulation saints since the Church Age believers will already have been resurrected at the rapture (I Thessalonians 4:13-17). The second resurrection mentioned is that of the lost. This fearful resurrection is described in Revelation 20:11-15. Daniel's prophecy seamlessly combines them all.

The sure hope of the resurrection is a truth in which both Old and New Testament saints have found great strength. In the very throws of his terrible trials, Job said, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God (Job 19:25-26)." In writing to the troubled believers of the Corinthian church, Paul said,

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (I Corinthians 15:51-58)

The glorious resurrection of the believer is made possible only because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the will of the Father, an event which is past to the New Testament saint but was yet future to Daniel.

The fearful fate of those outside of Jesus Christ is clearly described. They will be forever consigned to the torment and shame of hell's flames. As the Christian goes through life and interacts with people, he should never forget that only two types of individuals exist - the lost and the saved, the redeemed and the damned. It is easy to grow cold to this reality. It is easy to get caught up in routines and personalities; however, the destiny of a person's soul should always be close to the believer's heart.

Verse three describes Christ's saints in two ways. First of all, they are wise. The individual who is willing to humble himself and turn from sin to Christ is the one who is truly wise. He may not have much else, but he has that which matters most, a relationship with the Redeemer. The saved are next described as being those who turn many to righteousness. These people are not saved because they witness; they witness because they are saved. The believer can witness in many ways. It may occur through a conversation with a coworker. Perhaps it takes place through the dispersion of gospel tracts. The Christian father and mother witness to their children through their submission to God. Through his actions, every believer tells the world what he believes. The Holy Spirit within the believer earnestly desires to see people saved; therefore, He will always encourage the believer to be a witness in some way. The complete absence of a desire to witness and the absence of any conviction due to a failure to witness is characteristic of a false professor. A Christian can choose to rebel against the command to witness, but this behavior will not escape the chastisement of God.

The Lord greatly delights in those who turn others to righteousness. God's child should never find himself acting as a source of worldly and unprofitable advice. His counsel should always be biblical; his motives must be pure. He must have the spiritual welfare of others as a priority. He should always be ready to encourage, admonish, teach, rebuke and instruct whenever necessary. He may expend his energy on many things, but God delights most in efforts which encourage others toward the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

So many professing Christians are carried away with vain pleasures and fleshly battles. They weary themselves to find some new vein of entertainment. They are quick to defend their personal likes regardless of whether or not those likes are biblical. People expend great energy to please others, find pleasure, obtain a goal or fill some void in their life, but how many of God's professing children are eager to lead others into the ways of righteousness? How many are willing to act in a way that guides others into the holiness of God? How many are willing to talk, dress, think, sacrifice and prioritize in a way that encourages others to leave the world behind and to pursue the fear of the LORD?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Future Kingdom of Christ: A Kingdom of Preeminence

"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." (Daniel 12:1)

This verse supports the conclusion that the latter part of chapter eleven is speaking of the antichrist and not Antiochus. The phrase "at that time" is referring to the future troubles of the Great Tribulation which is described here as "a time of trouble."

The angel's discourse now transitions into a discussion concerning the future kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. This kingdom is preeminent, and its King will ultimately triumph over all the powers of darkness. The troubles and cares of this life can easily weigh down a believer; however, a Christian should never lose sight of the glorious kingdom to which he has been appointed. Revelation 20:6 describes the blessed state of those who are raised by Jesus Christ and given a place of service in His kingdom.

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

The millennial kingdom of Christ will be glorious; however, the aftermath will be far greater, because on the heels of Christ's earthly kingdom comes the unimaginable splendor of the eternal state. The New Jerusalem, also called the bride and the Lamb's wife, will come down from God out of heaven (Revelation 21:10); and the saints of all ages will forever serve the Lord in that glorious city where "there shall in no wise enter ... any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life (Revelation 21:27)."

The heavenly messenger made it clear to Daniel that his people have a defender who has been specifically assigned by God. This defender is Michael, the warrior angel. The antichrist will wreak havoc on Jerusalem and the Jews, but God's people will not be left without a defender. When Satan and his servants have gone as far as God allows, the Lord will order His angelic messengers to go forth and bind the powers of darkness. Some of these events are described in Revelation 12:7-9, 20:1-2, 10.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him ... And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years ... And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Yes, the Lord has appointed a protector for His people. For hundreds of years, Israel has been trampled under foot by the godless, and the worst is yet to come; but there is a day coming when "all Israel shall be saved (Romans 11:26)." The text says, "...thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." Having been brought to their knees by the horrors of the Great Tribulation, the majority of the surviving Jews will turn to repentant faith in their Messiah, and they will be delivered.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Future Kingdom of the Antichrist: The Expectation of the Antichrist

"But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many. And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him." (Daniel 11:44-45)

As the punishment of unbelieving Israel draws to a close, the Lord will begin to weaken the structure of the antichrist's kingdom. Revelation 16:10 says, "And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain." Toward the end of the tribulation period, God's divine wrath will take special aim at the seat of the beast. His kingdom will begin to crumble, and rebellions and wars will begin to break out.

The text says that reports out of the east and out of the north will trouble this messenger of Satan. This prophecy parallels the events spoken of in Revelation 16:12-14.

And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

These tidings of rebellion and war which so anger the spirit of the antichrist will be used of God to muster him and his people unto the place of their demise, the infamous Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16). Preparing to face his eastern and northern enemies, he will suddenly be faced with the most fearful day known to man, "the great and dreadful day of the LORD (Malachi 4:5)." The Lord Jesus Christ Himself will come to deal the fatal blow to the antichrist and his followers. Mounted atop a white horse, displaying the awesome nature of His holiness by means of a countenance too wonderful to describe, the Lord shall appear with this majestic and reverent title - KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:11-16).

As the text so aptly states, "yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him." For three and one half years he will trample under foot the courts of the future temple in Jerusalem. For three and one half years he will spew out terrible blasphemies against the God of heaven. For three and one half years he will vehemently persecute the Jews, yet he will swiftly come to his end. The Holy Spirit vividly describes the demise of the beast, his false prophet and his followers when He says,

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:20-21)

Thus are the exaltations, exploits and expectations of the antichrist. The principles of his sins may be practiced by lost and saved. At the root of his soul may be found the abominable sin of pride, a sin in which all men share a part. Let every believer beware of his wicked heart. In the flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18). Only in submission to the blessed Spirit of Jesus Christ can the believer hope to please his Master and to keep himself from the destructive path of pride.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Future Kingdom of the Antichrist: The Exploits of the Antichrist

"And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps." (Daniel 11:40-43)

The events described in this passage make it very clear that the man being discussed is not Antiochus Epiphanes. The events mentioned here never came to pass in his life. After the Romans forced Antiochus to leave Egypt, he never again made war with the king of the south. Little by little, Egypt and its provinces fell into the hands of the Roman Republic. In light of these facts, these passages are describing conflicts which will occur between the beast and his opponents.

The antichrist's kingdom will be universal and powerful, yet it will not be forever. In a relatively short time, it will begin to decay. Apparently, Egypt will be moved to rebellion. The glorious land is once again referring to the land of Israel, the center of prophetic interest. As the book of Revelation clearly reveals, the antichrist will have major interests there. In the holy place of Jerusalem's temple, he will set up the abomination of desolation which is likely an idol of himself, and it is in this same future temple where he will enter the Holy of Holies, proclaiming that he alone is God.

Although the lands of Edom, Moab and Ammon are no longer specifically defined by their ancient borders, there is reason to believe that these countries will be resurrected in the last days. The Lord Christ Himself will deal a fatal blow to the Edomites upon His second advent (Isaiah 63:1-6). In Isaiah 11:14, the Holy Spirit prophesies of Israel's subjugation of these three countries.

Apparently, the antichrist will be successful in his march against Egypt. Like the overflowing armies of Antiochus Epiphanes, the forces of the antichrist will deal a crippling blow to the land of Egypt.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Future Kingdom of the Antichrist: The Exaltation of the Antichrist (Part II)

"Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain." (Daniel 11:37-39)

The antichrist will have no regard for his Creator. He will not be concerned with His commandments or His precepts, and he will denounce any and all divine authority in his life. No one knows for certain as to what the phrase "the desire of women" is referring. Some have proposed that the antichrist will be a homosexual; therefore, he will have no natural delight in the opposite sex. Some believe that his absolute dedication to evil will leave him void of any natural draw toward a woman. Others believe that this "desire of women" is referring to Jesus Christ whose position the antichrist will seek to occupy in the hearts and lives of people. Still, others believe that the phrase refers to some false deity that is highly regarded amongst the female gender. Whatever the meaning, in his own eyes, his authority will trump that of all others, including God and any false deity which man has created or will create.

Rather than give honor to God or to false deities, the antichrist will honor the "god of forces." The phrase "God of forces" is not referring to God Himself; therefore, the letter G should be small. The beast (antichrist) of Revelation 13 will be empowered by Satan himself who is likely represented as this "god of forces." The path trod by the antichrist always leads back to Satan; therefore, regardless of what may or may not be seen in this title, one may be sure that Satan is at the foundation of this title's representation; because he is the one who will give the antichrist "his power, and his seat, and great authority (Revelation 13:2)."

The text says that the antichrist will "divide the land for gain." He will be a man of war, one who delights in overpowering others. Satan hates man, and he delights in his destruction (John 8:44). This same spirit will be evident in the antichrist. This spirit is in stark contrast to that of Jesus Christ who is called The Prince of Peace. Exodus 15:3 calls God a man of war; but this is in the context of His indignation against sin. God's wrath is revealed against the unrighteousness of man, yet the ultimate end of His wrath is not the destruction of all mankind. God will deal with His enemies, but He has also made a way of escape through the blood of His own Son. This spirit of restoration may be seen in Isaiah 57:16 where the Lord says, "For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made."

When a believer desires to tear down and condemn rather than to heal and to restore, he is displaying the spirit of the antichrist while suppressing the Spirit of Christ.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Future Kingdom of the Antichrist: The Exaltation of the Antichrist

"And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done." (Daniel 11:36)

The focus of the prophecy now shifts, almost seamlessly, from that of Antiochus Epiphanes to that concerning the future antichrist. Because the life of Antiochus so closely paralleled that of the antichrist, it is no surprise that the Holy Spirit should so freely bound forward hundreds of years to a time that is yet future to the New Testament Church. This biblical phenomenon of linking together both current and future events is not limited to Daniel. The prophets Isaiah and Joel also seamlessly linked together both present and future judgments, discussing them as though they were one and the same.

The prophecies which follow did not come to pass in the life of Antiochus Epiphanes. He died suddenly of disease sometime in 164 BC during a time of turmoil within his kingdom; therefore, it may be safely assumed that the following passages point the reader to a time when another will arise, a godless and wicked man whose character was prophesied through the life of a depraved Syrian monarch.

Just as Antiochus appeared during a time when Jerusalem itself was plagued with apostasy, the antichrist will come onto the stage of world history when God is ready to deal with the unbelieving spirit of Israel. According to the book of Revelation, the antichrist will appear on the scene of world leadership during a time when the earth is being ravished by the horrors of the Great Tribulation. In Revelation 6:2, he is the one seen on the white horse, a symbol of victory. In this passage of Revelation, he is seen carrying a bow, yet he has no arrows to accompany it. In this is pictured his relatively unattested rise to world dominance. Ravaged by war, famine and mass death (Revelation 6:3-8), this tired old world will hail this messenger of Satan as its long-awaited deliverer. Vested with all the powers of darkness, this godless individual will quickly prosper in the things of evil. He will be cunning, manipulative, authoritative, unbelievably cruel and completely faithless. Mouthing promises of peace and goodwill for all, he will rapidly rise to a position of world leadership. As the text says, "He shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods." The word marvellous is the same word translated wonderful in Isaiah 9:6. His words against God will be convincing, smooth and unbelievably bold. His spirit may be heard in the mouths of many people today as they blame and blaspheme God in seek of self-justification.

The text is clear; this "man of sin" and "son of perdition (II Thessalonians 2:3)" will prosper only as long as God allows. During the Great Tribulation and "the time of Jacob's trouble (Jeremiah 30:7)," the LORD of hosts will be dealing with man's consistent rejection, and the antichrist will be nothing more than a tool to accomplish many aspects of God's chastening on an unbelieving world.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Greece's Future Conquest: The Abominations of Antiochus Epiphanes (Part II)

"And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed." (Daniel 11:32-35)

The flattery of which the text is speaking is likely referring to the king's superficial favor which he bestowed upon those who submitted to his vile demands. To resist his ordinances meant death, but to submit to them bestowed upon the deceived soul this title, "Friend of the King." Such a person would be the shallow friend of an even shallower king while alienating himself from the eternal King of Heaven. Man's tactics have not changed down through the years. Every believer must be on guard against the flattery of Satan's messengers, inside and outside of the church.

God always has His remnant. Even though persecution raged and apostasy abounded, there were still people who knew their God. They were strong in the faith, and what they did for God prospered. An illustration of this my be seen in one Eleazar, an older man who chose to be flogged to death rather than to eat swine's flesh. Others could be added to the list, people who chose cruel deaths rather than deny God. Hebrews 11:36-38 is likely speaking of these God-fearing people when it says,

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Another story is told of a group of Jews who met secretly in observance of the Sabbath. When they were betrayed, out of respect for the Sabbath, they did not resist but submitted themselves to cruel deaths.

The text says, "they that understand among the people shall instruct many." The far-reaching effects of a godly testimony cannot be overemphasized. The righteous resistance of one did far more to encourage others to the fear of the Lord than did the compromise of many. The text gives three reasons for the fall of these saints: to try them, to purge them and to make them white. The severe oppression of these times left no room for false professors. A definite line was drawn between the lost and the saved as they were faced with only two choices: serve God, or serve Satan. The Lord is not cruel in allowing such things to befall His redeemed. He uses such events to distinguish between the children of darkness and the children of light. He also uses persecutions to purify His people from all desires of the world and to usher them into His kingdom with greater glory.

The "Christian" world of today is plagued with numerous false professors. People abound who mouth loyalty to Christ while thinking, living and acting like the world. However, in the days of the Great Tribulation described in the book of the Revelation, no room will exist for such hypocrites. During the severe oppression of those days, to profess Christ will be to profess a willingness to suffer and die; therefore, only the truly saved will claim Him; and just like the saints of Antiochus' day, they too will be tried, purged and made white.

The oppression of these times gave birth to the Maccabean Revolt led by the elderly priest Mattathias. He lived in the small village of Modin with his five sons John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar and Johnathan. Early one morning, a Seleucid official appeared at the small village and erected an altar. After assembling the townsfolk, he ordered the elderly Mattathias to offer a pig to Zeus upon the altar. Upon his refusal, an apostate Jew stepped forward and volunteered to perform the abominable act. Enraged, Mattathias killed both the cowardly Jew and the Seleucid official. He and his five sons also killed the Syrian guards which had accompanied the official. The revolt had begun. Mattathias and his five sons fled to the hills where they were joined by other God-fearing Jews. They agreed to fight on the Sabbath if necessary, something which had not been done by the Jews up to that point. In less than a year, the aged Mattathias died and was succeeded by his son Judas, also known as Judas Maccabeus (the Hammer). Practicing guerrilla warfare, Judas and his forces wrought havoc on the king's armies. They eventually managed to cast off Syrian domination, and in 165 BC, they had reclaimed the temple mount. After eight days of cleansing, the temple was reconsecrated to God.