Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"This is not about post rapture believers.." A response to a Facebook post.

Let us just say, I have a strong interest in prophecy, end times, and the study of Revelation, always have, and though some have passed through the church and brought moments of clarity, others followed right behind them and muddied up the waters for me. Personally, I found this very frustrating. One man, Hilton Sutton came to the church and brought some clarity, this was a turning point for me in that I now had an unquenchable desire to understand end times prophecy. Gaining a momentary clarity is fine, but once he left and there was no one there that provoked a pursuit in the understanding of biblical prophecy I found myself floundering. Since what I just described happened in the late 1980’s, can you imagine how disillusioned I might be that I have only in the last few years come to understanding the allusion and imagery we have to deal with when reading Revelation and Daniel. The thing that opened up end time’s prophecy for me was coming across a book called, The Islamic Antichrist, by Joel Richardson. Mr. Richardson followed up his first book with one called The Mideast Beast. In it, he gives you an intense look into scripture, with associated current and historical events, thereby leaving no doubt in your mind.
There was a day in which I saw a post on Facebook where the person making the post referenced Revelation 13:7 and stated, this is not about post rapture believers, this is about us, the church.” It seems only right that I give you this scripture before we look at it to see if it paints the picture that this person sees. I will also tell you that there is no short rebuttal because the simplest of answers are always met with arguments; most of which are based in assumption, faulty logic, and inappropriate traditions of religion.
Revelation 13:7 KJV And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
In perusing this verse my first question is, who is this “him” that John is being shown? You have to ask, because at face value, depending upon the translation you use, your mindset immediately becomes fixated and therefore tries to find that one person, world leader. As we progress in our reading of the Bible, it is true that someone eventually becomes the mouthpiece for the beast, but even he will have a limited influence and step aside for another more violent. Scripture calls this last person the false prophet.
And there was given unto him(it) a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
(Revelation 13:5 KJV)
The Greek word translated as him is autos, and can just as easily mean it. The Modern King James version correctly translated this by using the word “it” instead of him. However, the vagueness of the word “it” defies our desire to attach an identity to the beast. Religion, operating on the idea that we should be looking for a person to define the beast, have given the title to many people – some deservingly so, but they were still wrong.
Secondly, in focusing on the beast as an “it”, we note that it is given power to make war withthe saints and to overcome them, and all kindredstongues, and nations. The MKJV uses the word tribes instead of kindreds.
What kind of understanding do I gain from this information?
Anyone, a minimal amount of knowledge of scripture, knows that the end times are particularly harsh toward followers of Christ; primarily during the last seven-year period designated as the time of God’s wrath upon the earth, even though religion calls this the tribulation. One can easily figure out that almost everyone not following after the beast will be killed during this time, and not by God.
Daniel recounts his vision in Daniel chapter seven. “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them” (Daniel 7:21 KJV) What Daniel describes is a parallel to Revelation 13:7, and the horn he sees is the “it” that John describes in the Revelation, and at minimum, an aspect of one of the beasts.
Since we know, based upon the explanation that the angel brought, that the beasts represent kingdoms or empires, then this "it" has to be an empire too. We also learn that since the kingdoms Daniel saw were destructive, this too is a destructive empire. An aspect of Revelation 13:7 defines that for us: “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”
Can anyone decisively say that there is one entity whose sole purpose is to wage war with the people of God, and is doing that?
While there are many Christians and tribes, and nations now coming under attack, there is not an overall defeat, and a few governments that are still standing in the face of the enemy. This does not necessarily mean that this is not the beast that is attacking them. However, the world is certainly not seeing this thing in its full fury. It was Jesus that informed us that the onslaught would be so great that the potential to kill everyone outside of the beast’s ideology is possible.
Matthew 24:22 MKJV And unless those days should be shortened, no flesh would be saved. But for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened.
The word translated as beast is the Greek word therion, and means a dangerous animal. Again, there are plenty of people who have been deemed animals, and deserved to be called that, but attributing that designation to a single person does not make it a proper definition. Since this is akin to Daniel’s vision, and the statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw, then we know that this is the fourth kingdom, and because of its matching symbolism we also know that this is an extremely dangerous kingdom.
As a stand alone verse, there is nothing that defines this beast adequately, nor is there anything in the passage that gives us a time frame, nor does it demonstrate whether it is a pre or post rapture scenario.
So, is Revelation 13:7 a picture of Pre or Post rapture?
The short answer is pre-rapture, but we need something beside Revelation 13:7 to prove this.
There are inherent problems in understanding and placing this evil empire into a particular period. The difficulty primarily arises out of our attempts at defining the beast using the traditional religious understanding and logic that we commonly apply to end times events.
Our first problem here is that Daniel 7:3 tells us that there were four great beasts.
Each one of these beasts could have presented similar issues and problems, not only the Christian community but also the world in general. One in particular, the fourth beast, gained a particularly frightening identity, and seems to have no purpose aside from destruction. Moreover, this fourth beast is NOT directly identified, as the first three were, and so the common assumption is that this has everything to do with Rome and by extension the Roman Catholic church. You should be able to pick up on the ramifications of that.
“After this I looked in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, frightening and terrifying, and very strong. And it had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the rest with its feet. And it was different from all the beasts before it; and it had ten horns.” (Daniel 7:7 MKJV)
Our simplest method of gaining clarity is to look at the context surrounding this singular passage in Revelation 13 and try to find out if this statement, “this is not about post rapture believers, this is about us, the church” is a true statement.
Revelation 13:1-10 MKJV (1) And I stood on the sand of the sea, and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns. And on its horns were ten crowns, and on its heads was the name of blasphemy. (2)   And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and its feet like those of a bear, and its mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him its power and its seat and great authority.   (3) And I saw one of its heads as having been slain to death, and its deadly wound was healed. And all the earth marveled after the beast.   (4) And they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with it? (5) And a mouth speaking great things was given to it, and blasphemies. And authority was given to it to continue forty-two months. (6) And it opened its mouth in blasphemy toward God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, and those dwelling in Heaven. (7) And it was given to it to war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given to it over every tribe and tongue and nation. (8) And all dwelling on the earth will worship it, those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world. (9) If anyone has an ear, let him hear. (10)   He who leads into captivity will go into captivity. If anyone will kill with the sword, he must be killed by a sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
The first two verses of Revelation 13: 1-10 are very telling, and we learn where the beast gets its power.
“And I stood on the sand of the sea, and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns. And on its horns were ten crowns, and on its heads was the name of blasphemy. And the beast, which I saw, was like a leopard, and its feet like those of a bear, and its mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him its power and its seat and great authority.” (Revelation 13:1-2 MKJV)
As John stands “on the sand of the sea”, he is looking at vast numbers of people. Thousands of years of world conflict, and yet this vast number of people have all been affected by the same theme, the beast. There is no way that one man, or animal, could live for this extended period. Therefore, the obvious assumption is that the beast represents a very dangerous empire. This is clear when I read about it Daniel.
“the dragon gave him its power and its seat and great authority”
“The dragon gave him (edōken autōi ho drakōn). First aorist active indicative of didōmi (to give) and dative case autōi (the beast). The dragon works through this beast. The beast is simply Satan’s agent. Satan claimed this power, and offered it to Christ: (Robertson’s Word Pictures)
And he said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will go down on your face and give me worship. (Matthew 4:9 BBE)
And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. (Luke 4:6 KJV)
“- and Christ called Satan the prince of this world”: (Robertson’s Word Pictures)
Now is the time for the world to be judged. Now the ruler of this world will be thrown out. (John 12:31 ERV)
"I will not talk with you much longer. The ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me. (John 14:30 ERV)
“and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16:11 LITV)
While it may not help to answer the question of whether this is speaking about the church, references to the beast do not have to represent a man, and can easily fit into the category of a ruling body, and are certainly fulfilled by an encompassing demonic power. Since we know that Revelation 13:7 is another description of the prophecy seen in Daniel, then we know that the beast empires were clearly defined, and three of them are essentially gone from the picture. They are the: Babylonian (Assyrian); Medo/Persian; Grecian. We also know that the Grecian empire sustained a division after the death of Alexander The Great, and was redistributed between four generals. Of those four, only two made a global impact – the Seleucid Empire and the Ptolemaic. The Seleucid Empire effectively comprised the Assyrian people and Islamic nations that we are now dealing with.
Revelation 13:4 tells us that “they” (the nations?) worshipped the beast.
Now what do we do with that? We already understand that the beast represents a deadly empire, but there is no singular, deadly empire ruling yet. However, there are multitudes of deadly entities, wreaking havoc globally, with one common ideology. Do I have to say it? Islam. Islam, no matter whether you are Shiite, Wahabi, or call yourself Boko Haran serves one common god – Allah.
Is it possible then, that Revelation 13:4 is referring to a current and deadly religion as the beast? This opens a complex issue, because the God of Israel had already made it clear to his people, and us, that there are no other gods (This declaration took place long before Mohammed decided that there was a god called Allah). All this of course makes Allah a false god. The goal in apologetics is to show, primarily by scripture, the truth that there is nothing out there but God alone. A few examples might be:
Isaiah 43:10 CEV My people, you are my witnesses and my chosen servant. I want you to know me, to trust me, and understand that I alone am God. I have always been God; there can be no others.
Exodus 34:14 AMP For you shall worship no other god; for the Lord, Whose name is Jealous, is a jealous (impassioned) God,
Exodus 20:23 ISV You are not to make gods of silver alongside me, nor are you to make for yourselves gods of gold.
Deuteronomy 4:27-28 NASB   (27) "The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. (28) "There you will serve gods, the work of man's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.
One of the most telling clues about the timing which can applied to Revelation 13:7, is found in Revelation 13:5.
Revelation 13:5 LITV And a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies was given to it. And authority to act forty-two months was given to it.
This is most likely the second half of the seven years of wrath. Many like to call it the great tribulation. Moreover, since this takes us to the midpoint of the seven years of wrath, then taking a chronological approach tells me that Revelation 13:7 has nothing to do with the church.
There is another aspect that seems to throw the casual reader for a loop, and that is the beast making “war with the saints.” There is no denying, that Paul called the early church members saints, but since the church is not destined for wrath we should have been caught up in the snatching away, prior to this widespread slaughter of the saints. Before I try to develop this I need to remind you that Jesus guaranteed you "the modern believer" one thing very specific, "in this world, you will have tribulation!" While it may be great for you, it is no where close to being the great tribulation that comes during the time of God's wrath.
Jesus, speaking to his religious detractors said, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” You can find this statement, and its context in Luke 3:7.
We are, in majority, saved from the wrath.
“but God commends His love to us in this, that we being yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified now by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:8-9 LITV)
And, meant to be delivered from the wrath.
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10 KJV)
If the church is gone, then who are these people called saints that this “beast” is killing?
They are those that did not go in the rapture, and have come to a recognition of Jesus as Lord during the time called the tribulation, and because grace is no longer a benefit, they are paying the greatest price of commitment with their lives. We are surrounded by those that claim a religious Christianity, some do so merely because they live in United States. This means nothing. Look at this passage from Matthew 25
Then shall the kingdom of Heaven be likened to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. The foolish ones took their lamps, but took no oil with them. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes! Go out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps have gone out. But the wise answered, saying, No, lest there be not enough for us and you. But rather go to those who sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came. And they who were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Afterwards the other virgins came also, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Truly I say to you, I do not know you. Therefore watch, for you do not know either the day or the hour in which the Son of Man comes.
(Matthew 25:1-13 MKJV)
Did you notice that they were all virgins, and they all had the same invitation. However, some did not make it in. Preparation, willingness, and desire seem to be key here, not title. You have no exclusivity because you can label yourself. I will tell that one of people that bullied me in high school came to the forty year reunion and introduced himself as Pastor. I asked him when he became a follower of Christ. He responded with, oh, I was a Christian in high school. To which, I responded, so was I, and I quite vividly remember you and the crowd you hung out with, mocking and torturing me because I had openly admitted my Christianity. We did not talk much after that; that seemed to be his choice.
As Bob Dylan once said, it may be the devil, or it may  be the Lord, but you are going to have to serve somebody.
Revelation 13:8 states, “And all dwelling on the earth will worship it, those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world.”
Because we have Daniel 9:27 as part of our forensic evidence, we know that a representative of the beast will make a peace accord with Israel for a seven year period. Half way through that treaty he will break the treaty and thus begins a wanton slaughter of those who refuse to claim allegiance to the beast. This in no way excludes the current and ongoing slaughter of those outside the fellowship of the beast, but this slaughter indicates that the dominance and influence of the beast will be global and sufficiently armed to be able to carry this out.
That was certainly the long way around, but I am optimistic that it paints a picture of the rapture of the church and the coming slaughter of those that refuse to worship the beast. We religious folk like to call the time after the rapture of the church, the great tribulation. The problem with that mentality is that it ignores the ongoing tribulation of the church at present, and we are not even there yet. Jesus spoke of a time, that is coming, in which it would be rare that anyone survives unless God cuts the time short, and he does. This is referred to by Jesus as a time of great tribulation, and therefore probably the basis of why we call it, the great tribulation. What the seven years that follows the snatching away of the church is, is a time of God’s wrath being poured out upon those left upon the earth that have rejected him.
            May I suggest that you come to him now, while it is still convenient and comfortable. All it takes is you believing that he died for you, and provides you with the promise of a future with him in glory. You cannot do this on your own, and that is why he came. Ask him to come into your life, turn the life that you cannot handle over to him, and he will come into you and make his home in you.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

On finding the character of Jesus

The men’s bible study I am a part of is currently looking at Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge. Because the focus of the book is on finding the character of Jesus, it only makes sense to the leader and me, to find these characteristics in the gospels as we go. The leader of the group has a couple of week’s head start on me, and so I opted to jump straight into Matthew’s gospel. I suppose at this point it might help with your understanding if I told you that there was a time, when after spending most of my life in church, that I felt like I had heard every story or read it. For several years could not stand the thought of opening my bible; and why not, I had heard all the stories, and it was rare that anyone applied any life to what they were talking about. Fortunately, I have not experienced that for several years now, but I decided that, for me at least, I would not read any aspect of the bible without applying flesh and blood to what I was reading.
While the thrust of the book was to look at Jesus character, I am struck by this lead in to Jesus character that I see in the opening verses of Matthew’s gospel.
I do not know if meant for it to come off this way, but I love how this is stated in the ESV - "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way". This strikes me as firm and decisive, something that I can trust.
"When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph"
Betrothed; by definition, one who is, legally pledged to be married. At this point, she is barely a teenager at best, with evidence of womanhood.
"..betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit."
Had things gone differently Joseph would have come to collect his bride when their home was completed. However, in the midst of all this preparation time, she is found to be with child (from the Holy Spirit). Work that out in your head for a moment. She is probably only a few months pregnant at the most, and not showing at all. Therefore, this finding to be with child would have to be the result of her going to her female family members and telling them that she missed her period. The female members of the family might have dismissed her with merely missing her first period, but wisdom cautiously watches for the next period to come or not. How could I, a man, come to that conclusion. History, a close community, tradition, and a close abidance to Jewish law would have helped to keep most in-line.
How would Mary have known about missing periods and what that could mean at such a young age? Someone had to tell her, and that would have opened the door so such horrific pressure and negativity. I tried to talk about these things with my girlfriend. Her response was, she knew because the angel told her. I am not so sure about that. Luke's gospel gives us greater detail about that conversation, so let us explore there for a moment.
Luke 1:26-38, (ESV) In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Did anyone else notice Mary’s response to what the angel said? “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” I see no great understanding of life and anatomy in that response. Obviously further explanation is in order. Perhaps this is when Gabriel said, “Listen! You will become pregnant and will give birth to a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” She knew what pregnant was, but this was like speaking another language to her. Mary responds with, “How can this be, since I have no [intimacy with any man as a] husband?” (Luke 1:34 AMP)
Mary's husband, Joseph, was a good man
Mary certainly had a backbone of steel to stand her ground, stating that the baby is of God. To most hearing this, it would have seemed so foolish, and typical of someone trying to cover up some sin.
Something we seem to forget; from Malachi to the announcement of Jesus birth was four hundred years of silence. Sure, you might be able to flash back to the old stories about the prophets and how angels interacted with people, but most did not, they thought about stoning a young girl that lied and the man who got her pregnant. You can rest assured that Joseph took some scathing glances.
The next few verses will speak toward Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, that says nothing about the kinsfolk and rumormongers about town.
This seems rather appropriate as we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I hope you have the life of Christ within you, as he is the greatest gift of all. 
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to you.
God's love and peace abounds toward you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Some thoughts on the Warrior mentality.

After one of our recent men’s breakfasts as I stood during worship, trying to get my mind focused on the Father, these images and thoughts came to me. I saw myself as a small child, perhaps about twelve, dressed in what looked like ancient Roman battle dress. What I saw made me look comical. Almost as fast, I saw myself as a grown man, but this time I was fumbling about, trying to put on this armor of God[i]. In either case, I was ill prepared to battle anything. My mind quickly put these two scenes together as the Spirit of God started speaking to me about the warrior mentality we try to push on believers.
This particular Saturday morning, having experienced sixty years of life, I wondered how many other men are like me and do not have a clue. Most of us have been faking having some kind of control over our own lives by putting on a macho show for the guys, who, like me, are just faking it. Sadly, I think we have at least learned how to be just aggressive enough to intimidate people and keep them from probing into the damaged hearts we carry.
I realize what this warfare preparation is meant to get people ready for the varied spiritual battles[ii] we have to face, and hopefully to cover each others back, ideally before the attacks come[iii]However, this attempt at preparation tends to miss two groups: those that are embroiled in battle and seem to have no armor at all, and those that were never taught how to fight.
We tend to talk about putting on the armor of God as if it is a foreign substance; something that you must use when you are knowingly going into battle. The reality is, your thinking should be more like a bodyguard, constantly prepared for that “it’s not a matter of if, but when,” situation. Trust me, most of the time the battle will come to you.
A few days before this, I had watched a television show called Ancient Assassins. What caught my attention was the older leaders efforts to train his bodyguards in preparation for the “what if” situation. The examples were appropriate to the seventeenth century in which this took place, and fitting for an opponent reaching across his body to draw a sword, what do you do if they strike from above, or slash at you from a low angle. The last one I mention is the one that we followers of Christ seem to deal with the most. Considering that it seems as though most of the attacks against us feel like sneak attacks, what do you do to prepare for the attack that comes from behind?
Therein lies the problem, where does one learn these skills?
Having recently been invited to watch a friend’s son play soccer, this idea of being taught how to prepare for battle became very clear. This young man seemed to have no clue that: he was in a battle; that this will most likely hurt; that no one cares about your hair; and that many situations, like this one, demand focus and training; even worse, he has a dad that chooses not be involved in his life.
That young man playing soccer that day could have easily been me, because as a child with undiagnosed learning disabilities, I can remember playing baseball, standing in the outfield, picking daisies, and singing some stupid song over and over. I had no clue what the game, or the life I was going to experience, demanded. I had no idea that this moment in time, lost in the outfield, might be a microcosm for my life to come.
I cannot remember having a strong motivation to be competitive. Why tell you that, because all life seems to grow from our experiences, where interaction is thrust upon us. Classrooms always have a few children that quickly answer questions and therefore gain the positive attention of the teacher. In my case, I was always on the edge of obscurity because I just did not get it and was not assertive enough to ask questions.
The other prevailing aspect of grade school is the playground, where pecking orders are established. You quickly begin to realize who the bullies are. I understand, for I had issues with games like dodge ball, where a cluster of the most aggressive kids you knew, intentionally tried to knock your feet out from under you. My solution for that non-sense was to play marbles (which I used to be good at) while honing my skills at avoidance, and isolation.
No, not all were bullies, but they were certainly competitive, and aggressive. I had no idea how to be that kind of person, because as a child I lived under the threat of severe punishment if my mother ever learned of me striking back at someone.
The bottom line, no one taught me to fight the good fight of faith[iv] as a child, but even worse, I was never taught to fight at all.[v] Do not get me wrong, I am not trying to glamorize socking someone in the nose, but if your life is frozen by fear, you will do nothing, and worse, you will probably preach that we should be a community of do nothings, and God never asked us to do that.[vi]
I realize that at some point you have to own your life and your decisions, but what if your decisions were framed by a lack of training, and responsible role models. Then I need to find people that are willing to be my role model and get myself retrained. (That concept seems so irrelevant at this point in life.)[vii]
If being a warrior is what is demanded, somehow I found that place.
I do not know how I did it; perhaps just spending time in God’s Word that created that warrior image inside of me. (One of my favorite characters in the bible is the prophet Samuel. Samuel had his issues, we all do, but he was not the typical pale skinned Pastor.[viii]) It does not matter where this image came from, but somewhere along the line, I developed what I thought was a warrior’s mentality. Here is a thought; maybe I watched too many highlights of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. What I have come to realize is that there are times the warrior mentality will get you killed over foolishness.
If my focus is on the two groups I mentioned earlier, then how do we change the outcome of their battles?
To those that find themselves already in this position: embroiled in battle, with no apparent armor. If you are in Christyou have an advantage already. This of course means nothing if you do not understand the relationship you have with Christ. (If I were your enemy, I would make it my goal to see to it that you never comprehend this idea.)
Here are some verses that speak toward your place in Christ and what it does for you:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,   (Ephesians 1:3 ESV)
The general idea is this, God, well pleased with the actions of His Son, enthroned him next to himself. Everything necessary was done to restore man and creation. It would seem that if God sees that in his Son, and we are in the Son now, then he should see those traits in us.
How does that help you when you stumble incessantly, as I do?
An aspect of constantly stumbling is wrapped up in our lack of faith. Do not get all depressed because I made that statement, thinking that you have to work harder. For whatever the reason we choose not to believe that the price Jesus paid was enough. I am sure that Paul was speaking to something of this nature when he wrote to the church body in Rome.
Since the composition of the early church was primarily Jewish by tradition, they too were steeped in the Law of Moses. Following the law only pointed out our sins.
 (Romans 3:20, 21 ERV) “.. no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin. But God has a way to make people right, and it has nothing to do with the law. He has now shown us that new way, which the law and the prophets told us about.”
 This knowledge was not something new, they just did not see it, or worse, they refused to see it. If you have come to know this Jesus Christ, then you have seen it, and God made you right that day, whether it feels like it or not. He will make anyone right in his eyes if they come to Him and believe.
 (Romans 3:22,23 ERV) “God makes people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. He does this for all who believe in Christ. Everyone is the same. All have sinned and are not good enough to share God's divine greatness.”
Maybe you noticed what made this happen, this life we now have in Christ. It was only by his grace. Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship, explains grace as simply as this: God’s Riches AChrist’s Expense. Even if you had been the most pompous and arrogant Pharisee, following every law to the letter, it would not have gained you an advantage, for it is a free gift, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.
(Romans 3:24,25 ERV) “They are made right with God by his grace. This is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God gave Jesus as a way to forgive people's sins through their faith in him. God can forgive them because the blood sacrifice of Jesus pays for their sins. God gave Jesus to show that he always does what is right and fair. He was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And in our own time, he still does what is right. God worked all this out in a way that allows him to judge people fairly and still make right any person who has faith in Jesus.”
I understand that we need to change the course of this dangerous, overflowing river called our thoughts by aligning and replacing our thoughts with His. I am telling from experience that this is not as easy as it sounds, for you will be met with the most vile of opposition and it will be disguised as friends, family, and those who claim to mean you well; they do not, unless what they bring you is directly from God’s word.
My suggestion is to start feeding yourself on the character of God. Find out who he is. Allow Him to build an image of his love toward you, and understand that God, in the person of Jesus, displayed a fierce anger toward religion and its phoniness. You need to find the true God and the true you. Yes, this is going to take a little more time than you anticipated, but then how long have you been mired in this despair you feel? Get yourself into recovery; there are some sober and sane people there, but keep in mind that we are all still broken, and that will not change completely until the day we meet Him face to face.
Give healing some time, as I must do, for the day will come when clarity will be a constant aspect of your life, and you will be the sage that others come to for help. Aside from that, we followers of Christ have a hope, and that is eternity with the one who paid the price for our freedom by giving His life on our behalf.
 [i] Ephesians 6:10-18
[ii] 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (ERV) “We live in this world, but we don't fight our battles in the same way the world does. The weapons we use are not human ones. Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy's strong places. .”
[iii] You can argue all day long, but you cannot prepare for everything. If that were the case, then ancient warlords would still hold their ancestral rule over nations.
Ecclesiastes 9:12 (ERV) “You never know when hard times will come. Like fish in a net or birds in a snare, people are often trapped by some disaster that suddenly falls on them.”
2 Timothy 2:24-26 (KJV) “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
[iv] 1 Timothy 6:12 ERV We have to fight to keep our faith. Try as hard as you can to win that fight. Take hold of eternal life. It is the life you were chosen to have when you confessed your faith in Jesus--that wonderful truth that you spoke so openly and that so many people heard.
[v] 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ERV (3) We live in this world, but we don't fight our battles in the same way the world does.   (4) The weapons we use are not human ones. Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy's strong places. We destroy people's arguments,   (5) and we tear down every proud idea that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We also capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.
[vi] Deuteronomy 11:8 KJV Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it;
[vii] When King David is about to die, he calls Solomon before him and gives him a talk on wisdom. Considering how poorly David handled his own life, and the lack of parental care he showed his children, I suppose this makes sense. He had not sat down with any of them and told them how to handle life; Bathsheba could be a striking example of that. Here are his words to Solomon:
1 Kings 2:1-4 CEV “: My son, I will soon die, as everyone must. But I want you to be strong and brave. Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go. You and your descendants must always faithfully obey the LORD. If you do, he will keep the solemn promise he made to me that someone from our family will always be king of Israel.”
One might assume from this that God is our only hope and that in staying under the umbrella of God’s mercy we gain knowledge of him. Solomon certainly was not going to learn it from his dad.
[viii] 1 Samuel 15:32-33 ERV Samuel said, "Bring King Agag of the Amalekites to me." Agag came to Samuel. Agag was tied with chains and thought, "Surely he won't kill me." (33) But Samuel said to Agag, "Your sword took babies from their mothers. So now, your mother will have no children." And Samuel cut Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fighting with a paper sword

A Jehovah Witness came to the door and I responded to her immediate question with, I am a believer in Jesus Christ and anxiously await his return. At that, she turned over the Watchtower magazine she held in her hand, and pointed to the section entitled: Why pray for God's Kingdom to come? She pointed two things out to me.
  1. That "Jehovah has also chosen a group of Jesus' followers to be associate rulers with Jesus in the kingdom."
They reference Luke 11:2; 22:28-30 to prove their point. Luke 11:2 says nothing about ruler-ship over any kingdom but it does speak about praying to the Father in Jesus name.
And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. (Luke 11:2 NASB)
The implications are huge.
If the Jehovah’s Witness are telling us that we can pray and in a sense force the kingdom to come, how does that align with God’s will, especially if the kingdom looks like what I desire with no concern for God’s plans? Does not 1 John 5:14 tell us that we have to align ourselves with God’s plan?
“And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14 MKJV)
How does one speak to the creator of the universe in such familiar tones without having an intimate relationship? Moreover, how does one have an intimate relationship with a person they do not know? Considering the fallacies integrated into the translations JW’s set their hopes upon, how could the person knocking on my door know this Jesus Christ whom I love and serve?
The JW’s do not believe that Jesus was God on the earth, and yet He made that clear as he walked among the people for three years. It was Jesus that said, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Fairly well stated, and yet the JW’s believe, Jehovah God existed from the beginning. His first creations were two angels, Michael (who later becomes Jesus) and Lucifer. Jehovah God created all else through his firstborn, Jesus (Michael).” Those who refuse to look at the truth will always find a way to bash and ignore it. Perhaps a portion of Paul’s letter to the Colossian church might help to convince a reader of who Jesus is.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him -- all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers -- all things were created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross -- through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-20 NET.)
Whom was Jesus talking to when he made these statements about his deity? The first thing to consider here is the context of what he said. It had nothing to do with exclusivity for members of the Latter Day Saints. He was responding to his disciples, and he was answering a Jewish oriented question. The boys had argued about which one was greater or better than the other, and how that person would be able to dominate the others. There is something screwed up in that kind of thinking from the get go and Jesus was not going to tolerate it. Therefore, what we see here is Jesus straightening them out.  
What does this kingdom look like?
In Matthew 4:23 we have Jesus, “teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” So, an aspect of the kingdom is healing. Apparently, again Jesus words, the kingdom is for the poor in spirit. You can look this up in Matthew 5:3. According to Matthew 19:14 it is filled with little children. In Mark’s gospel chapter one, verse 15 Jesus said, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Perhaps I am not to be stressing over any kingdom to come, because it is already here, and I just need to wait and have it revealed; that will happen in His timing.
One last thing and I will move on. Jesus told those listening that God cares about the needs of birds and how he knows what people need, therefore we are not to be so wrapped up in needs, but merely seek Him. Look this up in Luke’s gospel chapter 12:29-31
The other scripture reference they use is: Luke 22:28-30
You are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I appoint a kingdom to you, as My Father has appointed to Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30 MKJV)
If I use this as a foundational verse for my religious doctrine of ruling in the new kingdom, then perhaps I should be very concerned about how I judge now, for we are told that the manner in which we judge is the way we will be judged. There is of course a context to this passage as well. He was speaking to his disciples, and you are not they.
The second thing she pointed out.
  1. "Soon, God's kingdom will take action against all opposers of God's rule. So the prayer for God's kingdom to come is a request for God's government to replace all human governments." The scriptures referenced were Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 11:15, 18.
Let us see if Daniel defines the paragraph for us.
I saw in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And dominion and glory was given Him, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages, should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 MKJV)
"One like the Son of man" a common reference to Jesus Christ.
the Ancient of Days” – God himself.
"that all peoples, nations and languages, should serve Him."
I do not see how this defines a replacement of all human governments. To merely use the term nations tends to show that they have a governmental rule. There is no denying that there is a possibility that God will overthrow all governments, but that is not what this passage says. What it says, is that they will serve God. (Read about this in Zechariah chapter 14. Pay close attention to verse 16 -18 where it says, everyone who is left of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” So, scripture makes it clear that nations continue to exist through the thousand-year reign. (Revelation 20:4-6)
Let us try the two verses the magazine suggested from Revelation 11:15,18 to see how they apply to the doctrine.
At the sound of the seventh trumpet, loud voices were heard in heaven. They said, "Now the kingdom of this world belongs to our Lord and to his Chosen One! And he will rule forever and ever!" (Revelation 11:15 CEV)
Since the idea is that God's government will reign and all human governments will come to an end, I suppose the secondary hope is that those chosen will hold a high-ranking cabinet position, collect a large salary, and be able to dominate over others. Do you get that from this passage? No. What you see is the kingdom of this world belonging to the Lord and his chosen one.
Question: If I take this passage literally, then how many people do we count, two? However there is a problem with the literal approach because anyone who has spent time in the Bible knows that there are those that are in Christ that have been removed from the earth seven years earlier, and scripture tells us that they are "in Christ." Scripture really does not speak that openly of where they are, and yet we know they are with Him, somewhere.
Another group that seems to be ignored, and yet is not distinctly mentioned in this passage are the martyred saints.
The Apostle John told us that their numbers were uncountable, but we also know that they specifically are to reign with Christ during the thousand years. (Revelation 5:10; 20:6) That alone exceeds the idea that 144, 000 select LDS leaders will have that priority. The only reference to 144,000 is when God seals that many Jews that are not tainted by the world. (Revelation 7:3,4) These apparently walk untouched through the seven years of wrath we like to call the tribulation, and seem to serve as priests in the temple of God that will be in the New Jerusalem. This city and temple play an active role during the 1000 years.
Since that did not answer the question of who is in charge, perhaps Revelation 11:18 will.
When the nations got angry, you became angry too! Now the time has come for the dead to be judged. It is time for you to reward your servants the prophets and all of your people who honor your name, no matter who they are. It is time to destroy everyone who has destroyed the earth." (Revelation 11:18 CEV)
Now this actually sounds like something we could build a doctrine around, so let us look at it for a minute.
"Now the time has come for the dead to be judged."
Since we are hoping for a removal of human government and God's government replacing it, what need is there if the humans are dead?   Under a literal interpretation, the idea that God needs to set up his own government does not fit when I use this passage. Perhaps being dead plays a role in the human governments being removed from power. Judgment is a thought-provoking idea, but loses steam quickly when I look at the context of the passage for it opens with, "and the nations were angry, and thine anger did come.” The implications are that something drastic has transpired and, in general, the nations have been wiped out. This does not really speak to governments but we will not exclude that yet.
Where in scripture and chronological time do we find a judgment of the dead? Again, you know the answer to this if you study your bible. This occurs at the end of the thousand years where Christ and the martyred saints have reigned.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:11-12 KJV)
Revelation 20 happens at the white throne judgment seat. The dead are brought before Him; not the living; not the believers; and not martyred saints, just dead folk. I know what you are thinking; how does this speak to the period of its occurrence? Good question; all we have to do is to look at the context (which I did not give you) and we can sort that out quickly.
Revelation 20:7-10 KJV “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, (8) And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. (9) And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (10) 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 forever and ever.”
I cannot say with confidence that this is what we are seeing in Revelation 11:18, but I still believe it is a poor choice on which to build a doctrine representing a change of leadership. At best this may be representing the mid-point of the seven years of God’s wrath upon the earth, and though it is hard to understand how anyone survives God’s onslaught, we know they do, or there would be no need for Christ to come at the end of seven years with a sword, executing vengeance. We also see that rebellion will continue, to some degree, during the thousand years because there are statements telling us that no evil will be allowed in the City of God. (You can look up this aspect that speaks to exclusion of the vile in Revelation 22:14-15) If God wipes out all evil and its associated government, then where do these people come from?
How do we explain what appears as discrepancies between Revelation 11:18 and Revelation 22:14-15? We may not have to because another aspect of God’s word is that so much of it is a broad-spectrum picture. An example of this could be the 2000-year, momentary gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of years, in which Christ physically comes back to earth. Thinking like this forces us to consider what is outside the box. In this case, we may be seeing things in Revelation 11 that transpire a few years later in Revelation 22. The prophecy to Daniel stated, “Seventy weeks are decreed as to your people and as to your holy city, to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24 MKJV) We can say with confidence that the Most Holy has not been anointed, and so we await the bringing in of the everlasting righteousness; the seventieth week, as far as anyone can tell, has not started yet; or has it.
What else happens here in Revelation 11:18?
"Rewards are given" - but to whom?
  • “To your servants,” - This is an interesting usage of a phrase because it actually means a slave. This is problematic mainly because it becomes a hard sell. God has not demanded a slave/master relationship, but one in which we have dedicated ourselves in subjection to him as a child. I made the decision to do that because of the realization that I can do nothing without him. In my broken world where I barely trust anyone, he made the first move, proving his love for me by giving His Son Jesus Christ. It was all I could in response - love him back and give myself to him.
  • “To the prophets” – The prophet was a foreteller or by analogy an inspired speaker. The “modern” church has denied, ignored, and refused to listen or allow the prophets to operate within the church body, allowing their fears to control them. Let us do the gutsy thing for a change and believe that God put them here for a purpose and his purpose is not complete yet.
  • To the saints – Saints means those that are sacred. That definition is given sporadically to those that follow Christ, but more definitively to those that are martyred for their faith in the only God, not Allah. We, as a human race, have made it through October of 2014, and the rise in the number of “Christians” or infidels, as Islam puts it, being martyred is rising on a daily basis. God’s word tells us that this will get out of control.
  • To those (great and small) that fear your name - This is a conundrum because we have to define who these people might be. The first clue we have in defining them is the fact that they fear your name. Because we know that these are among those getting rewards, we comprehend that there is a positive spin to this, and yet this does not define them as followers of a particular religious sect, but those that have a deep respect for God’s name. The terms great and small really have to do with size, but you should know that God is not a respecter of persons. When it came to picking a king God told Samuel that he looked at the heart, not the external appearance, so, this really has nothing to do with an external appearance does it? It is talking about those who have pushed to success in the world’s eyes, and those that have nothing in comparison. That they fear His name is the important thing.
Here is an extensive list of scriptures that speak about a rewarding of the Saints.
The reward is from God
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of GodWho will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: (Romans 2:5-7 KJV)
Keep in mind that this rendering according to your deeds can also bring about his wrath.
Knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance, which is your [real] reward. [The One Whom] you are actually serving [is] the Lord Christ (the Messiah). (Colossians 3:24 AMP)
Our real reward is our inheritance. Ephesians chapter one tells us that we have obtained our inheritance. Studying this concept out in Ephesians tells us that our reward then, has everything to do with our acceptance, forgiveness, and the idea that God wishes to show us the things he planned for us all along.
The reward comes through grace and faith alone
Romans 4:4-5 should be one the LDS completely ignore because it flies in the face of their works based system. What the passage tells us is that while there is reward to this life in Christ, it has everything to do with believing on Christ’s actions.
But to him working, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt. But to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5 MKJV)
Romans 4:16 seems to stand on its own for understandability, but then it also depends on what translation you read. I chose this version because of its readability without having to dive into the context.
Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God's promise is assured by his great kindness. This promise is not only for Abraham's descendants who have the Law. It is for all who are Abraham's descendants because they have faith, just as he did. Abraham is the ancestor of us all. (Romans 4:16 CEV)
Let’s assume for a minute that all we had was the King James Version.
Rom 4:16 “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed:..”
The first three words have me thrown for a loop, for several reasons. First I have to decide what the “it” is, and that forces me to look into the context. Secondly, because the words “it and is” are grayed out, I should not even consider that they are there, as grayed out words were added for comprehension or understanding.
What then is the context that applies to Romans 4:16?
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the lawbut through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. (Romans 4:13-15 KJV)
Allow me to reassemble this in a form that makes sense to me. Therefore, the promise of a reward (I need to have that clear in my head, and it really has nothing to do with worldly gain.) was not only to Abraham but to his seed also, and those that have received Christ are of that seed. While keeping the law maintains civility, it has nothing to do with gaining this promise of a future life and hope in Jesus Christ. It has everything to do with a faith in God’s Son, a faith that makes us right in His eyes. The Jews tried going the law route and this tells us that it made their faith void and the promise of no effect to them. Sadly, this can happen to anybody. (Read Romans 8: 14-17)
The JW’s stand on the street corners and walk through neighborhoods, expressly for the purpose of earning a place in a future kingdom, one in which they have no assurance. I suspect some actually believe they have a chance to attain to one of those 144, 000. That becomes a problem since they are tightly defined as Jews.
Is of God's good pleasure
Mat_20:14-15; Luk_12:32;
Let’s camp out on the verses in Matthew for a few minutes.
Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' (Matthew 20:14-15 NET.)
There is a context, and it is not what we typically think. I decided that you needed to see the entire “parable.”
As Jesus was telling what the kingdom of heaven would be like, he said: Early one morning a man went out to hire some workers for his vineyard. After he had agreed to pay them the usual amount for a day's work, he sent them off to his vineyard. About nine that morning, the man saw some other people standing in the market with nothing to do. He said he would pay them what was fair, if they would work in his vineyard. Therefore, they went. At noon and again about three in the afternoon he returned to the market. And each time he made the same agreement with others who were loafing around with nothing to do. Finally, about five in the afternoon the man went back and found some others standing there. He asked them, "Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?" "Because no one has hired us," they answered. Then he told them to go work in his vineyard. That evening the owner of the vineyard told the man in charge of the workers to call them in and give them their money. He also told the man to begin with the ones who were hired last. When the workers arrived, the ones who had been hired at five in the afternoon were given a full day's pay. The workers who had been hired first thought they would be given more than the others. But when they were given the same, they began complaining to the owner of the vineyard. They said, "The ones who were hired last worked for only one hour. But you paid them the same that you did us. And we worked in the hot sun all day long!" The owner answered one of them, "Friend, I didn't cheat you. I paid you exactly what we agreed on. Take your money now and go! What business is it of yours if I want to pay them the same that I paid you? Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Why should you be jealous, if I want to be generous?" Jesus then said, "So it is. Everyone who is now first will be last, and everyone who is last will be first." (Matthew 20:1-16 CEV)
Did you notice that pay was the same for everyone?
As I have studied, end times events and tried to discuss these things with some, I get angry arguments and rebuttals; I wonder why? It is not so different from what Jesus conveyed in the story he told. It, by the way is not just some bizarre analogy he made up, it conveys what I hear today.
In Revelation 20 we the white throne where all the dead are brought before Him. He separates those dead into two groups, the sheep and the goats. The goats are sent to eternal destruction, while the sheep are allowed to enter into the kingdom. Seems like a good thing and rather benign, but when you begin to point out how Revelation 20 and what Jesus conveyed in Matthew 20:1-16, religious people get very upset. (I know this because I too have found myself upset by what I pointing out.) The response is something like this, I have wasted my years living right, focused on what religion and God wanted, not allowing myself any fun, and sacrificing my free time for the Lord; only to have God give these people, that have done nothing, that, in my mind, qualifies them to enter into the kingdom. Yet, there he goes, inviting them in. They get the same reward as I do, and he lets them in at the last minute.
Yeah, I know, it is hard to swallow and comprehend, but it’s there.

The last verse referenced is Luke 12:32

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32 KJV)
While the context might be applied to the small group of followers that hovered around Jesus, problem is that Jesus expanded that flock to include the Samaritans, and no decent Jew would allow them to be considered Jews. Therefore, what we have is Jesus effectively taking the gospel to the gentiles, and by extension, the nations. Now then, who is the kingdom for?
My bible tells me that God desires that none should perish, but then I suppose that is what the Witnesses go door to door, or stand on street corners for, winning the lost so that they too can enjoy the kingdom that is to come; or is it?
The gift of God is free, and it is by faith in the one who paid it all by giving his life for us, and then rising from the dead. His name is Jesus Christ and he is the Son of God. Choosing the life he offers is the way into this kingdom and it is available to anyone who will come.

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