Let the Church be the Church

Bible Study in 1 Peter 4:13-19

It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people; those that would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

JUDGMENT BEFORE CORRECTION AND REVIVAL – 

In my last three blog-posts, I dug into the Book Of Micah and looked into God’s judgment of Israel some 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  And as we enter the upcoming Christmas season we should all look at ourselves closer as the Church in our communities of who we are representing in Christ Jesus.

Where Judgment Begins (1 Peter 4:17)

[17]  For it is a time of judgment, to begin with, God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  [New International Version – NIV]

This passage of scripture seemed to me at first reading a little strange.  And as a student of the Bible, I looked in my commentaries to see what theologians had to say about this verse and I was surprised at how they addressed this verse.  This is why context is so valuable when studying God’s word regarding any Bible’s verses.

1 Peter 4:13-19 (NIV)

[13]  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

[14]  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

[15]  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even a meddler.

[16]  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

[17]  For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

[18]  And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 

[19]  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter is obviously talking to those born again Jews that would have to go through suffering for their faith.

The church in Jerusalem was already under heavy persecution and would suffer even worse before it was over.

Verse 14 tells us that to be happy–to have joy in the suffering for the cause of Christ, is knowing that in your persecution God is glorified!

Peter also wants us to know that the Christian life is hard enough without coming under God’s hand of discipline.  That’s why he says in verse 15, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal or even a meddler.”  It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people.  Those who would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

One day God will take unto Himself a Bride to be without spot or blemish.

So where does this purification process begin?

It Starts With His Church.

“For the time has come that judgment must begin at the House of God”  verse 17.

It has always been God’s plan…

Jeremiah 25:29 (AMP)

“For behold, I am beginning to work evil in the city which is called by My Name, and shall you go unpunished?  You shall not go unpunished, for I am calling for a sword against all inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts.”

Amos 3:2 (NIV)

“You have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” 

Then the churches of Asia Minor 

  • Jesus said to the Church in Ephesus:

“Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.  If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  (Revelation 2:5)

  • The Church at Pergamum:

“Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”  (Revelation 2:16)

  • The Church at Thyatira:

“So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.  I will strike her children dead.  Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  (Revelation 2:22-23)

  • The Church at Sardis:

In case you will not rouse yourselves and keep awake and watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know or suspect at what hour I will come.  (Revelation 3:3 – Amplified Bible)

  • The Church at Laodicea:

“So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.”  (Revelation 3:16 – AMP)

Purification is always done for a purpose–a reason for discipline.

  • Ephesus – Lost their first love.
  • Pergamum – Teaching false doctrine.
  • Thyatira – Condoning immorality.
  • Sardis – They were spiritually dead.
  • Laodicea – They had become apathetic.

The Bible tells us, the church, that we are the light of the world.

In the case of each church mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the light had gone out.  They were no longer a lighthouse for the lost souls and shed no light at all to those around them.

It’s always done to God’s people

Hebrews 12:8 (NIV)

[8]  If you are not disciplined–and everyone undergoes discipline–then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

God cannot and will not tolerate unconfessed sin in the life of the believers–His children.

Discipline.  Who Needs It?

Godly discipline is to refine us (vs. 11) –

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”  (NIV).

  • Godly discipline to reestablish us (vs. 11)
  • Godly discipline to reaffirm His love to us (vs. 6) “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, punishes everyone He accepts as His son.”  

God’s discipline sifts out contamination (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) –

  • The Church cannot condone SIN (1 Corinthians 5:1-2) –

[1]  IT IS actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, an impurity of a sort that is condemned and does not occur even among the heathen; for a man has [his own] father’s wife.

[2]  And you are proud and arrogant!  And you ought rather mourn (bow in sorrow and in shame) until the person who has done this [shameful] thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst!

  • The Church must not compromise scripture (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) –

[1]  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken a stand.

[2]  By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

  • The Church should confront the SINNER (Mathew 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:2, 5, 13).

QUESTION:  Why Does JUDGMENT Begin At The House of God?

I hope this brief study helps you understand, as it did for me, why God wants His church to be holy and pure.  I’m afraid that if the church won’t stand up and be the church, that God’s judgment is going to fall on her.

Are we a church that tolerates and promotes unholiness?

Do we tolerate and promote sin in our own lives?

Let me mention again.  God will not and can not tolerate sin in the lives of His children.  Oh, that we the Church might walk worthy of our calling.

Let the Church be the Church!

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CREDITS –

Commentary:  “Where Judgment Begins” by Michael Goodwin – sermon on July 20, 2005.

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and as noted.

GENESIS 24: Here Comes The Bride

 

Like many things in the bible, this story, the longest chapter in the Book of Genesis, has a two-fold meaning.  Just like a PARABLE has a physical application and a spiritual application (Sower and the seed, prodigal son, the parable of the lost sheep…).  I believe each person in this story represents something, a picture of something, a symbol of something!  So together, let’s investigate and see what these individuals are depicting.

GENESIS, Chapter 24, is the story of the SERVANT of Abraham.

The SERVANT is searching for the perfect bride for his Master’s Son, Isaac.  The story serves as a great illustration of God’s LOVE.

  • In this story within a story, Abraham represents God the Father.
  • Isaac represents God the Son.
  • The servant represents God the Holy Spirit.
  • Rebeka represents the Church, the bride of Christ
  • Camels – Represents GRACE, or a better description is a picture or image of Grace.
  • Brothers and the Mother – Represents the world or a picture/image of the WORLD.

What is Jesus looking for?  What kind of expectations does Jesus have for His Church?

Christ’s Bride consists of those who are the household of Faith–THE CHURCH.

Genesis 24:1-4 (NIV)

[1] Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.  [2] He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh.  [3] I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living,  [4] but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The Canaanites were idol worshippers.

In Genesis 12, God gives Abraham a PROMISE:

Genesis 12:1-2 (AMP)

[1] NOW [in Haran] the Lord said to Abram, “Go for yourself [for your advantage] away from your country, from your relatives and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

[2] And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others].”

So Abraham left his homeland in Ur and settled in Canaan.

Genesis 12:7

[7] Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your posterity.”  So Abram built an altar there to the Lord, Who had appeared to him.

Abraham doesn’t want his Son to marry one of the heathen Canaanite women. 

Abraham was a man of great faith.  He’s getting old and wants to be sure that the FAITH he has will continue on in his family.

Abraham knows his son Isaac will take on the responsibility of maintaining faith in God and His promises.  He knows a Canaanite woman could be a bad influence on his son, so he asks his servant to return to his homeland.  While there, he is to find a young woman of faith to become the wife of his Son.

There’s a Biblical principle to be found here that is often ignored.

Amos 3:3 – Can two walk together, except they are agreed?

2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

How could God have made it any easier to understand?  CHRISTIANS SHOULDN’T MARRY UNSAVED PEOPLE.

It may eventually work out O.K…  However, it usually doesn’t.

Abraham doesn’t want that to happen to his son, Isaac.  Likewise, we shouldn’t want it to happen to our children or grandchildren.

Christ’s Bride consists of those who are willing to commit their lives to Him.

Abraham knows Isaac must remain in Canaan to fulfill God’s PROMISE.

The SERVANT took a VOW to find a BRIDE for his Master’s Son.  But if the young woman was unwanting to return with him to the promised land, he would then be free from the vow.  Abraham didn’t want a ‘shotgun wedding’ for his son, Isaac.

And so it is with God the Father.  God wants us to come to Jesus of our own free will.  If a person doesn’t want to be SAVED, and rather choose Hell over Heaven, that’s their choice.

The Bride of Christ consists of those who are God picked [Genesis 24:7].

[7] “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, “To your offspring I will give this land–he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.”

God told Abraham He would send an angel ahead of his servant and the ANGEL would help the servant make the choice.

Maybe I should stop here for a moment to clarify something.  There are TWO theologies that come into play regarding the predestination of man.  In other words, when a person is born, God has already determined how he or she will live his life, whether or not he or she will be SAVED or LOST.

Some people like me, believe in the FREEWILL of man.  Everyone born into this world is allowed by God to make his or her own choice.  In other words, we are not puppets on a string with God pulling the ropes.  And we are not actors on a stage acting out a pre-written script.

The TWO theologies seem miles apart.  However, in this Bible story, I find both theologies at work.  God is doing the directing and the choosing, but Rebekah has to be willing to come!

Luke 6:13 says,  When morning came, he (Jesus) called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.

Though Jesus chose 12 men, each one had a CHOICE to make.  They could surrender their lives and follow Jesus, or reject Him and go on living lives as they pleased.  I thought about this for a while and asked myself, “How does this apply to us today?”

Proverbs 1:27-29

So, back to the representations I mentioned:

  • Abraham represents God the Father.
  • Isaac represents Jesus.
  • The servant represents the Holy Spirit.
  • Rebekah represents the Church.

The Holy Spirit speaks to the hearts of the unsaved.

Though the Word of God is certainly found in our bibles, the Holy Spirit CONVICTS us of our sin.  The Holy Spirit leads us to accept Jesus as our Savior.  When we do that, we become part of the Bride of Christ.

Now catch the words in VERSE 10:  “Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and left…”

Why take 10 camels, I wondered?

“…taking with him all kinds of good things from his master.”

[I’ll get to the CAMELS a bit later].

The SERVANT arrives in the city of Nahor [Nahor was Abraham’s brother] and he made the camels kneel down by a well in the evening.

The Servant’s PRAYER (verses 12-14):

[12] “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  [13] See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  [14] May it be that when I say to a girl. ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink and I’ll water your camels too’– let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.  By this, I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

Look how quickly this prayer is answered!

[15] Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder.  She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

The Bride of Christ consists of those who are attractive  (Genesis 24:16).

REBEKAH was beautiful!  She could have easily won a beauty contest of her day.

Now don’t get the wrong idea here.  God does look at the heart!  Jesus often criticised religious leaders putting on a big show in public (Matthew 23:27-30).

But outward appearance means something!  The Bible isn’t ashamed to tell us that Isaac’s bride to be was beautiful,  So was Abraham’s wife, Sarah.  It isn’t sinful to look nice!  Outward appearance does make a difference.

But taking this beyond our physical appearances, what about what other people see in us?

God wants us to be good examples.  He doesn’t want us to live in such a way that we bring shame on the name, Christian!  Jesus wants us to live lives that are attractive to others.

Matthew 5:16 (AMP)

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”

The Bride of Christ consists of those who are diligent–hardworking [Genesis 24:17-21].

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Not only did Rebekah give the SERVANT a drink of water, but proceeded to water 10 Camels.  It’s said that one camel can drink 30 gallons of water.

I particularly noticed something about Rebekah that she went well beyond do what was asked of her…He asked for a drink for himself, and she did that and watered the CAMELS!

The Holy Spirit is always looking for people who will go beyond what they are asked to do!

Genesis 24:22 (NIV)

[22] When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels.

The SERVANT rewards her for her services, for her kindness, but he hasn’t yet told her why he’s there!  Interesting!

That’s important.  Think of all the times God blessed you, protected you…BEFORE you became a Christian.  For me, it was thirty years before I came to Christ’s calling.

Watching Camels drink can’t be a pretty sight.

I searched out some interesting facts about a CAMEL.  A Camel has a set of 3 eyelids.  Two of the eyelids have eyelashes to help protect their eyes from the sand.  The third is a very thin lid and works as a sort of “windshield wipers” to clean their eyes.  It closes/opens from side to side rather than up and down.  It’s also thin enough that the Camels can see through it somewhat.

CAMELS can carry an average of 1000 pounds for long distances.  They also have leathery pads on their feet that spread to prevent them from sinking in the sand.  [ SEE footnote [i].]

GRACE can see through obstacles, carry us thru storms, no matter if we feel like the weight of the world is upon our shoulders.  GRACE CAN CARRY US THRU THE WILDERNESS!

Look what Jesus said in Mark 9:41 (NET Bible)

“For I tell you the truth, whoever gives you a cup of water because you bear Christ’s name will never lose his reward.”

Jesus is talking about those who are His disciples and those who aren’t.  It’s so much more than just handing out cups of water!  It’s about helping those in need.  It’s about working hard to help others.

In GENESIS 24, look closely at verse 61:  Then Rebekah and her maids got ready and mounted their camels and went back with the man.  So the servant took Rebekah and left.

Here’s the highlight, I believe, of the story within the story.

As Rebekah was watering the CAMELS, she had to notice that each Camel was loaded down with expensive GIFTS.  She must have noticed that the SERVANT was no beggar.  This SERVANT was a man of means.  EVERYTHING piled on the backs of those Camels would one day become hers!

AND, let’s not forget Rebekah’s Brother and Mother who represents the WORLD – Genesis 24:55 (AMP)

[55] But [Rebekah’s] brother and mother said, “Let the girl stay with us a few days–at least ten; then she may go.”

There’s always going to be people in your life who will try to hinder you and discourage you or delay you in following God.  Maybe your running buddy, your friends, maybe your co-worker, it might even be your family.

It’s still your CHOICE to make!

So would become the BRIDE of Isaac!

On her way to her new homeland in the Promised Land, she would be perched up on top of all those riches!

The symbolism portrayed here is a person surrounding their life to Jesus through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Genesis 24:62-67 (NIV)

[62]  Now Isaac had come from Beer-La-hai Roi, for he was living in the Negev.

[63]  He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.

[64]  Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac.  She got down from her camel  [65] and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

[66]  Then the servant told Isaac all that he had done.

[67]  Isaac brought her int the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah.  So she became his wife, and he loved her, and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

As the BRIDE of Christ, we too are promised untold riches:

Ephesians 1:18

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints”

Ephesians 2:7

“…in the coming ages, He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Crist Jesus.

Ephesians 3:16

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Who Will Jesus Take As His Bride?

The BRIDE of Christ

HAVE YOU BEEN SAVED?

Take pleasure in knowing if you are a true believer–that Jesus is your Savior and that riches are yours!

If you are reading this Blog-Study and you are NOT SAVED, or insure of your SALVATION, your eternal security, then you can do it today!

Are you afraid of letting go, letting God make the CHOICES in your life?  Remember that Rebekah was God’s perfect choice for the bride of Isaac.  God loves you.  If you rely on His WISDOM, you’ll never regret the CHOICES He makes for your life!

Do you know someone who isn’t SAVED?

Be like the SERVANT and do what you can to bring them to Christ Jesus by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Understand that unlike Rebekah, some will refuse to give themselves to Jesus.  But at least make an effort to reach out your hand and lead them to Jesus!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

PHOTS/IMAGES:  Google Image search.

Footnote [i]:  CAMEL FACTS @SoftSchools.com

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

Sermon notes   Genesis 24;1-63,  Pastor Jimmy Haile, September 30, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“SPRINGTIME” IS ALMOST HERE!

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (NKJV):

THE SHULAMITE (Bride)

[8]  The voice of my beloved!  Behold, he comes  Leaping upon the mountains, Skipping upon the hills.

[9]  My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.  Behold, he stands behind our wall; He is looking through the windows, Gazing through the lattice.

[10] My beloved spoke, and said to me:  “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away. 

[11]  For lo, the winter is past,  The rain is over and gone.

[12]  The flowers appear on the earth;  The time of singing has come,  And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land.

[13]  The fig tree puts forth her green figs,  And the vines with the tender grapes  Give good smell.  Rise up, my love, my fair one,  And come away!”

I just completed a six part study in The Book of Revelation to John, and in Part 4 – “Rapture Ready!” [See Footnote [i] ],  I had some comments regarding The Rapture: Pre-Tribulation; Mid-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation viewpoints.  I mentioned to one commenter, who disagreed with my belief of the “catching up” of the church–the Bride of Christ, before the Tribulation was not my purpose in the blog.  It was not to debate the correctness of the different views, but to bring awareness to the event referenced in Scripture.  I went on to explain, perhaps in another blog, I would go into more detail of the RAPTURE.  So here we are!

A Summer Picnic Experience…

Several years ago, I decided to visit a nearby church fellowship I heard was an “on fire for the Lord” church.  After attending the church for three months (didn’t want to make rash decisions), my wife and I attended a Summer church picnic.  “Church Summer Picnics” almost have come to be “doctrine” over the years.  I regress.

Trying to be a good listener and getting to know people’s values and beliefs, I noticed one particular conversation regarding the phrase, “end times.”  In a nutshell, the vast majority gathered at the picnic that day, didn’t believe in the Tribulation, much lest the “RAPTURE” of the church.  They understood the book of The Revelation in terms of its first-century setting, claiming that most of its events have already taken place.  As “preterists,” they relate the contents mentioned in Scripture describe the struggle between imperial Rome and the church, so that everything was fulfilled at that time.

Now being saved and brought up in a conservative Baptist church… lessening the Blessed Hope in Scripture almost gave me whiplash.  I thought, is this church doctrine, or just a few misguided, spiritually immature believers?

So, holding back on judgement, I decided to move in closer to the group and wait…wait for an “empty” space in the discussion for my interjection of the TRUTH in Scripture.

Finally, I asked the question:  “Pardon me, but I couldn’t help over hear your talking points.  You don’t believe in the “Rapture” that the bible mentions?”  The response to the question was like an ice-cube being dropped down my back, but I tried not to over react.

“Do you have children?” asked one church leader.

“Yes, I have three,” I replied, wondering what was coming next.

“Are they married, have children?” he asked.

I didn’t have any idea at this point where the conversation was headed:

“Yes, they are.  And yes, I have four grandchildren.”

“Congratulations.  I want to see my three children grow up, get married and have children.  So why would I want or desire God to “rapture” the church now, or ever?

He went on to say,

“And besides, the word “RAPTURE”  is never even mentioned in the Bible”.

Later, I discovered the “preterist” viewpoint (unbelief in the “catching away” of the church) was the belief of the entire church assembly.  But for the most part, they kept their doctrine under wraps.  Although we had come to love the people over the months, we had to leave the fellowship.

The pastor later asked my wife and I if we would come to his office, to discuss our decision in leaving.  He was very polite, even sorrowful that we were leaving the fellowship and asked us with almost a whisper, “Then your decision is final?”

“Yes pastor, it is.”

And then I asked him a question:  “Are you a “preterist”?”

“Mostly” he answered.  He added, “Scripture is unclear and doesn’t verify the “taken up” principle, except once in Paul’s letter to Thessalonica.”  

“Really?.  That’s what you believe?  Even the Old Testament refers to the “catching up”-the Rapture.”

With a blank look on his face, he said, “And where might that be?” Almost as a challenge.

I pointed to the Song of Solomon (S.O.S.) as a reference to the “Rapture,” citing S.O.S. 2:8-13. 

So here I am once again, comparing verses in the Old Testament with verses in the New Testament concerning Jesus’ return for His Bride, the church.

The Rapture!

bride4christ

 

1 Thessalonians 4:16 is often used in discussing the RAPTURE, or the “catching up.”

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God. And those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first”  (Amplified Bible).

I want to look at the Old Testament, Song of Solomon, TO COMPARE with the evidence supporting the idea of the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” view.  No arguments, just the evidence of Scripture to authenticate the viewpoint.

“The Voice of my beloved!  Behold, he comes”  (Vs. 8 a.) –

Who’s coming with a shout in 1 Thessalonians 4:16?   “The LORD Himself”!

“Leaping upon the mountains,  Skipping on the hills”  (Vs. 8 b.) –

The Heavens – 3 Levels Identified:

–The FIRST is from ground level up to the tallest mountain.

–The SECOND from there to outer space.

–The THIRD is heaven ITSELF.

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know,  God knows–was caught up to the third heaven”  (2 Corinthians 12:2 AMP).

When the RAPTURE–“the catching up” occurs, JESUS will only come down to the “mountain top” level to catch us away.

His “Second Coming” or “2nd Advent” will be at then end of the Millennial Reign (The Revelation to John, Chapter 19), and the believers will be following Him as He rides on “A Horse With No Name”!  [See Footnote [ii]]

As JESUS circles the earth gathering His bride (the church), it might look like someone “skipping”…”leaping” from hilltop to hilltop!  (S.O.S. 2:8 b.)

“He looks in through the windows, he glances through the lattice”  (Vs. 9 b.) –

"He is looking through the window"
“He is looking through the window”

JESUS in heaven, is looking over the window sill, waiting to CATCH His bride away!

I remember a particular September day 1964, the year I was married, expectantly waiting by the altar as my new bride walked down that long aisle in church–glancing at her smiling approach as I grinned myself in anticipation of being together for lifetime.

“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away”  (Vs. 10) –

This idea presented in those words reminded me of my recent blog-POST in the Six Part Series in The Book of Revelation (Part Four- “A Glimpse of Heaven”): 

Revelation 4:1  And the first voice I had heard addressing me like [the calling of] a war trumpet said,  “Come up here…”  (Amplified Bible)

“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone”  (Vs. 11) –

What is the significance of the word “RAIN”?

“COME AND let us return to the Lord, for He has torn so that He may heal us;  He has stricken so that He may bind us up.  [2] After two days He will revive us (quicken us, give us life); on the third day He will raise us up that we may live before Him.  [3] Yes, let us know (recognize, be acquainted with, and understand) Him; let us be zealous to know the Lord [to appreciate, give heed to, and cherish Him].  His going forth is prepared and certain as the dawn, and He will come to us as the [heavy] rain, as the latter rain that waters the earth”  (Hosea 6:1-3 AMP).

James 5:7-8 (NASB):

“Be patient, therefore, brethren, until th coming of the Lord.  Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.  [8] You to be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

What is “RAIN” symbolic of in Scripture?  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The OUTPOURING happened when the church was born (the former rain–the first 4 Feasts of Israel has already been fulfilled).

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.  [18] And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy”  (Acts 2:17-18 KJV).

The First Four Feasts of Israel–

I am not saying that we should all commemorate/follow the SEVEN FEASTS OF ISRAEL found in the bible, but as Christians, we should at least be acquainted with them and what they can signify in the New Covenant.

1.  Passover.  2.  Unleavened Bread.  3.  First Fruits.  4.  Weeks.

The Latter Rain has yet to be fulfilled–

THE LATTER RAIN starts around the time of the Fall Feasts–the first of which is “Feast of Trumpets” falls in September (succeeded by the Feast of Atonement and Tabernacles).

HELLO?  When is the LAST TRUMPET blown?  The Feast of Trumpets!

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed”  (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52 – NIV Bible).

When is the bridegroom coming for His bride?

When the RAIN is over and gone.

“The fig tree puts forth her green figs”  (Vs. 13 a.)

Green Figs
Green Figs

Remember what JESUS said in His Olivet Discourse?

Matthew 24:32-33 (Amplified Bible):

[32] From the fig tree learn this lesson:  as soon as its young shoots become soft and tender and it puts out its leaves, you know of a surety that summer is near.

[33] So also when you see these signs, all taken together, coming to pass, you may know of surety that He is near, at the very doors.

Could this parable Jesus is referring to be the one in Song of Solomon?  The bridegroom coming for the bride?

S.O.S. verse 10, 13, the bridegroom says “Rise up”.  Why does He say it twice?

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:

For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage at all over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death].

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the blast of the trumpet of God.  And those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first.

Then we, the living ones who remain [on the earth], shall simultaneously be caught up along with [the resurrected dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so always (through the eternity of the eternities) we shall be with the Lord!

CAN YOU SEE WHAT I SEE HERE? evidence

He speaks once for the dead in Christ Jesus, and gain for those alive and remaining.  HALLELUJAH!  The bridegroom is coming for His bride (the church) and we will rise up to meet Him.

My point in this Blog-post is not to convince, nor to persuade you one way or another regarding the viewpoints of the RAPTURE:

–Pre-Tribulation

–Mid-Tribulation

–Post-Tribulation

My intent is to present you with the Scriptural evidence.  My view by now, is “Pre-Tribulation”.

[See and read the following evidence presented:  1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10]

 

 


FOOTNOTES and CREDITS:

Footnote [i] – “Rapture Ready!” https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/rapture-ready…lation-to-john 

Footnote [ii] – “A Horse With No Name” https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/a-horse-qwith

Bible References:

New King James Version (NKJV); Amplified Bible (AMP)

 

 

 

Spotting “Out-of-Bounds” Wolves Isn’t Easy

Scripture Reading in Acts 20:28-31 [Amplified Bible]

[28] Take care and be on guard for yourselves and the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you bishops and guardians, to shepherd (tend and feed and guide) the church of the Lord or of God which He obtained for Himself [buying it and saving it for Himself] with His own blood.  

[29] I know that after I am gone, ferocious wolves will get in among you, not sparing the flock;  

WOLVES CAN BE HARD TO SEE SOMETIMES
WOLVES CAN BE HARD TO SEE SOMETIMES

[30] Even from among your own selves men will come to the front who, by saying perverse (distorted and corrupt) things, will endeavor to draw away the disciples after them [to their own party/side].  

[31] Therefore be always alert and on your guard, being mindful that for three years I never  stopped night or day seriously to admonish and advise and exhort you one by one with tears. 

WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN YOU SAY “GOODBY”?

When an apostle says farewell and addresses leaders in the next spiritual generation for what he thinks as the last time, a  “farewell monologue” is in order.

As Paul reviews his past as a model for the Ephesian elders’ future work and charges them as Spiritual-appointed pastoral overseers, we can be quickly aware Luke intends his message to ALL church leaders in every spiritual generation (Acts 20:13-17).

Spiritual Watchfulness in the Church…it’s NOT a “one-man show”–

In a day when individualism, authoritarianism or simple economic necessity turns the pastoral responsibility so we may promote TEAMWORK in pastoring or shepherding of the local flock.

LEADERSHIP must be spiritual:  “the Holy spirit has appointed you [“overseers” – KJV] to take care of and watch over the whole flock (verse 28).

Paul’s WARNING to the ELDERS…even some wolves will show up from amongst the leadership (verse 30).

The Bible tells us our ENEMY isn’t so easy to spot.

457243892_04187d4521
Where is the WOLF?

When we think of our enemy–we may tend to think, some guy standing around in a red suit with a tail and a pitchfork.  But 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us “…for Satan himself MASQUERADES as an angel of light.”

*  He looks almost righteous.

*  He looks almost religious.

In other words, you’ll not always know he’s evil and how he looks.  Even FALSE TEACHERS don’t always show up with snake oil and a handlebar mustache.

JESUS warned us in Matthew 7:15, they look like the flock and they have wool just like all the other sheep.  And here in Acts 20, Paul warns the church elders, some of those wolves would show up from amongst their leadership:  “Even from among your own selves men will come to the front”  (verse 30 a.).

OBSERVING THE TRUE NATURE OF WOLVES…

“WOLVES” tend to look like everyone else, feeling that they are in the right.   AND…they are willing to destroy anything in their way.  So let me backtrack a bit.

The WOLVES Jesus and Paul talk about look like us.  You can tell who the Jehovah Witnesses are: They’re the ones with the green bibles and the funny looking tracts.

You can recognize the Mormon missionaries:  They’re the ones riding their bikes, wearing white shirts and ties.

BUT these wolves look like us and that’s because they often ARE us.  They’re often “part of the family”; could be an Elder, a Preacher, a Teacher…it could be ME…it could be you.  AND that’s scary.

Often wolves don’t even realize they’re wolves; so convinced that they’re right…nothing else matters.  So we might actually end up being wolves without realizing it.  And THAT’S SCARY!

“Bah-a-a-”

WOLVES may look “cool” in a TV Documentary series, but I don’t want to be one.  JESUS didn’t call us to be wolves…He called us to be SHEEP. [Sheep and wolves by the way, are natural enemies].

BUT…if WOLVES can “get out-of-bounds” by arising from among our number, and IF those wolves could end up being you or me, how do we recognize when we’ve stopped being a SHEEP and become a WOLF???

“Out-of-Bounds”…

FIRST– I’d know I’d stepped over the line (“Out-of-Bounds”) when I find myself consumed with power and influence.

Paul tells us that these wolves will come forward “saying perverse (distorted and corrupt) things, will endeavor to draw away the disciples after them [to their own party]”  (verse 30 b.). 

These folks want the church run “their way” and the rest of the church be THEIR disciples, and IF they’re not… they’re either fools or heretics.  The one phrase often repeated is “This is MY church!”–it belongs to them and should be run THEIR way.

But there’s a big problem with that phrase.  The problem is…it isn’t THEIR church, not your church, it isn’t MY church.  IT IS CHRIST’S CHURCH!!!

Paul tells the Elders from Ephesus:  “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with His own blood” ~ verse 28 b.

But if WOLVES don’t think that way…if they can’t get their own way…they tend to forget whose church it is.

ILLUSTRATION:  Years ago in one particular church located in southern California, the Pentecostal movement began to take shape within the church body [early 70’s].

It started slowly at first, and then it began to take hold, led by their senior pastor.   Murmurers,  even malcontent also began to take hold in the membership.

One Sunday morning, the pastor decided to inform the body of the new direction and how he was led by the Holy Spirit to do so.  He also said that not all of the leadership approved, but the calling of God was so strong in his spirit, there would be a change in some doctrinal teaching.

In the following weeks of the announcement, over 50% of the church split–leaving and going to more “evangelical conservative” denominations.

The “nipping” and “biting” of WOLVES before the kill…

I’m not saying the reasons for their leaving were right or wrong.  What I am saying is what occurred in the interim.  The people who left tried to get the balance of the church to leave by writing letters of disapproval–notes were passed to the unknowing, all fairly nasty.  And although no one else left and the church grew in number…scars were formed in those who stayed, and those who left that were hard to heal.

Distortion of the Truth…

Paul also tells us the WOLVES “distort the truth” (verse 30).  

TRUTH is often one of the first victims of a lone wolf, or… a wolf pack.  Sometimes that DISTORTION comes in the form of FALSE DOCTRINE…and,  too often that same distortion comes in the form of character assassination.

So, WOLVES seek to have their own way…they often play fast and loose with the TRUTH…AND they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

Notice Paul’s words in Acts 20:29:  “…ferocious wolves will get in among you, NOT SPARING THE FLOCK.”

They don’t care who they hurt.  JESUS said  “…the WOLF attacks the flock and scatters it” ~ John 10:12.

* They send out nasty e-mails…

* They try to peel off church members to follow them as their disciples…

* They’ll find ways to attack the pastor’s character, elders, or anyone else who opposes them.

WHY?  Because the FLOCK isn’t as important to the WOLVES.  Getting their way is what’s important.  They don’t really care who they hurt as long as they accomplish their objective.  They’ll even tell you they LOVE Jesus!–but they don’t.  They don’t because they don’t care for His bride (the CHURCH).

In order to get their way, they drag the BRIDE of Christ thru the streets, shred her wedding gown and throw the pieces in the mud, stomping on it. All because–they’re right…that’s what matters!

The Concern with the “What IFS”…

“But…now wait a minute Mr. Word Detective.  What if the leadership of a church is heretical?  What if they’re teaching false doctrine?  Or, if they’re allowing immorality to run rampant in the local church?”

Dealing with it must be done in a biblical way, and HERESY and IMMORALITY can’t be ignored in the assembly.  BUT you want to be careful how you handle it–because you’re still dealing with the Bride of Christ.

FINDING A “MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART” IS A GOOD START:

That above phrase sounds familiar.  It’s finding someone in Scripture who handled something very similar in their midst.  A man who understood the mind of God.

THE MAN DAVID:

Did David ever have to deal with a leader who was immoral?  Dis David have to deal with a man who directly disobeyed God?  Did David ever have to deal with a man who was tormented by demons?  He certainly did…

A MAN NAMED KING SAUL sought to kill David in 1 Samuel 24:1-13:

NOTICE when you read the referenced verses, David confronted Saul in his WICKEDNESS:

Heresy or Immorality MUST BE CONFRONTED and must be called out for what it is.   BUT, if you are in the position of church leadership, use your position to deal with that SIN with responsibility–perhaps even removing such people from the fellowship.

Being Careful…CAREFUL IN responsibility.  

DAVID in the story refused to destroy SAUL…even when it was in his power to do so.  Even when what Saul was doing was clearly wrong and identified this kind of behavior with EVIL.  As the old saying goes,  “Out of the WICKED comes forth wickedness; but my hand shall not be against you”  (24:13).

DAVID withheld his hand because SAUL was the “Lord’s anointed.”

In the same way, every Christian is ANOINTED by God! (1 John 2:20, 21; 2 Corinthians 1:21).

When we become Christians, the Spirit of God came and resides inside our hearts–spirit, mind and soul.  His presence confirmed our RELATIONSHIP with God the Father.  So IF I hurt or damage another Christian in what I say or do, might I be GUILTY of wrongdoing?

But how could David do that?  How could Davis just stand back and let Saul get away?

Well, he could do that because he TRUSTED GOD (1 Samuel 24:13).  

When David said this, he was quoting Deuteronomy 32:35:  Vengeance is mine saith the Lord, I will repay (KJV). 

Using Our AUTHORITY…

When we have the AUTHORITY to discipline a wayward brother or sister in Christ, we should do so, but being careful how we deal with them and the circumstance… because we may find ourselves opposing God in getting His way.  We might even find ourselves becoming WOLVES in the process rather than who we are supposed to be…the  SHEEP.

GOSPEL OF JOHN 10
GOSPEL OF JOHN 10

 So, are there WOLVES in  your midst, or there but SHEEP?  Keep watch, for they’re sometimes hard to identify!

 

Photo Credit:  Photo Pin.

“Consider This An Invitation”

Revelation 19:6-9:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like a roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.

Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)

Then the angel said to me,  

“Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'”

And he added,

“These are the true words of God.”

 

R.S.V.P.
R.S.V.P.

 

How Important Are Relationships of the “bride-to-be” and  the “Husband-to-be” Before Marriage?

In this passage of Scripture, Revelation 16:6-9, we can picture the RELATIONSHIP of JESUS with His Church, the Bride.

The Bride and Groom…

There is the theme/idea repeated in several places in the Bible, particularly in the N. Testament with Jesus portrayed as the coming groom, and the church as His expectant bride  [Ref:  Matthew 25:1-13].

In the Old Testament, the relationship between the shepherd/king and the Shulamite maiden in Song of Solomon as an allegory; portrays the love relationship between God and Israel.

THE BANQUETING HOUSE – (See Footnotes [i])

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love [Song 2:4].

In this story of the Shulamite girl whose heart was won by a shepherd who later came as King Solomon to claim her and who took her back to the palace in Jerusalem.  Now he takes her to the “banqueting house.”

In this there is a beautiful picture of the church which will be the bride of Christ.  It also reveals the personal relationship which is possible between the Lord Jesus Christ and each individual believer.

Believer’s Anticipation

One day in an event described as the “RAPTURE”…the taking up of the church, Jesus Christ (the Bridegroom) will return for the church (His bride).

In that given moment, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17,  “…the dead in Christ shall rise first and then we which are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

THE GREAT EVENT!!!

The “CATCHING UP,” or the “RAPTURE” will be followed at some point, with the event we just look at together in Revelation 19, called “The Wedding Supper of the Lamb.”

It’s an “Invitation Only” Event…

…but you’ve all received an INVITATION!  “Blessed are those who are invited”

Unfortunately, many who have been invited, received the WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT, will not be in attendance.  That’s right, the WEDDING is quickly approaching, the arrangements have been made, the guest list is almost finalized, and the Bridegroom is coming soon!

Preparations Made
Preparations Made

PROPOSITION:

Many people who consider themselves part of the “BRIDE OF CHRIST” are not ready for JESUS the Bridegroom to come.

A QUESTIONING SENTENCE:

How do I know that a lot of people are going to miss out on God’s great “WEDDING RECEPTION” in heaven?

Allow me, if I may, to now serve as your “Wedding Coordinator.”  I have briefly prepared a “CHECKLIST” to help the prospective bride prepare for her wedding day.

I know,  “Why is a guy preparing a “checklist” for the ‘big day’?”

I was BLESSED with two daughters who went through all the wedding day preparations.  But to refresh my memory, I decided to ask some general questions to the ladies on my Facebook account about WEDDING PREPARATIONS:

THE QUESTION:  “How does a BRIDE prepare herself before the wedding?  How did you prepare personally for your wedding day, or, did you even prepare?”

I’d like to SHARE some comments:

“Pre-marriage counseling with our pastor”

“Spent time together as a couple discussing the vows, decorations, guest list…relaxed and took a bath.”

“We knew each other for only 1 month, 2 days.  Didn’t have much time to prepare for anything. And then after 14 days of marriage together, the Lord took him home.”

“Sent out R.S.V.P. cards so we knew how much food we needed and the table settings.”

THREE ESSENTIAL ITEMS you must pay attention to if you are going to be prepared: 

These THREE THINGS will keep you out of God’s Eternal Wedding Party in Heaven– So please, for your sake, don’t be unprepared!

#1.  TURNING DOWN THE PROPOSAL…THE INVITATION.

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  And let him who hears say, “Come!”  ~ Revelation 22:17 NIV

A Public Proposal…

I love it when a guy makes one of those bold public marriage proposals on YouTube; in the middle of a crowded restaurant, at half-time of a big game.

One guy took his girl up in a hot air balloon to see what he had written on the field below:  “WILL YOU MARRY ME?”  It was all caught on camera.  I would hope a guy is pretty sure of himself before taking that kind of risk   (Can you imagine getting turned down on national TV? – “Nah! Not interested” or “Could I have some time to think about it?”).

JESUS’ PROPOSAL TO YOU AND ME WAS A PUBLIC SPECTACLE–

He fell to his knees several different times…on the way to the place where He proposed.

He nailed His LOVE for you and me to the CROSS, signing His intentions with His own blood, spread His arms out wide and said,

“I want you for my own.

I want you all!

Whosoever will may come.”

This official PROPOSAL reads like this,

“For God so greatly LOVED and dearly prized the world

that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son,

so that whoever believes in

(trusts in, clings to, relies on)

Him shall not perish 

(come to destruction, be lost)

but have eternal (everlasting) life.”

-John 3:16-

You can trust me on this:  YOU’LL NOT RECEIVE A BETTER OFFER!

The world will try to sell you the idea that something better will come along; “You can reject God’s offer and still get into heaven your own way.”

That you can SUBMIT YOU OWN PROPOSAL:

…based on good deeds,

…church attendance,

…by giving to charities…etc.

BUT…you can’t BUY your way into heaven!  JESUS already paid the price.  The PROPOSAL is on the table.  He’s already “popped the question!”

WHAT THEN IS YOUR ANSWER TO HIS PROPOSAL?

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him”  [John 3:35-36 NIV].

#2.  THE SECOND THING THAT WILL KEEP YOU OUT OF GOD’S ETERNAL WEDDING PARTY IS…

Being TARDY for the CEREMONY–

You hear all kinds of crazy stories of people who were late at their own wedding (usually the groom).  They got lost trying to find the church; they overslept; they missed their flight, etc.

READ Matthew 25:1-13: “THEN THE kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom” (verse 1).

“FIVE WERE FOOLISH…FIVE WERE WISE…”

THE “FOOLISH” — “…when the foolish took their lamps (nighttime wedding), they did not take any [extra] oil with them” [verse 3];  “While the bridegroom lingered and was slow in coming, they ALL began nodding their heads, and they fell asleep” [verse 5].

THE “WISE” — “…took flasks of oil along with them [also] with their lamps” [verse 4].

The girls we read about, the “foolish” girls, missed the “ultimate” WEDDING BANQUET because the procrastinated.  They were like so many people in the world who think there is “plenty of time” to get things right with God when they’re ready.

So, they keep putting off their INVITATION, keep asking for an EXTENDED R.S.V.P. DATE.

THERE’S ONE LAST THING…

There is one last thing that will keep you out of god’s ETERNAL WEDDING PARTY:

#3.  Two-timing the “GROOM” (II Corinthians 11:2).

For I am zealous for you with godly eagerness and 

a divine jealousy,  for I have betrothed you

to one Husband, to present you as

a chaste virgin t Christ.

Here’s a thought that just might scare some to death:

JESUS CHRIST, the Savior of your eternal soul.  THE ONE who suffered and bled and died for you.  THE ONE you pledged your life to serve. THE HOLY SON of the living GOD…could come for His Bride at any moment…and many of you are off living on “Temptation Island.”

You once made the commitment to Him and said, “no other gods”, and “you’re the only one Jesus!”, and yet, you’ve been caught on camera with other lovers.

The WEDDING DATE is closer than you think and you’re out “two-timing” Jesus.

SIN might get you a “first date” with JESUS, but once you accepted His proposal, you agreed to keep yourself pure until the wedding.  You’ve been FLIRTING with lust; FOOLING AROUND with compromise; COURTING OTHER LOVERS behind His back.

The only way you and I can stand SPOTLESS before the Bridegroom…

Is being washed in the sinless blood of the Lamb and dressed in His righteousness.

“SCOTCHGARD” won’t work.

Scotch-garding or...WON'T WORK!
Scotch-garding or…WON’T WORK!

Some Christians act like their wedding clothes were treated.  They say they love JESUS but… keep rolling around on the couch (or chair) with sin pretending like they’re protected from any stain on them.

The STAIN of sin was removed at a great cost!  So don’t try to sew yourself up in a holy “cover up.”

JESUS is coming for a HOLY BRIDE.  If the WEDDING were held at 1:00 PM, or at Midnight, would you be ready?  You HOPE so or you KNOW so!  

I HOPE it’s the latter!

bride4christ

 

 

Footnotes and References:

[i]  “Banqueting House” – Thru the Bible Commentary Series; Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, pg. 137, by J. Vernon McGee.

Bible References:

Amplified Bible; New International Version.

Photo Credits:

“Scotch-garding” – Getting Prepared @ http://www.travelblog.org/ 

Invitation Photo by Photo Pin.

 

 

 

 

 

“BEULAH LAND” – Heaven’s Border

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land be called Desolate any more.  But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land be called Beulah, for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married” ~ Isaiah 62:4.

“Beulah Land”

An Old Favorite Hymn from the Past:

Refrain:

“O Beulah Land sweet Beulah Land,  As on thy highest mount I stand,

I look away across the sea,  Where mansions are prepared for me,

And view the shining glory shore,  My Heav’n, my home forever more!

My Savior comes and walks with me,  And sweet communion here have we,

He gently leads me by His hand,  For this is Heaven’s border land.”

Hymn by Edgar Page Stites and John R. Sweney

The Hymn’s Beauty–

The words speak of the eternal glory prepared for believers in Christ Jesus.  Beulah Land is “Heaven’s border land,” a land where shines undimmed one blissful day.  For all my night has passed away.”

THE “BEULAH LAND” CONCEPT:

The term “Beulah Land” is unfamiliar to many people today.  This hymn is seldom sung in churches where praise songs, and contemporary Christian rock music dominate the worship experience.  This phenomenon is not peculiar to contemporary churches.  In a brief survey of hymnals, several denominations reveal that this hymn is unknown or no longer relevant in many churches today.

The Use of Biblical “Metaphors”–How God Makes Us Into Something New!

Metaphors are used throughout the Bible and the passage in Isaiah  62, is not an exception.  Now when I say “metaphor”, I don’t mean that it wasn’t real.  What I mean is that Scripture uses metaphors as a “picture language.”  It talks about our relationship with God; understanding what it means to have relationship with God is pretty difficult at times.  God uses language of our everyday lives to help us kind of get the idea.

Understanding what God makes us into, how God transforms us, and changes us.

First things first.  We need to realize what we were without God.  Isaiah 62:4, God says, “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.”

It seems we are dealing with a metaphor of the land.  Without God in our lives, we are like a “desolate” place.

Desolate and Barren Places

Without God, we’re EMPTY, BARREN, without the things we need in Life.

And yet, behind the words, is also the ideas of marriage.  It is the real metaphor going on here.  Without God…we’re deserted, left at the altar, left with no one who would marry us.

Now I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be single.  It all goes back to the way ancient Israelite culture was structured.  A woman who wasn’t married, had no good way in having an income on her own.  If her parents died, her brothers were dead or wouldn’t take her in, she was left without anyway to survive except to beg.  She was deserted and desolate.

Spiritually Speaking:

This concept describes our situation in life if we didn’t have JESUS.  We wouldn’t have anyway to survive spiritually without God.  We would find ourselves deserted and desolate, without the things we need in our spiritual life.

Now I’m not inferring that you, as a reader of this blog, are at this place in your life.  Yet, even when we believe in God, it doesn’t mean we never feel like we’re outside of God.  Even though we know JESUS has come into our lives, on accepting Him as Lord and Savior; and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we may feel at times deserted and desolate in our circumstances: illness, sickness, stress, anger, etc.

“NO LONGER” ARE WE FORSAKEN (verse 4):

“Hephzibah” is the Hebrew word used and it means “My delight is in her”.  And then we run across “Beulah”, which means “married”.  Remembering that God is working with the metaphor of marriage.  He uses the metaphor from that ancient Israelite culture; God is transforming you from an unmarried woman, who is desolate and deserted by society and begging for food.  And now, you are His delight–to be married to the Lord.

This is Not The Only Place in Scripture of God “Marrying His People.”

The powerful words used is in describing the relationship we have with God and will have when JESUS CHRIST is our groom and we the Church, become His Bride (Revelation 19).

JESUS comes to many of us–despite the fact that we are desolate and deserted; despite the fact we feel unlovable, despite ALL of our sins, our faults and bruises, past mistakes.  JESUS comes and says,  “My delight is in you.  You will be married to Me.”

“Something Like A Hero”–

I love the lyrics of a song by Charlotte Martin, and here are a few of the words I want you to pay attention too.  Try if you can to put yourself in the shoes of the woman in the song.

On Your Shore

I dig my heels into the dirt ’cause this one’s gonna hurt

Won’t let the wave wash me away, is what I always pray

In my heart I know you couldn’t see in the dark or find your way through me

Now I’m alone, my hands are numb how do I carry on?

And at the turn of the tide this part of me die

Am I washed on your shore and barely alive?

Here I am in my insecurity

Here I am with my damaged dignity

Here I am, you’re pulling me in too deep

Here I am

The woman in the song is feeling deserted and desolate, and even if her reasons for those feelings are different from yours, her experience is similar to ours.  There are things in our lives that make us feel deserted and desolate.  Which then makes us feel deserted by God and where we’re in a desolate place spiritually.

Here Is God’s Promise–Count on it!

“You [fill in your name] shall no more be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land [where your ‘spirit place’ is] be called Desolate any more.  But you shall be called Hephzibah  [My delight is in her], and your land be called Beulah [married]; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married [owned and protected by the Lord]”  (Isaiah 62:4 AMP).

“Crying Out to God”–

As in the Charlotte Martin’s song, crying out to God is asking Him to rescue you from a desolate beach [in the sand dunes of a desert-above photo] of “insecurity” and “damaged dignity.”

God answers that prayer through Christ Jesus:

*  Where once you would’ve been named Deserted, God calls you “Hephzibah”–my delight in you!

*  Where once you were insecure, God gives you eternal security!

*  Where once you had a damaged dignity but God gives you “dignity”, sees you so wonderful, beautiful, holy!

TRANSFORMATION takes place in you through Faith.

Without God, you were on a desolate beach with insecurity, damaged dignity all around you and living without hope.  But now, through faith and confidence in The Groom, you are Hephzibah, Beulah, the delight of God, His bride.  You are secured in the marriage.

These are the gifts He gives to you at the ‘wedding shower.’  This is how HE transforms you!

See How God Decorates His Bride:

Look again at God’s words in Isaiah, see how He pours out the blessing on you, the way He dresses you in a beautiful gown {Tuxedos for the guys) which is His blessing.

I used to have difficulties as a man understanding the Biblical terms of being the Bride of Christ.  But when I realized that the Bride of Christ is describing the character of the Church, male or female becomes  gender neutral.  So relax men, you don’t have to dress up in a wedding gown.

Verse 1:  “I will not rest until her imputed righteousness and vindication go forth in brightness, and her salvation”

The Blessings radiates as does a burning torch.”

Verse 2:  “And the nations shall see your righteousness and vindication, and all kings shall behold your salvation and glory…”

Verse 3:  “You shall also be [so beautiful and prosperous as to be thought of as] a crown of glory and honor…a Royal diadem [exceeding beautiful]…”

“HEAVEN’S BORDER”:

The idea of the Land of Beulah as “Heaven’s Border” actually comes from John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim Progress”.  Bunyan says that “the Enchanted ground is place so nigh to the land of Beulah and so near the end of their race.”

He also says the Land of Beulah is a place “where the sun shineth night and day.”  I’m sure that Mr. Bunyan must have previously been meditating on God’s Word when being inspired to write down his thoughts (Isaiah 60:11; Rev. 21:24-27).

The Future Will Be Entirely Different for God’s People–the Church.

We will not lie forsaken nor left in desolation but will be called ‘His delight’ (Hebrew Hephzibah).  When His people stop trying to exalt themselves and again lean on and trust on the Groom, He will bless them.

The Conditioning of Choice, JOY, Commitment and Covenant

Many people call MARRIAGE a ‘contract’.  But that isn’t what God has promised–but He has given the Bride a covenant promise; He makes good His Word in conveying what He clearly wants to speak into our lives every day.

The Original Covenant Blessing Upon Marriage.

Genesis 1:28 is speaking about His creation of Adam and Eve:  “And God blessed them and said to them,  Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth”.  And now God’s promise, His covenant with the Church (His Bride) is in prospering the people and their dwelling place.

ISAIAH CONTINUES THE THOUGHT OF MARRIAGE – (verse 5):

“For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Righteous Zion is no longer barren, forsaken, or desolate but is found to be a delight to God; have spiritual sons and bear spiritual fruit.

Thus God will rejoice with great joy over the Bride, His Church at the great wedding day! 

“My delight is in You”–Hephzibah–is still true for today’s believers.  When circumstances and problems attempt to destroy HOPE, you may hear your triumphant Bridegroom whisper to you His Bride (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 21:2, 9),the new name that is for you and for you alone “The Lamb’s Wife”!

“The [Holy] Spirit and the bride (the church, the true Christians) say,  Come!  And let him who is listening say, Come!  And let everyone come who is thirsty [who is painfully conscious of his need of those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, and strengthened]; and whoever [earnestly] desires to do it, let him come, take, appropriate, and drink the water of life without cost”  (Revelation 22:17 AMP).

“Shout! It’s Midnight And The Bridegroom Is Here!”

MATTHEW 25:6: “But at midnight there was a shout,  Behold, the bridegroom!  Go out and meet him.

MARRIAGE TRADITIONS TODAY versus BIBLICAL TIMES:

My grandson is getting married to a lovely girl on the 4th of July.  My wife and I asked him why on the 4th?  He answered us by saying, “At least we won’t forget our Anniversary.”  I don’t think he was serious, just giving his grandparents something to ponder, grinning the whole time at the blank stare on our faces.

Today’s groom stands at the front of auditorium, facing the invited guests.  Perhaps pulling out his handkerchief, wiping his perspiring forehead in expectation.  And then, the bride walks down the long aisle in all her arraignment, with music playing, and the people who are standing with bent necks, anticipating her arrival to her awaiting bridegroom.

THE PARABLE OF “TEN VIRGINS”:

This story meshes well with what we know of marriage customs in the ancient near east.  If the groom did not live to far from the bride’s home, he had some close friends go to her home (usually the home of her father or brother) where various preliminary festivities and ceremonies would take place.  Then there would be a procession through the streets, commonly after nightfall, to the home of the groom, where the main festivities would take place, often for many days.  Guests and even some of the “bridesmaids” might wait along the way to the groom’s house, intending to join the procession.  Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his or her own torch.  Those without a torch could safely be assumed to be “party crashers” or even brigands (Marriage customs of old were found in, God With Us- Themes From Matthew by D. A. Carson).

MATTHEW 25:1-13 AMP.

[1]  “THEN THE kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  [2]  Five of them were foolish (thoughtless, without forethought) and five were wise (sensible, intelligent, and prudent).  [3]  For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them;  [4]  But the wise took flasks of oil along with them [also] with their lamps.  [5]  While the bridegroom lingered and was slow in coming, they all began nodding their heads, and they all fell asleep.  [6]  But at midnight there was a shout, Behold, the bridegroom!  Go out to meet him!  [7]  Then all those virgins got up and put their own lamps in order.  [8]  And the foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.  [9]  But the wise replied,  There will not be enough for us and for you; go instead to the dealers and buy for yourselves.  [10]  But while they were going away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were prepared went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut.  [11]  Later the other virgins also came and said, Lord, Lord, open [the door] to us!  [12]  But He replied, I solemnly declare to you, I do not know you [I am not acquainted with you].  [13]  Watch therefore [give strict attention and be cautious and active], for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come.”

WHAT’S A “PARABLE”?

Everyone likes a good story.  A few people like poetry, a few others like technical studies, and still others delight in ABSTRACT thought and advanced philosophy.  But everyone LIKES a good story.

Many PARABLES Jesus told were a certain kind of story.  The word “parable” itself can cover an immense range of literature: it can, among other things, refer to a proverb (Luke 4:23), a nonverbal symbol or image (Hebrews 9:9), or an obscure saying (Matthew 15:35), some kind of comparison without the benefit of a plot (Matthew 15:15), and so much more.

But in Matthew 25:1-13, I was interested in a parable that tells us a story.  All the elements in the story fit the story itself; but the story as a whole, and sometimes some of its parts, shed light on something outside the story, because that “something” is usually said to be like what takes place in the story.  And if the story has a surprise ending, it can very quickly communicate large new horizons of understanding to the readers (that’s you and me), or the hearer (that’s you and me)!

NOT GASOLINE BUT “OIL”:

It has been reported that every year, at least a half-million people in America call for help because they have run out of gas.  Besides flat tires, dead batteries, misplaced keys (sorry honey), running out of fuel ranks right up there with the reasons why people call for roadside assistance.

I can understand this happening a generation or two ago, when gas gauges were not entirely accurate; when warning lights of our day were non-existent.  But now we have automatic, verbal warning messages, telling us that the fuel is running low; giving us perhaps and hour or more of driving.  And that’s not enough.  Progressively, urgent warnings, indicating just how many estimated miles of driving we have left.  So one might say, most people running out of gas…are without excuse.

The verses in Matthew 25, it’s NOT gasoline that’s lacking but “oil”; the FUEL burned in lamps during Jesus’ day.  By this detective work, I believe the five foolish virgins really didn’t “run out” of oil; they never had it to begin with!

“EXTRA OIL” (verse 3).

There is a footnote in the NET Bible (New English Translation) that says the word “extra” is not found in the Greek text.  It has been inserted in some translations because of the context implied.  So why do we think that the 5 BRIDESMAIDS brought any oil at all?  Perhaps because of what it says in verse 8:  “…for our lamps are going out.”

THE LAMPS:

The word used for LAMP in Matthew 25:1-13 is the word, Lampas.  They were NOT like what my wife has collected over our married life: no glass chimney, no wick or adjusting device, nor attached tank where the oil could be stored.

The LAMPS were similar to the picture above: large, flat, bowl with a rag-like “wick” that could be attached to a pole for an outdoor torch to illuminate one’s steps in the darkness.

What were the reasons that the WISE VIRGINS brought oil?  The “oil” was carried in flasks and added to the lamps in time of need.  I believe there must have been some residue of oil on the rag or wick on the 5 EMPTY LAMPS, that quickly burned out after being lit.  That might explain why all 5 torches went out at the same time.

Perhaps, too, these foolish ‘ladies’ wanted to minimize their foolishness; describing their dilemma as “going out” to look less foolish.

Being Prepared!  That’s The bottom Line.

Whether the oil represents:  your faith, the Holy Spirit, or Christian character.  It really doesn’t matter.  Why?  Because each feeds the other.  It could be any or all three Jesus had in mind.  The MAIN MESSAGE is to be READY, PREPARED, ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

Even though He DELAYS:

I heard a story once, about a young couple’s first date as they were recounting the events in a small bible study group.

The young lady was all dressed up, looking beautiful and patiently awaiting for her date to arrive.  After time had passed for his arrival by an hour, she decided, I’ve been ‘stood up’ on this date.  So, she took off her make-up, got into her pajamas, made some popcorn, and decided to watch her favorite DVD movie, with her dog, curled up on the couch.

Then, the door bell rang and she went to the door to see who it might be.  It was HER DATE!  He looked somewhat amazed and said, “I’m two hours late and you’re not ready?”

JESUS said, don’t let My return sneak up on you.  Be ready at all times:

“For you yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the [return of the] Lord will come [as unexpectedly and suddenly] as a thief in the night.  When people are saying, All is well and secure, and,  There is peace and safety, then in a moment unforeseen destruction (ruin and death) will come upon them as suddenly as labor pains come upon a woman with child; and they shall by no means escape, for there will be no escape.  But you are not in [given up to a power of] darkness, brethren, for that day to overtake you by surprise like a thief”  (1 Thessalonians 5:22-4 AMP).

THE TEN BRIDESMAIDS:

Jews often went to weddings and wedding were common in Jesus’ day (His first miracle was performed at a wedding celebration).  Since Jesus was telling this parable to the DISCIPLES (His followers) and not to the religious left (Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes), I believe that the “ten” represented the Church as a whole [Ephesians 5:23-32; Revelation 22:17]. 

“The [Holy] spirit and the BRIDE (the church, the true Christians) say, Come!” (Revelation 22:17).

THE LAMPS WERE… Olive Oil Lamps.

In this story, Matthew 25:1-13;

JESUS=the bridegroom.

THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST CAN BE DIVIDED INTO TWO CAMPS:

1.  FIVE FOOLISH=five FOOLISH FOLLOWERS.

2.  FIVE WISE=five FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS of Christ.

This parable is more like an allegory than a parable that has one primary point!  There must be PRETENDERS and TRUE BELIEVERS (true worshipers) present in today’s Church:

PRETENDERS:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders (hypocrites)!  For you are like tombs that have been whitewashed, which LOOK BEAUTIFUL on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything impure”  (Matthew 23:27).

“TRUE WORSHIPERS”:

“A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the TRUE (genuine) WORSHIPERS will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers”  (John 4:23 AMP).

THE “PLOT” THICKENS–Grooms Delay:

“While the bridegroom lingered and was slow in coming, they all began nodding their heads, and they fell asleep”  (verse 5).

You might think that only the 5 “FOOLISH” BRIDESMAIDS would have fell asleep while the 5 WISE VIRGINS would have been working and preparing for the marriage feast.  But that was not the case.  We are SAVED by God’s MERCY AND GRACE and NOT by our WORKS.

DOZING OFF WHILE WAITING:

There’s no moral blame attached to the sleeping; both the wise and the foolish virgins succumb to drowsiness.  But the groom’s delay distinguishes between the wise and the foolish.  The former prepare for the possibility of the groom’s delay by bring EXTRA oil, and the latter are unprepared.  With that said, the preparedness of the wise can neither be transferred nor shared: 

“Watch therefore [give strict attention and be cautious and active], for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come” (25:13).

I have heard over the years, people in the Church telling others, “I’ve always been a Christian!”; “My mom and dad were deacon and deaconess”; “My mom and dad, their mom and dads; and their…we’ve always been a Christian family.”  Those testimonies are all well and fine, however, as personal salvation is just that!  It’s a personal choice! Like the “oil”, it can’t be transferred nor shared.

THE POINT OF NO RETURN:

The “foolish” members of the wedding party were told to go out and purchase their own oil (Matthew 25:9).  As the five were out ‘doing their thing’, the torchlight parade took place.

The groom and the 5 Wise members entered the celebration hall and the doors were closed.  The foolish five, then came with what they should have already dad but…it was too little, too late.  They weren’t allowed to enter and join in the wedding celebration.  Even then, the five virgins pled, “Lord, Lord, open [the door] to us!”  But they were sent away with the words,  I don’t know you!”

JESUS then concludes this parable in applying this principle to His disciples (and thus the Church).  He urges His disciples to:  WATCH!  UNDERSTAND! BE READY!

In Matthew 24:42-44, we see all three PREPARATIONS.  The Greek Word for WATCH; gregoreo; meaning “spiritual alertness.”

JESUS also reminds and warns us as His disciples in this parable, there will be a number of people who look like Christians, who associate with Christians, who even think they’re Christians (“pretenders”); who will be shocked to learn they are NOT saved at the return of the Lord.

This blog is not seeking to create uncertainty or doubt in the heart of the Christian.  I am not seeking to rob the Christian of his assurance.  But the blog IS seeking to warn those who have a FALSE assurance but NOT salvation.

“BUT UNDERSTAND this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear].  For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters.  They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane,  [they will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct. uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good.  [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit.  [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God”  (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

“For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion) [‘they will maintain the outward appearance’], they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]”  (verse 5).