While you and I live in a time of the spirit of antichrist, and many false prophets; the person who will be the Anti-Christ has yet to be revealed. Chapter two of Second Thessalonians is very specific about the revealing of the Anti-Christ and its timing.
Paul articulates that the revealing of the Anti-Christ to the world cannot happen until the restrainer (The Holy Spirit) is removed. Consistently throughout Scripture and history, the Holy Spirit and His restraining influence is through God's People (Matthew 13,14; John 16:7, 11).
Paul challenges the believers in Thessalonica not to be shaken and troubled by thinking the day of the Lord had come (vs.2). He briefly explains what will happen during the Great Tribulation in verses 3 and 4. How that the Anti-Christ will exalt himself as God when he sits in the temple of God. Paul is simply assuring them that this did not happen yet.
The Antichrist will be the world's political dictator of the last days. The Scripture declares ...and power was given him over all kindred, and tongues, and nations... Rev. 13:7. The Antichrist will be a man whom Satan will fill to such an extent that he will be Satan incarnate. This is why Paul calls him the man of sin and the son of perdition. 2 Thess. 2:3
Knowing that the rapture of the Church is imminent, I believe that it is possible for the Anti-Christ to be alive today (2 Thess. 2:7). It could very well be a popular political figure today or someone who is poised to rise to power in whom the masses would be willing to exact worship. Yet, Paul makes it very clear that the Anti-Christ will be restrained until the Holy Spirit and the Church are removed. Due to the Anit-Christ' nature of administering Satan's will by signs and wonders, and successfully deceiving the unbelieving world by promoting idolatrous worship and possessing the power of death. and having all authority over commerce, and having an identifying physical mark; he cannot be revealed until after the rapture of the Church.
Jesus gave telling words about false prophets in Matt. 24:24, warning that in the last days many false prophets would arise and deceive, if possible, even the elect. False prophets with their mastery use of false doctrine easily influence people away from the biblical mandate of God's Word, namely, the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our only sufficiency necessary to expose false prophets and their teachings is the Word of God under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. And this is why the Anti-Christ hides in darkness. He cannot, even with all of Satan's potential overcome the body of Christ (Matthew 16:18; James 4:7; 1 John 4:4)... thus, he is restrained from exacting his hellish ministry until after the Church is gone.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Most, if not all, of the cultures of the earth express a belief in some kind of evil being. This belief is often personified as a supernatural, godlike being who takes great pleasure in cruelty and perversion. As the god of the Underworld, Hades or hell, the Egyptians had Seth; the Greeks, Pluto; the Romans, Dis. The Western world, of course, calls this personal embodiment of evil Satan the Devil. With him come countless other wicked beings known as demons.
Where did Satan come from? Some cultures, philosophies and religions believe that good and evil have always existed in a dualistic balance like yin and yang or light and darkness. Others believe that God created the Devil to test mankind and preside over the eternal punishment of the wicked. What is the truth? Using the "here a little, there a little" principle (Isaiah 28:9-13), we can uncover Satan's origin and destiny in the pages of the Bible!
1. In what state was the earth created? Genesis 1:1-2; Job 38:4-7; Psalm 104:30; I Corinthians 14:33.
Comment: God originally created the earth with such perfection and beauty that the angels shouted with joy! Our Creator does all things in an organized manner and completes all His works in exquisite splendor. But the earth had somehow become formless and chaotic so that God had to refashion it before man could be created.
2. Who was Lucifer? Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17.
Comment: "Lucifer" means "Light-Bringer" or "Day Star." Ezekiel calls him "the anointed cherub who covers," which means he was one of the chief angels whose wings covered God's throne in heaven. He is specifically shown to be a created being, possibly the most beautiful, wise and perfect of God's creations.
But this mighty angel grew proud and vain in his beauty. He began to become envious of God's authority over the universe, and over maybe millions of years, he schemed to induce other angels to support him in an attempt to overthrow God. When he finally led one third of the angels (Revelation 12:4) to war against God in heaven, God cast him and his angelic troops back to the earth (Luke 10:18).
3. How did Lucifer become Satan? Ezekiel 28:15-17.
Comment: God had created Lucifer a perfect spirit being, but He also gave him free moral agency, that is, the ability to choose to follow good or evil. Lucifer chose to become Satan the Devil, the Adversary, by allowing sin to mold his character. His rebellion against God sealed and hardened his evil nature, and now he opposes all that is good, right and godly (Matthew 13:38-39; I Peter 5:8; Revelation 9:11; 12:9-10).
4. Are Satan and his demons bound to this earth? II Peter 2:4; Jude 6.
Comment: When God cast them back down to earth, He placed restrictions on their powers and limited them to "their proper domain" or "first estate," that is, the earth. Here, they await their judgment for their rebellion. "Hell" in II Peter 2:4 is tartaroo, a place of restraint for the wicked. Though Satan himself may appear before God's throne in heaven, he and his demons can do only what God allows (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7).
5. Is Satan "the god of this age [world, KJV]"? II Corinthians 4:4.
Comment: By blinding the minds of men to the true gospel of God, Satan has set himself up as a counterfeit of the Creator God. As the prince of the power of the air, he broadcasts his evil, rebellious attitudes to all humanity, and except for a few whom God has called out of his deceptions, the whole world lives under his sway (Ephesians 2:1-3; I John 5:19; Revelation 12:9).
6. Has Satan been disqualified as ruler of this earth? John 12:27-33; 14:30; 16:11; Colossians 1:13; 2:15; Hebrews 2:9, 14-15.
Comment: When Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died for the sins of men, He qualified to dethrone Satan. The "god of this world" has been defeated! However, he remains active among us until the King of kings returns and sets up His government on earth.
7. Will Satan attempt to ruin God's plan before Christ returns? Revelation 12:7-9, 12-17; 16:12-16; 19:17-21; 20:1-3.
Comment: The Devil will again go on the offensive against God with the same results: He is cast back down to earth. In his anger over his defeat, he will savagely persecute God's people and gather the armies of man to fight against Christ when He comes. He and his human agents will be soundly defeated, and Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years.
8. What is Satan's ultimate fate? Revelation 20:7-10.
Comment: After the thousand years of imprisonment, Satan will be released for a short while. During his parole, he will again unite some of the nations and take them to war against God's people. But this rebellion will be summarily ended when God sends fire out of heaven to destroy them. Because he is spirit and cannot die, the Devil will then be sentenced to eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. Finally, God and man will be rid of their chief enemy, and peace will flourish for all eternity!
To someone in the world, "laying on of hands" conjures up thoughts like, "I'd like to get my hands on him for the way he cheated me!" or, "Just wait ‘til I get my hands on him!" In sharp contrast, God's use of the laying on of hands symbolizes the bestowal of blessings, authority and distinctiveness. It is a symbolic act designed to represent God Himself setting a person apart for a holy use, whether for service, healing, protection and guidance or blessing. This Bible study will analyze the fifth basic doctrine of God's church listed in Hebrews 6:2, "laying on of hands."
1. In the Old Testament did the laying on of hands play a part in offering sacrifices? Exodus 29:10; Leviticus 1:4; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:15.
Comment: The Aaronic priests were purified for service to God through the transferal of their sins to a bull. Similarly, when an Israelite presented a peace or a sin offering, he laid his hands upon the animal being offered, identifying himself with it and transferring his guilt to the animal. Thus, the animal was set apart by God through the laying on of hands.
2. Why did the high priest lay hands on the Azazel goat on the day of Atonement? Leviticus 16:7-10, 21-22.
Comment: The goat that represented Jesus Christ was offered as a sin offering, typifying His taking our sins upon Himself as an innocent substitute sacrifice. The other goat, representing Satan, was called the azazel. The high priest laid his hands upon the Azazel goat's head, confessing the sins of the people. The goat, now bearing those sins, was driven into the wilderness. After Christ's return, Satan will bear his own guilt and be completely removed from man's presence, being bound for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3).
3. Was the laying on of hands used in Old Testament ordinations? Numbers 8:10; 27:16-23; Deuteronomy 34:9.
Comment: Moses laid his hands upon Joshua, signifying the transferal of some of his authority to lead the nation. This rite of ordination was always accompanied by a special commission and the giving of special authority.
4. Was laying on of hands used in passing judgment? Exodus 7:4; Leviticus 24:14; Deuteronomy 13:6-10. Was it used when sparing someone from judgment? Genesis 22:12; Exodus 24:9-11.
Comment: God laid His hands on Egypt in divine judgment by sending plagues. When trying a blasphemer, each witness placed his hands upon the guilty person to signify his acceptance of the verdict. Conversely, when a victim was spared death—as when God commanded Abraham not to sacrifice Isaac or when He allowed the leaders of Israel to see Him without dying—mercy is described as hands not being laid on the spared victim.
5. Were special blessings conferred by the laying on of hands? Genesis 48:12-20; Psalm 139:4-6; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17.
Comment: Jacob laid his hands on his grandsons' heads to confer God's blessing upon them. David considered God's hand upon him as a blessing and comfort. Jesus blessed little children by laying His hands on them.
6. Does the Bible sanction the laying on of hands for healing? Matthew 9:18-30; Mark 6:5; 16:17-18; Luke 4:40; 13:10-13; Acts 5:12; 28:8; James 5:14-15.
Comment: Jesus and His apostles touched the sick when they healed, yet miracles often occurred without this physical act. The miraculous power to heal derives from God's authority, not from the physical touch of the hands.
7. Are special spiritual gifts given through the laying on of hands? Acts 9:17; 19:6; I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:6-7.
Comment: Usually, the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of an elder's hands, confirming baptism. However, Acts 8:14-17 says that the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit after baptism, while Acts 10:44-48 says that it fell upon Cornelius' household before baptism. Sometimes God makes exceptions to work out His own will and plan.
Timothy received special spiritual gifts from the hands of the elders, including the gifts of wisdom and teaching. Paul reminded him that ordination bestowed such gifts upon him and that he needed to stir up God's Spirit to use them.
8. Is this rite used to set people apart for special tasks? Acts 6:3-6; 13:2-3; I Timothy 5:22.
Comment: As in these examples, the laying on of hands is part of a formal ceremony by which the church commissions selected people into their new service. Paul advises that this should take place only after the entire matter is properly and prayerfully considered.
Laying on of hands, performed by ordained elders of the church during prayer, signifies an ordination or setting apart. The church, following biblical precedent, uses the laying on of hands for requesting the Holy Spirit after baptism, anointing the sick, ordaining ministers, consecrating marriage vows, blessing little children and requesting special gifts of God.
The predominant focus of mainstream Christianity is the undeserved crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the subsequent forgiveness of sins that is available through accepting that sacrifice. While this selfless act was and is unquestionably momentous, and its effects exceedingly far-reaching, many would be shocked to find out that the Bible defines the gospel differently than what they have always been told. A thoughtful reading shows that accepting Christ's blood in payment of our sins—as foundationally important as it is—is actually not the focus of the "good news" that He brought and that the apostles continued to preach.
In addition to dying for our sins, Jesus Christ came to earth as a messenger from God the Father:
Behold, I send My messenger [John the Baptist], and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)
Jesus did not speak His own words, but the words that the Father gave Him (John 8:38-42; 12:49-50; 14:24). His message was not primarily about Himself, but rather the good news that the Father ordained to be announced on earth. While Jesus Christ was categorically the most important individual ever to walk this earth, the Bible shows clearly that the gospel that Jesus brought was not simply about Himself. Read His statements, and prove this for yourself:
» And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
» And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matthew 9:35)
» Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)
» [Jesus] said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent." (Luke 4:43)
» Now it came to pass, afterward, that [Jesus] went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings [gospel] of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1)
» The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the Kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. (Luke 16:16-17)
» And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
The inspired Word of God makes it abundantly plain: The "good news" that Jesus Christ brought was about the Kingdom of God! The "gospel of Jesus Christ" is simply the message of good news that Jesus preached—not a message about Jesus. It is not primarily a message about the events in His life and of His becoming the Savior of the world—although it most certainly does include all that. But if the events of His life are not seen in the context of what He said, the resulting "faith" will be full of error and ultimately disastrous!
The announcement of "good news"—the very best news that could be heard today—which the Father gave through Jesus Christ, was about His Kingdom being established on earth.
But what is a kingdom? It is essentially a nation, with all of its citizens, land, and laws, ruled by a government. In biblical usage, a kingdom can also mean a family from a single parent grown into a nation.
A kingdom has four basic elements: 1) a king, supreme ruler, or governing agent; 2) territory, with its specific location and definite boundary lines; 3) subjects or citizens within that territorial jurisdiction; 4) and laws and a form of government through which the will of the ruler is exercised. If we ignore any one of these essential elements—if we ignore the message that Jesus Christ brought from the Father—we will have a distorted faith, one that will not bring salvation.
These verses are among those often quoted by those who believe that it is wrong to drink alcoholic beverages. They claim that this passage proves it is sin to drink wine, and by extension, any drink containing alcohol. However, this scripture does not say these things. What then does it say?
It warns that:
» The excessive drinking of alcohol is a sin. The winebibber drinks too much and too often.
» Improper use of alcohol is as poisonous as a snake's venom (verse 32).
» God's children should avoid company with winebibbers (verse 20; see also Matthew 24:49; I Corinthians 5:11).
» Poverty is just one potential negative result of drunkenness (verse 21).
» Other potential—even probable—negative consequences of chronic drunkenness include woe, sorrow, contentions, complaints, bloodshot eyes, hallucinations, nightmares, addiction, lack of self-control in speech and other matters, and bodily injuries without apparent cause—the cause being forgotten because of drunken stupor (verses 29, 33-34).
» We should not tarry long at wine (verse 30).
On this last warning, we know that a person who lingers where alcohol is consumed can so easily become a winebibber, or in plain, modern English, a drunkard. God, through Paul, lists drunkenness as one of the works of the flesh, warning that no drunkard will inherit God's Kingdom
Old Testament Approval
God's Word shows that it is perfectly fine to drink wine in moderation. It is replete with accounts of the proper uses of wine—accounts of people considered righteous according to God's standards. Here are some examples:
Melchizedek, whom we believe to have been Jesus Christ Himself, brought some wine to His meeting with Abram: "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18).
When giving his blessing to his son Jacob (who he thought was Esau), Isaac drank wine and asked for plenty of wine as a blessing from God:
He said, "Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's game, so that my soul may bless you." So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. . . . "Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine." (Genesis 27:25, 28)
Is it likely that Isaac would have asked God to bless his son with an abundance of wine if he knew that He forbade it? Wine was included in other blessings too. Through His servant Moses, God told the Israelites that wine would be included in the many blessings He would pour out upon them if they would obey Him:
And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, . . . in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you. (Deuteronomy 7:13)
Then Israel shall dwell in safety, the fountain of Jacob alone, in a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew. (Deuteronomy 33:28)
Here we read of wine promised by God for the Israelites as a blessing for obedience. Conversely, if they were to disobey Him, He solemnly warned them that He would take their wine and vineyards away from them as a curse:
You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. . . . And they [fierce foreign invaders] shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, . . . until they have destroyed you. (Deuteronomy 28:39, 51)
In many scriptures in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—too many to list here—God commands that wine be used in Israel's drink offerings to Him. In addition, God's people are commanded to pay to Him His tithe of all the wine they produced: "The firstfruits of your grain and your new wine and your oil, . . . you shall give him" (Deuteronomy 18:4).
In His instructions on the proper use of the festival tithe (or "second tithe," as we often refer to it today) for the celebration of His feasts, God authorizes the purchase and use of wine and similar beverages (Hebrew shekar: "strong drink" or intensely alcoholic liquor):
And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, . . . that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. . . . And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. (Deuteronomy 14:23, 26)
New Testament Approval
The instruction and example continues throughout the Old Testament. However, in turning to the New Testament, let us begin with a question. In the transition between these two eras of time covered by the volumes we call the Old and New Testaments, did God change His mind regarding the use of alcohol?
It is certainly true that drunkenness and excess of alcohol are as clearly condemned in many New Testament scriptures as they are in the Old (see Matthew 24:49; Luke 12:45; 21:34; Romans 13:13; I Corinthians 5:11; 6:10; 11:21; Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:21; I Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7; 2:3; I Peter 4:3).
Jesus and His apostles mention wine and other strong drink numerous times in the New Testament, but nowhere do any of them say that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is wrong. A few verses strongly indicate that Jesus Himself liked the occasional glass of wine:
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, "He has a demon." The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, "Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" (Luke 7:33-34)
Why would anyone call Him a winebibber if it were anything other than wine that He had been seen drinking? Jesus drank wine with His disciples at His last Passover service, promising that He would again join them in a glass of wine after their resurrection: "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:29).
The very first miracle Jesus performed was to turn water into wine (John 2:1-10). Some have argued that, at the Cana wedding, Jesus changed the water into unfermented grape juice, not wine. However, the Greek word translated "wine" throughout John 2:1-10 is oinos, which means "fermented wine." Not only did Jesus condone the proper use of wine, but He knew what the qualities of a good wine were, a fact confirmed in Luke 5:39: "And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better.'"
The apostle Paul follows His Master's lead on this subject. In the same letter to Timothy in which he soundly condemned excessive alcohol consumption (I Timothy 3:3, 8), Paul advises him to drink some wine to help ease his chronic stomach problems: "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities" (I Timothy 5:23).
God gave us wine and other alcoholic beverages for our enjoyment and so that we may learn to use them properly. We can develop character by properly exercising wisdom and self-control in consuming them. However, if one has a low tolerance for alcohol or one is an alcoholic, the wisest course is to abstain from them altogether (with the exception of the small amount required to be taken during the Passover service).
The proper use of alcohol is a great responsibility, but it is only the wrong use of it that is sin.
Although the Bible does not specifically mention this medical practice, we do not believe God will condemn one for having a transfusion. Some religious groups have misinterpreted God's command against eating blood (Leviticus 3:17), mistakenly extending it to receiving blood by transfusions. Ingesting blood and receiving it into the circulatory system are not the same thing. God specifically commands against the eating of blood, a prohibition reiterated in the New Testament as tied to idolatrous worship (Acts 15:19-20, 29).
While having a transfusion is not a sin, a proficient doctor would advise that medical risks are involved, as in any transmission of bodily fluids. Thus, one ought to weigh these risks and the anticipated benefits carefully.