Drive your roots deep and let your voice be heard

INTRODUCTION. Some comments about the need for disciples of Jesus to be firmly rooted in Christ and to boldly proclaim Him in these end times. Firm roots and a bold voice will prevent the follower of Christ from being overwhelmed by the rising evil of our age.

There is no place for the disciple of Jesus to hide anymore.

If your spiritual desires are to maintain a low profile and to be anonymous and to whisper some religious platitudes under your breath, then the last thing you want to do in this day and age is to be a disciple of Jesus. (John 15:18-20; etc.)

In the past, the American church-goer could be rewarded with respectable friends and people for their children to marry and connections for their business interests. “Being a Christian” was just part of the majority American culture, part of the American dream. In that halcyon bygone time, Christians did not proclaim the gospel to non-Christians. Christians typically went from birth to death without ever telling a single non-Christian anything about Jesus or sin or heaven or hell or how Christ had transformed their life and their eternity. Their faith was closely held, a private thing, a secret known by their friends at their church. And for a long time this sort of harmless, secret, nice, voiceless “Christianity” worked just fine and these Christians got all the benefits of the blessed life.

Meanwhile, the Great Commission languished and Christ had few witnesses and the evil of the world continued to fill the void. And yet even in this, Christ was building His church and the gates of Hades were not prevailing against it (Matt. 16:18).

But the days when “being a Christian” was part of the majority American culture are now far behind us, a small speck in the cultural rear view mirror. Whether the American dream still exists is debatable, but it is clear that America has become hostile to the person who openly follows Jesus. As a result, only a robust, vigorous, active, persevering, bold, joyful, vibrant faith will be of any help in these last days.

If your faith is only nominal; that is, if yours is a “faith” that goes through the outward motions but has no real substance, your masquerade will be shattered by the persistent and pervasive evil of our age. A nominal faith will be revealed as a sham and will be useless for you and for the kingdom of God.

But what if your faith is a genuine saving faith, but is weak or joyless or tepid or hesitant or wavering? In this time when evil and lawlessness are rising unabated and the righteous are vastly outnumbered by the ungodly, a weak, wavering, shrinking-back faith, even if genuine, will prove to be a useless faith. If your light for Jesus is to shine before men (Matt. 5:16) and if you would be Jesus’ witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8), then your devotion to Jesus must be placed on the lampstand (Matt. 5:15) and the truth of the gospel must be proclaimed from the housetops (Matt 10:27). A faith that remains in the closet to be retrieved for a few hours on Sunday will avail you nothing. Jesus will have disciples who are fully and unconditionally devoted to Him until death (Luke 14:26-27), or He will not have you at all (Matt. 10:32-33; 12:30). Therefore, if you examine yourself (2 Cor. 13:5) and see that your faith is hesitant or wavering, you should begin immediately to drive your roots deeper into Christ.

WHERE WE ARE IN HISTORY

On the timeline of world history, in the unfolding of great world events, the “thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-6) of relative peace for the ingathering of the church have drawn to a close, and now the testing and the cleansing of the church ingathered has begun. The devil has been released from his prison (Rev. 20:7), “having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time” (Rev. 12:12). His time is short and he is not playing games. We are now in Satan’s hour and he is bent on proliferating evil and destruction, and on fanning sin into a blazing inferno. Therefore, those who do not take a bold, firm stand against him (Eph. 6:10-18) and who do not persevere in a robust, overt righteousness will simply be swept away by the flood of wickedness.

The Lord has released the devil (Rev. 20:3) and is allowing him to test His people (Revelation 11:7; 13:7) to see who will shrink back (Hebrews 10:38, 39) and who will stand firm (Rev. 2:10). We are in an evil time, but it is evil that most plainly reveals righteousness, and the darker the darkness, the more brilliant the light.

CONCLUSION

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warned about the circumstances of the last days:

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5

It is my opinion that we are in these “last days” and that Christ will come soon to rescue His oppressed church. But even if I am wrong, the “difficult times” Paul described are certainly upon us and those who love righteousness must persevere in the face of growing opposition. This means the disciple of Jesus must earnestly seek the Lord and must drive their spiritual roots deep into the saving soil of Christ.

SDG                 rmb                 6/20/2022                   #545

Satan’s ever-changing agenda (Revelation 12)

INTRODUCTION. In my last post on Satan’s activities during the end times (#508 on March 29), we had determined that, when the Scripture says that Satan is bound for the “thousand years” (Revelation 20:2, 3), it means only that, during the “thousand years,” his specific ability to deceive the nations is “bound” so that the gospel is free to spread among the nations without Satan’s hindrance. This explains how Satan can be “bound” (Rev. 20:2, 3) and can also “prowl about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

During this post we will be considering a related topic, namely, how Satan has been forced to change his mission several times throughout history in response to what God has done through Jesus Christ. The devil is always trying to react to what God is doing, changing his gameplan to try to thwart God’s irresistible plan of redemption. In this post, I will look at how these dynamics work.

REVELATION 12 IS KEY

Understanding Revelation 12 is key to understanding the entire book of Revelation. There are several themes at work in this chapter, which span redemptive history from the Old Testament people of God through the Incarnation and even into the 42 months. One of the things that we see here is that, as redemptive history unfolds, the devil, who is presented figuratively as a red dragon, must change his strategy and even his mission to try to oppose the Lord.

Observe, for example, how radically the dragon’s (Satan’s) activity changes in the chapter. Before the Messiah was born, “the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth” (Rev. 12:4). The woman represents the faithful saints of the Old Testament who have followed the Lord until this moment when the Messiah is about to come into the world. The prophecies of a coming King who would deliver His people are now to be fulfilled, and the dragon’s mission is very simple: kill the Child and prevent His arrival. The dragon is poised to “devour her child” (12:4). But the dragon fails in that mission and Messiah is born. “She (the woman) gave birth to a son, a male child” (12:5a). The Messiah accomplishes His mission of atonement, is raised from the dead, and then is “caught up to God and to His throne” (12:5c). Now the dragon has failed twice. He failed to prevent Messiah from being born into the world and he failed to prevent Messiah from accomplishing His mission, “the work (the Father) had given Him to do” (John 17:4). What will the dragon do now?

Once Christ has accomplished His mission and has charged His church to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19-20), the dragon’s mission becomes a desperate attempt to prevent the church from accomplishing her Christ-given mission.

THE DRAGON’S MISSION HAS TWO STRATEGIES

So, the dragon’s mission, for the time between Christ’s ascension to heaven and His return from heaven, is to thwart the gospel and to make sure that the church fails to reach all the nations (see Matt. 24:14). The dragon has two main strategies for succeeding in his mission. The first strategy is to deceive the nations so that they will not heed (believe) the gospel and the second is to attack the church so that they will not preach the gospel. The combination of these two strategies would create a formidable threat to the building of the church and could endanger the church’s accomplishment of their mission. But notice that, in Revelation 20:1-3, “the angel (the risen Lord Jesus) bound him (the dragon, Satan) for a thousand years” (20:2), “SO THAT he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed” (20:3). By binding Satan at the beginning of the “thousand years,” the Lord Jesus has neutralized one of Satan’s two main strategies and has made the spread of the gospel among the nations dependent only upon the church’s faithful preaching of the gospel. During the “thousand years,” the nations will be receptive to the gospel, and many will believe the gospel, because Satan is bound and is not able to deceive them. If the church is bold and faithful to proclaim the gospel, then, during the “thousand years,” the nations will receive the gospel.

PERSECUTING THE CHURCH IS ALLOWED

It is significant that Jesus does not prevent the devil from attacking His church during the “thousand years.” Instead, Jesus allows His chosen and commissioned church in the world to be opposed, maligned, and persecuted as they proclaim the gospel. Doesn’t this seem a little strange? Why would Jesus allow His bride, the church, to be subject to suffering and persecution in the world when the church is faithfully proclaiming the gospel and is being a bold witness to the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8)? That is a great question, and that is what we will explore in the next post in this series, “The Lord’s purposes in persecution.”

REVIEW AND MAIN POINT

To review what we have covered, then, we have seen that the dragon (Satan, the devil) has two potential strategies for stopping the spread of the gospel to the nations: “deceiving the nations” so they will not believe the gospel and the attacking of the church so the church will not preach the gospel. The main idea of this post is that the binding of Satan in Rev. 20:1-3 eliminates his use of the “deceiving the nations” strategy during the “thousand years.” Thus, during the “thousand years,” the dragon’s main strategy (only strategy?) is to attack the church so that she will not preach the gospel.

SDG                 rmb                 03/31/2022                 # 510

The Eschatology of Isaiah – 27:1 Punish Leviathan, Slay the Dragon

The prophet Isaiah wrote powerful prophecies not only of the events of Jesus the Messiah’s first advent, but also about the events of that day, the final day when the glorified Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the resurrected Lamb of God, returns from heaven on a white horse (Revelation 19:11ff) to judge all the earth.

It is Isaiah’s eschatology that we have been exploring in this series of studies from one brief passage of four verses, Isaiah 26:19-27:1. Here the prophet tells us of things to come at the end of time. As we have seen in the post of December 1 of last year, Isaiah 26:19 told us about the great final resurrection of the dead when the tomb will become a womb and the dust will give birth to those who will sing for joy. A little later in December of 2019, we examined Isaiah 26:20, where the prophet writes about the time of tribulation of God’s people. We recently (October 2, 2020) examined the next verse in the passage in which the prophet tells us about when “the LORD is coming out of His place,” telling of when Jesus returns. This post will be the final one of the four, examining Isaiah 27:1, which tells of the punishing of Leviathan and the killing of the dragon, and seeing how this relates to the events surrounding the return of the Lord Jesus from heaven.

PART 4 – The LORD will punish the serpent and will slay the dragon

“In that day the Lord with His hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent and He will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

In the context of this passage that we have studied, in the context of what we can now see as a vision of Christ’s return, the meaning of this verse must be obvious. What to Isaiah the prophet must have been puzzling and mysterious, to us with the New Testament is clear. For Jesus the Messiah has already come to fulfill the prophecies of His first advent and has told us Himself of His imminent return. In the book of Revelation, we read of precisely these events coming to pass at the end of the age, exactly consistent with the other events surrounding the Second Coming of the Lord. Isaiah has already told us of the resurrection of the dead, of the great tribulation that will come upon God’s people, and of the glorious time when the Lord Himself will come from heaven. Now Isaiah tells us what will become of Leviathan the fleeing serpent and the dragon.

  • In that day – What day? This expression, “in that day,” is used throughout the writings of the Old Testament prophets and almost always refers to “the day of the LORD.” So here, Isaiah is making a reference to the day of the LORD, that day when the LORD will return to judge the earth. The prophets describe this as a terrifying day, a day when the unrighteous will find no place to hide and when the LORD will recompense all sin. That is the day tIsaiah intends here.
  • Leviathan the fleeing serpent – Who is Leviathan? Although there are several Old Testament passages that speak of Leviathan, the creature’s exact identity is difficult to determine. The overall impression is that “Leviathan” is a picture of evil, and of threat and destruction. Leviathan is dangerous and foreboding, and his appearance brings with it imminent threat. The background music strikes a minor key. That is certainly the picture here.
  • But notice that Leviathan is no longer the hunter but is the hunted. Leviathan, that creature of chaos and destruction, is fleeing from the LORD’s “hard and great and strong sword.” His imminent doom is certain, for the LORD’s sword never returns to its sheath until it has accomplished its work. The LORD’s sword “will punish Leviathan.” “Punish” describes the reason for the LORD’s sword (to punish for evil), but the effect is the death of Leviathan. The LORD says, “I have created the smith who produces a weapon for its purpose (Isaiah 54:16).” The LORD’s sword is created to kill the LORD’s enemies. When Leviathan is punished, it will certainly be slain.
  • Leviathan is a fleeing serpent and a twisting serpent – Observe carefully the descriptions of Leviathan. Twice he is called a serpent. Now it is time for Bible 101. “Who is the serpent?” This is the one who tempted Eve in the Garden and thus led man into sin. This is the one who is called that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9).” Yes, in this context, Leviathan is another word for the devil and Satan.
  • Leviathan, the serpent, is also the dragon – We know that the Bible is written such that what appears later sheds light on what was written formerly. For example, what was written in the New Testament sheds light on and informs what was written in the Old Testament. Therefore, based on Revelation 12:9, we just confirmed that Leviathan, the serpent, is also the devil, the serpent. Now, from that same verse (Revelation 12:9) we can see that the serpent is the dragon, for it is the dragon who is explicitly identified as the serpent (“the great dragon, that ancient serpent”). It can thus be concluded that Isaiah 27:1 is not about the destruction of two creatures, Leviathan and the dragon, but is actually about the slaying of the one creature, the dragon. And we know from the New Testament that the dragon is a symbol for Satan.
  • OUR CONCLUSION – What we see is that Isaiah 27:1 is prophesying the slaying of Satan on the final day, “in that day,” when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven on the day of His glorious return. And that is exactly what we find described in the book of Revelation. On that day, Jesus returns from heaven on a white horse with a sharp sword in His mouth to strike down the nations. Then “He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Rev. 19:11, 15).” His final act of judgment will be “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where (he) will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).” Isaiah has seen the events of the last day.

SUMMARY OF THE PASSAGE

            In this four-part study, it has been shown that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who lived 700 years before Jesus the Messiah’s first advent, prophesied the events of Jesus’ Second Coming with great accuracy. As we compare Isaiah 26:19-21 and 27:1 with the prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming in the New Testament, we see the resurrection of the dead, the testing of God’s people, the great coming of the Lord, and the punishment and destruction of Satan all predicted. To me, there are two applications of this.

  • First, I am again convinced of the Bible’s being breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), for there is no other explanation for the Bible’s supernatural accuracy.
  • Second, it reminds me that there is a final day coming when all the joys and difficulties of all the ages will come to an end. There is coming a day, perhaps very soon, when Jesus will come from heaven with a shout. Jesus will come on a white horse with a sword to judge the unrighteous without mercy. It reminds me that “the Lord is a warrior (Exodus 15:3)” and that His favor will not be extended forever; there is coming a terrible day of the Lord. It reminds me that I have been promised persecution in this world, but that Jesus has also promised me an eternity with Him in heaven. It reminds me that I am to warn the unrighteous of their need for a Savior.

SDG                 rmb                 10/08/2020