The Two Churches

For slow readers, the two churches are the (a) fake, make believe church versus (b) the glorious church under construction by Jesus for 2000 years now! Don't think buildings, denominations, tradition or what was taught to you in Sunday School. Think about knowing the one true God personally. When you give Jesus permission, He will show up, but on His terms, not perhaps what you first supposed.

A wake up call this week reminded me that 70% of Americans profess to be "Christians." That would be 232 million out of 331 million people in our nation! That's nonsense!

Of course all sorts out decent folk and wanna be's call themselves Christians because otherwise they might be mistaken for "heathens." In which case who would hire them and the neighbors would shun them. In other words decency, clean, law abiding citizens must be the main characteristic of what God calls acceptable and worthy? Nonsense!

We have about 2.1 million Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and others living here now, in our great land of liberty. The hypocrisy of claiming we are a "Christian Nation" is obvious to most everyone I know. There is no such entity!

Only Israel has a covenant with the Creator and that nation is Israel. God did make a New Covenant with Israel through their Messiah, Yeshua, (Jesus of Nazareth) and every true follower of Jesus has been brought in to God's family through Jesus. Either you know Him or you don't.

There is really no middle ground. There are about 100 gentile nations in the world today. The Bible likens them to wild beasts in need of taming! there are true followers of Jesus in most nations, many are way more godly than one finds in America today. We are mostly a nation of hypocrites and phonies. America has only 5% of the total world population--which is 7800 million and increasing out of control.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:1-10)

 

Who is in charge down here really?

Psalm 2 (KJV)

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 
"Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." 
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision. 
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 
Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,
and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

The King James Version is familiar to many because the text is used in a well-known chorus in Handel's Messiah. 

From James Montgomery Boice:

1. God rules in history. This is an obvious point and one that has already been seen several times in Daniel. Indeed, it is the chief message of the book. When Nebuchadnezzar set up his great golden statue in the plain of Dura, he did so in defiance of God who had said that Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom would pass away and be succeeded by another, even though it was glorious enough in human terms to be described as a head of gold. Nebuchadnezzar said in effect, "My kingdom is an everlasting dominion that will never be destroyed" (cf. Daniel. 7:14). But his kingdom was destroyed--by Cyrus the Persian--because it is the decree of God and not the desire of man that rules history. In Daniel 5, when Belshazzar at his great feast defiled the vessels of God taken from the temple in Jerusalem, he too was saying, "I determine my own history." But he was wrong! God numbered his days and brought them to an end. God weighed him and declared that he was found wanting. God divided his kingdom, giving it to the Medes and Persians. This is the point made in Daniel's vision. The bestial empires of world history may roar and frighten for a time. They may crush kingdoms weaker than they are. But in the end, all will be brought to judgment and the kingdom of God's Anointed alone will be established. This is because God, and not mere human beings, is in charge.

You must apply this personally. If you are in a position of power and influence, you are in danger of thinking that the power you exercise somehow flows from you because of the exceptional person you are. If you are wealthy, you are in danger of thinking that your wealth is self-generated--that you are wealthy because you are better than other people. The same danger exists if you are good-looking or have a natural way with people or a talent that is in much demand.

None of these things comes from yourself. Rather, all are God's gift to you, and he can both give them and take them away. He can raise a person up, and he can bring that one down. He does! He does it constantly. The truth that God rules history may also be applied in a comforting way. To think of that section of our Lord's sermon on the Mount of Olives shortly before his arrest and crucifixion in which he gave his disciples a forecast of things to come. There will be many false Christs ("antichrists") who will deceive many, he said. There will be wars and rumors of wars. There will be widespread apostasy as many turn from the faith. People will hate and betray one another. Wickedness will increase. Indeed, at the very end "the abomination that causes desolation"--a clear reference to Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11 will appear. It will usher in a time of "great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again" (Matthew 24:21). Still, in spite of this great turmoil that will cause the hearts of many to shake with fear, Christ's words to his disciples are words of comfort. "See to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come" (v. 6).

How is it that Jesus can tell his own not to be alarmed in such circumstances? False Christs? Wars? Apostasy? Hatred? Betrayal? Wickedness? How can we not be troubled so long as we have hearts to feel and minds to grieve with those who are suffering? The answer--the only possible answer--is that, in spite of these things, God is in control of history and will yet work all things out in accordance with his just and all-wise plan for humanity. As Daniel shows, in the end the wicked will be judged and the saints will reign with Jesus.

2. The kingdom of Jesus Christ will triumph over the kingdoms of this world and will endure forever. This idea was present in the vision of the statue given to Nebuchadnezzar, for in that vision a rock not made with human hands struck the statue and destroyed it, after which it grew to be a large mountain that filled the earth. But there is a new element here, and that is the personal rule of God's Anointed, described as being "like a son of man." it is important to note that this is the very phrase picked up by Jesus and used over and over as a title for himself. Indeed, he used it in the Olivet discourse just a few verses after his reference to Daniel, saying, "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Matt. 24:27). There are other references to the coming of this Son of Man in Daniel's prophecy.

3. The saints of the Most High will reign with Jesus. In the interpretation of this vision in the latter half of Daniel 7, it is said that the saints will he persecuted by the king who is the little horn (vv. 24-25); but he will be destroyed, and the "sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High" (v. 27). To my knowledge this is the first occurrence of this idea in the Bible--that the saints will rule with Jesus and not merely that Jesus will himself reign. It is an astonishing truth, but a very practical one. One practical application is made by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6: 1-11. In those verses Paul is concerned with the practice of the Corinthian Christians of going to law against one another. He argues, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?" (v. 2). It is a powerful argument. If we are to rule with the Lord Jesus Christ one day, we should be able to show something of the wisdom and justice of his rule now-and not have to appeal to unbelievers to settle our internal disputes. More than that, we should be models of integrity, compassion, love, honesty, and wisdom in our dealings with other men and women.

There is this application also. In 2 Timothy 2:12, Paul says, "If we endure, we will also reign with him." The context has to do with our remaining faithful to the Lord in difficult times. So it is in the nature of a warning as well as an encouragement. We can be encouraged to endure now because we know that one day we will reign with Jesus. That can lift our spirits and give us a renewed determination to fight on. It is also a warning since our reigning with Christ later seems to depend on our endurance now. It is the same thing Jesus meant when he said, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24: 12-13). Are you enduring? Will you be standing firm when Christ returns? You may ague that this is a tough age in which to be faithful, and that is true. But it was tough for Daniel; the empires were in political and moral decline in his day. And it was tough for Paul, who makes these applications for us; the Roman Empire of the first Christian century was particularly decadent. It has always been tough for God's people. But those who truly are his people persevere-as they look forward to Christ's reign and to reigning with him. (from James M. Boice, Daniel, Baker Books, 1989)

Theologian R.C. Sproul takes special note of this Psalm as a statement of God's invisible hand behind and over all governments in the world,

In the eighteenth century the concept of separation of church and state meant one thing; today it is understood in radically different terms. Originally the concept pointed to a clear division of labor between two institutions and guarded the borders between the two. Today a not-so-subtle shift has occurred, and now the idea of separation of church and state has come to mean the separation of state and God. The state wishes to be autonomous, not answerable or accountable to God. In a word, the government has declared its independence from God.

This is nothing new in history. In the Middle Ages monarchs sanctioned their rule by appealing to the theory of the divine right of kings. Usually coronation was done by the church. In England the monarch was and still is given the title Defensor Fide or "Defender of the Faith." But there were few kings who voluntarily submitted to the authority of God. Even in theocratic Israel it was the kings who, more often than not, were leaders in godlessness.

The common resistance of earthly rulers to the reign of God over them may be seen in the sentiments of Psalm 2...

The psalm reflects a conspiracy among the kings of this world. They hold a summit meeting in which they declare their independence from God. They hold a joint council of war and aim the sum of their military might toward heaven. The response of God is holy laughter. The arsenal of human weapons is viewed as mere popguns by the Almighty.

God's derisive laughter quickly turns to wrath as He warns against the rejection of His rule and that of His anointed. He rebukes the kings for their folly, warning them that He will break them with a rod of iron. They are called to rule, not with the arrogance of pretended autonomy, but with fear and trembling. The fear and trembling are to be motivated by an awareness that their authority is a delegated authority. It is extrinsic, not intrinsic. All authority on heaven and earth has been given by the Father to the Son. Every lesser authority is subject to Him.

In one sense we say that America is not a theocracy. It differs in its legal structure and framework from Old Testament Israel. Our government is secular in nature. But this is only a matter of degree. All human government is theocratic in the sense that God is the ultimate ruler over all. Our political leaders may not be theocratically organized at the human level, but in terms of Providence they are all inescapably theocratic.

The government of God is part of His work of upholding, or sustaining, His creation.... (The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? by R.C. Sproul, Word Publishing, Dallas, TX 1996)

A False Peace Before the Real Thing

Before the true Messiah comes to establish lasting peace the Bible says that a false peace will come to pass in the region---known as Israel's "covenant with death" (see Isaiah 28). Through the efforts of a great political and military leader of the Western world working in cooperation with a false messiah in Israel, a division of land in Israel between Jews and Arabs will bring out a what everyone believes will be successful end to current tensions and violence, (Daniel 11:29). This peace treaty will, however, suddenly fall apart---and a terrible last war will break out in Israel. The entire world will be affected and the very survival of the human race will be in doubt (Matthew 22:24). (For details, an excellent reference is Ray Stedman's study on The Olivet Discourse of Jesus).

The hope of the world does not lie in the efforts of men to bring about an artificial peace. Human hearts and human nature must be changed and this is the task of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Peacemakers are to be highly valued in any age and in any situation of course, (Matthew 5:9)---but real peacemakers must reconcile men to God before they can reconcile one man to another.

The latter chapters of Isaiah are full of information on the relationship between the God of Israel and His Servant the Messiah. In Chapter 43 it is Israel who stands in the place of final authority as appointed authority over the nations. In Chapter 42 it is the person of Yahweh's Messiah:

Behold my servant [Messiah], whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: "I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them."

Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands. The LORD goes forth like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his fury; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes. For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in travail, I will gasp and pant. I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbage; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools. And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them. They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in graven images, who say to molten images, "You are our gods." Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see!...

The second Psalm assures us that the Coming King of Kings, appointed by the God of Israel, will rule the nations "with a rod of iron." His kingdom will come in power and real authority. He is the only legitimate of the one true God who is over all the world. An ancient plainsong expresses the longing of God's people from all nations for Messiah to come to us at last:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here, 
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, 
free Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave.
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here.
And drive away the shades of night
And pierce the clouds and bring us light.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

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July 17, 2020