Monday, September 24, 2018

The Bride of Christ

Revelation 19:6-11
[6] And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. [7] Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. [8] And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
 [9] And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. [10] And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. [11] And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

Although the term “Bride of Christ” is not actually in the Bible, Christ is called a Bridegroom (Jn. 3:29) and the Bible does refer to His bride and wife. The big question is, who is the bride? The far majority of Christians believe that the church is the bride of Christ, but there are different views concerning who that would include. Some say it includes all believers since the cross or the Day of Pentecost. Others say it includes all believers since Adam. There are even some who say it only includes believers who have been water baptized in a certain way into a certain church (Baptist Briders). 

The church that God is building in this present age (the Body of Christ is made up of all who believe the gospel of the grace of God revealed through the apostle Paul, Gal. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:6) is likened to a bride and wife by way of illustration, but it is a great blunder to jump to the conclusion that we are the bride and wife spoken of in prophecy. 

1) When and where will this marriage take place (v.11)? 
It is clear in the context that the marriage will take place on earth upon the second coming of Christ. The marriage is associated with LAND (Isa. 62:1-5). The context contrasts the whore (Babylon) with the pure wife (New Jerusalem). Tradition says that it will take place in heaven upon the rapture, but there is not a verse of scripture that supports that view. The reason that God uses the figure of marriage in regard to His relationship with His people is that marriage is a union. Upon the second coming of Christ, the believing remnant of Israel (those who faithfully endure) will be regathered and joined to their land, and they will be joined to their Messiah and King (Heb. 3:6, 14). If we are the bride in this passage that would mean that we are going through the tribulation period and that we are not joined to Christ until the second coming! Paul taught that we are permanently joined to the Lord the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13; Rom. 7:1-6; 2 Cor. 11:1-3). 

2) How will the wife make herself ready (v.8)? 
She is called a wife before the marriage because betrothal in Israel was so binding that a bride could be also called a wife before the consummation of the marriage (Matt. 1:18-20). She is ready for the marriage because she is clothed in clean and white linen. How did she get that garment (Rev. 3:1-6; 6:9-11; 7:9-17)? The godly remnant in Israel proved their faith by their works in that they overcame the beast and stayed true to Christ. The white garment represents the “righteousness of saints.” How could any of this possibly apply to the Body of Christ? We will be raptured BEFORE the 70th week of Daniel. The prophecy of the 70th week cannot be fulfilled until this parenthetical mystery age closes with th mystery of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-52). We are clothed with the righteousness of Christ upon salvation and we are complete in Him (Phil. 3:9; Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10). 

3) Is this passage the subject of the mystery or prophecy? 
The book of Revelation is called a prophecy five times. It is the culmination of the prophetic kingdom program of Israel. Everything in it is based on what was spoken by the prophets since the world began, but the Body of Christ is a great mystery that was hid in God and kept secret since the world began until it was revealed to the apostle Paul (Rom. 16:25). 

Contrary to popular opinion, Eph. 5:22-32 does not teach that the church is the bride of Christ. In the doctrinal section of the epistle (chapters 1-3), Paul emphasized that the church is the BODY of Christ (1:22-23, 2:1-16, 3:6; 4:4). This passage is in the practical section of the epistle (chapters 4-6). Paul uses the relationship between Christ and His church (one body) to teach about the marriage relationship between believers. It is important to note the little (but very important) word, “AS.” Nowhere in the passage does he say that the church is the bride of Christ. 

The teaching is simply as follows:

I. Christ and His church are one body (1 Cor. 12:12-13)
a. Christ is the head of this body
b. The church is to submit to it’s Head
c. Christ loves the church as His own body, we are part of Him

II. In the marriage relationship the husband and wife are one flesh (v.31)
a. The husband is the head of this one body
b. The wife should submit to her husband as she does to Christ
c. The husband should love his wife as his own body (nourish), she is part of him

“This is a great mystery” (v.32) – The mystery of the church is not that it is the bride of Christ (the “bride” is no mystery for it is in prophecy), but that it is the BODY of Christ (3:3-6). Being the BODY of Christ is a greater position than being the bride. Israel is spoken of many times as being a woman, but we are one new MAN. 

Basic outline of the prophetic doctrine concerning the bride

1) Israel became the wife of God under the old covenant (Jer. 2:1-2)
2) She constantly committed adultery against Him with her idolatry (Jer. 3; Ezek. 16)
3) After much longsuffering, God gave her a bill of divorcement (Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8)
4) He promised to betroth her AGAIN as a virgin bride (Isa. 54:6-8; 62:1-5; Hos. 2:14-23) 
5) Christ presented Himself to Israel as a Bridegroom, but was rejected by her (Jn. 1:31; 3:29; Matt. 22:1-14; 25:1-13)
6) When He comes again she will receive Him and be His bride and wife (Rev. 19:7-11)
7) This relationship will remain in the eternal state, she is still called a bride because the millennial reign was the marriage supper (Rev. 21:1-2, 9-21). 

Monday, September 17, 2018

What is Satan Doing Today?

Satan is not in hell today, and neither is he down at the bar trying to get people drunk. So, what is he doing? 

God took the wise in his own craftiness (Job 5:13; 1 Cor. 3:19) by causing Satan to defeat himself when he had Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:8). The mystery of the Body of Christ (formed on basis of the cross, Eph. 2:16) is a great demonstration of the wisdom of God (Eph. 3:9-10). 

Those who saw Christ on the cross considered Him to be a victim, but there was an unseen spiritual battle raging and we know through the word of God that He was actually the VICTOR (Isa. 50:5-8; Col. 2:15).

Through the cross and the revelation of the mystery God made a FOOL out of Satan and he is very angry about it because he prides himself on being wise. So, what do you think is his focus of attack in this present age? It is on the “preaching of the cross” and “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.” Knowing who God is and what He is doing is the most important thing to know, but knowing who Satan is and what he is doing is the next most important thing. We can’t know what Satan is doing if we don’t know what God is doing because Satan is all about opposing what God is doing. The Devil gets blamed for many things he is not responsible for (so does the Lord). If we don’t know what he is really up to it will give him a great advantage over us (2 Cor. 2:11). 

I think we can sum up Satan's activities today under three main categories.

1) Politics – Christ called Satan “the prince of this world” (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). There are invisible principalities and powers working through the visible world leaders (Eph. 6:12). Satan is at work preparing the nations for his reign in the coming tribulation period. The world (including the USA) is primed and ready to accept his counterfeit Christ (2 Thess. 2:3-12).

2) Religion
– The apostle Paul called Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) and warned that he transforms himself as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Satan is the god of all the world’s religions including the so-called Christian religion of Catholicism. So, the liberals are actually right when they say that all religions have the same god, but he is not the true and living God! God has a mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16). Satan has a mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2:7) that is at work now and will culminate in the tribulation period when the world worships him as God.

One of Satan’s primary activities today is seeking to blind the lost to glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:1-6). He does this through religions that preach counterfeit gospels. He has counterfeit apostles, ministers, and churches that propagate counterfeit gospels (2 Cor. 11:1-4, 13-15). For example, the Catholics preach “another Jesus” and the Charismatics “another spirit.” Both preach “another gospel.” How can we identify a perverted gospel? When any human works are added to the finished work of Christ as requirement to receive salvation, it is a perverted gospel (Gal. 1:6-12). Satan will even use BIBLICAL gospels that are for other dispensations. For example, he enjoys hearing preachers misuse Acts 2:38 as the plan of salvation for today!

3) Church – Those that believe the gospel of Christ are delivered from the power of darkness and become partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12-13). We are in the light, but we must grow as we learn to walk in the light (Eph. 5:8). Satan is working to keep the saints blinded to who we are in Christ (which is why Paul prayed what he did in Eph. 1:15-23) and thereby hinder us from walking worthy of our high and holy calling as members of the Body of Christ. Spiritual understanding precedes and produces a fruitful WALK (Col. 1:9-10). Satan knows this, and therefore he is after our MIND (2 Cor. 11:3). By faith we must put on the new man and the whole armour of God in our daily walk (Eph. 4:17-32; 6:10-20). Failing to do so is to give place to the devil and allow him to set up a strong hold in our mind and life (Eph. 4:27; 2 Cor. 10:4-5). 

When Christ was physically on the earth offering the visible kingdom to Israel, Satan used visible means to oppose it (much devil possession). In this present age Christ is working on this earth spiritually through His spiritual Body and so Satan’s attack is spiritual. Our spiritual weapon by which we can fight the devil is the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17; 2 Tim. 3:16). We must believe and rightly divide the word, or Satan can even use the sword against us!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Ambassadors for Christ

2 Cor. 5:14-21
(14) For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
(15) And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
(16) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
(17) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
(18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
(19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
(20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
(21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

This passage contains the Lord’s commission to the Body of Christ in this present age (v.19b). Many commentators claim that only the ministers of Christ are ambassadors for Christ. According to the context, it is ALL who are “IN Christ” (v.17) that are “ambassadors FOR Christ” (v.20). All who have been reconciled have been given the ministry of reconciliation (v.18). What a privilege to be in Christ! With great privilege comes great responsibility. Those who are in Christ have a work to do for Christ! As ambassadors for Christ we have a message that He has committed to us to take to the world.

The Lord Jesus Christ raised up the apostle Paul to be a pattern and spokesman for the church in this present age, and we are told to follow him in doctrine and practice (1 Cor. 4:16-17; Phil. 4:9). There has never been a greater example in the work of evangelism than the apostle Paul. He was a faithful ambassador (Eph. 6:18-20). There are some who seem to follow Paul doctrinally but not practically. In other words, they know about the mystery of the Body of Christ but they aren’t doing much to help build it! May God help us to have and maintain the right balance between doctrine and practice. We may not be able to take missionary journeys like Paul, but we can all be faithful ambassadors for Christ in the opportunities that God gives us. 

An ambassador is one that is sent to another country to represent his home country. All believers are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), and this world is not our home (Col. 3:1-4). While we live in this world we must represent Christ. Consider four things about ambassadors:

1. They are SENT to a foreign land in a time of peace – The “day of his wrath” (Rev. 6:17) has been postponed. When Israel blasphemed the Holy Ghost in Acts 7 the stage was set for God to pour out His wrath. However, God poured out exceeding abundant grace by saving the leader in the rebellion against Him and revealing to him the great mystery of the Body of Christ! We are living in the “day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

2. They REPRESENT their king and homeland – We are here in “Christ’s stead." Christ is working in the world, but it is through the members of His Body, the church. We should desire for Christ to be made manifest in our life (2 Cor. 4:10-11). We are not to be a worldly people but a heavenly people. We must open our mouth and speak the truth but our life must also back up what we say!

3. An important message is COMMITTED to them (ambassador = messenger, see Prov. 13:17; Isa. 18:2) – Paul said, “we were allowed of God to be put in TRUST with the gospel” (1 Thess. 2:4).

4. They are BROUGHT HOME before war is declared – God will take the Body of Christ off the earth in the mystery of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-52) before the prophesied 70th week of Daniel begins. We are looking for Christ from heaven (Phil. 3:20-21), not the antichrist from earth.

I. Our Message
We have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” which means that it is our responsibility to preach the “word of reconciliation” which has been “committed unto us." Who better to give the message of reconciliation than those who have been reconciled? Reconciliation is to bring two disputing parties together. Lost sinners are “enemies of God” (Rom. 5:10). God is holy and therefore must judge sin. God Himself has done a work that enables Him to bring lost sinners into a right relationship with Him.

How did he make Reconciliation? – The answer is found in v.19 and 21.
1. "God was in Christ" – When Christ shed His blood on the cross it was the pure blood of God (Acts 20:28; Col. 1:14-22)!
2. "reconciling the world unto himself" – He did a work through His death, burial, and resurrection that made it possible for the world to be saved. Christ died for ALL (v.14). This offer did not begin until AFTER the fall of Israel (Rom. 11:15). God will not accept man’s attempts at reconciliation (religion). He has been sinned against and He alone sets the terms for reconciliation.
3. "not imputing their trespasses unto them" – The word impute means to put on the account of. God took the sin of the world off it's account and put it on Himself (v.21)!
4. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" - Christ had no sin, but on the cross He was made to be sin for us so that He could die for our sins (v.18; Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-22). 
5. "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" – Those who receive the offer of reconciliation by faith have the righteousness of Christ imputed to their account. We have no righteousness (Rom. 3:10), but in Christ we are made righteous. Reconciliation is based on imputation. The doctrine of imputation is illustrated in Phile. 17-18.

What happens to those who are reconciled (vs.16-17)? God has made reconciliation possible for the world but it is not applied to a lost sinner unless he receives Christ by faith. Reconciliation is not automatic, otherwise there would be no need for us to “beseech” sinners to “be reconciled to God." Those who are reconciled to are made a “new creature." The moment of salvation we are baptized by the Spirit into Christ and are made members of His spiritual body (1 Cor. 12:13). Our identity is in Him and therefore the old things of the flesh are passed away and all things are new! The Body of Christ is ONE new man. In Christ, the fleshly distinction of Jew and Gentile are done away because we are ONE in Him (Gal. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:16). Under the kingdom commission (Matt. 28:18-20), the distinction between Israel and the nations is in effect. In this age we should not look at people as being Jew or Gentile, but as either being in Christ or not. We don’t know Christ as the King of the Jews, but as the Head of the Body.

II. Our Ministry
There is one primary ministry in the present age and all believers are to take part in it (v.18b). It's about the “WORD of reconciliation." Our ministry is based on God’s word. God is not dealing with the world right now as He will in the future tribulation period. Remember that now is NOT the “day of his wrath” but the “day of salvation." God desires to BESEECH sinners through us to be reconciled to Him. To “beseech” is to ask with urgency. We are to let sinners know that reconciliation to God is available and simply “pray” them (ask them) to believe the gospel. It is not our responsibility to save them, but it is our responsibility to go tell them how to be saved.

God does not want us to make the church worldly in order to draw the lost to our building. The local church is about saved people learning the word of God so we can know the Lord and serve  according to His will. We are to go out into the world to reach the lost. We have the Holy Spirit and the gospel of the grace of God, and that is all we need to be an ambassador for Christ!

We are not to water down the message and make it all about just going to heaven when we die. The message is “be ye reconciled to God.” Everybody wants to go to heaven, but not everybody wants to be reconciled to God!

III. Our Motive
What will motivate us to be faithful ambassadors for Christ? The fear of God is a good motive (vs.9-11). However, the love of Christ is the greatest motivation (vs.14-15)! Not our love, but HIS love! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Born Again (John 3:1-12)

The exact phrase “born again” is used just three times in the Bible: twice by Christ in His conversation with Nicodemus (Jn. 3:3, 7), and once by the apostle Peter in his first epistle (1 Pet. 1:23). It is a common phrase in the religious world but most people who use it are ignorant of what it really means in the doctrinal context of how Christ and Peter used it.

Who was Jesus and Peter talking to when they spoke of being born again? They were speaking to Israel (Rom. 15:8; see "fathers" in 1 Pet. 1:18). Christ from heaven revealed the mystery of the Body of Christ to the apostle Paul (Eph. 3) and used Him to write thirteen epistles that contain specific doctrines for this age of grace (Rom. 11:13; 2 Tim. 2:7). Have you ever noticed that Paul never used the term born again? I am not saying there are no spiritual applications for us in John or 1 Peter, but that the doctrinal interpretation concerns ISRAEL.

v.1 – The first three words connect us back to the end of the previous chapter (Jn. 2:23-25). There were many that believed Jesus was “of God” because of His miracles, but did not truly believe He was the Son of God (Jn. 7:31). The Pharisees were one the major sects among the Jews. They were religious fundamentalists and self-righteous hypocrites. They loved the traditions of their fathers more than the truth of God. There were few among the Pharisees that believed on Christ. It seems that Nicodemus eventually became a disciple (Jn. 19:38-39).

v.2 - Nicodemus is mentioned in three passages (Jn. 3, 7, 19) and each time it is pointed out that he came to Jesus by night. He was interested in what Jesus had to say but he came to Him secretly because of his position as a ruler of the Jews (7:45-52; 12:42-43). Nicodemus believed that Jesus was from God and that God was with Him, but he did not yet believe that He was God. By the way, he was wrong to think that a man can only do miracles if God is with him (2 Thess. 2:9).

v.3 – Christ cut to the chase because He already knew what Nicodemus really wanted to know (Jn. 2:24-25). Nicodemus was evidently thinking about the kingdom that God promised Israel (miracles were signs of the kingdom). By this statement He is telling Nicodemus that his religious works are not sufficient. In order to SEE the kingdom of God, a man must be born again. Being a Jew would not get him into the kingdom (Matt. 3:9). There is a distinction between the kingdom of heaven (limited to earth) and the kingdom of God (broader, includes spiritual realm), but sometimes they are used interchangeably because the kingdom of heaven will be the kingdom of God established on the earth (e.g. Lk. 13:28-29). The Body of Christ is spiritually translated into the kingdom of God upon salvation (Col. 1:13), but we have yet to SEE it (1 Cor. 15:50).

v.4 – Nicodemus is thinking as a natural man (1 Cor. 2:14). 

vs.5-7 – In these three verses Christ explains what He means by being born again. Every man is born of the flesh, but he must be also born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. The water in v.5 is not a reference to water baptism, but to physical birth (v.6 explains v.5). Water is not of the Spirit and therefore could not possibly produce a spiritual birth. Or, the water could possibly also be a reference to the word of God (Jam. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). The bottom line is there is absolutely nothing that a man can do in his flesh to be born again of the Spirit (Jn. 1:11-13; 6:63).

Nicodemus, being a ruler of the Jews, represented his people. The “Ye” in v.7 refers to ISRAEL. They were born as a nation when God delivered them out of Egypt and put them under the old covenant (Ex. 4:22). They failed under that covenant (because of their flesh) and in their apostasy God testified to them, “ye are not my people” (Hos. 1). Israel will be born again as a nation when God delivers them from the antichrist and brings them under a new covenant (Isa. 66:8; 1 Pet. 1:3; 2:9-10). John refers to being born of God in his epistles. When Israel is born again they will be filled with the Holy Ghost and God’s law will be written in their hearts.

v.8 – Christ used the wind to illustrate being born of the Spirit. Just as you cannot see the wind or control it, so it is with being born of the Spirit. You cannot see the wind, but you can hear it and see it’s effects. Again, a man cannot bring about this birth by the efforts of the flesh.

vs.9-12 – Once again, Nicodemus is thinking naturally. Christ rebuked him for being a master of Israel (Rabbi) and not knowing these things (by the way, it is interesting to contrast the abrupt way Christ deals with Nicodemus with the patient way He deals with the Samaritan woman). This means that what Christ is talking about can be found in the OT scriptures (Isa. 66:8; Ezek. 36:24-28; 37:9-14). What Christ teaches in this passage concerns the “earthly things” of Israel’s prophetic program.

The gospel of the grace of God was not revealed in the earthly ministry of Christ. He revealed it later to Paul from heaven (Gal. 1:11-12). Most think it is preached in the Gospel of John because of the emphasis on believing (Jn. 20:30-31). They had to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (e.g. Matt. 16:16; Jn. 1:49; 11:27), not that He would die on the cross for our sins (see Lk. 18:31-34). It is the JEWS that require a sign (compare Jn. 20:30-31 with 1 Cor. 1:22). People have a tendency to read Paul’s gospel back into John (e.g. 3:16). It is one thing to use some verses in John by way of spiritual application, but when you teach people that the doctrine in the Gospel of John is for this present age, it presents real problems (see Jn. 5:28-29 and 15:1-10 for example).

The apostle Paul taught that we are regenerated by the Spirit of God when we trust Christ (Titus 3:5-7). Regeneration is not reformation of the flesh (Rom. 7:18; 8:8), but a new life in Christ. We are made a new creature. We become children of God by faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28).

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