If we believe the Bible to be true and it's words to be literal prophecies of present and future events, then we have to know that at some point in time Christians will be faced with a time of great persecution. I know some say we have already seen persecution and that the disciples themselves were killed and martyred for the name of Christ. So many believe that those times were what Christ was referring to. But I'd like to just point out something. Christ said that His coming would not happen until "All things which are written may be fulfilled." So I don't believe the Disciples were the only ones who would face extreme persecution. The Word of God is never understood by using one verse or chapter. A scripture can only be understood when it is put into place along side the scriptures around it, and the entire Word of God. "Line upon line, and precept upon precept."
Christ, Paul and others give details of a future time where great tribulation and times of trouble will come for believers as well as the wrath of God being poured out against the wicked. I know some believe that believers will not be here for those times, but i have to ask this question: If we will not be here for those times, why does the Word of God tell us to watch and be aware of the signs of this time? For example, in Mathew 24 Christ says:
"So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
In Luke 21 He gives a similar warning.
"And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by...... For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled...... And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
If we are absent from these events, why do we need to be mindful of them? Why was it so important to be forewarned these times would come? Remember, these words were not written to the unbeliever, and do not deal with those who are not of God. These words are directed specifically to those who bare the testimony of Christ, and none other.
Over half of the New Testament deals directly with end times events, or "The end of the Age" and on that note, a huge part of the Old Testament is prophetically written about end times as well. So why is it we don't want to talk about it? Why is it we don't feel it to be significant enough to be a part of our studies and teachings? Why would we not want to be prepared for what we have been told is coming? Especially when it is such a significant part of the Word of God. We do not live in the world of our youths, we live in a world where prophecy is being revealed almost daily. But it seems like no one wants to acknowledge this to be true.
How often does the Word of God teach us to live in the past? Never. We are taught to live in the future. We are taught to live in the promises of God right? The Devil is who teaches us to live in our pasts. He tries to keep us there so that we are not focused on the promises and knowledge of our future's with God through Jesus Christ. I believe this is our enemies greatest weapon against us. While the Word of God continues to reveal Christ and His Word to be true even to this moment, we seem to be stuck in the past and are afraid of the changes taking place right before our eyes. This makes us very vulnerable, and we seem to be doing the same old things we have always done as we don't seem to recognize the present or the future. I myself am guilty of being naive of the changes taking place outside my own little world and community. Somehow, even though I have been shown and told in the Word of God these things were going to happen, I find myself surprised and shocked almost everyday. In reality, I shouldn't be surprised at all. The Lord told me in His Word the day would come.
We are standing at the end of the age, and the signs given in the Word of God tell us this very clearly. I have been taught all my life the Lord could come any day, and I guess He could as no one knows the day or the hour. But it does say we would know the season. I believe that if we are standing in and on the Word of God, we are standing in a place where we can see what lies ahead. A servant is not greater than his Master, and if Christ had to endure His beating before the Cross, why would it not be the same for us? Christ was prepared to withstand the persecution before the reward, and I believe that through His Word, we can be prepared as well.
I have been reading about different thoughts and opinions people have about who the antichrist is, and where they think he'll come from. There are a lot of different opinions when it comes to this subject, but as I was reading some of them the Lord brought a statement I've made in the past to my mind. As I have talked with people, especially the last few years, I've made the same statement a hundred times. I've told people, "If the Devil ever showed up as himself, you'd recognize him immediately. Instead, he shows up as a version of something that may seem to be good, or even of God. But by the time he is finished in his deception, what seemed to be harmless, turns out to be a scheme designed to destroy you. The Devil never shows up as the Devil, he always shows up as an "Angel of Light".
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The most horrific and evil people in this world have never introduced themselves like, "Hi, my name is Bob, and I'm going to cut you into small pieces and eat you." A child molester never goes up to a child and says, "Hi, I'm Chester the child molester, and I'm going to take you away from your parents forever and cause you a lot of harm." Instead they are very deceptive and manipulative in their actions, while claiming to be harmless and helpful. But if you notice, a common denominator in the most evil of people is that after a while, their greed for more and arrogance always leads to their destruction. As they get bolder and more confident in their ability to get away with their crime, they get more lax and less worried about hiding who they really are. Is it not interesting that these evil men and women, fall into the same trap as the Devil himself?
I don't know about you, but the things that have hurt me the most in my life never looked hurtful or evil from the beginning. It was only after I was in the middle of it fighting for my life that I could truly see it for what it really was. Even then if it were not for God's help and wisdom, there would have been no way I could have been able to discern what was happening, what to do, or how to get out. Some people might say, "I can't believe you were stupid enough to have gotten in that situation to begin with." But I would say, thank God that I endured those things in my past, because maybe now I won't be blind to them in my future. I would rather endure trials in this life that brought me to a deeper understanding of Christ and the works of my enemy, than to die in my foolish blindness engulfed in a false sense of reality.
I guess my main point in sharing this is in hopes that you might realize something. As I read through these different writings on Antichrist I noticed a very common denominator. It seemed that in most every case, the writer seemed to believe that Antichrist was going to just burst on the scene as the Antichrist. But that couldn't be further from the truth. The Antichrist is already on the scene and has been since Paul said, "The Spirit of Antichrist is already at work", over 2000 years ago. He has never shown himself as Antichrist, instead he has shown himself as false truths, false prophets, and a false sense of who God truly is. He has hid behind pulpits, claiming to preach the Gospel. He has fought for "Religious" freedom in the name of God, and today he has enveloped himself in equal rights and free speech. All of which seem good and true, but underneath are seeking to destroy the foundations of the Truth of the Gospel and God's Word. Jesus said, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." These words not only pertain to the truth of the Gospel, but to anything that may seem to be good. But without a doubt, if it does not agree completely with the Word of God, it is in no way good at all.
Just remember, you will never hear the Devil say, "Hi, I'm the Devil. Follow me." But he will always tell you, "Hi, I'm God. Do you need a ride home?"
The Devil has done an amazing job of taking the Truth of God's Word and bending and twisting it into a false form of Godliness and false doctrine.
The Bible says that, "The power of God is the Word of God." The Word of God is THE power of God. So as the Devil has slithered his way into the doctrine and teachings of many religions and individual beliefs, it has watered down the Truth of God's Word. It's kind of like diluting soap. The more you dilute it the less effective it becomes.
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3, "3 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
If you think about what this is saying, it gives us a description of the habits and characteristics of those who have a form of Godliness, but deny it's power. In other words, they have a form of religion, but deny the Word of God. If this isn't exactly what is taking place in our society and our churches, I don't know what is.
It seems like everyday I hear about some "New revelation" that uses God's Word to sell a new form of religion. A new "Word from God" that will cure all your problems, make you rich, or save your soul from hell. I know that if we are seeking, we do find "New" things. But they're not new, they're just new to us. The problem is when people begin to preach concepts, or new "Words from God" that are not in alignment with the rest of the Word of God. I love to learn new things, but what I may learn cannot contradict what is written in the Word of God.
This is my point. Martin Luther started the modern church movement when he truly studied the scriptures and sought after the Truth. He put his life on the line when he broke away from the Roman Catholic church and began to share and spread the Truths he had found. For years and years after his stand for the Truth, the Gospel of Christ has spread like wild fire to the point it has reached the ends of the Earth and thousands upon thousands have come to Christ. But the problem is this. Christ warned us, Paul warned us, Peter warned us as well as others that there would be those who would come in the last days that would be false prophets. Preachers of Christ, but preaching false Truths and doctrine proclaiming to be of Christ, but speaking lies and false truths. Jesus said, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. "Behold, I have told you before."
The only thing more dangerous than a person without God, is a person who is preaching a false God. A false prophet preaching a false truth about a false Christ. This is exactly what the Devil has accomplished by watering down the Gospel. A form of lukewarm Godliness,that is lacking the power there of.... The Truth of the Word of God.
I've mentioned how the Word of God is an offense to many. Well, last week I was kicked out of someones home, who I care for very much by the way, over them becoming very offended by the Truth of what the Bible actually says, in comparison to what they were telling me. I've said before, that one's beliefs are very important to them, and I try to keep that at the forefront of my mind when trying to share things with people. But we cannot disregard the Truth to appease even those we love.
Religion and many doctrines have become so woven and intertwined within the Word of God that if we do not know the Word ourselves, we come to a place where we accept doctrine as Gospel. It amazes me sometimes in talking with pastors and preachers at how many of them have become so headstrong in their beliefs, that they look at me as a false teacher, or against the Church, for quoting the Word of God to them.
To give an example of this, take 2 Thessalonians 2:7. "For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way." (NIV) I like the NIV's version of this because it is very clear and accurate in translation from the Greek. Many have used this verse to constitute a pre tribulation rapture. But study it, and seek it out. Reference it to other scriptures. "Line upon line, and precept upon precept" is how we are to seek the Word of God, and if we do that with this verse, it has nothing to do with the rapture at all. But if you tell someone that, they get offensive very quickly. But here is the thing, besides someone telling you that this verse has to do with the rapture, where is one supporting verse to uphold this belief? I personally can't find one, and believe me I've tried, because I have been taught that my whole life. I have been taught that the "The One who holds back" in this verse is the Church. The NIV uses the term "The One" to describe this, and the King James says "He". The Church is never described as a "He", it is always described as a "She" as we are the "Bride of Christ." On the other hand, every time God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit is referenced to, they are always a "He". We know that God and Christ are no longer in this world, but there is one who is, and that is the Holy Spirit, and "He" is "The One" being referred to in this verse. Let's look at it piece by piece.
The first part says, "For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work." We know from the Word of God that "The secret power of lawlessness" is the spirit of antichrist. Paul talks about it a lot and tells us that the spirit of antichrist is already at work even in his time. The second part of the verse then tells us what is at work against the spirit of antichrist. "But the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way." There's that word "He" again. "Till He is taken out of the way." So this verse could literally read, "The spirit of antichrist is already at work, but the Holy Spirit who holds it back will continue to hold it back until He is taken out of the way." This is where it get's a little sticky. Even though the Holy Spirit dwells in believers, He is not confined exclusively within the Body of believers. He is a part of God and just like in Genesis as He flowed upon the face of the waters, He is a independent entity but part of God Himself. He also worked independently in the conception of Christ in Mary, so we know that He is not confined within the four walls of the temple of the believer. He is omnipresent, and working to draw the unbeliever to God outside the Body of Christ, as well as from within. I say all this because many believe that the Holy Spirit only lives within the believer, but once again, the Bible never says that or implies it.
Soooo.... This verse is simply warning us that the spirit of antichrist is at work in this world, BUT, the Spirit of God is at work as well and will hold the antichrist at bay, until He is taken out of the way. The book of Revelation directly references this in Revelation 13.
"5The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7IT WAS GIVEN POWER TO WAGE WAR AGAINST GOD'S HOLY PEOPLE and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world."
The beast is the spirit of antichrist and empowers the antichrist. This is the "Secret power of lawlessness". The beast is then given authority. What would allow the beast this authority? "But the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way." When the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way, the beast then has the authority to do what the Bibles speaks of in Revelation 13. As long as the Holy Spirit stands in his way, he has no authority to harm us. (Some of you are starting to see this now. I can feel it.)
When I started putting this together, the Lord gave me two examples of this in the history of His Word. The first was the story of Job, the second was the death of Christ on the Cross. How could death ever be imposed upon the Son of God, if the hedge had not been removed from around Him. How do you think Christ endured the pain and suffering of being beaten half to death and then being hung upon the Cross. No man would have ever been able to even endure the beating, much less the Cross. God kept Him from dying until every Word had been fulfilled, and when, "It was finished", the Father removed His hedge from about Christ, and Christ acknowledged this when He said, "My God, my God, why hath thou forsaken me?" That word forsaken means abandoned. In other words, "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" Christ new when His Father's Spirit had left Him alone to die as a man. Wow...... thank you Lord....
Job felt the same thing during his time of persecution. The Word says, "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil." (Job 1:1) What was he?.... Perfect.
" 8And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? 9Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. 12And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD."
Right here God removed His hedge of protection from around Job and allowed him to be persecuted of the devil. I won't go into all the similarities of Job and Christ, I'd have to write a book. But Job was a picture of the "Suffering Servant" Jesus Christ through and through. Once again, picture after picture of Christ throughout the Old Testament.
This is just one example of how we have taken a verse and have made it something it is not and have taught it to people over and over again. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is not a picture of a pre tribulation rapture, it is almost the opposite. It is a picture of the last days persecution of the Believers of Christ when the beast is given the authority to overcome us, and God's hedge of protection is removed from around us to allow the plan of God to take it's course, and for the Word of God to be fulfilled. Some of you may say I'm splitting hairs, but there is a grave danger in these things, this verse in particular. If believers have been taught they will never have to endure a single day of the tribulation, and the time comes and it has begun, how many will fall by the wayside because of fear and unbelief? Will they not feel abandoned as well?
"25And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." (Luke 21:25-28)