Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Pre-Regathering of Israel in Unbelief

The following is a response to a question that was asked me concerning the 1948 re-establishment of Israel to their land while in a state of unbelief. Was it was Scriptural?

The idea of Israel returning and being established in the land while in a state of unbelief is absolutely drawn from Scripture. First of all, consider that Israel as a nation has never once existed in a state of true covenantal obedience to God. As a people, they have not only broken the covenant of God which they bound themselves to under solemn oath (Exodus 24:7-8), but they have also rejected the God of the covenant who alone is the wellspring of life and the very enabler of the covenant. Their numerous captivities never once produced the change of heart that is required for them to be the inheritance God intends them to be: a nation of Him, and through Him and to Him. Consider the results of the Holocaust: Jewish sentiments after the people had just gone through one of the most appalling sagas of history was not "God, we repent", but "Never again!" And not a "never again because God will be with us", but because "we won't ever allow something like that to happen again. Our own arm will see to that." Not the disposition of contrition that we would expect necessary for Israel to return to the land after 2000 years! But they have returned. What does this mean in the light of Scripture?

The solution to the Jewish question is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Israel has been blind ever since they became a people; they have never truly known the God of their covenant, nor have they understood their election by grace. "Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you." (Deut. 9:24) What is required for them to turn to God in spirit and in truth? What is determined by God to bring this about? Nothing less than the second coming of Jesus Christ following the unparalleled time of Jacob's trouble.

Jeremiah 30 and 31, which have to do with this event of tribulation and revelation, begins first with a command for Jeremiah to write the prophecy down in a book and seal it for the "days to come". I believe that those "days" refer to ours today. Such language signifies an extended period of time between the giving of the subsequent prophecy and its fulfillment, seeing past the Babylonian captivity and into the latter days
(for none of the Jeremiah 30-31 prophesies were fulfilled in the Babylonian time; Jacob's trouble, Israel's regeneration, etc.). But what does God say immediately after this sealing (30:2-3), and immediately before the verses concerning Jacob's trouble (30:5-7)?

"For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." (Jeremiah 30:3)

Here you'll find no language describing repentance, humility or a godly return to the land. There is no sense of Israel returning to an everlasting possession, as in Isaiah 60:21. It's just a fact. God is stating that they shall return to their land in the latter days immediately prior to the great tribulation.

Notice another, or second, regathering prophesied in 30:10, "Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid." AFTER the great tribulation, when Israel shall AGAIN be scattered from the land into the Gentile nations, as the Scriptures have foretold, Christ shall appear in glory and will gather them back to Himself and to His land. "He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock." (Jeremiah 31:10) Then, and only then, will Israel stand before God in bright shining righteousness, a nation redeemed from death by the blood of Jesus Christ, established in her covenant by her covenant keeping God. Thus there are two regatherings spoken of here in this one chapter: a return to the land in unbelief, and a return to the land in grace. A return in preparation for Christ's return, and a return in consequence of Christ's return.

Israel becoming a nation again in 1948 should cause every Christian believer to rejoice and lift up their heads for their redemption draws nigh. It is one of the greatest signs of the times, and though there are many very evil days ahead of us, whatever darkness there shall be is but a momentary light affliction in comparison to the weight of glory that shall be revealed when our Lord Jesus shall come. Praise God!

For Christ to come, first antichrist must revealed. For antichrist to revealed, first the temple must be built. For the temple to built, first Israel must be a nation again. That happened in 1948. When will the temple be built? Let us watch and pray, and occupy ourselves in preaching the gospel to every creature, that we may be found in Him, doing His will, patient in faith, waiting in hope.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

One Faith

"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all." - Ephesians 4:4-6

There are many beliefs in this world, but there is only one faith. There are many winds of doctrine, but there is only one truth.

Today, it is often said concerning various religious convictions that such are all "faiths". We hear it said, "the Muslim faith" or the "Jewish faith", or "the Baptist faith", but this type of thinking is not accurate. There are not many faiths, just as there are not many Christs nor many gods, and here is why: Faith fixes itself upon the truth, and without the truth faith cannot exist, therefore, just as the nature of truth is exclusive and singular, so also the nature of faith is exclusive and singular. There is one faith, and everything else besides that is speculation, opinion and belief, not grounded in the truth.

Let us examine this wonderful faith! The Bible says that faith is something precious (2 Peter 1:1) and as rare as gold (1 Peter 1:7). It is the one thing that can please God (Hebrews 11:6) and without faith all else is sin (Romans 14:23). It is most holy (Jude 1:20) and we are told to contend for it (Jude 1:3). By faith we overcome the world (1 John 5:4), and through faith we glorify God (Romans 4:20). What is faith, that it is given so much prominence? What kind of a heavenly gift is this? What inestimable value! This is not an ordinary object, but a rare and precious treasure.

Let us look at faith in action. "Abraham believed God." (Romans 4:3) Here we see faith in it's truest and perfect sense. One night, God showed Abraham the stars and promised him that as innumerable as the stars were in the sky, so shall his offspring be. But let's suppose Abraham had replied, "Yes God, I believe you! As innumerable as the stars are in the sky, so shall Lot's offspring be!" Or, "Yes God, I believe you! My offspring shall be as numerous as the fingers on my hand!" What? Would that be faith? No! Abraham may have believed his own speculations, but he would not of had any faith; for faith is believing God, what God has said, nothing less and nothing more. In this way, only faith glorifies God, for faith says, "You are God. What you declare is true. I believe you, and bow my knee to your Lordship." That is what faith says, and that is how faith glorifies God.

The most important thing God has said is that which He has said by the Gospel of His Son:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
(John 3:16)

"But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
(Hebrews 9:26)

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
(Romans 4:5)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been declared loudly and clearly, and this is what God has said: All men have sinned and deserve wrath for their wicked deeds, yet all can be made right with God freely by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Eternal life is the gift of God which you cannot earn, it has already been purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Receive this life by faith, without works, and you will never perish; but if you try and offer to God your works rather than trust fully in the offering which was already made, Christ will profit you nothing. This is what God has said. Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone, by grace, through faith, and not of works.

Do as many good deeds as you may, but without faith "it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6) Pluck out your eyes, cut of your hands and give all your money to charity, but "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23), and "all your righteousnesses are as filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6) Any attempt to please, approach, satisfy, or even believe God apart from His spoken word is as blasphemous as pulling Him off the throne and erecting an image upon it of your own likeness. If faith glorifies God, then unbelief assassinates Him (albeit in vain). Unbelief says, "No God, I will not believe you. You are a liar. I will believe whatever I choose to believe; I refuse to glorify you as God."

Once we rightly define faith, then we can understand man's dire condition as described by God in Psalm 14 and restated in Romans 1-3: "There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Men are fallen and everything about them is ruined by unbelief. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, "When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me." (John 16:8-9) The world refuses to glorify God by not believing in Christ, and persists in doing things their own way.

By this, also, we understand Galatians 3:12, where it says that "the law is not of faith." This Scripture used to confuse me before God brought me into this understanding about faith. For I thought, "How is it that the law is not of faith? Don't you have to believe that keeping the law is the right thing to do?" The answer came loud and clear: Ah, but belief is not faith; nor was the law given for righteousness. As long as you are trying to fulfill the law you are not believing Me, but a hopeless vanity, for I have said that righteousness comes not by the law but by faith in the blood of My Son Jesus Christ. "But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Romans 9:31-33)

There is one faith, and that faith is "the faith of the Son of God", without which no one man can glorify God, and without which no man can be right with God. Belief is general, but faith is specific. By way of analogy, an electric appliance is dead until it plugs into a specific source. You are the appliance, God is the electricity, Christ is the outlet, and faith is the cord. You can try to plug into whatever else all day long, but there will be no power and you will still be dead until you plug into the prescribed electric outlet (Christ). Faith in Christ, who died for sins, once for all, and rose again, is the only way to be righteous before God. God has spoken. Christ alone saves. Believe on Him and you will not be ashamed.

Do you have this one faith? It is most precious and rare. It is specific; it lays hold on Christ; it glorifies God. You are blessed if you do! But dear reader, if you do not... if you are still attempting to keep the law thinking that this will obtain your salvation... or if you are chasing after others gods and practices... you have only belief, which is as common as grass... it is impotent opinion; it does not regard God's word; it believes what it wills; it blasphemes God. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, unbelief, and everything evil.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Weber State University

Hello saints,

It's time for another update, and I hope this finds you all well, strong and in Lord, and rejoicing in His grace.

April was a busy month. With the weather shifting more and more from winter into spring, there's also been the opportunity to head onto the campus scene, taking the gospel to the student population once again. Brad and I spent three days at Weber State University in Ogden earlier in the month, handing out literature and open air preaching.

Though the weather was suppose to be nice, it seemed to vary dramatically each day. Valley weather, and being at such a high elevation (nearly 5000 ft!), tends to do that. So the day might start sunny and quickly turn to snow... the first two days were like this, but we preached and handed out tracts regardless, engaging in many fruitful conversations.

The first day, no sooner had I begun preaching, a student who had listened to me preach last year chimed in and we had excellent dialogue concerning the difference between Joseph Smith's 'gospel' and the gospel of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. I spoke to him about the law, how God has shut up the whole world under sin so that they may be justified by faith in Christ, while other people listened in. Ryan, who was LDS, afterwards exclaimed in shock, "Are you saying that all I have to do is just humble myself, go down low, admit I'm a sinner who has no righteousness, and call upon God to for mercy to save me!?" It was amazing to see him 'get it', even though he didn't receive it that day; many Mormons do not even get that far! He was intrigued by the thought that God justified those who had no righteousness of their own, and came back the third day to talk more about it. The preaching of the cross is indeed foolishness to all other perishing religions, which teach that you must work to achieve acceptance with God.

On day two I noticed a fellow sitting down on the bench listening to my message, and afterwards he came over to talk with me. He said he was searching for the meaning of life but was struggling with faith. We talked for quite a while, and I was able to share with him that he was spiritually dead and needed to be born again, which was the work of the Spirit alone. Before he had to go, he said, "I want to hear from God, but it never seems like He speaks to me." I replied, "You're talking with me now, how do you know God didn't arrange this conversation?" Very thoughtfully, he said, "You could very well be right... I was actually halfway to my class, and I don't know why, but I felt compelled to turn around and come back and listen to you."

There were others Brad and I spoke with too. One young lady who had heard us last fall saw us again and expressed her dislike of us preaching the way we do, but stayed around to listen, and the last day she changed her attitude, was very friendly, and contributed to the discussions. Another young man, a Roman Catholic, was challenged to study the Scriptures and not just believe what the church told him to believe. He admitted to having believed without question, and decided he would look at the Scriptures for himself.

Brad also was able to hand out plenty of free books, and had a steady queue of conversations with students. Several Christians spoke with Brad and were really encouraged to get serious about their faith. We also were delighted to link up with two Christian-workers from Ogden who spend most of the day with us on Thursday. It was encouraging for us to see brothers coming together with one mind, and they were glad to see how the gospel was being spread on campus through literature and preaching.

"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God." (2 Corinthians 9:8,11)

How easy it is for God to do HIS work! He is the God of all grace, and through Him nothing shall be impossible.

Thank you all so much for your prayers. Please continue to pray for me, that Christ to would fulfill His purposes in my life, that I would grow up into Him in all things, that I would be diligent to hear His voice, respond by faith, and follow Him into every battle.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Your brother in Christ,