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Monday, June 27, 2016

The Holy Spirit in the End Times

The Holy Spirit in the End Times

The nature and role of the Holy Spirit in
preparation for the return of Jesus

Observations by Dr. David R. Reagan

The Holy Spirit in the end timesOne hundred years ago, as the 20th Century began, the Holy Spirit was not alive and well in the Church. Christendom was in bondage to the theology of Deism which held that miracles had ceased, all aspects of the supernatural (such as angels and demons) had been laid to rest, and that God was a grand old man in the sky, best identified as "The Great I Was."
A Deceptive Doctrine
The Church had been deceived into adopting a theological argument which had the effect of stifling and quenching the Holy Spirit. The argument was based on a statement in 1 Corinthians 13:10 — ". . . when the perfect comes, the partial [prophecy, tongues, and knowledge] will be done away." It was argued that the "perfect" was the completion of the perfect, inerrant Word of God. Thus, it was argued, all supernatural gifts of the Spirit, as well as other manifestations of the supernatural, ended with the completion of the New Testament canon around 95 AD.
To this was added the argument that gifts of the Spirit could only be passed along to others by the Apostles through the laying on of hands. Therefore, when the last Apostle died (John in about 95 AD), the gifts ceased.
Flawed Arguments
The arguments were so neat. But they were full of holes. For one thing, they flew in the face of experience. Throughout Church history, there is abundant evidence of spiritual gifts being experienced on the part of the small minority who continued to believe in them. There had also been major outbreaks of the supernatural, as in the camp meetings on the American frontier in the early 1800's.
The argument revolving around 1 Corinthians 13:10 was faulty because it denied the contextual meaning of the word "perfect." In context, the word refers to the return of Jesus. This is made clear in verse 12: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then [when the perfect comes] face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully . . ." The argument also overlooked the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 1:7 that all the gifts of the Spirit will continue to be operative until Jesus returns: ". . . you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Finally, the argument about the Apostles passing the gifts along to others was a sham because it attempted to convert the gifts of the Spirit into gifts of the Apostles. The Apostles may have been able to lay their hands on people and pray for them to receive certain gifts, but the gifts came from the Holy Spirit, not from the Apostles. Furthermore, every believer receives at least one supernatural gift of the Spirit at the time of his or her salvation (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Paul put it this way: "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7).
An Important Prophecy
The anti-Holy Spirit mentality of the Church in 1900 also ignored the clear teaching of Bible prophecy that the end times would be characterized by a great outpouring of God’s Spirit. The key passage is found in Joel 2:28-29:
It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
The Church’s position in 1900 was that this prophecy had been fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in 31 AD and was no longer applicable. It was argued that the "last days" began at Pentecost when the Church was established (Hebrews 1:2 and 1 Peter 1:20). Also, it was pointed out that the Apostles themselves quoted this passage from Joel when they were asked what was going on as they began "to speak with other tongues" (Acts 2:4).
More Flawed Arguments
But again, these arguments about Joel 2:28-29 ignored the context of the passage. Note that the passage beings with the words, "It will come about after this . ." After what? If you back up and read verses 18 through 27 you will see that the chapter is talking about the regathering and resettlement of the Jews in the land of Israel — something that did not occur until the 20thCentury.
Also, the preceding verses speak of the outpouring of the Spirit symbolically as the "early and latter rain," referring to the two rainy seasons of Israel. In other words, the prophet was saying there will be two great outpourings of the Spirit. The "early rain" was at Pentecost and continued throughout the early history of the Church, as recorded in the book of Acts. The "latter rain" would immediately precede the return of the Messiah in judgment. This is made clear again by the passage itself in verses 30-31: "And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes." This is classic language about the Second Coming of the Messiah.
Yes, the Bible speaks of the Church Age as the last days: "He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you" (1 Peter 1:20). But it also speaks of the Lord’s return as the last days when it says Christians are being protected "by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time . . . at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:5, 7).
We have been in the "last times" since the Day of Pentecost. We are now in the latter part of the last times.
Joel 2:28-29 was fulfilled in part on the Day of Pentecost. Its total fulfillment was yet future in 1900, awaiting the "latter rain" that would be one of the signs of the Lord’s soon return.
A Move of God
The Church had its jaw set against the Holy Spirit as the 20th Century began. But God was ready to burst on the scene with a great move of the Spirit in order to prepare the way for the return of His Son. That move began at a poverty-stricken school in Topeka, Kansas in January 1901 when a student named Agnes Ozman received the gift of tongues. A year later a great Holy Spirit revival broke out in the English area of Wales, led by a remarkable young man named Evan Roberts. Then, in 1906, the Spirit fell with great power on a home meeting in Los Angeles led by a black preacher named William J. Seymour.
At Seymour’s meeting, spiritual gifts were manifested, spectacular healings occurred, people were "slain in the Spirit," and sinners were saved. The meeting grew quickly and had to be moved to a dilapidated building on Azusa Street. It continued for almost four years, with preaching every day, three times a day!
The Azusa Street meeting gave birth to the Pentecostal Movement. The latter rain had begun. But it was only a sprinkle in terms of its impact on Christendom at large. The Pentecostals were written off as "Holy Rollers," and their religion was considered appropriate only for the superstitious and uneducated. But they were paving the way for a rediscovery of the Spirit.
The Latter Rain
The latter rain did not become a downpour until after the regathering of the Jewish people to the land of Israel (1900 - 1945) and the re-establishment of the state (May 14, 1948). Then, just as Joel had prophesied, the heavens opened and the downpour began — first, with the anointing of Billy Graham’s ministry in 1949 and then with the emergence of the Charismatic Movement in the 1950's and 60's.
Today, much of Christendom is caught up in the Third Wave Movement that grew out of the Charismatic Movement in the 1970's and 80's. It is made up of churches that fully recognize the ministry of the Holy Spirit, including the significance of Spirit-led worship, the continuing validity of spiritual gifts, the reality of spiritual warfare, and the importance of a Spirit-filled life in winning that warfare. However, unlike the Pentecostals and Charismatics, the Third Wave Movement does not put an emphasis on the gift of tongues as the sign of having been baptized in the Spirit.
Confusion About the Spirit
The 20th Century has been the century of the rediscovery of the Holy Spirit. Yet, widespread ignorance and confusion about the Holy Spirit still characterizes the Church. A 1997 poll by the Barna Research Group showed that only 40% of Americans believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit (as opposed to 90% who believe in the existence of God). But what was even more stunning was the response of "born-again Christians." More than 5 out of 10 born-again Christians (55%) agreed that the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God’s presence or power but not a living entity! It appears that Christians have been brainwashed into believing that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal power like "The Force" in Star Wars.
Why is there so much continuing confusion about the Spirit? I think it relates in part to the self-effacing role of the Spirit. As we will see, one of the primary roles of the Spirit is to point people to Jesus as Savior and Lord. He does not draw attention to Himself. He works behind the scenes. Another factor relates to the many symbols that are used of the Spirit in Scripture — things like wind, rain, and fire. These symbols seem to communicate an impersonal force.
Our Creator God has been revealed to us as our Father. That is a concept we can grasp. Jesus took on a human body and lived among us. We have biographies of Him by eye witnesses. But for most people, the Holy Spirit is a shadowy entity difficult to grasp. Trying to get hold of the concept for many is like trying to nail jello to a wall.
The Identity of the Spirit
So, let’s look for a moment at the identify of the Holy Spirit. The first thing you need to keep in mind is that the Spirit is never referred to as an "it." The Spirit is not an inanimate object. The Spirit is not, for example, the Bible, as some contend. The Spirit is intimately related to the Bible because it was the Spirit who inspired the biblical writers (2 Timothy 3:16), but the Bible is the "sword of the Spirit," not the Spirit Himself (Ephesians 6:17). The Spirit works through the Bible to draw people to Jesus, although the work of the Spirit is not confined to the testimony of the Scriptures. The Spirit can witness directly to our spirits (Romans 8:16).
The Holy Spirit is a person. The Spirit is always referred to directly in the Scriptures as "He." Referring to the Spirit, Jesus told His disciples that when He left, He would send a "Helper." ("Paracletos" in Greek, meaning a helper or intercessor.) Jesus added, "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:7-8). To Jesus, the Holy Spirit was "He" not "it."
The Bible says the Holy Spirit can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4). It also says the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30). These are characteristics of a personality. You cannot lie to a chair, or quench a wall, or grieve a light fixture.
The Holy Spirit is the supernatural presence of God in the world today. Paul put it this way: "The Lord is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:17). Luke stated that the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of Jesus" (Acts 16:6-7). Peter equated the Holy Spirit with God the Father when he told Ananias and Sapphira that they had lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3) and then added, "You have not lied to men but to God" (Acts 5:4). Remember that old axiom in geometry: "Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other."
The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons who constitute the One God. That’s the reason we are told to be baptized "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). As such He is co-equal to Jesus and the Father, but He plays a different role.
The Work of the Spirit
This brings us to the work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has two roles — one toward the unbeliever and another within the believer. With regard to the unbeliever, the Holy Spirit is the Father’s Evangelist. With regard to the believer, He is the Father’s Potter. Let’s consider these two roles in detail.
Jesus summarized the work of the Spirit regarding unbelievers. He said that the Holy Spirit would "convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:8). Specifically, the Spirit convicts unbelievers of their sinfulness, impresses upon them the righteousness of Jesus, and points them to the judgment of Satan (John 16:9-11). The Bible makes it clear that no person can come to Jesus apart from the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Jesus put it this way: "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). And how does the Father draw unbelievers to Jesus? Through the Holy Spirit who bears witness of Jesus as the Father’s only begotten Son (John 15:26 and 1 John 5:7).
When a person responds to the witness of the Spirit by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, he is "born-again" (John 3:3), and the Father gives that person a very special birthday present — the Holy Spirit! That’s right, the Holy Spirit ceases to be on the outside drawing the person to Jesus. Instead, He moves inside the person and takes up residence within him (Romans 8:9). And when He does so, His role changes.
The Spirit in the Believer
Within the believer, the Holy Spirit is the Father’s Potter. His role is to shape each believer into the image of Jesus (Romans 8: 29 and Galatians 4:19), a process which the Bible refers to as sanctification (Romans 6:22 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13). The Spirit does this by first of all gifting us. Each person, when he or she is born- again, is given at least one gift of the Spirit, and sometimes more than one (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). And if we are good stewards of our gifts, using them to advance the Lord’s kingdom, we may be given additional gifts during our spiritual walk with the Lord.
The Spirit also accomplishes His work of sanctification by guiding us (Romans 8:14), comforting us (Acts 9:31), strengthening us (Philippians 4:13 and 1 John 4:4), praying for us (Romans 8:26-27), encouraging us (Romans 15:5), defending us (Luke 12:11-12), and illuminating us as we study the Word (1 John 2:27).
The work of sanctification is life long. It continues until we die or we are raptured to meet the Lord in the sky. The Holy Spirit wants to fine tune us into the image of Jesus because the Father is interested in nothing less than perfection in our lives (James 1:4 and 1 Peter 1:13-16). Yes, He is a God of grace who will accept us in all our imperfections, but He desires that we be perfected (Matthew 5:48).
Think of it this way — when a child takes his first step, his father rejoices. But no father is going to be satisfied with that one step. He will not be satisfied until the child can walk and then run without falling. For this reason, Christians are commanded to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).
Are you filled with the Spirit? Have you been baptized in the Spirit? Are you walking in the power of the Spirit? Do you know what these terms mean?

Friday, June 24, 2016

What Happens When You Die?

What Happens When You Die?

Soul Sleep or Conscious Existence?

by Dr. David R. Reagan

If several years ago you had asked me what happens when you die, I would have given you a pathetic answer. I would have told you that when you die your soul goes to sleep until the Lord returns. At the return of the Lord, your soul is resurrected and judged, and you are either consigned to Hell or allowed to enter Heaven.
My conception of Heaven was that of a spirit world where the saved spend eternity as disembodied spirits, floating around on clouds, playing harps.

A Mistaken View

Needless to say, I couldn't get very excited about all that. I sure didn't like the idea of being unconscious in the grave for eons of time. Nor could I develop any enthusiasm for the prospect of being a disembodied spirit with no particular identity or personality. And the idea of playing a harp for all eternity was downright scandalous, for I had been taught that instrumental music in worship was an abomination!
You can imagine, therefore, the sense of shock I felt when I started studying Bible prophecy and discovered that all these ideas of mine about life after death were foreign to God's Word. But my shock quickly gave way to exhilaration when I discovered what the Lord really has in store for me.

The Biblical View

I learned from God's Word that when those of us who are Christians die, our spirits never lose their consciousness (Phils. 1:23). Instead, our fully conscious spirits are immediately ushered into the presence of Jesus by His holy angels (2 Cor. 5:8).
Our spirits remain in the Lord's presence until He appears for His Church. At that time, He brings our spirits with Him, resurrects our bodies, reunites our spirits with our bodies, and then glorifies our bodies, perfecting them and rendering them eternal (1 Thess 4:13-18).
We return with Him to Heaven in our glorified bodies where we are judged for our works to determine our degrees of rewards (2 Cor. 5:10). When this judgment is completed, we participate in a glorious wedding feast to celebrate the union of Jesus and His Bride, the Church (Rev. 19:7-9).

Witnesses of Glory

At the conclusion of the feast, we burst from the heavens with Jesus, returning with Him to the earth in glory (Rev. 19:14). We witness His victory at Armageddon, we shout "Hallelujah!" as He is crowned King of kings and Lord of lords, and we revel in His glory as He begins to reign over all the earth from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:1-9; Rev. 19:17-21).
For a thousand years we participate in that reign, assisting Him with the instruction, administration, and enforcement of His perfect laws (Rev. 20:1-6). We see the earth regenerated and nature reconciled (Isa. 11:6-9). We see holiness abound and the earth flooded with peace, righteousness and justice (Micah 4:1-7).
At the end of the Millennium we witness the release of Satan to deceive the nations. We see the truly despicable nature of the heart of Man as millions rally to Satan in his attempt to overthrow the throne of Jesus. But we will shout "Hallelujah!" again when we witness God's supernatural destruction of Satan's armies and see Satan himself cast into Hell where he will be tormented forever (Rev. 20:7-10).
We will next witness the Great White Throne Judgment when the unrighteous are resurrected to stand before God. We will see perfect holiness and justice in action as God pronounces His terrible judgment upon this congregation of the damned who have rejected His gift of love and mercy in Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:11-13).
Jesus will be fully vindicated as every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Then the unrighteous will receive their just reward as they are cast into Hell (Rev. 20:14-15).

Witnesses of a New Creation

We will then witness the most spectacular fireworks display in all of history. We will be taken to the New Jerusalem, the eternal mansion prepared by Jesus for His Bride, and from there we will watch as God renovates this earth with fire, burning away all the filth and pollution left by Satan's last battle (2 Peter 3:12-13).
Just as the angels rejoiced when God created the universe, we will rejoice as we watch God superheat this earth and reshape it like a hot ball of wax into the New Earth, the eternal earth, the paradise where we will live forever in the presence of God (Rev. 21:1).
What a glorious moment it will be when we are lowered to the New Earth inside the fabulous New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2). God will come down from Heaven to dwell with us (Rev. 21:3). He will proclaim: "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5) We will see God face to face (Rev. 22:4). He will wipe away all our tears (Rev. 21:4). Death will be no more (Rev. 21:4). We will be given new names (Rev. 2:17), and we will exist as individual personalities encased in perfect bodies (Phils. 3:21). And we will grow eternally in knowledge and love of our infinite Creator, honoring Him with our talents and gifts.
Now, I can get excited about that!

The Word vs. Tradition

Isn't it amazing how far we can drift away from the Word of God when we stop reading His Word and start mouthing the traditions of men?
As I kept making one discovery after another in God's Prophetic Word that ran contrary to what I had been taught, I began to wonder about the origin of the doctrines I had learned. It didn't take me long to discover that the source was Greek philosophy.
The first attempt to mix the concepts of Greek philosophy with the teachings of God's Word came very early in the history of the Church. The attempt was called Gnosticism. The Gnostic heresy arose among the first Gentile converts because they tried to Hellenize the Scriptures; that is, they tried to make the Scriptures conform to the basic tenets of Greek philosophy.
The Greeks believed that the material universe, including the human body, was evil. This negative view of the creation was diametrically opposed to Hebrew thought, as revealed in the Bible. To the Hebrew mind, the world was created good (Genesis 1:31). And even though the goodness of the creation was corrupted by the sin of Man (Isaiah 24:5-6), the creation still reflects to some degree the glory of God (Psalms 19:1). Most important, the creation will someday be redeemed by God (Romans 8:18-23).

The Gnostic Heresy

When the first Gentiles were converted to the Gospel, their Greek-mind set immediately collided with some of the fundamental teachings of Christianity. For example, they wondered, "How could Jesus have come in the flesh if He was God? God is holy. How can He who is holy be encased in a body which is evil?"
In short, because they viewed the material universe as evil, they could not accept the Bible's teaching that God became incarnate in the flesh. Their response was to develop the Gnostic heresy that Jesus was a spirit being or phantom who never took on the flesh and therefore never experienced physical death.
This heresy is denounced strongly in Scripture. In 1 John 4:1-2 we are told to test those who seek our spiritual fellowship by asking them to confess "that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh."

The Augustinian Corruption

About 400 A.D. a remarkable theologian by the name of St. Augustine attempted to Hellenize what the Scriptures taught about end time events and life after death. Augustine was very successful in his attempt. His views were adopted by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. and have remained Catholic dogma to this day.
The influence of Greek philosophy would not allow Augustine to accept what the Bible taught about life after death.
For example, the Bible says the saints will spend eternity in glorified bodies on a New Earth (Revelation 21:1-7). Such a concept was anathema to the Greek mind of Augustine. If the material world is evil, then he reasoned that the material world must cease to exist when the Lord returns. Augustine solved the problem by spiritualizing what the Bible said. He did this by arguing that the "new earth" of Revelation 21 is just symbolic language for Heaven.
Augustine's views are held by most professing Christians today, both Catholic and Protestant. That means that most of Christianity today teaches Greek philosophy rather than the Word of God when it comes to the realm of end time prophecy and life after death.

The Intermediate State

Some of the greatest confusion about life after death relates to the intermediate state between death and eternity. Some people advocate a concept called "soul sleep." They argue that both the saved and unsaved are unconscious after death until the return of Jesus.
But the Bible makes it crystal clear that our spirit does not lose its consciousness at death. The only thing that "falls asleep" is our body — in a symbolic sense. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that he would prefer to be "absent from the body and at home with the Lord." In Philippians 1:21 he observes, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." He then adds in verse 23 that his desire is "to depart and be with Christ." Paul certainly did not expect to be in a coma after he died!
If then our spirits retain their consciousness after death, where do they go? The Bible teaches that prior to the resurrection of Jesus, the spirits of the dead went to a place called Hades ("Sheol" in the Old Testament). The spirits existed there consciously in one of two compartments, either Paradise or Torments. This concept is pictured graphically in Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
The Bible indicates that after the death of Jesus on the Cross, He descended into Hades and declared to all the spirits there His triumph over Satan (1 Peter 3:18-19; 4:6). The Bible also indicates that after His resurrection, when He ascended into Heaven, Jesus took Paradise with Him, transferring the spirits of dead saints from Hades to Heaven (Ephesians 4:8-9 and 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). The spirits of dead saints are thereafter pictured as being in Heaven before the throne of God (See Revelation 6:9 and 7:9).
The spirits of the righteous dead could not go directly to Heaven before the Cross because their sins were not forgiven. Instead, their sins were merely covered by their faith. The forgiveness of their sins had to await the shedding of the blood of Christ (Leviticus 17:11; Romans 5:8-9; Hebrews 9:22).

Events at Death

So, what happens when you die? If you are a child of God, your spirit is immediately ushered into the bosom of Jesus by His holy angels. Your spirit remains in Heaven, in the presence of God, until the time of the Rapture. When Jesus comes for His Church, He brings your spirit with Him, resurrects and glorifies your body, making it eternal in nature (1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4). You reign with Christ for a thousand years and then live eternally with Him on the new earth (Revelation 20-22).
If you are not a child of God, then your spirit goes to Hades at your death. This is a place of torments where your spirit is held until the resurrection of the unrighteous which takes place at the end of the millennial reign of Jesus. At that resurrection you are taken before the Great White Throne of God where you are judged by your works and then condemned to the "second death," which is the "lake of fire" or Hell (Revelation 20:11-15).

Preparing for Eternity

One thing is certain: "Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that 'Jesus is Lord!'" (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11). Your eternal destiny will be determined by when you make this confession.
If it is made before you die, then you will spend eternity with God. If not, then you will make the confession at the Great White Throne judgment before you are cast into Hell. To spend eternity with God, your confession of Jesus as Lord must be made now.
"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved"
— Romans 10:9

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Wrath of God - Myth or Reality?

The Wrath of God

Is it a Myth or a Reality?

by Dr. David R. Reagan

A popular radio talk show host on an Oklahoma City secular station recently interviewed me live on the air via telephone. He had seen an article I had written about the financial accountability of Christian ministries, and he had liked it.
He began the interview by graciously giving me the opportunity to talk non-stop for about ten minutes about the way God had transformed my life and called me into the ministry. We then moved on to a discussion of the scandals that had recently rocked the Christian community nationwide.

The Unmentionable Word

Everything went well until the host asked me to summarize the fundamental message of my ministry. I responded by saying that God had called me to proclaim "the soon return of Jesus in wrath."
Before I could proceed with my explanation, the announcer cut me short. "What do you mean, 'wrath'?" he asked.
"I mean that Jesus is going to return very soon to pour out the wrath of God upon those who have rejected God's love and grace and mercy."
"Your God is a monster God!" he snapped. He then added, "I happen to be a Christian, and I can tell you that my God wouldn't hurt a flea!"
That was the end of the interview. He hung up on me. I was not given an opportunity to respond to his blasphemy of God.

Satan's Grand Deception

The radio host's vehement response to the wrath of God did not surprise me. It is characteristic of both Christians and non-Christians, and I have encountered it many times.
Satan has sold the world a bill of goods concerning the nature of God. Most people, both Christian and non-Christian, tend to view God as being a sort of cosmic teddy bear.
They see Him as big and warm and soft, full of infinite love and forgiveness. He couldn't hurt a fly, and He certainly wouldn't be so cruel as to condemn or harm any beings created in His own image. On the Day of Judgment, God will simply give everyone a big hug and wink at their sins.
The only problem with this wonderfully comforting image is that it is a lie straight from the pit of Hell.

The True God

Yes, the Bible teaches that God is loving, patient, caring, and forgiving (Psalms 86:15 and John 3:16). As the apostle John put it, "God is love" (1 John 4:8).
Two of my favorite passages in the Bible emphasize the personal loving nature of God. One was penned by the apostle Peter. In 1 Peter 5:6-7 he says that we are to cast all our anxieties upon God "because He cares for you." That is a very comforting thought.
The other passage that I love to read over and over consists of words spoken by the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-24 (RSV):
"The steadfast love of the Lord
never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness,
'The Lord is my portion,' says
my soul,
'Therefore I will hope in Him."
But the Bible also clearly teaches that there is another aspect of God's character that is equally important. It is the aspect that Satan wants us to ignore, and he has been very successful in prompting ministers to overlook it. After all, it doesn't produce popular sermons! I'm speaking, of course, of the holiness of God (Leviticus 11:44; Isaiah 6:3; 1 Peter 1:16).

Grace or Wrath?

The Bible teaches that God is perfectly holy. Because of this attribute of His character, He cannot tolerate sin (Numbers 14:18). The Bible says God must deal with sin, and He does so in one of two ways — either grace or wrath.
Every person on the face of this earth is at this moment under either the grace of God or the wrath of God. Jesus Himself made this point in His discourse with Nicodemus.
In the same conversation in which Jesus spoke the glorious words about God's love in John 3:16, He also spoke of God's wrath in a verse that we like to ignore: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36).
The apostle Paul emphasized this point in his preaching and teaching. In Ephesians 5 he warns against immorality, covetousness, and idolatry, and then he adds this observation: "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:6).
We come under God's grace by placing our faith in Jesus and appropriating His atoning sacrifice for our lives ( 1 John 1:7). There is no salvation apart from Jesus (Acts 4:10-12). Those who have rejected God's free gift of grace in Jesus are under God's wrath (John 3:36), and they have no one to blame but themselves.

The Coming Wrath

God's wrath will fall when Jesus returns (Jude 14-15). The passage in Revelation which pictures the return of Jesus says that He will return in righteousness to "judge and wage war" (Revelation 19:11).
The first time Jesus came, He came in loving compassion with eyes filled with tears. But when He returns, He will come in vengeance (Revelation 6:12-17), with eyes like a flame of fire (Revelation 19:12). He will come to destroy the enemies of God (Revelation 19: 11).
The presidents and kings and prime ministers of the world will get on their knees and cry out for the rocks and mountains to fall upon them, so great will be the terror of the Lord (Revelation 6:15-17). The unrighteous will stumble about like blind men, and their blood will be poured out like dust (Zephaniah 1:17).

The Meaning of Wrath

Does this make God a "monster"? No! On the contrary, it proves His goodness, for how could a good God ignore the evil of sin and allow it to go unpunished? His wrath against evil will demonstrate His righteousness.
The prophet Nahum summed it up best. Writing of the love of God, he said, "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him" (Nahum 1:7). But a few verses earlier Nahum had also spoken of the holiness of God:
"The Lord is avenging and wrathful.
The Lord takes vengeance on His
And He reserves wrath for His enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great
in power,
And the Lord will by no means leave
the guilty unpunished."

— Nahum 1:2-3
God's wrath is never motivated primarily by a desire to punish. Rather, it is designed to bring people to repentance so that they might be saved. Even in His wrath, God remembers mercy.
God demonstrates His mercy in wrath by never pouring out His wrath without warning. He tried to warn Sodom and Gomorrah through Abraham. He warned Noah's world through the preaching of Noah for 120 years. He sent both Jonah and Nahum to warn the pagan city of Ninevah.
Consider too how He sent prophet after prophet to call the nations of Israel and Judah to repentance:
"And the Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy." — 2 Chronicles 36:15-16
God's mercy in wrath is also manifested in the fact that He always leads up to His final outpouring of wrath through a series of progressive judgments. These judgments are outlined in detail in Deuteronomy 28:15-57.
This characteristic of God's wrath is demonstrated in the prophecies concerning the Tribulation. Rather than simply pouring out His wrath on the rebellious nations of the world, destroying them in one instant of overwhelming catastrophe, He subjects the world to a series of judgments that sequentially increase in scope and intensity (Revelation 6,8-9,16).
Although most people refuse to repent in response to these judgments (Revelation 9:20-21), there is "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues" who do repent and respond to Jesus in faith (Revelation 7:9).
These radically different responses to the wrath of God illustrate the point that is often made by Billy Graham: "The same sun that melts the butter also hardens the clay." The wrath of God melts some hearts in repentance, but it has the effect of hardening the hearts of many others.

Wrath and the Redeemed

Many Christians respond negatively to Bible prophecy. It's not at all unusual to hear a Christian say something like this: "I don't want to hear anything about prophecy because it's too full of gloom and doom."
Well, there is a lot of gloom and doom for those who refuse to respond to God's gift of love in Jesus. But there is only good news for the Redeemed.
The Old Testament ends with a passage that presents both the gloom and the joy of end time prophecy. Malachi says that when the Lord returns, the day will be "like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff" (Malachi 4:1). That's the bad news.
But consider the good news: "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall" (Malachi 4:2).
There is no reason for any child of God to fear the wrath of God. Paul wrote that since we have been justified by the blood of Christ, "we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him" (Romans 5:9). And in a most comforting verse, Paul told the Thessalonians that Jesus will "deliver" the Redeemed "from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The reason, Paul explained, is that "God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

A Plea

Are you under grace or wrath? The choice is yours. Jesus is coming soon. When He appears, will He be your Blessed Hope or your Holy Terror? Will you cry for the mountains to fall upon you? Or, will you go forth leaping with joy like a calf released from a stall?
God loves you and He wants you to accept His Son as your Savior so that you will come under grace and can participate in an event described by Isaiah:
"And the ransomed of the Lord will return,
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away."
(Isaiah 35:10)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Worthy Sayings of Great Christians

Oh, God, I have tasted Thy goodness and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more!
~A. W. Tozer~

We have to stop blaming God for all the messes we put ourselves in. It was us that made very bad decisions. It was us that chose to go left when God said to go right. What we all need to do is, instead of blaming God, ask Him for forgiveness and ask Him for the direction to make our lives better.

The way we view God will eventually show up in the way we live our life.
~A. W. Tozer~

My faith does not rest upon what I am, how I feel, or what I know, but in who Jesus is, what He has done, and in what He is doing now.
~A. W. Tozer~

I believe the boldest people in the world should be Christians - not cocky and sure of themselves, but sure of Him.
~A. W. Tozer~

Man's laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral.
~A. W. Tozer~

Good deeds are not done by walking into a church. They are done when you walk out of the church and help others.
~A. W. Tozer~

Christ didn't stay dead, and He won't stay gone.
~A. W. Tozer~

I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God - not me!
~A. W. Tozer~

Let us mark this well. There is nothing which shows our ignorance so much as our impatience under trouble. We forget that every trial is a message from God intended to do us good in the end. Trials are intended to make us think, to wean us from the world, to send us to the Bible, to drive us to our knees. Health is a good thing, but sickness is far better, if it leads us to God. Prosperity is a great mercy. But adversity is a greater one, if it brings us to Christ.
~J. C. Ryle~

How utterly terrible is the current idea that Christians can serve God at their own convenience.
~A. W. Tozer~

When will we come to the point of repentance, throw all the excuses out the window and fall on our faces before God and an open Bible?
~A. W. Tozer~

I take refuge in the fact that while I don't know everything, I do know someone Who does.
~A. W. Tozer~

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Gentiles In Prophecy: Spent Glory or Future Empire?

The Gentiles in Prophecy 
Spent Glory or Future Empire?

by Dr. David R. Reagan

Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  (Luke 21:24)
Although the Scriptures focus upon God's dealings with His Chosen People, the Jews, the non Jews (known in the Bible as the Gentiles), are not ignored — as the quote above from Jesus demonstrates. 
The Bible teaches that God chose the Jewish people to serve as witnesses of His glory (Isaiah 41:10-12). He also chose them to serve as a channel of His blessings to the world (Genesis 12:1-3). 
Through the Jews, God revealed Himself and His Law. And through the Jewish prophets, He pointed Mankind to the coming Messiah (1 Peter 1:10-12).
The Focus Shifts
God did not start using the Gentiles as a vehicle of His purposes in history until His Chosen People turned their backs on Him and gave themselves to human idols. At that point in time, God began to work through both the Jews and the Gentiles to carry out His plan of redemption. 
His first step was to bring judgment upon the Jews for their idolatry. He did this by allowing them to be taken into exile by the Babylonians. 
It was during this exile (605 — 536 B.C.) that God revealed to His prophet Daniel that He had a plan for using the Gentile nations to help achieve His purposes in history.  
 A Prophetic Dream
Daniel was one of the Jewish exiles. He came to the attention of the Babylonian leaders through his ability to interpret dreams. He was called upon to interpret a troubling dream which God gave to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. 

The king saw a huge statue of a man in his dream. The statue was made of a succession of metals. It had a head of gold, a silver chest, thighs of brass, and legs of iron. It rested upon a precarious foundation — feet of iron mixed with clay. 
As Nebuchadnezzar stared at the statue, admiring its beauty, the feet were suddenly struck by a supernatural stone (“a stone cut out without hands”). The statue collapsed, and the stone expanded rapidly into a mountain that engulfed the whole world (Daniel 2:31-35). 
Daniel explained that the dream dealt with the future and extended even to the “latter days” (Daniel 2:28). He pointed out that the golden head was representative of the Babylonian empire. It would be succeeded by another empire represented by the silver chest, and it would, in turn, be overthrown by another empire symbolized by the thighs of bronze. The fourth empire in the series was represented by the legs of iron (Daniel 2:36-40). 
Later, God revealed to Daniel that the empire that would follow Babylon would be the Medo Persian which, in turn, would be overthrown by the Greeks under Alexander the Great (Daniel 8:1-8, 20-21).   The empire symbolized by the iron legs was never specifically identified, but we know from history that it was the Roman Empire which eventually split into two parts, the Eastern and Western Empires. 
 A Prophetic Gap
The prophecy evidently contains a time gap because there is nothing in history that corresponds to the empire represented by the feet of iron mixed with clay. 
In subsequent dreams and visions, the Lord revealed to Daniel that this kingdom of iron mixed with clay would be a loose confederation of ten nations (Daniel 7:24). This confederation would arise out of the territory of the empire of iron — the Roman Empire (Daniel 7:7-8). Daniel was also shown that this revived European confederation would serve as the base for the construction of the last great Gentile world empire — namely, the empire of the Antichrist (Daniel 7:8,24-26; 8:19-27). 
Further evidence of a time gap is found in the fact that history fails to show a ten nation European confederation expanding into a world empire and then being suddenly destroyed by a supernatural intervention of God. Nor has a kingdom from God encompassed the whole world, submitting the nations to the rule of the Messiah (Daniel 2:41-45; 7:13-14,27). 
 A Prophetic Vision
Fortyeight years after Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the Lord gave Daniel a vision of the same succession of Gentile empires.  However, instead of a glorious statue of a man, Daniel saw a series of ravenous wild beasts which devoured each other. 
The first beast, representing Babylon, was a lion that had wings like an eagle. The second, a symbol of Medo Persia, was a bear raised up on one side. Next came a leopard with wings like a bird, representing the rapid conquest of Alexander the Great who built the Greek Empire. The fourth beast was “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth” (Daniel 7:7). It also had ten horns (Daniel 7:7). The iron teeth of the beast relate to the iron legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, and so it represents the Roman Empire. 
While Daniel was observing the fourth beast, “a little horn” representing the Antichrist grew out of the beast’s head. It subdued three of the other horns and then took over the rest of the horns. It then quickly “devoured the whole earth” (Daniel 7:23-25). But after three and one half years, it was judged and “destroyed forever” (Daniel 7:26). 
It is obvious that the feet and ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue correspond to the ten horns of Daniel’s vision. Both represent a coalition of ten kingdoms which will serve as the base from which the Antichrist will conquer the world. 
Why two presentations of the same succession of empires? Nebuchadnezzar’s dream presents the prophecy from Man’s viewpoint, looking upon the empires as beautiful and glorious. Daniel’s vision sees the kingdoms from God’s viewpoint — as a succession of wild beasts who are cruel and ruthless. 
In both cases, the final Gentile empire of the Antichrist is suddenly destroyed supernaturally, bringing to an end what Jesus referred to as “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). 
 A Prophetic Expectation
 The “times of the Gentiles” began with Nebuchadnezzar. They continue to this day, and they will not end until the Second Coming of Jesus. 
The ruthless glory of the Gentile empires was temporarily suspended when the Roman Empire split and then later collapsed. At that point the international community reorganized into nation states. 
Since that time there have been many attempts to rebuild a great Gentile world empire, the three most notable being the Holy Roman Empire (the First Reich), the French Empire of Napoleon, and the Third Reich of Hitler. However, all of these fell short. 
But the glory is not all past. The greatest Gentile empire is still future. It will be the empire of the Antichrist. 
That's what all the talk about a “New World Order” is about. Satan is coalescing a new world wide Gentile empire. Its nucleus is being provided through the reunification of Europe. 
Before long, some dynamic, charismatic political personality will emerge in Europe who seems to have the answers to all the world's problems. Europe will unite behind him, and he will then venture forth to build a new world order, using both deception and force (Daniel 11:36-45 and Revelation 6:1-6). 
The final Gentile empire will unite the world politically, socially, economically and spiritually. Every nation will be included (Revelation 13:7). The Antichrist will be assisted by a False Prophet who will pull together the world's religions into an amalgamated, apostate super church that will worship the Antichrist (Revelation 13:11-18). 
At the end of seven years of unparalleled tribulation upon the earth, God will pour out His wrath upon this last Gentile empire. Its overwhelming destruction by fire will take place in one hour (Revelation 18). 
That's when Jesus will return to set up another new world order — the perfect world order. He will reign from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem with a rod of iron, and the world will be flooded with peace, righteousness and justice as the waters cover the seas (Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:14). 
 Prophetic Urgency
The “times of the Gentiles” are rapidly coming to a close. Jesus said the final days of this time period would be marked by the liberation of Jerusalem from Gentile control (Luke 21:24). That glorious event took place on June 7, 1967 when the Jews reconquered the city of Jerusalem for the first time in 1,897 years. 
The Church may not have understood the significance of this event, but the Orthodox Jews certainly did. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Army in 1967, rushed to the Wailing Wall, blew a shofar, and solemnly proclaimed “the beginning of the Messianic Age!” 
The Orthodox Jews know the Old Testament prophecies, and those prophecies say that the Jews will be back in the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem when the Messiah comes (Ezekiel 37 and Zechariah 12). 
 A Warning
 Do not be deceived by all the talk about a “New World Order.” It is the old world order dressed up in new clothes. 
Satan is pulling together one last worldwide Gentile empire in his futile attempt to frustrate God's master plan. Most of the world will be deceived into believing that this “New World Order” will produce a utopia on earth. It will create, instead, a living hell. 
The “New World Order” is doomed to failure, for it will be based on the wisdom of Man. Pray for the coming of the perfect world order that Jesus will establish when He returns. It will be based upon the Word of God.

Things That Hinder the Lord's Work



by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Nehemiah 4: 1-15)

The two verses which introduce the theme of this study are Nehemiah 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 9:12. In the first reference we read of those who conspired to hinder the work that God’’s people were undertaking in the Lord’’s name; and in the second reference the apostle indicates his concern that no action should be taken which could possibly hinder the progress of the gospel. It is clear, therefore, that it is possible for God’’s work to be hindered, and no-one will disagree with the statement that God’’s work is being hindered today and that there is a paralysis in the life of the Church. If we compare things as they are today with the record of the early Church in the Book of Acts, we soon conclude that today the Church is powerless and ineffective. What is wrong? What is it that hinders the work of the Holy Spirit? Why is it that God’’s power is not more evident in the preaching of the Word and through the testimony of His people? Consider the following five factors in the life of the Church now and which explain, at least to some extent, the Church’s paralysis and ineffectiveness.


It is very solemn to realise that there are many people engaged in God’’s work who do not know the Lord. They seek to serve Him but have no saving experience of His grace. They are like those described in 2 Timothy 3:5 and in Titus 1:16, like one of old who came to Jesus (John 3:1-16). The first requirement, if we are to serve the Lord, and if we are to be a channel through whom the Holy Spirit can work in bringing blessing to others, is that we should know the Lord for ourselves, know that we have been born again (John 3); that we are a child of God (1 John 3:1); and that we know what it is to be washed in the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). One reason why the Church is powerless is because many who are working in the Church do not know the experience of Romans 1:16. Look up Matthew 25:11-12 and Luke 13:25-27. Is it possible that you are an unconverted minister, or deacon, or church member?


There are two kinds of Christians: those who are surrendered to the Lord and those who are not; and the apostle had this in mind when he wrote Romans 6:13 and Romans 12:1. It is possible to be a Christian, but not a separated Christian (2 Corinthians 6:14-18); to be a Christian, but worldly and not spiritual (1 Corinthians 3:1-4); to be a Christian, but not disciplined (Matthew 11:29); to be a Christian, but walking after the flesh and not after the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17). God’’s work is hindered because those who are involved in it are not wholly dedicated to Him. They are not like Caleb, who followed the Lord ““wholeheartedly”” (Joshua 14:14). They love the world (1 John 2:15-17); they neglect meeting for prayer (Matthew 6:6); church attendance is not a priority (Hebrews 10:25), and their lives are inconsistent and ineffective.


Over and over again God’’s prophets stood up to say, “”Thus saith the Lord…”…” (KJV); and when the Apostle Paul gave his farewell address before the Ephesian elders, he said that he had declared “”the whole will of God””. So often today, however, the whole will of God is not declared. Many great truths in God’’s Word are not proclaimed with authority and power. There is little mention of sin, judgment, heaven, hell, of the need for repentance and for personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Is it any wonder that the Church is powerless when God’’s message is not proclaimed, or when ‘‘a different gospel’’ is preached? (Galatians 1:6-9); or when men apologise for the true message!


Another reason why the Church is so powerless is that she often employs unscriptural methods for delivering her God-given task. For example, worldly methods are adopted for attracting the unbeliever, and instead of the Church going into the world and fulfilling her commission, the world has come into the Church (Matthew 28:19). Unscriptural methods are used for raising money for God’’s work; the scriptural method is to honour God and He gives us a special promise when we do this –- look up 1 Samuel 2:30. In all situations we are to look to Him in prayer and trust Him to do His gracious work in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then God will work, but while we rely on man’s methods, the Holy Spirit ceases to work, for He is ““grieved”” (Ephesians 4:30).


Years ago we visited a factory where electric light bulbs were manufactured. At that time it was one of the most modern factories in this country, equipped with the latest machinery; but everything was silent and still. Why was this? The reason was that no power was switched on, so no machinery could work. It was polished and beautiful to look at, but it was ineffective and unproductive.
This is the situation in the Church today; we lack the power of Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit whose power alone can sweep aside every hindrance and can accomplish the true work of the Church, which is the salvation of souls, and the building up of the Body of Christ in anticipation of when the Lord Himself will come and gather His people to Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The one urgent word for us today is the word of the Saviour Himself, recorded in Acts 1:8. The fresh anointing of the Spirit for service will bring about fruitfulness and effectiveness in the lives of God’’s people for His glory.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Love of the Cross

The Love of the Cross

George Everard

"To know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge" Ephesians 3:19
On leaving the harbor and setting out on a sea voyage in my early days, my ear was struck with the sailor's cry, "Ten fathoms deep!" "Twenty fathoms deep!" and so on, as they sounded the depth of water through which the ship was passing. By-and-by the cry ceases — they reach the deep water where they need to sound no longer.
And so it is with the love of Christ — it is a deep we cannot reach! Who can fathom it? Who can conceive it? Who can express it? The Apostle can only stand on the shore and bid us pray, that we may know its height and depth and breadth and length. And then he tells us that "it surpasses knowledge." But let us dwell upon this heavenly theme. The faithful believer will love to ponder it; for in doing so he will learn more of Christ, and trust Him more, and love Him more, and possess Him more fully as his own everlasting Friend.
The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will be ready to enlighten and teach us; for it is His special office to take of the things of Christ, and reveal them to His people.
Christ died for sinners. Not for the good and worthy — but for the lost and perishing, did He lay down His precious life.
When we had no strength to do right or to keep God's holy law,
when we willingly went astray,
when our evil hearts hated the God of love,
when we were rebels and enemies against the great King —
then He loved us and died for us, and by His death opened to us the gate of everlasting life! "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8
Ah, here is one depth — a marvelous depth — love, pity, salvation, for the ungodly and for sinners! Need I doubt whether He died for me? Nay, surely, for I am a sinner, and more sinful than tongue can tell; and as a sinner only — I go to Him and trust in Him. And I would know and feel this more and more — so I go to His mercy-seat for the broken and contrite heart that befits a guilty one like me.
But what a death He died! To die a common death for others would be love — but He died ten thousand deaths in one!
I have read of a soldier giving a cup of water on the battle-field to a dying comrade, and losing his life for his kindness; for a shell burst near the spot where he was tarrying, and he was killed. Here was kindness and love — here was life sacrificed for another's good. But the suffering was short. Death came in a moment, and the faithful friend was gone.
But not so in the death of Christ. Wave upon wave, depth upon depth of unknown and unutterable woe — did He experience for our sakes. And was not each depth of woe, an evidence of the marvelous depth of His love toward us?
There are four great depths in our Lord's Passion — and, as we look down into each, though it is but a little way, may He teach us something of the ocean-depths of His redeeming love!
1. I think of all He suffered in the flesh during those long hours of the night and day, between His apprehension in the garden and the yielding up His Spirit to His Father on the cross.
How was that sinless body tormented with cruel anguish!
I see those hands, ever stretched out to bless, now pierced with nails!
I see those feet, which ever went about doing good, carrying consolation and healing to the sad and suffering — now transfixed to the cross!
I see that brow, so full of holy benevolence, now covered with blood!
I see the scourging, and the weariness, and those parched lips, and those hours of bitter agony, as life slowly ebbed away.
Ah, the suffering and the love it manifested! Who shall tell what it was!
In my hours of pain and sickness, let me ever look back to Calvary! As I trust in Him, shall I not regard the suffering that may be appointed me, as light beside His; and not now the punishment of my sin — but rather the chastening of a Father's hand?
But I see another depth in those sufferings.
2. What shame, what scorn and mockery and indignity did Christ willingly endure! He is taken as a thief, with swords and staves. He stands for whole hours as a prisoner before vile and wretched men. He is buffeted — yes, He hides not His face from shame and spitting. His very deeds of mercy are cast in His teeth. A murderer and a robber is chosen instead of Him — the Prince of glory. Oh, what a depth of love do I see in the endurance of all this!
How hard do find it to bear a word of reproach for His sake! How a slight, a cutting remark, a look — wounds and pains me! How great the trial is to any honorable and upright man, to be taken for a defrauder, and to be contemned by those who formerly had him in honor! And what must it have been to the Son of God, who had been honored and worshiped by the holy angels above — to be the scorn and mockery of men, the outcast of the people?
In this depth of shame and indignity, I see a vast deep of redeeming love!
I see yet another depth.
3. Let me think of the desolation of Christ in those dark hours. How forcible are the words spoken of Him in the prophetic Psalm: "Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none." Psalm 69:20
We think of David at Ziklag — his wives and children captive in the hands of the Amalekites, his abode laid waste, and all his friends turning against him and speaking of stoning him.
We think of Jeremiah sitting down amidst the ruins of the city, alone and desolate, lamenting the loss of the sons and daughters of Zion.
But no desolation was ever like that of Christ. He was hated and rejected by His own nation. Their chief men unite for His destruction. One of the twelve betrays Him to them. Another of the twelve, in the very midst of His trial, denies Him thrice. The rest all forsake Him and flee. Where are those who have been healed by Him? Where are those who have been comforted and instructed by His words of love? Not one will now stand up for Him, and plead His cause — not one will show the kindness and sympathy that might, in some measure, have alleviated His heavy sorrows.
But chief of all these, was that exceeding great and bitter cry, "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me!"
Ah, this forsaking of God, this hiding of the light of heaven — this was far more than all! Here was desolation indeed? Forsaken by man — this is much. But forsaken by His own Father, as to the comfort of His presence, as to the sweet assurance of His love — this were above all things terrible! And with this, we couple another depth — all the soul-anguish that came to Him through our sin. Here is that which we cannot conceive or tell.
The travail of His soul in the work of atonement, in taking upon Him our guilt and condemnation, in making amends to Divine justice for a broken law — all this is in a region which no eye of man has seen, and no foot of man has trodden! So that here, most of all, we see the incomprehensible love, surpassing all knowledge. Oh, to bear such desolation of spirit, to drink such a cup of soul-anguish for our salvation — what can it mean? How can it be?
Jesus, the sinner's Friend,
We cannot speak Your praise:
No mortal voice can sing the song
That ransomed hearts would raise!
One thought more.
4. We see the marvels of this love, in the purpose of it all. It is for . . .
our forgiveness,
our deliverance from all condemnation,
our acceptance as dear children of the Father in Heaven.
Innumerable are the benefits purchased for us by the precious blood-shedding of the Son of God — and on every one of them we see inscribed the love that endured so great things for us.
Where else could such love have been found? What earthly friend would have thus sacrificed himself, to obtain peace and life and salvation for us?
A few words, once spoken by the late Sir James Simpson of Edinburgh, before a large number of his fellow-citizens, put it in a very telling way. This excellent man, laden with honors for his discoveries in medical science, late in life attained the still higher honor of rejoicing in the privilege of a son of God. Let us hear his words:
"When I was a student at the University, I saw a sight I never can forget — a man brought out to die. His arms were pinioned, his face already pale as death; thousands of eager eyes were upon him as he came up from the jail. Did any friend come up and loose the rope, and say, Put it round my neck! No, he underwent the penalty of the law! For many offences? No — for one offence: he had stolen money from a stage coach! He broke the law in one point, and died for it. It was the penalty of a changing human law — the last instance of death for that particular offence.
"But I saw another sight — myself a sinner, standing on the brink of ruin, deserving nothing but Hell. For one sin? No — for many, many sins committed against the unchanging laws of God. But again I looked, and saw Jesus, my Substitute, scourged in my stead and dying on the cross for me. I looked, I cried, and I was forgiven."
Oh, that each believer may truly see this great love, and more fervently love Him who first loved us!
It is a privilege beyond all price, that we may love Christ — that we may have an object that will never disappoint our affections.
He who once died for us, is now our living Redeemer — still retaining all the love He had for us when on earth. And, in the power of His endless love, giving us a safe resting-place for our longing hearts. It is well to set our love on the changeless, ever-living Friend.
Let me lean most on any man — and in an hour I may lose my treasure — and my heart's affections will be like ivy trailing on the ground, when the tree on which it grew has fallen. But let me lean only on Christ, let my heart cleave intensely to Him — and I shall never lose the One dearest to me, the One who alone can satisfy my soul forever.
"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Beneath the cross of Jesus, I gladly take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty Rock, within a weary land,
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way.
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.
O safe and happy shelter — O refuge tried and sweet —
O trysting-place where Heaven's love and Heaven's justice meet.
As to the holy Patriarch, that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Savior's cross, to me a ladder up to Heaven.
Upon the cross of Jesus, mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One, who suffered there for me;
And from my smitten heart with tears, two wonders I confess,
The wonders of His glorious love — and my own unworthiness.
I stand beneath its shadow, as my abiding place,
I ask no other sunshine, than the sunshine of His face.
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self, my only shame — my glory all the cross.
PRAYERO blessed and merciful Redeemer, I would come to Your footstool. Draw me — and I will run after You. Reveal to me Your heart of love, and make the light of Your countenance to shine upon me. O send Your Spirit to lead me into the fuller knowledge of Yourself.

I thank You, O gracious Savior, for laying down Your life for my sake. I thank You for the pain, and mockery, and desolation of heart You willingly endured. I thank You for drinking to the very dregs, the bitter cup of holy wrath, which my sins deserved. I thank You for all wondrous benefits You have thus purchased for me. O that You would make my heart Your dwelling-place, and fill me with Your love. I bless You, that I may love You; and that in loving You, my soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. O make me love You more and more continually. May Your love constrain me to live to Your glory. Crucify within me all selfishness and self-will, and teach me to serve You and do Your will. Make me like Yourself — meek and gentle and loving unto all men. Fulfill these my desires, and make me wholly Yours, for Your name's sake. Amen.