Saturday, July 29, 2006

REFUGE - Psalm 91


Psalm 91: sixteen verses that are power-packed with reassurance, peace, inspiration, and comfort. We talk about "all the comforts of home" and certainly our home is a type of refuge; yet our ultimate Refuge, the One and Only genuine Refuge that we will abide in for all of eternity, is the Lord Jesus Christ.


In today's world there are dangers abundant; not to say that in days gone by there weren't any; obviously since the curse of sin this world has been a world of danger, tragedy, sorrow and woe.


It seems however that in today's world, these dangers have multiplied exponentially. Dangers both seen and unseen; dangers that we feel powerless to defend against. Whether you're talking about terrorism, NBC warfare, avian/swine flu, the diminishing of our constitutional rights in this nation, the potential initiative against the church by leftist powers in this country, sudden tragedy in the form of diseases and cancers, the violence of a society where assault, murder, rape are prevalent . . .


Are we tempted to barricade ourselves in our houses yet? heh


Where's the place we can reside and find a certain safety, a safe haven, a refuge? vs. 1 of Ps. 91 states: "He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."


To "dwell" means to "sit down, to set, to remain, to stay" One could say in a modern colloquialism: "to hang out". This ought to be our position and attitude regarding the LORD. He is our ever present Companion and Comforter (You thought just the Holy Spirit was our Comforter? Not really, ALL Three Persons are referred to as our Comforter!). Jesus is our Comforter, as He spoke of the Holy Spirit as "another Comforter" And in 2 Cor. ch. 1 it talks about "the God of all Comfort" and you could easily think of God the Father (as any good Father will) comfort us in the way that only He can!


What does it refer to as "the secret place of the most High"? Well the Hebrew word for 'secret' is: "cether" and it means "to cover, covering, hiding place, shelter, secret place"


That term "hiding place" is also used in the Psalms: Psa 32:7 Thou [art] my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah."


The Lord is our Deliverer, and when it comes to our security, He has us covered!


"I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge, and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust."


The Psalm goes on to say that He is our Deliverer and He indeed delivers us from these things listed here: the snare of the fowler, the noisome pestilence, the terror by night, the arrow that flies by day, the pestilence that walks in darkness, the destruction that wastes at noon day.


It states that we will be covered by His wings, and His Truth shall be our shield and buckler.


The entire Psalm is one huge solace, and comfort and source of Truth in God's ability to provide and protect.


He states that no evil shall befall us, nor any plague come near our Dwelling. He will give us His angels charge (talk about body guards!). We will tread without harm, upon the lion and the adder and the dragon,


But what about all those Christians that suffered terribly (and do even today) such horrid persecution, torture, tragedy, mortal diseases and illnesses? How were they delivered from such things, when one considers how awful they suffered!


Remember that the LORD Jesus Himself is our Dwelling, and that His grace is by far sufficient for these things; while He suffered alone the ugliness and cruelty of the cross, and the ruinous ravages of the sins of the entire human race which were laid upon Him, He told us that He would never leave us nor forsake us! Not ever! Not even our darkest hour, when it (only) seems that He has left us . . .


Recall the famous poem "Footprints"? Remember what the LORD's answer was to the questioning Christian? "MY darling child, I love You and would never forsake you. During your times of darkest trial, when you saw only one set of foot prints, it was then that I carried you."


He will be there to minister to us, and openly invites us to abide in His covering, sheltering grace that is a mysterious secret to those in the world! And its during such times of trial and suffering that we gain a far far more intimate knowledge of the LORD than we ever could by any other means! This is what Paul was speaking of when he wrote about "the fellowship of His suffering."


Phl 3:10 "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death"


Some might see this as our entering into the suffering that the LORD suffered upon the cross, and yet when you consider all the things that He suffered there, while pierced through His hands and feet, it was the agony and anguish of a sinful race, parted from a Holy God, and all that that entails. As a result of Adam falling into sin, the pandora's box of sorrow and suffering was opened. If not for sin, there would be no sadness, no disease, no strife in war and crime and violence; there would be no hate, malice, torment and death.


So as we endure such trials and pains and shocks as mortal coil is prone to in this fallen world, know that the LORD has gone before you, has tasted fully for you that bitter, bitter cup, and will share in this dark time of life, just as you will share in His peace, His joy, His grace and His love!


I believe that we as the church, the body of Christ, as represented here in America, we would do well to meditate on this Psalm during the days, months and years ahead, for we certainly shall know difficult times in this nation. May I encourage you in this, to read, meditate, ponder, study and share the treasures contained in this passage with saints that you know and love!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

As Weird As Rain












In the Genesis account, we understand that the world was arrigated by a mist that arose from the ground, creating a very heavy dew, and thus, plant life flourished. Rain was something unheard of in the experience of early mankind, according to the Bible.
Gen 2:6
"But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground."

When the pronouncement of the flood came, and Noah preached the destruction of the world by water, I'm sure he was met with jeers and exclaimations of dire unbelief! No one had ever SEEN water falling out of the sky before, and yet despite their mockery and unbelief, the rains came (the flood was not created merely by rainfall, but also the water channels beneath the surface of the earth erupted like geysers (Gen. 7:11).

God's judgment arrived on schedule and despite the preaching of Noah, lasting well over a century (remember people in those days lived a very looong time!), no one repented of their sins and sought sanctuary aboard the ark. I realize that there are many who scoff at the existance of an ark, and of the reality of the Flood account, and I will not address this issue at this time, but perhaps in an installment forthcoming I will.

Of all the billions of people (some estimate that the pre-deluvian world held anywhere from 2 to 6 billion inhabitants), only eight people were saved in the flood; one person was actually saved FROM the time of the flood, and that was Enoch, who was translated (taken up) by God and never seen again!

Now you and I today take rain for granted; when we see it falling, we aren't alarmed, or suprised, or think that it's some bizarre phenomena. We accept it as a normal experience of our every day lives.


And yet the Word of God declares of another event which will herald the destruction of the present world, and this event is scoffed at, ridiculed and mocked with just as much passion as the people of Noah's day did with the idea of rain.

This notion is called the rapture of the church.


I realize that there are many today who don't believe in a rapture of the church; they say such a thing is unbiblical, and you can't take such a thing seriously, as even the very word 'rapture' doesn't so much as appear in scripture!



Well, it does appear in scripture, but you have to be reading the appropriate version in order to see it. In the KJV, the word "caught up" (found in 1 Thess. 4:16) is expressed in the Latin Vulgate as "rapturos" which is of course latin for "rapture".


These people are also more often than not post-tribulationists; I myself believe in a pre-'Daniel's 70th week' rapture; that is, I believe the church will be raptured before that last 7 year period of Daniels prophecy as recorded in ch. 9:22-27. This doesn't mean however that I believe the church (esp. here in America) will have smooth sailing until the rapture! I firmly believe that its quite probable that the church will undergo some extremely difficult times prior to the coming of the Lord as a means of purifying and preparing the body of Christ for the Bridegrooms Return!


Post-tribulationists like to say that the notion of the rapture isn't biblical, nor was it taught by the church fathers, and was an unknown concept until the days of J. Darby of the 19th century.


The notion of the LORD's return to earth, to dispossess the world of its evil rulers was not a very popular idea during the days of the Roman Empire in 300 AD, and beyond. Christianity had become legal during the days of Constantine, and two Emperors later, it actually became the state religion! Yet corruption soon set in, and as a result, the escatological views of the Coming Christ who will rule and reign had to be revised.

The Roman Catholic church held an amillenial view, that is, that Christ wasn't literally coming and setting up His rule on the earth, but that we the church (representing Christ) will rule over all mankind. For the better part of 1.5 millenia the Roman Catholic church has held this view and this popular perspective dominated the people for the greater part of her history.

During the Protestant Reformation, they cry went out, "sola fide!" that is, salvation by faith alone in the finished workof Christ whose atonement was sufficient for the souls of mankind, an atonement made by the shed blood of the Lamb of God. And yet when it came to escatology (the study of last things, that is, of last days prophecies), they carried on the same amillenial views of the Roman Church. So you can see that for 75% of the churches history, the amillenial view was held preeminently.

This does not however mean that this view is biblical.


Remember how I stated earlier that there were 8 people who were saved in the Flood? One was saved FROM the time of the flood - Noah and his family had to endure the Flood, but were saved in the midst of it. The same cannot be said of Enoch however: he was taken out before the flood even began. Indeed, he was saved from the time of the flood!

There are many phrases that are used to describe the time of the tribulation period: its called Daniel's 70th week, the time of Jacob's Trouble, and the Wrath of the Lamb, among many others.


In Romans, Paul the apostle used the word "wrath" in referring to this time:

Rom 5:9 "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."


Note that is doesn't say saved "in, during, through, in the midst of, etc" but "saved FROM wrath" which means we, like Enoch, won't be here when once this judgment begins.


Another point to be made regarding the rapture: most post-tribulationists like to refer to such passages that speak of this supposed 'rapture' as being the resurrection. There is a problem that they never seem to address: in order to be resurrected, you have to be dead first. No one was resurrected by Christ who hadn't died first! One might say, yes but these were merely raised from the dead, they weren't truly resurrected, because eventually they died again, still possessing their natural bodies. In the resurrection of the church, we will be given new bodies that will never know corruption!

Ok, granted: what then about Christ Himself, the "first fruits of them that slept"?
1 Cor 15:20 "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."



His is indeed a glorified, resurrected body, that shall never die for death has no more dominion over Him! Yet the Lord Jesus was surely dead before He was resurrected. The point remains clear, in order to have a resurrection, the prerequisite is that one must first be dead.


In both passages that describe the rapture, there are those elements of the church that are indeed dead, and resurrected; yet in these passages there are also those who are yet alive, that are not asleep (the biblical term for saints of Christ who have died, is that they "sleep in Christ" for truly they are not dead in the same sense as the wicked; for one day [as with anyone in the natural who sleeps] they shall be awakened at the trump of God).


The two passages that I refer to are 1 Thess. 4:16-17 and 1 Cor. 15:51-54

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. " 1 Thess. 4:16-17


"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." 1 Cor. 15: 51-54


Note the underlined portions of the verses above: in both cases it speaks of those of us who are yet alive, of those who are not sleeping (dead). This transformation thus must involve something like, but not exactly the resurrection: the end result is the same, yes: our glorious transformation and the redemption of our bodies. Yet the starting point is different: the ones who are dead are resurrected, the ones who are yet alive are raptured!


There is a greek word used in the Bible, and it's "maranatha" and it means "til the LORD comes". Its a word of hope and joy for those of us who are saved, but its a word of dread and judgment for those who are lost (see 1 Cor 16:22).


It's an interesting point of fact that any time one nation declares war on another, one of the first political moves that it makes is the removal of their ambassadors from that foreign land with which they will soon be at war with. The Bible speaks of us Christians as God's ambassadors in 1 Cor. 5:21, and thus at the rapture, God's ambassadors will be removed, taken up from out of the earth. And after that, the time of the Wrath of the Lamb will occur in that horrific period of seven years.


Judgment is coming on this earth, this is a certainty; and with the same degree of certainty, millions of Christians world wide, both living and dead, will one day vanish without a trace from this planet: this will be a singular sign of the judgment that will immediately follow.

It surely will be a weird event; as weird as rain!