Monday, July 31, 2017

The Five Great Eras of Church History

It is interesting to note that, for approximately the last two thousand years, God has benchmarked every five hundred years as both great reformation and transformation in His Church as it hinges on the backdrop of the Roman Empire and its influences. Around 4 B.C. the long-awaited Christ made His appearance on the scene of human history. In 476 A.D. the last of the Roman Empire fell. In 1054 A.D. the Great Schism occurred then, finally, in 1517 A.D. Martin Luther ignited the Great Reformation. As we are coming up on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I believe we are on the verge of experiencing the final great event of Church history — the glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

1.      The Great Transformation Era.
2.      The Great Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire.
3.      The Great Schism.
4.      The Great Reformation.
5.      The Great & Glorious Appearing.

The Great Transformation Era

The first of these four periods was the entrance of the incarnated Jesus into the timeline of history. Jesus came to set free men and women who had been placed in bondage for so long both by sin and the unrighteous teachings of the religious leaders. These Jewish leaders had turned God’s Word and the temple practices into a means by which to make great profit and to maintain political control. They also hoarded the truth of God for themselves and made it even more difficult for Gentiles to come and worship Jehovah. Both the religious leaders and the people were in desperate need for a spiritual reformation. Yet for this to happen, what they needed most was the Spirit of God to transform their lives through the sacrifice of Jesus. Every instance in human history of revival and restoration of God’s people is brought about by the power and initiative of God the Father.

The Great Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire

When persecution began to arise from the Jewish people and the Roman government towards the Christians, God scattered His people to all corners of the known world. For a long time, Christians endured horrible treatment. Yet, the time came in the early 300’s A.D. when the power of the Gospel reached through to the heart of the Roman Emperor Constantine who established Christianity as the religion of the State. The pendulum then swung as the outcome of conversion to Christianity went from persecution, loss of wealth and even the loss of life to an abundance of social, political and economic advantages. This act of Constantine, though possibly well intentioned, enticed people to convert even if they did not believe in Christ so that they could receive the worldly benefits of being a Christian.

It is easy to see why so many unregenerate individuals would claim Christianity simply because of the elevated status the title would bring. These false converts were then placed in positions of authority throughout not just the government but the Church as well. This caused true believers of God to be led astray into both theological errors and sinful practices which began plaguing the Church. Yet, God was still faithful. When Rome eventually fell in 476 A.D due to barbarian invasions, God used this second period of time to establish and strengthen His Church through suffering. Christianity was no longer politically and economically pleasing in the eyes of the world thus the true heart of the Gospel could be taught undefiled and uncorrupted. Not only that, but with the incoming clusters of people groups due to the fall of Rome, history shows God’s sovereign hand in using such uncertain times to reach them with the Gospel of Christ.

      The Great Schism

The third great mark occurred in 1054 A.D. and is known as the Great Schism. This tumultuous event was a major separation which concluded with the division of the Church into two parts: the west and the east. This division was brought about through theological disputes, cultural preferences and political idealism. However, much of this separation was hinged upon regular Church practices, control over sacraments and the authority of the Pope. With the refusal from the east to accept the full sovereignty of the Pope and Rome over the entire Church body, the Great Schism actually prepared the groundwork for the Roman Catholic Church to experience the fourth period which is known as the Great Reformation.

The Great Reformation

In the early 1500’s, a monk named Martin Luther submitted his life to Christ and began studying the Scriptures. As he grew in his understanding of God’s Word he became increasingly convinced that the Catholic Church had lost its way. The Spirit of God was giving this man and others the ability to see the love and truth of God, both theologically and practically. Just as God listened to the cries of His people when they were enslaved in Egypt and sent to them a deliverer to free them from their bondage, He once again saw the spiritual captivity of His people enslaved by the hopeless traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and was moved to action. Each one of the great eras previously mentioned was due to the faithfulness of God in the lives of His people in bringing them out of great apostasy. This is why this last period is referred to as the Great Reformation — because only the Great Jehovah can bring His people out of great and terrible sin and perform a great transformation in their lives. After all, the spiritual reformation of the Church is not brought about by human initiative, but rather through divine appointment.

The Great & Glorious Appearing

Nearly five hundred years later, the Church today is in desperate need for a new Reformation. Today Churches are full of those who do not know their Bibles, people who have forsaken Biblical morality and those who confuse the definition of love. Five hundred years ago, there was a break in the Church because the leadership felt they could interpret the Bible the way they felt it should read. As in the days of Martin Luther, the Word of God once again is being twisted and distorted not by skeptics, but by those who claim the way of life. This corruption is not coming from outside, but from within. This internal degradation occurred in the time of Christ, just before the fall of Rome, during the Great Schism, throughout the Great Reformation and it is happening today with the authority of the Scriptures challenged by the very ones who claim to hold spiritual authority. Five hundred years after Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses which led to the Great Reformation and a thriving Church, the Church is now found struggling.

This brings us to the time when I believe our generation will be eyewitnesses to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Biblical prophecy is making history, scientific advancement is a growing reality and Christian apostasy is becoming the norm. Everything the Scriptures have declared regarding the events of the end times is being fulfilled before our very eyes and, if history repeats itself through another wave of God’s great faithfulness as we approach this 500 year benchmark, you and I are about to see firsthand the glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Whether it will be His second coming or not, we can be overwhelmingly confident that the impact of God reforming His Church will result in global ramifications. Pray earnestly that the Father would send His eternal Son back into the world for the salvation of His bride. Are you ready?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Guarding Your Garden

Genesis 2:15 says:

15The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep [guard] it.[1]
When God created the man and placed him in the garden of Eden He gave him two key responsibilities:
  1. To work it - by that He means to cultivate or take care of it.
  2. To keep it - that is to guard it.

Adam was given a very specific task.  When he failed to obey God he missed out on what the LORD had to offer him.  As a result of his failure to trust and obey the LORD, Adam lost the blessing and reward of living with God in unbroken fellowship.  He sacrificed the privilege and honor that was bestowed upon him for nothing more than a fruit.  The deal the serpent made with him was for him to forsake eternal satisfaction for a temporary pleasure.   

Adam sold his birthright, in one sense, to the deceiver for something to eat — much like Esau did with Jacob[2].  God indeed had a wonderful plan for Adam’s life and had called him to be faithful with what was given to him.  However, because he failed to acknowledge God[3] and function appropriately in his God-given role as the spiritual head, God gave his responsibility to others — the cherubim[4].

What is revealed later on in the book of Ezekiel is the fact that this crafty serpent (Satan) was himself an anointed cherub[5] of God until, like Adam, he left his God-ordained purpose in order to define his own reality.  Both of these individuals are perfect examples of beings created in honor and splendor, yet who chose to openly reject their Creator God and become their own authority. 

The truth that is revealed in these two examples is the fact that there is no such thing as private sin.  All sin is like shrapnel from a bomb blown in every direction.  Other people are always affected.  The serpent’s sin resulted in a third of the angels rebelling against God[6] and Adam’s sin brought about the physical and spiritual death to all of his descendants[7].

            How are you doing in the areas of your life?

[1] Gen. 2:15; ESV, 2
[2] Gen. 25:29-34; ESV, 20
[3] Rom. 1:28; ESV, 939
[4] Gen. 3:24; ESV, 3
[5] Ez. 28:14; ESV, 716
[6] Rev. 12:4; ESV, 1034
[7] Rom. 5:12; ESV, 942

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Survey of Genesis 2

For some of us, theological words such as Sovereign can go clear over our heads. Try spelling it out in your mind as: SO - OVER - REIGN. After you space out the words and flip them around a little bit you will end up with “God so reigns over us!” This is an aspect of God which Genesis chapter two emphasizes very strongly. Since chapter one declared His ownership over our lives, chapter two reveals God leading the way in:

1.      Determining where we are to live.[1]
2.      Deciding how we are to act.[2]
3.      Defining who we are to be.[3]

Critics often portray God as a controlling being who delights in making people miserable by forbidding "fun". However, these directives of the Lord are not negative, but positive. They are given to us for our benefit and instruction. This was Adam’s first day alive so God was helping him know where to go, what to do and, ultimately, who he was. After all, since mankind is the epitome of God's creative acts, would you expect anything less of Him taking great care and concern for His masterpiece? Six times in Genesis chapter one God looked over what He had made and saw that it was good. However, the seventh time, after the creation of man, God saw that it was very good.

       The creation of man was His greatest work yet. Rather than speaking man into existence like the rest of creation, God Almighty came down to Earth and built him with His own hands. He made Adam and Eve a home of beauty and majesty where everything was provided for their enjoyment by Him. He gave them the right to rule over His creation, and established the amazing gift of marriage by bringing one man and one woman together for a lifetime of love and devotion to one another in Christ. It is here that God is seen as both Commander and Caretaker.

[1] Gen. 2:8; ESV, 2
[2] Gen. 2:16-17; ESV, 2
[3] Gen. 2:18, 21-23; ESV, 2

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Survey of Genesis 1

Genesis chapter one devotes thirty-one verses describing two very important characteristics of God:

1.      His Power.
2.      His Pleasure.

His power is seen in the fact that He is able to create and sustain all of creation by the very word of His mouth.[1] His pleasure is emphasized seven times as He looks over what He has made and declares it to be good.[2]

What is held within this very first chapter of Scripture is the truth that everything began with God. He is the Creator of the planets and stars and He administrates and organizes them all into their glorious galaxies. Through His spoken word all things were made out of nothing and He alone holds all things together so that they may remain as something.[3] He is the great Creator and Sustainer.

From the smallest particle to the largest star, He governs all of creation with a firm hand. The best part about all of this is that He made it all for Himself and His eternal plan is to share it with us.[4] This may sound odd to you, that He would create it for Himself but, if the joys of creation please Him and He is the source of our pleasure, then we who are in Christ will likewise be eternally pleased.

What we learn about God in this chapter is that He is both sovereign and good. He is sovereign because He reigns as the supreme authority and owner over our lives, and He is good because He focuses His attention on benefiting the lives of His people. He laid the foundations of creation without any power tools and He developed every square inch to be good and pleasurable through all the senses — sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

            However, it is not stuff that you and I will find endless comfort in; rather, it is in God Himself. He is not only our Creator and God, but He alone is to be our Great Satisfaction. Nothing will satisfy us or meet our deepest needs like God. Things in creation are good, but God is great!

[1] Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28-30; ESV, 1
[2] Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; ESV, 1-2
[3] Col. 1:17; ESV, 983
[4] Eph. 1:18; ESV, 976

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How It Could've Happened: Lucifer's Demise

The following is a theory I have regarding how Lucifer’s fall may have unfolded. It is an excerpt from my book Darkness Falls: A Short Study on Demonic Origins which can be found on Amazon for those interested in further reading.

God made Lucifer an anointed cherub.  While he had power and rule, God gave the ruler-ship of Earth to Adam and Eve.  Could this have upset him and caused resentment to brood?  Something further to consider: is it possible that the moment Satan fell was the same moment he was tempting Eve?  Because of his apparent victory in leading mankind to submit to his rule and authority instead of the other way around that God had intended, could this have shown power to the angels?  Satan was now the ruler of the “rulers” and this may have enticed a third of the angels to turn away from their Creator and follow the creation instead.

We all know that if a leader acquires a major victory of success, many are willing to follow that individual.  If Lucifer became Satan either just before or during Eve’s temptation and then went to Heaven and boasted about his accomplishment, this would have influenced many to join him. It then is possible that, while Adam and Eve were sewing fig leaves to cover their shame, war erupted in Heaven.  Perhaps just as soon as God threw Satan and his cohorts down to the Earth, He then came down Himself to rescue His beloved children from the domain of darkness.  This might then explain why Satan was with Adam and Eve when God found them.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

God's Sovereignty Over Abraham's Family Line

God chooses whom He wills:

  • Abram - "Go forth from your the land which I will show you...And I will make you a great nation..." Genesis 12:1-3; 18:17-19
  • Isaac - "No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son...and I will establish My covenant with him..." Genesis 15:2-4; 17:19-21; 18:10, 14
  • Rebekah - "...may she be the one You [God] have appointed for Your servant Isaac..." Genesis 24:12-27, 44, 50-51
  • Jacob - "Two nations...two peoples...the older will serve the younger." Genesis 25:23

God gives them a new name:

  • Ishmael - Genesis 16:11
  • Abraham - Genesis 17:5
  • Sarah - Genesis 17:15
  • Isaac - Genesis 17:19-21
  • Israel - Genesis 32:27-29
Like the Lord Jesus Christ, Isaac and Ishmael were both named before birth. However, the other three individuals were each given new names by God to show His patience and kindness. As humans, our lives are packed full with a lot of baggage. We all have a past filled with bad decisions and unforgivable sins.

Nevertheless, God steps into the midst of the mess. He never leaves us to continue in our own way of destruction, but is actively involved in transforming our entire way of living. He remakes, reshapes, and renames us as children of the Most High God and perseveres diligently on our behalf. Thanks be to God our Savior!

For Further Study, Read:

Old Testament: Genesis 25:19-34; 26:34-35; 27; 28:1-9; 32:24-32
New Testament: Romans 9:6-16; Galatians 4:28; Hebrews 11:20; 12:14-17

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Characters of the Wedding Feast

Matthew 22:1-14

1. The King - God the Father (22:2-14)

2. The King's Son - Jesus Christ (22:2)

3. The King's Servants:

          a. The Prophets of the Old Testament (22:2-6)

          b. The Apostles of the New Testament (22:8-10)

4. The King's List - Israel (22:3-8)

5. The King's Armies - Nations of the World. More Specifically, Rome. (22:7)

6. The King's Guests - The Church (22:9-11)

7. The King's Garment - The Holy Spirit (22:11-12)

8. The King's Attendants - Possibly the Angels or even the Attendees (22:13)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Who Wrote 1st & 2nd Samuel?

It seems like it would be safe to assume that Samuel, the prophet who anointed both Saul and David to be the first two kings of Israel, would be the writer of these two books. However, upon closer examination of the text, you will find that Samuel actually died at the beginning of 1 Samuel 25. This means that he died thirty-one chapters too soon to be the penman of both books.

The two books of Samuel are the clearest, fullest and most informative documents of the life of David we have in existence today. So who was this historic scribe? Well, the truth of the matter was that this was actually a joint effort between the following three individuals:

1.      Samuel

2.      Nathan

3.      Gad

How do we know this? 1 Chronicles 29:29-30 says:

29Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the Chronicles of Samuel the seer, and in the Chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the Chronicles of Gad the seer, 30with accounts of all his rule and his might and of the circumstances that came upon him and upon Israel and upon all the kingdoms of the countries.