Tag Archives: religion

Apostasy and the Man of Sin

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, ESV)

The Rebellion

Literally, Apostasy or falling away. The Apostasy or Rebellion is a large scale turning away from God’s Law, and from faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son.

“Since the reference here is to a world-wide rebellion against divine authority at the end of the age, the ideas of political revolt and religious apostasy are combined.”  -FF Bruce (Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Thessalonians)

“This rebellion, which will take place within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. True, apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, but Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future”   -Walvoord/Zuck (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

This is what we are seeing in the USA now, and what has been happening in the Christian lands of the West beginning in the 1700s. There is a great falling away from faith in Jesus Christ, which founded Western Civilization. We re primed for a strongman to take over and change times, laws, morals and values. Academia, the Entertainment Industry, the most powerful corporations, all have turned against Christianity in our time. The most alarming apostasy, however is in the church. Mainline denominations turned away from confidence in the Bible 50-100 years ago. Now those same nominally Christian organizations have turned toward the validation and celebration of sexual immorality and the culture of death (abortion industry). Increasingly they reject the miraculous, acts of Jesus, his resurrection, and even his deity. This last certainly marks them as apostate, not part of God’s chosen people. The essential confession of faith is: Jesus is Lord. Apart from that no one is saved.

Man of Lawlessness

This figure has a several names in the New Testament, two here: Man of Lawlessness (also translated Man of Sin) and Son of Destruction (also Son of Perdition). John calls this figure the Anti-Christ, and in Revelation The Beast. In Daniel, the Little Horn (7:8). Jesus quoted Daniel in calling this leader’s image the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15, cf Dan. 11:31, 36)

There are numerous examples of powerful political leaders who opposed the faithful up to this point and beyond.

Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.” (Daniel 11:31, ESV) This was Antiochus Epiphanes who abolished sacrifices, set up an altar to Zeus, offered pigs blood on it and punished those who circumcised their children.

Antiochus Ephiphanes may be the archetype, and we may read of him in the so called Apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees, which Roman Catholics and others accept, but which were rejected as canon by the Jews and by most Bible believing Christians.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, 45 to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals,  to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.” (1 Maccabees 1:41-50)

Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.” (1 Maccabees 54-60)

 

Near the time of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica the Emperor Gaius, also known as Caligula was in power. He insisted that he be known as a god. Other emperors, beginning with Augustus were deified after death, but Caligula insisted on being worshiped. He decreed that a statue of him be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem, but was assassinated in AD 41 before these orders could be carried out. This would certainly be fresh on the minds of Paul and his readers.

In both of these notorious leaders (Antiochus and Caligula) we find an initial fulfillment of the prophecy about the Abomination of Desolation in the temple (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11). Evidently there will be a greater example, and a final fulfillment of this prophecy immediately prior to the return of Christ.

Next there was Nero, who persecuted and martyred Christians in Rome. Coating Christians with pitch and burning them to light his garden.

Then there was Domitian, who insisted on being referred to as “Dominus et Deus,” Lord and God.

The first empire-wide persecution occurred under Decius circa AD 250.

The worst persecution was the last under Diocletian circa AD 300.

Throughout history other anti-Christs like Hitler have murdered millions of Christians and/or Jews.

But none of these has been the ultimate and final fulfillment of Anti-Christ. That one is still to come.

Characteristics of the Anti-Christ to watch out for:

  1. Powerful world leader with absolute global authority (Revelation 13:1-10).
  2. Rejects Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah and God’s Son come in the flesh (1 Jn. 2:22, 3:2-3) 
  3. Exalts him/herself as God or a god, and will demand and receive worship from everyone (above Daniel 11:36, Revelation 13:8).
  4. Opposes the Bible’s revelation of right and wrong.
  5. Changes the calendar and the law to reflect rejection of Christian and Jewish faith (Daniel 7:25)
  6. His image will be set up in the Temple (Daniel 11:31). I believe that this will be his demand for ultimate allegiance from everyone, which amounts to setting up his image in the hearts of people. We see examples of this in Communist N. Korea today, ie Dear Leader Kim Young Un.
  7. He will even be given authority to make war and successfully conquer God’s people for a short time (Rev. 13:7)
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Continental Divide

They’re dividing up Lord, dividing up
on both sides of the line
and they shout out their lines,
shout out without much thought about
the ends they have in mind.
They shout down or beat down or shoot down
anybody who doesn’t agree.
This is a zero sum game now
and nobody’s backing down.
What we need right now is empathy,
humility and compassion, even for our enemies.
Enough molotov cocktails and burning Tweets,
our incendiary tongues are burning
a once great nation to the ground.
The real enemy is rejoicing
at all the stealing, killing and destruction.
The sexual revolution didn’t set us free.
It made us slaves to our own depravity.
Now we’re eating the poison fruit,
willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly,
and it’s defiling us and killing us.
God help us!
I recall You said once Lord,
“If my people, who are called by my name
will humble themselves and pray,
and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then will I hear from heaven,
and forgive theirs sins,
and heal their land.”
Let it be so, Sir;
make it so today.

Gay Cakes

The provocative title is more narrow than this editorial. I’m reading all of the rhetoric about baking cakes and making pizzas, and it occurs to me that some of you, at least, are on an agenda-driven adventure of missing the point. Completely.

There are several issues here. Some are civil. Some are religious.

Civil issue 1) Should a person of faith (or no faith) be required by the state to violate their conscience? I should say not. This is precisely what has been at issue since the Obama administration began to prosecute businesses that object to paying for abortofacients (drugs or other contraceptives that cause de facto abortions to occur). This is what is at issue when a business that bakes wedding cakes, does wedding photography or rents space is required by the government to do so for those who are plainly in violation of every religions traditional view of marriage.

Civil issue 2) Should a business person with any particular viewpoint be forced to trade or service those with whom they disagree. We see signs on restaurants (and similar establishments) that stay: “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.” Is that acceptable? Not in the broadest interpretation, but it is done all of the time, and we don’t experience a media firestorm over it. That’s because this refusal is typically for an agreed upon good reason. For example, most of us would agree with a restaurant refusing to serve someone not wearing a shirt or shoes. However, there could be a civil rights lawsuit filed if the restaurant refused to serve someone because of their race or religion. This is the generalization that the left is seeking to make concerning issue 1 above. Refusing to serve a homosexual in your restaurant is not the same as refusing to cater their wedding. Anyone may enter a restaurant, order and eat. The restaurant is not perceived as condoning the lifestyle choice of every patron. However, catering a wedding may be perceived as tacitly or actively supporting, if not the couple, homosexual marriage.

Religious issue 1) From a Christian perspective, should I do business with openly gay people, adulterers, spousal or child abusers? I’m sure many will be offended that I’ve bundled these types of people together. For the record, I do not think consensual homosexuality is harmful in the same way as spousal or child abuse. What I want you to understand is, there are some people you don’t want to do business with because of their character or lifestyle. But should you? The argument I’m hearing from a number of Christians is the standard evangelical mantra. We should do it to witness to them. I would agree, if that’s your genuine motive. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, both groups despised by the religious leadership of his day. However, Jesus was never accused of either sinning or extorting money from people (as the tax collectors were accused of doing). The Lord taught the truth and spoke honestly about the need for both the religious and the irreligious to change their thinking and change their ways. Often when a Christian does business or befriends someone who is living a lifestyle that openly defies biblical morality, we just look the other way. And that is why we have a godless nation today. Develop relationships with everyone, even those who don’t think the way you do, even those who oppose Christianity, and then openly share love, grace and truth. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before people in such a way that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)

Religious issue 2) Should a Christian caterer or photographer (for example) do their work for a homosexual wedding? I’m not asking whether they should have a civil right to refuse, but whether, from a biblical standpoint, this business person should participate in such an event.

No, I do not believe a Christian has any business (pardon the unintended pun) supporting something so obviously against Christian morality and the Bible, and beyond that against the time honored traditions of every civilization and religion for 5,000 years. As a minister, I would go to jail rather than officiate a homosexual wedding. Now, you may think that I shouldn’t be forced to marry a gay/lesbian couple because I am a minister in a church. The case I would make is, every Christian is a representative of Christ and every one of us are ministers. I have done videography. I would refuse to do a gay/lesbian wedding. But let’s say a homosexual couple, “married” or not, approached me to do videography for one of their children’s sporting events or birthday parties. Would I take that job. Absolutely. Look at Religious issue 1 again. If I baked cakes, would I do so for the birthday of a vocal homosexual. Again, yes… unless, they ordered some sort of sexually explicit decoration (which I would refuse to do for a heterosexual as well).

Christian friends, you need to stop allowing the culture to make up your mind about these issues. You must stop being swayed by the opinions of your friends and relatives. As a disciple of Jesus I am shaped by his teaching, the Gospel, the Word of God, which is in the Christian canon of the Bible. Speak the truth in love, and love the people of the world as Christ who died to prove his love for the whole world (Ephesians 4:15, John 3:16).

Strong Support for Separation of Church and State

I agree with the separation of church and state, and that includes the separation of religion from government. I am not an atheist. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and his teaching. Moreover, I am the pastor of a Bible teaching church. I support the free exercise of religion and speech. I support every person’s right to freely choose belief or disbelief. I think this way because it is evident that the Creator of human beings highly prizes free choice.

The narrative of creation for Christians and Jews, fundamentally agreed upon by Muslims, is found in Genesis chapters one through three. It is there that we find human beings are created in God’s image (1:27). God is a person with a free will. God does everything after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11). He has no needs. He cannot be coerced. This Creator made everything, simply because he chose to do so.

God’s motive for creating people is love. That is his nature: “God is love” (1st John 4:8). Love is not an emotion; it is not a need for attention, affection or acceptance. At its essence love is the determination to care and do what is best for the beloved. God created other persons to be his beloved. He did this because he wanted to share his love. It is also his desire to receive love from people.

Love compels, but it cannot be compelled. Coercion destroys love. Forced affection is abusive; it is molestation, not love. Therefore, freedom of choice is essential for love to be shared.

In the Bible’s account of beginnings there is a critical choice for the first man and woman. Two clear options are presented: live in communion with the Creator and enjoy the fruit of his garden paradise, or eat the forbidden fruit and die. Death was a curse that involved being severed from fellowship with the Author of Life, which eventually resulted in physical death. Adam and Eve chose the forbidden fruit and were banned from the Garden of Eden. They traded God’s blessing for his curse. This is called the Fall. It was their choice.

Every person who is born is given the same choice. The difference is, human beings are born into a fallen world filled with the effects of estrangement from their Creator. Nevertheless, God is still seeking lovers. Christians believe God demonstrated his love in this, even while we continue in sin, Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God chose to die on the cross prove His love for everyone (Romans 5:8). We also believe Christ rose in victory over the curse of death. It is every person’s choice to receive God’s love and return it in worship, or to disbelieve and reject it. Freedom of choice is absolutely essential.

You do not have to agree with Christian beliefs to benefit from them. In fact, the United States of America was founded upon the belief in a Creator who has given every person the right to choose. The Declaration of Independence clearly states this. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibits the establishment of religion, and ensures everyone the freedom of speech and religion. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; of the right of the people to peaceably assemble…”

This amendment was established due to the concern on the part of the founders that a state church, such as the Church of England, would promote precisely the kind of intolerance the Pilgrims had escaped. Although the overwhelming majority of people in the 13 Colonies were Christians, they had different ways of worshiping and disagreed in various points of doctrine. The First Amendment gave them, and gives us, freedom to worship, and to speak freely about religion.

Today, each side of the political spectrum promotes a different an interpretation or application of the First Amendment. Those on the right support Christian symbols and Christian prayers in government and schools because they believe our nation is founded upon Christian principles, and that this practice does not prohibit other religious expressions. Those on the left oppose public displays of religion, but many seem particularly averse to Christianity. They hold this position because they believe any instance of government supporting a particular religious expression or practice, even when clearly historical in nature, results in some sort of tacit or de-facto establishment. They are opposed to Christianity because it has been the dominant religious expression in our nation.

So, do we eliminate all religious references from government and schools? Or do we allow a community to decide what should be permitted? What if we offer equal opportunity for different religions to pray or display their symbols? This would seem to offer an equitable
solution because it avoids offering preferential treatment to any one religious group.

The last solution was applied by the city council of the town of Greece, New York, which the Supreme Court recently ruled has the right to continue praying before their meetings. The accusation had been made that the city council favored Christian prayers, and, by virtue of this, encouraged the establishment of Christianity. In order to pacify the complaints and prove that they weren’t opposed to equal opportunity, Greece had brought in other religious leaders to pray, including a Wiccan priestess. However, it is not always reflective of the values of a community.

The majority of the Supreme Court supported the rights of the City Council to open in prayer.“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government,” wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

However, if government supports one religious group, it is obligated to support all, even fringe groups, even religions that would oppose law and order. Satanists have created a large goat-headed statue to stand alongside the 10 Commandments outside the Oklahoma City courthouse,. A compelling argument could be made that Satan has historically been associated with rebellion and opposition to law and order. In fact, Satan represents evil. What makes the proposed monument even more disturbing is the inclusion of two children, one standing on either side of the figure, kissing its hands. I’d rather see the 10 Commandments removed from the courthouse than to legitimize Satanism.

Many Christians believe they should support the display of religious symbols in government, and prayer in public schools. In fact, there has been a tendency for Christian pundits and preachers to insist that the removal of public prayer from schools is precisely what has cause a moral decline. I disagree. Formal prayers in public schools do not necessitate the morality of those who are constrained to listen to them. Display of the 10 Commandments at the courthouse does not mean people must or will follow them.

You may think I have a liberal opinion at odds with traditional Christianity, but that would be incorrect. Baptists have historically supported the separation of church and state very strongly, and that continues. In the Supreme Court case we looked at above, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the plaintiffs. That is, they opposed prayer in the City Council. I concur.

If the examples of the Wiccan Priestess praying to pagan gods, and the Satanists seeking to erect their hideous statue don’t serve to support separation, then let me conclude with this.
Everyone has the right to believe and express their religion. Everyone should have the right to present their ideas in the marketplace. Government has no right to oppose any religion, nor the right to support any religion. I am content to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and allow people the freedom to decide for themselves without government intrusion.

I don’t want a Mormon teacher proselytizing children from my church. I don’t want a Muslim legislator seeking to establish Sharia Law in my community or in this country. I will not bow my head and listen to a Wiccan priest/priestess pray to a false god. I have this right and no government should require me to do so. I do not believe that a Christian official has the right to force atheists, Jews or those from other religions to bow when they pray either. This nation values freedom. The God whom I serve strongly supports everyone’s freedom to receive or reject his Son. In the end God will judge: not you, not me, not the Supreme Court, not the United States government. Until Judgment Day, let each person decide for herself, for himself, what to believe, in whom to believe, and what to do about that. I will proclaim the Gospel of Jesus until that day, and I will support your freedom to receive or reject that message.