Posts Tagged ‘Tribulation’

Things God Wants you to Know

Things God Wants You to Know—and Things He Doesn’t.

© Chet Bishop 2011

Introduction:

I rarely offer “current events” sermons… The most current thing in the world is God’s Word, and I can never offer anything more relevant than what He has to say. But over the last few weeks a frustrating, sad thing has been happening. A man (Harold Camping) has claimed to know something, and has presented this “special knowledge” to the world at large. He did so in the name of Jesus. He advertised worldwide…spent millions, in fact,  to tell everyone that Jesus was going to rapture the church on May 21st, 2011 at 5:59 PM. (In case you are wondering, nothing happened at all…guess we missed it.)

This is not the first time this charlatan has made this claim. He did the same thing in 1994, and it almost seems to me that he claimed the same day that time, but I can’t remember for sure. At any rate, he was shown to be a false prophet that time, and has done so again. But this time, the whole world is mocking the Christians, assuming that this is what Christians believe. They laugh, and write slanderous ditties, mocking those who believe in the Christ at all, let alone the relative few who accepted the message of the charlatan.

Serious Christians and, more specifically, serious Bible students were not at all disturbed by his message, except that we all fervently wish he would knock off the frivolous claims, and quit dragging the name of Jesus in the dirt of public mockery. We knew he was wrong.

How did we know?

There are things God definitely wants us to know. He says so, and commands Christians to share that knowledge with anyone who will listen. (He also says that we are not to waste it on those who are opposed to the message.) But there are things God does NOT want us to know, as well: more specifically, things He has plainly told us we will not know, that it is not ours to know.

Things God want us to Know:

Let’s look first at just a few of the things God says He wants us to know—there are many, of course, but let’s look at a few of the key issues:

Isaiah 6:1-3 says “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim…and one cried to another, and said, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the LORD of Hosts’!”

(God is Holy! In fact, Holiness is His primary attribute…and He wants us to know it!)

Zechariah 8:17 says, “And let none of you imagine evil in your heart against your neighbor… for these are things that I hate, saith the LORD”

One thing God wants you to know (and He declares it to be so, over and over) is that He is a Holy God. That means he is separated from sin. It also means he hates sin, as any grieving parent would hate the drugs that were destroying his or her precious child…God hates sin because it is repugnant to him…offensive to him; and he hates it because of the destruction it is working in the world he has created…the people that he loves…the people for whom he died.

God is Holy, and He hates sin…he hates the evil that mankind thinks up, one against another—all of it—from the gossip and lies that are so common in the world, to the greed that consumes our nations, to the immorality that riddles all of our cultures.

We don’t like to think about God hating—but he does—He is Holy, and He hates sin.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Now, Love is something we DO like to associate with God—we like to remember his Love, and we sing, “Oh, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!” Let’s see what it says He loves: It says, “God so loved the WORLD…” the people. Not the World system of thinking, which despises His grace, and spits on his Law, but the people themselves, created in His image. He hates the sin, but loves the sinner.

So, another thing God wants you to know is that He loves you—you, personally, with all your pride and sin, and failings. (Yes, you are a sinner…most of you do not need me to tell you that…you already knew it.) God says that “ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23) He also says “the wages of Sin is death” (Romans 6:23.) But God says He loves you in spite of your sin, and sent His Son to die in your place.

Now, one thing He told us briefly, in John 3:16, is that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That begins to let us know what God wants us to do…He says he wants us to believe in His Son, who died for us.

Once Jesus was speaking to a large crowd of people, and one of them asked “Teacher, what shall we do that we might work the works of God?” Some of you know His answer—this question was in John 6:28—verse 29 gave His answer. He said “this is the work of God; that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” Jesus could have quoted the Ten Commandments to them—He was the author! But God has NEVER invited us to do good works to earn His favor. He has always invited us to place our trust in His perfect work, and receive un-earned favor—that’s what we call GRACE. (Grace means “unearned favor.” God says “By Grace are ye saved, through Faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”He loveH

So, right along with the fact that He loves us, is the fact that he wants us to place our trust in Him—specifically, in his Son, the Lord Jesus.

In another situation, Jesus was talking with a group of people, and made a very special promise.

 John 5:24 says “Verily, Verily, I say unto you; whosoever heareth my Words, and believeth on Him who sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life”

God wants you to know HOW to receive eternal life, He wants you to receive it, and He wants you to know for sure that you have received it. Let me re-emphasize that: He wants you to know how to have eternal life, He wants you to HAVE eternal life, and He wants you to KNOW you have it—NOW, not waiting ‘til you die, and hoping you would get it.

Look at that promise! John 5:24 is ONE promise, with TWO conditions, and THREE clauses. (ONE, TWO, THREE!)

The whole verse is one promise—what are the conditions? He said whoever (that means you and me)…#1: whoever hears my words (If you have heard the promise of Christ, even if today was the first time, and I know for most of you it is not), #2: and believes on Him who sent me (If you place your trust in the Grace that sent Jesus to the cross—believing that His blood was sufficient to pay for your sin) Those are the only conditions—there is no one here who cannot fulfill those two conditions. Let’s look at the threefold promise that rests on those two conditions:

Whoever hears, and believes, #1: HAS everlasting life (notice it does NOT say, will have everlasting life—it says HAS everlasting life—NOW!— not “someday, if you are good enough”… NOW— in spite of your sins.

#2: The second clause is similar—it says you shall not come into condemnation—God will remember your sins no more. He will never condemn you again. Your sins are gone forever, in terms of judgment. They were nailed to the Cross. Will you still sin? Yes. Will God ever condemn you again for your sins? NO. Those sins were paid for by the blood of Jesus.

The third is almost too simple—we almost miss it.

Clause #3 states that we have passed from death unto life. Now notice the tense, here—the first clause is present tense—it says we HAVE eternal life—present tense. The second is future tense—it says we WILL NOT come into condemnation. That covers my present and my future—what about my past?

The last clause is past tense, but not just past tense; no, rather, God used past PERFECT tense in the original language—meaning I have crossed over at some specific time in the past, and it has eternal results. I can never go back. That’s why we call it the new birth–Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again!” Well, by faith, I have been born again, and cannot be “un-born.” That is what perfect tense means…it’s a done deal!

God wants you to know that you have eternal life!  

1st John 5:11-13 says, “This is the record, that God has given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His son. He that hath the Son, hath life. He that hath not the Son of God, hath not life. These things I have written unto you who believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life.

God says He wants you to know that you have eternal life—not “hope you can hang on long enough to get it.” These are all things God definitely wants us to know.

Things God does NOT want us to know:

Some things we can assume He did not want us to know because He simply does not tell us, and there is no way to find out. What was God doing the day before Genesis 1:1? It isn’t entirely a silly question…God has been active throughout all eternity. We are given a few things to know—we know that there was a war in heaven—we don’t know exactly when. We know that the angel named Lucifer fell into sin because of pride, and became the adversary known as Satan (which means “the adversary”—the enemy.) We know that a third of the angelic host joined him in his rebellion, and were lost with him. We think (can’t prove it) that they are probably the spirits that became the demonic host that plagued Israel during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. This type of question can be considered in light of what God has told us, and probable answers can be proposed…but only tentatively.

Peter asked Jesus, just before the ascension, what John was to do. Jesus told him, in effect, that it was none of his business, and that he should concentrate on his own walk with God. (John 21:20-23). I would hypothesize from Jesus’ answer that we are not given to know God’s will for another individual except in the general sense, in that he has told us his will for every believer in a wide range of circumstances, and general principles, so that there should be little doubt. But he does not tell me what he wants of you in your ministry. There is no hierarchy of clergy through which God reveals his will for all the laity—in fact, the whole concept of a division between clergy and laity is foreign to the church age. Every believer is a priest in the Body of Christ, and we all have responsibility as priests…and we all work directly for the Head of the Body—Jesus, himself.

Daniel once observed that he could not understand the prophecy he had just been given (Daniel 12:8, 9)—the angel who had given him the message told him to “write it down and run along—“ that it was not for him to understand, but for the people of the end time. Interesting! Daniel, one of the greatest prophets of all time, was not allowed to understand the prophecy he was sent to deliver!

Jesus’ disciples had essentially the same question…when is all this stuff going to happen? (Matthew 24:3, ff)  Jesus had gone to great lengths to explain the Great Tribulation, and the things that would preface his physical return to earth…but not a word as to how to put a date on it. In fact, in verse 35, he confides that not even the angels knew the date—but (at least at that point), only the Father (Matthew 24:35). In fact, in Mark 13:32, Jesus said that he himself did not even know the date of his return! Does Jesus know today? Undoubtedly, since he is God—and He was God, then— but evidently he had set aside that particular prerogative, and was living by faith, as a man. We might (probably should) take enough from these passages to understand that this is a closed issue. But the disciples weren’t satisfied…they just had to ask again.

At the ascension, just before Jesus left the Earth, they tried once more (Acts 1:6-8), asking, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?” They did not understand any of the issues involved—they were asking for a restoration of the glory of the kingdom of David, or possibly that of Solomon—they had no idea of the Kingdom of God, or they would not have asked for “restoration”—they had never seen the Kingdom of God; Israel had never had it—so it could not be “restored”.

But Jesus’ response is a real key to the whole matter of the end times: He said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power (authority.)” (None of your concern!) But, he went on to say, “you shall receive power…and ye shall be witnesses unto Me…” the great commission was reiterated at this point. The thing that WAS theirs to know was that they were to be ambassadors for Christ throughout the whole world.

That particular question was never raised again by the disciples—and it was not bandied about in the epistles. There is zero discussion about when the Day of the Lord may begin…only that it will begin suddenly, without warning, and that it will begin with the snatching away of the church, and the Tribulation (seven years of it) will immediately follow (see 1st Thessalonians 4 and 5). Jesus’ return to earth will terminate the Tribulation, and usher in the Millennial Kingdom Matthew 25:31 and following. Also Revelation 19 and 20.). The book of the Revelation primarily concerns itself with this whole time period from the rapture to the end of the millennial kingdom…but no clue is give as to when it might happen. There are many clues as to how to know it is coming, but not one bit about setting a time.

So…when someone claims to have that knowledge, you are dealing either with a false prophet who is deliberately attempting to lead you astray, or, hopefully, simply someone who has allowed themselves to be deluded, either by their own reasoning (quite common) or someone else’s (even more common). This is simply one of the few things we know of that God does NOT want us to know, and that, indeed we cannot know. Jesus said: “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is!” All we can do is be ready.

Today, this is a pressing hope in the Church. We see the World rapidly deteriorating, and we fervently hope for the Lord’s Return. But all we can do is press forward with the Great Commission, which is one of the things we DO know is His will, and look forward to the Hope of His Coming…another thing we know is His will.

How Shall we then Live?

Paul made an interesting comment to the Church at Corinth: “Awake to righteousness and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” (1st Corinthians 15:34) This is especially applicable today, as we are hoping for the Lord’s soon return: There are millions around us who would be eternally lost if He returned today. Paul says we are to wake up and do something about it. At the very least, our lives should reflect the Holiness and Love of God. It is our responsibility to act as ambassadors of Christ, as well, sharing that Love and the Salvation He provided at the Cross with the lost world around us.

Now, There’s something God wants you to know! And He calls each of us to wake up and respond to Him in faith and obedience.

God help us all to open up and yield to His Spirit, and reach out to the lost around us.


The Coming Judgment

The Coming Judgment

© C. O. Bishop 2012 (THCF, June 30, 2019)

Isaiah 5:1-30

Introduction

I have consistently found, when reading the book of Isaiah, that it is difficult to read it and NOT think, “This is talking to us! The United States!” But it isn’t, really—it is specifically about and to the nation of Israel. On the other hand, I think it is entirely appropriate for us to read—and tremble—as we realize how fully it applies to our country, and to us as individuals, as well.

Chapter 5—a land blessed beyond all others—but not bearing fruit.

1Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:

And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

Verses 1-7 tell a parable, comparing Israel and Judah to a carefully cultivated vineyard that brought forth bad fruit, regardless of the care of the husbandman. God declares that He had cause to expect good things from Israel, as they had been blessed beyond any other nation. But they had NOT responded well, and that now He, God, would not only withdraw his blessing, he would specifically take away His defense, and allow her enemies to despoil her.

The Causes for Judgment:

Greed

Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

In mine ears said the Lord of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.

10 Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.

Verse 8 is apparently in reference to the practice of buying up all the land they could afford, to give themselves huge holdings, specifically so that they could separate themselves from others. I had initially misunderstood this to mean that overcrowding kept adding houses next to other houses until no one could be alone. But it is the opposite—the rich preying on others, gobbling up farms, and houses, to make a huge estate for themselves, so that they could be alone in the earth. Verses 9, 10 go on to say that these “great houses” would become desolate, with no one living in them, and their land unproductive.

Carousing and Entertainment

11 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!

12 And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands.

Verse 11 talks about “party animals”– people whose chief “reason to be” is to drink and carouse. This has been a consistent problem in the human race for all time. Sometimes more than others. I have heard people brag about being a “party animal.” There is nothing wrong with eating or drinking, but either can be taken to excess. We have eating contests and even beer-drinking contests in this country. Evidently they had similar problems there (Compare verse 22).

Music is another thing that can be abused, right along with the food and drink. It seems that these people valued entertainment as a whole, more than they valued the work of God, and the things He has done. Ezekiel 33:30-33 makes this same complaint, that even the preaching of God’s Word had become simply a means of entertainment. I remember a Missionary speaker telling how, after a sermon, a woman came up to him saying, “Oh, Preacher! I was moved! I was stirred!” But, as she saw his eyes light up as he opened his mouth to reply, she blurted, “But I’m not going!” She had enjoyed the emotional stirring caused by good preaching, but had no intention of allowing it to disrupt her life. And that is exactly what Ezekiel 33 is talking about. We love to be stirred and to experience the thrill of good music, a good book, a good sermon, a good meal, etc., but we are not interested in having God’s Word actually move us out of our comfort zone.

Idolatry

God says we tend to rejoice in the works of our own hands (musical instruments, in this passage, but it could be anything—race-cars, toys, possessions, human honor and achievements…), but we tend to not honor Him for the works of His hands, nor consider and honor His activity in the world today. We look at the world, and say, “Isn’t ‘mother nature’ amazing!”, and, as a nation, we have learned to reject any notion that the creature has a Creator. We say, “Wasn’t that an amazing coincidence!”, and deny the possibility of Divine intervention. Evidently the problem is not new. In fact, one of the final warnings before the second coming, in Revelation 14:7, is to “fear God, and give glory to Him, the Creator”. So the continuing problem, during the entire course of Human History, is that we deny God the honor that is His, and we honor ourselves or even Satan (in various guises), in God’s place.

Final Reason for Judgment:

13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

Verse 13 says “therefore…” (because of what went before) “…my people Israel have gone into captivity.” Remember that this passage was written around 760 years before Christ—about 160 years before the captivity came from Babylon, and about 40 (or more) years before the Northern kingdom fell to Assyria. But in the eyes of God it was already a done deal. “Therefore, my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge.”(Knowledge of what? Of Science? Vintnery? Warfare? Sin? No, rather, because they had no knowledge of God and His statutes.) Their honorable men are famished; spiritual starvation had weakened the nation. The multitudes are dried up for thirst…the living water of God’s Word had been ignored or denied them, until they were utterly dry. Does that sound familiar? How many people today are really “filled up” with God’s Word?

Result of Judgment

14 Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.

15 And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:

16 But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.

17 Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.

So, in verse 14, still because of the listed sin, Hell (sheol— the grave, the place of the dead) has opened wide, to receive the countless dead that would soon enter. By the way, remember that this prophecy reaches beyond just the contemporary judgment and touches the end times. In the Revelation, we see that one half of the world’s population will die during the great tribulation. The captivity of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar is just the “firstfruits” of God’s Judgment.

Verse 15 points out that this judgment applied to all walks of life (the “mean man” is the “common man”…not people who are “mean to others,”) and that no one could expect to escape, but that (in verse 16) He, the LORD of Hosts, would be exalted in the judgment…That the God who is Holy shall be shown to be holy, in Righteousness;  it will show that Judgment does not reflect poorly on God, but quite the opposite—it exalts Him, as that is who He is—The JUDGE of all the earth (Genesis 18:25).

[Judge of all the earth? Who does John 5:22 say is the Judge? (read it) Just for a moment, consider John 1:18– “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared him.” This Judge, exalted in the Judgment, is Christ!]

We will soon observe some important things about God’s character…we saw, back in Genesis, that God was the Creator, the Lawgiver, and the Judge, beside being the sustainer, protector, master, etc. But we will see which of God’s attributes takes precedence over all the others.

The Recipients of Judgment

18 Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:

19 That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!

20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:

23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

He pronounces judgment on a series of groups of people—He says, woe:

  • To those who drag sin along with folly and deceit and keep wickedness moving. (There are many who have their “pet sin” and go far out of their way to draw others into that sin, or to force others to approve it.)
  • To those saying “Judgment is coming? This I gotta see! Bring it on!” There are unbelievers who are excited about the news of the coming judgment, and seem to overlook the fact that it will also affect their own life.
  • To those who call evil good and good evil, that replace light with darkness, and call darkness light, trade bitter for sweet, and vice versa. We humans try to redefine sin, and make our wickedness seem good.
  • To those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight. They think they are really too smart for God. “Only fools believe the Bible…” 1st Corinthians 1:23 Points out that the Gentile world consistently sees the Cross as foolishness.
  • To those who are champion drunks—they brag about how much liquor they consume, and how “sophisticated” their taste in liquor has become.
  • To those who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the righteousness of the righteous. This could be the blatant taking of bribes, or just the cronyism that gives favors to friends, at the expense of the rightful expectations of those who have earned those rights. It might be at a government level, a civil organization level, a corporate business level, or even in private dealings. If a man is willing to turn a blind eye to evil to benefit the doer of evil (or himself,) and not to stand for what is right, to defend those who have done right, then he is guilty of this charge.

24 Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

25 Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

26 And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:

27 None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:

28 Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:

29 Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.

30 And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.

Verse 24, 25—Judgment has been coming regularly for these things, because they have cast away the Law of the Lord of Hosts, and have despised the Word of the Holy One of Israel. His Word and His Holiness take precedence over all else. The judgment isn’t over yet—in verses 26-30, He brings swarms of enemies against them, overwhelming the land, and bringing utter ruin.

The judgment spelled out in verses 25-30 was to be partially fulfilled in the armies of Babylon, though He does not name them until later. Ultimately, it will be fulfilled during the Great Tribulation, as we see in Zechariah 14:1-4. We see a hint of this, in the continuing use of the phrase “in that day.” This phrase, denoting the coming “Day of the LORD,” was first mentioned in Isaiah 2:12, and is referenced all the way through the book.

So, the fulfillment of the Judgment which Isaiah predicted ran from about 600 BC in the Babylonian captivity, all the way to the second coming of Christ; and then he predicts the blessings throughout the Millennial Kingdom age, as we began to see in chapter 4. This book is one of the most far-reaching prophecies in the Bible.

Personal Application:

How does this affect the Church, today? Can we apply the principles in any way, so as to make use of this chapter today? We know that the passage is specifically addressed to Israel, Judah, Jerusalem, and the inhabitants thereof, but, we want to see how to address sin in our own lives, so that God does not find it necessary to chasten us as his erring sons. We are the Church, not Israel, but, as those who are “dead with Christ, and risen from the dead with Him,” it seems we should be able to apply His Word to our daily lives.

  • Perhaps all it will do is to make us take a closer look at the sin in our own lives, because we can clearly see that God’s Righteousness and His Judgment are not to be trifled with.
  • Perhaps it will drive us to examine our tendency toward self-justification…the tendency we have toward excusing our own actions, even when they are plainly wrong.
  • Perhaps it will lead us to not so strongly look forward to the coming Judgment, as every single one of us knows people to whom it will mean an eternity without Christ, and without hope. (Yes, it means release for us, but it will mean utter destruction for most.)
  • Perhaps it will motivate us to look for opportunities to turn others back from that destruction, since that is precisely what we are called to do.
  • The Great Commission is for all believers: we do have a responsibility to offer eternal life to others, and to love them as Jesus does, and to forgive them as He says to do.

Isaiah 5 is God’s response to unbelief and rebellion. Such things should not be part of our lives, but the fact is that they often are. At minimum, we can take our warning from this passage and confess our sins, and seek to walk in obedience to the Risen Savior.

Next time, we will see the call of Isaiah, to a specific ministry. Please notice that, according to Romans 8:28-30, if you are a believer, then you, too, are already called. You are not to wait to be stunned by Jesus on the road to Damascus, or be devastated by His Holiness, in a vision, like Isaiah, Daniel or John. You are already called to serve. Let’s get with it!

Lord Jesus, please help us to focus our attention on you, the Holy God and Savior, rather than upon our own desires and goals. Re-mold us into your image, and redirect our steps to walk with you.


Ultimate Blessing

Ultimate Blessing

© C. O. Bishop 2019

Isaiah 4:1-6; Revelation 1:10-18

Introduction:

Last time, we completed chapter three, and saw how God was going to purge Jerusalem of her sin. We saw that it could have been referring to the Babylonian captivity, but that it certainly had reference to the Great tribulation as well.

Chapter four skips all the way past the Great Tribulation, and addresses the blessedness of the surviving remnant in Jerusalem after the Lord’s return.

When we study God’s Word, especially when studying the prophetic writings, we must look for the correct, Biblical interpretation, before attempting to find appropriate application in our own lives. In other words, we must ask: to whom is this written, or regarding whom? What are the circumstances under which it is written? When was it written? (In what time period?) Are there any clues as to when the prophecy (or promise) is to be fulfilled? Exactly what is being prophesied, or promised? Are there conditions under which things could change? (For example, if there is a warning of coming judgment “…except ye repent”, does that mean there is a possibility of escaping judgment, if the recipients change their behavior? It certainly had that effect in Nineveh, didn’t it?)

So, beginning with those standards of study, let’s read Isaiah chapter 4. (Read all of it)

To Whom is this written?

As we read, we will keep in mind that, according to verses 2, 3, 4 and 5, these promises are to Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel, not the United States, Great Britain, or some other country. There may be application in our lives at one level or another, but the interpretation is definitely to the Jews, not any Gentile nation, nor even to the Church.

Where will it happen, and When?

Chapter 4

1And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.

The prophecy in verse one could (possibly) still be in reference to the Babylonian captivity (because of the scarcity of men, after the siege and evacuation), but verse 2 makes it clear that the final fulfillment of this prophecy will be at the beginning of the Millennial kingdom:

In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.

Verse two predicts that “in that day” the “branch of the LORD” will flourish (in reference to the returned and reigning Messiah), and that the fruit of the land would be excellent and beautiful for the remnant of Israel, who survived the tribulation. This is the “remnant” of whom God will speak over and over again: those Jews who survive the tribulation, and enter the Kingdom alive, in their natural, physical bodies.

Verses 3-6 make it clear that this is specifically in reference to the physical return of the Lord… the entire city of Jerusalem will be under the Glory of God, and every living person therein will be called Holy. When? “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion.” At that time, every single living Jew will be a believer, and will be utterly devoted to his or her Savior. Where? In Zion, the City of the Living God.

And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:

When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.

So the judgment that happens during the Tribulation period is for the purpose of purging and cleansing Israel, making her holy, and preparing her for the purpose He had announced from the beginning, that she should be holy, and a kingdom of priests. Remember, as we say this, that the Church is to be kings (plural) and priests. Israel is to be a kingdom (singular) of priests. The two are not the same.

What will happen?

And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.

And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.

We want to be especially careful in applying these sorts of prophecies—this is only in reference to Israel and Judah, and any misapplication can result in some bad theology. The closest proper application will be that at that same time, every living Gentile will also be a believer (this is immediately after the “judgment of the living nations” described in Matthew 25:31, ff). But the Gentiles will NOT be “called Holy”, and will NOT have the special supernatural blessings that will be in Jerusalem. Life will be better than at any time in history, all over the world, but the Jews in Jerusalem will be under the special blessing of the presence of the ruling Messiah.

Are there Applications for today?

In terms of today, in the Church age, I can think of no physical application, except to say that having Jesus residing in your heart is great, and an absolutely necessary result of your salvation: but having Him presiding there—reigning there—is greater still…and is what God wants for each of us, day by day. Jesus will be physically residing in Jerusalem, and reigning from there, over the whole world. I want Jesus to reign from my heart over my whole life. It is entirely possible for a believer, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, by the person of the Trinity, actually, to still be in active or passive rebellion against his or her Master. This would be a spiritual application of a physical reality.

I can also see some further spiritual application: in verse 5, he says that “a cloud and smoke by day, and a shining of a flaming fire by night” will be upon every dwelling in Jerusalem. Remember that, when the tabernacle and the temple were first built, God promised that he would literally move in, and live there. The smoke and the fire from those two edifices were to show everyone that God lived there. He did move in, and the glory of God shone out so brightly that no one could come near the place. (Exodus 40:34, 35; 2nd Chronicles 5:13, 14) In the Jerusalem of the Millennial Kingdom, He will live in ALL the dwellings…how does that apply today?

(See John 14:16, 17; Romans 8:9)

John 14:16, 17
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

Romans 8:9
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

So, we can see that every single believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God…no exceptions.

Why? What is the point? And, if it is so important, then how ought the world to know it? (See John 13:34, 35; Philippians 2:15, 16; etc.)

John 13:34, 35
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Philippians 2:15, 16
15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

Notice that, in the Philippians 2 passage, Paul gives us some idea about what it means to “shine as lights in the World—holding forth the Word of Life.”

We are not just to be “fine moral examples,” or “upstanding citizens,” though those are also expected. We are to be a constant testimony to the saving Grace of God.

Jesus addressed this idea in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14-16), saying, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.

Our Love for the brethren and our good works in general ought to stand as a constant testimony to the living reality of God’s saving Grace in our lives. And, our words should match our life.

The Revelation Confirms It!

Oddly enough, in the opening chapters of the Revelation, God again refers to the churches as candlesticks. They are the light holders…the lamps. Collectively, we are called to be lights in the world…lamps, shining in a dark place. Jesus Himself is the actual source of the Light.

Revelation 1:10-18

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;

13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.


The candlesticks (lampstands) are representing the Church at large: we are not the source of light…we are holders of the light. (Think back to Matthew 5:15; the man lighting a candle is God, in the person of Christ. Jesus is the light of the World. But where does he put that candle? On a candlestick! Each assembly of believers should be a light in their community.

In Philippians 2:15, we were told that we are to shine as lights in the world. And how? Philippians 2:16 says that we are to” hold forth the Word of life.” Who is that Word of Life? According to John 1:1, Jesus is the Word, and according to John 1:4, 5, Jesus is the Light, and the Life. The Gospel of Christ is the Word of Life we offer to the World, while we hold the light of Christ.

So the Light in the midst of the candlesticks, there in Revelation 1:13, is Christ… the lampstands, or candlesticks, are the churches (plural), and collectively, they are the Church, proper. The reason we separate the two ideas (singular and plural,) is that (as we will see in chapter 3) individual churches can fail, and be removed as lights in the world. The Church as a whole is held in place by God until we, as a whole, are removed at the Rapture of the Church.

The fact that there were seven candlesticks speaks of the completeness of the Church: there were many other churches within the Church at large. The number “Seven” is frequently used to indicate completeness, and it shows that the whole body of Christ is in view.

The Gold speaks of intrinsic value. Keep in mind, as we see the flaws in churches(plural,) that in spite of their flaws and their failings, they are still solid gold, in God’s eyes. Even when we see the stern warnings to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, we need to remember that GOD said they were solid gold! When you feel tempted to be dismissive of another believer, for whatever reason, remember that they are precious in His sight.

The golden implements and vessels of the Old Testament temple were still holy to God, even when enemies had physically stolen them and used them for unclean things. (God judged Belshazzar in the book of Daniel for that very crime.) An individual church may become unusable, because of sin, but all the born-again believers in that church are still God’s holy people, and He will keep them, chastise them, correct them and recover them for His own glory, even if it means taking them home. Jesus has never lost a single lamb of His flock!  He himself makes that claim in John 6:39—“ And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Those are precious promises, aren’t they? Now, if I had to depend upon my own works to save me or keep me, I’d be lost: it is as simple as that! But Jesus says He will not lose a single one of us…and He says that we are precious in His sight. He calls us to choose holiness, and to lay our lives before him, daily, as a living sacrifice, so that every moment is to His glory.

Israel has a promise of great things to come: we have even greater blessing: we are the Bride of Christ, collectively, and are currently indwelt by His Spirit! Israel will be seen as a priesthood for God in the Millennial Kingdom, and marked, physically, by the column of smoke by day, and fire by night, from every residence in Jerusalem. We are to be priests in the World today, marked by Love and good works. We are to hold forth the word of life, and to shine as lights in a dark world, meanwhile, as it says in verse six, we are also to find in Him our only shelter against the trials of life: the heat of day, the cold of the rain, and the power of the storms of life. Find our shelter in Him, and offer that shelter, His Love and Grace, the light of life, to all those around us.

God help us to do just that!

Lord Jesus, change us from the inside, and make us able ambassadors of your Grace. Purge us of the fears and bitterness and anger that shackle us; the sins that so easily weigh us down, and free our hearts to serve you with Gladness.