As in the Day

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5)

This was the assessment of the Lord concerning mankind prior to the world wide flood in the days of Noah. By the grace of God Noah and his family were saved to accomplish God’s plan and purpose. The people of Noah’s day were warned by Noah’s testimony as he built the ark. Those who ignored his testimony went on as before and were drowned in the flood.

Jesus warned that His second coming will be in similar circumstances (Matthew 24:37f; Luke 17:26f). In these days God’s warning of impending judgment and the outpouring of His wrath against sin is through the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible. Those who do not heed His words will carry on as before and be unprepared for His judgment. Those who receive it will be saved from wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Romans 5:9).

In the days of the Tribulation the Lord’s witnesses will be 144,000 Jews who will preach the Gospel to all nations and ethnic groups in all languages. Those who carry on as before and ignore the warning are destined to endure God’s wrath. Those who receive it will be delivered through it or from it by bodily death.

Jesus also gave the illustration of the city of Sodom (Luke 17:28f). Lot had been less than faithful in warning the people that their wickedness would bring an outpouring of God’s wrath. The judgment of God fell upon those people also.

Denying either of these historical events is to call Jesus a liar and renders one carrying on as before and unprepared for the wrath to come. His words are clear; when every intention of the thoughts of the heart of mankind is evil, then we can expect God to again judge the earth.

God is presently allowing Satan to test the hearts of nations and of individuals to reveal openly whether they are truly His or not. He is giving us an opportunity to see the world as it would be without His righteousness and without Him. Perhaps some will turn to Him and call for mercy.

Of that great city, Nineveh, the Lord said, “Their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah was sent to warn them. With reluctance he went saying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Unlike in the days of Noah and the days of Lot the Ninevites had a change of heart and pleaded for God’s mercy. They believed the warning and acted upon it through prayer and fasting believing that God might show them mercy. God will always respond to genuine calls for mercy.

It is not difficult to see that our world is at the threshold. Those who know the truth have the privilege and responsibility of warning others. We don’t know whether the world, our nation or our neighbour will respond in the way the people in Noah’s and Lot’s days did or in the way that Nineveh did so let us persevere in sharing the Gospel of grace and see what the Lord does in the hearts of people and nations.

That They May Know

“Now after three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them” Revelation 11:11

God’s two witnesses will be a thorn in the side of those who oppose Christ for three-and-a-half years. Those who want to silence them will be consumed by fire (v 5). As part of their testimony God will give them power similar to that which He gave to Moses and Elijah. They will cause a drought for the whole time they testify, turn water into blood, and strike the earth with plagues (v 6). No wonder many will wish them dead and attempt to kill them – but the Lord will protect them. John records that those who oppose Christ will make war against the two witnesses and eventually kill them but not before they have finished their ministry (v 7). We can be comforted by this in that the Lord takes care of His people until their work is done.

It will seem a triumph when the two witnesses are finally killed. Television, newspaper and other media will give this first event full coverage. Social media will run amuck with celebration for a few days (v 10) until God raises them from the dead (v 11). Television and newspapers will not headline this second event, however. Heads of government will endeavour to shut down social media conversation just as they do now with any news that is unpalatable to them.

Why will the Lord allow the two faithful witnesses to experience such opposition and the pain of death?

A purpose for the plagues in Egypt through Moses was so “that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:4). The same is true of this future event. Also it would appear that many Egyptians left their homeland with Israel in the Exodus (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4). The Egyptians had seen the destruction of their false gods and the revelation of the one true God and been moved in heart (Exodus 12:36). Those who left with Israel presumably had chosen to follow the God of Israel much like Ruth did years later.

The death and resurrection of these two witnesses was a final testimony to Israel first and to all mankind that Jesus Christ who rose from the dead is the one true God and has power to raise up and give life to whom He will. While the majority will harden their hearts there will be many who will repent and humbly surrender to the Lord. The book of Revelation reveals that multitudes will be saved during this time even though it may cost their earthly lives (i.e. Revelation 12:11). They will have discovered and now know the truth about Jesus Christ.

The Goodness of God

“Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

It isn’t unusual for people to justify their belief that there is no God based on the corruption they observe among people. The nature of bias is that we only see or hear what we want to see and hear. In the previous chapter Paul wrote that the invisible attributes of God are clearly revealed in His creation (1:19-20) and so people who choose not to believe Him have no valid excuse for not believing.

We see the sun rise or set for a few minutes each day and observe its beauty; but in reality God performs both sunrise and sunset 24/7. If we travelled west at the speed of the earth’s rotation we could have a perpetual sunrise or sunset. We may observe the beauty of a rose bud opening over a few hours but at any given time there are many roses and multitudes of other in full colourful bloom. We have stood in wonder and marvelled at a new baby but there are parents in awe and wonder at their new baby all around the world all the time. We live in a world that provides far more food than required for the current population. It is only man’s greed for wealth and power that prevents it being distributed to the people or allowing them to grow their own. Some people look at man’s corruption and blame God. Others look at the goodness of God and seek deliverance from the corruption of man.

The forbearance and longsuffering of God is that He holds back on the outpouring of His wrath against evil for a reason (Romans 3:25-26). Peter agrees with Paul when he writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The delay in judgment is not because God does not exist, but because He is showing His goodness in contrast to man’s corruption, so that all people may have a change of heart and come to Him.

Those who are biased toward sin look at the corruption of mankind and say there is no God. Those who are sick and tired of this corruption look at the goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of God and come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing.

For the former, Paul does not have good prospects. He writes, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are storing up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37) and John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Those who believe His word may come in absolute confidence of being received, forgiven and cleansed. Those who don’t believe His word will, because of the hardness of their own impenitent heart, choose to remain under God’s wrath.

Reconciliation and Restoration

“I will heal their backsliding,

I will love them freely,

for My anger has turned away from him”
Hosea 14:4

These words were very precious to me when a man I had never met shared them with me many years ago. I had been away from the Lord but the Lord had brought me back. In a way it was a picture of God’s love for Israel. In the book of Hosea we read of God’s severe chastisement of Israel and we might wonder how a God of love could inflict such severe pain. However, it is a reflection not only of God’s anger against sin and love for the sinner but also of the hardness of the human heart apart from Christ. I don’t believe God will chastise more than necessary. That people still do not respond reveals the hardness of their heart.

So often in the prophetic books of the Bible we read this same pattern; God’s severity on Israel for turning away from Him and His gentle love for them when they return. In all of the prophecies concerning Israel’s return there is certainty that the day will come. When God says, “I will,” He means He will perform it. If He can’t then He is not the God of creation.

There is no comfort in these words for unbelieving Israel but there is enormous encouragement to believing Israel, the “remnant”. God is still on track and on time in fulfilling His Covenant promises to Israel.

Likewise there is no comfort in these words for unbelieving Gentiles but to those who have trusted Jesus Christ there is great encouragement in our walk with Him. These words from the Lord to Israel reveal the love and compassion that God has for His people when they walk with Him. For a Christian who has strayed these words show the welcoming arms of God when they return.

In 14:1 & 2 God invites the one who has strayed to return to Him. In verses 2 & 3 we see the evidence of repentance and in verse four is God’s response. Reconciliation is complete.

Another verse that was shared with me by the same person at the same time follows on from this scenario and is recorded in Joel 2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” While this verse is written to Israel and has application upon their reconciliation it reveals the heart of God toward Christians who return to the Lord after straying. We may have wasted years in going our own way but God is able to turn that to His and our benefit.

God forbid that we should ever stray from walking with the Lord but if we do, or have, the revelation from these verses and many others is that He is waiting with loving arms for our return and repentance to reconcile us to Himself and reinstate us in fellowship. To read Jesus’ words on the subject read Luke 15:11-32.

Free From Guilt

“You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” Genesis 50:20

The pangs of guilt will hang on indefinitely unless dealt with in the God-given way. Like a whale must surface to breathe they keep on re-surfacing at unexpected times throughout our lives until “killed.”

When Joseph’s brothers travelled to Egypt twenty years after they had sold him to slave traders they were still sensitive to the guilt of their sin. When Joseph (whom they did not recognise) questioned their honesty and accused them of being spies they immediately remembered their guilt for selling Joseph (Genesis 42:21). The memory and guilt were still as fresh as the day it happened. Worse, they believed that it had meant the death of Joseph (v 22) and that it was God who was punishing them for their sinful act (v 28).

It would appear that Joseph’s intent was to bring his brothers to the place of repentance from which they would seek forgiveness from God and himself. Joseph knew that this was the only way his brothers could be released from the pain of guilt. Though they had hurt him deeply he still sought their freedom from that guilt. This is evidence of a man after God’s own heart. A sinful man would seek revenge on those who had done him harm.

Joseph knew that God would forgive them if only they would humble themselves and ask. He also knew that he had already forgiven his brothers and had seen God’s hand in all that had happened (45:5-8; 50:20).

We will try all sorts of ways to get rid of guilt except repenting of it and asking God’s forgiveness and all we succeed in doing is suppressing it until it surfaces again. When it emerges again it is all the stronger having been nourished by our pride and stubbornness. In old age it will manifest itself in bitterness, anger, selfishness and intolerance, to name a few manifestations, unless it is done away with through confession and forgiveness.

There is only one way to be rid of guilt and it is not by suppressing it. It is by coming to and seeking forgiveness from the One against whom we have sinned. Jesus dealt with our sin on Calvary’s cross where He died for the sin of the whole world. Therefore God is justified in forgiving our sin when we come in repentance and ask.

“If we confess our sins, He faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This requires naming the specific sin, agreeing that it is sin and believing that Jesus Christ bore that sin on the cross. When we accept that forgiveness as a gift from God through Jesus Christ we will experience the joy that comes with being free from guilt.

The commencement of a new year is often a time when people reflect. If you find guilt resurfacing as you reflect do not suppress or ignore it. Seek forgiveness firstly from God for He will surely give it for Jesus’ sake. If you have sinned against or wronged another person do all you can to restore that relationship. Time does not heal guilt. Only God’s forgiveness removes guilt and He is able to do so because Jesus died for our sins.

“Come Back!”

“Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” Joel 2:13

It seems to be more common these days that I hear people, both face-to-face and in the media, claiming to speak with authority regarding the Bible. Quite often they imply that they are quoting the Bible and yet the words they speak I am yet to discover in the Bible. In fact, I know that they are not in it or that the “quote” is distorted so much as to say the opposite to the meaning intended.

I heard a man claim that God could not be a God of love because his child died of a terrible illness. He was angry and bitter at God. He did not make the connection that God’s Son died in his place and for his sin. The Father knows his grief and could have comforted him in his grief.

The reason for much error is ignorance of what the Bible actually says. One person says something that he thinks is in the Bible, another quotes him to others saying that it is in the Bible and before we know it the God of the Bible is being much maligned. This is just one of many scenarios that reveal the critical importance that Christians know their Bibles and are able to correct such abuses.

When driving on highways we see signs that tell us the distance to the next few exits. On most occasions we will only remember the one relevant to us at the time. It may be that we do the same when reading the Bible. We may miss parts that are not significant to us at the time.

In the passage from Joel, cited above, the Lord is calling for His people to return to Him. If they do they will find Him gracious, merciful, patient and kind. Most of all they will find forgiveness and the Lord will have a change of heart regarding the judgment hanging over their heads. The people of Nineveh found this out in living practice when they responded to the word of the Lord spoken by the prophet Jonah.

It is very disappointing whenever I hear someone misquote the Bible regarding the Divine Nature. It is even more disappointing when it comes from Christians. My wife and I were away from the Lord for about eleven years until the Lord restored us. Two verses were shared with us at that time, Hosea 14:4 and Hosea 2:25. Even though both are written with regard to Israel, God’s nature does not change. We have found them both to be true to us personally. The Lord has healed our backsliding, He has continuously poured out His love on us, He has forgiven us and restored the lost years. Joel 2:13 has also been demonstrated to be true because God is faithful to His word.

For Their Sake

“The Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, ‘Repent now …’ ‘Yet you have not listened to Me,’ says the Lord” Jeremiah 25:4-7

It isn’t unusual for people who faithfully share the Gospel of Christ to be concerned at the deafness of those with whom they share. Sometimes Christians may think that they are the problem and become discouraged in speaking of our Lord and Saviour. We may think that no one is interested. That is, of course, wrong thinking; it is the outcome of believing something that is not true. There are people who are ready to hear the Good News.

Jeremiah writes that he faithfully proclaimed the word of God for twenty three years (Jeremiah 25:3) without national response. He was ostracized, imprisoned, mocked and threatened with death for his efforts. Was there something wrong with the message, the messenger or the audience? Though it has never been the case we seem to have the wrong expectation that the world will welcome the Gospel of Christ. Jesus said otherwise. Our message may be faithful and we may be faithful in our presentation (and we must ensure these) but there is still the matter of the hearers. The wonderful thing is that we are privileged to be part of the process of a person coming to and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. The angels in heaven are still daily rejoicing over sinners who repent.

The world may assess success based on numbers or economics but the Lord assesses success on faithfulness. Whenever the Gospel is faithfully presented the Lord is glorified in the world regardless of the response but He is glorified in a very special way when a person repents.

Only a true and intimate relationship with the Lord kept Jeremiah faithfully proclaiming all the words that the Lord had given him even in the face of death threats (Jeremiah 26:11-13). There were times that he was despondent and depressed but the Lord revived him and gave him another word to speak and he spoke it. The people hated and despised him for the messages he brought from the Lord but he persisted for more than the twenty three years mentioned here.

Was he a failure? The answer to this is clearly, No. The Lord told Jeremiah to tell the people of Judah that individuals who defected to Nebuchadnezzar would not be killed but preserved ready to return to their land seventy years later (Jeremiah 21:8-10; 25:11). All those who heard the word of the Lord, believed it and acted upon it were saved. The majority refused to do this and perished. Those who acted on the word of God that he spoke certainly recognized that he had successfully fulfilled his mission.

This is still a valid picture for people today. We may faithfully proclaim Christ with seemingly little response but for the sake of those who do hear, believe and act, we must persist. For their sake we press on faithfully proclaiming Jesus Christ.

There was a day many years ago when a man and his wife invited me to their home and faithfully shared the Gospel with me. Even if I was the only person who ever responded to their sharing it was worth it to me and I love them for it. Let us continue to faithfully preach the Gospel of Christ and surely there will be those who will respond. What if you were that one longing for the word of truth?