By: Norm Rasmussen
The Bible, to me, makes it very clear that at least two things must happen before Jesus Christ returns for truly saved - born again Christian believers:
1: A great falling away will have taken place (or will be taking place). (This is already happening at an alarming rate, though we probably haven't seen anything yet compared to how drastic it will be by the time the anti-Christ is fully revealed!).
The New American Standard translation of the Bible speaks of an "apostasy" coming, which would seem to imply "a great falling away" (from Truth [the Bible], many Bible scholars believe).
The English Standard Version translation of the Bible uses the word "rebellion" coming. Some Bible scholars believe this to mean that there will come intensified persecution against Christians around the world.
2: The anti-Christ will have been clearly revealed, (at least to some truly born again Christians).
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless (1) the falling away comes first, (2) and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, - 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 (NKJV)
Does God give us any specific clue/s as to WHERE the anti-christ may be once he is revealed? 2 Thessalonians 2:4 may very well provide us with a clue:
"Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God showing himself that he is God."
Many Bible scholars are looking for the rebuilding of a THIRD Jewish temple. Assuming this third Jewish temple is built, and the daily sacrifice is practiced there much as it was in Old Testament times ... many believe the anti-christ will make a grand appearance at that location, and then be revealed to the discerning Christian saints alive at that time as the anti-christ.
A few other Christian scholars have suggested that the anti-Christ may not be revealed in a Jewish temple at all ... but rather a DIFFERENT temple - perhaps a Muslim temple, or a temple by some other "religious group." I would say it would be wise to keep every possibility open.
If you are a true born again Christian, and have been for any length of time, you are fully aware that we have been in a “falling away process” for quite some time. To do full justice to what God is speaking of regarding “falling away,” a book would most likely have to be written. I don’t feel prompted to write a book on the topic, but I do feel prompted to write a super-condensed “Readers Digest” version:
People who call themselves “Christians” will be walking in greater disobedience to Truth than ever before. Multitudes of "Christians" will be walking in great spiritual darkness - great spiritual compromise - great spiritual deception. In fact, multitudes of "Christians" will literally refuse to believe that the anti-Christ is actually the anti-Christ, at least when he first rises to prominence, simply because they - along with the world - will be so desperate for "peace and safety" (which will include financial security - stability; and personal safety, which would dovetail with increased acts of terrorism - fear of possible global war - nuclear - biological - environmental - atmospheric annihilation).
Having said the above: Here is a concern I've kept silent about for several years, and feel to now make public. Some Christians who are so dogmatic about the Rapture being able to occur at any moment (This being written as of January 2012) (the imminent return doctrine), to the exclusion of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-6 first happening- in my firm belief - are potentially setting themselves up and other Christians up to not be mentally prepared for mass persecution that I believe most likely will be launched against Christians world wide PRIOR to the Anti-Christ being exposed/revealed in a temple. Yes - I'll repeat: Prior. And - I believe Revelation 3:10 may well be a promise God has made to certain Christians when that time comes upon the earth, and not being the Rapture of the church at all -- just divine protection from acute persecution around the world.
Here's my conclusion of the whole matter regarding endtimes and specifically suffering: Wisdom to me dictates that a Christian should be mentally prepared to have to go through the full 7 years of tribulation, yet if God determines that won't be necessary for them, then so be it. Mentally prepare for the worst -- thank God if it never happens. Just don't let a lot of popular Christian teachers/teachings lull you into a false sense of believing that God would NEVER let you suffer like the Christians first starting out suffered. Christians today are no more "special" (exempt from suffering, in other words) than were the first ones we read about in the Bible. Furthermore, when a person comes to grips with the fact that God is testing - refining - purging each of us to spend eternity with Him, we need to have the attitude at all times that whatever suffering God allows to happen in our lives, it is eternally good for us. God knows what He is doing. When we go through suffering, we often don't believe He knows what is best for us (or CARE!), so the time to believe He knows what is best for us is when we aren't suffering so much ... to maintain our intimacy and devotion with Him through those painful times of great trial.
As a sidebar: I believe much of "the great falling away" from Christ will hinge on this issue: Suffering. Already, we receive email almost daily at this ministry from Christians sharing how they just don't understand WHY God is allowing them to go through so much pain - hardship. They have tuned out the preachers and teachers who try to warn them that suffering is NORMAL Christianity, and gave their time and money to those who promise them "God wants to give you the desires of your heart (See: Psalm 37:3-5) at the exclusion of 2 Timothy 3:12. When a Christian makes it their number one priority in life to let God work through them to help win souls to Christ and then be willing to engage in discipling those young converts, (Matthew 6:33) a person will be amazed at just how much they CAN'T trust "the desires of their heart." The desire of each of us is to escape suffering - not accept it as something that comes lot and parcel with being a Christian. Satan hates our guts, and accept it or not, he has been allowed by God to inflict us with pain from time to time. And keep in mind: No matter how much God allows each of us to suffer at the hands of Satan before we translate into glory, it will be much, much worse for those who suffer for eternity in hell.
Vast multitudes of selfish carnal Christians will turn their back on Jesus Christ as the endtimes unfold, out of anger towards God and Christianity. WHY? Because in their minds, they didn't become a Christian in the first place to have to suffer anymore. They became Christians to get God's blessings and favor starting in THIS life minus any suffering in the process. With that unbalanced, unscriptural mindset ... it's a setup for spiritual disaster. And it will be many of these angry former Christians who join up with the anti-christ element to persecute true faithful Christians.
Allow me to repeat: Scripture makes it very clear that the anti-Christ must first be revealed before Jesus Christ is coming back for His church:
Our gathering together unto Him will not come until the falling away (apostasy; rebellion) comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition. (See: Thessalonians 2:1-3
Are you mentally prepared to experience hardship for Jesus beyond what you've ever thought you may have to endure before you taste the eternal joys of heaven?
Bottom Line: Today is the day you need to stop compromising your relationship with God, and get ruthless with your disobedience to Truth – not tomorrow. Whenever you are reading this … tomorrow may be too late for you.
Yep – I know this is supposed to be a Ministry Encourager - not a fire and brimstone “doom and gloom, holier-than-now” message. Well, it is an “encourager.” I feel impressed of the Holy Spirit to encourage everyone reading this to stop compromising with sin, and begin immediately striving for a state of sinlessness (holiness; righteousness; purity in alignment with New Covenant Truth) as quickly as you CAN!
Will any of us attain a perfect state of sinlessness prior to the return of Jesus Christ, at least for any reasonable length of time? No. We’re deceiving ourselves if we think we will. However … there are sins that too many “Christians” are committing, and they don’t even believe they are sins. That is what the Holy Spirit is addressing in this “Encourager.” Recognize sin when it is sin, then do whatever is necessary to get lasting victory over it!
Secondly, multitudes of “Christians” have been taught, or they have just come to believe, that when we confess our sins to God, our slate is whipped cleaned, and we don’t have to think about it any further … at least until we commit the very same sin again.
That’s what the Holy Spirit is saying that multitudes of Christians have and are in ever greater measure “falling victim to.” They are falling away in righteousness. They are walking in less and less holiness – less and less obedience to God - to Truth. God wants those who truly belong to Him to start judging themselves unlike ever before, and settling once and for all what God’s clear instructions are regarding sin – disobedience – spiritual compromise. Call sin "SIN!" as the Bible calls it, then deal with it as the Bible SAYS to deal with it, which is to confess it and FORSAKE it. Stop committing that same sin over and over.
When we sin as Christians, God says the first step is to confess our sin to Him. However, there is a second step that more and more “Christians” are refusing to believe has any merit – any importance in the equation. What is this second step? Getting ruthless with that sin by putting it to death, once and for all! That is called TRUE repentance.
Confess and repent by forsaking. Confess to God means to admit we have done wrong to Him, and then repent. Repent means ruthless determination to NEVER commit that sin ever again … and keep hammering away (persisting) until God has given us power (His grace) to say “No!” to the temptation to give place to that sin whenever the temptation arises again.
Okay – reality for many. When I’ve asked God to help me from giving into my sin, and I end up committing that sin anyway … what’s the deal, God? Why didn't you remove my temptation?!
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. - 1 Corinthians 10:13
God does not promise us that He will remove our temptation in the above. That is not what God is saying. He is saying that He will provide a way of escape from our temptation, so we'll be able to refuse giving into our temptation.
God will always provide a way of escape when we ask and trust Him to when we are tempted to sin. The problem is that we refuse His way of escape and then try to tell ourselves He didn't do what He promises. The fact of the matter is ... we simply are insensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and refuse to recognize that our flesh is doing our leading.
Try this weapon (way of escape) the next time you are tempted to sin, and you want a way to escape from the temptation. Promise God you’ll go on a fast to break the power of that temptation … and you’ll fast indefinitely until you know that you know that you know that the power of that sin is broken off your life. Are you willing to do that? If you aren’t … don’t call God a liar and try to convince yourself that 1 Cor. 10:13 doesn’t work. When you’re asking and praying and trusting and confessing doesn’t seem to be getting the job done … there is still the weapon of fasting that God makes available to us. But the weapon of fasting sometimes only will work when we’ve gotten determined enough to fast as long as is necessary to see that stronghold/s completely broken off our lives.
That is where God desires Christians to arrive at: to the place of determination where they desire to have total victory over every temptation to sin that knocks on their door.
However … here’s the problem in attaining that goal. If you don’t recognize sin when you’re committing it, you won’t apply yourself to get ruthless with it. Secondly, confession of that sin doesn't mean it's over, said and done with. Ruthless determination to FORSAKE that sin so we never fall to temptation when it returns and again knocks on our door is every bit as important as confessing it, and asking forgiveness for it.
Saints … here is what the devil does NOT want you to believe. Jesus Christ is coming back for a spotless bride … not a blemished, compromising whore. God is asking each of us exactly what kind of Bride do we truly want to be for Jesus. A Bride that demands her right to cheat before she is married … and worse yet, a Bride that demands her right to keep cheating after she has married?
And again ... don't think I'm trying to say that we will attain sinless perfection before Christ's return, and/or before we die. That is NOT going to happen. One way or another, we all will be sinning from time to time, either in faithlessness, prayerlessness, pride, compromise, apathy - sins of that nature. But ... it is entirely possible to attain victory over all sexual sins, if we are willing to pay the price and dig in with God to help us conquer our sinful flesh. Many can testify that it is possible.
Ask yourself this very sobering question. Do you want God answering your prayers, or does it not matter any more? Are you aware that to get your prayers answered in an ever increasing manner, you need to walk in ever greater obedience to God? To walk in greater obedience to God, you need to get absolutely ruthless in your relationship with God regarding sin issues.
One “little insignificant sin” in our eyes may be the whole reason you and I will not receive healing from God when we desire it. One “little insignificant sin” in our estimation may be the difference between God giving you a Godly husband or wife, a rewarding job (any job at all!), a rewarding - fruitful ministry, release from prison, adequate finances, deliverance from oppression, divine protection … the list of blessing and favor from God can go on and on.
Am I being way too extreme in all this? I’ll let God be the judge of that. I hear God telling me personally that we are moving into end-times much quicker than what many of us care to realize. Furthermore, none of us know when our “rapture” is going to be: NONE! None of us know when our heart will beat its last beat. Do we want to enter eternity knowing we are doing everything we are capable of doing to walk in maximized obedience to the Word of Truth (Bible Truth wisely applied) … or do we want to skate into heaven just by the skin of our teeth … saved, BUT AS BY FIRE … or worse yet, missing heaven entirely?
Not me anymore. I would rather be accused of trying to be too obedient to the Word of Truth than compromising the Word of Truth … and demonstrating with ACTION that I mean it. Anything less is trampling the grace and generous mercy and goodness of God.
"Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left." - Matt 24:40-41
"Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him." - Matt. 24:44
Some of you reading this are not ready. Start getting ready today. Tomorrow may be too late for you. In light of eternity ... you'll be thankful you did!
Here is an excellent commentary on the topic at hand you may be interested in: http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/5302.htm
Here's another writing on the topic of "the rapture" I've felt to write that some may be interested in reading: http://www.precious-testimonies.com/MEncouragerArchives/ImportantRaptureUpdate.htm
WHEN WILL JESUS CHRIST RETURN FOR HIS BRIDE?
Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you ... please don't make such a tragic mistake.
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