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WHAT DOES DECEPTION LOOK LIKE? Part 9
by Phil Enlow
I believe in a triumphant church – one that will stand in the coming storm and be used of God as He finishes His work of gathering the elect from the four corners of the earth. It will be a people who shine with the glory of God in the face of the greatest darkness the world has ever known.
Bro. C. Parker Thomas, the founder of Midnight Cry Ministries, was a man of vision, a vision that extended far beyond the religion of his day. A number of times in his public ministry Bro. Thomas shared the following quote from A.W. Tozer:
“Surely we need a baptism of clear seeing if we are to escape the fate of Israel (and of every other religious body in history that forsook God). If not the greatest need, then surely one of the greatest is for the appearance of Christian leaders with prophetic vision. We desperately need seers who can see through the mist. Unless they come soon, it will be too late for this generation. And if they do come, we will no doubt crucify a few of them in the name of our worldly orthodoxy. But the cross is always the harbinger of the resurrection.”
“Mere evangelism is not our present need. Evangelism does no more than extend religion, of whatever kind it may be. It gains acceptance for religion among larger numbers of people without giving much thought to the quality of that religion. The tragedy is that present-day evangelism accepts the degenerate form of Christianity now current as the very religion of the apostles and busies itself with making converts to it with no questions asked. And all the time we are moving farther and farther from the New Testament pattern.”
“We must have a new reformation. There must come a violent break with that irresponsible, amusement-mad, paganized pseudo-religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and which is being spread all over the world by unspiritual men employing unscriptural methods to achieve their ends.”
Dr. Tozer graduated to glory in 1963. If what he wrote was true in his day – and it was – how much more do his words apply in our day? Is this condition not a fruit of deception? Have we not been exhorted to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”? Jude 3. And yet on we plunge, each one contending instead for his particular religious “brand,” imprisoned by walls of tradition – or worse, compromising with modern culture for the sake of numbers and the appearance of success.
It would no doubt shock us to know how few adherents of so-called Christian churches in our day are even converted. It would also shock us were we able to observe the church as she was in the beginning side-by-side with what passes for the church today.
The True Church
Of course I am keenly aware that the church as God sees it and the church as men see it are very different things. Only those who have been truly converted, born of God’s Spirit, are truly part of His Church. And He “knows those who are His.” 2 Timothy 2:19. God’s focus is upon them.
And so while in one way we may well lament and decry the widespread apostasy we see around us, yet it is well to remember that none of this has taken the Lord by surprise. He is not dismayed. There are no emergency meetings in heaven. Everything is proceeding as He has foreseen and He remains firmly in control, the end sure.
There is a parallel between conditions today and conditions when Jesus came to Israel. The nation as a whole was in a terrible apostasy, far from God, all the while retaining a militantly held outward form of godliness. Yet among the nation there was a true remnant that awaited the fulfillment of God’s promises through the prophets. It was to them that Jesus was sent. In the eyes of men the nation as a whole was seen as “Israel” but in God’s heart and mind “Israel” referred only to that remnant. It was not about Abraham’s physical descendents but about the spiritual ones. See Rom. 9, particularly verses 6-8, and John 8:39. In process of time great judgment fell upon the nation – but the true remnant was saved. And God didn’t look to any scheme of man to make that happen.
The Day of Jesus Christ
Today, I believe we are drawing nearer and nearer to the end of the age and the grand climax of God’s plan regarding this present evil world. Satan is loose as never before, actively deceiving and destroying those who harden their hearts to truth. Yet it is in the midst of earth’s darkest hour that God will finish His work. And He will take the very climate of darkness that envelopes and destroys the lost to purge, purify, and prepare His elect for the glorious day when Christ returns.
Paul wrote in Phil. 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Years ago that verse jumped out at me. Paul saw the “big picture.” He didn’t speak merely of a work that would be carried out until they died. He spoke of work that would continue until the day of Christ Jesus. He looked far beyond his own day to that glorious climax of history at the coming of Christ. Though the Philippian believers to whom Paul penned those words died long ago and went to be with the Lord, there is in some sense a work that continues in them even today!
Paul wrote of that day in Eph. 1:9-10 where he said, “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”
He Will Do It
1 Thessalonians 5 warns that the day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly upon the world and none of them will escape. It is in that context that he encourages the believers to be “alert and self-controlled” (verse 6), to “encourage one another” (verse 11), together with many other exhortations.
Then in verses 23-24 he says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” What a glorious promise! But notice in particular the connection with the Lord’s coming. That is the very point when everything comes together, the climax of the work God has promised to complete. How can such a thing be? Because “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it”! We have a part to play but ultimately it is because we serve a “God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” Rom. 4:17.
Through the prophets God promised a Savior. Through the apostles He promised to complete the resulting salvation in a people from every tribe, tongue and nation, gathering them eternally to Himself in one amazing display of His power and glory. He fulfilled the earlier promises. He will also fulfill the latter ones.
A Radiant Church
My mind goes once again to the glorious picture Paul paints in Eph. 5:25-27 — “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
In this passage Paul relates the total love commitment Christ has made to bring the church to “radiance” to the truth of the body of Christ. The marriage relationship as God intended it is compared in a number of ways with that of Christ and the church. In marriage two become “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Christ and the church are likewise “one flesh.” 1 Corinthians 6:15.
As we have said before we are literally part of him. He is not complete without us. Do you think Christ is content to have overcome and to be seated in glory and not bring “the rest of him” to the same glory? In speaking of husbands Paul says, “He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.” Eph. 5:28-30. In loving the Church, Christ loves himself. We can be sure that he will do whatever it takes. The full resources of heaven are engaged and his church will be ready for that great day.
Jesus gave us a glimpse of the role of heaven at the end of the age in the preparation of his people for that great day. In Matt. 13:24-30 we find the parable of the wheat and the tares — or the wheat and the weeds as some modern translations have it:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Obviously our Lord understood that there would be true and false Christians all mixed together in the world. And yet when the owner’s servants in the parable wanted to do something about the weeds the instruction was, “Let both grow together until the harvest.”
Think of the simple lessons implied in his words. This mixture of true and false has been something permitted in the providence of God. It is not the place of men to “straighten this out.” I think you would agree that this doesn’t imply that carelessness and compromise are OK, simply that until a certain time, even where men of God pray and preach the anointed message of God, there will still be “weeds” among the “wheat.” Were there not unbelievers who followed even Jesus at times?
But his words also speak of a “harvest,” a time of separation at the end. The “owner” will instruct the harvesters to collect the weeds, bind them in bundles in preparation for the fire, and to gather the wheat into the barn. But who are these harvesters? The disciples didn’t know either! In verse 36 they asked Jesus to explain the parable. Matt. 13:37-43 gives us his explanation:
“The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
God has reserved the job of harvesting for angels. I’m glad He has. I’d hate to see the kind of job any of us would do! But what a promise of cleansing and purification we are given! And what a result! “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father”! Only a divine effort could accomplish such a thing.
Do you believe it will happen? I do. Everything about this sin-cursed world including prevailing conditions in the professing church rises up to say it will never happen. But when a God Who cannot lie tells us something it is wise to believe it.
First Collect the Weeds
One point in Jesus’ parable is worthy of special note and it concerns the weeds. Did you happen to notice the order in the instructions to the harvesters? They were told to “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” Regardless of what is involved in harvesting the wheat the first order of business is to deal with the weeds, separating them from the wheat.
Have you ever wondered about those bundles? What is it that would cause false believers not only to be “collected” in “bundles” but also to be “tied” and made ready for the fire? Is it not deception? What happens when men refuse to walk in light they have? Does not darkness come upon them causing them not to know where they are going? John 12:35.
In Matthew 15 we find the Pharisees offended when Jesus had told them that their worship was vain, nothing but rules made up by men. The disciples told Jesus about the Pharisees’ reaction and in verses 13-14 we read, “He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.’” If the Father didn’t plant them who did?
Remember the sober warning about deception just prior to the coming of the Lord in 2 Thess. 2:10-12 — “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” Once again we see the role of heaven in the process. Even as the righteous are being readied for glory those who harden their hearts to truth are given over to the darkness they have chosen and made ready for judgment. And it’s not just “delusion” but rather a “powerful” delusion. What a fearful condition is being described here: to be absolutely sure you are right yet to be totally wrong and headed for the fire.
Out of the Dragon’s Mouth
Remember the picture in Rev. 12:15-16 of the “dragon” spewing water out of his mouth like a flood to overtake “the woman” (God’s people). But it is the “earth” that opens her mouth and drinks up that flood. In symbolic language the Lord is portraying the efforts of Satan to deceive. Notice that the “flood” comes from his mouth. That represents deceit in all of its forms. Remember it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Whatever comes out of his mouth comes straight from his evil heart.
And anything coming from Satan will appeal in some fashion to natural sinful men. It will appeal to the old nature and so the “earth,” representing natural men, drinks up the flood. Is that not a picture of the very essence of satanic deception? How else would he approach someone if not through their sinful nature?
And I am persuaded that Satan’s most successful deception is religious because while it appeals to the old nature it nonetheless appears under the guise of truth and righteousness. Remember those “bundles”? Are not many of those bundles religious? Do you see the picture? Men reject truth. God sends them a powerful delusion. The result is that they are sealed in that delusion – together with multitudes in a similar state. They are “tied” in bundles and don’t know it nor are they aware of their fate.
Does this not describe much that we see in the world of professing Christianity in our day? And yet isn’t it amazing that widespread deception is actually part of the process by which God completes the work in His people by bringing about a separation! The truth is that everything that happens at the end of the age, far from being a problem to God’s plan, is in reality a means to a glorious end for His people.
We discussed earlier the widespread idea that a carnal divided church will suddenly vanish into thin air in a so-called “secret rapture.” Christ indeed is coming, but his coming will be a sudden, shocking, and open event to a satanically deceived world. Every eye will see him. And when he comes his church will have been made ready.
But there are other expectations that some have regarding what is to come. One category that needs to be mentioned is that of “triumphalism.” That term is used in a number of senses but I am referring to a variety of beliefs among professing Christians regarding the end of the age. Another term often heard is “dominion.”
There are those who see as I do the errors of expecting God to rapture the church in its current condition. But they go to another extreme expecting some form of “triumph,” that is, one that alters the course of events here in this world. Some go so far as to believe in a special company of “overcomers” who will essentially take over the world, driving the devil out and turning this world into the kingdom of God.
But the kingdom of God is not about this present world – and never will be. I believe in a triumphant church – one that will stand in the coming storm and be used of God as He finishes His work of gathering the elect from the four corners of the earth. It will be a people who shine with the glory of God in the face of the greatest darkness the world has ever known. Every effort Satan mounts to destroy the church will only serve to purify and strengthen it. The real conflict is between Satan and Christ – and Christ will triumph – and his bride will be ready for his coming.
Not Before the Rebellion
One passage that bears on both secret rapturism and triumphalism is 2 Thess. 2:1-12, the passage in which the warning of powerful delusion occurs. Please note that this passage is specifically about “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him.” In verse 3 Paul says, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.” That statement alone indicates that believers will be here and not whisked off before any real trouble starts.
But Paul continues by speaking of “the secret power of lawlessness,” already at work in his day but under restraint. The “rebellion” from verse 3 coincides with the removal of the restraint upon that power of lawlessness. The result in verse 8 is that “the lawless one will be revealed.” Verses 9-10 tell us, “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.”
But when does this end – and how? Verse 8 says, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” Thus in one passage we see the age ending with a climax of Satanic power that is ultimately destroyed by the coming of Christ. That is the same coming believers await. Some, at least, will be here. I’m sure glad that the Lord has promised to be with us to the end of the age! Matt. 28:20.
Chapter one of 2 Thessalonians confirms this picture. In verse 4 Paul commends the believers for their “perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” But note when it is that all this ends and God makes everything right.
2 Thess. 1:6-10 – “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” Both relief and judgment come in one glorious event, the coming again of our Lord.
Noah and Lot
The coming of our Lord is compared to both the days of Noah and the days of Lot. Luke 17:26-29. In both cases they were rescued as the wicked were destroyed. Neither Noah nor Lot “triumphed” by transforming the world of their today into a kingdom of righteousness. But they did triumph by rejecting the world and availing themselves of a divinely provided escape.
There is nothing Satan fears more than the coming of Christ because he knows full well that it signals his end. He is angry and will do everything in his power to destroy the church and banish the very name of Jesus from this earth. Not only will he utterly fail but God will even use his efforts in fulfilling all of His great promises to bring every one of His elect to glory in the end.
That is what Romans 8 is about. Every believer has drawn comfort from Rom. 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” But this wonderful scripture is not just an isolated truth. While its truth is surely applicable in every age it is most particularly part of a passage that concerns the completion of God’s purpose at the end of this world. But to whom does this promise apply?
Rom. 8:1-11 tells us that being God’s child is not a matter of keeping His laws through some form of religious self-effort but of being indwelt by God’s Spirit. Verse 9 makes it clear that if someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, “he does not belong to Christ.” No compromise. No middle ground. Life or death. Heaven or hell. The destiny of all men hinges on this one simple truth. See 1 John 5:12.
Sharing Christ’s Glory
God’s children are called to live by the Spirit and not according to the sinful nature. Verse 17 speaks of their destiny: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
How great is that glory? Verse 18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” That is what all creation awaits. When God’s work in us is finished then creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption. The curse will be forever gone! Rev. 22:3.
Specifically the hope that is spoken of is “the redemption of our bodies.” Verse 23. This is the same message we find in Phil. 3:20-21 – “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” And as we “wait patiently” the Spirit helps us pray according to the will of God. Verse 25-27.
This is where verse 28 comes in! It concerns God at work fulfilling His purpose in His own. And what is that purpose? Verse 29 tells us: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” What an amazing purpose!
God has one Son yet seeks many, every one like the first! In His sovereignty He has predestined that result. The word “conformed” speaks not only of that result but also of the process that leads to that result. The “all things” of verse 28 refers to the tools God uses in that conforming process. Under God’s mighty and loving hand every “son” (referring to men and women born of His Spirit) will become like Jesus who will then take his place forever among his brothers, always the eldest and firstborn. The end result is noted in 1 Cor. 15:28 – “… the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” Together we will serve Him in a world where all is new and incorruptible.
Remember 1 John 3:2 where John writes, “… when he appears, we shall be like him.” Hebrews 2 has some wonderful confirmations of the truths of Romans 8. Verse 10 speaks of God “bringing many sons to glory.” Verse 11 says that “Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Verse 17 says, “… he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” What a glorious truth! Jesus was made like us so that we might be made like him!
How Certain is This?
Rom. 8:30 not only lists the steps leading to this end but describes every one of them in the past tense — as if they have already happened! He is God. He can do that! “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
Again, that is what Romans 8 is about, the glorification of God’s sons. Think of some of the visions of Christ in glory. Isaiah saw him high and lifted up on a throne in radiant purity. The disciples saw him shining like the sun on the mountain top. Have you ever tried to look at the sun? Don’t! Human eyes are far too frail to behold such brightness.
John saw him in a vision in Revelation 1 and was so overcome by the sight that he fell down as though dead. From our present point of view it is hard to imagine ourselves as such glorious beings but that is God’s promise. Col. 3:4 says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Paul continues in Rom. 8:31-32 – “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Indeed!
God’s Tool Box
In the rest of chapter 8 we find several of the “all things” listed. Each is something Satan uses as a weapon against us but in every case God uses Satan’s weapons as His tools! Try as he will, Satan cannot win!
Victory Over Condemnation
Perhaps Satan’s most universal tool in attempting to defeat Christians is that of condemnation. After all we are far from perfect. And so in verses 33-34 Paul says, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Remember that Rom. 8 begins, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus….”
Some of our most difficult spiritual battles concern our own spiritual weaknesses and failures. How easily do they rob us of our confidence toward God and our courage to move forward. And we all know how quickly Satan jumps in with every doubtful, negative thought he can come up with. And yet God allows him to do so! There must be a reason. Somehow even our shortcomings must play a part in His purpose. After all, verse 28 says He works in “all things.” But how?
Well, for one thing, failure is humbling. How often do we become careless and sort of “coast” spiritually, supposing that we are strong and can handle things. Sometimes the most loving thing God can do for us is to let us fall in the mud spiritually to remind us how it really is. For God to save any of us He has to strip away all of our self-confidence, our prideful self-reliance and call us back to the cross.
At least part of His design when we fall short is that we experience a fresh revelation of Christ and the blood he shed for us that God might declare every one of His children righteous. Legally, Satan has no grounds whatever for condemnation but until we learn to stand firm upon God’s perfect provision for our sin through Christ he uses our failures to hinder and discourage us.
The Fight of Faith
In 1 Tim. 6:12 Paul wrote, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Notice that “eternal life” is something to which Timothy “was called.” And yet he was exhorted to “fight” to “take hold” of it.
And so are we. One thing we often experience in the process of being conformed to Christ is failure. It is IN such times that we must fight to lay hold of God’s promise of forgiveness and cleansing. 1 John 1:9. We learn to rely upon the Spirit’s power and not our own strength. We experience God’s love and faithfulness and the reality of Christ’s intercession for us.
We discover the ugly things we all have deep inside, things we often don’t even know are there, and we have opportunity to bring those very things to the cross for cleansing and deliverance. Self dies a little and the new life God has put inside us grows stronger. God works not “in spite” of our weaknesses but IN them.
But there are other tools in God’s tool box. They include the list Paul gives us in verse 35 – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” These are examples of the kinds of external pressures Satan brings to bear upon God’s children in this world. Paul’s readers were all too familiar with such things. They describe the experience of many who chose to follow Christ in his day.
And it is no different in many parts of the world in our day. Typically when Satan mounts a frontal assault on the Church through persecution it has a purifying effect. False believers are eliminated and true believers are driven to ever deeper reliance upon God. But the glorious truth is that none of these things can separate us from Christ’s love.
But what part do they play? Why not simply believe in Jesus and go on to heaven? Paul answers such questions by quoting from Psalm 44:22 – “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
That sounds terrible but it is actually wonderful! The path to glory involves suffering (Rom. 8:17). In order to experience the life to which we have been called we must die, that is, the self life to which we were once enslaved must be put to death. In one sense that was accomplished at the cross but in a practical sense it is worked in us during our life in this world. We have no idea of the depth of our need in this area but God does. And He is faithful to work in us through the “all things” He ordains for each of us.
He transforms us by the renewing of our minds as Paul tells in Rom. 12:2. He leads us in paths of humbling, dependence, repentance, “letting go,” surrender, and trust that we might experience more and more of the riches of His salvation and become more like our Lord. And He can accomplish more than we can ask – or even imagine – because what He does is based, not upon any ability in us, but upon His own power at work “within us.” Eph. 1:18-21, 3:20.
What About the End?
But so far these wonderful truths have applied throughout church history and not just to the end. God has always been at work in His people with the ultimate goal in mind. What special relevance does all this have for the end of the age?
Think about the kind of world we are told to expect. Satan is allowed to unite the world under his leadership. Will he not attempt to destroy the church and blot out the very name of Christ?
Daniel the prophet was shown many things, even things concerning the end yet told to shut up the words until that time. But one thing we do find are these words in Dan. 12:10 – “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”
I can envision God doing a very special work under very special conditions. It shouldn’t be hard to imagine the ranks of the martyrs being swelled as many saints lay down their lives by the grace of God in the face of Satan’s onslaught. It’s happening right now in some parts of the world. What will it be like as his dominion increases throughout the world?
Those Who are Still Alive
And yet we know that some at least will be here when Jesus comes. In 1 Thess. 4:15 Paul refers to those “who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord.” I can also envision the Lord using the climax of Satan’s dominion to complete the preparation of such ones for his coming. God’s grace and God’s grace alone will enable every one of his children to endure whatever comes and to be ready for that day.
Now I can just hear someone saying, “Oh, you believe in sinless perfection” — or something similar. I simply believe, “… that when he appears, we shall be like him….” 1 John 3:2. Right before that John wrote, “… what we will be has not yet been made known….” If John didn’t know I certainly don’t! I refuse to try to figure out details that God hasn’t revealed.
What’s wrong with simply believing what He says and trusting Him with those details? That’s what Abraham did. I’m sure there were many things he didn’t understand – and wasn’t shown. But he didn’t demand that God satisfy his finite intellect concerning every skeptical question that came to his mind. It was enough that God had spoken. Abraham believed God. Do we?
It is God’s business as to who is here when Christ comes and who goes by way of the grave but the glorious truth is that it all comes out right in the end. We are not given these truths to produce fear but rather anticipation. Never forget Paul’s answer to the question as to whether any of the “things” he lists can separate us from Christ.
In Rom. 8:37-39 he writes, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
To be continued.