Monday, November 17, 2008

A Call To Repentance

In my previous post, The Urgency, I mentioned that one of my main concerns about some Christian pastors in our post-modern world is the fact that there seems to be a move towards a "grace only" type of preaching. Therefore, the omission of the need for repentance before asking Jesus into one's heart for salvation runs rampant in churches today.

Why is that?

There are probably hundreds of reasons that we could list. However, I will mention two reasons and concentrate the balance of this post on the second reason.

1. Christians find themselves in a war over words.

Here is one example. In the past, I attended a neighborhood Bible study at a Christian friend's church. I really enjoyed the studies, however, I felt that some of the leaders were annoyed when I mentioned the political battles going on over same-sex issues - including the marriage issue. When Proposition 8 came up on the ballot, this church did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to promote its passage! I was very sad to see that. One of the most important pressing issues of our time which could literally take away freedom of religious speech rights for pastors in the pulpit (will be discussed further in future posts) was ignored by the pastors and congregation of this church.

2. The end times controversy and the call to repentance.

Many Christian churches do not preach from the book of Revelation. They do not discuss it, nor do they reveal how Bible prophecy is coming to fruition right before our very eyes!

Why is that?

I think that many churches are busy "doing things" to help improve their communities. That is wonderful and important, too, of course. But to ignore the signs of the times and not to place the urgency of the Great Commission before anything else is error - in my judgment.

Pastors and churches need to do both - simultaneously.

This is not a difficult task. However, in my research I have found that the pastors and churches that do not get involved in political issues and/or end times prophecy and/or preparation of the congregation for the possibility of the Rapture happening in our day - do so because they don't want to "offend" anybody.

I ask you. Is that what Jesus would want of us? I mean, I'm not saying that we should purposely offend anyone. That is not what I meant. However, God's Word is full of verses that tell us that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive - especially to those who are perishing.

What is at the crux of the offensiveness of the gospel? Our need to repent.

I peeked into a new book I recently bought called "The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack" by Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice. In the chapter called "The War Over Words" we read about "a call to repentance."





Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries by proclaiming to the Jewish people that they must "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (see Matthew 3:2; 4:17). This was the prerequisite for the kingdom's arrival. Remember that at the beginning of this chapter we saw that "is at hand" is a perfect tense in the Greek that means "the coming of the kingdom has been completed," but this does not mean that the kingdom has begun, or that it must necessarily begin. The kingdom had arrived, but certainly had not started!

Studying Jewish rabbinical thought helps us gain a better understanding about the issue of repentance and about how and when the kingdom would start. For example, one of the most respected writings on what the Jews thought during the time of Christ is found in the classic volume Society and Religion in the Second Temple Period 66 and in The Messiah Texts,67 both written by respected Jewish scholars. Raphael Patai writes in The Messiah Texts that from before the time of Christ, and even during the last two thousand years, "the expected and hoped-for Coming [of the Messiah] was simply indispensable for the continued existence of Israel....The Messiah was prevented from coming because the generation was unworthy; because there was too many sinners in Israel."68 Pharisaic Judaism believed "in the futility of 'forcing the millennium' and said the Messiah could not come while Israel was under foreign domination." All depended on repentance, on a fundamental change in men's souls."69


There is much more to share from this segment of the book. However, I wanted to pause for a moment and reiterate what was written:





"All depended on repentance, on a fundamental change in men's souls."



This is exactly why Jesus Christ told us that "we must be born again." (See John 3)

What is the gospel all about?

Repentance!

Christ came to rescue us all from the penalty for our sin - eternal damnation. This is why he came to earth the first time - for the remission of the sins of men. All who would confess of their sin, repent of them, and ask Jesus into their hearts via the power of the Holy Spirit of God, would be saved.

Note this: Jesus will not enter into an unrepentant heart.

Period.

A person can claim that they have obtained all the mercy, grace, and love of Jesus, but Christ will not be fooled by them. He (Jesus) knows his own! He knows those who are genuinely repentant of their sins. He knows those who truly believe in him. He knows those who have invited him to dwell within their hearts.

Remember that margarine commercial from the 70's where the announcer tasts the margarine (and thinks it tastes just like butter) but then finds out that it's not butter? She says, "it's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"

Well, we can't fool Father God. We can't fool Jesus Christ. He KNOWS those who have genuinely repented and have made him Lord and Savior of their lives!

Continuing:




In Society and Religion in the Second Temple Period, Baras and Avi-Yonah argue that during the period of the Gospels, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven was at hand and all that was needed and necessary was for the people to repent.70 These authors add that "as the herald of the Messiah, John [the Baptist] had to prepare the way for the Messiah's coming by preaching repentance and pious deeds. He exhorted the people to repent, for the kingdom of heaven was near."71 But the kingdom did not come because such a change of heart did not take place among the vast majority of the Jewish people.

Because Israel did not repent, orthodox rabbis have argued from the Old Testament that

the pangs of the Messianic times...must come upon Israel because of its wickedness...the pangs of the Messianic times are imagined as having heavenly as well as earthly sources and expressions...awesome cosmic cataclysms will be visited upon the earth: conflagrations, pestilence, famine, earthquakes....These will be paralleled by evils brought by men upon themselves....Things will come to such a head that people will despair of Redemption. This will last seven years. And then, unexpectedly, the Messiah will come.72

With the Old Testament in view, the orthodox Jews of the New Testament era held to the scenario just described: 1) The Messiah could not come if the Jews did not repent of their sins; 2) If Israel did not repent, the people would face great persecution; 3) the people would come to face a terrible period of seven years of Tribulation on earth; and 4) finally, the Messiah would come.

In contrast to preterists, futurists see the same prophetic plan unfolding in the Old Testament that some orthodox Jews have always observed. The Jewish people held to correct beliefs about end-time events in Christ's day; the only difference is that they refused to believe that indeed He was the promised Messiah!


I have already shared the brief story here about an encounter that T.V. talk show host Larry King (who is Jewish) had with the Reverend Billy Graham. During their conversation, Rev. Graham asked Larry (paraphrased here), 'If Jesus (or, perhaps he said, "the Messiah") were to return today, what would be the first thing you would ask him?'

Larry replied (paraphrased here), 'is this your first or second visit to earth?'

For those Jews who are eagerly awaiting the coming of their Messiah, the last few paragraphs would appear to be offensive to them. It is not my intention to offend. I am simply pointing out what the book says, what transpired in the Graham and King conversation, and how this relates to end times prophecy.

The book deals mostly with the end times controversy between preterists and futurists regarding biblical prophecy. However, for the purpose of this post, I am focusing on the call to repentance that both Christians and Jewish scholars hold to regarding the coming of the kingdom of God.

In another post, I will cover the "promise of hastening" section of this chapter. For now, I will skip over to the end of the chapter and share the final two paragraphs written there.




The Message of Prophecy

When Christ presented Himself as Israel's king, it was incumbent upon the Jews to repent of their sins in order for the messianic rule to begin. The issue of repentance overrides such expressions as "the kingdom of God is at hand." However, even with this expression, the more basic idea is that the coming of the kingdom of God is certain to come someday. Likewise, the expression "I come quickly" seems to be more accurately translated, "I come speedily, swiftly" as with quickness of movement.

In the larger contextual picture of Bible prophecy, there seems to have been little misunderstanding as to what was being communicated actually happening with these expressions. In the great mystery of the providence of God, we can now look back upon specific verses of Scripture that remind us that Christ must first suffer and die before He would reign. Most Bible teachers, except preterists, seem to comprehend that because Israel refused to repent of their sins, the Messiah did not take the throne. But following the seven-year Tribulation, He will return, regather the people of Israel, and begin His 1,000-year reign in Jerusalem!


Dr. David Jeremiah's book "What In The World Is Going On?" covers this in great detail in the last chapter. You can also view the final sermon on this series over at Lightsource.com. You can also view each of the previous sermons available in the series at that site.

The naysayers who dislike Christians discussing, and/or revealing end times prophecy often scoff at posts like this one. So be it. They have the free speech right to think and say whatever they want.

For me, however, the accuracy of prophecy fulfillment by Jesus in his first coming gives me the utmost confidence and certainty that His promises for the future will ultimately be fulfilled.

Dr. Jeremiah concludes his book:




The prophets, the angels, and the apostle John all echo the words of promise from Jesus Himself that He will return. God's Word further amplifies the promise by giving us clues in prophecy to help us identify the signs that His return is close at hand. The signs that tell us the second coming of the Lord is drawing near should motivate us as never before to live in readiness. As we noted in chapter 5, the Rapture, which is the next event on the prophetic calendar, will take place seven years before the events we have discussed in this final chapter. Future events cast their shadows before them. As we anticipate His return, we are not to foolishly set dates and leave our jobs and homes to wait for Him on some mountain. We are to remain busy doing the work set before us, living in love and serving in ministry, even when the days grow dark and the nights long. Be encouraged! Be anticipating! We are secure; we belong to Christ. And as the old gospel song says, "Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King!"


References:

"The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack" by Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, 2003 by Pre-Trib Research Center; Harvest House Publishers, pp. 301-305.

Endnotes:
67 Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts, (Detroit, MI): Wayne State University Press, 1979).
68 Patai, Messiah Texts, p. xxix.
69 Avi-Yoneh and Baras, World History, p. 260.
70 Ibid, p. 212.
71 Ibid, p. 210.
72 Patai, Messiah Texts, pp. 95-96.

*******
"What In The World Is Going On?: Ten Prophetic Clues You Cannot Afford to Ignore" by Dr. David Jeremiah; 2008, Thomas Nelson publishers, p. 237.

7 comments:

Susan Smith said...

Christine said: “For me, however, the accuracy of prophecy fulfillment by Jesus in his first coming gives me the utmost confidence and certainty that His promises for the future will ultimately be fulfilled.”

"A highway will be there, a way, called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not pass over it, but it will be for those who he guides—fools will not stray along it” (Isaiah 35:8).

The quoted verse was in my Bible reading for today, and as I read it this morning, you came to my mind Christine. I prayed for you that moment. God bless you as he continues to guide your way at Talk Wisdom, a mighty mission. (ss)

Gary Baker said...

Hi Christine,

I wanted to thank you for your kind words regarding the passing of my oldest sister.

She had been in pain and partially paralyzed since a stroke eight years ago, and now she is at rest. From that standpoint it is a relief. It is also a great sadness. Long ago she was filled with great potential and little of it was actually realized. I am comforted that I will see her again in heaven. For now, I keep her children and husband in my prayers. Again thanks.

Gary

gcmwatch said...

Grace and Peace Christine,

Sometimes dealing with all this while others sit on the sidelines and throw rocks is discouraging.

But as I have said before, lets remain faithful to our King and his Kingdom no matter what.

I appreciate you standing up for truth whether its dealing with the political lie or a religious one it still kills. So you werent wrong. If you got off the focus of your blog, thats for you to ascertain.

God has graciously given us a platform, let maximize it for Him. I dont tell other people what to do with their "platform" but Im thankful that you chronicled this election debacle which Im sure history will record will be a shame to this nation.

blessings,

Sosthenes said...

Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

On what terms do we trade our life for His?

Luke 9:23 And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Do we say, "I'll trade my life for His but we want to keep our idols too"? Or do we say, "I'll trade my life for His but I still want to take His name in vain"?

If the dog's mouth is growling and his tail is wagging, which end do I believe?

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Christinewjc said...

Wow! What a powerful and timely verse you shared from Isaiah, Susan! Boy...do I need guidance these days. How wonderful that I have you praying for me and sharing great verses of encouragement with me!

We have never "arrived" at that Way of Holiness," but how wonderful that I have a friend and a sister in Christ - like you - to remind me to seek the Holy Spirit's direction towards it.

I appreciate your prayers more than you could ever know.

God bless you and have a wonderful night in the Lord.

Christinewjc said...

Gary -

Of course - you are most welcome. Again, my deepest sympathy goes out to you.

I am saddened to hear that your sister went through years of pain. I do thank God that she is now at rest in the Lord, and you are comforted in the fact that you will one day be reunited in heaven with her.

Our eternal hope in Christ is such a blessing - no matter what we go through in this life.

Keeping you and all of your family in my prayers.

In Him,
Christine

Christinewjc said...

gcmwatch -

Thanks for sending words of encouragement, grace and peace. Really appreciated that.

As I was typing this, I heard that an upcoming segment on Hannity and Colmes will include interviews of people who voted for Obama - but because of media bias, cannot correctly identify why or what they know about him. But negative questions about Gov. Palin - they knew the answers. You can see it at How Obama Got Elected. There is a documentary about it there.

This election was truly eerie - it was almost like some kind of "spell" was cast upon these people who voted for him - but do not know anything about him.

But then, there are those who knew all about his radical ties and shameful crimes - but voted for him anyway.

I am still praying that the truth comes out about Obama and whether or not he is truly a natural born citizen - eligible or ineligible to be POTUS - before the electors cast their votes.

As one blogger on the blog list in my sidebar wrote - Obama is not the "president-elect" until the electors cast their votes and they are certified by Congress on January 6th. We still have time. I think that the Alan Keyes lawsuit is different from the ones that got dismissed because the former petitioners were, unfortunately, deemed "without standing." A former presidential candidate in this election certainly DOES have standing. But we shall see what happens.