Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"The Bible does NOT teach Socialism!"

Jesus said, "I will build my CHURCH!" (Matthew 16:18).  He said, " ... the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for MANY" (Matthew 20:28).  Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples (of Jesus) of all nations, baptizing them INTO (into a relationship with) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).

According to Ephesians 1:20-23, God "seated Him (Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the Messiah, the Savior and Lord of those who believe in Him) at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as Head over all things TO THE CHURCH, which is HIS Body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

Last Saturday, June 30th, a full-page article was placed in a local newspaper, signed by more than sixty "elder" retired clergy and educators who had gotten together and written a "Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis."  They declared the belief that "the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake."  What followed was an attack on President Trump and those who may support him or his policies (though neither he nor his followers were mentioned directly).  It was what was presented as the role of the Church that disturbs me the greatest, the idea that the Bible promotes what can only be labeled as "socialism," the establishment of a rule of government called "democracy" where "mob rule" establishes policy and where there is no unchangeable standard of right and wrong.  What makes this all the more disturbing is that it is those who claim to know Christ and to believe in the Bible who are promoting a society where most of the Bible is ignored!

There is not room in this somewhat brief blog post to address all the inaccuracies and and twisted Bible verses in the article, but let me point out a few.  The first is the basis for the rest:  the idea that "The church's role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ."  A verse that was quoted was John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  First of all, Jesus was talking to those who were His disciples, and secondly, nowhere in the Bible are we told that our mission as disciples of Jesus is to change the world; in fact, God tells us the world will get worse before Jesus returns and that His people will be persecuted.  The Bible says that a "counterfeit gospel" will continue to attract followers, but we who are truly disciples of Jesus must teach all that HE has commanded.

The article refers to Galatians 3:28, a very popular and often misinterpreted verse of Scripture today, in support of the teaching that the entire human race is one in Christ:  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  Of course, verse 29 is left out:  "And IF you are Christ's, THEN you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (the promise that "whoever calls on (believes in) the name of the Lord (Jesus Christ) shall be saved" (Romans 10:13).  The role of the Church, the true and one Body of Christ that is made up of every true believer, those who have been born again by His Spirit ... the role of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel, calling some out of darkness and confirming the judgment of God regarding those who reject His offer of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ.  We will NOT change the world!  This world and all who do not know Jesus Christ are destined for God's judgment.  That is why, in love, we proclaim Jesus and the cross, calling people to repentance and faith as the only way to be saved from the judgment to come.  This is our task, this is our role.

In addition to that, we are called to be salt and light, not by telling everyone, "God loves you," but by calling them to confess their sin, repent and believe in Jesus Christ.  God says, "take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).  That is part of the role of the Church in society.  Telling people who have not repented and believed that God's loves them and that they are "children of God" in their present state of rebellion is a lie and it leaves people in their state of deception and spiritual death and darkness.  That is NOT love!

The article calls for racial justice and that is a biblical principle.  It calls for respect and equality for all races and for men and women alike.  These things are good and right.  It calls for justice for the poor and vulnerable and for strangers, and once again, God's Word speaks of the treatment of others as a testimony to who we are as followers of the Christ.  This, however, is where the authors go astray from sound biblical teaching once again.  No mention is made of the most vulnerable, the unborn, who are killed by the millions in our nation.  Instead, the clear reference is to the present "system" in our nation that oppresses people of different races by denying healthcare to the poor and cutting taxes for the rich.  These are slanted views which, if spoken by individuals, they have the right to say, but in speaking for the Church are inappropriate and lack accuracy and biblical support when declaring that "budgets are moral documents."

It is said that, "Protecting the poor is a central commitment of Christian discipleship, to which 2,000 verses in the Bible attest."  What is the Church called to do for the poor?  What does it mean to BE poor?  There are a lot of reasons for poverty and the Church is called to touch the lives of people with the Gospel and to lead people to Christ.  As people come to Christ they find new meaning, new purpose, new direction and along with that comes new life and a new family (the Church) and new opportunities.  The article confuses the role of the Church with the role of the government and in so doing promotes a type of "democracy" that leans toward and actually promotes socialism.  The whole point of Acts 2-4 was that IN THE CHURCH there were none that had needs because they shared with one another.  This is where the "love one another" comes into focus.  It is the work of the Spirit in the children of God who are disciples of Jesus Christ.  The Church is called to be an "oasis" in the midst of the desert of human misery and spiritual death.  Here is where you find "living water" and "bread from heaven."  Here is where you find Jesus.  The world can't be and won't be changed without believing in and confessing Jesus as Savior and Lord!!

Christians can and should be involved in the political arena, seeking to promote godliness and truth ... GOD's truth.  It IS the role of the Church to speak, but we must be sure that what we speak is what God has revealed in His Word as truth.  It IS the role of our government to protect its citizens and to promote justice.  The current debate about immigration is another example where choosing a few verses and making them fit what you want to say does not rightly present God's truth.  Leaders in the Church must be careful how we apply God's Word to our present situation and circumstances.  The authors of the article declare, "We reject domination rather than stewardship of the earth's resources, toward genuine global development that brings human flourishing for all of God's children."  This is a dangerous statement, even though it sounds appealing to many.  When the true "Antichrist" comes, he would have no trouble signing on to the idea that we all just need to get along ... just leave out the cross, repentance and forgiveness.  Just make Christianity one of many "good" religions and Jesus one of many "good teachers."

Quoting the Bible, quoting Jesus, talking about the ills of society and the leaders of our government, but not offering Christ and the new heaven and earth is NOT the message of the Bible.  It is NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Preaching the Gospel and applying the truth of the Lordship of Christ as disciples of Jesus is our true calling.  Apart from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ there will be no "new world."  The problems in our society are many.  Christians are called to be salt and light and to influence our culture for good.  We do that best when we fulfill our calling to preach the Gospel and to call people to be disciples of Jesus Christ, to acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord, and to obey ALL that He teaches in His Word.

I call those who signed on to this letter to consider our calling, to be engaged in the lives of those who need Jesus Christ, as all of Jesus' disciples are called to do, and to preach the Word rather than misapply a few verses to make political points.  Interestingly, I will be preaching on what it means to "love our neighbors" this Sunday!  I pray for wisdom to speak what God reveals in His Word ... nothing more ... nothing less.  May God alone, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the one true God, our Creator, "who loved the world in this, that He gave His only Son, that WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM should not perish but have eternal life" ... may HE be praised by those who know Him and who love Him, for it is by His grace alone that we have been saved and that we have a message to proclaim:  the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  May we be about our Father's business!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Christians and "public" education ...

"Hear, O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ... You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the people around you - for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God - lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 6:4-9,14-15).

There is currently a debate in our community about whether a class on sexuality should include "gender fluidity" and training the children to be sensitive and kind to those who have "gender dysphoria" (confusion), or who identify as LGBTQ.  What seems to be missed by nearly all those discussing what should be included in such a class is the fact that for Christians there is only one source for sexual education of any kind and that is God's Word, the Bible.

The verses above are quoted from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, written by Moses as God spoke to him, but the principle revealed is true for all generations until Jesus comes:  Those who know the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 6:10-12) are responsible to teach their children the law of God as it is applied to the New Testament people of God, the Church.  While we cannot hold those outside the people of God accountable to God (God will ultimately do that Himself), WE are responsible for the spiritual instruction of our children.

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are instructed to "bring them (our children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  Because public education is funded through tax dollars, the children of Christians are continually being confronted with teaching that is contrary to God's Word, from evolution to sexuality, from civic responsibility (or irresponsibility) to stewardship of the planet, etc.  People are being treated as equal to, or in some cases less than, animals.  Government is being portrayed as society's "savior," rather than Jesus Christ, and "religion" IS being taught ... the religion where man is "god."  The public schools of 2018 are not the public schools of 1958 or 1968 ... or even of 1998!!

I applaud Christians who are trying to "take a stand" against the onslaught of public opinion and government interference in the lives of families and communities, but the laws of our nation stand opposed to the teaching called for in God's Word.  People don't need to be taught simply to "Be Nice!"  People need to repent, confess their sins and believe in Jesus Christ, and that is the task not of the schools but of the true Church!  And teaching our children is the responsibility of Christian parents and the community of Christian parents, the Church.

Truly "Christian" education can only truly be done by parents and the community of believers, and it should not be so expensive that many who may want such an education for their children cannot afford it.  This is the conversation Christians should be having.  We are the only ones who can have it, for we are the only ones who acknowledge the authority of God's Word and the truth it proclaims.  It is one thing to be "conservatives," but it is another to be unashamed to take the name, "Christian," and to teach our children what it means to be the light and salt of the earth as disciples of Jesus Christ.

And by the way, the "real world" is NOT what you see around you!  The REAL world is God's world, where Jesus Christ reigns and love for God, our Creator, the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, guides our words and our actions.  It is a world unknown by most, where love means speaking truth that sets people free from the sinful nature that holds them in bondage to SELF.  This is the world our children need to learn about and experience as they grow up, not the artificial world portrayed in commercials and movies and textbooks written by those who do not know God.

"Rise up, O men of God!  Have done with lesser things; Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings!  Rise up, O men of God!  The Church for you doth wait; her strength unequal to her task, rise up and make her great!  Lift high the cross of Christ!  Tread where His feet have trod; As brothers of the Son of Man, rise up, O men of God!"

Men and women of God, rise up and answer God's call!  May it not be said in the church, "In those days there was no king in Israel (in the Church). Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).  We have work to do under the banner of Christ.  Nothing less will do.

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen!"  (Ephesians 3:20-21).

To anyone who may want to enter into further conversation concerning the education of your children and how we move forward toward a greater degree of faithfulness and obedience to God in this all important area, you may email me at pastorsteve@lighthouse-ministries.org and I will be happy to include you in any further discussion.  May God grant wisdom and courage to His people in these days!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Stand firm!"

"Therefore, my beloved brothers (and sisters), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain!"  - I Corinthians 15:58

I have been thinking for a while that I need to revive my blogposts as we continue to see the world around us spiraling out-of-control ... out of OUR control ... and as people move farther and farther away from the truth of God's Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Today is the day!!

The verse above speaks a word of encouragement to those who are being faced with the daily struggles of life and especially to those who are engaged in the spiritual battle for truth, for hope, for peace, for joy, for LIFE!!  This is not a game we are playing or something you and I can do "part-time."  As soldiers in Christ's army we wage war every day against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms and we must put on all the armor God puts at our disposal (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Discouragement is a temptation that must be met with faith based upon the truth.  Yesterday morning I sent the verse above to my two grandsons who are serving at camp this week.  I encouraged them to memorize it.  By the end of the day I needed to read and trust these words for myself.  Receiving some news that disturbed my soul, my spirit was down and I thought of how so many people say they are "depressed."  But while I let myself go there for a moment, I realized that what I am really feeling is more anger ... an anger that arises out of a deep sadness when relationships are severed that I was counting on being solid and steadfast.

Then I remembered these words, spoken to those who are "beloved" by God Himself.  Paul had just finished speaking about the resurrection of the body and our victory over the grave.  He says in verse 57:  "But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"  I have that victory, and if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ you have that victory!  Nothing can take that away.

It is in that context that Paul writes, "Therefore, my beloved brothers (and sisters ... in Christ), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

Why does he say that?  Because sometimes it is going to FEEL like it is in vain, and during those moments, those periods of time, you and I who know the KING who is seated at the Father's right hand must remember that He is at work in us and through us for His glory.  It is the LORD whom we serve!

There is a hymn that asks, "Who is on the Lord's side?"  So long as God gives me breath I will say, "I am!!"  I pray that you will join me!!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

"It's all about GOD!"

Day #328

Scripture Reading:  II Corinthians 9 - 10 ...

Paul commends the believers at Corinth for their “eagerness to help” (9:2) as he encourages them to get prepared to give an offering for their fellow believers who are in need.  Sadly, some have taken the words of Paul in Chapter 9 and developed an entire "theology" around the idea that if you "sow seed into the kingdom," meaning, MONEY, God will give you more MONEY back.  There are so many things wrong with that interpretation that it's hard to know where to begin, but what is important is this:  Your life and mine were intended to be about God and His glory.  Anything that makes people look at US must cause us to point out that it is NOT us, it is GOD who is the Giver.  This is the intention of Paul's words, inspired by the Spirit of God, in these chapters.

It is true that Paul was strongly encouraging them to be generous; and it is also true that God was speaking through Paul when he wrote, "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously" (9:6).  Obviously, he was speaking about giving an offering, but it was not ONLY money that he was talking about.  Remember what he said in chapter 8, verse 12:  "For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one HAS, not according to what he does NOT have."  Thus the instruction that "each man should give what he has decided in his HEART to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (9:7-8).

God doesn't NEED your gifts and mine.  WE need to give more than God needs to receive.  We need to learn that all we have is God's and if we don't use it for Him we are missing an opportunity to testify that we are assured that HE will provide what WE need.  If we hold back, we are trusting in ourselves, in our things, and by doing so we are missing GOD!!  So Paul adds, "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (9:9). God wants you to see Him as your Provider so that you will live by faith, whether you have plenty or little.

He goes on in verse 10:  "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God!" (9:10-11).  Did you hear that??  Your giving will result in thanksgiving to GOD!  He says the same again in verse 12 and again in verse 13 and again in verse 15.  People will give thanks to God, they will praise God, and they will give thanks WITH us for God's "indescribable gift" (9:15).  God's indescribable gift is His constant and amazing grace ... grace that opens our eyes and opens our hearts and opens our hands ... grace that brings freedom from the bondage that enslaves so many.  It's called HOARDING and it KILLS people, from the inside out.

God gave His SON that we might live in His presence and enjoy His goodness now and forever.  He wants us to share in the joy of giving.  Our "harvest of righteousness" is being what God calls us to be and doing what God calls us to do!  In Acts 3 Peter and John see a beggar who wants money from them.  Peter says, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!" (Acts 3:6).  Sometimes giving people money is the appropriate thing to do.  At other times helping them get on their feet, get a job, and change their lives is better.  But at all times pointing them to the God from whom every good and perfect gift comes is essential.  Everybody needs Christ!  This is why Paul goes on in Chapter 10 to boldly defend his ministry.

There were those who were speaking against Paul and his companions, questioning the fruitfulness of their ministry.  What were they looking for?  Were they counting numbers, there weren't that many.  Did they think the lives of the people were not being improved?  That wasn't the most important thing.  Some today proclaim a message of prosperity and promise physical healing and a better life.  God has promised to be with us, yet He has told us that life will not always be easy.  Paul boldly declares that we do not live by the standards of the world (10:3).  We don't measure "success" with the same yardstick.  It is our goal to set people FREE from the spiritual bondage of sin!

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (10:3-4).

This ministry, this life ... your life and mine, is about knowing Christ, loving Christ and serving Christ, for the glory of God.  It’s not about an easy life or about possessions.  Paul was not concerned about what other people said about him ... only what GOD said about him.  "For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (10:18).  You may be able to convince yourself that you are doing what you should and others may come along and boast about you and make you feel good, but all of that may actually lead you away from God. Any time you or I seek glory for ourselves, we are stealing from God.  "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord" (10:17).

Life, REAL life, is all about God.  I am here to serve Him.   He took upon Himself a human nature, going to the cross to save me from myself.  I need Him and by the power of His Spirit I am born again and through faith in Jesus Christ I have a new life!!  And now my new life ... is all about God!!

"My Father in heaven, all that I have is a gift from you.  Lord, help me to use my life to glorify You.  I thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Son and for Your amazing grace that brings me into Your presence and gives me LIFE, eternal life with You in the glory of the new heaven and earth.  Tear my heart away from anything in this world that pulls me away from You, so that I may find my joy in GIVING, as YOU have given to me.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"It all comes down to THIS!"

Day #365

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 18 - 22 ...

Jesus IS coming again, but first, evil and everything associated with Satan and his kingdom must be utterly and totally destroyed.  "Babylon the Great" may be a literal city, but it also represents all the evil in the world that opposes God and His kingdom. It is the opposite of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, that will come to earth.  Chapter 18, verse 2 is actually a quote from Isaiah 21:9: “Babylon has fallen, has fallen!  All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!"  So now John writes, "Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great! ... the kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries" (18:2-3).

The economic systems at work in our world today have become interdependent and may “crash” at any moment.  “Babylon’s fall” will be orchestrated by God Himself. The Antichrist and those who follow him will attempt to hold on, to endure, in spite of the Rapture of the Church and the worldwide effect of God's judgments, but now they fall.  "In one day her plagues will overtake her; death, mourning and famine.  She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her" (18:8).  So John announces, "Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power!  In one hour your doom has come!" (18:10).

What brings great sorrow to those who do not know God brings great joy to those who by His grace have been delivered from His judgment through faith in Christ.  "After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting, 'Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments!'" (19:1).  In heaven the wedding supper of the Lamb is celebrated as the saints and angels gather around the throne in worship!  

Now the time has come for Jesus to return to the earth with His angelic army to defeat the Antichrist and the False Prophet and all who follow them.  Chapter 19:11-21 gives us some of the details, and then it begins ... the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth that the prophets spoke about ... the time when Jesus, the Christ, God's Anointed (Psalm 2) will reign over all the nations (Zechariah 14) with an iron scepter (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27, 12:5, 19:15).  Those who were put to death by the Antichrist now reign with Christ as Satan is bound.  

At the end of the thousand years Satan is released to deceive the nations once more (those who have lived under Christ's reign and yet have not believed in Him), but God sends fire down from heaven (literally) to destroy them and Satan himself is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur where he will be tormented forever and ever.  The final declaration of God's judgment is made public (20:11-15) and then it happens:  the holy city, the new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven and "now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (21:3-5).

Political and religious rulers today speak of a "new world order," but it is not THIS new order they are talking about ... it is Babylon!  Only GOD will bring in this new world order by the power of His Word.  As John sees the city of God he writes, "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp" (21:22-23).  And notice something else:  "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (21:27).

For these, for you who have trusted in Christ Jesus, who have been born again by His Spirit, who have believed in Him for forgiveness and eternal life, THIS is our future!!  "No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.  And they will reign forever and ever!" (22:3-5).

As John sees these visions, Jesus says, "Behold, I am coming soon!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book. ...  Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what He has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life" (22:12-13).  Can there be any other response for those who know the Lord Jesus other than, "COME!"?

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the FREE gift of the water of life. ...  AMEN!  Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people.  Amen!" (22:17-21).  

Everything that is going on in your life and in the world today comes down to this:  do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?  Have you put your trust in Him?  Have you repented of sin and are you living for Him today, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness?  This life is temporary, but what lies ahead is eternal ... either eternal life or eternal death.  May the Spirit of God confirm in your heart and your mind that you are His, or may He call you today to lay down your life at His feet and come to know that your name is written in His book of life.

To GOD be the glory, now and forever!!

"O Lord, my God, my Father in heaven, it is with the sure and certain hope of salvation that I come to You, praising You for who You are and thanking You for Your gift of salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ!  Your Word is alive and Your Spirit has given me understanding so that with all who believe in Jesus I KNOW that I have eternal life, a gift received because of Your wonderful grace to me.  Father, in the midst of all that is happening today and all that will happen tomorrow and in the future, I place my trust in You, my Savior and my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"The battle rages on, but VICTORY is assured!"

Day #364

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 12 - 17 …

Throughout John’s “Revelation” God gives a picture of the battle between Jesus Christ and Satan, the "great dragon" ... "the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray" (12:9).  Only faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that leads to "patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints" (13:10; 14:12), provides believers hope that is sure and certain and an escape from God's judgment as we rely on our Father in heaven for protection and ultimately, VICTORY!!

As the seals of the scroll of God's judgment are removed in Chapter 6, the Antichrist sets out to conquer those who would oppose him and to establish HIS rule (Satan's rule) on the earth.  Chapter 7 reveals the "sealing" of 144,000 Jews or descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from the tribes of Israel, and then the Rapture of the Church, that great multitude from every people, tribe, nation and tongue.  Then God begins to pour out HIS judgment on the Antichrist and those who follow him (Chapters 8-9).  As the angels sound the trumpets, God's judgment begins.

To understand the sequence of events you must take into account Matthew 24:1-33 and other Scriptures that speak of these things.  A significant event in Daniel's account (Daniel 9:25-27), the breaking of a covenant with Israel and others, is repeated by Jesus in Matthew 24:15-28.  It is AFTER this, which takes place in the middle of Daniel’s “70th week,” the final seven years, that the Great Tribulation begins, and it is this period that is being described in Revelation 12-13.  

The "woman" described in the first few verses of Chapter 12 is beyond question, Israel, as she "gives birth to a son, a male child, who will rule the nations with an iron scepter" (12:5).  God protects the woman for 1,260 days or 42 months (12:6; 13:5).  God's supernatural protection of a remnant from Israel during this time fulfills His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  All these events center around Israel and Jerusalem.  To understand these things figuratively, only as symbols, is to miss the very purpose of God to glorify Himself by keeping His covenant with Abraham and his descendants.

Chapters 12-14 are an interlude where John goes back to the birth of Jesus and then gives details of some of the events that will take place as the seals of Chapter 6 are opened, before and during the trumpet judgments of Chapters 8 and 9.  John pictures the war in heaven when Satan is cast down to earth (12:7-9) and then fast forwards to the climactic battle that will be waged at the end of time.  As he has done for centuries, Satan "pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child" (12:13), but when he sees that God is protecting her, "the dragon … went off to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (12:17).  That's Christians!!  It is impossible to see how Satan, through the Antichrist, can persecute Christians if we have been “raptured” before any of this takes place.

The "beast" of Chapter 13 is the Antichrist, who becomes possessed by Satan.  He arises out of the governments of the world and is given authority for 42 months (1260 days - 13:5).  "He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them" (13:7 … the 5th seal - 6:9-11).  "All the inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast - all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain …" (13:8).  God will protect a remnant of Israel and He will give strength to Christians to endure the most severe persecution the world has ever seen.  And along with the beast will be a second "beast" (13:11-17), later called the "false prophet" (16:13).  While the Antichrist is a political ruler, the false prophet is a religious leader.  They will form an unholy alliance and will deceive all those whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb (13:8).  People will be forced to receive a mark in order to buy or sell.

For the first time in history, the things spoken of in the book of Revelation are not only possible, but close to happening.  Already today millions are being deceived by voices that cry out for the uniting of all religions and all governments through the United Nations and other organizations and even the visible church!!  This will happen under the direction of the Antichrist.

Chapter 14 gives a second picture of the 144,000, who had been sealed with the Father's name and the name of the Lamb, as they worship God, and then more pictures of God's wrath falling on the Antichrist and those who follow him as they are thrown into "the great winepress of God's wrath" (14:19).  As
Chapter 15 begins John picks up the sequence of events which began in Chapters 8-9.  
With the Church raptured, the trumpet judgments have brought devastation on the earth.  Now John writes, "I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign:  seven angels with the seven last plagues - last, because with them God's wrath is completed" (15:1).  As with the trumpet judgments, the events of Chapter 16 take place through the direct actions of the angels whom God sent to carry them out.  In spite of the horrible judgments that are almost beyond description, the remainder of mankind "refused to repent" (16:9, 11).  And so the "unholy trinity," Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet (16:13), "go out to the kings of the whole world to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty" (16:14).

This is battle of Armageddon (16:16).  It is then that Jesus will return from heaven with His heavenly army (19:11-21).  More details are given in Chapters 17-18, as John speaks of "the woman on the beast" and the Antichrist, "the beast who once was, and now is not," who "is going to his destruction”  (17:11). GOD is in control … the Lamb reigns.  "God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose (JUDGMENT) by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, UNTIL God's words are fulfilled" (17:17).

Evil exists and God's judgment against evil is assured, but "everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ... This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (I John 5:1,4).  The battle rages on, but the victory belongs to US, to those who are united to Christ by faith!  

"Lord God Almighty, in Your strength and for Your glory I will stand firm in my faith, trusting Your Spirit to equip me to persevere.  I thank You for revealing Your plan to destroy evil and to bring judgment upon those who stand opposed to Jesus and His kingdom.  By faith, I declare victory, in Jesus' name, Amen"