Impact

Seven Church Conditions during the Times of the Gentiles – Prologue

It is the worst of times, it is the best of times!

Historical Background

The Book of Revelation was written in a distinct literary style called “apocalyptic literature,” a style of writing that is largely unfamiliar to us today. Because this is not a normal literary writing style in our modern era, we have difficulty interpreting apocalyptic literature correctly. Apocalyptic literature flourished from Antiochus Epiphanes (164 B.C.) to the Bar Kochba revolt (A.D. 135), when Jews suffered and fought for survival. The people understood it and knew how to interpret it. Believers were suffering at the hands of the Greeks and Roman evil pagan rulers. They needed encouragement and assurance that God had not forsaken them and that righteousness would prevail. When the Jewish people were being persecuted and suffered from evil pagan rulers, they couldn’t understand why God allowed this. Had He forsaken them? Was He really aware of their plight? Was He really the sovereign Lord over the evil rulers? Was He going to do something to help them? And if so, how and when? The believers needed assurance that God had not forsaken them, that He would judge the ungodly, establish His righteous Kingdom on the earth, and that His people would overcome in the end. (2)

One of the ways spiritual leaders sought to encourage the people was to give them an assurance of God’s deliverance through apocalyptic writings. The central theme of these writings was that their God was indeed Lord of the world, that He did know of their sufferings, that He was allowing it for His own reasons that they did not understand, and that He would judge the evil rulers, deliver the people from their plight, and establish His Kingdom on the earth. (2)

While the first-century believers to whom John wrote clearly understood his message, the apocalyptic style of writing, time, and history has obscured much of its meaning today. In modern English, we have different types of literature such as technical documents, poems, fiction, nonfiction, etc. We realize that we don’t interpret these different types of literature the same way. For example, we do not interpret a poem the same way we interpret a novel.

Apocalyptic literature had three common characteristics:

  • Claimed to be a revelation from God.

The Greek word for apocalypse means revelation, disclosure, or unveiling. The writer claimed to be revealing something he learned supernaturally from God that he passed on to the people to encourage them in their time of despair. This is why the Book of Revelation is also referred to as the Apocalypse. So John begins his writing with “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Yeshua the Messiah). (2)

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must happen very soon. He made it clear by sending his angel to his servant John, (Revelation 1:1 NET)
  • Apocalyptic literature is symbolic.

The writer uses cosmic journeys, mysterious creatures, supernatural beings, strange, frightening beasts, numerology, etc., to explain invisible divine mysteries in the heavens in human terms for those living on the earth. The symbols were not intended to be understood literally but represented real events and personalities that the readers would understand in their times. For example, when John mentioned that Jesus has a sharp two-edged sword in His mouth (Revelation 1:16), he didn’t mean that literally. He meant that Jesus was speaking the creative Rhema Word of God. (2)

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. (Hebrews 4:12,13 NET)
  • Apocalyptic literature emphasizes the supernatural means of receiving the message and the supernatural intervention of God in human history.

These were difficult times when God’s people were in exile in Babylon and struggling to reestablish themselves in Israel as well as looking into the future “last days.” This literature commonly includes the writer in a spiritual state being transported to Heaven or having visions on the earth where he sees the throne of God and angelic beings that reveal to him the divine secrets and mysteries of the current political and religious situation on the earth. This includes God’s future judgments and the new world order of God’s Kingdom, with God’s people being delivered from their suffering. All of these elements are in the Book of Revelation. In addition, parts of the Books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah are apocalyptic in the Old Covenant. (2)

While most of the Book of Revelation is apocalyptic, it also contains literal messages to seven literal congregations in Asia Minor (modern Western Turkey) and prophecy for our times. The central message is that God is in control of nations and world events, He will comfort His people in times of distress, that Jesus is Lord and King and Savior of all who put their trust in Him, and He is returning to establish His Kingdom on the earth. At that time, He will pass judgment on evil, thus destroying it, He will reward His people, and they will live with Him in a world of righteousness and peace forever. (2)

While it is a first-century book written to first-century believers, it is certainly appropriate for us today as believers face many of the same challenges. While trials of our faith, suffering, and tribulation are inevitable when God’s Kingdom clashes with the kingdoms of the world, we have the assurance of God’s faithfulness to His Word. His people will overcome and reign with Him forever. Hallelujah! (2)

Roman Emperor Worship

With this overview, we explore the situation in the Roman world of the first century to learn the background and purpose for John receiving and writing the Revelation. (2)

In the ancient pagan world of the Romans, people worshiped many gods. They believed particular deities ruled over and controlled different aspects of nature and their individual lives. Not only did each nation have many gods, but villages also had their own local deities, as did individual households. The people looked to these gods for protection and provision. They feared their wrath and sought to appease them by making sacrifices. (2)

As Rome came to power and extended its empire, it contacted the gods of other cultures and religious beliefs. The Romans were happy to embrace new foreign gods and customs as long as this contributed to their ever-widening influence, power, and control of the people. Rome went so far as to build temples and establish priesthoods to these foreign gods in Rome itself. To Rome, the more gods, the better. Sometimes they kept the foreign names of the adopted deities, such as the Persian god Mithra, and other times they changed their names to Latin. For example, Zeus (Greek) became Jupiter (Latin). (2)

Julius Caesar (49-44 B.C.), the Roman senate, and Caesar routinely fought for control. Eventually, under Julius Caesar, the emperor obtained the upper hand. With the emperor’s establishment of an imperial system, Roman religion added another deity, the emperor himself. This not only contributed to the emperor’s ego, but it was a major factor in unifying the empire. Imperial cult emperor worship with its accompanying sacrifice to the emperor was the required test of loyalty to the empire. Generally, the emperor was declared a god at his death. But others, such as Domitian, demanded worship while they were still alive. This system of emperor worship would continue throughout the empire until Constantine stopped it. (2)

The Romans had a great ceremony marking the transition of the emperor to a divine status. Each year, this glorious occasion would be remembered by making sacrifices to the emperor. Whenever called upon to do so, loyal subjects made sacrifices to the emperor at his temple and statue. They received a certificate that was their proof of loyalty. (2)

Again, as the first absolute ruler of the empire, Julius Caesar was the first to claim himself a descendant of the gods. Even before his death, a temple was dedicated to him with the name “Jupiter Julies.” Erected a year before he died, his statue was inscribed with “To the invincible god.” This was all just too much for some in the senate. So on March 15, 44 B.C., two leading senate members, Cassius and Brutus, along with the support of sixty other senators, assassinated Julius Caesar. “Beware the ides of March” became a famous saying relating to this event. (2)

Octavian (27 B.C.– A.D. 14), Julius Caesar’s nephew and adopted son, was appointed Caesar. Octavian was given the title of “Augustus” by the senate. He gradually got all the power into his own hands. As the son of “the invincible god,” Augustus not only accepted, he actively promoted the cult of emperor worship. But he also did not wait until he died to accept the adoration of the people. He built temples, statues, and celebration events in his honor throughout the empire. This included Asia Minor, where he built a temple to himself in Pergamos. When he died, the senate conducted the official ceremony proclaiming Augustus as one of the Roman gods. (2)

Tiberias (A.D. 14-37) maintained the imperial cult of emperor worship but did not actively promote it.

Caligula (A.D. 37-41) declared himself a god and actively promoted emperor worship with a fanatical zeal. In A.D. 40, he ordered his statue to be placed in the Temple in Jerusalem. This would be the worst imaginable “abomination of desolation” to the Jewish people. The Roman governor overseeing Judea at that time realized that if he carried out this order, all of Judea would riot. He begged Caligula to rescind his order. At the request of his childhood friend, Herod Agrippa I, Caligula agreed to delay the order but demanded that the governor of Judea kill himself. Fortunately for the governor and the Jews, the Praetorian Guard assassinated Caligula before the order could be carried out. (2)

Claudius (A.D. 41-54) maintained the imperial cult of emperor worship but did not actively promote it. (2)

Nero (A.D. 54-68) was an insecure egomaniac who needed to be worshiped. Nero actively promoted emperor worship with a fanatical zeal. He claimed a miraculous and divine birth. The Roman high god was the sun god. When Nero built a temple for sun worship, he put his own face on the statue representing the sun god. Nero desired to build a great palace to his own honor. However, Rome was overbuilt. In A.D. 64, a fire of curious origin burned a major part of Rome, specifically in the area where Nero wanted to build his palace. The people blamed Nero for the fire. Nero shifted the blame by accusing the Christians of starting the fire. Nero was forced to commit suicide in A.D. 68. Since his suicide was private, many of the general public did not believe he was really dead. Some thought he would reappear or be resurrected. Since some believe his name equals the numeric value of 666, Nero was considered by certain groups to be the first anti-Christ. Nero inflicted horrible suffering on the believers. He covered them with skins of wild beasts so dogs would tear them to pieces. He used them as human torches in his garden at night by fastening them to crosses and setting them on fire. He sent them to die in the Coliseum and subjected them to many other cruel deaths. Most scholars believe that Paul was martyred in Rome by Nero between A.D. 62 and 64. The organized Catholic Church teaches that Peter was also martyred in Rome at this time. (2)

The book of Hebrews alludes to this terrible time of persecution:

and women received back their dead raised to life. But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain resurrection to a better life.And others experienced mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed apart, murdered with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (the world was not worthy of them); they wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and openings in the earth. And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised.For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us. (Hebrews 11:35–40 NET)

The Jews revolted against Roman rule in what became known as the First Jewish War. At that time, General Vespasian was sent to Judea to put down the revolt. His son, Titus, accompanied him and was in charge of the famed Tenth Legion. They had almost ended the revolt when they heard that Nero died. Nero died without a clear successor. This led to a civil war, with four different generals declaring themselves emperor in A.D. 69. Vespasian and Titus stopped fighting against the Jews and waited for further orders. Finally, Vespasian was recalled to Rome, where he became emperor. Titus stayed in Judea and finally ended the Jewish revolt by burning Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. The famous “Arch of Titus” still stands today in Rome as a monument to his triumph. (2)

Arch of Titus

Vespasian (A.D. 69-79), for the next ten years, Vespasian ruled the world and continued the imperial cult of emperor worship but did not actively promote it. He shared much of his glory with his son, Titus. Both Vespasian and Titus practically ruled the empire together. Titus was like the co-emperor with his father. They received all the glory and adoration of the empire. (2)

Titus (A.D. 79-81), when Vespasian died in A.D. 79, Titus succeeded him as emperor. He maintained the imperial cult of emperor worship but did not actively promote it. Meanwhile, Vespasian’s younger son, and brother to Titus, Domitian, was overlooked and ignored. He spent his early years living in the shadow of his famous brother. Later, he was given ceremonial titles but no real responsibilities befitting the son and brother of the emperor. However, when Titus died of a mysterious illness, Domitian was declared emperor. (2)

So much was happening during these aforementioned times that greatly impacted the world of Rome, the Jews, and the Christians. Again, when Nero burned Rome in A.D. 64, he blamed the Christians and persecuted them unmercifully. The first Jewish revolt against the Romans was in A.D. 66 and lasted until A.D. 73. Nero died in A.D. 68. Titus destroyed Jerusalem and burned down the Temple in A.D. 70. If this was not enough, something just as frightening was about to take place that would influence the Christian world forever. (2)

Domitian (A.D. 81-96) promoted and forced those in the empire to worship him, providing the setting for the Book of Revelation. Who was Domitian, and why did he fanatically promote emperor worship? Understanding his motives and actions requires some knowledge of his family. Domitian devoted the early part of his reign to consolidating his power, establishing himself as emperor, and administering the empire. But in the last half of his reign (A.D. 90-96), his emphasis promoted the imperial cult of emperor worship. Domitian insisted on being called “the lord god” and even issued coins bearing this phrase. The Romans built a temple or statue and altar to the emperor in every province to unify the empire and test the loyalty of the citizens. Recall, Asia Minor already had a temple to the emperor in Pergamos. In addition, Domitian decided to build a second statue and altar for worshipping him in Ephesus, in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Asia Minor would now have two locations dedicated to emperor worship. Note the seven congregations in Revelation were located in Asia Minor. (2)

The place of imperial worship had a statue of Domitian and an altar where citizens of Ephesus were required to bow in worship to the image of Domitian as lord god. Those who refused were either exiled or put to death. Some believers hoped to pretend to bow to the emperor by bending over to fix their sandals when they got to the front of the statute. In other words, they did not want to bow to the image but did not have the courage to openly defy the mandate. The Jews asked their rabbis if this was an acceptable thing for them to do. After all, they didn’t really mean to bow down to the emperor, but they didn’t want to die or be exiled. The question was, “Can a Jew fix his sandals in front of a pagan altar?” The rabbis ruled that a Jew could NOT fix his sandals (pretend to bow down) in front of a pagan statue, even if they said the Shema while doing so. Christian believers came to the same conclusion. Early on, Jews and the followers of Jesus believed and accepted the idea that they would rather die for their faith than compromise. (2)

Why was it so important to the Romans that the Jews and followers of Jesus bow down to the emperor? Why did they exile or kill those who refused? Again, the imperial cult of emperor worship was uniting the empire and proving the people’s loyalty. The Romans did not care how many gods the people had, as long as they included the emperor. Bowing down to the emperor was more of a political statement than a religious one. It was showing allegiance to Rome and the Roman system as your lord and god. The emperor represented the empire. Even though the Senate still operated in Rome, the emperor ruled the empire. Rome began as a republic, a government of leaders representing the people. But it became a totalitarian regime, a political system that was intolerant of dissent. That is, Rome was a dictatorship, and the emperor was the dictator. Bowing down to the statue of the emperor showed allegiance to Rome. This meant the whole Roman way of life, including its government, policies, decrees, rulings, institutions, culture, and values. If you wanted to live, you did not have a choice. You did not have freedom of worship and conscience. If you refused to bow down to the emperor, you were considered anti-Roman, a disloyal citizen. You were either exiled or killed. Many scholars believe this decision by Domitian caused John to be exiled to Patmos. (2)

Rome did not care how many gods the people worshiped as long as the emperor was on the list. This requirement of emperor worship became the main source of conflict between the first-century believers and Rome. Because the believers would not worship the emperor, the Roman government considered them to be atheists. They did not ask the believers to deny their faith but simply add the emperor to their devotion. It was not a problem for non-believers to add the emperor to their list of gods. But for those who worshiped the One True God and Him alone, emperor worship was not possible. As believers refused to worship the emperor as a god, they would be persecuted. This is the background to why John received the Revelation while on the Island of Patmos, wrote it, and distributed it to the Christian believers. (2)

Through this series, it will be seen that although it was the worst of times for the church, it was also the best of times.

Application

The same is true today; it is the worst of times and the best of times.

The Best of Times

“In a word, the Christian church has experienced a larger geographical redistribution in the last fifty years than in any comparable period in its history, with the exception of the very earliest years of church history”

Mark Noll (3)

For example:

  • At the beginning of the twentieth century, about 71% of professing Christians in the world lived in Europe. By the end of the twentieth century, that number had shrunk to 28%. Now 43% of the Christians live in Latin America and Africa.
  • In 1900, Africa had 10 million Christians, which was about 10% of the population. By 2000, the number of Christians was 360 million, about half the population of the continent. This is probably the largest shift in religious affiliation that has ever occurred, anywhere.
  • There are 17 million baptized members of the Anglican church in Nigeria, compared with 2.8 million in the United States.
  • The number of practicing Christians in China is approaching the number in the United States.
  • Kenya has more people in Christian churches on Sunday than Canada.
  • In Great Britain, at least fifteen thousand Christian foreign missionaries are at work evangelizing the locals. Most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia. (3) 

It is the best of times in the history of world Christianity. 

The Worst of Times

“Doesn’t the recent history of Christianity spell out the obvious: God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world? Not exactly. If our era has become the best of times, it remains also the worst of times. . . . The ever-expanding numbers who are turning to Christ in the Global south constitute the great marvel of recent history, but . . . “

Mark Noll (3)

Global terrorism, hypocrisy, colonial imperialism, racism, Marxism, socialism, materialism, and a kind of decadence in the West that attempts to turn our shame into our glory with historically unprecedented audacity through fornication/adultery (1), homosexuality (1), gender confusion (1), and abortion (1), etc. (4)

It is the worst of times; it is the best of times!

Perhaps this is true at every point in the history of a God-ruled, sin-pervaded world. It was true in 1859, and it is true today. Charles Dickens wrote The Tale of Two Cities in 1859. It begins with (4)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Charles Dickens (5)

Charles Dickens referred to 1775-1792, a period before and during the French Revolution. But his point was, that period was like his present period in 1859. In the mid-19th century, “it was the best of times and the worst of times.” (4). We again find ourselves in a Godless “Social Justice” Revolution (i.e., Critical Race Theory (6)(7), 1619 Project (8), Woke Movement, the Marxist Organization BLM, inc (9)), Gender Equality (10), Cancel Culture (11), etc.) with many of the same characteristics of the ignoble French Revolution.

How then shall we live?

1. Do not assume any specific historical trajectory of good or evil is fixed and unchangeable. God evidently loves to do his surprising work in hard and unlikely times. Surely, this is one of the implications of the history in the book of Kings and Chronicles in the Old Covenant. Even great and good kings are sometimes followed by despots. Josiah was the son and grandson of two of the most wicked kings (Manasseh and Amon). He became king at eight years old. At sixteen, he turned the Kingdom of Judah on its head with a righteous reformation (2 Chronicles 34:1–4). Wicked fathers (e.g., Eli) may raise both wicked (e.g., Hophni and Phinehas (1)) and/or righteous children (e.g., Samuel (1 Samuel 3:19,20)). Righteous fathers (e.g., Samuel) may raise wicked children (e.g., Joel and Abijah (1 Samuel 8:1-5) and/or righteous children. The point is, a reformation of righteousness is unpredictable (1) and could happen at any moment because God is sovereign. (4)

“Or suppose I were to send a plague into that land, and pour out my rage on it with bloodshed, killing both people and animals. Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, they could not save their own son or daughter; they would save only their own lives by their righteousness. (Ezekiel 14:19–20 NET)

Noah, Daniel, and Job (1) were men that lived righteously before God by faith, and it was their righteous example, not great intercession like Moses, Aaron, and Samuel conducted (cf. Psalms 99:6-8. Jeremiah 15:1), that saved those in their world, nation, and family. Let us learn from their example, even if we do not consider ourselves great intercessors (1), we may save our world, nation, and family by living righteously before them through faith in Jesus Christ. (cf. 1 Peter 3:1)

So the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so blatant that I must go down and see if they are as wicked as the outcry suggests. If not, I want to know.” The two men turned and headed toward Sodom, but Abraham was still standing before the Lord. Abraham approached and said, “Will you sweep away the godly along with the wicked? What if there are fifty godly people in the city? Will you really wipe it out and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty godly people who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the godly with the wicked, treating the godly and the wicked alike! Far be it from you! Will not the judge of the whole earth do what is right?” So the Lord replied, “If I find in the city of Sodom fifty godly people, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” ...Finally Abraham said, “May the Lord not be angry so that I may speak just once more. What if ten are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.” (Genesis 18:20–26:18:32 NET)

For those called to crisis intercession, rise up and fulfill the assignment to stand in the gap given to you by the Lord of the Church Jesus Christ (Yahweh ha Mashiach) in the authority of the Name of Jesus (1) and in the power of His Holy Spirit (1).

I looked for a man from among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it, but I found no one. So I have poured my anger on them, and destroyed them with the fire of my fury. I hereby repay them for what they have done, declares the sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 22:30–31 NET)
When I close up the sky so that it doesn’t rain, or command locusts to devour the land’s vegetation, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13–14 NET)v
“Yet even now,” the Lord says, “return to me with all your heart— with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your garments!” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and boundless in loyal love—often relenting from calamitous punishment. Who knows? Perhaps he will be compassionate and grant a reprieve, and leave blessing in his wake— a meal offering and a drink offering for you to offer to the Lord your God! Blow the trumpet in Zion. Announce a holy fast; proclaim a sacred assembly! Gather the people; sanctify an assembly! Gather the elders; gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out from his bedroom and the bride from her private quarters. Let the priests, those who serve the Lord, weep from the vestibule all the way back to the altar. Let them say, “Have pity, O Lord, on your people; please do not turn over your inheritance to be mocked, to become a proverb among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, “Where is their God?” (Joel 2:12–17 NET)

While it was too late for the Kingdom of Judah, It may not be too late for us!

2. Trust the sovereignty of God to turn the lunacy of the nations to serve his purposes. Times seem to be getting worse and worse (1), with good increasingly called evil and evil called good (1). (Isaiah 5:20. Ecclesiastes 8:11) However, times have been similarly bad before in history.

Is there anything about which someone can say, "Look at this! It is new!"? It was already done long ago, before our time. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 NET)
Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these days?" for it is not wise to ask that. (Ecclesiastes 7:10 NET)

In the face of deadly opposition, the early church prayed with the words of Psalm 2:1 (4)

When they were released, Peter and John went to their fellow believers and reported everything the high priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices to God with one mind and said, “Master of all, you who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, who said by the Holy Spirit through your servant David our forefather, ‘Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot foolish things? The kings of the earth stood together, and the rulers assembled together, against the Lord and against his Christ.’ (Acts 4:23–26 NET)

Foolish things? They succeeded in killing Jesus!

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know—this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. (Acts 2:22,23 NET)

But what had they really achieved? Later the praying Christians explained:

“For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen. And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously. (Acts 4:27–31 NET)

They plotted foolishly against the Lord and his anointed. Because, in all their fury, they simply fulfilled what the Lord had planned: the salvation of the world! Hallelujah! (4)

3. Let us labor to secure the minds and consciences of our young people to the Word of God as infallible, glorious, utterly timely, penetrating, and invincible! (4)

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NET)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned! (2 Timothy 2:8–9 NET)

4. Ready to suffer (1) —for Christ’s name. Full of trust (1) —in Christ’s grace. Doing good (1) —by Christ’s power. He reigns over this sin-ravaged world. Therefore it is the worst of times and the best of times. As the apostle Peter says, (4)

So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. (1 Peter 4:19 NET)

5. And, we are promised that as evil increases in the world, so does God’s grace:

Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, (Romans 5:20 NET)
Feasts, Festivals, and Important Occasions of the Biblical Covenants Series:
– The Spring Festivals:
– Seven Church Conditions during the Times of the Gentiles:
– The Fall Festivals:
  • The Feasts of Israel – Trumpets
  • The Feasts of Israel – Atonement
  • The Feasts of Israel – Tabernacles


Shalom
(Peace, Wholeness, Success)

Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 
(3 John 1:2 NET)


(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.

(2) Booker, R. (2011). The overcomers: series– understanding the book of revelation. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image.

(3) Noll, Mark A.  The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith.  Downers Grove, IL: IVP,; 2009.  200 pp.  ISBN 978-0-8308-2847-0.

(4) https://ministrytodaymag.com/leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/22228-this-truly-is-the-best-of-times-and-the-worst-of-times

(5) Title: A Tale of Two Cities, A Story of the French Revolution, Author: Charles Dickens, 1859, Release Date: January 1994 [eBook #98] [Most recently updated: December 20, 2020]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: UTF-8 Produced by: Judith Boss and David Widger

(6) In his new book “Fault Lines,” Pastor Voddie Baucham calls the new anti-racism movement, of which critical race theory is at the center, “a cult.” 

“It has its own cosmology, it has its own saints, it has its own law. What it doesn’t have is the Gospel because there is no grace in anti-racism. There is no forgiveness. There is no restoration,” Baucham said.

(7) In their book Black Eye for America: How Critical Race Theory Is Burning Down the House, Carol Swain and Christopher Schorr expose the true nature of Critical Race Theory. Based on cultural Marxism, CRT bullies and demonizes whites while infantilizing and denying agency to blacks, creating a deep racial rift. As Abraham Lincoln famously observed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” CRT aims to divide the American nation against itself and burn down the house. They describe CRT in theory and practice, accounting for its origins and weaponization within American schools and workplaces; explain how this ideology threatens traditional American values and legal doctrines, including civil rights; and equip everyday Americans with strategies to help them resist and defeat CRT’s pernicious influence. They offer concrete solutions for taking back the country’s stolen institutions. In schools and workplaces across the United States, Americans are being indoctrinated with a divisive, anti-American ideology: Critical Race Theory (CRT).

(8) In his book Red, White, and Black: Rescuing American History from Revisionists and Race Hustlers, ROBERT L. WOODSON, SR. provides an indispensable corrective to the falsified version of black history presented by The 1619 Project, radical activists, and money-hungry “diversity consultants.” In the rush to redefine the place of black Americans in contemporary society, many radical activists and academics have mounted a campaign to destroy traditional American history and replace it with a politicized version that few would recognize. According to the new radical orthodoxy, the United States was founded as a racist nation—and everything that has happened throughout our history must be viewed through the lens of the systemic oppression of black people. Rejecting this false narrative, a collection of the most prominent and respected black scholars and thinkers has come together to correct the record and tell the true story of black Americans in all its complexity, diversity of experience, and poignancy. Collectively, they paint a vivid picture of black people living the grand American experience, however bumpy the road may be along the way. But rather than a people apart, blacks are woven into the united whole that makes this nation unique in history.

(9) In his book “Pawns of Change,” Pastor Stephen Broden said the following:

“The mobilization of blacks has been most useful when issues of race, racism, and expansion of government are mixed into public discourse. Concepts of “race” and “racism” are explosive. Right or wrong, they open old wounds for black people. The charge of racism acts as a filter. It removes facts and reality from any and all conversations about politics or what is best for the black public. Until our neighborhoods move beyond this hypersensitivity, progressives will continue to exploit race issues to manipulate black citizens for their own political purposes.”

About his book “Pawns of Change,” Pastor Stephen Broden said the following:

“Pawns of Change’ describes my attempt to probe the progressive movement, which currently is synonymous with the Democratic Party. A pawn is a powerful chess piece when used appropriately. The Progressive movement in America has used the black community as a pawn on the chessboard of politics to advance its own agenda and “fundamentally change” America. This is deliberate and malicious exploitation of the community.”

(10) In his book “Anchoring Your Child to God’s Truth In a Gender-Confused Culture” Dr. Gary Yagle said the following:

“Today’s world is constantly sending our children unbiblical messages about gender identities, gender roles, same-sex attraction, and sexual fulfillment. Gender fluidity, which is at the core of many of these views, denies the sovereignty of God and the creation of man and woman as His image-bearers. Our culture does not clearly understand the inherent uniqueness and value of each gender because of historical stereotypes and abuses. We, therefore, must help our children put a biblical lens over whatever message comes to them from the culture. That biblical lens is called complementarianism. “God created them male and female” to complement, i.e., complete each other.”

About his book “Anchoring Your Child to God’s Truth In a Gender-Confused Culture” Dr. Gary Yagle said the following:

“This mini-book is designed to equip Christian adults to understand the culture that is shaping their children’s views of sexuality, so they can help their children respond to the deconstruction of male/female gender identities and roles taking place in our culture with gospel grace towards the sexually broken and with a wholehearted celebration of the biblical teaching of complementarianism.”

(11) In his book “God and Cancel Culture: Stand Strong Before It’s Too Late” Stephen Strang said the following:

“The body of Christ is a big, diverse family, and we must choose to cheer one another on rather than get into circular firing squads. We are called to advance on every front. This book will assess and affirm the different approaches playing out. The body needs clarity and unity- and has little of both right now. Wounded armies want hope, focus, and encouragement. This book will not throw anyone overboard who is standing for the truth in some positive way. Rather, it will allow readers to look critically at the various approaches vying for our allegiance and attention here in the middle of 2021.”

About his book “God and Cancel Culture: Stand Strong Before It’s Too Late,” Stephen Strang said the following:

“This book will help you realize the seriousness of the battle before us and illuminate the present circumstance for the purpose of doing good-to bring hope. It will document what is happening in our country, how believers can respond, and why we can look expectantly to the future. This is the time for neither religious fatalism nor political inaction. No matter how bad things get in the culture or in government, the Bible is true, and God has plans and purposes we don’t understand, and in the end, we win.”

Hal has been teaching the Bible for over three decades. Presently, He desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He believes, second to cultivating his relationship with God that raising his family unto the Lord is the most significant task for him while on Earth. Furthermore, Hal believes that being a successful leader in the church or workplace is no substitute for failing to be a successful leader at home.

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