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Oh to be a Martyr (New Horizons)
of believers in Jesus Christ—Christians—have been murdered simply for
refusing to abandon their faith. Not only centuries ago but in our day,
at this time, and not far away. They have witnessed to their faith to
the point of death—and that is the true definition of a ‘martyr’. They
did not seek death.
It is true that some Christians have in the past
deliberately chosen to actively seek martyrdom. But they were misguided,
for that is not the purpose of ‘laying down one’s life for their
friends’. Nor did Jesus mean that when he said ’...I send prophets and
wise men and scribes to you. And you will kill and crucify some of them ‘
(Matthew 23:34). Their untimely death was, on that occasion, at the
hands of wicked religious leaders among the Jewish hierarchy. And many
true believers were indeed so killed, even in the New Testament era. But
they did not seek out death!
An example of a true martyr (Gk
marturion, witness) is Steven, one of the first office-holders in the
early church, as recorded in Acts 6 to 8. False witnesses were laid
before the Sanhedrin, for a formal trial, accusing him of blasphemy:
‘...when the council members heard Stephen's speech, they were angry and
furious…. [They] shouted and covered their ears. At once they all
attacked Stephen and dragged him out of the city. Then they started
throwing stones at him…. As Stephen was being stoned to death, he called
out, Lord Jesus, please welcome me!’ True martyrdom indeed.
Steven’s martyrdom with the perversion spawned by false religious
beliefs. There’s widespread belief among Muslims, for example, that
death for the sake of Allah is rewarded by a place in Paradise (Arabic
jannah). To this end many actively seek death through so-called suicide
bombing (actually, murder), which offers the sure promise of
The concept (Arabic shahid, witness) is actively
promoted in the Islamic media and by some religious leaders, and is
especially used to encourage young Muslims to fight jihad, especially
against the Israelis. Indeed the funeral of those who so die is termed a
‘wedding’, as they supposedly, in Paradise, marry ’dark-eyed virgins’
and luxuriate in practices forbidden them in this life. The concept is
also intended to encourage Muslims to a desire for Paradise.
up for and promote one’s faith is praiseworthy. It lies at the heart of
Christianity, and the Scriptures bear testimony to the tenacity of men
and women who faced death to take the Gospel message to the four corners
of the earth. In its early years Christianity reflected the peaceful
message of the founder, Jesus the Messiah. But it lost its way in later
centuries, succumbing to worldly ways, as in the Crusades and the era of
The apostle Paul unveils the Christian’s battle
armoury: ‘...though we are still living in the world, it is no worldly
warfare that we are waging. The weapons with which we fight are not
human weapons, but are mighty for God in overthrowing strong fortresses’
(II Corinthians 10:3,4). The pen mightier than the sword!
are engaged in a spiritual battle with no place for violence to achieve
its aims. Christianity, though rooted in the peaceful mission of Jesus,
lost its way under the sway of a secular church, regaining it only in
later centuries through martyrdom and dearly-bought open access to God’s
Word in the Scriptures.
In contrast, Islam spread its influence from
its beginning through violent conquest, only at peace with other faiths
when it had imposed overall control or were a small minority
population. The present inter-Islamic sectarian conflicts shaking the
Muslim world are but a reflection of the ‘soil’ from which it emerged in
the 7th century. Avidly studied Islamic scriptures (hadith) demonstrate
the necessity for Muslims to spare no means to spread Islam by force and
strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of their god, Allah.
Thankfully, there is a growing revulsion against these tenets, and
Muslims are turning to the Christian faith—notably in Israel, the Gospel
proclaimed by Jewish Christians—in the face of intense opposition from
Reflecting the words of Jesus for the end-time,
increasingly Christians face opposition and persecution—and it is
predicted to get worse. Many may indeed face true martyrdom as we
witness our faith. Jesus, however, promised to be with each of us right
to our end. Let’s all remain close and faithful.
I once knew a man who had restored a classic 1930s turbo charged Bentley. It was immaculate, with sparkling metalwork and shining leather. The man though, came to the realisation that his beautiful car took up so much of his life that it became an idol. He had to get rid of it.
For a Christian, it is a matter of values. Anything that inserts itself between us and our God, replacing Him and His word as the focus of our lives becomes as much of an idol as a carved image or a 1930s Bentley, and sadly there any many idol worshippers around today, including many who profess to be Christians.
One of the most common idols is portrayed on every news broadcast, and can often head the news or take up half of its allocated time. That idol is sport. Sport has replaced religion for many, become much more than a pastime or hobby, and its followers are as ardent as any religious worshippers, often spending large amounts of their time and money to worship their idol.
You don’t have to be a pop star to be an idol, either. Even religion can become an idol, if it focuses on a man, rather than the true Creator God, and many fall for that mistake. The time is coming soon when, one night, every person on earth will receive the same dreams or vision. God will gain everyone’s attention, everywhere, with a miraculous message of warning about the coming tribulation and the return of Christ. Revelation 14: 6-7, ‘Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people . And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’
Will most people act on that warning or will they still retain their idols and fail to keep the Commandments? Sadly, God’s word reveals that their failure will cost most people their lives.
The Gospel: The Big Picture (Sabbath Meditations)
you were to ask a Christian in one of the mainstream Protestant
denominations the question, “What is the gospel?” - the answer that
would more than likely roll off their tongue would be, “It's the gospel
about Jesus Christ.”
But if you were to ask many of us in the Sabbath
keeping tradition the same question, you might hear something along the
lines of, “It's not the gospel about Jesus Christ but it's about the
message He brought. That message is the good news of the coming Kingdom
So which is it?
Well let's do the numbers. A quick word study in the Concordance makes it clear why there is some confusion.
“Gospel of the Kingdom” - 5 references
“Gospel of Christ” - 19 references
“Gospel of God” - 8 references
“Gospel of Salvation” - 2 references
“Gospel of the Grace of God” - 1 reference
“Gospel of Peace” - 2 references
been argued that references to Gospel of Christ and Gospel of God
simply refer to the message that He brought, which is the message of the
Kingdom of God. So, assuming this to be true, the references in
scripture to the Kingdom of God would increase to 32.
If the gospel
of Christ is to be narrowly defined as the message of the kingdom that
He preached, then we should be able to substitute the word “kingdom” as
the object of the preposition in passages where the word gospel is used,
without compromising the original meaning of the passage.
Let's read Romans 1:16-17 and consider the accuracy of that argument.
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (the Kingdom), for it (the
gospel of the Kingdom) is the power of God to salvation for everyone who
believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it (the
gospel of the Kingdom) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith
to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.”
you think? Can the word “Christ” in these passages be replaced with the
word “kingdom” and the original intended meaning remain intact?
Wouldn't the result of this change be to imply that we are saved by our
hope in the coming Kingdom? Does that make sense?
If not, doesn't
this demonstrate that limiting the gospel simply to a proclamation of
the coming Kingdom fails to define its full scope and meaning?
So, again, I ask, which is it? Is it the gospel of the Kingdom or the gospel about Christ?
would suggest that the gospel actually encompasses both of them. But, I
would also suggest that there is a “bigger picture” of the gospel we
In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul states, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
Paul's gospel was focused directly on the person of Jesus Christ and the work of salvation He accomplished on the cross.
However, Paul's message included the hope of the future Kingdom of God.
Philippians 3:12-14 Paul says, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have
apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are
behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press
toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ
Could it be that we limit the gospel message by focusing too
narrowly on any one of its parts? When we choose one aspect as our
primary focus, either the gospel of the Kingdom of God or the gospel
about Christ, don't we run the danger of losing its full meaning.
Paul didn't fall into either ditch. His gospel message encompassed its full meaning. Paul kept the big picture in view.
The “Bigger Picture”...the ultimate purpose of the Gospel.
Let's ask ourselves, what is the purpose of all that the Father, through His Son, is doing?
He does have a plan for man. Yes, we have the awesome gift of salvation
through His death on the cross. Yes, we have incredible hope of the
Kingdom and an eternity with the Father and His Son in the Family of
God. But what is the point of it all? Why is He doing it? What is the
ultimate purpose and meaning of the gospel?
I Peter 4:11 tells us,
“...that in all things God is glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom
belongs the glory and the dominion forever and ever.”
43:1-7 God says, “I have redeemed you, I have called you by your
name...Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for my
I Peter 2:9 says we have been called and chosen that we
might “... proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light...”
Colossians 1:15-20 tells us that, “All
things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all
things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body,
the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in
all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that
in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things
to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having
made peace through the blood of His cross.”
If, as these passages
affirm, we have been created for His glory, redeemed for His glory and
that the fulfillment of His plan on earth will testify of His glory,
wouldn't it seem to follow that this is truly the ultimate purpose for
creation as revealed in the gospel?
What if we were to define the
gospel, not by its individual parts, but by its larger meaning and
purpose, as revealed throughout scripture? Such a definition might not
roll off the tongue as smoothly as the “Gospel of the Kingdom” or the
“Gospel of Christ”, but it undoubtedly would prevent us placing
inappropriate limitations on its meaning.
What if the definition we used was something like:
“The gospel of Jesus Christ: who He is; what He has done; what He is doing; and what He will do.”
the purpose of our existence, of everything that God is doing here on
this earth, is to bring glory to Him, pure and simple. That's the
primary purpose of all of this, from beginning to end. It's about Him.
The gospel’s purpose and meaning is about magnifying His love, His
power, His glory. The Father desires that in Him, in His Son, should all
fullness, all praise and honor and glory, dwell.
His ultimate plan
is that His creation would give glory to His Son, now and forever. We
who have been called now are to witness of His glory by sharing who He
is, what He has done, is doing and will do.
It's that “big picture” gospel that we, as His creation, have been commissioned to carry into all the world.
Let's share it! All of it!
Why did Jesus spit? (Morning Companion)
healed the sick. Sometimes he would pray for them. Sometimes he would
heal them with words. Sometimes he would lay hands on them. He even, at
least one time, healed from afar.
And there were three times when he
healed with his saliva. (Mark 7:31-33, Mark 8:22-23, John 9:11). Why did
Jesus use such an odd medical procedure?
Why did Jesus spit?
get a hint of the answer from the context of the three accounts of such
healings we find in the Gospels. We’ll examine specifically the blind
man in John 9, because there we get a hint of the context behind the
The immediate context of this healing is a discussion
(argument?) in John 8 between Jesus and the religious leaders about who
exactly Jesus was. The leaders accused him of demonic possession, of
being a Samaritan, and of being of illegitimate birth.
during this exchange Jesus subtly uses two words (“I am”) when referring
to himself (“I am the light of the world”, “I am from above”, “I am not
of this world”, “I am he”, “Now I am here”, “You will realize that I am
he”), and in due time he is not so subtle (“Before Abraham was, I am”).
words raised the hackles of his listeners, because it is an echo of how
God describes himself from the burning bush, where Moses was told the
name of God: “I AM WHO I AM”, and “I AM has sent me to you”. (Exodus
By the end of Jesus’s “discussion” with the religious
leaders, they knew exactly what Jesus was implying about his identity,
and they attempted to stone him to death for such blasphemy (John 8:59).
Jesus escapes their wrath and immediately encounters the blind man whom he heals with a paste made from dirt and his saliva.
So why did Jesus spit on the ground and put mud in the man’s eyes?
answer might be understood in terms of the religious leaders own
tradition. This act of Jesus was to reinforce his argument that
everything he had said about himself was true.
Quoting from the
Talmud, which represents the religious traditions and teachings of the
rabbis of the day: “There is a tradition that the spittle of the
firstborn of a father is healing, but that of the firstborn of a mother
is not healing.” (Bava Batra 126b)
Let’s see how this fits the
context, particularly in the previous chapter of John 8. Jesus
repeatedly refers to his Father (verses 16, 17, 19, 29, 38, 42, 49). The
religious leaders, who knew a bit of Jesus’s history, couldn’t resist
reminding Jesus of their suspicions around the circumstances of his
birth (“We are not born of fornication. We have one father – God. Verse
41), thereby insinuating that his birth was illegitimate.
healed the blind man with mud mortared with saliva, he was (beg your
pardon) spitting in the eye of his enemies. In effect he was saying, “I
am who I say I am. I am the firstborn son of my Father, whom you claim
to know, when in fact you are sons of the devil.
illustrates not only the lesson Jesus was trying to teach, but it also
reveals how an understanding of the religious and cultural milieu of the
day can enrich your understanding of the Book.
It also answers that beginning question, “Why did Jesus spit?
The Last Trumpet (Children of God)
a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the
trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we
shall be changed.” (1Corinthians 15:52)
The Day of Trumpets pictures
war – world war. We are living in a fool’s paradise if we believe that
awesome, terrifying war is not on the horizon. Humanity at Jesus’s
second coming will be almost totally destroyed. Jesus Christ said that
it will be such an overwhelming war and cause such distress that there
would be no survivors – “no flesh saved alive” – unless He personally
intervened to cut short the hostilities. (Matthew 24:21-22)
God’s wrath coming against the entire world? Trumpets will be the time
of God's wrath against rebellious mankind (Revelation 6:17). The purpose
of the Trumpet plagues is for all sinful men to repent. Armies now
possess nuclear devices capable of setting the world ablaze. What events
and circumstances would bring about their use – resulting in such a
terrible conflagration? What has the entire population of the earth done
to provoke such a great rage from God? Jesus said that it is the time
of “Jacob’s trouble” – a time like nothing else the world has ever seen.
Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel,
saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye
have a Sabbath, a memorial of triumph, or shouting for joy, with
trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but
ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” (Leviticus
23:23-25, KJV) Jewish tradition states that silver trumpets and a
ram’s horn or shofar were blown on the first day of the seventh month.
The Last Trumpet is the time when man’s rule on the earth will give way to the rule of Jesus Christ over the Kingdom of God.
ago in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve decided they did not need God’s
guidance and protection. They decided that they could ‘go it alone’
without God’s help. The ultimate result of that erroneous decision will
become apparent to the whole world during the Day of the Lord. Unless
we understand the significance of the Day of Trumpets – and are keeping
it as a sign of our obedience – we will have no protection from the
horrible destruction just ahead!
We live in a world that is anti-God.
This world hates everything about God’s way, truth, law, peace, and
happiness – in short, this world hates God. The Day of Trumpets pictures
Christ’s conquest over this world – and over all evil and lawless men.
It pictures the terrible time of total world war just ahead, and the
intervention of Christ to save the living from total annihilation. Who
will be counted worthy to escape the coming total devastation? (Luke
How will the last war begin? It can be one incident, or a
series of incidents that can plunge nations into all out hostilities.
Does God expect the world to receive an advance warning of the coming
Kingdom of God? “This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the
world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
(Matthew 24:14) God's true ministers are sounding a warning – reminding
people that, before the coming of God's Kingdom, there must come wars
and rumors of wars, ending in the most horrifying world war this world
has ever experienced (Mark 13:7).
We are so privileged to be able to
see how God is going to work it all out. This world – that seems to be
on top of everything – is going to be brought down to nothing by Jesus
The world cannot see what we in God's Church see, because
they do not believe God and they will not observe His Holy Days – which
would open up the meaning of the plan of God to them, if only they were
willing to observe them. But now, they are blind to the tremendous plan
of God – it is hidden to them.
Sitting as a Queen and not a Widow (First Century Christianity)
the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same
degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I SIT
as A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW, and will never see mourning.’ “For
this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning
and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who
judges her is strong. And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of
immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her
when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because
of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon,
the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.‘” Revelation
The ‘all capitals’ in the verses above is not my doing. The
translation I use makes note of when the New Testament cites the Old
Testament by putting the words in all capitals. In this instance, John
is referencing Isaiah 47. In fact, a whole lot of the book of Revelation
references the Old Testament.
I am bringing this up because I want
to ask the reader a question: from where does a queen derive her power?
This is a much harder question to answer for those of us in the Americas
than for those on the European continent, because we largely lack
monarchies on this side of the world. A queen derives her power from a
king. In order for a woman to ascend to the throne of a country, her
husband must have died or her father died without having male children.
a recent sermon, I spoke about identifying Babylon and how to come out
of her. The congregation of true believers is analogized as a pure bride
by the Apostle Paul and others, but even in the book of Revelation
itself we can see that the congregation of those who remain true are
referred to as a chaste bride clothed in white:
“Let us rejoice and
be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come
and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe
herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the
righteous acts of the saints. Revelation 19:7,8.
The contrast we have
here is a congregation of faithful and obedient believers being
identified as a chaste bride clothed in white and the congregation of
syncretic and disobedient believers being analogized as a harlot clothed
in scarlet. This is a pretty easy distinction to figure out.
the identifier of the Babylon of the end times being a queen and not a
widow gives us a little more insight. That means this Babylon character
is a power that believes it derives its power from itself without the
need of the husband that is Yahweh. There are a couple groups that fit
this category, but which country or culture do we see today that has
been historically faithful, blessed beyond comprehension, and yet has
decided to push any reference to the Almighty from the public square?
Western culture as a whole has been pursuing secular agenda for quite a
while, but the United States today is remarkably pushing God out of the
public square. We have had the world’s most powerful military and
economy for quite a while and have lived in almost universal peace and
safety for over fifty years. This degree of security and prosperity for
such a length of time makes us start to believe that we will never see
mourning, especially nothing like the hard times our forefathers endured
to build that peace.
There are a whole lot of things lining up
recently that look end-time-ish lately. Is this the end, birth pangs for
the end, or just another cyclical change in the power structure on
planet earth? Only Yahweh knows for sure. But it is intriguing to
explore the parallels between the USA and the Babylonian end-time power.
While this nation has sinned a lot historically and has never kept the
4th commandment, it was founded by those seeking to have the religious
freedom to worship the God of the Bible as they saw fit. As our country
has prospered immensely in the last 50 or 60 years, our culture has
turned more into a more secular humanist society. This means we, as a
nation, have decided to lean on our own works and reject the Almighty.
Our culture has also very rapidly been promoting the mixing of belief
systems under the guise of ‘tolerance’. These things add up to fitting
the idea that America is starting to believe that she is a Queen who
needs no husband and that is a dangerous place to be.