Sunday, May 8, 2016

Watch out that no one deceives you

Bogus Doomsday's, False Prophecies,
and the Real Returning of Christ
by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Over the last several years I have seen a lot of blog postings and also viewed a number of video's regarding Biblical end times prophecies, doomsday reports such as the impending start of World War Three, as well as predictions about catastrophes such as monstrous killer earthquakes and the planet Nibiru and so on. For example, just this past week I saw a video on You-tube titled, “Nibiru enters earth's orbit”. Undoubtedly the majority of you have already heard of this wayward planet, also called “Planet X”, or more recently “Planet 9”. Although it is factual that the presence of a large planet has been detected on the outer rim of the known solar system, NASA estimates this planet to be somewhere between Neptune and Pluto, or well over two and a quarter billion miles away. Moreover, this hypothetical new planet is estimated to be roughly two thirds the size of Jupiter, or approximately 60,000 miles in diameter. If this 9th planet were to enter the earth's orbit, or be as close to earth as the earth is from the sun, it would be clearly visible in the sky, even during daytime. Enough said about Nibiru.

A California pastor and radio host named Harold Camping made what turned out to be a series of false prophecies dating back to the 1980's, the most recent (before his “retirement”) being that the “rapture of the church” would occur on Saturday May 21, 2011 at exactly 6PM. “Rev.” Camping and others like him have brought judgment down on themselves and their congregations (except for those individuals who left) by uttering prophecies that have turned out to be without substance. Such predictions give non-Christians one more reason to discount the Bible. In another example, many secularists dismiss the Bible because they assume that it teaches the world is only 6,000 years old. In reality, the Bible never makes such a claim about the Earth’s age. Instead, some well meaning Christians have misused the genealogies in the Bible to attempt to ascertain the date of creation. Second, predictions about the end of the world always lead some people to make foolish decisions. Just as every teacher knows how unproductive and unfocused students are the week before school lets out, God knows how tempted we would be to neglect the responsibilities he has entrusted to us if we knew the date we would be “raptured” into heaven. That is why God refuses to show us his calendar and instead instructs us to focus on our assignments. But the most harmful consequence of false predictions is that it discourages people from making the necessary preparation for the real event when it actually occurs. But some will be tempted to join the chorus of cynics whom the Bible predicts will mockingly say, “Where is the promise of Christ’s coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Let's not forget that it was Jesus himself who said to his apostles that no one knows when he is coming back to the earth, not even himself, but only his heavenly Father. Let's pause and look up what He said about that. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. 'Tell us', they said, 'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?' Jesus answered, 'Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come, claiming, 'I am the Christ', and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” [Matthew chapter 24, verses 3-8, NIV]

I'm sure you noticed the very first sentence of Christ's response, “Watch out that no one deceives you”. At this point it is easy to see that Jesus was talking about the times in which we are currently living. The increased number of earthquakes that have been recorded over the last decade or more are in the news almost on a daily basis. When it comes to famines, humankind has them in spades, starting with a 2014 United Nations report saying that 50,000 children per day, ages 5 and under, die from starvation globally. But these things, our Lord said, are just the beginning. There will be a lot of “false Christs” who will deceive an awful lot of people. Jesus wasn't only talking about people claiming to be Jesus Christ in the flesh, he was talking about entire churches or even denominations. 'Ours is the true way', one church might say, and yet another different from the first may say the same thing. Jesus was talking about divisions within the body of believers, as well as phony con artists operating without.

At this point, I really should add some additional background to add more clarity to this week's message. I'm going to mention three things here – the Great Tribulation, the coming of the Antichrist, and the “rapture” of the church. Whatever anyone has read or heard elsewhere, get ready to enjoy hearing and be warned about the truth about the world's future as the Bible tells it. Most everybody knows about the 7-year Great Tribulation that is prophesied elsewhere in the Bible, mainly in the books of Daniel and Revelation, and which were written many hundreds of years apart. This 7-year period will be the final seven years leading up to the return of Jesus Christ, who will proceed to rule the world from its new capital in Jerusalem for 1,000 years. The main argument revolves around the timing of this 7-year period. Some say it hasn't started yet, others insist we 're already in it. There are many details I could delve into regarding this matter, but it all boils down to what Jesus told his apostles: “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father”. [Matthew 24: 32-36, NIV] Based on that last sentence, if anyone tells you orally, in writing, or on a You Tube video the exact date of Christ's return, you can be certain they are lying, and that's the nicest way I can put it. Many Biblical scholars and pastors, unfortunately, take the phrase, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened” and try to add something that isn't there. You probably know that the nation of Israel as founded on May 14, 1948. You likely also know that a 'generation' in the Bible was considered to be 40 years when it was originally written. For all you long-time Christians like myself, it was widely prophesied on the then-relatively-new Christian TV stations that Jesus would return one generation later on May 14, 1988. Much to the discredit of main stream Christianity, we all know what happened back then, and one of the purposes of this week's posting is to try and prevent this from happening a second time during these last days.

What am I talking about here? If 40 years isn't what Jesus meant, many Christians are saying, and the average life expectancy here in the 'end times' is a little over 70 for men, then 1948 plus 70 years equals 2018. Aha!! So that's when our Lord will return! Got it, now let's get ready! Wait, wait – stop. With slightly less than two years to go until this date, I can tell you without reservation that, like 1988, May 14, 2018 will most likely come and go without any major incidents. “No one knows the day or the hour”. Isn't that what the Lord said? Not even himself, He stated. Now let's look at this from another angle. If May 14th, 2018 is the day of Christ's return, and since the Great Tribulation is of 7 years duration, then the 'tribulation' should have started back in the Spring of 2011, and the Antichrist should have come to power sometime last summer or so. Clearly, since none of these has occurred, those other “predictions” won't come true either. So, now let me move on to the second topic, and that is the coming of the Antichrist, who will come upon the world scene according to the prophet Daniel (see Daniel chapter 12 in the Old Testament), as well as the book of Revelation chapter 13. As before, without having you all plunge headfirst into the murky pool of end times prophecy, let me make a generalization or two. In the first place, World War Three and the Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel chapter 38 and 39 in the Old Testament are one and the same. Moreover, the Antichrist will not come to power until just after this war's conclusion. While I would be quick to agree that the stage for WW3 is currently being set, we aren't there just yet – but, continue to watch events unfold in the Middle East very closely, because that's where it's going to start. It will not be until the conclusion of that war that the Antichrist will come to power to enforce his own brand of peace, and that is when the countdown to the final 3.5 years will commence before Christ's return. The final event before our Savior's return in this context is the Battle of Armageddon, which is not the same as the God-Magog war of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39. So, to dispel another myth or false teaching (take your pick), World War Three and Armageddon are two different battles set approximately seven years apart.

The final end-times issue I want to discuss is the so-called “rapture” of the church (I'm using quotes because the word 'rapture' isn't in the Bible). The “rapture” of the church is the abrupt taking away of Christ's Church, allegedly at the beginning of the 7-year tribulation prophesied in the Bible. Many modern pastors and nearly all TV evangelists are teaching this as being factual. Only our heavenly Father knows for sure, just as Jesus said above. A generation or two ago, few mainline Protestant churches discussed the second coming of Jesus Christ. Fifty years later, however, televangelists, network television programs, movies and books like the "Left Behind" series — which has sold more than 60 million copies — have succeeded in placing the return of Jesus Christ in the public consciousness. A 2004 Newsweek poll revealed that 55 percent of Americans believe in the “rapture”, the snatching away of all Christians prior to the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ. Speaking as a Web pastor who preaches often about Bible prophecy, I am grateful for the general awareness people have of the promised return of Jesus Christ. My hunch is that the date God ultimately has chosen is one that will not be plastered on billboards around the country. Make no mistake about it, Jesus is coming back some day. Over 1,800 verses in the Old Testament and 300 verses in the New Testament prophesy of the Lord’s return. But I sometimes find some modern interpretations of Scripture leaving something to be desired, and the teaching about the “rapture” is one of them. To find out the truth, all we have to do is read a little farther in Matthew's gospel beyond where we were when we started. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and be put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” [Matthew 24: 9-14, NIV] 

Now let's go back to the Book of Revelation for some similar scripture: “The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given the power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All 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 from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patience and endurance on the part of the saints.” [Revelation chapter 13, verses 5-10, NIV]

After reading through these two carefully chosen passages of Scripture, there should be no remaining doubt in the mind of every reader that there will be no 'get out of jail free' card for any of us. If you're watching a preacher on TV, or at the church you attend, and you find yourself hearing about a “pre-tribulation rapture”, stop watching that preacher or find a better church in your area, because I just proved with the two passages above that there is no “rapture”. I let the Bible do the talking for me, this isn't just my opinion. The rapture is a false teaching!! Of course, there will be many people who will cite 1st Thessalonians chapter 4 (“behold, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall all be changed”). Problem is, that chapter isn't talking about the second coming of Christ, the apostle Paul was writing about what happens when we die. Go back and read First Thessalonians chapter four, verses 13-18, and chapter five, verses 1-6 in any Bible version you want, and you'll see what I mean. Those verses are about what happens when we die! The church will not escape the brutal rule of the Antichrist or the horrors of World War Three. We're going to be right in the middle of it, and many of us could even get killed. Moreover, this will be happening on a global scale, meaning the United States will not escape what's coming upon the whole world – the real Tribulation yet to come. I don't think we'll have much longer to wait. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

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