Friday, October 06, 2006

Who is the beast? (Revelation 13) Part 4

We continue to explore what the Bible tells us about the ‘beasts’ of Revelation 13. As we continue, we’ll also continue to discuss current events in our world and how we are being deceived by these ‘beasts’. As you’ve learned, this isn’t a Bible study of what is going to happen at some point in the future, we’re discussing the Book of Revelation and how it applies to world events today. Although many refuse to believe this, it is the truth. We are winding our way through the Book of Revelation, nearing the end of this evil age.

Continuing from “End Time Delusions”:

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands. –Douglas Noel Adams

Every time I travel overseas, I always carry my passport so I can identify myself before local or government officials. After comparing my face with my photo, they know it’s me. In America, my driver license serves the same purpose. It lists my name, birth date, height, hair color, and current address. These details are not so much for information, but for identification. That’s the issue.

In addition to the other puzzle pieces we’ve found so far, the Bible gives us another highly practical clue to help us identify that which is truly antichrist.

Notice carefully:

…Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world (1 John 4:2-3).

Again John wrote:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist (2 John 7).

Thus the Bible plainly says twice that a denial that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” is a definite mark of the antichrist. To continue my analogy, if you ever wonder whether something or someone might be the antichrist, just look closely at the information on their passport or driver license. If you see the words, “Does Not Confess Jesus Christ Has Come in the Flesh,” you have your answer.

Every Christian should “confess” Jesus has come in the flesh. But this confession must be more than a lips-only statement that Jesus Christ was a real person who was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and died on a cross for our sins. Amazingly, a person may confess all this and yet still be a “deceiver and an antichrist” (2 John 7). According to the Bible, our confession must be more specific. We must confess Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. And this confession must be genuine, from the heart, prompted by the Spirit of God (see 1 John 4:2). What does it really mean that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh”? Let’s delve deeper and find out.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). “The Word” was Jesus Christ before His nativity in Bethlehem. “The Word became flesh” simply means the infinite Son of God became Man. Here’s a key question: What kind of flesh did Jesus become when He fused with humanity? Paul answered with the utmost clarity: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same” (Hebrews 2:14). Don’t miss it. Paul said Jesus took “the same” flesh as “the children” have. “The children” doesn’t apply to Adam and Eve, for they were never babies, but were created directly by God in the Garden of Eden. Rather, “the children” applies to their descendents after sin entered the world, that is, to fallen humanity.

“As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same” (Hebrews 2:14). Thus the Bible plainly says Jesus Christ Himself “took part” of the same flesh we have. You might ask, “So what? What does this have to do with antichrist?”

First, we must understand what “the flesh” is. “The flesh” is a biblical expression which describes our basic human nature as it has been affected by sin. Paul said, “ For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells….” (Romans 7:18). In other words, the flesh itself is bad. It’s our enemy. It’s like a nasty cesspool that often stinks and seeks to drag us down. “The flesh” is the channel through which satan works to tempt us and lead us into actual sin.

One of the most impenetrable mysteries found in the Bible is the truth that God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). It may be hard to fathom, but Jesus Christ “took” upon Himself the very same flesh we have. Why did He do it? So He could relate to us, understand our struggles, experience our temptations, and reach us where we are. In other words, God didn’t simply send us a rope. He entered our world’s slime and mud to get us out of it!

Yet in all of this, there is one monumental truth we must never forget, or we will drift into heresy. Even though Jesus “took” our sinful flesh and shared our humanity, He never committed one sin. He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). In spite of His real connection with human flesh, Jesus Himself – in His thoughts, feelings and character – remained “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). This is exactly what the Bible says. By taking our flesh but not participating in its evil, Jesus literally “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3), which means He met and conquered the very temptations that give us so much trouble.

Not only did Jesus defeat our flesh on our behalf, but He also died for all of our sins wherein we have yielded to temptation (see 1 Corinthians 15:3). Thus He is a perfect and complete Savior! After His total victory over satan, Jesus ascended to Heaven to become our High Priest. Notice the following connection between Christ’s being tempted in the flesh down here and His present ability up there as our High Priest to help us in our struggles.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession [or confession]. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Fantastic! Jesus Christ is now our High Priest in glory. Because He took our fallen flesh down here and conquered it, we can come directly to Him by faith up there for mercy, grace, and spiritual power. It’s true. Today, at this very moment, we have immediate access to His throne. Christ earnestly solicits our approach. We can “come boldly”!

Hebrews 2:17-18 also firmly connects Jesus Christ’s coming in the flesh with His High Priestly ministry and with His present ability to save us from sin.

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God…For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

Again the truth is established. We need no other mediator. We can be direct. This is all part of our confession.

It’s time to tie this in with antichrist. As we have already seen, it was the teaching of the major Protestant Reformers that the “little horn” (Daniel 7:8), the “beast” (Revelation 13:1), and “the man of sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) all apply to papal Rome. So here’s the all-important question. Does the Roman Church genuinely confess “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”? On the surface it claims to do so, but let’s take a closer look.

One of the official doctrines, or “confessions”, of the Church of Rome is a dogma called The Immaculate Conception. Contrary to what many think, this does not refer to the birth of Jesus as a sinless baby, but rather to the conception of Mary herself inside her own mother’s womb. The dogma teaches that when Mary was conceived, she was miraculously preserved from all original sin. Thus her nature was “immaculate”, or sinless, and therefore fundamentally different from ours. In other words, according to papal teaching, Jesus’ mother did not have exactly the same flesh and nature that we have. Now don’t miss this. What is the implication of this teaching? According to papal Rome’s official statements, when Jesus Christ was born, He took Mary’s supposedly sinless nature, not ours. If you think about it, this is really a denial that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:3).
Here’s the proof from official, Vatican-approved sources:

This is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses [this is their own word], as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

As a consequence, according to the Roman Church, when Jesus Christ was born, He took Mary’s perfect nature, not our fallen one. The famous Cardinal Gibbons said it this way:

In other words, we affirm that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity…by being born of the Virgin, [took] to Himself, from her maternal womb, a human nature of the same substance with hers….a true human nature of the same substance with her own.

This doctrine of The Immaculate Conception with its idea of the entrance of Jesus into Mary’s sinless nature, not ours, really removes Christ “one gigantic step away from mankind.” As a result of this dogma and others, Rome doesn’t teach sinners to “be direct” by going straight to our heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ for free forgiveness. Instead, the Vatican encourages poor sinners to come to Jesus through Mary, popes, priests and saints – that is, through the mediation of the Roman Church itself. Even more than this, Rome declares that by virtue of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and supposedly sinless life, she now has a “saving office” in addition to her Son. Through Mary’s “manifold intercession”, she is now our “Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix” who can ”bring us the gifts of eternal salvation” and “deliver our souls from death.”

Thus, in her official teachings, in spite of appearances, the Roman Church really denies “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:3), that is, in “the same” (Hebrews 2:14) fallen flesh the rest of us have. No matter what she may deceptively claim, Rome’s declaration that Mary is now our “Advocate” and “Mediatrix” swerves sinners away from childlike trust in Jesus Christ alone, and thus really “denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). God’s Word says, “Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:3).

According to the Bible, “the spirit of antichrist” was “already” working in John’s own day (church history records a group called Gnostics who denied Jesus Christ’s coming in the flesh in the first century). As history progressed, the same spirit later reared its head through the Immaculate Conception idea. Today, “the spirit of antichrist” continues its subtle efforts through various individuals and organizations around the world to entice humanity away from direct faith in the Savior of sinners.

Personally, I think “the spirit of antichrist” can also work through popular TV shows, flesh-flaunting models, and hip-hop musicians. The same chapter that talks about the spirit of antichrist also says, “They are of the world. Therefore, they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:5-6). Ultimately, any spiritual influence that leads away from Jesus Christ comes from the greatest anti-Christ being of all, lucifer himself.

Now let me ask you personally, is your own flesh dragging you down? Are you struggling with tobacco, alcohol, pornography, appetite, bitterness, an evil temper or pride? If so (and who isn’t struggling with at least one sin?), I have good news for you. Not only did God’s Son pay the full price on the cross for all our sins (see 1 Corinthians 15:3) thus enabling Him to forgive us totally, but “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2). Yes, He took our flesh and conquered it! And now, as our High Priest, “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Because Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, He alone is our Savior, Intercessor and Mediator. He is our High Priest – we need no other. “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus”(1 Timothy 2:5). Our almighty Savior has enough God-power to deliver us from the flesh’s deadly grip, no matter how tightly it holds us. He loves us all, and He now invites Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Democrats, Republicans, alcoholics, prostitutes, drug addicts, and everyone else to be direct and come boldly to His “throne of grace” for undeserved mercy, free forgiveness, and spiritual power to overcome evil.

Even if you feel like Mr. Weakness himself, Jesus Christ is Mr. Strong. His encouraging word is “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Do you trust Him today?

Very powerful words from Steve. Are you beginning to see just our deceptive our enemy is? On the surface, everything seems fine, but if you dig a little bit deeper you begin to see the truth of what is transpiring. Our enemy has not changed tactics for thousands of years for one simple reason: they work. Think about sin for a moment. Do you think Bernie Ebbers or Ken Lay envisioned a massive accounting fraud that would not only destroy their own lives, but the lives of thousands of their employees? They probably could see a bad financial quarter coming up…and a little voice whispered in their ears that there was a way to fix the problem. Nothing major mind you, you will probably be able to correct it in the next quarter. The problem is, the next quarter is worse and you begin a downward spiral and very soon, you can see no way out other than to continue the deception through to its conclusion. Eventually, you have destroyed your life and the lives of many others. Of course this was the devil’s “scheme” all along. “The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy…..” (John 10:10). “…in order that satan may not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

The same thing happens with infidelity. Someone of the opposite sex begins to show a little interest, becomes a little too friendly and you’re faced with a choice. Make it clear you are happily married and not interested, or begin to listen to the whispers that your marriage really isn’t that great right now…..what’s a little lunch with someone….it won’t hurt anyone. You’re never shown the long term consequences of your actions, only the short term pleasure. Marijuana isn’t that bad, I’ll just try a little and stop there………

These deceptive tactics are present in governments across the world. Think that our government’s number one goal is protecting us? Think they have our best interests in mind? Think they are doing everything they can to make our lives better? If you think the answer is yes, you’d be wrong. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8). We’ll discuss this in more detail when we discuss the ‘beast out of the earth” of Revelation 13, but rest assured, when the Bible tells us the world is evil, God isn’t saying that America is immune to it. Far from it. The problem in the United States is that we’ve been living the good life for so long, we think we are immune to it….and we’ve allowed our enemy to deceive us. We’re about to be shown that the world is truly evil, and America has had a big part to play in the devil’s schemes. Keep Proverbs 29:25 in mind as we continue: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Where is fear leading us to today? The answer lies in the Book of Revelation. Read on………

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