Month: December 2017

The Persecution of the Church Before the Coming of Christ

By Steven J. Hogan

~ A Saturday Morning Post #48 ~

Image result for Antichrist and persecution of Christians

As you probably know, I don’t preach a prosperity gospel, where health and wealth are some of the primary objectives. There’s no doubt God physically blesses Christians, but more importantly, He spiritually blesses us, giving us eternal life, and love, joy, peace, purpose and hope. And during our time on earth, God has called us to serve Him, and to sacrifice and suffer for Him. Now this is not a popular message, especially in this country, but it’s the truth, and I will not ignore it or skim over it. When you read the Bible, it’s obvious that suffering and persecution are very big subjects.

Remember what Jesus said, “A slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Think of what Peter said, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example to follow in His steps… Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose” (1 Peter 2:21, 4:1). Then Paul told us, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

As Christians we shouldn’t then be surprised when we are persecuted and suffer. Loving the Lord by living a holy life and speaking the truth will result in suffering. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Isn’t it true that God has blessed the United States with the freedom of assembly, speech and religion, and therefore Christians living in this country haven’t been persecuted as much? When I read mission magazines or go online, it is obvious that it’s a lot worse in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, where Christians are commonly mistreated, beaten, jailed and at times even killed. But you can see that persecution is getting worse in this country, and there will soon come a day when it will be just as bad here as these other places.

I say that because we now live in the end times, and the Bible clearly tells us that persecution will continue and then become great persecution the closer we get to the coming of Christ. In fact, this subject of persecution and suffering is part of every major Bible passage that speaks about events leading up to Christ’s return. Jesus repeatedly tells us about it because He wants us to know what will be taking place, and to be ready and alert, and able then to be joyfully and fearlessly serving Him.

Jesus says, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me” (Matthew 24:9). Jesus says, “Those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of creation” (Mark 13:19. Jesus says, “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death” (Luke 21:16). We all know Christians have been persecuted since the beginning days of the church, but these passages, along with Revelation 6:9-11, make it clear that it will escalate, will become severe, will climax, and go global, and particularly in the years right before the return of Christ.

But how will this happen? At the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week, the Antichrist is revealed and, having taken control of the world, he will then unleash great persecution, first against the Jews and then against the Christians (Matthew 24:9-10, 15-26; Revelation 12:13-17). But it won’t just be government officials persecuting Christians, but former fellow church goers coming after them as well – “Many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another” (Matthew 24:10). But in my opinion, the worst will be when “brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.” Mark 13:12

The devil will be stirring up this great hate for God’s people, and therefore deceived unbelievers will be going after innocent Christians, opposing them and trying to kill them. This will definitely be the most difficult time ever for Christians on this earth. Revelation 13:7 warns us, “It was also given to him (Antichrist) to make war with the saints and to overcome them.” I know this is not a feel good message, but I have to tell you the truth – the church will be greatly persecuted before the coming of Christ. And we shall overcome!

How then are we to think about persecution and suffering? 1st, know that God is sovereign and will protect you (Romans 8:28-39). 2nd, remember Peter’s instruction, “Those who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19). 3rd, share the gospel. As Jesus said, “They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you… It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony” (Luke 21:13). 4th, “Consider Him who endured such suffering by sinners against Himself so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). 5th, Jesus told us, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer” (Revelation 2:10). 6th, Paul wrote, “God will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 7th,  as Paul said, “Know what is the hope of His calling (Ephesians 1:18). 8th, remember Jesus’ promise, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness… rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great!” Matthew 5:10-12

P.S.  I want to let you know that Marv Rosenthal will be teaching at our church, Hope Bible Church of Tampa, on January 21, 2018.  If you are in our area I would encourage you to come!

P.P.S.  Our church music team has recorded a number scripture songs on a double cd set: Scripture Songs ~ Our Legacy, Volumes 1 & 2.  I’d love to make these available to you!  Please email me if you are interested.

God Will Keep You Strong to the End

By Steven J. Hogan

~ A Saturday Morning Post #47 ~

Have you ever wondered if you are going to make it to the end? And when I say “make it”, I mean continuing on, staying the course, persevering, serving the Lord to the very end, whether that means to the end of your life, or to the end of this age. I will admit that sometimes I wonder. As you know, the Christian life can be extremely difficult, for there are spiritual battles and Satanic attacks, and times when you are discouraged or overwhelmed or physically exhausted, or just weary of the fight.

In the past two months we have been looking at what will be taking place before the coming of Christ – the birth pains, increasing lawlessness, the downfall of the United States, apostasy and betrayal, that evil Antichrist, etc. Then you add this to the above mentioned everyday struggles, and you realize it’s a rough road leading up to the rapture of the church. But isn’t this what God has planned for the church, and for you too? And if this is what God wants, then surely He will give you all the grace you need. Never forget that God is your heavenly Father, and you are His cherished child, and He loves you much, much more than you can ever imagine. Surely He will keep you, strengthening and sustaining you, helping and holding you, and if need be, carrying you across the finish line. Your heavenly Father will never leave you, but will be with you always, and make sure you are safe and sound all the way from earth to heaven.

Let me share some promises to assure you of your great and glorious victory:
– Philippians 1:6 – “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you, will perfect it until the day of Christ.” Do you see this, and do you believe this, that God began His good work in you, and will make sure He completes it on the day of Christ, at the return of Christ and the rapture of the church?
– 1 Corinthians 1:8 – “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Never forget that God will keep you strong, keeping you going to the end of your life or to the end of this age, whatever He has planned for you.
– 2 Timothy 4:18 – “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly Kingdom.” Here’s this great promise of protection, that God will rescue you from all the human and devilish evils of life, and then bring you safely to heaven.
– Jude 24-25 – “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority…” Here is a heart assuring promise, that God will keep you from stumbling, and will literally and supernaturally bring you from earth to heaven and into the very presence of God.
– Romans 8:30 – “And those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified.” This “Golden Chain”, as some call it, from predestined to called to justified to glorified, cannot be broken. What God planned for your life in eternity past, that you be glorified, will finally be fulfilled at the coming of Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

How does this happen, what are the means by which God will make sure you keep persevering as a Christian, and then are taken off this evil earth, and into the wonderful presence of Jesus? Yes, it is by these promises. But it is also by God’s grace, by the teaching of God’s Word, by Christ interceding for you, by the Spirit working in you, by the church helping you, by Christians encouraging you, and by angels ministering to you. Matthew 24:13

But you also need to look to Jesus. “Consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself so you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). Remember Jesus and all that He went through just for you, which shows you how much He loves you. Remember that He died for you, was raised again for you, now lives for you, and prays for you – He loves you so, so much. I think of Moses and how “He endured as seeing Him who is unseen” (Hebrews 11:27). There’s no doubt that God will enable you to endure all the way to the end, and then, “We shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17

As you can tell, I am not going to sugarcoat your future on earth. Yes, it is going to get real hard. As Paul said, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of heaven” (Acts 14:22).  At this time there is tribulation, and in the coming years there will be great tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22). But isn’t this our time to live for the Lord, and do the work He has called us to do? What an honor and privilege to be picked by Him to be part of the end times’ team that’s ushering in the return of Christ. But remember these promises, and fix your eyes on Jesus, being convinced of His love for you and that He is with you all the way to heaven. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation or distress, or persecution, or nakedness, or peril, or sword… But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:35-37

P.S.  An encouraging article that you will want to read, which is related to today’s post, is You Have to Have Hope!

The Coming of Christ, and the Triumph of the Church

By Steven J. Hogan

~ A Saturday Morning Post #46 ~

Never forget what Jesus Christ declared, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). The truth is that Christ is now building His church, and this glorious work will be fully completed when He returns at the end of this age. But there are times when you look out at the spiritual landscape of the world, and it seems like a mess. You may even think to yourself, “Why isn’t the church growing more?” Let me answer this question: 1st, it’s because Christians still have a sinful flesh. 2nd, the devil with all his demons, is doing all he can to harm the church, to spread lies, error and deceit. 3rd, God is sovereign, and everything is going according to His perfect and eternal plans. “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever.” Psalm 33:11

But I need to explain two phrases used in theological circles to help you understand what Christ is doing with regards to the church. It is the concept of the visible church and the invisible church. The visible church refers to all people attending church services, those who profess to be Christians, those on church membership rolls, those you can visibly see. Some of these people are true Christians, but others are not. Now the invisible church refers to all people who are true Christians, the elect of God, those who are truly saved and born again, and God knows those who are His. But what believers see on earth is a mixed body, comprised of the saved and unsaved, or as Jesus said, those who are wheat and tares. But we shouldn’t be surprised for this is what Christ told us would happen. “So shall it be at the end of the age.” Matthew 13:36-43

Now when Christ said, “I will build My church,” He was referring to the invisible church. And there’s no doubt those the Father chose to be saved will be saved, adopted as His sons, redeemed by Christ’s blood, forgiven of their sins, and sealed by the Spirit for the day of redemption. We can confidently say, “the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord… a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:21

Do you not know and do you not believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the church, that He is in charge, that He is leading the way, and that He is directing Christians on earth to do His work? Do you not see that Christ will be victorious all the way to the end of this age, that He will finish what He started, and then return to rapture the church and take her to Himself, and then take her home to heaven? Amen!!! Ephesians 1:9-12, 4:11-16

Yes, it is true that Christians aren’t perfect and don’t always do what they ought to do, and sometimes are living for self instead of for God. It’s true that this hateful and evil devil is continually tempting us, attacking us and fighting against us – indeed, we are in a fierce spiritual battle. And it’s true that some pastors preach a simplistic gospel, and are not teaching all of God’s word, but instead are trying to be worldly and entertaining, with hopes that people will then join their church. 2 Timothy 4:1-5

But remember, God is sovereignly and powerfully working all things together for good, and will faithfully fulfill His promises, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,” and “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” and “that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things.” Acts 1:8, Acts 2:21, Acts 3:20-21

God has ordained it so that Christians will pray, “Your kingdom come,” and “will seek first His kingdom”, and so that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world… and then the end will come”, and so that Christians willmake disciples of all the nations, baptizing them… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”, and so that Jesus will be with us “even to the end of the age.” Matthew 6:10, 6:33, 24:14, 28:19-20

I am very encouraged that God is in control and that everything, to the last detail, to the last word preached, to the last martyr, to the last person saved, to Christ’s coming in the clouds, and to His return in glory and His rapture of the church, is going exactly according to His eternally wise and wonderful plans, and will most assuredly soon be fulfilled. “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” 1 Corinthians 1:8-9

P.S. During this Christmas season when we can be so easily be distracted by all kinds of things, let’s remember to be Thinking of Jesus Christ.

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