Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Awesome Restraint of God - Part Five the Restraint of the Church

The last restraint that I would like to point out is the Restraint of the Church. Truly, Jesus was right when He said, "the gates of Hell would not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). The Church is the crowning glory of the Lord Jesus. He is the Head of the body, the Church, and High Priest over it. It is unfortunate, for so many, that they profess themselves Christians but will not take part in it. It pains the heart of Jesus when they choose to ignore the greatest organism ever--one He set up for their edification. Too many people find themselves content with walking an aisle. Hence, they deny themselves the favor of God by refusing to fellowship with other believers. They seek a future and a hope but are not willing to submit their heart and life to find out what that future is. There is no one on earth that can convince me that God can use them, to the extent that he called them, if they do not attend Church.

 
1 John 1:1-5 states:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (Emphasis mine)

 
And again, in Hebrews 10:24-25:
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Emphasis mine)

 
    It is within the Local Church that we have fellowship with one another and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also within that fellowship that we are exhorted to stir one another up to good works. I often remember the words of Jesus, "not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven." Churches in America today are limping because part of their body is still at home sleeping—caught up in material possessions, or the cares of this life. Instead of becoming the solution to the Churches problems, they are a large part of it. The other part falls on us for not going after what we are lacking. Truly, in these last days "the axe is laid to the root of the tree” (Mt. 3:10). Judgment begins at the house of God.
    On the other side of the coin, God has still reserved His remnant of true believers who are willing to go to the cross for Jesus if that is what it takes to reach a lost soul. These faithful few are the ones that the world politic fears when it comes to passing legislation that affects the way we live or the way we raise our family. The Church of the Lord Jesus is called to be “Salt and Light” to a world that is flavorless and living in darkness. Our very presence is at enmity with the powers of darkness and secularism. We are the Restrainers of evil and the world knows it. Many may disagree with that because of the shape that the world is in at this moment. However, the Church is the only landmark for morality that still protects our communities from becoming the cesspool that Sodom and Gomorrah were before they ceased to exist. No the powers of darkness may arise, and I say let them, but never will they ever put out the fire that burns ever so brightly in God's Church.
    Along those lines, I would like to address our final point the Restraint of the Church. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 the Bible talks about the coming Day of Christ. This “Day of the Lord” I believe to span the time from the beginning of Daniel's 70th week, the tribulation period of 7 yrs., all the way until the unveiling of the New Heavens and New Earth of Revelation 21:1. In this passage we read:

 
1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (Emphasis mine)

 
    I quote the lengthy passage for the sole purpose of expounding the truth. Many who read Christian books do not take the time to open their Bibles and read along with the references. Hence, for the purpose of edification I present that passage in its entirety.
    There are many different opinions floating around about the truth found in this passage. Some use it to try to prove that we are in the Millennial Period already. That period, according to Scripture, is the one thousand year reign of Christ on earth where the curse from the garden sin is lifted, Christ rules in person from Jerusalem, and real peace is present on earth (Rev. 20:1-6; Zech. 14:4-5, 16-20). Some try to use the text to prove that the Church will go through the terrible period called the Tribulation of Matthew 24:21. Personally, I cannot see where it teaches that either of those views to be concrete. In fact, I see the opposite. I think the view I take, which is the most widely accepted among Pre-Millennialists, is the one that keeps in context the nature of God in His restraining work. Since God uses a restraining influence upon humanity in the ways we have already seen, why would He not use that same type of restraint in the context of the Church?
    To get the full understanding of the truths that Paul presents in this chapter we must dissect it carefully. Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to write to these believers concerning the resurrection and translation of the saints (2 Thess. 2:1-2), a concern he covered in detail in his first letter to them (1 Thessalonians 4:13; 5:9). Evidently, they were confused about the events surrounding the Second Advent of Christ because of some letter or possibly a prophetic revelation that some false prophet was propagating. He is writing to assure them that the Day of Christ had not yet come. There were to be many things that would happen surrounding that mysterious event. Maybe, they thought that they had been left behind, i.e. Jesus had come and gone, and they missed it. In any case, he goes on to tell them that they had not missed the translation of the saints. We know this because of the context of the entire second chapter of our text.
    However, let us work back from 2 Thess. 1:3-7 and you will see the point. In verse 3 he assures them that they belong to God (because they love the brethren, 1 John 3:14). Previously he had assured they they had been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, 1 Thess.4:3. This means they were to be confident that they had indeed been taught the truth by him and not listen to those who had been troubling them about missing the resurrection of believers. In doing so, they should be at peace and have much comfort in the truth (2 Thess. 1:6-7). To buffer that, Paul also reminds them of the many tribulations and persecutions that they had already endured was manifest evidence that they belonged to God. He then goes on to tell them what those fiery judgments would be like upon those who did not know God or obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously the catastrophic judgments seen in 2 Thess. 1:7-9 had not yet happened. However, during the Day of Christ they would. Let us put the events of chapters 1 and 2 in a chronological order and then follow with a brief commentary. (Note the events described in 1:8-10 actually take place in the sequence of chapter two. Paul discusses them early on, in chapter 1, to allay the fears being propagated to them by their troublers. Paul desired they know the end of those people. It is possible that they were part of the same group that sent them the false message indicating the Lord had come and gone).

 Chronology of Events: 2 Thessalonians Chapters 1 and 2

1) The removal of the Church via the Rapture, 2:1, 7
2) The falling away; Apostasia, 2:3 (See note 1 below)
3) The rebuilding of the Jewish Temple, 2:4
4) The overtaking of that Temple and consequent desecration by the lawless one, 2:4, 8
5) The vengeance of God on, 1:8-10:
     a) Those who do not know God, 1:8
     b) Those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus, 1:8
6) The Satanic deception of the lawless one (Antichrist) by:
     a) Supernatural power, 2:9
     b) Supernatural signs, 2:9
     c) Lying wonders, 2:9
     d) Unrighteous deception, 2:10
7) The everlasting destruction of the two earlier mentioned groups either by:
     a) The judgments of the tribulation, or
     b) The final judgment of those still alive and allied with the lawless one (See note 2)

 
    These events have to be looked at in the greater context of what the Bible tells us about end times. Many try to fit all of the numerous passages that refer to what Pre-Millennialists believe as the end-time tribulation period of seven years (Daniel 9:27) into the time frame of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by Titus the Roman general. But to put the events described in Revelation, the seven seal, seven trumpet, and seven bowl judgments, into that context would mean that John, the author of Revelation, would have had to have written the book prior to A.D. 70 during the Neronian persecutions. That assumption is not valid. The book did not appear until the end of the Roman emperor Domitian’s reign, roughly 90-96 A.D., according to Second century father Irenaeus. Almost all scholars have accepted this date. Besides, the types of judgments described have never happened yet. During A.D. 70, only one million Jews were killed. During WWII six million were killed and during the tribulation two thirds will die, Zech. 13:8-9. How can that time be worse than that of the 20th century?
    Daniel foresaw 70 weeks of seven-year periods, or 70x7=490 years of dealings that God would undergo with His Chosen, Israel. Accordingly, Daniel 9:24-27 states, the first 69 have already happened; they ended with the “cutting-off of the Messiah.” He says in verse 24a, "70 weeks are determined..." In verse 25-26:

Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
...And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;

 
    Since the weeks are determined as weeks of years equaling 7 years to one week then we can easily determine the time of Christ’s Crucifixion by locating the date that the decree went forth to rebuild Jerusalem. It is interesting to note that there are four decrees located in the book of Ezra respectably given by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, but they all deal with the rebuilding of the temple. However, in Nehemiah 2:1-8 we can read the following:

And it came to pass in the month of Nisan (March/April), in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes... If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers tombs, that I may rebuild it... And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me (Emphasis mine).

 
    Since Artaxerxes ascended the throne in B.C. 465 then his twentieth year would have been 445 B.C. Using the information supplied to us in Genesis 7:11-24; 8:3-4, we can deduce the year to be 360 days or 12 months at 30 days each. Using this 360 day prophetic year calendar we can take 69x7 to equal 483 prophetic years. 483x360=173,880 days. 173,880 divided by 365.25 (current solar year) = 476 solar years. 445 B.C. minus 476 solar years=32 A.D.; the year Jesus was crucified. Remember, from 1B.C. to 1 A.D. is only 1 year. So in 32 A.D. Jesus was crucified. However, that calculation leaves 1 week unfulfilled or seven years. Since the Day of the Lord judgment of unbelievers in 2 Thess 1 and those of Revelation and the Tribulation culminate in the appearance of Jesus Christ on a white horse, Rev. 19:11-16, we have to take the 7 years as still future. Thus we have the 7 year tribulation period; the final week of judgment on earth before Jesus comes to the earth with all the saints previously translated, Zech. 14:5; Jude 14.
    Now going back to 2 Thessalonians chapters 1 and 2 we can try and fit everything into a correct prophetical chronology. Note that verse 7 of chapter 2 says, "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way." In Paul's day the mystery of lawlessness was already (present tense) at work being restrained from becoming full blown evil by the restrainer. In the Old Testament, the restrainer of evil was the law. Romans 4:15 says, "Because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression." And again in Romans 3:20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin." The law was given to accomplish at the least, two things:

1) To bring about a knowledge of sin - This in turn would show the Israelite that he was a sinner because it revealed the Holiness of God and what sin was, (See Romans 3:10).
2) For religious and civil behavior - The Israelites were to be Holy before God and keep His written commandments. A large portion of the law was written for civil government under a theocracy.

    We can see that the law restrained transgression. We are not under the Mosaic covenant today but rather the New Covenant of Jesus Christ who was the perfect fulfillment of the righteous requirement of the law (Jer. 31:31-34; Rom. 8:3-5; Heb. 8:6-13). It would follow then that the one who was to take the restraining place of the written law would also be the last-days restrainer of lawlessness. Jesus said in John 14:26, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you.” Again, in John 16:8 the Lord says, "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
    Today, and since the beginning of the Church age (Acts 2:1-4), the Holy Spirit is the One who has restrained sin from becoming full-blown. Now to keep in context our verse in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit, must be taken out of the way before the lawless one can be revealed. Since God is Omnipresent and the Holy Spirit is God, He cannot be removed from the earth. But His Church in which He dwells can be. Therefore, before the Antichrist is revealed the Church will be removed. I believe this will happen prior to or at the beginning of the 7 year tribulation period. So then, the Thessalonian believers need not fear that the Day of Christ had come because they were still alive on earth. The day of fiery judgment had not yet come.
    It is easy to see why the Holy Spirit's restraining influence on the world is the Church. Already, God has set aside teachers, who diligently study eschatology, to be on the lookout for Antichrist. I personally do not believe the Church will know who he actually will be but through the earlier lists of Noahic ethnologies, and some other prophecies we may be able to know if he is alive and where he may come from. The problem text is that of 2 Thessalonians 2:3. At first glance, it seems to indicate that the translation of the saints, or rapture, will not happen until after the falling away and the revealing of the Antichrist. "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition..."
    In the Sixteenth Century, a printer named Robert Stephanus divided the texts of the Bible into chapters and verses. Originally, the Bible never had any divisions. Consequently, it ran together as one text. If we forget the division between chapter 1 and 2 we find that the phrase, the Day of Christ, that Paul was talking about was the judgmental phase. Follow this from 1 Thessalonians 1:7b-10a:

...When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes in that day to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe...

 
    It is very important to understand that 1:11-12 is a parenthesis in the text. A parenthesis in any text is where the author leaves his present discussion to make a personal statement of comfort, warning, or further description of the antecedent text. In this case, Paul pauses to exhort the Church, and comfort them before he proceeds with his former text in 2:1. If you read them in that context you will see that he was teaching the judgmental phase of the great tribulation, the final 3½ yrs., is when the catastrophic judgments start (Mt. 24:21). Those days end with Christ coming to be glorified with His saints (2 Thess. 1:10) and to be admired among those believers who are still alive on the earth, who have not received the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:16; 14:11), they therefore, can be possibly categorized as believers. Another group who will behold His advent will be one found in mourning as if for an only son.  Zech. 12:10-14 desribes them as a Jewish populace in Israel.
    Therefore, that phase of the Day of Christ will not happen until after the falling away and the revelation of Antichrist. However, the restraining influence of the Church will be removed prior to his revelation (2 Thess. 2:7). That concludes our discussion of the tool God uses, which is Restraint, to accomplish His divine work.

 
*note 1 Apostasia is the Greek term for the falling away of 2:3. Before any large scale revolt against God can be achieved; one that would be large enough to precipitate the world believing the lawless one to be God (2:4) conditions have to be right. This means that the world must be conditioned to rebel against God. Even in Paul’s day the mystery of lawlessness was already at work restraining people from coming to know Jesus. Every time the gospel message is rejected the heart becomes more hardened.

 
*note 2 The everlasting destruction described is to mean death and the casting of the wicked soul into hell. At the end of the millennial period of one thousand years and the final Satanic rebellion, there will be the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15, where final judgment is cast for the lost of all ages. Since sinners cannot enter into the heaven of heavens, this judgment will be in an outer heaven (space) where God will then sentence Satan and his followers, including the False Prophet and Antichrist, into the Lake of Fire.

Maranantha, even so come Lord Jesus!

If you are not already Christian then seek Christ today...before it is too late!

God Bless

Mike

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