Monday, January 25, 2016

The Restrainer

As we observe the rapid acceleration of events foreshadowing the coming Tribulation, it is becoming more clear that God is removing His restraint of evil. The spiritually discerning recognize this trend as evidence that the Bridegroom is preparing to come for His bride, the church very soon.

The key passage that tells us about God removing His restraint of evil as an indicator of Jesus coming soon is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10. The Apostle Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians because their persecution was so bad some of them were thinking the rapture of the church had occurred and they were left behind. Paul wrote to clarify why that was not the case thus helping us understand the proper order of events. This passage is among the most important establishing that the rapture must happen before the Tribulation.

The context of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 is established in the first verse by the reference to "our gathering together to Him." This has to talking about the rapture of the church. The second verse addresses the "day of Christ" which is another term for the Tribulation because it culminates in the revelation of Christ to the world. In verse three, Paul makes it clear that the Tribulation can not happen until the "falling away" happens first.

The original Greek word translated "falling away" in English is "apostasia" which sounds like our word apostasy meaning falling away from the faith. Scholars however have recognized that this word is another term for the rapture of the church because we will fall away from the earth when we meet the Lord in the air. However, many have dismissed this term as referring to the rapture of the church because it could also mean a falling away from the faith which is an end times trend supported in Scripture. Whether Paul was making reference to a great falling away of the faith or removal of the church at the rapture, the rapture is implied either way because the rapture results in zero believers on earth, a pretty thorough apostasy.

Also in verse three we find that the "man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition" following the "falling away." This is referring to the Antichrist who is also called "the lawless one" in verse eight. The Antichrist will be empowered by Satan to rule the world as an alternative human savior to Christ. It will not be clear who this coming world ruler will be until the church is removed at the rapture. So any effort by Christians to speculate on who the Antichrist will be is a futile activity.

2 Thessalonians 2:4 tells us what the Antichrist will do, representing himself as God in the temple. This is the "abomination of desolation" Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:15. For the "abomination of desolation" to occur, there must be a temple in Israel. It is amazing that there is a growing desire for a Temple in Israel even though the population is thoroughly secular. The Jews want a temple as part of their national identity but it is clear that something significant must happen changing the political situation to allow it. The "abomination of desolation" is the event that makes the Jews realize the world leader is not their savior but a deceiver.

Verses six and seven tell us that God is restraining lawlessness keeping the Antichrist from coming to power while the church is on earth. The "mystery of lawlessness" refers to Satan and his minions conspiring to thwart God’s plans to call out a people for Himself. The Restrainer of lawlessness is personified referring to Him as "He." This can only be a reference to the evil restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit who indwells followers of Christ. The Restrainer will be taken out of the way when the church falls away from the earth at the rapture thus ending His restraint of lawlessness.

Verse eight reinforces the truth that the Antichrist will not come to power until the evil restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit ends. The Tribulation is when lawlessness is allowed to run its full course. The Antichrist will establish a totalitarian government that will enslave the world. He will start out representing himself as a friend to Israel but will seek to destroy them and all who will not swear allegiance to him. God will tolerate un-throttled evil for only a short period and will ultimately destroy the Antichrist when Jesus returns.

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 tells us that the Antichrist coming to power will be accompanied with great signs and wonders to deceive people into following him. God will allow deceptive miracles to dupe all who do not have the spiritual discernment that only comes from a relationship with Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:14 and Matthew 24:24).

Why God Allows Evil

The fact that God removes His restraint of lawlessness thus allowing a Tribulation shows that God has a purpose for evil. This is however the very thing that is often cited by atheists as justification for rejecting God... How could a good God allow evil? People who don't see their need for a Savior don’t understand the concept of sin. A just and holy God demands that there be consequences for usurping His authority. And in our fallen world, evil happens as a consequence of sin.

All people are made in God's image. One important aspect of being in the image of God is that we have freedom of choice. We have exercised our freedom to put ourselves before God and that sin has consequences. God loved us so much that He wanted us to experience the depth of relationship with Him that is only possible if we are free to accept or reject a relationship with Him. If there is to be true free will, God has to allow evil for a time.

However, God makes use of evil to help us. For example, He raised up the Babylonians to help Israel see their need to return to Him. He used the evil of Jesus dying on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And He uses evil in our lives to bring about a greater good, "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28, NKJV).

How the Holy Spirit Restrains Evil

God orchestrates events to bring about His plans (Isaiah 46:9-10). But God limits the reach of evil as He did with Satan who was given permission to touch the life of Job (Job 1:12). While all of earth’s rulers are under the influence of Satan, God influences their hearts so that His will be done as demonstrated with the Persian King Xerxes in Esther 6 and the Roman King Augustus prior to Jesus being born.

God works through His children whom the Holy Spirit indwells (1 John 4:15). The Holy Spirit helps us to discern evil and commands us to expose it per Ephesians 5:11. Indeed, there will be loss of reward if we fail to speak up when we see evil (Ezekiel 33:9).  Jesus said His followers are salt and light in Matthew 5:13-14; acting as a preservative helping others know Jesus and shinning the light of truth about evil.  Exposing evil does reduce it’s impact, "for everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3:20).

The United States has been known as a Christian nation, indeed, the most preeminent Christian nation on earth. We were founded by Christians, made laws based on biblical values, and had the highest percentage of Christians. We have promoted liberty and crushed tyrants who enslaved their people. We acted as God’s agent to squelch the plans of those who sought to enslave Africans, the Nazis and their allies, and the Soviets. We have stood by and encouraged Israel along with the nations who would also befriend Israel. The U.S. has been a force for good in the world. But the U.S. acting as a force for good in the world is beginning to change as part of the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit being removed...

The U.S. is now known as much for its export of entertainment filth as restraining evil in the world. We have legalized the murder of the unborn and have sought to end the Bible’s concept of marriage. We have institutionalized our national debt. We are abandoning our allies like Israel and embracing their enemies instead. There is a growing propensity to appease evildoers and yield our sovereignty to the world community of nations. Our rule of law is being replaced with rule of man and along with it, our freedoms of religion and speech are under assault. Truth and justice is being replaced with political correctness and social justice which is simply a ruler’s view of fairness. Our mainstream press no longer serves as a force which exposes evil, instead it has become a propaganda agency seeking to manipulate the population.

What God’s People Should Do About It

In the Parable of the Minas, Jesus told us to "do business until I come" (Luke 19:13). God has gifted us to serve His purpose to be salt and light in the world. He wants us to take full advantage of the resources and opportunities He gives us to be His representatives. When we apply the principles He has given us to our lives, we will experience the spiritual fruit of Galatians 5:22-23 and this will attract people to Jesus.

Part of being a good steward of what God has blessed us with is being a good citizen. That means we should participate in the political process in this country to slow the growth of evil here. Often this means making a choice of the lesser of two evils when we vote. However, we should recognize that evil will grow despite our best efforts to expose it because of the times in which we live.

We are privileged to be able to serve the Lord in this time when so many are being convicted by the Holy Spirit that this world is not headed in a good direction. As we see the stage being set for the Tribulation, we should experience joy knowing that our redemption draws near. This joy is infectious and the Lord can use it to lead people to Him. It will not be long before we will all be united with Jesus. And then our joy will be complete.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Looming Collapse

One doesn't have to be an economist to see that all is not well with the economy. The U.S. national debt is so high that no one believes it will ever be paid off and stock markets are volatile world-wide. The only thing keeping our debt from triggering a melt-down is that most other nations in the world are just as bad or worse in their GDP-to-debt ratios.

Government spending and increasing the money supply which is called "quantitative easing" are seen as the solution to bring us out of the world-wide recession that began in 2008. This has not been working despite the mainstream media narrative that all is well. No amount of statistical gymnastics can hide the fact that record numbers of Americans are unemployed or under-employed.

Quantitative easing has never really worked to end recessions. In times past, the government effectively printing money to increase the money supply appears to have worked because inflation caused the debt to be reduced. Inflation was a painful but effective tool in reducing the national debt because it also meant that people made more money as the demand for labor increased. But this time the demand for labor has not increased thus keeping wages depressed.

Among the theories given to explain why the demand for labor has not increased is that automation is now replacing jobs faster than new jobs can be created. This may indeed be a factor but a more significant impact is certainly due to the globalization of the world economy. Jobs that used to be done locally are now being outsourced to places were labor is cheaper.

The inflation that usually accompanies the government printing money has not materialized this time. We have had an increase in asset prices such as stocks and real estate but commodity prices led by the price of oil have been depressed. The biggest factor in the depression of commodity prices is due to wages not increasing and it is not possible for wages to increase if there is a reduced demand for labor.

There has never been a time in the history of the world when interest rates have been so low for so long. This is making it harder for governments to employ their quantitative easing strategy which they believe stimulates the economy. It is hard to reduce interest rates on government loans when you are already at zero percent.

When the government is effectively giving money away at zero percent interest, they can no longer just bail-out failed financial institutions. What the European Union is now looking at doing instead is a "bail-in." This is where some percentage of depositor savings is reduced similar to what happened in Cypress. All EU member states have been required to have bail-in legislation on their books beginning this year. 

While the European Union will probably not execute their plans to confiscate depositor savings through a bail-in until the next major economic melt-down occurs, some banks there have already begun charging negative interest rates on savings. They are now effectively charging depositors to warehouse their money. This is intended to get depositors to take their money out of the bank and spend it in an effort to stimulate the economy.

Whether negative interest rates works to stimulate the economy or not, it will lead to governments implementing some sort of cashless system in order to have more control. Most transactions are already done digitally out of convenience. A cashless economy sets the stage for the time when all transactions can be micro-managed by the state which is necessary for the mark of the beast that will be implemented during the Tribulation (Revelation 13:16-18).

The European Union is the model for the world coming together as expressed in their motto, "united in diversity." What is being tried to stimulate the economy in Europe will eventually be done world wide. All that is required is a big enough economic crisis to cause governments to take action. And such action has generally resulted in them gaining more control over their people. When the problem becomes bigger than national governments can fix by printing more money or confiscating savings, there will be increasing demands for a bail-out by an even higher governmental entity, a more powerful global union of nations.

Every crisis is taking us closer to the global government the Bible says will be in place when the Lord returns. The stage-setting is picking up pace at such a rate that many have theorized there must be a conspiracy of the elite orchestrating developments in order to rule the world. Whether or not there is a human conspiracy at work in the world, there certainly is a spiritual one. God is removing His restraint of evil to prepare the world for the Tribulation when lawlessness will run its course. This is allowing Satan and his fallen-angel followers to have more influence over the nations of the world.

God is in control of the economy and allows it to flourish or fail in order to serve His purposes. The idea that mankind can control the economy is an illusion that will eventually become apparent to all. But until then, mankind's solution to fix the economy will be to double-down on the flawed policy to seek a bail-out from a higher governmental authority. This is the dynamic that will eventually give us a global government. This world will experience the ultimate in human control over mankind and Revelation 18 says it will fail spectacularly.

There have always been economic cycles and they are nothing to fear for those who are trusting in the Lord. God promised us in Genesis 8:22, "while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease" (NKJV). The best way to prepare for the coming economic melt-down is to apply the principles God has given us in His Word to be good stewards of His blessings. And this includes such things as getting out of debt and investing to lay up treasure in heaven.

The bail-out this world sorely needs is for Jesus to return. All the economic pain this world will experience in the next few years will bring mankind to the end of themselves and prepare society for rule by the Lord Himself. But followers of Christ during this Age of Grace will not have to go through the worst of the economic turmoil that will characterize the Tribulation. The best way for people to be prepared for the economic crash described in Revelation 18 is to allow Jesus to be their Savior and Lord now before the rapture of the church.

The economy of the Lord is far superior to that which mankind envisions. It is actually encouraging to see the end of mankind's economy foreshadowed when you know it only indicates the Kingdom of God on earth is very near. Come soon Lord Jesus! 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Society's Phobias

One attribute of the ungodly is that they are generally guilty of the very thing of which they accuse others. This characteristic is most apparent in the use of the term Islamophobia. Those who want to confront Islam and hold Muslims accountable for inspiring terrorists are called Islamophobic as if they are the ones with the irrational fear. But what is really more fearful, dealing with the root cause of a problem or trying to appease evil doers in the hope that they will change their ways?

Those who seek to shut down the voices of people speaking the truth about Islam by calling them Islamophobic say they don't want to incite a backlash against Muslims. But this only masks their own fear that the terrorism will get worse if the Muslim religion is publicly criticized. Despite the growth of Islamic terrorism, there has been no significant backlash against Muslims. Most people understand that the vast majority of Islamists are cultural Muslims who are just trying to get by in this world and have no desire to get too serious about following the literal tenets of their religion.

The ideologues accusing others of being Islamophobic are generally the same ones calling those wanting to preserve traditional marriage of being homophobic. Followers of Christ don't fear being among sinners because we too still struggle with our old sin nature and while we are forgiven and thus no longer of the world, we are still in the world to make disciples of all the nations. The ungodly accusers of homophobia fear God's Law and seek to squelch followers of Christ because they fear anything that reminds them of God's Law.

Intelligent conversation about immigration is shut down by calling those who oppose open borders of being xenophobic. Followers of Christ don't fear being among people from other places who are not like us. Indeed, we welcome this because it makes it easer to reach the nations for Christ when they come to us. But we do fear the loss of what makes this country attractive to people of the world when we throw out our due process of law. One of the things that made America great was having a tradition of following the law which was developed with appropriate Constitutional checks and balances. Increasingly, our rule of law is being replaced by rule of man which changes with the wind. Those yelling xenophobia are fearful that conservatives will dampen their globalist aspirations which calls for collective human achievement, the same spirit behind the Tower of Babel.

The common thread in accusing others of some sort of phobia is political correctness which is all about not offending people. Now this sounds good because no one wants to be offensive to others. But the spirit behind political correctness is to further a narrative that can only be sustained when the truth is suppressed. So accusing the opposition of being insensitive shuts down the conversation. The ungodly fear the truth and cannot allow a free exchange of ideas because the truth has an uncanny way of making itself known. Among the birth-pang signs Jesus gave us indicating His soon return was this: "many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another" (Matthew 24:10, NKJV). Certainly political correctness institutionalizes people being offended and this tactic is growing in power as a tool of the ungodly.

Fear is generally growing in the world as God removes His restraint of evil which foreshadows the Tribulation (2 Timothy 3:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:7). There is a growing sense that something is very wrong in this world even among the biblical illiterate. Peace between the nations is elusive and there is nuclear proliferation occurring in the most irrational of regimes. The economy has multiple indicators of serious sickness despite the media narrative that all is well. The ruling elite try to channel the growing fear into other areas such as a fear of guns and global warming in order to further their globalist agenda. The persistence of the globalist visionaries set the stage for the Tribulation and thus will make steady progress to have their day because there will be a ruler where, "authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation" (Revelation 13:7).

The soon coming Tribulation is when fear will reach its peak, "there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:25-26). It will be hard to deny that supernatural events are occurring during the Tribulation. These prophetic developments will be very fearful as people who have taken the mark of the beast realize they have committed themselves to the wrong side. And that will be most of the people in the world during the Tribulation.

While fear is often irrational and immobilizing, it can be helpful if it is channeled in the right direction. "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). The healthiest fear is the fear of God. It is a good thing when our fear leads us to the Savior for deliverance. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10).

While fear is useful in driving us to Christ, it dissipates once He breathes life into our human spirits and we begin trusting Jesus as our Savior. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (1 Timothy 1:7). The presence of the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers gives us courage in the face of an increasingly fearful world. And God can use that to attract people to Christ. A great way to lead people to Jesus is to help them see why we do not fear the trajectory of this world.

"Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).

Monday, January 4, 2016

Globalism versus Nationalism

Among the many spiritual battles impacting this physical world is the conflict between globalism and nationalism which reveals our closeness to the end of the Age. While the influence of globalism has been an obvious trend for many years, the progress of those with a global vision has been accelerating and thus promises to make even more significant advances in the coming year. All this sets the stage for the global government of the Antichrist when "authority will be given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation" (Revelation 13:7, NKJV).

The drive toward more centralized global authority is relentless and there are some very logical reasons why globalization makes sense. Globalization offers economic benefits such as increasing global trade and investment which expands prosperity. And there is a vision for peace between the nations that should be achievable if the world could just work together more. Of course it would take a powerful global authority to make that happen.

The world's ruling elite are becoming more united in their vision of a global government as the solution for what ails mankind. And as humanists generally deny but wholeheartedly practice, the end justifies the means. They have fabricated a climate change crisis to force the world to work together and have more control over the population. There is nothing like a good crisis to make changes that move us closer to more global governmental power. The intense political correctness associated with the climate change "settled science" reveals that powerful spiritual forces are behind it.

The ugly downside to globalization is the idea that more centralized authority is a good thing. It appeals to a humanist worldview that believes we can solve any problem mankind faces through collective human effort apart from God. This spirit of independence from God is idolatry and was the very same attitude that was prevalent at the Tower of Babel when God scattered the people by confusing their language (Genesis 11).

While progressive humanist visionaries believe more centralized authority makes government more efficient, the exact opposite is actually realized. The failure of powerful centralized governments is an obvious lesson of history. That is why we have the cliche truism that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yet the world's humanists persist in thinking they are more "evolved" and thus smarter than all who have gone before them really believing they are the ones who can make centralized government work better.  

It should be obvious that in this fallen world, more localized government works better than a centralized authority. A smaller, more distributed government that is closer to the people it serves is better able to respond to the needs of the people. There are geographic, demographic, and cultural differences between groups of people that gives them different needs. Centralized authorities can't even see these needs much less think imposing a solution that works in one place will have universal success.

Among the things that have made the United States exceptional has been our Constitution that provided for a division of centralized powers with checks and balances on authority. And there was the principle of states rights that distributed governmental power more locally. The trend however has been to give more power to the Federal Government and even the checks and balances have been breaking down giving the president more authority than allowed for by the Constitution. This yielding of authority foreshadows the spirit that will bring the Antichrist to power; "these are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast" (Revelation 17:13). 

Change is in the air in the United States. Gone is the Constitutional idea that the government exists to serve the people. Instead, the people exist to serve the collective. As the growing spirit of Antichrist causes local governments to yield their authority to higher governmental authorities, so too are the people willing to yield their freedoms in return for more security. These are the times that Scripture tells us about; "For when they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman" (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

The spirit of Antichrist spurring on the growing globalization is at its core rebellion against the order God has established. This spirit is what is behind the move to open the borders to unfettered immigration. If the world is to come together as one global family, there can be no national borders. God is in control and He established national boundaries for a reason. "He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings" (Acts 17:26).

The growing desire for people in the world to yield their God-given freedoms and authority is irrational and reveals that spiritual warfare has to be at work. God is giving mankind over to a debased mind so that evil can run it's natural course. "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 'Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us'" (Psalm 2:2-3).

The trajectory of this world is distressing to those who bother to consider the ramifications of the dramatic changes that are afoot. Rather than wasting time trying to fight against these changes, followers of Christ will honor God more by helping people disturbed by the world's trends to see that God's Word offers comfort to mankind in these times. The path of this world was foretold from ancient times and is necessary for God to prepare the world for Jesus Christ to be the ultimate central ruling authority that mankind longs for.

All indications are that this world doesn't have long to wait for the Millennial Kingdom. The stage is rapidly being set for the terrible time of the Tribulation that precedes the return of Christ. But as individuals in this Age of Grace, we don't have to wait for Jesus to return to experience His peace in our lives right now. All who yield their lives to Jesus recognizing Him as Savior and Lord will experience an abundant life in the here and now. And we also have the Blessed Hope of being translated into our glorified, eternal bodies when God concludes the current Age of Grace prior to the Tribulation. Even so, come soon Lord Jesus!