They were enrolled with all their little children, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, the whole assembly, for they were faithful in keeping themselves holy. (2 Chronicles 31:18, ESV)
King Hezekiah of Judah is getting things organized while leading the people back to God. He and the people destroyed all the high places, cleaned up the temple, and re-instituted sacrifices, tithes and offerings. The enrollment spoken of is for the Levite families in order to receive food distribution from the tithes and offerings. Remember that the priests (sons of Aaron) and the Levites were mainly tasked with taking care of the temple and sacrifices and didn’t own much land for the production of food.
What caught my attention was the phrase “they were faithful in keeping themselves holy.” First, they were faithful, meaning to keep doing what they were supposed to be doing. Second, they were keeping themselves holy, which means to follow the Law in avoiding unclean things such as pork and shellfish in addition to bathing and washing clothes and so on. Third, the faithful keeping of these things made the families holy, meaning separate and different from the usual run-of-the-mill people of the world.
In modern times, as in ancient Israel, there are many people who wear His name yet are not faithfully keeping themselves holy. Many claim to be cleansed by the blood of the lamb Jesus, yet ignore His Laws for maintaining and refreshing that cleansing. It’s as if they think that one shower is enough for the rest of their lives. They also teach against the Law, and persecute those like me and my family who realize that the Laws are just as valid for believers now as they were when they were given and even all the way back to the beginning.
The church, sadly, is not faithful in keeping itself clean. In fact, they are proud that they preach Jesus and at the same time deny His word of life. They do what is right in their own eyes, following the ear-tickling Nicolaitans they have chosen for leaders and mixing the Word of Truth with lies, traditions, and philosophies of men.
A picture that has stayed with me for decades came from the movie The Mark of the Beast popular in the ’70’s. There was a scene at one point after the so-called Rapture of a church that was empty except for the pastor preaching. I have since come to realize that the picture is false. The churches with be full for the most part if in fact a Rapture happens as they believe, because the people are not faithfully keeping themselves holy.
I’m sorry. Every time I think about this subject, or read about someone who has positively identified The Beast, I crack up. Or at least chuckle a little. The reason it’s so humorous is that the methods used for identification, and the results of the methods, are mostly based on personal feelings. Or perhaps what I call newspaper exegesis (interpreting by newspaper headlines). I haven’t seen a result yet that comes from an understanding of the Bible. The best method of identification is right there in black and white. Or black, white and red. Or whatever fruity colors are used in your version.
The Beast is the coming ruler spoken of in the Bible who will sway nearly the whole world to follow his lead. As a token of appreciation, he will cause all who do so to receive a mark on the hand or forehead, without which no one can buy or sell. His helper is the false prophet, one who looks like a lamb and is called the anti-Christ or ‘instead of’ Christ. This helper of The Beast is the one who causes all to receive the mark. These two will be backed by the serpent or dragon, also called the deceiver and Satan. This unholy trinity will unite much of the population in a rebellion against God and His Christ. They will not succeed, but while they have their run there will be much death, destruction and wrath poured out from God. The wrath part is why I think this is still future, though others think it has already happened.
The Beast has been identified as Hitler, or rulers/kings like him. Some have pegged President Obama as The Beast. This is funny to me because as bad as Obama is he isn’t a pimple on the butt of The Beast. Various other leaders from time to time have been sometimes hysterically identified as the Beast. At one time people in the Calvary Chapel denomination along with many others were all excited about a computer in Belgium (early ’80’s) that was called the beast (at the time it could have numbered every person on the planet). Lately some are pointing to a smooth-talking atheist in Greece that has got them worried.
The problem with identifying The Beast comes in when people look right past the obvious. Especially the church. We will look everywhere except in the mirror. We are so blinded by men’s teachings, traditions and philosophies that we don’t recognize an important fact:
The Beast will be just as acceptable to the church as to the general populace.
Yes I know. That will be a shocking statement to those who think that the “church” is taken away in a rapture before all the really bad stuff starts, like a fairy tale princess in a flying pumpkin coach. However, the rapture without question is appended to the resurrection, and that resurrection clearly doesn’t happen till the end of the Tribulation. See our video Whole Bible Prophecy: The Rapture for more explanation on this.
So “the church” will be here during the tribulation. That’s the first boo boo in the whole identification process. There will be many who don’t even realize it at first, and many who will be upset when they find out they’ve been lied to by their leaders.
Some people point to the absence of ‘the church’ in Revelation 4 through about 19 as proof that the church is gone. But here’s a fun fact for you: there is no church in the Bible. At all. It exists only in translations. The ekklesia (the Greek word translated by the English word ‘church’) is simply an assembly or congregation, and is found throughout history in the Word. A group of people. Ekklesia is used of Israel in the Septuagint translation, but isn’t translated as ‘church.’ It is just translated as congregation or assembly. So technically ‘the assembly’ is much different than ‘the church’ and includes all believers everywhere and everywhen. This explains the absence of ‘the church’ in Revelation. Especially the modern church. It was never there in the first place.
The typical church-goer can’t (or will not later) properly identify The Beast because they are not grounded on the Word, do not read it except for a few favorite verses, and refuse to do what it says. Instead they have crafted for themselves a seeker-friendly social gospel that only vaguely resembles anything biblical, with a hippie flower-child Jesus letting everyone behave as they choose. We have leaders telling us that hell doesn’t exist, parts of God’s Word are old and irrelevant, men’s traditions are the new covenant, and sexual immorality is really okay. If this doesn’t sound like “tolerating that woman Jezebel” or allowing the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans (Revelation 1-3) I don’t know what does. The church has watered down the message of God for themselves so much that it isn’t even recognizable as God’s. By and large they have removed the whole nutrition of His Law from the message, and are therefore not grounded on the Rock.
For these reasons and a few others I believe The Beast will look a lot like a mega-church pastor, and teach many of the same things. He will be so very acceptable to the majority of the church because He will look and act just like they do. The church looks the same as the world, acts the same, and believes the same except for a little different Jesus flavoring. The Beast will bridge the (very small) gap between the world and the church very easily.
That might sound hard to some of you. But truth is only hard to the hard-hearted.
It is written that The Beast has blasphemous names on its heads and is given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words (Rev. 13). If you do a comprehensive word study you will find out that blasphemy is, at the bottom, either attributing evil to God’s works or attributing the works of God to evil (Satan, the Beast, or the anti-Christ get the credit instead of God). I think this means The Beast will claim that he is the author of works that are God’s, and will blame God for evil he and his two buddies do and the evil that is in the world in general. Right will be wrong and wrong will be painted as right.
The lack of grounding in the Bible for the majority of self-named Christians will contribute to the acceptance of The Beast. The blasphemy practiced by the Church (calling God’s Law irrelevant for instance) along with sexual immorality (adultery, divorce, fornication, homosexuality) and watered-down teaching from the Balaams, Jezebels and Nicolaitans among us will combine to allow easy acceptance by stone-hearted people.
11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV).
Hey. I’m not saying this. I’m getting it right from the Bible. Read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 1-3 if you don’t believe me. The people described in negative terms there have always been around and always a part of the so-called church. The door that Jesus is standing at and knocking is the door of the church. It’s just that in modern times a greater percentage of wolves in sheep’s clothing are present and the corruption is more prevalent than in the past. See our video The Whole Picture: Who Put the Church in Charge? at http://youtu.be/3dkxJTQCriI for more on this.
A part of identifying The Beast is helped by figuring out who is spoken of in Revelation 17. There we see a woman riding on The Beast who has a name of mystery on her forehead that is “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” She looks pretty, dressed in purple and scarlet (the colors of ruling or royalty), with jewelry to match, but her main claim to fame is sexual immorality and murder of God’s people. She is seated on many waters picturing peoples, multitudes, nations and languages, so this woman is everywhere on earth. She is riding The Beast but he and the kings who give him allegiance (the horns) hate her and destroy her.
The Catholic Church has been identified as mystery religion Babylon, but that is too limited. Catholicism has only been around for about 1,800 years, and has not covered the planet that thoroughly during those centuries. This mystery religion has been around at least since the time of the tower of Babel (Hebrew meaning gate of the deity; Babylon is Greek for the same city/kingdom), which is where we see the record of the first idolatrous behavior (although there was probably much before the flood too). I think it is more likely that this woman is all religion that leads away from God with idolatry, sexual immorality and blasphemy. This includes all paganism, all idolatry, all witchcraft and voodoo and the like. It can even include the church (otherwise Jesus would not be warning the seven churches of the teachings of Balaam, Jezebel, and the Nicolaitans). Idolatry is cheating on God, with or without a statue. The modern church is certainly cheating on God, which will put them right in the same chariot with Babylon on the Beast. The Beast tolerates the false religion for a while, but he wants the first place of worship so he destroys Babylon because she’s in the way. It’s like that movie The Highlander. There can be only one. The Catholic Church certainly is pagan and idolatrous, and part of the mystery religion Babylon, but does not carry the whole burden by itself. There are many other churches and synagogues that are joined to her in immorality.
So identifying The Beast is kind of an exercise in futility for the church. You can’t very well find his hiding place when you’re looking everywhere but in the church building. Inside, this guy will indeed be a ravenous beast, but on the outside he will appear as a fluffy little sheep. He won’t appear to be the big bad wolf that most people are expecting. He will speak beguiling words; words that are close to God’s but just a little bit off at first. Just like the words of most church leaders and followers of today. He will say things that sound good and appeal to our self-seeking pride, and because the average Christian will not be grounded in the Word of God they will be willing to accept him and his instead-of-Christ prophet even to receiving the mark. They will “believe in him” so much they will gladly do whatever he says. They will be enamored of his teachings on sexual immorality, tolerance and unconditional love because these teachings will mirror their own. He will be able to quote the Bible better than most Christians, albeit with his own twisted slant and matching almost word for word the text of many sermons. He will mix science with sorcery and probably claim to be the next evolutionary step for all mankind. The image fashioned by the anti-Christ could very likely be a clone who will speak as the serpent did in the Garden, offering a path to be “like God.”
Believers will need to be filled with the whole of the Word, have patient endurance, reject the teachings of Jezebel and her ilk, and hear what the Spirit says to the congregations that make up the Body. Start tuning your eyes and ears to see Him and listen for His instructions by taking in all of His Words and doing them. Now. While there’s still time. Repent, go through the open door, buy from Him gold refined by fire and white garments to cover the shame of nakedness along with some salve to anoint your eyes. Be zealous and repent.
In Matthew 24 and Luke 17 Jesus gives us an outline of what will take place at the “end of the age” as the apostles asked. At one point Jesus says, “Two men will be in the field, one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken and one left.” Most Christians think these are verses about the rapture. There was a nifty song in the ‘70’s that spoke of people being taken as being raptured (I Wish We’d All Been Ready by Larry Norman), translated into imperishable bodies to be with Jesus forever. The people remaining were “left behind.” It’s a good thought, but wrong. It is clear from the context that ‘taken’ means destroyed.
Jesus compares this time to the time of the flood, when people were going about their daily living as sudden destruction came. “They were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away.” If the proportion (50%) is intended to be exact, that means at least half the world’s population will be destroyed.
There are other places where ‘taken’ is obviously related to destroyed or killed.
Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD; I am weary of holding it in. “Pour it out upon the children in the street, and upon the gatherings of young men, also; both husband and wife shall be taken, the elderly and the very aged. (Jeremiah 6:11, ESV)
To be “taken” is not a fun thing. To be consistent with the rest of the Word, ‘taken’ in the context of what Jesus is talking about is not fun at all.
‘Whole Bible Prophecy’ manuscript by Bruce Scott Bertram
Something from the other book we’re working on, ‘Whole Bible Prophecy,’ with some personal thoughts.
Trusting God. A while ago I converted from popular Christian fantasy of a rapture to the biblical reality that believers are going through the Tribulation. I’m a reformed dispensationalist. At first the realization is a terrifying prospect, like the second term of an Obama presidency. We know there’s a lot of bad stuff going to happen. We know the destruction will be worldwide. The prospect is enough to make a young person’s hair turn grey, and turn an old person’s bones to jelly. There’s a temptation to fling everything down and run for the hills. But we have God, we have His Son, and we have His Word.
We do not need to fear the conspiracies of men. The worst of them are but a vapor on the timeline of eternity. Men and their plans die. God’s eternal life is forever. I place myself in His care, trusting that He will guide and protect. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. My job is to trust and continue to work His Word, every part, into my life.
The undeniable fact is that the rapture will take place after the resurrection. There is not much Scripture on the rapture, but there is a great deal on the resurrection. For the righteous dead in Christ the resurrection will take place at the end of the Tribulation. The wicked are resurrected at the end of the 1,000 year kingdom. There are hints in the Word that believers will be protected through the “time of trouble.”
Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. (Zephaniah 2:3, ESV)
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain. (Isaiah 26:19–21, ESV)
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:4–5, ESV)
The point is, whatever is going to happen, we have to trust God. We have to trust God in order to be able to hear Him when He tells us where to go and what to do. We refine our hearing now by doing all of His Word all of the time.
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