- The coming of the Lord. When will it happen?
- Mobile Phone Addicts
- Russia and China – back to persecution of the church
- Signs of the Times.
The coming of the Lord. When will it happen?
The Bible is very clear that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again. Concerning His Second Coming we find that the following events are prophesied in scripture:
- The rapture of the church ‘to meet the Lord in the air’. 1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11.
- The Great Tribulation. Matthew 24.15-29, Revelation 6-19. Also many OT passages including Isaiah 24, Jeremiah 30, Daniel 7, 9.27, 12 Joel 2-3, Zechariah 12-14. Passages in Daniel and Revelation indicate that this is a 7 year period, divided into two halves.
- The coming of the Lord to the earth ‘with the saints’. Zechariah 14, Jude 14-15, Revelation 19.11-21. The revealing of Jesus Christ.
- The Millennial (1000 year) Reign of Christ / Messianic kingdom. Revelation 20 (Isaiah 2.1-4, 11-12, Zechariah 14).
- The eternal state. Revelation 21-2.
The word ‘rapture’ is taken from the Latin form of the Greek word ‘harpazo’ which Paul uses for the believing church being ‘caught up’ to meet the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17: ‘For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.’ This meeting ‘in the air’ takes place first before the Lord comes to the earth ‘with the saints’ to set up His Millennial Kingdom.
Concerning the timing of the rapture, there is disagreement amongst Christians over whether it happens before the tribulation (pre-tribulation), or after it (post tribulation) or in the middle of it (mid-tribulation).’ Whichever view we take there are two stages in the coming of the Lord: firstly the rapture, or the meeting ‘in the air’ and secondly the coming of the Lord to the earth (with the saints). If we take the pre-tribulation view, the rapture is separated from the coming of the Lord to the earth by 7 years (or more), if we take the post tribulation view the two aspects of His coming are simultaneous (i.e. the church is taken up and then comes straight back again with the Lord). With the mid-tribulation view the two parts of His coming are separated by 3½ years (or less according to the pre-wrath view which puts the rapture at around ¾ of the way through the tribulation).
It does make a difference to how we anticipate the Second Coming which of these views we take. If we take the pre-tribulation view we should be looking for the Lord to come at any time and be ready for His imminent return. If we take the post tribulation view, then He cannot come for the church until certain events prophesied in Matthew 24.15-31 and Revelation 6-19 have taken place. These events include the coming of the antichrist, or beast, as a world leader, the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments of Revelation 6, 8-9 and 16, the persecutions and the 666 Mark of the Beast system (Revelation 13), and Armageddon (Revelation 16.16). During this time the earth will experience famines, wars, pestilence and mass death with up to one half of the human race dying (Revelation 6.1-8, 8-9). In this case we should be preparing for the coming of the antichrist and the associated time of tribulation.
The main scripture which is used to argue for the post tribulation rapture is Matthew 24.29-31: ‘Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.’ If Jesus is describing the rapture in verse 31 (i.e. the same event as 1 Thessalonians 4) then He is stating specifically that it will happen ‘after the tribulation of those days.’
In this case it cannot be imminent. The events described in Revelation for the tribulation period must take place first. Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 also mean that we must see the sun darkened and the moon not giving its light before the rapture of the church. This supernatural darkness is also prophesied in Old Testament passages describing the coming ‘Day of the Lord’ (Isaiah 13.9-10, Joel 3.14-16, Zephaniah 1.14-15).
This does raise a problem in our interpretation of Jesus’ words later in Matthew 24, when He told us to be ready for this event to happen, because its timing is unexpected: ‘Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’ Matthew 24.42-44 (see also Matthew 24.36, 25.13). He told us in Matthew 24.36-44 and Luke 17.25-30 that when this event takes place, people will be carrying on their normal business, eating and drinking, buying and selling, building and planting, marrying and giving in marriage when ‘one will be taken and one will be left.’ The point of the ‘thief in the night’ image, which is also used in 1 Thessalonians 5.2, is that a thief comes unexpectedly, without prior warning.
At the end of the tribulation period, especially when the supernatural darkness comes on the earth, life will not be going on as normal. If you manage to survive to this point and see all these things happening, especially the supernatural darkness, I don’t think that you would be surprised if the next thing that happens is that the Lord Jesus appears! Revelation 6.12-15 tells us that when the sign of the darkness appears, even the unbelievers will say ‘to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of His wrath has come and who is able to stand?’
This leaves us with the question, ‘Does Jesus contradict Himself in Matthew 24?’ One explanation of this is that the chapter contains the answer to two different questions put to Him by the disciples ‘What will be the sign of your coming (question 1) and of the end of the age (question 2)?’ Matthew 24.3. He gives the sign of the end of the age first, describing the great tribulation and His second coming to the earth in verses 15-31. At the end of the tribulation he will gather the elect (the saved survivors of the tribulation) for the judgment described in Matthew 25.31-45. He will also gather the ‘unelect’ (the goats of Matthew 25) who will be cast off the earth into hell (Matthew 25.41). The sheep (saved survivors of the tribulation) will enter into the kingdom and repopulate the earth during the Millennial kingdom.
He then changes the subject to describe the sign of your coming (the rapture) from verse 36 onwards: ‘But of that day no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only’. The word used for ‘but’, in Greek ‘peri de’, is often used in scripture to indicate a change in subject. The following verses answer the first part of the disciples’ question, ‘What will be the sign of your coming?’ He tells them that He will come unexpectedly, as a thief, at a time when life is going on as normal and ‘one shall be taken and the other left.’ In the light of this we should be ready for His coming at any time.
This means that the event of Matthew 24.31: ‘And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other’, is a separate event from the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4-5. Matthew 24.31 does happen after the tribulation, whereas 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18 happens before it.
Not subject to wrath.
Another indication of the pre-tribulation rapture is the issue of being saved from wrath. In 1 Thessalonians 1.10 Paul speaks to the church about ‘how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.’ Later in his epistle he writes: ‘For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.’
The Lord Jesus bore the wrath of God against sin on the cross. Those who accept him are no longer under the wrath of God but saved by His grace (Ephesians 2). The tribulation period is the outpouring of God’s wrath on sinful humanity (Revelation 6.17, 14.10 and 19, 15.1 and 7 and 16.1). Therefore God removes the redeemed church before His wrath is poured out in the great tribulation.
The Lord compares the days of His coming to the days of Noah and of Lot (Luke 17.26-37). In the account of the Flood and the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 6-9, 19) we find that the Lord removed Noah and his family and Lot and his family to a place of safety before judgement fell. So the Lord will remove those He has justified by His grace to a place of safety before the judgement of the tribulation falls. This is why the Lord says to the faithful church: ‘Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.’ Revelation 3.10.
The implication of end time prophecy is that by the time of the end, most of the professing church will be unfaithful and neglecting to look for the coming of the Lord. This is the case today and is the reason why the Lord says: ‘But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ Luke 21.34-37. We are counted worthy by our repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Following the rapture those taken will ‘always be with the Lord’, in other words wherever He is, they will be. According to the pre-tribulation teaching, they will be taken to heaven where they will receive a new immortal and imperishable body (1 Corinthians 15.50-58). They will pass before the judgment seat of Christ for rewards of ‘deeds done in the body’ (2 Corinthians 5.10). They will attend the glorious ‘marriage supper of the Lamb’ (Revelation 19.6-9) and then return with Christ in glorified bodies at His second coming to earth (Revelation 19.11-16).
In Revelation 19.14 we read of ‘the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.’ This refers to the glorified saints and the angelic armies who accompany the Lord Jesus at His return to earth. Note verse 8 which connects this verse to the saints gathered at the ‘marriage supper of the Lamb’: ‘And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.’ 1 Thessalonians 4.17 tells us that following the rapture, we will ‘always be with the Lord.’ Therefore we must remain with the Lord in glorified bodies during His Millennial reign on earth, after His second coming.
What about the tribulation saints?
One of the objections to the pre tribulation rapture is the question, ‘If the church has been taken out of the earth before the great tribulation, who will the antichrist have left to persecute?’ Both Daniel and Revelation show that there will be ‘saints’ who will be persecuted by the beast during the great tribulation (Daniel 7, Revelation 6.9-11, 7, 13, 20.4-6).
On this subject it is significant that the word ‘church’ is used several times in Revelation 1-3, describing the ‘things that are’ (Revelation 1.19) – i.e. the present experience of the church from the point of view of John as the writer of the book. In Revelation 4.1 John is caught up to heaven (an experience which parallels the rapture of the church) and is shown ‘the things which must take place after this’. The phrase ‘after this’ is used in Revelation 1.9, 4.1 and ‘after these things’ is used in Revelation 7.1. In all cases it appears to be describing events after the rapture of the church.
Revelation 7 tells us that there will be ‘saints’ (saved believers in the Lord Jesus) during the tribulation, but they are never referred to as the church. If we take the verses which refer to the tribulation saints together, there appears to be a difference between them and the church age saints of the present time.
Revelation 6.9-11 tells us that those slain for their faith during the tribulation are held ‘under the altar’ awaiting the Lord to ‘judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth.’ The Lord tells them to ‘rest a little while’ until the number of their fellow servants will be killed as they are. This ‘little while’ is the short period until the end of the tribulation and the return of Christ to the earth.
Revelation 7 tells us first about the 144,000 who are sealed by the Lord at the very beginning of the tribulation, before the judgements come on the earth (Revelation 7.1-3). They are made up of the tribes of Israel and are Jews, supernaturally converted to the Lord Jesus as Paul was and then sealed (protected) by the Lord. The chapter goes on to describe a great multitude who are made up of all nations who are specifically said to have ‘come out of the great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7.14). Both of these groups, Jews and Gentiles, appear to find salvation in the tribulation period, not before it. It is not stated specifically that the 144,000 saved Jews bring the great multitude of Gentiles to Christ, but that is the implication of the text.
It could also be that the rapture itself is a trigger to cause many to turn to Christ. It will be a worldwide event, which will have a huge impact on all nations. It appears that the global communications system will still be working at least at the beginning of the tribulation period, so the explanation for what has happened could be available to people all over the world.
Paul implies a connection between the Man of Sin (beast or antichrist) arising to power, and the rapture of the church when he writes: ‘He who restrains is taken out of the way’ (2 Thessalonians 2.7). He goes on to tell us: ‘The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan with all power, signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie, that they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.’ 2 Thessalonians 2.9-12. Revelation 13.6 says of the beast, he ‘opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.’ Perhaps a part of the lie and the strong delusion he brings is an alternative explanation of what happened at the rapture, denying the Lord Jesus as the one who has taken the believers and blaspheming ‘those who dwell in heaven.’ This could mean that he condemns those taken in the rapture as evil ones removed to make way for his new age programme.
Revelation 13.7-9 tells us: ‘It was granted to him (the beast / antichrist) to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.’ This strong persecution begins at the mid point of the tribulation (i.e. after 3 ½ years). During it many / most of those who come to believe in Jesus are killed. Incidentally this creates a problem for the mid tribulation rapture view, because if the rapture does happen at this point, there really would be no ‘saints’ for the antichrist to persecute.
Revelation 20.4 tells us that those who have died for their faith during the tribulation period will be resurrected after the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. ‘And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.’ Revelation 20.4
If we put all this together, there is a difference between those who are saved at the present time and the tribulation saints. Those saved throughout the church age will be gathered together at the rapture of the church before the tribulation begins. They will return with Christ at his second coming to the earth. The tribulation saints will be saved after the tribulation has begun. They will not be believers at the time of the rapture, so they will miss out on this. Those who are killed during the tribulation are held ‘under the altar’ after their death, awaiting resurrection which will take place after the return of Christ to the earth. Because they have believed in the Lord Jesus during the tribulation, they will have the right to reign with Him in His Millennial reign described in Revelation 20, being resurrected after His return to the earth.
Daniel 12 also describes how the Old Testament saints will be resurrected and take part in the reign of Messiah. This raises another interesting question on this subject, concerning the place of Israel in end time prophecy and the interval between the first and second coming of the Messiah implicit in Daniel 9.24-7 (the 70 weeks of years prophecy) and a number of other passages in the Hebrew Prophets, Hosea in particular. The church age fits into this interval and explains the time gap between the 69th week and the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. It also points to a pre-tribulation rapture of the church as I will explain in our next edition.
Whatever the future holds for any of us, our Lord Jesus has said, ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’ (Matthew 6: 34).
If post tribulation view is correct we should be looking for the antichrist to come and preparing for life and death in the great tribulation. The pre-tribulation view does not deny the likelihood of persecution for the church in the last days (see following article). However it does give us the hope of the glorious event of the Lord Jesus coming for his church. It encourages us to look ‘for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, ‘who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.’ Titus 2.11-14. (See also Philippians 3.20-21, 4.5, 1 Timothy 6:14, James 5:8). This is an encouragement to prepare ourselves by purifying ourselves in expectation of Jesus coming at any time (1 John 3.2): ‘Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.’ 1 John 3.2-3.
Jesus said, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:20). As we see signs of His soon coming we should ‘look up and lift up our heads because our redemption draws near.’ Luke 21.28.
Maranatha – may our Lord come soon!
Mobile Phone Addicts
We have long been familiar with drug and alcohol addiction. More recently we have heard of people who are addicted to pornography and gambling. Now there is ‘mobile phone addiction.’ The Daily Mail (15/8/16) featured an article by Libby Purves entitled ‘Phone Addict Britain’, which she describes as a national epidemic. ‘Millions of us spend up to five hours a day gawping at screens, oblivious of everything else. And it’s turning us into zombies.’
Ofcom, the communications regulator, warned last week that more than half of all our 50 million internet users say they think they are addicted to surfing the web. Their statistics reveal that the average Briton now spends five hours a day online. That’s one-third of waking hours. Huge numbers of those surveyed admitted neglecting housework, being late for work, and being so ‘hooked’ on phones that a quarter of them frequently walk into people in the street.
Libby Purves asks, ‘Is this progress? Or is it a kind of mental imprisonment, confining intelligence and attention inside a little screen? The screen draws our restless attention, picks it up, drops it, leads it on. It prevents our mind from ever landing for longer than a butterfly, or even remembering what we are seeing. This endless screen time devalues the very act of reading, rendering us less able to digest long, more thoughtful prose, whether it be fiction or fact. And the click-quick change of topic from frivolity to scaringly terrible world news is something quite new in human development. In fact, it all may be changing our brains. A 2012 study baldly stated that ‘internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision-making and cognitive control’.’
This affects our ability to relate to other people: one-third in the latest survey said it damaged relationships. In young people, doctors report symptoms of sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a constantly ‘hyperaroused’ nervous system. She concludes, ‘At any age, the restless surfing through the day weakens our ability to concentrate or to think things through. We’ve all felt it. So there we are: hooked, neglectful of rest and duties and other people. The young, in particular, admit that without their phone they panic and feel rudderless. … Friendship, empathy, real and present joys and dangers all recede. The living planet blurs and is reduced to pixels. It’s a sci-fi nightmare.’
The problem is not just one of wasted time. God, the Bible and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ are mostly screened out of this new digital world and all kinds of harmful spiritual influences factored in. One of the mobile phone crazes which Libby Purves draws attention to in her article is Pokémon Go, which some people spend hours each day playing. This is one of many online games, which have occult connections and can draw its users into contact with evil spirits. Here is some information I have put together from a number of articles on this subject, mainly ‘Behind Pokémon’ produced by Rema Marketing.
Pokémon, which means ‘Pocket Monsters’, was introduced by the Japanese consortium Nintendo as a game with cards in the mid 1990s. Since the release of the Pokémon Go app in July 2016 it has reached unbelievable heights as users search for these monsters with their smart phones. Sales of the video games have reached more than 200 million copies. The next generation games, Pokémon Sun and Moon, will be released in November 2016 and a live action film is planned to start production in 2017.
The Pokémon are basically a collection of monsters that players can use to fight one another. Pokémon are believed to have special powers and to share the world with humans. The idea of the game is to learn how to collect as many Pokémon as possible on the Pokémon app, train them, and use them against other people’s Pokémon by invoking the various abilities of each Pokémon creature.
The Pokémon song says:
‘I will travel across the land,
Searching far and wide
Each Pokémon to understand
The power that’s inside.
Gotta catch ‘em all!’
Pokémon was created by Satoshi Tajir who was inspired by the Japanese Shinto religion. There are close religious parallels with Shintoism, Japan’s oldest religion which teaches that the world is inhabited by thousands of kami, or gods. When offerings are made to them of food and incense, kami bestow good luck in business, studies, and health, but when disrespected, they can turn vindictive. This is how the Pokémon operate, illustrating the argument put forward by Anne Allison in her book Millennial Monsters, that popular culture phenomenon such as Pokémon demonstrate ‘a kind of ‘techno-animism’, which imbues digital technologies with a spirit or soul’.
The Pokémon monsters have supernatural powers and can grow or evolve. This is facilitated by the Energy characters that ‘make Pokémon bigger and more powerful.’ The source of this power is the pantheistic occult idea of hidden psychic powers within, ‘the power that’s inside’ as quoted in the Pokémon mantra at the beginning of this article.
Rema Marketing has produced an analysis of the connections between Pokémon and the occult realm. Here are some of its observations: ‘Two of the most sought after Pokémon are Abra and Kadabra who have psychic magic powers. Abra ‘uses its ability to read minds, it will identify impending danger and teleport to safety.’ There are occult symbols on Kadabra. His face is an inverted pentagram (a familiar satanic symbol) with a red star on his forehead (symbol of communism, with its desire to destroy faith in God and create an antichrist world government), a lightning bolt symbol on his chest (similar to the lightning bolt of the Nazi SS) and he is giving the satanic salute with his left hand. ‘Abracadabra’ has long been associated with magic powers and has Aramaic roots meaning ‘as I speak, I create’, reflecting the occult belief of shaping the universe according to the practitioner’s will.
Another example is Haunter, a ghost with the ability to levitate and haunt others. Its more evolved form is Gengar which has more attributions one would find with an actual ghost (lowering the temperature around itself and laying curses on others). It appears the purpose of the Pokémon phenomenon is to make contact with these monsters. They can then be used for their powers and they have a mutual contract with the player / magician. As people seek to ‘understand the power that’s inside’ they are being conditioned to accept the idea that mankind can evolve into beings with supernatural powers. Particularly disturbing is the concept that children are being trained to ‘capture’ demon like creatures, train and control them and use them against others. Haunter can hypnotize, eat a person’s dreams, and drain their energy. Abra reads minds. Kadabra emits negative energy that harms others. Gastly induces sleep. Gengar laughs at peoples’ fright. Nidoran uses poison. The psychic type of Pokémon is among the strongest in the game. Charmander, Haunter, Ivysaur, Kadabra, and many more evolve. People are taught to use these creatures to do their will by invoking coloured energy cards, fights, and commands. Much of it is very similar to the occult and eastern mysticism. It conditions those who play the game into accepting occult and evolutionary principles.
Occult expert Bill Schoebelen has written ‘Pokémon players engage in all sorts of activities that would be considered deeply occult if they were done in real life. Like many video games Pokémon is riddled with occult concepts. Concepts like ‘magical stones’, teleportation, ghosts, all seeing eye, psychic power and using spirits to achieve results in the real world are all given in this game realm. All this is contrary to scripture. The Pokémon games and comics teach what I call a magic worldview that is completely opposed to the Bible. The magic worldview is the idea, common to all occult belief systems that there is not really any sovereign Deity over creation. Instead creation is ruled by a series of occult laws. In a sense the universe is like a cosmic vending machine. As long as you put in the right coin (ritual or spell) you automatically receive the right result.’
Pokémon is just one of many ways in which young people are being influenced towards an occult worldview. We have Harry Potter books being read by millions and introducing a world of wizardry and magic spells. A high percentage of cartoons on children’s TV channels have occult themes. If all this stirs them up, then a new app called ‘Headspace for Kids’ is being popularised. Anna Maxted, writing in the Daily Telegraph (25/7/16), tells how ‘Mindfulness’ can de-stress your children and calm down, relax and help them sleep well at night. Sounds like just what every parent needs. Until you look into it and find out that Mindfulness is based on a Zen Buddhist meditation concept practice.
This is already being used in US schools for children as young as five and is now being proposed for use in schools in Britain. Marcia Montenegro has written an article ‘Mindfulness goes to Kindergarten.’ She links Mindfulness to Zen Buddhist philosophy, which teaches that reality as we see and experience it is not, in fact, reality. Mindfulness involves altering one’s thinking and outlook via Buddhist mindfulness meditation.
The article states that children are taught to focus on their breathing, ‘an age-old exercise in finding calm and balance – or their ‘centre.’’ One photograph shows a mother and child sitting in lotus position with eyes closed. Another shows two young children (about age 6) sitting side-by-side in a lotus position as practiced in yoga, with eyes closed. Clearly, there is more than just breathing going on. The breathing technique is part and parcel of the mindfulness meditation. Mindful meditation involves breathing a certain way, which brings one into an altered state where critical thinking and judgment are suspended and one can tap into the inner chi force which is said to be at the centre of our being.
Buddhism absorbed much from Taoism, which sprang from early Chinese shamanistic assumption of a universal force, chi, that infuses the world. Controlling breath was part of controlling and balancing chi, thus achieving health and longevity (in Taoist thinking). This idea of the breath as centring is very similar to the Taoist teaching that one must base one’s self in the flow of chi and thus balance the two forces of yin and yang. In Taoism yin and yang are seen as the impersonal, opposing forces which flow through the universe. When these are out of balance there is disorder in our being.
According to the Bible at the heart of our being is a sinful human nature which we need to be delivered from by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?’ Jeremiah 17.9. ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man.’ Matthew 15.19-20. We find God’s peace and order in our lives, not by looking within, but accepting salvation from outside of ourselves, by inviting the Lord Jesus to come into our lives by faith: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with Me.’ Revelation 3.20. He promises to give us a new heart and a new spirit as we are born again of the Holy Spirit through accepting salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Bible shows us that there are only two sources of supernatural power that we can experience on this earth. The first and only reliable source is from God Himself, our Creator and Redeemer who sends His Holy Spirit to dwell in all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. The second source is from Satan and his demons, who are created beings in rebellion against God. Satan’s purpose is to cut us off from the true God and hold us in bondage to elemental spirits, who are in fact fallen angels or demons, under his command. There are no other sources! New Age and occult arts deceive people with the idea that there is an ‘impersonal neutral cosmic type force’ that we can all tap into to draw supernatural power from. Those who open themselves up to this force are really tapping into and drawing supernatural power from demonic spirits who are hiding behind the scenes.
From the biblical point of view the altered state of consciousness which Mindfulness aims at is spiritually dangerous because it opens the practitioner up to evil spirits. The universal ‘chi force’ which is being sought for at the ‘centre’ is in fact under the control of the forces Paul wrote about in Ephesians 6.12: ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places.’ The Pokemon are not just ‘pocket monsters’ but can easily turn into ‘pocket demons’ leading people to the wrong source of the ‘power within.’
The Bible says to ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22:6). ‘Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil’. (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). 2 Chronicles 33:6 speaks of the evil of King Manasseh, ‘And he made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger.’
God was not being a killjoy when He commanded the people of Israel not to get involved with the occult: ‘When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who… practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord.’ (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)
Some of these practitioners believe they are drawing this supernatural power from good spirits who mean them no harm. The Bible tells us that Satan and his demons can appear to us as ‘angels of light’ (2 Corinthians 11.14), in other words, as good spirits, all with the intention of helping us spiritually grow and progress in this life’s journey. The reason that God gives such strict warnings about engaging in any of these occult activities is because these occult activities are ‘door openers’ to the dark side, to Satan and all of his demons.
Paul wrote: ‘Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.’ 1 Timothy 4.1. This is happening in a multitude of ways in the world today and preparing people for the coming Antichrist and the False Prophet who will bring in a worldwide antichrist religion in the Great Tribulation.
This will bring the judgement of God on the world as we read of in the Book of Revelation. When the judgements of God strike the world, the majority of mankind will not ‘repent of the works of their hands … And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts’ (Revelation 9.20-21). This scripture indicates that in the last days these things will be rife in the earth, with people being conditioned to behave in this way. If you took murder and violence, sorcery (the occult), sexual immorality and theft (crime) out of popular entertainment today there would not be much left. All of this is bringing the judgement of God upon the world and preparing for the Great Tribulation period.
Now is the day of salvation and if we will turn to Jesus as Saviour and Lord, He will deliver us from the power of evil. Today we see gross spiritual darkness covering the earth and Satan seeking control of humanity. However there is a greater power available to all those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus, the power which raised Jesus from the dead and is able to give us a new heart and a new spirit which is able to deliver us from the wrath to come. The final conflict between the power of God and the power of Satan will reach its climax at the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth when Satan’s forces will be utterly routed and Jesus will take up His rightful role as King of kings and Lord of lords and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ / Messiah and He shall reign forever and ever. Revelation 11.15. Now is the time to get on Jesus’ side if you want to see the really exciting spiritual action!
Russia and China – back to persecution of the church
Throughout most of the 20th century the major source of persecution of Christianity was atheistic Communism, centred in the two great Communist powers, the Soviet Union and China. Russia’s revolutionary leader, Lenin wrote in his pamphlet ‘Socialism and Religion’ that the Communist Party should lead the fight against religion in general and Christianity in particular, aiming to create a ‘paradise on earth’ through Communism and destroy the idea of a ‘paradise in heaven’. Of course the paradise on earth did not appear as Lenin and his successor, Stalin, brought in the red terror, which produced a totalitarian dictatorship complete with secret police, dreadful prison camps known as gulags and suppression of ideas contrary to the ruling Communist ideology.
In 1929 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union brought in the ‘laws on religious associations’ which ruled that churches must be under state control, forbidding the printing and distribution of Christian literature, including the Bible, any evangelism taking place outside of the church building and teaching of young people under 18 anything about God and the Bible. This resulted in the formation of unregistered or underground churches, which did not accept state control and wished to be loyal to Jesus and preach the Gospel. Many pastors and members of such churches experienced severe persecution, imprisonment and even death for their faith. Similarly the revolution in China in 1948 brought the Communist Party to power under Mao Tse Tung, resulting in severe persecution of the Chinese Church.
The latter part of the 20th century saw great changes happening to the Communist world, beginning with Gorbachev’s Perestroika in the 1980s, liberalising the Soviet Union and opening it up to new ideas, including a greater freedom for Christians. In 1991 the Soviet Union itself was dissolved and 70 years of Communist rule in Russia came to an end. This led to a great opportunity for the Gospel to be spread in Russia and Eastern Europe as restrictions on freedom of religion were lifted.
In China the Communist Party remained in power, but the hard line Maoist regime gave way to a new form of Chinese Communism which actually became more Capitalist than Communist. This turned the country from being an economically backward country cut off from most of the rest of the world, to an industrial power house, now the world’s second largest economy, playing a major part in the global trading system. In the process China’s Christians experienced much greater freedom, with a massive spread of Christianity in the country. Chinese Christians now outnumber members of the Communist Party and at present rates of growth China is set to become the country with the highest number of Christians in the world by 2030, approximately 250 million.
However there are signs now that freedom for Christians is closing down in both Russia and China. In July 2016 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure punishing any kind of religious evangelisation outside of churches, which some observers have called one of the most restrictive moves in ‘post-Soviet history.’ The law blocks the sharing of faith in any place that is not a government-sanctioned house of worship. Under the new law, foreign missionaries will not be allowed to speak at churches unless they have a work permit from Russian authorities; any kind of discussion about God with non-believers would be considered missionary activity and punishable by law; and religious activities even in private homes will not be allowed. What is more, anyone from the age of 14 found to be preaching will be subject to prosecution, and every citizen is required to report religious activity to the authorities, or face punishment him or herself.
Hannu Haukka, president of Great Commission Media Ministries, said: ‘This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929. At that time confession of faith was permitted only inside government sanctioned church buildings. Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history. … The law will send the church back into Soviet era Communist persecution.’
The Chinese government is increasingly working towards suppressing Christianity as far as possible: tearing down church crosses, destroying buildings and arresting politically-incorrect Christians. While not going back to the kind of severe persecutions which happened under Mao Tse Tung, the government is using a more subtle approach, trying to convert the Christian church into a subservient ‘tool’ of the State. In April Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Communist Party members that they must be ‘unyielding Marxist atheists’ who will command Christians and other religious groups in the country.
In China the church is divided into the officially sanctioned churches (the Three Self Churches) and the so called ‘house churches’ (some of which are in fact large congregations). A BBC News report by John Sudworth in March showed how the government runs the official churches and controls the appointment of its own priests. Like Pastor Wu Weiqing from Beijing’s Haidian Church, who said, ‘We have to remember first of all we are citizens of this country. And we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. That comes second.’ When asked if Jesus would be comfortable with the Communist Party government in China, Weiqing replied: ‘Absolutely. I think so.’
Sudworth notes that the comment is a perfect illustration of the Communist Party’s latest grand plan for religious belief. Over the past two years, the authorities say they have been trying to develop their own unique version of Christianity, ‘a Chinese Christian theology’ according to one top official. Such a theology needs to be compatible with China’s political development which, it seems clear, really means subservient to it. Seminary students for official churches in China are being forced to live under ‘absolute obedience’ to the Communist Party and put the State ahead of God. China Aid correspondent Guo Baosheng stated: ‘It is obvious the seminary has degenerated into absolute obedience to the Communist Party’s so-called Christian pastors.’ Many of the official churches have CCTV cameras facing the pulpits, to check the sermons for political unorthodoxy. The Three-Self Church, does not permit the teaching of teenagers or children by bringing them to religious services. Children younger than 18 are not allowed to receive any religious education.
This approach from the government leaves Christians with only two options: comply and compromise your faith to please the powers that be, or go underground – risking arrest and detention – in order to seek first the Kingdom of God. The typical underground church is held in a private home cell group and with as much secrecy as possible. In one such cell, a member named Xu bluntly stated: ‘Official churches are in fact just political institutes,’ he says. ‘It is impossible for us to leave Jesus and follow the Party.’
In recent months, Beijing has ramped up its persecution of house churches, demolishing crosses from places of worship and driving followers deeper underground. The persecutions don’t stop at church levels – they cut across wider aspects of life, targeting Christians for discrimination and penalties in various ways. Chinese students attending a Christian house church in the central Guizhou province are being threatened by government authorities who are warning them that if they don’t stop going to the church, they will be barred from going to college. The house church members have also reportedly been pressured into signing a document vowing that they will not take minors into the church. Additionally, parents have been told that they will be sued if they bring their children to church, while the children themselves will not be allowed to take the college entrance exam or be admitted into the army.
Xi Lian, professor of World Christianity at Duke University, warns that if Chinese authorities do, indeed, fear the rise of a robust, defiant Christianity in China, they should think carefully about the strategy they use to address it. He thinks Christianity is ‘here to stay,’ and that its membership and influence will only expand. ‘The harsher the state’s treatment of Christianity, the more vigorously and unpredictably it will grow,’ he said.
This growing opposition to evangelical Christianity is similar to developments in many parts of the world, including the western world. This will increase the nearer we get to the return of the Lord and is itself one of the signs of the last days.
In Luke 21.12-17 Jesus said: ’But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you … You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake … You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.’ In 2 Timothy 3.12-13, having described the ‘perilous times’ that will come in the last days, Paul writes, ‘Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.’
Nevertheless the true church of Jesus Christ will stand and continue to grow as Jesus Himself clearly states, ‘I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Matthew 16.18).
Signs of the Times.
The Church of England spent a whole week of its General Synod meeting at York University holding ‘shared conversations’ on the future of LGBT (homosexual) rights within the church, aiming to tackle divisions in the church over homosexuality. Andrea Williams of Christian Concern attended and reported on it. She described the ‘shared conversations’ as an example of the way in which the church has ‘unashamedly drunk deeply from the cultural wells of moral relativity and undermining the Word of God. Its moral principles are shifting like sand and its contract with the culture is changing as social interests change. But the church is not a democracy, a social club, nor a political party that is called to be taking the temperature of culture to determine its course. It has one manifesto – Scripture – and one platform – the Lordship of Jesus Christ. St. Paul does not convene a Synod to discuss the merits of sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness in the church, he called people to repent and put out the unrepentant and offending parties (1 Cor. 5). … The ‘shared conversation’ process itself was an ill-conceived, pluralistic exercise that falsely placed LGBTI activism and the homosexual agenda on a level playing field with the plain teaching of Scripture and the historic teaching of the church which the bishops swore to uphold.’
In reality the ‘plain teaching of scripture’ was largely rejected, replaced with a relativistic morality that is subject to the ‘politically correct’ views of the liberal establishment. Criticism of homosexual practice was dismissed as ‘homophobic’ and bigoted. Agreeing with the prevailing secular ideology of inclusivity of all forms of sexuality was considered more important than biblical teaching on the sanctity of marriage and the sinfulness of sexual activity outside of marriage, including homosexual practice. As soon as the talks finished, a statement was issued by the LGBTI Mission coalition celebrating the ‘conversations’ and calling on the House of Bishops to ‘bring forward bold proposals to move towards LGBTI equality’. By this they mean the church should treat homosexual relationships as equally valid in the eyes of God to the marriage relationship between a man and a woman.
Andrea commented: ‘I have participated in the shared conversations, but sadly I am left with little confidence that this process can prevent a sharp division. One vocal group in synod calls what is sin, holiness. Of course, we can and we must relate to one another in our shared humanity, but we can’t stay together if the church wants to bless what is not holy. The fundamental question at stake is whether the church belongs to Jesus Christ or whether it belongs to the revisionists who would reshape it in the image of today’s cultural norms. If the church is to flourish and be a true blessing to society, she must repent and rededicate herself to Jesus Christ, trusting his teaching, example and the rescue from sin that He freely offers.’
In a way this process is similar to the Chinese Communist Party which wishes to control the official church in China and use it for its purposes, as described in our previous article. In Britain the homosexual lobby has been very successful in imposing its agenda on parliament, the education system and the media. Now it is seeking to impose it on the church. This agenda is fundamentally antichristian, and accepting it means reshaping the church in a way which denies the teaching of the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ. The result is division between those who accept this process and go into apostasy and those who wish to stay loyal to the Lord and have to separate from the compromised official church. The true church must call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and teach people to live according to His commandments. That needs to begin with the Church of England herself, for ‘it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God’ (1 Peter 4:17).’
Where is Turkey going?
In July parts of the Turkish army staged a coup President Erdoğan, whose growing autocratic rule has eroded the secular nature of the Turkish state. The coup failed and resulted in a crackdown on dissent by Erdoğan who described it as ‘a gift from God’ because it would allow him now to ‘cleanse the army’. Army officers, judges and teachers have been purged or sacked for alleged involvement with a group the government claims is responsible for the coup. Much of the public has rallied to support Erdoğan which has given him the opportunity to push for a change to the political system centralising power around himself as president, rather than the parliament. This continues an autocratic trend that he has led in recent years.
Erdoğan has blamed Fethullah Gulen, who was a former key ally of his and is now living in exile in the USA of orchestrating the coup, using his contacts to develop a ‘parallel structure’ to overthrow the state. Gulen in turn has accused Erdoğan of staging the coup in order to crack down on his enemies and give himself absolute power.
Turkey is a NATO member and has become a key player in the EU’s attempt to cut down the number of migrants coming into Europe from the Middle East. It remains a candidate for EU accession. Turkey’s secular constitution has been backed by the army, but Erdoğan has been gradually replacing this with an Islamist agenda along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood. Some have claimed Erdoğan is behaving like an Ottoman sultan. He has said he would like to re-establish the Ottoman Empire and expand Islamic domination into Europe.
Turkey is a strategic bridge between Europe and the Middle East. Geographically it is situated in the eastern leg of the Roman Empire (Daniel 2.33), which once had its capital in Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The Byzantine Empire which succeeded the Roman Empire also had its capital in Constantinople / Byzantium from where it ruled over much of the Middle East until its fall to the invading Muslim Turks in 1453. The Muslim Ottoman Empire then ruled over much of the Middle East, including Palestine until Jerusalem fell to the British in 1917. It also expanded into the Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and part of Romania. At its height it reached the gates of Vienna
Pergamum, ‘where Satan’s throne is’ (Revelation 3.13), is in modern Turkey. This has led some prophecy students to believe that the antichrist will emerge out of Turkey and the revived Ottoman Empire will be the seat of antichrist. I am not convinced of this and still hold to the EU as the more likely base for the rise of antichrist. What is really interesting is the fact that Togarmah, one of the countries in the Gog and Magog alliance prophesied to come against Israel in the latter days (Ezekiel 38.6), is associated with the geographic region of modern Turkey.
The Gog and Magog alliance is led by the power to the uttermost north (Russia) in alliance with a number of countries including Persia (Iran). In recent times Turkey has found itself on the opposite side to Russia and Iran over Syria, where Turkey wishes to see the overthrow of Assad’s regime, while Russia and Iran have intervened to keep Assad in power. Turkey is Sunni Muslim while Iran is Shiite Muslim, another major cause of division between these powers. However according to the Gatestone Institute, there are changes taking place, partly as a result of the failed coup. This caused Erdoğan to distance himself from America and to look to Russia as an ally to protect Turkey’s interests in the region. The big stumbling block preventing Turkey from having better relations with Russia was Russian support of the Assad regime in Syria. But in recent months the Kremlin has hinted that keeping Assad in power is not its primary concern. Rather its main objective in Syria is to protect its strategically-important military bases in the country.
This has led to suggestions that, in return for building closer relations with Turkey, Moscow might be prepared to do a deal whereby Assad is removed from power and Russia’s military interests in the country are safeguarded. Russian forces would remain in Syria to enforce a peace deal and fight against IS, joined by Turkish forces, which have also crossed over into Syria in recent months. If that outcome could be achieved, then Turkey and Russia would be able to forge a powerful partnership, one that would pose a serious threat to Western interests in the Middle East and beyond, especially if their next step concerns Israel.
Russia has proposed a new initiative in convening a Middle East peace conference between Israel and the Palestinians. Turkey too is interested in involving itself in this issue, along with Iran. With all this in mind we ask ‘Are we witnessing the beginning of the alliance of nations coming against Israel in the last days Gog and Magog war of Ezekiel 38?’
Which spiritual power for Jerusalem?
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, adopted a resolution in June that required the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to be referred to in all official documents as Al Aqsa and the Haram al Sharif (Muslim name for the Temple Mount). It also said that the site should be returned to its ‘historic status quo’ which existed before the 1967 war. This means exclusive Muslim control and a ban on Jews and other non-Muslims from setting foot in the Temple Mount complex.
The Jewish Temple Mount Faithful protested vigorously to UNESCO claiming the Temple Mount for the people of Israel and the building of a third Temple in Jerusalem as a ‘place of prayer every man.’ They called for the Muslims to vacate the premises and ‘return it to its rightful owner,’ saying this will have a central role in preserving world peace and bringing salvation come to all people and nations.’
Powerful forces in the UN and the Islamic world are totally opposed to the Temple Mount Faithful’s goal of rebuilding a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. In fact the Muslim Wakf that currently administers the site forbids non Muslims (Jews in particular) from praying there.
Another development in a different direction is the Mekudeshet event which took place in Jerusalem in September, under the title ‘Amen-A House of Prayer For All Believers’. This was an inter-faith event for Christians, Jews and Muslims to bring together the world’s three major faiths ‘to dialogue, study, sing and pray together in one house of worship.’ ‘It is nothing short of a miracle that between four walls, we will inaugurate a temporary home for the three religions that share Jerusalem and for all those who wish to dwell under the wings of the Almighty,’ said Mekudeshet Artistic Director Itay Mautner.
At the same time over 20 religious leaders arrived from east Asia for a four-day summit in Jerusalem. Participants came from countries such as China, South Korea, India, and Japan, representing spiritual traditions of Taoism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. They came face to face with Arab and Israeli religious leaders of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The group toured holy sites and discussed current events including global warming, the environment, the status of religion in contemporary society, the role of religion in peacemaking and more.
‘Our spiritual worlds are very close to each other in that they are not missionary religions which makes them very open and tolerant,’ Rabbi Daniel Sperber, a professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University and Orthodox rabbi. ’I feel a unity and camaraderie between our peoples, more so than with the western world and Christianity.’
All this is reminiscent of Pope Francis’ recent move to gather Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus together in prayer. In a video available on the Internet he has advocated what sounds like a one world religion:http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/57955-pope-francis-prayer-video-smacks-of-one-world-religion . This shows him receiving a demonic statue from a Buddhist and bending down to pray according to Muslim tradition. ‘Many think differently, feel differently, seeking God or meeting God in different ways,’ he says. ‘In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty we have for all: We are all children of God.’
Here’s the problem: You can seek God in many ways, but there’s only one way to the Father. There is only one way to meet God, and His name is Jesus Christ. To even hint at anything else causes confusion at best and deceives many at worst. Events like Amen are a tool in the enemy’s hand to dilute the one true and living God’s gospel of salvation.
The interesting question is whether something along these lines is leading to the antichrist Temple which will house the ‘abomination of desolation’ prophesied for the last days in Matthew 24.15, 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 11. Certainly this event and the issue of who owns the Temple Mount is another sign of end time events taking place in our world focussing on Jerusalem, which lines up with Zechariah 12.3: ‘Jerusalem shall be a burdensome stone, burdening all nations’. In the end the one who will resolve this question is neither UNESCO, nor Islam, nor the Temple Mount Faithful, nor the world religions coming together, but Yeshua the Messiah. He has come once as the suffering servant to die in Jerusalem as a sacrifice for our sins in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53 and He is coming back again to Jerusalem to fulfil the prophecies of the reigning King Messiah (Isaiah 2.1-4, Zechariah 14, Revelation 20). Zechariah 12.10 tells us that the people of Jerusalem will find salvation in Him at the end of days, when ‘they will look on Me whom they have pierced. Yes they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.’