Friday, November 23, 2012

Sleeping at the Apocalypse


The book that was placed last in the canon is called The Revelation, or The Apocalypse. Although it contains a multitude of prophetic revelations both plain and hidden in symbolism, its main theme is the coming of Jesus Christ back to this earth. It outlines the climax of all human history, and it sounds the death knell for the unredeemed both living and dead. With alarming language and some horrific imagery, this book reveals some future events that are beyond our imagination and even when taken as metaphorical should strike fear in everyone’s heart. This is no Dante wannabe, this is a coming reality which will shake the earth.

The word “revelation” is the word “apocalypse” in the Greek. My Greek professor explained it like this. A man has keys in his front pocket. You can see the bulge they make, and you can hear them as he walks. But when he reaches down into his pocket and pulls them out and opens his hand with the keys in it, that is an apocalypse. He has revealed his keys openly. And this wonderful, mysterious, and unsettling book is rightly called the Apocalypse, or The Revelation. And though it reveals many things with metaphorical language and shadows and glimpses, the first verse states the unquestioned them. This is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Rev.1: 1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

I do not profess to know with specificity all the events and players mentioned in this book, and I doubt anyone has it all figured out. But like many prophecies, it teaches them in somewhat hidden language and with many kinds of literal metaphors. But regardless of the minute details, the overarching theme is evident. God will judge all creatures upon this earth, and Jesus Christ will come again. And in that context the inhabitants of the earth will suffer greatly with all kinds of divine judgments. Do not mistakenly believe that those of us who extend grace and believe in nonviolence in this gospel age are ignorant to the coming wrath of God which will be poured out with a vengeance upon this earth.

Jude tells us that some will be saved through the fear of God. And if we believe even the most gracious interpretation of this prophetic book we must feel a sense of foreboding and apprehension. This is no prophetic game, and this is no “pin the tail on the antichrist” recreation. This is as serious as it can get. This is the line between eternal death and eternal life. No one can escape. No one can hide. All of us will be a part of this either upon this earth or from the perspective of our Redeemer. The Lamb of God will return as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

This prophetic chronicle warns of a time of trouble which eclipses anything the earth has ever seen or ever will. While the world plays all kinds of games this horrific benediction approaches. Even to a casual observer who pauses for a moment the signs grow increasingly ominous. We in the west live in a cocoon insulated by entertainment, sex, greed, and the consuming influence of earthly power and politics. This is now the season for an obscene amount of shopping and gluttony all wrapped up in some innocuous religious sentimentality. We love holidays regardless if they are Biblical or not. These man made observances that provide platforms for many kinds of sin and spiritual witchcraft are treated as golden calves. And even if they were aligned with New Testament exhortations, there is little solemnity and much unbridled hedonism.

But while we party and play the world continues to march toward an unimaginable prophetic cliff. Men talk of financial cliffs, budgetary cliffs, economic cliffs, but even the church is silent about the monstrous cliff of divine intervention and wrath. Talk shows chat about nothing; men and women gain popularity; governmental systems are worshiped; morals are now political sides; and yet the only fear is the fear of losing wealth. The evangelical church is a well organized picnic designed to make people happy and feeling good about themselves. And Christian leaders have become idols with great and swelling followings while their bank accounts swell. And even if the church does talk about prophecy it is never with a palpable sense of urgency and eminent dread. Compare this: During the primary season candidates castigate each other so deeply that you could never expect their support if the other won. But as soon as the party nominates a certain candidate, the other politicians express their full support for the person they recently denounced. All of us are shocked by that kind of disingenuousness. And because their rhetoric is so easily changed we deem politicians as liars. The whole system is a lie.

But listen as a preacher talks about the end times. He reads certain unsettling portions of Scripture, and he suggests that the signs are growing exponentially. He eloquently communicates his thoughts on the state of the world and even gives a kind of warning to his listeners about the coming judgment of God. But as soon as the “service” is over, that same preacher smiles and shakes hands and greets people as if the performance is now over. And just like his congregation he hurries to the restaurant to eat sumptuously and enjoy some light hearted fellowship. Now I ask you, does he really believe what he just said from the pulpit?

I share once again an example I believe illustrates the point. A man sits and watches television in his home. He hears a knock at his front door and he lets in his neighbor. The neighbor sits with this man and they both watch the football game. They chit chat about their lawns, the current fiscal situation, and what the local football team should do to guarantee a playoff berth. They eat a sandwich and drink a beer. But without taking his eyes off the game, the neighbor says without raising his voice,

“By the way, Fred, as I walked up your driveway I noticed your back bedroom was engulfed in flames.”

Now I ask you, would the owner of the house even for a moment believe his neighbor? In fact, does the neighbor even believe his own words? Surely it must be a joke. With such a statement, and if that statement was in fact true, wouldn’t that almost always result in some behavior out of the norm? And if a preacher suggests that Christ’s return is eminent and full of God’s wrath, wouldn’t that be accompanied by some kind of emotion that would alter his normal everyday behavior if he indeed believed it?

Listen, I know we cannot live completely undone every single moment of our lives. I realize we are called to care for our families and have some relaxation and even some light hearted fellowship. But that is not my point here. Why is there never a day or a week in which we are so broken over the wrath to come and the plight of the lost that we lose our appetites and are driven to boldly witness to friends and family and strangers? Why are we never driven to elongated seasons of fasting and prayer? Why do we weep over a movie or a dog and yet shed no tears over eternal souls? And how in God’s dear name can a preacher preach about the coming judgment (if they ever do) and step down from his speech and exhibit the same emotion, the same behavior, and generally the same demeanor as he did last week? And after sharing the horror that he says is on its way soon, how can he, at least that week, go and play golf, watch television, and enjoy lunch times with his preacher pals within a spirit of gaiety?

Oh, but the answer is very simple. He really doesn’t believe it. There is a vast difference between believing a doctrine and believing a truth. One is of man and the other is of God. One is used to support your orthodoxy while the other breaks you. What have we done? We have created a doctrinal monster which affects our lives so little that we can live unremarkably within the kingdom of darkness. We have made political issues more important than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Year after year we celebrate the same holidays as do the heathens and feel so sentimental about Jesus. People like Fred Phelps will travel across the nation to spread hate and yet we can live decades without witnessing to anyone.

And the church writes books and produces movies about the coming tribulation period but they afford little more than prophetic entertainment while providing wonderful financial compensation for their authors. Bring back a handful of early church believers or a few martyrs and ask them to assess the current western church and they may likely conclude there is no western church at all. How can a believer wait outside a department store for many hours the day after Thanksgiving but never spend hours praying into the night? The whole world is aflame with sin and hurdling toward a Christless eternity and yet the church comes and goes with such predicable ambivalence? Can we even kid ourselves anymore because we surely are not fooling God.

With the Middle East smoldering; with the world on the verge of economic collapse; with violence permeating the world; with nuclear weapons spreading into unstable hands; with all kinds of curious weather events; and yet the church continues to paddle downstream and enjoy the festivities of this life. This is not, nor has it ever been, the true faith called Christianity. Giving presents to each other and suggesting that celebrates His birth? Presenting His Second Coming in a doctrinal museum? Accumulating debt alongside the unsaved? Divorcing at a rate that competes with the unregenerate? Building great edifices mortgaged by the heathen? Pledging allegiance to a system of antichrist? Visiting monuments erected to the glory of men? What kind of faith is that?

And still the wrath of God hangs over this world only delayed by the redemptive patience of God. No wonder Jesus asked if He would find faith upon His return. Instead of hanging our heads in shame and seeking repentance with all our beings we long to be stroked and reassured of our intrinsic worth. We enjoy seminar after seminar and book after book and Cd after Cd on how to have a happy marriage, and yet where are the voluminous seminars about fasting, praying, and having a self denying devotion to Jesus? Forget about seminars about fasting and praying, where is fasting and praying even practiced?

Even some heathen cultures and tribes sense and predict some sort of cataclysmic end to all this. They are correct in principle but without the only answer. It is all too tragic. The apocalypse is upon us but still it has no affect on us. And if the righteous are scarcely saved, what will happen to the lost? Oh can we ever regain a sense of the eternal and a real and tangible sense of the impending doom? Is it all just some religious Dungeons and Dragons, or is it a coming reality with a force unknown to us in this life? I certainly am not the example nor is my life what should be emulated. However I am a voice that speaks some uncomfortable truths about us all.

This is the end. In the words of Jesus spoken to Judas, “What you are going to do go and do it quickly”. Haven’t we dipped our ladle into the pleasures of this world enough to satisfy our earthly lusts yet? Must we have more of the same? Doesn’t your heart yearn to be released from the prison of the redundant here and now and allowed to soar into the realm of God’s Spirit? Are you not even concerned about your own soul, or have the comforting voices of religious sirens convinced you that there is nothing about which to be concerned?

The devil held a meeting with all his wicked demons. He wanted input as to how best to deceive God’s people and the unsaved people alike. One demon spoke up and said,

“Let’s tell them there is no heaven!”

All the demons applauded. The devil thought is was a good idea as well. Another demon shouted,

“Let’s tell them there is no hell!”

The demonic forces erupted in loud and sustained applause. The devil thought that was even better. But one demon stood up and shouted out,

“Let’s tell them there is no hurry!!!”

The devil rose to his feet and proclaimed that as the best strategy.

And so it is today. Push the snooze button once again, there is no hurry.


Anonymous said...

It is shocking how complacent we are. We know, yet we continue to celebrate, marry, eat and drink and be merry.

For me personally, I try to keep the perspective that we are possibly living in the last days, but get preoccupied with distractions of life. Yet, I feel that tug or guilt of not preparing enough for the eventuality of an approaching apocalypse. And I know I must.

I try to justify it this way. I am middle-aged, unemployable, suffer with any number of chronic things day in and day out. It's easier for someone who is feeling life's defeat to see the signs around them. If I were energetic, strong, capable, and was working full-time, I'd probably have money to spend to travel, do things that keep the mind occupied, busy. I might miss the signs, being caught up in the expectations of societal norms. I hope, as a christian I would keep myself occupied diligently in spiritual matters, but would I eventually yield to temptations?

For the majority of folks who are enjoying retirement, or enjoying good health, or earning a good salary, it's very hard to want to say, "Even so, come Lord Jesus". I recall in church how the elderly were so eager for His coming. The youth were hoping His coming would wait a little.

I may be wrong, but it seems christian families who are financially set, comfortable, and enjoying life do not want to discuss the topic of Revelation. I recall my husband once asking a priest about his take on the Book of Revelation, and his answer was that the clergy cared not to teach on it, as it was allegorical and too complex and hard to understand. Sometimes when we are the head, not the tail, we want to put the plugs in our ears and say, Lalalalala, because a coming judgment ruins our advantage. And so it is with all denominational leaders. They love their ministries, jobs, and feel fulfilled achieving, building, growing, prospering.

For those who are tired, oppressed, depressed, weary, burdened, pilgrims of this world, spiritually homeless, it's easier to want to see the wrath happen sooner than later.

It's so true that we are all (eager or not eager) engulfed in our feelings and worldly affairs and are not being warned, or spiritually prepared by pastors. I don't know what the answer is, to those of us living in rich countries. How do we reconcile listening to sermons about the tribulations to come and then go out and shop til we drop? Even if there are those who refuse to live luxuriously and live moderately, how do we live the gospel of the last days, how do we witness to others as though we are living in the last days? It's almost impossible to penetrate through the minds of people who live in a place where we have need of nothing. It's like Jesus said, it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Too like Paul said, we are miserable men. We want to do the right thing, but are restrained by our carnal selves. Should we come out of her and move or can we effectually witness for Christ right where we are? I ask myself that question every day.

Shannon said...

Rick, last sentence:

"And so it is today. Push the snooze button once again, there is no hurry."

May I ask what you are suggesting we do in order to draw the unsaved to desire salvation?
Jesus said He will build His church.

John 3:19 explains why the many do not get saved.

John 3:19-21 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.

Rick Frueh said...

If you are suggesting that living a holy life, or being completely committed to prayer, or being surrendered to world wide missions does not matter as it applies to evangelism, then I would respectfully and strongly disagree. God has always used human vessels, and when the church has experienced revival and a deeper surrender to Christ the kingdom of darkness has been affected.
That is no coincidence. If our lives do not matter, than what does? (For the record I frimly believe in free will.)

Shannon said...

I'm re-reading my words and do not see anything in them that you are saying I said or even imply, Rick.

Rick Frueh said...

Peace, then.

Shannon said...

I agree with you that God indeed still does today send someone to other countries to share the Lord. This is example of
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
He does not need man's organized "missions" efforts to carry His Gospel to the heart softened by conviction of sin by His Spirit.
For example, He may send you/me to another country for work purposes, but His Gospel is the true mission He is sending us to work in another country for. Understand what I am trying to say?

Shannon said...

I do not understand what "committed" prayer looks like, as the results we are seeing are those who are rejecting the Light that has come into the world.
It is not our prayers that get people to seek the truth. They are rejecting the Light.

kelli said...

God will not bless our human effort.The faith of God is God moving and working.
Even Abraham was being fully persuaded that, what he (God) had promised he (God) was able also to perform

Our prayer life is submitting His will to be done no matter what the circumstances.

Here is a study on two kinds of faith, human faith and the faith of God. I was trying to share this at an earlier time and now it is available :) :

Rick Frueh said...

Human efforts are worthless. But the prayer of a righteous man avails much. When the church denies self, and when the church seeks Christ with all her heart, the kingdom of darkness is penetrated by God’s light. Surrendered believers are instruments of the hands of God’s Spirit. We have been given a commission, and that commission must be obeyed with a life that is a surrendered vessel. Prayer cannot make a sinner believe, but prayer can soften a heart and move the hand of God. God has always been sovereign, but He has sovereignty placed a great responsibility upon His church.
And as Jesus said, we shall receive power so that the ends of the earth shall hear the good news. The gospel preached through a carnal vessel can still be used of the Spirit, but the gospel preached through a Spirit filled vessel is much greater. That is not the works of man, that is the power of God through an earthen vessel so that He receives all the glory!

kelli said...

All true born again believers have His Spirit. When we think of churches I have to remind myself there are a mixed group of people in churches, born again and those without His Spirit. I see a motivation of others to stir up the saved and non saved to get busy and to GO and DO for the Lord.
Yes, the Lord can use the non saved vessels for His purposes and Glory.
As you have correctly stated, "Human efforts are worthless."
It has to be God doing the work just as the transcribe of Hebrews explained.

Yes, the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. As the prayer is under the inspiration of God Himself. As Elias prayed that it would not rain, this is not something that Elias came up on his own.James 5:17-18
Even if you or I for an example, prayed that it would not rain for 3 1/2 years in Florida or California, you think God would answer our prayer even though we are righteous because we are born again from above?

His Light has come into the world and IS Enlightening everyone being born into the world. How are people responding to the Light even without words? It is like picking up a rock and seeing the insects scatter as they are rejecting the Light
Thankful Rick for your articles as it encourages me to test everything according to the Word.