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Category Archives: #PERSECUTION

THE MARKETING AND EXPLOITATION OF THE CROSS: COMMERCIALIZING CHRISTIANITY

THE MARKETING AND EXPLOITATION OF THE CROSS: COMMERCIALIZING CHRISTIANITY.

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FIVE WAYS GOD USES PROBLEMS IN YOUR LIFE

This little jem was posted in a forum and a friend pasted it to his facebook page, so I am sharing it here. The authors name is  Amanda Hadaway.
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1. God uses problems to DIRECT you.
Sometimes God must light a fire under you to get you moving. Problems often point us in a new direction and motivate us to change. Is God trying to get your attention? “Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways.” Proverbs 20:30

2. God uses problems to INSPECT you.
People are like tea bags . . . if you want to know what’s inside them, just drop them into hot water! Has God ever tested your faith with a problem? What do problems reveal about you? “When you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.” James 1:2-3

3. God uses problems to CORRECT you.
Some lessons we learn only through pain and failure. It’s likely that as a child your parents told you not to touch a hot stove. But you probably learned by being burned. Sometimes we only learn the value of something … health, money, a relationship … by losing it. “It was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws.” Psalm 119:71-72

4. God uses problems to PROTECT you.
A problem can be a blessing in disguise if it prevents you from being harmed by something more serious. Last year a friend was fired for refusing to do something unethical that his boss had asked him to do. His unemployment was a problem – but it saved him from being convicted and sent to prison a year later when management’s actions were eventually discovered. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good .” Genesis 50:20

5. God uses problems to PERFECT you.
Problems, when responded to correctly, are character builders. God is far more interested in your character than your comfort. Your relationship to God and your character are the only two things you’re going to take with you into eternity. “We can rejoice when we run into problems . . . they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.” Romans 5:3-4
Here’s the point: God is at work in your life – even when you do not recognize it or understand it. By reading these 5 Lessons of God, be mindful to ask “Why have you endured a situation?” If ANY situation exists and YOU can see no way out, pause, meditate, and ask God to show you the way out. (WORK, HOME, SCHOOL, the interstate, ANYWHERE). Sometimes the lesson can be one of patience, so be receptive to ALL God’s ways. God will show you. Have faith in the outcome of God’s work. God does all things in our life to strengthen us. We are His children. Each road we journey is a lesson for life. If you continually seek understanding from life, you can be receptive of its lesson.

 

A SURVEY OF FUTURE EVENTS IN PROPHECY

By Pastor E. L. Bynum

This brief survey lesson should help each one of us to gain an overall view of the great prophecies of future events that are yet to be fulfilled. We are only listing a few of the Scriptures that reveal each event.

1. The World Wide Apostasy and Falling Away.

2nd Timothy 3:1-8, 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
2nd Timothy 4:1-4, 1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
1st Timothy 4:1, Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to deducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Matthew 24:3-8, 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

2. The Rapture of the Saints and the First Resurrection.

1st Thessalonians 4:13-18, 13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (There is no mention of the lost being resurrected in this passage or in I Cor. 15).
1st Corinthians 15:51-54, 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
Revelation 4:1, After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. (The churches are not mentioned from Revelation chapter 4 to 19. It is incredible to think that they are on earth and not mentioned).

3. The Judgment Seat of Christ for the Rewarding of Christians.

This event will take place in the heavenlies, while the Tribulation will be taking place on earth.
2ns Corinthians 5:10, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Romans 14:10, But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
1st Corinthians 3:9-15, 9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

4. The Rise and Reign of the Antichrist.

Revelation 6:1-2, 1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. 2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
Revelation 13:8, 16-17, 8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
2nd Thessalonians 2:3-9, 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, (When the saints of God are raptured out, the restraining power of the Holy Spirit will be removed. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth).
Daniel 7:8, I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
Daniel 7:25, And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
Daniel 11:36-38, 36 And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 37 Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.

5. The Seven Year Tribulation Period.

This will be the period of time in which the Antichrist shall rule. This period of time is covered in Revelation chapters 6-19.
Daniel 9:26-27, 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
Daniel 12:1, And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
Matt. 24:21, For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Revelation 7:14, And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 12:6, 14, 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. 14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

6. Return of Christ With His Saints & the Battle of Armageddon.

Revelation 19:11-21 (Be sure and read this passage).
Zechariah 14:4, And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

7. The Devil Cast Into the Bottomless Pit.

Revelation 20:1-3, 1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

8. The Judgment of the Nations.

Matthew 25:31-46 (Read this Scripture). Those who are saved during the seven year tribulation, and who survive physically to the end of the tribulation, will be the fleshly people who will be allowed to go over into the millennial kingdom.

9. The 1000 Year Reign of Christ.

Revelation 20:4-7, 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. 7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
Daniel 7:22, Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
Matthew 19:28, And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Luke 1:32-33, 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Zechariah 14:9, And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
Isaiah 11:5-9, 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 65:25, The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.
When this happens, it will be a fulfillment of the model prayer which Jesus taught His disciples. Matthew 6:10, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

10. What Happens After the 1000 Year Reign of Christ.

a. Satan will be released for a little season, and then will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. (Revelation 20:7-10)
b. The great white throne judgment will take place. (Revelation 20:11-15)
c. The new heaven and the new earth, and the eternal kingdom of God. (Revelation 21, 22).

 

METHODS USED BY MUSLIMS TO ATTACK CHRISTIANITY

When dealing with Muslims it is wise to understand some of the approaches used by them to discredit Christianity.  Much could be written on each of the following subjects with numerous examples.  But, instead, I will simply expound on the areas common among Muslim approaches and point out what to watch for.

No. 1      Attack the validity of the Bible

This is expected.  If the Muslim can undermine the strength and integrity of God’s word, then it would be much easier for him to win arguments, confound the Christian, and make converts of those who don’t know the truth and power of the Bible.  This is what the devil did in the Garden of Eden.  Satan said, “You truly will not die,” (Gen. 3:4).  I am not calling Muslims satanic.  I am simply pointing out that that is how deception begins, by bringing doubt upon God’s word, and that this is exactly what Muslims do.  They try and get people to doubt the Bible and then tell you how great Islam is.  Various methods are used here to accomplish this:
  1. Stating that the Bible has numerous contradictions
    1. Of course, I cannot go through all the alleged Bible contradictions here (See the Bible Difficulties section for more explanation).  But my observation has been that the majority of “biblical contradictions” raised by Muslims are nothing more than examples of their lack of understanding of biblical theology and context.  Always read the context of verses.  Don’t let a Muslim simply state that there are contradictions and leave it at that.  Ask him to give you one.  If you cannot answer it, do research and get back to him.  Sure, there are some tough areas of Scripture, but there are no contradictions in God’s Word.1
  2. Criticizing the lack of original manuscripts
    1. The point here is that because we do not have the original manuscripts of the Bible, we cannot really know what the originals said and, therefore, the Bible could have been corrupted.  They then compare the Bible to the Koran and state that the Koran is the guaranteed, preserved, direct word of Allah given by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad.  Of course, what they fail to mention is:
      1. The Bible documents are well attested as being reliable and accurate. In fact, we have around 24,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament. So much so, that no major area of Christian doctrine is affected by possible variations among manuscripts (click here for more details).2
      2. Regarding the Koran, Muhammad couldn’t read or write, so he recited the Koran to people who then wrote it down.  There is no evidence at all that the Koran was written down in its entirety in Muhammad’s lifetime and compiled as a unit.  So how could he have verified its truth?
      3. Shortly after Muhammad’s death, the Muslim Uthman ordered all sets of the Koran manuscripts to be destroyed except the codex of Zaid.  Why?  Is it because Zaid’s copy was better?  If so, how do we know?  Did differences in the copies arise so quickly that discrepancies were evident and Uthman recognized the need for a standardized copy lest Islam suffer division?  It raises doubt on the Koran’s supposed incorruptibility.
      4. Muslims claim that Allah said the Koran would be preserved.  But, the mere claim is not enough.  It is using the Koran to substantiate the Koran which is circular reasoning.
  3. Claiming that the Bible is false because it contradicts the Koran (Qur’an).
    1. This is simply begging the question.  That means that one assumes the validity of the thing that he is trying to prove.  The Muslim assumes the validity of the Qur’an and because it contradicts the Bible, the Bible is wrong.  Well, the Christian can just as easily state that the Koran is wrong because it contradicts the Bible.  But the Muslims would not accept that.  Therefore, why should we accept their argument?

No. 2      Attempt to set Paul against Jesus

Muslims often make the claim that Paul never met Jesus and was not a disciple or apostle of Jesus.  Of course, this is not true.  Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, after Jesus’ resurrection.  Jesus spoke to him and commissioned him.  So, Paul met Jesus.  Furthermore, Paul visited the Jerusalem apostles Peter, James, and John who affirmed Paul’s mission and message (See Gal. 2:9. Also, see the context ofGalatians 1:18 – 2:10.)  Peter, who was a disciple of Jesus, personally authenticated Paul’s writings by calling them scripture in 2 Pet. 3:15-16.  If they are inspired, then they cannot contradict Jesus’ words.
In addition, many Muslims claim that Jesus never claimed to be God and that Paul is the one who wrote that Jesus was God.  First of all, if they admit that Paul wrote that Jesus was God, then remind them of 2 Pet. 3:15-16where Peter calls Paul’s writings Scripture and affirms Paul’s message in Gal. 2:9.  Nevertheless, they sometimes assert that Paul hijacked Christianity and took it over and made Jesus into something He was not.  This claim is false.
Perhaps the primary area where Muslims think Paul and Jesus contradict is in the area of who Jesus is.  Paul states that Jesus is God in flesh:  Col. 2:9 says, “For in Him the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form,” (cf. Rom. 9:5).  Muslims assert that no where in the Gospels did Jesus claim to be God.  Therefore, they claim, Paul’s words are not true and the Bible is not trustworthy.
This attack by Muslims is an attack based out of opinion.  Jesus did claim to be God.   In John 8:56-59, Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57The Jews therefore said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”  58Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.”3 Why did the Pharisees want to kill Jesus?  They explain their reason in John 10:33when they say, “For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God,” (KJV).  Whether or not the Muslim will accept this, let alone agree that this is correct, matters little because his presupposition will not allow him to accept, no matter what.  Nevertheless, the text clearly states that the Pharisees understood that Jesus was claiming to be God.  Also, consider John 5:18 where the Apostle John says, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God,” (KJV). In this verse Jesus healed on the Sabbath and the Pharisees thought He was breaking the Sabbath law.  John the Apostle also states that when Jesus claimed that God was His Father, that it was “making himself equal with God.” The Muslim will always find a way to argue out of these texts.  But, two facts remain.  First, Jesus claimed to be God.  Second, the Pharisees denied that Jesus was God and the Muslims agree with them.
There are other areas that the Muslims will say are where Jesus and Paul do not agree, but when they bring it up, always ask for an example.  Each time I’ve done this, I’ve discovered that the Muslim did not have a sufficient understanding of what the text is saying.  Remember, always read the context.

No. 3      Misrepresentation of Christian doctrine

Sadly, this is a very common error of the Muslims.  The single greatest instance of this is in the doctrine of theTrinity.  Muslims so often attack a false understanding of the Trinity by stating that it is three gods.  That is not the correct Christian definition of the Trinity doctrine.  Christianity does not teach there are three gods.  It never has and it never will.  The doctrine of the Trinity is that there is only one God who exists in three persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Trinitarianism is monotheistic.  If a Muslim continues to proclaim that the Trinity is three gods, then I simply stop discussing the issue with him because he is not willing to accept what the definition is and it isn’t possible to have a meaningful dialogue.
Another Christian doctrine they fail to understand is the Hypostatic Union.  This is the teaching that Jesus is one person with two natures.  He is both God and man as is declared in Col. 2:9, “For in Him [Jesus] dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Because Jesus was also a man, we have verses such as John 14:28 where Jesus says “the Father is greater than I.” Muslims will say that if Jesus is God, how could He be greater than Himself?  Of course, they fail to understand the Trinity (three persons) and they fail to understand that Jesus, as a man (Phil. 2:5-8), cooperated with the limitations of being a man and was in a lower position than the Father (Heb. 2:9) for a while (See: “The Ontological and Economic Trinity” for more explanation.).
Sometimes Muslims refuse to accept Christian explanations for things because it doesn’t fit their agenda nor their preconceived ideas of what they think Christianity is.  Oddly enough, Christians often contribute to this problem by offering inadequate and sometimes erring explanations of Christian doctrine.  Thus, many Muslims are led into error regarding what Christianity really teaches.  Christians need to know their doctrine, and Muslims need to understand the proper explanations for those doctrines.

No. 4      Misinterpreting various Scripture passages

A very good example of misrepresentation of biblical passages can be found in a dialogue I had with a Muslim regarding John 1:114.  These verses say, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” Verse 14 says “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” The Muslim I was speaking to reasoned thus:
If the word is God then we can insert the word “god” into the verse each time it says “word.”  Therefore, we would have it say ‘In the beginning was the God and the God was with God and God was God.’  As you can see, this makes no sense.  Therefore, when you go to verse 14 where it says the word became flesh, it cannot mean that God became flesh, because John 1:1 makes no sense.”
As you can see, this kind of logic is very bad.  First of all, John 1:1 does not say what he said it does.  It does not speak in contradictory terms the way he tried to make it sound.  Instead, it uses both the word “word” and the word “god” in the sentence.  I told him that he needed to go with what the text does say and not with what it does not say.  In other words, he reconstructed it in such a way as to purposely not make sense and then he attacked that.
Another verse, or verses, that they misinterpret is when Jesus says that He is the Son of God.  To the Muslim, this means that God literally had a wife and produced a literal son.  Of course, this is not what is meant by the biblical account.  Sonship is in relation to the Fatherhood of God in a spiritual and metaphoric sense.  After all, Jesus says that God is spirit (John 4:24).  Of course, God would not have a body of flesh and bones with which to procreate children.  What the Muslims are guilty of doing is imposing Islamic understandings upon biblical texts and then complaining about the biblical texts in light of how they interpret them.  This is not how one should go about “refuting the opposition.”  Rather, the Muslim should seek to understand the biblical/cultural context and deal with the issue from that perspective not a fabricated one as this example shows.

No. 5      Failing to differentiate between Protestant and Catholic doctrines

Sadly, Christianity is not in complete unity in all things –which is why we have denominations.  I am dismayed at the fragmentation within Christianity and think it is a poor witness to the world.  But, the fact is that differences of opinions among Christians do occur.  In fact, we are allowed to have differences of opinion according to God’s word found in Rom. 14: 1-13.  True Christians are all united in the essentials of the faith and are often divided on the non-essentials.  This does not mean we are not all Christians, but that we have differences of opinions on some things.
However, in the 1500s, there was a major split in the Catholic church.  It was called the Reformation.  As a Protestant, I believe the Reformation was necessary because the Catholic church had adopted some dangerous and erroneous doctrines that extend far beyond mere differences of opinion; namely, prayer to Mary, purgatory, indulgences, etc.
Muslims often fail to differentiate between Catholicism and Protestantism in their arguments.  I’ve heard and read where Muslims attack, for example, the Catholic teaching of the Eucharist where the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper are claimed by the Catholics to actually become the body and blood of Christ during the communion service.  Of course, we Protestants strongly disagree with this.  But this disagreement is rarely, if ever, brought up when attacking Christian doctrine.  So, when Muslims say “Christians believe …”, be careful that they do not make too broad a generalization as they continue their attack.

No. 6      Claim their thinking is correct and Christian thinking is incorrect

Many Muslims have told me that what I am saying about God, Salvation, the Bible, etc., isn’t logical.  Now, perhaps some things I say are not logical.  But, I’ve not heard any convincing arguments yet demonstrating what is and is not logical regarding Christian doctrine.  Usually, the Muslim will simply say that Jesus having two natures is not logical or that the Trinity being three persons doesn’t make sense.   But saying so doesn’t make it so.  There is nothing illogical about a part of God being able to become a person and add human nature to Himself.  It may not be the easiest thing in the world to understand, but it is not illogical.  Neither does saying that the Trinity is three persons is illogical make it so.  Surely anyone would agree that when we encounter God and His self revelation there will be things that are difficult to understand.  The Trinity certainly falls under that category.  But, the Trinity doctrine is not against logic.  It would be illogical to say that one God is three gods, or that one person is three persons.  But that is not what Christianity teaches.
I’ve found that when dialoguing with Muslims and when reading their material against Christianity, that their claim to know real logic is really an extension of their Muslim thought and not a mastery of logic at all.

No. 7      Switching topics when challenged

Sometimes when discussing subjects that Muslims find difficult to answer, they will quickly change the subject.  Very often this change involves attacking the Bible.  Other times they will testify that they know Islam is true or they will simply say that you do not know what you are talking about.  But when they change the subject you must be patient.  Lovingly bring them back to the subject at hand.  I have had to do this many times when discussing Islam with Muslims.
This is a small but very important point.  Too many Christians fall into the trap of allowing themselves to be diverted from the subject at hand.  Do not let a Muslim simply ignore a question and start a new subject when it gets tough.  Likewise, Christians should not simply change the subject when it gets difficult for them either.  Instead, if you do not know the answer to a question, simply admit it.  Go do some research and then get back with them.
Always remember to be gracious.  You will not win the Muslim to the Lord with cruelty and rudeness.  And remember that we are in the spiritual battle.  Love and truth in the name of Jesus is more powerful than any perfect answer.
When dialoguing with Muslims, please remember to be respectful and patient.  But, check everything they say and listen to them.  They do not have the market cornered on truth, even though they think they do.
 

THE END TIMES EMPIRE . ROME , OR ISLAM , OR …… PART 1

This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley
In the updated commentary on Rev. 17-18 I recently posted, I briefly summarized two major opinions concerning the end times world government. The view that it will be a revival of the Biblical Roman Empire has been universally accepted among believers for generations, but recent world events have caused some to propose an alternative in the form of an Islamic Empire.
The purpose of this study is to is to look at these alternatives in greater detail than I was able to do in the Rev. 17-18 commentary and see if we can come to a conclusion about which is more likely, because as I think you’ll see they both have some pretty compelling support.

The Roman View

The Roman view comes primarily from studies of Daniel 2 and its companion Daniel 7Daniel 2contains a description of an enormous poly-metallic statue. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon saw it in a dream shortly after he had consolidated his rule over the known world with the defeat of both Assyria and Egypt in the Battle of Carchemish in 606 BC.
Remembering stories his grandfather had told him about the riches of Israel (Isaiah 39:1-2) Nebuchadnezzar had laid siege to Jerusalem before returning to Babylon. Since they were outnumbered by the superior Babylonian forces, King Jehoiakim pledged Judah’s loyalty to Babylon and agreed to pay an annual tribute to avoid being conquered. As was customary in those days, Nebuchadnezzar took hostages from the royal family to insure Judah’s faithfulness to the agreement and headed back to Babylon.
Among the hostages were Daniel and his three friends, known by their Babylonian names as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were all probably in their late teens at the time and Nebuchadnezzar was likely only a few years older. He had the four Jewish boys enrolled in a training program to help them learn the ways of Babylon and was amazed when they quickly excelled in every area of their training.
The meaning of the dream continued to evade him and when none of the wise men he had inherited from his late father could interpret it he became angry and threatened to have them all executed. But the Lord gave Daniel its meaning and he agreed to interpret it for the young king, earning him and his friends positions of great influence among the king’s advisors.
You can read Daniel’s interpretation of the dream in Daniel 2:31-45. For our purposes here it’s enough to say that the statue represented four kingdoms who would control the world during a period of time known as Gentile Dominion. This period would last from Nebuchadnezzar’s time to the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom.
Daniel said the head of the statue, made of gold, represented Babylon, the first Kingdom of Gentile Dominion. The chest and arms of silver represented a kingdom that would rise after Babylon, to be followed by a third one, the belly and thighs of bronze, and finally the legs of iron with feet of iron mixed with clay, which spoke of the final kingdom. After that God will set up a kingdom of His own that will never be destroyed or given to another people (Daniel 2:36-44).
Most scholars agree on the identities of the two kingdoms that followed Babylon. In Daniel 8 we can read of a vision Daniel saw just before Babylon was conquered, where they were made known to him. Daniel was told in effect they would be Medo-Persia and Greece (Daniel 8:20-21). He lived to see the Medes and Persians conquer Babylon, and knew from the vision that Greece would conquer Persia. This is confirmed by the historical record, which shows that events unfolded just as Daniel’s vision had indicated. That left only the fourth kingdom unknown to Daniel.
Daniel 2 described Gentile Dominion from man’s perspective, a bright, shiny statue constructed mostly of precious metals. Before looking at the 4th Kingdom, lets skip forward to Daniel 7 and see God’s view of these kingdoms, which is a series of voracious beasts. By laying it alongside Daniel 2 and using Daniel 8 for further clarification, we can see what Daniel saw.
Daniel 7:4 depicts Babylon as a lion with the wings of an eagle. It morphed into a man that represents Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s most powerful king. Daniel 7:5 tells us the next beast was a bear, representing Medo Persia. In Daniel 7:6 the third kingdom appeared to Daniel in the form of a winged leopard with four heads. This is a model of Greece under Alexander and the four generals who succeeded him.
By way of additional confirmation, Josephus recorded a supernaturally ordained meeting between Alexander the Great and Jeduah, the reigning High Priest of Israel at the time. Alexander was making his way south toward Egypt, conquering nation after nation as he did. When he came to Jerusalem, the High Priest and his retinue, in their finest robes, opened the gates and met him outside the city, as God had told them to do. Alexander had previously seen this exact event in a dream and took its fulfillment as a sign from God. He spared the city and offered sacrifices in the Temple. When Jeduah opened the scroll of Daniel and read to Alexander portions of what we know as Daniel 8, written 200 years earlier, Alexander correctly interpreted it as referring to him (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, chapter 8).
The Empire that followed Greece was Rome, and that’s how the identity of the 4th kingdom, represented by the legs of iron in the statue and the terrifying, frightening beast of Daniel 7:7, was determined in the Roman view. Proponents say Rome was never conquered, but transformed itself into the Holy Roman Empire that finally became the Catholic Church, which is still a powerful force in the world with over a billion members and wealth beyond measure. During that time, various components of the old Roman Empire (Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, France, and especially Great Britain) were recognized as having world wide influence. They say an end times version of the Roman Empire will appear again at the end of the age to preside over world affairs. This empire is represented by the feet and toes of the statue.
In the Roman view, the end times Empire will likely be some form of the European Union from which the anti-Christ will emerge to rule the world during Daniel’s 70th Week. This opinion is supported by the fact that in Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) the angel Gabriel said in effect that the anti-Christ would be someone from the people who would destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (Temple). History shows that this happened while Rome was in the process of putting down Jewish rebellions in 69-70 and 135 AD.

The Islamic View

The Roman and Islamic views agree through the first three kingdoms, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. But then they differ. The Islamic view skips right over Rome and says the next empire to occupy the territory of Babylon, Persia and Greece was the Ottoman Empire that reigned supreme in the region from the 13th Century until 1923.  Islamic proponents point out that the Roman Empire didn’t fit either the geographical footprint of the preceding kingdoms or the description of the terrifying and powerful 4th beast. It expanded mostly to the west, and didn’t crush or devour its victims or trample them underfoot (Daniel 7:7) but allowed the nations it conquered to retain their own religions and customs. For example the Greek religion and culture had a powerful and lasting influence that overlapped the Roman Empire by hundreds of years. And until they took up arms against Rome, the Jews lived a relatively autonomous existence.
The Islamic view also disputes the opinion that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its temple, saying the Romans leaders actually tried to prevent the destruction but the predominantly middle Eastern conscripts that made up the “enlisted” ranks simply disobeyed their leaders and sacked the city and temple of their ancient enemy. Therefore it was the ancestors of the Arabs who would later become adherents of Islam who fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy by destroying the city and the sanctuary. That means the anti-Christ will come out of Islam, not Western Europe.
And finally, the Islamic view holds that the Roman position is Western in its orientation whereas the Bible has always focused on the Middle East. Its advocates note that references to an Islamic Caliphate are becoming steadily more noticeable in Middle Eastern discourse. They say Muslim groups in the region are working harder than ever to re-establish this caliphate. These include such varied groups as the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Hamas, as well as the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and even the government of Turkey. Therefore the end times Empire will in effect be a revived Ottoman Empire, from which an Islamic world leader will emerge to rule during Daniel’s 70th Week.

So Which Is It?

As we’ve seen, the actual identity of the fourth Kingdom was never given to Daniel. For centuries the vast majority of scholars have assumed it was Rome because of the historical realities. Rome directly followed Greece, the Romans clearly took credit for destroying the Temple in 70 AD and the City of Jerusalem in 135 AD, and Rome was the kingdom in power when John wrote the Revelation. In Rev. 17:9-10 he said,
“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.”
Both views agree that the five kings who had fallen at the time of John’s writing are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The one in power at the time was obviously Rome, but the seventh one was and is still in the future. As we saw above, Daniel’s prophecies focused on the time of Gentile Dominion that began with Babylon and includes only four kingdoms before the kingdom of God is established. By comparing Rev. 17:9-10 with Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 we can see Daniel’s fourth Kingdom had to be Rome and it has to appear in two forms to be John’s 6th and 7th kings.

Any Questions?

By the way, the Greek word John used in Rev. 17:9-10 was kings, not kingdoms, but scholars have assumed John was referring to the most prominent ruler of each, since they all had more than one. For example, at the time of John’s writing (about 95 AD) the Roman Emperor was Domitian, the 11th man to occupy its throne.
This prompts two questions. Is the coming one also a kingdom even though John called him a king and used a personal pronoun in referring to him? And in Rev. 17:11 John referred to the beast as an eighth king, this time using a personal noun (when used metaphorically the word beast refers to a brutal or savage man) and personal pronouns (he, his). Is he a king, or another kingdom?
And there are others. Both these views have strong supporting features but neither is conclusive. For example, is the end times empire world wide or just regional? Both the Roman view and the Islamic view have a decidedly regional focus. What about the rest of the world? The Book of Revelation makes strong suggestions that the whole world will be involved.
And what about the religious aspect of the end times? Rev. 13:8 says all the inhabitants of Earth will worship the anti-Christ. Currently there are 2.2 billion “Christians” on Earth. Will those who are left after the rapture suddenly convert to Islam as the Islamic view requires? Or will the world’s 1.6 billion followers of Islam abandon Allah for a Western European Messiah as the Roman view would have us believe?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Islam will no longer be a viable religious force after the Battle of Ezekiel 38. Rough estimates indicate that as little as 15% of the Islamic world will be represented by the forces aligned against Israel, and remember it’s only their soldiers who die in battle, not their total populations.
And those who say that Islam will cease to exist after the Battle of Ezekiel 38 because its outcome will prove their god isn’t real simply don’t understand the emotional and spiritual foundation of religion. Remember, only Christians and Jews have a God who has proved His existence beyond question, but other religions have flourished through out the age of man despite their lack of such evidence.
Speaking of which, what about the billions of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others? Some of them are as passionate about their faith as anyone. They aren’t going to easily abandon their long held beliefs either.
So both the Roman and Islamic views leave unanswered questions. But there is a supernatural movement taking place on Earth today that addresses these questions. It’s already impacting millions and is growing rapidly all around the globe. Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, New Agers, the Eastern religions and others have all been able to embrace this movement with out denying their strongly held beliefs. It claims the power to bring all the world’s religions together and reconcile all the apparently conflicting prophecies about End Times religion. This movement will be the topic of our conclusion next week. Until then, you can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah 08-11-12
 

Question: "What is going to happen according to end times prophecy?

Answer: The Bible has a lot to say about the end times. Nearly every book of the Bible contains prophecy regarding the end times. Taking all of these prophecies and organizing them can be difficult. Following is a very brief summary of what the Bible declares will happen in the end times.

Christ will remove all born-again believers from the earth in an event known as the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54). At the judgment seat of Christ, these believers will be rewarded for good works and faithful service during their time on earth or will lose rewards, but not eternal life, for lack of service and obedience (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

The Antichrist (the beast) will come into power and will sign a covenant with Israel for seven years (Daniel 9:27). This seven-year period of time is known as the “tribulation.” During the tribulation, there will be terrible wars, famines, plagues, and natural disasters. God will be pouring out His wrath against sin, evil, and wickedness. The tribulation will include the appearance of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments.

About halfway through the seven years, the Antichrist will break the peace covenant with Israel and make war against it. The Antichrist will commit “the abomination of desolation” and set up an image of himself to be worshipped in the Jerusalem temple (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10), which will have been rebuilt. The second half of the tribulation is known as “the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14) and “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).

At the end of the seven-year tribulation, the Antichrist will launch a final attack on Jerusalem, culminating in the battle of ArmageddonJesus Christ will return, destroy the Antichrist and his armies, and cast them into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:11-21). Christ will then bind Satan in the Abyss for 1000 years and He will rule His earthly kingdom for this thousand-year period (Revelation 20:1-6).

At the end of the thousand years, Satan will be released, defeated again, and then cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10) for eternity. Christ then judges all unbelievers (Revelation 20:10-15) at the great white throne judgment, casting them all into the lake of fire. Christ will then usher in anew heaven and new earth and the New Jerusalem—the eternal dwelling place of believers. There will be no more sin, sorrow, or death (Revelation 21–22).

Recommended Resource: Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul Benware.

 

DOES THE CHURCH THRIVE UNDER PERSECUTION ?

Persecution is alive and well in the modern world. For Christians in Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, and other places around the world, persecution is a very real and present danger.
When I hear Christians in the west talk about persecution, though, I’m struck by how often I hear something like the following: 
No one has ever stopped the church through persecution. Indeed, whenever the world persecutes the church, it just grows even more. Look at the early church. The Romans tried to persecute it out of existence, yet it spread the gospel throughout the entire empire. And, more recently, the church in China blossomed during the twentieth century despite tremendous persecution.  
Unlike the lazy and complacent Christianity that develops in “safe” countries, persecution fosters a robust Christianity, confident of its faith and bold in its proclamation. The church thrives under persecution. 
And I understand where that sentiment is coming from. Christians are optimists. In general, we have a deep and abiding sense that God is in control and that he’ll make sure everything works out his people in the end. Thus, even when we hear that things are going badly for Christians in some part of the world, we’re comforted by the fact that God is still at work and that he can do amazing things in even the most difficult circumstances.  
So we take a theological conviction (God is in control), combine it with some historical examples (the church in China), and come up with a pretty impressive conclusion (the church thrives under persecution). But there’s one little problem: it’s not true. Or, at least, it’s not true as it is usually stated. Here’s why. 
1. A Faulty Argument
The logic of the argument just doesn’t work. To see this, let’s try a different form of the same argument: 
•    God is in control.
•    God made Abraham and Solomon wealthy (in material possessions owned during this life)
•    God makes his people wealthy (in material possessions owned during this life) 
Now the problem should be pretty easy to see. The third point does not follow from the first two, both of which are true. God may well have other purposes that would lead him to allow some of his people to remain poor. So we can’t just assume that he will act in precisely the same way at all times and with all people.  
The same applies to our argument. Assuming for a moment that the church does thrive under persecution at times (more on that in a moment), we can’t simply draw the conclusion that it will always do so. Our theological optimism would like us to believe that this is true. But what we’d like to be true and what actually is true aren’t always the same. 
2. A Selective History
The main reason the argument seems to work is that we’re most familiar with those instances where the church appears to have thrived under persecution. And that makes sense. We like to tell those stories. Who wants to talk about when things went badly? That’s no fun. 
So we forget about the church in North Africa That was once the thriving heartland of Christianity, but after the Muslim invasions, the church slowly receded into the background before fading entirely. And we fail to talk about Asia Minor (especially after the 14th century) and Japan (after Christianity was outlawed in the 17th century), other instances where persecution had disastrous consequences for the church. 
I often have my students read a letter that Pliny wrote to the Emperor Trajan in the second century. After describing a variety of oppressive measures used to persecute early Christians, Pliny describes what happened. 
There is no shadow of doubt that the temples, which have been almost deserted, are beginning to be frequented once more, that the sacred rites which have been long neglected are being renewed, and that sacrificial victims are for sale everywhere, whereas, till recently, a buyer was rarely to be found. From this it is easy to imagine what a host of men could be set right, were they given a chance of recantation. 
As Pliny describes things, it sure doesn’t sound like the church is thriving. Instead, persecution has limited the growth of the church, bringing people back to paganism. 
These examples don’t prove that Christianity can’t thrive under persecution any more than the other examples prove that it always does. The point is just to demonstrate that the historical realities aren’t as simple as we often suggest. 
3. A Weak View of “Thriving”
Another reason the argument appears to work is that we don’t take the time to talk about what it means for the church to thrive. Sometimes people just mean that the church grows numerically under persecution (e.g. China). We just saw that this isn’t always true. But, even if it was, surely numerical growth alone isn’t enough to constitute thriving. Otherwise, the largest churches would always be the healthiest, which would be a difficult argument to sustain. 
Other times, people seem to mean that a persecuted church is stronger (i.e. more committed) than a non-persecuted one. And I’m sure there’s truth to this. I certainly have tremendous respect for those who have kept the faith despite intense persecution, though I’m concerned about the subtle implication that you can’t be a truly dedicated Christian unless you’ve gone through persecution. But is just being dedicated enough to say that the church is truly thriving?  
I recently spent two weeks with Christian leaders in Slovkia where the church is still recovering from decades of communist rule. During that time, the Christians in Slovakia were unquestionably committed. But talking with those leaders, it’s difficult to say that they were thriving during those years. Restrictive laws made it difficult to maintain fellowship with Christians beyond their particular communities, leaving churches somewhat isolated and fractured. Christians lost the ability to speak as Christians to the broader society, reducing the voice of the gospel to what happened within the walls of a church. And, as Christians struggled to survive, they lacked time and opportunity to reflect deeply on their faith and what it means, leading to a theological superficiality that still plagues the church today. As one Slovak leader said, 1,200 years of Christian culture was largely lost in just two generations. 
Is that thriving?  
Just to be clear, I’m not criticizing Slovakian Christians, or any other group of Christians who face persecution. Their faithfulness in the midst of terrible circumstances is inspiring, and humbling. We have a lot to learn from Christians like that.
But we can admire them without whitewashing the reality. If we have a more robust understanding of Christian thriving that includes preaching the gospel and growing ever more deeply in our understanding of the gospel, Christian fellowship that transcends local particularities, and the impact of the gospel on society as a whole (regardless of precisely how you think the church should relate to the surrounding culture), then it becomes more difficult to find examples of the church truly thriving under intense persecution. 
Surviving and thriving are not the same thing. 
Persecution & Christian Thriving
Does the church thrive under persecution? Maybe it does at times. For the most part, the early church seems to have done so. Even though persecution hindered the church’s growth at times and made it more difficult to thrive, it’s amazing how much those early leaders accomplished: spreading the gospel, connecting with one another across vast distances, reflecting deeply on their beliefs, and impacting the broader society. And, though I haven’t spent as much time studying the persecuted church in other times and places (e.g. China), I certainly hope that it has managed to thrive in this more robust sense. 
But, even if we find examples like these, that only tells us that the church can thrive under persecution, not that it always does so. To claim otherwise is naive and unhelpful. And I think statements like that make it more difficult for us to appreciate how tragic, painful, and challenging persecution really is. For those of us in “safe” countries, stories of persecution in the modern world are easier to digest when we can comfort ourselves with the notion that persecution will just make those churches “thrive.” 
Yes, God is in control. And yes, God’s people can remain faithful in the midst of tremendous persecution. But neither of those truths should blind us to the tragic reality of persecution and the devastating impact it can have on the church.
Marc Cortez is a theology professor and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general. Visit him at MarcCortez.com.