Newsletter 103 Spring 2012
Are you saved? Recently I read an article on the changing approach to evangelism. It proposed that evangelicals have moved away from the old revivalist form. The old form focused on challenging people on whether they are saved. Now the emphasis is on discipleship which recognises salvation as a life time’s journey.
Of course like many things it is not either or but both. The prime mission of the church is to go out and make disciples. But experience tells us that if people do not start the journey by being challenged over their sin and the need to repent in order to be saved no amount of discipling will make them a disciple. Conversely if they are saved but not discipled they remain babes in Christ.
The story of John Harper below challenges us that it is of first importance that people are saved. If they are not saved there is only one other category into which they fall, the LOST. As Ken reminds us later on, Jesus suffered for our sins. He came to seek and to save the lost. We still need the challenge ‘are you saved’.
April 15th was the 100 anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. In commemoration of the event Baptist News carried the story of Pastor John Harper.
John Harper and his six year old daughter were traveling to the USA on the Titanic. He had been invited by Moody Church in Chicago to become the next Pastor. When the Titanic hit the iceberg, Harper led his daughter to a lifeboat. As a widower he may have been allowed to join her but instead turned back. He chose to offer the masses a last chance to know Christ. As the ship was sinking Harper was heard shouting “women, children and the unsaved to the life boats”. When one man refused to accept Christ Harper gave him his life jacket saying. “you need it more than I do.”
At a reunion after the tragedy a survivor told how in the icy waters Harper twice challenged him to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” First time the man refused but given a second chance he gave his life to Christ. He concluded by saying that he was the last man to be saved by John Harper.
The article concludes: “After the tragedy the White Star Line placed a board outside its offices reading KNOWN TO BE SAVED and KNOWN TO BE LOST. The owners of the Titanic had simply reaffirmed what John Harper already knew. There are people who know Christ and will spend eternity with God in heaven and many others who will not.”
To read the full story go to: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37601
Signs of the end of the age 7 – Islam
The final sign in this series is both controversial and not as yet so widely accepted.
At the end of this present age an empire will gain ascendancy. In Revelation it is described as a beast which the whole earth follows after (Rev 13: 3). The beast is both an empire and a man who heads the empire and leads the final revolt against Christ (Rev 19:19). It has been generally accepted that this man is also the one who is described elsewhere as ‘the man of lawlessness’ (2 Thess 2: 3).
Over the centuries various interpretations have been offered with regard to this man. The Westminster Confession declared; “nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God”. The Pope was identified as the man of sin and the Roman Catholic Church as the Harlot of Revelation 19. More recently interest has switched to either a revived Roman Empire in the form of a united Europe or a Globalist conspiracy. Both are seen as the possible background to the rise of the man of sin and the beast empire.
An alternative view is that Islam is best placed to fulfil the prophecies regarding the Beast and his empire. Set out below are some reasons for identifying Islam with the Beast.
“This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” 1 Jn 2: 22
“Say (O Muhammad): “He is Allah, The one and only; Allah to whom all creatures turn for their needs; he begets not, nor was he begotten; there is none like him.” Qur’an 112: 1-4.
From its inception Islam denied that God had a son. No other world movement, philosophy or religion has so emphatically denied the fatherhood of God. There have been many movements which have denied the existence of God or tried to supplant Him. There has been much false teaching and misrepresentation of God. But only Islam has built its whole creed on the denial of the Father and the Son. The oldest Islamic writings in existence are the mosaics in the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. They contain an emphatic denial that Jesus is the Son of God.
Character of Islam
“its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and baked clay.” Daniel 2:33
This is part of the prophecy of the statue to be found in Daniel 2. The prophecy sees five empires which will arise in the future. The first kingdom is Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. The final empire is described as feet and toes made of iron and clay which will be shattered at our Lord’s return. It is a fitting description of Islam, which in some ways is strong but is also deeply divided into factions. It is interesting that the Chaldean word for mixed used in this chapter is arab.
The time of the Antichrist’s kingdom
“And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour”. Revelation 17:12
It is difficult to reconcile this prophecy of the kings, only holding power for one hour, with the nations of Western Europe. The kingdoms of Europe have exercised considerable authority over this world for many centuries. In the Middle East there are ten nations, which have only recently gained independence. The time of their formation corresponds to the same period in which the new nation of Israel was established. They are all Muslim and have yet to achieve authority over other nations..
The beliefs of Islam
Muslims believe that Jesus was born supernaturally of the Virgin Mary, but he was only a man. He was a great prophet, but little of his teaching is found in the Bible as the early church tampered with the records. He was not crucified. Someone else was mistaken for Him and crucified in His place. At the end of his ministry, He was taken up to be with God in heaven and it is from there that He will come again. The main beliefs about his coming are:
- He will descend from heaven, although it is not known where. Mecca, Damascus and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem are all considered possible sites.
- He will declare that he is a man and not God and will oppose and seek to eradicate all false teaching that he is divine.
- He will pledge loyalty to the Mahdi and together they will overthrow the Dajjal (the antichrist).
Others have undertaken more detailed studies on this subject. (‘The Islamic Antichrist’ by Joel Richardson, available from Amazon.co.uk is one which I recommend). The Islamic beliefs about the return of Christ parallel the Bible’s teaching on the Antichrist. In consequence a large proportion of the world’s population is already programmed to receive the man of sin when he comes.
The Empire which died
Revelation 17: 10 identifies the seven heads of the beast as seven kings. These are usually interpreted as the seven empires which have dominated the Holy Land. In turn these empires were: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. We are told that five have fallen and one is. At the time the prophecy was written Rome the sixth empire ruled Israel. In the succession there is a seventh empire. From history we know that following the fall of Rome, Islam controlled the Holy Land for the next 1300 years. The phrase in verse 10 that ‘he must remain a little while should be interpreted in the context of Revelation which sees the coming of the Lord as ‘soon’. Against the immediacy of all the other prophecies this one has a period of time connected to it. Then an eighth empire which is one of the seven will close this sequence.
In another description of the beast empire in Revelation 13:3 one of the heads has received a fatal wound. To the amazement of the world it recovers from this wound coming back to life. Therefore this eighth beast empire is one of the former empires which has recovered from a fatal wound to the amazement of the world. Some look to a revived Roman Empire to fulfill this prophecy. But Rome did not die from a fatal wound. It petered out over a thousand years. The empire which did die was Islam. With the removal of the Caliph in 1924 the heart of Islam was ripped out.
One Islamic group has described the event in these words: “The 3rd of March, 1924—the world was plunged into darkness. The Khilafah—His light, spread from East to West for over a thousand years—was brought to an end. The consequences were unimaginable: death, destruction, chaos, exploitation. After 80 years of the absence of the Khilafah, the Muslim world has awakened from its slumber, and the Ummah [the community of all the world’s Muslims] is ready to resume its political destiny. From the darkness will emerge a new light.”
For decades Islam was seen as a moribund religion. Even in Islamic lands there were strong movements to abandon Islam and copy the West. Then came the Islamic revival. Islam is growing in influence day by day.
Location of the Antichrist’s Kingdom
In his book “The development of Antichrist” published in 1852, Andrew Bonar demonstrates that scripture identifies the Eastern part of the Roman Empire not the West as the place where the Antichrist takes power. He was writing to challenge the then popular view that the Pope was the Antichrist.
The Antichrist when he arises will reign over the area formerly ruled by the Greek, Persian and Babylonian empires, the area we know today as the heartland of Islam.
This geographical location is underlined in Daniel 11 which describes a conflict between the King of the North and the King of the South. Much of this prophecy is now history. History firmly anchors the context in a struggle between two powers which seek to dominate the Middle East. One power based in Egypt (the King of the South) the other in Syria/Babylon (the King of the North). It is widely accepted that the final part of this prophecy has a future fulfilment. In the divided context of Islam it is easy to envisage how such a conflict may arise. There are deep tensions between the rival factions in Shiite dominated North and the Sunni dominated South.
The Lord loves the descendants of Abraham’s other son Ishmael. In the above interpretation there is hope. The move to restore the Caliph is widespread within Islam. There a longing for Islam to regain its former glory. Many Muslims believe that the restored Caliph will be their promised Mahdi who will usher in a reign of peace over the whole world. Initially all Muslims will welcome him. But according to the Bible there will come a time when he requires worship. At that time their eyes will be opened to the deception. The worship of a man is an anathema to the true Muslim. Too late they will realize that they have been deceived and rise up against the imposter (Daniel 11:40). We pray that in defeat many will turn to their true Saviour Jesus Christ.
The rise of Islam to fulfil its destiny as the eighth and final empire is the seventh sign that we are approaching the end of the age.
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Why did Jesus suffer? [KK]
The amazing fact about our redemption is that there was nothing accidental about it. Throughout the Old Testament there are countless references to the fact that Jesus would suffer for our sins. He is the lamb, prefigured in the Passover, slain from the foundation of the world. Psalm 22, for example – the Psalm quoted by our Saviour on the cross – gives details of death by crucifixion 400 years before crucifixion was first used as a method of executing criminals, and 1000 years before Jesus died.
But couldn’t there have been a cleaner, sweeter way to reconcile mankind to God? When our inter-faith friends tell us that there are other ways to God than through Jesus and that we should consider the Bhuddist, the Hindu or the Moslem ways to the supreme being, I ask the simple question – if that’s true, why did Jesus have to die? I can suggest five reasons:
a) to show God’s implacable hostility to sin
‘The day of His fierce anger” [Lam 1:12] was not directed at the sufferer but at the sin; God cannot compromise His word: the soul that sins will die [Ezekiel 18:4]. Paul in his sublime letter to the Romans writes in 5:12 ‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned’. Sin is an inescapable fact of life and the consequence is set out bluntly by Paul. Rom 6:23 the wages of sin is death; because ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’
b) to show the destructive power of sin
What Paul calls the exceeding sinfulness of sin in Rom 7:13 ‘Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.’
As the Message translates it ‘I can already hear your next question: “Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?” No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own. It destroyed the sinless Son of God
c). to show the extent of God’s love for us:
He hates the sin, but He loves the sinner: the only way He could redeem us to Himself was to take the punishment upon Himself – John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God’s reconciling love was the motive.
The completeness of the finished work of Calvary is shown 3 times in Hebrews when the writer uses the Gk word ephapax ‘ONCE FOR ALL’ – for all people and for all time – Heb. 7:26-27 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
d) to show His exhaustless power over sin and death:
His Son was handed over to Satan to do his worst – he not knowing the scriptures or the power of God destroyed Jesus (as he thought).
Satan and his agents were baffled by God’s plan of redemption – ‘But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.’ 1 Cor 2:7
Had Satan understood the immense, incalculable blessing that would result from Jesus’ death he would have moved heaven & earth to stop the crucifixion
e) to identify with lost humanity
God identifies with His suffering world: no-one at judgement day will be able to say to God – ‘You don’t know what its like to be human’
.2 Cor 5:18, 19 “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” TO GOD BE THE GLORY
The First Palestinian Liberation
You have read in the Bible that the Children of Israel were led out of Egypt by Moses. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years they were led into the Promised Land by Joshua. According to Dr. Omar Ja’ara, lecturer at Al-Najah University in Nablus and specialist in Israeli affairs, that is all wrong. In an interview on PA TV in February he declared that the world needed to know the real story. Moses led the Muslims out of Egypt. Moses the great Muslim was succeeded by Saul, a great Muslim, who led them into the Palestine. “This was the first Palestinian liberation through armed struggle to liberate Palestine from the nation of giants led by Goliath. This is our logic and this is our culture.”
Do you laugh or cry? Sadly there are many who believe this nonsense. [source Palestinian Media Watch]
The triumph of love or is it?
In April the Christian Post reported the following, “A few months ago Patrick Greene was an atheist who was threatening to sue Henderson County, Texas, if the county didn’t remove a Nativity scene from its courthouse lawn. Today he is a believer in Christ who underwent a radical change of heart that was catalyzed by the compassion of one Christian woman.”
The report goes on to describe how that soon after making the threat Greene discovered that he was rapidly going blind. He could no longer continue in his job as a taxi driver. A Christian woman on hearing of Greene’s problems asked the Pastor of her local Baptist Church to help. They raised thousands of dollars for Greene’s support.
The generosity moved Greene so much that he gave up his former hatred of the church and became a Christian. He was impressed that a community which should have been angry with him because of the trouble he caused them responded in love.
That is a great story which speaks to us when feeling less than loving towards militant atheists and others who vigorously oppose the gospel. We are to do good to our enemies, that we may heap burning coals on their head. We are not to pay back evil with evil.
Greene the pastor
Unfortunately the story does not end there. Not only has Greene said that he has become a Christian, he now wants to become a pastor. He is considering starting his own chapter of the Rainbow Baptists, an outreach ministry of The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists that supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. He believes that the church has got its understanding of homosexuality all wrong.
So, he has changed from an atheist who opposes all that the church stands for, to a believer who would instruct the church regarding its errors. Which is more of a problem?
This story illustrates the failure of a gospel which is solely focused on love. We are to respond to our enemies in love and to show love to our fellow believers but that is not the gospel. It is through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross that our sins can be forgiven. Once our sins have been forgiven we can be reconciled to God and inherit eternal life. That is the Gospel.
If there is no understanding of sin then the gospel has no meaning. From what are we saved? For what are we forgiven? If we continue in our sin after we have been forgiven the gospel is void. On the Day of Judgment we will be condemned along with all the other sinners.
Where does a pastor stand in the sight of God, if he assures those in his care that they are accepted without the need to renounce their former sinful way of life? The watchman who does not sound the warning blast is held responsible for the blood of those who perish. Will God accept that pastor while sending the unrepentant sinners who were in his care to hell? But perhaps such questions are foolish. The pastor who disregards the awfulness of sin has never been converted himself.
Media Blindness or Whitewash?
The persecution of Christians is widespread in the Islamic world. Kidnapping of Christian Girls and their forced marriage are daily occurrences. False charges of blasphemy are regularly brought with Christians finding little support from the justice system. Christians are told to leave predominantly Muslim villages. Churches are burned and worshippers killed. From West Africa through to Indonesia there is a mass of evidence that these are not isolated instances of community tension.
How does the mainstream media report this news? The answer is rarely and when it does, not accurately. In discussing this problem the Gatestone Institute concluded that the overriding problem was a false moral equivalency.
A clash between Muslims and Christians will be reported as sectarian strife. The Gatestone Institute comments that describing the problem as ‘sectarian strife’ implies that there are two equally matched—and equally abused, and abusive—adversaries fighting one another. Throughout the Islamic world this is not the case. The background of a traditionally passive Christian minority being pushed to the brink is not reported. Last year I emailed BBC News with regard to an item misreporting on tensions between Copts and Muslims in Egypt. It was gratifying that a couple of nights later another report painted a much more accurate picture of the cause of the events. I suspect that it was an instance so blatant that others must have also complained.
The news media will report that tensions between Christians and Muslims have led to sporadic violence. False moral equivalence ensures that the key question of who initiated the violence is never answered. It may be reported that there is deep mistrust between the communities. But the question should then follow; how did the mistrust arise? In many areas Christian and Muslim communities have lived side by side for centuries. Why has tension arisen now? ‘Christian – Muslim tension is on the rise’, implies that the problem is as much about Muslims being victimized by Christians as the other way around. One BBC report under this cover heading was given with background pictures of an angry Christian mob marching down the street holding up crosses. Nothing was said about the march being a solidarity protest over Muslims destroying crosses and desecrating churches.
False moral equivalence frequently blurs the lines between persecutor and victim. Any angry response by the victim seems to be regarded as equal to the provocation and therefore evens things up.
False moral equivalence looks on Islam as similar to Christianity. It is the natural product of the teaching that all religions are the same. Some see them as man’s need to believe in a higher being. Others see different religions as man’s attempt to find God. Still others have been taught that the various religions represent different pathways to God. Neither Christianity nor Islam accepts these ideas. Both believe themselves to be the result of divine revelation. But the revelation of God contained in each religion is different to the point of being opposite.
To evaluate Islam on the basis of Christianity will lead to the wrong answers. For instance false moral equivalence struggles with the causes of Jihad. Poverty, political oppression and frustration are sighted as the causes. There is a blindness that will not concede that the real cause lies in fundamentalist Islam asserting itself. As the influence of Islam spreads will the media one day wake up? No, they will continue to whitewash the persecutors denying that one side is in the wrong. In consequence the aggression against Christians will continue until large areas, even countries are ethnically cleansed of those Islam regards as infidels.
The rise of Islamic extremism in Britain
George Galloway won a stunning victory in the Bradford West by-election. Much of the media has attributed his victory to widespread disaffection with the main stream political parties. This may be part of the story but it is not the whole reason why a discredited politician achieved such success.
In an article published on the 2nd April on her web site Melanie Phillips commented on Galloway’s victory. She observed that, “with Galloway’s election, religious extremism has become for the first time a potential game-changer in British politics. The point being so resolutely ignored is that Galloway ran on an Islamist religious ticket. It wasn’t simply that he was pandering to Islamist foreign policy obsessions. He made explicit references to Islam throughout his campaign. All praise to Allah!’ he saluted his victory through a loud-hailer – having previously told a public meeting that if people didn’t vote for him, Allah would want to know why.”
Read the whole article at: http://www.melaniephillips.com/a-lethal-game-changer-for-british-politics.
Christ at the Check Point
The second ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ conference took place in Bethlehem in March. In a report published on his website at the close of the conference Stephen Sizer stated that the conference had been a major breakthrough. “For the first time, a broad spectrum of evangelical believers met literally at the ‘checkpoint’, and engaged biblically on issues which historically divided them”. His report closed with the statement, “Conference organisers challenged the evangelical community to cease looking at the Middle East through the lens of ‘end times’ prophecy and instead rallied them to join in following Jesus in the prophetic pursuance of justice, peace and reconciliation”.
‘Israel Today’ magazine had an observer at the conference. In their report published in the April edition they drew the following conclusion. “There is room for greater compassion and sympathy for Palestinian Christians, and the conference highlighted this aspect of the conflict which is often overlooked. Nevertheless it sought to tear down a theology that celebrates God’s faithfulness as seen in His miraculous fulfilment of one of his most long-awaited promises – the restoration of Israel”.
That conclusion was prefaced by quotes of comments by some of the conference delegates. Taking just one comment, Manfred Kohl, German Theologian is quoted as having said, “In Germany we have a word, dummkopf; it means a very stupid person. How can [Christians] be so stupid in wrongly interpreting the Bible, and at the same time be so excited about their interpretation? ……Jesus was sent as the fulfilment of all the Old Testament, including the land…… Replacement Theology is correct if by it we understand that Jesus replaced the old covenant with the kingdom of Israel with a new covenant …. In Jesus the theology of the land, like the law becomes irrelevant.”
How can one who is given the title Theologian be so blinkered? How can he not see what Spurgeon and Bishop Ryle and many others saw so clearly from scripture? They recognised that the Jews have to be back in the land before Jesus returns. How can he not understand the excitement over the recent recreation of the nation of Israel? Does he not know that it is a sign that this present age is drawing to a close? That out blessed hope is soon to be revealed. If to believe these things is to be dummkopf, then I proudly assume that title. It is a badge of honour to be regarded as a fool for Christ.
The establishment of the state of Israel has been the source of injustice and suffering for Arab Christians. They need our prayers and support. But who is to blame for that suffering? Not Israel, they have always longed for peace with their neighbours. Not the Arabs, many encouraged Jewish immigration seeing it as the way to bring investment and prosperity to the region. It is an intransigent form of fanatical Islam which is to blame.
A brand of Islam which goes against the teaching of the Arab’s own religion. The Qur’an recognises in several places that the land belongs to the Children of Israel. In the following quote it goes so far as to accept a return of the Jews prior to the final judgment. “And we [Allah] said to the Children of Israel after him: dwell in the land; but when the promise of the hereafter cometh to pass we shall bring you as a crowd gathered out of various nations?” Qur’an Sura 17: 104
Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi comments: “The Qur’an recognizes the Land of Israel as the heritage of the Jews and it explains that, before the Last Judgment, Jews will return to dwell there. This prophecy has already been fulfilled.” He also comments, “Therefore, from an Islamic point of view, there is NO fundamental reason which prohibits Muslims from recognizing Israel as a friendly State.”
From this you can see why it is necessary for people such as Dr. Omar Ja’ara quoted above to reinterpret the Children of Israel as Muslims. If the Children of Israel are the Children of Israel as universally understood then the lies, misinformation and hatred spewed out by the Palestinians have no support from their religion.
If delegates to the ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ are truly seeking justice, peace and reconciliation it is fanatical Islam, which needs to be confronted.
We continue to develop the website although there is much more that will be done as time permits. Articles and comment are added between the publication of the newsletter. In the audio section we have added:
Jerusalem old and new by Frank Wren
The church and Israel by Frank Wren
These can be downloaded and listened to free of charge.
There is also a growing selection of ebooks which can be down loaded.