Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Abstain From All Appearance of Evil

Abstain from all appearance of evil, 1 Thessalonians 5:22. This is a verse that has been repeated over and over to make sure that the congregations (and pastors) do not do anything of which the outward appearance might even remotely give someone the wrong idea, so that the reputation of the church and people might remain intact in the community as being above reproach. In fact, in many churches the reputation of being righteously superior to the rest of the community seems to supersede many other considerations, including that of being loving or even obedient to God. Of course there are always those who will look for evil in every action. The unsaved, because they are looking for reasons to reject Christ, and the saved, because some of them love to gossip and be busybodies and control others by trying to bend them to their will and rules. So it leaves people very restricted and restraining themselves from doing the very things that the Holy Spirit might lead them to otherwise do, because someone might get the wrong impression, or keeps them from just exercising a freedom in Christ that is allowed by God. Is that really what Paul meant when he wrote it? To be obsessed with how someone might perceive outward appearances and so not do things for the sake of reputation? Even when led by God to do something?

So many take the verse “Abstain from all appearance of evil” out of context and do not look further into its meaning. First of all, it should not be separated from the previous verse, of which it is a part. 1 Thess 5:21-22 “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” It is one complete thought. First we are to prove all things. That indicates that we are not to accept anything by its outward appearance. The very opposite of how this verse is used. For instance, new doctrines may look good on the outside to those who are not discerning, but we must examine and prove them to see what is at the core. Old traditions and new practices may seem good on the outside, but we are not to accept things by their outward appearance, whether they are generations old, or brand new. We are to examine them and find out what is at their core. We may see others behaving in a way that looks ambiguous or even looks sinful in its outward appearance, but as Christians, we are NOT to accept things on their outward appearance and judge them, for we may judge incorrectly and unrighteously. We are to find out what is at the core. What the reality of the situation is.

After we examine something to find out what the reality of it is, then and only then can we judge something as good or evil. That is the next part of the verse. What to do with the results. If it is good, we are told to hold fast to it. Embrace it, approve it, and accept it. If, on the other hand, what we find is that there is evil at its core, we are to abstain from it or stay away from it. But what about the word “appearance?” Does that not mean that we should judge by outward appearances? No.

In English the word “appearance” actually has two meanings. The first is that which bears a similarity to something else. In other words, the outward appearance which may resemble something other than what it really is. It is ambiguous as to what it actually is in its true essence, or it may possibly even be the opposite of what it looks like outwardly. The second definition is considered to be something that manifests visibly in its reality. In other words, it presents itself in its true essence. The first definition would be something like the following: “What she said had the appearance of being truthful.” It is not a certainty whether or not she is telling the truth. It is ambiguous as to what its reality or true essence is. Only on closer examination can the reality of its essence of good or bad be revealed. When it is examined, the truth of its reality comes out. This is what a court of law does. They examine a witness to see what the truth is before judgment is rendered. 

The truth of its reality is the second definition of the word “appearance.” It would be as follows: “After examination, the lie made its appearance.”It visibly manifested itself. The reality of its true core or essence became readily apparent or visible for all to see. In fact, in the above case, she was not telling the truth, even though in what she said, its outward appearance looked as if it were the truth. But the real truth, the real appearance came out in the examination (or proving) of the witness. The lie manifested itself visibly as to what its reality was. A lie. What initially would have been accepted as truth by outward appearance is in fact a lie. So what she said is then judged as something to shun. Since in English there are two meanings, and they pretty much mean the opposite of each other, we need to go to the Greek to discern what this verse is telling us and which definition of "appearance" we are to use.

In 1 Thess. 5:22, we find that the word “appearance” is the Greek word “eidos” which in fact has the definition of being something which is a certainty, of which one can be sure. It is that which is manifested visibly in its reality, not ambiguous as to what its reality is. It is the second definition of our English word “appearance” above. Thus this verse, used almost exclusively to judge people by outward appearances, tells us exactly the opposite. Christians are NOT to judge by outward appearances at all, but examine all things to find the truth of the matter and then judge it accordingly. How many times have I seen people doing work for the Lord, of which others do not know the circumstances, be judged on some ambiguous outward appearance, and be condemned for it. How many are doing something innocent only to have people spread vicious lies through gossip due to their evil minds and unrighteous judgment? Too many to count, that’s how many.

I have seen people brought publicly in front of the church and embarrassed for the purpose of  "church discipline," while being ostracized or reprimanded and threatened with punishment, if they did not “confess and repent” of their “sin” of having allowed an outward appearance of something they did (even while doing God’s work at His leading and innocent of any wrongdoing) which did not meet with others’ standards of expectations. This is so wrong. This in fact is sinful. The misjudging of outward appearances is not the sin of the doer, but actually the sin of the judge. God’s Word says it is wrong to judge in this way. How many times was Christ condemned for what He did? Hanging out with the “wrong” people (sinners), “working” on the Sabbath (of which He is Lord), doing all those things which the self-righteous religious leaders of the day condemned, because it did not meet with their standards and rules of outward appearances, of which that was all they were concerned with about themselves. What was at their core was of little concern to them. We all know how righteous God saw them as being.

We need to make sure we are proving all things before we judge. Jesus did not worry about what others thought as He carried out God’s work. Neither should we- if we are carrying out God’s work and not committing any sin. Looking for evil and judging with no knowledge is not the sin of the doer, but the sin of the judge. God tells us not to worry about what people think or our reputation when we are living righteously and doing His work and will. Outward appearances matter little to Him, if we are about His business. He will take care of our reputation for us. Look at the prophets Isaiah – who walked around buck naked for 3 years, and Hosea, who married a prostitute at God’s command. Not everything is always as it appears (outward appearance). God has given us His Word to show us that He feels this way.

1 Peter 2:15-16 “It is God's will by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God”

Proverbs 16:7 “When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

Is. 51:7 “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.”

Galatians 1:10 “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”

Eph. 6:6 “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;”

Is. 2:22 “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?”

All of these verses tell us that we are not to worry about what others think, as we live our lives for God, doing His will. We are not to live to please others and their standards or expectations of what they think we should do, for their rules don’t matter. Only God’s rules do. Of course if you are sinning, whether someone else sees you or not, God does. He always sees on the heart and doesn’t need outward appearances to judge us.

One story that I cannot forget in regards to this outward appearance issue is the following. A pastor who lived out in the country (before cell service) was driving down the road and suddenly his car broke down. And it did it right in front of one of the local bars. Because he was worried that someone might see him walking into the bar (to use the phone) and think he was there to drink, he chose to walk until he could find a place from which to call. What he did not consider is that God is in control of all of our circumstances and it was He who had the car break down right where it did. Did this pastor ever consider that perhaps there was someone in the bar who was at a crucial point in their lives and needed someone to tell them about Jesus? Maybe someone was thinking of suicide, or committing a crime, or whatever. Who knows? We never will. Maybe God wanted this pastor to go in and talk to this person, but alas, because he was more worried about what people might think or say about him (I have to wonder if he thought about the fact that if people saw his car there, it wouldn’t matter if they saw him walk in or not.), he walked away from what may have been an opportunity to bring someone into God’s fold. His spotless, self-righteous reputation was more important to him than taking this as a possible mission from God. As a pastor he should have known that God is in control of every aspect of our lives, so there was a reason he broke down right there. Nothing is coincidence with God. So come judgment day, will he be told that he missed an opportunity because of his legalistic and self-righteous attitude? It’s hard to say, because we will never know until then, why exactly God did have him break down there. One hopes that God had a servant who wasn’t so full of self and concerned about what people think, who did obey God and do whatever needed to be done in that bar.

So while we should not seek to bring disgrace upon our Lord by being selfish and doing whatever we want, acting on our own desires and not following God's leading, (that's called sinning) neither should we be overly concerned about what someone will think, if God calls us to do something of which they don't approve or have reservations. I have done many things in my life in obedience to God that had others aghast at me and got tongues wagging.  Did I care. Quite honestly, no. And I still don't. I'm not here to serve them or please them. I'm here to serve God and do His bidding, regardless. And while many times that started the gossips tongues wagging, in every case that I'm aware of, God always preserved and brought my reputation back to me intact, and the gossip became nothing. That is what He has promised us, if we do His will and that is what He will do. So if you are being called in a way that others do not approve, don't worry about it. If God is calling you (and you must be sure it is God calling you, not self, not Satan) then follow the Holy Spirit's leading and don't worry about the rest.

Another connected problem that goes along with this is the stumblingblock defense. It is another passage which is misunderstood and misused at times as well, but that is another subject for another post.

Ezekiel 37 Valley of Dry Bones

One of the most confusing passages to me has been that of Ezekiel 37 and the prophecy of the dry bones. It is not long, so I will just post it here before discussing it.

[1] The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
[2] And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
[3] And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
[4] Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
[5] Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
[6] And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
[7] So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
[8] And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
[9] Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
[10] So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
[11] Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
[12] Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
[13] And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
[14] And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.

Growing up, every pastor that I ever heard refer to this, referred to it in the context of talking about the end times. And rightly so, for it is about the end times. But the way they interpreted it was always in a spiritual sense. In the hindsight of Israel becoming a nation on May 14, 1948, it was interpreted as meaning that God would restore the Jewish people to a nation and put them back in their country, meaning the living people of that event of 1948. But is that the way that God intends it to be interpreted, or as He wants us to interpret prophecy, with no personal interpretation (which then sort of precludes spiritualizing it), should we interpret it in the most face value or literal way possible? I believe the latter is the way we are to interpret it, but for a long time, I couldn’t quite figure out exactly what was going on. It took a question by a friend to cue me into what possibly might be going on here.

The question that my friend asked was essentially the following, “What happens to the Jews who believe in and worship God, (the same way as the righteous Jews did before Christ came), who are looking forward to their Messiah, but do not accept Jesus as their Messiah and Savior?”

This was a question I had never considered. As most Christians believe, it always seemed an easy answer to say that if a person does not accept Jesus as their Savior, then there is no other way to heaven. But this posed a dilemma in this case, for these people do believe in a Messiah that will come to save them. They do worship and believe in the one true God. They simply do not understand that the Messiah which they look forward to has already come. That God is looking out for these people cannot be denied, for there are miraculous stories that come from these righteous, God-fearing Jews that demonstrate that He has not forsaken them. And we know that God will choose to bring a remnant of them through the great tribulation and Day of the Lord to enter into the millennium, all without having accepted Christ as their Savior beforehand.

When I looked at this passage my first reaction was to believe that Israel (and this is speaking of the whole house of Israel, including the ten lost tribes, not just the Jews) was being resurrected, but how could that be? The resurrection when Christ returns is for those who die in Christ and are the Bride of Christ. A closer look showed that this passage is not speaking of resurrection. Resurrection is not a restoration of the mortal body. It is taking the seeds of the corporeal body and creating an entirely new type of glorified body, as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 15:35-44.

[35] But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
36] Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
37] And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
38] But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
39] All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
40] There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41] There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42] So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43] It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44] It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

The body of the resurrection is not formed the same way the natural body is. It is a glorified body. When we look at this passage in Ezekiel we find that these bones are being taken out of the grave and restored from the inside out as normal bodies. First bones are connected, then sinew (tendons and ligaments which joins bones, and muscle to bones, etc) and flesh is put upon them, then skin on top of that. Then the breath of life is given to them. None of this describes the resurrected body and how it comes about. It is an instantaneous change to a completely different type of body. The bodies being described are more similar to the way Adam came into being. First formed, then given the breath of life. They are not occurring as the resurrection bodies will occur – in the twinkling of an eye.

When this is completed, there stands an extremely large army of people. It is interesting that the word “army” is used. The Hebrew word means a “force” or in this instance a force of people. The use of the English word “army” was not used to necessarily imply a military might, but that the sheer number of the risen will be a formidable force of people. When you have that many people gathered who are in one accord, you actually do have an army of people, even if they are not military people.

This army of people declare that they are dry bones (dead for a long time), that all hope is lost to them, (they feel they have missed the boat for the promise of the covenant) and that they are cut off from their parts, which may mean that they believe they are cut off from their people, their salvation, and God’s promises. They say this, because they have died without their Lord and Savior, and in death they most likely have realized that Christ was the Messiah.

In Scripture we are told that when Christ ascended, he took captivity captive, Ephesians 4:8-9 [8] Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9] (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

We are told that Christ did not ascend to heaven when He died, but descended into the lower parts of the earth. Paradise was in the lower parts of the earth. Paradise was a part of Hades, the abode of the dead. It was separated from hell by a great gulf, as shown in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, which I believe was less storytelling and more truth than people realized. To understand more about paradise and hell, which both comprise Hades, I will put in a link to my article on that here on hell and I will explain about paradise.

When Christ died, he told the thief that he would join Christ in Paradise. They descended to Hades, which as mentioned earlier is the abode of the dead. Hades had two compartments separated by a gulf. One was Paradise which was where the righteous went. God had probably made sure that people understood about the afterlife, for we find references to it in the Old Testament of the dead being conscious there. And when Christ told the parable, it was obvious the listeners knew about it. The ancient Greeks and other cultures would have also known, but they had different names for it. The Greeks called it the Elysian fields. They called their version of hell, Tartarus, which is what the Bible also calls a particular section of it, the deepest and worst part. So when Christ arrived in Paradise He would have presented himself to the righteous dead as the Messiah for whom that had been waiting. Hebrews 11:13-16, the faith chapter, tells us that they were looking forward to His coming and that the city has been prepared for them, as well as for the church.

[13] These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14] For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15] And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16] But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

The city that has been prepared for them is New Jerusalem, and it is where the resurrected will dwell for all time. (Rev. 21-22) When Christ ascended and led captivity captive, it appears He led those in Paradise to heaven with Him. They now were able to go there, as Christ had to be the first to ascend, but then after He ascended, those who are His can enter into heaven. Not in their resurrected bodies, of course, for the resurrection has yet to occur, but their souls went there, as they had to Paradise beforehand, and just as ours do when we die. As those in Paradise were already dead, and now would have accepted Christ, they qualified for entrance into heaven. The righteous Jews who died after Christ’s death and resurrection, who did not know or accept Him (it took a while for the Gospel to reach out into all the world, indeed it still is reaching into places), but did love and serve God, did not qualify for entrance into heaven due to not knowing Christ as their Savior, but neither do they deserve hell, having faith in God and looking forward to and believing in the Messiah (whom they missed). What is to be done with them? Paradise was emptied when Christ left it, but Paradise was a location and must still exist. Is this where the souls of the righteous Israelites since Christ’s time have gone? Or do they remain in the graves in an unconscious state? I have yet to find any Scripture that would tell me what the condition of these souls are at this time, and where they reside, but I would guess it must be one or the other and my inclination based on Scripture is to deduce that consciousness does not go away at death., therefore they probably are in Paradise. I cannot see God sending to hell those with whom He made a covenant and promise to give them a nation under His dominion, if they were to walk in His precepts and commandments and love Him, and there are Jews (and possibly Israelites who do not even know they are of the chosen people) who do this., while not knowing Christ as their Savior.

What is interesting is that it is said that these are those who have been slain. They have been killed, because they are Jews. Because they represented God and were His chosen people. Because they refused to renounce their faith in God. Usually when a person dies for God, they get to be with God. Naturally this is assuming that all those in this prophecy are not wicked, but righteous people.

The fact that these seem to be raised from the dead, as opposed to resurrected, and are put in the land of Israel, which is for mortal people, not the resurrected who will live in New Jerusalem, seems to indicate that this is God’s way of fulfilling the covenant He made with Israel and those who have honored Him, the Father, over the millennia. For this covenant was made with the nation of Israel and the Father, not Christ. Christ gave us a new covenant. The new covenant is not a national covenant, but a personal one.

Lastly it says that when God does this - raises them from the dead, gives them life again, puts them in the land, and finally puts His spirit in them - they will know that the Lord is the one who has done this. They will recognize Him and worship Him. But more than that, they will recognize and worship Jesus as their Messiah, for when the end comes, when Christ returns, it says that all Israel will be saved. The timing of this, putting them in their land, indicates that this happens when Christ returns. So just as the living of Israel will see Him whom they pierced and mourn, (Rev. 1:7, Zech 12:10-11) these who are raised will also see Him and realize that He was the Messiah that had been prophesied. The key here is the phrase “puts His spirit in them.” He will put His spirit in them or as it says in Zech. 12:10, "He will pour out His spirit of grace and supplication upon the house of David and all Jerusalem." We receive the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus as our Savior. While in the Old Testament there were a few individuals who were given the Holy Spirit for a time in their lives, it was not the normal thing for everybody. Yet this entire group will receive God’s spirit in them. One only does this when one is alive (not resurrected for the resurrected already accepted Jesus and received His spirit before they died). This is another indication that they are not resurrected but raised from the dead.

While the idea of this may seem strange to us, this would be a way of God keeping the promise of His covenant to the nation of Israel and those who have worshiped Him and died for Him. For in dying without Christ, they are left in a limbo, and the promise they looked for of the covenant of a nation under the Messiah going unfulfilled.

The above passage is then followed by the following:

[15] The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
[16] Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
[17] And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
[18] And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
[19] Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
[20] And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
[21] And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
[22] And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
[23] Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
[24] And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
[25] And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
[26] Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
[27] My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
[28] And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

God will take the chosen of the house of Israel, which is not lost, but lost within the heathen lands, and He will bring them out of those lands and along with the house of Judah He will turn them back into one nation under David, as their national prince/king, during the millennium, and they will have one Shepherd and King of Kings, Jesus, who will reign over the world from the temple in Jerusalem. God will make a new covenant of peace with them and fulfill His covenant that He made with the nation of Israel, and He will dwell with them forever. They will be the priests to the world, bringing God’s message to the rest of the nations. This passage shows that all 13 tribes (for there actually are 13, not 12) will be reunited for the millennium. The significance in this is that the 10/11 tribes hidden in the heathen worlds are not hidden from God, but still exist although they probably do not know who they are themselves. (The Levitical tribe was divided between the northern and southern kingdom, so some were of the House of Israel, and some of the House of Judah. They were the 13th tribe as Joseph got a double portion through Ephraim and Manasseh.) So when one sees in Revelation the listings of the 144,000, it is not all Jews as some believe. Only three tribes qualify as being Jews, Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. The other ten tribes were Israel, along with some of the Levites. The importance here is that the vast multitude of the 144,000 are not coming out of the Jews, They are coming out of the heathen nations, but not as Jews. This is a fact that many a prophecy teacher or student misses.

So while this interpretation cannot really be proven in any way, and therefore is hypothetical, it seems the most probable explanation of what this passage means. Often we get so caught up in the dogmas of tradition rather than really looking to the Word to guide us, that we get into a very narrow mindset that does not allow for any flexibility, when God is often very flexible. We need to be careful not to become too rigid in our traditional thoughts that we dismiss what God is trying to teach us, because it doesn't set well with our traditions.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Christian and Cognitive Dissonance

The subject matter which I am going to discuss in a few moments is an explanation of a psychological effect which will have a significant effect on Christians in the days to come. In fact, it is already affecting many of them. While I deal with many doctrinal subjects, the main thrust of both my blogs is eschatology. With that in mind, I am sure most who have studied the subject of the end times in even the most minimal way will know that the one thing that is stressed over and over by Christ in the Olivet discourse, and what God warns us of in 2 Thessalonians 2 is that there will be great deception at the time of the end, which we are rapidly heading toward.

Matthew 24:4-5 “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”

Matthew 24:11 “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”

Matthew 24:23-26 “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.”

Mark 13:5-6 “And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Mark 13:21-23 “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.”

Luke 21:8 “And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.”

2 Thessalonians 2:3 “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;”

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

The delusion God sends, the deceptions of the antichrist will be so great in fact, that even the elect, we Christians, have the potential to fall for the deceptions and fall away from the faith. Not possible you may say? Well, let’s take a look at what is going on these days and see how that might happen.

I think the one thing that all Christians should desire is to know truth. At least I believe we all would hope so. After all, Jesus says about Himself “...I am the way, the truth, and the life...” John 14:6 As Christ is the truth, if we are to be in a harmonious relationship with Him, we must desire truth above all else. God has said that He wants us to worship Him in truth and spirit. John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” Christ made a point of saying that people who are true worshippers are those who worship the Father in truth. The problem with truth, is that it is often very hard to accept, therefore most people do not want to know it. There is only one truth when it comes to God’s Word, but there are many disagreements as to what that truth is. And even worse, God warned us that in the last days, people – in particular Christians – would have itching ears and would not desire to know the truth. Therein lies the problem. 2 Timothy 4:3 “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;”

Most Christians attend church, and every church has its particular doctrines. If we have one view of Scripture and someone else has another view, we take a dim view of their view. (I know, I’m getting redundant with the word “view”). We will defend our view to the death if need be, and find ways (even ways that aren’t really kosher, if you’ll excuse the term) to disprove theirs. The problem with this is, we are not always right. In fact I have come to wonder if there is a church denomination that has all their doctrines actually proven by all of Scripture, not just the verses they pick and choose. I have yet to find one and I have attended a number of denominations. When it comes to doctrine, sometimes we are both right, sometimes we are right and they are wrong, sometimes we are wrong, and they are right, and sometimes we are both wrong. I have always wondered why scholars have not been able to come to a consensus of agreement on what God’s Word actually says, for God only has one truth, but I have recently been learning a lot about cognitive dissonance, and now realize that this is one (there are other reasons as well) of the reasons that a consensus cannot be reached. I have already seen techniques of hypnotism, persuasive speech, subliminal messaging, and what I call brainwashing (which may be just another name for these first three things working together) at work. Each of these things can lead people away from truth and so can cognitive dissonance. And each one of these things has become rampant in our world. So rampant that truth is becoming an almost impossible commodity to find these days. So what is a Christian to do? I’m sure the question in your mind is, “How does one find and hold on to the truth and know when they have been fed lies? How can we know that anything that anyone says is truth?” Good question.

Before discussing how this affects the church and Christians, if one wants to see what a mass eruption of cognitive dissonance looks like, then the reaction when President Trump was elected is the perfect example. If one can stand back and see the situation without a bias for or against the man, one finds that he was portrayed in the mainstream media as virtually another Hitler, because he is a master of persuasive speech, and admittedly he is quite arrogant and somewhat vulgar. (If these qualities make someone Hitler, then there are many more Hitler’s out there. Some in the pulpits of churches in fact.) He was going to destroy the country in the opinion of his opposition and they used the trigger word “dark” to manipulate people’s minds into seeing him the way they wanted him portrayed. This led people to attribute evil motives to everything he said or did. The word “dark” and therefore “evil” lodged in their minds with every story they heard, and especially if they listened to the media broadcasts put out by his opposition, whether true or false. The truth was not important to people, the frame of mind was.

Trump used the same psychological effect on Hillary calling her crooked Hillary, making everyone distrust her every action. If people are paying attention, they will find that he finds an appellation to apply to all those with whom he is in opposition, to try to get people to think as he wants them to think about that person. And each appellation has a logical reason behind it. Persuasive speech is part and parcel of politics, and he is a pro at it. This may come as a result of some natural ability and some study. People can learn to do this, and he was a businessman who needed to win at negotiations, so he became good at The Art of the Deal, as he named his book. I am not going to elaborate on the truth or fiction of either of these persons’ epithets, for that is not the point of this article. The fact is, for people who were easily swayed due to not researching the truth with an open mind, the appellation of “dark” was enough to cement in their minds what they should think of the person, whether true or false. In fact, as a result, some not only think Trump is Hitler, they believe he is the antichrist. This goes to show how successful this persuasive speech was in the minds of some people. The truth of his actions became irrelevant. The interpretation, exaggeration, or even suppression of the facts became the “truth” that was presented by the opposition (on both sides), so that minds would see what some wanted them to see. Every story would fill the preconceived and programmed mindset, except for those who were able to stand back and see the real truth.

When Trump won the election (unexpectedly on the part of many people, but not for those who understood what was happening), the left wing camp of the nation went berserk. Riots, violence, all sorts of things broke out. Colleges had to offer “safe spaces” with things like crayons and coloring books, puppies, and who knows what else, as these children were emotionally melting down. They had not expected Trump to win, and when he did, their minds couldn’t handle it. So he was labeled a Hitler and antichrist, and nothing he does, no matter how it may benefit the country, is worthy of credit in the eyes of those who believe he is “dark”. His actions that are not really morally defensible are portrayed as the vilest things that any president, nay any person has ever done (They have short memories of our other politicians and presidents.), and many epithets are attached to his name, even if not truly factual. So, those who bought into the persuasion became victims of a conspiracy by foreign nations instead of merely losing an election, and Hillary Clinton is still basically, a year and a half later, crying to anyone who will listen that she actually won and she can’t understand why nobody will believe her and put her in office. She has a severe case of cognitive dissonance. As far as many Christians are concerned, the end of the world has come and pre-trib rapturists are expecting to get out of here any minute now, because obviously the antichrist is here, and they are setting rapture dates left and right. Cognitive dissonance at its best. (Granted, every day brings us closer to the end of this age regardless of what happens, so these events should not concern or surprise us.)

If the term is unfamiliar to you, cognitive dissonance is basically when a person’s worldview (or in the Christian’s world also his theological view) is put in conflict with the evidence or facts to such a degree that their mind cannot handle it, so they create imaginary reasons to rationalize the incongruity between what they think and the facts with which they are faced. They will rewrite reality to even the absurd in order to preserve their beliefs as being right. They may also get very agitated and even angry, as we saw from the riots and violence that ensued after the election.

One of the methods of rationalization is to use what is called confirmation bias. This is to irrationally believe that the new fact or evidence actually supports the view, even when it doesn’t. Or on the other hand, it allows a person to ignore the facts that do not agree with their belief while accepting those that do agree, thereby thinking the new evidence supports their view. If you have ever wondered why a person is not understanding what you are saying when you disagree with them and are presenting facts that refute their belief, this may be part of the problem.

Let me give some examples of this. I believe (and have an article on this) that according to all of Scripture taken in context, a person can lose their salvation if they do not continue to abide in Christ and endure to the end of their life in a close relationship with Christ. There are many verses that will back this up, and I have the arguments provided for this in my article on the subject in my archives. I am only using this as an example of cognitive dissonance, as it was just recently an experience that I had which demonstrates the psychological phenomena. It is not a complete study on the subject of eternal security.

In my church I got into a discussion in Bible study over this, as the church’s doctrine says that you cannot lose your salvation. They believe once saved, always saved, and if you walk away, you were not saved to begin with. I pointed out a number of Scriptures that taught otherwise. (here I include some, but not all to which I referred). The responses were immediate denial and debating me over every Scripture I gave them. The more Scripture I presented, the more angst ridden they became. Here are just some of the Scriptures I presented, and below them are some of the answers given to rebut those verses.

1) the parable of the four seeds. (Matt. 13) Three of them accept the Word, but two of them are choked out due to either the lust of the world, or the trials of life. The second and third seed are different from the first who did not receive the seed, in that they did receive it. One endured for a while then walked away and wanted nothing more to do with it, and the other became unfruitful and was choked out.

In this case, I was told that the two seeds didn’t really accept the Lord. Period. They only had a “head knowledge”. The problem with this answer? God’s Word says differently. The second seed was received with joy and endures for a while until persecution and trials become too much. Then he walks away. The third grew until it became unfruitful and was choked out. Then he walks away. You can’t become unfruitful if you were never producing fruit to begin with. To become something, in this case unfruitful which is a negative, is a change in status and means that you had been the positive of this at one time, or fruitful. He had been bringing forth fruit at first. Nor can you receive and endure if you have never received. How would you endure at all without having received? It is God who gives us the strength to endure. The facts don’t fit their interpretation. Faced with Scripture that said the opposite of what was believed, it was changed in interpretation to support the held belief, even in the face of the fact that it did not support it.

2) the parable of the ten virgins. (Matt. 25) They were all virgins waiting for the groom, but five of them had not properly prepared to wait out the long wait, and so were shut out of the wedding.

Their answer – the five virgins were not really saved. They were tares, not wheat. How is one a virgin if one is not a virgin? In the context of spirituality, to be a virgin means to not worship any other god than God. Those who are spiritually dead belong to Satan. They are not virgins. A virgin is one who is spiritually pure – one who is redeemed by Christ’s blood. The problem is that they did not endure by preparing to wait until the end. They were scrambling to do what they should have been doing all along, making sure they were ready to go. Making their calling and election sure. Again, cognitive dissonance in that the facts did not support their belief, but they reinterpreted the facts to support their belief.
3) 2 Peter 1:10 “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:”
Their answer – Your calling and election are sure, but as good Christians we should walk in holiness. The problem? Why would you have to work to make your election sure, if it is sure? Why would Peter indicate that something could possibly make it unsure? There is an “if” involved here. If you give due diligence and do the things you should, you will never fall. Apparently the possibility exists that you can fall, as in fall away permanently, if you do not do the things you should. Why would this mean fall away and not just backslide for a brief time? Because just committing a sin can be forgiven as we know, so this is not speaking of that. The only thing that it can logically mean is that you can fall away permanently, if you are not abiding in Christ, otherwise, why say this at all? It makes no sense in the way they were trying to interpret it. The lack of logic in ignoring the “if-will” clause or thinking it is just a simple sin that one can repent is cognitive dissonance.

4) 2 Peter 2:20-21 “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.”

The answer was that the knowledge was not an intimate knowledge as in a relationship with Christ. It was just the kind of knowledge that the demons have – James 2:19 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The people mentioned were merely churchgoers and again tares. Where this answer falls down is in several places. First, it says that their knowledge of the Lord had allowed them to escape the pollutions of the world, but being entangled again in them would be worse than if they had never known the way of righteousness. How can a person who has not been saved actually know the way of righteousness? How can they be worse off after they pretend to be saved, than if they hadn’t pretended? There is no difference in their status at all spiritually, if they have not known the Lord intimately.

Second, the word “known” in these verses is a particular word for a particular type of knowledge. Because it is so special, it is only used a few times in the New Testament. It is the word “epiginosko” and means to be fully acquainted with, which indicates an intimate knowledge of someone. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we read “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” In the first case when we see the word “know”, the word is “ginosko” and it means to be aware of, to feel you understand.” Paul can only feel he understands God, as we see through a glass darkly. He can’t have a completely intimate understanding of everything having to do with God. But when we see the Lord face to face, then we shall know (epiginosko) every intimate detail of God, just as He knows (epiginosko) us. This knowledge speaks of having full intimate knowledge of, not just us of God, but it also describes how God knows us. God knows us better than we know ourselves. Clearly if we know God in the epiginosko way, it is speaking of the most intimate knowledge of another, which can only be achieved through accepting Christ as your Savior. There is no other way to know Christ intimately like this. Therefore when it says that if they are again entangled in the world, the latter state is worse than the first state, it is talking of going from belief back to unbelief. Why is this state worse? Because to have known God and turned from Him is worse than never having known Him at all. To go from not really knowing God to not really knowing God does not put you in a different state whatsoever. The latter state is no worse than the former, because they are the same. What is ironic, is that the pastor said of this verse that he knew that it “looked” as if the way I was interpreting it was correct, but I wasn’t correct. The cognitive dissonance got worse, the more verses I presented.

5) 1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

I don’t believe they had an answer for this one. They just ignored it. Paul says that if he does not keep himself under control and do as he should after preaching this to others, he himself could become a castaway. The word means to be rejected, a reprobate, or worthless. In other words, to be cut loose from God. Even Paul was worried that he could become rejected by God if he did not endure to the end. It’s no wonder they had no answer.

6) John 15:2a,6 “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:....If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

This was one that left them scrambling to answer. The explanation came that the person again had to be a pretender, as they weren’t producing fruit. Someone suggested that the fire was not the fire of hell, but that the fires were the refining fires of our works and that this referred to works being lost. Even the pastor could not go with that interpretation. I pointed out that nobody can be “in” Christ or in the vine unless they have actually accepted Christ. The determination to reconcile it was strong. The insistence was that the person could not have actually accepted Christ in spite of the “in” factor. They were just pretending to be grafted in, because real Christians have no choice but to produce fruit and good fruit at that. Really? No free will choice but to be a good Christian? Uh, not what I see, but okay. Have it your way.

7) Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

The answer to this was complete denial that the verse said what it said. Again it was insisted that the person did not actually know the Lord. The word “enlightened” was redefined as head knowledge, the word “tasted” meant attending church and therefore being familiar with the things of Christianity, the word “partakers” meant being in church and watching other Christians in their walk, the words “fall away” meant to simply quit going to church and the word “renew” meant that they had not accepted Christ, so they would not get into heaven. This is cognitive dissonance at its finest. The absurd length which they went to twist the very clear meaning of these verses showed how their brain could not handle it when faced with a truth that did not agree with their beliefs. What this verse says is that those who have received the spiritual enlightenment of having their eyes and ears opened to God and His Word, which only comes through accepting Him, those who have tasted for themselves what God’s gifts bring to their lives, because as children of God we receive certain blessings and gifts, those who have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, because you only partake of something if you actually make it a part of yourself or interact with it, if they turn their back on God and want nothing more to do with Him cannot have their repentance renewed. Their ignoring the very pertinent word “renew” was clearly a disassociation of their brain. You cannot renew something which has never existed to begin with. When you renew a contract, you have already had the contract in use and it has come to a conclusion and must be renewed to be valid again. To renew your relationship with Christ means that you once knew Him. This verse does not indicate that every sin will end up with your loss of salvation. It must be taken in context with the rest of Scripture and indicates that if you turn from God and deny Him, then there is no way to renew salvation, for it only comes through Christ and if you don’t want Him, there is nothing left to provide salvation.

8) Hebrews 10:26-31 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The answer to this was pretty much the same as #8. Denial that the verse said what it said. That this spoke of an intellectual knowledge only and that sanctification was not due to being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The problem with the head knowledge interpretation is that the word is the same kind of knowing that we saw in 2 Peter 2 (#4 above). It means full intimate knowledge of something. There is no question that this speaks of a true born again believer who is willfully turning from God. The verse used to “prove” this was not speaking of a true Christian focused the emphasis on the word “sanctified.” It was told to me that because Scripture says that when a saved woman marries an unsaved man, he and the children are considered sanctified for the sake of the children, this is the kind of sanctification spoken of here. That was a real stretch since the context is entirely different. Taking the verse totally out of context and misapplying it to another Scripture does not make it mean what they were saying it meant. The sanctification spoken of in the marriage condition did not mean salvation for the husband and children, which is what this verse in Hebrews is speaking about. It meant that God would consider the home as set aside for Him, because of the wife and would bless it because of her faith. In the verse in Hebrews, it is talking about personal sanctification, as a result of personal intimate knowledge of Christ and truth, which can only come through accepting Christ and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is talking about personal willful sin, after having received the knowledge and Holy Spirit. Then it speaks of God judging His people. People who are not saved, are not His people. This is speaking about a Christian.

So with every new fact, every verse that proved the point I was making, the cognitive dissonance grew and denial became more and more absolute. Truth was not important. Preserving the stability of the brain became of paramount importance, and the brain chose to interpret the facts in a way that would not cause distress or confusion. This is not an aberration. This is what our brain will do when we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to try to teach us truth. The brain will always seek out reconciliation and peace of mind, even at the cost of truth, unless you choose to let God have His way and show you truth.

Another method of cognitive dissonance is to filter the information through a lens that dictates their worldview. What does not fit in the picture gets filtered out, so that explanation is unnecessary. If it is inescapable to have to accept the fact for some reason, then as a last resort the person will find a way to show how their belief was misinterpreted and therefore it was not wrong, it was just misunderstood and can be rewritten with as much of the original belief saved as possible to fit the new information which must be accommodated.

An easy example of this is the myriad of rapture dates that have been set, have come, and have passed. Everyone setting these dates are filtering out the information in the Bible that tells us that the rapture cannot come until certain events have occurred. When the date comes and passes with no rapture, there is an immediate scramble to explain how their math was a little off, or they accidentally had a little misunderstanding of a particular verse or even word. And they set another date accommodating the new information. You would think these people would realize their mistake in trying to set a date to begin with, but they don’t, even after multiple failures. They have a certain expectation set in their mind, and they have to fulfill it. To point out their error, that Scripture does not back them up only leads them into denial and in fact, they never really accept that they were wrong, they simply had a little error in their calculations. Cognitive dissonance at work.

So what has this to do with the church and why should it affect a Christian? Well, I’m sure it is obvious to everyone from the examples above, but to reiterate, God has one truth, but Satan has created many versions on that truth. Versions which will deceive even the elect. That one truth is crucial to how one approaches the end times, which I feel we are on the verge of entering. To not know the truth, to not have that grounding when nothing but lies come at you from every direction, will allow cognitive dissonance to occur when things do not take place as expected. That cognitive dissonance is the very thing which will lead to people being deceived and falling away from the faith. God warns us that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6. What knowledge do you suppose He is speaking about? His Word of course. Truth in the form of God’s Word is the anchor which will keep us grounded and faithful when everything around us no longer makes any sense and we can’t tell heads from tails.

To show some of my own journey with cognitive dissonance, regular readers of my blog will have already discerned that I am a proponent of the last trumpet rapture. Just as background I was raised a pre-tribber. Then I was made familiar with the teaching of mid-trib, the post-trib, and then many years later, I was introduced to the pre-wrath rapture. In the beginning I merely accepted, as most people do, what I was taught as the truth (since everybody believes their denominational theology is the only right one and the only one with the entire truth), but as I started to study the Scriptures without the use of the denominationally approved theological commentaries to guide and bias my thought processes, I soon discovered a great many discrepancies between what God’s Word said and what I was taught. I began to experience cognitive dissonance, but being a person who was addicted to mysteries, I couldn’t just walk away from the problems I found. I had to solve them. So I started investigating the other two less held versions to see if they provided less difficulties. I still discovered too many discrepancies to accept those theories and experienced more cognitive dissonance which I had to overcome. I knew that God’s Word, when rightly divided, does not leave us with these discrepancies, so continued to look for answers. Some years later I found that the pre-wrath theory brought me much closer to the truth. The process to get to this point had been extremely painful. It was like having the rug pulled out from under me. How could I trust anything that they were teaching? But by now I was so determined to find the truth that I was shutting down the cognitive dissonance in favor of accepting truth, even in the face of that being painful. Pre-wrath seemed really good, but something still continued to nag at me that this was not correct either, as there were a few passages that I still could not reconcile, as hard as I might try. Finally one day I just started praying and praying for truth no matter how hard it may be to accept, no matter how painful. When I finally put truth above all else, it allowed God to show me the truth. The rapture is just where Paul told us it was, where Christ told us it was, and where John told us it was - at the last trumpet, the seventh trumpet in Revelation. Finally all of those pesky verses that I could not reconcile fell into place like the pieces of a puzzle. It all made sense. But the revelation of that truth brought a whole new set of concerns. Not for myself, but for other Christians. The knowledge of how unprepared they were, like those five virgins, and knowing that those virgins got shut out of the wedding, became a real burden on my heart.

If as God’s Word tells us, we are to go through the great tribulation, there would be an abundance of deception going on. Christ did warn us several times during the Olivet Discourse to not be deceived, and to not run after men that people claimed were Him. If there were no chance of Christians being deceived, why would Christ make such a point of warning us not once, but several times over. And if the antichrist is so easily dismissed as the real Messiah, as most Christians expect he will be in their eyes, why warn us to not run after men who were calling themselves the returned Jesus? We should not believe it, should we? We can’t be deceived can we? Apparently the deception will be very, very convincing. In fact the delusion is sent by God Himself and people who have not believed the truth will believe the lie. 2 Thess. 2:11-12 “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

For people who are expecting a completely different scenario, whether pre-trib, mid-trib, or pre-wrath, cognitive dissonance might actually make them unable to accept the truth, and they will be deceived and fall away. This is the extreme danger of this phenomena. While one might believe that a post-trib believer could not be deceived, as they expect to go through the great tribulation and see the antichrist, I have found that among the post-tribbers and pre-wrath too for that matter, they erroneously believe that because they are Christians they are automatically going to be supernaturally protected during this time, due to the promise to the Philadephians. The deception in this is that 1) the time of great tribulation is not God’s wrath, therefore no Christian is exempt from persecution, and millions of Christians will die, many who are not prepared to do so and 2) only the Philadephians (and maybe not even all of them), out of seven churches are given this promise. The other six churches are not given any promise at all to escape what lies ahead. The Smyrnans, who are faithful Christians with no condemnation from Christ are all martyred. The Thyatirans are told “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.” Rev. 2:22. The phrase “great tribulation” is only used three times in the Bible and each time it refers to that time when antichrist will rule. Instead of being promised to be protected the other six churches are told what their eternal rewards will be if they are “overcomers.” So what is meant by “overcomer”?

In Revelation 12:11 we are told that Christians “overcome” the beast by their deaths. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” The saints overcome Satan not be being protected. They overcome him by not loving their lives up to death. To be an overcomer means to remain faithful to the Lord by the power of His blood and endure to the end even in the face of death by martyrdom. Rev. 14:13 “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

My greatest fear for the Church, and here I must say it is mainly the Laodicean American Church who do not believe God would ever let them suffer (the churches in the rest of the world know better as they are dying every day for their faith), is that when they are faced with the fact that there was no rapture to get them out of here before the antichrist starts killing them, they will go into cognitive dissonance and deny that this is what is happening. They will rationalize and reinterpret and make excuses and believe the lie, which will jeopardize their very salvation. Not wanting to have truth more than comfort will leave them vulnerable and frightened beyond their ability to cope. And there seems to be no way to cut through this cognitive dissonance that I have found. For God to show someone the truth, they have to desire it, and as He said, people have itching ears. They don’t want bad news. They want good news. They want the easy way out, because they have been living the easy Christianity. One that is full of the good life, entertainment, loose rules, carnal pleasures, and false promises of once saved always saved and eternal security, not holy living and self-sacrifice, with the Ten Commandments as a guide.

While politics and religion will only walk hand in hand when our Savior is king, looking at what has happened in America from the political upheaval is a forewarning of what will happen in Christianity when the expected does not transpire and the unexpected, which was considered an impossibility, does. As the left had a melt-down, so will many Christians when Christ does not return on their schedule. The parable of the Ten Virgins becomes far more meaningful when you realize that the point of the parable is that we will be waiting much longer for His return than some are expecting to wait. Those who understand that the wait will be longer and are prepared for it will enter into the wedding. Those who are not prepared – well, you can read the parable for yourself in Matthew 25.

So the question at the beginning was, “How do I learn truth and avoid deception?” The answer is not an easy one. It is not an easy one, because it requires an enormous amount of work. The work it requires is getting your Bible out and without the commentaries, without following someone’s preconceived bias, ask God to show you the truth and learn at His feet. That is one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit. He was to lead us into truth. John 16:13 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” We are told the Spirit will show us things to come. In other words, the truth of the prophecies which we should be studying (Revelation has a blessing on those who read and heed the book) will be given to us by the Holy Spirit. Not by Joe Shmoe, the such and such denominational father whom everyone reveres. Joe Shmoe may not have been guided by the Spirit when he was studying, so you shouldn’t take his word for everything without checking like a good Berean. Be prepared to take God’s Word at face value. He actually wrote things in a way so that you would understand, believe it or not. Prophecy in particular is not for private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20) The only way to avoid that is to take it at face value, no matter how unreal or bizarre it may seem at first. Reality may be far more “unreal” than you presently believe. Much of the truth of reality (the entire spiritual world) is hidden from our view, but the Bible tells us all about it. It requires letting go of preconceived ideas and biases and just accepting the truth no matter how hard it is to accept. The blessing in all of that? When Christ said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” He was not being facetious. Letting go of false views to embrace truth will be the most freeing thing you will ever experience. I can say that from experience. At first it is devastating. I will also admit that, but the more you accept truth, the easier it becomes to accept more truths, and the joy that comes with knowledge, the knowledge that keeps you from being destroyed as God predicted in Hosea, is a wondrous thing. Being forewarned and forearmed and prepared is a blessing. God’s Word will anchor you in truth when all else is nothing but lies. The truth will make lies ring like a bell in your head when you hear them. The truth will allow you to see subtle manipulations of semi-truths. The truth will set and keep you free from all the mind control in the world.

2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”