Sunday, May 15, 2011

Judgment Begins With the House of God

1 Peter 4:17 “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

If Peter said this to the audience of his day, how much more is it applicable to us today, many of whom will no doubt see the Coming of the Lord? The indications are there that God has already begun to sift the wheat from the chaff of this generation to decide who will have to suffer the Great Tribulation, and whom He will preserve through it. Ever since the church came into existence there has been apostasy. One need only read Paul's letters to see that. Doctrines of demons, wolves in sheep's clothing being leaders of the flock, corruptions of the gifts of the Spirit – all of these things have been a constant enemy to battle. Yet the church survived and continued as generation after generation of people saw this apostasy and split away from the institution of the church to try to weed out the yeast. They would begin new churches under new names calling people back to repentance and the literal interpretation of God's Word, trying to weed out man's traditions and heresies. The remnant has always been a small group bucking the system of religion that reigns in Christ's name. But God forewarned that at the time of the end, the apostasy would be greater than ever, just as the Tribulation that they would enter into would be the worst in the history of the world. Given that information, and most Christians (here I will specify Christians as referring to true born-again believers, not people who identify with a denomination but have no personal relationship with the Lord) believing that we are in the end times, one would think that every Christian would be studying their Bibles diligently and be very wary of every new doctrine or “way of doing things” that comes into the church, and some have. But that “some” represents a very small percentage of those who attend church and call themselves Christians. Most tend to not have a clue what their Bible really says, as they expect to be spoon fed the information (regardless of whether it is erroneous or not) by their pastors and teachers. Most have bought into the idea that it is not a personal command to go out and preach the gospel, but feel it is the church's (meaning their place of worship) duty to do the witnessing for them. As a result, the idea of making church a palatable place for non-believers to come, be entertained, and receive some watered down, inoffensive message about salvation has become the goal of most congregations. This is in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches the local church is supposed to be, a place where believers meet to worship corporately, praise and thank God, study the Scriptures to grow in understanding and wisdom, pray for the body's needs, and fellowship together for encouragement and camaraderie. It is not meant to be a place to bring people to be saved, although that can sometimes be a side-effect.

Because of this disobedience to shift away from personal responsibility to corporate responsibility, Satan used the foot in the door to bring in more paths to perdition. Rather than preach the Word, which we are told will be an offense, the social gospel, and other damnable heresies like the prosperity gospel began to creep in. Where that did not work, other truths were distorted and corrupted. New Age beliefs began to be brought in. Now churches have yoga classes and other occult practices given as part of their reaching-out-to-the-community programs. The music changed. Originally the church sang the psalms. Then there were hymns that praised God. Then the hymns began to focus on man's blessings from God, then man's response to God. Then the music started to move away from the style that was solely identified with the church to music that sounded exactly like the world's. Then the music became solely the world's music, first with some oblique references to God thrown in, and finally with the words focusing on man with occasional oblique references to some higher entity or power, not necessarily the God of the Bible. Instead of worship praising God, meetings have become entertainment for social purposes. Bibles have been removed from the pews, and the Lord's Supper eliminated for being offensive to non-believers. God has become a person who loves everyone and will not be judgmental, so there are not only no standards anymore as to what behavior is acceptable, but also what qualifies for getting into heaven.

Has it crossed anyone's mind as to why God is allowing things to go so far this time? I believe it is because the final judgment has commenced. God is separating those who love and obey Him from those who want to have itching ears, or are like the chaff in the wind blowing about with any doctrine that they find interesting or pleasing for their comfort. False prophets and teachers are in abundance. One cannot travel very far anymore without seeing billboards of one group or another announcing the end of the world on a particular day. At the moment of this writing, I know of three different groups setting a date. All different of course, based on their "infallible leaders' " twisted versions of the Bible. The fact that we are told by God that we cannot do this has not stopped them. They “know” and they are “right.” Within the churches are those who have seen the apostasy and have left the church to start home churches. This was a good move at the beginning, but as usual, people are lazy, preferring to be spoon fed, and do not want the responsibility of answering straight to God without that intermediary pastor to blame when something goes wrong, so do not trust the Lord to be their only Shepherd. Just as Israel clamored for a king so as to be like everyone else, not trusting God's system of judges whom He would divinely appoint and who would judge according to the Spirit given to them, people feel the need for a pastor or leader. As a consequence, those who initially are the wheat leaving behind the room full of chaff, make themselves more slaves to Satan's deceptions by turning to the wolves outside the church who are looking to devour them. Thus they end up worse than before, becoming a part of some cult.

At first I wondered how this could be happening, and why. Having seen several friends fall into this last category, friends whom I was persuaded loved the Lord with all their heart, and who left the church due to apostasy, I went to the Lord asking for wisdom to understand what was happening. I was brought to the verse at the beginning of this article and led to understand that it is all a part of the sifting process. God has allowed Satan to enter the churches and defile them. This is the first sifting of those who embrace the turning from God from those who stay and tolerate it while not approving, and those who shake the dust from their feet and leave. Those who turn from God will probably be lost. Those who stay and tolerate will find themselves thrown into tribulation to refine them. The next sifting comes to those who come out of the church. He needs to find out who will follow and rely solely on Him, and who insists upon having a human shepherd. I believe the reason for this sifting is that, as the Tribulation approaches we will have no one but the Lord to guide us, and He needs to separate those who have studied and know His Word, having had Him teach it to them, and who have learned to hear His voice and instructions, from those who will listen to man and can be deceived .

I believe the next sifting comes on a much more personal level. I have noticed that God seems to be taking away some of His protective hand from His faithful servants and allowing Satan to attack them in their Achilles heel. Whatever your weakest point, if you have passed the tests to this point, you can be sure that Satan will go after your weak spot to try and tempt you and drag you away from the Lord that way. To qualify as one of the remaining remnant, one must be living a life in which striving for holiness is a daily quest. The Ten Commandments are our guide. Granted, meeting that goal may not always happen, but repentance and continuing to fight the good fight and finish the race is for what God is looking. We should be able to say as Paul did “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7. We are running in a race which we can lose if we are not careful. 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Judgment is happening all along the way on this path to the finish line. For those who fail along the way, they can expect to be one of those for whom the sword is waiting during the Tribulation. They might make it to heaven, but it may be through a trial by fire. 1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” The timing of this is “when his glory shall be revealed.” That means that this fiery trial will be around the time of His return. Note that Peter is saying that they will think that this fiery trial is a strange thing, or something they were not expecting. How many do not believe they will go through the Tribulation, but be raptured beforehand? One of the so-called rapture dates predicted lies only six days away (the May 21, 2011 one) from the writing of this article. These people came out of the apostate church, but then wanted to hear that they would not suffer, as they were godly Christians, who did not condone the apostasy. They deserve to be rescued do they not? How our pride can deceive us. We deserve nothing but hell. It is only through Christ's blood that we can even aspire to receive God's forgiveness. Pride is a dangerous creature. It can lead us astray so easily. When one thinks they are incapable of being deceived, at that moment Satan has you. He will find something that you really desire (in this case people wanted a way out of tribulation) and he will find a way to convince you that you can have it. If these people were studying their Bibles, instead of taking this man's words as gospel truth and never checking on him, they would not have been led down the primrose path. God would have been able to show them where he is in error and they could have been saved. Instead, they traded comforting words for possibly their very salvation.

People often condemn me for preaching that we will suffer, as they say that is not looking for Christ, but for the antichrist. Really? When did Christ say we would never suffer? That is not what I read in my Bible. I read to take up my cross and follow Him. I read that the trying of our faith brings patience. Do you not look all the more for Christ's return if you are enduring terrible hardships and trials? I know I need to be refined. I am very aware how far from perfect and righteous I am. I know I do not deserve an easy “out.” I am scared to death that I could be deceived, if I am not extremely vigilant. I have seen it happen to others. I do not look forward to the Tribulation, but look through and beyond it to my salvation which waits on the other side. How much more incentive do I have to live a holy life, if I know what lies in the balance?

God's judgment on His house has begun. The sifting process is underway. Are you wheat? Or are you chaff?

*When this was written, it was a week before Harold Camping's May 21, 2011 prediction. It is now November, 2011. Not only did the rapture not happen on May 21, but the end of the world that he predicted to happen on October 21, 2011 did not happen either. It appears he is studying to yet put out another date, and there are people who are still following him. How many times must one be fooled and deceived, before one can humble themselves, admit their sin of pride, and turn from what is obviously a false prophet? No wonder God needs to put the Church through tribulation. They need to learn something.

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