Our Great Commission (#12 End)


Pastor Barry/ The Gathering  This I Believe Series (#12 End) Our Great Commission     to hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

“GO!” Matthew 28:16-19a, John 17:14-21

We come to the end of our twelve week series, THIS I BELIEVE, with the last command of Christ to His church.  We call it the Great Commission, but it can be summed up in one word, “Go!”  I can relate to this one word commission because it was the one word    unction that I got from evangelist, Ken Wright, who yelled it at me as I resisted God’s obvious call to come to Hawaiian Gardens and share the gospel.  I had a million excuses not to “go” from the overseas mission field that we had been on for almost six months, but I knew very well what God wanted.  My wife knew too, and she was willing to go.  I was looking for any other word or direction from that evangelist as I approached him in that line, but all I could hear echoing in my mind was “Hawaiian Gardens”.  The evangelist had spoken so calmly to everyone before me, but when it was my turn he laid his hands gently on me, paused for a moment, heaved a great sigh and then proclaimed firmly: “The desire in your heart is of the Lord, now go!”  Our eyes opened and met.  His were frowning.  His hands sternly squeezed my shoulders and he shouted twice more in my face: “Go, go!” , and go we did and 35 years later here we still are obeying our Lord’s great commission in Hawaiian Gardens. Jesus commands us to “go!”

Like me and you, the disciples knew that they were to “go” and make disciples long before Jesus ever gave the great commission that we read in Matthew 28:18-20.  Jesus had shown them and told them over and over again in their three years with Him. You have heard it again and again from the pulpit. You can’t hear about Jesus without knowing His will.  From Simon (Peter) and Andrews first call He said “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), and all of them could never forget  when their teacher washed their feet and proclaimed:  “ I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a    messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:15-17).  Any believer in Christ, let alone one who calls them-self a “disciple”, knows that we are to “Go”, but most go the other way. 

Notice in our text how it says “but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17)?  How could any of those eleven disciples had doubted after Jesus had just triumphed over such a terrible death?  Doubt or not Jesus told them all to “Go!”  It was a command not a suggestion.  “All authority is His”, Therefore…”Go!” and it is not only a command for those eleven it is for all who would believe through their message (John 17:20).  If we love Him we will keep His commands (John 14:15).  Jesus commands us to “Go!”, but go where and do what?

“BE MY WITNESSES” Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, Romans 1:16-17

Jesus makes it clear, He always makes His calling clear. He said:

  • “make disciples of all nations” Jesus didn’t name the nations. He didn’t need to.  The persecution that followed His ascension drove His followers (the Church) all over the world. What Jesus was telling them and us is wherever we live and wherever we go “make disciples” (disciplined ones who follow Christ) by being His witnesses in the power of the Holy spirit. Where we are is our Jerusalem, wherever we go is our Judea and Samaria. In America the nations are coming to us!  Jesus told His early disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and then they would receive power to do the job.  Now the Holy Spirit is within us from the moment we are “born again” (John 14:15-17, 26-27). We are not to be afraid (2 Timothy 1:7-8) but are to speak and live as His witnesses.  In every way we are to “make disciples of all nations (peoples) ”. It is also important to note that Jesus said to make disciples (lit. disciplined ones) and not just converts.   Out of a “contest” to win converts the church often tries to make Jesus more convenient. That’s what our culture is all about, not Jesus! (Matthew 16:24-26) 
  • “Baptizing them in the name…” Jesus named the father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the Church we are not to just do nice things with other nice religious people.  We are to proclaim the one Triune God and bring people to the place where they will confess Him publicly through Baptism (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16)We are not to be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  As the tide of popular opinion turns against Christianity we must stand firm and live out our faith loudly.  
  • “teaching them to obey everything” We teach by example, for that is how our Lord has taught us. We do not pick and choose what to teach or what to obey. The Bible is our eternal constitution and we shall live by it and teach others to obey it according to our Lord’s teaching ( 2 Timothy 2:15).   Among those teachings are: 
  • Serving the Church with our gifts: We are to seek to know our gifts and use them to build up the church. No Christian should be content filling a seat alone.  We are the Church not just in one.  Ephesians 4:15-16
  • Giving financially (cheerfully) to God’s work: It is our duty and pleasure to financially give to God’s work in our local church and in missions. How is God’s kingdom to come to earth if His people refuse to give to His work? 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
  • Serving those outside of the church: It is our duty to represent God to the world and so we must go there. Unbelievers will not fill the Church so the Church must go to the unbelievers and minister Christ there.  We must also go to those who are suffering hardships, “the least of these”.  Matthew 25:34-40

“I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS” Matthew 28:20b, Acts 1:9-11

After Jesus gave this great commission to His disciples to “go” (or as Nike would say “just do it!”) He was taken up before their very eyes…who was doubting then?  As the angels said, “why stand looking into the sky.” There is work to be done Church before He comes back again.  We can say it is our duty, for it is.  We can say it is our command, for it is our great commission.  Let us say it is our honor and privilege!



Our Conviction (#11)

DortSynodAbove:  Synod of Dort: Dordrecht, Netherlands 1618-1619 (Arminians at middle table).

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church:  This I believe Series #11 Our Conviction                   To hear this teaching and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM 

An Age Old Debate                                                                                                                            All believers in Christ should have a conviction (a firmly held belief) regarding what they believe about God and salvation.  As believers we must adhere unwaveringly to the essentials of Christianity (i.e. the deity of Christ, salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ alone, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Biblical Gospel, monotheism: the Holy Trinity and Faith) , but allow the inclusion and friendly  debate of those who may differ on non-essential issues.  The Bible alone, and not our feelings, must be the absolute source of what we believe”, however;  sometimes even the most devout lovers of Jesus and the Bible have disagreed upon what it says (for this reason we have many  denominations in the Church).  The greatest of these debates is called the Calvinist–Arminian debate beginning in the early 17th century in the Netherlands with a Christian theological dispute between the followers of John Calvin (French pastor, theologian, reformer 1509-1564) and  Jacobus Arminius (Dutch Pastor, theologian 1560-1609), and continues today among some Protestants, particularly evangelicals (those actively teaching and evangelizing).

The basis of the dispute came about as Arminius studied the Bible and began teaching different views on the established foundations of the faith laid by Augustine (Roman, African early Church theologian and philosopher 354 AD-430 AD) and later taught by Calvin, thereby lending his name to a movement—Arminianism—which resisted some of the Calvinist tenets. Arminius was called to appear before a council where he intended to defend his teachings but died before his hearing.  Followers of his teaching became known as Remonstrants (opposers) after they issued a five point document (one year after his death) to the Church. The Synod  of  Dort (1618–19), met and condemned Arminius’ theology and presented the five points of Calvinism which would later develop into the acronym TULIP.  Arminian pastors who remained in the  Netherlands were persecuted, but the Remonstrants continued in Holland as a distinct  church  and  grew influencing key figures in church history, such as John Wesley (British cleric, theologian, evangelist and founder of Methodism 1703-1791 ) We will now look to the two teachings side by side:  

Note: Lutherans avoided this debate because the Arminians never issued them a refutation of their errors. The Synod of Dort had 154 meetings (debates) over six months. Nov. 13,1618—May 9, 1619

T= Total Depravity Vs Deprivation Ephesians 2:1-5, John 1:4-5, 9-13, 17-18

The doctrine of Original Sin/ Total Depravity means that man is absolutely cursed by Adam’s fall and born into sin; therefore, in the words of singer songwriter Bob Dylan, “stone cold dead as we stepped out of the womb” (Saved:  1980, Columbia Records). Arminias and his Remonstrants were accused of Pelagianism (belief that original sin did not taint human nature)taught by Pelagius (British monk, theologian 354–420 or 440) and condemned by the Church, but his critics brought no proof of such charges. Calvinist say, and the Bible supports that we are “dead in sin” (Ephesians 2:1-5). Their position is that a dead person can do nothing—certainly they can not turn to Christ unless God enables them to do so; therefore, God must elect them to come to Him or they will not. Those God elects will come to Him—those He does not elect will perish.  Arminians agree that man is indeed born into sin and depraved (“dead in sin”); however, when Christ came into the world He broke through this “darkness” (curse) for all of mankind.  “Darkness has not overcome it”. (John 1:4-5,9—13, 17-18). According to Arminianism that “Light” gave “”all mankind” , even though “dead in sin” the free will and grace to turn to Christ.

U= Unconditional Election Vs Conditional Election John 15:16, Ephesians 1:3-6,          Romans 9:14-24, 1 John 4:9-10, John 3:16-18, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 10:9-13

Calvinisim says that since humans (dead in sin)  cannot choose God —God has, in His grace, chosen some (the Elect) to be counted as righteous by Him without condition. The Bible supports this by saying Christ choose us and we did not choose Him (John 15:16). Even before the creation of the world He predestined them for adoption and Sonship— for His pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:3-6).  Calvinist also say that those who God does not elect will be cast into hell forever (Revelation 20:15).  In answer to the question “how can a just God eternally judge those who had no will to choose Him?” they sight Romans 9:14-24— “who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?”.  Arminians agree that Christ choose and fore knew, even before the creation of the world, all who would be “saved” (He is after all omniscient) and that without God’s choice all would   indeed be lost forever, yet according to 1 John 4:9-10, and John 3:16-18 He sent His son so that “whoever believes” would not perish but have everlasting life.  God desires that no man perish (2 Peter 3:9) and the choice and consequences of that choice is left to each man’s God given free will.  In response to the Calvinist’s use of Romans 9:14-24, they say that chapters 9-11 must be read in context—the teaching regards Israel’s pride in rejecting Christ and God’s sovereign choice in making Him the atoning sacrifice for sin. Romans 10:9-13 expresses salvation for anyone who believes in Him—Jew and Gentile.

L= Limited Atonement Vs Unlimited Atonement  Revelation 22:17

Calvinism says that atonement (reconciliation through Jesus death) is limited only to those who God has      pre-selected (elected). Arminians say that atonement is made available to “whosover will” take the free gift (Revelation 22:17) “four-point Calvinists”, reject the doctrine of limited atonement and instead believe it is available to all who will believe in Christ. They argue that it was never endorsed by Calvin or the Synod of Dort, however, if one believes in unconditional election then limited atonement reasonably follows.

 I= Irresistible Grace Vs Resistible Grace  Romans 8:39, Ephesians 4:30-31

Calvinism says that if God has elected you then His grace can not be resisted. God moves the elect according to His will. Nothing can separate the elect from Christ (Romans 8:39).   Arminians believe that God’s grace can be resisted by man’s freewill and therefore “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30-31).

P= Perseverance of the Saints Vs Assurance and Security John 10:28, Hebrews 10:26-31

Calvinism says that if God has elected you then you are eternally secure (John 10:28) whereas Arminians believe that a believer may reject Christ and lose his salvation if he does not persist (Hebrews 10:26-31). Afterall, man has a freewill.

 Our Conviction  Isaiah 55:6-11, Proverbs 3:5-6                                                                           So now you clearly see how sometimes even the most devout lovers of Jesus and the Bible have disagreed.  What is your conviction—Calvinisim, Arminianism or a mix of both—wait…is that even possible?  The dilemmas were and are: “Can God be Sovereign if man truly has a free will?  Can something truly “dead in sin” be given just enough life by his creator to choose Him?” At The Gathering our conviction is to preach the word as it reads and trust that God knows.  Our ways are not His and He will accomplish what He desires rather it fits into our theology or not.  Trust in the Lord little Christian and not your own understanding!  And by all means do not divide the body of Christ over such issues.  There are great lovers of Christ and the Bible on both sides.  There are great ministers and missionaries on both sides.

…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 1 Corinthians 12:25



Saint Patrick


Many celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th They wear green, pretend to be Irish, party,   decorate with shamrocks and mythical creatures called leprechauns, but what about St. Patrick?  Who is he and why do we celebrate his life on this day and in such a way?

“Patrick” was born Maewyn Succat (choosing to be known as Patricius later in life). He was born in Britain not Ireland in the fourth century A.D. Just before Patrick turned 16 years of age, he and his family were at their holiday villa by the sea, when Irish pirates attacked. Patrick’s family escaped, but Patrick and many of the family’s workers did not; and soon they were taken to Ireland, where Patrick was sold as a slave to Miliuc of Slemich, a Druid tribal chieftain.

Patrick was given the job of herding sheep. Although he was raised in a Christian home (his father was a deacon) Patrick never made a decision to follow Christ until after he was kidnapped and made a slave. Patrick wrote: “…the Lord opened my senses to my unbelief,’ so that though late in the day, I might remember my many sins; and accordingly ‘I might turn to the Lord my God with all my heart.” Patrick also wrote about how his faith in God grew as he prayed to Him while he shepherded the flocks: “But after l had come to Ireland, it was then that I was made to shepherd the flocks day after day, and, as l did so, I would pray all the time, right through the day. More and more the love  of God and fear of him grew strong within me, and as my faith grew, so the Spirit became more and more active… In snow, in frost, in rain, I would hardly notice any discomfort, and I was never slack but always full of energy. It is clear to me now, that this was due to the Spirit within me.”  Patrick’s devotion to God did not go unnoticed. He soon earned the nickname “Holy Boy” among his fellow slaves.

One night Patrick had a dream, and in it he heard a voice saying to him, “Soon you will be returning to your own country.” In another dream he was told, “Come and see where your ship is waiting for you.” At the age of 22, Patrick escaped and traveled 200 miles to the coast of Ireland where a ship did indeed wait for him. Patrick wrote: “I turned on my heel and ran away, leaving behind the man to whom I had been bound for six years. Yet I came away from him in the power of God, for it was He who was guiding my every step for the best. And so I felt not the least anxiety until I reached the ship”. The seaman scowled at him, so Patrick began to leave, but the man called back to him, saying the other men wanted him to board as a passenger. Patrick wrote. “In spite of this, I still hoped that they might come to have faith in Jesus Christ.”

The journey by ship was long, including a stop on land where they journeyed for 28 days. After having run out of food, the captain turned to Patrick and challenged him to ask his God for food. Glad to oblige, Patrick responded: “Turn trustingly to the Lord who is my God and put your faith in him with all your heart, because nothing is impossible to him. On this day, he will send us food sufficient for our journey, because for him there is abundance everywhere.” According to Patrick’s autobiography, when the men turned around, a herd of pigs was standing before them. They feasted for days and gave thanks to God.

Two years later Patrick finally made it to his beloved Britain and into the arms of his mother and father. Patrick began to settle back into his life in Britain and studied to become a priest and bishop.  One night Patrick had a dream of a man who came from Ireland and was carrying a letter with the words “The Voice of the Irish.” As Patrick began to read the words, he heard the voice of the men he once worked with shouting, “Holy broth of a boy, we beg you, come back and walk once more among us.”

Patrick made plans to return to Ireland—the land of his captivity—but those plans were fiercely opposed by both his parents and the church leaders who did not think the Druids were worth  saving. Of this opposition Patrick later wrote; “So at last I came here to the Irish gentiles to preach the gospel. And now I had to endure insults from unbelievers, to hear criticism of my journeys and suffer many persecutions, even to the point of chains.…And should I prove worthy, I am ready and willing to give up my own life, without hesitation, for his name…There was always someone talking behind my back and whispering, ‘Why does he want to put himself in such danger among his enemies who do not know God?’ ” Patrick even sold his title of nobility in order to serve the “barbaric nation.”

While Patrick was in Ireland, he shared the gospel with his former slave owner, Miliuc the Druid, but he refused to hear it and killed himself with fire. Patrick continued to spread the gospel across Ireland and taught the people how to read and write. He preached at racetracks and other places of worldly entertainment and saw many come to Christ. However, Patrick’s success was not without opposition. The Druids often tried to kill him. He was often ambushed at his evangelistic events, and it is noted that he was even enslaved again for a short time. Patrick even had to purchase safe passage through hostile lands in order to continue his gospel journeys. Patrick wrote, “As every day arrives, I expect either sudden death or deception or being taken back as a slave or some such other misfortune. But I fear none of these, since I look to the promise of heaven and have flung myself into the hands of the all-powerful God, who rules as Lord everywhere.”

Patrick journeyed throughout Ireland, sharing Christ until his death on March 17th, around the  year 461 A.D. Later, Irish myths were created  about Patrick and stories of leprechauns would creep into his holy day celebrations, as well as the symbol of the shamrock, believed to have been used by Patrick to illustrate the Trinity as he preached and taught. Some legends say Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Since there are no snakes in Ireland and they often symbolize the devil and evil, many believe the “snakes” were a metaphor representing his work of driving the idol-worshiping Druid cult out of the country.

Enslavement, torture, imprisonment and death for one’s faith in Christ were not confined to     Patrick’s lifetime. Today Christians in many nations are imprisoned or killed if caught sharing the gospel with fellow countrymen. We may never be enslaved, imprisoned or beaten because of our faith in Christ, but many may make fun of us for believing in Jesus’ promise of heaven and placing our faith in a God they do not see with their eyes and cannot touch with their hands. I pray this version of Patrick’s courageous life will inspire you to stand firm in Christ and stand strong for Him as you tell others about the greatest gift we can ever be given—salvation through Jesus!



Our Creed (#10)


The Gathering/ Pastor Barry Bruce     Series: This I Believe  Lesson 10                To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINHG.COM     

Apostles Creed 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

The word Creed derives from the Latin word “Credo” which means “I believe”. There are creedal statements all throughout the New Testament (Matthew 28:19, 1 Corinthians 8: 6, 15: 3-4, Ephesians 4:4-6, Philippians 2: 6-11 ). 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 is considered by many scholars to be an extremely early creed of the Christian church written by the  Apostle Paul.

The Apostles Creed is the creed most widely used in Christian worship in the western world and the standard creed of our faith at The Gathering Church. It is called The Apostles Creed because its   content is in agreement with the teaching of the Apostles of Christ. It is related to a shorter Roman Creed (2nd century) which derived from earlier and simpler writings. The Apostle’s Creed was widely used by Charlemagne (the first Holy Roman Emperor) and was eventually accepted at Rome where the old Roman Creed and similar forms had survived for centuries. The Creed had three uses which continue to this day, first as a confession of faith for those about to be baptized, secondly as an instruction (catechism) for new Christians in the essentials of the faith, and thirdly, as a ‘rule of faith’ for believers in Christ. (Later, the Apostles’ Creed was lengthened and the language changed in the  Nicene Creed.  It includes more specific statements about the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.  We fully accept the Nicene Creed but choose to use the more simplified Apostles Creed as a statement of our faith at The Gathering).

 Descended Into Hell? Ephesians 4:9-10, 1 Peter 3:18-19, Luke 16:19-31

The Apostles Creed, unlike the Roman Creed that preceded it, contains the phrase: “He descended into hell.”  This was later added by the framers of the Apostle’s Creed to distinguish the scriptures found in  Ephesians 4:9–10  and 1 Peter 3:18-19. The Apostles’ Creed calls it “hell,” but that word translated from the King James version is not what we understand “hell” to be today. It is the Greek word “hades” (the same as sheol in the Old Testament Hebrew). This is a general term for the unseen realm of the dead. Jesus went there “in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:19) to proclaim freedom to those who had died in faith while leaving behind and proclaiming eventual judgment to those who remained in wait for the Great White Throne Judgment: Revelation 20:11-15) . We are given a short description of this place by Jesus in Luke 16:19-31 (The rich man & Lazarus).  “Hell”, as we know it, is the eternal abode of the Devil, his demons, and the damned. “Hell” will not be opened up until the Beast (antichrist) and false prophet are thrown there followed by the Devil, death, Hades (the abode of the lost) and anyone whose name was not found in the book of life (Revelation 20:10, 14-15).

 Holy “Catholic” Church? Ephesians 4:3-6, Colossians 1:17-18

Instead of “holy catholic church,” some Protestant churches use “the holy Christian church” to avoid misinterpreting the phrase as a reference to the Catholic Church. The original creed used “catholic” to define “universal” or “global” (the Latin uses the adjective catholicam). We at The Gathering Church use the phrase  “the Christian Church united” in order to reflect the original meaning.  There is but one church (body) under Christ and it is to be united under His headship (Ephesians 4:3-6, Colossians 1:17-18).

Read The Creed Revelation 22:1-5, 21

Article 1: We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. We affirm that God exists, that he is a trinity (one God in three persons: Father, Son & Holy Spirit), and that he created the known universe. Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3

Article 2: We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. The word Lord implies divinity,   because the Greek Kyrios and the Hebrew Adonai both mean “Lord” and are ascribed only to God. The name Jesus comes from the Hebrew Jeshua, meaning “God saves.” John 1:17-18

Article 3: He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. We believe in the human nature of Christ. He had a human mother, and by the power of the Holy Spirit was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He’s therefore considered both God and man by Christians—fully divine and fully human-”God with us”. Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18,22

Article 4: He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate (a Roman governor of Judea, appointed by Caesar) by Crucifixion, died  before witnesses and was buried in a tomb. This statement serves as a document of human history. Matthew 27:24-26, 50, 57-60

Article 5: He descended into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead.  I explained how Jesus “descended into hell (hades) and what He did there. This passage also affirms that on the third day Jesus came back from the dead of his own accord. He wasn’t just clinically dead for a few minutes; he was stone cold dead— then He arose in bodily form. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

Article 6: He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. The Ascension reminds us that Christ is triumphant in mission and now sits in the place of glory and honor (right hand=honor). He is King eternal! Acts 1:9-11, Revelation 1:17-18, 19:11-16

Article 7: He will come again to judge the living and the dead. This article affirms the return of Christ and His righteous judgment of all mankind, living and dead.                      1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, Revelation 20:11-15 

Article 8: We believe in the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit of God takes residence in the believer at conversion.  He is our promised “Advocate.” He is the peace, the presence and the power of God in our lives. John 14:15-20, 25-27

Article 9: the Christian Church united, the Communion of Saints, I explained how the church is to be one and united under Christ.  Jesus commanded His Saints (the Church) to remember what He did with both His body and His blood to bring salvation and unity to the Church. The sacrament of communion reminds us of thisJohn 17:20-21 Luke 22:17-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Article 10: the forgiveness of sins, Christ came to save the world from sin. John 3:16-17

Article 11: the resurrection of the body, Jesus is the resurrection and the Life.  We who believe in Him will be resurrected tooThe sacrament of baptism reminds us of this.  We symbolize both death to self and sin and resurrected life in baptism.  John 11:25-26, Romans 6:4-5

Article 12: And in life everlasting. Amen   Our lives as believers in Christ shall never end…we will transition at death into glorified bodies to live life everlasting with our Lord and Savior. This is what we, the Saints of God—the Church believe and to this we sing the last words of our Bible — our constitution together in unity  “Amen” (“So be it!”)  Revelation 22:1-5,21



Our Reward (#9)


The Gathering/ Pastor Barry: This I Believe Series #9: Our Reward (to hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM)

Eschatology Warnings

Every study of doctrine must have its eschatology (theology of the final destiny of the soul and of humankind), but let me begin with a word of caution as we enter this area of study. Apart from the belief that Christ will return for His church and bring us into eternity with Him, the specifics of     eschatology is not essential to salvation. It is certainly no reason to break fellowship with a believer who holds a different view point. A misplaced emphasis on eschatology can cause such problems as:

Passivity—Eschatology can lead to inactivity. We must remember, as the end draws near, to be focused on our call as Christians to share the gospel and not how to store up things so that we can survive. Misapplication—Be careful not to misread scripture and therefore misapply it. Not everything in the Bible is about end times. Misplaced Focus—We must not become so excited about end times study and material that it becomes our entire focus with Jesus and others. Misreading—We must be careful not to misread the scriptures or the newspaper in light of our eschatological views.  Tragedies are not to be seen as wonderful events of prophetic fulfillment but as opportunities to reach the lost with compassion. Misrepresentation—With every false prediction the credibility of believers and the claims of Christ become weakened. Christians are mocked for silly end times     hysteria and the cause of Christ is harmed.

The Rapture 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Matthew 24:36-44

So as we study eschatology carefully, we begin by dividing it into two parts: general eschatology (the future of the world)  and personal eschatology (the future of the individual). We will begin with    general eschatology and the time line (chronologically) of future things as revealed in God’s word:

The Rapture of the church is the next event on God’s calendar. Some Christian denominations do not teach the rapture; however, the majority of the evangelical world does and so do we.  The word “rapture” is not found in the Bible; however, the description is.  The actual word “rapture” comes from the Latin Vulgate Translation of the word phrase found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (“caught up”= rapio: to catch up or snatch away). This is when the church is taken up into Heaven by Christ preceding God’s wrath upon the earth (The Great Tribulation). There is disagreement among Christians regarding the timing of the rapture. Some believe it will occur before the beginning of the seven-year tribulation (pre-trib)  while others believe it will take place after the first 3 1/2 years (mid-trib). Still others hold to an after tribulation rapture (post-trib).  The rapture and the second coming of Christ are often confused. At the rapture Christ comes for His saints (Church); at His second coming He comes with His saints (Revelation 19:14). Believers who have already died are with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8), those who are who are then living will meet the Lord (and them) in the air. This will all occur in a moment, in a “twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The second coming occurs after the great tribulation (Revelation 6–19). The rapture occurs before the tribulation and rescues believers from God’s judgment upon the earth “for God has not destined us for wrath”(1 Thessalonians 5:9, Revelation 3:10). In Matthew 24:36-44 Jesus describes this event to His people.  We are to be watchful for His coming rather it be pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib.  He is coming again!

The Wrath Of God Matthew 24:21, Revelation 7:9-10, 13-14, 11:1-4

The Tribulation period follows the rapture of the Church.  When the church is gone from the earth the man of sin (Antichrist/ the Beast/ 666: unholy trinity= Satan, Antichrist, False prophet) is revealed.  This will be a world leader who is possessed by the DevilThe first 3 1/2 years of his reign will be deceptively peaceable ushering in a following 3 1/2 years of God’s terrible wrath upon the earth (Matthew 24:21, Revelation 8:6-9:21, 16:1-21)During this time men will not be able to buy or sell without a mark that the antichrist issues (likely an RFID [Radio Frequency Identification] chip implanted under the right hand or forehead: Revelation 13:16-18).  Receiving that mark will bring irreversible damnation (Revelation 14:9-11) .  During this time a great multitude of people will come to Christ and be martyred for their faith, joining the church in Heaven (Revelation 7:9-10, 13-14). Many Jews will also come to know Christ as their Messiah after   mistakenly going after the antichrist who sets himself up to be worshipped in the newly built Temple. God will provide two indestructible witnesses during this time who will prophecy for 3 1/2 years (1, 260 days: Revelation 11:1-12) near the temple in Jerusalem.

Christ’s Return and His Earthly Reign Revelation 19:11-21, 20:1-3

The end of the great tribulation will leave 1/3 of the earth destroyed (Revelation 8:7) by fire and a tenth of Jerusalem destroyed by an earthquake (Revelation 11:13).  For some cause the     armies of the earth will gather in Palestine in an area called Megiddo near the Mediterranean Sea to wage war. Perhaps they are wanting to execute the Jews who have refused to take the mark of the Beast.  Our perhaps the world’s tracking systems have intercepted what Revelation describes as the armies of Heaven coming with Christ (Revelation 19:11-21).  Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:3-4) as prophesied and the earth will split as  The Battle of    Armageddon ensues; however, it will be over quickly.  Christ destroys the armies with “the sword of His mouth”. It will be a slaughter that runs blood as high as a horses bridal for a     distance of one hundred and eighty miles (1,600 stadia: Revelation 14:20) and then Satan will be bound for 1000 years as Christ rules and reigns on the earth for a millennia.  This act fulfills the Messianic prophecies (Isaiah 11:5-9) and demonstrates what earth was meant to be in Eden. The Church, in glorified bodies will reign with Christ during this time.

The Final Judgment Revelation 20:7-15

It is hard to fathom, but Satan is released and deceives one last time to be quickly devoured with those stupid men who rise up in rebellion against Christ (Revelation 20:7-10).  At last comes the Great White Throne Judgment. This is the judgment of the damned when all of the unsaved are sentenced to Hell for eternity.  A place never meant for man.  Any who go there have only themselves to blame for God has done everything to dissuade them.

Our Great Reward (Heaven) Revelation 21:1-8, 22-27, 22:11-13,20-21

At long last shall come our great reward! “A new heaven and a new earth!” Eternal life with Christ and His people forever more, but wait…hasn’t that begun even now for we who believe?  It surely has, but then we will see Him as He sees us (1 Corinthians 13:12).   Then we will not be tempted to ever stray from what He has worked so graciously for us to possess. Amen!




Our Foe (#8)


Pastor Barry/ The Gathering   This I Believe Series #8: Our Foe To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

“The Serpent”                      Genesis 3:1-6,13-15,                       John 8:42-47 

 The foe of the Church and of our God is not who you imagine but he is certainly real.  Satan is no fiery figure with horns and a tail (horns symbolize power in the Bible and so some ancient artists began that nonsense), he is actually able to appear in many deceitful forms. The first time we read of Satan in the Bible is in Genesis when he took on the form of a serpent (not a snake which cannot speak) and murdered innocence in the garden of Eden.  Even then God made Satan’s end clear. One would come from the seed of man and “crush his head”.  Later, that “son of man”,  Jesus— referred to him when he called out the Pharisees (John 8:42-44) as being sons of the Devil.  This is what any man is who refuses the truth of God.  Christian brothers and sisters we are children of God, but until we are in Heaven with Him we have a battle fight with our foe!  

Lucifer’s Creation Colossians 1:15-18, 1 Peter 5:8-11, Luke 10:19-20

As we previously established, God created all things (Colossians 1:15-16) and therefore even created Satan, but He did not create evil, for all that God created is good (Genesis  1: 31; 1 Timothy 4: 4). God created a good angel (Lucifer), who used his free will to reject God and become evil.  Lucifer wasn’t content to    worship and serve his Creator. In pride, he rebelled, leading a third of the angels (Revelation 12:4). God cast them down to the earth and they have operated here in rebellion ever since, but God is supreme.  His plan trumps our foe!   

God knowing all things knew that Lucifer and a third of His angels would rebel if given a free-will.  God also knew that men would rebel if given a free-will; however, without a free will there is no true love or relationship with our Creator.  Evil is the result of a free-will choice by Lucifer and it is carried on by man’s free-will choice to follow him in his rebellion, but Satan and sin don’t foil God’s divine purposes. Evil in stark contrast to God’s goodness, shows His love and mercy through salvation. Satan and his host fear  God because they know that in Christ is victory.  God will prevail (James 2:19), but they will never repent.  Satan, his army and those who follow them will one day be cast into hell (Revelation 20:10, 14), but until then they are determined to corrupt and destroy all that is good and godly. We are warned to be self-controlled and alert. Our enemy the devil prowls like a lion looking for someone to “devour”           (1 Peter 5:8), but God gives His children authority over this foe as Jesus tells us in Luke 10:19-20Still, we are warned not to get prideful about such authority.  We can only resist Satan by standing firm in our faith in Christ.  Satan is no amateur His names and actions throughout scripture tell all.   

His Names Job 1:6-12, James 4:6b-10, 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 

His personal name, “Satan” (adversary), tells of his nature —enemy of God, of all He does, and of all loves. He is also called “the Devil” (“slanderer”).  In Matthew 12:24, the Jews refer to him as “Beelzebul,” derived from “Baal-Zebub(“lord of the flies”), a false god of the Philistines in Ekron (2 Kings 1:2). His other titles include tempter                      (1 Thessalonians 3:5), wicked one (Matthew 13:1938), and accuser (Revelation 12:10). 

Until Satan is cast into hell he roams the earth and even accuses believers before God.  We can see that God allows Satan at times to tempt the believer in order to build up his faith and the faith of others (Job 1:6-12). Here is at least one reason why the Christian should never be prideful about his authority over Satan’s attacks and always pray “lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13) and why the Christian must always resist the Devil (James 4:7). Any temptations that God does allow the Devil to throw our way (as with Job) may always be overcome for God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Three titles point to Satan’s authority in this world:  1.) ruler of this world (John 12:31), 2.) god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), and 3.) prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). It is also clear that Satan transforms himself into “an angel of light,”  a description that highlights his ability to deceive (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Scriptural metaphors reveal the character of Satan. Jesus likens Satan to birds that snatch seed off the hardened ground (Matthew 13:419) and the sower of weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:2528).  Satan is referred to as a wolf in John 10:12, a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), and the “great dragon”, that “serpent of old”(Revelation 12:9)— obviously, referring to the serpent who deceived Eve (Genesis 3:1). 

His Fall and End Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12b-17

Prophecies which spoke judgment to earthly kings also obviously spoke to Satan who deceived them. Isaiah 14:12-15 was to the king of Babylon (verse 4), but the narrative shifted to “Lucifer (KJV)” or  “morning star” who attempted to overthrow God’s throne. The prophecy in Ezekiel 28:12b-17 to the king of Tyre moved beyond a mere mortal and called out one who was once anointed as “guardian cherub”, but was “expelled” by God Himself for his pride.  Chapters 12, 13, and 20 of Revelation also show us Satan’s (the “Dragon”) history, his work in the end times through the false prophet and antichrist (Beast) and their eventual end in the lake of fire.  Rest assured Church, in the end we win—but until then we have a battle to fight with our foe. 

The Weapons of our Warfare Ephesians 6:10-18

Church, we must remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood.  The  battle is supernatural and we must fight it with the supernatural strength that only comes from Christ.  The full Roman armor that Paul uses to metaphorically describe what we must “put on” to fight against Satan and his host is truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God (Bible) and prayer.  That armor only protected the soldier in an advance.  There was nothing on the backside!  Satan and his host are not all knowing, all powerful or all present as our God is, but they are all in for a fight.  Advance like winners and “Fight the good fight of the faith”. 1 Timothy 6:12a