Monday, August 31, 2015

Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant: The Face of the Messiah

Nathan JonesMP3By Nathan Jones

What did Jesus Christ look like?

In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista of Miami's Calvary Chapel Aventura and I will study the "Suffering Servant" prophecies found in Isaiah 53 that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 53

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The Face of the Messiah

Nathan Jones: The second half of Isaiah 53:2 gets really interesting:

"He [the Messiah] had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him."

Isaiah 52:14 also gives us that prophecy: "His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." Many who looked upon Jesus' appearance after he was brutalized by the Roman soldiers were appalled. Jesus' appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and marred beyond human likeness. Isaiah was prophesying about the time when Jesus Christ would be beaten, His beard plucked out, He'd be punched in the face so many times, and the soldiers would give Him a crown of thorns crushed into His head. His face was just covered in blood. It says in the New Testament that when Jesus was presented before the people to be judged whether He should be released or Barabbas, that He was so disfigured that there was little human left to look at. The crowd was not even sure He was a man anymore He was so swollen and beaten.

The people didn't look up to the beaten Jesus and say, "Oh, man, He's beautiful! He's gorgeous, so we need to install Him as King." Instead, they thought He didn't even look like a man anymore He was so disfigured. There was no beauty of majesty to his beaten form to make Him attractive.

A second interpretation of Isaiah 53:2 is that the Bible here is prophesying that the Messiah would be naturally physically unattractive. Some have taken it even further and believe that maybe Jesus was a homely person. He chose a body that wasn't terribly attractive. Maybe He was short and balding young. We think about Jim Caviezel or some of these other great actors who have portrayed Jesus in the films when we imagine what Jesus would have looked like. But, there's a good chance that Jesus wasn't a very good looking person, according to this prophecy.

Vic Batista: Almost every portrait that we find of Jesus He looks like this buff, good looking, blue-eyed guy.

Nathan Jones: Sometimes in some of the pictures Jesus is depicted as emaciated, especially by the Catholic Church. But, true, overall Jesus throughout the centuries has been painted as a pretty decent looking guy with a beard and long hair, and always putting up His hand in a gesture of "Hello!" According to Isaiah, that may not be the case.

The idea behind Isaiah 52:2 is that when the Messiah came there would be nothing physical that would attract people to Him. Take for instance King Saul. The people wanted King Saul as king mostly because he was a head taller than everybody else. He was this huge and handsome warrior. Everyone was so impressed by Saul physically, and he was so incredibly good looking, that the Israelites wanted him to be king. We even see this predilection in corporations, and even in the churches. Many pastors and CEO's are big, tall, good looking guys. Everyone thinks they are so great because they are so good looking. But, God didn't want that superficiality. He wanted it to be when Jesus came that people wouldn't be attracted to Him for physical reasons, but for the spiritual truths that He taught. The people were to be attracted to truth.

Vic Batista: Wow! That's an excellent point, because even today that's what Jesus wants. He wants us to be attracted to His beauty, which is His Word, and His Holy Spirit in living righteously. I believe those are the attributes that we need to uplift regarding our Lord.

Nathan Jones: Exactly! God prepared every reason possible for people not to turn to Jesus because of material or physical reasons. Think about it. Jesus was born in a stable where the animals live. He was placed in a trough, which was a manger, as a crib. He was born to the poorest of parents, peasants, and to a teenage girl. He lived a life in exile for a while in Egypt hiding. He grew up in a hick town. There was always controversy surrounding Jesus because it was believed that Mary and Joseph had Jesus out of wedlock, therefore there was all the scandal that flew around that. He was a Jew from Galilee, and Galilee was a despised area of Israel at the time. The rest of Israel's people would say, "What good could ever come out of Galilee?"

There was nothing about Jesus that would attract people. He had no money. He just had the clothes on His back. He lived out in the wilderness most of the time as He and the Apostles traveled. By all accounts, there was nothing to attract people to Jesus physically.

But, it is irrefutable that Jesus has been the most world-changing person (if I can call Him a person) who has ever come out of human history. There are a billion people who worship Jesus as Savior today. Jesus has changed the world, and it had nothing to do with His physical appearance, the money in His pockets, or anything superficial like that. Change came purely by what He taught to the nations.

Vic Batista: Today everything is about being hip and being cool and trying to attract people with the trendy things, as opposed to the Word of God and the beauty of His Word.

Nathan Jones: So true! We spend a lot of our time chasing physical pleasures. We want to have the best clothes and the best cars. We are always getting face lifts and hair dyes, doing anything we can to try to be cool. Even in ministry we try to be cool to attract people to God's Word. But, Jesus didn't do any of that, He just taught God's Word. He showed people love, and by doing so people were attracted to Him and His message.

Vic Batista: That is awesome! Nobody would be attracted to me because I don't have any hair.

Nathan Jones: Yes, but you are cool man, Vic. I'd go to your church just because you are so cool. No, I'm kidding! You are cool because you teach the Bible straight out of the Bible and you show love to people all of the time. I am not trying to get your head to swell or anything, but you are a great example of how Christian ministers should be. It's because of the love that you show people and by the Word of God that you are so seriously devoted to teaching — the whole Word of God and only the Word of God — that people see a little bit of Jesus Christ coming through you, and that attracts people to Him. All pastors should function that way.

You could have a fantastic 100 person choir, or you could have the best praise band in the world. You could have the trendiest looking Church sanctuary, but they're nothing if as a pastor you are not sharing God's Word in love and you are not portraying Jesus Christ as the Bible teaches.

Vic Batista: I really appreciate that. I really believe we need to uphold God's Word, for this is really what's important. If we are not showing people the Word of God and teaching them exactly what it has to say, we are doing a disservice to the Gospel.

Isaiah is opening up our eyes to this incredible prophecy and the reality of what Jesus may have really looked like and His motives for having such an unattractive appearance. Also, how Jesus looked at the Crucifixion. It's all Bible prophecy being fulfilled.

In the third part of our study of Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant, Vic and I will look into at how the Messiah was a man of sorrow in verse 3.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant: The Tender Shoot

Nathan JonesMP3By Nathan Jones

Why is the Messiah compared to a plant's tender shoot?

In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista of Miami's Calvary Chapel Aventura and I will study the "Suffering Servant" prophecies found in Isaiah 53 that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 53

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The Tender Shoot

Vic Batista: Isaiah 53 contains a prophecy about the Suffering Servant. Nathan and I are going to talk about who this is referring to. Is this prophecy about the nation of Israel, or could it be referring to someone else? I find this subject to be a very important subject matter because some people can feel really confused about it, some people will just try to ignore it, and some people will try to disregard the reality of what we find in Isaiah 53. Regardless, it's an incredible passage!

Nathan, would you read Isaiah 53:1-6?

Nathan Jones: Isaiah 53 is chock full of prophecies about the Messiah. Let's start with a little background first. Isaiah was written by the prophet Isaiah who lived about 700 BC during the time of King Hezekiah. Many of the Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ 700 years later God through Isaiah prophesied.

These prophecies were fulfilled in such amazing detail that only Jesus Christ could be the Messiah, the Son of God, and our Savior. As we go through Isaiah 53, I think you will be amazed at just how much Isaiah proves that Jesus is the Messiah. It is uncanny! There are details that people wouldn't ever think were important, but Jesus gets right on through His life. So, you're right, Vic, Isaiah 53 is a very important scripture.

"Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

Vic Batista: Amazing! This passage is just packed with incredible messianic prophecies.

Nathan Jones: Again, the subject matter of Isaiah 53 is about the Suffering Servant — the Messiah — who will come and take away the sins of the world. Remember that in Isaiah's time the Second Coming prophecies, where the Messiah comes as a King to set up His Millennial Kingdom, and the First Coming prophecies, where the Messiah comes to die and be raised back to life and save men's souls, those got all jumbled together. By Jesus' time the people were pretty confused when Jesus came as the Messiah and did all these miracles, but then He didn't overthrow the Roman government. He was killed and crucified and resurrected again, but didn't usher in a physical kingdom. So, they were all quite confused.

After Jesus' resurrection and the ushering of the Church in at Pentecost, followers of Jesus could go back to Isaiah 53 and other Messianic chapters and finally understand that the Messiah first had to die for our sins before He comes into His earthly Kingdom. During Jesus' time the people just didn't understand the prophecies because they'd yet to be fulfilled, but Jesus' life fulfilled so many prophecies that after His resurrection and ascension they finally understood.

Let's look at Isaiah 53:1 in particular. It reads:

"Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"

In other words, the people at the time just couldn't comprehend that Jesus was the Messiah. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus even because He didn't think Jesus was living up to the Messiah's profile, especially those verses about Him coming as a king.

Instead, Jesus was fulfilling what we are reading here in Isaiah 53:2 as:

"He [the Messiah] grew up before him like a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground."

In other words, the Messiah didn't arrive already grown up as an adult to ride in as a king. Instead, He grew up starting as a baby. God gave us His own divine Son who become a powerless little baby and had Him grow up just like the rest of us mortals.

Vic Batista: That earthly birth also fulfilled the prophecies in Isaiah 7 and Isaiah 9.

Nathan Jones: Yes, there are a lot of other similar prophecies. Isaiah 4:2 about the "Branch of the Lord" is another good reference: "In that day the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel." Jesus was the branch of David, but He is also the root of David. In other words, God created the human race and so created David, but then Jesus' birth also makes Him descended from King David.

Isaiah 53:2 has the Messiah growing up like a tender shoot. Some people have tried to interpret the term "dry ground" as meaning it was a spiritual vacuous time period. Or, maybe because Jesus grew up in Nazareth, which was some tiny little hick town of 500 people or so, maybe that is the meaning of "dry ground."

In the second part of our study of Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant, Vic and I will look into the face of the Messiah in verse 2.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Watch and Pray in 2015 (Part 4 of 4)

Nathan JonesMP3By Nathan Jones

How can the Christian find their excitement even in troubling times?

In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista of Miami's Calvary Chapel Aventura and I will evaluate 2015 so far and discuss what the Bible says we must do to make it right.

Vic & Nathan 2015

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Getting Excited

Nathan Jones: Pastor Vic, you have the amazing ability to get me excited! Sure, it's true — life's rough. The world's tough, but we can get excited when Jesus Christ is in our life, can't we?

Vic Batista: Absolutely! It's all in the Scriptures, if we let the Scriptures come alive in our lives. We as Christians have to be in the Word. We need to be diligent in our reading, because life becomes just so exciting when we read about God's promises.

Nathan Jones: Exactly, the Bible is filled with prophecy. For example, did you know that when Jesus came at His First Coming that He fulfilled some 300 general prophecies and 109 distinct prophecies? There are 500 verses in the Old Testament and one in every 25 verses in the New Testament that talk about Jesus' Second Coming. So, basically a third of the Bible is Bible prophecy.

God is telling us what we can expect, and pretty much when we should expect it, and what He requires of us to have eternal life. So, praise the Lord, it is so important that we study our Bibles and know the wonders that God has in store for us.

Vic Batista: Absolutely! And, of course, it all is a work of the Holy Spirit. As we look at this passage in Luke 21, we are encouraged to watch therefore and pray. And what a wonderful opportunity we have to pray about the challenging situations happening in our country and around the world. We certainly are not in agreement with the derailed direction our country is moving along, but we are called by God to submit to authority and to pray for those who are in leadership. We should pray for those who are making the laws and pray that the Holy Spirit will change their hearts.

Nathan Jones: Exactly, prayer makes a difference. For example, one of the wonderful things that has happened recently I was reading is about the new Congress that just got in earlier this year. Of the new Congress members, some 82% who were elected claim to be born-again, believing Christians. Whether they are or not, we'll see by their actions. But it seems like that a Christian wave has swept into the government. Whether the new Congress makes a big difference or not, I don't know, we'll have to continue to watch. Only the Lord could be behind such a swing, because God says that He is behind all things involved in world politics.

While I hope that we'll see a restraint put on government, mostly one is needed on society, because the government is made up of just people whom we elect. If we are evil, then our government will be evil. We really need to see the love of Jesus Christ sweep through the country providing a new morality. We must turn from our sin and so see our country turn their lives back to Jesus Christ. It is our only hope for our country to survive, at least up until the Tribulation.

Vic Batista: Nathan, I agree with you. I believe that is why Christians need to stand in the gap. I believe that 2015 can be an amazing year. But, it's really up to us to pray for our leaders and our government. If there is any hope for America, it is we Christians standing in the gap and praying.

Nathan Jones: Exactly! That reminds me of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 about the Restrainer. When Jesus comes to Rapture the Church, He is going to remove a restraining influence that has been holding back all the evil and craziness of mankind. You think it is crazy now, well it is going to get really crazy during the Tribulation! But, right now, there is the restraining influence of God on this earth. I believe that is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church. When Jesus takes the Church off this earth at the Rapture, that is when the restraining influence will also be gone.

For now then, we Christians are to be the restraining salt and the light of this earth. We are the avenue that Jesus Christ uses to reach people. It's very important then that we don't as Luke 11:33 says, "hide our light under a bowl." We don't speak worthless, unsalty talk. No, instead we need to be making a difference in this world.

Vic Batista: God is achieving some amazing things through His Body — Christians. He is pouring out His Holy Spirit, and we need to be able to be those individuals who are ready for the Lord's return at any moment.

Nathan Jones: And so, live holy lives in anticipation of the Lord's return. Let us be the overcomers of this world.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Watch and Pray in 2015 (Part 3 of 4)

Nathan JonesMP3By Nathan Jones

How can one have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista of Miami's Calvary Chapel Aventura and I will evaluate 2015 so far and discuss what the Bible says we must do to make it right.

Vic & Nathan 2015

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Becoming Ready

Vic Batista: Nathan, how might you share with people who don't have that hope how they can start having a relationship with Jesus Christ, even right now?

Nathan Jones: Jesus comes into our life when we accept Him as Savior. When we accept Jesus as the Son of God and repent of our sins, He in turn will forgive us for our rebellion. Rebellion is exactly what sin is. Sin isn't tangible, like you can pick it up or touch it, but it is a heart condition of rebellion against God. And, when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, our Savior promises to take that punishment of eternal death in Hell off of us and put it on Himself. We are free indeed when we accept Jesus as Savior.

To have a right relationship with God, all we have to do is pray from our heart something like, "Dear, Jesus, please forgive me of my sins and be my Savior."

Vic Batista: Wherever you are, even right now, you can invite the Lord to come into your heart. Then you can have that peace that surpasses all understanding. You can have the joy that other believers in Christ are experiencing today.

Nathan Jones: What a joy it is to know, what a hope it is to know, and what a comfort it is to know that Jesus Christ is coming back. The world might be tearing itself apart. Our country might be committing financial and moral suicide. Terrorists are running a muck so that we fear for our very lives, but we know that we have hope in Jesus' return at the Rapture of the Church and to live with Him forever.

This world system is so screwed up, but find comfort in knowing it will inevitably come to an end. Jesus will defeat evil and He will set up His Kingdom on this earth. And, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we get to be part of that! First Peter 2:9 says, "For you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."

When we live a life without Jesus Christ, we are living in darkness. But, when we accept Jesus Christ, we can live a wonderful life full of light.

Vic Batista: I love that truth, because that's exactly what the Bible tells us in Matthew 5 over and over again. We are encouraged to be salt and light. When someone comes to know the Lord as Savior, the Holy Spirit opens up their eyes so that they can see the truth. Matthew 5:14 says:

"You are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

I get excited when starting out a new year by encouraging people to watch for Jesus' return and to pray for His coming. That was one of the problems with the disciples before Jesus went to the cross. He told them to pray, right, but they ended up falling asleep?

Nathan Jones: Yes, and like Jesus' first disciples, unfortunately, the daily grind of our lives can cause us to spiritually fall asleep. Our relationship with God then grows more distant and we stop going to church and we stop praying and having Christian fellowship. God seems more distant until eventually we become like an estranged spouse with the Lord. That condition is so detrimental to our spiritual health!

How can we watch and be ready for what is going on in the world, as the Bible tells us, if we are not reading the Bible? How can we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ if we are not praying and speaking to Him regularly and reading our Bibles? How can we live a holy life if we don't know what a holy life is as the Bible teaches? So, it is extremely important that the Bible remains in place as our connection to God. A solid Christian must stay grounded in the Bible.

Vic Batista: Be like the Bereans. Take the time to dig into the Bible and study about the Lord.

Many Christians come to the end of a year and realized they've failed. Maybe you didn't reach that spiritual goal that you had set. But, there's always hope. God continually gives us new opportunities to educate and prepare ourselves to be diligent in the study of the Scriptures. That's what the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5, that we are to be the light, for we are not of the darkness. It is the Christian's responsibility to be Christ's light-bearers in the world.

Nathan Jones: Jesus did all the saving work on the cross. He saves us when we put our faith and trust in Him. Now is time for us to live that life of faith and hope, sharing the Gospel with other people so they too can have salvation and hope.

As bad as the world can get, remember 1 John 4:4 which says, "You dear children are from God, and overcome them because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." So, as bad as the world can get, we know that God is greater, God is stronger, He is more powerful, and when He is in our life we too can overcome the evil of this world.

Vic Batista: I love that passage, Nathan. It also reminds me of what Romans 5:8-9 says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."

So, when it comes to God's wrath that is coming during the Tribulation, Christians can be assured that we are not going to be here to have to live through it.

Nathan Jones: Amen! Romans 8:1-2 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation," in other words, no punishment and no eternal Hell, "for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."

In the fourth and last part of this discussion on how to live as a Christian during this troubling 2015, we'll find our excitement!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Watch and Pray in 2015 (Part 2 of 4)

Nathan JonesMP3By Nathan Jones

What should Christians be doing while waiting for the return of Jesus?

In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista of Miami's Calvary Chapel Aventura and I will evaluate 2015 so far and discuss what the Bible says we must do to make it right.

Vic & Nathan 2015

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Doing While Waiting

Vic Batista: The Bible tells us over and over to watch and be ready.

Nathan Jones: Luke 21:36 gives three things Jesus said that we need to do while we wait for His return.

First, we need to be familiar with the signs that He warns us about in order to be aware of what's going around in the world. I'm reminded of when relatives come over. When you're expecting someone, you flip the lightswitch on and you look out the window. You wait and you watch, for you know they might come at a certain time, but you are not always quite sure when.

Likewise, we need to watch for the King of Kings to return. We don't know when, but Jesus did provide us with some signs to be looking out for. I believe today that we are living in those signs, and that means we especially need to watch.

Second, Jesus also told us to pray. It is very important that we continue our relationship with Jesus Christ and stay close to Him. He is our great Protector and our Provider. As the world gets worse and worse, we even more and more need Jesus Christ as our rescue and salvation.

Third, verse 36 tells us to be counted worthy. In other words, we are to live a holy and pure life. Get rid of the sin in your life. Get rid of the things that cause you to stumble. Stop the acts you know you are doing that are wrong. Ask Christ for forgiveness and return to Jesus Christ and make Him the Lord of your life. Watch and pray that you may be counted worthy.

The Lord says, "Then you will be able to escape all of the things that will come to pass." In other words, the Tribulation. It'll be the worse time in all of human history. These signs are leading up to this terrible time, but those saved can escape it by the Rapture. Afterwards, we will stand before the Son of Man, and finally we will stand before our Father in Heaven.

Vic Batista: Wow, what a wonderful way for Jesus to put it!

Coming Quickly

Vic Batista: We Christians are called by Jesus in Luke 21:36 to keep watching because we really don't know when the Rapture is going to occur. It is an event that can happen at any moment. Nathan, tell a little bit about what the Rapture is so that we can know what we are suppose to be watching out and getting prepared for.

Nathan Jones: One of the most prolific promises that Jesus makes, even ending Revelation 22 three times with this statement, is that Jesus will return. He said, "Surely I am coming quickly." That is why we are watching and we are waiting and we are praying, because even though Jesus came in His First Coming and defeated sin by dying on the cross and providing salvation for us, He still has prophecies to fulfill about returning to the earth, defeating evil, getting rid of human government, and setting up His thousand year kingdom on earth.

The Millennial Kingdom is a subject that I get so excited about. I can't wait for it to come! Finally there will be peace, justice, righteousness and prosperity. There will be no war until the very end or major sicknesses. It's going to be awesome!

But, until that kingdom comes, we as the Church have a job. We have to live by Acts 1:8, which is called the Great Commission, to be witnesses for Jesus across the world. Even though the world is getting worse and worse, Christians are to be the light that pushes back the growing darkness.

When it comes to the darkest time period descending upon the earth, Jesus gives us this hope. It's the hope that the Church will not have to endure the wrath of God in the Tribulation time period. We will be raptured, we will be caught up, as 1 Thessalonian 4:17 reads "Then we who are alive and remaining shall be caught up," — raptured, caught up — "together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and thus we shall always be with the Lord. And therefore comfort one another with these words."

We are looking at 2015 and it's just been filled with a lot of danger and problems, but we are to take comfort in the fact that as bad as it's gotten now, it is going to get far worse. But, we as believers in Christ are never destined to endure the wrath of God, either in the Tribulation or the Lake of Fire.

Vic Batista: The work of Jesus at the Rapture is absolutely our Christian hope. That is one of the reasons why we love the Bible, because it offers hope to the believer. I believe the best preparation that anyone can really have in preparing for the tough times ahead is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. No matter what happens, if God called you home today, you would know without a shadow of a doubt where you will spend eternity.

In the third part of this discussion on how to live as a Christian during this troubling 2015, we'll share how one can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Watch and Pray in 2015 (Part 1 of 4)

Nathan JonesMP3By Nathan Jones

How are Christians to endure what is turning out to be a really rough year?

In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" TWave Radio episode, Pastor Vic Batista of Miami's Calvary Chapel Aventura and I will evaluate 2015 so far and discuss what the Bible says we must do to make it right.

Vic & Nathan 2015

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Enduring a Tough Year

Vic Batista: We'll be talking about watching and praying as we are living in these exciting times. The scripture we'll be focusing on is Luke 21:36.

Nathan, when we kicked off the New Year, I was so excited about what God had in store for us in 2015. I know He is doing some wonderful things. We also knew that we were entering some challenging times. Florida began the year with legalizing gay marriage and the homosexual agenda has been moving forward ever since, and now the entire country has legalized same-sex marriage. So, there are a lot of things that we need to pray about. But, it all lines up with what the Bible tells us is to come in the last days, right?

Nathan Jones: You're not kidding! Talking about the end times, we began the year with France in an uproar because of a bunch of Muslim terrorists burst into a newspaper and machine gunned down ten people because they had drawn a cartoon that depicted ISIS in a negative light. The year has been fraught with Islamic terror.

There has been fears of wars and economic disasters, as well as social and moral degradation. There has been a lot of terrible things happening in 2015. But, there have been a lot of wonderful things happening as well. After all, Bible prophecy isn't all gloom and doom. Rather, it is about the victory of Jesus Christ and our eternal life with Him. But, in the meantime, while we wait for Jesus to return, we have to unfortunately watch the world decline and move into a final dark time, which is called the Tribulation. The Tribulation is that seven year time period when the earth will experience the worst judgments by God. It's the darkest days in all of human history.

It well could be an extra wonderful year should Jesus be coming this 2015, but it is also going to be a very difficult year. We know that these global problems as you said are going to continue to get worse and worse.

Vic Batista: That is why one of the greatest things that I believe we can do is to watch and to pray.

Nathan, open up by reading Luke 21:36 and then give us the context there in verses 25-38 for what is going on.

Nathan Jones: Sure, for Luke 21:36 is a wonderful verse! Luke 21:36 in the New King James reads, "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man."

Vic Batista: That is an incredible passage! Nathan, what is going on here? Why are we called here by Jesus to watch and pray that we may be worthy to escape all these things? What things are we talking about here?

Nathan Jones: This is pretty much the last verse finishing up a teaching by Jesus. Vic, you have us starting at the very end of the story. But, the context and the beginning of the story is Jesus and his disciples walking up the Temple Mount. The disciples are looking at the Temple and they are amazed because these are poor worker-class types of folks. They have never seen anything as grand as the Temple, and so they are oohing and aahing over it.

Jesus then says to His disciples something like, "The Temple is going to fall and not one stone will be left upon another." Shocked, the Apostles ask in Luke 21, Matthew 24 and Mark 13, "When is this going to happen? When will the Temple fall? What will be the signs of your return? What will be the signs of the end of the age?" Jesus answers by telling them about ten different signs that they will see happening the closer we get to the end times, that is the last days before Jesus' return. The signs of the end times will grow more frequent and more intense the closer the world comes to Jesus' return.

The signs Jesus gave concerned a proliferation of false prophets, wars and rumors of war, earthquakes, natural disasters, political and social upheaval, moral degradation, and other different signs. Even Christian persecution would come more frequently and more intensely the closer we get to His return.

As we read about the signs of the times in the Bible today, we realize that we are living in these last days before Jesus' returns. So, in Luke 21, Jesus takes us through these signs and He also gives some other signs to be looking out for as well.

Jesus will return in two stages. He first comes to Rapture the Church, that is where He takes those who have accepted Jesus as Savior up to Heaven before the Tribulation begins. Second, as the world gets to the end of the Tribulation lasting exactly seven years, Jesus will return again.

Let's pick up in Luke 21:25.

"There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars and upon the earth, distress of nations, in perplexity the seas and the waves roaring, men hearts failing them for fear and the expectation of those things which are coming upon the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with power and great glory. But when these things begin to appear look up, lift up your head because your redemption draws near."

Vic Batista: Wow, what a wonderful passage! I also find there some great encouragement for those of us who are alive today. As you put it, Bible prophecy isn't all about gloom and doom. I believe that it should excite us to know that the Lord can return at any moment.

Yes, there will be catastrophic events. Yes, there will be challenges. But, while we are still here, there is still some good works that we can do. We can be watchful and we can be praying.

In the second part of this discussion on how to live as a Christian during this troubling 2015, we'll explore what Jesus said we should do while we're waiting for His return.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Importance of Bible Prophecy (Part 5 of 5)

Dr. David R. ReaganWatch MP3 PDFBy

Is Bible prophecy revealing the soon return of Jesus Christ?

Bible prophecy is one of the most ignored topics in churches today. Pastors avoid it like a plague. They usually assert that it is either too controversial or too difficult to understand. They often claim it is too other-worldly, meaning it has no relevance to Christian living here and now. The result is that one-fourth to one-third of God's Word has been put on the shelf, and the average Christian ends up living with no anticipation or even yearning for the Lords' soon return.

There are two areas of God's Word that have been terribly ignored and abused in the history of the Church. They are the opening of the Bible and the conclusion of the Bible — the books of Genesis and Revelation. People have tended to spiritualize the opening of the Bible by claiming that the 6 days of Creation were really 6 million or 60 million or 600 million years. When you start out spiritualizing the Bible by claiming that it doesn't really mean what it says, there is a tendency to do the same thing with the ending of the Bible, arguing that the book of Revelation really doesn't mean what it says.

But, the abuses of Bible prophecy applies to more than just the book of Revelation. It applies to all of God's prophetic word, and that is a shame, because the study of Bible prophecy is very important for many reasons.

I'm going to give you nine reasons why all Christians should be interested in studying God's Prophetic Word. The following is the final reason.

9. Reveals the Season of the Lord's Return

Finally we need to study Bible prophecy because it reveals the season of the Lord's return. Nobody can know the date, but we can know the season. Beyond a shadow of a doubt we can know the season.

Look at 1 Thessalonians 5. "Now as to the signs and the seasons, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you for you yourselves know full well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." That's where I used to stop reading. The Church I grew up in, we stopped there. The preacher would say, "See, not anything you need to know about the coming of the Lord. He will come like a thief in the night. He's going to sneak up on you. You might as well not think about it nor worry about. Don't be focused on Jesus coming back, just go on and live your life."

One day I kept reading 1 Thessalonians 5, and look what it says: "But you, brethren, you believers, are not in darkness that the day should overtake you like a thief. For you are sons of light, and sons of day. We are not of night or darkness, so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober." Why are we sons of day? Because we have the Holy Spirit residing inside of us. And, by leaning on the Holy Spirit, we can understand things from the Word of God that others cannot understand. We can know the season of the Lord's return.

Jesus is coming like a thief in the night for the world. He is coming like a thief in the night for unbelievers. He is coming like a thief in the night even for those who are believers but don't know Bible prophecy. But, for those who know Bible prophecy, He is not coming like a thief in the night.

I remember a few years ago when I was in Orlando, Florida speaking. There was a great man of God there by the name of Albert Peak. He's gone to be with the Lord now. He was 80 years old, and this was the early 90's. At 80 years old he got up and said, "I've been asked to speak on the signs of the times that point to the soon return of Jesus. I've been preaching on this for 60 years. Sixty years ago when I began I had to scratch around like a chicken to find just one sign. Today there are so many signs that I'm no longer looking for signs. I'm listening for a sound — the sound of a trumpet!" That's where I am. I'm listening for the sound of that trumpet.

Look at Hebrew 10:25: "Do not forsake the assembling together as is the habit of some. But encourage one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near." What day? It is the Day of Judgment. In verse 27 it is saying that there is something we can see. There's something that we can perceive with our senses. We can say, "You see that? You see that? You see that? Jesus is coming soon. See that? See that? See that? Jesus is coming soon." There is something that can be perceived, and of course those are the signs of the times.

Or, consider what Jesus said in Matthew 24:33, "Even so, when you see all these things..." What? The signs He's been talking about, "...recognize that He's near right at the door." When you see all these things taking place, all of them coming together, you will know that I am right at the door ready to step out on a cloud and come back.

Conclusion: all of God's Word is profitable. All of it! That includes God's prophetic Word.

So, read it. Study it. And, be blessed by it. Then share it with other people.

Three Facts From Bible Prophecy

I want to take a moment to emphasize three facts that are taught in God's prophetic word.

First, Jesus is returning to this earth to reign for a thousand years in glory and majesty from Mount Zion in Jerusalem. During that time, the earth is going to be flooded with peace, righteousness and justice as the waters cover the seas. This is a promise that is made over and over in both the Old and New Testaments. It is one that Jesus Himself made over and over. In fact, Jesus' last words on this earth were a promise to return. They were spoken to the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos when Jesus appeared to him 65 years after His resurrection. Jesus said to John, "I am coming quickly," meaning He is going to return suddenly. And John cried out, "Amen! Come Lord Jesus!"

The second prophetic fact that is made clear in God's prophetic word is that the return of Jesus is going to take place in two stages. First will be the Rapture of the Church, and then, some seven years later, the Second Coming.

The third prophetic fact is that the Rapture of the Church can occur at any moment. There is not one prophecy that has to be fulfilled for the Rapture to occur.

And so, I have a vital question for you: "Are you ready for the Rapture, or will you be left behind to face the terror of the Antichrist and the wrath of God during the Great Tribulation?"

If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you are ready. If not, then you need to repent of your sins and reach out in faith and receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Do not delay! God in His mercy has extended your life to this moment to give you an opportunity to escape the wrath of God by accepting His grace that He has offered in the gift of His Son.