Category Archives: 15 in ’15

Church daily reading plan

Finishing Strong

As we complete our year of reading and blogging on the New Testament, I want to thank all of the readers and your faithfulness in following the sometimes ramblings of a “still learning” disciple. We finish Revelation this week, and that will be the topic of my blog. As a commercial – next year I will be blogging on the 16 prophetic books in the Old Testament in 2016 – “16 in 2016.” If you are interested – I will begin with the book of Daniel, so read five chapters during the week, and follow along if you desire.

Okay, now with the book of Revelation, of which there is no shortage of commentary or opinion – we finish with chapters 18-22. When we look at the difficult previous chapters [16-17] the Wrath of God is being poured out on the unrepentant left behind. The saints have been removed in chapter 14:14-16; the seals and the trumpets have been completed; last trumpet in 11:15; actually if you look at these to aforementioned passages, you find that they are describing the same thing. This also occurs in our passage this week. the chapters of 12-14 reflect the wrath of God poured out from a different perspective. It is from the Demonic or Satanic position. The Bowls are the wrath of God described from a mankind perspective. The struggle with many “prophets of today” is that they break their own rules of interpretation. If a parable is a parable for example, the entire pericope is a parable; we do not have liberty to change the literary rules of interpretation – having said that prophecy is prophecy, if it is symbolic, we cannot then change midstream and start ascribing literalness to the symbology. At the close of chapter 17; the Lamb of God is victorious. The armies of the world have been defeated by “his breath,”  with the final victory on earth is complete, the scene shifts to heaven. in Chapter 19 – the wonderful scene in Heaven is the marriage of the Lamb [Jesus] to His Bride [the Church]; as indicated, blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast.

There is a saying “you can’t fix stupid” this applies to Satan – He even though defeated; will not quit. Word for Believers; Satan doesn’t die, he just strives for another day. But his tactics never change. The Beast and the False Prophet are judged and cast into the lake of fire. All is well right, no more evil right? I wish I could say yes; but chapter 20 reflects a different answer. Even though Satan is bound and chained, cast into the bottomless pit – and Jesus refining for 1000 years; we find that given the opportunity to deceive and lead astray from God; Satan will attempt to do so. Now we could ask the question, why the 1000 year wait? I really do not have the answer for that; all I know is when the 1000 years is up; Satan again tries to deceive the nations and is then cast into the lake of fire. The Wrath of God is poured out on ALL ungodliness; that means heavenly and earthly. While the earth had been judged, Satan had to be finally once and for all eliminated.

As a side note; many may ask am I Pre-, Post- or A- millennial? In other words does Jesus come back before the 1000 year reign, afterwards, or do we just progress into a Utopian realm? My answer is this – I do not agree with making a long drawn out doctrine based on one verse [20:7]; at what point did we switch from prophetic to literal in this chapter? Scripture says that Jesus will reign – what does that mean; I don’t know, nor does anyone else. Somethings of the bible are left a mystery. The point is did Jesus reign? Yes indeed, the adversary Satan is eliminated! I get the same question from people about whether I am pre, mid, post tribulation in reference to the Rapture. As I previous took the position that we will/are going through tribulation times now; the seals and trumpets ate that tribulation – when the 7th and last trumpet sounds; the saints are carried home! Only in American Christianity are we so enamored with Jesus coming a 2nd time – the rest of the World is still discovering He came a 1st time!

Chapter 20:11-15; the day in court for all. Books are opened up, the deeds of all people, then the Lambs Book Of Life is Opened up. We are judged out of the books our deeds, this in reality will condemn all of us, but we [believers] have an Advocate, a defense – Jesus pleads our case with evidence that He, Himself provides. The Father declares that we are not guilty; our faith and trust in Christ as the Savior, we depend on His works not our own! Now even though we are children, we still will have accountability for how we lived in faith [sanctification], which is the basis of our rewards.  “Death and Hades” give up the dead. The 2nd resurrection, imagine what that would be like to be given a glimpse of Heaven, knowing you are not staying. God is so just and righteous, He gives every soul their day in court. Hades, [Luke 16:19-31] has two sides, at the resurrection of Jesus, the Abraham side was emptied. [Ephesians 4:7-8] Hades, the Rich man side still is torment and suffering, but nothing to be compared to Hell [Gehenna].

In the last two chapters we are given a “restoration” view. All is New, the old has passed away [2 Cor 5:17]. New Heaven and Earth. Order has been restored, man is now one with his Creator. The Garden is in view again, the Tree of Life is available to all to eat. Sin and Satan have been eradicated!

But the is a warning, no not the adding or subtracting of the prophecy; I am Coming Soon! We do not know when, but we do know He will. Who will He find being faithful when He comes? I pray it is me and you!

Gods Blessings

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Parallelism in Revelation

Revelation 11-15; I am deviating from the normal five chapters from our weekly reading because the content and context of these chapters are different from chapters 16 and 17. The thought of Seals and Trumpets from last weeks blog revealed that much of the events or judgments released via the seals and trumpets reflect an ongoing tribulation which if it dare be said are “normal” for life on earth. The hope of God for the seals and trumpets is that mankind will repent of their evil and rebellion and turn back to Him as Yahweh! In the chapters I identified for this blog we find a sort of sitcom episode occurring. What I mean by this is the events and description of the characters in these chapters are ongoing the same time as the seals and trumpets are being released. I know that this will not bode well with many who read this blog; that is because we have been overwhelmed with bible prophecy and “scholars” understand that has been tainted by the compulsion of the pre-trib rapture and dispensation. I find that it is interesting that only is American Christianity do you find this overwhelming desire to project future cataclysmic events from the perspective of “escapism” of the tribulation. I would think anyone who has been living on planet earth for the last few years has discovered we are now living in a “tribulation period.” However, this is normal when forces of evil and the Holy Spirit are resident on earth. The martyrs for the faith are often overlooked by western Christians. Part of the problem with understanding the end times events is where one places the snatching out or 1st resurrection. Most dispensationalist try to put the “rapture” event early on, even after the discourse of the Seven Churches. However, if we realize the significance of the seven seals and trumpets as God’s way of “inviting” repentant souls to embrace Jesus as Savior, then the Rapture cannot occur until after the last Trumpet – which makes sense for Paul says this as does Jesus.  [Rev 11:15-19; 1 Cor 15:52; Matthew 24:31] In Rev 16 we read of the Wrath of God being poured out on all ungodliness. The Wrath and Judgment are two different things. Wrath of the Bowls is poured out, but not with a purpose of getting mankind to repent, for they refuse to do so [ 16:9, 11]

With Parallelism in a book we find that many events are going on at the same time; yet we also find that there are varied perspectives of the same thing. The struggle with modern-day “Prophets” is that they try to make every scene fit into a chronological sequence. Much of the modern prophecy is given from the vantage point of the news as heard on CNN or Fox News. Very interesting since the media serves itself, not God.

In chapters 12-14 we have a continuing picture of what is going on in the world during the seals and trumpets. The battle between the forces of evil and the saints. If we could fold these chapters into the seals and trumpets dialogue we could see that the scenes are synonymous with each other. God and the angels at war with Satan who has been cast down to earth. In chapter 12, we have to see that this is a reflecting backwards at what has happened in times past – Satan being cast down to earth has made war with mankind. The main objective of these episodes is to reveal the war of Satan and the messengers of God to men. I see the 144,000 as an innumerable host of mankind who are martyrs for the Gospel.

When we capture the event described with the reapers in chapter 14; we discover the “harvest reaped” the saints of God. Jesus spoke of how the wheat and tares would remain until the harvest – this harvest [14-16; a different harvest is seen in 17-20; the first is the saints, the second is the lost. When we get to the scene in chapter 15; we find a great rejoicing; after the rapture event in chapter 14; there is great celebration; again God’s deliverance of His people from WRATH – this hold true to Old and New Testaments of God releasing His wrath; but only after His saints are delivered. [1 Thess 5:9]

The major problem that most interpretation of end times is that too often the tribulation times are not identified with the saints – this is a false theology, for we find that many preachers say the same from the pulpits – the Christian life is one of suffering and tribulation, to try to deny that such is the life of a believer, is heresy. If the believer is intimately identified with his Savior, then that which the Savior endured will be the life of the Follower.

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Seals and Trumpets – What?

Revelation 6-11; when we look at these chapters so many ideas and opinions that we have heard collide. So how do we look at these prophetic chapters and glean some understanding? We must first start with the scroll that is mentioned in chapter five. The fact that no one was able to take and open the scroll caused great remorse and tears. However, we read that One Like a slain lamb came forward to take the scroll from the Father. In that moment, Jesus the slain Lamb becomes the Lion of Judah. Questions of when was the earliest time that the Lamb could take the book as the Lion of Judah? It could not have been before Christ’s resurrection; for up until that time; Jesus was not proven worthy – His obedience of the Cross. At His resurrection there is the completion of His worthiness. The second question that comes to mind, How long was the Father holding the scroll? I think that the Father held the scroll from the foundation of the world and that it was only at the completion of salvation’s plan that anyone [Jesus] could even think of opening the scroll. No why would all of Heaven rejoice at the opening of the scroll containing the seals, trumpets and bowls, they are judgment? Until Jesus was found worthy, and ascended to the Father, the END TIMES could not end. In other words there would have been no end to evil and Satan. In Jesus salvation Plan is authored and put in place. With the seals and the trumpets we find that there is a “natural” tribulation that causes crisis to happen to mankind, in each of these crises we find that there is opportunity to repent.  As the scroll is unfolded we are faced with an interpretation problem; too often when we look at prophecy we think of a chronological sequence of events – this is not necessarily true. In other books such as Daniel and even Joel we find that there is often a reflective look at what has been happening all along, not a sequenced event of this happened then that happened. Jesus is Matthew 24:4-8 talks about tribulation days, but from a point of what would be happening in the world, then He adds; but this is only the beginning. My approach to the Seals and the Trumpets is one that follows them through an ongoing matter rather than 1st seal, then a 2nd seal and so on. The nature of the seals reflect mankind’s effect on his world and his existence. From wars, conquering, famine, death, terror and the such – these things happen as a result of mankind in his greed and rebellious state against God. Wars and rumors of wars; these things have been going on forever, yes they have increased, but these are not signs that the end is near. In the Trumpets we find that a shift has occurred; the effects of the blowing trumpets are natural disasters. Each time there is an invitation to repent – similar to what God did with Pharaoh and Egypt – allowing them to repent. I have lived long enough to see both man-made and natural events unfold that caused a “temporary” turning to God. God uses these things in the course of world history in an attempt to bring people to Himself. At the end of the seals and trumpets we have an interlude; it is my thought that because these two stop at the same time, and the Seventh Trumpet looking at the Reign of Christ, that God is allowing the world conditions to continue in attempt to bring man to God; until enough is enough – He knows when that will be. A little ahead of myself, but when the Bowls are released, no invitation, no repentance [even though man wouldn’t do it anyway] – I see this as the wrath of God being poured out on the remaining humanity that was not part of the 1st resurrection.[Rev 20:11-15]

Again my view is Revelation is a book that captures End Times in a parallel fashion not in a chronological manner. In other words there are many things going on at the same time, like a sitcom will have multiple stories. In chapter 11 there is a snap shot of praise and worship in Heaven; also chapter 7:9-17; in both cases we get a scene that reflects heavenly deliverance. I know many people think of a specific Tribulation – but when we look at the Fearful Day of the Lord, and Jacob’s Trouble we find a wrath, not a tribulation. Jesus – In the world you will have tribulation! Yes martyrs, the church has been going through the Last Days since Jesus ascended. We are in the Last Days now – the Last Days began when Jesus took the scroll from God in chapter 5! If we advance to chapter 15; we find that the Bowls indeed are the Wrath – not tribulation. So in closing – God is merciful and long-suffering, not willing that any should perish has been “using” man-made and natural disasters to bring conviction and salvation to the world. We are living during the Seals and the Trumpets now; especially while salvation and repentance present themselves!

 

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Crumbling Churches

This blog entry focuses on Revelation 2-3, even though our reading went through chapter 8. I may do another blog to capture the importance of the Seals and Trumpets.

There is much being said about the condition of the Church [universal] in America. Two schools of thought are used to approach the problem of declining, plateaued and dying churches. The % of church that fit into these descriptors is estimated at somewhere between 80-90%. The approaches to cure/remedy the epidemic are increased church planting – plant churches to replace those that die; and church health/revitalization measures to restore existing churches. Now when we think of the statistics of 4400 church closing their doors every year in all American denominations, these two measures have a formidable task.

How did the churches get in the condition they are in? Was there some specific universal problem? It is very obvious that the USA is no longer a “christian nation.” [If it ever really was] Christian virtues and values are under severe attack, for the worldview is no longer one of Judaeo-Christian ethics and morality; but one of humanism and relativism. I am speaking from my position of being a boomer generation. I remember when there was a common belief system evident between the “Church” and the Community. This is no longer valid. For a multitude of reasons, the Church and the community, as well as country has a competing set of values and virtues.  Many efforts have been made to try to connect the church world and the community together; often at compromise of the Gospel. I know of one major hurdle all churches have had to face in the past 40 years, is the music wars. I don’t want to fill this blog with all the outward problems the “Church in America” has, but focus more on the why.

In the book of Revelation; Jesus addresses seven church that are on a mail route in what is known today at Turkey. In five of the seven churches; He brings condemnation upon them for things they either were allowing or were no longer doing. Much has been said about the church at Laodicea, which is the lukewarm church. Interestingly enough, there was the cold dead church called Sardis; which I really only see them as further down the road in degree  of closing their doors.

Jesus addressed each Angel of the specific church, which begs the question, does each church have its own Guardian Angel? And why did Jesus address the Angel and not the Pastor? The answer to both of these questions is yes, churches have an angel and because the angel is the Messenger of God to the Church, the message was one which carried great authority. However, the pastor in many cases could be part of the church problem.

I have discovered that churches do not suddenly decline or die; there is a gradual “falling away” from the things of God.  The first step; [and this can be found in the book of Hebrews] is the church becomes Apathetic – no feeling. One can think of the church at Ephesus, they had lost their first love. The spark or passion for the Lord had been extinguished.  I couldn’t help but think of how many couples tell me that they have “fallen out of Love” with their spouse. Interesting when you think of Jesus as the Bridegroom, and we being the Bride. There are many churches that fit the Ephesian model; they do a lot of good things, but its in the tradition or flesh and there isn’t any blessings from God. The second step that leads to dead and dying churches is Apostasy – heretical teachings. This captured the majority of the churches indicted by Jesus. They had allowed false teaching and teachers to come in to the church and “pollute” the Gospel. Often church life is influenced by people with loud voices, deep pockets or charismatic personalities. I have found that churches often will remain silent on controversial or conflicts because they just want to try and keep the peace. Here again is a compromise that leads to destruction of the Gospel. People want to believe and act they way they want to believe and act; not the way scripture sets forth. The woman Jezebel and the Nicolaitans were problem people; yet churches refused to exercise church discipline.  Preachers were preaching for money and a following then as they do now. Apostate is where the church is no longer sound on doctrine and theology – many of the cults existing today come from churches who have not dealt with false teachers. The last cause for dead and dying churches is Anarchy – or really a rebellion/revolt against God. The church has forfeited its place within the Kingdom of God. Jesus gave each church a warning with a judgment if they did not Repent and Return to Him. Their lamp would be blown out. Why are so many churches dying today – these three downward steps lead them to death. The answer –  Repent for the Day is at Hand!; or I will close your doors – it is Christ’s church, He said He would build it, He is the authority and has the right to affirm or deny churches that may or may not be His!

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The Final Chapter

This week we begin the final chapter of God’s revelation to believers and the world in the reading of the book of Revelation. The first two chapter will be our focus. In the first chapter we find the glory, power, authority and sovereignty of Jesus the Son of God revealed. Passages such as Colossians 1:15-18; John 1:1-4; Hebrews 1:2-4 and 1 John 1:1-4 reflect the final revelation to mankind through the Son Jesus Christ. In these first two chapters we begin to get a clear insight into the final culminating plan of God. However, we must not limit our thoughts to only the book of Revelation. The reader, to get a valid understanding of End Times and Eschatology must look at the Old Testament as well; Specifically, the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel and other Minor Prophets. Of course the New Testament books of Matthew, Luke, 1/2 Thessalonians are necessary too.

There is a specific audience John/Jesus is writing to, but specifically the message is to the “church” – and the seven churches of Asia Minor, a mail route in what is known as modern day Turkey. The Seven Churches has gained great commentary of recent years. But it found great application with one John Darby, who along with C.I. Scofield can be considered the fathers of “Dispensationalism.” Darby created an elaborate system of end times thought by ascribing each church mentioned in Rev. 2/3 as a period of time or era of the “Church” history. Darby uses the specifics of the messages to describe a condition of the church as it made its way through time since the Apostles until his day. The Last church described is the church of Laodicea, which is commonly known as the “lukewarm” church. If we are to adhere to Darby’s thought , then the “church” has been living in the last 200 plus years in a lukewarm state.  many have bought into the Dispensational thought, to include many denominational schools. [Dallas Theological Seminary is an example] I hold to a different position. Since Jesus was specifically identifying problems within the churches and He is the Head of the Church; I believe that He was writing to the reader from a perspective of “conditions” churches could find themselves. In other words, rather than a church history; we have been given descriptions of “phases” a church may encounter in the life of the church. This message would find a universal; eternal application for all churches. In the case of the seven churches, not a single one of them endured; they all died. The message is one of warning and example to all future churches, not just the current churches being spoken to.

One of the problems with Revelation is the multiple genres used to write the book. We know that is it historical, narrative, prophetic and symbolic. Even so, when does the reader apply which literary principles to the passage being read? In other words, Revelation cannot be read as all literal, or symbolic or prophetic. This has caused great misinterpretation of the book, because someone applied the wrong literary principles of interpretation to a passage.

Back to our main chapter significance. The identification and description of Jesus is amazing. It was also used and applied to some degree to each of the churches. Some aspect of Christ’s description was used in the opening salutation to the church. Each one had a specific element of Christ that they needed to affirm.

It is interesting, that Jesus is very business like in His Revelation to John. Seemingly absent is the benevolent Jesus of the Gospels. This is to be understood. No longer is Christ bringing a message of love and peace; but one of warning and judgment.

In my writings during this book I will deliberately stay with what Revelation says, rather than try to incorporate a blog on the End times themes.  Next week we will look at the Churches themselves, however briefly.

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Keeping Focused in a blurry world

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

2 Thess, the sequel to Paul’s first letter continues to praise the Thessalonians church for its testimony.  While they are still being tested and persecuted by the culture and the Judaizers, their faith has remained steadfast. In Church history, when then Church experienced troubles [outside, not conflict within] it grew, the book of Acts is a wonderful example of how the Church comes together in unity and strength when adversity abound. The Corinthian Church is a prime example of what internal conflict looks like, but that’s another blog. Twice in this book Paul commends the Church for its faith and resolve to live godly before the world. This is most interesting, because they were not content to just make it through whatever ordeal was at hand, but their perseverance was causing the Gospel to be spread to other regions.  This is significant because mankind is prone to focus on themselves and their problems rather than take the high road. Paul assures the Church that while they have been faithful; God will repay those who have dealt with them in a persecuted way. This leads to the 2nd chapter where Paul discusses the Return of Christ. This is a hot topic in our American Churches today. Everyone is talking about how bad it is everywhere; yet the facts are the Gospel is spreading into regions of the Lost world it has never been able to do before. For example; the ISIS and the Syrian conflict right now is doing great testimony for the Gospel; most people don’t look at it that way – but the fact that in Muslim countries, believers are willing to die for their faith rather than recant to Muslim speaks volumes to those that are looking for HOPE in this chaotic, apostatized world. We Americans should take notice of what REAL persecution looks like, instead of complaining about our inconveniences of comfort!

In America right now from pulpits and book publishers there is a myriad of sermons and books about the impending disaster of the End of the World. I believe American Churches are so focused about the possible end times and return of Jesus, that they have forgotten that millions are still waiting to hear that Jesus came the first time. This became a hot topic with the Thessalonians church, for some had said that the Return had happened already. There was a group that were so enamored with the Return, they quit their jobs and were waiting for the End to happen. I have read enough prophecy books and scripture to understand that, if “we” the Church are talking about the Return of Jesus and the world is talking about it as well; then it’s not even close. Matt 24 tells us that everything will be “normal” when Jesus comes. People missed Jesus the first time because of ignorance; people will miss Him the second time because of apathy and apostasy. while the Church is in a state of apathy and apostasy [In America] that is not necessarily true everywhere. Thousands are coming to Christ around the world! Not because of the All-gifted American churches; but because of God’s work in the world. [See Nik Ripken’s book Insanity of Obedience] If we are so focused on Christ’s return, we miss the work of being salt and light in the world. Just because the American Church is in apostasy, doesn’t mean God is done!

Paul outlines some specifics with the Return of Jesus; while I believe He, Jesus can come at anytime; I also find the long-suffering and compassion of God greater than we think. The task of proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples is greater today than in times past – yes I believe that things are pretty messed up; really out of control. But even though all looks so bleak – we must focus on the “journey of faith” instead of trying to hurry and escape from all the turmoil. Countless times scripture tells the believer that his life will be difficult and he will be persecuted, even killed for the Faith in Jesus. SO why are we surprised that today we are in difficult times? The Gospel is being preached, thousands are responding in faith at the risk of losing their lives – John 11:25-26; even though we die – we will live! The Resurrection is true! Besides Jim Elliot said “He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep, to gain that which he can never lose!  The End of the World will come; if that is the near future, what manner of disciples should we then be? Oh, that He [Jesus] would find us faithful when He comes!

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Thanks for the Testimony

1 Thess chapters 1-4

Paul is writing to a church that he established in 3 weeks amid much tribulation and conflict. In Acts 17 we find the story of Paul’s missionary work among the Thessalonians, this on the heels of the problems at Philippi. We must remember that Paul wanted to go to some different areas on his 2nd missionary journey, but was prevented by the Holy Spirit. The Macedonian Call compelled him to go to the cities of Philippi, Berea, Athens and Thessalonica.  Even though there was great struggle with the Jewish religious leaders, Paul and the new church were able to get strides to propagating the Gospel to nearby communities. As a side note, I wondered how I would be if I was confronted with so much opposition every time I tried to do the Lord’s work? Would I stay the course or would I say I have had enough of this – I’m tired of the garbage and walk away – I hope I would have the where with all to stay the course.

Even though this young church had hardship at the beginning, their faith and testimony has spread to other regions. Their testimony was well established. There isn’t any greater testimony for a pastor or minister than to know the labor among the people/church wasn’t in vain. The proof of the ministry is the obedient lives of those we have nurtured.

Paul makes his case before the church in how he came to them, not with flattery words and malice for gain but with a sincere heart and love for the lost. Paul continually praises the church for their faithfulness and holy witness. He also tells them to go one to more, even as they have walked, he ask them to walk “straighter” before the lost in conduct [2:12]. Paul wanted them to have holy lives, so that their testimony wouldn’t be stained, nor the Gospel be brought reproach. Now this church was already doing/living a great testimony – Paul challenged them to accomplish more. No because Paul wanted to get the glory, but because the great need for holiness among the Gentiles. The Thessalonians were experiencing trials, persecution from their own countrymen, yet they were found faithful – this is a lesson we in America need to learn. Even though the American society seems to be breaking down in to a great immoral society – we that are believers must still shine and salt the world with our presence.

From the language of this letter it is easy to sense the heartfelt love Paul has for this church. He longs to be with them, so to fellowship and lift them up. Sometimes the things we desire have to wait until the timing it right. In 1 Tess. 2:19, a great verse reflects a scene in Heaven one day; how that all the lives we have had an influence on will stand in the crowd of believers, and can take great joy in seeing them there before the Father!

In chapter 3 Paul continues his explanation of why He hasn’t been there, the Satanic tactics and the resistance to the Gospel. But even though Paul and his team may be missing, they were there in spirit and prayer. In this letter we capture a premise that seems to be lost in today’s Christian Living – the expectation that people are going to live righteously and godly. Accountability for the way we live the Believers’ life is so important for our witness and testimony to be valid.  In chapter 4, Paul repeats himself in asking the church “to excel more” in what they are doing. In verse 2-7, Paul uses the word sanctification – this denotes a separation, but also a maturation of the believer. Elsewhere Paul says we are to no longer to walk like children tossed to and fro, but to be built up in the faith.

The last part of chapter 4:13-18, is a passage that finds itself quoted during funerals as a means of hope. The Blessed Hope of Christ return is a hope we all need, especially when faced with deathly opposition. This world isn’t all there is; but this world determines all that there is hereafter. We are to be comforted that our labor and suffering are not in vain, keeping a pure uncorrupted testimony of faith for ourselves, and those who have suffered in bringing us to God.

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