Book of Revelation, Christ for Individuals, volume 2 of the Learn Christ Commentaries, Southern Baptist Convention, What Happened to God's People of the SBC

Number the People of God or Worship Christ, Revelation 4-7?

Chapter 3:  Number the People of God or Worship Christ, Revelation 4-7?


Before we thank God that we are not as the Mormons, the Church of Christ, the Roman Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, and some non denominational churches who claiming to be the only Church and the only Christians have numbered the people of God in a circle about themselves; before we thank God that we are not as the hypocrites, the Jewish people of the First Century who also claimed to be and still do to be the elect of God in spite of the rejection of Jesus Christ, we should also consider our own guilt of a priority for numbering what we consider to be the people of God over the Worship of Christ.  This chapter explains that!

Church people like other people have the two great needs of (1) guilt relief and (2) self identity.  Even in the churches these needs are not met according to God’s ordained methods in the Bible: (1) confession and forgiveness of sin and (2) personal identification with Christ through repentance and faith.   Therefore you expect in the larger American society there must be substitute solutions for these two great needs.  Guilt relief can be found in the church when the appearance of relief is chosen over the reality by justification through attendance, and self identity rather than with Christ can be found by identifying primarily socially with the other members of the church who may or may not have properly identified with Christ or found proper guilt relief.

These artificial means of guilt relief and self-identity are enhanced by the pastor and the people when they like so many others in history attempt to number the people of God in a circle about themselves.  It seems pathetic to us who objectively witness it when a very small church has so rationalized in such a manner as to think they are the only people of God in the whole world.  Of course, Elijah felt the same way when things were not going so well; except he felt as if he was the people of God of one, one individual—

“Lord, they have killed the prophets, and digged own thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.  But what saith the answer of God unto him?  I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.  Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”  (Romans 11:3-5  KJV)

“THERE IS A REMNANT”, that is what I mean when I say “Seven Christian Thousand”.  It may be six thousand, it may be eight thousand or nine thousand.  It is only that today as the today at the present time of which the Apostle Paul wrote in the First Century there is a small number of the real people of God as compared to those who call themselves the people of God, and the seven thousand Jews in the land of Israel during the time of Elijah only serves to remind us how small the remnant may be as compared to all those who claim to be the people of God. 27-1:  Worship the Almighty God on the Throne,  Revelation 4.

The theme of Revelation 4 is the worthiness of LORD God the Father to be worshipped, and is best expressed by the last verse of that chapter—

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:  for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”  (Revelation 4:11  KJV)

It reminds us of the Model Prayer where Jesus taught disciples how to pray to God the Father, beginning with “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…” and ending with “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.”

  1. The book of Revelation as other books of the Bible is a self revelation originating from God and delivered through the Lord Jesus Christ by way of some messenger. The Apostle John looked toward heaven, and “a door was standing open in heaven” (Rev 4:1).  John only heard a voice through the open door, saying “Come up here” and I will show you things that are going to happen in the future after this present time.
  2. The first voice John heard in Revelation 1:10 was the voice of Jesus, and turned to see Jesus standing in the midst of the seven lampstands, Who then delivered to John the messages to the seven churches. The “first voice”, also like a trumpet, from the open door of heaven is another voice (Rev 4:1), and the voice which identified himself in Revelation 19:10 as a fellow servant.
  3. The trumpet-like voice invites John to “Come up” in order what? To see “the things which must be hereafter” (Rev 4:1), the things of eschatology and the future. So that immediately after timely messages to the seven churches comes eschatology, seven as they are typical of all churches. {There were actually more than seven churches in the Asia Minor of the first and second century.} We can find a message for our church, denomination, and ourselves in the book of Revelation.  We are not trying to ignore eschatology as you see by the extensive discussion in the last chapter, but we are saying the first priority is a timely message from Christ to the churches and then eschatology; and then beyond that to a timely message from Christ TO INDIVIDUALS.  {Hence the volume 3 title, “Christ for Individuals”, in this volume of the LEARN CHRIST COMMENTARIES.}
  4. “immediately I was in the spirit” (Rev 4:2)—this is hard to understand, for John was already “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” in chapter 1.  It would naturally lead one to believe that this was a day after Sunday.  Recall that the Sabbath Day of the Old Testament became after the Resurrection the Lord’s Day of Sunday.  Sunday is really the new testament Sabbath; and by the way, according to Jesus, it is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
  5. God the Father on the Throne: “behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Rev 4:2,3):

(1).  The reflections of light from Him on the throne were so great that John could in writing only compare it with “like a jasper and a sardine stone”; and

(2).  The rainbow that surrounded the throne of God, obviously reflecting the grace of God, and it reflected like an emerald.  I believe God and heaven are much closer to earth than we can possible imagine, in another dimension that we can not see since the wavelength dimensions of our visual sight are very short anyway; and that this is the actual rainbow that we are seeing on the earth all the time.  After all, the Bible tells us that God sits on the circle of the earth, and that the clouds are His footstool.

  1. Worship God on earth as God is worshipped by the elders in heaven—”thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”: Revelation 4:4,5.

(1).  Here starts the numbering of God that is unique, or almost unique to the book of Revelation as first it is mentioned that around the throne are 24 seats and then exactly 24 elders in those 24 seats.  The number of leaders before the throne of God are exactly the number that God planned to be there, and that number is twice the number of God’s ordained leaders of the First Century:  there were 12 Apostles and there are 24 seats with 24 elders before the throne of God.

(2).  They were clothed in white raiment.  The white raiment obvious represents as we learn later in the book of revelation being washed white in the blood of the lamb.

(3).  They had on their heads crowns of gold.  This obviously represents the reward of God for their service and persecution; and with their position before the throne, also represents their leadership in heaven.

(4).  The sound was as awesome as the sight and sound of lightnings, thundering, and voices came out of the throne.

(5).  Seven lamps were burning in front of the throne which the Apostle John—and note only the Apostle John—identifies as “the seven Spirits (or spirits) of God” (Rev 4:5).  I emphasize that these are words from the Apostle John that he added when he wrote the book of Revelation, and therefore are based on some things that were explained later to him in the revelations of the book of Revelation.  Since we know that there is only One Holy Spirit of God, we are more inclined to lean toward “spirit” instead of the “Spirit” that the King James translators used.  Unfortunately there is only one Greek word, the word “pneuma” literally meaning wind, for both the Holy Spirit and other spirits like human spirits.

  1. Worship God as all living creatures of heaven and earth worship God: Rev 4:6-9. It does not matter so much what the living creatures, unfortunately called “beasts” in KJV, look like as the fact that  all the living creatures besides humans here on earth are worshipping God.  To really pray from the heart the “thy will be done on earth” part of the Lord’s Prayer (more appropriately called he Model Prayer), we should be worshipping God more nearly the way He is worshipped in heaven.  God could use more of our thought time, more consistent time talking to Him, and much less time–like zero—taking His name in vain.}
  2. They keep up this tireless worship of God both day and night and forever; and
  3. They say: “Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”  (Rev 4:8)  This is the same Alpha and Omega of Revelation 1:8 that John moved forward after the giving of the whole book and immediately after John talks about Jesus Christ. You see these words about Jesus and God the Father are preliminary summaries of the main messages of all the book of Revelation as is of all the books of the Bible.
  4. This is glory, honor, and thanks to the God Almighty on the Throne from all living creatures not human.
  5. It is glory, honor, and thanks to the Everlasting God. By the way contrary to the way of much of the “praise” worship and songs, Jesus never taught people to pray to Him, only to God the Father through Jesus.  And since praise must be a aspect of prayer and worship, this is inappropriate.  Also Jesus taught to pray without vain repetition as the heathens do, and notice some of these simple praise songs which repeat three or four words over and over.  That fits more in the vain repetition category, and less in the pray with understanding category. This should also eliminate that vain babbling of so-called tongues in worship as Paul was particularly talking about this matter in Corinthians when he wrote that we are to speak in the church with understanding (that is, so others can understand) and pray and sing with understanding).  On the first day of Pentecost after the Ascension of Jesus, when the Jews from every country of the Roman Empire spoke in tongues, it was not unknown tongues.  It was the tongue  of a certain country.  In other words if some Jews were there from Spain, they heard in Spanish; if from France they heard in French, et cetera.  Of course, the really unsound doctrine of this charismatic movement in worship is that it tries to make this emotionalism of speaking in truly unknown tongues synonymous with Sanctification.  Sanctification is not that easy.  According to the sound doctrine of the Bible in spite of popular practices otherwise, sanctification is the third aspect of salvation after initial belief and new birth whereby the Christ follower becomes more and more like Christ until at the Second Coming, “we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.”  This sound Biblical sanctification takes hard work, thus the Apostle Paul says “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.  Would that it could happen instantly at one worship service or evangelistic meeting or even each Sunday, but that is hardly consistent with the Bible.  And what you will most generally find is that this kind of worshipper quickly forget during the week as far as real life changes, what happened to them during that worship.  It is an unsound doctrinal substitute for the sound doctrine of the Bible.
  6. It is synchronized with worship from the leaders. Andrew Blackwood wrote a wonderful book on public prayer entitled LEADING IN PUBLIC PRAYER in which he offers this abbreviation to remember the Biblical aspects of proper public prayer, ATCSS.  It stands for Adoration of God, Thanksgiving to God, Confession to God of sin, Supplication to God for such basics as daily needs, and Submission to the will of God.  You can follow those aspects through the Model Prayer, and it would also be a good basis for your daily personal prayer, expanded of course, and put in your own words and thoughts.
  7. Worship God as all living creatures and leaders in heaven worship God: Revelation4:10,11

“The four and twenty elders fell down before him that sat on the throne, and worshiped him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:  for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”  (Revelation 4:10,11  KJV)

(1).  God the Father created all things of heaven and earth; and

(2).  All things were created for God the Father.  The ultimate purpose of the Christian calling is to glorify God, thus W. O Carver calls his commentary on Ephesians,  THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE CHRISTIAN CALLING.  Ephesians is the best, short book of the Bible to cover all aspects of the Christ life, both BIC (before in Christ) and AIC (After in Christ), and besides my own commentary on Ephesians, ONE COMMENTARY ON EPHESIANS, it is one of the best. Anyway “great things He has done”.

3-2:   Worthy is the Lamb of God, the Christ, to be Worshipped, Revelation 5.

Oh yes, don’t misunderstand, Christ is to be worshipped.  This chapter is outlined as follows:

(1) The need for someone to open the book that was in the right hand of God the Father, Revelation 5:1-4:

(2) The Lamb of God takes the book while all living creatures around the throne of God worship the Lamb, Revelation 5:5-10;

(3) Thousands of angels join in this worship of the Lamb, Revelation 5:11-12; and

(4) All living creatures of the universe of heaven and earth join in the worship of the Lamb, Revelation 5:13,14.  How did they worship Christ?  With a new song with many different words and much meaning for understanding!

3-3:  Correlation of the events from Jesus of Matthew 24 with the Seven Seals on the Book of Revelation 6.

It actually takes six chapters for the Lamb of God to open all seven seals of the book, Revelation 6-11; but six of the seals are opened in Revelation 6, and then the seventh seal is opened at the beginning of Revelation 8, but it takes 8-11 to discuss it since that seventh seal has seven trumpets.  Revelation 7, after the first six seals and before the opening of the seventh seal, is an important insert about God’s numbering of His own people.

As is the nature of prophesy throughout the Bible where high points are given by one Prophet then elaborated on by another Prophet, Jesus as recorded in Matthew 24 gives the high points of the future with seven aspects of the Time of Sorrows, and in the book of Revelation these are expanded into the Seven Seals on the Book with the Seven Seal having seven trumpets.

The disciples asked Jesus privately about eschatology—

“Tell us, when shall these things be?  and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”  (Matthew 24:3  KJV)

First, the beginning of the Time of Sorrows:  Matthew 24:4-8.

Then the continuation of the Time of Sorrows: 24:9-14.

Then the Abomination of Desolation of Daniel, in 80 A.D. the destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem, and for all practical purposes the Jewish religion of the First Century: A.D.:  Matthew 24:15-20.

Then Great Tribulation of believers:  Matthew 24:21-13.

A Final Tribulation on all flesh and on the universe shortly before the Second Coming:  Matthew 24:29.

The Second Coming of Christ:  Matthew 24:14-31.

One place that the Apostle John moves progressive revelation on eschatology forward, based on and going beyond what Jesus taught in Matthew 24 is in allowing us to see these six categories as continuing events.  Of course, you must remember that the book of Revelation is coming from the Ascended Christ so that Jesus the Ascended Christ is elaborating on what Jesus the Son of God taught before His crucifixion and resurrection!  Events of the beginnings of sorrows continue while the time of sorrows goes deeper, the destruction of the temple continues as destroyed while the tribulation of the First Century takes place, also the time of sorrows; and so on through the six categories:  (1) The Beginning of Sorrows; (2) The Continuation of Sorrows; (3) The Abomination of Desolation; (4) Great Tribulation on flesh only; (5) Final Tribulation on the universe and flesh, and (6) The Second Coming of Christ with the Gathering of the Elect. We will briefly compare the six categories of Matthew 24:4-8, the beginning of sorrows, with the six categories of the six seals of Revelation 6:1-10. To summarize the six seals of Revelation 6:1-10:  (1) white horse rider with bow and power to conquer; (2) red horse rider with power to cause a world war; (3) black horse rider with famine; (4) pale horse rider with power od Death and Hades; (5) the souls under the altar slain for the word of God given robes; (6) The Great Day of the LORD with the shaking of the whole universe.

Matthew 24:4-8                                            Revelation 6:10-7:17

  1. The beginning of sorrows 24:5-8 1.  white horse rider with power to conquer:  6:1,2
  2. Continuation of sorrows 24:9-14                         2.  red horse rider with power to take away peace from the earth:  6:3,4
  3. Abomination of Desolation 24:15-20                    3.   the black horse rider of famine and hunger in Jerusalem   6:5,6
  4. Great Tribulation on flesh only 24:21-13               4.  pale horse with power to kill one fourth of population 6:7,8
  5. Last Tribulation on flesh   24:29                          5.  The Cry of Martyrs during the tribulations     6:9-11, 7:1-17
  6. The Day of the LORD and Lord 24: 5.  The universe crumbles and men cry for relief     6:12-17

Should it be a surprise that we have a one to one correlation between the events of Matthew 24 and the six seals of Revelation 6.  You see how easy it is if we keep Scripture, including the book of Revelation, in the total context of the Bible.  The beginning of sorrows finds expansion in the first seal as the rider on the white horse with a bow went out to conquer; the continuation of sorrows correlates with the rider on the red horse who has the power to take peace from the earth; the rider on the black horse that delivers famine and hunger is an expansion of what happened in Jerusalem during the Abomination of Desolation, the period the Romans surrounded and then destroyed Jerusalem,  as a quart of wheat sold for a day’s wage.

3-4:  Seven Christian Thousand.

It is in Revelation 6:9-7:17 that we see the primary theme of the book of Revelation as we witness the three ways in which Christ and God the Father number their own people:  (1) First the martyred souls under the altar who are told to be patient until the number of those to be so martyred is complete; (2) Then 144,000 Jews from the twelve tribes of Israel; and (3) The vast multitude from every nation that no man can number. That is no really many Jews among the people of God is the Jews of each generation that were truly of the remnant, or people of God, was only seven thousand like God said during the time of Elijah.  If you divide seven thousand into 144,000; or— 14 X   7  equals    20.57  generations.

From Earthquakes to Final Tribulation. 

Notice also that the sixth seal of Revelation 6:12-17 goes all the way from the simple earthquakes of the beginning of sorrows to the sun darkened of the Final Tribulation that is on the whole universe as well as man—

“For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”  (Revelation 6:17 KJV)

“…(all men living) hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains…”  (Revelation 6:15  KJV)

“And the heaven departed as a scroll”  (Revelation 6:14  KJV)

“And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth…”  (Revelation 6:13  KJV)

“the moon became as blood”  (Revelation 6:12  KJV)

“the sun became black as sackcloth…”  (Revelation 6:12  KJV)

“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake…”  (Revelation 6:12  KJV)

Considering these in reverse order, or in the original order of Revelation 6:12-17, what you have is:  (1) The lesser earthquakes of the beginnings of sorrows to at the end of time becomes one great earthquake that shakes the whole earth; (2) The sun becomes dark just as predicted by Jesus and by the Old Testament Prophets as an event before the Great One Day of the LORD and Lord; (3) Also the moon ceases to give light; (4) The stars fall from heaven, another event before the Great One Day; (5) The old heavens began to pass away in preparation for a new heavens; (6) The whole old earth is shaken in preparation for the coming of the new earth; and (7) This is the One Great Day of the LORD and Lord.

Satan.  We already know from the clear teachings of II Thessalonians that Satan has been bound for a figurative one thousand years since the first Day of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection.  That is when the Holy Spirit came in great power putting a restraint on the successful works of Satan in terms of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  As Paul tells, when the Holy Spirit is withdrawn at the peak of the increase in lawlessness, then Satan will be empowered to do all his dirty works.  It is much like the happenings between God, Job, and Satan as recorded in the book of Job.  God gave Satan permission to take away Job’s possession, family, and his health.  In the case of the release of Satan, God for a short time gives Satan the leeway (with the Holy Spirit removed) to harass the whole globe as he did Job.

The Prophet. Another thing that the book of Revelation demands in the way of last events is a last False Prophet to support the last great world leader, the son of perdition, who is also under the control of Satan; and while the Mormons are by no means the only group that could supply such a False Prophet, they are a good example of one of several such good groups.  Each President of the LDS is considered God’s modern day Prophet on earth so much so that any time he speaks on secular or religious matters it is revelations from God.  Well, one of those Prophets, Brigham Young, according to the criterion established by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy for a false prophet is a false prophet.  If he foretells something as Brigham Young was foolish enough to foretell that men were on the moon, which was proven to be false when the Astronauts landed there. and it doesn’t come true, then he is a false prophet.

The Son of Perdition. While there are several sons of perdition mentioned in the Bible including Judas, and meaning that these are men under the control of Satan, the ultimate son of perdition like the ultimate false prophet is reserved for the last events of the last times; and the Apostle Paul writes of this son of perdition in II Thessalonians 2:1-5.

From this passage and from the total context of the Bible the dominant theme of eschatology must be kept in mind of the ONE DAY OF THE LORD AND Lord.  Sometimes you do not get that impression from reading books on last things nor even listening to sermons or lessons, but for every one time that matters like a thousand years, the battle of Armageddon, Satan, and the False Prophet and Man of Perdition are mentioned, the One Day of the Lord is mentioned at least ten times.  There is no more consistent theme in all the Bible other than on God Himself, on Jesus and salvation, than on the subject of the One Day of the Lord.  And it is with the subject of the One Day of the LORD and Lord that Paul in II Thessalonians 2 also mentions the Man of Perdition.

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to him, that you may not be quickly shaken from you composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”  (II Thessalonians 2:1,2  NASV)

The sequence of primary last events are here—

  1. The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. The Gathering of Christians to Him that are alive at His Second Coming.
  3. The One Day of the Lord when all these things will happen of the Second Coming, the gathering of Christians, and judgment on Satan, the Man of Perdition, and the False Prophets with all unbelievers. Some people think that hell is horrible; but there is something far worse than hell about which the last chapters of Revelation tell us.  We are told that death and hell are cast into the lake of fire and brimstone with Satan, the False Prophet, and the Man of Perdition.
  4. The One Day of the LORD and Lord preceded by an Apostasy of Christians. “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first.” (II Thessalonians 2:3  NASV)
  5. Then the Son of Perdition is revealed which the NASV calls the “man of lawlessness” and “the son of destruction”.

“…and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.  Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?”  (II Thessalonians 2:3b-5  NASV)

What we learn here about the Son of Perdition as foundational for the more we will learn in the book of Revelation—

(1).  False worship sets the stage for him to exalt himself above those false objects of worship.

(2).  He leads in the ultimate deception as he takes the primary seat of honor in the very temple of God.

(3).  He displays himself as God!

Honesty Versus the Lie.   Every time an individual or a group of individuals in a church or any other organization contribute to a lack of honesty, to half-truths, distortions, and lies {the Mormons with their four Bibles that distort truth and sound doctrine are not the only ones, only the best example of the worst unsound doctrine}, they are also contributing to the release from bondage of Satan to again deceive all the nations as he did the Roman Empire in the First Century.  Seem strange, then read again II Thessalonians 2 where the mystery of lawlessness is at work centered around the believing of a Lie.  Evidence of the big lie comes when churches or other organizations like that of Sardis have a reputation of being alive while the reality is that they are dead.  It can also happen to an educational institutions, a state, or a federal government.  It can happen to any leader, secular or religious, as a divergence develops between their reputation and the reality. Here as an aspect of sin or lawlessness, we are dealing with what Elton Trueblood calls “intellectual honesty”.  It is a lie when appearance is promoted through PR that is a distortion of reality.

You see the reason the reputation can be so different from the reality is that while man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart of an individual or organization.  The way of the world is the way of appearance.  The way of God is the heart.  The way of the world is the appearance of the building and the organization, the way of God is the inward motivation and strength of the spirit.  This is the reason Jesus said, “Judge not by appearance; but judge righteous judgment.”

We see the ultimate the appearance of religion versus the reality as we listen to what Jesus had to say to religious leaders about the First Century Hebrew religion—

“Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”  (Matthew 15:7-9  KJV)

  1. Since this was a quote for Isaiah, it was the indictment of God against the Hebrew religion years before it took place; and it figured in significantly to the rejection of Jesus by most of the Jews.
  2. They were practicing vain worship. Isn’t that horrible to assemble sabbath day after sabbath day, to speak the name of God, and to even proclaim that it is in the name of God; and for it all to be vanity.  Worthless worship!
  3. The mouth and the lips of the worshippers were speaking the right words, even the appearance of the words was right; but their hearts were far away from God.
  4. Along with vain worship was the teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The doctrines of the Bible had been subverted into the commandments of men.

3-5:  Exegesis of Revelation 4-7.

4:1   John saw a door standing open in heaven.  The eternal secrets of heaven were about to be revealed.  John is going to be told what shall happen “after these things”; but what has happened after the things?  Only the things of the problems in the seven churches, and this interpretation is verified by the words with which this verse starts—”After these things…”  You see these problems in the Christian churches were as much revelations of secrets as the seven seals and seven trumpets to follow, because these churches and Christians did not realize that they had these problems.  Only whole church thought it was alive and was dead, had a reputation among many churches of being alive; but the secret revealed to them is that they were dead.  Another had left their first love, the original concept of the God of the Bible, and did not know it.  One thought it was rich, but it was poor; and so on…

4:2   The Throne is important, sitting in heaven; for when the old earth passes way and the new earth comes with the New Jerusalem, this same throne of God will be lowered with the 1500 mile high city and God on that throne.

4:3   Even as much of the news of the new earth has the appearance of jasper, clear and sparkling so the God the Father who sat on the Great White Throne had that appearance.  It is the appearance of purity and righteousness.

4:4   You can see that the new Jerusalem is going to be a place where God and the 24 elders rule all nations as the new Jerusalem is going to be lowered to earth.  That is, it will close the gap between heaven and earth!

4:5   The seven “spirits of God”, spirit not Spirit, are the spirits of the prophets, the spirits of the angels.

4:6-8  All living creation is represented in the four living creatures, like a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle; and the point is that all living creation worships the Almighty God.

You know that even as seven represents completion so the opening of the seventh seal on the book of heaven will wrap up all the events of Matthew 24 and of history.  The Seventh Seal in short is the Second Coming of Christ; but the story of the end is spread out in that there are seven trumpets to be sounded, in that history is reviewed from beginning to end from the perspective of God and of God’s heaven!  After this review of history from the perspective of God, the Sounding of the Seventh Trumpet of the Seventh Seal is the Second Coming of Christ.

The first six trumpets represent the Judgements of God against the earth in answer to the prayers of the saints—

“And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.  And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.”  (Revelation 8:1-4  KJV)

Recall that the original prayer of the souls under the altar of Revelation 6:10 was, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”  (KJV)

As the first angel sounded the first trumpet fire and blood was cast upon the earth destroying one third of the trees and all the green grass; as the second sounded a mountain size ball of fire was cast into the sea destroying one third of the ships and one third of the life in the sea; at the third a bitter star poisoned the fresh water of earth so that many died; at the fourth trumpet the light of the sun, moon, and stars was darkened by one third; at the fifth trumpet the angel of the bottomless pit is released with his scorpions to torment men that who do not have the seal of God in their foreheads—”They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss, his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon”  (Revelation 9:11  NASV); at the sixth trumpet an army of two hundred million which killed one third of the men on earth; and at the sounding of the seventh trumpet the kingdoms of the earth become the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 11:15-19).

How do these seven trumpets of the seventh seal compare with the broad outline of eschatology of Matthew 24?  After the Abomination of Desolation of 70 A. D., Jesus tells of:  (1) A Great Tribulation on flesh only but so terrible that if it were not shortened no flesh would survive; (2) The arising of many false Christs and false prophets; (3) The death of many men as carcasses for the gathering of the eagles, another great tribulation but this time one that affects the environment as well as flesh; (4) The shaking of the heavens with lessened light from the sun, moon, and stars; (5) Second Coming of Christ in power and glory; and (6) The angels gather the elect of God together from heaven and from earth.  And once again you see how the aspects of each category spill other from one sequence in history to another as first there is a great tribulation on flesh only which took place in the First Century, and indeed had already begun to happen in the history of Revelation where you find the martyred souls under the altar, similar to the Great Tribulation of the very last days that is on the universe and flesh.

You also see how the seven trumpets are simply more details on the eschatology of Jesus of Matthew 24.  Also the aspects of the fire and brimstone of the seven trumpets elaborate on the earth melting with a fervent heat of the Apostle Peter and of II Peter 3:

“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men….But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements of the earth shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”  (II Peter 3:7,10  KJV)

The fervent heat starts on earth as the first trumpet of the seventh seal sends hail and fire to earth that burns all the green grass and one third of the trees; the heat gets hotter as with the second trumpet the mountain of fire affects the ocean life and ships; a burning and bitter star falls into the fresh water at the sounding of the third trumpet; and the heavens began to be effected— sun, moon, and stars—with the fourth trumpet; with the fifth trumpet as the bottomless pit opens to let out the angel-king, more of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened by the smoke from the bottomless pit; and from the army of two hundred million came fire that destroyed one third of the men living on earth.  This is the Greatest Tribulation on the universe and man for which the Great and shortened tribulation was only a foretaste.

The Apostle Peter in reference to why God was withholding the sounding of the seventh trumpet with the end of time and the Second Coming of Christ writes about the patience and mercy of God—

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one days is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  (II Peter 3:8,9  KJV) Yet during the judgments from the sounding of the fifth trumpet rather than repent as God is seeking by the delay in final judgment, they continued not to worship God!

3-6:  Patience and The Thousand Years.

Although we will encounter the famous one thousand years of Revelation in Revelation 20, so called by many as the “millennium”, since the Bible has so little to say about this “one thousand years” with references only in Revelation 20 and here in II Peter 3:8,9, it behooves us to take note of what Peter writes in progressive revelation before the Apostle John writes Revelation and Revelation 20.  Peter is making a point of the patience of God, and that to God one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day. However, in spite of this Bible relativity whereby to God one day can mean anything from a day to a thousand years and vice versa, I think we should take the thousand years during which Satan is bound as literal, starting when Satan could deceive the nations no longer when the influence of the Roman Empire was destroyed in the world, or approximately somewhere between 400 and 1400 A.D.  Since I think that Joseph Smith had to have supernatural help in the generation of so many lies, distortions, and half-truths as are represented in the three unique Bibles of the Mormons, I think Satan had to be released somewhere before or about the time of the famous golden plates on which was recorded the book of Mormon.  That would mean that Satan had to be released somewhere before 1820.  If we speculate Satan’s release as approximately 1800, then one thousand years before this would be at approximately 800 A. D. when Satan is bound in that he can no longer deceive whole nations.  (Satan was not bound in that he could no longer deceive individuals, only nations!)  I like this date of approximately 800 since it places it closer to the destruction of the Western Roman Empire than to the destruction of the Eastern Roman Empire.  After all, since Christ told us that no man knows the exact time, what we are doing is using God ordained signs in the book of Revelation and in the rest of the Bible to speculate.  It is the trends that we must look for that will conclude the end of time.  The two great and detrimental trends of rejection of the knowledge of God and of the increase of intellectual dishonesty in lies, half-truths, and distortions.

The Apostle Paul had something to say about this increase in dishonesty with a corresponding rejection of the knowledge of God, and identified the trends as the “latter times”.  (This “latter times” reminds you of what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 4.)

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”  (I Timothy 4:1-3  KJV)

Notice that on the positive side that those “which believe” are also those who “know the truth”; and that with a seared conscience, seductive spirits, and faith departure also comes “lies in hypocrisy”.  (Since we know which denomination called by them a Church abstain from meats and forbids to marry, we also know which Church besides the LDS is active in “lies in hypocrisy” with the seared conscience, faith departure, and seductive spirits and doctrines of devils.  Also recall that it is devils that are being worshipped in Revelation 9:20 that keeps them from repenting in spite of the torments of scorpions from hell of the fifth trumpet, and in spite of the slaying from the army of Satan of one third of mankind.

Table 3:  The 4 Phases of History in Revelation Based on the

Teachings of Jesus in Matthew 24.

Beginning of Sorrows

Matthew 24:5-8

Great Tribulation

Matthew 24:9

Period of Offences

Matthew 24:10

The Falling Away

Matthew 24:11-14

1. Many False Prophets Come. False Prophets
2.  Many Deceived. Many Offended Falling Away
Betray One Another Lawlessness Abounds
Hate one Another Man of Sin Revealed
3.  Wars and rumors of wars Lovers of self and money Holy Spirit withdrawn
4.  Nation against Nation Despisers of good Satan released
5.  Famines Battle of Armageddon
6.  Pestilences Love of many waxes cold
7.  Earthquakes Shaking of heaven and earth
Great Tribulation from the World and Satan Turn Away from the truth and turn into fables Physical tribulations from God in Final Tribulation
Abomination of Desolation Form of godliness  (religion) with inward power of God Elements melt with fervent heat
Great Tribulation shortened for sake of Elect Blasphemers, proud, arrogant, and trouble makers Gospel to every nation
False rumors about the Second Coming Second Coming of Christ and great gathering in the clouds

 NOTE:  This message/chapter is Chapter 3 of the Learn Christ commentary, volume 2 entitled “Christ for Individuals”.  If you wish you can free download this chapter, Number God’s People at  


Erosions of Sound Doctrine, Southern Baptist Convention, The 19 Writing Prophets

Paul and Erosions of Sound Doctrine.

NOTE:  About the photo, the colors are lovely only for scenery; however such a beautiful edifice is not functional as a church in all weather because of the erosions and a hole in the middle.  “what Happened to God’s people in the SBC”, Paul dealt with that also after the central message of the 19 Old Testament Writing Prophets.

CHAPTER 2     Paul and Erosions of Sound Doctrine.

I know that the Apostle Paul cried quite often about what happened to him before he became a Christian, how he persecuted the church. No doubt he confessed his sins, God forgave his sins, God forgot his sins; but to a certain extent–at least in Paul’s memories–the load was still on his back. Let us be careful here–this matter is very practical for daily Christian and church life–there is no need for Paul or us to carry around any “care” of any kind, including past weights and sins. The Apostle Peter made that clear.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”    (I Peter 5:6,7)

However, in spite of forgiveness; in spite of God’s forgetfulness; in spite of the getting of Paul’s cares off his back, something remained in his memory and on his back related to his persecution of the church. I don’t think we have all the answers, but we do not it clearly remained. Paul wrote that he was not any worthy to be called an Apostle because he persecuted the church of God. Of course, we did know that part of the problem was because Christians had difficulties initially accepting Paul as an Apostle. Some were afraid of him because they knew as Saul how he had dragged Christians into prison. Remember Ananias when God told him to go talk to Saul, “Lord, I’ve heard about this man, and how much harm he has caused the saints in Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13)

Even though God forgives our past sins and forgets them, casting them as far as the east is from the west and promising to remember them no more, I think there are certain inevitable laws that exist here on earth such as the law of gravity, the law of supply and demand, the law of inertia, and the law of sowing and reaping. We simply continue to reap certain consequences of our past here on earth and in the history of earth. And no matter how much we cast our cares on Christ, realizing the assurance of forgiveness and forgetfulness, the memories even if in our subconscious remain. Listen to it straight from one of Paul’s letters.

“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (I Corinthians 15:9,10)

When we consider doctrine, alias the teachings of the Bible, and especially as related to our past and present weights or sins, we need something of the attitude of the Apostle Paul as reflected in I Corinthians 15:9,10.

  1. By the grace of God, past and present I am what I am.

This assumes that he has confessed his sins, asked and received forgiveness and God’s forgetfulness.

  1. Considering himself the least in his group, the least of the Apostles, only made Paul work even harder to prove that the grace of God toward him was not wasted.

He worked harder than all the others. Even there, he pauses to acknowledge that in the work it was not really him, but the grace of God that was working in him.

2-1: Doctrine, often a Tight Shoe that Crimps our Style.

Now, I have mentioned all this in order to say that doctrine is often a “Tight Shoe” that puts a crimp in our walking and living style, especially that doctrine that I discuss now that seems to have become a major problem for us in the more recent years. It is by no means a new problem as I can recall it from the 1960’s in Tucumcari, FBC, and Portales at Emmanuel Baptist Church as well as other places. Which doctrinal problem am I speaking of? That of, marriage, divorce, and the biblical requirements for pastors and deacons. In particular we think of two scriptures in I Timothy 3:2 and 3:12.

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…”     (I Timothy 3:2)

“Let deacons be the husbands of one wife…” (I Timothy 3:12)

Now, before we proceed on the “Tight Shoe” of this doctrine, realizing that our nation is approaching the point where over 50% of marriages end in divorce and knowing that some of our most respected and active churchmembers have been divorced as well as close loved ones; and at the same time knowing that we must hold high the standard of marriage from our Creator from the beginning, in spite of the allowance in the time of Moses of a writ of divorcement because of the hardness of the peoples heart, we must preach, teach, and write the whole counsel of God, being concerned quite often about the totality of doctrine, You know what our most important concern must be: the erosion of our endurance for sound doctrine. This matter of marriage and divorce in general and specifically as related to the qualifications for pastors and deacons is just one example of the battles that we must fight today and in the future of the soundness of doctrine. As the Apostle Paul wrote in II Timothy 4:3,4.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (II Timothy 4:3,4)

Wow! I will come back to this latter as a main point; but before I pass on I want to ask you the question, “Are we there already?” Have we significantly eroded our endurance for sound doctrine, and do we continue to significantly erode that endurance. Do we often find what we want in the Bible instead of an exegesis of what is really in there? And do we go looking for teachers that will tell us what we want to hear? Clarence W. Kerr writes in GOD’S PATTERN FOR THE HOME.

“Decade by decade the problem of divorce becomes more and more acute. It is hard for us to realize that a century ago divorce was well nigh unheard of in this country. We are not saying that there were not marriage problems, but few of them reached the courts of the law. Now our divorce rate vies with death as a dissolver of the marriage relationship. If the rate keeps on increasing as it has, it will not be long until each license for a new marriage is counter-balanced by a certificate of divorce for the legal dissolution of another. The problem is more acute in Christian America than in many pagan lands.”

2-2:  Marriage, Divorce, and Qualifications of Leaders.

What do reliable commentators say on this Doctrine of Marriage, Divorce, and Qualifications for Pastors and Deacons? Okay, enough meddling, let us get into some comments for respected commentators. And I remind you, don’t change horses in mid-stream. Don’t change you reliable commentators when there is a possibility that you have encountered a doctrine that is a tight shoe on your feet. Now for me, the most reliable of all commentators is Dr. B. H. Carroll. Dr. Carroll was the founder of Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth where he established a seminary that would teach all the way through the Bible. Many of you know that Commentaries on those lectures have been written, published, and re-printed as AN INTERPRETATION OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE.

  1. Carroll, as a high school friend of mine presently teaching at Southwestern reminded me, is part of our Christian and Baptist heritage. Here is Dr. Carroll on I Timothy 3:3 and I Timothy 3:12.

“First, ‘the husband of one wife.’ Does that mean that he must be the husband of a wife–is that what it means? In other words, that an unmarried man ought not to be a pastor?…We had an old deacon once that put his foot right on it that it meant: ‘I am willing to give that young preacher a place, I am willing to recognize him and even ordain him to special mission stations to preach, but no unmarried man can be pastor of this church.” And continuing about deacons Carroll writes.

“The deacon. So far as moral qualifications go, there is little difference between the qualifications of preacher and deacon.”

  1. How about Barclay and his commentaries, I know many of you like him.

“The Christian leader must have been married only once. The Greek literally means that he must be ‘the husband one wife.’ Some take this to mean that the Christian leader must be a married man, and it is possible that the phrase could mean that…But in this context here we can be quite certain that the phrase mean that the Christian leader must be a loyal husband, preserving marriage in all its purity. In later days the APOSTOLIC CANONS laid it down: ‘He who is involved in two marriages, after his baptism, or he who has taken a concubine, cannot be an episkopos, a bishop.”

  1. How about your pastor as a Bible commentator?

He has labored as your overseer or pastor for 15 years, through the hard times and the easy. You listen to him teach and preach every Sunday and more. Why should you suddenly stop listening to him because you feel a tightness in your shoes? I don’t understand why any active member of this church, even if honestly persuaded of another interpretation can not say to the pastor, “I don’t agree on this matter, but I am willing to go along with your leadership.”

2-3: What Can Happen if We Erode our Tolerance of Sound Doctrine. Now, let me come to the main point of the message (chapter), and that is some of the dangers of tampering with this doctrine or any other doctrines of the Bible.

  1. It can hamper Friendship with Jesus.

Recall how that Jesus in John 14-16 in some of the most significant and last teachings to the Apostles emphasized how that He wanted them to pass from being servants, who did not know the will of the Master, to being friends who knew the plan of the Creator. And Jesus told what the qualifications are for being a “Friend”. Parenthetically, you know if I had to make a choice between being a pastor, a deacon, or a Friend of Jesus, I think I would chose being a friend of Jesus. For one thing Friendship with Jesus which comes from love and keeping the commandments or teachings of Jesus, gives great boldness on the day of judgment.

It is true that those that inherit the office of the deacon also inherit “great boldness in the faith”, but I think I would prefer boldness on the day of judgment. Just think about the matter of memories, sins, weights and the judgment day. The Bible tells us “it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment”. We are told in the book of Revelation that all the books of our works are going be opened on the day of judgment, the recorded memories of all that we have done. And the world will be judged out of those books. But don’t fear! There is another book, the book of life, and if our names are written in book because of our faith in Jesus, the previous books will be set aside and the book of life with our name in it will be the only book that gives us basis for boldness on the day of judgement.

“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”  (John 15:14) “Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone love Me, hew ill keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make OUr home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words…”      (John 14:23,24)

  1. Eroding our tolerance for sound doctrine can deny our heritage in the New Testament Church, in Church History, in Baptist faith and beliefs, and in the Southern Baptist Convention.

I can recall at Quachita Baptist University in 1961 when writing a senior research paper. I asked the Professor, Dr. Blackmon, if I could write on “Baptist Distinctives”. I took a step back and thought to myself, “you old reprobate”, when his replay was “Is there any such thing?” But you know after over 40 years in the ministry as both a military chaplain, a pastor of churches, and a Bible professor he had a point, that on the practical level in talking to members of different denominations on doctrine it is quite often hard to tell the difference. And if this was true in 1961, with the trend obvious of erosion of tolerance for sound doctrine, what must be the situation in this day and time. You know that I have interim pastored approximately 16 churches in New Mexico from the size of Yeso Baptist Church, twice, to the size of First Baptist Church of Tucumcari, also twice; and I use to have the habit as a young man–don’t worry, I don’t do that anymore–of asking people in the congregation on Sunday night to list 10 major doctrines of the Bible. What I was looking for was the great truths on God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, salvation on the cross, heaven, hell, the second coming, the Holy Spirit as a Comforter, and so on; but what did I get: go to Sunday School, go to worship, tithe, be on time–all good practices but hardly major doctrines of the Bible. We can allow tolerance for sound doctrine to erode by (1) negligence, (2) ignorance, or (3) just plan purpose or desire.

(1).  Neglect of the Bible.

We just do not study the Bible itself as much as we ought to. As Dr. Wolber use to say, “Study your Bibles, they will shed a lot of light on the commentaries.” Large corporations are now telling their employees that whereas the reading level of the average American a few years ago was sixth grade, now it is the third grade; and that is the reason that you see USA TODAY written for a third grade reader level. That is also the reason we enjoy it so much. Now, do you think that this obvious lack of reading and reading skills does not affect also Christians reading of the Bible. Certainly it does.

(2). Ignorance of the Bible.

How many times have we heard things like a old farmer outside Hot Springs, Arkansas tell me. It is in the Bible that “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. I don’t know where, but it is in there. The problem is that we do not take the effort to check of understanding of the Bible by reading and re-reading it. By looking it for ourselves.

(3). Desire to erode sound doctrine.

We hate to think it but some are in the category of the seared conscience of the Bible, who simply desire to distort, mis-interpret and mis-apply the teachings of the Bible. It was also the Apostle Paul who warned about this group of eroders. Isn’t it amazing that this is also in I Timothy, I Timothy 4:1,2.

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (I Timothy 4:1,2)

Obviously this seared conscience is related to doctrine–in this case the doctrine of demons. In conclusion we will look at some doctrines from demons such as the doctrines of Balaam, of the Nicolaitines, and of the Prophetess Jezebel.

  1. Eroding our endurance of sound doctrine can put us in the category of those that desire to hear something new, seeking after other teachers. Boy, that scripture in II Timothy 4:3,4 should get our attention lest there be any hint that we may be doing the same thing. Here is a point by point summary of II Timothy 4:3,4 of the “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”: (1). The time must come, or is already here, but God forbid that we are a part of it, when Christians and churches will have no, zero, endurance for sound doctrine; (2). At that time, or at this time, how then will Christians or churchmembers make decisions about what doctrines are valid. The answer is there! “according to their own desires”. What they want to believe because of a life style, or preference, they will come to believe; (3). Their ears itch, and this is rather difficult. You would think that the itch or hitch is in the conscience or in the heart or even in the mind. But since it follows the desire for different doctrine, we can conclude that there is an immediate link between the emotions, that is the desires for different doctrines, and the itch in the ear. (I wonder if tight shoes can cause an itch in the ears!) But it is a line of continuity: the emotions and the itchy ears lead to the next step; (4). They will heap up teachers that say what they want said. They won’t find just one, but call them, and elect them, and seek the preaching and teaching of preachers and pastors of a similar low tolerance for sound doctrine.
  2. Eroding our tolerance for sound doctrine can indicate that concretely we do not care that much for the Inspiration of Scriptures.

Our adherence to sound doctrine, even when the shoe is tight and hurts, really proves how much we believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures as the Word of God. We hear a lot in this day and time about “fundamentalists” and about being “conservative” on the Bible; and many give it lip service; but how do they stand on issues like this about marriage, divorce, and the qualifications of pastors and deacons. This is the proof of the pudding. This tells how much we believe the Bible is the Word of God!

  1. Such erosion of endurance from sound doctrine can put us in the category of the less desirable church examples of Revelation 2 and 3.

There were more churches in Asia Minor than the seven listed, but these were typical of all the churches in Asia Minor and typical of our churches today. If we erode our endurance for sound doctrine, we can place ourselves in the category of the five out of seven that were on the verge of having their pastor removed by Christ and having the churches place in the church (candlestick) removed.

(1). The church at Ephesus had left their first love even though there were many good things to say about, and recall that a loss of love can also mean a loss in the Friendship of Jesus. They did have enough endurance for sound doctrine to hate the doctrine and deeds of the Nicolaitans, a heresy of doctrine related to Christian behavior and to church leadership. Jesus threatens that if they do not repent to come and remove their candlestick, their place among the other churches.

(2). There were a lot of good things to say about the church at Pergamum, but there was among the minority a doctrinal problem, called the doctrine of Balaam, Balaam being the prophet of the Old Testament who showed for profit how Balak could seduce the children of Israel to go after other gods and to sexual immorality. And the second doctrinal problem was the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. If the church had voted on these two doctrines, it appears that the majority would have suppressed the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. Of course, in this church Christ promised to distinguish between the majority of sound doctrine and the minority, saying that He would fight against them with His Words.

(3). Likewise Thyatira had a doctrinal problem: Jezebel, as she called herself, a prophetess as she called herself, was being allowed to teach unsound doctrine in the church. There, Jezebel was playing the role in the church that Baalam played for Balak, misleading the church in false worship and sexual immorality. Again this must have been a minority that had lost this endurance for sound doctrine, because Christ threatened only the prophetess and the few who supported her, to the rest of the church (Revelation 2:24) that did not have this doctrine He would put on them no other burden.

(4). What can we say about the church at Sardis? Wow, there were in trouble! They had a name, a reputation in the community and possibly even in the association, state, and convention; but they were dead. It sounds like the attendance was good, which within itself can keep the spirits up; but that the doctrine was bad. It definitely looks like if that church had voted the majority would have voted in terms of holding on their reputation, ignoring the call to repentance from Christ and the call to hold fast to the sound doctrines which they had heard. Why do we conclude that? Because it said that there were a few, obviously a minority, that had not defiled their garments.

(5). The problem in the church at Laodicea was that they were neither hot nor cold, either a love problem or a doctrinal problem, or both. It is obvious that they were proud of their accomplishments, saying they were rich, that they needed nothing and nobody. It is hard to know how the vote would have gone in that church!

  1. The Erosion of Sound Doctrine can be an assist to the way Satan works.

Boy, how hard Satan tries. He was gullible enough to believe that he could erode Jesus’s confidence in the sound doctrines of God during the temptation in the wilderness. He even quoted Scriptures out of context.

(1). The Doctrine of the Priority of Word of God over physical well-being. Satan told Jesus prove that the are the Son of God by turning these rocks to stone. Jesus was out there to fast for 40 days and nights, and in doing so to concentrate on the Word of God. You remember Jesus famous reply, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

(2). The Doctrine on the testing of God. Satan said, “It is written in the Scriptures that the Son of God has been given angels to care for Him, if you are the Son of God throw yourself down from the temple to prove that you will be rescued and that you are the Son of God. (Matthew 4:5-7)

(3). The Doctrine of Worship of God over Satan. The last temptation, Satan took Jesus to a high place–here you see some of the power of Satan–and said “all that you see I will give you if you will worship me”. The supreme affront to God is to worship Satan. Jesus replied quickly, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.: (Matthew 4:10)

In short, if Satan were at work in your church today, he would not deny truth per se; for that is too obvious. What he would do would be to quote scripture out of context and mis-apply it! And don’t you think that any place that the work of God has been going on steadily for 15 years, that Satan is going to neglect it. The prince of this world, who is a lion that goes about seeking whom he can chew on, maim and destroy, will be active where Jesus is, where the work of God is going on. It simply remains for Christians who can discern the spirits to figure out where Satan is working!

  1. Erosion of sound doctrine is an assault on the character of God.

We often say and pray–and certainly it is true–that God forgives us when we confess our sins because it is recorded in the Bible; but ultimately the real reason is because it is based on the character of God. It is the character of God that wants to forgive sins when they are confessed. And you can say the same of any doctrine in the Bible. All the principles, doctrines, teachings, and instructions of the Bible are based on the character of God: that is the reason we call it the Word of God or the Book of God. It reflects what God is and what God wants us to be. Now when we in any way malign, distort, or erode the doctrines of the Bible we are making an assault on the character of God. God can certainly withstand the assault, but can we?

  1. Erosion of sound doctrine is an attack on the Bible as the Word of God.

Here is where we prove how deeply and sincerely we believe the Bible to be the Word of God. Do we believe it is inspired only in the sense of many books like Robert

Browning or the poets are inspired, or do we really believe that it is divine in origin, absolute in authority, and sufficient in its message?

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17)

Notice that if the first given reason for the existence of the Bible is heed, “for sound doctrine”, some of the others will follow like reproof and correction will not be needed, and the righteousness and Christian maturity will follow behind sound doctrine.

  1. Erosion of sound doctrine indicate superficiality, instability in the faith, and immaturity.

When a church changes it mind because of the practices of the people or because of the pressures of the world in the American Society, they start fitting into the category of those that are blown back and forth by every wind of doctrine.

“…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive…” (Ephesians 4:14)

You can quickly see what the opposite of this erosion of sound doctrine is, in what precedes 4:14. The very purpose that God sent pastors, teachers, apostles, and evangelists is for the work of the ministry–in which each member has a part–for the building up of the body of Christ, and to promote unity among all Christians.

  1. Erosion of sound doctrine isolate a church from church history, Baptist History, and the heritage of the Southern Baptist Convention; and at the same time it puts us more in the mainstream of American Society where now over 50% of all marriages end in divorce. You just cannot get away from the conclusion that all we trust as commentators, preachers, and statements of faith in church and Baptist history lead us to the sound doctrine of marriage for life and pastors and deacons as the husband of one wife, notwithstanding any teacher or preacher of itchy ears that we might dig up to justify our lives and desires.
  2. Erosion of sound doctrine is an affront to and grieves the Holy Spirit who came to take the place of Jesus on earth, reproving the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Where you can see that affront to the Holy Spirit most obviously is in the matter of righteousness. I am not talking about the legally declared and external righteousness of Jesus with which we are cloaked through justification by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but in the actual outworking of righteousness, or right doing, in our lives that is the natural consequences of the inworking of the Holy Spirit. It is ordinarily called sanctification, the process by which the Holy Spirit increases the actual righteousness in our lives.

2-4: “The Office Should Seek the Man, not the Man the Office.” When Paul wrote that he was not worthy to be an Apostle but by the grace of God that is exactly what he was, he was saying in another way what I read from B. H. Carroll, “The Office should seek the man, not the man the office.” Paul did not seek to be an Apostle. The only thing he was seeking was to do the service of God, and he thought by persecuting Christians he was doing exactly that. Jesus on the road to Damascus struck him down, spoke to him, caused him to temporarily be blind until Ananias came to talk to him; and then let Paul know that he was a chosen vessel to deliver His message.

  1. Paul practiced what he cautioned over Christians on the attitude about yourself in the church, writing for each member not to think more highly of themselves than they should.

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly that he ought to think, but to think soberly, as

God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)

We need to be able to see ourselves in the eternal perspective of God’s truth and timeline. All of this truth and doctrine in the Bible existed long before we were born. We have, by the grace of God, inherited the Word of God from over two thousand years of writing, interpretation, teaching, and preaching. We are inheritors of Church History, Baptist History, and the History of the Southern Baptist Conventions. Primarily, we are Creators and re-creations of God. It is nothing personal, and it should not be taken personal, if doctrine is a tight shoe that we must wear; for it existed long before we were on the face of this earth!

  1. Pride is what can serve to mislead us on doctrine.

What Paul was talking about when he said that he was not worthy to be an apostle was humility and pride: what he was talking about in urging Christians to think soberly of themselves was pride and humility. Pride is the internal enemy that can mislead us to do what we desire or want to do on the matters of doctrine. It is true that we live in a changing world. Each decade now we seem to live in a new world of technology and information explosion. Our friends change, we lose many of them to death. Our environments change; but we must remember that in a world where truly there is a social evolution, God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever more. And there are certain things that God hates or despises: those things do not change. At the head of the list if pride, or a proud look.

(1). “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy; the one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.” (Psalm 101:5)

(2). “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (I Corinthians 10:12)

(3). “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

(4). “These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness that speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) Notice how connected the proud look at the beginning with the sowing discord among brethren in the church at the end are and with the matter of the erosion of sound doctrine!

  1. We can easily put ourselves in the category of the religious leaders of the time of Christ who had substituted the commandments of men for the doctrines of God. It was on the very issue of marriage and divorce where Jesus condemned the Pharisees, Sadducees, and their historical traditions of the world of putting the commandments of men in the place of the doctrines of God.

“The Pharisees came and asked Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ testing Him. And He answered and said to them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.’ And in the house His disciples asked HIm again about the same matter. So He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:2-12)

God does the joining; and no matter how we may desire or rationalize or seek other teachers, God intended that there be no separation of what He joined together.

2-5: Creations, Christians, and Christian Leaders.

We naturally expect a progressive of expectations from God as history developed from all humanity to Christians to Christian leadership. You would think normally that the requirements, standards, or expectations from God would become more stringent.

  1. God’s expectations for all Humanity.

As far as we can tell, since before Moses recorded it in the Pentateuch, there were only two requirements that God placed on all humanity, before the recorded of the written law. It was word of mouth or custom and tradition that carried those two requirements forward until Moses wrote the book of Genesis.

(1). Both requirements were given by God so close together that it is almost difficult to tell which was first; however it appears at least the germ of the first great expectation for humanity is given first.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27)

The full explanation of all the implications comes later in the recorded Word.

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

In a few paragraphs we will find that Jesus amplified on this, re-enforced it, laying the requirements once again on the chosen people of God and Christians in particular in spite of the lapse on the requirements by the nation of Israel as Moses for generations allowed a “writ of divorcement”. Surely the standard that Christ and God placed on Christians had to be greater than that on all humanity. However, first and briefly, let us look at the other great expectation that God placed on all humanity, a commission for dominion over all the universe.

(2).  Second Great Commission to all Humanity.

This great expectation follows immediately behind the first. In fact, in the next verse.

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thin that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

  1. Clyde Turner in THESE THINGS WE BELIEVE calls man (man in the generic sense of male and female) the “crown of Creation. Notice that immediately after the first great expectation from God in Genesis 1:17–the joining by God of the man as a male and female–the record states that “God blessed them”. Do you think this is incidental? Don’t you think that somehow the blessings of God on societies of history in their efforts to have dominion over all creation is contingent of how well they live up to the first great expectation. Look at the United States for example: no other country on the face of the earth in inventions and creative efforts has extended humanity’s dominion of the earth as has the United States, and in such a shorter period of time; and surely we must see the connection to the Christian heritage and roots (biblical foundations) where the marriage vows were honored–up until recent history where over 50% of marriages end in divorce–in respect to the great expectation of God.
  2. Jesus in His teachings on earth re-enforced the original expectation of God, and surely we will find for the chosen people of God and for Christians in particular a greater expectation from God about marriage than on all humanity. Indeed as we have read the history of the chosen nation of Israel, often the prophets would warn them against polygamist marriages; and what distinguished the people of God from the heathen (Gentiles) around them was often God’s great expectations for marriage. Moses at one historical point did allow a “writ of divorcement” because the people out of their own desires were bugging him out of a hardness of heart. {NOTE: I would caution you to see that this was probably due to a majority vote or will from the nation of Israel.}

(1).  The Writ of Divorcement Under Moses.

“When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, may not taker her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

How Moses must have travailed before the law was passed to allow for these divorces, and how that the people must have murmured. You can see the “hardness of heart” in the indifference to the feelings of the wife who is flippantly given a piece of paper and passed around the land from one household to another. [1]. Even here in the case of a divorce, God does not recognize the right of the first husband to re-marry the wife he divorced.

[2]. Such an act of re-marriage, like pride and a proud look, is considered an abomination to God. You see, He sees and knows.

[3]. This is not a personal preference: the husbands and wives have an objection to society–”not cause the land to sin”.

(2). Even then the law was not completely insensitive to the needs of a wife, Deuteronomy 24:5. Immediately after the giving of the law of the “writ of divorcement”, consideration was given for a new wife.

“When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one years, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.” (Deuteronomy 24:5)

(3). How Jesus dealt with the original requirements of marriage, and surely we would expect for the chosen people of God during the life of Jesus and for Christians in particular for the expectations to be greater than those originally on all human humanity.

“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:3-6)

At this time there were two groups of rabbis divided on the issue of divorce, the

Shammais that advocated divorce only in cases of sexual immorality and the Hillels that allowed divorce for any trivial reason (which sounds like the United States now). Once again Kerr writes in GOD’S PATTERN FOR MARRIAGE:

“Jesus had already expressed himself briefly on this matter. We find it in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:31,32: ‘It was said also, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery.”

And on fornication and adultery Kerr adequately summarizes the Bible and church history for us.

“Let us note, however, that in the Bible, the word ‘fornication’ is not used in the restricted sense that we use it. (Unlike the dictionary definition of fornication as committed by unmarried couples.) Jesus used the word ‘fornication’ twice, in the passage already quoted, and in Matthew 19:9, ‘And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.’ Quite evidently Jesus used the word ‘fornication’ in a class sense as referring to all illicit sexual intercourse, including both fornication and adultery as we understand the terms. Such is the general Biblical use of the word. It is for this reason that such modern translators of the Bible as Weymouth, Goodspeed, Moffatt, and those of the Revised Standard Version use such words as ‘unchastity’ or ‘unfaithfulness’ rather than ‘fornication’ in the translation of these verses to which we have referred.”

But Jesus goes back to God’s original and great expectation. God made a man to be male and female; they become one flesh; and the union between husband and wife takes priority over parents. Also Jesus cautions them again that no judge, or law, or society should allow a divorce on a marriage that God has joined together. Is this last part–”what therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder”–a more stringent requirement than what was originally laid down by God at Creation in Genesis. Yes, we can not find no other statement so that we appears to be a higher standard placed on man and societies.

(4).     Now surely you would expect the most stringent requirement of all to be placed on Christian leaders, on pastors and deacons.

[1].  I Timothy 3:2.

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…”

Blameless is certainly a highest of all expectations from God, and comparable is the

“husband of one wife” Here we must consider what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

[2].  John 4:16-18.

“The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.” (John 4:16-18)

What does this mean plain and simple? It means that Christ and God do not accept any wives or husbands past the original, except in the case of sexual immorality. Does it mean that person can not be a Christian, and receive forgiveness? No, we notice that all the indications is the record of John 4 is that the woman believed, and furthermore she had a good Christian testimony in that many of the Samaritans believed because of what she told them about Jesus. You see it would not matter how we interpreted I Timothy 3:2 above, or mis-interpreted it, or the similar requirement for a deacon, the most strict standard of one wife would still be on Christian leadership. (This is a basic principle of Bible interpretation, to compare scripture with scripture in order to get the full meaning; and this is part of the reason that the Bible states that we will know of the doctrine if we do His will.)

[3]. Titus 1:6.

“If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.”

Once again blameless is right in there with the husband of one wife. Don’t you see the connection that there can be no possible grounds on which a pastor or deacon can be accused as related to any doctrine. In the book THE CHRISTIAN PASTOR, Wayne Oates has a chapter on “The Personal Qualifications of the Pastor” in which he discusses these scriptures. By the way, Wayne Oates was years was Professor of the Psychology of Religion at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also this book has been used at southern baptist colleges and seminaries to teach pastors and prospective pastors. Wayne Oates thoroughly discusses the three possible interpretations.

“First, polygamy and concubinage were prevalent practices in the communities of which the early churches were a part, and the writers evidently were insisting that their leaders be an example of the Christian principles of monogamic marriage.” “Secondly, this passage may be interpreted less directly to mane that the early Christians preferred a married minister to a single one.” “Thirdly, this passage may be interpreted in the light of another prevalent social problem at the time of the writing: divorce.”

Then Wayne Oates gives us a good and short history of the church on this matter as well as Baptist beliefs.

“The statements of Paul in I Corinthians, chapter 7, reflect that the early churches were very tender and sensitive to the plight of people who became involved in pagan marriage prior to having become Christians.

They most certainly did not consider divorce or even remarriage as an unpardonable sin for which they would break fellowship with an individual Christian. However, the early Christians had a higher standard, and seemingly legalistic attitude about divorced persons, especially those who had remarried, becoming the shepherds of the rest of the ‘flock of God’. By their word, no divorced man who had remarried could hold such a place of responsibility. This seems to be a harsh measure, but the study of the present-day experience of divorced men in the ministry vindicates it as the kindest measure in the long run.” [4]. I Timothy 3:8-13.

“Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Wow, those are most stringent requirements on deacons; and you will notice once again the “blameless” and “husband of one wife”.

  1. Since this chapter is on Paul and Doctrine, we must also give Paul another say about marriage.

“For the woman that hath a husband is bound by the law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress, but if the husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress though she be joined to another man.” (Romans 7:2,3)

Kerr can be used again to summarize much of what Paul wrote on marriage.

“Marriage was designed of God to be a monogamous, holy institution. In I Corinthians 7:2 Paul writes of each man having ‘his own wife,’ and each woman having ‘her own husband.’ The holiness of the relationship, under God, is likened to that existing between Christ and His Church. (Ephesians

5:31,32) Christian believers are admonished to marry only believers. In I Corinthians 7:39 Paul writes of marrying ‘only in the Lord.’ His admonition in II Corinthians 6:14, ‘Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers,’ surely applies to marriage. Marriage is designed above all else to be a holy relationship.” 2-6. “Believe” in the Letters of Paul Continued.

The numbering of these references below takes up where the believe references in the writings of Paul left off at the end of chapter 1.

  1. Romans 6:8. Here is something we “believe” as disciples. We believe that we shall only live with Christ to the extent that we have also died with Christ. Of course, the died with Christ like in Galatians 2:20 is another way to say repentance or to express the one salvation of the one baptism. {NOTE: Isn’t it amazing that we have so many problems related to these major doctrines of faith, believe, baptism, and salvation when the Bible is so straightforward and repeats itself so often. It is another sign of the contemporary departure of Christians and church members from God, Christ, and the Bible. The Falling Away is not from church, church attendance will no doubt go up as more see end events; however the Falling Away from God, Christ, and the sound doctrine of the Bible will escalate.
  2. Romans 9:33. Wow, what a statement of faith here! “Whoever” believes in Jesus will not be ashamed; God will not allow that individual to be ashamed in His presence and eternally; and this confidence–the opposite of ashamed–is based on the words and Word of God.
  3. Romans 10:4. Sure, today you do not seem but a few Jews who believe in Christ. Paul says they have much religion and zeal, but they need salvation. Further they are ignorant Paul says, ignorant of God’s way of acceptable righteousness through faith in Christ. Everyone who believes receives the righteousness.
  4. Romans 10:9. What is necessary for the salvation of the one baptism, only. To believe in your heart the Gospel story of Jesus, that which requires the most faith is to believe that God raised Him from the dead–this is faith in God and Christ; and two to confess with your mouth that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
  5. Romans 10:11 and Isaiah 28:16. How about that the “whoever believes in Christ shall not be ashamed” is a quote from long ago in the book of Isaiah, noting that faith in Christ has always been the plan of God for the one baptism of salvation.
  6. Romans 10:14. Praying or calling on Jesus for salvation demands “believing” first; and “believing” demands the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus.
  7. Romans 10:16. Very few Jews of Old Testament times believed the reports of the Gospel of Jesus and the Jesus of the Gospel given to them by Prophets like Isaiah.
  1. Romans 13:11. Yes, even more true today than when Paul wrote: our completed salvation of glorification and heaven is much nearer now than when we first believed.
  2. Romans 14:2. There are some fine points of distinction on beliefs like on the eating of certain meats and other religious practices, not on major doctrines.

Feel free for free to download this chapter 2 of volume 3 of the Learn Christ commentaries, “BELIEVE AND BE BAPTIZED, the Life and 14 New Testament Letters of the Apostle Paul.

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