In an attempt to stay afloat, churches, local assemblies, and ministries are merging and compromising on doctrine all around us. The decline in congregational interest and accompanying support, coupled with the loss of divine support for having neglected the primary mission (Matt. 28: 19, 20) that God gave His Church to, has left much of the Christian Community in a state of decline.
In the many of the local assemblies still standing, promoters of false religion and alternative agendas have taken the reigns, consuming much of the time, talent, and tangible resources that remain available. There is a time and a place for such things as humanitarian, environmental, social justice, but not at the expense of neglecting the primary mission (Matt. 28: 19, 20) that the Lord gave His Church to do.
For example, when I hear reports of how many people were provided with food and protective shelter, I want to hear about how many of these recipients were given the opportunity to be fed and sheltered with the Gospel Message and/or edifying doctrines.
Many people who still attend do so for social interaction, and to keep a foot in the door should there be a need for any of the services (e.g. funeral) offered to members in good standing. The truth is that there is nothing that can be said or done to change the location or the environment in which the departed soul has already arrived.
Many attendees have been lulled to sleep, exercising a 2Tim. 3: 5 "form of religion," but are lacking in the production of divine good for which the Church that God designed was established. To its own hurt, the Christian Community has a long history of entangling itself in worldly and political affairs (2Tim. 2: 4) that go back and forth like the tides of the ocean.
For those who do desire to advance in discipleship, the teaching of doctrine in both quality and quantity is becoming a hard find as history repeats itself.
The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the LORD (Amos 8: 11 NASB).
In many of the local assemblies where accurate doctrine IS being taught, there is only a luke-warm reception, opening the door for a Rev. 3: 16 divine response.
‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth (Rev. 3: 16 NASB).
Never the less, the Church that God established, consisting of all the born again believers in each generation, will continue to exist and to prevail (Matt. 16 18) here on Earth. It will do so until it is taken away (1Thess. 4: 16, 17) in the Rapture. The Rapture will take place as soon as, but not before, the Church that God designed c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-s (Matt. 24: 14) the mission for which it was established (Matt. 28 19, 20).
God's promise of the Church's existence and endurance (Matt. 16: 18) is a general principle, assuring that the Church as a whole will continue to have a place and a voice here on Earth until its assigned mission is completed. It does not mean that any given denomination, local assembly, or ministry can not be shut down by God (Rev. 2: 5/Prov. 30: 6), or allowed to be shut down by God along the way.
God will allow shut downs to take place as the result of the lack of congregational support (Matt. 6: 21). God will allow shut downs when the clergy fail to serve the spiritual needs of the congregation. God will close the doors of local assemblies during periods of national discipline (Leviticus 26).
To the extent that God allows, the tangible structures that provide meeting places can be destroyed by fires, floods, natural disasters, hostile governments, and acts of violence motivated by racial hatred or "religious" extremists. Some will do so believing they are doing the will of God (John 16: 2).
Without a doubt, the destruction of the local assemblies and ministries that ARE focused on doing the work that God gave His Church to do are primary targets in the realm of spiritual combat with the Eph. 6:12 forces of evil.
Churches that are the creation of Man for the purpose of facilitating and promoting Man-made religion have the support of the devil. Satan will do all that he can do to keep such churches alive and well for as long as he can.
The Church that God designed does NOT consist of "holy" buildings, physical altars, and/or "officiating" priests. Such things w-e-r-e (past tense) a part of the plan of God during the Old Testament dispensation, but are not called for here in the Church Age.
Such things were NOT a part of the Christian Community during the earliest centuries of the Church Age. Adopting Pagan practices (after putting a Christian spin or on them) in an attempt to harmoniously coexist with other group has opened the doors to many evil practices within the Christian Community.
Many other things were brought into the Church Age by religious authorities in order to facilitate the "Christian religions" they promote. The phrase "Christian Religion" is actually an oxymoron as it contains two antithetical terms.
If all the Biblically unauthorized objects and practices found within the many local assemblies were to be removed or discontinued, religious Christians would be stunned to see what would actually remain.
There were times when members of these different Christian religions were persecuted by each other and by secular governments. There were times when they collaborated with each other in order to secure and promote their independent interests through mutual support.
Advancing disciples will learn soon enough that when shaking hands with the devil, Satan always walks away with the better side of the deal having secured his objective. People would be surprised to learn just how much the devil would be glad to give you when the stakes are high (Luke 4: 6) enough. This applies to the Church, as well as to individual believers.
The concept of coexistence while separating church and state did not begin with the US Constitution (Romans 13/Matt. 22:21).
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Apostasy and antichristism go hand in hand. The written Word of God and the living Word of God (John 1: 1 NASB) are inseparable. To oppose or to support one one is to oppose or to support the other. False gospels and false doctrines have been the nemesis of Biblical Christianity from the very beginning of the Church Age (Galatians 3). This will continue to be the case, reaching its peak during the end times (1Tim. 4: 1).
All one has to do to discern what has come God from what has come from the religious traditions of men with the devil's support is to trace their roots back to the time when they entered the picture. Was/is there any Biblical substantiation and authorization? Did the change or development come from God or Man? Did doing so line up with what Scripture has to say? Did this either add to or take from the Word of God in either teaching of practice (Prov. 30:6)? What was/is it that one needed to do then (or now) that one did not need to do in the past to establish and maintain a relationship with God? Did God forget to mention something? Did this perceived need come from God or Man?
If such questions had been asked by those in positions of authority, real and assumed, the Christian Community could have spared itself from much of the inevitable divisions that false teachings generate.
Apostasy is most destructive when it is promoted by those in positions of authority and trust. Once a false teaching is accepted and practiced long enough, its correction and removal will be an uphill battle.
There are several ways in which apostate religion can be classified as anti-Christ.
The obvious one involves the religions of the world spoken of in Psalms 96 that misidentify the one true God, and/or the one and only means (John 14: 6) to secure an eternal relationship with Him.
A less obvious, but equally dangerous, form of anti-Christ teaching are the ones that the ones that dispute either the deity (divine nature) or the integrity (completeness) of the atoning work that He finished (John 19: 30) on the cross.
A third way in which religious activity can become anti-Christ, is when such activity takes the glory, one's focus of attention, or his/her devotion away from God and places it on another personality or source of guidance or prosperity.
Placing one's trust and confidence in ANY personality or source outside of the Trinity amounts to spiritual adultery. Praying to anyone other than God amounts to spiritual adultery, and in some cases idolatry.
Here in the Church Age, advancing disciples will address ALL prayers to God the Father (Matt. 6:9), present prayer requests in the name (authority) of God the Son (the Lord Jesus (John 16: 23), and pray when filled with God the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18) while in fellowship (2Cor.13:14) with Him.
When God allows it, Satan (Luke 4: 6) and/or his advocates (Exodus 7: 22/Exodus 8: 7) can produce some of the same things as God.
Scriptures acknowledge that God is not the only source of guidance, adversity, and overt prosperity here on Earth (Luke 4: 6).
The difference is that when God blesses, it is for His glory and the ultimate good of the one being blessed. When the devil blesses us it is to deny the glory due to God and for our ultimate destruction.
The bait is the fact that the devil appears to offer the crown (blessings/prosperity) without the cross (sacrifice), so long as we bow to him OR make use of his ways of doing things. God reminds us of what such overt prosperity can cost us (Mark 8: 36).
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Although religious traditions of men are held in high esteem by Man (Luke 16: 15), such activity is an insult and a blasphemous attack on the integrity of both the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Informing religious people that they are promoting the work of the devil will not be well received (John 8: 44, 47, 59).
It is a matter of faith to trust that God will provide us with all we need (Phil. 4: 19), and keep from us some of the things we may want. If we got all that our fallen nature wanted (1John 2:16/Phil. 2: 3) when we wanted it, we would plant the seeds of our own destruction that the devil is more than willing to place in our hands.
If the ministry, work, or rituals performed by human clergy could provide salvation, then there would have been no need for the incarnation and atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross (1John 2:2). If the post (after) salvation functions of human clergy could provide the means to retain salvation, there would be no need for the sustaining power of God (Romans 14:4). If the functions of human clergy was what enabled us to execute the post salvation spiritual life, then there would be no need for the enabling power of God (John 15:5).
There ARE specific positions and roles for the clergy of the Church Age, but NONE of them were established to take the place or perform the functions that ONLY God can perform.
The primary role of evangelists in the Church Age is to accurately communicate the Gospel Message for salvation. The primary role of a pastor-teacher is to teach accurate doctrines to those who have been born again, giving them the opportunity to development the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. The function of deacon is to assist the pastor by taking on some of the administrative and logistical functions so that the pastor-teacher can focus his attention on studying and teaching the Word of God (Acts 6: 2).
Religion has established positions and assigned functions to those it places in these positions that God has not given to any man.
Only God can save. Only God can forgive. Only God can regenerate. Only God can (spiritually) baptize. Only God can sustain our salvation. Only God can enable us to execute the post salvation spiritual life.
God produced the one and only, one time (Heb. 10 10), acceptable sacrifice (Heb. 10: 5) in full payment for the world's (1John 2: 2) sin debt. Man cannot reproduce it. Communion (the Lord's Supper) is for the stated (1Cor. 11: 24, 25) purpose of "bringing into r-e-m-e-m-b-r-a-n-c-e" the Person and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This ritual was/is not to physically reproduce the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The celebration of the Lord's Supper (Communion), as revealed in Scripture, does NOT require the personnel or apparatus that many religions have established for that purpose.
Here in the Church Age, there is no mediator between God and man, aside from the Lord Jesus Christ (1Tim. 2: 5). To be a mediator, one must be able to equally represent both sides. Only the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ fits the bill (See the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union).
The last tangible altar that God acknowledged was the Lord's cross. It was not the cross, but what took place on the cross that is to be honored.
I believe that the reason the cross on which Jesus was crucified was not kept and preserved for prosperity is because, like the brass serpent, it too, would have come an idol. Bowing to the inanimate altars placed in the local assemblies of the Church Age amounts to idolatry.
Kneeling is an act of humility and submission. Kneeling in recognition of God is proper, but kneeling before graven images is not.
Born again believers of the Church Age have an intangible altar on which they make daily sacrifices (
Luke 9: 23). These altars have everything to do with executing the post salvation spiritual life, but have nothing to do with retaining the salvation that he/she already has received.
There were/are functions that the apostles, pastor-teachers, and deacons were/are to perform during the Church Age, but NONE of them were for the purpose of taking the place or function (s) of God.
In the antichrist churches, there is little mention (if any) of the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. You would think this, in of itself, would set off bells and whistles of alarm since the making of disciples (Matt. 28: 20) was the primary inside work that the Church was given to do.
The Roman Church has a long history of entanglement with global politics that cannot be denied. The persecution of Christians who challenged or opposed its policies, practices, doctrines, and rituals were subjected to torture and all kinds of persecution. When giving the chance, opportunists and extremists in the evolving Protestant movement, for both political and religious reasons, engaged in similar activity. Even though many of earliest colonists fled Europe to avoid religious persecution, such persecution found a home in many of the colonies being established in the New World. To many, freedom of religion means you are free to believe as they do.
Jesus made the way of salvation clear, but forced it on no one. So should the Church that He commissioned.
Antichrists existed in the ancient world (1John 2: 18). Their presence and influence can be traced throughout the course of the Church Age. These antichrists (plural) must be distinguished from the one (singular) Antichrist of the end times. What ALL of them have in common is that they either promote false religion and/or promote themselves as being God, or having been given the authority and functions of God.
The Church was given the authority to proclaim the unadulterated Gospel Message to a dying world and to make disciples (students/appliers of the Word of God) out of those who are born again.
The foundational rock (Matt. 16: 18) on which the Church was (and continues to be) built was not the Person of Peter, but on a statement of faith such as Peter made and recorded for us in Matt. 16: 16). By making this statement, Peter acknowledged personal faith (trust and confidence) in the Person and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Matt. 16: 19 "keys to the kingdom" is the Gospel Message. These keys and the commission to proclaim it were, in God's timing, n time given to all of the apostles (Mat.. 28: 19, 20), and to each and every born again believers of the generations of the Church Age. The binding and loosening spoken of in Matt. 16: 19 refers to the individual response John 3: 18 that people make as a result of the Church doing the Matt. 28: 19, 20 job that it was given to do.
"He who believes in him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed and the name of the only begotten son of God (John 3: 18 NASB)."
I have always found it interesting that you following the Matt. 16: 16-19 conversation, His disciples were instructed not to broadcast the fact that Jesus was the Christ!
"Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ (Matt. 16: 20 NASB)."
The binding and loosening of Matt. 16: 16 does not mean that everything that the Church says, does, and promotes has the unconditional support of God. Jesus and other inspired authors of Scripture made it clear that false teachings and practices WITHIN the Christian Community WILL take place and reach it's pinnacle during the end times.
Those who would shake the faith of God's people (Gal. 3: 1) by promoting additional religious requirements to either obtain or to retain salvation will answer to God (Gal. 5: 10) for it. Paul attributed demonic activity being behind such disturbances, asking those shaken who had bewitched them (Gal. 3: 1). In ancient Galatia the issue was circumcision, but there would be many more so-called requirements added to the list in the name of religion throughput the course of the Church Age.
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Many of His earliest followers believed that He was going to be like one of the ancient judges that liberated Israel from political oppression during various periods of their national history. To the surprise of some (Math. 16: 22), Jesus made it clear to His inner circle of disciples the details of what was going to happen to Him when they arrived in Jerusalem (Math. 20: 18).
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Much damage has been done by many individuals in positions of leadership within many sectors of what is considered to be the Christian Community at large.
There will always be the need to take in new doctrine, tweaking existing doctrine, and to purging our soul structure of false doctrine (if) we continue to g-r-o-w in the grace and knowledge (2Pet. 3: 18) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have met many "religious" individuals who think that they or their denomination have it all together, but I haven't met an advancing disciple yet who hasn't had to make adjustments to the doctrine he/she has in his/her soul structure from time to time. Many formerly "religious" folks will sense a form of betrayal when they discover just how much of their soul structure consisted of Man-made religion, as opposed to accurate Bible Doctrine. On the up-side, advancing disciples come to know the truth that sets them free (John 8: 31, 32) from all the doubts and insecurities that controversy that Man-made religion will raise.
God places in every soul that He creates (Eccl. 3:11), the concept of eternity. Until the void that this concept creates is filled with God and the things of God, the devil (primarily through religion) promotes many alternatives to fill that void. Such alternatives are held in high esteem by Man, but are detestable in the eyes of God (Luke 16: 15).
Such alternatives appeal to Man because they a-p-p-e-a-r to offer the means for Man to make himself acceptable to God. Instead of placing his faith (trust and confidence) in what God has done to save us, and to keep us saved, the religious p man inevitably places his faith (trust and confidence) in religious concepts, doctrines, and rituals of his/her chosen, Man-made, and/or even demonically-inspired (1Timothy 4:1) religions. Note that 1Timothh 4: 1 speaks of demonic activity WITHIN the realm of the Christian Church.
We can witness rituals and provide tangible documentation (certificates) that one has taken part in the various requirements of religion, but we can only accept as a matter of faith much of what God has done, is doing, and will do in the spiritual realm (e.g. 1John ,1: 9/Titus 3: 5/Eph. 4: 30/2Cor. 5:8/1Thess. 4: 14-17/Rev. 20: 15). God needs no human input from clergymen.
As a member of a fallen race, we ALL come into this world not only totally ignorant about the identity of the true God and how to please Him. Making matters worse, we come into this world inherently hostile (Romans 8: 7) towards Him and His ways (Isa. 55:8). The only intellectual connection we have with God is the Eccl. 3: 11 knowledge of eternity that He places in every soul hat He (not our parents) created (John 3: 6).
Those who disbelieve/reject this Eccl. 3: 11 knowledge plant the seeds of atheism. Atheists do not believe that God exists. Atheist believe that when they did, they no longer exist. Scripture (Phil. 2: 10, 11) says that every knee shall bow and every tongue will acknowledge the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that those whose names are not found recorded in the Lamb's book of life (containing the names of all born again believers) will spend all of eternity in what Scripture (Rev. 20:15) calls the lake of fire.
This is either the greatest lie or the most sobering truth ever spoken. It cuts through all the skin, fat, muscle, and tissue (confusion) that religion to the bare bone that even a child can comprehend it. Rather or not one believes it or not is a choice that every soul has to make. Being born again (or not) while here on Earth is what assures one of WHERE one will spend all of eternity future that begins at the moment of physical death. For those who are born again, the quality of one's post salvation spiritual life determines HOW one will experience eternity. That being with or without reward (1Cor. 3: 14, 15). The quality of one's post salvation spiritual life is determined by the amount of divine (vs. human) good that God (John 15: 5) produces through a willing, Spirit-filled, Church Age believer.
Believing in this knowledge and believing that God and Heaven exists (James 2: 19) does NOT, in of itself, mean that you have secured a relationship with God or a home in Heaven (John 3: 5, 7). If merely believing in the existence of God secured a home in Heaven, then the devil himself would qualify!
In the realm of spiritual combat, there are both good and evil spiritual forces all around us that will try to influence our individual response to the Eccl. 3: 11 knowledge that God placed in our soul, but that is only round one. Most souls win that round.
As life and the battle continues on, God the Holy Spirit uses Spirit-filled, born-again, Church Age believers to present the Gospel Message and edifying doctrine, affording others the opportunity to be saved, and then edified. The devil and his Eph. 6:12 forces of evil works hard to counteract this divine activity by promoting the concept of atheism, false gospels, and or false religion.
The devil has used, is using, and will use atheism and false religion to deceive the world regarding the existence of a god, and/or the identity, and the means (John 14:6) to establish an eternal relationship with the one true God.
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, the devil will use the combined power of secular government and religious authority to accomplish his agenda. Many past and present Christians have attempted to have their spiritual convictions imposed and enforced by bed-partnering with secular authority, only to eventually experience disastrous results. Instead of preserving or establishing secular laws that are consistent with their religious beliefs, they ended up seeing secular laws passed and policies established that granted legal protection and rights for those who choose to make such activities their chosen lifestyle. Spiritual objectives must be secured by spiritual means.
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Products and practices of religion are held in high esteem by men. However, such products, practices, and traditions of men (Mark 7: 8) are "detestable (Luke 16: 14 NASB)" in the eyes of God when they are used to take His place or function. They amount to meaningless worship (Mark 7: 7) and fail to produce what their promoters claim.
Many of the most elegant "houses of worship" in the ancient world and in these end times of apostasy are no more than great monuments to the Man-made "religions" that they were established to facilitate.
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The Church that God designed consists of born again believers, having heard the Gospel Message, and then having chosen to believe (place their full trust and confidence) in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One can not place his/her full trust and confidence in Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ to SAVE him/her, AND then perceive the need to engage in religious practices of Man to finish the job (John 19:30) or to retain the salvation he/she has already received. To the extent that one places his/her faith in man-made traditions to save him/her and to keep him/her saved, is the same lack of faith that one has in the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Holy Spirit to have done or to do the same things. Unit the issue of salvation has been settled,one is not ready to move forward in the post (after) salvation spiritual life.
The Church that God designed makes disciples (students and appliers of the Word of God) out of those who have already been born again. The Church that God designed is in no way confined the tangible walls of the local assemblies of the Church Age. The Church that God designed goes wherever its members are during the 168 hours of each week. When and where THIS church cannot be seen or where its presence and influence can not be felt is due to spiritual infidelity on the part of its members.
Even those with the weakest level of spiritual discernment can see the presence and influence of evil virtually everywhere out in the devil's world. The Church, and every member of it, is called to be light bearers (Matt. 5: 14, 16), casting light into the darkness of the devil's world, no matter where the darkness is found. It can exist in one's home, workplace, social gatherings, recreation, entertainment, soul structure, and local assembly.
Like turning on a cell phone in a dark and quiet theater, the deeper and quieter the environment, the more attention a light or sound will gather. Remember that the world is comfortable in its own environment and enjoys its darkness (John 3: 19, 20) over the light.
Here in the Church Age, IF you have been born again (or will be before your earthly departure takes place), THEN you are and always will be a part of the Church that God designed, and will be the recipient of all the general blessings that God has in store for His Church.
If in the capacity of a born again believer you choose to engage in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship, then you will not only have a home in Heaven and experience all of the general blessings shared by ALL born again believers , but have additional rewards and privileges that God has reserved for advancing disciples (1Cor. 3: 14/Rev. 2/Rev 3).
Just getting in (to Heaven) may be going enough for now, but such a choice may the source of regret and embarrassment that a born again be!never could experience in (1Cor. 3: 15/1John 2: 28) eternity.
We do not serve God in order to be rewarded, but He has made it clear that He intends to reward in Heaven, those who choose to glorify Him while here on Earth.
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Church Age believers do not "go to Church," but are the Church that gathers together (Heb. 10: 25) for such things as corporate worship. One can comply with the Heb. 10: 25 commandment (not an option) to gather together by doing so physically in a physical building or location, or remotely via the various means of communication available today.
Contrary to what "religion" would have us believe, the absence of a holy building, its furnishings, or apparatus does not prevent the type of worship that God desires (John 4: 24) to receive, here in the Church Age. Many such things did not exist for centuries, yet God was worshipped as He desired.
Among the Church Age, born again believers, there will only be a minority who will choose to identify, pursue, and/or remain in the post (after) salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
One of the contributing factors is the denominations, local assemblies, and ministries that fail to provide the information that a born again believer needs to hear and have reiterated if he/she is going to identify, pursue, and remain in the post (after) salvation life of discipleship.
God does not command us to do something that is not within our means, opportunity, or capability to accomplish. He commands us to grow (an ongoing process) in, and to apply, the knowledge of the Lord 2Pet. 3: 18/James 1: 22) with the power (John 15: 5) that He supplies. Phil teaches us that God will supply ALL our needs. These needs include the means to and opportunity to learn and apply the Word of God from a Biblically qualified pastor teacher. The question is rather or not WE really want to do so (Jer. 23: 19), and are willing to face the challenges (Luke 14: 26/Luke 9: 23) and make the necessary changes that discipleship will require of us.
In other cases, the information was/is being provided. Some initially respond, but distractions and other things take priority in the lives of many who claim to be follower s of Christ. Distractions can come in the form of adversity or prosperity.
"...when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.nd when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful (Matt. 13: 21, 22).”
Many Christians are unwilling to step outside of their personal comfort zone. Consequently, only in a few cases do born again believers ever reach the point where they are used by God to produce a crop of saved and/or edified souls.
"And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty (Matt. 13: 23 NASB).”
Advancing disciples are a minority within a minority. On a worldwide scale, only a minority of each generation will be born again, and only a minority of those born again will ever become advancing disciples. This has always been the case, but will be even more so during the end times of the Church Age when the majority seek pastors that will tell them what the want to hear.
Although God desires otherwise (1Tim. 2 :4), secular and Church history has shown that the majority of each generation of Man will not choose to enter by the small gate that leads to eternal life.
The majority of those who do enter by the small gate (by believing in the Gospel Message), will not choose to engage or remain in the post salvation life of discipleship. For a variety of reasons, they will choose the life of "religion," good (human) works, and relatively good human behavior instead.
Of course there is a place for good works and appropriate behavior, but all the good works and behavior in the world can not regenerate (Titus 3: 5) a spiritually dead soul. Without the teaching and application of accurate Bible Doctrine, the born again believer can not advance in the post salvation life of discipleship, nor can he/she be used of God to evangelize or to edify others. The evangelization and then the edification of souls is the primary work that God gave His Church to do.
The "popularity" of God and/or the things of God will continue to rise and fall and repeat this cycle throughout the course of human history. If one lives long enough, he/she will most likely witness periods of time when the God and the things of God were of top priority, and times when they were placed on the back burner. This cycle in and out of fellowship (2Cor. 13: 14) with God the Holy Spirit is an all too common an experience for many who consider themselves to Christians.
One can not be in fellowship (intimate, conscious , hour by hour, day to day, walk) with God and keep on saying no to the next step that God wants him/her to take in his/her post salvation spiritual life. Note that I did not say that can not be saved, or that a born again believer can lose his salvation, but that he/she will not experience a personal and intimate walk with God if one is not following (an ongoing process) the Lord down the individual path that He has planned for each one of us.
Being saved, but being out of fellowship, is like too strangers sitting side by side on a bus. They are both heading for the same destination, but there is no or little personal interaction along the way.
All of us are born into a society, that at the time, is either in spiritual renewal, spiritual advancement, or in spiritual decline. These cycles can impact the social trends, both good or evil, as any given society either draws near to God or drifts away. If the cycle is on the upward trend, "peer"pressure will be there encouraging us to get involved in the things of God. In times of downward trends, "peer" pressure will be to influence us to follow the crowd down the road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7: 13). Peer pressure does not begin nor does it end in the teen aged years.
Doing what everyone else is doing is never wise. First of all, everyone is NOT doing it, as the devil would have us believe. Secondly, when it comes to spiritual issues, the majority usually has it wrong (Matt. 7:13).
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Because they have been deceived, "religious" people THINK that they are Heaven bound, believing that they either earned or otherwise secured salvation by their participation in all the religious activities required by their chosen religion.
Religion is religion, be it one of the many religions noted in Psalms 96, or one of the various forms of Christian religion that Man has designed. It is Christian religion, as opposed to Biblical Christianity, that had spread apostasy throughout the Christian Community at large.
The truth is that NO amount of ANY "religion" has ever, is now, or will "save" anyone. Nicodemus of John 3 was a very religious man of his day, but he had the discernment to know that something was missing. Saul, later named Paul, was another very religious Man. Until he was born again, he thought that it was his mission in life to hunt down and destroy the developing Christian Church.
When raising the issue of being saved, advancing disciples will often be asked, "Saved from what?"
They are saved from the lake of fire where all the souls of unbelievers will find themselves (Rev. 20: 15).
The next question is how.
"There is a *way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Prov. 16 25 NASB)."
The *way being spoken of here is any one of the ways hat Man has designed.
"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to (God ) the Father, but through (faith in) Me (John 14 6 NASB parentheses mine). A simple truth, but with eternal blessings or consequences.
"He who believes in Him is NOT judged; he who does not believe has been judged already (Why?), because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3: 18 NASB parentheses mine."
"And He said, Truly I say to you, unless you are converted (born again) and become like children (having 100% child-like faith) you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18: 3 NASB parentheses mine.)"
The type of faith that saves is the 100% trust and confidence variety. When one has placed the 100% of his/her faith in a presentation the Gospel Message, there is no room for any thing (religion) else. Religion, and its perceived and promoted need to participate in it, is a direct attack on Gospel Message. This in itself should make it clear where the source of this attack is coming from.
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In times of national or personal crisis, humans tend to look towards God and/or the things of God for answers, but in times of national or personal prosperity, God and the things of God tend to be put on the back burner. Perhaps it might be brought forward for an hour or so on a Sunday morning, but the remaining 167 hours a week is ME time for many who call themselves followers of Christ.
Religion has a way of keeping the things of God on the back burner while promoting its own alternatives. Yet, when one's religious products fail to produce the desired results, God is blamed. Those with spiritual discernment can clearly see the hand of the devil in the midst of religious activity.
Religious people can become violently angry with people who show them, by word or example, the error of their way. Instead of learning from the experience, it set the stage for the first recorded murder in human history (Gen. 4).
It was with such well-intended, but misguided religious devotion that Saul (Paul), prior to being born again persecuted the Church. It was well-inended, but misguided religious devotion that violently opposed the Protestant Reformation's attempt to bring the apostate Christian Community of that day back to its Biblical roots, design, and mission.
It is by religious commitment that the seeds of false teachings, practices, and traditions of Man are planted,, take root, and produce poisoness fruit WITHIN the Christian Community at large. Apostasy and religion are kissing cousins.
It will be opposing religious and political beliefs held by the people's in the Middle East since ancient times that will be behind a future conflict that will be resolved by the Second Advent.
In the meantime, it is God's will that everyone be saved (1Tim. 2: 4). Accordingly, never-ending eternal life is 100% guaranteed to anyone who is born again (John 3, 5, 7, 16, 18/Romans 8: 1). But keep in mind that never-ending eternal separation in the lake of fire is equally guaranteed for unbelievers (Rev. 20: 15/John 3: 18).
These fundamental concepts of genuine Christianity do not change. One's eternal destiny is determined by choices made during one's appointed time here on Earth, and cannot be altered once the soul departs at the moment of physical death.
Suffering (Phil. 1: 29) and persecution (2Tim. 3: 12) is a a part of the post salvation spiritual life. It is for this reason that many Christians will ultimately choose the relatively easy-going "religious" life over the challenges that the "spiritual" life of discipleship will generate.
Depending on one's domestic, social, political, labor/professional environment, the degree of suffering that one is likely to encounter will vary from one believer to another.
God is not impressed by self-induced suffering. One must also distinguish the difference from the type of suffering that is the result of our own negative decisions, and the type of suffering that comes from executing the post (after) salvation spiritual life of discipleship. One is deserved, the other is not. Both are painful.
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Scripture offers us some major insights into what the general world environment (Matt. 24: 37-39) and what the general environment WITHIN the Christian Community at large (1Tim. 4: 1/Rev. 3: 14-22) would be like in the "latter" (ending) days of the Church Age when much apostasy will be found within the Church.
The dispensation of the Church Age began in 33-34 AD at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost a few weeks after receiving it's Commission (Matt.28: 19, 20).
The dispensation of the Church Age continues to run concurrently with human history. It will continue to do so until the day of the Rapture when the last generation of the Church is removed from the Earth. The Rapture will bring the prophesied (Matt. 24: 14) end to the dispensation of the Church Age, but not the end of Church or the end of the world. God has future plans for both the Church, the human race, and this present planet. There will be more than 1, 000 more years of human history taking place on planet Earth after the Rapture () takes place and before the New Earth of Rev. 21 is established.
Knowing what dispensation (period of history) that God (John 3: 6) has placed us in, and what the divine objectives are for that dispensation is what reveals to us what life here on Earth is all about. The devil does not want us to learn of or to participate in the plan of God. The devil has an alternative plan for every area of our life. Each and every day we choose to seek out and to pursue God's plan, our own plan, or one of the many alternatives that the devil's world has to offer.
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Our physical death or the Rapture (1Thess. 4: 17) could take place today, bringing our time here on Earth to an abrupt and unexpected end. On the other hand, the Rapture and/or our individual departure could be years or decades away. Most end time students of end time prophecy concur that the Rapture is closer than what many believe. The extent of false teachings and practices is one the indicators that we are living in the end times of the Church Age (1Tim. 4: 1).
Until the Rapture takes place, the believers living in the Church Age dispensation are here to do the work (Matt. 28: 19, 20) that God gave to His Church to do. This is true no matter where he/she is or what he/she is otherwise doing on a daily basis. God places His disciples in every walk of life and in every environment to be His Ambassadors (2Cor. 5: 20).
The spiritual combat (Eph. 6) of the Church Age was never intended to be a walk in the park. For many, discipleship will cause the loss of many things that one would naturally hold near and dear to one's heart (Luke 14: 26). In some cases discipleship will cost them their earthly freedom and natural lives.
In one sense, discipleship will cost EVERY disciple his earthly life, in that the disciple will deny himself many things in order to live and die to serve the interests of God. The independence and self-centeredness of an advancing disciple "dies" a little more each day as he becomes more and more conformed to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8: 29) in all that he thinks, says, and does.
The advancing disciples' only desired will be learn of and to execute the plan that God has in mind for each and every day. This will often be in direct contrast to the self-centered life that is promoted by the fallen nature within us (Romans 7). A surrendered life to Christ means that we accept both the blessings and the adversity (Job 2: 10) that any day brings as being the manifestation of God's will for us that day. Do we or should we not pray daily for Thy will be done on Earth?
The prophesied end time apostasy WITHIN the Christian Community does NOT mean that we have to follow the crowd. We can choose to be a part of the minority within the Christian Community. But in order to do so, we must learn and apply what the Bible has to say. The Acts 17: 11 solution worked well in ancient Berea and works well now.
In the secular world, the most effective means to spot counterfeit currency is not to keep up with the details of the latest version of counterfeit currency, but to develop to the ability confirm the real thing. In the spiritual realm, applying the same approach is well advised. By comparing what is being taught, practiced, and promoted within the Christian Community with what Scripture has to say, one can spot the differences.
False doctrine is most destructive when it is delivered and promoted by a person in a position of trust. Apostate pastors and parents are powerful tools in the hands of the devil. Being becoming blind themselves, unwittingly lead those who follow their lead into the pit of destruction (Matt. 15: 14).
The devil works day and night to steer the human race away from God and the things of God. It matters not (to the devil) if he accomplishes this goal via prosperity (Luke 4), adversity (Book of Job), or false information (1Tim 6:3/2John 1: 10/Gal. 1: 8.
Satanic victory in this area of spiritual combat is indicated when one has little interest in either learning, refining, or applying accurate Bible Doctrine. Sad to say, but that is a fair description of many who claim to be followers of Christ.
The Church that God designed is the one that will prevail, no matter what the devil throws against it. It will be one that will be persecuted by the forces of evil found WITHIN and outside of what is generally considered to be a part of the Christian Community at large. At the center of this conflict and persecution will be accuracy and application of doctrine.
The bad news (1Tim. 4: 1) is that there will be much apostasy (false teaching/practices and alternative agendas) going on WITHIN much of the Christian Community at large in the last days of the Church Age. The good news is that the born again believers who become edified disciples will remain true to form and carry out its "commissioned" work until the Rapture takes place.
In addition to the ominous warning of Matthew 24: 37-39, we have Rev. 3: 14 - 22. This passage was a letter initially sent to the local assembles (churches) in Laodicea, addressing issues that were taking place at that time (96 AD), but also describes what the environment of the Christian Community at large will be like in the latter days of the Church Age.
In every local assembly (or denomination), there has always been and always will be those "attending" who have never been born again (and therefore NOT a member of the Church that God designed). There will also be many present who have been born again, but choose not to identify or pursue the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
All born again believers are members of the intangible Church that God designed. But only a minority of these born again believers will choose to identify and execute the post (after) salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Many of the majority will entertain one of the many "religious alternatives" instead. It's much easier to check in and go through the motions for an hour or so once a week than it is to execute discipleship 24-7.
The (Rev. 3: 15-22) description provided for us in the Book of Revelation describes the "majority" of those who claim to be Christians during the end time phase of the Church Age. Unfortunately, this is going to sound all to familiar to many of us today.
Turn to Rev. Chapter 3, beginning in verse 15.
"I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold, I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and (but) you do not know that you are (spiritually) wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked....(Rev. 3: 15-17 NASB parentheses mine)."
The Laodiceans being wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked is not referring to their physical, mental, or material well-being. They considered themselves rich and need of nothing. It was their post (after) salvation spiritual life that was in dire need of improvement.
These Rev. 3: 15 deeds include "religious" activities and human good on which the Laodiceans of the ancient world (and the Laodicean type of believer during the latter days of the Church Age) have and will place their trust and confidence. But like all "religious" alternatives and human God deeds, they fall short of what God's requires of His disciples and have NO eternal value, rendering them SPIRITUALLY wretched, miserable, poor, and naked.
Once a person has been presented with the Gospel Message, he either becomes a believer or an unbeliever, taking on either the blessings or the consequences of that decision.
These born again believers do NOT lose their salvation (1Cor. 3: 12-15), but do forfeit the heavenly rewards and privileges that they could have otherwise received.
The hot vs. cold status will become very evident w-i-t-h-i-n the Christian Community during the end times of the Church Age.
There will be the minority "hot" ones, having not only been born again themselves, but very active in the final push to complete the primary work that the Church had been given to do. There will be the luke-warm ones, having a "form of godliness (2Tim. 3: 5), attending Church, being relatively (James 2: 10) moral in lifestyle, many engaged in the production of the 1Cor. 3 wood, hay, and straw of human good, but inactive in the production of the (1Cor. 3) silver, good, and precious stones (saved/edified souls) of divine good.
Human good has a place and a purpose in the lives of born again believers while here on Earth, but will not be considered when the eternal rewards of 1Cor. 3: 14, 15 are dispensed. The benefits for producing human good here on Earth are received here on Earth. They can not be take home when you leave. The benefits for having been used by God in the production of divine good (saved/edified) souls are stored away to be enjoyed in eternity.
An atheist and an unbeliever can produce human good. If an atheist or an unbeliever can produce it, it is not divine good that is in view. Talented surgeons who are atheists or unbelievers produce great deeds of human good every day, but are incapable of producing divine good. The 1Cor. 3: 14 rewards and the Revelation 2 and 3 privileges are not for the human good that born again believers do for God or others. These rewards and privilege are received for the divine good that God produced (John 15: 5) through them.
Finally, there are and will be the spiritually cold individuals in the end times. Throughout the course of the Church Age, many such individuals shared the pews with members of the Church that God designed. Others may or may not have attended Church to satisfy family, denominational, or social expectations, but inwardly are void of the type of undoubting faith that saves () and then motivates one to take an active part in the Great Commission.
In the times in times in which we are living, one can comply with the "gather together" command of Heb. 10: 25 by making use of the many means of remote communication. Not having a desire to physically attend or other wise connect with a Biblically based local assembly or ministry is a clear indicator that a 2Cor. 13: 5 self-examination is in order.
Like a runner in a torch relay race, one can not be used of God to pass along to others what they have not first taken possession of for themselves.
Advancing disciples do not worship or serve God to be rewarded, but God has revealed that He intends to reward in Heaven those who glorify Him while here on Earth. Advancing disciples do not find worshipping or serving God to be a burdensome obligation, but a privilege.
One phase of the 2Cor. 13: 5 self-examination that an advancing disciple will want to embrace is to take a temperature reading to determine if he/she is only luke-warm.
Which category, and the blessings or consequences that come along with each category, are the end result of the choices that each and every soul makes during his time here on Earth.
We come into this world physically alive, but spiritually dead. We choose to remain spiritually dead or to become "born again (John 3: 5, 7 NASB) when we are presented with Gospel Message. Once born again, if one's chosen pastor-teacher is doing his job, the born again believer will be taught what the post (after) salvation spiritual life is so about. The born again believer is THEN placed in a position where he/she must choose to execute or to reject the call to the post salvation spiritual life revealed in Scripture.
Needless to say, the devil has a handful of alternatives, distractions, offers, and adversity that he intends to use to steer you away from hearing and responding to God's call to salvation and God's call to the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
In addition this Revelation 3 scenario, we have another passage (2Tim. 3: 2-5) that offers a general description of what the human experience will be like during the latter days of the Church Age. Although composed in the First Century AD, it reads like the headlines of any newspaper or news broadcast in the days in which we are presently living.
"For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a *form of godliness, although they denied its power....(2Tim. 3: 2-5 NASB)."
The *form of godliness being spoken of here is the organized religion(s) that Man has engineered and the devil promotes as alternatives to what God has revealed to Man in what we now refer to as the Bible.
Atheism (the concept that there is no God) is promoted by the devil as his alternative to the concept of eternity that God places in every soul that He creates (Eccl. 3: 11). The devil knows, better than most humans, who the God of the Bible is, and what the human soul MUST (John 3: 5, 7) do to obtain a relationship with Him.
If one can be convinced that there is no god, such a soul will have no interest in securing a relationship with something that, in his mind, does not exist. The seeds of atheism take root when one chooses to REJECT the Eccl. 3: 11 concept of eternity that God placed in his/her soul. It's a choice that one makes.
Most human souls do accept the Eccl. 3: 11 concept of eternity. It's one thing to accept the concept of eternity, but it's another thing to determine WHERE and HOW eternity will be experienced. This is where the false religions of the world (Psalms 96:5) come into the picture.
False religion consists of all teachings that misidentify who the true God is, and/or promotes false means to establish an eternal relationship with the true God of the Bible.
A believer's eternal relationship with God does not begin when life here on Earth is over. The gift of eternal life is received the moment one is born again HERE on Earth. The post salvation spiritual life takes place HERE on Earth The post salvation spiritual life begins the moment one is born again, and comes to an end when the soul departs the body at the moment of physical death. Rather or not one's post salvation spiritual life is the type that God designed is a matter of choices that the individual be!never makes. The quality of one's 0ost salvation spiritual life neither improves or diminishes the status of the eternal life that a born again believer has already received. The quality of one's post salvation spiritual life does not change WHERE (Heaven) the believer will experience eternity, but it does determine HOW (with or without 1Cor. 3: 14 reward and Revelation 2 & 3 privileges).
The conflict between religion (what Man designs and proposes) vs. spirituality (that God accepts) has been an underlying issue behind much of what has taken place in human history. This conflict will continue to be throughout the course of the Church Age.
Man-made religion can be found inside and outside of the Christian Community. It was true in the earliest years (Gal. 3), and will reach its peak in the latter days of the Church Age (1Tim. 4: 1). Some believe we are already there.
Here in the Church Age, the devil continues to promote atheism for the same reason (noted above) that he always has. The devil promotes ANY religion that misidentifies who the true God is for same reason that he always has. The devil promotes ANY false Gospel Message that misidentifies what one MUST (John 3: 5, 7) to do to obtain salvation. He promotes ANY religion that promotes the concept that salvation can be lost, generating fear and doubts, while providing all kinds of false doctrines and procedures that claim to be necessary in order to retain the salvation that one has already received and can not lose.
His "religious" alternative always contain enough truth to make it acceptable. As in any successful counterfeit operation, the product must be received and passed along by those who believe it's the real thing.
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Another characteristic of the latter days of the Church Age is the manifestation of miracles produced by the devil and his forces of evil. We are inclined to think that miraculous activity comes from God alone, but Scripture (e.g. Exodus 7: 11) clearly teaches otherwise.
"for false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matt. 24: 24. NASB)."
The "if possible" of Matt. 24: 24 is determined on the level of spiritual discernment that any given advancing disciple has at the time. One's accurate doctrine and one's level of spiritual discernment goes hand in hand.
God performs miracles every day. Accordingly, one would not want to attribute miraculous activity of God to the Kingdom of Darkness. At the same time, we don't want to be misled when it is the Kingdom of Darkness involved.
Q. What makes the "elect" open to deception?
A. "My people are destroyed by lack of knowledge ...(Hosea 4: 6 NASB)."
The ONE and ONLY defensive asset that an advancing disciple can acquire is an accurate knowledge of the Word of God. It is the advancing disciple with an edified soul structure who will have the spiritual discernment to separate truth from error, guidance from deception.
The first thing that a "religious" person looks for is confirmation that the alleged event actually took place. An edified believer wants the same confirmation, but that that is NOT enough. The edified disciple knows that to the extent that God allows, the devil and/or those who do his bidding can produce some of the same activities (e.g.Exodus 7: 11) as God. The advancing disciple wants to check on what the accompanying "message" is, and who/what is being glorified.
One will not always be able to identify, confirm, or deny, the source or the reality of reported "miraculous" activity, but an advancing disciple can have an edified soul structure that enables him to discern truth from error in the message(s) that miracle workers or promoters want to broadcast. Is it God who is being glorified, and/or the things of God that are being promoted, or is it an alternative being or source? Is the message consistent with the sword of God?
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God has not left us as orphans to fend for ourselves (John 14: 18), but nor has He (yet-Rev. 20: 2) chosen to completely bind the devils hands. Within the limits that God's permissive will allows, the devil will take full advantage, as he, "...prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1Pet. 5: 8 NASB)."
The devil promotes immorality because of the destruction that it can cause in the lives of human beings. Such diabolical "victories" are bitter-sweet.
They are sweet (to the devil) because God is denied the glory that He would have otherwise received if human beings made better choices. It is bitter because the presence of evil and violence here in the devil's world only goes to demonstrate the devil's inability to establish a paradisal kingdom independent of God (Isa. 13: 14). This was the devil's goal long before the human race even existed.
The Rev. 3: 14-22 describes the general state of apostasy (false doctrines/practices) that the Christian Community at large will be involved in during the latter days of the Church Age,but this does not mean that any one of us, or any group of us, has to be caught up in it.
Note that in the same passage (Rev. 3: 18) God offers His remedy.
"I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and (have) white garments, that you may clothe yourselves, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye slave to anoint your eyes, that you may see (Rev. 3: 18 NASB parentheses mine)."
The Rev. 3: 18 gold refined by fire is accurate Bible Doctrine. The more that gold is purified, the greater its value. We must purify the gold (Bible Doctrine) in our edified soul structures (Matt. : 24-27) if we are to acquire the type of gold (Bible Doctrine) being spoken of here. The gold (doctrine) in our soul structures are purified by engaging in 2Cor. 13: 5 SELF examinations and making the making the appropriate adjustments. These adjustments are evidenced by all that we think, say, and do. When gold (doctrine) is refined, it is purged of all inferior elements (false doctrine). Good enough is never good enough to an advancing disciple.
If one never senses the need to made any adjustments in his/her doctrine, he/she is NOT growing in the knowledge of the Lord (2Pet.3 18). A know-it-all attitude retards our own spiritual advancement and limits our usefulness in the promotion of the Great Commission. I am 67 years old. I have been a life-long student of the Word of God. I was ordained to do the work of a pastor-teacher in 2008. I say this to point out that I still consider myself a work in progress. There will always going to be more to be learned.
The Rev. 3:18 riches have to do with spiritual and not earthly prosperity. Many of us can report, to the penny, what our earthly possessions and accounts are worth, but don't have clue as to the balance of our account in Heaven (Matt. 6: 20). Deposits in our Heavenly account are the result of the production of divine good (1 Cor. 3: 12-15). All deposits in our earthly accounts, and all of the benefits of our earthly investments become the property of someone else the second we draw our last breath.
There is no guarantee that the inheritance that we leave to those we leave behind will be used wisely (Eccl. 2: 18, 19). But the deposits (if there were any) we made into our heavenly accounts while here on Earth will result in benefits that will be experienced throughout eternity. We can not take "it" (our earthy prosperity) with us, but we can make deposits into our heavenly accounts that will be there waiting for us to enjoy in eternity.
The Rev. 3: 18 "white garments" are "uniforms of glory (Rev. 3: 4)" that only the advancing disciples of the born again believers of the Church Age will receive. These uniforms of glory will be worn over (or around) the resurrected bodies that all born again believers receive. Paul also wrote of there being v-a-r-y-i-n-g degrees of light surrounding the born again believer's body in Heaven (1Cor. 15: 41, 42). The more we glorify God here on Earth, the brighter the light surrounding us there will be in Heaven.
The Rev. 3: 18 shame will be the embarrassment that many born again believers will experience when they walk (or flee) away empty-handed 1 Cor. 3: 12-15 from the rewarding of deeds event that takes place in Heaven. It will be shocking to many Christians when what (deeds of human human good) they thought was going to bring them reward goes up in smoke (1Cor. 3: 15)! The 1Cor. 3: 12 - 15 event is NOT for the purpose of separating the good from the bad deed. Bad deeds do not enter the picture (here).
The 1Cor. 3: 12- 15 event separates the GOOD deeds that were accomplished with our human efforts and abilities (symbolized by the combustible wood, hay, straw), from the GOOD deeds that God (John 15: 5) accomplished through us, symbolized by the silver, gold, and precious stone (that survives the fire of judgement. The good human deeds receive no rewards (here). The deeds of divine good do.
The Rev. 3: 18 eye salve is spiritual discernment that accompanies spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is the result of learning and applying accurate Bible Doctrine as one executes the post salvation spiritual life.
Many believers believes that we are indeed in the latter days of the Church Age and that the Rapture is very near. But even if this is not (yet) the case, this does not change the amount of time that each one of us has ben given to glorify God while here on Earth.
Here in the Church, one glorifies God first in a one-time event by placing one's trust and confidence in a presentation of the Gospel Message, and secondly by learning of and executing the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship throughout the time that remains.
Be it by the Rapture, or physical death, the end of our individually appointed time in this world could be today. The decisions we make during our time here on Earth determines WHERE and HOW we WILL spend all of eternity!
What every soul does with the Gospel Message determines WHERE his/her final destination (Heaven vs. the Lake of Fire) will be. What a born-again does with the call to the post salvation spiritual life determines what (if any) rewards you will receive in the general environment of Heaven that all born-again believers experience.
Only time and personal experience will reveal which one of the two (1Thess. 4: 15 or 1 Thess. 4: 1616) groups he/she, as a born-again believer, will be in when the Rapture finally does take place.
One group consists of believers who departed this over the course of he Church Age. The other group consists of those born-again believers who are alive and the Earth when the Rapture takes place. These two groups will be united into one as they find themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ in the air above the Earth. At the Rapture, these two groups become. From that day forward, the Church will be with the Lord throughout all of eternity (1Thess. 4: 17).
The departed souls of unbelievers over the course of human history, and the unbelievers alive on the Earth at the time are NOT involved in the Rapture. The departed soul's remain in the Torments of Hades until the Rev. 20: 13, 15 takes place. As of the moment that the Rapture takes place, the entire human population will consist of unbelievers. Some of these individuals will be born again during the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation will be so horrific that if it were you cut short, no human life on the planet would survive ().
The spiritually dead souls left behind on the Earth when the Rapture takes place will no doubt wonder where all the born again believers have gone after instantaneously disappearing all around the world. We can only speculate as to the explanations, if any, the "religious" community will have to offer in response to the chaos that the Rapture brings.
Believers consist of those who have chosen to place their 100% trust and confidence in the Gospel Message, whereas unbelievers have rejected it. Back-sliding believers have been born again and remain eternally saved, but are not moving forward in the identification and/or execution of the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Back-sliding believers often return to or substitute one of the many Man-made religions that can be found inside and outside of the Christian Community.
What all of these religions promote is the concept that one qualifies for salvation (eternal life) by rituals of religion, good behavior, and good deeds. The truth is that one can do all three, but still not be born again, and consequently find themselves in the Torments of Hades upon this Earth until the Rev. 20: 13-15 event takes place.
The eternal future for all unbelievers is an eternity in the lake of fire Rev. 20: 15. The eternal future for back-sliding believers is an eternity in the general environment of Heaven (Romans 8: 1), but without the rewards (1Cor. 3: 15) and Rev. 2 & 3 privileges that only advancing disciples will receive. Advancing disciples will not only have a home in Heaven, but will also have the great rewards and privileges, as well.
The reason that there are conflicting answers WITHIN the Christian Community and the reason that the Christian Community is in its prophesied state of apostasy is one in the same. Whenever the accurate teaching of the Word of God is compromised, misinterpreted, or misapplied, the seeds of apostasy flourish and produce a harvest of adulterated Gospels (false means of salvation), false doctrines and accompanying practices.