THE LAST DAYS OF BABYLON Part 8, AGE OF DELIVERANCE

Goodnews Christian Ministry

"The Father who is the source of life has made the Son the source of life; and, because he is the Son of Man, has appointed him supreme judge. Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves at the sound of his voice: those who did good will rise again to life; and those who did evil, to condemnation." ---John 5:26-29

CHAPTER 34

The Power of Faith

"That day, the branch of God shall be beauty and glory, and the fruit of the earth shall be the pride and adornment of Israel's survivors.
Those who are left of Zion and remain of Jerusalem shall be called holy
and those left in Jerusalem, noted down for survival."
Isaiah 4:2-3

_____________

Throughout the pages of this book we have explored the consequences of sin -- the fate of a world the Bible calls 'Babylon' that is careening recklessly out of control toward catastrophe because it prefers evil to God.

Nothing can avert the impact that is coming because it was structured long ago in the law as a penalty for wickedness. And the day for it to occur is now almost at hand. That is the bad news.

The Good News is that God has given us a way, not only to defer this collision, but to escape its consequences entirely.

There is a destruction coming, but it will annhilate us only if we reject the course Jesus outlined: sincere repentance and conversion in His name.

God's whole purpose in sending His Christ was to give mankind the one and only opportunity there is to escape the fatal consequences of a coming wrath whose approach is now imminent.

The Bible is filled with prophecies that describe in great detail the events surrounding the inception of the cataclysm, and these detail circumstances which are uncannily similar to those we have recently witnessed in the world around us. This book is a testimony to those events.

We can also see images of this looming catastrophe in our own deaths. We all have to die. But what is coming is far more lethal, because it has the capacity to destroy not just our body, but our soul as well, committing to eternal flames the only link we have to immortal life.

This means that we cannot escape the end of the world simply by dying. The end of the world will follow our soul wherever it goes unless we cover it with the Holy Spirit.

And the only way to do that is to follow Jesus and do exactly what he said. "I tell you most solemnly, whoever keeps my word will never see death" (Jn.8:51).

One of the more improbable discoveries Christians make when they start to study other faiths is that almost no other religion comes with an offer of eternal life. Those who come from a Christian base see this offer as an essential component of theology itself.

Yet it is an offer that almost did not exist in religion before Jesus declared it possible. While the Pharisees of Christ's time believed in resurrection, the Jewish leadership quickly squashed that notion entirely very soon after the crucifixion of Christ. As a result, there is little belief in Judaism today that life exists after death. (Anyone who doubts this need only ask a Jewish rabbi or scholar).

Most ancient theologians were convinced that life after death was just a myth, and so their religions were all based on the here and now. They were all based on earthly peace and worldly success.

This is what made Jesus so unique. He came down from heaven -- from the throne of the Father Himself -- and offered us what seemed to be the unofferable. "Death was not God's doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living. To be -- for this he created all." (Ws.1:12-14).

With words like these, from the lips of prophets who could not even understand what they were saying at the time, God has shown us that He wants us to understand that death and life are in His own hands, and that neither are dictated by the terms of this world.

Yet both are now dictated by the Son because God has put our lives in Christ's hands to do with as He pleases. Jesus has dispensed God's offer of eternal life through the Word He preached. So the Good News is eternal life itself. And that is the best of all goodnews because it erases from our thoughts the agony of nothingness and a meaningless fate.

And that imperishable life, Jesus promised, will be filled with true wealth and endless joy. He said that heaven's new world will encompass a beauty and happiness that cannot even be imagined here on this earth.

It will feature eternal contentment in a land of perfection whose grandeur is beyond anyone's comprehension -- far greater than anything this earth has to offer.

The journey Jesus has called us to make will not only free us from the shackles of our current bodily prison and release us from all sorrow and distress; we will make our entrance into God's new kingdom as members of the highest royal family in creation.

Commoners in this life, we will find ourselves standing in the imperial majesty of the King Himself; wrapped in robes of state, and making our entrance into Christ's new kingdom in a grand procession of nobility.

Victorious in battle, and heros highly favored for perseverence in His word, we will comprise a prestigious and preeminent cortege as we make our stately march into the kingdom which He has generously promised to bestow upon us.

His offer of peace gives us the opportunity not only to escape the disaster that is bearing down on this earth, but to achieve an immense hidden reward in doing so. He said that we would be repaid "a hundred times over" for our losses here on earth (Mat.19:29).

Cloaked in robes of supreme royalty -- sons of the living God -- we are to be accepted as intimate members of the sovereign family of the Almighty Creator Himself -- princes and princesses for eternity in a city that 'glitters like a precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond' with brilliant colors of light reflecting everywhere throughout it the radiant glory of God.

Earthly kingship and the royalty that surrounds such families are but dull and dingy replicas by comparison.

These descriptions are not illusions. They have been revealed to us in scripture by a God who has informed us that He, Himself will wait on us and do our bidding in the land that He has prepared for all who obey His will.

We know all of this through the Son's own voice -- a voice God Himself sent down from heaven just so that we might understand these things.

And it is that same voice that has mapped our escape, because it is only the power of Christ's Gospel that can separate us from Satan. "A child of God listens to the words of God; if you refuse to listen, it is because you are not God's children." (Jn.8:47).

Those who reject Jesus have no radiant city to look forward to. No royal appointment. No treasure. No eternal life and no joy. Only disaster. Just a grave somewhere with some empty words written on a stone -- and with it the awful possibility of eternal damnation in the fires of an immense blazing lake.

These are the facts of the truth Jesus came to tell us, and, according to God, the vision has to be announced. Because it is only by conversion, repentance and sincere prayer that any of the calamitous events of these final days can be altered -- either for the world or for ourselves.

Considering the short time there is left to us, we should be praying constantly.

Prayer accompanied by repentance and conversion has great power on earth, and those who have used this power have worked huge miracles in the name of God's holy Son.

"Whatever you ask for in my name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (Jn.14:13).

"I tell you most solemnly, anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name...Ask and you will receive..." (Jn.16:23-24). "...and whatever we ask him, we shall receive, because we keep his commandments and live the kind of life that he wants us to live." (1 Jn.3:22).

This world and God are opposites. That is why when we choose Jesus we must repent the kind of life we lived before the Gospel changed our lives.

Baptism in Christ terminates our citizenship in this world and cements a new pilgrim status to our lives here. It sets us on a journey to the kingdom of heaven down the only path that leads there -- a path that Jesus mapped perfectly for us to follow.

To God, flesh and Babylon are two parts of the same circumstance. For this reason, we must leave them both in the very same way -- and by the road Jesus dictated: Repentance and conversion.

Natural death leads only to the grave, but baptism in the death of Christ has power to lift us up to eternal life, allowing us to be reborn in a second birth -- a birth by His word into the kingom of God.

By word were we born here and by word will be reborn anew into Christ's eternal kingdom:"By the word of God the heavens were made, their whole array by the breath of his mouth...He spoke and it was created. He commanded and there it stood." (Ps.33:6-9).

Given this second chance to live again, our soul is freed from its bondage to the second death -- the second part of the death of the first-born creation -- the death that claims the soul.

For this reason, once we are touched in the death of Christ (baptised), the grace we receive in return gives us great immunity to death. Like an immortal vaccination against the disease of death, our baptism in Christ will always 'take' if we complete the journey Jesus has mapped out for us.

This touch of God comes in three parts.

Through repentance, the water washes us in the grace of His forgiveness and gives our soul the opportunity to be reborn into a new kind of body that is eternal. The Spirit conceives within us the infant of that new body; and the divine meal of our obedience as we march through the fire, feeds this new body growing within us, and raises it up to perfect maturity for eternal life in the presence of God.

This opportunity for a second birth is what is meant by the term 'redemption'. It is through our faith in Him that we are redeemed -- a faith made manifest by a journey completed.

Scripture says that it is because of the death of the first born (flesh-born) that everyone has to be redeemed (i.e., because all flesh is born to die). Our soul cannot live unless it is clothed in a body. For this reason, the death of the body imperils the soul. Baptism by the Spirit creates for us a new body, so that our soul is reclothed in a spiritual body of immortality.

If we feed this new body the food of God -- the Gospel of Christ -- it will grow up to eternal maturity so that we will never have to die. The terminal wrath will have no effect on us.

Since it is spiritual, our captivity in this world has been a captivity, not to flesh per se, but to the sin which has ruled our lives.

Jesus is not the only one sowing seed in this world. The dragon's seed is here as well, and whichever of these two seeds takes root in our heart determines the 'ground' of our soul.

All the pursuits and cares of this world, the Gospel says, are in partnership with Satan's sin. (Mt.13:22). So we must break with this world in order to break with sin. Breaking with sin (the way of this world) can only come through obedience to Jesus and his Gospel.

"If you do not stand by me, you will not stand at all." (Is.7:9).

That is why Christ declared that we must put aside our love affair with this world in order to be freed from the chains Satan has used to bind us to him.

There are two ways Jesus outlined for us to make this break. First, of course, by baptism (redemption). And second by changing the way we conduct our lives.

Jesus preached "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins". (Mk.1:4). Through repentance, and because of the cross, the moment we are baptised our sins are washed away and we are wrapped in a robe of grace.

But grace is a variable. (1 Peter 1:2). Grace is something we can grow in, or grow away from. In fact, we can even fall out of grace completely if we are wicked enough. The food of God builds grace, but the food of Babylon destroys it.

That is why God insisted on repentance and confession as well as baptism as crucial elements in the faith of Christ. It is not enough that we be baptised -- we must also leave Babylon and all its sinfulness behind us.

And that is an ongoing process -- a lifelong journey away from Satan's city.

It is a journey through fire because everything in this world works against it. It is through this tribulation that we are tested and made fit for God. Jesus said that we must all be sifted by Satan. "And it will happen throughout this territory...that two-thirds in it will be cut off (will be killed) and the remaining third will be left."

"I will lead that third into the fire, and refine them as silver is refined, test them as gold is tested. they will call on my name and I shall listen; and I shall say: 'These are my people'; and each will say, 'The Lord is my God'."
(Zech.13:8-9).

Jesus said that those who believe and teach that this journey is not important or necessary to salvation are blind guides.

Those who interpret God's commandments and decide by their own intellect which parts of His provisions they will obey and which ones they will disregard prove the concept of the 'narrow road' in Jesus' narrative.

It is His instructions that constitute the narrow road -- the slim pathway that we have been instructed by God to follow.

True 'right' and 'wrong', then, are concepts whose entire measure is based on Christ's instructions. They have nothing to do with our evaluation of the data. The only 'good' is God and God is the Gospel Jesus preached.

In order to make our break from Babylon complete then, we must obey Christ's commandments.

When He wedded forgiveness to repentance, Jesus demonstrated that baptism is part of a vow that we make to God -- a vow that we will change our lives from the ways of Babylon and live instead in the ways of God's commandments.

"I must fulfill the vows I made you, God; I shall pay you my thank-offerings, for you have rescued my soul from Death to walk in the presence of God in the light of the living." (Ps.56:12-13).

To underscore this, Paul said, "Don't delude yourself into thinking God can be cheated: where a man sows, there he reaps: if he sows in the field of self-indulgence he will get a harvest of corruption out of it; if he sows in the field of the Spirit he will get from it a harvest of eternal life. "

"We must never get tired of doing good because if we don't give up the struggle we shall get our harvest at the proper time. While we have the chance, we must do good to all, and especially to our brothers in the faith."
(Gal.6:6-10).

In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth wrote , "He who obeys the command will come to no harm, and the wise man knows there will be a time of Judgment." (Ec.8:5). These two are intimately related: God's commandments and the wrath. "If I concentrate on your every commandment I can never be put to shame." (Ps.119:6).

"He who despises the word will destroy himself, he who respects the commandment will be safe." (Pr.13:11).

In the first covenant there was no possibility of rescue because there was no allowance for failure. Since no one was perfect except God, everyone who failed to match His perfection died in sin.

In his mercy Jesus brought us grace, allowing us to stumble and still succeed. Because of this, in the new covenant success is measured by progress rather than by perfection. "Only the man who makes progress, as the blameless do, can be my servant." (Ps.101:6).

Those who make progress in the Gospel's commands are blameless in the eyes of God.

Because Jesus has wrapped us in a robe of grace, God's commandments work in our favor instead of against us. His words do not destroy us the way those of Moses did in the first covenant. Because of the mercy of God's grace, Christ's words can build us into eternal life.

This is why Jesus said that His words, when eaten (internalized) and digested (assimilated into action), constituted a 'food from heaven'. "Happy is the virtuous man, for he will feed on the fruit of his deeds." (Is.3:10).

Scripture indicates that the word of God actually forms us and builds us. "Your words are sweeter than honey. Thus your servant is formed by them, observance brings great reward." (Ps.19:10-11).

Even the heavens and the earth were made by the word of God. Everything was created instantly the moment He spoke. (Ps.33:6-9)

For this reason, when we put the word of God into practice in our lives, it is the same as feeding the food of all creation into our soul. The scriptures have borne witness to this fact since the very beginning:

"Happy the man who cares for the poor and the weak: if disaster strikes, God will come to his help." (Ps.41:l).

If we neglect the commandments and depend on God to rescue us simply because we have acknowledged Jesus as God, we put God to the test by choosing to remain in Babylon against His orders.

Only in the journey of repentance and obedience which Jesus defined for us can we keep sin from re-staining our soul, and hold onto the grace we have received.

The Bible shows that there are certain actions in Christ that we can take which perpetually wash such stains away and thereby work to keep our soul continuously sanctified.

An early disciple of Christ, a writer in the 4th century named 'Origen' (author of the famous 'Hexapla' Bible -- a six-column scripture listing in parallel the six most important Bibles of the first three centuries) declared, after an intense investigation of scripture, that there were seven commandments that washed the Christian soul in a bath of perpetual forgiveness:

1. The first, of course, is the initial cleansing itself: baptism. When we are touched by water in this special event, our soul is washed in the blood of Christ, cleansing it of every stain there is. The anointing of water breaks our bondage to this corrupt flesh while our faith washes our soul in the spiritual water of God's forgiveness and grace.

2. The second is repentance. It is repentance, the Gospel tells us, that activates the power of the cross. "...and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." (Mk.1:4).

"Jesus began his preaching with the message, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand'." (Mt.4:17). "

Humble yourself before you fall ill, and when you sin, repent. The man who acknowledges a fault wards off punishment."
(Sir.18:21, 20:3).

Jesus proved our need to be continually repentant when he told the parable about the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee who praised himself for being cleaner than the sinful people around him -- went unforgiven by God, but the publican who acknowledged his guilt and humbled himself before the Lord and begged the Lord's forgiveness, went home at rights with God. His sins were washed away according to Jesus, because he was repentant and humble. (Lk.18:9-14).


3. The third way that sins are forgiven is by the forgiveness that we extend to others. When He gave us the Lord's Prayer, Jesus revealed that the extent to which we forgive others will have a tremendous impact on how God will forgive us for our own sins on the Day of Judgment. (Mt.6:12).

"Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either." (Mt.6:14-15).

Jesus went to great lengths to emphasize this rule -- a fact which shows how important it will be to us when the final accounting is made.


4. Another way that sin is forgiven, Origin said, is by showing love to others. Most of Christ's commandments were directives that we show compassion and kindness to other people, so almost every directive Jesus gave has some bearing on this rule.

When the former prostitute came into the Pharisees house and washed Christ's feet, he said that although her sins were many, the fact that they were all forgiven was demonstrated by the fact that she was showing such great love (doing good). (Lk.7:47).

"It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love." (Lk.7:48). Good works, then, are a reflection of a forgiveness already received.

By contrast, those who do not put the commandments into practice demonstrate that God has not yet forgiven their sins.

This proves that while people can claim that they are saved, whether or not they really are, depends on the amount of love and kindness and compassion for others that comes out of them.

Jesus said this more succinctly, of course, when He proclaimed, "By their fruits you will know them." (Mt.7:15-20).

This is why Peter wrote, "Never let your love for one another grow insincere, since love covers over many a sin." (1 Peter 4:8).

A part of this love is giving to the poor. "He who shuts his ear to the poor man's cry shall himself plead and not be heard." (Pr.21:13). "He who gives to the poor shall never want, he who closes his eyes to them will bear many a curse." (Pr.28:27).


5. According to Origen, confession is the fifth mechanism scripture has decreed as a way to absolve our sins before God. "He who conceals his faults will not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them will find mercy." (Pr.28:13).

In his first letter, the Apostle John wrote: "If we say that we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth; but if we acknowledge our sins, then God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and purify us from everything that is wrong." (1 Jn.1:8-9).

John's words confirm the fact that we all continue to stumble even though we have committed ourselves to follow the Lord; and for this reason, we must each live our lives in a constant state of repentance and humility as we make our journey to the kingdom of God. We must live perpetually in the kind of humility that keeps the cross activated.

Confessing our sins, scripture tells us, is essential to this process. "At last I admitted to you that I had sinned; no longer concealing my guilt, I said, 'I will go to the Lord and confess my fault'. And you God, you have forgiven the wrong I did, have pardoned my sin." (Ps.32:5).


6. When James wrote that sin was forgiven by prayer, he defined another process that helps to wash sins away.

"If one of you is ill, he should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you; the heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully." (James 5:13).


7. James also indicated that evangelism cured sins:

"My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from the wrong way that he has taken will be saving a soul from death and covering up a great number of sins." (James 5:19-20).


8. Another way, Origen wrote, of covering over sins was martyrdom -- a common event among Christians in the early days of the Church, and one which will define the last days as well. When Jesus said that no greater love has any man than that he lay down his life for his fellow man, he made it clear that martyrdom was the greatest act of love that any person could show to another in this world.


There is one word that stands out boldly in the religion of Christ. That word is faith. In Jesus, faith will do anything. It is above all things and without it, none of the things listed above will work.

When Paul described the story of Abraham's righteousness through faith (Rom.4), he proved that even baptism cannot work without faith. It is faith that heals, and it is faith that brings the forgiveness of God into our souls. "Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven." (Mt.9:2).

Faith is like the channel of a river. Where it is deep and wide, the water can flow through it in abundance. This is the way it is with the River that flows from the breast of Christ.

Where our faith is deep, the waters of heaven flow into our heart like a flood. And as they come into us, they carry healing and eternal forgiveness into our souls in boundless abundance.

These overflow our soul and pass into our body as well, and this is why the paralytic could get up and walk. The abundance of healing that comes from faith is beyond all measure.

"I tell you solemnly, if you have faith and do not doubt at all, not only will you do what I have done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Get up and throw yourself into the sea', it will be done. And if you have faith, everything you ask for in prayer you will receive." (Mt.21:21-22).

When Jesus sent Paul to preach to the pagans, He told him, "I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light...and receive, through faith in me, forgiveness of their sins and a share in the inheritance of the sanctified." (Acts 26:18).

Origen, in his writings, did not give faith a separate category because he knew that everything he listed was dependent on it. And without it, there could be no listing at all.

But faith does not stand alone. Faith and faithfulness go together. The upright live by faithfulness to Christ's word. We live by the word of God and by our faith in that word. In those who are unfaithful, there can be no faith.

Jesus said, "If anyone hears my words and does not keep them faithfully, it is not I who shall condemn him...he who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already: the word itself that I have spoken will be hus judge on the last day. "

"For what I have spoken does not come from myself; no, what I was to say, what I had to speak, was commanded by the Father who sent me, and I know that his commands mean eternal life."
(Jn.12:47-50).

Jesus shows here, that the kind of faith that leads to eternal life comes directly from faithfulness. Faith cannot exist outside of God's commandments -- because these commandments, themselves, Jesus said, mean eternal life. (Jn.12:50).

It is faith that draws us toward Christ's commandments.

We can only come to God by the pathway that Jesus, Himself, has defined. The churches have no power to define the pathway to God; nor do theologians. Only Jesus. "Trust no more in man, he has but a breath in his nostrils." (Is.2:22).

"God says this: 'A curse on the man who puts his trust in man..." (Jer.17:5).

The Bible is clear -- we cannot invent our own salvation. And we cannot put our trust in the inventions of others, either. We must listen carefully to the one and only voice that defined God's salvation and do exactly as that voice commanded us to do.

"You search the scriptures, believing that in them you have eternal life; now these same scriptures testify to me, and yet you refuse to come to me for life." (John 5:39-40). We come to church to come to Jesus, that is true faith -- and in that faith there is perfect faithfulness to God.

It is this kind of faith that is the meaning of 'love' in the scriptures. It is just like in the story of the prostititue above. When the prostititute showed great compassion, Jesus said that she could do this only because her sins had been forgiven.

Only when sins have been forgiven can a person show the kind of love that keeps the Gospel. This is a faith that leads to faithfulness. Those who are unable to show this love, have not yet received forgiveness. (Lk.7:48). They cannot be said to have faith, because there is nothing in them leading them to faithfulness.

Again, Jesus said, "By their fruits you shall know them."

Everything that washes away sin holds back the wrath; and therefore all those who are faithful to Christ help to keep the tyranny of the last days away. That is why so many of the current visions call for faith and prayer.

It is the inability to repent that will characterize the people who make the wrath inevitable on earth.

"You may be quite sure that in the last days there are going to be some difficult times. People will be self-centered and grasping; boastful, arrogant and rude; disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious; heartless and unappeasable; they will be slanderers, profligates, savages and enemies of everything that is good; they will be treacherous and reckless and demented by pride, preferring their own pleasure to God."

"They will keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it."

"Have nothing to do with people like that. You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true; remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the holy scriptures -- from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."

"All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people's lives and teaching them to be holy."
(2 Tim.3:1-17).


The Last Days of Babylon


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