Monday, August 11, 2014

The Pleading of the Lord

Many times, the Church paints an image of Jesus that is effeminate, weak, defeated, and docile; begging to be received by sinners.  Yet Scripture paints a different picture. It shows a God who is pleading with sinners via "the fire and His sword" (Isaiah 66:16; Jeremiah 25:31), and the Lord's pleading is often associated with pending judgment (Isaiah 3:13).
plead: shaphat; to judge, govern, vindicate, punish
Yet, some may ask, "Isn't Jesus up in Heaven interceding for all sinners?"

"And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Romans 8:27 

 "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25 

 "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine...Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." John 17:9, 20

Jesus' primary focus in intercession is for believers.  Does this mean that He doesn't care for the lost? Not at all.  It is God's desire that all would be saved (I Timothy 2:4).  The reason that Jesus prays for the Church is because such is God's vehicle for proclaiming Christ (Matthew 9:38; Luke 10:2; Romans 10:14-15). Jesus prays for the Church so that we will be an effective witness to the world and a powerful army against Satan; the empowerment of the Church is to be a key focus of our prayers as well (Colossians 1:9-11; Ephesians 6:18-20; I Thessalonians 5:25; II Timothy 1:3; James 5:16).

In the same way, Jesus came primarily for the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24), but it was for the benefit of the whole world.  God deals primarily with His people, because it is His people through which He brings the deliverance.  This is rather different than the picture of intercession painted by much of the Church, because much of what is preached these days is based on carnal emotion - what people want to believe - and not Scripture.

As a new convert, I found it hard to believe that God would send people to Hell.  First, it was an uncomfortable thought (for someone who just narrowly escaped Hell).  Yet also, I just couldn't reconcile the concept of Hell with a God who is love.  Like many, I didn't realize that my understanding of "love" was perverted. How can a God of love send a person to Hell?  He loves you enough to give you exactly what you want: an eternity separated from Him.

Yet even God's judgment is a form of His love.  His mercy for the lost is seen in the presence of the Church as well as His holding back of judgment. He waits patiently for - and gives every opportunity for - man to repent.  Why is it that many people will not repent?  How is it possible to experience the wrath of God as we read through the Book of Revelation, yet instead of turning, become even angrier with God (Revelation 9:20-21, 11:9-10, 18)?  I had to realize something that God of course already understands: Not every one wants Jesus.

Many hearts are so set on having their own way that they will not yield to correction but rather grow in hatred towards the One who brings it.  We must come to terms with this.  People delude themselves thinking that - if others just knew the truth - they would come to love Jesus.  That is just not true.  Nothing will ever deter such individuals in their pursuits against Christ.  Not the ultimate act of love in sacrificing Himself for our sins nor the ultimate act in punishment in pouring out His wrath upon them.  It is not that God is unjust, unloving, or has not given them a will to be able to choose.  Such will not turn because they refuse to, leaving God no choice but to destroy them (Matthew 23:37).

As I read through God's word to Israel in Isaiah Chapter 66, I saw a number of parallels to what the Church faces today in these matters.

"Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not."  Isaiah 66:1-4
God has never been after a show of religion, but sincerity of heart (John 4:23-24).  He despises the sacrifices of the hypocrite and sees it as profane.  There is nothing we can offer Him but what He demands: our reverence and obedience.  If we refuse and choose instead our own way, then He will personally send us a delusion bringing about our downfall.
"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."  II Thessalonians 2:11-12

If we keep resisting the truth, God will eventually seal our resistance by sending us a delusion to ensure our damnation.  
There are a number of contemporary Christian songs out now declaring how God will never give up on us.  That is not completely accurate (Acts 7:42; Romans 1:24-32).  The truth is that God does not give up on us...easily.  He is longsuffering (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15; Romans 2:4; II Peter 3:9).

Even the delays to judgment are God's ways to prod the sinner to change.  If repentance still doesn't come, there will come a time when God sends forth judgment.  Judgment is not just having some calamity fall upon you.  Judgement is first seen in God giving you over to your own ways.  
"Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the Lord that rendereth recompence to his enemies." Isaiah 66:5-6
Much is being done and said now in the "name of the Lord", but is false because such persons do not honor God's word.  God says we must sanctify ourselves from the unclean in order to be fit as His witnesses (II Timothy 2:21); yet it is falsely preached that we must join with the world in order to win the world.  God says that the elders of the Church are to be patriarchs after His own heart (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6); yet it is falsely preached that women can be elders, pastors, and bishops, etc.   
Do not be dismayed because the wicked seem to be flourishing like a green bay tree (Psalm 37:35-36).  The day is coming when the Lord will stand up with the righteous for all to see.  He shall appear to our joy and to the shame of the hypocritical mockers.
"Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. 9 Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? Saith thy God.

Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the Lord shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies." Isaiah 66:7-14
There will be no bringing forth of children without first the travailing of the Church.  For what are we travailing?  For Christ to be formed (Galatians 4:19).  However, things will happen so quickly as we approach the end, that it will seem as if it was no travail at all.  Just as when the Church was first birthed at Pentecost, there will be a great harvest as God pours out His Spirit in power for the benefit of those who would be saved.  
Everything the Lord has promised will come to pass.  He has not forgotten His people and our living has not been in vain.  The new life the Lord has formed and nurtured within you all this time will be brought forth to manifestation (Romans 8:19).  It will be a time of rejoicing, for we sow in tears, but reap in joy!   
However, judgment against the enemies of the Lord will be just as swift.   
"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape" I Thessalonians 5:1-3

"For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord.  For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. 

And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.  And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain."  Isaiah 66:15-22
As the Lord is preparing His people to be an end time salvation army, He is also preparing to destroy His enemies (and the enemies of His people). Amongst these enemies are they who have fallen into apostay, performing rituals in the groves as in the worship of Baal Peor.  In spite of their outward appearance in looking as if they belong to God's people, the Lord knows their hearts and judges them according to the wickedness therein. 
The only ones who will be chosen by God as part of His royal priesthood are they who have been purged to be clean vessels.  This seed of spiritual life within the Church will thereby remain ever before Him (Matthew 16:18); the true Church being comprised of those who have ceased from their own works and entered into His everlasting Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:9-11).
"And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." Isaiah 66:23-24
While God promises rejoicing and comfort for God's people, the end for the transgressor is terrifying.

There are some who say that all mankind will eventually be redeemed and that Hell is not an eternal place of punishment.  They base these assertions in part on such phrases as "shall all flesh come to worship before me", claiming that the word "all" here refers to every single person who ever lived.  Yet, it is clear from this text that such is not the case.

Although all flesh is coming to worship before the Lord, the bodies of transgressors are clearly visible, and the description of these persons sounds very close to Jesus' description of Hell.

"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 
And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Mark 9:43-48 
We are told in Revelation that the smoke of Babylon's burning will rise forever and ever as a witness to God's judgment of Babylon, the Great Whore, and those who follow them (Revelation 19:1-3).
God is looking to see the yearning of His people for a return of His manifested divine blessing and presence amongst them.  There is an end time harvest, but we need laborers who have been prepared by the Holy Spirit to go and reach that harvest.  As time unfolds, the pleading of the Lord for people to repent will be turned into judgment as He prepares for His return.  Redeem the times now so that this time does not catch you unawares.

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