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While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.   (1 Thessalonians 5:3 NIV)

Last January, a report surfaced from the U.S. West Coast that billionaire businessmen were building a secure underground community. Though they don’t fear God, these Silicon Valley titans of technology want to be saved from that which they do fear.

Mentally, American Christians are being encouraged to take a similar approach. They live under an illusion of peace and safety. “If there is a disaster, Jesus will keep me safe” –or so they believe. The Lord will shelter them “from” rather than his actual promise to take them “through” (ex. Isaiah 43:2-3a).

God’s desire for his servants is to obey and believe, not doubt or fear. Escaping trials is the exception for the saints, while enduring them is the rule.

In the last days, teachers of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture (PTR) position will be responsible for a great multitude of those who fall away. They paint a picture of safety that does not square with Bible prophecy. Amillennial teachers will be accountable also. Denying the literal warnings of the Bible’s prophets, with intellectual-sounding arguments, is the devil’s work. The signs of a looming day of disaster are unmistakable or why would rich people be digging big holes for condos in Kansas?

Doing nothing is not an option. Noah’s ark of refuge had to be under construction long before the deluge began. What the saints need to build are self-supporting communities around prophets in the mold of Elijah, watchmen who are sounding the alarm of impending disaster. (God has raised up contributors to this blog for this purpose.)

One of Satan’s schemes for destroying God’s people is to cause them to sin, so the Lord himself slays them as punishment for disobedience (Exodus 32, Numbers 25, Joshua 7, 1 Kings 13, et. al.). The peace and safety crowd are rebelling against God’s Word by ignoring the commands to be ready, to watch and to pray (Luke 21:34-36). They add more guilt to their sin by ignoring judgment and proclaiming disaster will not befall them. They are being deceived. They live under an illusion of safety.

 All the sinners among my people will die by the sword, all those who say, ‘Disaster will not overtake or meet us.’ ” (Amos 9:10 NIV)

In those days there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25 NKJV)

Having worked a few years as a real estate agent taught me a lot. For sellers of property, setting a price based on the fair market value, rather than what we hope our home is worth, is key to finding a buyer in timely fashion. For home buyers, it is vital to match what we can afford with what we want. The real in real estate is matching a seller’s reasonable expectation with a buyer’s financial ability.

So it is with the struggle often faced with prophecy. The current list of popular doctrines makes it a seller’s market, which means there are plenty of buyers considering a move from one position to another. Are the buyer’s unsatisfied with the status quo? Or has something forced a change? What is it they want? It is all subjective.

Objectivity is required as well. Being objective means I want facts. Subjectivity alone makes things murky. Facts clarify our options. Regarding prophecy, how do we arrive at facts? We must consult Scripture the way a real estate appraiser examines recently sold properties. If what we desire–that is our dreams or goals–conflicts with objective truth, then we have a choice. If we choose what we subjectively want to occur in the last days as opposed to what God objectively says, we won’t like what happens.

The Bereans were accustomed to teachers who were dreamers. How would they know if the Apostle Paul was like the rest? They listened intently to what Paul said; perhaps making notes. When he finished, the Bereans went back to their (Old Testament) Scripture to see if what Paul taught lined up with truth.

The Thessalonians, however, were more subjective. Salesmen could persuade them about what was right. Consider the context of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2. Confusion caused panic in the Thessalonian church. It came about because their subjectivity made them vulnerable to false prophecies, reports or letters about the Day of the Lord. They had listened to Paul but forgot the Biblical evidence. Many thought he was right; that is until the next gifted public speaker came along.

God has put eternity on our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Eternity is our dream. The way we achieve the unimaginable is contained in the word of God. Applying the five major rules for Bible interpretation is how we arrive at the facts. Demand accuracy in prophecy, rather than argue about who is right. Information is true or it isn’t. God is objective, not subjective. God is Mathematics and true science. God does not tolerate “adding to” what he has spoken (Proverbs 30:5-6).

In the time of the judges, subjectivity led to confusion in Israel. Everyone did what seemed right because Israel had no sovereign to set the standard. Had God been their king, they would have all agreed.

That’s where many are at today; subjectively shopping for what’s “right”. In other words, most are searching for their wants and trying to fulfill their dream. Instead, wouldn’t it be better to study our Bible with other Bereans? What if we developed a consensus for an accurate (a.k.a. Biblical) interpretation of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1-4)?  Isn’t it better to prize accuracy rather than the human standard of what seems right?

A whip for a horse, a halter for a donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools!  Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:3-4 NIV)

If you’re asking “Where’s Part 1?” my answer is I do not know. It vanished, at least for now. But, as promised, we will proceed with Part 2 of “Contrived Arguments” in hopes that Part 1 can be found. First, what are “Contrived Arguments”?  My definition is this: A contrived argument is a charge or accusation created from whole cloth or made up out of someone’s imagination. The purpose is to promote a larger, hidden agenda. For contrived arguments to work, they need a promoter and willing dupes who are inclined to believe their narrative.

We could offer scores of examples, but let’s pick one. One of the leading early members of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Dr. Bernard Nathanson, was a powerful advocate for a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion.  His conversion to Pro-Life is detailed in his book “The Silent Scream”. Dr. Nathanson reported how, from the inside, he participated in the contrived argument that “68,000 women die annually from complications of ‘backyard’ abortions. Therefore, to save lives, women need safe, therapeutic abortion.” Willing accomplices at the World Health Organization (WHO) and The Guttmacher Institute published graphs and statements to back up the NARAL story. Sympathetic media ran with it and the rest is history.

To explain how contrived arguments work, I want to repeat something written in a recent post. “The one who forms the argument, in all probability, will win the argument.” It is easy to figure out why. For one thing, it is impossible to disprove a negative, such as an accusation (ex. “How many times have you hit your wife?”) Challenging the fabricator will fail to convince anyone who is sympathetic to their cause. Also, the one who contrives the argument has the advantage of considering potential counter-attacks and preparing for them beforehand.

Let’s say I claim: “The Russians stole the 2016 presidential election.” Here’s another: “Fossil fuels are destroying the planet.” What about this one: “Modern Bible translations have corrupted God’s Word. The only reliable version is the inspired and infallible Authorized King James.” Try to rationally dispute these statements with an ideologue and it will probably result in frustration.

Here’s a popular contrived argument. “The Church will be taken up in the rapture before the Tribulation. Anyone who disagrees does not believe the Bible.” (The roots of this contrived story are in Lifesaver: Saving God’s People from the PTR Ship.) When the preacher pounds on the pulpit, becomes red in the face, holds his Bible in the air and yells the above, it tends to discourage honest debate. That’s the purpose. Unanswered propositions embolden the accuser so they feel wise in their own eyes.

Be aware of false narratives that have made their way into our culture—even the culture of the Church. Challenge them with Scripture, facts and rationality. You may not save everyone from believing contrived arguments, but you can at least save yourself from yielding to the lie. It is more important to stand for truth than it is to win the argument.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 NIV)

In America, some speech is unwelcome. Things turned violent in early February at the University of California at Berkley.  Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to address some students interested in hearing his political views. In a show of displeasure, students opposed to Mr. Yiannopoulos’ position on the issues,  set fires and smashed windows while U.C.-Berkley police passively watched. Dare we say the talk was cancelled. Days later, the demonstrators pronounced the Anti-Milo protest “stunningly successful”.

On other campuses, such as Vermont’s Middlebury College, disruptions have become more violent. A professor was treated for a neck injury after helping a libertarian political commentator escape the student mob.  Preventing the airing of opposing political views has become the newest student cause celebre. Censorship is not just coming from students. A professor at Marquette University last year was placed under review and relieved of all faculty and teaching duties for publicly supporting a student’s right to defend traditional marriage. Marquette, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a Jesuit Catholic institution.

Protests to throttle free speech, unleash diatribe and overturn elections have taken to the streets. The anti-hate crowd is acting very hateful. Disagree with one of their orthodoxies, and you are automatically branded a bigot, racist, sexist, homophobe, etc., etc.  Does anyone think this bodes well for our future as a democracy? What are they angry about? Why do some feel obligated to prevent free speech? Why the fear of words?

My concerns for this country, and its liberties, are not mine alone. The concerns don’t end there. Of all places, differing views on Scripture are not usually welcomed in the church. Instead, most pastors practice the “binary solution”:  My way or the High-way.

Since not all concepts are equally valid, a balance is required. Being heard is one thing, and being persuasive is another. The Areopagus in Athens was a gathering place for diverse opinions and philosophies. Paul spoke there (Acts 17:22-34). He did a masterful job of connecting popular beliefs (ex. “the unknown god”) to Christian faith. When he finished, some wanted to hear more.

Paul found common ground then, from it, he built a case for the gospel. Today rabble-rousers purposely cause a media spectacle and take over a meeting. They shout down the headline speakers and black-ball from their assemblies anyone with whom they do not fully agree.

The last days’ doctrine of The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (PWR) is an example of a Christian controversy. PWR wins over Biblical-minded Christians when given the opportunity to be fairly presented to objective minds. I am a witness. So what are we afraid of? Why not freely debate the Scriptures so we can come to unity in the faith?

As with left-wing radicals, the popular Pre-tribulation Rapture (PTR) (the imminent or any moment Jesus can return) crowd, has little interest in sharing the floor, the megaphone or the mic. They seek a monopoly on the discussion of prophetic doctrine (eschatology) rather than revealing truth. PTR loyalists often portray PWR in a false light unfairly characterizing the position. (Sounds like today’s politics, doesn’t it?)

What are the PTR faithful afraid of? We know why some feel PWR arguments must be silenced: If they are allowed to be spoken in truth and in love, they demolish strongholds of ignorance and fear.

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14 NIV)

I love prophecy. It reveals the multitude that no one can count standing around the throne. Dressed in white and waving palms, they cried out, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:10)

A few verses later we hear who they are and from where they came (above).

The saints who received salvation “came out of the midst of” the great tribulation. Their robes had been dirty with mud, blood, sweat, tears and who knows what else. Nevertheless, they appear before the throne white and clean. It is obvious from Revelation 7, the multitude earned something no one can ever take away.

What don’t we see? We don’t see anyone with a clean robe that had never been dirtied? Everyone, regardless of nation, tribe, language or people, came out of the great tribulation. No one before the Lamb escaped the test of patient endurance.

We live in a culture that rewards participation. We receive prizes for showing up, trophies for stepping on the field and ribbons for walking in the door. Some are paid for breathing.

The attitude that in order to be fair everyone should receive the same reward has made its way into Christianity through the error of universalism: Everybody receives a crown and everybody sits at the wedding supper of the Lamb. The only requirement is believe in Jesus—and even that may not be necessary. As far as outcomes, everyone should be equal.

Prizes for participating is not how life works. The real prize for participation is simply the opportunity to achieve, to succeed or to fail—and nothing else. God rewards, but his reward is for those who exhibit faith and who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Heaven is not an entitlement. Paradise is not a default position. If it were, it would not be worth dying for or worthy of carrying our cross. Sacrifice would be unnecessary.

We should all aspire to give our Savior our maximum. (Isn’t that what He gave us?) Yet, many leaders advocate “minimalism”. Going to church, reading our Bible, praying, maybe not all the time, but… you know. They say, “Believing in God and being a good person is all it takes.” But is that true? Intellectual assent to some facts, if that were enough, would make heaven as meaningful as a certificate of participation.

Paul encouraged believers not to merely enter the race, but run to win (1 Corinthians 9:24).

We ought to be ambitious for eternal rewards. Find out what pleases God, then do it! (Ephesians 5:10)

In 1 Samuel 16 we see David taken from watching the sheep then anointed king of Israel. Afterward, he went back to shepherding. David allowed God to orchestrate events and provide his tests (like facing a giant, fighting the Philistines, etc.). David did not just walk in the next day and demand his crown. He embraced every chance to earn his destiny, and to listen for God to teach him what he needed to know. His self-respect and confidence needed time to develop. He knew the One who called him would place him in a position to act on a kingly level. To  not endeavor to live up to his calling, would–like his predecessor–condemn him to utter failure.

Superficial, untested belief is as good as a certificate of participation. That and some folding money will buy a cup of coffee.

“Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19 NIV)

Jesus told his followers their position in God’s kingdom was relative to their faithfulness to God’s commands. The people must have been stunned. Position was always something determined at birth.  Status with God was different. Rule in the kingdom was attainable through obedience to, and the accurate teaching of, God’s commandments.

I want to link the kingdom teaching of Jesus to an issue dividing some Americans. When the presidential pendulum swung to the right last fall, opposing forces began to prepare for war; the anticipated battle over the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. The sides are fixed. At stake is the role of the judiciary. Will the nominee (who turns out to be Neil Gorsuch) interpret the constitution in a literal way, or will they take a “judicial activist” approach? Activists are subjective. Their interest is in achieving the “correct” outcome. Allegiance to their ideology is primary, which makes liberal judges political. To them, the constitution is outdated and must change with the times.

Our political ideas and arguments have spiritual roots. Outcome-oriented spiritual leaders are filling our seminaries and pulpits. Churches are abandoning the Scriptures as their constitution and taking an activist’s role. Rather than bringing culture into conformity with God’s Word, their ideology argues for accommodating the Word to culture.

The Book of Judges details Israel’s history during an era of steep spiritual decline.  The people were all about outcomes. Everyone did what they saw fit. God raised up judges (leaders) who would return Israel to the rule of law, but no sooner had their enemy been defeated then the people again set God’s Word aside and did what they wanted.

It is ironic that proponents who praise and honor America’s Constitution, favoring a literal interpretation, do not show Scripture the same reverence. While raising the alarm about a nation without laws or regard for tradition, some political conservatives flaunt their independence from God’s commands. Those on the right are many times spiritual liberals. They read into Scripture the outcome that suits them, if they read it at all.

In a real twist, we have self-proclaimed Christian conservatives who maintain they believe the Bible, yet obey a maximum of nine of the Ten Commandments. If the Bible is indeed their constitution, why do they only give lip service to Jesus’ Great Commission? If they deplore judges who serve as political hacks making law out of thin air, why do they honor teachers of doctrine that does not exist in Scripture?

Why is it taught that Jesus’ coming is not really accompanied by signs and is, therefore, at any moment? Pre-tribulation Rapture (PTR) teachers offer opinions rather than substance. There is no (zero) Scriptural backing for their teaching, but that does not stop them.

I see a parallel in U.S. judicial history. In a case that gave precedent for Roe v. Wade and legalized abortion, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote that he saw a “penumbra” (a term for “shadow”) of “a right” in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. I challenge any objective reader of that amendment to find in the wording a woman’s right to abort her baby. Others who wanted to find the penumbra somehow saw it too. As a result, the activist Warren Court legislated from the bench, and in 1973 added abortion to U.S. law after earlier banning prayer in public school. The teaching of Pre-tribulation Rapturism also had as its origin, a penumbra. (See “Shadows” in Lifesaver: Rescuing God’s People from the PTR Ship.)

The Bible is God’s Constitution. Those who hear Jesus’ teaching (above) on the kingdom should heed his warning that was confirmed in Matthew 7.

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. (Matthew 7:26)

Then they brought a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:22-25 NIV)

The Son of God’s arrival on the scene came at the cost of peace. Simeon prophesied to the baby Jesus’ mother, Mary, ”This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34b-35)

In Matthew 10,  Jesus confirmed Simeon’s warning, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (10:34)

Picture the strife Jesus caused by walking among the people, performing miracles and teaching about the Kingdom of God. The strife was not among the people because they loved the Lord. The strident opposition to the Savior was from the ruling class, the religious aristocrats. Especially hateful was the slanderous accusation that Jesus cast out demons by the power of the prince of demons. The religious establishment tried personal attacks by declaring he was illegitimate before they renewed the charge he was from Satan (cf. John 8:41b, 48, 52). Their irrational hate was barely satisfied when they crucified the Lord.

With all the evidence, why didn’t everyone welcome Christ as the Prince of Peace? It was because of judgment. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world (John 9:39).

Judgment reveals innocence or guilt. If we’re old enough we may remember the fictional TV defense attorney Perry Mason. Perry took the hard cases. His clients looked guilty from the start. What Perry had a knack of doing was flushing out the real killer. It happened at the trial as the prosecutor’s case against Perry’s client began unraveling. Perry would then describe the murder scene in such detail that the person who did it would confess.

This is what Jesus means by for judgment. The righteous will stand in stark contrast to the wicked, like light contrasts with darkness. In judgment the wheat is separated from the weeds or the kernel from the chaff. Since judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:19), Jesus was the sword of judgment that divided God’s flock and flushed out the wolves in sheep’s clothing. The loud howling came from the wolves. Jesus said, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Luke 12:51)

This is a tough concept to grasp. We all want to believe Jesus brought peace and love, but that is not what happened–not among the Jews. He came unto his own but his own received him not (John 1:11). The Lord’s presence exposed the wide gulf between powerful King Herod, along with the religious leaders, and God who came to save them.

We lament the great divide in the U.S. and throughout the world, but to blame it on the new U.S. president is a stretch and politically inspired. Because the division is along truth and spiritual lines is why we hear the howling. God will judge who is on his side. It won’t be hard because of the difference between love and hate.

I am in no way morally-equating U.S. President Donald Trump with Our Savior. Not at all. But the charge that Trump is a divisive figure is undeserved. Their are two sides to every separation. If he had his way, he would like to win his enemies over and make them friends. There were two sides to consider. It is self-defeating to try and defend oneself.

Division was already present in 2015 when Trump announced his plan to run for office, only it was a bit more under the surface. It is true that America is deeply divided, but it has been for some time. By now we have forces at work attempting to overthrow the government. Without a spiritual revival, there is no way of healing the divide.

As rioters shout their protest slogans, smash windows, set fires and curse law enforcement, remember the world has seen this before: The Bolshevik Revolution before Lenin or Hitler’s brown shirts in the 1929 Munich “beer hall putsch”.  Unrelenting blame and accusation will, in fact, divide the house and then chaos. None but the most evil are going to like what emerges when God’s judgment comes.

In the middle of  America’s bloody Civil War, Abraham Lincoln quoted from Jesus. In his 1864 inaugural address, he said these profound words, “A house divided will not stand.”

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. (Judges 21:25 NIV)

In the weeks leading up to Donald Trump’s inauguration as America’s Commander-in-Chief, Head of the Executive Branch and Leader of the free world, great attention was given to the angry, the disenchanted, the outraged and the fearful opposition. Across the U.S., protests against President Trump were planned, carried out and still continue.

The day after the presidential oath, masses of women marched on Washington D.C. and other cities. With signs held high and chanting loudly, their hostility was palpable.

Also in Washington D.C., last Friday’s crowd (January 27th) was as numerous as the group the week before, yet markedly different. Love not hate motivated the second rally. Many made commitments to protecting the unborn.  They cheered Vice President Pence as he spoke. Their gathering was covered with prayer. They were Pro-Life. Compared to those lining the same streets the week before, participants in the “44th Annual March for Life” sparked little interest from the national media. In the war between love and hate—at least as far as news coverage is concerned—hate wins ratings.

During the presidential campaign, prayers were heard in each of America’s state capitals. Led by Evangelist Franklin Graham, and supported by pastors and churches, pleas were made to God for a restoration of traditional values. Those joining in the petition sought a reversal of the nation’s moral decline and a return to Christ. God gave them the miracle for which they asked.

In  Judges when the Israelites (above) threw off the chains of godliness, they turned to idols. After everything fell apart, they cried out to God. The Lord heard their plea. He sent a leader (judge) to defeat their enemies and restore their peace. As soon as all was well, Israel returned to pagan gods. They failed to love the Lord who rescued them. We can’t let history repeat itself.

There was no protest against the then-President Obama, only intercession for him, his family and for the country. In brokenness and faith, believers sought God’s mercy. After November’s election surveys showed evangelicals turned out for the Trump/Pence ticket in numbers not seen in over thirty years. Say what you will, love for God, love for morality, love of country, and concern for their family’s future, guided their ballot. Love wins with God.

Do not surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not have love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. (1 John 3:13-15)

The hate that’s nightly screamed in our ears is no-doubt coming from spoiled children who’ve had their way for too long. Parent-figures must deal with resentments when discipline has been lacking for too long. When the law is laid down—especially laws that were unenforced—wails of anguish are sure to follow.

Sometimes love must be tough. Angry and hurtful words may be spoken, but if mature grown-ups hold their ground and remain patient, there is a chance that one day scorn will become gratitude. Eight years or more of doing only what is right in their own eyes, will cost America plenty.  If, however, we can correct this attitude of entitlement, weather the storm of insults, the false charges and the tantrums, there is hope. In the battle of hate v. love, love must prevail. Love will indeed conquer all.

    Most worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him? The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise authority for forty-two months… He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. (Revelation 13:4-5, 7 NIV)

Americans are rich in Bibles, but poor in understanding them. Last summer “the antichrist” came up in our study. One new student blurted out “Trump,” implying the then future U.S. president was the devil with a red tie. I’m sure others in the class noted my grimace. I would have been just as displeased had he named Mr. Trump’s opponent.

I don’t believe it is wise to say someone is the antichrist.  “Be careful,” I said for the benefit of the class. “You’ll know it is the antichrist when those with the world’s power lay their crowns before him.” (cf. Revelation 13:1-8)

A scheme of the enemy is to misuse a Bible term like “the antichrist” until it is obscured. When the true definition has been confused, the devil turns it into a weapon for evil. An accusation of “the antichrist” omits many others equally deserving of the title.

Our problem is in the definite article “the”. In our minds, “the” implies “one and only”. I’ll try to explain with Scripture: The one and only Apostle John wrote near the end of the first century A.D. At that time there were many “antichrists” (1 John 2:18). That was then, so how many are there over 1900 years later? If Jesus has followers who are “like Christ”, then why can’t the devil have antichrists? If there are many “the” cannot be “one and only.”

So who is “the antichrist”? Again, our Bible tells us: It is the one who promotes the big lie. It is “the” one–not “a” one– who denies Jesus is the Christ, “such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:22)

In past years, I have heard former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama referred to as “the antichrist”. Pointing a finger is a sign of Biblical illiteracy, a Pharisaical attitude and a foolish slandering of authority (Jude 7-11).

Deceit is a characteristic of the antichrist. Biblically, the gender is neutral, so, the antichrist also applies to females. Were Jezebel or Herodias (Herod’s wife), the antichrist? Is the woman in Revelation 17 not a consummate example? John asks “Who is the liar?” (1 John 2:22). Deceiver and lover of wickedness does not just describe males.

“I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone into the world. Any such person is the antichrist.” (2 John 7)

The devil is a liar. Do we all agree? Where do all liars eventually go? Revelation 21:8 tells us theirs is the second death. Those lying and deceiving are “the antichrist.” Repeaters of falsehoods–however far removed from the original untruth–are on dangerous ground.

Boasters, the conceited and the blasphemer are “the antichrist”. Beware of calling someone an awful name. By doing so, we break “the Golden Rule”. Since slander is so hateful and destructive, the Lord warns the consequences are equal to what awaits the evil one. “But anyone who says ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:22b)

The one who will deceive the nations and wars against God’s saints is THE ANTICHRIST or “the beast of Daniel and Revelation”.  Stick with prophecy. No adding or subtracting or we join in the deception and disinformation, and we know what that means (cf. Rev. 22:18-19). It means don’t worry about Trump or Putin being “the antichrist”, we are–with the definite article.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13 NIV)

Joshua was in full-battle mode. Crossing the Jordan and entering the Promised Land was not the goal. Driving out the Amorites and other pagan tribes was (cf. Genesis 15:16). Their leader and his fellow Israelites were ready to do the work for which they had come to Canaan.

One man, the man with the drawn sword, stood between Joshua and his battle against Jericho. Was his sword drawn to oppose Israel’s advance or was it to signify he would join Joshua in the fight? Was the man for or was he against? The question of which side the armed man was on was relevant, but considering his identity, it was the wrong thing to ask.

Like never before in the nation’s history, America is fragmented. The rifts are deep along political, cultural, ethnic, social and religious lines. So the question which group is right is not the correct one. It is like asking which of Canaan’s tribes were the best?

Informally we interview others asking–in a roundabout way–“Are you for us or for our enemies?” (It is one or the other.) The response Joshua received from the man with the sword speaks volumes:

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does the LORD have for his servant?” (5:14)

“Do you support Trump for president or do you hate him?” is how many Americans are determining sides. “Where do you stand on this issue?” “What side do you favor in this conflict?” “What upsets you most?” Be careful, our questions and answers will place us in stereotypes. Humbly give an account for your hope, not your negativism.

We should ask ourselves “Am I on God’s side?” Regardless how smart or persuasive we are, the Lord isn’t for us as opposed to our enemies, but we can be on his side. For God does not show favoritism (Romans 2:11).

Rahab the harlot lived among Jericho’s idolaters. This woman heard that God had shown himself strong through Israel. She understood her city and way of life were coming under judgment, so she chose risking all and hiding the spies to siding with her people (Joshua 2:8-13).

Whose side are you on? “On the right side,” you say. Well, I’ve known some who were so right they were wrong. Being right is no excuse for being mean and hateful.

Take the side of love. Choose peace and unity. Insist on the side of truth. Opt for the side of goodness, compassion and mercy. Choose life and care for widows and orphans. You, too, may look up and see the commander of the Lord’s army. If so, fall on your face. Declare you are God’s servant. Take off your sandals for the ground on which you are lying is holy.

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