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The Christian Counter

   
 

 

Segment V

The United States Provided Sanctuary

To ensure the growth of Protestantism and the fulfillment of His purposes after 1798, God had prepared a new nation to provide sanctuary for Protestantism. The Pilgrims came to America for several reasons, one of which was religious freedom. Many Lutherans also came to America and they established their first church on Manhattan Island in 1648. Twenty-two years before the papacy fell, the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. No one in Philadelphia could have anticipated the development and the accomplishments for Christ that the United States of America would fulfill. The book of revelation predicted this phenomenon and it will be discussed when we examine Revelation 12:16. The Holy Spirit raised the United States by giving it a marvelous constitution and an amazing Bill of rights ensuring religious freedom for everyone. Protestant immigrants were drawn to this nation by the millions. Because the population of the United States was predominately Protestant in those early days, Catholics who settled here were often scorned and mistreated. In fact, Catholics were not elected to public office for many years. (The first Catholic president in the U.S. was John F. Kennedy, 1960-1963.)

 

Since 1798, the United States has produced more Christian missionaries, gospel workers, and literature proclaiming “salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” than any other nation in Earth’s history. Of course, the Holy Spirit is still pushing “the good news” of salvation through faith in Jesus, even though Protestantism has mutated into a deep and horrible apostasy. Protestantism has lost its love and fidelity to the Word of God. It became weak and confused after WWII because it did not press deeper into the Bible for truth. Protestants became materialistic following the apostasy of Rome. It displaced the teachings of Jesus with the teachings of fallen man. Unfortunately, America has forgotten its Creator and Benefactor. This nation has focused on the gifts rather than The Giver. Most citizens are consumed with the acquisition of wealth and the pursuit of happiness and pleasure; sexual immorality is rampant. Perplexities and social problems are on every horizon. The spirit of America has dimmed because the Spirit of God has been grieved. In spite of our nation’s corporate apostasy, the gospel of Jesus is still alive. Although weak, the cry of the reformation still rings out: Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone.” There is “a crown of victory and the winner’s ribbon” for everyone who submits to the authority of Jesus and overcomes this world through faith in Him. (2 Timothy 4:8) Soon, during the campaign of the fourth and fifth seals, this cry will again swell and fill the whole Earth!

 

Summary

 

The breaking of the first seal in 1798 resulted in the emancipation and empowerment of the Protestant movement. After the fall of the papacy, Protestants were able to proclaim salvation through faith in Jesus without intimidation or persecution from the Church of Rome. The first seal was a great start, but six more campaigns would be necessary! The revelation of Jesus will get brighter and clearer as these campaigns unfold and dovetail together.

Additional notes on Papal Doctrine  

 

The Catholic Church teaches that the pope is the infallible successor of Peter and that it has the keys of the kingdom of God. Let us briefly examine the following passage and see if Christ’s church was built on successors of Peter: “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but my Father in Heaven.’ “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” (Matthew 16: 13-19)

 

Jesus queried the disciples about His identity in order to teach the disciples two impressive lessons. When Peter responded, “You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the living God,’ Jesus blessed Peter saying, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah.” Notice that Jesus used Peter’s formal name because He was about to use Simon’s surname to make a profound point. While Peter’s words were still reverberating in their ears, Jesus contrasted Peter’s humanity with His divinity. Jesus said, “I tell you that you are petros.” (The Greek work petros is transliterated “Peter,” but it means rock or pebble.) Then Jesus said, “and on this Petra [Greek: petra, a huge rock] I will build my church. The contrast in language indicates that Jesus pointed to Himself when He spoke these words. Jesus was the vine and they are the branches. (John 15:5) The Son of God who stood before them in dusty sandals was the eternal and awesome “Petra” of the Old Testament. (Genesis 49:24; Deuteronomy 32:4,15; 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 18:31; 1 Corinthians 10:4) The disciples must have shuddered with this reality. Can you imagine hearing about “The Rock of Ages” from the Scriptures all of your life only to discover one day, that “Petra” Himself, garbed in the robe of humanity, is standing in your presence? The faith of the disciples was greatly increased. The Church of Christ would succeed because it was founded on “The Rock” and sustained by His eternal power. The distinction between the pebble (petros) and The Rock of Ages (petra) was unmistakable. Furthermore, there is no evidence in the Bible that the disciples regarded Peter as the head or founder of the Christian Church. In fact, Paul reprimanded Peter for foolish behavior in Galatians 2:11.

 

Then Jesus taught His disciples a second lesson. He promised them the keys to the kingdom. Jesus said, “Whatever you ‘loose’ or bind’ on Earth will be loosed or bound in Heaven.” The terms, “to bind” or “to loose” means having the authority “to approve or disapprove.” (Isaiah 22:20-23; Revelation 3:7) The “keys of the kingdom” is a phrase that means, “having responsible authority.” If you give the keys of your car to a person, he receives the benefit of using your car, but also receives a serious responsibility to operate your car. The parallel is simple. Jesus promised the disciples they would have the authority to make the day-to-day decisions necessary to advance the work of the church, and He assured them that He would honor their decisions in Heaven. 

Of course, Jesus would honor their decisions if they followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and built the body of Christ according to the teachings of “The Rock.” (Matthew 28:19,20) It is important to notice that Jesus did not give His disciples authority to determine the eternal destiny of anyone. That responsibility is not transferable. Jesus is our Judge. He redeemed us with His own blood and His sacrifice for us gives Him the right to pass judgment on us. (John 5:22,23; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 5:9; Acts 17:31)

 

Seal #2 – Red Horse – 1800 – The Teachings of Jesus Rediscovered

 

“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the Earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.” (Revelation 6:3,4) For reasons that follow, it appears that Jesus broke the second seal around the year 1800. At that time, Jesus gave the Holy Spirit the sword of Truth and sent Him to Earth on a campaign to enlighten the world with two essential doctrines that will be presented later in this study. This endeavor would take a lot of strength. Perhaps this is why the face of the second living creature looks like an ox. (Revelation 4:7) As the truth about Jesus becomes more clear and powerful, humanity’s resistance to it will become more determined and rebellious. Eventually, a time will come when wicked people will kill those who love Jesus and obey His commandments. Jesus warned His disciples about the response of the carnal heart to His teachings by saying, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

 

According to Rule Three, we should use parallel language from other Bible texts to clarify passages that are cryptic if parallel exists. Since the second seal is somewhat cryptic, consider the following words of Jesus, “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you….” (John 16:1-4) Why did Jesus warn that religious people would persecute and kill His disciples? Jesus made these comments because He wanted His disciples to understand the nature of religion. When religious people are confronted with truth, they react in one of two ways. They either rejoice or submit or they become angry and hostile. This is why the truth is like a double-edged sword. During the Great Tribulation, the saints will be persecuted and put to death because of their loyalty to the Word of God. (Revelation 6:9-11; 13: 5-7) Therefore, the campaign of the second seal has something to do with the death of many saints after 1798. Speaking of the final days, John wrote, “I saw that the woman [the great whore] was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” (Revelation 6:9) What issue puts the Word of God in conflict with the antichrist? “…And [the dragon] caused all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” (Revelation 13:15)

 

These texts indicate that a time will come when worship will be a serious matter. The Antichrist and his wicked followers will kill those who obey God’s law, and the wicked will think they are doing God’s will by killing the saints! Keep this thought in mind as we continue to examine the second seal.

 

Our Position and Condition before God

 

The assurance of salvation is the best news a person can hear after he understands his position and condition before God. Our true position and condition before God is revealed only through the teachings of Jesus. Jesus said, “… I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Our position before God is that of a sinner. (Romans 3:23) Our condition before God is one of natural hostility. (Romans 8:7,8) The verdict of God’s Word is clear. We are under the curse of sin and we cannot save ourselves from it. The good news is that through the atonement of Jesus, we can escape from the penalty of sin. Furthermore, we can be born again and through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we can be victorious over our hostility toward God!

 

Thoughtfully consider the following sentence because it may be a hard one to accept.  When salvation through faith in Jesus is separated from the teachings of Jesus, the assurance of salvation becomes “an opiate,” “a sweet nothing,” “a theological fantasy,” which may be wonderful to believe, but practically worthless for overcoming the temptations and trials of the human experience. On the other hand, when the doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus is aligned with the other four essential doctrines taught by Jesus, the assurance of salvation will transform it. When we surrender our will to God’s will, we submit to the armor of God. Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand.” (Ephesians 6:12,13) John wrote, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

 

Additionally, when the doctrine of salvation through faith in Christ is separated from the other four essential teachings of Jesus, discipleship suffers and Christianity disintegrates. Many Christians have been led into idolatry without realizing it. Consider the process: When the assurance of salvation is separated from, or exalted above, the importance of being a submissive disciple to the teachings of Christ, human nature will diminish the serious consequences of sin. Soon afterwards, Christians begin doing things that offend God. Sexual immorality and idolatry are twin sisters. When Christians separate the salvation of Jesus from the teachings of Jesus, He becomes a religious icon instead of the Lord and Master of our lives. Jesus said that we cannot receive salvation without giving ourselves over to His dominion as an obedient disciple. “If anyone would come after me [for salvation], he must deny himself and take up the cross [of responsibilities which I will assign] and follow me [my teachings]. For whoever wants to save, his life [for eternity] will lose it [that is, will lose control of his life], but whoever loses [gives up control of] his life for me and the gospel will save it [for all eternity].” (Mark 8:34,35, insertions mine) Notice how Paul summarized the relationship between faith and works, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:7-9)

 

When salvation through faith in Christ costs nothing, it produces nothing. The problem is that salvation and discipleship are inseparable. Here is a true paradox: The problem is that salvation is totally free through faith in Christ, but discipleship will cost everything you possess. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “’…Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! ‘” (Mark 10:21-23)

 

Jesus did pay the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross and whosoever is willing to submit to the teachings of Jesus (this is the true meaning of putting faith in Jesus) shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16) Surrendering to the teachings of Jesus produces “justification.”  When we are willing to go, to be and to do all that Jesus requires, we receive the assurance of salvation. Jesus covers our sinful life with His perfect righteousness and we stand before God “justified” – just as though we never sinned. Jesus lived on Earth as one of us to show us how God wants His children to live. Every true disciple of Jesus obediently submits to the discipline and His teachings. (John 15:10; 1 John 2:3; Hebrews 12: 5-14) Discipleship is also called “sanctification” which means becoming like Jesus. Judas was not a true disciple of Jesus. Oh yes, he was excited about being a founding member of Christ’s new kingdom. He faithfully followed Jesus around and was numbered among the twelve, but he did not submit to the sanctification that the Master offered and required. Eventually, his love for money and disgust with Jesus led him to betray his Master.

 

Just before He departed for Heaven, Jesus told His disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20, italics mine) Jesus summarizes the relationship between obedience and faith. The apostles understood the balance between faith and works. James wrote, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accomplished by action, is dead.” (James 2:17) Understandably, Martin Luther did not like the book of James (or the book of Revelation). The pendulum of salvation through works needed a serious push toward salvation through faith, and James sounded too “works oriented” for “faith oriented” Luther. Therefore, Luther wanted to leave the books of James and Revelation out of the German translation of the New Testament, but close friends prevailed and Luther included them both. Nevertheless, when you read the book of James, there is a very clear balance between faith and works. James does not teach that works are a prerequisite for salvation. James says, godly works produce evidence there is faith in Christ! (James 2: 14-24)

 

Salvation through Christ, Not the Church

 

Remember that the Church of Rome eventually led Christians to believe that salvation came through faith in the Church of Christ rather than faith in Christ. This transition was not premeditated. Rather, it just happened because of the nature of fallen humanity. The Jews did the same thing during their period of trusteeship and Protestants have done the same since 1798. Over time, religious institutions always drift away from the teachings of Jesus.    

 

Because God created us, every person is accountable to God for his or her actions, just as a child is accountable to his parents. Regardless of what clergy may say or laymen may believe, God sends the Holy Spirit to every person to lead them toward a more complete understanding of truth. (John 16:13) Here is something hard to swallow: No church speaks for the Holy Spirit and no church has “a corner” on the teachings of Jesus. Are churches free to study God’s Word? Are they free to embrace the teachings of Jesus? Actually, no! Churches are depositories of ideas which denominational pioneers held about God. After the church becomes established, a new generation grows up and attends the church of their childhood without seriously questioning the original ideas or beliefs. Tradition explains why Judaism, and Catholicism, could not embrace the teachings of Jesus. Tradition also explains why Protestantism cannot embrace the teachings of Jesus. Religion is stickier than molasses

 

I have spent a considerable amount of time emphasizing the importance of salvation through faith in Christ, because the biblical definition of faith is not widely understood or practiced. Faith in Jesus centers around a steadfast commitment to obey the teachings of Jesus at all costs. The matter of discipleship is important in our study on the second seal, because the second seal concerns the advancement of discipleship and regrettably, Christian resistance to it. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) John put discipleship in perfect balance when he wrote, “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, god’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”

 

The Large Sword of the Second Seal

 

The apostle Paul said that Scripture is sharper than “a double-edged sword,” for good reason. (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17) When the teachings of Jesus are presented with power and authority, when sinful behavior is openly rebuked and sin is called by its right name, when evil motives and deeds are exposed by the light of the truth shining from God’s Word, it makes rebellious people furious because the Bible offends them. Do not forget that John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets (Matthew 11:11) lost his life for telling King Herod that he had sinned by taking his brother’s wife. (Mark 6:18)

The parallel is that each of us has a bit of King Herod in our hearts. If we had the authority and power, would we kill those who openly rebuke us and expose our sins? Look at the judicial system in many countries today. Consider the ends to which evildoers will go to avoid the embarrassment and humiliation that comes from having their deeds exposed to the light of the truth.  Revelation predicts that many, if not all of the 144,000, will be killed during the Great Tribulation because of their testimony they deliver. (Revelation 16:4-7) In this sense, the sword of truth cuts both ways. The Bible rebukes sinners and the wicked punish the people who proclaim Bible truth.

 

An enormous amount of inertia, resistance and hatred in this world is focused on the teachings of Jesus. Eastern Mystics, Hindus, Moslems, Catholics, Jews, Pagans, Atheists and Protestants are no different when it comes to the authority of Jesus! This should not be surprising. The carnal heart of humanity does not want to surrender its rebellion and submit to His authority. This is especially true when no one else around us is obeying Jesus in the same way the Holy Spirit is leading us. It was distressing for Jesus to confront the rebellion of the Jews, and it will be just as hard for His followers to confront the rebellion that surrounds them. Paul wrote, “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7,8) Jesus said,  “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21)

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