The corporate world is known for its use of buzzwords and phrases. They appear over and over on resumes and in other business communication. Buzzwords are words that become popular through widespread use and can often lose their meaning and effectiveness through overuse. They serve as verbal shorthand but they are also sometimes used to create reaction, emotion, or bias. The religious world is known for its buzzwords and phrases as well. They are bantered about in religious discussion and in some cases are used to discredit a belief or a person who professes that belief. In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, we begin a 2-part look at the buzzwords we often hear.
Few subjects in modern religious discussion have generated as much interest and speculation or have sold as many books as ‘the battle of Armageddon.’ We’re told that the events now unfolding on the world’s stage involving nations like Israel, Iran and Russia are all pointing to end times and that the so-called rapture of the church is about to take place. They tell us that within seven years of that time, massive armies will converge in the Holy Land at a site called Megiddo, where a bloody holocaust will take place ushering in a one thousand-year reign of King Jesus upon this earth from the city of Jerusalem.
Where does that doctrine come from? Does the Bible teach that there will be a carnal conflict called The Battle of Armageddon? Proponents of the theory point to Revelation 16 as teaching this looming conflict of the ages.
Revelation 16:12-16 “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
For the emphasis that has been put upon it, ironically, the word Armageddon is used only one time in the Greek New Testament, and that is at the end of our text passage. That is the only time the word is used in the New Testament. But entire books have been written and countless theological theories have been propounded upon this one verse in the Bible. In the Hebrew, it is called Har-Meggiddon, which literally means the hill or mount of Megiddo. It’s a reference to a famous battleground in ancient northern Israel near the Jezreel valley. It is a bit southwest of the Sea of Galilee, about halfway between it and Caesarea, which is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is not actually a mountain at all, but rather a plain about twenty miles long by almost fifteen miles wide.
There are several notable battles that took place there during Old Testament times. This is significant for us to remember. For example, it is where Jabin and the kings of Canaan were overthrown by Deborah and Barak (Judges 4 and 5). You may recall how God put together an army of three hundred men for Gideon to fight against over one hundred thousand Midianites in Judges 6. That famous battle took place here in Megiddo and it remains a famous battle in the history of Israel even in our minds today. Saul went up against the Philistines here and was defeated (1 Samuel 31:8). And there were other very notable battles that took place there as well. So, not only was Armageddon well-known among the Jews; it was particularly known for the decisive conflicts that took place there throughout the centuries.
Well, why would John see a conflict taking place here when he received the vision of the ages called The Revelation of Jesus Christ? What significance would Armageddon have in such a revelation in New Testament times?
First of all, the book of Revelation is all about a great conflict or struggle between the church and the forces of Satan and evil. Revelation is what is called an apocalyptical book; in other words, it’s a book of prophecy written in the form of signs and symbols. The ancient Jews were very familiar with apocalyptic writing. It was nothing new to them as there were several apocalyptic messages in circulation back then, some inspired and others uninspired.
The book of Daniel is one example. The visions recorded in Daniel are full of symbolism and figurative language. It was written while he was exiled in Babylon during the captivity, and it was about the political and spiritual events that were to come over the next several centuries, culminating with the establishment of the kingdom of Christ on the Day of Pentecost and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple, all taking place in the first century several hundred years after Daniel wrote those things, but from our perspective two thousand years ago. It ultimately pointed forward to the emergence of Christ’s reign from heaven after His death, resurrection and ascension, which all came into reality with the establishment of the church in the first century.
The truth that Daniel was conveying was robed in symbols and figures, and was not in literal, forthright language. The book of Revelation is written in the same way. Why? An apocalypse served two purposes: 1) to convey a message of hope to God’s people in a time of darkness. That message being vividly illustrated with symbols and figures that the reader alone—particularly, the Jews– would be familiar with, and 2) to keep that same message out of the wrong hands. Namely, in the case of Revelation, the pagan Roman Empire, which was at that time oppressing and persecuting the church.
The book of Revelation was most likely written in about A.D. 96, near the end of the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian, who unleashed an awful and bloody campaign of torture and death upon Christians who refused to denounce Christ and worship him, the Caesar, as Lord and God. The persecution of the Roman Empire would’ve seemed to those frightened Christians to have threatened the very annihilation of the church, thus tempting them to surrender their faith. So, it was written to them in a kind of code language that they, the believers, could understand, being familiar with the apocalyptical language, so that they would know that though the battle was raging and the times were very threatening and frightening, ultimately, they would be victorious over their enemies through Christ. It is a signal of victory given to them from heaven. In highly symbolic language, a series of events are unfolded in the book of Revelation and are repeated using various symbolic figures and patterns to convey and reinforce the message of hope and triumph to those very early believers.
In our text passage (Revelation 16) there is a picture given of seven bowls of God’s wrath being poured out into the earth. These bowls of wrath are pictured in the form of plagues, as in plagues of blood, sores, fire and frogs. All of these symbols were merely telling the Christians that God’s judgment was going to be poured out against their enemies who were presently assaulting, persecuting and threatening them. Ultimately, they would meet God’s judgment and those enemies are pictured throughout Revelation as the dragon, the beast and their associates.
The sixth bowl that is poured out in this symbolic vision is described in verses 13-16.
Revelation 16:13-16 “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
It should be obvious to us that figurative language is being used throughout this passage. Surely, we are not to think that literal croaking, ribbeting, slimy frogs are going to come out of the mouths of literal beasts and dragons to do battle in Armageddon. Of course not. It’s a symbol referring to the forces of cunning deception that were doing battle against the people of God at that time. John is simply saying that these evil and nefarious forces would face God’s judgment. It is, likewise, a picture using symbols to show that all of this would culminate in the battle of Armageddon.
If frogs coming out of the mouths of dragons and so forth are symbols, why isn’t the battle of Armageddon a symbol as well, instead of what many people today consider it as a literal, bloody conflict in a literal place in the Middle East? Someone answers, because Armageddon is an actual place. That’s true, but there is also such a thing as frogs. Just because something exists literally, it doesn’t mean that that thing can’t be used as a symbol to illustrate a spiritual truth without the literal thing actually being involved. Remember, Megiddo was a famous place in Israel, known for its fierce and decisive conflicts. It was synonymous in the minds of people acquainted with the Old Testament with holy wars or battles involving the people of God.
We use literal places, known for their historical significance to illustrate present situations without having any literal connection to the place named. For example, have you ever heard someone say, he met his Waterloo…? What do they mean by that? If you remember your world history, back in 1815, the world dominance of the French Emperor Napoleon came to an end at the battle of Waterloo. The mighty Napoleon had returned to power earlier that year, just about three months before, and the states that opposed him began to mobilize their armies against him. On a Sunday in June of that year, Napoleon went up against two English armies and, through a surprising series of events, was defeated at Waterloo. He abdicated four days later and that was Napoleon’s last battle. He was finished.
Today, we might refer to someone who seems to get away with something for a long time, but ultimately gets himself into a circumstance he can’t get out of and is ultimately brought down as finally meeting his Waterloo. Do we mean that something happened over in Belgium in the city of Waterloo? That something in recent times occurred with that individual in some literal battle in Waterloo? Of course not. We all understand we are just using the well-known historical reference to Waterloo to illustrate that person’s predicament.
That’s what is taking place here in Revelation 16:13-16. John is not talking about a literal, bloody conflict yet to come in Megiddo in the Middle East in modern times. It is merely God’s way of assuring the persecuted Christians of the first century, contextually, that Christ was going to do battle and win against their enemies. Of course, the opposition they were facing at that time DID come to an end.
The things pictured in Revelation are like history in general; it tends to repeat itself and be cyclical in nature. The church will always face foes that arise in one form or another that seek to thwart the work of Christ. But the message of the book of Revelation is the same in every situation: right will win, wrong will lose. You can be assured of that. If you read the back of the book, you’ll learn that the forces of right will win.
What was the Roman Empire? What is any and every force that vaunts itself at any time against Christ and the church? They are all the agents of Satan. Satan, of course, wants to destroy the kingdom of God. But listen to this passage from Revelation:
Revelation 12:7-12 “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
You see, friends, that’s not literal language, but figurative, that is picturing the unfolding and ultimate end of a spiritual battle. Not a literal war fought on some earthly battlefield; it is a spiritual battle. Paul said this:
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
That’s the kind of warfare that the New Testament concerns itself with—spiritual warfare. It’s a battle of ideology, not one of flesh and blood.
So, where did this notion of a literal battle to take place in the future in Armageddon come from? It comes from the very popular doctrine of dispensational premillennialism. That is the doctrine of many if not most of the televangelists, popular religious authors, denominational preachers of today. It suggests Christ’s reign and His kingdom are still to come; that when He comes again, it won’t be to end the world, but to sit down upon the throne of David in Jerusalem and reign over an earthly kingdom of the Jews for a millennium, or one thousand years.
This doctrine does not date back to the apostles of the original church. Rather, to about the second or third century. It came after the apostolic age and essentially disappeared by the end of the third century, and reemerged in the 1800’s when it was taught by a man named John Darby. It became a mainstream doctrine due to the work of a man named C.I. Scofield. That name may sound familiar because he published his Scofield Study Bible, which if you read the study notes in that Bible it primarily promotes the doctrine of dispensational premillennialism.
The theory suggests that Jesus came to establish His kingdom in the first century among the Jews, but because the Jews rejected Him, he delayed the kingdom, instead establishing the church among the Gentiles and for the past two thousand years, Christ the bridegroom has been waiting and tarrying in heaven until the time is right for him to return. We’re told that at some point in the very near future, He will invisibly, silently return and supposedly rapture the church out of the world, which will then commence a seven-year period of tribulation. During this seven years, the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, even the sacrifices of the temple resuming. During the last part of this tribulation period, world forces will supposedly gather in Armageddon where this awful holocaust will take place. A battle like the world has never seen, at the end of which, the triumphant Jesus will be crowned King and will sit down on David’s throne and rule the earth for a thousand years. After that time, the wicked dead will supposedly be raised and the final judgment will take place. So says the traditional premillennial doctrine.
But friend, it can’t be true. The book of Revelation does not teach any of those things for several reasons:
- Revelation was written contextually to first-century Christians to tell them of things which would “shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1).
- The theory of premillennialism interprets literally a book that, by its very nature, is symbolic or
- The rejection of Jesus by the Jews was not a surprise, as traditional premillennialism suggests. It wasn’t unexpected by Christ when He came. It was prophesied a thousand years before.
Psalm 118:22 “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.”
That is a passage that Jesus said referred to Himself (Matthew 21:42).
- Christ is not going to reign over a kingdom—He’s reigning NOW over His kingdom. John said that He is our brother in the kingdom (Revelation 1:9). Paul said that we have been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13). That is not something off in the future. It is something that existed in the time of the apostle Paul.
- When Jesus comes again, He is not going to begin His reign, but the opposite. He is going to hand it over to God the Father.
1 Corinthians 15:24 “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.”
- There will be no silent or invisible coming of Jesus. It will be both seen and heard.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
- The sacrifices of the temple will never be resumed. Christ offered the perfect sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). And the genealogical records which allow for a Levitical priesthood to be in office in the temple were destroyed in the destruction of Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago in A.D. 70.
Friends, this doctrine of the rapture and a literal, bloody conflict in Armageddon and a literal, earthly kingdom to come for a thousand years is a false and speculative doctrine. The reference to Armageddon in the book of Revelation is merely a figure that refers to a spiritual conflict between the enemies of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Really, it takes place every time the cause of Christ goes to battle against the forces of sin and evil. Armageddon can even take place in your heart and in mine.
The wonderful point of the book of Revelation is to assure us that those on Christ’s side are on the winning side of this great battle. There IS a war going on. There is a war being waged for your soul today. There is an Armageddon in which all of the forces of Satan are being hurled against you and me, but what a wonderful assurance has been given to us in Revelation 12.
Revelation 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
We have the victory in this great Armageddon in Jesus Christ through obedience to the gospel by being in Christ. I hope today that if you’re not on the winning side, you’ll GET on the winning side.
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Is a great world conflict coming called the Battle of Armageddon? Futurist prophecy preachers have made a lot of hay out of Revelation 16:16 which speaks of the forces of evil being gathered at Armageddon to do battle. Is this a prophecy of a yet future carnal conflict in the Middle East site of Megiddo or something else being pictured as the revelation of Jesus Christ unfolds before John’s eyes? In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, we look at how a literal interpretation of The Battle of Armageddon fits into the tradition view of dispensational premillennialism and we offer an alternative view of what this conflict was and what it represented to the early church who originally received the revelation.
When Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago, He came heralding the soon-to-come kingdom. It was not far away when Jesus began His ministry, and in light of that, Jesus had an interesting exchange with one of the religious leaders of His time. It is recorded in Mark’s gospel and it will serve as our text today.
Mark 12: 28-34 “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.”
This man came to Jesus with an important question: what is the foundational commandment of all? What is the first commandment? Jesus responded with what is known as the Great Shema of Israel: that a man is to love God with all that he is and all that he has.
When the scribe acknowledged the answer of Jesus and how He had correctly answered the question, he responded to Him in such a way that Jesus was able to see a keen perception in this man which caused Jesus to tell him that he was not far from the kingdom of God. Well, what did He mean by that? What kind of distance did Jesus have in mind? Could it be that there are those perhaps listening to the program today who are not very far from the kingdom of God?
This scribe was impressed with Jesus and how well He had answered the questions that had thus far been put to Him. Don’t mistake the point of his question to the Lord; he wasn’t implying that one commandment was more important to keep to the neglect of others, rather which commandment was the most fundamental and broad in its scope. In other words, everything that was within the law was built upon what they called the Great Shema of Israel, the first commandment. If you didn’t get the first commandment down, anything else wasn’t going to profit you very much. One wouldn’t be very successful at keeping the law if he didn’t first love the Lord with all that he is and all that he has.
Jesus answered him thus:
Mark 12:29-32 “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe then acknowledged that Jesus had correctly answered the question, adding that to do this “is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” It would do no good to try to keep the remainder of the law if you didn’t love God supremely, and secondly, love your neighbor as yourself.
Well, when Jesus saw that the scribe answered so discreetly, He told him this:
Mark 12:34 “…Thou art not far from the kingdom of God…”
This man was perceptive enough to understand the great philosophy behind a life of service to the Lord. When a person loves God supremely and loves his fellow man, his life will be lived accordingly. It is the foundational principle upon which ALL of God’s teachings rests. In recognizing this, the scribe already had a keen understanding of what it would take to identify and enter the kingdom of Christ when it was established. I think it’s more than that this scribe had merely memorized this Shema of Israel; it was more than just a rote knowledge of what the law said. This man had an honest perception of what it meant. That’s why Jesus said that he was not far from the kingdom.
Even though the time of the kingdom’s establishment was not far away, Jesus wasn’t talking about a chronological or geographical distance. It was true that it wasn’t going to be a long time until the kingdom came; it came on the Day of Pentecost at the end of the Lord’s ministry. So, yes, chronologically he wasn’t far from the kingdom. It would be established in Jerusalem, geographically in that part of the world. So, in that way, he wasn’t far from the kingdom either. But that’s not what the Lord has in mind. He was talking about a spiritual distance from the kingdom. This man was well on his way to discovering the great truth that Jesus brought to the world.
With that in mind, there are a lot of people today who come close to the kingdom, but they never enter. That’s the real tragedy. They stand outside the kingdom. You might say that they dwell in the border country around the kingdom. Could it be that YOU are very near the kingdom but are still outside of it? Maybe you are a morally upright person, maybe even a very religious person, yet in reality, you stand outside of the kingdom of Christ, and that is the greatest tragedy of all.
Many people allow pride or prejudice to keep them outside of the kingdom. They may draw very near so far as their knowledge is concerned. They may have many commendable things about their lives, that were you to observe them and how they think, talk and behave, you might assume that they ARE a part of the kingdom of the Lord. But they’ve never entered the kingdom. Perhaps it’s because of pride and/or prejudice. The fact is, the door of the kingdom is a very low and humble portal that proud men find it too difficult to stoop and enter. They are unwilling to deny themselves and bear the cross that the Lord asks them to bear. They’re too proud to crucify their pride and to humble themselves in the eyes of the Lord and hear what He has to say.
The attraction to Christianity has never been prestige or its position in society or the wealth that it offers. It’s never been because of its popularity with the world. The church has never offered ANY of those things. In fact, true Christianity is portrayed in the scriptures as the opposite of those things. Jesus didn’t come with the pomp and circumstance afforded the kings of earth because He didn’t come claiming to be such a king. His life was one of abject humility. He was meek and lowly, born in a stable, not a palace. His primary disciples were fishermen—not princes or elite men of society. Jesus didn’t really attract those kinds of people. He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey–not a camel or a warhorse. His crown was woven out of sharp thorns—not of glittering gold. He was poor and had no home. Even His grave was not His own, but was borrowed from a friend.
When you observe this humble life of Jesus, the Jewish leaders of that time couldn’t imagine such a one as their king and Messiah. They had been under the oppressive rule of Rome for a long time, and their view of a redeemer and savior was not one who would free them from sin, but one who would free them from Caesar. They expected the promised Messiah to come riding in on his white horse and remove the yoke of the Romans and make them great and sovereign again. As time went on, that materialistic and shallow expectation of the Christ became set in their minds like concrete. So that when Jesus—the homeless vagabond from Nazareth—came teaching them to love their enemies, turn the other cheek and so forth, they resented Him. They even hated Him to the point of ultimately putting Him to death. He couldn’t possibly be their king! Instead, he was a dangerous heretic and imposter who was stealing the hearts of the common people!
The great tragedy in all of that is that the evidence that Jesus was indeed the Son of God was right before their eyes. THEY, of all people, had the law and the prophets. THEY had the oracles of God committed unto them. THEY had the prophecies that drew the picture of the Christ who was to come, and now Jesus lived and talked right in their midst, fulfilling every one of their Old Testament prophesies. Yet, they missed Him. Why? Their pride and prejudice blinded them and kept them out of the kingdom.
After they put Jesus to death, He of course rose again and went back to heaven. He established His kingdom there and then in the hearts of men. The preaching of the gospel with all of its power on display was the last chance that the people of the ancient Jewish nation had to change their hearts and reap blessings that Christ came to bring in the establishment of the church. Yes, there was a remnant that was converted, but the nation as a whole was not. They hated and persecuted the apostles, just like that had their leader, the Lord Jesus. And when the gospel had been preached to the entire known world at that time, their last chance ran out, and the Jewish nation was destroyed. Why? destroyed because of pride. It kept them from realizing the kingdom that was right before them.
Pride is still a problem with men today. There are those who have a very materialistic view of Christianity. They want something exciting, showy. Something that the world sees as impressive and powerful. Something that will meet the approval and maybe even gain the applause of the world. Churches today race to see who can build the largest, most expensive buildings, campuses and sanctuaries. They boast of how many people they have, how many doctors, lawyers and people of business attend their congregations. They point to their many programs and attractions.
But when you open the New Testament, you find that the early church really doesn’t fit that picture. It was a lowly thing in the eyes of the surrounding world. The power they possessed didn’t come from any position in society or from material wealth, but from God and the simple message they preached to the lost. Yet, some are too proud to lay aside the doctrines and practices that are popular today that are designed to please men, draw a crowd and entertain the masses, and lay hold on the simple teachings of the Bible. Primitive Christianity is just that—primitive, as far as they’re concerned. The world has grown beyond that. Pride is the problem and the denial of everything that Jesus taught. Such a show of religion no more represents the Lord Jesus Christ and His teachings than light represents darkness. Pride leads the procession of sins that will keep any man from entering in at the narrow gate.
Secondly, some linger outside the border of the kingdom because of procrastination. They have every intention of entering, but there are too many things outside that make them linger at the portal. Their name is Legion who planned to obey the gospel but simply put it off until time ran out. Maybe you’ve known for a long time now that you need to be saved, that you need to be baptized. That you’re not in a saved position in the eyes of God. You’re a sinner and you know what you need to do about it. Maybe you have all of the good intentions in the world, saying, One of these days, I’m gonna do what I know I need to do. But you procrastinate.
Throughout the years that I’ve been preaching the gospel, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who had some reason, a good reason in their minds, to wait. They’d say, I will. I know it’s what I ought to do. I hope and plan to do it one day. I’m not ready just now, but I will—soon. I’m going to be baptized, but there are some things I’ve got to take care of, some issues I have to settle. Friend, let me warn you: it’s just as easy to put off salvation for thirty years as it is for thirty days. Shakespeare once said,
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.”
Procrastination is a very, very dangerous thing.
2 Corinthians 6:2 “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
No preacher in the Bible ever told anyone to do anything tomorrow because we’re not guaranteed a tomorrow. Here’s a sobering thought: statistically, more than 100,000 people will make plans today for a tomorrow that will never come for them because they don’t realize they are less than 24 hours away from dying. Pick up a newspaper and look at the obituary section today and see what you find. You’ll find many people who woke up just a day or two ago and went about their daily business and they thought their day would end and tomorrow would start just like every other day—but look where they are. They had no idea that that day would be their last. They had every reason to believe, just a few days ago, that they would be just as alive as you are right now.
Proverbs 27:1 “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”
That’s so very true. The rich fool of Luke 12:20 was certainly shocked when God told him that his soul would be required of him that night. Hezekiah of old was shocked when God told him to set his house in order because he was about to die. The fact is that none of us know when our last day on this earth will be and many will be caught by surprise and they will die outside the kingdom–near the kingdom, but outside of it, because procrastination kept them from entering in the gate. The poet said,
The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man hath the power,
To tell just when those hands will stop,
At late or early hour.
Next, some have never entered the kingdom because they carry some contraband, or that which is forbidden. At the entrance to every country, there is some station where the traveler or immigrant must declare his possessions. Of course, contraband—certain items—are not allowed to pass through that gate. It’s the same way as the gate to heaven’s kingdom. The word repentance is a forgotten and unwelcome word in many modern pulpits. Some will tolerate the Jesus who says nice things and who does kind things for others, but they reject the Jesus who came to a sinful world preaching repentance from sin.
Luke 13:3 “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
The apostle Paul did not embrace the “anything goes” theology.
Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
You see, friend, the kingdom of heaven is a gated community. The drunkard can’t enter until he decides he is going to leave the bottle behind. The thief can’t go through until he relinquishes that which he stole. The adulterer can’t pass into the kingdom in the arms of another man’s wife. The unforgiving cannot enter without leaving his grudges and vengeful feelings at the door. The false worshipper cannot enter until he leaves false doctrines and innovations behind. It doesn’t mean we have to be perfect when we come to Jesus; none of us is perfect, nor will we ever be perfect by our own works. But I can tell you that the Lord does expect us to leave our contraband at the border. And that very demand of repentance will cause many to never enter the kingdom because they’re simply unwilling to give up that which is wrong and sinful.
Lastly, some will never enter because they think they’re already inside. Friend, don’t take it for granted that you’re already a part of the kingdom. Don’t think that simply because you think you love Jesus that you’re a part of the kingdom. Don’t think that just because you happen to accept and believe the fact that came and lived and died that you’re in the kingdom. It takes more than that.
The Bible teaches that we must obey the gospel in order to be saved and enter the kingdom. Jesus said that we must be born of water and of the Spirit to enter into the kingdom of heaven (John 3:5).
Mark 16:16 “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Yet, imagine living in a country for maybe most of your life only to find that there was an error; you never met the legal requirements of citizenship. You were an illegal alien to the country. In a sense, that’s how many live their lives in relation to the kingdom of God. They’ve decided they have been saved and that they’re alright, regardless of what the law of God says and they see no need for change. They may have a lot of good characteristics about their lives, but they’re living their lives not far from the kingdom. Are you IN the kingdom today or are you dwelling NEAR the kingdom? The difference is one of life and death.
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Shortly before Jesus was crucified, justified, glorified and assumed His Kingdom throne at the right hand of God, He told a perceptive scribe that he was “not far from the kingdom of God.” His understanding of the truth placed him in close proximity to the kingdom that Christ would establish. This distance was not chronological or geographical, but rather spiritual. Now that the kingdom has come there are many who are not far from it but they yet remain outside. In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak we see why many remain in the borderland of heaven’s kingdom but yet stand outside without the blessings affording within.