by Mike Ratliff
5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:5 ESV)
I was in Elementary School in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. That means I was in Junior High and High School in the the 1960’s and College in the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s before I went into the U.S. Navy. I can remember very clearly segregated schools in Oklahoma and when segregation ended. I can remember when there were race riots all over the country it seemed and then it seemed insanity went from bad to worse with the assassinations of the black rights leaders like Medger Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. I was in school in the 7th grade when we heard about the assassination of our President, John F. Kennedy. It was a few years later when I was in High School that his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, who was probably going to be the Democratic nominee for the Presidential election in 1968, was assassinated. All of that took place with the grim reality of the war in Viet-Nam and the draft awaiting all of us when we turned 18.
It was because of this bleak, insane, dark, seemingly hopeless period that so many in my generation rebelled and dropped out. They sought peace through love. They sought to change everything top to bottom by going to the extreme left. They sought to nullify everything that generations before had done and start over. Sound familiar?
Here we are in 2014 and if you had told me in January 1986 right after God had mercy on me and brought me into His Kingdom by grace through faith as I repented and turned to Christ as Lord and Saviour about what we are witnessing in the world in relation to the Church and Christians in the World and radical Islam killing Americans, Christians and anyone who does not convert to their form of Islam while at the same time threatening to come right into the U.S.A. and do the same thing here, I would not have believed it possible. Even as I matured as a believer and witnessed the growing apostasy in the U.S. Church I was still not seeing these things or anything even close to them.
I suppose my wakeup call was on April 19, 1995 when I was in the blast zone when the Federal Center in Oklahoma City was attacked with a truck bomb and destroyed. That really began my change of worldview. It was not immediate. I went through several years of depression and rebellion, but by 2003-2004 God had prepared me for the next step in my “wakeup” to reality.
I was drawn by my need for spiritual guidance into prayer beginning in January 2004 because of the previous several months of discontent with my mediocre spiritual walk. This prayer was not a once a day thing, but was continuous. I prayed all the time, I sought God’s face. God is good, when we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. From that time in January through August this renewal grew from just prayer to worship then study of the Word, doctrine, deep prayer about all of that, repentance, and making many new friends online who helped me through this. By the middle of August 2004 I was remade. I didn’t do it, God did it. I no longer cared what happened to me nor what anyone said about me nor what they thought about me. All that mattered was God’s glory, the Gospel and telling God’s truth, and defending it no matter the cost.
From this my worldview was radically changed. It is also not a coincidence that all this took place after the bombing in 1995 and the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in 2001. There are scores of others seemingly all the time now. There seems to be social injustice everywhere. There are murders by the police and then there are good police doing their jobs and then attacked and called racists when they have to take a life of someone who is of another race. What are we as Christians to do about these things. How are we to respond? Some claim we are to always seek social justice no matter the cost because that is what Jesus calls us to do. Is it? What does the Bible tell us?
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5 ESV)
Those who are being massacred by ISIS, were murdered at The Federal Center in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center and in the temple by Pilate, and those killed when the tower in Siloam fell were no more evil than any other person then or now. Jesus tells those with Him and us that those who survive tragedies are not morally superior to those who do not survive. Instead, He calls everyone to repent because sudden death could happen to any of us at any time. God does not guarantee that we will have time to prepare for death, so now is the time for repentance.
16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21 ESV)
We must ask ourselves, are we rich toward God or rich in the world and its ways? Doesn’t it seem that the increasing violence we are seeing in our time resembles a rising flood from a river that has overflowed its banks? Wars are everywhere. Violence and murder seems to compounding. With that in mind, prayerfully read this passage.
3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24: 3-14 ESV)
Look carefully at v12. What does this mean? What does this have to do with the violence? The world is completely controlled by cultures that lure people into a spiritual stupor that, over time, desensitizes them from true spiritual and moral values. This warning by Jesus was a prophecy that the time we are in now was coming. Because lawlessness is increasing the love of many in the church and out has grown cold. In 2 Timothy 3:3 the Apostle Paul describes them as, “heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good.” We are in the midst of the time Jesus and Paul spoke of. Those of us who seem to be on the outside looking in are this way because we have a biblical world view not a temporal, fleshly view. God has given these cultures over to allowing the carnal mind to spend itself on continuous sensation-seeking stimulation.
The reprobate mind, (Romans 1:28) without a restrainer that resists this almost unrelenting pressure, with such stimulation will gradually produce a stupor, an apathy, an unfeeling indifference toward the highest values and priorities of life, which, of course, is our relationships with God and other people. Lawlessness will cause people to have hearts so cold that they have little love for anyone or anything. What is lawlessness?
Another word for lawlessness is antinomianism. What’s that? It is the rejection of the need to obey God’s Law. Think of the 10 Commandments. Are they optional for a Christian? When professing Christians say that obedience to God is not necessary then we must wonder if they have really read the Bible or if they really know God at all.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
To Jesus, lawlessness is a big deal. Those who profess to know him, but do not, are those who are workers of lawlessness. In the Book of Revelation, our Lord, in his letters to the seven churches, mentions a group called the Nicolaitans.
6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (Revelation 2:6 ESV)
15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. (Revelation 2:15-16 ESV)
In v6 we have Jesus commending the church in Ephesus for hating the work of the Nicolaitans. In vv15-16 we have Jesus revealing that the church at Pergamum is tolerating the teaching of the Nicolaitans. What has this got to do with lawlessness? Many scholars trace this group back to the Deacon named Nicolas. He was the only one of the first Deacons who was not Jewish. He was a Greek proselyte. That means he was a gentile who became a Jew by being circumcised and following the Law. Eusebius writes that Nicolas himself was a moral man. (Ecclesiastical History) He was sincere and devout. However, he came to believe that the only way to grow spiritually was to consider his body and its desires as unimportant. In this way, he could ignore them in favor of spiritual pursuits. He believed that “the flesh must be treated with contempt.” He became an ascetic.
While he had good intentions, over time this teaching took on a more Gnostic spin. Since the flesh is unimportant, even contemptible, what one does in the flesh is of no consequence. Spiritual life, growth and salvation occur in the soul, and since God is spirit, He has no regard for the flesh. Therefore, the Nicolaitans reasoned, what does it matter if one satisfies the flesh’s desires? Sometime in the 1st Century, Nicolaitanism evolved from an ascetic philosophy to a licentious one. It became the lawlessness that Christ hates. Let’s take another look at the letter to the church at Pergamum.
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13 “’I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith _ even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:12-17 ESV)
Look at vv14-15. Christ lists some things this church was allowing to go on that he hated. They had some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. The grammar of these verses lumps the teaching of Balaam and the immorality and the teaching of the Nicolaitans together as the same basic heresy under different guises. The church in Thyatira was experiencing this as well. This is lawlessness. This is antinomianism. This is Nicolaitanism.
I believe we are beginning to reap the harvest of this lawlessness that causes people’s hearts to grow cold. Jesus’ prophetic words about our time should wake us up. God has actually given people over to their heart’s desire of pursing the ever more sensational experience. We even see this in the circus churches of our day. The spiritual blindness or stupor is so strong only God can break through it. Those of us who have been drawn out of the Scarlet Woman, the Compromised Church, can see these things. Of course, we are also maturing, growing in grace and learning to be Spirit-led as we abide in Christ. We have learned or are learning to not become devoured by the sensational. We turn our TVs off and spend more time with God. However, those still in darkness think we are fanatics or legalistic or evil. Some emergent people have accused me of having left my first love because I rebuked someone for teaching a no-Lordship gospel. Those who practice lawlessness call what is evil good and what is good evil.
Again, should God’s people have anything to do with lawlessness? Should we be part of churches that actually teach it? God is calling His people to come out of the Scarlet Woman. The violence from cold hearts will only increase as the restrainer takes away his hand that keeps people from becoming violent maniacs bent on “shooting up a lot of people.” Therefore, we must turn our hearts back to God in repentance. We must become cleansed and free from the Scarlet Woman. We must share our faith with everyone we can. Time is short. We are in the midst of the birth pangs. The time of seals being opened, trumpets blown and bowls poured out will be soon upon us. Until then, we must stand firm and obey our Lord in all things.
Soli Deo Gloria!