by Mike Ratliff
5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5 NASB)
Until December 2012 I lived in the Kansas City area. In late April 2007 a former employee of a Target store at the Ward Parkway Mall in KC put his plan into action to “shoot up a lot of people” there. That mall is between the Ward Parkway and State Line Boulevard. I remember it like it was yesterday. The killer forced his way into a neighbor’s house, killed her and took her guns and stole her car. Police were notified when the lady who was killed had not been seen and that her car appeared to be stolen. Police found her body and put out a call for the car. A KCMO policeman spotted the car going down a street and pulled it over. The man driving was the person he was looking for. A gun battle ensued. The policeman was shot in the arm, but managed to put a bullet into the driver of the car. Also, he was able to take two pistols away from the shooter. They played a recording of the dispatch of this incident on the local news. You could hear the gunshots as the officer called for assistance. The shooter fled in the stolen car and proceeded to carry out his plan without the two pistols. Police were not aware that he also had a rifle in the car.
He parked the car in the parking lot between two other occupied cars. He shot and killed the man in the car on his left then walked over to the other car on his right and killed the woman in that car. Then he shot up the front of the mall before going inside. His goal was to kill as many people as possible during a very busy time. He shot another person in the mall then proceeded to shoot in every direction at random as he tried to get to the Target store. By this time the KCMO police had arrived then confronted the shooter who did not surrender. The police then used deadly force. The first encounter with the policeman who had pulled him over took much of his firepower away and injured him enough so that he was not as effective with the rifle as he could have been. As my wife and I watched the news breaks as it was happening, we got a call from our son-in-law and daughter in Edmond, Oklahoma. They had already heard of it and were concerned that we might have been involved. Amazing!
If you think back on that time, it was just after the massacre at Virginia Tech earlier that month. It just made no sense. We look at these people who decide in their warped reasoning that it’s the right thing to do to “shoot up a lot of people.” Where does this come from? Also, just a few days earlier, 10 young Turkish men brutally killed a German missionary and two Turkish pastors. The brutality of the killings was staggering.
Just last week there was another senseless shooting in Oregon at a junior college. Some of the survivors have claimed that the killer demanded that each victim admit whether he or she was a Christian or not. If they admitted they were a Christian he shot them in the head. If they did not then he shot them in the legs. Evidence is still coming in, but it appears he was not a Muslim, but in fact, he was simply full of hate.
In all these examples, and I could have named many more, were the people killed by these demon-oppressed people being punished by God for something bad in their lives? What does the Bible tell us?
1 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said to them, “ Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.“ (Luke 13:1-5 NASB)
Those who were massacred by the murderers at Virginia Tech, Ward Parkway Mall, The Federal Center in Oklahoma City, the World Trade Center, 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 was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops? ’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: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 many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘ You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared? ’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21 NASB)
We must ask ourselves, are we rich toward God or rich in the world and its ways?
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “ See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
9 “ Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:3-14 NASB)
Look closely 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 he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? ’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NASB)
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 do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (Revelation 2:6 NASB)
15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. (Revelation 2:15-16 NASB)
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 One who has the sharp two- edged sword says this:
13 ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. 15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make 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 him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it. (Revelation 2:12-17 NASB)
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. 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!