by Mike Ratliff
16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 (NASB)
What differentiates a genuine Christian from one whose religion is only skin-deep? Jesus said that He knows those who are His. He calls them His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him. (John 10:27) He also called them His disciples. He gave us the requirements for being His disciple in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 where he said that if anyone desires to follow Him they must deny himself, take up their crosses and follow Him. If we combine these two views then we learn that our Lord’s sheep, His disciples, are those who hear His voice, deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. This is telling us that genuine Christians are those who humble themselves before their Lord, die to self, submit to His Lordship, obey Him, and emulate Him as He leads. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB)
A huge part of the Lord’s discipline is designed to eradicate within His people a love for this world. How can it be pleasing to God for His people to love the system that despised His Son and killed Him? Yes believers must live the lives God has given them here amidst people who are not His. God uses this to discipline and reprove His people. Unlike the message of many false teachers in our day, sickness, conflict, and trouble are not outward signs of God’s displeasure with a believer, but are, in fact, His work of sanctifying those in whom He delights. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
13 Behold, My servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
14 Just as many were astonished at you, My people,
So His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.
15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
For what had not been told them they will see,
And what they had not heard they will understand. Isaiah 52:13-15 (NASB)
In his fine book Escape from Reason, Francis Schaeffer analyzed 20th Century philosophy, science, art, and popular culture to get to the “cause,” if you will, of the decline of reason, which was and is still shaping our society. Modern thought in our time, it seems, has been diverted from an eternal, heavenly focus to one that is entirely geared to the temporal. Part of his thesis is that the advent of humanistic philosophy and reason began with Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). He contends that prior to Aquinas, the heavenly things were all-important, but since his teaching and discussion of “nature and grace,” the focus of human thought has made the temporal all-important with the heavenly becoming only an abstract “unreality.” Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB)
There is a great deal more going on in the spiritual than those of us in the temporal know about. All in Christ who still live and breathe are in the world, but are not part of it. Some, of course, live as if they are part of it, but we are called to be separate from the fleshpot world while being filled with the Spirit. Why? Of course if we are in love with this world, this present age, we will become encumbered and distracted from what we should be doing. Also, the world system, its things and its ways are all controlled by our enemy and his rulers, authorities, cosmic powers who do all they can to keep people blind in this present darkness. When believers are temporally focused they are being influenced by evil, if not controlled by it. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
20 Then he said, “Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. 21 However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince. Daniel 10:20-21 (NASB)
As we saw in the last post, there are evil powers behind the “kingdoms” of the world. Satan is the lord of this present age. In this post we will attempt to exposit Daniel 11. This is a very interesting chapter in that it covers the history of spiritual conflict in Israel (11:2-35) to the tribulation (11:36-42) where Michael comes to the aide of the Jews to assist in fully delivering them (12:1). The history section of this prophecy (vv2-35) is so accurate that skeptics have railed against the veracity of this prophecy. They cannot understand how someone could write with such accuracy several hundred years earlier than the events. However, as believers, we should look at this part of Daniel and rejoice in the fact that when God says something will happen, it will happen. However, this prophecy, which extends into chapter 12, looks into the future from Daniel’s time into what is future for us as well. We will see a preview of the Antichrist given to Daniel by God over 2 millennia ago. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Daniel 9:1-2 (NASB)
One of the worst parts about expounding scripture while not allowing “what men say” to influence that exposition is that there will always be some people who are “offended” or in disagreement with the analysis. I desire to offend no one. I deeply desire to be of use to my Lord in bringing His people into agreement about what His Word says. Therefore, I will continue to simply exposit scripture. As we have moved through Daniel I have tried very hard to look at extra-biblical sources only when necessary. I am very well aware that Daniel 9 is a hot button with some people. However, we must proceed. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously. 2 I looked in the vision, and while I was looking I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal. 3 Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last. 4 I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and magnified himself. Daniel 8:1-4 (NASB)
Many of the Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled. For instance, Jesus Christ fulfilled every one of the prophecies that spoke of His first coming, His torture, His death, His burial, etc. We have now arrived at Daniel Chapter 8. Daniel switches from Aramaic, which he used from 2:4b through 7:28, back to Hebrew starting in 8:1 through the end of His book. In Chapter 8 we will look at some already fulfilled prophecies and also how one of the characters from those that have been fulfilled also prefigures another character that is still future to us. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore.
Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. 3 I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; 4 they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” Revelation 13:1-4 (NASB)
It is time to prayerfully step into the prophetic section of Daniel. I have had quite a bit of anxiety about tackling these books that are deeply eschatological. Why? My method of Bible teaching is to simply expound scripture. I try to limit input into my analysis of passages to Biblical references for the most part. I do not believe I am wise enough or schooled enough in eschatology to do justice to this study. However, God is able to open up His word to our hearts. As we look at these sections in Daniel let us carefully let scripture speak. God will give us the truth as He sees fit. Perhaps God will give us insight into His Word that we have lacked until now. If so, then it is God doing this, not me. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
5 Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. 6 Then the king’s face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together. Daniel 5:5-6 (NASB)
God used Nebuchadnezzar to bring an end to the Judean kingdom. The kingdom of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar was glorious. God blessed him and, as we saw in yesterday’s post, humbled him when he took credit for it all. After his death in October 562 BC, having reigned 43 years, he was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (or Evil-merodach 2 Kings 25:27-30). Amel-Marduk, who, after a reign of two years, was succeeded by Neriglissar (559 – 555). Neriglissar was succeeded by Nabonidus (555 – 538). Nabonidus, having no interest in politics or ruling an empire, left Babylon to live at Tayma, a rich oasis city in Arabia, leaving his son Belshazzar behind to rule the empire in his stead. At the close of the reign of Nabonidus and Belshazzar (less than a quarter of a century after the death of Nebuchadnezzar) Babylon fell under Cyrus the Great as the head of the combined armies of Media and Persia. This new empire was the silver part of the “image” in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Daniel 2. Daniel Chapter 5 tells us the story of the last night of Belshazzar’s reign. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound! 2 It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.
3 “How great are His signs
And how mighty are His wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom
And His dominion is from generation to generation. Daniel 4:1-3 (NASB)
The deepest, widest blind spot that most professing Christians have is that they are convinced their religion pleases God. Pride disguises itself in many different ways. One that I have noticed in most professing Christians is a form of self-righteousness that sees their religion as making them so well-pleasing to God that anyone who is not part of their denomination or church could not possibly be right with God. Pragmatism springs from a desire by spiritually blind Christian leaders to mimic what other “successful” preachers or pastors do to grow their congregations or baptize huge numbers of converts. When these manipulating processes seem to work the first result is deeper spiritual blindness. Why? Idolatry always produces spiritual blindness. This blindness keeps those in it deceived into believing a lie. What lie? The lie is that God is not totally sovereign and needs their help to further the Kingdom. Their religious efforts may appear to “work,” but since the results are the fruit of fleshly methods and the works of men they only lead to cultivating pride. However, we must remember that God is Sovereign. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
As we study the Book of Revelation and other prophetic books in both the Old and New Testaments, we must take care not to take symbolic language we study and try to make it literal nor should we take literal language we study and try to make it symbolic. Revelation is highly symbolic. For instance, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is portrayed as a Lamb in much of the book. Is He a lamb? In chapter 5 v5 the Lamb is the only one found worthy to take the scroll from the Father’s hand and open it. When John sees Him, he describes Him as a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. This cannot be taken literally. All of this is symbolic language. Therefore, it is very dangerous to build doctrines from symbolism unless we are very careful to maintain the symbolism for what it represents. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” 2 I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
3 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” 4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.
5 When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”
7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” 8 I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.
12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6 (NASB)
In Revelation 6 we have the Lamb opening the first six seals of the Scroll. Revelation 7 forms a parenthetical statement between the Sixth and Seventh Seals. It is the answer to the question asked in 6:17. Before we go any further let’s try to understand that persecution and suffering is not God’s Wrath being poured out on believers. God’s wrath is not for His saints. However, that does not mean that God will keep Satan’s seed from filling up the cup of His wrath against them by their evil actions against Christians. In fact, in God’s economy, there is an “eternal blessedness” associated with this sort of suffering. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
20 Come, my people, enter into your rooms
And close your doors behind you;
Hide for a little while
Until indignation runs its course.
21 For behold, the Lord is about to come out from His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
And the earth will reveal her bloodshed
And will no longer cover her slain. Isaiah 26:20-21 (NASB)
God is Sovereign! He has always been and always will be Sovereign. I use Gmail as my main email. Unfortunately Google embeds ads in the interface just above the control buttons. Sometimes I will see something interesting there and click it. Usually I regret it. I once saw one that advertised a study that was supposed to show the real definition of Hyper-Calvinism. I am Reformed in my Theology, but I abhor Hyper-Calvinism. I know that many confuse the two so I hit the link to see what was what. The formula this writer of the document used to determine if a person was Hyper-Calvinistic was if all they talked about was God’s Sovereignty and glory instead of insisting on man’s responsibility. While I can see what the writer was trying to say I also saw that even though he agreed that God was Sovereign, he still was not sovereign over Man’s will. I read about half the document then gave up because the further I read the less Sovereignty God had and the more Man had. I had to go get a cold drink of water after that because it left a very bad taste in my mouth. Isn’t this the very essence of Man’s rebellion against God? Continue reading