I Am the Good Shepherd


by Mike Ratliff

1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. John 10:1-2 (NASB) 

Just because a person claims to be a Christian does not mean that he or she is Regenerate, Justified, Sanctified, or Adopted into God’s family. Many base their standing as a Christian on religious acts they have done. Others claim salvation based upon their good words plus their religion. Tragically, there are also many, and more each day it seems, “Christian leaders” who preach and teach things that they portray as the Good News, but are, instead, only the result of marketing techniques. Continue reading

Therefore They Could Not Believe


by Mike Ratliff

35 So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”
These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.” John 12:35-40 (NASB) 

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.” Isaiah 6:8-10 (NASB) 

God is Sovereign. In John 12:40 the Apostle quoted Isaiah 6:8-10. I placed both passages in context at the top of this post. Notice John 12:39, “For this reason they could not believe” This is the NASB rendering. The NA28 Greek text for this part of v39 is, διὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἠδύναντο πιστεύειν. Here is my rendering, “Through this they were not able to believe.” The word translated here as “not” is οὐκ (ouk), which is an absolute negative. Therefore what it is defining is absolutely negated and that verb is ἠδύναντο, which is the 3rd person, imperfect tense, indicative mood, middle voice form of δύναμαι (dunamai), which means “to be able, either intrinsically and absolutely, which the ordinary signification; or, for specific reasons.” The third part of this is the word “believe” which is a translation of the verb πιστεύειν the present tense, infinitive mood, active voice form of πιστεύω (pisteuō), “to have faith.” The way this is structured my brethren it is plainly a work of God that these people were not able “to have faith.” Continue reading

Judgment Before the Great white Throne


by Mike Ratliff

9 “I kept looking
Until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took His seat;
His vesture was like white snow
And the hair of His head like pure wool.
His throne was ablaze with flames,
Its wheels were a burning fire.
10 “A river of fire was flowing
And coming out from before Him;
Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
The court sat,
And the books were opened. Daniel 7:9-10 (NASB) 

Before we look at Revelation 20:11-15, take a moment to reflect on the carnage being wrought upon the visible church in our time by the very men who, by their own positions, should be shepherding the sheep. Instead, they are actually doing the very things to bring about the famine of hearing the Word of God and, hence, spiritual darkness seems to be all around us right in the midst of the “Church.” Mysticism in the guise of Spiritual Formation is being flim-flamed off on the unsuspecting as if it is another form of Christian prayer. We have rock-star pastors who measure their success by how many books they sell and how many branch churches they have who watch them preach via satellite. Of course, if you measure the content of their sermons by the Word of God, what you have is simply man-centered propaganda meant to appease, tease, and keep people coming through the front door instead of confronting them with their sin and need of a Saviour. Now, as you reflect on that, consider what awaits those whose names are not found written in the book of life.  Continue reading

The Steadfast Love of God Endures


by Mike Ratliff

No matter how far away from the light the Church drifts into apostasy and darkness, we must remain faithful and understand that God is sovereign. Those God gives over to their idolatry are spiritually blind. They cannot see that while they believe they are serving God they are actually walking in rebellion. It seems that at this time God is placing me in a position of reflection on His grace and His love and that neither of them will ever fail. We must pray for those in darkness and never stop telling them the truth. Perhaps God will have mercy on them and call them to come out of the Scarlet Woman, from darkness into the light.

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Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts


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

The Handwriting on the Wall


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

The King of Heaven is able to Humble those Who Walk in Pride


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

The Multi-Dimensional Scroll


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

The Great Day of God’s Wrath has Come, and Who can Stand?


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

Repent or Perish


by Mike Ratliff

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 at 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. Continue reading

The High Cost of Living Righteously


by Mike Ratliff

10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:10-13 (NASB) 

“Christians” in the United States and other “civilized” countries do not exist in a climate of a fear of persecution like those in China and India. Some would say that is because of our culture or that there are huge numbers of Christians here. However, the truth of the matter is that Christians who live in total obedience to their Lord will be persecuted. So, what does that say about Christians who live at peace with the world around them? The truth of the matter is this; the reason Christians are not persecuted in the US is that very few of them are walking in the level of obedience to their Lord that would draw attention to them from those who hate the real Jesus and the Word of God. However, if they were living holy lives, sharing their faith, actively making disciples, and preaching the whole Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the wrath of Satan and his seed would come upon them. Continue reading

The Disowned


by Mike Ratliff

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) 

The best test of everything is not how it appears here and now. Unlike those preachers who draw throngs of people to hear their, “Have your best life now!” sermons, those with real godly wisdom know that the best tests of everything is how it will appear in the moment of death, in the morning of resurrection, and at the day of judgment. Thankfully, the Word of God does give us the truth about these things. Let’s take a long slow look at Matthew 7:21-23 where our Lord lays it out very clearly about people who will find that what they believed to be true about their eternal state is nothing more than the product of self-deception.

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The Scarlet Woman


by Mike Ratliff

1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” Revelation 17:1-2 (NASB) 

John the Baptist was the one who was sent to make the way straight, to prepare the way for the one who was to come. Of course the one who was to come is our Lord Jesus Christ the long awaited Messiah of the Jews. Gabriel told Zechariah, the father of John, “he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb, and will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Of course he did that very thing and our Lord was born of a virgin soon after John. Continue reading

The Ancient of Days Reigns


by Mike Ratliff

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. Revelation 20:1-3 (NASB) 

If we listen to much of the preaching these days we might get the idea that our God was an old grandfatherly type entity who loves people so much and wants to save them all, but is helpless to do anything to make that happen. Also, He really isn’t in control of anything. He simply set the Universe into motion and now it’s on its own. He simply waits helplessly in a far off Heaven for people to make the right decision by their own reasoning capabilities. He is sorry for all the suffering and heartache in the world, so if people would simply follow the right preacher they could be happy, rich, and healthy. Is that what the Bible teaches us about God? Continue reading